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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 11, Number 10, October 1998 Dixit, Kanak Mani Oct 31, 1998

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 October 1998 • 11/10
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THE    SOUT
Vol 11
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 HIMAL
THE   SOUTH   ASIAN   MAGAZINE
Vol 11
No 10
October
1998
Editor
Kanak Mani Dixit
Associate Editor
Deepak Thapa
Copy Editor
ShanujV.C.
Contributing Editors
Afsan Chowdhury dhaka
Beena Sarwar lahore
Manik de Silva colom&o
Mitu Varma new delhi
Prabhu Ghate new delhi
Marketing
Suman Shakya
Anil Karki
Sambhu Guragain
Awadhesh K. Das
Administration
Anil Shrestha
Tripti Gurung
Roshan Shrestha
Layout
Chandra Khatiwada
Marketing Offices
Ajoy Biswas Dhaka
Ttl: +880-2-812 954, 911 5044 (fax)
office@drik.net
Media Sales Representative Karachi
Trans Indus Media (Pvt) Ltd
2nd Floor, Haroon House
Ziauddin Ahmed Road
Karachi 74200
M +92-21-567 0081, 567 0085 (fax)
tim@xiber.com
Himal is published and distributed by
Himal Ine Pvt Ltd
GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977-1-522113, 523845, 521013 (fax)
himalmag@mos.com.np
http:liwww.himalmag.com
ISSN 1012 9804
Library of Congress Card Catalogue Number
88 912882
Imagesetting at Polyimage, Kathmandu
Printed atjagadamba Press, Kathmandu
Tel:+977-1-521393, 536390
INSIDE
Cover: Maya (not her real name) was sold by
her first cousin along with her blood sister
when she was 15 to a Nepali-run Bombay
brothel. She worked as a prostitute for two
years and then got herself married to the
Madam's nephew in order to escape sex
work. Six years later, Maya came back in her
home village in Sindhupalchowk District of
Nepal with her husband whom she left to
return to her parent's house. She is now the
happily married second wife of a local
communist activist
Picture: Usha Tiwari.
Cover
12    Deconstructing Gita
by John Frederick
3   Mail
Krishna's Corner
6    Commentary
In God's name
Ready to act
Fatwa fury
Killing fields of Kilinochchi
32 Briefs
Meena is the message
Good marks for tolerance
Sinhalese are sick ofthe war
Sikkim treasure
A costly nuclear addiction
20    South Asia's sex trade myths
24     My sister next?
by Naresh Newar
30    Among the sand dunes ofthe
India-Pakistan Border...
by Hasan Mujtaba
36 Feature
The Taliban and the Hazaras
by Michael Semple
Opinion
45     The triumvirate of inaction
by Karin Heissler
51     Dam insecurity
by Himanshu Thakkar
Review
57     AIDS in Nepal
reviewed by Stacy Leigh Pigg
62 VOICES
60 MipeWjLrt&pi^ i&xr&b
 Vajra (literally-flash
of lightning), is an
artists' condominium,
a transit home for
many, providing a
base during months of
hibernation and
creative inspiration.
Its isolation, graphic
splendour and
peaceful ambience,
make an ideal retreat
from the clock of
pressure.
Ketaki Sheth
Inside Outside
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time
I had become so fond
of it that I stayed
another.
John Collee
The London Observer
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Bijyaswori, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone 271545, 272719 Fax 977 1 271695
 Bhutan and Nepal
The three letters protesting Himal's
coverage of Bhutan that were
i   ptinted in the August issue had a
I   familiar ring to them. It was
1  asserted that no Nepali journalist is
I  capable of approaching Bhutan
I   objectively; that many of the people
in the camps are neither Bhutanese
nor genuine refugees; and that the
whole refugee affair, and the
I   consequent failure to clear
up the mess, is Nepal's
fault because democracy
has failed to deliver
economic progress to its
people and because its
politicians are incompetent and corrupt.
Most people who have
visited or worked in the
refugee camps seem
I  convinced that the
■   people with whom
they have interacted
there are people who
have no country other
than Bhutan, and who simply yearn,
for the most part without any
political agenda, to return to their
homes and fields. I know several
expatriates who have spent extended periods working as teachers
in Bhutan, and who subsequently
worked on curriculum development
I  in the camp schools, and this is
unanimously their view. The
opposite view seems to be held
exclusively by those people who
have never visited the camps, and
have no intention of ever doing so.
I do not know anyone who
knows anything about Nepal who is
not worried by the current state of
economic and political affairs in
that country. In Human Development
in South Asia (OUP, New Delhi,
1997), the late Mahbub
ul Haq compiled a
"Human Development
Balance Sheet" for
each country in
which 'human
advance' is compared with "human
distress". For Nepal,
on the "distress" side,
Haq recorded that
two-thirds of all
under-five deaths
are due to malnutrition, that the
adult female
literacy rate is the
region's lowest, and that per capita
income is also the region's lowest.
On the "distress" side for Bhutan,
however, he also recorded that
Bhutan has the region's highest
crude death rate, highest maternal
mortality rate, highest under-five
mortality rate, and the lowest GDP
per capita.
Let us acknowledge that both
countries are poor, and that both
countries have problems.
Over the summer, Amnesty
International issued at least five
Urgent Action appeals arising from
cases in Bhutan and Nepal. Two of
them are headed "torture/fear of
torture" and are concerned with the
arrests of Bhutanese citizens inside
Bhutan on the grounds of suspected
membership of the Druk National
Congress (DNC); one of them is
headed "imminent extradition" and
is concerned with the case of the
DNC leader, Rongthong Kuenley
Dorji; two of them are concerned
with the 'disappearances' of two
Nepali citizens in the context of
police actions against Maoists in
west Nepal.
Let us acknowledge that there
are political tensions and human
rights concerns in both countries:
should Himal turn a blind eye to
those in Bhutan?
1 do agree that much of the
Nepali media coverage of Bhutan
has been lazy, and too quick to
resort to simplistic analyses. But the
notion that Himal is "always geared
to the good and beautiful and godly
about Nepal" is frankly laughable,
and suggests some highly selective
reading. As a magazine that aims to
address and cover the whole of
South Asia, Himal should analyse
Bhutanese affairs in the same way
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I99B   OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
■■■I
 The roof of the world.
Mr Everest. 8848 w . 29 may 1953
A roof for the world.
Hotel SHANGRILA . 82 Deluxe Rooms. IstJuly 1979
.
LAZIMPAT.G
SHANGRI-LA
KATHMANDU
Your private paradise in Nepal
P.O. BOX 65x KATHMANDU. NEPAL    111 : (977.1) ili'W9   TAX : (9—.li 414184   Til I X : 2276 HOSANG NP
 Moil
that it examines the affairs of the
other countries of the Subcontinent.
That is the measure against which
its coverage of Bhutan should be
judged.
Michael Hutt
School oj Oriental and African Studies
London
Watching Lumbini!
Reading tbe report "Digging up
Lumbini" (June 1998), I was
shocked by the subtitle, which
referred to the fact that the birthplace of the Buddha, "far from
being Nepal's pride, is a disgrace".
However, I gradually came to
understand the feelings of
the writer, Sangeeta Lama,
concentrating as she does on the
problem relating to the excavation
of the Mayadevi Temple in
Lumbini.
What was most interesting was
the hypothesis proposed by cultural
historian Sudarshan Raj Tewari on
the presence of a
hriksha chaitya at the
site originally, a tree
with a rock colonnade
around it and an altar
on one side. He also
suggests keeping the
site as a living museum
to show the excavated
layers and other
findings including the
"marker stone" to
visitors. This seems to
be a reasonable suggestion as to what should
be done at the nativity
site and deserves urgent
attention from the
Lumbini Development Project.
Lama refers to a Lumbini
Development Trust (LDT) official
who said after the discovery of the
marker stone, "We finally have
absolute proof that the Buddha was
born in Nepal." Now I understand
that this was the source of the
announcement made by NHK Radio
and NHK TV back injanuary 1996,
against which I made a protest
phone call to NHK Tokyo as well as
NHK Fukuoka. We know, of course,
that there has been continuous
discussion about two possible sites
of ancient Kapilavastu: Tilaurakot
in present-day Nepal and Piprahawa
in present-day India. The wrong
information seemed to come
from the confusion between the
Kapilavastu debate and the Lumbini
excavation.
As far as the story about Japanese architect Kenzo Tange is
concerned, I believe the information
given by the Japanese Buddhist
Federation that he would not be
able to travel to Nepal but was
willing to provide advice from Japan
is correct, though it may not have
any effect on the nature of Lumbini
Project.
I appreciate the article by Lama,
especially for her pointing out the
important role which could be
played by a committee for Lumbini
that is situated at the United
Nations in New York. We sincerely
hope that the Lumbini Project will
take sound steps in the days ahead
under the guidance of the United
Nations, while the Lumbini Devel
opment Trust, the Japanese Buddhist Federation and the Department of Archaeology work together
towards a common goal.
I sincerely hope that the
Lumbini Garden will remain Nepal's
pride forever. All persons who are
concerned with the future of
Lumbini must keep a close watch
on the Lumbini Garden so that
nothing inappropriate or unrepresentative comes up on the site, as
Lama herself cautions.
Shin-ichi Takahara
Professor of Buddhist Studies
Fukuoka University
Firemen from Russia
We are not sure why we received this
letter from the President of the Association of Fire Heraldry in St Petersburg,
but are including it here in the hope that
readers have a better idea than we do.
Editors.
Dear Mr Editor,
The Association of Fire Heraldry
would like to declare you its
honorary member. We devise
decorations, stripes, cap-badges,
etc, for the Russian Fire Service.
We're also engaged in the study of
historical Russian rewards,
emblems of fire-stations, tie-slides,
rings and cuff-links with fire
symbols, as well as decorations and
cap-badges. We're interested in
getting information about your
country's fire medals, decorations
and cap-badges. We're also interested in establishing contacts with
collectors of decorations in your
country. Are you able to provide
us permanent aid
by gathering such
materials in your
country independently, through
your friends or
through officers
of fire departments?
Can you supply
our information to
the news media?
We'll be very
grateful to you for
small financial aid,
too, since we're in
need of funds to
keep up our work.
Being a member of
our Association, you'll be enabled to
obtain information on today's fire
heraldry in Russia (badges, cap-
badges, medals, stripes, etc) at
first hand. As an honorary member
of the Association, you'll be
presented with an Honorary
Diploma and a silver badge "For
Services". We'd like to present them
to you personally, or to your
representative.
Sincerely yours,
Vladimir Nedelski
President of Association of Fire Heraldry
PO Box 257, Saint Petersburg, 191025,
Russia
1998  OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
 Commentary
PAKISTAN
IN GOD'S NAME
BY NOW, Pakistanis are used not only to governments coming and going, but also to their
using religion to shore up diminishing popularity. Benazir Bhutto's father did it, as did Zia-
ul Haq. The trick did not work for either, but
rather contributed to shattering Pakistan's
structures of civil society. Now, Gen Zia's protege and political heir Mian Nawaz Sharif is
following his mentor's footsteps. The latest
"noisy brandishing of faith", as an American
magazine put it, is Sharif's attempt to introduce Constitutional Amendment 15 ("CA
15"), which would ostensibly make the "Supremacy of the Quran and Sunnah" (Islamic
traditions) the "supreme law" of Pakistan.
Sharif claimed in Parliament that he had
taken the decision to introduce Islamic law
by "the power vested in me by Almighty Allah". His contention that he has got where he
is by Allah's blessings may be acceptable, but
trying to project himself as a representative
of the divine is taking it too far. "Islam is my
faith, religion and belief. I have never used it
for any political gain," the prime minister told
a convention of religious scholars and activists in Islamabad last month. Ominously, at
that same meeting, Sharif urged his audience
lo "counter the forces opposed to the proposed
amendment", and added now that he had
done his part, it was up to those in the audience to do theirs.
CA 15 places the Federal Government
under "an obligation to take steps to enforce
the Shariah". This includes, according to Article 2 of the bill, promoting the principle of
"amar bil maroof and nahi anil munkar" (to
prescribe what is right and forbid what is
wrong). Thus, the government would be
able to declare any action 'wrong' and ban it -
or declare an act 'right' and enforce it.
For example, wearing headscarves or
growing beards, as the Taliban have done in
Afghanistan.
The prime minister's protestations of
honourable motives have failed to win converts even among the religious political parties, even though they can hardly oppose the
introduction of the Shariat (Islamic law)
openly. They suspect Sharif's political agenda
and are loathe to give him credit for the
'Islamisation' of Pakistan. Meanwhile, despite
an earlier constitutional amendment ("CA
14") bulldozed through by Sharif, which disallows dissent from the Treasury Benches in
parliament, CA 15 has been privately opposed
by many of his own party members. A few
brave souls have even blasted it publicly and
are attempting damage control by trying to
make changes in the bill to make CA 15 more
acceptable.
But a religious bill by any other name is
still a religious bill. It will threaten women
and it will threaten religious minorities, both
groups already vulnerable under existing circumstances. As much in danger are the liberal-minded groups, which have opposed
Sharif's ill-advised moves, such as last year's
brinkmanship with the judiciary, his appointment of fellow Punjabis to key posts, and his
arbitrariness in unilateral decisions on many
major issues. The prime minister's open call
to the religious parties to "launch a movement
to force those opposing it [CA 15] to retreat
and repent for their mistake" was nothing less
than shocking.
Even more explosive than the impact on
women or minorities is what the implementation of a rigid set of Islamic codes will mean
in the inter-sect tussle that has become the
hallmark of Pakistani society. The dangers of
trying to define one straight and narrow path
were well chalked out 45 years ago by a judicial commission set up to examine the anti-
Ahmedia riots of 1953. "Keeping in view the
several definitions of a Muslim given by the
ulema (religious scholars), need we make any
comment except that no two learned divines
are agreed on this fundamental" reads one of
the most quoted passages in the 387-page report of the Commission comprising Justices
Munir and Kayani.
Since then divisions between Pakistan's
sects have grown even deeper. Tensions have
been aggravated by armed militancy, which
today is the handmaiden of dogmatic belief
systems. Sectarian rivalry has become so fierce
that gunmen are posted outside mosques to
try and prevent bomb-attacks or ambushes
and targetted killings of religious militants by
rival sects have become common.
In the middle of this flammable situation,
the introduction of CA 15 has the potential
to wreak havoc. In its application to the personal law of any Muslim sect, the proposed
bill envisions the expression "Quran and
Sunnah" as meaning the Quran and Sunnah
as interpreted by each particular sect. But
given the level of intolerance and militancy
that is extant, and a situation where the interpretation of one sect is hardly likely to be accepted by another, there are possibilities of
sectarian war being sparked by the most innocuous of events.
Before the Constituent Assembly on 11
August 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah had
NEPAL
HIMAL   11/10   OCTOBER   1998
 Commentary
emphasised that everyone, "no matter what
his colour, caste or creed is first, second and
last a citizen of this state with equal rights,
privileges and obligations". The application
of CA 15 will take Pakistan further from this
national aspiration as expressed by its
founder. Meanwhile, it is a sign of the times
that a report as bold and honest as the one
brought out in 1954 by Justices Munir and
Kayani can neither be commissioned, nor allowed to be made public, in today's Pakistan.
NEPAL
READY TO ACT
THE NEPALI Parliament is winding down
its monsoon session amidst the most rowdy
inter-party squabble the Lower House has
ever seen, reminding one of the bedlam that
overtook the Uttar Pradesh state legislature
only a few months ago. The cause ofthe floor-
fight, which left some furniture and a Danish-funded mike system as casualties, was a
local self-government bill up for passage.
No, the honourable members were not
battling about the philosophical issues behind the landmark bill, which has the ability
to make or break the system of governance
nationwide. Their bickering was limited to
the fact that one article allowed members of
local-level councils to switch political parties after elections. This was against the prevailing interests of, particularly, the United
Marxist-Leninists (UML) which feared that its
splinter party, the recently formed Marxist-
Leninists (ML), would stand to gain from the
provision. (The ML is presently cohabiting
with the Nepali Congress in government.)
Even though the governing coalition had
the required majority to pass the bill, the
main opposition UML was determined to do
its utmost to block it; hence, the fracas. The
larger issues emanating from the Local Self-
Government Act, which was finally adopted,
seemed to be far from the minds of the
legislators.
There is no doubt that the Act is most
significant, and not only in terms of its size -
a hefty volume of 268 articles, the result of
three years of work by experts and House
committees. It was sent to the House after
33 meetings in committee where some of the
articles were adopted through separate votes
- quite unlike the consensus decisions that
have been the rule.
The Act, which now only requires King
Birendra's automatic assent, is extremely
'trusting', for want of a better word. If it is
implemented in the spirit that it has been
drafted, there is no doubt that it will bring
about a social, administrative, political and
economic turnaround nationwide as it liberally grants authority to district, municipal and
village councils over an array of economic,
legal and administrative matters. This devolution of powers is very welcome as far as it
goes, but no one really believes that the
centralised administrative structures of the
country and those who are ominously termed
the "power centres" will allow the Act to be
applied in full.
And that is the danger, for partial application of the Act will result directly in the distortion of the polity Till now, it has been national-level politics that have been affected by
corruption and malfeasance, but the fear is
that a half-hearted implementation of the Local Self-Government Act will spread the rot
through the districts and towns, right down
to the grassroots. The traditional balance of
power would then be shaken loose, and there
would be nothing better to replace it with.
Partial implementation of the Act would,
in short, provide power without responsibility to locally elected executives and representatives all over the country. For example, local-level councils may now collect taxes and
decide upon a dozen different types of conflicts. But then, there are no mechanisms to
make the local authorities answerable for their
action, the way there are with the civil service. In fact, the local authorities have been
coddled to the extent that as long as the jail
term is not of more than three years, they may
not be removed from their seats or posts even
if they have been tried and jailed for criminal
offences! This provision was added to the bill
in the later stages of its preparation, and the
intention is clear.
Parliament marshals
survey damage.
1998   OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
 ^£&c
f
War THE EXPLORE NEPAL
r— -H2LttMP4AN GRIHA™**
ttow qs
One ofthe finest and exclusive Nepali restaurant
that serves authentic traditional cuisine. Located
within the heart of Kajhrnandu, Dilli Bazar, the
building almost T5QC£§ars old of prominent
aristocratic family has be^n restored meticulously
and converted into fascinating restaurant with
intricate decor, surjtie setting and comfortable
ambience within nqst-ajglq atmosphere	
Traditional folk music and ethnic dances are
preformed in full costume each evening by the
local artist oversavory meeAs.bbT^,
Bhojan Griha is.open for both lunch and dinner 7
days a week. Please check outpour special
traditional Nepali festival menu served during major
festive days^pecial discount for'local resident
and expatriates, %&$£$*
For reservation contact:
Bhojan Griha
Phone : 416423, 411603, Fax : 977-1-243250
E-mail: explore@mos.com.np
% Koshi Tappu Wildlife Camp -
24 Bedded Safari Tented Camp
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Camp - the very first luxury 24
bedded safari tented camp within Koshi Tappu
Wildlife Reserve offers a unique experience to view
almost 400 species of birdlife and some very rare
wild games on the most peaceful.and relaxing setting
found anywhere in Nepal.      «-^l,,_ >»
Still unexplored and remote, the Koshi Tappu Wildlife
Reserve First gazetted back in 197Q was.mainly
established to protect the last of the remaining rare
wild water buffaloes. The reserve extends"!75 sq.km.
to the north long barrage thatspans the Koshi river.
The vast expanse of water created*/the barrage,
marshes, lagans, mudflats and arable lancj that lie
around itoffers at} outstanding wetland which has
favored to create one of the best and finest bird
sanctuaries in Asia «^.*T,'A ' ^qpP?ii1,
The.'camp consists of 12 large deluxe safari tents
with comfortable twin beds has simple but modern
toilet amenity including hot and cold shower facility.
The restaurant with fully stocked bar is located
centrally on the thatched 'Golghar'. Simple but tasty
Nepali and western cuisine is served.
We have special Festival Offer for local residents.
For further information and reservation contact :
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Camp
P.O. Box : 536, Kamaladi
Kathmandu A~
Phone : 247078, 247079, 248942
Fax : 977-1-224237, 243250
£\ rfc.
Kantipur Temple House
(Towards the dusk, under faded light of setting sun, stands
alone in a corner silhouette of Kantipur Temple House in deep
slumber. Only the windbell chimes softly against the gentle
summer breeze chanting 'Om namo Shiva...)
A unique property has-been created within the
heart of Thamel, Jyatha tol for visitors who have
always appreciated and loved the art and culture
of Kathmandu Valley. Kantipur?Temple House as
its name signifies^.has besjh built with typical
architectural blend of ethnlcNewari Temple at the
very center of cultural environs of Thamel Tol
which is the heattof Kathmandu where the royalties
and religious-patrons acrossdhe-centuries have
built lavish palaces, ornate temples,and curious
street shrirfes.\... \ .1  -#', '-w-7.j
Constructed few years ago, Kantipur Temple
House has 32 rooms all delicately furnished in
true traditional decor, with simple modem amenities,
cosy restaurant, open rooftop terraced garden
which over looks the famous Swyabhunath Temple
perched top of hillock on the western front and an
magnificent views of Royal Palace against the
back drop of mountains beyond the northern
horizon. A real cultural experience	
For instant reservation or enquiry contact :
Kantipur Temple House
Jyatha Tol, Post Box 536
Phone: 250131, 248942
Fax:977-1-243250, 224237
AUSTRIAN AIRLINES >
One of the major airlines of Europe starts direct
flight from Vienna, Austria to Kathmandu, Nepal
from 24th September 1998 with Airbus (A310 -
324) With 213 seat configuration (195 Economy
and 18 Grand class). The flight will arrive in
Kathmandu at 1040 hrs. and will depart 1200 hrs.
reaching Vienna at 1900 hrs. the same day! (The
return flight is via New Delhi but for technical landing
only as there is no traffic rights from
Kathmandu/DelhiA/ienna)
Austrian Airlines has ex'
Europe and USA - west 5
Vienna with impeccable]
details and inquiries o
ns for both
rom
her
Austrian Airlines
P.O. Box 536,/Ka   "~
Kathmandu, Nep:
Phone:24147&r£47
Fax : 977-1-24325Q, 224237
E-mail: explore@rhosftcbm.np
SUMMER SCHEDULE
EFFECTIVE FROM 24th SEPT. 199B
FLTNO DAY FROM        TO DER ARR
034444        Thursday        KTM VIENNA 1200 1900
OS4446        Saturday KTM VIENNA 1200 1900
WINTER SCHEDULE
EFFECTIVE FROM 28th OCT.  1998/1999
FLTNO DAY FROM        TO OFF ARR
OS4444       Thuraday        KTM VIENNA 1300 1900
OS4446        Saturday KTM VIENNA 1300 1900
 Even more worrisome is the fact that the
public will find it hard to obtain redress for
overweening or illegal actions by local authorities. This is because redress procedures
are not spelt out in the legislation. Waiting
for five years to vote an erring official or council out of power is hardly an efficient answer.
The fear is all too real that the inter-party
rivalries which have brought the national-
level administration to a near standstill will
now be transferred countrywide. One reason
the parties fought so keenly for and against
the bill at the monsoon sitting was that they
see substantial power has now been transferred to local authorities. While this is
of course the very philosophy behind
decentralisation, the fear for the moment is
that now party-based politicking will swamp
the new system and make all political
structures, and not just at the national level,
unwieldy.
This indulgent Act of Parliament is by now
a fait accompli. But because it will in all probability not be allowed to be applied in full, it
bears careful watching in the days ahead. The
provisions are clearly the result of an idealised
and 'funded' law-drafting process, which has
failed to consider the realities of Nepali society and politics. Instead, a piece of legislation that would be ideal for, say, Nebraska
(which was, in fact, one model considered
by the drafters) has been crafted. There would
have come a time, not far in the future, when
Nepal would have been ready for the Act, but
since Nepalis have now had it gifted before
time, they will just have to be alert in using it
to advantage. /3
-Rajendra Dahal
BANGLADESH
FATWA FURY
TASLI1V1A NASREEN returned to Bangladesh
about the same time the more celebrated
Salman Rushdie received a semi-reprieve from
the fatwa issued against him by the long-
gone Ayatollah Khomeini. These kinds of
fatwas are a vicious form of controlling society, used by clerics traumatised by changes
that are beyond their control. These are cowardly instruments on intolerance which cow
down politicians and the bureaucracies they
control.
At the moment of going to press, Taslima
is still in hiding back in her home country.
Having come back to Bangladesh with her father and cancer-ridden mother, she has obvi-
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
ously been moving from safe-house to
safe-house, avoiding vigilante action. Four
years ago, it was the same fanatic thought-
police which hounded her out of the country.
Now, after lying low during Taslima's exile
in the West, the religious extremists of
Bangladesh are at it again, baying for Taslima's
blood.
That their country has been devastated by
one of the worst floods of the century has not
diminished the fanatic energy to avenge what
is thought to be blasphemy committed. For
these men, nature's ravages do not spell as real
a threat to their supremacy in society as the
one posed by a female daring to show sympathy to a minority community. How much does
the noose Taslima faces have to do with her
being a woman? We do believe that the male
Salman Rushdie, howsoever grand a writer he
may be, would not have whipped up as wicked
a reaction as the female writer, who, by some
snide accounts, is only a "mediocre writer".
Writing skills are hardly of consequence
in the case at hand. The issue is whether an
individual can be denied her fundamental
rights merely because her views challenge a
religion's orthodoxy. It is also banal to treat
the whole affair as one which harks back to
the medieval times; this is the here and now.
It is clear that modernisation of technology
does little by way of enhancing thought,
which is why humankind has been continuously and meticulously updating its talent for
brutality.
Then there are those who manipulate issues to feed their vested interests. In this case,
it has been India's Bharatiya Janata Party, and
to some extent, the West. Salivating when
confronted by a Muslim woman who would
question her own religion, the overtly Hindu
BJP, while in the opposition, pushed sales of
Taslima's novel Lajja (Shame) by translating
and distributing thousands of copies. This
immediately made her an accomplice with the
enemy in the eyes of many clerics. As for the
West, while some of the countries deserve due
credit for offering asylum to a persecuted individual, the racist lobbies got active in further painting Islam in the devil's pigment. A
classic case of the fundamentalist food chain
sustaining itself.
A last word on the Bangladesh government's response to Taslima's arrival. It chose
to remain mum even as the world was witness to protestors being chased away by the
Dhaka cops. When it did break the silence
through Foreign Minister Abdus Samad, il
pleaded that the "case should be considered
from an humanitarian angle". Ideally, there
wouldn't have been any doubts on that count,
 Commentary
but knowing that fanaticism and humanitari-
anism do not really jell, we fear for the life of
Taslima Nasreen.
SRI LANKA
KILLING FIELDS
OF KILIIMOCHCHI
TWENTY-SEVEN lorries flying Red Cross
flags wended their way on 30 September
through the thick Tamil Tiger-held Vanni
jungles of northern Sri Lanka into government
military territory. The lorries were not carrying medical supplies or food. Instead, 600 or
so decomposing bodies made up the convoy's
macabre cargo. These were the remains of soldiers that had been handed over to the Red
Cross by the rebels following a bloody battle
in northern Sri Lanka some days before.
For a government which had been claiming that the civil war was 95 percent won,
September's fighting was a debacle. After a
two-day siege, the Tamil Tigers captured
Kilinochchi, a key military base in the north-
em battlefield; the Sri Lankan military had to
be content with a consolation prize - the capture of Mankulam, a rebel-held town some
kilometres south of Kilinochchi.
The latest wave of fighting began on 27
September when LTTE rebels attacked soldiers
near Paranthan and Kilinochchi, two towns
close to the northern peninsula. The peninsula was captured by government soldiers in
1995. But the area is isolated, with no road
link to the mainland, and the government was
forced to send supplies by air and sea. And
To the discerning Sri Lankan any good
news is bad news, especially when
reported by the state. Behind the hype
always lies the gory truth.
since May last year, the government forces
had been trying to secure a road through
rebel-controlled territory in what has become
the longest military offensive in the civil war.
Mankulam had been hailed for many
months as the last rebel bastion on the roadway linking the Jaffna peninsula with the rest
of the island. In reality, though, the "last rebel
bastion" had now merely moved to Kilinochchi. How much further it is going to move is
a matter of conjecture, but what was blatantly
evident during the last round of heavy fighting, and of greater significance than the rhetoric about battle victories, was that more than
1300 people were killed in one of the biggest
and bloodiest battles in Sri Lanka's 15-year-
old civil war.
Evident, that is, to everyone but Sri
Lankans, for since June the government has
begun censoring war reporting by the media.
Both local and foreign correspondents are covered by the censorship although news
organisations outside the country get around
by filing stories using a dateline outside Sri
Lanka. Most Lankans, however, know only
what the government wants them to know,
and what is churned out by the rumour mill.
To the discerning Sri Lankan, however, any
good news is bad news, especially when reported by the state. For beneath the hype always lies the gory truth. The day after the first
day of the September battle, the state-run print
media hush-hushed the fighting and turned
its gaze instead on how well Sri Lanka's electronic exports were faring.
In the end, Colombo touted the loss of
Kilinochchi as a "tactical withdrawal", and
stressed the need to go ahead with its power
devolution package as a way to end the ethnic conflict. The plan envisages amending Sri
Lanka's constitution to give the nine provinces, including the one dominated by the minority Tamils, more power to handle their own
affairs. The move bas drawn criticism from
many quarters, including the main opposition
United National Party, whose support is vital
if the plan is to be made law.
Ironically, though, some ofthe root causes
for the ethnic conflict remain unaddressed
even as the devolution package is discussed.
In Sri Lankan schools, for instance, Sinhala
and Tamil children are segregated, with little
opportunity to interact. Government textbooks harp on the mythical glory days of yore
and hardly deal with contemporary social issues. And even when they do, the ethnic conflict receives but a cursory mention.
In the wake of the fierce fighting in the
north, the national hospital in Colombo sent
home all but the most serious civilian patients
to make room for wounded soldiers. For three
days straight, the roads in the capital reverberated with the sirens of scores of ambulances ferrying the wounded and the dying.
At the end of it all, with neither side willing
to relent, those who survived the battle will
just have to wait to fight another day.
Meanwhile, at the end of September 1998,
on both side of the barricades, thousands of
families grieved for their dead sons.
10
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
  I
Gita Danuwar (above) was sold in Bombay by a cousin.
After nine years, she is back in her home village near
Kathmandu. Although she has HIV, Gita hoes her terrace
farm while her father weeds. However, most women and
children enter prostitution not because they are 'forced',
but because they have no alternatives. Family-based sex
trade is an increasinglycommon response to poverty and a
significant source of rural income.
by John Frederick
photographs by Usha Tiwari
 "xl
This is an essay not only about the situation of the trafficking of girls and
women in South Asia, but about the
'discourse' on this issue — the consensus view
of trafficking that is presented by the media,
non-governmental groups, donor agencies
and governments. It is the discourse which
determines what is to be done about the problem, but if the discourse does not relate to
reality, interventions do not work, funds are
wasted, and people continue to suffer.
Today, examination of'discourse' on a subject is no longer the domain of abstracted social scientists. It has also been taken up by
journalists, who, in this case, are questioning
the reality, the balance and the effect of what
they put in print and on film regarding trafficking. A few grounded members of donor
organisations are questioning whether the
discourse leads to effective measures to curb
trafficking. Members of local NGOs, in particular, are pushing for a more realistic understanding of trafficking, bred both from their
everyday experiences and from seeing anti-
trafficking activities fall flat on their face.
And, finally, governments. Like the
seminar-wallahs of the 'power-NGOs', governments have a fot at stake in maintaining
myths. However, as a clearer and more realistic picture of trafficking and prostitution
emerges, they too are beginning to wonder
whether the prevailing discourse on trafficking is not off the mark.
This writer has spent the last couple of
years talking with NGO workers, activists,
donor agency staff, government officials, journalists and filmmakers about 'trafficking'.
Actually, I have just listened, wanting to know
what 'trafficking' meant to them and how their
understanding transformed into action.
Against this, I have placed the greater 'reality'
of children and adults entering prostitution,
putting together a picture as best as possible
from researchers, field workers, investigative
journalists and sex workers themselves.
Each country in South Asia has its
own variation of the general trafficking discourse - each generalising 'the problem' in
different ways. Nepal's discourse is based on
the forced abduction of Nepali girls to
Bombay; Bangladesh's is on the trafficking of
their females to Pakistan and the Middle East.
The Indian thesis focuses on in-country or
domestic trafficking. Sri Lanka's is concerned
with its women going to countries outside the
region, and is integrated with a larger discussion of migrant female labour. Pakistan is primarily concerned with the domestic abuse of
its own women, and the trafficking discourse
per se is unformed, focusing primarily on its
women going to the Middle East.
Out in the international ether - the
transnational media, foreign government bureaucracies and donor agency boardrooms -
the matter of trafficking tends to be treated in
simple and sensationalistic terms. Here, the
discourse is adapted to international ignorance of the South Asian situation, coupled
with the primary motivation to "sell it". Thus,
Nepali girls in Bombay, Asian "camel-boys"
in the Middle East, the Devadasi dancing girls
of India, and a few other mediagenic groups
dominate the international view of trafficking in the Subcontinent. This small, distorted
picture obscures large, vital issues concerning South Asia's women and children.
Subcontinental myths
Every South Asian country's discourse is
dominated by myths, supposedly typifying
accounts of what trafficking really is. It is very
important to see how far these myths correspond to what is actually happening as girls
and women travel to join the sex trade.
Let us spin the Nepal myth first; it is the
best known...
This is the story of a poor Tamang girl from
Sindhupalchowk District, northwest of Kathmandu Valley. Her name has got to be Gita.
Passive, fair-skinned Gita (they like them like
that down in Bombay) emerges from her
thatch-roof hut one day to buy some cooking
oil for her mother. At the local shop, a swarthy stranger hands her a drugged pack of
Frooti (the popular mango drink), and the
next thing she knows she's blearily looking
out a dirty bus window in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
A litde confused, Gita is sure they had promised to get her a job as a nanny in Delhi. Another Frooti later, she wakes up in a filthy
padlocked room in Bombay.
Despite the rows of suggestively positioned
girls she sees on the sidewalk below, innocent
Gita has no idea what's in store for her. When
her snarling madam, the gharwali, brings in
her first customer (a sickly, festering man who
is convinced that sex with a virgin will cure
his aids), she nobly refuses. In comes the
goonda for her 'training'. After being raped
15 or 20 times a day for a week, Gita gets the
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
13
'-—^-_<^ ■
 tkk
picture: she is supposed to be a sex worker.
Finally accepting her fate, Gita begins work.
She has to service 30 customers a night, is
not allowed out to see Hindi movies (even
though it is Bombay), and has no idea that
she owes the detestable gharwali 25,000 (Indian) rupees for her purchase at 80 percent
interest compounded daily.
Now the saviours appear. An inspired NGO
leader, aided by cops with humanitarian conscience, beats down the door of the brothel
and finds Gita hidden away behind a pile of
tins. After a pleasant holiday in a government
remand home, she is repatriated to Kathmandu. But alas, she can't go home any more
because she is found to be Hiv positive. Luckily for Gita, there is room in a shelter run by a
charity, where she learns to embroider
placemats and live her last days in dignity.
This is the basic Nepal myth. To be sure,
there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
genuine Gitas out there, and their suffering is
immeasurable. But does Gita represent the
majority? Or is she part of a small fraction of
the girls, boys and women subjected to prostitution, but who entered in less dramatic circumstances?
In Sri Lanka, the dominant trafficking
myth has the poor Buddhist/Hindu/Christian
girl spirited off to the Middle East to work as
a domestic servant for a grouchy man wearing bedsheets. After being sexually abused by
The men of Dubachaur Village
in Nepal. A lot ofthe young
women have gone to Bombay
in the last two years.
14
the sons of the house, she loses her job, cannot pay off her debt to the evil agent, and ends
up working in a bar in Qatar. (By the way, her
5-year-old brother is a camel boy, and we will
not discuss what is done to him.)
In Bangladesh, it is the village maiden
dragged across a hundred frontiers, raped by
men in a variety of uniforms, who ends up a
labourer in a Karachi fish factory for a few
weeks before she is married off to a peasant
in deepest Balochistan.
Again, all these myths are founded on a
reality that cannot be ignored. But it is necessary to question whether in their excruciating detail they obscure a larger reality. Do the
myths even obstruct effective action against
trafficking? Overall, does the diversionary
power of the present trafficking discourse
mean that many more children and women
are undocumented, uncounted, discounted?
If so, it is time to change our understanding
of trafficking in South Asia, to recognise these
others - the unrecognised majority of those
in pain - and to do something about their
condition.
Reality check
What are the facts of trafficking? The truth is
— after a decade of seminars, media investigations, research and committee reports - we
really don't know. In some cases, we know
where the trafficked girls come from, but not
in all cases, especially in India and Nepal. We
have not the vaguest idea of the numbers of
girls trafficked. We do not know much about
where they go, whether to large metros or industrial towns, or to what kinds of prostitution establishments. And we do not know who
is responsible. In the last couple of years there
has been some bona fide research and investigative journalism on the subject, but the picture is as yet blurry. Worst of all, we do not
even know what the word 'trafficking' means
any more. Maybe it is time to throw the word
away.
It can be safely said that the girl-children
of myth - those who are physically coerced
or duped into prostitudon across international
borders without prior knowledge or willingness - are a small, very small, minority of all
who enter prostitution. This activity alone is
what the discourse generally calls 'trafficking'.
First of all, we must distinguish 'international' trafficking from 'in-country' or 'domestic' trafficking. Although it takes little skill to
determine that vast majority of women and
children are trafficked within their countries'
borders (sometimes just down the hill to the
truckstop), in-country trafficking remains a
small part of what people understand by "traf-
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
I
h
 Cover
ficking". In the Government of India's recent
"Report and Plan of Action ofthe Committee
on Prostitution", while it is clearly stated
that "most of the human trafficking is done
within the country from one State or region
to another", the committee immediately develops amnesia and restricts itself to prescribing recommendations to halt international
trafficking.
Family indebtedness
The definition should be made more encompassing. Children unwillingly and unknowingly abducted, drugged, duped or otherwise
dragged to the brothels could be called victims of 'hard' or 'coercive' trafficking. Set
against this are the children whose families
send them to the brothels as wage-earners -
this could be called 'soft' or 'family-based' trafficking.
Soft trafficking may occur because it is an
established means of providing income to
poor households, as well as of getting rid of a
dowry burden. In northern Thailand, perhaps
80 percent of the girls send money home to
their families. There is evidence that many,
probably the majority, of the girls working in
Indian and Bangladeshi brothels send money
home. The family and community, thus, are
complicit.
In the sex establishments of Bombay, one
comes across enough indications of soft trafficking. Many, perhaps most, of the brothels
and beer bars contain girls from the same state,
the same region, often the same village. You
can find Meghalayan or Tamil beer bars where
many ofthe girls have known each other since
childhood. You can find Nepali brothels where
all the girls are from the same village in
Sindhupalchowk district, well known for its
export of prostitutes (see story on page 24).
It is known that recruitment of new girls
is often done by older prostitutes returning
to their home villages. They are not dragging
strangers off the streets to Bombay, instead
they are bringing over their own family members or neighbours. This is hardly a South
Asian phenomenon - in Thailand, the Philippines, China, Cambodia and every country
of the East, too, girls from the same village
are routinely found working together in brothels.
Trafficking with the complicity of the family and the girl's fore-knowledge, may also be
the result of family indebtedness - to the local moneylender or from an established
bonded-labour situation. In Thailand, where
there is better data available, it was recently
reported that about 40 percent of girls selling
sex in the north of the country were in pros
titution to pay off their family debts. Family
indebtedness is routine throughout the Subcontinent (with the state of Bihar at its centre), and it can be safely said that debt obligation plays a significant role in the soft trafficking of children here. What is interesting
is that the question of family indebtedness
does not form any part of tbe present trafficking discourse in any of the regional countries.
Evidence suggests that the various forms
of soft trafficking are not only prevalent, but
that they involve many more girls and women
than hard trafficking. It is also clear that soft
trafficking has become a widely accepted cultural practice and that more and more families knowingly and willingly send their children to brothels in response to their own poverty. This is not even a new phenomenon -
many South Asian communities have been
doing this for generations - but it is rapidly
expanding as the poor get poorer. At the same
time, it is making a crucial contribution to
impoverished rural economies.
Evidence also suggests that many of the
females who enter sex work are not trafficked
into it - they enter because they have no alternative. What about a girl or woman who
goes overseas as a migrant household worker,
perhaps gets sexually abused by her employer,
flees ber job and resorts to sex work in desperation? Or the woman who is abandoned
Nepali and Tamil prostitutes in
a Bombay brothel pose with
social workers on Rakhee Day.
On the wall, garlanded portrait
ofthe late madam ofthe house.
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
II
 Hi
by her husband and who must get into sex
work to feed her children? Or a young woman
whose parents have died or abandoned her, a
street child? Selling sex may be her only way
to survive. These women and girls are not trafficked - they certainly do not enter prostitution 'voluntarily', but somehow they are
excluded from the prevalent trafficking
discourse.
Thus, at present, the discussion of trafficked women limits itself to the victims of
hard trafficking. As a result, the media focuses
on these victims, donors direct their funds at
these victims, and governments wax eloquent
about these victims - to the exclusion of the
majority of women in the sex trade. Why?
If a discourse - in this case, why and how
children enter prostitution - is not in sync
with the real world, why not just change it,
one may ask. It's not that easy. Once embedded in the public and professional mind, the
understanding of what trafficking is and is not
is very hard to eradicate. There are a number
of reasons for this.
For one, there is a strong tendency among
all parties to simplify. The media want a strong
yet simple story, one that readers and viewers
can connect with. Many NGOs want to keep it
simple because it facilitates their work - it is
much easier to set up token prevention camps
in the Nepal hills than to confront angry vil-
Inside a brothelnext to the
Olympic Hotel on Falkland Road
in Bombay just before midnight
on a weekday. An inebriated
Nepali client sleeps it off.
lagers whose income is derived from selling
their girls. Donor agencies simplify the issues
because of cultural ignorance (the project
chief will have spent the last three years in
Rwanda), and because they themselves must
advocate and generate funds on an international platform (which, like the international
media, wants spicy masala).
Frooti girls
The prevalent perception of trafficking is also
explained by inadequate research. In all South
Asian countries, scholars are handicapped by
an extremely difficult subject and the lack of
skills to break it open. This is compounded
by pressure to conduct research quickly, save
money, and get the facts to fit donor and government agendas. For example, much of the
knowledge of how Nepali girls are trafficked
to Bombay is based on one-shot interviews
with sex workers. Did you ever wonder why
there are only three or four versions of the
same story (the drugged Frooti, they promised me a job in the city, I got lost on my way
to the market, and so on)?
Every social worker knows that prostitutes
are trained by their madams to tell these stories, and that they will protect their own families long before they will confess to a researcher how they really entered prostitution.
They are hardly going to say, "Yes, my parents
sent me down here to work in aunt Kamala's
brothel, and my cousin Meena is there in the
next room with a client?" So, the discourse
accepts the lies, and denies, in this case, the
existence of family-based trafficking.
The media, governments and donor agencies all demand numbers - of a group that is
almost impossible to count. Researchers
twitch at the thought of providing numbers
and rightfully try to avoid giving them. However, the media, at least, cannot do without
numbers, and so you see, for example, the
same number of Bangladeshi women in Pakistan or the same number of Sri Lankan women
in the Gulf repeated for years. No one knows
where the numbers came from, and if a journalist adds or drops a zero, nobody notices.
It's a number, a big one, and that's enough.
But suppose the correct facts are there (and
in many instances, there are). Suppose a realistic picture of trafficking could be presented
simply (and it can be). Suppose, ignoring
uncountable numbers, we could determine
proportions, that is, what groups or locations
are hurt the most, what kinds of trafficking
prevail (and we can almost do that today),
and so on. Supposing these, why is a false discourse still perpetuated? Why do we continue
to ignore the majority of the victims, and con-
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
 Coyer
-
tinue to make token interventions based exclusively on the notion of hard trafficking?
Why is this discourse perpetuated? Because all the players (except for the prostitutes) have a stake in it. Paisa and power is
what keeps the system operating, and this is
what people want to hear, especially in contrast with children's suffering.
Media makes myths
The media has an immense investment in
keeping the Gita myth alive. As innumerable
articles and films attest, the Gita story sells, it
wins awards. The story of a girl from a nondescript Deccan village who goes with her
cousin to work in a Bombay beer bar, on the
other hand, does not sell. I have tried it. Last
year, I wrote a story for the venerable Sunday
Times of London about Nepali villagers who
have maintained family brothels in Bombay
for generations. The Times rewrote the story,
using very few of my words, into the Gita
myth. They labelled it "Supermarket Brothels" or something like that, said the number
of Nepali girls in Bombay was 400,000 (what's
an extra zero?) and to my embarrassment put
my byline on it. That's what sells.
NGOs have an investment. Excepting some
fine urban radicals and the many superb, invisible grassroots NGOs who tend to be pushed
away from the feeding trough, the lime-lighters rake it in with the dramatic Gita myth.
After all, the myth has an immediate appeal
to simple-minded donors, and interventions
can be token: simulate results by conducting
village meetings (just count the onlookers, all
have been "made aware"), conduct trainings,
publish brochures for the illiterate, and
assemble a few sad girls in a cottage weaving
mats. Donor representatives tend to love
it, especially if they can come and gawk at
the girls.
What about the donors themselves? Well,
'development' is an industry and any industry will want the most output for the least input. Should donor agencies decide to fund
activities against family-based soft trafficking
instead of hard trafficking, they would have a
difficult lime writing those donor reports
highlighting interventions' and achievements.
Genuine interventions are always extremely
difficult, they will take years, and will fail
again and again before they succeed. Donors
cannot handle that. Like auto companies, they
have to show quick profits, the profits being
numbers of kids saved. For these reasons, interventions to save the children whose families sell them, to protect migrant women
labourers, or to stem the immense amount of
boy-prostitution in India and Pakistan, are just
not good for business.
Like everyone else, governments like the
prevalent trafficking myths because they can
be sold easily. Trafficked Gita makes for good
sound bite on the podium, and the myth of
the "evil trafficker" lays the blame on the other
guy - for Nepal, it's India; for Bangladesh, Pakistan; for Sri Lanka, the Guff states. Governments tend to reinforce the present discourse
because it diverts attention from the underlying causes of prostitution that the governments are unable to address: rural and urban
poverty, caste and gender discrimination, debt
servitude, domestic sexual abuse, and un-
guided urban growth. Lastly, no politician is
going to accuse his constituents of sending
their own kids to the brothels.
When the discourse is not challenged, not
revised, the results are serious and the damage far-reaching. Meanwhile, hard trafficking
continues unabated. Because the response is
misplaced and ineffective, the traffickers easily run circles around the plodding ngos and
inactive governments.
The prevailing discussion simplifies the
concept of trafficking so as to place the blame
on "criminal networks" run by evil mafiosi.
Contrarily, what we know is that trafficking
activities are primarily small, informal and
decentralised. The big shots, cops and politicians may get a piece of the brothel profits
inspector Prafulia Joshi ofthe V.P.
Road Police Station in Bombay leads
one of his periodic raids on a brothel
in Falkland Road. The gharwali,
Pushpa, unlocks the grill gate to
let him in.
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
17
W^H
 U4-
after the girls are installed, but large networks
probably account for only a small percentage
of trafficked women and children.
Unrecognised in the discussions, and thus
ignored by most interventionists, in-country
trafficking and soft trafficking continue to expand. Families, community members and
money-lenders who profit from the sale of
children are not touched (except when
they are occasionally forced to listen to village lectures by NGO workers on the evils
of trafficking).
In a word, the present discourse and the
resulting interventions leave out most of the
persons who are trafficked. Besides the likely
majority that is willingly or unwillingly sold
with family complicity, the discourse ignores
females who are not children - as if adulthood suddenly makes a person willing. It also
ignores children from geographical areas that
are not targeted by interventionists, such as
the 90 percent of Nepali children who do not
live in Nepal's few "danger districts" such as
Sindhupalchowk and Rasuwa. The discourse
is also sexist - outside of Sri Lanka, with the
exception of a few camel-boys, male children
are excluded from the picture.
The present trafficking discussion and its
attendant myths interfere with effective interventions, including the removal of children
from brothels. Sex workers are strongly
Young Bhutanese prostitute,
Anita, is "rescued" by social
workers in Bombay in August
1998. Fair skin and "oriental"
looks like hers are prized by
Indian clients.
against hard trafficking and child prostitution, and are potentially key figures in preventing both from spreading. Bungling
media-drenched 'rescues' antagonise brothel
communities, killing possible support from
ghanvalis, prostitutes and clients, increasing
police pressure on already abused sex workers, and making research and AIDS interventions more difficult.
The accepted thesis obscures vital issues
that do not fit within the narrow purview of
'trafficking'. The link between familial indebtedness in the village and the sending of
girls to the brothels is well recognised in Thailand; in South Asia, with the exception of
Bangladesh and the eastern states of India, it
is never discussed.
Sri Lanka leads the challenge to the discourse on migrant labour: that sexual exploitation must be considered part of a wider
range of exploitation of migrant workers; and
that the word 'trafficking' should be more
broadly applied, particularly to those exploited by usury or forced to work under horrible conditions.
Gita-style trafficking is 'democratic' - by
its definition, any little girl is a potential victim. The fact is that any little girl is not. The
simplified discourse ignores the social and
economic oppression that results, for example, in the majority of Indian prostitutes
being from tribal or scheduled castes.
The "anyone is a victim" image of trafficking suits governments well, because it obscures the extreme desperation of the rural
poor - a desperation in which girls are knowingly sacrificed to be brothel wage-earners so
that the family can eat or pay off the moneylender. It hides the fact that prostitution is
increasingly becoming a vital and indispensable part of the South Asian rural economy.
Perhaps the greatest victims of the prevailing understanding ofthe sex trade are the girls
and women who are not 'trafficked'. The
Western discourse on "willingness to enter
prostitution" cannot be applied to South Asia.
Virtually no female in South Asia would
choose a life of prostitution if there were
alternatives.
The meagre discussion on trafficking in
the Subcontinent ignores the vast majority
of persons who end up selling their bodies:
women or girls with children and no
husbands; those who must feed parents or
siblings; those fleeing sexual abuse and
violence at home; and children separated
from their families, floating alone in an urban environment.
In a sense, all these individuals have been
socially trafficked. Compounding the pain of
IB
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
 these 'voluntary' prostitutes, the present
discourse creates an opposition between prostitution and trafficking - those who have been
trafficked are innocent victims, the rest are
whores. It brushes aside the fact that few prostitutes can escape from sex work, and
minimises their needs for health and security,
as well as the needs of their children, so often
in danger of entering prostitution as well.
Harm reduction gets almost no space within
the present discourse.
The client
The evil trafficker myth slides easily into the
evil prostitute myth; preventing trafficking is
one thing, but annihilating prostitution is
another. The discourse encourages government and NGO actions that inflict more distress on women and girls who have already
suffered enough. This could be 'illegalisation',
pure punishment, such as the knee-jerk
anti-prostitution legislation that some Nepali
NGOs are trying to peddle. Or it could be the
other extreme, legalisation (read regulation),
in which sex workers are inflicted with government and NGO interference in the form of
enforced health checks, confinement to
"brothel districts", police registration, and so
on. The existing discourse fans the emotions
of both puritans and liberationists, urging
them to action when the sex worker just wants
to be left alone.
Absent from the discourse is the upper half
of the prostitution equation: the client. If
mentioned at all, the client is faceless, even if
generally foul. On the one hand, when a girl
returns to Kerala or Nepal from Bombay with
AIDS, the blame is once again put on her for
bringing AIDS home. Those primarily responsible for Hiv movement, migrant mobile males,
are off the hook. On the other hand, the discourse masks the real identities of the clients
- stereotyping them as greasy old men with
STDs or as ignorant, sex-starved construction
workers.
Denying the fact that clients are just regular guys, and denying that prostitution is, in
part, a male response to arranged marriage and
South Asian mores take the men out of the
equation - and makes enforcing measures
against trafficking, child prostitution and HIV
extremely difficult.
And, finally, while the prevailing discourse
is predicated on pain - the genuine anguish
of the child abducted into hell - it glosses over
the pain of many more. It not only ignores
the pain of many other children and adults
who enter prostitution through less dramatic
routes, but also ignores the everyday, life-long
pain of the sex worker: the social rejection,
the shattered dreams, the abuse at the hands
of clients, the dead-end at middle age, and
the emotional scars from coldly imparting
what should be an act of love - sex - to thousands of men.
Although the present trafficking discourse
and its regional variations are definitely
flawed, the discourse must continue. There
is a positive value to myth-making, for myths
are one form of intervention: they communicate. Issues must be simplified because media audiences, governments and donors think
in simple terms. Funds must be raised, legislation enacted and issues communicated.
Should we, then, create new myths about
the workers of the sex industry and how they
got there? Yes, we should. Myths need not be
untrue. They can reflect reality while performing their vital function of communication. But
to function effectively - here to prevent and
relieve the suffering of those drawn into prostitution - they must arise from a realistic, viable discourse. The present trafficking discourse has evolved from the myths, and that's
the wrong way round.
To change the present understanding of
trafficking, we have to admit to some ideas
that make us uncomfortable. We have to admit that family-based prostitution is an increasingly common response to poverty and
a significant source of rural income. We
have to admit that the village moneylender
contributes to children entering the brothels.
We have to admit that most women and
children enter prostitution not because
they are trafficked, but because they have no
alternatives.
We have got a lot of admitting to do, a
fot of garbage to clear away, a lot of painful
social facts to face. If interventions are
predicated on garbage, their effectiveness will
not rise above the level of the compost heap.
If a national policy against trafficking is
based on garbage, it will be a national policy
of garbage.
To change the pre'sent discourse, to head
it in a realistic direction, is not easy. It means
that many - in the media, NGOs, governments
and donor agencies - will have to bite the bullet. Fortunately, among a few activist groups
throughout South Asia, a discourse is developing based on a realistic-appreciation of how
and why girls and women enter the sex trade.
This discussion is as yet incipient, but it needs
to be listened to, so that old thinking is replaced by effective action. jb
J. Frederick is a South Asia-based writer
specialising in gender and children's issues.
1998   OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
19
 Nepal
The sequence which begins
below is from the tele-serial
Raat, produced by
Kathmandu's Maha
company and broadcast
over Nepal Television in
1992. This was a
pioneering attempt by
directors Hari Bonsha
Acharya and Madan
Krishna Shrestha in using
mass media to spread
awareness about hivwds.
Raat addressed the issue
of "hard trafficking". But
few subsequent media
efforts have gone beyond
this to look at the reality of
family trafficking. Seven
years after Raat, the
caricature ofthe "Gita
myth" endures.
Nepal was the original maker of the myth of
trafficking in the regional and international
community. Gita and her drugged Frooti established the precedent in South Asia for
heart- and wallet-wrenching sensationalism.
The persistence of the myth has put Nepal's
discourse significantly behind that of other
South Asian countries. While the majority of
attention on trafficking is placed on several
"danger districts", which happen to surround
Kathmandu Valley, it is painfully obvious that
these sparsely-populated districts cannot account for the large number of Nepali girls and
women selling sex in India. Nepal has a number of maturing rural NGOs which have significant knowledge of trafficking patterns
across the country, but their knowledge has
generally been ignored because the trafficking arena is dominated by Kathmandu-based
"power NGOs" and international donors in
their thrall.
The perception of "trafficking" has evolved
very little over the last decade. Among NGOs
and government people, there is a strong denial of families' direct, willing involvement in
selling their children; in general, families are
conceived to have been either duped or coerced by abject poverty. Those fighting trafficking almost universally deny that the girls
involved may have prior knowledge that they
are going to enter sex work. In-country trafficking is ignored, despite evidence from
grassroots NGOs and international-NGOs that
traffickers are "shopping" in the hills for girls
to serve in the brothels of Biratnagar, Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Recently, the matter of migrant labour has
entered the consciousness of Nepali discussants. As in Sri Lanka, there is concern that
migrant women workers unwittingly enter
prostitution. Unlike in Sri Lanka, the number of women migrants, their destinations and
their level of welfare are still largely unknown.
Filling the vacuum, the media are beginning
to play "I was raped by my boss" tapes, which
promise to monopolise the trafficking discourse, drowning out other significant issues
of female migrant labour. As with Nepali girls'
knowing entry into prostitution in Nepal and
India, activists are mute about the Nepalis
willingly seeking sex work overseas, despite
public knowledge that for years Nepali
women have been going for sex work in Hong
Kong, Japan and Korea.
 India
In the last several years, the discussion relating to trafficking has evolved rapidly in India, albeit mostly within the media and NGOs.
International donors and state and national
governments still cling to the concept of universal 'hard trafficking'. India has had more
opportunity than other South Asian countries
to develop a viable, truthful picture of girls'
entry into prostitution: neither the media nor
NGOs feel obliged to agree to a national consensus on the problem. Journalists and activists in, say, Tamil Nadu or Bengal are inclined
to more deeply assess the situation of "their
girls", and create a local discourse on trafficking and entry into prostitution. Thus, we have
begun to see serious consideration of bonded
labour vis-a-vis trafficking in West Bengal and
Bihar, and of caste marginalisation vis-a-vis
trafficking in Kamataka.
While shrill screams about hard trafficking are still heard in India, they are being supplanted to an extent by awareness and discussion of soft trafficking, particularly the
matter of willing family involvement. A few
years ago, those involved in fighting trafficking would have trundled out the poor Bedias,
Rajnats, Banjaras and Devadasis as examples
of naughty families who send their children
into hell. Today, it is increasingly accepted
that sending daughters to the brothels to
send home rupees is, and has long been, a
widespread response to rural poverty. In
this, India's self-realisation is approaching
the level of Thailand's seven or eight years
ago, when Thai activists accepted that
prostitution was a very common form of filial
obligation.
Unlike the case in Nepal and Bangladesh,
it is difficult for Indian activists to blame another country for forcing their children into
prostitution. India is clearly not a major flesh
exporter and thus, the Indian discourse has
not flown the flag of raped migrant women
workers as have Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and now
Nepal. While migrant women workers are a
growing topic of concern, they are discussed
by the media, NGOs, international NGOs
and government in relatively sober and
realistic terms. In this, the Indian experience
is similar to the present-day Sri Lanka
discourse. Unlike in Nepal, Indian discussants
are able to openly admit the very high
proportion of tribals and scheduled castes in
prostitution.
Entry into a Bombay
establishment.
Evil madam, the
gharwali, chews paan.
Traffickers collect money
and run.
'?tj^
'Gita' is tortured,
terrorised, broken in.
1998   OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
21
 m-
Sri Lanka
The unique problems of its women and children have created a variant discourse in Sri
Lanka, much of which is the most refined in
the Subcontinent. The country exports a major proportion of its women to foreign countries as domestic servants, and has done so
for years. Concerns for these women, whose
earnings provide a substantial share to the
national economy, have given rise to solid research and to extensive coverage by Sri Lanka's
generally sensible media. Articulate NGOs have
emerged to advocate women's legal rights. For
these reasons, Sri Lanka's trafficking discourse, while it includes the sexual abuse and
prostitution of migrant women workers, leads
the Subcontinent on the broader issues of migrant iabour "trafficking".
Sri Lanka's trafficking discourse has also
been informed by its regionally unique problem of having developed as a centre of sex
tourism for boy prostitutes. Until recently,
exclusive focus on this has diverted attention
from female prostitution. Although prevalent,
very little is known today about female prostitution in Sri Lanka; little research has been
conducted and it has got minimal media coverage. (Similarly, and perhaps for the same reasons, Sri Lanka's AIDS discourse is quite undeveloped.)
Trafficking of boys to Europe by sleazy foreigners is a part of the discourse, but has never
developed into a full-blown myth, such as
Nepal's Gita myth. The war in Sri Lanka has
been integrated into the trafficking discourse;
along with "poor up-country" children, war
orphans are trafficked domestically to Colombo and the seaside sex resorts. The numbers are not immense, and their significance
is probably exaggerated when taken into account the many coastal village children who
are drawn into the sex tourism industry.
While in the past Sri Lankans have been
concerned with the abuse of young boys on
their own turf by foreigners, a new area of
concern has opened up recently. It is not a
matter of trafficking, but of domestic child
sexual abuse. All participants in the discourse
- the media, NGOs, donors and the government - are now admitting that domestic paedophilia is a greater problem than, and a likely
precursor to, sex tourism. The incidence of
domestic child sexual abuse has been demonstrated by good research, which has been
followed by efficient exposure in the media.
The matter is being carefully addressed by
NGOs, with the help of their Philippine counterparts, among others. While India is beginning to admit to the existence of domestic
child sexual abuse, and Nepal and Pakistan
generally still deny it, Sri Lanka has already
created a solid discourse and is conducting
effective interventions.
Bangladesh
For the last decade, the Bangladesh discourse
has been dominated by the trafficking of its
women across India to Pakistan, some also
continuing on to the Middle East. The discussion has generally been quite muddled until recently. The media and fund-hungry NGOs
have tried to present a myth of girls hard trafficked into prostitution in Pakistan and the
Middle East, but this has been difficult to
maintain for a couple of reasons. One is that
"trafficking" is a difficult word to apply to an
underground transportation system that has
been established for decades, primarily to
maintain labour movement and family contact between the former East and West
Pakistans. People from both sides have moved
in both directions for years, depending on economic opportunity, political pressure and family obligations.
 Cover
The other difficulties in creating a hard
trafficking scenario are that the majority of
those who move along the trafficking route
from Bangladesh to Pakistan are adult women,
often with children, and that the majority are
going knowingly as labourers and end up as
labourers, not prostitutes. Pakistan does not
have a high demand for Bangladeshi prostitutes, certainly not one matching India's
demand for Nepali prostitutes. Making the
discourse even more difficult for the hard
trafficking myth-makers is the high incidence
of Bangladeshi women ending up in debt
servitude in Pakistan. Thus, a simplified
prostitution-victim discourse such as Nepal's
has not been sustainable; the towering trafficking problem is bonded labour, not prostitution. In the last couple of years, however,
Bangladesh's sophisticated NGOs have been
fielding a refined discourse that defines trafficking in a broader sense to include the manifold problems of migrant women labour.
Bangladesh leads the region in including
domestic bonded labour in its discussion of
trafficking. Excellent research and some good
media coverage have exposed the tsukri system of debt bondage, and middle levels ofthe
government and some donor agencies have
listened, even if they have not yet responded.
Moreover, being a country like India that does
not import sex workers, the discourse is fully
cognisant of in-country trafficking. Perhaps
more than any South Asian country, activists
in Bangladesh are aware of where girls come
from and where they end up in prostitution.
Pakistan
Pakistan has the least developed trafficking
discourse of any South Asian country, for good
reason — it has been primarily concerned with,
and has taken very seriously, the issues of violence against the average woman. Pakistan's
extremely sophisticated women's rights NGOs
have developed in response to the strictures
of Muslim law and powerful local customary
practices, behind which many incidents of female abuse are hidden.
With the dominant aim of addressing violence against women and the reluctance of the
media and the government to openly discuss
prostitution in any but abhorrent terms, the
trafficking discourse is small and occupies
relatively less space in media, NGO, donor and
government agendas than in the other South
Asian countries. The same can be said
for the HIV/AIDS discourse. While female
prostitution within the country is little discussed (although not denied), there is still an
almost total absence of discussion on the
highly-prevalent male prostitution, as is the
case in India.
The trafficking scenario in Pakistan is generally typified by women (not necessarily
girls) going to the Gulf States as migrant
labourers, then being abused. In this,
Pakistan's discussion shares much with Sri
Lanka's. With Bangladesh, these two countries
are expanding the trafficking discourse to address the wider problems of migrant women
workers. Domestic, in-country trafficking into
bonded labour (rather than prostitution) is a
viable part of Pakistan's expanded trafficking
discourse.
Small but capable research, some decent
investigative journalism, and reports and interventions by NGOs and Pakistan's Human
Rights Commission have clarified the picture
of domestic trafficking in the country and
brought the issue to the forefront. Thus in Pakistan, the hard-trafficking-for-prostitution
discourse is relatively unimportant. It may
become even more sidelined if the proposed
reversion to Shariat takes effect and decreases
the freedom of the average woman. />,
-John Frederick
1998  OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
 IH-
The Melamchi river flows placidly through
Sindhupalchowk district north of Kathmandu (above).
Many girls from areas like this in Nepal are sex workers
in Bombay, 2500 km away.
by Naresh Newar
Sindhupalchowk district, barely 20 km
northeast of Kathmandu Valley as the
crow flies, shares with Rasuwa District,
to its west, the notoriety of being the
pre-eminent exporter of girls to the brothels
of India. Like so much other information on
girl trafficking out of Nepal, the history of this
export is apocryphal, there having been little
in the way of serious research by dispassionate scholars.
Some of the Sindhupalchowk locals say
that the sex trade originated in the supply of
Tamang and Sherpa girls of this region to the
feudal Rana court of Kathmandu. Apparently,
it was just a step away from serving as bhitrini
(concubines) and susaaray (maid servants)
to the "cages" of the Kamathipura red light
district of Bombay. The antiquity of trafficking may be murky, but there is no doubt
that there is profit in selling sex. That much
is obvious from even a cursory look at
some of the households of Sindhupalchowk's
24
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
 Cover
villages such as Ichowk, Mahankal, and
Talamarang.
There is a trafficking network which today continues to supply young women of
Sindhupalchowk to Indian cities, and the fact
that the locals are fully engaged in this supply is evident from the names of some of the
largest brothel owners in Bombay: Lata
Sherpa, Mala Tamang, Kabita Sherpa, Anita
Sherpa and Maya (Tamang) Chauhan - all
names which indicate to a fair degree the origin of the women in Sindhupalchowk. Vinod
Gupta and Sanjay Chonkar, social activists in
Bombay, say that in addition to these top five,
there are many other small-time Nepali
gharwalis (madams) engaged in running a fair
number of the hundreds of bordellos of
Bombay. According to them, altogether 25,000
Nepali women work in the brothels of the
three key red light areas of Kamathipura, Pilla
House and Falkland Road.
Unlike other equally poor hill districts of
Nepal, Sindhupalchowk has concentrated on
this particular export trade. It has helped that
powerful gharwalis from this region rule the
roost at the Bombay end. Over time, it has
also become an accepted social custom, albeit a secretive one.
"The family members of the victims
equally share in the crime," explains Krishna
Chhetri, a school teacher at Ichowk, which
has many of what are known as "family traffickers". "Prostitutes who return home after
several years in the trade encourage their
neighbours to send their daughters to Bombay.
With their ostentatious display of wealth, it
is easy to convince the parents to part with
their daughters," adds Chhetri.
Tin roofs
Ichowk is popularly known as Sano Bambai
(Little Bombay). From across the Melamchi
river valley, in the afternoon sun, Ichowk's
tin-roofs reflect a prosperity that is said to
come from earnings of its women in Bombay.
Until recently, when they became more common in the hills of Nepal, these tin roofs were
proof of cash income (required to buy the corrugated sheets) and an indication of Ichowk's
source of wealth, compared to poorer villages
which had to make do with thatch. There was,
apparently a direct link between a daughter
in Bombay and a tin roof above one's head in
Sindhupalchowk.
Starting from the roadhead at the bazaar
of Melamchi Pul, it takes over five hours' hard
hill-walking to reach the closely-knit settlement of Ichowk. Indeed, the tin roofs are all
there, with but a handful of thatch. However,
the rest of the village is in bad shape: there is
no electricity, running water or a health care
centre. The fields are poorly irrigated, and the
maize and potatoes they produce are hardly
enough to last the year.
Unlike the tourist region of Helambu
up-valley along the Melamchi, the locals of
Ichowk are openly hostile towards strangers.
This is, obviously, the result of the unwanted
attention it has received over the last few years
from Kathmandu-based activist groups, suddenly woken up to the scourge of trafficking.
When this writer arrived at Ichowk one June
afternoon this year and started chatting with
an elderly Tamang woman on her veranda a
middle-aged man arrived to grill me with
questions, while another man came with a
register book and insisted that I write down
my name and purpose of visit. There was no
unpleasantness, but the incident showed the
deep suspicion that Ichowk villagers have of
outsiders.
Later, when the Tamang woman's husband
arrived he explained that his two daughters
had gone with his neighbour to the "Thulo
Sahar" - big city, the term for Bombay. Shyam
Karki, school teacher in the village, said that
the old man often travelled to Bombay to collect money from his daughters. "There are
many parents like him involved in sending
their children to work in the Bombay brothels."
"Up to 200 families in this village have sold
their daughters, mostly between 12-15 years
old. At least 15 girls have left the village with
well-known pimps in front of my very eyes.
Obviously, the whole community knows
where their girls are headed," says Karki. Everyone knows what is going on and what
"Bambai" signifies, from the elderly to the very
young. "But they pretend as if they do not
know," says Karki. "Some families feel the
need to show concern, and they make noises
in the village, even file a report with the police. But they wait some days before doing so,
to ensure that the coast is clear."
Sashi Tamang, a 14 year-old girl rescued
from Kamathipura and now living at the Kathmandu shelter home of Maid Nepal, an NGO
providing assistance to women, confirms parental involvement in trafficking. She even
says that the girls leaving the village know
precisely where they are going to end up. In
the brothel to which she was sold by her own
neighbour, Sashi remembers meeting at least
50 Nepali girls, a majority of them from
Sindhupalchowk. "Most of them had come
willingly. Even their own fathers had reached
some of them here. But they never knew anything about all the suffering they would face
in Bombay," explains Sashi.
1998   OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
25
 Toni Hagen's Nepal
Himal Books, October 1998
Toni Hagen first set foot on Nepali soil in 1950, when Nepal was still 'forbidden' to outsiders. Starting from the Tarai plains, then still malarial, he
traversed Nepal's populated midlands, and up to and beyond the high
Himalaya. He walked a total of 14,000 km over nine years while carrying
out the first-ever reconnaissance of the country for the United Nations.
The Swiss geologist saw Nepal like no one had before him, and very few
have since. He visited areas that are till today closed to tourists and observed so much of the country that has been overtaken by the march of
time. With the meticulous mind of a scientist and the rendition of a storyteller, Toni Hagen first published Nepal in 1961. This, then, became the
original book to introduce Nepal, in text and unmatched pictures, to the
world as well as to the administrators of the newly awakened country.
Over time, as a development expert and a valued friend, the author has
been returning regularly to these mountains, hills and plains. He has seen
the country's transformation from a medieval-era state to a parliamentary
democracy, and the population's rise from eight million when he first came
to 22 million today. Toni Hagen has not been just a casual observer; he has
continuously engaged in discussion on issues that affect the people, such as
the merits of the prevalent development model, or questions of political
evolution and ethnic assertion.
There have been others who have since studied more thoroughly certain
areas and become better acquainted with various communities ofthe country, but Toni Hagen is undoubtedly still the expert of Nepal as a whole.
Toni Hagen '$ 14,000 km treks
through Nepal, 1950-1959.
-_v
^**l*J«jf»sjJ^Vj'
y~
Mail order your copy oi Nepal by sending us the following details.
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drawn on favouring Himal Association is enclosed herewith.
You can order your copy through AMEX.VISA or MASTER CARD.
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Toni Hagen's
Nepal: The Kingdom in the Himalaya
revised and updated with
Deepak Thapa
Fourth Edition, 1998
Himal Books, Lalitpur, Nepal
pp 251 (172 plates: 121 colour+51 b&w)
U$ 60 (including postage)
This 1998 edition of Nepal is the
result of a unique transcontinental
collaboration between the Swiss
geologist-turned-development
philosopher Toni Hagen and Nepali
journalist Deepak Thapa, who is an
editor of Himal magazine in
Kathmandu Valley.This revised and
updated Fourth Edition includes
the original reports and photographs by Toni Hagen; at the same
time, it brings the reader abreast
with the changes the country has
witnessed and the ideas that have
evolved over the decades. An
impressive amount of new information is collected in this edition,
including up-to-date data and
discussion on matters as diverse as
history, development, tourism,
agriculture, geography, ethnography, and the process of modernisation.The book ends with an essay
looking ahead, maintaining that
the country still has the potential
to deliver a fine quality of life to its
population.
The earlier editions of Nepal
helped define Nepal to the world
for the last four decades.The 1998
updated and revised edition will
continue to do so for many years
hence.
HIM L
BOOKS is the publishing wing of the
not-for-profit Himal Association, Lalitpur, Nepal.
 In Krishna Chhetri's village of Palchowk
(which provides the second half of
the district's name) stands the 100-year-
old temple of Shri Jai Bageshwari Devi,
much revered by the Bombay veterans of
Sindhupalchowk as well as the neighbouring
Nuwakot district. Travelling from far afield,
richly adorned women, escorted by their families, arrive here on Saturdays to perform the
elaborate Hindu rite of Panchawoli. Lavish
spending is in order, and up to NPR 10,000
(USD 150) is paid per buffalo sacrifice. Holy
offerings are made to Bageshwari Devi, up to
NPR 15,000, says Chhetri. All this conspicuous spending has the locals wide-eyed - it is
"Bambai" that makes it possible.
The Bhageshwari mandir also serves as a
place where sex workers and traffickers alike
come to expiate their 'sins'. This is evident
from the large sums that have been contributed for the restoration and upkeep of
the temple. The names of contributors
prominently displayed on the walls, unlike
in other temples of Nepal, are primarily
those of women.
What is strange but perhaps natural is that
the very young girls of Sindhupalchowk who
have suffered at the hands of their brothel
managers emerge over time as mirror images
of their tormentors. These prematurely aged
women, clearly, think nothing of entrapping
more and ever more young girls from
Sindhupalchowk into the maze of Bombay's
sex trade. The very women who have been
trafficked by their parents, or by middle-men
(and -women), are more than willing, in the
role of brothel managers and gharwalis, to
encourage the export of more young women
from Sindhupalchowk to Kamathipura and
Falkland Road.
Mahendra Trivedi, an ayurvedic practitioner in Bombay and one of the first persons to
begin a counselling service for Nepali prostitutes, says he has given up trying to change
the attitude of the gharwalis. At one time,
Trivedi helped start the Sanyukta Nepali Satya
Sodhak Pidit Mahila Sangb, an organisation
of prostitutes and brothel keepers promoting
"How much money do you
want for your daughter?"
THE FOLLOWING is a transcript from the Emmy
award-winning documentary, The Selling of Innocents,
of an interview with a father and daughter by journalist Ruchira Gupta, who went undercover as someone wishing to 'buy' a girl. The conversation took place
in Hindi, and the event was recorded at a Kathmandu
bungalow by hidden camera.
RG: Please sit down. (To girl) What is your name?
Girl: Savitri.
RG: (To father) How many children do you have?
Father: Three.
RG: Boys or girls?
Father: Two girls and a boy.
RG: Can we take the girl to Bombay?
Father: Yes.
RG: How much money do you want for your
daughter?
Father: Maybe...one and a half lakh.
RG: Are you joking? When you say "lakh" you
must mean "thousand".
Father: Yes, one and a half thousand.
RG: OK, we will give you the money. (Counts
money) Now can we take her to Bombay?
'Il'' >'l A,
>>.* 'k>. /rr,
Father: Yes.
RG (to girl): Will you be able to do whatever you're
asked to do? Any job?
Girl: Yes.
RG: Do you want to go to Bombay?
Girl: Yes
RG: Do you know what to expect in Bombay?
Girl: I haven't seen it so I don't know.
Savitri's family is high-caste' Bahun (hill Brahmin of
Nepal) from Nuwakot, a district north of Kathmandu.
The father works as a bricklayer in the capital. Says
Gupta, "I think he knew she was going to be sexually
used but was also happy to let himself believe that
she was going as a domestic." About his near-absurd
willingness to come down from his asking price of
150,000 rupees to 1500, Gupta thinks it may have to
do with the father's discomfort with the whole transaction. Savitri and her two younger brothers are at
present being sent through school with support raised
by Gupta.
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
27
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 Cover
the welfare of Nepali sex workers and their
children.
"The movement was begun to help Nepali
sex workers unite against the corrupt police,
local goondas and wicked clients. It was also
meant to solve problems of illiteracy and disease, and to help those who wanted to leave
prostitution," recalls Trivedi. According to
him, however, now the organisation has become a base to expand the market for Nepali
prostitutes in Bombay. "The Sangh is now
doing more harm than good," says Trivedi.
The membership of the Sangh is down
today to just 3000 from the 12,000 during the
late 1980s. Until a decade ago, about 80 to 90
gharwalis used to attend meetings every Saturday, discussing matters of concern to the
Nepali sex workers. This does not happen any
more, and the main Tamang and Sherpa
gharwalis in the executive committee of the
organisation actually own more brothels today than ever before. "The gharwalis kept on
expanding brothels on the pretext of providing more rooms to their girls," recalls Trivedi.
The Bombay bazaar for Nepali girls is getting
larger, and back in Sindhupalchowk, the supply is assured into the future.
N. Newar is a Kathmandu-based journalist with
special interest in human rights issues.
The bus terminal at
Melamchi Pul, where
many of the girls from
Sindhupalchowk begin
their journey. The
billboard at the back
has been put up by an
activist group and
exhorts Nepali girls
not to go abroad to
sell their dignity. Simla
Tamang (inset) is
from Sindhupalchowk
and was sold into
prostitution by a
neighbour when she
was 17. She then ran
her own business as a
supplier of Nepali girls
to Bombay and was
subsequently jailed
in Kathmandu for
trafficking. She used
political connections
to get herself out in
1996, and is now back
in business running a
brothel on Falkland
Road in Bombay.
-.V.     ^**sw65OT«n
Jlijl
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i^fJElSA^';
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Being Hindu in
Modern Times
(May 1996)
Hindu fundamentalism
is like driving a car
looking only at the
rear-view mirror: one
may be mesmerised by a
glorious vista ofthe past
but there lurks a tragic
accident up ahead.
Orbital Junk (June 1996)
Even as South Asia gets hooked on satellite television,
there's nobody looking out for the public interest.
How to get public television for the Subcontinent?
Soul Searching at 25 (September 1996)
Bangladesh may be all of 25 years old, but the
Bangladeshi is still groping after an identity.
Red Alert (September/October 1997)
The philosophy of "Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse
Tung", which caught the public's imagination in
Naxalbari 30 years ago, has spread across the region.
The Best in Film (December 1997)
Documentaries have the power to force change.
The public is ready to watch them. Documentaries
just need to be given a chance.
Net Set (January 1998)
We gave them Rajneesh, they gave us Bill Gates.
The Internet in South Asia must shed its exclusivist
character.
Jinnah (February 1998)
Muhammad Ali Jinnah has been converted' by
the nation be founded till he can no longer be
recognised. Faking Jinnah has meant a lesser
Pakisran.
China and Us (June 1998)
How should South Asia deal with a China which
believes in its destiny to the predominant Asian power.
*Only, of course, in Himal.
 Mrt
Among the sand dunes ofthe
India-Pakistan border,
there are human skeletons:
Bangladeshis who got lost and
died of thirst and hunger.
by Hasan Mujtaba
No documents. No visa. But parents, brothers and
sisters are in Bangladesh," says Reema.
She was barely 14, ten years ago, when she was lured
away by her aunt from her family village near Dhaka.
Since then, Reema has been sold so many times, married so many times that she has lost count. She does not
even remember the name of her village anymore, only
that her father's name was Abdul. "After reaching Dhaka,
my aunt told me to be prepared to go to Karachi, a big
city with big cars, money and no hunger," she recalls.
This year's unprecedented floods in Bangladesh
brought misery and destitution to millions of families.
But for the dalals, middlemen who smuggle women from
Bangladesh to Pakistan, there is good business in floods.
Far from the Padma-Jamuna delta, in a Karachi which
received below-average rainfall this year, the pimps are
rejoicing. "Let the flood waters in Bangladesh subside a
little. New batches of girls will be here," says Rahim, a
procurer of girls in Ali Akber Shah village, a Bengali
slum near Karachi's coast. For sure there will be more
girls like Reema in the slums of Karachi next year.
Dalals like Rahim are at the end of a chain of human
smuggling which still links the two separated parts of
what was once Pakistan. Every year, thousands of
Bengalis and even Burmese Arakanese girls (the Muslim Rohingya) are trafficked from Bangladesh, across the
expanse of India, through the Thar desert into Sindh in
Pakistan. Many are children when they arrive. They are
forced into prostitution, sold or auctioned for marriages,
or 'employed' as bonded labour. All this happens with
the connivance of police and border security forces in
all three countries.
A survey by Pakistan's Ministry of Interior indicates
that there are two million illegal immigrants in Karachi
alone. Out of these, 1.6 million are Bangladeshi migrants.
An independent report by the Lawyers for Human Rights
and Legal Aid (LHRLA), a group which studies trafficking of women and children in South Asia, suggests that
a large proportion of trafficked Bangladeshis are women.
lhrla estimates that there are more than 200,000 Bengali
women in Pakistan. Says Zia Awan of LHRLA, "About
100 to 150 Bangladeshi women are smuggled into Pakistan as human cargo every day."
Memon Mohalla. On the sizzling hot night of 30
May 1998, the inhabitants ofthe Memon Mohalla locality in Hyderabad (Sindh) were shocked to see a young
girl falling off the second storey balcony of a local chakla,
or brothel. The Bangladeshi girl, Rabia, was attempting
suicide. Earlier, she had been forcibly auctioned to the
brothel owner, and had refused to service a customer.
Critically injured, Rabia was handed over to police
custody and booked under Section 294 of the Pakistan
Penal Code, which makes "illicit gestures and obscenity" cognisable offences. To avoid inquires about the injured girl from higher authorities and the press, the local police forced her to return to the brothel, which regularly pays them large sums of bhatta, or protection money.
Says a sympathetic insider at the police station who did
not want to be named, "The police threatened to book
Rabia under the Foreigners Act, if not the more draco-
nian Zina Ordinance." The Foreigners Act decrees a 10-
year jail term, while the Ordinance, called "Enforcement
of Hudood on Zina", introduced by the late dictator Gen
Zia-ul Haq, runs as follows: "Zina, sex outside of marriage, is a crime against the state punishable by death by
stoning, or up to 10 years of imprisonment and whipping up to 30 stripes and/or a fine."
According to Zia Awan, "The law makes no distinction between adultery and rape, and for both you need
four witnesses, all of whom have to be male. If unable
to prove rape, the court takes the victim's statement as
30
HIMAL   11/10   OCTOBER   1998
 Govei
confession of adultery, and so it is the woman who is
punished." Together with Rabia, thousands of Bengalis
and Burmese women, and even minor children, are common victims of these laws in today's Pakistan.
Zia-ul Haq Colony. Perhaps justice has in small
part been served by the fact that the large Bengali
neighbourhood in Karachi, which has developed a
well-known red light district, is known as Zia-ul Haq
Colony. Walking down the dilapidated byways of this
"mini-Bangladesh of Karachi", one could just as easily
be in Dhaka. Men and women wear clothes of the delta
country, restaurant signboards are in Bangla script, and
Bangla songs blare from roadside shops. Here, only the
policemen seem non-Bengali.
Meena is from Sherpur in Bangladesh, now living in
Zia-ul Haq Colony. She was married off to her cousin
Noor-us Salam Sadiq, who offered her "work in Pakistan". Sadiq took Meena and 14 other women in a caravan through the Porbander area of Gujarat into the Pakistani Thar. Recalls Meena, "We crossed the border in
the dark by foot. We were taken to a desolate place. Some
of us who were pretty were sexually abused. We were
kept there for a long time until another batch of girls
arrived from India." After 10 days or so their group arrived near the Federal 'B' area of Karachi, where they
were forced into the sex trade. Meena managed to escape with the help of neighbours, who deposited her at
a shelter, one of many run by the social worker Abdus
Sattar Edhi. "A generation of babies has been born in
our shelters," says Bilquis Edhi, who looks after helpless women and unclaimed babies in the Karachi rehabilitation homes. "Those who were babies when they
were trafficked are themselves mothers now."
Sundarta Bazaar. There is an ugly, narrow lane
called Sundarta Bazaar - literally, Beauty Bazaar - in
Machhar colony, a Bengali slum in the heart of Karachi.
The 'available' women wear heavy make-up. "It is free
to look. But you have to pay 50 rupees if you want to
touch her," says a small-time pimp named Rahim. The
most powerful pimp in the colony is Soni Dallal, wife to
the notorious Sher Khan who claims to have given up
his "previous job" to become an Islamic missionary.
Buyers and bystanders jostle each other in Sundarta
Bazaar. Some strike deals, while others try to haggle.
Middle-aged Muhammed Sajan mutters, partly to himself, "I'll get one from my village. That'll be relatively
cheaper." He comes from the desert area bordering India, from the villager of Nagar Parker, and is shopping
for a bride. He confesses his predicament, "I have no
sister to barter, nor enough money to buy a bride for
myself." Buying and marrying trafficked Bangladeshi
women has become quite common among his Khoso
tribe in Nagar Parker, says Sajan, which is how he got
the idea of purchasing one for himself. There are by
now more than a dozen Bangladeshi wives in his
village, he says.
To barter a girl in the family in lieu of a bride or to
buy a bride in cash are customary practices in many
parts of Pakistan. Earlier, northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan were the sources of women who were trafficked southward into the Indus plains. The 'customary
sale' of girls and women from upcountry north, known
as waiver, has now been replaced by trafficked females
from Bangladesh. Marrying and buying women from
Bangladesh is the present trend, and is even considered
'macho'. A police official proudly tells the tale of purchasing, selling and reselling, and finally gifting a Bengali
girl called Shahno to his friend in the feudal interior of
Sindh province.
Rural Sindh and Punjab. The desert areas of Sindh
and Punjab provinces bordering India are the biggest
centres of trade in trafficked women. "We marry Bengali
women because they are intelligent and have great
poise," says Muhammad Saifal, a villager from the desert
area of Khipro. The going rate at the auctions is upto
PKR 120,000 (USD 2200), with the agent asking 6000
rupees commission on each sale, while the police get
their customary take of '5 percent'. What the Bengali
woman or girl gets from it is a husband or master. If she
is lucky, he will be decent.
Fatima and her two teenage daughters Reena and
Shivli were auctioned separately. Fatima managed to escape and approached the police at Dera Ghazi Khan,
who sent her to a shelter at Sohrab Goth, Karachi. She
has spent the last six months unsuccessfully trying to
trace her daughters, who were bought by influential locals in Southern Punjab.
The women tend to be sold and resold several times.
The 'traders' are always ready to carry out a transaction
when a owner tires of a woman. "We live the life of total
shame," says Laila, a Bengali sold to a family in rural
Sindh. However, when asked if she wants to return to
Bangladesh, her reply is emphatic: "No!" Obviously, repatriation is not a solution. "The problem does not end
once they return to their homeland," says social worker
Nazish Brohi. "Back home, they would have to deal with
the inevitable stigmatisation. Many of them would have
left unwed, and would be returning with a child. There
would be no prospect of marriage or settling down. Who
would want to go through it?"
And so, as long as poverty pushes Bangladeshi
women out of their home country, and as long as there
is the pull factor of Pakistani men on the lookout for
women to own and exploit, this trans-continental trafficking of girls and women will continue.
Over in the desert of Thar, it is a common sight to
come upon human skeletons among the sand dunes of
the India-Pakistan border. These are those from the
smugglers' caravans who got lost or died of thirst and
hunger. Others could have just been abandoned. Many
of the skeletons are tiny. They were children. A
H. Mujtaba is Senior Reporter with the Karachi-based
monthly, Newsline.
Coverage of trafficking in this issue was supported by the Panos Institute
1998   OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
31
 Briefs
Meena is the
message
NO SUPERHUMAN feats for her, no
inter-galactic forays, and certainly no
dts/ium-disiium crime-busting scenes.
Ten-year-old Meena, the video cartoon character, is on a different, more
arduous, mission. Perhaps an impossible one too. For she is out to change
the mindset of South Asians about
young girls, their rights and abilities.
Brainchild of the Kathmandu-
based Unicef's office for South Asia,
and seven laborious years in the
womb, Meena was launched in late
September, to coincide with the Week
of the Girl Child. Even at launch,
which was meant to have been SAARC-
wide but was only partially so, it was
obvious that the little girl character
has a tough fight ahead of her.
This comes in the form of
nationalist mind
sets among politicians and civil
servants, and
the question
of national
turf.
The reluctance in
some quarters to go
all-out with
Meena is regrettable, for
she has the revo
lutionary potential
to change attitudes towards girls in the Subcontinent. Meena is a unique public
media project in the sense that her 13-
part TV series about children's lives
has been crafted to a great extent by
children themselves. Over 10,000
children across the region were consulted for the venture, with changes
and alterations tailored to the feedback by a "focus group".
It was obviously not the easiest of
tasks to come up with a generic South
Asian girl, and many intense sessions
went into creating Meena, her brother
Raju, the pet parrot Mithu, and the
other characters. Trying to simulate
the South Asian terrain - made up of
both mountains and plains - Unicef
decided to go for a rolling landscape
which could signify both. The clothing, architecture, and even the exact
tint of reddish brown earth had to be
geared to a "Generic South Asia".
Unicef's reason to opt for an animated cartoon was the medium's effectiveness in carrying across the development message, in this case, the
rights of the girl. But animations are
extremely expensive to produce,
which was why it made sense to create a character who could be shared
across linguistic and national boundaries. All you had to do was dub it in
various language editions.
Besides the characters
and props, there was
also the challenge of
coming up with a
consensual South
Asian point on
the topics that
Meena was to
cover. The differing points of
view on gender
1 discrimination,
for example,
created a maze
that had to
be tackled before the script
could even be
written. In a heterogeneous region,
where politics, religion and culture
are so often divisive rather than unifying factors, the creators of Meena
had to walk the tightrope across various cultural sensibilities.
Fortunately, the Meena episodes
have succeeded in that they do not
preach. There is no overkill with didactic messages, even while there is
frank exposition of troubling issues.
The approach is one of entertaining
the viewer even while raising aware
ness through dialogue on diverse issues such as discrimination in education, preference for the male child,
early marriage, dowry, sanitation,
health care, HIV/aids and nutrition.
The fact that Meena took so long
in incubation has to do, on the one
hand, with the unwieldiness of any
trans-national exercise. Even more, it
has to do with the fact that it is as yet
extremely difficult - other than at the
level of mouthing declarations - to
accomplish something concrete
across the boundaries of South Asia.
Regionalism, to that extent, is still a
distant dream.
Little Meena's experience, indeed,
may be seen as a gauge of the challenges ahead for those who seek a regional rapprochement. Flere was a
'motherhood issue' if ever there was
one - the rights of girls - and even
then the countries which had met to
make grandiloquent declarations on
gender equality and rights of girls and
young women, were not comfortable
in jointly launching the project. Forget a common send-off for Meena, in
one or two countries, the launch
could even be considered lukewarm,
according to Himal correspondents.
The expectation of those who
have seen Meena's zest and her optimism on screen, is that she will succeed not because, but in spite of, the
political and bureaucratic hurdles she
will encounter in the months and
years ahead. The day, hopefully, will
come when public demand for this
spunky child will become commercially viable and come on over the
radio waves and satellite channels to
impress an audience across mountain
and plain.
On the strength of Meena's personality and the engaging medium of
a moving cartoon, the series has the
potential to chart new territory as a
radical mass communications experiment. In the end, all one can say is:
Give Meena a chance!
!
32
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
 Briefs
MISSING NEPAL:
If everyone can have
beauty contests, then
why not Nepal? And
so they too paraded
down the ramp in
early mid-September,
Miss Talent, Miss
Skin, Miss Hair, and,
if we are not
mistaken, Miss Teeth,
Miss Belly Button and
Miss Toenail. The
organisers ofthe
event, a company
called Hidden
Treasure, were
accused of hiding the
real beauties of
Nepal, but someone
did say that beauty
goes no deeper than
the outer epidermis.
,
Good marks
for tolerance
WHO IS Madanjeet Singh, and why
is a Unesco-associated prize given in
his name?
The award, announced on 24 September, goes by the name "Unesco-
Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence",
and its substantial cash certificate
amounts to USD 40,000, to be given
away annually on 16 November,
which happens to be the International
Day for Tolerance.
The first thing that was significant
about this very South Asian-sounding prize was the jury, composed of
hallowed personages all: Boutros
Boutros-Ghali, Inder Kumar Gujral,
French Rabbi Ren-Samuel Sirat, and
chairman of the group, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The second matter of significance
was that this very South Asian-sound
ing prize was this year shared by an
institution in Pakistan and an individual in India: the Joint Action Committee for People's Rights of Pakistan
and Narayan Desai of India. Archbishop Tutu announced that the two
awardees had been recognised for
their outstanding work in promoting
peace and tolerance. He added, on
behalf of the jury, "We believe it is a
very powerful symbolic gesture on the
part of Unesco to give the prize to
laureates from two countries in a
Subcontinent in which relations
are tense."
The Joint Action Committee
for People's Rights is an informal
coalition of over 30 non-governmental organisations and individuals
founded in 1990 to fight gender inequality, religious intolerance and "social violence". The Committee also
focusses on lobbying against the
nuclear arms race.
Narayan Desai, born in 1924, has
been an anti-nuclear activist and a
tireless promoter of religious and
ethnic understanding ever since the
outbreak of communal violence in
India shortly after Independence. He
has been continuously active in
trying to spread Mahatma Gandhi's
vision of Gram Swaraj for decentralised political and economic decisionmaking. He has also been active in
education.
At a time when the Indian and
Pakistani establishments are not
themselves showing much of an inclination towards practising tolerance
and non-violence, it is good that
Unesco has opted to divide a prize
across the border.
Now back to Madanjeet Singh. It
turns out, according to a Unesco press
release, he is an "Indian artist, writer
and diplomat, who serves as Special
Adviser to the Director General of
Unesco". It is Singh who contributed
the money for the prize, which is why
it carries his name.
1998   OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
33
 Briefs
Sinhalese are
sick of the war
AMIDST THE gloom in Sri Lanka
about the massive bloodletting in
Mankulam and Kilinochchi in late
September (see page 10), a small ray
of hope emerged in the form of a public opinion poll which studied the attitude of the majority Sinhalese population towards the Tamil-Sinhala conflict. The survey, carried out by anthropologists and sociologists at the University of Colombo, covered 98 locations in all provinces of the country
except the north. Altogether 2000
householders were interviewed, 1915
of them Sinhalese.
There have been opinion polls before this on the same subject, but the
results have been suspect because the
research methodologies were kept secret and there seemed to be partisan
involvement in the exercises. This latest survey represented the first scientific, and transparent, attempt at gauging public opinion about the ethnic
conflict; the team led by Siri Hettige
of Colombo University's Department
of Sociology, explained and defended
their findings before leading scholars
and journalists.
The survey results came as a surprise because there is the strongly promoted view that the Sinhalese masses
are in favour of continuing the war as
the primary way to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. When
asked, "Do you think military action
alone can solve the problem?", only
21 percent said "yes". As many as 77
percent rejected the view that the ongoing war is simply a terrorist problem to which there can only be a military solution.
In response to the question, "What
steps should be taken to find a lasting
solution to the ethnic problem?", only
6 percent favoured the government's
twin-pronged military and political
strategy of a "war for peace", and a bare
7 percent were for militarily defeating
the LTTE. The respondents had a strong
preference for non-military means of
ending the conflict. A clear majority
of 65 percent preferred non-military
options such as a political solution (21
percent), policies devoted to ensuring equality (20 percent), amity and
harmony (19 percent), integrative actions (4 percent) and confidence
building (1 percent).
When the question was worded
differently giving less emphasis to a
lasting solution ("How do you think
the conflict can be solved?"), a higher
figure opted for the military solution
- 33 percent. But even here, a much
larger proportion of 59 percent preferred non-military means to end the
conflict.
On the government's much-
vaunted devolution package, even
those who were for a non-military
solution doubted that it would help
solve the ethnic strife. While 24 percent expressed their scepticism about
the LTTE's intentions, a larger proportion of 29 percent felt that the extent
of devolution granted was not adequate, and that political gamesmanship and elitist impositions stood in
the way of a solution. At the same
time, as many as 61 percent agreed
there were more opportunities for
people to solve their problems under
the provincial council system (only
34 percent did not agree).
According to Hettige, the survey
results indicated that a majority of the
people were, in principle, in favour
of devolution of power. However, he
pointed out that the actual experience
of politics in the provincial council
system had made many people sceptical about the system in practice. A
full 54 percent believed that waste of
resources and corruption had undermined the effectiveness of the provincial council system.
When asked about the difference
between the poll results which
showed a great majority opting
for non-military options and the
politician's constant reminders to the
contrary, Hettige observed, "The
people at the grassroots have an understanding of the complexity of the
situation. They have given honest answers, because they have no vested
interests. They are more open-minded
than those opinion makers who have
vested interests. They also have no
illusions about quick-fix solution."
This is the best message of peace
and reconciliation that the Sinhalese
can give to Tamils who are isolated
in the north and east and in foreign
countries. The Sinhalese masses do
not want the bloody war to continue,
nor do they justify its continuation.
They are prepared for accommodation. If the Sinhalese masses ever
wanted the war, they no longer do so.
It is clear, regardless of what the political bosses say, that the Sinhala
people, at least, are not the obstacle
to an end to the war.
-Jehan Perera
Sikkim
treasure
TWENTY-THREE years after being
dethroned by a controversial popular
mandate that supported Sikkim's
merger with India, the royal family of
Sikkim remains in possession of property worth millions in the 22nd Indian state. Most ofthe old royal buildings, game forests and grazing lands
for the erstwhile royal cavalry remain
the property of the Chogyal family
Since the late Chogyal, Palden
Thondup Namgyal, refused to sign
the Instrument of Accession to the
Indian Union in 1975, Delhi has not
The Namgyal
coat of arms
paid any compensation for the royal
properties. At the same time, it has
been unable to take possession of the
properties legally. Successive state
governments in Gangtok have asked
the central government to resolve the
.
*
34
HIMAL   11/10   OCTOBER   1998
 ;
A costly
nuclear addiction
"The Chashma Nuclear Power Plant is half Finished and deserves
to be left like that." -Zia Mian, The News, 10 December 1995
THIS PITHY bit of advice from the
Pakistani physicist fell on deaf years.
Almost three years down the line,
having in the meantime tested nuclear
weapons, Pakistan has just about
completed the Chashma nuclear
power plant on the banks of the Indus
river. And to say the least, Chashma
is in-built with all the dangers that
prompted Mian to call for a stop to
the project.
The Chashma reactor is a Chinese
construct, and therein lies part of the
fear. The Chinese are at best novices
when it comes to building nuclear reactors. They have only one plant with
a made-in-China patent: the prototype nuclear reactor at Qinshan
(which incidentally has a computer
control system that is French and key
components manufactured in Japan).
But incredibly, just 16 days after the
Qinshan plant started producing
nuclear power, Pakistan entered into
a deal with China, instantly elevating
it to the status of nuclear technology
exporter.
Given this background, how safe
can Chashma be? Isn't it absurd to
have trusted inexperienced hands
with something as potentially deadly
as a nuclear reactor? Already, there are
problems at Chashma. A report (Business Recorder, 9 December 1997) from
Karachi said that "serious cracks have
developed in the edifice" ofthe plant.
It went on to express fears from experts that the flaws in design and engineering might lead to "a disastrous
incident like the Chernobyl tragedy".
It could be worse. Chashma is
barely 30 kilometres from the city of
Mianwali in central Punjab and on the
banks of the river Indus. A leak
would, to state the obvious, spell
doom for the river and the populace
dependent on it. Incredibly, as yet no
environmental impact assessment
(ElA) of the plant has been done. In
fact, a report by the daily newspaper
Dawn says that there have been concerns that the reactor site was chosen
despite possible problems with earthquakes.
On economic grounds, too, the
Chashma reactor fails the test. In-
problem amicably. Finally, under pressure from the present state Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, the
Home Ministry sent a four-member
team to Sikkim in early September.
Its mandate was to negotiate with the
Chogyal's son, Wangchuk Namgyal.
Four days of negotiations later, the
Home Ministry's financial adviser
Pronob Roy said that the talks "were
proceeding in the right direction", bu-
Jreaucrat-speak for "no agreement".
According to Roy, the discussions had
concentrated on the modalities for
I settlement, rather than on "substantive issues". Apparently, the Indian
government is willing to pay compensation only for buildings and arable
land but not for the forests.
But what of the Instrument of Accession? Wangchuk Namgyal let it be
known through a spokesman that he
was determined not to sign the document. Unexpectedly, however, Home
Ministry officials came up with dreir
own interpretation: the signature on
the Instrument of Accession may no
longer be necessary, they said, because
Sikkim's accession to India is a fait
accompli.
Six years ago, according to a state
government official, the royal properties were assessed at INR 960 million (USD 23 million). The asking
price would be much higher now,
whether or not Wangchuk Namgyal
wants to sell.
-Subir Bhaumik
Briefs
creasingly nuclear power plants are
being seen as losing propositions,
more so when compared to ordinary
power plants. The World Bank and
The Economist both believe that
nuclear power is uncompetitive; indeed, the World Bank has not financed a single nuclear plant since
the 1950s. No one is expecting any
better returns from Chashma, which
was reported by The News to cost an
estimated USD 1 billion (the actual
amount is one of those state secrets).
Chashma has a planned capacity
to produce 300 MW of electricity. If
it does, in fact, cost about USD 1 billion (without taking into account the
money paid to China for nuclear
fuel), this proves an expensive way
of making electricity. For a billion
dollars, it is now possible to build a
natural gas burning power plant that
is anywhere from three to six times
bigger than the Chashma nuclear
plant. Further, this comparison assumes that Chashma will actually
work as efficiently as it is supposed
to in theory But predictability is
hardly a trait associated with nuclear
plants. Pakistan's other nuclear power
plant, a Canadian-designed and -built
reactor just outside Karachi, has over
its nearly 30-year life produced only
about a quarter of the power it was
designed to.
Worse, what happens when
Chashma completes its planned 40
years of life, and has to be taken out
of service? The decommissioning of
a nuclear reactor is a difficult and hazardous process, and no one really
knows how to do it. It may easily cost
25 percent of the plant's original cost.
Even worse, what will be done
with the intensely radioactive waste
that Chashma will produce? The
waste wall remain dangerous for thousands of years, and there are as yet no
long-term solutions. The United
States spends hundreds of millions of
dollars a year just trying to decide
what to do with nuclear waste.
Even in the best of times, Pakistan's bank balance just cannot afford
this kind of spending. Now, in an
economic emergency ironically brought about by nuclear tests, the country could use some saving tips.
Chucking Chashma is a good place
to start.
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
is
 Feature
AFGHANISTAN
The
Taliban
and the
Hazaras
text and pictures by Michael Semple
years,
They issued me the last ticket to
see the Great Buddha. Then they
collected the stubs and the visitor's
books and bundled them into the
sacks of documents to be buried. The
remaining staff of the Department for
Preservation of Historical Monuments
had orders to hide even some things
as innocuous as the books that recorded the impressions of visitors
from six continents about the monuments of Bamian. A potato patch will
be the resting place for the archives
documenting 20 years of war.
I was pleased to have a chance to
wander round the Buddhas again. The
rock-cut Buddhas of Bamian are cultural sites of great significance, and
were once the centre of Afghanistan's
mass tourist trade. In historical times,
these Buddhas were targeted by
zealots. Their survival (including several friezes of original paint work)
through the two decades of war is
amazing. Once again, there is fear that
zealous conquerors might just try to
prove their anti-idolatry credentials
by further destroying them.
At night there was an air of the
Day of Judgement in Bamian, as the
local people, the Hazaras, tried to
guess how long it would be before the
Taliban arrived. The sound of haunting nocturnal congregational prayers
carried across the valley. The faithful
feared that the Taliban would wreak
revenge for 20 years of defiance and
for their share of casualties in previous Hazara-Pushtoon fighting. This
fighting had seen some of the civil
war's bitterest encounters, and the
locals prayed for deliverance. The
threat to the Bamian Buddhas is
symbolic of the one hanging
over much of the population of central Afghanistan.
I emptied my camera reel and
headed for the security of Islamabad.
My host, the head of the Department
One ofthe two famous full-length
Buddhas of Bamian (above), and at its
foot, Haji Sahib.
36
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
 for Preservation of Historical Monuments, was busy closing up his office,
loading his gelims (the famous rough-
woven Afghani rugs) and a few personal belongings into his jeep. He had
done what he could to preserve central Alghanistan's share of the world's
heritage. It was now time for Haji
Sahib to return to his wife to share
the agonising worry at the disappearance of their son, a lecturer in journalism at the University of Balkh in
the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, which had
been overrun by the Taliban a week
before. Haji Sahib's agony is shared by
thousands of families, who fear that
relatives in Mazar-e-Sharif may face a
slaughter. As the Taliban close in, the
statelet of the Hazaras, built up in
central Afghanistan over the past 20
years, totters on the brink of collapse.
Tang amad, darjang amad
Bamian town lies at the centre of
Afghanistan's vast, mountainous
Hazarajat region. It covers about
100,000 sq km and is home to the
Hazara tribe, which claims anything
between 1.5 and 4 million people. The
Hazaras were prominent in the North-
em Alliance that has been battling the
Pushtoon-dominated Taliban of the
south. The Alliance has been plagued
by factional fighting and misrule and
collapsed militarily in the face of a
string of Taliban victories in July and
August. Iran has been supporting the
Northern Alliance and considers itself a natural ally of the Shia Hazaras,
but Iran has been reluctant to commit the scale of assistance that might
alter the turn of events. The rapid developments of the last few months left
Hazarajat, with the pockets controlled
by Ahmed Shah Masood in the northeast, alone in resisting the drive ofthe
Taliban to conquer all of Afghanistan.
The region is already crippled by an
economic blockade which has led to
near-famine conditions.
The Taliban capture of Mazar-e-
Sharif in August had meant that
Hazarajat was surrounded. It put the
Taliban in control of the last remaining supply routes to the mountains
and in a position to impose further
hunger. The poorest of the area had
survived by eating wild rhubarb, selling off their animals and entering into
debt. A continued blockade meant
they could not buy food to tide them
over the upcoming winter; the starvation could only get worse.
In the face of such overwhelming
odds, the natural thing to do would
have been to surrender. Personally, I
had expected a rapid surrender once
the fate of Mazar-e-Sharif was decided, and had hoped that this would
at least serve to quickly bring down
the price of grain. The Hazaras' sense
of desperation, however, is summed
up in their proverb: Tang amad, dar
jang amad (He who is cornered
must fight). What must have made
Hazarajat contemplate such defiance?
If the Taliban achieve a military
victory in Central Afghanistan, and if
the Hazaras' main party, the Hizb
Wahadat, melts away in front of them
(as Afghan groups often do when confronted by certain defeat), then it
will signal the end of a 20-year experiment in de facto regional autonomy. Whether the ultimate outcome is restoration of order and national integration (the optimistic
view, at times communicated by the
Taliban) or a new phase of civil strife
(the catastrophic view espoused by
many of the Hazaras in Bamian), the
restoration of rule by Kabul in this
part of Afghanistan will be of major
historical significance.
Often the long period of civil war
Turkmen
Uzbeks
hrghii
talDfhis
Major ethnic groups of Afghanistan.
Feature
in Afghanistan has been depicted as
a period of anarchy. This has hardly
been the case in Central Afghanistan.
There have been three phases to the
conflict here. In the 1978-1983 period (i.e. immediately after the communist coup in Kabul and the subsequent Soviet intervention), popular
local uprisings rapidly forced the
communist government to abandon
all district headquarters and retreat to
the regional headquarters in Bamian.
Meanwhile, a new Hazara political
movement, Shura Ittefaq, emerged in
the wake of the uprisings. It was
headed by Agha Behishti of Waras and
backed by the traditional religious
leadership of the area.
The Shura was remarkably successful in quickly establishing a presence throughout Hazarajat and putting itself forward as the new regional
government. However, during the
1983-1989 period, as the US and
Pakistan, on the one hand, and Iran,
on the other, poured money into the
anti-Soviet jehad, there was a proliferation of armed groups operating in
Hazarajat. They cballenged the Shura
lttefaq's hegemony and a bitter civil
war ensued that is still remembered
in Bamian as the bloodiest phase of
the conflict. The third phase (1989-
1998) came as Iran put its authority
behind a merger of the Hazara military and political groups under the
banner of Hizb Wahadat (Party of
Unity). Wahadat was able to take over
the autonomy project that Shura had
started.
After securing military and
political allegiance of the numerous
groups operating in the vast territory,
Wahadat set about developing its regional government. It established district and regional level councils, with
specialist departments for justice, security, communications, commerce,
women's affairs, social welfare, health
and education. When a coalition of
mujahideen groups finally pushed the
central forces of Najibullah out of
Bamian, Wahadat built the headquarters for its regional government here,
fast by the standing Buddhas.
Although the early popular risings
had often targeted primary schools for
their association with the communists, the expansion of access to education was an important part of the
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
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autonomy project. Official education
departments were established at the
district level and they began to reactivate old schools and open new ones,
depending on the resources raised,
primarily from local taxation. The
Hazaras had a strong sense that lack
of access to education was what
had previously left them politically
marginalised and fit only to be porters in the Kabul markets. Education
was part of the national revival that
was planned.
In contrast to the Taliban areas,
there was a significant expansion of
female education under the Wahadat,
helped in part by the recruitment of
teachers from the refugees returning
from Iran and from the educated
Hazaras displaced from Kabul. Although the main focus was primary
education, Wahadat also set up a university in Bamian. Until September, a
team of lecturers from Balkh University was working on secondment at
Bamian's fledgling university.
Another practical task for the regional administration was to service
the region's infrastructure, conscripting thousands of men every spring to
reopen the roads after the snow-melt.
New routes were developed, in particular the road to Mazar-e-Sharif
which traverses through one of the
world's highest altitudes and most
inhospitable terrains. The
regional government was
also busy developing landing
strips, and levelling a mountain-top plateau as an international airport. The Department
for Preservation of Historical
Monuments was part of this
forward-looking agenda of the
Bamian government, a recognition that Hazarajat had numerous heritage sites of international significance. (Apart
from the Gandhara Buddhist
archaeological sites, Bamian
Valley is the location of two famous citadels ransacked by
Genghis Khan.)
Alongside the building up
of regional civilian institutions, Wahadat also began developing its war machine. Initially, it was composed of a
patchwork of local commanders who had emerged over the
years fighting other communities of
Afghanistan and the communists.
Since the fall of the Najibullah government, Wahadat gradually tried to
fashion a conventional army, with
commanders receiving commissions
from the movement's leadership and
conscripts from the districts. However, the army remained poor in resources, weak in command and control, and lacking in professional officers of proven quality. It would be
safe to say that what victories it
achieved were probably due more to
desperation than military effectiveness or discipline.
Hazara vs Kochi
Underlying the Hazaras' regional autonomy project was a long history of
conflict in the area. Hazaras, thrown
into a state of urgent activity by
the news of the Taliban advances
northwards, were mindful not just of
the track record of the Taliban movement itself but also of the [ethnic
Pushtoon] conquerors that had come
long before. Hazarajat was only fully
assimilated into Afghanistan in the
1890s by Kabul's Amir Abdur Rahman
(r. 1880-1901) in a series of military
campaigns. Hazara resistance to this
integration was ruthlessly put down,
and folklore abounds with tales of
towers of skulls erected by the victo
rious Amir. After the fighting was
over, hundreds of members of the
Hazara ruling castes, the mirs and the
syeds were picked up by the Kabul
forces and 'disappeared'.
Following the annexation, much
of the fertile valley land at the base of
the mountainous region was confiscated in favour of the Pushtoon tribes.
Most significantly, in 1894, Abdur
Rahman issued an edict granting
rights over the pasture lands in the
region to the Pushtoon nomad tribe,
the Kochis, who had helped the Amir
to conquer the area. For 90 years the
Kochis exercised these rights in their
annual migration.
If there is sectarian bitterness in
Hazarajat, it is largely directed at the
Kochis. In a classic case of agricul-
turalist-pastoralist rivalry the Kochis
are remembered for terrorising the
peasants (backed by the Pushtoon administration), for strong-arm tactics
in petty trade and money-lending,
iipp
I ^f) eJg^^^F
Wjf   ^K^' *' ** .£g
'■'■■■    -       1 BL I     "P^^r- " T'
mf'Pw^
RpU'SA <im
*—mm**-*%S&^RL}  X1^^^J
■g^rt-*    ^^HSmM
Men and women making joint community decisions in Hazarajat (top).
Fortified Pushtoon farmhouse.
1998   OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
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and for forcibly acquiring land. Ultimately some of them set themselves
up as landlords and their Pushtoon-
style mud fortresses, now in ruins,
still dot the Hazarajat countryside.
The reality of the civil war in
Hazarajat is that it was directed
against communism only momentarily. The Hazaras' first and most significant acts in their autonomy project
were to bar entry to the nomads, restore the arable land that they had
bought or grabbed, and repeal the
edicts of Abdur Rahman and Sardar
Mohammed Daoud (president of Afghanistan, 1973-1978) granting the
Kochis control of the rangelands. For
20 years, therefore, the Hazaras have
controlled these natural resources.
The panic in Hazarajat now is the fear
that history will repeat itself and that
the Taliban advance means nothing
more than a Pushtoon reconquest.
The Hazaras fully expect their region
to be pillaged in the days ahead,
as during the conquest by Abdur
Rahman.
The mood was summed up by one of the
woman hoteliers I
met in Bamian (yes,
Hazarajat has its share
of roadside chai hbhanas
managed by enterprising women returned
from Iran or Kabul).
She roars defiance,
claims to have killed
eight looters in the war
for West Kabul, and
promises to again shoulder her
Kalashnikov if the old rulers try to return. Elsewhere, people were immersed in deep depression at the prospect of becoming serfs again. In
Pushte Ghorgurey, former tenants
now graze their animals on pastures
once reserved for the Kochis, and they
are now able to plant rainfed wheat
and barley on the hillsides. They point
to a single decaying wall, all that is
left of their old lord's fort, and tremble
at the thought of how they will be
punished for their audacity.
In Waras, despairing tenants of
one of the big Pushtoon landlords
contemplate what their returning
master would demand in lieu of 20
years' of back rent. In Panjao, I met
Sohaila, a woman educated in Kabul
1998  OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
who, as a literacy instructor, is the
only earning member of two families.
Her work at an NGO winter school last
year saved her relations from starvation. She is terrified that the United
Nations will be forced to abandon the
education project for which she now
works. But most impressive is Haji
Sahib himself. He discreetly lets it be
known that he has little hope of surviving a Taliban purge. But he repeatedly quotes Arnold Toynbee and laments that the coming changes defy
"the spirit of the people"; he warns
that peace cannot be achieved in this
way. Military pacification, which does
not address the old enmities underlying the struggle for the resources of
the mountains, cannot be the way to
enduring peace.
It is striking that the international
assistance groups, which in July decided to make Hazarajat a showpiece
for the United Nations' new "Common Programming" approach, could
do nothing to allay the civilian
population's fears of an impending
massacre. All international staff from
the UN and most of the NGOs, plus
most of the national staff, were pulled
out of the area at the first sign of the
Taliban advance. The Bin Laden affair has made them even more cautious about returning. The agencies'
concern to take no risks with their
own staff's security means that they
are unable to play the kind of witness
role that many in the civilian population expected them to. The international aid agencies are confined to a
peripheral role while the Hazaras take
their chances with their new rulers.
M. Semple is a community development
worker based in Islamabad. He visited
Bamian in August 1998.
Hazarajat update:
21 September
ON 13 September, just over a month
after the capture of Mazar-e-Sharif
and the United Nations' "last flight"
out of Bamian town, the Taliban announced that they had captured
Hazarajat's regional headquarters,
advancing from the north. While the
Hizb Wahadat forces retreated into
the mountains, the Taliban continued their push through the region,
establishing themselves along main
routes and linking up with their
forces on the eastern borders of
Hazarajat in order to rule out any
contact between Wahadat and remnants of the opposition near Kabul.
The Taliban set about establishing a
new administration in Bamian
and the other conquered districts.
Wahadat was left dreaming of the
deus ex machina of an Iranian invasion, and wondering whether it has
the stomach for guerilla war. The 20
years of autonomy are at an end.
In Hazarajat, the population has
little option but to bow their heads
and accommodate to the new administration. History and recent experience give them every reason to be
terrified. The last time a Pushtoon-
dominated army subdued Hazarajat
a hundred years ago, the victory was
followed by dreadful reprisals and a
campaign of subjugation. This time
round, both Amnesty International
and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have released
reports saying that they have collected extensive evidence of the killing of thousands of civilians after the
battle for Mazar-e-Sharif.
It is entirely likely that the Mazar-
e-Sharif massacres could be repeated
in Bamian and the surrounding region, or even quieter, more discriminating, disappearances of people associated with the toppled local regime may take place. Once again, the
international agencies, unwilling
to be present on the ground in
Hazarajat during the perilous transition (despite the Taliban's public
invitations), have marginalised
themselves by removing themselves.
Would a Bosnian population have
been abandoned in the same way?
41
 Mediafile
l have an aunty,
Aunty Monica.
When she goes shopping,
Oh so oo la la.
...or words to that effect, is a ditty that my niece used to
sing way back, in her South Asian infant's lilt. Would
she have sung it today, when 'Monica' has been hijacked
by international media and connected with all kinds of
associations, including White House nooks and crannies, stains on dresses, not to mention cigars? If only
the Lewinsky-Clinton sexual encounter(s) had been just
that wee bit less kinky, 1 think a whole lot of good would
have come al the cost of one American president's prestige. Here we have, in South Asia, millions of young men
and women entering marriage without even necessarily
knowing what goes where. The level of sexual ignorance
is astounding, and can only increase as middle class morality insinuates itself into the newly emerging classes.
From the Lewinsky-Clinton case, in one blow, with the
help of satellite television, teenagers and young adults
the world over would have got to know the way of the
birds and the bees. Instead, the White House twosome
went and ruined what was a global opportunity for sex
education by engaging in all kinds of activity but straight
intercourse. No thanks to them, now sex is seen to be
even dirtier than it was seen to be.
Don't believe a word of those media commentators the
world over who start with the line, "If you have had
enough of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair..." and begin to
feed you the latest on the CTBT negotiations, the Euro's
brigbt future, or the new discovery about the tse-tse fly
- why for heavens can they not spell "setsi" the way it is
apparently pronounced? Anyway, you can take my word
that, from the monasteries of Bnutan to the tuna boats
of the Maldives, no one will tire of Clinton-Lewinsky as
long as there is salacious info to bite through. We might
just as well cancel all openings, launchings, press events
and releases all over the world until the Washington DC
story runs its course. At no other time in history have
events within the Beltway so mesmerised the entire
globe. And everyone's talking sex. The week the Starr
report was out, in India, both India Today and Outlook
carried swadeshi sex on the cover.
Talking of monasteries of Bhutan, how unfortunate, this
Kuensel report of monks-turned-robbers. Apparently,
two gentlemen of the cloth, Wangdi and Karma, were
arrested in mid-September as they were picking pockets at the Luger cinema hall in Thimphu. The part I do
not understand in the news report
is this last paragraph which tries to
establish the clinching evidence:
"Cooking pots found in the hotel
room have led police to believe that
this was not the first crime committed by the two monks." The link
between possession of cooking pots
and repeated criminal activity is in
my mind as yet tenuous.
While on Kuensel, 1
direct your attention
to the accompanying
notice printed in the
12 September issue of
the paper. It is shocking to note that a
whole range of the
paper's clients, from
government offices to
corporations, international organisations and others have outstanding dues.
I hereby call upon all those who have not paid up to pay
up. Bhutan needs all the media it has.
While the rest of us are coasting along with our own
individual troubles, there is a major row going on that
has the Western literati in thrall: the Naipaul-Theroux
spat. If you didn't know it, Paul (The Great Railway Bazaar) Theroux found that Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
(House for Mr. Biswas) had thrown away a book that
Theroux had once presented to him. An angry Theroux
started going back over their friendship and saw a series
of slights over 30 years of friendship that he had failed
to noticed earlier. Particularly when VS decided to go
and get married to a Pakistani socialite and halted their
friendship dead on its track, did Theroux see that he
had been conned and duped all these years. And so
Theroux decided to get even with a quickie memoir
about their relationship, which he duly did (Sir Vidian
Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents), and hence
the sensation. Why can't we have scrunchingly titillating tell-all controversies such as this among our own
writers? The best we can manage is R.K. Laxman the
cartoonist telling us why he likes to sketch crows.
Interesting, how the angle on the news differs from one's
continental vantage. The discovery in central India of
fossil remains from 1.1 billion years ago that are twice
as old as any multicellular life ever found has been ascribed by Agence France Presse in its Washington-
datelined piece entirely to a German palaeontologist at
the University of Tubingen, Germany. Meanwhile, Indian papers trumpet the fact that it was an Indian researcher who was responsible for the fossil datings. What
is likely is that these two were collaborators in research
and in an article they prepared for the Science magazine. There should be no problems in sharing the accolade, or am I counting without scientific nationalism?
I need more information than this to be
further enlightened. The news report in
The Hindu says only this much: there
is a railway station at Gagaria near
Munabao at the India-Pakistan border.
The prime ministers of the two countries have decided to restore the rail link
with Khokrapar on the Pakistani side,
which was suspended after the 1965
war. Presently, a single train runs be-
JL
42
HIMAL   11/10  OCTOBER   1998
 Meiliafile
,■
tween Barmer and Munabao. Gagaria, Munabao,
Khokrapar, Barmer - names, all names. If I am to be
excited about this re-opening of a line that will at last be
a rail alternative to Wagah-Attari, then I want details.
jinnah, which premiered the other day in Hollywood,
must be the only film ever made to avenge a slight that
was carried in another film. Prof Akbar Ahmed, the well-
known Islamicist at Oxford, reportedly went on what
turned out to be a painstaking odyssey of producing and
directing Jinnah because Richard Attenborough was most
unfair with the Quaid-e-Azam in his Gandhi, presenting
him as a dour schemer who destroyed India through
tts William Wall
. ■
turned into a
Horror :,torv
Partition. 1 believe that Attenborough was indeed parsimonious in his treatment of the Quaid, and hope that
the Akbar production is successful in seeking redress.
Meanwhile, let me ask this of patriotic Pakistanis, why
and how is the memory of the Quaid-e-Azam denigrated
because Christopher Lee plays Jinnah? And do not give
me that one about Count Dracula.
Oh, no! I Yet another major drive to restore the glory of
Srinagar's Dal Lake! By now, the said lake must be the
one water body in the world which has seen the most
'major drives' to restore its glory. As Dal Lake herself
will doubtless agree, the more people shout the less
they do.
The one thing that defined India before it became a chest-
thumping nuclear adolescent was its petulance about
all things geostrategic. This huffiness became evident
once again when tbe well-meaning Portuguese, long
deprived of their South Asian colonial outposts, wanted
to organise the 500th anniversary celebration of Vasco
da Gama's 'discovery' of the sea route to India. The Indian government refused to participate in the celebration and the Portuguese have been scratching their heads
ever since trying to understand why. Reports the India
Abroad News Service: The Portuguese feel an "inoffensive nostalgia" for India and they were saddened by
India's apathy. Said one member of Parliament in Lisbon,
"India is much more than just Goa and Vasco da Gama."
When some raving Hindu fanatics who happen to be
leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in India chose to
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
condone the rape of Christian nuns, obviously their Islamic counterparts in Bangladesh had to do something
to keep up their end of the balance. What they did was
to order the attack dogs on a woman who had come
back to her country to be with her dying mother -
Taslima Nasreen. That was not enough. Twenty-two clerics raised a stink against the Dhaka government for issuing a postage stamp to mark the anniversary of Princess Diana's death. They were displeased, said the clerics, because "[Di] was an adulteress and immoral
woman. The release of the stamps in her honour has
displeased Allah and hurt the sentiments of Muslims."
As self-appointed monitor of photo captions, I have a
problem with the picture which purports to show a Delhi
Pradesh Youth Congress activist "lying unconscious" after a lathi charge by police during a demonstration
against the BJP government. This man on the ground is
obviously hurt, but not unconscious. The muscles of a
man who has lost his senses relax and no longer will the
hand clutch the head as this gentleman's is doing. It is a
small matter, but entirely of the kind which South Asia's
editors all too often tend to overlook.
Siachen in Bengal. Pandals are
dioramas of the Bengali Hindus
(and a few others), the best of
which show over-sized statues of
Goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahisasur. The worst are
modern-day pandals-gone-de-
generate, tackling modern-day themes with a strong dose
of chauvinism. And so I was horrified to read that one
of the most "unique" pandals in Calcutta this puja season was a re-creation of the Indo-Pakistan frontier, a
make-believe hillock peopled with gun-toting make-believe jawans, and make-believe sound of gunfire playing from a tape in the background. This is what happens when syrupy nationalism as propagated by the mass
media gets imbibed by 'the masses', who then think of
war even during the puja celebrations.
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MAHABHARATA
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 pinion
HMG, RGOB & GOI
j
The triumvirate of inaction
and Bhutan's refugee crisis
When New Delhi and Thimphu fail to act, that's to their perceived benefit. When
Kathmandu fails to act, that's to its detriment, and to that ofthe refugees.
Not since 1991, when the exodus
of Lhotshampa refugees to Nepal
was at its peak, have events in Bhutan made such headlines in the
region's press. It is true that the so-
called sweeping changes, in King
Jigme Singye Wangchuk's own words,
"to promote even greater participation
in the decision-making process"
caught many Bhutan-watchers off-
guard. However, il should not be forgotten that the announced changes
fail to acknowledge, or even address,
the ongoing plight of the over 93,000
Lhotshampa (Southern Bhutanese of
Nepali origin) refugees, who have
been living in camps in South Eastern Nepal since being expelled from
their country.
Fortunately for the refugees and
the precarious situation of human
rights in the mountain kingdom, not
everyone is convinced that there have
been substantive changes within the
Bhutanese polity. A draft resolution
on the Bhutanese refugee problem
was prepared by a coalition of nongovernmental organisations for the
50th Session of the United Nations
Sub-Commission on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, which met in Geneva from
3 to 28 August 1998. While the resolution was ultimately withdrawn
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
by Karin Heissler
owing to intense lobbying by the
Bhutanese delegation to block its acceptance, a Chairman's Statement
calling for "negotiation in good faith"
was approved and read before the
Sub-Commission on 19 August.
While the Chairman's Statement
carries less weight than a resolution,
it is nevertheless significant for several reasons. To begin with, it represents a consensus text, which means
that it was negotiated and agreed to
by all 26 experts who make up the
Sub-Commission. It is also notable
because it recognises the human
rights implications of the Royal Government of Bhutan's resettlement
policy on lands formerly belonging to
the refugees. Finally, in his closing
remarks, the Chairman called for further consideration of the Bhutanese
refugee issue at the next (51st) session of the Sub-Commission in August 1999.
The Chairman's Statement hurts
the Thimphu government on the international front and bolsters sympathy for the refugees. This has been a
modest achievement for the refugees'
cause, given the otherwise dismal picture. The stalemate in resolving the
refugee crisis continues, meanwhile,
due to the failure of His Majesty's
Government of Nepal (hmg) to come
up with a clear strategy for itself,
coupled with the obdurate stand of
Bhutan in the bilateral talks, India's
silence, and the well-intentioned but
weak pressure applied by the international community. A new strategy
for resolving the Bhutanese refugee
problem is clearly long overdue, but
for reasons that will be made self-evident, at the moment the impetus for
further progress in the Bhutanese
refugee impasse rests almost entirely
with Nepal.
For the moment, the Government
of Nepal is alone in its attempt to find
a solution to the refugee problem affecting the country's southeastern districts of Jhapa and Morang. To continue to profess faith that the bilateral talks with Thimphu will eventually lead to progress is futile. Instead,
a complete change of course and a
multi-faceted plan of action is recommended.
Officially, HMG must bring forward
a draft resolution seeking United Nations' intervention on the Bhutanese
refugee situation at the next session
of the UN Commission on Human
Rights which meets in Geneva in
March 1999. Once the draft resolution is on the table, a debate will be
generated which will create pressure
on the Royal Government of Bhutan
41
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 Opinion
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(RGOB) to shift from its present intransigent position. Thimphu is very
aware that its international position
seems quite unassailable today only
because Nepal's diplomacy has been
played at such a low key.
Also, the Nepali government
should consider referring a formal
inter-state complaint to the International Court of Justice at The Hague
on the limited issue of determination
of citizenship of refugees in the
UNHCR-administered camps of southeastern Nepal. This process is likely
to expose the inaccuracy of rgob's position that the majority of the refugees are illegal migrants from India
or elsewhere who have come in to the
camps as free-loaders.
Finally, Kathmandu must send an
articulate special envoy of ministerial
rank to all European Union (EU) and
North American
capitals, as well as to
Beijing, Moscow and
New Delhi. The envoy must have a
clear brief based on
two previous recommendations: the draft
resolution at the UN
Commission on Human Rights and the
complaint submitted
to the International
Court of Justice. The
Chairman's Statement
on the Bhutanese
refugee situation read
before the 50th Session of the UN Sub-
Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities could also be a useful lobbying
tool.
No real progress has been made
in the Bhutan-Nepal bilateral talks
since the first joint ministerial talks
held in Kathmandu in October 1993,
when a categorisation scheme for
identifying and classifying the refugees was agreed to by both sides. In
fact, it is widely acknowledged that
RGOB achieved an important diplomatic victory over HMG by getting the
latter to agree to the categorisation
scheme. Not only was it seen to
strengthen the Bhutanese argument
that many people living in the camps
were not Druk citizens (which it has
asserted from the very beginning
of the crisis), but it also enabled
Thimphu to successfully hold up the
negotiation process on four other issues. There is no doubt that the
Bhutanese side has been the stronger
negotiator in the bilateral talks.
The Government of India (GOO
has been tellingly silent on all negotiations on the Bhutanese refugee issue. This is interesting, for Article 2
of the 1949 Treaty of Friendship states
that "the Government of Bhutan
agrees to be guided by the advice of
the Government of India in regard to
its external relations". Despite the fact
that tens of thousands of Bhutanese
refugees streamed through its borders
in the early 1990s and today reside
only an hour's drive from the Indo-
Lhotshampa refugees from the first wave in 199 / disembark in eastern Nepal
after journeying through India.
Nepal border, India has thus far not
exercised its right to offer advice,
something that could have helped
resolve the crisis. Why it has not done
so has been the subject of much
speculation and debate, although it is
explicitly clear that India has taken
sides with Bhutan for economic and
geo-political reasons.
India provides substantial economic assistance to Bhutan. In fact,
as a percentage of Bhutan's GDP, GOl's
aid has been as high as 59 percent
(1983/84). Similarly, India plays a
large part in financing Bhutan's five-
year plans. The New Delhi government is contributing almost one-third
out of the total outlay of BTN 30 bil
lion (c. USD 700 million) in the current Eighth Five-year Plan (1998-
2003) of Thimphu. India has also
committed an additional BTN 4 billion in development subsidies, and
this year contributed 31 percent of
Bhutan's budget.
Moreover, in spite of King Jigme's
efforts to reduce economic dependence on India, the bulk of Bhutan's
trade still remains tied to India. These
economic ties obviously serve to
strengthen the political alliance between the two countries, albeit at the
expense of the human rights of the
Lhotshampa and, in a different context, of the larger Druk population.
Bhutan's total hydro-electric
power generation potential is over
40 billion kWh, and India has already
signed a Memorandum of Understanding with it 5
for planning and s
constructing various |
large-scale hydro- °
electric projects, and I
for receiving energy p
at a relatively low
cost from them.
Bhutan recognises
India's need for electric power and is not
averse to taking advantage of this dependency. In 1997,
Bhutan increased the
tariff for the sale of
Chhukha power to
India by 100 percent,
from BTN 0.50 per
unit to BTN 1.00 per
unit. Over the past
couple of years, Bhutan has signed
three major hydropower agreements
with India: the BTN 15 billion Tala
hydro project; the BTN 2.56 billion
Kurichu project; and the BTN 4 billion Dungsam project.
Strategic reasons also underlie
India's continuing silence. In 1965,
Thimphu signed a joint defence
agreement with India and agreed to
deploy the Indian Military Training
Team (IMTRAT); the 1962 Indo-China
border war underlined to Indian strategists the need for a friendly dispensation in Thimphu. The Indian Border Roads Organisation maintains the
roads in Eastern Bhutan. This is because India is only too aware that
1998   OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
47
  Opinion
j
Arunachal Pradesh, the Indian state
over which China claims sovereignty,
has Bhutan on its vulnerable flank.
The need to keep in check China's
influence in the region and to maintain a buffer state along this part of
the Himalayan frontier makes India
reluctant to criticise Bhutan. It is also
cognisant of recent attempts by China
to gain influence over Thimphu, and
would prefer not to do anything significant and risk losing this important
diplomatic and economic ally. After
all, India's Defence Minister, George
Fernandes, has said that China is
India's "potential threat number one",
and that the "underplaying of the Chinese threat could create a lot of problems for us [India] in the near future".
And as a security analyst in Kathmandu writes, "No issue epitomises
Indian security perception more than
the Chinese threat."
Toothless pressure
While the European Parliament, in
March 1996, passed a resolution calling on the governments of Bhutan and
Nepal to come to a solution that
would allow for the repatriation of the
Bhutanese refugees, it did not yield
any progress. That effort was well-intentioned, but it lacked the necessary
"teeth" and hence failed to soften the
position of the RGOB. The Nepali government did little to follow up on the
resolution and, a year later, members
of the European Parliament, in the
face of meticulous lobbying by
Thimphu, appeared to have second
thoughts about their earlier position.
In the meantime, a delegation of European parliamentarians paid an official visit to Bhutan, where they received the customary warm welcome
from the Druk state machinery. King
Jigme appears to have sent the parliamentarians back convinced that the
refugee problem had been blown out
of proportion by parties with vested
interests.
The international community appears to have no intention of imposing economic sanctions and/or making reductions in development assistance to Bhutan as a way to force
Thimphu to improve its stance on the
refugee problem and its human rights
record. As reported in Kuensel,
Bhutan's only newspaper, 31 bilateral
and multilateral donors, financial institutions and NGOs have pledged almost USD 459 million to assist Bhutan in its Eighth Five-Year Plan.
Therefore, at least over the short term,
investment, engagement and development partnerships, rather than the
threat of sanctions or the withdrawal
of foreign aid, appear to be the international donor agencies' policy with
regard to Bhutan.
According to expatriate sources in
the Bhutanese capital, the RGOB has,
in fact, already carried out a study of
the worst-case scenario in the event
of aid cuts. Apparently, it has concluded that it can do without donor
money if human rights groups are
successful in influencing the aid
policy of the West. While it remains
doubtful whether Bhutan can survive
economically in the long run without
massive amounts of foreign aid and
assistance it receives annually, the
mere fact that such a calculation was
made reveals the resolute position of
King Jigme's government on the issue of Lhotshampa refugees.
And so the Bhutanese refugee
problem approaches its eighth year
with no end as yet in sight. While the
Chairman's Statement to the members
of the United Nations Sub-Commission is a positive (and long-overdue)
sign of international concern and support for the refugees, it is important
that the momentum created from this
development not be lost, as happened
with the European Parliament resolution in the past.
Unable to count on India for the
diplomatic muscle that might well
force the Royal Government of Bhutan to soften its position on the
Lhotshampa refugees, His Majesty's
Government of Nepal has little choice
but to devise a new strategy for its
dealings with Thimphu. The three
recommendations listed above may
not yield instant results, but at the
bare minimum they will move the issue into a wider arena, which is long
overdue.
A
K. Heissler is a research associate on
Nepal and Bhutan at the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre
(SAHRDC) in New Delhi.
More than one reason why
Himal makes essential reading.
Himal has a list of aims, modestly stated,
which has to contend with paranoid
politicians, hidebound bureaucrats and
millions of miles of barbed wire. It has on
its side the virtues of readability and the
absence of dogma.
Ramachandra Guha
The Telegraph, Calcutta
A most daring magazine venture.
Khushwant Singh
Provides more emphasis on regional
issues than any other international
magazine.
The News, Lahore
A magazine with a South Asian bias to
counter the petty-nationalism and narrow
geopolitical considerations ofthe region.
The Pioneer, New Delhi
The magazine that looks at all of
South Asia as its beat.
Sunday, Calcutta
A regional magazine with an
international outlook.
The Economic Times, Bombay
A very different magazine by definition
and content
The Sunday Times Plus, Colombo
Himal is literate and readable.
Tsering Wangyal, Tibetan Review
A magazine that caters to a very
interesting niche.
Indian Printer and Publisher
With its broad and humane vision, the
magazine helps capture the unity as well
as the diversity of diis unique
part of our planet
javed jabbar, Karachi
Journalism  Without  Borders
Himal, GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel:+977-1-5221 13/523845/521013 (fax)
email: himalmag@mos.com.np
URL: www.himalmag.com
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
49
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As sure as taking it there yourself
 Opinion
Dam insecurity
How a critically important South Asia-wide meeting on the future of large
dams was scuttled because ofthe Government of Gujarat's influence over the
Government of India.
by Himanshu Thakkar
-
In more ways than one, the episode
that led to the cancellation of the
first public hearing and other related
events of the World Commission on
Dams (WCD) that was to be held in
India in September 1998, seems to
mark a watershed in India's, and possibly South Asia's, experience with
large water projects. This seems to be
the beginning of the decline of the
large dams era that started in the
1940s.
What is WCD? The process of its
formation started in Gland, Switzerland, in April 1997 when the World
Bank called a meeting of the various
'stakeholders' on the issue of large
dams. The meeting itself was a result
of the World Bank's increasing anxiety about somehow managing the
growing criticism against large dams
in general and the Bank's projects in
particular. It also followed severe criticism of the Bank's review of 50 large
dams around the world, published a
few months earlier. At that time, activists bad suggested that if the Bank
had been really interested in reviewing the performance of large dams,
then it would have set up an independent commission on the subject.
The process that was thus started
resulted in the formation of the 12-
member WCD, chaired by South
Africa's Water Resources Minister
Kader Asmal. The Commission's
make-up makes clear that it represents an exercise to give balanced representation to various interest groups.
The large dam industry could be seen
to be represented by Goran Lindahl,
president and chief executive officer
of Asea Brown Bovari. The same is
true for Jan Veltrop, former chairman
of the International Commission on
Large Dams, as also Shen Guoyi, director-general of China's Ministry of
Water Resources, which is today in
the process of building the world's
largest dam at Three Gorges. Then
there's Thayer Scudder, a well-known
consultant of the World Bank who
deals with the social impacts of large
dams around the world. The celebrated critic of large dams from
South Asia, Medha Patkar, represents
the voice of those millions who have
been adversely affected by dam and
reservoir projects.
GOisays no
As the WCD geared up for its
work, the commissioners collectively decided at their
very first meeting that
the Commission's
first public hearing
would be held in
South Asia. This
was, after all, a region which had
seen both the construction of large
projects as well as,
lately, significant activism against such projects. The
public hearings were to be held
in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya
Pradesh, the central Indian state
through which flows the Narmada,
the river which has been at the centre of dam-building and anti-dam activism this past decade. The WCD had
titled the public hearing, to be held
with the permission of the New Delhi
government on 21-22 September
1998, "Water and Energy in South
Asia: Large Dams and Alternatives".
Experts and activists from all over
the Subcontinent had been invited to
present submissions. These had come
from the governments of Bangladesh,
Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well
as from the state government of
Madhya Pradesh. Well-known proponents of big dams such as CD. Thatte
and Ramaswamy R. Iyer, both former
secretaries for water resources of the
Government of India, had also submitted their views. However, over half
the submissions, largely critical of
large dams, were from the affected
people, people's movements, and nongovernment organisations belonging
to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan
and Sri Lanka.
Initially, on 19 August,
India's central government sent a letter welcoming the Commission to meet in
India. Then, at the
penultimate moment,
on 10 September, the
government wrote to
the Commission stating
that "we do not consider
this to be an opportune time for
the visit of the World Commission on
Dams" as "the issue relating to Sardar
Sarovar Project (SSP) is coming up before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of
India during this month."
Why this sudden volte face? Why
the pretext of a Supreme Court hearing on one particular large dam
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
SI
 Opinion
out of the thousands of large dams
and alternative projects being built or
planned all over South Asia which
were to be the subject of the public
hearing? Some answers can be found
in the events that occurred in the
three weeks between the two letters
of GOI, one welcoming, the other not-
so-welcoming.
A systematic misinformation campaign was launched in Gujarat by the
various political groupings in the
state, led by the ruling Bharatiya
Janata Party. The claim was that the
WCD was part of an anti-SSP, anti-
Gujarat, anti-India and anti-Third
World conspiracy. One politician even
suggested that some members of the
Commission were agents of CIA. An
all-party meeting resolved that the
entry of the WCD into Gujarat would
be fought at all costs. As the WCD secretary general had written to the
Gujarat government, some of the
members of the Commission were to
visit the Sardar Sarovar Project as part
of their field visit to the Narmada Valley. The secretary general had also
written that members would like to
hear the government's position on
the issue.
The chief minister of Gujarat then
announced that the WCD members
would be arrested if they came to his
state. He wrote letters to the BJP chief
ministers of the neighbouring states
of Maharashtra and Rajasthan (but
not to Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP
is not in power) requesting them not
to allow the Commission in when
it comes for public hearings or field
visits.
On 9 September, a delegation led
by the chief minister of Gujarat and
accompanied by the central ministers
elected from the state, including the
home minister and till recently BJP
president, L.K. Advani, met Prime
Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. They
asked him not to allow the WCD to
come to India. The following day, on
10 September, GOI wrote its letter to
the WCD.
Upon receipt of the letter from
New Delhi, the chairman of the Commission wrote to GOI, saying that the
Commission would assure that there
would be no mention of the Sardar
Sarovar Project in the events connected with the Commission, as it
understood well the sensitivities involved and would not like to seem to
be interfering with the ongoing Supreme Court case regarding SSP. Taking this assurance into consideration,
the Commission requested the GOI to
reconsider its decision. On the night
of 11 September, the government
wrote back saying that its decision
was not reviewable, at which point the
WCD decided to cancel its field visits,
postpone the public hearing, and shift
the venue of the Commission's public hearing. (It was later announced
that the Commission would meet in
Sri Lanka in December 1998.)
What is clear is that the central
bjp leadership could not withstand the
pressure mounted by its Gujarat
counterpart, and decided therefore to
take a decision that, besides being
clearly undemocratic, has also embarrassed India internationally.
Reaching for the proverbial fig
leaf, the National Planning Commission chief Jaswant Singh in his letter
to the WCD pointed to the upcoming
RCSS WINTER WORKSHOP  1999
The Colombo-based Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) invites applications from young South Asian
professionals to participate in the 1999 Winter Workshop on Sources of Conflict in South Asia: Ethnicity,
Refugees, Environment, to be held in Nepal on March 6-16, 1999. The workshop is organized with the support of
the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. The objective of the Workshop is to equip participants with the knowledge and
skills necessary to understand the concepts and approaches to the study of conflict, conflict resolution and conflict
management in South Asia. The theme of the workshop is focused on conflict related to: a) ethnicity and religion;
b) refugee and other forms of population movement; and c) resources, development and environment.
Activities are held in three main streams: lecture session, panel-discussion, and group work. The programme will
also include participants-led interactive sessions in which the participants will be encouraged to undertake
exercises of problem-solving nature by adopting various relevant techniques of negotiation, role-playing and
simulation.
Nationals of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the age group of up to 40 years
are invited to apply providing: a) full curriculum vitae including name, date of birth, nationality, sex, contact address
(including telephone and fax numbers and e-mail address, if any), academic qualifications, current profession
and experience; b) Name and full contact address of two referees; c) List of publications (copy of a recent publication preferably relevant to the theme of the workshop, if any, to be enclosed. If publication is not available, a brief
description of current professional activities may be enclosed); and d) A statement in about 300 words stating
future professional objectives and describing how participation in the workshop will be useful.
Letter of application with all documents should reach the RCSS no later than November 30, 1998. Early submission is encouraged. No prescribed form is necessary. Scholarships are available for all selected participants to
cover expenses including economy class airfare, cost of accommodation, food, etc. However, all participants will
be required to pay a registration fee of US$20.00 on arrival at the workshop venue. Applications will be considered by an international selection committee.
Applications or queries should be addressed to:
Executive Director, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, 2, Elibank Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka.
Tel: (94-1) 586201, 584603 Fax: (94-1) 599993 E-mail: edrcss@sri.lanka.net
 Opinion
Supreme Court hearing on the Sardar
Sarovar Project on the Narmada as the
j reason why permission for the visit
! was withheld. But the SSP case has
been pending in the Supreme Court
for over four years now, with both the
Government of Gujarat and GOI as
parties to the case. No special hearing of this case took place in September 1998.
The political game
There is no doubt that the precariously placed bjp Government of
Gujarat was using the occasion of the
WCD's visit to get some political mileage and divert attention. The government, though it lias a comfortable
majority in the state assembly, was
I having a problem of credibility due
lo non-performance in several sectors.
In particular, the government has
been vulnerable because of the runaway rise in the prices of essential
commodities, including vegetables
and edible oil. The rising price of edible oil is a particularly volatile issue
in the state, on the basis of which governments have fallen in the past.
However, more than anything else,
it was clear that the state government
was insecure about the Sardar Sarovar
Project. Certain that any scrutiny
would pronounce the project unfit, it
did not want an independent evaluation of the project. Evidence of this
insecurity was amply available. At the
same time, even as the state government was busy abusing the WCD as a
tool in the anti-SSP conspiracy, it was
making sure that its case did not go
unrepresented at the first ever public
hearing of the Commission.
Thus, while the Gujarat government went about threatening to block
the WCD, some of the people who
clearly represent its position were
[   making submissions to the Commis-
I sion. These included people like
CC. Patel and Sanat Mehta, both
former chairpersons of Sardar Sarovar
|   Narmada Nigam Limited, as well as
B.G. Verghese and Vidhyut Joshi, both
__    members of Gujarat government's
| Narmada Planning Group. These individuals have worked in close coordination with the Gujarat government, and their submissions are said
to substantially support the state
government's position. Thus, even
Medha's
e-mailing list
The editors thought it might interest cyber-
savvy readers to know who is on Medha
Patkar's email list (Himal is) to receive announcements and pronouncements.
From: "Medha Patkar" medhap@bom5.vsnl-nei.in>
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 Opinion
while the Gujarat government was
opposing the WCD, it was ensuring
ihat its position did not go unrepresented.
In fact, how much importance the
large dams lobby attaches to this exercise of the WCD was also clear from
the fact that the International Commission on Irrigation Drainage (IC1D),
headed by former secretaries of GOI,
Madhav Chitale and CD. Thatte, had
reportedly mobilised some 20 submissions to the WCD from various South
Asian organisations supporting large
dams. They included submissions
from the ICID offices in India and
Bangladesh.
The Gujarat government was one
of the first to invite the WCD Chairman to visit Gujarat and see projects
like the Sardar Sarovar Project. During the formation of the WCD, keen
efforts were made by the World Bank
and others to include members from
South Asia considered favourable to
large dams. The World Bank had also
suggested to the wcd that submissions be invited from individuals
known to support the concept of large
dams like former journalist B.G.
Verghese.
The saddest part of the whole episode is that it represents a black mark
on India's mueh-ballyhooed democracy. As Chairman Asmal said in his
press statement announcing the postponement ofthe public hearing, "The
Commission wanted to invoke the
democratic traditions of India where
public debate has been upheld as a
fundamental principle of a free society." However, the BJP leadership
showed that they would go to any
length to suppress debate on the large
dam projects on which they feel their
political future depends.
The Commission's choice of South
Asia as its first public hearing venue
was because, in the words of Asmal,
"the Subcontinent has had extensive
experience with dams and the debates
surrounding their planning and construction. Any Commission that does
not make the effort to understand and
learn from this experience would have
little credibility in the eyes of the
world." At the end of the episode, the
WCD had concluded, rightly, that, "the
turn of events in India showed the
need for the Commission's work because it highlighted the highly
charged issues associated with dams".
Lessons for WCD
In part, the governments in Gujarat
and the Centre were able to get away
with their misinformation campaign
and the subsequent decision to cancel the hearings because the Commission itself had failed in its task of public information. The WCD had not created awareness in the media, and
hence among the public, about how
the Commission had been formed,
about its constitution and its mandate. This must be considered a serious miscalculation on the part of
the wcd.
As it proceeds with its future
work, including the upcoming December hearings, the Commission
will have to understand that large
dams are, above all, political projects.
Any challenge to such projects is
bound to lead to strong resistance
from the established forces in society.
And it will also have to proceed carefully, with the foreknowledge that
public scrutiny of large water projects
- as past instances of Sardar Sarovar
in India, the Arun III in Nepal,
the Flood Action Programme in
Bangladesh and the Kalabagh project
in Pakistan have shown - will, in all
likelihood, not be very favourable to
such projects.
The politicians, at least, have understood this point. The Commission,
too, must come around to this understanding if it is to fulfill its mandate
of evaluating the usefulness of large
water projects, in South Asia and
elsewhere. A
H. Thakkar is a former activist with the
Save Narmada Movement and is presently an activist-researcher on water
policy issues. He is also part ofthe South
Asia office ofthe International Committee on Dams, Rivers and People.
.
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I998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   I l/l0
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X
 Review
J Beyond behaviour change
4
The American Foundation for
AIDS Research (AmFAR), funders
of US-based AIDS work and an aids
prevention programme in Nepal,
chose the cover picture of the book
under review to highlight the fact
(hat, in contrast to the earlier Western association between gay men and
AIDS, it is young women who are most
at risk - worldwide and in Nepal.
A picture of a girl on a book about
AIDS can only mean one thing in Nepal
- girl-trafficking. But it is also the
face of AIDS itself as it has been
made known to the Nepali public
through the vicious blame-the-victim
sensationalisation of prostitution in
the Nepali press.
Seemingly unaware of the uncanny resemblance this photo bears
to the covers of popular tourist guide-
boolcs, AmFAR has, perhaps inadvertently, also played on stereotypical
Western images of an exotic, and
erotic, Nepal. This is the Asian AIDS
problem as seen from the West - one
more poignant tragedy in the underdeveloped world.
Early AIDS prevention efforts in
Nepal were met with puzzlement, at
best, and more often than not, outright hostility. For many communities, simply to be targeted for an AIDS
prevention project is all-too-fre-
quently perceived as an accusation of
collective immorality, given the kind
of association aids has in the public
mind. This defensive reaction is understandable, for more often than not
it is elite outsiders who decide who
need' to know about AIDS while they
falsely consider themselves to be safe
merely because they are educated
people.
From the perspective of NGOs, the
challenge of AIDS prevention lies in
figuring out how established international strategies can be carried out to
make any kind of sense to their target communities. For how is a Nepali
carpel factory worker, or a migrant
labourer, or his wife, to understand
warnings about a mysterious sexually
transmitted disease with vague symptoms appearing years after infection?
Especially when few of the Nepalis
infected with HIV will ever know what
is making them sick?
AIDS in Nepal is the first comprehensive published work on the AIDS
issue in South Asia to describe these
challenges. At first glance, however,
the book appears to be a promotional
piece for AmFAR, written in a relentlessly optimistic tone of American
can-do-ism. Author Jill Hannum
AIDS in Nepal:
Communities
Confronting an
Emerging Epidemic
by Jill Hannum
AmFAR/Seven Stories
Press
New York. 1997
USD 22.95
reviewed by Stacy Leigh Pigg
spent only a month in Nepal, rushing from place to place. For Nepalis
and other readers familiar with Nepal,
her trite cliches about beautiful, remote, impoverished Nepal are tiresome. The Nepali situation is packaged for international consumption
through the eyes of a naive witness,
fresh to the scene, recording what she
is told.
Extensive quotes from individuals and NGO reports stand as unexamined evidence of the way things are
(if a Nepali said it, it must be true,
it seems). Lost in this format is
any analysis of the complex politics
of community development and
the differences of class, caste and
ethnicity that divide Nepalis when
it comes to explaining why any
development is so very difficult
to achieve. Whose voice is heard?
Whose account prevails?
Still, AIDS in Nepal succeeds in presenting the current standard assessment by international experts of the
social conditions that underlie the
epidemic. Compiled out of reports
submitted by AmFAR-funded groups,
the book chronicles the grounded
experience of these mostly elite-run
organisations as they grappled with
the local and ever-so-human face of
the insidiously-linked problems of
poverty and discrimination. By demonstrating that vulnerability to HIV
infection is one of the very real implications of the steep grades of inequality, the book does much to compensate for the fragmented, sensationalist, and often flatly inaccurate reporting on AIDS that has dominated
the Nepali press.
Intended to showcase what is
known as the "community vulnerability approach" - the progressive cutting edge in AIDS intervention - the
book is being handed out at international conferences as an example for
NGOs around the world.
This is ironic, because AmFAR itself was seen by many critics in Nepal
to epitomise the kinds of arbitrary
decisions and misguided policies so
often foisted on the country by
out-of-touch foreign development
donors. From its seemingly abrupt
entrance in 1993 to its equally sudden departure in late 1995 - only
two years into its stated three-year
programme - AmFARs initiative was
surrounded by controversy.
In the early 1990s, not much attention was being paid to AIDS in
Nepal. Government statistics showed
only 114 persons as HlV-pIus at the
end of 1992. Most of those who had
heard of AIDS thought of it as a foreign problem restricted to Africa and
the West.
But the World Health Organisation had already identified South Asia
as the new epicenter of the epidemic,
and both the World Bank and USAID
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
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 Review
I had decided to make AIDS in Asia a
I priority issue.
"Pajerobaad"
■ In 1993, Nepal found itself flooded
4 with donor assistance for aids pro-
I grammes. That same year, AmFAR
I chose the country as the laboratory
I for its experiment in AIDS prevention
I as its vision was to concentrate resources in a country with a low Hiv
incidence but high risk for a future
, epidemic. Its generous budgets to
\GOs would kickstart AIDS prevention
work by setting up local groups to
discover what worked in their communities.
With only a few loose guidelines
coming from AmFAR, 17 NGOs (chosen for their "potential" rather than
their "track record") were given free
rein to come up with their own ideas
about how and where to target prevention efforts. This approach was in
marked contrast to the standard donor emphasis on programme objectives, targets, reporting, accountability and outcomes.
AmFAR is an organisation with its
roots in the activist self-help groups
that sprang up from the efforts of
American gay communities to cope
with the first wave of the AIDS epidemic there. AmFAR planners see
NGOs as dynamic, community-
based groups that could do what
foot-dragging, morally conservative
governments never would in the fight
against aids. But these somewhat dogmatic working assumptions about the
grassroots commitments of ngos and
the impossibility of working with government transferred awkwardly to the
real politics of the Nepali "development" scene, enmeshed as it is in
so-called pajerobaad (the proclivity of
those in development, including
NGOs, to drive around in Mitsubishi
Pajeros and other luxury four wheel
drives).
Views of the AIDS problem itself
also diverged. AIDS is an unpopular social issue. Though few officials will
publicly admit it, aids is thought of
as a distasteful problem of prostitutes,
perverts and drug addicts, of "bad
people" who are not worthy of the
scarce public resources available for
public health. Why should this
kind of money be given to NGOs for
1998  OCTOBER  HIMAL   11/10
AIDS, when as far as anyone in Kathmandu could see, only a handful of
Nepalis would die of it?
The view from AmFAR's New York
office could not have differed more.
AIDS was their problem, and it was
real. AmFAR staff saw the fight
against AIDS as a pivotal human rights
issue as well as a health issue. What
they had in dedication, compassion
and zeal, however, they lacked in international expertise. In the words of
one former AmFAR employee, people
at the head office assumed that
"working overseas was the same as
working in the US, except in a different language". It was Elizabeth
Literacy class for school children run by
an AmFar-funded NGO in east Nepal.
Taylor, AmFAR's celebrity sponsor,
who pushed for the international
programme in the first place. And
when AmFAR as a whole lost some
of its funding, the tiny international
programme - then concentrated exclusively in Nepal and about to move
on to Botswana - was the first thing
to go. The NGOs and the communities they worked with were left in the
lurch, scrambling to save their
programmes.
AmFAR's programme, despite its
flaws, brought state-of-the-art expertise in AIDS prevention work to Nepal
at a crucial time. Its philosophy stood
as an alternative to the then prevailing orthodoxy of condom promotion.
AmFAR encouraged the groups
to look beyond scare tactics and
moralising about sexual restraint, to
the social conditions underlying
people's vulnerability to hiv infection.
It supported projects such as literacy
classes that did not solely focus on
AIDS prevention. It asked the NGOs to
tailor their interventions to specific
target populations thought to be most
likely to be affected by Hiv/AIDS and
to look at what support these groups
really needed.
AmFAR required its groups to justify their work not in terms of numbers of condoms distributed or posters printed but by what they learnt in
the process of trying out programmes.
It used project implementation as a
form of on-going investigation of the
societal factors implicated in AIDS. All
this was in line with the most progressive wing of AIDS intervention
expertise - something AmFAR's critics have not recognised.
More importantly, AmFAR forged
a core of committed, knowledgeable
people, most of whom continue to
work in AIDS prevention efforts in
Nepal. Several ofthe projects initiated
under AmFAR auspices now serve as
the template for other prevention
programmes. By so visibly forcing the
issue of AIDS on an otherwise complacent health sector, AmFAR arguably
played a major role in creating an infrastructure with which Nepal can
face the impending epidemic.
Politics of health
What AmFAR's book depicts as a
hope-inspiring success story is more
realistically a partial success story
that contains a more profound lesson
about the politics of health. The
risk- vulnerability approach to
aids endorsed by AmFAR correctly
emphasises that effective aids prevention does not come the moment a
condom goes on a penis.
Disease prevention has to take the
shape of social reform. Efforts to teach
about AIDS come up against the sheer
reality of the social inequalities that
effectively trap so many people in
conditions where "awareness"
will not save them and "individual
behaviour change" is not possible.
From this perspective, AIDS prevention begins to look more like political activism aimed at revolutionary
changes to the status quo of class and
gender relations.
59
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Tel: OH 229442, 220448    Res. 230307    Fax: +977-1-221726
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Tel: 61-26495
CONTRIBUTORS TO SEND IN ORIGINAL ESSAYS, FICTION, POETRY,
OTHER WRITINGS AND ARTWORK FOR PUBLICATIONS. MESSAGES
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RADHAM0HAN HOUSE, RELLI ROAD, KAUMPON 734301, DGHC, INDIA
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A centrally located hotel offering traditional
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P.O. Box No. 101, Lakeside. Pardi. Pokhara. Nepal
TIBET    Tel: 00977-6170853. 24553. Fax: 00977-61-252O6
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t£J
ADVENTURES OF A
NEPALI FROG
Adventures of a Nepali Frog
A travel adventure for
children of all ages.
%t<? 'Bangala %itab
Patan Dhaka. Sndarbor Tele. Lalitpur
Moiling Address: P.O. Box 42, Nepal
Tel:+977-1-522614. Fax:+977-1-S21013
When ti
into Nepal's <
stimtional n
results are i
politics corr
of   the   de
Even the mc
velopment
catch-word:
'empowerm
the more n
risk-vulner;
interventio
shuffle of 1
implement;
Even t
programme
or overcor
Nepal's clas
nity mobili
at present i
the elite, i
AIDS preve
poverishec
so great th
AIDS worl
populatio
about the
The rai
vention st
debated
organisati
tain popu
ing define
the group
mation at
being pre
ally motr
risk to th
The £
among tf
Nepal. If
of them :
begin to;
conceptii
this part
ences ai
the pro!
AIDS wo:
program
people I
leave un
that sevi
actions <
S.L. Pigj
thropolo
Bumaby
 When this approach is injected
into Nepal's development-oriented institutional mainstream, however, the
results are mixed. Another kind of
politics comes into play: the politics
of the development business.
Even the most socially uninspired de-
velopment schemes play on the
catch-words of'poverty', 'gender', and
empowerment'. Diluted in this way,
the more radical implications of the
risk-vulnerability philosophy in AIDS
intervention tend to get lost in the
shuffle of business-as-usual project
implementation.
Even the most visionary AIDS
programme cannot buck the system
or overcome the contradictions of
Nepal's class chasm. Radical community mobilisation is difficult to achieve
at present in Nepal. The gap between
the elite, urban-based advocates for
aids prevention and the mostly impoverished people who are at risk is
so great that it has been difficult for
aids workers to convince targeted
populations of the reasons to care
about the risk of AIDS.
The ramifications of various intervention strategies have yet to be fully
debated within the AiDS-related
organisations in Nepal. How are certain populations, and not others, being defined as "targets" and are these
the groups best targeted? Is the information about AIDS and its prevention
being presented in a way that actually motivates people to reduce the
risk to themselves and others?
The AmFAR-funded NGOs were
among the pioneers of AIDS work in
Nepal. If they made mistakes, some
of them also found creative ways to
begin to address the stigma and misconception that seem to accompany
this particular virus. Their experiences are a stark illustration of
the problem now being raised in
AIDS work worldwide: prevention
programmes that merely encourage
people to change their behaviour
leave unaddressed the social forces
that severely constrain the range of
actions open to them. A
S.L. Pigg is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Simon Fraser University,
Bumaby, Canada.
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 V
0
I
NEW YORK PARTY. The sales pitch for the
IAPAC Charity Ball, with its slogan, "Building a Bright
Future for South Asian Americans", held at Metronome in
Manhattan on 25 September, for USD 30 a ticket.
("Semi-Formal or Indian Attire only, please.") The
organisation's name stands for Indian American Political
Awareness Committee.
Support IAPAC's efforts to help create a public voice
for the South Asian American community! There are
approximately 1.4 million South Asians in the US, possessing the 2nd highest median income and holding one
of the highest numbers of graduate degrees of ALL
groups in the US. There is great potential for the South
Asian American community to wield more political and
media power in the US, than it does currently. IAPAC
seeks to promote awareness of legislative issues that
touch South Asian Americans, as well as all Americans.
IAPAC seeks to promote awareness of the South Asian
American voice in the US. A
WATCHING THE MONITOR is all that
South Asians are doingwhilebeingrobbed by their political
leaders, reports Isa Daudpota from Islamabad while forwarding this excerpt from The Mind's I by D.R. Hofstadter
and D. Dennett (Bantam Books). (In his email, Daudpota
replaced "Pete" in the original with "Ahmed (Anand)".
Ahmed (or Anand) is waiting to pay for an item in a
departmental store, and he notices that there is a
closed-circuit television monitor over the counter - one
of the store's measures against shoplifters. As he watches
the jostling crowd of people on the monitor, he realises
that the person over on the left side of the screen in the
overcoat carrying the large paper bag is having his pocket
picked by the person behind him. Then as he raises his
hand to his mouth in astonishment, he notices that the
victim's hand is moving to his mouth in just the same
way. Ahmed (or Anand) suddenly realises that HE is the
person whose pocket is being picked! Tlris dramatic shift
is a discovery; Ahmed (or Anand) comes to know something he didn't know a moment before, and of course it
is important. Without the capacity to entertain the sorts
of thoughts that now galvanise him into defensive action, he would hardly be capable of action at all. But
before the shift, he wasn't entirely ignorant, of course;
he was thinking about "the man in the overcoat" and
seeing that that person was being robbed, and since the
person in the overcoat is himself, he was thinking
ABOUT HIMSELF But he wasn't thinking about himself AS HIMSELF; he wasn't thinking about himself "in
the right way". A
A VEGETARIAN FEAST got Shoba Narayan
to go study in the United States. Describing how she did it
in an essay of "150-word or less" got Narayan an award
from the New York Times. She is a freelance writer in New
York City.
India, 1986. At 18, I have just been accepted into
Mount Holyoke College but the consensus in my family
is that I shouldn't go. After days of pleading, the elders
have relented. 1 am to cook them a vegetarian feast. It is
a test, one they are sure I will fail. And in it lies my
destiny.
I cut okra into long strips and fry it in mustard oil. 1
tease some spinach over a low flame, blend it into a
smooth paste, and pepper it with asfoetida, baby onions
and fried paneer. Tomatoes brew in tamarind water while
I cook some red lentils and blend them into the rasam. I
garnish with cilantro, mustard seeds and cumin.
I hover over virgin basmati rice, cooking it till each
grain is soft but doesn't stick. Sweet butter turns into
golden ghee. Dessert is a simple almond kheer with
plump raisins, cashews and saffron. The feast ends
with steaming south Indian coffee, with filtered
-
decoction, l
the bitterne
The elde
don't want
fight over t
tion. Grand
I can go
GENDt
ing to a Co\
Asian "Con
mandu 9-11
In Bhul
men and w
to childrer
ests within
Bhutan; ev<
this is not
ences. Nat
dowing eac
tions. Sten
difference!
and comm
in certain
the nature
tween the
Bhutanese
are genera
and womf
As a E
influencec
all sender
the Bhuta
Naturally,
tion betw
Bhutanesi
joy the sa
62
HIMAL   11/10   OCTOBER   1998
1998  OCTC
 c
E
S
decoction, boiled milk and just enough sugar to remove
the bitterness.
The elders pick and sample, judiciously at first. They
don't want to eat but they can't stop themselves. They
fight over the last piece of okra, taste overtaking caution. Grandpa leans back and belches unapologetically.
I can go to America. A
GENDERS ARE EQUAL in Bhutan, accord-
,  ing to a Country Paper on Bhutan presented at the South
I  Asian "Commemorating Beijing" conference held in Kathmandu 9-10 September.
!In Bhutan, there has always been equality between
men and women. Bhutanese culture accords high value
to children and women and protects their basic interests within society. There is no gender discrimination in
Bhutan; even distinctions are seldom relevant. However,
this is not to state that there are absolutely no differ-
1 ences. Nature has made the two sexes differently, endowing each with separate attributes and biological functions. Stemming from the biological and physiological
differences, men and women have, in advancing family
and community survival and progress, come to specialise
in certain roles which are most suited to them. Such is
(the nature of the basis of any prevailing differences between the roles of a Bhutanese male and female. In
Bhutanese society, which is still largely traditional, there
are generally both common and separate roles for men
and women.
As a Buddhist state, Bhutanese society is strongly
influenced by the Buddhist precept of compassion for
all sentient beings. Caste system does not exist among
the Bhutanese, a majority of whom practises Buddhism.
Naturally, there is no room for any form of discrimination between the two sexes. In addition, under the law,
Bhutanese women have equal status with men and enjoy the same level of freedom.
1998  OCTOBER   HIMAL   11/10
Women in Bhutan enjoy equal rights in every facet
of life. There are no barriers based on sex as far as their
rights, welfare and development are concerned. Such a
unique situation does not entail the Government to formulate any gender specific plans and programmes on a
massive scale in order to enhance the general status of
women. Women constitute half the population and it is
the firm intention of the Royal Government of Bhutan
to develop this important resource to its full potential
and mobilise it effectively for the cause of community
and the nation. A
THE VIOLENCE IN KARACHI is more a
civilisational problem than anything else, says Irfan Hussain
in Making Enemies, Creating Conflict: Pakistan's Crises
of State and Society (Mashal, Lahore, 1997).
It is important to understand that the roots of conflict are no different in Karachi than they are in London
or Lagos. Hatred, deprivation, frustration and envy are
some of the universal seeds of conflict and violence that
lie dormant to varying degrees in all human beings everywhere and throughout history. No individual or city
or nation can claim a monopoly on the dark side of the
human soul. What does differ, however, is the self-control an individual has on his passions, and the degree of
discipline attained by a society. Individual actions depend on upbringing and genetics; social interaction is
dependent on the level of civilisation attained by a society. In primitive societies like Pakistan, practices like
karo-kari [honour killings] and blood feuds go largely
unpunished, but in more evolved ones, they are neither
tolerated nor condoned. Thus, while seeds and roots of
conflict are the same everywhere, what differs is the soil
and the climate than enable those seeds of hatred and
envy to grow and flourish. In Karachi's case, hospitable
factors have been provided by neglect, bad governance
and prejudice, to name only three.
63
 AlwWln£lP$( yewc&i
Living as I do here on the roof of
the Turd World, I am used to a
lot of bull manure. But some of
these sponsorship events are getting
a bit out of hand. A Nepali climber
is trying to set a world record
climbing Mt Everest in 18 hours flat
without using bottled oxygen. He is
being sponsored by a Danish beer
company which shall remain
anonymous because they may
decide to advertise in this magazine
at some point, and I do not want the
editor to be ticked off.
From where I sit on the Western
Cwm (pronounced: "Budweiser"), I
can see our Speed Climber finally
emerge from beneath a bergschrund,
a tiny black speck. Wait a minute,
(L__(^
what is he doing? Just as I thought:
he's taking a leak. All that beer
sponsorship must be acting as a
diuretic.
No mean feat having to unzip at
this altitude, it is so cold that pee
freezes even before it hits the snow,
and the climber has to keep breaking off the thin yellow icicles from
the tip of his salt shaker till the last
drop. The trail up Everest is littered
with yellow parabolic stalactites that
point to the top. Our alpinist has his
work cut out for him, but next time
he should take on a vodka sponsor,
and try to climb Mt Everest without
the use of bottled beer.
Here comes news that Delhi has
set up its first Oxygen Bar (sponsored no doubt by Bharat Oxygen
Ltd which does not yet advertise in
64
this space) and franchises will soon
be opened in other polluted capitals
of the Subcontinent. Customers can
breathe pure oxygen through nasal
pipes. If this is how bad things have
got, then our advice for the residents of South Asia's metros is
simple: stop breathing.
Good practice for climbers
aiming to climb Everest without
oxygen. Besides lack of oxygen, one
of the seriousmost urban ills for a
long time which has been plaguing
society is our lacking of robust
sense of humour. Slowly slowly, to
laugh we have been forgetting
because of grinding poverty and
daily hand-to-mouth struggle.
Many doctors believing that best
medicine is laughing, and
even Reader's Digest supporting this famous dictum.
Therefore also we are
organising every year an
International Laughter
Festival, and soon to be
opened Joke Bar in Delhi.
Through tube in noses of
gentlemen and lady customers
we pump laughing gas instead
of oxygen. We firmly believe
that only when whole country
starts heartily laughing, then
we will have sustainable
development and strong sense
of nationhood.
Now, before the fhit hits
the san about whether or not
India and Pakistan did indeed
explode atom bombs that they said
they did, but as it turns out they did
not, or actually they may have but
they don't mind letting the rest of
the world think they did not while
they actually did, because as a
matter of fact they aren't really
bothered about what they do as
long as their own people think they
did, and since no one knows for
sure anyway, least of all seismologists in Los Alamos who couldn't
even detect a couple of grenades
going off in their back pockets, we
must start thinking about who in
future is going to sponsor our
underground nuclear tests.
In the age of advertising, a
thermonuclear explosion is a made-
for-television event. At a time when
defence budgets are strained, selling
commercial advertising space
during live coverage of the big
bangs would be an innovative way
to finance our nuclear deterrence
without siphoning money away
from essentials like the new executive jet for the prime minister, or
from the new 350-room official
residence for the chief executive.
To give credit where it is due, 1
must commend the advertising
industry for coming up with this
brilliant exposition of how to turn a
nuclear weapons programme to
peaceful use. But all this is now
seriously jeopardised by the two
countries threatening to sign the
CTBT. For the sake of our national
defence and the further growth of
the advertising industry we cannot
let that happen.
Just imagine the bonanza from
future tests which can be timed for
primetime viewing. Giant billboards
at Pokhran and Chagai advertising
Paan Parag and Kit Kat. Sponsorship cash could be spent on sprucing up Ground Zero so that it looks
less like a shantytown on top of a
sinkhole.
Besides coordinating their
nuclear tests in future for maximum
television ratings and commercial
sponsorship, there are any number
of areas where India-Pakistan
nuclear co-operation can be
extended. For example, they should
go in for exchange of fissile materials, exchange each other's delivery
systems. They should plan to set off
tests in each other's territories, and
ultimately, conduct joint nuclear
tests beneath disputed areas like
Kashmir or Hyderabad (Deccan).
The generals from the two sides
should have flag meetings and
exchange a couple of kegs of
Kingfisher and Murree Beers.
Underground HVPer
HUnSaraT^a.s
ThervTm   youV*e.
brOU9hustDoU-
58
<
HIMAL   11/10   OCTOBER   1998
 Explore the paradise on earth!
ft
1   ">     -AiUJIli
B '*~ff"iMfflK^^i
bm\A^
:
Age-old culture, colourful festivals, highest
mountain of the world,
most preserved wildlife
parks, living heritage, birth place of Lord
Buddha, only Hindu Kingdom of the world,
most friendly people	
An exotic land of Nature, Cultures,
Adventures, Mysteries & Wonders-
nepal
srfrj^t^
rviSit .
-nepal 98
A WORLD OF ITS OWN
Visit Nepal '98 - Secretariat
Ministry of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Singha Durbar, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: (977-1) 246185/226992/246024  Fax: (977-1) 227758
^mih %ihui ^ i^c      E-mail: motca@mos.com.np / vny@mos.com.np Internet: http:/www.south-asia.com/visitnepal98
 Like Lightnin
Luck Strikes Without Warning.
Soaltee Compound
Tahachal, Kathmandu
Tel: 270244, Fax: (9771) 271244
E-mail: rdt@mos.com,np
Hotel de L' Annapurna Hotel Yak & Yeti
Durbar Marg, Kathmandu Durbar Marg
Tel: 223479, Fax: (9771)225228 Tel: 228481, Fax: (9771)223933
E-mail: casanna@mos.com.np E-mail: royal@mos.com.np
Website: http://www.casinosnepal.com
Hotel Everest
New Baneshwor
Tel: 488100, Fax: (9771)490284
E-mail: everest@mos.com.np

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