|Monday, May 8, 2000,
Keep talks option open
Shocking and shameful
BEFORE & AFTER KARGIL WAR
Plight of Orissa villagers
Coffers and coffins
Where police has the last word
In what seems to be an abrupt change of policy, the Centre has dropped its plan for initiating talks with the leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference. Home Minister L.K. Advani revealed this policy shift at Nagpur and in response to a question from a journalist. It is possible that he was reacting to a remark by the recently freed Hurriyat leader, Mr Yasin Malik, that his outfit was not willing to enter into deliberations within the framework of the Indian Constitution. It has been the stand of the umbrella organisation that Pakistan is a party to the Kashmir dispute and hence should sit at the negotiations and that its goal is an independent state, not greater autonomy. But even hawks in that camp would concede that the Hurriyat leaders are in danger of losing whatever popular support they now enjoy and that it is bizarre to expect the Centre to concede its demands even before the talks begin. If their stand is accepted, the very need for holding talks is knocked out. It is thus obvious that no serious-minded Hurriyat leader can believe in the two preconditions. But the leaders have a compulsion: They are afraid of the people disowning them if they offer any concessions even before there is any discussion. Bluntly put, the Hurriyat has painted itself into a corner and does not know how to get out of the mess. Nor do the leaders have any means of assessing the popular sentiments; the only exception is Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq and his stature has much to do with his religious influence. It is possible that these men would be grateful to the Centre if it allows them to repeat their old position in a muted tone and invite them for talks. If the public mood is not hostile to their participation in efforts to untangle the hopelessly tangled problem, they may gradually give up the rigid stance. It is only a possibility and for that reason alone should not be dismissed out of hand.
The Centre is changing
its stand too often. Between a proactive
policy and no talks, Mr Advani has said more than once
that the government is prepared for talks with anyone.
And rightly too. A negotiated solution is the only way
out, since the Punjab model of breaking the backbone of
militancy by holding election to the assembly has failed
in Jammu and Kashmir. The North-East option of waiting
for militancy to first lose steam and then linger on and
on in isolated pockets is too painful and dangerous in
the highly sensitive border state. That means the talks
option needs to be constantly explored. Timing is dicey
but the present appears to be opportune enough. Militant
attacks are slowing down and the revulsion at the injury
to children in mindless firing from across the border
could well be an indication of Kashmiris losing patience
with the gun-toting elements themselves. The terrorist
phase has thoroughly unsettled the life of the common man
and no one likes to live that kind of a life for long.
True, to hope for peace is to be overoptimistic in the
circumstances, but to give up hope is to plunge into
Is the average Indian as brave and caring as the jawans who defend the country from external enemies and help the civil administration in providing relief to victims of disasters, or as gutless as the motorists who ignored the desperate plea of a woman in distress near Lalru on the Chandigarh-Ambala highway on May 3? It would be an act of stupidity to expect a gutless person to have the moral courage to give an honest answer. The general indifference of the passers-by and the hangers-on to the plight of the victims of road rage in Delhi and the car accident on the Chandigarh-Ambala highway last week have provided enough evidence about the level of concern of the average Indian for the welfare and well-being of others. The average Indian, on current evidence, would appear to be extremely selfish and a coward to boot. But for the determination of Mr A.S. Mann, a Chandigarh businessman, no one involved in the road accident may have survived. He literally forced indifferent motorists to stop and help him in carrying the survivors to Chandigarh for treatment. In Chandigarh he had to reckon with the criminal indifference of the doctors and para-medical staff in treating the victims. Only a sensitive person can understand Mr Mann's pain when he said, "I have never been as disappointed with the system as I was last night. Here I was trying to manage medical care for the bleeding people at GMCH-32 and there they were...an unbelievably callous lot who were ready to give away nothing except a stupid reference." In Delhi the situation is much worse. It is evident that the level of human indifference is somehow linked to the size of the city. In the national Capital road rage seems to have replaced the rules of the road. A few years ago the pampered grandson of a former naval chief used his BMW like a battleship to mow down a number of other road-users in a ruthless show of defiance of the rights of others. Eyewitnesses to the ghastly incident, for reasons which need no explanation, changed their story on being cross-examined by defence lawyers!
In November a traffic
constable in Delhi ended up on the bonnet of the car of a
son of an "influential" businessman for daring
to ask the culprit to pay the penalty for using a mobile
phone while driving. The constable was lucky to survive
the attempt to crush him to death. He is not the only
constable to have survived the road rage of drivers,
usually from the so-called "well-connected"
families. But, perhaps, the most shocking incident of
road rage, in recent memory, occurred on April 29. A
young businessman, Ravi Chowdhury, was made to pay with
his life for daring to point out to Jagral Singh that his
Maruti Gypsy had brushed against the victim's parked car.
Ravi Chowdhury's wife and children were too shocked by
the turn of events to have intervened. They watched
helplessly the gory spectacle of a film scene being
re-enacted in which the victim is first knocked down by
the villain driving a car before being crushed to death.
Jagral's two children and a niece, who were inside the
Gypsy, too must have been equally traumatised by the
blood-curdling and cold-blooded act of killing of a
fellow human being by someone whom they looked up to as a
role model. It could be argued that passers-by could have
done little to save Ravi from being crushed to death. But
did anyone from the crowd even try to stop Jagral, before
giving up the attempt as futile? Psychologists and
experts in traffic laws have several explanations for the
sharp rise in the incidence of road rage in Delhi. What
they say does make sense. But no one has yet identified
the real reason. It has something to do with the system
of issuing driving licences to applicants without a
thorough and scientific test of their driving skills and
knowledge of the rules of the road. Every car, scooter,
motorcycle, bus and truck driver has his or her own set
of rules and any other road user who violates them is
likely to become a victim of road rage. Add to this the
fact that there are far too many first generation vehicle
owners to understand why an upstart behind the steering
wheel is a potential killer.
& AFTER KARGIL WAR
COURTESY Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, as members of the high-powered Media Advisory Committee, Dr Mulk Raj Anand and I were guests of the Border Security Force in the Jammu and Kashmir region to acquaint ourselves with the conditions in the forward areas with a view to determining how best the electronic media could play its part. All through the recent Kargil conflict I was reminded of our visit particularly to the Kargil camp and what we were shown around.
Immediately before entering Kargil town we noticed a sort of improvised samadhi around an electric pole on the roadside. When asked we were told that it was a modest memorial to a defence personnel who was attending to some fault in the line on the pole when the enemy shot him down from across the stream. It is said that Pakistan forces were almost at the doorsteps of Kargil town in the previous war.
Next morning we were driven to a steep hilltop over 6000 feet above sea-level to see for ourselves a bunker and the conditions in which our soldiers stood guard. The drive was breathtaking, to say the least, with the Area Commander himself on the wheel. As we alighted, we were pointed out another hilltop at a short distance manned by Pakistani soldiers where evidently they had their bunkers. That explained why our hosts had insisted that Dr Anands Secretary and my wife accompanying us must put on some sort of jackets. You never know the trigger-happy Pakistanis seeing the ladies might decide to do some mischief. The Colonel was apologetic. While we could see the Pakistani post with naked eye, the binoculars helped us mark their movements clearly.
We had yet another surprise awaiting us in the evening. We were taken to a bunker across the stream and told that the Pakistanis had their sanghar on the other side of the hill. Then pointing to a sparkling waterfall, our host observed non-chalantly, It is our common source of drinking water. We draw water in the morning while the Pakistanis do so in the afternoon.
Now viewing the Kargil conflict in the background of this scenario, I am inclined to ask: how on earth we could at all lose sight of the proximity of these potential trouble spots? More in a porous border and ferment terrain. Agreed, in the alpine weather conditions when the entire region is snowbound, the practice obtaining had been that both sides vacated their bunkers above a certain height for a few months. But knowing as we do that of late Pakistan has far too many Afghan mercenaries free from their domestic fighting, why did we lower our intelligence guard? I entirely agree with the Subrahmaniam Commissions indictment that it was a miserable failure of our intelligence services. The intrusion was complete and total surprise to the Indian Government, Army and intelligence agencies as well as to the J&K Government and its agencies.
The result: we had to suffer unacceptable casualties in a short and sharp war of 50 days, losing 474 officers and soldiers with 1,109 wounded. The worst, it is agreed in all quarters that our jawans were ill-equipped for the extremely cold and frightfully hazardous conditions. It was a bold and brash move on the part of the intruders and they eminently succeeded in it.
Where they failed was that they could not internationalise the Kashmir issue which they felt the world community seemed to be forgetting. And yet Kashmir was internationalised all-right but in Indias favour. We owe this to the restraint exercised by Prime Minister Vajpayee who would not let his forces cross the Line of Control despite worst provocation. This led the international community realise Pakistans perfidy and condemn it for violating the LoC. They insisted on Pakistan vacating the aggression first. Pakistans strategy that a ceasefire would enable it to stay put in the bunkers occupied surreptitiously came to naught.
That ultimately Pakistan had to withdraw the intruders shamefacedly was owing to our political and diplomatic success. We hardly crushed Pakistan as it is being made out. Pakistan would have felt defeated if we had either eliminated the intruders in our territory altogether or taken them prisoners as we did in the aftermath of the Bangladesh war. That we didnt do either, explains Pakistans renewed cross-border militancy in J&K immediately after the Kargil conflict.
My conviction is that the Kargil war was won for us by US President Bill Clinton more than anyone else. Had the USA not threatened Pakistan with sanctions and the rest, for all that we know we would have been still engaged scaling the Kargil heights in our endeavour to drive the enemy out of our bunkers. I have known what an uphill task it is to reach those bunkers on peaks, more when the enemy is showering bullets from positions of vantage.
Incidentally, while allowing time to the intruders to move out without any harm coming to them (the time the enemy utilised in planting mines for our soldiers) did we make sure that Pakistan did not have any of our men taken as prisoners? ask this because in 1971 we released 92,000 Pakistani prisoners of war without making sure that they accounted for 54 missing Indian defence personnel who are still believed to be in Pakistans custody as spies besides, of course, over 200 Indian soldiers repatriated at the time. Mr I.K. Gujral, the then Minister for External Affairs, in reply to a question about their fate regretted in the Rajya Sabha on September 4, 1996, that Pakistan had not responded positively to the numerous constructive proposals made by the Indian side over the years for resolving the humanitarian issue. In the meanwhile their relatives in India continue to receive their letters and messages. Some of those about whom there are definite clues that they are still held in Pakistan are Major Ashok Suri, Flight Lieutenant V.V. Tambay, Major A.K. Ghosh and Captain Ravinder Kaura. That a number of Indian prisoners are held in Pakistan in most inhuman conditions is confirmed by Victoria Schofield in her book, Bhutto Trial & Execution:
At Kot Lakhpat, for three months Bhutto was subjected to a peculiar kind of harassment, which he thought was especially for his benefit. His cell, separated from a barrack area by a 10-foot-high wall, did not prevent him from hearing horrific shrieks and screams at night from the other side of the wall. One of Mr Bhuttos lawyers made enquiries amongst the jail staff and ascertained that they were in fact Indian prisoners-of-war who had been rendered delinquent and mental during the course of the 1971 war. When the time came to exchange prisoners, the Indian Government would not accept these lunatics, who had no recollection of their place of origin, and so they were retained as prisoners to eke out their existence in Kot Lakhpat...
The worst is that in reply to a starred question in this respect in the Rajya Sabha on March 1, 2000, (which unfortunately did not come up for discussion for want of time) the Minister of Defence stated:
The matter has been taken up on several occasions with Pakistan at various levels, including that of Prime Minister. During his visit to Pakistan from 20-21 February, 1999, the Prime Minister raised this issue with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the two sides appointed a two-member committee at the ministerial level to examine humanitarian issues, including that of the missing personnel. The matter was also raised in the official-level discussions held with Pakistan in March, 1999. The Pakistani side stated that there were no Indian POWs in their custody, but agreed to re-examine the matter afresh. The Government would continue to pursue this matter with Pakistan. All the missing defence personnel of the 1965 and 1971 wars, after a lapse of seven years, have been presumed to be killed and their families are given liberalised pensionary awards, which include liberalised family pension, gratuity, children allowance and education allowance for children.
This is, to say the least, callous and heartless.
Indeed, one doesnt know how to define Pakistans defeat in Kargil.
The writer is a
well-known thinker and member of the Rajya Sabha.
IF we look at history, we see that it is the idealist who is toasted as the salt of the earth. He suffers, no doubt.
Socrates was given cup of hemlock. Christ was crucified. Gandhiji was shot dead. Yet, they are the tower-houses mankind seeks light from. Millions of people, even since Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, have made piles of filthy lucre, yet, how many remember their names?
This, however, does not mean that there are no idealists among the masses. My father never took a paisa in bribe. He paid the price for his honesty: he was superceded twice.
I am proud of him. My only regret is that I find myself unequal to him.
I have a relative (You get so many in marriage) whose only ideal in life is to grab money. Though rolling in ill-gotten money, he gets scant respect. He has converted his coffin into a coffer.
What is an ideal, and how and why does it emerge in the individual and general consciousness? The term comes from the Latin idea. The dictionary defines it as a conception embodying perfection: an object which corresponds with such a conception: a perfect model: something that exists only in mind.
Roget adds: Perfect, absolute, consummate, non-pareil, perfection, standard.
Breathes there a man who wants not to be perfect? And yet the world distrusts the concepts of idealism, tending to think of it in terms of romanticism, visionary, imaginary, implying unreality.
You are an idealist, they say, you are not a realist, is almost an accusation.
We go wearing mask of unreality, playing roles we are never meant to play. We laugh, we hide, we demur.
When the mask is off, we are seen in true, unflattering hues. William James has said: We belong in the most intimate sense wherever our ideals belong.
Throw away the mask of unreality and get down to bringing forth, in daily life that which is perfect within us.
Our principles are the springs of our actions and our actions, the springs of happiness or sorrow. Sadly we uproot our principles, like children do flower plants, to see if they are growing!
Better be poisoned
in ones blood than in ones principles
is seldom the banner-post of the miserably shrunken human
beings who leave behind the stink that stems from the
debris of contaminated money.
THERE is a tendency to forget the victims of a disaster once the initial days of heavy destruction are over. However, the task of rehabilitating of the victims is a long process, and if this effort is not sustained even the initial relief work may be wasted. This is particularly true in the case of the Orissa cyclone and floods of late October-early November where the magnitude of the tragedy was one of the heaviest ever seen in any disaster in recent years.
To appreciate the magnitude of this disaster, the combined impact of four events should be considered. On October 18 and 19 a cyclone devastated some parts of coastal Orissa. The administration was gearing up to provide relief to these victims of the first cyclone but before this could be done came the killer super cyclone of October 28-29. This cyclone saw the unprecedented advance of tidal waves of around 25 feet high upto a distance of 10 km or so. Even the most elderly villagers who have spent their entire life on the seaside say that they had never seen anything like this before.
Anyone who came in the murderous reach of this cyclone could easily die, and predictably most of the deaths were caused in these villages. But this killer wave was confined to relatively a small number of villages. The number of villages affected by furious cyclonic storms and rain was much higher and covered a greater part of coastal Orissa. These winds in some parts had the power to uproot giant trees. Mud and thatch houses had no chance of escape. The fourth part of the tragedy came when several rivers started overflowing and flooded several villages in the first few days of November.
As a result of the combined impact the disruption of life of people is spread to a very wide area, even though the villages where most of the loss of life has occurred are confined to a smaller area. Media attention has been focused mainly in areas (such as Erasma block) where a large number of people have been killed, and it is true that the worst damage has taken place here, but the rehabilitation work has to take place in a much wider area. According to the commonly cited data (which itself may not be precise) over 12 million people in about 800 villages were affected. Nearly 14 lakh houses were damaged. As many as 9574 human lives were lost while the loss of livestock was in the range of three lakh to four lakh.
A recent (mid-March) visit to several cyclone-affected villages revealed a mixed picture of relief and rehabilitation work. At certain places outstanding work has been done by some voluntary organisations while even in some heavily affected villages people continue to live in badly damaged houses. But what is clear beyond doubt is that some very urgent steps need to be taken by the newly installed government in the state to avoid further accentuation of distress in these disaster-struck villages.
Firstly, the Food for Work programme needs to be implemented on a bigger scale, with a substantial contribution by the government. The contribution of some voluntary organisations should be seen not as an alternative but as an addition to a large-scale Food for Work programme taken up by the government. The government should pay the equivalent of the legal minimum wages in the form of rice and pulses to the people employed in the repair of houses, irrigation and other urgent work. All employment work should be closely monitored by peoples own committees and complete transparency must be observed in all transactions.
In recent years a very large number of heat-wave deaths were reported from coastal Orissa. This time many people do not have even normal shelter arrangements of their own. The shortage of drinking water continues to be a problem in several villages. Therefore, urgent steps should be initiated to create summer shelters where a relatively cool resting place can be provided with plenty of clean and cool drinking water. In addition, there should be an information campaign for protection from heat-wave conditions.
After summer there will be rain and some people feel that this time there is an increased risk of damage from floods. The bunding to check the inflow of saline water has been ruptured at many places and natural protection of deltic bunds has also been lost to some extent. The loss of tree cover is worse than before. Keeping all these factors in view, the protection from floods will have to be planned for an early stage. The main kharif crop has to play a leading role. This crop should be protected from the possibility of floods. It is extremely important also to make available good quality seeds, preferably of indigenous variety, for the main kharif paddy crop. Provision of adequate cattle feed is another priority in several areas.
The construction of more cyclone shelters is necessary. This can be planned as a multi-purpose two-storeyed structure incorporating the needs of a school, a community centre and a cyclone-shelter. However, the tidal flood this time was so high that this should be kept in mind for the design of safe shelters.
No less important than
material needs is the emotional strength of the
community. The rebuilding of the villages will pick up
only if the villagers can work with unity and courage to
start almost a new life. Fortunately, in many villages in
this time of acute distress people have been able to
overcome past feuds and faction fights as well as caste
discrimination to cooperate closely in the rehabilitation
process. Some voluntary organisations have built further
in this process by their imaginatively created
programmes, which further enhance the unity and uplift
the spirit of villagers. The Sneha Abhiyan for the
community-based rehabilitation of widows and orphans is
one such effort. This needs to be encouraged as it is
ultimately the human spirit which can overcome all odds
and bring new hope to these badly devastated villages.
police has the last word
INVOLVING the Public Prosecutor in (criminal) investigation is unjudicious as well as pernicious in law, the Supreme Court held last month, speaking through one of its ablest criminal law judges, Justice K.T. Thomas, and striking a major blow for the principle of separation of powers in the administration of criminal justice.
Investigation and prosecution, said Justice Thomas, are two different facets in the administration of criminal justice. The role of the Public Prosecutor is inside the court, whereas investigation is outside it. The Public Prosecutor is an officer of the court, like any other lawyer, and (like the court itself) cannot be allowed to be involved in the investigation.
And even as the court cannot direct the investigating officer to file an amended chargesheet more conformable to its own notions of guilt and justice, it is not in the scheme of the (Criminal Procedure) Code for supporting or sponsoring any combined operation between the investigating officer and the Public Prosecutor for filing such a chargesheet in court.
That in sum and substance is the law laid down by the apex court, Justice Thomas sitting with Justice D.P. Mohapatra, in the case of R. Sarala vs T.S. Velu and others, arising from a judgement of the Madras High Court.
Dissatisfied with the police for not arraigning the sister-in-law and father-in-law of the deceased bride in a dowry death case, the High Court had, in exercise of its powers under Section 482, CrPC, ordered the investigating officer to place all the papers of the case before the Public Prosecutor for his impartial opinion. And to lay an amended chargesheet before the trial court thereafter. Amended, that is, in accordance with the opinion of the Public Prosecutor.
The question here, said the Supreme Court in appeal, setting aside the order, is not simply whether an investigating officer, on his own volition or on his own initiative, can consult the Public Prosecutor or anybody else for the purpose of forming his opinion as to the final report to be laid before the court.
Had that been the question involved in this case (it said), it would be unnecessary to vex our mind because it is always open to any officer, including any investigating officer, to get the best legal talent on any legal aspect concerning the preparation of any report.
The real question, said the apex Bench, is whether the High Court could direct the investigating officer to take the opinion of the Public Prosecutor for filing the chargesheet and to file an amended chargesheet in accordance with such opinion.
That the Bench answered the question emphatically in the negative uninfluenced by the fact that it was a dowry death case displaying judicial detachment of a high order is important enough in itself.
But even more important is the manner in which the Bench chose to conceptualise its answer, skilfully employing past precedents on the scheme of investigation under the Code of Criminal Procedure to highlight, on the one hand, the independence of the investigating agency and delimit, on the other, the role both of the court and the public prosecutor as an officer of the court.
From the Privy Council in Emperor vs Khwaja Nazir Ahmed (1945) to Lord Denning in R vs Metropolitan Police Commissioner (1968) to Vineet Narain vs Union of India (the Supreme Courts final hawala judgement of 1997), a bit of everything that matters is cited. The aim and end-result, however, is not a florid proclamation of the supremacy of judicial power but a discreet reminder between the lines that that power too, like everything else, is subject to the overriding discipline of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The centre-piece, I would like to believe, in this mosaic of citations is a terse quote from the courts own ruling in Abhinandan Jha vs Dinesh Mishra (1967), reiterating what it had said originally in H.N. Rishbuds case in 1955. It is my favourite as well.
Investigation under the CrPC, spoke Justices Hidayatullah and Vaidialingam in 1967, takes in several aspects and stages, ending ultimately with the formation of an opinion by the police as to whether, on the material covered and collected, a case is made out to place the accused before the magistrate for trial, and the submission of either a chargesheet or a final report (dropping the case) is dependent on the nature of the opinion so formed. The formation of the said opinion by the police is the final step in the investigation, and that final step is to be taken only by the police and by no other authority.
It is open to the magistrate, of course, to decline to accept the final report submitted by the police and to order further investigation if the investigation already done be unsatisfactory or incomplete. Or to take cognisance and summon the accused for the offence or offences which, in his opinion, the report discloses even though the police has recommended that the case be dropped.
Or, contra, even to refuse to take cognisance of a chargesheet laid before him for trial on the ground that the facts disclosed do not, in his view, make out any offence.
But he cannot compel the police to form a particular opinion on the investigation and to submit a report according to such opinion... the magistrate may or may not accept the report, and take suitable action according to law, (but) he cannot certainly infringe upon the jurisdiction of the police by compelling them to change their opinion, so as to accord with his view.
Magistrate or public
prosecutor, for the apex court to remember and apply
Abhinandan Jha in AD 2000 carries a message that must not
has many faces
We in India now seem to have reached a stage past caring about what the rest of the world thinks about us. The national concern about a global image, which was a noticeable part of the psychological make-up of the intelligentsia for nearly two decades after the country became independent, began to decline with Jawaharlal Nehru's death. It has since almost vanished to the point where we even derive some satisfaction from denigrating ourselves not only among our own countrymen but also in the presence and within the hearing of foreigners.
This is not really such a great tragedy because self-criticism is a major step towards self-reformation. Nevertheless the fact remains that the thinking Indian has rarely thought so poorly about himself or herself in the past 43 years as he or she does today. Self-examination is also an essential part of the democratic process, and if it appears at times to be close to defeatism, this is not surprising in a society which has been governed by waves of euphoria on the one hand and spells of morbid depression on the other.
Today's over-riding national mood is a mixture of depression and anger. The principal targets of anger are the politicians who are not so clearly divided in the public eye along party lines. I have heard loyal members of the Congress express stinging disapproval of fellow party members, including Rajiv Gandhi. Anger against V.P. Singh is not uncommon among people who have chosen to remain with him after the split in the Janata Dal. Not every constituent of the Leftist combine is pleased with the leaders (Jyoti Basu included), and there are elements even in the BJP which think that L.K. Advani does not go far enough in pushing the Hindu claim to rule the country. We have thrown up our hands in despair over what our leaders have reduced us to.
These are, however, only a few samples of selective disapproval which varies in degree from person to person and from party to party. But anger at its strongent is collective that is, group reaction against politicians as a class, who are viewed (and often openly abused) as untrustworthy and unworthy of leading the nation. The reasons have differed from time to time in the past, and the major provocation today is the lawlessness in the country in various forms. Communal rioting is currently at the top of the list, but there are other facets of lawlessness too which proclaim a disdain of accepted norms of propriety if not of the law of the land in its direct manifestation.
Although communal rioting has become a commonplace occurrence in the past few weeks, mercifully it has not made us totally incentive to such crime. While the areas of the most recent cases of murder and arson have been limited so far to a few States, the unwholesome impact on the minds of people outside the immediately affected areas should not be underestimated. The fact that the community of the killers or their victims is not identified in official or media reports is not great help in keeping violent emotions under check. The public is able to reach its own broad conclusions from whatever it reads or hears. Thus the pretence of anonymity only partially softens the anguish resulting from death and destruction. Expressions like "members of a certain community" have become a transparent veil of deception.
As one who was eye-witness to some of the virulence of Hindu-Muslim riots in Lahore before Partition, I have noticed a conspicuous difference between the killings of 50 or 60 years ago and the spate of murders which have occurred in UP, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat over the communal illwill arising from the mandir-masjid dispute centred in Ayodhya. The distinction is worth mentioning because it possibly reflects a difference in the depth and quality of communal hostility between then and now.
When the killers in Lahore, Amritsar and Rawalpindi went about their business in my younger days they usually acted with a passion which was obvious to everyone around a phenomenon which was able visible in what came to be know as the "Great Calcutta killing" immediately before Partition and for which the late H.S. Suhrawardy was held mainly responsible. By and large the latest communal murders in UP, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have been relatively emotionless and mostly intended as a cold demonstration of strength to prove a point.
If my impression is correct, the conclusion would be that action and reaction have been more calculated and measured this time that they usually are in communal rioting in India, which often occurs over a specific and an identifiable incident. The mostly political character of the killings in Aligarh, Kanpur, Meerut, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and elsewhere seems to me to be obvious. Strong feelings over the Ram temple and the Babri Masjid have indeed been aroused in the past six months but these were systematically coordinated and turned into physical crime over a very brief period in recent weeks. The cold murder of women and children does not arise from deep religious feeling but from a spirit of revenge by proxy.
What does the rest of the world think of such barbaric and bestial behaviour? We have ceased to bother about such reactions. The national image interests us no more and is even considered irrelevant. And the rest of the world barring Pakistan (for its own reasons) has also ceased to be horrified at the savagery committed in India under the guise of religious sentiment.
Lawlessness in our country is not necessarily accompanied by physical violence all the time. For instance, how would you describe the recruitment by Laloo Prasad Yadav of 71 Ministers to assist him to run his ungovernable State? Is there any logical or moral justification for a starvation-level territory like Bihar to have a ministerial team of the size of a bridegroom's baraat except for the Chief Minister's anxiety to keep his job safe from potential malcontents within the ruling party?
Let us forget what the world thinks of us. Do our political leaders ever sit back to reflect on what our own people think of their political leaders? Apparently social justice means the distribution of largesse to shut complaining mouths.
We publish this
article written by Prem Bhatia, our former
Editor-in-Chief, to mark his death anniversary.
SOME very prominent Englishmen have passed a resolution condemning the alleged stoning to death of two Ahmadis by the Afghan Government and have sent a signed letter to the Amir protesting against the cruel form of punishing those who profess religious beliefs different from those recognised by the state.
These gentlemen are Prof Nicholson, Mr H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, Sir Sydney Lee, Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Francis Younghusband.
They are also said to have sent copies of their protest to the League of Nations and the Governments of European States.
We hope that the world
prominence given by this protest to the unfortunate
incidents in Afghanistan will induce its Government to
reconsider its position in the matter and abrogate a form
of punishment which can reflect no credit on it and which
undoubtedly stamps it as a medieval power.
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