|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Monday, September 27, 1999
AND THE WORLD
reservations on out-of-turn promotions
skirting maid torture issue
images and ads
Merciful fourth phase
THE fourth phase of the General Election has passed off, by and large, peacefully. Casualties in Bihar make casual news. But "only six deaths" do mean much in an area where in the first phase 38 personsmostly police and poll personnel were killed in landmine blasts triggered by ultra-Left outfits and local gangsters. The Election Commission had made elaborate arrangements to ensure that 74 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over nine states did not see much violence. The immediate outcome of the voting process is impressive in terms of the percentage: Bihar 55, Himachal Pradesh 52, Madhya Pradesh 45, Manipur 53, Meghalaya 52, Mizoram 45, Nagaland 38, Orissa 55 and Uttar Pradesh 50. The national average of the fourth phase is 51.16 per cent. The overall average of the four phases is 58.43 per cent. So far 418 Lok Sabha constituencies have gone to the polls. In Bihar and UP, 43 constituencies were declared hypersensitive. Most of the remaining ones were "sensitive". Bihar has registered its notoriety by sending out the information that two of its ministers have been arrested. Cooperatives Minister Shyam Behari Prasad was found disturbing the electoral process at a booth in the Govindganj Assembly segment of the sprawling Motihari constituency. Agriculture Minister Shiv Shankar Yadav carried four rifles in his personal vehicle in Siwan. UP, with its dubious reputation as a chaotic state, did not lose its cool. There was the usual show of traditional acrimony in 24 constituencies. But there was no death or destruction. Orissa was in a state of shock and fear. The recent killings of members of minority communities had made the atmosphere tense. But the exercise ended well there. The North-EastManipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagalandbrought the following relieving remark from the Chief Election Commissioner, Dr M.S. Gill: "It has been a very satisfactory day for the commission." The proceedings of Saturday have raised the hope that the next phase, too, will be marked by relative tranquillity. One expected much trouble in Nalanda and Barh in Bihar in view of the provocative outbursts of Mr George Fernandes and Mr Nitish Kumar. Muzaffarpur, the former constituency of Mr Fernandes, was also in panic. But the meticulous planning of surveillance and supervision made by the commission and the local authorities paid rich dividends.
election has been thrust upon the people. But the
democratic process has to reconcile the political,
constitutional and economic processes in unstable
situations. The legislative system requires an elected
bodyParliament, of which the Lok Sabha is the
larger component. When various parties discredit
themselves, distrust spreads against individuals and
organisations. It will be useful to remember that earlier
in Britain, the Tudors had a correct understanding of
Parliament which the Stuarts did not have. That made a
big difference. The parliamentary system cannot work well
if its underlying meaning is not understood and
respected. It is often said that a little donkey leads a
caravan of camels. Leadership in a republic is important.
The Constitution depends for its success not only on the
soundness of its provisions but also on the temper of the
political parties which are expected to reflect the
temper of the people. There are many enemies of the
democratic process symbolised by the politician-criminal
nexus, the buying and selling of votes, the low level of
political debate and personal propaganda amounting to
character assassination. However, in spite of all such
pitfalls, our democracy has shown great resilience.
ULFAs sinister links
THE nation had been warned well in advance about the plan of foreign mercenaries and ISI agents to disrupt the on-going electoral process. The success of the Indian democratic process is a major source of embarrassment for the Pakistani establishment. Any excuse is good enough for it to engineer large-scale violence in India. In Jammu and Kashmir the militants received partial success because in spite of the killing of a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in one parliamentary constituency the election process was completed by readjusting the date of polling within the time-frame fixed by the Election Commission. However, the killing of the BJP candidate for the Dubri Lok Sabha constituency in Assam by ULFA activists has forced the Election Commission to accept a minor disruption in the poll schedule. Polling for the Dubri seat would now be held after the completion of the five-phase election process on October 3. The candidate, Mr Pannalal Oswal, had been missing for about a week before his body was recovered from the bank of a river near Dubri. ULFA militants had claimed responsibility for his abduction and given five days to his family to pay a hefty amount as ransom for his release. His body was recovered on the sixth day of his abduction. Both in Jammu and Kashmir and the Christian-dominated North-East, the anti-national elements have targeted BJP candidates in the hope of provoking a Hindu backlash against the minorities. In Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Hyder Noorani, the candidate from Anantnag, was made the target because as far as the militants were concerned he was representing what in Pakistan is perceived to be a party of fanatic Hindus. Of course, the militants would have killed any candidate for achieving the objective of disrupting the poll process.
The Dubri incident
should serve as a warning to the security agencies. They
would have to step up vigilance for the last round of
polling on October 3, particularly in the states which
are known to be violence-prone. The long-term and
post-election strategy for containing acts of militancy
should be based on keeping special watch on Jammu and
Kashmir and the equally volatile North-East. Intelligence
reports speak of an ISI plan to redouble its efforts to
destabilise the North-East. After the Kargil fiasco the
Pakistani agency sees in the territory touching Myanmar,
Bangladesh and China the potential to redeem itself. It
has already established contact with ULFA leaders and
other militant groups for implementing its Satanic
anti-India agenda. It has even spread out among local
Muslims. The long-term objective of the ISI is to provoke
them into forming separatist Muslim insurgent groups. The
omnipresent Osama bin Laden has reportedly blessed the
diabolical project and has promised unlimited funds for
instigating the worlds second largest Muslim
population into raising local Taliban-style groups for
fighting Hindu India. His generosity is not
limited to providing arms and money to Indian Muslims
alone. His plan reportedly includes promoting even Hindu
fanaticism for expediting the process of what he sees as
global Muslim uprising against those who do
not accept the Quran. Ladens threat should not be
taken lightly. The political class will have to close
ranks for fighting a war which is more difficult than the
flushing out of the intruders from Kargil by the Indian
INDIA AND THE WORLD
WHAT is common between Paris, Bosnia, Kosovo, Dili (East Timor) and New Delhi? Each of them signifies an embarrassment or crisis for Indias foreign policy establishment. the way the Foreign Office is behaving is so amateurish and so uninformed by larger principles that the just-deceased Rajeshwar Dayal, a father of the Indian foreign Service, must already be turning in his grave. Take the episode involving Lalita Oraon, the maid working for an Indian diplomat in Paris, and the disgraceful manner in which our Foreign Office has handled the issue of her mistreatment and probable physical abuse.
In the absence of an independent investigation, we still do not know what happened to Ms Oraon before September 6, when she was handed over to the French authorities in a state of extreme distress, knife in hand. But she was clearly the victim of a horrendously exploitative relationship with her masters, and was very nearly driven to suicide by their decision to sack her without notice or compensation. We also have it on the authority of one of Frances most respected physicians, and the highly regarded Committee Against Modern Slavery (CCEM), that Ms Oraon recently sustained serious injuries, even genital mutilation, which could not have been self-inflicted.
Clearly, this was a case deserving the most serious and sober attention and enquiry on the part of our mission in Paris, especially once the matter attracted the attention of the French legal system. After all, the very first duty of the mission is to protect the life and limb of Indian citizens. Instead, our embassy rushed, without ascertaining the facts, to blame the victim and defend her employer. Worse, it disingenuously tried to turn the tables on the CCEM by accusing it of having harmed Ms Oraon and the French media of practising defamation and disinformation. Embarrassed, New Delhi tried damage control by announcing that it would despatch an additional Secretary to enquire into the matter. This was stalled and sabotaged. Meanwhile, the Paris mission issued another aggressive statement, citing the Vienna Convention on diplomatic privileges. The crisis brews on.
Our embassys reprehensible conduct is symptomatic of the attitudes many Indian diplomats have towards their servants. Most pay them a pittance (Ms Oraon received less than a tenth of the legal minimum wage) while overworking them an 18-hour day is normal without offering a semblance of security or dignity. These heaven-born worthies do not understand that such attitudes are regarded as uncivilised in the societies where they are posted in most cases they have sought to be posted for the comforts available there. Few people will uphold the Vienna Convention against numerous human rights conventions. The missions sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy (in accusing the CCEM) has only further compounded matters.
Equally deplorable is South Blocks tendency to see the Oraon issue through the prism of Indo-French relations. This is similar to the governments reaction to the outbreak of bubonic plague in 1994: Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was much less bothered about the grave tragedy or its worrisome causes, then its likely impact on Indias image as an investment destination. But what is of vital importance in the present case is whether full justice is done to Ms Oraon and whether her dignity as a woman and a worker is defended.
The mistreatment of our citizens abroad should occasion serious reflection, rather than speculation over whether France will support India in scuppering G-8 attempts to promote nuclear restraint, or whether Paris will sell (dangerous) nuclear reactors to us. Indias image will not be enhanced through posturing about diplomatic immunity and national sovereignty. It will be burnished only if India comes across as a nation seriously committed to values like equality, dignity of labour, fairness and justice, not raw privilege and hierarchy. For this to happen, our Lalitas have to get a fair deal.
The Foreign Offices myopic, inward-looking and self-obsessed calculus in the Oraon case is typical of the way it has recently dealt with major issues. New Delhi has played no role worth the name is shaping the great events of the 1990s whether the post-Cold War resettlement of Europe, ethnic crises in former Yugoslavia and Sub-Saharan Africa, or flashpoints such as lraq, Bosnia or Kosovo. India has been a passive spectator to the further skewing of North-South imbalances, and the virtual takeover of policy-making in some 120 southern countries by the World Bank and the IMF along the lines which the Bank itself now admits were flawed: they failed to redress poverty, regional imbalances, and low industrial and agricultural capacities.
Compared to the progressive role India played until the 1970s, its recent part in global affairs has been marginal. Earlier, India was a strong advocate of decolonisation, national liberation, nonalignment, balanced relations between States, strong multilateralism, and peace and nuclear disarmament. These worthy causes received a boost due to Indias moral stature, not military might, which was always limited. India also represented an autonomous model of development, not just an imitation of the market-driven paradigm practised by what Nehru used to call those Coca-Cola countries. India was heard with respect as a force of reason, rather than feared as a powerful State.
Now Indias global role has become increasingly conservative. It tacitly, if not explicitly, supports policies which erode democratic economic decision-making. India does not advocate south-centred policies. On environmental matters and social policies too human rights, population, labour, gender it is status quoist and pro-Western. Since the 1991 Gulf War, it has moved in a generally pro-U.S. direction. Its topmost post-Cold War priority is to find accommodation with the West, especially Washington. Rather than advocate multilateralism, it now favours an increasingly bilateral approach to the West. Between 1992 and 1995, for instance, India held four rounds of bilateral talks on nuclear weapons with the USA against its own proclaimed policy. Since Pokhran-II it has held another eight rounds. From being an opponent of machtpolitik, or power-based politics, India has become its practitioner. From being a campaigner for peace and disarmament, it has become one of the biggest obstacles to it. For five years, it demanded a special UN session on disarmament. Today, it opposes it tooth and nail.
New Delhi has become an obsessive defender of absolute national sovereignty unfettered by human rights or other universal criteria. It failed to take a stand on the genocidal threat to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. On East Timor, it has not let out a squeak on the horrific repression unleashed by Indonesian forces one of the worst cases of near-genocidal terror anywhere, killing a third of the population. One reason is that Indonesia helped India get entry into the Asean Regional Forum. Perhaps a weightier reason is that it that supporting intervention in one region however genuinely humanitarian, well-intentioned, multilateral and balanced would invite similar demands in Kashmir, opening the issue of human rights violations there.
Indias feeling of insecurity has intensified despite Pokhran-II. After all, nuclear weapons are utterly useless in the face of low-intensity warfare or insurgencies. New Delhi is not at peace with the Great Powers, with its neighbours, not even itself. Its horizons have shrunk even as its ambitions for a greater global role for itself largely through the shortcut of military weapons have vaulted. There is no coherent link between Indias foreign policy and pursuit of democratic domestic priorities. With the BJPs aggressive, bellicose, chauvinistic nationalism, these tendencies have got further accentuated.
Our foreign policy
establishments horizons have shrunk. It now
advocates expedient positions separated from general
principles or doctrines. This narrowing has come along
with a reduced role for India in the world. It is fully
in conformity with an unbalanced relationship with the
USA on the new bandwagon slogan of fighting
terrorism. This totally ignores the graver
danger from State terrorism.
Unprecedented wait for poll results
THE first phase elections were held on September 5. The fifth phase starts on October 3 and the results are expected to be declared on October 6, a gap of more than a month. Suspense, they say, is worse than death. The candidates and others directly affected would be on pins and needles for such a long time, though the common peoples anxiety and curiosity seems exhausted with time to be revived only at the end. Only during the republics first election in 1952 it took such a long time, and then too the whole show took three weeks. But then there was no embargo on the declaration of the first results till the last constituency in the country had gone to polls.
The results were declared by parts, as we went along. This time the long, dark period was oppressive. Not only that, the Election Commission banned opinion polls and exit polls, so that it would be a long period of utter darkness and total ignorance about the results. The present is the age of instant communication and immediate information, but in this aspect we seem to be stuck up in the bullock cart age.
How enviously people recalled general elections in the UK and the USA; the whole process is over in one day and the total results are declared in the evening. Even yesterdays newspaper becomes as outdated and non-fresh as the dry crust of bread.
Thank God, the Supreme Court came to peoples rescue and declared the ban on opinion polls and exit polls illegal. Before that the only future-tellers were the astrologers and star gazers. They gave hopes of victory to their patrons to coincide with their wishful thinking, but their rivals dismissed their prophesies as pure bunkum and attached no credibility to them. Each went on hoping for the best for himself/herself.
But now entered into the scene psephologists, whose art is taken as a science and not worth summary rejection. Also there were many of them; and when all agreed broadly on one point, even sceptics and adversely affected parties had to accept them as truth in part at least. Their previous years forecasts had broadly come true, though in a few cases they did go haywire like the forecasts for Tamil Nadu. But their ordinary level of error was just 2-3 per cent.
Now all these different psephologists gave the palm to BJP (some 300 seats, complete majority), while the Congress trudged some 40-50 seats behind. This did incalculable harm to Mrs Sonia Gandhis cause who at one time was dreaming of single party majority as when in a previous election she had captured four states Delhi, Rajasthan, M.P. and Mizoram. But the psephologists set all their ambitions crashing. The hawa began to blow in a single direction despite local variations and the Congress case seemed lost. In vain did their spokesman Kapil Sibal plead not to believe them. But the fence-sitters generally want to vote on the winning side. Perhaps there was some substance in Chief Election Commissioner Gills contention that the declaration of earlier results influenced the voting trends in the subsequent polls.
Also such an inordinate delay or no-mans period could be used by clever politicians to manoeuvre the results in their favour. Already there were press reports about the detection of 783 bogus ballot boxes and many thousand excess ballot papers printed with an ulterior motive. of course, the accused departments and authorities dutifully issued the usual contradictions, but common people go by their hunch and not by the denials of the accused authorities and their natural desire to save their own skin. With precedents before us, such things cannot be ruled out out of hand. These would neither be possible nor could there be a suspicion had the entire process been telescoped in a few days time as was the trend in the previous years.
Nobody is happy over this long drawn out election schedule. All but the Election Commission; only they stand to gain in power and prestige, and their writ runs, so longer the better. Under the Constitution, even the Supreme Court cannot interfere in the process of elections. For the time being supposedly once in five years, but actually much more frequently, they can exercise their power as the august constitutional authority. Of course, there were compelling reasons too to make foolproof arrangements; though 47 killed in the third phase, including 21 police men and polling personnel, does not tell any glorious tale in favour of a very long election process.
The Congress goose is not necessarily cooked. The Priyanka factor is a late entry. Villagers waited for long hours to see Priyanka Beti. She was the direct descendant of the Nehru-Indira family in the sense in which Mrs Sonia Gandhi was not. The young and pretty girl in her appealed to the common folk. She concentrated only on her mothers constituencies but her influence travelled beyond her mothers sphere. She in part could help give a change to the general hawa, which in India wins and loses elections.
Suppose the psephologists forecasts come true and the BJP-led alliance bags 300 seats or thereabout. Will that be the end of all our electoral troubles over the years? The NDA consists of nearly two dozen parties. Its candidates have fought elections under the NDA banner. Will that be considered a single party for the purpose of anti-defection law? If the answer is in the affirmative, dissidents wanting to leave the NDA bandwagon will need 100 MPs a near impossibility. Conversely, each candidate fought the election on his/her own party symbol. In that case, securing one-third of defections would not be a difficult job. That would be for the legal experts and courts in the future to decide.
The psephologists have given a big start to the BJP and that is not giving a level playing field to all parties.
What we anxiously desire
are individual results who will win the Chandigarh
seat? What will be the result in Bellary and in so many
other constituencies. The psephologists are whole-salers,
not dealing in single cases. In fact, they club phases I,
II and III and later IV and V to give quick results
the polling ends at 5 p.m. and their whole very
complicated calculations and results can be telecast at 7
or 7-30 p.m.
images and ads
NOW that we have had both an eyeful and a bellyful of TV ads since the invasion of the new channels, ones mind or imagination remains under an assault on the senses the moment the box is switched on. Leaving aside, for the moment, the question of the juvenile hook-on and the baneful effects, I find even myself in some moments of exasperation ready to throw a metaphorical mud-pie in the faces of all those jumping Jacks and Jills (culprits: chiefly cold drinks) who spout or bellow their lines in moronic delight, and seem to get away quite pleased with the monkey-business. The ad scribes, indeed, are creating a new Darwinian species of the entertainment industry, but I have no space here for that flourishing tribe.
However, we have to suffer these abominations day after day and swallow their pap or erotic lore only to have our weekly bite of a serial story which is often as tedious as an African langurs long, unending tail, and often as mixed up. Even if you choke off one such ad, the next is going to be equally silly and equally off-centre. The Romeos with their mugs and muscles, and the models with their boobs and buttons are not going to leave you in peace. Thats the price you have to pay for huge doses of boredom, inanity and the keyhole sex amidst a sentimental fare served to keep the viewers mind hooked to a story-line.
I would readily grant the point that, in a general way, ads do extend our area of knowledge, of taste, of choice etc, but considering the balance, the delinquencies and crimes engendered in the process, as also the pernicious aspects of the Joness complex (which arouses jealousy and a strong desire for even unwanted things), we cannot but regard with great concern the precipitous erosion of our culture and values. But, God in his supreme irony, sits and watches the armies of conmen and suckers the TV scribes have thrown up in such enormous quantities!
However, even in the midst of this miasma and mischief, there are some little islands of delight and innocent dalliance. For instance, Johnsons baby-soaps and oil ads are a sheer little poem in celluloid, and they celebrate motherhood and the poetry of babyhood in memorable images. In course of time, such images turn into abiding symbols with expanding meanings. Similarly, the ad by the new small car, Matiz, with its soft, tilting tune, and the silken drama of the white rabbit retrieved and hugged would remain an enchanting little discourse, whatever the merits of the new beauty, otherwise.
So, how are we to deal
with this thing which is there to stay, but which remains
to prey upon the imagination in most cases? In Canada,
for instance, a society has sprung up to kill
these ads in a variety of strategems. Thats yet a
far cry here. Meanwhile, if the TV images and the print
media can be a message and also a massage to quote
McLuhan, the media Guru, they can as well be a menace
turning generations of youngsters into morons!
SCs reservations on out-of-turn promotions
FOUR more cases overruled. The Supreme Court of India continues on its overruling spree, determined to rectify the imbalances of the past. This time again, as in the PGI case just over a month ago, it is the issue of reservations. Reservations in (college and university) admissions then, reservations in public services now. Or in promotions, to be more precise.
Roster point reserve promotees, a Constitution Bench held on September 16, are debarred by the very nature of their promotion from claiming seniority over general category candidates on the basis of the rule of continuous officiation in service. That rule, said the court (in a major interpretative exercise), presupposes promotions based on equal opportunity, not promotions made outside the equal opportunity principle by way of reservation.
The equal opportunity principle is enshrined in Article 16, Clause (1) of the Constitution. There shall be equality of opportunity (it says) for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. Ever since Rangacharis case of 1962, it is settled law that the Clause covers not only initial recruitment but promotions as well.
Equal opportunity here, holds the September 16 ruling, means the right to be considered for promotion. Clause (1) of Article 16 provides to every employee otherwise eligible or falling within the zone of consideration, a fundamental right to be considered for promotion. If a person satisfies the eligibility and zone criteria but is not considered for promotion, then there will be a clear infraction of his fundamental right to be considered for promotion, which is his personal right.
Reservations under Article 16, Clauses (4) and (4A) in favour of backward classes or Scheduled Castes and Tribes must, therefore, be balanced against the personal or individual rights of general category candidates under Clause (1).
A reasonable balance has to be struck (says the Bench) so that affirmative action does not lead to reverse discrimination. This is because affirmative action stops where reverse discrimination begins.
The court has to ensure that, in matters relating to affirmative action by the State, the rights under Articles 14 and 16 of the individual to equality of opportunity are not affected. The maintenance of efficiency of administration, stipulated by Article 335, is of paramount importance. The provisions of the Constitution must be interpreted in such a manner that a sense of competition is cultivated among all service personnel, including the reserved categories. (The emphasis is original, not added).
Hence, the courts conclusion that seniority is attached only to promotion under Article 16, Clause (1) promotion based on the equal opportunity principle. And not to promotion under Clause (4) or (4A), which promotion though constitutionally protected constitutes, nonetheless, a denial of that principle.
It is a conclusion that, conceptually speaking, is totally new to service jurisprudence even though the September 16 verdict upholds two earlier judgements of the court on the seniority tussle between reserved and general category candidates. The judgements in Virpal Singh Chauhans case of 1995 and Ajit Singh Janujas case of 1996. The two had, in turn, relied heavily on an earlier Constitution Bench judgement in R.K. Sabharwal versus State of Punjab.
Also from Punjab, the Januja judgement in particular tellingly refuted the argument that accelerated promotion (of reserved category candidates) entails, by necessary implication, accelerated seniority as well. The argument was accepted, however, by another three-member Bench a year later in Jagdish Lals case, this time from Haryana.
The euphoria, said Justice K. Ramaswamy in Jagdish Lal, created among general category candidates by the Chauhan and Januja judgements is short-lived. No general principle can be laid down when service rules governing seniority occupy the field. The rules alone are required to be looked into and seniority determined in accordance therewith. The rule in question provided for seniority on the basis of continuous length of service in a cadre. On promotion to the higher cadre, therefore (he said), the reserved candidate steals a march over general candidates and becomes a member of the service in the higher cadre earlier to the general candidates.
The seniority cannot be reopened and reserved promotees cannot slide back in the seniority scale, thereafter, he added.
Overruling Jagdish Lal, the September 16 verdict lifts the debate out of the thicket of service rules, often contradictory, dark and impenetrable, and puts it on the safe, straight path of the Constitution. The focus on equal opportunity in Article 16, Clause (1), the distinction drawn between promotion based on equal opportunity (on the one hand) and promotion by way of reservation (on the other), and the linkage of seniority with the former and its severance from the latter, adds up all to a highly creative advance in analysis, concept and law.
MEA skirting maid torture issue
FOREMOST the Indian maid and her Indian diplomat-master controversy is going on unabated. If not in our country then definitely in Paris, where they are holding a special enquiry. Here I must add that it is indeed surprising that MEA hasnt been supplying us with the latest facts. In fact the whole of Friday I tried to get in touch with the MEA spokesperson, RS Jassal, but each time he didnt come on the line. Seeing the enthusiasm with which he had been mouthing the Kargil war (sorry, it wasnt officially declared as one!) developments one is left disappointed that we are not told the exact details of the maid torture. For lets not overlook the fact that it is not a question of one maid rather the image and outlook of our diplomats and perhaps of the very service.
Moving further, yesterday I met Rev. Asha Vaid, who is not only the secretary of the Haryana chapter of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights but also the priest of the All Saints Church at Rohtak. This young woman priest said though she had lodged an FIR with the Rohtak police over the alleged encroachment of the Rohtak cemetery land but as always things dont seem to be moving. This when Christian associations had written about this land grabbing incident to the PM, the Union Law Minister and also to the previous Chief Minister of Haryana. And coming to yet another bleak incident the very recent attack on Sahmat activists in Lucknow by a BJP MLC. Actually last month soon after they had put up an exhibition here Harvest of Hatred: dark times under the saffron brigade several out-of-station NGO groups wanted to carry that exhibition to different towns of the country. I am told it did rounds in several cities and now when it was going to be shown to the people of Lucknow the local BJP men attacked the organisers for they couldnt stomach the socalled dark deeds of the saffron brigade, neatly depicted on the 38 exhibition panels. And the New Delhi based office of Sahmat informs that their activists have sought an appointment with the President to apprise him of the situation and are also holding a protest march. As they point out-how can Atal Behari Vajpayee talk of stability, liberalism etc when this incident took place in the very city which he represents.
Surrounded by women at 85!
The event of the week was definitely the release of Khushwant Singhs latest novel In The Company of Women (the title he had originally put forward was The Sexual Fantasies Of An Octogenarian but Penguins David Davidar suggested this change). And as expected, the turnout comprised of the whos who of this city.One of the first to arrive was Dr Manmohan Singh with his spouse, the Pakistani High Commissioner AJ Qazis wife and two daughters (the envoy himself was not to be seen and one was told that he is out of the country), Bubbles Charanjit Singh the owner of the Le Meridien hotel. Soon the particular hall of the particular hotel started filling up and there you had envoys from various countries, a whole line of Penguin authors, women socialites, artists, critics. The very release was a brisk job the launch took off five minutes after the scheduled time and within the next 15 minutes it came to a close. The question and answer session with the author was disappointingly short, as it was wound up after a couple of questions. And it is during the cocktails that followed, that guests mingled not only amongst themselves but even with the author. It was a sight to see him being surrounded by a whole bunch of women whilst giving a whole series of interviews. In fact to merely say surrounded would be factually incorrect for just as soon as he sat, women came in droves to kiss and hug him. I think he is the only Indian man whom our women kiss and embrace, I mean in public.
And since several weeks
back I had already written details of this novel, so
there seems little points in repeating them but all I can
reiterate is the fact that, as always, he has been
absolutely candid. Honesty and sheer confidence to
offload whatever is in the mind are the two basics of his
writings and they seem so very apparent in this latest
work of his. And even in the brief four minutes that he
spoke at the launch he emphasised the same
in old men the sexual urge shifts from the middle to
their heads everybody indulges in sexual
fantasies. Even those who are socalled happily married
think in terms of adulterous relationships...
IT is not easy to see where the withdrawal of British authority from India now comes in. Whether such withdrawal would or would not lead to the grim consequences so confidently talked about, it is an undeniable facts that no responsible section of political India, including the Swarajists, has urged the complete withdrawal of British authority from India just at present.
What India has said unanimously, on the contrary, is that having made her solely dependent upon herself in the matter of her internal and external security, England, is morally bound to do all that is necessary for maintaining that security until India is put in a position to maintain herself.
Where India does differ from the enemies of her freedom is in stoutly resisting this undoubted necessity being made an excuse for perpetuating or indefinitely prolonging the present conditions.
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