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Year 2002, No 4
The Great Charade
By John Pilger
Blacksmiths of Sindh, a dying breed
By Anwer Abro
Brutality Cloaked as Tradition
By Beena Sarwar
Suburban Whites and Pogroms in India
By Vijay Prashad
On Conversions
By Shereen Ratnagar
On The Lords Victory
By Sudhanva Deshpande
Market, Morals and the Media
By Prabhat Patnaik
East and West in the Media
By Amartya Sen
Renewed Attacks on Education and Educational Institutions in South Asia
The Democratic Deficit
By Jayati Ghosh
Abnormal Normality
By Teesta Setalvad
An Eyewitness Account
By Shubhra Nagalia
Fascist Normalcy in Gujarat
By Nalini Taneja
Hindu Rashtra?
It's all over Gujarat
By Sanjay Pandey & Anoop Kayarat
Hell is empty
By Mukul Mangalik
Before the night falls
By K N Panikkar
Surviving Gujarat 2002
By Nivedita Menon
Our Indecent Society
By Dilip Menon
Reflections on 'Gujarat Pradesh' of 'Hindu Rashtra'
By K Balagopal
All for Elections

South Asian Right caught between confidence and desperation

Gujarat remains a cause for deep concern as the ruling BJP government in India tries to force elections in a state still reeling from the impact of the government sponsored genocide of the Muslims. Citizens' reports and those in mainstream media have substantiated with conclusive evidence the very active role of the government machinery in addition to that of the BJP officials and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal leadership and activists. Even the forensic report on the Godhra train torching, an incident that is being used by the BJP government to "justify" the carnage, now casts doubt whether the torching was planned and executed by the Muslim mob at all. The Election Commission has categorically stated that the situation in Gujarat is far from normal, the minorities still live under siege, thousands have no identification documents to be able to exercise their voting rights, and are too intimidated to vote even if they did. Yet the BJP government is going ahead with organizing "gaurav yatras", celebrations of Hindu pride and activism against the "enemies", as prelude to its election campaign.

Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat and the local architect of the carnage, has made a public attack, questioning the integrity of the Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, on the basis of his religious identity. The VHP and Bajrang Dal activists openly talk of defying the decision of the Election Commission because a 'Christian' heads the commission. While any personal attack on the CEC for his official conduct of work is in itself against the norms of politics as the commission is a statutory body, to make him a target on the basis of religion, besides exposing the Sangh Parivar's fascist mentality towards the minorities, is an indication of the BJP government's resolve to disregard any consensus in regard to its NDA allies and to flout public opinion for the rest of its term in office.

These happenings reflect the confidence of the Hindutva forces as also their desperation. Their policies of economic liberalization have pushed people against the wall, and while there have been major protests and defeats for the BJP in all the assembly elections held recently, in the centre they continue cavalierly thanks to the alliance of opportunism that shores up the forces of fascism. BJP has been able to maneouvre a Shiv Sena person as Speaker of Lok Sabha, continues with Narendra Modi despite strong public protests all over the country and evidence of his complicity in the pogroms in Gujarat, and has been able to appoint an RSS pracharak/lawyer as Governor of Jharkhand, and has bulldozed its own candidates as President and Vice President of the country, besides a Bajrang Dal chief as the President of its party in UP. This is not a matter of a few key posts. It is indicative of a wholesale invasion by the Hindutva forces of the political set up, already overburdened by the likes of Mr. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Jagmohan, Uma Bharti, Arun Shourie, Arun Jaitley, not to speak of George Fernandes at the Centre. Advani's capture of the seat of Deputy Prime Ministership is the culmination of this invasion, and from our experience of the similar invasions within academic institutions over the last four years, we know what such invasions imply. They mean the subversion of our democratic aspirations and taking over of our lives by those whose so-called cultural nationalism is another name for fascism.

Sri Lanka: A Fragile Peace

There are just too many factors involved for the truce between the government and the LTTE to ensure a lasting peace, unless these other factors and players are made active participants in the peace process. According to some commentators there is already a growing feeling in Sri Lanka that "the cease-fire arrangements have primarily
helped the LTTE". Politically there are primarily three forces to be taken into account, the Tamil Tigers, alternative voices representing Sri Lankan Tamils, for a representing oppressed and besieged Muslim minorities in the northern region, the United National Party (UNP) and the People's Alliance (P.A.), and not merely the government and the LTTE. There are also apprehensions about the fate of the people of the Northeast when the province is sooner or later subjected to the LTTE control under the proposed interim administration. Besides there is a whole range of issues including human rights, democracy, pluralism and rights of religious minorities in all the regions, that have not been addressed, which are of critical importance in the context of the LTTE's propensity for political authoritarianism and people's aspirations, for a democratic solution that safeguards the multi lingual, multi religious and pluralistic heritage of Sri Lankan society. That goes for the Tamils as well despite the fact that the LTTE speaks in the name of Tamils.

In the meantime, women's organisations in a memorandum of June 6, have rightly demanded that women should be given "equal participation and full involvement in all efforts of peace negotiations between the Government and the LTTE". The memorandum also said that the women's organisations are determined to ensure that "women's issues and concerns form an integral part of the peace agenda besides ensuring that human rights are fully protected at every stage of the peace process."

Without hard work for peace, peace may be short lived or may well remain a truce between illiberal parties rather than a basis for democratic transformation.

Military 'Democracy' in Pakistan Gains New Life

The dominating presence of the military under the leadership of President Musharraf seems likely to continue with the General having successfully crossed the formal hurdle of a referendum, and with the changes initiated in the constitutional structure in Pakistan
The issues of poverty, education and health recede to the background as the regime prepares for the forthcoming elections. The attack on Christian church and hospital in Taxila, killing four nurses and injuring many in a hospital, coming, as it did, hard on the heels of the savage attack on a Christian run school in Murree, spells tension in the months preceding elections. The general would be better off attending to these issues than kowtowing to the US. Kashmir, compromise with the sectarian forces, and a controlled anti India rhetoric in the face of Indian rhetoric will hardly get the general anywhere. After all, the BJP lost its assembly elections despite support to US and unleashing savage anti-Pakistan rhetoric in the thick of mobilization on the border. There is already growing anger that U.S. support is allowing his military regime to delay the promise of democracy. Finally, whether civilians or soldiers emerge as dominant in the new post-October political set-up will have far-reaching implications, not just for Pakistan but for the entire region.

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