Fifty years ago, the peoples of South Asia were preoccupied with the events surrounding the transfer of power by the British crown - and of the new possibilities this offered for people themselves to finally be vested in that power.

A full fifty years later, the political crisis raging across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has revealed much about where that power was transferred to fifty years ago, and who it is that wields it and benefits from it today.

It is impossible to recount the struggle for the capture of power in 1947 without recalling two decisive events that occurred - the peasant revolts of Telengana and the partition of Bengal and Punjab.

The peasant insurrection in Telengana had aimed to capture political power in the form of people's power, executed in new forms to fulfill the economic, social and political needs of a long-deprived people. It gave rise to a new vision of freedom, prosperity and the fraternal unity of all the constituent peoples of the country. After Telengana, this struggle for people's power erupted again in Naxalbari in 1967. Today, some thirty years later, the problem of repatriating that power to the hands of the people of India, continues to stare us in the face.

The partition of Punjab and Bengal sealed the fate of any possible transfer of power to the people and ushered in a new era of division and marginalization. The power repatriated in the midst of partition was vested first and foremost in the new rulers in New Delhi and Karachi, denying the people of Punjab or Bengal any right to affirm themselves as a people. In the process, it denied all the peoples of the region the right to affirm their national identities. It also presided over the opening of new and old wounds to bleed the people and exhaust them so that they could not make a bid for power. It revealed its ugliness in the streets of Ayodhya, Delhi and Bombay - and on the soil of Manipur, Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh. Five decades later, this poverty and violence, the condition of a divided polity, the wounded national identities and the mutual suspicion being bred among peoples beckons us to open the door for people to take power in their own hands and govern themselves. The perpetuation of new and old forms of slavery and new and old divisions must end. A system that exists to create wealth at one pole and poverty on the other must give way to a system which abolishes poverty from India once for all.

As we mark the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the transfer of power and the thirtieth anniversary of the Naxalbari uprising this year, we have a heavy task ahead of us. It is the task of solving the problem of repatriating the political power, in the modern conditions of 1997, to its ultimate destination - the hands of the Indian people. This is the precondition for transforming the prevailing economic and social plight of the Indian people.

IPSG - New York appeals to everyone concerned about the future of India and South Asia - and of South Asians living abroad - to come forward and work to execute this collective responsibility. The AIPSG conference in Los Angeles in June (inside back cover) and discussion on the issues raised in this newsletter are two of the ways in which we invite you to participate in setting the agenda for people's empowerment. It is an opportunity not to be missed.