|Saturday, June 17, 2000,
is not cricket
from past mistakes
INDIANS have never treated their cricketers as demi-gods; they have always worshipped them as full-fledged gods. Now that the icons have proved themselves to be counterfeits, there is a sense of disbelief. So much of the finest sentiments have been expended on them that if they come clean, maybe, just may be, all can be still forgiven and forgotten. After all, look at what happened in the case of Bill Clinton. There is life even after the Monica Lewinsky confession. The cricket-crazy public may very well rebuild the pedestals for the idols if only they show a streak of honesty so what if these are not quite as lofty as these once used to be! But all this "where is the proof?" babble does not convince anybody and is rather getting on the collective nerves. There just has to be some difference between a Sukh Ram and a Kapil Dev or Azharuddin in public perception. To dismiss Hansie Cronje's sensational disclosure as nothing more than a wild allegation would not do. That kind of argument has already worn thin while outmanoeuvring Manoj Prabhakar. There is far too much smoke now to deny the existence of a fire. Prabhakar could have been accused of speaking out of pique. But Cronje, Pat Symcox and all others? It is time to stop calling for proof and start a voluntary disclosure of the skeletons in the cupboard. Once the inventory is over, let us throw them out and start all over again. To alter a phrase a bit, to err is human; to own it up is divine. If Cronje can bare it all on the prompting of his spiritual advisor, his Indian counterparts are expected to show an even loftier sense of right and wrong.
The mafia lords who are
believed to be hand in glove with some cricketers may be
putting pressure on them and their colleagues to keep
their mouth pursed. This threat should be taken seriously
and neutralised. Even otherwise, it is not going to be
easy for the hardboiled mercenaries who not only took
money for playing as directed but also acted as
commission agents between foreign cricketers and bookies
to actually say those three words ("I did it").
Depending on the past experience, they are widely
expected to use every loophole in the lawbook to fend off
the charges. Perhaps an offer of immunity partial
if not complete will make some Indian players
sing. For that matter, even Cronje is telling less than
half-truths when he says that "South Africa never
threw a match". He led from the front in arranging
defeats but claims that whenever his country lost it was
not because of this treachery. All that is impossible to
swallow. The Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth
Affairs, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, has said that the CBI
has ample proof of match-fixing against a cricketing
icon. His name should be revealed at the earliest. For
once, the BCCI should also take courage in its hands and
get tough with the players. Now that former BCCI
president I.S.Bindra's allegation that nearly every
cricket match has been fixed during the past few years is
proving to be closer to truth than was earlier believed,
there is need for a thorough overhaul. The game is bigger
than players with big names. Cricket has already been
reduced to a circus; it should not be allowed to
degenerate into a farce. Any revival of the discredited
game requires extreme measures. Any takers?
INTENSE caste rivalry leading to killings during elections in the Hindi heartland has been the hallmark of politics in Bihar. Now it appears UP is also following in the footsteps of its eastern neighbour. Wednesday's panchayat elections provide proof of this development. Thirteen persons lost their lives in poll-related violence and two contestants died of heart attack because they could not bear the extreme tension generated during the battle of the ballot. This has happened in just one phase. The law-enforcing machinery will have to work overtime to ensure that this ugly activity is not repeated in the remaining three phases of the panchayat elections scheduled for June 17, 20 and 23. It will not be an easy task as the schedule is such that all the 71 districts will be involved in each phase of the polling. This year 18.54 lakh persons are in the fray for the three-tier hierarchy at the political grassroots level: panchayats, kshetra panchayats and zila panchayats.
The panchayat elections
this time have evoked extraordinary interest. The number
of candidates this time is 15 per cent more than that in
1995 when such an exercise was held last. There are huge
funds involved which will be at the discretion of the
elected people's representatives. Money and muscle power
is playing a major role, but it is the caste factor that
will decide the fate of most candidates. The local
issues, if any, appear to have been relegated to the
background under pressure from caste ties. The 8.5 crore
voters are so involved in the political future of their
candidates on caste lines that any provocation is enough
to force them to take to violence. Political parties are
taking an unusual interest in UP's panchayat poll as it
may influence the future course of politics in the state.
The Congress has a long history of having its hold over
the panchayats despite its poor showing in the assembly
and parliamentary elections. If its position remains
unchanged the party dissidents under the leadership of Mr
Jitendra Prasad will be faced with a more difficult time
as state Congress chief Salman Khursheed will then be in
a furious mood to settle his scores with them. He already
enjoys the backing of 10 Janpath. But a more interesting
scenario will emerge if the BJP gets a drubbing at the
hustings, as it did during the recently held byelections.
This may be interpreted as the failure of the party to
carve out a base at the village level, signalling the BJP
allies sharing power in the state to think of new
alignments. Chief Minister Ram Prakash Gupta, whose
"gaddi" has been saved for the time being
because of the panchayat poll, may have to go even if the
BJP-led ministry continues to survive. The Samajwadi
Party of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and the BSP led by Ms
Mayawati are expecting a good electoral harvest. If the
results are on their expected lines, they will feel more
emboldened to prepare for the assembly elections due next
MOST of the pro-LTTE political parties in Tamil Nadu have greeted the $100 million credit line to Sri Lanka with eerie silence and not with a loud protest as many expected. The PMK has been the sole exception, questioning the morality of financially helping a nation at war with its own people but immediately falling silent. The MDMK of Mr Vaiko was fully satisfied after he rushed to New Delhi and met the Prime Minister for about an hour. The biggest surprise was the reaction of Mr Karunanidhi. He more or less welcomed the credit, saying it was normal. Of course, the Moopanar-led TMC and the AIADMK have given the decision their full-throated backing. Why this sudden change of heart? The ongoing impasse in the Jaffna fighting has cost the LTTE the euphoric support it earned immediately after its capture of the Elephant Pass army base. Then it looked like a sure winner; not any more. As days pass, it is the army that is digging its heels, frustrating the Tigers with the help of modern weapons it is receiving on an emergency basis. The winner, in this case the army, is not winning over new admirers but the loser, in popular perception the LTTE, is losing the adulation it received in the last week of April. As in New Delhi so in Chennai, the lull in fighting, particularly the inability of the Tigers to keep up its advance to its old stronghold in Jaffna, has induced second thoughts. Even the guerrillas seem to be reviewing their options. It is now clear that an Eelam under the LTTE will become a outcaste like the Taliban in Afghanistan, shunned by neighbours and big powers. What must be frightening is that even after the declaration of independence, it has to keep up its campaign of terror killing, this time targeting fellow Tamils. Other minority groups are solidly arrayed against it. Finally, there will be no room for negotiations with the government and greater autonomy will vanish like a dream.
Kumaratunga government too is in the midst of
reconsidering its LTTE policy. It has redrafted its old
offer on devolution of power and seems to have secured
the endorsement of the main opposition party, the United
National Party. A series of meetings last week and the
lengthy discussion External Affairs Minister Jaswant
Singh had with Sri Lankan leaders have led to the
finalisation of a package. It would seem that there is a
consensus on the three fiercely contested points: the
quantum of power to be devolved, the merging of the
northern and eastern provinces and bringing it under the
control of the minority government and vesting the
ownership of land with the provincial authorities. From a
distance it is tempting to hope that there is also an
agreement on switching over to a genuinely federal set-up
and scrapping the unitary system now in operation. These
constitute an attractive set of proposals and several
Tamil groups, other than the LTTE (it is opposed to
autonomy and demands sovereignty) and the TULF (it is
still thinking of its response) have signalled their
approval of the concessions. This development presents a
unique opportunity to India. It has to take active
interest to bring the government and the LTTE to the
negotiating table with the help of men like Mr Vaiko who
are close friends of LTTE supremo Prabhakaran. In this
context the recent noises they have made become very
useful. Also India should rope in Norway negotiators more
SEVERAL leading universities in the USA and Europe have achieved financial self-sufficiency by making intelligent use of the immense brain power available on their campuses. This has channelised the energy, talent, ambition and resourcefulness of their youth into constructive channels, weaving them away from drugs, sex and violence. More importantly, from the universities point of view, their wrestling with the socio-economic and technological challenges has led to the boosting of the agricultural and industrial production and vast improvement in their services sectors. The universities in India, however, continue to be outdated ivory towers, isolated from the mainstream socio-economic and technological revolutions sweeping the globe. This is partly due to the snobbish, inert and fossilised mindsets of most of the teachers and partly due to the shocking ignorance of many among the Vice-Chancellors about what science and technology can do for society.
There are repeated exhortations from the top political and administrative echelons to generate financial resources and make our universities financially independent and selfsufficient on the pattern of some of US and European universities. Yet, year after year, our universities continue to show deficit budgets of crores of rupees and run after government secretaries and ministers with begging bowls in hands asking for more and more doles. Resource generation in India has remained an ideal, on paper only, with those expected to lead the universities merely groping in the dark like the pitiable blind men trying to identify the elephant. Only in a couple of universities in the country, any worthwhile effort has been made to innovate and go out to tap even a fraction of the vast sources of funds available, making use of the intellectual prowess of the youth. Wherever this happened, the Vice-Chancellors of these universities were first-rate teachers and working scientists who had a sound hands-on experience of research and development (R and D) in the cutting edge of science and technology.
For the vast majority of universities in India, resource generation means thoughtless increase in the fees to be paid by the poor students, which amounts to fleecing the hapless parents. Another route being followed passes through the labyrinths of NRI/NRI-sponsored admissions, where rules can be bent, merit can be glossed over and the number of seats can be increased to any ludicrous extent. While there is some justification for increasing fees within certain limits, there is none in selling degrees through the overstretched NRI-quota route. A certain percentage of seats can be offered to NRI/NRI-sponsored candidates, to augment the finances of the universities, provided that those admitted under this category come up to the same standards as the non-NRI candidates. Fleecing the students or their parents in these two ways cannot be termed as valid or imaginative methods of resource generation by the universities.
Recently, suggestions have been made by some university professors, advising the state governments to make their tax-collection procedures more efficient. While, in principle, this suggestion is unexceptionable, it does not answer the question: how can our universities generate their own financial resources? There have been many suggestions of this type in the past, made by individuals and by commissions. These include suggestions to downsize the unwieldy bureaucracy to one third, to adopt one-child family norm for checking population, to completely privatise education specially, higher and professional education and to abolish all types of subsidies on food items and agricultural or industrial inputs like electricity and water. Such suggestions have come from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank too.
All these suggestions can be debated and their agreed parts can be implemented. However, these are broader political questions that require wider national consensus and the political resolve that would take a very long time to come. Universities cannot wait till tax-collection procedures are made more efficient, bureaucracy is made to jettison its flab, subsidies are rationalised and population is stabilised to a viable level. Financing the universities calls for immediate, practical, effective and substantive steps, both short-term and long-term, which should ultimately make their dependence on governments minimal. Of course, till these steps are actually taken and results seen, the present level of assistance has to be maintained for their survival. The states cannot be absolved of their social responsibility towards education even after most of the universities, by and large, succeed in becoming financially self-sufficient.
To achieve self-sufficiency, every university needs a broad and comprehensive database of all the industries, trades and services in the region where it is situated. Important problems and strategic needs of individual organisations as well as of groups of industries and services have to be classified keeping in view the solutions which different university departments can provide in terms of technical or medical knowhow, testing and standardising facilities as per national (BIS) and international (ISO-9000/14000) specifications, standards and procedures, consultancy, manpower training and R and D support in view of agreed payments to the university by the beneficiaries. Such an exhaustive database is essential and can be created by the university experts after an indepth interaction with all concerned within their region.
Short-term projects can be assigned to postgraduate students is sciences, applied sciences, business and commerce, engineering, technology and computer application to solve specific industrial or service sector problems as part of their degree requirement and training. Most of the present-day dissertation work is either a rehash of the earlier dissertations or of an entirely academic nature, which is of no use to anyone. Paid long-term research projects should be allocated to PhD students and the young faculty members on specific topics, which are sponsored by specific groups of (similar) industries. Each group of industries would jointly pay for the entire equipment, salaries of the personnel involved and for the technical knowhow generated. India today imports technical knowhow to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore per year. Even if 10 per cent of this knowhow could be generated in the country by 100 universities (out of about 250), each university on an average would be richer by at least Rs 10 crore per year.
Universities should be able to provide paid consultancy for qualitative improvement of products and processes in industries and manpower training to their personnel for upgrading the professional skills of their middle and upper level management cadres. Total quality management (TQM) and certification for ISO-9000/14000 are areas in which universities can assist and guide various organisations for a fee. These are not end-product testing mechanisms leading to a certificate of quality. Instead, every step and every process is continually assessed and reassessed as per internationally approved and standardised procedures to ensure automatic quality control at each stage. Our industries require these incessant and inbuilt systems of quality assurance in order to be able to compete with international players. Globalisation of economy implies that our competition is no longer at the local, state or national level.
The universities can play a leading role in health care by providing various types of biochemical, genetic, non-invasive (ultrasound), advanced X-ray, CT, MRI and other diagnostic tests at cheaper rates compared to the market. Some of these tests and equipment constitute a part of routine laboratory work while others are parts or research projects. Such facilities to the public are not merely service, they also bring in money. Testing for TB, AIDS, cancer, heart problems, hepatitis and several other diseases can also be profitably undertaken in university health centres as well as in research laboratories.
Energy consumption in various sectors is a crucial parameter of a states progress and prosperity. Canada, for instance, produces and consumes 40 times more energy than India and is today the best place in the world to live because of its abundant and clean energy availability, among other factors. Universities in India can make sustained effort for R and D in not only the nuclear but also the renewable energy alternatives such as solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal, biomass and wind energy sources. Paid energy conservation projects, auditing and energy consultancy can be undertaken by universities having strong energy R and D centres to help large power consumers to save power, reduce losses, optimise consumption and co-generate additional power from industrial wastes. Training in these areas can also bring in more funds from the industrial sector.
Paid computerised pollution monitoring services at regular intervals can be provided to industries by the universities. This will enable the mills, municipal corporations, milk plants, breweries, distilleries, textile and woollen manufacturing units, leather and sports goods industries, manufacturers of chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals to continuously monitor the air, water and noise pollution being caused by them as per the standards fixed by the state and central pollution control boards. Testing of soil and groundwater for toxicity due to industrial effluxes should be done regularly in all localities by universities to generate resources as also to forewarn inhabitants of possible disasters lurking around the corner due to overuse or misuse of natural resources.
Narcotics, like heroin, are routinely seized and destroyed by the government under supervision of various law-enforcing agencies. There is a need to evolve new alternatives to this process of burning precious drugs. Instead of wasting narcotics worth millions of rupees, universities can undertake research on new chemicals, useful drugs and pharmaceuticals and expensive medicines which can be produced from the narcotics. This will not only generate huge financial resources for the universities, some essential medicines can also be produced at a lower cost for the people. Revenue earned by states from excise duty on alcohol comes due to public consuming alcohol. But the conversion of heroin and such other narcotics to useful compounds will not be at the cost of human health as it is not going to be consumed, it is only going to be put to better use under state control. Universities can get royalty on the development of such processes and products.
Paid short-duration practical training courses can be imparted by universities for opticians, refractionists, airconditioning and refrigeration technicians, computer data entry operators and technicians for hospitals, electronics goods, medical testing and transaction. Rural youth who are not selected for degree or diploma courses in engineering colleges or polytechnics can be imparted such training for three to six months for equipping them for self-employment. These courses can generate recurring resources for any university which cares to fully utilise their existing staff working in applied sciences and engineering departments, workshops and laboratories.
It is not only the science and technology departments which can generate resources for universities on a continuous basis. Departments of laws, social sciences, humanities and languages can also undertake joint ventures for the benefit of society. Books can be prepared in simple language with good illustrations for the children, semi-literates, women and the working classes employed in various professions on subjects of current and perennial interest. Hardly any authentic and well-produced, readable and low-cost books are available today (on Indian cities, historically important places, folklore, events, buildings, musical instruments and traditions, institutions, Indian literature, proverbs, tourist guide maps, common laws for the layman, civic matters, political systems, economic procedures, agricultural practices and geographically important facts, to name a few) These are hundreds of aspects of Indian life like Indian architecture, art and philosphy which remain distant and abstract illusion for the people because these are available only as scholarly treatises written in a language beyond their comprehension, are expensive and generally unreadable. It is the duty of a good university to produce good books for the people to enrich their life. These low-priced, readable and interesting books can be sold by the millions and can bring plenty of revenue even if they are low-priced.
The point is that universities should reach out to society and interact in as many useful ways as possible. It is only in this way that universities can justify their existence and it is only in this way they can earn and become financially self-sufficient. In the age of information revolution, universities will have to learn to be relevant to society, industry, trade and services. Even pockets of excellence, if isolated from society, will produce stagnation, redundancy and self-starvation. Self-sufficiency in universities is possible only when they are led by person of vision and personal achievement. In todays world we do not need mediocrity and intellectual mendicancy in our universities. We need younger, energetic scientists and technologists, even iconoclasts, who would get rid of the inertia, listlessness, self-imposed isolation and irrelevance that have set in our universities.
Military aspect of India-China
SOME well-informed reports on President K.R. Narayanans talks with his Chinese counterpart, President Jiang, and other senior leaders during his week-long visit to that country, clearly indicate that the prolonged boundary dispute is beginning once again to get the attention it requires. Both sides have reportedly hinted at the reality that the main irritant in the India-China relationship is the border dispute and the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Chairman of the National Peoples Congress Mr Li Peng, reportedly told Mr Narayanan that China would cooperate with India in resolving differences over the LAC. A start to resolve the issue has been made, notwithstanding the efforts on both sides to delink this issue with the overall relationship between the two countries.
Top leaders in Beijing were said to be in agreement with President Narayanan that the focus is and will always remain on the longstanding dispute over the regions most strategic territory with the military point of view. It is another matter that Rajiv Gandhi broke the ice during his visit to Beijing in December, 1988, for the first time in 26 years since the countrys major border conflict with India in 1962. The leaders on both sides even at that time, as now, realise that the friendship between the two neighbours is crucial for peace that force should not be used to resolve the territorial dispute. It was agreed way back in 1988 that a climate for a negotiated settlement should be created. This is exactly what Mr Narayanan has attempted. But the boundary issue still continues to be a major issue and a security concern.
As a matter of fact, the Chinese intrusion into the Indian territory in a big way in 1962, and attempts at that from time to time between that year and 1988, was considered as a major military strategy in the region. It is in this context that President Narayanans visit to Beijing was seen. The first important point to be remembered here is that both India and China have fully honoured the 1988 spirit so far. There has been no tension along the India-China border since then and, importantly, the deployment of armed forces on the Indian side has been considerably reduced. In fact, the withdrawal of part of the forces had even caused concern in the Army top-brass at one stage. The commanders in the Eastern sector had wondered if the withdrawal was suicidal for the countrys defence. The lobby had even warned the defence planners to ensure that 1962 and the earlier Hindi-Chini bhai bhai experience was not repeated.
Nothing would please one more than the continuance of the atmosphere created in 1988, that of increasing goodwill between Asias two mighty neighbours. But, at the same time, the countrys defence preparedness has to be kept in mind, particularly when one finds Beijing strengthening its military machine beyond its requirements, and contrary to the international climate. China is expanding its tentacles in Indias north, east and south and expanding and modernising its Army, Air Force and the Navy. This has great strategic significance, because Chinas initial efforts to have an upper hand over the Himalayas have now extended to the Indian Ocean, where the Chinese Naval presence has considerably increased during the last decade.
Worse still is Beijings increasing flirtation with Indias neighbours, alarmingly with New Delhis most potential rivals. The China-Myanmar naval cooperation is now well established and if the latters sea force acquires the status of a blue-water Navy with the assistance of Beijing, then the combination would turn out to be a potential sea threat to the littoral states in the region. In fact, when Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and others in the region had began protesting against Indias naval expansion plans some years ago, China took note of it and began to undertake fast expansion of its navy, including the expansion of its air and under-water arms.
Nevertheless, most alarming aspect of Chinas military build-up is its assistance to Pakistan. It has considerably modernised the Pak air force by upgrading aircraft and missiles. The most alarming news, about which even the USA is concerned, is that China has shipped to Pakistan complete M-11 missiles which have the capability to carry 1100 pounds of nuclear warheads and can hit a target up to a distance of 300 miles. A Pakistani spokesman in Islamabad has been quoted by the UNI to have denied this report, but admitted that his country has purchased from China short-range missiles. What missiles they are is not known, but the whole world knows that China-Pakistan military cooperation is going on for a long time, particularly in the missile development programme.
According to the
Janes Intelligence Review, the Sino-Pakistan
missile cooperation had started in 1987. Initially, it
has been reported, the focus was on the negotiation for
the sale of the Chinese-built M-9 or M-11 ballistic
missiles. The Chinese assistance in developing
Pakistans 400-km surface-to-surface missile (SSM)
was confirmed in 1989 although the information on the
extent of the assistance was not available. In April next
year, the US reports confirmed that China was planning to
sell theatre ballistic missiles to Pakistan. Within
months the first deliveries to Pakistan to
Transporter-Erector-Launchers (TEL) for the Chinese M-11s
had begun. It is also learnt that M-11 was developed with
Pakistani financing. However, a doubt about funding
remains, but it seems certain that funds have gone to
China on behalf of Pakistan. INFA
from past mistakes
EVERYONE who covered Sri Lanka during the seventies and eighties has a favourite story or two to tell if only because we saw the beginnings of this ugly, seemingly endless war. My own memory goes back to the days when the now dreaded V. Prabakaran used to come to Delhi as a guest of Rajiv Gandhis Government and stay in the Ashoka Hotel. I met him there once and have never been able to forget his expressionless, unsmiling eyes. We did not have a conversation because he spoke only Tamil but I remember thinking as he listened to me talking to one of his aides that he seemed like the kind of man nobody could do business with.
He proved this over the next few years when he began the process of eliminating every other Tamil leader. Among a long list of LTTE victims have been Sri Sabarathnam of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, A. Amrithalingam of the Tamil United Liberation Front and, later, Sam Thambimuthu, who I stayed with when I first went to Batticaloa and Neelan Thiruchelvam who presented the Tamil case in the gentlest, most reasonable possible way.
It was Neelan who helped me get into the Eastern province in 1986 when it was closed to foreign journalists. He suggested that I pretend to be Tamil and take the train to Batticaloa. It was a harrowing journey because Sri Lankan soldiers patrolled the train constantly and from time to time stopped to question passengers. When it came to my turn I pretended to be asleep but would have got caught at Batticaloa station if Sam Thambimuthu had not sent someone to guide me through the security barricades that made the station resemble a prison cell.
That night he took me to meet Tamil priests who told me of the terrible persecution that the Sri Lankan Government had unleashed in the province. We visited bombed out churches and met the people who had been tortured and detained and then we sat in the verandah of Sams house and watched helicopter gunships fly over the dark countryside and drop their bombs indiscriminately. J. Jayawardene was President at the time and even as he told the Indian Government that he was prepared for negotiations with the Tamil groups he was making sure that he terrorised them into silence. It was because of people like Sam and Neelan that the story got out but they were too moderate for Prabakaran and so the LTTE killed them just as they killed anyone else they considered a threat to the cause of of Eelam.
How Rajivs Government thought it was possible to arrive at any kind of negotiated settlement with the LTTE remains a mystery but they certainly tried. First, there was persuasion during those secret trips to Delhis Ashoka Hotel, then there was that famous attempt to bribe Prabakaran with Rs 5 crore and then finally there was the attempt to force the LTTE to surrender its weapons when the IPKF (Indian peacekeeping force) went to Jaffna.
So sure was the Indian Government that the Indian Army could solve the problem that shortly after the surrender they took a plane load of journalists down from Delhi to prove that peace had returned to Jaffna. We went in a military plane which was fired at as we approached Palaly airport. We were then bundled into an army truck and driven through Jaffnas empty streets which rang with the sound of gunfire. We knew that the peace was a lie, though, because when we attempted to get out of the truck and walk around we were warned by the officer escorting us that if we stepped off the road we were liable to be killed by mines. It was a bizarre, surreal experience made more bizarre by the fact that the injured women and children we met in Jaffna hospital blamed the Indian Army for their injuries.
The Indian Governments Sri Lanka policy was an unmitigated disaster and Rajiv Gandhi paid for it tragically with his life while Prabakaran lived to fight other battles. Battles that at one point won him total control of the Northern and Eastern provinces so much so that on a later visit to Trincomolee I ended up paying an LTTE tax. Then, the Sri Lankan Government seemed for a while to win the war by wresting back control of these Tamil dominated provinces but Prabakaran remained elusive and continued to train his army which, from all accounts, consists mainly now of children. It is also children, or very young people, who make up the suicide squads that routinely show up in Colombo to attempt some assassination or other including, recently, of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
On one of my visits to Chennai I remember meeting her handsome, movie star husband, Vijay Kumaratunga, who had come especially to negotiate with the Tamil leaders who then lived there under Indian Government protection. I remember him as being sympathetic to the Tamil cause but clearly not sympathetic enough for Prabakaran because he was later killed by a LTTE suicide squad.
It is against this blood-splattered backdrop that we must view the statements of people like K. Karunanidhi. How can they remain sympathetic to the Tamil cause when they know that the only leader left to negotiate with is Prabakaran who has made it more than clear that the only solution to the problem is Eelam? Is that, perhaps, why he made his Czechoslovakia suggestion?
His DMK colleague, Industry Minister Murasoli Maran has attempted to explain the statement away by saying that this was only one of various solutions that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister mentioned. In an interview to Star News he said that Eelam would be the only solution if the Sri Lankan Government failed to work out a proper devolution package but he appears to forget that Prabakarans record makes it clear that devolution is not what he is after.
It is also a particularly irresponsible suggestion if we remember that we have our own problems in Kashmir. Mr Maran was eloquent about how the Tamil people were being brutalised and humiliated by the Sri Lankan Government but he appeared to forget that exactly the same case can be made for the Kashmiri people.
The Foreign Minister is
now back from his trip to Colombo and so far he has made
it clear that India will not get involved militarily.
This is good news, indeed, but while the Ministry of
External Affairs appears to have learned from past
mistakes it is clear that Tamil Nadus politicians
have not. It would be a terrible tragedy if their
sympathy for the LTTE leads them to once more allow Tamil
Nadu to be used as the hinterland for Prabakarans
ugly, little war.
TWENTYFIVE years after Indira Gandhi slapped the Emergency on an unsuspecting India, I wonder if popular attitudes have changed on the subject. Have our intellectuals mellowed in their view of Indira Gandhi? Has the viciousness that used to circulate in the cocktail circuit lost some of its venom?
Much newsprint has rolled over the rotary presses since that fateful night of June 25, 1975, but have any of our commentators changed their minds a little bit about the causes of the Emergency and the consequences of it?
One consequence of that experience, I remember, was that a rational discussion was impossible with anyone either on the Emergency or on Indira Gandhi or indeed on anything else. The political demonisation of Mrs Gandhi was complete. Those who disagreed with her critics had to hide themselves or keep their mouths firmly shut.
In newspaper and intellectual circles, I was attacked as a friend of Indira (an unpardonable sin), and after the new government came to power, I was regularly threatened. Were going to get you, said one large and voluble member of the Press Club. This, in spite of the fact that I was perhaps the only cartoonist who regularly commented critically over the whole period (except for a few weeks of censorship).
Before the Emergency I had strongly criticised in the press and in Parliament, the JP movement and what Jayaprakash Narayan called Total Revolution. It was no revolution at all. It was, as I described it in a television interview a long time after, glorified hooliganism. I am convinced that it was the JP movement that brought about the Emergency. So is Khushwant Singh. I dont know anyone else who has taken this view.
I sympathised with Indira Gandhi, not because of any personal friendship, but because of the way chaos was spreading everywhere Gujarat, then Bihar, then Delhi itself. Perhaps the most authentic and detailed analysis of the JP movement and its consequences has come from one of Indira Gandhis close associates, P.N. Dhar whose book, Indira Gandhi, the Emergency and Indian Democracy (Oxford University Press) gives a detached account of the turbulent period in the early seventies leading to the Emergency.
The students movement in Gujarat began as a protest against increased mess charges in the Engineering College, Ahmedabad. As the agitations spread to other towns in Gujarat, they became more and more violent. Eightyfive people were killed in police firing. The opposition raised charges of corruption against the Chief Minister, Chimanbhai Patel. They demanded the resignation of not just the Chief Minister but the whole government, which had a majority of 140 in a House of 168. As the disturbances continued, the government resigned and Presidents Rule was imposed on February 9, 1974.
The opposition parties were determined to get the Legislative Assembly dissolved, and Morarji Desai started an indefinite fast for the purpose. He succeeded because the Central Government, fearful of violence, dissolved the Assembly on March 15.
P.N. Dhar comments: Nobody shed a tear for the demise of the rule of law and constitutional means of changing governments. And JP was inspired by these happenings!
Dhars assessment of JP is accurate in my view. He writes: Jayaprakash Narayan was many personalities rolled into one. It is not possible to give him a definite political or ideological label. In the course of his fifty-year long political career, he could at various times be described as a Marxist, a socialist, a Gandhian, an anarchist and a populist; as an underground revolutionary trying to organise a guerrilla force for violence and sabotage; as an inspirer of mass movement designed to topple elected governments..... as a sanyasi passionately involved in public affairs. His role in the Quit India movement cast him in a heroic mould and his rejection of Nehrus offer of a Cabinet post gave him a high moral stature in a country where renunciation of power is held in high esteem....
Though he was at different times different personalities, JP was in the years before the Emergency becoming a crusader against communism and Soviet Russia. Meanwhile, Indira Gandhi was getting closer to the CPI in whose assessment JP was unwittingly heading an externally supported fascist movement. The CIA was all over the place, but to mention the foreign hand was to invite derision. Neither the fascist takeover of Allendes Chile nor the assassination of Mujib in Bangladesh made any dent in the popular view about the JP movement a counter-revolution clothed as a moral crusade.
There were parallels between the events in Chile and what followed in India under JPs leadership. Like the truck owners strike, which wrecked the economy in Chile, we had the railway strike led by George Fernandes. We even had an imitation of the pots and pans demonstration in Santiago by middle class housewives in Bombay and Poona.
Meanwhile, JP was losing faith in non-violent revolt. He had earlier described Gandhism as a compound of timid economic analysis, good intentions and ineffective moralising. In early January, 1975, addressing a meeting in Bihar to exhort people to celebrate Republic Day separately, he told them: A revolution will not come either through elections or from Parliament or Assembly, but a revolution, peaceful or bloody, will always be of the people and by the people. He also said at a meeting in Patna: A violent peoples revolution can be successful only if the army and the police rebel, as happened during the Russian revolt. But this is not the situation as yet.
Destabilisation a word invented by the CIA for Chile, was very much in the air. The USA, under President Nixon, had been wanting to punish Indira Gandhi ever since she successfully defied American intervention in 1971 and helped the creation of an independent Bangladesh. According to Dhar, Nixons antagonism towards Indira Gandhi grew even more after India exploded a nuclear device in 1974.
Historians will benefit much from Dhars detailed account of the events leading to the Emergency and they will be able to decide whether the foreign hand really existed or was just a figment of Indira Gandhis imagination.
His own personal
conclusion on the Emergency is, briefly, that it
was not a contest between a revolutionary leader, leading
the hosts towards a new social and political order, and a
wily politician anxious to impose her personal
dictatorship on the country. The actual outcome, on both
sides of the barricades, was much less spectacular. JP
proved an ineffectual revolutionary, and Indira Gandhi a
At the time of initiation, the Master teaches the disciple the technique of withdrawing his consciousness from the entire body, up to the eye centre, where he comes in contact with the Sound Current. The mystics refer to the process of vacating the body and withdrawing the consciousness to the eye-centre as dying while living.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live: Teachings of the Saints
The whole word is afraid
Guru Granth Sahib, Rag Bihagara, M.3.p-555
Where have you gone,
Miras Bhajan, Prabhu ji thae kahan gaya
One who has undergone
Sant Kabirs verse Ja tan bedan jamaiga jan soi....
The arrow of Gods
Sant Ravidas Darshan, 71
O learned one, without practice and experience your erudition is like a load of sandalwood on a donkeys back. You do not try to realise the true meaning of Gods Name, and despite your learning your face in the end will be smeared with ash. If your knowledge of scriptures is true then you should be able to see the Lord in every being.
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