The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, June 17, 2001

When Gandhi fought the revolutionaries
Review by Ivninderpal Singh

Poet as the soul of a nation
Review by M. L. Raina

Educated mother and civilised society
Review by Ashu Pasricha

A philosopher politician’s prescriptions
Review by Rumina Sethi

The brave and their battle accounts
Review by Bimal Bhatia

Looming danger of globalisation
Review by Jai Narain Sharma

Write View
Review by Randeep Wadehra




When Gandhi fought the revolutionaries
Review by Ivninderpal Singh

Gandhi’s Encounter with the Indian Revolutionaries

by Rama Hari Shankar. Siddharth Publications, New Delhi. Pages xi+232. Rs 295

THE Indian national movement was the product of the clash of interests of the colonial power with the Indian people. And this antagonism led to a prolonged struggle against the colonial rule. Along with the anti-colonial view, certain other ideological elements such as revolutionaries differed on the relationship between means and ends. Gandhi says, "Means may be compared with the seed, ends with the tree; the same unbreakable connection exists between means and ends as that between seed and tree."

Gandhi rejects violent means for achieving a goal, whether individual or collective, and says that morality is necessary for achieving the right goal. But the revolutionaries believed that the "ends" justified the "means". So they were ready to adopt any method to throw civil libertarian political order and bring in an economic order based on principles of social equality. This constituted the broad socio-economic-political vision of the Indian national movement.

To get rid of the British, two schools of thought were prevalent. One was represented by Mahatma Gandhi and the other by the revolutionaries. And these two opinions to attain freedom were also antagonistic. Gandhi advocated that it is only through "good" means that lasting peace and progress can be attained and thus saw truth as the end and nonviolence as the way. The revolutionaries, however, held that any method, including violence, could be adopted to achieve the aim of throwing the British out from their motherland.

Another difference between the two thoughts was that Gandhi believed in the destruction of evil and not the evil-doer while the revolutionaries believed in eliminating both.

In this book the author has tried to explain how Gandhi influenced the thoughts of revolutionaries and to what extent the latter supported Gandhi in his plans to attain freedom. The volume starts with the revolutionary activities in India before 1915 –that is, the year Gandhi came to India from South Africa.

The revolutionaries aspired to reconstruct a society based on justice as they could not tolerate the way British were the way Britishers were playing with the Indian social, economic and political system. They believed that a revolution was necessary to end the oppression and exploitation of the masses.

As a result many secret societies were formed. Thee revolutionary ideology was to assassinate unpopular officials, thus creating terror in the hearts of rulers and arouse people to liquidate the British physically. It was based on individual heroic actions on the lines of Irish nationalists or Russian Nihilists and not a mass-based countrywide struggle.

Gandhi returned to his motherland with new ideas based on truth and non-violence, which he had already tried during his stay South Africa. resistance of It is the resistance of evil by its opposite — by good"". Gandhi believed that evil can be destroyed only by good, just as fire can be extinguished only by water, not by fire. Fighting evil by evil multiplies evil. He gave the name "satyagraha"eaning, truth force born of non-violence, to the path which he wanted to adopt to free India from colonial rule.

Gandhi explained the term "satyagraha" from various viewpoints. Satyagraha is not a weapon of the weak, the coward, the unarmed and the helpless. It is a weapon of the morally vigilant and active. As Simone Panter significantly puts it, "Gandhi’s satyagraha rejects violence but not fighting; it is a war without violence." Gandhi says, "Satyagraha is not evil. So satyagraha is a fight between opposite forces and not between similar ones.

After coming back to India, Gandhi decided not to take any position on any political matter for at least one year. He toured the entire country to know the condition of the masses and their attitude towards foreign rule. During 1917 and 1918, Gandhi tried his way of working in three struggles — in Champaran (first civil disobedience as he defied official orders), in Allahabad (first non-cooperation) and in Kheda (first hunger strike). Gandhi tried to supplement the above three techniques with the momentum gained through his constructive programmes.

Thus there were fundamental differences between the ideologies of Gandhi and the revolutionaries. But one thing was common. The author says, "Both believed in inflicting injury on oneself for promoting their cause. The revolutionaries believed in sacrificing their life after harming the enemy but Gandhi believed in bringing about a change of heart in the opponent by self-suffering."

Gandhi, after his experiments at Champaran, Allahabad and Kheda, decided to launch the first mass movement in 1920. The Rowlatt Act, the Jallianwala Bagh la Bagh massacre and martial law in Punjab belied all war-time promises of the British. Muslims were also not happy with the British because of the Treaty of Severs, signed with Turkey in 1920, as it signified the completion of dismemberment of the Turkish Empire. So the Muslim League decided to give full support to the Congress and its agitation on political questions. Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement on August 1, 1920.

Under the persuasion of Gandhi and C.R. Das many revolutionaries and secret societies either agreed to join the non-cooperation programme or suspended their activities to give the nonviolent non-cooperation movement a chance. The author has also given a list of revolutionaries who attended the Congress sessions held in 1920. The list of prominent revolutionaries who participated in the non-cooperation movement and their mode of participation has also been given.

On February 1, 1922, Gandhi threatened to launch the civil-disobedience from Bardoli(Gujarat). But the movement had hardly begun before it was brought to an abrupt end. The nonviolent non-cooperation movement turned violent at Chauri Chaura in Gorakhpur district of UP, killing 22 police personnel. After this ur district of UP, killing 22 police personnel. After this ter this and Gandhi decided to withdraw the movement.

But the sudden withdrawal of non-cooperation movement left many revolutionaries disillusioned. They began to question the very basic strategy of nationalist leadership and its emphasis on non-violence and began to look for alternatives. The revolutionary activity in Punjab,UP and Bihar was dominated by the HRA(Hindustan Republican Association) which was later renamed as HSRA(Hindustan Socialist Republican Association). In Bengal too, the revolutionaries started organising themselves. Surya Sen organised an armed rebellion at Chittagong. He hoisted the national flag, took the salute and proclaimed a provisional government. Gandhi kept up his campaign by breaking the salt law in 1930 but this time he did not have the active support of revolutionaries.

Though Gandhi referred to revolutionaries as an unorganised violent force but by this time the latter had improved and their ideology matured.

So, during the period from 1915 to 1935, the revolutionaries and Gandhi failed to convince each other. Though both came close during the non-cooperation movement, its sudden withdrawal created an doubt in the revolutionary movement. Sen was arrested in 1933 and hanged in January, 1934.

Gandhi, after the withdrawal of the movement, resolved to get down to constructive work to prepare the masses for the next nonviolent mass movement. Gandhi started civil disobedier 1928, both were carrying their struggle against the British, thus refuting Gandhi’s claim that these two ideologies were antagonistic and couldn’t go together.

Overall, the author has been successful in exploring Gandhi’s relationship with the revolutionaries and to what extent they were influenced by Gandhi. But the author does not discuss Gandhi’s reaction to the change in the ideology of the Congress and revolutionaries after the concept of socialism caught the fancy of many revolutionaries lowering the insurmountable barrier between the two. The author writes, "Though Gandhi claimed that many revolutionaries had been converted to his faith, the known converts on whom the Gandhian philosophy had an impact were not too many according to available sources." The author provides understanding of the two parallel schools of thought which contributed to freeing India from the clutches of the British.



Poet as the soul of a nation
Review by M. L. Raina

The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai. Translated from Hebrew

by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell. University of California Press, Berkeley. Pages xiv+196. $15.95.

"When a writer puts his hand on his heart in an act of real passion… he feels his pen in his pocket."

— Yehuda Amichaii

"His poems are our slang, our popular wisdom." — Ariel Hirschfieldd

I have often wondered at the power of poetry to shake us into recognising the unfamiliar and the ineffable Kafka believed that great literature thaws the frozen seas inside us and Emily Dickinson felt that it blows your top off. These are experiences the Literwary critic toffs do not admit to themselves because most of their responses are sicklied over with the thick cast of ideology and other non-literary baggage.

I am not denying the role of context — ideological, political, etc. — but I have always recognised what Christopher Ricks calls the force of poetry to alter our attitudes to ourselves and the world much before we find rational explanations for those attitudes. How else can I account for the effectiveness of lines such as "the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart" or r bazeechaye itfal hai duniya merey agay or jo shikasta ho to aziztar hai nigahey aina asaz mein and many more? I say this without fear of being hailed by the cerebruses who guard the politically correct portals of literary discourse today.

To me a writer endures when his/her idiom seeps into everyday parlance (even in translation) and becomes a resource in collective wisdom. When we use Ghalib, Iqbal, Yeats or Baudelaire to make sense of ourselves and the world around us, we concede the power of their words, no matter how much against the grain of our conscious beliefs they go. I admire Brecht’s ideological mission but find his political poems a tangle of doggerel. I detest the politics of Yeats and Iqbal, but recite their poems at the slightest provocation. And I am not alone. Literary critic cabals are incapable of explaining this contradiction.

It is not surprising, then, that the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, invited Yehuda Amichai to recite his poem "Wildpeace" in Stockholm at the 1994 ceremony honouring Rabin and Arafat as Nobel laureates Or that bereaved mothers recited his poems at the graveyards of their dead sons. Or fighting soldiers carried his poems to the war front much in the manner in which Wilfred Owen and Herbert Read would carry Shakespeare into World War I trenches (Amichai himself discovered his mentors, Eliot and Auden, on the front during World War .)

Though personally disclaiming any appellation of "national poet " of Israel, he remains the conscience of his people in a manner in which Yeats sought to be the conscience of his people but failed. His poems have become proverbs and entered the literary consciousness of the present generation of Israelis. When he died last year at the age of 76, Israel declared national mourning. To adapt Auden on Yeats, Amichai finally became his poems.

Not a political poet even in the restricted sense of Auden, Amichai’s poetry exhibits a politically unspecified general protest against war and idealises the worth of the individual. Quarrying for himself a sense in the darkness of our times and his personal confusions, his work is a life-long effort to live without the consolations of God or authority. In this sense he is very much a modern poet facing the imponderables of the times. The people who populate his poetry and the cities and landscapes in which they move exist between the real and the metaphysical—angels in the guise of rabbis and God himself facing mortals.

He deals with weighty subjects: God, loss, and the future of nations. His lyric "I" is derived as much from his life experiences in the present, such as exile and loss of his beloved, as from the anchorage of tradition and legend. This is why he appeals across the narrow frontiers of Israel, even to those who are not bred in the Jewish traditions in which he is. He appeals across frontiers because he speaks for our predicaments in the accents of his own language and idiom. Without being preachy, he speaks to us in dialogue, resisting prophetic urges of all kinds.

But he is not loved for these qualities alone. He is loved because his weighty concerns are brought out in a language that is slangy and earth-bound, with an eye for comic detail and elevating the commonplace to the mythic metaphor. Although he mines the Bible for his imagery, he introduces 20th century terminology — airplanes, fuel trucks and administrative argot into his austere Hebrew diction, just as Auden did in his early poems. He taps the deepest currents of his society in a way that is simultaneously high literature and the expression of the common anxieties and hopes of our time..

As Auden’s acolyte, Amichai cuts across linguistic decorum to make his statement. He calls his mother "an old windmill/two hands always raised to steer at the sky/and two descending to make sandwiches". He sees teen-aged conscripts looking out of their coaches "as faded postage stamps" and house-sheets hanging from Jerusalem apartment windows as "flags of contending tribes". At one point, I was reminded of fellow Kashmiri poet Nadim’s comparison of the moon with a chapati, a faded rupee coin.

Amichai’s characteristic qualities are exhibited at their best in the poem cycle "The travails of the last Benjamin at Tudela". Like Wordsworth’s "Prelude", this epic cycle concerns the poet’s inner journey towards self- recognition, but involves both the memory of the 12th century mystic Benjamin and his modern day counterparts. The poem balances on a seesaw-like alteration between time and memory, celebration and sacrifice, the sacred exaltation of the classical Hebrew and the colloquial profanity the spoken language.

Yehuda Amichai’s fascination to his readers lies in his love poetry. Though most of his love poems were written for his second wife Hana Sokolov, there is no single heroine, no Eurydice to whom life-long fidelity is vouchsafed. Yet love appears pervasively, revealing a consistency which has moved through the structured verse of the earlier period up to 1948 to the less tersely conceived poems of the later period. Again, love is not an abstract ideal, but alters within varying contexts of war, youth, maturity, memory and, particularly, religion. For him love is at once an exciting event and a sticky business.

In an early poem "God has pity on kindergarten children" he pleads for God’s mercy on lovers in their frail ordinariness: "But perhaps he will watch over true lovers/have mercy on them and shelter them/ like a tree over an old man/ sleeping on a public bench". Here again the exaltation of erotic feeling (apart from desire) is brought under the rubric of a common scene like an old man taking shelter under a tree.

In a short later poem, "forgetting someone", the confusions of love are felt in ordinary ways: "Forgetting some one/is like forgetting to turn off the light in the backyard/ so it stays lit all the next day/But then it is the light/that makes you remember". This juxtaposition of sublime feeling and banal expression would be the signature of Amichai’s love poems, retaining them in the sphere of the mundane and the apprehensible.

Love fulfils another function, apart from the usual erotic and intimate usage:: it fills a void in the absence of God. It represents a human agency able to restore a form of grace to the lover but, nevertheless, remains elusive and almost impalpable: "how do you say to love in the dialect of water? / In the language of earth, what part of speech are we?" John Donne, a possible exemplar, asked similar questions but not with the same mixture of wit and feeling as is to be found in Amichai.

The search for an unrealisable ideal informs the love poetry with a restless and agonised eroticism, remembered and evoked. Donne would not go that far, caught as he was within the agony of the twin claims of religion and sexuality. The overall concern of Amichai’s love poetry is the dreadful inability of sexual love to prevail under the dominating concreteness of everyday trivial objects. The poem "Farewell" presents this contrast in terms of the insubstantiality of words and the concreteness of objects and bodies.

Like all Israeli writers, Amichai celebrates Jerusalem, the holy city and the fetid metropolis with all its flaws. Yitzhak Shalev hails the city as "my ancient city…/my childhood veined in you like veins in ivory". Hayim Hazaz opens his novel "Mori Sa’id"(1956) with these words: "More than all other cities Jerusalem was assembled from the whole wide world; it is like the printed page of all seventy nations and seventy tongues". Amichai’s poetry of Jerusalem not merely captures its sights and sounds, its pretty views and holy places. For him, as for other writers, the city personifies a vital link in the drama of Jewish history. It is less a location than a force of events.

In "Jerusalem 1967" the poet sums up the spirit of his city; "The city plays hide-and seek among her names/…she weeps with longing…/she comes to any man who calls her/at night, alone. / But we know/who comes to whom". Further in the same poem: "Jerusalem stone is the only stone/that can feel pain. It has a network of nerves. /From time to time Jerusalem crowds into/mass protests like the tower of Babel…/Afterwards the city disperses, muttering prayers of complaints and sporadic screams…" The city has a life all its own. Only Victor Hugo in "Les Miserables" evokes Paris in the same spirit of joy and terror, particularly in scenes where Javert is hunting the revolutionary crowds into the city’s sewers.

Amichai sees his city both from inside and outside, balancing tenderness, irony and occasional anger. A home to this refugee from Germany, Jerusalem does not present itself as a symbol of any religious faith. The city belongs solely and simultaneously to God and its inhabitants of diverse cultural backgrounds. There is a curious relationship between the poet and his city, partly the result of its centrality to Israeli (and Arab) identity and partly to its status as a place where God and man live side by side.

Interestingly he addresses the city as a woman since it displays to him the stereotypical qualities associated with women—fickleness, vanity and self-indulgence. Since the feminine in Amichai is mysterious and capricious, the city acquires a distant aura through which he can explore its paradoxes and incompatibilities.

In "Ecology of Jerusalem" he says, "the air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams/it is hard to breathe" .In "Tourists" the Roman arches of the city are dwarfed in the sight of old people "buying vegetables". The juxtaposition of the familiar with the startling is true of the city. In "The hand of God in the world" the hand of God is compared to the hand of his mother "inside the chicken". In the auratic vision of the city the mystical, the real and the surreal hardly impede each other.

Though not an overtly political poet, Amichai’s poem "Wildpeace" speaks of peace as a sheer necessity. Now that the strongman from Pakistan will be with us, it is not being overzealous to hope with Amichai; "Let it come/like wild flowers, suddenly/because the field must have it, wildpeace".



Educated mother and civilised society
Review by Ashu Pasricha

Women’s Education in India by S.P. Agrawal.

Concept Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 396. Rs 600.

IN the land of Saraswati, where learning is embodied as a goddess. women were traditionally forbidden to read the scriptures.

The position of women in India represents a paradox. On the one hand, women are visible in positions of power and prestige. On the other, many women are illiterate, powerless and vulnerable.

The book "Women’s Education In India" by S. P. Agrawal, a noted social scientist, examines the factors that act as barriers to women in India with regard to education prevent them from achieving equality of status and opportunity — rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution. The issues involved in access to and the practices and pattern of the educational system which reflect the social values are related to the socio-cultural norms dictating woman’s role in the family and society, female ideology in terms of status, and society’s stage of economic development.

Inequality in women’s position is twofold. Inequality in socio-economic terms is not by any means unique to India or the Third World countries, but its scope is more pervasive in poor countries. The small group of women who have university degrees form about 3 per cent of the female population. They are part of the urban middle class and are the elite for whom education and modernisation are generating new options. Their lives are in no way similar to those of the masses of illiterate women whose basic concern is survival.

Inequality in the status of men and women is also universal. Sexual stratification is a complex phenomenon, and while some women of some sections of society are better off than men of other sections, the salient feature is that in each section women are underprivileged in the social, economic and political spheres. The question with regard to human rights is: are women from all sections of society more disadvantaged than the men of those sections? The impact of inequality is magnified in the case of women of poorer socio-economic groups. In India the situation is more complex because of urban-rural disparities, as well as regional, religious and cultural differences. To the extent that women in India suffer from the disadvantages or repression attached to their gender and class they are victims of what can be called the multiple negative and, therefore, are vulnerable to both vertical (class) and horizontal (gender) oppression.

There is no question that human rights must focus first on basic rights for all — male and female — in terms of food, shelter and clothing. The economic aspect must precede equality of distribution because socialism is not distribution of poverty: and equal opportunity is meaningless if it means equal deprivation.

When women are excluded from participation in any sphere of activity on the basis of their gender, it is sexism. Sometimes discrimination is overt, but in the face of equality legislation and ideology, it tends to acquire covert forms, for example by denying opportunities through the imposition of social restrictions. Some high caste women do not face many problems in society and may not see themselves as being unfairly treated. Many others are not aware of their rights and do not perceive discrimination because they have learnt to accept differential treatment without question. For the majority, economic needs are so overriding that discrimination does not seem important.

Education is known to bring greater confidence, but to the vast majority of women who are subjected to unequal opportunity in the educational process, fighting for rights is as distant as is equality in status. The educated minority has improved its social position in the present structure, not changed it. So women continue to fulfil their traditional roles, and take on additional occupational role. It follows, therefore, that they should opt in such large numbers to be teachers, because teaching, particularly at the lower levels, is an extension of their traditional roles. Crossing the frontier by taking up paid employment did not violate woman’s traditional image; rather it was a happy compromise of the domestic and occupational spheres.

The position of Indian women is generally believed to have shifted dramatically through the ages. In the Vedic times they are said to have had considerable freedom. But their condition deteriorated over time and they were worse off on the eve of the colonial era. During the greater part of British rule, they continued to be subjected to many disabilities that had been their scourage.

But thanks to social reforms in the 19th and 20th centuries, men and also some women achieved success in questioning and eradicating some social customs which debilitated women. The education of women was given priority as the most significant instrument for uplift them from their subjugated position.

A dramatic change in women’s status came about when Gandhi underscored the importance of women’s participation in the civil disobedience movement, and women from various sections in urban and rural areas responded to the call to fight for independence.

Nehru wholeheartedly supported women’s involvement in the freedom movement and believed that "In a national war, there is no question of either sex or community". The impetus for women’s education was given great emphasis in the wake of the social and economic reconstruction initiated after independence.

In modern India the demand for independence and the adoption of fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution (1949) were based on the belief that democracy cannot be established unless certain rights are assured to all citizens and that guaranteeing these rights would be meaningless unless inequality is banished and each individual is assured of equality of status and opportunity. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution mentions essential individual rights reflecting the spirit of Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration:"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

The question in terms of education and human rights for women is: given the rapid expansion of the educational system in India since Independence, do women from all sections have equal opportunities as compared to men? Equality of opportunity is a complex concept and is related to access to and practices in the formal system, as also to outcomes such as the social and economic results of education.

Evidence suggests that far-reaching changes in women’s position have taken place since independence and some gains have been made by women, particularly in higher education, inequality in the education of women is pervasive and substantially disparate in terms of access, survival, sex-differentiation, and social and economic outcome. In India today, as is universal, women still have a lower status in society than men, less women are literate, they are less educated and are concentrated in female fields of study which restrict their economic opportunities.

The present publication is in continuation of the First and Second Surveys of Development of Women’s Education entitled "Women’s Education in India: A Historical Review, Present Status, Perspective Plan with Statistical Indicators" covering the period upto 1986-87, and "Second Historical Survey of Women’s Education in India, 1988-1994" respectively.

This volume spanning the period from 1995 to 1998 is a step forward in the direction of documenting women’s education. It provides an overview of the state of women’s education in India since 1995 in all aspects, particularly empowering women through Mahila Samakhya Programme which is directed to create a learning environment where women can collectively affirm their potential gain, the strength to demand information and knowledge and move forward to change and take charge of their lives. It also provides information regarding the empowerment of women and development of children as made out by the ninth five year Plan (1997-2000) under chapter three" Human and Social Development". It also includes the report of the National Commission for Women on the development of female education among tribal communities.

The other special feature of this publication is the global view of women’s education highlighting the measures taken by the United Nations in reducing illiteracy and achieving universal education and the full integration of women in society on equal terms with men and empowering them in a way what may end their marginalisation within the family, the workplace and public life.

This part also presents the "Declaration" and the "Platform For Action" as adopted at the fourth UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China, from September 4 to 15, 1995. It has also discussed science and technology education among women whose participation in programmes of science and technology is marginal. Appendices include, among others, the Final Draft of the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, Mass Media and Women, Factfile 1952-1997 relating to women in politics in India, and National Perspective Plan for Women 1988-2000 A D.

This volume will be of great interest and value to all those who are interested in the development of girls’ and women’s education at various levels.



A philosopher politician’s prescriptions
Review by Rumina Sethi

Letters to Olga

by Vaclav Havel and translated by Paul Wilson. Faber and Faber,

London. Pages 397. £ 27.50.

HE was an obese child but also a millionaire who inherited his architect grandfather’s assets. For this reason he always felt uncomfortable in class, and ever since in the world. Recalling his childhood, he wrote to his wife Olga: "I’m always running along (like that well-fed piglet) a short distance behind my marching classmates, trying to catch up and take my place with the others as a fully fledged and equal member of that moving body, and that I am powerless to do otherwise." Vaclav Havel has run a long way from being a dissident political essayist, human-rights activist and a prisoner of the Soviet-backed regime to becoming the President of the Czech Republic after the Communist party leadership stepped down in 1989.

This saviour of his country is not only a political leader but one of the foremost playwrights and poets in the country, who has used his writings to undermine oppression of the socialist bureaucracies and the Communist government through the use of satire, irony and spoof, and stressed the importance of communication. Havel’s writings and leadership have helped inspire the massive public demonstrations that resulted in the end of Communist rule in the country. He was recently honoured by the University of Oxford for his active contribution to restoring public confidence and re-establishing freedom and justice.

Born in Prague, Havel received extensive praise as a playwright during the 1960s with works such as "Zahradni Slavnost" (The garden party, 1963) and "Vyrozumeni" (The memorandum, 1965), hilarious allegories of life under Communism. After he condemned the Soviet offensive in Czechoslovakia in 1968, his plays were banned in his country. Regardless of frequent persecution and imprisonment, he continued to address the central issue of human rights. He was chosen President in December, 1989, after helping instigate the huge civil demonstrations that resulted in the collapse of the country’s Communist regime. In the spring of 1992, economic inconsistency led to a new dialogue between the Czechs and the Slovaks. These negotiations resulted in the resolution to create two republics, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Havel resigned as President of Czechoslovakia on July 2, 1992, but a public opinion poll taken that autumn confirmed that more than half of the Czech people backed a new Havel presidency. He was elected President of the new Czech Republic in January, 1993. In January, 1997, he married his second wife Dagmar Veskrnova, his first wife Olga died in 1996.

"Letters to Olga" offers a rare insight into Havel’s public and academic persona. He admits to never feeling any dichotomy between his intellectual and political concerns. The eloquent synthesis between the two has been the refrain in his writings throughout. When he addressed students and faculty at Oxford in 1998 where he was conferred the degree of doctor of civil law, his speech resonated with the sentiments of one of his letters to Olga written from prison in which he says: "Only by throwing himself over and over again into the tumult of the world, with the intention of making his voice count - only thus does one really become a person." The ability and vision to be active politically must be integral to the role of the intellectual and never before has politics "had a greater need for people who recognise, understand, and in one way or another, experience the universal interconnections". The enlightened politician is one who can rise above his own power interests to act in accordance with the interests of today’s humanity. The true art of politics is to win support for a good cause even if it contradicts one’s own interests.

Havel advances the idea that the individual has two options: either he can hold a political office responsibly or through his writings hold up a mirror to those in authority. Such intellectuals have the capability of perceiving things in a broader context and attempt to build a connective tissue between the subtexts of events, causes and effects so as to reach a deeper awareness and a sense of responsibility for the world.

These reams of kind and affectionate letters to Olga have a refreshing lack of anecdotage. This near-autobiographical writing, on the other hand, epitomises the tragedy of Czechoslovakia as well as the indomitable will to fight back a system that throws to the wind all respect for human dignity. Havel has scrupulously chartered the course of his life through his letters, plays and political essays emphasising the ordeal of his fellow beings, recording dispassionately the inhumanity and degradation to which the state machinery succumbs, and theorising on the exploitation of the down-trodden. Though going through someone’s letters is inevitably voyeuristic, they do help us to understand his public statements about his art in a more meaningful way than a biographical revelation.

The letters, intense, concentrated, confessional, yet playful and funny like his many plays, were written between 1979 and 1983 when he was incarcerated for his participation in demonstrations and meetings for the defence of all those prosecuted irrationally. This non-conformism and anti-establishment stance is paramount to the understanding of Havel’s theory of writing which he strongly regards as an absolutely social and political phenomenon in the midst of the absurd society we live in. Personal disintegration and desire for integrity are his main concerns, illustrated in his trilogy "Vanek "consisting of "Audience", "Private View "and "Protest", as well as Largo "Desolato" and "Temptation" (a modern version of "Faust").

Havel’s protagonists are always fittingly in disagreement with the powers that be, standing against not only all political pressures but also those intellectuals who are coopted by the high handed regime and have come to a truce with it.

Havel’s heightened sense of order speaks to us through his letters where he talks about his recognition of the absurdity of life; like Kafka’s, it is an intensely personal and existential evocation of experience which forms the praxis behind his theory of writing. This is how he felt and this is how he writes about "how things get out of control, fall apart, or, on the contrary, evolve to the point of absurdity, how human existence tends to get lost in the mechanised contexts of life, how easily absurdity becomes legitimate". It is here that he comes to grips with the power of ideologies that establish hegemonic make-believe worlds so complacently followed by the subaltern; reality and illusion become one and those who are subjugated become actors in the entire drama of dispossession and exploitation. The power of powerlessness aided by the ideological state apparatus enabled the interior life of socialism in Eastern Europe to flourish according to the totalitarian strategies of the bureaucratic state. Havel’s letters, by exposing the desire of the rulers to simply combat radicalism and erase all subversive ideas from living memory, keeps the notion of subversion warm.

Such is the responsibility with which Vaclav Havel writes to his dead wife, always wanting to give his sincere views on the meaning of life and on the nature of responsibility that each one of us must possess whenever questions of human rights come up. These letters are written with exactness and vibrancy, secular in attitude and often forceful in voicing his concern with "life-in-truth" that possibly can lead to the recasting of civilisation’s self-understanding. "Dissent" for him is a positive human experience "at the very ramparts of dehumanised power". The personal thereby becomes the public and vice versa. And thus he feels that there can be an answer to the human problem that has recently been consciously subverted by post-modernist ideas of endism and scepticism. His answer does not contain a final remedy or conclusion but rather an awareness of anonymous impersonal and inhuman powers that need to be understood and opposed.



The brave and their battle accounts
Review by Bimal Bhatia

The Rajputana Rifles

by VK Shrivastava. Lancer Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi. Pages 128. Rs 995.

SOLDIERS unflinchingly lay down their lives in battle more to uplift their regiment’s traditions than for their own honour. Such is the stuff that makes up the regimental system. For the sake of the regiment the men can go to any length: put in that extra bit to win a sports competition, a cross country race, a rifle-shooting contest, a drill competition, or to vanquish the enemy in battle even at the cost of losing one’s life.

The regimental system is unique to the Indian Army and signifies the professional elan and pride of a group of battalions flying the same flag and colours. Although other arms like the regiment of artillery and the armoured corps and engineers have regimental traditions, the sense of kinship is most heightened in the case of infantry.

Like all elite infantry regiments, the Rajputana Rifles is justifiably proud of its glorious past, long list of battle honours, continuing traditions of valour, acts of supreme sacrifice numerous gallantry awards, and a high sense of camaraderie that bonds its officers and men (what soldiers are called).

This coffee table book is the work of Major Gen Shrivastava and his team which helped in the research. Photo credits go to Ajay Sharma with contributions coming from the regimental centre, battalions, and serving and retired officers of the regiment which has produced an army chief, Gen PN Thapar.

You can course through the early history of this regiment — its origin dates back to the days of the East India Company when, in the late 17th century, Rajputs were first enrolled to protect the trading establishments of the Company. The process of raising the Company’s troops remained cautious and slow till about the mid-18th century. To ward off the Maratha threat, Bombay Council raised 5th and 6th battalions of the Bombay Sepoys in January, 1775, the first of these went on to become I Rajputana Rifles (Wellesley’s) — the senior most regiment of the oldest rifle regiment in the Indian Army today.

Captain JA Wood of 2 Raj Rif (Rajputana Rifles) was awarded Victoria Cross for his bravery while storming the Reshire Fort, and became the first ever recipient of this coveted award in the Indian Army. In the same action Subedar Major Mohammad Sharief and Sepoy Peer Bhatt of the same unit became the first ever Indians to be recommended for the VC. It was denied to them because the award was not open to Indian soldiers then. The discerning reader is left wanting to know something or anything about what the action of storming the Reshire Fort was all about.

This regiment in steeped in history. In the Second Afghan War (1878-1880) 1 Raj Rif (Wellesley’s) marched 145 miles in five days from Quetta to lay siege on Kandahar. Forming part of the British Expeditionary Force that sailed off to quell the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900-1902) was 3 Raj Rif. During the First World War battalions of the regiment trooped to glory in France, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

The outbreak of the World War II and its spread beyond Europe into North Africa, and still closer to Burma led to large-scale expansion and new raisings in the Indian Army. Without conscription 2.5 million men came into uniform. For the Rajputana Rifles it meant the raising of ten new battalions and a host of other minor units.

Moved to Suez just before the war, 1 Raj Rif saw action at Sidi Barrani and Keren as part of Wavell’s force that advanced into Libya, withstood the onslaught of Rommel’s offensive, and then fought with the victorious Eighth Army till the battle of Cassino in Italy.

In the battle of Keren, Subedar Richpal Ram of 4 Raj Rif was posthumously awarded VC — the first VC of the war for the Regiment — for his inspiring leadership and undying courage. The battalion was then pulled out for a short stint in Syria and returned to the deserts of north Africa to earn yet another VC. This time it was Company Havildar Major Chhelu Ram who, despite his severe wounds, displayed grit and determination to script a victory at Djebel Garci in Tunisia.

A portrait of the late Chhelu Ram’s wife and son (possibly three or four years old) is remarkable for the dignity it exudes. The little lad with the famous Rajput turban and his father’s VC pinned on his sherwani holds a cane, and his fiery eyes tell it all while his mother’s sad but equally dignified look gets you from within. She’s been just a young bride, you can tell. Completing the picture is a middle-aged man — possibly Chhelu Ram’s father, and it is here that you lament the lack of detail in building up the human interest — personifying the ultimate in human poise. Now, in so many years gone by, Chhelu Ram’s son (past middle age) and mother (now wrinkled) are photographed alongside their own earlier portrait — same cane in hand, same cross pinned on the chest.

You can be sure that this is a decorated regiment, whether it was the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war in J&K where Company Havildar Major Piru Singh won the Param Vir Chakra, or the 1965 and 1971 wars. Six battalions of the regiment have won battle honours: in Ledigali and Darapari (both in J&K), Charwa (Sialkot sector), Asal Uttar, Myanmati (erstwhile East Pakistan) and Basantar.

In the Kargil war which still fresh in our memories, Tololing was recaptured in a multi-directional attack by 2 Raj Rif. Leading his troops through heavy artillery fire on to an objective over 15,000 feet, Major Vivek Gupta engaged the Pakistanis in a hand-to-hand fight. As he fell, he gave his last command: "Do not leave the top at any cost." Captain Kenguruse, leading a select band of men, clawed his way up the most difficult rock face to achieve surprise. Enemy fire caught him as soon as he hoisted himself over the rock. His dead body was found without boots - he had removed them under enemy fire and freezing temperaturs for a better foothold to climb. Both these officers were awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously. In all, this unit bagged four MVCs, seven Vir Chakras. Departing from precedence, the army chief awarded a "Unit Citation" to this battalion on the spot - the first unit of the Indian Army to be so honoured.

In the Turtuk sector 11 Raj Rif captured Point 5590, and in the process became the proud recipient of the "Unit Citation" for the second time.

The first Territorial Army (TA) battalion of the Indian Army was affiliated to the Rajputana Rifles in 1949. Some of the civil dignitaries who served in the TA unit were Brigadier KP Singh Deo, a former Minister of State for Defence and later the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, and Captain Rao Birender Singh, former Chief Minister of Haryana and Union Agriculture Minister.

Also bringing in honours to the regiment is 128 Infantry Battalion (TA) raised in 1983 to check the deforestation in Rajasthan. Within four years it won the prestigious Indira Gandhi Vrikshamitra award in recognition of its achivements to sustain the ecology.

What’s the taste you get out of this coffee table book with remarkable pictures in colour and black and white, including one of an assault during the North African Campaign? It fits the regiment’s motto: "Vir Bhogya Vasundhara" implying "The brave enjoys the earth".



Looming danger of globalisation
Review by Jai Narain Sharma

Globalisation and Nationalism

by Baldev Raj Nayar. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 285. Rs 450.

THE last quarter of the 20th century has seen a wave of economic reforms in the developing world, with one country after another taking the liberalisation route, often imposed by international financial institutions. This process had been preceded by a quarter-century of state-directed efforts at economic development, during which the goals of economic self-reliance and import substitution idustrialisation (ISI) were the hallmarks of development strategies in the less developed countries. These goals seemed particularly justified, given the long experience of these countries with colonialism and the agricultural nature of their economies. There was, besides, intellectual support for them from Keynesian perspective and the new discipline of development economics, especially in view of the historical memories of the massive market failures of the Depression years. However, all this seemed to be overtaken by the subsequent surge of liberalisation.

Economic liberalisation covers many aspects of policy, but the central issue at stake is the relative role of the state and market in the operation and management of national economy. Contemporary movement in economic policy reform has involved the retreat of the state and the shedding of many of its economic functions in favour of the market, which has been accorded a wider and increasingly important role. An interesting question pertains to whether there are limits to the shrinking of the state, or whether the process is destined to lead to the withering away of the state.

Equally important is the question as to what ought to be the appropriate relationship between the state and the market for purposes of effective economic performance. One way to investigate these questions is to carry out narrowly delimited, empirically based studies of one or more specific stages of economic policy reform in one or more countries. That is what the present work seeks to do through an examination of India’s economic policies over the period from 1950 to 2000. However, there is also some intellectual merit in examining the questions more broadly and holistically so as not to miss the forest for the trees — from the perspective of the different logic of the state and market and, in the process, in defining the fundamental issues they raise for economic policy reform, and in setting out the ways in which they place limits on the dominance of one or the other in the economic arena.

The recent wave of economic policy reform in the developing world has been seen as a necessary consequence of a changed world economic system. The key feature of this is the element of heightened globalisation which provides new external challenges as well as opportunities for development. As globalisation has accelerated, it has come to loom large in the perceptions of policy-makers, and adjustment to it in the form of economic liberalisation and shrinking of the state has moved on them.

The phenomenon of economic globalisation provides the widest possible context for the examination of economic policy reform. However, as a concept in contemporary social science, it appears in many variants. In one strong version, globalisation refers to the presumed emergence of a "supra-national", borderless global economy with its own laws of motion, encompassing and subordinating the various local economies in a single worldwide division of labour, rendering national governments into municipalities. A softer version of the concept, which informs the present study, treats globalisation less as an end-stage and more as a process in which the "international" economy becomes more closely integrated, with domestic economic agents increasingly oriented to the global market rather than to particular national markets, even as the state continues to remain central to national economic advancement.

Regardless, economic globalisation represents only one part of the equation. Equally necessary to the understanding of economic policy reform is the opposing social forces in the form of economic nationalism. While diverse meanings go with the term, economic nationalism’s core is constituted by the paramountcy of national economic interests against the claims of other nations.

Globalisation and economic nationalism are, then, the two fundamental forces that have been shaping the world’s economic terrain over the past few centuries. The two forces are obviously related to each other, with globalisation both opposing and provoking economic nationalism as well as transforming and transcending it, even as its own inexorable path of expansion and possible eventual triumph has been continually interrupted and redirected by nationalism. Both forces are integrally linked with markets and states, for both have been fundamentally rooted in the rise of markets and states in the modern era.

Indeed, economic globalisation is simply a fuller expression of the expansion of one or more markets to world scale, while economic nationalism is nothing but the manifestation in the economic arena of the consolidation of states in the international system. They thus simply represent another level of the working of markets and states. At the same time, each by itself as well as in interaction with the other generates pressures for economic policy reform which, in turn, has principally to do with the roles of states and markets in economic affairs.

One of the vital questions for the developing world at the dawn of the new century, therefore, becomes precisely the relationship of globalisation and nationalism to economic policy reform.

The central argument of this book is that economic globalisation has been on the rise, but it has not necessarily meant the weakening of economic nationalism, which tends to find new incarnations. In the interaction between these two social forces, new balances are arrived at and effort needs to be directed towards studying how they influence economic policy reform. At the same time, in economic policy reform, the state and market need not be seen as adversaries in a zero sum game but as partners in economic development; however, this partnership tends to be facilitated more by some types of regimes than by others.

In exploring the fundamentals of the interaction of globalisation and nationalism and its relationship to the agenda of economic policy reform in the developing world, this book looks at (a) the rise and expansion of globalisation; (b) the nationalist shaping of markets by states in their external role in relation to other states, with particular emphasis on national security and economic autonomy; (c) the continuing centrality of economic nationalism, especially among the developed countries, in the context of the post-war deepening of globalisation; and (d) the nationalist shaping of markets by states in their internal role within society, highlighting the need for legitimacy and the relationship of the structural characteristics of states to the potential for effective economic policy reform.

Set against the larger canvas of the historic interaction between economic globalisation and economic nationalism, this study examines the successive attempts over the past half a century from 1950 to 2000 to change the roles of the state and market in the management of the Indian economy. No single piece of research seeks to attack all problems at once but tends to examine limited areas, as does this study. It looks at economic policy reform, not economic development as such, though the two are not unrelated; indeed, the very purpose of reform is to accelerate development or overcome crises of development. What lie at the heart of such reform are the respective roles of the state and market in the conduct of economic affairs.

Baldev Raj Nayar, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at McGill University, Montreal, takes a broader, more encompassing, view of reform than that of the economist. He maintains that while globalisation has led to a wider role for markets and a greater openness of the economy and, hence, a shrinking role for the state, the state has certainly not been rendered helpless in the process. It remains the principal actor in determining the nature, scope, pace and sequencing of economic policy reforms. The study thus treats globalisation less as an end stage and more as a process in which the international economy becomes more closely integrated, with domestic economic agents increasingly oriented to the global market, even as the state continues to remain central to national economic development.

The book pays particular attention to the external requirements of national security and economic autonomy, and the internal need for legitimacy in the context of the social and political compulsions of a representative democracy. As such, state, society and the international system constitute the basic explanatory framework of this book. The author demonstrates how each of these variables was more or less important in the various efforts over time to introduce economic policy reforms. He concludes that the unfinished agenda for reform in India is vast. Given the critical role that the state plays in ushering in reform, that agenda, he maintains, should include an enhancement of the regulatory and transformatory capacities of the state to cope with the challenges arising out of globalisation.



Write View
Review by Randeep Wadehra

Untouchability Affire

by Karam Singh Raju.

Ratna Memorial Charitable Trust, Chandigarh. Pages xiv+96.
Rs 100.

DESPITE constitutional and legal steps taken to eradicate untouchability, the problem persists in varying degrees in our country. Karam Singh observes that even in ancient times there were people who were considered untouchable because of their dark skin and "unclean" occupation. Such people were known as Antyaja, Pariah, Adisudra, etc. These people formed the fifth varna or caste. In other words, they were not part of the traditional chaturvarna and were therefore outcastes.

Is there any sanction in our scriptures for discrimination on the basis of caste? The author argues that the Rig Ved does not support the chaturvarna concept even though it mentions the three groups - namely, Brahmana (priest), Kshatria (ruler) and Vaishya (commoner). The Ved makes no mention of untouchability. Singh further contends that the Rig Ved’s tenth mandala has a hymn (19th) named Purusha Sukta. This hymn mentions the four castes and their hierarchical importance. He says, "What to talk of untouchability...the fourth group Sudra has not been mentioned in the Rig Ved. It is only in the hymn of Purusha Sukta, four classes originating from four parts of the body of the creator are mentioned..."

Some experts aver that this particular hymn is in fact an interpolation. They point out that earlier Varna Dharma was a social division on functional basis. They give example of the four estates in the European history corresponding to the four divisions in our society. These European estates are: the clergy; the warrior; the nobility; and the merchant.

Singh highlights contradictions in the interpretation given to Manu’s theory. He analyses in detail Ambedkar’s thesis on the origin of Shudras. He quotes various authentic sources to prove that Shudras were originally Aryans; there was no rigid stratification as it is prevalent now. A thought-provoking attempt indeed. However one wishes that more care was given to syntax and proof-reading. Not that these drawbacks detract from the book’s utility.

* * *

Socio-Legal Study of Cultural and Educational Rights of the Minorities

by Bhrigu Nath Pandey. A.P.H. Publishing, New Delhi. Pages: xviii+322.
Rs 700.

THERE is hardly any country in the world that does not have ethnic, linguistic and or religious minority within its borders. Consequently, problems regarding minorities invariably crop up in varied forms and intensities in every country. These problems include the challenge of integrating them into the mainstream and enabling them to contribute towards nation-building efforts. The advent of democracy has only accentuated the problem by giving it a political dimension.

Pandey asserts that an important principle of democracy is the recognition of equal rights and duties for all, irrespective of religion, race, caste or language. The democratic system alone recognises different minorities and provides them equal treatment. He reminds us of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "...the strength, the glory and the might of the nation depends, not on the armaments, not on its political power but on the number of its enlightened cultured citizens..."

India has been home to people from all over the world since time immemorial. Gradually India has acquired a composite population with people belonging to different religions, linguistic and ethnic groups having their own sub-cultures that merge into the variegated yet synthesized Indian mainstream. The author rightly asserts that the constitutional rights conferred upon minorities are not acts of charity but a necessary input in the process of nation-building.

These rights help establish real equality between a handicapped group of people and the advantaged section of the population. The founding fathers of our Constitution made every effort to incorporate relevant measures in the form of guaranteed rights, safeguards and protective rights that could empower or at least protect the vulnerable sections of our society. This was intended to strengthen the national integration process by inculcating confidence among the minorities so that they enjoy all opportunities to participate in the democratic functions of the country along with the majority. Therefore, three fundamental rights are directly concerned with the problem of minorities right to equality; right to freedom of religion; and cultural and educational rights.

Tracing the history of minority problem in India, Pandey deals in detail with the reasons behind the problem and how the founding fathers of our Constitution tried to deal with it. In the third chapter Pandey explains the concept of minority in the context of cultural and educational rights. Pandey finds that the Constitution does not specifically defines the term "minority". It leaves it to the courts to perform this task. Thus various court rulings have created a lack of uniformity in the definition of the term. Pandey appears to imply that this is a drawback in our Constitution. However, given the complexities of our society, perhaps it is only fair that a rigid definition has not been provided. After all, a group that is defined as Scheduled Caste in one region or state might be economically better off in another region and may not need constitutional safeguards. And how does one tackle the anomaly of Sikhs and Muslims being majority groups in Punjab and J&K respectively, but minorities in the rest of the country? This aberration becomes all the more glaring in the case of assorted linguistic groups. This book deals in detail with the various aspects of our jurisprudence relating to the minority problem. It also tackles the politico-administrative aspects of the problem. An excellent reference material for students and teachers alike.

* * *

Decentralised Government and NGOs: Issues, Strategies and Ways Forward edited

by D. Rajasekhar. Concept

Publishing Company, New Delhi. Pages xiii+180.: Rs 300.

TO facilitate the participation of India’s rural masses in the process of micro-planning and implementation of development projects, panchayat raj Institutions or PRIs were introduced in the 1950s. However, it was found that the PRIs were unable to facilitate optimum participation of dalits and adivasis in rural development efforts. Reasons for this state of affairs were quite apparent. The PRIs had become victims of vested interests, corruption and politicisation. Other ills that sabotaged the system were "inadequate devolution of powers and responsibilities to panchayats, frequent interference in the panchayat raj system by the government and officials, irregular elections to panchayat raj bodies, etc."

Neil Webster contends that the Indian state has, "to a large extent, failed to bring about a pro-poor development in the country on the basis of centralised planning and an import substitution strategy". He is convinced that NGOs can provide a counterbalance to the state and become important actors in planning and carrying through the development process.

Rajasekhar points out NGOs have different viewpoints on the need for interface with PRIs. First, the interface with gram panchayat is needed to bring political empowerment. The second perspective is that interface with PRIs is essential for carrying out struggles by the classes and gender which have been marginalised economically, socially and politically by richer classes. The third perspective stresses upon developing the right political culture among the marginalised groups such as dalits. Fourth, the interface helps in developing political leadership among the marginalised groups. Fifth, it is believed that it enables women to participate in decision making within the community. Finally, the interface enables the poor to have access to resources by ensuring that the opportunities available at the local government level for the development of the poor are utilised to the maximum.

Abdul Aziz says that since the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 has made the PRIs the third stratum of government, they have the basic responsibility of governing and planning at the local level. In his paper, Aziz, while elaborating upon the problem of planning and governance processes, keeps the reference to the lowest level of the PRI bodies - that is, the gram panchayats. He observes that NGOs play their role at three levels — they work with the people to promote the latter’s participation in the development and political processes; provide inputs to gram panchayats in the form of information and initiating attitudinal changes among panchayat members; and third, they enable panchayat members and the village bureaucracy to acquire skills of planning and implementation.

M.K. Bhatt argues that the sustainability of the grassroots level, people-centred, participatory and self-managed development processes will eventually depend on the capability of the people in local resource mobilisation and influencing policy processes. Mere assertion of rights through social mobilisation and democratic pressure will not satisfy their basic and development needs. In her paper Susanne Dam Hansen studies the role of NGOs in facilitating linkages between their target groups and the "Decentralised Government", and the extent to which NGOs have helped the weaker sections of the population to gain more power within the structure of the society.

Other contributors to this well documented tome on rural development with specific reference to the empowerment of the vulnerable are G. Suvarchala, Alex Tuscano, Narinder Bedi, K. Sivaji, K. Murugesan and Mohammed Usman.