The rights of displaced people
Dr Sandeep Pandey

As increasingly more and more communities are awakening to their traditional rights under threat from modern development projects, in particular, and their human rights, in general, they are throwing up more resistance all over the world. The Governments will ignore these democratic resistances and demands at its own peril. Read more... Magsaysay Awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey ponders...

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has acquired 340 acres of village common lands, 70 acres of temple lands from the Endowments Department and 500 acres from the local Gram Panchayat – China Mambattu of the Tada Mandal in Nellore District to set up a Special Economic Zone here. Some private industrialists have purchased another 100 acres of agricultural lands in the vicinity. 400 acres of the SEZ have being given to Apache to set up a shoe factory.

Three hamlets of the panchayat, N.M. Kandrika, China Mambattu and Peda Mambattu are being affected by this SEZ. There are weavers, shepards, barbers, washer men and women and Yanadi tribals living in these villages. The most vulnerable among these are the Yanadis because they do not have any land ownership making them ineligible to receive any kind of compensation in lieu of the displacement caused by the SEZ. The question of such communities and their livelihoods which are non farm based and dependent on natural resources and Community Property Resources is the most crucial one here.

Bandi Polamma, a member of the Yanadi community says that because of the land being sold they are losing their daily wages. The water bodies too are either being taken over by the company or are being polluted as a result of which fishing is becoming increasingly difficult as a livelihood option. Apache is setting up a fence which is making it difficult to access the forest which was a source for firewood. The tribals used to earn a part of their income by selling firewood. Hence the life and livelihood of this community is getting seriously affected due to the setting up of the shoe company here.

The local community facing displacement was promised jobs, education for their children, etc. However, it turns out that all promises were false. The displaced people have been left to fend to for themselves. Only two women have got sweeper’s job in the Apache shoe factory! The people feel let down and are in a public hearing organized in Nellore on 31st January, 2007 by Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union and Andhra Pradesh Matsyakarula Union they have expressed their intention to wage a struggle for their basic rights. Earlier a public hearing organized by the Government on 6th January turned out to be a sham as no people were allowed inside the hearing.

The people are demanding that every family displaced by the SEZ must be provided 2 acres of agricultural land with irrigation facility within the Panchayat limits, a housing site with low cost house built by the government, fishing nets worth Rs. 3000, one bicycle and a compensation of Rs. 10,000 per annum for the next 25 years.

At the same public hearing people from the Midderevu village of Muthukur Mandal of the same district also presented their woes. 1329.43 acres of land in three Panchayats, Krishnapatnam, Muthukur and Thamminapatnam is being acquired by the Government to set up Krishnapatnam Greenfield Port and Krishnapatnam Ultra Mega Power Project.

Midderevu village is next to Kandaleru creek and Bay of Bengal. Land along seashore is used for parking of boats, nets, catamarans, etc. People use common lands for grazing and firewood collection. They have also planted casurina in ten acres along the seashore. The village was hit by Tsunami and was only beginning to recover from the economic shock. In violation of the CRZ regulations, the villagers are being asked to cut the casurina plantation now. They are being asked to resettle at a distance of 7 km from the seashore and the local district collector has promised jobs for every youth.

180 families living in the village, including 20 Yanadi, mostly depend on fishing for livelihood. They are completely baffled by the idea of doing fishing from a distance of 7 kms. The fish move in groups and the colour of the sea is to be watched on a regular basis to determine when to begin the fishing operations. Parking of boats and gear would become a problem. In addition they would have to buy wood and fodder, imposing extra burden on their income. The people of Midderevu also face the dilemma of how to repay the Rs. 38 lakhs loan they had collectively borrowed from fish merchants in the post-Tsunami phase on the condition of supplying their catch.

People of Midderevu would not get any compensation because they do not own any agricultural land. Their traditional occupation has been fishing. But the existing legal framework doesn’t recognize fisher people’s right over the sea, for payment of compensation.

The people of Midderevu are determined in their resolve not to be displaced before the promises being made to them are fulfilled. They want that each family being displaced be given 2.5 acres of agricultural land, house constructed for them with a cost of Rs. 1 lakh, a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs for forgoing fishing (rights) on the sea and adequate compensation for all plantations in the households and along the sea. Collectively they want repayment of Rs. 38 lakhs loan by the government on their behalf to the fish merchants, construction of fishing harbour for safe parking of boats and gear and provision of basic infrastructure like roads, drinking water, electricity, schools and community hall, etc, at the resettlement and rehabilitation site.

The demands being made by the people of China Mambattu and Midderevu are quite legitimate considering that most of the families may be forced to completely alter their lifestyles and livelihood options. The respective compensation package being demanded in the two cases will at least ensure that the families will have a one generation cushion to rehabilitate and resettle themselves. But since the authorities are not known to be very sympathetic to the people facing displacement in such cases, it is unlikely that the demand will be met easily. However, as increasingly more and more communities are awakening to their traditional rights under threat from modern development projects, in particular, and their human rights, in general, they are throwing up more resistance all over the country. The Government will ignore these democratic resistances and demands at its own peril.

Dr Sandeep Pandey
(Dr Sandeep Pandey is recepient of Dr Ramon Magsaysay Award for the year 2002, and is a reputed social activist leading National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR). He had co-founded Asha in 1991 in Berkeley California, after which he returned back to teach at India's premier engineering institute (IIT Kanpur). He is presently actively engaged in strengthening people's movements across the country, and can be reached at:

We are all the more committed to peace in South Asia

We are all the more committed to peace in South Asia

It is unfortunate to report the train bombing that killed at least 66 people. Train was none other than the oldest train link between India and Pakistan – Samjhauta Express. Despite of piercing ache in our hearts, we feel all the more committed to make the voices of the majority heard – majority of us don't want violence and hatred between people of India and Pakistan, there is a small minority of people indulging in acts of violence and terror, and they don't represent us. Let us break our silence and be vocal about the train bombings today – we are crying, undoubtedly, and are more resolved to continue our struggle to establish peace between the two nations.

People of India and Pakistan, including young people, have tried their utmost to restore normalcy between the two nations, but for the few people in minority who resort to such brutal ways to invoke undue hatred and anguish, and undoubtedly cause an irrevocable loss of human life. I don't know who the perpetrators of violence are, but for sure I know that it not one of the millions of people on both sides of the border who earnestly want to co-exist in peace and harmony.

We need to break-the-silence, because there are few power mongers who want to wrongly claim that they represent us – they don't, and let us for once put this on record. We – the majority of people of India and Pakistan, want to co-exist in harmony and live our lives full of love and mutual understanding and respect. We want sustainable development, on both sides of the borders. We want social justice become a norm on both sides of the border. And having said that, our hearts weep to hear of this unprecedented attack of the peace-train between two nations.

We also believe that our response in this grim and sad hour of grief should not be of hatred and revenge - rather our commitments to peace and non-violence be as determined as possible. The perpetrators of violence want to invoke hatred, we must be resolute to not yield to their demands. This is the time to test our steely resolve - to peace, love and communal harmonious co-existence. This is the time to denounce all kinds of violence and oppression, because in those 66 innocent dead declared so far - you or I could have been one too. This is the time to break the silence.

We are reproducing few news items, courtesy BBC and Rediff News, for factual details. These are reproduced below:

INDEX of NEWS-reproduced:

1) Leaders condemn India train blast (BBC)


3) India blast victims' security questions (BBC)

4) 'There will always be disgruntled people' (Rediff News)

5) 67 killed as blasts rock Indo-Pak special train (Rediff News)

1) Leaders condemn India train blast
February 19, 2007

The "Friendship Express" restarted in 2004 after a two-year gap India and Pakistan have condemned a train bombing that killed at least 66 people as an act of terrorism aimed at disrupting their peace process.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf vowed the attack would stiffen their resolve to reach a sustainable peace. The train, running from Delhi to Lahore in Pakistan, was hit by two blasts at about midnight (1830 GMT Sunday) near Panipat, 80km (50 miles) from Delhi. The ensuing fire swept through two carriages of the "Friendship Express". It is thought three-quarters of the 750 people on the train were Pakistanis, as were most of the dead. President Musharraf said the attack was a heinous crime. "Such wanton acts of terrorism will only serve to further strengthen our resolve to attain the mutually desire objective of sustainable peace," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed "anguish and grief" and vowed the culprits would be caught. The blasts happened a day before Pakistan's foreign minister was due in Delhi for talks with Indian leaders. The minister, Khurshid Kasuri, said the explosion was a "horrendous act of terrorism" but it would not change his plans to visit India from 20-23 February.

The reaction from both governments suggests the prime suspects might be groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - the main Islamic militant groups who have been blamed for many high-profile bombings, says the BBC's Jill McGivering.

Recent attacks on Delhi, Mumbai and Varanasi, for example, seemed designed to damage India's image abroad and stoke anti-Pakistan feeling inside India. But the fact that so many of the dead on the train were Pakistani Muslims may indicate that the devices were intended for a different target, or exploded prematurely, she says.

Initial investigations suggest explosives in suitcases ignited bottles of paraffin to start a blaze. Witnesses said they saw people screaming and struggling to get out of the fire-stricken carriages. The BBC's Soutik Biswas, reporting from the scene, said the heat of the flames had peeled the blue paint off the coaches, and oil and cinders covered the tracks. Shiv Ram, a police railway constable, was one of the first officials on the scene. "The coaches were totally engulfed in flames. I brought out three charred women - I could only recognise them as women because they were wearing bangles," he said.

Many train windows in India are barred for security reasons. A rescuer, Rajinder Prasad, said: "We couldn't save anyone. They were screaming inside but no-one could get out." A doctor in Panipat, Ved Gupta, said: "It's very difficult to say who the victims were. Most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition." Relatives who gathered at Delhi station were given only a list of 13 injured and one identified body. The burnt-out carriages were moved to a railway siding a couple of kilometres away for forensic examination.

2) SAMJHAUTA EXPRESS: BBC, February 19, 2007

The rest of the train continued on its journey to the border station of Attari where passengers switched to another train to travel on to Lahore. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad said arrangements were being made to process visas immediately for Pakistanis who had relatives on the train and wished to go to India. The twice-weekly service from the Indian capital to Lahore was restarted in 2004 after a two-year gap as part of the peace process between the two countries.

3) India blast victims' security questions
By Soutik Biswas BBC News,

Sixty-year-old Kamruddin, a milkman from Multan in Pakistan, lies wheezing in the only bed in a curious "VIP emergency room" in the chaotic government hospital in Panipat, India. He does not remember any security person checking him when he boarded the crowded unreserved carriage of the Samjhauta (Friendship) Express at Old Delhi railway station on Sunday night. A little over an hour after the train rolled out, an explosion rocked Kamruddin's carriage and knocked him out. "Nobody checked us before we boarded. Nobody at all," gasps Kamruddin. He is luckier than most of his co-passengers - doctors say he has suffered minor burns, mostly on his hands, but his asthma is worrying them. "Whoever was behind this, the incident will give a very bad name to India," says Kamruddin. Outside, Mohammed Saif, a mechanic from Old Delhi, is looking for his aunt and niece who were on the train on their journey back home to Karachi.

The stench of the dead is strong inside the gutted carriages.

He also remembers seeing off Aftab Banu, 55, and her daughter, Arfa, 20, to the railway station and coming away surprised that nobody had frisked them or checked their belongings. "It was a crowded platform, it was a crowded train. We came and left unchecked too," he says.

This raises the question of how seriously India takes security on trains even after a series of blasts over the years. Especially on a train which is easily a prime target for any group trying to wreck the fragile India-Pakistan peace process. Clearly, lax or no security seems to have contributed to the explosions in the two blue-coloured carriages, "built in 2003" and "painted and disinfected" last in December, according to the markings. After the blasts comes the usual routine of a frenzied media scrum and politicians' visits to the railway where the incident happened - disregarding trains hurling up and down the adjoining tracks - followed by "VIP" visits to the hurriedly disinfected local hospital with neatly-gowned doctors.

All this seems to undermine the human tragedy unravelling at the hospital, where tearful people arrive to try to find or identify their friends and relatives on the train. Her visa was not extended, and she had to take the train on Sunday night

"My sister was on the train. Can I please go in and have a look?" says a man outside a ward for convalescing mothers which has been converted into a makeshift mortuary. Inside lie 65 charred, plastic-covered bodies of the passengers bound for Atari on the India-Pakistan border.

Even 12 hours after the incident, doctors at the hospital were saying only one body had been identified. The doctor in charge reads out the identification record - Yasmin Akhtar, 50, a resident of Amta Chowk, Srinagar, identified from her passport and visa. "So she was a resident of India, right?" I ask her. "No, no, she is Muslim. She must be from Pakistan," the doctor says.

Most of the bodies are charred beyond recognition, but procedures move slowly and look chaotic, making it more agonising for relatives and friends of passengers.

Mr Saif says he heard the news of the explosion from a relative who saw it on television early on Monday morning. Twelve hours later, after visiting the hospital and the blast site, he and his friends are clueless about the whereabouts of Aftab and Arfa Banu. The two women had come to visit Mr Saif and their family in Old Delhi for a month - it was Mrs Banu's first visit to India in 16 years. "She didn't want to leave after a month, she was feeling unwell. But her visa was not extended, and she had to take the train on Sunday night," says Mr Saif.

Panipat may be a fairly prosperous district of Haryana state hugging a national highway dotted with pickle and property - real estate-sellers, faux resorts and billboards announcing an "international city" are rife - but the local hospital does not even have a burns unit.
So about a dozen grievously-wounded passengers have been taken to a hospital in Delhi, some 120km (80 miles) away, for treatment.

This leaves Kamruddin the only passenger on the train who survived the blast in the hospital to recount his memories. He says he had finished a smoke and nearly dozed off in the train when he heard an explosion. "There was a blast, there was smoke. People scrambled all over, the train didn't stop, people started pulling the emergency chain. Then I passed out."

On the railway near Dewana, where the train halted with its two carriages on fire, the track is strewn with diesel oil, cinder, surgical gloves, bent window grilles, all pointing to the harrowing rescue operations during the night. The stench of the dead is strong inside the gutted carriages.

The floors - and the scorched skeletons of seats - are strewn with burnt clothes, hair, shoes, food. And then there is the detritus of what looks like small gifts people were taking home or to their friends and relatives across the border - half-burnt packets of Indian snacks, poppadom, a huge pile of betel leaf, packets of betel nuts, spices, even some noodles. Outside, a forlorn railway security man Shiv Ram says he has seen nothing like this in his three decades of work. When he arrived after midnight, the fire had been doused, but the rescue work had begun.

"I pulled out a few bodies. I think they were women. They were all black. But I think I saw a few bangles on them."


4) 'There will always be disgruntled people'
Sheela Bhatt and Nikhil Lakshman
Rediff News,
February 19, 2007

Last month, in an exclusive interview to, National Security Advisor M K Narayanan spoke to Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt and Editor-in-Chief Nikhil Lakshman on wide-ranging issues including China and terrorism. In the aftermath of the bomb blasts on the Samjhauta Express on Sunday night, we publish Narayanan's views on terrorism, a subject he has dealt with for many decades.

Sitting in this office, what is your assessment of India's national security scenario? What do you think of the spread of terrorism in India's hinterland?

I think this is a phenomenon not peculiar to India. Terrorism has now come to become, I think, one of the world's greatest scourges. There is no part of the world which is not affected. Yes, to some extent we are bigger victims than many other parts of the world but I think there is a certain amount of understanding across the world that this is an international phenomenon.

The Indian experience is being used to a great extent now but it took the world a very, very long time, what we have been talking of for some time that you need to look at terrorism not in a selective manner but as a comprehensive global phenomenon. Yes, it's a problem.

My concern, if the terrorism persists, is the aftermath of terrorism.

Will it create a division of Indian society? I think that is the point. I think of all the nations affected by terrorism we have the most composite population. We have people of different shades, different levels of progress, different levels of development etc. I think what would be a localised phenomenon can then be transferred into a much bigger issue. I think that would be, as National Security Adviser working in the Prime Minister's Office, to me the biggest problem.

An individual act of terrorism is possible... to drive a car in a crowded place and blow it up or use a suicide bomber. The incident takes place when the case is not detected but there are 15 incidents that have been aborted.

Nevertheless, every time an incident of terrorism happens it is a problem. But it is really, what I will call as a lack of faith in people that follows when terror comes in. We have seen after the Mumbai blasts. Immediately the suspicion is cast on certain sections of certain communities. That creates the divide. A country like India cannot afford that. India's basic strength is unity in diversity that we have.

The most worrisome aspect is that after the government's statement that no Indian is a part of the global campaign of terror, that may no longer be true...

No Indian has gone out and participated in it. What is happening is that it is possible to infect people. Most of the people (involved in terrorism) have gone out of the country and coming back and inciting people.

No Indian has participated in Al Qaeda. No Indian has been mercenary in that sense of the term. Yes, sometimes they have been used as it happened in the Mumbai bomb blasts. There are some Indians who have participated in providing logistic support and helping out and all that.
But, the fallout (of terror incidents) is still worrying. Because it creates suspicion among neighbours, suspicion among communities, that could be a major blow to India's otherwise widely hailed and widely recognised society.

You don't see it as a group of people so disgruntled with the system that they will take to terror? For instance, some Mumbai police officers believe the 11/7 blasts in the city could be a turning point in the battle against terror. They believe that the blasts could not have occurred without the large scale participation of local people.

I don't think anybody in (the) Mumbai (police) has said 'large scale'. You can always find disgruntled elements in any community to participate... you can always rationalise it by some incidents that have taken place. Having dealt with it, I can always say that the basic point is to prevent (incidents of terror).

The basic issue we really need is to create a composite community. There will always be disgruntled people. Is it not true of the United Kingdom? Is it not true of many other parts of world? There will always be disgruntled people who are unhappy with the state of affairs.
What we need, at the level of security agency, is to ensure that the numbers (of terror incidents) are kept at the absolute minimum. I am sorry to say the media plays quite an unsavoury role when we alert the community to be vigilant. I must say that outside mega cities we get a lot of support from people. It reduces the chances of success of terrorists.

At the political level there is a need to keep a certain balance. If one side goes overboard you will find a reaction, a backlash on the other side. We need to maintain a balance while recognising that there always are disgruntled elements but ensure that the community leaders play a constructive role.

Then, there is a money trail (behind terrorist attacks). I think, 98 per cent of this is run on the basis of money. It is a kind of a new route for employment. We have to nab the money trail.
Much depends on the state of play in the country. There we are far, far, far better than most countries in the world. Even (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair seemed very concerned with the fact of homegrown British fundamentalism. They have no communication to the community. We have great inroads into the community.

Many Muslims come here and meet me. We talk to them. They are saying what needs to be done. There is communication. There is a kind of interaction going on. Nevertheless, we have some people who for some thousand rupees have used hand grenades.

In our interactions we find there is a kind of resentment against the entire system that might be difficult to address...

The system means what?

Like, the Sachar Committee on Muslims showed that there is a lack of employment opportunity.
That is all right. The Sachar Committee has highlighted the fact. But you also have several communities in this country who have the same kind of problem.

It is true that you have a system where the premium is on education. Some communities may be the beneficiaries of education but the rest of them may not have been. The question is, how do you reduce grievances. Resentment is a very strong word.

There can be an element of resentment. The question is, are you going to transform that into violence in a country of one billion people with a limited number of what you called attractive opportunities? You are always bound to have a sizeable number of people who always feel a sense of grievance.

Now you can have resentment against the system. What does the Sachar Committee say? But there are enough communities in India, outside even the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes and Muslims who have the same problem. The question that we are really looking at is, how do you bring them all into the mainstream? How do you generate enough for all? How do you generate enough opportunities?

There will always be people against the system. You know, it is like you go to the North East you have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and people say it should be abolished. The AFSPA is there for a special, particular purpose. If there is no violence or violence is at a minimal level, then you don't require the armed forces and you don't require the AFSPA. There is a balance that you have to maintain.

So when you talked of resentment, it has to be in a particular paradigm of thinking and action.
So that is quite a slow process when they (the affected) can get justice. On the other hand this terrorism is...

Terrorism is really like a bird on a tree! It depends on people, how they want to view a bird.
Organised crime is of the same kind. The rules are the same. You have people who are willing, seeing great opportunities and becoming rich quickly. So they turn to crime.

Organised crime and communal syndicates have now become a way of life. Similarly, terrorism is another kind of phenomenon. Here, of course, sometimes, ideology plays a role. Sometimes, other considerations play a role

5) 67 killed as blasts rock Indo-Pak special train
Rediff News,
February 19, 2007

In a suspected terror attack, 67 people, including some Pakistani nationals, were killed in explosions believed to have been set off by improvised explosive devices in two coaches of the Delhi-Attari special train for Lahore at Deewana near Panipat, about 100 km from Delhi.
Several people were also injured in the incident, which the Northern Railway said was a clear case of sabotage.

The two coaches, where all the deaths took place, were completely gutted and only the charred remains were visible.

The explosions in the train took place at 11.55 pm on Sunday night. The bi-weekly train left the Old Delhi railway station at 10.40 pm.

Preliminary examination of the material found in the two charred coaches of the Samjhauta Express has revealed that a deadly mix of kerosene, sulphur and potassium nitrate (low grade) was used for the explosives, official sources said on Monday. These materials were packed in clothes and a timer device in suitcases, the sources said.

Northern Railway General Manger V N Mathur, who reached the spot from Delhi, said two suitcases were recovered from the spot -- one on the rail track and one from the train.
Both the suitcases contained IEDs -- one of them also had incendiary material, either kerosene or petrol, he said.

He said he had talked to the gateman near Deewana station who told him that he had heard two distinct explosions. "From this evidence, we deduce that this is a clear case of sabotage," Mathur said.

After detaching the two coaches, the rest of the train left for Attari via Wagah. Superintendent of Police (Panipat) Mohinder Singh Sheoran said forensic experts from Madhuban were summoned.

A senior police officer said a Pakistani national has also given information to police regarding some explosive being planted on the train.

The official said the passenger was identified as Shamshuddin.

Two Railway Protection Force personnel who died in the blasts were identified as Kashmir Singh and Rajender Pal, both hailing from Punjab. While Singh was an ASI in RPF, Pal was a constable.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while condemning the "heinous" bombing of the Samjhauta Express from New Delhi vowed not to allow such acts of terror to derail the Indo-Pak peace process.

"We will not allow elements which want to sabotage the ongoing peace process to succeed in their nefarious designs," Musharraf said in a statement in Islamabad.

He underscored the need for Pakistan and India to move forward undeterred in the quest for dispute resolution and lasting peace in the region and expressed profound shock over the tragic loss of lives in the attack.

Dr Singh, who received a call from his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz, said India was committed to doing everything possible to ensure that perpetrators of the heinous act were punished.

"The prime minister declared India's abhorrence for this heinous terrorist act and reaffirmed our commitment to doing everything possible to ensure that its perpetrators are punished," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

Dr Singh also conveyed his condolences to the Pakistani victims of the tragedy and indicated that steps were taken to provide all possible assistance for the injured and bereaved.
World leaders condemned the terror strike and expressed hope that it would not derail the Indo-Pak peace process.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri, who will arrive in Delhi on Tuesday on an official visit, said the response to the attack is that the "peace process must go on."
"We must deny terrorists any oppotunity. This act has to be condemned unreservedly," Kasuri said.

"It should act as an impetus for India and Pakistan to carry forward the peace process with even greater sincerity and a sense of purpose and direction," he said.

Describing the blasts as "a deliberate act of terrorism," the United States said such acts could only strengthen the resolve to defeat terror and achieve peace.

"The US government is shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives caused by a deliberate act of terrorism," a US Embassy statement said in Delhi.

"Such acts can only strengthen the resolve of all well-intentioned people to defeat terror and achieve peace," it said adding, the US government extends its condolences to the victims of this "criminal act" and their families.

Expressing "profound grief" over the attack, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing sent his condolences to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The European Union urged India and Pakistan to continue their peace dialogue despite the attack.

The German presidency of the EU said the attack was an act of "mindless violence clearly intended to disrupt the process of rapprochement between Pakistan and India."
Describing the bombings as "utterly shameful," British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said he was "shocked to learn of the devastating loss of life on the Samjhauta Express."

"I would also like to offer the governments of India and Pakistan whatever assistance they require, to bring to justice the perpetrators of this brutal attack," he said.
Bangladesh condemned the blasts as "heinous" and said it stood against "all forms of terrorism."
Japan said the blasts were "unforgivable" and "extremely vicious" and an "attack that targetted innocent people."

The train runs non-stop from Delhi to Attari where the passengers are shifted to the Samjhauta Express, which goes to Lahore after Customs and Immigration clearances.
The train only has operational halts at some stations, including Ludhiana and no passenger can alight from or board the train en route.

Study concludes toxic metals in and around Coca Cola Plant

Study concludes toxic metals in and around Coca Cola Plant

A study conducted by Peoples Science Institute, Dehradoon and Hazards center, Delhi has concluded that the pollution of ground water and soil by Coca-Cola plant continue unabated posing health hazards to the communities around the Coca-cola plant in Mehndiganj, Varanasi.

The study measured the concentration of heavy metals in ground water taken from 19 samples within 10 km radius around the Coca-Cola plant. Out of these 19 samples, 75% of the samples have cadmium and chromium in excess of Standard for drinking water (IS-10500: 1991).
Cadmium is highly toxic and can have severe health effects on humans. Cadmium is known to accumulate in the human kidney for a relatively long time, from 20 to 30 years, and, at high doses, is also known to produce health effects on the respiratory system and has been associated with bone disease. More recently, cadmium has been recognized to have a carcinogenic effect on humans.

Chromium is known for its negative health and environmental impact, and its extreme toxicity. It causes allergic and asthmatic reactions, and is carcinogenic. Health effects related to chromium exposure include diarrhoea, stomach and intestinal bleedings, cramps, and liver and kidney damage.

The study shows that the concentration of heavy metals is highest near the Coca-Cola plant. Hundreds of families live in close proximity to the Coca-Cola plant. With ground water as the main source of drinking water, they are directly affected by the pollution of the Coca-Cola plant. The study also shows that the pollution is spreading through ground water flow in surrounding areas around the plant. This has exposed the claim of Coca-Cola that the methods(primarily injection wells) it uses for discarding effluents are safe.

The study of soil samples around this area show the presence of lead, cadmium and chromium. The soil have been affected by both the sludge that Coca-Cola has dumped in the fields and through the effluents that Coca-Cola continues to release in canals nearby. This corroborates the farmer’s allegations of health impacts and loss of crops in the region. A study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2003 had also revealed that the sludge generated by Mehndiganj, Varanasi plant contains dangerous levels of cadmium, chromium and lead. The tests have shown that the waste contained extremely high levels of lead (up to 538 mg/kg) cadmium (up to 86 mg/kg) and chromium (up to 134 mg/kg effectively making it hazardous waste.

Coca-Cola established its plant in 2000 where it continues to draw lakhs of liters of water from the ground thus depriving the much-needed resource for the communities. From this study, it has been established that what water is not being drawn is being made unusable for the community. Community organizations Lok Samiti Varanasi and National Alliance of Peoples Movement are fighting against Coca-Cola for its exploitation of water in this region. They demand that the license of the plant be cancelled immediately in light of these new findings.

Re-discovering each other

Re-discovering each other

Sandeep Pandey

Hindustan Times, March 19, 2005

I am hearing stories from people returning from Indiawho went there to see the cricket game in Chandigarh of thetremendous response they got from Indians. They did not have to payfor their stay or food. Indian families were competing with eachother in inviting Pakistanis over to their place for dinner. ThePakistanis were having difficulty in deciding which invitation toaccept and which to leave. Indians were welcoming Pakistanis withwarmth as they probably do not welcome their own fellow citizensfrom other parts of India. Similarly when we're in Pakistan we get aresponse so overwhelming which probably the Pakistanis would notoffer to their own fellow citizens.

How strange this is? First wehated each other for over 50 years and then all floodgates ofemotions open. Which of the two feelings is real?At least we have advanced from putting our youth inbattle fields against each other to putting them in cricket fields.Cricket fields also used to be like battle fields once. Now we haveimproved. There is bonhomie which has replaced the feeling ofrevenge. Victory and loss are no longer a matter of prestige. Ourpoliticians are telling our cricketers to play for diplomacy.Cricket has moved from second last page of newspapers when we werechildren to the front pages now.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also highlighted the role of cricket and bollywood in improvingIndia-Pakistan relations. It is unfortunate that because of failureof resolution of issues politically we have to resort to a detourusing cricket. However, that we're moving towards the right goal isimportant.There are contentious issues between India and Pakistanwhich need resolution. Prime Minister Saukat Aziz rightly pointedout in a discussion, when I went to see him in Islamabad inconnection with our proposed Delhi to Multan Indian Pakistan PeaceMarch scheduled to begin on 23rd March, 2005 from the dargah ofNizamuddin Auliya, unless the issue of Kashmir is resolved we cannothope to have a durable peace between India and Pakistan.

He expressed his unhappiness over the way things have unfolded inBaglihar dam talks and admitted that Pakistan was `hurt'. These anda number of contentious issues will keep propping up whenever thingswould start to look bright. However, we have to decide whether we'llchoose to co-exist living with these issues or will perish togetherbombing each other with state of the art weaponry.After all, in India we have water disputes between thestates of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery river. The emotionsbetween the people of two states run as high as between Indian andPakistanis whenever a contentious issue is discussed. The problemhas existed since independence and will probably remain unresolvedfor a long time to come. But that doesn't take Karnataka and TamilNadu to the brink of bombing each other with nuclear weapons. So,why cannot India and Pakistan peacefully co-exist even if theproblems remain unresolved for some time to come?It is heartening to hear Shaukat Aziz that hisGovernment is interested in resolving the disputes rather than justcontaining them. His government's commitment to peace and harmonywas amply clear from his confident attitude when he was discussingvarious contentious issues in a forthright manner. He demonstratedan openness which has not been the hallmark of India Pakistanrelations over our independent history.

The decision by governments of India and Pakistan toallow a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar without therequirement of passports is a truly commendable one. Frankly, we hadnot expected that governments would take such a bold move so soon.If they continue on this path and free Kashmir from the grip oftension and violence by withdrawing their armed forces and helpinglife return to normalcy, they will do a great service to the peopleof Kashmir. India and Pakistan can jointly ensure the normalizationprocess in Kashmir. How does lack of resolution of the Kashmirdispute come in the way of ensuring peace in Kashmir? For the peopleof Kashmir restoration of peace is the most important priority.Infact, the arms race between India and Pakistan whichis often linked to the Kashmir dispute is an independent phenomenonwhich is based on threat perception of each other. If we can have arelationship based on trust there will be no need for keeping anyarms. And in due course of time the outstanding contentious issueswill be resolved through the process of dialogue.

If making ofnuclear weapons has done any good it is that it has made us realizethat there can be no military solution to the problem of Kashmir.The Kashmir issue will have to be resolved through a dialogue andthat too involving the people of Kashmir, according to theiraspirations. This may take some time. The common people of India andPakistan cannot wait until then. They want the normalization processto continue. When the people don't feel threatened by each other, asis amply clear by the warmth and bonhomie generated during allexchange visits between citizens of two countries without exception,why should the governments live in suspicion of each other? Is itnot the people that comprise any nation? Of course, there are thefundamentalists on both sides. But do they represent the feelings ofcommon people?

Let us not force our youth to put on uniforms and makethem face each other with guns in their hands at the border. Afterall, it is only a difference of few kilometers which determineswhich side they'll fight for. It is only a matter of few kilometerswhich determines whether they'll be indoctrinated in Indiannationalism or Pakistani nationalism. The outer coat of ideology inthe name of nation or religion is what we received only after wewere born. The nature did not ordain us to fight. We have more incommon than we have differences. The cultural and emotional and moreimportantly human bondings are much deeper. Let us respect them,rediscover ourselves as peace loving people and learn to livepeacefully with our differences.

Sandeep Pandey

(Author is a recepient of Ramon Magsaysay Award 2002 for emergent leadership, former Professor of IIT Kanpur, PhD from University of California, Berkeley and heads National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). He can be reached at

We will return to finish the march

We will return to finish the march

Dr Sandeep Pandey

The India Pakistan Peace March from Delhi to Multan is symbolically over but we are leaving Pakistan with a sense of unsatisfaction. We were not allowed to march within Pakistan. It was quite an embarrassment for us to be talking about disarmament but moving around under heavy armed security cover. A Police jeep was always accompanying us wherever we went.

Some of our hosts within Pakistan were also uncomfortable with this. We do realize that probably under the given circumstances in Pakistan this was the best possible thing that we could have done. This was the only reason we decided to come to Pakistan in what eventually was a curtailed and restrained visit for us. In my opinion in the end it was ultimately the difference of democracy between the two countries which resulted in different response from the two Sates, although it was only marginally better in India. The marchers from both countries had difficulty in crossing over into the other country to participate in the March.

Both Governments delayed giving visas to the marchers from the other side but whereas the Indian Government did give visas for all the 12 Districts that fell on the route to the Pakistani citizens the Pakistani Government granted visas to the Indian citizens only for the cities of Lahore and Multan. It is a different matter that the Pakistani marchers could not use their visas for all places as by the time they were in India, because of further delay by the Pakistani Government in granting them permission to cross the Wagha border on foot, the March was in the last District of Amritsar. However, while the Pakistani marchers were walking on the road for five days in India there was no Police accompanying us. We consider it an achievement of the March.

We find it an affront that whereas hurdles were created in the path of peace lovers from both countries to participate in this peace march by both the Governments, soon Lal Krishan Advani, the master mind behind the uprise of communal politics in India, is soon going to be a State Guest of the Government of Pakistan when he comes here to inaugurate a temple and visit the school that he studied in at Hyderabad, Sind. It reflects the misplaced priorities of the Governments. The peace activists who labour to bring about a change in the relationship of animosity between the two Nations over the last 57 years and are mobilizing public support in favour of a friendly and peaceful relation between India and Pakistan are discouraged at every step, whereas the man whose party almost brought the two Nations to the brink of a nuclear war and whose partymen indulged in the worst carnage in independent India in Gujarat, is going to enjoy Government hospitality in Pakistan. We in India are fighting a battle to free Indian politics of the forces which are a threat to our democratic polity and our neighbouring Nation chooses to honour their leader. Although, we are no admirers of the US policy, but a step to deny visa to Narendra Modi, definitely discredits these forces. We admire Pervez Musharraf for having taken steps to check fundamentalist forces in Pakistan but we also expect him to help Indian people in controlling such forces in India.

We are glad that we received a very positive response from the various people’s representatives that we met during our tour in Pakistan. The Nazim of Lahore, Mian Amir Mehmood granted us permission to take out a peace march within the city of Lahore and allowed us to plant a sapling that Professor Rameek Mohan, one of the marchers from India, had brought from Rohtak, as a symbol of peace and friendship. Rana Tariq Javed, Member of National Assembly was present to welcome us at a small function in Sahiwal on our way to Multan. The local Nazim and SSP, Khuda Bux Malik were also present here. In Chinchawatani the local Nazim welcomed us. In Multan, MNA Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi, who also happened to be the Sajjada Nashin of Dargah of Bahauddin Zakaria, almost echoed our setiments in his speech and granted us permission to move about freely in Multan. We planted another sapling at the City Council Hall in Multan that we had brought from India. Member of Provincial Assembly from Okara hosted dinner for us when we were returning from Multan. Back in Lahore we were hosted in the Punjab Provincial Assembly by the Opposition Leader Qasim Zia, a former Pakistani Hockey player. MNA, Chaudhary Manzoor Ahmad of the PPP was quite harsh on the two Governments especially for engaging in arms race. He questioned the two Members of Parliament from India who had joined us that evening, Nilotpal Basu and Hannan Mollah, both of CPM, why India was still following the path of BJP Government in defence spending. Riaz Fatyana, another MNA, hosted high tea for us at the Lahore Gymkhana and he too supported our campaign. These people’s representatives compensated to some extent for the negative attitude shown by the Pakistani Government towards the Peace March. But it is clear that movement for democracy in Pakistan will have to be strengthened if pro-people’s initiatives are allowed to take place freely here. Even at the risk of appearing to interfere in the internal matters of our neighbouring country, we would like to see our peace movement also strengthen the democratization process in Pakistan, just as various people’s struggles are aiming to do exactly the same in India.

Hence we will continue to push forward the agenda for peace and friendship between the two countries. At the common people’s level it is the most important democratic issue in the context of bilateral relationship. We had planned to organize a joint peace march of activists from both countries. But that remains unfinished. The two Governments, even though they have used the language, hitherto used by peace activists, in the meeting between Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh, did not cooperate fully in facilitating the Peace March. We will return to finish this march next year. We hope, by then, the Governments will realize that it is in the interest of the people to allow such a march to take place.

By Dr Sandeep Pandey

(Author is a senior social activist and recepient of Ramon Magsaysay Award for the year 2002. He has been the faculty member of Engineering depts. of IIT Kanpur and Princeton University and founded ASHA For Education Trust in 1991.)



Dr Sandeep Pandey

(from Lahore, Pakistan, returning on May 19, 2005)

We are grateful to the Pakistani Government for allowing us to enter Pakistan and symbolically complete the India Pakistan Peace March scheduled from Delhi to Multan between 23rd March and 11th May, 2005, but regret that we were not given permission to walk within Pakistan. The only consolation is that we reached Multan on the scheduled date, which was not looking possible at one point because of bureaucratic hurdles. The highlight of the Multan event was the presence of both Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi, the Sajjada Nashin of the Dargah of Bahauddin Zakaria in Multan where our March ended and Nazim Syed Ali Shah Nizami, the Gaddi Nashin of the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi from where the March began. The March was meant to carry the message of Sufi saints and we accomplished our objective to a large extent. The response from people on both sides of the border was overwhelming. The signs are very clear. The people of India and Pakistan are for peace and friendship and they blame their governments for not giving it to them.

The people of India and Pakistan are anxious to meet each other as no other two communities of people around the globe. The Governments of India and Pakistan have made it so difficult for the two people to meet as probably nowhere in the world. A very complicated travel restriction regime exists between India and Pakistan. Some of the restrictions are beyond the comprehension of common people. For example, why does one need the permission of one’s Home Ministry to cross the Wagha border on foot if the other country has granted a visa? This permission is not needed when you’re crossing over from one country into the other by any other means – air, rail or bus. Hence, if you cross the same border on Delhi-Lahore bus service then you don’t need the permission from the Home Ministry. There is also a rule which mandates a group of a minimum of four to cross the border on foot. Most of the common Indian and Pakistani citizens are neither terrorists nor criminals but they are required to report daily to the Police if they are in the other country. It is funny that during our stay in Pakistan a Police squad was continuously accompanying us and they had minute to minute knowledge about our movement but still our friends Saeeda Diep or Shabnam Rashid had to waste a couple of hours every day to carry our passports to the Police Headquarters. One has to use the same means to return that one used to enter the other country. There is a senseless strictness about port of entry. Most importantly, you cannot go into the other country unless you have a relative or an invitation. The Pakistani High Commission in Delhi had refused to entertain our visa applications until our names were cleared by the Interior Ministry in Islamabad, which meant that unless we had influential friends in Pakistan it was virtually impossible for us to enter Pakistan. And we had to go through all this after Pervez Musharraf’s recent trip to New Delhi where the two Governments had talked about increasing people to people contact and making the borders softer! The bureaucracy on the two sides is still not willing to acknowledge the changing realities between the two countries. It wants to maintain its hold over people and create all possible obstacles in the path of people wanting to go to the other country.

Only twelve of us had got the nod of the Pakistani Interior Ministry to enter Pakistan. About ten times more people who wished to accompany this March into Pakistan were disappointed. A close friend Vinish Gupta, who left his Ph.D. programme at IIT Delhi to become a Buddhist Monk and presently lives in Sarnath, wanted to come to Pakistan to see his ancestral home in Lahore which houses Habib Bank today. His grandmother would have been most happy if he could have brought photographs of this home back with him. However, Tenzin, as he is now known, was not given the opportunity by the Pakistani Interior Ministry to fulfill even as small a wish as this. The great Gautam Buddha had said that desrire is the source of pain. Tenzin has learnt this the hard way. However, what right the bureaucracies on the two sides, who themselves are not accountable to anybody, have to deny even simple freedom to the people to travel and meet people they wish to on the other side?

Even though we’re demanding a complete doing away with of the passport-visa regime for travel between India and Pakistan, the common sentiment that was expressed by people along our route was that the two governments must grant visas on arrival at the border. The Governments of India and Pakistan can do it if they want to. They have to merely demonstrate the political will as they did when they started the Delhi-Lahore bus service, implemented the cease fire agreement, allowed over 5000 people to cross over to watch a cricket match and most importantly, against all odds, introduced the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service.

In fact, it would be a very novel idea to allow granting dual citizenship to people of the other country who wish to apply for it. There would be a number of Pakistanis willing to obtain Indian citizenship too and similarly a number of Indian citizens willing to obtain Pakistani citizenship too if given the choice. This would be the surest way to get rid of distrust between the people of two countries which exists because of sustained propaganda on both sides against the other country and its people. It would also make life easier for a number of us who wish to frequently travel to Pakistan to meet friends and attend events and have to go through the tedious process of getting approval of Interior Ministry of Pakistan every time. And till the day of our departure we’re not sure whether the Indian Home Ministry would allow us to cross the Wagha border on foot, even though we might have the visa from the Pakistani Government. No Governments possibly treat their citizens in such a disrespectful manner as the Governments of India and Pakistan when it comes to traveling between the two countries. Why should the citizens of the two countries be subjected to this shoddy treatment by their Governments?

Dr Sandeep Pandey

(Author is a senior social activist based in Lucknow, and received Ramon Magsaysay award 2002 for emergent leadership. He is also the Coordinator of INDIA PAKISTAN PEACE MARCH (March 23 – May 11, 2005) and NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements). He can be contacted at

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