Rohini Hensman – Sri Lanka

Linked with Playing Lions and Tigers, and with NATIONALISM AND THE LEFT IN SRI LANKA.

Rohini Hensman is a researcher and writer active in the women’s liberation, trade union, human rights and anti-war movements in India and Sri Lanka. She has written extensively on all these issues, and is currently working on a book on globalization and labour in India. (full text).

Sri Lankan Rohini Hensman lives in India where she is a writer and anti-war activist promoting women’s, labor, and human rights. Her book of fiction, Playing Lions and Tigers, follows the intertwined lives of fourteen characters from different parts of Sri Lanka, different social classes, different ethnic and religious communities, all confronting the challenges of their country’s post-colonial conditions: poverty and religious conflict. Inhabiting the lives of her characters, Rohini looks at the personal dramas of peaceful citizens turned into violent enemies by the manipulations of authoritarian and criminal government. (black oak books, scroll down).

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Sorry, I can’t find any photo of Rohini Hensman, Sri Lanka

Read: A Last Chance For Peace in Sri Lanka, 21 January 2005.

She writes also: ‘If the Bush administration has decided to attack Iran militarily, is there any power on earth that can stop it if the people of the US are unable or unwilling to do so? The argument below is that if the USA’s ability to undertake imperial conquests depends on its obvious military supremacy, this in turn is ultimately based on the use of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It is the dominance of the dollar that underpins US financial dominance as a whole as well as the apparently limitless spending power that allows it to keep hundreds of thousands of troops stationed all over the world’. (full text, 19th November 2007).

Her publications: on Dissident Voices; on; on ; on .

The OPEC Summit in Riyadh over the weekend of 17-18 November was the scene of a political debate that is not normally associated with the oil-producing cartel. The meeting was dominated by a discussion of the falling value of the US dollar, the currency in which the oil exports of most OPEC countries is denominated. ‘The dollar is in free fall, everyone should be worried about it,’ according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; ‘The fall of the dollar is not the fall of the dollar, it’s the fall of the American empire’. ‘They get our oil and give us a worthless piece of paper,’ added Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. ‘The dollar has no economic value.’ However Saudi officials rejected the suggestion that the meeting discuss ending the practice of pricing crude in dollars, and emphasised the purely economic agenda of OPEC. It is undeniable that Chavez and Ahmedinejad have a political axe to grind, and that is not hard to understand: both have been the target of US attempts at ‘regime change’; Iran is in addition facing threats of military attack by the US. But is the Saudi claim that its agenda is purely economic plausible? The currencies of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – were pegged to the dollar in January 2003, but this peg has increasingly come under pressure as the dollar has declined. The corresponding devaluation of their own currencies has led to rapid inflation in GCC countries, while at the same time devaluing their foreign exchange reserves. (full text, Nov. 21, 2007).


She writes: After the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May 1998, what shape can an anti-nuclear strategy take in these two countries? Is it possible to roll back their nuclear programs? And what about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)? In India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) earlier said that it would not sign the treaty in its present form because it is “discriminatory” and there seems to be widespread agreement with this position not only among those who are in favor of nuclear weaponization but even among those who oppose it. Only a small number of anti-nuclear activists, most notably Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik, have been arguing consistently that India should sign the treaty. More recently, however, the government has indicated that it may sign on certain conditions. The position of the Pakistani government is also ambivalent, but it recently indicated its readiness to sign unconditionally. Peace activists in Pakistan have been more consistently pro-CTBT. The issue clearly demands far more serious consideration than the nonchalance with which some commentators have discussed it, a totally inappropriate stance considering the millions of lives that may hang on this decision. (full text).


The objections to the nuclear deal on this score are serious. At a time when the US and Israel have been guilty of causing millions of civilian deaths in Palestine, Afghanistan Iraq and Lebanon, in clear violation of international law, an alliance with the Bush regime would be analogous to an alliance with Nazi Germany somewhere in the middle of World War II. And it gets worse. Vociferous claims emanating from Washington that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme and is arming terrorists in Iraq (despite denials coming from those who ought to know, such as IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei and the Iraqi government), a military build-up which could only be aimed at Iran, and recent punitive sanctions against the country by the US, all produce a sense of déjà vu: similar action was taken in the run-up to the attack on Iraq. There can be no doubt that Bush, Cheney and others in the current administration are determined to attack Iran militarily, although the majority of people in the US and high-ranking military personnel oppose such a step … (full text).

Read an excerpt from ‘Playing Lions and Tigers’, by Rohini Hensman.

… On the other hand, the anti-war movement, while conscientiously publicising the British ORB poll suggesting that 1.2 million Iraqis have died violent deaths as a result of the US-led occupation, and many more – especially children – have died of malnutrition and disease, while reporting that the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan are killing civilians and causing malnutrition, and exposing and opposing plans to attack Iran, seldom highlights the role of Israel, especially in instigating the attack on Iraq and now on Iran. There are occasional complaints that Israel influences US foreign policy to the detriment of US interests, or, conversely, that the US influences Israeli policy to the detriment of Israel’s interests, but the truth seems to be that the two are so intertwined that separating them is impossible. A rare occasion on which the close symbiotic relationship between the US and Israeli states was discussed was during the criminal Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006; it was again suggested after the September 2007 Israeli air strike on Syria. Yet cooperation between the US and Israel seems to be standard practice rather than anything unusual … (full text).

The Case for Banning the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS, June – July 2002.

… Beyond the “cosmopolitanism and anonymity” and the “commonality across divisions” of a name like Rohini is another name well-known on both sides of the Palk Strait, Hensman. Rohini Hensman, though now married and settled in Bombay, is from the Sri Lanka side of the family … (full text).

Read: Defending Workers’ Rights in Subcontracted Workplaces.

The first kind of definition of terrorism is lack of definition. Eqbal Ahmad, after going through at least twenty US documents on terrorism, came up with a surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) discovery: not once was terrorism defined. And he concluded that this was quite deliberate: ‘If you’re not going to be consistent, you’re not going to define’ (’Terrorism: Theirs and Ours’, Alternative Radio programme). Since September 11th, we find the definition chopping and changing, according to expediency. First it is made clear that only acts of violence against US citizens are acts of terrorism; the same acts against citizens of other countries don’t count. When some governments whose support the US wishes to retain question this, the definition is expanded slightly. At no point are similar acts of violence committed or supported by the US defined as terrorist. Ranged against this are counter-definitions by anti-globalisers like Vandana Shiva, who classify hunger, poverty, unemployment and environmental degradation as terrorism; we can call this an economic reductionist type of definition. One problem is that it is so wide that it becomes impossible to define a strategy to fight it; it is a bit like trying to make tables, chairs, beds, windows and doors with a tool-kit consisting entirely and solely of a hammer: you end up unable to make any of them. Another problem is that terrorism as political violence is nowhere acknowledged, so that it becomes possible to join hands, as Vandana Shiva has done, with terrorists of the Sangh Parivar in the struggle against globalisation. I would say that even disasters like Bhopal and Chernobyl, which kill and injure tens of thousands of victims, should not be classified as terrorism, because they occur in the pursuit of economic gain and therefore require different remedies (e.g. health and safety and environmental legislation which makes them impossible) … (full text).

Read: Boycott The Dollar To Stop The War, March 2003.

With the parliamentary debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal now scheduled for 27-28 November 2007, the fate of the deal hangs in the balance. Opposition to the deal has come from three distinct quarters, but the reasons for opposition overlap. The main complaint of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the deal is that it will open up part of India’s nuclear programme to international scrutiny and compromise India’s ‘sovereign right’ to decide the future development of its nuclear weapons programme. For the Left parties, the nuclear deal is only one link in the new strategic partnership being forged by India with the US and Israel. This would be an unequal partnership, one that makes India subservient to US foreign policy objectives. (full text).

Read: Women and Politics in the Third World.

It was assumed, in other words, that no Muslims, no political parties outside the government, and no civil society groups would have any say whatsoever in the shape of a future Sri Lanka! Such a blatant contradiction of all democratic norms could only reinforce totalitarian tendencies among both the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Moreover, it allowed the LTTE to put forward its proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) that would have resulted in international recognition of its dictatorship over the North-East of Sri Lanka. Given the lack of any conception of an acceptable end result to the negotiations, opponents of the ISGA could be characterised as Sinhala chauvinists ˆ which, indeed, some of them were ˆ without much critical appraisal of what the proposals themselves would mean for the people of the North-East in particular and Sri Lanka in general. Again, hardline Sinhala nationalists gained strength from this whole exercise. (full text, 29 October 2007).

“Eine verwirrte Debatte”, Versuch einer Systematisierung der Diskussion über Globalisierung und Sozialklauseln, Teil I, Von Rohini Hensman, 02/27/2005. (Ganzer Text).


Sri Lanka War Cycle, Visa Free South Asia, State dept should’nt meet Hindutva boss, Passport denial to Kashmir Activist, Sept. 17-19, 2006.

Lines Magazine;

A forgotten one;

Research documents about working conditions in the garment and sporting goods industry in India;

The Impact of Globalization on Employment in India and Responses from the Formal and Informal Sectors, June 19, 2001;

The Lanka Academy, Exclusive Feature Articles;
The petrodollar theory once more;
Progressive South Asian Voices Against War On Iraq;

Pakistan Between The General and The Mulla, Nov. 15-27, 2007.

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