The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, June 4, 2000

Reporter who stumbled on match-fixing
Review by Amar Chandel
The tale of a modern prodigal son
Review by Priyanka Singh
Pant, the famous & tough Home Minister
Review by Parshotam Mehra
Meet a Chinese classical writer
Review by M.L. Raina
Kargil: unlearnt lessons
Review by H.S.Sodhi
More on doxa versus episteme
Bhupinder Singh writes from Patiala
Judge, judge thy work again
Birinder Pal Singh writes from Patiala
Khan Brothers, Pathans and Congress betrayal

Reporter who stumbled on match-fixing
Review by Amar Chandel

Not Quite Cricket by Pradeep Magazine. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 161. Rs 200

IT is an acknowledged fact that one of the greatest pleasures of life is to be able to sit back and exclaim: "I told you so." Whether this is to compliment an acquaintance for accepting your advice or to chide him for ignoring it, the four ever-popular words give you an indescribable high.

Well, the writer of this book can indeed enjoy the privilege of uttering these words on the issue of match fixing. It was he who had removed the curtains from the murky goings-on in the underworld of betting and bribes to cricket stars. It is a pleasant coincidence that his book has hit the stands when the controversy is at its peak, making it compulsory reading of sorts.

With the benefit of hindsight, it can be said that if his warnings were heeded, the dirt would not have hit the game quite the way it has. But that was not to be. The book is a chronicle of the frustrations that are in store for anyone daring to fight the system, especially if he happens to be a journalist chasing an investigative story.

It was in 1997 that Pradeep Magazine was visiting the Caribbean to cover the matches for his newspaper, The Pioneer. He had a chance encounter with a bookie there, which opened a stinking can of deception and underhand dealings. This bookie-agent not only told him that players took money to change the odds but also gave the names. According to him, crores of rupees are wagered in the outcome of a match and if someone has paid a player who can change the course of a match, he stands to make a lot of money. Some players run themselves out, play false strokes, deliberately slow down the tempo of the match or bowl badly to manipulate the odds. If you have two or three key players to do so, especially the captain, it is very much possible to fix the result of the match.

When Magazine fibbed that he knew Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin very well, this agent, whom the author refers to as Anil (a pseudonym), made him an offer: Help me establish contact with them and I can give you as much as Rs 40 lakh! "The money can be put in any foreign bank of your choice. Or, if you wish, I can give you a house in a locality of your choice in Delhi. All I am asking you to do is to get these two players to talk to me. Can you do it?"

A dazed Magazine discussed the matter with his roommate, another journalist, who advised caution. But Magazine decided to play along with the agent in the hope that something much bigger could be unearthed. Perhaps he was oblivious of the fact that such sticking his neck out annoys the establishment no end. Perhaps he also did not remember the incident that took a few years earlier when an enterprising journalist actually purchased a woman, Kamala, to prove that women are still being bought and sold like cattle. The incensed government instead of being beholden to him for exposing the scandal, toyed with the idea of prosecuting him for indulging in this illegal activity.

Such incidents only highlight the difficulties of an investigative journalist. If he writes on the basis of the experience of others, he is accused of depending on hearsay. If he acts as a decoy, he is hauled over the coals as if he is a culprit. Anyway, the agent "engaged" Magazine to give him information about wicket, weather, likely teams and which team stood a better chance. These nuggets were to be provided on the eve of every Test match — for a fee of Rs 10,000 per match.

Magazine had informed his Editor, Chandan Mitra, of the entire Anil episode and the latter had given him the green signal to do as he thought it fit. He wanted to do the story from Guyana itself but knew it lacked meat, as it was based purely on a personal experience. But at the same time, there was a strong possibility of something coming out of it.

Match-fixing charges had simultaneously surfaced in Pakistan when Aamir Sohail accused some of his team members of doing so for money.

Magazine decided to talk to the coach of the Indian team, Madan Lal, describing his experience and enquiring whether he had suspected anything and if a bookie had ever approached him with an offer. The coach did not seem to be surprised at the question but advised him not to go ahead with the story unless he had concrete facts.

What the author quotes Madan Lal as saying was to prove almost prophetic: "Listen Pradeep, nothing is going to come out of what you want to do. I tell you, no one is going to react. Only silence from the establishment is going to greet you. The only possibility of the truth coming out is when a player gets up and says that his teammates have taken money. Till that happens, there is no point in pursuing the story. It could even prove dangerous".

At the same time, he admitted he too had his suspicions. "Look at the lifestyle of some of the players, compare it with the money that they earn and the truth will come out."

Later, he talked to captain Tendulkar who told him: "Even I have been hearing a lot of things about this whole affair. I don’t know what to do. If I were you, I wouldn’t do the story but would tell the police about this man. Tell them to tap the man’s phone and let us see who he talks to."

But the story was carried with an eight-column banner headline: "I was offered Rs 40 lakh by a bookie to ‘fix’ a match." It is after this stage that the narrative in the book becomes racier than a one-day match (if it is not fixed, that is!). The reaction of the BCCI was one of silence. Except for condemning Magazine for bringing the "fair name of Indian cricket into disrepute", there was no attempt to find out whether the story was true or not.

But unknown to Magazine, things were moving at a feverish pitch. The Board sent a fax to Tendulkar, taking the "I" in the story to be him and asking him (Tendulkar) to explain who this man was who had offered him the money! (What Mohinder Amarnath said about the Board members and selectors stops being comic after this incident.)

When Magazine wrote a letter to the Board saying that "I fail to understand how Tendulkar’s name was linked with the bookie when my story was clear and at no stage did it even hint that the bookie had met Tendulkar", he got a bizarre reply: "Now that you have denied the story, it would have been in the fitness of things if you had also named the bookie whom you had met". "How was my letter a denial of the story? Who would I name him to? The Board had all along maintained that the bookie was a concoction of my fevered imagination," Magazine wonders.

The most fascinating and revealing is the chapter about the author’s appearance before Justice Chandrachud. After general questions he waited for the crucial one about the bookie, who he was, and other related questions which could have been useful in this probe. The questions never came. Magazine even offered to tell him what Tendulkar and Madan Lal told him after he told them the story of the bookie. The Judge said: "Leave it". "I was shocked. The man was not willing to listen, to know. What kind of a probe was this? I realised the futility of the entire exercise," Magazine laments.

On being prompted that if he can establish a bookie-player nexus, it would be easier to find the truth, Magazine claims the Judge said: "Nothing is going to come out of that. Even if bookies have written the names of the players in their diaries, that is not conclusive proof." That apparently shows the frustration of the former Chief Justice of India over the Jain hawala case that had recently taken place.

So much for the efficacy of enquiries into such affairs. Journalists and others can only provide the lead. After that investigative agencies have to take charge. But that rarely happens. Just think what would have been the plight of Magazine if the Hansie Cronje scandal had not come to light. His expose would have continued to be called a newsman’s attempt to sensationalise a story.

This narration of events forms the first part of the book which runs into 83 pages. The second part is equally long and focuses on what ails Indian cricket. This is obviously not as juicy as the first one. His contention is that the Board has been treating the matches as a money-making venture without bothering to plough back the money into the promotion of the game or the players. Test players and one-day players get a respectable sum now but those taking part in domestic cricket, even the Ranji Trophy, are paid a pittance. The facilities extended to them are fit for a galley slave. Under these circumstances most players grow up with a sense of insecurity. The errors of commission and omission of the Board are held responsible for reducing the players to pawns in whose heart flows the lava of rebellion. The cricket administrators play the game of favouritism in which anybody who speaks out is treated as a traitor. You cannot fight the system and are made to fall in line. The circumstances are tailor-made for turning everyone into a mercenary.

He narrates how even a fiery player like Mohinder Amarnath decided to make peace with the establishment after some time.

Magazine recalls how coach Madan Lal was snubbed when he began supervising the training of the team himself. The physiotherapist, "who obviously had a godfather on the Board", got a letter issued to him signed by Board secretary Jayant Lele saying in no uncertain terms that the job of training the team was Dr Irani’s and not Madan Lal’s.

Madan Lad did not even fight back. "Had he done so, he would never have been able to step back into the cricket hierarchy again. That is how the establishment tames the best of people, people who are sincere and want to do something positive for the team and the country.

Haryana Ranji Trophy player Sarkar Talwar points out: "Even today a Ranji Trophy player gets Rs 2,000 as match fees. Is it possible to survive on that kind of money in any city in India? If you are playing in a place like Mumbai, you’ve had it. Invariably players have to dip into their own pockets." Ajay Sharma, the Delhi skipper, puts the spotlight on the Duleep Trophy: "In 1997, I remember, the North Zone team had to travel for about 16 hours by bus from Guwahati to Silchar in the East Zone. And we had to play a match the next day. Once we even had to travel without any reservation and had to occupy toilets so that we could find a place to stand."

Ironically, it is Kapil Dev whom Magazine interviews at length on whether he thought Indian players had taken money to fix matches or bet on the game (who was to know at that time that the icon himself will be dragged into the controversy?). Says the winning team captain of the Indian World Cup: " I wouldn’t know. During my time I did not think such a thing was happening. But when there is so much of smoke, there has to be some fire. A proper probe has to be conducted to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Why not hand over the entire probe to the CBI? If there are some players who are suspect, the best way out is to evaluate their assets. After all there has to be a record of the money earned and spent. My business is an open book. Anyone can have a look at it. This should be the case with others too."

On being reminded of the Chandrachud probe and its findings which had exonerated players from any "wrongdoing", Kapil says sarcastically: "What probe? If the man asks you, what would you like to have, what were your playing days like, do you think such things happen, and all sorts of questions which do not get to the crux of the problem, then how can you call it a probe?

As expected, it is Bishen Singh Bedi who speaks without any ifs and buts. On being asked if he thought players were actually throwing away matches for money he says emphatically: "Yes they are. I am convinced about it. Like you, I too have met bookies and talked to players. I don’t want to get into the details but one thing is certain; the Chandrachud report, or to be more correct, the Chandrachud cover-up, has done the maximum damage to Indian cricket".

Talking about the games the Board plays, he recalls: "In the late fifties, when New Zealand had come to India, India won a Test match inside of four days. You know what the Board did? They deducted Rs 50 each from the players’ match fees. Instead of Rs 250 they were given only Rs 200. That is the Board for you."

It may be simplistic to blame the match-fixing on the faults of the Board but the book is right in pointing out that far too much is wrong in the administration of cricket and there is need for cleaning the whole augean stable. But chances are 10 to 1 that even now when the fixing scandal has provided the perfect reason to do so, there will be the usual dragging of feet and procrastination. Want to bet?Top


The tale of a modern prodigal son
Review by Priyanka Singh

The Better Man by Anita Nair. Penguin India. New Delhi. Pages 361. Rs 250.

"THE Better Man" by Anita Nair is written in a style that is both lucid and refreshingly fresh.

The novel is an account of a man’s growth — how he develops from being a man with selfish concerns into a man with a wider concern which extends beyond himself.

The story is about prodigal Mukundan, a government employee, who after retirement decides to go back to his native village Kaikurissi which he had left when he was 18 years of age to escape the tyranny of his domineering father who leaves his mother for another woman.

On his return to his ancestral house, he is haunted by his mother’s ghost which he believes wants to kill him for not taking her along. He is forced to relive the memories of his childhood days which were punctuated by terrifying moments.

Back in the village, Mukundan wants social acceptability even if it means sacrificing his friendship with Bhasi and his love for Anjana.

The cameos in the book are crafted in a manner which is brilliant, with each having a haunting past that is integral to the plot.

There is one-screw-loose Bhasi whose broken heart brings him to Kaikurissi.Once an English lecturer but now a mere painter and a healer, Bhasi believes he is chosen to "bring forth from the churned-up mind of some wrecked psyche a luminous and complete mind".

Entrusted with the job to paint Mukundan’s house, he senses Mukundan’s vacuity and takes upon himself to "peel the scabs of his festering soul" and let the fear seep out. Their friendship is thus forged. With Bhasi’s help, Mukundan is able to overcome his latent fears and is a changed man.

However, when an ungrateful Mukundan supports "Poor House" Ramakrishnan (a nouveau riche) in his plot to buy Bhasis’ land to build a community hall, Bhasi is broken and leaves the village. Then there is Anjana, a school teacher whom Mukundan falls in love with.

Married to an insensitive man, she is drawn to Mukundan’s charming manner and gentle ways. Both decide to live together until such a time her divorce comes through and later get married. However, Mukundan’s betrayal of her trust also casts a shadow over their love. Not willing to play the second fiddle to his fancies, she shows him the door.

The character of Mukundan’s father is the most convincing. A fire-spewing terror in his youth, it is hard for him to reconcile himself to the frailties that accompany old age. His supreme effort to defy old age and hold on to his ebbing strength makes him a truly pitiable character.

Used to living in his father’s shadow, Mukundan is made to realise that his father inspired respect, for at least he had the "courage of his convictions", a recurrent motif in the novel.

The revelation comes when his childhood servant Krishnan Nair reproaches him, saying,"When he (Achuthan Nair) believed in something he stood by it no matter what the world thought of him. Do you have that courage..... If you think you are a better man than your father, let us see it".

To make amends, Mukundan gives Bhasi a piece of his own land and seeks Anjana’s forgiveness. He tells Bhasi:"All my life I wanted to be my father’s equal. But now I want more. I want to be better than him. I want to know what it is to love and to give. And in turn, be loved."

Mukundan’s evolution as a better man is his own; Bhasi merely is a catalyst in the effort.

There is a lesson for everyone in this novel. Mukundan learns that happiness cannot be had by being the cause of someone else’s unhappiness. Bhasi learns that man cannot control and change another man’s destiny. Man cannot play God.

Achuthan Nair, but for his age, would have realised that man is not an island and cannot live in isolation. When the fiery strength of youth diminishes in old age, tyranny is least useful.

"The Better Man" is reflective of the moral fibre of society. Besides being a statement of courage, "The Better Man" is a victory of human will over human weaknesses.

Small doses of philosophy and profundities make "The Better Man" a simple but affecting book and well worth a read.Top


Pant, the famous & tough Home Minister
Review by Parshotam Mehra

Selected Works of Govind Ballabh Pant, Vol XI edited by B.R. Nanda. Oxford University Press, Delhi. Pages xxxiii+500. Rs 445.

IN the long and by no means inglorious saga of the Indian National Congress, and the nationalist movement, the erstwhile United Provinces of Agra and Oudh (now Uttar Pradesh) has played a disproportionately large role. And this partly because the "dynasty" has both before and after independence dominated the political stage. Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, spring readily to mind. So also Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi and over the past year or two, his widow.

Happily they were not the only ones. And among others, Jawaharlal’s father, Motilal and his close comrades-in-arms, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai and Govind Ballabh Pant stand out. They may not overshadow the "dynasty" and yet their contribution was by no means unimportant.

Not many years ago, Teenmurti House brought out several volumes of documents on Motilal Nehru which heavily underline the important place Jawaharlal’s father occupied and the signal contribution he made to the debate on the country’s future governance. And now we have a team of researchers and archivists headed by Professor Nanda who are helping to bring out the works of Govind Ballabh Pant.

Pant’s place in the larger whole of the political arena may be gauged from the fact that he was for many years a member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy-making body of the party. That apart, he had two stints as UP’s Chief Minister, before and after independence. And later, under Jawaharlal Nehru, as Home Minister for a little over six years.

Starting as a small town lawyer in his native Garhwal, Pant took time to enter the political arena. As a young student at Allahabad, he had imbibed the patriotic fervour and zeal that enthused the early 1900s and before long developed considerable respect for the moderate politics of Gokhale. He had also followed with great interest the Mahatama’s experiments in passive resistance in far away Transvaal and inched closer to him in the early 1920s despite his initial opposition to agitational politics. For his training as a lawyer and jurist weighed heavily with him in favour of constitutional means and legislative politics.

Was it any wonder then that in the wake of Gandhi calling off the civil disobedience movement, Pant came under the spell of the Swarajists and was elected to the UP Legislative Council (1923) where he headed the party for almost five years, his selection due largely to Motilal Nehru who was struck by the young Pant’s ability and capacity for hard work? Later his accidental companionship with the younger Nehru as a co-prisoner (1932) both in the Bareilly and Dehra Dun jails (and almost 10 years later in the Ahmadnagar Fort prison), proved to be a turning point. Jawaharlal found Pant "lovable company" and a brave, "highly intelligent and absolutely straight man".

After the Congress revoked its earlier boycott of the legislatures in 1934, Pant was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly and became deputy leader of the Congress Party. Among a galaxy of excellent debating talent — Jinnah, Bhulabhai Desai, Asaf Ali, Satyamurti — Pant shone as a star performer. His brief innings marked his elevation to the national stage.

When, in the winter of 1936-37, elections were held under the Government of India Act 1935 and the Congress Party in UP — as in eight out of 11 provinces — was in a position to form government, Pant emerged as a natural choice. His administration lasted almost two years (1937-39) and enacted important laws, including one on tenancy which assured security of tenure and fixation of rent for the tenants. Governor Sir Harry Haig referred to him as "an interesting and rather attractive personality" who was "essentially a conciliator and not a dictator."

And years later he publicly repudiated the Muslim League canard that vis-a-vis the minorities the provincial Ministry, not unlike other Congress outfits, had acted in any partisan manner. The Ministers had, in fact, Haig affirmed, "acted with impartiality and a desire to do what was fair."

Later as the Congress Party was returned to power in the elections of 1945-46, Pant was called upon to head the UP government a second time. And he tided over the trauma of partition and its awesome aftermath. Here apart from addressing the crucial question of maintenance of law and order, Pant’s major contribution lay in the abolition of the notorious zamindari system. Nor was his government inactive in measures for economic development resulting in enhanced agricultural production, electricity generation and irrigation potential.

In 1954, Pant moved to New Delhi as Minister for Home Affairs and held that charge for almost six-years. His major task was to contain the aftermath of the States reorganisation and the crisis of "linguism and linguistic fanaticism" which raised its ugly head.

There was also the trauma of the official language with the South presenting an almost solid front against Hindi zealots from the North. In the final count, the non-Hindi states accepted the proposition that while English was to remain an associate language as long as they wanted it, Hindi was free to become the official language of the Union.

Pant’s contribution as an able administrator with his decade long stewardship of India’s largest, and the most populous, state was exemplary. So was the competence with which he presided over the affairs of the Union during those years of considerable stress and strain. Contemporaries rated him as one of India’s greatest parliamentarians who combined a vivid clarity of mind with "persuasive and convincing verbal finesse. "And had cultivated the rare art of demolishing his political adversaries "without leaving a scar".

The volume under review, an impressive tome of 550 odd pages, covers a period of a year and a quarter — April, 1946, to August, 1947. While his own province was in the grip of a serious economic crisis aggravated by World War II and its ruinous aftermath, the national scene was no less murky. Here the rejection of the Cabinet Mission Plan had led to the Muslim League’s call for "Direct Action" (August, 1946) followed by a holocaust in Bengal and a backlash in Bihar.

Meanwhile the holding of elections to the Central as well as Provincial Assemblies had given Pant his second stint as UP Chief Minister, his major task was to contain the after-effects of large-scale communal frenzy let loose by a worsening political impasse. And when the logjam was broken by partition, the onrush of Hindu and Sikh refugees to western UP was no mean challenge.

The volume covers considerable ground and its principal sub-heads "The food and cloth crisis", "Housing", "Communalism", "Land reform and rural development", "Social reform", "Administrative matters", "Indian National Congress" — give the reader a measure of the variety and complexity of the issues with which Pant had to contend. The exhaustive coverage goes a long way in underlining the objective of the series which is not only "to document and illuminate" his career and public life but also provide source material for analysts and scholars of modern Indian history and politics.

And here it is not only the substantial sections but even the appendices which make fascinating reading. There is a revealing letter from Bapu (datelined Simla, June 29, 1945) referring to Pant’s disagreement with the Mahatma on a matter of public policy (relating to the issue of parity between caste Hindus and Muslims in the constitution of the Governor-General’s Executive Council) and the latter chiding him roundly: "There may be occasions when you do not agree with my views. So what? All of us if we want to serve the country, should have our own opinions. Only then can the country forge ahead and a way be shown to the people ... Stop worrying and do not feel unhappy that you do not agree with me."

What a refreshing contrast to the durbari culture the political elite has now so assiduously cultivated?

To a student of modern India, the chief editor of the series, B.R. Nanda, needs no introduction. His works on Gandhi and Nehru are well-known and seminal. So also on Gokhale and Jamnalal Bajaj. What is perhaps not so well known is the fact that as Founder-Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library he established from scratch a first-rate repository of source material for any meaningful study of modern Indian history and politics.Top


Meet a Chinese classical writer
Review by M.L. Raina

Diary of a Madman & other stories by Lu Xun, translated from the Chinese by William A. Lyell. University of Hawai Press, Honolulu. Pages xlix+389. $ 35.

MY first memory of reading Lu Xun (Lu Hsun, 1881-1936) dates back to the early fifties of last century when as an undergraduate I bought the first number of the journal Chinese Literature which contained his best known story "The true story of Ah. Q". Later the official Foreign Languages Press brought out a modest selection of his stories with a long preface by the party ideologue Mao Tun.

I still treasure the first issue of the journal along with several others in which more of the writer’s work appeared together with critical comments and appraisals now collected in "Lu Hsun: Writing For the Revolution" (San Francisco, 1976). As a congenital sceptic, I was a little suspicious of the claim of the Chinese communists that Lu Xun was the greatest modern Chinese writer. A similar claim about Prem Chand was advanced by our own communist ideologues in the now defunct CPI journal Indian Literature briefly edited by Ram Bilas Sharma in the fifties.

Whereas I never doubted Prem Chand’s stature, I am only now persuaded of Lu Xun’s singularity after reading Lyell’s excellent translation, together with thoroughly scholarly footnotes and variant versions. This edition establishes beyond question that Lu Xun belongs in the company of Gogol (whose influence he openly acknowledged) and of a younger contemporary Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki, who outshines Mishima and Kawabata by the virtuosities of his style. He represents a specifically ironic/sympathetic attitude to contemporary events, and attitude that draws tears and laughter in the manner of Gogol’s "Nose" or Tanizaki’s "The Makioka Sisters", to say nothing of his "The Diary of a Mad Old Man".

I stress Lu Xun’s relationship to a Japanese writer for the reason that his formative years were spent in Japanese academies where he imbibed many of his stylistic characteristics that lend authority to his already deep embeddedness in the Chinese literary culture. His love for classical texts, his broad evocative sense of place are as much the qualities of Japanese writing and film (particularly Ozu’s "Autumn Song") as they are of Chinese literature and tradition. His realism bares the pride of aristocracy but is without harshness, for it is linked to a haunting feel for a vanished era.

The stories in this collection do not include "Old Tales Retold" which Lu Xun wrote between 1925 and 1935. These stories, translated in the Foreign Languages Press edition of 1972, are mostly on historical and legendary subjects and are, according to the author, written "up freely, adding some colouring of your own". The stories in the Lyell collection are representative of the Chinese classical realism and show the same purposiveness the author showed in giving up medicine for full time writing — namely, to change the Chinese psyche. Whether he succeeded in his aim only time will tell, but the communist ideologues continue to hail him as a revolutionary.

The kind of realism Lu Xun pursued consisted in exposing the hypocrisy that underlies grand gestures of all kinds. Lu Xun shows this hypocrisy arising from our refusal to face the bitter realities that mock the soothing blandishments of high-sounding moralising. In a story "Soap" a middle-aged Siming, whose Confucian upbringing prevents his seeing the unseemly, fails to recognise in his praise of an 18-year-old street girl a repressed sexuality that emerges in his body language. There are many such examples ("Medicine", "Kongji", "The Loner") in which apparently well-intentioned acts of the protagonists are revealed to be exercise in self-deception.

Lu Xun’s stories inhabit a world all their own. It is a world where smooth exteriors hide unsettling facts, a world in which Mother Hua and Mother Xia are both victims of superstition ("Medicine"); in "The loner" Wei turns up his nose at his relatives once he gets a petty job among the local nobility, ("The loner); a world where hair create havoc once they are associated with political turmoil ("The story of hair"); in which a village opera performance enlivens the whole community for a brief period ("A village opera"); or, Sister Shan, reconciled to her grief, remains a figure of shock ("Tomorrow"). A world, in short, as diverse and unpredictable as China itself but refusing to be pigeonholed or formalised.

The author is totally comfortable in this world. He can evoke its scenic charms, as in his descriptions of river valleys; see its sublimities and grotesqueries, as in the story of schoolmaster Ghao or the fates of Ah. Q or the madman; fathom its mysteries in the mysteriousness of human beings like Grandmother Ninepounder; recall its nostalgic beauty, as in the memories of Nan about Runtun in "Hometown", or present the eerie, inexplicable aspects of the human psyche, as in "White light". Often his narrrators are parts of this world and know it closely enough to reveal lambent flashes of wisdom.

Lu Xun is a master craftsman in that he firmly controls his material like a traditional teller of stories among the unlettered and the unsophisticated. His telling presupposes a narrative contract between the teller and the listener — a contract that helps us accept the author’s views and opinions as authentic and not a ploy to undercut narrative assumptions. These devices of manipulating his narrative have nothing very forced about them, for they are rooted not simply in his total accessibility to language (he handles names and places like meaningful parables), but in his tolerant view of the characters and their social/political/psychological predicaments.

Reading these stories is like being in the company of wizened elders who have seen much and understood more. It is like being brought into intimate sap-generating contact with mother earth itself from where one can draw all the strength to live and, what is more, to have a philosophical perspective on human folly. This is quintessentially an Asian view and goes back to centuries of cultural and literary history. The other writers I know whose stories show similar qualities are Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi in Urdu, Kalki in Tamil and Mahfouz’s cafe stories of waifs and wanderers in Arabic. And there are many more besides in other Indian languages.

Marxist critics in China see in Lu Xun a revolutionary writer who was class conscious and could guage the drift in Chinese society as a result of the 1911 revolution and the May 4 movement. The blurb to "Old Tales Retold" claims that these stories are overtly partisan and mock the "absurdities of the traitorous Kuomintang regime". While it is true that Lu Xun was politically sympathetic to the oppressed majority, it is naive to believe that he was openly partisan. The Lyell translations are a direct refutation of the party hack’s claims on the author’s behalf.

Lu Xun’s sense of history is like the humus that spreads everywhere in the soil and is pervasive rather than intrusive. Fair enough, there are scattered references to actual historical events and personages. But these are indirect and show no overt political stance of the writer, even as an essayist, Lu Xun does show political predilections.

His is the kind of realism which emerges from a life-long closeness to the rhythms and vibrations of lived life and can be naturally sensitive to historical change. It emerges in his use of colloquial idiom and simple story-telling techniques. This in spite of the fact that these stories are products of Lu Xun’s classical learning. This realism sees no contradiction between the classical and the colloquial. It does not have to violate the probable to stress its point. In this it differs from the Latin American kind where the marvellous is the only realism there is. The marvellous in these stories is a psychological attitude, not simply a rejection of the probable. Its impact is smoothing, not disorientating as in the much-vaunted Latin American writers.

"Ah. Q, the real story" is an epitome of Lu Xun’s vision of the world. The main character is a passive hero, someone like Turgenev’s Samgin to whom things happen no matter what his own actions are. Ah. Q changes colours — of loyalty, of relationships — in order to merely survive. That he becomes the victim of his own stupid chameleon actions speaks more for the lack of sympathy in the inhuman world than for his own weak will. In a narrative that is episodic rather than plot-driven, this antihero runs the entire gamut of roles in which he is euologised, criticised and finally brought down by the very revolutionary forces whose flag he tries to fly to save himself from their reckless arrogance. An objective reading of this story would run counter to the official claims of Lu Xun’s revolutionary status.

In "Diary of a Madman" the author, like Gogol before him and Tanizaki after him, offers a Swiftian account of a deranged psyche which sees terrors everywhere. There is pathos in the story, but more than that, there is a grim foreboding in the character of the madman himself who, in spite of the world denouncing him as mad, sees more clearly and lucidly. As in Gogol, this lucidity is an ironic send-up of the world that declares him insane. Lu Xun lances pretension and self-deceit and in the last section drives home the telling point that only in insane are sane in a bestial environment.

Lu Xun is a paradoxical writer. As an essayist he is polemical and engaged. But as a creative writer he stands alone, transcending the manichean divisions of illusion and reality. Therein lies the strength of his domestic realism, of the rice bowl and bean-curd-broth variety of his worldliness.Top


Kargil: unlearnt lessons
Review by H.S.Sodhi

The Kargil Strike (A Study of the Failure of Indian Strategic Thought) by Thakur Kuldip S Ludra. Published by the author in Chandigarh. Pages 285. Rs 1000.

THIS is the eighth book written by the author. All except one of them have been in foolscap paper size, laser printed and for very limited circulation, basically made available on order. The author is very conversant with, and an expert in, socio-strategic-geopolitical writings. His writings are based on research from all available sources. He draws valid and bold conclusions and has no hesitation in stating them in unvarnished terms. He is able to look at the issues from wide perspective and deal with it in detail.

The present book is no different. He discusses the Kargil strike in a wider perspective of not only the issues involved but also the countries that have an interest in such matters. He begins the discussion from 1947 and the first J&K war.

He faults the political leaders at the time of independence with lack of vision to see the long-term implications of their decisions and with being led astray by the then wholly British military advisers who were obviously more attuned to, and interested in, the long-term goals of Britain in the subcontinent. Turmoil and dispute between the two newly independent countries were in its interest. This led to the decision not to send adequate forces to J&K on the plea that the defence of the rest of the country would be jeopardised which was arrant nonsense, considering that Pakistan had only a third of the strength of the army in undivided India and that it did not receive one full unit. The defence of J&K thus was restricted to the line just west of Poonch as laid down by the Pakistan C-in-C in his appreciation; it would seem that the British officers serving in India knew this.

Further, the defence of the northern sector was totally ignored. The defence of this demanded that Skardu be held at any cost. In spite of the very valiant defence by Lieut.Col Thapa for nearly nine months, no serious effort was made to send a credible rescue and reinforcement force.

At this stage Indian officers were initially not in command and when Gen Cariappa took over, he was also not to prove assertive enough. Since then the Pakistan aim has been to wrest J&K from India. Apart from the religious angle, the major sources of water to Pakistan are controlled by J&K. Pakistan, after having fought two wars over J&K, realised that it could not win an outright victory by this means. The aim then became to so weaken India that it is balkanised and thus breaks up, ceasing to be any hindrance to the take-over of J&K. The ethnic cleansing in the valley and the Doda area are in preparation of a plebiscite if it is ever to be held. The induction of militants into J&K and the other parts of India — in Punjab earlier and now in Assam and the North-East — is all towards this end; to this must be added efforts to sabotage the economy of the country. It is pertinent that China is also interested in keeping India in a state of flux, to avoid any competition and is thus using its proxies towards this end.

The author examines the recent Kargil fighting in some detail. He analyses the likely date when the intrusion actually took place and the total strength of the Pakistani troops and feels that it is likely to have started around the end of 1998 and that ultimately the strength was about 10 to 11 battalions. He examines the statements made by Brig Surinder Singh, the then Commander 121 Infantry Brigade incharge of this area, the replies of the Army headquarters and also comments on these.

He feels that the Indian reaction was late and a bit haphazard initially. The main cause of this seems to have been the absence of a single coordinating agency of all the three services. Had there been an integrated Ministry of Defence and a Chief of the Defence Staff, the decisions could have been taken earlier, fully coordinated between the Army and the Air Force from day one. This is a major lesson to emerge from this fighting, and in view of the importance of an integrated set up, it is to be hoped that urgent action will be taken by the government to bring about a reorganisation.

It is obvious that India had taken the decision not to cross the LOC, notwithstanding the statement by the Army chief that such a contingency was possible. This had its implications. The Army attacks had to be frontal attracting heavy casualties and it was time-consuming but it had the political impact of turning the world opinion in favour of India.

By the rash intrusion into the Indian side of the LOC, Pakistan had no doubt brought the issue to the notice of the world again but it also had the effect of making the LOC gain sanctity which, under the agreement between President Clinton and Prime Minister Sharif, is not be violated in future. It has also made India now insist that before any meaningful talks take place with Pakistan, its support to militancy must stop.

The author feels that the ISI was not involved in the Kargil planning and execution. But he is of the view that such an action could not have taken place without the consent of the Prime Minister Sharif. This is debatable, as the Pakistan army seems to be powerful enough to resort to such an action on its own. The latest report that the tape of the conversation between Pakistan army chief General Musharraf and his chief of staff was taped by Indian intelligence and then handed over to Sharif adds to this suspicion.

The author feels that Pakistan should have waited two more years before undertaking the intrusion. By then more Indian troops would have been pulled out of J&K and the continuing parsimonious attitude of the government towards the upgradation of the Army would have made it much easier for Pakistan to deal with India.

The author deals with a host of allied aspects in detail, which is worth studying. He touches on the efforts that might now be made for a form of the Owen Dixon plan in bifurcating the state but he seems to disfavour it. But at the same time he does not give any idea of what India must do to either take over the whole of J&K or at least reduce drastically the human and other expenditure being suffered by India in patrolling the LoC in J&K, which seems to have no end in sight.

·From the very inception the initiative in the J&K problem has been seized by Pakistan and India has merely reacted to each succeeding development; India has been reactive, passive in its attitude. This will not solve the problem. India has to take positive measures. The author suggests that India should aim at the diplomatic isolation of Pakistan; involve it in an arms race which will adversely affect its economy; offer blandishments and try to win over Pakistan; increase Indian defence budget to create a cohesive war machine. But this still begs the question: all this with what aim and with what measure of success? India has to assess its options and then decide on ways to achieve it. The options would seem to be: give up J&K; go to war to try and get it back which means it is time to upgrade the armed forces and prepare it for the allied consequences; go in for a demarcation of the international border along the LOC as it was reportedly discussed between Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Sharif during the Lahore summit; accept J&K as an independent country with adequate safeguards for its neutrality. It is certainly time that India took the initiative to end this festering issue which is causing so much misery and is at the expense of more vital needs of the country.

He discusses the Indian air strikes and feels that most of them had only a psycological effect as the aircraft used were not designed for accurate strikes. Only when the Mirage 2000 was used were positive results seen.

The author bemoans the practice of vacating the heights during the winter. This has been going on ever since the ceasefire in 1948-49. Obviously, this is likely to be given up now, adding an extra burden on the infantry and resources. This might well lead to a need to increase the Army strength which is also advocated by the author, plus acquisition of more sophisticated weapons, as this will have the effect of forcing Pakistan to do likewise, thus adversely affecting its already precarious economy.

This obviously increases the role and employment of the infantry in a terrain that demands maximum physical fitness in all ranks, including the commanding officers who are now almost invariably well over 40 years of age, even verging on 50. This was also a major lesson learnt from the 1962 war with China.

The intelligence service of every hue is blamed for not exercising its responsibilities. He questions why India did not arrange for air surveillance by the Russians although there was an agreement to this effect, but perhaps India has defaulted on payment.

It is surprising to read the author state more than once that the morale of the Indian Army was low. This is difficult to believe. The successes achieved could not have been possible if morale was low. No doubt the aspects of pay and perks and other service conditions have a big bearing on morale and these need urgent attention, but the Indian soldier and junior officer up to the unit level has never let this come in the way of his performance. The case could be different for the higher ranks that do not face the enemy directly and have more time to brood over such matters.

The author also seems to give too much importance to the sacking of Navy chief Vishnu Bhagwat. He feels that this has made senior officers chary of taking a stand with the government. This is far from the truth. Our national character is such that taking a stand is not part of it. No Army chief has so far taken a stand on a matter of service principle except Field Marshal Sham Maneckshaw when he refused to go into East Pakistan before he was ready and offered to resign. Gen Thimayya did resign but took this back and kept quiet when castigated by Nehru as though he were a naughty child. There have been resignations but only on personal factors like being superseded. Undue significance should no be attached to the sacking of Bhagwat.

The maps in the book could have been better. The length of the book has been added to by repetitions dictated by the methodology adopted by the author.

The price of the book is too high considering that it is only a laser-print out on foolscap paper. The author is obviously going in for low sale to recover what he thinks is the worth. He seems to have lost sight of the need to give the widest publicity to his views.

Overall, a very good book that has examined all aspects thoroughly and drawn valid conclusions. Should be read by all having anything to do with defence matters.Top


More on doxa versus episteme
Bhupinder Singh writes from Patiala

PARAMJIT Judge’s rejoinder (May 21) to my comments (May 7) on Prof Surjit Hans’ review of "Terrorism in Punjab" (April 9) is little more than bad-mouthing, more heat than light.

Indeed, I had loaded my write-up with references not out of a penchant for name-dropping or pedantry if that is the impression, but to forestall the possibility of personalised polemics—the scourge of many an intellectual exchange, especially in India. Paramjit Judge has fallen a victim to that very temptation and dished out what can only be termed a libel, completely disregarding the important methodological and substantive issues raised by me and pooh-poohing minimal courtesies due to a professional colleague.

May I ask Dr Judge: is it illegitimate to voice scepticism from the standpoint of philosophy, theory, or methodology, about a piece of empirical research? Does fieldwork endow one with absolute immunity from error or criticism? Is the only way to critique an empirical survey to produce another survey of the same kind?

Let me provide at least my answer to the above questions by quoting from an excellent essay titled "Goethe and the Idea of Scientific Truth" by Erich Heller. The reader will excuse me for the lengthy quote, but it is so important as to be indispensable.

"(Goethe) would have dismissed a great deal of knowledge supplied by Darwin, not as incorrect, but as worthless.... there is a sense in which Darwin’s theory, though it be perfectly correct, may yet be blatantly untrue. There is a very simple mystery behind this assertion, shocking to commonsense only because commonsense in each epoch consists in an astonishingly complex agglomeration of highly sophisticated half-truth. One such half-truth in which our commonsense indulges is the doctrine that any kind of knowledge, as long as it supplies us with correctly ascertained facts, is worth teaching and learning, and that the more such facts we accumulate, the nearer we come to the Truth. We have become so democratic in our habits of thought that we are convinced that Truth is determined through a plebiscite of facts."

Clearly, Heller is expounding on the misguided fetishism of facts, or what I had called a naive empiricism which underlines "Terrorism in Punjab" as well as Judge’s pathetic rejoinder. But let us move from the abstract to the concrete and ask if the factual infrastructure of the book is all that inviolable. Here is the authors’ confession:

"In the end, mention of two caveats may be in order. One, the likelihood of time sequence variation (sic!) in responses. The study was conducted at a time when the gloom of terrorism or police excesses had passed. We have been reminded that had such a study been attempted between 1988 and 1992 it might have been very difficult to conduct this kind of study or/and that the findings might have been different, not only because of the prevalent fear but also because of the then existing differing perceptions about terrorism among the people (p 33)." One can add only an exclamation mark to this confession (couched, I am sorry to add, in awful English).

I scanned the book both before and after my write-up of May, 7 but I was not impressed. There is little insight into the genesis of widespread militancy in Punjab in relation to the historical conjuncture from 1978 to 1992 or so, no integration of macro and micro levels of analysis and no adequate synchrony and diachrony of the polymorphous violence or its latent functions.

There is, however some interesting and useful information, based largely on the verbal reports of the rural respondents, on different aspects of the turmoil in the Majha region, but, as I said earlier, it has to be critically appropriated and placed in perspective. Insofar as the study fails to throw up any significant generalisation and contribute to theory, it cannot deserve the title of episteme.

By the way, the distinction between the philosophical categories of doxa (opinion) and episteme (knowledge) is not all that easy to grasp. The movement from doxa to apodictic knowledge in Husserl, for example, involves phenomenological-transcendental reduction, a procedure very difficult to pin down.

With these words, I take leave of my friends in the holy city of Amritsar wishing them well. May-be we shall have occasion for a fuller debate in future.

Post script: Before I could literally put my pen down and relax, I was confronted with yet another rejoinder, this time by Prof Surjit Hans (May 28). Compared to Dr Judge’s rancorous blast, Hans’ riposte is a small firework (chhurli in Punjabi), but no less misguided.

It is indeed a fact that I could lay my hands on "Terrorism in Punjab" only after I had prepared the first draft of my note of May 7, but fortunately before I was able to send it for publication. A quick scanning of the book, however, called for no essential changes in what was chiefly a methodological critique. In fact, Hans’ review had only reproduced facts and figures from the book (even if partially) and would have been adequate for purposes of my comment. I wondered what had prompted Hans to confer the hyperbole of "landmark achievement" and "producers of knowledge" on the book and its authors. Hence the contestation.

Prof Hans has totally misconstrued my reference to Guru Hargobind. My point was that if an investigator makes a statistical analysis of the Guru’s recruits in terms of their background, where will that lead to? This is hopeless and bankrupt positivism sometimes followed by historians such as McLeod, the Orientalist.

With due respect to him, I wish to remind Prof Surjit Hans of what I had told him once in these very columns: that witsnapping is not a substitute for serious scholarship. The context was his misreading of Mircea Eliade, the phenomenologist of religion. Since then he has only added more cobwebs to his thinking—that is the pigeon-holes of producers of knowledge versus consumers of knowledge into which he puts his friends and critics as he pleases.Top


Judge, judge thy work again
Birinder Pal Singh writes from Patiala

THIS refers to Paramjit Judge’s rejoinder May 21 to Bhupinder Singh’s comment (May 7) on the book review by Surjit Hans in The Tribune dated April 9.

I had gone through the review of "Terrorism in Punjab" and Bhupinder Singh’s comment on it. I find Paramjit Judge has gone too far in launching a personalised attack on the commentator. The rejoinder could be made worthwhile if it addressed to the methodological and theoretical issues raised by Bhupinder Singh. It was an opportunity for the author/s to initiate a discussion on their work rather than trivialising the central issues and throwing the debate off tangent.

It is certain that Bhupinder Singh has not read the book. It was a direct response to the review. And the provocation, if I may be allowed to use this phrase, had appeared to come from Surjit Hans’ remarks: "Thank God, we have producers of knowledge in Puri, Judge and Sekhon".

I am sure that Bhupinder Singh has absolutely no problem with any of the three authors, but with the reviewer’s confusion between knowledge and information. Something has been labelled as knowledge which appeared to him an opinion survey. Why? Because in the review itself much statistics have been quoted. In my view Paramjit Judge could do a better job in informing Bhupinder Singh and other readers the scale of the study, its depth and other relevant accessories deployed by them to make it reliable and valid.

I do not think that anybody is doubting the genuineness, sincerity, intensity of commitment for academics and field research of Paramjit Judge and other authors. The problem lies with the very nature of such an empirical sociological research. Certain limitations are inherent in it. For instance, if such an empirical research had been conducted in 1985-86 the conclusions could be entirely different, may be its direct opposite.

Each movement has its rise and fall. Studying a movement when it is ebbing, and then equating it with its whole is surely problematic. Otherwise, how does one explain senior bureaucrats, doctors, lawyers, teachers, ex-army and ex-naxalites plunging into militancy. These were no gunloving or fun-loving youth.

This too is real, as real as the grassroot reality which this book has unveiled. Surjit Hans did mention that "one of the strengths of the study is that it matches the reasons of its decline with explanation of its rise." But he did not delve on its details. How could a reader know the authors’ objective viewpoint?

Another issue of relevance is that social reality is not only complex but multi-layered. When Bhupinder Singh is naming certain grand social scientists he only hammers the above point. The replies of the respondents would surely be multi-dimensional, and at many levels. In his rejoinder, Paramjit Judge could explain how they had taken care of this aspect. He could have elaborated his point through an illustration.

Any reader may ask that when 38 per cent of the respondents joined "for fun" was that really so, so very literal. Could it be interpreted like this? Analogically, when a Punjabi is asked what he/she was doing, "kuchh nee" is the instant reply. "Nothing" is an apt English translation, but does it mean he/she was really doing "nothing".

It is difficult to isolate and demarcate when and where "fun" ends and "loot" begins and when both may end for a superior cause. It would be apt to recall the film "The Dirty Dozen" in which convicted criminals undertook one of the most difficult operations against the Nazis in World War II. In one stroke criminals became martyrs.Top



Khan Brothers, Pathans and Congress betrayal

This is extracted from "The North-West Frontier Drama 1945-1947" by Parshotam Mehra.

THE story of the transfer of power from the British Raj to India and Pakistan, in 1945-47, has all the makings of high drama. Events on the North-West Frontier Province during those two years form a vital and exciting act in that grand play of forces which resulted, to start with, in the creation of the two Dominions.

In its long and chequered annals, India’s north-west frontier has known little if any peace; nor has the story been different under the Raj or the 50 odd years since the birth of Pakistan. This is especially true of last decade which has been a witness to the remorseless spill-over into the NFWP of a seemingly interminable civil war in Afghanistan.

Nor was the situation any less explosive on the eve of the transfer of power and the birth of Pakistan. Early in 1947, there was an official Kabul claim that the Frontier province which allegedly had nothing to do with India, should be given every opportunity to establish its independence and, if it so chose, to join Afghanistan. Nehru had in fact written to Abdul Ghaffar Khan about Kabul’s loud campaign in the media for the "separation" of the North West Frontier Province from India "with a view no doubt about its incorporation" into Afghanistan. He had warned that Badshah Khan’s views had been "partly supported and partly distorted" so that the Afghan case could be put forward. For its part, New Delhi stoutly repudiated Kabul’s claims as tantamount to interference in India’s domestic affairs.


Khan Sahib and his colleagues were reportedly planning to attend the Pakistani flag hoisting ceremony (scheduled for August 15) but decided not to, in the light of intelligence reports that the mob will "pull off" the flag from the ministers’ cars Khan Sahib gave the Governor to understand that "if this once happened" (viz., pulling off the flags from the ministers’ cars) he for one could not answer for the acts of his followers. Cunningham’s assessment was slightly different. The ministers calculated, he argued, that if they attended the ceremony and were dismissed almost immediately thereafter, their followers would laugh at them. For it would seem that while the Khan Sahib ministry had extended its hand of friendship to the new regime, the latter rudely spurned it.

Cunningham for his part had hoped that Khan Sahib and his ministerial colleagues would resign of their own, thereby avoiding the necessity of dismissal. Khan Sahib, it appeared to him, "would clearly have preferred" to do this but he was "evidently overruled" by Mehr Chand Khanna and Qazi Ataullah who wanted to make it appear that Jinnah had taken "a false step".

In the final count, after the necessary amendments to the Pakistan Constitution had been effected. Jinnah directed Cunningham that should the Khan Sahib Ministry fail to resign, it may be sacked. Faced with this course of action on August 23, the Premier and his colleagues refused to oblige and were summarily dismissed that afternoon.


Jinnah and his correspondent apart, nobody ever doubted Khan Sahib’s integrity; it was George Cunningham noted, the source of his remarkable political stature. He was "uniquely incorruptible", though his judgement may have been swayed by personal prejudices and pressures. "A bluff agreeable man, he could reveal" flashes of Pathan temper; a much firmer, stronger character than the suave, deferential and equally friendly, Aurangzeb Khan, his Muslim League predecessor. But Khan Sahib did not strike one "as being either sharp or particularly intelligent". He certainly "could not match in debate" the lawyers who were so prolific in Frontier politics: Qazi Ataullah or Abdul Qaiyum or even Aurangzeb Khan or Sardar Bahadur, the Haripur lawyer whose brother General Ayub was to become the President of Pakistan.

Khan Suhib was very allergic to any cohabitation with the Frontier Muslim League either on the eve, or even the morrow of the formation of Pakistan. That he had spurned such suggestions under Olaf Caroe has been noted earlier. Here it is instructive to recall that a little after a week of his return to Peshawar, George Cunningham recorded that while "many of the more thinking members" of the Muslim League "would still like a coalition" with the Congress, Khan Sahib was "adamant against serving" with any League ministers.

His later years though would suggest a propensity to wheeling-dealing at the cost of political principles and life-long political loyalties. Thus, as early as October, 1954, Khan Sahib had mended his fences with Pakistan’s rulers to emerge as a Minister in Chaudhari Mohammed Ali’s Cabinet. Later, in close conjunction with Iskander Mirza who was to take over as Governor-General, Khan Sahib lent his support to the one-unit West Pakistan scheme under which he was to be its Chief Minister for a little over two years (April, 1955-July, 1957). He also launched his short-lived Republican Party. Abdul Ghaffar Khan and people of his persuasion were vehemently opposed to the new political configuration as being grossly unfair to the Frontier. For his pains, Badshah Khan was prosecuted and placed behind bars by the Khan Sahib government!

Another facet of Khan Sahib’s place in the scheme of things is to recall that, in sharp contrast to his younger brother, he does not appear to have played any significant role in the Khudai Khidmatgar movement. It is doubtful if outside of legislative politics, he had or cultivated much of a rapport with the masses. Cunningham alluded to his proforma allegiance to the Red Shirts while a secret Pakistani document in the 1950s would appear to suggest that his political clout, such as it was, derived exclusively from Badshah Khan: "If the two brothers stay together, they will have a united strength. If they are separated, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan will retain his position, whereas Dr Khan Sahib will pass into eclipse because individually he has no position". This is borne out by Gandhi’s own assessment as early as June 1947. Informed by the Sardar who was then Member for Home (and thereby privy to all intelligence) that in his considered view, Badshah Khan’s influence in Frontier "was on the wane", Gandhi retorted that he had "no such impression" and that there was ‘in fact more steadiness" in his position than ever before. He also felt that Khan Sahib and his colleagues "would be nowhere" without the Badshah, for "he (Badshah Khan) alone counts so far as the Congress influence is concerned".

George Cunningham’s obituary note on Khan Sahib makes for a glowing tribute. He was, the former Governor noted, ‘prominent’ among his fellows, and ‘upright, straightforward and warm-hearted’. He was ‘incorruptible’ and worked above all ‘for the good of his people’ and would brook no ‘disturbance to law and order’.

Cunningham though that Khan Sahib took to politics ‘rather unwillingly’ and never coveted office ‘for office’s sake’. Above all, he would be remembered for ‘his courtesy, good humour and integrity’.

Olaf Caroe recorded that Khan Sahib often spoke to him of the compulsion under which his affection for George Cunningham placed him in difficult days. On a light note when trouble arose, the Governor would invite his Wazir to a game of bridge, and smooth out roughness, by losing the hand’.

A charge against Khan Sahib that needs to be taken seriously was his, and his younger brother’s, inability to adjust to a fast-changing scenario. Thus, in the mounting communal polarisation in the Frontier in the months following the Hazara riots, the Muslim League propagandists in general, and the Pir of Manki in particular, had mounted a vicious campaign to paint the two brothers as betrayers of their faith, and their heritage, to the Hindus. To give it substance they pointed to the two-some allowing their children to marry outside Islam: Khan Sahib’s daughter, Mariam, to an Indian Christian boy; AGK’s son, Ghani, to a Parisi lady. This, in the eyes of the true believers, was blasphemy. To the ‘explosive’ Khan Sahib, the charge was so patently ridiculous and unreal, that he swore as it were to refuse to parley or have anything to do with those who made it. He, thus, remained strangely ‘blind and obdurate’ in a developing situation ‘that called for insight and imagination.

The same would seem to hold true for Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Closely aligned to the Mahatma and his mystique, he yet failed to appreciate that the latter’s influence counted for little among the Congress high command in the crucial decisions leading to partition. The fact was that when it came to the crunch, their lip sympathy notwithstanding, Gandhi had been more than once disowned by his own flock. On independence day, the Mahatma Gandhi found himself not so much at the heart, and hub, of things as cast out on a limb as it were: he was in far away Calcutta healing the wounds of communal fracas! The harsh truth is that it was not Badshah Khan alone (or his Khudai Khidmatgars) who was "thrown to the wolves." So indeed was his political and ideological mentor!


Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s part in this brief interregnum though indirect was by no means unimportant. Then, as later in life, Badshah Khan did not measure up to the stereotype of a politician, for, not unlike the Mahatma — and the sobriquet of Frontier Gandhi was neither ill-deserved nor yet inappropriate — his politics were suffused with a singularly unalloyed dedication to the cause of honesty and truth as he perceived them. All through life, he remained powerfully convinced that the real solution to the Frontier province’s problems lay not in ganging up with the rag-tag of time-servers who constituted the provincial Muslim League — a course of action Jinnah had strongly urged on him both in standing up for the rights of the Pathans to carve out their own independent identity. This was by no means outside the territorial domain of Pakistan.

Badshah Khan’s assessment of Governor Caroe’s role in subverting the authority of the provincial government was no different from that of Khan Sahib or Nehru’s for that matter. He too added his own powerful voice for the Governor’s recall.

One of Jinnah’s correspondents accused the Frontier Gandhi of organising the "Zalme Pakhtun", the "armed army of the province, whereas in the same breath he talks of non-violence". Echoing her, it may be noted that the editor of "Jinnah’s Papers" had described the ZP as "a militant organisation raised by Abdul Ghaffar Khan to counter "the Muslim League in the province." Badshah Khan, it must be remembered, had made it abundantly clear that the ZP which had been founded not by him but his son Ghani had no connection with his own Khudai Khidmatgars. Even though it was a direct reaction to the violent movement then being pursued by the Muslim League in the Frontier, the objective of the outfit was "to defend and not to offend." The ZP volunteers believed in violence, wore deep red uniforms and carried firearms.

Later it was Abdul Ghaffar Khan who forcefully pleaded that Pakhtunistan offered an ideal solution to the problems of the Frontier Province. Sadly, in the frenetic activity and the breathless pace of events in the few months preceding partition, the demand came with a certain unseemly haste, and was, to start with at any rate, vaguely defined. Understandably, this lack of clarity was seized upon by its detractors who charged that it implied an indirect if devious way of demanding accession to India. Here it is necessary to underline that Badshah Khan refused to kowtow to the compulsions which Nehru faced vis-a-vis the holding of refrendum and, despite the latter’s forceful advocacy that he take part in it, opted for a boycott. Any participation, Badshah Khan ruled, would be tantamoun to a betrayal of all that he and his Khudai Khidmatgar stood for; the circumstances leading to it and the issues raised were essentially communal in their nature. "The irony was the greater in that long dubbed as Hindus and Hindus agents, now when we have refused to join Hindustan, we are forced to fight the referendum on the issue of Pakistan versus Hindustan".

A political analyst has underscored the point that Nehru’s views on the referendum, based on Mountbatten’s advice, would have led to the "political isolation and virtual liquidation" of the Khudai Khidmatgars among the Pathans. Sensing this fatal conspiracy against them, Badshah Khan "refused to swallow the bait".

A recent biographer has charged that both Badshah Khan (as well as Abul Kalam Azad) were "neither consulted nor informed" before the Congress rejected the Cabinet Mission plan for a united India and accepted partition which had a direct bearing on the future of the Pathans. Such "a disgraceful treatment" of two topmost nationalist leaders exposed Congress pretensions of representing the Muslims of India. Insofar as he held Congress responsible for "throwing him to the wolves" and "not intimidating Pakistan over the issue of Pathanistan" — Badshah Khan too was guilty of lacking enough courage to stand up to Gandhi and Nehru, of "suppressing his conscience" when he should have been "outspoken" and of becoming eloquent when it was too late.

Again, the work in question would have us believe that Congress emissaries approached the Afghan government "to extend active support" to the Khan brothers’ compaign for "the independent state of Pakhutnistan" and that there was a sinister design to secure Kashmir as part of border (broader?) strategy covering Kashmir and the NWFP. In other words, Kashmir was to be used as a backdoor to reach the Congress-dominated NWFP. "Had Badshah Khan publicly denounced these secret contact" between Kabul and the Congress, "he would have proved his bona fides". Sadly though the contacts "became more intimate and sinister in the days to come", while the Khan kept his counsel.


Nehru’s multifaceted personality with all its charm and vitality suffered from some crippling flaws. One such was his emotional attachment to men and situations which defied all cool-headed, rational analyses. A case in point was the hangover of decades of empty rhetoric fed on imaginary scenarios about the tribes of the NWFP. They conjured up a romantic vision of brave men whom the Raj had grievously wronged, and who were only too keen to hug and embrace its political legatees. No wonder that on the morrow of his assumption of office, and against the better judgement of his colleagues including Azad, the Sardar and the Mahatma — and in the face of the not-so-dishonest advice of the local functionary — Nehru launched on his luckless tour.

In extenuation though, it is only fair to underline that the bombing of the Shabi Khel in Waziristan in retaliation for the abduction of the political agent and his party (June, 1946) — almost synchronised with the swearing in of Nehru’s government. His detractors in general, and the Muslim League in particular, blamed him squarely for this barbaric act of aerial bombardment. The first news, it would appear, was relayed to him by Badshah Khan who, as well as his own officials in New Delhi, now suggested that Nehru undertake a tour of the tribal areas to familiarise himself with the ground realities and judge things for himself. It is hard to imagine anyone in similar circumstances reacting differently.

Sadly for him, his hopes — that the tribes, enthused by the threshold of independence to which he beckoned, were but waiting for his words of wisdom — were rudely belied. Preceding his visit, the fire-eating Pir of Manki had no doubt sown the wind and raised the ante but clearly this time round his tour was limited to the Afridi strongholds in the Peshawar area while hostility to Nehru appeared fairly widespread, including among others, the Wazirs and the Mahsuds. Nor was Sir Olaf exactly friendly. All in all, it was clear that the tribes were far from responsive to the pep talk Nehru and the Khan brothers gave them.