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EDITORIALS

Parliament can’t be held up
Parties must tackle the tainted by other means
C
rime and politics should stay miles away from each other. But wishes cannot be horses in the real world. The two not only mix freely but also transform themselves into an entirely new compound which has been corroding the innards of the Indian system.

Special powers a must
But these need to be exercised with care
D
efence Minister Pranab Mukherji is justified when he says that the Armed Forces (J & K) Special Powers Act 1990 is still needed to ensure normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. Since the monster of terrorism is very much alive in the border state, the security forces must be armed with special powers to accomplish the task assigned to them.




 

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TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Transfers without pain
Humane touch to new policy
S
tep by step, Mr Arjun Singh is clearing out the mess left behind by his predecessor, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, in the Human Resource Development Ministry. After reversing Mr Joshi’s controversial decisions to slash the IIM fees and introduce biased history books, the new Human Resource Development Minister has given a humane touch to the previous regime’s transfer policy for the teachers of Kendriya Vidyalayas.

ARTICLE

Kashmir a fulcrum of friendship
Borders matter less than relationships
by B. G. Verghese
T
HE Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan have met to commence a comprehensive, composite dialogue. This could have happened nearly five years ago but for Pakistan’s Kargil war. However, a good beginning has been made and Kashmir too has been discussed as a prelude to more intensive deliberations on this topic in ensuing rounds.

MIDDLE

To die again and again
by Saroop Krishen
I
t is interesting how on occasions great minds belonging to two different civilisations, almost a world apart, express some of their basic thoughts in words which appear to be echoes of each other.

OPED

Unity in diversity at Leh
Sindhu Darshan festival to help promote tourism
by Ruchika M. Khanna
T
he three-day Sindhu Darshan festival, organised recently along the banks of the mighty Sindhu river near Leh, celebrated the unity in diversity of the country.

Delhi Durbar
Avoid publicity, PM tells colleagues
S
everal ministers had sought the Prime Minister’s permission to visit Paris on one pretext or another but ostensibly to attend the wedding of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter. They were disappointed as the Prime Minister politely but firmly turned down such requests.

  • PM from Nandyal?
  • Abdul Kalam’s gesture
  • Vajpayee on the move
  • Riaz Khokhar in a spot

 REFLECTIONS

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EDITORIALS

Parliament can’t be held up
Parties must tackle the tainted by other means

Crime and politics should stay miles away from each other. But wishes cannot be horses in the real world. The two not only mix freely but also transform themselves into an entirely new compound which has been corroding the innards of the Indian system. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that the tainted ministers will stay in the government is surprising. Coming from a man of his integrity, it has tremendous pathos. All this is happening because no attempt has been made earlier to check the entry of criminal elements into the hallowed precincts of the Lok Sabha. Now that they are there and coalition politics is a grim reality, it is indeed not easy to bar their entry into the Council of Ministers. Of course, having chargesheeted men as ministers makes the malaise all the more glaring but society should be equally worried about their getting elected in the first place. The public wants not only the Cabinet to be rid of the taint but also expects its representatives to be clean as well.

Dr Manmohan Singh's remarks that the NDA ministry too had several charge-sheeted ministers is an immediate retort, may be well-merited, but it does not solve the problem of Messrs Taslimuddin and Co's presence in his Council of Ministers and sharing power with him.

While the concern of the BJP and its allies at the criminalisation is understandable, they cannot take things too far. Holding up the proceedings of the Budget session will amount to matching one error with another. If having men with a criminal background in the ministry is condemnable, so is the attempt to halt the proceedings of the House. The boycott will be as counter-productive as a similar action by the Congress and the others in the previous Lok Sabha against the then Defence Minister George Fernandes. Why should Parliament be made to suffer for what politicians are failing to tackle.
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Special powers a must
But these need to be exercised with care

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherji is justified when he says that the Armed Forces (J & K) Special Powers Act 1990 is still needed to ensure normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. Since the monster of terrorism is very much alive in the border state, the security forces must be armed with special powers to accomplish the task assigned to them. Experience shows that they cannot function effectively if they have to run to the District Magistrate every time they want to detain a suspected terrorist for questioning or launch an operation against such motivated killers. The law has not only been helpful in keeping the forces' morale high despite the reverses they have suffered, it has also acted as a deterrent for the merchants of death and destruction.

Any stiff law, however, requires caution to be observed lest it should be misused. Excesses might have been committed here and there in the process of the anti-terrorism campaign carried out under the special legislation. But this is understandable under such circumstances. No innocent person should suffer even in a highly tricky situation. After all, the security personnel deployed in Jammu and Kashmir are supposed to not only eliminate terrorists but also safeguard the people, whose support they need.

When the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was promulgated in Jammu and Kashmir, only six districts were covered initially. The law was extended to the other six districts when the situation became grim there too. Since then it has undoubtedly helped the security forces to have the upper hand in the battle against the terrorists. The menace has, however, unfortunately not disappeared because of the infiltration from across the border. For some time the infiltration has declined, but there is the danger of it rising again with the melting of snows. Moreover, Pakistan is yet to completely dismantle the terrorists' infrastructure there and in Pok. Thus, no government in New Delhi can afford to deprive the security forces of the special powers they have. The situation has not improved to the extent that it can be managed without a stringent law.
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Transfers without pain
Humane touch to new policy

Step by step, Mr Arjun Singh is clearing out the mess left behind by his predecessor, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, in the Human Resource Development Ministry. After reversing Mr Joshi’s controversial decisions to slash the IIM fees and introduce biased history books, the new Human Resource Development Minister has given a humane touch to the previous regime’s transfer policy for the teachers of Kendriya Vidyalayas. The new policy, announced on Wednesday, takes particular care of problems faced by women teachers and lays down clear-cut guidelines for effecting transfers.

As is widely known, transfer has become a tool of harassment in the hands of those at the helm of affairs to make a recalcitrant employee fall in line. Off and on, there are instances of sexual exploitation of women employees and extraction of bribes under the threat of transfer to an inconvenient place. Family life of many a working woman with school-going children gets unsettled if she is transferred to a far-off place. Quite often the woman has to quit her job as in our social milieu it is the woman who is entrusted with the primary responsibility of taking care of children.

Besides, a displaced teacher suffers from many disabilities. Apart from bearing additional financial burden on account of running a separate household, she is torn between obligations at home and school, and cannot be expected to do justice to both. An institution also cannot expect such a teacher to put in her best in her work. The students are the ultimate sufferers. The new policy, which emphasises on transfers with consent within a limited zone, is bound to be greeted by the large body of KV teachers. The states too need to adopt a similar humane approach in case of their employees so that a proper work culture is ensured and employees are not inconvenienced on petty, personal and non-administrative grounds.
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Thought for the day

Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.

— Oliver Goldsmith
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Kashmir a fulcrum of friendship
Borders matter less than relationships
by B. G. Verghese

THE Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan have met to commence a comprehensive, composite dialogue. This could have happened nearly five years ago but for Pakistan’s Kargil war. However, a good beginning has been made and Kashmir too has been discussed as a prelude to more intensive deliberations on this topic in ensuing rounds.

As always, Pakistan-backed jihadis have sought to up the ante because peace spells danger for them. Meanwhile, a fractured Hurriyat remains divided on talking with the Government of India. Many Hurriyat leaders met the Pakistan Foreign Secretary in Delhi and are anxious to visit Islamabad and Muzzafarabad. None should be prevented from doing so as there is nothing they can say there that they have not said here. Moreover, they will be unable thereafter to sit on the fence without inviting more ridicule.

Pakistan has been zealous in demanding Kashmiri participation in any talks. What better means of accomplishing this than permitting people on either side of the LoC to bus across from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad (Jammu to Sialkot and even Kargil to Skardu) to visit the other with the aid of simple documents and minimal fuss.

Jihadis do not come through legitimate crossing points and so there should be little additional security risk. India has little to hide and should, indeed, take the initiative to invite leading Pakistani media persons, scholars and professionals to visit J&K and see things for themselves. They would be astonished by the contrast between what they see and hear and the propaganda on which they have been fed for decades. Myth will fade before reality to create a crisis of conscience and credibility in the minds of these visitors about what Pakistan has billed as the “core issue”.

Far from being afraid to talk about J&K, India should compel Pakistan to confront the truth about the “core” issue. It is equally important for Indians to do so. Since Simla, 32 years ago, two generations of India’s decision makers have not uttered what a trivialising Press calls the “K-word”. The old books on J&K that had the facts and sequence of events are out of stock and not easily found even in libraries. In the result, negotiators, administrators, legislators, academics and editors, barring a few, practice fluent punditry with scant knowledge apart from what they and the world have heard from incessant and noisy Pakistani propagandist chatter.

India’s silence all these years has allowed Pakistan to set the terms of discourse: What is “Kashmir”; who is a “Kashmiri”; what is the “dispute”; why was the now-effete UN Resolution of August 13, 1948, not implemented; who is the self and what is to be determined in all the talk of “self-determination”; what is the relevance of the LoC; how is Siachen an issue; and what is Pakistan’s locus standi in J&K and that of PoK and the Northern Areas within it?

Both Pakistan and India need to understand the “core” issues. Otherwise, the talks will degenerate into the kind of grandstanding witnessed in Agra and flounder in the quicksand of make-believe. General Musharraf has urged that old and untenable positions be discarded and has pleaded for give and take. In rejecting the LoC he is possibly making a rhetorical statement to buy time while Pakistan comes to terms with reality. If this is not so, then he must be firmly reminded that Pakistan cannot win at the peace table what it has been unable to gain through 50 years of war, proxy war and terror. Even though the truth hurts, the veil of deceit must be torn off or cast aside. Then alone will Pakistan be able to come to terms with itself and India be able pragmatically to give, more than take, without compromising from a sense of guilt or helplessness. Peace too must rest on a moral basis.

What does Pakistan get by accepting the LoC (with such subsequent minor adjustments in relation to administrative, environmental and security considerations), transforming what was a ceasefire line into a friendly border? It will legitimise Pakistan’s illegal occupation of two-fifths of J&K and enable to see itself as a sovereign nation and not merely as the “other” in relation to India. The burden of this charade on Pakistan has been enormous, compelling it to disown much of its history, culture and sense of composite nationhood. It is this recognition of self, not Kashmir, that is Pakistan’s “unfinished business of Partition”, its jugular vein and something that could give its disfigured nationhood “strategic depth” and meaning.

The Cease-Fire Line was drawn under the Karachi Agreement of July 27, 1949, signed by the Commanders of the Indian and Pakistan armed forces and the UN Military Observer Group, and later renamed the Line of Control under the Suchetgarh Agreement after the Simla Accord in 1972. It defined the Line as going from NJ 9842, the last designated coordinate in the Northern Sector, “thence North to the glaciers”. Such a line, drawn as indicated, clearly places almost all of Siachen on the Indian side of the LoC. It was only Pakistan’s redrawing of this Line from NJ 9842 northeast to the Karakoram Pass in the late 1960s, following a mischievous and gratuitous re-demarcation of this segment by the US Defence Mapping Agency around 1967, in an act of cartographic aggression, that compelled India to occupy the Glacier in 1984 or else risk losing it by default.

Once Siachen is firmly anchored in the LoC it can be demilitarised and made part of a Karakoram-K2 International Heritage Glacier Park, hopefully including Shaksgam (unauthorisedly ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963) as part of an India- China border settlement. The LoC itself represents a broad ethno-cultural divide of J&K’s plural and polyglot society and therefore has a validity of its own.

A Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus service could be the first step in making this a “soft” border, with protocols to facilitate movement, trade, tourism, pilgrimage, transit and cultural exchange between the two sides. This could in stages lead to joint and overarching mechanisms for border management, environmental conservation, joint ventures, shared tourism packages, and the development and integrated management of the shared water resources of the Indus to realise the full potential of that river system in an Indus-II Treaty that would not override but reinforce Indus-I. Joint defence and a loose “condominium” within twin Indian and Pakistani sovereignties could be a longer-term goal commensurate with the ideal of a South Asian Community earlier envisaged by a SAARC Eminent Persons Group and subsequently endorsed in principle at a SAARC summit.

With greater Centre-State and regional autonomy, as may be worked out by India and Pakistan on either side of the LoC, the people of J&K could enjoy a self-determination that guarantees them the best of three worlds. With neither India nor Pakistan formally abandoning its aspirations in and for J&K, the state could become the fulcrum of a new relationship of friendship and cooperation between them. Borders matter less than relationships across them. A solution in J&K does not lie in territorial or religious division. Transforming relations across the J&K/LoC border offers the best hope of a lasting and just non-territorial settlement that could be a balm to South Asia and an example to the world.

The writer is a former Editor of The Hindustan Times and The Indian Express

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To die again and again
by Saroop Krishen

It is interesting how on occasions great minds belonging to two different civilisations, almost a world apart, express some of their basic thoughts in words which appear to be echoes of each other.

Schopenhauer, the famous German philosopher, describes the life of man on this earth in the terms of a weakling riding a very strong and well-built horse which is rushing along at breakneck speed in a hilly area. The problem, however, is that the horse is blind and without any reins or stirrups. The rider thus has no means whatever of controlling it and can only see helplessly that any moment the horse might dash itself against the rocks or plunge down a deep gorge along with him. His heart is thus in his mouth all the time: in fact, the danger to him is so grave and imminent that it makes him die a death again and again.

Ghalib expresses the same thought in almost identical terms. His couplet on the subject runs as follows:

"Rau mein hai rakhsh-i-umr, kahan dekhiye thamey/na haath bag per hai, na paa hai rakaab mein." (The steed of life is in a rush, let us see where it stops/ there are no reins in my hand, nor are my feet in any stirrups).

Another thought on a different theme which figures very prominently in Ghalib’s poetry is that heaven is a mere illusion created by man himself only because it offers him a pleasant prospect. Two among numerous couplets of his in which this idea finds expression are: "Ham ko maaloom hai jannat key haqiqat leikin/ dil ke khush rakhney ko Ghalib yeh khayal achcha hai".

(I know the real truth about paradise, but/the thought of it serves to keep man in good cheer).

The other couplet is:

"Taa’t mein taa rahey na mai-o-angbeen ki lag/dozakh mein daal do koi leikar buhisht ko".

(Lest worship bear the taint that it’s for the sake of (heaven’s) wine and honey/ let someone consign heaven to hell)

Tailpiece: Entasis is an unusual phenomenon to the effect that if the shaft of a column, pier etc. is made quite straight then the illusion of a slight concavity in it gets created. In order to compensate for this and to ensure that the line appears to be straight, a corresponding convex curve is given to the structure. The ancients were quite familiar with this phenomenon. For instance, in the marble pillars of Parthenon, the Greeks introduced the necessary convexity to make them seem to be absolutely straight.
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OPED

Unity in diversity at Leh
Sindhu Darshan festival to help promote tourism
by Ruchika M. Khanna

Noted danseuse Sonal Mansingh perform along with her troupe at the Sindhu Darshan festival
Noted danseuse Sonal Mansingh perform along with her troupe at the Sindhu Darshan festival in Leh. — PTI photo

The three-day Sindhu Darshan festival, organised recently along the banks of the mighty Sindhu river near Leh, celebrated the unity in diversity of the country.

The Sindhu Darshan which since its inception in 1997, has been regarded more of a festival for religious bigots. However, the three-day festival in Shey Manla, near Leh, from June 18 to 20 this year, saw a tilt towards spiritual secularism. From its earlier “avatar” of a festival comprising rituals, rites and superstitions, the Sindhu Darshan in its new manifestation exhibited the rich cultural heritage of Ladakh and, in essence, became an event for promoting tourism and exhibiting national integration.

There was a low turnout of tourists at the festival this year. Officials in Leh say that change in the schedule of the festival might have played a spoilsport (this festival is generally organised in the second week of June). Against the modest attendance of 75 tourists in 1997, it jumped to 1,700 in 2002 and over 2300 in 2003. This year, a small number of pilgrim-tourists, on the banks of the Indus, were seen only on the inaugural day of the festival.

This year’s Sindhu Darshan festival began on a secular note with the mixing of the waters collected from the Brahmaputra, Ganga, Yamuna and the Godawari into the Indus. Though the ritual of calling Army/ ITBP jawans in the festival for promoting brotherhood (with pilgrim tourists tying rakhi on their hands) was observed symbolically, the number of jawans and their “rakhi sisters“ had decreased since last year.

The cultural festivities, restricted to the first day alone, were aimed at bringing out the rich Ladakhi culture, rather than a Hindu culture. The Union Minister of State for Tourism, Ms Renuka Chowdhary, too said that henceforth the festival would be aimed at promoting tourism in the Ladakh region

The Sindhis, who had travelled to this mountain desert from different parts of the country to take part in a special pooja, prayed for the permanency of the river and welfare of the world, amidst the recital of Boddhik chants by monks who converged from different monasteries in the region.

And it was not just the Sindhis, but people from other religions like Sikhs, Buddhists and Christian foreigners who stepped into the ice-cold waters of the river and prayed that the river, which had led to the origin of life, should carry the message of unity and communal harmony.

Mr Kuldeep Singh of Mohali, Punjab, who had come here for the Sindhu Darshan, while rubbishing the Hindu ideology of the Sindhu Darshan festival, said that he had travelled all the way to Leh to pay homage to the river that had been the cradle of the Indian civilisation.

Similar views were expressed by Ms Lajwanti Peswani and Mr Baldev Peswani from Mumbai, who after offering their prayers to Lord Jhule Lal and collecting water of the Indus to be taken back home, prayed for the welfare of the universe. ‘’The river gives the fundamental message of oneness and underlying unities — unity in the diversity of man, unity in the diversity of nature and unity in the diversity of religion. So why restrict the festivities to the Sindhis or Hindus,” they said.

Ms Rakhi Mehtani, a resident of Ahmedabad, says that she has been visiting Leh for the Sindhu Darshan for the past three years and found people of all religions participating in the festivities.

Are we finally beginning to get out of our communal nemesis? Well, the change in the political leadership at the top hopes to redefine the cultural heritage and reconstruct the religious thought to a nationalist thought. It’s time that the pure is separated from the profane. As Swami Vivekananda has rightly observed, “Each nation, like an individual, has one theme in life, which is at its centre. In India, religious life forms the centre.”

Hence a reawakened Hinduism (not religious bigotry, but a commitment to a selfless way of life and to the cultural heritage of the land) is a must to keep the country’s institutions from fragmenting. If the celebration of festivals without associating these with narrow religious motives is the first infantile step in this regard, let the spark spread everywhere so that spiritual secularism reigns.

For the first time, three Pakistani Sindhis attended the festival. It was reportedly at the intervention of the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, that permission for travel of these Sindhis was granted. Janardan Baghwan Das, alias Sain Sadaram Saheb, a priest, was accompanied by his associates Lakshmi Chand, a singer, and Satram Das.
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Delhi Durbar
Avoid publicity, PM tells colleagues

Several ministers had sought the Prime Minister’s permission to visit Paris on one pretext or another but ostensibly to attend the wedding of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter. They were disappointed as the Prime Minister politely but firmly turned down such requests.

In circulars to his Cabinet colleagues Dr Manmohan Singh has urged them not to waste time chasing publicity. He has also instructed all government officials not to entertain anyone who uses the Prime Minister’s name to get work done.

A simple man not given to any ostentation, Dr Singh gets so immersed in work that doctors have to intervene urging him to take a breather and have his lunch, which is invariably a simple vegetarian affair.

PM from Nandyal?

Just before his day-long visit to Andhra Pradesh on Thursday for a first-hand assessment of the reasons for suicides by farmers, speculation began that he might contest for the Lok Sabha from the Nandyal constituency, which was once represented by PV Narasimha Rao. Aides of Dr Singh dismiss the reports as rubbish. Dr Singh has hardly had any time to think of getting elected to the House of the People.

Abdul Kalam’s gesture

At the glittering Padma awards function in Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday, President A P J Abdul Kalam showed the rare gesture of walking half way to the distinguished awardees to pin the medallion and present the scroll. When he found renowned and aged artistes finding difficulty in walking up to the area where Kalam was seated, the sprightly President set aside protocol. He briskly walked up and did the honours. He also had a word with all awardees. The President had a ready smile and a special pat for the awardees.

Vajpayee on the move

Even though Atal Bihari Vajpayee is expected to move out of the official Race Course Residence of the Prime Minister next week, it might still take a while for new head of government Manmohan Singh to move in.

This is because the RCR requires a facelift. Meanwhile, Vajpayee will move into a sprawling bungalow at 6A, Krishna Menon Marg, which has been readied in keeping with the tastes and needs of the former Prime Minister.

Riaz Khokhar in a spot

When Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar arrived in the Capital for the talks with his Indian counterpart Shashank, the situation in his country had undergone a change with Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali having quit as Prime Minister.

Therefore, he could not hand over the invitation from Mr Jamali to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Khokar overcame a delicate situation by extending an invitation orally to Dr Singh of behalf of the new Pakistani Prime Minister, Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, assuring him that the formal one will follow in a week’s time.

Contributed by Satish Misra, Gaurav Choudhary and S. Satyanarayanan

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What more can a man in the street want to learn than this, that the one God and Creator and Master of all that lives pervades the Universe?

— Mahatma Gandhi

Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all else shall be added unto you.

— Saint Matthew

Call no one bad.

— Guru Nanak

Vedanta provides you the inner growth and development with which alone you will be able to relish and rule the world.

— Swami A. Parthasarathy
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