|Saturday, May 20, 2000,
war in Delhi
truth about Kashmir
A LOW intensity war has broken out in Delhi over the use or, more precisely, misuse of public land. On one side stands a lone warrior, Urban Development Minister Jagmohan, squaring his shoulders, ready to take on the combined might of his detractors. And they are not only many but belong to all political parties, senior officials of the DDA and the land mafia. With his characteristic determination and single-mindedness, the Minister has warned that the ongoing demolition drive will not end just because there is a political din. His six fellow BJP MPs from the capital are rattled over the likely loss of electoral support. The Congress is vociferous in its opposition hoping to win over part of the lost mass base. Retired politicians like Mr V.P.Singh are aghast at the sight of municipal bulldozers flattening humble shacks. The DDA officialdom is scared that if the campaign continues, its own role in winking at largescale encroachment on prime public land will come to light and Mr Jagmohans rage will scorch them. Finally, there is the land mafia, rich and resourceful, ruthless and politically well-connected. It is throwing everything into the fight. All in all, it is turning out to be a pitched battle with no quarters asked or given.
And the Minister loves it. Mr Jagmohan sits for long hours at his desk and is ready for a prolonged showdown. And he knows the DDA inside out, having been its vice-chairman in the early seventies. He also knows something about clearing public land of squatters, having undertaken the job during the emergency, starting with the Turkman Gate. This time it is not so much the jhuggi-dwellers as the DDA flat-owners who have made unauthorised changes to create additional accommodation. This has frightened a large number of Delhiwallahs since a good chunk of the city lives in DDA flats. When his fellow MPs protested and later met the Prime Minister asking him to halt the demolition, Mr Jagmohan took it lightly, declining to take questions from the media. He changed his mind the next day. He called a press conference and rolled out his battle plan. He said he had no intention of calling off the drive. In fact, he wants to enlarge the war zone and bring the mighty land mafia in his gun sight. Land set aside for green belt has mostly disappeared. On open land residences have sprouted. Monuments are in the danger of disappearing. The rich have flouted the law to put up luxury buildings. This is the voice of a crusader and Mr Jagmohan is nothing if not a crusader.
In cities the most
prized is land and in Delhi as in other places it is
public land. From local thugs to organised building
cartels people have a variety of sources to buy land and
build a house, if one has the money. But often people do
not have money and land sharks meet their demand. One
report says that in a new settlement named Manglapuri
near Dwarka, more than 100 prime plots have been seized
by the mafia and sold for building commercial property.
The DDA has not bothered to do anything. The Minister
wants to first eliminate the nexus between the land mafia
and the DDA bureaucrats and then eliminate the mafia. He
knows he enjoys support even if no one demonstrates it
since no one wants to back demolition. Even otherwise, he
is not the one to give up. Remember his running battle
with the cellular telephone operators? They won but he
did not lose; he merely shifted to another Ministry. This
time too the end game cannot be different. Either the
land mafia goes or Mr Jagmohan goes to another Ministry.
THE talks that the visiting German Foreign Minister, Mr Joschka Fischer, held in Delhi went well beyond bilateral and regional issues. In fact, these need to be seen in the backdrop of improving ties of India with Europe as a whole. The visit has come on the heels of similar trips by the French Foreign Minister and the British Foreign Secretary. One common strand that has been visible is the altered public perception in the West about India. The mention that nearly all the dignitaries made about the importance of India and China in shaping the evolving international system was not just rhetoric. Recent events have made the world sit back and take notice of the major changes taking place in this ancient country. India's democracy, market economy and the rule of law make it stand out in entire Asia. Its restraint during the Kargil war, its engagement in the Lahore diplomacy process and respect for the Line of Control have all been noticed internationally. Even the release of Hurriyat Conference leaders has helped alter perceptions. From the bonhomie visible during the German Minister's visit, it can be presumed that the summit between India and the European Union next month will move along optimistic lines. The offer to give green cards to Indian information technology experts can lay the foundation of abiding relationship in this vital field. Significantly, Germany has also backed India's claim for a permanent seat in the expanded United Nations Security Council, albeit indirectly. It must be kept in mind that Germany is a strong contender for a seat. While Mr Fischer talked of working together for an early revamping of the UN system, the German Ambassador, Dr Heinrich Dietrich- Dieckmann, had earlier gone to the extent of saying that India was a natural candidate for a permanent seat. The acknowledgement of India's role in the Sri Lankan crisis is another healthy sign. The two countries have resolved to deepen their cooperation in combating terrorism and organised crime and will strive for close coordination in the United Nations.
That does not mean that
there are no stumbling blocks on the path to heightened
cooperation. While Germany skirted contentious nuclear
issues, it has obliquely but forcefully asked India to
sign the CTBT. At the same time, there has been no
progress on the question of continuing German
restrictions on aid to India imposed after the May, 1998,
nuclear tests. The Foreign Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh,
has tried to make light of the issue by saying that
cooperation between the two countries should not be
measured by any one factor. But this will be one of the
most important factors. In fact, prior to the visit,
there was an indication that the restrictions will be
lifted but that has not come about. Still, the German
Minister making India his first port of call in his trip
to Asia is an encouraging sign.
A BIT of Princess Diana's passion for taking up socially relevant issues seems to have rubbed off on Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Before her tragic end in a car accident in Paris Diana had emerged as a powerful voice against the use of landmines for fighting wars. Her work among the landmine victims took her to new heights of popularity. Prince Charles has found in the genetic modification of foods an equally powerful cause to champion. Delivering this year's Reith Lectures, broadcast by BBC on Wednesday, the Prince took everyone by surprise when he expressed his unhappiness over the way science was being abused for changing the natural characterstic of foods. The lecture was controversial for two reasons.One, British monarchy is expected not to discuss in public politically sensitive issues. Second, the arguments in defence of genetic tinkering with foods for increasing production too are as convincing as those against it. His open attack has raised eyebrows in commercial circles as well, because Britain is among the leading nations where genetic modification enjoys official backing "for meeting the demand for increased volumes of food by the global community". The "greenniks" are obviously happy with the royal patronage their call for "going back to nature" has received. Prince Charles even injected a bit of spiritual content in his lecture by stating that man should accept "the guiding hand" of the supreme creator.... "because of this inability to accept the existence of a guiding hand that nature has come to be regarded as a system that can be engineered for our own convenience... It is important to rediscover a reverence for the natural world, irrespective of its usefulness to ourselves".
The reactions to the
lecture were on expected lines. Mr Charles Secrett,
Director of the Friends of the Earth, was certain that
the Prince's remarks would serve the purpose of a
"wake up call" for politicians and business
leaders. His remarks may also embarrass the government
which is already having to face public criticism for its
soft stand on allowing genetical modification of foods.
But those who have placed market forces a notch above the
"forces of nature" were not amused by the
Prince's plain speaking. A market-driven world, which
brushed aside the ethical and moral issues raised by the
cloning of farm animals, is not likely to pay much heed
to the royal expression of displeasure over genetically
induced changes in the basic nature of foods. The Prince
may have received a standing ovation for his pro-nature
views had he delivered the lecture in India. He spoke the
language of Indian sages when he exhorted mankind to
"live up to the sacred trust that has been placed in
us by our creator.... if literally nothing is held sacred
any more, what is there to prevent us treating our entire
world as some great laboratory of life with potentially
disastrous long-term consequences? If the powers of
the monarchy could be restored and Britain still had an
empire over which the sun never set, Prince Charles with
his passionate denunciation of the evil that science has
unleashed may have emerged as the saviour of mankind.
EVERY few years we are deeply troubled by the violence in Jammu & Kashmir, and well-meaning persons come forward with new plans for solving the problem. There is no fresh thinking, however. Nobody dares to say that the bilateral approach has failed: that it can never succeed because the Pakistan army does not want the Kashmir problem to be settled. Yet we are naive enough to believe that the well-entrenched army of Pakistan will agree to peace, agree to sign its own disbandment, forget its success in Afghanistan, agree to dissolve military rule, and face the wrath of a democracy that it has ransacked again and again?
There is a clear division between what the people of Pakistan want, and what the senior army officers supported by the clerics want. The people want democracy, whatever its defects. The Pakistan army thinks differently. It seems to have chalked out a new route to world power by recruiting men from war-ravaged Afghanistan, training and equipping them, and sending them out as their agents to fight wherever they are required in the world as in Kashmir. The Generals will, therefore, find a hundred reasons to oppose the restoration of democracy the main one being that they have devised another route for the glory of Islam. They want to win by waging a righteous war all around the globe. We call it terrorism. Yet the majority of younger officers are like ours, modern and fun-loving, and do not want to lose the support of the West.
They say that the UN resolution on a plebiscite has not been carried out to ascertain the wishes of the people of Kashmir. Can that be done now? And if it turns out that the people in the Pakistan part want to stay with Pakistan, and people in the Indian part want to stay with India (in each case the devil they know), what is the guarantee that the problem will be accepted as solved? Can we believe that there will be no further attempt to push the proxy war? Our experience has been that each time we felt that peace had been restored, a new way of pushing fundamentalism came out in the open. The Pakistan army certainly plays its war games with dynamic ingenuity. It is only our Hurriyat that is pushed about both by the government and the terrorists, and our military that has to practise democratic restraint and our people in Jammu and Kashmir that have to suffer.
In the first place, all the efforts to induct terrorists into Kashmir are done on the ground that the people need support to express their dissatisfaction with Indian rule. That is a deception. It is a part of the game plan of the Pakistani military to seek support for military rule by claiming victory over India. In 1965 when General Ayub found his dictatorship was tottering, he thought that the best way to make Pakistan proud of him would be to infiltrate about 4000 commandos on the border, move them up to Srinagar, and celebrate victory for Pakistan. When he failed, the students of Peshawar forced him to resign. The Tashkant Agreement that followed promised peace. It lasted only for a few years.
Then Kashmir was forgotten because East Pakistan raised its head and had to be clobbered. Once again the people of J & K gave us full support in the 71 war. When India helped the Bengalis to secure their freedom, we traded 90,000 prisoners for peace in the sub-continent, with Bhutto swearing everlasting peace if we would release them. We believed him, and Zia-ul-Haq hanged him, because he did not trust his democratic pretensions.
There were a few years of peace in Kashmir, after the war. House-boats were full, the fruit trade flourished, the shikaras rowed up and down the Dal Lake. Gen Zia-ul-Haq and the Pakistan army were busy securing the release of Afghanistan from Russian rule with American help, so Zia had to show a wide-smiling face to India, and we were all glad that the fracas was over.
While Zia was in power, no Kashmiri thought of joining Pakistan. The idea of becoming part of a dictatorship had no support at all. Then economic compulsions arose. Dissatisfaction appeared because crops were bad, the tourist trade was affected, and when Benazir came back with a massive majority, the clerics began to find suitable ground for an azadi movement in Kashmir through schools. It was then that we began to make mistakes. We ignored the schools.
As usual some military and police officers promised an early end to the movement by harsh measures. Human rights were a luxury of the West, they said; and slowly alienation began to appear owing to the mishandling of situations, the Mirwaiz funeral, and Sopore, Lal Chowk, Bijbehara and other places. No people in the world could have borne the casualties without turning against the administration. It is our warped way of imposing peace that is the cause of alienation. I think they still want to be with India, as they did 50 years ago. We have to make amends for the wrongs we have done, certainly by generous economic help. Not to compensate the border villagers for the houses and fields they gave to the army is unforgivable.
At this stage the human rights agencies began to say that we were making a mistake. A few perceptive IAS and IPS officers raised their voice to support Kashmir politicians against atrocities. It was in this period that an evaluation of the work of the security forces was done. We came to accept, without mentioning it publicly, that there were many mistakes, and what the human rights people and our Human Rights Commission were saying must be taken note of, and we must redesign our responses in such a way that excesses are not committed. There was a noticeable improvement when Advani resumed charge. The mood at present in J & K is optimistic, and it would be useful for all local parties in J & K to put forward their views, including whatever grievances there are, which we are afraid to mention or to correct.
We may be quite wrong in assuming that there is a common policy and purpose in all that is happening in Pakistan. The conviction that we have in India is that Pakistan is viciously against us. They think the same about India. Both may be wrong. We have to presume that there are many in Pakistan, as in India probably a majority who feel that the only way to succeed, or even survive, is to think in terms of trade and friendly bilateral relations, because we are one people.
Persons who have come to India in the people-to-people contacts (Fatima Shah, Mainstream, May 6) have been saying that we are making a mistake in not accepting the offer of General Musharraf for talks with the Indian Prime Minister. The General, they say, is not the diehard type that the Indian media have made him out to be. He is not a war-monger. One aspect that we cannot ignore is that his part may not have been the dominant one in Kargil. We do not know what the cross-currents of Pakistan military politics were at the time. What General Musharraf may have tried to do is to contain the aggressive spirit of some of his ambitious officers. If that is the case, Musharrafs part may have been misunderstood by us in India, and we may be totally wrong in our deductions about his intentions. In fact the whole episode of Musharrafs dismissal and the toppling of Nawaz Sharif looks like a botched up personal conflict, in which nobody suspected that the result would be a break with democracy for a long period.
I have no doubt that a
meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and the
Pakistan Chief Executive is required to clear the air,
and I consider it the duty of India to make some
conciliatory moves, even to help Pakistan by starting
talks at Foreign Minister level to prepare the ground for
a summit. President Clinton has given the right advice to
us, and both sides must accept it. The Kashmir
problem however will continue till Pakistan
democracy is able to rein in the Generals. A sensible
Prime Minister and a sensible Army Chief should be able
to work out a relationship. Basically the Pakistan army
is a smart fighting outfit, not a gang of bearded
MY entry into the fourth class of the school started with an essay to be written on The Cow. My teacher used to say. A cow is called mother because you drink its milk. And all my essays on The Cow till I passed FA (Faculty of Arts) carried that note somewhere in the content. Today, when I am enjoying the youth of old age, my eight-year-old granddaughter Rupali, who remembers all the Zodiac signs, gives me, at least, one smart shock daily. Her essay on The Cow reads: Cow is an animal like a bull. But bull does not give milk. My nanaji is also a bull Taurus and he gives me milk to drink. After a few days she rewrote the essay and it contained. Cows milk is white blood. No child should drink it. It is bad to drink your mothers blood. Now my Nanaji will not force me to drink milk. Thank you auntie Maneka.
Times have really changed. Child today, no doubt, is father of the man.
I remember that in the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, present Health Minister, Jagat Prakash Nadda when he was in the opposition, criticised the Budget speech presented by the treasury branch as having no vision and was identical to the essay on The Cow that he used to write in the fifth class. The only difference was that his cow in the essay used to give milk but the present Budget Speech was totally dry, he had said.
The Cow once figured in the Clerk Grade Examination held by the UPSC. The essay written by a candidate qualifying the examination was reproduced unedited by the telegraph. I venture to give here the edited version of the Hindustani bovine.
The cow is a successful animal.... Because he is female, he gives milk but will do so when he is got child. He is same like God, sacred to Hindus and useful to man. But he has four legs together. Two are forward and two are afterwards...
His motion is slow.... Also his other motion is much useful to trees, plants as well as making flat cakes in hand and drying in sun. She chew with his teeth whom are situated in the inside of the mouth....
His only attacking and defending organ is the horn, .... This is done by bowing his head whereby he causes the weapons to be paralleled to the ground of the earth and instantly proceed with great velocity forwards.
He has got tail also, but not like similar animals. It has hairs on the other end of the other side. This is done to frighten away the flies which alight on his body whereupon he gives hit with it.
The palms of his feet are soft unto the touch. So the grasses heads would not get crushed. At night time... on the ground he shuts his eyes like his relatives, the horse does not do so.
This is cow.
THERE are really only two things you can do when you are convalescing: read and watch television. So, during the three weeks that I have been in convalescent mode I have spent much time wading through a daily mountain of newspapers from Delhi and Mumbai. I read them anyway, but, usually, pay attention only to the things that interest me. Convalescence has given me time to pay more careful attention to detail and I have to say I have been more than slightly shocked by the obsession with trivia that seems to be the most visible common feature of our national press.
The drought has, for instance, disappeared from front pages not because it is over but because another Indian Miss Universe has caused more excitement than the desperate plight of rural India where so basic a need as water is no longer easily available. Not only did Lara Dutta make front pages across the country but several of our more serious newspapers had editorials exulting over her success. Let me give you a few samples. Three cheers for beauty pageants. Three cheers for the Indian winning spirit that propelled Lara Dutta to the Miss Universe title, and Yukta Mookhey to the Miss World crown just a few months before. Thanks to these subcontinental sizzlers, we can finally understand the concept of beauty with a purpose.
And, from the lead editorial in another ponderously serious newspaper. Winning in the beauty stakes has, indeed, become second-nature to our girls. As the crown sat pretty on Laras elegantly coiffured head, it was like watching a replay of the many earlier contests where Indian girls had wowed the audiences-Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai, Diana Hayden, Yukta Mookhey and now Lara Dutta. That Lara would win was never in any doubt because it was evident at the Femina Miss India contest that she had that extra something, a soignee savviness that made the difference between being merely beautiful and really beautiful.
Forget the bad writing, though soignee savviness and subcontinental sizzlers are hard to beat, what is truly worrying about major national newspapers writing editorials on a beauty queen is that they appear to reflect a national inferiority complex. So unsure are we about our abilities to succeed in the big, bad world we now call the global village that we fall over ourselves trying to get recognition of even the most trivial kind. I have nothing at all against beauty contests but surely. Lara Duttas beauty cannot be counted as a national achievement? Since she won her crown at around the exact moment of the Kargil wars first anniversary would it not have been more appropriate to remember those who died? More appropriate to remember those who survived but who are condemned forever to the half-lives of the physically handicapped?
These things seem to matter very little as newspapers compete with each other to fill their pages with as much trivia as possible. So, no sooner did the excitement over Miss Universe die out than almost the entire national press devoted considerable portions of their front pages to yet another monumentally trivial story. The interview Pooja Bedi did with Amitabh Bachchan for Star TV and which was not aired because, according to Star TVs own spokesmen, it was an unprofessional interview. The producer of the show apologised for it publicly and went so far as to say that clearly Miss Bedi had no idea how to conduct a television interview.
Yet, nearly every newspaper I read allowed Miss Bedi to tell her side of the story as fully as possible. Even according to her own version she conducted an appalling interview. One of the questions she admits to asking is why Mr Bachchan had a white beard and black hair, When he said it was because he dyed his hair she giggled and said so why dont you dye your beard as well, did you run out of hair dye? It is a remarkably silly question but Miss Bedi was allowed to go into details of how she thought Mr Bachchan was an old grouch and had used his influence to stop the interview.
Why should Pooja Bedis views matter at all? But, to newspaper editors clearly mesmerised by celebs they clearly do. So, on a daily basis in our most serious newspapers, we currently see pictures of celebrities winning and dining at some glamorous party or other. If this were not enough newspapers currently seem to be competing with each other to give socialites space to write gossip columns that are usually little more than a catalogue of the people they met at some social event or other. Gossip columns, in countries where standards of journalism are higher, can often be witty and clever. Ours, alas, are remarkable in their lack of wit and their tedium but they somehow manage to survive.
Having spent the past three weeks reading them carefully I have often found myself wondering what the celebrity names mean to the average Indian newspaper reader since many are not celebrities till their names make gossip columns. I have also found myself wondering whether, when the country is in the throes of one of our worst droughts ever, it isnt tasteless and tacky to be writing about how much champagne was consumed at some ridiculous party by people who clearly live on some other planet.
Meanwhile, there is so much that supposedly serious newspapers could be investigating instead. It would be really interesting, for example, to know how that IAS officer in Delhi managed to buy himself Rs 33 crore worth of land, jewellery worth Rs 32 lakh and seven cars. But, all we know is that his name is Virendra Singh and that it was a CBI raid that uncovered his hidden booty. Not a single newspaper has considered it worth investigating the story further and finding out, for instance, which departments this man worked in and how he made his money. Nor has anyone tried to compile for us a list of other bureaucrats caught similarly or tell us what action has been taken against them.
We know nothing either of where are drought relief measures have so far got. Are food-for-work programmes now in operation? Is the FCI making some effort to feed hungry people instead of rats? Which State Government has managed to do the most?
It would be equally interesting to discover why the war in Sri Lanka erupted so suddenly and how the LTTE has managed to finance itself for so many years. Do they have links with terrorist groups in India? With Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan? Who sells them arms? How has the dreaded Prabhakaran managed to remain invisible for so many years?
But, to find out these
things we would need investigative journalism which costs
time and money. Gossip is so much cheaper and easier to
find. Could this be the reason why we know more about
Lara Dutta and Pooja Bedi?
THE speech which the spokesman of the Government made on the Services was, indeed, the nearest approximation to an apology that any civilian administrator in India has made in recent years for the grave wrong done to India in this matter of appointments to the Public Services.
Personally, he said, he admitted and had always admitted that there had been just ground for complaint in the past regarding the policy pursued in regard to the Services.
He had more than once said that in his opinion a great mistake had been made and that the recognition accorded to the claims of Indians was tardy and inadequate. His only defence of the official proposal in this case was that during the last five years a good deal had been done to remedy the mistake, and that even without the provision as a general rule three judges would be Indians.
We cannot accept these as sufficient grounds for deleting the clause, but that does not prevent us from recognising the moderation of Mr O Donells speech.
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