|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Monday, June 28, 1999
KARGIL AND THE POLL
intent is the crux
worst-hit in wars
No to mediation
DELHI has started feeling somewhat uncomfortable with the hands-on approach of the USA to the Kargil intrusion. This is reflected in the categorical statement of the Prime Minister and a reiteration by the Foreign Ministry spokesman on Saturday: India does not welcome any mediation. This has been this countrys stand since Independence and its unambiguous restatement at this juncture is highly significant. Put in the proper context, it is a polite message to the USA that its diplomatic effort to help Pakistan see reason is welcome but it should not be turned into an opportunity to cover the Kashmir issue itself. This declaration comes in the wake of a series of US statements and the despatch of a senior military officer to Islamabad. General Anthony Zinnis visit is a military mission and the presence of a junior Minister attached to the State Department does not change that character. What the General, who looks after the US security interests in this part of the world, told the Pakistan military chief or later the Prime Minister is not clear. But according to a carefully drafted statement, the visiting side repeated the old demand about vacating the intrusion, restoring the sanctity of the LoC and resuming bilateral talks as underlined by the Lahore declaration. This is incidentally what the State Department has been saying loud and clear. Delhi sees a crucial change in the American method. It is one thing for the political establishment to frame and pursue a policy and press diplomatic channels to achieve it; but it is quite different to involve the military and seek direct contact with the Pakistan military leadership.
One inference is that
Washington is bowing to the reality of the dominance of
the army in matters like the Kargil intrusion and the
larger issue of Kashmir. The attempt is to soften the
army stand, work out the framework of a possible
settlement and then sell it to the political masters.
Such a role comes close to mediation, brokering tentative
peace and taking active interest later to sew up a
permanent arrangement. The Prime Ministers
statement seeks to ward off this possibility. The more
likely cause of the Generals visit is the US desire
to see its efforts through. Having taken a public stand
on the withdrawal of armed intruders, it looks upon
Pakistani compliance as a prestige issue and hence this
armtwisting. This is not mediation but it will look like
one, or can be made to look like one, and the BJP-led
government is loathe to create such an impression. Delhi
realises that there is a thin line between the USA using
its diplomatic influence to persuade Pakistan to retrace
its steps and deploying its considerable clout to order
Pakistan to fall in line. The latter necessarily means
concessions later, and Prime Minister Vajpayee does not
want India to pay a price for these concessions.
Congress in distress
IN the light of certain recent developments, it would be a miracle if the Congress is able to improve its performance in the Lok Sabha elections in September-October. The Bharatiya Janata Party will have to do something terribly stupid to facilitate the return of the Congress. As of today the party is virtually battling to keep the rank and file from repeating what Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr P. A. Sangma did to it by challenging the authority of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The threat may not be as serious as the one which saw the birth of the Nationalist Congress Party but it is disturbing enough to make the party leadership take note of it. In Andhra Pradesh the uneasy truce between the President of the State unit, Mr Rajashekhar Reddy, and Leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Mr Janardhan Reddy, is being seen as a political blessing for the Telugu Desam Party of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. If the Andhra Congress leaders are not able to sort out their differences, Mr Naidu has little to worry about remaining in power as also retaining his hold over the levers of power in Delhi. In Haryana, the support extended by the Congress to Chief Minister Bansi Lal, after his poll ally (the BJP) walked out of the coalition on the ground that he was promoting corruption, is being seen as a negative move. It has exposed the hollowness of the partys stand on communalism. Had Mr Bansi Lal walked out of the communal arrangement it would have been a case of a repentant son seeking the forgiveness of his original parents without actually returning home.
The importance of Uttar
Pradesh to the hopes of the political revival of the
Congress cannot be over-emphasised. The party which
controls UP usually is also that party which calls the
shots at the Centre. After the last Lok Sabha election
and large-scale desertions from the Legislature Party to
Chief Minister Kalyan Singhs camp, the Congress had
virtually become politically extinct in UP. Mr Salman
Khursheed, with all his inexperience, was hand-picked,
much to the discomfiture of Mr Narain Dutt Tiwari and Mr
Jitendra Prasada, to perform the task of reviving the
Congress in the State. Reports suggest that as UPCC
President he surprised even his well wishers by arousing
the confidence of grassroots workers in the future of the
Congress. But the ill-organised rally for Mrs Sonia
Gandhi in Varanasi last week exposed the differences
between the discredited leaders like Mr Prasada and Mr
Khursheed. The usually unflappable grandson of Dr Zakir
Hussain was so rattled by the fiasco that he threatened
to go back to Delhi and resume his law practice if
out-of-job politicians like Mr Prasada were
not prevented from interfering in the affairs of the
state unit of the Congress. That the Bahujan Samaj Party
is unwilling to do political business with the Congress
in UP, or even elsewhere, is well known. Mr Khursheed had
struck at the Muslim support base of Mr Mulayam Singh
Yadavs Samajwadi Party and there was, therefore,
not even an outside chance of a political alliance
between the two in UP. Mr Mulayam Singh Yadavs
tie-up with Mr Pawars NCP in Maharashtra further
increased the intractable distance between the Congress
and the Samajwadi Party. Unless the Congress is able to
arrange political fire-fighting across the country, it is
doubtful whether Mrs Sonia Gandhi, on her own, would be
able to do much to help it win even a respectable
presence in the next Lok Sabha.
KARGIL AND THE POLL
THESE are testing times for the nation. Never since Independence has it been required to hold parliamentary elections while facing an undeclared war, with the possibility of it turning into a declared one not altogether ruled out.
The Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, wants Pakistan to be declared a rouge state; and the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, has just told the soldiers that they had better be prepared for war. And the Chief of the Army Staff, General Malik, does not rule out the need to act across the Line of Control, and says that if required, he may approach the Cabinet for permission to do so.
While the country has been acting with utmost restraint, its resolve to be firm with Pakistan is not in doubt. Ordinarily, one would have expected parliamentary elections to take the back seat, but the Election Commission has just confirmed that there is no provision in the constitution which allows infringement of the provision that six months shall not elapse between one session of the Lok Sabha and the next.
Therefore, as things stand, the parliamentary elections have to be so conducted by the Election Commission as to ensure the Constitution of the new House by October 21, the last House having been dissolved on May 26. And the Election Commission is planning to complete the poll process by October 7.
What happens if the situation on the Kargil front deteriorates and the country faces a regular war with Pakistan? The question is being treated both by the government and the Election Commission as hypothetical. The assumption appears to be that such a situation will not come to pass.
The question arises: how come the Constitution-makers failed to provide for the postponement of elections in times of grave emergency caused by external aggression, especially when very elaborate arrangements have been made for emergencies.
As is well known, there is a whole chapter on emergency provisions. The President (the political executive that is) has the authority to proclaim emergency if he is satisfied that a grave emergency situation exists whereby the security of India, or any of its part, is threatened by war or external aggression, even armed rebellion. It has to be approved within a month by Parliament. If the Lok Sabha has been dissolved, then it must be approved by a majority of the Rajya Sabha membership, and two-thirds of those present and voting. Later, it must be approved by the next Lok Sabha within 30 days of the first sitting.
The effect of the proclamation of emergency is drastic. Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution, the executive power of the Union gets extended to giving the states as to the manner in which executive power is to be exercised. The officers of the Union can be given extensive powers. The division of revenues between the Centre and the states can be suspended. The freedom of speech and expression can be curtailed, and the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights can be suspended, but, fortunately, not the right to life, after the 44th amendment.
There is the provision for the take-over of the administration of the states, and the dissolution of the state legislature in the event of a break-down in the constitutional machinery of a state a provision that has been used (mostly misused) by the centre over 100 times.
Then there is the provision for the declaration of a financial emergency. If the Constituent Assembly could think of such drastic measures in order to meet emergencies, why did it fail to provide for the deferment of elections when faced with external aggression on war.
My own surmise is that our Constitution-makers were far too much influenced by the British traditions and experience. The emergency provisions were bodily lifted from the 1935 Act. Since the Constitution-makers had seen how the British functioned during the two world wars each time the life of the British Parliament was extended by legislation they thought it prudent for providing the extension of the life of the Lok Sabha by a year at a time.
However, there was hardly any example of the British Parliament facing a warlike situation after the House of Commons had been dissolved. Nor did Britain have to have a caretaker government that lasted six months. (The Charan Singh government lasted as long. But it is the Vajpayee government that is having to deal with external aggression). This explains why the Constitution-makers could not visualise the kind of the situation the country is faced with today the necessity to have the elections even when faced with external threat.
The Constitution-makers had the examples of Britain and the USA. When faced with war Britain had no problem in extending the life of the House of Commons by legislation. However, the USA reacted differently. War or peace, the Presidential and other elections had to be held on time. There is nothing to indicate in the Constituent Assembly debates that it took a conscious decision to follow the American example. On the contrary it chose to follow the British example. What Britain did through legislation, the Constitution-makers provided in the Constitution itself.
Some parties and leaders are wanting a special session of the Rajya Sabha in order to discuss publicly, or in camera, the Kargil situation. Some of them have approached the President in this regard and even let it be known that the President himself is in favour of holding such a session.
However, the Prime Minister has indicated that the President has expressed to him no such wish. The constitutional truth is that it is the Prime Minister alone who can recommend to the President the convening of a session of the Rajya Sabha. And even if the President were to express any such wish, the Vajpayee government would be within its rights to ignore it.
This is not a happy situation, especially when the country must speak with one voice. And the Rajya Sabha is the only elected body in existence. What has queered the pitch is the proximity of the elections. While the resolve of the parties in meeting the external challenge is firm, the electoral calculations of each are different.
Clearly, a chink in the
constitutional armour has been discovered. And attempt
must be made to remedy the situation, but the tragedy is
that though the need for a review of the Constitution is
conceded, there is tardiness in setting up the required
For one rank, one pension
BAGLOO is a sleepy village in the rugged terrain of Himachal Pradesh where Naik Khajan Singh, who retired from the Army many years ago, lives with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. His eyesight is failing and age is against him. At 80, he can feel life rapidly ebbing out of him, but he still scans the local paper from beginning to end. He desperately looks for news on the grant of one rank, one pension, which the President and so many Prime Ministers, they tell him, have promised.
He retired when he was in his early thirties, and he could get no other job, his years of sustained efforts notwithstanding. The continuous inflation since he retired has left his meagre pension with no purchasing power. He anxiously waits for the news regarding the promised increase in his pension. Most of his colleagues have died during this unending wait.
Khajan Singh is not alone in this unending wait for the promised increase in his pension. Since the issue of one rank, one pension was first taken up in 1982, over one million ex-servicemen have died, and their number is decreasing by almost six to seven thousand every month. In the next 15 to 20 years nearly all those ex-servicemen to whom, one rank, one pension is of concern and who have been greatly disadvantaged by successive pay commissions, will disappear from the pension lists. Therefore, for the Government of India it is a diminishing expenditure; decreasing at the annual rate of 5 to 6 per cent. This demand marginally compensates for early retirement, harsh and risk-filled life, turbulence in childrens education, very limited promotion avenues, meagre pay during service and inadequate pension on retirement.
Three Prime Ministers of India and all the members of Parliament in their party manifestos had promised this to the ex-servicemen. The President of India too, in his address to the joint session of Parliament in December, 1989, had committed to the acceptance of one rank, one pension: Yet the present incumbent gave his consent (his pleasure, to be correct) to an order issued by the MoD in its letter dated June 7, 1999 making a mockery of what one of his distinguished predecessors in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces had promised his troops. This order also cements, the 33-year conditionality, 10 months qualifying clause for pension benefits against honorary rank and indirectly, so many other anomalies in the pay structure of the armed forces personnel brought in by the Fifth Pay Commission.
The Indian babus will has finally prevailed, making nonsense of all those promises and commitments. The Defence Minister at Anandpur Sahib had assured the ex-servicemen that the one rank, one pension case had been finalised and that the orders would be issued in a few days time. The MoD, vide its letter dated June 7, has made the Defence Minister eat his words. Remember, earlier the great Indian babu had brought to naught the Supreme Court order on the subject of the grant of one rank, one pension. And now for the Indian babu to do this at the height of an unprecedented nation-wide emotional upsurge and sympathy for the defence services. This demonstrates the extent of his deep-seated prejudice bordering on hostility towards the soldier, and how he has come to hold the word of the political executive in contempt.
This order has merely reinforced the Fifth Pay Commissions thrust against the services. The form attached with this letter is required to be filled and submitted by June 30, 1999. Does the MoD know that the defence forces of India draw their manpower from the remotest regions of this land as well, where mail takes weeks to reach! The new forms can never reach in time and then these poor pensioners can spend the remaining years of their lives explaining to the authorities the reasons for the delay in the submission of these forms for enhanced pension.
The letter of June 7, 1999, is signed by a Deputy Secretary in the MoD and is addressed to the three Service Chiefs, and there is not even an iota of the routine courtesy normally extended while addressing letters to high dignitaries. The fact that a functionary of this level in the MoD can treat the high office of the Chiefs of the three services in this manner reflects on the extent of the rot that has set in. The fact that the Chiefs accept such a manner of correspondence is equally disturbing.
The nation is all praise for the dedication and the spirit of sacrifice of troops, and salutes the gallant men of Kargil. The governments, both at the Centre and in the states, are making all kinds of promises to them and their families. They all seem to forget that there are others whose sacrifices on earlier occasions during the long insurgency phase in J and K and the North-East or on the Siachen glaciers are no less significant and deserve equal sympathy and help. For them to obtain similar benefits and others to get one rank, one pension is equally essential.
IT is true that the things and spaces that appeared big in the early years of ones life seem quite small in later years. Now when I see the courtyard of our ancestral house I am struck by its narrowness, whereas in my childhood it was quite commodious. This is why perhaps the eight-year-old girl whom Abraham Lincoln lifted up with both hands to plant a kiss on her cheek recalled in later years that for her at that time it was like being face to face with a crag jutting out at the top of a hill.
My second coming (with due apologies to W.B. Yeats) to Shimla last year, not as a visitor but a resident, made me conscious of long distances, whereas in my earlier stay during the fifties these distances were for me quite short. This paradox is resolved when it is realised that it has not been a journey from boyhood to manhood, rather it is from manhood to old age. With advancing years, small things and spaces again start appearing bigger than they actually are. The irony of the situation is quite obvious.
At that time there was no consideration of time and space. Life was unhurried and even the horizon seemed to be at a walking distance. The mind was full of the dreams of tomorrow and all the yesterdays had receded into the background. The race was against the present moment that enchanted us as did the sirens in the days of yore. Now at the second spell of my stay at this hill station, the charm had fled like the visionary gleam. The world appeared to be engaged in the tug of war between uncertainty and unconcern. The feeble light at the end of the tunnel could be discerned by straining ones eyes but the tunnel was unduly long and full of smoke and humidity.
With a view to presenting my credentials to the lost times, I made attempts to strike a cord of bonhomie in the minds of persons who came into contact with me. The response was positive but without any kind of promise for the forthcoming days. In that atmosphere of wishful thinking, there were certain moments when the chimes of the bells of the caravans gone by reverberated in the mind. Not that the past was welcome again but there was a sort of link with the earlier times. From nodding acquaintance to handshake was a big step forward. Gradually, there emerged once again a sense of belonging to the place.
Essentially the same spirit prevails, except that the attitude of the people is now more matter-of-fact. The pace of life has accelerated and there are efforts to take a realistic view of men and matters instead of being unduly romantic in outlook, Congestion, of course, is mind-boggling whereas speed has led to tension. Traffic hazards are on the increase, leading to strains and stresses in life. Gales are the things of the past. Snowflakes seldom swim across the eyes before settling down here, there and everywhere. Of course, the strong winds rustle among the branches of the trees but their impact on life is felt only occasionally. Instead of visiting the habitation, the winds recoil further and further into the groves and clusters of trees, resulting in the feeling among the people of having been left high and dry.
This time my coming away from Shimla for good, after a stay of one year in the Rashtrapati Nivas in contrast to the earlier exodus after a decade, has been more momentous, At that time in 1961 I was on the verge of having a second round of my career. It was like running after the glow of a dream. At long last there was a sense of fulfilment, if not of achievement, though in a way it was for me a journey from illusion to disillusion. Unless one is disillusioned, one can have no idea of the illusion. For me both the serpent and the rope, the appearance and the reality, are the facts of life to be grasped without any reservation.
Now when I was gliding down, on the last day of the last month, the Shimla hills from Boileauganj to Kalka, I was reminded of the classical Urdu poet Mus-hafis couplets
Khaab thha ya khyal thha kya thha
Hijr thha ya visaal thha kya thha
Mus-hafi raat tu jo chupp sa baitha thha
Kaya tujhe kuchh malaal thha kya thha
Genocide: intent is the crux
ALTHOUGH the word genocide is new, the practice is an old one, wrote Prof Josef Kunz in the prestigious American Journal of International Law in 1949, less than a year after the adoption of the Genocide Convention, the destruction of Carthage by the Romans, the extermination of the Indians in North America, pogroms in Czarist Russia, the Armenian massacres in Imperial Turkey are just a few examples.
The June 11 order of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Kashmiri Pandits which I assailed last week in this column, and the week before proceeds however on a contrary assumption.
Citing the French prosecutor at the Nuremburg trial of Nazi war criminals, the NHRC refers to the Holocaust as a crime so monstrous, so undreamt of in history... that the term genocide had to be coined to define it. This opening statement is supplemented by a later allusion to the Holocaust (six million Jews killed) as the archetypal genocide.
Apart from the NHRCs liberal mindset which depreciates the danger of terrorism and fails to see the umbilical connection between religious terrorism and genocide a mindset which it shares with many other human rights thinkers in India and abroad this assumption that a charge of genocide must be measured against the yardstick of the Holocaust is an obvious flaw in its order rejecting the petition of the Kashmiri Pandits.
Nazi Germanys barbarous treatment of the Jews across occupied territories during World War II was definitely the occasion and cause for adopting the Genocide Convention in December, 1948. But to mistake the cause for the effect, as the NHRC has done, and to effect a corresponding reduction in the scope of the Convention despite its express language is quite another matter.
The lessons of history take not inconsiderable time to be translated into law. But once so translated, the law that results has a life, vigour and momentum of its own that often transcend the history which engendered it. The Genocide Convention is a prime example.
The definition of genocide in the Convention does not require large, or very large, numbers of people belonging to a particular group to have been killed for the crime to be made out. What is required to be established is only the intent to destroy that group, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, in whole or in part by any of the acts enumerated in Article 2, Clauses (a) to (e) of the Convention reproduced in this column last week.
Neither millions (as held, or impliedly held, by the NHRC) nor thousands nor even hundreds need to be killed for genocide to be committed. What matters is the intent behind the killing(s), though numbers have evidentiary significance where the intention is otherwise doubtful.
Genocide, says Dutch jurist Pieter N. Drost, in a work on the preparation and passage of the Genocide Convention unrivalled in its fidelity to the facts and the rigour of its analysis, is committed when homicides take place with a connecting aim. That is to say, when homicides (or killings) are directed against persons with specifically designated common characteristics.
Acts perpetrated with the intended purpose to destroy various people as members of the same group (he writes) are to be classified as genocidal crimes, although the victims amount only to a small part of the entire group present within the national, regional or local community.
Is it intrinsically required, he continues and asks, that more than one person has become victim to the intended destruction of the protected group to which he may be considered to belong and as member of which he has been killed?
In other words (he asks), can a single homicide constitute a separate genocide? The answer seems to be yes.
Both as a question of theory and as a matter of principle, writes Drost, at one time holder of the chair of international law and politics in the University of Indonesia, nothing in the Genocide Convention prohibits its provisions being applied to individual cases of murder by reason of the national, racial, ethnical or religious qualities of the single victim, if the murderous attack was done with the intent to commit similar acts in the future and in connection with the first crime.
If, on the other hand, such intent of group murder, the collectiveness as constituent quality of the intention, the plurality of persons as purpose of the crime, is not present in the mind of the perpetrator, a murder on racial, national, ethnical or religious grounds constitutes homicide with a particular motive, but does not amount to genocide as defined in the Convention.
The mens rea of the culprit, he concludes, must be directed against the life of more than one human victim. His deed may remain restricted to one corpus delicti.
Mens rea is Latin for criminal intent or a guilty state of mind. Corpus delicti means the body of a crime, or the body or material substance upon which a crime has been committed such as the corpse of a murdered man or the charred remains of a house burned down.
Children worst-hit in wars
AS chances of a full-fledged war with Pakistan increase some disturbing facts about wars ought to be highlighted. To begin with today wars are fought in precisely those countries which can ill afford them. A special UN study states that out of the 150 major conflicts since the second world war 130 have been fought in developing countries. And to top this, the startling finding is that in todays warfare civilian fatalities go up to 90%. With children being the worst affected, so much so that in the past decade around 2 million children have been killed in armed conflicts. I could keep on quoting from this report but space wouldnt permit. But interested readers ought to get a copy of Graca Machels special study on the Impact Of Armed Conflict On Children from the United Nations Information Centre Office. Lodi Estate, New Delhi.
Or they could contact United Nations Childrens Fund Division of Communication, 3 United Nations Plaza. New York, NY 10017. USA. Telephone- (212) 326-7467. Fax (212) 326-7768. Or, they could even contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Centre for Human Rights, Palais des Nations. CH- 1211, Geneva 10. Switzerland. Tel-41229173359. Fax-41229170123.
Sudan new perceptions
Sometime after the Africa Day celebrations here (Organisation of African Unity- OAU was founded in Ethiopia in May 1963), last Monday I visited the Sudanese Embassy here. To be honest, all those negative images etched in mind about the internal wars ravaging Sudan and together with that the stories about famines, disease and deaths had left such an impact that it came as a bit of a surprise to see a well built, sprawling embassy with ample patches of greenery all around. Though at present manned by only three diplomats (the new Sudanese ambassador is yet to take charge) a large number of Indians working in the embassy offices could be spotted. And as the Second Secretary in this embassy Talib Juma Morgan recounted the development taking place in his country, the export and import facts together with the progress being made in the uplifting the status of the woman and child and the steady decline in human rights violations taking place, I felt that it is really very unfortunate that we Indians seem to know so little about the positive aspects to the African countries.
Though in New Delhi alone there are diplomatic missions of 53 African countries yet there seems a very paltry flow of knowledge. Probably the lack of funds comes in their way of holding regular receptions. Or as a few sources confided that as some of the African countries do not or cannot afford to serve liquor on their national day receptions thats one of the reasons why the turn-out continues to be very poor. Obviously with poor turnout the interaction is likely to be affected. There has to be found a way and means of closer people-to-people ties.
What a change
Last week Nisha Mahajan, one of the most unassuming kathak dancers I have known, invited me to attend a childrens workshop conducted at her artist friend Minu Kulkarnis home at Kala Vihar apartments (Kala Vihar apartments has recently been in the news as the mother and brothers of the late Lt Hanifuddin live there). And at this workshop though the number of children was small but it was touching to see how Minu had turned this little apartment into an informal studio with children freely and happily moving about with their works. When they seemed, tired of painting and drawing they either danced or sang. Mind you, none of the so-called Western trendy numbers, rather our classical and semi-classical forms. In fact when one little girl took to kathaking I was told that not far lives Ruby, the daughter-in-law of Pt Birju Maharaj, who holds kathak classes in the evenings. And then when another girl took to dancing in the bharatnatyam form I was told that in the next apartment building lived a bharatnatyam exponent and so the girls have an ample choice.... Anyway, It was enriching to be in the aptly-named Kala Vihar that entire morning. For one at least these middleclass apartment-living people are trying to reconstruct whatever remains of our culture.
Khushwant: more honours
Just received the news
that Khushwant Singh has been conferred with the
Nishan-e-Khalsa by the Punjab Government and a honorary
doctorate of philosophy by Guru Nanak Dev University
(Amritsar). And to celebrate that conferment Bubbles
Charanjit Singh, the chairperson of one of the leading
luxury hotels here, would be hosting a special reception
for him. Before I move ahead I have to write that she is
one of Delhis most gracefully-attired women and
though she must be in her late forties yet has that face
that can still turn heads.
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