The Tribune - Spectrum
 


Yes, trees are us
by J.S. Yadav

Man and Forests edited by R.K. Kohli, H.P. Singh, S.P. Vij, K.K. Dhir, D.R. Batish an D.K. Khurana. DNAES, IUFRO, ISTS, Department of Botany and Centre for Vocational Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. Pages 551. Rs 1000.

SINCE time immemorial, man has had close relationship with forests. For centuries he lived in forests as hunter-gatherer. It was during this phase that he invented fire and the civilization was born. The arboreal origin of man is never disputed. dawned. Tangible and non-tangible benefits man gets from forests are diverse ranging from ecological and environmental protection to wood and non-wood products, aesthetics and touches to life, conservation of living resources and the all important biodiversity. Each alphabet of the word tree, the dominant component of the forests has a logical meaning where "T" stands for temperature and microclimate moderation, "R" stands for removal of air pollutants, "E" for erosion control and the second "E" stands for energy conservation and production.

Most of the world’s forests have suffered from man’s greed for thousands of years. Today there is common agreement that forests are natural resources of vital importance and that they have to be managed and restored to their old health with great care in order to sustain healthy and productive ecosystems for future generations. Important global agreements, such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, the Montreal Process 1993 and the Helsinki Process 1993 have been ratified by many countries, but the world has a long way to go before the clauses are translated into action.

Regrettably, forest exploitations all over the world continue to be shortsighted and are influenced by the profit motive. Also, poverty in many countries makes the struggle for survival defeat the considerations of environment and future generations.

Forests today are existing in a rapidly changing environment. Much concern has been expressed about the possible impacts of the climate change on the forests, but environment is also changing in many other ways. Removal of vegetation, atmospheric warming, increased pollution loads, and a sharp and sudden shift in the pattern of land use have led to tremendous changes in conservation practice.

The fast changing life styles of man, increasing population pressure, rapid urbanisation and industralisation have replaced forest wealth as a main source of livelihood. Even though, the perception of how to use the forest resources differs from country to country, this resource has dwindled the world over, in general and in the developing countries in particular.

In India due to constraints of over population coupled with urge for fast development and urbanisation, the forest wealth has depleted to 19.45 per cent (with 40 per cent crown density cover of just 11.73 per cent of the total land area of 329 million hectare). Inspite of the meager coverage, the average annual deforestation rate of 2.3 per cent is over 10 times more than the reforestation (0.22 per cent). With the depletion rate, the efforts for the conservation of biological diversity of the country which boasts of being one of the 12 megacentres of the origin of species remain futile.

This has been so despite the serious efforts of the government to check the depletion of this nature’s treasure. There are many plantation programmes ranging from agroforestry, social forestry, urban forestry and farm forestry, apart from "van mahotsavas" sponsored by the government. Every year many trees are planted, yet the forest wealth does not seem to have improved. There must be some gaps somewhere, since the nature’s balance remains unrestored.

Man is undoubtedly the major culprit in bringing about this state of affairs. Unless man gets reintegrated with forests, the interdependence between the two is difficult to be sustained. These two are the integral components of the sustainable terrestrial ecosystems. Unless the produce from the forests is made available to man without damaging the source, the former will never be available for consumption of the posterity.

To discuss the ways and means of integrating Man with forests, the Dayanand National Academy of Environment Sciences (DNAES) with the support and association of the International Union of Forestry and Research Organizations (IUFRO), Austria, the Indian Society of Tree Scientists (ISTS) and the departments of botany and Centre for Vocational Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh organized a national seminar on "Man and Forests". The book by the same title, which is under review, was released on this occasion. It has been dedicated to Prof. Prem Kumar Khosla, Vice-Chancellor, Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University, Palampur, a well known Tree Geneticists and a leader and promoter of forest education in India.

The forward has been written by the doyen of forestry, Prof Jeffery Burley, the famous Director of the Oxford Forestry Institute, Oxford, and he President of IUFRO, an NGO established in 1892 with over 15,000 member organizations from 110 countries. He has emphasised the role of forests in sustainable development and advocated coordination of biological, economic and social resource uses from forests quoting the inter-ministerial conference on European forests, Helsinki, in June, 1993: "Sustainable management means the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, and in the future, relevant ecological, economic, and social functions at local, national and global levels’ and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems".

The book carries 41 articles divided into nine sections — namely, forest diversity, forest environment, forest improvement, forest biology, forest products, forest conservation and management, community forestry, agroforestry and urban forestry. There are contributions from as many as 74 specialists in this compendium.

The first section on forest diversity has six articles, including one by Professor Klaus von Godow, covering the different aspects of species structure, diversity and genetic variability in forests. Prof B.S. Gill and V.K. Singhal from patiala have discussed the morphogenetic diversity of Indian forest-based fruits.

In the next section forest and environment there are six articles on different aspects of forest environment and its dynamics. The hilly regions, according to Atul and Poonam, have different types of stake-holders. The upland communities view forests as a provider of resources, while the lowland communities look up to forests as a provider of ecological services; the government, on the other hand, considers it as a source of revenue.

There is one excellent article on the role and importance of mycorrhizae in sustainable forest environment. How different trees in plantations and forests interact for the good or bad of other vegetation has been discussed by Prof Kohli, Daizy R. Batish, H.P. Singh and V. Arora.

The third section on forest improvement has five articles dealing with the strategies for improving the structure and function of the forested areas. Prof C.P. Malik in his piece with a very catchy title, "Changing the biological software of tree species", has impressively discussed the techniques of using plant growth regulators to shape and improve trees. Dr Virendra Singh has given a comprehensive overview of the uses and functions of the seabuckthorn — a tree which will thrive in the frozen desert of the Himalayas.

The fourth section dealing with the forest biology has four articles with the introductory one by Prof. Khurana from Solan which analyses the reproductive biology of the populus ciliata. Besides, there is a highly informative article on the physiological status of diseased elm seedlings.

In the next section on forest products there are five articles on the various non-wood products, medicinal and other plants extremely useful to the natives. There is an insightful article on the production and commercialisation of the medicinal plants. Besides, there is a very interesting paper on the different plants used by the Gaddies of Kangra district as traditional medicine.

The seventh section on forest conservation and management has eight articles on various aspects and strategies being used for sustainable conservation and management of forests at present and the strategies for the future. It has an impressive analysis on sustainable farming systems and strategies for the north-eastern region of Indian by Prof P.S. Roy and one on the techniques and strategies for the conservation of Western Ghats by Prof. B.S. Nadagoudar. Dr M.M. Roy has excellently dealt with the role of the pasture grasses and the legumes in the joint forest management. There is yet another article by Prof. K.K. Nair on the role of tribals in the natural forest conservation in the Kerala.

In the eighth section on agroforestry there are two articles, one on the agroforestry approach for sustainable development in Arunachal Pradesh by Kamal Kishore Sood and others and the second one on the status and improved agroforestry models in the Himalayas by Dr Pathania and Uppal.

In the last section on urban forestry there are three articles. The first on how bamboos can beautify gardens, homes, offices and industrial establishment, has been contributed by M.L. Sharma and A. Singh. Dr S.S. Bhatti, former Principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture has added a philosophical dimension through his article, "Man and forests" architectural approach towards futuristic fulfillment". He also designed the title cover of the book.

Aruna Saini has contributed an inventory of trees of 189 types, giving details of the scientific names common English and different Indian languages, the native place, flowering time, nature of trees and their possible uses.

The book is a very valuable contribution to the literature on the forestry. It will be of immense use to foresters, ecologists, hydrobiologists, landslide engineers, geographers, policy planners and executors. In my considered opinion, it is a must for every library.Top

 

Nepal’s history laced with fiction
by Anju Mohan

The Future Vision of Sri Aurobindo by Om Poorna Swatantra. Sringara Prakashana, Chikkanayabanahally, Karnataka. Pages 154. Rs 125.

THE life of Sri Aurobindo embodies the motto of his teachings: To bring God to the world and to raise the Earth to heaven and thereby to lead man to perfection, truth, life and work." "The Future Vision of Sri Aurobindo" brought out to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo, contains papers by most of the prominent writers on Sri Aurobindo.

Om Poorna Swatantra is a research scientist of life in the line of Sri Aurobindo. "Swamiji", as, he is affectionately called by his friends, is the founder of Sri Swatantra Yoga Niketan, The New World Centre and New India Movement and New World Movement in New Delhi. He endeavours to evolve a new life and create a "new world" through the application of the principle of integral consciousness and the embodiment of the light of the supermind.

Sri Aurobindo had evolved the technique of transforming matter into spirit, the conscious energy, by treating it with the supermind. The A’tman, thereby awakens its soul and radically changes its core and constitution and opens the gates of a new world. Om Poorna Swatantra endeavours to use this new form of supramental spirituality, which has become an imperative need for human survival and future super-human evolution.

On August 15, 1947, Sri Aurobindo celebrated his birthday which coincided with the birth of free India. In his message he speaks about his dreams of which the first of a free and united India had been partially realised. India was free though not united, as the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims had hardened into a permanent division of the country. His dream of a resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and a return to its great role in the progress of human civilisation is yet to be realised.

The book throws light on various aspects of the integral vision of Sri Aurobindo. It speaks of the nature and constitution of life and the world in all its aspects — individual, social, political, educational, spiritual, religious and global. It refers to the emergent evolution, in which a new type of super human beings can appear. These human beings , the avtars, embody a new emergent property, they are a new principle of being and consciousness and manifest a higher and deeper principle of organisation. He forms the nucleus around which the new organisation will crystallise.

The book also talks about the future, the agitated youth, India’s role in the world, the cultural nihilism, problems and solutions. It has effectively brought out the essence of the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.

Appendix I puts forward the thought of some of the greatest spiritual authorities in India like Ramana Maharishi and J Krishnamurti with relation to Sri Aurobindo’s concept of Truth. This book is an attempt to change the materialistic approach of the mankind, which can only lead to its annihilation. Great thinkers, who were influenced by Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts, have spoken eloquently of his philosophy. Their attempt is noteworth.

Appendix IIdeals with the visions of Sue Sikking and others, who without having had any direct contact with Sri Aurobindo, authenticate the truth and action of the supermind, which establishes the validity of his vision.

The essence of the book is invigorating, however they are quite a few avoidable typographical errors.

Under the Painted Eyes — A story of Nepal by Ferd Mahler Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi. Pages 426. Rs 350.

THE three-part novel of "Under The Painted Eyes" tells the tale of the metamorphosis of Nepal since the Gurkha king fought and took over the valley of Nepal, through the rise of the Rana dynasty and to the modern democratic set-up. The author talks of romance and love over the centuries and the happiness and tragedy they bring. The book brings out mixture of the history of Nepal in the most interesting manner, in a heady intrigue, romance and war.

The author, an Australian economist worked with the International Labour Organisation for many years. As a consultant he travelled extensively in Nepal, utilising this opportunity to learn and comprehend its culture and history and also its problems. In "Under the Painted Eyes" he brings to life historical and fictional characters under the watching eyes of the Adi Buddha, which are painted on the torans of the Swayambhunath and the Bodnath and other ancient temples. The quintessential historical novel unfolds the panorama of events against a rich tapestry of Nepal’s culture, intermingled with stories of romance and love. The love of the writer for the country jumps, out of this book a very good medium to pass on this fascination to the reader.

His first part, "The Gurkha King," starts with the arrival of Hume Clarke in Calcutta to meet this brother Alexander Hume, serving with the British East India Company. In the first chapter itself the hero is befriended by Puskar Maske from Nepal, who had been sent on a special assignment by his king. The writer’s style of narration is intersting. The second chapter describes the march of the British army and the execution of the mutinous sepoys before the Battle of Buxar. Evading the Gurkha, King’s blockade of the valley of Nepal,Hume Clarke and Puskar Maske make their way to Nepal. During this travel they have the first glimpse of the king.

With their arrival in Nepal starts the real story of adventure. love, intrigue and atrocities. The strong point of the novels is the detailed narrative and the way the story is woven around the fictional characters of Hume Clarke, Puskar Maske and Maneka. The description of temples and festivals are engrossing enough to bring more townists to Nepal. Hume Clarke and Maneka’s love story and marriage form the basis of the subsequent novellar. All the main events including the minting of fake coins for Tibet, the search for treasure, the Gurkha king’s conquest of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, his treatment of the Malla kings and his exiling the Christians are based on facts.

Ferd Mahler’s has adopted, what can be characterised as a sub-genre in contemporary writing: a series of interconnected narratives linked by a common narratorial eye-I or a common setting. The main plot of the three parts is mainly based in Nepal.

In the second part, "The Great Mountains Weep" Mahler takes us back to Nepal for the second time with the arrival of Adam Clarke, who has taken up employment with the British East India Company. Set in the 1830’s the story speaks of the murders and executions; Rajendra Shah’s visit to the British Residency after the death of his senior queen, the heir apparent’s mocking and cruelties; the army mutiny; the threat to the British Residency; Laxmi Devi’s reaction to the muder of Gagan Singh; the massacre at the Kot and Rana Jung Bahadur’s appointment. All there are historical events, which the writer recapitulate eloquently. The description of the traditions and festivals like the harvest moon and the stone throwing are engrossing.

"The Rising Mist" leads us through the myriad of protest, demonstrations and the tragic killings, bombings and atrocities. Using the major historical events in the fight for democracy in the Nepal of 1990, the writer brings in another love story for yest another Clarke, Harry Clarke, who returns to Nepal to meet the woman of his life. Entrusted with the task of finding the best possible ways of utilising the money his aunt Mary Clarke wants to donate for the Nepal of Maneka and Lalit, he witnessed the fight for democracy by young students and intellectuals.

The first appendix defines the fictional and historical characters and events. To fill in the reader about the happenings between the time of the Gurkha king and the rule of Bhim Sen Thapa, the second appendix talks of the wars with the British and the eventual setting up of British Residency in Nepal. Appendix three narrates the story of the Ranas, who rose to power after the massacre of Kot, with the appointment of Jung Bahadur Rana as Prime Minister and Commander-in-chief. The rule or misrule of the Rana too has been well researched. Top

 

Good attempts, could be better
by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon

Guru Gobind Singh: Prophet of Peace by K.S. Raju. Ratna Memorial Charitable Trust, Chandigarh. Pages 159. Rs 300.

THE tercentenary of the Khalsa has sparked off a great deal of academic activity.The book under review focuses on Guru Gobind Singh’s message of love, brotherhood of mankind, tolerance and peace. Author K.S. Raju rightly emphasises that the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh was not a departure from the mission of Guru Nanak. Rather it was a fulfilment of the mission of the founder of Sikhism.

The author starts with a brief account of the life and battles fought by Guru Gobind Singh. He calls these battles dharamyudh or religious battles. This dharamyudh was actually a fight for righteousness and not religious battles as interpreted by the author. The guru waged dharamyudh against religious fanaticism and bigotry and injustice.

The Khalsa was intended to be a body of saint-soldiers pledged to ensure the victory of dharma over evil. As rightly pointed out by the author, the Guru maintained high war ethics — which included taking care of the injured without any distinction of friend and foe, no rancour against the vanquished, not to hit the fleeing enemy from the back and attributing of victory in the dharamyudh to God (Waheguru ji ki fateh). He notes that war, for the Guru, was one of the means to establish peace.

The author focuses on the creation of the Khalsa on the Baisakhi day in 1699 at Anandpur Sahib and its significance. While bringing out the socio-political significance of the Khalsa, he states that the Guru’s mission was "perfectly in consonance with the devotional programme started by Guru Nanak". This shows his inadequate understanding of the world-view of the first Guru, which did not allow any dichotomy between the spiritual and empirical levels of human existence.

The creation of the Khalsa by the tenth guru was logical and an inevitable culmination of the creative and life-affirming faith of Guru Nanak. A proper evaluation of the Khalsa, in all its dimensions, can be made only in the light of Guru Nanak’s world-view, his conception of God and the institutions created by him which helped the later Gurus to chalk out their socio-religious programme. It was Guru Nanak’s vision which Guru Gobind Singh translated into reality.

The author highlights the change in the baptism ceremony introduced by the Guru, the code of conduct (reht) prescribed by him for his followers, the institution of five beloved ones (panj piaras) and the five deliverances (nash doctrine) which distinguished the Khalsa as compared to the earlier religious tradition. But he has failed to bring out their full significance. He has failed to note that with development of its life-embracing ideals and institutions, Sikhism became an independent, conspicuous and sovereign dispensation with a religious discipline of its own.

Sikhs came to be recognised as an integrated community with an independent world-view and socio-political identity of their own. The author does not take cognisance of an independent Sikh identity after the creation of the Khalsa. He repudiates the notion of Durga worship attributed to Guru Gobind Singh which was completely at variance with the Guru’s gospel of monotheism. With his emphasis on the unity of God, repudiation of caste and the equality of man and woman, the Guru organised his followers into a distinct community with distinct symbols, distinct ways and beliefs.

A unique feature of the Guru’s mission was that no one was deprived of the solace of religion because of his low origin. The hitherto meek, neglected and downtrodden sections of the populace joined the Guru’s order to contest for power and position with the erstwhile privileged sections. The Guru’s followers acquired a distinct identity of their own which marked them off from other communities. The faith of the Guru bestowed upon them a socio-political vitality to live life more vigorously and abundantly as good householders and responsible citizens.

The word Singh given to the Khalsa became synonymous with a martial spirit, courage, nobility and an extrovert character. The Guru who trained the sparrows to fight with the hawks left a grand legacy behind him. The Sikhs have left a distinctive stamp of their bravery, chivalry and creativity in Indian history. With a glorious heritage of chivalry and martyrdom, the Sikh community has played a leading role not only in stemming the tide of invaders, but also in the country’s struggle for independence, a role which has been out of all proportion to their small numerical strength.

The author’s interpretation of the mission of Guru Gobind Singh does not take full cognisance of the history-making potential of the Guru’s ideology. The Guru gave to his followers the dynamic gospel of fearlessness and sacrifice in pursuit of moral objectives. He gave a new direction to Indian history by laying the foundation of a socio-political revolution.

The Guru’s Khalsa has always been in the forefront of resistance to oppression and injustice. It has stood for universal causes. The author has not evaluated the Khalsa in its true historical perspective.

The author makes an incomplete study of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom and has not been able to bring out its true historical significance. The Guru, no doubt, made the supreme sacrifice of his life at a time of a grave historical crisis to confront the forces of religious fanaticism but he also projected his vision into the future, thus fusing the timeless spirit with the spirit of history. A true analysis of the Guru’s martyrdom must focus on the essential element of integrity between the historical and the universal.

Guru Gobind Singh too look upon the martyrdom of his father not in terms of the antagonism of the age but in terms of the polarity of the good and the evil. The martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh’s sons should also be seen in this light. It is very important to bring out and relate the relevance of these martyrdoms to our modern times. This is essential for a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of the Sikh concept of martyrdom.

The book falls short of being a serious academic study. The author, with his piecemeal approach, has not been able to present an integrated and comprehensive account of the mission of the tenth Guru. Even the title of the book, "Guru Gobind Singh: Prophet of Peace", is not very appropriate. A prophet, by his very nature, has to be a promoter of peace. Can there be a prophet of war? Is there any misconception about the mission of Guru Gobind Singh?Top

 

Voices from a distant time
by Chitleen Sethi

Famous Faces, Famous Speeches compiled by Dipavali Debroy. Madhuban, New Delhi. Pages 355.

A LEADER is what people make him/her to be. Intrinsic greatness is not enough. Greatness must also reflect the flux of society to enable ordinary men to put one of their own on a pedestal; or else the journey to the stake or oblivion will be a short one.

Yet there were people who shaped destinies, who swayed nations and civilisations, people who influenced society and whose personalities affect what we do and how we do it. These people communicated through words, not written but spoken, often forcefully packed with rhetoric, sarcasm, and subtlety playing to the mob.

In this century of shrinking distances where any corner of the world is a mouse-click away, those of us who wish to study events that built, our fractured civilisation could start by studying these men and women who caused such changes. And what better subject than the very words uttered by such famous faces, a window on their soul and a window on the hopes and aspirations of societies they addressed.

"Famous Faces, Famous Speeches" is such an effort. It is a collection of about 85 speeches of famous men and women of the 20th century. These speeches have been compiled with those in mind who have had little or no exposure to the great leaders, thinkers, philosophers, saints, and even sinners. Another aim of this book is to provide a peep into the highly charged atmosphere of pre-independence India, to the "historical nobodies" to the ones born after 1947 are considered.

But the book goes much beyond this modest objective. This collection is tastefully done and fit for any collector’s shelf. The book is divided into four time periods dividing the century into four parts. Indians get major space in all the quarters (and rightly so) while international personalities have been carefully chosen as to include those who at some point in time spearheaded major campaigns or took decisions which affected a large number of people. The collection of people is by no means comprehensive or complete. But that is to be expected. The limiting factors are obvious, the size of the book and its Indian colonial context.

The speeches too have been carefully chosen, especially of those who were rather orators and prolific writers. Most of these are famous speeches and quotes judging from the impact these had on the listeners and readers. Though a book can never capture the total impact or tone of the men and women long gone, yet it can bring out those famous words which make the likes of us think and act.

The first quarter could be of great interest to the historically inclined. The words of our freedom fighters and social reformers make very interesting reading. One can see them directly and not through historical interpretation. And for those who were "born on the other side of that important midnight" it gives a whiff of the charged atmosphere of the struggle for freedom, the passions of our leaders and their spirit of sacrifice for their nation and their ideals. Also included is the famous speech of Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, asking his countrymen to fight for democracy, and it sounded almost like our own leaders fighting for freedom from the British. Also the voices of women for their rights and franchise. The speech of Emmeline Pankhurst may not be very valid now since women have equal political rights (in India at least) as men, yet considering that it was one of the first feminist voices of the century, it still has its importance.

The second quarter is clearly the period of men who were at the centre of major world events. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tortsky, Churchill, Roosevelt, Jawaharlal Nehru, all had lots to say. Another significant issue of this period is the growing importance of science and technology. A statement made in 1943 by Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM said, "I think there is a world market for may be five computers." Coming from the IBM chief it sounds rather incredible now. The iron curtain was a foreboding felt in Germany before the Churchill coined the phrase. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, talked of Ein Eiserner Vorhung with reference to Russia long before the term came to be associated with the history of China.

The third quarter too has some interesting speeches other than Gobind Ballabh Pant, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Rajendra Prasad, talk about India. John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Mujibur Rehman, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Bertrand Russell take up issues like war crimes and racial discrimination. A speech by Gideon Hausner about Adolf Eichmann is worth reading. Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi Colonel responsible for the deportation of over three million Jews to their death. Read this and you have history of Nazi Germany come alive. Jane Fonda’s speech over the radio comes as a surprise as her role as a political activist is largely unknown here. In the late sixties she protested against the Vietnam war and was ostracised as "Hanoi Jane" for visiting North Vietnam in 1972.

The final quarter of contemporary times has speeches by a large section of people. You have Seshan bad-mouthing the bureaucrats while Kiran Bedi speaks about policing the people. Hillary Clinton and Aruna Asaf Ali on women, Corazon Aquino, Aung San Suu Kyi, Dalai Lama on the elusive freedoms, and Amartya Sen on the economics of poverty. Writer Salman Rushdie’s speech made at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, New York, is rich in metaphors like his writings. Speeches of Prince Charles at an anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects and Earl Spencer’s on the death of Princess Diana may have some value for the Brits but seem out of place and trivial in a collection such as this.

Some eminently absurd but interesting quotes have been included. Dan Quayle said, "If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure." And another one by him, "It isn’t pollution that is harming the environment, it is the impurities in our air and water that are doing it." One by Brooke Shields said, "If you are killed, you have lost a very important part of your life." Nguyen Co Thatch, Vietnamese Foreign Minister, said, "We are not without accomplishment, we have managed to distribute poverty equally." Obviously, if poverty won’t kill us, foot-in-the-mouth disease will make us lose an important part of our life.

The book is also well organised. Each quarter introduces the larger context of the men and speeches included in that time frame. Each speech is titled. Next, there is a mention of the place and year it was delivered along with a very brief biography of the speaker. The information provided is concise but valuable. Every speech comes with the picture of the speaker though some of the photographs of contemporary personalities are of rather poor quality.

Another organisational feature of the book is the use of boxes in every speech that have quotes by other important men and women of the same period. At times there is no connection between the two — Amartya Sen and Sonia Gandhi (who could well be interspersed in the Nehru Gandhi clan speeches). Some times it makes delightful reading to break the monotons and draw a comparison but more often it distracts and confuses.

This book is a must for those who seek another perspective of events (other than that dished out by historians and sociologists), for today’s youngsters bereft of role models and recommended for our politicians (those who can read), for who knows, it may put a spark to dense timber. Top

 

Save pilots and planes so they save country
by R. S. Bedi

Attrition in Air Warfare by A. K. Tiwari. Lancer Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 214. Rs 495.

THERE are not many books on air power dealing exclusively with attrition. Initially, one gets the impression that the author has unduly restricted himself by limiting the scope of the book. But as one goes through the pages, the impression changes. The book offers much more than what the title suggests. Its revetting exposition contains gripping details about attrition from past campaigns. The linkage between doctrine, technology and attrition is neatly brought out.

A serving Air Commodore, Tiwari is perhaps amongst the rare breed of IAF officers to have undertaken this difficult task. Unfortunately, the IAF has not produced scholars and authors as the other two services have. The IAF is yet to come out of its ‘‘stick and throttle’’ mentality and nurture aviation strategists. Tiwari’s maiden effort is well researched and speaks for his interest and understanding of the subject. He has vast experience from his days at the College of Air Warfare, Secunderabad, air war course at Maxwell, USA, and as Director, concept studies, Air HQs.

What make the book so interesting is its descriptive as well as analytical contents. Campaigns are briefly but crisily described and dealt with. A comparative study of attrition makes interesting reading. At no stage the reader finds himself burdened with unwanted information. One is indeed grateful to the author for this impressive work.

Political and military leadership both have great influence on the way campaigns are conducted and attrition takes place. It is time to realise that controlling attrition will be the key to victory in future. Wars will have to be fought only with what you have. Production costs and technological complexities are mind-boggling these days. Production-wise the era of plenty is past. During World War II the Germans produced as much as 3317 combat aircraft in the single month of August, 1944. The Japanese too produced 2572 aircraft in the same month. But today, even the USA can hardly produce 20 to 25 F-16s a month, despite having unlimited resources.

The aircrew losses are equally hard to replace these days. During the Battle of Britain in August, 1940, the RAF lost 338 aircraft and the Germans 177 in a single month. Casualties of this magnitude are unthinkable in modern context. Neither the aircraft nor the aircrew are easily replaceable now. There is little option but to fight through the war with what ever you have. Preserving the assets to fight another battle another day as the Israelis did in the 1967 war with the Egyptians would be the watchword for the future.

Stalin once said "quantity has it is quality". But quality and quantity remain irreconcilable in today’s security and economic environment. Quality is a necessity but it restricts quantity. Even the rich and hi-tech nations like the USA has a limited inventory in some cases. It has a mere 20 B-52s bombers and 50 F-117 Stealth aircraft, for example. Mounting cost of combat aircraft has become a source of threat to its existence.

There is yet another threat. At one time the combat fighter jet threatened the bomber and chased it into the stratospere till the advent of missiles knocked it out of the sky. But now both the fighter and the bomber are in danger from the same common threat. While the tussle between the fighter and the bomber ended with the emergence of the "fighter bomber" with attributes of both, its vulnerability to surface-to-air missiles remains. The focus in future will therefore be to minimise this threat. Losses due to air combat are minimal indeed. Consequently, the battle between the air and ground weapons is turning into a battle of technologies.

The USA has been able to bring about a revolution in military affairs and wars with near-zero attrition. "The technology shapes the controls of strategy and the efficacy of tactics." In fect, there is an inevitable relationship between technology, doctrine, strategy and attrition. "Technological asymmetry, doctrinal superiority and innovative strategy can produce altogether one-sided results." Libya in 1986, Gulf in 1991, Bosnia in 1995 and Serbia in 1999, all tell the same story.

In the past "follies in strategies and planning and rigidities in doctrinal approach" led to mounting attrition. It is more true to countries like India and Pakistan whose attrition records support this theory. The author’s observations in this regard are revealing. During the 1962 war with China, the political leadership miscalculated and out of fear gave up the use of airpower. The Chinese had little capability at that stage in the sector. During the 1965 war with Pakistan India lost 65 aircraft as against Pakistan’s 25. Reasons are not far to seek. The choice of the Vampire aircraft to commence the war was indeed appalling. The crisis situation under which the decision was taken notwithstanding, it was a clear case of lack of planning which resulted in the first four Vampires being shot out of the sky by Pakistan. It soon led to the grounding of Vampires and subsequent underutilisation of both the Vampire and Toofani fleets, which incidently constituted one-third of the air force strike power. Perhaps, the need for an urgent response forced the air force to commit whatever it had nearest to the scene of action. But it did so "with the least concern for technical wisdom".

In the 1971 war also both countries lost heavily. India lost 56 aircraft as against Pakistan’s 75. Industrial nations are somehow more sensitive to human attrition. Over-enthusiasm to achieve results with disregard to attrition is a dangerous practice. Any attrition beyond 3 to 5 per cent is hard to accept.

This book is a must reading for all military aviators, especially those in the higher hierarchy who are responsible for doctrines and strategies. The book is a welcome contribution to the cause of airpower. Top

 

BOOK EXTRACT
How Punjab people resisted terrorism

TERRORISM is considered a weapon of the insurgents who plan to bring about a change in the existing social and political order. It acquires, by virtue of its ideology, a discriminatory character of violence, identifying friends and foes in the struggle. Whether and how far that character is actually maintained, compromised or altered in practice may depend on a variety of factors. In the case of terrorism in Punjab, the ideology was more or less clearly articulated in the resolutions of Panthic committees and their armed organisations which traced its genesis from the ideology propounded by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. All those who were opposed to their struggle were "enemies" to be silenced, compromised or liquidated.

Besides the agents of the Indian state, Hindus were identified as the clear "other". The purpose of targeting the latter was to make them flee Punjab and creating conditions for migration of Sikhs living outside Punjab to their "homeland". The Communists of all shades who strongly opposed the religion-based politics of separation and the members of other political affiliations were also listed in the opposite camp. The appeal of Communist ideology and the tradition of armed and popular resistance against oppression has been particularly strong in Punjab, though it is not reflected in the electoral politics.

Normative confrontation or resistance against Khalistani terrorism was believed to be inevitable. The methods of resistance by the people against the state and the phenomenon of terrorism depended upon the resources and the levels of ideological motivation of the opposition forces. Besides organised armed and/or passive resistance, there are the "weapons" which the weak people use against oppression and intimidation. The latter are no less important in determining the ultimate fate of a movement.

Bloch’s study of French rural history underlined that the peasantry could achieve more through their everyday struggle than through organised public opposition, since the latter invited more oppressive measures by the state. Following the lead, Scott recently conducted an empirical study in Malaysia. His findings showed how the peasantry’s everyday resistance against landowners in their daily life and work proved to be an effective strategy in the face of a far more powerful and ruthless adversary.

The case of people’s resistance against widespread terrorist violence falls, however, under a different class altogether. There was a point in learning about not only the evidence and character of armed and public resistance, but also about the coping strategies or tactics followed by the people, the level of tacit acceptance or rejection of or indifference towards the objectives of the terrorists in their local situations.

The intimations and common knowledge gathered in that regard is discussed in two parts. Those activities of the people which manifest everyday resistance and may be described as "weapons of the weak" are included in Part I. The second part includes some case studies of armed confrontation organised by certain families or groups in the villages of study on account of ideological consideration and or vendetta.

Everyday resistance

It was difficult to know exactly the year when this kind of resistance to terrorism began in Punjab. On the basis of field experience it may be stated that it became a part of common knowledge sometime in 1989. The widespread but quiet resistance of that kind symbolised rejection of the terrorists and their ideology under moral conviction. Other actions of the people aimed at defying the social codes imposed by the terrorists in the same fashion as they circumvented or dodged the law and authority of the state relating, for example, to land ceilings, distillation of liquor, payment of dowry in marriages and female infanticide.

Such a form of resistance may be discussed as under.

In March, 1987, the terrorists announced a 13-point social reform programme. The Sikhs were asked not to consume meat and liquor, not to give and accept dowry and to confine the marriage party to a maximum of 11 persons. There were other items too in the programme, but the above mentioned affected them the most in terms of their style of life or social honour. During the high tide of terrorism butcher shops were almost closed in villages. In Butala ten meat shops selling lamb and chicken had to be closed. Similarly, village markets, where a few drunkards were the normal source of entertainment every evening lost such a spectacle. One could no more see a drunkard on the streets in the evening.

Similarly, the size of the marriage party was reduced to the prescribed number after certain incidents of the terrorists humiliating a large marriage party. The practice of giving dowry also apparently declined and the people stopped the practice of vikhala (display of the goods given in dowry).

But did the people stop these practices in reality? This was our query in all villages of our study. The answer was unanimous: "Apparently yes." There seemed to be a visible impact of the commands of social reform. But in reality this did not happen. The people adopted simple strategies to dodge the commands. The butchers would clandestinely send meat to the homes of regular customers. In cities where the presence of police and other armed forces of the state was overwhelming, most butchers did not close down their shops. The village people would buy their quota of meat from cities.

Similarly, people could not be prevented from consumption of liquor. In Punjab there are three sources of liquor — namely, government-auctioned and licensed shops, centres of clandestine sale of illegally distilled liquor and liquor vendors and their home delivery service. It was interesting to learn that all three practices continued. There was a decline only in the consumption of liquor in public places or functions, particularly in marriages. There is no other area more prominent than the meat and liquor consumption in which the terrorists were so thoroughly defied. It may be mentioned that after the declaration of the social reform programme, the terrorists did attack some of those who violated the orders.

Why did the people continue to consume what was prohibited? There is no denying the fact that eating habits are socially constructed. It is not possible to change these overnight. However, meat and liquor consumption is not a key part of tradition. In fact, the rise in poultry consumption is a recent phenomenon. People started consuming these items in a big way only after the green revolution. The command of the terrorists could be understood in this context. The same context also makes the clandestine consumption of liquor and meat as a form of resistance.

The response to the size of a marriage party and to dowry were somewhat different from the above. Whereas the lower middle and poor peasantry considered these to be good steps, the well-to-do felt oppressed. The opposition came from the latter, though the others did not lag behind in giving and accepting dowry. This was done indirectly. After all, giving money in cash could not be detected. The rich peasantry began to organise marriages of their daughters in cities. The rise in terrorism in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts coincided with the mushroom growth of "marriage palaces" in towns and cities. Thus the size of the marriage party and consumption of liquor, meat and poultry were tackled by arranging marriages in cities. Organisation of marriage ceremonies in marriage "palaces" in towns became a matter of prestige.

The terrorists started indulging in large-scale extortion in the late eighties. Troubled by the regular demands of money and threat to life, the people, including rich peasants, started migrating to cities. The better-off among those who remained in villages were likely targets. It was understood that indication of possession of money by a family could draw the attention of the terrorists. Thus many people stopped showing signs of possessing money. Renovation or construction of houses stopped. So was the purchase of new tractors, scooters and other expensive gadgets. It is evident from the fact that after terrorism was over, there was a spurt in construction activities in villages. During terrorism even collapsed walls were rarely rebuilt.

The major incidence of quiet but widespread resistance was to be found among the peasantry in the form of sale of scooters. In Vadala Kalan, for instance, we discovered that practically every family had disposed off the scooter/motorcycle or loaned it out to friends/relatives in cities. It may be noted that the Khalistani terrorists were operating in a state which had a fairly developed network of roads. In such a situation quick mobility was central to terrorist operations. Therefore, the terrorists had started snatching scooters on large scale. Scooters/motorcycles were ideal for movement on link roads. Those living in villages, or close to the link roads, used scooters at it was most convenient. Such people became targets of the terrorist boys. When the latter came to ask for a scooter from a family there was no alternative but to comply.

The problem for an owner did not relate merely to the financial loss. Greater trouble followed when a terrorist abandoned the vehicle after an operation and it was recovered by the police. No villager could report to the police immediately after the scooter was taken away for fear of terrorist wrath. So, notwithstanding the inevitable discomfort to themselves, scooter-owners started selling the vehicles. The tractor-owners told us that they started keeping the tyres of their tractors deflated. Other methods included removal of a piece of machinery, cutting the fuel connection and keeping the fuel tank more or less empty so as to offer a workable excuse that the tractor was not in working order or required repairs. These were, as we learnt, fairly common practice which the helpless people followed as a form of passive resistance.

The everyday resistance came from the social and religious groups which were supposed to be the support base of terrorism. The Jat Sikhs turned against the terrorists first by not supporting their activities or by quietly hampering their operations. It may be noted that the tide of terrorism was highest in 1990 and the very next year it began to decline fast. The manipulated support base had crumbled. Something which could not be specifically investigated but was sufficiently suggested was that the police success related to the cautious but widening scale of information about the whereabouts of the terrorists provided by members of this group of resisters.

More significant incidents of resistance related, however, to open and direct confrontation of the terrorists by individuals, families and organised groups.

Open resistance

A few established cases, including those of open resistance, are available. One of the comprehensive reports recorded a variety of forms, identifying 25 cases of individual resistance, eight by families and relatives together and 29 cases of organised collective resistance, alongwith a number of rallies and public demonstrations organised by political groups/parties. Those who participated in such resistance came from diverse socio-political background and ideological orientation.

In the villages of our study we learnt about a variety of resistance. There were instances, for example, in villages such as Sehnsra and Ghasitpur where a village notable or a sarpanch offered an armed challenge or cases of armed members of a whole family which offered prolonged resistance in repeated exchanges of fire. It turns out that in the detailed studies given in this chapter practically all those who were involved in armed confrontation with the terrorists had an ideological affinity or affiliation with one or the other Communist group or party. However, the social dynamics of confrontation pointed to a complex set of social forces operating in a particular situation. Each case study presented here is broadly representative of a particular mode or rationale of resistance involving different motivations and their impact on subsequent events. What came out prominently from our field observations was that wherever individuals or groups put up successful and open resistance, whether ideologically motivated or resulting from a sheer sense of personal honour, it pointed to a noticeable impact on the subsequent behaviour of the others in the village — reducing the intensity of migration from the village and also fresh recruitment of boys to terrorist organisations. That is how our respondents felt.

The family of a middle-level Jat Sikh farmer was attacked in broad daylight by the terrorists on May 30, 1989. The family was caught unawares because generally the terrorists used to attack targetted people only during the night. During this attack the head of the family, Mangta Singh, who was 65 years old at that time, was killed on the spot and one of his sons was seriously injured. Mangta Singh was affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The injured son of Mangta Singh recovered after four months of treatment.

Mangta Singh owned 28 acres of land and was settled in a farmhouse on the outskirts of the village. He had seven sons, three of them were married at the time of the incident. The two elder sons were employed in the Thein Dam project as semi-skilled workers. The rest were living in the joint family. Three of his sons were matriculates and the rest illiterate. After the injured son recovered, the first task he and his brothers undertook was to identify the terrorist who had killed their father. In the late 80s many groups of terrorists had sprung up in the region. Though it was not easy to identify the killer and his terrorist group, they succeeded in identifying him as well as his organisation. The killer was Jarnail Singh of nearby village Butari and was active in BTFK (Manochahal). An FIR was lodged against Jarnail Singh and the police started raiding his house and picked up the members of his family.

The father of the terrorist was, during those days, a resourceful person as was usually the case with the brothers and fathers of the terrorists. When the police started harassing the father he started threatening Mangta Singh’s family asking them to withdraw the FIR, which was refused. Jarnail Singh’s father alongwith another person went to Mangta Singh’s farmhouse and asked them either to withdraw the FIR or be ready to face the consequences.

During a heated exchange between the two, Mangta Singh’s son opened fire and killed him on the spot. According to the sons, they did not want to kill the father but were only after his son who had killed their father Mangta Singh.

After that incident both brothers Sukhdev Singh and Banta Singh, 19 and 20 years old respectively, surrendered before the police. Both confessed their crime. Both of them were sentenced to life imprisonment and were lodged in the Amritsar central jail. Meanwhile one of the two brothers, Sukhdev Singh, was released on bail. Even now the members of Mangta Singh’s family nurse a regret that they could not locate and punish Jarnail Singh who had murdered the father.

We tried to locate Jarnail Singh and came to learn that at the end of militancy, he surrendered before the police and offered his services in apprehending the surviving terrorists. The case of Mangta Singh’s murder failed because of lack of clear evidence. Later Jarnail Singh reportedly killed his wife and he is also in the Amritsar central jail convicted under Section 302 of the IPC.

After the killing of Mangta Singh, there were two options before the other members of the family: (a) to lie low, seek security or migrate to an urban area: or (b) to challenge and confront the terrorists. They chose the latter course, more because of a sense of family honour than any ideological reason. It is obvious from the fact that after killing Jarnail Singh’s father they surrendered to the police. The concerned police officer advised them to forget the incident, and to go back to the village. However, as told by the eldest brother, they reacted by saying that the people should know that they had taken revenge of their father’s death. In fact, they insisted on being tried. This sense of honour was derived from the traditional peasant sense of living with dignity.

One of the instances relates to the role of Jiwan Sigh Umranangal. A senior Akali leader, Umranangal was a Minister in Parkash Singh Badal’s government in 1969-70 and 1977-80. He became a target of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale after the April, 1978, armed conflict with the Nirankaris in Amritsar. Jiwan Singh belonged to village Umranangal (near Beas) which is close to Damdami Taksal’s headquarters at Chowk Mehta. Part of the reason for his opposition to Bhindranwala might to the clash of political interest in a constituency which Jiwan Singh regarded as his pocket borough. In the March, 1979, election to the SGPC he defeated Bhindranwale’s closest aide Bhai Amrik Singh in the Beas constituency. Thereafter, as Bhindranwale’s fire-spitting militancy spread, Umranangal remained the only prominent Akali leader,who publicly campaigned against Bhindranwale’s actions and the Khalistan terrorist movement. His son Sukhdev Singh was killed in 1987 and several attempts were made to kill him, but he continued his fight on public platforms and by public propaganda in the area believed to have been under the strongest influence of the Damdami Taksal.

He also criticised the traditional Akali leadership for not coming out openly against terrorist violence. Later he resigned from the membership of the SGPC in protest against its leadership. His main grouse against the functionaries of this institution was that they had failed to maintain the sanctity of the Golden Temple. He therefore received considerable support from the state in terms of arms, ammunition, security guards and vehicles for his fight. As a consequence, a degree of resistance by the members of Radha Soami sect and other elements was kept alive even though he could not build his own organised resistance.

Another case was of a group of Nihangs under the command of Taruna Dal’s (a sect of Nihangs) deputy chief Baba Ajit Singh Poohla. Poohla was regarded as a politically well-connected person. He was reported to have formed a hit squad of his followers to take on the militants. The base camp of Baba Poohla was in Kartarpupr village near Butala in Majitha police district. He and other leaders of the Taruna Dal consistently opposed the terrorist movement in this area which was their stronghold. Poohla was heavily armed with sophisticated weapons provided to him by the state government besides a bullet-proof car and security guards. His activities took the shape of direct enmity with Joga Singh, a "Lt General" of the Khalistan Liberation Army. Part of the reason was their competing interests in controlling of gurdwaras. Poohla’s utterances against Khalistan and terrorism were a challenge to the terrorist organisations in the area and so he was placed on their hit-list. This led to a chain of killings of each other’s followers and other members of their families. In an ambush laid by Joga Singh’s men three Nihang followers of Ajit Singh Poohla were killed and Poohla himself was injured. In a revenge attack Poohla’s Nihangs killed seven members of Joga’s family, including women and children. The very next day Joga Singh’s group attacked the family of a Nihang close to Poohla and killed nine members of his family.

In another case a middle aged amritdhari widow, Amrik Kaur, of Amarkot village in Tarn Taran police district gave a tough fight to various terrorist groups. Her fight started with the killing of her husband by the terrorists in 1988-89. She belonged to a well-to-do Jat Sikh family owning more than 25 acres of land. When her husband was killed the first thing she did was to buy a revolver for her security. She also constructed a pucca morcha on the roof of her house. A high boundary wall of the house also came up. She was provided security guards, arms and a (Gypsy) jeep. Our respondents from the neighbouring villages of our study reported about a number of attacks made on her life but she and her security guards beat them back. There were other cases of resistance by individuals with or without their small weapons.

Logic of it all

The logic of resistance whether through passive methods or active ones of opposition and confrontation pointed to the level of acceptance or rejection of the objectives and commands of the armed advocates of Khalistan. The people who launched and actively participated in the movement in the name of their religion and community and those who resisted these belonged to the same community. Practically all of them on both sides were Jat Sikhs. It was clear that the general mass of people were too scared to oppose or resist the terrorists. Most others chose mainly to dodge them. Yet the incidence of disregard of commands relating to the so-called social reforms was widespread. Only a small number of individuals who possessed their own weapons could have dared to deny them entry into their homes at night.

The cases of open armed opposition, on the other hand, pointed to a convergence of personal reasons of vengeance and ideological impulses. One was reflected sharply in the case of Vadala Kalan and the other in cases of Harsha Chhina and Bhikhiwind. The impulse for revenge or vindication of personal honor, traditionally regarded as a trait of Jats was, according to our respondents, a major factor in their determination to oppose. Among the cases of public opposition in villages, clearly the major ideological force behind it, except in the case of Jiwan Singh Umranangal and Ajit Singh Poohla, were the communist parties. It is no wonder that, as we noticed earlier, among the political men killed by the terrorists, the largest number belonged to the Communist parties.

What our field study shows, however, is that most of those who were determined to resist the terrorists with weapons in a planned fashion proved, in effect, to be less vulnerable than those who remained ambivalent. Availability of sophisticated weapons which was possible only with the support of the police and the administration appeared to have been a crucial factor in all the cases of sustained resistance. They may well have been a factor in determining whether and how far could they oppose the state and police repression on the people alongside the fight against Khalistani terrorism. Whereas the armed resisters denied capitulation on their part in that regard, the impression which we got from our respondents was that the Communists fought as much an ideological war in defence of the people as the state’s proxy war against secessionists.

However, the personal courage and bravery of individuals in these cases of resistance was to our villagers a source of inspiration in an otherwise highly demoralising sense of all round submission to the "degenerate outlaws".

In the end it may be stated that in all cases of armed resistance the help of the state police in providing arms, ammunition and some guards was very crucial in determining the outcome. At one point of time the state tended to assist anyone who could dare the terrorists.Top

 

Never fair to, yes, the fair sex
by Bimal Bhatia

Women and Human Rights by S.K. Pachauri A.P.H. Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 297. Rs 600.

WOMEN and human rights are burning issues in India. When Bill Clinton boogied with the women in Naila, he was not aware of the remote Rajasthan village made "famous" by Roop Kanwar’s sati. And he would have thrown up his sikandari raan and naans if he had heard of the infamous tandoor murder case.

In India the fair sex gets discriminated and subjugated on all counts, and women are considered second class citizens. Studies have revealed that it is the woman and girl child who have to bear the brunt of food scarcity in households. The male child gets all the attention and calories while the poor girl gets the chores and leftovers. Female infanticide is common, and the methods of killing newborn girls includes the barbaric act of stuffing the baby’s mouth with husked rice to choke it.

Pachauri is an eminent scholar and his well-researched work — high on statistics and a historical perspective on the status of women — will be welcomed by all those who champion the cause of women.

Despite the legal safeguards provided for women, violence against them — both inside and outside the home — continues unabated. Violence manifests itself in rape, molestation, stripping, eve teasing, kidnapping and abduction. Open any newpaper and you will find reports of child rape, bigamy, domestic violence, including wife battering, dowry harassment and death.

Are these indicators of the type of society we live in?

James Mill in his influential history of British India argued that women’s position in society could be used as an indicator of society’s advancement. The formula was simple: "Among rude people, the women are generally degraded; among civilised people they are exalted." Mill explained that as societies advanced, the condition of the weaker sex gradually improved, till they associate on equal terms with men, and occupy the place of voluntary and useful coadjutors.

Having learned about Hindu society through extensive reading, including the Manu codes some religious works and accounts written by travellers and missionaries, Mill concluded: "Nothing can exceed the habitual contempt which the Hindus entertain for their women... They are held, accordingly, in extreme degradation."

Woman, according to Manu, should be protected and honoured at all stages of her life. He starts with the fundamental principle that "day and night women must be kept in dependence by the males of their families. Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her son protects her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence."

Manu Smriti is a compilation of the works of different authors at different times. The contradictory statements can thus be explained. Those passages which speak highly of women are in conformity with Vedic ideology which gives woman a noble position in society. But later, subjugation of women came to stay and we find derogatory references to her.

Sample this. "Women are like leech; but while the poor leech draws blood only, the woman draws your riches, your prosperity, your flesh, your vitality and your strength. During adolescence, she is in fear of the man, during youth she demands excessive pleasure and when her husband becomes old, she does not care a straw for him."

In contrast to these observations, women are highly honoured and praised in other passages of Manu Smriti. "There is no diffrence between the housewife and the Goddess of Fortune, both illumine the home and are to be adored as such. Where women are honoured, there the gods revel; where they are not honoured all religious acts become futile. That home perishes in which the daughter-in-law suffers; homes cursed by them come to grief."

Pachauri has compiled different statistics about crime against women. Madhya Pradesh tops the list of states where women face attacks followed by Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Of the less crime prone states, Assam gets the top honours, followed by Goa and Haryana. But statistics, being dependent on many variables, have a way of confusing and fuddling the main issue.

In India though 80 per cent of rape cases are prosecuted by the police, a large number of accused get acquitted because of delayed reporting, unfavourable medical opinion, lack of witnesses and so on.

In the USA and the UK there are rape crisis centres to advise the victims. Experts are sent to stay with the victims during examination by the police. Because of the shattering impact of rape on the victim — it is not only a sexual offence but also an assault on the individuality of the woman — there has been a controversial debate of awarding the capital punishment as a deterrent.

Just recently (as I review this book) a study by the National Commission for Women has recommended that rape should not be punishable by death. Inspired by the necessity to arrest the spurt in crimes against women, particularly rape, the study concluded that capital punishment would not have a deterrent effect. In any case, the rate of conviction is as low as 4 per cent, and if death penalty were to be given, the conviction rate would decline. Moreover, the rapist might murder the victim to destroy evidence . The advocates of death penalty argue that the sentence may be awarded in gruesome cases like gang rape or the rape of a minor.

Punishment, however, did not feature very significantly in the victims’ mind. They were more distrubed about the fact that their lives had been ruined, and are more concerned about counselling and compensation.

Pachauri also takes you through various facets of divorce and gives a run-down on Muslim law which regards marriage as civil contract. On dowry he says that the system has spread both horizontally and vertically — horizontally to regions and communities which until recently had a bride price system and vertically in the sense that there is a sharp increase in the amount of dowry demanded and given.

The chapter on "modern women" is a bit disappointing, though. He talks of the colonial times and the "new woman of the nineteenth century". Didn’t we step into the 21st century and usher in a new millennium just a few months back? But this doesn’t detract from the otherwise serious purpose and bulk of information contained in this book.

So, where do we go from here? Back to the first chapter and take a cue from what Pachauri says about evaluating women’s status in any society. The general convention has been to assess their roles in relation to men. Two other dimensions facilitate such an assessment, particularly in a period of change: the degree of actual control enjoyed by women over their own lives, and the extent to which they have access to decision-making processes and are effective in positions of power and authority.

In the end it is about empowering women through education. Maybe Bill Clinton should come and boogie in a few more villages to cheer the women and encourage them to throw up their veils and illiteracy. And while we are at it, let us not forget that our men also need to be educated and civilised.

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