Thursday, October 6, 2011

High On Hype, Low On Results

THE government had brought the issue of transit and Teesta under spotlight to give some visibility to its ‘successes’ but the move was so weak and immature that it resulted in utter failure and left no space for the government to clarify it before people, observed the general secretary of Bangladesher Samajtanrik Dal, Khalequzzman.

In an interview with New Age over his assessment of the recent Indo-Bangla summit in Dhaka, Khalequzzman said the year-long hype by the government, either in order to place importance on Manmohan’s trip or to prove a success of the Awami League government, created the impression among people that something was going to be happening in Indo-Bangla relations. But the summit ending yielded almost nothing and it would continue to pinch in the shoes of the rulers.

Khalequzzman said the government stumbled in dealing with the Teesta issue due to its attempt to ink the deal, keeping everything in secret.

He said the draft prepared for the Teesta deal was faulty too. ‘Sharing of Teesta water is very important but the way they had planned for discussion would deprive Bangladesh. They planned to discuss sharing of water found at Gazaldoba point but the primary discussion should be on ensuring the natural flow of the river and keep it alive, then negotiations could be held over water sharing. The government did not concentrate on it, ignored homework and did not even consult the experts in the true sense,’ he said.

He sharply criticised the government’s role over the discussions centring transit. ‘The advantages or disadvantages of India in no way can be the sole focal point of discussion. Actually, negotiation over transit is yet to begin. Everything that is going on is centring on allowing corridor to India. There is no primary discussion on protection of Bangladesh’s total interests including protection of geo-physical characteristics and economic and security aspects in transit mapping,’ he said.

He also criticised the government’s attempt to portray the issues of transit and Teesta as complementary to each other. ‘These are different issues and can not be compared,’ he said.

On implementation of agreements and protocols signed during Manmohan’s visit including land boundary, Khalequzzman said some protocols were signed during Manmohan’s visit which were kept pending for long without any substantiated ground. ‘Now protocols on some minor issues have been signed but the way of their implementation is not so smooth.’

On the line-up credit of Tk 1 billon, Khalequzzaman said the liability and conditions of the loan meet no requirement of Bangladesh’s own needs.

BY : Abdullah Juberee and Moloy Saha.  

The World: India and Pakistan: Over the Edge

DARKNESS had just fallen in New Delhi when the air-raid sirens began wailing. In the big conference room at the Indian government's press information bureau, newsmen had gathered for a routine 6 o'clock briefing on the military situation in East Pakistan. "Suddenly the lights went out," cabled TIME Correspondent James Shepherd, "and everyone presumed it was yet another test, though none had been announced. When the briefing team arrived, newsmen complained that they couldn't see to write anything."

"Gentlemen," said the briefing officer, "I have to tell you that this is not a practice blackout. It is the real thing. We have just had a flash that the Pakistan air force has attacked our airfields at Amritsar, Pathankot and Srinagar. This is a blatant attack on India."

Embroiled Again. Who attacked whom was still open to question at week's end, and probably will be for some time. Nor was it clear whether any formal declaration of war had been issued. But the fact was that for the fourth time since the two nations became independent from Britain in 1947.

Pakistan and India were once again embroiled in a major conflict. On previous occasions, the fighting was confined mostly to the disputed region of Kashmir on India's western border with Pakistan. This time, however, there was even heavier fighting in Pakistan's eastern wing, separated from West Pakistan by 1,000 miles of Indian territory. The war even reached to the Bay of Bengal, where naval skirmishes occurred, and to the outskirts of major cities in both countries as planes bombed and strafed airfields. Having teetered on the edge of all-out war for many weeks, India and Pakistan had finally plunged over, and the rest of the world was powerless to do anything but watch in horror.

Great Peril. As usual, the two sides offered substantially differing accounts —and both barred newsmen from the battlefronts. According to Indian sources, the Pakistani attack came at 5:47 p.m., just as dusk was falling. The sites seemed selected for their symbolic value as much as their strategic importance: Agra, site of the Taj Mahal; Srinagar, the beautiful capital of Kashmir; Amritsar, holy city of the Sikhs, India's bearded warriors. Forty-five minutes after the air attack, Pakistani troops shelled India's western frontier and were reported to have crossed the border at Punch in the state of Jammu.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had just finished addressing a mass rally in Calcutta when she received the news, immediately boarded her Tupolev twin-jet for the two-hour flight to New Delhi. At Delhi's airport, where her two sons and a small cluster of ministers were on hand to greet her, she quickly got into a car and was driven without lights to her office in Parliament House. Shortly after midnight the Prime Minister, speaking first in English and then Hindi, addressed the nation.

"I speak to you at a moment of great peril to our country and our people," she began. "Some hours ago, soon after 5:30 p.m., on the third of December, Pakistan suddenly launched a full-scale war against us." She announced that the Pakistan air force had struck eight Indian airfields, and that ground forces were shelling Indian defense positions in several sectors along the western border. "I have no doubt that it is the united will of our people," she said, "that this wanton and unprovoked aggression of Pakistan should be decisively and finally repelled."

No Restraints. According to the very different Pakistan version, regular Indian army troops on the western frontier had moved earlier in the afternoon toward seven posts manned by Pakistani rangers. On being challenged, the Indians opened up with small arms, and the Pakistani rangers began firing back. Normally, border forces of both countries follow a gentlemanly procedure for handling firing across the frontier; they meet and talk it over. "In this case," reported a Pakistani officer, "when our rangers approached their opposite numbers, they were surprised to find regular troops and they were fired upon." The Indians mounted attacks with artillery support two hours later, he claimed, and Indian jet planes provided support. Pakistan planes then fanned out to strike at India's airfields, one of them 300 miles deep inside India.

Radio Pakistan made no mention of the Indian border attack until India announced that Pakistan's planes had struck, but it wasted no time in acknowledging its bombing missions. "We are at liberty now to cross the border as deep as we can," a Pakistani army officer said. A Foreign Ministry representative added that Pakistani troops were "released from any restraints.

Fabrication. Earlier in the week, newsmen, including TIME'S Louis Kraar, reported Pakistani military movements at Sialkot, about eight miles from the Indian border. Kraar saw commandeered civilian trucks carrying fuel tins, portable bridges and other supplies. A train loaded with military vehicles chugged by, and wheatfields bristled with camouflaged gun emplacements. Families were moved out of the army cantonment at Sialkot, and civilian hospitals were advised to have blood plasma ready beside empty beds.

In New Delhi, Indian spokesmen vigorously denied the story that Indian troops had launched an attack in the west as a fabrication to justify the air strike. "No sensible general staff attacks first on the ground," said Defense Secretary K.B. Lall. Some six hours after the Pakistani air raids, India hit back in force, bombing eight West Pakistani airfields including one at Karachi. Some time after midnight, Pakistani and Indian planes tangled in dogfights over Dacca in East Pakistan. When asked to account for the six-hour delay in India's response, Lall joked that there had been some difficulty in getting the air force to move. It did appear that India was taken by surprise: nearly every senior cabinet official was out of the capital at the time, including Mrs. Gandhi, who was in Calcutta. During the night, Pakistani planes repeatedly attacked twelve Indian airfields. On the ground, Pakistan launched attacks along the western border.

 Reckless Perfidy. The next morning, Prime Minister Gandhi went before the Indian Parliament. "This morning the government of Pakistan has declared a war upon us, a war we did not seek and did our utmost to prevent," she said. "The avoidable has happened. West Pakistan has struck with reckless perfidy." In a broadcast at noon the same day, Pakistani President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan accused India of starting a full-scale war and declared that it was time "to give a crushing reply to the enemy." He made no mention of a formal declaration of war, but a proclamation in the government gazette in Islamabad declared: "A state of war exists between Pakistan on one hand and India on the other." Mrs. Gandhi did not issue a formal declaration of war, but Foreign Secretary T.N. Kaul told newsmen: "India reserves the right to take any action to preserve her security and integrity."

The conflict had its genesis last March when the Pakistani President and his tough military regime 1) moved to crush the East Pakistani movement for greater autonomy, 2) outlawed the Awami League, which had just won a majority in the nation's first free election, 3) arrested its leader, Sheik Mujibur Rahman, and 4) launched a repressive campaign that turned into a civil war with East Pakistan's Bengalis fighting to set up an independent Bangla Desh (Bengal Nation). Nearly 1,000,000 people were killed and 10 million refugees streamed into India. "We have borne the heaviest of burdens," Mrs. Gandhi said last week, "and withstood the greatest of pressure in a tremendous effort to urge the world to help in bringing about a peaceful solution and preventing the annihilation of an entire people whose only crime was to vote democratically. But the world ignored the basic causes and concerned itself only with certain repercussions. Today the war in Bangla Desh has become a war on India."

Self-Determination. It soon became clear that India would make an all-out effort to ensure self-determination for Bangla Desh. India's desire to bring about an independent nation there as soon as possible stems from two factors. First is the tremendous economic and social burden of the refugees who have sought sanctuary in India. Second is that in a prolonged guerrilla war the moderate leadership of the Awami League would probably give way to more radical political forces, perhaps leading to a Peking-oriented government on India's border. A third factor, of course, is India's unspoken desire to weaken its neighbor by detaching a sizable chunk of its territory.

For several months, Indian troops and Pakistani forces have been engaged in almost daily border skirmishes. In the past two weeks, Indian forces, working with the Bengali guerrillas, have stepped up pressures against Pakistan's troops in the east; in retaliation the West Pakistanis have been rampaging through Bengali villages in kill-and-burn raids, slaughtering some 2,000 people in the vicinity of Dacca alone.
Even while Mrs. Gandhi was speaking to Parliament, India was launching an invasion of East Pakistan. In Rawalpindi, former Foreign Minister Zulfikar AH Bhutto, who is slated to be deputy premier in a civilian government that Yahya is said to be planning, declared: "I don't see the Indian army just sweeping through East and West Pakistan in a matter of weeks. Either there will be a stalemate, or each side will take some territory from the other and then negotiate."

That may prove an optimistic appraisal, in view of India's numerical superiority. As far as troop strength goes, the Pakistanis are outnumbered by more than two to one in the east. In the west, both countries are reported to have about 250,000 men deployed along the border for an almost even balance. India's overall troop strength is about 980,000 compared with Pakistan's 392,000, but an estimated eight mountain divisions are on guard along India's borders with China.

In matériel, India also has the edge: of its 1,450 tanks, about 450 are Russian medium tanks, and about 300 Indian-made Vijayanta tanks. India has 625 combat aircraft, including some 120 MIG-21 supersonic fighters and eight squadrons of Indian-made Gnats. For its part, Pakistan has about 1,100 tanks, including 200 American Patton tanks, 225 Chinese T-59s, and numerous old American Shermans and Chaffees of limited utility. Pakistan's 285 combat aircraft include two squadrons of Mirage 111 fighters and eight squadrons of American F-86 Sabres.

There were no estimates of casualties at week's end. But India claimed to have destroyed a total of 33 Pakistani aircraft. The Indian Defense Ministry admitted to the loss of eleven of its own fighters. As India seemed to be engaged primarily in a holding action in the west while aiming for a quick knockout in the east, Pakistani ground forces claimed to have seized "significant territory" on India's western border. One of the Pakistani advances was in the Sialkot sector near Kashmir; India admitted losing "some ground" on the Punjab border near Ferozepore.

Stray Cattle. Outmanned and likely to be outgunned, Pakistan's Yahya Khan may well have realized that he had only two options: negotiations or war, both with the probable result of independence for Bangla Desh. Since negotiations without a war would mean going down without a fight, the generals might have decided to choose war; such a course would enable them to say that the breakup of Pakistan was caused not by faintheartedness but by superior forces.

Islamabad also figured that timely intervention on the part of the United Nations, which might be expected if war were declared, would enable West Pakistan to extricate its troops as part of a ceasefire. At U.N. headquarters in Manhattan, however, the big powers seemed paralyzed. With the subcontinent about to burn, the Security Council spent most of the week fiddling around with a debate over an obscure border dispute between Senegal and Portuguese Guinea involving some stray cattle. As one oldtimer quipped: "India-Pakistan is too important to get into the U.N."

With Russia lined up behind India, China supporting Pakistan and the U.S. also leaning sharply toward Pakistan, no one wanted to risk a session that would dissolve into a sulfurous shouting match. Nonetheless, at week's end, the 15-member Security Council met to take up the problem.

Preserving Leverage. In Washington, Secretary of State William Rogers canceled a scheduled trip to Iceland. After huddling with State Department advisers and conferring by telephone with Richard Nixon at the President's Key Biscayne retreat in Florida, Rogers announced his decision late last week to take the issue to the U.N. "The U.S. hopes that the Council can take prompt action on steps which could bring about a ceasefire, withdrawal of forces and an amelioration of the present threat to international peace and security," he said. But no one was optimistic about its outcome—and rightly so.

U.S. Ambassador George Bush introduced a resolution calling for a ceasefire, an immediate withdrawal of armed personnel by both sides, and the placement of observers along the borders. The proposal won eleven votes, with two abstentions (Britain and France) and two nays (the Soviet Union and Poland). It was the veto by the Soviet Union's Yakov Malik, who blamed "Pakistan's inhuman repression" for the conflict, that killed the measure.

In any event, the Administration's decision to get involved in the situation was belated at best. Seeking to pre serve its leverage with Yahya in hopes of inducing him to restrain his troops, the U.S. managed only to outrage India, which felt among other things that it had become the pawn in the Administration's move to use Pakistan as the bridge for Nixon's detente with Peking.

Two Sides. At week's end, the U.S. seemed determined to alienate New Delhi even further with a harsh State Department declaration that in effect officially blamed India for the war on the subcontinent and failed even to mention the brutal policies pursued by the Pakistani military regime. "We believe," the statement said, "that since the beginning of the crisis, Indian policy in a systematic way has led to perpetuation of the crisis, a deepening of the crisis, and that India bears the major responsibility for the broader hostilities which have ensued." The statement was cleared with the President, one high official stressed.

Clearly, there were at least two sides to the conflict, and the U.S.'s blatant partiality toward Pakistan seemed both unreasonable and unwise. India has legitimate grievances: the cost of caring for 10 million refugees, $830 million by the end of March; the threat of large-scale communal turmoil in the politically volatile and hard-pressed state of West Bengal, where the bulk of the refugees have fled; the presence on Indian soil of large numbers of guerrillas who could become a militant force stirring up trouble among India's own dissatisfied masses; and finally, the prospect of a continued inflow of refugees so long as the civil war continues.

To be sure, New Delhi is not above criticism. The Indians have seemed entirely too eager to convert the situation into geopolitical profit by ensuring that Pakistan would be dismembered. Whatever the motives, however, both India and Pakistan stand to lose far more than they can afford. As a Pakistani general, a moderate, put it last week while the conflict worsened: "War could set India back for years—and ruin Pakistan." 


Hope Against Hope

FULL implementation of the 1974 land boundary agreement as well as the protocol signed on September 6, looks uncertain, with the Indian parliament yet to ratify the deals, politicians and experts said.
Residents of enclaves in Bangladesh and India have long been living in misery, without any ‘official identity’, as governments of the two countries have failed to resolve the issues surrounding disputed land boundary, left pending since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

‘It (settlement of land boundary issues) remains risky till the Indian parliament ratifies the agreement. They should not keep it hanging on, in any excuse,’ the general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Mujahidul Islam Selim, told New Age.

 Much to the disappointment of the people of the enclaves, the two neighbouring countries have thus far failed to implement the land boundary agreement of 1974 which stipulates expeditious exchange of the landlocked areas, subject to ratification of the accord by the two governments, despite several attempts in the past.
‘We are neither India nor Bangladesh. We want implementation of the Mujib-Indira land boundary treaty so that the Indian enclaves become a part of Bangladesh,’ said Md Ramzan Ali, 66, a resident of an Indian enclave, and also member of the India-Bangladesh Enclaves Exchange Coordination Committee.
He said there were no authorities to look after their welfare and they were not even allowed to enter into their mainland.

Akbar Ali Khan, who was an adviser to the Iajuddin Ahmed-led caretaker government, said that Bangladesh has lived up to her commitments but ‘it is the Indians who have so far not implemented the 1974 land boundary agreement on the plea of agitation and court cases.’

‘We are not yet sure whether India will implement it at all. We are still afraid,’ he said. ‘Bangladesh should demand complete implementation of the agreement and the protocol.’

Asif Nazrul, a professor of law at Dhaka University, said that the signing of the agreement cannot be deemed complete until the Indian parliament ratifies it.

‘In the past they claimed that a small part of the border was yet to be demarcated, so they could not ratify it,’ he said. ‘Now, there is no such barrier, and the remaining 6.5 kilometres stretch of the border has been demarcated. So, where is the obstruction in ratifying the agreement?’

M Humayun Kabir, vice-president of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, hoped the new protocol would not face the same fate as the agreement.

Ruling Awami League lawmaker Mostafa Faruque Mohammed hoped that the people living in enclaves will get their identity, as the complications regarding demarcation of boundaries have narrowed down by now.
After the Indian prime minister’s recent visit to Dhaka, the people of the 162 enclaves, who are denied all basic rights, have launched a fresh movement for merger of the landlocked areas with their respective mainland as per the agreement.

The Bangladesh parliament in 1974 ratified the agreement signed by the then Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi, but the sufferings of the virtually ‘stateless people’ continue as the execution of the deal was left pending for its ratification by the Indian side.

People still hope against hope that the authorities in India and Bangladesh will exchange the enclaves along the bordering areas and recognise the citizenship they have been denied over 64 years.

In a bid to end the suffering and uncertainty of people living in the enclaves and to resolve long-standing disputes over border, Bangladesh and India on September 6, 2011 signed, among others, a protocol on the land boundary agreement, during Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka.

Again subject to ratification by the two governments, the protocol includes exchange of enclaves, transfer of adversely possessed land in the border, settlement of 6.5 kilometres of un-demarcated land boundary and the signing of strip maps.

Residents in the already-settled Bangladesh enclaves Dahagram and Angarpota in Lalmonirhat have got 24-hour ‘unfettered movement’ to their mainland through the Tin Bigha corridor, following a joint announcement by the two governments during Manmohan’s visit.

‘The enclaves—111 Indian ones located inside Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi ones inside India—will be exchanged between the two countries under the Mujib-Indira land boundary agreement on ratification of the protocol,’ the joint home secretary (political), Kamal Uddin Ahmed, told New Age.

He said that people of the enclaves, in keeping with the agreement, would have the right to choose their citizenship.

The people, both in India and Bangladesh, will have ‘the right of staying where they are, as nationals of the state to which the areas are transferred.’

The foreign minister, Dipu Moni, and her Indian counterpart SM Krishna signed the protocol on the Mujib-Indira Land Boundary Agreement 1974 in the presence of Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her counterpart Manmohan Singh in Dhaka.

With regards to the protocol, the Indian prime minister in a statement said, ‘We have signed a protocol to the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974. With this, both our countries have now demarcated the entire land boundary as well as resolved the status of enclaves and adversely possessed areas.’

In a separate statement, Sheikh Hasina said, ‘I would like to announce that from now on, our people in Dahagram and Angarpota will have 24-hour unfettered movement through Tin Bigha corridor.’

The Indian authorities on September 8 opened the iron-gate on the Tin Bigha corridor for round-the-clock movement of people and started maintaining a signalling system to continue traffic inside India.

Authorities of Bangladesh and India earlier made all preparations for the exchange of the landlocked areas between the countries during Manmohan Singh’s two-day visit to Dhaka, renewing hope and enthusiasm among the hapless residents of the enclaves.

The people of the enclave on both sides are eagerly waiting for the exchange as the issue has remained pending since the partition of India in 1947, said Kamal Uddin, also head of the Joint Boundary Working Group.

The enclave dwellers are denied basic rights as there are no schools and hospitals or any other government facilities inside the enclaves.

The number of people living in the Indian enclaves located in four districts of Bangladesh—Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Kurigram and Panchagarh—is 34,000 while the number of people in Bangladeshi enclaves inside the Indian district of Cooch Behar is 17,000, according to a joint headcount.

Enumerators from the two countries simultaneously conducted the first-ever headcount in the enclaves in Bangladesh and India, the first-time ever since the British left the subcontinent in 1947, from July 15 to 17.
Most people in Indian enclaves surrounded by the Bangladesh territory already identify themselves as Bangladeshi citizens and many have already managed to get national identity cards, taking the advantage of lax local administration.

People of the enclaves with no ‘valid identity’ documents are eagerly waiting for the exchange of territories in adverse possession between Bangladesh and India, to get official recognition as citizens, a number of enclave dwellers have told New Age.

They said that neither India nor Bangladesh had recognised them as their citizens.
The enclave people want merger with their respective mainland as they cannot enter their own countries.
The Mujib-Indira land boundary agreement required India and Bangladesh to exchange the enclaves in adverse possession ‘expeditiously’ and demarcate un-demarcated patches of their land boundary for which it had laid down the principles.

India has kept pending the ratification of the land boundary agreement, halting the settlement process of border demarcation and exchange of enclaves till date, said officials in Dhaka.

Article 5 of the accord says, ‘This agreement shall be subject to ratification by the governments of Bangladesh and India and instruments of ratification shall be exchanged as early as possible. The agreement shall take effect from the date of exchange of the instruments of ratification.’

The Bangladesh parliament ratified the land boundary agreement on November 27, 1974 after prime ministers of the two countries had signed it on May 16, 1974 for demarcation of 4,156 kilometres of land boundary between the two countries.

The inhabitants of the enclaves in Bangladesh and India announced a 10-day programme beginning September 23 to press their demand for the implementation of the 1974 Mujib-Indira Land Boundary Agreement without wasting any further time.

At a press conference in Dashiar Chhara, an Indian enclave located in Kurigram district of Bangladesh, leaders of the India-Bangladesh Enclaves Exchange Coordination Committee said that the inhabitants of all the 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh would simultaneously hold the peaceful agitations to press the demand.

They said that they would hold protest rallies, observe lightless nights, mass campaigns for building public opinion, signature campaign, candlelight vigil, bicycle rallies and take out torch processions to press their demand.

The enclave residents now demand a definite timeframe for the implementation of the 1974 land boundary agreement.

Out of 51 Bangladesh enclaves, 18 of Kurigram and 33 of Lalmonirhat are situated in Cooch Bihar district of West Bengal in India. Similarly, out of 111 Indian enclaves, 12 are situated in Kurigram, 59 in Lalmonirhat, four in Nilphamari and 36 in Panchagarh districts of Bangladesh.

BY : Mustafizur Rahman.  

What Happened To Teesta Water?

ON SEPTEMBER 4, The Hindu reported that Paschimbanga chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, was not coming to join Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India, on his visit to Bangladesh. The report was both surprising and shocking, as it also reported that she was opposing the proposed Teesta water-sharing agreement. The Bangladesh government was very prompt; two ministers claimed to the press that whether somebody came or not the agreement would be signed. Despite their claims, frustration deepened in public. The BDNews on September 3, quoting Anandabazar Patrika of Kolkata, reported that Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury, a member of the Lok Sabha from Maldah, had said the remaining 460 cusecs of water of the Teesta would be shared on a 48-52 basis between Bangladesh and India. He further said Bangladesh shall get 25 per cent and India 75 per cent of the Teesta water. So far Bangladesh government had been assuring its people that the river was getting 20 per cent for its environmental flow and the rest would be distributed 48-52 to Bangladesh and India.

The frustration in public was turning into anger. Among experts, confusion emerged on what quantity of water the Teesta carries, particularly in lean periods. Historically, it is the water coming down from the Himalayan glaciers added with the spring waters from the hills. The flow increases by March, as summer arrives and the glaciers melt faster. In monsoon, rainfall over its catchment (all over Sikkim with average annual 2,740mm) sometimes create flood down to its plains of Duars. Kalyan Rudra, an expert in India, writes that this flow can be as low as 90 cubic metres per second or cumecs at Anderson Bridge (Taming the Teesta, June 2007). The peak discharge in 1968 flood was measured at 19,800 cumecs at Jalpaiguri. The Anderson Bridge was destroyed in that flood. Bangladesh had a record of minimum average 200 cumec discharges for the Teesta at Kaunia Bridge on the road from Rangpur to Kurigram.

The Gazaldoba barrage east of Siliguri town can be found in Google Earth satellite pictures, where images dated February 22 reveals that no water was being released down towards Bangladesh from the barrage. I located the new Anderson Bridge on the road from Darjeeling to Kalimpong, the Coronation Bridge at Sivoke on the Siliguri Assam highway, and the Domohani Bridge on Jalpaiguri Cooch Behar Highway. These are important landmarks over the Teesta in India, and are often referred to in water related discussions. It was clear that with the added catchment areas in West Bengal, the lowest flow of the Teesta inside Bangladesh should be double to that of Anderson Bridge, if not diverted. But the scenario is the opposite. India was diverting Teesta water towards the Teesta Project Irrigation areas and releasing huge quantities of water towards Bihar through the rivers Mahananda/Mechi.

The Teesta had an average historical flow of 2,80,000 cusec maximum and 10,000 cusec minimum at Dalia, upstream of the Teesta Barrage in Bangladesh (1 cumec or cubic metre per second equals 35.3 cusec or cubic feet per second). Due to increasing withdrawal in the upstream, this flow has come down to about 1,000 cusec, and to even 500 cusec during droughts. India constructed the Gazaldoba Barrage in 1982 and started diverting water for irrigation and transferring to the Mahananda. India’s irrigation plan with the Teesta water is massive; it plans to cover about 9.22 lakh hectares of land in the districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Maldah. Bangladesh constructed its Teesta Barrage in 1990 to supply irrigation to about 6.32 lakh hectares of land in the Niphamari, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Jaipurhat, Gaibandha and Bogra districts.

In the 37th meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission in Delhi, the Bangladesh water resources minister, Ramesh Chandra Roy, demanded 50-50 distribution of the Teesta water at Gazaldoba point. At that time he expressed satisfaction by getting 3,500 cusec of water without asking, and said it can be increased through talks (The Daily Star, March 18, 2010). In January this year at the secretary-level meeting, Bangladesh demanded 8,000 cusec and India 21,000 cusec of the Teesta water. Together they demanded 29,000 cusec when the lowest flow in the river was around 10,000 cusec only. However, after that meeting, it was in the air that the Teesta water-sharing agreement is imminent, with the formula of dividing the flow 50-50, keeping aside 20 per cent of the total flow for the river.

Here we arrive at the final question, how much water shall Bangladesh get with this formula? If it is on the basis of 10,000 cusec flow, Bangladesh shall get 6,000 cusec, which is a comfortable offer. Anyway, it should not be less than 3,500 cusec, as we can expect from the 37th JRC meeting. So, we, from the public, demanded a guarantee clause in the agreement. If the flow in Teesta is less than the amount necessary to meet both party demands, it can be augmented by releasing stored water from the Sikkim dams. But we got a heavy shock when the Anandabazar Patrika reported that let alone 460 cusec, the water shall be divided 48-52 between Bangladesh and India. If 460 cusec is 20 per cent, then the 100 per cent or total flow becomes 2,300 cusec. If the water is divided keeping 460 cusec undistributed, Bangladesh gets only 900 cusec. Altogether, it is about a 25-75 distribution to Bangladesh and India. On September 4, the Indian minister for water resources did not arrive in Dhaka. As a result, the 38th meeting of Joint Rivers Commission scheduled for September 5 was not held. By September 5 evening, it was clear that there will be no agreement to be signed on Teesta water.

The Hasina-Manmohan Summit ended with no agreement on Teesta, no agreement on transit. On September 8, the Bangladesh foreign secretary, Mijarul Quayes, told a press conference, ‘Teesta agreement is finalised; we are not to give any more concession.’ Our question is what is there in the document? What is the amount of flow to be distributed? Over a point to share 33,000-50,000 cusec of water, Kalyan Rudra on September 6 said at Kolkata, ‘Teesta water comes down to 3,500 to 4,000 cusecs only in lean periods’ ( He said, ‘Twenty-three “low flow” dams in Sikkim shall obstruct Teesta water flow to the Gazaldoba Barrage.’ According to Kalyan Rudra, we cannot get more than 2,000 cusec in lean periods by any distribution formula. Shall it be acceptable to us when we were getting 3,500 cusec without asking? Here I can mention a Daily Star report on September 3 quoting the prime minister’s adviser Mashiur Rahman who said that experts were yet to know the volume of water of the Teesta. ‘So, we will measure the volume of the water in the next 17 years. Later, we will go for a permanent treaty,’ he said.

A former JRC director, Kazi Golum Mostofa, said at a talk-show on Desh TV on September 10 that the Teesta deal would be on percentage basis, not on quantity basis. He said the Indian side claims that water down to the Gazaldoba Barrage is added with other stream flows joining it within the Indian Territory and this should also be measured. The Indian side is correct: the flow of the River Dharla in India joins the Teesta upstream of the Domohani Bridge near Jalpaiguri. Mostofa said the proposed 15-year deal provides measurements at upstream of the Gazaldoba Barrage, diversion through the canals, release through the Gazaldoba Barrage, and water received upstream of the Teesta Barrage in Bangladesh. Thus, it shall be clear what amount of water is available before distribution, what amount is released to Bangladesh and what amount received in Bangladesh. The difference between water released and received in Bangladesh shall be the water added in the flow on its way down to Bangladesh.

The agreement which was about to be signed is not public yet. But by stitching the information collected together, we can generate a picture of the proposed deal. But opposition from Mamata has made this deal uncertain. Can we not understand it gives us an opportunity to collect further information about many things happening upstream and downstream of the Gazaldoba Barrage? Information about Sikkim dams is available in maps provided by the web site India has covered by now only 20 per cent of its irrigation area in the Teesta project. So, it is diverting and transferring Teesta water to the Bihar areas by releasing water through the Mahananda Barrage near Banglabandha. One can go there and see the diverted flow through the River Mahananda. Mind it, the water released there does not reach the Mahananda in Chapainawabganj, but flows towards the Mechi/Fulhar upstream of the Farakka Barrage, as can be seen in Google Earth.

Bangladesh is now asking India to remove the hurdles for Teesta Agreement as soon as possible. But I suggest, the Bangladesh side should now demand, with strong arguments, the following:

1.    No dams should be built in Sikkim for storage which will obstruct lean period flows in the Teesta tributaries. ‘Low flow’ hydroelectricity dams shall also obstruct the lean period flows.

2.    No linking or release shall be allowed to the River Mahananda/Mechi to the west or to the River Jadhaka to the east. These links/releases shall lead to inter-basin water transfer.

3.    The area of the Indian Teesta Irrigation Project must be reduced to a realistic figure. A too large area shall end up with major conveyance loss and failure.

BY : M Inamul Haque.  

World: Pakistan: The Ravaging of Golden Bengal

OVER the rivers and down the highways and along countless jungle paths, the population of East Pakistan continues to hemorrhage into India: an endless unorganized flow of refugees with a few tin kettles, cardboard boxes and ragged clothes piled on their heads, carrying their sick children and their old. They pad along barefooted, with the mud sucking at their heels in the wet parts. They are silent, except for a child whimpering now and then, but their faces tell the story. Many are sick and covered with sores. Others have cholera, and when they die by the roadside there is no one to bury them. The Hindus, when they can, put a hot coal in the mouths of their dead or singe the body in lieu of cremation. The dogs, the vultures and the crows do the rest. As the refugees pass the rotting corpses, some put pieces of cloth over their noses.

The column pushing into India never ends, day or night. It has been four months since civil war broke out between East and West Pakistan, and the refugees still pour in. No one can count them precisely, but Indian officials, by projecting camp registrations, calculate that they come at the rate of 50,000 a day. Last week the estimated total passed the 7,500,000 mark. Should widespread famine hit East Pakistan, as now seems likely, India fears that the number may double before the exodus ends.

Hundreds of thousands of these are still wandering about the countryside without food and shelter. Near the border, some have taken over schools to sleep in; others stay with villagers or sleep out in the fields and under the trees. Most are shepherded into refugee camps where they are given ration cards for food and housed in makeshift sheds of bamboo covered with thatched or plastic roofing. Though no one is actually starving in the camps, food is in short supply, particularly powdered milk and baby food.
No More Tears

Life has been made even more miserable for the refugees by the monsoon rains, that have turned many camps into muddy lagoons. Reports Dr. Mathis Bromberger, a German physician working at a camp outside Calcutta: "There were thousands of people standing out in the open here all night in the rain. Women with babies in their arms. They could not lie down because the water came up to their knees in places. There was not enough shelter, and in the morning there were always many sick and dying of pneumonia. We could not get our serious cholera cases to the hospital. And there was no one to take away the dead. They just lay around on the ground or in the water." High-pressure syringes have speeded vaccination and reduced the cholera threat, but camp health officials have already counted about 5,000 dead, and an estimated 35,000 have been stricken by the convulsive vomiting and diarrhea that accompany the disease. Now officials fear that pneumonia, diphtheria and tuberculosis will also begin to exact a toll among the weakened ref ugees. Says one doctor: "The people are not even crying any more."

Perhaps because what they flee from is even worse. Each has his own horror story of rape, murder or other atrocity committed by the Pakistani army in its effort to crush the Bengali independence movement. One couple tells how soldiers took their two grown sons outside the house, bayoneted them in the stomach and refused to allow anyone to go near the bleeding boys, who died hours later. Another woman says that when the soldiers came to her door, she hid her children in her bed; but seeing them beneath the blanket, the soldiers opened fire, killing two and wounding another. According to one report from the Press Trust of India (P.T.I.), 50 refugees recently fled into a jute field near the Indian border when they heard a Pakistani army patrol approaching. "Suddenly a six-month-old child in its mother's lap started crying," said the P.T.I, report. "Failing to make the child silent and apprehending that the refugees might be attacked, the woman throttled the infant to death."

Cordon of Fire

The evidence of the bloodbath is all over East Pakistan. Whole sections of cities lie in ruins from shelling and aerial attacks. In Khalishpur, the northern suburb of Khulna, naked children and haggard women scavenge the rubble where their homes and shops once stood. Stretches of Chittagong's Hizari Lane and Maulana Sowkat Ali Road have been wiped out. The central bazaar in Jessore is reduced to twisted masses of corrugated tin and shattered walls. Kushtia, a city of 40,000, now looks, as a World Bank team reported, "like the morning after a nuclear attack." In Dacca, where soldiers set sections of the Old City ablaze with flamethrowers and then machine-gunned thousands as they tried to escape the cordon of fire, nearly 25 blocks have been bulldozed clear, leaving open areas set incongruously amid jam-packed slums. For the benefit of foreign visitors, the army has patched up many shell holes in the walls of Dacca University, where hundreds of students were killed. But many signs remain. The tank-blasted Rajabagh Police Barracks, where nearly 1,000 surrounded Bengali cops fought to the last, is still in ruins.

Millions of acres have been abandoned. Much of the vital jute export crop, due for harvest now, lies rotting in the fields; little of that already harvested is able to reach the mills. Only a small part of this year's tea crop is salvageable. More than 300,000 tons of imported grain sits in the clogged ports of Chittagong and Chalna. Food markets are still operating in Dacca and other cities, but rice prices have risen 20% in four months.
Fear and deep sullen hatred are everywhere evident among Bengalis. Few will talk to reporters in public, but letters telling of atrocities and destroyed villages are stuck in journalists' mailboxes at Dacca's Hotel Intercontinental. In the privacy of his home one night, a senior Bengali bureaucrat declared: "This will be a bitter, protracted struggle, maybe worse than Viet Nam. But we will win in the end."

Estimates of the death toll in the army crackdown range from 200,000 all the way up to a million. The lower figure is more widely accepted, but the number may never be known. For one thing, countless corpses have been dumped in rivers, wells and mass graves. For another, statistics from East Pakistan are even more unreliable than statistics from most other places (see TIME Essay). That is inevitable in a place where, before the refugee exodus began, 78 million people, 80% of them illiterate, were packed into an area no larger than Florida.

Harsh Reprisals

The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Moslem military's hatred. Even now, Moslem soldiers in East Pakistan will snatch away a man's lungi (sarong) to see if he is circumcised, obligatory for Moslems; if he is not, it usually means death. Others are simply rounded up and shot. Commented one high U.S. official last week: "It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland."

In recent weeks, resistance has steadily mounted. The army response has been a pattern of harsh reprisals for guerrilla hit-and-run forays, sabotage and assassination of collaborators. But the Mukti Bahini, the Bengali liberation forces, have blasted hundreds of bridges and culverts, paralyzing road and rail traffic. The main thrust of the guerrilla movement is coming from across the Indian border, where the Bangla Desh (Bengal Nation) provisional government has undertaken a massive recruitment and training program. Pakistani President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan last week charged that there were 24 such camps within India, and Indians no longer even bother to deny the fact that locals and some border units are giving assistance to the rebels.

Half of the Mukti Bahini's reported 50,000 fighters come from the East Bengal Regiment, the paramilitary East Bengal Rifles, and the Bengali police, who defected in the early days of the fighting. Young recruits, many of them students, are being trained to blend in with the peasants, who feed them, and serve as lookouts, scouts and hit-and-run saboteurs. Twice the guerrillas have knocked out power in Dacca, and they have kept the Dacca-Chittagong railway line severed for weeks. Wherever possible they raise the green, red and gold Bangla Desh flag. They claim to have killed 25,000 Pakistani troops, though the figure may well be closer to 2,500 plus 10,000 wounded (according to a reliable Western estimate). Resistance fighters already control the countryside at night and much of it in the daytime.

Only time and the test of fire will show whether or not the Mukti Bahini's leaders can forge them into a disciplined guerrilla force. The present commander in chief is a retired colonel named A.G. Osmani, a member of the East Pakistani Awami League. But many feel that before the conflict is over, the present moderate leadership will give way to more radical men. So far the conflict is nonideological. But that could change. "If the democracies do not put pressure on the Pakistanis to resolve this question in the near future," says a Bangla Desh official, "I fear for the consequences. If the fight for liberation is prolonged too long, the democratic elements will be eliminated and the Communists will prevail. Up till now the Communists do not have a strong position. But if we fail to deliver the goods to our people, they will sweep us away."

By no means have all the reprisals been the work of the army. Bengalis also massacred some 500 suspected collaborators, such as members of the right-wing religious Jammat-e-Islami and other minor parties. The Biharis, non-Bengali Moslems who fled from India to Pakistan after partition in 1947, were favorite—and sometimes innocent—targets. Suspected sympathizers have been hacked to death in their beds or even beheaded by guerrillas as a warning to other villagers. More ominous is the growing confrontation along the porous 1,300-mile border, where many of the Pakistani army's 70,000 troops are trying to seal off raids by rebels based in India. With Indian jawans facing them on the other side, a stray shot could start a new Indo-Pakistani war—and one on a much more devastating scale than their 17-day clash over Kashmir in 1965.

Embroiled in a developing if still disorganized guerrilla war, Pakistan faces ever bleaker prospects as the conflict spreads. By now, in fact, chances of ever recovering voluntary national unity seem nil. But to Yahya Khan and the other tough West Pakistani generals who rule the world's fifth largest nation, an East-West parting is out of the question. For the sake of Pakistan's unity, Yahya declared last month, "no sacrifice is too great." The unity he envisions, however, might well leave East Pakistan a cringing colony. In an effort to stamp out Bengali culture, even street names are being changed. Shankari Bazar Road in Dacca is now called Tikka Khan Road after the hard-as-nails commander who now rules East Pakistan under martial law.
Honeyed Smile

The proud Bengalis are unlikely to give in. A warm and friendly but volatile people whose twin passions are politics and poetry, they have nurtured a gentle and distinctive culture of their own. Conversation—adda—is the favorite pastime, and it is carried on endlessly under the banyan trees in the villages or in the coffeehouses of Dacca.

Typically, Bangla Desh chose as its national anthem not a revolutionary song but a poem by the Nobel-prizewinning Bengali Poet Rabindranath Tagore, "Golden Bengal":
. . . come Spring, O mother mine!

Your mango groves are heady with fragrance, The air intoxicates like wine.

Come autumn, O mother mine!

I see the honeyed smile of your harvest-laden fields.

It is indeed a land of unexpectedly lush and verdant beauty, whose emerald rice and jute fields stretching over the Ganges Delta as far as the eye can see belie the savage misfortunes that have befallen its people. The soil is so rich it sprouts vegetation at the drop of a seed, yet that has not prevented Bengal from becoming a festering wound of poverty. Nature can be as brutal as it is bountiful, lashing the land with vicious cyclones and flooding it annually with the spillover from the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers.
Improbable Wedding

Even in less troubled times, Pakistanis were prone to observe that the only bonds between the diverse and distant wings of their Moslem nation were the Islamic faith and Pakistan International Airlines. Sharing neither borders nor cultures, separated by 1,100 miles of Indian territory (see map), Pakistan is an improbable wedding of the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The tall, light-skinned Punjabis, Pathans, Baluchis and Sindhis of West Pakistan are descendants of the Aryans who swept into the subcontinent in the second millennium B.C. East Pakistan's slight, dark Bengalis are more closely related to the Dravidian people they subjugated. The Westerners, who eat wheat and meat, speak Urdu, which is written in Arabic but is a synthesis of Persian and Hindi. The Easterners eat rice and fish, and speak Bengali, a singsong language of Indo-Aryan origin.

The East also has a much larger Hindu minority than the West: 10 million out of a population of 78 million, compared with 800,000 Hindus out of a population of 58 million in the West. In Brit ish India days, the western reaches of what is now West Pakistan formed the frontier of the empire, and the British trained the energetic Punjabis and Pathans as soldiers. They scorn the lungi, a Southeast Asian-style sarong worn by the Bengalis. "In the East," a West Pakistani saying has it, "the men wear the skirts and the women the pants. In the West, things are as they should be."

Twenty Families

The West Pakistanis were also determined to "wear the pants" as far as running the country was concerned. Once, the Bengalis were proud to be long to Pakistan (an Urdu word meaning "land of the pure"). Like the Moslems from the West, they had been resentful of the dominance of the more numerous Hindus in India before partition. In 1940, Pakistan's founding fa ther, Mohammed AH Jinnah, called for a separate Islamic state. India hoped to prevent the split, but in self-determination elections in 1947, five predominantly Moslem provinces, including East Bengal, voted to break away. The result was a geographical curiosity and, as it sadly proved, a political absurdity.

Instead of bringing peace, independence and partition brought horrible massacres, with Hindus killing Moslems and Moslems killing Hindus. Shortly be fore his assassination in 1948, Mahatma Gandhi undertook what proved to be his last fast to halt the bloodshed. "All the quarrels of the Hindus and the Mohammedans," he said, "have arisen from each wanting to force the other to his view."

From the beginning, the East got the short end of the bargain in Pakistan. Though it has only one-sixth of the country's total land area, the East contains well over half the population (about 136 million), and in early years contributed as much as 70% of the foreign-exchange earnings. But West Pakistan regularly devours three-quarters of all foreign aid and 60% of export earnings. With the Punjabi-Pathan power elite in control for two decades, East Pakistan has been left a deprived agricultural backwater. Before the civil war, Bengalis held only 15% of government jobs and accounted for only 5% of the 275,000-man army. Twenty multimillionaire families, nearly all from the West, still control a shockingly disproportionate amount of the country's wealth (by an official study, two-thirds of the nation's industry and four-fifths of its banking and insurance assets). Per capita income is miserably low throughout Pakistan, but in the West ($48) it is more than half again that in the East ($30).

To cap this long line of grievances came the devastating cyclone that roared in off the Bay of Bengal last November, claiming some 500,000 lives. The callousness of West toward East was never more shockingly apparent. Yahya waited 13 days before visiting the disaster scene, which some observers described as "a second Hiroshima." The Pakistani navy never bothered to search for victims. Aid distribution was lethargic where it existed at all; tons of grain remained stockpiled in warehouses while Pakistani army helicopters sat on their pads in the West.

Supreme Sacrifice

It was something that Yahya had simply not anticipated. He and his fellow generals expected that Mujib would capture no more than 60% of the East Pakistani seats, and that smaller parties in the East would form a coalition with West Pakistani parties, leaving the real power in Islamabad. Mujib feared some sort of doublecross: "If the polls are frustrated," he declared in a statement that proved horribly prophetic, "the people of East Pakistan will owe it to the million who have died in the cyclone to make the supreme sacrifice of another million lives, if need be, so that we can live as a free people."

With the constitutional assembly scheduled to convene in March, Yahya began a covert troop buildup, flying soldiers dressed in civilian clothes to the East at night. Then he postponed the assembly, explaining that it could not meet until he could determine precisely how much power and autonomy Mujib wanted for the East. Mujib had not espoused full independence, but a loosened semblance of national unity under which each wing would control its own taxation, trade and foreign aid. To Yahya and the generals, that was unacceptable. On March 25, Yahya broke off the meetings he had been holding and flew back to Islamabad. Five hours later, soldiers using howitzers, tanks and rockets launched troop attacks in half a dozen sections of Dacca. The war was on. Swiftly, Yahya outlawed the Awami League and ordered the armed forces "to do their duty." Scores of Awami politicians were seized, including Mujib, who now awaits trial in remote Sahiwal, 125 miles southwest of Islamabad, on charges of treason; the trial, expected to begin in August, could lead to the death penalty.

Out of Touch

In the months since open conflict erupted, nothing has softened Yahya's stand. In fact, in the face of talk about protracted guerrilla fighting, mounting dangers of war with India, and an already enormous cost in human suffering, the general has only stiffened. Should India step up its aid to the guerrillas, he warned last week, "I shall declare a general war—and let the world take note of it." Should the countries that have been funneling $450 million a year in economic aid into Pakistan put on too much pressure, he also warned, he will do without it.

He has already lost some. After touring East Pakistan last month, a special World Bank mission recommended to its eleven-nation consortium that further aid be withheld pending a "political accommodation." World Bank President Robert McNamara classified the report on the grounds that it might worsen an already difficult diplomatic situation. The report spoke bluntly of widespread fear of the Pakistani army and devastation on a scale reminiscent of World War II. It described Kushtia, which was 90% destroyed, as "the My Lai of the West Pakistani army." A middle-level World Bank official leaked the study, and last week McNamara sent Yahya an apology; in his letter he reportedly said that he found the report "biased and provocative." Yet one Bank official insisted that though it was later revised and modified somewhat, its thrust remained the same. "We just had to put it on a less passionate basis," he said. "But it did not reduce its impact."

U.S. policy has been murky, to say the least. The Nixon Administration continues to oppose a complete cutoff of U.S. aid to Pakistan. The White House has asked Congress for $118 million in economic assistance for Pakistan for fiscal 1971-72, which it says will be held in abeyance. Despite intense pressure from within his official family, as well as from Congress. Nixon argues that a total cutoff might drive Pakistan closer to China, which has been one of its principal suppliers of military aid since 1965, and also destroy whatever leverage the U.S. has in the situation. In the light of Henry Kissinger's trip to China, however, it now seems clear that there may have been another motive for the Administration's soft-pedaling. Pakistan, of course, was Kissinger's secret bridge to China.

Nonetheless, criticism has been mounting, particularly in the Senate, with its abundance of Democratic presidential aspirants. Senator Edward M. Kennedy charged that the World Bank report, together with a State Department survey predicting a famine of appalling proportions, "made a mockery of the Administration's policy." Two weeks ago, the House Foreign Affairs Committee recommended cutting off both military and economic aid to Pakistan. The bill still must clear the House and the Senate, but its chances of passage are considered good.

Since 1952, when massive aid began, Pakistan has received $4.3 billion from the U.S. in economic assistance. In addition, the U.S. equipped and maintained the Pakistani armed forces up until 1965. Then, because of the Pakistani-Indian war, arms sales were dropped. Last October the Administration resumed military aid on a "onetime basis." After the East Pakistan conflict erupted, it was announced that arms shipments would be suspended; but when three ships were discovered to be carrying U.S. military equipment to Pakistan anyway, the State Department explained that it intended only to honor licenses already issued. Over the years, it is estimated that close to $1 billion has been provided for military assistance alone.

Condoning Genocide

India is particularly incensed over the present U.S. policy, and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi strongly protested to Henry Kissinger about U.S. military shipments when he visited New Delhi this month. The supply of arms by any country to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Swaran Singh charged last week, "amounts to condonation of genocide." Mrs. Gandhi is faced both with mounting pressure for military action, and an awesome cost that could set her own economy back years. India is feeding the refugees for a mere 1.10 rupees (150) per person per day, but even that amounts to more than $1,000,000 a day. The first six months alone, Indian officials say, will cost $400 million. Contributions pledged by other countries (the U.S. leads with $73 million) equal barely one-third of that—and much of that money has not yet actually been paid.

Still, it would hardly be cheaper to launch a war and get it over with, as some high-level Indians openly suggest. Hours after Indian troops marched into East Pakistan, Pakistani tanks and troops could be expected to roll over India's western borders. Moreover, fighting could spread over the entire subcontinent. For all of India's commitment "to Bangla Desh democracy and those who are fighting for their rights," in the words of Mrs. Gandhi, New Delhi is not at all interested in taking on the burden of East Bengal's economic problems. The only answer, as New Delhi sees it, is a political solution that would enable refugees to return to their homes.

The impetus for that could conceivably come from West Pakistanis. It is still far from certain that they are really determined to go the distance in a prolonged war. Thus far, the war has been officially misrepresented to the people of the West as a mere "operation" against "miscreants." Tight censorship allows no foreign publications containing stories about the conflict to enter the country. Even so, as more and more soldiers return home badly maimed, and as young officers are brought back in coffins (enlisted men are buried in the East), opposition could mount. The pinch is already being felt economically, and there have been massive layoffs in industries unable to obtain raw materials for lack of foreign exchange.
Immense Suffering

Meanwhile, the food supply in East Pakistan dwindles, and there is no prospect that enough will be harvested or imported to avert mass starvation. August is normally a big harvest month, but untold acres went unplanted in April, when the fighting was at its height. Already, peasants along the rainswept roads show the gaunt faces, vacant stares, pencil limbs and distended stomachs of malnutrition. Millions of Bengalis have begun roaming the countryside in quest of food. In some hard-hit locales, people have been seen eating roots and dogs. The threat of starvation will drive many more into India. Unless a relief program of heroic proportions is quickly launched, countless millions may die in the next few months. Yahya's regime is not about to sponsor such an effort. His latest federal budget, adopted last week, allocates $6 out of every $10 to the West, not the East; in fact, the level of funds for Bengal is the lowest in five years. The U.S., still fretful about driving Yahya deeper into Peking's embrace, seems unlikely to provide the impetus for such a program.

Tagore once wrote:
Man's body is so small, His strength of suffering so immense.
But in golden Bengal how much strength can man summon before the small body is crushed?


Ashugonj-Akhaura Corridor Provokes Many Questions

Confusion and contradiction continue to increasingly dominate the public mind over the transit/corridor issue. A new question that captured much of the public discourse in the capital last week was related to whether the government has already given permission to India to start using the overland road transit facility to its north-eastern region. How are things developing on this front? 
The Indo-Bangladesh summit held in Dhaka in early September ended without a transit protocol in the wake of India’s failure to ink the Teesta River water sharing agreement. This is what the government said at that time: No water, no transit. 
India using corridor
But news reports reaching the capital last week from Akhaura border area said, despite Dr Manmohan Singh’s failure to give the Teesta waters to Bangladesh, the Indian side has started using Bangladesh corridor facility to move their goods to Tripura state.
The issue came to public attention last week when two Indian cargo vessels anchored at the river bank terminal of the Ashugonj power plant and started unloading crates, reportedly stuck with iron bars and steel sheets.
The cargoes were stored at a safe storage of the huge power plant and later moved in four trucks to Akhaura land customs stations overnight. Moreover customs officials at Brahmanbaria and Akhaura said they are not charging any custom duty on the cargoes as they have not received any such instruction. 
Another customs official at Akhaura customs station said the Indian cargoes are on their parking lot at the moment and expected to leave for Agartola on Thursday. He said they are not charging duty on the consignment on instruction from the National Board of Revenue.
NBR had issued a circular last year fixing Taka 10,000 for a cargo container and Taka 1,000 for per ton loose cargo. But it had to rescind the circular later on as India refused to pay any duty while passing their cargo through Bangladeh territory.    
Shipping minister Shahjahan Khan confirmed the matter last week while speaking to reporters saying the Indian side is using the facility under the bilateral water protocol of 1974 and moreover, on the strength of their earlier permission to move the ODC cargoes to Tripura. It allows multimodal transportation including roads and waterways on which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agreed during her January 2010 visit to India on request from Dr Singh.  
It was however, a one-time permission to use of the facility to transport the heavy ODC containers. But it appears that they are now using it beyond the one-time initial permission in running more commercial consignments giving the impression that the land transit facility is already rolling in the ground. 
Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said it is only a trial run. But when a reporter asked him if it is an illegal exercise as the accord on transit fell apart during the recent summit, he said it is permissible under the multi-modal transport facilities. The two Prime Ministers have agreed on it in their joint communiqué. Protocol on waterways also allows it, he said. 
‘Cunningly bracketed’
But there is a cry of betrayal from all over. Major opposition BNP vice-chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said there is public betrayal at every point. He said the government in the first place have very cunningly bracketed transit with the Teesta water sharing. He said, “Water is the internationally recognised right of the people in a lower riparian nation, while allowing a corridor facility to a nation is a matter of privilege, there is no compulsion in it. The two issues are totally different.” 
He wondered how the Government could speak of bartering water for transit and now “there is no water but transit is there.” The former foreign secretary questioned the intention of the Government, adding, “There is reason to suspect when the government is too eager to do something without involving or informing the people.”
He also wondered how the government can allow the use of Chittagong Port when it is already running at around 90 percent capacity. “I also doubt whether the capacity of the port can be increased. We can’t think of it without marginalising local business. It can be done if only a new port or sea port can be built,” he said.
Obscure statements
Dr Asif Nazrul equally sounded critical to the government’s contradictory and often obscure statements on the transit issues. He found it difficult to compare the statement of foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni who said a deal on transit is yet to be signed. 
But contrary to it Prime Minister’s adviser Dr Gawhar Rizvi said there is no need for a new agreement as existing laws have the provision of transit of Indian goods through Bangladesh territory.  
News report said the use of land transit by India from Ashugonj to Akhaura and the damage done by their truckers, especially by heavy trailers to roads and local environment are already causing alarm to the local people.
They are afraid of losing their highway to heavy Indian traffic. “Awami League did not tell us before the election that they would do it and we see what they are doing now,” a national daily quoted a local vendor at Akhaura  as saying giving his reaction to the latest developments.
He said Akhaura customs station was an export outlet to India so far. 
Now they would bring their merchandise from the mainland in the west here and Bangladesh would lose market in the northeast, he said. However, a local Awami League leader said it would enhance the country’s image, besides boosting business. 
“We are not opposed to transit but not through highway. It will destroy our cohesiveness,” another person reportedly said in this connection.

BY :  Faruque Ahmed. 

‘The Press Decides Which Revolutions To Report’ : Arundhati Roy

Rajesh Joshi: The 10th anniversary of September the 11th attacks on the US is upon us. What do you think has changed in the world, or hasn’t changed, in these years?
Arundhati Roy: Plenty has changed. The numbers of wars that are being fought has been expanded and the rhetoric that allows those wars —that are essentially a battle for resources —is now disguised in the rhetoric of the war on terror, and has become more acceptable in some ways and yet more transparent in other ways.

Perhaps the most dangerous thing that has happened is that increasingly we are seeing that these wars can’t be won. They can be initiated. But they can’t be won. Like the war in Vietnam was not won. The war in Iraq has not been won. The war in Afghanistan has not been won. The war on Libya will not be won. There is this initial pattern where you claim victory and then these occupation forces get mired in a kind of slow war of attrition. That’s also partially responsible for the global economy slowly coming apart.
The other difficulty is that the more the weapons of conventional warfare become nuclear —and all this kind of air bombing and so on —the more it becomes clear to people who are fighting occupations that you can’t win a conventional war. So, ironically the accumulation of conventional weaponry is leading to different kinds of terrorism and suicide bombings and a sort of desperate resort to extremely violent resistances. Violent, ideologically as well, because you have to really motivate people to want to go and blow themselves up. So, [it’s a ] very, very dangerous time.
RJ: You have been very critical of the war on terror, especially the US policy. Would you have preferred a Saddam Hussain or a Taliban regime in Afghanistan?
AR: Well, it does look as if the Taliban regime is going to return in Afghanistan in some form or shape. And obviously, people like Saddam Hussain were first created and put in place and supported and funded and armed by the US. This process is something that a country that seeks hegemonic power can put in the despots it wants, topple them when it wants and then get mired in these kinds of battles where eventually it’s having to desperately scramble to get some foothold of a some face-saving measure in, say, Afghanistan. So, eventually, you are not ever going to get rid of despots or dictators or Taliban. The Taliban was also created by them. That kind of ideology was almost handed out as a kind of weaponry by them at the time they were fighting the Soviets which nobody really mentions. They just talk about Pakistan having had those camps but those camps were actually funded by the CIA and by Saudi Arabia, which is now one of the greatest despotic regimes wholly embraced by the US.
RJ: How do you look at the mass uprisings across the Arab world? Do you think it’s a positive development?
es Over’AR: Obviously there are very positive things about it but the jury is still out on them, in terms of what happened in Egypt for instance. Hosni Mubarak was in power for 40 years. We knew that three months before the uprising in Tahrir Square, the papers were reporting that he was on his death bed. Then this uprising happened. And then you had such enthusiastic reporting by the western press about the uprising — the press decides which revolutions to report and which not to report and therein lies politics. You had similar huge uprisings, let’s say in Kashmir which was more or less blacked out and yet you had this being reported venthusiastically but at the end of it you had headlines which said: ‘Egypt Free, Army Tak.

And today there are ten thousand people being tried in military tribunals. There is probably the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood happening now; it’s a negotiated emergence. I would say that it would be a successful uprising and a real democracy if they manage to completely stop the Egyptian role in the siege of Gaza. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.v
There are lots of manipulations going on. In India, as well as in these places, there is also the use of people’s power. People are angry. People are genuinely furious. People who have lived under these despotic regimes are desperate. But just moving the big blocks a little bit allows an eruption to take place. Is that eruption really going to end up in a genuine democracy or is that anger going to be channelised into something else?... We are still waiting.
R.J: Aren’t you happy that dictatorships are falling like a pack of cards?
AR: I would be happy if they were not going to be replaced by military regimes. I would be happy if I was sure that whatever takes its place isn’t going to be another manipulation... I would be happy. But at this moment in Egypt, people are being picked and tried in military tribunals just the way they were under Hosni Mubarak. Of course, I am happy but why should you be celebrating something unless what you are celebrating is the right thing?
RJ: You have been supporting people’s movements everywhere but you are very critical of the Anna Hazare movement. Common people participated in the movement, after all.
AR: I don’t support all people’s movements. I certainly didn’t support the Ram Janambhumi movement which was one of the largest people’s movement in this country – the movement to topple the Babri masjid and build a temple there. I think all kinds of fascism could describe itself as people’s movements and I don’t support fascism. I am not an indiscriminate supporter of people’s movements. In this particular case, I think it’s very important to read what was going on and what was going on was not simple. We are at a stage where huge corruption scandals mostly involving mining corporations and telecom companies and so on have been exposed for their links to the government, links to the media, for looting billions of dollars and there is no accountability, neither from the government nor from the corporations. And there is a huge amount of popular anger against them.
The reason I am very suspicious about what is happening here is that I feel that this anger from the top to the bottom is channelised into a people’s movement and that anger which was a very amorphous anger was being used to push through this very specific piece of legislation which I don’t think anybody— including a lot of the people who were pushing it— has read. And if you read that bill, it is not only legally ludicrous but the people who call themselves Team Anna themselves said that people were angry and we provided them the medicine. The Team Anna are themselves saying that the people didn’t read the bill but they said ‘give us some medicine for the sickness’, but they didn’t read what it said on the label of the medicine bottle. Very, very few people have read it. And that medicine is far more dangerous than the illness itself. That’s why I am worried. Then it became this moral movement which started to use the old symbols of religious fascism that all of us have seen, that started to exclude the minorities.
RJ: Some of your comrades-in arm like Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan are part of that movement. How can you say that the movement has streaks of fascism? Do you doubt Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan’s integrity or is it their understanding?
AR: It’s not a question of doubting their integrity. I doubt their (Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar’s) understanding for sure on the Lokpal bill — I am not doubting their integrity. Neither of them has brought in the politics they spent their life time doing; they left it outside at the doorstep. I just want somebody to have a proper conversation about that bill that they were insisting be passed without discussion through Parliament by the 30th of August. If you look at the bill, it’s so terrifying. Firstly, it’s so un-worked out. It asks for ten people of integrity —and proper class —to be running a bureaucracy that would contain about 30,000 officers. There is no comment on where those officers are coming from, who they are; there is no idea of what you mean by corruption in a society like ours. Sure there is corruption — from poor people having to bribe government officers to get their ration bills to corporates paying and getting rivers and mountains to mine for free.
But corruption is a value system, which has to be pinned to a legal system. And I keep saying that there are huge numbers, millions of Indians, who live untitled and unidentified outside this legal system. Supposing you live in Delhi. You have huge number of slums, illegal hawkers, squatters’ settlements. Suddenly some middle class community can say, ‘I live in Jorbagh there is a slum there, it’s illegal. The politicians are keeping them there because they get votes; the municipalities are allowing them because they get bribes. Get them out of here. These are illegal people’. What’s the meaning of corruption has not been debated. Forget the fact that they are asking for a bill where these ten people are at the top and there is an additional bureaucracy of 30,000 who will be given a huge amount of money by the government and they have the right to prosecute, to sentence, to tap phones, to dismiss, to suspend and to enquire into the activities of everybody from the PM to the judiciary downwards. They are just setting up a parallel hierarchy! What’s happening is that the middle class which has benefited from these policies of privatisation and globalisation has become impatient with democracy.
RJ: If globalisation and privatisation is not the answer, according to you, then what is?
AR: I think that the only way that we can begin to move to a place where people have some rights is by learning how to become an opposition which demands accountability. What the Jan Lokpal bill does is to set up another Super Cop. I am saying that the beginning of moving towards a society that we would like to live in is to force accountability. And that is only when people begin to stand by those who are fighting for their rights and demand that something happens. Not when they look away and say: that’s not my problem that people are being killed in Dantewada. I am a middle-class person and I believe that I should benefit. If we live in a democracy and you believe that everybody does have certain minimum rights, then you’ve got to be able to open your eyes to it. That’s what I try and do in whatever way I could by standing by those resistance movements that are questioning everything from big dams to mining to all these things—who are refusing to give up their lands, who are standing up to the biggest powers, whether it’s the army or the corporations and all of that.
RJ: You are a fierce critic of the Manmohan Singh government’s economic policies but India’s development has been praised by President Barack Obama of the US and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Many would say you are using your celebrity status as a Booker Prize winner author to criticise the path that India has taken after the collapse of the Soviet Union?
AR:  Booker Prize and all that is meaningless. There are plenty of famous people who can use their fame to sell shoes or coca cola. Nobody can use their fame meaninglessly. For me, I am a writer; I am somebody who sees the world in a particular way. And I keep saying that these words like ‘India’s development’ have become meaningless because who is India? When you say ‘India’ are you talking about the few hundred billionaires or are you talking about the 830 million people who live on less than 20 rupees a day? Surely, some people in India have developed very fast beyond their wildest dreams but they have done that by standing on the shoulders and the bodies of large number of other Indians. I keep saying when you have ten people in a room and one person become a billionaire and two people are doing really well and the rest of seven are starving and someone says, ‘Hey, there are seven people are starving in this room’, and you say, ‘Why are you being negative? People have developed!’ It doesn’t matter who I am, what I won, what I didn’t win. If I am saying something that is relevant it will have a place in this world. If I am being stupid, if I am being negative, if I am being meaningless, I won’t have a place in this world. So, there is no point in personalising things because it doesn’t really help.
RJ: Is Maoism the answer?
AR: Of course it’s not the answer. However, as I keep saying what I believe is the answer is the diversity of resistance and the Maoists are at one end — the very militant end of the diversity. And they fight deep in the forests which are being filled with paramilitary and police and surely in that tribal village where no television camera ever reaches, where no Gandhian hunger strike is ever going to make the news, there is only the possibility of an armed resistance. Outside,  that armed resistance will be crushed in a minute. The Maoists have not had any success outside. You need to look at other kind of resistance outside. The resistance movements often confuse the necessity for tactical differences with ideological differences. But the fact is that one of the things I think is wonderful in India is that there is a huge bandwidth of resistance movements who are being very effective and who are insisting on their rights and who are winning some battles. When you come back to this business of corruption, I would like to say that you have hundreds of secret memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between the governments and private corporations, which will result in a kind of social engineering across central India — forests, mountains, rivers — all of it given away to corporations. Millions of people are fighting for their rights. Nobody stood there and said can you declare those MoUs.
RJ: What does the state do? It has to defend itself.
AR: Implicit in that statement is that the state is the enemy of the people and it has to defend itself. And if you see what’s happening in the world, increasingly that’s true that states and their armies are turning upon what traditionally were their own peoples. Wars are not always being fought between countries; they are also being fought by the state against their own people — a kind of vertical colonisation as opposed to a horizontal one.
RJ: Do you love to mess with power?
AR: I do believe that the only way to keep power accountable is to always question it, to always mess with it in some way or the other.
RJ: Some people would say it’s very convenient of you to criticise things from a safe corner. What do you think your role is going to be in the future? Are you going to be a writer or have you every thought of joining politics?
AR: It’s not a serious question, I am afraid. What I do is politics. What I write is politics. Traditionally this is what writers have done. So to separate commentary from writing, from politics, minimises politics, minimises writing, and minimises commentary. This has historically been the role of writers. I could surely go and wear a khadi sari and sit in the forest and become a martyr but that’s not what I plan to do. I have no problem being who I am, writing what I have because I am not playing for sainthood here. I am not playing for popularity. I am not asking to be hailed as a leader of the masses. I am a writer who has a particular set of views and I use whatever skills I have, I deploy whatever skills I have, whatever means I have to write about them, not always on my own behalf but from the heart of the resistance.
RJ: In an interview to Financial Times you once said, and I quote: “I feel like I’ve done a very interesting journey over the last 11 years, but now I’m ready to do something different. Two years ago, I told myself, ‘no more, enough of this’, and I was working on some fiction. Then this huge uprising happened in Kashmir.” Some would say your activism is just another career move — I’ve done this and now let’s move on and do something more exciting?
AR: It’s not about more exciting things, it’s about writing again. If I am a writer and I have written in a certain way, then suddenly you feel like, for example The God of Small Things is a very political book but then there became another phase of very urgent and immediate politics and it became non-fiction. But I think fiction is a deeper, more subversive kind of politics. Like if you read The God of Small Things, dealing with issues of caste for example. It’s not about the government or the state versus the people; it’s about the absolute malaise within your own society. Fiction is a much better way of dealing with it. You can’t allow yourself to just be bogged down doing the same thing, thinking the same ways or using the same techniques of writing. It’s always a challenge. And it can never be that I will stop being a political person. Of course, I think that everybody, even a fashion model, is political. It’s the kind of politics you choose is what you choose to do. There is no escaping that. This idea that politics is only going out and standing for elections or addressing rallies is a very superficial thing.

BY Rajesh Joshi.