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Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

How to escape scrutiny

the status of children in india (Asian Centre for Human Rights, Rs 220) is a shadow report to the first periodic report of the government of India to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. It was presented to that committee during its pre-sessional hearing in October 2003, in preparation for the final examination of India’s first periodic report in January 2004. This important and harrowing report meticulously catalogues how the government’s 2001 report is “entirely uninformative about the actual status of the children of India”, providing little information “especially about the civil and political rights of children and the status of children who require special measures of protection”. This is nothing less than the government’s “attempt to escape scrutiny”, and shows up its “lack of meaningful cooperation” with the CRC. There are sections on juvenile justice, torture, education, anti-terror laws, children in armed conflict situations, refugee and internally displaced children, child labour, minority children, and concluding recommendations. Immensely important for every defender of human rights in India and the world.

O’Hara’s Choice (HarperCollins, Rs 395) by Leon Uris is this best-selling American author’s last novel about the US marines. His other one about the marines was Battle Cry, published 50 years ago. The sentiments remain more or less the same, and still astonishingly relevant to the American psyche: “indomitable human spirit or men proven in battle”, “duty to country, love for family”, etc.

Rabindranath Tagore omnibus II (Rupa, Rs 295) collects old English translations of The Religion of Man lectures, Chaar Adhyay, Rakta Karabi, “Guptadhan” and other stories and Jeebansmriti. Shesh Lekha has been translated by Pritish Nandy. The others are done by Jadunath Sarkar, C.F. Andrews and Surendranath Tagore.

one little indian (Dronequill, Rs 250) by Richard Crasta is a surprisingly delightful novel by a genuinely irreverent Indian from Mangalore, “a town that was once a net exporter of nuns, nuts and tiles”. Crasta’s raunchiness is a mix of Khushwant Singh and Laurence Sterne. The unstoppably copious funniness is Shandian. It is a pity that, apart from Rushdie, the official Indo-Anglian tone is lugubrious rather than hilarious. Writers like Crasta do not fit this priggish mould, and hence remain obscure. “The sex life of the average human male begins with his Mummy,” begins the chapter called “The Beginnings of Sorrow”.

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