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Himal Southasian Volume 19, Number 7, October 2006 Dixit, Kanak Mani Oct 31, 2006

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 Nepal's Anxious
Interim    7
Yash Ghai     ,
Bhojpuri Cinemas
Heartland ValuesA
Latika Neelakantan   -H
Towards a Southasia
Policy i
Shyam Saran 1
langladesh BDT 80 ■ Bhutan BIN 60 ■ India INR 50 ■ Mepal NPR 50 ■ Maldives MVR 40 • Pakistan   PKR 80 ■ Sri Lanka SLR 80 • Rest of the World USD 4 / GBP 3
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 Gujarat 2006
CONTENTS
The Muslims of Gujarat were scared in 2002, when the
.state sponsored and supported large-scale killings.
They are afraid today, when the violence against them
takes invisible forms, with broad political and social
sanction. The cover image for this issue depicts a
group of Muslims after a mob of Hindu neighbours
attacked. They are huddled amidst the wreckage of
their burnt-out homes. This picture was taken when
the riots were at their peak, but the eyes are still
fearful today.
Himal's cover story this issue is about this
disturbing reality in Gujarat. Beneath the surface calm
lies a divided society, a silent underclass and a fascist
government. Gujarat 2006 is about how a community
is being treated - and the possibility of the fear evident
in this photograph translating into anger.
Cover photograph by photojournalist Ami Vitale,
mil
The Hindutva prototype
From low-intensity to 'limited' war
Hope amidst alarm
Havana breakthrough
'Congeries of Lust'
Saatiiasian foists
Coyer stem
Gujarat, another country
6
6
7
8
9
10
23
Connectivity, India's neighbourhood policy 15
Shyam Saran
The only way forward 21
Shakeel Imam
Who hijacked whom? 59
Jawed Naqvi
The two Punjabs: Drifting apart? 65
Hartosh Singh Bai
SautiiasiasBtisrg: 8 K Usi M
What the centre can't hold
PrashantJha
f i§!§ mi i fiis§§
Their vengeance
m
Jtoaiysis
Dilip D'Souza
The problems of transition in Nepal
18
Yash Ghai
Fhiii feature
n
Nursing the big boys
35
Stones of Benaras
Abhay raj Naik
Niels Gutschow
A great newspaper market
46
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
ftafils
The Dalit sword ofMansa
49
Special repsrc
Amit Sengupta - .—--
The heartland values of Bhojpuri cinema
41
Srinagar's martyr's graveyard
51
Latika Neelakantan
Peerzada Arshad Hamid
Bepsrt
Madiafiie
Z7>
Budget air travel, present and future
38
Bfiiriew
Arij'tt Mazumdar
Gendun Chopet's new reasoning
72
Essay
Thelong-ago fight for Kirant identity
Felix Holmgren
52
Kaise jeebo re?
Rakesh Kalshian
74
Ramesh K Dhungel
In the ruins of empire
A S Panneerselvan
76
Mttmmm
Go West, young Muslim
70
Bit the wig ua
7S
Naeem Mohaiemen
Royal humiliation
Himal Southasian | October 2006
 Vol 19   No 7
HIMAL
October 2006 [ www.himalmag.com
Editor
Kanak Mani Dixit
Assistant Editors
Prashant Jha
Himali Dixit
Desk Editor
Carey L Biron
Business Advisor
Monica Bhatia
Marketing Manager
Koroal More
Editorial Assistance
Aastha Dahal
Ashmina Bhallarai
Contributing Editors
Calcutta Rajashri Dasgupta
Colombo       Jehan Perera
Delhi Mitu Varma
Dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
Karachi        .Beena Sarwar
Kathmandu   Deepak Thapa
Manisha Aryal
Creative Director
Bilash Rai
Design
Roshan Tamang
Web
Rupcndra Kayastha
Administration
Sunita Silwal
Subscription
Kabita R Gautam
subscription@himalmag.com
Sales
Santosh Aryal
Shahadev Koirala
inf o@himalrnag.com
Himal Southasian is published by
The Southasia Trust, Lalitpur, Nepal
Office address
Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur, Nepid
Mailing address
GPO Box: 24393, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977 1 5547279
Fax: +977 1 5552141
editorial@himalmag.com
subscription@liimalmag.com
info@himalmag.com
www.himalmag.com
ISSN 10129804
Library of Congress Control number
88 912882
Image setting: ScanPro
Printed at: Jagadamba Press, Lalitpur, Nepal
+977-1-5547017/5547018
Contributors    to   this    Issue
Abhayraj Naik is a recent graduate from the National Law School University of India, Bangalore.
Amit Sengupta is a journalist based in Delhi, till recently an editor with Tehelka.
Arijit Mazumdar is pursuing a PhD in Political Science at Miami University in the US, focussing
on the Southasian political economy.
A S Panneerselvan is a journalist from Madras, presently executive director of Panos South
Asia.
C K Lai is a columnist for this magazine and for the Nepali Times,
Dilip D'Souza is a Bombay-based writer.
Felix Holmgren is a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Nepal and Sweden, currently-a
student at Kathmandu University's Centre for Buddhist Studies at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute.
Hartosh Singh Bai is a freelance journalist based in Delhi, and co-author of A Certain Ambiguity,
to be-released by Princeton University Press in 2007.
Jawed Naqvi is India correspondent for the Dawn newspaper. He is based in New Delhi.
Latika Neelakantan is pursuing a PhD in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor.
Naeem Mohaiemen is a filmmaker and activist based in New York and Dhaka. His work on the
post-9/11 security paranoia has shown widely; more can be found at tjisappearedinamerica.org.
Niels Gutschow teaches at fhe South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University.
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a journalist and educator in Delhi. A former TV anchor, he has co-
authored a book on coalition politics in India and directed several documentary films.
Peerzada Arshad Hamid is a Srinagar-based journalist.
Rakesh Kalshian is the programme manager for environment at Panos South Asia's Nepal
country office.
Ramesh K Dhungel is a historian and researcher of Himalayan societies and is presently a
fellow at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, conducting research at the
British Library on the papers of Brian Houghton Hodgson.*
Shakeel Imam is a Lahori writer currently living outside Pakistan.
Shyam Saran is outgoing Foreign Secretary of India.
Venantius J Pinto is an artist who moves between Bombay and New York.
Yash Ghai is a constitutional expert and professor ot Public Law at the University of Hong Kong.
Cover image by Ami vitale
j Address \&] www.himalmag.com
1
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COUNTRY
Bangladesh
India
Nepal
L
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Allahabad vis-a-vis
Purvanchal
Regarding Shikha Trivedi's article
("Between the grains: Purvanchal
circumstances", May'/June 2006), it is
wrong to include Allahabad
in Purvanchal. The Allahabad
division - which today includes the
Kaushambi, Fatehpur, Pratapgarh
and Allahabad districts - is
not geographically, historically,
culturally, administratively or
ethnically a part of Purvanchal.
When bureaucrats and politicians
reorganise regions, they should take
into account these considerations.
Geographically, Allahabad is an
integral part of the Ganga-Yamuna
Doab, as it is situated at the
confluence of the two rivers. Found
in the southern part of Uttar
Pradesh, Allahabad's land is
typically Doabi - very fertile, but not
too moist, as in Purvanchal. This
land is well suited for the
production of wheat, which is the
major crop of the entire Doab area.
The southern and eastern parts of
Allahabad are dry and rocky, like
its neighbours Bundelkhand and
Baghelkhand. At its north and
northeast lies the Awadhi region,
while to its west are other areas of
the lower Doab. For the various
imperial forces that arrived here
from the east - including the British
- AHahabad has been fhe gateway
to the Indian Northwest.
Historically, too, Allahabad has
always been an integral part of the
Doab, which includes the Delhi
region. When the Aryans first
settled in India, their territory,
which they named Aryavarta,
included Prayag/Kaushambi.
Since then, Allahabad's fortunes
have been locked in with this Doabi
piece of land. When Muslims came
to the region, Allahabad became
part of the various Delhi sultanates,
and rose to prominence once again
under the Mughals. Akbar built a
fort here, recognising its strategic
position in the Doab. Purvanchal's
history, on the other hand, followed
its own course. When the British
came they made Allahabad
the capital of the northwestern
province of Agra, and it remained
so for twenty years. As a distinct
region, Allahabad's history is tied
with that of the Doab rather than
that of Purvanchal.
Culturally speaking, Allahabad
has always been the last frontier of
the west. In today's UP it is at the
centre of the state, forming a cultural
triangle with Kanpur and Lucknow.
Another cultural difference between
Allahabad and Purvanchal is food:
the staple in Allahabad is wheat, in
Purvanchal it is rice. Likewise,
Allahabad speaks Awadhi, while
the lingua franca of Purvanchal is
Bhojpuri. Purvanchal's important
festivals - like the chath - are not
celebrated here. Ethnically,
AUahabadis are not known by the
traditional Purabia, Bhaiyya or
Bhojpuri identities.
Politically, Allahabad division
has always been constituted of the
lower Doab districts of Etawah,
Farrukhabad, Kanpur, Fatehpur
MNC defenders
Samir Kumar Sinha's report ("A
- Gaiigetic Pesticide Setup"', Sept
2006) defends two American soft
chink multinationals, the
international records of: 'which
are murky. This is akin to
defending a murder by referring
"toother, murders.
I am hot a defender of the
Delhi-based Centre for Science
and Privirortnlent. Rather, I was
among the few readers :who.
MAIL
and Allahabad. Today most of the
above districts have been separated
from Allahabad division, and
have been included in western or
central UP as part of the Agra and
newly created Kanpur divisions.
Part of the reason for this huge
reorganisation of divisions is
aggressive Bhojpuri politics. The
western part of a4llahabad District,
which is also where Allahabad city
is located, was truncated into
two parts, out of which the
new district of Kaushambi was
created. Kaushambi is small, and it
was not necessary to make it a
separate district.
About 20 years ago, when the
idea of dividing UP into eastern
and western parts first came up,
there were only two zones, which
did not pose a problem. But now,
with the regions being divided
on the basis of ethnicity and
cultural affiliation, it would be
unethical to put people in mismatching regions. Purvanchal is the
most populated region of the entire
country. As such, the identity and
culture of Allahabad would
be threatened. The youth of
Allahabad today is already
confused about its identity.
Anuj Bhardwaj
Delhi
criticised the role CSE played in
the 2003 arsenic scare.
Nonetheless, I think the centre's
consistent endeavour to expose
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo deserves :
solidarity from all environment- ::
lovers. Instead of citing Rachel
Carson's 1962 Silent Spring on
the:haim of chlorinated
pesticides, Sinha should have
first perused the Coke-Pepsi
scandal. What he wrote could
be a separate piece, sans
CSE's findings.
Former inorganic chemistry      :
professor Sakti Prasad Ghosh
has noted: "Even if groundwater   ■
used by Coke or Pepsi has
pesticides beyond tolerable
limits, why are those impurities ■
not removed?"
Siddhartha Ghosh Dastidar :
;  ;    ::   . Calcutta :
Send your comments,  questions and corrections - or anything else - to editorial@himalmag.com
Himal Southasian I October 2006
 COMMENTARY
The Hindutva prototype
Gujarat is calm on the surface. People appear to
have overcome the trauma of the 2002 killings,
business seems back to usual, and the government is
grappling with normal administrative and political
problems - flood relief, health hazards, foreign
investment MOUs, minding matters of legislation. But
as we discover in this issue's cover article, the state's
social fabric has collapsed. Hindu-Muslim relations are
spiralling out of control, as polarisation deepens.
Though it is true that relations between Hindus and
Muslims have an undercurrent of tension in India, it is
only rarely that a conflagration consumes so many
lives and properties. There are occasional riots, some
sparked off by an unfounded rumour, others a part of a
larger political conspiracy. Polarisation is present
across the country, in varied degrees. Gujarat itself
has had a history of communal tension over the past
few decades. But what we are witnessing here is not a
Hindu-Muslim spat, with any one community having
an upper hand. Neither is this about a tiny band of
extremists from either side trying to arouse emotions.
Gujarat is different because the division within the
state is sharp and clear: there is now a Hindu Gujarat,
the top dog, and a Muslim Gujarat, the underdog. Many
Hindus in the state harbour some of the worst
stereotypes about Muslims in their minds; they are, in
fact, eager to create a society where the Muslims have
as little a role as possible. In terms of social interaction,
the two communities are metaphorically and literally
barely on speaking terms. One whole group of people
- Muslims, who make up 9 percent of the population -
feels alienated from the state system. They are targets
of systematic as well as subtle discrimination. All this
makes Gujarat stand out, for it comes closest to the
vision of what the Hindutva ideologues propose for India
as a whole.
Gujarat is a problem not only for Muslims of that
state. It is a challenge for all of Southasia. All of us
should be fighting for accountability and justice for the
2002 carnage, and the continuing excesses against
Gujarati Muslims. What we should be seeing today is
a region-wide concern, and the organisation of
seminars, sit-ins and protests against Narendra Modi
- not only in Madras and Calcutta, but in Kathmandu,
Dhaka, Karachi and Colombo. There is a little bit of
Gujarat in each of our societies.
RSS ideologues and the Hindutva vision
All Southasia must track Gujarat, follow its record
of injustice, understand its evolution, and remind
Gujarat's vainglorious power elites that they cannot
convert Gujarat into 'another country'.
But what should provide a ray of hope is the fact
that political dominance, based only on hatred and
demonising another community, is not sustainable.
Social coalitions disintegrate, new alliances are formed,
economic factors emerge, and issues that concern the
common voter change. All Hindus who are today
aligned with rightwing outfits are not committed
ideologues; they will change preference and loyalty
when power equations change. A
SRI LANKA
From low-intensity to
limited' war
For the past 10 months Sri Lanka has been in the throes
of an undeclared war, with neither the government
nor the LTTE prepared to take responsibility before the
people and the international community for starting the
fight. Since late July, however, the situation has suddenly
escalated into a high-intensity conflict, albeit in limited
areas. In Sampur in the east, and Muhamalai in the north,
there have been pitched battles that saw territorial control
shift in the government's favour. But so far both parties
appear unwilling to go in for a full-fledged war.
Despite strong pressure by Sri Lanka's donor countries,
peace talks between the government and LTTE at any
time in the near future are unlikely. The internationals have
released a series of strongly worded statements, including
one in mid-September that urged peace talks during the
first week of October, after which the 'donor co-chairs'
would meet to discuss progress at the end of the month.
But the conduct of the two parties over the past several
months would indicate that their preferred option is military
rather than political action. One sideorthe other (or both)
must change its mind about the desirability of military action
if there are to be peace talks - a change of heart that, at
this time, looks far off. Both sides have publicly nullified
the donor co-chairs' statements by imposing
pre-conditions for peace talks to recommence.
The LTTE has reiterated its demand that the
government should withdraw its armed forces from the
Sampur area in the east, which it recently captured from
the LTTE, and also to move back to its original forward-
defence lines in Muhamalai in the north. The Colombo
government has rejected the possibility of any such
withdrawal, and reiterated its demand that LTTE leader
Velupillai Prabhakaran should himself write a letter
guaranteeing a cessation of all forms of violence by the
LTTE prior to any return to the negotiating table.
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 The present indications are that the government and
rebels are preparing themselves for further military
campaigns. While the LTTE's relatively quick retreats from
Sampur and Muhamalai were unexpected, it has been
characteristic of the Tamil Tigers in the past to retreat in
the face of major conventional assaults by government
forces. In the present context, though the rebels appear to
be considerably weaker than they have been in the past,
the possibility of a counterattack remains.
The civilian military training campaign and a spate
of particularly cruel child recruitments that are taking
place in the northeast by both the LTTE and its
breakaway pro-government Karuna group are most
likely in anticipation of future battles. The spurt
of assassinations and abductions of Tamils suspected
to be either pro- or anti-LTTE is also continuing. The inability
of the national and international human-rights
machinery to deal with these breaches of humanitarian
law has been disappointing.
The most hopeful prospect is the dialogue that has
recently commenced between the government and the
opposition United National Party (UNP). During the
relatively short period in which it governed from 2001-
04, the UNP showed that it was possible to rapidly
transform a situation of war into one of peace. Although
the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement is now much maligned,
at the time it was signed it seemed as if a miracle had
taken place, when the unstoppable war actually halted
in its tracks. This was achieved through political dialogue
a"nd supportive international initiatives. With the third
round of talks between the UNP and ruling Sri Lanka
Freedom Party scheduled to take place on 3 October,
the possibility of the UNP joining up with the government
could bring two crucial missing ingredients to the
situation: political dialogue and some original
international initiatives. £
NEPAL
Hope amidst alarm
Jk fepal not only looks like it is in turmoil, it/sin turmoil.
f VThe anarchy in the country is near-total, with the
Maoists having the run of the countryside and
extracting 'voluntary donations' from all and sundry,
the state institutions (including the police) cowed and
sequestered, and the law-and-order situation just about
the worst in living memory. The home minister doubles
as the chief of the government's negotiating team, and
has not had the time - even if he had the inclination -
to motivate the administration and challenge the rebels
to keep within the bounds ofthe law. Prime Minister G
P Koirala seems to have the right instincts in terms of
bringing the Maoists in from the cold without
compromising on principles of pluralism and
democracy, but at 84 years of age, he seems not to
have the energy to lead the seven-party government
as one. Meanwhile, the Maoist Chairman Pushpa
Kamal Dahal has gone on a media blitz yet again,
appearing on television and radio as an accessible,
avuncular rebel, clearly seeking to put the stigma of
brutality - including memories of 'socket bombs',
maimings and safaya (eliminations) - behind him, in
an attempt to come into aboveground politics.
With the absence of governance in large parts of
the country, and the Maoist bravado at high decibel in
recent weeks, it might appear that the principles of
pluralism may indeed be lost. But the fact is that the
peace process in Nepal is very much on track. Holding
a Central Committee meeting in a hill district just east
of Kathmandu last month, the Maoists decided not to
go back to the jungle - even though they claim loudly
that the SPA government is prevaricating on its promise
of bringing the Maoists into the government, and taking
the country towards the constituent assembly. They
have decided to fight 'peacefully' through an urban
agitation, and there is no doubt that the Maoists still
have the ability to bring tens of thousands of villagers
into the Kathmandu Valley on the basis of threat alone.
The fact that the Maoist student wing had to truck in
schoolchildren to show their strength during a recent
convention in Kathmandu is not lost on observers.
Many find cause for alarm in the fact that the
Maoist leader, Mr Dahal, talks of an "October
Revolution" should the SPA dilly-dally. Towards the
international media, the rebel leader is all sugar and
smiles; he speaks with home-grown zest on Nepali
television. At the same time, he gives radical, rousing
speeches to his cadres on preparing for the 'big fight'
if the talks fail. Some claim the Maoists are preparing
for an urban uprising, having brought armed fighters
into the Kathmandu Valley. Others listen to Maoist
extortionists, who come to Kathmandu businessmen
and threaten them with dire consequences: "When
the talks fail and we come to power, we will come
looking for you in your homes."
A new evolution
It is more likely that the Maoists are using this as
their last chance to till their coffers, for their rhetoric
Maoists ship in students, 18 September
Himal Southasian I October 2006
 and public certitude belies an uncertainty about the
ultimate destination of the path they themselves have
taken. Indeed, having decided to divert from the
people's war', Mr Dahal and his commandantes have
a task of controlling and cajoling the very fighters whom
they have motivated for a decade or more with talk of
violent revolution and takeover of the state. Given
that the Maoist leadership's desire to enter open
politics seems genuine, as also confirmed by every
politician we have spoken to, it would behoove Nepali
society to be a bit indulgent regarding the current
Maobaadi rhetoric. All the same, though, it is time for
Mr Dahal to begin publicly preparing the fighters,
militia and activists for open, unarmed politics. In
conditions in which he has not begun to do that, there
is the need to be ever watchful. It is important that, in
the search for peace, compromises not be made in
the planned summit talks between the parties
and rebels which would harm the pluralism also
demanded by the citizenry during the People's
Movement of April.
The Maoists themselves are surely uncertain about
whether things will end up as they hope. While there is
a hardline group among the rebels who would rather
not give up the gun, the leadership seems united on
the impracticality of continuing the armed insurgency.
But in the meantime, they have to tackle contradictions
that have come forth with this shift in their political
stand. The Maoists are seeking to come aboveground
with credibility and dignity intact, while convincing their
followers that this emergence into competitive politics
is indeed "a new evolution of communism in the 21st
century", rather than a defeat. But the most convincing
logic for those who would want to believe in the Maoist
transformation is the India-and-international factor: the
rebel leadership understands that it can never achieve
state power with gun-in-hand, due, if nothing else, to
existing geopolitical factors.
So, for all the bluster, the rebels are looking for a
quick entry into the interim government in Kathmandu.
which would legitimise them in the international arena
and give the cadre the sense of having 'arrived'. Here,
matters are stuck on the issue of 'arms management'
- to what degree and when the fighters are to lower
and sequester their arms, and ultimately to disarm.
Though the Maoist rhetoric has reached higher
decibels in recent weeks - a ratcheting-up that seems
designed to maintain ranke-and-file morale - the road
ahead is quite clear. The United Nations Secretary
General has sent his Personal Representative, Ian
Martin, to Kathmandu to oversee the 'arms
management' process, as requested by both the SPA
and the Maoists. This course is then to lead towards
election of the constituent assembly that is to draft
the new Constitution.
By the time this magazine emerges from the press,
Nepal will be well into the Dasain season, traditionally
the time when political activism takes a back seat as
the peasantry of this primarily agrarian country sets
about bringing in the harvest. Nothing would be better
for the people of Nepal than to receive a Dasain gift
from the SPA and the rebel leadership, in the form of
movement on arms management'. This would mean
the strict placement of the Nepal Army in its barracks,
and control of its 'royalist' commander-in-chief and
top brass; and the Maoists placing their entire armed
squads in cantonments, as required under the letter
to the UN Secretary General.
■ I.'HUJ.II.HHII
Havana breakthrough
JJanmohan Singh has effected a fundamental shift
fin India's Pakistan policy. From consistently
viewing the entire Pakistani state as the perpetrator
of terrorism, New Delhi has explicitly recognised
that Islamabad is a victim of terrorism as well, and
could in fact a, evolve as a partner
in dealing     ^S^\jj with the problem. The
policy change has
infused life into
a       comatose
peace process.
It also  holds
the promise of
transforming
:3§pffisr   \       'he conflictive
discourse and blame game that has marked relations
between the two establishments.
Meeting on the sidelines ofthe NAM (Non-Aligned
Movement) summit in Havana, Prime Minister Singh
and Pervez Musharraf decided to be imaginative, and
not let the radical outfits dictate the agenda. The
framework was already present in previous joint
statements: Pakistan had repeatedly promised it
would not allow its soil to be used for terrorist activities
against India, while India agreed to discuss all issues
in the Composite Dialogue, including Kashmir.
However, this agreement was in danger of falling apart.
Both countries were increasingly feeling that the other
was not living up to its end of the bargain. This was
particularly true in the case of India, where the recent
spate of attacks, from Benaras temples to Delhi
marketplaces and Bombay trains, had led to abundant
scepticism about Pakistan's political will to curb
extremist militancy.
That is why the decision of the two leaders to put
in place joint, institutionalised anti-terrorism
mechanisms to identify and implement counter-
terrorism initiatives and investigations is an extremely
creditworthy achievement. The general-president and
the prime minister deserve special praise for thinking
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 out of the box. in particular for realising that India
and Pakistan are on the same side. For this reason,
the sudden barrage of criticism against the deal
amongst Delhi's intelligentsia and political circles is
entirely misplaced.
Prime Minister Singh is being attacked by the
Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as some retired
national security officials, for naivete in believing that
:~e patrons of terror' will ever help India tackle
:e"orism. At the same time, commentators of the
e~ believe that the shift has come about due to
pressure from the US. They do not necessarily have
a problem with the text of the agreement, just with
the perception that it is symptomatic of the manner
in which Delhi is following Washington's diktats.
In all this, what the critics overlook is the internal
political dynamic in Pakistan, where the militants and
President Musharraf are clearly on opposite sides
as of now. They also ignore a simple premise: India
cannot hope to solve the problem of militancy,
especially that which emanates from Pakistan-based
groups, without Islamabad's help. From a strategic
perspective, setting up joint mechanisms can only
make the Pakistani government more accountable
vis-a-vis New Delhi about the steps it is taking to
curb the activities of such groups. Islamabad should
be happy as well, for India has at long last publicly
accepted Pakistan's denial of involvement in terrorist
attacks, as well as reiterated its commitment to finding
a solution on the Kashmir issue.
Most importantly, the meeting between the two
leaders has ensured that the Composite Dialogue is
back on track. The fact that newer avenues
of understanding have emerged, and differences
narrowed, bodes well for the future. We have
consistently argued in these pages that the solution
is more engagement between the two countries, not
less, particularly on issues that are seen as thorny
and divisive. The Havana breakthrough is a good step
in that direction.
'Congeries of Lust'
tn this piece by Venantius J Pinto, the
•thrashing body of a charioteer lies
beheaded on the ground. Above it are
seen the heads of a thousand others,
felled before him by his reckless
vehicle. They peer out over a
landscape left empty and desolate by
this force of rampant
destruction - perhaps by poverty,
drought or state-sponsored Gommunal
violence. Above, the daytime sky
reflects the mood on the earth: it is an
ominous pitch black. If this is day,
what will night bring? The chariot of the
state has run roughshod over the land,
and its driver now joins the ranks of its
victims. Some of the thousand faces,
though, appear alive and alert. Could it
be that they wait in the wings,
opportunistic forces of populism ready
to take over from the fallen? Are they
casualties themselves, or do they
stand complicit in this carnage?
Perhaps there is no distinguishing
between victims and tyrants. There are
strips of light at the corners of the
picture, framing the black sky. Does
the darkness grow or does it recede?
This is part of a regular series of Himal's
editorial commentary on artwork by
Venantius J Pinto. India ink on Hiromi
paper. Print size: 38.5"x72".
Himal Southasian I October 2006
 SOUTHAaSIAN / BRIEFS
NEPAL ( BHUTAS
Washington, Thimphu,
Kathmandu
Nepal in recent weeks
has seen a series
of high-level visits
by US senators and
Congressmen.
Interestingly, each of
these delegations spent
a substantial portion of
their time in the country
dealing with issues
surrounding the Bhutani
refugee population. The
US policymakers also
all flew directly from
Kathmandu to Thimphu,
where some doled out
unusually harsh words to
the royal government.
Almost no progress
has been made on the
Lhotshampa issue in 16
years, since the Nepali-
speaking Bhutani
PAffiSTAM MTOA
population was
unceremoniously kicked
out of Bhutan. The past two
months, however, have
seen a flurry of action. In
late July the Kathmandu
government for the first
time agreed to allow
UNHCR to resettle 16
"vulnerable" individuals to
the US and Canada, and to
allow UNHCR to conduct
an official census of the
camps - something that
has never been completed.
But the refugee leaders
are not at all pleased, by
the looks of it. The visits
have rattled some of them,
who have long argued
against resettlement
options in favour of
repatriation. Resettlement,
A tentative ferry
The long-awaited ferry service linking Bombay and
Karachi appears to finally be in the offing. Anwar
Shah, the Pakistan director-general of Ports and
Shipping, said in late August that Islamabad has
already given its go-ahead, and is now awaiting
approval from New Delhi.
Although the resumption of a sea-based connection
between the two financial capitals would be an
important development in the thawing of neighbourly
relations, the announcement is for the moment being
couched in terms ofthe ferry service's linkage to Dubai.
The service is being described as 'Mumbai to Dubai,
via Karachi'. While commencement of the luxury line
between Karachi and Dubai is already slated for the
beginning of November, the USD 550 price-tag for the
two-day cruise will relegate it to high-end tourists only.
Nonetheless, a maritime passage between Karachi
and Bombay, twin cities of Southasia when it comes to
commercial activity, would be a shot in the arm for
India-Pakistan connectivity.
however, has increasingly
been the recommended
option by UNHCR and
some donor governments
in the face of Bhutani
intransigence. The visit to
the camps by one of the
US delegations was
forced to be cut short due
to refugee protests.
Nonetheless, upon
returning to Washington,
Congressman Jim Kolbe
said that the US had
agreed to take in up to
70,000 of the estimated
105,000 refugees.
Australia and Canada
\m\k l WEPAL
have also agreed to take
in lesser amounts.
The question is
whether the word of
visiting delegations can
be trusted, when there
has been no formal
announcement by any
government. On second
thought, Thimphu's
government would not be
unhappy with a verbal
lashing, if that came with
a US promise to take in a
substantial number of
refugees. That is a small
price to pay for being rid
of a thorn in the side.       I
Cataracts and accountability
W
Kejrivsal
hen the winners of the
annual Ramon
Magsaysay awards
were announced on the last day
of August, the list included the
names of two Southasians.
Named after the former
Philippines president, the
Ramon Magsaysay awards are
commonly referred to as the
Asian Nobel Prize.
This year's Award for Peace
and International Understanding
went to Nepali physician Sanduk Ruit, who introduced
new techniques for cataract surgery into Nepal, including
mobile eye camps that can perform operations
throughout the country's rural areas. The Award for
Emergent Leadership went to Arvind Kejriwal, an Indian
tax officer who founded the NGO Parivartan, which has
succeeded in forcing pro-people, anti-corruption reforms
within the Indian Revenue Service.
Dr Ruit comes from an ethnic group of Nepal's far-
eastern hills, and has achieved fame for his cataract
camps in different parts of the developing world, most
importantly in Tibet. Kejriwal had previously been known
for his work in spearheading, along with activist Aruna
Roy, India's Right to Information Act, which was passed
in 2005. Although there are rumours of attempts to
hobble the Act, Parivartan's achievement has been seen
as one of the Right to Information movement's more
notable successes. A
Wl
10
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 AFGHANISTAN
Opiate state economics
The UN has
predicted
that 6100
tonnes of opium
will be harvested
in Afghanistan
this year - a
bumper crop
almost 60
percent larger
than previous
years.
Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the
world's opium.
Much of the increased harvest is being grown in
Taliban-strong areas in the south of the country, where
pro-Taliban militant forces have been gaining - and
defending - foolholds. In the insurgency-hit Helmand
province, for instance, the UN Office on Drugs and
Crime report says that poppy production has increased
by more than 160 percent this year alone. Increases
were also recorded in the northeast ofthe country,
where warlords have reasserted their power.
Despite a stringent two-year-old anti-opium
campaign, largely led by the US, the estimated USD
2.7 billion drug trade in Afghanistan still accounts for
nearly a third of the country's total economic output.
While upsetting the trade could have drastic
implications for the poppy farmers, Afghanistan seems
on the road to becoming a 'narco-state' - not
something to be wished on any country, for the
continuous instability this would ensure. £
INDIA
SEZs and the Ministry
INDIA
The last frontiers
The Indian Finance
Ministry in late
August tabled a
report suggesting that,
once the Special *
Economic Zones (SEZs)
are activated, the country's
national revenue will dip
by almost INR 1.8 trillion
within four years. To put
that in perspective, total
revenue estimates for
2006 are only a little over
twice that amount -
around INR 4 trillion.
The sanctioning of the
SEZs is considered one of
the most controversial
government policies in the
post-liberalisation era, and
the Reserve Bank of India
and the International
Monetary Fund have
joined in expressing their
concern. New Delhi only
opened up the country to
the tax- and customs-
exempt manufacturing
areas last year, and
capped the number at
150. Gigantic SEZs are
now being constructed
across the country, from
Kanpur to Kakinada.
New Delhi's Finance
Ministry opposes a
proposal to develop more
SEZs, worrying that they
could be a drain on the
exchequer. Proponents
have hit back, countering
that SEZs are a crucial
way of luring international
investment cash into the
country. They argue
that, instead of an INR
1.8 trillion deficit over
four years, revenue
would increase by INR
450 billion. /b
It may have more to do
with New Delhi's
national security
concerns than with
anything else, but India's
borderland populations
are bound to receive an
economic boost with a
projected spurt in
road-building. The
government announced in
early September that it had
finalised plans to build 862
km of new roads -
comprising 27 projects - in
the India-China
borderlands. INR 9 billion
has been set aside for the
new phase of the Border
Area Development
Programme (BADP),
which will be finished
within four years. In
addition, the Centre is also
studying proposals for
more borderland roads,
on the indo-Nepali and
Indo-Bhutani frontiers.
The BADP currently
receives an annual
allotment of INR 3.3
billion, but this is being
upped to INR 5.2 billion
for 2006-07. The Home
Ministry has also
announced that if the
projects are carried out
"properly", that amount
could be almost doubled
to INR 10 billion for 2007-
08. The ministry has
subsequently asked the
governments of all
states with international
borders to prepare action
plans for potential
borderland infrastructure
development. ,
■PAKIS
LAMA ■
With trade, arms
Islamabad seems keen on deepening its embrace
with Colombo. With clashes on tbe island continuing
at a fever pitch and more than half ofthe International
Monitoring Mission led by Norway heading back home,
Pakistan's Interior Ministry Secretary, Kamal Shah-
announced that Islamabad was looking at "actively"
increasing its military ties with Colombo.
Shah told a group of specially invited Sri Lankan
journalists in Islamabad that his government wanted to
update and step up a 2003 memorandum of*
understanding between the two countries that dealt with
security issues, including counter-terrorism. He said
Islamabad would favourably view any request byj
Colombo: to increase the number - currently set at-
around 200 per year - of Sri Lankan military personnel;
training at elite Pakistani military institutions.
While the secretary noted that a negotiated settlement
would be the best way to end Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict,
he added that military intervention was sometimes
unavoidable. The August assassination attempt orV::
Pakistan's head diplomat to Sri Lanka, Bashir WaK
Mohammad, would riot affect relations between the'two
countries, Shah concluded. ,.:
Himal Southasian | October 2006
11
 SRI LANKA i INDIA
Trade across the strait
India the island's
third-largest export market.
Colombo now hopes to
repeat the performance
with Islamabad. A free
trade agreement between
Sri Lanka and Pakistan
came into effect on 12
June.
Sri Lanka's burgeoning
trade connections do not
seem to be the norm,
however, A report by the
Associated Chambers of
Commerce and Industry in
India (ASSOCHAM),
released the same week as
Bogollagama's
announcement, found that
trade between India and
regional blocs such as
SAARC and ASEAN has
dropped between 2003
and 2006. Beyond the
neighbourhood, during
that same period India's
trade increased with
former Soviet states and
with the oil-producing
Bilateral trade
between India and
Sri Lanka currently
stands at around USD 2
billion per year, according
to Rohitha Bogollagama,
Sri Lanka's Enterprise
Development and
Investment Promotion
Minister. This dramatic 80
percent increase over less
than a decade has come
about since the 1998
signing of the lndo-Sri
Lankan Free Trade
Agreement, and has made
■■PAKISTAN
A fragile peace
A Critical peace deal was finally signed in early
September between Islamabad and pro-
Taliban militants in the border regions of North
Waziristan, where tens of thousands of Pakistani      ;
military men have for years clashed with rebels of
various hues. Hundreds of people have been killed
this year alone in violence in the region, and the
situation has heigPftened tensions between Kabul and
Islamabad, with the former accusing the latter of
allowing Taliban fighters to regroup on Pakistani soil.
The new deal, brokered by a jirga of tribal elders,
urges local tribes to refuse harbour to foreign
militants, and to halt crossborder attacks. In return, the
military Will reduce its presence in the area -
withdrawing to barracks and only manning
checkpoints. After the signing, militants and military
officials reportedly hugged one another in a show
of goodwill.
Although many observers were pessimistic about
the long-term viability of the accord, the success of a
ceasefire signed on 25July between the government
and North Waziristan rebels had already surprised
many: The deal was reached just days before Pervez
Musharraf traveled to Kabul to meet Hamid Karzai,
Signifying a further effort by Pakistan to keep the
unstable frontier region from further debilitating
bilateral relations.
OPEC countries.
While trade with SAARC
countries had stood at 3.4
percent of India's total
foreign trade in 2003, that
paltry figure further
declined by 2006 to just 2.8
percent. Even Indo-ASEAN
trade declined from 9.3
TIBET i NEPAL
percent to 8.9 percent.
India's top trading partners
in recent years were listed
as the US, UAE, China,
Singapore and the UK.
ASSOCHAM attributed the
decline in inter-SAARC
trading to political tensions
and mistrust. <b
Next stop
There seems no stopping the Chinese rail
juggernaut. Just two months after the line opened,
a high-level Chinese official has given assurances
to Nepal that the new Golmud-Lhasa railway would be
extended all the way to the Nepali frontier.
The chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region,
Qiangba Puncog, made this promise to Nepali Deputy
Prime Minister K P Oli. Qiangba said that Beijing is
excited at the prospect of connecting China to the Nepali
frontier. And now there is also talk of further lengthening
the line into India.
The most likely route for the extension into Nepali
territory would be through Xigaze (Shigatse) prefecture,
through which the only Tibet-Nepal highway runs.
Construction on the additional 270 km of rail track into
Xigaze is expected to take around three years. It seems
only a matter of time before Beijing proposes yet another
rail line into Southasia. lo
BURMA
Making the agenda
For the first time ever,
the United Nations
Security Council
; voted in mid-September
to put the issue of political
repression and human
I rights violations in Burma
; on its formal agenda. The
: Security Council received
briefings on Burma in
June and December, but
the country had not been
included in the formal
agenda due to opposition,
! most notably by
permanent members
China and Russia.
The recent inclusion
comes following pressure
from the United States.
The decision has been
met with enthusiasm on
the part of Burma's
struggling democratic
forces, and is the start of a
process by which the
UN Secretariat would
report regularly on
developments within
the country. A
12
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 INDIA j BURMA
A revitalised Sittwe
SRI LANKA
Jairam Ramesh,
India's Minister of
State for Commerce,
says that New Delhi will be
investing USD 103 million
to redevelop the Sittwe
port on the northwestern
coast of Burma and to
improve navigability on
the Kaladan River, which
flows to Burma through
lizoram. This is one more
attempt to reinvigorate
bilateral trade between the
countries through the
Indian Northeast.
The minister
announced the plans on a
trip to Mizoram, the
southern part of which
BANGLADESH
would act as a new trading
hub for a route that would
run between mainland
India, the Northeast
and - by way of the
Kaladan - Burma. The
work on Sittwe will begin
by 2009, and will be
overseen by the state-run
Rail India Technical and
Economic Services. New
Delhi has also earmarked
more than INR 40 million
to develop a customs point
at Zokhawtar in Mizoram,
as well as another INR 25
million for infrastructure
development on the
Indo-Bangladeshi border at
Tlabung (Demagiri).        A
A Phulbari victory
It is a difficult job planning a mine in a populated
country, where the displaced are bound to be too
many. The last week of August saw four days of
increasingly violent protests against a proposed
coalmine in Phulbari, in the northern Bangladeshi district
of Dinajpur. Four protesters were killed in clashes with
police, after the Awami League-led opposition alliance
joined the demonstrations and forced a day-long strike.
The plan by the UK-based Asia Energy would have
displaced an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 people from
more than 100 villages, although the company had
promised that all those affected would be compensated.
Before the Dhaka government could authorise the deal,
however, the protesters had already dug in their heels.
The authorities were finally forced to scrap the deal, and
Asia Energy
subsequently
pulled out of
its operations
in and
around
Phulbari.
Meanwhile,
the coal that
is there will
remain
underground
for now.     ib
Military and monitors
Amidst an already deteriorating situation, heavy
accusations began to fly between the international
Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and the Sri Lankan
military. Ulf Henricsson, the mission's head, said that he
had obtained confidential information implicating Sri
Lankan military personnel in the killing of 17 local
employees of the French NGO Action against Hunger in
early August.
The aid workers, all but one of them Tamil and working
on Tsunami-related programmes, were found having
been shot at close range. Henricsson termed the incident
an "act of assassination", and said that the episode was
one of the most egregious to have taken place anywhere
in the world in recent years.
Colombo rigorously rejected the accusations, saying
that the SLMM monitors "are not professionals in autopsy
or post-mortem."
The altercation between the SLMM and the
government came at a time when the majority of the
international monitors were pulling out of the country
anyway. This was as directed by Tamil Tiger leaders after
the EU listed the rebels on a terrorist watch list early in the
summer. Of the original 57 monitors, only around 20 will
remain, from Norway and Iceland.
None of this can be good for peace on the island, nor
for its people. By the first week of September an
estimated 60,000 refugees were living in 100 camps in
Tamil Nadu, with more than 200,000 having fled their
homes due to the increased fighting in recent weeks. The
absence of monitors will hurt amidst the undeclared war
in Sri Lanka. A
NEPAL
Citizenship reform
In early September
Nepal's council of
ministers passed a bill
that will help solve longstanding problems with the
country's citizenship laws. In
order to be issued
citizenship, the 1990
Constitution stipulates that
any person who was not
considered a citizen by the
Nepal Citizenship Act of
1964 and whose father does
not possess a certificate of
citizenship must be a longstanding resident who works
in Nepal, and must also be
able to "speak and write
the language ofthe nation
of Nepal".
Most of the five million or
so people currently denied
citizenship are of the
Madhesi community of
Nepal's tarai plains. Under
the new bill, any person who
can provide written evidence
of having lived within Nepal's
borders before 13 April
1990 will be granted
citizenship. For those born
after that date, one Nepali
parent - either father or
mother-will suffice.
The tarai has long been
marginalised by Nepal's
state-sponsored
nationalism. The country's
new democratic transition,
however, brings with it a
government more aware of
the importance of inclusion
than any before it. Analysts
point out the need to resolve
outstanding problems of
citizenship before the
Constituent Assembly
elections, tentatively slated
to take place early next
year. The government
plans to distribute
certificates of citizenship at
the village level, so that all
'Nepalis' will soon be able
to look forward to heading to
the polls. lo
Himal Southasian I October 2006
13
 NEPAL i INDIA
I THE MALDIVES
Nepali thoroughfare
The Kathmandu
government has for
the first time officially
proposed that Nepal be
used as a trade corridor
between its two massive
neighbours, India and
China. King Gyanendra
had made frequent
mention of the possibility
during his 15 months
of autocratic rule, hoping
that this would be his
contribution to the
Nepali economy.
The announcement
came during a summit in
mid-August in New Delhi
between the Indian and
Nepali trade secretaries,
.■■BASGLABESH.i PAKISTAN
who agreed to commission
a study immediately to look
at potential routes for such
a corridor. The two sides
also agreed on a host of
strategies to boost flagging
Indo-Nepali trade, including
the creation of broad-gauge
railway links at the border
points of Kakarbhitta,
Biratnagar, Bhairahawa,
Nepalgunj and Dhangadi,
With roadwork on the
existing Radhikapur
route hampering
Nepal-Bangladesh trade,
India also agreed to allow
Nepali traders use of
the Singhabandh-
Rohanpur route. A
From Tata to Dawood
The Bangladesh Board of Investment (Bol) has
turned its attention towards Pakistan's Dawood
Group for aft injection of foreign direct investment.
Dawood is currently looking at investing around
USD 300 million in fertiliser and energy projects
in Bangladesh.
This is a relatively paltry amount compared with the
USD 3 billion investment that the india-based Tata
Group had been negotiating with the Bol for the past
year, however. That scheme had also been looking to
invest in fertiliser and energy, as well as steel projects.
Negotiations broke down in July when the Dhaka
government was unable to come to a decision with an
increasingly contentious election slated for January.
Coming straight but of the failure to push through the
country's largest-ever foreign investment possibility
(with Tata), Bol's executive chairman Mahmudur
Rahman called the current investment environment in
Bangladesh "excellent". Meanwhile, a free trade
agreement between Pakistan and Bangladesh is
expected to be signed in the very near future, the first
meeting of the Bangladesh-Pakistan Joint Business
Council having taken place in late August. WW
A doubtful referendum
A historic referendum to decide the future
governmental structure of the Maldives was
thrown into confusion recently, when the Special
Majlis {Constitutional Assembly) voted not to back the
creation of a number of special committees that would
oversee the countrywide vote.
The surprise announcement of the referendum -
which would be the Maldives' first in four decades -
Came in mid-June, when politicians could not agree on
whether to go for a presidential or parliamentary system
amidst constitutional reforms. The vote to allow the
referendum had included a significant number of MPs
from the ruling DRP party, and the approval was seen as
a distinct loss for President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Although the referendum was at first set to take place
on 16 September, the Majlis failed to ratify the creation of
the new oversight committees, making it logistically
impossible for it to take place. Opposition members
reacted with fury, accusing unelected DRP MPs in the
Majlis of sabotaging the vote. The reaction was so
chaotic that the day's session was forced to end early,  a
RESIGN
Disappeared in the
'war on terror'
The fallout of American excesses related to Iraq and
Afghanistan seems to have touched Southasia in
both direct and indirect ways. Just a week prior to
George W Bush's reluctant confirmation that the US
Central Intelligence Agency has maintained secret
detention centres around the world, Amnesty
International released a report that found that the US-led
'war on terror' has led to "new patterns of enforced
disappearance" in Southasia.
In addition to longtime problems of disappearances in
Nepal and Sri Lanka, Amnesty suggests that the context
of the 'war on terror' has led to an upsurge of several
hundred disappearances in Pakistan, many of which
are believed to be in the US prison complex at
Guantanamo Bay.
Even in places like Nepal and Sri Lanka, Amnesty
reports that disappearances in recent years have
increased. Despite the coming of peace to the former,
Nepal's National Human Rights Commission reports at
least 330 people still missing. In the latter, enforced
disappearances have increased since the introduction of
new statutes in August
2005, which gave stepped-
up powers to the country's
security forces. At least 62
cases of enforced
disappearance have been
registered by the national
Human Rights
Commission this year, and
a further 183 cases are
under investigation of
persons missing under
other circumstances.
:■■   .:"-.,<   ';
.a!, ... v^j *V-__;s   <   '"■ •■:
14
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 OPINION
Connectivity as India's
neighbourhood policy
Making India's extensive regional borders
'progressively irrelevant' will not be easy,
but it is necessary.
The Indian government's effort has been to
construct an overarching vision for South Asia,
so that India does not deal with its neighbours
in an ad-hoc and reactive manner, but in accordance
with policies that fit intcr^nd promote this larger vision.
The vision of South Asia as an integrated and single
entity is not new. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee had spoken about our aim to establish a
South Asian Economic Union on the basis of a South
Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). At the SAARC Dhaka
Summit in November 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh elaborated further on this vision. He said that
although South Asia is divided by political boundaries,
it forms a single geographical and economic unit. It
occupies a shared cultural space and inherits a shared
cultural legacy. He said that though we cannot erase
political boundaries or redraw them, we can certainly
work together to make them progressively irrelevant.
There should be a free flow of goods, peoples and ideas
across our borders in the same manner as in the
European Union today. Over a period of time, this
would erase tire sense of division among our people.
The prime minister emphasised the overriding
importance of connectivity to the realisation of this
vision. The Subcontinent today is not even as connected
as it was before 1947. We must restore crossborder
transport linkages through highways, railways, air
and sea lurks, as well as electronic communications.
India must start looking at national boundaries not as
impenetrable walls which somehow protect it from
the outside world, but as 'connectors', bringing us
closer to our neighbours. Better connectivity requires
a change in mindset.
Border regions, too, must be viewed differently. We
must stop seeing them as peripheral, serving only as
'buffer zones' preventing ingress into the Indian
heartland. We must rid ourselves of this 'outpost'
mentality and accept our border states and regions as
being as much a part of our national territory as is the
heartland. The idea that such regions must be left
largely underdeveloped and remote - as reflected in
the outdated system of 'inner line permits', whereby
Indians and foreign nationals require permits to enter
certain areas - must be jettisoned. Borders connect us
to our neighbours, and border regions are extremely
important as areas of mutual interaction. This fact
should be leveraged for their development. Again, a
change in mindset is required.
It is in this context that the prime minister's address
at the Dhaka Summit elaborated a different approach
to our interactions in the neighbourhood. When the
prime minister said, in relation to Pakistan, "I do not
have the mandate to change borders; but I do have tire
mandate to make these borders irrelevant over a period
of time," he was enunciating a principle applicable to
all our neighbours. To promote the connectivity that
will make this possible, it is important to have the best
infrastructure possible for easy crossborder movement.
We may set up a SAfTA, but unless we have what I
would call'transmission belts' across borders to permit
the uninterrupted flow of goods, peoples and ides,
SAFTA would yield little practical benefit. Over the
past two years, a major effort has been made to try and
bring about such a high level of connectivity.
Another significant component of our neigh-
Liourhood policy derives from the recognition of the
Himal Southasian I October 2006
15
 crucial diplomatic role of culture and people-to-people
contact. There are very strong cultural affinities among
the people of the Subcontinent; by giving full play to
these affinities we can reinforce a sense of togetherness,
a sense of shared identity. We have a plan to set up
cultural centres in each and every one of our
neighbouring countries. New embassy projects in
Kathmandu and Dhaka have incorporated such centres.
We are also not insisting on mechanical reciprocity in
the promotion of cultural exchanges, adopting instead
a liberal and proactive policy of funding exchange of
visits of scholars, artists and others.
Politically, our neighbourhood policy is now based
on the recognition that what can best secure India's
interests in the region is the building of a web of 'dense
interdependencies' with our neighbours. We must give
our neighbours a stake in our own economic prosperity.
This would impart a certain stability to our relations.
We want a neighbourhood policy capable of adjusting,
of shaping events. There will be moments in history
when it may be difficult for us to influence events in
our neighbourhood. We should assess when a
neighbour is in the midst of a transformational process,
and take steps to make ourselves relevant to that change.
1 here will be other moments in history where we may
be able to play a more definitive and active role to orient
change in a constructive direction. Making the right
judgement and adopting policies appropriate to the
nature of change is a big challenge to our diplomacy.
There is, for instance, momentous change taking
place today in Nepal. We do not quite know in what
this will culminate but, in retrospect, hy aligning
ourselves with the country's democratic forces, by
supporting the transformation in progress, we have
done rather well.
A major transformation is also taking place in
another very close neighbour, Bhutan. 1 lis Majestv King
Jigme Singye Wangchuk has decided to introduce over
the next couple of years what would essentially be a
constitutional monarchy. Here, as in some other
countries, we wiM soon be dealing with much more
diffuse political structures, instead of with a single
powerful leader or an established elite. We must keep
ahead of these changes rather than always play 'catch
up'. We must identify and interact with emerging
leaders and institutions.
The same is true of Pakistan, We are engaging
with President Musharraf because he happens to be
the current leader of the country. But Pakistan is
also undergoing a transformation. We need to reach
out beyond the government, to the people in Pakistan,
to political forces emerging on the horizon. The
policy of promoting peopie-to-people contacts
assumes significance in this regard.
Dense imnnienendencies
We can claim credit that our policy has been quite
successful. Within just two years, traffic across India's
border with Pakistan has reached over 200,000 people
per annum - an incredible figure given the history of
India-Pakistan relations, lhe train service between
Khokrapar and Munabao, connecting Sindh and
Rajasthan, was carrying 700 passengers every week.
"Ihat number is now 400 because Islamabad has
restricted the number of passenger bogies. India-
Pakistan relations are changing because they are
increasingly people-driven. We need to reinforce that
rather than set up barriers. Our motto must be that we
are prepared to go as far as the comfort level of our
neighbours allows.
1 will now give you a sense of what we have been
able to achieve in the promotion of regional
connectivity. The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service
across the Line of Control was inaugurated two years
ago. Following this landmark event, we have recently
inaugurated the Poonch-Rawalkot bus service.
We have proposed another bus service between Kargil
and Skardu, and jammu and Sialkot. In Punjab,
we have the Amritsar-Lahore bus service, the
Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service and the
proposed service to Kartarpur Sahib.
We have a major plan for the upgrading of border
checkpoints and their backward linkages. Thus an
Integrated Check-Post (ICP) is planned at Wagah,
which will house customs, immigration and
warehousing, health facilities, a shopping complex
and parking facilities. The road leading from
Amritsar to Wagah is also going to be upgraded into
a four-lane highway.
A number of ICPs are being planned on the India-
Nepal border, as well as the upgrading of highways
and the extension of train links into Nepal. We have
plans to develop Integrated Check-Posts at Jogbani
(Bihar)-Biratnagar, Raxaul (Bihar)-Birgunj, Sunauli
(Uttar Pradeshj-Bhairawa and Nepalganj Road (UP)-
Nepalganj. lhe road links to these check-posts from
the Indian side will also be upgraded. The Indian
government is also working on the development of a
'garland road' along the border for better patrolling,
surveillance and border management.
As regards rail links, we are setting up new links
and upgrading existing ones between important
border towns of India and Nepal. I hose include the
Katihar-Jogbani (Bihar)-Biratnagar line, the Conda
(UP)-Nepalganj line, the Nautanwa (UP)-Bhairawa
line, the New Jalpaiguri (West Bengal)-Kakarbhitta
line and the Jaynagar (Bihar)-Bardibas line. We are
simultaneously working to develop link roads to the
east-west highway in the tarai region of Nepal; as
We must rid ourselves of this 'outpost' mentality and accept our border states and
regions as being as much a part of our national territory as is the heartland.
16
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 well as to implement a pipeline between the Indian
Oil Corporation and the Nepal Oil Corporation
for channelling of oil supplies between Raxaul (Bihar)
and Amlekhgunj.
When it comes to Bhutan, India has invested in the
development of road infrastructure within the countrv,
but there has not been commensurate investment on
nur side of the border. We are, therefore, planning to
upgrade several approach roads to Bhutan, including
•he Kangia-Tamalpur (Assam)-Jhonkar road, the
Pathsala (Assamj-Nangalam road, the Santabari
(Assam)-Celephu road and the Baribesa (WB)-
Kalikhola road. In addition, we are working on
establishing rail links between border towns in India
and Bhutan, including between Hasimara (WB) and
Phuentsholing, Darranga (Assam) and Samdrup
'honkar, Kokrajhar (Assam) and Celephu, Banarhat
AB) and Samtse, and Pathsala (Assam) and
Nangalam. There are also proposals to establish lCPs
at Jaigaon (WB), and a dry port at Phuentsholing.
With Bangladesh, India shares a land border of
more than 4000 km, yet there are at present only a
tew operational road links between the two
countries. These include the Kolkata-Petrapole and
Siliguri-Phulbari road link through West Bengal, the
Agartaia-Akhaura road link through Tripura, and the
^hillong-Sylhetroad link through Meghalaya. Of these,
the most important road link is the Kolkata-Petrapole
highway, which carries more than 80 percent of
bilateral trade.
The infrastructural facilities on our side of the
highway, however, are woefully inadequate, both at
the checkpoint and on the highway leading to it. This
only hampers the development of economic linkages.
We have therefore decided to expedite upgradation of
the Kolkata-Petrapole highway, including the building
of bypasses and overpasses. There is also a proposal
to establish ICPs at i lilli (WB), Changrabandha (WB),
Akhaura (Tripura), Dawki (Meghalaya), Sutarkhandi
(Meghalaya) and Kawarpuchiah (Mizoram). We are
at the same time working to complete border
fencing and construction of border roads for effective
border management.
Similarly, with Myanmar, we are developing a
network of linkages. These include crossborder
developmental projects such as the upgrading of the
Tamu (Manipur)-Kalewa-Kalemyo road, and the
Rhi-liddim and Rhi-Falam roads along the border in
Mizoram; the upgrading of the Jiribam (Manipur)-
Imphal-Moreh road, and integration with the proposed
Trilateral Highway; the Kaladan Multi-Modal
Transport Project, which links Mizoram with Arakan
province of Myanmar and provides, in the form of the
historic port of Sittwe (Akyab), alternative access out
of the Northeast bypassing Bangladesh; and the
Jiribam-lmphal rail link, which may be extended to
Mandalay as part of the Delhi-Hanoi railway.
The border trade point at Nathula in Sikkim has
been inaugurated, and the backward linkages on the
Indian side are being upgraded. Here, too, we intend
to set up an Integrated Check-Post. We have suggested
another border trade point at Bumla (Arunachal
Pradesh) in the eastern sector, for which a response is
being awaited from Beijing. We have approached
Nepal for transit to fibet. In general, there are plans to
upgrade the entire road network in the
Northeast - including two inter-basin roads in
Arunachal and seven roads leading up to the Line of
Actual Control - and to review the Inner Line Permit
system so that tourism can be promoted. .:•
From a speech given on 9 September 2006 by the outgoing
Indian Foreign Secretary to the Indian Council of World
Affairs, New Delhi, Printed with permission.
HIMAL WE ARE
^W.WHiliSWII PROcomMUNITY
I I-MACHO
Himal Southasian | October 2006
17
 ANALYSIS
The problems of
transition in Nepal
The interim government in Kathmando
risks becoming a mere caretaker
administration in the absence of concrete
movement towards a constituent
assembly through the adoption of an
interim constitution.
BY YASH GHM
The present situation in Nepal is characterised
by a paradox. The king has acknowledged the
sovereignty of the people. The Maoists have
proclaimed their commitment to a peaceful solution
through the political process. The army has declared
its loyalty to democratic forces. There is a broad
consensus on tha ultimate goals of society and
state - sovereignty of the people; multiparty
democracy, inclusive of all people, communities and
regions; gender-equity; recognition of cultural
diversity; rights for all, including minorities; social
justice and the rule of law. All of these constitute a
compelling vision of Nepal. Compared to many other
countries that have suffered internal conflicts, Nepal
is extremely well-placed to consolidate progress
towards these goals.
The Seven Party Alliance (SPA), the Maoists,
and the general public are agreed that the new
constitutional and political order will be established
through a constituent assembly (CA), composed on
the principle of inclusiveness. The state would be
restructured in a progressive manner through the
constituent assembly, "resolving all problems
including those related to class, caste, region and
gender". Meanwhile, there would be an interim
constitution to ensure democracy, peace and human
rights. It would provide the basis for an interim
government. The House of Representatives would
be dissolved and replaced by alternative
arrangements made through consensus. People's
governments of the Maoists would be dissolved.
Decisions on important national issues would be
made through dialogue and consensus. The interim
constitution would also specify the procedure for the
convening and operation of the constituent
assembly, including public participation through free
and fair elections ("without any fear or threats and
without being influenced by violence").
The paradox lies in the fact that despite
agreement on the ultimate goals and this seemingly
straightforward roadmap, hurdles have appeared as
to its implementation. Difficulties arise in part from
the ambitious scope of the interim constitution draft,
which nevertheless leaves several critical and
controversial issues to be resolved by the SPA and
the Maoists, These include the nature of the state,
the mode of election of the constituent assembly,
and the composition of the interim legislature. It
does not sufficiently address the problems of
governance in the transitional period. In part, these
difficulties arise from differences over the
'management of weapons' - particularly the Maoist
arms - and from questions as to the conditions
under which the Maoists can enter government and
under which elections to the constituent assembly
can legitimately be held.
There are considerable risks and dangers if the
stalemate is not speedily resolved. Sectarian
interests will seek dominance over the national
interest; parties will increasingly position themselves
for the future, rather than try to solve present-day
problems of transition; and there may be a
reversion to the earlier conflict. Frustration will
mount, and there will be further disillusionment with
the political parties.
A major cause of stalemate is the lack of trust
between the SPA and the Maoists, fuelled in part by
some external actors. This mistrust is compounded
by divisions within both the SPA and the Maoists,
which prevent each from reaching out to the other.
The interim period should be viewed as one in which
trust is re-established - trust between the parties
and the Maoists, and between the people and the
government. In order to make democratic and
participatory restructuring possible, certain changes
in the way the state operates need to be carried out
immediately. The worst examples of exclusion must
be ended now. People must not be made to wait
until there is a new Constitution to be recognised as
citizens. Trust requires such recognition.
The interim period is just ihat - it exists until the
establishment of a new constitutional order under a
permanent Constitution. This period is best
conceived of as a transition leading to a new,
definitive and comprehensive national settlement
18
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 through the constituent assembly. What happens
during this period must be primarily directed towards
a successful achievement of that new order. This
is also very important in connection to trust -
particularly that of the people, who need to see a
clear timetable. Otherwise there will be anxiety that
the Jana Andolan - the People's Movement of
April - is in danger of being hijacked.
The interim period is not a time for a radical
restructuring of the state. No institution that exists
now or that can be established through the interim
constitution will have the mandate to carry out such
5 task. The restructuring of the state is the
prerogative of the people in the exercise of their
sovereignty. Radical change is likely to be
controversial; controversy threatens the fulfilment of
the settlement as it may aggravate differences and
increase tensions.
The interim needs
The interim constitution was intended to accelerate
cogress on the political and peace processes. It
..ss :o open the way for the inclusion of the Maoists
in the executive branch and the legislature, establish
the government for the period until the adoption of
the permanent Constitution, and provide the
framework for the creation of that Constitution
through a constituent assembly.
One trouble with the draft of the interim
constitution is that the drafting committee did not
pay as much attention to the issues Nepal faces in
the run up to the constituent assembly as it did to
the structure and functions of the interim institutions.
It saw too large a role for the interim constitution,
and tried to cover a number of controversial matters
that should have been left to the constituent
assembly. It tried to implement an ambitious reform
agenda more suitable for a constituent assembly
with the people's mandate than for political bodies
(selected by the political parties, including the
Maoists) with less than universal legitimacy. It also
tried to do this through«e process in which there was
no participation of the people in the decision-making.
Many of the issues the drafting committee dealt
with require considerably more research and
consensus-building than was possible in the short
time it had - issues such as the choice of electoral
system, between federalism, autonomy or unitary
state, and the procedure for the creation of the new
Constitution. The approach the drafting committee
adopted with respect to the monarchy - leaving its
status to be decided by the people in a
referendum - is better, although with regard to other
issues the constituent assembly would be the better
institution to make decisions. The draff also raised
unnecessary controversies by proposing the
dismissal of court judges and members of other
independent institutions, and has not demonstrated
sufficient regard for due process and the rule of law.
It is necessary to re-think the purpose of the
interim constitution in light of the nature of the
interim period. The focus should be on three issues:
the arrangements for government for the next 24
months or longer until the new Constitution is made;
ensuring accountability and respect for rights and
democracy; and the drawing of the roadmap to the
constituent assembly, and the making of the
new Constitution.
On the first issue, these arrangements must take
into account that the government will be a
coalition - with perhaps some non-party
members - which must operate on the principle of
dialogue and consensus. The familiar 'Westminster'
majoritarian principle underlying the draft interim
constitution is not suitable, and could cause major
difficulties. The interim constitution seems to
assume that the prime minister would consult with
other parties when forming the government, It would
be desirable, however, for it to specifically state not
only that the government would be a coalition
between the SPA and the Maoists but also that the
prime minister would consult with the SPA and the
Maoists on its formation.
The position of the prime minister should be made
less dominant than it is in the draft. The draft gives
the PM some of the erstwhile powers of the monarch
in addition to those traditional for the head of
government; whereas it would be appropriate to give
him or her less power than is often found, and to
emphasise the collective nature of the cabinet,
Creating too powerful a prime ministerial office could
trigger divisive and disruptive competition for the
post. It would be desirable for the SPA and the
Maoists to enter into an agreement on the modalities
of decision-making in the government, so as to
avoid future disputes.
The primary responsibility of the interim
government and legislature would be to facilitate and
expedite the constitution-making process, and to
undertake making only such legislation as is
absolutely necessary, especially to facilitate the
constitution-making process itself. One example of
necessary legislation would be that dealing with the
matter of citizenship. The interim government must
re-establish law and order, and rights must be
respected. If these things are not done, its role
would be reduced to that of a caretaker government.
The role of the courts must also be clear, and their
independence assured. Other accountability
institutions - such as the office of the
The interim period is not a time for a radical restructuring of lhe state. No institution
that exists now or that can be established through the interim constitution wil! have
the mandate to carry out such a task.
Himal Southasian i October 2006
19
 auditor-general and the authority for investigating
abuse of office - must be in operation, and the
legislature should play an important part in ensuring
transparency and accountability in government.
Principles and institutions
The interim constitution must guarantee the
convening of the constituent assembly. It needs a
strong and clear chapter on the constitution-making
process, with binding principles, an agenda for the
constituent assembly and, perhaps most
importantly, timeframes. Here the draft says too
much on some matters and not enough on others.
It goes too far in dictating the makeup of the body
and its decision-making processes, but fails to give
a clear timeline.
In brief, there should be a deadline for holding
the election or selection process for the constituent
assembly. Its composition should not be
prescribed, but the principles for representation
should ensure the inclusion of 33 percent women
members, and proportionate members for other
communities. Rules for decision-making should not
be made, but some guiding principles should be
set - to start with, the bedrock necessity of
producing agreement.
It is also advisable that there be a wider and
clearer role for what the draft constitution calls the
'Constituent Assembly Public Awareness
Committee'. In addition to educating people and
seeking their views for transmission to the
constituent assembly, it should be specified that
such a committee should work those views into a
set of proposals to form the very foundation for
deliberations in the constituent assembly. The
committee's first important task would be to make
recommendations as to the format of the
constitution-making process - including various
functions of the assembly - on the basis of
appropriate consultations with the people.
There is a great danger that the SPA and the
Maoists will soorMake matters into their own hands
and attempt to make their own decisions - this at a
time when people are beginning to debate the best
form of the constituent assembly, and when their
views should be collected and incorporated into the
process of preparation. A broad agreement on this
process is a pre-condition of its success, and a
guarantee of people's participation in the political
processes that will follow.
The advantage of the early establishment of the
Committee on Public Awareness is that it can
swing into action even before the difficult questions
facing the late September summit (between the
SPA and the Maoists) on political process and
weapons are resolved. This will be reassuring to
the Nepali people, who are beginning to wonder
whether there will ever in fact be a constituent
assembly. The interim constitution should set out
fundamental principles for the new Constitution,
based on the eight-point and 12-point agreements
between the SPA and the Maoists. This would
not usurp the functions of the constituent
assembly, and would reassure the people that
things are on track for the creation of a truly
democratic Constitution.
The drafting committee has not proposed a
method for the formal adoption of the interim draft.
Not only are the political parties divided on the
subject, the method of adoption also has profound
implications for the legality and legitimacy of the
Constitution itself. It is more than likely that the
legality of the new Constitution will be challenged in
terms of both procedure and substance, as it will
not be adopted fully in accordance with the 1990
Constitution -it will be adopted, that is, without the
participation of the second chamber or the approval
of the king, and with the derogation of some
especially entrenched principles of the preamble.
It is true that the drafting committee may not be
able to do much about this. Being a committee of
lawyers giving careful consideration to the kinds of
issues courts take into account when deciding
questions of legality in similar situations, however,
they should have come up with a firm proposal as
to how to deal with the issue. Since the adoption
by the House of Representatives would inevitably
require scrutiny of the amendment procedures of
the 1990 Constitution, it would be best to base both
the legitimacy and legality of the interim
constitution not on that document but on the
people's sovereignty - through a representative
assembly of parties, Maoists and civil society. The
preamble of the interim constitution should recite
the circumstances that led to its adoption,
emphasising the people's sovereignty and the
necessity of a new constitutional order.
The implementation of these constitutional
suggestions will not be effective without the
satisfactory resolution of the weapons question,
and the exercise of good leadership. The former,
coupled with the question of the eventual
integration of the various armed forces, has to be
handled together with political issues and in a
manner both principled and flexible, so that
linkages can be established between progress on
the fronts of the political agenda and of weapons
management. There are lessons to be learned from
the debacle in Iraq that followed the senseless
decision to disband the existing army wholesale.
The management of weapons and of armed forces,
together with other issues of transition, will require
a leadership with vision and determination.
Many a country with prospects of peace,
democracy and justice as promising as in Nepal
today have squandered the opportunity for lack of
such vision, or for the selfishness or timidity of
their politicians. If Nepal falters, a large measure
of responsibility for the failure will lie with its
political leaders, ...,
20
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 OPINION
The only way
forward
The killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti should
be enough to tell the rest of Southasia
and the world how Islamabad's military
rulers intend to maintain their grip on the
resource-rich and long-suffering province
of Balochistan.
BY SHAKEEL IMAM
Three days prior to the birth of Pakistan, its
founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah told his
Constituent Assembly members, "The first
observation that I would like to make is this: you will
no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a
government is to maintain law and order, so that the
life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are
fully protected by the state."
Unfortunately, since its inception Pakistan has been
victim to the whims of the feudal elite and its army.
The entire mechanism of rule of law has been hijacked
by diis ehte, at times directly and at times with military
assistance. Since the Supreme Court decided in 1952
that the principle of necessity was acceptable
justification for the violation of constitutional norms,
the basic tenets of governance as described by Jinnah
have been sidelined. Pakistan's judiciary has become
a tool for the ruling clique, while the army has learned
the game only well enough to take over the country
multiple times.
Three short spells of democracy could not curtail
the military's power, neither in political nor in
economic sectors. The military is the biggest of all
economic players in Pakistan today, with investments
secure in such organisations as Pakistan Railways,
the Water and Power Development Authority, and the
National Logistics Cell; recently, it has even begun oil
and gas exploration. For the army, this is good
business: it has the capital, an abundance of free
labour, and the ability to use the entire state structure
to ensure the safety of its investments.
Once it had attained the status of a political group
with arms on the side, the military proceeded to destroy
the national political discourse, as well as the checks
and balances necessary for a lawful and equitable
democracy. This process not only destroyed the rule
of law and national institutions, but generated strong
feelings of injustice in many layers. Citizens felt there
was unfairness in many spheres on the part of
Islamabad, one of them being the denial of equal status
to smaller provinces in the face of a Punjab-dominated
military elite.
Due to the presence of this uniformed
clique - bolstered by an endless line of civilian
opportunists - Pakistan has failed to perform as a
federal state, to adhere to its responsibilities towards
its provinces, and to keep its promises of power-
sharing and regional autonomy. Smaller provinces,
particularly Balochistan, have subsequently worked
with increasing fervour in recent decades to demand
their rights. While such calls quickly gain momentum
among the masses, they are just as quickly denounced
and crushed by the military ehte, which labels them
as separatist or 'anti-Pakistan'. In addition, the ghost
of East Pakistan's 'equal access' demands in the early
1970s continues to loom large in the psyche of the
state establishment. It was only two years after the
1971 war that the cry went up for an independent
Baloch state.
Economic martyr
Since the early 1950s, struggles for autonomy on the
part of Sindh and the Northwest Frontier Province
have regularly turned into pointless exercises
in political negotiation. Due to the heavy presence
of natural resources - particularly petroleum - in
Balochistan, however, that province has long faced
significantly   greater  levels   of  military   high-
Himal Southasian I October 2006
21
 In Balochistan, the Pakistani military sees
an opportunity to secure a stable income,
one that can ensure the maintenance of its
domination for years to come.
handedness. Although several national bodies have
been established to give the appearance that Islamabad
is open to discussion on equitable resource-sharing,
the production of official recommendations is
celebrated by the regime as an achievement in and of
itself. The recommendations, such as they are, have
never been implemented.
In Balochistan, the Pakistani military sees an
opportunity to secure a stable income, one that can
ensure the maintenance of its domination for years to
come. Ceneral Pervez Musharraf's decision to crush
the ongoing political struggle in the province can be
seen as an attempt to nurture the political and
economic wings of the army. At the same time,
not once has the government been able to ensure that
the real issues facing the province were dealt
with properly.
When the state failed to maintain its offices and
administration in Balochistan's districts, President
Musharraf in 2003 ordered the army to take over and
build new cantonments, ratcheting up fears already
rampant in the province. The purpose of the
government's move was multifold: to use the show of
force as a tactic to carry out systematic evictions of
owners of land rich in natural resources; to ensure
that jirgas and tribal leaders were bullied into stepping
in line; and most importantly, to create enough space
for the army and its economic enterprise to prove itself
to be an 'economical ally' of the US, after having been
a failed ally in the 'war on terror'. For the last few
years, the Baloch have been pushed into corners to let
the army's economic wing gain more and freer access
to their natural resoffrces. For this same reason, when
former Balochistan governor and militant leader
Nawab Akbar Bugti did not cooperate with President
Musharraf, he was killed.
As much as Bugti's 26 August death at the hands of
the Pakistan Air Force may appear business as usual,
the act will have long-term consequences for both
Pakistan and its military regime. With Bugti dead and
hundreds having been arrested in recent weeks - not
to mention the many more who have been disappeared
over the past seven months - Islamabad has apparently
closed itself down for any further dialogue
or negotiation on issues of crucial importance
to Balochistan.
President Musharraf is now trying to portray Bugti's
death as an instance of his government's successful
management of the Balochistan issue - an example of
Islamabad's 'proactive' reaction to long-term
injustices. But after years of game-playing, the general-
president has made a critical error in resorting to
excessive use of force, and eliminating the space that
existed for dealing with Balochistan's issues. The fear
now widespread in the province and the sudden
evident absence of options will inevitably push more
Baloch, young and old alike, towards violence and
defiance of the law - if for no other reason than to mark
their opposition to Islamabad's policies with regards
to them.
Internationa! intervention
Islamabad's current strategy has in fact increased the
risk of creating a civil conflict that will stretch into the
indefinite future. It has also given the current fighting
a nasty touch, with the neighbouring Pashtun currently
being set up to fight against the Baloch. Pakistan's
army, which is now so active and comfortable on
the economic and political fronts, has lost much of its
own fighting 'spirit'. As such, the top brass is likely to
bring in another armed group to deal with the
Baloch resistance.
Due to longstanding arrogance and the realisation
of its physical power, Pakistan's military regime is
incapable as well as unwilling to understand the
current problem in Balochistan. Furthermore, it would
be unable to fulfil the first prerequisite to engaging in
dialogue with the Baloch: considering them as first-
class citizens of Pakistan. As such, in a situation in
which the presence of the state is limited to district and
provincial headquarters, the regime will continue with
oppressive tactics in order to stifle dissent.
Civen this situation, it will fall to the international
community to stop the heavy hand of the Islamabad
military coming down on Balochistan's people, in
particular those tribes that sit on resource-rich lands.
The Pakistani system of government has proven itself
incapable of dealing with even mundane issues, let
alone those as complex as resource- and power-
sharing. These questions require a strong state structure
subservient to democratic principles and committed to
human-rights norms - something that the current
structure is not. An outside intervention is needed to
solve the Pakistani state's deeply entrenched problems,
but who in the international community could play
such a role?
One approach would be for donor countries and
other interested players to pressure Islamabad to allow
an international commission to study Bugti's death,
as well as other pending Baloch issues, which would
naturallv also bring in the matter of resource-sharing
between the Centre and the province. While the process
would thus begin as a reaction to the killing of the
tribal leader, it would evolve into a proactive move to
stop all-too-likely attacks on vulnerable tribes. At the
very outset, the United Nations must send a Special
Rapporteur to Balochistan, and demand information
on all who have been 'disappeared' or detained in army
camps, in or out of Balochistan. Islamabad must
be forced to realise that loss of civilian lives and
gross human-rights violations do matter to the rest
of the world. .•:
22
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 COVER STORY
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PRASHANT JHA
At a time when a progressive patina is being painted over the rule of Chief Minister
Narendra Modi, a reporter visiting Gujarat four years and six months after the
pogroms finds a state where Muslims are being thrust forcibly into ghettos.
The trauma of the butchery is as raw as ever. The active participation of the
Hindu middle class in Modi's agenda, and the silence of the few who think otherwise,
will guarantee the social and moral poverty of all Gujarat, even as
it secedes from the rest of Indian society. Meanwhile, the wilful turn of the
communal wheel will deliver radicalised militants and, thereby, a further
marginalisation of Muslims. The Gujarat of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has
become unrecognisable. Nothing short of a massive social movement is required to
cleanse the state of Gujarat.
Himal Southasian I October 2006
23
 Ahmedabad is a divided city. On one side
resides fear and anxiety, helplessness and
anger. Walk across Jamalpur, Mirzapur,
Dani Limda, Kalopur, Lai Darwaza and other parts
of the Walled City. Go to Juhapura - one of the
largest Muslim ghettos in India. Scratch a little,
and people want to talk. An entire community
feels under attack, with many resigned to their
newfound fate of being second-class citizens.
Rights are negligible, and the sense of
representation non-existent. What remains strong
is the cry for justice, and the knowledge they will
not get it - not in Gujarat. Why? "Because",
explains one elder in Shah Alam, "we pray to
Allah. That is our transgression."
There are the borders everywhere. A patch of
road, a wall, a turn across a street corner, a
divider in the middle of a road - this is all it takes
to polarise and segregate
communities throughout Gujarat. Each
town and city now has countless
borders, forcibly making people
conscious of their religious identity.
Me Hindu, you Muslim. Or one could
look at it differently: the borders on
the ground merely reflect and
reinforce the polarisation that has
already taken place in the minds of
ordinary Gujaratis.
Yet nothing prepares you for the
certitude on the streets of the other
Ahmedabad - in Navrangpura,
Vastrapur, MG Road, Judge's
Bungalow Road, Satellite, Vejalpur.
Many Gujarati Hindus think they have the
answers to some of the most troubling questions
of our times. The more subtle would say there is a
problem among Muslims. Others argue that
Muslims themselves are the problem. They look
back fondly at the 'Toofan', the 2002 riots, and
their reminiscences have a striking thematic
unity. 77?© Muslims 'deserved it. They are ail
bloody Pakistanis and criminals. If we had more
time, we would have wiped them out. See, they
are crushed and scared. We taught them a
lesson. And now, the world should learn from
Gujarat about how to deal with the miyas. The one
sentiment that is almost wholly absent is
remorse. What remains, 54 months after the
pogrom, is an all-pervading sense of arrogance
among Hindus in the public sphere. Those who
think differently possibly keep silent.
The story of Gujarat as a whole, then, is a tale
of pride and prejudice on the one side, victimhood
and alienation on the other. In control of this
divisive agenda is the fascist government of
Babu'
Narendra Modi, who happily builds on this
evolving social reality, and reinforces it. The
everyday tragedy of Gujarat, often invisible, is in
many ways more telling than the state-sponsored
pogroms of 2002. The high degree of alienation
among Muslims, the stereotypes and
discrimination they face, the fact that a
substantial section of society is committed to the
Hindutva agenda, the absence of justice and
accountability, and the continued secession of the
state from its basic constitutional obligations -
these are all elements that go into making
Gujarat, in the very words of the Hindu Right,
its laboratory.
This is happening even as Chief Minister Modi,
the principal architect of the 2002 killings, seeks
to carve an image for himself as a development
leader, and the chaperon of India's best-governed
state. While the former is true -
that Modi guided the horrors of
2002 and the subjugation of
Muslims in the aftermath - the
latter is far from proven. Despite
the loud applause that is beginning
to be heard in New Delhi and
elsewhere, the facts on the ground
reveal that Gujarat is neither the
embodiment of progress nor of
good governance.
'Patel
.s'ftft-ft
Babu's bomb
If 2002 was an experiment in the
Hindutva laboratory, men like
Babubhai Rajabhai Patel of the
Hindutva outfit Bajrang Dal were in the forefront of
conducting it. The short, stocky Babu Bajrangi, as
he is popularly known, would pass off as an
average middie-class trader. He claims to be a
social worker. Sitting in his second-floor office in
the Ahmedabad suburb of Naroda, Bajrangi talks
about his NGO, Navchetan, which 'rescues' Hindu
women who have been 'lured' into relationships
with Muslim men. "In every house today there is a
bomb, and that bomb is the woman, who forms
the basis of Hindu culture and tradition," Bajrangi
begins. "Parents allow her to go to college, and
they start having love affairs, often with Muslims.
Women should just be kept at home to save them
from the terrible fate of Hindu-Muslim marriages."
Bajrangi's Navchetan works to prevent inter-
religious love marriages, and if such a wedding
has already taken place, it works to break the
union. When a marriage between a Hindu woman
and Muslim man gets registered in a court, within
a few days the marriage documents generally end
up on Bajrangi's desk, ferreted out by
Each town and city now has countless borders, forcibly making people conscious of
their religious identity. Me Hindu, you Muslim.
24
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 functionaries in the lower judiciary. The girl is
subsequently kidnapped and sent back home; the
boy is taught a lesson. "We beat him in a way that
no Muslim will dare to look at Hindu women again.
Only last week, we made a Muslim eat his own
waste - thrice, in a spoon," he reveals with barely
concealed pride. All this is illegal, Bajrangi
concedes, but it is moral. "And anyway, the
government is ours," he continues, turning to
'ook at the clock. "See, I am meeting Modi in a
wnife today."
One might dismiss Babu Bajrangi as a bombast
when he claims proximity to the chief minister, or
describes the beating of Muslim boys. But for a
man of obvious stature in society he is also
accused of burning Muslims alive. As the chief
accused in the infamous Naroda Patiya case, one
of the worst instances of brutality during the 2002
violence, he is alleged to have led the mob that
(O.a-ea S9 people in the area. It is a burden that
rests lightly on Bajrangi's shoulders. "People say I
killed 123 people," he says. Did you? Bajrangi
laughs, "How does it matter? They were Muslims.
They had to die. They are dead."
Evidence of Bajrangi's complicity was so
overwhelming that even a pliable state
administration could not save him from an eight-
month stint in prison. 'They cannot reduce my
hatred for Muslims with that, can they? While in
jail, I demolished a small mosque that was located in
there," he says with a sly, childlike grin. Bajrangi's
views on what is wrong with Muslims are
unabashedly straightforward. "They are ail
terrorists. Refuse to sing even the national song.
Why don't they just go to Pakistan? Now, our aim is
to create a society where we have as little to do with
them as possible."
Bajrangi is now out on bail. But what has allowed
a man accused of such a heinous crime to walk and
operate freely? Perhaps it is the manner in which the
Gujarat government has, since 2002, consistently
violated its constitutional obligations to safeguard
life and liberty and provide justice.
After there was fire in a train compartment
carrying Hindutva activists on the morning of 27
February 2002 at the Godhra railway station, killing
59 people, Narendra Modi decided to unleash a reign
of terror against the state's Muslims as a 'reaction'.
The cause of the fire is still not certain, though a
central government enquiry committee has reported
that it was accidental, and not the result of a
conspiracy. In a vulnerable political position, and
unsure of future electoral prospects, Modi felt this
was the right spark to ignite communal passions
through the state, and blamed the incident on
'Muslims'. He instructed senior officers to let the
Hindus express their anger - he was essentially
asking for the rioters to be allowed a free hand.
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Himal Southasian I October 2006
25
 Modi's state machinery and the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP) jointly planned the attacks, with
the police themselves in many places firing on the
victims rather than the rioters.
The state's support to the perpetrators of the
pogrom has continued through the four-and-a-half-
years since the carnage. Out of the 4252 cases
registered in connection with the violence that
gripped Gujarat in February, March and April of
2002, the files for more than 2100 were closed
without the filing of chargesheets. A few senior
police officers have revealed the manner in which
the state subverted justice at every stage - by
distorting and manipulating complaints at the police
station, assigning investigations to the very
officers accused of assisting in massacres, and
allowing the accused free rein to coerce witnesses
into changing statements. With several public
prosecutors simultaneously in the ranks - or even
the leadership - of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates, the prosecution
itself silently assisted in getting approval for bail
applications. 345 cases have been decided so far,
with convictions in only 13 of those cases.
After a severe indictment of the Gandhinagar
state government by the National Human Rights
Commission, the Supreme Court of India passed a
landmark decision in 2004, ordering re-examination
by a high-level, state-appointed committee of the
decision to close more than 2000 cases. The court
also ordered the transfer of investigation from the
state police to the Central Bureau of Investigation
in select cases, and moved two cases out of
Gujarat entirely. Muslims and secular groups are
clinging on to these small victories as their last
hopes for justice.
And what of the social and economic condition of
the victims? The state government's own
conservative figures put the total loss of property at
INR 6.9 billion. The government has distributed INR
563 million to the affected persons, which makes
up about nine percent of the calculated damage. At
the peak of the riots, more than 150,000 people
were in relief camps, which were summarily shut
down by the government after four months. With the
state washing its hands of any rehabilitation for the
affected, those who could not return home have had
to live in resettled colonies constructed by
community organisations. Almost 10,000 families
are said to remain internally displaced in Gujarat.
Pathological normalcy
Shakeel Ahmed heads the legal cell of the islamic
Relief Committee, an offshoot of the Jamaat-e-
Islami (Jel), a conservative Muslim organisation. A
well-read man who can hold forth as easily on
Islamic precepts as on Indian sociology, Ahmed
stares incredulously when asked about relief and
justice. "It would be so foolish to expect it from the
state!" he exclaims. 'This was not a riot; it was a
systematically planned pogrom. If the accused get
prosecuted and if relief is provided, then their entire
political purpose will be defeated." Ahmed's
suggestion is confirmed from a diametrically
opposite direction, that of a senior Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) member of Parliament from Gujarat:
"Compensation, relief, regret - these are
meaningless issues. We wanted to crush them, and
we crushed them. And most Hindus are with us, as
was clear from the subsequent elections. Forget
about this now." For a man of vehement
convictions, it was nevertheless interesting
26
October 2006 [ Himal Southasian
 Gujarat
10,000-25,000
i 25,000 - 450,000
rat the MP requested
anonymity. He must still fear
something.
Memory is a convenient,
e_: ective tool. While Hindu
sxremists tell anyone who
-=ises uncomfortable
rjestions about the killings
:c move on', they do not
- id evoking the Toofan of
2202 in the most minute
retail in order to get the
Vuslims to 'behave
-.-emselves'. They also
evoke the butchery as a
-"rr-zood' factor among
--emselves. The continuous
zscrimination against
Muslims is part of the same
r_"Htegy - and it is not subtle
- ne least. Explains
A-medabad-based
sociologist Shiv
. snvanathan: "What
-acpened in Gujarat was a
- ni Rwanda: your neighbour raped you; people
<c ied between 9 and 6 and went home singing. It
,'.as like a football match where the Hindus won.
—nere remains festivity around, it, the state denies
. ctimhood, and there is no erasure," State
acquiescence and connivance can only partially
explain such an overriding phenomenon of
exclusion.
Indeed, in the Gujarat of today, among the
Hindus it is considered normal to harbour and
exhibit hatred for the Muslims. To those who may
ask how is it possible to paint an entire state of a
copulation of more than 50 million with such a
broad brushstroke, this point is exactly what
makes the evolving Gujarat of today different from
2.i other areas where excesses have happened in
Southasia. Here, the discrimination against
Vuslims has the state administration's support
without even a fig-leaf of political correctness, as
well as broad-based agreement on this matter
among large sections of the Hindu masses. Talk
to the common Hindu person on the street, from
the neighbourhood guard to the autorickshaw-
.vallah to the shopkeeper, and the refrain is
alarmingly deafening: Muslims are goondas,
always doing illegal things. See, they are now
bombing people everywhere. The pathological has
become the normal. That is what makes societal
evolution in Gujarat unique in India - and
Muslim population distribution by taluka
exceptionally lethal.
As elsewhere in India and Southasia,
polarisation has always existed in Gujarati
society. Since time immemorial, Dalits have not
dared to stay inside the village core. Muslims and
the intermediate and backward castes have been
a bit more advantaged, but have still been kept
away from the privileges of the Hindu upper
castes. But even if the notion of a composite
culture is at times over-romanticised, there was ■
at one time an undeniably pluralist culture in
Gujarat. In part,
this stemmed from its coastal location and
trade-based economy, which inevitably forced
diverse communities together for mutual
economic advantage.
Achyut Yagnik, influential author of an
authoritative book on modem Gujarat, believes
that communal polarisation between Hindus and
Muslims began after the 1969 riots in
Ahmedabad, and accelerated after the rath yatras
and political mobilisation by Hindutva forces in
the early 1990s.
If some had hoped that the national and
international condemnation would make Gujarat's
communal rabble-rousers (with Modi as their
cheerleader) pull back from their extremist
agenda, this has not happened. In fact, the
polarisation has intensified across the state in the
e Hindu extremists tell anyone who raises uncomfortable questions about the
killings to 'move on', they don't mind evoking the Toofan of 2002 in the most minute
detail in order to get the Muslims to 'behave themselves'.
Himal Southasian | October 2006
27
 The 2002 riots were a tragic tale of visible violence, under the glare of the national
media, which provoked outrage. But Gujarat 2006 is the story of invisible
violence - systematic and subtle, at the state and social levels.
last four-and-half years. If it was difficult before the
riots for a Muslim to find a house to rent in Hindu
areas, it is now impossible. Sophia Khan would
know. A leading women's activist in Ahmedabad,
she has had to undergo significant changes in her
personal and professional life since 2002. To begin
with, the polarised atmosphere in the city led Khan
to shift her residence to Juhapura, the city's large
Muslim area, although her office remained in the
upmarket Hindu locality of Narayanpura,
Sophia's identity had remained a secret in
Narayanpura because the office
had been rented in the name of a
Hindu trustee of the NGO she runs.
A month ago, when neighbours in
her office complex came to know
of Khan's faith, she was asked
immediately to pack up and depart.
She tried to put up a fight, but gave
up in the face of constant
harassment. "Imagine, they were
not even willing to let me use the
lift," she says. Khan moved her
office to a flat in Juhapura, but with
that came a new complication. A
Hindu employee who was working
with Khan was pressured by her
family to resign, for they did not
approve of her going to a Muslim
area. She is grim as she intones:
"My house is in a Muslim area. My office is here
now. My only Hindu employee is resigning, and my
work revolves around Muslims. This is exactly
how they want to push an entire community
into a comer."
All over, people"are beginning to shift to areas in
which they are a part of the majority. M T Kazi is a
young executive with F D Society, a Muslim trust
that runs educational institutions. "Everyone is
insecure," he says. "What if a riot breaks out
again? Both Hindus and Muslims would prefer to
be in areas where they are surrounded by their own
kind. That way, the possibility of attack is
reduced." But the ramifications of such a trend can
be drastic, says Shakeel Ahmed of Jel: "Social
polarisation inevitably leads to some kind of
economic polarisation. And this will have a
more pronounced impact on the Muslim
minority, because we are too small to create a
self-sufficient unit."
It is not even that the mental and physical
dislocation of Muslims is an urban phenomenon,
as many think. The rural areas in north and central
Gujarat, in particular, are presently seeing a spurt
in polarisation. There are 225 taiukas in Gujarat,
the local-level administrative divisions that
encompass about 70-80 villages each. Before the
riots, there was a Muslim majority in five to ten
villages per taluka, a smattering of Muslims in
another 40 percent, and the rest almost completely
non-Muslim. "Now, those five villages which had a
Muslim majority have become concentration
camps, especially in villages in the Panchmahal
district," explains Gagan Sethi, who runs Jan
Vikas, an NGO working with Muslims. "Muslims in
the surrounding area, who feel insecure or have
been pushed out of their own
places, come to these villages."
Such rural ghettoisation is also
problematic because it allows
for the possibility of easy
monitoring of Muslims by the state
agencies, adding to the tensions
within the community.
In the cities and towns, the
segregation of residential locations
has sharply reduced shared
spaces at all levels. A visible
example is the decline in the
number of schools that have a fair
mix of Hindu and Muslim students.
Children generally attend schools
that are close by, which means
that these institutions are
increasingly segregated. With the
newfound sense of insecurity, parents feel even
more strongly about sending their kids to schools
with more of "our people". Some reports also
suggest the existence of discrimination along
religious lines in admission to elite schools. This
troubles concerned citizens, who are worried that
children may graduate from high school without
having made a single lasting friendship with
someone belonging to another community. The
absence of contact since childhood can only
accelerate the evolution of Gujarat as 'another
country', where Hindus and Muslims live starkly
separate lives and where intolerance becomes the
defining characteristic.
Silent underclass
The 2002 riots were a tragic tale of visible
violence, under the glare of the national media,
which provoked outrage. But Gujarat 2006 is the
story of invisible violence - systematic and subtle,
at the state and social levels. Prejudice against
the Muslims grows by the day.
Salimbhai Musabhai Patel is happy he can
introduce himself as S M Patel - at least it gets
him an appointment with bankers. "People think 1
28
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 am Hindu that way," he says. A young
entrepreneur, he runs the Patel Finance Company,
with offices in Ahmedabad and Bharuch. "But that
is as far as my initials can get me," Patel
continues with a resigned smile. "Once they know I
am Muslim, they treat me like dirt. Forget about
getting a loan."
It is dusk, and Patel is standing with a group of
other Muslim men on 'their side' of Mirzapur in
Ahmedabad. Patel's comment unleashes a torrent
of similar complaints from the others gathered. We
have no hope of getting a job in Gujarat.
Government service is impossible. If we get in, we
are relegated to the lowest level. The courts are
against us. Muslim vendors are harassed, while
Hindus get away with crimes. Even private
companies prefer Hindus. The ordinary folk think
all of us are Pakistanis. The riots are long over,
goes the common refrain, and sure we are willing
to 'move on'. But what do we do about the daily
injustice? They want to create a society in which
we just don't matter.
This perception among Muslims, of being
disadvantaged because of their faith, seems based
on the hard reality of daily experience. Being
Muslim in Gujarat is now a recipe for continuous
harassment if you want to be anything but a
member of the silent underclass. Activist Sophia
Khan had to wage a struggle to get a phone
connection from the local Tata branch, because
the company had black-listed certain areas. Banks
have similar systems for loan applications. Most
Hindu businessmen would rather not employ
Muslims, due to a combination of personal
prejudice and pressure from the VHP,
For its part, the government ensures that
Muslims are deprived of the most basic of
amenities. Juhapura has a population of more than
300,000, with a large middle-class base. Yet it
does not have a single bank, its former primary
health centre was shifted to a Hindu area, and
public bus transport routes now take a detour
around the locality. Muslims constitute less than
five percent of the high-level officers in the state's
police force, and even those officials who serve
are shunted to marginal posts.
Yagnik points to how the two influential
centres - the bureaucracy and local power
structures - have been saffronised in the recent
past. Muslims have been essentially ousted from
iocal Panchayats, cooperatives, agrarian produce
markets, government schemes and other services.
There are more than 20 sub-communities among
Muslims categorised as OBCs ('other backward
classes') in Gujarat, but they face enormous
difficulties in getting the required certificates that
would make them eligible for various services.
Again and again, it has been revealed how
Country Coordinator - Sri Lanka
I. Background on ACTED:
ACTED, the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development is an International Non Governmental
Organization with global operations in Africa, Central Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East
and the Caribbean. ACTED's main areas of intervention encompass emergency response, food
security, health promotion, education and training, cultural promotion, economic development, micro-
finance, advocacy, institution building and regional dialogue
II. Responsibilities:
The Country Director has overall responsibility ofthe management, coordination and supervision of
ACTED Sri Lanka programs* He/She works on the design and overview of the programmes in Sri
Lanka.   ..':..'
^1%   m   BB WW
• Define the Mission's overall strategy in relation with
ACTED Regional Director for South-East Asia and: ACTED  .
General Direction in HQ.
•: Liaise with donors and government officials
«  Establish a long term programmatic dynamic in the
country.
• Supervise the design and implementation of projects
• Develop ACTED Sri Lanka programmes
• Mainstream key sectoral issues with a specific emphasis
on incorporating best practices and lessons learned
emanating from ACTED's experience in other countries,
• Overview the Country mission's internal organisation
The Country Coordinator reports to the General Delegate
Colombo,; with frequent visits to bases
• In collaboration with ACTED India's Country Coordinator,
.   contribute to develop programmatic synergies and
experience sharing mechanisms between programmes
.. in North - North-eastern Sri Lanka with those in Tamil
Nadu.
• Manage expatriate and local human resources
• Coordinate with other agencies working in the area
• Develop and supervise a comprehensive communication
strategy within the country of intervention.
• Organise ACTED Sri Lanka's internal training when needed,
as appropriate with the regional priorities of the
organisation.
and the Director of Operations. The position is based in
III. Conditions:
• Salaried status
• Salary-according to experience + local indemnity
IV. Applications submissions:
CV, cover letter and references are to be sent to HR department at jobs@acted.org,
V. Duration: 1 year minimum with possibility of extension.
Accommodation, food and transportation ensured by
ACTED
insurances, repatriation covered by ACTED
Himal Southasian | October 2006
29
 municipal action is deliberately used to
communalise an issue so as to hurt and provoke
Muslim sentiment, which is then used as a pretext
for counter-violence. Recent instances of such
provocation include the demolition of a dargah in
Baroda in May, and the diversion of a sewage pipe
towards a graveyard in Radhanpur in north Gujarat
in August.
Schools have become sites for propagating
hate, with social science textbooks tailored along
'Hindutva' lines. Even public examinations
conducted by the state government are framed not
to evaluate a student's competence, but to judge
his political preferences vis-a-vis the Hindutva
worldview. In early August this year, the Gujarat
State Public Service Commission conducted an
exam to recruit Ayurvedic medical officers. Among
the questions asked: "'Christians have a right to
convert' - who made such a claim?", "Which day is
observed as 'Black Day' by minorities and 'Victory
Day' by the Sangh Parivar?", and "Babar, who
established the Muslim empire, was a devotee of
whom?" (the options were Krishna, Buddha, Shiva
and Ram).
There is a point of view sometimes expressed
against those who see Gujarat as Armageddon -
that there are enough traditional linkages among
Hindus and Muslims, despite the strains since
2002. Some will point to the fact that a web of
economic relationships still binds the two
communities, and they will refer to how Muslims
and Hindus interact in a variety of sectors, from
firecracker-making to rakhi-weav'mg to motor
vehicle repair, all of them monopolised by the
Muslims. Muslims also make the kites that dot the
Gujarati sky on the Hindu festival of Makar
Sankranti in January. Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf, a
kite-maker for the last 32 years, says that the
communalisation has not turned away his Hindu
customers. "But that's because only Muslims
make kites. Where will they go otherwise?" While
there may be advantages in the economic
necessity that has Hindus and Muslims at least
nodding at each other, it is doubtful that the
perfunctory transactions can act as a bridge in a
society as divided as Gujarat has become.
Why here? Why Gujarat?
These instances of polarisation and discrimination
are not mere aberrations, or restricted to pockets.
The trend spreads across class and caste lines
through the entire state, though it is relatively more
intense in Ahmedabad, Panchmahal and Baroda -
the core areas that shape Gujarat's political
discourse. Certainly, there are Hindus who would
prefer a society that is not so mired in conflict and
mistrust. But what is important, as this reporter
found out in his travels through the state in early
September, is that this voice is mute. It is the
Hindu Right that is setting the agenda for Gujarat,
and amidst the extremism the moderate who
remains silent becomes irrelevant for his inability
to guide events.
What led to such a situation? The Hinduisation
of Gujarat has surprised many observers: this is a
region that had a pluralist culture; the people are
driven largely by a mercantile ethos; it did not
undergo the troubled Partition experience as
intensely as did some other states; and, despite
being a border state, it does not have any special
reason to harbour intense bitterness towards
Pakistan, a fact that could have led to
animosity towards Muslims within. Instead, the
answer perhaps lies in its political evolution and
economic competition.
If the state is now considered the lab of
Hindutva, a century ago a British ethnographer is
said to have termed the state the 'laboratory of
Indian casteism'. After Gujarat became a state in
1960, carved out from the then state of Bombay,
the Brahmans, Vanias and Patidars held sway
over the political structure. This hegemony was
broken in 1980 with the Congress's KHAM
formula, which encompassed the Kshatriya,
Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim. The erstwhile ruling-
castes retaliated, initially by instigating caste
conflict. But they soon realised that the 'lower'
castes could not be discarded, and thus
began attempting to carve out a broader Hindu
coalition where the 'enemy' would not be the Dalit.
but the Muslim.
Sections of Dalits and Adivasis were slowly
co-opted into the Hindutva-guided system, induced
with promises of upward mobility and enhanced
status, along with other political and economic
dividends. The BJP also seemed like an attractive
alternative to these groups because, despite
voting for the Congress for five long decades, they
had little to show in terms of improvement in
livelihood. These developments in Gujarat took
30
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 place at a time when the Hindutva forces were
consolidating themselves at a pan-India level
through the late 1980s and 1990s.
The significant organisational work put in by the
Sangh Parivar in Gujarat over the previous two
decades bore fruit, creating a political base for the
BJP that spanned across all sections of society.
"While we were writing op-ed pieces and organising
college protests against communalism, they were
distributing millions of leaflets all over and building
2 base on the ground," says an introspective
Shabnam Hashmi, who runs ANHAD, an NGO that
works to build communal harmony. The decline of
textile mills, especially in Ahmedabad, destroyed
common employment spaces shared by working-
class Hindus and Muslims. These changes created
an unemployed segment of society looking for a
cause, and this, provided the foot-soldiers of the
Hindutva movement.
There are some other specificities of Gujarati
society that made the polarisation easier here than
elsewhere. For example, the fact that Gujarati
Hindus are publicly and obsessively vegetarian has
helped to create a visible marker of difference with
the Muslims. First, this creates a social barrier in
and of itself, and makes it possible for Hindutva
outfits to capitalise on the matter of cow slaughter
by Muslims. '100 percent vegetarian' restaurants
BKMid the market streets of Hindu Ahmedabad, and
the very fact that Hindus and Muslims rarely dine
together in restaurants drastically reduces the
possibilities of social engagement.
While the chief agent of the polarisation was the
Hindu middle class, it found its natural ally in the
Non-Resident Gujarati. This group constitutes an
extremely prosperous section of the Indian diaspora
overseas, and flushes the RSS and its affiliates
with enormous sums of money. Supporting this
dynamic have been the various religious sects and
preachers who crowd the spiritual market in
Gujarat, as well as large and influential sections of
the Gujarati-language press?
The trading culture of Gujarat might have created
a pluralist, inclusive environment in the past, but
the economic advantages of social cohesion seem
to have been sacrificed at the altar of Hindutva. In
fact, the relative affluence and stability of the
economy is one reason why - based on Hindutva
propaganda - a large section of the middle class
veered towards religious chauvinism. The well-off
had another reason to join the Hindutva bandwagon.
They saw it as an opportunity to push their Muslim
economic competitors into a corner with hate
propaganda. Economics played a critical role during
the pogrom in 2002, when those Hindus on the
15^
*.-£?S&&:l£'g&g
rampage were keen to destroy the property of some
of their rivals.
It did not help that, unlike some others states of
India, Gujarat does not have a tradition of left,
Dalit or even progressive student movements -
which not only provided space to the Hindutva
campaign, but also ensured that there was no
culture of protest.
Muslims constitute around nine percent of the
state's population, but have never had an effective
political voice, as they do in UP or Bihar - another
reason why the Hindu Right could so easily ride
roughshod over their basic rights. The Congress
Party, since the 1970s and through the 1980s, had
taken the easy way out to win the Muslim vote, by
encouraging conservative elements among them; it
also protected certain hardened criminals who
happened to be Muslims. The Sangh Parivar
cleverly used this as a pretext to convince the
Hindus in Gujarat that minorities were being
appeased at their cost. While Muslims were and are
being targeted elsewhere in India as well, these
factors have combined to create a rather unique
situation in Gujarat.
One-man state
The critical state support for communal extremism
following the rise of Narendra Modi, the fact that a
large section of Hindu society harbours extremist
notions about Muslims, and the absence of an
In Baroda in Modi's Gujarat the Ganesh festival is treated - and exploited - not as a
cultural but as a nationalist event.
Himal Southasian I October 2006
31
 effective political opposition to this discourse
makes Gujarat stand out in the broader Indian
context. Fortunately, the particular mix of societal
factors that have made Gujarat 'another country' -
while they may exist in small areas elsewhere -
do not come together at a statewide level
anywhere else. Gujarat has gone into its extremist
cocoon willingly and alone, and there is the hope
and expectation that no other part of India will
follow where Gujarat has gone.
The elevation of Narendra Modi as chief
minister in late 2001 has everything to do with
what Gujarat has become. He provided the match
to the communal powder-keg that the state had
already become. Political psychologist Ashis
Nandy (along with Achyut Yagnik) interviewed
Modi in 1992, and Nandy has written about how he
was left shaken by the experience. Emerging from
the meeting, Nandy told Yagnik that Modi met all
the criteria of an authoritarian personality, and was
a clinical and classic case of a fascist. A decade
later, that assessment proved correct, when Modi
systematically engfneered the carnage against
Gujarat's Muslims.
Faced with the outrage that engulfed India after
the Gujarat massacres, rather than take a
defensive approach, Narendra Modi has
aggressively introduced a potent mixture of
Gujarati parochialism and Hindutva to cement his
political foundations. His trick has been to
construct a four-fold binary - of the insider versus
outsider, Gujarat versus Delhi, Gujarati media
versus English media, and Hindu versus the
'pseudo-secularist'. Any criticism can be easily
deflected by using this matrix.
While manipulation of the mass mindset may
have helped Modi turn vilification to advantage, in
intervening elections at the state and local levels
the image of the Hindutva ogre is something he
has decided he can do without at present. This is
because Modi has his vision firmly set on the
national BJP leadership, for which he has now to
coin a new image for himself - that of a strong,
anti-terrorism leader, focused on development and
good governance. And this explains the recent
brand-building exercise to portray Gujarat as the
most developed state in the country.
Gujarat has always been a relatively prosperous
state, and for Modi to try to hog credit for the
traditional achievements of an entrepreneurial
class seems excessive. If anything, Modi can be
faulted for not being able to build substantially
upon this base.
Economists of varied hues have doubts about
the idea of Gujarat as a new economic haven, yet
another of Modi's propositions as he tries to
reposition his image. Investment in the state is
largely restricted to a few large players pumping in
huge amounts of money in capital-intensive units,
which have little trickle-down effect. Gujarat has
missed out on the new economy, with a weak
information Technology base and few of the
outsourcing units that are all the rage in other
successful states. In addition, the state's
educational system is in a rut, the crucial local cooperatives are riddled with scams and divisions,
and the state is quickly slipping on the human
development index scale.
The idea of Modi as a good administrator, too, is
a bogey that has its roots in his strong-leader
image. In interacting directly with the state's far-
flung hierarchy, he has been accused of
undercutting the authority of ministers and
legislators alike. Modi can be ruthlessly efficient,
but only when he wants to see results in his pet
projects. "His is the efficiency of the emergency
era. This fear-induced work culture is not
sustainable, because it is weakening public
institutions. Gujarat has become a one-man state,"
says Javed Chowdhury, a former bureaucrat of the
Gujarat cadre. The good-management myth was
severely bruised with the late-August floods in
Surat, which were entirely due to faulty dam-water
management by the state administration.
What Modi's dictatorial style of functioning has
done is to create massive dissension within his
own party, as well as in the broader Hindutva
parivar. But while that may somewhat upset Modi's
own political trajectory, it has had little impact on
Gujarat's communalism. The dissidents are more
radically 'Hindu' than even Modi. Their differences
with him are about power and patronage - not
about Hindutva.
The most positive response would seem to be an emphasis on mainstream, modern
education among Muslims as a means of responding to the Modi challenge.
32
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 One of the reasons the Gujarati political
discourse has been so completely captured by the
saffron agenda is the abject political and ideological
surrender of the Congress party. Flirting with a
variety of soft Hindutva itself, the party's Gujarat
unit has decided not to take on Modi's fascist state
directly. Congress workers, after all, were also part
of the marauding mobs in 2002, and even today the
party refuses to take up issues of discrimination
against Muslims publicly. This has left Muslims
despondent, but they have little choice. Usmanbhai
Sheikh, a Muslim activist in Ahmedabad, explains:
"Congress treats us like its mistress, knowing we
cannot turn elsewhere."
But the Modi government is not invincible. If the
Congress is able to put together a proactive,
secular agenda, and consolidate an alliance
between Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims, it has a
good chance of ousting the chief minister and his
party, and of reversing his divisive agenda. At the
peak of polarisation during the 2002 assembly
elections, after all, more than 50 percent of the
population voted against Modi - a figure that would
have to have included a substantial number of
Hindus. A change in Gujarat's government would
come as some relief, for the state would not be as
active in engineering everyday hatred. But even if
:he Congress party state unit were to muster the
energy to take on Modi, it is doubtful that this alone
.vould help to restore a social fabric that has been
eft in tatters. The communalism in Gujarat has not
:nly become deeply entrenched, it has become
zolted to the plank of fascism. Politics-as-usual can
hardly be the panacea; what is needed is a social
movement for Gujarat to cleanse itself.
Modified society
It is early September. Baroda is tense. Its Muslims
are scared. It is the last day of the Ganesh festival,
when Hindus will take part in large processions
before immersing their idol^. Trouble is anticipated.
Only four months ago, the demolition of a
dargah had triggered riots here. Security has been
beefed up across the city - the state government
does not want another blemish on its record, at
least not now.
Yusuf Sheikh is sitting in his house in
Tandalja - also derisively called 'mini-Pakistan' by
local Hindus, because of its Muslim majority.
Worried about what might happen, he explains the
undercurrent of tension: "If Muslims are out in these
areas where processions are being taken out, there
is a high possibility that a VHP person will throw a
stone at some idol, and blame it on us. Muslims will
then be called the instigators and there will be
riots." The city's Muslims have shut their shops,
stocked up on supplies and huddled down inside
their homes.
Sheikh is a ground-level political activist in
Baroda. An officer of the central government's
Intelligence Bureau, based in Baroda, pays him a
visit to get a sense of the Muslim mood. Sheikh's
request to him is to keep an eye on the younger
elements in the Ganesh processions. The
intelligence official is fairly confident that no incident
would occur today. 'The state government is
determined not to allow violence." he says. The
government's decision could have to do with the fact
that with no elections around the corner, and Modi
seeking to carve a new image, allowing a riot at
present would not be politically astute. On the
broader communal situation, the officer has a
'realistic' take: "It is ok. See, in UP, Mulayam Yadav
supports Muslims, and so Hindutva-wallahs have no
say. Here it is Hindu rule. So it is the Muslims who
are down."
'Afraid' might better capture the sentiment of
Muslims, for the Hindus in Baroda do not seem to be
merely celebrating a religious festival. Trucks and
minivans carry huge idols, followed by hordes of
people, Blaring music resonates from all comers,
and those gathered dance aggressively to the tune
of hit Bollywood composer Himesh Reshammiya.
That in itself would be the nature of a Hindu festival
anywhere else in India. But here, the saffron flags
seamlessly merge with the Indian tricolour, Harshad,
an ecstatic-looking 18-year-old, explains: "We are
Hindus. And Hindus are Indians. In our festivals, you
will see the Indian flag also."
In Baroda in Modi's Gujarat, the Ganesh festival
is treated - and exploited - not as a cultural but as a
nationalist event. Those excluded accept their
status quietly. Silence and deserted streets greet an
observer in Muslim areas of the city. Here, there is a
curfew-like atmosphere. A few local elders stand
outside to ensure that no trouble ensues, while state
police guard the city's invisible borders. But while
the day of Ganesh might be one when insecurity
among Gujarati Muslims comes forth most visibly,
they remain fearful, helpless and alienated
throughout the year. We don't have anyone. This is
not our government. Who do we turn to?
Himal Southasian I October 2006
33
 But this is not a saga only of victimhood. When
a community is pushed into a corner, there are
bound to be consequences. Frustrated youngsters
will inevitably react one way or the other. The
easiest is to leave the state, but that would entail
entering as a member of an underclass in an alien
society in another Indian state, and few of the
poorly-skilled and -educated Muslim youth would
venture forth under such circumstances. Much
more likely is that some will take matters into their
own hands, to fight the oppression that is an all-
pervading reality, or follow the siren call of militant
leaders. Where will Narendra Modi be to take the
blame when the exclusion of yesterday and today
invites the conflagration of tomorrow?
The response of the richer Muslims, who
also have nowhere else to turn, has been to try
and strike up a deal with the state government.
Those belonging to the Bohra and Khoja
communities, for example, are trying see if they
cannot run their businesses unhindered in return
for offering their political support to Modi. But the
most positive response would seem to be an
emphasis on mainstream, modern education
among Muslims as a means to responding to the
Modi challenge. Indeed, Muslims across class and
sectarian lines have turned to education as a
passport to a self-confident future. 'There is a
realisation that we must have more skills and
make ourselves more useful. That is the only way
out," says M T Kazi of the F D Education Society.
The Gujarati Muslim is realising the importance
of education, of learning the language of rights, of
asserting his or her presence in the marketplace.
But there will remain the question of whether the
larger 'Modified' society is willing to accommodate
this pool of people when it is ready. And that is
why there has been another simultaneous trend in
the opposing direction, marked by the increase in
the influence of conservative Muslim
organisations. "They are all going into the laps of
mullahs. Imagine what will happen if all these
people get radicalised," says Mahesh Langa, an
Ahmedabad journalist worried about the end result
of what Modi and his ilk have wrought. The
continued persecution, direct and indirect, makes
it fairly easy for these outfits to expand their
influence among Muslims.
When this reporter, with his longish beard,
walked into an elite government colony in
Ahmedabad to meet a senior official, three children
suddenly got off their bicycles. One screamed
aloud, 'Terrorist!" Why? "Because you are a
Mussalman," he responded. So? "All Muslims are
terrorists. My father is a judge. He will call you
terrorist in court." Really? "Yes. Now get out of
here. This is a Hindu area!" Sauyajya is 12 years
old and has not met a single Muslim in his life. No
one knows how many Sauyajyas are in the making
in Gujarat. £
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34
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 ANALYSIS
1
Nursing the big boys
As international patent standards come into force in India, its widely hailed
pharmaceutical industry is facing turbulence that will likely dramatically raise the
price of medicine, at least for the short term
BY ABHAYRAJ NAIK
ndia's global commitments towards intellectual
property rights are dictated largely by the
contentious Agreement on Trade Related Aspects
of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) - an agreement
between 125 countries, reached in 1994. On account
of its status as a developing country, India was
entitled to a transitional period until 1 January 2005
to bring its intellectual property regime into
compliance with the minimum requirements imposed
by TRIPS. Following the promulgation of the Patents
(Amendment) Ordinance in late December 2004,
India concluded the process of amending its domestic
laws so as to meet its TRIPS obligations. The
country's pharmaceutical industry has been among
the first to acutely feel the ramifications of this
new paradigm.
Before the TRIPS agreement came into effect, patents
in the pharmaceutical sector represented perhaps the
starkest contrast between the policy approaches of the
global South and North. Developing countries have
long preferred 'process patent' approaches, where
only the process of manufacture of the pharmaceutical
drug - and not the product itself - can be the subject of
a patent. This approach allowed pharmaceutical firms
in the developing world to specialise in the
manufacture of cheap, generic versions of patented
drugs (by reverse-engineering products developed in
the North) for supply to their domestic markets, as well
as for export to other countries with similar regimes.
As a result, drug prices were kept relatively affordable
for the largely impoverished populations of the
developing world.
Himal Southasian | October 2006
35
 Developed countries, on the other hand, typically
followed the 'product patent' approach, which
entitled patent-holding companies to a legal
monopoly over the drugs thev created. Ihis then
enabled them to price their products well above
'marginal cost', the cost required to continue
producing the product. As such, drug companies can
more easily recover the large, fixed, research and
development costs incurred in developing new drugs.
The superior negotiating strength and economic
resources of the North, however, resulted in the
minimum obligatory standards under TRIPS more
closely approximating those existing in developed
countries. Furthermore, patent protection is stipulated
to last for at least 20 years from the date of filing the
application. For Indian drug makers, TRIPS implied
a shift from a patent approach that had previously
granted only 'process patents' that lasted for seven
years, to one that now provides 'product patents' for
20 years.
Since people in developing countries spend a
much larger percentage of their health expenditures
on pharmaceutical drugs, the question of affordability
of the patented drugs is of vital importance. That aside,
the implications of an HIV/AIDS pandemic
have focused attention on issues of access and
affordability of lifesaving drugs. Not surprisingly,
the possible implications of the TRIPS regime have
heightened fears that pharmaceutical prices will
skyrocket across the developing world, making
necessary drugs unaffordable to a large percentage
of the population.
Doha flexibilities
One positive element of TRIPS has been to
acknowledge that the agreement can be interpreted
so as to strike a balance between the short-term interest
of maximising access to patented products, and the
long-term interest of promoting creativity and
innovation. Ihe "measures that less-developed
countries like India might adopt in the new TRIPS
environment to enhance low-cost access to the newest
drugs - retaining benefits they enjoyed pre-TRlPS -
include several policy options. The most notable of
these are compulsory licensing, utilising parallel
trade, tiered or differential pricing, enforcing price-
control regulations, encouraging the donation of
vital medicines, promoting artificial competition to
reduce prices, and cooperating in international
drug procurement efforts. All of these might be
adopted without running afoul of the obligations
imposed by TRIPS.
Compulsory licensing refers to a situation in which
a government allows an agent to produce a patented
product without the consent ot the original patent-
holder. Parallel importing is a scenario wherein the
government allows the importation of a patented
product that is marketed elsewhere, but at lower prices
than in the original market. Tiered or differential pricing
implies that drug prices be set close to marginal cost
in the least-developed countries, with a progressive
increase of prices as one moves from low- to high-
income countries. Drug price control regulations can be
used by governments to legally limit drug prices
within a particular range, independent of the larger
issue of product or process patents. In addition,
donation drives of vital medicines for countries
that require them, promotion of competition
between pharmaceutical manufacturers, along with
participation in international drug procurement
efforts, are other non-direct mechanisms by which
affordable access to medicines can be promoted.
In response to fears that TRIPS may make some
drugs difficult to obtain for patients in poor countries,
developing countries succeeded in getting WTO trade
ministers at the Doha Ministerial Conference in
November 2001 to adopt a landmark declaration. The
Doha Declaration subsequently affirmed that public
health takes precedence over private patent rights,
and reaffirmed the rights of governments to use WTO
public health safeguards and other available measures
to gain access to cheap drugs.
The declaration also contained a number of
important clarifications regarding the flexibilities
contained in [RIPS. On the issue of importing under
compulsory license, the Doha Declaration assigned
the TRIPS Council the task of sorting out how to ensure
extra flexibility, to ease the process of obtaining copies
of patented drugs produced elsewhere. Ihis issue in
particular had been contentious, given that another
TRIPS article had stipulated that products made under
compulsory licensing must be "predominantly for the
supply of the domestic market". Although WTO
member governments had been in deadlock over the
issue, this was broken in August 2003 with agreement
on an 'interim waiver'. Last December, the members
agreed to transform this waiver into a permanent
TRIPS amendment.
The South's medicine cabinet
Ihis decision will significantly impact India's
pharmaceutical industry, with its well-established
capabilities for the production of generic drugs.
Several analysts have subsequently pointed out that
The possible implications of the TRIPS regime have heightened fears that
pharmaceutical prices will skyrocket acroSaS the developing world, making necessary
drugs unaffordable to a large percentage of the population.
36
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 the Indian pharmaceutical industry is a prime
example of a growing, successful, high-technology
industry that is being forced to reconceptualise its
long-term strategies in light of India's decision to
open its markets to global trade.
In the past, copied drugs were typically introduced
in India soon after they appeared in their original
markets. This implies that pharmaceutical
multinationals did not enjoy a substantial advantage
for having been the first to introduce the drugs; nor
did they have a monopoly to establish high prices in
selling a newly developed drug in the Indian market.
Despite this availability of cheap generics, India -
with a large part of its population living below the
poverty line, high out-of-pocket expenses towards
health care, and highly unsatisfactory overall health
indices - still suffers from a significant health crisis.
In the short-term, this situation will only be further
exacerbated once the full ramifications of the TRIPS
regime take effect.
Pharmaceutical patenting in India is also of special
relevance to public health across the developing
world. Indian drug firms, after all, have been
important suppliers of both low-priced pharmaceutical ingredients and finished products to
developing countries everywhere. While it is clear that
India has a lot of work ahead of it in simply improving
the quality of its health delivery systems, Southasian
policymakers, particularly in New Delhi, should use
the flexibilities available within the TRIPS system to
keep medicines as affordable as legally possible, both
domestically and when exported. In this, India will
undoubtedly have to exercise great care, so as to avoid
being dragged into the formidable WTO dispute-
settlement process, or into the sights of unilateral
economic sanctions by developed countries.
In terms of the Indian pharmaceutical industry,
the future could well be bright. Any characterisation
of the country's drug companies solely as 'copiers
lacking innovativeness' is increasingly inaccurate.
Analysts have subsequently predicted that Indian
pharmaceutical firms could well become major
participants in the global marketplace, including the
regulated markets of the US and EU. In the long term,
[RIPS and the product-patent regime it has
established will undoubtedly stimulate more
research, more development and more competition,
thereby eventually reducing drug prices. The tradeoff is that, for the moment and possibly in the near
future, the prices of newly patented drugs in India
and the developing world will indeed rise
perceptibly. Reduced short-term public access to
affordable healthcare across the developing world
subsequently remains a stark reality from which we
cannot escape.
Tht dsrnaqe done
It is well documented that low-income countries enjoy
hieher relative economic welfare when thev can 'free-
ride' on pharmaceutical innovations made and
patented in the first world. Global welfare would also
benefit from such free-riding, as opposed to the impact
of uniform patent laws. Although one of TRIPS's
articles urges developed countries to encourage
technology transfer to lesser-developed countries, this
has not been happening. Instead, most of the
developing world remains dependent on products
designed to meet the healthcare needs of a few
developed countries.
Concerns also remain that diseases like malaria,
tuberculosis and dengue - prevalent primarily in the
southern hemisphere - will not receive the due
research and development attention they need, simply
because the people affected by these diseases are not
'profitable'. Despite these obvious shortcomings of
the TRIPS regime, moves are already underway from
several developed countries to set more stringent
intellectual property standards, and to further
standardise global patent laws.
TRII'S represents the most significant step in a move
towards uniform global patenting laws. These
are aimed primarily at maximising profits of
pharmaceutical manufacturers, and are undeniably
skewed in favour of the interests of the developed
world. The damage already done to public health can
only be ameliorated through constant vigilance and
focused international negotiation on the part of
developing countries.
And several positive possibilities do exist.
Available flexibilities must be strengthened, public-
health exceptions must be further protected,
mandatory reviews of the TRIPS regime must be
emphasised, and the commitment to technology
transfer must be more effectively implemented. Such
emphases should remain of utmost priority when the
WTO next focuses on TRIPS-related issues. The
breakdown of multilateral WTO trade talks in Geneva
in June, primarily on account of US intransigence to
slash trade barriers, represents a grim portent of the
difficult road ahead in amending existing global
regimes under the WTO. Towards this end, it remains
vital that the developing world presents a unified front,
and argues a convincing case for improved access to
public health.
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is a prime example of a growing, successful,
high-technology industry that is being forced to reconceptualise its long-term
.strategies in light of India's decision to open its markets to global trade.
Himal Southasian | October 2006
37
 REPORT
Budget air travel, present
and future
With the advent of budget airlines, air travel in india has transformed beyond.
recognition. The extension of .low-cost air routes across Southasian frontiers has
become a tantalising possibility.
fter making its mark in the
United States and Europe,
,the low-cost airline carrier
arrived in India in 2003 with the
first flight of budget airline Air
Deccan. In the aftermath of the
attacks of 11 September 2001, the
SARS epidemic and a general
worldwide economic slowdown,
traditional airlines saw a drop in
their profit margins and
passenger volume, a downturn
that also hit India's carriers.
Entering the market during this
period, the budget airlines
have boosted their operations,
turning the industry's crisis to
their advantage.
Besides Air Deccan, the
demand for competitive fares has
been filled by Spicejet Airlines,
GoAir and Air India Express,
particularly on short-haul routes.
The explosion in the number of
carriers is spurred by the 25
percent per year increase in
domestic air travel, fuelled in turn
by the country's economic
growth. The number of airline
BY ARDIT MAZUMDAR
passengers in India rose from 12.8
million to 19.4 million annually
in just three years, through 2004,
Tlie market share of budget
airlines, meanwhile, has
increased by 30 percent since
2003, and the Australia-based
Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation
projects the figure to be 70 percent
by 2010. Air Deccan has already
cornered about 21 percent of the
domestic air-travel market,
bringing it almost at par with the
state-owned carrier Indian
(previously Indian Airlines),
which until the early 1990s had a
monopoly over the Indian skies.
The concept of the low-cost
carrier (LCC) originated in the
United States, where the first
successful carrier, Pacific
Southwest Airlines, took to the air
back in 1949. In order to keep
prices low, typical LCC practices
include tire use of a single type of
airplane, thereby reducing
training and servicing costs; a
single economy passenger class;
simplified routes, including flying
Lowest fares Dffarsd, LCC v rail {July 2006}
Route
SpiceJet Airlines
Indian Railways
Indian
AC-1                AC-2
Delhi-Bombay
INR 1699
INR 3500    ■      INR 2040
INR 3205 ■
(Travel time: 2 hr)
(Travel time: 16 hr)
(Travel time: 2 hr)
Delhi-Calcutta
INR 1399
INR 3565          INR 2075
INR 3105
(Travel time: 2 hr)
(Travel time: 17 hr)
(Travel time: 2 hr)
Delhi-Madras
INR 1399
INR 4755          INR 2785
INR 3705
(Travel time: 2.5 hr)
(Travel time: 2.5 hr)
(Travel time: 28 hr)
Sources: SpiceJet Airlines, Indian Railways and Indian
to secondary airports; low-frills
service, including the elimination
of complimentary in-flight
offerings; direct sales of tickets,
especially over the Internet; and
small increases in fares as
seats fill up, thereby rewarding
early reservations.
Budget airlines are finding the
Indian market attractive because
ticket prices have traditionally
been prohibitive for most
travelers. Tn addition, Indian
LCCs have been able to reduce
travel time by providing better
connectivity - in the form of more
flights, more destinations and
shorter turnaround times.
Passengers flying these airlines
generally comprise either public-
or private-sector professionals,
whose employers prefer that they
travel by air for the time saved
over a train ride. As airfares
remain competitive and more
destinations are offered, this trendy
will undoubtedly continue.
Forsaking road and rail
The domination of state-owned
Indian Railways (TR), which
moves just under five billion
passengers and almost 650 tonnes
of freight annually, is now facing
stiff competition for its high-end
travelers from low-cost airlines.
New airlines like SpiceJet are
offering fares that can compete
with those of both Indian
Railways and traditional airlines
hke Indian (see Table 1).
38
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 The railways have experienced a
significant drop in passengers in
luxury classes. This has created a
challenge, because IR has
traditionally used earnings from
its luxury classes to subsidise fhe
fares on second-class coaches, on
which 98 percent of its passengers
travel. In response to this
competition, IR has for the first
time in many years cut fares on its
luxury classes. Starting this past
April, First Class AC prices were
cut by 18 percent, and those for
AC-2 Tier were cut by 10 percent.
At this time, there is no discussion
of an increase in second-class
fares, however.
Despite the decrease in luxury-
class charges, issues such as
overcrowding remain
disadvantageous to high-end rail
travel. During holiday seasons,
for instance, reservations need
to be made two months in
advance, and reserved coaches
are often swTamped with
passengers without reserved
tickets. The growth of the LCC
industry has subsequently forced
Indian Railways to address
issues of overcrowding, as well as
of passenger safety and high
accident rates, in order to
remain competitive.
India's network of national
highways, which connect all of its
major cities and state capitals,
make up about 65,000 km of road,
5000 km of which are classified as
expressways. Much of the Indian
population travels by bus for
distances of up to 500 km, beyond
which, for overnight journeys,
they take the train. Even long-haul
luxury-bus passengers, however,
are being drawn away by the
competitive pricing of new low-
cost air fines. Table 2 compares the
lowest fares and travel time
offered by both Indian LCCs and
luxury-bus companies.
There are several additional
drawbacks associated with road
travel in India. First, there are no
direct bus links between the major
metropolises of Delhi, Bombay,
Calcutta and Madras. Even if
there were, due to sheer distance,
road conditions and heavy traffic,
the average travel time between
any two metros would be two to
three days. Heavy highway traffic
also increases travel time between
cities. Because of the time,
expense and comfort involved,
few Indians prefer to travel by bus
for distances over 500 km. Even
on some of these short routes,
however, luxury buses are
facing competition from
low-cost carriers.
The success of the LCC, to the
detriment of luxury rail and bus
companies - has put a huge strain
on India's civil aviation
infrastructure and facilities.
Pilots, aviation engineers, flight
dispatchers, cabin staff and the
like are suddenly in great
demand. Major airports are
congested and understaffed. In
January, the New Delhi
government approved a crash
modernisation program for
airports around the country.
Regional connectivity
As yet, the LCCs have not been
able to take advantage of
crossborder travel in Southasia,
which beckons as a lucrative
market given the difficulties in
surface transport between the
various countries. Due to the
absence or inadequacy of rail
links, budget travelers tend to
choose buses over airplanes when
traveling from within India to
elsewhere in the region where
there are bus routes. Going from
Delhi to Lahore, for instance,
currentiy costs INR 1250 by bus
and INR 7500 by air.
At present, government
regulations prohibit privately-
owned Indian LCCs from flying to
other Southasian locations.
According to these regulations,
issued in January 2005, an Indian
airliner must have five years of
continuous operation and a fleet
of at least 20 aircraft before it is
allowed to fly internationally.
Even those who fulfil those
conditions are not allowed to fly
on the lucrative routes to the Gulf
region, which is reserved for state
carriers Ah India and Indian.
Among private Indian airlines, as
yet only Jet Airways and Ah
Sahara, both of which began
operating in 1993, are permitted to
fly abroad. But with many types of
aircraft, multiple classes for
passengers, complimentary inflight services, a gent-assisted
ticketing and slower turn-around
time, Jet and Sahara are not what
you would call low-cost carriers.
The only budget airline in India
that currently flies internationally
is Ah India Express, a low-cost
subsidiary of Air India,
which flies to the Gulf and
Southeast Asia but not to any
Southasian country.
After five years of domestic
operations, Ah Deccan, SpiceJet
and GoAir (which began
operating in 2003, 2005 and 2005
respectively) will be eligible to fly
overseas. Some airlines, including
Kingfisher, which also began
operating in 2005, are pushing
New Delhi for an amendment to
its policy that could allow them to
fly overseas well before 2008.
Although the government looks
set to keep the rules in place for
Lowest fares offered, LCC v luxury bus (July 2006!
Route
Del hi- Jammu
SpiceJet Airlines
:INR.699ft.
Bus Travel (Luxury class)
INR 70C      Hffi^SH
(Travel time: 13-15 hr) "
Bombay-Bangalore   ' *"
(Travel time: 1.25 hr)
.; INR 899,   r
(f rave time: 1.25 hr)
INR 1199    HH: ::
(Travel time: 1.5 hrj
..;iNR775;.i   .. -''-^BHSi
(Travel time: 26 hr)
INR 975
(Travel time: 25-27 hr)
Sources: SpiceJet Airlines, Delhi Transport Corporation, Jammu & Kashmir State Road
Transport Corporation and Kamataka State Road Transport Corporation
Himal Southasian | October 2006
39
 now, it remains open to
discussion and is regularly lobbied
on the subject.
Jet Airways and Air Sahara
already fly to Kathmandu and
Colombo. There is little reason to
doubt that, once they have passed
the five-year threshold, Indian
LCCs will also look to extend their
operations to the rest of Southasia.
With normalcy returning to Nepal,
the number of tourists visiting the
country is expected to increase,
and Indian carriers will be looking
to profit from this trend. Budget
airlines may also seek to connect
Indian airports and smaller
Southasian cities such as Pokhara,
Biratnagar and Chittagong, and
why not Multan, Peshawar and
Quetta. Air Deccan links
previously unconnected towns
and cities all over India, but these
connections are waiting to be
extended to a regional scale. In the
case of LCC flights out of airports
in Nepal's tarai, like those in
Bhairahawa and Biratnagar, they
provide an opportunity for the
population of Uttar Pradesh and
Bihar to fly out to other parts of
their own countrv.
Though the smaller airports
have the potential to generate
significant passenger traffic,
carriers such as Indian, Jet and
Sahara currently fly only to the
region's larger cities. With the
number of people who fly - and,
thus, the number of intended
destinations - increasing every
year, however, it is possible that
these 'secondary' routes will be
economically viable from the very
start. Moreover, the fact that low-
cost carriers have been turning
over substantial profits (SpiceJet
reported an operating profit of INR
715 million for its first year of
operation) means that expanding
their operations would not
overburden their resources.
Despite the suitability of budget
airlines to the economies of the
Subcontinent, such airlines are
only in operation in a few
countries. In Pakistan, these
carriers include Aero Asia
International and Airblue, which
fly domestically and to the Gulf.
Nepal has Cosmic Air, which is
offering cut-rate fares domestically
and on its flights to Delhi and
Dhaka, but it is hampered by its
small number of aircraft, lt is clear
that even more than in India,
growth of the LCC sector in Nepal
may be hurt by issues such as
reduced passenger volume,
government regulations, lack of
capital and poor infrastructure.
Nonetheless, low-cost airlines in
Southasia offer great possibility for
increasing connectivity between
Southasia's towns and cities.
Although the democratisation of
air travel that these carriers
promise does have rigid economic
limits, with disposable incomes
rising across the Subcontinent
LCCs are sure to play an important
role in a future of increased
mobility, crossborder interaction
and people-to-people contact,      o
PRIA   CONTINUING
EDUCATION
ADMISSION     N
O T 1 C E
3 Months Distance Education Programmes - 30 October, 2006 - 31 January, 2007
Program
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p Certificate in Civil Society Building
p Certificate in Panchayati Raj Institutions in India
(Local-self governance)
^ Certificate in Understanding Gender in Society
Eligibility: The certificate programmes invite applications from the region of South Asia. The minimum
required qualification Is Bachelor's degree in any subject.
Registration Details : The last date for registration is October 15, 2006 (on first come first serve basis).
Registration forms may be downloaded from website: www.pria.org or e-mail: education@pria.org to
obtain the same. -jears
P RJ/X PRIA' 42 Tughalakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi -110 062
Education Tel: +91"11-2995 6908'2996 o93V32/33
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40
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 SPECIAL
REPORT
mWswftw *s^^*if^Wtolfl wNtPnfa■aisnfrlszstbfcz
The heartland values of
Bhojpuri cinema
As Bollywood's Hindi productions spin away to cater to the upper classes and NR!sf
Bhojpuri films take the audiences back to an era of family values - wliere fhe
underdog becomes victorious, and where the 'masses' rediscover respect
TEXT. AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY LATIKA NEELAKANTAN
It is an early monsoon day at Sheetal, a single-screen
theatre in Kurla, in central Bombay. An animated
audience, part of Bombay's growing population
of migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh,
overflows the theatre's seats at a weekend screening
of the Bhojpuri film Ravi Kissen. Dancing to catchy
songs, clapping at snappy dialogue, whistling and
joking, the crowd shows its appreciation for the nice
and naughty versions of star Ravi Kishan in the first
ever double-role in a Bhojpuri film.
In Bombay's territorial local politics, tlie bhaiyya,
unschooled in the ways of modernity, is seen as either
a rustic bumpkin or a hired thug, unwelcome but
unavoidable. In theatre after run-down theatre
showing Bhojpuri films in cities with sizeable migrant
populations, one can witness the delirious reclamation
of space by people who do not feel entirely at home
outside of the theatre's walls. A guard at such an
establishment smiles in amusement, saying, "This is
nothing. Most of the bhaiyyas have gone home to
Himal Southasian | October 2006
41
 harvest the crops now. You should have seen what it
was like last month."
Going by such scenes - and the profusion of
Bhojpuri films playing not just in Bihar and UP, but
also in Delhi, Bombay, Punjab, Rajasthan, Hyderabad
find even across the border in Nepal - it is easy to
understand Ihe current buzz about Bhojpuri cinema.
The phenomenon is not easy to quantify, given years
of elitist neglect by the trade journals and film
magazines, but unofficial estimates put the number of
Bhojpuri films currently under production at about
250, up from absolutely nothing during the preceding
decade. Film trade analysts are declaring it a symptom
of I lindi cinema's historic turn away from the'masses',
while Hindi- and Fnglish-language newsmagazines
note with surprise the sudden flowering of this new
North Indian cinema.
In fact, Bhojpuri cinema is not new - it has been
around since 1962, when Kundan Kumar directed the
blockbuster Ganga Maii/yti 'Folic Pii/uri Chadhaibo. Hits
like Maaeen, Ganga Ki Beti, Hamanr Bliowji and Bhaii/i/a
Dooj appeared in the 1980s, but then this was followed
by a shutdown of the industry in the 1990s, when new
productions ceased altogether. In 2001, Sai\/\/an hiamaar
made a star out of drama-school graduate Ravi Kishan,
and jumpstarted the industry once again. In 2005,
Susura Bnda Paisa Wain earned about fifty times its
production budget of INR 4.5 million, working a similar
alchemy on popular folksinger Manoj Tiwari, who
now vies with Ravi Kishan as the most in-demand
Bhojpuri lilm star.
A string of hits have followed, including Daroga
Babu 1 Lore Yon, Panditji Baiai Na Bii/ah Kab Hai, Dharti
Kahe Pukar Ke and Bandhan Toote Nu. At one point,
Bombay film trade analyst Taran Adar.sh was
prompted to observe that it seemed simple to make
back ten times one's original investment on a Bhojpuri
film. Many subsequently jumped into the fray of
Bhojpuri film production - from Amitabh Bachchan's
makeup man Deepak Sawant (who managed to get
Bachchan to star for free in the forthcoming Ganga), to
established Hindi film producers like Subhash Ghai.
Bombay v Bihar
Sunil Bobbna, a distributor in Bihar until he became a
producer last year with Suhaagan Bana Da Sajna
Hamaar, points out that the hype surrounding Bhojpuri
cinema obscures the fact that 90 percent of Bhojpuri
films fail to earn back their money. But the failures, say
Bobbna and others, are typically the work of people
from the Hindi film industry who are out to make a
quick buck - churning out ersatz, movie-derived
depictions of village life. According to veteran director
Mohanji  Prasad  {Saiyi/aii Tlainaar), the Bhojpuri
industry died following the 1980s boom because it was
swamped bv bad films made by outsiders unfamiliar
with the culture of the Bhojpuri region - which
generally takes in western Bihar, Purvanchal, northern
Jharkhand a\m.\ the centra! part of the Nepali tarai.
Despite the current boom, there is a palpable fear that
history is about to repeat itself, and that the bust is not
far off.
Authentic, inside knowledge of Bhojpuri culture is
an element whose value is emphasised by key players
from Bihar and UP. In the cutthroat and increasingly
corporate high-budget environment of the Bombay film
industry, cultural knowledge may be the only shot at
survival for producers and directors who missed the
corporate boat. Director Dhananjay, from Bihar, who
in his days as a journalisi had begun writing a book
on Bhojpuri cinema, says that Bhojpuri films "provide
a space for those left behind in the Indian elite's
embrace of modernity and Westernisation."
This segment of the populace includes not just the
Bhojpuri peasantry, but also merchant capitalists used
to an older style of doing business. Ihe archetypal
Bombay film financier was once the paan-chewing man
in a silk kurta, who brought in cloth-wrapped bundles
of money from the kattlia (a medicinal herb) and lumber
trade, hoping to obtain a dash of glamour by financing
a film, today's Bollywood I lindi films arc lai more
likely to be funded bv conglomerate and corporate
finance, even public offerings, with written contracts
and sophisticated marketing calculations. Says
Benaras director Amit Singh: "Independent financiers
have been pushed out of I lindi cinema. I hey cannot
match the high budgets that have resulted from
corporate financing and overseas joint ventures. So
they turn to Bhojpuri film, where a film can be made
for INR 45 lakh."
Yet the talk at Bhojpuri cultural events and among
film artistes is not focused on economics and industry
structure, but on culture and values. Surrounding the
phenomenon of Bhojpuri film, after all is the matter of
Bhojpuri cultural revival. Interested players are on a
mission to fashion a worthy identity around this
culture, as a favourable contrast to what they see as
the decaying values of elite metropolitan Indians.
Benaras producer Mahendra Nath Pandey, who wrote
his PhD dissertation on the culture and society of the
region, emphasises that the real storv behind the
Bhojpuri film boom is not about money, industry
structure or financiers' class proliles. Rather, he
says, it is about values. "Bhojpuri films are about the
web of social relations, the extended family,
friendship, neighbourliness, respect lor women, and
hospitality - all that the urban, Westernised Indian
seems to have lost."
"Bhojpuri films," said Sanjay, "are in the end about \\w. diffeienca between poor
people and rich people..""
42
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 There is something of a consensus between trade
analysts, audiences and producers that Hindi films
have indeed lost touch with large sections of the North
Indian population. "There is a cultural gap which
makes these high-society, Hollywood-imitation Hindi
films incomprehensible to those in rural districts and
small towns," says Vinod Mirani, editor of the trade
journal Box Office. Audiences and filmmakers alike cite
the prevalence of Western-style gender relations,
scantily-clad women, urban settings, English dialogue
and an absence of the extended family as alienating
factors in Hindi film. The point is brought home in the
views of 'Chotte', a security guard who hails from
Faizabad in UP: "These films cannot be watched with
family and elders. I don't understand the language.
They don't even look like they are about Hindustan."
Director Dhananjay notes the sense of relief and
affirmation that rural and small-town audiences feel
when they once again see images that have otherwise
largely vanished from Hindi films and advertisements
- village scenes, livestock, stacks of hay, the village
pond, the riverside ghat, rippling fields of grain. "They
see these images and say yes, this is our world, our
society," he says.
This folk allure is significant, Amit Singh concurs:
"Bhojpuri films address a world of fairs and festivals,
the nautanki [drama], acrobats' performances, traveling
musicians, courtesans and drama troupes." Although
most Bhojpuri films do contain a bawdy song or two,
double-entendre and some saucy rustic clothing, some
industry leaders are now keen to make this a
'respectable' genre, one that can draw in a middle-
class audience. Director Mohanji Prasad explains:
"Rich and middle-class people in Bihar and UP
look down on Bhojpuri, and think the films are low-
class. This is why these films will never enter the
multiplex market."
Folksinger Manoj Tiwari's 'high-culture' view of
the heartland may help to change this. "I have always
believed Bhojpuri culture to be comparable in variety,
richness and genius to any of tlie great cultures of the
world," he says. "Everything worthy in Hindustani
classical music derives from Bhojpuri melodies that
every village child knows." Bhojpuri screenwriter and
lyricist Vinay Bihari grew up in a village without
electricity in Bihar's Champaran District, in a Rajput
household that did attend song and dance
performances but ostracised him for performing them.
He sees some vindication in ensuring that the dazzling
variety of Bhojpuri song, dance and drama is accorded
respect via the film-driven promotion of this culture.
Home and the street
Urban theatre managers and distributors are not
thinking about classical music when they discuss the
Bhojpuri film boom. The granting of industry status to
just the Hindi film world in 1998 set in motion a gradual
up-scaling. With multiplexes being provided 10-year
tax holidays, they began to spring up everywhere, with
ticket prices shooting up to average INR 100. With the
prospect of massive revenues from multiplexes, Hindi
films bypassed single-screen theatres, with their taxed
ticket prices of INR 20-30. It was the arrival of
Bhojpuri films that saved many such theatres, pulling
in people who had abandoned film-going due to
the price and the mtimidatingly glitzy atmosphere of
the multiplexes.
In early June, while prowling around rundown
theatres in Bombay, this writer was suddenly
surprised at a viewing of Hamaar Gharwaali by a
dramatic visit to the theatre by the film's female lead,
Rinku Ghosh, accompanied by the director and
supporting actors. The audience cheered wildly, to
which the management responded by banging on the
floor with stout lathis. The overwhelmingly male,
wrorkmg-cIass audience suddenly turned remarkably
shy up close to tire stars, doing little more than asking
for autographs. Tire lead actress urged them to bring
their gharwaalis, or wives, to the next screening - to
which the largely migrant audience giggled coyly, with
some wisecracking, "Can't bring what we don't have!"
Tater, the artistes, director and distributor dissected
the event for clues about the fate of Hamaar Garwaali,
and about the Bhojpuri film industry in general. The
discussion encapsulated the contradictions within this
industry, the growth of which is driven in large part
by male labourers who migrate to the large
metropolises from the agrarian belts of Purvanchal
(Eastern UP) and Bihar. In Hamaar Gharwaali, for
instance, the female lead rejects her suitor because he
has not passed high school. After being molested by
alcoholics with college degrees, however, she sees his
innate goodness and changes her mind. The hero uses
violence only reluctantly (partly due to the expense of
filming fights); instead, quick wit and gentle decency
are his main selling points.
However, the distributor of the film said that what
sells in Bombay is fighting, chest-thumping and action.
Himal Southasian | October 2006
43
 The director, on the other hand, pointed out that only
a quarter of the revenue of a Bhojpuri film actually
comes from Bombay, while Bihar accounts for 40
percent. Industry representatives and audiences often
speak of the extra-large extended families, including
children and grandmothers, who go to watch
Bhojpuri films in Bihar - and in both this state and in
UP, if is social and family dramas that sell.
Some film industry analysts maintain that the male
migrant audience of Bhojpuri films is necessary, but
not typical. Indeed, the migrant may develop 'suspect'
tastes in harsh city environs, away from the morally
salubrious influence of women and elders. And
Manoj Tiwari says he is often asked to do bawdy
songs, but refuses because "60 percent of my people
are in the home, and I will not cater to the 40 percent
on the streets." Film distributors refer to the overall
Bhojpuri audience as "the masses", but define the
migrant audience as "third-class" and "C-grade" -
both morally inflected descriptors of economic status.
The anxious crowd-control efforts of the Bombay
theatre managers betray a view of rural migrants as
an unknown and disordering threat.
The stars themselves take a more positive view of
their audiences' bodily exuberance. Ravi Kishan
recalls the ecstatic reception he received while
shooting in the Nepali town of Birganj, as well as in
rural locations in Bihar. "ViUage people don't have
the unfortunate shame that urban viewers do," he
says. "They touch me, hug me, fall at my feet, bless
me. I'm the rebel hero - I do both romance and rifles.
To them, I am a son of the soil."
The physical behaviour of audiences within the
theatre space also communicates vital facts to the
Bhojpuri film industry. One distributor explains:
"Where do they clap? Which songs do they dance
to? What comments are they making? How many
sit in the balcony, and how many in the stalls? We
look at all this, and then get an idea of what kind of
film will run."
Cheering is certainly a valuable barometer of
audience sentiment, as this writer witnessed during
Aslam Sheikh's Pyaar Ke Bandhan, which starred
Manoj Tiwari. Tike Mohanji Prasad, Sheikh is one of
the few Bhojpuri film directors who made films
during the 1980s, and appears to have a reform-
minded sensibility akin to that of the old socialist
filmmakers of Hindi films. In a key scene in Pyaar Ke
Bandhan, the heroine - the spoiled daughter of a
landowner - insults the cobbler (played by Tiwari)
in English, while throwing money at him. The cobbler
then stands up and lectures her in Bhojpuri-accented
English about the value of education in improving
one's character - not in degrading it, as has happened
in her case. The audience erupted deafeningly at
this scene, with applause and whistles lasting
several minutes. It later turned out that this same
sequence was to be found in many of Tiwari's films,
beginning with his first, the 2005 blockbuster Sasura
Bada Paisawala. Explains Aslam Sheikh: "The point
is to show an image of what can happen when the
cobbler learns English. Many Scheduled Castes are
now educated."
The allegorising of social conflict as romantic and
familial drama is inherent to melodrama, and a
common feature of popular culture in societies with
feudal remnants. Yet something more is at work in
the many Bhojpuri stories where class and status
alike become curiously gendered, with an educated
and empowered - but somehow lost - heroine being
won over by a less privileged, more vernacular and
often less educated hero. With large numbers of single
men migrating to far-off cities, women in the agrarian
belts of Bihar and UP often venture into previously
male spheres, whether in terms of agricultural wage
labour or negotiating with local officials. Men too
encounter a world of unaccustomed gender relations
in the metropolitan hubs. Indian metros teem
with women in Western clothes, who speak sharply
to rickshaw drivers in English - the very women
that Manoj Tiwari is so well-loved for lecturing in
his films.
Javed and Zia, young zari workers from Jehanabad
in Bihar, say they like Manoj Tiwari "because he has
a village voice, and because he criticises scantily clad
women," The anxiety around the new gender
relations coming into play is reflected in Bhojpuri
film posters and images. While these often show
spirited female characters posing like avenging
deities, they sometimes hold domestic implements
in place of weapons - a broom, for instance, or a
rolling pin.
Whose culture?
Many of those participating in the Bhojpuri film boom
believe that the rural culture of Bihar and UP has
44
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 values worthy of emulation, values lost to the loud
minority that constitutes metropolitan India being
catered to by the new crop of Hindi films. Nevertheless,
this culture is also recognised as feudal. This entails a
certain balancing act on the part of the filmmakers,
keeping in mind that the 'masses' who currently view
these films are at the lower end of the socio-economic
hierarchy, Bihari producer Sunil Bobbna sums it up bv
noting simply, "The poor man likes to hit at the rich
man, in any way".
In fact, economic status is part of the story, but not
al! of it. Studies of migration patterns out of Bihar note
that upper-caste migrants can be found in large
numbers in urban locations, willing to do the kind of
work in cities that they would consider humiliating
back home. Thakur village, a migrant locality in
Kandivali, Bombay, has slums inhabited largely by
Fhakurs, with the most recent migrants claiming that
they prefer to follow caste-segregated living in the slum.
While they may be united in class and culture with
other Bhojpuri-speaking migrants, within that world
they try to preserve the hierarchy from back home.
The sensibilities of filmmakers vary as much as those
of the 'masses'. There is a certain type of Bhojpuri film,
such as Sanjay Sinha's Maiyi/a Raklua Senurva Abaad,
tliat centres on the vicissitudes of land division and
internal disintegration in landowning families - a story
that resonates with many Thakur youth. The film ejects
out of history, reverting to the timeless structure of myth
- the Ramavana, in this case: there is a scheming sister-
in-law, a loyal servant, a pure wife, exile and devotion
to the mother goddess. While dissolute landlords -
who drink, wield guns and watch dancing girls - are
portrayed with censure, the religious and united
landowning family is seen as a bulwark against chaos.
Aslam Sheikh's films, on the other hand, tend to
adopt a perspective located outside the feudal
structures of the landowning and patriarchal joint
family. I le says he has been accused of harbouring a
grudge against Thakurs. Some distributors derisively
note the "improbability" of a cobbler sending his son
to a good private school, as in Sheikh's Pyaar Ke
Bandhan. But others have come specifically to look for
this element. Sanjay, a student from Faizabad, had
come to a theatre to watch Pyaar Ke Bandhan along
with his extended family, including delivery men,
carpenters, tile salesmen and flour-mill operators. The
youngest member of the family, someone pointed out,
attended an English-medium school.
"Bhojpuri films," said Sanjay, "are in the end about
the difference between poor people and rich people."
Kamlesh Gupta, a carpenter, touched his heart and
elaborated on this sentiment: "Poor people understand
respect. They understand respect because they always
have to bow down." The ambiguity inherent in that
statement, with its ironic recognition of the way
necessity becomes virtue, signals that a part of this
film-going public is thinking, even as it dances.
International Relief & Development
Finance Manager - Afghanistan
Closing Date: October 30, 2006
International Relief and Development, (IRD) Inc., is a non-profit organization specializing in international development and humanitarian assistance
in over 20 countries. IRD works with a wide range of partners to design and implement, and provide technical assistance in the areas of health,
economic development, relief, infrastructure, civil society and food security.
We seek a finance manager for our program located in Kabul. Afghanistan. The incumbent will be responsible for the management ofthe finance
operations for the Human Resource and Logistical Support Program funded by USAID.  lhe Finance Manager will ensure that adequate and
appropriate internal controls are in place to meet generally recognized accounting standards. In addition, he/she will manage all accounting, bank
accounts and cash flow to ensure sufficient funds are available for effective and efficient implementation  She/he will track all project expenses
and will prepare monthly financial reports for HQ. She/he will also prepare monthly and yearly budget projections and will maintain data on
expenditures by line item, as well as produce and analyze budget variance reports
Under the guidance ofthe Director of Finance-HQ, the Finance Manager will manage all financial aspects ofthe USAID HRLS/Afghanistan contract
for IRD and its partners and will have responsibility for the efficient implementation of the financial processes.
Required Qualifications
1. University degrees in accounting, finance, economics, or similar field (relevant experience, professional certification and another university
degree may substitute for degrees mentioned)
2. Excellent interpersonal skills, including patience, diplomacy, willingness to listen and respect for colleagues. Must be capable of working both
individually and as part of a team
3. Prior experience as director of finance for an INGO or an international company
4. Proven ability to provide timely and accurate financial reports
5. Ability to stream-line activities and not create unnecessary work for yourself/colleagues
6. Willingness to travel to towns throughout Afghanistan and internationally on project business
7   Create supportive working relationship among all HRLS program components
8. Ability to work effectively in a fast-paced, stressful environment. Must be flexible, willing to perform other duties and work irregular hours.
Language Skills; Excellent English communication skills, both oral and written required. Knowledge of Pashto and Dari preferred. Work
Relationships: Frequent contacts inside and outside IRD involving a wide range of organizations, including GO Afghanistan and USAID High
degree of integrity and amiable disposition are desirable in building appropriate internal and external relationships.
To apply: Please submit your cover letter, resume with salary history/requirement, and three references, including e-mail and other contact
information to careers9lrd-dc.org by October 30, 2006. D ease 'e''ererce: F na-ce Manager Afghan ir the subject line Applicants will be asked
to complete a USAID 1420 bio data form. Only selected resumes will be contacted. No telephone inquires please
Himal Southasian I October 2006
45
 ANALYSIS
In the second most-populous nation state on the
planet, the world of newspapers, magazines,
pamphlets and the like - in short, the print
media - epitomises the size and diversity of the
country's billion-plus population. India's press
reflects not just the plurality and heterogeneity of the
country, but also the deep divisions that exist in its
highly hierarchical society. On the one hand, without
its many active presses India could hardly be
described as a democracy at all. On the other hand,
the country's print media portray some of the
most crass, crude and commercial aspects of
capitalist consumerism.
There are currently close to 60,000 publications of
various kinds registered with the Registrar of
Newspapers of India (RNI), which functions under
the government's Ministry of Information &
Broadcasting. Currently, 1900-odd daily newspapers
are published in the country - 42 percent in Hindi, 8
percent in English and the rest, a full half, in dozens
of other languages and dialects. The total annual
advertising revenue earned by all newspapers in
India totals around USD one billion. Until the early
1990s, the RNI's main tasks were to register names
of publications, and to allocate then-scarce imported
paper at subsidised rates. With imports of newsprint
being subsequently deregulated, the RNI's role has
diminished considerably over the past decade.
The Indian press includes a mind-boggling variety
of publications, ranging from neighbourhood free-
sheets, to school magazines, to massively read
newspapers like the Times of India (TOI), which
claims to be the world's most widely circulated
English-language daily. But while all of the TOI's
editions currently sell more than 1.2 million copies
every day, there are at least ten other Indian dailies
- none of them in English - that individually sell
more daily copies than TOI. Such newspapers
46
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 include the two largest Hindi dailies, Dainik Jagaran
and Dainik Bhaskar, as well as the Malayala
Manorama, the Thanthi the Ananda Bazar Patrika
(ABP) and the Eenadu. Not only do many of these
newspapers print multiple editions from different
locations, at least one, the Manorama. also prints
outside of India, in West Asia. ABP, meanwhile, is
not only the most widely circulated Bangla-language
newspaper, but also has the distinction of being
India's most widely read single-edition publication.
No city in the world publishes as many
newspapers as does Delhi, with more than a dozen
English dailies alone. Delhi's two largest English
dailies, TOI and the Hindustan Times, account for
roughly three-fourths of the total circulation of all
English newspapers printed in the city. Why then do
so many other newspapers exist in the capital, when
quite a few evidently lose money? This may have
something to do not just with individual or
organisational egos, but also with the fact that many
newspaper organisations are sitting on expensive
!and that was given to them decades ago by the
government on long leases. In comparison to the
revenue earned from printing publications, many of
these newspapers make a significant return by
simply renting out their premises.
All in the family
Despite its size and diversity, much of the Indian
press is controlled by a handful of families. When
five decades ago Jawaharlal Nehru talked about the
"jute and steel press", he was referring to two
families in particular: the Jain family, which controls
Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited (BCCL), TOI's
publisher and former jute millers; and the late
Ramnath Goenka, who used to head the Indian
Express group and who had made an aborted
attempt in the late 1960s to control the Indian Iron &
Steel Company. What Nehru was alluding to was
that, at the time, publications were often a side
business for newspaper proprietors, who would
use their presses to lobby for their main business
interests. Things have changed substantially
since then.
At present, most of the families that control India's
largest media conglomerates - the majority having
moved beyond print to radio, television and the
Internet - focus on media as their main activity. This
transformation is due to the media as a whole having
rapidly expanded in recent decades, often almost
twice as quickly as has the country's economy.
Some of the important family-dominated media
organisations in India include the Madras-based
Hindu group (controlled by the Kasturi family), the
Living Medial India Today/Aaj 7M group (the Poorie
family), the ABP group (Sarkars), the BCCL/TOI
group (Jains), Dainik Jagran (Guptas) and Dainik
Bhaskar (Agarwals). A notable exception to the
exclusive media focus is the family that owns the
Malayala Manorama group - the most widely
circulated newspaper chain in Kerala - which also
controls MRF, a tyre manufacturer.
As these large media organisations expand, they
are increasingly challenging one another's market
hegemonies. After the Hindustan Times (HT)
successfully conducted its initial public offering of
shares and, together with the upstart Daily News &
Analysis (DNA), decided to compete headlong with
the TOI on its Bombay home turf, Time magazine
in 2005 described India as the world's "last great
newspaper market".
While publications have, by themselves,
become big business for these family-controlled
conglomerates, the growing commercialisation of
the press has brought with it constraints typical of
market-driven journalism. These go beyond the
influence exercised by large advertisers on editorial
content, although that is still a crucial issue.
Advertising revenue accounts for between 75 and
90 percent ofthe gross revenues of large media
groups, thereby ensuring that a subscriber's
payment has no relation to the cost of production.
Vanita Kohli Khandekar, a journalist who
writes on the media, observed in her 2003 book
The Indian Media Business. "It is routine for
advertisers to pull out entire campaigns if there is
even mildly objective reportage on them. It
happens not necessarily to critical stories, but
ones which analyze the financial performance of
the company and report market perceptions of
its weaknesses."
In the 1980s, after Sameer Jain became the
executive head of BCCL, the rules of the Indian
media game began to change. Besides initiating
cutthroat cover-price competition, marketing was
used creatively to make BCCL the most profitable
media group in the country - it currently earns
more profit than the rest of the publishing industry
in the country put together. In the process,
many believe a stiff price has been paid, by
sacrificing good journalistic practices and ethical
norms (see Himal August 2006, "The Times of
India's final frontier"). With careful planning,
newspapers like TOI and the Economic Times
now focus exclusively on upper-crust readers. For
the TOI owners, its readers are citizens of
the 'Shining India', who want to read about luxury,
entertainment and, not least, themselves.
Besides initiating cutthroat cover-price competition, marketing was used creatively to
make BCCL the most profitable media group in the country - it currently earns more
profit than the rest of the publishing industry in the country put together.
Himal Southasian I October 2006
47
 Sell the news
This transformation is going back on a long and
crucial history of the Indian press. A number of
newspapers that are now into their second century of
publication were integral to the country's freedom
movement. For Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,
Nehru and many others, newspapers were the only
means of spreading their messages to large numbers
of people. During the 1950s and 1960s, a few
publications (including Blitz weekly) had well-
deserved reputations of taking on the establishment
and exposing acts of corruption.
For the first and only time in the history of
independent India, during the 19 months of
Emergency in the mid-1970s, the Subcontinent saw
its press severely censored by an oppressive state
overseen by Indira Gandhi. Wiser with hindsight, her
most ardent admirers would concede that press
censorship was a major mistake, and one that
contributed to her electoral defeat. Today's
newspapers in India, however, deploy more subtle
forms of censorship - those driven by the market, or
by those in power who can bribe journalists with
subsidised housing or lavish international junkets.
At the same time, media houses have become
less censorious about what they are portraying as
newsworthy. The media phenomenon that has
perhaps caused the most outrage in recent times has
been BCCL's 2003 decision to start a "paid content"
service called Medianet, which, for a price, openly
offers to send journalists to cover product launches
or personality-related events. When competing
newspapers pointed out the blatant violation of
journalistic ethics implicit in such a practice, BCCL's
bosses argued that such 'advertorials' were not
appearing in TOI itself, but only in the city-specific
colour supplements that highlight society trivia rather
than hard news. There was another, more blatant
justification of this practice. If public-relations firms
are already 'bribing' journalists to ensure that
coverage of their clients is carried, BCCL argued,
what was wrong with eliminating the intermediary - in
this instance, the PR agency.
Besides Medianet, BCCL has devised another
'innovative' marketing and PR strategy. In 2005, ten
companies, including India-based Videocon and
Kinetic Motors, allotted unknown amounts of equity
shares to BCCL as part of a deal to enable these
firms to receive discounts for advertising in TOI-
owned media ventures. The number of companies
said to have become part of the scheme has since
gone up considerably, and many observers say the
relatively audacious move will further serve to
undermine TOI's competition.
Mohalla correspondents
Not every aspect of the Indian print media is so
bleak, and several important trends are taking hold
that could balance out the negative aspects of an
increasingly commercialised press. Even as
newspaper sales are declining in most developed
countries - reportedly by 5 percent a year in the
United States - the Indian newspaper industry is
growing robustly. The sector is projected to grow by
10-12 percent per year until 2009, against an overall
growth rate of 7-8 percent of the Indian economy as a
whole. The nearly 60,000 registered publications in
India currently receive around 40 percent of the
country's total advertising expenditure - although this
proportion did come down from 63 percent in 1993,
during which time television's share of advertising
expenditure doubled to around 48 percent.
A large part of this growth in the print media is on
account of rising literacy rates. In addition, those with
disposable incomes are increasingly buying more
than one newspaper. Niche magazines have also
suddenly exploded; few could have imagined even a
just few years ago that india would soon have
magazines devoted to pets, parenting, golf
and housekeeping.
in 2002, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National
Democratic Alliance government reversed a 1955
decision that had barred foreign investment, allowing
for foreign ownership up to 26 percent of the equity
capital in Indian companies publishing newspapers. In
June 2005, the Congress-led United Progressive
Alliance government lifted the ban on printing foreign
newspapers in India, after the International Herald
Tribune exploited a grey area in the law by printing in
Hyderabad. Contrary to earlier fears, there has not
been a flood of international players to India. Current
government policy still does not allow non-Indians to
hold key editorial positions in print organisations, and
no major policy shift is expected.
One of the less discussed trends has also been
the growth of regional-language publications, and the
spread of newspaper readership in rural areas.
Thanks to modern technology, more Indians living in
villages are receiving information in their newspapers
that is of special interest to them and their region. At
the moment, some newspapers may have extended
the logic of localisation too far, by depending on
stringers or mohalla correspondents for news. These
are often not only ill-paid, but also the most
vulnerable if their investigative reports hurt the
interests of local elites. Nonetheless, the expansion
of editors' horizons and readers' interests can
only strengthen the Indian press - and India
itself - as a whole.
The Indian media in general and newspapers in
particular have often been accused of being
excessively insular or inward-looking. But this trend
may undergo important changes with greater
coverage of regional, national and international news,
as readers continue to widen their mental horizons.
The localisation of news coverage, meanwhile,
will mean publications putting greater emphasis
on development issues that concern the proverbial
common person, rather than focusing on
titillating trivia. *,
48
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 PROFILE
Singer and rebel Bant Singh has inspired
a new empowerment movement
of Dalits and landless farmers in Ponjab
- and the state's feudal remnants
have taken notice,
The Dalit sword
of Mansa
BY AMIT SENGUPTA
//
I
•X
' IS
v%
m
m
^ ...s.
.ti3p ■■
OiVoOb
want to go and sing and campaign and rally
the poorest of the poor. I want to work 30
days of the month, perhaps stay for two days
r. my village and then travel, meet people, hold rallies
and mobilise the poor. I want to do things quickly and
not wait eternally. I want my people to be liberated. I
am becoming impatient. I want to walk. I want to
walk. I want to run. Just help me a bit, I will show you
I can run."
Bant Singh, his two lower-arms and one leg gone,
is sitting in the Mansa Civil Hospital, a torso flaming
with anger and celebration. He laughs and jokes like a
little boy as he cajoles Ms wife, Harbans Kaur, to make
nimbu paani for his visitors. He takes calls on a cell
phone given to him by friends, urging, "Carry on the
fight, I'll be tliere the moment fhe doctors let me be."
His wife and his eldest daughter, Baljeet, say they
want to help Bant Singh with his political work among
the region's Dalits - making them, aware of their rights,
fighting for justice - because this is "the path he has
chosen". It is a path that has led to Baljeet's rape, and
the brutal loss of Bant's arms and leg. But it is also one
that has led to a new sense of empowerment for many
of Punjab's most oppressed communities.
Bant Singh is a Majhabi Sikh Dalit, a rebel and a
singer who had long rendered ballads of dissent,
breaking historical taboos. In his village of Burj Jhabber
in Mansa District of Punjab state, he has been
something of an invisible legend - while people may
have been afraid to follow him, many were nonetheless
drawn to Bant, perhaps believing that his path could
lead to Dalit liberation.
Mansa is situated in the once-prosperous Malwa
region. Stories stalk the landscape here of thousands
of debt-ridden farmers who have committed suicide,
consuming the same pesticide that has contributed to
the failure of their crops. Drug and alcohol addiction
7>,7
IjJL
?!
,"*?^v
is rampant, female foeticide is almost a norm and
violence simmers in tire by-lanes. Activists argue that
these social conditions are a recipe for a leftwing
revolution, or else the reassertion of a Khalistan-type
rightwing ideology.
Expensive irreverence
Burj Jhabber offers the archetypal situation of the
position Dalits hold in Indian society. Here, as in most
villages, not a single Dalit family owns land.
Government funds for Dalit upliftment are usurped
by the upper-caste members of vi Nage panchayats. The
local Dalits live in small mud-and-thatch huts, and
toil as either daily wage labourers or bonded labour
for pay far below irunimum wage. Dalits are also often
forced into debt traps; many women work under the
begari system, whereby they try to pay back small loans
through years of hard labour. In this relatively
prosperous village, Dalits are exiled to a comer that
has no water, no health centres, schools or toilets. If
any Dalit deigns to lodge a protest or refuses to work
under such conditions, the landlords have an
announcement made from the local gurudwara: No
Dalit man, woman or child will be allowed to make ablutions
in any pari of the village.
It is because such a system makes protest nearly
impossible that Bant Singh is such an aberration. He
had refused to work in the landlord's fields, instead
starting a piggery and a small poultry farm, and selling
toys in nearby villages. He also refused to go to the
local gurudwaras, where he said Dalits were
humiliated; when he visited the neighbouring villages'
gurudwaras, he would bring back the leftovers of the
langars (communal kitchens) to feed his pigs. He took
those pigs to the landlords' farms, to the village pond,
to the local veterinary clinic, to the fields where the Jat
Sikh kids played cricket; in each place, he would refuse
Himal Southasian | October 2006
49
 to move when told to do so. Bant Singh even took on
the landlord's goons, who would loiter in the Dalit
ghetto, eve-teasing young women. Such actions directly
challenged the fundamentals of dogmatic, feudal
history, and the landlords were fully intimidated.
For a while, Bant Singh worked with the Bahujan
Samaj Party, a political group founded to represent
those disenfranchised by the caste system. He
subsequently became involved with a variety of
political fronts before finally joining the Communist
Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, the
aboveground Naxalite organisation that began
working with the poorest of the rural Bihari poor in
the early 1970s, and also took on the region's landlords.
The CPI (ML) Liberation now has six MLAs in the
Bihar Assembly, and is strong in and around Mansa
as well, although the group had expanded to Punjab
prior to Bant Singh's involvement.
But Bant Singh's biggest 'crime' came later, when
he successfully organised small-scale and landless
farmers - particularly Dalits - of 12 villages in a mass
organisation called Mazdoor Mukti Morcha (MMM).
In the face of his successful membership drive, in June
2002, the area's landlords began to wage a nasty
counter-war,
That was when they had Baljeet raped. Bant Singh
fought back. "This was no time to turn back," he recalls.
"We had to find justice, at any cost." Lie organised
protests, the CPI (ML) Liberation led a resistance
movement, and the area villages were galvanised in
solidarity. But although the rapists were arrested
and jailed, the intervention by the law did not end
the matter.
In early January 2006, as Bant Singh was cycling
home after an MMM membership drive, he was
attacked. While the perpetrators - young heirs to
landlords and lackeys of village sarpanchs - did not
want to kill him, they did want to send a clear message
to anyone else in the region who would dare to defy
the feudal code. After covering Bant's hands and legs
with several layers of cloth, the attackers used
cast-iron handles of hand-pumps to break each of his
limbs. Bant Singh says that he beseeched his attackers,
"Kill me, but don't leave me like this." To this they
demanded, "So, will you ever again tell the boys
not to loiter in the Dalit areas when your girls
are around?"
Later, the thugs called a former sarpanch, and told
him to go find Bant Singh where they had left him in
the fields. The man rushed Bant to the 25 km-distant
hospital, but the doctor refused to touch him without
first being paid INR 1000. By the time the money was
collected, gangrene had set in. Bant Singh ultimately
had to loose both of his lower arms and his left leg.
Inquilabi
The resistance began. The CPI (ML) Liberation,
together with 14 other organisations, led mass protests.
The story of Bant Singh spread from village to village,
and the Dalit rebel became a living legend in Punjab.
For manv, his struggle for dignity seemed lo move
beyond the cliches of political discourse, becoming
instead an essay on humanity and liberation. Bant
Singh became an icon of Dalit resistance, and the
landlords retreated as the poor advanced.
Bant Singh's assailants were arrested and jailed.
The Punjab government gave him INR 10 lakh, and
ordered the suspension of the doctor who had
refused to treat him. His children, among the rare
Dalit children who go to school, would not have been
able to stay in class without a wage earner, but have
now been allowed to remain. Bant receives hundreds
of visitors every day at the hospital; they come to see
him, talk to him, listen to his ideas, hear his
revolutionary songs.
The Mazdoor Mukti Morcha has also become a
force to reckon with, taking up individual cases of
atrocity and exploitation. "We won't take it lying
down anymore," says Roop Singh, a village elder in
Burj Jhabber. "We want the money that the
government allots to us, which the landlords usurp.
We want space in the gurudwara. We want equal
wages for men and women."
The new dynamic has also led to a situation in
Punjab similar to Bihar's syndrome of militia
violence. There are confirmed reports that wherever
the movement of landless, small-scale farmers and
Dalits is becoming strong - as in Mansa District -
landlords are creating private vigilante armies along
the lines of Bihar's Ranvir Sena. Recently, large
landowners held a meeting to discuss how to counter
the movement inspired by Bant Singh. But the Dalits
are ready, says activist Jasbir Kaur: "History moves
in predictable cycles. And we are here to change
history. The Dalits have suddenly realised that they
too can walk with their heads high."
Bant Singh smiles when he talks of history.
"History is in our hands," he notes. "My life is in my
hands. .My people's life is in our hands. If we don't
fight back and demand our rights and identities, we
are doomed. We have no option but to dream." Then
he sings a song by the legendary folksinger Sant Ram
Udasi, his guru and idol. Bant Singh - who has come
to be known as Inquilabi, a nickname referring to the
revolutionary legend he has become - sings in a soft,
lilting melody, his eyes like a forest in flames, his
body still, his half-arms moving like a warrior's
sword, lie sings:
Brave brothers, you must struggle for your rights.
Mother Earth,
Bring them back from your womb again;
Give birth to them in this land,
Where they will come from the slaughterhouses
And the spits of history
With the hope of humanity. i
50
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 PROFILE
Srinagar's martyr's
graveyard
BY PEERZADA ARSHAD HAMID
Kashmir'sl 7-year-old
insurgency has seen many
unique developments, but one
of the oddest has been the abrupt
conversion of parks into cemeteries.
The first of these parks-turned-
graveyards in the Valley came up in
the traditional Eidgah grounds, in
downtown Srinagar. Around 1000
people now lie buried here, all of
them having fallen victim to the
conflict. This plot of land, now
encased in concrete and iron, used
to be part of a vast playground.
The identity of the first person
buried at the Eidgah 'martyr's
graveyard' is not known; the epitaph
on that grave simply reads Shaheed-
-Vamaloom (martyr unknown), dated
20 January 1990. Habibullah Khan,
caretaker at the cemetery, says he
knows little of the identity of that first
arrival: "They had brought the body
from Uri. He was probably a militant
belonging to JKLF, which was then
the only militant outfit operating in
the state."
Immediately to the right of the
Shaheed-i-Namaloom lies the
second grave - Mushatq Ahmad
Malik of Srinagar, who was buried
here on 21 January 1990, the
day after the unknown martyr
was interred. According to locals
living in Eidgah's vicinity, a signboard
announcing Beehist Shuuda
(Martyr's Heaven) was erected at the
former park in the early 1990s, as
the eruption of armed insurgency
killed more and more people.
"It was presumed that whoever
would fall prey to the bullets of Indian
forces in Kashmir Valley would be
buried here, and that the process
would continue till freedom was
achieved," recalls Mohammed Shafi,
a local knowledgeable about the
martyr's graveyard, "However, this
did not work for the people living in
far-off villages, and people began to
bury their dear ones in their
respective localities. For city
dwellers, too, the spirit of bringing
martyrs to Eidgah died down
slowly. Today you have a
martyr's graveyard in every
nook of Kashmir. There are
said to be some 300 such
graveyards in Kashmir."
At 70 years of age,
caretaker Khan has watched
the trans-formation ofthe open
green field of Eidgah. He has
devoted himself to the service
of the graveyard, and several
times a day can be seen
making his rounds, tending the
flowers blooming on the
graves. He can remember
most of the dead and the
circumstances under which they
were brought here. Two-year-old
Saquib Bashir was hit by a bullet in
the chest while his mother was
breastfeeding him. And then
there is 102-year-old Ghulam
Mohammad Magray, who now lies
besidehundreds of youths.
Caretaker Khan says he does not
know what has kept him going,
having assisted in more than 1000
burials here.
Chasing peace
Eidgah is where Srinagar's Muslim
population used to gather on Eid to
offer prayers. In a sense, the cultural
significance of Eidgah has only
grown since the area has become a
site for offering Jinazah and Fateh
Khawani, prayers offered during the
last rites.
Besides hundreds of civilians,
many Kashmiri political leaders
have also been buried at Eidgah,
including Mirwaiz Moulvi Mohammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone and
Peer Hisamuddin, as well as
renowned activists such as Jaleel
Andrabi and Dr Ahad Guru. A grave
with a black epitaph also awaits an
occupant: that of JKLF (Jammu &
Kashmir Liberation Front) founder
Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, who was
executed at Tihar Jail in Delhi in
1984. As soon as the Indian state
provides the body, it will be
transferred to Eidgah for burial.
During the 17 years it has been in
existence, the cemetery has twice
needed to be enlarged. Its initial
120x120 ft space was quickly filled
to capacity, and was sub-sequently
doubled, then quadrupled. With
the continuation of unrest, Habibullah
Khan says he foresees the
graveyard being extended yet again.
Graves are not dug at Eidgah, but
rather soil is raised around rock
plinths. Even today, more than 30
graves have been kept ready to hem
in the fresh ones. Khan says that
at times, so many bodies have
needed burial that he has had to dig
joint graves, interring three or four
bodies together.
Walking the lines of graves at
Eidgah, the successive epitaphs
delineate a clear timeline of
the conflict in Kashmir since 1990.
Relatives and friends continue
to throng the graveyard, offering
prayers, shedding tears, showering
flower petals and rice grains on
the tombs for the peace of the
departed souls.
Despite his dedication, however,
there is little peace here for
Habibullah Khan. "Once, I buried nine
people in a day. Once, it was
20. It was painful, burying the
young people." k-
Himal Southasian I October 2006
51
 ESSAY
The long-ago fight for Kirant identity
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the eastern Himalayan region was a hotbed of
conflict as the indigenous communities pitched themselves against Tibetan
Buddhist and Gorkhali hegemony. Hitherto unstudied manuscripts afford
a new understanding of these rivalries, and of the life and work of
a man who laid the ground for a Kirant revival.
BY RAMESH K DHUNGEL
Historians today are convinced that a
widespread cultural conflict took place in the
eastern Himalayan region between the
indigenous inhabitants - called the Kirant - and the
Tibetan migrant population, reaching a climax during
the 18th and 19th centuries. Another wave of political
and cultural conflict, between Gorkhali and Kirant
ideals, surfaced in the Kirant region of present-day
Nepal during the latst quarter of the 18th century. A
collection of manuscripts from the 18th and 19th
centuries, till now unpublished and unstudied by
historians, have made possible a new understanding
of this conflict. These historical sources are among
those collected by Brian Houghton Hodgson - a British
diplomat and self-trained Orientalist appointed to the
Kathmandu court during the second quarter of the 19th
century - and his principal research aide, the Newar
scholar Khardar Jitmohan.
For over two millennia, a large portion of the eastern
Himalaya has been identified as the home of the Kirant
people, of which the majority are known today as Rai,
Limbu, Yakha and Lepcha. In ancient times, the entire
Himalayan region was known as the kimpurusha desha,
a phrase derived from a Sanskrit term used to identify
people of Kirant origin. These peoples were also
known as nep, to which the name nepala is believed to
have an etymological link. The earliest references
to the Kirant as principal inhabitants ofthe Himalayan
region are found in the texts of Atharvashirsha
and Mahabharata, believed to date to before the 9th
century BC. For over a millennium, the Kirant had
also inhabited the Kathmandu Valley, where they
installed their own ruling dynasty. As time passed,
however, those Kirant now known as the Limbu settled
mostly in the Kosi region of present-day eastern Nepal
and Sikkim.
•Research assistance for this article by Sonam Rinchen Lepcha, and previous translation work by Imansing Chemjong and Eairagi Kainla.
52
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 From around the 8th century, areas on the northern
frontier of the Kirant region began to fall under the
domination of migrant peoples of Tibetan origin. This
flux of migration brought about the domination by
Tibetan religious and cultural practices over ancient
Kirant traditions. This influence first imposed
shamanistic Bon practices, which in turn were later
replaced by the oldest form of Tibetan Buddhism. The
early influx of Bon culture to the peripheral Himalayan
regions occurred only after the advent of the Nyingma,
the oldest Buddhist order in Lhasa and central Tibet,
which led followers of the older religion to flee to the
Kirant areas for survival.
The Tibetan cultural influx ultimately laid the
foundation for a Tibetan politico-religious order in the
Kirant regions, and this led to the emergence of two
major Tibetan Buddhist dynasties: in Sikkim and
Bhutan. The early political order of the Kingdom of
Bhutan had been established under the political and
spiritual leadership of the lama Zhabs-drung
Ngawang Namgyal. Consequently, Bhutan used to be
known in the Himalayan region as the 'kingdom of
[Buddhist] spiritual rule' (in old Nepali, dharmaako
desh). The Tibetan rulers of Sikkim were also known as
Chogyal, or spiritual rulers.
Both of these kingdoms adopted policies of
suppression of indigenous practices, replacing them
with those of Tibetan Buddhism. Bhutan's religious
rulers established a tradition of appointing religious
missions to other Himalayan kingdoms and areas,
through which they were able to establish extensive
influence m the region. Bhutan's ambitious missions
were sent as far west as Ladakh. Even before the
The Tibetan cultural influx ultimately laid
the foundation for a Tibetan politico-
religious order in the Kirant regions, and
this led to the emergence of two major
Tibetan Buddhist dynasties: in Sikkim
and Bhutan.
founding of modern Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah
of Gorkha in 1769, Bhutan's rulers were able to
establish spiritual centres in several parts of what was
to become the former's territories, including
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Gorkha and Vijay apur in
the midhills, and Mustang, north of the central
Himalayan range.
Sikkim had long been home to Lepcha Kirant people
and culture. Under the guidance of Tibetan Buddhist
lamas, however, their self-rule and cultural
independence was suddenly taken away. Sikkim kings
were even able to subdue the entire far-eastern part of
the Kirant region - historically known as Limbuwan -
for at least a short period of time. Here, the new rulers
adopted policies of religious and cultural subjugation,
encouraging Sikkim lamas to travel to places of strategic
importance in order to establish monastic centres.
But the indigenous population did not easily
surrender themselves to this cultural invasion. Limbu
and Lepcha manuscripts collected by Brian Hodgson
in Darjeeling indicate significant resistance by the
Kirant against Tibetan BuddYiist rule and cultural
domination. On the basis of information fou nd in these
Vol 73, fol 155-56 -
Colophon of a Limbu
manuscript that describes
the assassination of
Sirijanga by the Raja and
Lamas of Sikkim.
Let the wisdom of the
Yakthung Hang [the Limbu king]
be victorious! He [Sirijanga]
wrote the scripture of the
Yakthung Hang! Please be
informed, the very foundation [of
Limbu upliftment] is now raised
or laid! The Great Guru
[Mahaguru\ who can even bring
and halt the wind and storm has
now got the enlightenment of
written knowledge of the Limbus!
Once you have got the
foundation [of the scripture] you
must read and understand ft.
... Please notice, Qh Limbus!
He [the Mahaguru, or Sirijanga]
found the scripture written on
leaves [wild leaves?] and floral
petals while he was in his
dream! Having rewritten those
scriptures, he brought them as: if
he found them miraculously.
However, when he had not even
got to finish the writing of the
scriptures and while he was just
looking [visiting] towards the
kingdom of the Bhotes [for
dissemination and publicity of
the scriptures he had composed
and was composing, basically
among Limbu and Lepcha
communities] having thought .
that the Bhotsya king's kingdom
would collate if the tenets or
scriptures of the Limbus were to
flourish and, also having heard a
similar version from the Lamas
[Tasong Lamas of Pemayonchi],
they [the Bhotiya authorities of
Sikkim] killed him [Sirijanga]!
[Thus,] Oh Limbu brothers!
You are advised to please chant  :
the prayers [that Mahaguru
wrote] every day and night!
You should know that on the
earth Phaktalung [the
Kumbhakama Himal and the
areas around its foothills] is the
naval [main source] [of human
being], the main body is God
Mahadeva, who resides above it.
You are standing alive [protected
by our deity] and now there is the
Limbu tenet above you [available
for your protection and
betterment], Limbus' guru is the
Mahaguru [Sirijanga], queen of
your mind {Kevaiani,
Mubokwama or Ningmaphuma
and the scriptures collected,
rewritten arid composed by
Sirijanga]! 'Let the Limbu wisdom
be always victorious!' This in fact
is the prayer of the Limbus!
Himal Southasian I October 2006
53
 Vol 88, fol 6 recto (see image) - Mention
of the name 'Rupihang Ray a' and Sirijanga's
contact with King Jayaprakash Malla
of Kantipur. The original is in 18th century
Nepali.
Hail! Let it be auspicious everywhere! Let
Maharaja Jayaprakasha Malla be victorious!
Let the everyday services or greetings of this
Sri Rupihang Raya [offered to Jayaprakasha Malla]
be perfected or be turned into truth!
manuscripts, the Limbus appear to have put up a more
vigorous resistance than did the Lepchas. While much
of this struggle consisted of attempts to strengthen
cultural awareness, there were also violent
engagements between Kirant communities and their
new rulers. The manuscripts contain clear expressions
of grievance and anger at Tibetan cultural hegemony
(sec Box /).
Sirijanga Singthebe and Kirant revival
Limbu society's first known literary figure and
reformer was a talented young man from Tellok, in
present-day Taplejung District of far-eastern Nepal.
Born around 1704, he was formally known as
Sirichongba, but his more popular name was and
remains Sirijanga. Hodgson and Jitmohan's
manuscripts have uncovered significant details of
Sirijanga's life, including his education and his
movement towards reformative activities. A Linibu-
language instruction book found in this collection
reveals Sirijanga's real name: Rupihang. The hang part
of the name is a common Limbu term indicating a
family of high or royal origin. In the Lepcha language,
Limbus are referred to as Chong, so 'Sirijanga' seems
to have been a corruption of the Sanskrit-Lepcha
compound Shree chongba: the great hero of the Limbus
from Limbuwan.
Sirijanga had accepted his Lepcha nickname by
claiming to be the incarnation of a legendary figure
also called Sirijanga. It has been widely believed that
it was this supposedly 9th century hero who invented
the ancient chong or Limbu script; but many now feel
that the Sirijanga legend was most iikelv created by
the 18th century Sirijanga himself, with the intention
of making the Limbu and Lepcha people more ready
to believe and follow his teachings.
Sirijanga Singthebe re-invented the old chong script,
and also developed a new Kiranti alphabet, today
known as Sirijanga. With the use of his newly
developed script he collected, composed and copied
huge amounts of Limbu literature pertaining to history
and cultural traditions, lie traveled extensively
through remote regions, attempting to amass sources
of Limbu knowledge and culture. Eventually, he began
going from village to village, publicising his findings
and establishing centres of Limbu Kiranti learning.
In doing ali of this, Sirijanga laid the foundation
for a Kirant ethnk revival, and contributed
significantly to the resistance against libetan
Buddhist cultural domination.
Sirijanga preached that acquiring broad cultural
knowledge and experience was the key to the revival
and enrichment of the limbu community. In an
attempt to trace the sources of his culture, ho at first
studied with local Tibetan Buddhist lamas, who at
the time were the only means in the region of
connecting to a learned tradition. Sirijanga was also
witness to the influx of the Hindu-based Khas culture
from the western hill districts of today's Nopal. As
such, along with his preliminary studies under the
local lamas, he also practiced reading and writing in
contemporary Khas, now known as Nepali.
In order to better understand the dynamics at play
in the region and to gather support for his movement,
Sirijanga traveled far and wide to establish contact
with rulers and powerful personalities. In one of these
adventures, it seems that he had either contacted or
met King Jayaprakash Malla of Kathmandu. A
manuscript found in Hodgson's collection contains
a description of such an encounter in what appears
to be Sirijanga's own writing in Limbu and Nepali
(sec Box 2 and image).
This multi-lingual and multi-cultural exposure to
Buddhist and Hindu standards enabled Sirijanga to
grasp the fundamentals of both of the region's
dominant cultures. lie used this exposure as
inspiration in developing the Limbu alphabet and
the tenets of his own moral and religious teachings.
His ultimate goal was to re-invent the Limbus'
traditional cultural and religious understanding, by
producing a vast treasure-chest of Limbu literature.
He emphasised to his followers that the main cause
of Limbu backwardness and impoverishment was the
people's ignorance, and that this could be cured only
by education (see Box 3).
During Sirijanga's life, the Bhutani and Sikkimi
quest for greater control over the eastern 1 limalaya
led to many wars between Limbu and Sikkimi Bhotiya
(Bhotiya indicating Tibetan origin) authorities. In due
time, the lamas of Sikkim were able to extend their
monastic centres into the northern areas of that part
of Limbuwan that now lies in Nepal. After a time,
this cultural encroachment enabled the Bhotiya rulers
to repeatedly subdue and take control of the entire
Limbu Kirant territory.
The root of this state of conflict can be seen to lie in
the politics of culture and knowledge at play in the
region. Sikkimi Tibetan rulers and Buddhist spiritual
leaders were able to subjugate the entire far-eastern
Kirant region by means of their hold over the
established learned traditions and the systematic
spiritual culture of Buddhism, lt was realisation of
this that led Sirijanga to emphasise the necessity of a
54
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 \
peaceful, knowledge-based movement, in present-day
terms, Sirijanga's ethnic movement can be said to be
one of Kirant-Limbu empowerment through education.
Sirijanga's movement came to represent a significant
threat in particular to the Sikkimi Bhotiya rulers and
their spiritual gurus. The man's writings and
teachings, his Kiranti alphabet and the literary texts
he collected, attracted significant numbers of Limbus
and Lepchas, and led to the start of an ethnic
awakening. Sirijanga was able to establish centres of
Kirant-Limbu cultural and religious learning in many
places throughout the eastern Himalayan hills. The
Sikkimi authorities felt enough under threat to want
Sirijanga eliminated. He was killed in 1741, somewhere
near the Pemiyongchi monastery in Sikkim. The Kirant
[earning centres were subsequently destroyed, and
Sirijanga's disciples murdered or brutally suppressed.
In both life and death, Sirijanga was known as keba
lama, the lama or preacher of Limbu tenets. A popular
Limbu text of moral teaching called Sapla Munthiiin,
also found in I lodgson's collection, indicates that he
would sometimes introduce himself as such. Due to
his early association with Tibetan Buddhism and the
'lama' title to this particular name, some scholars have
been led to believe that Sirijanga was a Buddhist. The
sense in which 'lama' is used here, however, indicates
a teacher, a learned person or a guru. Sirijanga came to
be keba lama because he was revered as the discoverer,
worshipper and follower of niubokwainu-ningiuaphiiina
or kebalani, the goddess or mother of Limbu wisdom,
knowledge and learning. In these scriptures, he is also
addressed and idolised as mahatma (a great soul) and
innhakulu (a great guru).
The Lepcha case
The Kiranti movement pioneered by Sirijanga also
appears to have had a strong influence over the
Lepchas of Sikkim. Since Sikkim's large Limbu
population had close contacts with the area's Lepchas,
and since the two communities found further bonds
in their shared state of hegemonic suppression by
Tibetan Buddhist culture, this influence was inevitable.
The conquerors demanded that
Gorkhali rule be obeyed and Gorkhali
traditions be follower}.
in an attempt at resistance, both developed their own
scripts, writing and literary tradition. The Lepchas
of Sikkim were not only comfortable entering
Sirijanga's tutelage and studying Limbu texts under
him; they even offered him financial and physical
help for the promotion of Kiranti writing and Limbu
literature. It was by following Sirijanga's direct
example, too, that the Lepchas developed their
own script.
A mid-18th century Lepcha text found in
Hodgson's collection and titled Lepcha Dungrnp or
Samtinyetriug C.hho contains historical and
contemporary descriptions of the rivalry between the
Lepcha and Sikkim's Tibetan Buddhist authorities
(see online appendix). This particular Lepcha
manuscript seems to have been a section of a historical
text known as Dungrap, the traditional genealogy-
based legend of Sikkim. The document includes a
description of the early rivalry between the Tibetan
Buddhist authorities and local Lepcha leaders, known
as Minis or Bonthiugs.
Towards the end of the Samtinyetriug Chho is
another interesting statement on the early Lepcha-
Tibetan rivalry, major incidents of which are
described while laying the ground tor a spiritual
'forecast' about the cultural and political future of
Sikkim. The text highlights the suppressive and
discriminatory policies of the Tibetan authorities
against the Lepcha, and concludes with the story of a
new hope of Lepcha emancipation from this state of
domination. It also predicts the ultimate downfall of
Tibetan Buddhist rule, and the revival of indigenous
Lepcha values (sec online appendix).
Sources other than these literary references have
also been found with regard to the Tibetan-Lepcha
conflict, which reached its height during the early
19th   century.    With    the   Sikkimi    authorities
Vol 88, foi 1 - Colophon
of the textbook of the Kirant
(Sirijanga) script and
language by Sirijanga.
Sri Om! I advise you to keep
reading [the Limbu scriptures]
every morning and evening!
I advise you to please keep the
scripture of the Yakthung Hang
[the Limbu ruler] properly/safely!
I advise you to please ask for
a copy of the scripture of the
Yakthung Hang [if you do not have
one already]!
Om! I prostrate myself before Sri
Tolingsomu camen-bhumen-
bhime!
Om Sri! This is the scripture
[sastra] of the Yakthung Hang!
Please note that I, Sirijanga,
brought this text into light
[discovered or wrote]!
Oh, the Sun God! I prostrate
myself before you!
Please note that I, at first,
brought a serious thinking into my
mind [of producing a scripture] and
made [or wrote] the scripture of
moral teachings of the goddess
of knowledge or learning
[Mubokvama or Kevalani\\
Om! I am speaking the words
of Mubokvama: I wrote the story
of the origin of the Sun and the
Moon and also wrote about the
origin of the planets and stars...!
Om! This is the tenet of
goddess Mubokvama! I, Sirijanga
Hang, wrote it! I advise you all
[Limbus] to read it [always]!
Himal Southasian | October 2006
55
 in present-day terms, Sirijanga's
ethnic movement can be said to be
one of Kirant-Limbu empowerment
through education.
increasingly worried about their continued
supremacy, they adopted brutal anti-Lepcha policies.
In 1826 King Phyug-phu Namgyal assassinated his
Lepcha chief minister, Karthak Chanjok Bolod, along
with all of his immediate family. But Chanjok's
nephew Yuklathup, also a minister in the king's
court, escaped the killings and took asylum in
the Limbuwan district of Ham in Nepal, taking with
him family members and about 800 other Lepchas
and Limbus.
Due to similarities between their cultures, the
Limbu elites of Ham welcomed Yuklathup and his
large, multi-ethnic party. For this purpose, the Limbu
elites had also coordinated with the government of
Nepal. It is said that a massive suppression
of the Lepcha in Sikkim had occurred before and
after Yuklathup's asylum in Ham. Lepchas who
arrived in Nepal in the wake of such suppression were
to become strong followers of Gorkhali traditions: they
observed the festivals of Dasain and Tihar, and even
came to worship Hindu gods and goddesses. Those
who thus assimilated into the dominant culture came
to be known as saiupriti Lepcha. Among the Lepcha
manuscripts in Hodgson's collection is a religious
scripture titled Sampriti-Lcpcha Muuthum.
The asylum-seekers were also called sukhimbaasi,
or people from Sikkim. It was from this that the Nepali
word sukumbaasi developed, which is used today to
refer to a landless person. Similarly, the Nepali term
for thumbprint came to be lyapche, it is said, because
most of the Lepchas in the largely illiterate group of
refugees had to use their thumbprints to sign the
formal request for asylum. Manuscripts in Hodgson's
collection corroborate information found in official
records of the period as to these etymologies.
Gorkhali hegemonies
The next phase of military and cultural threat faced
by the Kirant people was at the hands of the Gorkhali
expansionists of Nepal, shortly after Sirijanga's death.
The nature and intensity of this hegemony was to
prove significantly different from that of the earlier
Tibetan one, however. From the very beginning,
the Gorkha court's intention in the region was
not the extension of its Flindu-based culture.
Rather, Gorkha's was a clear military campaign of
territorial expansion.
After the completion of the conquest of the
Kathmandu Valley in 1769, the Gorkhali army
marched east towards the Kirant territory. The Sen
rulers of eastern Nepal, known as Hindupati, had
established a wedk rule in the Kirant region by
adopting a policv of mutual understanding with the
local Kirant leaders. 1 he Gorkhali military campaign,
in contrast, brought with it a forceful and brutal
occupation. During the conquest, the invading
authorities adopted a harsh divide-and-rule policy:
they first asked the Kirantis to surrender, assuring
them that thev would retain local rule and their
traditional order. After many took up this offer,
however, the conquerors instead demanded that
Gorkhali rule be obeyed and Gorkhali traditions be
followed. Manuscripts in I lodgson's collection make
mention of Kirant men, male children and pregnant
women having been murdered in great numbers (see
online appendix).
The Gorkhalis ultimately divided the Limbu
Kirantis into two groups, the saiupriti and the niti: the
former were those who had surrendered to Gorkhali
power and cultural traditions, while the latter
maintained their own traditions. The Gorkhali
authorities naturally favoured the sampritis, killing the
niti Limbus or forcing them to flee their lands. As a
result, much of the niti population migrated towards
Sikkim and Bhutan.
But Gorkhali wartime policv changed, particularly
after the conquest of the territories of Kumaun and
Garhwal far in the west. By the end ofthe 18th century,
the authorities in Kathmandu were in need of more
state revenue, and implemented a policy to bring
people into Nepali territory in order to make barren
land arable. The Kirant who were ousted from their
lands during the Gorkhali military conquest were also
asked to return home, albeit under the condition that
Gorkhali rule and traditions were strictly followed.
Relatives and friends of those who had fled were
recruited to call them back, and people moved again
between the state-given identities of niti and saiupriti.
Gorkhali and Tibetan hegemonies and the
resistance to them have left their mark on the cultures
of the eastern Himalaya in complex ways. The papers
of Brian Houghton Hodgson, lodged at the British
Library in London, help us to approach an account of
this evolution, and to create a better historical
understanding of this one corner of Southasia.
Understanding of the hegemonic cultures that
encroached upon the Kirant living space, and the
conflicts and subjugation that ensued, can be said to
be yet at a rudimentary stage. Extended study of these
papers among others will be followed by a deeper
understanding that will also help further strengthen
and consolidate the process of ethnic assertion afoot
today in the eastern hills of Nepal as in other parts of
the country. Knowledge of the deep past will help in
better comprehension of the present, and so also serve
as a guide for the future.
Additional manuscript excerpts available at
www.himalmag.com.
56
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 Their vengeance
■"■"!■: i ■ ■ ■ "■
TIME   AND
A   PLACE
DILIP D'SOUZA
he crowd breaks repeatedly into good-natured
applause and cheers, led by a moustached
man with a cordless mike on the road below
us. He has a sonorous way of bellowing slogans
from time to time, which of course we all bellow back
at him. He periodically points to someone in the
audience and urges that someone to yell, but
curiously, every time he points, he also runs his
hand quickly over his chin, indicating a beard.
Again and again he shouts: "You over there with
the beard! Bellow up!"
But why does he single out guys with beards?
I mean, considering this is
Punjab, there are indeed
plenty with beards around
me. In fact, I would say the
great majority of the males
are bearded. {Many have
turbans too.) So of what use
is it to indicate a beard to
pick someone out of
a crowd?
Later, several khaki-
uniformed men march up to
the gate and back. I use that
word march advisedly, for
what they really do is a quick
strut. Like wind-up clockwork
dolls, the crests atop their
turbans shaking angrily, they
zip in formation along the road,
due west into the sunsetting
haze, turn abruptly at the gate
and zip back on the other side of the road. As they
turn, I notice that a similar posse, but in black and
with marginally larger and angrier crests, is doing the
same on the other side of the gate.
Two men, one from each side, throw the gates
open with almost contemptuous flourish. Two more
men, one from each side, approach the gate
simultaneously in the same triple-quick strut. They
halt abruptly to do high kicks that would do a Moulin
Rouge can-can dancer proud. Then they continue
towards each other, to end up nearly nose-to-nose.
I am reminded of nothing so much as the
cockfights I once spent a day watching in rural West
Bengal. The quivering crests these men wear
underline that impression. Where did this elaborate,
choreographed hostility come from? What about it
makes us all cheer and clap and shout slogans
praising our country?
lory'- Mati Uo>3
Great
'■p.'v Triune
; Great Fo»«U*;s5 . Go"
"-Egg*"-***
Wagah, of course, that border in Punjab, that
ceremony where you come oh-so-close to those
'other' people, where you can steal a peek and
wonder just who they are and what spices up their
dal-roti, and then go back to shouting slogans
praising your country. Yes, those other people are
easily visible, just beyond the gate. Just too far to
see faces clearly, but close enough that you know
binoculars would let you identify them if you knew
them, close enough that you could shout out a
conversation if there was
substantially less hubbub around
you. Many standing beside me
do look over every now and then,
almost in longing wonder. Who
are those guys? They look like
us, cheer like us,
yet they're chanting different
things! Waving a different flag!
So close, as the cliche
goes, and yet so far. So much
like us, and yet ... wait, are
they really like us? Are we
like them? I can see them,
but what do I really know
about them? It's just a gate,
yes. Yet there's a canyon
there. Invisible, but deep.
Well, no time for all
that. Gotta feel good
about my country!
Da*s
... Co«t>" &it
Remember the violence
Wagah is beguilingly strange, but the infectious
enthusiasm that suffuses the place renders any
question immaterial. This is showtime! Remember to
collect your cynicism on the way out.
And so, on my visit to Amritsar and its
surroundings it wasn't really Wagah where I brushed
up against ideas of patriotism and country. That's
what I had thought would happen, but Wagah was
like going to a cricket match.
The Golden Temple, on the other hand...
Make no mistake, the Golden Temple is a vision
of cleanliness and peace. You can almost see those
qualities wafting from the great tank. Then you start
seeing the inscriptions everywhere.
In loving memory of Sergeant Uday Singh, US Army, 23 April
1982 to 01 December 2003. Killed in action mHabbanyah,
Iraq, during operation Iraqi Freedom. First Sikh who laid
down his life in the war against terrorism.
Himal Southasian I October 2006
57
 In memory of brave soldiers killed in action in 1965, The
Poona Horse .. Washer Man Chuni Lai
Soldiers remembered, washermen remembered
... and then, and then, there's the museum.
The museum is a vista of blood and mutilation
and weaponry. Here is a painting of a man being
sawn in half, the two grim sawers going at it and
the two halves peeling off, bending over like slices
of butter. There is a painting of a man with half his
head cut off, looking up at the chopper who holds
that half. A man being boiled alive. A man "being
martysed [sic] by mutilating his joints one by one".
Men strapped onto huge wheels, like gears, and
crushed between them. Photos of 13 men, bloody
in a 1978 incident, garlanded and robed and
very dead.
A blood-soaked history, this. And there's a twist
to make you think of a something a little more than
blood and death.
Along one wall, just above those 13 bloody men,
are large paintings of Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh
and Kartar Singh Sarabhai, with brief descriptions
of their heroism. All called shahid. or martyr - as
you might expect, for these are men we grow up
revering in our history lessons.
On the adjacent wall is a painting of the Akal
Takht in ruins. Dome fallen down, walls shattered.
This paragraph below it:
Under the calculated move of Prime Minister of India Indira
Gandhi, military troops stormed Golden Temple with tanks.
Thousands of Sikhs were massacred. Sri Akal Takht
suffered the worst damages Sikhs rose up in a united
protest. Many returned their honours. Sikh soldiers
eft their barracks. The Sikhs however, soon had
their vengeance.
And to the right are paintings of three
men, titled:
Shahid S Beant Singh Ji (1949 - 31 Oct 1984)
Shahid S Satwant Singh Ji (1967 - 6 Jan 1989)
Shahid S Kehar Singh Ji (1940 - 6 Jan 1989)
The first two were Indira's guards who shot her
that October morning; Beant was shot dead
almost immediately. The third, sentenced for
being part ofthe conspiracy, hanged along with
the second on that January day.
These three men, up on this wall and called
shahid, exactly like other revered martyrs from our
history. In this place that remembers so much
blood: that doesn't mention, but manages to put in
your thoughts, the long nights of even more
bloodshed - such as 3000 slaughtered - in the
wake of Indira's assassination.
O
i !;-;:<!
eace and yen..
I walk down from the museum and step back into
the Golden Temple. The serenity after the
memories of great violence, the sense of
peace and welcome that extends to every visitor
who comes to this magnificent place, is
almost overwhelming.
Yes, I have never been in a place of worship
that ts so clean and inclusive, that is so peaceful,
that lets you be yourself so fully. Yet my mind is
consumed, vibrating, taut with the horrific violence
remembered upstairs.
And my mind is consumed, too, with inchoate
thoughts of nation and patriotism. Now, I never
cared for Indira Gandhi, and I believe history will
eventually judge her harshly for the long list of
Indian troubles we can lay at her door. Yet she did
once lead the government of this country that I,
and this Golden Temple museum, belong to. Yet
this museum actually refers to her killing as
the "vengeance" of the Sikhs. It actually
remembers and reveres her killers - exactly as it
remembers and reveres the heroes of India's
freedom struggle.
How's the ordinary Indian visitor to this place to
reconcile these things?
Yes, I have never been in a place of worship so
clean and inclusive. I have also never been in a
place that raised such troubling questions about
the country I live in. By then Wagah has already
faded a bit in memory...
Info
,.'    7      *•     -     '  r,      ■    '- ■ g.     "! "a,    j*
Daily updates on sustainable development and social justice
issues in South Asia
58
October 2006 [ Himal Southasian
 OPINION
l3$& ■■:..,
;y
m
oo
dads
*s**pmmm0$&0m.
Who hijacked whom?
Aircraft hijackings took place for a long time in India without anyone pointing the
finger to Islamic fundamentalism'. The tendency to see the world through the eyes of
George W Bush wil! always lead us away from the true nature of extremism.
BY 3AWED NAQVI
The global hunt for terrorists has spoiled a
sumptuous picnic in India. Decades before
America's neo-cons reheated Ronald
Reagan's "war on terrorism" - then a catchphrase for
targeting Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and
other assorted leftists - and before President
George W Bush mutated it into a war against
'Islamic fascists', airplanes were being hijacked in
India as frequently as people fly kites. Even so,
India's Muslims, Christians and Parsis had not then,
and have not till now, been part of the procession.
Everyone else has had their share of fun. That is
how terrorism was seen until someone rammed
commercial planes into the two tallest buildings in
New York City.
On at least two occasions, the hijackers in India
were Brahmins. Bhola and Devendra Pandey
commandeered an Indian Airlines plane over
Lucknow in 1978 to demand the withdrawal of
Emergency-related cases against Sanjay Gandhi.
That incident catapulted the brothers into politics,
both becoming Congress MLAs in Uttar Pradesh.
Another Pandey gentleman hijacked a plane simply
because he wanted Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then an
opposition leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to
request him to come down. The demand was met
and the incident ended peacefully. In 1994, Dalit
Buddhists hijacked a plane to demand that
Marathwada University be renamed after Dr B R
Ambedkar. Sikhs have commandeered Indian planes
on two or three occasions in their quest for
Khalistan. Four college students in 1993 even took
off on a packed plane to demand the resolution of
problems plaguing the Lucknow Arts College!
Of course, the illustrious history of aviation piracy
in India began with Kashmiri Muslims in 1971, but
the issue of Kashmir should not be mixed up with
the ongoing profiling of India's 130 million Muslims,
accelerated by July's blasts in Bombay. These two
groups never saw eye-to-eye on most key issues,
after all, including separatism. While Vajpayee
humoured his Brahmin constituent in Lucknow, he
did so at a time when the so-called War on Terrorism
was merely America's domestic affair.
But Vajpayee's BJP colleagues, L K Advani and
Jaswant Singh, followed this tradition of releasing
hijackers after the definition had widened at the
international level. Both freed alleged terrorists that
had been ensnared by previous Congress
governments. While Singh received poor grades
during the 1999 hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight
from Kathmandu to Kandahar, few know that Advani
also has a history in this department. He too has
freed hijackers: the seven Sikhs brought back from
Dubai by Indira Gandhi in a diplomatic coup, for
which she probably paid with her life; as well as
Himal Southasian | October 2006
59
 Kashmir's Hashim Qureshi, the alleged plotter of
India's first hijacked plane to Pakistan, who now
participates in peace talks with Manmohan Singh.
Free-market worship
All this resembles a page out of an Orwellian
fairytale. As George W Bush received the Taliban
in Texas before declaring them of no use to his
vision of the world, so too did Indian prime
ministers Singh and Vajpayee. Both in their time
warmly received Pakistani pro-Taliban politician
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads groups that
keep popping up in Kashmir and London terror
alerts. By contrast, representatives of secular
parties from Pakistan complain they are often
given short shrift by the Indian establishment. This
expedient approach to terrorism is cut from the
same cloth as the global muddle led by Messrs
Bush and Blair.
Take the case of Osama bin Laden, a Wahhabi
Muslim from the most entrenched fundamentalist
sect in the world of Islam, Saudi Arabia. Osama
was a favourite of the American establishment until
he made a disturbing request: the head of the King
of Saudi Arabia on a platter. Subsequently, he
wants it known that the king was a stooge of the
Americans, and that the other Gulf rulers have
been equally corrupted by the West. When you
really get down to it, it is this ongoing standoff
between the protagonists of two Wahhabi factions
that has come to be known as a global war on
terror, a clash of civilisations, and other
such empty catchphrases. Do two medieval
practitioners of a common sect represent two
diverse civilisations?
Of course the Americans have always had
strategic interests in Saudi Arabia, and Saudi rulers
have long been required to guarantee the
inviolability of this relationship. Therefore there was
a genuine fear that if Osama bin Laden did usurp
power in Riyadh, the Saudi national oil company
Aramco, along with countless other American
standard-bearers, would be liquidated in no time. Is
that why Osama wanted the king removed?
Perhaps, but he also wanted to implement in
Saudi Arabia a more rigorous form of Wahhabism
called Salafism.
The kingship of Saudi Arabia is no less
obscurantist than the world's most wanted fugitive.
King Abdullah did not visit Mahatma Gandhi's
shrine when he came to Delhi in January this year,
because doing so would have been 'insulting' to
Islam - a view that the Indian government evidently
accepted. Thankfully, Pervez Musharraf did not
have similar concerns about Islamic purity when he
paid homage to India's founding father in 2001.
King Abdullah had been in Delhi a few weeks
before President Bush was to arrive to meet
Manmohan Singh, India's first pro-free-market
prime minister. All three men follow different
religions, and yet they agree on how the world's
market system should operate. The bom-again
Christian Tony Blair brings up the fourth corner of
this obscurantist platform of free-market votaries.
Osama does not share their perspective. He
opposes usury, insofar as it is forbidden in Islam to
receive interest on bank deposits, it is difficult to
see how this Islamic edict would ever square with
a global banking system, the first step to a free-
market structure.
Land, not religion
There is an unspoken but widespread assertion that
all those who resist the West's growing influence
must be medieval practitioners of Islam. But this is
thwarted by the profile of the 11 September
attackers, and that of those who allegedly tried to
blow up a few more planes in London recently. How
many of these people had any more than a nodding
acquaintance with Osama's brand of Islam? This
question has important implications for Indian
Muslims, whose pursuits and loyalties range from
communism to communalism. Politically, they
are followers of the Congress, even of the rightwing
Hindu BJP, and of every other party sandwiched
in between,
US professor Robert Pape has conducted a
study on global suicide missions that took place
between 1980 and 2003, which included profiles of
those who have attacked Western targets in
Lebanon. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Pape
says, Hizbollah is principally neither a political party
nor an Islamist militia, and evidence of the broad
nature of the group's resistance to Israeli
occupation can be seen in the identity of its
suicide attackers.
Hizbollah conducted a broad campaign of suicide
bombings against American, French and Israeli
targets from 1982 to 1986, altogether involving 41
suicide terrorists. Of those, Pape's team was able
to collect detailed personal information for 38. "We
were shocked to find that only eight were Islamist
fundamentalists," he writes. All the terrorists were
born in Lebanon, fully 27 were members of leftist
political groups, and three were Christians, including
a woman schoolteacher with a college degree. What
these suicide attackers shared was "a specific
secular strategic goal", which was spurred not by
"religious or political ideology but simply a
commitment to resisting a foreign occupation".
Although religion is rarely the root cause, Pape
says it is often used as a tool by terrorist
organisations in recruiting, as well as in service to
broader strategic objectives. Religion was not the
motive in any of India's hijackings. Nor, dare we
say, will it be found to have been a motive in the
killing of 200 commuters in Bombay on 11 July. The
picnic days for India's intelligence community are
over. It is time to do some real soul-searching, with
an open mind. ^
60
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 SOUTHASIASPH
C K Lai
What the centre can't hold
I'm enmeshed in a strange fix.
My ability to hate intensely,
Has begun to weaken by the day.
— Kunwar Narayan, EkAjib si Mushkil
Love impels artistes to create timeless
creations. But hate is much more
powerful, lt has made and unmade
dynasties, expanded or contracted empires,
and caused almost all the great upheavals
of history. Life without love is terrible, but
to live without hate is to endure the
hopelessness of never rising above the
mundane. The misery of a person without
love or hate is so intense that it can force
even a 79-year-old to take to the ravines.
By all accounts, Nawab Akbar Shahbaz
Khan, the tumandar (chieftain) of the Bugtis,
was not a nice man to know. His love for
his people was superficial. And unlike the
other two chieftains of Balochistan -
Nawab Khair Bux Marri and Sardar
Attaullah Mengal - he did not hate the
establishment in Islamabad intensely
enough to seek independence. All he
wanted was a measure of autonomy
traditionally granted to tlie nominal rulers
of frontier tribes by the erstwhile Raj. That
made him secessionist in the eyes of the
Pakistani military; but at the same time, he
was also condemned by his critics for being
a pro-government opportunist, always on
the lookout for a favourable deal.
Had the tumandar died in a family feud
or of old age, he would have remained one
of several colourful anomalies of Pakistani
society - just another arrogant chieftain
who claimed superiority on the basis of
colonial-era land grants. Instead, the place,
time and manner of his execution and
burial have turned him into an icon of
autonomy in an increasingly volatile
Balochistan. The manner of Nawab Akbar
Bugti's death has transformed him into a
martyr for all Baloehs. Alive, he was an
instrument of legitimacy for tire centre. Even
his rebellion was an indirect affirmation
of faith in the idea of Pakistan; unlike
other sardars, he never questioned
the fundamental premise of a religion-
based nation.
In death, he has succeeded in adding
one more question mark over the viability
of a state bound by very little other than a
common religion and conditional
American largesse. Already, the
tumandar's execution has begun to be
compared with the political murder of
Zulfikar AM Bhutto by General Zia-ul Haq.
General Pervez Musharraf endorsed the
comparison by congratulating the
executioners of a sardar from a region wTiere
embracing death on a matter of principal
is a mark of honour. In Balochistan, a hero
is someone who stands up to power,
while an idol is the one who dies defying
central authority.
It will be a little early to conclude that
Balochistan, too, will go the way of
Bangladesh. But if aspirations of autonomy
are not sympathetically addressed, power
alone cannot keep Pakistan together for all
times to come. The grievances of the Baloch
- or any other population group, except
perhaps the Punjabis of Pakistan - are
genuine. Balochistan forms almost 42
percent of the landmass of the country, its
population is only 7.5 million, and its
natural gas is the mainstay of the national
energy system; despite these factors, it is
one of the most backward provinces, with
negligible presence in national defence
forces, bureaucracy, diplomacy, trade
and industry.
The legitimacy of a state tliat survives on
the basis of brute force can be extremely
fragile - half the nuclear arsenal of the
world could not keep the Soviet Union
together. Only that unity that is forged on
the basis of political consensus and widely-
shared common destiny can hold. The idea
of Pakistan should have been reinvented
right after the December 1971 break-up
and loss of the eastern wing. In all
heterogeneous societies, federalism is the
sine, qua non of national unity. But Bhutto's
vanity ("we shall eat grass but build the
bomb") and the military's guilt-induced
ferocity propelled the country instead on a
confrontationist course. By becoming a
proxy in the US's covert wrar in Afghanistan,
its elite amassed enormous fortunes.
Life without
love is terrible,
but to live
without hate is
to endure the
hopelessness
of never rising
above the
mundane.
Himal Southasian I October 2006
61
 The idea of
Pakistan should
have been
reinvented right
after the
December 1971
break-up and
loss of the
eastern wina.
Unfortunately, the lucrative drugs-for-guns
deals destroyed the moral fibre that helps
people of various ethnicities rise above their
sectarian interests for the common good of
the country. When everyone in authority is
busy feathering his own nest, marginalised
communities acquire the legitimacy to call
for secession.
In diverse societies, voices of unrest, no
matter how seemingly unreasonable or
unjust, need to be heard with patience
and understanding. But despite his
sherwani and self-declared presidential
presumptions, General Musharraf is no
politician. He decided to do what he has
been trained to do all his life as an elite
commando commander. He decided to "sort
them so fast, they wouldn't know what hit
them". Weil, they did not know, but the rest
of the world does, and this does not augur
well for the future of Pakistan. The general-
president will be long gone from the
pinnacle of power when hapless politicians
of Pakistan's past and future are asked to
deal with a secessionist western wing.
Centre shock
European models of autonomous
individuals and centralised states - born
out of fierce battles between ambitious
warlords on the one hand, and all-
consuming wars between nation states on
the other, over several centuries - are
difficult to replicate in Southasia. Despite a
shared lndic civilisation, this is a region
where boli (dialect) changes every four kosh
(6.4 kilometres), and there is a different banni
(lifestyle) everv 10 kosh (16 kilometres). No
empire of the past in Southasia - neither
the Mauryas nor the Mughals - succeeded
in forging a uniformity similar to China,
where over 92 percent of the population is
ethnically Han.
Ashoka could not make all Southasians
Buddhists. The Shankaracharya failed to
convert the entire Subcontinent to Shaivism.
Bhakti and Sufi masters consented to create
harmony in the diversity of faiths, rather
than forcing their followers into exclusivist
cocoons, lhe British tried to make English
take the place of Sanskrit, but they too failed
to penetrate different layers of indigenous
cultures. All of this proves that states that
do not respect the inherent multiplicity of
the region and its sub-regions are doomed
to fail.
Sixty years is a long time in the life of an
individual, but amidst a civilisation at least
150 times older than that, modern India,
Pakistan and Bangladesh are nothing more
than mere experiments. Their structures
need to be studied to learn lessons for
improvement, not to stick dogmatically to
models  produced  by   England-trained
barristers of the 1940s.'
The function of the political centre in a
pluralist society is necessarily complex. It
has to be the moderator, facilitator and
coordinator between diverse groups with
conflicting interests. This requires so much
effort and concentration that, in order to
be effective, no central government can
afford to spread itself as thin as do
tiie establishments in Colombo, Dhaka,
Islamabad and Kathmandu.
New Delhi has tried a different formula,
hut with varying degrees of success over
time. In the Hindi heartland, the satraps of
the Centre enjoy a fair degree of independent
authority'. But the imperial mindset on
Raisina Hill is too well-entrenched to
allow its far-flung possessions in Kashmir
and the iNortheast any real autonomy.
India's achievements in local government
are noteworthv: the number of elected
representatives in Panchayati raj
institutions is said to be more than the
population of Norway. However, unless
provincial governments are equally
empowered, local government units alone
cannot meet the self-governance aspirations
of the diverse population groups of India.
In the future, any central government in
Southasia will have to learn to limit itself to
four areas: protection of the commons,
regulation of currency, improvement in
communications, and the function of
coordination, It may sound ironic, but
provincial governments in 'centralised'
China enjoy far more autonomy than the so-
called 'states' of the Indian Union. In
military-run Pakistan, provinces are
showpieces put in place to maintain the
facade of democracy. Had the Sinhala
majority agreed to a power-sharing
arrangement with the Tamils, Sri Lanka
would have saved itself from one of the
fiercest insurgencies ot modern times.
Despite its apparent demographic
homogeneity, Bangladesh too must learn to
create sub-centres, to protect its territory from
the peccadilloes of the vainglorious ruling
class of Dhaka.
Gandhi tried, but hate proved to be
stronger than his resolve to build a society
based on love. Since hate cannot be wished
away, there is only one way to reduce
acrimony within and among nation states:
devolve power, so that the capacity to inflict
damage bv a strong central establishment
on others - as well as unto itself - is reduced
to the minimum. Maybe then we shall begin
to discover the goodness rather than the
strength of each other. And only then we
too shall discover the delectable pain of
losing the ability to hate. ;■
62
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 MEDIAFILE
The 57*h "
RepuhleDay
■m ':r:7:bb:07Z7
Whatever it takes
NDTV's monopoly
over the English-
speaking classes in
India is over. Ten
months after it was
launched, India
Broadcast News
(1BN), in
collaboration writh
CNN, has decisively
emerged as a leading
competitor for
English television
news. Headed by prominent journalist Rajdeep
Sardesai, who quit NDTV after a decade's stint,
CNN-IBN has captured a sizeable segment of the
urban upper- and middle-class viewership. But
NDTV will not be shoved away so easily: the
channel has a massive netw-ork, and has recently
spruced up its look and quality of reportage. Bearing
the brunt of NDTV's established credentials and
IBN's success has been Times Now, from the Times of
India stable, which has shown dismal ratings. But
those who were hoping that the war for news would
boost standards of journalism and introduce a new
culture of television reportage will be a tad
disappointed. For tlie viewer, it is more of the same.
Kuldip Nayar has seen it all. From the times of
Partition and Gandhi's assassination, through the
turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s in Indian
politics, to the entire gamut of India-Pakistan
relations, tlie veteran journalist knows Independent
India like few others do. So when this man decides
to tell all, Southasia listens. Nayar
has just released a book of his
scoops. But the big one is yet to
come - he promises a fuller
memoir called The Days Look Old
soon. While we wait for that one,
Chettria Patrakar cannot but think
of the senior journalists across
Southasia, who have reported and
been involved in events that have
td»; shaped the contemporary history
of the region - Ayub's coup, the
Dalai Lama's exile, the 1960 takeover by King
Mahendra, the Sino-Indian war, Bangladesh's
liberation, the beginnings of Tamil nationalism, and
many others. History would be unforgiving if
the experiences of the hacks of those years are not
well documented.
Media regulations in Nepal are set to be drastically
overhauled. A High-Level Media Commission
(HLMC), appointed two months back, has now
submitted its recommendations to the government.
And if Prime Minister G P Koirala's assurances to
the members of the HLMC are anything to go by, this
is one commission report that will have an impact.
Suggestions include detaching the government's
control over govern men t-owned media, limitations
on cross-ownership, and allowing up to 49 percent
foreign investment in print media, provided
decision-making remains with Nepali citizens. The
committee has also asked the government to
recognise tlie digital medium as mass media. Other
recommendations centre on the state's advertisement
policy, and creating an inclusive media. Let's hope
this gives a boost to free and responsible journalism
in the country after the heady days of the People's
Movement of April, which owed so much of its
success to the reporters and editors..
BBC     i'li-K ■-■
x Access Denied
you realize a tact.
helped Chinese j
ttdt?t: wb cioid tid rr.:erdi-drdit:.;;
As Nepal tries to institutionalise the notion of press
freedom, it could teach some lessons to its mammoth
neighbour up north, which has yet again showed its
scant respect for democracy. Beijing might pretend to
have turned a new leaf by opening up Tibet, and
introducing more participation. But the farce is
apparent. China has banned ati reports distributed
within the country by foreign news agencies until
they are cleared by the state. The government has
resorted to the old trick of using the most broad-
based definition - protection of national unity, social
stability, economic and social order - to decide what
reports must be controlled. But the real decision is
said to have been motivated by more specific,
concerns - state news agency Xinhua's aim to edge
out competitors, especially financial news providers,
as well as anger at the policy of foreign agencies not
to completely toe the official Chinese line on Taiwan.
But in this wired age, the wise men of the People's
Republic are fooling themselves in thinking that
various forms of censorship can keep their people in
the dark about the world outside.
In the flurry of editorials and opinion pieces tliat
have tried to explain the significance of the Havana
meeting between Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan
Singh, one stood out for its lucidity and clarity. On
18 September the Daily Times of Lahore welcomed
Himal Southasian | October 2006
63
 TA     * 1        HP* the resumption of
JJaiiy   I lltieS     ^ ^ drew some
aa^a,™ ^*-r*^..r,^        key lessons from the
meet. Its editorial suggested that whatever the
provocation, there should be no talk of
disengagement; that terrorism requires cooperative
mechanisms; that India must introspect about other
causes tliat give rise to militancy within; and
that Pakistan has an obligation to clamp down on
such groups. Sober, balanced and thoughtful - the
paper's take on bilateral relations was a
refreshing read.
Journalists are back to living dangerously as
hostilities resume in Sri Lanka. The press in the
country has always been sharply polarised -
categorised as either Sinhalese-nationalist or pro-
L1TE. In the last two months, two journalists and
two newspaper distributors have been murdered,
while a news manager was abducted and released.
Reporters and editors from both sides have been in
the line of fire. If the two sides have decided they
would prefer war to sanity, there is little others can
to do to prevent it. But a dirty war is unacceptable,
including one that targets the messenger. Chettria
Patrakar would hope that the medley of the
international players hi the island nation would
ensure that, at the very least, the basic codes of
humanitarian law are respected by both sides.
What's wrong with Indian editors? Have they
forgotten their role of reporting with diligence and
leaving heavy opinion for the editorial and op-ed
pieces? Some of Delhi's editors have long thought of
themselves as agenda-setters and direct participants.
Some newspapers have a defined ideological stand,
with every report viewed according to this prism,
and wherein their journalists have no hesitation in
framing stories tailored to this agenda. The Asian Age
does not like proximity to the US, and detests tlie
present foreign-policy establishment. So after the
Havana meeting, we saw the paper go all over town
with speculation - in the news reports, mind you -
about the US hand in the deal. On the other side, The
Indian Express is the leading advocate of engagement
with the US and hates the left. So its bureau chief in
Delhi decides to go to Israel while Lebanon was
being bombed, and wrote stories about how the
Indian comrades should draw inspiration from the
Israeli left, which was supporting the invasion.
Uggh, give me Bhutan's Kuensel. anyday!
Once in a while, Bombay directors can sense the
pulse of the people just right. And Hindi cinema
must be lauded for these few times when people can
really relate to it. This year's biggest hits, Rang De
Basanti and Lage Raho Munnabhai, were entertaining
movies with contrasting messages; while the former
used violence to solve present ills, the latter
rediscovered M K Gandhi for the urban youth and
India Shining crowd. But there was one similarity
that added another level of welcome - the use of
radio to pass on the central message of each film. At
critical turning points, and in the both the films'
climaxes, the protagonists relied on radio broadcasts
to convey then messages. Not television screens. Not
onhne chatting. Not mobile text messages. -Arid that
struck a note, for most Southasians are radio people,
turning to these ubiquitous little transmitters for
information and entertainment. Radio remains our
most important and empowering tool, but it is an
idea only a few policymakers understand well. And
that explains why radio still has not received the
attention it deserves. Perhaps Bollywood movies will
succeed where decades of activism has failed in
rejuvenating radio.
In the Line
of Fire
Author-publisher contracts
have just gained a new
sanctity. And who else but
Pervez Musharraf to have
brought them back into
vogue? He would like us to
believe that an agreement
with a New York-based
publisher has sealed his
lips. After having raised a
furore by revealing that the
US had threatened to bomb
Pakistan in the wake
of the 9/11 attacks, President Musharraf suddenly
went mum on the issue when questioned during a
recent joint press conference with George W Bush, "I
would like to - I am launching my book on the 25th,
and I am honour-bound to [publisher] Simon &
Schuster not to comment on the book before that
day," said the man who has thought little of
backing out on honourable promises made about
Pakistan's democracy timetable. Whether deft
diplomatic manoeuvring or a publicity stunt to
boost his book sales, President Musharraf is one
smart Southasian.
- Chettria Patrakar
64
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 OPINION
The two Punjabs: Drifting apart?
Peopie-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan will mean nothing if commerce
does not pick up. An appreciation of Indo-Pakistani prospects requires looking
at Punjab-Punjab.
BY HARTOSH SINGH BAL
Once again, with Manmohan Singh and Pervez
Musharraf meeting in Havana, we are likely
to get back to the slow business that defines
the peace process between India and Pakistan.
Amidst the rhetoric about people-to-people contact,
talk will yet again veer back to initiatives that can
bring the two Punjabs closer.
But so far, what is remarkable about the process
is the extent to which symbolic gestures that reach
across the Atari-Wagah border have substituted for
any real achievement. In between the only two
definable achievements - the Delhi-Lahore bus in
1999 and the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus in March
2006, as far as 'Punjab' is concerned - the peace
process replicates the cooperative belligerence of the
'beating retreat' ceremony at Wagah (See
accompanying story, 'Their vengeance"). Over the
years, jawans on the two sides of the border have
learned to march in step for the ceremony, mirroring
every gesture of aggression the other summons,
much in the fashion of the expulsion and counter-
expulsion of diplomats that takes place here after
every round of violence in India or Pakistan.
Spectators on either side of the Wagah border
exhort their jawans throughout the ceremony, but
once the charade is done for the day they wander as
close to the border as they can, to peer at their
counterpart citizens. There is little to separate the
two - the faces, features and languages are the
same, perhaps a few more sherwanis on one side
and a few more turbans on the other. And on this
similarity, nostalgia has created an edifice of 'people-
to-people' contact that really amounts to very little.
The fact is, much of the cultural contact has been
based on myths that some people on either side of
the border are content to sustain. Even if we leave
aside the traffic generated - both across the border
and in the media - by the select few journalists and
artists who seem to form a part of every official and
unofficial peace delegation, there is much that we get
to hear about cultural commonality and shared
heritage that does not stand up to scrutiny.
Bonhomie, and nothing more
It is sufficient to look at the efficacy of the
people-to-people contact in the context of the two
Punjabs, because if it does not work in this setting
then the chances of success on the larger scene are
remote. The shared heritage, the composite culture of
Punjab, is often cited as a basis for this process. But
this Punjabiyat did not come in the way of the
massacres of Partition; if anything, it is far less
relevant today. To ignore this is to ignore what has
transpired on both sides of the border over the past
60 years.
In the Indian Punjab, the politico-religious Akali
rhetoric, when it seeks to consolidate Sikh votes,
revolves around a history of oppression and
resistance that ties together Mughals and Muslims.
With elections due in the state early next year, such
language will be prominently displayed. It is precisely
this rhetoric that explains the ease with which the
Akalis have established and maintained an alliance
with the BJP. A party that rightly made much of the
violence unleashed by the Congress against the
Sikhs in 1984 has remained unmoved by the active
connivance of the BJP government in Gujarat in the
mass murder of Muslims.
This is particularly important because the Punjabi
identity in India has increasingly becoming identified
with the Sikhs. The Hindu Punjabis over time have
distanced themselves from the language, a process
that started with the Punjabi suba movement, which
sought statehood on a linguistic basis but at the
same time was structured such that a territorial unit
could be carved out where the Sikhs would be a
majority. Moreover, in a state where the language was
largely identified with the rural Jat peasant, the urban
Hindu shirked from an open affiliation with a culture
that was largely seen as rustic.
Irrespective of who may be to blame, the singing of ghazals in the aftermath of the
Bombay blasts is a meaningless act but sorely no one would object to the passage
of food grains across the border.
Himal Southasian | October 2006
65
 This distancing was exacerbated during the years
of militancy and terror in Punjab, in the 1980s and
1990s. The movement for Khalistan, always a
minority movement even among the Sikhs, was
fuelled by an increasing narrowing of vision,
which failed to see the Sikhs as rooted in an
Indian context.
In fact, the only positive change that has come
about in this attitude has largely been a result of the
spread of cable television and mass media.
Motivated in part by the popularity of Punjabi music,
it is suddenly no longer considered unfashionable
for the urban young to speak the Punjabi language
It is still too early to say, however, just how far-
reaching the ramifications of this shift will be.
Across the border, the situation seems to be
worse. The state of Pakistan is inseparable from
the Punjabi Muslims who control every aspect of
the nation state's functioning. But in a
schizophrenic act rooted in the very ideas that led
to Partition, Punjabi itself was given short shrift. An
entire population that continues to term itself
Punjabi has no access to schooling in the language
itself, and there is no major Punjabi newspaper in
Pakistan, whereas there is a surfeit in Urdu and
Sindhi.
In fact, if the reality of this Punjab-Punjab divide
were to be measured, the diasporas in England.
Canada or the US would provide more than enough
evidence. Nowhere has the gulf between Punjabis
on religious terms been bridged by the notion of a
shared cultural identity. There is nothing preventing
the intermingling of the Muslim Punjabi and the
Sikh/Hindu Punjabi communities in those countries,
but the fact is it has not taken place. Recent events
have even seen Sikhs in the West making greater
efforts to distance themselves from Muslims -
Punjabi or not - in order to avoid hate attacks or
security screening at airports.
When Punjabis from India and Pakistan meet in
London or Toronto, there is generally genuine
warmth and a desire to speak a common language:
yet every such encounter is still marked by
subjects neither chooses to discuss. These issues
continue to divide Punjabis where they are - the
bonhomie remains just that, leading to nothing
substantive, as is increasingly the case with the
Indo-Pakistani peace process.
Economics, not trays!
But would this imply that people-to-people contact
is meaningless? Not quite - it is just that it remains
peripheral, and there is no reason to put much store
by it in the absence of other longer-lasting efforts at
inter-linkage. In the existing climate, the euphoria
generated by sentimentality can be no real basis for
a peace process. Neither does this argument claim
that there was never a basis for a shared culture: it
is a statement that, under the existing
circumstances, there is none.
The area where progress can be made, and on
which there should be no real disagreement on either
side of the border, has to do with economic linkages
as opposed to the mere people-to-people contact by
peaceniks and artists. Perhaps the best example of
this is the Majha region of Punjab state. This is the
area around Amritsar that lies north of the Beas River.
Before Partition, the two cities of this region, Lahore
and Amritsar, were respectively the cultural and
financial centres of all of Punjab. While Lahore has
retained its pre-eminence in Pakistani Punjab,
Amritsar found itself a trading centre on a closed
border. A region that had linguistically, politically and
religiously dominated Punjab sank into insignificance.
That terrorism in the state - a phenomenon that
cannot be reduced to any one straightforward
explanation - was largely confined to the Majha
region was no coincidence.
But over the past four years there has suddenly
grown an air of optimism in the Majha. one that is not
generated by the prospect of being able to travel to
Lahore. The possibility of trade across the Wagah
border has sent land prices soaring, and this is not to
be seen only as a speculative measure related to
local concerns. This has brought in money and
investment from outside that is already affecting
the so-far moribund economy of the region. Every
hiccup in the peace process is today greeted with
anxiety in the Majha. Some trade, though limited, has
begun across the land route to Lahore. Thus far,
however, it has been Islamabad that has been reticent
in allowing substantive progress on this score.
Curiously, even when President Musharraf argues
for a peace process that can continue through the
incidents of violence, he does not realise that he is
making the strongest case for trade ties. People-to-
people contact will be a natural calamity of any
violent act in the two countries. Irrespective of who
may be to blame, the singing of ghazals in the
aftermath of the Bombay blasts is a meaningless act,
but surely no one would object to the passage of food
grains across the border. Even Indian hawks do not
object to a process wherein the balance of payment is
naturally in India's favour. For Pakistan, this creates a
durable process of the very nature that the Pakistani
president is arguing for.
Trade ties create linkages that are resistant to the
periodic fluctuations in the Indo-Pakistani relationship.
In the absence of any real progress on the Kashmir
issue - and it is difficult to see where that progress
can come from in the short term - commerce
between Punjab and Punjab, and
between India and Pakistan, remains the only
guarantee of real achievement. Today, the irony of
the fact that the Majha is the most significant
backer of the peace process should not be lost on
anyone  It was on this soil, after all, that the bloodiest
and most significant battles of the
1965 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan
took place.
66
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
;;E=ad=yEft;ft ■
 PHOTO FEATURE
Niels Gutschow has worked
as a conservation architect
and an architectural
anthropologist in Nepal, Orissa
and Benaras. He currentiy divides
his time between Bhaktapur,
Nepal and Heidelberg, Germany,
where he teaches Southasian
urban rituals at die University of
Heidelberg's South Asia Institute,
hi his most recent book, Benares,
Gutschow studies the "locative
aspect of religion" in the holy city.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NIELS GUTSCHOW
presenting the reader with a
variety of ways hi which Benaras's
sacred spaces have been
documented. These include
'indigenous pictorial maps' from
the 18th century, depictions that
seek to represent both symbolic
and built realities; 'built maps', in
which Benaras's sacred landscape
is reconstructed in three-
dimensional form in temple
complexes far from the city;
panoramas, both pictorial and
photographic; and modern
topographical maps of
Western cartographic origin.
Gutschow's study "obsesses" over
locating places indicated in
these documents.
The photographs presented here
are of lingams found during this
search, initiated at first when
Gutschow received a rare copy of
Pandit Kailasnath Sukul's 1876
Kashidarpana, a picture map rich
LONDON:  EDITION AXEL  MENGES 2006
with symbols and text associated
with historical documents and
contemporary Benaras
topography. Benaras, he writes,
"abounds with stones. Beyond
individual stones, which are
either treated as 'self-existent'
lingas or as installed ones,
innumerable, preferably egg-
shaped stones seek fhe company
of fabricated ones as if to
demonstrate tlie limitlessness of
Shiva's presence and power."      Jt
Himal Southasian I October 2006
67
 68
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 4 * .   " i
Himal Southasian | October 2006
69
 REFLECTIONS
Go West, young Muslim
:....■.    ■     ;
jLJLa-X-^*j*g
Go We.sf, young man, and grow up with the country.
- John Soule, Terre Haute Express (1851)
BY NAEEM MOHAIEMEN
A few months after the Afghan war, 1 was sitting
in the Dhaka office of Sajjad Sharif. Sajjad is
an art critic and associate editor of the Dhaka-
based Prothom Alo, a progressive newspaper often
under attack from Islamists. Tlie regular tea circle was
assembled (artists, poets and journalists), talking
about the 'Muslim street' (that elusive creature!).
For years, my personal dual existence between New
York and Dhaka had been fairly unremarkable and
unremarked upon. Now there was suddenly a desire
to boil everyone down to their 'essence'. 1 was
supposed to be some sort of reflective surface for 'the
American street' - a farcical concept that 1 rejected.
In the middle of a heated debate, Sajjad lightened
the mood with a popular street saying of tlie time:
"Tomorrow, if Osama said, 'All my jihadi brothers,
come and join me!'"
Yes?
"10 percent of Bangladesh would leave for
Afghanistan."
"Bolen ki bhai?"
"Yes, it's true."
"But if the next day, Bush announced 'Jobs for
everyone'..."
"Hya?"
"90 percent of Bangladesh would line up in front of
the American embassy!"
This joke reminded me of many more-prosaic
encounters in the houses of various Dhaka 'seniors'
that I am obligated to visit. The conversation always
veers to, "Oi desh e pore thako kibhabe baba?" (How do
you live in that country?). But soon after cha-biscuit,
there is also the revelation that their eldest son or
daughter will be taking the US college entrance SAT in
the near future. "Do you have any advice about
applying to aAmerican colleges?" they ask.
These observations are not meant to minimise or
trivialise the varied opposition to the new Imperialism
project. But we can at least complicate the conversation
by looking to the revulsion and fascination projected
on tlie same surface. A similar sentiment seems to be at
play in the European idee fixe about American power
and culture.
Things are of course not quite so simple. Nor will
they stay the same. Thoughts about America will be
replaced by other focuses, including India Shining,
China Rising and all the rest. Al-Jazeera or Zee TV
may yet replace CNN as the most-watched television
channel; indeed, CNN is already not well-watched in
many parts. Then again, certain shifts may be
temporary. Recall the obsession with japan for a brief
moment during the *1980s, when Japanese buying
sprees of American institutions inspired paranoid
fantasies like Sean Connery's Rising Sun - 007 always
knew where to go for the next big threat. Only a fool, or
Nostradamus, makes predictions without caveats.
Dar al-harb?
I was thinking of all this as I was studying new data
released by tbe US Department of Homeland Security,
which is also responsible for immigration. A new
report shows that, contrary to many expectations,
Muslim immigration to America has increased, after
an initial drop, since die attacks of 11 September 2001.
Of course, not every statistic gives a full picture.
Professor Moustafa Bayou mi points out that other
factors, such as the post-9/11 overhaul of the
immigration system, may have allowed for faster
processing of new immigration applications. But the
numbers are stiJI star ding. In 2005 nearly 96,000 people
from Muslim countries became legal permanent US
residents — more than in any year in the last two
decades. More than 40,000 arrivals from Muslim
countries were admitted into the US in 2005, the
highest annual number since 2001. The greatest
number of admissions came from Egypt, Indonesia,
Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Muslim immigration to the US initially increased
during the mid-1960s, after immigration quotas were
removed. In contrast with Europe, Muslims who came
to the US tended to be more educated, reflecting an
immigration system that also had preference for white-
collar migration. A larger portion of immigrants from
70
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Muslim countries had graduate degrees than did
American citizens, and their average salary was
20 percent higher. This trend paralleled the high levels
of achievement of other educated immigrant groups,
as well.
A photo that illustrated a recent Xezc York limes story
on this topic was taken on Conev Island Avenue in
Brooklyn, once again a bustling centre of Pakistani and
Bangladeshi migrants. This is the same Conev Island
Avenue targeted when 'special registration' and
immigration raids went particularly after Pakistanis,
and to a lesser extent Bangladeshis. At that time, writers
evoked Krystalluacht, the German anti-Jewish pogrom
of 1938 - a comparison that raised hackles, but also
pointed to shared struggles between Jewish and
Muslim migrants. Ihat same Coney Island now wears
a hopeful look in this photo. Fluttering American flags
in the background, hugging Musollis in the foreground.
It looks for a moment like a moon alignment that
brought together Eid and the Fourth of July.
What is the social position of Muslims in these
countries, where they are in the minority? Swiss
philosopher Tariq Ramadan has explored a new
definition of dar al-harb. In the consensual view, a
country is dar al-harb when both the legal system and
government are non-Islamic. Dar al-harb translates in
one formulation as 'Abode of War'. If law and political
systems define this, then even a country like
Bangladesh, the majority of which is Muslim, is still
dar al-harb, as are Indonesia, Malaysia and the like.
This is meant to infer a territory where Muslims are
neither protected nor able to live in peace.
A competing vision argues that it is the condition of
populations, and safety of the same, that defines dar
al-harb. Ramadan argues that: "Muslims may actually
feel safer in the West, as far as the free exercise of
their religion is concerned, than in some so-called
Muslim countries."
Ramadan's view can be interpreted to say that
America and Hurope, having large dMuslim populations
that maintain - even after all recent events - some
measure of religious freedom, can also be defined as
dar al-islam. This is also a partial conflation of freedom
of speech with other freedoms. Ironically, some
of London's most fiery preachers would not
have the same leeway back 'home'. Political Islamist
theologian Sayvid Qutb, who inspired many
generations of radical groups, was brutally tortured
by the Egyptian slate. It was, in fact, this experience
that expanded his focus from the West - an object of
loathing after his time in America - towards
advocating assassination of Muslim leaders who failed
to follow traditional doctrine.
If Muslims feel at least some form of safety in the
West, Muslim immigration will continue and will
eventually create a hybridised Islam, as postulated in
Ramadan's "To be a European Muslim". But there is
another aspect to consider. If the West is not dar al-harb
as per the old definition, militant groups' manifestos
to attack the West loses a key theological
underpinning. This is not to say that militants will
read Ramadan and change their strategy. But it can
outline the beginnings of a counter-debate, one that
looks at the roots of Islamic theology to counter the
bastardisation of the same.
d-f-o/pn hpstnrv
We have two visions on display in recent discussions
of "II September's legacy. One is the dark, apocalyptic
view encapsulated in a recent essay by the US
journalist Roger Cohen:
The United States has grown darker, two wars lurk on ai
leafy street. Fear haunts the political discourse. A century
that dawned brightly now ofters conflict with out end.
Beyond US borders, no longer those of a sanctuary, the
fanatical group called al-Qaeda that turned planes into
missiles has morphed into a diffuse anti-Western ideology
followed, in some measure, hv millions of angry Muslims
Thev are convinced the United Slates is an infidel enemy
bent on humiliating Islam. Anti-Americanism has become
the world's vogue idea.
Now, if "millions" had truly joined the jihad, there
would be very few buildings left standing. But never
mind that - the man is writing with a flourish, and
can be allowed a moment of hyperventilation. Let
us turn now to an article written by another US
journalist, Andrea Elliott, about the new report on
Muslim immigration:
[MuslimsJ have made the journey unbowed by tales oi
immigrant hardship, and despite their own opposition to
American policv in the Middle Hast. Thev come seeking the
same promise that has drawn foreigners to the United States
for manv decades, according to a range of experts aind
immigrants: economic opportunity and political freedom.
In years past, in a more navel-gazing state of mind,
on every 9/11 anniversary 1 found myself writing
pedestrian, sentimental entries about my own
experiences as a New York resident: biking
downtown after the towers collapsed to look for
my then-partner (she had been evacuated), tracking
down Bengali victims' lamilies, losing a
fond memento at airport security, and the like.
These are not unique experiences, nor are they -
after thousands of memorial stories - particularly
emotive today.
1 wrote in a naive state ot mind about the end of
technology in the face of box-cutters. That sense ol a
frozen history has been blown away by subsequent
wars, detentions, rising tensions and revenge attacks.
On the fifth anniversary of that event, it is time to
look beyond only these stories, and to formulate
theory, vision and trajectory tor a more humane future
- a shared world, bevond wars without end.
Himal Southasian [ October 2006
71
 ■ ■■■■•-,■">■!;■'    :
REVIEW
The new reasoning of Gendun Chopel
FELIX HOLMGREN
Angry Monk
Directed by
Luc Schaedler, Switzerland
2005
97 minutes
he first few shots of the documentary film Angry
Monk effectively shatter the common images
of Tibet as either an otherworldly spiritual haven
or a communist wasteland inhabited by a broken
people. In their place, the juxtapositions of the film's
opening sequence suggest a universe similar to those
familiar from a certain class of representation of post-
Independence India: a world of endlessly mutating
forms; of ironic overlap of hi-tech and superstition; an
amalgam of the medieval, the bombastically modern
and the timeless.
The Swiss director Luc Schaedler attempts to survey
100 years of Tibetan experience, in all its trauma and
contradictions. The film is scrupulously free of nostalgia
and awestruck overtones, and is unsentimental whether
discussing the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, the
narrow-mindedness of pre-communist feudal Tibet, or
the plight of the modern Tibetan diaspora. Angry Monk
presupposes that its audience has already heard all
about the ancient, exalted and unique culture of Tibet,
and the film positions itself as a corrective to the
admiring sigh that threatens to keep Tibet forever in a
one-dimensional realm, sidelined from the changing
map of history and geopolitics.
Schaedler portrays this 'other Tibet' by retracing the
steps of Gendun Chopel, a man who died more than a
half-century ago, having exerted little influence during
his lifetime either in or out of Tibet. He was a brilliant
and original scholar, but would have been remembered
by few had it not been for his extensive travels in
Southasia, and his numerous written accounts of his
many years on the road.
By roughly sketching Chopel's life story, Angry
Monk traverses considerable geographic and
intellectual territory, from the remotest reaches of the
Tibetan plateau all the way to Sri Lanka; from the
provincial monastery where Chopel baffled his fellow
monks with his unconventional views, to the turmoil of
India's Independence struggle and the formation ofthe
1940S Chinese-friendly Tibetan Progressive Party.
While following this route in the linear manner of a road
movie, the film nevertheless weaves an intricate pattern
where past and present, personal and public, regional
and global reflect each other. As Chopel's dissent from
Tibet's political and religious establishment grows,
culminating in his imprisonment by the Lhasa
government, the film delivers its critique of Tibetan
society in the form of an insider's view - an evaluation
that otherwise, given Tibet's tribulations and the
director's inescapable identity as coloniser, could have
come across as rather odious.
Indeed, some have seen Angry Monk as an act of
violence against an already downtrodden people. The
film in no way paints a full picture of Tibet's modern
history or Gendun Chopel's life and oeuvre, but it does
grant the Tibetans the dignity of being treated
as inhabitants of the same planet as the rest of us - a
nation among nations, for better and worse.
The main complaint - albeit an unfair one - that can
be levelled against Angry Monk is this: had it been
made by a Tibetan, it would have represented a
milestone in Tibet's struggle for a renewed identity.
Hero of our age
Although the figure of Gendun Chopel is somewhat
secondary to Angry Monks agenda, the choice of
protagonist is almost self-evident. Chopel's reputation
has been growing steadily for several decades; he is
now not only widely regarded as one of the
most important Tibetan intellectuals of the last
century, but has also become a cultural hero for a
generation of Tibetans. The Dalai Lama is only one
among many admirers who name Gendun Chopel as
their intellectual predecessor.
Wherein lay his greatness? One of Schaedler's
interviewees expresses it succinctly: "He introduced
a new kind of knowledge to Tibet." (Schaedler himself
excessively dubs Chopel "the initiator of critical and
intellectual thought within Tibetan society") Present
from an early age, Chopel's faculty for empirical and
objective reasoning seems to have matured under the
influence of Rahul Sankrityayan, a multilingual traveler,
scholar, writer, Marxist and Independence fighter whom
Chopel met in Lhasa in 1934, and with whom he
subsequently traveled in Tibet, Nepal and India.
Sankrityayan, who had become a Buddhist monk in
1923, introduced Chopel to the circle ofthe Maha Bodhi
Society, the single most important organisation in
72
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 the early history ofthe Buddhist modernist movement.
The Society worked energetically to revive pilgrimage
to recently discovered ancient sites of Buddhist
worship in India (such as Bodhgaya), and its ideology
emphasised Buddhism's compatibility with modern
science and ideals of social equity. Chopel was greatly
impressed by the writings and deeds of the Society's
then recently deceased founder, the Sri Lankan
Anagarika Dharmapala, and adopted the rationalist
and ecumenical programme of Dharmapala and
his followers.
During his time in India, Chopel started writing articles
and letters trying to offer other Tibetans a glimpse of
the marvellous things he had seen and learned, and to
urge them to study and accept the advantages of "the
new reasoning", as he called science. He chided them
for refusing to recognise that the world is round, and
for failing to use rigorous logical reasoning to establish
the location of ancient holy sites. (His own guidebook
to Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Southasia included a
chapter with information on relevant railroad routes and
fares.) But his tone was often glum, and in a late poem
he summed up his misgivings about the Tibetans'
ability to accept change: "In Tibet, everything that is
old / Is a work of Buddha / And everything that is
new / Is a work of the devil / This is the sad tradition of
our country."
Chopel, then, was Tibet's first apostle of scientific
rationalism - not an achievement that necessarily stirs
up more enthusiasm than can be contained in a footnote
in a history book. Rather, it is Chopel's romantic sense
of loneliness, his taste for iconoclasm and his
victimisation by the Tibetan authorities, in conjunction
with his novel ways of thinking, that make him an
important point of reference so long after his death.
For Tibetans dealing with the realities of occupation
and exile, and for Tibet aficionados who find few figures
in Tibet's cultural pantheon with whom they can identify,
Chopel seems to have left a secret trail across the
Himalaya. He is a hero not of his
own age, but of ours, the age of
partial and painful globalisation: an
"outsider who was always open to
new things, he eventually became
a stranger in his homeland and
homeless in foreign lands - a
wanderer between worlds," in the
words of Angry Monk's press kit.
One episode, recounted in many
versions, relates how Chopel was
once approached by a group of
Tibetan scholars who wanted to
debate points of philosophy with
him. When they arrived at the
appointed location, they found
Chopel smoking a cigarette, and
dropping the ashes on the head of
a Buddha statue. Chopel, who all
his life had been known to be
impossible to defeat in debate,
proceeded to argue with the group of learned men about
whether or not such behaviour was proper. With
reportedly impeccable logic, he proved that indeed it
was, and his opponents left bewildered and disgusted.
Such stories not only reinforce Chopel's oddball
image. They also suggest a much-cherished Tibetan
cultural type inherited from Southasian Tantrism: the
crazy yogi', who transforms his consciousness through
spon-taneous behaviour and the deliberate breaking
of taboos. While some conclude that Chopel was most
likely such a highly advanced yogi, others ascribe to
him almost superhuman abilities, or consider him a
demon in disguise.
No eternal truths
Beyond cosmopolitan or spiritual projections, Chopel
was nothing if not a stubborn seeker of truth, a 'wanderer
between worlds' of knowledge. With the publication of
The Madman's Middle Way, US Buddhist scholar
Donald Lopez, Jr's long-awaited translation of The
Adornment for Nagarjuna's Thought, Chopel's treatise
on the nature of knowledge, English-language readers
wil! be able to deepen their appreciation of Chopel's
synthesising genius. Devoid of the formulaic cool
characteristic of virtually all Tibetan philosophic writing,
The Adornments 250 short paragraphs - many quirky
and witty - proclaim epistemological and metaphysical
insights accumulated during 20 years of monastic
studies and more than a decade of travel and research.
The power of Chopel's vision was not to be found
merely in exhortations to Tibetans to abolish their old
ways and emulate the West; he was, after all, as critical
of European colonialism as he was of Tibet's feudalism.
It also lay in the complete openness that allowed him
to penetrate to the core ofthe canons of foreign thought
he encountered during the course of his travels, and
to that of his own intellectual heritage, while stripping
away all that was inessential or antiquated. When using
logical analysis, Chopel said, one should be like a
goldsmith who throws everything -
ore, sand and whatever else - into
the furnace, confident that in the end
only gold will remain.
'The intelligent person should
accept, from any source, whatever
he sees as well explained, regarding
it as if it were his own. Such truths
do not belong exclusively to anyone,
since they are equally objective for
all ... as sunlight, for instance, works
impersonally for everyone with
The Madman's Middle Way:
Reflections on reality of the
modernist Tibetan monk
Gendun Chopel
by Donald S Lopez
Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press 2006
Himal Southasian | October 2006
73
 sight." These words were not written by Gendun Chopel,
but by the 7th century philosopher Chandrakirti. They
reflect a half-millennium of inter-sectarian debate
between Vedist, Jain and Buddhist thinkers, in the
course of which the necessity of accepting the ultimate
authority of logical reasoning became obvious.
Curiously, however, Chandrakirti is remembered and
studied (in particular in Tibet, where his influence is of
monumental importance) not for his objectivist
pronouncements, but for his resolute and elegantly
argued refusal to accept the existence of any objective
basis for human beliefs and practices. This might seem
inconsistent with the quote above, but for Chandrakirti
and other Mahayana Buddhist philosophers, uncertainty
is the necessary complement to rationality. For them,
there is regularity and causality in the world only
inasmuch as the things we experience are interrelated.
And where everything is interrelated, there is only flux,
with no room for eternal truths and foundations.
Therefore, Chandrakirti says, let us use reasoning,
and realise that all is fleeting, as in a dream.
It is this heritage - a sort of inverse of modern
rationalism - that Gendun Chopel builds on in The
Adornment.The text's discussions belong to a tradition
that is distinctly Tibetan, but the flair and originality of
their presentation lack precursors In The Madman's
Middle Way, Lopez's detailed commentary and inspired
introduction open up the text's many historical
and philosophical dimensions to patient readers new
to the topic. Until Chopel's extensive travel writings
are translated and published, this book is likely to
remain the most important non-specialist English-
language source for the study of Gendun Chopel and
his thought.
Kaise jeebo
RAKESH KALSHIAN
A visit to a mall can be a rather schizophrenic
experience. Even while delighting in the
wonderful cornucopia of temptations, one cannot
help but feel a vague disgust at one's hedonism. This
feeling of self-loathing is joined with one of absurdity
at the sight of the starving beggar outside, seeking
morsels of generosity from the more fortunate. The
conscience winces at the sight of abject poverty in the
backyards of modern temples of consumerism.
These are two importantly different reactions. The
first is an aesthetic revolt against conspicuous
consumption; the second, an ethical shiver in the face
of conspicuous deprivation. Nature or environment,
however, rarely triggers such guilt pangs, because there
is a complete disconnect between the city and nature.
Urban, capitalist society does not encourage knowledge
of the origins of the products sold in its shops. Indeed,
for all we know, things that we derive pleasure from -
computers, clothes, books - could well be made from
materials carrying the bloodstains of some indigenous
tribe or the scars of a decimated forest.
Such inchoate feelings will
undoubtedly find resonance with many •<^»»,
readers. But the acquiring and honing
of a sophisticated environmental
consciousness is a difficult task: it
requires sustained thinking through the
politics of the competing desires of
communities, classes and nation states,
in search of diversity, sustainability and
equity in an increasingly interconnected world.
Ramachandra Guha's anthology of essays is just such
a journey - a fascinating if sometimes bumpy ride
through towns, villages and forests of ideas about that
most enduring philosophical question: How should one
live (Kaisejeebo re)? Or, to couch it in ecological terms,
how does one reconcile the modern ideals of equality,
liberty and fraternity with the fact of an increasingly
fragile and imperilled environment?
Most of the pieces in How Much Should a Person
Consume?'are expanded versions of previously written
essays and lectures, the overarching theme of which
is a comparative history of environmentalism in India
and the US. Guha knows of what he speaks; he has
been a teacher in several American universities, and
has had a long engagement with environmental
movements in India. Although he began his scholarly
career as a Marxist, he is quick here to repudiate
allegiance to any ideology. Instead, one of Marx's
popular maxims is inverted to proclaim Guha's motto;
"Environmentalists may wish to change
the world, but environmental historians
should seek merely to understand and
interpret it."
HOW MUCH Li
SHOULD
A PERSON
CONSUME
How Much Should a Person Consume?:
Thinking through the environment
by Ramachandra Guha
New Delhi: Permanent Black 2006
Battling the omnivores
Throughout Guha's narration of the
topography of environmental history in
these two countries, readers meet with
an endless stream of interesting
personas, while the author elicits from
each their musings on ecology. The entire
journey revolves around three Utopian
philosophies of nature and development,
each of which places its emphasis on a
different locale: the wilderness, the village
74
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
 and the city. Guha dubs these three as primitivism,
agrarianism and scientific industrialism, and
characterises each as both romantic and chauvinistic
- as unable to offer the world an alternative that is both
socially progressive and ecologically sustainable
Guha describes the American preservationist John
Muir's save-the-wilderness movement as the dominant
theme of environmentalism in the US. He contrasts this
with India's environmental movements - Chipko, for
instance, or the Narmada Bachao Andolan - which he
says are essentially radical critiques of received notions
of development, as well as a defence of people's rights
over their environment.
Two essays included here, "Authoritarianism in the
Wild" and "Democracy in the Forest", narrate the clash
of ideas over control of India's forests, relating how the
conservationists sought to oust Adivasis from reserved
forests, and how peoples' movements fought to restore
the indigenous peoples' rights over their lands. This
disagreement between conservationist and humanist
goals remains far from over, as thousands of forest-
dwellers continue to be displaced from their homes. How
Much Should a Person Consume?'is particularly harsh
on wildlife conservationists.
Equally interesting is Guha's account ofthe Gandhian
brand of environmentalism, which rejects the West's
industrial model, instead adopting the village as the
sustainable unit of economic life. He contrasts Gandhian
ecology with the impassioned critiques of rural life by
people like Dalit leader and Indian Constitution architect
B R Ambedkar. In a speech during the Constituent
Assembly debates, Ambedkar had said, "I hold that
these village republics have been the ruination of India
... What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of
ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?" The
ripples of that contest are now turning into waves as, to
use Guha's coinage, 'ecosystem people' and ecological
refugees join hands to battle over land, water and forests
with the omnivores, the all-consuming beneficiaries of
the market economy.
Guha's three favourite ecological thinkers each
inhabits the intellectual borderlands between the three
Utopias described above. The first is the Scottish
scholar Patrick Geddes, who conceived of the city as
an organic extension of the countryside. He came to
India in 1914, and was involved in the planning of several
cities, including Madras. The second is the American
philosopher Lewis Mumford, who during the 1930s wrote
prescient ecological histories of the city, tracing its
evolution in relation to technology and ecology. Guha
writes: "Mumford is rare, possibly unique, among
environmental philosophers, in his ability to synthesise
and transcend partisan stances on behalf of wilderness,
countryside and city." Guha's third favoured ecological
thinker is the ecologist Madhav Gadgil, with whom Guha
co-authored two books. A PhD in Ecology from Harvard,
Gadgil combines a passion for fieldwork with a
commitment to solving practical problems - a talent
that eventually resulted in a more democratic framing
of environmental policy in India.
Sensible bromides
Having given the reader a taste of a wide variety of
ideas on the environment, Guha finally tackles the
book's titular question: How much should a person or a
country consume? If we reject - as the author does -
the three environmental Utopias, what are we left with-7
Any attempt to strike a golden mean between equity,
sustainability and diversity would deliver a hopelessly
complicated mess, amidst a web of individual and
national desires. From this perspective, one can
certainly sympathise with the Utopian turn of a John
Muir or a Gandhi, or even some modern economists
who, like Mumford, believe that a 'humanising
technology' - that is, a technology that is subordinate
to human values - could eventually broker a lasting
harmony between the city and the countryside.
Guha's question is not merely ecological; it
challenges us to think about ethics, aesthetics and the
politics of living together. It forces us to consider whether
capitalism, which thrives on multiplying desires, may
not be fundamentally antithetical to the environmental
cause. Of course, this is not to say that a state-
controlled economic system would treat the environment
any better; but as we are living in an age of triumphant
capitalism and globalisation, the context is inescapable,
As for what the future holds for his readers, after
moving though a fascinating tour of ecological history
Guha lets the delicate tension between the activist and
the scholar burst into a six-commandment sermon.
While his prescription sounds sensible, it resembles a
refrain of familiar bromides - participatory democracy,
greater literacy, land reform, health care. All of this sits
rather uncomfortably with his call for the privatisation
of the production of goods and services, although he
does say that social and environmental costs must be
taken into account.
At the risk of sounding cynical, such platitudes will
not be of much help to those Southasian readers who
are as confused as this reviewer when it comes to real-
life dilemmas. Should we, for instance, allow extractive
industries to flourish, despite the fact that they are
socially and ecologically disastrous? Should we
continue to build large dams, despite mounting evidence
that they cause irreparable damage to the environment?
Should we build more nuclear reactors just because
they emit less carbon than do thermal
power-stations? Indeed, can we continue to grow at
annual rates of up to ten percent without irreparably
compromising our environment?
Guha's reflections on ecological history make for an
excellent introduction to this complicated and crucial
subject. But while his optimism - clearly inspired by
the pragmatism of the heroes he discusses with such
empathy - with regard to a liberal, democratic solution
to ecological problems is admirable, it is not reassuring
to the perplexed. Perhaps this reviewer came to How
Much Should a Person Consume?looking not just for a
historian who could excavate the past to illuminate the
present, but for a philosopher who could enlighten us
about where we should be heading.
Himal Southasian I October 2006
75
 V..;:,s>^Vv :■
REVIEW
In the ruins of empire
A S PANNEERSELVAN
tobalisation is such a fascinating and powerful
idea that it never fails to evoke a strong
reaction, either supporting it with a missionary
zeal or opposing it with the passion of a suicide bomber.
In the avalanche of rhetoric, facts inevitably get blurred;
false hopes and dreams hold sway among some, while
paranoia and nightmare grips others. To make sense
of the ongoing churning, one needs to move away from
these two extremes - to look at the fact more closely,
provide a historical perspective and caution the rest of
us about the pitfalls. Senior journalist Prem Shankar
Jha has now taken up that task. While the neo-
evangelists of globalisation may term his voice as that
of a doomsday prophet, a closer reading of The Twilight
ofthe Nation State reveals that Jha is fulfilling the first
rule of good journalism: that of a timely whistleblower.
The post-Cold War transformation of the global
economy and politics has centred on three Utopias:
democracy, liberalisation and globalisation. Jha brings
to the fore his concern for the unsaid
- the pain of transition, and the
inherent contradictions in the
transformation. Drawing heavily from
the works of historian Eric
Hobsbawm    (who    provides    an
the limitations of the ongoing debate, and draws the
reader's attention to the simplistic assumption of a
linear flow of politics and global economic
transformation. The interweaving of these two
narratives helps to keep the focus on the larger picture,
without loosing sight of the details.
Westphalsars meltdown
The Twilight of the Nation State pays particular
attention to those thinkers who have realised the failure
of the current global politico-economic model. "This is
not how it was supposed to work," Jha writes. "For
generations, students were taught that increasing trade
and investment, coupled with technological change,
would drive national productivity and create
wealth." But instead the opposite was happening, and
few in the developed economies seemed to have
noticed the reversal.
Jha  poses  a  series  of questions  for which
economists do not yet have definitive
answers:
Ftrmti it [SIC HSWm
The Twilight of the Nation State:
Globalisation, chaos and war
by Prem Shankar Jha
New Delhi: Vistaar Publications
2006
introduction to this volume), as well
as social scientists Giovanni Arrighi
and Fernand Braudel, Jha places
globalisation within the context of the
development of capitalism, and helps
readers appreciate how much wishful
thinking actually underlies the belief in human progress.
Like any good storyteller, after expounding the basic
template of the book Jha moves into two narratives.
First, a chronological account starting from the
emergence of city-state capitalism in Italy during the
14th century, to George W Bush's extreme form of
unilateralism seven centuries later. Second, the author
punctuates this chronology with a discussion of the
systemic chaos the world is witnessing today. This
provides an immediacy that both allows insight into
If the neo-classical theory on wage flexibility
had been correct, it still evaded answering
the key question: How had the US and
Europe achieved very high rates of
economic growth with very low rates of
unemployment in conditions of equal or
greater wage rigidity between 1945 and
1973? What had changed since then? What
was the engine that had driven high
economic growth in the earlier period but
ceased quite suddenly to do so in the 70s?
The chapter "Growing Obsolescence
of the Nation State" is also a grim
reminder ofthe limitation ofthe Marxist
reading of the dissolution of the nation
state in favour of a proletarian regime.
The nation state is weakening not in
favour of proletarian capitalism, the author says, but
in favour of neo-conservative capitalism.
The present idea of the nation state flows from the
Franco-Spanish treaty signed at Westphalia in
Germany during 1648 to end the Thirty Years' War.
Almost three-and-a-half centuries later, the end of the
Cold War started the erosion of the Westphalian nation
state. But instead of a rollback in military bases
belonging to the sole remaining superpower - the US
- more began to sprout. In addition to US bases that
76
October 2006 I Himal Southasian
 After 11 September 200*1,.three cities.in Pakistan - Jaeobabad, Quetta and Pasoi -
have become US airbases, During the Afghan war, the US acquired three airbases in
that country, at Bagram, Mazar-e-Shanf and Kandahar.
were created during the Cold War, from NATO bases
to Japan to South Korea, the first Gulf War gave birth
to an American military presence in Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt and Djibouti. The
break-up of Yugoslavia led to more US bases in Kosovo
and Bosnia. The collapse of the Soviet Union helped
the US to open bases in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,
Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. After 11 September
2001, three cities in Pakistan - Jaeobabad, Quetta
and Pasni - have become US airbases. During the
Afghan war, the US acquired three airbases in that
country, at Bagram, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar.
Jha takes pains to explain the intricacies ofthe US's
military expansionism, and contends that the NATO
air strikes on Serbia were in fact a rehearsal of
empire-building. According to the author, the 350-year-
old Westphalian international order came to an
end on 19 March 2003, when the US and UK
invaded Iraq.
Despite the desire of Washington, DC to exert its
global hegemony, the US empire is facing a gradual
erosion of power. Instead of creating an alternative
space for stability, peace and mutual dependence, Jha
notes, this erosion is generating anarchy and chaos.
In the face of the world's darkened future, the author
pins his hopes on two particular documents - In Larger
Freedom, produced in 2005 by UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan, and the International Labour Organisation's
2004 A Fair Globalisation: Creating Opportunities
for All.
At this point, however, The Twilight of the Nation
State suddenly fails to live up to its full promise.
Although these two documents are denouements of
the US's neo-conservative policies, they are not potent
enough in their imagination to make even a symbolic
dent in the empire's armour. The soft, liberal political-
correctness that governs the narratives of In Larger
Freedom and A Fair Globalisation softens their critique,
offering the usual homilies about development,
security, human rights and the rule of law. The lack of
vigour, passion and political sharpness - which could
hypothetically create an international movement that
could dissolve the empire - makes these dissents
tame. Ending on such a flat note also gives an
unfortunately anticlimactic end to an otherwise a
path-breaking book. J,
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Himal Southasian | October 2006
77
 humiliation
Who is the most humiliated man or woman
in Asia? Some would suggest Thaksin
Shinawatra, ousted by the Thai military for
being a bad man. Which he was, as an egotistical
wheeler-dealer, an Asian Berlusconi, who ran
roughshod over all sensibilities. But tlie coup was a
bad idea, and it leaves the deposed prime minister
with a victim-hero image.
Perhaps Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif
could vie for the most humiliated duo, for having run
a corrupt and inefficient state at different times, but
more so for having been exiled and only being able to
bark from a distance while the generalissimo runs the
country as though he were born to rule. But the
passage of time and the turbulence that has suddenly
hit the Musharraf aeroplane has largely wiped away
the stain of disgrace on the two.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga perhaps,
for the ease with which she has dropped from the
headlines after being a mover and shaker for so many
years. The rise of Mahinda Rajapakse led to a
complete eclipse - and there is probably some story in
there - but the humiliation is obviously not complete.
Ahh, Saddam Hussain, perhaps? The
dictator of Iraq achieved the pit of disgrace-
dom when he was discovered by the hated US
f   Marines in a hole in the ground. The
subsequent tape of his medical examination
j   showed us Saddam's unkempt hair, provided
us a peek down his throat, and a view of the Y-
front undergarment he seems to favour. But
today he holds forth on television, suited and
manicured, humiliating in turn the string of
judges that have come and gone.
No, the most humiliated person of Asia
today is Gyanendra, as yet king of Nepal. It all started
wTien he decided that he was an 18th century
feudocrat who could exploit a Maoist insurgency to
bring back absolute kingship. He forgot tliat today
was another time, another century. He used the army
for his putsch, and insisted repeatedly on showing
his disdain for the people and political parties alike.
Here was a king who believed rather idiotically
that the kingship was his property, to do with as he
pleased. And so he proceeded to dismantle it. He did
not have the intellectual or managerial skills to run
the dictatorship he was trying to establish, but
managed to rally a few quislings, sycophants and
generals for the purpose.
Gyanendra was humiliated by the-people of Nepal
in the April People's Movement, when millions
rallied by the millions and smashed his ambitions.
He must have felt like fhe stupidest guy in tire world.
Thereafter, parliamentary proclamations have one-by-
one taken away Gyanendra's powers and privileges.
His limbs have been clipped so that only the torso
today remains. Gyanendra is no longer Supreme
Commander of the Nepal Army, no longer fhe
chancellor of assorted universities, his great
commandments are no longer on the public
hoarding boards, his wealth is now taxable, and the
lawmakers are off on an investigative spree
regarding his land holdings.
His Majesty's Government is now the Nepal
Government, and 'Royal' is off everything else -
leaving you with the Nepal Army, the Nepal
Airlines, the Nepal embassies, the Chitwan National
Park and so on. A whisky named Royal Challenger
is said to be facing some difficulty of image, but look
at the sorry state of the government-owned
pharmaceutical company, Roval Drugs. It is now
just 'Drugs'. The dour visage of Gyanendra still
marks the rupee notes however, which even the
Maoists are forced to accept in their extortion spree
for want of alternative legal tender.
Gyanendra's disgrace would have been merely
personal had he not, in the process, destroyed the
standing of the entire Shah dvnastv - going back to
his 12th ancestor and 'unifier' of Nepal, Prithvi
Narayan Shah (the Great, as the Panchayat
autocrats liked to call him), whose vandalised statue
remains covered with cloth outside the central
secretariat in Kathmandu. The public opinion polls
show the monarchy, as expected, plummeting in the
public's esteem. Even while some may like the idea
of retaining monarchy in some form, however, no
one wants this king, nor Ms desperado son, Paras.
There was once a man who inherited a
kingship - one that was at the time relatively whole
- from his murdered brother. In all of five years he
ran it into the ground. This man was thought by
some to be shrewd and wilv, but it was only the
distance of royalty that had given that false
impression. When this mart became active, he
managed to destroy a historical institution of nearly
three centuries' standing. Some historian writing on
the demise of monarchies will say that the man was
more a fool than a trickster. But when it comes time
for mythmaking, there are others who will say that
Gyanendra was sent down bv providence   to
dismantle a kingship, in the realisation that the
citizenry was quite capable of moving along without
a monarchy in the year 2063 (Bikram Era).
^  On the way up
•p^t    KAKAK MANI DIXIT
78
October 2006 | Himal Southasian
i
 IIMAL
The Southasian Monthly from Kathmandu
THESE ARE JUST SOME OF
HIMAL'S        ERS OVER
THE YEARS
A C Sinha,
A H Nayyar,
Ali    Riaz,,
A S Panneerselvan, A
T Ariyaratne, A H Nayyar,
A M  Harun ar Rashid,
Aasim   Chowdhary,
Achin Vanaik, Adil Najam,
Afsan Chowdhury, Aishath
Velezinee,  Ajay   Dixit,   Ajit
Bhattacharjea.Alka Acharya,    Altaf
Mazid, Altamash Kamal, Amitav
Acharya, Amitav Ghosh, Amitava
Kumar, Ammara Durrani, Anagha
Neelakantan, Anirudha Gupta, Arif
Hussain,   Arvind    Kumar,   Asha'ar
Rehman, Ashis Nandy, Ashok J Mehta,
Aswini Kant Ray, Aung Naing Oo, Aung
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