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



A Brief Introduction

Swami Agnivesh and Rev. Valson Thampu are the collective voice of the oppressed and the poor in India.

Swami Agnivesh founded the Bandhua Mukti Morcha (movement against bonded labor), and is the Chairperson of the UN Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. An Arya Samaj actvist, he works with leaders of all religious faiths, in countering and challenging the social ills prevalent in the society. Prior to dedicating his life to activism, Swami Agnivesh was a professor of business and law at St.Xavier's College in Calcutta, and for a brief period was also the Education Mnister of Haryana. He is the author of several books and was awarded the Anti-Slavery International Award (London, 1990) and Freedom and Human Rights Award (Bern, Switzerland, 1994).  His goal is to establish "a liberal, egalitarian society based on tolerance and mutual accommodation" and is co-ordinating his efforts to do so under the banner of 'Religions for Social Justice'

Rev. Valson Thampu is a member of the forum, ‘'Religion for Social Justice’, and is also a faculty member of St. Stephen's College (English Department), Delhi, since 1973. He is an ordained minister of the Church of North India (CNI) and has a strong interest in theological shift from religion to spirituality. He is the author of several books and writes regularly for journals and newspapers.

Shaken and jolted by the recent violence in Gujarat, Swami Agnivesh and Rev. Valson Thampu coordinated and convened `Mil Ke Chalo', a march between Ayodhya and New Delhi to "affirm their commitment to Mahatma Gandhi's vision of India as a tolerant and pluralistic society."

Is peace in south Asia elusive or attainable?

Peace is attainable everywhere; it is a universal possibility. One of the
fatal misconceptions we have come to internalize is that war, violence and
conflicts are natural, whereas peace has to be labored after. The fact is
that the longing for peace is more fundamental to human nature than is the
taste for war. Even when we desire wars, we wish them to rage only at a safe distance! Everyone knows that peace is a pre-condition for prosperity, quality of life and dignity; whereas war devastates families and disables economies. One of the enigmatic ironies in history is that we endorse ruinous wars; whereas we remain indifferent to peace, which is basic to our own well being. We are willing to make sacrifices for war, but unwilling to pay the price for peace. This stems from a paradox that involves two contradictory polarities in human nature. When we act as individuals, we are keen to promote our interests and welfare. But when we act in groups we happily endorse what is harmful to our own interests. This proves the proverbial vulnerability of the masses to manipulation by demagogues.

Over the years, politicians and rulers have conspired to create the myth
that war is a necessary arbiter in international affairs. We have been made
to believe that there is no alternative to war; that it is a necessary evil.
Yet, in India we have a glorious counter-model: that of Ashoka, the Great.
It was by renouncing war and embracing non-violence, and not by perfecting strategies of terror or weapons of mass destruction, that Ashoka became great. It is possible to rule by love not less than by force. Politics may prosper for a while with cruelty and oppression as instruments of state policy; but there can be no genuine statesmanship without care and compassion. The tragedy in the world, especially in South Asia, is that we have a plethora of puny politicians, but hardly any statesmen of stature.
When politics refuses to rise above the art of self-perpetuation, commitment to peace seems a liability rather than the guiding light of inspired governance.

One thing is absolutely certain. Peace must become possible and endure in South Asia, even if it seems elusive now. War and peace are simply the
products of collective choices. We can choose to live in peace as naturally as we can choose to live in tension and conflict. The question to ask, then, is if we in South Asia can grow enough to prefer peace to war. From every
criterion of judgment, the preference for violence is an unmistakable sign
of all-round backwardness. It points to moral backwardness because we
endorse war without the willingness to wage them ourselves. We push the poor among us into the jaws of death and degrade their agony into euphoria or humiliation, depending on the outcome of wars. It signals diplomatic backwardness because wars result from the collapse of diplomacy. It also signals economic backwardness because in developed societies war become incrementally impossible, as the life of every citizen is deemed too precious to be lost in war. In economically under-developed societies, though, human life -especially the life of the poor- is deemed cheap, making it possible to sacrifice thousands of them in senseless conflicts. War and under-development comprise a vicious cycle. War perpetuates poverty and poverty facilitates war. It is high time Asia broke out of this cycle of self-damnation. It is because conflicts and disunity are endemic to Asia that this most important region remains belittled on the periphery of contemporary history. Peace must become possible in South Asia if this region is to fully appropriate its enormous possibilities and claim its rightful place in the global arena. India is historically and spiritually
suited to take the initiative in this matter. It is ridiculous for India to
covet a seat in the Security Council, without attaining a corresponding
regional status as an ambassador of peace.




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