Monday, July 31, 2006

rushdie v greer over monica ali's brick lane

It seems ironic that Germaine Greer is supporting a group of Bengali traders, who probably have never read Monica Ali's Brick Lane. They claim the book misrepresents the Bangladesh community in Brick Lane. The book i felt was sympathetic to the community weaving the diaspora with the communities and ties back home. The politics of the community were also well represented with the second generation son who was more politically conservative than the women in the novel. The juxtaposition of the sweat shops in Dacca and London and the women as workers was well described. Rushdie seeems to have stepped into the debate, since Greer criticized him at the time of Satanic Verses, his comparisons are interesting.

To read a summary of the whole debate, see here

'You sanctimonious philistine' - Rushdie v Greer, the sequel

Guardian letter in support of Monica Ali reopens old feud

Paul Lewis
Saturday July 29, 2006
The Guardian

It began as a territorial dispute between a low-budget film production company and a group of Bengali traders determined, they said, to protect the reputation of the community living in Britain's best-known Asian street.
But the battle of Brick Lane, which this week saw the producers of a film based on a novel by one of Britain's most promising young writers take police advice and abandon filming in the street, has spiralled into a war of words between two literary giants.
Here are their letters

Rushdie's letter to the Guardian

Germaine Greer's article (G2, July 24) about the
proposed filming of Monica Ali's novel Brick Lane is a
strange mixture of ignorance (she actually believes
that this is the first novel to portray London's
Bangladeshi community, and doesn't know that many
Brick Lane Asians are in favour of the filming);
pro-censorship twaddle (no, people do not have the
"moral right" to prevent the making of a film simply
because they have decided in advance that they will
not like it); and ad-feminam sneers about Monica Ali.
Her support of the attack on this film project is
philistine, sanctimonious and disgraceful, but it is
not unexpected. As I well remember, she has done this

At the height of the assault against my novel The
Satanic Verses, Germaine Greer stated: "I refuse to
sign petitions for that book of his, which was about
his own troubles." She went on to describe me as "a
megalomaniac, an Englishman with dark skin". Now it's
Monica Ali's turn to be deracinated: "She writes in
English and her point of view is, whether she allows
herself to impersonate a village Bangladeshi woman or
not, British." There is a kind of double racism in
this argument. To suit Greer, the British-Bangladeshi
Ali is denied her heritage and belittled for her
Britishness, while her British-Bangladeshi critics are
denied that same Britishness, which most of them would
certainly insist was theirs by right. "Writers are
treacherous," Greer says, and she should know.

Salman Rushdie

The Greer article to which Rushdie is responding.
Germaine Greer
Monday July 24, 2006
The Guardian

Writers are treacherous; they will sneak up on you and
write about you in terms that you don't recognise.
They will take your reality, pull strands from it and
weave them with their own impressions into a tissue
that is more real than your reality because it is
text. Text is made of characters. A character is, as
it were, graven in stone; when you are charactered you
will last for ever, or pretty nearly, but what lasts
will not be you. Every individual, every community
ever to be written about suffers the same shock of
non-recognition, and feels the same sense of invasion
and betrayal.

When Monica Ali set out to write Brick Lane, she was -
according to Harriet Lane, who interviewed her for the
Observer on the eve of the novel's publication in June
2003 - "already very conscious that she was on the far
side of two cultures". In fact, Ali is on the near
side of British culture, not far from the middle. She
writes in English and her point of view is, whether
she allows herself to impersonate a village
Bangladeshi woman or not, British. She has forgotten
her Bengali, which she would not have done if she had
wanted to remember it. When it comes to writing a
novel, however, she becomes the pledge of our

Ali's mother, born in Bolton, met a Bangladeshi man at
a dance, followed him when he returned to his job at
Dhaka University and married him there. When the
Pakistani crackdown came in March 1971, Monica was
three years old. The family eventually escaped and
ended up living in Bolton, in a poky flat in a
run-down area. The truest part of Ali's writing is
about the experience of exile, the pain of
unbelonging. In mid-2003 the Bangladeshi High
Commission refused her a visa to visit her birthplace.
This must have been bitter enough, but returning would
have hurt even more.

In interviews, Ali says her family always intended to
return to Bangladesh, but in the event they stayed
here. Monica won a scholarship to Bolton Girls'
School, read PPE at Oxford and later settled down in
Dulwich, a smart corner of south London that is a far
cry from Bolton or Brick Lane. She was the mother of
two children before she began to work on her
"cross-cultural" novel, for which she received
enormous advances from British and US publishers.
Brick Lane was on the bestseller list for 46 weeks and
sold 150,000 copies in hardback. Ali was shortlisted
for every prize there was.

None of this would have happened if Ali had not
created her own version of Bengali-ness. As a British
writer, she is very aware of what will appear odd but
plausible to a British audience. Her approach to her
Bengali characters is not all that different from Paul
Scott's treatment of his Indian characters in The Raj
Quartet. An author may say she loves and respects the
characters she has created. But what hurts is
precisely that: she has dared to create them.

Ali did not concern herself with the possibility that
her plot might seem outlandish to the people who
created the particular culture of Brick Lane. As
British people know little and care less about the
Bangladeshi people in their midst, their first
appearance as characters in an English novel had the
force of a defining caricature. The fact that Ali's
father is Bangladeshi was enough to give her authority
in the eyes of the non-Asian British, but not in the
eyes of British Bangladeshis.

Brick Lane is a real place; there was no need for
Monica Ali to invent it. In giving her novel such a
familiar and specific name, Ali was able to build a
marvellously creative elaboration on a pre-existing
stereotype. English readers were charmed by her
Bengali characters, but some of the Sylhetis of Brick
Lane did not recognise themselves. Bengali Muslims
smart under an Islamic prejudice that they are
irreligious and disorderly, the impure among the pure,
and here was a proto-Bengali writer with a Muslim
name, portraying them as all of that and more. For
people who don't have much else, self-esteem is

For the novel Brick Lane, Ali didn't need to spend any
time at all in the real Brick Lane. Movies are
different; permission is now being sought to film the
cinematic Brick Lane in the real Brick Lane. The
community has the moral right to keep the film-makers
out but they cannot then complain if somewhere else is
used and presented to the world as Brick Lane. There
is only one remedy available if your reality is being
recycled through a writer or a movie-maker, and that
is to write your own novel or make your own film - and
accept ostracism as your just desert.

It hurts to be misrepresented, but there is no
representation without misrepresentation. London's
Eastenders don't watch EastEnders, because they don't
recognise its version of their demanding and rigorous
minority culture. They watch Coronation Street
instead. Farmers don't listen to the Archers. And
Bangladeshi Britons would be better off not reading -
or, when it comes out, seeing the film of - Brick Lane.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shame on Israel

The New York Times
is so biased towards Isreal. Saw the headlines about the Israeli air strike on innocent Lebanese citizens including women and children, killing 50 of them. The image on the front page of the NYT was of Lebanese citizens venting their anger on the U.N. building in Beirut. The message, the image conveys is that it is terrorist citizenry going crazy destroying buildings, when Isreal is the one causing destruction. The Reuters report was slightly more balanced.

QANA, Lebanon (Reuters) - An Israeli air strike killed 54 Lebanese civilians, including 37 children, on Sunday, prompting Lebanon to tell U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice she was unwelcome in Beirut before a cease-fire.
The raid on the southern village of Qana was the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 19-day-old war on Hizbollah.
As a wave of anger spread across Lebanon and the Arab world, several thousand protesters chanted "Death to Israel, Death to America" outside the United Nations headquarters in downtown Beirut and some smashed their way into the building.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said he would not hold negotiations before a cease-fire, scuppering Rice's visit.
Rice, who was in Israel and had planned to go to Beirut later in the day, said she was saddened by the Qana air raid, but stopped well short of calling for an immediate cease-fire.
Police, who gave the death toll, said the Israelis had bombed Qana at 1:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m. British time), destroying a three-storey building where about 63 displaced people were sheltering in the basement. Many were killed in their sleep.
"Why have they attacked one- and two-year-old children and defenceless women? What have they done wrong?" asked Mohamed Samai, whose relatives were among the dead.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wikipedia and Castro's Cuba

Two good articles in this week’s New Yorker. The first is on the creation of the Wikipedia encyclopedia and how global and accessible it is. It is open to editing and corrections, and has chats devoted to entries in the encyclopedia.

The founder Jimmy Wales has only five employees and has no adds for generating revenue on the site. The founder was influenced by the ideas of Friedrich Hayek’s 1945 free market manifesto, “the use of knowledge in society” which argues that a person’s knowledge is by definition partial, and the truth is established only when people pool their wisdom. He was also influenced by the Open Source Movement, which believes that software should be free and distributed in such a way that anyone can modify the code.

Since Wikipedia is not created solely by “experts in the field” it is often said to be inaccurate. But last year, Nature published a survey comparing forty two entries on scientific topics on Wikipedia with their counterparts in Encyclopedia Britannica, and Wikipedia had four errors of every three of Britannica’s.

I think because Wikipedia is online and is constantly being read by experts and others, and it is open to edits and allows for corrections to be made, and bias removed, it can pose serious challenges to how systems of knowledge are delivered and controlled. It’s breath, efficiency and accessibility make it ahead of the heavy and ponderous Encyclopedia Britannica for me, certainly.

The other interesting article was on Castro’s last battle: Can the revolution outlive its leader? By Jon Lee Anderson.

The great leader is clearly dying of Parkinsons but unfortunately wants to hold on to power. He represses his people and starves them of food and options. I wish he had stepped down about fifteen years ago. He would have been remembered as a revolutionary, but now he will be remembered as an aging brutal dictator. Raul his younger brother, who is seventy five, is being groomed for the takeover of power.

My parents had gone to Cuba about twenty years ago, inspired by Che and Castro’s revolutionary ideas. But were shocked when they saw empty grocery shelves and widespread repression of the population. They had gone to a beach, and my dad was taking pictures when a plain clothes policeman asked him to give him the film, and nearly jailed them. This they later realized was the time of the Mariel Boat Lift. The Mariel boatlift was a mass exodus of refugees who departed for the United States from Cuba's Mariel Harbor between April 15 and October 31, 1980.

Blog for Meeto

Meeto's blog.
Powerful words and painful memories of a beautiful soul, who was loved and is missed by a lot. I like Kamla's essay on her daughter, and her final farewell to her. Visiting Ven Tenzin Palmo must have been so healing.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Honor Killings

Pickled Politics has a very informative and tragic discussion on honor killings in Britain and Denmark.

From the Daily Telegraph

Miss Nazir, a recruitment consultant from Southall, west London, was murdered in April last year. She was strangled with a silk scarf, stabbed 18 times and had her throat cut. She had argued with her Pakistani family after rejecting an arranged marriage and falling in love with an Afghan asylum seeker. Her two nieces, aged two and four, were made to watch the murder, and were found spattered with her blood.

Last week, Diana Nammi, the co-founder of the London-based International Campaign Against Honour Killings, revealed that the number of women seeking help from her organisation had quadrupled over the past year.
She said that the women’s desire for independence had caused friction within their families. “The number of honour killings has gone up because more women are realising that they have rights,” she said

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said of the phenomenon: “It occurs more and more as people migrate to Britain from the rural, tribal areas of the Indian subcontinent. They bring the customs with them.”

He added: “Mainstream Islamic thought totally condemns the concept of honour killings. They mostly occur when women are being forced to marry, but Islam believes marriage should be based on willing consent and force should play no role whatsoever

Riazat Butt also has a report in the Guardian, looking more at some of the background.

Jurors were told the family disapproved of Ms Nazir’s boyfriend, Salman Mohammed, because of his caste and they were so determined to split the pair up that when the couple announced their engagement, Ms Nazir’s father, Azhar, lunged at Mr Mohammed with a knife and threatened to kill him.

Her brother Azhar Nazir, a 30-year-old greengrocer, threatened to “get” the couple if they married, even if they were abroad. He was, the court heard, so incensed that his sister had turned down the suitors waiting for her in Pakistan in favour of the Afghan that he ordered the 25-year-old to come to the family home in Southall, Middlesex.

From the Copenhagen Post:

Long sentences were handed out to all nine family members found guilty in the murder of Ghazala Khan

The Eastern High Court handed out sentences for the family members convicted for the murder of 18 year-old Ghazala Khan. Earlier this week, a 12-member jury returned guilty verdicts against the nine, all family members or friends, involved in Ghazala’s murder.

The young woman was shot dead by her elder brother two days after she married her Afghan husband, Emal. Her husband, who was shot in the stomach, survived, and now lives under police protection.
The 18-year old’s father, Ghulam Abbas, was sentenced to life imprisonment, the longest of the sentences. Ghazala’s brother received 16 years imprisonment, as did two of her uncles involved in the plot. The remaining five sentences range from eight to 14 years in jail.

Apart from the prison terms, the guilty members were ordered to pay almost DKK 1 million in compensation to Ghazala’s husband, Emal. The aunt and cousin, who were among those who received lesser sentences, were also ordered to leave the country upon the completion of their jail terms.

Prosecutors had originally pursued life sentences for the six family members involved in the murder; still they were pleased with the sentences.

‘This is a highly satisfactory result. The court has sent a clear signal to families that consider killing their children like this, that we won’t tolerate that in Denmark,’ said prosecutor Jeanette W. Andersen.

Pickled Politcs challenges the "honor" of these killings. By extending the discussions further by outlining the action governments need to take and direct action that can be undertaken by individuals and groups to change patriarchal mind sets.

One of the commentators on Pickled Politics recommends using the Danish example in Britain.

This is what I want to see happening in Britain. Go after the mother, the father, the uncles, the aunts. Get them all. All who knew or lured or conspired - get them as accessories. No mercy.

Another commentator discussed the class issues within honor killings, and that it is more common in village communities then in the middle classes living in cities.

Another commentator felt honor killings are more common among Pakistanis due to the practise of cousin marriages.

The greater prevalence of the phenomenon amongst Pakistanis may have something to do with the practice of cousin marriage and the imperatives of marrying within a family to bolster not even tribal but family affiliations. This means that there is less leeway for any deviation or leniency for a girl to choose a man of her own because of the literal ‘betrayal of blood’ that occurs. These are serious issues that are particular to Pakistani Mirpur

This website
has information on human rights of women and girls being a health priority.

Table 1: Gender Violence throughout a Woman's Life
Phase Type of Violence

Prenatal Sex-selective abortions, battering during pregnancy, coerced pregnancy (rape during war)

Infancy Female infanticide, emotional and physical abuse, differential access to food and medical care

Childhood Genital mutilation; incest and sexual abuse; differential access to food, medical care, and education; child prostitution

Adolescence Dating and courtship violence, economically coerced sex, sexual abuse in the workplace, rape, sexual harassment, forced prostitution

Reproductive Abuse of women by intimate partners, marital rape, dowry abuse and murders, partner homicide, psychological abuse, sexual abuse in the workplace, sexual harassment, rape, abuse of women with disabilities

Old Age Abuse of widows, elder abuse (which affects mostly women)

Source: Heise, L. 1994. Violence Against Women: The Hidden Health Burden. World Bank Discussion Paper. Washington. D.C.: The World Bank.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Israel and Lebanon

It is terrible what is happening in Lebanon. Innocent people are being killed, stranded and a whole country is being destroyed by Israel. Below is a summary of an article by Robert Blecher on the politics of the Isreali attack on Palestine and Lebanon.

For many in Israel, and apparently also in the Bush administration, the
escalating wars in Lebanon and Gaza are conjoined in a single war against a
unified "axis of terror" linking Hizballah and Hamas to Damascus and distant
Tehran. By lumping together the different struggles of Hizballah and Hamas,
Israel casts resolvable political crises as unfathomable, irrational hatred,
in an attempt to justify its massive bombing campaigns.

As Robert Blecher argues, the dual conflicts are indeed linked by more than
captive Israeli soldiers -- not by radical Islam, but by Israel's plan to
"disengage" unilaterally from much of the West Bank to manage its conflict
with the Palestinians. With its two-front war, the Israeli government has
set out to prove to the Israeli public that disengagement is not a mistake.
Blecher's article, "Converging Upon War," is now posted at Middle East
Report Online

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lawrence School ghoragali

An interesting visit to Lawrence School Ghora Gali by two teachers and some current students from Lawrence School Sanawar.


The children and staff of The Lawrence School, Sanawar , Himachal Pradesh
visited their sister School, The Lawrence College, Ghoragali Murree in
Pakistan. The School was Founded by the same person who started the School
in Sanawar, Sir Henry Lawrence who had established 4 schools in 19th
century. The first one being The Lawrence School, Sanawar, second was The
Lawrence College, Ghoragali (now in Murree Pakistan) , third one is The
Lawrence School, Lovedale in Ooty in the south and the fourth one was The
Lawrence School, Mount Abu in Rajasthan. The last one stands converted in a
Police Academy.

18 children and three Staff members headed by Mr. Rajesh Puri Dean of
Faculty of Sanawar School visited the Ghoragali School from 11th of July to
16th of July, 2006 the invitation extended by the Principal of the Ghoragali
School Air Commodore (Retd) A. K. Kiyani.

After crossing the Attari- Wagha Border at about 1:00 pm. on 11th July,
2006. the Principal Air Commodore (Retd) A. K. Kiyani received the
Sanawarians with the Headmistress of the Junior School and the President and
Secretary of The Old Ghallians Chapter of Lahore with a big banner " WELCOME
TO THE SANAWARIANS". After some refreshment, photography and live interviews
with GO TV channel of Pak, the delegation reached Lahore, the first
destination in Pakistan, and reached the Farm House of an old Ghallian
Chaudhary Tanvir Ahmed, DIG Police at Raiwind Road, followed by a lovely
lunch and after a rest for few hours the delegation went around Lahore
City, the famous Panjab University, the Assembly Hall, the Lahore Fort,
Badshahi Masjid next to a Gurudawara, the Lama Muhammad Iqbals Mazar. The
children were taken to a Mall known as PACE owned by famous cricketer Imran
Khan. The delegation visited a street known as "FOOD STREET" where one can
go only on foot as no vehicle is allowed. This street is known as the Old
Anarkali bazaar, where a Police Band played and welcomed the delegation,
then was followed by an excellent dinner.

Next morning, after the breakfast, a visit to the House of the Governor of
Panjab Lt. Gen. (Retd) Khalid Maqbool was organised. The reception was very
warming. He spoke about the academic condition of the schools in Pakistan.
He stated that there is no School in Pakistan where you have co-education.
The literacy rate is 57% only. This was said by the governor. Mr. R. Puri
thanked them for the warm welcome at the Wagha border. After a cup of tea
and snacks the delegation left for Islamabad, by the Motor Road
constructed by the Koreans. It is a six-lane road and only Cars, Buses and
Trucks are allowed. No scooters, motorcycle or tonga, rickshaw is allowed.
The roads were very neat and clean with no animals on sight. The road has a
wired boundary all through from Lahore to Peshawar, about 550 km. One can
not drive on this road less than 120 km per hour. Lunch on the way was
served by the President of Old Gallian Society followed by a cup of tea at
Islamabad with Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Mohammad Ali
Durrani. Both these meetings were telecast on the PTV on the same day. And
the next day this news was in the News Papers.

At about 9:00 pm the delegation arrived at the School, where reception by
Staff and the School children was unforgettable.

The next morning, it rained very heavily and the whole programme got
delayed. The most important function was the Special Assembly by the
Gallians in honour of Sanawarians. The children of Sanawar sang the School
Song and the National Anthem. The Ghoragali Head Boy presented their School
flag to the Head Girl of Sanawar and the Sanawar Head Girl exchanged the
Sanawar School flag with the Ghoragali Head boy. The ceremony was fabulous.

A visit to Murree was organized after this ceremony, the nearest Hill
Station like Kasauli. In the evening the entire Ghoragali School presented a
variety programme. The Sanawar boys and girls also presented variety items.
It was a wonderful show.

The next day, i.e 14th July a visit to Taxila Museum and Gurudawara Panja
Sahib was organised. The Mayor of Taxila received the delegation, who took
us to the Panja Sahib Gurudawara, where all paid thei obeisance and
touched the Panja of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. From this place the famous Museum
of Taxila was visited by the delegatin, the articles lying there were of the
old civilization and number of statue of Budha were seen. Later on reaching
Islamabad at about 6:00 pm. a visit to the residence of Brig Rajinder Singh
the Millitary Advisor at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, who
happened to be an alumni of Sanawar, which was followed by a visit to
shopping centre known as Jinnah Supper Market.

Next morning, i.e. 15th July a friendly Basketball match was played amongst
the students of the two schools. On way back, Famous Sher Shah Suri road
known as G T Road was taken by the delegation. We stopped enroute at a place
called Mangla

lake which is a dam on the Jhehlum River. A bit of boating followed by a
lovely lunch there made up for the day. At Lahore a Dinner at a five Star
Hotel called Pearl Continent, by a old Gallian who was the Head Boy of the
School in 2004, was a grand way of finishing the day.

The next morning was the day to say good bye to the hosts. At about 11:00 am
the delegation left for Wagha Border and again Principal Air Commodore
(Retd) Farooq H Kiyani accompanied the students and an unforgettable send
off was seen. The President and the Secretary of Old Ghallians Society,
Lahore Chapter, was also present there. After crossing over the delegation
reached Attari at about 3:45 pm and left for their residences in India

The exchange visit was a memorable and unforgettable experience of every
Sanawarian who was part of this delegation. They all wish to thank the
Principal Air Commodore Farooq H Kiyani, the staff and the children of
Ghoragalli for their great hospitality.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ban on blogs in india

The Indian government has banned Blogspot, Typepad, Geocities, and other major web domains justified as an anti-terrorism strategy. Apparently some people involved with banned groups like SIMI have been using blogs to communicate, and the government has instructed the nation's ISPs to ban those sites, which host thousands of Indian blogs.

See more information on Amardeep and Amitava's blog and
here and here and
here and finally

Monday, July 17, 2006


Am in cannot write much, but did see these articles that i thought were worth reading.

Check out this article from my cousin Sanjna in the NYT

Also this article by Robert Fisk in the Independent

07/14/06 "The Independent" -- -- All night I heard the jets, whispering high
above the Mediterranean. It lasted for hours, little fireflies that were
watching Beirut, waiting for dawn perhaps, because it was then that they

They came first to the little village of Dweir near Nabatiya in southern
Lebanon where an Israeli plane dropped a bomb on to the home of a Shia Muslim
cleric. He was killed. So was his wife. So were eight of his children. One was
decapitated. All they could find of a baby was its head and torso which a
young villager brandished in fury in front of the cameras. Then the planes
visited another home in Dweir and disposed of a family of seven.

It was a brisk start to Day Two of Israel's latest "war on terror", a
conflict that uses some of the same language - and a few of the same lies - as
George Bush's larger "war on terror". For just as we "degraded" Iraq - in 1991
well as 2003 - so yesterday it was Lebanon's turn to be "degraded".

That means not only physical death but economic death and it arrived at
Beirut's gleaming new £300m international airport just before 6am as passengers
prepared to board flights to London and Paris.

From my home, I heard the F-16 which suddenly appeared over the newest
runway and fired a spread of rockets into it, ripping up 20 metres of tarmac and

blasting tons of concrete into the air in a massive explosion before a
Hetz-class Israeli gunboat fired on to the other runways.

Two of Middle East Airlines' new Airbuses were left untouched but, within
minutes, the airport was deserted as passengers fled back to their homes and

The flight indicators told the whole story: Paris no flight, London, no
flight, Cairo, no flight, Dubai, no flight, Baghdad - from the cauldron into the

fire if anyone had chosen to take it - no flight. Someone was playing "Don't
Cry For Me, Argentina" over the public address system.

Then the Israelis went for the Hizbollah television station, Al-Manar,
clipping off its antenna with a missile but failing to put the station off air.
That might be a more understandable target - "Manar", after all, broadcasts
Hizbollah propaganda. But was it really designed to find or recover the two
Israeli soldiers captured on Wednesday? Or to take revenge for the nine Israelis

killed in the same incident, one of the blackest days in recent Israeli Army
history although not as black as it was for the 36 Lebanese civilians killed
in the previous 24 hours.

An Israeli woman was also killed by a Hizbollah rocket fired into Israel.
So, in the grim exchange rate of these wretched conflicts, one Israeli death
equals just over three Lebanese; it's a fair bet the exchange rate will grow
more murderous.

And by afternoon, the threats had grown worse. Israel would not "sit idly
by". It ordered the entire population of the southern suburbs - home to
Hizbollah's headquarters - to flee their homes by 3pm.

Save for a few hundred families, they stubbornly refused to leave.
Everywhere in Lebanon could now be a target, the Israelis announced. If Israel
the suburbs, the Hizbollah roared, it would fire its long-range Katyushas at
the Israeli city of Haifa. One of them had apparently already damaged an
Israeli air base at Miron, a fact concealed at the time by Israeli censors.

It certainly frightened Lebanon's Gulf tourists who packed the roads from
Bhamdoun in their 4x4s, fleeing for the safety of Syria and flights home from
Damascus. Another little economic death for Lebanon.

But what did all this mean, this ranting and threatening? I sat at home in
the early afternoon, going through my files of Israeli statements. It turned
out that Israel had threatened not to "sit idly by" (or occasionally "stand
idly by") in Lebanon on at least six occasions in the past 26 years, most
famously when the late Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin promised that he
would not "stand idly by" while Christians were threatened here in 1980 - only
withdraw his soldiers and leave the Christians to their bloody fate three
years later.

The Lebanese are always left to their fate. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud
Olmert, says he holds the Lebanese government responsible for the attacks on
the border that breached the international frontier on Wednesday.

But Mr Olmert and everyone knows that the weak and fractious government of
the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora isn't capable of controlling a
single militiaman, let alone the Hizbollah.

Yet wasn't this the same set of Lebanese political leaders congratulated by
the United States last year for its democratic elections and its freedom from
Syria? Indeed, a man who sees Bush as a friend - perhaps "saw" is a better
word - is Saad Hariri, son of the ex-Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri who
built much of the infrastructure that Israel is now destroying and whose
murder last year - by Syrian agents? - supposedly outraged Mr Bush.

Yesterday morning, Saad Hariri, the son, was flying into Beirut when
America's Israeli allies arrived to bomb the airport. He had to turn round as
aircraft skulked off to Cyprus for refuge.

But it was the undercurrent of terror-speak that was particularly
frightening yesterday.

Lebanon was an "axis of terror", Israel was "fighting terror on all fronts".
During the morning, I had to cut across an interview with an Australian
radio station when an Israeli reporter stated - totally untruthfully - that
were Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon and that not all Syria's troops
had left.

And so it is terror, terror, terror again and Lebanon is once more to be
depicted as the mythic terror centre of the Middle East along, I suppose with
Gaza. And the West Bank. And Syria. And, of course, Iraq. And Iran. And
Afghanistan. And who knows where next?


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bombay Bomb Blasts

Shocking to hear about the bomb blasts where, 183 people died and more than 700 were wounded when seven coordinated blasts ripped through commuter trains and stations in Mumbai, India's financial hub, on Tuesday July 11th.

On behalf of Citizens for Justice and Peace, noted activist Teesta Setalvad has released a statement that says “Terror, especially in the name of faith, defiles faiths and creates deep divides among people. This is the greatest challenge for us. Not to fall for the deep design of the terrorists and maintain peace and harmony at all costs. Do join CJP’s campaign for calm, harmony, solidarity and hope.”Donations can be sent to Nirant, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu,
Mumbai – 400 049. (Ph: 2660 2288 email:

Here is an article in the Guardian by Salil Tripathi

Bombay can take it

It will take a lot more than a few bombs to silence the joyous cacophony of India's greatest trading city.

Salil Tripathi

July 12, 2006 01:10 PM |

When the Reader's Digest earlier this month published a survey ranking cities in order of the politeness and courtesy of their people, Bombay, the city where I grew up (and which nationalists have renamed Mumbai) came last. The surveyors obviously understood neither the city nor its citizens.
For if you want to get a flavour of what Bombay's people are really like, witness the astonishing humanity and generosity with which they have poured out their hearts and supported those among them who were maimed by synchronised bomb blasts. People flocked to hospitals to donate blood, and thousands offered strangers bed to sleep in. The state will respond slowly, trying to figure out the extent of the blasts and organise its emergency services; but the city's enterprising people will not wait for that helping hand.

Recall the fury of the monsoon on July 26 last year, when Bombay experienced 37 inches of rain within 24 hours. While the urban administration could barely cope with the crisis, individual citizens ensured that the city did not collapse into anarchy, offering guidance to public policy advocates on how to manage a crisis. Bloggers were at it then, and they are at it now, disseminating information, connecting individuals and families, and offering resources.

For enterprise, not rudeness, is the other name of Bombay, a city where few want to depend on someone else for help. But there is always a helping hand for those who need, as Suketu Mehta points out in his book Maximum City, which was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.

In that book, Mr. Mehta writes:
In the crowded suburban trains, you can run up to the packed compartments and find many hands stretching out to grab you on board, unfolding outwards from the train like petals ... And at the moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable, or whether you were born in this city or arrived only this morning. All they know is that you're trying to get to the city of gold, and that's enough. Come on board, they say. We'll adjust.

And adjust they do, always, all the time. The roads of Bombay today are filled with people walking home, offered water and food by people living in the neighbourhood. Slum dwellers have jumped into the fray, offering help to the stranded people walking home. Rides are offered and accepted, and nobody asks anyone what their faith, language or caste may be. Only the blood group matters, and there are queues of people at hospitals waiting to donate. And according to some blogs, the Western Railway will resume service tonight, running trains through the night. The show goes on in Bombay, always.

The people of Bombay don't want you to get in their way as they try to cross the road, cling to railway compartments or hang out of double-decker buses as they try to make that appointment, secure that deal and attain that reward that would take them one step closer to realising their Bombay dream (No, not that one!)
There is pluck and resilience in Bombay. Salman Rushdie, the city's finest chronicler, wrote in The Moor's Last Sigh: "Those who hated India, those who sought to ruin it, would need to ruin Bombay."

Bombay is a city without a dominant regional culture, language or religion, and it is quintessentially modern. There are few ancient monuments, and the Taj Mahal is a five-star hotel. This practical, no-nonsense efficiency makes Bombay the preferred choice of multinationals setting up their Indian headquarters, in spite of obscenely expensive real estate.

Bombay is also the home of the sassy and cheeky Bollywood, whose hundreds of forgettable films may not win awards at international film festivals but do make lots of money. Strike at Bombay's bindaas (cocky) nature, and you rock India's confidence.

Consider this sentiment: "It takes more than Semtex to shake Sensex, stockbrokers in Bombay said after those blasts, which killed nearly 300 people and which targeted Bombay's premier buildings, the stock exchange tower, the Air India Building, the passport office and a Sheraton hotel, as well as buses, in what many think was a dress rehearsal for the kind of simultaneous attacks that hit London, New York Washington, Madrid and London nearly a decade later.

Bombay is India's face to the world; the star of the east with her face to the west; an energetic port where people come from all over to seek their fortune. It is India's Manhattan: if you can make it in Bombay, you can make it anywhere. It has been bruised and battered, but it has the strength of being the only truly cosmopolitan city in south Asia.

Such cities live on trust. Bombay is used to welcoming outsiders and strangers. Tourists travel in its motor launches to the Elephanta islands; traders deal in shares, bonds, gold, diamonds and commodities; tycoons set up businesses; shoeshine boys work hard and strike it rich; and starry-eyed girls come from the hinterland to make it in its tinseltown.

But despite the blow, Bombay will not tear apart. Great trading cities cannot be exclusionary; they mix everything. Bombay is the tawa (a flat iron wok) where pao bhaji (a popular dish of buttered fried bread and curried vegetables) is cooked, the ingredients blending together to create a sizzling, spicy meal.

Mr Rushdie went on to write:
Bombay, a relatively new city in an immense, ancient land is not interested in yesterdays. In Bombay, all Indias met and merged. Bombay was central; all rivers flowed into its human sea. It was an ocean of stories, we were all its narrators, and everybody talked at once. What magic was stirred into that insaan-soup (the soup of humanity), what harmony emerged from that cacophony!"

This absence of a majority and the celebration of plurality, are what make Bombay unique: the city belongs to nobody and to everyone. In 1993, Bombay erupted in riots - a blot on the city's fair name; in 2003, people marched in silence; in 2006, they are offering their blood.
It takes a lot more than a few bombs to break the city's spirit. Salaam, Bombay!

Here is an Op-ed in the NYT by Naresh Fernandes
Mumbai, India

MY Tuesday morning began with a flashback of the tragedy that “buried Lower Manhattan in a cloud of toxic dust that for a moment blotted out the sun.” That’s how a former colleague of mine from The Wall Street Journal had ended the first chapter of her memoir about her experiences on 9/11, which she had just e-mailed me from New York.

Twelve hours later, Indian news channels reported an explosion on a rush-hour train just past Bandra, the suburban stop where I’d gotten off an hour before. Our commuter rail’s western line carries three million of us back from work every evening, so almost everybody I know was a potential victim. Just as I was absorbing the enormity of the blast, there was news of another — and then some more. As the evening wore on, we learned that there’d been eight blasts, all timed within a few minutes.
Many of us had seen this before. On March 12, 1993, at least 10 bombs shattered the spine of our city, then called Bombay, in two hours, tearing their way northward in short, deadly bursts. That attack left 257 dead. Since then, the city has been the target of several other vicious bombings, most recently in 2003, when car bombs went off at the city’s most recognizable symbol, the Gateway of India.

The last few years have been difficult for overcrowded Mumbai, but this fortnight has left nerves especially taut. Moderate monsoon rains caused such enormous flooding that the whole city was shut down for three days. Those floods evoked memories of the cloudburst last July 26, when more than 400 people were drowned, electrocuted and crushed after their homes collapsed on top of them.
It was a tragedy that brought into focus how years of willful neglect and breathtaking corruption by municipal officials, working in tandem with avaricious politicians and real estate developers, have brought India’s financial capital to its knees. After “26/7,” as the press immediately labeled the day, our politicians and administrators fell over themselves to assure us that they’d set things right. Last week’s rains showed that their promises were as empty as our drains were full of rubbish.

Then, when the rain stopped last week, we found hooligans rampaging through our streets. As we settled down to brunch on Sunday, our TV sets brought us the chilling sight of buses being ransacked and burnt across Mumbai by cadres of the Hindu nativist Shiv Sena party. They claimed that a statue of their leader’s late wife had been vandalized, and they were protesting in the only way they knew how.
Despite the long history of sporadic violence, Mumbai has always picked itself up by its bootstraps and marched off to work as soon as the trains started working again. Our ability to jeer at misfortune is attributed in the Indian press to the “spirit of Bombay,” which is variously described as “indomitable,” “never say die” and “undying.” But our spirit has been saluted so frequently of late, all the praise was beginning to annoy me.

Before I left the office Tuesday evening, I finished a magazine article complaining that this illogical faith in Bombay’s innate resilience had the unfortunate consequence of absolving the city’s administrators of the responsibility of actually fixing our problems. No matter how bad things get, they seem to suggest, we have an infinite capacity to cope.

Soon after hearing about the blasts, I made my way to the local hospital to see if they needed blood donations. It had been less than an hour since the first explosion, but I’d been beaten to it by nearly 200 people.
When the volunteers found that the authorities had adequate supplies of blood, they waited patiently to help carry victims into the wards. Others stood over shocked survivors, fanning them with newspapers and helping them contact relatives.
Stories of exceptional selflessness have flooded in all evening. One came from my friend Aarti, who was in one of the trains on which a bomb went off. As she jumped out of her compartment, she saw streams of slum dwellers from the bleak shanties along the tracks rushing toward the train with bed sheets. They knew that there would be no stretchers to be found and were offering their threadbare cottons to be used as hammocks to carry victims away.

Perhaps the newspapers have it right after all. An anguished night has fallen over Mumbai, but when the city eventually sleeps it will do so secure in the knowledge that its spirit is unbroken, that it is, exactly like the myth has it, indomitable and undying.

Naresh Fernandes is the editor of Time Out Mumbai.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zinedine Zidane

I watched football for the first time, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I was supporting Brazil, the magic of Ronaldino, the infectious smile of Kafu. Then i saw the superb passing of Zinedine Zidane was was amazed at his talent. The final between Italy and France was exciting until the headbutt by Zidane that changed the whole complexion of the game. Now that we are hearing about the reasons of why he reacted the way he did, a context is emerging. The Italian Marco Materrazi's constant taunts, cursing his mother and family, calling him a terrorist is unacceptable. I don't agree with how Zidane reacted, but i strongly feel that action needs to be taken on Materrazi. We were taught while growing up that winning was not everything, how you played the game, displaying good sportmanship was more important, than the final prize. The Italian win needs to be rethought, they won the cup, but did they play a good game, the answer is no. Winning at any cost is not acceptable. The means are more important than the end.
Here is a detailed article of the taunts, in the age from Australia.

Why? Why? Why?" screamed a French commentator in anguish as he watched a replay of Zinedine Zidane's headbutt, which led to his dismissal from the World Cup final.
It is the question the world's media is scrambling to answer, but as yet, cannot definitively do so.
Yesterday, the soccer media had come up with at least half-a-dozen versions of what Italian defender Marco Materazzi is supposed to have said to incense the French captain.
An Italian lip-reader, who claimed to have deciphered Materazzi's words, told the BBC that Materazzi had said: "I wish an ugly death to you and all your family", and then added, "Go f--- yourself."
Britain's top forensic lip-reader, Jessica Rees - whose skill has led her to be summoned as an expert witness at criminal trials - believed Materazzi called Zidane a "son of a terrorist whore" before he added, "So just f--- off".
The Daily Mail said it, too, engaged a lip-reader who reached the same conclusion as Rees.
Brazil's Globo television also employed lip-reading experts, who concluded Materazzi had twice told Zidane his sister was a "whore", before directing "a coarse word" at him.
The French anti-racism group SOS Racisme issued a statement alleging that "several very well informed sources from the world of football" were convinced Materazzi called Zidane a "dirty terrorist".
Other reports suggested the taunt was directed at Zidane's mother, who is believed to be unwell, or his French-Spanish wife. Italia Telecom's Alice sports website reported that Materazzi had derided Zidane with the words: "Yeah, yeah, you're the phenomenon."
Zidane's agent, Alain Migliaccio, said he had been "provoked" when Materazzi said "something very grave".
Zidane's parents are Algerian, and he describes himself as a non-practising Muslim. Mokhtar Haddad, a cousin who gathered with friends and family to examine the incident on a big screen in the family's village of Aguemoune, 260 kilometres east of Algiers, said: "We think he either called him a terrorist or a son of Harkis." Harkis is a severe insult to Algerians, a term for collaborators in the Algerian war of independence from France. "The insult went in that direction," said Djamel Zidane, the player's brother. "Otherwise, he would not have reacted that way."
Materazzi steadfastly maintains that his jibes were not along racial lines. "It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist," he said. "I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

Saw The Devil Wears Prada this week. The hall was packed, and their was a palpable excitement with a real mix of people coming to see it from anorexic thin N.Y. women, to older couples and even large groups of middle aged women. A friend said it was already becoming a gay cult classic movie, with it's emphasis on fashion and bitchiness.

The movie is based on the book by Lauren Weisberger.

The story centers on a small-town girl Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway), who gets a job working in New York City for Runway fashion magazine, where she has to cope with a high-powered, dictatorial editor, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Her experiences while working with the control freak Meryl Streep ranged from bizarre requests, getting a copy of an unpublished Harry Potter book for her twins to getting her a hot breakfast before she got to work.

The language was witty but ultra bitchy. Look below for a sampling.

Miranda Priestly: The details of your incompetence do not interest me.

Andy Sachs: You look so skinny!
Emily: Really? Thanks, I'm on this new diet where I don't eat... and then when I feel like I'm about to faint, I have a cheese cube.

James Holt: [Andy approaches at the party to get the top secret dress] You're the new Emily.

Miranda Priestly: [to Andy] Emily... Emily... Emily...
Nigel: [to Andy] She's calling you.

Emily: I'm one stomach flu away from reaching my goal weight

The movie had great scenes of Manhattan, lots of expensive designer clothing, fashionable haircuts, sexy and ultra trendy women. But they were all lacking in soul, humanity and any happiness. They were bitter, resentful, angry and therefore obsessed with their work. They had no lives other than the power they got from abusing people at work. It was a scary movie to think that people fall into traps of becoming a Miranda Priestly, and then think they have no options to get out. They made the choices and continued making the choices, they could make different choices and have different lives.

It is not a movie that one can escape in, and not think of the realities of living in America. The reality the movie depicts is the scary part of what women and men can became when their lives are not whole, or have dimensions other than their careers.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Kashmir Mystery

Here is a response to Nitin's comment. The New York Times Magazine had a long, detailed article on the massacre and the investigation by the journalist Barry Berak after the killings. It's very clear who committed the massacre and who covered it up. Also I dont think the analogy of a few bad elements justifies the human rights violations committed by the Army and Millitants. I think the "go ahead" is given by the high command on the top levels of both the army and the militants organizations and the jawans and the jehadis carry out their orders.

A Kashmiri Mystery
To understand why the world is terrified of India and Pakistan going nuclear over Kashmir, consider the Chittisinghpora massacre. Everyone knows who did it, but no one can agree on an answer. By BARRY BEARAK

Nanak Singh survived the Chittisinghpora massacre; his son and brother did not. Photograph by Raghu Rai/Magnum, for The New York Times.

When Bill Clinton went to India in March, it was the first visit by an American president in 22 years. Among the careful preparations for the historic occasion were a painstaking cleanup around the Taj Mahal, a reconnoitering for wild tigers he might glimpse on a V.I.P. safari and the murder of 35 Sikh villagers in a place called Chittisinghpora.

This massacre, occurring on the evening of March 20, preceded Clinton's arrival by only a few hours. It was a monstrous way to transmit a message, whatever that message was, and the scale of the killing was large even amid the exceptional sorrows of the Kashmir Valley. The slaughter was also remarkable in that the victims were Sikhs, a religious minority never before targeted during a bloody decade infused with grief. In the aftermath, the valley's 60,000 Sikhs faced the possibility that they were now someone's strategic quarry and that a mass migration might be a sensible reaction to the danger.

The killers came to the village at about 7:20 p.m. They shunned the openness of the steep and twisting mountain road and hiked instead through the nearby apple orchards and rice fields. There were perhaps a dozen of them, perhaps twice that. They were dressed in what appeared to be the regulation issue of the Indian Army.

Darkness had fallen across the hamlet, where 200 families, almost all Sikhs, eked out a living in a spot of rugged Himalayan beauty. Their ancestors had been rooted in this same windswept place -- often in the very same dwellings -- for generations. Chittisinghpora (pronounced chitty-SING-pora) is a palette of greens and browns and yellows. A creek runs through it like a lifeline across the palm of a hand. Walnut and pine trees provide canopies of shade above deeply sloping footpaths. The houses are mostly made of mud bricks and weathered timber, many of them with A-frame roofs and open lofts stuffed with hay.

Barry Bearak is co-chief of the New Delhi bureau of The New York Times.


That evening, the electricity was out, a frequent problem, and many villagers had lit candles and were listening to news of the presidential visit on transistor radios. The homes are spread out. There are no phones. Most people were unaware of the armed strangers standing at opposite sides of the village, near its two temples, known as gurudwaras, or God's portals. The intruders gathered up men who were returning from evening prayers and collected several more from nearby stores and houses. They worked hurriedly. Some had their faces covered with black cloth, the patka often worn by soldiers on search operations. Two Sikhs -- out of curiosity or helpfulness -- approached the commotion with lanterns and were taken off with the rest for their trouble. In all, 37 men were rounded up.

Panic had yet to set in, for the rousting of civilians was nothing unusual. Chittisinghpora lies in an area rife with the militants who are fighting a hit-and-run war against India. Some of these guerrillas are Kashmiris whose purpose is a separatist insurrection; the rest are Pakistanis and other foreigners waging a jihad to wrench the largely Muslim territory from a largely Hindu country. Occasionally, the militants impose on a village for food and sanctuary, and house-to-house searches by the Indian soldiers in pursuit are not uncommon. Indeed, the arriving strangers told the Sikhs they were on the trail of three guerrillas. But while the story was believable, Karamjeet Singh, a high-school teacher and one of the 37, thought something was suspiciously awry. These soldiers did not seem like the army, he recalled later. Some were taking swigs from a bottle and staggering. They spoke in Urdu and not the Hindi more common to soldiers. He whispered his fears to the others. Many had become similarly scared and were now preoccupied with the mumbling of prayers. In an impulsive instant, the teacher darted toward a shallow ditch and crawled away through the mud.

Of the 36 who remained, only one, a 40-year-old named Nanak Singh, survived. And only he among the villagers was an eyewitness to the actual carnage. The Sikhs were herded into two groups and made to kneel, facing the gurudwaras. The weather was cold, the wind brisk. The men were wearing heavy garb across their shoulders, and their heads were covered with the turbans required by their faith. They were killed with efficiency, shot first with a persistent rat-tat-tat from a volley of machine-gun fire, then with single bursts by executioners who moved from one fallen Sikh to another, stilling motion and silencing moans. Singh was at first saved by the shield of a toppling body. Then he was wounded in the hip during the second round of shooting. He tried to lie perfectly still. He remembers that some of the gunmen had faces painted in the raucous fashion of Holi, a Hindu holiday being celebrated that day. As the killers marched off, a few called out the parting words "Jai mata di," a Hindi phrase of praise for a Hindu goddess. The entire attack lasted about half an hour.

President Clinton, acting with caution, condemned the massacre without casting blame. In that agnosticism, he was unusual in this region of 1.1 billion people. India and Pakistan have been fighting each other since their synchronized birth 53 years ago, usually with Kashmir, which they both claim, as the cause. Amid all the unknowing of what took place in the remote darkness, both Indians and Pakistanis were decidedly sure of who was responsible for the murders. As is their habit, they clung to nearly identical versions of reality, only with the role of villain reversed. In India, people saw the treacherous connivance of Pakistan, up to old tricks and once again trying to focus the world's attention on woebegone Kashmir; in Pakistan, they saw the sinister hand of India, trying to make the Muslim "freedom fighters" seem detestable while American policy makers were present to watch. This was typical of the world's two newest nuclear powers. A half-century of enmity had done more than lead them into three all-out wars and several smaller ones. It had distilled the murkiness of their mutual grudges into clarified good and evil. One thinks the other capable of most anything -- and they are just about right.

The first articles in Indian newspapers reported with confidence that "militants" had committed the crime. That the killers were dressed in army fatigues was easily explained away, for guerrilla groups often donned such clothing. The drunken behavior and Hindi slogans were seen as crude, preposterous impersonations of Indian soldiers.

Officialdom backed these early assumptions. Within a day, the country's powerful national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, said there was absolute proof that two of the bigger militant groups in Kashmir- Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen -- were guilty of the bloodshed. "These outfits are supported by the government of Pakistan," he declared in an explanation most likely aimed at the press corps in the Clinton entourage. In India, there is no such need to connect the dots. Most journalists assume that the militants receive their guns and take their orders from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Subsequent articles were enlivened by scoops. Leaks from anonymous government sources told of intercepted communications that contained the actual orders to kill the Sikhs. And on March 25, any doubts about culpability were seemingly put to rest with the announcement that a collaborator had been apprehended. After interrogation, he had guided security forces to a mountain redoubt in the village of Panchalthan, where five of those who had massacred the Sikhs were hiding. In an ensuing shootout, the guerrillas were killed. Indian authorities predicted that they would soon catch the rest.

In Pakistan, the Chittisinghpora massacre was first reported as the work of "unidentified gunmen," but then the state television station swiftly cobbled together the evidence and concluded that "the Indian Army was involved in this gory incident." Follow-up stories in newspapers and on TV made an easy tiptoe from facts alleged to facts presumed to facts that could be taken as history -- and the accepted version came to be that Indian commandos were guilty of the atrocity. Indeed, any other possibility was deemed implausible by editorialists and commentators. After all, they said, freedom fighters in Kashmir attack military targets, not innocent civilians. And besides, they never move in such large numbers. If they had, they would have been detected and eliminated beneath the bare trees of early spring.

During the week of the Clinton visit, I spent time in both countries and was struck then -- as so often before -- by the parallel and yet opposing realities. In the following months, I kept repeated company with the Chittisinghpora massacre, pondering it as a metaphor, which has been easy enough, and puzzling over it as a whodunit, which has been a general bafflement.

I might have expected as much. The Kashmir conflict has a way of boiling truth into vapor. Every fact is contested, every confession suspect, every alliance a prelude to some sort of betrayal. People ambushed, caught in cross-fires, snatched away, hideously tortured, buried and forgotten in clandestine graves: all this has become commonplace ever since the rebellion against India began in late 1989. Atrocities -- real and concocted -- are employed as necessary skullduggery. The death toll has been tabulated at more than 34,000 by the Indian government. Others insist the count is double that.

In both nations, my questions about blame often provoked impatience, as if the answers ought to be obvious to anyone but an idiot or a child. Indignation sometimes substituted for any response at all. I would be asked in return: How can you think we would be evil enough to kill all those people? How can you think we would be so dumb?

Stubborn animosity between nations is nothing uncommon, of course. But for India and Pakistan, the long years of ill will have been especially regrettable, diverting each from its most pressing woe, the lingering catastrophe of pervasive poverty. In Pakistan, the loser in all three wars, the discord has added the burden of chronic political instability. Democracy has failed to take root.

In May 1998, the costs of continuing the hostility rose appreciably. India -- with a new government led by Hindu nationalists -- tested several nuclear devices. Soon after, and predictably enough, Pakistan responded in kind. The minute hand lurched forward on the doomsday clock, and world leaders began taking a closer look at belligerence in the subcontinent. What they saw was alarming: two archenemies eyeball to eyeball across a disputed cease-fire line. Daily barrages of artillery fire. A guerrilla war engineered by one, whittling away the patience of the other. Hatred, vengefulness, obstinacy.

Bill Clinton had apparently done some risk analysis of his own. Not long before his India trip, he called the region "the most dangerous place in the world."

hittisinghpora is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. To make the journey is to observe something akin to the military occupation of paradise. Moghul emperors in the 17th century thought these clear streams and lush mountains the closest thing to a heaven on earth, and 20th-century tourists once agreed. But now the highways are booby-trapped with I.E.D.'s, improvised explosive devices. Drivers are regularly pulled over, civilians routinely frisked. Army caravans move slowly in a continuous serpentine, skirting roadblocks and barricades, their passengers pointing rifles out of canvas-topped vehicles. Soldiers in olive flak jackets stand at regular intervals, their attention shuttling from the busy growl of the traffic to the ominous quiet of surrounding fields of saffron and mustard seed.

My visit to the village did not come until nearly six months after the massacre, and by then many there had told their stories again and again to confusing effect -- to the police, to the military, to politicians, to reporters, to human rights groups, to Sikh leaders from India and abroad. Quoted versions varied not only from person to person but also from day to day. Villagers themselves quarreled about what -- and whom -- they had seen and heard.

'They're debating whether it is for the greater good of the village to lie to you,' my friend told me. 'And if so, what are the right lies to tell.'

In hopes of penetrating the contradictions, I recruited a friend, Surinder Oberoi, a Sikh journalist based in Srinagar and one of the best reporters I have met in India. He in turn enlisted a Sikh businessman who had advised many of the families in Chittisinghpora since the killings. We would make the drive together. But before leaving, the businessman wanted to look me over. He was not immediately friendly.

"So you want to know the truth?" he said in an accusatory voice loud enough for oratory. "Don't you know the truth can get these people killed?"

I inquired then as to why he was assisting us. "I think it is time for the truth to come out," he answered in lower decibels. "Yes, I think now it's time."

His presence certainly opened doors. In Chittisinghpora, we were greeted warmly, taken into a brightly painted house and seated solicitously on the floor, as is the custom, with thick cushions for our backs. Several bearded men rushed in and out of the room and introduced themselves. I tried to keep track of who was who by the color of their turbans.

"Tell this man the truth," the businessman urged.

And one of the older Sikhs seemed pleased to take this as his cue. "We have told many stories to many people, but today we will tell only the whole truth," he promised in preamble to a declaration: "It is a fact that our people have been killed by a conspiracy of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. One month before the massacre, there were militants who spent time in our village. They were from Pakistan, and they made friends with us. And this is how we were thanked, with a barbaric act."

Actually, there was nothing new in this synopsis. Immediately after the massacre, during a time that teemed with rage, a few villagers had blamed a handful of Pakistani militants who had visited Chittisinghpora in the weeks before. While such stopovers were hardly uncommon, these guerrillas were exceptional in the casualness of their mingling. They were said to have once strung their rifles to trees and watched a sandlot game of cricket. Now, reflecting back, it was thought that they had actually been scouting the village with a murderous plot in mind. A few Sikh widows said they had recognized the voices of these men at their doors leading their husbands away to die. They said the marauders seemed to know where people lived -- and had even called out some names. In a few retellings, Mohammad Yaqoob Wagay, a young Muslim milkman who lived nearby, had accompanied the killers. He was an imam who often led prayers at the mosque. He loved cricket. He was friendly with these and other guerrillas, and the police had since taken him into custody.

But within days of the massacre, there had been a retreat from much of this finger-pointing. Doubt was now emphasized. Maybe the killers had been militants, maybe the army, maybe neither. This newly avowed uncertainty was a result of counsel from some of India's leading Sikhs. They believed that if their people were to stay in the Kashmir Valley, good relations had to be maintained with the surrounding Muslim majority, which -- while exhausted by the endless violence -- was largely sympathetic to the militants. To these leaders, unwavering neutrality was clearly preferable to what New Delhi was then proposing. The government wanted to give weapons to the Sikhs, as it had to Hindus, to form "village defense committees."

In Chittisinghpora, I received a lesson in this tactical ambivalence. The older Sikh who had been talking was interrupted. A long argument began, with stunted English set aside for gusts of Punjabi, not a word of which I understood. Oberoi was amused. He leaned over to me and whispered, "They're debating whether it is for the greater good of the village to lie to you, and if so, what are the right lies to tell."

The 35 Sikhs were machine-gunned here, then finished off with single shots by executioners. Photograph by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison.

Some of my hosts eventually grew embarrassed at their neglect of a guest. By way of apology, they told me that villagers had done a lot of fibbing since the massacre and that I should not be offended. It was a matter of survival; there were fears of a second raid. Besides, outsiders with less right to lie had also been doing it. It upset them how often their statements -- and misstatements -- had been misquoted by people with private agendas.

What followed was a very odd interview, with several men trying to agree on -- and then dictate -- appropriate words for my notebook, politely alerting me as to which ones were true and which were not, though everything was expected to be published. In either case, they demanded that their names be spared except when the topic turned to money, which it often did, and then they wanted to stand personally behind their deep umbrage. Donors, public and private, had given more than $20,000 to each family that lost men in the massacre. But the villagers said everyone had suffered and so everyone deserved cash. They reminded me that if Bill Clinton hadn't come to India, the killings would never have occurred -- and that Americans had some obligation to mitigate their suffering.

We spoke for well over an hour, stopping for a lunch of eggplant, rice and red beans. Then I took a stroll through the village to talk to others. Some were reticent, some not. Some made me wonder if their recollections were merely inventions to help them make sense of their grief. Always, I kept trying to bring them back to the matter of blame. If they thought the militants did it, how sure were they? The answer was: Not very. Could anyone identify a single one of the attackers? The answer was: No. If this fellow Wagay had been involved, what exactly was his role? The answer was: God only knows.

On March 25, when Indian officials announced their reprisal against five of the guilty militants, they said that it was Wagay whose confession had led them to the hideaway in Panchalthan, about 11 miles from Chittisinghpora.

But speaking of lies, that one seems to have been a big one.

n the district of Anantnag, most people I met had long overcome any doubt about the massacre. To them, it seemed an open-and-shut case, with the Indian authorities -- and not the militants -- to blame. They were unsure of the particulars, or how high up the conspiracy went, but they supposed that the actual killing had been done by iqwanis, or renegades, former guerrillas who were now nothing more than shiftless mercenaries. In the past, the authorities had used these men for some of the nastier misdeeds of effective "counterinsurgency."

The clincher for these suspicions was the incident at Panchalthan. The army's Rashtriya Rifles and the state police's elite Special Operations Group had supposedly cornered the five guerrillas in a herdsman's shack. Mortar fire then carried the day. Though the bodies were hideously burned and mutilated, the dead were all said to be Pakistanis who took orders from a well-known commander named Abu Muhaz. Nimble and timely sleuthing solved the crime on President Clinton's last full day in India.

But this was yet another truth that seemed destined for the ethers. Gravediggers said they had discovered a local man's identity card with the charred bodies. One even thought he recognized the remains of his cousin. Muhaz himself appeared at a village mosque near Chittisinghpora and told people that none of his cadre had been killed; he suggested that they find out who had. As it happened, several men from the area were mysteriously missing. Speculation took off at a gallop: had Indian forces kidnapped them, murdered them, burned them and then tried to pass off their unrecognizable bodies as foreign militants? In the moral vacuum that has become Kashmir, such things are possible. Relatives of the missing men demanded an exhumation of the bodies. They organized protests.

On April 3 -- nine days after the Panchalthan shootout and two weeks after the massacre -- a raggedy procession came down from the mountain pastures and onto the main road, toward the city of Anantnag, the district capital. There were hundreds of people at the start, then more all the time, chanting, "We want justice." They passed uneventfully through several military checkpoints, but when they reached a small traffic circle in the town of Brakpora, they were fired upon. The spray of bullets came from behind a bunker made from bags of cement and manned by federal and state police officers. Eight protesters -- seven of them farmers and shepherds from the village of Brari Angan -- were killed. Some were shot in the back as they fled. Police officials claimed that their men were only returning fire, but a judicial inquiry found otherwise. Unwarranted panic was the kindest explanation.

Three days later, the marchers received their wish. The five bodies were dug up by a forensics team from Srinagar. Hundreds of people, many of them unruly, turned up for the morbid two-day event, though there was not much to see. Blankets were held up to sequester the graves. Only doctors and public officials and family members were allowed to examine the blackened and disfigured corpses. These relatives occasionally burst into tears as burial shrouds were removed, professing to recognize a ring on a finger or a cyst on a scalp or a shred from a familiar sweater. One woman identified her husband from a fragment of jaw attached to a fluff of beard. Then the next day she changed her mind, settling on a different bag of remains, this time pointing to a bend in the nose, a hole in an ear and the shape of the torso.

The five men killed at Panchalthan are now believed to be two farmers from Brari Angan, both named Jumma Khan and one of them a man of 60; two shepherds from the village of Halan, Bashir Ahmed Butt and Mohammad Yusuf Malik; and one young cloth merchant from the city of Anantnag, Zahoor Dalal. Or at least these are the people whose families were given the bodies. Dr. Balbir Kaur, head of the forensics team, said it was hard to disinter the dead properly in the midst of a mob, and she hardly considered the emotional graveside identifications to be definitive. DNA samples were taken, but nine months later the tests have yet to be done -- an inexplicable delay in so important a case. Whatever the results, scientific chicanery will now be presumed.

I later interviewed three of the families of the victims. Both of the Jumma Khans, their relatives said, were taken from their homes by men in army attire and led off into the night. Zahoor Dalal, the merchant, had simply disappeared, out for an evening walk, due back in minutes to count the day's receipts. His mother sat silently on the floor for the better part of an hour while I spoke with his uncle. Tragedy had signed its name to her pale oval face, and finally a moaning began from deep inside her, turning slowly into a wail.

"I will only meet him again now in the other world!" she cried.

Once more, I was confounded. I couldn't be sure that any of these people had really lost their loved ones at Panchalthan, but I was nearly sure that they were sure. In any case, the story was drifting elsewhere. By then, many of the authorities -- in the government, in the intelligence services, in the police -- had quietly abandoned the merchandising of their once airtight case. In a revised analysis, Wagay, the milkman, was now thought to be innocent. Poor soul, he had been gruesomely tortured during questioning, a police official told me. He now remained locked up on the minor charge of breaching the peace. This was for his own safety. Someday, he would be a crucial witness in that ugly, regrettable business, the Panchalthan incident. That shootout was now considered a murderous fiction contrived by ambitious men in the Indian security forces. Pending further investigation, there were promises to punish those responsible.

I had developed some sources in high places. A few were familiar with the accumulating evidence and willing to share it, though their trustworthiness was also nothing I took for granted. One source told me: "After Chittisinghpora, there was tremendous pressure to catch the militants. Name, fame, money, career: those were the reasons to fake an encounter. They couldn't catch the militants, so they picked up locals. Unfortunately, locals have families that ask questions. It didn't work."

Important people were chagrined. To their relief, however, another militant had recently been captured, someone, they said, who truly had partaken in the massacre -- someone who had even fired shots. His name was Mohammad Suhail Malik.

"Would you like to talk to him?" I was asked.

ddly enough, I had already interviewed the new prisoner. This had happened unexpectedly. On the return drive from Chittisinghpora, the Sikh businessman spotted a friend, another prominent Sikh, in a car going the other way. The vehicles stopped, and the two men went off for a private chat. This friend, using his influence, had just met Suhail Malik, who, so far as he could tell, was rendering an authentic confession. He agreed to help us get into the small compound that served as the Indian interrogation center.

Relatives of the massacred, like the other villagers, remain unsure about where blame lies. Photograph by Raghu Rai/Magnum, for The New York Times.

Malik is an 18-year-old with an upstart beard and hair that falls down into his eyes. He appeared somber and tired, a suitable look for someone in his predicament. I twice offered him a chair, but he refused, preferring the floor. A heavy chain sagged between the tight manacles on his wrists. He barely moved.

Conditions for the interview were far from ideal. There were six of us in a small, dark room, including a nervous guard who felt the liaison lacked adequate approval. A display on one wall carried horrid snapshots of dead militants. Malik responded to every question, but his answers were spare, repeating details I had already read in a police dossier in Srinagar: he was from the city of Sialkot, in Pakistan. He belonged to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which had tutored him in marksmanship and mountain climbing. He sneaked into India in October 1999, carrying the rupee equivalent of $200 in expense money. He took part in only two missions before Chittisinghpora, one an attack on an army outpost, the other an assault on a bus carrying soldiers. He knew nothing about the plot to kill the Sikhs until immediately beforehand, as he stood in an orchard. He used his weapon when commanded. "I fired, but I don't know if I killed anyone," he said laconically. "I suppose I did. I don't know."

The conversation was mostly in Urdu, once again a language I did not speak. I could study his eyes but not his phrasing or inflections, the little clues as to what was being held back in the privacy of his head. When we left, I asked Surinder Oberoi, my journalist friend, if he thought Malik was telling the truth.

"Yes, I think so," he answered after a pause. Then he added a cautionary shrug and a sentence that stopped after the words "But you know. . . . "

Malik showed no signs of physical abuse, but, as with Wagay, the torture of someone in his situation would not be unusual. Once, over a casual lunch, an Indian intelligence official told me that Malik had been "intensively interrogated." I asked him what that usually meant. "You start with beatings, and from there it can go almost anywhere," he said. Certainly, I knew what most Pakistanis would say of the confession -- that the teenager would admit to anything after persistent electrical prodding by the Indians. And it left me to surmise that if his interrogators had made productive use of pain, was it to get him to reveal the truth or to repeat their lies?

My second talk with Malik came the next day, courtesy of the more formal invitation. This session was less hurried but still unsatisfactory. Three of us were asking questions, including someone from the authorities. The prisoner, chains in tow, still refused a chair. I told him again that I was an American journalist trying to get at the facts. I could only imagine how far-fetched that sounded to an 18-year-old Pakistani in an Indian jail.

I asked about his family. His mother was dead, and his father ran a small general store. Malik had attended a government school through the fifth grade, but like many boys in Pakistan, he had switched over to a madrassah, a religious academy, where the books and courses were free. He knew parts of the Koran by heart. "If I could, I would spend my entire life learning about the holy prophet," he said.

We again went over the details of the massacre. I tried to test him, asking for descriptions of the village. But he said he had not seen much in the darkness. He had been ordered to shoot -- and so he shot. He did not have much more to add. "We were told what to do and not why," he said. "Afterward, we were told not to talk about it."

He allowed that he was likely to spend the rest of his life in an Indian prison -- and yes, he said, this was a dreary prospect. He would have preferred the glory of martyrdom.

His eyes, usually downcast, had occasionally drifted about, and with this talk of a purposeful death, all of us in the room grew aware of a loaded Kalashnikov leaning against a wall in the corner. With a flicker of a smile, the gun's careless owner slowly rolled the wheels of his chair to the right, blocking the manacled prisoner's path to the weapon. Malik never looked that way again.

I was curious to know how he had linked up with Lashkar-e-Taiba. It was one of the largest -- and perhaps the most unflinching -- of the dozen or so militant groups. Malik said he had heard their speeches while he studied in the city of Lahore. He trusted their vision of the world -- and said he trusted it still. Penance did not accompany his confession. As for the 35 dead Sikhs, he said they may have been civilians, but they could not have been innocents. "The Koran teaches us not to kill innocents," he said. "If Lashkar told us to kill those people, then it was right to do it. I have no regrets."

This one time, he seemed to think his answer too abbreviated. His lips pursed, his eyebrows narrowed. He said: "When I was sent here from Pakistan, I was told the Indian Army kills Muslims. It treats them badly and burns their mosques and refuses to let them pray. They must be freed from these clutches."

Then he looked at me curiously, seeming to ask, Isn't that so?

ivics lessons about Kashmir are necessarily complicated. The term itself is confusing. In common coinage, it refers to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, home to an estimated 9.5 million people. But the state has several distinct regions, of which the fabled Vale of Kashmir -- with about half the population -- is but one. Only there do people speak Kashmiri -- and only there do they have a strong sense of being a separate nation. Roughly two-thirds of the Jammu region is Hindu, a population far more comfortable under Indian aegis. Buddhists make up about half of sparsely populated Ladakh. They speak Tibetan and worry more about domination by Srinagar than by New Delhi. The happiest solutions for one chunk of the state are unlikely to be very pleasing to another.

Jammu and Kashmir was once an even larger domain, an unnatural amalgam of fiefs brought together for expedience by the subcontinent's British colonial masters. In 1947, when India and Pakistan were being born, it nominally belonged to the Hindu maharajah, Hari Singh. Before departing, the British asked the region's 562 landed potentates to choose one nation or the other. These decisions by and large followed a certain logic of geography or religion. But Singh, preferring independence, dawdled past the deadline. This unrealistic conceit ended when tribesmen from Pakistan's northern frontier came to the aid of a local rebellion. The maharajah then anxiously reconsidered, casting the lot of his predominantly Muslim realm with predominantly Hindu India. To many Muslims, it seemed that Kashmir had fallen under the thumb of the infidel. War broke out between the two infant nations, and an ensuing cease-fire left about one-third of the most populous part of Kashmir with Pakistan and two-thirds with India. The United Nations, itself a newborn, pushed for a long-term solution. Agreements reached in 1948 and 1949 called for the Pakistanis to withdraw all their troops and for the Indians to pull back the bulk of theirs. This was to be followed by a plebiscite, allowing the people to pick the nation they wanted to join. But none of these actions ever took place, with both sides blaming the other for reneging. The wisdom of Solomon did not prevail; the baby was split.

Indian-controlled Kashmir, while never happily a part of the nation, was a relatively peaceful place until the rebellion's start in 1989. This uprising gathered fuel from various combustibles, among them Kashmiri nationalism and rigged elections that favored New Delhi's preferences. Pakistan eagerly supplied the tinder of combat training and guns.

At first, the foot soldiers were entirely home-grown. Kashmiri youth, lit with the fever of azadi, or freedom, thought they could unbind the ties to India with some well-placed explosives and high-profile kidnappings. They misjudged New Delhi, which considered the insurrection a threat to the very idea of nationhood -- and was willing to fight back without persnickety regard for gentlemanly tactics or human rights. They also misjudged Islamabad, which came to favor only those rebels it could bend to its will. Many militants themselves strayed from unselfish purposes. They became no more than criminal gangs, and Kashmiris began to dread both sides. Some 250,000 Kashmiri Hindus, known as Pandits, fled the valley, fearing for their lives.

The character of the rebellion has since changed. Though hundreds of Kashmiris are still making war in the mountains, most have laid down their guns, if not their dreams of azadi. More and more, the guerrillas, like Malik, come from elsewhere. They know little about Kashmir and its people. Their interest in liberating the land is not so much for the benefit of the Kashmiris as for the ideal of a pan-Islamic state.

The differing passions of the different militant groups make diplomacy particularly hard. When the prospect of peace raises its hand, it usually results in a rap on the knuckles. Last summer, one militant group declared a brief cease-fire, but the others considered the move traitorous and stepped up attacks. Now India has announced a temporary pause in its initiation of military operations, and Pakistan has responded with a partial withdrawal of troops from its side of the cease-fire line. There is talk about the possibility of talks, though in the past, talking has yielded only the repetition of entrenched views. After half a century of fighting, compromise seems a betrayal of past sacrifices.

For its part, Pakistan finds the militancy a cut-rate way to torment India, which has 350,000 troops tied down in Kashmir. But however much a bargain, the guerrilla campaign has also become part and parcel of Pakistan's own precariousness. In the late spring of 1999, a more ambitious incursion into Indian-controlled Kashmir nearly provoked an all-out war and ended in humiliating retreat. Months afterward, amid the recriminations, Pakistan's army -- as has been its habit -- overthrew the elected government, and Gen. Pervez Musharraf named himself chief executive. At first, he was welcomed as a potential savior by the downcast nation. Pakistan stands at the brink of bankruptcy, spared from default only by an IV drip from international lenders who have grown exasperated. The possibility of a collapse into anarchy is the great reiterating topic of the educated elite. Though it was hoped that the general could stamp out corruption and balance the books, he has instead found himself betwixt and between, coveting approval -- and money -- from the West while bowing to powerful fundamentalists at home. For him, the struggle for Kashmir may well have become a necessity for survival as well as a crusade of the heart. Pakistan has thousands of armed if impoverished zealots who are long on righteousness and short on respect for the government. Pursuing the holy war against India may be all that diverts them from fomenting jihad at home.

uhail Malik is such a zealot. He intrigued me. And as my interest in him grew, I was puzzled by why I seemed alone in my curiosity. News of his capture had gotten little attention in the usually aggressive Indian press. A TV station had run a short spot; a wire service had put out a few paragraphs. This seemed oddly neglectful, but an Indian friend explained to me that Kashmir was redundant with outrages, and people suffered from "massacre fatigue." Chittisinghpora had been papered over by fresher death.

In fact, it was one of these other massacres that led the police to Malik. Thirty Hindu pilgrims on retreat in Kashmir were gunned down on Aug. 1. Two militants were killed at the scene. As investigators tell the story, an address found on one of these men led them to Aligarh in the state of Uttar Pradesh. There, a month later, they happened upon Malik, taking an authorized break from the hard work of jihad.

I wanted to interview the teenager once more, this time without the authorities present. Somehow, I thought I could win his trust, offer him an out, persuade him that he did not have to confess to the massacre unless it was true. I was grasping. I wanted to study his eyes again. But I never secured the necessary permissions.

The closest I got was his family. Had Malik and I talked, I could have told him about my recent trips to Pakistan. I had seen his father and his favorite uncle and a man he reveres, Prof. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Army of the Pure) and its parent organization, Markaz Ad-daawah Wal Irshad (the Center for Preaching). Of the three, the professor was the easiest to locate. His organizations are a prominent force in Pakistan. The jihad in Kashmir is not their only occupation. They run more than 130 madrassahs as well as a modern-looking university that rises out of the wheat fields near Lahore. Saeed, a retired professor of Islamic studies at an engineering college, preferred to see me in that city itself. We met in Lashkar's "media center," a small room filled with young men writing at computer terminals.

The professor, a big, doughy man, is quite gracious for someone so often regarded as a terrorist. Cookies were served on a silver plate. We talked for a time before I took out Malik's photo and told him of the young man's confession. Saeed shook his head. "We do not believe in killing innocents," he said, stroking his henna-tinted beard. "I have condemned this very massacre." He glanced at the picture a second time and said he doubted that Malik had ever belonged to Lashkar. And, as a professor would, he offered me some guidance: "It is very easy to extract statements with torture. Look, you can see he is handcuffed and not free to talk." The photo was then passed around the room. A dozen or so acolytes had come to observe the interview. One of Saeed's aides harrumphed with derision. "This man's beard is not anywhere long enough," he said, as if I were trying to pawn off some charlatan as a legitimate Lashkar militant.

In Lahore, I also tried to visit Malik's uncle, an herbal doctor named Zafar Iqbal. He, too, is a religious scholar. I went to his home several times, but I was always told that the doctor had gone out and that he might not return for hours or days or even longer. I inferred from this that Iqbal was disinclined to talk about his nephew's possible involvement in a massacre. He may have been warned by Pakistani intelligence agents, for I was being followed everywhere. The men were very obvious about it. They questioned my driver and translator. They tailgated our car.

Eventually, someone at Iqbal's home slipped up and mentioned that the doctor had gone to the annual convention of the Jamaat-i-Islami political party. I found him in a huge field outside Islamabad amid a crowd of 350,000 people. This was not so hard to do. Pakistan's leading fundamentalist party is well organized. Every city had its own cluster of tents off to the side, and every tent had a roster of names. Malik's uncle had apparently withered under the sun and left the open air, where powerful speeches were firing the masses with talk of the Kashmir jihad. Repeatedly, America and India were condemned. Pakistan's government -- regarded as insufficiently pious -- was also taking a grandiloquent beating.

An Indian intelligence official told me that a suspect had been 'intensively interrogated.' I asked him what that usually meant. 'You start with beatings,' he said, 'and from there it can go almost any where.'

When I approached the doctor, he was resting on a blanket, talking with friends and wearing a name tag. He is a white-haired man with piercing eyes. He did not want to say much. In fact, he denied that he knew any Suhail Malik. This of course was a lie, and he did not care that I was aware of it. He told my translator: "You, being a Pakistani, should not help these foreign agents. They come in the guise of journalists when they are really agents of the Christians and the Jews."

I had gotten a more hospitable reception from Anwar Malik, Suhail's father. He owns a tiny general store in Sialkot, a city not far from the border with Kashmir. The elder Malik had been hard to find with the grudging information I was given by his son. Sialkot had the air of newfound prosperity. Sporting-goods companies have made it a manufacturing center for soccer balls, which are exported the world over. Modern office buildings have been constructed with ornate windows and facades. Drivers in new four-wheel-drive vehicles blast their horns to get past sluggish donkey carts that block their way.

The family's house is across a lane from the store, beside a stagnant pond laden with blooms of garbage. The home is large as such places go, and much of the furniture is made of polished wood and looks relatively new. Anwar Malik led the way into a room with a double bed, an armoire and a chest of drawers. Drapes covered the windows. One wall had a bright painting done on a felt background. Another held the glossy decals of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

I didn't know if the father was aware of the fate of his son, so I tried to approach the subject gently. A short, stout man of 53, he replied quietly that yes, he had heard something about it. Pakistan and India are neighbors. Urdu is similar to Hindi. People in one country sometimes watch the TV shows of the other. A friend had seen Suhail's face on a news show. Anwar was unsure what it was all about. He wanted to know more. "This is painful for me," he said. "Nothing like this has ever happened in our family."

Anwar has two sons. The older has gone to work in Saudi Arabia and is earning good money. Suhail, on the other hand, had been adrift for a while, sometimes living in Lahore, sometimes Sialkot. The father was vague about his son's decision to go fight in Kashmir. Despite the decals, he insisted that he did not know which, if any, group Suhail had joined. He began to wring his hands and his words meandered. "If you look at things from an Islamic perspective, going to Kashmir was the right thing to do," he said. "But we are poor people. If you look at things from the family perspective, considering our circumstances, you would have to think otherwise."

I took out the photo. Anwar studied it. His lips quivered slightly. By then, one of Suhail's boyhood friends had entered the room. He seemed tickled with the snapshot. To him, the manacles were like jewelry. "It's a great picture!" he declared.

Anwar left the room and returned with a bottle of mineral water. He waited to open the seal, so as to assure me that the contents were untainted. He said the obvious, that he had never had an American in his home before. I told him that I travel quite a bit. I had even been to this sorrowful place Chittisinghpora and had been living with a great mystery. I had yet to solve it to my satisfaction, but it had become my wise tutor in Kashmir's misshapen history.

"An awful thing happened in that village," I said, pushing the conversation into the discomforting place it had to go. I told him about the grief of the Sikh families and described what had gone on that night: the lining up of the men before the gurudwaras, the bursts of the machine guns, the bloody heap. And I told him Suhail had confessed to this terrible thing in front of me.

Until then, I had merely been someone with news of his son. But now I was also a man with an accusation that required some sort of response. I was asking him to consider the opposing reality from across the border -- and I wanted him to imagine it with his son in the role of villain. He considered all this for a time. And finally, with a father's sincerity, he said: "I don't think so. It can't be. My son is confessing, you can say, because the Indians have beaten him. My son is just like me, and I would not do anything like this."

As we talked a bit longer, a memory suddenly fell into place. It brightened him with relief, and he sat up straight. Chittisinghpora: the name had not meant much before, but he recalled it now. This was the massacre committed the night Clinton arrived.

The relief then converted into actual cheer and a delicate smile. He spoke to me with the kindness of someone assisting a stranger in an unfamiliar town. "Everyone knows about this crime," he said patiently. "The Indian Army did it."

December 31, 2000

Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer

A simple idea teach where the kids are at..