|Monday, February 14, 2000,
goes warning again
TRYST WITH AUTONOMY
review: a WTO exercise?
Tamashas over Water
PM goes warning again
TWO points stand out in the Prime Ministers warning against outside meddling in Indias bilateral issues. Of course, he was totally vague but the context has made it transparent that his message is for the USA and his reference to the Kashmir dispute. The most striking feature is that the paragraph containing the firm stand was added to the prepared speech at the last minute and the PMO took great trouble to stress its importance to senior journalists. The occasion a meeting of persons of Indian origin was not so important as to warrant reiteration of the well-known position. The second point is even more interesting. The Prime Minister himself has taken on the job of sending out the signal just weeks before his meeting with President Clinton. Normally, leaders as tall as the Prime Minister talk in private allowing officials to do the public speaking. This is all the more so with the delicate subject of asking the sole super power to keep off the sensitive but dangerous dispute with Pakistan. One obvious reason is his eagerness to react to the recent burst of overenthusiastic comments by US leaders. One of them openly feared that the Kashmir issue could spark a war, ultimately leading to the use of nuclear weapons. Another felt that the USA reserved the right to goad the two countries to talk out their differences. Yet another asserted his countrys right to use even force to stop the two quarrelling neighbours from escalating tension. President Clinton himself has shown keen and persistent interest in playing the peace-maker. Obviously, Mr Vajpayee is getting irritated at the flood of out-of-turn statements and wants to put an end to it. Hence his taking the mighty country head on. Or, he could be taking the first evasive action to halt the USA from forcing India into proximity talks, first used in the eighties to facilitate negotiations between the erstwhile Soviet-backed Najibullah regime and the Afghan guerrillas. This will naturally cast the USA as the honest broker and repeat what it has been doing in West Asia and Northern Ireland. Washington seems to have pressed this idea with the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister wants to scotch the idea before it takes shape.
It is ironic that all
this has come about a week before the first anniversary
of the Lahore Declaration. Kargil and Kandahar have
killed any possible move for improving relations with
Pakistan. The telecasting of Gen Pervez Musharrafs
interview was a concession not to him but to the USA as
India wants to show that it has not permanently closed
the door for resumption of talks. But right now there is
no room for a friendly gesture. The Prime Ministers
Lahore trip last year did not go down well with the RSS
hawks and they are overactive now. It is clear that his
tough stand is partly to quieten down the more hardboiled
Sangh Parivar sections as was his earlier talk of
retaking the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. His good conduct
certificate to the RSS was not entirely voluntary. If he
hoped to win over the mother organisation, RSS supremo
Rajendra Singh dashed it by demanding permission for all
government employees except those in the Army and
judiciary to undertake RSS activities. The Prime Minister
has to strike an uncompromising nationalist stance to
ward off further demands from his own Hindutva forces.
The convergence of pressure from the USA and the RSS and
for opposite purposes is evident in the unconventional
and protocol-breaking warning on Saturday.
Bhateris ghost on the move
A REPORT from Rajasthan, notorious for its indifference to rape victims, on instant justice in a case of rape and another from Kerala on the delay in taking action against a Minister who allegedly tried to molest a woman IAS officer carry diametrically opposite messages. The Rajasthan incident is significant because it was reported from Bhateri, the village which humiliated Bhanwari Devi, a social worker, for daring to accuse some high caste men of having raped her for trying to create gender awareness among rural women. Bhanwari Devi could not prove her case in court because of official apathy in providing her adequate legal assistance. The villagers too had ganged up against her. But this time the response was different. The moment the panches and the patels from Bhateri, Kanoti and Prempura villages learnt about the incident of rape, they set up a committee for dispensing instant justice. Interestingly, Bhanwari Devi and another Scheduled Caste woman were included in the committee for hearing the case. What clinched the case in favour of the victim was the testimony of the wife of the rapist who demanded exemplary punishment for the philanderer. It took days for the panchayat to hear the case at the end of which the rapist was awarded what can be called "filmi" justice. He was made to touch the feet of the victim and seek her forgiveness. He was also made to publicly acknowledge her as his sister. The further good news from Bhateri was the assertion of Bhanwari Devi that the village was now with her in implementing and introducing empowerment programmes for women.
The case of the alleged sexual harassment of a woman IAS officer by a Minister in Kerala took a new turn when another young woman officer, this time from the Indian Forest Service, brought similar charges against the same man. Chief Minister E. K. Nayanar was dragging his feet because of "coalition compulsions" in dismissing the Minister in question, Dr A. Neelalohithadasan Nadar. Therefore, the State Women's Commission and several other women's organisations moved a petition before the Kerala High Court against the conduct of the Chief Minister and Dr Nadar, who has since resigned. Ms Nalini Netto, the complainant, was Transport Secretary when she says she was summoned by Dr Nadar to his office on the pretext of discussing some important issues. The forest officer, Ms Prakruthi Srivastava, has come out with a similar story. When the incident occurred last year she had merely made an oral complaint to the State Women's Commission in the hope that the Minister would mend his ways and stop pestering her. In her written complaint she now claimed that Dr Nadar continued pestering her by making suggestive phone calls. It is unlikely that the two women officers have made up the story with an ulterior motive. Both of them have decided to demand that a sexual harassment case should be instituted against Dr Nadar because, going by their accounts, he mistook their silence as a sign of fear and weakness and continued demanding sexual favours from them. If they actually want legal action against the former Minister, they should file formal complaints with the police. The bureaucracy in Kerala too is backing the officers and has pointed out that action is possible under the Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment at the workplace. Dr Nadar himself has pleaded his innocence, but he has stepped down "so that the Opposition does not take undue advantage of the issue.
The prompt action
against a rapist in Rajasthan and the dithering in the
case of alleged sexual harassment of two women officers
in Kerala are a study in contrast. The illiterate and
ignorant villagers of Rajasthan are moving from darkness,
which made them humiliate Bhanwari Devi, towards light.
In sharp contrast, the political leadership of the only
state in India which boasts of total literacy, and is
relatively more sensitive to gender issues, tried to push
Kerala in the direction of darkness. The villagers in
Rajasthan took only two days to decide the punishment for
the rapist. The case of the alleged sexual harassment of
two women officers by Dr Nadar may have been hushed up
had the bureaucracy and women's organisations not closed
ranks. Although Dr Nadar has resigned under public
pressure, the statements by some women office-bearers of
the Janata Dal (Secular) questioning the motives of the
officers has created the impression that the ghost of
backward Bhateri in Rajasthan which haunted Bhanwari Devi
before it was exorcised by the villagers may have moved
KASHMIRS TRYST WITH AUTONOMY
FORGET for the moment the militancy problem; a new controversy is developing in Kashmir. This will be over the Kashmir governments demand for the grant of autonomy to the state. The demand is supported by the ruling National Conference and has been approved by the state Cabinet. But the question of autonomy has in the past been opposed by the present ruling party at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party, with which ironically the National Conference is in alliance.
How will the two parties, which have been in an embrace of convenience in ruling the country, get over the problem that has been simmering for many years? As Dr Farooq Abdullah demands implementation of the Autonomy Committees report, which would like to take the state back to the 1953 set-up for sharing power, the BJP leaders and cadres are surely going to oppose it.
Dr Abdullah has said: None of us is asking for secession or azadi; we are saying that within the Constitution of India, we have to discuss the autonomy of the state. But the BJP has stoutly been resisting the demand. It has always stood for the a strong Centre.
The BJP view was expressed by the Jammu leader, Mr Chaman Lal Gupta, who is the Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, when he said recently: We have fought four wars with Pakistan for Kashmir.... Now if someone again says he wants to go back to 1952 then I think he must understand that much water has flown in the river since then. He said he was strongly opposed to autonomy. Article 370 is a strong provision. If Parliament makes a law it does not apply to Kashmir. What greater autonomy can be given?
The autonomy demand has a long history. Until 1953 when Sheikh Abdullah was in power Kashmir had acceded only in relation to external affairs, defence and finance. This came about through the Delhi Agreement worked out by the Union government and the state government. The Governor was called Sadr-i-Riyasat. The state had a Prime Minister and not Chief Minister. After the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953, much of this came up for change, mainly by the efforts of the state Constituent Assembly which was formed when Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed had taken over. One of the National Conference leaders, Mr G.M. Sadiq, was its chairman. Kashmir adopted most of the provisions of the Indian Constitution. It came to have a Chief Minister, and Sadr-i-Riyasat was turned into Governor, as was the case with the other states. Many of the new provisions did good to Kashmir, like the extension of the Supreme Court, which brought Kashmir on a par with the other states in the matter of fundamental rights. The state also came under the jurisdiction of the Election Commission.
Dr Farooq Abdullah said recently: My father was in prison for nearly 22 years, and Indira Gandhi in her virtue realised that it is not possible to move forward without talking to Sheikh Abdullah. Then the 1975 accord was put forth. This accord was reached after long negotiations between representatives of the state government and the Central government, Mirza Afzal Beg and G. Parathasarathy, respectively. On this understanding, Sheikh Abdullah came back to power.
After Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah fought the last two elections on the promise that he would fight for autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, which would be similar to what was the case when Sheikh Abdullah was in power till 1953. After Dr Farooq Abdullah became the Chief Minister, the state government formed two committees, one to formulate the kind of autonomy Kashmir would enjoy in regard to its relationship with the Centre and the other to define a Constitutional relationship between the three regions of the state the Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh.
The main autonomy committee was headed by Dr Karan Singh, a former Sadr-i-Riyasat. But he did not have a smooth relationship for long with the National Conference leader and Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, even though his own son became a minister in the Farooq government. Before the committee finalised its report, Dr Karan Singh resigned as its chairman. He had been elected to the Rajya Sabha with the help of the National Conference. He resigned from the membership of the Rajya Sabha too. The autonomy committee was later headed by a Minister of the state government, Mr Mohiuddin Shah.
Dr Karan Singh later joined the Congress party and fought against Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee from the Lucknow constituency. He has now been elected to the Rajya Sabha as a Congress candidate from Delhi.
The autonomy committee last year presented the report laying down what kind of a relationship it favoured between the state and the Centre. This report was recently adopted by the state Cabinet and forwarded to the Centre. It is believed to recommend that the state should be taken back to the 1953 position, as had been promised by Dr Farooq Abdullah during the electioneering. During the nineties when the state was overtaken by militancy, various suggestions were made on the kind of relationship that should be there between the state and the Centre. Those who advocated autonomy said that this would be a half-way house between secession and accession. But others have been advocating a strong relationship with the Centre with the Jammu and Kashmir enjoying the same rights as the other states of the Union. Dr Farooq Abdullah pointed out that a former Prime Minister, Mr Narasimha Rao, had said that in the states constitutional relationship with the Centre. The sky is the limit. And when the sky is the limit, none of us is asking for secession or azadi. Within the Constitution of India, they were only to discuss the autonomy of the state. Autonomy was said to give the people a separate relationship while they continued their links with the rest of India.
Dr Farooq Abdullah pledged to work for autonomy. But the question that has now come up is: how will he sell this idea to the BJP leadership with which he has an alliance at the Centre? He voted for the Vajpayee government during the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. At the subsequent polls he promised autonomy. He has landed himself in an interesting situation which will determine his future hold on the state and with the Centre.
Perhaps he was too hasty in asking his Cabinet to approve of the Autonomy Committees report. He should first have had a full debate in the state. Mr Chaman Lal Gupta has said: They did not even discuss the report in the state assembly and are trying to send it to the Centre. What for? First discuss it in the assembly.
The question now is: can Dr Farooq Abdullah back out of it? Or, can he endorse it when his ally at the Centre, the BJP, is opposed to it. If he backs out of it, he will lose face with his voters. If he pushes the idea, he will lose the support of the BJP, which will not only change the relationship but also leave Dr Abdullah without a reasonable alliance with the BJP. He is being opposed by the Congress but he is also not having a smooth relationship with the BJP government, the differences centring mainly on his not getting adequate financial help from the central government. The question of autonomy will be a further pinprick.
The demand for autonomy
could put further pressures on the deteriorating
relationship between the two parties. One way out could
be to leave the issue to be decided by the Government of
Indias special committee set up to go into the
amendments to the Constitution.
Austria: disturbing developments
AT Viennas Hofburg Palace the swearing in of a new government was not a joyous occasion. The Austrian riot police baton-charged jeering demonstrators who threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at them. Thousands of policemen were deployed at the citys Balhausplatz Square which housed the Presidency and the Chancellery.
The atmosphere was as tense and frigid inside the palace. Austrian President Thomas Klestil, looking taut and grim, barely looked at the new Conservative Chancellor, Mr Wolfgang Schuessel, as he pronounced the relevant words used at the swearing-in ceremony. As other Cabinet Ministers followed, the President kept his eye contacts with them to the minimum and barely touched their hands in the traditional handshaking ritual. The President made it clear that he was swearing in the new government because there was no alternative.
What had gone wrong in the friendly city of Vienna, known for its affinity to Western classical music, heritage buildings, outdoor cafes serving excellent coffee and cake. The new Chancellor had aligned his Peoples Party with the far-right Freedom Party, whose leader Joerg Haider had made statements praising Nazi rule in Germany. President Klestil swore in 12 Ministers and four State Secretaries half from the Peoples Party and half from the Freedom Party, which had been allotted the Vice Chancellorship as well as the portfolios of Finance, Justice, Defence and Social Affairs.
Earlier, President Klestil had made it known that he was not happy with the present arrangement. But he had no other choice. The Peoples Party and the Justice Party, together, had 104 out of the 183 seats in the Austrian Parliament. Klestil could not call for a new election unless the current Parliament first voted to dissolve itself. Said the President, If I were to swear in this government, I would not do it out of personal conviction, because I fear that Austria would suffer internationally. Klestil asked for and received written assurances from Schuessel and Haider that the new government would uphold democratic values and take a self-critical role at Austrias role during the Nazi era (1938-45).
International reaction to the new government was swift. Hours before the inauguration, the Israeli government withdrew its envoy, Mr Nathan Meron, from Vienna and there were no plans for his immediate return. The European Union reduced high-level contacts with Austria. The US Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, said that her country was watching the situation but did not announce any specific measures.
Within Austria there were protests at various levels and it was clear that the nation was totally divided on the issue. More than 15,000 people participated in a protest at the Centre of Vienna. We do not mind a conservative government, but the alliance with a far-right party was wrong, observed Mr Max Koch, one of the organisers of the protest. While most of the protesters were peaceful, the police did not take any chances and kept vigil round the clock.
Mr Joreg Haider is not a member of the coalition government, but there is no doubt about his playing a significant role in the future of Austria. Mr Haider achieved notoriety abroad for his remarks praising the role of the dreaded. Waffen SS, which was responsible for many of the atrocities during World War II. He also spoke in support of the immigration policies of the Nazi government and its expansionist policies which influenced the takeover of many of the neighbouring nations using force. He apologised for his remarks but hinted that his government would not allow non-European immigration.
Mr Haiders apologies, of course, did not convince anyone. After all, the Freedom Party had campaigned on the same issues to win seats in the last general election. The Freedom Party leader also spoke and acted from a position of strength. He was now in a position to unseat the new Chancellor secure in the knowledge that polls had predicted his party to lead all others in the next general election. In the last elections the Freedom Party came second to the Social Democrats. Since then he had dissociated himself from the extreme stand of admiring Hitler and his Nazi thugs.
Israel, the European Union and the USA had made their unhappiness with the new government visible. The Austrians themselves were divided on this issue. At the same time, the people could resent what they perceived to be the extreme reaction of the EU and the USA to the internal problems of Austria. The Austrians had the freedom to elect whomsoever they thought fit to rule the country. And if they could put up with this government, why not the outsiders? The extreme reaction in the USA, Israel and the EU could be construed to be an interference in the internal affairs of Austria.
Mr Haider is shrewd enough to take advantage of such a thinking. In the days to come, we can be sure that the powerful propaganda machinery of the Freedom Party will work overtime, highlighting this issue. The Freedom Party was already peeved at the sanctions likely to be imposed by the EU. Less than 24 hours after the new government was sworn in, Mr Haider threatened that unless the EU partners were willing to sit down and negotiate with his Cabinet members, no decisions could be taken on the future of Europe.
The rigid stand of the EU had upset even the new Chancellor, known for his pro-Europe slant. In media interviews he has charged European nations of leaning on a small nation of just eight million people and trying to twist its arms. This attitude was likely to be shared by most of the Austrians. How can the EU, or for that matter, the USA and Israel, adopt such high-handed policies against a democratically elected government in Vienna?
We can be certain that such a realisation will soon dawn on the critics of the new Austrian government. The Austrian President made it clear that any new government will have to act within the provisions of the countrys constitution. The Freedom Party will not like to throw away its hard won poll success by adopting a policy of confrontation and controversy. While there would be no going back to the Nazi days of World War II all over Europe, there were signs to check immigration from underdeveloped countries.
If Austria adopted more stringent measures, they might attract nothing more than frowns.
Even Israel will have to learn to live with the new government in Austria. Memories of the infamous holocaust had not died, and no government, particularly in civilised Europe, can get away with blatant anti-Jewish policies. Despite its affinity with culture and classical music, Austria has a grey past in its links with Nazi Germany. One of its most famous sons, Mr Kurt Waldheim, who was the Austrian President and later on the Secretary-General of the United Nations, had collaborated with the Nazis. During his presidency Israel did not have an ambassador in Austria, and today Mr Waldheim is barred from entering the USA.
World War II and the Nazi atrocities are more than 50 years old, but the scars are slow to heal. Israel is still on the look-out for the Nazis who had escaped its dragnet. Many of the Nazi stalwarts, now in their eighties had been arrested, tried and sentenced in courts of law. Yet currents of anti-semitism still exist in many parts of Europe which manifests itself in many ways. I guess ancient prejudices take a long time to die.
But Europe, the USA and
Israel should handle the current situation carefully.
After all, the Freedom Party has come to power through a
democratic process. Many of the Austrians are unhappy at
this development and should not be branded as Nazi
supporters. It would hurt their national pride if their
elected government is the cause for sanctions and other
repressive measures. The resultant backlash would not be
to the advantage of unity in Europe.
HAS the new millennium arrived? Are we in the 21st century? Or is it still a year away? The debate goes on. One thing, though, is supposed to be certain. The year 2000 has indeed come and we are well and truly into it. Greeting cards had jammed the postal system. Thank You notes were exchanged. E-mail channels got crowded. New Year diaries and calendars of a wide variety were mailed, couriered or hand delivered. A friend of mine had half seriously told me once that I was in the habit of living in the past (and perhaps that is why I am writing this piece so late). That was a decade back and I am 10 years older now with more past behind me to be nostalgic about. There is this compelling desire to talk about the years gone by, recount the memories and relieve them. But I put a firm hand on this desire. What, after all, am I and what my memories in this eternal flow of time in whom the past, present and future of planets rise and fall and mingle in an ageless, unending process?
Spread before me are several calendars. What the Christians call the year 2000 of our Lord is, according to the Vikrama calendar, the year 2056 (come April and we shall enter the year 2057). And yet, in terms of Shaka calendar, we are still in the year 1921-22. And incidentally, that is supposed to be our national calendar. For the followers of Islam, the holy month of Ramzan of the Hijri year 1420 has passed while a debate on the Nanakshahi calendar continues. These are but a few of numerous calendars the world celebrates. So, from where does one start the count? And is time only about the count of years and centuries, decades and millenia? Does it only represent a moment, an hour, a day, an aeon, an era, an age? We, In India, remember time by another name : Kaala. And Sri Krishna, in the Gita, while saying, of calculations, I am time, goes on to add, I am also the imperishable Kaala. In the form of cosmic nature, Kaala stays in its primordial equanimity when, as mentioned in the Rig Veda, there is neither truth nor untruth, neither day nor night, neither death nor immortality...when darkness is enveloped in steep darkness... when water, deep and unfathomable, is all over...when He alone breaths by His cosmic energy.
Time is prime mover. Whether as individuals or as tiny speaks of the cosmos, we float on time, the streaming flux which moves increasingly, to quote S. Radhakrishnan or, conversely, as stated in the Atharva Veda, Time is a horse with seven reins... various worlds of the universe are his wheels. The metaphor of seven reins probably refers to seven stages of existence, e.g. birth, being, becoming, growing, maturing, decaying and dying. Time creates the world, says the Mahabharata, Time ripens the living beings, Time destroys the progenies, Time is awake even as all else sleeps. It is impossible to rise above time. There is but none that knows what ripens time.
And for those of us who are still in the vortex of a year, a century or a millennium, lets remember that none of these is even a fraction of a moment when we measure time on the scale of Brahma, the creator and one of the divine Trinity (the other two being Vishnu and Shiva), whose day is equal to a period of four thousand, three hundred and twenty million years of mortals. Twelve months comprising such days constitute his year and one hundred such years his lifetime.
This then is Kaala Time. Give or take a millennium or two; will it matter?
And then there is
Bhartrihari, the seventh century grammarian-poet, who
thus speaks of time: That beautiful city, that
great emperor, that entire circle of his chieftains, that
galaxy of luminous scholars by his side, these beautiful
damsels each with a face like moon and that bevy of
princes and smart courtiers, all of them are mere
memories now, having passed into time, to whom we pay our
obeisance: Kaalaaya tasmai namah.
Constitution review: a WTO exercise?
WE have bigger decisions to take, Jawaharlal Nehru told the National Convention of Congress Legislators in March, 1937, gathered to discuss the demand for a Constituent Assembly, graver choices before us, than those of lawyers making.
Words are hurled at us (he said): Dominion status, Statute of Westminster, British Commonwealth of Nations, and we quibble about their meaning.... Today, with this whole world in the cauldron of change and disorder threatening it, this lawyers jargon seems strangely out of place.
Dominated, or expectedly so, by lawyers and judges, the proposed Constitution Review Commission headed by ex-Chief Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah could well incur, despite the long lapse of time, a similar reprimand. And as Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani, himself a lawyer in politics, hurls words like Article 356 at journalists to supply a raison detre for the Commission, one is entitled to ask: from Bihar to Kandahar, are there no other or bigger issues before the nation today than the alleged deficiencies of the Constitution?
The question, needless to say, is rhetorical. But more, much more than Jethmalani, whose vision for change in the fundamental text seems limited to a single Article, it is Justice Venkatachaliah himself whose views on the subject lend a dangerous open-endedness (and never-endingness) to the whole exercise to review the Constitution, his sincerity of purpose notwithstanding.
There is a vast array of issues, Venkatachaliah told The Hindustan Times on February 6 (in an interview not contradicted since then), that may need to be looked into... the electoral system, (the) administration of justice, economic development and social opportunity, environmental safeguards, sustainable development, Centre-state relations, control of financial profligacy and fiscal policies, national integrity and security, the systems for control of enormous corruption, etc.
That is quite a mouthful but it is not all that weighs on the mind of the Judge, one of our most distinguished former Chief Justices of India (as I wrote last week). An added discussion, he said, is the readiness and preparedness of the country and its economic and social infrastructure to participate effectively as a player in the global economy, and to handle the forces of change that the breakthroughs in science, technology, genetics, information technology, etc, will demand and compel.
The constitutional preparedness of the country to participate effectively as a player in the global economy. A global privatisation of the Indian Constitution, a Constitution through which the ghosts of Sidney and Beatrice Webb stalk as Sir Ivor Jennings pointed out four and a half decades ago, just three years after it was promulgated. Is that then the open agenda of the Constitution Review Commission, whatever be the hidden agenda of the government that has set it up?
I beg to be forgiven for my impertinence in questioning the judgement of a man so learned (and so transparent at the same time), but does Justice Venkatachaliah really know what he is talking about?
The Indian Constitution, writes US scholar Granville Austin, in his richly and justly acclaimed study of the Constituent Assembly used by several generations of Indian judges as an indispensable guide to constitutional interpretation, is first and foremost a social document.
The majority of its provisions, he says, are either directly aimed at furthering the goals of the social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing the conditions necessary for its achievement.
While the entire Constitution is permeated with the ideal of national renaissance, the core of the commitment to the social revolution lies in Parts III and IV, the fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy. These are, he says, in a phrase that has acquired the status of a legend in legal and judicial discourse, the conscience of the Constitution.
Members of the Constituent Assembly (adds Austin) would have accepted without hesitation the views of humanitarian and socialist thinkers that political equality is never real unless accompanied by virtual economic equality. Necessitous men are not free men. Yet in India these sentiments of political philosophers true as they were and influential as they had been were dwarfed and made commonplace by the needs of Indias millions.
It is these needs that President K.R. Narayanan addressed when, in a metaphor of classic proportions reminiscent of the utopian socialists of old, he spoke on Republic Day eve of the one half of our society (that) guzzles aerated beverages, while the other has to make do with palmfuls of muddied water.
And followed it up with an analogy stamped with the image of the new millennium. The three-way fast lane of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (he said) must provide a safe pedestrian crossing for the unempowered India....
That is precisely what
Justice Venkatachaliah appears to have forgotten in his
keenness to modernise the Indian Constitution
and convert it into an automobile fit to negotiate the
fly-overs of the 21st century.
Tamashas over Water
TAMASHAS are continuing here. Attention, for the time being, has shifted from Deepa Mehtas film Water but going by the threats of Right wing fanatics, it is painfully evident that the problem is far from over. As though they have taken on the mission of sabotaging the shooting of this film, in any part of the country. The so- called Central government is sitting mum, allowing the likes of Uma Bharti and Govindacharya to do the talking. The situation is almost ridiculous. The most dangerous aspect is that there are not many who are countering this ongoing double speak of the government. As though the great majority amongst us has been reduced to playing the role of a semi dead, silent spectator.
In fact, on Tuesday SAHMAT arranged for a sit - in at Safdar Hashmi Marg (Mandi House) to protest against the treatment meted out to Deepa Mehta and also to highlight the manner in which the very functioning of this government, is ruled or indeed over-ruled, by hardcore men. Present that afternoon were Arpana Kaur, Praful Bidwai, M.K. Raina, Anuradha Chinoy, Kamal Mitra Chinoy, Naina Kapur, Ram Rahman, Suneet Chopra, Sheeba Chhachi, Kaamna Prasad, Madhu Kapoor, Romi Chopra, Safdar Hashmis mother Qamar Azad.
Before I move ahead I must mention here that the 70-plus Azad is no ordinary woman. Just few years back she wrote the biography of her slain activist son Safdar (the English translation of which was published by Penguin) and now last week she brought out a collection of Persian poetry by her father Azhar Ali Azad who, at the time of Partition, had carried manuscripts and diaries with him to Lahore. However, before he could have them published they were almost ruined in flash floods, and Azad died soon after. Now last fortnight, after all these years, Qamar brought out her fathers poetic verses in the form of this collection Nawa -E -Azad, released here by V.P. Singh in the presence of some Persian and Urdu scholars.
Moving along the Water strain, Nandita Dass father, the well known artist Jatin Das could not join the protest meet as he was said to be held up, sorting out the aftermath of the theft at his daughters barsati abode in Delhis Green Park locality.
So many writers?
I am amazed how many amongst us are becoming authors. Last Sunday at a well arranged and well attended function at the British Council, Amit Chaudhuris novel A New World (Picador) was released. Surprisingly, the top brass of Picador had come down from London. And as they stressed with so many upcoming writers the market is just ripe. To be spotted that evening was Pankaj Mishra (Picadors literary consultant and I am told that he has made Shimla his base and lives there most part of the year), Ruskin Bond, Keki Daruwalla, Githa Hariharan, Rukun Adwani, Anurag Mathur. In fact, several other book releases took place this fortnight but space constraints come in the way.
Irrespective of the fact whether you are young, middle-aged, or old the patent question doing the rounds here is: So what are you doing on Valentines day? I really dont know what to say to that for unlike most Delhiites will not put up a pretence of having a lover and nor take the trouble of acquiring one. In fact, just received an invite from The Poetry Society and the IIC to readings by Indran Amirthanayagam on February 14 evening. And in all probability spend the evening listening to those poetic verses, for this Sri Lankan born Tamil turned US diplomats verses are said to be moving and touching. In fact his first book of poems The Elephants of Reckoning won the 1994 Peterson Poetry Prize and A.K. Ramanujan wrote Amirthanayagam is a welcome new voice in Sri Lankan poetry and in the poetry of migration...
Moving along the
Valentine strains the way the hype is being created
around this day or say around the very concept of love
and lovers it wouldnt be long before we would all
be compelled to join some love lobby, without ever being
told about the obvious side effects. I mean on one hand
psychologists are stressing that this very hype could
mean doom, for this particular day alone will see a
rising percentage in love making but on the other hand
the AIDS activists are keeping mum. Sad, like all things
even Valentines day has been ripped off its novelty
and has become a toy in the hands of commercial setups.
Sad are the times where even mohabbat and
ishq have to be marketed, in the form of
cassettes. In fact, on Saturday evening as I went
shopping in Khan Market most shoppers were not buying the
usual, rather gifts for Valentines day.
IT is stated that the view generally held by members of the Swaraj Party in the Assembly regarding the salary of the President of the Assembly is that it should not exceed two thousand rupees. As the matter rests with the Council, greater importance naturally attaches to the considered view of the Swarajists, who are not only the largest single group in the House but who along with the Independents are in an absolute majority, than would be the case in other matters.
It is, therefore, to be hoped that the view of the Swarajists in this matter will be really their considered view.
The question has three aspects. In the first place, as was pointed out by the spokesman of the Government the other day, the salary of the President of the Assembly should be somewhat higher than that paid to Presidents of the Provincial Councils.
Secondly,the salary paid to the President should be commensurate with his dignity and position and make him independent of other sources of livelihood.
Thirdly and lastly, the
salary of the President should be equal to that of a
member of the Central Government under Swaraj. We hope
all these aspects of the matter will be carefully
considered by the Swarajists before they commit
themselves to any definite opinion in this matter.
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