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[P]
Crisscrossing India

By bayankaran in Culture
Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:32:02 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

My friend Vipin - a Sound Engineer, crisscrossed North India with a small documentary crew. The film maker he was travelling with was Saeed Mirza - wellknown in the country for offbeat films and television serials.

This is his account of the journey as emailed to some of us. It is one of the truest accounts of the current socio-political situation of the country I have read for a long time.

Note:
Vipin gave me permission to post this. I corrected only the most obvious typos. They were travelling on a more polished version of a Jeep (Vipin calls it zeep) with an airconditioner. But unfortunately the larger than life filmmaker on the front seat took most of the cool air.


Hello everyone,

I am writing this from the holiest of the Hindu cities Kashi or Benares1. It has been exactly six weeks of this long and arduous trip that we have undertaken. I am on a nationwide shooting spree for a documentary. The director is Saeed Mirza of Nukkad fame. He is an intractable old man. Garrulous, verbose, a master of platitudes.

The trip so far has been extremely hectic and barrring a few exceptions, very tiring. We have covered Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu, Kashmir, Laddhakh, Leh, Himachal, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh. We have had only a day's break at Lucknow and that too because our two zeeps had to be serviced. Thankfully the AC works but we have the gargantuan figure of Saeed Mirza in the front seat trying his very best to prevent us from getting the cold breeze. People have loved his television serials and they recognise him everywhere specially villages where only Doordarshan2 exists.

The good part of the trip is that we are staying in relatively less known places and meeting people one would never come across. The trip has not sprung any surprises in as far as people are concerned. The country has multitudes of poor, homeless, destitutes, unemployed and underemployed. People betrayed by successive govts, middle and upper classes and a compassionless establishment. People for whom economists' proclamations mean a naught. There no eyeopeners here. We are an ocean of starving people being driven to the wall slowly but ever so decidedly. The hegemony of the affluent and influential has stamped its authority on every nook and corner of the country.

On top of that we have the horror of Gujarat3. We went to a village Sardarpur where 33 Muslims were burnt alive. The local Hindu population had the audacity to say that nothing happened. They even dissuaded us to go there. We managed to reach the spot. There were a few speechless children around the charred remains of what were once muslim houses. The terror in the eyes of the Muslim kids was to be seen to be believed. You could sense that they were living on leased life. In Gujarat as well as elsewhere we met the most marginalised sections of our society and one is alarmed at the presence of many muslims amongst these. They, along with the Dalits4 and Adivasis5 emerge as the most oppressed, victimised and systematically negelected groups. And yet they have the magnanimity of heart and generosity of spirit that is hard to fathom. I have been overwhelmed by their modest dreams and clear aticulation of what they perceive as the betrayal of the poor and helpless.

The hardest part of the journey was Jammu and Kashmir6, where we faced triple threats of militancy, army and the landslide. When we reached Jammu, a bomb exploded in a bus 1 km ahead of us. On the Srinagar road there was a gun pointing at you every 100 yards. A single wrong move and you could be fired at. Once approaching srinagar we tried putting our camera on a tripod inside the car, the Army Javan in a vehicle ahead of us aimed his AK47 at us and almost fired. We had to fold our arms and quickly remove our camera to show him. Luckily he realised fast that we were a film crew. There was a land mine explosion in Banihal (Doda) just after we passed it. Dras, the second coldest place in the world after Siberia, where we stayed a night was bombed by Pakistan after we left. We reached Kargil only to realise it had been shelled last night.

And yet people go on with their lives.The Army and state repression is very conspicuous. People of Kashmir are peace loving and very benevolent. They hate the Army the most then BSF7 and then Militants.There is no sympathy for militancy but they dont mince words in their criticism of the governments that have donned the mantle of power in the state as well as they are eloquent in their disregard for Pakistani intervention. Indian army has commited some of the worst crimes known to humanity. I will leave the rest for you to surmise.

The Srinagar Leh road is the most beautiful road in the world. It is exclusively used by the army. On that road you get a feeling that you are in an occupied territory a la Paris by Hitler. The valley of Sonamarg was incredibly picturesque. It is a pity it is totally a domain of Indian army. Ladakh9 is truly the roof of the world. You see long stretches of nothingness, no vegetation, no signs of life. You see snow peaks that are below your eye level. The overididng emotion is that you are on an unknown planet a la Star trek. Just before Leh there was a point called the magnetic hill where if you keep your zeep in neutral the zeep starts going up the slope. It was surreal and mind you the slope must have a gradient of at least 30 degrees.

Leh Manali road is the highest motorable road in the world and probabaly the most dangerous. The highest point in the world is at Khardungla pass at a whopping 18328 feet. You are hard pressed to breathe. If you walk a bit you are breathless. I was wearing two sweaters, a thick woolen jacket, legwarmers, two pairs of gloves etc and still shivering and I had a hard time holding the mike. We were interviewing labourers from Bihar who were ironically wearing hawai chappals and pant and shirt. They were building the roads we even feared to tread. Bihari labourer rushes in where angels fear to tread. The Bihari labourer is the most ubiquitous human species. You find them everywhere toiling hard, on the highest roads in the world, on tiger hill in Kargil carrying army supplies, in dense forests of Corbett cutting river stones. They are the most hardworking, sceptical often cynical and very largehearted. They know exactly what they have been subjected to. They explode the myth of silent, ignorant majority of poor. They are laconic, curt, polite and incisive and informed. I am amazed that they are not on the streets creating the largest revolution in human history.

I must confess I am surprised at coming out alive of the Leh-Manali stretch. 472 kms of the most breathtaking scenery and scary roads. Sometimes there was just no road. After a while you realise the road along with the mountain has plummeted into the Indus, one of the most beautiful rivers in the world. We came across a small village near Lamayuru in Laddakh on the banks of the river Indus. The tribe there is believed to be the original Aryans. They are blue eyed blonde people, extremely poor nowadays. Many German women came here earlier to get impregnated with what they beleived was pure Aryan blood.so much for fanaticism.

Rest later. The voyage continues.

Vipin



Here is a good political map of India.

1. Kashi or Benares - Also called Varanasi, on the banks of Ganges. Here is some information about its place in Hinduism.

2. Doordarshan - Indias national television network. Available throughout the country. Now facing competion from other satellite/cable channels.

3. Gujarat - Western Indian state. Recent Hindu Muslim riots killed around 5000 and were the worst in history. Extremist Hindus ganged and started cleansing the villages of Muslims when a train carrying Hindu activists was set of fire by Muslims.

4. Dalits - People belonging to backward Hindu castes. Casteism is abolished by law but still practiced in some rural areas.

5. Adivasis - aboriginals.

6. Jammu and Kashmir - The state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northern most state of India. Kashmir has been in news with its Pakistan inspired terrorism and Indian Armys brutal crackdown. The legitimate and moderate voice of Kashmiris are forgotten.

7. BSF - Border Security Force, a separate division of armed forces entrusted with patrolling the borders of the country.

8. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh - Two of the biggest and most populous Indian states. The states are plagued by failed administrations, extremely corrupt politicians (most of them including ministers are convicted in various criminal cases ranging from dacoitery, murder, rape, looting and so on), local armies (Hindu higher caste landlords have their own private armies) to militant communist groups.

9. Ladakh - northern most district in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Related Links
o Here is a good political map of India.
o some information
o Also by bayankaran


Display: Sort:
Crisscrossing India | 38 comments (32 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Pictures (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by Argon on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:45:27 AM EST

Beatiful story. I can only whish for a few pictures... To see what you have seen. Don't get me wrong, your description almost takes me there... almost. :)

Yeah, but on the flipside... (none / 0) (#7)
by RaveWar on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:57:47 AM EST

I too would like some piccies. But I suppose their absence also means that the reader may be inspired to go there to see what it is like in real life. This is a country I certainly want to see someday. And of course, at the expense of sounding mystic, not two journeys will be the same

Myself, I think a railway journey would be the right way to travel through India. My cousin decided that riding around on an India Enfield motorcycle was the most authentic and he got there and did it.
We don't need freedom. We don't need love.
We want Superpower, Ultraviolence.
[ Parent ]

To picture or not to picture (none / 0) (#8)
by Argon on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 05:18:06 AM EST

Ok, I agree with you partialy. After reading the article, I found a renewed desire to visit the country. To see all the wonders that he describes. The pictures would allow me to peek at what he describes, but in no way it would substitute the real experience. To smell the air, to feel the byte of the cold. The same thing happens when I see the travel channel. I don't feel less motivated to go to those places.

[ Parent ]
Photographs of Ladakh (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by hostmaster on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 10:13:15 AM EST

Some of the best photographs I've seen of Ladakh are at http://www.follmi.com/

[ Parent ]
Picture worth a thounsand words (none / 0) (#33)
by Argon on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 09:26:00 AM EST

Pictures like the one on this site are too much to be described by simple words.

It's images like this that make photography an Art, and landscapes like this that make me wonder if there isn't a god with extreme good taste.

Thanks for pointing the site.


[ Parent ]

"Ahhh.... behold the power of Religion!" (4.20 / 5) (#10)
by bADlOGIN on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:42:36 AM EST

We went to a village Sardarpur where 33 Muslims were burnt alive. The local Hindu population had the audacity to say that nothing happened.

Religion™: proud sponsor of death, destruction, and misery thoursands of years.

Smart comments asside folks, this is heart wrenching and sickening. After reading this I feel the disgust to stick just my head in the sand, the outrage to stand up and do something, and the dispair that neither are likely to do any good.
Sigs are stupid and waste bandwidth.

seen this said too many times (4.25 / 4) (#13)
by Shpongle Spore on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 02:20:34 PM EST

ReligionTM: proud sponsor of death, destruction, and misery thoursands of years.

Blaming religion for violence between Hindus and Muslims is like blaming skin for violence between black and white people. You'll never see the underlying causes if you think like that.

Disclaimer: I'm not religious.
__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are
[ Parent ]

Well then? (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by bADlOGIN on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:55:16 PM EST

Blaming religion for violence between Hindus and Muslims is like blaming skin for violence between black and white people. You'll never see the underlying causes if you think like that.

Disclaimer: I'm not religious.

Well, for the sake of discussion, if it's not religion that's to be blamed for violence between Hindus and Muslims, then what is?

Disclaimer: I'm not religious either, but I do hold a slight bias against any type of Zelot.
Sigs are stupid and waste bandwidth.
[ Parent ]

Imperialism? Post-Colonialism? (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by duffbeer703 on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:27:30 PM EST

India and Pakistan are products of British India.

British India in turn was a collection of kingdoms that existed seperately in one form or another for centuries.

Call me crazy, but I think that transitioning a country as large as India into a democratic regime in the space of 50 years is quite a difficult task.

[ Parent ]

Religion not to blame? (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by phliar on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 05:10:13 PM EST

There is some truth to the statement that religion should not be blamed for the atrocities committed by humans. We have free will; if any of us does something horrible, that person must take all the blame.

However, like skin colour, things are not black and white. The fact is that around thirty years ago -- in the early 70s -- things weren't this brutal. (Even during the India-Pakistan conflict of '71, Hindu-Muslim relations in India were not bad.) Of course Indira Gandhi's government did many horrible things to the poor. It can be said that Nehru's vision of an industrialised India necessarily entailed the disruption of the lives of small farmers (cf. the various hydro-electric projects). For the most part though, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs etc. lived in tolerance (if not harmony), especially in urban areas.

So who or what is to blame for the fact that now people who grew up together are killing each other in the name of religion? Religion is a very convenient tool, ideal for use by politicians who want to direct attention away from the problems faced by society. Not just in India, but everywhere. If religion were to disappear overnight, I think we'd all be better off.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

But why blame religion? (none / 0) (#35)
by Shpongle Spore on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:03:38 PM EST

So who or what is to blame for the fact that now people who grew up together are killing each other in the name of religion?

You say yourself that different religious communities in India tolerated one another for a long time before the current violence, just as they do in much of the world today. If religion never caused a problem before, why do you blame it now?

Religion is a very convenient tool, ideal for use by politicians who want to direct attention away from the problems faced by society.

Convenient, yes, but far from the only tool. Anything that divides people in to different groups (race, nationality, language) works just as well. Why blame the tools used by demagogues rather than the demagogues themselves, or better yet why not blame the problems that produced the demagogues? This line of thought might lead you to a problem that can be solved in a productive way. Trying to "solve" the "problem" of religion only brings violence and misery.

If religion were to disappear overnight, I think we'd all be better off.

If religion were to disappear overnight, it would be re-invented the next day, probably in a form you would find much more objectionable than today's religions. All the world's major religions have evolved to the point where they advocate good things like tolerance and humility, even if the majority of their followers choose not to listen. They could just as easily advocate violence, human sacrifice, etc. Even if you think all religions are inherently bad, they do at least prevent even worse religions from gaining a foothold.
__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are
[ Parent ]

its not about religion you stupid twit (2.66 / 3) (#21)
by turmeric on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 01:46:27 AM EST

people dont kil each other out of religion any more than a guy who kills his kids 'when a fight over a popsicle broke out' is caused by @#$@#$ popsicles.

i suppose you want to ban popsicles since they cause all the pain in the world?

turn your head to china or the soviet union, our wonderful examples of institituionalized atheism. oh the beauty and glory of a people free of the ravages of religion. how wondrous the workers paradise of north korea. to be free from the shackles of believing there is more to life than karl marx and chairman mao, or that mystery exists in the universe. why, its all explained by scientific socialism!

[ Parent ]

Pardon me, but (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by shaunak on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 01:05:25 PM EST

"It is one of the truest accounts of the current socio-political situation of the country I have read for a long time. "

Opinionated, overrated. This is not anything you've claimed here.

Why?

Truth is ugly to look at (2.50 / 2) (#12)
by bayankaran on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 01:51:58 PM EST

Yes, I believe it is true. What we have after 50 years of independence is a country with pockets of development (the southern software belt and parts of Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat) and large tracts of North India - lawless, corrupt and with huge socio-economic problems.

One fine day it will erupt - "I am amazed that they are not on the streets creating the largest revolution in human history" - will come true.

[ Parent ]
Can we see it? (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by levsen on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 03:21:29 PM EST

Hey, people are asking for pictures here, but according to the article, they where shooting a film, right? That means there must be a whole lotta pictures, 24 from every second of the trip, to be precise. The question is just, how can anybody whose cable operator doesn't happen to carry Doordashan get to see it. Maybe the poster with his connection to the producers can tell us.
This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
Almost anyone with a TV can. (1.00 / 1) (#32)
by gyan on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 04:47:28 AM EST

"The question is just, how can anybody whose cable operator doesn't happen to carry Doordashan get to see it."

 Well, DoorDarshan is the state-run television system that's been in commission since late 70s IIRC.

 It is transmitted over cable as well as over the air. Most rural villages with a shared TV will have DD if nothing else.

********************************

[ Parent ]

FYI (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by levsen on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:36:45 PM EST

usually it's the Americans that are appalled to learn there is a world outside America, but this time it's the Indians. Or at least if they know there is a world outside they don't know it doesn't have Doordashan.

My cable operator here in France is Noos, care to call them at +33 825 34 54 74 if you don't believe me.


This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]

I had a different slant (none / 0) (#38)
by gyan on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 05:25:34 AM EST

"Or at least if they know there is a world outside they don't know it doesn't have Doordashan."

 You should be grateful for that :-)

 And I thought you meant how the Indians would see it (since Mirza normally makes documentaries for local consumption and I thought you posed your question as a contrast of Indian society)

 As for you in France watching it, unless you have a friend who tapes it in India, you can't*

*Unless PBS/BBC/some-other-foreign-channel buys broadcast rights.

********************************

[ Parent ]

Frustrated left-wing intellectuals from India (3.66 / 9) (#15)
by dilmeloha on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:27:09 PM EST

This account is little more than a ranting of frustrated left-wing intellectuals from India. These are the same people who bone-headedly assert that a just world is one where people share all the wealth equally, irrespective of their individual contributions in creating that wealth. They ignore all that we know today about incentives and human nature. They continue to live in Karl Marx's century with the belief that physical labor alone creates wealth. Contrast this with Alan Greenspan's urging that innovations in technology present an opportunity for long-term productivity growth through informed and responsive business decision-making.

"...The hegemony of the affluent and influential has stamped its authority on every nook and corner of the country."

What hegemony? Is your friend talking about the hegemony of the Fabian Socialists who controlled every aspect of one's life in India until recently? The hegemony of the group that enshrined socialism in the preamble of the Indian Constitution? The hegemony of the group that entitled municipal workers to earn monthly wages for 29 days of garbage non-collection? Just ask any ordinary person in India about the quality and quantity of "services" rendered by millions of employees of the Big, Bloated Governments in India, who distribute among themselves 95% of the taxes that are collected. Is Vipin talking about the hegemony of the Congress Party and its left-wing allies in the Communist Party of India that failed miserably to provide access to potable water, electricity, and communication to its population after 50 years of their rule? What did a Narayana Murthi or a Rattan Tata (industrialists / entrepreneurs, or in leftist jargon, capitalists from India) do to prevent the Muslim or the Dalit children from getting an education?

Muslims are marginalized and oppressed? Are we talking about the same community to which these people belong - Sharukh Khan, the reigning king of Bollywood; Ali Akhbar Khan, Sarod Maestro; Azim Premji, Wipro's Chairman; Shabhana Azmi, Member of Parliament; Mohammad Azharuddin, the captain of Indian cricket team during the 1980's and 90's - to mention just a few. Heck, the President of India is a Muslim and he led India's Nuclear Weapons Program before he became its President. Show me one non-Muslim in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, who is anywhere near the top in any of these fields.

"...The Army and state repression is very conspicuous. People of Kashmir are peace loving and very benevolent. They hate the Army the most then BSF7 and then Militants. There is no sympathy for militancy but they don't mince words in their criticism of the governments that have donned the mantle of power in the state as well as they are eloquent in their disregard for Pakistani intervention. Indian army has committed some of the worst crimes known to humanity. I will leave the rest for you to surmise."

Here's the rest that I surmised. What repression is this guy talking about? Do the Laws of India or the Laws of Kashmir prohibit women working outside the house? Do they prescribe death (100 lashes will mean death, as it was pointed out elsewhere on this forum) to a woman accused of committing adultery? Or do they want Kashmir to be governed under Sharaiya (Islamic Law) that promises these and more draconian laws? Vipin's Muslim sister in Kashmir will have to cover her face with a veil, lest she should have acid thrown at it, as the Islamic terrorists in Kashmir threatened to do recently.

Worst crimes known to humanity committed by the Indian Army? I am not aware of any tribunal, anywhere in the world trying the Indian Army for their "worst crimes", are you? Do you know if the Indian Army flouted the Geneva Convention? If you do, why don't you provide evidence to support these claims? By the way, soldiers are people, too. In case you don't know, most of them come from the poorer sections of the society! Would you like them to silently watch a dozen of their colleagues and their families be killed everyday with grenades and bullets, when they are just performing their duty of guarding temples and legislatures?

"...I am amazed that they (Bihari workers) are not on the streets creating the largest revolution in human history."

Finally, the cat is out of the bag. Who is going to lead the Proletariat? Sayeed Mirza and his Communist pals?
CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. --- Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary", 1911

A short translation of your rant (4.44 / 9) (#16)
by pyramid termite on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:44:48 PM EST

"If people would just ignore these peons and their problems, we could stay comfortable in our sheltered lives."

I seriously doubt that the issue of socialism versus capitalism is the only thing creating India's problems - Gujarat being the most obvious example of this. Odd how you couldn't seem to work that into your nice little rant, isn't it? Oh, I know - the Muslim victims of these atrocities should have explained that they were on their way to a cricket match or a movie set and they would have been left alone, I'm sure.

You say many in the Muslim world are bigoted and oppressive? How true. How true of India, also.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
India, eh? (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by YelM3 on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:19:21 PM EST

Could someone help out a guy in a repressed, censored country (America) and post some links that explain what is going on in India/Pakistan? I remember hearing something about nukes about a year ago, but other than that the media has been nearly silent on what's going on over there.

Info on India (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by dilmeloha on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:59:49 PM EST

Try these for starters:

For general information - www.khoj.com

For current news - www.rediff.com

For financial/economic data and news - www.indiainfoline.com


CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. --- Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary", 1911
[ Parent ]

India vs. Pakistan - a history (5.00 / 5) (#30)
by aat on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:56:33 PM EST

Here's a long answer for your question.

Basically, in 1947, as the British Empire left India, the British government partitioned India after a decade of protests and political maneuvering by the main Muslim political party of India, the Muslim League to create a separate state for the Muslims of India. Pakistan, the new state was formed out of the provinces of Baluchistan, Sindh, the Northwest Frontier Province, and out of the Muslim majority regions of the provinces of Bengal and Punjab. However, large parts of India, the Indian princely states, were only indirectly controlled by British, and had the right to choose which nation they wanted to join, based on the beliefs of their people. Maharaja Hari Singh, the Hindu ruler of mostly Muslim Kashmir wanted to remain independent, as he was being courted by the rulers of both India and Pakistan. However, the people of Kashmir led by Sheikh Abdullah, leader of the National Conference wanted to join India. The Pakistani military decided to settle this through force and sent Afghani irregular troops in to Kashmir in 1948. Upon hearing this, he appealed for Indian protection, and acceded to India's rule. India did this, sent military forces into the region, and prevented all of Jammu and Kashmir from going into Pakistani hands, though about 1/3 has been occupied by Pakistan ever since. In fair elections, Sheikh Abdullah became the leader of Jammu and Kashmir (or at least that part not occupied by Pakistani forces), and in 1959 the popularly elected Jammu and Kashmir state assembly agreed to accept the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India over their internal affairs, completing the process of joining India. Meanwhile, it had become an article of faith in Pakistan that all of Kashmir wanted to join Pakistan, and in the meanwhile India (rightfully as per the Jammu and Kashmir Instrument of Accession, and India Independence Act claimed all of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China invaded India and took over 38,000 sq km of Kashmir, and in 1963, Pakistan gave 2,000 sq km of Kashmir to China. Here's an Indian source referring to both of the above.

In 1965, a war between Pakistan an India an inconclusive war was fought over the status of Kashmir, and also a border dispute along the southern edge of the border.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's internal affairs were causing more problems. From the beginning, they declared themselves as a Muslim state, with Islam as the state supported religion, and made Urdu, a minority language spoken by about 8% of the West Pakistani population the national language. Both of these actions caused alienation amongst the East Pakistani population, almost entirely Bengali speakers, and about 25% Hindu. The military rule that Pakistan fell into consisted of rulers from the West Pakistani province of Punjab, and their actions were seen as favoring their home province and West Pakistan to the detriment of East Pakistan. In 1970, Pakistan held its first elections with universal suffrage, and Sheikh Mujib ur-Rahman, of the Bengali Awami League won almost all the seats from East Pakistan and in doing so one a majority of seats in Parliament. He campaigned under a slogan of regional autonomy for the provinces of Pakistan. The military was threatened by this arrested him, and installed the leader of the largest West Pakistani political power in charge. They then started widescale oppresion of the Bengali people, drove 10 million of them, mostly Hindus into exile in India, and killed 2 million Bengalis. The Indian economy was strained to the limits by the massive refugee influx, and started supporting Bengali freedom fighters fighting for the freedom of Bangla Desh (Bengali Nation). Finally, on December 3, 1971, Pakistan launched a preemptive attack on India to get them to stop supporting the Bengali rebels. India fought back and on December 16 (less than two weeks later), the Pakistani army leader surrendered to Indian forces which occupied all of East Pakistan, and the nation of Bangladesh formally came into existence. More information on the events that led to the independence of Bangladesh.

There was also some fighting along India and Pakistan's western border. A year later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India and President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan met at Shimla in India and agreed that all disputes between them would be settled bilaterally.

A few years later Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was over thrown by General Zia ul-Haq, and later executed. Zia ul-Haq's regime was noteworthy for the Islamization of Pakistan, and support for the Afghan resistence. In 1988, the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. One year later, some Kashmiri leaders, disatisfied by Indian rule started an armed rebellion against Indian rule. Pakistan always claimed that it only supported them morally, but realistically, it was physically impossible for them to have gotten support from anywhere else. Many of these leaders wanted either an independent state, or union with Pakistan. These Pakistani supported terrorists like their army brethren in what is now Bangladesh, targetted the Hindu and Sikh minorities especially, and drove 95% of them from the Kashmir valley, into refugee camps in the Hindu majority Jammu region of Kashmir. Since then, 70,000 people have died in the violence, most of them innocent civilians massacred by the terrorists. The "militancy", to use an Indian English term, wrecked the economy of the state, despite an influx of government support. Increasingly, the terrorist campaign has had an increasing Islamic focus, targetting both the Hindu and Sikh minorities, and also the more relaxed sect of Islam followed by most Kashmiri Muslims, Sufiism. In 1999, Pakistan sent troops across the Line Of Control, that forms the defacto boundary between India and Pakistan, in Kashmir, to capture mountains overlooking a major road. After about 2000 dead (on both sides), and American pressure, Pakistan was forced to reign in troops (who it claimed were indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters). A few months later, the brainchild behind this operation, General Pervez Musharraf, staged a successful coup, and became Pakistan's leader. Despite attempts at diplomacy, the situation in Kashmir didn't get better, and after terrorist attacks on the Kashmir assembly and Indian Parliament, staged by Pakistani nationals, possibly with the support of their government, the current military build up started. A few months ago, Jammu and Kashmir, in their most recent elections threw out the National Conference which had ruled them for so long. The future is left to be seen.

[ Parent ]

this was cool (1.75 / 4) (#22)
by turmeric on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 01:49:32 AM EST

at first i thought you were yet another boring middle class american k5er blabbering about all the trinkets and crap you picked up in a foreign land where everyone is so cutesy wootsy.

this was a pretty nice story tho once i actually read it. aside from attracting a migrant right wing republitroll. shit i didnt know they had rush limbaugh in india.

Indian Rush Limbaugh (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by dilmeloha on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:18:18 PM EST

Of course it is easy to indulge in name calling. It will be illuminating and helpful to the rest of us if you would refute the points raised in the post that you are referring.
CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. --- Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary", 1911
[ Parent ]
See the bigger/brighter picture (3.83 / 6) (#23)
by rohitm on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 06:19:39 AM EST

Well here is one more story trying to present the "darker" picture of India. India is much more brighter and beautiful than what has been depicted in the story. There is a lot more to India than poverty/ religious tensions/corruptions etc. And about Kashmir, I think Army in Kashmir is only doing its duty. When Prez Bush's forces can go to any extent to wipe out terrorism, then why criticize Indian army for doing the same. Its preposterous to call Indian Army, criminal, when the list of ghastly acts commited by "militants" is endless. I am a Kashmiri Hindu and have been living in exile for more than 10 years now, thanks to the "oppressed" people of Kashmir. Why does it happen that whenever we "criss-cross" we always hi-light the uglier parts, when India is far more beautiful and interesting. The author badly needs to see the brighter side of the picture which is definitely bigger than the dark side which he is trying to see.

Winners and the whiners (4.33 / 3) (#25)
by dilmeloha on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:13:47 PM EST

Right on the money! Thanks to a decade old, burgeoning economic reforms, the Indian landscape is changing for the better. I recently returned from a trip to India and here are a few uplifting observations:

It used to be the dream of just about every Indian parent to see his/her son(s) join the Indian Administrative Service (a vestige of the Imperial Civil Service of the British), Indian Accounting and Auditing Service, Indian Railway Service, or any one of those zillions of government bureaucracies. You'll get a chair to wear out, a peon to carry your briefcase, another to bring you tea, and of course plenty of scope for bribes. For your daughter, what more can you ask for than an IAS husband? Today, just about very youngster that I met, men and women (about 20, I admit, is not a representative sample), wanted to start an enterprise, be it in IT, industrial design, or electric motor rewinding business!

I was helping my mother install screens on the windows in our house. A group of three youngsters in their late teens and 20's - they were partners in an interior decoration/furnishing company that they had started a year ago - did the job for us. One of them worked as an auto-mechanic during the day and looked after all the mechanicals for their business, another took care of marketing and the third, billing and accounting. Here's what heartened me most - one belonged to the so-called Scheduled Caste, another was a Brahmin, and the third was a Christian, and they didn't care!

I attended a quiz competition for school children organized by the newspaper "The Hindu". The competitors were drawn from all over India and the winners were a couple of students from New Delhi. In the third place, was an all girls team from a town in the province of Tamil Nadu. In the audience were a shrieking, cheering, and actively participating crowd of about a thousand school children. You should have seen the energy and enthusiasm of these children to believe in a future for India.

I learnt that the eldest daughter of our maid had graduated from a vocational school that trained medical diagnostic assistants and obtained a reasonably paying job in a local lab. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Indian cultural milieu, maids usually come from "lower caste" and less fortunate sections of the society, and their children would be lucky if they finished primary school. Often they, especially the female children, assist their mother in her chores, and end up as maids themselves.

With less reliance on the Government, I am sure there will be more of these to follow, and every one of its citizens willing, India could surpass China by 2020!
CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. --- Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary", 1911
[ Parent ]

You sound like... (1.00 / 3) (#28)
by bayankaran on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 02:25:19 PM EST

....the paid ambassador/PR agent of Saudi Arabia.

Quoting Vipins email -
The country has multitudes of poor, homeless, destitutes, unemployed and underemployed. People betrayed by successive govts, middle and upper classes and a compassionless establishment. People for whom economists' proclamations mean a naught.
- you also sound like one of those economists. And how can you assert/suggest he is a left-wing/communist from that observation? No one is preaching any ideology or Alan Greenspan here.

Is it blasphemous to bring out to light some of the problems of that country? No one needs to be apologetic about that. And if they are ashamed, god help them.

Is the brown skin making you ashamed when you are identified as an Indian - after your education and living in the west and an accent without any traces of an Indian language? Are you like one of those ABCDs who given a chance will paint themselves white?

There are silver linings, no one is denying that. But the reality is a mixture of the silver linings you identify and the not so silver but ugly linings you tend to shove under the carpet.

[ Parent ]
Iconoclast (4.25 / 4) (#29)
by dilmeloha on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:01:16 PM EST

You quote from Vipin's e-mail:

The country has multitudes of poor, homeless, destitute, unemployed and underemployed.

Sure, I cannot assert that he is a left-wing/communist from that sentence (by the way, I suppose that you are referring to my comments from a different post of mine on frustrate left-wing intellectuals), but why don't you continue with that paragraph:

... We are an ocean of starving people being driven to the wall slowly but ever so decidedly. The hegemony of the affluent and influential has stamped its authority on every nook and corner of the country...

...and several paragraphs after that. Ask anyone who has studied leftist literature. If the words and phrases that he uses do not derive from left-wing ideology, then I don't know what do. I don't know if Vipin is really a left-wing intellectual or not. Even if he were one, I do not mean to demonize him; I have quite a few friends who are farther to the left than one he sounds like. And, I do not care about Vipin, but about what he says and writes. If you care about what I write and not who or what I am (ambassador of Saudi Arabia - where the heck does that come from - /ABCD/brown-skinned/likes to paint myself white, yadayada), then argue the fallacies in my comments; you will be doing a great service to India and those in this forum who want to know more about it.

No one is denying that the reality of India (and quite conceivably, any other country on the face of this earth) is a mixture of silver linings and not so silver but ugly linings. And I have no intent of shoving the latter under a carpet. It is in how we deal with the problems that I would like to differ. India can continue its tired old ways of the 50 years after its independence that are predicated on distributive justice or boldly embark on a path that encourages taking personal responsibility for one's conditions. It is always easy to blame one's misfortunes on others and live under the delusion of some knight in shining armor coming to rescue one from poverty, oppression, exploitation, the machinations of a foreign hand, you name it. It is harder to own up to one's failings and make personal adjustments and improvements.

Amartya Sen once wrote about three types of writers on India - one is a "romantic" who always portrayed it as a spiritual haven, mystical, peace-loving, etc., the second is a "drain-inspector" who always rakes up the muck, and the third is a "magistrate" who judges evenly both the bright spots and the problems. Let me add a fourth - iconoclast - who is not afraid of challenging and demolishing established views and ways.


CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. --- Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary", 1911
[ Parent ]

Point of view (1.33 / 3) (#31)
by bayankaran on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 06:49:02 PM EST

... We are an ocean of starving people being driven to the wall slowly but ever so decidedly. The hegemony of the affluent and influential has stamped its authority on every nook and corner of the country...

Ideological positions aside, what if the above is true? To get the answer, you need to get the ground reality. A holiday to India and listening to CNN or BBC is not enough.

I am (ambassador of Saudi Arabia - where the heck does that come from - /ABCD/brown-skinned/likes to paint myself white, yadayada), then argue the fallacies in my comments; you will be doing a great service to India and those in this forum who want to know more about it.

Believe me, you sounded like the PR guy of Saudi Arabia with nice sound bites and spin. About the fallacies of the comments - you should realise that he did not offer/suggest any solutions in the email. But you jumped the gun and started calling names - left wing, right wing, Alan Greenspan etc. and then started offering great solutions. The email portrayed only the depressing reality.

Think from the point of view of one of those human beings he met on the journey - your choicest words to those millions are -
It is always easy to blame one's misfortunes on others and live under the delusion of some knight in shining armor coming to rescue one from poverty, oppression, exploitation, the machinations of a foreign hand, you name it. It is harder to own up to one's failings and make personal adjustments and improvements.

Tell them about Alan Greenspan, working lunches, IMF and World Bank. Ask those millions to do personal adjustments and improvements to have a better life. To put it mildly it would be incredibly arrogant.

Let me add a fourth - iconoclast - who is not afraid of challenging and demolishing established views and ways.

I like that - it is a good beginning.

[ Parent ]
Ah, the irony. (3.00 / 8) (#34)
by dotk5 on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 11:02:36 AM EST

I am an Indian. I grew up in India, in a lower-middle-class family. We were not "rich" by any standards.

Having clearly laid out my background, let me take a few minutes to LAUGH at this pathetic communist-manifesto-disguised-as-a-writeup. Here are the parts that I found the most entertaining:

  • We are an ocean of starving people being driven to the wall slowly but ever so decidedly.
  • The hegemony of the affluent and influential has stamped its authority on every nook and corner of the country.
  • The Army and state repression is very conspicuous.
  • [the people of kashmir] hate the Army the most then BSF7 and then Militants.
  • Indian army has commited some of the worst crimes known to humanity.
Let me ask the editor(s) of K5: do you see anything in this "travellogue" that is other than a shrill diatribe against the "hegemonistic Indian state" ? Is this a travellogue at all, or a political statement?

The "points" made by the writer above are blatantly one-sided and wrong. I don't even know if the "sound engineer" wrote this (or some leftist claiming to be this "sound engineer"); but if he did, I'd suggest he use his "sound engineering" skills check his mind to see how "sound" it is (har de har har).

I have travelled to Kashmir during the worst period of the terrorist infestation, the early 90s. I have seen with my own eyes the brutality of the "militants" (as this joker calls them; on the rest of the planet they are "terrorists" and "murderers"). Over 300,000 Hindus (people of the Hindu faith) have been driven out of their homes in Kashmir, and are living in slums in refugee camps in Jammu (the southern part of the Jammu & Kashmir state) or near Delhi. Have you ever heard of citizen of a country becoming refugees in their own country?

The crux of the problem (the "itch" that's bothering the leftists like the writer and the submitter) is the following. For 40 years, India was run along socialist principles (centralised planning, massssive government projects, etc.). People's lot didn't change. Now, for the past 10 years or so, the government has abandoned that, and has moved to a more capitalism-oriented approach. Suddenly, people have more opportunities and their lot is improving. This galls the leftists!. They see this quantum improvement as a complete nullification of everything that they believed in! Their whole "world model" is unravelling before their very own eyes. And they can't stand it! So they go around whining and crying, and pointing out perceived problems just to make a case that things aren't getting any better.

Well, hate to break it to you "bayankaran" and "Vipin": things are getting better. People are enjoying themselves more. Indian economy is growing pretty fast. People have a lot more opportunites today than they every did. Of course, there will be occasional problems like Gujarat and Ayodhya, but the system will take care of them in its own slow, plodding, democratic way.

And oh yeah: you and your socialist friends can kiss my hairy brown ass. :)

Who are these guys?? (1.00 / 1) (#37)
by SlashN on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 11:00:34 AM EST

I cant help but think who these guys are..who go around writing up crap about India...they obviously have no clue what they are talking about..

Do they even realise the progress India's making and cant believe them actually painting such an abject picture...of such a vibrant albiet poor people..

I have always believed India is a land of contradictions...in fact i think it was mark tully(BBC's distinguished reporter) who said India isnt a crisis waiting to happen...it is a crisis:) but an ongoing crisis...a dynamic equilibrium:)...

it is precisely this unique nature of the Indian situation that makes it so diffcult to explain to anyone foriegn(by foreign i include the ignorant living out of India who somehow suddenly become experts on the indian situation)

and also precisely this mad mix that makes it so easy to represent the situation in so many shades..

I wouldnt even begin to try to correct the farce of the article from Bipin..just despair...



Crisscrossing India | 38 comments (32 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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