The Tribune - Spectrum



Sunday, April 16, 2000
Books


Beginning of Bofors scam
by P.K. Vasudeva
Princes of chivalry
by M.L. Sharma
All the king’s men
by Kuldip Dhiman
Echo of Kargil fighting
by Padam Ahlawat
His is mother fixation, hers daugher fixation
by R.P. Chaddah
One of the last Left warriors
by Shelley Walia
Preaching through parables
by Randeep Wadehra
Total focus on underside of life
by Manju Jaidka
Wanted: people-centred policies
by Surinder S. Jodhka
 


Beginning of Bofors scam
by P.K. Vasudeva

How the Bofors Affair Transformed India — 1989-99 by M. Mayadas. Lancer Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 174. Rs 395.

THE book deals with the controversial purchase of the Army and has off and on rocked Parliament during the past 15 years. The multi-million dollar kickback in the purchase of the Bofors howitzers is back in the news. The book deals with the Army need for of the Swedish gun, and how its purchase led to the eclipse of political stability in last decade.

In 1984 the author was the Director-General of Weapons and Equipment at the Army Headquarters and was appointed chairman of the committee to evaluate the various 155-mm guns and select the best for the Army. He has given a detailed history of the battles that were fought on the files between the Army Headquarters (AHQ) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to decide on which gun was superior. The Bofors gun was good, but not the best, and was selected much against the recommendations of this committee.

The author starts with the details as to how he took over as Director, Weapons and Equipment (DWE) at the AHQ after commanding a division in the East for over two years and after having commanded the prestigious Armoured Corps Centre and School (ACC&S) in Ahmednagar. He has also given an insight into how an Army organisation functions. The military system has evolved slowly over many centuries and is a combination of both science and art. There cannot be any better or more efficient system of functioning, which has been tried over the years in the Army.

In 1975 the Army decided that a better gun was required to modernise the artillery. The 130-mm Rusian gun built at the end of World War II is a field and naval gun, and was quite useful as a long-range artillery piece. However, it was no good as a howitzer because it could not clear the steep mountain crests (heights). Pakistan, on the other hand, had a variety of American and Chinese medium guns giving it a certain edge.

The author says that there were four contenders — the Austrian GHN 45 manufactured by Voest Alpine and marketed by Noricum, the French TR manufactured by GIAT (Sofima), the trinational FH 70 (of the United Kingdom and Germany and later Italy) was offered by the UK and the Swedish FH 77 B manufactured by Bofors. Of these four guns, only the French TR had so far been mounted on a tank chassis, and a prototype existed called the GCT. Bofors said that it too could be mounted on a tank, the Austrians said that this could be easily done, and the British said no to the proposal.

During the trials no Indian officer witnessed the Bofors gun firing beyond 21.5 km. Indian officers had however seen the French gun fire up to a range of 31.5 km, and the Austrian gun reaching 39 km. In 1982 General Sundarji led a team of experts to Europe to assess the guns and give his recommendations. The author says that strangely enough, no delegation report was sent to DWE for study, when it was mandatory. On his return to AHQ Sundarji made an evaluation, and placed the French gun first, the British gun second, the Swedish, third and the Austrian was placed last. Though the Austrian gun figured last, it was recommended for the immediate purchase of 400 guns on a one-time agreement. The first three were also recommended for production under licence.

The MoD did not accept the recommendations of the AHQ and a debate started between the MoD and the AHQ in 1984. The MoD formed a technical evaluation committee (TEC) under the chairmanship of the author in May, 1984. The author led a team of senior officers from the Army and other services and thoroughly examined all four guns. The recommendations were based on the GSQR, which was not available earlier.

After this process Bofors was placed at number three, followed by the Austrian and French guns. But the MoD purchased 400 Bofors against the recommendations of the TEC.

The author points out that his deposition before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) was quite amusing. The terms of reference given to the JPC were quite ambiguous and unclear. It was dealing with the historical background and modalities of deciphering why one weapon system was found superior to the rest and then purchased. The tragedy was that no expert was included in the JPC.

The book is based on his personal experiences both in service and after retirement. He has traced the colonial history and how it took 300 years to make India a nation. The political aftermath of the Bofors affairs — 1989 to 1999 — is interesting and exhaustive.

The author had been meeting Mr V.P. Singh the then junior Defence Minister, who was looking into the previous submarine, aircraft and Bofors deals, but everywhere he ran into a mute wall, and could get nothing to work on. The author has lashed at the bureaucracy which wanted him to change his report, but he refused to oblige.

Law relating to the Armed Forces in India by Nilendra Kumar and Rekha Chaturvedi. Universal Law Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 586. Rs 595.

Of late the Armed Forces personnel are going to civil court seeking redressal of their grievances like denial of promotion, courts martial cases, injustice regarding pay and pensions and so on. However, in the absence of case law in military matters, the High Courts and the Supreme Court did not have for easy reference the earlier rulings on the same or similar legal issues. The present volume covers rulings given by various High Courts and the Supreme Court on military rules and service conditions of the armed forces as well as civilians working in the defence forces and also the civilians who come under the Army Act.

The authors have given the contents in an alphabetical and chronological fashion so that a reader finds it easy to trace the subject matter he is interested in. The authors have given a table of reported and unreported cases again in an alhabetical order and have shown these separately. The reported cases are from the Supreme Court, the High Courts and the Central Administrative Tribunals (CAT) of various zones. Cases reported in the All India Reporter (AIR), All India Service Law Journal, Civil Law Reporter, Civil Law Journal, Service Law Reporter, Service Law Journal, and so on have been incorporated at relevant places.

Besides the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts and Rules and Manual of Indian Military Law (MIML), the author has dealt with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Rules, Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), Labour and Industrial Cases, Defence Services Regulations, Indian Evidence Act and so on. The Administrative action like the one taken against Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat has been dealt with in details. Appeal against such administrative action proceedings lies only in the Supreme Court. This action is taken in rare cases.

Normally the armed forces personnel are either tried summarily by a court-martial, where an accused is given sufficient time and opportunities to defend himself, including with the help of a civilian lawyer. But administrative action is the most powerful tool with the armed forces when quick justice is called for and there is no time to go for a court-martial, which takes time. The authors have included the rulings and case laws upto April, 1999.

Over the years the Supreme Court of India and High Court have examined and interpreted a number of important provisions of the Army Act and the Army Rules pertaining to the administration of justice. This volume lists various rulings relevant to the law concerning the army personnel and Air Force and Navy personnel in particular and also the civilians coming under the Army Act in general.

All topics concerning the Army Act and the Service matters relating to the defence personnel have been divided into a number of broad themes and neatly arranged. Each group studies the various issues pertaining to that topic. For example, "Administrative Action" has been dealt with under a number of topics such as the Army Act Section 19, Army rule 14, show cause notice, financial regulations, terminations of service, action after abortive court martial, limitation period, deprivation of appointment, natural justice, effective date for an award of censure order and Presidential pleasure. Similarly, "Court Martial" has been dealt with under a number a topics such as its history, inquiry prior to compliance of Army Rule 22 and the period of limitation. To find the relevant case law on, say "Is court martial a tribunal", one has just to look under the main head "Constitution of India".

In case a particular topic has relevance to more than one group, there is convenient cross-reference. For example, "alternate remedy" is listed under "Constitution of India" as also "Writs". Similarly, "Parole" will also be found under "Convict", "Leave", "Study Leave", "Imprisonment", and so on.

For the sake of uniformity, all citations of law cases reported in various journals have been described with surname first, followed by the initials and then military rank held by the petitioner. Since the Indian Army is modelled on the British Army, the rulings pertaining to the court martial cases of the armies of western countries have also been included to help in understanding the military ethos and rationale guiding the jurisdiction of the civil courts over the men in uniform.

As the armed forces personnel most frequently refer to the Army Act, Army Rules, Defence Services Regulations and the Indian Evidence Act, these have also been incorporated in this volume. Explanatory notes to the Army Act and Army Rules have also been reproduced as appendices. Case laws have been dealt meticulously and succinctly.

The books explain the Constitution, particularly the fundamental rights and other relevant Articles. There is a separate chapter on disability pension. A chapter on ex-servicemen is of great importance. It includes tips on how to count army service, benefits of past army service, definition of ex-servicemen, war service benefits, reservation for released armed forces personnel, pay fixation, absorption on permanent basis, concessions, loans from banks and employment opportunities.

Recently the Law Commission has recommended the establishment of an Armed Forces Tribunal which aggrieved defence services personnel can approach for redressal. Its decision can be chalenged only in the apex court.Top

 

Princes of chivalry
by M.L. Sharma

The Rajputs of Rajputana — A Glimpse of Medieval Rajasthan by M.S. Naravane. APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 184. Rs 700.

DR Naravane has made an indepth study of the socio-political and military ethos of Rajasthan in the book under review. He has tried to grasp the essence of the cultural traditions of the brave and chivalrous people of Rajasthan.

As Rajput officers and men in the Indian Army are still true to their traditions, it is worth a careful study to explore their roots and social behaviour and how they draw their inspiration from the colourful legends in which their land abounds. It is a well-known fact that Rajasthan is a jewel in the desert and if you exclude the state from the map of India, there is not much to speak of Indian imperial martial traditions. The spirit of dedication, loyalty, unflinching and unflappable character, quality of leadership, valour and a strong sense of dignity and honour were the characteristics of a Kshatriya warrior of ancient India. Maharana Pratap, Rana Sanga, Udai Singh, Prithviraj Chauhan and others are immortal.

Even Akbar had great respect and admiration for their courage and dedication to duty and Raja Bhagwan Das and Man Singh were held in great esteem by the great Mughal. He relied on them more than he relied on Muslim courtiers and warriors except Khanen Khan and a few others.

Gen V.P. Malik, in the foreword to this book, has lauded the efforts of the author, a retired Wing Commander, in trying to "understand the true essence of the culture and traditions of the Rajputs, a people who epitomise chivalry and courage" and to explore the sources from which they drew their dauntless and death-defying courage, unflagging zeal, unshakable composure and unflinching soldiery.

Naravane has tried to analyse the politico-geographic account as recorded by James Tod in his classic work, "The Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan". The places of historical interest have been listed in the book. He has toured the length and breadth of Rajasthan thrice and has visited places of historical and cultural interest and, therefore, offers first- hand information.

In sketching the medieval Rajasthan, he has drawn material from different sources, specially from Tod’s work and Rajasthan gazetteers. Anyone writing a book on Rajasthan will find it a formidable task to equal Tod (to excel him is a herculean task, if not an impossibility). Naravane has done a painstaking job in examining the interludes and legends which Tod dealt with in graphic details. While Naravane mentions Gora and Badul as two brave Rajputs, Tod calls them as inhabitants of Ceylon, closely related to Padmini, as an uncle and a cousin. The legend of the goddess of Chittor seeking sacrifice of 12 royal personages seems to have been taken from Tod’s work.

The author has dealt at length with the causes of Rajput debacles at the hands of Muslim invaders and has blamed them for their lack of mastery in strategy. In the chapter, "The military ethos of the Rajputs", he writes: "It is hard to understand why the Rajputs failed to realise the changing pattern of warfare and the use of arms. It was Babar’s artillery which was primarily responsible for Sanga’s defeat at Kanhua. Yet the lesson was not learnt... Added to the lack of generalship was a chronic lack of cohesion in Rajput ranks. They had neither political unity at the higher level nor unity of command on the field of battle.. And finally, the Rajputs considered it below their dignity to employ stratagems"

In the same chapter he further comments: "The strategic and tactical needs were often either not grasped or ignored. Seldom was there any preparation for a possible withdrawal... The so-called notions of chivalry often led to a victory, or possible victory, turning into a defeat. Innumerable examples can be given to show how the Rajputs disregarded principles of war and turned an almost sure victory into defeat". This analysis will be of interest to army strategists.

The author seems to have missed the point that the Rajputs used to consider ethics superior to expediency and they did not bother about defeat and death but only about their honour and principles. The Rajputs were men of word and they prized "maryada" above everything else. Even Alaudin Khilji, however treacherous he might have been, was fully confident that no harm could be done to him while the prince of Chittor accompanied him to his camp after he had a glimpse of Padmini because the Rajputs did not believe in hitting below the belt.

The book provides useful information about the religious and social ceremonies of the Rajputs and the origin of various clans. But details about "sati" and "jauhar" could have been omitted as these are well known. Maps and photographs enhance the value of the book. "In memory of Lieut-Col, James Tod" is quite engrossing.Top

 

All the king’s men
by Kuldip Dhiman

Governance in Ancient India (From the Rigvedic Period to c. AD 650) by Anup Chandra Pandey. D. K. Printworld, New Delhi. Pages 232. Rs 300.

"A native of the soil, high-born, influential, well-trained in the arts and crafts, far-sighted, wise, of retentive memory, intelligent, skilful, bold, eloquent, sweet in speech, good debater, full of enthusiasm and energy, self-controlled, of amiable nature, firm in royal devotion, free from qualities exciting hatred and enmity, of tested honesty, and possessing an attractive personality." This is the redoubtable Kautilya, or Chanakya, describing the qualities of a civil servant.

In his recent book "Governance in Ancient India", Anup Chandra Pandey brings to light, perhaps for the first time, the way kingdoms were run in ancient India. Culling his material from vedic literature, the epics, and other accounts, Pandey, himself a civil servant, presents an interesting picture of governance in ancient India. It is impossible to believe, the author argues, that these powerful states had not evolved a well-organised administrative and military system manned by specialised functionaries. "They must have raised a financial and fiscal structure to meet the needs of standing armies with their equipment, the civil service with its expanding areas of administration and of public welfare, and of the law enforcing agencies."

Monarchy was no doubt the accepted form of government in ancient India, but the king rarely had unlimited powers. There was always a battery of civil servants to restrain him. And that was why, although we might have had some very incompetent or even bad rulers in the past, we have rarely had tyrants. This, perhaps, also explains why democracy has taken root so quickly and easily in India.

The existence of the civil service in ancient India, the author says, is indicated by a number of technical words like amatya, ratnin, tirtha, mahamatra, adhikratah, narah, raja-bhara-niyukta, sahaya, rajapurusha, rajayukta, etc. The ancients never failed to appreciate the importance of good governance. They believed that if the civil service was vigorous and energetic, the state too would be. Hence, great care was taken while selecting civil servants.

To make sure they got able administrators, candidates were asked to clear various tests such as dharmopadha (to test righteousness), arthopadha (to test resistance to monetary gains), kamopadha (to test the capacity to control desires), and bhayopadha (to test fearlessness) before getting a commission.

In the beginning the kingdoms were rather small, and hence they could be easily managed with the help of a couple of advisers, but by the time of the Atharvaveda the Aryan influence had extended up to Anga, Magadha and also Gandhara. So the civil service grew in size, became a lot more complex, and began to exercise unprecedented power. The Rigveda shows the kind of respect the the civil servant, and especially the purohita commanded: "That king, indeed, overpowers all opposing forces with his valour and might, who maintains Brihaspati (the brahmana priest), well attended and praises and honours him as (a deity) deserving the first share (of the due homage). It was with the help of Angiras, the priest, that Indra destroyed Vala."

We then move on to the epic age, beginning with the Ramayana period when the commonly used word for civil service was amatya, though other words like tirthas, mahamatras, adikritah, raja-bhara-niyukta were also in vogue. Since kingdoms were now larger, the need for the office of Chief Minister had begun to be felt during this period. He was referred to as mantri-shreshtha, or mantri-pati. He was assisted by 18 amatyas who were assigned important portfolios of mantri, purohita, yuvraja, senapati, dauvarika, antahpuradhikrita, etc.

As we enter the more complex Mahabharata society, we see that the word amatya is still in vogue when referring to a civil servant, but the term rajapurusha was also gaining acceptance. During the Mahabharata there were perhaps two bodies of amatyas: the inner council and the mantri parishad. Here again it was emphasised that a king cannot, and should not, rule without an efficient bureaucracy. What are then the qualities of a good bureaucrat? He was expected to be an expert in jnana and vijnana, he should be high-born and well-bred. Military training was compulsory for all. The main task of a minister, in that age, too, was to advise the king on all important matters.

While the root of the kingdom is the spy, its essence is the counsel. Special emphasis was laid on keeping state secrets, while expert spies were sent to the enemy territory to get information about their plans. The main cause of the downfall of a state, the bureaucrats believed, was its inability to keep its plans secret.

One thing that is common in all ancient Indian societies is that the army was never allowed to dominate the Cabinet. "It is significant," the author rightly points out, "that the ancient Indian polity was dominated by the civil element rather than military element. This is the reason why the purohita was given precedence over the senapati, and the king was advised to follow the former as a student would follow his teacher and a servant his master."

The author then takes us to the Mauryan age, and the Gupta age, and the Vardhana age, documenting the way the civil service kept up with the changing cultural and political scenario.

This is a well-researched, well-documented and well-written book that covers uncharted territory. It will particularly be of interest to students and scholars interested in ancient Indian history and political science, and of course anyone interested in writing historical novels.Top

 

Echo of Kargil fighting
by Padam Ahlawat

Kargil 99. Blood Guts and Fire Power by Gurmeet Kanwal. Lancer Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 92. Illustrated. Rs 995.

THE Regiment of Artillery has brought out this illustrated volume detailing its contribution to the victory in the Kargil conflict. The terrain being favourable to the entrenched enemy, the infantry was extremely exposed in its efforts to evict the intruders with normal artillery cover. The artillery had to play a major role in destroying the sangars by its precision bombradment to enable the infantry to dislodge a weakend enemy. The massed artillery fire in the Dras, Mushkoh valley, Kaksar and Batalik sectors forced the intruders to leave the constructed sangars.

One of the heroes of this conflict was the Bofors gun which emerged out of the controversy to show that its choice was not undeserving.

However, to call this engagement a war seems a little too far-fetched. Not only because it was not declared a war but also the line of control was not crossed. It was a limited conflict in which the Indian Army and Air Force openly participated, though that was not the case with the Pakistan army and air force. The Pakistan army provided support to the intruders and backed them up with its irregulars. Considering the two sectors, where the intruders dug themselves in, it seems their objective was not to alter the LoC but to capture territory for the Mujahideen.

The gunners lost three officers and 32 men in the conflict to whom the book is dedicated. Special citations for outstanding performance was given to 141 Field Regiment, 197 Field Regiment and 108 Medium Regiment. The book brings out the close cooperation with the infantry that made victory possible.

Excellent photographs have been provided by the Army, India Today, Outlook and the Hindustan Times. They tell their own story with greater impact.

City Palace of Udaipur, Historical View and a Guide. Irmgard Meininger. D.K. Printworld, New Delhi. Pages 96. Price not mentioned.

Illustrated with photographs, this is a short volume on the City Palace of Udaipur and the Maharana of Mewar. The dynasty traces itself to 566 AD, when Guhil was elected a king. Legend has it that in 525 AD Queen Pushpavati was on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Amba Bhawani, when she heard the dreadful news that the royal family had been wiped out. The pregnant queen took refuge with a Brahmin priest, who lived in a cave in the Aravalli hills. She gave birth to a son who was named Guhil (cave born).

Guhil, a very wild child, spent most of his time with the tribe of Bhils and became a favourite with their chief. The Bhils elected Guhil as their king and his capital was Nagda. Bapa Rawal, who ruled between 734 and 753 shifted the capital to Chittor, which remained the capital for 800 years. It was Udai Singh II (1537-1572) who founded Udaipur and made this his capital.

The house of Mewar had the unique distinction of refusing to bow down to the Muslim rulers from Alauddin Khilji to Aurangzeb. Not even to Akbar. The house also refused to provide Rajput ladies to the Mughal court. The story of Padmini and the courageous Maharana Pratap are well known.

The present descendant of the House of Mewar. Arvind Singh is different from the usual ruling houses. Far from living in the past, the descendant of Rana Pratap was farsighted to found the historic Resort Hotel Group. The palaces instead of being a burden are bringing in money. Rajasthan being a favourite destination of foreign tourists, this guide book is primarily for that class of tourists. The Indian tourist too would also find it interesting.Top

 

His is mother fixation, hers daugher fixation
by R.P. Chaddah

Ancient Promises - A Novel by Jaishree Misra. Penguin, New Delhi. Pages 310. Rs 250.

THE exotic backwaters of Kerala, "God’s own country", have become the new focal point of Indian English fiction ever since Arundhati Roy achieved name, fame and lot of money for her 1997 Booker Prize winner "The God of Small Things". Keralite Jaishree Misra’s "Ancient Promises" is just out in India (March, 2000) and another London-based Keralite Preethi Nair’s first novel "Gypsy Masala" has had a quiet launch at the recent London International Book Fair.

"Ancient promises" is the first person account of the happenings in the life and times of the author herself, which have left an indelible mark on her psyche. retelling takes the form of this autobiography-loaded book. A close reading reveals that the writer lived through this trauma and drama of life and has the strength to come out valiantly and write objectively about it.

Taking the individual and her personal goal as supreme, Jaishree was prepared to take herself as her only viable heroine — Janaki Janu, the heroine, is only a slightly muffled Jaishree.

The book is about mother-daughter relationship, who view each other with more understanding and less conflict and confrontation. But the daughter always occupies the centerstage, first Janu’s mother, then Janu herself and finally Janu’s daughter’s, the mentally disabled Ria (Rohini in real life and the writer’s "lucky mascot and unlikely muse"). Considerable concern for her daughter’s "special needs" forces her to take decisions which are rejected outright by everybody in the beginning but accepted with disdain when confronted with her resolve.

The linear narration of the story starts in the modern home of Janu in Delhi where as a teenager she has a crush on a boy Arjun Mehta, a northerner, and a love affair of sorts which is looked down upon by the caste-conscious parents of Janu. This was enough for them to discontinue their daughter’s studies and go in for an arranged marriage for their daughter in their own caste and in their native state.

Meanwhile lover-boy Arjun goes off to London to become somebody without any of the socalled "promises" to come back and marry Janu, the object of his teenage romance. But Janu in her heart of hearts feels that they are going to cross each other’s way again, "because of some promise so ancient....You could’t feel sorry for things you did in another life, the only expectation being that you paid for them in another."

Janu has almost no option but to accept the inevitable in the shape of an arranged marriage. Right from the start this union with Suresh appears to be jinxed because he has a mother-fixation and belongs to a status conscious, somewhat rich Maraar family. Every effort of Janu to win the love and affection of her in-laws meets with indifference. To give marriage a fair chance, she goes in to have a child. And that child Ria turns out to be suffering from learning diability.

All hell breaks loose and she is unable to cope with pressure. But the presence of her daughter gives her new strength and she starts thinking of ways and means to take her daughter abroad for special treatment, of course, without taking her husband’s family into confidence.

On her own steam she takes the initiative to go for an interview with some foundation in Delhi. Something else is in store for her when she visits her schoolmate and there she meets her old flame Arjun after years. This Hardyean chance meeting ignites the embers of love all over again and this time around they make "promises" to make up for the lost time in the in-between years in London.

From now on, he becomes the decisive factor in all her actions and she prepares herself to stake everything for the sake of love for her daughter vis-a-vis her one-time lover Arjun.

Problems aplenty come from her in-laws, her own family and society at large, but with an inner resolve she faces them all with equanimity. After divorce, custody of child and what not, she leaves everything in a limbo and takes a flight to London to find her dream, to do something concrete for her Ria by learning about the "special needs" of such kids. A year in London passes without any mishap and once in a while in the company of Arjun, and that once in a while is every weekend together. Back in India things have sorted out on their own and everybody is ready to accept her point of view. She gets everything she desires and is hopeful of finding happiness away from the shores of India.

"The biggest milestones of our lives have a strange way of drifting silently past us without flashing the warning signals that really ought to accompany them."

Further on, she does believe in "Bonds that are forged even before the first breath is taken cannot be broken with the passage of a few thousand miles, especially when ancient promises wait unredeemed."

David Godwin is not wrong when he describes the book as Austenesque. The novelist has an uncanny gift of character portrayal, achieving life-like sketches with a sure touch and rare economy. Jaishree is already into her second novel which according to her is "I get inside the head of a man this time." (The book under review is all too woman-dominated.)Top

 

One of the last Left warriors
by Shelley Walia

Raymond Williams: Literature, Marxism and Cultural Materialism by John Higgins. Routledge, London. Pages 229. 13.99.

RAYMOND WILLIAMS, Britain’s most distinguished socialist thinker on culture, died in January, 1998. As the news spread in Cambridge, then beyond that ancient seat of learning to Raymond Williams’ readers all over the world, grief and consternation quickly spread. When I reached Cambridge at the end of 1998 I could sense the vacuum in the university and more so in the English faculty. Every time I passed his room in Jesus College, where once Coleridge resided, I was reminded of how we all had come to suppose that he would be there always to show us the way out.

For me and for many others, he was a mainstay of our intellectual life, a scholar who, in the words of Iain Wright, had "checked and reversed the culture-pessimism which had vitiated had in fact more or less constituted — English literary criticism for a quarter of a century". In the present climate we need this academic’s vision as well as his deep-seated anger against Anglo-Saxon conservatism of many of his contemporaries.

The range and output of his contributions to cultural studies, to the analysis of literary texts, and to the understanding of contemporary social relations is increasingly recognised as the most influential body of work in the past 50 years. John Higgins’ recent full length study on Raymond Williams is essentially literary, an attempt to give only those biographical facts which help to elucidate certain facts of his work.

It traces Williams’ intellectual trajectory from its beginnings in the literary criticism of the 1950s, across the development of a New Left cultural politics, to its culmination in the theory and practice of cultural materialism. It provides an interesting and involving analysis of the theoretical and social context of Williams’ concerns with politics, culture and literary studies.

On completing his dissertation on Ibsen from Trinity College, Cambridge, Williams worked as a tutor in adult education which provided him a diversion from the usual English curriculum and the ground for the writing of two seminal works, "Culture and Society" (1958) and "The Long Revolution" (1961) which helped to institutionalise cultural studies as well as establish Williams as a prominent thinker of the New Left who challenged the existing paradigms of literary studies through probably the most formative socialist work of the period.

This "oppositional work" would go on for the next 30 years with its main target being the elite culture’s "central assumptions not only as they appeared in English studies, but also as they informed the dominant modes of thinking about politics and society, and as they swayed assessments of the very possibility of progressive social and political action". There are innumerable readings of his work, both hostile as well as appreciative; many take it as disinterested academic commentary on literary and cultural history, while some Althusserian theorists regard it as an idealist academic project too deeply rooted in empiricist problematic. Higgins puts across an unbiased view of Williams’ thinking on cultural politics of his days.

Higgins argues that the cultural politics behind the production of "Culture and Society", for instance, is overlooked especially when there is no denying that it is closely related to the debate on and around adult education for over 20 years around the time it was written. Williams’ major works and his articles in his short-lived journal Politics and Letters made him the spokesman of his generation which consisted of the "angry young men" though one of them was Doris Lessing, the "Scholarship Boys" and lastly the New Left.In fact he was writing against T.S. Eliot and F.R. Leavis and the "whole of the cultural conservatism that had formed around them — the people who had pre-emptied the culture and literature of this country".

After the collapse of his journal, Williams pulled back to work on his own, and instead of being isolated, as has been often argued, he hit out against the isolationism of the hostile consensus of conservative opinion. In fact the reviews of his "Culture and Society" were rather hostile to the very nature of Williams’ thesis. An article in Cambridge Review by the conservative historian Maurice Cowling was extraordinarily dismissive and indignant at the central place that Williams, a man from the periphery of British educational and cultural life, could now occupy, particularly amongst a "group of English radicals, lapsed Stalinists, academic Socialists and intellectual Trotskyists... with others from the extra-mural boards, the community centres and certain northern universities".

What needs to be grasped is the need for the New Left to redefine the aims of the Communist Party and the new liberal rhetoric around the end of the sixties when the Hungarian revolt was crushed by the Soviet army, the welfare ambitions of France and Britain lay under a cloud of suspicion, and imperialism was far from its end as was obvious when the two anti-fascist nations invaded the Suez Canal in 1956. It was a period when the complacency introduced by these welfare states had to be questioned.

To face this situation Williams and his contemporary cultural theorists like Stuart Hall and Richard Hoggart attempted to focus on that one important aspect of society: the cultural and the ideological domain. As Stuart Hall argues, the cultural dimension seemed to us not a secondary, but a constitutive dimension of society. (This reflects part of the New Left’s long-standing quarrel with the reductionism and economism of the base-superstructure metaphor".

Placing the whole programme of cultural studies at the centre of politics was a reaction against Eliot’s "Notes Towards the Definition of Culture" which aimed at the reactionary appropriation of the idea of culture. Eliot’s panic was caused by the Beveridge Report of 1942 which gave the right of education to all who have the inclination and the potential. This Eliot feared would lead to "the education of too many people, and consequently to the lowering of standards to whatever this swollen number of candidates is able to reach". Williams saw the need for adult education related to the issue of mass education, and he, therefore, gave an impetus to it by arguing that the movement was an important opportunity for providing working-class people with the elements of a broadly political education". Williams’ deepest impulse was the desire to make learning integral to the process of social change.

The late sixties saw the entry of Williams into the editorial board of New Left Review where, along with E.P. Thompson and Stuart Hall, he attempted to regroup the fragmented British Left resulting in the prospectus called the May Day Manifesto. Behind it one could see the moving spirit of Williams and the "solidity of his reading and analysis in political economy, his sense of the permeation of capitalist economy". The manifesto met with a warm response as was evident from opening of innumerable clubs all over Britain.

The heady days of 1968 did promise a quick revolution instead of the long revolution that Williams had proposed, and with some satisfaction he began on his bluntest analysis of the development of agrarian capitalism, going to the extent of blaming Marxism for its insensitivity to the problem of the rural labouring population. This was broadly the thesis of his wonderful book, "The Country and the City", which was completed in 1973 and dealt with varied issues concerning culture, economy, power and ideology.

These intellectual concerns can be seen in all their Marxist underpinnings in his interviews to the New Left Review which were published as "Politics and Letters’s in 1979. As he says in "Towards 2000", the impulse of wholeness is what pushed him towards a reassessment of literature and its context thereby seeing a false dichotomy between society and the study of literature. This was his age-old concern visible in "The Long Revolution" where he had argued: "Art comes to us as part of our actual growth, not entering a ‘special area’ of the mind, but acting on and interacting with our whole personal and social organisation."

It is for this reason that "Culture and Society" largely stands up against the intellectuals’ comfortable trick of seeing culture as other than society, or above it, thereby offering a history of "the emergence of culture as an abstraction and an absolute: an emergence which, in a very complex way, merges two general responses — first, the recognition of the practical separation of certain moral and intellectual activities from the driven impetus of a new kind of society; second, the emphasis of these activities, as a court of human appeal, to be set over the process of practical social judgement and yet to offer itself as a mitigating and rallying alternative".

Such then were his concerns for not separating or compartmentalising the inward and the outward culture so that he could counter the regressive attempt to erase the social struggle out of literature. Art-values to him were integral to lifevalues, though it is a difficult compromise as is visible in the awareness of the gap between the literary culture and the atrocities of the industrial set-up. His caveats against reductive sociologies of literature, against the separation of ideas from social practice were in keeping with his urge to focus the attention of all intellectual activity or the practical aspect of thinking about the future with its base in "human and local continuities".

In this lay Williams’ overwhelming cultural optimism and socialism that encouraged literary criticism to overcome the culture-pessimism of the past half century that had, through the now fatigued efforts of Eliot and Leavis, achieved nothing but "specious pseudo-histories of the cultural fall which science and democracy had conspired to bring".

His concern, therefore, was with the future, with nuclear disarmament and with the serious threat to the environment in the new millennium. This human predicament is clearly expressed in "Towards 2000": ‘The deepest changes will have to come in the old industrial economies themselves: not only in major shifts towards conservation and more durable and economical production but also in their deep assumption that the rest of the world is an effectively vacant lot from which they extract raw materials."

Here lies the concern of a creative writer whose work is interspersed with his critical writings. His play "Koba" which was on the rise of Stalinism helped him to clearly visualise the tragedy of the socialist debacle in 1956. This terrible experience went on to stimulate Williams into writing "Modern Tragedy", one of the most important texts on drama that aids readers to see connections and continuities between the ancient world and their own, a "border country" that formed the basis of his novel by this title and helped him to imaginatively distance himself from the industrial scenario to closely examine the agrarian country house tradition and nature poetry in the country and the city", the finest of his critical writings.

Williams always stood at the border country between the academic world and the New Left activism and commitment, between literature and political theory, a position from which he could reveal the unexamined attitudes and assumptions of the elitist culture and stand up for a link between critical work and the lives of people. It is here that his colleagues, readers and comrades will always situate him and remember him.Top

 

Preaching through parables
Write view
by Randeep Wadehra

Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka and Role of IPKF by P.A. Ghosh APH, New Delhi. Pages xx +215. Rs 500.

CONTRARY to common perception, Ghosh believes that ethnic conflicts in the post-colonial era are not necessarily the legacy of colonial rule. In fact, the author asserts that it was in the foreign rulers’ interest to contain ethnic friction. Thus, the British rulers in Sri Lanka used various economic and political devices to keep the diverse ethnic groups on the island together in order to promote their own economic interests.

Ghosh believes that it is the loss of confidence in the efficacy of the state which has triggered racial/tribal/ethnic strife. The resurgent groups firmly believe that the administrative framework of the colonial powers was faulty and forced them to be part of a system that did not look after their aspirations.

According to the author, a multi-ethnic state faces four types of internal threats and these are socio-cultural, ideological, economic, political and military in nature. The most serios challenge to such a state comes from communal violence, a weak nation-building process and underdeveloped socio-political structure. A lack of institutional shock-absorbers leads to the destabilisation of a vulnerable polity.

This was so in Czechoslovakia, and now in Indonesia. The former was more or less a Soviet colony and hence is an apt example of post-colonial social implosion. Of course, Yugoslavia is in a different class. An independent entity , it was clear by its nonaligned status during the cold war, but the various ethnic groups were more on less subservient to the Serbs.

In Sri Lanka ethnic riots took place in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1982 and 1983. After the July, 1983, riots the Tamils took refuge in Tamil Nadu. This also was a watershed year as the Sri Lankan Tamils took up arms against the state.

Separatism became institutionalised in the northern part of the once idyllic island. The author further states that it was the discrimination and deprivation of the Tamils by the Sinhala majority that led to the demand for a federal state by the Tamil United Liberation Front. The TULF tried to achieve this objective through democratic means.

The stubborn Sirimavo Bandaranaike government and the dynamics of competitive politics among the various Tamil political groups like the TULF, TNT (later renamed LTTE), etc. led to the demand for a separate Tamil state or Tamil Eelam. The LTTE, led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, upped the ante leading to ethnic violence, which continues to rage.

Geographical proximity led to a feeling of unease in India regarding the strategic repercussions of an unstable polity in Sri Lanka. Already foreign powers, especially Israel and the USA, were showing more than casual interest in the troubled island. It would have been imprudent for India to let its backyard become a playground for potentially hostile forces. In June, 1984, there were reports of Mossad’s active involvement in anti-terrorist activities in Sri Lanka. Ghosh has given a full account of the diplomatic activities which were slowly but surely pushing the island into a foreign orbit, something that would have hurt India’s national interests.

However, India’s involvement in the troubled island went through two contrasting phases. First, the RAW trained the Tamil guerrillas in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, thus enhancing their fighting capability and making them a formidable force that they very much are now. This earned for India international disapproval. The second phase was devoted to containing the guerrilla menace. To pursue this goal India first took up the role of a mediator.

When the Jayawardene government blockaded the Jaffna peninsula, the Rajiv Gandhi government airdropped relief for the besieged Tamils. What compelled the Indian government to send the IPKF against the same Tamils? Were the motives altruistic, for example, to usher in peace? Or did India foresee a role of big brother for itself in the region, by acting as the sole peace-broker? Whatever be the case, on July 30, 1987, the IPKF was "inducted" into the island.

The IPKF had the following main politico-military objectives to achieve: (a) to guarantee and enforce cessation of hostilities between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces; (b) to create conditions conducive to the return of the Tamil refugees in India; (c) to ensure security and safety of all communities; (d) ensure the disarming of militants and the confinement of Sri Lankan forces to the barracks; and, (e) to create conditions favourable for free and fair elections in the island.

That the IPKF failed to achieve any of these objectives is well known. The lesson, perhaps, for us to learn is that direct involvement in the internal affairs of another nation is invariably self-defeating. Examples of the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, US intervention in Indo-China and the Chinese attempts to "teach Vietnam a lesson" are still fresh in one’s mind.

Ghosh’s thesis is certainly a worthy addition to military literature of the subcontinent. Hopefully, Pervez Musharraf will read it before he decides upon a misadventure in Kashmir.

Hypnosis for Beginners by BV Pattabhi Ram. Pustak Mahal, New Delhi. Pages 160. Rs 60.

EMERGING from being an esoteric art, hypnosis is fast becoming an effective tool for both psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Several physical and mental disorders can now be resolved with the help of hypnosis. It is right now an important part of behavioural medicine. The application of techniques such as biofedback, relaxation training and hypnosis for the prevention and treatment of medical and psychosomatic disorders and to the treatment of undesirable behaviours such as overeating and substance abuse is called behaviour medicine.

The word hynotism is derived from the Greek word "hypnos", which means "sleep". The Greek god of sleep is named Hypnos. The author points out that the ideas, theories and experiences of some famous physicians, neurologists and psychiatrists like Mesmer, Braid, Eliotson and Charcot, who lived between the 17th and 19th centuries, form the basis of scientific hypnotism. However, even the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans were aware of the powers of hypnosis.

Psychoanalysts point out that mind is not an anatomical organ. It is much more than the organic brain. In fact it is almost impossible to define mind. The Freudian theory of the mind includes three models — the ego, the superego and the id. The id says "do it now", the ego says "not now. This is not the appropriate time and place to do it", and the superego says "don’t ever do it, it is evil and wrong to do it under any circumstance."

Pierre Janet originated the term "subconscious" to elucidate the theories of psychopathology based on his extensive work on hypnosis. The subconscious which today’s hypnotists speak of is the repository of forgotten memories, the source of psyche’s energy, the health maintaining mechanism, and the programmable bio-computer that enables one to understand the mind’s working and use it for attaining higher accomplishments.

Pattabhi Ram has also given details of the techniques of hypnotism as well as post-hypnotic procedures. A useful book for professionals and casual readers alike.

Snacks for the Soul by JP Vaswani. New Dawn, Mumbai. Pages xiv +262. Rs 150.

PARABLES, allegories or fables form part of a socio-cultural superstructure. Myths are woven around an incident to impart moral lessons to the audience. One can see countless examples of these in all societies. India has perhaps one of the largest repertoires of this genre of literature.

This narratives have simple story lines and are generally short, very brief. Each story has a moral. For example, "The elixir of love" talks of an ailing rich girl who lives a secluded life. A doctor diagnoses her problem as psychosomatic. The doctor takes her to the dwelling place of poor people. There she learns how giving could be both a pleasure and a panacea for the ailing body and soul.

Another piece, "Garden or garbage?" tells of a gardener who loves his trees so much that he will not cast away even their dead leaves and withered branches. Gradually, the once lovely garden begins to resemble a garbage heap. Dada Vaswani points out that we too are like the gardener. We turn our lives into wastelands by storing disposable worries and anxieties in our minds.

Then there is this Greek fable about Thales, one of the seven wise men of ancient Greece. This philosopher-astronomer would walk during nights, his eyes scanning the starlit sky. Once, in answer to a question, he remarked that the easiest of all things was to give advice. The most difficult thing was to know one’s own self.

The present volume has 150 short stories narrated by spiritual guru Dada JP Vaswani during his discourses. Prabha Sampath and Krishna Kumari have compiled them. The themes are varied. So are the characters who could be ordinary faceless folks or such well-known figures as Krishna, the Buddha, Prophet Mohammed, Confucius, Bhakta Ramdas, Alexander, Shivaji, Akbar, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.

These stories have been written in a manner that one feels impelled to turn the page and read the next one. If your want to wean your little one away from the idiot box, give him this book. It will do him a world of good. Top

 

Total focus on underside of life
by Manju Jaidka

Collected Plays by Mahesh Dattani. Penguin India, New Delhi. Pages xvi+516. Rs 395.

MAHESH DATTANI who? Not so long ago, such a question would probably be asked. For, until two years ago, Mahesh Dattani was a little-known name. Then, suddenly, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award and everyone started talking about him. And now, whether he is "doing the needful", or "dancing like a man", or "fighting bravely like a queen", or finding "final solutions" to complex issues, there is no doubt that Dattani has come to stay.

But first a word about the man: Mahesh Dattani, now in his early forties, spent his formative years in Bangalore where he still spends most of the time — that is, when he is not travelling around the globe or teaching the summer in the USA. An early interest in theatre prompted him to set up the theatre group, Playpen, in 1984, and encouraged him to write and produce plays. In 1998, Dattani won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for his "Final Solutions and Other Plays" (East–West Books). The rest is familiar history.

"Collected Plays" brings together eight plays by Dattani on diverse themes ranging from single-minded ambition to communal strife, from gender issues to deep psychological scars, from the most private of personal issues to the most public of social concerns. Dattani has it all in one form of another — matters relating to the psyche and to the individual self when the self is placed in an unignorable social framework.

His favourite target is the social fabric in which he loves to pick holes: social institutions, class, religion, the family. Particularly the family which forms the backdrop for most of his plays. Relationships within the family come under the writer’s lens, their frayed edges, ready-to-burst at seams, the stresses and strains of living within the conventional code, all come under scrutiny.

Doing so, Dattani works against a few odds. In the first place, it is the middle ground that he treads: he writes of the great Indian middle class which, he is aware, is hardly a theme to inspire a writer. Writing for and about the middle-class might be unfashionable, but not for him. He bears the brunt of the critical backlash, when he is upbraided for not writing of the working class which is generally considered better fodder for a creative writer. This problem, as he sees it, is part of the "politics of doing theatre".

Second, because Dattani writes for a wide audience, he stretches his concerns far beyond the commonplace. He speaks of issues that are very much in existence but generally brushed under the carpet by polite society. His plays are peopled by the lesser-known types, not the conventional but the so-called deviant variety — the gay, the eunuch, the "other". But, even as he introduces unconventional matter in theatre, his plays avoid falling into the trap of exclusivity and target the masses, using everyday speech of the common man as their medium.

Language poses another problem. The plays are written in English because this is the language that comes easily to the writer and best suits the middle-class characters he portrays. There is no denying that Dattani is innovative. His originality leaps out of every page. Theatre for him is not simply just another genre: it is a totality that includes within its purview not just drama and mime but also music, dance, and even cinema. Reverberations of the thumri or the drum or other forms of instrumental music echo through the various stages of life his characters go through.

Dance is not just rhythmical physical movement, but a medium his characters often resort to, symbolising as it does the various passions and moods peculiar to the human species. And cinematic devices merge with theatrical in the diverse experiments with stage-direction.

Occasionally the stage is split into three different levels, each repr senting a different setting. Sometimes action, and even dilogue, takes place simultaneously in more than one of the scenes.

Reading these plays is not enough. One needs to see them performed on stage for the total effect, with the simultaneity of perception, with light effects, the music, song and dance, seemingly ordinary techniques that acquire a new life and take on a crucial role in his plays. Even the characters are not ordinarily portrayed. They often switch roles, as in "Dance Like a Man", where flashback scenes, acted by the main characters taking on the roles of their parents, take the audience back and forth in time.

One cannot deny the reality of the world that Dattani presents. It stares you in the face, making you involuntarily flinch in each of the plays. It is a reality you may not wish to encounter. If it is the middle class that he focuses on, the centre and also its margins find their way into his line of vision.

The marginalised sections are represented by the hijras of "Seven Steps Around the Fire" or the gay couples of "On a Muggy Night in Mumbai." At the conformist centre, on the other hand, is the successful business class of "Bravely Fought the Queen".

But underneath the glitter and the veneer of affluence lies the ugliness of opportunism and promiscuity, greed and brutality, shame and guilt: a child born deformed as the result of gross physical abuse suffered by the mother. Similarly, behind the successes of the dancing couple in "Dance Like a Man" rattles a skeleton in the cupboard — that of a child sacrificed to the soaring ambitions of his parents.

Dattani is different, simply different. He is innovative and daring in his themes and presentation. Sexuality on the stage may not be new but "deviant" sexuality is. Homosexuality, which until recently has been a taboo subject, has been prised out of the closet and placed before the glare of the footlights.

Hijras, who have always been objects of ridicule, are sympathetically portrayed. The other woman, the conventionally maligned "keep", turns out to be a positive factor in stabilising her lover’s family. Socially accepted norms are thus turned topsy-turvy and re-examined. Again and again.

All this is very intellectually stimulating. Very challenging. And yet…. And yet, despite the brilliance of presentation, the novelty of theatrical experiment, and the interweaving of song and dance and music, something somewhere leaves you with a heavy feeling, an agitated mind, and an acerbic taste in the mouth. Is it the intensity of the drama? Or is it the dearth of moments of levity in the plays? Or is it the claustrophobic family atmosphere that repeatedly forms the backdrop of the action? Or the interpersonal relationships that are tense, strained, and stretched almost to breaking point?

Perhaps your dissatisfaction is the collective impact of the ugly side of life that Dattani repeatedly presents in his zest for realism. Human beings, because they are human, are victims of passion, lust, greed, and hate — negative emotions that one is constantly waging a war against. But when, in play after play, you are confronted with these negativities, is it surprising that they have their cumulative effect and leave you feeling restless and uneasy?

Possibly, this is the playwright’s intention — to leave you with this niggling feeling that all is not well with the world you live in and something must be done about it. To make you realise that you must seek the open end of the tunnel in which you are trapped. This feeling lingers on even after you put the book away.

So, in the ultimate analysis, you are forced to concede that Dattani is not just another playwright — his is an emergent voice on the stage that commands attention and must be heard. His are words that will echo in your ears no matter how hard you try to shut them out. For they relate to lived experience which, no matter how sordid or unpleasant or hard to accept, is still real. Still human.Top

 

Wanted: people-centred policies
by Surinder S. Jodhka

Communities and Conservation: Natural Resource Management in South Central Asia edited by Ashish Kothari, Neema Pathak, R.V. Anuradha and Taneja. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 507. Rs. 495.

THE rise of environmental movements in different parts of the world during the past two or three decades has greatly enhanced public awareness of the conservation of natural resources. The emergence of these movements has also led to a rethinking on the policies of development and economic growth.

The environmental movements have been quite successful in questioning the widely held belief that industrialisation and urbanisation can solve the material problems of human societies. On the contrary, the ideologues of these movements have quite successfully argued that an unrestrained use of modern technology was likely to lead to disasters. The policies of development that did not maintain a fair balance between nature and technology were in the long run going to be unsustainable.

While the need for conservation of natural resources has been recongnised by almost everyone, the framing of environmental policies has been a difficult task. This is particularly so of the Third World. Conservation and development have often been seen as being in conflict with each other. Further, environmental conservation is not merely a matter of economic choice. Conservation policies often mean redefining the role of the local people in conserving the resources.

Until recently, conservation policies were framed by government officials and often without any consideration for those who were going to be affected by these policies. However, over the years the official approach to conservation has undergone many changes the world over. Perhaps the most important of these has been the shift "from standarised policies and programmes initiated by centralised and urban-based agencies" to "decentralised, site specific, community-based activites". The most important component of this shift has been to make the local communities participate in the process of execution (in some cases also in decision-making) of the conservation programmes.

The papers presented in this book deal with the issues that have been raised by this shift towards community-based management of natural resources in South and Central Asian countries. Apart from a useful and detailed introduction, there are in all 24 papers divided into four different sections. The first section introduces the issues and identifies the relevant questions. The second has six papers dealing with the experience of community-based conservation in six countries from South and Central Asia — India, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The third section has nine papers on the "emerging issues". And the final section has eight more papers providing case studies of different projects where attempts have been made to involve communities in conservation.

All these papers were first presented at a regional workshop organised by the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, in February, 1997.

Community-based conservation is seen to be particularly suitable for the developing countries because the local communities in these societies "continue a day-to-day interaction with the areas and species sought to be conserved". In India, for example, excluding the local communities from the management of these areas has often led to conflict and clashes between forest officials and the locals. The locals have also been demanding that their voice ought to be heard while framing the conservation policies and they should be given some control over the resources which have been sustaining their lives.

There has also been a realisation in official circles that public support was necessary for a viable and sustainable conservation policy. The old approach that viewed the local communities as destroyers of forest resources has also been questioned. In fact conservationists now realise that the local communities have in-depth knowledge and experience of wildlife and habitat which can be used for conservation. Thus, involving the locals in conservation not only democratises such programmes but could also prove a more effective way of achieving the targets.

On the face of it the argument favouring the involvement of local communities in conservation programmes sounds quite convincing, but a closer look at the internal structure of the so-called communities raises very different kinds of questions. What are the local communities? Are they internally homogenous? Who represents and participates on its behalf?

The authors of the book are aware of these problems. They recognise that the communities are often not homogenous. The internal differences and inequities based on ethnic origin, caste, gender and age could "create profound differences in interest, capacity and willingness to invest in the management of natural resources". If presence of these inequities within the communities are not identified and addressed, the community-based conservation programmes could become another "power game with centralised political and social power changing hands from the state to a few influential sections within the communities".

Similarly, differential access to a common resource is a problem between communities as well. For example, one community may have better access to the market or with politically powerful people from outside than another community. The obvious example here would be that of the differences between tribal and non-tribal village communities.

However, the presence of internal differences in the communities should not work as a justification for the old bureaucratic approach. Various definitions and criteria have been suggested by the authors to identify local communities. One possible way could be to treat the historical relationship of the people with the land and the resources for recognising their claims. Physical proximity of the group to the resources could be another criterion. In order to take care of the problem of inequities "the most important step was to identify the actual user of the resources sought to be conserved, and ensure their complete participation in the entire process of planning and management of these resources regardless of age, sex, class, caste and power".

The authors also advocate appropriate legal and policy structures that would help in equitable participation of different sections of society. However, legal provisions, on their own, are not enough. The need is to empower the under-privileged sections through the provision of information and skills that would enable them to participate fully. In this, they expect the non-governmental organisations (the NGOs) and other committed outside agencies "to play a catalytic role". In some cases the communities could also resolve their internal differences on their own.

It is only recently that the significance of communities as agents in democratic restructuring of Indian politics and development programmes has been recognised. However, in much of the new literature on environment, the dominant tendency has been to work with the classical anthropological notion of community. While recognising the significance of communities was important, there was also a need to reconceptualise them in emerging global society. Merely talking about the internal differences within or amongst the communities was not enough. However, this is not to deny the value of this collection of papers.

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