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50 years on indian independence



Murder in the Capital
HE political murder of the Bharatiya Janata Party's rebel candidate and the Samata Party's nominee for the Nangloi Jat Assembly constituency in Outer Delhi is a big and dark blot on the politico-administrative set-up in the Union Capital.

A national shame
HE report on the various dimensions of child prostitution in the country released by the National Human Rights Commission is perhaps the most comprehensive work on the subject.

Frankly speaking

by Hari Jaisingh
HE setting up of a refinery at Phulokhari village in Bathinda district is, for all practical purposes, the most significant milestone on Punjab's road to development. It symbolises a wind of change in the state which had been in the bloody grip of militancy for over a decade.

Africa grapples with IT
by Hari Sharan Chhabra
TELECOMMUNICATIONS and information technology are two allied areas of infrastructural activity in which the African continent’s performance has been unimpressive.


Some thoughts on India’s foreign policy
By M.S.N. Menon

ITHOUT freedom (of thought, speech and action), there can be no change. Without change, there can be no diversity. If India’s diversity is without parallel, it is because India has always been free to think. No other country can make a similar claim. Diversity is at the heart of our life and thought.


Nutty tales
by O. P. Bhagat

ONKEY-nuts ... I learnt the word from a classmate while at school. One day he suddenly started to mimic a hawker. “Monkey-nuts, chocolates, cigarettes!” he sang out. Then he told me that monkey-nut was English for moongphalli. I was amused. For the word suggested that the nuts were for monkeys only. But the creatures I had seen munching them so far were men.

75 Years Ago

Tagore on Patel’s Bill
IT is humiliating to find that some of our countrymen are opposing Mr Patel’s Hindu Inter-caste Marriage Bill under the notion that it will injure Hindu society if it is passed.


The Tribune Library

Murder in the Capital

THE political murder of the Bharatiya Janata Party's rebel candidate and the Samata Party's nominee for the Nangloi Jat Assembly constituency in Outer Delhi is a big and dark blot on the politico-administrative set-up in the Union Capital. This is the first killing of its kind in the electoral history of Delhi. The most outrageous aspect of this gruesome episode is the involvement of hired criminals, who followed Ved Singh alias Laloo Pehalwan from his residence to the site of the murder, achieved their objective without leaving a clue behind and escaped into the night for protection from their masters. The needle of suspicion, however, points towards political and personal feuds. Laloo Pehalwan joined the Samata Party recently to secure a ticket for the coming elections. He was pressured at various points of time to withdraw his candidature against the BJP candidate, Delhi's Transport Minister, Mr Devender Singh Soukeen. A leader allegedly used persuasion and threat to keep Ved Singh out of the battle of the ballot. As the Samata Party's General Secretary and the deceased leader's father have pointed out, the victim was an eyewitness in a murder case in which former Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma's two nephews—Neeraj and Pawan— were said to have been involved.

The nexus between the politician and the mafia is getting stronger with every passing day. The Union Home Minister resides in Delhi. So does the Prime Minister. Both of them belong to the BJP; the government in Delhi is also run by the same party. We have explained time and again the consequences of ignoring the need for reining in the criminals who have a free hand in dictating the course that the political life must take in the National Capital Region. We do not want to go beyond saying yet again that no one should expect that the end of the life of Laloo Pehalwan amounts to the end of violence in the current electoral proceedings. Care must be taken to provide adequate security to the candidates and the candidates themselves should alert the security agencies about the threat to their life and limb. It is difficult to ignore the patently defensive tone of Union Minister Madan Lal Khurana, an influential BJP leader based in the NCR. Against his word, one has the word of Defence Minister and Samata Party President George Fernandes and a former MP from the troubled area, Mr Sajjan Kumar, who has been rehabilitated by the Congress. The mention of "Meham-type violence" as a possibility is ominous. Ved Singh or Laloo Pehlwan is dead. Perhaps, his party will field another candidate. But the image of Delhi as a livable city has been further damaged. One is constrained to ask in the context of the metropolis in the idiom of Nehru: Who lives if Delhi dies? Who dies if Delhi lives? Columns of venom and vitriol will ensue in the days to come, trying to accuse or exonerate one party or person, or the other. In this case, however, it will not suffice to say merely that the "law must take its own course". A summary inquiry leading to summary punishment is called for. If the BJP government functioning under the Lieutenant-Governor, who is expected to be a non-partisan man, acts promptly, it would not be difficult to untangle the skein and save precious lives. Delhi's cup of misery is full.


A national shame

THE report on the various dimensions of child prostitution in the country released by the National Human Rights Commission is perhaps the most comprehensive work on the subject. The Centre of Concern for Child Labour, which conducted the study, deserves to be complimented for raising relevant questions and providing solutions for rescuing children from being pushed into the ever-expanding flesh trade. Union Minister of State for Social Welfare Maneka Gandhi would only add to her reputation of a “social crusader” if she were to give priority to the implementation of the recommendations made in the report. Surely, it would require sustained effort to break the backbone of a trade with an unbelievable annual turnover of Rs 40,000 crore. At least 30 per cent of this amount is earned through pushing girls below the age of 12 in the flesh trade. The nationwide network is run through organised syndicates who pay hefty amounts to the law-enforcing agencies out of the ill-gotten earnings. According to the study, out of nearly nine lakh prostitutes in the country about 2,70,000 are girls in the 12 and 14 age group. What should cause concern is the fact that the demand for “pre-puberty” girls is increasing at an alarming rate in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Because of the negative influence of exposure to sexually explicit programmes on television networks and the “globalisation factor” nearly 20 per cent of the “new clients” are students, particularly in urban areas. A significant number of girls in the flesh trade are abducted by agents and “gangraped into submission”. It is a horrifying account put together after extensive field survey by the volunteers of the Centre of Concern for Child Labour.

The study itself provides the answer to the question why child prostitution has become a “fast growth industry”. It points out that “the laws are very weak for tackling the phenomenon of commercial exploitation of children. The current laws in the South Asian countries ignore the exploitation of children by the family itself. Absence of statutory rape concept is a major reason for the growth of child prostitution”. Few would disagree with the observation that the current trend of child prostitution is the result of commodification of children in the market economy. Rajasthan tops the list of regions where it is a socially accepted practice to groom girls for a career in the flesh trade. The study has identified them as traditional entertainer groups which include the Banjaras, Rajnats, Kanjars, Bedia and Dehredar. Against the nationwide estimate of 30 per cent, Rajasthan alone accounts for 50 per cent of the girls forced into prostitution. Of course, to say that the phenomenon of child prostitution among certain communities in Rajasthan and elsewhere (it is practised in certain pockets of Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh) is part of their “social customs” is to ignore the fact that economic deprivation is at the root of the problem. The daily income of child prostitutes is between Rs 200 and Rs 300 in small towns. But the more “enterprising” members of these communities send their girls to big centre like Mumbai where they can earn up to Rs 50,000 a month. The study shows that no worth while effort has yet been made by official or voluntary agencies to help the male members of TEGs to acquire some skills for earning their livelihood without forcing girls into the abominable business of prostitution. The respondents said as much in response to questions by the study team. A positive sign which emerged from the study was the willingness of nearly 50 per cent of the girls to give up being “traditional entertainers” if income-generating skills were taught to them. Evidently what is needed is a package of legal and economic measures for stamping out the social menace of child prostitution.top


Punjab's socio-economic challenges

Frankly speaking
by Hari Jaisingh

THE setting up of a refinery at Phulokhari village in Bathinda district is, for all practical purposes, the most significant milestone on Punjab's road to development. It symbolises a wind of change in the state which had been in the bloody grip of militancy for over a decade. Not that the spectre of terrorism halted Punjab's allround growth. It is the fear psychosis among the people that did stunt the state's progress in certain sectors of the economy.

Industry, especially the small-scale sector, stagnated. Entrepreneurship, which is the hallmark of the Punjabis, suffered a jolt. An air of suspicion and communal tension put everything in reverse gear. In short, the economic leadership, which comes naturally to the people here, slipped out of their hands. I am referring to the past selectively not with a view to sitting on judgement on history. I only wish to emphasise the point that the state's economic health holds the key to the future of Punjab. And we have to begin the search for the keys of healthy economic and social growth.

As it is, the soil of the state has been ravaged by two major wars with Pakistan. No mega-project came up in the state after the historic Bhakra-Nangal dam. The Rs 16000 crore Bathinda project will be a prestigious joint venture between Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation. A global giant in the oil sector is all set to be part of this venture.

The Bathinda project has been hanging fire for years, and it is nothing short of a miracle that the entire proposal has at long last overcome several artificial barriers put up by certain vested interests who were out to kill it. In fact, a close monitoring of the project from the proposal stage to those of the Planning Commission, the Public Investment Board, North Block and South Block brings out a hair-raising story. The attempt to sabotage the project was very much visible at every stage. Once a full account of these closed-door deliberations comes to light, the public will have a better appreciation of the wide-ranging reach of the vested interests operating in the corridors of power.

The Bathinda proposal has had its churning process and it must be said to the credit of Punjab leaders, especially Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, that but for their extra alertness and quick reflexes, the project would have remained a non-starter. Equally noteworthy has been the positive response of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who is laying the foundation stone of the mega oil refinery today (November 13).

Mr Badal's personal rapport with Mr Vajpayee has helped in getting the project through. I personally consider this to be a major success of the SAD-BJP alliance.

Be that as it may. The time has come for all political parties to shift their attention to economic development and social uplift instead of getting bogged down in partisan politics. The message is very clear. Today power to the people comes not from the barrel of the gun but from forward-looking economic policies and strategies and their speedy implementation.Top

The expectations of the citizens are high. They want better educational facilities and proper health care. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has passionately talked about it. So have other prominent economists. But, unfortunately, in their obsession with politics and other peripheral issues our politicians have ignored economic home-truths and messed up developmental priorities.

There are no short-cuts to development. Nor can a viable economy be sustained through subsidies and free electricity and water to one section of society. Of course, the state has to play a meaningful role to create infrastructure facilities in critical areas of economic activity. Power holds the key. So do transport, road and telecommunication facilities.

Punjab has all the advantages to keep itself in number one position in socio-economic development. But it has slipped because the leadership has often not shown the necessary vision and the guts to accept developmental challenges.

Industry might have recorded "revival" after 1991-92, but its upswing has suffered in the absence of reforms and infrastructure. Interestingly, industry accounts for 46 per cent of the total subsidies and need to be phased out.

Even the small-scale sector, the backbone of Punjab's economy, is in bad shape. There are about 2 lakh units employing over 8 lakh people. Their fixed investment is over Rs 2500 crore. This sector needs substantial credit for modernisation and technological upgradation so that it can compete globally.

The state authorities should also be concerned about employment. The educated unemployed youth account for 71 per cent of the total unemployed in the state.

The disquieting economic scene apart, even elementary education is in a mess. The dropout rate in the 6 to 14 age group is 48 per cent. As many as 3,000 school buildings are in a dilapidated condition. Only 10 per cent of the schools have desks, blackboards, etc. There are no teaching aids anywhere. The Badal government ought to be concerned about these issues. It is time it refixed its priorities and tackled the varied socio-economic problems on a war-footing.

Punjab should have no dearth of money. The NRIs from this region will be willing partners in the state's development. But this is possible if proper infrastructure is created and the functioning of the state administration is debureaucratised. The NRIs who have shown interest in the state's development plans have often complained of red-tapism and corrupt practices which is, unfortunately, the bane of the Indian system everywhere.

The basic and operational problems can be tackled if the leadership shows the requisite political will to improve the system and creates a congenial environment for economic growth.

Punjab has been in the forefront of the Green Revolution and the White Revolution. Today it badly needs a second phase of these revolutions. Indeed, the entire strategy of agriculture and industrial growth in the state needs to be thoroughly reviewed and correctives initiated for faster growth.

The question here is of learning from the past mistakes so that the seeds of terrorism die a natural death. There is no point in blaming the ISI for all our ills. If the ISI manages to thrive, it is because of our own weaknesses, both of the system and its functioning.

There is nothing wrong with the basic character of the people of Punjab. They are vibrant, dynamic and forward-looking. All that is required is vision and a determined leadership which should have the ability to lead the state effectively and decisively rather than allowing itself to be led by undesirable elements and vested interests.Top

Punjab leaders should learn a lesson or two from the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, who has managed to put his state on the global map of economic growth, especially in the software sector.

When I was in Washington with the Prime Minister, a number of Indian journals published from there carried detailed reports about the way Mr Chandrababu Naidu could hold the attention of the US media and America's corporate houses. His dynamism and initiative have made all the difference, and today Andhra Pradesh is nearly all set to outbid other states, including Karnataka, in the software sector as well as in other areas of economic activity. Hyderabad, for that matter, will soon have a prestigious business school which is a combined venture of Indian industrial houses. My only regret is that with all the potential and goodwill that Punjab has, it has not been able to move things forward in giving the state a New Deal in economic development and social wellbeing. Too much of populist and competitive politics is blocking Punjab's legitimate march towards the next millennium.

Punjab today is at the crossroads. Crucial questions of allround growth and development must not be reduced to a tangle by the manoeuvrings of vested interests.

The state's problems are essentially those of growth, building infrastructure and rapid transformation. These problems must be tackled professionally with a sense of urgency, sensitivity and understanding and without resort to the opportunistic weapon of politicisation. In fact, economic and political management should be made of sterner stuff in the state, or else frustration among the people, especially the youth, will grow into deep depression.

On the historic occasion of the Khalsa tercentenary the Punjab leaders have got a golden opportunity to change the face of the state and make it a front-ranking modern centre of growth. Punjab has still miles to go on the road to modernisation and socio-economic uplift. The people possess the skill, mental and physical, to turn economics to their advantage. From agriculture to industrial challenges, nothing has daunted the spirit of the people. They can do wonders, beyond the mega project at Bathinda.


Africa grapples with IT
by Hari Sharan Chhabra

TELECOMMUNICATIONS and information technology are two allied areas of infrastructural activity in which the African continent’s performance has been unimpressive. The reasons are obvious: shortage of capital investment and lack of managerial and technically trained manpower.

South Africa’s Deputy President Thabo Mbeki shocked African leaders when he said recently: “Tokyo alone has more telephone lines than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa put together.” One telephone for 235 people is the figure for Africa. These statistics speak poorly of the region if the relatively advanced South Africa is excluded; South Africa boasts of approximately a third of all the telephone lines in the continent.

As for information technology, the African record is equally poor, even as 47 of the continent’s 54 nations have developed some form of Internet access — that is linking the entire world with every imaginable kind of information. In 1997, there were 1,30,000 Internet hosts in Africa and only 100,000 Internet users, while the figure worldwide is 120 million users.

Significantly, African countries have full Internet public access only in capital cities. But the Internet annual growth in Africa is quite impressive at 85 per cent through satellite-based communications.

In Zimbabwe, there are just about 1,065 Internet users. The Ghana Postal Service uses a network of E-mail hubs and then delivers messages locally by bicycle. In Kenya, UK supermarkets use E-mail for just-in-time purchases of chilli and pepper from Kenyan farmers and the Natal National Park Board in South Africa attracts customers to eco-tourism via the website.Top

South Africa and Egypt are far ahead of most other African countries. Of the 100,000 Internet users in the continent, only 15,000 are not in South Africa and Egypt. Seven hundred million African population has access to only 14 million lines, which are mostly in South Africa. Subscribers in Africa spend approximately $ 900 per year on telecom services, 50 per cent more costly than in Europe.

But Africans are beginning to know that telecom and information technology lie at the heart of the unstoppable phenomenon of globalisation. Also for many African nations, the consequences of a poor telecom industry has been the stifling of economic growth. Difficulty in communications can prevent businesses from acquiring the necessary information for most of their commercial opportunities.

There is also a realisation in Africa that electronic commerce can change consumer marketing and consumer purchasing in many ways. Businesses can thrive. It is predicted that within the next 15 years, electronic commerce can easily represent 25 to 30 per cent of all purchases.

It is encouraging, however, that the multi-billion dollar telecom expansion projects are underway in Africa, which seek to exploit the latest advances in satellite technology. The Abidjan-based Regional Africa Satellite Communications Organisation (RASCOM) is involved in an initiative to launch a continent-wide satellite system, and build over 500,000 fixed solar-powered telephone stations with international access. The result would be an increase in intra-African contact and a decrease in the cost of a trans-Atlantic telephone call.

It is well to remember that telephone calls among African nations are typically transmitted through several European cities, often making them prohibitively expensive. For example, the World Bank believes that Uganda’s booming economy could have grown further if the country had a more efficient telephone network.

There is a chronic shortage of telephone lines in all African countries, barring South Africa. The average waiting period for a household to get connected to the telephone network is 4-6 years. One beneficiary of the shortage of telephone lines in Africa is the fast growing cellular market. In 1990, just about seven African countries had a cellular telephone system; today over 40 countries have such a system, even if the purchase of a mobile telephone is an expensive proposition.

Cellular networks in West Africa are enjoying such spectacular growth in subscriptions that there is a danger of the networks getting saturated unless new measures are taken to extend telephone coverage. There is a lot of concern regarding the loss of potential revenue in the traditional wire-based telecommunications industry due to stiff competition from the cellular market.

Obviously, the telecom industry needs to reform itself by making it more accountable, efficient and commercially inclined. The industry so far has been controlled by the governments, and is poorly managed. Deregulation and privatisation of the telecom industry is the order of the day. This is the case in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal and Uganda.

It has been observed that by fostering competition in the market, private foreign companies are investing more and more in the industry. The Uganda government, for example, forced the successful bidder for the newly-privatised Uganda Telecommunications Ltd to double the number of phone lines in the first three years; the investment figure thus took a big leap.

The telecommunication industry is bound to expand in a big way in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a little doubt that in a decade or two the region can become a much smaller place to live in. But the telecom infrastructural divide between urban and rural Africa would provide a big challenge. Due to poor returns on investment in rural areas, not many international companies are willing to invest there. — IPA




Nutty tales
by O. P. Bhagat

MONKEY-nuts ... I learnt the word from a classmate while at school. One day he suddenly started to mimic a hawker. “Monkey-nuts, chocolates, cigarettes!” he sang out.

Then he told me that monkey-nut was English for moongphalli. I was amused. For the word suggested that the nuts were for monkeys only. But the creatures I had seen munching them so far were men.

Later, I learnt that groundnut meant the same. But the word sounded rather dull, and I never used it. Not many others seem to like it either. But in full or as G-nut it is a favourite with writers of commercial news.

Then I discovered a third name — peanut. Actually, it is the commonest of the three. A nice little word, it fits in free verse, blank verse, even more musical metres.

Monkey-nut is a colloquial word, I read somewhere. Perhaps it comes from feeding peanuts to monkeys at the zoo. And maybe from watching them eat. Monkeys crack the nuts just as we do. Or do we ape them?

However, monkeys are not the only animals that love peanuts. Bears too relish them. Some of them can be more interesting to watch than monkeys. I once saw such a one at the Delhi zoo.

The bear was the visitors’ delight. People watched it by standing near the low wall around its pit. They asked it to come, and it came swaying on its hind legs. While it stood, it opened its mouth to catch the peanuts its fans dropped.

The bear may still be there. But that is not the question. The point is whether peanuts should be dubbed bear-nuts too.

Why are peanuts called peanuts? Their flowers look like pea flowers. And their seeds are also in pods like those of peas. But the curious part of it is that peanuts are not nuts. They belong to the family of peas and beans. Moongphalli is thus nearer the truth.

Peanut butter is not butter either. It is a paste made from finely ground roasted peanuts. It is used as a spread like butter. But peanut oil is peanut oil — unless it is fake!

And peanut worm? This takes us from the soil to the sea. The name applies to a class of small, unsegmented marine worms. If disturbed, the worm withdraws its front portion into the body. This makes it look like a peanut seed.

Then there is peanut gallery. No, it is not a group of peanut eaters. It is the rearmost section of seats in the balcony of a theatre. It also means a source of insignificant criticism.

By peanuts we also mean any small or insignificant person or thing, especially a very small amount of money. This will remind you of pittance, which has a similar sound and meaning.

Humble though they are, peanuts have their patron everywhere. You will even find them in five-star hotel bars. Bangalore has in November a festival in honour of peanuts.

President Carter was often described as small peanut farmer. To some it may be another way of saying: from a log cabin to the White House.

Going back to groundnut. This name also tells a tale. In a way, it is more interesting than the other peanut tales.

Here is a peanut plant in flower. The petals fade and pods form. A part of the pod grows long, very long. It buries itself in the soil. The seeds mature there.

You have always to dig the nuts from the ground.


Some thoughts on India’s foreign policy
By M.S.N. Menon

WITHOUT freedom (of thought, speech and action), there can be no change. Without change, there can be no diversity. If India’s diversity is without parallel, it is because India has always been free to think. No other country can make a similar claim. Diversity is at the heart of our life and thought.

Diversity has encouraged our tolerance. Accommodation has promoted reconciliation. Acceptance that all Gods are one brought the great reconciliation of the Aryans and pre-Aryan tribes.

Indians were the first to realise that truth has many facets. They never fell into the error of thinking that they were in possession of the ultimate truths. Says Dr S. Radhakrishnan: “The Aryan did not possess the pride of the fanatic that his was the true religion.”

Uniformity can give strength to a polity. But it can also weaken it. The spirit of uniformity is against the spirit of enquiry. A life without enquiry becomes repetitive.

True, diversity can also weaken a polity. But it also gives strength. India’s strength lies in its diversity. It has become a major element of its destiny. The spirit of enquiry has given India the most wide-ranging systems of thought and culture. No amount of dissent can weaken India. It can take everything in its stride.

The genius of India lies in being assimilative and receptive. It never opposed scientific enquiry. India’s has been an open mind. In the shaping of Indian thought, so many streams have combined.

This is what is unique about India. I cannot think of a country with similar experience. It is precious. This has become our way of life. We consider this way superior to any other.

To preserve this way of life, we must have pride in it. We must be conscious of its uniqueness. Yet it may be overwhelmed by “popular” cultures. One of our foreign policy goals must be to prevent it.

How do we set about to achieve this? Above all, by making the world safe for the diversity of civilisations and cultures. We must have choice. And we must encourage the study of our way of life. Unfortunately, we have failed in this task.

To accept diversity is to give up the urge for dominance. The West seeks dominance because it does not accept diversity. It has not lived down the arrogant premises of its colonial past. When the West tries to impose its way of life and thought over the rest of the world, it is seeking uniformity. But there is no assurance that the western way of life and thought is not without error. Indeed, the history of the West shows that it has been full of errors and groupings. So, why should the rest of the world accept the guidance of the West? Why should we accept the guidance of the near-blind men?

Unfortunately, India lost its innate character over the recent centuries. More so, during the last two-three centuries. Indian life had come to be shaped by western traditions and western thought. We copied the western political and economic models, and our culture came to be shaped by a western-oriented educational system, in which things Indian were in low esteem. Worse was to follow.

But nothing changed after Independence. Men who fought for Independence were inspired by nationalism. They were replaced by men who were after power and pelf. Nationalism was least in their thought. And it looked as if the founding fathers of our nation had no idea that India had a civilisation of its own! This became untenable as more of us became conscious of the uniqueness of our civilisation. More so when we realised that the West was trying to impose its way of life on us.Top

Gandhiji used to say that he had nothing against the British people. He was against their system, which he described as “satanic”. Isn’t it strange that independent India accepted that very “Satanic” system and its values! For this, the Congress Party and its leaders were entirely responsible. Even today the Evangelical leaders of America denounce other religions. Can such a thing happen in India?

The Congress Party had no clear ideology. In fact, it fought shy of all ideologies, for fear of offending this or that interest group. Thus, it even fought against nationalism, which is what inspired the freedom struggle. You will be surprised to know why.

It was argued by the Congress that the minorities could not be expected to share the spirit of nationalism. The minorities have their reason, right or wrong. Of course, not all subscribe to this. So, nationalism was discouraged to win over the votes of the minorities. In the process, India lost its sense of mission, which can be traced back to Ashokan times. Ashoka writes in one of his edicts: “I am never satisfied with (my) exertion... there is no higher work than the welfare of the whole world.” Ashoka prides over the fact that he strove for the spiritual good of mankind and for the dissemination of what he calls Dhamma. He strove because he was conscious that India had something to give.

Like the British before, the Congress Party made sure that India remained ignorant of its past. In all these 50 years, the Congress has not changed the British educational system in the name of secularism.

The Jana Sangh, founded in 1951, did have an ideology. It included such concepts like “one country”, “one people”, “one culture”, “one nation” and “one ideal”. Shows how ignorant it was of the evolution of this country. It sought to reduce this country into the uniformity of a cemetery. But it accused the Congress of making India a carbon copy of the West, ignoring the best in Indian life. Pray, what is best in Indian life? And yet the Jana Sangh had said: “The diversities of the country are neither signs of disintegration nor of perversity; on the contrary, they are an evidence of natural growth and enrichment of our cultural heritage.” And yet it was for a unitary state!

The BJP, the new avatar of the Jana Sangh, is engaged in undoing the diversity of the country. It welcomes globalisation of the economy. With it will come globalisation of the western culture. More so, American culture.

The pioneers of the RSS were definitely inspired by nationalism, however distorted their view might have been. But after the vast influx of urban middle class, mostly traders, and its alliance with the Swatantra Party, the character of the BJP has changed. Nationalism is no more its main inspiration. This change in character also accounts for its pro-US stance. Balraj Madhok, who was pro-US from the outset, was ready to toe any US line. He was against nonalignment. What drove him was hatred of Communism. It mattered little to him that the Soviet Union was the only real friend India had. But Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee was more impressed by the friendship of the Soviet Union.

The BJP continues to evolve and its composition keeps changing. And with it its inclinations and policies, too. And inner contradictions are bound to multiply. Of late, it has attracted a few urban intellectuals. This should be welcome. But will they be able to impart a spirit of nationalism? Only time can tell.



Letter (Reproduced)

Tagore on Patel’s Bill

IT is humiliating to find that some of our countrymen are opposing Mr Patel’s Hindu Inter-caste Marriage Bill under the notion that it will injure Hindu society if it is passed. They do not seem to consider that those who are already willing to accept social martyrdom should not have any further coercion, passive or active, from any governing power, to oblige them to observe, against their will such conventions as are not based upon the foundation of moral laws.

To say that Hindu society cannot exist unless it has victims who are forcibly compelled to live the life of falsehood and cowardice is tantamount to saying that it should not exist at all.

Moreover, such an implication is a libel against the spirit of Hinduism, which all through its history has been accommodating different creeds and customs, allowing a mixture of castes and making new social adjustments from the time of the Mahabharata until now, when an alien Government has already succeeded in petrifying our social body with its rigid laws, depriving life’s flexibleness and thus hastening its fatal stage of sensibility.....

Those who feel no compunction in invoking the organised power of the State to compel by its connivance or help a weak minority to submit to the worst form of social slavery, can certainly not be held as fit to claim a large share of such power.

— Rabindranath Tagore (From a letter to Bharat Sewak)


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