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Perspective | Oped | Reflections

Perspective

US and India: Time to think
by M.V. Kamath
B
Y now it is a cliché to say that the United States is the only super power in the world and everybody knows it. But it is behaving like one with India in a manner that can only be described as crude. If India does not bare its teeth now, it may find itself paying a heavy price for it in years to come.

Bush visit will give a boost to Indo-US ties: Inderfurth
Ashish Kumar Sen, our Correspondent in Washington, interviews Karl Inderfurth
T
HE Indo-US relations have been marked by reciprocal visits to New Delhi and Washington by the leaders of both nations. President George W. Bush will visit India in March. Karl F. Inderfurth, a key adviser of the Clinton Administration, discusses the evolution of the US-India ties in this exclusive interview to The Sunday Tribune.


EARLIER STORIES
The President speaks
February 18, 2006
Forces of integration
February 17, 2006
Tying the knot
February 16, 2006
Dangerous trend
February 15, 2006
Third front — a non-starter
February 14, 2006
The One-India call
February 13, 2006
The business of expelling Excellencies
February 12, 2006
Forward with
nuclear deal

February 11, 2006
Shut and open cases
February 10, 2006
Raj Babbar’s outbursts
February 9, 2006
After 10K
February 8, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Google ranks censorship as trade issue
by Stephen Foley
G
OOGLE pledged to reconsider its controversial decision to launch a self-censored web search business in China, if it looked as if the internet was failing to improve freedom of expression in the People’s Republic.

OPED

Profile
Hard work Mittal’s mantra of success
by Harihar Swarup
W
OULD you believe that the world’s richest Indian was born almost penniless, grew up in a small town of Rajasthan surrounded by thorn shrubs and sand dunes, lived in a dilapidated house and slept on concrete floors? Yes, it is true.

Police reforms
Tasks before the Soli Sorabjee panel
by Doel Mukerjee
T
HE Soli Sorabjee Committee constituted by the Manmohan Singh government to review the Indian Police Act is a major boost for the civil society and the citizens who have often faced the brunt of police excesses. As the committee is expected to make wide ranging recommendations, the draft law should be open to public domain for wider participation and consultation among the people unlike the committees formed in the past.

Diversities — Delhi Letter
Kashmir returns to the centrestage
by Humra Quraishi
T
HERE is much focus on Kashmir these days. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik met Prime  Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Friday. This meeting is a prelude to the Centre’s roundtable talks on Kashmir with political leaders, separatists and other groups, scheduled  to be held in New Delhi on February 24.

 

 REFLECTIONS

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US and India: Time to think
by M.V. Kamath

BY now it is a cliché to say that the United States is the only super power in the world and everybody knows it. But it is behaving like one with India in a manner that can only be described as crude. If India does not bare its teeth now, it may find itself paying a heavy price for it in years to come.

Washington is playing the carrot-and-stick game. On the one hand, it promises access to US civilian nuclear technology to India if Delhi shows willingness to put its civilian facilities under international inspection. But then, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that “in order to move on to a new phase in which civil nuclear power would be made available to India, Delhi has to make some difficult choices”. That is a broad hint that has its own implications. And if that is not enough, US Ambassador to India issues what can only be described as an ultimatum, and an unqualified threat. If the Ambassador, Mr David C. Mulford is to be believed — and we should believe him — if India refuses to vote against Iran’s nuclear programme it would have “devastating” consequences for the India-US nuclear deal with the US Congress refusing to ratify it.

The arrogance behind that remark has been described by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee as “outrageous” and violating “all diplomatic norms”. No one will charge Mr Vajpayee as being anti-American. And yet even he has been forced to speak out against Mr Mulford. He was reportedly summoned by India’s Foreign Secretary Mr Shyam Saran and told that his comments were “inappropriate” and “not conducive to building a strong partnership” between India and US. Mr Mulford reportedly expressed his “sincere regrets” saying that his remarks had been taken out of context — a standard excuse not worth considering.

The Government should have demanded his immediate recall for insulting India’s status. But all that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could say is that “to err is human”. Dr Singh forgets that what Mulford is guilty of is not erring but insulting a nation. The situation was further compounded in true US-style by US State Department’s spokesman Sean McCormack who, instead of apologising for Mulford’s statement, merely excused him by saying that “What the Ambassador was talking about merely reflected the views on the Capitol Hill”, meaning thereby the US Congress.

According to McCormack, “there are very strongly held feelings about Iran” in the US Congress. He should know that there are equally “very strong feelings” in India about American behaviour. The US is getting too big for its shoes. The Indian Left has made its “strong feelings” explicit and for once the Communists are speaking out for all India. Even the BJP felt it necessary to express its serious concern over Mulford’s “over-bearing” statement and warn the government against compromising national interests under US pressure. Indeed, BJP president Rajnath Singh has gone to the extent of asking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convene an all-party meeting for evolving a consensus on the issue of India’s handling of the Iran nuclear crisis.

Let this be clearly understood: The issue is not whether Iran can be allowed to make its own nuclear bombs. If Israel can build its own stockpile of such arms and so can Pakistan, why should anyone object to Iran following suit? If the US is opposed to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, why shouldn’t it get Pakistan to severely punish its own guilty scientist, Dr Abdul Qadir, who lives under the CIA’s protection?

The US approach is racist. Why doesn’t Washington demand that Britain and France neutralise all their accumulated weapons of mass destruction? Who is likely to attack Britain? Or France? American arrogance comes through when its interests are affected. Fancy American fury at India’s recent decision to buy a Syrian oilfield in partnership with China!

Why shouldn’t India do as it pleases to safeguard its own oil interests? And who is America to tell India what it should or should not do? And yet we learn that a demarche has been issued by the US Government to Delhi saying it “strongly opposes such investment in Syrian resources”. Strongly, eh? And on what grounds? On the grounds that the UN Security Council has unanimously passed two resolutions UNSCR 1636 and 1644 demanding mandatory Syrian cooperation with the UN in the latter’s investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

According to Washington, this is not the time to be seen to help Syria. The US obviously wants to implicate Syria with the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister. In the last two decades, the United States has been guilty of the assassination of not one, but over half a dozen international leaders and the UN has not dared to say so much as a ‘hoo’ against Washington. Who is the US fooling? The number of international crimes committed by the US can run into several volumes. Does the US want to be reminded of that? Or are we supposed to turn a blind eye to American crimes and gratefully fall at Washington’s foot on the theory that it is better to befriend the US and reap benefits rather than annoy it and invite its anger?

If India is to accept that advice, in what way would it be different from, say, Panama or Nicaragua or some other petty Latin American state? Do we always have to grovel at America’s feet to save our interests? The order to India to stay away from Syria has nothing to do with the murder of the Lebanese Minister. What is at stake is America’s hold on Middle East Oil and it wants no competition from India or China.

Behind Washington’s demarche is pressure from US oil interests. That is the plain truth. Already the United States is scared of India and China’s growing strength in science and technology which has persuaded US lawmakers to introduce three bills in the US Congress to increase the American talent pool in these fields and to attract and retain the best scientific brains from around the world. The bill package — collectively called the Protest America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Act was introduced in the Senate as recently as January 26.

India would do well, at least in this regard, to follow American’s example and introduce a similar Bill to protect India’s interests such as investing in Syria’s oil wells.

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Bush visit will give a boost to Indo-US ties: Inderfurth
Ashish Kumar Sen, our Correspondent in Washington, interviews Karl Inderfurth

Karl Inderfurth
Karl Inderfurth

THE Indo-US relations have been marked by reciprocal visits to New Delhi and Washington by the leaders of both nations. President George W. Bush will visit India in March. Karl F. Inderfurth, a key adviser of the Clinton Administration, discusses the evolution of the US-India ties in this exclusive interview to The Sunday Tribune. He is currently Director, Graduate Programme in International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington.

Excerpts:

Q: What are your expectations on President Bush’s visit to India? 
A: This is the first time that two successive US presidents have travelled to India — President Clinton in March 2000 and now President Bush next month. We are now placing our relationship with India on a long-term sustainable basis.

Q: Would a lack of progress on the civilian nuclear agreement affect the talks on other key issues?

A: Our relationship should not be tied to any one issue. We now have a multifaceted relationship, one that allows us to move forward in other areas while we continue to work on agreements such as the one on civilian nuclear cooperation. During President Bush’s visit to India, we will see a forward movement on the economic front.

Q: How have the US-India ties changed over the years?

A: There has been a high degree of policy continuity from a Democratic Administration to a Republican Administration. President Clinton was determined in his second term to engage India, and as the Assistant
Secretary of State for South Asia at that time I certainly benefited from his strong interest. There has been a refreshing degree of continuity in the US foreign policy.

Q: The US and India are now being hailed as natural allies. What was the turning point in this relationship?

A: The way the US handled the Kargil crisis in 1999 was an important turning point in our relations. We stated publicly, and affirmed privately, that the crisis had been initiated by Pakistani actions and that Pakistan needed to take certain steps to see it reversed. That was certainly President Clinton’s message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during their Blair House meeting on July 4, 1999. Throughout this period we kept the Indian government informed of what we were doing to try to ease the crisis. All of this turned into an important confidence builder in our new relationship with India.

Q: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush Administration wants to help turn India into a major world power in the 21st century. Why does India matter to the US?

A: India will become the world’s most populous nation surpassing China. It may become the world’s fastest growing economy by 2020. Moreover, it is the world’s largest democracy. Thus, India will play a major role in defining the shape and direction of the events in the 21st century — politically, economically, and demographically. Moreover, the Indian American community in the US is a very successful, industrious and culturally important part of the American mosaic. The ties between our two countries are enhanced by the bridge offered by this community. I am very happy that India now sends more students to the US to study than any other country.

Q: As an academic, do you believe that more US students should also travel to India?

A: Absolutely. I am noticing that many US business schools are now sending their students to India for special programmes. This should be a two-way flow of young people.

Q: Do you feel that the US is using India as a counterweight to China?

A: As India is a democracy, we want to have closer and warmer ties with India. But it would be ill-advised for the US to attempt to play an India card in our relations with China. This would not serve our interests or India’s. Certainly, New Delhi does not want to be part of a triangular competition. Instead of seeing this as a competitive relationship, we should be searching for ways to make it cooperative. India should join the US and China on the UN Security Council as a permanent member. The US should support India in this regard. If the Security Council has to reflect the realities of the 21st Century, how can India not be included? Looking at India as a counterweight to China is not a helpful way to pursue a constructive relationship with these two countries.

Q: What are the areas in which India and the US can continue to build on their relationship?

A: This is a multi-faceted relationship. In March 2000, Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Clinton signed a vision statement to forge a closer and qualitatively new relationship. That is exactly what is happening today. I hope this will be further expanded and enhanced with President Bush’s visit to India. I also hope that the US will continue to do all to support the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan. It would be a boon to both countries if they can continue to normalise their ties, with trade and other types of exchanges, while they work to settle their long standing disagreements including over Kashmir?

Q: But New Delhi is opposed to US mediation in its bilateral dispute with Pakistan.

A: The US will not be a mediator in this process. But it can certainly be a supporter of that process, one that will, if ultimately successful, have enormous benefits for both India and Pakistan and the region as a whole.

Q: What are the challenges facing the US-India ties?

A: There are many areas of agreement and disagreement. This is the nature of international affairs today. It will be important not to allow differences to dominate the relationship, and to place them in perspective. Over the long term, there will be many more issues that will unite us than divide us. There have been disagreements on some issues, including the Iraq war. But the fact that this has not disrupted the upward trajectory of our relationship is a good sign for our future relations.

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Google ranks censorship as trade issue
by Stephen Foley

GOOGLE pledged to reconsider its controversial decision to launch a self-censored web search business in China, if it looked as if the internet was failing to improve freedom of expression in the People’s Republic.

It suggested Western governments should treat state censorship as a “barrier to trade” that can be raised in multi-national trade negotiations with China. The company’s comments came as it and other powerful technology firms were lambasted by a Congressional sub-committee and accused of being “accomplices” to human rights abuses in China, cravenly submitting to state censorship in order to maximise their profits.

Executives from Yahoo, Cisco Systems and Microsoft also appeared before the committee to argue that doing business in China was America’s best chance of advancing freedom of expression. The hearing was scheduled in response to growing alarm since the jailing of the Chinese journalist Shi Tao last year. Yahoo turned over information on the writer’s internet account, which led to his jailing for distributing a memo on the Tiananmen Square massacre.

“I simply do not understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night,” the Democrat Congressman Tom Lantos told company representatives, saying they had become “willing accomplices in the Chinese suppression apparatus”.

Google has had its corporate motto — “Do no evil” — repeatedly thrown back in its face following its decision last month to exclude websites containing sensitive political terms from search results through its new Chinese site, Google.cn. “In an imperfect world we had to make an imperfect choice,” said Elliot Schrage, Google’s vice-president for public affairs. He said the company believed its entry to China would make a “meaningful, though imperfect, contribution to the expansion of access to information in China,” and would be reconsidered if it did not. It was too early to say Google was “proud” of its decision, he said.

At 110 million, China has the largest number of internet users after the US and internet companies have been eager to tap this market. However, in order to do business in China, they argue, they must submit to oppressive local laws.

Jack Krumholtz, associate general counsel at Microsoft, said no country allowed businesses to decide which local laws they adhere to. The committee was asking, he said, whether US companies should cede this market to others and “would Chinese citizens be better off without access to our services?”

Mr Shi was convicted for e-mailing comments made in a newspaper staff meeting to a democracy group in New York. His IP internet address was given to Chinese officials by Yahoo. The company said that governments do not typically explain why they are requesting such information, and Yahoo did not know Mr Shi’s identity or the political nature of the request.

— The Independent

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Profile
Hard work Mittal’s mantra of success
by Harihar Swarup

WOULD you believe that the world’s richest Indian was born almost penniless, grew up in a small town of Rajasthan surrounded by thorn shrubs and sand dunes, lived in a dilapidated house and slept on concrete floors? Yes, it is true. The Steel Mogul, Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, now acknowledged as the world’s richest Asian, was born in Sadulpur town of Churu district, lived in a joint family of 20, which had no permanent source of income. Neighbours of Mittals in Sadulpur say the family was very poor indeed, lived virtually on day-to-day earning and cooked on brick and mud oven in the courtyard. Fiftysix-year-old Lakshmi Mittal, as he is known the world over, lives in a $128-million Kensington Palace Gardens mansion in London. His venture — Mittal Steel Co Ltd — has turned out to be the largest steel company in the world with a turnover of $22.2 billion. The company has steel assets in Romania, Bosnia, South Africa, Poland, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, the United States and other countries.

From a mud-brick house to Kensington Palace, it has been a fascinating journey for Lakshmi Mittal, as naratted by himself. New vistas opened up when his father, Mohan Mittal, decided to move over to Calcutta and became business partner of a minor steel firm. Marawaris from Rajasthan are known to possess sharp business skills and so had Mohan Mittal. He was a very hard working man, a quality inherited by Lakshmi from his childhood days. The family lived in a rented house in Chitpur road and Lakshmi was put in a school. He could still visualise trams passing close by his house; its noise sometimes scared him. He did not have enough money for transport. During monsoon, he had to wade through knee-deep water to reach school.

Lakshmi was a diligent, above average student but shy and introvert when he entered Calcutta’s prestigious St Xavier’s college. He could not fit in the company of rich students. Having been educated in a Hindi medium school, he was not as fluent in English as his classmates and suffered from inferiority complex.

Initially, the Principal was reluctant to admit him but Lakshmi was brilliant in accounts and Mathematics having scored almost cent per cent marks in these subjects. Mathematics enabled him to secure first division in the college and the Principal, who was reluctant to admit him, became his admirer.

As a student, he had ambition to become something in life and he would write on the opposite side of his ruler — “Dr Ram Niwas Mittal, B. Com, MBA, Ph D”. Life was tough for teenaged Lakshmi; he would attend coaching classes in the morning, go to the college and also help his father in the business. He has been quoted as saying, “I have been a hard working person from childhood. Hard work is something not difficult for me”. Truly, even after graduation, he continued study, taking evening courses in finance and marketing from Calcutta University having worked throughout the day in his father’s business.

Lakshmi was the eldest in a family of five children. There were many cousins too who lived in a joint family. His father was too busy with the business and there was hardly any interaction between the father and the son. When he stood first in his class, his father was not in town and Lakshmi could not muster courage to call him on trunk telephone. Instead he sent a telegram to his father informing him of the good news. His father, later, presented him with a Sheaffer pen which, he says, he still treasures. Subsequently, the father and the son came close as Lakshmi actively participated in the business and left an indelible mark on his personality.

“My father has been my mentor. He was also a great visionary”, says Lakshmi. Though his father was his mentor, it was his mother who shaped his personality. “I got lot of affection, protection and security from my mother”, he has been quoted as saying.

Lakshmi entered a restaurant for the first time when he was 18, that too, in the company of his friends. He was married when he was barely 21. Interestingly, he recounts the days after his engagement: “When I got engaged…those days telephones were expensive…we were not allowed to speak for a long time. After three minutes, the operator would interrupt, and six minutes was the time limit”.

In the first letter to his would be wife, Usha, he welcomed her as “my life partner”. Usha proved to be a dedicated life partner indeed. “She understands me very well, and always supported me in good times and bad”, he says. The family had begun moving towards prosperity by that time. Lakshmi’s father had purchased a car and was instrumental in launching a couple of more ventures.

Lakshmi Mittal went abroad for the first time in 1975. His father had visited that country before and had certain business plans. As a matter of fact, the business was not doing well there and he had asked Lakshmi to dispose it off. Soon after landing there, Lakshmi went into details of the business plan and found that there was problem of electricity supply. He went to meet the Director-General of Industries and was able to sort out the problem. He stayed on for a couple of weeks, moved the Mittal projects further and with this his tryst with the steel industry began. Lakshmi was only 25 at that time. Since then there was no looking back for him.

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Police reforms
Tasks before the Soli Sorabjee panel
by Doel Mukerjee

THE Soli Sorabjee Committee constituted by the Manmohan Singh government to review the Indian Police Act is a major boost for the civil society and the citizens who have often faced the brunt of police excesses. As the committee is expected to make wide ranging recommendations, the draft law should be open to public domain for wider participation and consultation among the people unlike the committees formed in the past.

The committee has a daunting task ahead. But how serious is the government in heralding police reforms? For the committee has several limitations. For instance, it is required to prepare legislation in just six months. Thus, it has to be systematic while preparing the draft; it will have to take inputs from the civil society. In the past, no committee has ever consulted the civil society.

Secondly, the panel is composed of more retired officials than ever before. On the face of it, it is a high-power advisory group, the fate of whose report will purely depend on the government babus. Thirdly, if the committee has no statutory powers, it will depend on the whims of the government to accept or reject the draft. Fourthly, the composition does not reflect the race, caste and religious compositions of the varied segments of the democracy. There are no women members, no SC/ST members and no member from a major religious group. So, who will adequately place the views and the possible solutions of the voiceless and those who have limited access to justice especially since the committee has to look into the concerns of human rights, weaker sections, women and the SC/ST?

Whatever are the limitations, the committee should take into consideration the dozen obscure draft legislations which have never seen the light of the day due to lack of political will, inter-service rivalry and resistance within. Of consideration will be the Model Act — the Eighth Report of the National Police Commission — prepared almost 25 years ago. Certain modifications may be suggested for the new legislation. As some profound changes have taken place in the complexity and magnitude of policing in the past two decades, this may limit the scope of the committee and dilute the vision of the Prime Minister.

True, the present challenges to policing are more than ever before especially because the country has been facing insurgency, militancy and naxalism for decades. Violence in any form must be condemned and contained. But the broad philosophy of a democratic and modern police which is required to bring in people’s cooperation and trust may get sidetracked if wide-ranging powers are given to the police without adequate checks in terms of more intense scrutiny mechanisms within and outside the police.

Police reform is not about strengthening a police that is unaccountable. Today, police are strong but still perform badly. They don’t satisfy the publics need for safety. They don’t have the trust of the people, the executive and the judiciary. They have at best the trust of those that can manipulate the system, the politicians and the mafia.

True, the world has become more complex but more powers without accountability will worsen the situation even more. The National Police Commission had wide-ranging terms of reference covering practically the entire gamut of the police system. For example, in the first report, only two important criteria were taken: to look into the modalities for credible inquiry into complaints of police conduct so that it could provide public satisfaction. The second criteria was to look into the working standards and welfare of the constabulary. The present committee has a limited set of criteria which may prove to be difficult for it to elaborate

The new committee needs to draft a new and modern piece of legislation replacing the 150-year-old Act reflecting the people’s expectations of the police in a democratic set-up. The common citizen should participate in its policing and also take decisions. To function in a professional manner, the police should enjoy complete functional autonomy. There should be no extraneous control over the police. They must be provided the best scientific equipment through well planned budgets. Security of tenure to all police personnel is an absolute must.

There is need for the finest candidate to be nominated to the post of the police chief so that he/she can provide the best leadership. This is lacking at present. Police actions should be made accountable by setting up stringent internal and external accountability mechanisms in the form of performance evaluation boards, complaints authorities and independent oversight mechanisms.

These terms are not new to India nor are they novel to democracies. The National Police Commission, the Ribeiro Committee and the Padmanabhaiah Committee have emphasised the need for following these concepts in the shape of State Security Commission, Police Establishment Boards, Police Performance and Accountability Commissions, District Inquiry Authority/ District Police Complaints Authority etc.

A few months ago Mr Kamal Kumar, Director of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad and his colleagues had collated 49 recommendations from previous commissions/committees that require urgent implementation. Most accountability mechanisms mentioned earlier have found space in his advice to the government. The present committee has a simpler task — to follow the recommendations of its predecessors.

The committee can also look into the new reform processes undertaken in many jurisdictions. For example, in Pakistan, a Public Safety Commission and Police Complaints Commission at the provincial, federal and district levels have been proposed in the Pakistan Police Order 2002 to prevent the police from engaging in any unlawful activity arising out of compliance of mala fide orders.

In Sri Lanka, the National Police Commission has wide ranging powers for appointment, promotion, transfer and disciplinary control. Other path-breaking initiatives have been undertaken in Ireland which has gone through internal conflict. Ireland has provided wide powers to the police, yet it has put in place several internal and external checks and balances. The UK Police Reforms Agenda has brought together schemes to protect public safety. The UK has instituted bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission. If other countries followed suit, why India cannot?n

————

The writer is Coordinator on Police Reforms, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

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Diversities — Delhi Letter
Kashmir returns to the centrestage
by Humra Quraishi

THERE is much focus on Kashmir these days. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik met Prime  Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Friday. This meeting is a prelude to the Centre’s roundtable talks on Kashmir with political leaders, separatists and other groups, scheduled  to be held in New Delhi on February 24.

United States President George Bush is due to visit New Delhi early March. When I had last interviewed Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the religious head of the Valley as also an integral part of the Hurriyat, he had mentioned that the US could help solve the crisis along political lines and format. Not all political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir necessarily share the same opinion about the US’ role, especially in today’s scenario.

It’s not just the happenings in Iraq but what has compounded that anti-US   wave is the US’ latest target — Iran. Many Kashmiris (especially the Shia  segment of the population) claim to be tracing their roots to Iran and  Central Asia. There has also been the growing trend of Kashmiris sending their children to Iran for further studies as against the earlier practice of   Kashmiri children of the well-to-do going to the US for higher studies.

When I was in the Valley last autumn, I could see faint traces of normalcy  returning. But some people told me that my impressions were either incorrect or only partially correct. As a young Kashmiri researcher who was doing her research in rural Kashmir had put through, “The situation is like a woman with make-up on. The minute the make-up is off, the ugly reality emerges”. She more than hinted at the grim reality of human rights violations and the accompanying factors.

The Kashmir Muslim is treated by the police and state machinery is treated like a suspect and often humiliated. Yes, even in New Delhi. He is  caught in a strange situation — whilst he is in the Valley, he has to live those special Acts in force. And once he travels out, he is looked down with  suspicion by the state machinery.

The number of the disappeared men in the state is cause for serious concern. There is no official explanation. There is no forum or platform from which a Kashmiri can voice his complaint.

Even the National Human Rights Commission cannot directly entertain nor take action on a complaint as
serious as that of a rape charge against a security personnel because of the Special Acts in force.

Last week when I asked new Union Minister for Water Resources   Saifuddin Soz about the situation in his home state, he said that the  situation on the human rights violation is improving. He said: “Now there would be zero tolerance for custodial deaths. If such a death is reported, there has to be a report within a month. Generally the situation is fast  improving.”

Custodial deaths are, of course, the extreme form of brutality, but what  happens to the rest, detained or otherwise?

Of arts, crafts and cuisine

This weekend, there is much focus in New Delhi on the Kashmiri arts, crafts and cuisine. At the India International Centre, Sudha Koul, IAS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre, delivered a talk on Kashmir on February 17. She had earlier written The Tiger Ladies: A Memoir of Kashmir.

There is an exhibition of photographs on Kashmir by Dushyant and  Hemant Mehta. Another set of related programmes is the illustrated  presentation on the Jamawar weaving, followed by a discussion. There would be another discussion-cum-seminar on the theme, “The Ancient  Heritage City of Srinagar”.

Yes, those of you who have read its history would know what a great  heritage Kashmir enjoys. I have been fortunate to have read historian G.M.D. Sufi’s two volumes on Kashmir. It’s important to read those volumes, for they carry each fascinating detail which makes you get closer to the city  of Srinagar. There will also be a food festival on Kashmiri cuisine at IIC. In New Delhi, there is just about one well known waza (cook) for those wazwaan spreads/feasts, hosted by those in the city who can actually afford to host them. For the wazwaan — the several course meal — is indeed expensive and rich.

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He alone is a true Brahman who graps Brahm (God); practices meditation, discipline and self-control; and adopts contentment and right conduct as his religious observances.

— Guru Nanak

Like a flash or lightning, the supreme reveals himself to the intuitive.

—The Upanishads

What could be a greater come down for a mighty warrior than to have another perform the same feasts as he? He does not mind the others’s prowess, so much. Much more, does he mind losing status in the admiring eyes of his people.

—The Mahabharata

You can see a drop melting into the ocean but can’t see an ocean melting into a drop.

—Kabir

The wise man is careful under all circumstances. When he speaks, he does not wish to hear the multitudes clapping in admiration. When he eats, he does not to it for sensual gratification.

—The Buddha

And make provision for yourselves, the best provision being to keep one’s duty.

—Islam

People who have not realised God get engaged in more and more sinful actions.

—Ramakrishna

The most important thing in life is to remain detached from all we do, all the values we practices, all the people with whom we are connected by ties of blood and all the actions which may bring us great honour. One who has been able to do this is the true yogi.

—Sanatana Dharma

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