Saturday, July 14, 2001
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

A penny for Jagjit Chohan
Khushwant Singh

I OWE one penny to Jagjit Singh Chohan, the self-styled president of the Council of Khalistan. It was awarded to him by a London court on a case of libel he had filed against me for what I had written about him in a footnote in my volume II of the History of the Sikhs, published by the Oxford University Press. He claimed that he was a revered leader of the Sikhs and a man of peace and I had maligned his reputation. I recall he claimed close to a million pounds in damages. My publishers produced clips from BBC showing him announcing an award for anyone who killed Mrs Indira Gandhi and then celebrating when she was assassinated. That blew up his image as a man of peace. The jury held that although I had said nasty things about him, all he deserved in compensation was one penny. In addition, he was saddled with the costs of his suit amounting to about 60,000 pounds sterling. Nevertheless, he claimed he had been vindicated. Meanwhile, I have kept aside a penny to give him whenever he asks for it.

However, this was three years ago and out of my mind, I welcome him back home so that we can discuss Khalistan in a public debate. I would also welcome other supporters of Khalistan like Zaffarwal, Ganga Singh Dhillon (Washington), Gurmit Singh Aulakh (Washington) and Simranjeet Singh Mann to an open dialogue. They hold that Khalistan is the ultimate solution to the Sikh problem. I believe it will spell disaster for the Sikh community.

The importance of bathing
July 7, 2001
An astral encounter
June 30, 2001
Footloose with Ghalib
June 23, 2001
Sangam of religions
June 16, 2001
What makes a man great?
June 9, 2001
Malgudi no more
May 26, 2001
Call of the papeeha
May 19, 2001
Exporting erotica to France
May 12, 2001
Celebrating old age
May 5, 2001
Guru-chela parampara
April 28, 2001
What the world owes to Jainism
April 21, 2001
Exercising the mind with books
April 14, 2001
The great Maharaja of Punjab
April 7, 2001
Storm in a chat show
March 31, 2001

Jagjit Singh ChohanThe only rational way to start a debate on the subject is to ask protagonists of Khalistan to draw a map of where Khalistan will be and its communal constitution, i.e., how many Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians will it have? Then they must spell out the future of Sikhs living outside Punjab — Ganganagar (Rajasthan), and Terai area (Uttranchal) and Delhi which has more Sikhs living there than in Amritsar or Ludhiana. Altogether more than 20 per cent of the Sikh population does not live in Punjab and are more prosperous than their Punjabi co-religionists. And what about Sikhs in Defence and other services in which their representation is much higher than the 2 per cent that they constitute of India’s population? And, finally, wherever the Khalistan of their dreams exists, it is bound to be a land-locked state entirely reliant on Pakistan and India to market its agricultural produce, for it has hardly any industry worth speaking of. If they have any answers, I will be glad to hear from them. It is one thing to be angry with the government for "Operation Blue Star" and the massive killings of Sikhs following Mrs Gandhi’s assassination — I condemned them in Parliament and I have written on the subject — it is quite another thing to pose a solution which will reduce the community to abject poverty. Khalsaji, I appeal to you to ponder over your future and not lend your ears to enemies of the Khalsa Panth.

Ji Mantriji

Suryaprakash Singh wins his way to Parliament for the second time. The first time he was in the Opposition; the second time his party formed the government and he was invited by the Prime Minister to join his Cabinet. Suryaprakash Singh is young, full of enthusiasm and determined to put in effect promises he had made to the country: to make the administration transparent, to prune wasteful expenditure by getting rid of unused government buildings and drastically reduce the number of civil servants. He has to contend with Mathur, who is Secretary of his ministry, and his private secretary Kaul, who he trusts more than Mathur because his answer to every question put by his boss is "Yes Mantriji." By the end of his ministerial tenure, Suryaprakash Singh fails to achieve any of his aims: empty buildings remain with the government, the number of babus continues to increase, public money continues to be squandered and the country continues to go along at the snail’s pace as ever before. This dismal picture was first portrayed about England in a highly comical serial on BBC entitled Yes Minister. The serial was adapted to Indian conditions by Monisha Shah, now settled in London. The Indian version Ji Mantriji became equally popular on Indian channels with Farooque Shaikh playing the role of the Minister, Jayant Kripalani as Mathur and Paritosh Sand as Kaul. Ji Mantriji is now available in book form (Penguin). It has been illustrated by the inimitable R.K. Laxman.

"How do your ministers deal with the hundreds of letters they receive every day? Suryaprakash writes in his diary: "I indicated the in-tray. ‘When am I going to get through all this correspondence?’ I asked Kaul wearily. Kaul said, ‘You do realise, Mantriji, that you don’t actually have to" I had realised no such thing. This sounded good. ‘If you want, we can simply draft an official jawab to any letter’. ‘What’s an official reply?’ I wanted to know. ‘It just says,’ Kaul explained ‘the minister has asked me to thank you for your letter’. Then we reply. Something like: "The matter is under consideration". Or even, if we feel so inclined, "under active consideration!"

"What’s the difference between ‘under consideration’ and ‘under active consideration"? I asked. "Under consideration means we’ve lost the file". "Under active consideration" means we’re trying to find it!

"I think this might have been one of Kaul’s little jokes. But I’m not absolutely certain. Kaul was eager to tell me what I had to do in order to lighten the load of my correspondence. ‘You must transfer every letter from your in-tray to your out-tray. You put a brief note in the margin if you want to see the reply. If you don’t, you need never see or hear of it again.’

The great master of making notes on files and doing nothing is Mathur. Another entry in Suryaprakash’s diary reads. "We have not done the paperwork." I ignored this rubbish. Paperwork is the religion of the Administrative Service. I can just imagine Mathur on his deathbed, surrounded by wills and insurance claim forms, looking up and saying, ‘I cannot go yet, Bhagwan, I haven’t done the paperwork.’

And yet another entry reads: "I persevered. ‘Mathur saheb, in your evidence to the Cabinet committee, are you going to support my view that the Administrative Service is overmanned and feather-bedded or not? Yes or no! Straight answer!’

Could I have put this question any more plainly? I don’t think so. This was the reply: ‘Mantriji, if I am pressed for a straight answer I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another, in terms of the average of departments, then in the last analysis it is probably true to say that, at the end of the day, you would find, in general terms that, not to put too fine a point on it, there really was not very much in it one way or the other.’

While I was still reeling from this, he added, no doubt for further clarification, ‘As far as one can see, at this stage’

I made one last attempt. ‘Does that mean yes or no?’ I asked, without much hope. ‘Yes and no,’ he replied helpfully.

Hindi-Amriki bhai- bhai

Hindi — Amriki, long lost buddies are back together again, You see,

The growing bonds of friendship invoke us to say geewhiz, Bush-Vajpayee,

We are "cherishing" the Fords, McDonalds, Cokes, Pepsis, Wranglers and Lees,

It’s a dream come true, these can be had not for dollars, but for rupees,

Globalised, liberalised, WTO-bound, Bharat now has a new Big Brother, Gee!

Whose missile defense system will protect us from the neighbours prying eyes,

The Biggest Brother, Sole Superpower and world policeman is here, Hail Yankees!

(Contributed by Capt Uma Chatterjee, Nagpur)