Kashmir: The Road to Peace?

By Sachi Cunningham (class of 2005) and Jigar Mehta (class of 2005) for PBS Frontline

Click to view the interactive project.

KASHMIR, India, November 2004Kashmir is a divided land. India controls one part, Pakistan controls the other. It has been this way since 1947. Pakistan and India have fought two wars over this beautiful, tragic highland, and for the past fifteen years, the Indian army in Kashmir has battled a pro-independence movement. For Muslim militants it has become a jihad or holy war.

When we arrived in Kashmir, we saw soldiers everywhere, peering from the tops of balconies and peeking out of bunkers on street corners. There are nearly 600,000 Indian security forces in the Indian-occupied part of Kashmir, home to some 8.5 million people—the highest soldier-to-civilian ratio in the world.

We came here because there is, at long last, talk of peace. India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, signed a cease-fire agreement in November 2003 and pledged to go forward with twelve “confidence-building” measures. For the first time in fourteen years, the two countries played a cricket match last spring, and it went off peacefully. Now they are proposing the re-opening of Kashmir’s main highway, which is currently blocked at the Line of Control which divides India- and Pakistan-held Kashmir.

We decided to take a road trip as far as we could go on this Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road — to see what life is like in the legendary valley of Kashmir and to ask people what they thought about the prospects for peace.

See the rest of the story, with interactive map and videos, on Frontline.



A battlefield far from the front

By Mike McPhate (class of 2003) and Jessi Hempel (class of 2003), for Salon

Photo by Mimi Chakarova.

KASHMIR, India, April 9, 2003—In the chill of Kashmir’s lingering winter, gunmen in military uniforms crept into a backwoods village where a dozen Hindu families had bundled up for bed. The masked men banged on doors with rifle butts, corralling as many villagers as they could into the town square — men on one side, women on the other. They removed jewelry, slicing one woman’s ear to recover a gold earring. An hour and a half later, the intruders unloaded a flood of bullets that left more than half this village’s Hindu residents dead.

As morning draped sunlight on Kashmir’s worst massacre in three years, survivors swayed and wailed over 24 corpses lined up in the dirt — 11 men, 11 women and two boys, aged 2 and 3. An old Hindu man slumped under a tree just a few yards from the bodies of his two daughters and two of his three grandkids and broke into a feeble sob. His Muslim neighbor stroked his arm and whispered, “Be patient now.”

But soon after, when Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the Kashmiri head of state, arrived by helicopter to survey the scene, the grandfather rose to his feet. He gestured sharply at his dead family and bellowed as he paced back and forth, echoing the question everyone in Nadimarg was asking: How could this happen?

Read the rest of the story from Salon.

Militants and Moderates Spar Over the Future of Kashmir

By Mike McPhate (class of 2003)

Soldiers patrol the streets of Srinagar. Approximately 400,000 Indian troops are based in Jammu and Kashmir. Photograph by Mimi Chakarova.

SOPORE, Kashmir, April 2003 – For the first time since the two nuclear neighbors snapped virtually all diplomatic links and squared off a year ago over Kashmir, there is the possibility of rapprochement between India and Pakistan. In an emotional address to his Parliament at the end of April, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee offered to open negotiations and said: “At least in my life, this is the last time I will be making an attempt to resolve the Indo-Pak dispute.”

That dispute is over Kashmir where a stepped up turf war between militants and moderates resumed with a bloody vengeance this spring. “The situation has assumed monstrous dimensions,” said Kashmiri leader Abdul Ghani Bhat, who belongs to the Hurriyat Conference, a mixed bag of 23 political parties, mostly moderate and all united in their demand for self-determination. “The two countries may have to go the Hiroshima way.”

It is just this possibility that alarmed diplomats and helped trigger the 79-year-old Vajpayee’s dramatic proposal that promises to bolster the position of the moderates in Kashmir — one that is much in need of reinforcing.

Moderates, mostly local Kashmiris, are eager to join a dialogue between India and Pakistan while the hardliners, supported by Pakistan, reject anything short of an outright merger with that country. Since 1947, when Pakistan broke away from mostly Hindu India and declared itself a homeland for Muslims, the two nations have wrestled bitterly over the ownership of Kashmir, and some 55,000 have died in the ongoing struggle.

India blames Pakistan for sponsoring the violence while Pakistan says it gives only “moral and diplomatic” support to what it calls a “freedom struggle.”

Yet Pakistan-based militants today comprise more than half of a total of 3,000 fighters in Kashmir, and while Bhat’s warning may seem to be a rhetorical flourish, the two nuclear powers came perilously close to nuclear war last summer.

Following a series of attacks in India, including one on Delhi’s Parliament building, which India blamed on Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, the rivals amassed a million troops along their border. The apocalyptic escalation was averted only after U.S. officials leaned on President General Pervez Musharraf to cut off the flow of fighters into India.

Washington’s pressure seemed to be working. For the first time, Musharraf declared that Pakistan would not “allow terrorism from its soil in the name of Kashmir.” But as U.S. attention has turned to hot spots in Afghanistan and now Iraq, the turf battle between militants and moderates in Kashmir heated up.

First on the militants’ list this spring was Abdul Majid Dar, one of India’s fiercest rebels who emerged unarmed from his forest lair three summers ago and said he wanted to talk with his enemies. “We will halt attacks against the (Indian) security forces. We want to show the world that we are not hardliners.”

But others within his ranks wanted to demonstrate otherwise. In late March, eyewitnesses said, intruders barged through the front door of Dar’s family home in Sopore, just north of the capital Srinagar, where he had stopped for a short visit, and fired “wherever they felt movement.” The bullets pierced his mother and sister and killed Dar as he sat waiting for lunch in his living room.

The children of Kashmir have been silent witnesses to the 14-year-old conflict and are psychologically affected the most. Photograph by Mimi Chakarova.

Most assume that the killers were from within Dar’s own ranks, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the militant wing of Pakistan’s radical Islamist party the Jamaat-e-Islami. His message of reconciliation, they calculated, had become too popular.

Only days after Dar’s murder, suspected militants followed up with the worst slaughter of civilians in Kashmir in three years. Pulled from their beds in the late evening, 24 Hindus in the farming village of Nadimarg — including two boys, aged 2 and 3 — were rounded up and gunned down in the town square.

Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Kashmir’s scariest militant group, Lashkar-e-Toiba, apparently justified the killing to journalists in Pakistan. “The solution is not to bow before India and beg for dialogue,” Saeed was quoted as saying in the Friday Times. “[The Indians] only understand the language of jihad. We have no choice but to respond by killing Hindus.”

Soon after, India began making a case for war.

“I genuinely believe that if possession of weapons of mass destruction, absence of democracy and export of terrorism are the criteria,” Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said recently, drawing a comparison to the U.S. explanation for attacking Iraq, “then no country deserves more than Pakistan to be tackled.” Pakistan said it would give a “befitting response.”

Washington took note, with Colin Powell promptly denying any “similarity” between the situations in Iraq and Pakistan.

In his first move to change the climate, Vajpayee flew to Kashmir in early April, the first Indian prime minister to do so in more than a decade. He offered a “hand of friendship to Pakistan” and to all groups who “abjure the gun.”

The prime minister’s effort got a boost this month when the U.S. State Department added Hizbul Mujahideen, the group suspected of being responsible for the March murder of Dar, for the first time to its list of terrorist organizations.

Sumit Ganguly, author of “The Crisis in Kashmir” and a professor at the University of Texas-Austin, says today’s militants or jihadis are nothing more than crusaders and mercenaries that care little for the wishes of Kashmiris. “Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool or a naive or both,” he said. “They are engaged in murder, mayhem, rape, and lots of other atrocities.”

Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, speaks of the struggles in Kashmir and the uncertainty of the region's future. Photograph by Mimi Chakarova.

The Pakistani fighters are driven by a severe version of Islam. Their ideological training in the radical Deobandi and Wahabbi Islam is at odds with the softer, more tolerant Sufi faith of Kashmiris who have historically lived in peace with their Hindu and Sikh neighbors. “They (the jihadis) belong to a different Islamic heart,” admits Kashmir’s religious head and former Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.

The most serious threat to the hardliners arrived last fall in state elections that delivered a new, moderate government to Kashmir. Independent observers said they were the first “free and fair” elections in over 15 years.

Kashmiris put their hope in the moderate People’s Democratic Party and its promises to bring a “healing touch” to the valley and to restrain the valley’s 125,000 Indian security forces, seen by most Kashmiris as a menace. Moreover, the party promised to make friends between separatists and Delhi.

Now, it remains to be seen whether these forces, with new help from Delhi and Washington, will prevail. At the end of his address to the Indian Parliament last week, Vajpayee, who is up for re-election next year, appeared determined to make the resolution of Kashmir his legacy. “I am confident I will succeed,” he said.

Coming of Age in an Era of Violence

By Jessi Hempel (class of 2003)

Pinkey watches as her mother spins cashmere. Photograph by Mimi Chakarova.

SRINAGAR, Kashmir, April 2003 – Pinkey Ahmed Dar has had just 14 birthdays so far and she has seen her father die, three brothers killed and a fourth go missing. She sits in her drafty two-room shack at the top of a steep staircase in a poor Srinagar neighborhood, and pulls her knees up under her pink woolen cloak. “I am scared,” she says. “Things scratch at the walls in the night.”

The fear that haunts her every night dates back five years to when Kashmiri police shot her third brother, Mushtaq, and brought his body to her house. “We didn’t know what had happened. The women were sitting around gossiping. Then they brought his body in,” she said, a white headscarf framing her large dark eyes. “I could see he’d been shot in the left eye — there was no eye.”

A few months earlier, her brother Mushtaq had joined a militant group fighting to cede Indian Kashmir to Pakistan. The police killed him a couple of hundred yards away in a neighbor’s backyard, according to several of Pinkey’s family members.

Pinkey was born in 1989, the year militants took up arms to fight over Kashmir, a state sandwiched between India and Pakistan and whose ownership both lay claim to. Until then, blood hadn’t stained the yellow fields of mustard and blossoming apple orchards that fill the Kashmir Valley. Pinkey’s mother Syeda remembers her own adolescence. “In the summers, we played outdoors at night,” she says.

But Pinkey has passed through childhood in an era of violence and is coming of age at a time when it’s only getting worse. And there are countless civilians like her. Among the nine million people who live in Indian Kashmir, nearly everyone can name a close friend or relative who has been killed. They die after joining the militancy. They die after being taken into custody by the police. They die in crossfire.

A 33-year-old journalist from a village in the Valley mentions how he looks at his nursery school class picture and has, with a pen, marked out those who have been killed — almost 70 percent of the class.

“We have no men to protect us,” said Pinkey. And she’s right. While it’s the men who do most of the fighting and dying — 55,000 at last count — it’s girls such as Pinkey and mothers such as Syeda who are left to grapple with the grief and despair.

Pinkey sits next to her mother while she spins cashmere. She hasn't been able to work for a few weeks due to a lung infection. Photograph by Mimi Chakarova.

“Women have been the worst victims,” said Mehbooba Mufti, president of the People’s Democratic Party which was elected last year to head the state government promising to bring a “healing touch” to the scarred Valley. “It’s the women who go to the hospitals and to the police searching for their husbands and brothers. And then it’s the women who must carry the family responsibility.”

Mufti’s concern is as personal as it is political. In 1989 — two years after a rigged election left little room for legitimate political opposition in the state — her sister, who was then a medical student, was kidnapped. As ransom, the abductors demanded the release of some militants. Within days, the panic-stricken government in New Delhi gave in, released the militants and Mufti’s sister was let off unharmed. That kidnapping is widely seen as marking the start of the militant movement in Kashmir.

Since then, the cycle of violence has been non-stop. Although heavy winter snows bring some calm, freezing the mountain passes and making it more difficult for armed militants to sneak in from across the border in Pakistan, as soon as the trees show buds, the killing resumes.

Less than a week after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March, armed gunmen slaughtered more than half the residents of a Hindu village in the predominantly Muslim countryside. This came a day after the assassination of Majid Dar (not related to Pinkey Dar), a militant who was killed by members of his own group for advocating talks with Delhi. And later the same week, pro-Pakistan militants cut off the noses of six villagers suspected of spying for the Indian government.

Pinkey has trouble speaking of her brothers' deaths. Photograph by Mimi Chakarova.

Such violence leads to generations of women who live in a perpetual state of grieving. A visit to Pinkey’s home offers a glimpse into what that means.

Her mother, Syeda, is a frail woman with lung disease. She has callused fingers from her work spinning fabric into the Pashmina yarn used for shawls that retail in the United States for $200 apiece. She works 15 days to weave a skein of yarn the size of her index finger, which she sells for the equivalent of $3.

Her husband, a vegetable seller, died of natural causes shortly after Pinkey was born, leaving Syeda with seven children — four sons and three daughters. “I still had hope because of my sons,” she said. Her sons promised to build her a larger house, but then came 1989 and, for many young Kashmiri men, building the movement became the priority.

Syeda pulls a strip of three photographs from the window ledge, in which three young boys smile. Her first son, Nazir Ahmed Dar, is center strip, his eyes piercing and dark. At 25, he was recently engaged and selling vegetables in front of their house when militants lobbed a grenade at Indian security forces. Nazir was killed in the grenade attack.

The second son, Tariq Ahmed Dar, 18, was killed in crossfire. This time, it was the police who were firing on militants along the banks of a nearby river. A bullet knocked Tariq into the river’s current where he was swept away. His body washed up two days later.

Their 20-year-old brother Mushtaq, Syeda explained in the calculus of war, “became a militant because what else could he do?” Syeda isn’t clear how long he was on the run but one thing she knows: He outlived the average militant’s lifespan, six months, before he was killed.

Her fourth son, Nizar Ahmed Dar, was given a government job as part of the Indian government’s compensation for the family’s loss, but he was felled by mental illness. Syeda said she tried to take him to the psychiatric hospital but they couldn’t treat him. He would wander off into the night and turn up in odd places. More than two years ago, she said, he wandered off and never came back.

“I don’t care what happens in Kashmir. Whoever will come to our rescue can’t save us from this hell,” Syeda said as she looked down at the crumpled photographs of her first three sons. “All of them have perished, and there is no difference now.”

Across the city at the Valley’s only psychiatric hospital, Dr. Mushtaq Margoob works in an office atop the remains of the former inpatient facility. Mounds of dirt are littered with empty pill packages. The shell of the hospital sits in the shadow of the tomb of a Mughal emperor. Militants razed the hospital, like many, in the early 1990s to prevent Indian security forces from establishing a base there. Now Margoob dispenses treatment and medicine to a growing number of patients from a newer, makeshift building behind the rubble.

A young woman grieves over the death of her family which was massacred by unidentified gunmen in the village of Nadimarg. Photograph by Mimi Chakarova.

His patients complain of depression, insomnia, heart palpitations, and other signs of a fast growing problem for Kashmiris: post traumatic stress disorder. As the conflict continues, Margoob said that communities’ resources to support those who grieve have become depleted. “A Kashmiri woman in the past year has seen difficult things. A decade ago, deaths in communities were a collective shared trauma. People would visit their neighbors and offer support. But when this continued, everyone exhausted their emotional resources. Too many people have died.”

On a blustery Saturday afternoon, Pinkey visited her neighborhood faith-healer. “Nowadays most people who come ask me to pray for their protection against violence,” he said. “I give them an amulet with a black thread — a talisman.” He stopped to rearrange the coals in a small bucket by his feet. “What do you have to tell a person who has lost a husband,” a young woman asked him.

“You’re young, get remarried,” he said, with barely a pause.

“What do you have to tell a person who has lost her children?”

“You’re young,” he said. “Have more children.”

“Komal” to Mom Becomes “Kim” to U.S. Callers

By Sophia Tareen (class of 2004)

GURGAON, New Delhi, March 2003 – At sunset Komal Saini becomes the Cinderella of a global economy. Her carriage is a company taxi that picks her up in the New Delhi of power shortages and drops her off in this suburb of skyscrapers with power to spare. In this parallel world, English is spoken with a global accent, the workday is 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. and Komal becomes Kim.

Here is Daksh, a three-year-old Indian company named for a Sanskrit army command meaning “attention, alertness, vigilance to act immediately with supreme urgency.”

Kim’s urgent task? To pacify the hordes of Americans with cell phones, bank accounts, computers or any other appliance with an 800-customer service number. Through the magic of fiber optic cable, dialing 800 places the caller on a global waiting list for India, Arizona or anywhere else in the world with a trained, English speaking work force.

The call to India costs no more than one to Arizona, but India’s agents cost considerably less — $45 a week in India compared to $206 a week in the United States. That advantage has made India’s call centers grow almost 70 percent in 2002. And the business shows no signs of slowing or having any real competitors because at its heart is India’s immense, college-educated and English-speaking population.

To attract new graduates, the Indian centers have created an environment that is something between a college dormitory and a corporate office — running from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Rows of computer terminals peppered with hand-scrawled Post-its are next to grids grading the top performers in C-SAT, or Customer Satisfaction, scores. And company regalia with Daksh’s mission statement cover the walls. All are meant to motivate Daksh’s 2,500 frontline employees, more than half of whom hit the phones each night.

Getting one of these call center jobs is not easy. On any given day of the week, a dozen hopeful crowd the clean corporate lobby — complete with an American flag.

The first cut is determined by an English grammar test; from there it’s off to a one-on-one interview; and finally a group discussion test. Of the 150 to 400 who apply each month, most are turned away — accents too harsh, English too muddled or service skills simply hopeless. “I’m having two brothers,” instead of “I have two brothers,” will get a prospect the boot.

“We’re not trying to give them an American accent,” said Vandana Ranganathan, head of operations. Instead, they need a “global” accent. What does that sound like?

Listen. It aims for the “sh” tone of pleasure rather than the Indian “plezer.” Or the softer “auspicious” rather than “aws-pee-sheeyus” that fluency in Hindi encourages.

Then there’s word order. “I’m holding you,” is relearned in training to “please hold.”

Some mistakes, however, resist training. In one call, for example, a U.S. customer told the Indian operator about her sister who had recently passed away. To show empathy, the Indian operator wanted to know where the woman had been buried. “Where did you lay your sister?” she asked.

Once the accent is neutralized, there’s customer service and product training — all of which happen during the same hours they will eventually work — 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“Be sensitive to verbal cues,” says a trainer with a Daksh name tag hanging from her neck. Even if a customer yells at them, they must remain patient.

“How do you feel when a customer becomes irate?” the trainer asks.

“[I think] have I done something wrong?” a young male agent in glasses answers eagerly.

On the job, however, agents have different answers.

“I hit the Mute key on the phone and let him have it, in English or Hindi … then I remove my finger from the Mute key and tell him, ‘It’s wonderful talking to you,'” said Shika Chawla, who’s been at Daksh for 14 months.

If that doesn’t work, there’s always break time. Eminem blasts from a recreation room with pool tables. And there’s a 24-hour company cafeteria that bustles all night with a young workforce clad mostly in jeans and button-down shirts.

On a recent evening, Nitan (“Nathan”) and his buddy Nikuhu (“Neal”), both 23, were just finishing up their break.

“You have to have a lot of patience,” Nitan said, referring to the monotony. Nevertheless, he and Nikuhu have been at Daksh for 18 months and hope to stay.

Ranganathan insists, “It’s increasingly a career option and not just a transit lounge.”

But there are a few opportunities to climb the corporate ladder: some move up to team leader or manager. But many treat it as a stomping ground or even finishing school—taking a few months or a year to learn more English and then moving onto another job.

Lavinia Hieriem, who has been at Daksh for eight months, said outings, parties and potlucks help, but turnover rates—25 to 30 percent in the answering service according to company officials — are still high. Many, however, stay within the same industry.

Once they’ve re-calibrated their accents, it’s the hours that prove to be the biggest hurdle.

“I can’t adjust to the time,” added Hieriem with a laugh. “I can never sleep.”

Modernity Brings New Wave of Selective Sex Abortions

By Shani Moore (class of 2004) and Ofelia Madrid (class of 2003)

CHANDIGARH, Punjab, March 2003 – When India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, decided to get architect Le Corbusier all the way from Paris to design this city, he saw it as a modernist symbol for an ancient country, a city that would be “unfettered by traditions of the past.” Chandigarh is of enormous importance, Nehru said, “because it hits you on the head and makes you think.”

Fifty years on, what hits a visitor on the head is how tradition trumps modernity.

Yes, Nehru’s vision exists. Streets swell with color as women in bright T-shirts, jeans and Western dresses head to Internet cafes or local coffee shops, defying stereotypes that often depict them solely in saris or behind veils.

Yet despite the architecture, the chic dress and the wealth of women attending college, these states have the dubious distinction of being the worst place in the country for a female fetus.

At an average of about 10,000 a year, the number of selective-sex abortions from 1995 to 2001 in Haryana and Punjab rose almost 9 percent, according to the latest study by the United Nations Population Fund. This despite the fact that a full year earlier, the government outlawed the practice of determining the gender of the fetus through an ultrasound test and put in place several nationwide women empowerment schemes in health care and education.

“It is always in the back of your mind that you want a boy,” said Amrita Singh, a 28-year-old former college teacher who is four months pregnant. Even if she had a girl, a complete family would require a male child, she said. For her checkups, Singh goes to a private clinic that has a prominent sign outside declaring: “Using Ultrasounds to Determine the Sex of a Fetus is Illegal. It is Not Practiced Here.”

This is a result of the 1994 Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technologies (PNDT) Act under which conviction can lead to a prison term of three to five years and a fine of $200 to $1,000. Provisions of the Act apply to pregnant women unless it can be proved that they were forced to take the test.

The law is tough on paper but on the ground, there have been no convictions. “It gets very difficult to prove complicity,” acknowledged Union Health Minister Sushma Swaraj, who leads the government’s efforts against feticide. Minister Swaraj is a Haryana woman who, in her 20s, was the country’s youngest minister ever. Yet she realizes the reaction of her peers. “As soon as they could tell if they were having a boy or a girl, women were running to the machines,” she said. According to a National Family Health Survey, more than 75 percent of Punjabi women are aware of the technology to determine the gender of the fetus.

Government laws and private and public campaigns have made hardly a dent in reversing the exceptionally low female to male ratio here. For example, in 1991, according to the Indian census, there were only 875 girls (0-6 years of age) per every 1,000 boys in Punjab. By 2001, this number had fallen to 793.

In contrast, for India as a whole, the corresponding ratio fell from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001. In the United States, there are approximately 954 females per every 1000 males. Punjab and Haryana, incidentally, have the lowest female to male ratio among India’s 29 states.

Enforcing the pre-natal law has become tougher as ultrasound technologies have become cheaper and more lightweight. “People are just taking the portable ultrasound machines, putting it into their cars, and going to people’s houses,” said Dr. G.S. Kochhar, former president of the Indian Medical Association. “You can’t stop it.”

The Indian society does not want to, said Dr. Rainuka Dagar, a research fellow at the Institute for Development and Communication in Chandigarh. She blamed India’s patriarchal social structure for the female child not having the same value as the male child in the Indian family.

“Parents look at the female child and think, ‘We’re going to be paying for a girl for the rest of our lives,'” Dagar said. “It’s like putting money in the neighbor’s bank.”

A daughter is seen as a drain on the family finances because she will eventually marry, leave the family and a dowry will have to be provided. One common sign advertising ultrasound clinics in Punjab, pulled down after the law was passed, said it all, comparing the costs of an ultra sound test to a dowry: “500 now, save 5,000 later.”

So it is no surprise that while “there is no social stigma to having an abortion,” said Professor Pam Rajput, Director of the Women’s Studies and Development Center at Punjab University, “there is a social stigma if you have a girl.”

According to the pre-natal law, neither doctors nor technicians are allowed to test specifically for the sex of the fetus unless they are screening for a sex-linked genetic disease. When performing general scans, and recognizing the gender of the fetus is unavoidable, they are still forbidden from revealing that information to the parents.

All the law has done is “drive up the prices,” Professor Rajput said. “Before, where you could learn the sex of the child for 500 rupees, now they are charging 1,000 or more.” Abortions at the later state cost anywhere from $100 to $200.

“The whole process (of identifying and destroying late-term fetuses) takes about 24 to 48 hours,” Dr. Kochhar said. “These are not simple procedures, and now unqualified people are doing it,” he said, estimating that most people performing the illegal ultrasounds are X-ray technicians.

An attempt to address the problem has been introduced by select members of government, among them Minister Swaraj. Her experimental new plan, entitled, “Your Daughter, Your Wealth,” seeks to change the cultural psyche of undervaluing women. Pregnant couples that participate in the state’s pre-natal care program will receive 1,000 rupees or about $20 if they deliver a girl — and $10 if they deliver a boy.

Critics of the bonus program say it is unlikely to change the culture that prizes men over women.

“1,000 rupees?” Dagar, the Chandigarh researcher, scoffed. “From top to bottom, male superiority is legitimized. That matter cannot be targeted (by this program.).”

Other efforts from the government have focused on revamping existing laws. As it was originally crafted in 1994, the pre-natal law had no teeth. Amendments adopted in February of this year provide for greater tracking of the monies potentially received through sex-screening and also increase penalties for violating the law.

Professor Rajput, however, argues that the society mentality has to change before the edict can take any real effect. “These traditional ideas have been embedded into our minds for ages,” Rajput said. “It takes time.”

Reema Sharma, a 25-year-old teacher who is three months pregnant, is a reminder of how long that will be. Sharma has huge brown eyes that blink furiously when she talks about the sex of the child. “My in-laws are OK with this; they won’t force me to have another child if it’s a girl.

“But it would be nice to have a boy,” she said. “They would be happier.”