O P I N I O N S

Perspective | Oped | Reflections

PERSPECTIVE

ON RECORD
I am itching to get back to work, says
Sheila Dikshit
by Ramesh Ramachandran
S
heila Dikshit, the affable lady from Kapurthala in Punjab who has got a thumbs up from the voters of Delhi, is happy. "I feel vindicated," she told The Tribune the day after theCongress won the Delhi Assembly elections. Not one to rest on her laurels, she is eager to get going and fulfil her promise of turning Delhi into a world class city.

Ample opportunity to work for a just
civil order

by S.S. Dhanoa
C
HANDIGARH has recently played host to two conclaves of Sikh intellectuals. One related to “Khalistan”, its past and present future. The other was about Guru Granth Saheb and the Panth. Indirectly, even the second was concerned about the loss of political power by the Khalsa.




EARLIER ARTICLES

Women on top
December 6, 2003
Mature verdict
December 5, 2003
Coping with AIDS
December 4, 2003
Keepers of the law?
December 3, 2003
Targeting Badal
December 2, 2003
It’s voters' day
December 1, 2003
Less obvious presence of forces, a welcome change: Moosa Raza
November 30, 2003
Frivolous petitions
November 29, 2003
The roar of silence
November 28, 2003
In the dock
November 27, 2003
Ceasefire is fine
November 26, 2003
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
 

OPED

PROFILE
Chief ministers in their own right
by Harihar Swarup
T
hree women coming from different backgrounds will be ruling a major chunk of north India in the first decade of the 21st century, demonstrating women’s empowerment in a country where the weaker sex is still subjected to atrocities. If Jayalalithaa and Rabri Devi are included, there will be five women chief ministers.

REFLECTIONS
We exist in profound interdependence
by Kiran Bedi
I
t is not always that what one reads that stays fresh in one’s memory. Like the one I am about to recall. It was proven by a study that more than three-fourths of agonising incidents in our lives are self generated hence preventable. 

DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER
They won hands down single-handedly
by Humra Quraishi
E
lections over and the results hit either way, whichever way your political ideology stands. Also stand out some facts — three women chief ministers for Delhi (second consecutive term), Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that went for elections. And all of them happen to be single women. 

  • Human Rights Day

  • Tulsi of hues

  • Refreshing change

KASHMIR DIARY
Poll results have a direct bearing on the timing of Kashmir talks
by David Devadas
T
he most significant outcome of India’s surprise announcement of a dozen initiatives to improve ties with Pakistan was the indication, subtly wrapped in Pakistan’s response, that it was now ready for a “composite dialogue”. And the results of the Assembly elections in India’s heartland states could have a direct bearing of the timing of those talks.

 REFLECTIONS

Top


 

 



 

ON RECORD
I am itching to get back to work, says Sheila Dikshit
by Ramesh Ramachandran

Sheila DikshitSheila Dikshit, the affable lady from Kapurthala in Punjab who has got a thumbs up from the voters of Delhi, is happy. "I feel vindicated," she told The Tribune the day after theCongress won the Delhi Assembly elections. Not one to rest on her laurels, she is eager to get going and fulfil her promise of turning Delhi into a world class city. "There is loads of work waiting for me," says the woman-in-a-hurry. A little bleary-eyed from all the exertion of the past few months, she still looked calm and collected in an off-white sari as she tried to keep up the conversation while rushing in and out to receive bouquets and sweets from her admirers on her stunning performance. 

Excerpts:

Q: How are you feeling?

A: I am happy with the faith reposed in me.

Q: The election results have proved your detractors wrong. Do you feel vindicated?

A: Yes, I do feel vindicated. I see the verdict of the people as an endorsement of my agenda for development and good governance. I must tell you this has been an ugly political campaign in the run-up to the election. My rivals have made personal attacks against me. It is sad.

Q: How will you unwind? The past month must have been very hectic for you.

A: No...no unwinding for me. I am itching to get back to work. So much needs to be done that I cannot wait to return. There are files pending and work is piling up. I like watching movies and did see one the other day — "Kal Ho Na Ho", it was.

Q: You seem to have read the pulse of the urban voter better than others.

A: What can I say? If the voter is happy with me and my work, I am also happy. They have given me a renewed mandate so that I can finish the work that I have started and also take up new work. I am a Delhi-ite and I understand the nuances of administering a place like Delhi.

Q: How did you fight the anti-incumbency factor?

A: Anti-incumbency was not a factor at all in the Assembly election, at least not in Delhi. It is a positive vote... a vote for development, transparency and consistency.

Q: Is the verdict as much a vote against the BJP-led NDA government as it is for you and your government’s performance?

A: The verdict of the people is significant for that reason also. People of Delhi understand our handicap in that we are unlike other elected governments ... we do not have the requisite powers. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Union Ministry of Urban Development, are as much a stake holder in the administration of the National Capital Territory of Delhi as is the popular, elected Government of NCT of Delhi. They have created problems for us on several occasions. The multiplicity of authority was a dampener. There ought to have been more of co-operation than one-upmanship or antagonism.

Q: Looking ahead, what would your agenda be?

A: The second generation of reforms has to be taken up. A lot needs to be done insofar as roads are concerned, also transport, electricity, water, flyovers, traffic and affordable housing for the economically challenged. Traffic has to be decongested. The NCR concept has to be given a fillip. Roads need to be in better shape. We propose to construct roads using concrete so that they last long and sustain the wear and tear. In short, infrastructure has to be strengthened. Cleaning of the Yamuna is also a top priority. We will take up the agenda for development seriously.

Q: What kind of Delhi would you leave by 2008?

A: I want to make Delhi a truly world class and international city. A place that is cleaner, greener and happier. Also happier human beings for that is of paramount importance.

Q: Your thoughts on the results in the other states where the Congress has lost?

A: You win some, you lose some ... but that should not deter us from pursuing the path of development. There could have been voter fatigue in Madhya Pradesh because the Congress was in power there for a decade. We need to introspect, understand what went wrong and ensure that we do not repeat those mistakes. 
Top

 

Ample opportunity to work for a just civil order
by S.S. Dhanoa

CHANDIGARH has recently played host to two conclaves of Sikh intellectuals. One related to “Khalistan”, its past and present future. The other was about Guru Granth Saheb and the Panth. Indirectly, even the second was concerned about the loss of political power by the Khalsa. Punjab has been witnessing turmoils on such issues ever since the British conquered Punjab defeating the Khalsa armies in 1849. It was hoped that this ghost would be laid to rest but the preoccupation of the Sikh intelligentsia with seminars of the type held at Chandigarh and abroad is a danger signal for long-term peace in Punjab. This preoccupation of the Sikhs has to be understood for resolving this problem and ensuring peace in Punjab.

We can trace the origin of this fixation to the refrain “Raj Kareja Khalsa” which seems to have come into vogue among the Sikhs immediately after the demise of Guru Gobind Singh. The Khalsa was designed to be a brotherhood of equals and gurmukhs who had transcended their self identity called “haumai” in Gurbani. Their objective was to establish righteousness and to fight for it if any one tried to thwart their endeavour. The Khalsa joined Banda Bahadur in chastising the Sirhind Governor but quickly disassociated from him when he tried to hijack the Khalsa to establish a kingdom.

Mata Sundariji, the widow of Guru Gobind Singh who was recognised as worthy of respect of the Khalsa after Guru Gobind Singh, gave a clear directive to the Khalsa not to associate with Banda Bahadur. To the question on Guru Gobind Singh’s assurance on “Raj Karega Khalsa”, she said that the Khalsa’s objective was to fight for “dharma” and if they fight for the cause of “dharma” the Guru’s blessings would be with them and the “Raj” would come their way. Those who cherished immediate prospect of the “Raj” went with Banda Bahadur and the “Tat Khalsa” for the time being converted their swords into plough-shares so far as fighting against the Mughal administration was concerned. Those who joined Banda Bahadur perished and those who remained steadfast in the “Tat Khalsa” triumphed and succeeded in vanquishing everyone who came in their way.

Apparently, the number of the Sikhs following Banda Bahadur was fairly large as after his martyrdom, they staked a claim on the offerings at the time of the Sikhs’ annual get-together at Amritsar. Both sides almost came to a fight which got averted through the elders who persuaded both sides to accept a verdict that came from dropping chits in the holy Sarovar. On one chit “Fateh darshan” was written while on the other “Waheguru ji ki fateh” was mentioned. Since the latter came up first, it was settled that “Tat Khalsa” was the real Khalsa.

The Bandai challenge receded into the background because the situation in Punjab changed in favour of the “Tat Khalsa” as their Rakhi system ushered in peace and safety to those who opted for it in those troubled times when Punjab got trampled under the feet of Nadir Shah and later Ahmed Shah Abdali with consequent breakdown of the Mughal administration. The Khalsa triumphed over all odds. They were succeeded by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The first lapse of the Khalsa can be traced to this period when they allowed individual Sikhs to rule in the name of the Khalsa. So long as a Sikh in appearance was ruling, the Khalsa was not very much perturbed. The Khalsa was partially awakened by the internecine killings indulged in by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and we had the soldiers constituting panchayats in the name of the Khalsa. They killed Jawahar Singh, the then Prime Minister, and the brother of the Maharani for his role in the killing of sons of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was this period about which Shah Mohammed wrote “Shah Muhammada phiran sardar lukde bhut mandali hoi tiyar miyan”.

The phase ended with the annexation of Punjab by the British with Sikh soldiery joining the British Army, soon to prove their worth for the British in 1957. The Sikh aristocracy heaved a sigh of relief on being saved from the rebels going berserk in the name of the Khalsa. Their loyalty was further ensured by the British by confirming and protecting their privileges. The British knew that it was a Muslim population basically that Ranjit Singh ruled. He had banned cow slaughter. The British lifted the ban to earn the Muslims’ goodwill. This was like adding insult to the injury after the loss of empire and political power by the Khalsa.

This phase produced the Namdhari movement among the Sikhs. The movement gave some headache to the British but it got crushed when some Namdhari followers of Baba Ram Singh killed some Muslim butchers for having slaughtered cows. No one seems to have studied or understood as to where the real strength of the Khalsa was which could be tapped to deal with the new situation created by the British rule over India. Meanwhile, the valour of the Sikh soldiers recruited after being administered Amrit by the British Indian Army, made the Sikhs a community held in favour by the British so much so that some scholars hold the view that the Khalsa identity was a creation of the British.

We can take the modern period for the Khalsa to have started with the Gurdwara Reform Movement (GRM) starting around 1920. The SGPC and the SAD trace their origin directly to this movement. The model adopted for both was the non-violent struggle model unfolded by Mahatma Gandhi. The GRM was the biggest mass movement among the Sikhs after the turmoil of the period of Banda Bahadur. Yet the leaders of the movement decided to take their lessons from Gandhiji. The Nabha agitation gave misgivings for which Gandhi required an assurance that the aim of the Akalis was not to establish the Khalsa Raj. Could Gandhi see through the designs of the Sikh leaders?

The Akali leaders who claimed that they were the Khalsa Panth could not work out a plausible response to the situation created by the British announcement to transfer power to Indians in 1947. Master Tara Singh, the Sikhs’ supreme leader, admits in his autobiography that when he was sent to prison in free India, he read about Israel. He says with some remorse that if he had known about it earlier, he would have handled negotiations with the British differently. The “deep structure” in the community perhaps forced Akali leaders to adopt different postures depending on the circumstances prevailing in Punjab.

Among the Sikh leaders, when Master Tara Singh was perceived to have reached a stalemate, the backing shifted to Sant Fateh Singh. When despite getting Punjabi Suba the goal was still perceived to be beyond them, the community was successfully swayed to try the insane and dangerous line propounded by Bhindranwale and those who went under the name of Khadkus. Sardar Beant Singh and K.P.S. Gill have to be thanked for saving Punjab from the brink of an abyss. All the intellectuals who saw in the killers and murderers as “avant-garde” youth or the heroes enforcing Khalsa values, have trooped back to the homeland, professing to fight for their cause in a democratic and peaceful manner.

The present Akali leaders survived by attending “Bhog” ceremonies of the militants. The Khadkus compelled the then Akal Takht Jathedar to make an official declaration in favour of Khalistan. Kaonke, the Jathedar, after ardas at the Akal Takhat, resorted to putting slips of papers in the sacred pool to seek the Guru’s guidance. The slip that had “No Khalistan” written on it, came out first, from the pool but unlike the Bandai Sikhs the Khadkus went ahead with their declaration. It is blasphemous for a Sikh thereafter to talk about Khalistan. One wishes that Vedantiji takes note of it and issues a “hukumnama” banning Sikhs from supporting Khalistan.

All those who yearn for “Raj Karega Khalsa” should know that in the modern world which has become a global village, the rule of one group over any other group is not feasible against its wishes. If the Khalistanis think that Khalistan is something desirable, they should focus on the Hindus comprising about half of the population of the Khalistan in whatever manner its boundaries may be fixed. They should understand that the Khalsa Raj of the 18th century got established as a divine dispensation due to the prevailing political turmoil and the steadfastness of the Khalsa who fought for the weak and the deprived.

There is no turmoil in Punjab now but there is ample opportunity for the Khalsa to do something concrete for the weak and the deprived and to establish a just civil order where Dharma prevails. The Khalsa would thus come to be recognised as leaders and the Khalsa Raj’s boundaries could extend to the whole world. n

The writer is a former Chief Secretary of Punjab
Top

 

PROFILE
Chief ministers in their own right
by Harihar Swarup

Three women coming from different backgrounds will be ruling a major chunk of north India in the first decade of the 21st century, demonstrating women’s empowerment in a country where the weaker sex is still subjected to atrocities. If Jayalalithaa and Rabri Devi are included, there will be five women chief ministers.

Chief Minister-designate of Madhya Pradesh, saffron-clad Uma Bharti belongs to the Backward Class. She hails from a poor family and has never seen the face of a college; she is educated only up to Standard VI. In sharp contrast, Vasundhara Raje, who will head the Rajasthan government, hails from a feudal background, educated in Bombay’s prestigious Sophia College and groomed in politics by her mother the late Rajmata Vijay Raje Scindia of Gwalior and a senior BJP leader. One has grown up in dire poverty and come up in life the hard way while the other has all the comforts of life and acquired much of her political clout in legacy. Both Uma, 44, and Vasundhara, 50, made debut in Parliament when they were quite young. Both have won Lok Sabha elections five times and both have been ministers in the Vajpayee government.

Sheila Dikshit, who gets the second term as Delhi’s Chief Minister, is a veteran. Like Vasundhara, she too studied in good schools and colleges. She was a student of Jesus and Mary Convent and Delhi’s reputed Miranda House. Sheilaji learnt her political lessons from her father-in-law, the late Uma Shankar Dikshit, a confidant of Nehru family. Tragedy struck Sheilaji in the mid-eighties when her husband, Vinod Dikshit, an IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, died of heart attack while travelling from Lucknow to Delhi.

Sheilaji was born in Kapurthala in 1938 but her parents moved to Delhi and settled down in Neekatra locality of Chandni Chowk. Her marriage into a political family changed the course of her life. Sheilaji is now all set to run the affairs of Delhi for the second time.

Uma Bharti took to sanyas when she was barely 25. She became a “Sadhvi”, vowing not to marry. Representing Bhopal constituency in the Lok Sabha, she is known to be “a restless soul”, thrives on controversies and has acquired the reputation of a firebrand leader, who would never give up once she takes up an issue. Three years back she took up the issue of retrenchment of casual employees in her state and took to streets even when she was a Union Minister. She then resigned from the BJP’s National Executive, sent in her resignation from the Lok Sabha to the Speaker and retired to Himalayas seeking peace. Her sojourn at Kedarnath shrine was short lived. She returned to the hurly-burly of Delhi politics to find herself landing in another controversy. Her heroes are Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevara and Chatrapati Shivaji.

Uma was at the centrestage of the campaign to build the Ram temple at Ayodhya. A fiery speaker, she asserts that “Hinduism is the life of this nation” and “I see hope in cow; she is the future”. A quotable quote during her election speech is: “No Italian will become the Prime Minister as long as sanyasin like me is alive” Big challenges await Uma Bharti.

Vasundhara Raje hails from a top ranking princely family of India. The Maharaja of Gwalior was among the five Indian rulers who the British accorded the right to a 19-gun salute. After independence, the Scindias’ influence on their erstwhile state remained largely intact, with their presence in local politics. Vasundhara's father Maharaja Jivajirao Scindia died young and she was groomed by her mother, Rajmata Vijaya Raje, a founder member of the BJP. Ideologically, the family has been sharply divided. Rajamata’s son, Madhavrao Scindia rose as a Congress leader and her two daughters — Vasundhara and Yoshadhara — joined politics.

Yoshadhara was just elected to Madhya Pradesh Assembly on the BJP ticket. Madhavrao died a year back in a plane crash and his son Jyotiraditya has taken his place in the Lok Sabha. Vasundhara too, like Uma Bharati, faces tough task in Rajasthan. Both have to brace up to Lok Sabha elections due in less than a year’s time. Uma and Vasundhara are two faces of the BJP. 
Top

 

REFLECTIONS
We exist in profound interdependence
by Kiran Bedi

Kiran BediIt is not always that what one reads that stays fresh in one’s memory. Like the one I am about to recall. It was proven by a study that more than three-fourths of agonising incidents in our lives are self generated hence preventable. This thought recurs in my mind frequently, especially when I see the way a majority of youngsters today (I have chosen to focus on them, not that it does not apply to the rest of us) are faced with increasing pressures from family, peer groups and the outside world and how difficult it is for many to cope with all this with an even mind. The manner in which the youth is expending itself and the direction it is headed towards is somewhat alarming! I saw this closely in my recent Divali visit back home.

I had a volley of questions: Who does the youth listen to? Who are their role models? Who influences them? What do they value most and why? What do they think about ‘life’? What do parents and elders mean to them? What, according to today’s youngsters, is the meaning of responsibility and duty? Have they evolved their own theories of morality and ethics? What does religion mean to them? How do they differentiate between truth and falsehood? Are they concerned solely with achieving results or do they agonise over the means? What are their views on family values? how do they perceive marriage, family, parenting and children? How important is money? How much of it is enough and how important is the way in which it is acquired? How careful are they with what they say? How sensitive are they to others’ pain and suffering? Are they interested in reflection? Do they repent and correct? Are they open to correction? Do they realise that time flies? Also, that the energy level does not remain constant and will deplete one day?

What we all get to observe around is a huge wastage of very precious, nature given, energy. And the kind and extent of blundering that is going on by our present youth and future seniors, is that all the three-fourth is being constantly generated and dumped in society. The irony is that all the suffering they are going through is not being borne alone by them. It is equally by their near and dear ones. All having a multiplier affect on society, which bears all the social costs.

And what are the blunders which will have to be paid for by them and society as a whole? It is the waste of precious time in unproductive activities, to mention a few, gambling, drinking, smoking, and getting involved in promiscuous or wasteful relationships. Another blunder is to have complete disregard for parents, teachers and elders. More and more people are succumbing to temptations of making easy money in order to satiate endless desires and to find a quick route to success and fame.

However, most end up becoming notorious and unwanted, and all the financial and other irregularities come home to roost. No wonder in some countries prison is an industry by itself.

The beauty of this grim scenario is, that the three-fourth category of events starts to shrink, from the very moment awareness dawns. For it immediately influences the thinking processes and alters behaviour, which is prevention. This therefore naturally takes us into the realm of home upbringing, education, media role and social responsibilities. What needs to be understood and never forgotten is that each individual in society adds to the agony or joy and that s/he is a part of the large whole.

Buddha taught: “While none exist as independent things, we exist in relationships with each other. Thus, we do not exist in alienation from other sentient beings and our environment; rather, we exist in profound interdependence...” 

Top

 

DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER
They won hands down single-handedly
by Humra Quraishi

Elections over and the results hit either way, whichever way your political ideology stands. Also stand out some facts — three women chief ministers for Delhi (second consecutive term), Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that went for elections. And all of them happen to be single women. Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit is a widow, Rajasthan’s Vasundhra Raje is said to be separated and Madhya Pradesh’s Uma Bharti never really married, although her name was romantically linked with a BJP functionary. So single and undistracted (I suppose), they fought and won single-handedly.

I don't know whether it would be premature to mention that following the humiliating defeat of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, there is speculation that Priyanka Gandhi will join politics after the Dalits’ rally here on Friday.

On December 5, four major rallies for protecting the human rights of the Dalits took off from Jammu, New Delhi, Kanyakumari and Kolkata. In New Delhi, an exhibition was also arranged at Vithalbhai Patel House. The show, depicting the condition of the Dalits, has been put up by Shabnam Hashmi and designer Parvez. Former President K.R. Narayanan inaugurated it.

Meanwhile, there is news that the Sadhbhavna Sipahi brigade under Sunil Dutt has suddenly got up, sprucing up its networking with immediate focus on Uttar Pradesh. As the name suggests, Sadhbhavna Sipahis work for communal integrity. In fact, one of the senior functionaries of this brigade, Shakeel Ahmad, who has been a former JNU Students’ Union president, says that they are sending their volunteers to 19 mandals in Uttar Pradesh to “check the advance of communal forces” into that state.

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is just round the corner. December 10 seems packed with seminars. The latest invite is from the United Nations Information Centre with this theme ‘Know your human rights’. To this, someone quipped, “After that, do what!”

Tulsi of hues

If it was a flop show on the part of the BJP to put up small screen’s Tulsi to woo Delhi voters (considering that they lost to the Congress), several Congress workers have spoken of the unusually beautiful tulsi tree growing in the lawns of Shiela Dikshit's official residence.

In fact, years back I had visited the official residence of her late father-in-law Uma Shankar Dikshit and it was so well done up (with exclusively designed bamboo furniture) that I simply had to ask him the designer’s name and address. To that query he‘d simply smiled and quipped, “My daughter- in-law Shiela is very fond of running the house and doing it up...”

Refreshing change

It was really a pleasant change to meet student teams from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sharjah. The venue was the DPS School which is hosting (Dec 1-13) the ‘DPS World Cup Cricket Tournament for Schools’. Young bright faces too eager to play and befriend and though one couldn't really talk to them at length, I made it a point to talk to their teachers and school heads accompanying these teams.

It was reassuring to hear the Principal of The City School (Lahore) Tauqir Malik who is in charge of the team from Pakistan that the parents of these children were not apprehensive and willingly sent these children. Just about then our conversation was interrupted as one of the guests realised that Tauqir was from the particular village of the undivided Punjab which was his birthplace. With that he virtually hijacked

Tauqir and asked her details about that particular village which he couldn't visit after his family had migrated after Partition. 
Top

 

KASHMIR DIARY
Poll results have a direct bearing on the timing of Kashmir talks
by David Devadas

The most significant outcome of India’s surprise announcement of a dozen initiatives to improve ties with Pakistan was the indication, subtly wrapped in Pakistan’s response, that it was now ready for a “composite dialogue”. And the results of the Assembly elections in India’s heartland states could have a direct bearing of the timing of those talks.

Meanwhile, the first serious negotiations since 1975 between Kashmiri representatives and the Government of India could begin soon. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose position as chief priest of Srinagar’s Jamia mosque gives him significant stature in Kashmir, got a range of senior secessionist leaders to agree during the last week of Ramzaan that the All Parties Hurriyat Conference should undertake dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. Jamaat-e-Islami hardliner Syed Ali Geelani remains aloof from this process but Indo-Pakistan warmth — which the opening of Pakistan’s airspace to Indian aircraft has set the stage for — might have an effect on pro-Pakistan Kashmiri leaders like Geelani.

The next year could therefore see significant movement towards a solution of this imbroglio. Breaking the pattern of the past half-century, the Government of India does not seem averse to Hurriyat leaders meeting diplomats and such other figures as former US Ambassador to India Frank Wisner. Starting this weekend, the Hurriyat leaders intend to discuss with these Western representatives a “road map” towards a solution. Some of these Kashmiri leaders believe that the plans formulated over the past few years by the US-based Kashmir Study Group under the aegis of Farooq Kathwari, a US businessman of Kashmiri origin, has the backing of the US establishment, including the State Department.

In essence, these ideas promote some form of independence for the Kashmir valley and adjoining parts of the sprawling state of Jammu and Kashmir, leaving other portions of the state with whichever country controls them. Neither India nor Pakistan has been enthusiastic about the idea of an independent enclave in the past and the next year might show how far each is willing to change its stance regarding the valley. Of course, the nub of the problem is the Kashmir valley, both in terms of the struggle over the past 15 years and in terms of the determination of both India and Pakistan to own this beautiful albeit small portion of the state.

The flexibility of each will, no doubt, become evident once the “composite dialogue” between officials gets going. It was only in the subtext of its responses to India’s package of 12 initiatives that Pakistan spoke of a “composite dialogue”. That was the term agreed in 1997-98 for talks between Joint Secretaries on six issues, including Siachen, and between the Foreign Secretaries on two issues: Confidence Building Measures regarding nuclear weapons and Kashmir.

There appears to be agreement now that this structure will be followed. However, the appointment of Mr Shashank as India’s Foreign Secretary from the beginning of this month, makes me wonder if substantive talks on Kashmir will not actually occur only after his seven-month term ends. The results of assembly elections last week in four states that are among the BJP's oldest strongholds also point in this direction. For the BJP would want to go into Lok Sabha elections before the “honeymoon” of its new state governments ends.

Disillusionment with a new government does not normally set in for the first six months or so. General elections around May might therefore suit the BJP. That would allow for the feisty Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh to retire in February, the Union Budget to be passed in March-April and for the April harvest.

Elections in May would forestall next year’s monsoon season, that most unpredictable variable in South Asian political calculations. If indeed elections were to take place in May, preparations for them would begin within two months of the SAARC summit slated for next month. That might allow for discussion in February of some of the other issues among the eight identified under the composite dialogue agreement but probably not Kashmir. If this reading of current trends is correct, talks on Kashmir might begin around August, 2004. 

Top

 

Be not a traitor of your thoughts. Be sincere; act according to your thoughts; and you shall surely succeed. Pray with a sincere and simple heart, and your prayers will be heard.

— Sri Ramakrishna

The mind is no better than a wild elephant. It runs with the wind. Therefore one should always discriminate and strive hard for the realisation of God.

— Sarada Devi

Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.

— Swami Vivekananda

We are good at talk but bad in deeds; black and dirty within but white and clean without.

— Guru Nanak

You have to know yourself. You have to know who you are. Introspect. Analyse yourself. Leave aside your prejudices. Give up your preconceptions. Get rid of your superstitions and think. Think deeply. You will realise you are the kernel and not the shell.

— Swami Parthasarathy
Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |