Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam
Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.
The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.
Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.
Baldia fire tragedy aftermath March 22, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment
The Baldia fire happened on 11 September 2012 at a garment factory in the Baldia area of Karachi, a city in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan and the most important industrial and financial hub. The fire took 259 lives. This is the worst industrial fire of the 20th and 21st centuries. The highest casualties previously recorded are 146 in the 1911 Triangle garment factory in New York and 187 in the 1993 doll factory fire in Thailand.
Twenty-three bodies were charred so badly that they could not be identified. DNA matching procedures have identified six bodies. In February, 5 months after the fire, authorities have mass buried 17 bodies that, according to the government, were never claimed after the factory fire.By contributor, Guest authors, India , 2comments
In December and January I spent a few weeks in Delhi, a city I love and in which I have never felt unsafe. My only experiences of “Eve-teasing” (that horrible Indian euphemism for sexual harassment) in India did not happen in Delhi, and did not happen when I was alone, but with my male partner. Despite my positive experiences, I take seriously the city’s terrible reputation for the safety of women, and take precautions, as I do at home, in Australia, too. I refuse to be afraid, as this is the most crippling thing a woman can do, but I avoid going too far alone after dark, dress in a way that local people consider modest, and am generally on my guard against over-friendly men. The gang-rape of a twenty-three year old student in December, the injuries from which she later died, confirmed that Delhi’s reputation is not unjustified. A rape is reported every seventeen minutes in India, with more unreported, but this event caught national, and international, attention. Perhaps it was the brutality, or the fact that it happened in a “nice” part of South Delhi, or that the victim was middle-class, that caught peoples’ attention.
Book review: Taj Mahal Foxtrot, by Naresh Fernandes February 27, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , Comment
Think of India and music and your mind conjures sublime ragas from Ravi Shankar and swirling musical whirlwinds from Bollywood. But what about swinging hot jazz, fancy dress balls and black American jazz expatriates playing in luxury hotels on the Arabian Sea? You are to be forgiven for never joining such things together but as the new book Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age (Roli Books, 2012) by Mumbai-based writer Naresh Fernandes deliciously details, India once upon a time hosted a very ‘hot’ jazz culture.
In 1935, a black jazzman from Minnesota, Leon Abbey, brought an ‘all negro’ band to Bombay for the winter season at the grand Taj Mahal Hotel. Abbey’s ace band, members of which had backed Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins back home, took the colonial city by storm. Abbey’s version of hot swing jazz garnered ecstatic reviews in the press. One local fan gushed: “The music went to my head that evening and when Leon started beating up a rumba I left my table and my partner to shake the maracas that were offered me. In those few moments I forgot my whole upbringing, forgot that I was back in the land of my fathers, through which the Ganges flowed, and that the Seine was far, far away.”
The Delhi gang rape can be explained by India’s gender ideologies February 26, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , 1 comment so far
Riding a bus in New Delhi was always intimidating. I still remember how, in the early 1990s, a largish, unknown man just flopped on my lap on the aisle seat. When I mildly expressed displeasure, his demeanour switched between menacing and casual, forcing me to shut up and leave him the seat. This was not an isolated experience: many women, whether in Delhi or Bangalore, have had similar experiences in their daily lives and felt amazed at how ‘naturally’ traditional gender ideologies are ‘performed’ in public.
So is what came to be known as the Delhi gang rape case different (and if so, how and why) from the myriad forms of violence that Indian women face every day, whether in urban or rural India, at home or in public, from close family members, spouses or completely unknown strangers?
Sri Lanka: still difficult to ‘bell the cat’ February 23, 2013Posted by auriolweigold in : Gordon, Sandy, Sri Lanka , 3comments
Sri Lanka is a small country of about the population of Australia. Its location astride the major energy sea lanes of communication (SLOCS) of the Indian Ocean and just south of behemoth India, however, puts it in a strategic box seat for the forthcoming struggle for influence over the liquid energy requirements of the East Asian economic giants, including China.
Until about a decade ago, the island was a Western-leaning democracy, but one with a generational civil war involving human rights violations on both side. The denouement of the war in May 2009 saw the death of the head of the Tamil Tigers, Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Few who were not Tamil Tiger loyalists would have mourned the passing of the homicidal head of the feared organisation. Fewer still would have regretted the ending of a civil war that had lasted since 1983 and caused an estimated 80,000 deaths.By contributor, Guest authors, India , Comment
Prior to the 1989 parliamentary elections, the Indian National Congress Party dominated India’s political landscape, commanding impressive parliamentary majorities and forming what were reasonably stable and efficient governments. However, contemporary Indian politics is profoundly different. The decline of the Congress party has ushered in the rise of smaller, regional parties that are critical to forming successful coalition governments.
The Congress party (which fronts India’s governing coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II) is currently undergoing a crisis of confidence among coalition members in states that it currently controls, such as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. (more…)Ashar, Meera, India , Comment
Ashis Nandy has been called, rather, accused of being, many things—sociologist, historian, political theorist, public intellectual, philosopher, psychoanalyst, leftist, centrist, right wing, Dalit, Christian, Brahmanical, casteist (he describes himself, more poetically, as an intellectual street fighter and reason buster)—but ‘politically correct’ has never been one of them.
This time, Nandy’s political incorrectness has cost him more than before. As in the past, he has been attacked by politicians and the popular media for presenting his analysis of social phenomena—for doing his job well. (more…)India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , Comment
The recent India-Pakistan aggression and hostilities over the Line of Control (LOC) that divides the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) appear to have come out of nowhere. Or have they? What is essentially a local incident – of which, if history tells us anything, there indubitably will be more in future – may have serious ramifications for India, if one Indian analyst is to be believed (see below).
According to a well-informed Indian journalist, the recent India-Pakistan incidents on the LOC were instigated last September when a Kashmiri grandmother managed to cross the heavily fortified LOC from Indian J&K to Pakistan-Administered Azad Kashmir. (See Praveen Swami, ‘Runaway grandmother sparked savage skirmish on LoC’, The Hindu, 10 January 2013. Importantly, Indian troops failed to detect her crossing. Thereafter, the Indians built observation bunkers ‘to monitor the movement of [nearby] villagers’. Pakistani forces disliked these bunkers and started to fire at both them and their inhabitants, i.e. Indian soldiers.
Female education in Sindh January 24, 2013Posted by barbaranelson in : Guest authors, Pakistan , 2comments
Abdul Razaque Channa
What if you and I are uneducated, have never been to school, do not know how to send and receive text messages and are repeatedly called jahil (illiterate) and andha (blind)? Being illiterate may not kill a person but the feeling of being a jahil does, if not socially, then emotionally for sure. A girl, a sister, a daughter and a wife who may be a part of our family, neighbourhood, city or country may possess such feelings.
When it comes to the crucial question of the provision of education, there seem to be two pivotal forces: the state and its citizens. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that males and females residing in both rural and urban areas are educated through mass literacy programs. Secondly, the 180 million citizens of the state hold the right to receive education, of which 48.1 per cent are females. It seems that little success has been achieved by the state as far as imparting education is concerned. Policies and action plans are routinely produced. However, the reasons behind their failure have not been ascertained.