The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, June 11, 2000


Fresh look at 1919 massacre
Review by Akshaya Kumar
US dissident within
Review by Ramandeep Johl
25 years after emergency
Review by D.R. Chaudhry
Why Internet is a global changer
Review by Bhupinder Singh
This way we are building urban slums
WRITE VIEW by Randeep Wadehra
Raj karega Khalsa, how
BOOK EXCERPT from “Punjabi Identity in a Global Context”

Fresh look at 1919 massacre
Review by Akshaya Kumar

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre Edited by V.N. Datta and S.Settar. Pragati Publications and Indian Council of Historical Research, Delhi. Pages 297, Rs 795.

FAR from being an objective or impersonal account of events, history today is a site of intense contestation and continuous re-presentation. In their anxiety to totalise experience, traditional historical narratives tended to impose overarching designs on events — events which were otherwise too polysemic and discontinuous to be reduced to simple moral or ideological allegories of the good versus the bad, the coloniser versus the colonised, the bourgeoisie versus the proletariat, etc. The post-modern historiography has enabled us to problematise and see through the politics of linear, teleological and utopian histories—histories that iconised kings, mystified politics and marginalised the subject.

Keeping in view, India’s rather checkered past, and equally carnivalesque present, its history cannot be scripted in any monologic essentialised frame. Ideally it should be history as process as against history as product. Even this process may not necessarily be evolutionary or unidirectional. Despite all mud-slinging between the Leftists and the Rightists over the role of Indian Council of Historical Research towards the rewriting of Indian history, one has to admit that over the years the Council has done some seminal work to de-colonise our imagination. The recent monograph series undertaken by ICHR is evidence enough of its commitment to the re-interpretation of Indian past through frames which are at times contradictory and radically dissimilar.

The monograph No 4 entitled "Jalianwala Bagh Massacre," edited by V.N. Datta and S. Settar could well be seen as a step forward in the direction of rewriting of Indian history. Instead of romanticising or iconising the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as an unproblematic site of Indian nationalism, various scholars and historians research the episode from different angles. The monograph is a compilation of 16 papers presented in a seminar on the 75th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in New Delhi in 1994. Besides examining the micro-facets of this cataclysmic event, the papers also explore various trends and local events that went into the making of it. The post-Jallianwala scenario has also been taken care of.

In this brief prefatory remarks followed by an article, V.N. Datta unfolds various aspects of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre for historians to speculate on and rethink about. He begins by summing up the perceptions of contemporary historians and the arrogant official British response to the episode. He raises a series of questions which need further investigation: Who organised the Jallianwala meeting? How did it take place? Why did British embark on the deadly course of firing on an unarmed crowd? On the basis of his empirical research, he comes out with his own answers. The Jallianwala meeting was masterminded by a 23-year-old matriculate Hans Raj, a dubious character who later turned a government approver. Datta avers that Dyer embarked upon firing to "inflict a severe punishment on the people of Amritsar for the murder of his five compatriots and an assault on an English woman so that it might set an example for the government of the country."

The Jallianwala Bagh episode worked as a catalyst in the emergence of pan-Indian consciousness. In his reflections, Ravindra Kumar, an eminent historian, attributes a larger historical significance to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre for it pitchforked subaltern classes headlong into the nationalist movement which was hitherto in the hands of urban middle class alone.

Kamlesh Mohan, in her article, also highlights the seminal role this episode played in bringing out the "muted groups" of Indian society from their splendid isolation to the very vortex of nationalist fervour. Jallianwala created "a new Indian woman" who had political consciousness and grit to confront the violent and aggressive masculinity inbuilt in the discourse of colonialism. Kamlesh Mohan enlists a number of women activists — Sarla Debi Chaudharani, Phul Kaur, Rattan Devi, Attar Kaur, Parbati Devi, Radha Devi, etc — who took active part in the post-Jallianwala anti-imperialist demonstrations, picketting, boycott of foreign cloth, etc.

Satya M. Rai views Jallianwala as one soul-stirring episode which transformed Gandhi from being a cooperator to non-cooperator. Hari Singh, while evaluating the consequences of Jallianwala, refers to the unbridgeable divide and distrust that this episode created between the white English and non-white Indians. Jallianwala bequeathed a strong racial divide to the posterity. Jallianwala, as S.R. Singh also posits, unmasked the immorality of British rule in the most conspicuous terms.

Gursharan Singh holds Jallianwala as a watershed in Sikh history for it provided a perfect occasion for a reform movement among the Sikhs. Dyer’s baptism as an honorary Sikh irked the Sikh masses and therefore necessitated a rethinking within Sikhism.

Mohinder Singh while acknowledging the complicit attitude of some Sikhs towards the British, contests Arun Shourie’s rather dismissive estimate of Sikh’s contribution towards nationalism by way of asserting the positive role of the Akali movement in broadening and intensifying the nationalist movement. The Akali movement was a reform movement that sought to liberate the holy shrines from the clutches of pro-British mahants and government-appointed managers.

J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga in their joint presentation while undertaking a close textual reading of the evidence presented by Sir Michael O’Dwyer to the Hunter Committee, come out with an observation that one of the major causes of Jallianwala was O’Dwyer’s "anxiety to retain the support of the landed classes for the empire" against the growing political aspirations of the urban middle class.

Instead of squarely blaming the colonial administration for the tragedy, K.L. Tuteja, however, holds the satyagrahis as much responsible for it. He observes that their "overconfidence and impatience made them transgress the limits of the Gandhian idea of resistance". They "worked under the psychology not merely of exposing the arbitrariness of the authority of the British regime, but of immediately overthrowing it."

Tuteja evaluates the significance of the Jallianwala episode in terms of two important lessons Gandhi learnt from it — one, inclusion of constructive activities during the periods when no mass action of satyagraha was being undertaken; and, two, improving the organisation of the Congress as a political outfit.

Surjit Hans carries out a detailed data-analysis of the Jallianwala martyrs in terms of their religious and caste identities, and their location. He discovers a steep fall in the index of Muslim participation to 0.39 in the Jallianwala massacre from 1.4 of the April 10 disturbances. When it comes to the intensity of participation, he observes that the Sikhs and higher caste participants confined themselves to "higher" forms of activity, whereas the poor low-caste participants took to lower forms of political activity.

The percentage figures for death sentence, transportation, rigourous imprisonment and whipping are in the descending order in case of the Sikhs, the Hindus and the Muslims, whereas in case of low-caste people like Maras, Ruldus or Butas the figures are in the ascending order. He concludes his extremely insightful analysis by citing some of the highly politicised and communal reactions to Jallianwala. The Akali newspaper downplayed Jallianwala by comparing it with the execution of Haqiqat Rai in the 18th century. Some of the Sikhs continued to rate Budge Budge Ghat incident where the Sikh Gadarites were shot higher than Jallianwala. Khilafat rhetoric also hinged more on Moppila rebellion than on Jallianwala.

Then, there are significant contributions from historians from South India and West Bengal. Such critical interventions from areas beyond Punjab or North India underline the discursive value of Jallianwala towards the formation of national consciousness. According to K.K. Kurup, Jallianwala marked the end of moderate politics in Kerala. Suranjan Das refers to the widespread use of Jallianwala in trade union meetings at Calcutta. Jallianwala marked the convergence of labour and nationalist consciousness.

Atlury Murali finds an inexplicable absence of immediate response to Jallianwala in Andhra. It begins to feature regularly in plays, poems and stories of Andhra nationalists only after the non-cooperation movement gathers pace.

There are contributions which do not address to Jallianwala directly, yet they do bring out subtle paradigmatic trends in pre-and post-Jallianwala Punjab. S.Kavita’s makes a fascinating study of the "coercive reform crusade", of the colonial police during 1848-1911, in rooting out what it perceived the professional and organised crimes of the "predatory" tribes like Sansis, Minas, Mazhabi "thugs", etc. The enhanced powers which Punjab administration acquired under the pretext of this crusade legitimised the use of violence in the decades to come in dealing with social problems.

Nandita Haskar uses Gandhi’s critique of the Rowlatt Act to expose the exploiting character of law in India. Most of us have internalised the social contractual theory to an extent that we tend to accord a sacrosanct status to law. Gandhi’s critique provides a basis for developing a civil disobedience jurisprudence, a radical theory of human rights.

Besides providing a rather exhaustive bibliography on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the monograph also furnishes some key primary documents and statements in the appendix to help the reader construct his own perception of the gory episode of Indian history. The appendix carries Tagore’s rather polemical letter to Lord Chelmsford on the renunciation of his knighthood, Colonel Wedgewood’s strong condemnation of Dyer’s action during a debate in British Parliament, the text of the Rowlatt Act as was passed by the Imperial Legislative Council, the satyagraha pledge signed by Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Anusuyabai Sarabai, etc. The statements of Nehru and Gandhi have also been included to showcase the responses of Indian leadership, particularly the Indian National Congress to Jallianwala.

In terms of the range and quality of analysis, the monograph is flawless, except for the fact that nearly every paper before it takes its critical position, recounts the Jallianwala Bagh massacre with almost identical details. For instance we are told for the nth time that in the Jallianwala firing, more than 370 people died, about 1500 were wounded and about 1650 rounds of ammunition were fired. Such identical recounting engenders an element of monotony in an otherwise well-anthologised book. Although the contributors of papers are well-known, yet the editors should have given a brief introduction of each contributor either in the beginning or towards the end of the anthology.

It would have added to the scope of the anthology if the editors roped in contributions from British historians on how they perceive Jallianwala 75 years after its happening. The anthology does bring home the national character of the tragedy, but it fails to internationalise it. Keeping in the view the scale of tragedy and the high-handedness of Dyer, the event needs to be highlighted as one of the most blatant examples of colonial excesses on the people of the Third World.

Some Sikh leaders in the heat of Operation Bluestar went on to equate the operation as another Jallianwala. The anthology on Jallianwala, published as recently as 2000 should have carried an article or two on this propensity of local leaders to equate any armed clash against Centre as Jallianwala. Should the Jallianwala massacre become a trope of rhetoric for latter-day Indian politicians?


US dissident within
Review by Ramandeep Johl

Powers and Prospects: Reflections on Human Nature and the Social Order by Noam Chomsky. Madhyam Books, Delhi. Pages 244. Rs 250.

PROFESSOR Noam Chomsky teaches lingustics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. But to many of us he is more familiar as the outspoken critic of dominant capitalist forces which shape the public opinion through market and the media, a proponent of free democratic society, a strong voice against the anti-humanitarian foreign policy of his own country, the USA for 30 years, Chomsky has lent his support in words and deeds to the people of East Timor in the cause of their freedom.

The present book draws essays on wide ranging topics such as the study of language, its role in shaping human thought and human nature, intellectual responsibility of the writer, criticism of corporate forces, and dreams of a just and humanistic world order, all of which are thought provoking.

It is assumed that there is some connection between language and mind, inasmuch as the former is described by some as a mirror of the mind. The author discusses the development of this understanding as "cognitive revolution" which occurred in two stages. The first stage, which was more dramatic, occurred around the 17th century and coincided with the revolution in science. Cartesian philosophy contributed to its development.

It is basically a mechanical philosophy, visualising the world as a superbly complex machine. Animals are simply more complex (machines) than inanimate objects. But humans do have free will, they have potentialities which override the mechanical nature of their structure.

The contact mechanics of this philosophy was relegated by the introduction of Newton’s action and later developments in physics went far beyond Cartesian mechanics. But Cartesians made some important strides in the field of language. For them, the creative use of language was a criterion for the possession of mind. In other words, it was a non-mechanical faculty. They also wondered about the unification of language and mind. Though we may frame these questions differently today, they remain ever unanswered. However, these thoughts were forgotten in the later history of the subject and were only rediscovered in our notions of particular and universal grammar.

A second or contemporary revolution occurred about 40 years ago and it also led to a shift in perspective. Chomsky sees the cognitive revolution of yesteryear being reenacted in the ongoing debate about the nature of consciousness. He also finds arguments about the relation between man and machine, to be important for the discussion on language.

Speaking about the intellectual responsibility of a writer, Chomsky says that it is his or her moral imperative to find out and tell the truth, though these motives are subject to qualification, such as best as one can, about things that matter, and to the right audience. A writer must bring the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them. He elaborates his concern with examples. The US attitude towards the same kind of atrocities in Cambodia and East Timor was quite different. It was primarily shaped by the interest in what is ideologically serviceable and accordingly, the media coverage was distorted.

Or, take Latin America, the traditional preserve of US power. Half of US military aid goes to Columbia which is also the worst human rights violator in the hemisphere. The awesome atrocities by those who make use of military aid are rarely reported. Rather official fairy tales about war against drugs are glorified time and again, which is dismissed as absurd by human rights groups. If attention is drawn to the actual facts, they are labelled as "tirade", conspiracy theory or anti-American.

The author sees the writer’s responsibility to tell the truth about "shaming of the West" to a western audience, which can act effectively to terminate these crimes. Chomsky sees that there is no use talking to authority, the ones in power.

Corporate power suppresses democratic stirrings. Sharing the humanistic conception as expressed by Russell and Deway, about free democratic society, where liberty and individual creativeness can flourish, Chomsky feels that these ideas are at odds both with the totalitarian order of Lenin and Trotsky, as well as with capitalist industrial societies of the West. One of the systems has fortunately collapsed, but the other is on a march backwards to what could be a very ugly future. The author regrets the new spirit of the age which is to "gain wealth, forgetting all but self".

Much effort is being made to ingrain American values in the erstwhile Communist societies such those in Eastern Europe. Although things are changing fast towards the directed ends, many people find it hard to change their collective mentality, be a slave to foreigners even if they are offered ten times the profit. The old man is unable to understand why after working in mines for 27 years, he gets Freedom only to become jobless.

On the other side, the USA has been trying for years to subjugate Cuba. Chomsky feels that this hatred for Cuba stems from reasons in American history, when Cuba was regarded as a prized front from the point of view of American agricultural and gambling interests. Castro’s robbery of the US possession was not taken lightly. Dictatorship was highly publicised in Cuba and communism was seen as a threat to democracy. The USA imposed huge economic sanctions, severely cutting off public health facilities that has thus contributed to hunger illness and to one of the largest neurological epidemics of last century, all in the name of democracy.

All in all, Chomsky vividly brings out the inhuman and devious means his country adopts in its dealing with world affairs and he shows us the other face of corporate America, where behind every fortune, there is crime.

Thomas Jefferson, on realising the apparent contradiction between democracy and capitalism (linked closely with the state power), distinguished between aristocrats (those who fear and distrust people, and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of higher classes) and democrats (who identify with the people, have confidence in them and consider them honest and safe).

Chomsky feels that as in the past, one can choose to be a "democrat" or an "aristocrat". The latter path offers rich rewards, given the locus of wealth, privilege and power. The other path is one of struggle, often defeat, but also rewards that cannot be imagined by those who succumb to the philosophy: gain wealth, forgetting all but self.


25 years after emergency
Review by D.R. Chaudhry

Indira Gandhi, the “Emergency” and Indian Democracy by P.N. Dhar. Oxford University Press New Delhi. Pages 424. Rs 545.

WHEN P.N. Dhar sensed at a particular point of time during the emergency that perhaps Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, did not have full faith in him as the man heading her secretariat, he suggested to her in a note that he should quit to enable her to have a competent and trustworthy secretary. He said about himself in the note: "I am neither hypersensitive nor demonstrative." These two qualities sum up Dhar’s personal make-up and are reflected in every important formulation in the book under review.

In his analysis of every important event, he is calm, balanced and prudent. He is always dispassionate and objective in describing all those mighty events in which he was a direct participant.

The title of the book suggests that it is about Indira Gandhi and the emergency in the larger context of Indian democracy, and the book is substantially about this. Chapters on his childhood in Kashmir, student days in Delhi, a teaching stint in Peshawar and later Delhi and his work in British Guiana may appear unnecessary padding. However, they are included at the instance of the editor of the publishing house, have their relevance. They throw light on the evolution of the author’s personality and the formation of his value system which left a deep imprint on his dealing with the momentous events that shaped the destiny of Indian democracy in a highly important phase in its history.

Dhar begins the preface by humbly stating that the book is the result of much exhortations by his friends who thought that since he was closely associated with Indira Gandhi and the Government of India during a momentous period, he should put down his recollections. The period is marked by the creation of Bangladesh, merger of Sikkim with India, Indo-Pak war, Simla Agreement and the emergency — a period that saw, in his own words, towering heights of success and depths of defeat of several eminent personalities like Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mujibur Rehman, etc.

Born in a family of unani hakims in Kashmir, Dhar got his early education in the state when contrary to popular perception, Kashmiri Pandits by and large occupied the lower middle class stratum and the ambition of a young Pandit was to be a clerk. It was Punjabi Hindus and not local Pandits who dominated the state administration.

It was Dhar’s entry into the teaching department of the Delhi School of Economics followed by his appointment as director of the Institute of Economic Growth that earned him the reputation as a serious economist. He first met Indira Gandhi around the middle of August, 1965, when she was Minister for Information and Broadcasting. After the situation created by the Pakistani infiltrators into J&K deteriorated, she visited the state and took Dhar along with her as he could give a dispassionate opinion on a complex problem.

After she became Prime Minister in January, 1966, she started consulting him regularly on economic matters. Unlike her father she had no well-defined ideological stand and was keen to achieve national self-reliance, eliminate poverty and modernise Indian economy. She valued the opinion of experts like Dhar and inducted him as an adviser into the Prime Minister’s Secretariat (PMS) in November, 1970. Subsequently, he was elevated as secretary to run the PMS.

As an important functionary in the PMS, Dhar noticed the stranglehold of feudal culture. The phenomenon is often attributed to Indira Gandhi’s leadership. This, the author opines, is unfair. Jawaharlal Nehru too tolerated a feudal atmosphere and his colleagues behaved like courtiers. Correct. However, Nehru never deliberately tried to undermine the democratic institutions as Indira Gandhi did. It was she who gave the concept of committed bureaucracy and committed judiciary and allowed her younger son Sanjay to emerge as a parallel power centre. After the party split in 1969, she came into her own. She became the most dominant political leader and vote gatherer. A personality cult evolved and a darbar came into existence.

It was during the Bangladesh crisis that the grit and the fighting spirit of Indira Gandhi came into full play. She visited the refugee camps in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura and was appalled by the condition of the refugees. On her return to Calcutta Raj Bhavan Dhar quotes her as saying: "The world must know what is happening here and do something about it. In any case, we cannot let Pakistan continue this holocaust." This is a fine example of her propensity to react effectively and speedily to a serious situation.

She never looked back, gave all possible help to the insurgents in East Pakistan that eventually led to the dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of an independent state of Bangladesh. This made a mockery of the two-nation theory, depriving Pakistan of any claim to speak on behalf of the Muslims in the subcontinent.

The 1971 Indo-Pak war that led to the emergence of Bangladesh dealt a shattering blow to Pakistan as a regional power. With about a lakh of Pakistani prisoners of war in India’s custody and a large chunk of Pakistani territory under India’s control, Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, was convinced that his country could not wrest Kashmir through army action. There followed the Simla conference in June-July, 1972, culminating in the Simla Agreement.

The author, being a close aide of Indira Gandhi, has given a graphic account of protracted and arduous negotiations at Simla and this puts India in a poor light. Bhutto agreed not only to change the ceasefire line in J&K into a line of control, he also agreed that the line would be gradually endowed with the "characteristics of an international border" (his words) and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir would be incorporated into Pakistan leaving the rest with India, thus finally settling the dispute. When Indira Gandhi finally asked Bhutto: "Is this the understanding on which we will proceed?" He replied, "Absolutely; aap mujh par bharosa keejiye (you can rely on me)". However, all this understanding was at a vague level and there was nothing in writing which was binding on Pakistan.

Pakistan was desperate to get back prisoners of war and the territories it had lost to India in West Pakistan and it eminently succeeded in both without conceding anything substantial to India. The prisoners of war and Pakistani territory under India’s control could have been used as a bargaining counter to wrest concessions from Pakistan but nothing of the kind happened. The author offers the explanation that perhaps it was Indira Gandhi’s view that it was unbecoming of India as a victor to behave like an obstinate victor and this attitude infected the attitude of Indian negotiators, or, perhaps we Indians feel more at home with setbacks.

The explanation is hardly convincing. There is no place for maudlin sentimentality in the harsh world of diplomacy. It is equally difficult to believe that India’s past is marked by failures and setbacks in every situation. India lost in negotiations what its armed forces won in the battlefield. Subsequently, both the leaders — Indira Gandhi and Bhutto — lost power and the Simla Agreement proved to be an exercise in futility.

It is the two chapters on emergency, "The emergency; how it came about" and "My experience of the ‘emergency’, that are most illuminating and are likely to draw the reader’s full attention. And Dhar is at his best here in his description and analysis of the events that led to the momentous happening and its aftermath.

The declaration of emergency is often attributed to the flawed personality of Indira Gandhi. The author readily concedes that her personality did play a part in the emergency, but a single temperamental individual could not have brought all this about, however powerful. No attempt has been made to even remotely justify or whitewash her role in bringing about the tragedy that was the emergency, or to minimise its adverse consequences. The emergency had deeper causes than the villainy of one individual or one family. It goes to the credit of Dhar that he is unsparing in his criticism of Indira Gandhi where criticism is due.

The emergency was a systemic failure and one has to go beyond the Allahabad High Court judgement setting aside the election of Indira Gandhi to the Lok Sabha on grounds of electoral malpractice to understand its genesis. The Indian democracy started losing substance much before June 26, 1975, when the emergency was imposed. The author firmly believes that every political system needs a corresponding political culture and this is what Indian democracy lacks. Importing the structures of the Westminster model does not mean imbibing its culture.

Political culture in India, Dhar laments, has increasingly deviated from the norms of constitutional democracy over its evolution. Insurrectionary methods are preferred to democratic mechanisms for the management of conflict. Disobedience of law in the form of strikes, gherao, bandh, rasta roko, etc. has acquired an almost Gandhian moral aura. In addition, it is the "soft state", to use a Gunnar Myrdal phrase, which fails to enforce its policies effectively.

But this is only half the truth. When the ruling elites are not democratic enough and are not responsive to the aspirations of the people at large, mass discontent is bound to seek an outlet in a form that may not look to be democratic in the technical sense of the term. Even in advanced western democracies every conflict is not resolved through legal and constitutional mechanism and agitational course is resorted to in exceptional circumstances. The student movement in France in 1968, coal miners strike in the UK and massive protests against the Vietnam war in the USA are some of the glaring examples.

Further, our state is not soft in all circumstances. It is soft with the beneficiaries of the system when they transgress democratic norms but it has been quite ruthless in suppressing those, say Naxalites, who stand for the subversion of the present iniquitous system.

The Bangladesh crisis resulting in an exodus of 10 million refugees into India put a heavy strain on Indian economy. This was followed by a war with Pakistan and the stoppage of US aid. Failure of the monsoons in 1972-73 resulted in a sharp decline in food production. International oil prices saw a fourfold increase in 1973. All this led to an unprecedented bout of inflation and prices rose by 23 per cent in 1973 and by about 30 per cent the following year.

Thus, India was faced with an economic crisis of alarming dimensions. This led to mass discontent marked by agitations, strike, civil strife, calls for revolt, etc. that brought the government under heavy strain. The railway strike of 1974 and the political movement of 1974-75 associated with Jayaprakash Narayan were the two most important episodes that triggered the chain of events culminating in the emergency.

The state was far from being soft in dealing with the railway strike and it was crushed with a heavy hand. But the mass discontent had roots too deep to be suppressed by stringent administrative measures. The student agitation against the corrupt rule of Chimanbhai Patel in Gujarat was successful in toppling the government. There was an attempt to replicate this in Bihar and elsewhere under JP’s guidance.

All kinds of disparate political elements ranging from the RSS and the Jan Sangh to the Anand Margis and Naxalites, the Congress (O), the SP, the SSP, BKD, etc. came under JP’s umbrella to fight the Indira Gandhi regime. JP gave a call for "total revolution" and exhorted the police and the army not to obey orders he characterised as illegal. There were dissensions within the Congress camp, some pleading for compromise with JP while others opposing it. The CPI fell for the conspiracy theory of history and raised the scare of a "foreign hand" dubbing JP an agent of the imperialist forces.

In this situation, Indira Gandhi withdrew into her lonely self, relying more and more on her younger son, Sanjay. This proved to be the fatal flaw leading to the tragedy of the emergency.

A dispassionate reader would wholeheartedly agree with the author when he sums up the contest between JP and Indira Gandhi as not a struggle between a revolutionary leader striving for large-scale social transformation and a wily politician determined to impose her will on the country. The outcome of the tussle was dismal, proving JP "an ineffectual revolutionary and Indira Gandhi a half-hearted dictator."

It is the depiction of the state of mind of JP during his imprisonment in the wake of emergency that is most revealing, illuminating and instructive. There were no protests, no demonstrations and no open dissenting voices against the emergency regime. Not a leaf stirred in this vast land that is Bharat and there was a period of stunning calm after the fitful start of the JP movement.

JP’s grandiose plan of "total revolution" collapsed like a house of cards, leaving its protagonist a thoroughly embittered, disillusioned, demoralised and broken man. "Where have my calculations gone wrong?" moaned JP in jail. Unfortunately, the author has not gone into the theoretical aspects of the JP movement to analyse its failure, resulting in the agonising state of JP’s mind. JP’s calculations had in-built infirmities and thus doomed to failure. JP had no theory of revolution.

A book containing writings and speeches of JP was brought out when the Janata government headed by Morarji Desai came to power "Jayaprakash Narayan — Towards Total Revolution" in four volumes, edited by Brahamanand (Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1978). This tome running into about 1200 pages is a grand exercise in confusion. Salient points made in it would not fill even half of a postcard. JP had no idea of systematically building structures of mass organisation to sustain a prolonged movement. He was a simple, goodhearted moralist who was used as a tool by disparate political elements to advance their own agenda. The inevitable result was total demoralisation when the government cracked the whip.

JP was in a chastened mood while in jail. He gave clear hints that he wanted to have a compromise with Indira Gandhi and break the impasse. The author has given a detailed account of the efforts made by him through intermediaries to bring about a compromise between the two. However, Indira Gandhi never tried to accept the olive branch offered by JP. She was surrounded by a coterie of foolhardy, self-serving political charlatans who were keen to perpetuate emergency rule.

Some of these tin-pot dictators in the making openly talked of amending the Constitution to introduce presidential form of government. More loyal than the king, Bansi Lal, an important member of the gang of political bullies around Sanjay Gandhi, suggested to Dhar in all seriousness to make Indira Gandhi President for life after amending the Constitution. Thus, brooding in her own shell and captive of a coterie, she missed a historic opportunity to salvage the situation.

The motley crowd of disparate political elements under JP’s umbrella had only one political group, the Jan Sangh, which had a coherent political goal and effective organisational structure. It was this constituent, ably supported by numerous other wings of the Sangh Parivar, that made the maximum use of the JP movement and the Janata government thrown up by it. By the time the Janata government fell on account of the unseemly wrangles among its different partners, the Jan Sangh had succeeded in making inroads into many departments of the government and substantially expanded its organisational network.

When the Janata government fell, the Jan Sangh was the biggest gainer and the political ascendance of its new avatar, the BJP, owes a great deal to the JP movement. The ignominious fall of the Janata government discredited most of its constituents who had joined hands on account of their common hatred for Indira Gandhi. It is no surprise to see today most of the fire-breathing "chelas" of JP — the "total revolutionaries" like George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan. Sharad Yadav, etc. — riding the bandwagon of the saffron brigade. The contribution of the JP movement to strengthening the Sangh Paivar has yet to be analysed fully.

In the epilogue: "Democracy Under Stress: India since 1977" Dhar casts a look at the socio-political scenario in India today and finds it very depressing and gloomy. An important contributory factor is the gradual erosion, of the democratic culture in our governance, which in any case did not strike firm roots in the country. All democratic principles, norms and conventions are discarded in the naked pursuit of power. Individualism constitute the core of liberal democracy and the Mandalisation of politics has further weakened it by attaching overriding importance to the identities of caste and subcaste, leaving no scope for the autonomous individual to pursue excellence on the basis of merit.

Here the author tends to overlook the fact that Indian society has never been individual-centric and the caste has been the basic unit of social organism. This has placed a vast number of people beyond the pale of excellence and merit, putting them at the mercy of a small minority comprising the upper castes. In spite of the all the crusade for the uplift of the dalits and other weaker sections in Tamil Nadu over a long period of time, the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, which receives an annual grant of Rs 40 crore from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, today has only two dalits and not a single Muslim member on its faculty of 420 (M.S.S. Pandian, "Myth of Creamy Layer", Economic and Political Weekly, Mumbai, April 17, 2000).

The caste war is a historical necessity if Indian society has to acquire dynamism. However, this conflict can be liberating and regenerative as well as constrictive and counter-productive, depending upon the way it is handled. There can be two opinions about the efficacy of the caste struggle as it is being waged in the country today but to deny its desirability in the name of individualism is to succumb to the liberal fallacy that does not take into account the typical composition of Indian society.

P.N. Dhar’s book is a highly valuable addition to the literature on Indian democracy. Written in a simple, matter-of-fact style with no rhetorical flourishes, it is of great help to scholars, researchers, policy- makers as well as lay readers.


Why Internet is a global changer
Review by Bhupinder Singh

The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Volume 1: The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells. Blackwell Publishers, New York. Pages 556. $27.95.

"WE live today in a period of intense and puzzling transformation, signalling perhaps a move beyond the industrial era altogether. Yet where are the great sociological works that chart this transition? Hence the importance of Castell’s multi-volume work in which he seeks to chart the social and economic dynamics of the information age." — Anthony Giddens

NETWORKS, according to Manuel Castells, constitute the new social structure or morphology of informational society. The characteristic feature of such a society is the pre-eminence of social morphology over social action.

"The network society in its various institutional expressions, for the time being, is a capitalist society." This mode of capitalism for the first time in history shapes social relationships over the entire planet. But this brand of capitalism is profoundly different from its historical predecessors. It has two fundamental distinctive features: it is global and it is structured to a large extent around a network of financial flows. Capital works globally as a unit in real time, and it is realised, invented and accumulated mainly in the sphere of circulation — that is, as finance capital.

While finance capital has generally been among the dominant fractions of capital, we are witnessing the emergence of something different: capital accumulation proceeds, and its value-making is generated, increasingly in the global financial markets, enacted by information networks in the timeless space of financial flows.

Under the new technological, organisational and economic conditions, who are capitalists?

Neither managers nor the traditional bourgeoisie control the actual system movements of capital. The actors controlling it are numerous and vary from country to country. In Japan, they indeed are managers, in Russia the former nomenklatura, in the USA a colourful array of traditional bankers, nouveauriche speculators, self-made geniuses-turned entrepreneurs, global tycoons and multinational managers. In France, it is public corporations that are the main actors. In overseas Chinese business networks, they are more like the traditional capitalists bonded by shared culture and language. While capitalism still rules, the capitalists are randomly incarnated.

At its core, capital is global. As a rule labour is local Informationalism in its historical reality leads to the concentration of capital, precisely by using the decentralising power of networks. Labour is disaggregated in its performance, fragmented in its organisation, diversified in its existence and divided in its collective action.

Who are the owners, who the managers and who the servants become increasingly blurred in a production system of variable geometry, of team work, of networking, outsourcing and sub-contracting. So, while capitalist relationships of production still persist, capital and labour increasingly tend to exist in different spaces and time; the "space of flows" and the "space of places". Capital tends to escape in its hyperspace of pure circulation while labour dissolves its collective entity into an infinite variation of individual existence. Under the conditions of the network society, capital is globally coordinated, labour is individualised. The struggle between diverse capitalists and miscellaneous working classes is subsumed into the more fundamental opposition between the bare logic of capital flows and the cultural values of human experience.

As for the social effects of information technologies, Castells proposes the hypothesis that the depth of their impact is a function of the pervasiveness of information throughout the social structure. Thus while printing did substantially affect European societies in the modern age, as well as medieval China to a lesser extent, its effects were somewhat limited because of widespread illiteracy and because of the low intensity of information in the productive structure. Thus, the industrial society, by educating its citizens and by gradually organising the economy around knowledge and information, prepared the ground for empowering the human mind when new technologies become available.

What characterises the current technological revolution is not the centrality of knowledge and information but the application of such knowledge and information to knowledge generation and information processing communication devices in a cumulative feedback loop between innovation and the uses of innovation.

Another characteristic feature of the IT revolution in comparison with its historical predecessors is that technological revolutions took place only in a few societies and diffused in a relatively limited geographical area after living in isolated space and time vis-a-vis other regions of the planet. In contrast IT has spread throughout the globe with lightening speed in less than two decades from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, displaying a logic that is characteristic of IT: the immediate application to its own development of technologies it generates connecting the world through information technology.

Furthermore, the speed of technological diffusion is selective both socially and functionally. Differential timing in access to the power of technology for people, for countries and regions is a critical source of inequality in society. The switched off areas are culturally and spatially discontinuous: they are in the Americas in the cities or in the French banlieus as much as in the shanty towns of Africa or in the deprived rural areas of China and India. Yet the dominant functions, social groups and territories across the globe were connected by the mid-1990s in a new technological system that, as such, started to take shape only in the 1970s.

The author concludes that IT has followed a course of creative destruction. It has effectively created more jobs than it has destroyed. He also points out that it has also led to longer average working hours in both the USA and Japan. The third economy that has imbibed IT is Europe where the number of average working hours has declined. Castells argues that this is because of strong social and political institutional orders that will eventually retard the growth of the productive forces.

Castells considers internal regionalisation to be a systemic attribute of the informational/global economy. This is because states are expression of societies, not of economies. "What becomes crucial, in the informational economy, is the complex interaction between historically rooted political institutions and increasingly globalised economic agents".

Castells’ canvas is vast and his three-volume work is said to be of Hegelian dimensions, though a limited comparison with Braudel’s "Capitalism and Civilisation" may not be out of place either. Among the vast array of subjects that he has discussed in the present volume is an examination of the role of state and technology in a historical perspective. For example, he relates medieval Chinese society’s inability to take advantage of its many scientific inventions on the same scale as modern Europe later did, to the role played (or not played) by the feudal Chinese state.

He highlights the role of the counter-culture of the 1960s in leading to the advancement in computing technologies that grew out of the same universities that experienced the strong liberating impact of the 1960s counter-culture, for example Berkeley. He also traces the roots of ethical foundations of the informational society and its complex relationship with globalisation and the market. He demolishes a number of popular perceptions about the much hyped phenomenon of flextime.

A chapter each is devoted to the role of the media, primarily television and another fascinating chapter is on contemporary architecture. On television, he contests contemporary academic criticism of the television expressed, for example, in Pierre Bordieu’s "On Television", where Bordieu states that far from reflecting the tastes of the majority, television, particularly television journalism, imposes ever-lower levels of political and social discourse on the viewers. Castells differs and points to specific incidents that reflect the articulation of popular aspirations in TV programmes.

Castells has been criticised, and rightly so, for using high-falutin, sometimes almost metaphorical language, but then it perhaps reflects the inability of the existing language to describe the evolving phenomenon. Castells has coined a number of terms like "space of flows" and "space of places" to provide the IT society with its defining vocabulary.

Not only is the study vast and the author’s bold originality evident, it is backed by carefully researched data that sets it apart from the pop futurology of Alvin Toffler and Peter Nasbitt. Castells ideas may not be palatable to many. Despite his impeccably Marxist grooming, he has been castigated for not being Marxist enough. He has been termed "Marxoid" and the reasons are not far to — he sways too much away from radical positions. Despite the setback to socialist theory (not to say practice) socialists still do not take kindly to criticism of their strongly and passionately held beliefs. The discerning reader may be reminded here of the spirited reaction to Bernstein’s advocation of evolutionary social democracy a century ago.

To many Castells may suspiciously sound like the scholarly version of the socialist governments of the West today (Schroeder in Germany, Blair in Britain, Jospin in France, and Clinton in the USA). All of them support things that were anathema to the Old, and even the New Left (like trade liberalisation). It is not incidental that Anthony Giddens (who is quoted copiously in the book) is considered by many to be the ideological and theoretical mentor of Tony Blair’s New Labour.

Notwithstanding the criticism that Castells has attracted and despite its evident drawback of studying a phenomenon that makes everything appear fleeting, it is already a classic that is significantly influencing the debate around the networked society.Top


This way we are building urban slums
by Randeep Wadehra

Metropolitan City Governance in India by Marina R. Pinto. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 242. Rs 395.

URBANISATION in Third World countries like India conjures up fearsome images. Ceaseless exodus from the hinterlands to the nearest urban centre puts pressure on the already inadequate civic resources. Consequently, shantytowns mushroom on the land meant for social purposes. These slums keep growing while politicians and the bureaucrat look the other way. No surprise then that we have on our hands the largest slum in the world in Dharavi, with many more vying for the dubious distinction.

Pick up any newspaper, you will find politicos of all hues beating their breasts while berating the Central government’s neglect of their respective states or regions. Thus governance at the national and state levels comes under public focus. But what remains grossly neglected is the local government. This is sad. It is like building a superstructure with no or at best a weak foundation.

Perhaps this is the reason why our democratic set-up has not been beneficial to the masses. If the local governing bodies like municipal corporation, panchayat, etc. are geared up to meet the common expectations, there will be a real chance of a tangible and prompt improvement.

The modern city has evolved from being a centre of political and cultural power. It has become the engine for economic and industrial growth. Being a social, economic and geographical entity, the prospects of its expansion are almost limitless, spilling across local, district and occasionally even state boundaries, encompassing various functioning and territorial authorities. Between 1951 and 1991 the urban population in India has jumped from 6.2. crore to 21.7 crore. Worse, one third of this population is concentrated in 23 urban centres. Dr Pinto has therefore rightly highlighted the need for a decent civic life for the urbanites.

According to the author, globalisation has affected localities and has brought disquieting local issues to the fore. Thus is born the concept of new localism. The economic rationale for new localism stems from "new industrial spaces" which result from globalising and restructuring processes, in which localities have a heightened awareness of their enhanced roles. The political rationale for localism is seen in its role in circumventing or replacing outmoded structures of central bureaucracy.

In fact, new localism heralds the possibility of new parochial opportunity structures, which are dynamic enough to reflect the ongoing economic, social and political changes at the grassroots level.

In the light of this, the author critically evaluates city management in the four bursting-at-seams metros — Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Calcutta. While giving separate profiles of each metropolis, he elaborates the nature and degree of their urbanisation. He also analyses the structure and functioning of their respective municipal corporations.

She studies the role of the mayor or commissioner, state-local relations and interactions with other unifunctional agencies, development authorities and NGOs. After having a look at the various related theories including the democracy-versus-efficiency disputation and investigating the trends that facilitate new localism, she makes a comparative study of institutional designs in the USA and the UK.

One does not have to be an expert to know that our megalopolitan scenes is depressing indeed. Hardly any civic amenity is functioning. Optimality is a distant dream. Gross mismanagement and unbridled corruption have compounded the problem which originally cropped up due to poor foresight and inept execution of ill-planned townships. Unfortunately, these blunders are being repeated even in the case of an ultra modern township like Chandigarh.

Witness the traffic chaos, the mushrooming jhuggi clusters and land encroachments by the rich and the powerful. What one would like to know is how do we manage to destroy even the most seemingly enduring propositions in such a short time?

At the very outset Pinto gives reasons for limiting the study’s scope to our urban conglomerates. One of the reasons is that the urban areas are trendsetters and opinion makers. One is not too sure of that. Time and again, the ruralites have looked at issues in the light of their own needs — be they during elections or multi-purpose projects or industrialisation. Perhaps new localism has yet to come to terms with our traditional localism!

This volume is a must read for all city fathers (and mothers too!). How one wishes Pinto had widened the study’s scope to include the functioning of village panchayats too. Or, perhaps, one would rather not open a can of worms.

* * *

Doing Business in India by V. Padmanand & P.C. Jain. Response Books, New Delhi. Pages 270. Rs 345.

It is as if a magic wand has wrought the transformation — not in the material well-being of the common Indian but in the macro level attitudes towards material accomplishments. Neither profiteering nor financial hanky-panky is considered anti-social any more. But there is much more to this social metamorphosis.

Economic reforms have moved in the direction of procedural simplification in government departments facilitating prompt setting up of projects. However, in order to take roots and grow in the Indian economy, a commercial enterprise needs several other inputs too — proper business environment, work ethics, etc.

Business practices and styles vary so much in our country that new-comers find it difficult to integrate their methods and attitudes with the local ones. The rapid changes currently taking place in our business environment might make it easy for foreign entrepreneurs to set up shop here once the picture becomes clear. This volume studies various factors that determine the inflow of foreign capital and know-how into our economy.

Till recently nobody wanted NRIs to set up industrial units in India, but their hard currency was welcome. The Swraj Paul case comes readily to mind, especially the uproar among our elite when he tried to bite off a slice off the Nanda empire. The justification given was that NRIs have no serious commitment to India’s welfare. They want things on a platter. If they fail they can always go back to their adopted country where they have a real commercial stake. But those were the days of licence raj when product quality hardly mattered. There was a vested interest in keeping all consumer goods scarce. Competition was frowned upon. Now things are changing.

The consumer, thanks to information explosion, is not only more aware but also more assertive where his right to better quality product and after sales service is concerned. The opening up of the economy has certainly hurt the working class as far as employment is concerned. This can be rectified through proper legislative measures like keeping the hire and fire policy reasonably equitable, and providing a social security net to the unemployed, the sick and the vulnerable. Indeed, such measures should have preceded the liberalisation process so that unscrupulous business tycoons could be kept at bay. Similarly, laws regarding environment protection should have been in place by now. The same goes for corruption and other obstacles in the way of a healthy and vibrant economy.

According to one observer quoted by the authors, "The toughest part of doing business in India is understanding the culture. People promise to meet you at 10 a.m. sharp the following day and they may turn up a week later, often not even displaying sheepishness! People confidently assure you that the job will be done when they probably do not even know what it is all about... and you realise it too late!"

Well, this is one aspect that our laws can hardly change.

* * *

Dial ‘G’ for God by Manish Jain. Care & Cure International, New Delhi. Pages 176. Rs 135.

We often mistake religious rituals for spirituality. But this is not true. While religious practices can get outdated, spiritualism does not. A creed is generally the outcome of the social, cultural, political and even economic factors prevailing at a specific place at a specific time. Spiritualism, on the other hand, caters to our innermost craving for peace.

Here is one more book on spiritualism. It tells you how to shed doubts, have communion with the almighty and get unlimited happiness. The book deals with such time-worn topics as "The significance of life", "How to achieve fulfilment", "Coffers of success"; "Karmic linkages", etc.

Along with the other oft-repeated words of wisdom, the volume assures that genuineness pays. Says who? Look around yourself. The silver-tongued charlatans rule the roost, whatever be the sphere of life. You have the made-to-order godmen, illiterate Ph. Ds, engineers who cannot differentiate between a nut and a bolt, teachers who can’t teach and doctors who can’t cure.

Yet it is these people who possess all the good things in life. The old-boy network, the you-scratch-my-back-and-I-scratch-yours culture and, of course, the time tested UTT (under the table) formula assure you instant and almost unlimited success.

Even God can be bought with offerings in temples (an ancient practice, perhaps a precursor to graft?). You don’t have to dial "G" to meet Him. Brandish your credit card and He shall appear. Spiritualism be damned.

This is the age of whiz kids. Child prodigies in different fields are mushrooming — or so the media would have you believe. Some of these precocious kids must be genuine, while others are shams.

The shamming stems from desperation to make a quick buck, or to grab the limelight. It is mentioned in the book that Manish Jain is a successful CEO of an organisation dealing in eResearch (sic) and eConsultancy (sic). He has had extensive training in Internet technologies at a famous institute in Switzerland. Interestingly, the names of Jain’s organisation or the Swiss institute are not given Mercifully he has also not projected himself as the founder of spiritualism.

Perhaps an instance of eModesty?



Raj karega Khalsa, how

This is excerpted from a chapter by Bhupinder Singh in “Punjabi Identity in a Global Context”.

TOWARDS the conclusion of the Sikh congregational prayer (ardas), a remarkable and central Sikh text, the following verse is recited:

The Khalsa shall rule and none shall successfully defy them.

All shall have to petition for their alliance after bitter frustration, for the world shall eventually be redeemed through the protection that the Order of the Khalsa alone affords. (Translated by Kapur Singh in 1959)

Obviously, the above averment, repeated ever since Guru Gobind Singh or at least Banda Bahadur (1670-1716), is of great import and therefore, it is surprising that little systematic effort has been made by scholars, Sikh or non-Sikh, to draw out its true meaning.

At the popular level, the affirmation is generally interpreted to mean either the capturing of state power by the Sikhs as a specific community or the universal dominion of dharma or justice. Apparently, the first interpretation is political (from the standpoint of (miri) and the second religious (from the stand point of piri), although the two are also assumed to somehow imply each other. For some, the non-theocratic sarkar-i-Khalsa of Ranjit Singh (1799-1839) comes close to fulfilling the ideal of Khalsa raj.

It seems that a third interpretation of the litany is possible consistent with the spirit of the Sikh revelation and sublating the insights yielded by popular interpretations.

For understanding the meaning of raj karega Khalsa, it is first necessary to understand the meaning of Sikhism. Every new religion clarifies afresh, in relation to particular historical context, the relationship between unity and variety, transcendence and immanence, or between man, nature and God. The particular historical context in the case of Sikhism was provided by the antagonism between Hinduism and Islam. A chief task which fell upon Sikhism, therefore, was to mediate between the apparently antagonistic world-views of the Indian and the Semitic religions.

And true to its character as a mediation, Sikhism was and is neither and both of Hinduism and Islam at one and the same time. By virtue of its peculiar character, furthermore. Sikhism also successfully resisted being incorporated into the framework of castes versus sects — the two options into which medieval Hinduism forced all dissenting religious and social movements.

The Sikh gurus revealed that the relationship between God, man and nature is characterised by identity as well as difference, proximity as well as distance, and complementarity as well as opposition. This is the non-dualist vision of unity in variety and through it the Sikh Gurus dissolved the spurious opposition between monism and monotheism, delinked the Semitic monotheism from the restrictive notions of the chosen people (Judaism), the Messiah (Christianity) and the final revelation (Islam) and redefined and rearranged the different levels of being and non-being, from man and nature to God or the Absolute, recognised in Indian thought, into a new structure and hierarchy.

God as conceived or revealed in Sikhism is in nature as well as in man, that is, immanent but also transcendent, manifest and unmanifest, personal and impersonal. This yields, inter alia, an interesting cosmology: nature as a theophany or revelation of God to Himself and to man. The implication is that the domains of the temporal and the material, as two aspects of nature, are not to be shunned as in any way untrue, unreal, or worthless, but rather integrated with the spiritual. Thus in the view of one scholar, Sikhism invests the virtues of sannyasa (spiritual), grihastha (material) and rajya (temporal) or, which is the same thing, tariqat, shar’iat and hukumat conjointly in a single body of faith and conduct .

Let us take stock: Sikhism emphasises unity in variety instead of absolute homogeneity or absolute heterogeneity as between God, man and nature. This leads to the recognition of the relevance of political and social variables for "the total human emancipation of religious man" (Uberoi), "To be able to achieve the integration of temporal and spiritual seems to have been the most significant contribution of Guru Nanak to the totality of the Indian way of life of medieval India. Indeed, he seems to have reared up a new image of a socio-religious community given at once to temporal and spiritual pursuits of life" (Ray). "Sikhism accords to the material universe the same essence of reality as belongs to the ultimately real, though not the same immaculation and intensity. It follows, therefore, according to Sikhism, that there is no true and genuine religious activity except in the socio-political context" (Kapur Singh).

However, there was another, quite a novel question to which Sikhism addressed itself: What is the relation of religions to God? That is, how does the variety of religious forms relate to the unity of God? The Gurus’ answer was that all religions as alternative routes to God, who Himself is beyond all religion (amazhabe as Guru Gobind Singh said), are equal and true, but also imperfect and, at the esoteric level, intercommunicable and interconvertible. Let me clarify.

There has been a running "accent in Sikhism, from Guru Nank Dev’s Japu to Guru Gobind Singh’s Jap, not only on the unity and sovereignty of God, but also on His ineffable greatness vis-a-vis universe, nature and man; incarnations, prophets and deities or powers; arts, sciences and religions; and so on. God is inexhaustible by any measure and, therefore, no religion, for instance, whether Hinduism or Islam, could lay exclusive claim to truth. Dilating upon the use of the epithet amazhabe by Guru Gobind Singh, Dr Mohan Singh writes:

"It should not surprise that Guru Gobind Singh who perfected a new faith lauded his Master with the epithet amazhabe, as the religion-less one. He says: Thou art, O God, beyond all religion; thou hast no religion except it be Godliness; Thou has created one after another all the religious systems and destroyed them."

In so far as Sikhism knew and enunciated the above truth, it could not just be another sectarian religion, but a special and higher mediation that harked to what Schoun calls the transcendent unity of all religions. It also needs reiteration, although the point has already been made, that the religion of the Gurus was and is equally close to and/or equally distant from both Hinduism and Islam. If Sikhism preaches, as is alleged, higher Islam, so it does higher Hinduism: "Dr Tara Chand went out of his way in his adventures in history to allege that Guru Nanak Dev knew more of Islam than of Hinduism. His allegation was repeated by Sardar Iqbal Ali Shah. My conclusion is that if there was anyone who knew the whole of higher Hinduism and higher Islam it was Guru Nanak Dev" (Diwana).

It follows that it was not the intention of the Gurus to displace either Hinduism or Islam, but to disengage them both from their narrow medieval problematics and practices and to turn their practitioners to a life full of truth and love of God, man and nature. All those who chose to follow and defend the new revelation became Sikhs (disciples) and eventually the Khalisah or, as in quotidian discourse, Khalsa.

To conclude this brief disquisition: the question of (and answer to) religious diversity is inscribed within the heart of the Sikh revelation as is apparent from the structure of the Granth Sahib and the architecture of the gurdwara, if we do not also want to include, in our symbolic reference, the varying costumes of Baba Nanak. There is unity, the Gurus held, not only in the variety of natural forms, but also of religious forms. All religions are equally true and truly equal, and also perhaps equally imperfect. Thus in the formulation of Kapur Singh, Sikhism stands for multicentric, plural, or non-totalitarian society as the normal and natural mode of human social existence.

« « «

Perhaps we should raise some appropriate questions. Who, we may ask, can violate the principle of religious equality and plural society? Obviously, not the humble, the weak, or the dispossessed, but only those who wield power. What is the source of such power? It is the state or the king, above all, in the medieval context. Now, what if the state or the king violates the principle and begins to discriminate and oppress?

The Gurus had understood from the very beginning, such an understanding being part of the revelation, that it was not so much religious diversity as unequal power between the rulers and the ruled that was problematical. Therefore, as part of their mission they were required not only to declare the truth about the equality of all religions, but also provide an institutional framework to contain and finally liquidate the asymmetrical power equation. We know the Guru’s ultimate institutional answer: the Khalsa panth, which joins the axes of piri and miri, truth and power, religion and politics, or simply theory and practice. But before we turn to the final consummation, the discovery by Sikhism of its perfect esoteric form, let us eavesdrop on the discourse of history.

There are several questions, as yet unsettled, about the pre-British social formation and state in India. However, it is agreed that all ruling members of the house of Babur (of the Timurind dynasty of Central Asia) after Akbar discriminated more or less, against the non-Muslims on the lines of the Delhi sultanate. Looking a little more closely, one discerns three types in the religious and political policies pursued by the Mughals, ruling or non-ruling, in relation to the non-Muslim communities: namely, those of synthesis (Akbar) unity in variety (Dara Shikoh) and assertion of the superiority of the Islamic revelation over others (Aurangzeb).

Akbar followed a consciously syncretist strategy, which culminated in the eclectical din-ilahi, a non-starter as everyone knows. Dara Shikoh, a disciple of Sufi saint Mulla Shah and close to Sarmad, stressed the unity underlying various religions, the outstanding testimony being his "Majma al-bohrayan". In this remarkable work, Dara compared the technical terms of Sufism and Vedanta and came to the conclusion that "there were no differences except purely verbal in the way in which Vedanta and Islam sought to comprehend the truth" (Satish Chandra). Dara also believed, like Akbar, that state should remain above all religions. In contrast, Aurangzeb not only believed in the superiority of Islam over other religions, but also that this fact should reflect in state policies.

"A strong reaction against religious syncretism with the Hindus asserted itself under Aurangzeb, who of all Mughal emperors was the one who gave the most weight to Islamic, specifically Sunni, legitimation and who was most intransigent in his ambition to bring the entire subcontinent under the "dar-ul-Islam" (Wink).

"The legal systems of the late empires (Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal), too, were typically reclericalised, religious doctrines gaining enhanced administrative force over previously causal secular customs, with the passage of time... Military rigidity, ideological zealotry and commercial lethargy thus became the usual norms of government in Turkey, Persia and India" (Anderson).

"But then the tide turned, and during the reigns of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb, Mughal imperial policy, especially the policy of these three monarchs towards the Sikhs in general and the Sikh Gurus in particular, seems to have been definitely hostile and inimical. The details are well known to any student of Indian history and need not therefore be recounted Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur fell victims to the general policy of persecution of the Hindus pursued by Jahangir and Aurangzeb respectively, though it may be contended that in each case there seem to have been specific immediate causes and events that led to the martyrdom of the two Gurus associated with the meanest and cruellest barbarities of the medieval world" (Ray).

Obviously, it was the policy of religion and politics pursued by Aurangzeb and some of his predecessors that served as a catalyst in effecting a formal shift within Sikhism and paving the way for the formation of the Khalsa Panth. Although the Khalsa Panth was the logical culmination of Sikhism, its formation was linked to and mediated by a specific historical conjuncture. At the same time, however, the Sikh Gurus clearly recognised that the problem of inequality and abuse of power was not a conjunctural aberration of sorts, but a structural issue requiring an institutional solution valid beyond the demands of immediate history.

The "Order of the Khalsa", its form and organisation were not born all at once, but they crystallised over time though a process of evolution, which was perhaps as necessary as it was drawn out. Guru Nanak Dev, who laid the foundations of the new faith, also simultaneously laid the foundations of a critique of tyranny. There was a clear awareness in him that moral order in human society could not surely subsist without a right kind of political order. Mohan Singh Diwana has summed up Guru Nanak’s critique as follows:

"The founder-Guru was the first known Indian poet who called India Hindustan, who mentioned all the three conquering Muslim dynasties. Turk, Pathan and Mughal, and who made it clear that their conquests had confronted the God-hearted Indians not with civilised invaders but with blue-robed barbarians.

"He termed the rulers of the age butchers with long knives, agents of darkness engulfing the lights of law and order. As stressed by Guru Nanak Dev, the fivefold challenge of the Muslim was that the subjugated people must: (i) give up Sanskrit learning; (ii) accept conversion, or at any rate, build no new temples and resign themselves to the desecration and destruction of extant temples and idols; (iii) disarm; (iv) tolerate rapine and one way intermarriage; and (v) yield up their savings and a proportion of income in one form or another.

The founder-Guru’s initial response was to charge God with having brought to pass this unequal struggle of the carnivorous tiger and the docile goat, permitting mass rape, terrorisation, massacre and enslavement; advancing and aggrandising Khorasan at the expense of Hindustan; and never giving a sign of His compassion and pain at such suffering. Nanak foretold that soon a valiant disciple and protagonist of a fighter Guru would arise to even the scales and exact retribution. He assured those in chain that the doom of the enchainers would be accomplished and at the very hands of the enchained ones."