Last Post Before Chicago
As you can guess from reading the title, I am headed off to the Windy city today, and will not be back before Tuesday. While I really hope no war erupts in South Asia, I could not leave without writing a bit about the current crisis. Sadly, it seems, especially from the DOD perspective, the U.S.'s interests lie primarily with the fallout an India-Pakistan war could have on the United States war on terrorism. It seems the Americans are now sending Secretary Rumsfeld to the region, in attempts to ease the tension.
Moreover, what is thoroughly confusing is the vocality of U.S. support for Pakistan. Sure, Musharraf, for the U.S. interest in the war on terror, must remain stable, but at what cost? He made claims in his January 12 address that terror was going to stop. Now, six months later, he is making the same claims. It is apparent that nothing has stopped. So is he a lion or a liar. The U.S. is still praising him as a lion, but with all the tension ongoing, I am not too sure how wise this U.S. policy is. Throughout the cold war, the U.S. attributed to the stinting of democracy in order to fight against the communists. Pinochet in 72, Yahya in Pakistan in the seventies, recently in Venezuela, and now again, Musharraf in Pakistan in the 2002's. The fallout is indeed dangerous, and in this instance, the India-Paksitan situation is extremely tense.
What I think will happen, is because of the plethora of rhetoric being spewed from both India and Pakistan, the U.S., the only actor really strong enough to force its opinion, will have to mediate to lessen this particular crisis. And like in 1999, to U.S. will have to strongly force Pakistan to pull back the militants to avert a crisis.
I guess we'll see. There is, like always, more to come later. For now, I am going to eat lots of deep dish pizza.
Thursday, May 30, 2002
Last Post Before Chicago
The U.S. Government Catches On
I wonder how much prodding it took to get this done. I see that the Department of Justice has now published a brocuhre on Federal Protections against National Origin discriminiation in Farsi, Hindi, and Punjabi. Even though it is six months after the attacks agains South Asians began, at least the DOJ has acted. Congrats.
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
More on Hindu Terrorism
I finally got that annoying "<" off of the page.
Here are some more interesting links with regards to Hindu Terrorism. The first is a story by Aseem Chabbra and was published on rediff.com in July of 2001. It discusses this website Hinduunity.org. Despite my moral qualms, I am linking to the site so everyone can jude for themselves. However, from my vantage point, this group's site is very similar to some of the websites of already banned Islamic terrorists. Actually, one of Hindu Unity's largest supporters is Kahane.org, a radical Jewish group that is banned in Israel and is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. I hope that anyone who comes across hinduunity.org remembers that the people who actually believe in this stuff are truly in the minority. Here is a good bumper sticker for the Hindu Secularists, "Real Hindu's Don't Hate."
Also, some good news trickling in from Gujarat. It seems that some VHP, Bajrang Dal, and BJP activists were arrested today in connection with the killing of at least 86 people by a rioting mob in Ahmedabad on February 28, a day after the Godhra incident. I hope Modi's government and the Gujarat police force are able to bring more people to justice.
In Jim Hoagland's 5/23 piece from the Washington Post, Omar Abdullah, a rising Indian political star from Kashmir said it quite well, in the eyes of the Indians anyway, "America is either with us or with the terrorists."
Monday, May 27, 2002
Hindu Nationalism vs. Christian Nationalism
As tensions again rise between India and Pakistan, there has of course been increased reporting on South Asia. One thing that has been bothering me is the constant labelling of the conflict by the media as a Hindu vs. Muslim battle. By this, I mean the conflict is often described as "Islamic Pakistan versus mostly Hindu India," or "the increasing rhetoric from India's Hindu nationalist government, the BJP," etc. What set me off was Steve Coll's piece in the the 5/25 Washington Post, where he says "India's Hindu nationalist leaders declared that they could be patient no longer."
Don't get me wrong, I think Steve Coll is a great reporter; he just represents a problem that I find endemic in the Western Media. I mean, do we refer to the war in Afghanistan as "the mostly Christian United States or West versus the Muslim Afgahanistan." Is the Republican party of the United States a Christian Nationalist party. Despite the secular quality of the United States, no one can refute the fact that George Bush, and many of the Republicans propagate a Judeo-Christian ideal. Bush's faith based initiative, his placement of the religious ideologue John Aschroft at the DOJ, the Republicans wanting to put the 10 commandments on the walls of schools, and even the party's connection with the Christian right could easily solidify the party's religious affiliation. But still, no one ever calls the Republicans a Christan Nationalist Party.
Saturday, May 25, 2002
Ok, the Prevention of Terrorism Bill (India) link should now work. You must have adobe acrobat though to see the text of the whole report.
Friday, May 24, 2002
This should be posted on the Satya Circle by next week, but I think I will post this as a preview
I am also having some trouble with the link for the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. It should be working soon.
Saving Secularism: Ban the VHP
Gujaratis are typically known for their disproportionately sweet palettes, exuberant folk-traditions, and entrepreneurial spirit. Born from Gujarat’s soil have been such notables as Mohandas Gandhi, former Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai, and the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. But since February of 2002, Gujarat has birthed the devil of a child, a massive wave of uncontrolled communal violence.
This most recent wave of sectarian violence began following the burning of the Sabarmati Express in the communal hotbed of Godhra, Gujarat. The train was carrying members of the Sangh Parivar, a group of Hindu activist parties comprised mainly of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP-World Hindu Council), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the Bajrang Dal.
The Sangh Parivar, in particular the VHP, gained notoriety following the 1992 razing of a 16th-century mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya. The VHP was one of the main provocateurs of the militant Hindus in promoting the destruction of the mosque.
The activists were in Godhra returning from Ayodhya, where the VHP is now planning to defy a court ban and start building a temple to the god Rama where the Mosque once stood. While 58 people were burned in the initial attack on the train, the subsequent communal violence has led to the deaths of over 900 Indians, mostly Muslims, and most of the murder has been committed by fanatical and frenzied Hindus.
Since independence in 1947, communal violence has flared periodically, especially as the Indian government has had to deal with balancing the interests of the country's diverse religious, ethnic and regional groups. India’s constitution established secularism as one of its guiding principles
Despite this penchant for secularism, the death toll, specifically for Muslims, continues to rise, as does their frustration with the government. Day in and day out, Gujarat’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, attempts to reassure the populace that the criminals will be punished, and that order will resume. And day in and day out, order does not return, and not enough criminals are punished.
It overwhelmingly appears that these reprisals against Muslims, almost 10 years after Ayodhya, are being fanned fastest by the leadership of the VHP. Immediately following the train attack, the VHP Joint Secretary R.S. Pankaj told reporters that “if such acts are repeated, Hindus will not remain silent spectators.” And prompted and provoked by the VHP and their statements, Hindu’s were anything but. Muslims were raped, butchered and burned. As a result of the inaction of the government, and the impunity with which the Hindu led violence was allowed to occur, even the British government suspects that these attacks were pre- planned and carried out with the support of the state government.
This brutality of man against man has led to tremendous destabilization within India. In this current climate of terrorism, the Indian government has been feverishly throwing the terrorism word around. Quite recently the Indian government banned the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) as terrorists because it was spreading its own version of destabilizing hate. Now, that groups like the VHP have also begun spreading this destabilizing, anti-secular hate, should they not too be banned?
Militant Hindu groups like the VHP are nothing more than terrorists if one is looking at the Government of India’s definition. Why then is the BJP led government not rushing to ban the VHP? According to the newly passed Prevention of Terrorist Bill 2002, “whoever with intent to threaten the unity, integrity, security, or sovereignty of India or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people does an act or thing by using bombs, dynamite, or other explosive...in such a manor as to cause, or likely to cause death of, or injuries to any person or persons is a terrorist under the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002.” By creating tensions between the different communities, this violence and rhetoric does in fact threaten the unity, integrity, and security of India. Secularism is a pillar of Indian democracy and nationhood. And by creating an unruly divide between communities who are Indian, the VHP fits the conditions as prescribed in the law.
Even more salient to this point has been the displacement of over 100,000 Gujaratis as a result of the uncontrolled violence. If a mass dislocation of people is not deemed destabilizing, what can be? Yes, the killing of the Hindu activists on February 27 must be condemned. But how can any rational person excuse two months of killing and instability as a form of revenge. The VHP international Vice President Acharya Giriraj Kishore elaborated even further when speaking to the media and said, “Do I have to say that for every action there is a reaction? It would be very difficult for the Hindus to maintain patience at such a heavy price.” Punishment must be fair and forcing Gujarati Muslims to live in fear in a land that is as much theirs too must be punishable by law.
The VHP’s terrorist manifesto, so to speak, became clear when the chairman of the Gujarat unit of the VHP, Keshavram Shastri, indicated that shops that were looted and subsequently destroyed were chosen on the basis of a list prepared by the VHP in advance.
Fanatical Hindu mobs, provoked by illicit and unfruitful rhetoric from political parties, like the VHP, have taken to burning all things Muslim, from children, to women, to Muslim-owned businesses. Police, and other security personnel, it appears, have simply stood on the sidelines. Gandhi used to say, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” But what happens when over 900 people are killed as a result of the death of 58?
Permitting the VHP to spew its words of hate surely is not perceived as a stabilizing force within India. Rather, the Talibanization of Hindus throughout Gujarat does nothing more than create Hindu militants willing to rape and murder to keep the good name of their religion alive.
The idea of an India solely for Hindus is an unrealistic and absurd goal, which was and will always be unattainable. Gandhi and Nehru’s vision for India was one of a secular nation. This vision is slowly being blurred by the flames of religious fervor ignited in Godhra. Unless and until the VHP is indeed banned or the tone of religious rhetoric can be settled down, not only will India’s secularism be questioned, but so will the BJP’s ability to govern a secular country. When will the world realize that religion has no role to play in democratic governance? If this lesson cannot be learned, than secularism and the Indian state will be burnt down, just like the Sabarmati Express, and the hundreds of Muslims that followed.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
More on the India-Pakistan Tensions
Now it has been made public that Indian Prime Minister has written President Bush on the inability of the Indian Government to "do business with" Musharraf. Chidhu Rajghatta in the Times of India reports today that Vajpayee has written President Bush to give him the Indian assessment of the situation and "informing him of the compulsions behind New Delhi's war preparations." What can this mean, is this letter an explanation, or a document serving as a warning for the U.S. that India will go to war?
"America's Other Crisis"...anyone rememver Vajpayee's Lahore bus trip in 1999?
As obvious with recent media reports, it appears as if the two sub-Continental neighbors are preparing for another bout of war. In my estimates, indications are that fighting between India and Pakistan will stay limited, at least until the end of the monsoon season. Indications from the Indian government that war will commence in September could actually be accurate. Of course it appears that tensions are rapidly rising, but for those who watch the region regularly, heavy handed talk has been the rule of the land for some time. I personally am waiting for the Indian side to actually back their talk up with action. The Indian populace is, I think, just getting sick of continued forays across the Line of Control (LOC). In addition to the huge political gains the ruling BJP party could reap from a successful war, a war with Pakistan would also be a great distraction from the current communal tensions in Gujarat . Already with tensions rising the past few days between India and Pakistan, it seems that the situation in Gujarat is slowly subsiding.
Despite all this, India should try and find some sort of political solution to slow their own rhetoric so that India is not forced into war. It seems that maybe Pakistan PM Musharraf is trying to do just that. Today's Financial Times indicates that in an address to Pakistani journalists, Musharraf clearly stated that Pakistan will not tolerate any sort of terrorism to emanate from inside Pakistani territory, or territory in which Pakistan controls. If Musharraf can act on this statement, and offer some sort of branch in terms of some of the twenty fugitives that India seeks, this could be an opening to dialogue and a reduction of tensions. I don't know how politically feesible this will be for him, but I also do not know how politically feesbile a limited conflict, growing to a full-on war with nuclear consequences is either?
On the Indian side, if they even wish to reduce tensions and not go to war, symbolic olive branch choices seem to be limited. From all indications, it seems that the Indians are legitimately preparing for some sort of conflict. The navy has been moved, forces from the Chinese border have been moved, and Vajpayee has begun to motivate Indian forces along the border. While I do believe both countries have rational nuclear doctrines, I think because India's nuclear arsenal is under civilian control and it has overwhelming conventional power with regard to Pakistan, any nuclear weapons use will begin with Pakistan. The danger that exists their is the blurring of civil-military control of the nuclear arsenal, and its irrationality when it comes to India. I hope that if their is a conflict, it remains limited, but at the same time, it would be much safer and productive if calmer minds prevail, and India and Pakistan can resume some meaningful and productive dialogue. This would ideally mean the resumption of the Lahore process, the peace initiative started when "bus diplomacy" took Vajpayee to Lahore. Also the same intitiative that was stopped when Pakistani backed militants (signed of by current Pakistani PM Musharraf) attacked India during the Kargil war in the summer of 1999.
Monday, May 20, 2002
More Bollywood Fabulous
From Today's Washington Post, "Hooray for Bollywood," reviews a recent Bollywood show at Washington D.C.'s MCI Center. I think this story is significant primarily as part of the bigger picture that Bollywood is making in the U.S. and the West. For years Bollywood has been popular in the Middle East, former Soviet Union, and Africa, but finally people are taking notice of this phenomenon in the West. My guess is that post September 11 people are now becoming more global with respects to their knowledge base. Middle America now is able to discuss Gardez, Kunduz, and Ramallah without giving a dumfounded stare because world events have now become salient to American lives. Or maybe, the media is covering international issues to a greater extent.
"Many Americans might be unfamiliar with these musicals, but that's only because we are self-absorbed. Bollywood, which is centered in Bombay, is the biggest movie industry in the world, its annual output of films nearly double that of Hollywood."
I think Ms. Wartofsky sums it up in those words. The aftermath of September 11 has changed, for many Americans, the self absorption of our every day lives. And if this allows the world to enjoy the fantasy, imagination, and fun of Bollywood and other world cultures, then not only is cultural globalization good, but maybe, something good has emerged from the attacks.
Friday, May 17, 2002
Bush Alerted to Hijacking Threats
After reading some of the stories the past day or so on George W. Bush's miss of the Hijacking threats, it is quite amusing to see the way much of the conservative press is reacting. Andrew Sullivan for example, continues to rant and rave about the death of Dutch Ideologue Pim Fortuyn, rather than discuss this event. In today's Daily Dish he brushes it off as if Bush hearing about an alleged threat is not news. Well of course it is news! The President and his administration, and the conservative press, post September 11, continuously have tried to pin the blame for the attacks on Clinton, the FBI, or the Intelligence Agencies. The truth of the matter is, the buck stops with Bush, and it seems that Andrew Sullivan, and much of the conservative punditry don't want to see that. From a story in Today's Washington Post by Barton Gellman,
"But it is also true that Bush and his Cabinet advisers were not yet disposed to respond to al Qaeda as a first-tier national security threat. The alerts of the early and mid-summer -- described by two career counterterrorist officials as the most urgent in decades -- had faded to secondary concern by the time of Bush's extended Crawford vacation. As late as Sept. 9, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld threatened a presidential veto when the Senate proposed to divert $600 million to counterterrorism from ballistic missile defense."
This is the most telling fact when people want to play the blame game. Terrorism was not a tier 1 concern, in either the Clinton or Bush administrations, until of course after September 11. While many of these conservative types like to spin the story in the direction of, "well, there were no specific threats," or "threats like this were mentioned all the time." The fact is, Bush was told about it on August 6 in his Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB), and to be very clear, not all threats or concerns make it to the President. When items such as these are included in the PDB and when the President is shown these items, it is indeed something that warrants sufficient attention. Of course, I have no idea how seriously Bush took this matter, but his actions show that it was't quite serious enough. In my mind it would have warranted some sort of warning, at a minimum, to the Federal Aviaition Administration, which obviously never occurred. Even post 9/11 the FAA has not been quick enough to respond to security issues, but think, what if on August 10, an alarm was sent to the FAA to be more vigilant in their screening of passengers, or what if the FAA stopped allowing all sharp/blunt objects on planes following this warning for the next 60 days? In the past warnings have been heeded and security had been stepped up at airports. So, do I think, that the Bush administration dropped the ball, sure i do. Now what needs to happen is a political response that acknowledges this miss rather than a spin that makes it appear as if what Bush did was acceptable. Tell that to the families of the "American Heroes" that passed on that day, because Bush's miss on this is anything but acceptable.
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
The Kashmir-Palestine, Israel-India Analogy, how wrong it is
Andrew Sullivan, as I must use his phraseology, doesn't get it. In his attempts to equate the Kashmir dispute and European criticims of Israel and not India, he misses the point completely. Even though he used a readers opinion, he shows his own ignorance by not making corrections to the readers incorrect assertions.
from the Sullivan's daily dish 5/8/02
"WHAT ABOUT KASHMIR?
The Euro-elites, represented by the insufferable Chris Patten, are appalled that their visceral hostility to Israel might be deemed by Americans to be linked to anti-Semitism. A reader sends the following analogy along to add perspective:
One comparison I sometimes suggest to Europeans is this. The situation in Kashmir has some parallels to the Middle East. A minority is having its hopes for self-determination postponed. In fact, India goes even further than Israel, by ruling out Kashmiri statehood a priori. India claims to be under periodic terrorist attack, and responds with massive force. Lightly armed men from Kashmir and beyond go up against heavily armed and highly trained Indian troops, not to mention Indian tanks, artillery and aircraft.
It's certainly a mess, and far too many civilians have been killed, either accidentally or through criminal negligence. But where are the protests against India in Europe? Where are the daily editorials? Where are the organized letter-writing campaigns by European liberals? Where are the demonstrations against Indian representative offices? Where are the calls by the EU to boycott Indian trade?
Even-handed criticism is fine, but when Europeans and their media reserve their ire for one country and one race - perhaps especially given their own history - then they run the risk of the accusations of anti-semitism that they are earning.
Couldn't put it better myself."
The reason people don't make the comparison is because the facts do not match up. While I will be the first to agree, as a result of Indian heavy handedness in Kashmir there was at one time a legitimate indigenous Kashmiri movement for separatism. This movement has been completely hijacked by militant Islam, support of which is very credibly linked to Pakistan, who by the way also does not wish for the Kashmiri's to have their own independent state. (this fact was overlooked by his reader). The lightly armed men that the reader refers to, as acknowledged by Pakistan President Musharraf were indeed directed by him in 1999 during the summer's Kargil crisis, and were not so lightly armed. One could make the assertion of a "David vs. Goliath" but that would be misleading it it was done to invoke sympathy.
Newsweek in a story about President Musharraf ("Pakistan's Striving Son."Newsweek (1/28/02 ) has him virtually admitting to supporting the insurgents. "Then came his [Musharraf's] decision to invade Indian-held Kashmiri territory in Kargil. It was, says a fellow general and friend, "tactically brilliant," but strategically it was "poorly thought out." If one also looks as far back as the cause of the India-Pakistan war in 1965, it too began as a result of Pakistani supported insurgents.
While Indian forces and militants are consistently engaging in violent clashes, it is not a result of Indian forces going into refugee camps, but rather because Indian controlled Kashmir is constantly under attack. The Kashmir cause is no longer an indigenous based movement, and as such Kashmir and Palestine, while there are similarities, are indeed quite different. Two states are fighting over Kashmir, whereas Palestinians, with no true state backing (although much of the Arab world does give it financial support) is fighting Israel for its own land.
Bollywood, and all things Indian, I must say, are either already a part of, or fast on its way to becoming, a part of American pop culture. From what was once a mention every now and then in the mainstream media (usually in a mocking tone) is now a regular thing. Corey Takahashi in the beginning of March wrote a tremendous story in Newsday about the South-Asian Daisporadic music scene. Then there was the Oscar nominated Moulin Rouge which incorporated the song Chamma Chamma into their soundtrack. Two items with desi flavor from the past year that has influenced this boom must be attributed to Mira Nair's overwhelming success, Monsoon Wedding, and of course, Ashutosh Gowariker's, Lagaan: Once upon a Time in India being nominated for a Best Foreign Film. One of the most overwhelming indicators of the popularity of Bollywood and India is the upcoming, (opening June 19th I think) Andrew Lloyd Webber written and musical composition by A.R. Rahman, Bombay Dreams. A musical that is sure to be amazing and be able to spread more awareness of things Indian and Bollywood. Even hip-hoppers and rappers are getting into the game. The most recent Dr. Dre protege, Truth Hurts, in her new single "Addicitve," which features Rakim, uses a bollywood film song, sung I think by the Songstress of India, Lata Mangeshkar, as its chorus. Indian culture has been influential the world over since the beginning of time, but to be a South-Asian American today, you cannot beat it.
Other sites of interest for those interested in the Diaspora are
The Satya Circle
George Washington University's Bhangra Blowout
Mutiny and Basement Bhangra
here are some recent stories
Bully for Bollywood from the village voice
The Cricketing of an Indian Village , a review of Lagaan from the New York Times
Kitsch With a Niche: Bollywood Chic Finds a Home
London Celebrates Indian Moviemakers
Thursday, May 02, 2002
It seems that indeed the UN's fact finding mission is completely off. Today, Kofi Annan has stated that he will "disband the Jenin probe" primarily as a result of Israel's lack of cooperation with the United Nations. I saw Shimon Peres on MSNBC a couple of nights ago indicating as such, but the way in which he said it sounded quite contrarian. In essence, Peres explained Israel's refusal by saying that there were 250 journalists who can accomplish a fact finding mission as to whether the Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp was too harsh. The story from the Washington Post suggests that
"Israel, after first welcoming the mission and insisting it had nothing to hide, delayed it repeatedly by raising objections to its ground rules, arguing the team's report could put the Jewish state and its military on trial."
The White House issued a statement expressing its "regrets" that the U.N. mission did not materialize. But a senior administration official also suggested that the United States had concluded that no massacre took place at the camp.
This wouldn't be the first time Israel had been accused of using excessive force. In October of 1990, the first Bush administration, led by Ambassador Thomas Pickering at the UN, was supporting a resolution condemning Israel's "excessive response" to stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators who clashed with Israeli security forces Monday in Jerusalem. The resolution itslef was proposed by Great Britain and it was to condemn violence that occurred after Palestinians outside al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City threw stones on Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall below al-Aqsa. Border police responded by firing tear gas, then live ammunition. Israeli authorities said 19 Palestinians were killed and 140 wounded. Twenty Israelis were wounded. The proposed resolution condemned "particularly the Israeli response" to Palestinian demonstration and called on the secretary general to dispatch an emissary to the region to investigate the incident. (from the Boston Globe's October 11, 1990 issue, "Israel faces UN rebuke on clash in Jerusalem ")
Of course this is a different case, but still, by not allowing outside investigators in, Israel is leaving itself open to criticism. I am not too sure to what extent a massacre had occurred, but I think it would be relevant, maybe even fair to the Palestinians to allow some outside body to investigate. Isn't transparency, after all, a hallmark of democracy?