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By , World Editor of The Christian Science Monitor

The Dalits constitute one humongous swing vote. The poorest of the poor in India now account for about 20 percent of the population of 1 billion. During this month's parliamentary elections, for the first time, they are becoming a political force to be reckoned with.

Quote of note: "The change ... is perhaps the most explosive and the most heartening development in the society." - an Indian political observer.

First, it was missile diplomacy. Now, North Korea seems to be using islands as bargaining chips. Last week, North Korea unilaterally redrew the north-south line dividing the Koreas, effectively putting five islands on its side.

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They are pro-democracy, pro-capitalism, and probably will fail miserably in the Russian elections. The lack of support for a pro-Western political coalition says a lot about how Russian voters feel about their future.

- David Clark Scott, World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB.. *BLAIR WITCH MEETS DALITS: While doing his story on Dalits, another reporter on the campaign trail suggested the Monitor's Bob Marquand speak with a noted Indian film director, Shyam Benegal. Mr. Benegal is releasing a film called "Conflict" on the "Dalit problem." His approach is similar to that of "The Blair Witch Project": He does a film about a Bombay film crew going to a village to do a documentary on violence against Dalits. Yet the real tensions on the set, as upper-caste and lower-caste actors try to portray Dalits, become the story. "You quickly find out that under the surface even sophisticated urban liberals have prejudices they aren't aware of," Benegal told Bob. Benegal offered to send Bob his own video tape of the film. Bob hopes it's the version with English subtitles due to premire in the US in Chicago on Sept. 26.

*Mr. C.S.M., I PRESUME: While reporter Michael Baker was talking to people on the island of Yonpyong, he seemed to trigger a sort of Journalist Intruder Alert. Most of the island is an off-limits military base, but he was in the civilian section. Michael was approached on four separate occasions by South Korean military officers and asked to present his papers. "They all seemed to already know who I was," says Michael. Walking past the post office, one zipped up on a motor scooter with what became a familiar set of questions: "Are you Christian Science Monitor? Let me see your identification card, please?" Michael says that "they all seemed to know everything about me and what I was doing. Yet they were 'very sorry' they couldn't answer any of my questions."

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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