Has Narendra Modi really made it large in the ‘Hindutva Laboratory’?

‘Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.’  or  &  ‘tell a lie a thousand times and people will believe it is the truth!’—Joseph Goebbels.

If we just spend sometime, scratch the surface a bit of the Gujarat Shining tag, we would realise that plenty that is being flaunted about the so-called progress and prosperity of the State is merely due to a propaganda blitz – through ‘paid media’ and through a Washington based publicist company ‘Apco Worldwide’ which boasts among its clients several dictators and fascist regimes from across the world. For Indian Diplomat Lalit Mansingh is in the Global Political Strategists list of Apco. Below Narendra Modi‘s “Hindutva’s laboratory” one finds a reality which will make one grimace and even struggle for breath! Has Modi really made it large?

The hard fact is Gujarat has not been able to bag top position for even one of several key socio-economic indicators: life expectancy, infant mortality, nutrition, literacy and investment – although in 2001 when Modi took charge, Gujarat was already a well developed state, holding 4th state rank for per capita net state domestic product in mid-1996. Currently Haryana holds top rank, while Gujarat is at 6th position as it has mostly been since 1970s.

One could be forgiven for mistaking Modi’s new mask to be his real face, for had not ‘Time’ magazine’s Asian edition cover story on Modi last month endorsed him as the new ‘vikas purush.’ Indian media institutions have made it a habit to praise Modi for efficient governance, as have corporate honchos, who hail him as the most investor-friendly of all chief ministers. Modi was the winner of ‘best chief minister’ title in a recent Mood of the Nation survey by India Today-Nielson. He was declared the favourite for the prime ministerial position in 2014.

The Vibrant Gujarat as it is pictured today by media, has the following stars on its shoulder too:

These include:

  • a Government of Gujarat profile of 18,066 villages of the State has revealed that a significant percentage of the villages of the State do not have potable drinking water, toilets or educational facilities.
  • the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider
  • cosmetic development policies help a few but are detrimental to the large majority, very particularly the poor and the marginalized
  • environmental laws are blatantly flouted
  • adivasis, dalits and other sub-alterns are denied basic human rights
  • Muslims and Christians are treated as second-class citizens – many of them do not have access to quality education, good employment and other basic amenities needed for a citizen
  • most of the victim-survivors of the Gujarat Carnage 2002 are still struggling for justice
  • a good percentage of the Muslims are confined to ghettoes in urban and rural Gujarat
  • corruption is highly institutionalized in the State
  • the recent report (March 2012) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Gujarat revealed a Rs. 17,000 crore loss to the State exchequer due to corruption and financial irregularities
  • “encounter” deaths are rampant in Gujarat besides there have been more than 180 other custodial deaths in the last few years in the State
  • salt-pan workers in the Kutch area have to travel 15 to 20 kms away to get potable drinking water
  • the clear nexus between Government and some of the corporate sectors raises serious issues with regard to land acquisition, displacement, tax-payer’s money being used for the purpose of industries, etc.
  • thousands of fishermen all along the coast have lost their livelihood because of certain ports and other mega-projects
  • In the first three Vibrant Gujarat summits: 2003, 2005 and 2007, a total of $186 billion was garnered as MoUs for FDI, the official website claimed. Of these, 84 per cent proposals ‘had been implemented or were under implementation,’ it said. In the next two biannual events, MoUs worth $240 billion and $450 billion were signed taking the total to a staggering $ 876 billion! If 60 per cent MoUs had materialised — not 84 per cent as claimed – Gujarat would have matched China’s FDI inflows of $600 billion plus! Such extravagant claims were punctured by the Reserve Bank of India: a total of $7.3 billion was all that flowed into Gujarat in this period, a mere 5 per cent of total India’s total FDI. As against this, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka cornered 6 per cent of the national pie, while neighbouring Maharashtra garnered a massive 35 per cent.
  • the 2011 Human Development Report of India states that hunger and malnutrition (are) worse in Gujarat than in India’s other large states.  According to the report, almost 45 percent of children in Gujarat are malnourished.  A larger percentage of children go to bed hungry in Gujarat, one of India’s richest states, than in Uttar Pradesh, one of its poorest.
  • the 2011 Human Development Report of India states that hunger and malnutrition (are) worse in Gujarat than in India’s other large states.  According to the report, almost 45 percent of children in Gujarat are malnourished.  A larger percentage of children go to bed hungry in Gujarat, one of India’s richest states, than in Uttar Pradesh, one of its poorest.
  • in terms of infant and maternal mortality, Gujarat’s record during the decade that Modi has run the State is poorer than that of the country at large.  In 2006-2010, life expectancy in Gujarat was two years shorter than the national average (about 66 years).  Gujarat ranked 17th among all Indian states in terms of literacy in 2001, the year Modi took over.  Now it ranks 18th.
  • child labour is rampant in Gujarat with thousands working in the cotton fields of Sabarkantha, the brick-kilns, in the ‘kitlis’, and in several other areas of the unorganized sector.
  • sex ratio has dipped to a new low with just 918 females to a 1,000 males as against the national average of 940 (female foeticide is rampant)
  • the Sabarmati River “is one of the most toxic rivers” in the country,
  • a recent report ranks Gujarat 18th in the increasing crime graft making it one of the least peaceful States of the country
  • Gujarat ranks a poor 12th in the country in issuing forest land to the tribals.
  • a fairly significant sections of the population is still involved in manual scavenging

 The list is endless indeed, and one can go on listing the many human rights violations and injustices which abound in the State of Gujarat…..!

The question is: has he made Gujarat shine? Is Gujarat shining more than Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana or Karnataka? Has Gujarat under Modi achieved something that no other state has? Has Modi really made it large?


Malaysia: Journalist ordered to pay £100,000 damages in Twitter Libel Case

On 27 April 2012, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur entered judgment for a total of  MYR500,000 (£101,000)  in a defamation claim brought by Mohamad Salim against the well known journalist, R. Nadeswaran (pictured) over two posting on Twitter.  This is believed to be the first Twitter defamation claim in Malaysia.

The plaintiff, who is the managing director of Gapurna Group of companies had alleged that, on 12 July and 22 December 2010, Mr Nadeswaran published defamatory statements via his personal Twitter account.  The first tweet questioned the plaintiff’s “bumiputra” status.  The other, described him as a “land thief”.

The plaintiff said that a letter before action was sent on on 30 Dec 2010 seeking a retraction but was ignored.  A further tweet was posted on 12 Jan 2011.  This read “The land thief is trying intimidation! I love a good battle! War is now declared. I’ll take him on

As a result, a statement of claim was filed on 31 January 2011.  The plaintiff sought MYR10 million in general damages, MYR5 million in aggravated damages and MYR2 million in exemplary damages and an injunction to restrain defendant from further publishing or causing to be published any similar words  defamatory. No defence was filed by Mr Nadeswaran.

In the High Court Justice Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah granted RM300,000 general damages and RM200,000 aggravated damages.  She also granted an injunction against Nadeswaran to refrain from further publishing the defamatory statements or any similar defamatory statements.

As the defendant has served no defence he was  deemed to have admitted each and every averment as contained in the plaintiff’s statement of claim.

In considering the amount of damages and aggravated damages to be awarded , the Judge said that Mr Nadeswaran had more than 4,000 followers and any number of casual drop-ins would naturally see heavy traffic.

“The court is thus of the view that the defendant should exercise a greater degree of care over his tweets knowing full well that it could and would be seen by many.

Mr Nadewaran said he would appeal the decision.

“I intend to exhaust all my legal options, including an appeal against the decision for damages. The hearing took place without the benefit of my defence and I intend to continue to pursue the matter for my defence to be heard“ (courtesy: informm’s blog)

Bofors source revealed by The Hindu Editor N.Ram?

N. Ram, a former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, whose efforts in exposing high-level corruption in the Bofors deal in 1989 were recently recognized by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, seems to have indirectly revealed his source after 25 years. In an interview given to the livemint.com, he doesn’t deny or confirm whether Sten Lindstrom, was the man who he termed as ‘highly privileged & authoritative Swedish’ source, who released the Bofors Deal documents. N. Ram said:

I am not going to confirm or deny who the source was. For us, protecting the highly privileged, authoritative source was, and is, important, a matter of journalistic integrity and honour. Nobody other than the few who needed to know within the newspaper ever asked me who the source was— not Mohan Katre, the CBI director who flew in to meet me in Chennai, not defence minister K.C. Pant, who met me and spoke off the record, not Rajiv Gandhi, who discussed Bofors with me, at his request, in mid-1988.

But I’m sure the Indian government and some of the others involved in the affair had their suspicions, from the nature and irrefutable authenticity of the documents published by The Hindu. We always made it clear that the documents were given to us by a privileged, authoritative source in Sweden; and that formulation was in agreement with the source. I can’t answer to purported rumours that “did the rounds in Delhi’s political circles” a quarter of a century ago. I never heard them at the time but if the rumours indeed went around, they didn’t emanate from us.

To another question whether he and Lindstrom have a disagreement about when the stories would be published, he said (as if Lindstrom was his source): 

Not once during the period of the investigation did our source have or express any disagreement about the timing of publication of our document-backed Bofors stories. In fact, the boot is on the other foot. Our privileged source in Sweden was not willing to give the entire documentation in possession to us. So it was a process of negotiating over a period of about one and a half years with the source. The source was, for whatever reason, not willing to part with the document cache in one go, and would only give it in phased-out instalments over this long period. This certainly added to the drama and the feeling of high insecurity, if not paranoia, that had seized key functionaries in the government and the ruling party, the Congress.

There was no question of the newspaper publishing the documents and other information arbitrarily, as and when we pleased. We were not fools to hold back material without due cause and incur the risk of letting others run away with our story! In a story with such big stakes, involving a great newspaper’s credibility and people’s reputations, there was a need for due diligence, for devil’s advocacy, for making connections and drawing inferences, for being fair and just. We needed to translate—accurately—some of the material from Swedish. As for the Ardbo diary—which the police had seized and returned to him, preserving only photocopies—it presented a tough challenge.

Some of the handwritten diary entries made explosive suggestions but these were semi-coded, using initials and sometimes misspelling key names. What I can say about our source, for whom I have nothing but warm appreciation and goodwill, is that the motivation for leaking the highly confidential, privileged documents was moral outrage, that no financial transactions of any kind took place between leaker and recipient, and that the source took a big professional and legal risk. We were always aware of this risk and were consequently highly protective of the source’s identity. We left no fingerprints and our data security methods, I’m pleased to say, worked without a hitch. No one outside our newspaper and our trusted translators (from the Swedish) got their hands on any of the documents before they appeared in print in The Hindu.

One thing though is contrary to what N. Ram told the interviewer (“We were not fools to hold back material without due cause and incur the risk of letting others run away with our story! “) and a reader point out very rightly with a question too,  is :

When Kasturi, as editor held back one story on the ground there was nothing new in it, Ram gave it to all other newspapers. And as he himself admits, the Hindu stopped the expose in October 1989, that is after Rajiv lost power and V P Singh Government assumed office. Now it was up to the new government to carry on the investigation, he contended. Then, wasn’t the expose agenda driven? 

Read the full interview by Nikhil Kanekal : http://www.livemint.com/2012/04/25231225/N-Ram–Rumours-didn8217t.html

India – Charming state of affairs

Hot-headed democracy?

So across the country, and across the different estates—government, legislature, judiciary, media—we have a charming state of affairs in which action derives only from reaction.

Talking Media | Sevanti Ninan

If you ask whether social media is a boon or bane you should also ask whether the judiciary is a boon or otherwise, and ditto for the democratic governments we elect. For increasingly they all have their zany moments. And that is a kind word.

We’ve become such a reactive polity that our daily conduct will soon be hemmed in by injunctions issued by one or the other of these estates. All of them are on a short fuse.

If a Dalit poet and activist writes on social media about a beef-eating festival in Hyderabad, she encounters a chilling barrage of hate mail on the same trendy Twitter that the chattering classes are addicted to. Including a tweet which suggests she be raped on live television. A blogger called Kevin Gil Martin has described Twitter as lazy mob justice—an apt description of something which is more and more in evidence.

Then a video allegedly featuring Congress politician Abhishek Manu Singhvi goes viral and while Twitter reacts with glee, the always-dying-to-react Press Council chairman suggests restrictions on social media.

A newspaper goes overboard and fantasizes on its entire page 1 about troop movements, and the intent behind them. Six days later the Allahabad high court responds to a public interest litigation by directing the centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that there is no reporting on the movement of troops by the print or electronic media. A blanket ban, just like that?

Mamata Banerjee is determined to immortalize herself in social media’s rogues gallery by acting like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. Metaphorically, it is off with their heads for anyone who makes fun of the chief minister, and a neat blow to their circulation for newspapers that do not play ball. Cyberspace responds as it’s wont to, and in vigorously waving the free speech flag prefers to ignore the more conventional skulduggery behind the cartoon-forwarding-professor coming to grief.

courtesy: livemint.com

Surely what also needs to be exposed along with Mamata’s reactive behaviour is Trinamool’s politicking-for-spoils culture that may be spreading in the state.

The ministry of information and broadcasting is amazing. Unable to get broadcasting regulation passed for a decade and a half, it resorts to malleable guidelines. Either you have a firm policy on what can be telecast in terms of adult fare, and when, or you don’t. Is this now going to be decided on a movie-by-movie basis, as happened last weekend with the Sony telecast of The Dirty Picture?

So across the country, and across the different estates—government, legislature, judiciary, media—we have a charming state of affairs in which action derives only from reaction. What happened to due process?

The Supreme Court is also attempting to curb runaway legal reporting. The difference is that it has initiated deliberations, which is as it should be. The purview of its deliberations to frame guidelines for how the media should report sub judice matters has arisen from an issue of allegedly leaked privileged communication between the counsel of Sahara Real Estate Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

The court initiated a debate on the framing of guidelines for reporting of criminal trials to guard against any violation of Article 21 that guarantees the right of an accused to reputation and dignity and to ensure that his trial does not get prejudiced.

Then on 4 April, the court also ordered the inclusion of four more media guideline-related petitions. The issues raised in these petitions include norms for news coverage in electronic media, norms and guidelines to minimize presentation of sexual abuse and violence on TV channels, and contempt proceedings against journalists for publishing confessional statements of the accused before police.

The 2011 petition by Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad), which is one of the four the Supreme Court will take up, is also a response to the ad hoc manner in which police releases to the media material that can tarnish reputations.

Several journalists and media associations will be able to intervene in this judicial process of determining norms. That is how it should be. And where social media is concerned, too, that is how it should have been, before Markandey Katju (Press Council chairman) and Kapil Sibal (human resource development minister) chose to make pre-emptive statements.

But because nobody waits to give a measured response before they go their reactive way, all we will end up with is arbitrary curbs decreed by the government and implemented by service providers. Accompanied doubtless by an extended flurry of cyber abuse. As the current campaign seeking annulment of restrictive IT rules shows, undoing arbitrariness is going to take a lot of doing.

The poet Frances Trollope coined an evocative phrase with reference to Thomas Jefferson, referring to his “hot-headed democracy” which he said had done “a fearful injury” to his country. Who embodies it most here, I wonder: abusive free speech champions, the West Bengal chief minister, parliamentarians and the judiciary railing against the messenger rather than the bad news, or our hyperventilating TV anchors?

Sevanti Ninan is a media critic, author and editor of the media watch website thehoot.org. She examines the larger issues related to the media in a fortnightly column.

Sandalwood Wars: No show for ‘govindaya namaha’ from May 1!

Sandalwood King Ragvendra Rajkumar and another big kannada producer Suresh are loggerheads over the release of  Punnet Rajkumar starrer Anna Bond in the first week of may. Govindaya Namaha, a box-office (BO) hit from Suresh is doing a whopping business in all territories, is about to be withdrawn from the theaters bowing down to the pressure of Sandalwood.

In the days since the release of Puneet Rajkumar‘s home production was announced, media attention was on an impending clash at the BO with another big Kannada film. But what has also been transpiring is that the Komal-starrer Govindaya Namaha, which has been having a good run at the BO for over four weeks, now has to make way for Puneet’s film, despite continuing to be profitable.

Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) rules stipulate that a movie can be removed from a theatre only if it does not bring in a share for the producer or fails to even recover the rental for the theatre. According to the producer of Govindaya Namaha, Suresh, several theatre’s showing his movie, have arbitrarily decided for a change of cinema. Suresh says:

“I am forced to remove my film from theatres even though it has been doing well. I have been told that cinema owners are bowing to pressure from the distributor of the Puneet-starrer and refusing to play my film anymore. In Gandhinagar, releasing your film at Santosh Theatre is a big deal. My film has been playing there over the past few weeks and I have been getting a share of 4 lakh every week, after all overheads, including theatre rental, are taken care of.”

Pul-e-Jawan in India: How talks can bring peace

Results can’t be seen overnight but talking peace is part of making peace. PHOTO: CITIZENS MEDIA FORUM, DELHI

The Pul-e-Jawan country forum in India, organised by the Citizen Media Network, convened in Delhi on April 14. It was a follow-up to an event in Kabul where citizen journalists and young peacemakers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India had met in February.

This  event was organised just two days after the Pul-e-Jawan forum in Pakistan, which was hosted by Bytes for All in Islamabad on April 11 and April 12.

So, where does the name Pul-e-Jawan come from and what is its aim? As their website states,

“Pul-e-Jawan literally means ‘Bridges of Youth’ in Dari, as well as in Urdu and Hindi. The aim of Pul-e-Jawan is to transform the conflict in South Asia by highlighting youth perspectives on common challenges and aspirations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.”

In addition to on the ground work, campaigns and meetings, this forum intends to use the power of social media to exchange ideas and reach out to people across national boundaries. It also looks to finding ways of carrying conversations without feeling limited by the difficulty in attaining visas.

Shivam Vij, journalist and founding member of Kafila put it quite aptly when he said at the Pul-e-Jawan country forum in India:

When you think of the other country, you first think of the border. You don’t imagine it as a country full of people, roads, street signs, food and conversations. You imagine it through images you can access, through state narratives and media narratives, and also narratives of people who have come from there.

However, social media allows you to drop into internal conversations between Pakistanis. You get to see the country in a nuanced way. You get to know a place without visiting it.

He also shared numerous examples of cross-border friendships, some of which are documented in a piece he wrote for First Post last year.

Dr Madanmohan Rao, Research Project Director of Mobile Monday, also spoke at the event about the significant role social media has played in countries like Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. He shared a number of case studies and hoped for the possibility of using social media to express, question and critique.

His ardent faith in the potential of social media like Twitter, Facebook and blogs was refreshing, especially since the speakers who preceded him seemed rather sceptical of the new media. They kept harping on the time-honoured importance of traditional forums like newspapers, magazines and television channels. What they didn’t take in to account was that traditional media and new media could work together and support each other.

Of course, one cannot overlook the fact that only a tiny percentage of India’s population has access to computers and the internet. However, using this gap as an excuse to undermine the potential of social media is unfair .

At the same time, it is important to remember what journalist, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, said at the forum:

Social media does push the boundaries of freedom of expression. That’s great but in the midst of all this optimism about the internet, I’d like to sound a word of caution. Let’s remember that there is no substitute for going to the field and meeting people.

All these speakers at Pul-e-Jawan’s India forum gave the audience a vibrant range of examples and ways in which citizens can become media practitioners and contribute enthusiastically to public dialogue and social change.

Two other highlights of the day are worth mentioning; a talk by Dilip Simeon, Chairperson of Aman Trust and the performance of Dastan-e-Taqseem-e-Hind by Ankit Chadha and Darain Shahidi.

Dilip Simeon gave a spirited talk, emphasising the importance of speaking out and standing up against injustice and human rights violations. He introduced the audience to the concept of ‘collective guilt’, whereby the onus of acts committed by individuals is seen as synonymous with what the whole community should take responsibility for.

For example, if a politician is assassinated by the people of a certain religion, all members of that community are seen as guilty and avenged for the crime. It was a powerful concept and struck a chord with many. This was mainly because it came only a few hours after the performance of Dastan-e-Taqseem-e-Hind; a story spun around the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. It was presented in the tradition of Dastangoi, a lost art form of Urdu storytelling currently being revived by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain.

The performance was very moving and got a hearty applause from the audience. It became even more poignant when Shahzad Ahmad of Bytes for All joined us on Skype from across the border. Shahzad spoke of the need to build bridges and work together on online and offline initiatives. He focused on pressurising governments for a more relaxed visa regime to enable greater inter-personal contact, which is crucial to a more humane understanding of the demonised other across the border.

Did the forum yield any tangible results?

Can one make peace seated in a plush auditorium?

Did our voices reach the people who make decisions?

These questions are bound to come up.

But there are no easy answers for them. The best one I’ve come across was uttered by Shivam Vij:

Talk shopping is very important. Chai and charcha (tea and talks) can bring aman and chain (peace and calm).

I believe in this. We can’t expect to see results overnight, but talking about peace is a part of making peace. In today’s circus of competing and conflicting voices, it is important to stand up for what you believe in. And when there are so many people believing in the same thing, a difference is a certain reality. It is just a matter of time.

I came back really inspired from the Pul-e-Jawan gathering, and I have a feeling that many others did too. (courtesy: Chintan Modi/tribune.com)

Follow Chintan on Twitter @chintan_connect

Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Pakistan History-A complex history

Ishtiaq Ahmed

The Oxford Companion to Pakistan History (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012) edited by eminent historian Ayesha Jalal is a milestone in information on and knowledge about Pakistan. The first attempt is always the most challenging and daunting. Fahd Raza and Salma Mahmud at OUP, Karachi were the initiators of this project. Later, Nadia Ghani took over as project editor. She deserves to be applauded, especially because of the very large number of entries she has contributed.

In the preface, Ayesha Jalal succinctly sets forth the philosophy that informs her selection of items and contributors: “There can be no singular view of history that has remained open to multiple and conflicting interpretations. The volume avoids projecting any specific viewpoint and takes the diversity of interpretations as given. Contributors have been allowed to adopt their own standpoints in delineating a topic. Users of the companion are free to disagree with the contributors while still taking advantage of the information made available on any particular subject.”

Indeed that approach and vision is abundantly manifest. There is hardly any recognised scholar of Pakistani history, culture and politics whose expertise is not included. Most of the contributors are Pakistanis but international scholars of Pakistan are also represented well. I myself have had the privilege of contributing on more than 30 subjects.

The concentration is understandably on the post-independence period, but the colonial and even pre-colonial periods have been adequately covered. The topics included are individuals, events, places, government, military, foreign relations, linguistics, archaeology, judiciary, art, theatre, education, government, political parties, media, economics, the nuclear issue, philanthropy, civil society and many other subjects.

Pakistan’s travails as a nation-state have always posed intellectual and political challenges. Was it conceived as merely a Muslim-majority national state or was it meant to be an Islamic state based on a strict and dogmatic interpretation of the Shari’ah? This question has been dealt with in sufficient detail and diversity but understandably, no resolution of this controversy emerges from the different entries. We get a fair picture of what standpoints were taken by different political organisations, sects and sub-sects. The problems posed with regard to Pakistan’s national identity derive essentially from the fact that unlike most nation states that emerged in Asia and Africa as a result of decolonisation and bona fide residence of their people in the same territory were included in the nation, Pakistan was won in the name of Islam and Islamic culture. Despite an overwhelming Muslim majority, non-Muslim minorities were found in significant numbers in what became Pakistan. Their numbers have decreased after East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh, but they are still in millions in present day Pakistan.

Constitutional and legal measures purporting to define the rights of Muslim and non-Muslim citizens opened a Pandora’s Box. As a result the raison d’être for the creation of Pakistan, the Two-Nation Theory, brought out tensions not only between the rights and status of Muslims and non-Muslims but also within Muslim sects. Who is a Muslim? This notorious question has dogged Pakistani history and politics throughout its chequered history.

Jalal has adopted a genuinely inclusive and liberal approach on this issue and the diverse and contradictory spectrum of views and standpoints on this contentious issue have been included. Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Ahl-e-Hadith, Ahl-e-Quran, Barelvi, Ahrar, Khaksar, Sipah-e-Sahaba, the Ahmadiyya community and others are included. Pakistani Christians and Hindus and minorities such as Parsees, Kalash, Sikhs and Zikris are also covered. There is no denying that the question of identity has taken a heavy toll of the democratic potential and resolve present in Pakistan. As a consequence, cultural of militarisation has thrived. Entries on these issues are very useful. Another major problem that has bedevilled Pakistani politics is the relationship between the Centre and the provinces. The Oxford Companion covers satisfactorily this controversial question as well in both theoretical and empirical terms.

Equally, as an ‘ideological state’, Pakistan has to work out its relations with neighbouring states as well as internationally. The theoretical and empirical problems that arise as a result of tension between classic Islamic theory and contemporary norms and principles of international relations are also taken up. This is particularly relevant because Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state with a highly accentuated concern for security.

The most difficult problem confronting such a volume must have been about the selection of candidates for the ‘who is who?’ entries, both with regard to the historical record and the contemporary period. It is also fairly representative, especially with regard to politicians. It was a pleasure to note that some leading stalwarts of the Indian National Congress are also included. I would urge the inclusion of Dada Amir Haider, the veteran revolutionary who was a legend of the working class struggle extending from the 1920s until his death in 1989. Some sports personalities would also be a worthy inclusion in forthcoming editions of the Oxford Companion.

The great bonus of this volume is the encyclopaedic information on science, culture, architecture, music, the arts, including performing arts and other miscellaneous subjects.

Such a huge undertaking is bound to have some typing errors and weak entries; some entries have become obsolete in the light of recent research and findings. The project was launched six years ago and during this period, many myths have been shattered. Apart from such minor faults that can be eliminated in future editions, the work is a solid contribution to understanding Pakistan and its people.

The reviewer has a PhD from Stockholm University. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South AsianStudies, National University of Singapore. His latest publication is The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012; New Delhi: Rupa Books, 2011). He can be reached at billumian@gmail.com