Aya Ram to Gaya Ram
India’s encounter with Modi
Odd man out
Partition victims look back
Aya Ram to Gaya Ram
OF late, Haryana has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The latest episode persuading the world to sit back and take notice of the State is the disqualification of six MLAs by the Speaker under the anti-defection law. That is a one-day record of sorts. Nothing surprising, considering that Haryana is the janma-bhoomi of the Aya Ram and Gaya Ram culture. To be sure, the Haryanavi land has proved to be fertile for the followers of this tradition. Whatever legal spin may be given to the nefarious activity, it is a fact that there are many who are ever-eager to dump their original party and sup with another which offers them greener pastures. Most look at the law not to follow it but to discover loopholes and exceptions.
Since all parties have benefited from such clandestine transfers, they cannot really be expected to join hands in rooting out defections. Nor have all the presiding officers turned out to be paragons of neutrality. Everything boils down to the conscience of the legislators which, unfortunately, happens to be highly malleable and totally untrustworthy.
The defectors have become so bold that they always think up convoluted strategies to defy rules and regulations. Even if the letter of the law is obeyed, there is a brazen defiance of the spirit. Not just that, all this is done with a sense of bravado. What emboldens them is the fact that the activities do not annoy the voters who elect them as much as these should. Society at large does not seem to be scandalised enough by their deeds. Disliking defections is one thing; not putting up with them is quite another. Unless the public makes it clear that it won't condone such antics, things may not improve.
IN the US all presidential appointees put in their papers when the President leaves the office. In India there is no such convention except in the case of officials appointed by the ministers whose term is co-terminus with that of their bosses. Governors fall in a different category. They are appointed for a fixed tenure of five years. A controversy has arisen over the continuance of some of the governors who were appointed by the NDA government. The Centre is reportedly pressurising them to quit forcing the Leader of Opposition to meet the Prime Minister and remind him that the NDA had allowed the Congress-appointed governors to complete their full term in office. The BJP conveniently forgets that it had in its own way eased out some of the governors whom it did not like.
As regards the question whether they should continue, a distinction needs to be made between two types of governors. The Sarkaria Commission, which had gone into the question, had recommended that governors should be chosen from among people who have a proven record and are known for their integrity and ability. While there are some governors who fit this description, there are many others who were appointed purely because of their political links. Experience has shown that politicians appointed as governors become pawns in the hands of the ruling party, although they are supposed to take decisions independently. It is natural that a new government led by a different party has difficulty in retaining them.
The ideal course for the politicians-turned-governors is to quit so that the government can appoint persons of its choice in their place. Lieutenant-Governor of Pondicherry N.N. Jha took the right step when he decided to relinquish the post. Of course, he did not fit the bill of a politician as he had spent four decades in the bureaucracy. What spoiled his career was his needless identification with the BJP and the quarrel he picked up with Chief Minister N. Rangasamy. It would be unfortunate if the governors concerned refuse to see the writing on the wall and make an honourable exit. On its part, the Manmohan Singh government does not crown itself with glory when it plans to appoint more superannuated politicians as governors.
Somewhat slow to emerge as an IT destination, Chandigarh and its surrounding areas are seeing renewed interest from IT firms, including IT biggie Infosys and business process outsourcing (BPO) companies. Infosys will have presence beyond Mohali, at Kishangarh village, where it is setting up a large campus, and Grant Thornton, a British accounting multinational that has a presence in Delhi, is also seeking to establish a large BPO centre in the Chandigarh-Mohali belt. GE, too, has reportedly been looking around seriously.
Quark at Mohali was the pioneer, and is by far the biggest IT player in the region. Grant Thornton Director, Mr Ashok Kumar Goyal, finds “talented youth, business friendly environment and dust-free climatic conditions,” the chief attraction for setting up shop here. Although he is generous in his perception of the advantages of Chandigarh, his point on excellent connectivity may not be shared by many who feel it is inadequate. There is no doubt that with the Tier I cities being over-saturated, Chandigarh is now poised to emerge as a new BPO and IT hub, as also underlined by discussions held at the recent Nasscom meeting in the city. In fact, there are already a few successful BPO operations running here, and the bigger companies coming in will find a large pool of IT-savvy youngsters who have a good command of English.
The city has many academic institutions, and a well-educated population, with what are among the best living standards in the country. Several factors have been responsible for the city not being on the IT map yet. These include the requirement for better road, train and air connectivity, coordination among the authorities of various states, so that Chandigarh and its surrounding areas can operate as a belt, and the need for the academic institutions to offer courses that focus on IT and its applications. For this, the authorities and the industry will have to work in concert. Many youngsters from the region aspire for IT jobs, and once they get these, they do well. Till now, they have had to leave Chandigarh for such jobs. The city has not yet realised its potential as a magnet for IT. These are early days.
India’s encounter with Modi
IT would sound outrageously callous to say that the “encounter” killings in Ahmedabad have served a good purpose. But they have. The public reaction to the killings, and to the official case made out for them, has imparted a new strength to Indian democracy itself, no less.
This is not the first instance of “encounter” killings, claimed to be truly ennobled by the cause that pulled the trigger. Of killings defended in the name of the nation and nationalism. Nor is this the first time such a killing has been condemned and its defence questioned by a minuscule minority of civil liberties activists, either ignored downright or indulged dismissively as mavericks.
This, however, is certainly the first occasion in decades when the mantra accompanying such murders has totally failed to work. Either to elicit mainstream support for the persons and powers behind the unheard shots or, at least, to ensure silent, almost all-round acquiescence.
The reports about the “encounter” killings on June 15,carried out by a force of the Ahmedabad police's unblemished record, had all the expected ingredients. The men in uniform were said to have mown down four young terrorists, all Muslims, one of them a teen-aged girl, and defeated a conspiracy by the dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba. The plot, ran the story, was masterminded by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and aimed at nothing less than the elimination of popular Chief Minister Narendra Modi. And, of course, no details could be divulged in such a delicate matter of national security.
What is notable is not only that there was no Pavolvian response to the very mention of Pakistan and the ISI, leave alone LeT. The reports were, actually, greeted with skepticism — and more.
The holes in the police story — as gaping as the ones in what was produced as the getaway car of the “terrorists” — have been picked several times since then. If the family’s and friends’ recollections of Ishrat Jahan touched many hearts, former Delhi police officer Nikhil Kumar supplied the humour by complimenting the “sharpshooters” in khaki who had escaped entirely unbruised from the “encounter” that had ended in the elimination of all the four enemies of the State with arms of “foreign origin” across bodies in a blood-splattered street. State Congress leader Amarsinh Chaudhary, who questioned the credibility of the story and asked for an enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation, must have been surprised by the support he received from many sides.
It was after four days’ apparently self-incriminating silence that the men who had presided over the liquidation of the four saw the need for some damage control. They came out with “details” and two “diaries” that, however, did not become case-clinching exhibits at the bar of public opinion. The customary crusaders against “pseudo-secular scribes”, then, ran once again their tiring, old campaign about the “anti-national” essence of a demand for democratic norms in dealing with “terrorists”.
In newspapers and television channels across the country, they talked of the “double life” of diminutive Ishrat, dating back to her twelfth year, and quoted extensively from the “diaries” of unauthenticated entries. In one simple sentence, their message was: the country must go by the gospel according to the Gujarat police.
There is one major reason why the story of the Modi police has not proved a bestseller. But that is also an important reason to stress that the story of India's reaction to the killings should not stop here.
The main reason why the police story has not sold is the record and reputation of Mr. Modi and his regime. It has taken over two years of an excruciating Gujarat experience for the country to acquire the ability not to be taken in by the story. It has taken a toll of over 2,000 lives in the Gujarat carnage of 2002 and, subsequently, of judicial and administrative traditions in what was once a model state in many respects. The Chief Minister has continued to combine minority-bashing, in utterances and administrative bias and actions, with attacks on “Mian” Musharraf. Eight persons have been declared dead in similar “encounters” before in his Gujarat, and four similar attempts on his life have been alleged.
Mr. Modi was in deep political trouble, when the diabolical assassination plot was allegedly discovered. The timing of the “encounter” — coming in the wake of a belated censure of his communal role by “the tallest leader” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (as Mr Venkaiah Naidu has described Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee) — could not be lost upon anyone. The larger lesson of the story, however, can be lost. It must not be.
This lesson is that similar questions should be raised also about similar other happenings elsewhere. “Encounter” killings, for example, are not endemic to Mr Modi’s Gujarat. The summary execution of “suspects” in detention is a far from the due process of law that has been practised for long in several states, from Kashmir and Punjab (of the eighties) to Andhra and Tamil Nadu. The question that the people must ask themselves is how they have not only allowed the “encounters” to become an established practice but an elevating one elsewhere. If an “encounter specialist” like Daya Nayak is a cult figure, a fit subject for adoring films, in Maharashtra and Karnataka, it is because the main sanction claimed for summary police execution of “suspects” is not questioned.
What needs to be questioned is the ground of “anti-national terrorism”, cited all too often for such gory displays of State terror. The official alibi must find no ready acceptance or reluctant acquiescence. Even where the high-handedness may seem to be no match for the uniformed hooliganism of Mr Modi's Gujarat. Why must it be presumed as a matter of sacred principle that no questions must be either asked or answered in police cases that are supposed to involve “national security”? Especially if the dreaded P and I words are as much as whispered?
The police has refused to answer questions, except under considerable public pressure, in cases ranging from the Capital’s Ansal Plaza affair to the Ahmedabad killings. And the public has refrained from asking enough questions about explosive issues including the Coimbatore bomb blasts and even the attack on Parliament, as though the authorities were not answerable after the acquittal of some of the accused in both cases.
The public outrage at the Ahmedabad killings is a matter of pride, regardless of what any impartial investigation may reveal. It will be a pity, however, if the issue is reduced, in the end, to an inner-BJP
Odd man out
Strange are the ways of God. Stranger still are the ways of my old time friend, Rajan. For God may have a reason for his ways, but by God, Rajan has the most unreasonable ways of life.
The thing that is most common in Rajan is the lack of a common sense. Even though I have to admit that the uncommon thing about him is his unique gift of uncommon sense. Thus, in ordinary situations he ends up as a born loser, but in extraordinary situations he is the sure winner among us. Here I shall only relate about his life in ordinary situations, because of its amusing aspect.
His "I told you so" is one of the most remarkable habits. For seeking his opinion if you tell him of any problem he says, "No, don't do it" and within a split second, i.e. even before he has completed his previous sentence, he will say, "Yes, do it!" Now whatever the outcome of the situation, Rajan claims to be the winner. If there is an adverse outcome, he says, "Didn't I warn you about it?" If the results are favourable, again he grabs the credit: "Didn't I tell you not to worry about it and that all would be well finally?"
There is another habit very unique to him. Every time, after a row with his wife, Sushmita, over a non-issue he will threaten to walk out of his home. Knowing his deep love for her, Sushmita would accept the challenge and most obligingly show him the door. In the very next minute he would ring the door-bell and say, "Oh, I shall go after some time!" And he would be back about his work in the house with child-like innocence. Thus, his wife manages to keep her ego intact!
But there is more to Rajan than meets the eye. What a bull does in a china shop can be better visualized when you observe him in the kitchen. Thanks to his impatience, the rice cooker, the nonstick pan and the sandwich maker in Sushmita's kitchen are full of thick scratches. He cannot bear to see them dirty even for a few minutes of completion of cooking. He will slyly use a knife or the handle of a spoon to remove the sticking food materials when his wife is busy elsewhere. I remember during his younger days how Uncle always grumbled over his habits. "A bad workman quarrels with his tools," he would say, sadly shaking his head.
You might be thinking I am washing Rajan's dirty linen in public. But truly speaking, how I can fail to tell you how he washes his dirty linen at home. Both Rajan and Sushmita play a game of hide and seek with all the linen awaiting washing in their home. She hides the linen in the most hideous places but he manages to seek them out and put them all simultaneously into the washing machine. Ultimately, most of the time the white clothes turn multicoloured even without the help of a clothes-dyer!
When I talk of washing machines how can I forget Sushmita's story about how their money literally goes down the drain! The other day, Rajan forgot as usual to check his pocket for money before throwing his clothes into the washing machine. A good amount of borrowed money took a few spins before he remembered about it. Fortunately, he managed to retrieve the currency notes on time from the whirlpool, dried them, lightly ironed them for use and saved the day for himself. But things are different when the clothes go directly to the drycleaners. They have a field day when they examine his pockets. When Sushmita happens to be luckier the money comes back home neatly dry-cleaned in the pockets of his clothes!
I could leave at that, but I think you must know that his financial concept is also really very weird. He believes in buying things impulsively. “Don't worry,” he assures his wife, “if you have no money just write a cheque or give your credit card,” as though the cheque or card was just a piece of paper. He does not realise that spending by cheque or credit card is worse than spending cash!
This is all that Sushmita has shared with me today. She has just rushed back home to find her odd man out with his more odd ways!
Partition victims look back
On August 12 a big, hefty Sikh came riding a motorcycle down Temple Road in Mozang in Lahore. As he approached Chowk Bhoondpura, local hoodlums tried to attack him. When they noticed that he carried a gun they quickly dispersed. Half an hour later, another Sikh, this time an aged, emaciated carpenter, came down the same route on a dingy, old bicycle. Like most daily workers, he was carrying his afternoon meal wrapped up in a dusty cloth, called potli in Punjabi parlance, which was tied to the handle of his bike. He seemed to be on his way to work as usual, oblivious of the big political game going on at that time. This time the same roughnecks pounced upon him. One of them stabbed him. He screamed and tried to run away. Seeing a tonga nearby, he tried to climb onto it. The tongawala kicked him and he fell to the ground. His assailants now caught up with him and dealt some more blows. He died screaming for help and mercy."
This was an eyewitness account that young Ishtiaq Ahmed heard from his mother in his childhood. Ishtiaq was born a few months before Partition and this story haunted him all through his youth and adulthood as he wondered how such cruel things could have happened in that miserable year. Ishtiaq, who is now Associate Professor and International Academic Adviser, Department of Political Science, University of Stockholm, is working on a three-year project entitled “Forced Migration and Ethnic Cleansing in Punjab in 1947: an Enquiry into the Ideology, Politics and Processes of Genocide”.
The Swedish Research Council has sponsored the project. Ishtiaq recently toured Punjab and Delhi collecting oral histories in personal contact with victims of Partition. Accompanying Ishtiaq to interview Gurbachan Singh Tandon (70) at his home in NOIDA, one started on nostalgic note with the interview, talking about his village Dost Mohammadan near Sheikhupura and their fields of wheat. His wife and grown-up sons sat by his side and children flitted around the drawingroom. Then began the horrendous account. The Muslims in the village had assured the Hindus and the Sikhs protection and so they did not migrate. However, a few weeks after Partition, mobs came in hundreds from outside and the villagers could not put up resistance.
Tandon, then just 13, and his older brother too were hit and buried under bodies. Many hours later when the mobs had killed looted and left, the villagers started collecting the bodies to throw them in the nearby canal that they discovered that Tandon was alive, although his brother had died. He was then taken to the gurdwara where his parents and other members of the family had reached by escaping through another route. A few weeks they stayed on at the village under the protection of the Muslim neighbours until military trucks came to take them to a camp, first in Lahore and then in Amritsar.
Suddenly Tandon started sobbing like a child because the worst was to come at Amritsar in a Mantoesque turn of the tale. Hoodlums of their own faith robbed his parents of the seven rupees they had and killed them near Chheharatta. Human life was going cheap then, both this side and that side.
Switching off the tape-recorder in silent respect, Ishtiaq said that this was the second most touching story that he had come across in his interviews with the victims. Ishtiaq recounts: "The other story was told to me by an elderly gentleman, Hans Raj ,born on August 20 1920 and son of Lala Daya Ram Khatri of village Saleempura Jagraon district about two Muslim sisters— Zainab Bibi and Ramzan Bibi."
The story goes thus that a Sikh, Baisakha Singh of Kishenpura gathered all Muslims of this area and told them that they need not worry, they would be escorted safely to the refugee camps. The Muslims, consisting mainly of the Arain (vegetable growers) caste, put their complete trust in him and the next day they began to walk towards the camp, but two gunshots were fired at them. Baisakha Singh told the young men to walk to the camp on their own while the women and children were to be left in his protection.
So the able-bodied men walked away, leaving the women and children behind. However, some miscreants attacked and some of the women were taken away. Zainab Bibi and Ramzan Bibi, both married, were among those taken captive. At that time, women were being sold for as little as Rs 300. The sisters pleaded with the goondas to first try to find out from their husband's families if they were willing to pay for their freedom. Inder Singh, who was in the Army, became the go-between. He asked me to find out if the families of the two sisters were willing to pay the ransom. I talked to the goondas who demanded Rs1,000 for each sister. Ramzan Bibi's husband was in England at that time. His father, Ata Muhammad Mehr, agreed to pay Rs. 700 and the deal was clinched. Zainab Bibi's father-in-law offered only Rs.300 saying he could not pay more. Her husband was also present, but he did nothing. Zainab Bibi was never returned.
Ishtiaq says that while recording these oral histories on both sides of the border, one thing that he has come across is that there is equal remorse for such acts. How does Ishtiaq feel about this project at the emotional level? His reply to this query is: "I believe that until both sides accept their guilt about what happened in Punjab in 1947, the hearts would never forgive and forget and no true reconciliation would take place. No side was alone guilty of crimes against humanity. Most people did not take part in the riots. Many helped their neighbours and complete strangers. Organised units of violent men committed most of the crimes. Most people were just victims of circumstances". The research findings are to be published in book form.
What is Zian, daughter of former Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haque, doing in India? Before you get any ideas, let it be said that she was here only for the launch of the music of Sashi Ranjan’s film “Doobara”. She had come on a special invitation given by Sinha, a close buddy of the filmmaker. The music was launched by prominent people like Mahesh Bhatt and Shatrughan Sinha in Mumbai but all eyes were on Zian. The film has another Pakistani connection. Actor Muammar Rana from across the border plays a cameo. Zian said this was her third visit. She said she enjoyed Hindi films and “Dil To Paagal Hai” was her favourite film. “Doobara” is a love story between Jackie Shroff, who plays a middle-aged married man, and Raveena Tandon, who plays his ex-girlfriend, told as a thriller. The cast includes Mahima Chowdhry, who plays Jackie’s wife, Gulshan Grover, Soni Razdan, Vikram, Hemant Pradeep and Raju Pandit. Pakistani actor Muammar Rana plays a cameo.
She had come on a special invitation given by Sinha, a close buddy of the filmmaker. The music was launched by prominent people like Mahesh Bhatt and Shatrughan Sinha in Mumbai but all eyes were on Zian. The film has another Pakistani connection. Actor Muammar Rana from across the border plays a cameo.
Zian said this was her third visit. She said she enjoyed Hindi films and “Dil To Paagal Hai” was her favourite film.
“Doobara” is a love story between Jackie Shroff, who plays a middle-aged married man, and Raveena Tandon, who plays his ex-girlfriend, told as a thriller.
The cast includes Mahima Chowdhry, who plays Jackie’s wife, Gulshan Grover, Soni Razdan, Vikram, Hemant Pradeep and Raju Pandit. Pakistani actor Muammar Rana plays a cameo.
“Lakshya” His “Lakshya” has hit the cinema only recently. But Farhan Akhtar is already working on his next film, which will be a children’s film for adults. It’s a film tentatively titled ‘Voice From The Sky’. It’s right now in Hindi. But it might become a Hindi-English bilingual. It’s a children’s film for adults. The protagonist is an eight-year-old boy. “I’m writing the film. That apart, I’m helping my sister Zoya by writing the dialogues for her film ‘Luck By Chance’ which she’s writing and directing,” the man with snazzy hairbands, says. Incidentally, a phenomenally gifted child named Ayesha Kapoor is also at the helm of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Black”. Farhan will start looking out for an eight-year-old as soon as “Lakshya”, described by Time magazine correspondent Alex Perry as a path-breaker for Bollywood, is out of the way. Another idea that he might go to in the future is a prequel to “Dil Chahta Hai”.
His “Lakshya” has hit the cinema only recently. But Farhan Akhtar is already working on his next film, which will be a children’s film for adults.
It’s a film tentatively titled ‘Voice From The Sky’. It’s right now in Hindi. But it might become a Hindi-English bilingual. It’s a children’s film for adults. The protagonist is an eight-year-old boy.
“I’m writing the film. That apart, I’m helping my sister Zoya by writing the dialogues for her film ‘Luck By Chance’ which she’s writing and directing,” the man with snazzy hairbands, says.
Incidentally, a phenomenally gifted child named Ayesha Kapoor is also at the helm of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Black”. Farhan will start looking out for an eight-year-old as soon as “Lakshya”, described by Time magazine correspondent Alex Perry as a path-breaker for Bollywood, is out of the way.
Another idea that he might go to in the future is a prequel to “Dil Chahta Hai”.
is back Pop trio
Destiny’s Child is back after a two-year break. Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams are recording a new album and have announced their first live show since 2002, reported E! Online. They are planning to perform on stage in Los Angeles in September and preview songs from their album. One of the tunes of the concert will feature on Pepsi’s Play For A Billion game show that airs on ABC on Sept 12. “We are really looking forward to getting back on stage and performing together as a group,” E! Online quoted Knowles as saying.
Pop trio Destiny’s Child is back after a two-year break.
Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams are recording a new album and have announced their first live show since 2002, reported E! Online.
They are planning to perform on stage in Los Angeles in September and preview songs from their album. One of the tunes of the concert will feature on Pepsi’s Play For A Billion game show that airs on ABC on Sept 12.
“We are really looking forward to getting back on stage and performing together as a group,” E! Online quoted Knowles as saying.
If a man who enjoys a lesser happiness beholds a greater one, let him leave aside the lesser to gain the greater. — The Buddha When we have the three great “gifts of God”, a human body, intense desire to be free, and the help of a soul to show us the way, then liberation is certain for us. Mukti is ours. — Swami Vivekananda Purity of Hinduism depends on the self-restraint of its votaries. — Mahatma Gandhi Whatever God willed, has come to pass; for, there is no other Doer except Him. — Guru Nanak To believe is to be strong. Doubt cramps energy. Belief is power. — F.W. Robertson
— The Buddha
When we have the three great “gifts of God”, a human body, intense desire to be free, and the help of a soul to show us the way, then liberation is certain for us. Mukti is ours.
— Swami Vivekananda
Purity of Hinduism depends on the self-restraint of its votaries.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Whatever God willed, has come to pass; for, there is no other Doer except Him.
— Guru Nanak
To believe is to be strong. Doubt cramps energy. Belief is power.
— F.W. Robertson