The ‘meaning of terror’, the cover theme of this issue, is directed against those who would pander to violence, against an attitude which condones terrorist acts against innocents by rebels just as it justifies murder of left radicals by the state apparatus. The extremes are all there in two incidents in the violent society that Nepal has become. When an army platoon murdered 18 unarmed Maobaadi activists and sympathisers at point blank range in the highland village of Doramba, that sure was terrorism, whether you add the qualifier ‘state’ before it or not. When the Maobaadi placed an improvised explosive device in a dry riverbed in Chitwan, and pressed the switch as a public bus crammed to capacity passed over it, murdering 38 passengers, that was terrorism (see picture).
In between the two extremisms, and with states always killing more than insurgents, lies the path of ahimsa and satyagraha, non-violence and peaceful resistance. It needs to be said, unabashedly, that social movements bring true solace to the people who you claim to be fighting for. They also require more courage over a longer period than the relatively easy recourse to the gun, almost no duping youngsters with false romance. Dilip Simeon presents forceful arguments in the cover essay against the short-cut of violence.
Besides dealing with the issue of terror in some of the other pieces as well, Himal has packaged separate bundles of articles for readers in this Sept-Oct 2005 issue. The inside pages of Indian national newspapers – not the front pages – point to a surge and spread of Naxalite activities in the Subcontinental heartland, and it was important to connect with the trend. Two articles, by a Delhi University scholar and a Calcutta analyst, study the merger of a Naxalite unit of the Jharkhand plateau and one with presence in Telangana into the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Where will the Naxalites go? Can they achieve their political aims with the present strategy? Will the Indian State and states ever learn?
A series of articles concerns roads and routes which were once open, before 1947 and 1962, and need to be unbolted. Just as the Iranian Gas Pipeline cover of our previous Jul-Aug issue looked to a brave new world in the Southasian West, in this issue we suggest that the Stilwell Road would brighten the face of the Southasian East by promoting travel and commerce. In the Southasian North, how about letting the blood brothers and sisters of Baltistan and Kargil visit each other by opening up that road by pulling down that stone wall along the LoC? And while we are at it, why not push the opening up of Nathula in Sikkim all the way to Lhasa? Do we wait till that Southasian city (Lhasa) is linked by rail to the Chinese mainland in 2007 before we wake up the need for soft borders? The pushy Col. Younghusband had seen the feasibility of the Siliguri-Lhasa corridor in 1904, and that was some time ago.
The appalling treatment of two Kashmiris by the state apparatus are dealt with separately, in a review of a book by journalist Ifthekhar Gilani who was unjustly jailed and tortured, and a profile and interview of Delhi University lecturer S A R Geelani who was falsely accused of being a terrorist. Against the backdrop of these horrifying stories of repression is the uplifting one of Dhaka journalist-as-humanist, Matiur Rahman, who reaches 1 million plus readers every day with his paper Prothom Alo. Yet another article on Bangladesh documents how the alarming findings of a study on child injury is influencing the discourse on public health. And then there is Waheed Rahman, who leaves a high-rise United Nations job in New York to return to the sea-level atoll of Maldives to be part of its democratic future. Speaking of which, we provide a unique window on the upcoming elections in Afghanistan, with a report by Aunohita Mojumdar. Over in Karachi, Sonya Fatah tells us all about GEO.
Two articles analyse the dissimilar responses of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka (including the LTTE-run northeast) to the tsunami. Globalisation has brought about immense changes in its wake – independent articles analyse the manner in which it is shaping social trends, examine the rise of the Indian multinationals, as well as critique the disproportionate and questionable role of international financial institutions. Then we have Hiroshima vs the Southasian Bomb to remind of the horrors that the Indian and Pakistani politico-military establishments are inviting on behalf of all of us 1.4 billion. And, to end it all, on the last page, we present the cup.
In this issue, we have striven to bring you Southasia in its depth and diversity, but we hope not in its frivolity. If you enjoy these pages, tell others about Himal. We need all the help we can get.