|Monday, March 13, 2000,
inner-Parivar war this
common man outside CPC
on blunders at Rajasansi
Singh a saga of courage
NEWSPAPERS and television channels have declared a war between Prime Minister Vajpayee and new RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan. Such an alarmist view spices up the report but it is a gross exaggeration. It also ignores some basic cultural norms of the mother of all Parivar units. As a secret organisation with its eyes riveted on an undefined point in the distant past, its first and unbreakable rule is to bow before seniority. That is the Lakshman rekha. Mr Sudarshan is junior to the Prime Minister both in age and in the organisational hierarchy. He may protest but would finally give in. Further, his advocacy of undiluted swadeshi is a throwback to an earlier time when the target was the then political enemy, the Congress. He headed the ideological cell of the RSS in early nineties when Finance Minister Manmohan Singh was unveiling economic reforms and the Left was emerging as a vociferous critic. And it appeared that there was a groundswell of public support waiting to be tapped and thus was born yet another front of the Sangh Parivar the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Now the BJP is in power and it is bound to enforce all international agreements and hence step on the reforms accelerator. Anyway, its strongest and enduring constituency is the trading community and it warmly welcomes the new policy which means higher profits. The waning opposition to the opening up of the economy is again a deterrent against using it as a cause to fight the BJP-led government. Then there is the secret of the BJPs success in its handling of the mother organisation. It coopts active and attractive pracharaks and thus blunts criticism. Finally, in these days of brands, Mr Vajpayee is more appealing as the new face of the Parivar than the stuffy attitude and actions of a leader like Mr Sudarshan. He realises that and in case he does not, his peers will tell him.
In inventing a
war-in-the-making, observers have ignored a significant
point which the new chief stressed more than once. He has
set a tough task for himself and that is to rebuild the
shakha structure. During the past decade attendance at
these recruiting and training centres has thinned down.
The catchment area has always been urban upper caste
middle-class families. But the computer craze and the
sharpening competition for admission to professional
colleges have left the potential volunteers with little
time to do the drill and hear the daily lecture. Mr
Sudarshan wants to reverse the trend, as a life-long
organisation man has to. But in the process he will have
to swim against the powerful currents of time, and with
materialism and consumerism tightening their hold on
urban youth, the chances of success are receding. From
what is known of his background, he seems to shun
publicity, following the example of Golwalkar than his
two successors. It is as well. In these days of
controversy swirling around the RSS, the attempt should
be to divert public opinion to other major concerns like
fighting poverty and rural backwardness, which he has
done at his press conference. It will be suicidal to
allow the middle-class to get polarised on the RSS issue.
When public opinion got polarised first on four decades
of Congress rule and then along caste lines the BJP, as
the only credible political force, stepped forward to
pick up the floating votes. That may yet happen and this
time against its interests. Compared to the RSS, the BJP
has expanded phenomenally and as the leader of the ruling
alliance it enjoys both prestige and authority. As the
mother party, the RSS has to remain in the kitchen in the
Nagpur locality called Reshambagh.
THE school examination system is fast losing its credibility. The biggest proof of the decline is the growing practice of entrance tests being introduced by most of the universities and colleges throughout the country. The last nail in the coffin has been virtually driven by the discussion document of the National Curriculum Framework for School Education prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). It has raised many significant questions, building up a case for an alternative system to evaluate the level of learning. The system that continues to decide the destiny of school-going children has been promoting an unhealthy competition. Students are compelled to mug up facts and figures to score marks which cannot be the correct indicator of their knowledge level and understanding capacity. The practice of giving marks may have its own significance, but experience shows that it has more demerits than merits. It expects a student to demonstrate his "learning" ability, nay, his capacity to rote, under trying circumstances in a short period of three hours. This causes unnecessary anxiety among students raising it to alarming levels and with disastrous consequences in many cases. Sometimes examinations create such a high degree of fear among the examinees that they fail to express what they have in their mind. A Chandigarh class XII student recently disappeared from his house only to avoid the ongoing board examinations. The scared child was traced at Hardwar (UP) from where he had been making telephone calls to his parents pretending that he had been kidnapped. The truth came to light when he was nabbed by the police and brought back home.
An examination system
that generates fear of any kind or increases the
adrenalin level to a dangerous extent should be done away
with as early as possible. The system of awarding marks
or grades can never be able to measure a student's
capacity to work hard, his determination to produce the
desired results, his aptitude for a particular discipline
of knowledge, or his grasping power. The NCERT Director,
Mr J.S. Rajput, is on record to have declared that
"the existing system needs to be drastically
reviewed. It should not become a burden on young and
impressionable children. The basic purpose should be to
assess the level of learning and find the gap areas in
which remedial inputs need to be provided." What the
NCERT discussion document suggests appears to be the
ideal alternative under the circumstances. It wants a
school-based evaluation system with teachers playing the
role of trainers. The evaluation should be a continuing
process. It would be more useful if teachers are also
allowed to develop the test material. However, a
mechanism will have to be devised to ensure that a
prejudiced teacher is not able to damage the career of
any of his students. Such a changeover may also help
regain the high position the teacher once enjoyed in
BEYOND KARGIL REPORT-II
I CONFESS I was surprised at the conclusions of the Kargil Report. What it says, or implies, is that those who are responsible for the job of protecting an area need not answer for their mistakes. It is someone who has to give them information that is responsible. Put in wider terms, if a district has serious riot, it is not the district authorities who should be called to account. They can say that the Sub-Inspector, Intelligence, let them down. A totally new definition of responsibility has emerged in the report.
Dont blame the top men, find some scapegoats. It is a new doctrine of responsibility to protect the soldier, slam the nearest civilian to scare away the monkey, thrash the dog; to make a hero, find a villain. And the conclusion that has got me guessing is; what was the failure? What was the enquiry for?
In the first place, was there need for such an enquiry? Nothing had gone wrong. The action taken by the Army and the Air Force was prompt and effective. (The Air Force part, equally brave, is seldom mentioned). If the Opposition felt that some serious mistake had occurred, a high-level meeting with the government could have been convened to convince them that there was no lapse. The Kargil Operation deserved the highest credits. The fact that there were infiltrations across the LoC was known for some time. The only new development was the intrusion of about 8 km on a front of 168 km. According to the Kargil Report, the bulk of the intruders into Indian territory came in late April. The intrusions were detected on May 3. The patrols confirmed it on May 7. Mobilisation and air support followed. There was courage and determination, and a great victory was secured. Where was the failure? Where was the need for an enquiry, which left everyone with the impression that there had been a critical failure on the part of the intelligence agencies?
The Ministry of Defence has obviously drawn on the report to support the hike in defence expenditure. They have tried to cash in, by using the report to portray an invaded India, exposed to Pakistan on the Kashmir heights, and it is only an enormous increase in expenditure that would save us from Pakistans aggression. Who was responsible for this brazen attempt to mislead everyone? The committee, or the Army, or Mr George Fernandes and the Ministry of Defence? In effect what it says is give us a blank cheque to order foreign stores and spend recklessly.
I have some experience of intelligence, and I was certainly one of those who felt that Mr Nawaz Sharifs initiative would curb any aggressive designs of the Pakistan Army. I am now able to see from the Kargil Report that indications that Pakistan was up to mischief was mentioned again and again in intelligence reports. The fact that the intrusions occurred in late April and were not detected for a week or 10 days was not such a big lapse, considering the nature of the terrain. But, even if we assume that it was a serious lapse, who was responsible for this? Did it not come under the tactical responsibility of the Army? Can we say that those who are in charge of the area have no responsibility for vigilance?
The entire exposure of our intelligence capability in the Kargil Report, and repeated references to critical failure, is something that worries me. Why did it not worry the Kargil committee or the government? Transparency is all very well, but do we have to be totally stripped to nakedness.
Obviously the setback to intelligence which did occur was not considered at all. The government has seriously damaged all intelligence agencies by an unusual desire for transparency, and the only gain is that it shows Pakistan that we know everything that is going on on the other side. But was it worth the exposure, report by report, agency by agency, and line by line for scores of printed pages in the report. Parliament should certainly take note of this spectacle of transparency.
The real blow to us is the extra expenditure (Rs 13,000 crore for defence, up 28 per cent) Rs 2000 crore on Kargil alone, and the extra amounts that we will have to spend on snowshoes and mountain equipment to the delight of all our suppliers. In the end we will find that the next surprise is in the desert, so we can have another Kargil Report, and prepare for another spot of expenditure for desert equipment, which may be available in India. We need to take the country out of this spending spree of the government to the Gandhian austerity that we need: an austerity that will protect the poor and will be accepted by the rich as the price of stability and progress. Will Parliament be able to do it? True, the Kargil Report confuses the whole issue. It is like putting out the light so that we may be frightened by the dark. Besides produce a thick book of report and every MP will keep it aside for its size and its jargon.
It disagree entirely with the Kargil Report in the accusation against Mr Nawaz Sharif that he knew all about the intrusions when the Indian Prime Minister went to meet him in Lahore, implying that he deliberately misled him. That part of the report seems to have been drafted by one of Mr Musharrafs men. How can we come to such a senseless conclusion about the Prime Minister of a democracy, who for the first time defied the military, defied the fanatics, and came out to make a public declaration of friendship with us. We ought to honour him as a statesman, do our best to protect him when he is imprisoned by a military ruler, and is made to submit to the indignity and harassment inflicted by a kangaroo court, and for what, for taking a step which could have saved Pakistan from dissolution? The whole world ought to go to his rescue.
The Kargil Committee has recommended that we should have a young army, a middle-aged paramilitary, and an elderly police. How could such a fantastic recommendation have been made, only keeping Kargil in mind?
It would be foolish to think that a solution to the Pakistan problem can be found by military methods, or by increasing our defence expenditure. Pakistan is wearing itself out. Do we want to go the same way? Pakistan is going down steadily. Yet it will be a tragedy for us if it suffers a breakdown, a civil war, or an ethnic conflict involving states (provinces). We have to be prepared for all this. That is the biggest surprise that Pakistan can hold out to us. Also, we have to face the fact that the danger of a nuclear war is not reduced by shouts of belligerence.
I cannot help feeling that the way we are going about it in India and Pakistan, making crafty moves to get small applause, boasting of the successes achieved, disregarding the cost in death, amputations and frost-bite, is utterly wrong. All this panting for glory may land the two nations into despair beyond reckoning. No citizen of India or Pakistan wants glory at the cost of war. To that extent a meeting with General Musharraf may be necessary, even essential, and I would beg the Indian Prime Minister to respond with courtesy to the desire of General Musharraf to have a meeting with him.
We have to get out of the mindset of military operations and military victory which our specialists and new think-tanks are driving us into. We must think of austerity, not only for peace but also because of escalation, and the damnable cost of military operation. At least because of our financial constraints let us think more of the sick and starving rather than military dominance. If we keep glorifying war, we may reach the stage when the people, or some fanatic leader, may think that all that is required is a massive conflict, and that it is the only way to bring peace in our time. Too often in history has the path of ruin been marked by such reasoning. The follies of history must not be repeated in our subcontinent.
The writer is a former member of the Police Commission.
DADA and Dadi, a couple in their sixties, were our immediate neighbours then. They were not related to our family. Very fondly the entire mohalla addressed them as Dada-Dadi. They seemed to be related to none since there was nothing with regard to the couple to even suggest that they were the locals of the area. But in those days old couples had not started falling a prey to head-smashing thieves and domestic servants. The residents around took good care of them.
They spoke a polished language and probably belonged to UP. Nobody knew where they had come from. Both chewed paan. Both had almost a similar fragile frame. Dada was a little older. They always donned white. Immaculately clean. Spotless. They looked more like brother and sister. Probably the long association had resolved all that might have been dissimilar. The couple had a warm and sagacious appeal. Both commanded the residents respect in a big way.
Dada-Dadi had none to attend on them. Both depended on each other. Dada seemed to be more dependent on Dadi. He spoke a little less than her. Dadi had a temperamental equipoise of sorts and was a more confident person. She would look to be Dadas husband. Perhaps they did not have children. We never saw any of their relatives visiting them.
The couple lived in a very small room with a tiny terrace which could hardly accommodate two persons. A small window opening in the street, once in a while, showed up Dadi looking down below. A steep staircase led the visitor straight into the room. It had a support-bar without which it was difficult to climb up and down. I wondered how Dada and Dadi managed their flights on the staircase.
A parrot, in a cage with silver paint, welcomed you with its prattle of Ganga Ram-Ram-Ram; at the entry. Right in front of the door was a big cot, perhaps purchased by the couple out of a sale from some palace. It was beautifully decorated with frilled covers. On a side-stool was the paan-box in white metal. A hand-fan draped on all sides with yellow satin was also placed on the bedside.
Utensils, mostly of copper, were placed aesthetically on a mantle-piece, below which were put the cooking pans, an iron hot-plate and a pair of tongs. In a corner on the terrace, coal and firewood lay piled up. Opposite the kitchen-space was a huge box with copper-biddings and designs in oriental style. A big lock hung on the brass-hook and shutter. Above this box, on the wall, at a height of about six feet, nicely sheathed in pink velvet cover, hung a sword. Not very big. With a study looking brasshandle. It looked almost like a trophy from a distance.
For about 10 years or so I watched Dada and Dadi go for their morning walk, return with a lota full of milk and a small packed containing vegetable to be cooked for the day. Till next morning, they did not come out of their austere abode. No one disturbed them except the likes of me who would get a sweet and sour goli on each visit.
One day, Dada died. Dadi was perhaps prepared for this. She herself arranged for the funeral. Mohalla inhabitants collected at her residence. Another old woman in the vicinity offered Dadi that she could stay with her for company. Dadi politely said no to the offer. Day after day the number of Mohallawalas gathering at Dadis place thinned down. She lived alone. All by herself. For about one year. Then we heard she was moving out.
One fine morning I saw a cart parked in front of Dadis place. Her belongings were being loaded on the cart one by one. All that we had seen in the tiny home of Dada and Dadi was being transported. With apprehension coupled with anxiety in mind and a turbulent trepidation in heart, I fixed my gaze at the door. They might now bring the dead Dadi out on their shoulders! I feared. But, no! She came out. On her legs. I thanked God Almighty. Carrying the sword in her arms and nearly embracing it, she stopped for a while.
She looked up, towards
her small room and terrace. Covered her head with her
shawl and went away her confident way, walking behind the
cart, to an unknown destination. That was the last time I
saw Dadi. Dadi with her sword. My first role-model of a
commander. A commander whipping life.
Iran goes the reformist way
FROM the time I began following international events Iran had had nothing but turbulence. In the early 1950s the British and the Americans, using nefarious methods which included large-scale CIA operations, got rid of Prime Minister Mosseadagh who dared to nationalise the Iranian oil industry. Then followed long years of the autocratic rule of the Shah. The climax came with his glittering coronation attended by the top world leaders, an event which cost the nation several millions of dollars. The huge profits from the sale of oil seldom percolated to the benefit of the people who remained poor, illiterate and bound to the mullahs.
The West, however, approved of the extravaganza of the Shah. He was a particular favourite of the American presidents and that master of opportunists, Henry Kissinger. This was because, along with the Saudi royal family, the Shah of Iran sustained the US arms industry. He bought billions worth of the latest weapons, not for defending his nation, but for defending himself, his family and his corrupt coterie.
As the excesses of the Shah mounted and all kinds of dissent brutally suppressed, the mullahs finally launched an Islamic revolution. Led by Ayatollah Khomeni, the mullahs aroused the angry masses to rise against the Shah who was forced to leave the country with his family. The West shed tears at his departure and forecast a gloomy future for Iran. Under the Ayatollah, Iran did undergo a religious transformation and the traditionalists took over. Contacts with the West were kept minimal and stringent laws affecting individual liberty were introduced. Yet, for many Iranians, this was better than the corrupt, cruel rule of the Shah.
The Iranians had been one of the most ancient and cultured people in the world. They had excellent and widespread trading activities with many parts in the world. Persian poetry, literature and culture were among the best. But all these were lost under the rule of the maulvis. Worse, Iran was keen to export its own version of Islamic fundamentalism, thereby running headlong into trouble with the USA the Americans had their own game to play in the oil-rich West Asia. On the one hand, their staunchest ally was Israel. On the other hand, they also kept afloat the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia because the Saudi oil was vital to international and US economy. Further, like Iran under the Shah, the Saudi royal family, boosted the US economy with its huge arms purchases meant to protect itself from any future revolt by the masses.
For years, the USA had been playing a subtle power game in the region particularly with its friendship with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis bore implacable hatred towards the Jewish state and financed other smaller nations who were prepared to make sneak attacks against it. But because of the US pressure, there had never been a direct confrontation between the Israelis and the Saudis. The deadly weapons purchased by the Saudis from the USA could never be used against Israel. In its turn, the US government and most of its media ignored the massive human rights violations and religious intolerance practised in Saudi Arabia.
The USA wanted its double game extended to Iran also. Having lost its influence in Teheran after the ouster of the Shah, the US shrilly condemned the religious excesses of the Iranian Ayatollahs. Granted, Iran was not a secular paradise but the Ayatollahs were only as rigid as the Saudi royal family whose actions were never questioned by the USA! In a fresh effort to undermine the new government in Iran, the USA befriended President Saddam Hussein, the maverick ruler of Iraq and supplied him with huge quantities of arms in his countrys war against Iran.
There had never been a logical explanation for this 25-year war which bled both Iran and Iraq white. But the USA saw nothing wrong in the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi forces against Iran. It was only when Iraq overreached itself and embarked on its madcap adventure by invading Kuwait, that the USA and its allies woke up. The power equation suddenly changed. President Saddam Hussein who had benefited immensely from the generosity of the Americans, was now their number one enemy. After Iraqs rout in the West Asian war of 1990, the UN supervisors sent to that country to check out for hidden atomic, chemical and biological weapons, were infiltrated with CIA agents and western spies, whose only aim was to replace Hussein. But there was no protest movement from the people of Iraq for whom their eccentric leader continued to be a hero.
Even while accusing Iraq and Iran of trying to export bloody revolution to the rest of the region, the USA itself was guilty of playing this game. Even while opposing Iran in public, the US government sent secret shipments of arms to that country to sustain the contra-insurgency in Central America! When this was exposed in the US media, the then President Ronald Reagan acted as though he did not know anything about the shady deals. As the revolutionary regime in Iran backed various Shia Islamic militant groups in West Asia, the USA nurtured the extremist Wahabi and other Sunni Islamic groups in Afghanistan. The arms provided to these groups by the CIA to oust the Marxist regime in Kabul, fell in the hands of the extremist Taliban groups which took control over the country. The USA could only watch the transformation helplessly.
It is under these circumstances that the reformers in Iran under the leadership of President Mohammad Khatami scored a resounding victory in the recently concluded general elections. Though it would take some more days for the final results to be announced, the reformists are comfortably ahead routing the conservatives even in their traditional strongholds. The conservatives had acknowledged their defeat and do not seem to have any alternative strategy to continue their political fight. The victory of the reformist group could turn out to be one of the most remarkable political happenings in Iran.
The USA, perforce, had to acknowledge the victory of the reformers in Iran and laud it. But it had come as a slap in the face of the Clinton administration. For several years, the USA had branded Iran as a rogue rebel, enemy state and accused it of exporting religious intolerance and terrorism to the neighbouring regions. There was hardly any substance in these charges, particularly after President Khatami came to power. Iran, under their President, was more keen to establish itself in the region, secure economic aid from the rest of the world for its progress and shed the image of a revolutionary state. Even before the recent polls, the administration had achieved these results.
The election results and the rout of the conservatives had come as further proof of the changes in Iran. In his earlier tenure as the countrys leader, President Khatami had to contend with a strong conservative lobby. The mullahs were still active and commanded support from some of the regions. The recent elections had changed all that. Iran had achieved something remarkable and is on its way to play its destined role in the world.
The earlier the rest of
the world accepted this, the better it would be. The
Islamic revolution and the role of the mullahs had taken
Iran back by several centuries and deprived the people of
the benefits of democracy and free thinking. These had to
be restored. The government should take immediate steps
to revive the oil industry and also come to some kind of
understanding with Iraq. Both these nations became pawns
in the big power game and paid heavily. Iran should look
more towards Europe and Japan where there is a better
understanding of the significance of the recent general
elections. The mullahs had taken a beating and it is the
duty of the west to help Iran to keep them out and also
sustain the present reformist government.
common man outside CPC
NOTHING symbolises the elitism underlying the recent changes in the Code of Civil Procedure more than the contrast presented by two of them: the amendment to Order 5, CPC, dealing with delivery or service of summons, on the one hand, and the amendment of Section 102 relating to the right of second appeal, on the other.
Speed post, courier, fax, e-mail. Most subordinate judges round the country cannot even dream of having fax and e-mail facilities in their courtrooms, but defendants in a civil suit can now be served, or notified of the suit, by any of these new-millennium means of communication.
The court, enjoins the newly expanded Rule 9, Order 5, CPC, shall issue summons and deliver the same to the plaintiff or his agent, for service, and direct the summons to be served (on the defendant) by registered post acknowledgement due or by speed post or by such courier service as may be approved by the High Court or by fax message or by Electronic Mail Service or by such other means as the High Court may prescribe by rules.....
That sounds impressive, of course, in an age where IT means Information Technology rather than Income Tax but, pray, how many defendants amongst Indias teeming millions own fax machines or computers with e-mail? And how many rural or small-mofussil plaintiffs have access to cyber cafes?
Turn now to the new Section 102, CPC.
Titled No second appeal in certain cases, it reads thus:
No second appeal shall lie(to the High Court) from any decree, when the amount or value of the subject-matter of the original suit does not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees.
In any other case and outside Punjab and Haryana (where the position is slightly different), a second appeal continues to lie, as before, if a substantial question of law is, in the opinion of the High Court, involved in the case. That is as per Section 100 of the CPC, as amended by Parliament in 1976 on the recommendation of the Law Commission in its 54th Report.
In any legal system which recognises the binding force of precedent, said the Report submitted in 1973, the status and calibre of the final appellate court on questions of law is vital. This consideration over-balances the consideration of multiplicity of appeals.
It is obvious, the Report continued, that the numerous subordinate courts in the districts cannot be final arbiters on questions of law. If the law is to be uniformly interpreted and applied, questions of law must be decided by the highest court in the State whose decisions are binding on all subordinate courts.
It is, therefore, essential for uniformity (said the Law Commission) that every error of law, raising a substantial question is promptly rectified by the High Court by a correct pronouncement of the law.
Standing as it does at the apex of a hierarchy, the High Court (said the Law Commission) is no ordinary court of last resort. It has a special position, a position which does not fit easily into the well-known epigram that trial courts search for truth and appellate courts search for error.
Founded on a classification between the moneyed and the not-so-moneyed, the propertied and the not-so-propertied, a classification disguised in the language of suit valuation, Section 102, CPC, strikes a fatal blow at the symbiosis of truth and error. A symbiosis which, judges and lawyers apart, has confounded philosophers for centuries. And removes from the arena of second appeal large chunks of civil litigation touching, in a multitude of drab ways, the daily life of the average Indian suitor.
This includes all declaratory suits, all injunction suits, and all other suits whose value is statutorily or self-fixed at less than twenty-five thousand rupees. And virtually, if not absolutely, all suits arising out of the countryside and concerning agricultural land assessed to land revenue.
The revenue being nominal, the jurisdictional value of the suits in question, prescribed as a certain multiple thereof (generally thirty) would never, practically never, exceed or reach twenty-five thousand.
Declarations, injunctions, agricultural land. The very heart of Indian civil litigation dominating the judicial landscape. The litigation of the peasant and the petty town-dweller, the litigation of common, if not poor, men. Denied at one fell stroke access to the highest court in the state, every state of the Indian Union. With every High Court free, in second appeal, to address the grievances of proprietors of urban landed and commercial property, whose value invariably soars lakhs above Rs 25,000.
Pushing in fax and
e-mail on the one hand. Pushing out peasants and
injunctions on the other. If the Union Law Minister,
expelled by the Supreme Court bar, is out of sync with
his fraternity, this new Code of Civil Procedure, devised
under his tutelage, is out of sync with India.
blunders at Rajasansi
AT times I wonder if people on the circuit are on a heavy dosage of energising(!) capsules, because they are upto so much. Middleaged men and women all over the place, at all times of the year especially around this time of the year, when the weather and circumstances arent too bad (in terms of power and water supply, viral outbreaks etc) and doing so much. And just when one exhibition or an art show or a match or a catch gets over the next is right there. Anyway, without any further frills, getting straight to the happenings point. The weekend saw the release of a book on the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane - IC 814. Published by Roli Books, jointly written by journalist Saurabh Shukla and Anil K. Jaggia (in the cockpit). This book has the potential of pulling out some more skeletons from the establishment end. As Shukla says. It hits out at the blunders committed at Amritsars Rajasansi Airport, pinpoints not only at the fact that the contingency plan was not implemented properly by the CMG but even highlights the fact that no heads have rolled and no follow-up has taken place, so much so that though the phone call to Rajasansi airport by a supposed joint secretary in the Home Ministry was traced to a womans mobile number in Delhi yet till date they have not been able to trace the caller nor the woman. And then it also brings to the fore that no matter what the MEA officers mouthed we failed on the diplomatic front too. Above all this, the book brings out some other startling facts how the Indian diplomats posted in Dubai were not allowed inside the Air Force base where the hijacked plane was parked, how officials (who had accompanied Civil Aviation Minister Sharad Yadav to Dubai to bring back some of the rescued passengers) shopped at the duty-free shops, how the very departure of Sharad Yadav was delayed from here because he didnt possess a passport (presumably had never travelled abroad) and then when he found himself finally placed inside the aircraft there was a further delay because he had forgotten to carry his gutka packet and a special messenger was sent to fetch it. This book also lays stress on the US role in helping to solve the hijack drama, the friendly/sympathetic role of the Taliban towards the hijackers and, of course, the politics within our top brass. Not only the Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Ajit Panja, was miffed because he was sidelined by Jaswant Singh, who chose to involve Vasundhra Raje Scindia in tackling the crisis, there was simply no coordination between the different agencies of the government. And at the end of it all if you ask Shukla the very obvious query: Where exactly are the hijackers today?; he says: They are all in Muzzaffarabad (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and here let me also state that according to my sources the conspiracy (to hijack) was hatched in Rawalpindi in June, 1999.
Another book Uzbekistan-On The Threshold Of the 21st Century (UBS), by another author, who is the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, got released here, midweek. If I am not mistaken this is President IA Karimovs second book and I often wonder why leaders of these Central Asian Republics choose India to launch their books. And though he didnt come down for this function his absence seemed made up by the presence of Uzbekistans Ambassador to India, Mr Ibrahim Mavlanov, ST Devare, Secretary (ER); Kiran Choudhry, Deputy Speaker, Delhi Legislative Assembly and several others.
And Khushwant Singh will release the US-based writer Pammy Sacher Kohlis book, on March 11 at the Le Meridien. Singing in The Wilderness is the title of this book and since I am filing this column a couple of hours before the function so cannot comment whether there will be singing or dancing or plain partying this evening.
Moving far ahead of books, it may surprise you to know the latest passion of many seems the simple camera. Last week I dropped in at AIFACs gallery and was pleasantly surprised to see a whole range of nature photographs taken by a member of Parliament, Adhik Shirodkar. He was standing in the midst of these photographs and once he got talking about nature, environment, the impending disasters on the environmental front one felt reassured. In the sense there are still some amongst us who talk so genuinely about these issues. And at another ongoing exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art, one can view Japan and almost all the hues of Hidden Japan, through images captured by one single photographer. Moving still ahead, at the Max Mueller Bhavan, another photo exhibition On The Road In India is on view till March 14. The artist Stefan Bohnenberger travelled all over India during four months away from the tourist centres and away from the comforts typical of tourism. He collected his artistic experiences in a photo diary, which is depiction of excerpts from India reality but devoid of any sensationalism.... Personally I found these photo extracts disappointing.
And there is hectic activity ongoing at the College of Art, as the 47th annual exhibition took off on March 10. At the Press meet hosted by principal M. Vijayamohan one got to see the works of over 500 students. The sheer enthusiasm of these students and the overflow of creative activity was touching. Imagine amidst that typical smell of paint and oil, over a thousand paintings, sculptures, sketches, drawings in the corridors and halls of this college.
The Capital and its
(circuit) people are undergoing what is being termed as
the Clinton mania. Although nearly a week remains for his
arrival, but speculations are already on about the
security drill, the frills around his place of stay,
itinerary details, and of course, whether he would fly to
Pakistan from here.
Singh a saga of courage
ADOYEN among contemporary Punjabi novelists, Gurdial Singh, the recipient of the prestigious Jnanpith Award for 1999, is a master storyteller, a craftsman of rare sensitivity and rigour.
Born to a carpenter, he chose to become a carpenter of words, a sculptor of human forms and a painter of life in all its myriad shades. From the small town of Jaito in Malwa to a literary star on the national scene it has been a slow and steady uphill ride. His is a saga of courage, which reads more like a work of fiction in progress. On being refused funding by his parents for education beyond Matric, he decided to be his own mentor, slowly toiling his way up from a JBT teacher to a school lecturer, from there to a college lecturer and ultimately a professor at a Regional Centre of Punjabi University. His tall, frail and gangly frame may not always give a full measure of his vast, hidden potential. Behind an agonisingly modest, publicity-shy man stands a true fighter of dogged determination and unswerving commitment. For him, the only commitment worth a writers attention is with life, the only real challenge is in facing its vagaries and the only way of redeeming both his role as a man and a writer is to transform the world we all live in.
Starting with his first novel Marhi Da Deeva (1964), often hailed as a modern classic which transformed the face of Punjabi fiction in an irreversible manner, Gurdial Singh has produced an impressive body of work. Anhoe (1966), Addh Chanini Raat (1972) and Parsa (1991) among his long fiction and Saggi Phul (1962), Upra Ghar (1966), Kutta Te Aadmi (1972), Begana Pindh (1981) and Kareer Di Dhingri (1991) among his short fiction could easily be picked up as milestones of his rich, varied, over four-decade long literary odyssey. In all, he has some nine novels, eight collections of short stories, three plays, two collections of prose essays and as many as nine books for children to his credit. Besides, he has extensively translated his own works into Hindi, as well as those of the other reputed Indian, even non-Indian writers into Punjabi. Three of his novels viz, Marhi Da Deeva (The Last Flicker, Sahitya Akademi), Addh Chanini Raat (Night of the Half-Moon, Macmillan) and Parsa (NBT) are available in English translations as well.
In one of his novels Parsa, a low-caste siri, Tindi requests his benevolent master to tell him an interesting story. On being asked as to what really makes for such a story, Tindi first hesitates and then asks a counter question; Why are the stories always about kings and princes?
More than a mere rhetorical question, its the very raison detre of Gurdial Singhs counter-narratives. Its always the farmhands, small and marginal farmers, workers, artisans, rickshawpullers or carpenters and never the kings or princes who occupy the centre stage of his fiction. For Gurdial Singh, fiction is a way of reclaiming the dispossessed and restoring to them the singular honour and dignity that history has denied. Its an unfailing, life-long search for the stories that deal with the dreams, desires, hopes, struggles and disappointments of the anonymous and the less remembered ones. For him, man is essentially a social and a historical being, whose only dharma is to fight the tyranny and oppression built into his/her own situation. Often seen as a chronicler of the Malwa region, who brings it alive both as a place in history and as a cultural metaphor, its a microcosm, universal in nature that he seeks to create. The stubborn, unyielding land, sandy soil and prickly air of Malwa are as much part of his fictionscape as are its low-roofed, mud-houses, stifling caste-prejudices and land related hostilities. His depiction of the region evokes both raw passion and sublime poetry in equal measure.
For him, writing has always been dictated by the compulsions of the life he has lived. Once when he was asked as to what his life-view was, Gurdial Singh is reported to have quipped, Had I not taken to writing, Id have exploded. My life-view is essentially tragic. And tragedy, he believes, is immanent in the very condition of being human or rather becoming so. While exploring the revolutionary potential of his characters, he ensures that he doesnt fail in his duty as an artist. In his work, one often comes across a fine balance between the narrative and dramatic, the personal and historical, the political and artistic.
On being asked, how he
felt on receiving the most coveted literary award, he
said: Its a recognition of all those who live
in my pages. Its tribute to the undying spirit of
the common man. Sure enough, only Gurdial Singh
could have reacted the way he did. In this unheroic age
of ours, he continues to renew our hopes and resurrect
our faith in human endurance.
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