Crisis in Kashmir: The Latest Phase
by Sumantra Bose
1996 Lok Sabha Elections
What do the Top-Level Corruption Charges Reveal?
by Dr. Raj Mishra
GEOPOLITICS Iran and the Weakening of U.S. Power
by V. Siddharth
LATUR Lessons from Latur
by V. Siddharth
The Indian Women's Movement: Some Methodological Issues
by Dr. Shailaja D. Sharma
APPEAL: Ten Years After November 1984
Text of Appeal Circulated by the AIPSG in November 1994
Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema
by Vijay S. Jodha
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ KASHMIR IN CRISIS: THE LATEST PHASE Sumantra Bose ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Marouf Ahmed Hub was a 22 year-old shopkeeper in Kishtwar, a town deep in the mountainous reaches of the Jammu region's volatile Doda district. When he was detained by the Border Security Force in March 1995, his uncle, the Imam of the local mosque, rushed to intercede with the BSF authorities and obtained an assurance that the young man would be released the same evening. What was eventually released was his beheaded corpse, disfigured by electric shock torture and with a rope tied around his genitals. Recalling the incident, the and the massive demonstration for "azaadi" that followed in Kishtwar, the Imam told me: "The Indian government claims we are citizens of this country. But it treats us worse than enslaved subjects." Marouf Hub's fate is an eloquent symbol of life (for lack of a better word) in the violence-torn regions of Jammu & Kashmir. The protracted war of attrition that has been raging in J&K since 1990 is unmistakably approaching a turning point. The Indian state, with its enormous police and military resources, is now perhaps showing greater stamina and staying power in this struggle than the ideologically divided and organisationally fragmented Kashmiri armed movement. Militant activity is clearly declining, at least for the time being, in many areas of the State, both urban and rural. Moreover, the faltering "armed struggle" is increasingly dominated by outsiders, especially Pakistanis and Afghans. And as the kidnapping and murder episode near Pahalgam involving foreign tourists reveals, these outsiders have scant regard for Kashmiri public opinion (which is overwhelmingly opposed to such acts) and little relation to the social base they claim to represent. But the cost of temporarily curbing and containing armed militancy may have been the permanent loss of whatever residual faith Kashmiris may have retained in the Indian Union, even after 1990. By converting the Kashmir Valley, plus Doda district, into a vast prison for its people, where no rule of law exists and the most basic humanitarian and democratic norms are systematically violated by the "security" forces, the authorities in New Delhi have successfully and completely discredited India's claim, in Kashmiri eyes, of being a democratic and secular state. The acute danger is that the Government, increasingly heady with the apparent "dividends" of its policy of indiscriminate terror and ruthless repression, may confuse a military edge over armed insurgents as a "solution" to its "Kashmir problem" (the Prime Minister's assertion that Kashmir will not even be an issue by the time of the next general elections is a disturbing portent of this myopic mentality). That could be a catastrophic error of judgment. I very recently traveled throughout Jammu & Kashmir in an effort to comprehend the complexities of making progress towards a durable, democratic resolution of the "Kashmir question", and to assess the popular mood and existing realities on the ground. In the process, I visited (in addition to my base, Srinagar), practically every major town in the Valley, including Baramulla, Sopore, Kupwara and Handwara in northern Kashmir and Anantnag, Bijbehara and Pampore in the south. I also visited many remote rural areas in Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag and Pulwama districts. In addition, I extensively toured the Jammu region, especially Jammu city, Pandit migrant camps in Jammu district, and the towns and rural interiors of Doda district. I had in-depth conversations with almost all leading political figures (of various persuasions) in J&K, with prominent members of the academic and professional intelligentsia, and with numerous political activist and hundreds of ordinary people at the grassroots level. Despite the confusion and demoralisation in the "azaadi" movement, a degree of popular disenchantment with internecine killings and criminalisation among some militant groups, and a widespread yearning for peace, the people are still very resolute and determined on one score: that Indian rule over them is illegitimate and unacceptable. The mass euphoria that ignited the uprising in 1989-90 is no longer evident in that particular form, but popular defiance has congealed into a seething, smouldering rage and resentment against the Indian military administration and its forces. In spite of the best efforts of both the Indian and Pakistani authorities, mass opinion in the Valley (and among the Kashmiri Muslim majority in Doda) is by and large unambiguous on one point: that only independent statehood would constitute true emancipation. There are a few exceptions to this general rule. For example, in Sopore, a long-standing Jama'at-i-Islami stronghold, I found public opinion evenly split between independence and Pakistan, and there also seemed to be a sizeable pro-Pakistan minority in Anantnag town. But elsewhere, popular allegiance to the ideal of independence ranges from decisive to overwhelming. As a senior Jama'at activist and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) ideologue I met in Kupwar district admitted ruefully: "I am committed to Pakistan. But the awaam (people) don't agree. I think 80 percent support the notion of independence." Indeed, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Mohammad Yasin Malik's assertion that "it is still JKLF, as the most consistent and principled advocate of independence, that represents the wishes of the people," is not far off the mark. But any mention of New Delhi's plans to hold "elections" evokes near-universal derision and contempt. This response is not a manifestation of irrational intransigence or surly rejectionism, but understandable when viewed in the context of the actual situation on the ground. Kashmir's social fabric has been terribly scarred over the past six years by violence, above all, by the massive and systematic violence, directed against the population in general, sponsored by the Indian state, and perpetrated by its agents. And ever more anguish, suffering and indignity continues to be inflicted daily on the people. As anyone who has visited Kashmir and interacted freely with the citizenry knows, the towns and villages are filled with maimed, traumatized, and bereaved people. The central squares and marketplaces of almost every urban centre - Srinagar, Sopore, Bijbehara, Handwara, Doda - bear the ugly scars of large-scale arson (usually accompanied by massacres) committed by the security forces. In this context, imposing an "election" at gunpoint would amount to rubbing a lot of salt into very raw wounds, the final insult to compound many injuries. Such an exercise, whatever else, cannot be dignified as a reintroduction of democratic processes. As one Kashmiri told me, "the root cause of all problems here has been government of the centre, by the centre, for the centre." But Kashmiris will no longer passively tolerate the imposition from New Delhi of unrepresentative, unaccountable and corrupt puppet cliques. Even the small potentially "pro-India" constituency in the Valley, which is fed up with violence and uncertainty, regards Pakistan with distrust and the independence demand as a romantic slogan, and is increasingly nostalgic about the pre-insurgency days, is unequivocal on this point: the imposition of Farooq Abdullah or Ghulam Rasool Kar would be an intolerable affront. As for the government's plans to resolve the Kashmir problem through infrastructure development and employment-generation schemes, Abdul Ghani Lone, 60, a senior Hurriyat leader, aptly expresses the popular sentiment - "Are they going to tell a man whose virgin daughter has been raped that they will put a road through his village, on condition he agrees to be loyal to India?" Indeed, it is clear that such a crude, economistic approach to an essentially political problem is simply a diversionary, tactical device to avoid the real, substantive issues. Moreover, while armed militancy can be curbed or contained, it is folly to imagine that it can be eliminated permanently and completely. Specifically, Hizbul Mujahideen, the most formidable insurgent force, is, while certainly on the defensive, still far from being a spent force. Indeed, a senior HM ideologue confirmed to me that "they [HM] have received instructions from across [the border] to lie relatively low for the time being, and re-emerge with a vengeance as soon as elections are announced." Thus, any attempt to hold an election may well spark a desperate re- escalation of militant violence, with the attendant risk of large-scale reprisals on the civilian population by the security forces. If this happens, the government's dreams of "normalisation" could rapidly evaporate. There are more compelling dangers to forcing elections. Elections will most likely elicit a total boycott in the Valley, and partial, but significant boycotts in Doda, in Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu division (where there is a subtle but definite undercurrent of sympathy among the dominant Rajput and Gujjar Muslims for the Kashmiri cause), and in Shia-majority Kargil district in Ladakh. If this happens, the election, which will in effect be reduced to a referendum on patriotic allegiance to the Indian Union, could well lead to unprecedented communal polarisation, with only some of the Hindu population groups in the Jammu region and Buddhists in Ladakh's Leh district turning out to vote in substantial numbers (even this will partly depend on what attitude the BJP chooses to adopt - it currently says it is opposed to polls "at this stage, till terrorism is completely crushed".) Communal polarisation will be aggravated if Pandit migrants in Jammu and Delhi are allowed to cast ballots, and if some Kashmir Valley seats are decided principally on the basis of those ballots (some vociferous Pandit "spokesmen" have been demanding that 6 of the 46 Valley seats be "allotted" to them). Such a pointless deepening of the sectarian divide between the different communities of Jammu & Kashmir can only be to the detriment of prospects of any serious and lasting (i.e. mutually agreed) solution to the Kashmir crisis. As Yasin Malik correctly put it while still in prison, "the ultimate solution shall have to be one acceptable to all citizens [of J&K] regardless of their region or religion." Janata Dal leader Abdul Qayoom, 60, is a lonely "pro-India" politician who has stayed on in Srinagar since the troubles began (albeit in the city's heavily-guarded "security zone"). He is convinced that "elections will be totally counter-productive, and bring on absolute disaster." Instead, he argues passionately for "taking the people of Kashmir into confidence," and for "applying a healing touch to this bleeding society." Asked what such phrases might connote in more concrete, tangible terms, he responds that "a completely open, unconditional dialogue" with all popular forces of Jammu & Kashmir, and particularly of the Valley, will be indispensable to creating an atmosphere conducive to making progress towards peace. There indisputably are significant variations in the aspirations and concerns of the inhabitants of the three distinct regions - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh - that compromise the State. But these differences cannot serve as an alibi for doing nothing about the crisis in Jammu & Kashmir. Even less can they be a justification for reactionary, communalist approaches to that crisis. Arguably, the only outcome worse than the present status - quo would be some kind of partition or fragmentation of the State along (largely false) communal lines, and all major Kashmiri political forces, including JKLF and HM, are opposed to this. Such a course carries the grave risks of spawning disgruntled minorities (of one kind of another),and of possibly leading to permanent population transfers, in both the Jammu region and the Valley. In particular, the "Hindu-majority" label conventionally accorded to the Jammu region is, while true in a limited sense, also seriously simplistic and potentially misleading. Apart from the fact that three of Jammu's six districts have Muslim majorities, it is far more accurate to describe Jammu as a patchwork or mosaic of an array of religious (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh), ethnic (Kashmiri, Rajput, Gujjar, Dogra, Punjabi, etc.) and linguistic (Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi, Pahari, Punjabi and several other languages and dialect) groups. This social reality of multiple forms of identity and cross- cutting cleavages is too often deliberately ignored by those elements, in both India and Pakistan and on both sides of the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir, who view the Kashmir conflict in reductive and bigoted communal terms. The fact is that religious affiliation is but one axis of social diversity (and of political conflict) in J&K - albeit an important one. But there have historically been other, overlapping axes of contestation and conflict - region, ethnicity, caste and political ideology, for example. Thus, when Hindutva spokesmen claim to be upholding the "interests of Jammu," they conveniently forget not only that no such monolithic Jammu exists, but that sectarian Hindutva parties have never, in successive assembly and parliamentary elections, won more than a quarter of the popular vote in the Jammu region (primarily that of a section of urbanised caste-Hindus). Nor is the spirit of amicable coexistence between individuals and groups professing different religious faiths entirely dead in Jammu & Kashmir. In several towns and villages of the Valley, I met Pandit families living in safety, dignity and complete harmony with their Muslim neighbours. Doda district (60 percent Muslim, 40 percent Hindu) has an enviable history of communal amity and cooperation, and its residents are trying their best to keep this tradition alive despite grave pressures and provocations. There is thus no alternative to democratic debate and discussion between representatives of various social groups and political tendencies in the different regions of the State, if progress is to be made towards a durable political solution. This is precisely what Kashmiri leaders like Shabbir Shah and Yasin Malik, as well as several courageous members of the Jammu intelligentsia, have been energetically advocating. Such an inter-regional, inter-community dialogue would have to be a crucial component of any broader or bigger dialogue (involving India, Pakistan and representatives of Jammu & Kashmir from both sides of the Line of Control) on the Kashmir issue. Altaf Ahmad Khan, alias Azam Inquillabi, is a child of Partition and of the Kashmir "dispute." Born in 1947, he possibly holds the record for the maximum number of clandestine border crossings between Indian and Pakistani- controlled Kashmir - over thirty since 1969. This veteran rebel is also one of the masterminds behind the insurrection that erupted in 1989-90. But this firebrand radical, while remaining committed to his political ideal of an independent Jammu & Kashmir, is now absolutely convince that dialogue and negotiations are the only route to making meaningful progress towards a lasting solution. "We must make a beginning somewhere, as soon as we can," he says with a grave sense of urgency, "if nothing else through non- official contact and discussions, between enlightened intellectual and professional leaders of India, Pakistan and the different regional and religious groups of Jammu & Kashmir. If this conflict is allowed to fester indefinitely," he warns, "there is a real danger that the politically conscious and articulate voices of Kashmir will one by one gradually be liquidated or marginalised. The gun has largely served its purpose; now politics must take over." It is a pity that those whose rule India does not, as yet, appear to have the courage and confidence to recognise the same reality. This obstinacy (based on a purported but unverified "consensus" in this country that "Kashmir is an integral part of India") is all the more irrational because the ultimate guarantee of the Indian state's "security" and "integrity," the 600,000-odd heavily armed military and police forces, are, for the present and foreseeable future, at least, very much in place throughout Jammu & Kashmir, including its borders with neighbouring countries. New Delhi's injunction that the "problem" must be settled "within the framework of the Indian Constitution" is not just irrelevant (the Constitution, like very other man-made document, is hardly a repository of sacrosanct and inviolable Truth), but also a deliberate tactical device that effectively precludes substantive dialogue. Individuals and organisations that are genuinely representative of a popular movement, and that have at least some ideological principle and consistency, cannot be expected to summarily renounce their political platforms for the sake of "talks" of uncertain nature and outcome with powerful adversaries. Leaders such as Shabbir Shah and Yasin Malik, among others cannot come crawling to the negotiating table and be co-opted into signing some "package" on terms dictated by their opponent. Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, both former Irish Republican Army (IRA) guerrilla commanders, have not abandoned their commitment to the idea of a reunited Ireland. That has not prevented an indefinite cease-fire in Northern Ireland nor a measure of tentative progress towards a lasting solution. Even the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which has had its back to the wall in the struggle against Israel by the 1990's, still formally retains the clause in its founding charter that commits it to the destruction of the Jewish state. That and the continuing turbulence in the West Bank and Gaza have not prevented Yasser Arafat and the Israeli authorities from maintaining a continuing, if halting dialogue. The same applies to those important, popularly-based forces in Jammu & Kashmir who would be willing to have a dialogue without crippling preconditions of any kind on any side, but who have so far been repressed, rebuffed and denied recognition as bona fide political actors representing deep- rooted collective aspirations. Yet there are clear indications that some of these forces increasingly realise the potential efficacy of serious, substantive dialogue (caveat: not some charade masquerading as dialogue) for their people, and the fact that they themselves have compelling pragmatic incentives to enter into such a process. Responsible political leaders and activists in Kashmir, whatever their public positions and ideological commitments (which they cannot be expected to summarily forsake), know perfectly well that the gun alone cannot liberate their people. Indeed, they realise that they themselves, and the political future of their people, are increasingly being held hostage by the environment of violence, intimidation and fear. But as long as large-scale victimisation of civilians by the security forces continues, armed resistance will also continue and the conditions propitious for dialogue cannot come about. But in the immediate future, the authorities in Delhi would be well-advised not to exploit a military advantage over "militants" to trample wantonly on Kashmiri sentiments and aspirations yet again. Instant fixes or cosmetic surgery cannot alleviate, leave alone resolve, the historically rooted, complicated and multi-dimensional conflict in and over Jammu & Kashmir. A peace of the graveyard will only condemn Jammu & Kashmir to a bleak, uncertain and unstable future. It will also freeze India-Pakistan relations in their present condition of polarised animosity, to the detriment of prospects of peace, democracy and development in the entire subcontinent. It is unlikely that any "solution" (whatever that may constitute) to the Kashmir question can be stable and final without the participation and acquiescence of the rulers of Pakistan. "Kashmir," wrote Kalhan, the 12th-century historian and chronicler in his Sanskrit epic Rajatarangini, "can be conquered by the power of spiritual merit, but never by the force of soldiers." Certainly, for too long have a few million hapless inhabitants of Jammu & Kashmir suffered as a result of being the focal point for the manifestation of the deep mutual hostility between India and Pakistan. And for too long have the billion-plus people of the subcontinent had their security and development prospects held ransom by the Kashmir conflict. The time is overdue to make a move towards breaking this dangerous and destructive stalemate. The moral and pragmatic case for a just and lasting peace in Kashmir and South Asia is a compelling one. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ U - P - D - A - T - E ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ JUSTICE FOR BHOPAL VICTIMS Activists campaigning around the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster case described their continuing struggle in seeking justice and compensation for the gas victims at a Columbia University forum sponsored by the IPSG. The activists - Rehana Begum from the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghatan (BGPMUS) and N.D. Jayaprakash from the Delhi Science Forum - talked about the conditions of the people of Bhopal ten years after the gas leak, their struggles to secure just compensation from the Indian government and the state of litigation against Union Carbide. Also present was Ward Morehouse, of the U.S - Bhopal Action Committee. Two other activists from Bhopal were unable to attend the meeting as the Indian government did not grant them the requisite travel documents in time. These were T.R. Chouhan - a former plant operator at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal who was sacked after he blamed management for the disaster, and Abdul Jaffar, a founding member and leader of the BGPMUS. In their presentations, and in the panel discussion that followed, the speakers described the 1989 deal between the Indian government and Union Carbide as a complete sell-out. They pointed out that as per that settlement, the final compensation awarded to those who lost their relatives in the disaster was Rs. 90,000, and that too, only to those who able to produce a death certificate. Since death certificates are not available in the majority of cases, even this paltry compensation is denied them. As for those who have suffered injury and continuing medical disorders, the award is Rs. 24,000 of which Rs. 7,500 is being deducted because of the interim relief some of the afflicted persons received. The remainder, which is meant to cover all the needs of the victims, including medical care, etc., has been since given out in installments of Rs 200 a month. Speaking in Hindi, Ms. Rehana Begum, who had personally lost several close relatives in the gas tragedy, spoke strongly of the plight of the victims. She also described the ongoing frustrations that the BGPMUS faces in its attempts to bring Union Carbide officials to book, primarily due to the strong unwillingness of the Indian authorities to press for action in this case. A statement was also released by the IPSG, entitled "Bhopal: What Rights do People Have?". Excerpts from the statement are quoted below. "The Bhopal tragedy and its aftermath raises two crucial issues for all concerned people. The first is that of the right of the victims to proper rehabilitation. The second is that of culpability for the disaster. To the credit of the people of Bhopal and the tireless work of the activists who have taken up their cause, the issue of culpability has been kept alive, despite attempts to the contrary. It is widely understood that the government has not been keen to prosecute the company because of the adverse impact such a case would have on foreign investment as well as the interests of Indian monopolies who operate their industries with the same callousness and lack of concern that Carbide did. The issue of rehabilitation of the victims is independent of the issue of culpability. Surely the Indian government remains obliged to fully rehabilitate the victims of such a tragedy, regardless of whether it is successful in making Carbide pay or not. Yet, except for brief periods before elections, successive governments have distanced itself from this issue, and have effectively reduced its own role to that of a lawyer whose responsibility is limited merely to arguing for a settlement." SOUTH ASIAN PREPCOM DELEGATES TO BEIJING At a meeting organised by the IPSG at Columbia University on April 4, 1995, several South Asian women NGO delegates to the U.N. PrepCom meetings for the Beijing Conference on Women spoke about how the concerns of women from developing countries are getting marginalised. The women who addressed the meeting included Vidya Das, an activist with Agragami in Orissa, Nafisa Barot of Utthan in Gujarat, Pamela Phillipose, Features Editor of the Indian Express, Asha Ramesh from the Indian Coordinating Committee for the Beijing Conference, Shagufta Alizai from Shirkat Gah, a women's group in Karachi, Niloufer Ahmed from Bangladesh, and several others. Pamela Phillipose pointed out that women are constantly having to fight against the rollback which is taking place on the question of rights, both nationally and internationally. With respect to the Beijing Conference's draft "Platform of Action", she said that clauses affirming the rights of women which have already been adopted at the Rio Conference on the environment or the Vienna Summit on Human Rights are once again being questioned by many governments. Vidya Das and Nafisa Barot stressed that many women in India and the developing world are being adversely affected by economic liberalisation and structural adjustment but that the governments don't even want to place this question on the agenda. Resources belonging to the tribal and indigenous peoples in various countries are being handed over to multinational companies, and women are the first to suffer the consequences. Some of the speakers noted that many western governments and NGO's were exerting pressure on women groups to confine themselves to exclusively "women's issues" and not be concerned about the larger question in society like economic justice and political power. "But the consequences of structural adjustment is a women's issue," asserted Vidya Das. Shagufta Alizai spoke about the situation in Pakistan and noted that having a woman as Prime Minister has not fundamentally altered the lot of women. JUSTICE H.SURESH ON THE BOMBAY RIOTS Justice Hosbet Suresh, retired judge of the Bombay High Court, addressed a meeting on Saturday, April 14 1995 at Columbia University, organised by the Indian Progressive Study Group, and spoke on "Bombay After the Elections". Justice Suresh, who has been active in Human Rights work since his retirement from the bench, reached national prominence recently over the independent report on the Bombay riots of January 1993 that he co-authored with Justice Dawood. The findings, which were published in August 1993, identified the Shiv Sena as having primarily organised and carried out the riots. The report also charged that the Shiv Sena could not possibly have carried out the attacks if not for the active complicity of the police and local administration. In the meeting, Justice Suresh noted that despite clear evidence that the riots were instigated and carried out by the Shiv Sena, the government had taken no steps to prosecute them. Bombay, he remarked, was a city with strong progressive traditions, where people had historically stood firm against communalism. However, he added, following the Babri Masjid demolition, the Shiv Sena and BJP wanted to ensure that the city would be ghettoised and that a permanent rift should exist between Hindus and Muslims. It was to this end, that both these parties organised the communal riots, with the acquiescence of the Congress (I), local administration and police, he said. In discussing the recent elections, where the Congress (I) lost heavily to a BJP-Shiv Sena coalition, he noted ironically that the Shiv Sena had initially been formed by S.K. Patil, the Congress Chief Minister in Maharashtra. The Sena, he said, was created in order to break the strength of Bombay's trade-union movement, through a militant anti- outsider chauvinist program. It was, he said, directed particularly at the South Indian leadership of many trade unions. Justice Suresh observed that over the past thirty years, the Shiv Sena became known not so much for communalism as for anti-South Indian and anti-outsider politics, financed largely through extortion and other criminal activity. Tracing the history of the Shiv Sena's involvement in communal politics, he described how it had, together with the BJP, adopted the Babri Masjid issue only after 1986, and that too, only when the Rajiv Gandhi government provocatively reopened the controversy. It was at this time that the Shiv Sena also gained control of the Bombay Municipal Corporation for the first time and used its newly found influence and power to open "shakhas" throughout Maharashtra. Suresh noted that while the Shiv Sena and BJP have recently formed a government in Maharashtra, they only received 28% of the popular vote. He attributed their success largely to the fragmented opposition, the lack of any substantial or credible "third force" that could capture people's imagination., and to the ongoing decay and collapse of ruling Congress (I). The Congress (I), for its part, lost heavily because they were decisively rejected by Muslim voters who felt aggrieved over the Congress (I)'s implicit support of the Shiv Sena through the riots, and over the indiscriminate arrests of large numbers of Muslims in Bombay under TADA, in relation to the 1993 bomb blasts. Furthermore, Suresh added, Sharad Pawar's image as a corrupt leader added to the popular rejection of the Congress (I). On the Bombay bomb blasts of March 1993, Suresh commented that there exist many theories as to its perpetrators. The police, he said, immediately blamed a foreign hand. Regardless of this, the fallout, Suresh said, has been the largely arbitrary arrest and torture of hundreds of Muslims under the infamous TADA law. TADA, or the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, is a preventive detention law that has achieved notoriety throughout India for the sweeping powers it gives to the police, and for its highly arbitrary use in practice, throughout India. Suresh estimated that over 68,000 people had been arrested under TADA, and that less than 1% of those arrested had ever been convicted.. In discussing the situation following the recent Shiv Sena- BJP victory in Maharashtra, the prospects appear bleak in the near future. Suresh noted that Bal Thakre, the Shiv Sena leader had mentioned that although he is himself not in the government, that he would retain power through "remote control". Thakre has already made two demands. The first is for the removal of "Bangladeshis", and the second is to bar any outsider from entering Bombay. Suresh noted that the Bangladeshi issue was a farce, and that at most, there were some 2000 - 3000 Bangladeshis in Bombay, mostly of Bihari origin. He said that what was underway was a very vicious campaign, and that people who have lived in Bombay for years are suddenly being asked to prove their citizenship under threat of deportation. In addition to the inquiry and report on the Bombay riots published by Justices Suresh and Dawood in August 1993, there exists an official, government appointed commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Srikrishna, a sitting judge of the Bombay High Court. Justice Suresh noted that while his inquiry was completed by May 1993, the Srikrishna Commission is still collecting evidence, almost two and a half years after the riots. Justice Suresh noted that in spite of its shortcomings and delays, the Srikrishna Commission is expected to arrive at the same conclusions as his report. However, he expressed cynicism in this regard, since the Shiv Sena itself now forms the government, casting doubt on whether the Commission would continue to exist at all. POSTSCRIPT: The meeting described above was held in April 1995, shortly after the state elections. On January 23 1996, almost exactly three years after the end of the riots, the Manohar Joshi ministry officially terminated the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry, claiming that it has already taken too long, that "calm" has returned to the city and that in any event, it be unwise to reopen "old wounds" all over again. - Ed. VICTOR BANERJEE ON UTTARAKHAND Mr. Victor Banerjee, the noted Indian screen actor and star of several films, including "A Passage to India", addressed a meeting organised by the IPSG on April 5, 1995, where he presented a paper titled "Uttarakhand - A People Denied." As a long-term resident of Mussoorie, Mr. Banerjee painted a haunting portrait of a region whose problems, until recently, have remained far from the public gaze. The Uttarakhand region comprises most of the north western parts of Uttar Pradesh, encompassing an area of some 55,000 square kms with a population of over 66 million. A large part of its territory is mountainous but the ruggedness of terrain was not the main reason why the people of Uttarakhand were suffering, Mr. Banerjee said. He marshaled a large amount of statistics pertaining to the availability of health and education for the region's population, showing how vastly inadequate it is. In addition, the region's economy is completely undeveloped, with the result that most adult males migrate away from the region to work - mainly as domestics - in large metropolitan centers like Delhi and elsewhere. Despite the fact that the region produced an enormous amount of hydroelectric power, the availability of electricity in Uttarakhand was woeful. Mr. Banerjee said that the Indian constitution adopted in 1950 had created a state which acted like a "trustee", ruling over the peoples of India as a master rules over his slaves. As a result of this and other iniquities, groups of all kinds have begun demanding recognition and protection of their own rights, languages, etc. While the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru had promised the establishment of a special Hill state in Uttarakhand, and other prominent national leaders had done the same, none of these promises have been fulfilled. The demand for Uttarakhand state was a non-partisan one, he said, and politicians from a wide variety of parties have endorsed the demand. The Communist Party of India leader, Prof. P.C. Joshi, supported the demand as early as 1952, he noted. Mr. Banerjee then turned to the politics of reservations, which, he argued, has played an enormous role in giving an impetus to the present struggle of the Uttarakhandis. He said that reservations for Dalits and lower castes had nothing to do with their social or economic upliftment but was mainly a way for politicians to create vote banks for themselves. "The carrot of social emancipation always remains tantalizingly out of reach for the poorest and most oppressed" he said, while an impression is created that something is being done to help them. In 1994, the U.P. government raised the percentage of jobs reserved for lower castes from 27 percent to 50 percent. This was despite the fact that the existing quota had not been filled, and was clearly a political move aimed at increasing the support of the government in the plains regions of U.P., Mr. Banerjee contended. The Chief Minister's plan was to fill the vacant jobs in Uttarakhand with people from the plains. As a result of the governments new policy to extend reservations, students in the Uttarakhand region went on an indefinite strike, fearing that it would be even more difficult for them to find jobs upon graduation. Because of the police brutality unleashed upon them, the parents of the students also got drawn into the movement, and soon the protests crystallized into the demand for a separate state of Uttarakhand. Mr. Banerjee then gave specific examples of the kind of brutality unleashed by the police. On September 1, 1994, a dozen demonstrators were killed at Khatima, and the next day, in Mussourie, another five people were killed and scores more injured in firing by the U.P. Provincial Armed Constabulary. Then, on October 2, 1994, more than 10,000 peaceful demonstrators who were heading for New Delhi to take part in a protest, were illegally detained by the police in Muzzafarnagar and attacked. Twenty women were raped and hundreds more molested. It was this outrage, more than anything else, which served to catapult the Uttarakhand region onto the national stage. But despite the gravity of the police's actions, Mr. Banerjee noted, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao remained silent and refused to take any action. Mr. Banerjee also drew attention to the prominent role played by women in the struggle for Uttarakhand (as well as against social problems like alcoholism), and said that police actions like that which took place at Muzzafarnagar, seemed intended to humiliate and intimidate them. In the discussion which followed, Mr. Banerjee said that if the government stops treating people who are demanding their rights as "secessionists" and "terrorists" and refrains from using force, the problems in Punjab, Kashmir and elsewhere would not have taken a bloody turn. In response to another question, he said that all parties, including the BJP, which had once supported the creation of Uttarakhand, have betrayed the people of the region. PANEL DISCUSSION ON BEIJING CONFERENCE On September 30, 1995 the IPSG held a panel discussion consisting of delegates from several organizations who had attended the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the parallel NGO Forum. Mallika Dutt of the Center for Women's Global Leadership gave an overview of the three previous World Conferences on Women in 1975, 1980 and 1985, in Mexico City, Copenhagen and Nairobi respectively. She went on to explain the role that different women's groups have played at the four UN conferences held since the end of the Cold War, at Rio in 1992 (Environment), Vienna in 1993 (Human Rights), Cairo in 1994 (Population), and Copenhagen in 1995 (Social Summit). "The Platform for Action, adopted in Beijing, was a summation of many of the provisions won through years of lobbying by diverse women's groups", said Dutt, recounting her own experiences at these conferences. She noted that over the years, a global women's movement has evolved, which has articulated an agenda that is not limited to "women's only" issues anymore, but lobbies for all issues affecting society at large. Anita Nair, of the Women's Empowerment and Development Organization (WEDO) explained the process by which the final draft of the Platform for Action was adopted. In her comments, she said that the Platform is not "a perfect document", but marks an advance in the struggle for women's rights. However, she remarked that issues such as the globalization of the economy, foreign debt, and structural adjustments were not addressed properly. Nair gave a vivid and first-hand description of the specific negotiations done in the final days of the Conference in Beijing and explained how different women's organizations worked through the Linkage Caucus, and lobbied to get specific language included in the Platform for Action. Inji Islam, also of WEDO, detailed her own experience at the negotiations, on sections dealing with the environment and monetary commitments, where she noted that there was a wide gulf between the North and the South. She said that women from around the world came to Beijing with many novel ideas, and "pushed the debate beyond the limits" set by the Platform for action, even though not everyone was involved in the debate on its language. Her organization ran workshops to bring together people concerned about militarism, globalization, health and environmental issues. Sandhya Mishra of the AIPSG spoke of the successful AIPSG workshop titled "Human Rights and Indian Women" at the NGO Forum in Beijing and explained the five themes which were discussed at the workshop. She appealed to people to look critically at the record of "lobbying" as a means of ending the marginalization of women. "Lobbying is what people have been doing for decades, is it not time to discuss how to renovate and modernize institutions and underlying theories that keep people marginalized, in spite of lobbying?" asked Ms. Mishra. She also called for a serious examination of the slogan Women's Rights are Human Rights - "those governments who recite this slogan most enthusiastically are the very ones who are spearheading the cutbacks on social spending that affect women," said Mishra. In her opinion, the Beijing Platform for Action is not a plan for the realization of human rights or women's rights. Instead, it is intended only to "create opportunities" by strengthening "civil society" or rights based on private property relations worldwide. She remarked that there is imperative to oppose the pressure of the West that everyone has to adopt the values, methods, and definitions based upon the "free market economy and pluralism". Following the presentation, a lively discussion took place, touching on several different themes. One issue that arose was on the particularly harsh effects that the cutbacks in education, health and other social services, as well as the Structural Adjustment policies have on women globally. In this context, there was discussion on the inadequacy of the UN mechanism whereby the provisions contained in the Beijing Platform for action and other UN declarations are not legally enforceable even when a majority of governments have approved them. Another issue that arose was the meaning of the term "civil society" - in reference to its usage by, among others, UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali, who claimed the Platform for Action to be a "victory for civil society." Several of the panelists also spoke about their personal experiences in China during their stay.