Wednesday, October 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


MQM’s Punjabi bogey
akistan's mohajir number one, Mr Altaf Hussain, has not wasted time in keeping the promise of establishing direct contact with Indian Muslims. 

CPM’s declining status
N one of the rare cases, the CPM has lost its status as a national party. The Election Commission will now recognise it as a regional party in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. 

First conviction
t is rare that a 13-year-old is sentenced to 14 years rigorous imprisonment, but that is the punishment the designated CBI court has awarded to Sudhansu Hansda alias Chenchu, one of the accused in the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons at Manoharpur in Keonjhar district of Orissa on January 22, 1999.


by Darshan Singh Maini

Altered perceptions and perspectives

OME of The Tribune readers may recall my article, “The Clinton ‘effect’” (Sept 1, 2000), in which I had sought to see that Presidential visit in all its grand euphoric aspects, with all its bristling ambiguities and anxieties. 


A long way to go 
October 3, 2000
Sulking stars and others
October 2, 2000
A catalyst for responsive governance
October 1, 2000
Putin brews double visit
September 30, 2000
One more “patent” victory
September 29, 2000
End of Olympic road
September 28, 2000
Putin as Russian President
September 27, 2000
Hapless growers
September 26, 2000
Between India & USA
September 25, 2000
Problems of plenty hurt farmers’ interest
September 24, 2000
India quits Sierra Leone
September 23, 2000


Managing internal security threat
by Rakesh Datta
T is most appreciative that the Central Government has at last realised the gravity of the internal security threat faced by the country, and is seeking experts’ views to tackle it in an effective manner.


by S. Raghunath
OMPLEXITIES of modern life — water-laced kerosene air instead of water in the taps — were straining my limited intellectual faculties and I decided that I would do the “in” thing and constitute my own “think tank” to guide, counsel and advise me.


Veerappan, Speight portrayed as demons
By Krittivas Mukherjee
ROM the mustachioed forest brigand Veerappan to the bald pate of Fijian coup leader George Speight, every contemporary issue has found expression in the Durga Puja, the annual five-day festival of Bengalis.

Rushdie faces wrath of British Lords
By Shyam Bhatia

wo Asian peers in Britain’s House of Lords have lashed out at India-born author Salman Rushdie for describing London as boring and uninspiring.




MQM’s Punjabi bogey

Pakistan's mohajir number one, Mr Altaf Hussain, has not wasted time in keeping the promise of establishing direct contact with Indian Muslims. On September 17, 2000, he along with other non-Punjabi leaders addressed a meeting in London. They condemned the Punjabis for destroying Pakistan. Mr Altaf Hussain himself ended up singing "sarey jahan sey achha Hindustan humara" and justified the act by pointing out that it was written by the poet laureate of Pakistan, Allama Mohammad Iqbal. The mohajir leader's gesture must have impressed powerful people in India. Why? Because a three-member Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz delegation is currently in Delhi to impress upon the Indian leadership the need for playing a "proactive role" [no prize for guessing the name of the Indian leader who made the expression popular through over-use] for restoring peace in the subcontinent. The developments of the past 15 days are almost unbelievable. One day Altaf Hussain sings a song in praise of India and, figuratively speaking, a high power MQM delegation materialises in Delhi the next day seeking India's help in restructuring Pakistan's polity. It is a highly stupid and dangerous game someone is trying to get India involved in. Whoever has sold the idea that India should use the disenchantment of the MQM for getting even with Pakistan deserves to be spanked. Today the MQM wants India's help in preventing the Talibanisation of Pakistan. The next logical step would be to seek permission for running a government-in-exile from Indian soil.

The MQM delegation deserves a bit of sympathy too for having been enticed into believing that India would buy its sob story. India should not touch the mohajirs and the MQM even with a barge pole. They have to sort out their problems with the Pakistani leadership on their home soil. Spreading scare-stories about Pakistan being Talibanised is not going to make India get involved in the internal affairs of another country. The MQM needs to be reminded that Pakistan had not been Talibanised when the tribal invasion of Kashmir took place shortly after Partition. Nor was the Taliban anywhere in the frame in 1965 and 1971. Their forefathers created Pakistan for reasons which were negated with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The only honest statement the MQM leaders made during their Delhi sojourn was the acknowledgement of their role in the creation of Pakistan. It is indeed true that Muslim leaders mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar backed the two-nation theory. The mohajir number one instead of complaining about the domination of Punjabis in Pakistan owes an apology to the people of undivided Punjab. Before 1947 Punjab was the symbol of the spirit of "sanjhapan" and communal harmony. Yet, Punjab suffered the most because of the folly of the Muslim leaders from UP and Bihar. Now that Mr Altaf Hussain and the MQM leaders have once again highlighted their role in the creation of Pakistan, they should also show the grace of tendering a general apology to the Muslims of the subcontinent. It is because of them that in Bangladesh the non-Bengali Muslims are abused as Biharis, in Pakistan they are called mohajirs and in India they had to endure the hurtful epithet of being Pakistanis under the skin. Mr Altaf Hussain is unhappy because the Punjabis in Pakistan have "grabbed" the cake his forefathers had helped carve out of a united and secular India. He now wants India to help fight Punjabi domination in Pakistan. He forgets that General Pervez Musharraf too is a mohajir. Instead of being holed up in London he should have gone to Pakistan to help the military dictator establish mohajir raj in the country their forefathers created.


CPM’s declining status

IN one of the rare cases, the CPM has lost its status as a national party. The Election Commission will now recognise it as a regional party in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. No, the party has not been ejected from the electoral space. It has been denied the automatic use of the party symbol in other states. For instance in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, its nominees will be treated as Independents and allotted a symbol from those reserved for Independent candidates. This will rob the party and its candidates in an election the easy identification, which means that both have to work harder to establish a rapport with the electorate. From this region the CPM fights the Lok Sabha seat from Sangrur and Shimla and its man has won from the latter seat. From now on the successful candidates will sit with the other CPM MPs and vote according to the party whip but will be counted among the strange and uniquely Indian tribe of Independents. It is a minor irritation and not a major political or organisational setback but a great election inconvenience. The CPM polled more than the requisite 4 per cent of the total votes in the last Lok Sabha poll but failed to meet the mandatory demand of establishing its presence in at least four states. In the 1998 elections it did comparatively well in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. But it tripped badly last year and is paying the price. It used to poll reasonably well in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra but its failure to cope with the dramatic changes at the state-level politics left it stranded in an electoral no-man’s land. For instance, it aligned with the DMK-led front in 1998 expressing its opposition to the authoritarian and corruption-ridden regime of the AIADMK which won hands down. But a year later the DMK started holding hands with the BJP and the CPM cheerfully opted out but the alternative, going back to the AIADMK, cost it heavily in terms of votes. It is a rare case of a mature political party doing two wrong things for right reasons. In fact, the party’s inability to either carry its allies or prepare itself for unprincipled arrangements has triggered its slide over the years.

The Election Commission’s action to downgrade the CPM as a regional entity and robbing it of the more desirable tag of a national party has not changed its status or strength in any way. But it has garishly highlighted its steady decline as a major political force. It is a mass but cadre-based party, meaning that it takes up and fights for the masses and has a cadre to articulate its policies and mobilise the people. And this is the time to grow and consolidate its once feared clout. But actually it is growing weaker and it is because of the leadership’s inability to sense the mass mood and voice it in an appealing idiom. A vast majority of the people feel cheated by the economic reforms and this is accepted even by staunch supporters of the liberalisation process. And the most authentic voice of this mass disenchantment should be the Left, particularly the CPM. But it is, to use a journalistic cliche, conspicuous by its absence. The student community, once its exclusive reservoir of support and future leadership, has deserted the party. The JNU, its preserve and training ground of two of its politbureau members, once elected the RSS-spawned ABVP to its students council. Rarely does CPM-front Democratic Student Federation members capture any university students union. Similar is its retreat from the trade union front. Important centres of working class have gone over to pure hoodlums (as in Mumbai) or the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, an RSS offshoot, or the Congress. All these speak more of the CPM’s weak attempt to project its ideological profile which, in the present circumstances, is very attractive than the policy superiority of its rivals. But given the rigidity of the leadership and its isolation from the working class, it is unrealistic to expect an early reversal of its fortunes. The loss of the CPM’s leading role is not the concern of one (its own) political party facing marginalisation but of the Indian polity. The nation will lose a logical and ideological focus of the urges and aspirations of the masses, and even the lower middle classes. 


First conviction

It is rare that a 13-year-old is sentenced to 14 years rigorous imprisonment, but that is the punishment the designated CBI court has awarded to Sudhansu Hansda alias Chenchu, one of the accused in the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons at Manoharpur in Keonjhar district of Orissa on January 22, 1999. The boy, who was part of the mob of arsonists who set the jeeps of the missionary on fire, will undergo incarceration in a juvenile home. His imprisonment will surely be a reminder to all those who involve young boys in criminal activities hoping that they will not be punished because of their age. The court has also done well to separate his case from others, considering that he was not an adult. Charges have been framed against 14 others in the court of the District and Sessions Judge, Khurda. The trial will commence on December 1. One hopes they too would be sentenced as expeditiously as has been done in Hansda's case. Among them is Ravindra Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh, the prime accused who carried a reward of Rs 8 lakh for his arrest. He was arrested on January 31 this year from a deep forest. He had reportedly proclaimed his hatred for anyone converting Hindus to Christianity even after his arrest. Every murder is an unforgivable crime but that of Staines was all the more so. The dedicated missionary had been working for more that three decades among leprosy patients in the backward and largely inaccessible Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. The killers were so filled with communal hatred that they burnt alive not only him but also his two sons, Philip, aged 10, and Timothy, eight. On the one hand, the incident made every right-thinking Indian hang his head in shame and, on the other, it negated all the claims of religious tolerance that the country had justly proclaimed over the centuries.

His widow, Gladys, has refused to return to Australia thereafter and is busy fulfilling his dream of building a hospital for leprosy patients. She has publicly declared that she has pardoned the killers. But the law cannot take such a humanitarian approach. Exemplary punishment to the perpetrators of the crime in the quickest possible time is the demand of justice. The men who sullied the image of India deserve no mercy. What is even more shocking is the fact that threats still continue to be received by the widow. Her security is the nation's responsibility. Religious zealots have tried to glorify the deeds of Dara Singh. He is a plain murderer and no hero by any stretch of imagination. Anyone trying to justify his action ought to be treated as an abettor to the crime. In fact, it was the murder of the missionary which accentuated the wave of attacks on the minorities. 


ltered perceptions and perspectives
by Darshan Singh Maini

SOME of The Tribune readers may recall my article, “The Clinton ‘effect’” (Sept 1, 2000), in which I had sought to see that Presidential visit in all its grand euphoric aspects, with all its bristling ambiguities and anxieties. The Vajpayee yatra, truly a political pilgrimage, was not only an extension of Mr Bill Clinton’s magnanimities of word and promise but also a “discovery” of primal identities, unowned mutualities, and commonalities which had for reasons of the Cold War and the compulsions of realpolitik, remained eclipsed for over half a century.

The qualitative change in mutual perspectives has to be related to several aspects of the Indo-American reality, and our inquiry could lead us back to the days of President F.D. Roosevelt and the India of the American imagination at different levels before India’s Independence in 1947 after a long sustained moral struggle under the visionary leadership of Mahatma Gandhi whose bronze statue was unveiled in the Indian Embassy by the RSS-reared Prime Minister, Mr Vajpayee, to the visible applause of the Clintons and other American-Indian dignitaries.

That Mr Vajpayee has assiduously sought to court the image of a world statesman, walking on a tight rope, his past a grim reminder of the RSS-BJP-Shiv Sena hostility to the Gandhian legacy, and his present a great opportunity for retrieving a part of the damage, was clear enough, though some residues of the old visceral affiliations did erupt once in a sectarian speech in New York, perhaps a pondered faux pas, perhaps a ploy to please the organisers. And it must be said for him that the “Jansewak” did it with considerable ease and aplomb. And if that’s to be considered an arrival, it’s a pragmatism that may not be questioned, for the dynamics of personality have mysterious fuses, and a great moment, such as the one Mr Vajpayee had been presented by history on a golden platter in the land of “the Great Dream” can produce epiphanies of truth and understanding.

However, the Prime Minister’s politics of humiliating compromises and compulsions in several areas of national life do make one wonder if the “miracle” of his arrival would alter his vision back home. Not likely, as we see things. So, do we have now two images to contend with, or do we wait for the signs of an authentic inner change? It’s indeed a crisis of personality, and how Mr Vajpayee, flush with “roses, roses all the way”, manages to negotiate the prickly path ahead remains to be seen. Will realpolitik continue to push him into more damaging compromises, or be somehow dissipated in the process of the moral growth whose aspects had become visible during his American “discovery”? Yes, will the pilgrimage to “the Land of Promise” turn into a grand safari in the end?

President Clinton’s historic visit to India, his own “discoveries”, his inspired rhetoric and his signing of “the Vision Statement”, among other memorable interludes, including a clear snub and a veiled warning to Pakistan, had not a little to do with the altered perspectives now in the making, but in my Clinton article I had also sounded some loud alarm-bells, and we have again to watch and see how ceremonials and social convivialities and mutual bon-homie get translated into something positive and concrete. A few political utterances and a couple of political decisions are good straws in the winds guiding the Indo-US relations. Mr Vajpayee’s “India and America are natural allies” became his signature tune, and President Clinton’s impromptu remark, “India and American can together change the world” at the Gandhi Memorial ceremony revealed enough of the American Administrative mind, even as the statements and signatures on the issues of fighting international terrorism, strategic defence measures, the menace of Talibanisation, growing economic partnerships as a result of India’s Infotech super-power image, the felt impress of the affluent, dynamic Indians settled in the USA, in the Silicon Valley, above all, do constitute a shift in perceptions and perspective, at least, for the moment.

It may be, finally, helpful to touch upon certain primal, philosophical issues to enlarge the argument. Which takes me to the question of two Indias and two Americas, each a unique state of mind, apart from being a geo-political territory. In a larger sense, the double-facedness of things is a universal human phenomenon. Those Indians who have seen the ground realities in America, and are also familiar with its history, literature and thought would easily see how the Visionary America of “the Pilgrim Fathers” has become an Equivocal America, keeping only one part of “the American Dream” in view — the making of money as a “blessedness”. The moral component of “the Dream”, though still preserved in individual homes and families, has got so much dissipated en route as to give Uncle Sam many a nasty nickname.

Similarly, the Eternal India which became a grand metaphor for the finest in human thought in the eyes of the American Transcendalists like Emerson, Thoreau and the greatest bard of America’s soul, Walt Whitman, remains, both at home and abroad, particularly in large sections of the American society, a land of grinding poverty, dift and misery, of naked sadhus and snake-charmers, of countless other abominations. Sadly, the stereotypes have come to stay. So, the Janus-faced Bharat that is India too troubles the Western eye. And we have to uncover the hidden common ground of our dreams, or our understanding, and of our relationships.

In my own small way, in some of my books and writings during my assignments at Harvard and New York University, and later during several visits to the USA, I have tried to feel the pulse of American life from within, and much that I have tried to say in this piece finds an extended, critical treatment there. And I recall out of several revealing experiences as a visiting faculty, as a lodger in a white home, as a tourist, two moments or events which, I think, best sum up the case.

While at Harvard in 1969-70, I was invited by the New Manchester College (Indiana) to deliver a “convocation address”, and I remember to have given that written speech a title — “East-West passage: A Journey Through Values” — which sought to bring out our parallelisms and polarities, our counter-points and contradictions, our commonalities and convergences. And if I forget not, the concluding sentence of that 45-minute address ended with a line from Guru Nanak’s bani, “Man Jeetay, Jag Jeet” — “The conquest of the mind is the conquest of the world”.

America today is in quest of new economic and political horizons, both as a super military power that stands alone and above the rest, and as an economic giant out to shape the world on its own terms. And this today is at the heart of the American phenomenon: how to preserve its cherished image of a great society with pluralistic cultures and liberal diversities, and yet impose its unilateral vision on the rest of mankind. But, to paraphrase Guru Nanak’s thought, all conquests of this type, in the end, remain hollow if the spirit of things is lost.

The second event I have elected to recall is more relevant in the context of the changing American attitudes in general towards India and the highly affluent, visible and now influential Indians who today constitute a privileged settler community destined to go places. The event in question has, as I see it after a decade, symbolic significance. I was out on my morning rounds of Washington Square close to my New York University apartment when a rude American started spouting a valley of incoherent abuses, taking me for a turbaned Arab. Of course, I kept my cool, for I knew how abyssmally ignorant an average white American was about the outside world. He could as little distinguish between a Sikh and an Arab as between chalk and cheese. His antipathy towards the Arab race had apparently made him forget all manners.

And now in the year 2000, President Clinton and his charming wife, Hillary (a candidate for the Senate from New York), found it flattering to be invited for dinner in a pent-house on the 45th floor of a tower on the elite 93rd street in Manhattan belonging to one of the richest and most influential Indians there, Sant Singh Chattwal, who owns a chain of hotels and restaurants. As a nostalgic footnote, I may add that around the time of the Washington Square incident, I too had the pleasure of dining along with my daughter and her family in that pent-house, and the fairy-story night scene of New York from those heights still remains etched in my memory.

Mr Vajpayee’s spectacular visit and the Clinton magic have not a little to do with persons like the Chattwals now making news from coast to coast. The last 10 years have emerged as “the Indian Moment” within the American economy. The hard-nosed Americans have realised the dynamics of that moment. 


Managing internal security threat
by Rakesh Datta

IT is most appreciative that the Central Government has at last realised the gravity of the internal security threat faced by the country, and is seeking experts’ views to tackle it in an effective manner.

In the military history of independent India, two events hold special significance. One is the war with China, which not only opened the Indian mind to matters military but also focused our attention on the potential dangers to national security from external sources. Consequently, India formulated its defence plan which formed the blueprint for the expansion programme of the armed forces.

The second was the limited war in Kargil. It brought out the failure of the Indian Army to neutralise the nuclear deterrence of Pakistan. It also once again set the tone for the course of likely wars in future when Pakistan may create more problems for India unless this country chooses to behave more aggressively not only on the frontiers but also inside the country. This is because somehow the adversaries of India find it easier to hit this country from within than from outside without any tangible harm to themselves. Economically, politically and socially, this recipe is found more viable with no physical impairment to either Pakistan or the others who keep playing the game of nibbling India.

National security envisages that threats to security does not mean the possibility of an armed attack from outside only. It can take more subtle forms such as subversion, terrorism, espionage and sabotage. Unfortunately, India has been facing such a threat from all sides.

Of late, the Government of India has undertaken the task of re-studying all the crucial security-related areas such as intelligence gathering, border management, the management of defence and internal security networks, etc, to initiate the required changes.

However, the latest move by the Central Government to introduce an FBI kind of a force shows that there is still lack of wisdom somewhere. The move has been strongly opposed by various state governments.

It may be mentioned here that after the assassination of Indira Gandhi the Central Government immediately created three types of security forces such as the National Security Guards, the Special Protection Group and the Special Duty Group instead of toning up the Delhi Police, until then responsible for the Prime Minister’s security.

The result is we have a wide range of paramilitary forces such as the NSG, the SPG, the SDG, the SSB, the SFF, the RR, the DSC, the AR, the ITBP, the BSF, the CRPF, the RPG, the CISF, the CG, and the State Armed Police Forces. No other country has such an array of security agencies, not even China.

However, the question is: why have over a dozen forces with an overlapping charter of duties? This kind of force structure not only eats up the national resources but also remains in quarantine, with no way to ensure accountability in the case of any mishap.

Currently, the Ministry of Home Affairs is over-burdened, looking after Centre-state relations, appointments, law and order, general policing, intelligence, paramilitary forces, prosecution, VIP security, etc. It is thus in all fairness the Government of India may consider it appropriate to set up a Ministry of Internal Security. This new ministry can primarily be designed to fight the rising menace of extremism, endangering national security from within.

Besides, all paramilitary forces should be put under the command and control of this ministry. Lacing it with state-of-the-art weaponry, this would relieve the defence forces from internal security duties, which is causing a great strain on their professionalism. It is also suggested that the proposed Ministry of Internal Security should be based on the Trinity concept linked to Hindu mythology. This would mean a complete division of work and strengthening of accountability at all levels by the compartmentalisation of the ministry into three broad segments: for framing the policies/doctrine; dealing with execution; and evaluating the action process and fixing the responsibility.

On the other hand, to tackle the situation created by problems of such grave nature as insurgency, espionage, and terrorism, the government has to enact new laws. The Police Act was last amended in 1934. The defiance of any nature against the established authority must be dealt with resolutely. New acts may be framed and enforced immediately.

The government must come out with a new Police Act and strengthen the process of prosecution. Law-enforcing agencies should be trained to avoid human rights violations, although such violations are more from the militant side. Yet very often the security agencies fall a victim to malicious propaganda.

The writer is Head, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala.


by S. Raghunath

COMPLEXITIES of modern life — water-laced kerosene air instead of water in the taps — were straining my limited intellectual faculties and I decided that I would do the “in” thing and constitute my own “think tank” to guide, counsel and advise me.

I persuaded some of the best brains in the business — the washerman, the vegetable vendor, the family priest and the chap who came by with an ox and drum promising to tell my fortune, to serve on my “brains trust.”

My think tank met for the first time last Sunday in the disused lumberroom in my backyard and the first pressing item on the agenda was an acute cash flow crisis caused by the Electricity Board saddling me with a whopping bill, backdated to January, 1996, plus arrears at 19 per cent interest. I invited my think tank to suggest cerebral solutions to overcome the crisis.

The washerman took the floor. “I suggest,” he said, trying to look smart, but falling flat on his face, “you kidnap a rich heiress and spirit her away into the mountains and hold her under duress in an abandoned stone quarry. By lighting the fuse to a stick of dynamite placed between her toes, you can induce her to write out self cheques for large amounts.”

The washerman, with his lurid imagination, was obviously a James Hadley Chase fan.

“Oh, yeah?” I snorted, “and have the special branch cops pouncing on me!”

I slung out the washerman by his flapping ear.

My think tank, hardly a day old, had already sprung a leak.

The next urgent item on the agenda was a severe water shortage in my household and if I niffed to high heavens, I wasn’t to be blamed. It has been nine weeks since I have had a decent bath and I wanted my think tank to apply its superior mind and suggest solutions.

It was the turn of the vegetable vendor.

“I suggest.“ she said, “You take a large zinc sheet bucket and board the crack Brindavan Express to Madras where you fill the bucket with water from the Bay of Bengal and on your return, you can desalinate it over charcoal fire using the reverse osmosis method.”

You will be amazed, but this scheme was greeted with a standing ovation. Of such stuff are think tanks made.

A horde of mice was playing havoc in my kitchen and I wanted my brains trust to mull over the problem and suggest control measures.

The family priest said: When you spy a rat scurrying across the floor, you act with the speed of lightning and plonk down a washing tub on it.”

“What good would that do?” I demanded angrily.

“Well, “said the think tanker, “with the wash tub, you’ve something to sit on while you figure out your next move.”

My think has now been in existence for about six months and I can appreciate your eagerness to know if I am any nearer to finding a solution to my problems. Well, I want to be manfully frank and say no for, if anything my problems have become more vexatious, and irksome, but I think I know what is to be done. I think my think tank needs to be “de-silted.”


Veerappan, Speight portrayed as demons
By Krittivas Mukherjee

FROM the mustachioed forest brigand Veerappan to the bald pate of Fijian coup leader George Speight, every contemporary issue has found expression in the Durga Puja, the annual five-day festival of Bengalis.

The festival, which entails the worship of giant clay images of goddess Durga and her four children — Ganesh, Lakshmi, Kartik and Saraswati — in splendidly decorated marquees, is more of a cultural extravaganza where the religious aspect has become merely incidental.

As Hindu mythology goes, goddess Durga — an embodiment of power — comes down to earth to slay the demon and the triumph of good over evil is celebrated in the Durga Puja.

The favoured topic here in this year’s puja is rural India. Many clubs have built marquees depicting rural life of West Bengal, complete with mud houses, paddy fields and cattle. In some marquees, human beings will act out the characters of peasants and labourers. The paddy crop had been sowed months in advance so that it bloomed during the puja days.

This year, elusive forest brigand Veerappan seems to be the favourite of image-makers here. Craftsmen in Kumartoli, famous for their artistic images, have picked on him to be depicted as the ‘asura’ (demon). While the body of the demon king remains the same with rippling muscles, the face resembles Veerappan’s, complete with the trademark moustache. Fijian coup leader Speight has also been depicted as the demon at many places.

Image-maker Kartik Chandra Pal said: “We try to bring some comical element into our images every year. Last year, after the Kargil war, we showed Nawaz Sharif as the demon. This year, Veerappan and Speight are in vogue.” Bikram Sarkar, organising secretary of the Kalitala Puja Samiti, said, “We think people associate evil qualities with Veerappan.”

If the life-like dazzling images of god and goddesses are the major attraction, the marquees and lighting arrangements are no less important with several millions of rupees being spent on these two items. Lighted arches and decorative illumination add to the beauty of the marquees. However, the crowd favourite is the section which has topical issues depicted through electric illuminations.

Booming Bofors guns, flying Mirage aircraft, frigates, American B2 bombers employed by the Allied forces in the Kosovo crisis, Karnam Malleswari’s bronze-winning lift, the devastating floods — all seem to come alive on huge electrical contraptions.

The marquees, which include replicas of ancient temples, modern architectural marvels, the Ajanta and Ellora caves, the mountains of Kargil and Drass and even the Titanic, are a point of competition among the clubs.

The budgets of some major puja organisers like the Mohammed Ali Park, College Square, Santosh Mitra Square, Mudiali, Ekdalia and Deshpriya Park run into Rs 5 million. Nearly 1,000 public pujas are held in Calcutta every year.

However, this year’s devastating floods have dampened the puja spirit. Many organisers have curtailed their budget to contribute to flood relief funds. “We are contributing Rs. 100,000 to the flood relief fund from our puja budget,” said Calcutta mayor Subrata Mukherjee, the chief organiser of the Ekdalia Evergreen Puja.

Several competitions are organised by sponsors to choose the best images, the best marquees and the best lighting. Winners are chosen not only on the basis of aesthetic beauty, but also for such conditions as fire safety measures. — IANS


Rushdie faces wrath of British Lords
By Shyam Bhatia

Two Asian peers in Britain’s House of Lords have lashed out at India-born author Salman Rushdie for describing London as boring and uninspiring.

In an interview last month with the New York Times, he described London as an uninspiring city and mocked London literary circles as “backbiting and incestuous.”

Once the darling of the London literati, Rushdie’s comments have shocked his loyal friends and supporters in Britain, who spent years lobbying the British government to protect him from the wrath of Iranian ayatollahs (spiritual leaders).

The anger he has aroused has now extended to politicians. A clearly infuriated Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and Lady Uddin of Bethnal Green have asked why taxpayers’ money is being used to pay for his security.

“I have put down a question for October 9 in the House of Lords asking how much his security is costing the taxpayer. The figure that is quoted is one million pounds. I don’t think the risk is there any more and the money spent is unjustified. There are vulnerable old-age pensioners and children who also need looking after. Why do we continue to pay for a man who has such a negative opinion of the U.K? He lives a life of luxury and can afford whatever security he wants,” Lord Ahmed told IANS.

“I am not surprised by Rushdie’s comments. They befit the man so many of us know and are familiar with,” Lady Uddin said.

Earlier in an interview with a local London newspaper, she said: “I am glad people can now see how much time and money was spent to provide him with protection. His incarceration was used to demonize the Muslim community for a long time. His comments are really selfish. This country protected his life for a long time and gave him everything he needs. This is how he shows his gratitude.”

Rushdie, the award-winning author of “Midnight’s Children” and “Satanic Verses”, which earned him a death sentence from Islamic clergy and militants in Iran, has been forced to move 21 times between secret homes in Britain and receives 24-hour protection from British police.

His latest sin is to fall in love with Manhattan, which he clearly prefers to London and where he moved to live with his 29-year-old supermodel girlfriend Padma Lakshmi.

He said, “I think it speaks for itself that for somebody who lived in England for as long as I did, relatively little of my work has dealt with it.”

By contrast he praised the “famous electricity” of the “Big Apple” and added, “There’s so much stuff just asking me to write it down here.”

Rushdie’s critics in Britain claim he is suffering from a bruised ego. They say his latest book — The Ground Beneath Her Feet — which did not make the short list of last year’s Booker Prize, was better received in Manhattan than London. — IANS



Educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead
— Aristotle as quoted by Diogenes Laertius


Education is not preparations for life; educating is life itself.
— John Bowy; quoted in Time magazine


Only the educated are free.
— Epictetus, Discourses


Oh! fool, do not have excessive attachment to wealth. Be righteous and curb it. Whatever you can earn by the sweat of your brow, enjoy it.

Excessive wealth may lead you to ruin (unless you develop detachment). Wealth alone cannot give any happiness. Even from their own sons, the wealthy have fear. This is the way of the world.
— Adi Shankaracharya, Dwadasha- Panjarika Stotra, 1—2.


True happiness lies in realising true holiness,

No happiness is there in accumulating wealth.

The accumulation of wealth is a storehouse of miseries,

Realise this fact in thy mind, O Ravidas.
—Saint Ravidas, Darshan, 166.


Thy riches will not go with thee:

Why dost thou cling to them so, 0 fool?
—Guru Arjan Dev, Ashtapadi 19, Pauri 5.


Dost thou consider as thine own—

Wealth, wife and gold and land;

None of these can befriend thy soul:

This truth must understand.
— Guru Tegh Bahadur, Sloka, 5.


Aspire to live in peace, not in plenty.
— From the discourses of Sathya Sai Baba


Love is superior to knowledge

Reading and studying knowledge, the Muftis give judgement, but without love they have remained ignorant, Sir;

By studying knowledge the secret of God is not known,

Only one word of love is efficient Sir.
Waris Shah, "Parh parh ilam Kaza paye karn mufti"Top

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