India’s dirty secret is flushed out at last

More Indian households have TV sets than have proper toilets

Times Online | It is possibly the worst job in the world, a task so disgusting, demeaning and dangerous that it has been illegal for 17 years.

However, at least 340,000 Indians (a conservative government estimate – other experts reckon the figure is close to a million) are forced to scrape a living by cleaning up other people’s excrement.

In 1993, the practice of employing a “manual scavenger” – a job description that masks the rank grossness of the work with an Orwellian flourish – was outlawed in India. So was the building of “dry latrines” – the kind that have no flush, have to be emptied by hand, and breed diseases.

The dirty truth, however, is that three government deadlines to eradicate manual scavenging, the most recent on March 31 2009, have passed. Dry latrines are still being dug all over the country, in both rural and urban areas.

A shortage of water and space and a lack of reliable sewage systems often make them the easiest, cheapest option.

At issue, however, is more than the woeful state of infrastructure in India, a country where 660 million people still defecate in the open and more households have TV sets than have proper toilets. For the persistence of scavenging speaks to the robustness of the centuries-old caste system as much as to a chronic lack of basic sanitation.

A new report by WaterAid, an NGO, highlights the how almost all manual scavengers are Dalits, the group at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, who were formerly known as Untouchables. About 80 per cent are women.

“They will often have inherited their ‘scavenging rights’ and been tasked from an early age with removing human waste from public or private toilets, which have no flushing system, to dispose of elsewhere. Men who are scavengers usually have to manually clean out sewers and septic tanks. Scavengers are paid a pittance and treated with disdain and social stigmatism,” the study says.

Ninety per cent of scavengers have no protective equipment. Diseases such as dysentery, malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis are common. Men sent down the sewers in T-shirts and loincloths often die from inhaling toxic fumes.

Social taboos complicate the business of rehabilitation. In a small village, it is hard for a former scavenger to shrug off her past. If she tries to start a small business, it is likely to be boycotted by members of higher castes.

Even before she gets that far, however, there is the issue of self worth to overcome. “Imagine how a life spent picking up s*** affects your confidence,” says Indira Khurana, the report’s co-author and WaterAid’s head of policy in India. “For these people to stand up for their rights is a difficult thing.”

Some activists suggest that what scavengers really need is relocation programmes, so they can start new lives in places where they are not known and not burdened by the accident of their birth. It sounds like something out of a spy novel, but the stigma that follows these people around is that great, they suggest.

In some areas, imaginative thinking has produced results. The mothers of the northern state of Haryana, for instance, have adopted a simple message for men who call on their daughters: “No toilet; no bride”.

The government-initiated slogan – often lengthened in Hindi to something like “if you don’t have a proper toilet in your house, don’t even think about marrying my daughter” – has been plastered on hoardings across the region’s villages as part of a drive to boost the number of proper flush lavatories.

The campaign is one of the most successful efforts to combat India’s chronic shortage of proper plumbing, local officials claim – probably because a skewed sex ratio (there are more 8 per cent more men than women) means brides are gaining more leverage in marital bargaining while women have come to resent having to defecate outside under the cover of darkess.

About 1.4 million toilets have been built in the state since it was begun in 2005, many of them with significant government subsidies. “We have more toilets, less shame among women and less disease,” said S. K. Monda, the local government official in charge of the programme.

The Haryana project offers a ray of hope that helps explain why Ms Khurana is optimistic. She says that the new India – the India that has a world-class IT industry and a space programme – is ashamed of its caste-defined past. She thinks that political pressure – Dalits constitute a powerful vote bank – is mounting and can force change – and that schemes where community members pitch in to build proper flush lavatories have been proven viable.

She also reckons that an extensive study that will document the number of scavengers in detail will expose false claims by several state governments that they have eradicated the practice and force them to act.

It is to be hoped that she is right. But even if she is, the world’s worst job seems certain to exist for some years yet.

Now, some interesting comments published in Times Online in response to this article:

Raju charles wrote:
I would like to congratulate the author of this study to expose the evil caste based system presently existing in India.Not only is this a evil but it is also a shame for the Indians to have and propagate this caste system It is not only
inhuman but also a national shame and international disgrace to the Indians all over the world.The caste minded people of India would rather have TV than toilets.It is in the Indian mentality to neglect the basic necessities of day to day living and amass materiel wealth.This is a shocking study that exposes the weakness of the caste system because the next generation inherits it due to the cultural pressures and various social taboos attached to the occupation. Then to impose on the Dalits this type of jobs.It is not by choice but by fate and the poverty of the nation that such types of living conditions exist.How can we strive for a seat in the UN security counsel? India space technology and computer technology is not match for this dry toilet technology.I wonder why this is not outsourced? The people who justify this type of primitive acts have maggots in their head and no sense of human dignity because their caste egos are shrouding their clear thinking. Truly but sadly,

Raju Charles
Washington DC

Mohanraj Vattampoil Moorkoth wrote:
Unfortunately, Manmohan Singh and his team are more interested in pacifying the quarreling Ambani brothers and helping the US by buying its nuclear reactors spending crores of rupees than in solving such problems. An increase in the number of millionnaires from ten to twenty is not an indication of progress. 70% of Indians living on less than RS.20/- (less than 50 cents) per day is the result of six years of a so-called economist at the head of the government. What a shame!

V.M.Mohanraj, India.

yongyuan dao wrote:

We chinese are forced by the evil Chinese communist government to use shining airplanes, magnetic elevated high speed trains, and clean houses, apartments, new high rise officies.
Indians should feel thankful that their democracy government which treasure equal rights of human beings did not force people to do these jobs. “people from low cast choose this profession voluntarily” according to sasidhar vasili.

plus,
Why bother getting a toilet? if you cannot feed your family with bread…
Sad…poor Indian people…
I feel sad for them.
Why didnot the holly Dalai Lama do anything to improve the living standards of the Indians? Oh, he is busy persecuting Doji shendeng worshipers in the Tibetan exile community.

Nitka Mila wrote:
There won’t be any progressive changes until the India population realise that all are equal in their land and all should have same human rights and access to same basics facilities. And there is no use of saying that because something had been going on for over 3,000 years it is still good enough to take place now in this high tech, high quality life style rich Indian’s and we in the west are having or have rights of obtaining it. I LOVE the slogans “no toilet – no bride”. It shows they have heaps of sense of humour even when tackling life’s most awful circumstances..;-)) I hope there will come the time when Indian as people can stand up and be counted on equal platform. On the other hand, I watched this archaeological piece done by BBC which showed and described the most amazing sewage system build by Chinese around 4,000 years ago. For them it was crucial thing to have – basic life’s necessity. It makes you wonder why other great civilizations of that time did not make or are still not making it their basic necessity.

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Why China’s ignored India’s ‘military doctrine’

Defense Analysts and political scientists and students of international relations experts are watching the rhetoric out of Delhi with keep interests. The three capitals—are looking for small nuances to decipher what was said, when it was said and by whom

Here is the chronology of events. General Kapoor in what would be considered a highly provocative statement said that Bharat (aka India) was ready a two pronged war with Pakistan and China.

Reports on India’s revision of its defence doctrine to meet the challenges of a ‘two front war’ with Pakistan and China have of late received media focus. Pakistan has been prompt in its response, describing India’s reported move as ‘betraying hostile intent’ and reflecting a ‘hegemonic and jingoistic mindset’. D S Rajan in Rediff News

As expected there was an explosion in Pakistan. Political leaders, as well as the head of the army and major politicians and the National Assembly decried General Kapoor’s statements and called it an act of grave provocation.

If some analyst had expect an equally robust and angry response from Beijing, they were disappointed. The Chinese response to the Bharati general’s speech was stone silence.

The Chinese leadership saw through the Bharati “strategy” and looked at it for what it was—bluster. The Chinese leadership correctly weighed the Bharti actions and were prepared for it. Deng Xiao Peng had taught them well—Confucius says “keep a low profile, “don’t over react” and “build yourself up”, “avoid conflict” and project “soft power”. There is hard work of nation building to be done—empty chatter resolves nothing and produces nothing.

The Chinese response to Bharati provocation was decided upon decades ago. It does not nee to be reiterated.

Beijing sees Delhi’s bluster as an attempt to raise the stature of Delhi. What better way to raise the stature than to challenge an emerging superpower? One would think that Delhi is some way or form could ever compete with Beijing in anything> If Beijing had responded to General Kapoor’s juvenile delinquency, it would have reduced itself to Delhi’s level. By taking the high road and ignoring Delhi, Beijing reduced Delhi to what it was, a regional bully that can’t even compete with Pakistan.


Pakistan’s Nuclear prowess had reduced Bharati plans. Delhi hegemony hits a brick wall on its Western front. It cannot go one inch forward. The boundary has become sacrosanct, and all the huffing and puffing and paper exercises do nothing to intimidate Islamabad.

The sagacious Maleeha Lodhi, the former Pakistani Ambassador to the US and the UK is one of the most talented political scientist around. she also clearly saw through Delhi’s game and clearly identified the source of entire passages, and the origins of the vocabulary of the Delhi’s new “doctrine”. Delhi had clearly plagiarized it from the American Doctrine of war.

Even more interesting is the fact that Beijing analysts seem to have pre-empted what Delhi was trying to do, and already seem to have written about it. Here is D.S. Rajan on the subject again.


The People’s Republic of China does not appear to have come out so far with any official reaction on the subject; interesting however is that the same theme of India’s ‘two front war’, worded a bit differently as ‘two front mobile warfare’ has figured in an in-depth authoritative Chinese evaluation of India’s defence strategy, done as early as November 2009; it raises a question whether or not Beijing  already knew about India’s reported revision of its defence strategy. This apart, it would be important to have a close look at what has been said in that analysis, for drawing meaningful conclusions. What follows is an attempt in that direction.

Titled ‘Great Changes in India’s Defence Strategy — War objective shifts to giving China importance, while treating Pakistan as lightweight’, the analysis contributed by Hao Ding, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, published in the Party-affiliated Chinese language organ, China Youth Daily, on November 27, 2009, identifies following five shifts that have taken place in India’s defence strategy:


The Chinese have figured out Delhi’s strategy. Its Marketing 101. When Kia says its just as good as Samsung, it doesn’t increase its stature—but when it says it has better features than a Toyota, the strategy to make people think that its in the same league as a Toyota. Of course the strategy doesn’t work. No matter how many time GM, (with its billions of Dollars of marketing clout) said that its J cars, or K cars, or Saturns were better than Mercedes, or lately better than Toyota—the people didn’t really buy that line—and continue to buy Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes—placing GM in bankruptcy.

Similarly Bharat’s goals are an over reach which cannot be sustained. A A Lada cannot go out and conquer the world—it lived and died in East Germany. Till Bharat gets its own house in order, and mends its fences with all her neighbors. Having an angry Nepal, a dissatisfied Bangladesh, a mad Sikkim, a seething Bhutan, a cold China, a fearful Maldives, and a belligerent Pakistan on its borders can never allow Bharat to achieve its full potential in world affairs.


‘In terms of goals, India now aims at becoming a global military power in contrast to its earlier objective to acquire a regional military power status.’ (The author’s comments say in this connection that prior to end of the cold war, India followed an expansionist and hegemonic policy in South Asia, dismembered Pakistan, annexed Sikkim kingdom and dispatched troops to Sri Lanka and Maldives.


Bharat canot become a world power, unless it fixes its painful penury. Instead of purchasing a $3 Billion Aircraft Carrier, it needs to eliminate “Grabibabad” the largest slum in the world which is really a huge trash can where people live. Slumdog India can not be shining India just because a TV commercial calls it ‘shining’.
According to loft goals, Bharat wants to be a South Asia, power, a Central Asian giant and an Asia-Pacific Hercules. Loft goals for a country where 75% of the people eek out a living at less than $2 per day. Bharat wants to project itself as a Eurasian giant. Amazing goals for a country where 450 million Dalits and invisiable Untouchables don’t have the right to live. Amazingly most Indians cannot see their existence and ignore their poverty through tokenism (appointing one highly visible person in a high position).
India always was  hegemonic. Its calim that it ever had “passive defense” as its policy is belies the facts on the ground—it bullied 560 states into joing the “Indian Unio” in 1948. Nehru declared that any state that would not join the union would be considered an enemy state. It blatantly and illegally took over Hyderabad which did not want to join the Union.


It was a regional bully. Now it wants to be a global bully—without the allies or the money to get there. Bharat’s ‘and aggressive defense’ is something that the Israelis use. Its planner face a Gordian knot. Delhi seems to be in a time warp. It feels that it is in 1972. It has failed to recognize the new nuclear realities of South Asia. It cannot comprehend that mutually assured destruction means just that. It wants to somehow find a sliver of hope to strangulate Pakistan that way it has a choke hold on Sikkim. When Islamabad doesn’t get in its hold—it cries foul and tries to destabilize it—using the Mukti Bahni and Lanka model. While exporting terror does, work, Bharat is unable to achieve its objectives, because its forces cannot cross its Western border—held at bay by Nuclear powered missiles, and tactical Nuclear weapons that will destroy only a moving army.


According to the Chinese analysts, Bharat faces security threats form”the low intensity conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir [ Images ] which can trigger a large scale conflict, the risk of a nuclear confrontation among the two nations and terrorism in South Asia.”


Though accurate, this threat perception is not actually accurate. Bharat faces three major threats to its existence. According to Indian Analyst, Bharat Verma, Bharat faces the biggest threat in Kashmir, the 2nd threat in the Northeast Seven Sister States in Assam and 89 insurgencies raging in almost every Indian state—including the lethal Naxal-Maoist threat that engulfs a huge swathe of land starting from the foot of the Himalayas in the North to the deep South in Andhra Pradesh. The recent issue of Talangana shoed the entire worked the fragile nature of the Indian Union. The people want more than 50 states—in varying degrees of secessionist tendencies. Denial of right willl further exacerbate linguistic, ethnic and  religious tensions in Bharat—leading to a USSR type of implosion or a Yugoslavia type of implosion.


The Indian defence strategy has been revised in such circumstances; The ‘active defence’ concept has replaced the old line of passive defence, the basic ‘regional deterrence’ principle has been given a new meaning with ‘punishment deterrence’ concept taking place of the old principle of ‘only deterrence’. India is stressing on taking initiatives so as to be able to conduct a hi-tech ‘limited conventional war’ against the enemy ‘under conditions of nuclear deterrence’. D. S. Rajan


In accordance with the GM strategy (mentioned earlier), the Chinese analyst says ‘Looking from the angle of war objectives, India is now laying emphasis to giving China importance while treating Pakistan as lightweight, as compared to the past equal emphasis to China and Pakistan.’


The Chinese have repeatedly said that they are fully aware of the Indian thinking.


China, there is stable political situation, a fast developing economy, a continuously accelerating military modernisation drive and growing comprehensive national strength. India thinks that therefore, the potentials of ‘China threat’ to it are on the rise. It wants to correctly treat the dialectic relation between the changes that have occurred in military threats posed by Pakistan and China and prepare for all types of military struggles. Based on such reasoning, India has proposed the doctrine of ‘two front mobile warfare’.


Bharat has done a lot of rearranging of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. It thinks that the new pattern of the deck chairs will prevent the looming strategy. Instead of changing course and avoiding the iceberg, it spends all its time on the color scheme of the chairs.  Bharat may be in an illusion


‘In matters of strategic deployment, India has shifted to a strategy of stabilising the western front and strengthening the northern front as well as giving equal emphasis to land and sea warfare, in contrast to the earlier stress only on land warfare.‘


(1) in recent years, India has carried out adjustments in its defence system to suit to the new needs. ‘Stabilising the western front and strengthening the northern front’ is a step in this direction. India has already made plans to dispatch additional forces- two mountain divisions- to the Sino-Indian border and deploy Su-30 fighter aircraft as well as missiles there in order to further strengthen its ‘partial military superiority’ vis-à-vis China, sufficient to fight a ‘middle or small-scale partial border war under hi-tech conditions’,
(2) India is increasing its deployment of mobile warfare-capable troops. Some units, on ‘double combat missions’, can launch mobile operations in both China and Pakistan fronts and
(3) India’s past attention only to land warfare is now getting shifted in the direction of the Indian Ocean, creating a deployment position capable of paying importance to both land and sea. A part of Indian troops so far located in the rear of the borders is being diverted for coastal defence purposes and a new naval fleet has come up in the south to increase strength in respect of the Indian Ocean.


China is not a superpower, nor will she ever seek to be one. If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it. Deng Xiaoping

We quote D. S. Rajan again.

‘India is making efforts to create long-range mobile operational strength and gain capacity to launch cross-combat missions.’ The Chinese military expert comments that structural adjustment of the Indian military is in progress with focus on building Indian Navy and Air Force as well as rapid action troops, leading to building up of global combat capability of Indian armed forces. The expert cites in this connection the war doctrines of the Indian Army [ Images ] (2004), Indian Navy (2005) and Indian Air Force (2007).

The analysis above needs to be examined together with a very recent Chinese assessment. Given under the title ‘Panoramic View of International Military Situation in 2009′, the analysis contributed by Ma Kang, deputy director, Institute of Strategic Studies, National Defence University, Liberation Army Daily, December 29 highlights the defence budget increases in the US, Russia [ Images ] and India. It points to India’s ‘24 percent defence budget increase’ in 2009 as compared to previous year as well as efforts to build an aircraft carrier of its own, launch of first home made submarine Arihant and goals set towards possessing ‘three dimensional nuclear strategic capability.’

What stand out are the unmistakable adversarial tones with which the two highly placed Chinese experts have talked about India. Especially, the evaluation of Hao Ding runs contrary to the officially declared perceptions of India and China that each nation is not a threat to other. Observers in India have reasons to raise their eyebrows on the reappearance of the terminology ‘partial border war’ after some gap, more so in a contribution made by an academician close to Chinese hierarchy (the last such reference figured in an unofficial strategic affairs website in November 2008).
Also odd is the timing of such comments when India-China bilateral defence, political and economic ties are progressing steadily — senior Chinese military officers including the Tibet [ Images ] commander have visited India recently, the Indian defence secretary is scheduled to visit Beijing for talks, both India and China have coordinated their actions in the conference at Copenhagen on climatic change, preparations are being made by both sides for the scheduled visit this year to China by the Indian President and lastly, India-China trade volume is slated to touch $60 billion by this year.

Not to place a break on Mr. Rajan’s rhetoric, and burst his bubble, but the Bharati Naval Chief says the following about China:


“In military terms, both conventional and non-conventional, we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China, force for force. These are indeed sobering thoughts and therefore our strategy to deal with China would need to be in consonance with these realities,” Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Suresh Mehta

The coming war between India and China:

A basic question would therefore be what is the real meaning of the latest Chinese assessment of Indian defence strategy as above, which, judging from the affiliation of the analyst concerned, can definitely be considered as reflecting official views, especially that of the military. First comes the apparent dichotomy in the thinking of the civilian and military apparatus in China on relationship with India. However, when looked carefully, the reality looks different.

China has always been encouraging expression of strategic opinions and treating them as inputs for decision making at appropriate times. It has at the same time been taking care to see that the required diplomatic options, whether relating to India or other countries, are not prejudiced by such opinions. Specifically, this premise explains the rationale behind China’s support to holding diplomatic initiatives, like talks between special representatives, to solve the boundary issue with India, while at the same time allowing hostile articulations on the subject by its strategists.

Beijing’s such two-track mindset may also be seen as setting a context for understanding the opinion expressed by the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh [ Images ] during his recent visit to the US regarding China’s ‘assertiveness’ vis-a-vis India of late.

Secondly, it is probable that the analysis clearly bringing out the ‘India threat’ theory, albeit after a gap, has something to do with the US factor. No doubt, it makes no mention of the US, but its appearance subsequent to the issuing of US-China Joint Declaration of November 17, 2009, may have its own meaning. Undeniably, reasons seem to have arisen for Beijing to feel that a qualitative change in its favour has occurred in the triangular China-US-India relations consequent to the opening of a new foreign policy course based on a ’smart power’ concept (said to be a mix of hard and soft power) by the Barack Obama  administration.

The US imperative towards China has undergone a shift to encompass a wider vision — from one seeking China’s emergence as a responsible stake holder in the international system to that aiming to establish a ‘positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship’ in the 21st century. In addition, the US has chosen to adopt a ‘pragmatic’ approach on human rights issue in China. If China thinks that it has as such come to occupy a superior position in the Sino-US equation at this juncture in the background of it having emerged as America’s biggest creditor, the same may not be misplaced.


The simple fact that the Bush policy of building Bharat as a counterweight to China is no longer feasible or part of the Obama Doctrine. Washington cannot afford to anger its biggest creditor. Bharati policy makers are still under the illusion of Condaleeza Rice when she promised the Bharatis that the USA would make Bharat a Superpower.


For Beijing, the same reason may hold good in believing that the US will be inclined to tone down its support to India on sensitive issues like the boundary problem and that the time is opportune to intensify its strategic pressure on India.

Its readiness to agree with Washington to ‘cooperate’ on India-Pakistan issues, which touched Indian sensitivities, may relate to such thinking. It may at the same time be not wrong to assume that some Chinese pronouncements (official journal Liaowang, December 1, 2009) considering China-US and China-India relations not as a zero sum game, are only for public consumption.


China does not see a huge threat from Bharat. It is did, it would simply open the technology spigot to Pakistan, and Myanmar—and cut down Bharat to size. Already there are rumors that Burma wants to acquire Nuclear weapons. Lanka has allowed a port to China right on the Bharati border


Lastly, China can be expected to factor the latest views of experts in formulation of its own defence strategy vis-a-vis India. The assessment that China, not Pakistan, is India’s priority military target is not going to be missed by the defence policy planners in China. But China may not need to make fresh responses. It has already consolidated its troop strength in the border, established firm defence ties with Indian ocean littorals and stepped up military help to Pakistan; On the last mentioned, Beijing’s recent justification of its military aid to Pakistan as a response to India’s getting arms from the US and Russia, unveils what could be in store for future.
China’s occasional talks on partial border war with India need close attention of New Delhi  as they could be in conformity with the need expressed by China to ‘win local wars under conditions of informatisation’ (China’s latest Defence White Paper). In a broader sense, trends in China towards enhancing its extended range force projection capabilities and establishing overseas naval bases, may have implications for the entire region, especially for countries like Japan, India and South China sea littorals, all having territorial problems with China.

One has only to take note of the US position that China’s military modernisation is changing the balance of power in East Asia.

China is giving mixed signals, but it would be in India’s interests to continue ‘engaging’ China. It should at the same time take all necessary steps to protect its strategic interests; India’s revised defence strategy proves that it is prepared to do the same. D S Rajan is director, Chennai Centre for China Studies. China experts feel Indian defence strategy treats China, not Pakistan, as priority target, which they also believe provides for a partial border war, writes D S Rajan.


The pace of Chinese development in the past 60 years is one of the wonders of the world. Not long ago the entire Chinese nation was kept in bondage by the East India Company which forced the country to continue to import opium. When the patriots revolted, Britain forced two wars on them. Finally Mao Ze Dung led the country to freedom from the machinations of Imperial Japan, Colonial Britain and a US which was supporting others in the civil war. In the past century the Chinese have walked softly and hidden the Big stick. It has whispered where others have shouted. The leadership in Beiing has bitten its lip on Taiwan and Arunchal Pradesh. It has kept quiet on the boundary line South of Tibet and kept quiet on international issues that it felt strongly about. Now the results are evident for all to see.


National Security: As China announces yet another double-digit increase in its military budget, and as this and other threats continue to grow, President Obama plans to spend just 3% of GDP on defense by 2016.
Almost unnoticed in January was the presence of Chinese warships deployed in the Gulf of Aden, south of the Saudi peninsula, to assist in the international anti-piracy mission. The deployment of naval vessels 4,000 miles from home is significant and historic. It demonstrates that China now has a blue-water navy.
China has announced in advance of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress that it intends to increase its 2009 defense budget by 14.9%. This follows increases of 17.8% in 2007 and 17.6% in 2008. The actual increase may be higher, as China has traditionally kept many things, including major arms purchases, off budget.
China’s military budget has grown at an average rate of 16% the past decade. China’s military buildup is clearly aimed at acquiring the ability to overwhelm the defenses of, and successfully attack, U.S. carrier battle groups that might come to the aid of Taiwan in a crisis. Investors dot com

–Military Strategy


Not so ‘Shining India’

What most of the world today perceives through the lens of the Indian and western media about Hindustan (Republic of India) is indeed very disturbing. The west befooled by the Indian opinion-makers, like Fareed Zakaria, refers to India as “the emerging powerhouse of the 21st century.” In his recent treatise, The Post American World, Fareed Zakaria (true to his Indian roots) has described the great story of our times as ‘Rise of the Rest’ – the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Kenya…and we in Pakistan (courtesy some of our own media channels) think that India is the biggest democracy and the star of South Asia. The media of the West and India, which is being referred as Windia, has become the spin-doctor trying to convince the rest of the world that India should be included in countries that can save the world from the current global economic mess and scourge of terrorism. But the million dollar question is, how is it possible for a country to save the world when it has a population of a billion plus of which 400 to 500 million live below poverty line, when it has more than 100 active insurgencies, when its hundreds of thousands die due to pollution and starvation annually, and when it has militarily intervened directly or indirectly in almost every country in its neighbourhood?

Nevertheless, it is important to mention here that there is a huge difference between poverty in an average country like Pakistan and India. India’s poor live in subhuman conditions. Whether it is food or basic shelter, the Indian poor don’t have that; almost an estimated one million die due to starvation and malnutrition every year. The people in the poor neighbourhoods of Mumbai and Delhi sleep on footpaths. Moreover, there are timings for this facility; you have to share the footpath space as per the prescribed timings. That is the reason why the poor in India live and die on the roads and footpaths; if in doubt, watch Slum Dog Millionaire. In the same vein, there is severe shortage of basic public facilities (toilets).

Furthermore, the Dalits or untouchables in India were and are treated like animals. The Hindu stratification enshrined in The Dharma is turning the poor in India against its own state. Undoubtedly, the world’s biggest insurgencies are active in India. Here, I am mainly referring to the Naxal Republic, the three Ks of Khalistan, Kerala and Kashmir, Gurkhaland and the seven sisters adjacent to and including Assam. Other than Kashmir, the most effective insurgency is the Naxalite movement. As per Wikipedia: “Naxalite or Naxalvadis (name from the village of Naxalbari in the Indian State of West Bengal where the movement originated), are a group of far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. In recent years, they have spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

“As of 2009, Naxalites are active across approximately 220 districts in 20 states of India accounting for about 40 percent of India’s geographical area, they are especially concentrated in an area known as the ‘Red Corridor’, where they control 92,000 square kilometres. According to India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, 20,000 armed cadre Naxalites were operating apart from 50,000 regular cadres working in their various mass organisations and millions of sympathisers, and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them as the most serious internal threat to India’s national security “.

At the same time, India treats its minorities ruthlessly by violating religious and human rights. Kashmir, Babri Mosque, Golden Temple and burning of churches in Orissa by extremist Hindus are a few examples. The non-Hindus are being forced to accept pagan traditions in the name of their practicality and logic. Mysterious rituals, where people are forced to marry frogs and dogs to remove evil curses, are common. In a number of Indian cities there are thousands of monkeys allowed to freely roam and pollute streets, causing solid waste problems and harm to the citizens, all in the name of divinity of Hanuman. Drinking cow urine was religiously followed in the country side, it is now becoming fashionable in Indian elite and their night clubs, a re birth of novo Morar Ji Desaies in the name of Pavitarta and divinity of the holy cow.

Then again, India has another problem of managing its water resources. Indian rivers are the most acidic rivers in the world. As per Lifestyle india.com: “Water pollution is a serious problem in India as almost 70 percent of surface water resources have serious pollution problem and a growing number of ground water resources are already contaminated by various pollutants. Though River Ganga’s water has not polluted totally, its pollution has reached a critical point since its water is not fit for bathing or drinking. Over the years, of the 3000 aqua creatures found in the Ganga, only 205 have survived.” Surely, the basic reason is their belief of throwing ashes of the dead in the river Ganges.

The major deception being played in projecting Shining India is through the media – Windia. This media projects India as the ‘Golden State’ and ultimate redeemer of the world. Channels like Zee, Star Plus, BBC, National Geographic, Discovery and Bollywood project the themes of milk and honey flowing through the Ganges River. Some of our Pakistani channels (with the big slogan of ‘live and let live’), are dying to project India as the ultimate success story of South Asia, despite all of what happens in India, 80 percent of the news about India appears to be from Bollywood or Indian Cricket. They need to be more objective on India.

Windia’s India is like a city with its walls painted with pictures of heaven, but once you enter its gates you realise that you have entered hell. Three cheers for Incredible India, the boggy of Windia. — Umar Waqar

Is India secular?

There is always a big gap between theory and practice; same is the case with Indian Constitution and governance. Indian Constitution is secular in spirit and if implemented truly, India would be an ideal country to live in especially for minorities both religious as well as linguistic. However, in reality this ideal situation is lacking in India and all the successive governments of India hardly paid any attention to minority rights and issues.

This situation has led to the suppression of minorities in almost all walks of life in addition to majority violence against them. In India, everyone accord priority to their caste, communal and religious identity over the national one. National rhetoric seemed to have disappeared. Hindutva forces talk more of Hindu religion than of nationalism and this trend is weakening the fiber of secularism and creating irritants among Indian people of different religious and linguistic identities.

Being in majority the Hindus are pursuing convergence of India into a Hindu state by submerging minority identities as their moral and social obligation. For this they are employing different techniques such as converting minority identities into Hindu mainstream, killing minorities and damaging their properties and trying to throw all minorities out of India.

The communal violence in India traces back its history to the riots in Ahmadabad in 1969 in which more than 1000 people were killed and Bhivandi in 1970 in which 400 people lost their lives. Somehow, the Indian government managed to control communal violence up till 1977. In 1977 major riots broke in several places in Jamshedpur, Aligarh and Varanasi between Hindus and Muslims. The year 1984 marked the operation blue star and killing of thousands of Sikhs. Apart from Muslims this was a major blow to another minority community. In 1992 Muslims once again became the victim of majority violence. After the demolition of Babri mosque riots erupted not only in Ayodhya but also in Mumbai killing thousands of Muslims. The tragedy of Gujarat pogrom 2002 has no precedent in Indian history. In these riots Hindus killed and looted Muslims with complete impunity and support from police and government.

Recently, communal riots rocked the Maharashtra state of India. The riots started in Miraj, Sangli district on 2 September 2009 when the Hindu extremist organizations such as ShivSena put up a structure depicting Maratha warrior Shivaji slaying Mughal General Afzal Khan. This hurt the emotions of the Muslim population of the area and they protested against this. As a result, Hindus started riots against Muslims. A Hindu Mob forced entry into a Muslim house and assaulted people, terrorizing the entire area. Hindu mobs also indulged in stone pelting and arson in Tasgaon, Ashta and took out a protest rally in Kadgaon area. The Hindus also threw a dead pig in a mosque area in Gawli.

The whole situation was created by the Hindu extremist organizations to create division between the communities ahead of the forthcoming legislative polls in the state. Muslims were protesting for the past one month against the structure erected for the Ganesh festival. This is not the first time that such an activity is done by extremist Hindus before elections. This technique of them is quite old. They firstly demolished Babri mosque and when Muslims protested against this they started full fledged riots in Ayodhya. Similar is the case in Gujarat, Hindu extremist parties killed their own people in order to get an excuse to start a backlash against Muslims.

They used the same technique in Miraj, a Muslim majority town of Sangli district of Maharashtra. They hurt the sentiments of Muslims by erecting an objectionable structure and when Muslims protested they started riots. In order to pacify the Muslim population the government removed the controversial structure in Miraj. At this BJP and Shiv Sena activists protested and demanded the reinstatement of the structure for the Ganesh festival threatening that festival will not resume until its reinstatement. Police arrested 200 Shiv Sena and BJP activists on the pretext on fueling the already fragile situation.

The BJP’s politics is driven by the principle of “majority is authority.” Power is to be derived through majority and can be used to redefine and legitimize anything and everything. Hence, India witnessed more communal riots during BJP rule. BJP provided full support to other Hindu extremist organizations such as Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Praishad authorizing all these organizations to unleash their own terror on minority communities.

The Christians who hardly face any violence against them witnessed severe riots during BJP rule. The Anti-Christian violence in India has increased in recent years and is often perpetrated by Hindu extremists. There have been multiple incidents of such violence since the BJP began its rule at the center in March 1998. From 1964 to 1996, 38 incidents of violence against Christians were reported.

In 1997, 24 such incidents were reported. Since 1998, Christians in India have faced a wave of violence. In 1998 alone, 90 incidents were reported. In June 2000, four churches around India were bombed. In Andhra Pradesh, church graves were desecrated. A church in Maharashtra was ransacked. In September 2008, two churches were partly damaged in Kerala. The Times of London called September 2008 violence as the worst anti-Christian violence in India since independence (in 1947). Under Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution, discrimination on the grounds of religion is prohibited. Article 25 guarantees the right to freely practice and propagate religion while Articles 26, 28 and 30 ensure the freedom to manage religious affairs, to attend religious instruction or religious worship. Despite the presence of such detailed and comprehensive legislation the government has allowed organisations like the Bajrang Dal to conduct training camps, and issue harassing statements without the fear of retribution.

The need of the hour is to have an absolute and appropriate response from the government side. India preaches democracy and rule of law but does not practice it. The image of India abroad is of a tolerant country but the reality is otherwise as democracy notion include protection of minorities. The Hindu fundamentalists must be forced to end the persecution of the poor and hapless minorities in India. India’s political system based on democratic pluralism theoretically provides space for all ethnic groups and sub-nationalities.

But, in actuality, there have been severe deficiencies in the way it functions. Suffice it to say, political empowerment of the people is still far from complete, even after six decades of independence. Despite an overarching commitment to respecting citizens’ freedom to express their views, peacefully protest, and form their own organizations, the Indian government lacks the will and capacity to implement many laws and policies designed to ensure the protection of rights. There is a pattern of denial of justice and impunity, whether it is in cases of human rights violations by security forces, or the failure to protect women, children, and marginalized groups such Dalits, tribal groups, and religious minorities. The failure to properly investigate and prosecute those responsible leads to continuing abuses. The government has failed to protect vulnerable communities including Dalits, tribal groups, and religious minorities such as Sikhs, Muslims and Christians.Mamoona Ali Kazmi

Extremism in India

The national flag of a country is no doubt the most sacred asset for a nation. A true patriot always considers the flag of his country more important than his own life. History is replete with the names of soldiers who sacrificed their lives just to keep their flag flattering. But there happened something just opposite to it in India on the 26th January, the Republic Day of India when a huge crowd of low-caste Indian Dalits raised the Pakistan flag in Meerut to protest against the series of atrocities they have been suffering from since long. They raised slogans against the Hindu extremists who have deprived them of the basic human rights.

Although the leaders of the protesters were immediately arrested by the security agencies yet their novel way of protest became a hot topic for the world media. This type of protest by the low-caste Hindus on the days of national importance is nothing strange and new. Raising slogans against the Hindu maltreatment and atrocities, burning effigies of national leaders and copies of the Constitution of India, have become a cultural tradition on such occasions. Regarding the Dalit protest on the Republic Day of India, the world known Dalit activist and Professor of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Surinder Singh Jodkha told the South Asia Tribune: “Such incidents are the manifestation of alienation and frustration. I cannot say that Dalits are safe in Pakistan or not. This is not the main question. The main question is if the Dalits are safe in India or not”. According to the sources there are about 140,000 cases of atrocities against Dalits pending in various Indian courts. Justice is delayed for the victims and they feel alienated and frustrated. Neither the law-enforcing agencies nor the courts are willing to take care of these low-caste Hindus. This indifferent attitude of them is turning the lives of these voiceless and helpless citizens of the ‘Democratic India’, into a blazing inferno. In the last August, the international media reported the worst example of human rights violation in India regarding the low-caste Dalits when a nine year old Dalit girl at Faridabad Model School was compelled to parade naked on the school premises after her family failed to deposit the tuition fees. This shocking incident took place only 40 kms away from the national capital in the northern Indian city of Faridabad. The girl was a student of class three.

Jasbeer Singh, the editor of a bi-lingual Punjabi & English monthly magazine, Parivartan, is considered an authority on the internal social and political affairs of India. In one of his recently published articles he has criticized the government of India for ignoring the basic human right of all minorities including the Sikhs. He says, ‘While India never tires of claiming to be ‘the largest democracy’ in the world, one wonders, what did India’s leaders or its government, do to make it so? One of the tests for any ‘democratic’ regimes is how the minorities feel and fare?’ There are three types of minorities in India; Regional, religious and racial and all of them are maltreated in the worst possible manner. That is the reason one finds a state of havoc everywhere in India. From the north-east states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram to the blood-dripping valley of occupied Kashmir; everywhere there is a resounding and resonating tale of human rights violation. The Indian security forces are always busy in a whole-sale massacre. Innocent citizens are abducted, young girls are raped and the properties of the ‘miscreants’ are burnt to ashes. Churches, Mosques and the Gurdwaras; in short, no place of worship is safe from the brutality of Hindu extremists.

Keeping in view the human rights violation in India the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom USCIRF has placed India on its Watch List. USCIRF is an independent U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.

USCIRF issues its annual report on religious freedom each May. This year’s India chapter was delayed because USCIRF had requested to visit India this summer. The Indian government, however, declined to issue USCIRF visas for the trip. That is why the annual report was released in the second week of August; 2009. Any country that is designated on the USCIRF Watch List requires close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government. The other countries currently on USCIRF Watch List are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, the Russian Federation, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.

India earned the Watch List designation due to two basic reasons; first the disturbing increase in communal violence against religious minorities, specifically Christians in Orissa in 2008 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and secondly the government’s largely inadequate response in protecting its religious minorities. Condemning the communal riots in Gujarat, the Commission says, “The Indian government not only failed to prevent the attacks against religious and racial minorities, but that state and local officials aided and participated in the violence.”

The USCIRF has suggested that Obama Administration must urge the government of India to take new measures to promote communal harmony, protect religious minorities, and prevent communal violence. The recommendations and suggestions of the USCIRF are no doubt very useful and beneficial for the suffering minorities of India but it would be almost impossible for the government of India to act upon these recommendations. Caste discrimination is a cultural trait of the Hindu society and the government of India can never crush the culture of the people it belongs to.Ali Sukhanver

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