Thursday, March 29, 2007
The Rediff Special/ Claude Arpi
1971 War: How the US tried to corner India
December 26, 2006
• The ghosts of Chittagong
• The US-China-Pak equation
• White House tapes show Nixon's bias against India
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'India won a glorious victory against Pakistan in the 1971 war. It was the first decisive victory in a major war in centuries. And it was won singlehandedly, in the face of opposition and threats from a majority of the UN member-States, including a superpower. Every Indian patriot felt proud of this glittering chapter in the nation's history.'
-- Dr S N Prasad in his introduction to the Indian government's 'restricted' Official History of the 1971 War.
I am not usually a great defender of United States policies, but I have to admit that in the field of right to information, the US is far ahead of the Indian babus who obstinately block access to Indian archives under the lame pretext that this could 'endanger national security'.
A few months ago, the Office of the Historian at the US State Department released Volume XI of the Foreign Relations of the United States devoted to the 'South Asia Crisis, 1971': in other words, the Bangladesh War.
Flashback: 1971 War, 35 Years On
This 929-page publication groups together documents which were already known like the minutes of Henry Kissinger's secret visit to China in July 1971 as well as scores of freshly declassified material available for the first time to the public.
It throws light on a less known angle of the India-Pakistan conflict: The role of the nascent friendship between the United States and China. This is a welcome new piece in the puzzle of the history of the 1971 War.
Another piece is the Hamidur Rahman Report, ordered by the government of Pakistan after the war, which analyses the Pakistani defeat. 'Due to corruption... lust for wine and women and greed for land and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had not only lost the will to fight but also the professional competence necessary for taking the vital and critical decisions demanded of them for the successful prosecution of the war.'
The US administration saw the unfurling events differently.
According to Kissinger, then American President Richard M Nixon's national security adviser, 'When the Nixon administration took office, our policy objective on the subcontinent was, quite simply, to avoid adding another complication to our agenda.'
But events in the subcontinent and the Chinese factor forced Nixon to change his stand. The new closeness between Washington, DC and Beijing and the involvement of the Pakistan president as a secret go-between greatly influenced US policy.
Then US President Richard Nixon According to the State Department historian, 'When the fighting developed, the Nixon administration tilted toward Pakistan. The tilt involved the dispatch of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal to try to intimidate the Indian government. It also involved encouraging China to make military moves to achieve the same end, and an assurance to China that if China menaced India and the Soviet Union moved against China in support of India, the United States would protect China from the Soviet Union. China chose not to menace India, and the crisis on the subcontinent ended without a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.'
The first US documents deal with the background of the conflict. Nixon's position was clear: 'We should just stay out -- like in Biafra, what the hell can we do?'
But everybody did not agree with him. In a telegram sent on March 28, 1971, the staff at the US consulate in Dhaka complained, 'Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak dominated government... We, as professional public servants express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected in order to salvage our nation's position as a moral leader of the free world.'
When US Secretary of State Will Rogers received this 'miserable' cable, he informed President Nixon that the 'Dacca consulate is in open rebellion.' This did not change Nixon's opinion: 'The people who bitch about Vietnam bitch about it because we intervened in what they say is a civil war. Now some of the same bastards...want us to intervene here -- both civil wars.'
From the start, the Nixon administration knew 'the prospects were "poor"... the Pakistani army would not be able to exert effective control over East Pakistan.' Washington believed India was bound to support Mujibur Rahman. The CIA had reported that 'India would foster and support Bengali insurgency and contribute to the likelihood that an independent Bangladesh would emerge from the developing conflict.'
It is here that the Chinese saga began. In a tightly guarded secret, Nixon had started contacts with Beijing. The postman was Pakistani dictator Field Marshal Yahya Khan.
When on April 28 1971, Kissinger sent a note defining the future policy option towards Pakistan, Nixon replied in a handwritten note: 'Don't squeeze Yahya at this time.' The Pakistan president was not to be squeezed because he was in the process of arranging Kissinger's first secret meeting to China. The events of the following months and the US position should be seen in this perspective.
Indira GandhiIn May, Indira Gandhi wrote to Nixon about the 'carnage in East Bengal' and the flood of refugees burdening India. After L K Jha, then the Indian ambassador to US, had warned Kissinger that India might have to send back some of the refugees as guerillas, Nixon commented, 'By God we will cut off economic aid (to India).'
A few days later when the US president said 'the goddamn Indians' were preparing for another war, Kissinger retorted 'they are the most aggressive goddamn people around.'
During the second week of July, Kissinger went to Beijing where he was told by then Chinese prime minister Zhou Enlai: 'In our opinion, if India continues on its present course in disregard of world opinion, it will continue to go on recklessly. We, however, support the stand of Pakistan. This is known to the world. If they (the Indians) are bent on provoking such a situation, then we cannot sit idly by.' Kissinger answered that Zhou should know that the US sympathies also lay with Pakistan.
On his return, during a meeting of the National Security Council, Nixon continued his India bashing. The Indians, he noted, are 'a slippery, treacherous people.'
The State Department historian says, 'in the perspective of Washington, the crisis ratcheted up a dangerous notch on August 9 when India and the Soviet Union signed a treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation.' It was a shock for Washington as they saw a deliberate collusion between Delhi and Moscow.
During the following months, the situation deteriorated and many more refugees came to India. The Indian prime minister decided to tour Western capitals to explain the Indian stand. On November 4 and 5, she met Nixon in Washington, who told her that a new war in the subcontinent was out of the question.
The next day, Nixon and Kissinger assessed the situation. Kissinger told Nixon: 'The Indians are bastards anyway. They are plotting a war.'
To divert the pressure applied by the Mukti Bahini on the eastern front, the Pakistan air force launched an attack on six Indian airfields in Kashmir and Punjab on December 3. It was the beginning of the war.
The next day, then US ambassador to the United Nations George H W Bush -- later 41st president of the United States and father of the current American president -- introduced a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of armed forces by India and Pakistan. It was vetoed by the Soviet Union. The following days witnessed a great pressure on the Soviets from the Nixon-Kissinger duo to get India to withdraw, but to no avail.
The CIA reported to the President: 'She (Indira Gandhi) hopes the Chinese (will) not intervene physically in the North; however, the Soviets have warned her that the Chinese are still able to "rattle the sword" in Ladakh and Chumbi areas.'
Henry KissingerFor Kissinger it was clear that Indira Gandhi wanted the dismemberment of Pakistan.
On December 9, when the CIA director warned Nixon that 'East Pakistan was crumbling', Nixon decided to send the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal to threaten India.
Let me recount an anecdote related to me by Major General K K Tewari (retd), Chief Signal Officer, Eastern Command, during the 1971 War.
General Tewari was present at a briefing the three defence services held for Indira Gandhi. She was seated at a large table. On one side was General S H F J Manekshaw, the army chief, and on the other Admiral S M Nanda, the navy chief.
During the course of the presentation, the admiral intervened and said: 'Madam, the US 8th Fleet is sailing into the Bay of Bengal.' Nothing happened; the briefing continued. After sometime, the admiral repeated, 'Madam, I have to inform you that the 8th Fleet is sailing into the Bay of Bengal.' She cut him off immediately: 'Admiral, I heard you the first time, let us go on with the briefing.'
All the officers present were stunned. Ultimately, their morale was tremendously boosted by the prime minister's attitude. She had demonstrated her utter contempt for the American bluff.
On November 10, Nixon instructed Kissinger to ask the Chinese to move some troops toward the Indian frontier. 'Threaten to move forces or move them, Henry, that's what they must do now.'
This was conveyed to Huang Hua, China's envoy to the United Nations. Kissinger told Huang the US would be prepared for a military confrontation with the Soviet Union if the Soviet Union attacked China.
On December 12, the White House received an urgent message. The Chinese wanted to meet in New York. General Alexander Haig, then Kissinger's deputy, rushed to the venue, but was disappointed. Huang just wanted to convey his government's stand in the UN, no words of an attack in Sikkim or in the then North East Frontier Agency (now, the northeastern states).
The myth of the Chinese intervention is also visible in the secret Pakistani dispatches. Lieutenant General A A K Niazi, the Pakistani army commander in Dhaka, was informed: 'NEFA front has been activated by Chinese although the Indians for obvious reasons have not announced it.'
Until the last day of the war, Pakistan expected its Chinese saviour to strike, but Beijing never did.
In Washington, Nixon analysed the situation thus: 'If the Russians get away with facing down the Chinese and the Indians get away with licking the Pakistanis...we may be looking down the gun barrel.' Nixon was not sure about China. Did they really intend to start a military action against India?
Finally, on December 16, Niazi surrendered to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora. Nixon and Kissinger congratulated themselves for achieving their fundamental goal -- the preservation of West Pakistan. They were also happy for having 'scared the pants off the Russians.'
Kissinger's South Asia policy upset many in the US, not only the American public, the press but also the State Department, and more particularly, Secretary of State Rogers who was kept in the dark most of the time.
It is worth mentioning an episode which, of course, does not appear in the American archives -- The Tibetan participation in the conflict. After the debacle of 1962, the Government of India had recruited some Tibetans youth in the eventuality of another conflict with China. The Special Frontier Force was trained in Chakrata in Uttar Pradesh under the command of an Indian general.
In 1971, nine years after its creation, the SFF was sent to East Pakistan to prepare for the arrival of regular Indian troops. Their saga is one of the least known parts of the Bangladesh war.
Late October 1971, an AN-12 airlifted nearly 3,000 Tibetans who later assembled at Demagiri close to the India-East Pakistan border. On the other side of the border were the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Armed with Bulgarian-made assault rifles, the SFF was given the task of organising guerrilla raids across the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Opposite the SSF, in thick jungles and leech-infested marshes, was stationed a Pakistan brigade, including a battalion of its elite Special Services Group.
The Indian army knew this brigade was a threat to one of its corps preparing to advance on Dhaka.
During the second week of November, Operation Eagle began. Leaving Demagiri in canoes, the Tibetans commandos entered East Pakistan. The SFF then started overrunning one Pakistani post after another.
By the time the war was officially declared, the Tibetans had already been inside East Pakistan for more than three weeks. Using both their Bulgarian rifles and native knives, they advanced swiftly. Their Indian commandaner, Major General S S Uban later said, 'They were unstoppable.'
On December 16, the SSF was 40 kilometers away from Chittagong port, having successfully managed to neutralise the Pakistani brigade.
After Pakistan's surrender, they paraded through Chittagong. Unfortunately, 49 Tibetans lost their lives for a nation which was not theirs.
The release of the State Department volume on the 1971 conflict is a posthumous homage to the courage of the Indian Army which despite heavy odds and the might of the United States freed Bangladesh from Pakistani clutches.
Some aspects are still missing to make the puzzle complete.
First, the Indian history from the Ministry of Defence does not detail the political compulsions of Indira Gandhi's government. Second, the secret operation involving the Tibetan Special Frontier Forces in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is virtually unknown. Lastly, the Chinese involvement from the Chinese point of view remains unexamined.
Like the Henderson Brooks' report on the 1962 border war with China, it may take a few decades more to be revealed.
Monday, March 26, 2007
SEZs: Lessons from China
While single-minded pursuit of exports has helped China touch record growth figures, millions have been left behind, besides incurring huge environmental costs. And without even the limited dose of welfare that China offers its poor farmers, India must wary of copying China's SEZ-approach, writes Bhaskar Goswami.
9 February 2007 - China's record economic growth rate fuelled by the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) is often advocated as the reason for India to adopt this approach. Since the 1980s, China implemented a series of measures and policies with the sole purpose of achieving rapid economic growth. As evidence over the years has shown, this single-minded pursuit of growth has lowered the efficiency and effectiveness of economic policies, besides incurring huge resource and environmental costs. The Chinese experience offers a valuable lesson for India.
Cost of Export-driven Growth
China has to feed 22 percent of the world's population on only 7 percent of land. In July 2005, China's countryside had over 26.1 million people living in absolute poverty and was home to 18 percent of the world's poor, according to Chinese Minister Li Xuju quoted in the People�s Daily. Every year, an additional 10 million people have to be fed. Despite this daunting target, between 1996-2005, "development" caused diversion of more than 21 percent of arable land to non-agricultural uses, chiefly highways, industries and SEZs. Per capita land holding now stands at a meager 0.094 hectares. In just thirteen years, between 1992 and 2005, twenty million farmers were laid off agriculture due to land acquisition.
As more arable land is taken over for urbanization and industrialisation, issues related to changes in land use have become a major source of dispute between the public and the government. Protests against land acquisition and deprivation have become a common feature of rural life in China, especially in the provinces of Guangdong (south), Sichuan, Hebei (north), and Henan province. Guangdong has been worst affected. Social instability has become an issue of concern. In 2004, the government admitted to 74,000 riots in the countryside, a seven-fold jump in ten years. Whereas a few years ago, excessive and arbitrary taxation was the peasants' foremost complaint, resentment over the loss of farmland, corruption, worsening pollution and arbitrary evictions by property developers are the main reasons for farmers' unrest now.
UNEP worked with Google to produce before-and-after satellite images of a hundred 'hotspots' and integrate them into Google Earth.
Titled UNEP: Atlas of Our Changing World, Shenzen's before and after pics are for the period between 1979 and 2004 are available through this program. (See: the UNEP site for more.)
While rural China is up in arms against acquisition of land, SEZs like Shenzen in Guangdong showcasing the economic miracle of China, are beset with problems. After growing at a phenomenal rate of around 28 percent for the last 25 years, Shenzen is now paying a huge cost in terms of environment destruction, soaring crime rate and exploitation of its working class, mainly migrants. Foreign investors were lured to Shenzen by cheap land, compliant labour laws and lax or ineffective environmental rules. In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme designated Shenzen as a 'global environmental hotspot', meaning a region that had suffered rapid environmental destruction.
There's more. According to Howard French, the New York Times bureau chief, most of the year, the Shenzen sky is thick with choking smoke, while the crime rate is almost nine-fold higher than Shanghai. The working class earns US$ 80 every month in the sweatshops and the turnover rate is 10 percent � many turn to prostitution after being laid off. Further, real-estate sharks have stockpiled houses which have caused prices to spiral and have created a new generation of people French calls "mortgage slaves" in an article in the International Herald Tribune on 17 December 2006.
Illustration: Farzana Cooper
The mindless pursuit of growth following the mode of high input, high consumption and low output has seriously impacted the environment. In 2004, China consumed 4.3 times as much coal and electricity as the United States and 11.5 times as much as Japan to generate each US$1 worth of GNP, according to the The Taipei Times. Some 20 per cent of the population lives in severely polluted areas (Science in Society) and 70 percent of the rivers and lakes are in a grim shape (People�s Daily). Around 60 per cent of companies that have set up industries in the country violate emission rules. According to the World Bank, environmental problems are the cause of some 300,000 people dying each year. The Chinese government has admitted that pollution costs the country a staggering $200 billion a year - about 10 per cent of its GDP.
While export-driven policy for economic growth has helped China touch record growth figures, the income gap is widening and rapidly approaching the levels of some Latin American countries. Going by a recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China's Gini coefficient � a measure of income distribution where zero means perfect equality and 1 is maximum inequality � touched 0.496 in the year 2006. In comparison, income inequality figures are 0.33 in India, 0.41 in the US and 0.54 in Brazil. Further, the rural-urban income divide is staggering � annual income of city dwellers in China is around US $1,000 which is more than three times that of their rural counterparts.
In certain areas such as asset distribution or years of schooling China's levels of inequity are lower (i.e., more favourable) than India. However, when one looks at it at the aggregate level, the picture is different.
The levels of inequity in China have been rising through the last three decades, whether between rural and urban, within them, or on an aggregate basis.
According to Zhu Ling, between 1978 and 1995, the Gini coefficient of rural income increased from 0.21 to 0.34 and that of the urban from 0.16 to 0.28.
With the economy opening up rapidly post-1995 and also due the massive concessions that China was forced to make in order to join the WTO, the trend continues and the aggregate Gini coefficient in 2006 was around 0.5.
• SEZs: Invitation to chaos
• High cost of easy forex
It is in this backdrop that India's SEZ thrust must be seen. Following China, India is replicating a similar model where vast tracts of agricultural land are being acquired for creating SEZs and other industries. The September 2005 notification on Environment Impact Assessment is lax for industrial estates, including SEZs, and apprehensions of dirty industries coming up in these zones are quite real. Further, with drastic changes in labour laws favouring industry being considered, the plight of workers in these SEZs will be similar to those in China. Such a mode of development is environmentally unsustainable and socially undesirable.
Further, it is now widely acknowledged that Chinese exports have also been boosted by its undervalued currency, something which Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, terms as an "effective subsidy". This is a luxury that Indian exporters do not enjoy. The argument for setting up SEZs to emulate China's export-led growth is therefore questionable.
Is export-driven growth through SEZs desirable for India?
There is no doubt that exports play a significant role in boosting GDP. However in the case of a country with a sizeable domestic market, the choice lies with the producer to either export or supply to the domestic market. Ila Patnaik of the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy wrote in the The Indian Express in December 2006 that household consumption in India at 68 percent of the GDP is much higher that that of China at 38 percent, Europe at 58 percent and Japan at 55 percent. This is an important source of strength for the domestic manufacturing industry of India.
Given the high level of consumption of Indian households, it is quite possible that this rush is fuelled not by the desire to export out of the country but by the possibility of exporting from SEZs into the Domestic Tariff Area (DTA). The SEZ Act is also designed to facilitate this. Any unit within the SEZ can export to the DTA, after paying the prevailing duty, as long as it is a net foreign exchange earner for three years. It is therefore a win-win situation for these units.
The sops in a SEZ will reduce the cost of capital while labour reforms will ensure trouble-free operations. Further, given the considerable international pressure to reduce industrial tariffs, SEZs will be able to export to the DTA at highly competitive prices. This does not augur well for units outside the SEZs who will now face unfair competition. As cheaper imports have already played havoc with the livelihoods of artisan sector of the economy, cheaper imports into DTA from SEZs will also adversely affect the domestic industry. No wonder many of them now want to migrate into SEZs.
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In a country with 65 percent of the population depending on agriculture as a means of livelihood, industry ought to be complementary to agriculture. Through SEZs however, industry is being promoted at the cost of agriculture. Valuable resources spent to create SEZs will be at the cost of building better infrastructure for the rest of the country, something that will affect both the domestic industry as well as agriculture.
Other lessons India could learn from China: Welfare
While the Chinese experience with export-driven economic growth definitely offers many sobering lessons, there are many other areas where India can learn from China. China has initiated a series of measures to arrest social tensions and rising inequality in rural areas. In April 2004, the State Council, China's cabinet, halted the ratification of farmland for other uses and started to rectify the national land market. The Minister of Agriculture, Du Quinglin, promised "not to reduce acreage of basic farmland, change its purpose or downgrade its quality".
China also abolished agricultural tax in 2006 and increased subsidy for food grain production by 10 percent. To boost rural income, the selling price of grain was increased by 60 percent in 2005. In 2004, out of a total 900 million farmers in China, 600 million received US$ 1.5 billion (Rs.6,630 crores approximately) as direct subsidies. 52 million of the Chinese farmers have joined in the rural old-age insurance system and 2.2 million received pensions in 2005. More than 80 million farmers had participated in the rural cooperative medical service system by the end of 2004, and 12.57 million rural needy people had drawn allowances guaranteeing the minimum living standard by the end of 2005.
India, on the other hand, either does not have any of these safety nets or is in the process of dismantling the few that exist. There is much to learn as well as unlearn from the Chinese experience. Until that is done, millions of poor across the country will be made to pay an even higher price than the Chinese did for following this flawed approach. ⊕
9 Feb 2007
The writer is with the New Delhi based Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security.
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* Posted by Samir Suneja,
Well Bahskar ..well said ..but the catch is that ...you save the country or yourself...you would like to live a 30 year good life or would you like to conrtibute to the countries definitely say a 2000 year life ... the whole value system is degrading and this is only a fallout, that India as a country seems to be on this way ..
* Posted by Sridhar R,
Very timely article - Bhaskar. The hype of the SEZ's in China we knew was more an argument of convenience. The proponents of this model, have always been taking such examples, and then refuse to tell what is the other side of the story. And in this other side there will always be the poor, the marginalised, the farmers, workers - who form the losing class. Then the State will run a "shining" campaign that eventually gets demolished at the end of five years of elected government. Lets hope that "politicians" like Sonia Gandhi, Veerappa Moily, Pranab Mukherjee et al take back the reins of the government from "bureaucrats" like Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Kamalnath and Ahluwalia's. Not that Politicians were better off (like Budhadeb) but atleast they eventually have to come back to the people. Yes ! I do sound like I still have some hope in people's democracy !!
* Posted by Yeshwanth Pai,
The article is an eyeopener for the policy makers in Delhi and perhaps elsewhere in the world, who are keen on following SEZ models. Policy makers should consider whether their own children in 30 years' time will have to face and be victimsed for the social evils their policies would have caused.
* Posted by Prakash M Apte,
There is no doubt that the concept of SEZ whether the Chinese or any other model is totally unnecessary in India. Yet it has found favour with the national and state governments. Why? Because it is the best way to camoflauge land grab for the developers in the garb of economic development.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
'It’s outright war and both sides are choosing their weapons'
Chhattisgarh. Jharkhand. Bihar. Andhra Pradesh. Signposts of fractures gone too far with too little remedy. Arundhati Roy in conversation with Shoma Chaudhury on the violence rending our heartland
Singur and Nandigram make you wonder — is the last stop of every revolution advanced capitalism?
There is an atmosphere of growing violence across the country. How do you read the signs? In what context should it be read?
You don’t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrialising Western countries, which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonise ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in independent India — the secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They’ve managed to commandeer the resources, the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines — supertoys for the new supercitizens of the new superpower. So it’s outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for structural adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the ‘friendly’ corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down people’s throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger strikes, satyagraha, the courts and what they thought was friendly media. But now more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the ‘growth rate’ and the Sensex are going to be the only barometers the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters, is this: the shit has hit the fan, folks.
You once remarked that though you may not resort to violence yourself, you think it has become immoral to condemn it, given the circumstances in the country. Can you elaborate on this view?
I’d be a liability as a guerrilla! I doubt I used the word ‘immoral’ — morality is an elusive business, as changeable as the weather. What I feel is this: non-violent movements have knocked at the door of every democratic institution in this country for decades, and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The nba had a lot going for it — high-profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to rethink strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it’s time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media? Are hunger strikes umbilically linked to celebrity politics? Would anybody care if the people of Nangla Machhi or Bhatti mines went on a hunger strike? Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for six years. That should be a lesson to many of us. I’ve always felt that it’s ironic that hunger strikes are used as a political weapon in a land where most people go hungry anyway. We are in a different time and place now. Up against a different, more complex adversary. We’ve entered the era of NGOs — or should I say the era of paltu shers — in which mass action can be a treacherous business. We have demonstrations which are funded, we have sponsored dharnas and social forums which make militant postures but never follow up on what they preach. We have all kinds of ‘virtual’ resistance. Meetings against SEZs sponsored by the biggest promoters of SEZs. Awards and grants for environmental activism and community action given by corporations responsible for devastating whole ecosystems. Vedanta, a company mining bauxite in the forests of Orissa, wants to start a university. The Tatas have two charitable trusts that directly and indirectly fund activists and mass movements across the country. Could that be why Singur has drawn so much less flak than Nandigram? Of course the Tatas and Birlas funded Gandhi too — maybe he was our first NGO. But now we have NGOs who make a lot of noise, write a lot of reports, but whom the sarkar is more than comfortable with. How do we make sense of all this? The place is crawling with professional diffusers of real political action. ‘Virtual’ resistance has become something of a liability.
Anyone listening? nobody
Abhinandita D. Mathur
We are in the era of sponsored dharnas and NGOs the sarkar is comfortable with. The place is crawling with professional diffusers of real political action
There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgements that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away. A recent Supreme Court judgement, allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances, said in so many words that the questions of corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise! In the ERA of corporate globalisation, corporate land-grab, in the ERA of Enron and Monsanto, Halliburton and Bechtel, that’s a loaded thing to say. It exposes the ideological heart of the most powerful institution in this country. The judiciary, along with the corporate press, is now seen as the lynchpin of the neo-liberal project.
In a climate like this, when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be eventually humiliated, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary — violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of the violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colours fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair, should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a dharna and sung songs, the West Bengal government would have backed down? We are living in times when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.
You have been travelling a lot on the ground — can you give us a sense of the trouble spots you have been to? Can you outline a few of the combat lines in these places?
Huge question — what can I say? The military occupation of Kashmir, neo-fascism in Gujarat, civil war in Chhattisgarh, mncs raping Orissa, the submergence of hundreds of villages in the Narmada Valley, people living on the edge of absolute starvation, the devastation of forest land, the Bhopal victims living to see the West Bengal government re-wooing Union Carbide — now calling itself Dow Chemicals — in Nandigram. I haven’t been recently to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, but we know about the almost hundred thousand farmers who have killed themselves. We know about the fake encounters and the terrible repression in Andhra Pradesh. Each of these places has its own particular history, economy, ecology. None is amenable to easy analysis. And yet there is connecting tissue, there are huge international cultural and economic pressures being brought to bear on them. How can I not mention the Hindutva project, spreading its poison sub-cutaneously, waiting to erupt once again? I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture, a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people — human scavengers — earn their living carrying several kilos of other people’s shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some f***ing superpower this.
How does one view the recent State and police violence in Bengal?
No different from police and State violence anywhere else — including the issue of hypocrisy and doublespeak so perfected by all political parties including the mainstream Left. Are Communist bullets different from capitalist ones? Odd things are happening. It snowed in Saudi Arabia. Owls are out in broad daylight. The Chinese government tabled a bill sanctioning the right to private property. I don’t know if all of this has to do with climate change. The Chinese Communists are turning out to be the biggest capitalists of the 21st century. Why should we expect our own parliamentary Left to be any different? Nandigram and Singur are clear signals. It makes you wonder — is the last stop of every revolution advanced capitalism? Think about it — the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Vietnam War, the anti-apartheid struggle, the supposedly Gandhian freedom struggle in India… what’s the last station they all pull in at? Is this the end of imagination?
The might of the gun: The Maoists march during their Ninth Convention in Chhattisgarh
These are times when to be ineffective is to support the status quo. And being effective comes at a terrible price
The Maoist attack in Bijapur — the death of 55 policemen. Are the rebels only the flip side of the State?
How can the rebels be the flip side of the State? Would anybody say that those who fought against apartheid — however brutal their methods — were the flip side of the State? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought colonial regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we are all forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything. However pristine we would like to be, however hard we polish our halos, the tragedy is that we have run out of pristine choices. There is a civil war in Chhattisgarh sponsored, created by the Chhattisgarh government, which is publicly pursing the Bush doctrine: if you’re not with us, you are with the terrorists. The lynchpin of this war, apart from the formal security forces, is the Salva Judum — a government-backed militia of ordinary people forced to take up arms, forced to become spos (special police officers). The Indian State has tried this in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. Tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured, thousands have disappeared. Any banana republic would be proud of this record. Now the government wants to import these failed strategies into the heartland. Thousands of adivasis have been forcibly moved off their mineral-rich lands into police camps. Hundreds of villages have been forcibly evacuated. Those lands, rich in iron-ore, are being eyed by corporations like the Tatas and Essar. mous have been signed, but no one knows what they say. Land acquisition has begun. This kind of thing happened in countries like Colombia — one of the most devastated countries in the world. While everybody’s eyes are fixed on the spiralling violence between government-backed militias and guerrilla squads, multinational corporations quietly make off with the mineral wealth. That’s the little piece of theatre being scripted for us in Chhattisgarh.
Of course it’s horrible that 55 policemen were killed. But they’re as much the victims of government policy as anybody else. For the government and the corporations they’re just cannon fodder — there’s plenty more where they came from. Crocodile tears will be shed, prim TV anchors will hector us for a while and then more supplies of fodder will be arranged. For the Maoist guerrillas, the police and spos they killed were the armed personnel of the Indian State, the main, hands-on perpetrators of repression, torture, custodial killings, false encounters. They’re not innocent civilians — if such a thing exists — by any stretch of imagination.
We were here: After the Jehanabad jailbreak
I have no doubt that the Maoists can be agents of terror and coercion too. I have no doubt they have committed unspeakable atrocities. I have no doubt they cannot lay claim to undisputed support from local people — but who can? Still, no guerrilla army can survive without local support. That’s a logistical impossibility. And the support for Maoists is growing, not diminshing. That says something. People have no choice but to align themselves on the side of whoever they think is less worse.
But to equate a resistance movement fighting against enormous injustice with the government which enforces that injustice is absurd. The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence — revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.
‘Naxals’, ‘Maoists’, ‘outsiders’: these are terms being very loosely used these days.
‘Outsiders’ is a generic accusation used in the early stages of repression by governments who have begun to believe their own publicity and can’t imagine that their own people have risen up against them. That’s the stage the CPM is at now in Bengal, though some would say repression in Bengal is not new, it has only moved into higher gear. In any case, what’s an outsider? Who decides the borders? Are they village boundaries? Tehsil? Block? District? State? Is narrow regional and ethnic politics the new Communist mantra? About Naxals and Maoists — well… India is about to become a police state in which everybody who disagrees with what’s going on risks being called a terrorist. Islamic terrorists have to be Islamic — so that’s not good enough to cover most of us. They need a bigger catchment area. So leaving the definition loose, undefined, is effective strategy, because the time is not far off when we’ll all be called Maoists or Naxalites, terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, and shut down by people who don’t really know or care who Maoists or Naxalites are. In villages, of course, that has begun — thousands of people are being held in jails across the country, loosely charged with being terrorists trying to overthrow the state. Who are the real Naxalites and Maoists? I’m not an authority on the subject, but here’s a very rudimentary potted history.
We are coming: A demonstration against the acquisition of land in Singur
The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. The government is responsible for the situations it creates
The Communist Party of India, the CPI, was formed in 1925. The CPI (M), or what we now call the CPM — the Communist Party Marxist — split from the CPI in 1964 and formed a separate party. Both, of course, were parliamentary political parties. In 1967, the CPM, along with a splinter group of the Congress, came to power in West Bengal. At the time there was massive unrest among the peasantry starving in the countryside. Local CPM leaders — Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar — led a peasant uprising in the district of Naxalbari which is where the term Naxalites comes from. In 1969, the government fell and the Congress came back to power under Siddhartha Shankar Ray. The Naxalite uprising was mercilessly crushed — Mahasweta Devi has written powerfully about this time. In 1969, the CPI (ML) — Marxist Leninist — split from the CPM. A few years later, around 1971, the CPI (ML) devolved into several parties: the CPM-ML (Liberation), largely centred in Bihar; the CPM-ML (New Democracy), functioning for the most part out of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar; the CPM-ML (Class Struggle) mainly in Bengal. These parties have been generically baptised ‘Naxalites’. They see themselves as Marxist Leninist, not strictly speaking Maoist. They believe in elections, mass action and — when absolutely pushed to the wall or attacked — armed struggle. The MCC — the Maoist Communist Centre, at the time mostly operating in Bihar — was formed in 1968. The PW, People’s War, operational for the most part in Andhra Pradesh, was formed in 1980. Recently, in 2004, the MCC and the pw merged to form the CPI (Maoist) They believe in outright armed struggle and the overthrowing of the State. They don’t participate in elections. This is the party that is fighting the guerrilla war in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
The Indian State and media largely view the Maoists as an “internal security” threat. Is this the way to look at them?
I’m sure the Maoists would be flattered to be viewed in this way.
The Maoists want to bring down the State. Given the autocratic ideology they take their inspiration from, what alternative would they set up? Wouldn’t their regime be an exploitative, autocratic, violent one as well? Isn’t their action already exploitative of ordinary people? Do they really have the support of ordinary people?
I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that both Mao and Stalin are dubious heroes with murderous pasts. Tens of millions of people were killed under their regimes. Apart from what happened in China and the Soviet Union, Pol Pot, with the support of the Chinese Communist Party (while the West looked discreetly away), wiped out two million people in Cambodia and brought millions of people to the brink of extinction from disease and starvation. Can we pretend that China’s cultural revolution didn’t happen? Or that millions of people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were not victims of labour camps, torture chambers, the network of spies and informers, the secret police. The history of these regimes is just as dark as the history of Western imperialism, except for the fact that they had a shorter life-span. We cannot condemn the occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir while we remain silent about Tibet and Chechnya. I would imagine that for the Maoists, the Naxalites, as well as the mainstream Left, being honest about the past is important to strengthen people’s faith in the future. One hopes the past will not be repeated, but denying that it ever happened doesn’t help inspire confidence… Nevertheless, the Maoists in Nepal have waged a brave and successful struggle against the monarchy. Right now, in India, the Maoists and the various Marxist-Leninist groups are leading the fight against immense injustice here. They are fighting not just the State, but feudal landlords and their armed militias. They are the only people who are making a dent. And I admire that. It may well be that when they come to power, they will, as you say, be brutal, unjust and autocratic, or even worse than the present government. Maybe, but I’m not prepared to assume that in advance. If they are, we’ll have to fight them too. And most likely someone like myself will be the first person they’ll string up from the nearest tree — but right now, it is important to acknowledge that they are bearing the brunt of being at the forefront of resistance. Many of us are in a position where we are beginning to align ourselves on the side of those who we know have no place for us in their religious or ideological imagination. It’s true that everybody changes radically when they come to power — look at Mandela’s anc. Corrupt, capitalist, bowing to the imf, driving the poor out of their homes — honouring Suharto, the killer of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Communists, with South Africa’s highest civilian award. Who would have thought it could happen? But does this mean South Africans should have backed away from the struggle against apartheid? Or that they should regret it now? Does it mean Algeria should have remained a French colony, that Kashmiris, Iraqis and Palestinians should accept military occupation? That people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can’t find saints to lead them into battle?
Is there a communication breakdown in our society?
Mar 31 , 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
The President of India
“I have three visions for India.
In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and
invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards.
The Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone. We have not grabbed their land, their culture, their history and tried to enforce our way of life on them.
Why? Because we respect the freedom of others. That is why my first vision is that of FREEDOM. I believe that India got its first vision of this in 1857, when we started the war of independence. It is this freedom that we must protect and nurture and build on. If we are not free, no one will respect us.
My second vision for India is DEVELOPMENT. For fifty years we have been a
developing nation. It is time we see ourselves as a developed nation. We are
among top 5 nations of the world in terms of GDP. We have 10 percent growth
rate in most areas. Our poverty levels are falling. Our achievements are being
globally recognized today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a
developed nation, self- reliant and self-assured. Isn’t this incorrect?
I have a THIRD vision.
India must stand up to the world. Because I believe that, unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. Only strength respects strength. We must be strong not only as a military power but also as an economic power. Both must go hand-in-hand. My good fortune was to have worked with three great minds. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Dept. of space, Professor Satish Dhawan, who succeeded him and Dr.Brahm Prakash, father of nuclear material. I was lucky to have worked with all three of them closelyand consider this the great opportunity of my life.
I see four milestones in my career:
Twenty years I spent in ISRO. I was given the opportunity to be the project director for India’s first satellite launch vehicle, SLV3. The one that launched Rohini. These years played a very important role in my life of Scientist.
After my ISRO years, I joined DRDO and got a chance to be the part of India’s guided missile program. It was my second bliss when Agni met its mission requirements in 1994.
The Dept. of Atomic Energy and DRDO had this tremendous partnership in the recent nuclear tests, on May 11 and 13. This was the third bliss. The joy of participating with my team in these nuclear tests and proving to the world that India can make it, that we are no longer a developing nation but one of them. It made me feel very proud as an Indian. The fact that we have now developed for Agni a re-entry structure, for which we have developed this new material. A Very light material called carbon-carbon. One day an orthopedic surgeon from Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences visited my laboratory. He lifted the material and found it so light that he took me to his hospital and showed me his patients. There were these little girls and boys with heavy metallic calipers weighing over three Kg. each, dragging their feet around. He said to me: Please remove the pain of my patients. In three weeks, we made these Floor reaction Orthosis 300-gram Calipers and took them to the orthopedic center. The children didn’t believe their eyes. From dragging around a three kg. Load on their legs, they could now move around! Their parents had tears in their eyes. That was my fourth bliss!
Why is the media here so negative? Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them.
We are the first in milk production.
We are number one in Remote sensing satellites.
We are the second largest producer of wheat.
We are the second largest producer of rice.
Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village into a self-sustaining,
self driving unit. There are millions of such achievements but our media is only
obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters.
I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture Of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert land into an orchid and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news.
In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so
NEGATIVE ? Another question: Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? We want foreign TVs, we want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with everything imported. Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance?
I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for my
autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is. She replied:
I want to live in a developed India. For her, you and I will have to build this
developed India. You must proclaim. India is not an under-developed nation; it is
a highly developed nation.
Do you have 10 minutes? Allow me to come back with a vengeance. Got 10 minutes for your country? If yes, then read; otherwise, choice is yours.
YOU say that our government is inefficient.
YOU say that our laws are too old.
YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage. YOU say that the phones don’t work, the railways are a joke, The airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination.
YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits.
YOU say, say and say.
What do YOU do about it?
Take a person on his way to Singapore. Give him a name - YOURS. Give him a
face - OURS. YOU walk out of the airport and you are at your International best.
In Singapore you don’t throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores.
YOU are as proud of their Underground Links as they are.
You pay $5 (approx. Rs.60) to drive through Orchard Road (equivalent of Mahim
Causeway or Pedder Road) between 5 PM and 8 PM. YOU comeback to the Parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity.
In Singapore you don’t say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn’t dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai. YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs.650) a month to, “see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else.” YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, “Jaanta hai sala main kaun hoon (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so’s son. Take your two bucks and get lost.”
YOU wouldn’t chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand. Why don’t YOU spit Paan on the streets of Tokyo?
Why don’t YOU use examination jockeys or buy fake certificates in Boston? We are still talking of the same YOU. YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own. You who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Indian ground. If you can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country, why cannot you be the same here in India?
Once in an interview, the famous Ex-municipal commissioner of Bombay, Mr.Tinaikar, had a point to make. “Rich people’s dogs are walked on the streets to leave their affluent droppings all over the place,” he said. “And then the same people turn around to criticize and blame the authorities for inefficiency and dirty pavements. What do they expect the officers to do? Go down with a broom every time their dog feels the pressure in his bowels?
In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job. Same in Japan. Will the Indian citizen do that here?” He’s right. We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility. We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick a up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin. We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms.
We want Indian Airlines and Air India to provide the best of food and toiletries but
we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity.
This applies even to the staff who is known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, girl child and others, we make loud drawing room Protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse? “It’s the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if I alone forego my sons’ rights to a dowry.” So who’s going to change the system?
What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbors, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But definitely not me and YOU. When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr. Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand or we leave the country and run away.
Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory
and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England. When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf. When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Indian government. Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country.
Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money.
Dear Indians, The article is highly thought inductive, calls for a great deal of introspection and pricks one’s conscience too....I am echoing J.F.Kennedy’s words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians.....
“ASK WHAT WE CAN DO FOR INDIA AND DO WHAT HAS TO BE DONE TO MAKE INDIA WHAT AMERICA AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES ARE TODAY”
Lets do what India needs from us. Forward this mail to each Indian for a change instead of sending Jokes or junk mails.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
March 3, 2007
JN. Srivastava of Ghaziabad has collected data on predictions made by our leading astrologers which turned out to be false. Some of it makes amusing reading. In its annual forecast published by The Times of India in its January issue of 2004, it predicted that Aishwarya Rai would marry Vivek Oberoi by the end of the year. She is still unmarried and is engaged to marry not Oberoi but Abhishek Bachchan some time this year. When Karisma Kapoor married, Bejan Daruwala predicted she would make an ideal wife: "She got Raja Hindustani and he got Biwi Number One," he pronounced. A month later Karisma hauled up her newly wedded husband to court and gave him a tongue-lashing before the Judge. Both are back in happy matrimony. But you have to give it to Daruwala, he lends religious sanction to his predictions by chanting 'Sri Ganeshaya Namah'. He is a Parsi.
Not to be forgotten are prophecies made about the end of the BJP-led government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was predicted it would be back in power before the end of 2004. There are as yet no signs of it doing so. Such false prophecies are on the menus of star-gazers' restaurants every day, but have failed to fill the bellies of our multitudes which continue to hunger for them. Their champion, Murli Manohar Joshi, remains unfazed. When asked after losing his election, if he still believed in astrology, he replied emphatically 'certainly' (pronounced in Almora accent 'suttonly'). The same is true of T.N. Seshan, former head of the Election Commission who failed in his bid to become Rashtrapati, but remains unshaken in his belief in the divine messages sent down by the stars. So all kinds of irrationality thrives: changes of spellings of names (Jayalalitha to Jayalalithaa, Shobha De to Shobhaa De) altering ingresses to homes and offices and turning around furniture etc, according to Vastu. Unreason manifests itself in numerous ways. Even reminding people that most of our great leaders like Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru disdained astrology as superstition, makes no difference. There are other examples of enlightenment which we should keep in mind. When A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was to be sworn in as President and asked to suggest an auspicious day, he replied in his gentle manner: "Days and nights are formed by rotation of earth on its axis. So long as the earth rotates, each day and every moment is auspicious for filing nominations for Supreme Commander of the Indian Army."
Dr J.V. Narliker, equally eminent Indian scientist in the realm of astronomy, blasted astrological forecasts based on eclipses of the sun. He said, "Eclipses are mere shadows and don't effect human life in any way. The grounds on which the original beliefs were based have long been debunked." It might be worth remembering that on August 15, 2001, while M.M. Joshi was still lauding Vedic astrology and mathematics, 128 scientists signed a declaration in
Has the kind of debunking made any difference to astrologers and people who have horoscopes cast on birth to guide them in choosing careers, life-partners or gauging their spans of life. Reason and logic cannot pierce the skulls of the thick-headed; they remain thick-headed to the last even though they manage to live longer than predicted in their horoscopes.
Friday, March 09, 2007
March 08, 2007
In the second part of his interview to Managing Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt, he says the key for Dalit success and emancipation is English, and only English.
Something good about your identity, community and culture will also vanish by abandoning your language.
What is my identity? What is worth preserving in us? See, after we unveiled the goddess of English, critics said that the English-speaking Dalits will get distanced from the traditional knowledge system. I want to say clearly that the entire fight of the Dalit movement is to somehow get rid of the traditional knowledge system and occupation.
Like, the dhobis (washermen) of India have profound and exceptional knowledge of creating detergents from the dung of donkeys. It's a complicated process. Do you think those Dalits enjoy making detergent from dung? I want to tell these people -- who are against us in our endeavour to know English -- let us exchange our knowledge system.
You give us teaching jobs and other decent jobs and you take the knowledge of donkey dung. Without any training, without going to school or colleges or without learning from skilled teachers, Dalits can skin a dead cow in an hour without messing up or cutting various parts of the body. It is (skinning of dead animals) a real art acquired with profound knowledge of the body science of animals.
We want to gift our talent to other castes. You require exceptional level of human patience if you collect human shit in your bare hands and don't vomit. Dalits have been doing it for ages. Please take this knowledge immediately and allow us to go to CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies)!
Alok Rai, the Hindi legend Premchand's grandson, has also protested against Dalits abandoning ethnic languages. He is a professor of English at Delhi University. He has a dog named Rocky. He talks to his dog only in English. Even his dog understands English and he doesn't want Dalits to know English. What hypocrisy!
Don't you agree that Indian languages have their own beauty and are reflecting Indian ethos and culture? What will happen to it once the whole of India abandons ethnic languages?
Those in India today who are considered advanced are generally those who have distanced themselves from their traditions and culture. They know that Western societies are a cradle of modern civilisation, technology and science. Indians should adopt Western society's idea of equality, modern science and knowledge.
Aren't you late? The arguments are coming up that Asian values are better and more tolerant than Western values. Asia is rising and Westerners are readying themselves to learn from Asia, also.
That's the beauty of Western societies. They have magnanimity to accept if something is better than their own system.
How do you see Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? He is on the top and his competitor's knowledge of English or lack of it didn't help them. Dr Singh's human qualities took him to the top.
Let me ask you differently. Measure India's progress in the IT sector after deleting English from India's map. English helps in some way or other.
But you are making a political issue of language. Those IT guys, both, Brahmins and Dalits, know English as well as their mother tongue. In Silicon Valley they have transformed and transplanted Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati culture.
It was made possible because they know English! English is the key factor behind their success in Silicon Valley.
So you want to say that in today's India people who know English are respected more?
So, why don't you fight against this false value system that gives prominence to English in a non-English country?
If Brahmins, who traditionally dominated society and were considered equal to God, do not know good English, they are not respected today.
So, the problem doesn't lie in you being Dalit but something is terribly wrong in the standards of Indian society, right?
But, that will not make non-English speaking Brahmins fall below the untouchables in Indian society. Dalits have a double disadvantage, that's my point. I think acceptance of the supremacy of English is a grim reality. It's not a wrong thing to do.
Even when a passerby on Indian roads overhears someone speaking in English he respects him more than other guys. This recognition will help in nation building.
Let all Indian languages wither away and let all Indians speak English by 2060 or so. Many of the regional problems will disappear. The fights between Kannada and Telugu or Tamil will be solved. India will be a better nation.
You are describing a horror scene!
(Laughs heartily) Indian languages are oppressive. Since the last thousand years or so Indian culture and languages have been oppressive. Many great social reformers have come and gone but the caste system still exists.
In the last 60 years, Dalits who knew English only they have been successful. I believe that the British Empire came to India too late and left too early.
Without England, India would have been 20 republics by now and not better than the Afghanistan of today.
Because of the British, India has the first-run advantage of having a modern education system, the system of Railways which binds the Indian subcontinent as a nation. Britishers gave us the postal service, canal and water system while the princely states built only palaces.
What the British got for us was casteless and it was for the use of all sections.
Modern knowledge came to India via English. Check the syllabus of the Banaras Hindu University before English arrived.
Your nephew Captain Pradeep is giving away his one month's salary so that you can survive. Isn't it part of Indian family culture?
Giving -- an act of giving is not a part of Indian culture. The values of giving are unparalleled in the US and Germany. It is not true to say that only Indians have family culture.
How and when did you start this movement?
I was studying the facts about Dalit education. Why have Dalits remained illiterate?
I found at the Teen Murti library archives that not a single student was found in the indigenous education system barring Calcutta. This was so because all the schools were run inside the temple premises or inside the homes of Pandits.
There was no way a Dalit could enter a Brahmin's home or the temples at that time, in the 1850s.
The Muslims got education because learning centres were in madarssas or mosques.
Dalits were barred from there too. Only when the British started modern education in 1854 after Charles Wood's Dispatch, (popularly known as the 'Magna Carta' of English education. Wood gave clever recommendation for spread of British governance and education in India through English) did Macaulay's system came into force.
In 1857, the British announced that admission should not be denied on basis of caste, gender or class. There were riots in certain parts of India, people burnt schools. By 1890, the British had to start separate schools for untouchables. Some of which exist today, although, for different reasons.
Lord Macaulay is the man who also developed the Indian Penal Code and told Indians that everybody is equal before the law. Before him Brahmins used to get away with nominal penalty for a serious crime and for the same crime Dalits could be killed.
How successful are you in convincing Dalits to adopt English?
On the day of Lord Macaulay's birthday I said on the invitation letter that 'hereafter, any Dalit parents or their relatives who knows English should whisper A,B,C,D in the ear of a new-born child within two minutes of his or her birth and the first picture shown (to the child) should be of the English goddess.'
The child will not understand but the Dalit person will have a sense of responsibility to teach English to a newborn.
I believe India should adopt the American way of Affirmative Action, it should extend beyond government jobs. It should be extended in business and economy. Dr J J Irani is looking into the issue of reservation in private businesses.
I also recommend Dalit capitalism to integrate Dalits and non-Dalits as it happened in the US after the race riots. Americans have given a stake to Blacks in every walk of life. They are into a supplier-dealership chain.
For instance, army uniforms, Blacks may be given the order to supply buttons but they will have some contract. Infosys can make a commitment to get ink or paper from Dalits. GM has Black auto dealers. In America around 5 lakh couples are such where the husband is Black.
I believe, in India social contradictions are such that Dalits and Brahmins will come (together) on one platform. In villages, Dalits are tormented by OBCs and not Brahmins.
Kanshi Ram did everything possible to unite OBCs, Dalits and minorities but Muslims or OBCs didn't accept him as a leader, finally he figured out that it is these (OBCs and Muslims) people, whom he considered as the natural allies of Dalits, were tormenting the Dalits.
Brahmins have been thrown out of the political system so Mayawati has taken them into the Bahujan Samaj!
Do you want to kill Indian languages?
I don't want to kill it. I want a museum of Indian languages, culture and traditions.
Lock Indian culture in the museum. Let it go to the museum and let all of us speak English.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Four wasington times articles about India - please comment - OrissaTodayNetwork - A HindToday.com network member | Google Groups
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published February 26, 2007
*First of four parts.*
"Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbor's garden." -- Punjabi saying
PAONTA SAHIB, India -- By early afternoon, wedding festivities were well under way for Gagandeep Singh, 29, and Taranjeet Kaur, 26, in this touristy town in the Himalayan foothills of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
Mr. Singh, the groom, works at an American Express office near New Delhi. He is seated cross-legged in a large, gracious white Sikh temple overlooking the Nagar River. His ceremonial finery includes a dagger and ornate turban.
Beside him is his bride, her hands heavily hennaed with designs befitting a newly married woman. She is dressed in a magenta-colored gown and spends much of the ceremony gazing down at the floor. Nestled beside her like a flock of bright birds are female relatives dressed in brilliant jewel-colored tunics known as salwar kameez.
In front of the couple are Sikh priests. They alternately pray, sprinkle holy water on the crowd and instruct the couple to circle around a low-lying altar as a trio of musicians tap out rhythms on tabla drums and a harmonium.
Later, back at the wedding hall, the bride's father, Amarjit Singh, reveals he has given a refrigerator, TV, washing machine, clothes and a DVD player to the family of the groom.
"This is not dowry," he protests, "these are just gifts the father likes to give for his daughter."
Miss Kaur is his only daughter and later that evening, she sits in her family's living room as guest after guest shoves stacks of rupees into her purse. Eventually, a car pulls up containing the groom's family. Wailing and clutching her parents for the last time, she slowly marches toward the waiting car that will bear her 30 miles southward to Yamunanagar, the city where her new husband's family lives.
"Indian brides handle these partings with great theatrics, often wailing uncontrollably," observed American journalist Elisabeth Bumiller in her 1990 book on the trials of Indian women, "May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons."
"I decided this was the only rational response, given what was in store for many of them," she said.
*More boys than girls*
India is facing a shortage of women like Miss Kaur.
In most places in the world, a mother can find out the sex of her unborn child, but in India, it's illegal to do so. That is because if she's a female, there is a good chance she will never be born.
Roughly 6.7 million abortions occur yearly in India, but aborted girls outnumber boys by 500,000 -- or 10 million over the past two decades -- creating a huge imbalance between males and females in the world's largest democracy.
Ratios of men to women are being altered at an unprecedented rate in India and neighboring China, two countries which account for 40 percent of the world's population.
According to UNICEF, India produces 25 million babies a year. China produces 17 million. Together, these are one-third of the world's babies, so how their women choose to regulate births affects the globe.
Female infanticide -- whereby tiny girls were either poisoned, buried alive or strangled -- has existed for thousands of years in India. But its boy-to-girl ratio didn't begin to widen precipitously until the advent of the ultrasound, or sonogram, machine in the 1970s, enabling a woman to tell the sex of her child by the fourth month of her pregnancy.
That coupled with the legalization of abortion in 1971 made it possible to dispose of an unwanted girl without the neighbors even knowing the mother was pregnant. In 2001, 927 girls were born for every 1,000 boys, significantly below the natural birth rate of about 952 girls for every 1,000 boys.
In many regions, however, this imbalance has reached alarming levels and it continues to grow. In 2004, the New Delhi-based magazine Outlook reported, sex ratios in the capital had plummeted to 818 girls for every 1,000 boys, and in 2005 they had slipped to 814.
The issue is highly sensitive for the Indian government, which had given the nation's sex imbalance scant attention until this month.
"It is a matter of international and national shame for us that India, with [economic] growth of 9 percent still kills its daughters," Renuka Chowdhury, the Cabinet-level minister of state for women and child development told the Press Trust of India news agency in an interview that was widely published in the national press.
Mrs. Chowdhury announced plans to set up a nationwide network of orphanages where women can drop off unwanted daughters with no questions asked.
"We will bring up the children. But don't kill them because there really is a crisis situation," she says.
Yet the practice of "female feticide" is so widespread and deeply ingrained in the nation's psyche, scholars and activists fear that even the most vigorous attempts to combat it would require a lifetime or longer to restore nature's balance.
"There has always been a deficit of women: Infanticide, neglect or they're left to die if they are sick, but technology has accentuated it,"
says Prem Chowdhry, a New Delhi-based scholar and specialist on male-female relations in India. "The volume has grown. Culturally, these things are not new, but now they're taking a new shape."
Early this year, the British medical journal Lancet estimated the male-female gap at 43 million. Worldwide, Lancet said, there are 100 million "missing girls" who should have been born but were not. Fifty million of them would have been Chinese and 43 million would have been Indian. The rest would have been born in Afghanistan, South Korea, Pakistan and Nepal.
China gave an even bleaker assessment last month, with the government saying that its men will outnumber women in the year 2020 by 300 million.
One Geneva-based research center, in a 2005 update on the phenomenon, termed it "the slaughter of Eve."
"What we're seeing now is genocide," says Sabu George, a New Delhi-based activist. "We will soon exceed China in losing 1 million girls a year."
The date may already be here. In a report released Dec. 12, UNICEF said India is "missing" 7,000 girls a day or 2.5 million a year.
Although India has passed laws forbidding sex-specific abortions, legions of compliant doctors and lax government officials involved in India's $100 million sex-selection industry have made sure they are rarely enforced.
Several companies, notably General Electric Corp., have profited hugely from India's love affair with the ultrasound machine.
As a result, a new class of wifeless men are scouring eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal for available women. India, already a world leader in sex trafficking, is absorbing a new trade in girls kidnapped or sold from their homes and shipped across the country.
As sex-specific abortions increase, the destabilizing effects on Indian society are bound to greatly impact a country with expanding economic and strategic ties to the United States.
India's estimated $23 billion defense budget relies on military hardware from U.S. corporations, and the U.S. Congress voted in November to permit the sale of nuclear technology to the country.
In September, The Washington Times sent a reporter and photographer to spend three weeks in different parts of India chronicling this problem. They asked: What are the cultural reasons for this genocide? Why is the government allowing it? Who is fighting against it and what steps can be taken to stop it?
Sister Mary Scaria was one of two girls in a family of nine children. Dressed in an aqua-colored sari of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, the nun is also a lawyer and coordinator of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese's Justice & Peace Commission. In early 2006, she published "Woman: An Endangered Species?" which charged that "female feticide" is decimating half of the population.
She chiefly blames the dowry system, a Hindu marriage practice by which the groom's family demands enormous sums of money and goods from the bride's family as a condition for letting their son marry her.
"At a wedding, everyone looks to see how many bracelets the bride has and how much gold she has," the nun says. Dowries typically consist of gold and appliances, as well as substantial amounts of cash. Defenders of the system say that girls are often denied an inheritance in India; thus, what she gets at her wedding is in effect a savings account she can retain for
the rest of her life.
What actually happens is the groom's family pockets the dowry, the nun explains, and the payments don't stop there.
"When a wife has a baby in India, the wife's family has to pay for the hospital stay," Sister Mary says. "After the birth, they also have to bring gold and food for the new family, even new saris for all the relatives."
Some Indian castes even require that the bride's family pay her funeral expenses when she dies. Worse yet, the groom's family will often kill the bride in what's known as a "dowry death" if they think the dowry is too small.
Many families therefore elect to not have a girl at all. Medical clinics -- which Sister Mary calls "womb raiders" -- have advertised "better 500 rupees now [for an abortion] rather than 50,000 rupees later" [for a dowry].
The first amount is about $11; the second is $1,100.
Dowries are theoretically banned under the 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act, but enforcement is poor and other religious groups such as Muslims and Christians have been caught up in the custom.
Sister Mary says that if she were to get married, her Catholic family would have to pay up.
A Sept. 29 article in the Times of India front-paged its account of a Muslim family in New Delhi that dumped a new daughter-in-law within 24 hours after the wedding because the dowry was not big enough.
The groom said he wanted about $4,400 more "as well as a Pulsar [motor] bike," the bride told the newspaper.
It's a sultry evening and Ms. Chowdhry, dressed in an olive green salwar kameez, orange pants and gold bracelets, is reflecting on why the life of an Indian woman can be so miserable.
"First," says the New Delhi-based scholar, "girls can get killed for a number of reasons, including anything that brings dishonor. A girl can be killed before she is born. If she survives, she is forcibly married. If there's not enough dowry, she is killed."
She cites the Indian state of Haryana, just north of New Delhi, which has the country's second highest per capita income. It also has India's second worst sex ratio, after Punjab state to the west. For every 1,000 boys born in Haryana, just 820 girls were born, according to the 2001 census. In 1991, it was 879 girls.
Punjab is similarly wealthy; thus, instead of the poor killing their children, it's the rich, says Ms. Chowdhry, a former senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Institute and Library.
"Punjab and Haryana are the two highest per capita income states, but they have such regressive trends," she says. "How can they call themselves modern?"
India's caste system "is very basic to violence against women," she says. It is based on Hinduism, which teaches one's behavior in this life determines which caste one will be born into for the next life. Individuals are expected to marry within their caste.
Thus, the shortage of girls is a "huge problem" to men in Haryana and Punjab who wish to observe caste practices.
"In Haryana, 36 percent of the men between 15-45 are unmarried," she says. "In one district, it's 40 percent. Men who do not get married get more vicious."
Richer men will be able to get themselves wives; what's troubling to Ms. Chowdhry are the poorer men who are importing brides from India's poor eastern regions.
"These women are extensively sexually exploited," she says. "They do all the housework, manual and field work. Some of these women, once they are used by a man, they are passed on to another."
Pregnant women wishing to avoid having daughters who might suffer such a fate are desperate to find doctors who will tell them the sex of their children.
"Mobile vans have advertisements on them that a doctor is available,"
Ms. Chowdhry says. "They are innocuous, but everyone knows what's inside."
The city of Yamunanagar, population 300,000 located 130 miles north of New Delhi, is encircled by wheat and sugar cane fields, bisected by the Yamuna River and dotted with herds of black water buffalo.
The area north of New Delhi has the country's most severe shortages of
girls. In Yamunanagar alone, there are 30 doctors who will illegally abort a female child at the request of the parents, says Dr. Tajinder P. Singh, 45, a local radiologist.
He refuses to tell pregnant women the sex of their offspring after their ultrasound tests in his office in a Yamunanagar strip mall. And he reports the names of those doctors who do to the government.
In response, doctors refuse to refer their patients to him, his family has been physically threatened, and he was thrown out of the local branch of the Indian Medical Association.
Asked how he copes, he says: "My family is small, my house is small, my daughters don't ask for much money."
In New Delhi, one of the city's top obstetricians, Dr. Puneet Bedi, has likewise been blackballed by his associates for his stance against "female
"I can work only as a visiting consultant and only work at small
hospitals," he says sadly. "But that is the price you pay. Feticide is the
tip of the iceberg on medical malpractice here.
"Feticide was invented, touted and sold by the medical profession, and it operates with the complete consent of all factors of society," he says.
What keeps him going?
"Oh, nothing," he responds. "A lot of us are quite frustrated. I didn't choose to be an activist. But the amount of malpractice is so bad here -- either you get involved in it or you get desensitized to it. I know a lot of good doctors who do not practice it, but they also do not speak against it.
"Of my 10 first cousins in Punjab, no one has had a daughter in 10 years," he says. "You hope someone else would be stupid enough to produce a girl but not you."
By Julia Duin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published February 27, 2007
*Second of four parts*
"May you be the mother of a hundred sons" -- a Sanskrit blessing
KANPUR, India -- The best day of Varsha Hitkari's life was her wedding day when, dressed in a red sari with a gold veil and hennaed hands, she was presented to her new husband, Rakesh Kumar.
The ceremony eight years ago, accompanied by much festivity, featured a bride with a beautifully sculpted face who possessed degrees in sociology and law. The groom was a government official.
The bride's parents had to agree, as part of the dowry arrangement, to pay all the expenses of their grandchildren's births. The husband also demanded 100,000 rupees -- worth about $2,200 -- so he could buy an acre of land. Her parents refused to pay up, but they did provide a motorcycle.
As for the bride's in-laws, they wanted her to produce sons. In that, Mrs. Hitkari failed. Instead, she had two daughters: Himadri, now 5-1/2, and Pari, 18 months. Her husband began berating her, demanding more dowry. When Mrs. Hitkari put Himadri into a school, her mother-in-law criticized her for
educating a girl.
On July 23, Mrs. Hitkari's parents say, the mother-in-law and husband beat the woman senseless, then hanged her by a noose from a shower head. The bride's brother, Navneet Chandra, happened to drop by the home and, glancing through an open door to the bathroom, was horrified to see his sister hanging there.
While the brother was trying to free his sister from the noose, Mr. Kumar was pulling on his wife's legs to try to tighten its grip. Only when Mr. Chandra's shouts roused the neighbors did the tug of war stop.
Mrs. Hitkari remained in a coma for six weeks, her story the stuff of local newspaper headlines. She came home to her family Sept. 18, able to sit up but not stand. Her movements were feeble; she could not speak and appeared to have suffered brain damage.
The 30-year-old woman now sits in a stark bedroom at her parents' home, a blank expression in her brown eyes. Her daughters mill about, trying to attract her attention.
Her father, Ramesh Chandra, is retired and cannot afford $4,500 for the kind of physical therapy she will need to recover.
And despite widespread publicity, local police have not made any arrests.
*Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state with 166 million people, is one of the country's poorest and most-illiterate regions. Its largest city, Kanpur, is a fetid industrial metropolis of 2.6 million on the Ganges River, known for its leather tanneries, cotton mills and a military base. It has no public transportation, no middle class, no city garbage collection, no sidewalks and dismal air quality.
Even worse is the violence perpetuated on its women and unborn girls. Neelam Chaturvedi was 16 when she first noticed the way women in her neighborhood were beaten by their husbands. Then she read that a woman had been gang-raped by four men -- and the blame was placed on the victim. Miss
Chaturvedi's father, a trade union organizer, encouraged her to organize a women's group and, in 1981, she founded Mahila Manch, or Platform for Women.
Later, she co-founded Sakhi Kendra, or Circle of Friends, and turned it into a charity that occupies a three-story building not far from the town garbage dump. Sixty to 70 women contact them every day with horror stories.
First, there are the baby girls who, simply because they are female, are put on piles of dry grass and burned. Or they are placed in bags and fatally stabbed.
Then, there are the acid attacks. If a woman refuses a man's advances, he may throw sulfuric acid in her face, disfiguring her and rendering the woman unfit for marriage. Women are defenseless against such attacks as criminal prosecution is rare.
"The father doesn't kill the man who rapes his daughter; instead, they dispose of her," said Dr. Veronica Jacob, a volunteer with Sakhi Kendra.
"The thinking here is warped. Even if India has advanced far in technology, the mind-set has not changed."
Sahki Kendra is sheltering one doe-eyed young woman, Aradhana Rawat, 17, whose father would tie her to a bed and sexually abuse her. At one point, he tried to slit her throat with a machete. Tears pour down her face as she clutches a blue scarf and tells her story through a translator.
"My father said, 'If you tell others about this, I'll make sure others do the same thing to you,' " she remembers. A brother finally brought her to Sakhi Kendra.
Other cases brought to Sakhi Kendra include a mother who was told she must not feed her fourth daughter. Then there is the woman whose husband poured hot coals on her abdomen after she bore a daughter. And a wife who was tortured with cigarette butts by her husband because she bore only girls. Summoned to the scene, local police only took a report.
The fact that it's the man, not the woman, who contributes the Y chromosome that determines the child's sex, has not caught on.
Dr. Mamta Vyas, a gynecologist and president of Sakhi Kendra, constantly gets asked by pregnant women to determine the sex of their children. She knows that if she lets on the child is a girl, the woman will likely abort if she can find the money.
"Here in Uttar Pradesh, they're not satisfied with one boy," she says. "They want more. There is no limit. A lady would produce eight or nine girls while trying for a male child."
But no more. Ultrasound machines, by which one can discern the child's genitals after 90 days, have vastly reduced the number of girls born in the state until there are just 916 girls born for 1,000 boys. According to Outlook, a New Delhi magazine, the ratio in the city of Kanpur is worse with just 869 girls.
But sometimes the sonogram images are wrong, Dr. Vyas adds, "and the technologists, if they are not sure, will say it's a female child so they can make money on it."
The girls who are born often end up in orphanages like that run by Mother Teresa's Missionary Sisters of Charity on the outskirts of the city.
Of the 40 children there, 37 are girls and many are agonizingly small, their tiny bodies disturbingly still in wicker cribs, listless and unloved.
Will they be adopted? Dr. Vyas doubts it.
"In India, families want to pass on property to their own flesh and blood," she says.
Sakhi Kendra's work got some publicity in January 2006 when Outlook sent pregnant women to local clinics asking for illegal sonograms. The reporter found lines of women waiting for the service and all the radiologists booked solid.
Despite the mandatory government sign saying, "No sex determinational tests taken," only one refused to provide the service.
"I am the only person in Kanpur who is not involved in such murders," Dr. Vikas Gupta said.
Network of activists
India's skewed sex ratios have created a network of activists across India who transcend religion and caste. They are, however, split on the question of abortion in general, which is free in government hospitals.
"We do not mind abortions. We do not think all abortions are bad. I think some abortions help women," said Roop Rekha Verma, founder of Saajhi Duniya, a women's rights group in the Uttar Pradesh capital of Lucknow. "But we think sex-selective abortion is a crime."
Prem Chowdhry, a New Delhi-based scholar who studies male-female relations in north India, said the same.
"Abortion is not considered immoral here," she told an American reporter. "That's your debate."
Elizabeth Bumiller, a reporter who 17 years ago penned the book "May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons," pointed out this commonly made distinction.
"Was it intellectually consistent to be in favor of a woman's right to abortion yet opposed to sex-selective abortion?" she wrote. "Some Indian feminists referred to sex-selective abortion as 'female feticide' which made me wonder why they were not opposed to 'male feticide' as well."
Swami Agnivesh, a well-known New Delhi-based social activist and president of the World Council of Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement, opposes all abortion and places the blame for female feticide at the feet of his own faith.
"We in the religious world are most responsible," he says, seated in bright orange robes in his New Delhi office. "In all religions, women have been relegated to a second-class position.
"The Hindu religious establishment is completely rotted from within. It has moved away from the universal values of the Vedas and Upanishads [scriptures]. The caste system is a total distortion of the Vedas."
"The goddess worship in his culture is powerless to stop the killing," he said.
"How come in India where Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped the most, yet we are one of the poorest countries in the world?" he asks.
"God smiles on the United States and Europe but not on us."
The worship of Saraswati, goddess of learning, has likewise been ineffective.
"We have the most illiterate people on the planet," he says. "The real worship is to respect the girl child. The false goddesses are worshipped, and the real goddesses are slaughtered."
The best-known activist against female feticide, Sabu George, 48, was raised as a Syrian Orthodox Catholic in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
While studying for his master's degree at Johns Hopkins University's School of Public Health in Baltimore in the late 1980s, he investigated infanticide in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Starting in the early 1990s, he noticed that girls were not getting killed after birth so much as not being allowed to be born at all, thanks to the sonogram machine.
He tirelessly travels the country energizing activists, unencumbered by family. He dresses simply and carries an omnipresent black knapsack with his laptop. "I only work," he says with a smile.
He counts doctors among his worst enemies.
"In the West, unethical doctors are targeted," he says. "Here, it is the opposite. We have the trappings of the West with none of the ethics or the professionalism. In a feudal society like ours, there's no concept of the dignity of the worker."
One doctor he does admire is Puneet Bedi, a Sikh obstetrician who specializes in fetal medicine and high-risk pregnancy. Seated in a cafe outside Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in south New Delhi, Dr. Bedi says population-control groups in the West helped jump-start India's female feticides.
"Post World War II, the world had this concept of hyperbreeding in India," Dr. Bedi says. "Everyone felt there were too many people in Asia.
"If you saw the Malthusian projections from the 1950s, everyone thought India and China would take over the world. So it was birth control at any cost in India and China."
Several American foundations -- he specifies MacArthur, Ford and Packard -- sank money into Third World birth-control programs and predictably, India began its first family-planning program in 1952.
"But what they ran into was son preference," says Dr. Bedi. "Everyone had to have two sons in case one died. So the average family size remained at four or five children. The government was under pressure to do something."
The only way to control population was to somehow guarantee sons. By the 1970s, women could determine their child's sex through amniocentesis.
Although India outlawed this at government hospitals in 1979, "the private clinics had discovered this gold mine," he said. Ultrasound machines became popularized in the mid-1980s.
"Feticide was invented, touted and sold by the medical profession, and it operates with the complete consent of all factors of our society," Dr. Bedi says. "Abortion has been sold as a patriotic duty. So, killing female babies was an extension of that.
"At least in Europe and North America, there's some guilt connected with an abortion. Here, there's not. We call them 'coffee-bar abortions'; she comes in for an abortion and relaxes at a coffee bar afterwards," he says, waving an arm toward young couples gathered at nearby tables.
"By the early 1990s, no one who didn't want a daughter needed to have one."
Lots of stings, no
By Julia Duin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published February 28, 2007
*Third of four parts*
"In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent." -- Verse 5:148 in the Hindu laws of Manu
JAIPUR, India -- Meena Sharma, a 26-year-old freelance reporter, knew there were massive violations of government law forbidding doctors from telling pregnant women the sex of their unborn children and using abortion to eliminate unwanted girls.
She approached Shripal Shaktawat, Jaipur bureau chief of the Sahara Samay TV network, with an idea he could not refuse. What if she lined up several pregnant women with TV cameras hidden in their purses who would say their fetus was a girl and they wanted an abortion? Miss Sharma would go along, playing the part of the woman's aunt or mother-in-law.
"It was an emotional issue for me," said the reporter, who remembers as a 14-year-old seeing one of her pregnant aunts being instructed by a physician to abort the female fetus.
In nine episodes from April 4 to June 13, the TV network aired a 12-hour series, "Murder in the Womb." It was based on undercover visits to 140 health clinics in 36 cities in four Indian states: Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Doctors in 100 clinics either agreed to do a sex-determination test and abortion or gave referrals to other doctors who would. Both actions are illegal.
Mr. Shaktawat, who posed as a husband, and his "wife" would tell doctors they already had daughters and had no wish to birth any more.
"Now the baby has grown bigger and it will come out alive," Dr. Nidhi Malhotra from the city of Chittorgarh in south Rajasthan is shown saying in Hindi on the hidden video. "Will you kill it?"
That same video shows the doctor laughing as she levels a fee of 2,000 rupees (about $44) to abort a child in the seventh month of pregnancy.
It had taken Miss Sharma a year to compile the devastating report, which showed doctor after doctor on camera illegally urging the women -- all of whom were at least in their fifth month or more -- to abort their female offspring. Abortion is illegal in India after the 20th week unless there are threats to the mother's health.
The documentaries shamed the region's most prominent doctors. A group of physicians offered the station $34 million to cancel the series.
On April 14, the government filed charges against 21 Rajasthan doctors in the series -- but did not prosecute them. The Rajasthan Medical Council suspended the licenses of seven -- but allowed them to continue practicing.
Then in the early morning hours of April 18, a group of six men threw stones and broke windows at Mr. Shaktawat's home. He was away in New Delhi, but his family was told worse would happen to them if the series was not stopped.
Jaipur is known as India's "Pink City" for the luminous rose-colored buildings scattered across the Rajasthani desert and its majestic palaces and gardens. Many of the physicians who were shown on TV urging illegal abortions several months ago live in some of the city's most splendid suburbs.
The Washington Times visited the homes of four of the doctors, all of whom were said to either not be at home or not willing to talk with a reporter. As a reporter and photographer approached the Bhandari Hospital and Research Center, home base for Dr. Rekha Bhandari, a security guard at the entrance to the doctor's two-story home across the street picked up a phone. He said the doctor was not available.
This reporter also approached the gated home of Dr. Sheelu Jain, another doctor implicated in the sting operation as offering to abort a female fetus. She briefly appeared at her gate, then fled.
Dr. P.C. Ranka, who along with his wife was accused of giving an illegal referral to an abortion clinic, was just starting his evening office hours when The Times paid a visit to his home office.
"I am a medicine person," he protested. "I do not do gynecology."
Kavita Srivastava, a local lawyer and general secretary for the human rights organization People's Union for Civil Liberties, said it's no surprise so many doctors in Jaipur are guilty.
"The status of women is already low here because of the feudal Rajput
culture," she said, referring to the former ruling caste.
"There are traditions in Rajasthan of women committing johar which is mass suicide or sati where a widow throws herself onto her husband's funeral pyre. A woman's entire identity was subsumed by her husband. If he died, so must she."
Women who committed sati would have temples built in their honor, she added, and palaces in Rajasthan commonly have a wall displaying the last hand prints women left before they died.
"In a woman's death there was value," the activist said. "In her
survival, there never was value."
In Rajasthan's violent desert culture, baby girls were drowned in boiling milk or abandoned in a sand dune. Whole villages went decades without female children.
A 1994 law that forbids sex-selective abortions only regulates the medical profession; it does not address the anti-female cast of an entire culture, Ms. Srivastava said.
Currently, women-starved parts of western India are importing women. The best trafficking season, reports Supriya Awasthi, South Asia director for Free the Slaves, a New Delhi-based advocacy group, is in the summer during the monsoons, when people are most hungry and desperate.
Girls from Nepal and Bangladesh constitute 70 percent of all trafficked girls. Top Nepalese hubs are the capital Katmandu; Sindhupalchowk, a district north of Katmandu; and Makwanpur, which is east of the capital.
They end up at a slave market known as Phoolbagh in the Purnia district of Bihar, India's poorest state. Girls are then traded to circuses or loaded on trucks or trains bound for states like Punjab and Haryana, which have the country's worst male-female sex ratios.
Miss Awasthi particularly remembers one 12-year-old she ran into in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. She had been raped by five men and was three months pregnant. She had a baby boy, who died.
People go to huge lengths to unload their girl children, she said. "The government bans child marriage but nothing substantial has been done so far.
"The police can be moved to take action only if there is pressure from the local people who complain to local bureaucrats. Or a court can direct police to act. Or they will act out of pressure from the media."
The shortage of women here has opened the market for "paros," or trafficked women, purchased for 12,000 to 15,000 rupees, or $260 to $330.
Those under 14 go for less: 5,000 to 10,000 rupees, or $110 to $220.
Virendra Vidrohi, Rajasthan state organizer for the Campaign Against Child Labor, said trucks ply India's national highways working with agents who put in "orders."
"If a man wants a woman from Bihar," he said, "he'll contact his local agent and put down an advance, usually 5,000 rupees. The agent will then contact the truck owners who will contact their agents in Bihar or Andhra Pradesh," another eastern Indian state. Normally, it takes three to six months to get a woman. He estimates there are 15,000 paros in Mewat, a district of Rajasthan about 100 miles south of New Delhi.
Mr. Vidrohi, 44, who wears wire rims and his hair tied in a greying ponytail, oversees a group of five organizations made up of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Christian activists dedicated to helping poor women. For him, the Mewat region is the canary in the mine for the rest of India.
He is based in Alwar, a town of about 65,000, surrounded by villages where trafficked women live. The sex ratio here is a low 887 women to 1,000 men.
A half-hour's drive away through fields of mustard, millet and lentils turns up a desperately poor village of 422 families that has been afflicted by the local drought. There are 15 paros there. Mohammed Hanif, the local
imam in a white turban and a salt-and-pepper beard, admitted, "They are not treated the same as other women."
Two sisters: Kuraisha Khan, 30, and Nuraisha Khan, 25, were kidnapped from the Chatra district of Jharkhand, next to Bihar.
Kuraisha, the mother of two girls, is pregnant with her third child. She gets two meals a day, she said and was brought to Mewat by train and bus.
Nuraisha cradled a 1-year-old son in her arms.
"It was not her decision to come here," her older sister said, "it was her parents' decision."
Other women tell much the same story; usually it is a brother-in-law who arranges to have them and their sisters shipped far away from their home towns in eastern India. One is Sarbari Bano, 22, mother of two girls, who was brought in by train from Jharkhand. Wearing a light green veil and faded
blue dress, she is pregnant again.
"I want boys," she said.
Israel Khan, 26, is one of the few men present who admitted to importing a wife for 4,000 rupees, about $90.
"I was poor and couldn't get a wife here," he said. His paro, Rakshana Begum, squatted in the corner. She has given him two boys and three girls.
He is no longer poor now; he owns five water buffaloes and a cell phone; his home has whitewashed stone walls, a thatched roof, several beds, an electric fan and quilts hanging from the rafters.
Anguman Begum, 38, another paro, approached him for financial help. He ignored her. She was an orphan when her uncle brought her to Mewat at age 8. She was from the state of Assam, hundreds of miles to the northeast.
"I was crying," she remembered of her unhappy journey 30 years ago, "because I couldn't understand the language here. If I wanted to go back to Assam, there was no way to get there."
Now she has seven children and like it or not, Mewat is her home.
"But if I had the money," she said, "I'd go back."
GE machines used to break
By Julia Duin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published March 1, 2007
*Last of four parts*
"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." — Josef Stalin
BANGALORE, India — The streets are cleaner here in the country's tech capital of Bangalore than elsewhere in India; still, squalor surrounds the modern glass-walled offices of dozens of American and European corporations.
Security guards pursue anyone wishing to linger by the gates of General Electric's walled-off compound in the exclusive Whitefields suburb east of town. In 1990, the giant American multinational teamed up with Wipro Ltd., a Bangalore software provider, to manufacture and distribute a low-cost ultrasound machine.
Why ultrasound machines? GE spokesmen have repeatedly refused to comment on the matter, but by 2000, according to www.gehealthcare.com, Wipro-GE had shipped out 6,500 of the machines in India. Wipro's Web site, www.wiprocorporate.com, claims it pioneered the manufacture of ultrasound equipment for India.
GE's latest portable machine is the Logiq 100 model. Its American equivalent, the Logiq Book XP, sells for $16,900 new or $11,000 refurbished, according to the sales department at National Ultrasound, an American distributor based in Duluth, Ga.
Indian activists who oppose the widespread abortion of female fetuses say GE is among a handful of companies that manufacture the machines for the Indian market.
Under Indian law, doctors operating ultrasound machines must fill out forms showing the reason for each procedure, which is permitted only in the case of an abnormal pregnancy. But the government can only monitor the 25,770 machines that have been officially registered.
The actual number of machines is estimated at anywhere from 70,000 — by the London Daily Mail — to 100,000, according to the British Medical Journal. The portable ones end up in rural areas, where technology makes it possible for any woman to determine the sex of her child. The fetus can then be terminated at a government hospital, where abortions, like other procedures, are free for those who cannot pay.
Sabu George, a New Delhi activist who in 2000 filed a lawsuit against the government for failing to enforce its own laws against female feticide, said findings have revealed a disproportionate number of GE machines in northwest India, which has the lowest proportion of females to males.
"Those concerned with human rights [must] expose the transnational corporations involved in marketing ultrasound machines for these purposes," he said, adding that Wipro-GE especially targets smaller towns with the help of cheap credit provided by GE Capital Services India.
The situation is only going to get worse, he added, as new technologies are now making it possible to select male embryos over female ones for implantation into a woman's womb.
"In the United States, ultrasound is used to protect the fetus," he said. "Here it is used to destroy it."
*Women in black*
The airy two-story brick building set around a garden atrium in a Bangalore suburb offers no hint at the serious matters facing Vimochana, a women's rights group based there.
Its leader, Donna Fernandes, blames doctors for India's soaring male-female imbalance. "Doctors are a bunch of criminals," she said, "but no one wants to see them as such. They are a powerful class, economically and politically."
Although India has a well-established law forbidding doctors from telling women the sex of their unborn child, few physicians will turn in a guilty colleague. "It is," Mrs. Fernandes said, "like setting a trap for a rat to catch another rat."
"Female feticide," the Indian term for the abortions of millions of baby girls over the past few decades, is a $100 million industry.
Although India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, termed female feticide an "unacceptable" crime in a press conference last summer, his own culture stands against him. One 1987 study by the Federation of Obstetricians' and Gynecologists' Societies of India showed that out of 8,000 abortions, 7,999 occurred after tests showed a female fetus.
A University of Bombay study done about the same time by professor R.P. Ravindra showed that out of 1,000 cases in Bombay, he could not find a single case of a male fetus being aborted. Ninety-seven percent of the aborted fetuses were female and the other 3 percent were of undetermined sex.
Bangalore, India's third largest city at 7 million people, has 743
clinics with a registered ultrasound machine. The unofficial rate for a sex-determination test is 10,000 rupees or about $220.
Doctors are required to fill out a "Form F," giving the reason for the ultrasound test, whether the woman has previously had children and including a signed statement by both the woman and her doctor saying they do not want to know — or divulge — the sex of the child.
These must be submitted to a district health officer, whose job it is to make sure illegal sex determination tests are not taking place. But doctors rarely turn in the forms and local government officials seldom ask for them.
In recent years, activist groups have conducted sting operations with pregnant women carrying hidden cameras, Mrs. Fernandes said, to showcase how brazenly the law is being broken.
"The doctors now use code language," she said. "They will put a red dot — meaning 'danger' — on the form or green for a 'go ahead.' " Red would signify a girl; green a boy.
Clinics found breaking the law have either had their machines briefly impounded or been let off by judges on technicalities. In one case, "the doctor bribed the judge," Mrs. Fernandes said. "For the woman who wants a boy, the very survival of her marriage may depend on it."
As bad as Bangalore is, the Mandya district to the west is even worse, she said. The mostly rural district of 1.7 million people has sex ratios as low as 600 girls to every 1,000 boys, suggesting that nearly two out of every five girls conceived are aborted.
On most Saturdays, Mrs. Fernandes' group stages "women in black" demonstrations in front of ultrasound clinics in Mandya, a city on the main highway between Bangalore and the city Mysore, the seat of a former princely
"They all say only a few quacks are doing this," she said, "but hundreds of doctors are involved. There's a total denial of this happening."
Dr. G. Shivaram, district health officer for Bangalore, oversees the city's health care out of a rundown hospital off Old Madras Road. Behind him is a poster: "Female feticide is cruel and barbaric. It is illegal and punishable under the PNDT Act," referring to the 1994 law barring the use of ultrasound for sex determination.
Although the penalty for breaking the law was increased in 2002 to three years in jail and a $230 fine for the first offense and five years jail and $1,160 for the second, it is almost never enforced.
Although it is Dr. Shivaram's responsibility to check the two-page "Form F" to make sure women are telling the truth about their ultrasounds, he admits he doesn't read them.
"We assume they are filled out correctly," he said. "We just get the numbers of women.
"Each clinic has hundreds of patients. Doctors are busy," he added.
"They don't have the time to fill them all out and the people who help the patients fill them out only have a secondary school education."
However, a copy of the form obtained by The Washington Times showed it contained questions any pregnant woman should be able to answer.
"Not that many" doctors are illegally telling women the sex of their child, Dr. Shivaram maintained, admitting this is a guess as his office has conducted no sting operations. He said he personally visits 15 to 20 clinics each month, which would mean he gets to each clinic at most once every four years. Licenses must be renewed every five years.
Doctors attest to him that they are not revealing the sex of the fetus, "and I do believe them," he said. "Doctors will say the truth because of professional ethics. Maybe some doctors are lying, but how can we assess that?"
On a national level, government efforts to combat prenatal sex selection are limited primarily to print and broadcasting advertisements, sponsoring workshops and seminars and providing financial aid to some advocacy groups.
Last month, however, Renuka Chowdhury, the Cabinet minister for women and child development, announced plans for a nationwide network of orphanages where women could drop off unwanted baby daughters.
"We want to put a cradle in every district. What we are saying to the people is: 'Have your children, don't kill them,' " Ms. Chowdhury told the Press Trust of India news service.
When asked if the scheme could backfire by giving women an easy way to get rid of unwanted girls, she replied: "It doesn't matter. It's better than killing them."
Mr. George, who has battled female feticide for the past two decades, scoffed at the scheme.
"Most of the girls are killed before birth, not after birth. So where is the option of abandoning girls if they are not born at all?" he told Agence France-Presse after the announcement.
Activists warn that nothing will change until authorities begin
enforcing the law.
Arvind Kumar was a government official in Hyderabad, a city of 6.1million in south India, when he saw the 2001 census figures showing the country's skewed birth ratios. In Hyderabad, the ratio was 933 girls to every 1,000 boys. The wards of the cities with the worst ratios were the ones that had the most ultrasound machines registered there.
He also noticed a religious divide; the Sikhs of northern India had the worst sex ratios, followed by the Jains and then the Hindus. Christians had the best ratios and in highly Christianized areas such as the southern state of Kerala, there were more women born than men. Kerala's matrilineal family system among all religious groups also encourages education and empowerment
This was not so in Hyderabad, a city with a mix of Hindu and Muslim communities. Mr. Kumar began cracking down on the city's doctors, ordering the 389 clinics with registered ultrasound machines to show up for a workshop. Some 124 centers failed to show. He then ordered them to turn in "F Forms" for every ultrasound given, copies of referrals from doctors and
documentation on whether the woman who got the ultrasound ever gave birth.
Fifty-three centers refused to give him any information at all.
Of the paperwork he did receive, he found that in 67 percent of the cases, the woman arrived at the clinic without the required referral from a doctor; a sign, he said, that she intended to abort the child. In 72 percent of the cases, there was no documentation of whether the woman already had children. Statistics show the percentage of abortions rise with each successive daughter.
Sixty-nine percent of the forms he got did not mention the address of the ultrasound center and 56 percent did not mention how far along the woman was in her pregnancy. Sex-selective tests tend to occur around the fourth month.
He went on local TV, threatening to send pregnant women into clinics for sting operations. He found no shortage of women willing to do so; "They'd tell me, 'It's for a good cause,' " he said.
By January 2005, he had sent out 374 notices to ultrasound clinics threatening to suspend. One hundred two clinics had their registrations suspended, 112 ultrasound machines had been seized by police and three suppliers, including Wipro-GE, had been prosecuted in court for supplying machines to clinics without registering them with the government.
After only one year, yearly birth statistics for girls in Hyderabad had shot up 4,000 from 58,422 in 2004 to 62,654 in 2005. The number of boys born hovered at 61,539 in 2004 and 61,770 in 2005.
Mr. Kumar is reluctant to credit himself with the births of 4,000 extra girls.
"The  act was dormant," he said, "and all I did was implement it. All I did was catch those who weren't maintaining the records and prosecute them. Other cities say, 'Oh, we can't do this.' But we did it."
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