Sunday, August 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Delink Jammu & Ladakh from Valley
Bogey of alienation in Kashmir
by Hari Om
WHAT is alienation? According to M.Seeman, author of “germinal” work On the meaning of alienation (American Sociological Thought, XXIV, 6, 1959), alienation, denotes the estrangement of the individual from key aspects of his or her social existence”. situations (social or political) in which he interacts”.

Autonomy: Adopt Panchayati Raj first
No room for political one-upmanship in J&K
by R. P. Sapru
THE demand for autonomy for the states of the Indian Union has been doing the rounds of political circles in this country ever since Independence. The subject was debated in the Constituent Assembly and the votary of a strong Centre was none other than Dr B.R. Ambedkar. 


Mori and CTBT
August 26, 2000
Reservation as political madness
August 25, 2000
P.R. Kumaramangalam
August 24, 2000
Complaining CMs 
August 23, 2000
Rupee’s next destination 
August 22, 2000
Now, a petrol shock 
August 21, 2000
System constraints bedevil education
August 20, 2000
Trade union of CMs 
August 19, 2000
The Kashmir divide
August 18, 2000
Ill-planned yatra ends
August 17, 2000
Back to tolerant age
August 16, 2000
STD tariff set to fall 
August 15, 2000
It’s Terroristan 
August 14, 2000

Moving spirit behind
by Harihar Swarup

APAN made a miraculous recovery after being devastated by World War II. The rate of growth of Japan was much faster than that of Germany and other countries of Europe trampled under the boot of Nazi fascism. Japan is now on the threshold of a “second rebirth” into “a nation of beauty, rich in spirit” and “a nation enjoy the trust of the world”. 


Uma Bharti at it again
HE irrepressible Uma Bharti is once again up to her antics of wanting to resign from the Lok Sabha as a means of serving the people better. Ms Bharti has sent her three page resignation letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee instead of Lok Sabha Speaker G M C Balayogi. 


Tryst with disunity
By Abu Abraham

THESE days I have got into a new habit. I wake up in the morning, make tea and read the newspapers. But after 15 minutes, I go back to bed for a little snooze. I get so depressed about what I’ve read in the papers. There is little to inspire or put you in an optimistic mood. There is too much bloodshed and violence all around. Whether it’s Kashmir or Bihar or Bangalore (where the mobs are all excited over Veerappan’s kidnap of Rajkumar). Top



Delink Jammu & Ladakh from Valley
Bogey of alienation in Kashmir
by Hari Om

WHAT is alienation? According to M.Seeman, author of “germinal” work On the meaning of alienation (American Sociological Thought, XXIV, 6, 1959), alienation, denotes the estrangement of the individual from key aspects of his or her social existence”. Or, “alienation is a feeling on the part of the individual that he cannot influence the situations (social or political) in which he interacts”.

How is alienation caused? Karl Marx says in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844) that alienation is caused when the individual loses “control over his own destiny and sees that control vested in other entities”.

Almost similar is the formulation of E. Fromm, who, in 1956, wrote The Sane Society. He opines that “alienation is that condition when man does not experience himself as the action bearer of his own powers and richness, but as an impoverished ‘thing’ dependent on powers outside himself”.

Let us now examine the status of the “alienated Kashmiris (read a section of the Kashmiri - speaking Sunnis whose political demands range from merger with Pakistan to independence to greatest autonomy, bordering on sovereignty) in the country’s polity.

Such an exercise will help us to find out if the “grievances” of Kashmiris really fall within the ambit of the universally-accepted meaning of alienation as stated above. But more than that, it will surely enable our decision-makers to devise ways and means aimed at mitigating the hardships and sufferings of those in Jammu and Kashmir who are actually alienated from what certain keen Kashmir-watchers term as the “Valley’s anti-democratic and sectarian ruling class.”

The Kashmiris (minus those who religiously vouch for the two-nation theory such as the Hurriyat leaders and their supporters) hold the Central Government squarely responsible for their alienation from the national mainstream. The upshots of their arguments are four in number:

One: New Delhi has at no point of time allowed them to manage their own political affairs themselves in a meaningful manner.

Two: The Central Government has all along treated them like “slaves”.

Three: The Government of India has “brutally subverted the internal autonomy granted to the state under Article 370 of the Union Constitution with a view to bringing Jammu and Kashmir on a par with other states”.

Four: The North Block has always ignored the financial needs of the state.

Significantly, all of our leading political analysts and academics share the Kashmiris’ perceptions. None of them has, it appears, ever tried to come to grips with the realities in the state.

A careful scrutiny of the available facts and official statistics establishes that there is no other community in India which is more privileged than these Kashmiris and that New Delhi has always accorded them a very special treatment.

Strange may it sound but it is a fact that these Kashmiris, who roughly constitute 22 per cent of the state’s population, have obtained from the Centre a system of government which is almost exclusively of them, for them and by them.

Take, for example, their total control over the state’s political scene as well as an effective say in the New Delhi’s corridors of power. In October 1947, when the state acceded to the Indian Dominion as per the stipulations of the Indian Independence Act, they and their leader, Sheikh Abdullah, practically hoodwinked and blackmailed Prime Minister Nehru.

To be more concrete, they plainly told Nehru that they would endorse Maharaja Hari Singh’s decision on the state accession only if the political power was transferred from Jammu to the Valley-based National Conference chief (Sheikh Abdullah). And Nehru obliged them by forcing Hari Singh to abdicate the state power in favour of the Sheikh.

Ever since, they have been ruling over the state, with the people of Jammu and Ladakh and others in the Valley being reduced to a nullity for all practical purposes and forced to adopt what may be legitimately termed as a policy of political mendicancy.

The factor that has helped them most to retain control over the state polity despite their non-governance and corrupt and anti-democratic practices is the mechanism they diligently evolved in 1951 which could always enable them to capture nearly 50 per cent of the seats in the Assembly (from the small Valley itself — the Valley has 46 Assembly segments as against 41 in Jammu and Ladakh which are far more superior to Kashmir both in terms of population and land area) and three of the six seats in the Lok Sabha. And, all this, notwithstanding the unambiguous rules laid down by the Indian Representation, of the People’s Act or the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People’s Act of 1957.

Again, it was at their behest (and much to the chagrin of the people of Jammu and Ladakh and others in Kashmir) that Article 370 was incorporated in the Indian Constitution. It is under this Article that the solitary State of Jammu and Kashmir enjoys the right to have a separate constitution and a flag other than the national Tri-colour and is invested with residuary powers of legislation, including taxation.

Article 370 has curtailed the powers of the Central Government to the extent that it cannot bring the state within the purview of any Central law of institution without the “concurrence or consultation of the State Government”.

The June 14 to July 24, 1952 parleys between Jammu and Kashmir Wazir-e-aazam and Prime Minister Nehru over the state’s political future, the 1975 Indira-Sheikh Abdullah accord and the 1986 Rajiv-Farooq agreement and the resultant major political concessions like the one which empowered not the state but an individual (the Sheikh) to seek withdrawal of any or all of the Central laws extended to Jammu and Kashmir between 1953 and 1975 further demonstrate the extent to which they can influence the powers-that-be in the South and North blocks.

Even today, the Abdullahs, the Yasins, the Geelanis, the Bhats, the Shahs, the Lones, the Dars, the Salahauddins , the Qureshis, the Omar Farooqs, the Muftis and others of their ilk and sect are calling the shots, with New Delhi making fervent appeals to them to come forward and conclude a truce over Kashmir.

Those who accuse the Union Government of “brutally subverting the state’s autonomy” are only concealing the facts for reasons not really difficult to fathom. That they are not revealing the true story can be seen from their own rather vague statements to the effect that “some” of the Central laws have been applied to the state “without legal warrant or propriety”.

That New Delhi has at no point of time during all these 53 years of accession imposed any Central law on Jammu and Kashmir against the state’s will can also be seen in the Report of the State Autonomy Committee, April 1999, page 63), where the ruling National Conference, an ardent votary of greater autonomy or quasi-independence, has admitted in clear terms that the state has been brought within the ambit of over 260 Central laws with and not without the “concurrence of the State Government”.

As for their share in the vital service sector, they hold over 2,30,000 positions out of a nearly 2,40,000 positions in the government and semi-government organisations in the Valley. In addition, they corner nearly 25 per cent of the jobs in the regional services of Jammu and Ladakh.

The fact is that they not only occupy most of the higher and more lucrative positions in the government, in the revenue and police administration and in the judicial and political services, but also hold a majority of ordinary and middle-level positions.

Similarly, all the professional and technical institutions, universities and all the big public sector industrial units like the HMT watch factory, the television factory, the telephone factory and the cement factory located in the Valley are their sole preserve. Besides, they manipulate for themselves more than 50 per cent of the seats in the Jammu’s ill-equipped and under-staffed medical and engineering colleges and the Sher-e-Kashmir Agricultural University, R.S. Pura, leave alone Ladakh where no such institution exists.

Not only this, they control trade, commerce, transport and industry and own big orchards and landed estates. None of them is without a house. Likewise, the per capita expenditure on woollen clothes in Kashmir is perhaps highest in the world. No wonder then that none in Kashmir till date has, unlike Bihar, UP and Orissa, died of either hunger or cold.

Interestingly, yet not unexpectedly, a vast majority of them do not pay even a single penny to the state in the form of revenue due to it. It is only Jammu and Ladakh which contribute over 90 per cent to the state exchequer and a major part of this money is spent not in the extremely backward and under-developed Jammu and Ladakh but in the already highly prosperous and developed Kashmir Valley.

The oft-repeated charge of the Kashmiris that New Delhi has consistently ignored the state’s financial needs has no basis whatsoever. The fact is that Jammu and Kashmir is a “Special Category State” which receives Central assistance on the basis of 90 per cent as grant and the remaining 10 per cent as loan. The state has been enjoying this status since 1990.

Besides, as a “Special Category State”, it receives the highest per capita Central assistance after Nagaland. For instance, the per capita Central assistance for the state is Rs 3,010 as against Rs 385 for UP, Rs 305 for Tamil Nadu and Rs 190 for the highly backward Bihar. Not just this, New Delhi spends hundreds of crores of rupees in the state every year on what are categorised as the “Centrally-sponsored Schemes”.

But these are only a few of the several such examples which serve to show that it is the Kashmiris and Kashmiris everywhere and all others in the state exist nowhere. All this also points to the fact that they do have the power to shape and control fully their political destiny as well as control (and exploit) the hapless and neglected Jammuites, Ladakhis, Shiite Muslims, Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims, Darad and Balti Muslims, Kashmiri Hindus, Christians and the Sikhs.

It is, however, an altogether different story that they do not recognise all this and take no cognisance of the miserable plight of their brethren and co-religionists in the so-called Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir) as depicted in Mr G. Parthasarthy’s brilliant piece “Autonomy — Pakistan style” (The Tribune, August 3) and that they still raise the bogey of alienation and “dignity of the state” and work for the state’s separation from India or for a dispensation outside the constitutional organisation of India. It is indeed difficult to avoid the conclusion that all of their demands go well beyond the confines of democratic and federal principles and the country’s secular ethos.

One thing is almost clear. Their approach is largely communal and sectarian and their entire struggle part of a jehad with a pan-Islamic agenda. It also appears that they will never allow others to live in peace and with dignity and continue to create troubles in the Valley for India. Hence, the only solution available is to immediately de-link the pro-India and pro-Indian constitution Jammu and Ladakh from the Valley and give them whatever they want subject, of course, to the conditions that the Muslims belonging to other sects and ethnic groups are also willing to throw in their socio-religious and politico-economic lot with them and that the country’s overall interests are not jeopardised.

At the same time, steps need to be taken to set up a separate homeland in the Valley for the over three-lakh internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus so that they can go back to their original habitat and enjoy the fruits of the Indian democracy.

New Delhi must remember that for these Kashmiris the state means the Valley and the people of the state means they and they alone. Any delay on its part to do so and continue to pursue the 53-year-old devastating and one-sided Kashmir policy would be to further harm the general political and economic interests and rights of the minorities in the state, as also to play with national interests.

It is hoped that the August 1-2 brutal killing of over 100 innocent civilians, including the Amarnath pilgrims and labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, will act as an eye opener for Indian decision-makers and our trouble-shooter “secular” intellectuals and make them sit up to work out a new order based on the realities as they exist in different parts of the state and the national requirement.

The writer is Professor of history, University of Jammu, Jammu, and Member ICHR, New Delhi.


Autonomy: Adopt Panchayati Raj first
No room for political one-upmanship in J&K
by R. P. Sapru

THE demand for autonomy for the states of the Indian Union has been doing the rounds of political circles in this country ever since Independence. The subject was debated in the Constituent Assembly and the votary of a strong Centre was none other than Dr B.R. Ambedkar. His arguments carried the day but debate on the issue has continued in one form or another.

The issue was formally addressed by the Sarkaria Commission which is known to have recommended greater autonomy for all the states. However, political leadership of the country, of different political persuasions, has not been able to make up its mind on the issue for the past so many years. Noises in support are made while in opposition and these tend to fade when the same group comes to power.

By itself, autonomy is a glorious slogan with undertones of freedom and of expanding, if not equal, opportunities for the people. As such the demand for autonomy cannot be faulted! In some ways the slogan does stir memories and passions akin to the Quit India Movement. The passion, however, misses the point that Swaraj was sought for all Indians collectively, not for each Indian separately!

Even though there can be little quarrel with the thematic concept of autonomy within the larger framework of a democratic society, it is the thesis of this writer that the demand for autonomy cannot be an end in itself; it must be a means to an end.

It is difficult to evaluate the means without a clear statement defining the end goal being pursued. Therefore, if one looks at the possible goals that the protagonists of autonomy may seek there seem to be only three possibilities. One such goal could be a veiled attempt towards a long-term objective of secession. The second could be a camouflaged exercise to grab a greater share of the loaves of power. The third could be a step towards resolving local area conflicts in states like Kashmir, the North-eastern states and perhaps also other areas.

Most people in the country have serious reservations about the long-term consequences of the demand for autonomy because of the apprehension that the path of autonomy may prove to be the slippery slope leading to the break up the country. That apprehension needs to be allayed; the onus for which clearly rests with the protagonists who seek autonomy.

It is a legitimate aspiration of the people, as well as a constitutional obligation for the state, to ensure the unity and integrity of the country. Autonomy for states especially those that are located on the sensitive borders does raise legitimate apprehensions regarding the integrity of the nation.

A general erosion of credibility of the political processes as well as the leadership in the country leads many to believe that the demand for autonomy is in fact merely an exercise at preserving the power equation in favour of the incumbents. To that extent it could merely be an exercise in political posturing in response to the threat perception of the political leadership rather than a serious exercise in promoting welfare of the people on whose behalf the demands are made. In short it could be an attempt to preserve the current power equation as long as possible. It is the general perception that the demand for autonomy may well be a part of the game of political one-upmanship lacking even in real grassroots support. When such a serious issue as autonomy is trivialised by a pre-eminent concern for designations one cannot help wondering at the real intentions that drive the demand.

On the other hand autonomy, as the mantra for social transformation, for eradication of poverty and for a better quality of life for all the people, should be welcomed and must be supported by all right-thinking persons. If that can also provide a framework for conflict resolution in the state concerned it must be readily granted.

In order to help define the end goals, and resolve this recurring issue, this writer would like to suggest that all demands for autonomy should be accompanied by a well-laid-out action plan aimed at achieving the stated objectives, not merely a pious statement of intent. That plan should then be evaluated against a set of well-defined criteria which could be something like the following:

1. Will autonomy result in greater economic welfare of the people of the state?

2. Will autonomy help to lessen the burden of poverty?

3. Will autonomy help in better resource mobilisation?

4. Will autonomy help to eradicate corruption?

5. Will autonomy provide better administration to the people?

6. Will autonomy provide better security for the people?

7. Will autonomy protect and promote the interests of the minority communities?

8. Will autonomy protect and promote human rights?

9. Will autonomy provide a better framework for democratic institutions?

Considering the present drought in political leadership in the country and the need to protect the future interests of all the people, including those that may feel aggrieved, it is necessary to depoliticise and debureaucratise the decision-making process on such serious issues as autonomy with unpredictable long-term consequences.

It is, therefore, suggested that the Government of India should set up an independent non-political commission comprising eminent men and jurists to examine the demand of the state. If such a commission is satisfied that the action plan meets at least 50 per cent of the predetermined criteria, the recommendation should be accepted by Parliament for a trial period of, say, five years after which a mandatory review should be possible before the arrangement can be given a more permanent shape.

Serious and committed protagonists of autonomy should have no difficulty in accepting this probation to prove their point. However, it is the constitutional obligation of the Government of India to ensure that autonomy does not provide back-door entry for further partition(s) of the country and Parliament would have to deliberate on that issue.

In the long term there must, of course, be a suitable provision for recall to meet unforeseen exigencies when Parliament feels satisfied that the provisions of autonomy are being used in a manner contrary to the stated objectives.

So far, attention has remained focused on autonomy for a state or states. There remains an important aspect of the problem that is conveniently forgotten by the votaries of autonomy.

At what point should the buck of autonomy stop? Should autonomy be given to the state, regions, districts or panchayats? The country is already committed to strengthening the Panchayati Raj institutions. Indeed the very concept of Panchayati Raj is based on the recognition that people should be empowered to take decisions for their own welfare — arguments that are the central theme of the protagonists of autonomy.

Panchayati Raj goes beyond autonomy for the state; it is the instrument that provides autonomy to the community. Such being the existing constitutional position, all that remains to be done is to redouble efforts in this direction. If the Centre is slow in advancing the cause of Panchayati Raj the states concerned could move forwards on their own! Those that seek autonomy should also be prepared to yield autonomy.

One option could be that autonomy at the state level be considered only if such a need is felt after successful implementation of Panchayati Raj, not before. At least the people should be offered that option. Autonomy for the state as currently defined may raise the hackles of many people; Panchayati Raj has hardly any opponents. Thus Panchayati Raj is bound to be a hassle-free win-win situation for the autonomists! Will they take it! If not, one would hope to know, why not?

The writer, who belongs to Srinagar, is a reputed cardiologist and social thinker now based in Panchkula (Haryana).


Moving spirit behind
Harihar Swarup

JAPAN made a miraculous recovery after being devastated by World War II. The rate of growth of Japan was much faster than that of Germany and other countries of Europe trampled under the boot of Nazi fascism. Japan is now on the threshold of a “second rebirth” into “a nation of beauty, rich in spirit” and “a nation enjoy the trust of the world”. The moving spirit behind the “rebirth” is the new Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshiro Mori, who visited India last week. He is the first Prime Minister of the “nation of the rising sun” to have undertaken a tour of the sub-continent in past 10 years and the trip was highly successful. It instantly reestablished age-old goodwill between the two countries, the economic sanctions imposed by Japan notwithstanding.

Elected Japan’s 85th Prime Minister — the 26th to hold the office since World War II — in elections in both houses of the Diet (Parliament) on April 5, Mori formed a three-party coalition government. Within two days of taking over he unfolded the plan for the “rebirth of Japan”, having recognised that the system that supported Japan’s amazing growth after World War II was no longer in tune with the times. The blueprint of the second birth includes wide-ranging reforms aimed at bringing Japan into the next age. The main planks of the reforms include bringing about full-fledged recovery of the economy, advance measures to deal with the revolution in information technologies and other structural reforms. Important among them were rebuilding the Japanese education system and reforming the legal system. Incidentally, the economy has already shown sign of improvement.

Recognising the significance of the IT revolution, which can be compared to that of the preceding agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution in the history of mankind, Prime Minister Mori has set up a IT strategy headquarters. Comprising the Ministries concerned, the headquarters has been entrusted with the task of taking the benefit of the IT revolution to the Japanese people.

Prime Minister Mori had seen difficult days and the tide of time made him tough both physically and mentally. His father, Shegeki, was in one of the islands (now known as Chuuk) in the Pacific ocean when World War II ended and he returned to a war-devastated Japan, having borne the brunt of the world’s first atomic bomb, in January, 1946. Mori’s mother, Kaoru, had died from illness only a year before and the future Prime Minister of Japan was, at that time, only eight years old. He was brought up by Kaoru’s sister. His father lived longer and passed away only in 1989.

In his school days Mori had the good fortune of coming into contact with many wonderful teachers who exerted great influence on the formation of his character. He learnt not only about academic subjects but many other things that are truly important for personal growth, such as courteousness, independence and a sense of responsibility. Mori was an enthusiastic baseball player in his childhood but, at 11, inspired by his father, he picked up the game of rugby .His father was an active member of a prestigious club. For Mori, the tough game of rugby taught him self-sacrificing spirit and teamwork. So much so that he devoted himself to rugby as his sport for life.

As a student of Waseda University, Mori besides being the champion of rugby, joined the university’s oratorical society which has been a training ground for many of Japan’s political leaders. There he met many future leaders of Japan, notable among them were Noboru Takeshita and Keizo Obuchi who, subsequently, became Prime Ministers. Active participation in the oratorical society enabled Mori to develop an aptitude for the uncertain world of politics.

Before plunging in politics, Mori tried his luck in the profession of journalism, having joined “Sankei Shimbun”, a major newspaper of Japan, and later worked with the Japan Industrial Journal. The profession enabled him to establish contacts with many business leaders who represented Japan at that time and one of them was Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motor Company.

Though he took to journalism, he always nurtured the ambition of entering politics. His dream came true when he contested the election for the House of Representatives in December, 1969, as an independent candidate, won by a huge margin and became a member of the Diet. He was only 32 then and since then there was no looking back for him; re-elected consecutively for 10 times. He became a member of the Liberal Democratic Party and came under the tutelage of the noble-minded former Prime Minister Takeo Fakuda, who preached simplicity and humbleness.

Mori married a fellow student at Waseda University in 1961 and they have a son and a daughter.


Uma Bharti at it again

THE irrepressible Uma Bharti is once again up to her antics of wanting to resign from the Lok Sabha as a means of serving the people better. Ms Bharti has sent her three page resignation letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee instead of Lok Sabha Speaker G M C Balayogi. The rules and procedure of the House of the People enjoins an MP wishing to give up his or her seat to forward a simple, one-line letter of resignation. It is desired that such a letter of resignation be handed over personally by the MP to the Speaker. In case the resignation letter is sent through an emissary, the Speaker usually speaks to the MP concerned to ascertain if he or she has indeed resigned before acting on it. Therefore, even if the Prime Minister forwards Ms Bharti’s letter of resignation from the Lok Sabha, there is every likelihood that the Speaker might be constrained to reject the same as it does not conform to the rules. Some BJP leaders are rather peeved with Ms Bharti’s now on, now off attitude. For the present she has earned a reprieve with Vajpayee telling Ms Bharti that he will decide about forwarding her resignation letter to the Speaker after the BJP’s National Council session concludes in Nagpur on August 28. Irrespective of Bharti’s insistence of quitting the Lok Sabha, it is apparent that she is unable to come to terms with not being reinducted in Mr Vajpayee’s Council of Ministers.

Naidu’s compulsions

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu is unlikely to give up his campaign against the Centre for greater devolution of resources to the States. His posturing along with that of some other Chief Ministers like Kerala’s E K Nayanar might cause avoidable headaches to the Centre which has already rejected convening a meeting of the Inter-State Council to review the suggestions of the Eleventh Finance Commission (EFC). However, the Congress Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh, has cautioned against a confrontationist approach on the issue of distribution of resources to the States and called for a balanced approach. Aides of the Prime Minister and sources in the BJP are not unduly worried about Naidu’s hype in targeting the Centre. They are near unanimous in saying that “one must understand Naidu’s political compulsions in Andhra Pradesh.” Naidu like all the Chief Ministers in the country is up against empty coffers. With the Telugu Desam party extending crucial support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance Government from outside, Naidu wants to squeeze as much juice out of the Centre as possible to refurbish his sagging image in Andhra Pradesh by criticising the recommendations of the EFC as a means of rectifying the financial imbalance.

Palace intrigues

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee who has always had a knack of holding important positions in the party despite his inability to win any elections, not even a local poll, in his long career has fallen a victim to the intrigues in 10 Janpath. He has been made President of the Pradesh Congress Committee of West Bengal, an unenviable job in the backdrop of the ascendancy of the Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee. Capitalising on Mukherjee’s animosity towards Banerjee, his detractors in the party conspired to replace him in place of the existing party chief in the State, Ghani Khan Chowdhury, who of late was getting interested in the Trinamool Congress. Having held senior positions in the Central high command, the new position is clearly a demotion for the former Union Minister.

The recent coup against Mukherjee follows another similar attempt three months ago when the US President came visiting to India. Mukherjee, who informed the media about the stand taken by the Congress before Bill Clinton on the country’s nuclear programme, drew flak for what his party said was not the correct position of the party on the nuclear issue. Mukherjee managed to retain his job as Chairman of the AICC Media Cell despite the faux pas. The second time, however, his detractors close to the Congress President managed to get the better of him.

United politicians

The Lok Sabha witnessed a rare scene last week when members from both the Opposition and the ruling Benches were pitching unanimously for a single cause. The familiar scene of interruptions and slanging matches were missing and instead one saw all the members talking in one tone. The issue at hand was an increase in the funds for the MPs Local Area Development Scheme.

While it was understandable to hear the Opposition members speak about the inadequate sum of Rs 2 crore allotted to them to carry out developmental works in their constituency, it was surprising to hear the Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha speak in the same tone. The Minister who holds the nation’s purse strings never gives away anything so easily. But when it came to the MPs’ cause he said the present allocation was inadequate. Being a former bureaucrat did not deter him from criticising the local administration officials for creating hurdles in the utilisation of the funds. Sinha said he had not been able to implement a single project under the scheme in his own constituency. Did anyone say charity begins at home!

Education row

The irrepressible Human Resource Development Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is at it again — promoting swadeshi in a new avataar. After encouraging rewriting of history books and correction of “imbalances” in the country’s education system, the Minister it is understood has now floated the idea of introducing courses in `Karmakand’ at the university level. When translated, Karmakand stands for courses in vedic studies and ritual.

An organisation called the Janwadi Shikshak Manch has taken strong exception to this move by the Ministry, describing it as a shameless attempt to subvert the liberal humanist and scientific programme of the country’s education system and inject obscurantism in the university curriculum. One wonders what Dr Joshi, who is a science buff and who once taught physics at the university level, has to say on this.

Woes of a prospective CM

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Shibu Soren got a taste of the expectations that power brings with it. Soren had called a press conference in the capital to project himself as the future Chief Minister of the proposed Jharkand State when it started raining heavily. Scribes had to leave the open lawns and rush to a small room nearby to hear Soren. Keeping with his future status, the mediapersons urged the future CM of Jharkand to construct a big hall for future media meetings. Realising that this was carrying the ambition a bit far, an exasperated Soren said he would like to get Jharkand first.

(Contributed by TRR, Satish Misra, T.V.Lakshminarayan and P.N.Andley)



Tryst with disunity
By Abu Abraham

THESE days I have got into a new habit. I wake up in the morning, make tea and read the newspapers. But after 15 minutes, I go back to bed for a little snooze. I get so depressed about what I’ve read in the papers. There is little to inspire or put you in an optimistic mood. There is too much bloodshed and violence all around. Whether it’s Kashmir or Bihar or Bangalore (where the mobs are all excited over Veerappan’s kidnap of Rajkumar). There are some observers of the scene who think that it’s all part of the resurgence taking place in Hindu society. That it’s a major convulsion in society that others who call themselves secular refuse to understand.

The new Bible of this Hindu elite (represented, I suppose, by the RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP) is Samuel Huntington’s book “The Clash of Civilisations”. The clash, according to his treatise, is happening between western society and the spread of Islamic power, which will then lead to a clash between western culture and Hindu culture.

M.V. Kamath, journalist, is one of the spokesmen for the Hindu right. Writing in The Hindustan Times, he warns the Christians in India that the convulsion can take an “epic form”. Of course, he is not the only one in the Parivar who is itching for a Kurukshetra. Ever since the BJP Government exploded a few nuclear bombs, we’ve been hearing this phrase often.

Almost anticipating M.V. Kamath’s Hindutva outpourings, Malini Parthasarathy of The Hindu, a week earlier, wrote this: “There is now overwhelming evidence that the corrosive tenor and substance of the hate campaign organised by the Bajrang Dal, the VHP and the RSS is primarily responsible for the terror and alienation that the minorities are experiencing in this country today. An unwillingness on the part of the NDA Government to acknowledge the incendiary potential of the Sangh Parivar’s hate campaign, which relentlessly pours venom and ire on the hapless minority communities, will be seen by these minority citizens as further evidence that the government is working towards the creation of a Hindu Rashtra”.

Writing in the month of August when India observes its 54th Independence Day, it is sad to recall that the spirit of nationhood that had kept this country together is once again sought to be betrayed, as so often happened in our past history. In 1945, Jawaharlal Nehru, concluding his Discovery of India in the Ahmednagar fort, wrote: “India will find herself again when freedom opens out new horizons and the future will then fascinate her far more than the immediate past of frustration and humiliation. She will go forward with confidence, rooted in herself and yet eager to learn from others and cooperate with them.”

This isn’t the language of the clash of civilisations, but the opposite, that is of regeneration and of international cooperation and peace. It is the language of a liberal sophisticated mind that looks beyond narrow frontiers; it is the language of unity and progress, of secularism and tolerance, of coexistence and democracy.

If Nehru came to visit this country now, he would be pained to see that all that he stood for, all that he worked for is being mocked and denigrated. His own once ardent followers feel too dispirited to fight against the forces of reaction and disunity, of mindless militancy, of hooliganism that parades as cultural renaissance.

It would have been interesting if he were to write a new Discovery of India in which he could retail some of the real achievements of the past 50-odd years as well as the degradation in much of our social and political life.

Though the poor have marginally advanced, the rich and the well-to-do have raced ahead. The lakhpati classes of his time are now multi-crorepatis; while skyscrapers tower over our cities and towns, slums have expanded beyond imagination. Hunger and disease are rampant, and, as far as our cultural renaissance, we have become the world’s most illiterate nation.

‘Chacha’ Nehru would surely cry if he read the latest report of Unicef’s ‘State of the World’s Children — 1999”. It ranks India 45th in child mortality, one notch lower than Bangladesh, and only slightly better off than Nepal in the South Asian region. Over 50 million children of primary school age are not in school.

The status of women, cruelties perpetrated on them (there are thousands of dowry deaths each year), the discrimination against the girl child, these, if anything, have only increased in the past 50 years. Of the world’s billion illiterates, two-thirds are women.

Nehru would no doubt be impressed by the resilience of India’s liberal democracy, its basic strengths, the way it has preserved freedom of speech. He can take some of the credit for its survival and its virility. He would be happy with the increasing power of the Dalits. He would be pleased with the advances in science and technology and with the calibre of our scientists. As one who stood against the cold war and its destructive potential, he would be appalled by India’s entry into the nuclear weapons league. He may be relieved, however, to find that most Indians have not been taken in by the jingoism and rhetoric accompanying the bomb.

For all practical purposes the bomb is a dead duck. It has neither helped defence nor has it promoted Hindutva. Both have proved to be the wrong remedies for an ailing India because the diagnosis was wrong to start with.

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