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Himal Southasian Volume 20, Number 3, March 2007 Dixit, Kanak Mani 2007-03

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Utlu  Ui
India discovers the region
The Dangerous Passivity
of Sri Lankan Muslims 17
Dilrukshi Fandunnetti 1 /
Transitional Justice
in Southasia
Himal-ICTJ Conference
Singur and the
Rural Bourgeoisie
Mritiuniov Mohanty
Bangladesh BDT 8l
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India discovers
It has taken two long decades
following the establishment of SAARC,
but India finally seems to have
boarded the Southasian train. As New
Delhi prepares to take over from Dhaka
as chair of SAARC during the first week
of April, the managers of Tndian
foreign policy are giving out
enthusiastic sound bites on
Southasian regionalism. They say that
it is in India's self-interest to make
peace with its neighbours. All of which
is great news for those of us who
believe that regionalism's dividend is
not only a safer Southasia, but also a
more prosperous one.
Mail 5
A country in interim 6
The tragedy and promise of Samjhauta 7
Still Shining India 8
"Ranjha' 9
Southasian briefs 10
Cover feature
India realising Southasia 21
Kanak Mani Dixit
India's new regionalism 25
C Raja Mohan
Pakistan-India roadblocks to regional peace       29
Moeed Yusuf
The Indo-Bangla SMRC puzzle 32
Imtiaz Ahmed
A win-win FTA 36
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
Pseudo-innovation in Dhaka 15
The Bagmati's final sealing . 39
Dinesh Kumar Mishra
The wages of passivity 17
Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The shackling of community radio 74
Sukumar Muralidharan
Special renffift
Exhuming accountability
Himal-ICTJ conference
The Left Front and the rural bourgeoisie
Mrltiunjoy Mohanty
Studies in the psychopathology of culture
Ted Riccardi
The Ganderbal exhumations
Patrick Hoenig
Rocks under the tide of nationalism
Surendra Mohan
Parzania and the dictator of Gujarat
Urvish Kothari
The oligarchy of fllmi deviousness
Pltoto feature
Moving on from a cataclysm
Pankaj Sekhsaria
Book review
Politics, aesthetics and a world of thought
Moyukh Chatterjee
A quick intake
Siddharth Anand
On the way up
Himal Southasian 1 March 2007
 Vol 20   No 3
March 2007  |
Kanak Mani Dixit
Assistant Editors
Prashant Jha
Hi milli Dixit
Desk Editor
Carey L Biron
Business Advisor
Monica Uhatia
Marketing Managers
Komal More
Vaibhav Kapoor (India)
Editorial Assistance
Prakrit* Mishra
Contributing Editors
Calcutta'        liajashri Dasgupta
Colombo       Jehan Fere™
Delhi Mitu Varma
Dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
Karachi Beena Sarwar
Kathmandu   Deepak Thapa
Manisha Aryal
Creative Director
Bilash Hai
Koshan Tamang
Rupendra Kayastha
Sunita Silwal
Santosh Aryal
Shahadev Koirala
Bazar International
Himal Southasian is published by
The Southasia Trust, Lalitpur, Nepal
Office address
Fatan Dhoka, Lalitpur, Nupal
Mailing address
GPO Box: 24393, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977 1 5547279
Fax: +977 1 5552141
ISSN 10129R04
Libra ry of Congress Control number
88 912882
Image setting: ScanPro
Printed at: Jagadamba Press, Lalitpur, Nepal
Contributors    to    this    issue
Asif Saleh is the founder and executive editor of Drishtipat, a Bangladeshi
diaspora human-rights organisation based in London. He is also a regular op-ed
contributor to Daily Star.
C K Lai is a columnist for this magazine and for the Nepali Times.
C Raja Mohan is a professor at the Rajaratnam School of Internationa! Studies,
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and a consulting editor for the Indian
Express. . .
DMrukshi Handunnetti Is investigations editor at ffie Sunday Leader in Colombo.
She is a lawyer by training.
Dinesh Kumar Mishra is an activist, engineer and convenor of the Barh Mukti
Abhiyan. He is based in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.
Imtiaz Ahmed is a professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka.
This article is based on a keynote paper presented at a seminar organised by the
Centre for Development Research, Bangladesh, in April 2006.
Moeed Yusuf is a consultant on economic policy at the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute in Islamabad, and is a regular commentator for The Friday Times.
Moyukh Chatterjee is a student of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics.
Mritiunjoy Mohanty is an assistant professor of Economics at the Indian Institute
of Management, Calcutta.
Pankaj Sekhsaria is author of the book Troubled Islands, a collection of writings
on the indigenous peoples and environment of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
published in 2003.
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. Research assistance for this article was provided by Pratibha
Patrick Hoenig is a visiting professor at the Academy of Third World Studies,
Jamia Millia Isiamia, Delhi.
Sabir Nazar is a Lahore-based cartoonist with The Friday Times and the Daily
Siddharth Anand is a Delhi-based journalist.
Sukumar Muralidharan is a visiting professor at the Nehru Centre, Jamia Millia
Isiamia, Delhi.
Surendra Mohan is a long-time socialist leader from New Delhi.
Ted Riccardi is professor emeritus at Columbia University, and author of a
Sherlock Holmes novel. He is currently affiliated with the Social Science Baha in
Urvish Kothari is a journalist based in Ahmedabad.
Cover image: Subhas Rai
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";-- ::•:"
 Creative diplomacy
The cover stories on Burma in the
February issue of Himal provided
new perspectives in looking at the
relationship between Burma's
pro-democracy movement and
India's civil society. The stories
covered a host of issues that
have long baffled academia,
policymakers and political activists
alike. The essays presented not only
reflected the complexity of the
'Burma question', but offered
alternative ways in dealing with it.
Two perspectives are currently
emerging on this issue. On the one
hand is the 'traditionalist', who
argues for isolation of and sanctions
on Burma, and supports such
measures as tools for regime change.
The 'realist', on the other hand,
believes that efforts toward
political change need to take into
account Burma's complex
history, society and politics, and to
support engagement based on such
an understanding.
The essays presented are
evidence of this divide. The
traditionalist sees the issue of
Burma in a narrow, binary
perspective, by reducing it to
'democracy v tyranny'. The realist
perspective is essentially a reaction
against such an approach.
Furthermore, the two differ on what
issues should receive the most
emphasis. The traditionalist focuses
on democracy and political change,
which the realist thinks undermines
equally important challenges -
poverty, development, health and
education, and the like.
Thant Myint-U ("Reframing the
'Burma question'") belongs to the
realist school. While he admits that
the Rangoon junta is responsible for
many of the problems that Burma
faces today, he believes that a good
understanding of the country is
crucial before making ajudgment on
the problem. The question of what
comes first - development or
democracy - is similar to the
chicken-and-egg puzzle. Myint-U
argues that economic development
can open up "real options" for
democratic change in the context of
Burma. This point needs to be taken
into account by both the regional
and international communities
while formulating policies on the
'Burma question'.
Burma's geo-strategic importance
has been changing, primarily as a
result of its recently discovered oil
and gas reserves. While pro-
democracy supporters have raised
strong warnings against any
cooperation with the junta in this
sector, linking energy policy to
democracy is, at best, an ineffective
criticism. Regardless, the neighbouring energy-hungry economies
will remain focused on one thing in
particular: how to keep their
economic engines running. Because
protest against such policies may
not "cut much ice", as Kim notes in
Can't frrerne
JThe February article "Indian Blogs
:and MSM" by Shivam Vij refers to
the Indian Institute of Planning and
.Management (IIPM) sending me a
Ifegai notice, and discusses it's
.aftermath. He writes: "In the
brouhaha that followed, the
management institute even
managed to pressure the employer
pf: One of the bloggers into sacking
him." This is factually incorrect
IBM, my employer did not sack me
or pressurise me in any way. I
resigned on my own.
; I am surprised to see such an
■error in an article by Shivam Vij,
*who was one of the bloggers
f actively .in vol ved in spreading
rawareness about this issue. I am
certain he knows that I resigned
his article ("Oil in the eyes"), the focus
needs to be on building
constituencies that can act as
pressure groups towards various
governments and corporations.
Soe Myint has offered a more
sensible argument in his essay on
India's Burma policy ("Government
to government: The distasteful Burma-
India embrace"). Though critical
about New Delhi's engagement with
the junta, he also identifies the
shortcomings of the pro-democracy
movement. Kim likewise says that
two factors are responsible for the
failure to instil support from the
Indian political and intellectual
classes: "West-centric" tendencies
and lack of a "strong public
campaign within India". This
perspective provides a more
balanced view in seeing the
movement vis-a-vis India.
The effort by Himal in bringing out
the cover package on Burma is
highly appreciable. In the words of
Thant Myint-U, this can be seen as
"the first step to knowing better how
to help Burma today". This calls for
all concerned to see and deal with
the 'Burma question' as it is, not just
how it should be.
K Yhome
New Delhi
. and was 'hot sacked: he himself
: wrote so on his own blog, and has
been in regular touch with mg'
over email ,'Z7Z
Gaurav J Sabnis1
Pennsylvania State Univeraity
Shivam Vij responds:
An editorial in Business.-Today-
magazine had given the impression
that, "depending upon whose:
version you believe", Gaurav
Sabnis either; xesigned or Wa£
sacked. I wanted to maintain the
ambiguity by sa3'ing that he had to:
leave, but in a hurry ended pp;
writing that he was sacked-: T;
, maintain the highest respect for Mr i
Sabnis's brave conduct when faced;
with bullying from a poxvetiul,;
unethical institution. I regret the;
inconvenience thus caused to him.;
.....:.,...,...:.::o.:o:o,.■,.,.:■,■■.:.:0'■ ■'■ ■.-.■   ^a->>^
Send your comments, questions and corrections to
Himal Southasian | March 2007
A country in interim
Nepal's mainstream politicians understand both how to
fight an autocratic king and how to negotiate with
insurgents. But they sure do not know how to deal with
agitations for rights by historically disfranchised
communities. Partly, this is due to an unwillingness to share
political space; partly, it is an inability to show sensitivity to
something as dearly held as a community's identity.
Nepal has been on an anarchic rollercoaster since King
Gyanendra's autocracy was defeated last April, with the
attention of Kathmandu's political class and civil society
turned on getting the Maoists to finally relinquish their
guns and enter the political mainstream. Even while the
community leaders in the Federation of Nationalities, for
example, fumed at not being consulted, the politicians
and Maoists devoted themselves to writing an
unnecessarily detailed interim constitution, to pave the
way for the insurgents to join the interim Parliament and
interim government. It is now the task of the interim
government to organise elections for the Constituent
Assembly before the monsoon season in early June, but
the many unresolved issues confronting the populace are
making that date look well nigh impossible.
The agreement on the holding of a Constituent
Assembly to draft a new constitution was a face-saving
move for the Maoist leadership, which had given up its
'people's war' midstream as unworkable. But the need for
a new constitution was more deeply felt by the various
communities of the diverse Nepali populace -
differentiated by class, caste, ethnicity, faith, language,
region and even altitude - who had .come to believe that
the restructuring of the state through a new constitution
was needed in order to access the rights and opportunities
thus far denied them. The eight political parties in
command - now including the Maoists - barely made a
show of consulting the leadership of the various
communities in the decisions they made over the autumn
and winter of 2006-07.
The flare-up in the Tarai plains is part and parcel of a
willing lack of understanding and sensitivity towards 'non-
establishment' communities by ali - including the
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which is beginning
to look like any other hill-centric pahade party. There are
several reasons why the Tarai erupted over the course of
January and February, but the most important is that the
peoples of plains origin felt that they would be under-
represented in the all-important Constituent Assembly
elections, and thereby lose yet another opportunity to be
counted as full citizens.
Madhes Movement
The mixed-ballot system agreed upon by the eight parties
for the Constituent Assembly polls - in which half of the
seats would be contested under the traditional direct-
voting system, while the other half would be assigned
through a system of proportional representation - was
not considered adequate because the electoral
constituencies discriminated against the densely
populated Tarai (also known as Madhes, a more culturally
invested name that some prefer). More importantly, the
Tarai populace had long experienced candidates of hill
origin being given a disproportionate number of tickets
come election-time.
The Kathmandu politicians proved unable or unwilling
to understand the depth of feeling that united the various
communities ofthe Tarai - from the 'indigenous' groups
such as the Tharu, across the caste spectrum to the
speakers of Awadhi, Maithili and Bhojpuri, and to the
country's normally ultra-docile Muslims. All these
communities came together against the reality and
perception of hill domination, which had not only denied
them access to jobs and opportunities - the army has
historically been out of bounds, for example - but even
to a national identity that was fashioned around the
markers of midhill caste and ethnicity.
Complicating the government's response was the
presence of the CPN (Maoist) as a belligerent newcomer
to power in Kathmandu, and one still in the process of
dropping its arms. A Maoist splinter group was part ofthe
Tarai furore, and so the Maoist command was all for
crushing the agitation. In the meantime, even while
Kathmandu's politicians sought to blame both India-
based Hindutva elements and reactionary royalists, the
Tarai rose up in a movement that can only be likened to
the People's Movement of April 2006. This was a plains
population demanding its right to be part of the Nepali
state and mainstream society.
Before anyone knew it, Nepal was ensconced in a hill-
plain communal divide. An under-motivated and
leaderless police force .- which had languished for too
long, as Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitauia focused
on his assignment as the main interlocutor with the
Maoists - was let loose on the demonstrators. Thirty-
one people died, most of whom were of Tarai origin, with
neither the rest of the country nor the world taking
sufficient notice. Meanwhile, hill people lived under
increasing insecurity in the eastern half of the Tarai.
Girija Prasad Koirala, for whom this new stridency and
March 20O7 j Himal Southasian
 violence linked to identity politics seemed uncharted
terrain, made a ham-handed attempt to stop the agitation
with a speech that did not even pay respect to the memory
ofthe dead. Another speech followed, promising additional
seats in Tarai constituencies to cater to population
concentration. This proved a temporary palliative, while
the Tarai activists demanded the resignation of Sitauia,
which was not forthcoming - the Maoists in particular
rushing to his defence.
As we go to press, the Tarai is again gearing up for
agitation. There is every likelihood that the organisations
of hill ethnicities will make renewed demands for further
representation. It is also likely that Dalits from both the
hills and the Tarai wilt be the next to rise. The Maoists
have raised unrealistic and impractical hopes of self-rule
by calling for 'ethnic federalism' in a country where the
castes and ethnicities have largely been geographically
inter-mixed over the past century and a half. Following
the violence of the Maoists (and now their splinter group
in the Tarai), there is a feeling gaining ground that it takes
violence to be heard in the power corridors of Kathmandu.
ISIo rest in sight
If the simultaneous - and often violence-prone - risings
of suppressed voices and communities were not enough,
the situation was compounded by Prime Minister Koirala's
government's inability to get a handle on administration
and establish a sense of rule of law. While the Maoists
have now (it is fervently hoped) handed most of their
guns to United Nations monitors, their militarist mindset
nonetheless remains in place. How Constituent
Assembly elections will be able to take place in the midst
of ongoing intimidation by former insurgents is
a crucial question just beginning to exercise
human-rights defenders.
As if Nepali society did not have enough problems,
King Gyanendra seems to think that it will not be long
before the confusion and chaos will bring him back to
centre stage as something of a national saviour. Though
such an assumption would be extremely dim-witted, this
is by now his known trait, and is apparently why he tells
visitors to the Narayanhiti palace to "wait and see". As if
on cue, Gyanendra made an unauthorised, self-laudatory
address to the country in mid-February on the occasion of
Democracy Day, providing additional ammunition for those
who believe that the autocrat in him is still biding its time.
It increasingly seems that Nepal's historic monarchy wilt
be done in by the current incumbent - and that there will
be few tears shed.
It is impossible to say now how the Nepali polity will
evolve in the months ahead, between political elites trying
to protect their entrenched interests, an autocratic king
thinking he can stili make a comeback, a Maoist force
hardly humbled by the evaporation of its 'people's war',
and communities all over agitated about losing a place at
the table. Things seem to be nearly beyond the grasp of
the ailing 85-year-old Koirala, who succeeded in besting
the king and negotiating with the Maoists. Will he be able
to respond to the clamour for inclusion and finally take a
well-earned rest? A
The tragedy and promise of
As soon as the peace momentum between India and
Pakistan picks up, expect a dastardly militant attack.
The killing of innocents has come to reflect both the
strength and the vulnerability of the peace process: it
shows that extremist groups feel so insecure about their
political space that they are willing to engineer terrorist
attacks, with an eye towards creating misunderstanding
and derailing bilateral engagement. Unfortunately, they
have often succeeded in their aim, most significantly after
the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2Q01.
In the past few years, we have argued in these pages
that the people and governments of India and Pakistan
are on the same side, battling against radical violent outfits
opposed to reason and moderation. It has not been a
popular position, with many pointing to the deep-rooted
conflict between the two countries. Some Indians claim
that this school of thought ignores the reality of
'crossborder terrorism' supported by Islamabad,
while   many   Pakistanis   talk   about   the   Indian
reluctance to move on Kashmir as indicative of New
Delhi's underlying motives.
On 18 February, militant groups took to a
characteristically brutal way of clarifying the political
equation - as well as where they stood - for both
policymakers and the public at large. The blasts on the
Dethi-Attari-Lahore Samjhauta Express, which took place
immediately before midnight, killed 68 people, most of
them Pakistanis. The symbolism of the attack could not
have been starker. Here were passengers, most from
Muslim families divided by Partition, returning home on a
rail link that epitomises both people-to-people contact
and basic inter-state cooperation. It was the first time
that Pakistani civilians had died in a terrorist attack on
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 Indian soil. The blasts on the Samjhauta Express
were clearly aimed at devastating the process of
India-Pakistan rapprochement.
The attack came at a time when both establishments
had made progress on Kashmir, and were the process of
preparing their domestic constituencies for compromises
that have long been unthinkable. But if the aim was to
disrupt this bilateral engagement, it did not succeed. In a
marked departure from the past, New Delhi and Islamabad
resisted indulging in any blame game, instead cooperating
with each other to help victims and arrange crossborder
travel for relatives. The Pakistani foreign minister,
Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri, kept a scheduled visit to New
Delhi a few days after the blasts, and the two countries
even inked s deal on nuclcar-iM reduction. If anything,
the Samjhauta attack appears to have brought New Delhi
and Islamabad closer together - seeming to convince india
that not all terrorist attacks are instigated and supported
by the Pakistani government, while giving Pakistan a chance
to understand what India has gone through for years.
Fundamentalist anxiety
It is not yet clear who was behind the attacks. Indian
Intelligence agencies are being unusually circumspect -
and responsible, one might add - by not immediately
indulging in the crossborder blame game. Meanwhile,
sections in the Pakistani media are pinning the blame on
Hindu fundamentalists, who are not happy with the bilateral
talks. While there is no doubt that Hindu fanatics are
capable of unimaginable atrocities, their modus operandi
has usually been in the form of pogroms and targeting of
minorities in riots. It is more likely that the blast is the
handiwork of militant groups with vested interests in
perpetuating the conflict, who are worried about the
impending compromise on Kashmir.
While some reports suggested that there was a demand
from the Pakistani side for a joint probe, the fact that the
attack happened in India obviously gives New Delhi the
right to investigate the incident. In the immediate context,
the broad contours of the process ahead have been
agreed on by both sides. Pakistan will cooperate with Indian
agencies if requested. Indian investigators will share
whatever information they have been able to gather on
the blasts with their Pakistani counterparts, at a meeting
of a recently formed anti-terror joint mechanism scheduled
for 6 March.
But the blasts have implications that go beyond the
short-term investigation process. It is inevitable that in
last-ditch attempts to retain some political relevance,
militant groups will continue to engineer such attacks.
The Samjhauta blasts reveal the common challenges both
sides face, as well as provide an opportunity for them to
cooperate more closely on three fronts - intelligence
sharing, enhancing people-to-people contact (but with
more security and support in place), and moving towards
a broader political settlement on Kashmir and other issues.
At the same time, both establishments need to convince
all domestic groups, in a broad-based consultative manner,
that they are not selling-out but moving towards a
win-win solution.
Strengthening the peace process, and taking it to its
logical conclusion, is the best way to marginalise and
defeat extremist groups that thrive on the fragility of
bilateral ties. But the Indian and Pakistani authorities must
surely brace for more attacks, and prepare the public for
the-need nevertheless to keep the rapprochement
process alive. Only then can we salvage something from
the horrific tragedy of Samjhauta. £
Still Shining India
The paradoxes that abound in a rich country with poor
people are legion, and the Indian condition is no
exception. The yawning chasm between the cruel realities
on the ground for the majority and the rarefied heights in
which the thriving classes luxuriate was aptly illustrated
3 at the recent Aero India
| 2007 show. The premier
g - and only - air show
of     Southasia      had
apparently 'arrived'.
Taking place 7-11
February at the Indian Air
Force base in Bangalore,
Aero India 2007
presented some of
the most advanced
machines currently available to men and states - from
luxurious private jets, to fighters, Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles, light combat helicopters and Muitirole Transport
Aircraft. The Americans, expectedly, showed up in full
force, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon.
Ironically, today the market for the mighty machines for
the air is in the countries of the global South. While there
was military hardware aplenty, Aero India was less about
militarism than about objects of desire, made available
to those classes that see their own development as
particularly removed from the process of attending to the
concerns ofthe great unwashed masses.
The atmospherics emanating from the breathless
Indian national media could not have been better. Lakshmi
Mittal had recently bought up Arcelor Steel, Tata had just
taken overtheAnglp-DutchCorus, and KMBirla's Hindalco
was soon to follow with an all-cash buyout of the American
Novelis. Greeted as a unique hero at Aero India, Ratan
Tata, at 69, became the oldest man in the world to fly an
F-16, and his sortie received blanket coverage. Although
no price was too high in Tata's takeover of Corus, the
headline- and caption-writer forgot to mention his
reluctance to pay fair compensation for the land his
multinational had acquired in Singur.
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 This dual approach to economic acquisition by the state-
supported corporate class typifies the Shining India culture
that was the undoing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
in the 2004 general election. Evidently, the Congress-led
United Progressive Alliance under Manmohan Singh has
not yet learned the lesson either: that chasing the stars In
the firmament of an illusory Still Shining India can bring
grief to both the ruling party and the populace at large.
The wages of inflation
While the aircraft were conducting their acrobatics in
Bangalore, in the Indian mandis the price of onions was
soaring, as was that of wheat, pulses and vegetables.
Inflation is at 6,5 percent and rising, which mocks the
much-vaunted nine percent growth rate, and puts in the
snade the rising stock-market indices. Long before the
BJP coined the slogan 'Shining India', it had stars in its
eyes. The party presumed that a rising stock market, high
growth rate, the nuclear muscle acquired with Pokharan-
II, and the opening of the Indian economy to Western
goodies would keep it in power. This blinded the party to
the reality of how inflation bites. In 1998, the rising price
of onions dealt it a resounding defeat in assembly elections
in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
The BJP refused to see the real India's impoverishment
because (thanks to the Kargil conflict) in 1999 it returned
to office, proceeding to project the feel-good factor right
through to 2004. Although the Congress party benefited
in the ballot from the BJP's blindness, it is now confronted
with an acute economic crisis of its own. Inflation,
like death and taxes, spares no one. While some sections
may capitalise during instances of significant inflation,
nobody is unaffected by the all-around increase in prices.
The poor no doubt take the worst beating, which can
become calamitous in a climate in which the government
is acquiring land for private business ventures. Suicides
by farmers are now reported in a few states, but continued
neglect may turn a seasonal crisis of migration into a
perennial, large-scale problem.
The choices are stark. Either the elected elite and their
privileged props in the economic driving seat (along with
the media) can wallow gleefully in the global acquisitions
of the Tatas and Birlas, and celebrate Shilpa Shetty's
winning of 100,000 pounds on the Big Brother show. Or,
they can pay a little more attention to the likes of Amartya
Sen, who has continually reiterated the case for involving
the poor in development by providing them access to
basic nutrition, immunisation and education. Thanks to
Sen, there are now other Nobel Prize winners - Joseph
Stiglitz, Martha Nussbaum, Mohammad Yunus - who are
taking a lot more interest in where India should be headed.
A little more attention to the words of these 'worriers' and
a little less preoccupation with the 'celebrating classes'
may not change the economic climate, but it could at
least send a different signal about the political direction
India is taking. >
The fakir Ranjha is a character important to Punjabi
folk culture. He is symbolic of creativity and creation -
upon his arrival in a village, cows begin to give milk, a
barren garden turns green and people become happier.
Where before there was stagnation, society experiences a
new beginning. Nature and humanity thrive. Ranjha isjust
one among the population, but his energy and optimism
serve to catalyse action around him,
in this painting by Sabir Nazar, the folk hero plays his
flute before a group of five. According to tradition, these
are the five Sufi saints who bless Ranjha with his beloved,
Heer. But the Ranjha of Nazar's painting can also be seen
as a part of this collective. His dynamic presence is reflected
in the vitality of the red that fills the space around him.
Framing Ranjha in tribute are two vibrant peacocks and
flowers in full bloom: symbols of the beauty and creative
potential inherent in the world around him. It is this innate
potential that Ranjha works to awaken with his tune, and
so his representation as part of a group is significant.
Ranjha is a leader and yet an equal part of the greater
whole. The serpent suspended on the branch above him
links him to the plane on which the others sit, reminding
us that the six are connected - as we all are to our
communities, as nations are across artificial divides.    A
Watercolour, 24" x 36"
Himal Southasian | March 2007
South Indians for Nepal,
tourists for Southasia
■djii-   .,   a, il   t>a=JS«
The Nepal Tourism
Board (NTB), eager to
benefit from the thus-far
little-tapped market of
South India, recently
mobilised a promotional
campaign targeting tour
operators and the press in
Madras. Aimed at
significantly increasing the
number of Indian tourists
in Nepal, the campaign,
called Naturally Nepal -
once is not enough, is
focused in particular on
potential travelers from
South india. In 2006,
Indian tourists accounted
Three happy, one angry
A century-old dispute was resolved in mid-February
by a tribunal that worked for 17 years, but the
number of satisfied parties appears to be countable on
one hand. Water from the Kaveri River, labelled an
'interstate' river by the Indian Constitution, will now be
distributed among four states. Tamil Nadu is to get 419
billion cubic feet of water a year, while Kerala wilt
receive 30 billion, and Pondicherry seven billion.
An unhappy upper-riverine Kamataka, set to receive
270 billion cubic feet - less than half of what it says it
needs - declared it would appeal the verdict. Around
16,000 security personnel in Bangalore were placed on
high alert surrounding the announcement, hoping to
prevent a repeat of the 1991 anti-Tamil riots that
claimed 18 casualties. Days before the decision was
announced, police had already arrested 700 people in
order to quell possibilities of chaos. The atmosphere
remained tense, however, with many schools across
Bangalore choosing to remain closed, and the
Kamataka Tamils Federation writing to New Delhi and
local officials asking for security.
If Tamil Nadu and Kamataka were independent
states, there would
probably be war.
Here, one sees
the advantage,
perhaps, ofthe
subsumation of
various identities
into the Indian
Union. But there are
others who disagree
vehemently with
this notion. k
for 33 percent of Nepal's
arrivals. Actually, there
are many more who do
not get counted, as they
come by land over
the unregulated Nepal-
India border.
Separately, a recent
report by the United
Nation's World Tourism
Organisation (UNWTO)
found that Southasia
saw a 10 percent
increase in tourist
arrivals in 2006. Most of
this increase is credited
to the Subcontinent's
largest country - India
experienced a growth in
arrivals of around 13
percent, with 4.43
million tourists arriving
through the year. The
UNWTO noted that 2006
was a record of sorts for
tourism the world over,
with the number of tourist
travels increasing by 4.5
percent to 842 million
Southasia as a whole
is expected to attract
11 million visitors by
2010 and a whopping 19
million by 2020, almost
doubling its share of
global arrivals from
0.7 percent in 1995 to
1.2 percent by 2020.
Although undoubtedly
good for the
region's economies, this
still strikes us as
fantastically low. ,4
Regional sage
Using the bump and clarity that only a Nobel Prize
cart 'afford, recently anointed laureate'Muhammad
Yunus has been waxing eloqtient for the good of
„ i Southasia as a whole. He
|:: recently encouraged Prime
f; MinistenMahmoti&n Singh:
:v fo' push fprw&fd pfahs
to a common
'   passport for the people
of Southasiaa "Fighting
.; poverty in Southasia; is tt^e *
■' biggest chcHlehge," ' Yu hus
said. "This region has great
potential to emerge as the
world's strongest economy,
■:   , parti c u (ar iy   in   hu man
■resources^ 'if there is a common passport for the
, region, it would help-greatly in fostering people-to-
:people cooperation"."■:  .''.-,
o- '< Weeks later, Yurras gave rise to several; more
■ regional visions; of a highway network connecting India;'
Pakistan and Bangladesh, and of the establishment
,:Qf 'SMRC scholarships' for the region's universities.
; He also offered an explanation for the waning interest
in and influenceof SAARC. "Thefuture of SAARC hinges
"on improved relations1 between Tndia and Pakistan,"
"he noted. "As there is no amicable resolution to the
disputes between these two countries, our work as
; SAARC members is not complete." : :
'-,..   Now that Prof Yunus has'decided to form a new
: political party in Bangladesh, might we suggest that he
ajiQtgive;uphiS.|oveforSouthasia? ',';;;' .^'^opoohf
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
Destination Balochistan
i  */isit Pakistan
V Year' got off to
a grand start last
month, as Tourism
Minister Nilofar
Bakhtiar declared
that the country was
opening its doors to
more tourists by
relaxing its visa
policy for 24
countries, including
India. "The
government wishes
to show a positive
image ofthe country,
where visitors from
abroad are
welcomed with open arms," she declared.
Referring to the 23-27 February 'Sibi Festival' in
Balochistan, Bakhtiar said that the province could
become a major tourist hub. She noted that Islamabad
was determined to promote tourism in Balochistan, and
had prepared financial packages to do so. "There are
scores of beautiful and historical places in the country
that can be of great interest to foreigners," she said.
"Balochistan's geographical diversity and extremely rich
culture makes it a unique and picturesque destination
far foreigners."
What Minister Bakhtiar did not mention is that
Sibi is the hottest region of Pakistan, without a beach
in sight. Well, it might be hot, but at least there is
no humidity! A.
:":   .-'.  ■- PAKISTAN
Arduous armoury
Sri Lanka's recent
cecision to employ
Pakistani help in building
an armoured brigade for
its army has ruffled more
than a few feathers in
\ew Delhi, especially as it
comes in the wake of
Chinese forays into Sri
Lankan affairs. Others,
meanwhile, feel that the
development implies that
tbe Colombo government
has no intention of
forging a lasting peace
with tbe LTTE.
But their view is
contradicted by the fact
that several Sri Lankan
generals have argued that,
even if Sri Lanka
did need a full-scale
armed brigade, the tanks
being bought from
Islamabad would be
useless in the marshy,
jungied north and east of
the country, where the
LTTE is most active. It has
also been noted that the
Al Zarar tanks on offer are
over 50 years old and
most likely damaged,
making the USD 100
million price tag appear
rather steep. A
Governance referendum set?
TThe Maldives' Elections
Commissioner K D
Ahmed Maniku announced
in late January that
appropriate changes would
be made to referendum
procedures so that the
People's Special Majlis
(Constituent Assembly)
could finally conduct a
country-wide referendum
on a future government
system. The government
hopes that handing over
such power to the Majlis
will take care of
accusations of a lack of
neutrality in the electoral
process. "We made the
guidelines on their request.
We have forwarded it to
them. They will now know
where to proceed from
here," Maniku said.
Some members ofthe
Majlis, however, who had
earlier criticised the
commissioner's actions for
lacking transparency,
claimed that they had not
actually received the
guidelines. The Maldivian
referendum, originally slated
for September 2006, was
postponed after spats
among political parties
delayed the process of
amending the Constitution.
The ruling Dhivehi
Rayyithunge Party is pitching
for a presidential system,
while the main opposition
Maldivian Democratic
Party wants a
parliamentary democracy. £
Lankan oil up for grabs
As part of its plan to be extracting oil within the next
three years, Colombo has asked for an advance of
USD 100 million each from India and China to secure
blocks for exploration off Sri Lanka's northeastern coast.
The island's government says that seismic data shows
the presence of more than a billion barrels of oil in the
area. Colombo paid USD 10 million for seismic surveys
last year, a year after it set up its new Petroleum Resource
Development Ministry.
China and India will also have to pay a USD 10 million
security deposit, and refrain from competitive bidding,
the Sri Lankan Petroleum Minister A H M Fowzie said.
"Out of the eight identified oil blocks, we have given one
each to India and China on a 'nomination basis' due to
the close friendship between the nations," he noted.
Reports recently surfaced that India was buying an oil
block in Mannar in Sri Lanka in return for building a
160-km-long railway route from Colombo to Matara in
the south. It has been
confirmed that India's
state-run Oil and Natural
Gas Corp Ltd (ONGC) has
been awarded that block. As
of now, we have not heard
of the LTTE laying claim to
the undersea oil and gas off
the northeastern coast. But
it shouldn't be far off.      £ g|
Himal Southasian I March 2007
Christianity watch
A report claiming that
the Burmese junta is
scheming to drive ail
Christians from the
country was released at a
late-January meeting of
the United Kingdom All-
Party Parliamentary Group
on Burma. The findings
cite an official document
leaked from Burma's
Ministry of Religious
Affairs that reportedly
bears the brazen title,
"Programme to
Destroy the Christian
Religion in Burma."
The document
allegedly describes 17
systematic procedures
aimed at the elimination
of Christianity from the
country. Among other
Afghan camps to close
As part ofthe ongoing project to repatriate around 2.5
million Afghans living in Pakistan within three years,
Islamabad announced in early February that by August it
would close four Afghan refugee camps in Balochistan
and NWFP. Perceived by the Pakistani government as
security threats, the three-decade-old camps are home
to around 300,000 people.
While the camps of Katchagari and Jungle Pir Alizai
are to be shut down by 15 June, Jalozai and Girdi Jungle
in NWFP have until 31 August. The decision was made
by a commission that included representatives of the
Kabul government and ofthe UN refugee agency,
UNHCR. The commission stated that the refugees would
be given assistance either to return to Afghanistan or to
relocate to other camps.
Promises of help have not allayed the fears of many
refugees, however, who speak of lack of property, shelter
and jobs in Afghan-istan. Still, Islamabad is intent on its
goal of removing all Afghans from its soil, especially since
both Afghanistan and Western countries have accused
it of sheltering Taliban insurgents. A
things, it orders the
imprisonment of anyone
who espouses or
preaches Christianity
within Burma's borders.
Critics have warned that
the policy appears to be
part of a country-wide
scheme to create a
homogenised Buddhist,
populace. "Citizens who
do not conform to the
regime's version of
these," the report says,
"face potentially
serious consequences."
An estimated 27,000
members of the Karen
tribe, the majority of
whom is Christian, were
driven out of eastern
Burma in 2006. Burma is
currently ranked 18th on
the UK-based Open Doors
World Watch, an index
that ranks countries
according to the level of
persecution experienced
by Christians. Other
Southasian countries
ranked highly on the list
are the Maldives
(at number five), Bhutan
(six), Afghanistan (11)
and Pakistan (16). A
Taslima wants to stay
Writer Taslima Nasrin, who
fled from her native
Bangladesh in 1994 following
death threats from Islamic
fundamentalists, recently
appealed to the Indian
government for Indian
citizenship or permanent-
resident status. Nasrin, who was
given a six-month residential
permit last year that expired in
January, said of India and
especially West Bengal: "I feel at home here and have
received the love ofthe people."
Nasrin left Bangladesh amidst much controversy,
and to date her books are banned in the country.
Asked whether she wished to return to her homeland,
Nasrin lamented having the right to visit taken from
her, and added: "My parents have passed away. So the
persons closest to me in Bangladesh are no
more. It is more of having my rights to visit the country
where I was born and grew up rather than purely
emotional reasons."
Nasrin's appeal to the Foreigners' Registration
Office was supported by the likes of writer Mahasweta
Devi, litterateurs Sunil Gangapadhyay and Dibyendu
Palit, and economist Amlan Datta, who pointed out in
a statement that, "to have to live far away from the
people who speak the language of her heart, the
language in which she thinks and writes, is like death
to a creative writer."
While the Indian government might be wary of
disapproval by conservative politics in Dhaka, the
current turmoil in Bangladesh would seem to allow
New Delhi to do the humane thing and allow Nasrin at
least a permanent-resident status. A
March 2007 | Himai Southasian
'Normal' border management
News released in
February detailed how
Chinese authorities had
systematically tortured and
abused Tibetans detained
after a high-visibility
shootout on the Tibet-
Nepal border in
September 2006. That
encounter, which was
widely reported on by the
international press, ended
with one casualty and at
least 25 Tibetans being
taken into custody by the
Chinese authorities,
including more than ten
children aged 10 to 15.
According to the follow-
up, what was supposed to
have been a detention
period of a few days
extended to months. One
of the detained recalled
that the older prisoners
were continuously beaten,
while some of the children
suffered abuse in prison
for more than three
months. Chinese officials
have denied the
accusations, claiming also
that all the children were
treated properly and
immediately released.
They also called the
opening of fire on
unarmed Tibetans trying to
cross Nanga Pass into
Nepal a part of "normal
border management."     £
Jinnah House settled
The controversial question of the ownership of the
Jinnah House, the Bombay residence of Mohammad
Ali Jinnah, has finally been settled. Neither the state of
Pakistan, nor Dina Wadia, Jinnah's daughter, will now
own the historic building. Instead, the villa and its 2.5-
acre property overlooking the Arabian Sea will be turned
into an art and cultural centre for SMRC.
Sanjeev Kohli, deputy director ofthe Indian Council
for Cultural Relations (ICCR), said, "We expect the
centre to be thrown open to the public on 15 August this
year, to coincide with India's 60th anniversary
celebrations." Currently held by the ICCR and previously
the official residence of the British deputy high
commissioner, the house will be renovated to resemble
its original state. It is slated to have exhibition spaces,
an audio-visual library, a concert hall, an open air
performance area,
a seminar room
and a cafe.
We might add: if
it is to be a SAARC
cultural centre, then
it would be more
appropriate to open
the doors on SAARC
  Day, 8 December. A
Crackdown as appeasement
A week after Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee
visited Rangoon in mid-January asking for help in
wiping out rebels in India's Northeast, the junta began an
offensive against the insurgents stationed east of the
border. The Burmese military is said to have burned
down the general headquarters and two camps of the
separatist National Socialist Council of Nagaland-
Khaplang (NSCN-K).
The NSCN-K, which reportedly has at least 50 camps
and 5000 soldiers in Burma's Sagaing Distnct, confirmed
on 31Januarythat at least three of its cadre and about a
dozen Burmese soldiers had been killed. NSCN-K leader
A Z Jami said: "Heavy fighting is going on with a brigade [of
about 3000 soldiers] of the Myanmarese army using
mortars and rocket launchers, launching a massive
assault on our cadres since the weekend."
Although Rangoon has yet to acknowledge the
crackdown, another NSCN- ■	
K leader insists that it is a
deliberate plan to appease
India. "The offensive by the
military junta has the
backing of the Indian
government, with most of
the weapons used in the
operation supplied by New
Delhi," he said. A
Pakistan puja
On 16 February, the first ceremony of worship since ;
Partition in the;famous Katasraitempie'complexin:
Pakistani Punjab was attended by Indian Hindus as;
special guests ofthe Islamabad government. The";
; renovation ofthe Shiva, temple was started in 2000,^
when the foundation stone was Bhartiya Janata:;
: Party leader L K Advani during a visit to Pakistan." :
Thereafter, General Pervez Musharraf sought India's;
jhela for the reconstruction, and a team was dispatched
to the site by the Archaeological Survey of India.
.:^The conservation is.nearihg completion of its first";
:three-year phase, and has cost'the Islamabad^
government around PKR 60.3 million. "This is perhaps-;
the first time an Islamic government fias restored a;
non-islamic religious monument," said BJP Secretary
Balbir' Pupj during a: recent visit to Katasraj." Athree-:'
member Pakistani delegation also recently toured India;:;
analysing the■ .architecturerapd;customs of Hindu-;
temples in Benaras,. Pushkar and AjanfaAlbra. During-"\
that visit, the delegation was also advised, hy Adyanitp;
urge Islamabad to conserve and renovate the historic...
Hinglaj temple: |n BaJoc.histan, the Shiva temple in
Karachi; and the Lav temple inside the Lahore Fort.-A-
777-\:b7zb77b7b:.    ;.'■'■ :£»;•
Himal Southasian I March 2007
Baglihar win-win
Headway was finally
made on the Baglihar
dam controversy in
February, when a 'neutral
expert' appointed by the
World Bank concluded
that, contrary to Pakistani
accusations, the dam was.
not in violation of the
Indus Waters Treaty, With
India also being asked to
reduce the dam's height by
a metre and a half,
however, both countries
eventually were able to
claim "victory".
The Baglihar project on
the Chenab River in India
was designed to produce
900 MW of power for
Jammu & Kashmir. Its
resolution is the first Indo-
Pakistani dispute to be
settled through third-party
mediation with the
consensus of both parties.
"We are happy overall. The
dam structure is intact, the
changes are only marginal,"
India's Water Resources
Minister Saifuddin Soz said.
Pakistan's Power and
Water Minister, Liaqat Ali
Jatoi, added: "This was a
successful day for Pakistan,
as the decision has
come in its favour. The
neutral expert clearly said
the design was in
violation, that India's
calculation on free board
was inaccurate."
The debate over the
project began two years
ago, when Islamabad
complained to the World
Bank that India could use
the dam to flood Pakistani
fields or hold back water at
any time, and also that it
violated the 1960 Indus
lb Barma, muitimodaliy
India; is preparing to setup a transportation project
worth; USD 1,1 billion in Burma, a move Seen by many
as part of New Delhi's continuing efforts to secure its
influence, in the face of China's growing presence in
Burma. With New Delhi investing USD 100 million and
Rangoon contributing USD 10 million and providing
the real estate, points in eastern Mizoram are to be
: connected to the Sittwe Port by a shipping link,-which
■.will then be Kaletwa in Burma through
river transportation.
;   Such a multimodal transport scheme was fjrst
Z proposed in 2003 by New Delhi. The project will also
"Include.the construction of a road from Kaletwa to
-d Mizoram. The plan has already been approved by the
■' PianningCommissibn in New Delhi, and looks ready to'
be certified by the cabinet once issues of sustainability
and commercial viability are cleared up. India has
extended Burma a soft loan to contribute towards the
;USD 10 mil lion that Rangoon with pitch i n.. A
Water Treaty, which
otherwise had stood the
test of time. That treaty
had outlined that, while
India would get water from
the Ravi, Beas and
Sutlej rivers, Pakistan was
to have exclusive access
to the Indus, Jhelum and
the Chenab. A
Rich Afghans, poor Afghans
New Delhi announced an aid package of USD 100
million to Afghanistan in late January, bringing its
total assistance to the country's reconstruction effort to
USD 750 million. India has also asked Pakistan to
allow land-based transit facilities to Afghanistan, with
an aim at bolstering trade and bilateral ties between
the two countries.
Around the same time, the New York-based Human
Rights Watch announced that Afghanistan and its
international backers had not made a significant
difference in the lives of ordinary Afghans in 2006,
having failed to secure basic needs like security, food
and healthcare. Overall, more than 4400 Afghans died
in conflict-related violence last year, twice as many as in
2005 and more than in any other year since the ousting
of the Taliban in 2001.
Meanwhile, recent reports of massive levels of
corruption in Afghanistan are likely to influence the
outcome of a pending agreement between the US and
the EU to grant USD 13.7 billion to the country.
According to US and British officials, almost half of the
foreign aid given to Afghanistan thus far has been
siphoned off by tribal leaders and corrupt police. This
follows similar complaints on the part of the US State
Department and the Pentagon that the Afghan police
force was draining money from aid packages. At this
pace, don't be surprised if Afghan tribal chieftains
emerge as some of the biggest moneybags in Southasia
- and start their own development projects! A
Beware the babas
In mid-February Nepal's government mobilised security
forces along its open border with India to restrict the
influx of sadhus during the festival of Maha Shivaratri.
The Home Ministry reportedly had dispatched a secret
circular to district headquarters to thwart a possible
'ultra-Hindu' demonstration in Kathmandu,
about which the government had reportedly
received tips. Every year, the festival
celebrated in honour of Shiva attracts
thousands of sadhus from India. This year,
authorities were concerned that they
would congregate to rally for the
reinstatement of Nepal as a Hindu
kingdom, a plan that was allegedly
hatched in the aftermath ofthe much-
hyped World Hindu Conference held on
21 December in Lucknow. £
March 2007 1 Himal Southasian
Pseudo-innovation in Dhaka
Can an unelected, military-backed government be just
what Bangladesh needs? Many hope so.
The passion for
taking Bangladesh
back from the grip of
was in evidence at
the premier of a
documentary called
Deshantori (The Migrant),
in London in early
February. Currently
causing a stir among
Bangladeshis both in
and out of the country,
Deshantori explores the deep
frustration of today's young
generation. It also asks why, 35
vears after independence, a
generation that was once making
sacrifices to create a nation is now
making sacrifices to leave the
country by anv means. During the
discussion that took place after
viewing the film, blame for this
dynamic was invariably aimed at
Bangladesh's political parties.
Indeed, the parties form a topic - and
target - that has been on the lip of
everv Bangladeshi in recent weeks.
As Dhaka's military-backed
interim government gets on with its
anti-corruption agenda amid
cautious cheers from the public,
Bangladeshis at home and abroad
are arguing over what kind of
government system can both be
functional and deliver for the
long-beleaguered people. With
civil-society leaders moving
towards a more hands-on political
approach at the same time as
politicians are being thrown in jail
for alleged corruption, Bangladesh
seems to be going through its biggest
round of political shifts since the
restoration of democracy in 1990.
I here was a widespread sense of
the surreal when, during the first
week of February, agitated MPs from
the    Awami    League    and    the
Bangladesh Nationalist
Party (BNP), who
otherwise could never
even sit together for a
meeting, wore suddenly
packed up side by side
in micro-buses and
taken to Dhaka's
Central Jail. The tables
had turned. As newspaper story after story
is published detailing
the misdeeds of the
immediate past BNP-Jamaat-e-
lslami government, the picture that
is emerging is not pretty, lt portrays
a reckless regard for rule of law and
for Bangladesh's institutions.
Whether the transgressions were as
monstrous as misappropriating
thousands of crores of taka and
crippling the power sector hy
taking massive bribes from
incompetent companies, or as
relatively paltry as localised stealing
of relief material, the fingerprints of
former ruling-party MPs seem
to be everywhere.
Nowhere is this damage more
distressing to see than on the
country's constitutional offices. The
Public Service Commission, for
example, the body responsible for
appointing officers to public bodies,
appears to have been practically-
selling question papers and
government jobs to the highest
bidders. The chief of the
commission has been accused of
sitting with a computer analyst and
updating the result sheets of
administration entrance examinees
in exchange for handsome rewards.
The surprise is not that such a thing
had been taking place, but how
open and unchallenged it was. with
everyone from bottom to top
sharing in the loot.
The malaise appears to be so
deep-rooted that there is worry that
as soon as the political parties are
back in power, there will be an
inevitable return to business-as-
usual. Hence, there are petitions
circulating, asking for a
referendum to keep the interim
government in power for longer
than initially indicated. Regardless
of the practicality of such a
proposal, the current government
is clearly enjoying huge popularity,
and has larger changes in mind.
Initially coming in with a mandate
to do nothing more than hold a free
and fair election by the end of
January, the government's focus is
now becoming more diverse and
proactive. The advisers are taking
policy decisions on matters such as
corruption, the power sector and
upgrading the Chittagong sea port
- long-term issues that beg the
question as to just how long they
intend to remain in power.
Long-term interim
Thus far, no definitive timeline on
that question has been given. Both
the government-formed technical
team and the army have made
presentations about possible
timeframes for drawing up a now
voter list and distributing voter-
identification cards. With the army
stipulating a timeframe of eight
months, the election is unlikely to
take place before the end of this year.
If that assumption is correct, it is
likely the interim government will
take more long-term decisions over
the next nine months.
The army appears to be
firmly behind the idea of a long-term
engagement of the interim
government. The previously
low-profile military chief,
Lieutenant General Moeen U
Ahmed, has become significantly
more visible in recent weeks, but
has stressed that it is civilians, not
the military, that are running the
government. Taking on the unusual
responsibility of talking about
government policies, on 9 February
he described Bangladesh's current
state as that of a train off its track.
He said that chances to fix things
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 do not come often, and so the
government is now trying to get the
train back on track.
There is a split in Bangladeshi
civil society, however, on just how
much time the interim government
should be given to do so. Some urge
that institutional reform should be
a priority no matter how much time
it takes, while others suggest that
the priority should be on setting a
date for the elections, to avoid
further erosion of the polity's
democratic basis. Who wins this
argument will determine the
direction of Bangladeshi society in
the days to come.
Regardless of what the military
is saying, it seems clear that there
are two parallel strands in the
military combine. The first such sign
came with the late-January
promulgation of laws curbing press
freedom, which pointed to a hardline approach within the state of
emergency. Two days later,
amid widespread defiance from
editors, the 'information adviser'
backtracked and announced that
the media-gagging laws were not
going to be implemented after all.
Those laws do remain in place,
however, and the press has
remained somewhat cautious about
what it chooses to report.
The interim government appears
keen to move quickly on the
issue of corruption in politics.
Government officials have stated in
no uncertain terms that they view
ensuring "clean" candidates for the
election as being a critical part of
their responsibilities. After
reforming the anti-corruption
commission, stern ordinances have
been passed barring anyone
accused of graft from taking part in
the election, even if an appeal
remains pending in court.
The political parties are now
struggling to regroup. The BNP,
which is taking the brunt of the anti-
corruption drive with most of its
leaders either in jail or absconding,
is trying to figure out a response.
The Awami League has started
calling for an early election, as it
senses a good possibility of victory
in the current climate. Even though
the caretaker government is largely
implementing the AL's 31-point
election-reform proposal from last
year, the AL is neither getting any
credit for it nor is it willing to wait
much longer in fear of a regrouped
BNP or a completely changed
political landscape-
Citizen's power
With so much negative publicity
about the politicians, Bangladeshis
may have tuned out the traditional
parties for the time being. Indeed,
many seem to be enjoying the
ride in uncharted territories.
Civil-society leaders are suddenly
wielding a lot of weight in
policymaking, and can be seen
everywhere - holding roundtables,
putting in reform proposals and
appearing on TV talk shows that
are receiving higher ratings than the
entertainment programmes.
Civil society is also fancying its
own chances in politics. Recent
Nobel Prize laureate Muhammad
Yunus, who has long been
rumoured to harbour political
ambitions, has now made it official
that he will run for office in the
coming election. To test the water
about forming a party, he wrote an
open letter to the country, asking for
the people's opinion on his political
aims. The positive response was
overwhelming, and on 19 February
Yunus announced the formation of
the Nagarik Shakti (Citizen's
Power) party, which promises to
contest for all 300 parliamentary
seats in the coming election.
It is tempting to think the
Citizen's Power party will enjoy the
support of civil-society leaders, the
current administration and
Western diplomats, But one cannot
underestimate the grassroots
activism of the existing major parties
with their large networks. It remains
to be seen what impact Yunus -
without the Grameen brand - will
have in the rural areas, where AL
and BNP workers have long
dominated. It may prove difficult
to be effective on the national
political scene depending on the
stature of one individual.
News of the new competition
soems already to have engendered
some qualitative political changes.
As Yunus is likely to pull in the
independent and disenchanted
vote, the political parties are
scurrying to shore up their bases.
The Awami League has already-
cancelled the heavily criticised
memorandum oi understanding it
had signed with Islamist leaders.
BNP honchos have also reportedly
started a move inside the party to
drop politicians who are known to
be corrupt, and to bring back
politicians who had been
marginalised over the past five years
by Tareq Rahman (Begum Khaleda
Zia's son) and his powerful
businessman friends.
As in other countries,
Bangladeshis are starting to ask
some core questions: If democracy
can be manipulated to serve a
chosen few, is it practical in
developing countries? If democracy
is defined by an election in which
the winner takes all for the following
five years, and where non-
governance replaces accountability
with the cost of destruction of
democratic institutions, how is it
possible to have a system in which
checks and balances are required in
order to prevent abuse?
For the time being, Bangladesh
seems to be trying out a pseudo-
innovative model. Tacitly supported
by Western governments, the
military has decided to be a behind-
the-scenes force in backing the
interim, non-elected civilian
government, with an eye towards
fixing the country's broken
institutions before handing over
democracy to the politicians again.
However, history shows that, just
as night follows day, military
governments that start with a clean
agenda end up as part of the
problem. The exception this time
around, it is hoped, is the blend of
the might of the army
and the good intentions and
competence of the civilian
administrators. Only time will tell
how well this blend will work.     i
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 ^■a^tfjf-jK «r,!
Athaulla (r) and Hakeem (m) near a Muslim burial ground
If you were to go by the international headlines, the Sri
Lankan ethnic conflict appears to engage only the
two main communities, the Sinhalese and the
Tamils. Yet when the conflict exploded into war in
1983, and in the more than two decades following, it
was not just the two communities locked in battle
that suffered. The impact of the internal war on the
island's Muslim community has been massive - and
severely overlooked.
In Colombo, when issues of politics or peace
deliberations arise, the 'Muslim question' has long
been confined to intellectual debates and dinner-table
discussions. This continues to this day, despite the fact
that representatives of the Muslim community have for
decades worked with the country's majority-led
governments. This has included the premier Muslim
party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), which
reached a position of veritable kingmaker during
the early 1990s. Nonetheless, Muslim concerns
today appear as invisible at the national level as they
ever have.
"There is a great disconnect," admits veteran Muslim
politician and current governor of the Western Province,
Alavi Moulana. "Somehow, even combining forces has
not helped provide powerful representation to
Muslims." Moulana says that Sri Lanka's Muslim
community is a peaceful one, and has regularly sought
to adopt a conciliatory position on the ongoing conflict
As such, the seniormost Muslim politicians were always
identified with the country's two main political parties -
the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP) - before the need for
separate Muslim-only political parties became an
overt requirement.
The political landscape in Sri Lanka has changed
drastically since 1983. "The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress
was the answer to a huge political void created by the
previous Muslim political leaders, who allowed
The wages of
Sri Lanka's Muslims have long kept quiet
while Tamil militancy has made its own
demands. Now they are becoming restive,
fearing that silence may have cost them
too much.
themselves to be completely absorbed into
mainstream political parties that had little sympathy for
the Muslim cause," recalls the SLMC's head, Rauff
Hakeem. The SLMC is the country's largest Muslim
party, enjoying significant support in eastern
Sri Lanka, where Muslims make up about one-third of
the population.
Hakeem emphasises that these historical wrongs
have contributed significantly to the present plight of Sri
Lanka's Muslims: "We are sandwiched between two
communities. We are also victims of ethnic violence
that was neither our creation nor our seeking. As a
community, we have little hope. We opt to work with
governments, hoping to give expression to the Muslim
concerns, but we do this as a separate political entity."
In late January, Hakeem and his group of four
parliamentarians formally joined Mahinda Rajapakse's
administration, claiming that the new alliance sought to
draw attention to a "community that is politically
denied" - and, hopefully, to do so from a stronger
political vantage. "By being in the opposition, we cannot
positively influence change," says Hakeem, who, on 28
January, was appointed Minister of Posts and
Telecommunication. "We joined the government
primarily with a wish to pressurise the government to
resume peace talks. Secondly, we want to be
accommodated as a separate Muslim delegation at
future peace talks."
Other Muslim politicians and activists - including
National Unity Alliance (NUA) leader Ferial Ashraff and
the head of an SLMC splittist group, A L M Athaulla -
are similarly adamant that their community needs
"special facilitation". Notes Athaulla, now the Minister
of Water Supply and Drainage: "The war has impacted
terribly on the Muslim community. We have been
systematically driven out from the northeastern areas
we traditionally occupied. Originally, colonisation
brought in large numbers of Sinhalese to the east. Then
Himal Southasian I March 2007
 'We included certain conditions: a separate Muslim delegation at future rounds of peace
talks, a renewed call for a separate Muslim unit in Kalmunai, and a special mechanism to
ensure human security of the Muslims making the northeast their home,'
the LTTE evicted us from the north. Is it because we as a
community did not believe in wielding guns and
demand for a separate state?"
If the gun has fortunately not yet become an
exercisable option, the push for a separate Muslim
'unit' certainly has. Even detractors of the SLMC
acknowledge that the party's creation in September
1981 (under the powerful leadership ofthe late M H M
Ash raff) was a turning point in Muslim politics in Sri
Lanka. The key achievement has been the party's
articulation of the need for a separate Muslim
administrative unit in the east.
Administrative homeland
The relationship between Tamils and Muslims had been
strained ever since the Muslim trading community first
arrived in Sri Lanka - this tension has increased
significantly since the outbreak of war. In 1990, the
Tamil Tigers evicted over 16,000 Muslim families from
their ancestral homes in the north. Some 6000 more
were thrown out following the outbreak of war in 2006.
Thousands of Muslims continue to live in refugee
camps, with resettlement being a slow or nonexistent
process. These systematic evictions and rights-
violations. Hakeem says, stoked the Muslim
community's desire for a political party to speak on
its behalf.
The Muslims of the northeast now constitute 38
percent ofthe island's total Muslim population, while
62 percent make the south and central areas their
home. Muslims constitute only eight percent of Sri
Lanka's nearly 20 million-strong population. "Unlike the
Tamil community. Muslims do not flee as refugees to
South India. This increases the number of internally
displaced Muslims," notes Resettlement and Disaster
Relief Services Minister Abdul Risath Bathiyutheen. "We
may be just eight percent ofthe country's total
population. We have always lived as a separate
community. And although we speak Tamil, it is only fair
to acknowledge our separate identity."
"The LTTE would not willingly share power with the
Muslims in the northeast," SLMC's Hakeem agrees.
"Though speaking Tamil, we are a separate community
with a defined identity. The LTTE had little tolerance of
our desire to have a separate Muslim delegation during
the peace talks that followed the 2002 truce. As such,
a separate administrative unit became a must, in order
to protect our political interests."
Many Sinhala political leaders acknowledge that
Muslim views have often been excluded in Sri Lankan
peace-making efforts. "This happened primarily
because the conflict was and still is between the two
main communities," says a senior UNP politician close
to the peace talks, who was unwilling to give his name.
"It takes a while to become so inclusive, especially with
the LTTE strongly objecting to the inclusion of other
parties [in the peace negotiations since 2002]".
Tracing a certain political desperation underlying
Muslim decision-making, political analyst Jayadeva
Uyangoda insists that, from the commencement of a
political phase geared towards a solution, the Muslim
dimension was conspicuous by its sheer absence. .
"Since the signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord in \
1987. the Muslim question was never given due
consideration. Muslims were largely victims of
communal violence, despite having no direct role in
the conflict."
What has perhaps hurt the Muslim community the
most in recent years has been the merging of the
northern and eastern provinces following the signing of
the 1987 accord. That agreement paved the way for the
Tamil community to claim the merged provinces as its
collective homeland, a position strongly opposed by the
Muslims. There is no denying that the Muslims were
overlooked from the very first. We strongly feel that the
eastern province should be treated as separate. It is a
multi-ethnic province." claims Hakeem, who
continues to urge immediate political action to change
the situation.
Having joined with the administration. Hakeem now
hopes to be able to act more forcefully on the issue.
"We included certain conditions in our memorandum of
understanding, including a separate Muslim delegation
at future rounds of peace talks, a renewed call for a
separate Muslim unit to be carved out in the eastern
district of Kalmunai, and a special mechanism to
ensure human security of the Muslims making the
northeast their home."
At the moment, those hopes seem a long way off.
"The east is now a pot boiler," says Sunanda
Deshapriya, an activist. "The violence has spilled over.
Muslim politicians and thousands of civilians suffered
at the LTTE's hands, and due to the military
engagements between government forces and the LTTE.
Muslim communities remain passive victims." Others
warn that that passivity may be waning. Many
observers, including Risath Bathiyutheen and A L M
Athaulla, worry that with the increasing insecurity,
Muslim youths may soon feel compelled to arm
themselves - both in self-defence, and as a
way to be heard. Such a move would be a significant
and unfortunate change from the peaceful politics in
which the older generations have for so long placed
their faith. *
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
There is good news from
Kashmir. The diligent
reader of the Indian
national press will be informed that
wildlife poaching is down to almost
nil. This is thanks to arms licenses
for individuals having been
suspended in Jammu & Kashmir
after the outbreak of the insurgencv
a decade and a half ago. Of course,
staying away from the deep, dark
forest is also what common sense
commands. Who in his right mind
would want to run the risk of being
encountered brandishing a firearm,
and having his comparably benign
poaching intentions mistaken for
militant ones? Thus, the snow
leopard, the spotted and the musk
deer, the Himalayan black bear and
--e 1'ir Fanjal markhor goat
make merry in the absence of
human poachers.
The media in Kashmir do not
supply such happy news. Instead,
the local papers are awash with
•-tories of encounters - real or fake
between securitv forces and
militants, as well as crackdowns,
disappearances and intolerable
living conditions. The current
official optimism on both sides of
the border notwithstanding, the
truth is that the area is locked in a
cycle of violence and counter-
violence, exacting a blood toll from
both combatants and civilians. In a
2006 report on patterns
of impunity in J & K, the watchdog
organisation Human Rights Watch
held Indian security forces to
account for systematic torture,
disappearances and arbitrary
detentions, while denouncing
similar acts perpetrated by
militant groups. Such has been the
case for years.
In January, following the
exhumation of at least five bodies
in the district of Gandcrbal, internal
investigations revealed that army
contingents and police units in J &
K had killed innocent civilians in
cold blood in order to pass them off
as militants and thereby to receive
rewards and promotions. Horrific
through this revelation was, it did
not surprise manv. Some major
The Ganderbal exhumations
Indian media outlets had little to say
about the findings. Others
expressed shock as, unlike
ordinary criminals (who shame
only themselves), the police and
army personnel involved in the
atrocities had "disgraced their
uniforms and their country". The
Indian defence minister duly gave
assurances that human-rights
violations would 'not be tolerated",
and that every complaint would be
looked into by various officials. A
simple word of sympathy for
the victims' families, however, was
not forthcoming.
The fake encounters most
recently revealed could be just the
tip of the iceberg. In late August, the
Srinagar-based Association of
Parents of Disappeared Persons
(APDP) put the number of people
who have vanished from J & K since
the outbreak of militancy at a
staggering 10,000. Now this figure
has come under attack. APDP has
drawn criticism from the authorities
for "lacking an organised data
bank", while a human-rights
activist has been accused of
"shoddy research" for having
mistaken 'IB' (Intelligence Bureau)
for 'BSF' (Border Security Force),
and for having written ']' instead
of 'C when referring to G Branch,
the BSF's intelligence wing - as if
getting the alphabet right is
so important in establishing
state responsibility.
What one does know is that the
constant exposure of the Kashmiri
people to violence - physical,
psychological, sexual - has led to a
significant deterioration of mental
health across age groups and
genders. A 2006 survey on the
psychosocial status of the
population of J & K found that more
than half of the interviewees (56
percent) was easily frightened,
almost two out of five (38 percent)
felt 'worthless', and more than a
third (.34 percent) had thought of
committing suicide in the month
prior to the interview. How docs one
square such findings with upbeat
accounts by the national and state
governments on the improving
securitv situation and the
restoration of normalcy in J & K?
Following the exhumations in
Ganderbal, the people of J & K will
have hard questions for ex-Chief
Minister Muhammad Mufti Sayeed
about what his "healing touch" did
for the bruised Kashmiri soul. Thev
mav also want to ask the current
Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi
Azad, what exactly he meant when
he said that his opponents in the
state assembly were "being
emotional" in demanding an
immediate troop withdrawal from
J&K. But the hardest question yet
mav be reserved for Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh: In line with his
"zero tolerance" policy on human-
rights violations, will he support
India's signing of the UN's new
International Convention for the
Protection of All Persons from
Fnforced Disappearance? The
convention opened for signature in
earlv February, and its 'right to
know' provision will be an
important stepping-stone to
meeting the demands for justice by
the grieving families of Ganderbal.
Barring that right, in today's
Kashmir only one thing is
certain: the brighter day will always
be tomorrow. A
Himal Southasian J March 2007
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India has been the latecomer to 'Southasia'. As the
most populous and powerful country, at the very
centre of the region, after 1947 India assumed for
itself the mantle of historic, civilisational 'India'
without a thought to what the others lost in terms of
heritage, identity and governance. A large nation-state
hoth by virtue of its size and the history at its command,
India has been locked for too long in a small-country
mindset. As such, it has alternated between being the
regional bully (remember Farakka) and the munificent
squire (the Gujral Doctrine). The xenophobia and
blinkered nation-statism of newly formed political
elites impacted each Southasian country, and most
importantly Big India, long keeping the region of
Southasia from being realised. Regionalism would be
impossible so long as fhe country that hosts 1.1 billion
of Southasia's population of 1.5 billion - and more
than two-thirds of the subcontinental expanse - were
to insist on going it alone because it felt it did not need
ihe others.
While Bangladeshis first got excited about
'Southasia' back in the time of Ziaur Rahman,
postcolonial India's interest simply did not spark.
Indians were reluctant participants at the SAARC
table, mostly in the unkind belief that the others were
ganging up on them. But all this has been changing
over the last handful of years, and Indians are suddenly
to be found agreeable to regionalism to a surprising
degree. India's chairmanship of the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC),
starting with the scheduled summit in New Delhi in
India realising
Finally, South Block seems enthusiastic
about the region.
the first week of April 2007, is an opportunity to put a
definitive stamp on the Indian discovery of Southasia.
As New Delhi seeks a-place at the table of the global
powers, it realises the need to have a tidy home turf. Its
economic growth since the mid-1990s has also given
India the confidence to be more broad-minded. This
accelerating transformation is noticeable in the very
acceptability of the term Southasia among the mainline
Indian intelligentsia. It only came upon this term in
the late 1990s, whereas Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans,
Pakistanis and Nepalis had picked it up more than a
decade earlier. And so, for example, the proprietary
reference to 'Indian Subcontinent' in New Delhi's
seminar halls was dropped for simply the
'Subcontinent' - until, at long last, Indian Foreign
Minister Pranab Mukherjee, speaking in early February
2007 to a group of regional editors at a curtain-raiser
to the upcoming 14th SAARC Summit, referred to the
"South Asian Subcontinent".
Whether New Delhi's bhodrolok takes ownership of
Southasia would be an academic question if
regionalism were not of utmost relevance for the well
being of the mass citizenry of Southasia. The fact is
that a 'Southasianism' which adds an accessible layer
of overarching identity to existing and acceptable
cultural and national identities, will directly and
indirectly better the quality of life across a region that
houses a fifth of the world's population - and a
majority of its abjectly poor. A regionalism that can
hearken back to cultural commonalities and a long,
shared history will raise the threshold for conflict and
promote intellectual and commercial give-and-take
that will enrich all, especially those in today's
beleaguered crossborder regions. That Indians are
opening up to Southasia, and ihat New Delhi's foreign-
policy establishment maintains its commitment to
regionalism is dictated by self-interest, means that, two
decades after the establishment of SAARC, the hurdles
are cleared to realising 'Southasia'.
Himalayan confidence
Other than the sheer impossibility of escaping the
blighted neighbourhood, it is the economic progress
made by a globalising India that has given New Delhi's
power elite the rationale to address the region. This
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 India's 'Southasianism' is being defined by Prime Minister Singh,
and Mukherjee, Menon and Saran	
newfound confidence is actually most obvious in the
lowering of paranoia with regard to the Himalayan
rimland. The 1962 border war with China in India's
north and northeast raised a national-security
sensitivity in connection to the high frontier that had
bordered on the unreasonable. With the recent
jettisoning of Sino-Indian tensions - ushered in by
Beijing's 2005 recognition of the Sikkim annexation,
the high expectations of economic relations with China,
and the acceptance of the Himalayan ridgeline as no
longer a strategic buffer but a porous economic frontier,
India has finally lowered its guard on the Himalaya.
Proof of this departure is available in New Delhi's
willingness to live with the presence of a United Nations
arms-monitoring mission in Nepal, and in the treaty
revision with Bhutan of early February 2007, which
released Thimphu from New Delhi's foreign policy and
security umbilical. The dynamics in the Himalayan
rimland- are emblematic of a more general lowering of
crossborder suspicions by the New Delhi foreign-policy
establishment. Though the Kashmir issue has many
complicated facets, the reduced Himalayan paranoia
will clearly also impact on the one problem that fuels
India-Pa kis tan acrimony, which in turn impacts on
Southasian regionalism as a whole.
The self-confidence evident in New Delhi's
Himalayan dealings is found elsewhere as well,
including in India's relations with Pakistan. There was
a time, not so many years ago, when one militant attack
would be enough for nervous politicians and diplomats
in South Block to scuttle talks with Islamabad, even
pushing them back by a year or three. But in 2005 and
2006 India stayed the course with Pakistan, despite an
attack on a Hindu shrine in Benaras, another in a
crowded marketplace in the Indian capital, a serial blast
in Bombay's suburban trains, and a series of incidents
in Jammu & Kashmir. Despite these horrific attacks,
New Delhi did not fall back on the rejectionist jingoism
that had marked the earlier era. In fact, its dogged
pursuit of what is known as the 'composite dialogue',
which has continued also after the attack on the Delhi-
Lahore Samjhauta Express of 18 February, proves that
the rapprochement with Islamabad is indeed now built
on the foundation of mutual need. This, in turn, firms
up the basis for regionalism in general, which has been
held hostage for too long by hostility across the Wagah-
Attari frontier.
Saran and Menon
Serious Indian academics, who have heretofore
shunned the study of Southasian regionalism in favour
of relations with the West, or restricted themselves to
the tense India-Pakistan theatre, have begun to turn
their focus onto the larger neighbourhood. The fact that
South Block and the Indian foreign-policy
establishment is in 'Southasia mode' means that the
region will be taken seriously by a circle of strategic
analysts beyond just the 'track-two romantics' - those
regularly derided by the powerful analysts who reside
within New Delhi's Ring Road. South Block's new
approach is also linked to the fact that the big boss
today is an economist-prime minister, who comes with
little geopolitical baggage and speaks from the heart
about making borders irrelevant. Manmohan Singh's
oft-repeated quote relates his dream of having breakfast
in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul.
If proof were needed of the evolved mindset of South
Block apparatchiks, it can be read in the bowing-out
speech by the immediate past Foreign Secretary, Shyam
Saran, delivered before the Indian Council of World
Affairs in September 2006. Saran proposed
'interconnectivity' as die primary focus of India's 'look
regional' policy (see Himal October 2006, "Connectivity
as India's foreign policy"). Current Foreign Secretary Shiv
Shankar Menon maintains that India's focus on
Southasian regionalism is realistic, and should be
believable because it is based on New Delhi's political
and economic self-interest. Speaking to the Southasian
editors gathered in Delhi in early February, he added
meaningfully, "After all, this is our Southasia!" Menon
believes that Southasia's countries had to become
comfortable and confident in their own nationalisms
before they could embrace regionalism - a process now
nearly complete.
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 Shyam Scran's push is to propose interconnectivity
through reviving links, as well as developing new
grids - rail, road and air transport, transmission lines
and natural gas. His emphasis is also on recognising
that India's border regions, particularly those
adjoining Nepal and Bangladesh, are among its
most underdeveloped.
In essence, New Delhi's neglect of the
neighbourhood has been reflected in the neglect of its
own borderlands. There is now a multi-crore rupee
programme underway to upgrade all of India's border
points, including customs infrastructure from the
Burma-Mizoram border, all the way west to the Punjab-
Punjab frontier. New Delhi is also concentrating on
upgrading highways in these regions, recognising, for
example, that the highway from Calcutta to the
Petrapole border point on the road to Dhaka is an
embarrassment to India, beyond restricting movement
and trade with Bangladesh. The same can be
said for roads and connectivity elsewhere within the
Indian 'periphery'.
The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi seems
to be coming around to the understanding that
communications between the border states and
neighbouring countries must be encouraged, not
controlled by an imperial New Delhi fearful of
fissiparous tendencies. It is known that the New Delhi
bureaucracy has been uneasy with Punjab state Chief
Minister Amarinder Singh's contacts with his
counterparts from Punjab province in Lahore. And it is
unclear whether South Block's growing enthusiasm
for crossborder interaction is shared by the intelligence
agencies under the Ministry of Home Affairs in North
Block. However, a senior Indian diplomat in New Delhi
confirms: "There is now less and less resistance to
letting the border states develop their own relationships
across the international borders."
SAARC v Southasia
Over the years, the vision of Southasia has been
weakened by excessive reliance on the SAARC model
of seven capitals trying to work in unison (soon to be
eight, with Afghanistan's membership), which has
made India at once the most powerful and least
interested in Southasia. it is also necessary to
distinguish between the somewhat stunted
organisation of SAARC and its secretariat located in
Kathmandu, and the many-layered entity that
Southasia is and can be. A concept of regionalism
complementary to that of SAARC would be one that
constitutes the cumulative total of bilateral
relationships, including the crossborder relationships
between India's and their immediate neighbours.
This latter, alternative view of regionalism jives with
the apparent willingness of New Delhi to 'let its border
regions go' - ie, to develop their individual crossborder
relationships. Simultaneously, such a version of
regionalism would in one stroke also make irrelevant
the biggest knot in the evolving Southasianism: the
overwhelming asymmetry presented by the sheer
geostrategic and economic power, physical expanse
and population of India - a country in the centre of the
region, bordering all other countries, none of which
adjoin the others (other than Pakistan and SAARC
newcomer Afghanistan). The Indian Union taken as a
whole would never feel the urgency to develop a sense
of regionalism, because most parts of its larger economy
and society would not reap the advantages of
regionalism the way the bordering states would.
It would be naive to believe that India's neighbours
will rush to welcome India's discovery that there is a
'region' out there. Just as India long felt that SAARC
was an attempt by the smaller countries to gang up
against it, so now, with India going regional, the
neighbours may regard New Delhi's turn of attitude as
merely strategic - an increase in stature with which to
throw its weight around in the international arena, and
even manage a seat in the Security Council. Most
importantly, India's discovery of Southasia will be seen
as an attempt by New Delhi to infiltrate the
neighbourhood's economies for the benefit of Indian
multinationals. Indeed, India's current agenda seems
to be not so much the promotion of people-to-people
contact as that of opening to commerce through a
liberalised trade regime. Pakistan is wary of being
swamped by Indian goods; and Bangladesh,
which is already seeing a strong Indian multinational
presence, may be alarmed enough to implement
harsh protectionism.
But it would be backward-looking to regard India's
regionalism as guided only by economic hegemonism.
Such a view would deny the smaller neighbours any
agency in understanding and countering
conspiratorial designs of the Indian behemoth. Further,
surely'there are establishmentarian and commercial
interests in India as well that will be threatened by a
loosening of trade regimes.
It would also be important for New Delhi's foreign-
affairs managers to be aware of the deep suspicions
that will greet even their well-intentioned initiatives.
How should New Delhi respond? In the economic
arena, according to one senior Indian official, "India
can allay suspicions by being unexpectedly
magnanimous, by not demanding reciprocity for the
trading concessions it provides. The Southasian trade
is such a small part of India's portfolio that we would
not hurt, while we would certainly be able to puncture
the envelope of suspicion." That might be easier said
The transformation in New Delhi's attitude is noticeable in the very acceptability of
the term Southasia among the mainline Indian intelligentsia.
Himal .Southasian j March 2007
 than done, however, as the Indian sectors that would
lose out in a liberalised regime would surely lobby to
halt such a process.
Small countries are always suspicious of large
neighbours, and Southasia is no exception. Here,
tactical anti-Indianism is the recourse of politicians in
the countries surrounding India, particularly when in
the opposition. While such wariness of Indian designs
exists across the board, the most significant worries
about hegemonic India tend to be harboured by the
intelligentsia in Bangladesh and Pakistan - and that
is where scepticism about India's regional turn would
also be deepest. But given the fact that Bangladesh has
been the most consistent promoter of SA.4RC since Gen
Ziaur Rahman mooted the idea of the organisation in
the mid-1980s, it will be Islamabad that will need the
most convincing - also because it has thus far been the
most protected from Indian commerce. In the case of
Pakistan, rapprochement is also complicated by the
matter of Kashmir, which in turn impacts on the entire
fabric of Southasian regionalism.
As the Indian policy-shift towards regionalism
accelerates during the year it chairs SAARC, what
model will New Delhi choose? The core idea connected
to regionalism is obviously that of loosening borders,
in terms of both commerce and people-people contact.
Here, the example of Nepal to the north and Sri Lanka
in the south will be instructive for IndiaT and the other
Southasians. Nepal has had an unregulated open
border with India since the signing of a 1950 treaty on
peace and friendship. Over time, this frontier will
probably evolve into a regulated open border, at which
point it will provide the model for the increasingly
straight-jacketed Southasian frontiers regime. Sri
Lanka's relationship with India has evolved as
economically the most mature, based on a bilateral
trade agreement that many say can set an example for
other economies of Southasia.
Despite all the possibilities that beckon, however,
India's own intentions are not yet perfectly clear. While
it may be that some Indian diplomats hold grand
visions, there are various players in the Indian state,
with different and shifting agendas. All of which is
exemplified by the fact that, even while Manmohan
Singh talks of opening borders, his government pushes
ahead with the massive project to fence the boundaries
with Bangladesh and Pakistan. It is not clear who
benefits from the fencing, other than producers of
concertina wire and cement. The kind explaination to
such contradictions is to suggest that North Block is
yet to imbibe the new approach proposed by South
Block, just across the yard on New Delhi's Raisina Hill.
If such is the case within India's own ministries, the
neighbours should be forgiven their suspicions.
The three layers
Once India accepts its presence and role in 'Southasia',
and a workable Southasian model is found - one
different from but complementary to the capital-centric
and diplomat-led SAARC formula - it is then that
Southasia the region will become a full reality. How
wil] it transform, and how should it? Southasian
regionalism is of limited use if it is to be nothing more
than a talisman or a marker of identity for the people
of the Subcontinent and Sri Lanka. Regionalism must
deliver a 'peace dividend', as well as the advancement
of the social and economic potential of the mass of
Southasia's citizens. Barring incidents that will derail
or delay the process of regionalisation, for now the
fact that India is on board for reasons of its own self-
interest, and is pushing interconnectivity and
economic interaction, indicates that the focus on and
rationale for regionalism are where they should be.
Southasia may change in ways inconceivable today,
and at this stage there is no need to wax Utopian about
a Southasian passport, a Southasian seat at the
Security Council, or a Southasian currency. It is enough
to have modest horizons - of a SAARC counter at
airport immigration, or of visas on arrival, as
Nepal gives to all visitors and Sri Lanka to all
Southasian nationals.
As for longer-term integration, the region will benefit
massively if India allows its constituent border regions
to interact with its neighbours. Simultaneously, given
that India makes up much of the Subcontinent's land
area and population, regionalism will go part and
parcel with true federalism within India. Though some
will consider this too open a definition of regionalism,
there is no doubt that Southasia will come into its own
only when India - and Pakistan, and the other
countries in their own ways - becomes truly federated.
It should not be forgotten that parts of India, too, are
parts of Southasia!
Southasian regionalism will be impossible at this
delicate preliminary stage, however, if it is seen to harm
national identities and establishments. But it will
thrive when we are able to acknowledge our identity
as being attached not only to the national, but also the
local and regional. It is the wresting of this last layer of
identity in the mid-20th century which harmed the
populace in ways that run so deep. Aside from wars
fuelled by un-tempered ultra-nationalisms, it has kept
Pakistanis, for example, from claiming as their own
much of what India celebrates as its history.
Regionalism has the potential to deliver economic
and social progress to all corners, through a many-
spangled peace dividend, and the activation of
commerce and comparative advantage. As the most
powerful country in Southasia, said now to be focused
on the pragmatics of avowed self-interest, India's
leadership of SAARC during the coming year must
see the acceleration of regionalisation. Southasia has
waited for this - for India to be truly on board - since
SAARC was founded in 1985. India was the sleeping
giant amidst Southasia thus far, but it seems to have
woken up. Let it not return to its derisive slumber,    i
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
India's new regionalism
The Indian establishment has finally accepted that the country's border regions need
to be dealt with on a connective rather than separative basis. That's great timing, as
New Delhi takes over SAARC leadership in April.
In his annual address to the
Federation     of     Indian
Chambers of Commerce and
Industry  (FICCI)   in  January,
Manmohan Singh embarked on a
rare public musing on the potential
consequences of expanded regional
cooperation. Insisting that the destinies
of   the   Southasian   peoples   were
interlinked, the prime minister said, "I
dream of a day when, while retaining our
respective national identities, one can have
breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and
dinner in Kabul. That is how my forefathers lived.
That is how I want our grandchildren to live." Prime
Minister Singh's speeches to the
FICCI have tended to he dry perorations
on economic policy. But this year's
presentation underlined a new national
priority that is at once economic, political
and strategic: that of taking the leadership
in   promoting   a   new   regionalism   within
the Subcontinent.
Manmohan Singh's remarks were not a one-
off. His foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, as
well as his foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar
Menon, have in several recent statements
begun to articulate a very different approach
to Southasian regionalism. Unlike previous
bouts of regionalism - for example, under the
Himal Southasian I March 2007
 foreign-policy stewardship of Inder Kumar Gujral
during 1996-97, which also delivered the 'Gujral
Doctrine' - the present emphasis on deepening
regional integration is rooted in both political realism
and economic pragmatism.
Manmohan Singh believes that India's new
regionalism must be rooted in self interest. He and
his advisers insist that the opportunity to hold the
14th Summit of the South Asian Association of
Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in New Delhi during
early April must be utilised to demonstrate India's
commitment to deepening regionalism. It is not that
India is unaware of the SAARC organisation's many
weaknesses. Nor does it delude itself that SAARC can
be made into a dynamic body overnight. What New
Delhi does believe, however, is that unilateral
initiatives can in fact accelerate the inevitable
trends towards a reshaping of the region. Four
broad imperatives have begun to define India's
new regionalism.
A peaceful periphery
The first imperative is based on the recognition of the
urgent need to elevate the region in India's diplomatic
priorities. Since the nuclear tests of May 1998, India's
foreign-policy emphasis has tended to be on so-called
'big power diplomacy'. The recasting of India's
relations with the LJnited States, expanding
engagement with China, restoring the old partnership
with Russia, establishing a strategic dialogue with
Europe and rediscovering the potential for bilateral
cooperation with Japan have all been part of a new
dynamism in India's foreign policy. The
economic reforms since 1991 and the consequent rise
of India in the global arena have also set the stage for
an omni-directional and multi-layered interaction
with all the major powers. India's diplomatic activism
Westward ultimately culminated in the Indo-US
nuclear deal of July 2005, which would allow the LJS
to supply nuclear material for use in India's civil
nuclear sector.
While the New Delhi government continues to
focus on the unfinished agenda of implementing the
nuclear deal, it recognises that great power
relations are now in flux. With the US deeply divided
at home over Iraq, and the other powers
anticipating significant changes in LJS foreign policy
after the upcoming general elections, India is
conscious that further initiatives with the major
powers must wait. Meanwhile, New Delhi believes
that it must now purposefully focus on its own region,
lt has also come to see that India's aspirations of
becoming a great power on the world stage cannot be
realised without an effective regional policy.
For most countries, the central burden of diplomacy
is of dealing with neighbours. For a great power,
whether extant or rising, the challenge rests in
sustaining or cultivating influence in its own
environs. Preventing other great powers from
fomenting trouble in one's own region while
simultaneously seeking influence in the 'backyard'
is also part of being such a power. Without enduring
primacv in one's own neighbourhood, no country can
become a credible global power. This simple truth has
finally begun to be applied to foreign-policy making
in New Delhi - and hence the rise of the new Indian
emphasis on a "peaceful periphery". As Foreign
Secretary Menon told a group of Southasian
newspaper editors in February in New Delhi, India
needs a peaceful neighbourhood for its own interests:
"India needs a peaceful periphery if we are to achieve
our own goals for ourselves. It is in our self-interest to
work with the rest of Southasia." Much like China
during the 1980s, which posited that a peaceful
periphery was crucial for its new grand strategy,
India has recognised that creating a stable and
prosperous neighbourhood is the key to redefining
India's global role.
Central to the strategy of constructing a peaceful
periphery is the resolution of long-standing problems
with the neighbours. At the top of this list have been
Jammu & Kashmir and the boundary dispute with
China. For the first time in decades, India has
embarked on purposeful negotiations on both of these
issues. While there is no guarantee of diplomatic
success on either, there is no denying that considerable
progress has already been made on both fronts.
On the boundary dispute, Tndia and China have
agreed on a set of guiding principles for final
settlement, and are now focused on hammering out a
mutually acceptable territorial adjustment.
Meanwhile, all indications are that the back-channel
negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad have
acquired an unprecedented momentum in recent
months. Settlement of either of these disputes will lead
to a fundamental transformation of the security
environment in the Subcontinent. Above all, the very
attempt to negotiate these politically explosive issues
at home suggests that New Delhi is increasingly
ready to come to terms with a pragmatic definition of
its territoriality.
Over the last six decades, India has not worn its
incontestable regional primacy with ease. Its attempts
since Independence at developing a Monroe Doctrine
for the region, as well as its demands that the
neighbours respect its dominance, have not really
succeeded. Perhaps nothing exemplified New
Delhi's insularity more than its insistence on
maintaining outdated old treaty relationships with
Bhutan and Nepal.
The fact that India is now approaching its
relationships with Nepal and Bhutan with greater
realism is also a harbinger of shifts elsewhere. External
Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told an audience
in New Delhi in January: "India's commitment to
develop political relations with its Southasian
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 neighbours on the basis of sovereign equality and
mutual respect is underlined by our recent decision
to upgrade the 1949 Friendship Treaty with Bhutan,
and our willingness to review the 1950 treaty with
Nepal. Amidst the increasing globalisation of
Southasian economies and polities, there is no
question of India pursuing the outdated idea of an
exclusive sphere of influence. India's strong support
to the entry of China and Japan into the SAARC as
bservers underlines India's commitment to open
regionalism in the Subcontinent."
Security multilateralism
The new emphasis on the 'regional' in Indian foreign
policy is also being located in a full appreciation of
the 'global' in the Subcontinent's international
relations. Southasia is no longer the backwater of
global politics that in the past allowed India to deal
with its neighbours in an essentially bilateral
framework. In both the economic and security realms,
the new wave of globalisation has begun to transform
the region as a whole.
Just as India has benefited from globalisation, so
have the other economies in the region, and fast
growth today marks the entire Subcontinent. Amidst
historically unprecedented prospects for the
elimination of poverty in the Subcontinent, the
world's major economic actors are interested in the
Southasian market as a whole, even though india
may be a large part of that whole. Southasia's
economic ties with the rest of the world - especially
neighbouring regions such as the Persian Gulf,
Central Asia and Southeast Asia - have acquired a
strategic dimension. Amidst the rising economic
profile in Southasia of other powers, particularly that
of China, India can no longer treat regional economic
relationships as a mere summation of New Delhi's
bilateral ties.
The region's security situation has also become
increasingly globalised. Be it the sources of
international terrorism in the northwestern parts of
the region, the role of the Pakistani state in combating
al-Qaeda or the maintenance of nuclear stability
between India and Pakistan, Southasia affects the
world, which in turn impinges on the region in an
unprecedented manner. The internal conflicts in Sri
Lanka and Nepal have increasingly seen the
involvement of the international community - with
the involvement of Norway as well as other powers
in the former and a United Nations monitoring
mission in the latter. Such developments challenged
the traditional Indian policy of trying to keep the
major powers and third parties out of Southasia when
it came to security matters. Somewhat reluctantly,
India allowed the Norwegian mediation of the Sri
Lankan civil war in 2000. Since then it has worked
more actively with the US, the European Union and
the United Kingdom in overseeing the democratic
transition in Nepal.
There is a new recognition in New Delhi that
working with other powers, which share its interests,
would make it easier for India to manage the region's
security affairs. Letting other powers share the burden
of regional peace has by no means reduced India's
centrality in shaping the security outcomes in the
region. That certainly was the case in .Nepal's
democratic transformation. India may find it both
necessary and comfortable to move away from the
traditional impulses of either unilateralism or
bilateralism towards a leadership role in a new
form of security multilateralism. To be sure, Indian
attitudes towards China's role in Southasia
remain more complex, but New Delhi has found that
it can 'manage' Beijing: it found ways to keep Chinese
officials informed of its initiatives during the Nepal
crisis of 2005-06.
Economic unilateralism
India's economic dynamism since the early 1990s has
provided new opportunities for the country's
engagement with the rest of Asia. Yet New Delhi has
found difficulty in leveraging its new options within
Southasia. To be sure, amidst the new enthusiasm for
globalisation in the Subcontinent, the South Asian Free
Trade .<\rea (SAFTA) came into being in 2006. But in
terms of scope and ambition, SAFTA is pedestrian in
comparison to other regional free trade agreements.
Neither Islamabad, which has insisted that SAFTA
will not apply to its relations with New Delhi, nor a
sullen Dhaka is cheerful about regional free trade with
India. While its free trade with Sri Lanka has shown
positive results, India must take a considerable portion
of the blame for the lack of momentum in overall
regional economic integration.
Meanwhile, China has put its new economic clout
to good use by seeking to integrate crossborder regions
with its own economy, and creating new sources of
political influence. In contrast, India has persisted
with a protectionist policy that has been reluctant to
open its market to its neighbours. While China has
been willing to live with trade deficits with most of its
neighbours, India has trade surpluses with each of its
own. All these neighbours, meanwhile, continue to
complain bitterly about the trade barriers imposed by
New Delhi.
There are now signs of change in this sector as well.
Externa] Affairs Minister Mukherjee has
acknowledged the challenge of recrafting India's
economic policy towards its neighbours. Speaking to
a summit of SAARC editors in February, Mukherjee
said: "India is conscious that no Southasian nation
can succeed on its own. Globalisation and the advent
of modern technology have endowed us with options
that never existed before. We must create a stake for
every nation in the economic success of the other. As
we prepare to host the next SAARC Summit, India
Himal Southasian I March 2007
 With the US deeply divided at home over Iraq, and the other powers anticipating
significant changes in US foreign policy after the upcoming general elections, India is
conscious that further initiatives with the major powers must wait.
will take the initiative in accelerating regional
economic and political cooperation." The Delhi
SAARC Summit of 3-4 April could give clear signals
that New Delhi has finally come up with a
strategic approach to regional trade, one that
understands the importance of creating long-term
economic interdependence.
The signals emanating from New Delhi indicate
that that there is substantial political will to move the
Southasian region towards shared prosperity.
Demonstrating such will involves unilateral
initiatives to promote economic cooperation in sub-
regional, Southasia-wide and trans-regional
frameworks. A generous policy on offering better
market access to its immediate neighbours should
help New Delhi transform the commercial dynamics
in the region. India also needs to give up its traditional
opposition to financing regional trans-border projects
by such institutions as the Asian Development Bank.
Letting the Indian private sector take the initiative on
regional economic cooperation, reducing the salience
of government-to-government negotiations, lending
strong fiscal and other incentives for Indian private
direct investment in the neighbourhood, and building
a semi-autonomous development fund for the region
are some of the other moves that New Delhi is likely
to, and should, focus upon.
Transforming Southasian space
One of the many unfortunate consequences of
Partition has been the sundering of what, until then,
had been a single economic space. The political
splitting of the Subcontinent did not necessarily
demand an economic splitting of the region's market.
But thanks to long-standing conflict between India
and Pakistan, and inward-looking economic
policies in most Southasian countries, trade barriers
steadily became higher along the region's new
orders. Meanwhile, some of the old frontiers - such
as between India and Tibet - were shut
completely to commerce and people-to-people contact.
While some of India's borders - with Nepal and
Bhutan - remained open, New Delhi's approach to
the country's frontier regions increasingly acquired a
security orientation, to the detriment of the needs of
the people on the two sides of each of the frontiers. As
a consequence, many traditional transport corridors
wTere closed, and people in the frontier regions were
denied easy access to what were once intimate spaces.
It wTas not just crossborder connections that suffered.
The tensions with Pakistan and China also meant
that India allowed much of its own trade and transport
infrastructure to erode. In some areas, especially on
the Sino-Indian border, there was a conscious policy
not to develop the border regions. Even along the open
frontier with Nepal, India let the border infrastructure
largely disintegrate.
New Delhi eventually began to recognise that this
approach was no longer sustainable. The new
imperatives of trade liberalisation demanded a fresh
approach to national thinking on frontiers. India's
border states also began to mount pressure on New
Delhi to facilitate crossborder trade and contact, to
which the Indian national leadership responded by
at least beginning to talk about the importance of open
borders and liberal visa regimes. These political good-
intentions were not easy to translate, as new security
concerns about crossborder terrorism permeated the
Indian establishment.
Despite the emerging security concerns, New Delhi
has continued on the path towards a liberal frontier
regime. In the last few years, the Indian government
has taken decisions to upgrade border infrastructure
on all sides, enhancing crossborder connectivity as
well as upgrading links between the frontier regions
and the rest of the country. This involves not merely
building better and more-modern roads, but a
fundamental restructuring of the administrative
infrastructure relating to customs, trade facilitation
and visa procedures. Although India has opened up
some traditional trade routes - at Nathula, the road
between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, and the
Munabao-Khokrapar rail link between Rajasthan and
Sindh - there is considerable resistance within the
various layers of the national establishments towards
taking the new logic forward, on either promoting
crossborder trade or people-to-people contact. But at
least the foreign-policy establishment seems clear
on this one.
A more creative Indian policy towards the frontiers
must be premised on the historic opportunity that
awaits New Delhi today: the potential to overcome
many of the negative consequences of Partition. While
there is no reason or incentive for India to reverse the
political split of 1947, the new imperatives of
globalisation and regional integration now demand
that India conceive its borders as vibrant zones of
economic cooperation rather than lines of separation.
It is this changed context that allows Manmohan
Singh to dream of returning to the ways of his
forefathers on India's frontiers. If India initiates
and persists with a creative regional policy, that
dream could well become a reality in the
not-too-distant future. A
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 \<0?.7P■■■  ■'*' ■\'->:::t..:
India-Pakistan roadblocks to
regional peace
India-Pakistan peace will energise Southasia as a whole. However, mere liberalisation
of trade will not lead to bilateral normalcy. Its main benefits would accrue to India in
the medium term.
India's remarkable macro-economic turnaround
since the early 1990s has put it on the pat to global
recognition. Yet several incisive commentators
have noted in recent times that the country continues
to be held back from realising its true potential because
of unresolved political tensions with its neighbours,
especially with Pakistan, the second largest player in
the region. Indeed, India's relationship with Pakistan
has largely come to shape the geopolitics of the region
as a whole. Given the overbearing size of the two
economies and their military strengths, these two
countries alone largely dictate the extent of integration
possible within the region as a whole. It is therefore no
surprise that persistent hostilities between New Delhi
and Islamabad over nearly six decades have left
Southasia as economically one of the least integrated
regions across the globe.
That the future of the Southasian region largely
depends on the course India-Pakistan relations end
up taking is a given. The utmost importance being
accorded to the ongoing peace process is therefore
warranted; but there is also the suggestion that a
successful end to the peace bid would automatically
lead to complete 'normalisation' of relations. The two
'automatic' outcomes suggested are a move away from
high military expenditures and enhanced economic
ties, with the latter also providing ready means for
enhancing people-to-people contact.
This premise is incorrect. The peace
process will lead to no more than an
opening to continue on the path to
normalisation. Before the latter can
be achieved, two major concerns
will have to be addressed: the
ever-increasing disparity in
military balance vis-a-vis India,
and India's potential to flood
Pakistani markets economically
when trade ties are liberalised.
While both of these are long-term
Himal Southasian j March 2007
concerns, and their outcome could well decide whether
Pakistan and India manage to co-exist as peaceful
neighbours, by no means will they be direct results of
the peace process. A distinct, equally elaborate process
will have to be followed to achieve these ends.
Neighbour-specific militaries
Let us begin by considering the issue of disparity in
military strengths. In absolute terms, India's
conventional military spending and capability is
substantially greater than Pakistan's. Ignoring the
tactical elements of warfare, an objective macro
analysis of the two sides' military capabilities leaves
no doubt that India could overwhelm Pakistani
defences with little difficulty. The nuclear option then
acts as a. potent deterrent for Pakistani military
planners, to some extent thwarting the possibility of
Indian adventurism. Notwithstanding the liberal view
that the presence of nuclear weapons ought to lessen
the pressure for conventional military expenditure
(and that, if not, they should go), an outright emphasis
on nuclear weapons is virtually impossible - and
dangerous - given the geograplucal contiguity between
the two sides. In essence, Pakistan cannot divorce its
nuclear capability from the excessive disparity vis-avis India in the conventional realm.
But will the conventional military imbalance
 It is no surprise that persistent hostilities
between New Delhi and Islamabad over
nearly six decades have left Southasia as
economically one of the least integrated
regions across the globe.
decrease if the peace process delivers tangible progress
in terms of improved bilateral relations? Clearly not.
Consider that India today faces a 'vision-capability'
dilemma. India's national elite views the country as
deserving a global power status. Nonetheless, India's
present military capability by no means conforms to
that of a global power. That capability may qualify
India as a strong regional entity, but its might is not
remotely comparable to that of the US, Russia or even
China. The result has been an elite consensus to push
aggressively for a military modernisation plan.
With regard to the equation vis-a-vis Pakistan, what
this implies is that India will continue to upgrade on
an accelerated path, thus putting more pressure on
Islamabad to increase its own spending. The already
resource-constrained Pakistan is unlikely to keep pace
even in its quest to maintain a semblance of parity
within a clearly asymmetric relationship. This in turn
would imply that the military equation between india
and Pakistan could become just as lopsided as the
current military equations between India and its other
Southasian neighbours. While other regional countries
have come to terms with such disparity, there are
several factors that will not allow Islamabad to accept
this outcome, including India-Pakistan's history of
conflict and mutual suspicion, and Pakistan's
own vision of itself as a pivotal state within the
Muslim world.
Add to this the fact that, despite India's global
ambitions and its emphasis on tying its military
modernisation to a quest for 'global power' status,
much of its war-fighting machine remains Pakistan-
specific, Measures in recent years to enhance air
superiority and artillery capability, for example, are
targeted towards active fighting with Pakistan. India's
new war doctrine, 'Cold Start', is also highly Pakistan-
specific, and openly hints towards the possibility of
conducting surgical strikes within Pakistani territory.
Moreover, India's current military formations - for
example, the approximately 150 Prithvi missiles
deployed along the western border - could only be
used against Pakistan.
The initiative to translate progress during the
ongoing peace process into lasting peaceful coexistence will have to be taken by New Delhi. A
welcome start towards reassuring Islamabad would
be for India to move all of its Pakistan-specific military
arsenal and formations away from active deployment,
and shelve controversial plans such as Cold Start. A
complete dismantling of its Pakistan-specific
capability would be the ultimate objective.
For its part, Pakistan ought to reciprocate the Indian
initiative, first by moving its actively deployed arsenal
away from the eastern lines, and then by dismantling
part of its war-fighting machinery. (Pakistan would
still not be able to eliminate most of its capability, given
its largely India-centric outlook and its smaller size.)
Some prominent Indian academics, such as Bharat
Karnad, have already argued for the need to provide
Pakistan with increased confidence in Indian thinking,
by employing unilateral military concessions. Without
such a show of magnanimity from India, suspicions
in Islamabad on the strategic front cannot be expected
simply to disappear.
In fact, were India to continue on its modernisation
plan without altering its Pakistan-specific designs, the
end result could be a renewed arms race or a
further lowering of the nuclear threshold - both of
which would bode ill for stability in bilateral relations.
Again, this could take place despite progress in the
peace process.
Troubled interdependence
The second major issue is that of economic
interdependence between Pakistan and India.
Interestingly, economic interdependence in the
Southasian case is not being portrayed as merely a
means for economic gains. Rather, the contention is
premised on the liberal economic theory of
interdependence, which argues that economic
interdependence is likely to ameliorate bilateral
tensions. In the context of this discussion, then, this
would imply that enhanced trade ties would in turn
ensure peaceful co-existence. But is that really so?
The theory of economic interdependence in no way
suggests that peace will be an inevitable outcome of
enhancing trade. There are three prerequisites for this
theory to work. First, the trade volume has to cross an
unspecified 'critical' point. Second, trade in terms of
volume is not enough. Instead, production factors or
interaction that ensures integration of the two
economies, and thus increases inter-dependability, is
an imperative. Finally, both countries should be
viewing trade ties from the liberal perspective - ie,
focusing on the macro benefits of trade, rather than
narrowly on the relative gains between the two sides
(which is what the international-relations theory of
economic interdependence predicts countries would
do). The absence of even one of these conditions
would cause the economic interdependence-to-peacc
link to fail.
In the India-Pakistan context, the literature
overwhelmingly points to a huge trade potential
between the two sides, with estimates ranging from
USD 5-15 billion per annum, A supporting point often
presented to highlight potential is the enormous value
of informal trade, which is believed to be three to four
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 times that of formal trade. None of the studies, however,
has actually conducted a careful analysis to realise
the strong structural similarities in production patterns
and consumer preferences on both sides. In essence,
most analyses simply toe the popular line without
approaching the issue holistically. Only a handful of
relatively visionary undertakings confess that, while
gains are theoretically possible, they will not be
forthcoming unless production structures are altered,
and in some cases overhauled. Moreover, a recent
unpublished analysis of the potential for formal trade
(conducted by this writer) under the South Asia Free
Trade Agreement (SAFTA) suggests that trade volume
would be no greater than USD 3-4 billion.
The more important question, then, is whether this
volume is enough to cross the critical point. In large
part, this depends on the type of integration trade ties
allow for. Here again, the outlook is pessimistic, as
current patterns of trade would lead to primary or
manufactured goods being transferred from both sides,
but not necessarily integration of production - in the
sense that a single product is produced with inputs
from both the Pakistani and Indian industries.
The third condition for the economic-
interdependence theory - a balanced trade equation -
is also missing from the India-Pakistan context, since
the balance will likely be skewed in India's favour.
First, the list of items that could potentially be exported
to India is much smaller than the corresponding import
list. This implies that, in the near future, Indian exports
to Pakistan are likely to be significantly higher than
Pakistani exports to India. A good measure of this is
informal trade: very few Pakistani items are being
traded informally with India, compared to the huge
influx of smuggled Indian products.
Next, some of the sectors that could potentially
export products to India may only be able to do so in
the long run. This is because Pakistan's manufacturing
industry is set up to cater to small markets, and in
most sectors is functioning near full capacity - although
there are some important exceptions. Therefore, for
some time to come, Pakistan would be unable to utilise
its advantage in products in which it has a competitive
edge. To the contrary, Indian exports to Pakistan could
begin almost instantly. This implies a huge short-term
impact on some of Pakistan's less-competitive
industries. Notwithstanding vested interests, this is
the ultimate fear of those opposed to trading with India.
Another factor acting against the possibility of trade
is the high hidden barriers to trade and the domestic
subsidies that exist in India, which make certain
sectors artificially competitive. According to a study
by the International Monetary Fund, India's 'closeness
of economy' rating is extremely high, at eight out of
ten. A 2004 World Bank report also ranks India as one
of the ten most closed economies in the world. What
this means is that Pakistan as a less-closed economy
would be losing more in a liberalised trade regime,
unless correctives are put in place ab initio. A
comparison of the relative 'closeness' of the Pakistani
and Indian economies is provided by their non-tariff
measures-coverage ratios. In India's case, this ratio
is estimated at a staggering 72 percent for primary-
products and 59 percent for manufactured goods.
In comparison, Pakistan's ratios stand at seven and
17 percent for primary and manufactured
goods respectively-
Looking strictly at Southasia, where India's market
leverage is astronomically higher than that of any of
its neighbours, it is self-defeating for New Delhi to
maintain barriers to trade at such a level, since thev
naturally evoke reluctance on the part of the other
sides even to allow Indian imports. Consider that
although India accorded Pakistan most-favoured
nation status in 1995-96, Pakistan has not yet been
able to experience tangible gains in terms of exports,
even in commodities for which it has a comparative
advantage. This is largely due to hidden barriers on
the Indian side. (The only other reason could be tack
of exportable surplus in Pakistan, which
also undermines the contention about high
trade potential.)
In reality, issues of hidden barriers and domestic
subsidies are underpinned by deep structural
problems, and thus cannot be addressed immediately.
It is equally unrealistic to expect India to overhaul its
subsidy structure in the short term, given the political
ramifications. In the long term, however, India will
have to address these issues - if for no other
reason, due to increasing pressure from trading
partners whose access to the Indian market is
currently hampered.
On the trade front, the real possibility of a
breakthrough lies over the long run. Over time,
Pakistan could develop niches for certain products
in the Indian market and consequently increase its
export potential, something it is unlikely to be able to
do in the short term. Similarly, in the long run Pakistan
could increase its production capacity multi-fold, if
it is able to invest wisely in line with its created niches.
Finally, once India manages to lower its barriers,
Pakistani exports can be expected to gain from
increased market access, especially in the agriculture
sector where Indian competitiveness vis-a-vis
Pakistan, in large part, stems from domestic subsidies.
In short, the balance of trade mav become
comparable over time, a fact that would instil
confidence in Islamabad and perhaps allow trade to
surpass the threshold required for the liberal
theory of economic interdependence to be realised on
the ground. Whether economic interaction is
allowed to flow without any consequential gains in
terms of positive spin-offs for bilateral peace in the
interim, however, depends on how confident both
sides feel with the progress made during the
peace process. A
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The Indo-Bangla SAARC puzzle
The several long-running issues in the relationship between Bangladesh and India can
be resolved by acknowledging that bilateral relations have necessarily to be
supplanted by the regional and multilateral.
As would be expected, the conventional thinking
on Southasian inter-state relations is
predominantly bilateral in nature. As such,
readers should be unsurprised by the following
exchange, which took place on the floor of the Indian
Rajya Sabha on 17 February 2006, when two members
asked Manmohan Singh a three-part question:
(a) whether Indo-Bangladesh relations have
deteriorated recently;
(b) if so, the details thereof and the reasons
therefore; and
(c) what steps are being/have been taken to
improve our relationship with Bangladesh?
The prime minister's response is not available to
this writer, but it can be said with some confidence
that he did not say anything that would have
embarrassed his official position or that of the
government of Bangladesh. This became clear when
then-Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia visited India
a few weeks later - incidentally after a gap of over
seven years, during which time no Bangladeshi prime
minister came to Delhi. Nonetheless, the words that
Prime IVIinister Singh had for her and the public were
only the most laudatory: "Bangladesh is a country with
which we have intimate ties of friendship," he noted,
adding, "A peaceful, strong, prosperous and stable
Bangladesh is in India's interest. It is in the interest of
Southasia and all." Prime Minister Singh did not
hesitate to web the relationship between India and
Bangladesh within the framework of Southasia and
beyond. There are good reasons for this.
Two Issues are critical here. First, Bangladesh-India
relations are faced with a multitude of puzzles that
need to be responsibly addmssed, with or without
feelings of either friendship or animosity. Second,
regional and global scenarios have transformed
relations between the two countries in several key areas,
both for the better and the worse; this is where a sheer
bilateral perspective has come to be a handicap. Let us
look first at seven of the stickiest puzzles facing these
two countries.
Seven puzzles
Border fencing. At an estimated cost of INR 11,3 billion,
the Indian government has undertaken to fence off the
entire Indo-Bangladeshi border, a project stipulated to
end this month. This will include a combination of
actual border fencing (2409 km) and border roads (797
March 2007 1 Himal Southasian
 km). But with the fencing near completion, why has
India thus far failed to stop the flow of Indian goods
through informal routes, a smuggling trade that comes
to around USD 2 billion per year? A sub-puzzle may
be added here: Why spend INR 11.3 billion, when it
takes only ten rupees (the cost of a pair of scissors) to
cut through the barbed and concertina wire?
Enclaves. Between them, Bangladesh and India have
as many as 225 parcels of land that are geographically
located in the other country. Out of these, 119 are
'exchangeable' and 11 'non-exchangeable' Indian
enclaves in Baingladesh - this last referring to land
that may be legally Indian, but to which India lacks
even access. Bangladeshi enclaves in India total 95,
out of which 72 arc exchangeable and some 5129 acres
are non-exchangeable. In May 1974, both countries
agreed to exchange the enclaves, and to allow the
areas' inhabitants to decide whether to stay or move to
the parent country. While Bangladesh enacted
legislation to actualisc that agreement in November
1975, India has yet to do so three decades later.
Crossborder militaua/. India and Bangladesh each
periodically blame the other for harbouring insurgents
antagonistic to their national interests. India accuses
Bangladesh of allowing access to the United Liberation
Front of Asom (UI.FA) and the National Socialist
Council of Nagaland (NSCN), while Bangladesh
alleges India's role in harbouring the Shadhin
Bangabhumi Andolon (SBA) and United People's
Democratic Front (UPDF), as well as criminals or local
mastans wanted in Bangladesh. India currently claims
there are 119 anti-Indian insurgent camps inside
Bangladesh, while Bangladesh alleges the existence
of 39 in India.
Illegal immigration. In 1998, the West Bengal
government said that one million Bangladeshis were
living illegally in its territory; the Bharatiya Janata
Pairty then put that number at ten times that figure for
the whole of India. Samir Guha Roy, of the Indian
Statistical Institute in Calcutta, says both of these
estimates are "motivatedly exaggerated", and puts
down West Bengal's population problem to migrants
from neighbouring states of India. Regardless, there is
no doubt that the term 'illegal' in this situation is a
misnomer. There Cain be illegality only when there is
something legal. In the case of Bangladesh and India
(as well as Pakistan), legal migration is impossible
other than through the arduous process of marriage.
Indeed, in the absence of a 'legal migration regime' in
Southasia, migration has come to hold meaning only
in the sphere of illegality, and as such remains
vulnerable to the power of the non-state (ie, the 'dubious
and shadowy' elements), with the state becoming a
mere spectator. Only a 'legal migration regime' between
India aind Bangladesh could end this misnomer.
Anyone violating it could then be rightly called an
illegal migrant.
Goods transport. The territoriality of India and
Bangladesh and the legacy of Southasian politics have
made the transport of goods from the Northeast to the
rest of India (and the world) a laughably cumbersome
process. Assamese aind iripuran goods, for instance,
must currently travel 1400 and 1645 km respectively
to reach the Calcutta port, Ihis distance and
subsequent transport cost could be reduced drastically
if the Chittagong port were to be used instead, or if
goods were simply transported to Calcutta through
Bangladeshi territory. Why is Bangladesh not taking
charge of this issue - for instance, developing the
required infrastructure - and making ai reasonable if
not a hefty profit from it? Trans-shipment would
require some reciprocity, and the opening of the
Northeast market to Bangladeshi business would be
an obvious one.
Trade deficit. In 2005, India's official exports to
Bangladesh stood at LSD 2.1 billion, while its imports
from Bangladesh amounted to only USD 144.2 million
- a trade deficit of about USD 1.8 billion in New Delhi's
favour. At the same time, recent figures have shown
that China has replaced India as the largest exporter
to Bangladesh. This onlv indicates that Bangladesh's
trade deficit with China - which stood at USD 1.6
billion in 2004-2005 - is destined to become even larger,
surpassing even that with Inditi. If this is the case, why
is there so much fuss in Dhaka about Bangladesh's
deficit with India, with hardly any corresponding
furore regarding China? Is India's nationalist fervour
in the age of globalisation helping China to befriend
Bangladesh - and to further capture its markets? Trade
deficits, it seems, are a political issue, conveniently
expressed in the language ot economics.
Water rights. There was hope in Bangladesh that,
with the 1996 signing of the Farakka Agreement (which
stipulated that any Indian activity that may affect the
Ganga River would require Bangladesh's consent),
water disputes with India would come to an end. But
with the planned construction of the Tipaimukh Dam
on the Barak River in Manipur, there is now a creeping
fear that in order to assuage India's thirst for irrigation
and urban water, all of the 54 rivers that Bangladesh
shares with India will be niiide to dry up. Water
disputes have now returned to civil aind political
agendas with a vengeance in Dhaka. Added to this is
the idea of river-linking, mooted in India, which strikes
fear in Bangladesh. Although the grandiose project's
implementation is currently limited to South India, there
is no guarantee that the rivers in the north would not
follow once the southern linking is implemented.
Indeed, if India's conscience is to be found in the words
and deeds of activists such as Medha Patkar, Vandana
Shiva aind Arundhati Rov, then that crossborder 'water
war' has already begun.
Multiversity of globalisation^
With the persistence of and the dynamics between all
of  these  issues,   it   is   easier  to   understand   the
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 The response can never be national isolation or a hyper-reproduction of the
national-security state. Rather, for unlocking and resolving these puzzles, a greater
hope lies in the regionalisation of Bangladesh-India relations.
widespread worry of 'invisible hands' in Bangladesh
and Tndia that have vested interests in keeping alive
these puzzles and in creating new ones. Over the years,
theories have arisen that the CIA, ISI, RAW, DGFI,
South Block, Hawa Bhavan, the Jamaat, the Jewish
lobby, the RSS, the World Bank, fanatics,
fascists, communists (the list is unending) must
have had a hand in the deterioration of
Bangladesh-India relations.
But successfully unlocking these puzzles is
significantly more difficult. Falling back on conspiracy
theories would be to fix the contention to post-
Wcstphalian notions of bilateralism, while discarding
the quantum leap that has been made in the past three
decades in multilateral engagements between people,
communities and enterprises - nationally, regionally
and globally. Emerging regional and global scenarios
have added fresh munitions to these puzzles, and have
transformed Bangladesh-India relations both
positively and negatively.
Reforms and economic globalisation have had a
spectacular impact on India's economy, and India's
steadv integration into the global economy is inevitably
felt across the border in Bangladesh. There are currently
more than 100,000 Indians working in Bangladesh,
mostly in globalised ventures. Now that production
has become international along with trade, investment
and finance, the opportunity exists to engage in
creative economic ventures for both India and
Bangladesh without the prejudices of the post-
Wcstphalian or 'modernist' nation state. Take, for
instance, the French cement plant in Svlhet, on the
border of Bangladesh and Meghalaya: it uses limestone
transported by a conveyor belt from a quarry in
Meghalaya across the national border and to the plant.
But economic globalisation is only one of the versions
of globalisation. Two other versions - reverse and
subaltern - are equally critical.
Two good examples of 'reverse globalisation' are
Bollywood and what goes internationally in the name
of Indian cuisine. While the Southasian diaspora has
certainly played a role in reproducing these particular
examples, reverse globalisation has had its most
formidable impact with regard to religious discourses.
The post-national Southasian diaspora, particularly
in West Asia and coupled with the reality of global
anti-Muslim sentiments, has inevitably become
attracted to a puritan form of Islam - subsequently
helping to promote Wahhabism back home and thereby
adding to the power of fundamentalist forces. Similar
dynamics can be seen with the India Development
and Relief Fund, a US-based charity that has long
funded efforts to champion the cause of Hindutva
outside of India.
The third version of globalisation, that of the
'subaltern' or the dominated and marginalised, has
had both positive and negative variants. The former in
particular refers to the global networks that have been
set up to resist economic globalisation - the profusion
of activism on environmental, labour and human-
rights issues. But there is also a further subaltern
variant, very negative in nature. This refers to the
relationship between and amongst those 'dubious and
shadowy groups' - the smugglers of goods and people,
producers of illicit weapons, and the like. These
networks now go beyond nationality, ethnicity,
race and religion. It must also be noted that a
national resolution of regional or post-national
insecurity further empowers the dubious elements of
subaltern globalisation.
While the puzzles informing Bangladesh-India
relations have attained new dimensions due to these
various new forms of globalisation and multilateral
engagement, the response can never be national
isolation or a hyper-reproduction of the national-
security state. Rather, for unlocking and resolving these
puzzles, a greater hope lies in the regionalisation of
Bangladesh-India relations.
Indo-Bangla relations and SAARCisation
The UNESCO Constitution, echoing the words of an
anonymous poet, proclaims that "Since wars begin in
the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the
defences of peace must be constructed." If so, it must
be admitted that the puzzles informing Bangladesh-
India relations result from a precise mindset, and that
any resolution of these puzzles must be sought in first
changing that mindset - particularly that ingrained
in notions of bilateralism and mutual intolerance. And
what will come as a surprise to many is that
putting the India-Bangladesh relationship on
stable foundations requires looking beyond
Dhaka-New Delhi bilateralism to SAARC regionalism
or multilateralism.
A Southasian University could be a good starting
point, an idea to which Manmohan Singh committed
India during the last SAARC Summit. In fact, over the
past decade, a team of Southasian scholars have been
looking into this idea, exploring possible curricula and
organisational structure. Their conclusion is to have
issue-based faculties spread throughout the region,
which would provide an environment for post-
national discourses free from the constraints of the
reasoning of the state. Such an idea of a regional centre
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 of learning would ipso facto define the future terms of
Southasian relationships, including that of India-
Bangladesh. Preliminary technical meetings for such
a university are slated to take place in March.
A second idea is for a Southasian Mobile Museum.
When post-colonial India requested that the famous
Koh-i-noor diamond be returned, Pakistan also quickly
laid its own claim to the piece of rock, as did
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The British could only
enjoy this intra-regional bickering, and discarded the
claims as unworkable. The Koh-i-noor could easily be
brought back to Southasia after the creation of a
post-national mobile museum, where the diamond and
other artefacts transferred during the colonial era could
be brought back and displayed in each of the
Southasian countries on a rotating basis. Millions in
Southasia would line up to have a glimpse
at the things that had contributed so much to the
making of the Westphalian state - and to its
healthy demise.
Finally, a Southasian Library could also make a
difference in this exercise of de-puzzling the mind. The
modern age could not have come about without the
Bodleian library at Oxford, the first public library in
modern times. Similarly, a Southasian Library, with
thematic branches spread throughout the region, could
have a significant hand in connecting Southasians.
Regional scholarship would at once cease to suffer for
want of access to knowledge. In an age that has
transformed the dictum knowledge is power into power
is knowledge, one must be wary of the fact that 'borrowed
knowledge' is bound to produce 'borrowed power' or
'colonised minds'. Both India and Bangladesh must
wake up to this reality and make knowledge-
production a Southasia-wide exercise, if puzzles are
to be resolved and breakthroughs to be made in the
state of their relationship,
Puzzles are created by humans and can only be
resolved by humans. What is required above all is trust,
free from the 'realist psychoses' of fear and inferiority-
complexes. When it comes to Bangladesh-India
relations, the latter, mainly for reasons stemming from
1971, has an advantage over the former, due
particularly to its accumulation of good friends and
lobbies across the border. Bangladesh, on the other
hand, devoid of any such experience of helping India,
remains largely without a crossborder lobby. The
failure to cultivate time-tested friends in India
lies squarely with the Dhaka government and
the Bangladesh elites. But it must be added that civil-
society groups, too, have had limited success on
this front. There is, however, some hope to be found
among Indians who have lived and served in
Bangladesh, including the 100,000 or more who today-
function as professionals within the Bangladeshi
economy. Ultimately, by reaching across multiple
borders, that number can be dramatically increased
in all directions. A
International Consultant, NHDR
Location: Kabul, Afghanistan
[■■lyi      Closing date: 05 Mar 2007
Hill?I      VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT  No.2007/02/037
Project  Title:
Capacity Building for Human Development Teach-ng. Research, and Policy
Advocacy through the Centre for Policy and Human Development (CPHD) at Kabul
This Terms of Reference iTdRj specifies the tasks of a short-term Consultant
needed to assist the United Nations Development Program's Naticnal Human
Development Report Project (NHDR;.
Afghanistan's first National Human Development Report, Security with a Human
Face, initiated in 2003 by the Government of Afghanistan and UNDP was launched
on 21st February 2005 in Kabul. Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and
Development Haneef Atmar and Associate Administrator of the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP) Zepherin Diabre. and other senior diplomatic
representatives and senior govt, officials were present. The second phase of this
project started recently and culminated into establishment of the Center for
Policy and Human Development at Kabul University.
As foreseen n the project work plan, an international human development
consultant is needed to provide support to NHDR authors and the project team
in the following areas:
Tasks &. Expected Outputs:
Under the overall guidance of the UNDP senior Management, suppod by NHDR
focal point, and supervision of the project coordinator the consultant wiN be
responsible forthe following tasks:
■Review the concept document report outline, draft chapters, tables, annexes
and test boxes and provide feedback for revisions, both substantively and
•Train authors in HDR specific peer review' process, writ ing style, packaging
• Review summaries of the background and thematic papers for inclusion in
the main text
•Facilitate a two day workshop with key stakeholders to review content and
generate ideas for enrichmg existing text.
For the period of the contract, the Consultant wi?l provide written feedback/
comment on the following:
1. Report Outline
2. Chapters
3. Overall process
4. Training of authors in key concepts, writing style, review process etc.
Generally, the candidate should have experience in research and writing rn an
area related to Human Development in Afghanistan as well as proven capacity
lo conduct substantive research projects (Rule of Law' related experience-
expertise a definite asset). In particular, the candidate should have the following
"An advanced University Degree equivalent to Masters in economics or any of
the social sciences.
"A minimum of seven to ten years of academic and research experience.
•Knowledge of Human Development - former experience with National Human
Development Report (NHDR) will be considered a strong asset.
•Good knowledge of the development situation of Afghanistan.
"Strong drafting skills and ability to meet tight deadlines.
•Strong team building and leadership skills.
"Highly organized and self-motivated.
'Strong intercultural communication skills
Vacancies  Contact:
Please send a one-page cover letter explaining your interest and suitability for
the post, a UN Personal History Form (Pll). your latest RCA (For UNDP contract
holders) or an official performance evaluation report for all staff and non staff
ofthe UN system.
Interested International candidates should submit their application in writing
(marked "Confidential", clearly indicating on the sealed envelope the Vacancy
Announcement Number) to ttie Human Resources Officer of UNDP at Shah
Mahmood Ghazi Watt Street, Kabul. Afghanistan or email their application
(indicating on the subject line the VA number and the title ofthe position) to
For further information on UNDP, please visit our website
Only short-listed candidates will be contacted for test and interview
Interna! Candidates are eligible to apply only if they have completed full
tenure of their current agreement
Himal Southasian I March 2007
A win-win FTA
Despite worries that the smaller country
would get swamped, the India-Sri Lanka
free trade agreement has been positive
for both sides.
In contrast to the sometimes difficult political relations
between India and Sri Lanka, economic ties between
the two have expanded impressively in recent years.
Despite a number of problems, the Indo-Lanka free trade
agreement, which came into effect in 2000, has become
a model of economic cooperation - one that has benefited
the smaller partner relatively more than the larger one.
India's political relations with its southern neighbour
have had their share of difficulties. Colombo has
occasionally accused New Delhi of turning a blind eye to
the overt and covert material and moral support given to
the LTTE by supporters of their separatist militancy in Tamil
Nadu. Indian fishermen have been frequently arrested
for fishing in Sri Lankan waters. There are also outstanding
issues relating to the settlement of Sri Lankan refugees
in Tamil Nadu, and the granting of citizenship to Tamil-
speaking people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka.
On the economic front, however, Indo-Lankan relations
have increasingly been on an even keel. The bilateral trade
and investment links have deepened and widened
considerably over the last seven years, despite areas of
contention and dispute. The signing of the bilateral free
trade agreement (FTA) marked a turning point in economic
relations between the two countries. The FTA is considered
to be a shining example of economic cooperation in Asia:
while it has helped both countries expand trade, as
suggested above, Sri Lanka has gained disproportionately.
This is arguably the most noteworthy aspect of the FTA.
although there have been surges in the import and export
of certain items that have disrupted industries - and
jobs - in both countries.
For the first time in a decade. Sri Lanka's exports to
India dropped in 2006 - from SLR 56.2 billion in 2005 to
SLR 50.9 billion in 2006 - primarily due to problems with
exports three commodities that can be imported dutyfree under the FTA: copper, pepper and vanaspati, a
cooking medium made from vegetable oil. India's exports
to Sri Lanka, on the other hand, went from SLR 145.6
billion to SLR 187.6 billion during this period.
India and Sri Lanka have historically had close
economic ties, and during colonial rule the production
structures of both countries were subservient to British
interests. But while India started opening its economy to
the world during the late 1980s, this process began in Sn
Lanka much earlier. In 1977. the Sri Lankan rupee was
unified and subjected to a 'managed float', which was
followed by privatisation and deregulation of various
sectors of the economy. Unlike India's, international trade
accounts for a substantial segment of Sri Lanka's
economy. Foreign trade as a proportion of gross domestic
product is barely one-fifth in India, against three-fourths
in Sri Lanka.
From the late 1960s until the end of the 1990s, there
were a number of inter-government joint committees and
commissions to facilitate trade, investment and technical
cooperation between India and Sn Lanka. Since the free
trade agreement was signed in 1998, it has largely
received the support of the political classes in both
countries, even after the national governments of both
countries were subsequently voted out of power.
Total trade volume
Whereas the bargaining process to finalise the 'negative
lists' - that is, those items that would be excluded from
the free trade agreement - was supposed to last only two
months, the process ultimately took much longer, and
the FTA did not become operational for an additional 14
months after the signing in December 1998. During this
period, fears were expressed that the Sri Lankan economy
might be swamped by exports from India. In particular,
Colombo appeared reluctant to give up revenues that
accrued from imports of automobiles. As far as India was
concerned, there were apprehensions that 'cheap' tea
from Sri Lanka would ruin the fortunes of tea plantations,
especially those in South India, and similar fears were
raised about the fate of garment manufacturers.
Eventually, tariff rate quotas were imposed on trade in
tea and garments, meaning that duty concessions were
allowed on trade in these two items subject to quotas.
Rules of origin were also specified that were broadly aimed
at encouraging the two countries to source raw materials
needed for exports from each other, rather than from third
countries, Colombo agreed to increase the margin of
preference' for bulk imports of cement from India, and
New Delhi agreed to offer more ports of entry for Sri
Lankan tea and garments.
India, which was mainly exporting agricultural items to
Sri Lanka until the late 1980s, is currently a major supplier
of industrial goods and services. Sri Lanka's main imports
from India include machinery, cotton yarn, fabrics and
certain garments, primary and semi-finished iron and
steel, sugar, wheat, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals,
cement, and paper and wood products. India's principle
imports from Sri Lanka are non-ferrous metals (mainly
copper), spices (mainly pepper), refined vegetable oil.
electronic goods, electrical machinery, scrap metal, paper
pulp and chemicals.
For India, Sri Lanka is a relatively small market,
accounting for roughly two percent of total exports and
less than one percent of total imports. In 1998, India was
ranked 21st for Sri Lankan exports. By 2000, however,
this ranking climbed to 16th, then to 4th by 2004 and
3rd the year after, preceded only by the US and UK. After
the implementation of the Indo-Lankan FTA, Sri Lanka's
imports from India have stabilised at around 15 percent
of total imports. India is now the largest source of imports
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 for Sri Lanka, followed by Singapore. Hong Kong and Iran.
The most impressive outcome of the free trade
agreement has been the sharp rise in the total volume of
trade. Total bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka
had been more or less stagnant at around USD 500 million
a year during the latter half of the 1990s. This figure
doubled to USD 1 billion by 2002. and nearly doubled
again to almost USD 2 billion by 2005. Close to 90 percent
of Sri Lanka's exports to India and roughly 45 percent of
India's exports to Sri Lanka are covered by the FTA.
India's exports to Sri Lanka rose from INR 22.6 billion
in 1999 (before the FTA) to INR 59.5 billion in 2004 - an
annual increase of 40 percent. Imports, meanwhile, rose
from INR 2.2 billion to INR 16.8 billion - nearly 170
percent per year. Thus, in this five-year period, India's
exports to Sri Lanka doubled, while imports from Sri Lanka
went upfivefold. The dramatic manner in which the pattern
of trade between the two countries changed is evident
from the fact that the trade balance in
India's favour declined from 15:1 in 1998 to 3.5:1 in
2004 (see Table I).
Tea and vanaspati
Despite the overall gains that accrued from the Indo-
Lankan free trade agreement, problems cropped up with
respect to trade in specific items. There was a spurt in
exports of cement from India to Sri Lanka from INR 692
million in 2000-01 to INR 1.3 billion in 2003-04 - a
■ -b of more than 80 percent. The Indian market has
also been flooded with copper, pepper and vanaspati
(see Table 2).
At present, more than half of Sri Lanka's exports to
India is copper and copper products, Copper imports have
risen from nil to INR 4.8 billion in 2005-06, and Sri Lanka
now has more than an 80 percent share in India's total
copper imports. Imports of pepper have gone up almost
threefold, from INR 160.5 million in 2000-01 to INR 445.6
million in 2005-06, increasing Sri Lanka's stake in India's
pepper imports from 26 to 37 percent.
Contrary to initial expectations, exports of tea and
garments have not surged, with imports of both of these
items still less than five percent of the quotas specified in
the FTA. In fact, Sri Lanka's tea exports to India have come
down, from INR 87 million in 1999-2000 to INR 38.9
million in 2005-06. In a development that caught nearly
all involved off guard, Sri Lanka's share oftotaltea imports
by India crashed from 34 percent to barely 3.7 percent
during this period.
The most contentious issue plaguing the FTA has been
exports of vanaspati from Sri Lanka to India. Since Sri
Lanka does not levy any customs duty on imported palm
oil used in the manufacture of vanaspati or other products,
following the implementation of the FTA ten
manufacturing units were set up in Sri Lanka (with an
investment of around USD 100 million), specifically to
export these items to India at low prices. Interestingly,
most of these units were set up by Indian businessmen.
Exports of vanaspati went up from 80,000 tonnes in 2002
to 165,000 tonnes in 2005 - by which time Sri Lankan
vanaspati was accounting for around one-sixth of India's
total annual vanaspati market. In value terms, vanaspati
exports from Sri Lanka to India rose from INR 120.000 to
INR 6.6 billion between 2001 and 2006, and Sn Lanka's
share in total imports of vanaspati by India jumped from
nil to 63 percent during the same timeframe.
In June 2006, New Delhi decided to restrict Sri Lankan
vanaspati by canalling all imports through the National
Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation. The ten
vanaspati units in Sri Lanka subsequently shut down
operations, with the owners complaining about New
Delhi's "unilateral" decision to raise this non-tariff barrier
in "violation of the spirit ofthe FTA". The FTA specifies that
up to a limit of 250.000 tonnes of vanaspati can be
exported from Sri Lanka to India, although only 100,000
tonnes had actually been shipped in at that point. While
the Commerce Ministry in New Delhi contends that this
quantity is adequate to ensure capacity utilisation,
vanaspati manufacturers in Sri Lanka claim the quota
can be finished in six months. After initial resistance,
Sri Lanka agreed to cap exports of vanaspati and bakery
shortening to 200.000 tonnes a year in late 2006.
Duty-free imports of high-quality black pepper from Sri
Lanka was also resisted by farmers in Kerala and
Kamataka, resulting in an imposition of an annual limit of
2200 tonnes of pepper imports by India from Sri
Lanka. Copper exports from Sri Lanka to India have also
been controversial, since businesspersons have imported
copper scrap to Sri Lanka without paying any import duty,
and then melted and re-shaped this into ingots for sale
to users in India, Sri Lanka has no copper mines of its
own, and there have been allegations that these smelters
violated the rules of origin in the FTA by not adhering to
the stipulated value addition norms of around 35
percent. Twenty secondary copper smelters were set up
in Sri Lanka by Indian businesspersons after the FTA. After
India slashed importduties on copper scrap in 2006, most
of these smelters became unviable and had to shutdown.
Imports of copper items by India from Sri Lanka
subsequently jumped from less than USD 2 million in
2000-01 to nearly USD 19 million in 2002-03 and USD
82 million in 2003-04.
The other major problem that remains pending is a
subsidy claim of INR 7 billion made by Lanka IOC Ltd, the
Sri Lankan affiliate ofthe Indian government-owned Indian
Oil Corporation, one of India's largest public-sector
Table 1:
Sri Lanka's trade with India, before and after the FTA
Year      Imports Exports Import/Export
(SLR/million)       (SLR/million) Ratio
1998    35,522.9 2279.4 15.0:1
2000 45,477.1 4217.3 11.0 : 1
2001 53,750.0 6265.7 8.6:1
2002 79,847.1 16,152.9 4.9 : 1
2003 103,871.7 23,275.1 4.5 : 1
2004 137.403.9 39,004.4 3.5 : 1
Source: Sri Lanka Customs
Himal Southasian I March 2007
 corporations. The claim made by Lanka IOC - which by
now controls roughly one-third of retail sales of petroleum
products in Sri Lanka - is being disputed by Colombo,
and no solution appears to be in sight. Sri Lankan
Commerce Minister Jeyraj Fernandopulle has also voiced
complaints from his country's exporters about local taxes
that have been imposed by the Tamil Nadu government,
as well as about corruption among Indian customs
officials. Meanwhile India's High Commissioner to Sri
Lanka, Nirupama Rao, has publicly expressed the hope
that the quality of Indian investments in Sri Lanka would
improve so as to help create more jobs.
Comprehensive partnership
Despite the glitches, there is much to be applauded in
the newly articulated economic relations between India
and Sri Lanka, as evident in the signing and
implementation of the FTA. India became the
largest foreign direct investor in Sri Lanka in both 2003
and 2004, with investments of around USD 200 million;
currently it is in fourth place after Singapore, the UK and
Table 2: India's imports from Sri Ls
nka (selected items)
(INR, million)
Sri Lanka
Total Imports
% Share
(INR, million)
Sri Lanka
Total Imports
% Share
(INR, million)
Sri Lanka
Total Imports
% Share           0.0
Vegetable Oil/Vanasp
(INR, million)
Sri Lanka
Total Imports
% Share
Source: Indian   Ministry of Commerce
Australia. Major Indian investments in Sri Lanka
include a 300-megawatt power plant; while India's Oil &
Natural Gas Corporation, Ministry of Railways and the
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation are also looking at
possible collaborative ventures, India is also engaged in
building hospitals and educational institutions in Sri
Lanka. The investments by Sri Lankan businesses in India
are relatively smaller, but have taken place in units
producing biscuits, apparel, pre-fabricated furniture and
stainless steel.
It is argued that India could reap re-export benefits
through Sri Lanka, which has been granted "GSP
plus" -GSP stands for generalised scheme of preferences
- status by the European Union, thereby enabling it to
export at relativeiy low duty rates. Further, the 2005 free
trade agreement between Pakistan and Sri Lanka
could help the latter position itself as a conduit for a
significant amount of India-Pakistan trade that
currently gets surreptitiously diverted through Dubai
and Singapore.
By mid-2007, India and Sri Lanka hope to sign a
comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA)
that would incorporate existing bilateral agreements on
avoidance of double taxation and investment protection,
besides cooperation in air services, tourism,
small enterprises, space, information technology
and agriculture. In addition, the proposed CEPA would
expand the scope ofthe FTA and include in its purview
investments and trade in services. Towards this end,
the    trade    and    investments    baskets    clearly
need to be diversified.
Automotive components
and pharmaceuticals are
two areas offering
investment opportunities
for Indian firms in Sri Lanka.
Overall trade could also
pick up through introduction of new ferry
services between Tuticorin
and Colombo.
Referring to the India-Sri
Lanka FTA, the economist-
Prime Minister of India,
Manmohan Singh, has said
that "smaller and poorer
countries benefit more
from RTAs [regional trade
agreements] as their trade
becomes more balanced."
At a time when multilateral
trade negotiations at the
World Trade Organisation
are stuck - primarily on
account of deep divisions
between the US and Europe
on the one hand and
developing countries on the
other, over the issue of
reduction in agricultural subsidies - it is not surprising
that more RTAs are becoming operational.
In South and Southeast Asia, free trade agreements
are slowly but surely becoming more popular, despite
making halting progress on account of individual
governments remaining protectionist. The case ofthe
India-Sri Lanka FTA indicates that such agreements could
result in the creation of more opportunities, rather than
more threats. A
March 2007 j Himal Southasian
The Bagmati's final sealing
The middle section of the Bagmati River in Bihar is too unstable for embanking, but
the Patna government is attempting to push through an INR 8 billion
project to do just that.
he Bagmati River runs down from the Himalayan
midhills surrounding Kathmandu Valley, entering
India at the Sitamarhi Distnct of Bihar. In
Khagaria District, the river joins up with the Kosi River
near Badla Ghat. The Bagmati's total catchment area of
nearly 13,300 sq km is divided roughly evenly between
India and Nepal, and its basin is among the world's
most fertile regions, mainly due to the significant
amount of silt carried by the river. The slope of the
ground through which the river moves flattens out
almost entirely once it enters the Gangetic plains,
where the river's heavy silt load causes the
Bagmati to meander.
South of the border, hydralogists divide the flow of
the Bagmati into three distinct segments, each around
90 km in length. The lower reaches, although prone to
overflow, are considered to be relatively stable, and
hence were embanked during the mid-1950s in an
attempt to solve the flood problems in that area. At that
. Patna
Himal Southasian I March 2007
time, the upper and middle segments were left alone,
with officials saying that it was unwise to embank the
unstable portions of the river.
Yet even while this conclusion was being drawn, one
ofthe most unstable rivers in the country, the much
larger Kosi, was being embanked just to the east - a
decision that drew wide acclaim from the local
communities. To the west of the Bagmati, an ambitious
irrigation project on the Gandak River was launched at
the initiative of India's first president, Rajendra Prasad.
Sandwiched between these massive projects,
community leaders in the Bagmati basin had little to
boast about. Thus they came under compulsion to
demand an embankment project of their own. Local
farmers were opposed to any such move, warning that
their productivity would suffer if their lands were
deprived of the yearly addition of fertile sift that came
along with the floods. They also noted that the
inconvenience posed by the monsoonal floods was
relatively modest, with the inundations never lasting for
longer than two or three days at a stretch.
Such protests fell on deaf ears, amidst politicians
and bureaucrats who knew only the logic of man-made
'training' of rivers. By 1965, official efforts had begun to
tame the Bagmati in its upper stretches, including a
proposal to build embankments at an estimated cost
of INR 31.7 million. Over the next two decades this
estimate was revised upwards several times, ultimately
to around INR 604.8 million by 1981. Despite local
resistance, roughly 85 km of embankments were
constructed during the 1975-77 State of Emergency
under Indira Gandhi, from Dheng (near the Indo-Nepali
border) to Runni Saidpur.
Even after this work was completed on a third of the
Bagmati's flow in Bihar, the middle 90 km of the river,
between Runni Saidpur and Hayaghat, was still rated as
too unstable for any similar construction. As a result,
that middle reach - which passes through the localities
of Aurai, Katra and Gai Ghat - continues to take a large,
 Embankments are political and technological quick-fixes, which have disastrous
societal and environmental consequences.
yearly toll on life and property. During the monsoon,
floodwater that flows out onto the surrounding land
through breaches in the embankments in the upper
reaches tries to re-enter the river in its un-embanked
middle stretch, even as the water in that middle
section attempts to spill into the countryside. This
results in chaos, as nobody can determine from
which side to expect the floodwater and its
accompanying sediments.
That may now be changing. Last November, the
Patna government sent a proposal to New Delhi for the
embankment of this middle section - at a cost of INR
7.9 billion - along with the strengthening and raising of
the existing embankments throughout the river's
course in Bihar. The proposal brought up several urgent
issues, each of which needs to be addressed before
any embankment work can begin. First, the
government and various experts have regularly argued
over the past several decades that the middle reach of
the Bagmati was too unstable to allow for embanking.
Has the river stabilised itself over the past 30 years?
Given that such a dynamic is a hydro-geological process
that would normally take thousands of years, this is
highly unlikely.
Banking on embankments
Farmers welcome floods because silt contained in
floodwaters provides the fields with an annual
supplement of nutrients. Embanking rivers causes that
silt to be trapped within the embankments, both
depriving farmers of its benefits and causing the level
of the riverbed to rise, While engineers must then keep
raising the embankments in order to keep pace with
the rising bed of the river, there is also a limit to which
embankments can be raised and maintained. Will
embanking the entire length of the river do away with
this problem? Will it prevent seepage through the
embankments into the surrounding land? These are
issues planners in Patna must think about.
There is also the question of whether the reinforced
embankments could ultimately prove more effective in
preventing rainwater from entering the river, thereby
worsening the current waterlogging of the surrounding
land. Such conditions already exist in the embanked
lower and upper reaches of the Bagmati. Furthermore,
in addition to the nutritive aspect, the spreading of silt
during floods is a process by which rivers perform the
task of land-building. Embankments and other
structural measures do nothing to route the silt. If a
dam is built to contain floods, its reservoir becomes
filled over time. If a ring bund were to be built around a
settlement, the deposition of silt subsequently
takes place outside of it, exposing the so-called
protected area to the dangers of breaching - greater
dangers than those posed by floods from an un-
embanked river.
When a free-flowing river crests its banks during the
rainy season, only the top section of the river, rich in
micro-nutrients, spills into the surrounding lands. When
breaches exist in embankments built along a river,
however, a significantly larger cross-section of the
river's flow is allowed to run out of the man-made
bounds. This results in the spreading of coarse sand,
often rendering the surrounding area into a veritable
desert. As has been seen along other parts of the
Bagmati, nobody takes responsibility for such
eventualities, or for the subsequent loss of livelihood
for local farmers. Can raising and strengthening the
embankments reverse these conditions? Can officials
give assurances that the new and reinforced
embankments will not breach?
The Water Resources Department in Patna has thus
far maintained that the ultimate solution for the
basin's flooding problem is in the construction of a
dam at Nunthar in Nepal, and has long postponed
intervention in that hope. An expert-committee report
by the Patna government in May 2006 not only found
almost no likelihood of a dam being built at Nunthar in
the near future, but more importantly that such a dam
would not be able to hold back flooding. Finally, with
the much-hyped river-linking proposals floated during
the time of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in
New Delhi, focusing on irrigation rather than on
flood control, a new approach is clearly needed for
the communities of the middle reaches of the
Bagmati basin.
No assurance
As things currently stand, it is unclear even whether the
government would compensate those farmers whose
lands will become waterlogged or sand-filled due to the
new embankments. While the proposed infrastructure
would inevitably displace many families, the Water
Resources Department has not disclosed any
rehabilitation plan. This mirrors the situation when the
government began embanking the Bagmati in the
1950s, when no provision was made for any
rehabilitation or compensation of displaced families.
The government's policies did improve somewhat
during the second phase of embankment, along the
upper reaches of the river. But although farmers were
given some compensation, much of the compensation
amount had already been spent in getting the claims in
the first place. Furthermore, while those who had been
displaced were given tracts of land, the plot
boundaries were often not marked, as a result of
which much of these lands fell into the hands of local
toughs. No grant was given for the construction of new
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 houses, nor was any land allotted to those whose
agricultural plots were trapped within the
embankments. Indeed, many ofthe displaced families
are today still living on the embankments, risking
eviction at any time. No assurance has been given that
such oversights will not be repeated this time around.
According to a notification by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests in September 2006, any
project that is likely to adversely affect the environment
must receive the ministry's clearance before
construction can begin. This notification also ensures
that people likely to be affected by the project are given
.-.formation about possible impacts beforehand, and
that their concerns and suggestions are recorded in
public hearings, No such move has yet begun in the
middle reaches of the Bagmati.
The amount being proposed for the final Bagmati
embanking - nearly eight billion rupees - is an
enormous sum, and cannot be wasted on a project with
uncertain, and even potentially harmful, results. The
last government in Patna, led by the Rashtriya Janata
Dal (RJD), did not take up any work on flood control
along the Bagmati beyond irregular maintenance. The
current proposal thus points to a major shift in official
policy towards the state's rivers. This may be because
the new government wants to be seen as doing
something for the benefit of people affected by
monsoonal flooding - which was also why the decision
was made to embank the dynamic Kosi River during the
late 1950s, going against a century-old debate that
favoured leaving that river alone. At that time, the
government had wanted to prove that it could make its
own decisions and create infrastructure denied them by
the British. But why does the Patna government want to
do something as ill-advised in 2007? Before any action
is taken, this policy shift needs to be clearly ascertained
as being for the common good of Bihar's people.
Embankments are political and technological quick-
fixes, which have disastrous societal and
environmental consequences. Due to the silt-laden
nature of Himalayan rivers, they also create enormous
problems for future generations, who will have to take
up the challenge of dismantling embankments. A
sizable population in the upper reaches ofthe river is
opposed to embankments there, and advocates
systematic demolition of the same and leaving the river
to its own devices. Those sentiments are shared by
many living in the middle portion as well, who are
organising themselves to resist the proposed new
construction. Given the presence of embankments in
the upper and lower Bagmati, it is true that the
community along the middle stretch between Runni
Saidpur and Hayaghat is in double jeopardy - the
regular floods and the problems emanating from the
upstream embankments. And yet, the answer does not
lie in embanking this portion as well. £
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Himal Southasian I March 2007
Rocks under the tide of
As Nepal's transition back to peace and democracy
turns turbulent, there are lessons to be learned from
others' experience in the neighbourhood.
For outside observers, the
picture currently emerging
from Nepal seems rather
depressing: the continuing ill-
health of 85-year-old Prime
Minister Girija Prasad Koirala; the
reluctance of the Nepali Congress
and the Nepali Congress
(Democratic) to unite; the 'ethnic'
demands being raised by the
Madhesis, janajatis and other
communities; the mistrust about the
real intentions of the Maoists -
inspired partly by the US lobby,
partly by the behaviour of the
Maoist cadres themselves, and
partly by the general deterioration
of law and order in Kathmandu
and the rest of the country. Indeed,
the Nepali state today is
experiencing crises from all sides,
Similar growing pains have been
felt elsewhere in Southasia during
the process of nation-building.
India and Pakistan started their
independent journey  with  the
mighty troubles of settling
hundreds of thousands of refugees,
dousing the fires of communal
frenzy and building up their
economies and societies, Burma
was simultaneously facing similar
challenges. With the advent of
freedom in these countries and the
surfacing of new crises, one scholar
memorably noted that, after the tide
of nationalism had ebbed, all the
rocks that had been hidden within
it were emerging into view.
Indeed, before long the Indian
state was dealing with several other
problems. Separatist demands were
made by the Tamil, Sikh, Naga
communities and others. Rulers of
the princely states of Hyderabad,
Junagarh, Jodhpur and Gwalior
initially refused to accede to the
Union, until confronted bv the firm
hands of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Meanwhile, the Jammu & Kashmir
problem remains, even after India
and Pakistan have fought
three wars and the limited conflict
in Kargil.
Gandhi's guidance
The ongoing case of Nepal is no
different, and the current dynamics
must be understood against the
experiences of the country's
neighbours. Refusal to be
overwhelmed by a succession of
crises, along with a determination
to resolve them with fortitude and
insight - these are the hallmarks of
statesmanship, which leaders in
India displayed in those early years.
Leaders in Pakistan and, later,
Bangladesh, were unable to do so,
and as a result, the people
subsequently had to undergo long
periods of authoritarian rule.
Nepal's leadership has
conducted itself remarkably during
the last two vears of tumultuous
changes. In April 2006, peaceful
popular revolt brought the
surrender of the monarch's
absolute authority. Democratic
political parties came to an
agreement under the guidance of
the country's tallest leader, Prime
Minister Koirala. The Maoists, who
had waged a decade-long armed
insurgency, were brought into a
continuous dialogue, leading to
their eventual agreement to give up
arms and renounce violence. The
challenge posed by the Madhesi
movement was met by the
government's agreement to
restructure the polity along federal
lines. If a general consensus can
now be achieved to redraw the map
into linguistic-cultural regional
entities, the aspirations of several
other groups will also be met. This
is the process that has taken place
in India, and could offer crucial
resolution to Pakistan as well.
The Nepali leadership, which
has grappled with such enormous
challenges, will not be fazed or
overawed by the crises that the
country currently faces. The two
important tasks at hand now are
the adoption of the constitution
through the Constituent Assembly,
and, prior to that, the redrawing of
electoral districts. Now that the
process of the surrendering of arms
by the Maoists is coming to an end,
the induction of the former rebels
into the Council of Ministers is the
first charge, But as it moves in that
direction, the government will have
to deal wisely and firmly with the
sectional violence in the Tarai,
which could also lead dangerously
to counter-violence in the
Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere
in the hills. Committed cadres of the
various communist parties could
certainly play a positive role in
spreading the message of pluralism
and territorial fellowship. Rut the
main test is for the democratic
parties - particularly the two
groups of the Nepali Congress,
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 which have been trained in the
ideals of democratic socialism - to
take the lead.
It is a common experience of all
democracies that, when power is
finally attained, those who have
struggled and sacrificed for it want
to find places for themselves in the
new space. Old values inevitably
recede into the background. The
peculiar problem currently faced by
iNepai's Maoist leaders, Pushpa
Kamal Dahal (aka 'Prachanda')
and Baburam Bhattarai, is the
economic rehabilitation of their
Ccidres, who - except for those to be
absorbed into the armed forces -
have no ostensible means of
livelihood. The leaders of the
democratic parties also have
to ensure the economic security of
their workers.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
spelled out a vision for such
situations, even though the party he
led for a quarter-century eventually
rejected it. It may serve iNepai's
political class to study Gandhi's
vision as a means of tiding over
immediate challenges, even while
accepting the efficacy of that vision
for the long-term construction of
what is widely being termed a 'iNew
Nepal'. Gandhi called for the
rebuilding of society and economy
through service, in implementing
a programme of spreading
education; helping rural
communities to organise cooperatives and small industrial
units for processing agricultural
and forest produce; reconstructing
small-scale water shed-development projects; installing small
electricity-generation units. The
main priority in all of these
was to create employment
opportunities, in particular for the
rural youth.
A long time ago, the Communist
Party of India (.Marxist) decided to
undertake such a programme of
constructive work and social
reform. Unfortunately, today no one
can say what has happened to it. In
1949, the eminent socialist leader
Ram Manohar Lohia, on behalf of
the National Executive of the
Socialist Party, placed before
the party's national conference
a programme for national
reconstruction, based mainly on
the above precepts. Although
party workers enthusiastically
implemented the rural-development programme for more than a
year, that spirit was subsequently
quashed - due, in part, to the
preparations for the 1952 general
election, followed by depressing
election results and the subsequent
quarrels among leaders that led to
a split in the party.
That, however, was a specific
case. The people of Southasia need
intelligent discussion on a broad
range of issues, including family
planning, dowry, divorce,
women's rights, untouchability, caste- and gender-based
prejudices, health and nutrition,
sanitation and exercise. The most
important issues, however,
remain democratic practice,
egalitarianism, and mutual
tolerance and respect.
One immediate possibility for
Nepal's leaders would be to hold
joint study camps comprising
workers from all the eight political
parties. Intellectuals, academics,
civil-society leaders, journalists
and other professionals may also
contribute to these study camps.
This could make possible the
collective discussion of the above
issues and programmes, and allow
for a new spirit of joint work in
nation-building to gather
steam. Perhaps the simple act of
men and women from
different backgrounds working
side by side could itself help to
reduce the current distances and
tensions in Nepal. £
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Himal Southasian I March 2007
Studies in the
psychopathology of culture
The art of Nepal - a belated, blunt and sometimes obscene
review of books on the subject.
Top: The deity Kumar, outside a temple
Pharping village, 1983
Bottom: After its theft, 1987
he Kathmandu Valley, it was said back in the 1950s when Nepal
opened its portals to the modern era, had more statues of gods and
goddesses than people. This is no longer so, in particular because
over the decades the deities have been stolen by the thousands from public
and private places, to such an extent that there are very few left to steal.
The thieves have moved on, mostly, idol theft in Kathmandu is of a
dimension different from the Pharoanic loot along the Nile or the
desecration of Gandharan sites in Punjab and NWFP. The
Hindu-Buddhist-Varjrayan statuary of 'Nepal Valley' represent a living,
contemporary faith. The statues were dragged from pedestals and yanked
from alcoves by a brazen contraband industry that included the common
thief, the Nepali middleman, the foreign scholar, the diplomat and the art
collector - leading all the way to museum curators and art historians who
produce heavy volumes on Himalayan art. Unkempt deities - who, till the
moment of theft, were receiving offerings of flowers, rice achheta, vermillion
and water - are now (onely, polished objects spotlighted in museum
showcases and on private mantles.
Ted Riccardi, a Himalayan scholar, saw it all happen during his work in the
Kathmandu Valley from the 1960s through the 1990s. He knew some of
the crooks, saw how they worked, and had the perspective and empathy to
know that the common Kathmandu criminal was no more to blame than
the soft-spoken curators and historians in New York, Hong Kong or San
Francisco. This article represents a cry of anger and frustration at the
desecration of Kathmandu Valley, and the denigration ofthe simple faith of
the people by forces beyond their comprehension - a cry that speaks of the
hundreds of thousands of devotees who suddenly found that their gods had
gone missing. The thieves who are named in these pages also
represent entire categories of those who evaluate, assign value, auction,
buy artd exhibit the valuable, stolen iconography of Kathmandu. You know
who you are.
There is one more thing to add to Riccardi's presentation. It is an
incontrovertible fact that every ancient stone and bronze statue from the
Kathmandu Valley - to the very last one - that now finds itself on an overseas
pedestal, is a stolen item (see Himal October 1999, "Gods in exile"). Not
one of them was gifted or handed over with the agreement of the faithful.
Every museum and collector who owns a Kathmandu Valley statue of
antiquity must regjard It as being 'on loan', to be returned when Nepali society
finally wakes up from its headlong entry into the modern era - and, amidst
political stability and modern-day self-awareness, asks for the statues' return.
At that point they should be handed back to the faithful, and placed in their
original positions.
- Kanak Mani Dixit
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 Let us take an object - a statue, a piece of stone -
standing alone somewhere in a field. The only
people who know of its existence are the farmers
who till the soil around it. For them, it may have some
importance, or it may not. It mayfunction as the equivalent
of a rabbit's foot or a horseshoe or any other good-luck
charm. Or, it may be the object of the deepest veneration.
No matter. There is not that much difference. The people
who live near it may not know its correct name. They may
not even know its sex, if it has any. It is there; that is
all. One morning, it is no longer there. It has been taken
in the night,
Let us look at this object again in its new location. It
now graces the galleries of a great museum. Instead of a
norseshoe, we now have a work of art - an object no
longer of religious or superstitious awe, but one of
aesthetic appreciation. It is an object quantified, put on
view for the public as an example of the universal genius
of the human race, photographed and presented to an
ever-wider audience in the publication series of the
museum. The object is insured, traveled, displayed in
Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland by proud
curators and directors who are doing precisely what they
are hired to do.
The photographs: Ah, the photographs. Surreal they
are. pushed against pure white, antiseptic backgrounds;
one can see the pores of the gods. Vasudhara, my dear,
you look prettier than ever.
My friends: Some of my best friends are scholars,
diplomats, collectors, dealers. I forgive them all. They are
the necessary links in the system - the transformers, the
creators, life-givers, the makers of art, the true artists.
Without them, there would be no art.
The lady from Colorado: Boulder-San Francisco-
Honolulu-Hong Kong-Ban gkok-K at hmandu-Colombo
(avoid India at all costs)-Seychelles-Nairobi-Rome-Paris-
London-New York-Boulder. Whew! We made it, our
little old retired schoolteacher. In Kathmandu, she bought
an old book in front ofthe Annapurna Hotel. She paid a
few rupees.
The generosity of the donor: We thank all of you
generous donors who turned small purchases into large
tax breaks.
The Western middleman: He is at the low point in the
chain, for, like all microbes, he must feed on one kind of
object in order to transform it into another. He certifies its
death, wraps it in burlap, crates it and sends it on to its
new life.
My beloved countries: America and Nepal, the two
poles of absurdity. To live in these two, of all possible
places, is to have one's soul torn, one's mind permanently
disoriented. Stay home, buddy. America: leader of the free
world, the best hope of humanity. Nepal: leader of the
bottom, a bathtub without a drain, a forgotten cesspool
amid the green hills. Why do I choose the cesspool?
The Indologist: Another absurdity. The master and
custodian of dead Indians. He can yet save himself by
forgetting the dead and studying the dying. Indoiogy as
cultural pathology.
What is wrong with Playboy? With Penthouse? With P
Pal's The Art of Nepal? Nothing, nothing at all. All art
is pornography.
Vishnu sleeps. When he awakens, nothing will happen.
Collectors are not as bad as dealers. They too are victims
rather than actors, addicts rather than peddlers.
All right, children. How many of you know where Sankhu
was, where Changu was, where Dhumbarahi was? Raise
your hands, children.
In the room, people come and go, talking of
Michelangelo. "I wonder if you could take a couple of
pieces out for me...?" "Of course, I'll put them in my
household effects."
Guess where I spent the Vietnam War? In Kathmandu.
It was nice. Every two weeks, it was said that our Chief of
Station flew to Saigon with fresh asparagus for our
ambassador. Urschleim: the great thief. He is alive and
well, pullulating in Kathmandu.
Question: What is the colour of green Tara's pubic hair?
Only the director knows, or maybe even he does not know.
Artibus Asiae: Like most Latinisms, it too hides
its obscenities.
Metamorphosis: When Herr Urschleim awoke that
morning he found that he had turned into a Buddha, his
soul oppressed within the heavy grey stone. He could not
move, but he could see. He remembers little of what
transpired later, except that he was carefully packed -
certified, that is. The appropriate bribes were given, and
he was shipped to California, where he now sits in Los
Angeles, gasping, thirsting, pleadingfor help, for liberation,
from the visiting schoolchildren.
As in all 'primitive' countries, in Nepal there is no
information, only rumour. This is healthy and natural, for
one knows immediately the possible human motives
behind what one hears. No one believes anything for very
long. Indeed, belief and knowledge are impossible. In
America, we have tried to banish rumour. Instead we have
information: rumour for which one pays or to which one
subscribes, in which the human motives are no longer
discernible. Hence, the creation of objectivity: of belief
and knowledge.
In Nepal, there are no art objects, no art; only good
and evil.
The restoration of Swayambhunath: A large
international effort has restored the great stupa of
Swayambhunath to its pristine condition, according to a
report from UNESCO. You may now see it at its new
location in New York, at Rockefeller Plaza.
Article I: Corruption obeys the law of conservation
of matter.
Article II: Nothing can be created out of nothing. One
has only the transformation of one form into another.
Because nothing can be created out of nothing, the
transformation of a cult object into an art object must be
accomplished by death and rebirth: hence the intervention
of various kinds of bacteria.
A middle-aged lady, intrepid, intelligent, enthusiastic.
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 stumbles over some ancient terra cottas. Such
beautiful things for me. And LA. Typhoid Mary. The carrier.
The moral dolt.
High above a Newar town, there is the Buddha that
Laid an Egg. The egg remains, unnoticed. The Buddha is
gone. Art as titillation. Preserve of the Hugh Hefner of
Oriental art. His books appear monthly. Orwell. Nepalese
Days. Economic development as a racket.
The third world and how to lick it
Pashupatinath Mandir: Few people knowaboutthe statue
of Bhairava there. Even fewer have seen it. It is a secret
place. Only women may see it. It has a large phallus, erect,
25 inches long, Women come here, those who are
desirous of children. They revere it, their barrenness goes,
their fertility is restored. Children come.
There are other places like this, most of them unknown.
In Pharping there is a great big rock in town that women
worship in the deep night. It works, Children come. In
other places, lingam stones appear naturally out of the
earth and women worship them. In Nepal, the soil and
the people are fertile.
In Kathmandu live Ram and Sita, the ideal Nepali
couple. They have been married for a little over a year and
have one child. Being a modern couple, they practice birth
control. Ram uses condoms when he makes love to his
wife. They are available free at various clinics, and come
in many colours: pink, green, blue, yellow, white. The
Contraceptive Retail Sales (CRS) outfit has its storage
rooms labelled pink, green, blue, yellow, white - for good
organisation and easy access for happy, modern couples.
Sita does not like condoms. Neither does Ram, but
they are a modern couple. Every night, after they make
love, Sita sneaks out of the house in the darkness and
walks hurriedly to the temple. There she stands in line
until her turn comes and she can worship Bhairava in
private. Then she goes home and lies next to her sleeping
Tusband. In Pharping. the men sleep in the night. The
darkness is thick, languorous. The women come and go,
worshiping stones.
An urgent meeting
Place: The Embassy, Kathmandu.
Time: Indeterminate, anytime from the early 1970s on.
A Top-Secret Meeting.
Subject: The Population Council. In its latest report, the
Council expresses dismay that the population growth
rate in Nepal continues to rise, despite the best efforts
Present: The Ambassador; DCM Bustard; Political Officer
Rufus; Admin Officer Arder; AID Director Valentine; Chief
of Station Rimsley; and Resident Anthropologist and
Cultural Expert Mary Loganberry. In short, the Country
Team. They are seated in a secret room within the
embassy around a large table. The ambassador, visibly
annoyed at being called to a meeting in the early morning,
speaks first.
Amb: Bustard, why are we here?
DCM Bustard: Better ask the AID director, sir.
Amb: Valentine, why are we here?
Dir Valentine: We have a bit of a problem, sir.
Amb; How long is this going to take, Valentine?
Valentine: I hope not long. sir. It has to do, sir, um, with
the Nepalis.
Amb: Who?
Valentine: The Nepalis ... the Nepalese, sir.
Amb: Well, what have they done, now?
Valentine: They're, ah, reproducing, sir.
Amb: So what? I rather like them. Happy people, I tell
you! Always smiling, charming lot, always laughing, they
know what life is about, Valentine. You know. Bustard, I
bet they didn't know they were poor until we told them
they were! (laughter) And the kids! Have you ever seen
such beautiful kids? Why, they're always playing, having
a good time even in those shitty streets.
Valentine: That's the problem, sir.
Amb: Valentine, what can we do about the shit in
the streets?
Valentine: 1 mean the kids, sir. They're the problem.
Amb: Bustard, what time is it? I have to work out with
the Marines this morning.
Bustard: It's exactly 11:05, sir.
Amb: Valentine, get to the point. You have five minutes.
Valentine: All right, sir. In brief, we have dumped 25
million dollars in contraceptives into this country - mainly
for condoms - and they haven't worked. The birth rate is
rising drastically. We have another 25 million dollars
budgeted, and we have to find out what is wrong.
Amb: Maybe it was a lousy bunch of rubbers. Maybe
they had holes in them. Maybe the Nepalese don't use
them. Maybe...
Valentine: They use them sir, and they don't have holes
in them.
March 2007 i Himal Southasian
 Amb: How do we know?
Chief of Station: May I answer that, sir?
Amb: You may fire when ready. Rimsley.
Rimsley: German intelligence, sir.
Amb: German intelligence? What the fuck has German
intelligence got to do with this?
Rimsley: We get daily reports from the Germans, sir.
Rubber usage is up...
Amb: Fuck it, Rimsley. How many Germans are there
in Nepal? How can we trust these reports? Do we have a
German in each bedroom?
Bustard: I'll explain, sir. German participation is
niGirect, notdirect. They run the waste disposal unit here,
sir, and their intelligence people provide all kinds of
information to us - on the Russians, the Chinese,
etcetera. The Germans have a fairly sophisticated set
up, sir. I can tell you what, for instance, your former-Soviet
counterpart has had for dinner for the last five nights,
and how he is feeling, (laughter) Coprology is a rather
recent entry into the intelligence field, but a valuable
one. Condomology is the most recent.
Valentine: Well, sir, their condomologist knows exactly
the number of rubbers used on any night. Favourite
colours, everything. We have the figures right here.
The Nepalese are using condoms. And they are
having babies.
Amb: Why?
Valentine: Mary Loganberry has the answer.
Amb: Who the hell is Mary Loganberry?
Bustard: Mary Loganberry is our cultural
anthropologist, sir. She's kind ofthe academic check on
what we do - the one who has the real insights into the
culture, knows the language, the people thoroughly,
mixes with them, eats their food, drinks their water,
listens to their gripes...
Amb: Who's paying her?
Valentine: We are, sir. She's been here for a longtime,
and we put her on contract to find out what we're doing
wrong. Loganberry, why don't you tell us what you think?
Loganberry: Thanks, Val. First, Mr Ambassador, this is
my first meeting with the country team, and I want to say
how important I think it is to have a cultural input into
the whole developmental process..,
Amb: Loganberry, you have two minutes. Then I am
going to get up. And the meeting will be over.
Loganberry: Sir, it's simple. Rubbers work in other
countries, but because of the beliefs of the people, they
don't work here. The people want and need children.
They use condoms to prove how modern they are, but
then they go back to old potent ways to have children.
The most important remedy here is coitus lapidarius, or,
in English, sir, lapidary intercourse.
Amb: Lapidary intercourse? What is that?
Bustard: Sexual intercourse with a sacred stone
object, sir, symbolic of course.
Loganberry: Thank you, Mr Bustard. Lapidary, or lithic'
intercourse as it is sometimes called, occurs in many
places, but it is particularly powerful here in Nepal. I have
watched thousands of women at night on their way to
the temple where they have intercourse with the great
stone penis of Bhairab - symbolic, of course, but
nevertheless effective.
Amb: Loganberry, you are out of your mind.
Loganberry: Unfortunately, I am not sir. I have done
some scouting around at night, and I am sure that I'm
right, in Pharping last night, for instance, hundreds of
women had sex with a big stone in the central square -
symbolic, of course.
Amb: Loganberry, even if you are right, how do we stop
it? It's their country; they can fuck whatever they want.
Loganberry: We can't stop the fucking, sir, but...
Valentine: We can stop the rise in the birth rate!
Loganberry: By covering every stone in this valley with
rubber. It's the only way.
Amb: You're crazy, Loganberry. I've had enough of this
academic crap.
Valentine; The ambassador is quite right, Loganberry.
To make rubber condoms for every stone lingam in the
valley would be prohibitive. We ran a few preliminary
cost estimates - you know, for different sizes, training
of personnel to put them in place, how long they last
and how often they have to be replaced. It's too
damn expensive.
Rimsley: Sir. t think we can help, me and the boys.
Amb: How, Grimsley?
Rimsley: It seems to me, sir, that what we have to
engage in is a massive disinformation programme. We
have to destroy the belief of the people in the efficacy of
the old ways.
Amb: What do you want us to do. Crimsley? Put ads in
the Gorkhapatra saying that Pashupati is a fake?
Rimsley: No, sir. I am thinking of nothing public. A covert
operation, rather.
Amb: What?
Rimsley: Very simple. We have the Bhairab statue
stolen and shipped out of the country. The birth rate
should go way down.
Amb: Brilliant, Rimsley. It's good. And cheap. Approved!
And Rimsley?
Rimsley: Yes. sir?
Amb: I want the dick for a paperweight.
Rimsley: Yes, sir!
{Laughter. Exeunt omnes)
The books
Herr Urschleim is havinga nightmare. He dreams of being
on a beach in Italy at the end of the war, as his brother
and sister begin to cover him with sand. Suddenly, he
cannot move. The sand is heavy... He awakens. His soul-
head hits the top of the grey stone statue in which he is
encased. He peers out. Some workmen appear carrying
a crate. The curator directs them to unload the statue
carefully and place it opposite Herr Urschleim. The
museum now has two great pieces: the Buddha that
Laid an Egg, and the great Bhairab - minus its penis.
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 Let's get serious, you say. Enough of your asshole
remarks. Let's get down to the books. Let's have a solid
review of them.
All right: They are printed on glossy paper. They weigh
almost two kilos each. There have hundreds of pages
and illustrations - many in colour, the rest in black-and-
white. Sumptuous, limited productions. All joint
publications of museums and universities.
What did the authors do?
They conducted.
Now you are really being nasty. Books are ali alike.
You know what a good editor can do for a book.
Precisely. Books are not written, but managed,
Let's talk about these books please.
All right, let's talk about them. What about them?
Are the authors accurate?
It depends. There are mistakes.
Like what?
Well, some of the pictures are upside-down.
Why do you say that?
Because, for instance, every object I have seen of this
kind has been a lid, not a bowl. Fruit bowls are common,
say, in LA, but not in Kathmandu, not even in the
7th century.
OK, smartass. What else?
Some of the authors seem to have trouble adding. At
one point, 880 and 301 are added together for a grand
total of 1090.
Big deal. Can't you say anything good about the books?
The pictures are pretty.
You Ve reviewed the books. Now let's look at the culture.
I can't. It hurts too much.
The culture
The National Museum, Chauni, Kathmandu; A true
wonder, this museum, a veritable flea market, filled with
Ranesqueries. Walk slowly through it, look in the nooks
and crannies, and you will find jewels. Do not hurry. The
jewel in the lotus is the most incredible piece of Americana
- a Red Ryder Daisy BB gun.
The Kathmandu Zoo: A chick*i in a small cage looks
out stupidly at the children that gawk at it. Label: Rhode
Island Red. It too is gone. A fundamental condition of
economic development is the systematic degradation of
a people's culture.
The dealer: as vile as a Patan alley. Small, obscure
eyes that move lasciviously over the stolen object the
way a tongue moves around a clitoris. Art as salt-meat
and peach.
How do art historians know how old an object is? This
is one of the better-kept mysteries. £
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Exhuming Accountability
Conference on transitional justice in Southasia
23-25 January, Kathmandu   |   Hosted by Himai Southasian and
the International Center for Transitional Justice
Across Southasia, social
movements have
worked to demand
justice and accountability
during the region's darkest
hours - involving pogroms
against minorities; human-
rights abuse in the context of
armed conflict; abuse and
impunity by entrenched
economic elites; violence
against Dalits, indigenous communities and
migrants; violence against women; militaries
operating with state-sanctioned impunity within and
across borders; violations by armed opposition
groups with little accountability to local
communities; the global 'war on terror' and its
perverse dynamics in the region; and forced evictions
of communities by dams and mines, urban real-estate
mafia, or feudal landlords.
The demand for justice is a persistent feature of
the Southasian public realm. In Bangladesh, families
of those killed in the Liberation War still call for
acknowledgment and 'memorialisation'. The struggle
against the impunity enjoyed by the masterminds of
the Gujarat carnage of 2002 continues in courts in
Ahmedabad and Bombay. Victims of the excesses of
the long sequence of autocratic regimes in Pakistan
have been calling for fundamental institutional
reform ofthe state. Survivors of theanti-Tamilpogrom
of   1983   in   Sri   Lanka   continue   to   demand
■;.'■•;, .aft-, ft,-, ft . ..;:.-.'.:_-. :■ .^ ■".'<.;.;•-".;
accountability and reparation.
At the same time, there have
been atrocities which have
been neglected, such as
the killing of thousands
in tbe Assamese hamlet of
Nellie in 1983.
On 23-25 January, Himal
Southasian organised a
conference on the issue of
accountability for mass
atrocities carried out against citizens in the various
countries and sub-regions of Southasia. Scholars and
rights defenders gathered in Kathmandu to share
their experiences and insights, with the ultimate goal
of ensuring that excesses be investigated and
addressed for the sake of justice and reconciliation,
as well as to prevent future abuse. The conference
was co-hosted by tbe International Center for
Transitional Justice, supported by the International
Development Research Centre, and convened by .
Vasuki Ncsiah and Kanak Mani Dixit.
Here we present an abridged version of the
presentations made at the conference by some of the
participants, who are among the foremost scholars
and activists dealing with accountability and
impunity in the countries of Southasia. A complete
transcript of the presentations and discussions will
be published as a further follow-up to the "Exhuming
Accountability" conference. Details on the panels
and participation are available at www..himalmag,com.
The pan-regional problem
Why are we speaking of Southasia? Is there
any value in clubbing the experiences and
practices of tbe entire Subcontinent into one
meeting? There are valid reasons, primarily because of
the pan-Subcontinental institutionalisation of certain
state practices as well as of certain practices of those
who purport tobe resistance. In India, Nepal, Pakistan,
Sri Lanka, systematic violation of international
humanitarian law by both state and non-state actors
in conflict situations is something which is very much
present as a common theme.
The second commonality is the presence of, for want
of a better term, ethnic or demographic cleansing.
Virtually all of our counties have had episodes in the
past in which large movements of people have been
forced by either the state or non-state actors. Distinct
from a process of demographic shifting have been anti-
minority massacres. We've had specific instances of
high levels of targeted violence, most often with state
complicity against minorities - the bomb blasts and
pressure on the Shia in Pakistan, the low-intensity
violence against the Hindu minority in Bangladesh.
Himal Southasian I March 2007
 The fourth commonality in the context
of conflict is systematic violence against
women. The fifth commonality which I see
in the architecture of insurgency and
counterinsurgency is the problem of
disappearances, which we have in J & K,
the Northeast, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan.
The last point of commonality is that of
impunity, Impunity is enshrined not only
in the judicial or political practices in
Southasia, but also in our national laws.
When you have a situation wherein
officers cannot be prosecuted for doing
things in the line of duty, when you have
impunity enshrined in law, you have once again a
good reason to take up the issue of transitional justice
at a pan-Southasian level.
The second question that I think is worth asking,
particularly given the linkages of the transitional-
justice phenomenon to the international criminal
architecture, is: Which is the best forum in which to
seek justice - international, national or regional? I think
that even though the emergence of the International
Criminal Court and other forums becomes an
additional point of pressure, justice that comes
through a national forum is likely to be more durable,
more transformative.
This brings me to the third question. Can there be
transitional justice without transition? Because if you
look at the examples of what is classified as transitional
justice today - tire cases of South Africa, Guatemala,
Chile, Argentina, and Peru to a certain extent - virtually
all of these mechanisms arose out of the context of a
political transformation. We must not lose sight of the
fact that it is the transition that is the key to the
realisation of justice in many respects.
Can the struggle for justice help us bring about
political transition? Can we think of justice as
tr.msformative justice in the political sense? 1 think we
can. It's significant that in the past
decade the ability of ruling
establishments across Southasia to get
away with the kind of crimes they've got
away with in the past has decreased, the
political cost has definitely gone up.
Compare the political fallout for the BJP
as a result of the Gujarat massacres of
2002 with the political fallout for the
Congress party as a result of the anti-Sikh
massacres of 1984. There is a world of
difference in the nature of public opinion,
in the manner in which the media
covered the incidents, in the archiving
and documentation and the willingness to collate and
bring this information into the public domain. All of
these suggest that, in a sense, the preoccupation
and struggle for justice does provide an impetus for
us to bring out a reconfiguration of power equations
in society.
Transitional justice cannot just be about addressing
past crimes, or even about preventing future ones. It
also has to help all of us in our own different regions
put a closure on historically-evolved grievances.
Unless the historically-evolved grievance of, say, the
people of Kashmir is not addressed, unless their
sacrifices are not respected, unless homage is not paid
to all the people who were victim to the violence, it
will be very difficult for people living in these societies
and communities to feel a sense of closure.
Finally, while many of the issues that we raise
concern questions that are beyond our domain, what
we do control is the process of archiving,
documentation, dissemination of information. These
are significant efforts, which help to challenge the
official silence or the widespread public apathy which
comes about due to lack of information or ignorance;
I think that this is something that we can do as
individuals and as a collective. fi
This panel probed questions about the politics of prosecutions and their contribution to
accountability for mass crimes. At one level, legal accountability is often seen as the most
central component of struggles for justice. We have pursued trials even when courts have been
slow, judges conservative, police obstructive and the legal framework inhospitable. We have
pursued trials even when courtroom dynamics have been alienating for survivors and for victims'
families, and even when we have been able to convict only the lower rungs of a repressive,
machinery. Against this enduring commitment to seeking judicial avenues for redress, looking
back at the history of prosecutions in Southasian countries, this panel explored ways to brpaden
and deepen the ways in which trials contribute to justice in its fullest sense. In particular, two
issues were highlighted. First, it was asked whether prosecution processes define 'accountability'
too narrowly. Second, the panel looked at whether it is possible to ensure that trial processes be
rendered more 'victim friendly', and what specific reforms would be involved in making the legal
system more accessible, prosecution strategies more responsive to 'victim' priorities, and the
trial process less formal.
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 Strengthening prosecution mechanisms
I he Indian context is not
really a transitional-
justice framework.
You're not moving from one
political configuration to
another, nor is India a
fledgling democracy. In India,
non-prosecution would very
much jeopardise peace, and
therefore a lot of emphasis
ought to be placed on
prosecution in India. I think the people's desire to
prosecute has shown that it could be an amalgam of
retribution, assertion for equal citizenship by
the individual and community, a need of
acknowledgment, a belief in the deterrent effect of penal
law, an enabling act to overcome fear and helplessness,
a proclamation by survivors that they have been beaten
but not broken, a reclaiming of democratic institutions
- and ifs a mix of all this that one sees when people
urge for prosecution.
In the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre, it was interesting to
see that there were criminal cases against some
powerful Congress politicians, and a temporary
setback to then political careers. However, what was
required was that there must be direct evidence of their
presence at the scene of the crime. Of course all of those
prosecutions, at least at the trial court level,
have failed, while some are still pending in the
appellate court. In fhe present legal framework, the
only avenue that is available is to invoke the
law of conspiracy, or the law of abetment - both of
which are totally inappropriate to address a mass-
crime scenario.
Therefore, the current framework of the Indian penal
code, the criminal procedure court and the Evidence
Act is inappropriate. While it does note down the law
of offences of murder, theft, rape, burning, looting, it
does not take into account the dynamics of mass crime.
A couple of the dynamics that have to be addressed by
law are the dynamic of power and intent and the
pattern that targets a group - which I think are defining
features of mass crime - and that mass crimes are
distinct from ordinary crimes, and cannot be committed
without the sanction and complicity of those in
positions of power, authority and responsibility. .And
therefore, one would argue for the creation of a
separate offence in substantive law as well as in
procedural law.
In substantive terms I think the offences of genocide
and crimes against humanity need to be codified in
substantive law. Individual criminal responsibility
also needs to be brought in. The whole business of prior
sanction required for prosecution of police officers or
public servants, which is codified in the penal code in
the Special Armed Forces Act, is now retained in the
new communal violence bill. This bill makes a feeble
effort to make public servants accountable, bofli for acts
of omission and commission, but at the same time keeps
the right of prior sanction very much intact. Again, in
terms of substantive offences, the definition of rape is
completely inadequate, as I think the Gujarat experience
has shown clearly. There is a pending sexual-assault
bill, and this needs to be drawn upon again before
anything is done on the communal violence bill.
How do you make fhe investigation more inclusive
and accessible - this is a key challenge. The victim
should have a right to get a copy of the chargesheet,
particularly in the case of crimes where you're saying
there's complicity of authority and therefore the state
as the prosecutor is not necessarily the custodian of
societal interest in that circumstance. So a copy of the
chargesheet, a copy of the orders, and an enhanced
role of the victim's council will help. They have
absolutely no information as to what is happening in
those cases; therefore, some kind of system mechanism
needs to be created which keeps them informed of what
is happening as a matter of right. J,
Political consensus on impunity
In the Bangladeshi context,
the transitions we have
seen have been from war
to peace, and also from
militarisation to a kind of
'civilian-isation' of our
administration at various
points. Those have been the
contexts in which we've had
to address prosecutions. In
each of the transitions, we've
seen political compacts that
have been the foremost barriers to any form of
accountability. So even following the genocide of 1971,
an amnesty was granted to many of those responsible
for the killings. The other military venture within
Bangladesh was in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Again
following the peace accord we saw a failure to set in
place any accountability measures, and de facto
amnesty was provided.
In the transitions from military rule to civilian rule,
constitutional immunities were put in place each time
to ensure that there couldn't be any effective
prosecution for political killings and other human-
rights abuses. Under the ordinary law, we have
provisions that prevent effective prosecution of defence
personnel, security personnel or state officials for
human-rights violations. Currently we have the Rapid
Himal Southasian [ March 2007
 Action Battalion, which has also been responsible for
hundreds of extrajudicial executions in the last few
years, with not a single prosecution or effective
investigation to date.
So we have a chequered but consistent pattern of
impunity and lack of accountability measures embedded
in the law and the Constitution. It is not just the fact that
the legal fabric is so weak in terms of ensuring
accountability, but also that there isn't clear political
consensus on these issues, and that our institutions are
permeated by partisan politics that affects their
functioning. Because of the way in which the 1971
genocide has been addressed - and even one of the most
significant sets of killings, the disappearances of 14
December, when intellectuals were disappeared at the
hands of the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators
- despite investigations into those killings, and despite
the issue having been kept in the limelight by the
families of the disappeared, it has not been possible
under any administration to even conclude an
investigation into them. This is because the group
involved as the collaborators of the Pakistan Army in
the killings, the Jamaat-i-lslami, is involved in political
compacts, either official or unofficial.
There is a need to create effective, independent
political pressure for change. What we've seen so far
has been largely an unfocused exercise where we've
put a lot of hope and expectation on the possibilities of
public litigation as an effective tool for opening up this
process. But we've not married that to the ways in
which you have to change the investigative machinery,
and the way you have to critique the investigatory
machinery on the ground. Without having done
the work on the ground, it is almost impossible to
rely on public-interest litigation to take you
anywhere at all. £
Structural issues in Nepal
n Nepal, we have very little
infrastructure and very little
institutional development in
terms of dealing with violations
committed by the state. That's
where the fundamental problem
lies. There are lots of problems
with regards to the substantive
legal provisions as well, because
the existing legislation provides
that in claiming or initiating the
criminal investigations we have to go to the police.
aAnd when you go to file the FIR with the police against
the police, you can imagine how they investigate the
case. In the first place, we have been struggling even to
register FIRs. Then the police, rather than doing
investigations, attempt to pollute the evidence and
falsify the documents. We haven't been able to bring
even a single successful prosecution ,in the case of
gross human-rights violations, largely because
of these structures.
There have been a few encouraging developments
from the courts. 1 agr^e that unless there is an
independent judiciary and independent investigations
it's very difficult to have a successful prosecution in
the case of gross human-rights violations. But at the
same time, there are some initiatives that are going on
in the Supreme Court in the cases of disappearances,
as we have been filing writs of Habeas Corpus on
behalf of those who have been disappeared. The
Supreme Court used to quash all those petitions,
saying the writ of Habeas Corpus or jurisdictions of
the writ is limited to testing the legality of the
detentions. Now the Supreme Court has decided to
have an investigations committee under the Supreme
Court itself, and the committee has been looking at
these disappearances. We are now pushing for an
order from the Supreme Court in terms of having
substantive legal provisions in dealing with the cases
of disappearances.
Unless we have very substantial legal provisions
to bring the prosecution, and independent
investigations in cases of human-rights violations, it
is very hard to believe that there will be successful
prosecutions in Nepal. £
Communalism and the courts
I'd like to put forward the
proposition that when we're
looking at the Southasian or
Indian context, if we really want to
understand what communalism is
about, we have to understand the
deep-rooted racism of caste bias.
The everyday, deep-rooted caste
bias is manifest in our institutions
- the masculine contextualising or
imagined notion of Hindu nationhood has its roots in
caste as much as in community. We need to first
understand the link between the caste bias that has
run deep in our institutions for thousands of years,
and a communal bias that has resurfaced over the last
150 years, and taken off particularly after Partition.
We've had a series of excellent judicial commissions
looking at most institutions of communal violence. So
the commission reports are good documentation,
because they point to the genesis of communal
violence, and the impunity enjoyed by police, and
perpetrators from civil society and the political class.
But very rarely do they come to conviction. It would be
ridiculous to suggest that the legal process is the only
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 way that one can fight this. At least in terms of Gujarat,
one sees the legal battle as just part of the significantly
larger political struggle against fascism in that state
today. And it's ironic that the struggle against fascism
has today been reduced to a rigorously-fought legal
battle. The culture of impunity that has grown over the
decades has contributed to graver and graver
communal mass crimes taking place.
We've tried to build up the legal struggle in Gujarat.
We've got 37 cases pending all the way to the Supreme
Court - criminal to civil to writ to other forms of law -
while at the same time, we're trying to argue for a
discourse on mass crimes and a law for mass crimes.
We don't know what kind of bill the government will
ultimately come up with. The first two drafts were
horrendous, because they didn't have three major
things: they looked at only Indian Penal Code crimes,
did not look at genocidal crimes, did not have a
command of structure, and did not have a definition
of mass crimes at all. So they seemed to want to
give greater powers to the police, rather than empower
the citizenry.
I also wanted to mention, in terms of communal
violence, that there has been an inevitable prioritising
of the major genocidal attacks or pogroms which have
taken place against the largest minority, the Muslims.
For instance, one of the cases where genocidal seeds
were really visible was in Baghalpur in 1989. In three
villages there, you had this mass massacre, and
overnight you had these corpses being buried and
cauliflower being grown over fhe corpses to hide the
evidence. Many such markings on the genocidal map
in terms of communalism have gone unchecked and
have not been revisited by us because of limited
capacity. But I think one thing recent efforts have
shown is, if you keep at it, it is possible to revive some
of these older cases as well.
Without sounding hunky-dory, we are only five
years down the road in Gujarat. Meanwhile, other
massacres are 20 or 30 years down the road, and have
reached nowhere near where we are now. The Supreme
Court and the High Courts have been pretty bad in
terms of delivering judgements on communal violence.
I'd like to present a few examples. One is related to
1992-93 Bombay, and involves the newspaper brought
out by Bai Thackeray, which was used to orchestrate
the pogrom. Citizens actually took tlie state to court,
asking for action against Bai Thackeray. The High
Court delivered a horrific judgement, saying that
Thackeray had only written about the anti-national
Muslims, so it was alright. And when that was
challenged in the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court
threw it out without even looking at the petition.
In contrast to that, a couple of the judgements and
orders that have come out in the Gujarat-related cases
have been relatively better, lt will not do to sound as
though the battle is nearly over, but for the first time,
they have tried to capture the magnitude of the entire
genocide in Gujarat, not simply the one incident that
took place. We have a very long way to go, but I think
one of the roots of trying to understand communal and
caste violence is to see it as part of a systemic thing,
and not just sporadic outbursts that take place when a
Gujarat or a Mumbai or an '84 happens. k-
The Nellie massacre
he Nellie incident was a
mass killing that took
place in rural areas in
Assam on 18 February 1983.
There were 1600-3300 victims,
mainly Muslims of East Bengal
origin who had migrated
during colonial periods. The
attackers were neighbouring villagers, non-immigrant
Assamese native people.
Between 1979 and 1985, there was a large-scale
student agitation, which was called the anti-foreigners
movement. It was led by the All Assam Students'
Union, AASU, and its claim was to detect foreigners'
names from electoral roles, delete those names and
deport the people to their original countries. The targets
were mainly Bangladeshis and some Nepalis. In 1980,
AASU had several rounds of tallcs with the Centre, but
no agreement was reached, partly because those people
who had been suspected as foreigners - Bangladeshis,
mainly Muslims - were vote banks for Congress. After
1980 the movement stagnated for a bit. In 1982, the
central government decided to hold state assembly
elections without revising the electoral rolls. Then
AASU called for a boycott, and there were numerous
violent incidents in Assam. Nellie was only one of
them. More than one lakh people were displaced, and
there have been estimates of 5000-10,000 people being
killed overall. In many violent incidents, the attacking
community and the attacked communities varied, but
victims were mostly of East Bengal origin.
Right after the incident, 688 cases were filed with
the police in connection to it. Among them, 378 cases
were not submitted for lack of evidence. Only 310 were
ultimately submitted by the police, but they were
dropped during fhe rule of the Asom Gana Parishad,
the AGP. There was one official committee set up,
which brought out a report in May 1984, although it
was never made public. There was another nonofficial
inquiry by citizens, brought out in 1985, and it did
some work including estimating the number of victims.
The report showed the number was around 1600.
Officially there has been nothing done on this incident.
I want to raise a few basic questions. First, when
there were no trial cases, how can we seek justice for
fhe victims? Apart from these trial cases, the only thing
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 that has been done for the victims has been
compensation - INR 5000 for each deceased, and INR
2000 and two bundles of tin sheets for every surviving
family. In this situation, what kind of justice can be
possible? The issue is of responsibility and justice. In
this case, involvement of the neighbouring villagers is
very obvious. I see a problem in describing attackers as
puppets and goondas, as some political scientists do.
Local people admit to being involved in this incident;
they should also be prosecuted, but both Congress and
the AGP are reluctant to do anything.
At the same time, how do we look at the responsibility
of those people who supply the necessary conditions
for the massacre - in this case, the Congress, AASU
and AGP leaders? Many of the decision-makers in the
Congress, including Indira Gandhi, have passed away.
Others might now be in power. What can be done in
this situation? First of all, we should note that civil
society and NGOs in Assam are very weak on Muslim
issues. One group has come up with a project to make a
documentary on the Nellie massacre, which 1 believe is
Mass crimes and gender
11 base my comments on three
experiences - sexual violence
in peacetime, sexual violence
in mass-crime situations (Gujarat
is a particular example), and the
violence in Chhattisgarh in
central India. My first question is:
When we say 'transitional justice
and gender', transition to what
are we talking about? Certainly
when it comes to gender-based
violence, I believe we are heading towards greater
degrees of violence in times of both peace and conflict.
The challenge is how to make both sustained healing
and justice part of the same kind of processes in a long-
term way.
I believe that mass crime and sexual violence do not
represent any kind of epistemic break from the
continuing pattern of systemic gender violence. Sexual
violence was not a by-product of the mass crime that
took place in Gujarat. A tentative estimate suggested
well over 300-400 women were mutilated, brutalised,
raped and subsequently burned. The kind of symbolism
that enables this is a very classic kind of discourse.
Very broadly, it's a discourse that goes back over a
hundred years in its construction - the Muslim being
the plunderer, the enemy, raping and defiling Mother
India, And so, to recover the honour of the Hindu
nation, you rape and defile Muslim women. So you
have this discourse, which really creates a strong
motivation for the defiling and the killing and the
brutalising of the Muslim woman's body, for the
emasculated Hindu male and the Hindu nation to
a very good idea. But the same person who came up
with this project says maybe we should do something
on compensation, because that might enable the
community to forget. I don't think this is the case; I
think at least some type of legal prosecution should
be done.
The argument in favour of compensation is partly
motivated by the compensation that was decided for
the anti-Sikh riots, which was INR. 715 crores. But
there's always a problem in the particulars of
compensation. Very recently, for instance, there was a
killing of Hindi-speakers in Assam. The central
government decided to issue INR 7 lakh for each
deceased. Whereas in 2005, following another ethnic
clash in Assam, the victims only received three lakh. So
tbe amount of compensation differs according to which
group you belong to, and according to which particular
race you are a part of. You can hardly call this justice.
It's been almost 24 years since the Nellie massacre
and almost nothing has been done. What can we do to
say we have not forgotten about them? A
recover its sense of self and of masculinity.
What do we do with this? One issue is the issue of
access - a woman in peacetime accessing the law is
impossible. In a mass-crime situation, with women
on the run, it's not going to happen. You're also going
to have the silence re-imposed on women -community
honour is at stake. Then of course you have the
limitations of the law itself. In the Indian Penal Code
all you've got is a very limited definition of sexual
assault, which is primarily focused on penile
penetration. In other words, what happened to the
women in Gujarat is not recognised in law anywhere
- mutilation, the cutting, carving, chopping of breasts,
penetration by a physical object, or if a woman was
stripped and made to walk naked for three miles,
there's no law that covers it. So we don't have the
framework to deal with the variety and brutality of
sexual assault that we saw.
When we prosecute for sexual-violence crimes, we
often do it in the language of patriarchy, of 'honour',
in language that says, 'Your lordship, this poor,
unfortunate victim has suffered more in her body and
her soul, and her honour has been destroyed forever.'
Everyone who has dealt with sexual violence knows
that, if you have a patriarchal judge and judiciary,
this is the only way to win a case. The problem is that
you do nothing in that to destroy the entire repertoire
of symbolic honour, community honour, all of this
honour being invested in the body of the woman that
enabled the violence in the first place. It was precisely
this construction that allowed the sexual violence, and
it is precisely the same construction that we go back to
when we seek justice for that.
Where do we go from here? The point is that, as a
lawyer, you want conviction in that one case. But when
we talk about mass crimes, is it really symbolic justice
that we're seeking? And if it is symbolic justice that
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 we're seeking, well, there is a conflict in the minds of
the lawyers and activists as they go into that courtroom.
They have to ask themselves: Are we really just talking
about this one case? And you have to talk about that
one case, because you have the victim right there. So
you will fight it in patriarchal language. And you will
allow her to be victimised even more than she has been
already been. But if you look at the long-term
perspective, you might lose the case if you try and battle
it in any other way. £
This panel explored how reparations policy can be developed in ways that underscore the fact
that victims' rights have been violated, and that they are entitled to redress. While reparations
cannot restore victims to the status quo ante, reparation programmes could advance a
good-faith effort to address the injury suffered in ways that at least partially alleviate the suffering
of victims. Historically, neither state practice nor human-rights jurisprudence has developed the
principle of reparations in ways that signify recognition of state responsibility and victims' rights.
At best, compensation has been meted out at the state's discretion as a welfare measure with
short-term ameliorative effect. At worst - and in fact more frequently - compensation has been
manipulated by politicians as a tool for political patronage, denied to political opponents and
granted when it helps curry favour with political supporters. Moreover, in most cases reparations
policy has been reduced to a discourse about monetary compensation, with little attention paid
to the multiple dimensions of injury that reparations policy can help redress. This panel was
chiefly concerned with the challenges of developing reparation programmes that are internally
coherent and fair to the entire group of victims in the context of a riot, cases of mass
disappearances or other contexts of widespread human-rights abuse.
Reparations and redressal
ow do you reconcile truth
commissions with the
ordinary process of law?
You can't have a notion of
reparation unless you already have
in place a mechanism against
impunity, and a mechanism which
enables accountability. In India,
the manner of understanding
reparation has been for the
Supreme Court to say, 'We will not let the victim fall
back on the procedures for claiming damages. Instead,
we shall straightaway say that, for violations of
fundamental rights, there will be a compensation fixed
by us.' Apart from this, the state will file criminal
prosecutions; and if the victim wants a specific
redressal in addition, she or he can be relegated to the
normal courts.
If there really weren't systems in place for
recognising reparations and all their ramifications, I
think there are a few other things we must go back to.
First, we must have a concept of mass crimes as a
violation that is very different from individual
occurrences such as murder. It must enter the judicial
conscience; it must enter an institutional conscience,
a collective conscience, that mass violations are quite
apart from individual murders and rapes and so on.
They happen in a situation of mass fear: the mass fear
enables them. The next thing to recognise is command
responsibility. Because if you don't address these
issues, no reparations are possible. This really stems
from an understanding that reparation is not just for a
victim, but that institutions have to be repaired. If you
want to build an accountable system, then you must
have institutions that will not allow these violations;
and if these violations have occurred, the institutions
have to be restored.
When these violations occur, there are many non-
state actors. In Bangladesh in 1971, the local population
behaved in strange ways. In Gujarat, the local
population behaved in strange ways. In fact, the lower,
marginalised rungs of society, in order to cross the
margin and join the mainstream, often act as
perpetrators. How do you deal with this? It is easy to
focus on the state, but it's not so easy to figure out how
to deal with this. So there may be options - whether
you're going for truth and reconciliation, whether
you're going for truth commissions just to get a
preliminary understanding of what happened or just
to get a basis for further prosecutions.
This is equally important if you want to have a
sustained fabric of a nation. In Punjab there were
people who committed suicide because they could not
get justice, despite it being established that their
children had been killed by the police. There are people
who have refused monetary compensation because
they felt that it was an affront to their dignity. So if you
really want to have a healthy state, you cannot ignore
these aspirations. But how to fulfil these aspirations
must be clear in the law through tire whole notion of
reparations, which stems from two simple judicial
principles. One is that there is no wrong, no right
without a remedy; the second is that you restore
proportionally, so if there's mass violation of rights,
the proportionality issue is immense.
If you're talking about restitution to how things were
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 before the event occurred, I think the most important
component is that the perpetrator should be brought to
justice. When the state violates and funis aggressor, it
is qualitatively different than any other aggressor. The
.reason why we're now left to the mercy of the courts,
why courts can afford to soft-peddle these issues, is
that there is no clear recognition of crimes against
humanity by those in uniform. They can get away with
saying that this is a death in an encounter and they're
not even going to follow the procedure for inquiry. So
unless it is brought into the ken of law, and therefore
the ken of discourse, this is an aggression apart from
any other.
Guarantees of non-recurrence are absolutely
necessary, but when do you know that something will
not recur? When do you know that punishment is
assured? But there may be very transitional situations
where, because violations are so diverse, you want
truth and reconciliation and you think it is worthwhile
to grant amnesty. There may be a situation in which
you want a commission of inquiry to just know7 the
truth - although the findings may not be used in a
criminal trial - but at least you will know how to
proceed. There may be a third situation where you
want to lodge prosecution straightaway, because the
systems are in place. But recognition in the law really
is one way of saying, of having it enter the discourse,
that we now know that a man in uniform who kills is
an offender apart from any other killer or thief.
Where a violation occurs, like that in Punjab, you can
no longer say this is a war fought for the nation, and
therefore we will brush things under the carpet.
That very possibility of brushing things under the
carpet must go. ;■.
Fractured region, divided people
'm going to talk about
partitions - the 1947
Partition, that of 1971, and
the LOC in Kashmir, which
may or may not be a partition.
To my mind, they are all very
different from what we've been
talking about, because they
involve at least two states, or
different agencies in that
process. None of these have
actually come to any clo.sure,
despite those states being real.
In the Partition of 1947, three communities in
particular were involved. The states were complicit;
but the massacre wasn't by order of the state, and the
armies as such were not involved in it. The violence
against women was of very different kinds. There were
six different ones: mutilation, rape, leaving women
behind as barter, ranges of suicide, killing their own
women, and abductions. There was also a breakdown
of the state, and the state was preoccupied
with reconstructing itself. The patriarchal state had
let women down in a moment of crisis, so there
was a resurrection of the state and not wanting to
address women.
In 1971, which was an entirely different situation
in that sense, it was the state versus the citizens. There
was military action against civilians in Bangladesh.
The enormous massacres, rapes, burning of villages,
creation of women's homelessness, were not byproducts. This was part of military policy. During this
period, there were some generals who resigned, and
they were brought back in court-martial proceedings.
There were also some junior officers who refused to
go; they were also court-martiailed. But apart from this
sort of thing, and a few individuals who may have
been against it and raising their voices, there was an
enormous silence in West Pakistan.
Some of us have always felt that the reparation and
rebuilding of East Pakistan was the responsibility of
West Pakistan, especially given that East Pakistan had
been a colony of West Pakistan, and the amount of
shifting income, etcetera, that had been used in West
Pakistan. A commission was immediately set up,
however its report was not released until 2000, three
decades later. In 1996, the Women's Action Forum and
many other organisations had sent an apology on then
own behalves, because they could not get the state to
move on the issue - they could not even get the public
or civil society to sign on, including the human-rights
When the Rahman report was finally published,
there had been no civil struggle to have it released.
When it finally was released, however, and actually
named the generals involved, even colonels, there was
and has been no public outcry demanding
prosecutions. There was again a debate triggered off
by a women's conference in 2001, which had invited
women from Bangladesh. This generated discussion
in the press: 'Were women raped?', etcetera, The state
was definitely complicit. More terrible than that is the
complicity of West Pakistani society. How do we
move to address this? The only way to do so
immediately is through compensation to the state of
Bangladesh itself.
I raise the LOC issue in the sense that it is again a
question of two armies. But it is a national struggle
and there are freedom fighters; but there are also those
same ones that are called terrorists. In this case, the
violence is by two states and there is violence within.
Now here the issue of reparations, the issue of
complicity, the issue of who will be responsible and
how to move on, gets even further complicated. Even
though we don't know what will happen to
Kashmir, nevertheless 1 raise the question: What
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 about the compensations and reparations? Which
state? Both states? To whom and by whom? And will
Pakistanis and Indians, or Kashmiris, push India
and Pakistan to reconstruct the physical damage,
quite apart from getting involved in all the personal,
physical, psychological, emotional violence of women
who have been left alone, been widowed, of children
who have been maimed? £
Official commissions, truth and inquiry
Commissions are often the first step in responding to mass human-rights violations such as anti-
minority riots. This panel was an avenue to examine the record of commissions in Southasia,
and to look at the ambiguities and challenges entailed in the potential of commissions to
contribute to justice struggles. The issues of truth or fact-finding capture some of these questions.
On the one hand, commissions seem valuable in setting the record straight, in clarifying the legal
and historical record regarding human-rights violations, in laying out an 'official truth' regarding
what happened in a context of mass human-rights violations, who was responsible and who was
victimised. On the other hand, rather than historical closure, the value of many truth-commission
processes is precisely that they dejudicialise the historical record and demythologise official
truths; that they enable space for a richer notion of truth than captured in the idea of forensic
fact; and that, in this way, they constructively open up democratic space to enable collective
discussions about fundamentally contested historical visions, tn the Southasian context, the
majority of commissions have been judicialised processes intended to clarify the facts and
make recommendations - often behind closed doors. This panel looked at the role and function
of commissions, and asked whether they can be structured and mobilised in ways that deepen
and broaden their approach to justice issues.
The psychosocial dimension
'y interest in transitional justice began
. when I studied how
people spoke about their
psychological distress and
their suffering. Most of these
narratives were very gruesome,
with ideas of revenge - even
wanting to eat the perpetrators
up, not wanting to speak to
them or even know anything
about them. Who decides that a transitional-justice
process would be helpful for these people, when
they're talking about something else? And how can
transitional justice be designed to satisfy these people?
There is evidence that transitional-justice
mechanisms do not always have positive short- and
long-term outcomes. For example, people may re-
experience the suffering and distress they have
undergone, or may face social stigmatisation and
isolation after they have shared their terrible
experiences. But there is also evidence that the very
act of participating and benefiting from transitional-
justice mechanisms can fully or partially restore a
sense of control over their lives, a reinforcement of
dignity, an increase of options for responding to felt or
actual losses.
There are assumptions that there is a therapeutic
value in the transitional-justice process for individual
participants - that it is going to be helpful for them to
speak about their experiences. But this is also
something we have questioned. One of the most
common assumptions in Sri Lanka is that the
expression of emotions such as grief or anger during
the narration of distressing experiences provides
emotional relief. But there are concerns about this
assumption. Narrating distressing stories and sharing
personal experiences may actually make people feel
that they have to focus on an experience in a
more intensive manner. Intense focus on a
personally distressing experience is likely to
evoke associated emotions of sadness, anger,
vengeance, humiliation.
There is an assumption that knowing the truth
reduces distress. Knowing the truth is linked with the
construct of closure. The establishment of the truth is
said to allow people to review their own explanations
of their experiences, and to sometimes accept other
explanations made available through the transitional-
justice mechanisms. But this may not be true for
everyone, and its establishment may not lead to closure
for everyone. Some people may feel further distress,
because it may challenge or devalue their own
explanations. This may cause them to experience lower
self-esteem, guilt or insecurity. In some cases, people
may feel more distressed once the truth is established,
because it requires them to accept the death or
disappearance of a family member or a close friend.
There is also the assumption that sharing
experiences reduces a sense of isolation. It is assumed
that people find it therapeutic if they come to know of
others who have had similar experiences. But simply
coming to know of many others having similar
experiences may not always be therapeutic, ft might
Himal Southasian 1 March 2007
 even make them realise that there are so many others
who have suffered, and that can be even
more distressing.
The other main issue is the potential risk of
transitional-justice mechanisms to psychosocial well-
being - for example, the problem of social distance
and formality in transitional-justice mechanisms. It is
important to be cautious about patronising and
intimidating those who provide narrations. The issue
of accuracy of narratives is also important. When you
ask people to come speak about their experiences, they
might be very distressed, and it might be difficult for
them to be logical. For implementers of transitional-
justice mechanisms, it is important to realise that they
are in a position of superiority and competence, and
that this can be further intimidating. There is also the
lack of support and protection during and after the
transitional-justice process. In Sri Lanka, for example,
we don't have psychosocial support systems in place,
and when you get people to speak about their
problems, you also have to have in place a system that
will support them.
How do we deal with multiple human-rights
violations? In Sri Lanka, a person might have not only
lost their property and land during displacement, but
might also have suffered from landmine injuries.
People who have experienced human-rights violations
could question how just are the transitional-justice
mechanisms that have been set up, if they target
particular groups and not others, or particular issues
and not others. People who have experienced human-
rights violations, including sexual violence and
discrimination, may question why their experiences
do not merit transitional-justice attention. Such
exclusion may lead people to question the sincerity of
the process.
One last point is the question of labelling. The
transitional-justice process may impact on personal
identities and individuals and groups. For example, a
person who does not identify herself as a war widow
may be forced to do so simply because she is targeted
as a potential recipient of a process. A
Regional Human Rights Commissions
This pane! critically" examined the potential role of Human Rights Commissions (HRCs) in
addressing accountability for mass human-rights abuses. The regional experience of such
commissions has been mixed. In some cases, HRCs have been brave and visionary, providing a
politically independent voice that has challenged the abuse of power. Too often, however, these
commissions have also been timid institutions - too subservient to the status quo and open to
manipulation by the powers of the day. Even when their integrity has not been compromised,
HRCs have proved inadequate to the task of dealing with mass atrocities because their legal
powers have been limited, their capacity already overburdened, and their mandate directed
primarily towards addressing immediate individual complaints rather than mass atrocities. To
some extent, transitional-justice mechanisms have developed precisely because HRCs and the
routine criminal-justice system have proved institutionally inadequate to dealing with the scale
and intensity of violations in the context of riots and prolonged civil wars, systematic violence
against women and Dalits, communal massacres and counter-insurgency operations.
Human-rights commissions
& ;'- *
an the national institutions, created by the
state either to scuttle
international scrutiny or to
address international scrutiny,
establish accountability? I
think not, but in exceptional
circumstances, possibly yes.
But it depends on many
factors, including independent
appointment procedures,
powers and functions, adequate resources. But if you
look at the institutions in Southasia, do they comply?
Let's look at Nepal. I think this is the most crucial
period, but since the members of the National Human
Rights Commission resigned after the agreement
between the seven parties and Maoists, there has been
no commission. What about the Human Rights
Commission of the Maldives? Since August 2005 there
have only been three out of nine members, with no
quorum to conduct the meetings.
If you look at the National Human Rights
Commission of India, everybody knew that the chair,
Justice Anand, was going to retire on this particular
day. But the government never appointed anybody
to replace Anand, so they appointed an acting
chairperson who cannot deliver the work. There are
only five members for a biUion-plus1 population. Of
course, NHRC of India has restrictions in terms of
time - it cannot intervene into a complaint if a
violation had taken place one year prior to the time of
filing; it has to take permission from state authorities
before it visits prisons. It also cannot investigate
human-rights violations by the armed forces - but if
you look at all of the armed conflicts in India and the
violations in emergency situations, these have taken
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 place under the armed forces.
In August 2005, the Sri Lankan Human Rights
Commission building was attacked and security
persomiel tried to burn it down. No investigation has
taken place and no one has been taken in. When a
national institution cannot protect its own self
or establish accountability for having its
headquarters set on fhe, how is it going to protect
victims and provide justice?
Look at Afghanistan. A large number of violations
are taking place in the prisons, which are under the
forces from NATO and the US. But the Afghan
Human Rights Commission doesn't have access to
the prisons that are being maintained by fhe
international forces. Its work is extremely limited.
Bangladesh has been in the process of establishing a
Human Rights Commission since 1996 - 11 years.
Officials have visited all the countries in the
world that have commissions; there have been three
draft bills, including two by the outgoing government,
but no commission. Pakistan brought out a bill
in 2004. Bhutan doesn't want to have any kind
of commission.
In such situations, I don't think these are
institutions that can provide justice. I think one of
the key lessons is that if national institutions want to
estabUsh accountability, there needs to be a priority
placed on the whole investigation process. Because
if you don't do the investigation properly, how do
you fix responsibility? And if you look at the NHRC
of India, which has more resources than others, most
of the time the commission just asks the same police
officials to investigate into then own abuses. We have
cases where the perpetrator himself has been asked
to investigate, and that person submits a report to
the NHRC and NHRC says, 'Ok, no violation has
taken place.'
These are the negative aspects of the national
institutions, but are there positive ones? Under
exceptional circumstances. If the NHRC of India had
not gone to the Supreme Court in the Gujarat case, if
civil-society groups had gone on their own, would
we have seen the same result? But Gujarat is different,
because Gujarat divided the whole nation - you
had the BJP on one side, you had other political
parties on the other. That may not be the case when
you have a situation of armed conflict. You will not
find the NHRC intervening in an armed conflict
situation. If the work on Punjab had not been done
by a committee, NHRC would not have intervened. If
the activists who had been following the
Gujarat cases had not followed up, I don't think the
NFIRC would have intervened. You have to use the
tools available. k
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Himal Southasian I March 2007
igal's Singur
would not fjave been possible had not a
positive agrarian tra nsfd rmst i on already
taken place; there; Despite the hubbub, this is
;ire| fchta
have^ciaifi^ii itta life
What is now called the Singur controversy was
sparked off by the decision of the West
Bengal government to acquire 997 acres
(affecting approximately 12,000 owners) of agricultural
land, which it planned to grant to the Tata Group for
the purpose of setting up a small-car factory. This land,
which the Calcutta government says Tata chose over
five other sites, is located about 40 km outside Calcutta,
in the Singur block of Hooghly District, Given the
intensity of cultivation and population pressure in
West Bengal, the state government has always
maintained that it would be difficult for expansion of
non-agricultural activities to take place without the
incorporation of land currently in use for agriculture.
Ihe state government claims, however, that care has
been taken to leave fertile, triple-cropped land out of
the acquisition process, proof of which can be sought
in the irregularly shaped plot currently being offered
to the Tata Group.
For the land being acquired. West Bengal's Left
Front government has fixed compensation on the
following basis: landowners are to receive INR
870,000 per acre for single-cropped land and INR
1,280,000 per acre for double-cropped land;
sharecroppers are to receive 25 percent of the value
being offered to owners - around INR 200,000-300,000
per acre. In December 2006, the government claimed
that 7500 'man-days' of work had been created in the
area, to offset some of the employment lost by the
decrease in agricultural labour.
In addition, the Left Front (LF) government has put
in place a tiaining programme to provide skills to those
who wish to seek employment in the Tata factory.
According to the government, by early December, 1855
people - 1409 of whose land has been acquired, and
446 of whom are landless agricultural labourers - had
enlisted in this government-funded programme.
Training for the first batch had already begun in a
newly established institute in the area.
For the Left Front government, acquiring land in
Singur is a significant departure, as it seeks to change
both gear and strategy in an effort to sustain the
economic growth that West Bengal has seen over the
past three decades. As the state Industries Minister
Nirupam Sen put it in a recent interview, land reform,
which had secured tenancy rights .and was initiated
when the LF was elected to power in the state during
the late 1970s, was never an end in itself. "After
successful land reforms, the decentralisation of
Panchayati Raj, and the growth we have achieved in
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 the agrarian sector, if we do not go for industrial
development, then the entire economy of the state will
go to ruin," Sen noted.
Wherever one stands in the debate over Singur, Sen's
point is not one that can be easily brushed aside.
Therefore, if there is any reasonable case to be made
for state aid (in tbe form of, among other things,
acquiring arable agricultural land) to foster private-
sector-led industrialisation, and providing that the
state has a reasonable package for compensation and
rehabilitation, then why has the Singur project
generated so much controversy and resistance?
A differentiated peasantry
Indeed, there has been significant resistance. Between
9 May and 27 September 2006, there were nine meetings
between various arms of government and local
representatives, including four with the Krishi Jami
Raksha Committee (KJRC, the formal name of the
political coalition of 19 organisations that opposed
the Tata deal) to discuss modalities of land acquisition.
But despite extensive consultations, the government's
own records suggest that no consensus emerged from
these meetings on how to take the process forward.
Not only were the KJRC-government negotiations
fruitless, but starting from 25 May, when the visiting
Tata team was gheraoed and had to be rescued by the
police, local resistance continued in the form of
numerous sit-ins and rallies.
On 25 September 2006, the day compensation for
acquired land began to be disbursed, the block office
was surrounded by thousands of protestors. What
proceeded to take place is still unclear, but the police
eventually resorted to a lathi-charge that killed one
and injured many more. Finally, as fence-building was
about to begin in early December, in the face of
sustained efforts by political groups to occupy the
disputed land, police resorted to firing to clear the area.
The administration finally imposed Section
144 - a section under the Indian Penal Code that bans
public gatherings of more than three people - so as to
continue operations.
In order to understand this intense resistance, it
would be worthwhile to look at the area's economy.
The total population of the five revenue units (the
smallest administrative unit in a district) where land
is being acquired is 24,048, including 7710 'main
workers', 1034 marginal workers and a non-working
population of 15,304. If we take main and marginal
workers together, 35 percent of the population is
engaged in agriculture. This compares favourably with
the India-wide average, where more than 55 percent of
the employed workforce is agricultural. West Bengal
has an occupational structure similar to the all-India
average, and the bulk of its labour force too is occupied
in agriculture.
Therefore, despite the fact that Singur is a prosperous
agricultural area, it is considerably less agrarian than
the rest of the state. By that yardstick, it is more urban
than rural. The population is also reasonably well
educated, with one estimate putting literacy levels at
almost 75 percent. According to statistics from the
government's rehabilitation package, among the first
batch of 179 trainees, only 18 percent had education
levels of less than Class X, and nine percent had
graduate or higher degrees.
We know that there are approximately 12,000
people with land titles in Singur who will be
compensated as part of the land-acquisition process.
As noted, however, there are a total of 8744 workers
{both main and marginal) in the area, of which only 35
percent (3055) is in agriculture. Of these, 1320 listed
'cultivation' as their main occupation, while another
156 listed this as their marginal occupation. Therefore,
there are only 1476 people who would be classified as
farmers, suggesting widespread absentee landlordism
(even after accounting for the fact that some land-title
holders probably belong to the same household).
There are a few other critical aspects of the area's
agricultural practices that have come to light in the
course of the debate over Singur. First, most single-
crop farmers rely almost entirely on family labour for
agricultural operations. Second, there is evidence of
both perennial and seasonal in-migration of
agricultural and non-agricultural labour into the area.
As a result, according to one estimate, the agricultural
labour force is effectively double the 1579 currently
recorded. Third, there is considerable evidence of
substantial private investment in irrigation and
mechanisation in the area.
Given all this, what can we infer about the area's
economy? First, all evidence suggests that not only is
Singur an agriculturally prosperous area, but that
commercially viable capitalist farming has taken root
there. Second, despite the fact that it is an agriculturally
prosperous area, agriculture is not the most important
source of income or employment; as a result, there are
land-owning households where agriculture accounts
for only a small proportion of household income and
employment. The shift away from agriculture would
then explain the high degree of absentee
landlordism. In all likelihood, a large proportion of
single-cropped land belongs to households for which
agriculture accounts for just a small proportion of
income and employment.
Third, given that only 17 percent of the employed
workforce is classified as being 'cultivators' (which
would include both owner-farmers and bargadars, or
The Left Front government is correct when it claims that, unlike in other states, the
process of land acquisition in Singur will not pauperise the peasantry.
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 sharecroppers), landowners who practice multiple-
crop farming probably, in addition to working their
own land, also lease-in - that is, access on a rental
basis - a significant amount of land for cultivation.
Fourth, bargadars probably also account for work
done on a significant proportion ofthe cultivated area.
Fifth, therefore, owner-cultivators and somcbargadars
use the land-lease market to operate as large capitalist
farmers, who conduct agricultural operations on the
basis of hired, often migrant, agricultural labour.
Sustained agricultural growth in the overall context
of diversification away from agriculture, then, has
created a differentiated peasantry. First, it has
produced a large set of households with relatively
small land holdings for which income and
employment from agriculture now constitute a small
proportion of total household income and
employment, Second, this process has also created a
smaller set of relatively larger landowners and tenant
farmers, who have used the land-lease market to
expand agricultural operations, thereby allowing
them not only to grow but to accumulate as well. In
other words, they practice commercial farming and
see it as a way to make profit. This reasoning is
supported by the fact that Singur has a fairly active
land market.
To phrase it differently, a small, rural bourgeoisie
has emerged that is driving the capitalisation of
agriculture in the Singur area. Given prior land
reforms, sustained agricultural growth and somewhat
improved access to education has meant that this
emergence has not taken place alongside the
pauperisation of the small peasantry, as may
otherwise have been the case. The incipient
rural middle class has diversified away from
agriculture. In a sense, this is the best kind of
agrarian transformation that one can hope for -
capitalisation of agriculture alongside a
diversification away from agriculture.
Notice that for the emergent rural bourgeoisie - ie,
the land owners who lease-in large areas of land, and
bargadars who use the land-lease market to
operate as large-scale farmers - the compensation
offered by the government would seem
completely inadequate. The land owner would be
compensated on the basis of owned area, which in
this case would be substantially smaller than his
operated area. Furthermore, the bargadar in any case
gets only 25 percent of land value as compensation.
Perhaps most importantly, land for both of these sets
of farmers is a source of profit and accumulation,
not just income and employment. From such a
standpoint, compensation levels would certainly be
deemed inadequate.
There are peasant households in Singur, however,
for which agriculture still accounts for the bulk of
income and employment. Whether these peasants gain
or lose will depend on whether they find other
employment, and of what kind, after selling their
land. If there is reasonable uncertainty of finding
suitable work, then these peasants would be
unwilling to sell, because without land they would
not only have to look for work, but would also have to
buy their grain (which at the moment they grow)
from the market. Perhaps the worst off among these is
the unregistered bargadar, who loses access to land
and who, being unregistered, receives no
compensation to boot.
Rural v industrial bourgeoisie
We arc now in a position to discuss the major areas of
contention between the state government and the
KJRC, which can be broken down into four major
issues. First, the government claims that it has letters
of consent for 952 of the 997 acres that will be acquired.
The KJRC says simultaneously that it has letters from
at least 300 farmers, with land holdings of 184 acres,
saying that they "have not and will not give our land
to Tata Motors".
According to the official status report, by 2
December 2006, out of the required 997 acres,
compensatory payments had been made for 635 acres
of land to 9020 land title holders. The report also says
that two days later, "post-award consent had been
acquired for 332 acres". The report noted that there
remained about 3000 title holders and bargadars who
had not yet been paid. There are a couple of points
that need to be noted about this. One, it is likely that
some of the "post-award consent" for the 332 acres
acquired bv the administration from 2-4 December was
the result of 'persuasion' rather than any voluntary
process. As a result, with the backing of a full-blown
political campaign on the issue of land
acquisition, some of those who had been 'persuaded'
might have decided to change their minds and declare
their true positions to the K)RC - ie, that they did not
want to sell.
Two, if one compares the average size of land
holdings of those to whom payments had been made
(9020 claimants for 635 acres) with that of those to
whom no payment had been made (3000 land title
holders for 332 acres), it is clear that the smaller-scale
land owners were the first to sell to the government,
while the larger-scale ones held out and were
probablv ambivalent. This is confirmed by the fact
that the KJRC reports that it has 300 farmers with land
holdings of a total of 184 acres (2.5 percent of
landholders, accounting for 18.5 percent of the land
to be acquired) who have signed letters stating that
they do not want to sell. Our analysis suggests that
landowners who lease-in land stand to lose from the
compensation package, and it is the larger-scale
landowners who are most likely to lease-in land.
Therefore, all evidence would seem to suggest that
the consent of large-scale landowners, if obtained, was
probably not given willingly, and that it is they who
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 If the state government has been progressive in the design of the land-acquisition
programme, it has been far less so in its implementation of it.
arc most fervently resisting acquisition.
lhe second issue of contention between the West
Bengal government and the KJRC is over the
government's statement that 90 percent of the area
being acquired is single-cropped, lt would appear that
the basis for this claim is somewhat dated, and in any
case it is almost certainly an overstatement. Going by
the assumption that the 300 farmers who have given
letters to the KJRC are large-scale farmers, we would
conclude that at least 18.5 percent of the land is double-
if not triple-cropped. If we assume that all single-
cropped land has already been sold to the government
- that is, 635 acres out of 997, leaving 362 acres -
given that such land owners would have the most to
gain from the compensation package, then about 35
percent of the land can be understood to be double-
cropped. The proportion of double-cropped land
therefore probably lies somewhere between 18.5 and
35 percent.
The third issue is KJRC's claim that the government
is acquiring land for the benefit of the Tatas at one-
third the market price. While establishing a 'fair'
valuation of land is always a tricky matter, there is
very little evidence to suggest that the government has
underpaid landowners. Indeed, all evidence would
seem to point in the opposite direction - that the
government has tried to evolve a mechanism for the
determination of a reasonable price, taking into
account a variation of capitalised future earnings,
assuming that the land remains in agricultural use.
One might argue that bargadars who get only 25
percent of land value as compensation are receiving a
very raw deal. But it must also be recognised that the
Left Front's land reforms only gave bargadars usufruct
(usage without damage) and not ownership rights.
Therefore, the KJRC is wrong to claim that the
government is underpaying for the land. What it
would probably like to say - but cannot publicly
demand - is that the price currently on offer does not
make economic sense for the rural bourgeoisie.
Finally, the fourth point of contention is the number
of bargadars affected. The Nagrik Mancha, an NGO
that has been working on the issue, claims that there
could be up to 2400 bargadars in Singur, while the
Sanhati L'dvog, another NGO, has claimed that there
are probably 1200 unregistered bargadars. Whereas
the government's statement that there are
approximately 400 registered and unregistered
bargadars is almost certainly an underestimation, our
analysis would suggest that the claims of both Nagrik
Mancha and Sanhati L'dvog are somewhat off the
mark, and that the government's estimate is in fact
much closer to the actual number.
What, then, is the upshot of all of the above? First,
the Left Front government is correct when it claims
that, unlike in other states, the process of land
acquisition in Singur will not pauperise the peasantry.
Indeed, as one would expect of a progressive
government, some care has been taken to ensure that
the interests of the small peasantry and the incipient
rural middfe class - the groups that constitute the
overwhelming bulk of the 12,000 land-titie holders -
have been addressed. For most of these people,
household income and employment have diversified
away from agriculture, and therefore it is in their best
interests to sell what small plots of land they have,
particularly when the price they have been offered is
relatively fair. This is why, for the most part, land sale
has been voluntary.
Second, however, there is an emergent rural
bourgeoisie, accounting for a small proportion of the
title holders but a significant proportion of the land
acquired, whose interests have been adversely affected
by the acquisition. It is from this group that the
vehement resistance has come, and what consent for
land sale has been obtained from this it has in all
likelihood been non-voluntary. This group is joined
by a small contingent of peasants, including
unregistered bargadars, whose livelihoods are
probably at stake. If one leaves this last group of
peasants aside (whose employment prospects it would
be possible to improve through vocational training
and job creation), then the Left Front government has
chosen in its change of strategy to further the interests
of the industrial bourgeoisie directly at the expense of
the rural bourgeoisie.
If the state government has been progressive in the
design of the land-acquisition programme, it has been
far less so - and verging on the undemocratic - in its
implementation of it. This is no small matter, not only
because of the LF's avowed espousal of democratic
politics, but also because in a democratic polity,
process is almost as important as objective. And debate
and discussion, even if strongly contested and
acrimonious, form the cornerstone of that process.
Outside of the role discussion plays in legitimisation,
given that nobody is endowed with perfect knowledge,
it also ensures that all possible and feasible options
have been explored.
Unfortunately, both in the choice of strategy and in
its implementation, the government of West Bengal,
epitomised in the positioning and pronouncements
of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has
adopted a 'mv wav or the highway' attitude. This is
doubly unfortunate, because it is only a progressive
government that has the theoretical wherewithal to
understand that it is the very dialectics of successful
growth that necessitate a change in strategy. But if the
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 Simply industrialising is not enough. The process needs also to be a kind of
industrialisation that will lead to the generation of rural non-farm jobs, which allow
for labourers employed in agriculture to move out and up.
manner of choosing and implementing that choice is
undemocratic, or seen to be so, then it redounds on
that choice and undermines an effort that perhaps
only a progressive government can make.
Treading carefully
The government's rationale for the change in strategy
- the need to generate industrial employment in small
and medium enterprises so that overall employment
generation is maximised - is important, because long-
term economic success depends upon sustained
increases in productivity alongside near-full
employment of all available resources, including that
of labour. Therefore, all successful development
experience has been associated with two things: first,
a close link between industrialisation and
productivity; second, accelerated employment growth
that has allowed a shift of labour from low-
productivity primary sectors (agriculture) to higher-
productivity secondary (industry) and tertiary
(services) sectors. Given this, successful development
in West Bengal has been necessarily associated with
a sharp decline in the share of agriculture in both
output and employment.
Put differently, in a largely agrarian economy (as
most under-developed economies are), productivity
growth is driven by capitalisation of agriculture and
the generation of productive non-farm employment,
thereby allowing labour to move away from
agriculture. In a capitalist, market-driven economy,
the former requires the emergence of a forward-
looking rural bourgeoisie, while the latter requires
the growth of manufacturing and, later, a services
sector. The quicker both of these processes work, the
quicker economic development is achieved. But notice
that even if both processes work well, the share of
agriculture in both output and employment
declines - and, as a consequence, so does the relative
position of the rural bourgeoisie vis-a-vis the non-
rural bourgeoisie.
But if the process of growth in any case
marginalises the rural bourgeoisie, why pick a
strategy that directly pits the interests of the rural and
industrial bourgeoisie against each other -
particularly given that, by all accounts, it is a forward-
looking bourgeoisie, interested in investing in the
capitalisation of agriculture? In essence, why target
multiple-cropped arable land for acquisition? The
answer is not very clear, at least to this writer. In part
it may be explained by the fact that Singur was the
preferred choice of the Tata Group. It may be that it
was also politically expedient, since this is an area
dominated by the Trinamool Congress, which also
represents the interests of the rural bourgeoisie. Given
that the rural bourgeoisie would resist, it is perhaps
better that the resistance be in Singur and the political
battle be between the Trinamool combine and the Left
Front; elsewhere, after all, the rural bourgeoisie
might have been a part of a broad left coalition, and
the political battle might have been fought within the
Left Front.
If the Left Front wins this battle with the rural
bourgeoisie of Singur - and if it has not been forced to
pay too heavy a political price - then the terms of
future negotiations will have been set and a signal
sent to rural bourgeoisie elsewhere. But notice that
even where it comes to picking a battle with the rural
bourgeoisie (which it considers necessary for
achieving its broader goal of industrialisation), the
Left Front has treaded very carefully. As we know,
the most productive, triple-cropped land has been left
out of the land-acquisition process; and therefore,
even though it is the interests of the rural bourgeoisie
that have been hurt the most in Singur, it is not as if
they have been wiped out.
It is just as well that the Left Front treads carefully.
It is not clear, after all, whether its chosen strategy of
industrialisation will generate the amount and kind
of non-farm employment that will allow labour to shift
out of agriculture in West Bengal. And if it does not,
the growth puzzle will not have been addressed. The
process of successful development sketched above is,
after all, neither smooth nor automatic. First, there are
many countries in which development does not fit
this pattern, and is characterised bv both
under-developmcnt and mal-deveiopment. Second,
even where growth is taking place in the right
direction, in market economies the employment of
labour displaced due to the capitalisation of
agriculture is not assured. It is possible that growth
will take place alongside increasing underemployment and unemployment. Third, for countries
that come late into industrialisation (for instance,
India and China), the process tends to be more capita]
intensive and hence industrialisation produces fewer
jobs at every level of income. As a result of the above,
for late industrialisers, the decline in the share of the
labour force employed by agriculture tends to be much
slower. In India, for example, even though
agriculture's share in gross domestic product has
declined to a little more than 20 percent, it still
accounts for up to three quarters of employment.
Clearly, then, that such a large proportion of the
labour force continues to be employed in
low-productivity agriculture means that benefits from
growth are very unequally shared, the lion's share
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 going to the very small proportion of the labour
force employed in urban areas. As such, for India (and
West Bengal), the generation of non-farm employment
of a kind that allows labour to move out of
agriculture is absolutely key to both growth and a
more equitable distribution of the benefits
of growth.
The situation is complicated further by the fact that
a very large proportion of the labour force currently
employed in agriculture has very low levels of
education - on average between two and four years of
schooling. The bulk of the non-farm jobs now being
generated (mostly in urban areas), meanwhile, require
average education levels of at least seven years. Job
generation of the kind witnessed by the Indian economy
subsequently does not match the skill profile of the
bulk of available labour. This not only increases both
under-employment and unemployment in the rural
areas, but it forces people to remain in agriculture for
much longer than they would care to. While this is an
India-wide story, it captures the economic
developments in West Bengal reasonably well - with
the proviso that, given sustained agricultural growth
in the state for the last three-odd decades, incomes in
agriculture have fared much better than in other parts
of the country. Regardless, there is no evidence that
the sort of non-farm jobs that wil! be brought to the
state by Tata's small-car factory and its ancillaries will
be able to absorb the sort of labour that is currently
employed in agriculture.
In a scenario such as this one, West Bengal (and,
indeed, the whole country) faces some critical, difficult
issues. Sustained increases in productivity are key to
economic growth, and therefore the state has no option
but to accelerate the process of industrialisation. But
as we have seen, simply industrialising is not enough.
The process needs also to be a kind of industrialisation
that will lead to the generation of rural non-farm jobs,
which allow for labourers employed in agriculture to
move out and up. Otherwise, necessity might force the
state to build alliances with the same rural bourgeoisie
that it is today trying to marginalise, and generate
non-farm rural employment that will absorb the labour
that will continue to be made surplus in agriculture.
The final irony of all this is that success in Singur -
in the sense of generating non-farm industrial
employment - will not imply that the model will be
successful elsewhere, .^s noted, Singur is much less
agrarian than is the rest of West Bengal. With only 35
percent of labour employed in agriculture and a
relatively better-educated workforce, Singur has
already made the transition. The true success of
this strategy will be when it will be able to absorb
surplus labour in those parts of the state (and country)
where agriculture still accounts for 50 percent or more
of the workforce. i
Summit Hotel
Somewhem special
Summit Hotel. Kopundol Height,
P.O. Box 1406. Kathmandu. Nepa'
Tei'55 21810 Fax: 55 23737
Email: summit @w!ink.
A the Summit is the preferred hotel for visitors who want to get away
jfljk from the packaged environment and the noise of downtown
-^■a Kathmandu, This is where a wide range of travelers come to rest
and recuperate. A popular bar and spacious gardens make the Summit
a favoured base for many who came to Kathmandu to work, The diplomat,
the scholar and the development expert alike, enjoy the ambience and
our friendly service. Our Friday evening barbecue is the
talk of the Valley. The Summit Apartments cater
to all the needs of long-term visitors. If you want a break even
from all of this, then a walk to the cafe which we run, at the
Museum in Patan Durbar Square, is recommended.
Himal Southasian | March 2007
C K Lai
The oligarchy of filmi deviousness
it is not a
that there are
more Indian
families with
TVs than those
with access to
safe drinking
water or
modern toilet
Bhartciida's stage is on fire.
Distraught, in English,
People are running away.
- Byomesh Shukla in Aadat
Indian television serials are a lot better
these days. They are skilfully scripted,
carefully produced and cleverly-
stretched to last months, even years. Even
more interesting, the commercials that
accompany them are still more slick, more
entertaining and retain their sparkle longer.
Why so? Analysts offer an interesting
explanation. Advertisers spend more money
for the production of a one-minute spot than
the production cost of several episodes of a
soap opera. Copywriters are better paid than
scriptwriters. In terms of time spent, actors
receive more money for appearing in a
commercial than they do for appearances in
tele-serials. Advertising professionals that
oversee the production of commercials arc
much more demanding than programme
executives. Most of the time, anchors
nowadays do not even need to say, "Don't
go away". Millions wait for Juhi Chawla's
current tease in the "Kya Family Hai" series
of their own free will, and never get tired of
Amitabh Bachchan's childish pranks for
Dabur products.
Ads sell desire. Sometimes the object of
desire is beyond the means or liking of the
target audience. When that happens - and
marketers monitor consumer reaction quite
closely - alternatives are offered with new,
improved or affordable tags. The idea is to lot
the buyer feel that his concerns are
paramount. In the end, we do not buy things
because somebody is telling us to do so; we
acquire the advertised product or service
because we want it, we need it, and finally,
we cannot do without it. That is the way
advertising works. That is also the reason
the market demands that every household
have a colour television. Medium becomes
the message when everything the television
shows is something for sale. It is not a
coincidence that there arc more Indian
families with TVs than those with access
to safe drinking water or modern
toilet facilities.
The poorest of the poor are also potential
consumers. The mind-spaces of even
marginal consumers are minutely mapped
to anticipate their taste, preference, priority,
ability and willingness to pay. Commercials
target their vulnerabilities with calculated
precision: drink a certain brand oi soda to
keep your cool; buy another washing
powder to get envious glances; this mint will
turn every male into Prince Charming. Of
course, viewers know that all this is make-
believe, but they want to believe it all the
same. This is the assumption that makes
advertising work.
Guru's saga
Selling ideology, however, requires a more
sophisticated approach. The cinema, with
all its subtlety and nuance, is more suitable
for the broad-spectrum treatment involved
in marketing beliefs. A recent Bollywood
blockbuster uses the medium's full
potential to show that anything is possible
for the conscience-free in the free market. In
Guru, director Mani Ratnam - himself an
established guru of his profession -
portrays the rise of a middle-class Gujarati
boy to the stratosphere of Bombay's
The origin of the word guru is impressive.
In Sanskrit it implies gravity, weight and
importance, and is thus used for superior
teachers or spiritual leaders. When it
reached English - via cither Hindi or
Punjabi - the noun still retained some of its
original gravitas. But in contemporary-
Hindi usage, the term carries a hint of
negative connotation. When someone
tell you that vou turned out to be his guru,
he is probably complementing your
craftiness. Perhaps this is the meaning that
Ratnam wanted to confer on his film's
eponymous protagonist.
Gurukant Desai is a boy who finds the
conventions of his environment
cumbersome, and is ready to do whatever it
takes to become successful. 1 Ie marries for
money so that he can invest the dowry and
start his own business. He curries favour
with an upright editor to gain entry into a
textile-trading cartel. He bamboozles a
senior government official and establishes
himself in the trading community, in Guru's
world, winning is not just everything; it is
the very thing he lives for, [Spoiler warning:
skip the next two paragraphs ifiiou don't want
to know how the nwvie ends.)
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 In the later half of the film, Ratnam gives
his story a sudden twist, and makes the
character of the editor realise that there is a
sordid story behind the phenomenal rise of
his protege. An enterprising reporter
uncovers the slimy underbelly of the shiny
factories. Under- and over-invoicing,
foreign-currency manipulations, siphoning
off of investors' funds, bribery, tax
evasion - all the things that ambitious
entrepreneurs usually do - are chronicled
in the courageous press of the old-school
media baron.
Guru fumes, but there is little he can do
to get back at his former mentor. So, he sets
his small investors upon his critics. All those
speculators who had multiplied their
savings by investing in the fearless
enterprise of the peerless manipulator come
to the rescue of their saviour. The system
succumbs. In an emblematic scene at the
end, the schemer stands tall above
small, faceless men and teases them: Don't
we want more? The crowd roars in
affirmation. The moral of the story: Greed is
good, and all is well that sells well on the
stock exchange.
Guru is an entertaining movie. It has all
the works - lilting tunes by A R Rahman, a
wet dance by Aishwarya Rai, and locales
that make the audience gasp. It would have
been nice to rate this movie favourably, but
this column is not a review. Rather, it seeks
to understand why, since the 1970s, Hindi
films have denigrated everyone and
everything but the business world - a clear
contrast to the earlier, idealistic era when
sincere workers would prevail over
dishonest hoarders.
Winner's world
Guru follows in the tradition of the long line
of Bollywood productions that try to
establish the superiority of businesses. In
the movies of the 1960s, mill-owners were
often gullible but trade-union activists were
invariably venal. Without anybody realising
it, a negative image of trade unions was
subsequently embedded in the minds of the
masses. The films of the 1970s targeted the
national government and irrevocably tarred
the bureaucracy with the brush of
corruption. Angry Young Man and Don
were two sides of the same coin - deviants
who sought to establish that recourse to law-
was pointless.
The dominant theme of 1980s films was
the   circumstances   that   forced   honest
entrepreneurs into embracing dishonest
means. Movies of the 1990s disrobed
politicians of any dignity - the police-
criminal-politician nexus was pilloried so
much that a Gandhi topi became a mark of
ridicule. Few politicians deign to wear the
cap today. Businesspeople, presumably
because they were the ones to fund these
extravaganzas, were spared - their
misdemeanours were always minor. In the
21st century, Bollywood directors want us
to believe that India is shining brightly,
Indians abroad are partying hard and
poverty is history in the Subcontinent. Even
more dangerously, Bollywood wants to
establish a new value: Not only is winning
everything, it is the very essence of playing
games, having fun or forming
relationships. Considering the reach
and influence of Hindustani films, that
subliminal message should worry
all Southasia.
When winning is everything, ethics
mean nothing and morals count for even
less. When self-proclaimed socialists such
as Mulayam Singh and .Nitish Kumar have
no qualms in mobilising hardened
criminals during elections, the less said
about the powerbrokers of the Bharatiya
Janata Party, the better. When winning is
everything, violence occurs and common
people suffer, as happened in Gujarat. Guru
takes the stakes of winning to a new high
in a soft, subtle way. Its consequences can
be unpredictable - imagine thousands of
entrepreneurs without scruples bribing,
blackmailing or breaking everyone that
comes in the way of their success. The
deviousness of many may cancel each
other out; or, more likely they will coalesce
to establish an oligarchy that would make
democracy meaningless.
Rumours have spread that the character
of Guru was inspired by the life of
Dhirubhai Ambani, the 'polyester tsar'
who eliminated cotton and handlooms
from India. There are many in Southasia
who worship Ambani - reputedly the first
self-made billionaire, and one who
trampled everything that came in his way.
"It behooves us to be careful what we
worship, for what we are worshipping we
are becoming," warned the US poet Ralph
Waldo Emerson during the 19th century.
aA.mbani has replaced Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi as the best-known
Gujarati. This can only produce more
Narendra Modis in the days to come.      *
Himal Southasian | March 2007
Parzania and
the dictator of Gujarat
Who was responsible for the ban on the release of
11 Panama in Gujarat*7 Apparently nobody.
Gujarat, the much-maligned land of the Mahatma,
refuses to move ahead on the path of tolerance
or the road of repentance, at least officially. The
unofficial ban on the controversial new film Parzania
was a crude reminder to these who have joined the
chorus of Vibrant Gujarat, led by Chief Minister Narendra
Modi, of the state's unaddressed demons. The timing
could not have been better. It was mid-February and the
media was busy counting the amount of investment
proposed at the recent Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors'
Summit. The air was thick with a sense of euphoria
manufactured by the state machinery and propagated
by the mainstream press, when suddenly Parzania
appeared on the scene.
The subject matter of Parzania - a film about hell on
earth, in which a family loses a child in the 2002 Gujarat
riots - was no secret, as it came to Gujarat after winning
a number of accolades on the festival circuit. The film is
based on a true story. Fourteen-year-old Azhar Mody. son
of Rupa and Dara Mody, went missing in the carnage of
February 2002, in which ex-MP Ehsaan Jaffrey (in whose
house the family had been hiding) was burnt alive by a
mob, and the police chose to stay away. Azhar's mother
is still waiting to find her son. It was the suffering of the
Mody family, friends of his, that moved director Rahul
Dholakia to make Parzania.
The film was made in English, probably keeping the
international circuit in mind, with noted actors
Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika in the lead roles. There
was no sign of protest when Shah and Sarika, on a prerelease tour, visited Ahmedabad and spent time with
Rupa and Dara Mody. Indeed, the media had a field day
with their visit. Even the announcement of the film's
release date did not create much of a stir. Things started
changing mysteriously only thereafter.
Gujarat ni asmita
The burden of banning the film fell to the very people
who were supposed to screen it in the first place, the
Multiplex Owners' Association (MOA). The MOA was put
on the defensive from the start. News of the association's
meetings with Dholakia and the postponement of
Parzania's release appeared prominently in the English-
anguage press. During the course of the meetings,
however, the name emerged of Babubhai Patel - aka
Babu Bajrangi. a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader.
Thereafter, Bajrangi was projected as the saga's main
villain, threatening theatre owners and forbidding them
from screening the film.
The MOA tried to persuade Dholakia to invite Bajrangi
to a preview show to get his clearance. When asked by a
reporter about whether Parzania should be screened,
Bajrangi simply said. "I need to watch the film first." After
Dholakia refused to invite Bajrangi to a preview, the MOA
turned to the police commissioner of Ahmedabad and
asked him for a certificate of clearance for the film. He
said that was not his job.
That proved to be the end of the road for Parzania in
Gujarat. The MOA ended its efforts in resignation, and
Dholakia flew back to Bombay disheartened. But the
question remained: Who banned Parzania? It is hardly a
mystery. None can be blamed other than Narendra Modi,
firmly in saddle in Gujarat. Nonetheless, some NGOs and
sections ofthe media have pretended naivete, accusing
Bajrangi and the MOA of playing 'super-censor'.
But would Bajrangi really be able to issue such diktat
in Modi's Gujarat, when his onetime-almighty boss, VHP
supremo Praveen Togadia. had been dumped by the chief
minister? The activities of the Rashriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat,
after all, revolve around Modi completely. Nobody
challenges the man's word, and those who try to,
inevitably fail. Modi may also be interested in sending
strong signals to both his cadre and his detractors: Here
1 am, the sole protector of Gujarat ni asmita, the pride of
Gujarat. Don't try to mess with that pride or you'll meet
the same fate that this film did.
The Ahmedabad government has not claimed
responsibility for the ban on Parzania, as it did in the
case of the film Fanaa. The latter was banned due to the
public sympathy the film's hero. Aamir Khan, had
expressed for Medha Patkar, the longtime critic of the
Sardar Sarovar Dam project. But such formal measures
were entirely absent in the case of Parzania, where the
ban was promulgated by an entirely predictable yet
invisible presence. While murmurs of discontent are
being heard from some sections of the Ahmedabad
intelligentsia, at press time these have not gone beyond
armchair activism. The Congress party, meanwhile,
continues to act clueless, perhaps seeking to champion
the cause of 'soft Hindutva', while the dictator of Gujarat
stands by watching smugly. •
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
•Crossing a"
creek to reach
lilfcaCai     ■.    -Hfc^-ilk
the water was
.wasned away
by the tstiharui,'
and the creek
be crossed, at
Moving on from
a cataclysm
If there is a single day for which the Andaman and
Nicobar Islands will be forever remembered, it is
undoubtedly 26 December 2004. For the small
chain of islands located far from mainland India, this
was a tryst with a cataclysm, as huge waves engulfed
the coasts with unforgiving power and ferocity.
Himal Southasian | March 2007
 An 11-photo compilation showing
coral reefs thrust above the high-tide
line off the west coast of Interview
Island in the Andamans.
Official estimates suggest that
nearly 3500 people were washed
away on that day, while about 8000
hectares of horticultural and
agricultural land were
permanently submerged. Two
years later, there are no clear
answers as to how the recovery
process is proceeding. Part of the
reason for this is because the
islands are an extremely complex
place - geographically, logistically,
demo graphic ally and culturally.
Not only are the Nicobars
distinctly unique from the
Andamans, but there are
substantial differences even
between the islands that make up
each group. The earthquake
and tsunami of 2004 also meted
out different treatments to
the various islands - to their
respective ecologies and to the
human communities, if any, that
inhabit them.
Less than 10 percent of the over
500 islands constituting the
Andaman and Nicobar group have
human communities. Tlie rest are
uninhabited. In more ways than
one, then, the impact of December
Havaldar Arjan Singh and his wife with a
visitor in their intermediate shelter in
Campbel Bay. 70-year-old 5ingh and his
family have lived in Joginder Nagar for
nearly three decades. The tsunami
destroyed their house and inundated
parts of their plantations. The road to
the settlement was also washed away,
and all the people here were moved .to
intermediate shelters made of tin sheets
in Campbel Bay.
March 2007 j Himal Southasian
 In the intermediate shelter of Chota
Inaka on Camorta Island in the Central
Nicobar Group of islands. A game of
tug-of-war between married and
unmarried women.
2004 can only be considered a
natural phenomenon. Indeed, it has
been argued that this is precisely
the type of event that could, over a
geological timescale, have been
responsible for creating the islands
in the first place.
Due to a host of complex
phenomena, it was the Nicobars
that were the worst hit by the
tsunami. Each and every member
of the indigenous Nicobari
community of nearly 40,000 was
affected. And yes, the process of
rehabilitation is far from over. It has,
in fact, barely begun.
One of the least-known aspects
of the disaster of December 2004 is
the fact that the earthquake
that catalysed the tsunami also
caused a permanent and vast
transformation to the coastline of
the islands, particularly in the
Nicobars. With a pivot located
roughly around Port Blair, the
Andaman Islands were thrust
upwards by five feet in fhe extreme
north, whereas the Nicobars
subsided by anywhere from
five to 15 feet. This is a permanent
change, the likes of which are rarely,
if ever, seen. i
Himal Southasian | March 2007
Do you know this
man, seen here
shaking hands
India's finance
minister? Keep an
eye on him, for he
may have a role in
your life without
you having the faintest knowledge of it. He is
Praful Patel, Regional Vice President of the World
Bank - in essence, the satrap of Southasia. While
the various regional governments may lend an ear
to the Europeans or the Scandinavians or the
Japanese, it is actually the World Bank (as well as
its slightly poorer cousin, the Asian Development
Bank) to which all finance ministers from Colombo
to Dhaka to Kathmandu look to for the big money.
And besides foisting the Washington Consensus
on all recipients, the World Bank is also known to
elbow other, more 'politically correct' lenders to
create some space. Overbearing, if you will -
though IVlr Patel seems a nice enough guy in the
photograph. He wants to expand loan assistance
to India from the current annual average of USD
2.5 billion to USD 4 billon over the next three years.
He currently doles out around USD 3.8 billion
annually to all of Southasia.
Mohammad Yunus
Dada! As with a lot
of bhodrolok and
commoners alike,
Chhetria Patrakar frets
for thee. You had
wanted the Nobel for
long, and you got it.
SKi.     Southasia is proud.
Now you want to use this space in .the limelight -
not just the Nobel, but your own luminous
presence - to help make things right in a country
where politics has become a bad word. Hosannahs
for daring to take fhe plunge. In your open letter to
the Bangladeshi public you wrote, "I know that
joining politics is to become controversial. I am
ready to take the risk." In Calcutta, you told
reporters that you are keen "to create a new brand
of politics".
Okay on all counts. But, sir, please note that
henceforth you wiU be a politician rather than a
service provider involved in 'social business'.
Good politicians make compromises for the sake of
the long-term; they develop a rhino's hide to
protect themselves from the vilest of attacks, which
they take as a given. Politicians are disliked - more
than judges, generals and civil-society gadflies -
because they are the most accountable, through
both the ballot and continuous public scrutiny. CP
is glad that you have chosen to float your own party
rather than join an existing one - not only because
they all seem equally distasteful, but because you
would have had to fend off too many claimants for
your lateral entry. You obviously have your Nobel
kitty to finance the party, so the funding problem
will not be there at first. Rather, you will
immediately have to confront political reality by
answering the hard questions. You will have to
develop positions that you may not have had to till
date (apologies if you already have a position on
these, but we were not able to confirm by Coogling).
Sir, what about human-rights abuse, and the
summary justice conducted by the RAB? And the
Biharis, should they be sent back? And what about
the record of the Bangladeshi state in the
Chittagong Hill Tracts? Do you want to take
Bangladesh back to being a secular state? How
about the Indian claim that there are Bodo and
ULFA training camps in Bangladeshi territory?
What do you say about river-linking
projects? aAnd natural gas, sir - should Bangladesh
export natural gas to India? Is it true or not that
Bangladeshi migrants travel (as they should) to
India, something that all politicians cravenly deny?
Professor Yunus, how well, courageously,
tactfully and 'nationalistically' you answer these
questions will make you a politician different
from all those who came before you. Otherwise,
however, you will be just another
politician - and they are found a dime for a dozen
along the Buriganga.
Fakir S Ayazuddin is an interesting, intemperate
columnist for The News of Karachi/Lahore/
Islamabad. Always worth a read for the fine
challenges he places before both the state
machinery of Pakistan and the fundamentalist
forces. In his latest column, titled "Abject
Surrender", he spews venom at Federal Minister for
Religious Affairs Ijaz ul-Haq, for having succumbed
to the dictates of the mullahs who would "put up a
mosque by way of mischief and infidelity". The
minister has apparently "redrawn the map of fhe
tribal areas (where the laws of Pakistan did not
apply) to include parts of Islamabad, the Federal
Capital of Pakistan. His abject surrender to the
Mullahs now gives them the right to stop any
searching of their premises, and
stockpile any manner of
weapons within striking
distance of fhe Presidency
itself." Justifiably livid, the
columnist refers to the recent
attacks on the Marriott Hotel, at
the very heart of the capital, and
the blast at the airport, and
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 states: "Yet with all the threats and acts of suicide
bombers, an impenetrable madressah was allowed
to dictate its own terms, and succeeded in forcing
the government to condone an illegality. Religion
is to be respected, always, but not when it is used
to bludgeon the law of the land into submission.
When it also flouts the words of the Holy Quran
itself then we have a serious administrative
problem. The Minister should be put out to
pasture, perhaps as an ambassador to a faraway
land where he should not be able to damage cast or
creed." The rest of Southasia needs columnists
such as this - sharp with the pen, but also with a
point of view that is humanitarian and principled.
Blogs are fast
catching on in
Pradesh, as a
platform for
activists to
voice concern
on social
issues such as safe motherhood. Check out, for
example, Or, which deals with infant
mortality and low nutrition levels among children.
Meanwhile, is meant
for those who want to discuss issues relating to the
state. Anil Gulati, known as the "Blogman of
Bhopal", says the blogs help to "bring out issues
from the districts which rarely find a place in the
state-level media."
The Indian Express
reports tliat M K
Gandhi the journalist
began his writing
career "in the early
1920s, writing letters to
the editor of a
newspaper in Durban.
He actually started his
penmanship when an
English daily reported
about him wearing a
turban in the court, and called him an 'unwanted
guest'." As a journalist, Gandhi went on to become
editor of the newspapers Young India, Indian
Opinion and Navjeevan. Reminiscing about Gandhi
the pen-pusher recently was Narayan Desai, son of
Gandhi's long-time associate and secretary,
Mahadev Desai. Pointing out how Gandhi was a
stickler for both details and deadlines, Desai said:
"Gandhi would insist that reporting be done from
the point of the affected party, and that the writing
should be simple in a language which could be
understood by the readers."
The Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka has
criticised President Mahinda Rajapakse for
providing TV and radio licences to the formerly
insurgent JVP party as a way of recognising the
support it rendered to him in the presidential
election campaign. Says the FMM in a press
advisory, "Regrettably, it is the practice of
IreBffisrfta    $tif nml
successive governments to show partisan favour
in the provision of TV and radio licences to
businessmen and political parties that supported
them in elections, with scant regard for the ethics
of such practices, or the serious implications on
media regulations that are in place in part to
ensure that such practices are kept at bay. The
question now arises as to how many other
political parties are entitled to claim a TV and
radio licence given their support to the incumbent
President and his government. This nepotism and
political favouritism is detrimental to the
development of free media."
Everyone likes to advise
the media, most of all
former journalists. The
most recent in the line of
media advisors is the
media advisor to
Manmohan Singh,
Sanjaya Baru, an
economist from the
University of Hyderabad
(Deccan) who turned to
journalism before donning
his present pajamas. Held forth Mr Baru before an
international conference on media and
governance: "Journalists cannot play a proper,
meaningful role in the society and evolve unless
there is an internal professional code of conduct
for journalists ... Increasingly, media has become
a commercial enterprise. One knows media needs
commercial viability but it should not alter the
shape of journalism and the role journalists can
play. The perception of the fourth estate must
change. The time has come for the media to
introspect and look closely at the issue of
governance in media." Chhetria Patrakar is all for a
code of conduct, and is against the commercial
enterprisation of media. S/he does not know,
though, whether the time has come to look closely
at "the issue of governance in media" - especially
when it is an advisor to the prime minister who is
thus advising.
- Chhetria Patrakar
Himal Southasian | March 2007
The shackling of community radio
While New Delhi coddles private-sector media, it stifles the public's
right to community radio, with broadcasting guidelines that make a
mockery of intelligence.
After India's first, rather grudging, opening of
the airwaves for community use in December
2002, it took four years of intense effort by
advocacy groups to obtain a policy even halfway
meaningful. But when the fine print of the fresh set of
guidelines on community radio (CR) services - issued
last December - was studied, it became clear that the
eligibility criteria laid down in the policy left significant
room for ingress by bodies that have little to do with
the purported aims of community radio. Worse still,
the restraints that had been placed on those with the
necessary credentials could, conceivably, entirely
defeat the intent of CR. Viewed in substantive terms,
the official announcement achieved tittle more than
meeting tlie formal requirement of being a policy. This
should count a dubious gain when viewed against
other experiences in the neighbourhood - particularly
in Nepal, but also to some extent in Sri Lanka - where
community broadcasting has contributed significantly
to the quality of the public discourse, despite lacking
the benediction of official policy.
The constitutional position in India, as established
in the Supreme Court judgment in the 1995 Cricket.
Association of Bengal v the Ministry of Information &
Broadcasting, is very clear: the airwaves belong to the
public, and the government has no enduring rights of
ownership, even if it has for historical reasons
established a custodial monopoly over the broadcast
spectrum. This judgment also stipulates that the
allocation of rights over the
spectrum needs to be
done by an independent group that is attuned to, in
some manner, the public interest.
Over the past decade, acknowledgment of the
significance of the so-called "airwaves case" has been
rather slow and sporadic. Viewed against the
judgement's criterion, however, the new community-
broadcasting policy warrants little self-congratulation.
It could be viewed as the partial restoration of an
inalienable right of the people, which has long been
denied by the state. But that still leaves considerable
more ground to be covered before a full restitution of
rights is obtained.
Clearances, conditions, scrutiny
With the position in law being unequivocal, why did
New Delhi dither until 2002, and then bring in a policy
that reserved community-radio licences only for "well-
established education institutions"? Furthermore,
why did it wait another four years to open the window
of opportunity a crack, while still requiring CR
applicants to meet a number of stringent conditions?
In the case of aspirants other than publicly funded
and managed educational institutions, sanction for
entering the community-radio domain wouldbe subject
to clearance from two ministries of the union
government - home aff a i rs and d efcnce - not to mention
the allocation of a radio frequency by yet another. Such
procedures aside, CR operators would remain subject
to ongoing scrutiny. Programmes broadcast over their
stations are enjoined to serve a "specific well-defined
local community" and to be relevant to the
"educational, developmental, social and cultural
needs" of that community. The guidelines in this
manner confine "community" to a territorial
definition - a specification that does not measure up
to international best practices, which
permit other forms of community identification, such
as the occupational.
Advocacy groups had demanded that any CR
policy, by definition, should not encumber
broadcasters-to-be by laying down onerous eligibility
conditions. Rather, the government was urged to allow
for maximum freedom by specifying nothing more than
a narrow list of ineligibility criteria.
Broadcasts that relate to "news and current affairs
and are otherwise political in nature" are specifically
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 proscribed over community broadcasts. Sponsored
programmes will likewise not be permitted, except
where the sponsor is an arm of the government.
Advertisements and revenue-yielding public
announcements would be permitted to the limit of five
minutes in an hour's broadcast. All earnings would
need to be used in meeting operational and capital
costs. If available, a surplus could, with the explicit
written permission of the information ministry, be
transferred into the primary activity of the organisation
running the service.
It is among the most mystifying aspects of India's
new broadcast policy that content restrictions are the
most rigorous where community ownership, in the
broadest sense, is involved. Satellite-television
broadcasters - uplinking from or beaming content into
Indian territory-have for long been under no restraint
as far as news, current affairs and explicitly political
content arc involved. It was only in 2003 that New
Delhi, roused from its stupor by the unyielding
pressure of home-owned broadcast companies,
decreed that foreign equity in uuinpanies engaged in
"news and current affairs" would be limited to 26
percent. As foreign broadcasters (spearheaded by
Rupert Murdoch's creativity) began conjuring up
newer techniques of evading ownership limits, the
Indian government felt compelled to continually
tighten up enforcement mechanisms. Nonetheless, it
is a fair surmise today that overseas enterprises have
largely succeeded in dodging all efforts at restraining
their stakes in companies directly engaged in
broadcasting supposedly sensitive, political content
in India.
Oligopoly FM
This regime of default-disguised-as-policy provides an
instructive companion narrative to that which is
prevalent in the realm of private radio broadcasting.
In July 2005, policv guidelines were announced under
which bids were invited for the second round of
allocation of FM broadcast "circles", or geographical
areas. While reluctant to yield their monopoly over the
airwaves to any form of community control, New Delhi
policymakers showed a greater inclination to treat their
trusteeship over the spectrum as a resource to be
milked for the greatest profit. Under the tendering
principles drawn up, allocations w7ere to be made on
the strength of the entry fee offered by each bidder.
Moreover, a share of annual revenue would be paid by
tbe operator as a fee for the use of the broadcast
spectrum. Advertisements would be the principal
revenue source, but there would be no limit imposed
on the quantum of advertising that each broadcaster
could carry.
After the subsequent bidding for FM licences, the
vast majority was granted to companies or entities that
were already strongly established in other media
sectors. Entertainment Networks (India) Ltd, a
company owned by the Times of India Group (the
largest print-media enterprise), won 25 FM broadcast
Call far entries
Film South Asia'07
Kathmandu .
Film South Asia, the festival of South Asian documentaries, calls for
entries forthe sixth edition of its biennia! festival being:held in Kathmandu
from 4 - 7 October 2007. Documentaries made in and after January 2005
are eligible for the competitive section.
Entry deadline: 30 June 2007
For further information contact:
Upasana Shrestha, Co-director
Film South Asia, Patan Dhoka, i^O Box 166. Lalitpur, Nepal;
Himal Southasian j March 2007
 circles, to add to the seven that it was already running
under its brand name, Radio Mirchi. South Asia FM
Ltd, a company controlled by the Madras-based
satellite broadcaster Sun TV, won 23 circles in the
northern part of the country - apart from tire 18 it won
in the south through its affiliate company, Kal Radio
Ltd. Sun TV, it should be added, had in early 2006 also
bought up the newspaper Dinakaran, then ranked third
in terms of readership in Tamil Nadu.
These are, of course, only the most conspicuous
examples from the last round of FM radio licensing of
how "cross-media ownership" restrictions are being
continually shredded. In doing so, the pathway is being
opened even wider for growing business monopolies
in the media. Illustrative of the many other such cases
are: the Rajasthan Patrika group, a significant
newspaper player in the state, being awarded four FM
circles; Malayala Manorama and. Matrubhumi, the two
largest newspaper groups in Kerala, gaining four each
in their home state; and the Mid Day group of Bombay
being given six circles, all of them in highly lucrative
metropolitan cities. HT Media and Entertainment, a
company controlled by the Hindustan Times
Group - with its significant print-media presence in
Delhi and Bombay - was awarded radio licences in
both of these cities, with Calcutta and Bangalore
thrown in as a bonus.
Beyond this story of consolidation by the media
giants, a significant new presence was entering the
scene. Adlabs Films Ltd, flush with an infusion of funds
after its takeover by the Rcliance-ADAG group (one of
India's largest industrial conglomerates), won no
fewer than 45 circles in the most recent round of FM
allocations. All in all, these blatant concessions to
corporate control over the airwaves should be seen in
the context of existing global norms on cross-media
ownership restrictions. Indeed, these norms have been
repeatedly affirmed in India by broadcast legislation
that, curiously, seldom makes it beyond the first drafts.
It might appear that an oligopoly of private
broadcasters - however small in number - would be
far preferable to a government monopoly. Interestingly
though, in the doctrme of fundamental rights laid
down by India's Supreme Court, the fact of monopoly
ownership over broadcast platforms does not in itself
constitute a curb on the twin rights of information and
free speech, lt is only from the denial of public access
to the broadcast media that such an abridgment of
rights could be deemed to occur. In other words, the
existence of a monopoly broadcaster does not in itself
negate free speech, provided that the right to public
access is still ensured. The dominant idiom in media
regulation in India, however, seems to view corporate
control over the broadcast spectrum as a surrogate for
public ownership. Meanwhile, the public's access
to the airwaves, where it is allowed, would need to be
mediated through an array of bureaucratic controls -
in effect reducing the principle to a nullity.
Chief of Service/Branch/Dfvislon,  Kathmandu (D-l)
Under the substantive support and general policy guidance of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Dep jty and in close coordination with the Chief
of the Capacity Building and Field Operations Branch, the incumbent will perform the foil owing functions:
■Ensure the coordination, organisation, and implementation ofthe programme of work of the OHCHR Office in Nepal, including its sub-offices, in
conformity with the mandate of the Office as specified in the Agreement between OHCHR and the Government of Nepal.
■ Direct and manage the Country Office, formulate, implement, lead and supervise the substantive work program ofthe Office.
■ Develop work plans to be followed by the Office, and manage the activities undertaken by the Country Office,
■ Maintain close cooperation with OHCHR in Geneva and New York.
• Represent the Office and speak on behalf ofthe High Commissioner with the authorities, diplomatic missions and interagency actors at the international and
country [eveI.
■Participate, where relevant to Nepal, in interagency coordination bodies such as the Executive Committee on Peace and Security.
■Cooperate with UN agencies and programmes present in Nepal to en sure the integration of human rights in the work of all UN agencies.
Communication: Excellent communication and representational {spoken, written and presentational) skills.
Teamwork: Excellent interpersonal and proven negotiating skills; Ability to establish trust and working relations in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment.
Vision: in-depth understanding of OHCHR's strategic direction and ability to develop work programmes that obtain results.
Leadership: Proven ability to provide effective leadership and knowledge to external partners, stakeholders, senior officials and staff at all levels.
Education: Advanced University Degree (Masters or equivalent) preferably in law, political science, international relations or other disciplines related to human
rights. A combination of relevant academic qualifications and extensive experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.
Wo rk Ex peri e n ce: At I e ast 15 yea rs of progress ively res ponsi b I e professi onalexperienceatnationalandinternationallevelsinthehumanrightsrelatedfield.
Languages: Fluency in written and spoken English.
Other Ski! Is: Good knowledge of the region or country of assignment, Including familiarity with the political environment and regional structures forthe protection
and promotion of human rights and the resolution of conflict is highly desirable.
All applicants are strongly encouraged to apply online as soon as possible and well before Sunday, 11 March 2007 , or send in your resume to
or fax it to 0041-2 2-S17-0074
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
 Politics, aesthetics and a world of thought
Since its inception in 1960, the
London-based New Left
Review has been a record of
the intellectual journey of the global
left. From Jean-Paul Sartre to Edward
Selections from New Left
I: The Global Stage
II: Powers
III: Front Lines
IV: Other Worlds
edited by Susan Watkins
Seagull Books, 2006
Said, Achin Vanaik and Radhika Desai,
leading left intellectuals from around
the world have used the pages of
New Left Review to theorise on
various subjects, from blockbuster
■' ~s to the UN's bureaucratic
intricacies. Despite the contributions
of Southasian intellectuals, however,
finding a copy of the journal has long
been difficult in the Subcontinent.
Editors from Calcutta-based
Seagull Books have now brought out
a four-volume series of selections
from New Left Review, offering a solid
introduction for regional readers to
this bastion of left thought and
debate. From the 1960s, when a
third of the planet had politically
turned away from capitalism, to the
1990s, which may be called the
decade of neo-liberalism, the
agenda of the NLR has remained to
respond to and explore changing
conjunctures, or the meeting of
events, in political discourse.
If the present situation is
characterised by the primacy of
American capitalism, with Europe
aspiring to replicate the American
model with doses of placatory anti-
American rhetoric, then editor Perry
Anderson delineates in the
introduction to the first volume
what have been the left's two
principal responses. The first is
accommodation,     the     attitude
summed up by the idea that
capitalism has come to stay, and that
we must subsequently make our
peace with it. The second is
consolation, which is understood best
as an attempt to find the silver linings
in what seems an overwhelmingly
gloomy environment. As such, caught
in a world where there is a terrifying
irrevocability to what is happening
both outside and within ourselves,
Anderson suggests that readers
continue to read NLR for its
"uncompromising realism" - its
capacity to shock us into seeing the
world as a "planet of slums" (to use
Mike Davis's words), or into
recognising that the UN may "be
slotted into the framework of
American hegemony as an auxiliary
machine" (Peter Gowan).
So does the compilation of articles
in Selections live up to the quality of
the journal itself? The answer would
be in the affirmative. Reading Marxist
theorist Frederic Jameson on
"Globalisation and Political Strategy"
in the first volume, one is struck by
the clarity of his approach, especially
in confronting amorphous
phenomena such as the global
dispersion and reception of culture,
technology and finance in the 21st
century. Jameson deftly breaks
globalisation down into its
various aspects: the technological
(communications and the information revolution), political (the fate
of the nation state), cultural (the rise
of nationalist politics) and economic
(the US control over the international
transfer of capital). Jameson also
helps the reader to see the crucial
nterconnections between all of
these. Refreshingly, the arguments
are not diluted, even when the
discussion is of forms of resistance
that may be forged against the
homogenising behemoth that is
globalisation. Jameson argues for
new solidarities, but dismisses the
argument that religion - specifically
Islam - may be the new site for
resistance, arguing that religious
solidarity cannot face up to the
economic realities of globalisation.
In the same vein, intellectual
historian Gopal Balakrishnan's
excellent review of Marxist
philosophers Michael Hardt and
Antonio Negri's bestseller Empire
offers a trenchant critique of postmodern fantasies - in this case, of
the far left - that indulge in
theoretical flourishes but have little
to offer by way of a solid narrative of
contemporary politics. Some may ask
why such banal demands should be
made on an academic work. The
attempt to unite theory and practice,
however, has tong been a significant
project of the left intellectual
tradition. In this regard, Hardt and
Negri are correctly chastised for
allowing themselves to get so carried
away in their celebration of diversity
and their faith in post-modern
theory that they ignore impending
dangers and announce the dawn of
a golden age.
Neoliberal consensus
In the series' second volume, titled
Powers, we are treated to a wide-
ranging discussion of the world's
major political players. Radhika Desai
covers the 2004 elections and the
Himal Southasian [ March 2007
 subsequent consequences of regime
change in India. The US receives a
lion's share of the analysis: Perry
Anderson, Susan Willis and Robert
Brenner focus respectively on aspects
of coercion and hegemony, the post-
9/11 scenario, and the US economy.
A particularly fine piece, however,
is a discussion between the great
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu
and the German Nobel Prize-winning
writer Gunter Grass, more famous in
Southasia for sticking his tongue out
at the Bengali bhadrolok. The
interview is chiefly concerned with
Europe and neo-liberalism, and
specifically the relationship between
Germany and France. In the course of
their debate, Bourdieu and Grass
produce an excellent portrait of the
contemporary affiliations between
intellectuals and the left in Europe.
Their prescription for countering the
rise of the neo-liberal consensus -
comically, each of these great thinkers
considers the other Utopian - brings
the two to agree on a need to
transcend national barriers, albeit
that Grass feels this can only be done
through a return to the rationalist
values of the Enlightenment, while
Bourdieu emphasises the need for a
new type of unionism.
On the whole, this new, four-part
selection from New Left Review is an
excellent and inexpensive invitation
for Southasian readers to think
beyond the boundaries of their own
activism and thought. The compilation
is strongly internationalist in outlook,
and there perhaps are no regional
titles that can boast of such an
eclectic mix of literary theory, politics,
philosophy and aesthetics from all
parts ofthe world. ::
A quick intake
There must be something
about the Subcontinent that
turns the most well-
intentioned reportage into Intensely
personal stories'. An examination of
the dustcover of Inhaling the
Mahatma, Australian reporter
Christopher Kremmer's latest book,
reveals another yatra into India: "A
country in the grip of enormous and
sometimes violent change." While
consciously avoiding the temptation
to refer to 'heady mixes' and 'multi-
layered tapestries', Kremmer
nonetheless takes readers on the
mandatory gut-wrenching bus ride
along India's crowded highways,
complete with argumentative
conductor, mad-cap driver and blood-
red sunset against hazy grey skies.
In Inhaling the Mahatma,
Kremmer sets out on a personal
pilgrimage to track down the stars,
bit-players and near-anonymous
set-extras of what has now become
the great Indian transformation of
1991-2006. Using as a road map the
experiences, recollections and
impressions of his first Indian
tenure - in the early 1990s, when he
came as a foreign correspondent -
Inhaling the Mahatma
by Christopher Kremmer
Fourth Estate, 2006
Kremmer charts a compelling and
competent course through the major
landmarks of the last 15 years. The
assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the
Mandal Commission, the destruction
of the Babri Masjid, the horrific killing
of the missionary Graham Staines and
his children and, of course, the rise of
the call centre all find mention,
sketched out in varying degrees of
detail. While the writer's voice
throughout the narrative is clear
and lucid, it is perhaps the current
moment in which this book
has emerged that makes it
particularly interesting.
The blanket coverage ofthe Great
Indian Growth story, in both Indian and
international media, seems to have
E  M   M   L. R
created a space for a well-crafted
retrospective - a book that looks
back over the last decade and a half
and documents the churning
and rumbling that accompanied this
transformation, while drawing
lessons for further growth.
Particularly refreshing is the
author's se.f-reflexivity. and his
conscious desire to appear different
from the judgement-forming goras of
old, the writers of the 'beggars, snake-
charmers and elephants' genre of
coverage that typified early reportage
on the Subcontinent. He notes, for
instance, "The longer I stayed, the
less disposed I became to the
foreigner's penchant for snap
judgments and moralising about
India. Instead of lecturing I began to
listen." It is in Kremmer's listening,
coupled with a disciplined ability to
follow up on his stories, that his
most interesting coverage
emerges - stories of Ram devotee
and hijacker Satish Chandra Pandey,
court munshi Rai Jeewan Lai Bahadur,
archaeologist and ideologue Swarajya
Prakash Gupta.
Kremmer also analyses astutely
the allure and electoral success of
Hindutva, when he speaks of the
power of the bania vote, the
seduction of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's
amiable facade, and Lai Krishna
Advani's shrewd calculus. He points
March 2007 I Himal Southasian
 out, for instance, that a significant
number of people who supported the
BJP in its rise to power were not
uni-dimensional Muslim-haters, but
came from the ranks ofthe small- and
middle-scale entrepreneurs who
missed out during the period now
known as the 'license raj'.
Upper-caste, middle-income banias
continue to constitute a large
portion of the BJP's vote base.
Kremmer however, is less insightful
in his evaluation of the Indian
National Congress, and misses
the contributions of V P Singh
almost completely.
Gandhi v Singh
V P Singh - implementer of the
Mandal Commission report, erstwhile
Raja of Manda and rightly described
by Kremmer as one of India's most
"enigmatic" and "controversial"
politicians. Coincidentally, this
reviewer interviewed Singh in exactly
the same circumstances as did
Kremmer - in a dialysis room in
Apollo Hospital in Delhi -and yet came
away with a very different opinion.
While the final assessment of the
impact ofthe Mandal Commission
report and its phased implementation
in 1992 and 2006 is still many years
off, Kremmer's view that Mandal
and Singh were single-handedly
responsible for unleashing "the caste
card"   seems   uninformed   and
simplistic. "Before Singh's reign,"
Kremmer tells the reader, "India had
chipped away gradually at caste
injustice ... But the fiery rhetoric of
caste politics tended to polarise rather
than manage the issue."
Kremmer also suggests that
Mandal was responsible for the
collapse of the Janata Dal
government of 1990, thereby
implying that the populace had
rejected Mandal and thrown Singh out
of power - an implication that seems
hasty and premature. The reasons
for the fall of the Janata Dal
were many, but a major one was
the Bharatiya Janata Party's
suspension of support for the national
government, something that
Kremmer fails to point out.
Kremmer's assessment of V P
Singh appears particularly unfair when
seen against his coverage of the
Gandhi family. "By entering politics,"
he writes, "Rajiv had answered the
call of his dharma, Hinduism's natural
law of individual conscience and
social responsibility." While Singh is
depicted alone and abandoned in his
"five-star hospital room", Rajiv and
Rahul Gandhi are shown to be
fulfilling their dharma: mingling with
the sweaty masses, exercising the
Gandhi charisma to the fullest, and
explaining how V P Singh had
destroyed Nehru and Gandhi's pet
project - the creation of a 'perfect
citizen', unhindered by caste, region
or religion. Kremmer does try to
temper his assessment of the
Gandhis and the Congress party by
making predictable references to the
Sikh riots, the Bofors scandal and
dynastic politics, but it is obvious
where his sympathies lie.
In his essays on the need and
purpose of writing, and on the idea of
the audience, Nobe! Prize-winning
Turkish author Orhan Pamuk notes: "I
write because I want others, the whole
world, to know what sort of life we
lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul,
in Turkey". Pamuk's essays were
largely in response to criticisms
directed at him by the Turkish state,
which accused him of writing
exclusively for a Western audience.
Pamuk's response was to affirm the
universal language of stories and
Kremmer's book raises similar
questions - those of reading
audiences - but for very different
reasons. The primary issue is that the
events covered in his book are events
with which most well-read
Southasians are already acquainted.
This, in itself, can be seen as one of
the book's strengths: it is a starting
point for a dialogue with the
Southasian reader. But Kremmer
seems to have missed the opportunity
to enter an already crowded genre and
make his own space within it.        k
Chief of Party, (Colombo) Sri Lanka
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Himal Southasian | March 2007
 M On the wa
A Southasian
Everybody welcomes the idea of a Southasian
University; ifs like mother's milk. But even
mother's milk has to have the proper nutrients,
or the baby will grow up malformed. The idea of a
Southasian University is so overwhelmingly
important that it must not be wasted at the altar of
good intentions or individual ambition.
The very evolution of Southasia can be given
direction by a Southasian University with practical,
achievable goals and staying power. India's support
for such a venture is critical, as it would be able to
provide significant funds and faculty, and hopefully
would have the circumspection not to smother the
institution in India-centrism.
Manmohan Singh, in his speech at the Dhaka
SAARC Summit on 12 November 2005, said that he
would push for a Southasian University as a "centre
of excellence". Said the prime minister: "We can
certainly host this institution, but are equally
prepared to cooperate in creating a suitable venue in
any other member country."
It is said that Prime Minister Singh has committed
USD 100 million to the idea, which is good of him. It
now appears likely that the idea will see fruition at
the upcoming SAARC Summit in New Delhi in early
April, Unfortunately, what is currently known of the
project does not inspire confidence. Pushed by the
Dhaka-born scholar and international administrator
Gowher Rizvi, the plan is to develop a centralised
institution with "a single campus ... working under
the direction of a single president/chancellor and
academic council".
The proposed campus would be set up on a
hundred acres in Dwarka - now practically a New
Delhi suburb - which would attract scholars-in-
residence and a Southasia-wide student body. The
placement is already problematic. The
first university of Southasia must be
one that promotes a regional vision
quite distinct from the capital-
centric model of the SAARC
organisation. As such, the
university needs to be physically
removed from any capital, in
particular the region's most powerful
Fortunately, decentralised models
have been developed, including by a
team headed by Rizvi's compatriot,
the political scientist Imtiaz
Ahmed, The money that India seeks to invest in the
Southasian University, together with contributions by
other SAARC members according to GDP, could
instead be made available to a Southasian University
Grant Commission, constituted of top-notch
academics and administrators from tbe region's
countries. Such a commission could well be
headquartered in New Delhi, but its core activity
would be to detect, fund and monitor universities
across the region. The commission would remain
independent of national interests, not compromise on
tokenism, and to institute stringent reporting
requirements of the grantee institutions.
At least to start with, the Southasian University
would not be a campus but an umbrella institution. It
would provide support to select post-graduate
departments in, say, JNU and Delhi University,
Jadavpur University in Calcutta, LUMS in Lahore,
Benaras Hindu University, Tribhuvan University in
Kathmandu, the universities of Dhaka, Karachi,
Colombo and Madras, and so on. Many of these
institutions delivered Southasia its intellectual
stalwarts, the nation-builders of the modern era; now,
most have deteriorated due to political interference
and lack of endowment. It is important to revive these
hallowed universities, rather than to build a spanking
new one that would only further suck away energy
and dynamism from existing institutions.
A lack of social-science learning has robbed
Southasian society of an upright intelligentsia amidst
dislocating modernisation and globalising
regionalism. As such, it is important for the proposed
university to make attractive once again postgraduate courses in history, political science,
anthropology, sociology, philosophy, as well as
education, public health, and science and technology.
Those studies supported by the private-sector -
information technology, medicine, engineering,
business management - should be left out by the
planners of the new institution.
A Southasian University should be one that
germinates and grows along with the multi-layered
understanding of regionalism amongst our societies.
Tt should not be an institution mandated from on
high. Nor should the new university be a cyber-
institution that floats in midair without
ownership of its constituent units, which
would be a danger. The departments
and faculties under the Grant
Commission must be proud of being
part of the Southasian University
We must get fhe Southasian
University right the first time
around, because the costs of
failure would be high. Manmohan
Singh is a thinking Southasian;
may he back the right idea. jt
March 2007 | Himal Southasian
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