July 09, 2010

Conversations, #15 (and last)

Yet again, I forgot to post the latest instalment of the email conversation Beena Sarwar and I have had over the last few months. This one is #15, and it is our last (for now): The dialogue goes on.

I'm not sure how to tell how many people read our exchange, but judging from some of the reactions I've had here alone, it has been a worthwhile exercise. I urge those of you who have offered your thoughtful comments to attempt your own conversations with someone in Pakistan.

Your thoughts welcome, as always.

Earlier instalments: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14.


Anonymous said...

Dcubed - On an unrelated note, here is something I found that probably you have already heard

"There is a misconception that journalists can be objective ... What journalism is really about is to monitor power and the centres of power." - Amira Hass (as quoted by Robert Fisk) h/t wiki, reference http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/nov/19/highereducation.news

Baby V

Mast Qalandar said...

Dilip and Beena,

I am glad you took this step.

While Indians and Pakistanis continue to talk AT each other, talking to each other is a much needed step forward.

It needs to be continued.

Thanks, and regards to you both.

Jai_C said...

Thanks Dilip and Beena.

1. I've raised objections at various points, and so have some others. But there is no doubt the dialogue was a net positive.

I think we were trying to "afflict" the cozy comfort in the dialogue (to reuse Dilip's terminology).

The less comfortable this dialogue, the more productive it would be - I believe. But there needed to be some dialogue for any of that to happen :-)

2. While I credit Beena for honesty, I am not comforted by the sign-off where she expresses a fervent desire for "less bad press".

This regretfully makes it look like they are concerned more with appearances than with action. While this sentiment maps well in my mind to "Internet Hindus" and their "Mera Bharat Mahan"-istics it was a surprise coming from Beena.

Baby V, Mast Q, Rahul S, etc.

How did this passage read to you? Am I misreading/ overreading something here? Is the context limited to Irom Sharmila and ruing India's not getting "bad press".

I know she has said repeatedly that Pakistan needs to win their fight against militants (her preferred term) and for their own sake. Does it jar when this is placed against "less bad press"?

I am seriously and sincerely interested in knowing how this came across to other people. I am NOT looking for any of the Chandrus to pipe in.

Thanks for any response.

Anonymous said...

'Bad press' to the educated Pakistani elite like Sarwar, means any censure of the ideology of Pakistan in the Indian media. This would include how Pakistan came about. Of course, it also is a pressing contemporary desire for Indians not to dwell too much on the continued presence of Islamic terror groups like the Lashkar and the Jaish, and their free movement, on Pakistani soil. Hope that answers Jai's question.

Dilip D'Souza said...

it also is a pressing contemporary desire for Indians ...

What seems to be a pressing contemporary desire for at least some Indians is to refuse to find the guts to use their names when making remarks about Pakistan. Instead they are anonymous, or "the same anonymous", or something else.

Beats me why anyone would be so frightened, but there you are.

MQ: thanks. Glad to know it touched a chord. Beena and I touched early in our exchange about the similarity in our outlooks, and whether this should have happened between two more antagonistic people. Yet why shouldn't it happen between us? - we are no less (or more) representative of our countries than anyone else.

Jai, I think there's plenty of bad press that Pakistan gets. Some of it deserved, some of it not so. It's worth thinking about.

Mast Qalandar said...


I believe in an ideal world, every one would be dispassionate when evaluating others' comments on oneself, one's country, one's culture, and on everything else.

I claim no such "dispassion" myself, but I can see that if I could somehow train myself to evaluate comments from others dispassionately, it would allow me a better chance to see the "facts" of their comments, and to evaluate the thought process behind it, rather than getting inflamed by the tone or content of the comment.

I should therefore welcome the opportunity to examine others' comments on events in my country. It is immaterial whether I ultimately accept or reject the comments. It still gives me valuable insight into their thought process, without understanding which I would have no clue on what to do next.

Take the application of AFSPA in the northeast. It is a fact that this law has extraordinary provisions that grate against our general constitutional guarantees of freedom. Is such a law required at present? I believe it is. But only as a temporary measure. Till when, then? Well, till it is not required. When will that happen? I feel the need for such a law should reduce if people of the northeast are brought, and made to feel that they are brought, into the mainstream. If they can also be part of India's purported growth story. How will that happen? I believe there is very little chance of it happening on its own. Discussing the issues behind the need to have a law such as AFSPA widely, is, I believe, likely to give more chance for "facts" to come out which, in turn, may lead to a process moving towards addressing the alienation felt by people.

In a nutshell, discussing AFSPA's application in the northeast more widely will lead to a better appreciation of the issues behind the conditions which require laws like APSPA, which may lead to movement towards addressing those issues, which may, paradoxically, make AFSPA unnecessary.

Something like what is happening with the discussion on the Naxal issue today. For the first time we are seeing widespread debate and discussion. After such vigorous debates I believe the chances of a solution which rides totally rough shod on one stake holder or the other is unlikely. Other examples include debates on the Nuclear Liability Bill, etc., etc.

So I welcome Beena's comments on AFSPA, Irom Sharmila, Kashmir, and other issues in India. I think it is time we stopped taking umbrage at comments or utterances which force us to confront comfortable perceptions which we have built for ourselves. Just as I hope this exchange between Dilip and Beena, and comments on it, may force more in Pakistan to break similar comfort cocoons of their own. I understand Beena's need, as a Pakistani, to point out that all is not well with India (which we Indians know, but would like others to ignore). To her credit however, while she feels the need to point out India's shortcomings, she does not use them as an excuse for glossing over what is wrong in Pakistan. If anything, she is even more scathing on her own country's issues.


I believe the name "Dilip" means "Protector (of Delhi)". If this is true, your efforts like the dialogue with Beena, and your insistence on not letting past injustices be forgotten until justice is done, do justice to your name. Keep it up, pal.

Jai_C said...


Thanks. My surprise *was* driven partly by the similarity that I see between your outlooks in matters other than "less bad press".

Any reader of your blog knows that you relentlessly call attention to the problems we face, often linking in from current events like the Australia attacks most recently.

You do NOT call for less bad press. If anything you feel we need more press that is honest... and to some perceptions, "bad". Or at least thats my sense of it.


Thanks also. Do you have any comments on the "less bad press" by itself?

No umbrage is taken on AFSPA, Irom Sharmila, or any such points that Beena raised... though there is a slight sense of tit-for-tattiness.

Baby V, Ketan, any others except you-know-who,

Would like your inputs too.


Nikhil said...

Mast Qalandar, Jai
I too believe this needs to be continued for a different reason. I am of the opinion that everybody has a right to his livelihood, earning etc
So if these columns, e mails, letters etc - that serve no purpose at all but help pay Dilip's bills, what is the harm in it.
After all of us are earning their livelihood and Dilip is also doing the same for his supper.
So no problem at all. Why should i object to Dilip writing and earning his 'roji roti'?

Chandru K said...

The AFSPA was wisely implemented, given the number and severity of the insurgencies in the Northeast. It's not a question of one terrorist attack every 30-40 years, like Canada or Switzerland for example. Terrorist attacks have taken place almost every day in Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland. Sometimes even spilling over into other northeastern states. In this environment, the armed forces do need considerable leeway, within reason. They should not, of course, carpet bomb villages with napalm or mustard gas( a la Winston Churchill etc), nor should they set up concentration camps. But given the intensity and frequency of insurgent violence, a great degree of tolerance and understanding for the difficulties faced by the security forces is certainly needed.

It would also help if critics could point to another country that has experienced similiar amounts of insurgency on its own soil, and dealt with that problem more humanely, professionally and efficiently than India has.

Dilip D'Souza said...

I wrote this comment somewhere else: "A guy whose only argument is the assumption that I approve of killing or assaults on innocents or the like is a guy who does not have ground to stand on and argue his case to begin with. Who does not believe his case either. I have no desire or need to prove things to such a guy."

In much the same way, a guy whose only argument is that I'm writing what I do only to earn a living is still a guy who does not have ground to stand on. He's a guy who cannot imagine someone else doing something not for pay, but for some intrinsic value in that something.

Whether anyone chooses to believe it or not I couldn't care less, but I earned nothing for this exchange with Beena.

Anonymous said...

Jai C - Not ready to answer you bro. You will have to wait. Sorry.

Student from Lahore said...

I have a question which may be off the tangent. Feel free to ignore it if you deem irrelevant, Dilip.

At what point does the epistemological pursuit get compromised by what is perceived as feedback/demand? I ask this because this conversation and some of the previous posts seem clearly aimed at addressing audiences while the author may have an understanding beyond that.

As a student of media, I ask, is that excusable? If it is, is that profitable and in what way? And finally, is it a model students can emulate?

wise donkey said...

instead of caring so much for the land, if we start caring for the people who live or lived on those lands, solutions will emerge.

Nikhil said...

In much the same way, a guy whose only argument is that I'm writing what I do only to earn a living is still a guy who does not have ground to stand on. He's a guy who cannot imagine someone else doing something not for pay, but for some intrinsic value in that something.

Dear me since when did we become a world of charity. But ok though of course I fail to see anyhting that came forth, when you avoided asking all the questions and better still mention 1984, 1992 and 2002 but develop amnesia on 1971 Bangla genocide and 1990 cleansing of Kashmiri pandits.

Whether anyone chooses to believe it or not I couldn't care less, but I earned nothing for this exchange with Beena.
But in Business development terms dont we call this initial investment. Surely there will be lot to follow - Secularism and peace esssay contests, trips to the US, study trips etc. Is this not the way this gravy train works?

Mast Qalandar said...


Thanks for addressing your comment (or jointly addressing) to me.

I think I must have come in late. I seem to have missed your messages where you gave us the evidence to back your insinuations regarding the motives of this blog's owner in carrying out this dialogue with Beena Sarwar.

Mind sharing some factual evidence with us once again?

Jai_C said...


What evidence? Such comments are best ignored :-) even if they are addressed to you... just my 0.02
btw Dilip did respond and that was unnecessary too.


Chandru K said...

"but develop amnesia on 1971 Bangla genocide and 1990 cleansing of Kashmiri pandits."

Not to mention the drastic reduction overall, in the Hindu population in Pakistan, and to a smaller extent in Bangladesh. This was accomplished through forced conversion, forced intermarriage, expulsion and murder.

Mast Qalandar said...


Can't really fault any one for wishing good press for their country from the rest of the world. Or at least for less of "bad press"

In Pakistan's present state though, it seems to be a bit of wishful thinking. Actually from the perspective of Beena and others like her, it is possibly also a bit of "wistful thinking". The problems of Pakistan are not made by Beena and others like her. In fact they understand these problems better than most, and to their credit she and some of the others are doing their best to draw attention to possible solutions. Long way to go, however, before public opinion there reaches a mass critical enough to result in change.

And sorry for going off on a tangent on my last comment. On re-reading your comment I now see that I misunderstood your point, and so went off into the AFSPA issue.

Nikhil said...

Regards your comment

A guy whose only argument is the assumption that I approve of killing or assaults on innocents or the like is a guy who does not have ground to stand on and argue his case to begin with.

That was never my comment initially. I always harped on your selectivity. But in one comment you mentioned that maybe people like me approved of killings and that is the time I turned that same thing back on you.

Nikhil said...

Anyway waiting for a day when you decide to have a similar dialogue with the Thackerays and Modis- maybe on the Saamna and Organizer pages

Dilip D'Souza said...

But in one comment you mentioned that maybe people like me approved of killings.

Please tell me where I mentioned this.

Mast Qalandar said...

Student from Lahore,

If I were to try and answer your questions, I would make the following points:

1. A writer or journalist is an individual no doubt, but also a reporter, and perhaps one or more of: a commentator, an analyst and opinion maker.

2. As an epistemolgical seeker the writer works out of curiosity and a desire to understand. In some of his other roles, he seeks to explain to others and mould their opinion.

3. While reporting events it is important that the writer reports facts (the "news", as it were), leaving the reader to form his opinions.

While writing opinion pieces ("views") however, the writer neccessarily will be subjective and present his points of view. Such POVs will be influenced by his target audience and their "feedback/demand", as you put it.

The point where the changeover to "views" occurs from merely reporting facts, is, clearly, where the writer starts to express an opinion rather than merely reporting facts and events.

4. Since the Dilip-Beena exchange is an exercise in exchanging views, they need not ask to be excused for voicing opinions - either their own, or in response to what they perceive as reader feedback/demand.

5. In the context of this exchange it is "profitable" to them of course, in the sense that they have started this dialogue with certain aims and objectives, and the exchange furthers these aims.

6. IMO, taken in proper context, the same logic should probably apply to other students of media.

Dilip and Beena may of course wish to add their own opinions on this.


Jai_C said...

Thanks for the response. and your AFSPA comments, far from being tangential, were very on-topic to the OP.

I'm not the blog owner, and in my view, even the owner cant demand that responses or comments be restricted only to the questions he/she sets forth.

I like good press too. OTOH if something is a problem (say 1984/ 2002), I dont have a problem with the act of pointing out, or with *who* is doing the pointing out (whether Beena or somebody else).

In this context it did not sit well with the rest of the "we should fix this" drive. Can we imagine how much it would do for "good press" to have a successful prosecution of the 26/11 case in Pakistan? It is good to wistfully desire for the press ahead of any such eventuality but not realistic.

You hit it, I think, when you said that there is not critical mass achieved in Pakistan yet; as against the 72% who are claimed to desire peace per opinion poll.


Nikhil said...

Here it is in black and white


Dont try to wriggle out of this. Anyway i should be careful in Pakistan after this:


This appeared in TOI. What happened to Aman ki Asha?
Ask Beenaji about this.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Where in that entire page did I say what you claimed I said -- "maybe people like me approved of killings"?

I would like to know, because among other things the word "approved" (or even "approve" or "approves" or "approving") does not appear on that page.

Please don't try to change the subject.

Jai_C said...

Dilip, Nikhil,

Sorry to butt in. You guys have obviously got something going there but if it saves everybody a few loops, I skimmed that comment thread and am guessing Niks is objecting to:

[Dilip] "...I suspect that somewhere inside, they themselves see particular atrocities as justified, or not atrocities at all, or something..."

The very fact that he(she?) wishes to contest this and be seen as condemning atrocity, is a positive... I guess.

bye and good night.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Jai, there's nothing going because I'm regretting allowing myself, against my better judgement, to be baited into this fruitless argument. Like you I shall see it as a positive and stop interesting myself in the argument from now on.

Jai_C said...

I dont get Nikhil's snark and find it quite uncalled for. But I found the his quote of Beena Sarwar quoting D.Miliband' criticism of D.Cameron quite relevant if misplaced.

Understanding her thinking is important. Hopefully it does ok here.


My 0.02:
Mr.Cameron spoke bravely and a little foolishly, he will get less co-operation from the ISI on any radicals in Britain and their follow-ups when they travel in Pakistan. He went out of his (self-interest dictated) way to be seen as standing with India.

I would have liked people who are into telling unpalatable truths to be more comfortable with Mr.Cameron's speech and not in a hurry to find salve in Miliband.

IOW, I think a Pakistani version of Dilip would have spoken that way- I dont think there is as much similarity in their outlooks as Dilip and Beena seem to think.

I have no quibble with this quote from Miliband:

"...Pakistan has also been the victim of terror. A few days before David Cameron's visit, a suicide bomb near Peshawar killed seven people near a gathering mourning the death of a Pakistani cabinet minister's son. His death, too, was claimed by the Taliban. Bombs and attacks blamed by the Pakistani government on Taliban and al-Qa'ida-linked militants have killed more than 3,500 people in the past three years. Benazir Bhutto was killed by terrorism in her own country..."

I would have liked Cameron to include this too, without excising any part of his "looking two ways".

I think a Dilipian version of Beena would have brought this forth with more nuance, without stepping as far away from Cameron's point as Beena seemed to.

My complaint has been that Pakistan acts, or tries to act against these terrorists quite differently from the LeT. There is a Pew research poll that highlights the difference in perception across these groups:

TTP (pakistani taliban)

That is the "looking two ways". Support for LeT can coexist with crackdowns on TTP.

I have slowed down on reading Beena. She doesnt have any indepth post on this on her blog. I will check and repost here or on any newer threads if relevant.


Nikhil said...

Here is the snark posted in the correct place
This is totally off-topic, but in the light of your e mails with Beenaji, I thought it needs to be highlighted.
David Cameron was quite blunt and in line with your thinking that we should always applaud people who criticize our own countries regardless of whether they are right or wrong

David Cameron was definitely right in his comments about Pakistan.
But apparently this got Beenaji's bile up and running and look what she says:


What language 'cuttlefish' 'blast' and quoting from that clown Mr Bean Milliband who mercifully is not in power
Dear Dear all e mails were in waste. Maybe one more round of e mails will convince her.
So finally who ended up the clown in this round ?

Jai - some good comments. Will repsond to it shortly

Nikhil said...

First the reason for the snark. The entire e mail exchange was to be frank, ferless etc. I confess I did not dissect the entire exchange and skimmed through it as it went on more or less predictable lines.
I assume that Dilip is speaking to a counterpart (not jingoistic, hyper-sensitive types like me or Chandru - how Suresh describes us)
Now picture a scenario. If Cameron had said some unpleasant things about India - Gujarat, J&K, Minority rights - take any of Dilip's prized topics. Even if he had made some stupid comments like the ones Miliband made - linking 26/11 to J&K, Dilip would have vigorously agreed with him and even mentioned that he should have made more harsh comments.
Now Cameron says a blunt truth about Pak and look at how Beenaji reacts. So what happened to all that exchange between her and dilip. When somebody makes a frank comment that is 100% true, why is there no self introspection?
This is what i menat by who ended up being the clown.
Do you hae exchanges with like minded people or the likes who make such comments?

Dilip D'Souza said...

At least the discussion is in the relevant place.

In any case, snark away, because you get no answers from me until you back up the insinuations you've made on this page (and others) or take them back.

Until then, I can only repeat what I said earlier: ""A guy whose only argument is the assumption that I approve of killing or assaults on innocents or the like is a guy who does not have ground to stand on and argue his case to begin with. Who does not believe his case either. I have no desire or need to prove things to such a guy."

Nikhil said...

A few words about your comment:
Mr.Cameron spoke bravely and a little foolishly, he will get less co-operation from the ISI on any radicals in Britain and their follow-ups when they travel in Pakistan.

Are you sure there is any cooperation from the ISI after the Wikileaks have shown and the usual pull out of the hat acts of producing a high profile terrorist.

I would have liked Cameron to include this too, without excising any part of his "looking two ways".

Why? Is it not saying that when you condemn Gujarat riots, we also need to balance this with some other things like the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri pandits. All events can stand on their own and all have to be condemned.
Secondly why hide the fact that the monster has turned on its creator.

I think a Dilipian version of Beena would have brought this forth with more nuance, without stepping as far away from Cameron's point as Beena seemed to.

Now here is where I think we can learn a few lessons. Pakistanis like Beenaji and Ayaz Ameer are by and large patriotic and despite their quibbling over lack of democracy etc will always stand by their country when it is vilified by an outsider. – This is a value many worthies here can emulate.

Jai_C said...


1. Beena is a lot more nuanced and even handed than Ayaz Amir, and even he is not a hardline Pakistani hawk.

2. The Dilip-Beena delta is not as pronounced as you seem to think, they share by and large the same worldview.

3. It *is* my opinion that Cameron missed one part of the picture, that Miliband highlighted. I did not follow his visit closely and dont know for sure.

4. Equally I suspect Miliband missed some parts of the picture, the double game that ISI and some military are upto in Pak- most everybody unofficially accepts this and only differ on the degree of involvement of these state forces.

Miliband wouldnt have been this forthright.

5. While Cameron is:
a. probably playing to a domestic conservative gallery (and prompting Miliband to signal his base)
b. attempting to get trade deals and hawk Hawks in India,

he is nevertheless demonstrating willingness to take costs to "stand with India" as he sees it. I hope those Indians who are more aligned with Miliband's politics will still find it within themselves to appreciate Cameron for so doing.

This comment is getting violative of the new policy so I will stop now.

One parting note: your comments read a lot better without snark, however and whoever-at directed.

Thank you,

Jai_C said...

On a different note, I did think it was a good idea to bring up the 3rd leg in the Indo-Pak equation: Bangladesh, in a discussion as long as the one Dilip and Beena had.

Here is an article by Beena on parallels between Pak and BD:


Beena appreciates BD for banning religion from politics.

A Dilip-Beena discussion could have drawn out how alike or different attitudes to India are, and why.

In laboratory terms BD's similarities to Pak would have been an ideal "test case" for comparing India-Pak with.

Maybe in some future conv? I hope.

2. Last I heard there was a truck transit in discussion to reach our NE states. Quiet, no headlines, healthy.

But here is a worrying editorial from IE:

We are dropping the ball there in our focus on Pakistan.


Jai_C said...

My last post on a revisit to Beena's blog. Something surprising.

On a recent post, "Karachi burns again" Beena says:

....Here’s my response on twitter to someone who asked if the Taliban could be behind it: “Taliban = SSP = Al-Q. Overall same ideology.”....

SSP = Sipah sahaba Pakistan or something.


I wonder why LeT does not figure in that equation. Is it because its not active in Karachi?

I wouldnt let any political commentator off easy in India if he/she declaimed loudly against say JeM or SIMI or Maoists but remained silent on VHP/Bajrang/RSS.

I believe Beena is against LeT. I have already stated above that she is not very different from Dilip in my reading, and the delta is more nuance than substance.

I searched for LeT, lashkar etc. on her blog and got very few hits. There is one piece on deconstructing the LeT narrative, "mothers of LeT".

Thats it.

Maybe she uses generic terms like killers or militants but she does name other organizations like the ones above. Taliban appears dozens of times.

Just to compare, here is a link from another Pakistani, Ayesha Siddiqa:


I believe I am right about Beena and Nikhil is wrong. But there are degrees of rightness and wrongness.

It could be that I am not as right as I thought I was, and this may imply that Nikhil is not as wrong as I thought he is.

As a corollary it could also imply there *is* a difference, in substance, between Dilip and Beena.

There are some leaps in my thinking here and I should spend a couple of years on Beena's blog too as I typically do to get a better read on her. But I may not and these are the quick cuts I have.

PS: conv#15 isnt even up there yet.

Jai_C said...

I should have googled the web rather than just her blog. She hasnt linked some of her articles even from her own blog.

Here's one that mentions LeT and Pakistan not cracking down on it:


Its late and I'm tired. But I'm glad not to be wrong about Beena S.