The Tribune - Spectrum

Doda’s desperate struggle
by Rajendra Nath (Major-Gen, retd)

Doda — An Insurgency in the Wilderness by Harjeet Singh. Lancer Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi. Pages 301. Rs 495.

HARJEET SINGH has served as a Colonel in J & K for a long period and his last assignment was in the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Doda district which was raised primarily to deal with insurgency. Harjeet thus is well qualified to write about the insurgency in Doda.

In this informative book he traces the thus history of insurgency in the region. It describes the advent and growth of militancy, and enumerates the steps taken so far to combat and control insurgency. For the first time, captured diaries of militants have been published in this book, which give an insight into how the mujahideen are trained and motivated to fight in J & K.

As regards insurgency in J & K, the focus of attention has been on the Kashmir valley. However, the spread of insurgency in Doda and other areas south of Pir Panjal has gone relatively unnoticed. This is the contention of the author, which has much merit. Meanwhile, the insurgency has spread to hillsides of Doda which have forests. The author is right when he says that insurgency in Doda is more alarming and should be taken more seriously, because it is in the hinter land.

Doda, which became a district in 1948, is one of the biggest districts in J & K and perhaps in India, in that it has an area of 11,691 sq km and comprises eight tehsils. It is bounded by six districts — Anantnag and Kargil in the north, Chamba in Himachal Pradesh in the south-east, Udhampur and Kathua to the south and Rajauri and the Jammu region in the south west.

The northern boundary of Doda district runs along the Pir Panjal range, whose average height is about 4,000 metres. Doda is located 170 km from Jammu and 200 km from Srinagar. A road takes off from Batote, which is on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and runs eastwards towards the town of Doda and then onwards to Kishtwar in the northwest. There is a plan to have a road linking Doda with Chamba district which will provide an alternative route to Kashmir.

The river Chenab flows for a length of 210 km through Doda district dividing it into two halves. There are a large number of high mountain passes on the Pir Panjal range which separates Doda from the Kashmir valley. The population of Doda district is about 5, 20,000 which is about 57 per cent Muslim and 42 per cent Hindus. Incidentally, the Kashmir valley is one-fourth the size of Doda and has 10,000 militants, whereas Doda district has just about 350-400 militants, the book states. The number of militants in the valley seems to be on the high side.

The Kashmir valley has been declared a disturbed area, but Doda’s status has still not undergone a change, which makes the task of the security forces much more difficult, since they do not enjoy special powers to deal with the situation.

Historically speaking, Doda district was part of Kishtwar and Bhadrawah principalities since ancient times. Doda was the winter capital of the Kishtwar rulers and was initially ruled by Rajputs who were converted to Islam in the 17th century, but the area remained a happy blend of Islam and Hinduism, till the time India gained independence. This was reflected even in the names of the rulers — Raja Inayatullah Singh and Raja Mohammed Teg Singh. Incidentally Kishtwar was the base for Zorawar Singh’s famous expeditions to Ladakh and Tibet between 1823 and 1841.

According to the author,there has been no major economic development, nor has any infrastructure been created in Doda since 1948. "The only significant change that came about was a gradual shift in all government posts, form the village level upwards from Hindus to Muslims and the development of the forest industry in the region", the author states.

Militancy in Doda was spearheaded by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Al Fatah groups. It was formally organised from the late 1993 onwards with ISI agents and some foreign militants entering the district to challenge the military. Local young men were recruited and taken to Pakistan for training and motivation. They returned after a few months properly equipped and trained to spread militancy in Doda.

This process has been continuing ever since. It looks that crossing of the LoC does not pose a serious problem. According to newspaper reports, one of the aims of the operations in Kargil was to induct a large number of well-equipped terrorists into J & K, some specifically in Doda district.

After doing ethnic cleansing in the valley where all non-Muslims have been cleared from, the ISI of Pakistan has planned to repeat the same process in Doda district, where it is carrying out its operations in a well-planned manner and has already gained considerable success, as many Hindu families have moved out of the district.

The aim of the insurgents in Doda is obviously to render the government machinery ineffective and to see that their writ runs. It is an attempt to change the system, structure and values related to law and good governance and replace them with fundamentalist insurgents rule. The ongoing low intensity conflict in Doda and J & K is an armed conflict for political purposes short of combat between regularly organised forces.

With the recent Kargil intrusion by Pakistan regular forces, Kashmir is now experiencing a combination of a border war, proxy war and insurgency, all rolled into one.

Besides, there seems to be no end to this conflict in which the security forces are losing precious lives while innocent civilians are also being killed. For Pakistan, insurgency in J & K seems to be one easy way, because of its limited financial burden and minimum loss to military personnel. So it would like to continue it till it achieves its aim in J & K.

The peculiarities of the insurgent movement should be understood. The insurgent wins, if it does not lose; while the military loses if it does not win. In Doda, the government has now organised village defence committees and civilians are being given weapons as well as training to face the terrorists. It is a step in the right direction.

The diary of killed militants gives the outlines of the organisation of the insurgent movement in Doda. Doda is under a Divisional commander, and a section commander has been nominated for each tehsil. They have weapons and effective communication systems with which the section commanders can talk to their Divisional Commander in Doda as well as the senior commanders in Pakistan. The diary admits the presence of foreign militants from Pakistan who are operating in Doda.

The instructions issued to the insurgents make interesting reading. Great emphasis is laid on prayers and reading of Quran every day. The mujahideen should maintain good discipline, condition themselves to remain tough and do not trouble the villagers in order to get their cooperation.

The diary says, "In case any Mujahid goes to India, he should try and find out details of any military personnel there who are serving in Kashmir. They should try and harass their families and if possible destroy their houses."

Each section commander and underground worker in each village should have a camera. He should photograph Indian soldiers running away or lying dead. This will give greater motivation to the mujahideen.

The mujahideen should make an endeavour to establish contacts with other separatist organisations in India. It will facilitate the availability of weapons and supplies, states the diary. The diary talks about the hideouts and the tactics that the mujahideen should use to fight the Indian Army.

It is a well written and useful book which deals with insurgency in the Doda region in a comprehensive and logical manner.Top


A writer of silence
by Rekha Jhanji

The Meaning of India by Raja Rao. Vision Books, New Delhi. Pages 256. Rs 280.

IS this is a collection of papers written over the past three decades. Among the Indian writers in English, Raja Rao has carved a niche for himself. He has a wide sweep and an inimitable style, his fiction moves between Indian villages and Europe. He has lived for several decades in France and the USA and that is why his writings are a blend of Indian and European cultures. Despite his interest in western culture, Raja Rao remains an Advaita Vedantin at heart. These essays reflect this undercurrent. For him the Vedantic perspective alone gives true meaning to life.

The articles cover a variety of subjects from personal reminiscences of people he met, places he visited and abstract subjects like the nature of language, the meaning of understanding and the nature of ultimate reality. The introduction sets the tone of these essays. He writes: "I am no scholar. I am a ‘creative’writer. I love to play with ideas. It is like a chess game with horses, elephants, chamberlains and kings which might fight with one another. The game is not for winning. It is for rasa — delight".

Although each essay communicates its unique rasa, the predominant rasa of all essays seems adbhuta — the sentiment of marvel which captures the extraordinary quality inherent in Raja Rao’s diverse experiences.

The first essay on the meaning of India highlights the great spiritual heritage of non-duality that developed in this country. As one goes along, several dimensions of experience — from the mundane to the sublime — open up.

Raja Rao’s India is a unique collage of myth, metaphysics and reality. He holds that the exaltation of India, which we Indians ourselves share with others objectively, historically, spiritually, is not an indication by any means of the truth of India, but of the need of an India. As Andre Malraux put it, it was this holy India that the Europeans were seeking. India is the world’s "Holly Grail".

Rao has written almost half a dozen essays on his encounter with some of the luminaries of the 20th century. His essays on Nehru and Gandhi are fascinating because of his vivid picturisation of the two great visionaries. For him Gandhi concretises the essence of India. It is Gandhi’s search for truth that created the climate for India’s freedom.

He sees in Nehru the Bodhisatva. He writes: "If Mahatma Gandhi was a Visvamitra, Pandit Jawaharlal was the Bodhisatva. What a great thing it would be for India and the world (I said to myself) if Panditji were to declare: ‘Yes, of course, friend, this be my path. This, is sure, trodden ancient way. The eightfold path to the knowledge of the root of bondage and freedom from sorrowings.’ "

Gandhi died a saint, having brought India freedom. Although this was not the sense in which Gandhi viewed freedom. It lay not merely in the transfer to political power. Gandhi had no desire for worldly power, he held that government over self is the finest swaraj, it is synonymous with moksha and liberation.

Rao’s portraits of Malraux and E.M. Forester are no less enchanting. He calls Forester an "unfrocked priest," who is ready to confess for the faults of others. In Malraux he sees a reflection of Napoleon, he shot his words, as in artillery, left and right, centre and down. There is another dimension of Malraux that emerges in Rao’s essays. The Indophille was forever under the spell of India. Rao quotes him saying, "Under the Indian sun the world seems to be seen through the smoke of crematoria. When one has killed death, one dances, one dances in the crematorium. Cremation kills no man; freedom from bondage of the body, the anima dances, describing the movement of liberty which is dance."

The moving force behind all these essays is the spirit of non-duality (advaita) which reverberates in all these essays. It is this spirit, which characterise India for Rao. "India," writes Rao, "is not a country (desa), it is a perspective (darsana); it is not a climate but a mood (rasa) in the play of the Absolute — it is not the Indian who makes India but ‘India’ makes the Indian, and this India is in all: it is that centre of awareness wherein one’s self dips again and again into the hearth of agni, as the sacrifice is made ...of such is the meaning of India. And in that rasa he that liveth, liveth in India. Hence it is Sri Sankara has said: ‘My native land, the three worlds’. Let this India be".

His views on writing also communicate the same spirit. He contends that true communication takes place when the writer has no desire to communicate. He writes: "unless the author becomes an upasaka and enjoys himself in himself (which is rasa) the eternality of the sound (sabda) will not manifest itself, and so you cannot communicate either — and so the world here becomes nothing but a cacophony. The world indeed is eternal. Man faces himself when he seeks the word. The word as pure sound is but a communication that comes from silence."

It is this silence, which reflects itself in some of these essays and spellbinds the reader with Raja Rao’s depth of vision.Top


A case of Himalayan courage
by Padam Ahlawat

Ghosts of Everest: The Authorised Story of the Search for Mallory & Irvine by Jochen Hemleb, Larry. A. Johnson and Eric. R. Simonson. As told to Willian E. Northdurft. Macmillan, London. Distributed by Rupa & Co Pages 205 20.

CAPTAIN Scott and George Mallory were two explorers’ who in their tragic death, have captured for all time to come the imagination of people the world over.

Captain Scott was frozen to death while returning from South Pole, having lost to Emundson to be the first to reach at Frozen desert. Ever since, the British had wanted to be the first to conquer the "third pole", the Everest.

George Leigh Mallory had built for himself a solid reputation as one of the best mountaineers of his time. The 1924 expedition was his third and final attempt to scale the Everest. Called "Chomolungma" by the locals, the mountain is better known to the world as the Everest. Mallory wrote: "I cannot tell you how it possesses me" and made attempt after attempt as, "It would look rather grim to see others, without me, engaged in conquering the summit."

In 1924, Mallory wrote, "Again and for the last time we advance up the Rongbuk Glacier for victory or final defeat." On that fateful day, June 8, 1924, Noel Odell saw Mallory and Irvine approach the prominent rock step at a very short distance from the final base at 12.50 pm. He saw them climb it when the vision vanished behind clouds. He however realised that they had only a few daylight hours to reach the summit and reach camp VI safely by nightfall.

As Odell reached Camp VI, a blizzard blew across. And Mallory and Irvine disappeared, never to be seen again.

To unravel that mystery 75 years later, in April, 1999, the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition set off to retrace the steps of the 1924 expedition. This book is the step-by-step account of those two expeditions.

The 1924 British expedition had the great advantage of having their food, transport, communications and logistics largely arranged for them by the British colonial government in India. The supplies were carried by tough hill ponies, while the members had to walk most of the distance.

From Darjeeling the expedition went over the Nathu La (pass) to Tibet and turning left went across Tibet, arriving at Pang La and the Rongbuk base camp. The 1999 expedition went from Kathmandu, entering Tibet at Koderi by bus, while the supplies were sent by truck.

It took the 1924 expedition one month to trek from Darjeeling to the Rongbuk base camp, arriving toughened and fully acclamatised. The 1999 expedition made the journey by bus from Kathmandu to Rongbuk base camp in six days, stopping over at Nyalam and Tingri to acclamatise the team members.

Ten solar panels were connected to two 12-volt batteries, which in turn were connected to a voltage inverter that produced 110-volt power for running the walkie-talkies, computers and a satellite phone. The expedition found the Everest, still 12 miles away, to be "so incredibly big".

The 1924 expedition seems in contrast to be so poorly equipped and their clothing to be so poorly insulated. The North Ridge is known for vicious blizzards that often blow and make life miserable. The 1924 Expedition was held up for three days by one such blizzard and all seemed hopeless. The blizzard was blowing at 100 miles an hour, "flinging the snow a thousand feet into the air". When the weather cleared they were able to establish Camp VI at 27,000 feet. Mallory was at that time, highly strung, at one moment he could write, "I can’t see myself defeated". At times he felt despair and defeated. From the group photograph, one can see the defiance, determination and the sheer indomitable spirit of the man.

The summit was only 2000 feet away from Camp VI, but there were a series of extremely difficult obstacles. There was the 700-feet broad, steeply rising, scre-strewn limestone slabs called the "yellow band", which led to the 100-foot wall of hard rock called the "first step". The mountaineers had then to cross the exposed ridge, one wrong step and there would be a steep fall. It led to another 100-foot wall, described as "a sharp bow of a battle cruiser", called the "second step". From then it became relatively easier, a gently rising plateau leading to the small "third step" and the snow covered summit itself. And finally descending safely, in a state of exhaustion and exhilaration.

Norton and Somervell made their bid at the Everest, taking a slantwise traverse to the right, so as to avoid the rock steps. This was not, however, an easy route as the endless series of uneven slabs that slope sharply downward make foothold difficult. Norton reached the Great Couloir, the huge verticle gash on the "North Face" at 1 p.m. Realising that this afforded little time to reach the top and return safely, he turned back. As far as Norton was concerned the expedition was over. But, Mallory wanted to make one more bid.

Mallory proposed to start early on June 8 and hoped to cross the rock band by 8 a.m. Noel Odell, a support member at Camp VI, was busy collecting fossils, when at 12.50 pm he saw Mallory and Irvine approach the great rock step and shortly emerge on top. Odell had used the word, "prominent rock step", which could only mean the first and sec- ond step, as the third step can hardly be called prominent. He had also written that this rock was at a very short distance from the base of the final pyramid. That left no doubt that he had seen them at the "second step". Later Odell was not sure where he had seen them.

The 1999 expedition had known where to look for Mallory and Irvine. The Chinese had seen a British dead near the old Camp VI, while a 1933 British expedition had found Irvine’s ice axe a few hundred feet down the ridge from the "first step". Conrad Anker found Mallory’s body frozen to alabaster. His sun glasses were found in his pocket, suggesting they had fallen to death, while descending in the dark. They could not find the body of Irvine nor the camera that could have resolved the mystery.

From available information it is highly improbable that Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit. The 1999 expedition started early at 3 a.m. and were able to reach the "second step" by 10.45 a.m. and the summit at 3 p.m. Even then they needed help to reach the base camp as it got dark by the time they returned.

We do not know, when Mallory started, but an early start would mean about 5 a.m. They were seen by Odell at the "second step" at 12.50 p.m. which tallied with the time taken by the 1999 expedition. Mallory could have made it to the summit by 5 p.m. leaving no day light to descend the second step. But, from where Mallory’s body was found it is evident that they had descended the "second step" and the "first step", which is impossible to do in dark.

Though the mystery remains, most probably Mallory turned back just after ascending the "second step", but that proved to be too late.

Their story will however, remain an inspiration for mankind for their courage and determination in the face of such heavy odds.Top


Horror of Delhi 1984 revisited
by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon

Government Organised Carnage by Gurcharan Singh Babbar. Babbar Publications, Delhi. Page 239 Rs 300.

THE anti-Sikh violence of November, 1984, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination forms a bloody chapter in the history of free India. The history of the recent past, to which most of us are living witnesses, must be recorded with honesty, integrity and truthfulness. In the book under review the author intends "to keep the issue alive and to see that justice is done, not just to the thousands of those directly affected by the anti-Sikh violence, but millions of those whose lives and minds are under siege on account of what they heard, saw and felt during those ‘death-filled days."

The book contains documentary evidence of the carnage which claimed 5,000 lives, uprooted 50,000 families and injured more than 20,000 people. Hundreds of gurdwaras were destroyed and thousands of copies of the Guru Granth Sahib were burnt. The author has produced proof that violence was not spontaneous but systematic, pre-planned and directed against an entire community.

Among those who led the bloodthirsty mobs were politicians and police officers. The author has provided a list of the killers. It was a well-planned conspiracy which had the active participation of the members of the then ruling party, the government, the administration and the police force.

Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao, the then HomeMinister have been named as the chief conspirators.

The author has come out with a chronology of events leading to the four-day massacre. Eye-witness accounts of survivors have been recorded. Reports of leading newspapers like the Indian Express, the Statesman, the Times of India, the Telegraph, the Economic Times and the Pioneer have been reproduced. One full chapter is devoted to the heart-rending account of violence at Kanpur. The author has captured the tragedy through camera by providing pictures of a very large number of victims and their families.

The Book underlines the role of Indian judiciary and blames it for its double standards. It was unprecedented for the highest seat of justice, the Supreme Court of India, to remain closed for four days from October 31 to November 3, 1984. Report of the government-appointed Mishra Commission, which gave a clean chit to political bigwigs and Delhi administration, has also been discussed in detail.

The author, though not an armchair academician, has made a valuable contribution to contemporary history. Being an eye-witness to the carnage, he has captured the anguish of the victims and their families and has provided very useful evidence for future historians.

The author’s conclusion is that the anti-Sikh violence was far from being the handiwork of communal forces. He quotes examples of communal harmony and peace. The people who swung into action to help the survivors with material and moral resources, were Hindus. Those who reported the violence in the papers and a majority of those who demanded punishment to the guilty were also Hindus.

The author who himself led the struggle for justice by resorting to a hunger strike at the Boat Club in Delhi, laments that the victims of bloody carnage are still clamouring for justice and compensation and the guilty are still free. The judiciary and the media are maintaining a guilty silence on the issue.

Most of the victims are too poor to afford the expensive justice in courts of law. A majority of the families lost their bread-earners. Mothers, sisters and wives have none in the family to pursue the cases.

Would the powers that be learn any lesson from this book?Top


Science: a way of thinking
by S.P. Dhawan

How to Think Scientifically — Concepts, Methods, Processes and Style for New Ways of Scientific Thinking by Narendra Vaidya and Pat McIntyre. Deep and Deep, New Delhi. Pages.Rs 440

AS the mankind enters a new millennium, one is struck by glaring contradictions everywhere. On the one hand, we are continuously dazzled by super computer, info system, robot, nuclear energy, space exploration, manmade satellites, bio-engineering, medical advancement and man’s dominance over the skies, earth and water. On the other, we are distressed at the ever-rising crime graph bigotry, terrorism, genocide, and civil war.

Why this darkness at noon?

Thinkers have endeavoured to grapple with these paradoxes and most of them have pointed out how technological advance has failed to build a mass movement for scientific thinking. The wide chasm between knowledge and unscientific and anti-scientific behaviour has to be filled, before science and technology can usher in lasting happiness. And one way is to guide individuals and groups to think rationally by exposing them to concepts methods and process of scientific thinking.

It is a long this path that the authors strive. They were inspired by the late Professor Jean Piaget of Switzerland who said. "Thinking comes to children as naturally as learning to walk.... It is in the nature of the child to be rational" and "learning is a struggle to be enjoyed". It shows their faith in the innate goodness of man. If only we, the grown-up, change ourselves and rid ourselves of prejudices, whims and frivolties, we can guide our children to be reasonable.

The authors call upon planners and teachers to play a vital role by enriching, evolving and reconstructing school curricula. Children have to be given back their childhood which should correspond to their natural eagerness to absorb rational ideas and ideals.

Narendra Vaidya has rich experience in teaching, research and training teachers in both India and abroad. Pat McIntyre, a visiting Professor in science education at Western Washington University, has assisted by expanding and elaborating some ideas and offering some suggestions. In fact, the American scholar finds Vaidya’s concept and guidelines valuable and advocates a similar text for an American audience.

The authors point out the widening gap between "those who know" and those "who do not know". This has to be removed by making knowledge of science universal. It has to be realised that there will be newer and newer ideas and facts, even in physics laws cannot be formulated as certitudes. Nature has endowed the human beings with intelligence, unlike the ant which is merely equipped to survives.

According to Socrates, "constant questioning is the attribute of rational minds." Knowledge has to be, therefore, endlessly constructed and reconstructed through investigation. The success of a teacher lies in producing pupils who will one day challenge his statements and present the world something higher and better than their mentor gave them. There are no final truths, even as there are no complete explanation in nature.

Teachers have to create situations where students themselves simulate the experience of research. Once students understand the nature and spirit of science, they will learn to create scientific knowledge through inquiry.

An interesting section is devoted to the work of scientists and explorers like Ronald Ross, Faraday, Gallilio, Bruner, Copernicus and William Gilbert to illustrate how they used scientific processes to solve problems and build new concepts. They will doubtlessly inspire budding scientists. Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "Science is not a matter of merely looking at the test tubes and mixing this and that and producing things big and small. Science is ultimately a way of training the mind and the whole life’s functioning according to ways and methods of science — that is, the whole structure, social or otherwise, functioning in the spirit of science". It is this aspect which is repeatedly stressed by the authors as the primary need for mankind today.

The book effectively brings out the significance of the Nobel Laureate C.V. Raman’s statement. "There is only one solution for India’s economic problems and that is science, more science and still more science." We may extend the scope of this statement by asserting that science and scientific thinking hold the key to the solution of most of the problems facing thee country.

The book is also noteable for the clarity of expression, use of figures, interesting anecdotes, quotations ranging from the pre-Biblical times to the modern era.