Reviews of the latest books from and on Southasia

Third Report: 1997-2002
Committee of Concerned Citizens
Anupama Printers, Hyderabad, 2002
pp xxii+434, no recommended price

Founded in 1997 in response to the People's War Group and state violence, the Committee of Concerned Citizens has investigated abuses in Andhra Pradesh and facilitated discussions between the insurgents and the government. This volume, which includes correspondence and reports between 1997 and 2002, documents abuses committed by, and the negotiating positions of, the concerned parties. Convened by SR Sankaran, a retired Indian Administrative Service officer, the 14-person committee of senior journalists, academics and lawyers has had high-level access to leaders of both sides, making this report a fairly comprehensive overview of the ongoing search for reconciliation in Andhra Pradesh.

Where There Is No Psychiatrist: A mental health manual
By Vikram Patel
Gaskell, Glasgow, 2003
pp xxii+266, no recommended price
ISBN 1 90242 75 7

In the absence of professional psychiatric services, families and otherwise trained medical personnel often provide informal mental health counselling. Written in a textbook format with numerous illustrations, this manual includes guidelines for diagnosing common mental illnesses such as depression and retardation, explanations of non-institutional treatment options, and recommendations for patients and family members of persons suffering from a mental illness. Geared for the non-specialist, the book is intended for distribution among English-readers who lack access to institutional psychiatric services, principally those in villages and under-serviced areas. The book includes usage recommendations, dosage prescriptions for many common mental health medicines, and contains charts for tracking a patient's condition.

Tibet, Tibet: A personal history of a lost land
By Patrick French
HarperCollins India, New Delhi, 2003
pp 333, INR 395
ISBN 81 7223 508 9

Setting out on "a quest for the true, as opposed to the mythical, Tibet", British South Asianist Patrick French mixes personal reflections from his 20-year association with Tibetan causes, historical vignettes of Tibet and neighbouring regions, and research conducted inside Tibet. The author of two earlier books on topics drawn from Indian history, French writes that Tibet is not "the hermetic, forbidden land of European repute", but instead a dynamic land of travellers, historically engaged with areas as far-flung as Benaras, Samarkand and Chengdu. Often ruminating, the book contains curious asides on matters as variant as the "Clintonian" outlook of many Tibetan monks on sex, French attempts to weave a narrative of modern Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora, with frequent reference to international politics and history.

Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law in Social, Economic and Political Development: Papers of the XIIIth International Congress (three volumes)
edited by Rajendra Pradhan
International Centre for the Study of Nature, Environment and Culture (ICNEC), Kathmandu, 2003
pp 457, 495, 417, no recommended price
ISBN 99933 53 21 8

The ICNEC congress held in 2002 at Chiang Mai brought together scholars and researchers for discussions on issues of legal pluralism and local unofficial law. The papers presented at the conference include analyses of community-based property rights in India, legal pluralism and community forestry in Nepal, and aboriginal environmental management in Tamil Nadu's Kolli Hills, among other topics. With contributions from many of South Asia's leading researchers, published here with lengthy reference notes, the ICNEC papers offer specialised insight into a range of Asian social, economic and political issues, often in reference to environmental concerns.

Afghanistan: From terror to freedom
by Apratim Mukarji
Sterling, New Delhi, 2003
pp 321, INR 500
ISBN 81 207 2542 5

Surveying the recent history of Afghanistan as well as the country's relationship with India and Pakistan, Delhi-based journalist Apratim Mukarji, currently with the Indian Council of Social Science Research, examines the rise of the "evil Taleban government" and assesses the outcomes of the US-led war in Afghanistan in the autumn of 2001. With an appendix of several reprints of articles, Mukarji, who co-edited the Black Book of Gujarat and published an earlier work on the Sri Lankan civil war, revisits the war against the Taliban as seen by American policymakers, with a focus on Islamist militancy and world affairs, and the role of the US in South Asia.

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