Bullet-for-bullet is not
nature intended you to live
Of human rights and wrongs
Political tales from a Pak city
Akalis: Suba struggle and splits
Bullet-for-bullet is not my baby
Bullet for Bullet: My
Life as a Police Officer by Julio Ribeiro. Viking, New
Delhi. Pages 397. Rs 395.
THEY called him the "Super Cop". He regarded himself only as a "Christian cop". "Bullet for bullet" was not coined by him, but was put in his mouth by Arun Nehru when Ribeiro to his horror found that nine armed constables did not fire a single shot in self-defence or retaliation when they were fired upon and killed in a successful attempt to free Sukha Sipahi from police custody in broad day light. He decided that the police must fire in self-defence. Thus was born the phrase "bullet for bullet" and Ribeiro has cheekily owned it as the title of the book.
The course of his life was set very early when on being taken to a police station by an irate neighbour, whose window pane he had broken while practising cricket, he was let off by the kindly officer with the sage advice to play with a straight bat. He has played with a straight bat all his life.
A fourth generation Bombayite, whose father and grandfather served the Raj well, Victorian values flow in his veins. A deeply committed family man, he was free from scandals of all types and even sacrificed a chance for better prospects in favour of keeping his family integrity. A commitment to communal harmony and the Christian love for the disabled poor has kept him busy after a stint as Indian Ambassador to Romania. He is leading the mohalla committee movement and looking after the Happy Home and School for the Blind, working as chairman of the Maharashtra chapter of World Wildlife Fund and various other activities for the welfare of children and the deprived. He said no thanks to personal requests from Prime Minister Vajpayee and Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah to become Governor of Jammu & Kashmir.
Ribeiro claims to have lived by a few simple principles. "A person who is open and truthful has nothing to fear." He believes that the public is entitled to know what the police chief thinks about the law and order problem in an area. He has been among the least secretive of officers and being extremely articulate, was able to establish an easy rapport with the public and his men. "Welfare work and easy accessibility endeared him to his force. Hard work, willingness to lead from up front, a desire to carry his colleagues along, willingness to work with all and concede what was due to the other, stood him in good stead.
He never hesitated to put across his views to his bosses in a clear and unambiguous way and claims to have always benefitted from it. He directed his force through the house journal not to hesitate to open fire in case there was an attempt to harm the person or property of Sikhs in 1984. This invited the wrath of the Shiv Sena chief but no harm came to the author.
He learnt his ropes in Bombay, now Mumbai. The fact that the Police Commissioners appointment has to be cleared by the PMO during the Congress days and that the State Home Minister was an enlightened person helped him. He was largely able to insulate his command from day-to-day political interference in matters of recruitment, transfer, punishment and promotion. This was a happy combination of circumstances and personality. Senior politicians of the city, belonging to the ruling as well as opposition parties, were largely happy and were able to influence the PMO accordingly.
The crime world was largely peopled by Muslim smugglers and gang leaders. Illicit liquor, extortion, forcible ejection of tenants and occupation of government land were the other criminal activities. On top of it there were militant trade unions, communal agitation and riots to cause sleepless nights. There are also organised crimes and even though Ribeiro does not go into a politico-sociological analysis, our misplaced social and economic policies require a second think. Prohibition, economic autarky, bad rent laws and socialist tax rates have created strong vested interests in crime and hence these crime syndicates.
As regards the civil service, he is conscious of the faith the people have in the institution of district collector (deputy commissioner in the North) and always believed in keeping him on the right side even in areas where the police was headed by a commissioner. He is also mindful of the authority of the home secretary and the need for the right equation with Chief Secretary, even though he received his share of arrogant barbs from the IAS fraternity. He is totally against seeking army help in maintaining internal order.
On Punjab terrorism, in common with K.P.S. Gill, he is singularly free from any theorising. For both, it was simply a law-and-order problem which assumed a menacing proportion because of the inaction and drift of the successive Congress and Akali governments. That made the law enforcement agencies directionless, confused and demoralised. The Sukha Sipahi case was an eye-opener. An objective study the only one of the phenomenon conducted by Prof Harish Puri of G.N.D. University, Amritsar, brings out the total absence of ideological or religious motives behind militancy. As Gill points out, there was no ideological hiatus between the Akali government and the terrorists.
The role of the Congress leadership in encouraging lawlessness and Sikh extremism is well known. Ribeiro shares the general view that Operation Bluestar and the November 1984 killings of Sikhs were largely the reasons for Sikh anger, the first for its sheer insensitive planning and execution and the second for the deliberate encouragement to anti-social forces.
When Ribeiro raised the question of prosecution of the guilty in the Delhi riots, Rajiv Gandhi first ignored it, but when he persisted with it in spite of the advice of Governor S.S. Ray, he got a tongue-lashing from Rajiv who defended Sajjan Kumar, saying that Kumar was sitting by the side of the body of Indira Gandhi when the riots broke out. Ribeiro forgets that the body was purposely kept in state for three days for the benefit of TV viewers with the sound track of mobs calling for Sikh blood forming the backdrop.
He and Gill also agree that the release of hardened criminals by the Akali Government on the recommendation of Justice Bains significantly contributed to the re-emergence of terrorism. So much for the woolly-headed theoreticians of the India International Centre and Punjabiatwallahs seeking the healing of Punjabi wounds by special grants and employment schemes. Gill rightly asks if these were the causative factors, what about the rest of the poor India?
An important lesson drawn by both Ribeiro and Gill is that terrorism of this type must die after a while. Towns remained broadly violence-free. Terrorists had to depend on the rural folk for food and shelter and for whom they were supposed to be fighting. Ultimately the suffering ruralites had to do them in.
Sikhs living abroad really seek a greater recognition back home in line with their achievements abroad, and this comes in conflict with residual feudalism. Therefore, terrorism is ideologically bankrupt. Naxalism, on the other hand, was ruthlessly suppressed without anyone raising his voice. So much for the human rightswallahs.
This is a simple story told simply by a humane police officer. Circumstances made him play a role larger than probably what he had planned. With innate strength of character, he discharged his duty fairly.
Those interested in tit bits relating to bureaucratic oneupmanship can read the episode relating to Suraj Bagla. I can see an amused smile on the face of Vaishnav while obtaining Ribeiros explanation and mock seriousness with which he must have presented his report to Governor Roy. Vaishnav does not tell whether Roy laughed or was angry. Ultimately, however, on the bureaucratic scale, Bagla probably did better than Ribeiro or Vaishnav. Some commentary this on our times!
It is good that retired bureaucrats, including police officers, have started to come out with their stories of the years they spent in service. This has started providing the much-needed insight from inside. Ribeiro fulfills this purpose admirably.
Live as nature intended you to live
for Obstinate and Killer Diseases by B.L. Manocha. Arti
Publications, Jalandhar. Pages 168. Rs 60.
A PERFECT body is mans fondest desire. Only the healthy can have hope. A sick man is a burden to himself. Even on others.Without health, life is all worry. There is no peace. No pleasure. However everyone faces a question. How to stay healthy? By taking medicine everyday? No. Even all the pills cannot cure all the ills. The modern medicine undoubtedly hides a disease. But there are side-effects. Probably, these are inevitable.
As a resultant, in course of time we see a new problem. Often in a more severe form. With progress, doctors and diseases have multiplied.
And yet, in this environment of disease and depression, tension and hypertension, B.L. Manocha, a practising homoeopath, had painted some bright horizons for those suffering form obstinate and killer diseases. This book by this name gives an insight into the problems of AIDS, blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, heart, obesity and tuberculosis.
The author has given a comprehensive compendium of the causes and cures in less than 170 pages. The book is addressed to anyone who can read and write. It is dedicated to all those who are willing to help others.
On going through it, even a layman should be able to gain familiarity with the diseases that afflict modern man and the ills that threaten to kill him. The book shows the way to good health for all. It really gives a ray of hope to everyone. It tells us that medicine does not mean only ills, pills and bills. There is a definite holistic and spiritual aspect to it.
The book is in three parts. Each part has chapters or subparts. The first part is Friends and foes of good health. In the second part, it has been pointed out that even the most obstinate diseases are not irreversible. There is a cause and a corresponding cure. The hurt can be healed. In the third part, the author lays bare the gaps in the traps of various diseases. Simple remedies can take care of serious conditions. Even produce good results. In a nutshell, the intricate is made to look easy.
As you go through the pages, the totally hopeless begin to appear as less hopeless. The apparently impossible begins to seem possible. Whatever be the problem, one ends reading about it on an optimistic note. One shall not but conclude going through the book with more of hope and less of despair. And that by itself should mean a lot of good for the needy.
According to Manocha, every disease is a disturbance of the vital force a force pertaining to and necessary for life. It is a consequence of sin. When a mother does not feed her baby, she commits breach of trust. It is an interruption in the natures course. Before long, a tumour, which could be even malignant, appears in the breast.
When an abortion is induced and the foetus is destroyed, a sense of guilt ensues. It leads to ill-health.
Sexual delinquencies produce AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
Sedentary habits are the cause of obesity, diabetes, indigestion and diseases related to it.
Even wrong dietary habits do not forgive man. These habits, if not regulated in time, can cause dreadful problems like cancer, TB., stones in kidney and gall bladder, heart trouble, typhoid, obesity, gout, rheumatism, stomach ulcer, etc.. Each aberration carries a corresponding penalty.
The dreaded diseases that modern man faces are also a tragedy of civilisation. Monocha agrees that human diseases are increasing. It is so because man has distanced himself from nature. He goes on to add that the style of living environment, stress, smoking, etc. are important causative and/or aggravating factors of many diseases.
He does not hide his anger at the so-called modern way of life. According to him alcohol is a circulatory poison. He warns against smoking and says, Do not let your life end in smoke."
And then, every affliction comes first in mind and then the physical body. The stress of modern-day living is "a pyre which burns living human beings". Thus, he propounds the thesis that alcohol, stress and smoking, the fruits of progress, are also the foes of good health.
On the other hand, the doctor, diet, prayer and faith are mans friends. The doctor, despite his failings and limitations, is with us. For us. Always. Just as a gardener arranges natures forces so that she produces the finest apples, the physician-gardner arranges... natures healing ways.
It is not without reason that life expectancy of humans is now higher than before... But, the author does not hesitate to acknowledge that the vast gulf between tardy nature and impatient patient can neither be denied nor abridged. He, thus, warns against the magic cure of a quack. He advocates and pleads for patience in the treatment of every problem. Otherwise, that which is quickly suppressed shall soon reappear. With greater vigour and lesser hope.
And then, the physical is the substratum of the spiritual. The food we eat and the air we breathe have a transcendental significance. This basic truth has been very appropriately emphasised. In the introduction itself, the author says, Proper diet can pull out fifty per cent of the prospective cancer cases and seventy per cent of prospective heart trouble... He adds: Diet plays a decisive role in the upkeep of ones health... During disease certain items of food work like medicines, while some act like poison. Simple food in moderate quantity and exercise is the prescription of good health. Otherwise, sickness is a certainty.
And to combat the modern-day stress and strife, the author says with Tennyson that, More things are wrought by prayers than this world dreams of. He quotes from the Bible to say, A wrathful man stirreth up strife. Stress, soaring heart rates, release of stress hormones and blood pressure are the sequence. It leads to chest pain and poses a great risk of heart attack. This causative factor must be checked. Prayers bestow healthy dividends. He points out that by repeating prayers, words and sounds, and passively disregarding other thoughts, many people are able to trigger a set physiological changes. Mind works like a drug relieving AIDS symptoms, lowering high blood pressure and curing infertility. The disease cures itself.
Along with the efficacy of prayer, the author emphasises the importance of faith. It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. And this faith in God is the best health capsule.
Having done with the friends and foes, we come to the second part. Even obstinate problems can be solved. There are certain basics.
First, it must be remembered that a fluent discharge was natures way of throwing our morbid matter accumulated in the system. When we stop the nasal discharge, we get sinusitis. Suppressed eruptions can lead to chronic pneumonia. Can we imagine that suppressing foot sweat can lead to an uncontrollable desire to commit suicide? Suppression of itching can lead to paralysis, epilepsy and warts. The list is long. But, the remedy in the homoeopathic system is simple and almost inexpensive.
Second, the system has a scientific basis. Just as the ayurvedic system has a trinity of sections viz. vat,pitt and kuff, the homoeopathic system has... psora, sycosis and syphilis. It recognises the genetic theory. Tuberculosis in a patient would indicate syphilis in forefathers. Cancer, tumours, warts, heart troubles... come under sycosis. Skin troubles come under psora. In this system the cure means "rooting a disease out of the body. The important fact to remember is that a disease which is suppressed is a disease that is stored. Thus, the inviolable rule is no suppression.
Last, there is the third part. It is particularly devoted to the problems of tuberculosis, heart diseases, cancer, AIDS, hypertension, obesity and diabetes. The causes, broad symptoms, statistics, the dos and donts and the treatment have been graphically given. The book even mentions, though briefly, the allopathic treatment for various conditions, Even surgical procedures have been mentioned.There is complete candour. Not the slightest taint of bias against any system.
All in all, the publication is bound to be a useful addition to booksheves in every house. Its study would kindle hope even in the despairing heart. It makes us alive to the futility of tension. The evils that never happened have often cost us more. A thousand little worries upset our equanimity. Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you. Let not todays duties be burdened by tomorrows anxieties.
And, it teaches us that the ill-effects of stress and strain can be easily neutralised by faith in God and sincere prayer. And if we take care of health, we shall not have to hanker after cure.
The author has done a good job. More important is the fact that the real motive behind the book is alleviation of human suffering. Not personal gain or money. It contains a meaningful declaration. "The profits, if any, would be directly donated to the Prime Ministers relief fund with no share of the author or the publisher. Unusual and commendable.
Of human rights and wrongs
by Randeep Wadehra
HUMAN rights have a hoary history. They spring from the misery caused by oppression. Some scholars trace their genesis to the Judaic judicature wherein even slaves had their rights protected. It is unfortunate that ever since the process of the planets "shrinking" has begun, human conflict, and therefore misery, has been increasing. Slave trade in the past and the refugee problem now are only two of a myriad of manifestations of this misery.
According to media reports, the despicable slavery still exists in different parts of the world, especially Africa and Asia. In our own subcontinent the "waderas" (landlords) of Pakistan keep their farm labour in shackles despite condemnation by various human rights organisations.
The 1885 Berlin Conference forbade trading in slaves. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms are important landmarks in providing recognition to the "inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" that provides a firm foundation for "freedom, justice and peace in the world." The 1951 Refugee Convention enunciates laws that protect refugee rights.
Unfortunately, these exalted covenants and conventions have done little to protect human rights anywhere in the world. No wonder streams of humanity regularly flee their homelands to foreign climes seeking succour. Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas have their share of the conservatively estimated 50 million refugees political, economic and others. And this number is growing.
Chakraborty has done well to focus on the refugee problem. He deals in detail with laws and practices governing the status of a refugee, and how the termination of the refugee status takes place. He underscores the enormity of the problem and gives details of the various types of assistance available to refugees. He raises a pertinent question shouldnt the laws protecting refugee rights be strengthened?
An excellent book for students of social sciences.
* * *
Tribal Development by S K Gupta, V P Sharma and N K Sharda, Indus Publishing Company, New Delhi. Pages 507. Rs 700.
WHEN one contemplates the plight of tribals one cannot but recall an Urdu couplet: "Mareez-ai-ishk pay hai rahmat khuda key; Marz badhta gaya jyon jyon dawa key." Behold the divine mercy upon the lovesick; each dosage of medicine made the affliction worse.)
Truly, every effort to improve the lot of our tribal population has only worsened its predicament. There is little understanding of the special needs of these ethnic groups on the part of those responsible for framing and implementing "developmental" policies and projects.
The efforts at detribalising have resulted in large-scale misery for these hapless "guinea-pigs" of our polity. How many of those who decide the tribal fate actually have lived among them to become familiar with their social mores?
To bring about material improvement to their sad lot, one should be thoroughly aware of their productive skills, their culture and world-view. They should accordingly design developmental programmes. There is no point in playing god with the lives of our fellow human beings who, incidentally, are also the repositories of our hoary traditions and culture.
The 43 learned contributors to this book have painstakingly collected, collated and analysed data on Himachal tribals. The cultural, social and economic aspects have been discussed. Contributions of the Moravian Missionaries, who used to live among the tribals and work to improve their lot, and the role of Buddhism too have been explained.
It would have been a good idea if the scholars had associated the concerned tribals with identifying and solving their problems. After all they know where the shoe pinches.
It is imperative that "development" does not bring discontent in its wake, especially in Himachal Pradesh that shares its borders with the sensitive J&K and the diabolical dragon in the North. It is high time that developmental economics got out of the confines of ivory towers and got married to popular aspirations. Perhaps such a move would lend profundity to the concept of democracy too.
* * *
World Government and Thakur Singh Negi by M G Chitkara. APH Publishing Corpn., New Delhi. Pages xix + 339. Rs 700.
Do you believe that a person becomes a world statesman just because he has risen to the high office of Speaker of a State Legislature, after being a naval officer and civil servant en route? Do you believe that the world looks better through saffron tinted glasses, than in its natural hues? If your answer is yes, then this book is for you.
The author seems pretty involved, going by the details given in the book and his eagerness to rationalise Gandhi with reference to his subject. The prose is stilted and laboured. The book is a combination of mushy hero worship and uninspiring trivia.
To make laudatory references to ones idol is no sin. However, when we wield the pen a certain amount of restraint becomes imperative. Objectivity becomes the writers dharma.
It would be relevant here to refer to the biography of philosopher-statesman Sarvepalli Radhakrish-nan by his son S. Gopal. Despite the relationship, the author remains firmly objective while describing his subject, warts and all.
* * *
Brilliant Light by Madabusi Subramaniam. Fusion Books, New Delhi. Pages 160. Rs 195.
Now that the rage for reiki has subsided and the media hype abated, a more balanced approach to the subject is noticeable. New information on this ancient therapeutic system is being retailed. According to the author, there are three additional initiations pertaining to "karma erasal of the great causal body".
He deals with psychic surgery and other such esoteric subjects. The book is illustrated with symbols, including the ancient Hindu ones, Sanskrit mantras are translated for the benefit of the newly initiated, and various processes and positions are well explained.
I remember another book, "Reiki: Universal Life Energy" by Bodo J. Baginski and Shalila Sharmon which I had read a few months back. Perhaps you too would like to go through it. It is always better to have a second opinion on vital issues as health spiritual or physical. What?
* * *
Postscript: Urdu lovers are going to find this book useful. "Sarod-ai-Raffa" is a directory compiled by Amir Chand "Bahaar" (Publisher: Khudabaksh Oriental Library, Patna. Priced at Rs 200, US $ 10), it contains information on three hundred late Urdu poets. Their names, dates and places of birth and death have been provided.
Political tales from a Pak city
In the city by
the Sea by Kamila Shamsie. Penguin, New Delhi. Pages 213.
KAMILA SHAMSIE was born in Karachi in 1973, and this is her first novel. A truly brilliant novel which captures the feel of a town divided, oppressed and humiliated. A town where the only thing free is imagination and the only thing that can bring sanity to life is imagination.
It is about a country riven by ethnic violence which pervades everything and makes normal life dangerous. It is defined by corruption of the great which makes the entire concept of greatness illegitimate. It is oppressed by a military dictatorship which is entirely arbitrary, protective of the corrupt and dangerous for anyone who says that the government should not function only for the greater well-being of the rulers. And it is ruled by a sunken eyed General who takes pleasure in house-arresting and killing his critics. In this country, in the city by the sea, lives young Hasan who is all of 11 years old.
Hasan comes from a close knit family. His mother is an artist who also runs an art gallery. His father is one of the enlightened, modern kind of people who allow their sons and wives to think for themselves. His uncle is a political leader who heads a party which stands against corruption prevalent in the country. In the neighbourhood lives the beautiful Zehra on whom Hasan sprinkles his heart, so to say. Zehra on her part thinks Hasan to be too young, even though caring. Hasan has a suspicion that she prefers his cousin Najam whose only plus point is that he has hair growing on his chest.
Hasans quiet life is riven with guilt at not having done anything to save the boy from the neighbourhood who fell down from the roof while flying a kite. Hasan suspects that the boy was trying to impress him by getting the kite to fly higher and therefore did not pay attention to where he was stepping. Had Hasan not been there to impress, the boy would not have tried to get the kite go higher, and he would have watched his step and not fallen from the roof. Such are the serious problems with which a young man has to cope.
Living in the city by the sea, however, yields more problems. The one that comes to dominate Hasans life is the house arrest of his uncle. The arrest, the pinpricks by the government, the restrictions on the freedom of the family. They all happen in slow motion. Hasan sees how his uncle, father, neighbours and others are helpless in the face of the oppression by the government. The government also forces the closure of his mothers art gallery.
Shamsie delves deep into young Hasans mind and takes the reader back and forth from the reality of the world as it exists to the boys very own private world of fantasy. Hasans world of imagination houses his friends from another world goblins, knights, dragons and what have you! They help him out of his predicaments, clear his dilemmas and provide him with the much-needed elements of fun and adventure in a world gone dangerous.
And Hasan knows why the dangers are there. Remember, he comes from a political family. Here even a young boy is exposed to political currents, to the critiques of the government that the elders participate in. He also learns how to cock a snook at the oppressive regime without necessarily being too blatant. In a hilarious piece we have Hasan listening on to a telephonic conversation between "Uncle Farooq" who is on the other end of the line and his own beloved uncle Salman who is being detained.
Farooq simply wants to know how Salman is. Salman is warned by his wife to be careful of what is said since Farooq is known to be close to the government. Having informed Farooq that all is well, and that he is enjoying the detention, Salman launches into a long description of how he spends his time growing, braiding and maintaining his armpit hair.
Readers with too strong a sense of the proper and the improper might find this a bit difficult to take but, well, Shamsies description is very funny without being gross and tasteless.
In fact, good taste and subtlety mark the book. The political discussions are in low key. Criticism of the military regime and the lawless government is effective without being stringent. Shamsie also provides a sensitive portrayal of human relationships and explores the adolescent mind rather effectively. But best of all, she tells a story which is very enjoyable to read.
Akalis: Suba struggle and splits
Punjabi Suba Movement by Krishan Gopal Lumba. Pages 262.
The Akalis of Punjab occupy a special place in the history of regional politics in India. They are perhaps the oldest regional political formation of the subcontinent. While in most other parts of the country, regional politics became significant much after independence, the Akali party was formed during the second decade of this century. They also have the distinction of participating in the freedom struggle as a regional movement.
The Akalis are different from other regional outfits in yet another way. While most regional political parties have emerged in the framework of Centre-State relations, the political credentials of the Akalis are much broader. Apart from claiming to represent the interests of the state of Punjab in Indian politics, they also represent a religious minority, the Sikhs.
Ever since they emerged as a separate political formation during the 1920s, the Akalis have remained entangled in one or the other political issue. There has naturally been much interest about them among social scientists and historians. A substantial volume of research work has been produced on their history, ideology and politics. The two books being reviewed are a useful addition to this literature. The research work for both books was completed at Punjabi University, Patiala.
As is evident from the title of his book, Krishan Gopal Lumba looks at the dynamics of the Punjabi Suba movement. The Akalis launched the movement for reorganisation of the state of Punjab during the post-Independence period. They eventually succeeded in getting the political boundaries of the state redrawn in 1966.
However, their struggle went through many phases. The Punjabi Suba movement has arguably been the most crucial for politics in Punjab. It transformed the logic of the political process in the region. It was during the Punjabi Suba movement that different political formations took concrete form and not much has changed ever since.
It is a well-known fact that though the Akalis demanded reorganisation of the state of Punjab on linguistic lines, as was done in the rest of India, their real intentions were different. Ever since the days of the gurdwara reform movement, the Akalis had nurtured an aspiration for a separate political region for the Sikhs where they could safeguard their distinct identity. The demographic processes in the region and the history of communal politics in the state made things quite complex.
In the first two chapters of his book Loomba tries to dwell on this general context of post-independence politics in Punjab.
He tries to show as to how the "Sikh question" was closely linked to the complexities of partition politics and the anxiety of Akalis about the identity of the community. Given their peculiar demographic spread in different districts of pre-partition Punjab, the Sikh organisations were opposed to the idea of partition.
However, once partition was a reality and populations had crossed the border, things changed. The Sikhs who were spread all over Punjab without being in a majority in any single district before partition, came to constitute more than 50 per cent of the total population in the districts of "central" Punjab after partition. The Sikh leadership saw in this an opportunity to fulfil their old aspiration of having a Sikh-majority state.
The important point that Loomba makes in his study is his emphasis on the problems that were created by the "mistrust" that the national leadership towards the people of Punjab in general and the Akalis and the Sikhs in particularly. Loomba quotes from a Lok Sabha debate where Nehru, speaking against the demand for the Punjabi Suba, had said, "...Punjabis have many virtues, but yet they are a very quarrelsome people".
Further, the proximity of Punjabs boundary to Pakistan discouraged the Central Government from dividing Punjab further.
Perhaps the most important factor that worked against the reorganisation of Punjab on linguistic lines was the communal divide in the state. It was not only that the Akalis and rightwing Hindu organisations which had opposite views on the question, even the Congress was divided on communal lines. Most of the Sikh members in the party supported the demand for the Punjabi Suba while the Hindus opposed it.
* * *
While Loomba looks at the relation of the Akalis with other political formations, Kuldeep Kaurs study of "splits and merges" explores the internal dynamics of Akali politics.
Splits and mergers have been common to all major national and regional parties in India. The Akali Dal has split several times since 1962 and the estranged factions have managed to merge many times, Kuldeep attempts to "identify the key determinants which led to these splits and mergers". Such an investigation, she argues, could help us "develop a holistic view of the nature of Akali politics".
The first conclusion of her study is that Akali leaders decide about unity in their ranks or splitting the party on the basis of their "political egos". The race for ascendancy in the organisation remained the constant factor in the Akali Dal, whereas the prospects of state power brought the warring factions together.
Another interesting point she makes (which is also evident in Loombas study of the Punjabi Suba movement) is about the role the ruling party at the Centre (the Congress) played in accentuating factional fights in Akali politics leading to splits.
She goes to the extent of asserting that "since the division in the Akali ranks has always been advantageous to the Congress, its central leadership made full use of all the resources at its command to encourage fissures in Akali Dal".
Further, she points out that caste played an important role in the Akalis split in 1962. However, other sociological factors such as region and ideological differences have not been very important in the splits or merges.
Though Kuldeep Kaur begins with a question that could have much wider implications for understanding contemporary Indian politics, her treatment of the question remains purely descriptive. She hesitates to draw conclusions from her study, which could have broader implications.
Also, in terms of their publication quality and editing, the books leave much to be desired. This is particularly the case with Loombas book. There seems to have been virtually no professional editing of the book before it went for the final print.
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