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A new vision for Australia-India relations December 4, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Sourabh Gupta

Australia and India have not always been the best of friends. Seven Indian prime ministers from across the political spectrum and spanning three decades have come and gone without paying a state visit to Canberra, a record broken only now with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Australia following the Brisbane G20 Summit. Four unreciprocated visits were made by Australian prime ministers during the latter half of this period. Australia’s strategic discovery of a ‘shared values’ partner in India too has been a near-term development. The Coalition government under John Howard did not deem relations with New Delhi to be a significant interest, let alone a significant bilateral relationship, in its first Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper in 1997.

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Malala and Salam: crusaders for education November 20, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan has had the distinction of winning two Nobel Prizes in its nearly seven decades of existence: Professor Abdus Salam in science and recently Ms Malala Yusufzai for girl education. Salam had shared his prize with two others while Malala is co-winner with Kailash  Satyarathi – a committed Indian social activist for children education and rights.

Interestingly, both Nobel Laureates hail from humble backgrounds and belong to the lesser developed and remote regions of Pakistan: Swat in KPK and Jhang in Southern Punjab. The parents of both were school teachers but suffused with a passion for giving education to their wards; both prize-winners faced cynical reviews by many of their countrymen when they won the coveted Nobel Prize: Salam, for belonging to the Ahmadiyya community, while Malala for being a tribal, teenage girl – too young with insinuations of being exploited by Western motives. The cynicism has turned morbid that she or her family had allowed her to be deliberately shot at for attracting public attention and sympathy.

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Fatalism, or, where are women in South Asia? October 17, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Adhikari, Mohanraj, India, Nepal , comments closed

Mohanraj Adhikari

The last few months have been really fantastic for me as a wedding enthusiast. On 10 March The Mirror published news about a British divorcee woman aged 46, who wedded her own pet dog in a ‘romantic’ wedding ceremony after her marriage to a man 20 years ago did not work out. This story was followed by a news item in Metro UK, 3 September, about an 18-year-old girl, around 7000 kms away from Britain in Jharkhand state of India, who married a stray dog to please her family, who think that it will pass a curse from her to the animal so that that when she marries her future prince, a real man, the marriage will be blessed with longevity. Though both these stories talk about a woman marrying a dog, the context is quite different. The wedding in the first story shows a woman’s love and connection towards an animal after spending a considerable part of her life with it, whereas the second wedding is done to pass a ‘curse’ to the animal. According to the news, both weddings were fabulously organized. The stories provide evidence of the divide between women in developing countries and industrialized countries: in one place, a woman is free to choose her husband even from a different species; in the other place, a woman believes that a dog husband will free her from a curse and give her a better human husband in later life. This kind of fatalism is very much widespread in South Asia especially in the rural areas of India and its neighbouring country Nepal.

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India’s misguided schools policy shutting out the poor October 16, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Ken Schoolland

Millions of children are being shut out of India’s schools by legislation that predated the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the message of a petition by the Centre for Civil Society, which states: ‘Today, 3,494,520 children are out of school, due to the fact that 19,414 private schools across 17 states have been closed’. But few in India are hopeful that this recent shift in power will bring about a liberalisation of education policy in the near term.

In 2009 the government of India passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), which mandates criteria for school facilities and teacher employment. In the capital of Bihar — the fastest growing state in India — a study by the India Institute concludes that this will eventually shutter three quarters of the schools that serve 68 per cent of Patna’s mostly poor children.

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Seeking accountability and failing to find it September 25, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Rosita Armytage

It started off fun. The Azadi (freedom) March led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former cricketer Imran Khan, and the Inquilab March (Revolution March) led by Tahir Ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party have created a festival atmosphere in the nation’s capital of Islamabad. Both Khan and Qadri are demanding that elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif resign and have stated that they and their supporters will not leave the protest site until he does. Protest is an important part of democracy. But demanding the resignation of an elected leader, rather than a return to the ballot or a recount of the votes, is not democratic.

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Women as farmers, feminisation of farming August 21, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala, South Asia - General , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

What is new in the world of farming today? Well, for one, there is a ‘feminisation’ of farming in many parts of the world, and South Asia is no exception to that. Before I explain that process, let me point out first that women have always performed important roles in agriculture, whether in less- or more-developed countries and irrespective of time, but have remained invisible as farmers. This is because when women have worked side-by-side with men on the farm, they often worked as part of a family unit of labour. A powerful sexually-based division of labour meant that women’s labour and active participation were limited only to certain parts of agriculture and to certain tasks, or even to certain crops. Often, the bulk of this labour was performed under the direct or indirect control of men, who also controlled (or owned) land, resulting in both inaccurate information about and the invisibility of women and also undervaluing of their contributions to agricultural production systems.

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt

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Modi is the boss!!! August 13, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Awasthy, Richa, India , comments closed

Richa Awasthy

It is close to 100 days since Mr Narendra Modi took charge as India’s Prime Minister. The slogan with which BJP went into the election campaign was “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar” (This time, Modi Government). While the ousted government created an impression that the power centre is at Congress’ President’s disposal rather than the Prime Minister’s, the new government has shown that Mr Modi is indeed the boss of the new government. Since the outstanding win, Mr Modi has left his critics in media and elsewhere astonished with his actions. Mr Modi has shown that he acts based on the position he holds and that is why the Prime Minister Modi-ji is very different from the campaigner Mr Modi.

Softer side of Modi-ji – On the very first day of his entry into the Parliament Hall, Mr Modi astonished the media when he bowed at the footsteps of the Parliament Hall. He gave a message that he is dedicated to restore the value and respect of this temple of democracy. He exposed his emotional side when he was almost in tears on the mention of Mr L.K. Advani’s statement during his speech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIG2F0a-8As

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BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade July 24, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. NyaungShwe_Conrad2236 The BCIM Economic Corridor is a modern version of the Silk Road, and a revision of the 1999 Track II Kunming initiative between BCIM countries. It is planned to run from China’s Kunming province to Kolkata in India, and link Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh. BCIM initiatives have gained momentum since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and the conclusion of the first official meeting of the joint study group of the BCIM Economic Corridor on 19 December 2013.

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Life for all: nourished now & forever? July 5, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

A Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

In Pakistan, the right of expression is being increasingly eroded by actual assassinations and threats of assassination carried out by those who trade in religious militarism. Such acts of terrorism should not succeed in deflecting attention from increasing economic vulnerability. This is the reason for the following discussion.

This year, 2014 marks a decade for the UN Right to Food Guidelines. Their report for this year states in part that:

“[T]he right to food remains one of the most frequently violated of all human rights.  As such, the 41st session [of the UN] is an opportunity to generate a renewed political commitment towards advancing the implementation of the right to adequate food, as well as towards addressing the most important challenges in that regard, including: ensuring the primacy of human rights, human rights accountability, and human rights coherence at all levels.”

Yet, South Asian children and their mothers suffer endlessly; too many have even died because of hunger and malnutrition. Pakistan’s low and sluggish labour compensation accompanied by its high and rising prices for goods and services has even forced its Supreme Court to ponder the meaning of “dignified survival”. Yet despite their acknowledgement of widespread hunger, the Supreme Court did not seriously admonish the authorities for creating the causes of this hunger nor hold them responsible for its result, the untimely annual termination of hundreds of thousands of lives. This despite the fact that in Pakistan today, hunger and malnutrition kill vastly more people than the wars of terror. (more…)

FEATURE ARTICLE: Borodin – Christmas in Bangladesh June 6, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Features, Guest authors , comments closed

Joyce Das

It was around 9 am on Christmas morning. I was on my way to Savar, about 24 kilometres to the northwest of Dhaka city, the place that is mostly famous for Jatiyo Smriti Soudho, the National Monument for the Martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh. But in April 2013, it hit the headlines with the collapse of a large garment factory, causing many deaths and injuries. Both my father and I were going to the Savar Baptist Church to attend the Christmas service. We were travelling by a car, sitting on the back seat scanning the street scene with curious eyes. The driver suddenly broke the silence; “Finally today people have come out with their vehicles after so long”, he said. And he was right. During a month of blockade, violence, and political instability leading to the national elections, people could hardly come out of their homes in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.

Christmas in Savar (Photo: J. Das)

Christmas in Savar (Photo: J. Das)

Since 25 November, the entire country was embroiled in political violence. Between the night of 25 November and 21 December, the death toll had reached 127, out of which 46 were ‘common’ people, that is, innocent bye-standers without any political affiliation. In this context of turmoil, most of the Christians could not go back to their homes in villages – something that they normally do every festive season – to celebrate Christmas. In retaliation, on 23 December, the Christian Association organised a human-chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka, to protest the countrywide blockade so that the ordinary Christians can celebrate. The lack of response to this protest has frustrated many Christians; one of them posted on her Facebook: “Blockade across Bangladesh….!!!! Because we are the minority…No one cares about our festival…!!! We do not have the right to go home and celebrate our festival with our family and friends…do we?!?” Others kept their frustration within themselves and tried to talk about the situation casually, as though it is normal to expect that the political parties would never consider Christmas as a festival significant in Bangladesh. (more…)