January 2003




JANUARY  2003 Contents


 Peace in South Asia
 - Is it attainable?
 Read what they have 
 to say:


 Swami Agnivesh &
 Rev Valson Thampu

 Ardeshir Cowasjee

 Lt. Gen Arjun Ray 

 Raju Narisetti

 Waheguru Pal Singh 



 Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
 - 50 years of sarod


 Secular symbols of
 Sri Lanka

 2002 Round-up

 Books 2002

 Sports 2002


 Raju Nasiretti

 Mahreen Khan

Real Issues

 Corruption vs. NGOs


 Letter from Pakistan


 'India in Slow Motion'
 - by Mark Tully

 Serialisation of  'Knock at every alien 
 door' - Joseph Harris



 South Asian Events in
 London &  Washington DC

 Editor's Note

 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery


 Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in










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Peace in South Asia - is it attainable?

the-south-asian asks Swami Agnivesh


Rev. Valson Thampu



swamijipassport.jpg (15563 bytes) Rev Thampu.jpg (7936 bytes)
Swami Agnivesh & Rev. Valson Thampu

"...every religion has been degraded into an alibi for war."


What, in your view, should be the steps towards peace in south Asia?

On way or the other, the degradation and abuse of religion underlies most of the conflicts in this region. All religions preach peace. But every religion
has been degraded into an alibi for war. The poison of religious
fundamentalism makes religions convulse into conflicts. Peace in South Asia is impossible without peace among religions. Even though religions have co-existed, so to speak, in this region for millennia, they have remained insulated from each other and continued in a state of mutual alienation and distrust. Religious leaders are rarely interested in anything more than "constituency-building". They entrap their followers in religious ghettos and promote blind faith so as to manipulate them at will. The escapist religiosity that results from this has been degraded further by communal politics that is ready to erupt into unspeakable cruelties. We urgently need to create a new era of inter-faith cooperation in addressing the burning issues of our people: especially issues pertaining to social
justice. There is a necessary connection between injustice and violence. No society that denies justice to its own people can receive or enjoy the gift of peace. Sadly, religions tend to sanitize and perpetuate injustice, as in the case of the caste system in India.

The second area of priority is regional unity. The chronic disunity in this
region has both endemic and extraneous ingredients. Chief among the endemic factors is out tribal mindset. Most of us cannot look beyond, or enlarge our sympathies to transcend, the limited range of our interests. For most people, family is all that matters and, sadly, it is the eagerness to
maximize the interests of one's own family that fuels corruption in our
societies. People, when communally or politically manipulated, become
active within a larger frame of reference; but only in a divisive and
disruptive fashion. Hardly anyone in the South Asian context thinks and
chooses in terms of what is good for one's own country as a whole, much less for the whole region. In fact, patriotism is defined here merely as the
willingness to hate neighboring countries. Whether or not one's own country is loved is almost immaterial. It is this endemic disunity that invites and enables forces extraneous to this region to exploit us to the hilt.
International players find it easy to infiltrate South Asia and foment
conflicts to our detriment and to their benefit. The global
military-industrial combine is keen to keep South Asia boiling to ensure a
ready market for their military junk. In this, the ruling elites in the nations of this region are hand-in-glove with these global predators. They are, in point of fact, the enemies of our societies, even though they don the masks of heroes and saviors. It is basic to peace in this region that a doctrine of regional cooperation be evolved and popularized in South Asia as a whole so as to detoxify the popular mind of the poison of divisive propaganda that has gone on for decades.

Third, a model of economic development that harmonizes with the regional and spiritual genius of the people in this area must be developed. Free Market and unbridled consumerism have already aggravated social inequalities in this region to the extent of endangering the health and wholeness of our societies. Escalating poverty, mounting social alienation and tension, hunger and human degradation, rising resentment at organized exploitation, as well as an overwhelming sense of desperation have together submerged South Asia already into an ocean of cynicism about justice and peace in this region. Only from the height of idiocy or the depth of lunacy can we expect that peace will eventuate somehow from a process of organized injustice and exploitation. Ironically, it is in their efforts to do greater justice to their own citizens that governments of the developed nations of the world impose globalization on the rest of us to turn the world, once again, into a colony for the privileged races. But the idea that one's own citizens can be given larger loaves of bread by aggravating global poverty is a body-blow to the quest for peace.

A shared unequivocal commitment of the governments in this region to
eliminate poverty and to guarantee optimum quality of life for all citizens
is a pre-condition for peace in South Asia. And it is in this respect that
today we need to worry most. That is because right wing politics,
complemented by the anti-poor ethos of globalization, is increasingly using communal or ideological conflicts to deflect the attention of the people from the challenge of poverty and avoidable human degradation. Communal frenzy, as in India, is of proven efficacy in fooling people into endorsing misrule. Parties with atrocious track record in governance win landslide electoral victories by playing up communal passions, and by engineering riots and social polarization. Such political outfits do all they can to nurture a popular taste for violence and conflicts. Quite simply, peace is impossible without a sincere commitment to eradicate poverty. Poverty must be deemed an expression of State terrorism. Terror, through poverty, is an instrument of State policy in this region; and it has to change.



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