Saturday, October 21, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E



Signals from Kashmir
ertain recent developments have revived the hope of the gradual end of the decade-long phase of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. 

Dumping by China
aking advantage of trade liberalisation, China is indulging in dumping, exporting goods well below international prices. 

Vagaries of high-flying
or decades, VVIPs, VIPs and even not so important netas have considered government aircraft their personal property. 


Vajpayee provided cohesion

by T. V. Rajeswar
N October 12 Prime Minister Vajpayee’s NDA government completed one year. Its performance has been proclaimed by the BJP and supplements in the newspapers have been published by various ministries proclaiming their various accomplishments.

Grains at cut rate prices
October 20, 2000
West Asian totem-pole
October 19, 2000
N-armed basket case
October 18, 2000
Paddy crisis and after
October 17, 2000
Vajpayee is right, but...
October 16, 2000
What’s wrong with our prisons?
October 15, 2000
A partial solution 
October 14, 2000
A status quo verdict 
October 13, 2000
No credit to policy
October 12, 2000
The law catches up
October 11, 2000

Unplanned military modernisation
by B. K. Mathur
ODERNISATION of the armed forces is the latest mantra of Defence Minister George Fernandes — like Rajiv Gandhi’s in the 1980s.


Dropping names
UR son-in-law, Vivek Mehta, is quite happy to be living in the USA except for one minor irritant. Americans cannot pronounce simple foreign names right.


By Tavleen singh
RSS must have peacetime agenda
N a cold, wet winter morning in Delhi, some years ago, I went to my first RSS shakha.




Signals from Kashmir

Certain recent developments have revived the hope of the gradual end of the decade-long phase of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. It could also be a case of the security forces having run into a spell of good luck in their fight against Pakistan-trained mercenaries. 

However, the security forces could not have accomplished the task of killing 17 militants on Wednesday and arresting four others [including a top ranking member of the Al-Badr outfit] without improvement in intelligence gathering and the build-up of hostility among the local population against the mercenaries. The mindless and indiscriminate acts of violence in the valley have contributed in substantial measure to the people turning against the militants. The reason for the change in attitude towards the militants is not difficult to understand. A decade ago the foreign-trained mercenaries appeared on the scene with the promise of a better tomorrow for the people, who had in any case lost faith in the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. 

The threat of use of force made even unwilling sections of the Kashmiri population toe the militants' line. However, they have now begun to realise that the corrupt administration may have been guilty of not improving their economic status. But the phase of militancy has caused more damage to the state's economy besides adding to the personal insecurity of most Kashmiris. The fact that there is hardly a poor Kashmiri family which has not lost a son or a brother or a father in the fight between the security forces and militant groups may have made the people banish the fear of death and give useful information to the intelligence agencies.

Reports that a large number of militants too have lost faith in their leaders holds out the hope of the return of peace to the valley. Militant outfits have developed serious differences over the issue of resuming dialogue with the Indian leadership. There is a section which is bitterly opposed to the Pakistani line based on turning the Kashmir problem into a religious issue which can only be resolved through waging jehad. It favours resumption of talks with India for finding a durable solution to the problem. The developments in Kashmir have also aroused the North Block into furtive activity New briefs are being prepared for Defence Minister George Fernandes and Home Minister L. K. Advani. Copies of the document which favours a "pro-active policy" for solving the Kashmir tangle have been pulled out of the dust-laden shelves of the North Block and put before Mr Fernandes and Mr Advani in anticipation of their visit to Srinagar on Sunday. A thoughtful bureaucrat has put together scattered information which shows that as many as 222 militants were killed in the month of September alone during stepped up anti-militancy operations. October too has been a good month for the paramilitary forces.

 The two Central ministers are expected to meet officers of the intelligence agencies and the security forces. However, they would earn the gratitude of the people if they were to tell Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah during their visit to Srinagar that he should now pay less attention to playing golf and more to reviving the economy and tourism potential of the state. He must be reminded that political indifference and rampant corruption allowed militancy to strike roots in Jammu and Kashmir over a decade ago. They should tell him firmly that the pro-active policy for ending the Pakistan-sponsored proxy-war in Kashmir cannot be expected to show results without the state government putting together a comprehensive package for meeting the basic needs of the people.


Dumping by China

Taking advantage of trade liberalisation, China is indulging in dumping, exporting goods well below international prices. The threat is so real and serious that CII has come back to it for the second time in the past few days. In a memorandum submitted to Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on Thursday, it has called for enacting fool-proof measures to choke off this evil practice before it irreversibly damages the Indian interest. In an earlier request, it had mentioned that among other items, capital goods (heavy machines used in manufacturing industrial goods) are also entering this country at “phenomenally low prices”. 

This has led to a steep fall in domestic demand, which has sparked a chain reaction. Several sectors are saddled with unutilised capacity, which is a sign of an economic slowdown. Until a few years ago India was a net exporter of coal and briquets to China; now that country meets nearly 22 per cent of the local need. Readymade textile import has shot up by 326 per cent, indicating its capacity to undersell. Similar is the case with non-ferrous metal whose import has gone up by 173 per cent; in fact China is expanding its sales by about 15 per cent a year. Toys, dry cells and pencils are flooding the market, posing a grim challenge to small-scale units just six months before import of all goods will be totally free. All this is what comes through the legal route. Much more reaches through Nepal, mostly smuggled. It has to stop and it will only if this country took two immediate steps. 

One, a stringent anti-dumping law should be in place by the year-end and the government should set up an experts committee to keep a close watch on this and initiate prompt corrective measures. In other words, there is neither a legal frame nor manpower to prevent unloading of goods at ridiculously low prices. Once China joins the WTO, next year it will be in a stronger position to accelerate the one-way trade with this country and it would be too late to undo the mischief.

This is only one demand of the CII. The reservation of a host of items for the small units should end along with the ceiling on investment if this sector is to survive the threat and flourish. As it is, the newly established special economic zones offer these liberal concessions. It is necessary to step up investments in infrastructure and expenditure in those industries which have “backward linkages”, or which use raw material and intermediate goods from other units. 

There is huge idle capacity in this area and if demand is generated, economic growth will pick up. Another vital point is to allow foreign investment in housing, helping the cement and steel makers. Obviously, CII has taken Mr Sinha at his word and is pressing him to make good his promise on second generation reforms and also suggesting related measures. The memorandum is strongly worded but is not scare-mongering nor unduly demanding. True to its reputation, CII is monitoring the industrial and trade scene with a degree of efficiency and intuition so far unknown in a chamber.


Vagaries of high-flying

For decades, VVIPs, VIPs and even not so important netas have considered government aircraft their personal property. This extravagance has been often commented upon but rarely curbed. But things are changing. Law seems to have caught up with high-fliers at last. Stung by a public interest litigation, the Centre has filed a suit for recovery of Rs 5.91 crore against former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar for using defence aircrft for non-official purposes while in office. 

That is only the first instalment. Similar action is in the offing against Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao and Mr H.D. Deve Gowda as well. This bold step should have been taken a long time back, but even now it makes a welcome beginning. An attempt should be made to complete the process of law at the earliest so that the effort to circumvent it does not succeed. In the past, all the three Prime Ministers have tried to escape by claiming that the aircraft were used not in their personal capacity but as office-bearers of their respective parties. (The Janata Dal-S has said that it cannot be held responsible for the dues of Mr Gowda as the Election Commission is yet to decide which faction of the Janata Dal should claim assets and liabilities of the parent party.) This is one of the many clever tricks that have helped them dodge justice for far too long. Perhaps holding the netas personally responsible in future for expenditure incurred will make them think twice before ordering the planes for a joy ride.

The misuse of aircraft has not been purely for electioneering purposes or party work all along. Defence planes have even been used for ferrying family members. The most blatant has been the case of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav as the country’s Defence Minister during 1996-1997. A public interest litigation against him alleges that during his 18 months in office, Mr Yadav logged as much as 1,440 hours and 55 minutes of flying in defence aircraft. He made a total of 307 trips, of which about one-third originated from or ended in Lucknow. On November 4, 1996, Mr Yadav took his kith and kin to the Vaishno Devi temple in an Avro and a Chetak helicopter and the trip was marked as official. Several visits to his native place, Safai, were also marked as “official”. 

The interesting thing is that instead of denying these allegations, the former Defence Minister has taken the fantastic plea that at this “remote” point of time, it was difficult for him to remember every visit and the purpose thereof. He has tried to further obscure the issue by demanding that the court should not only probe the use of defence aircraft by him but also by his 27 predecessors and the present Defence Minister. He may have said it only to save his skin but there is no reason why this should not be done. Such an enquiry will put the fear of the law in the hearts of all concerned that they will be brought to book sooner or later.

In fact, recovery proceedings ought to start even when a person happens to be in power. Now that a beginning has been made with former Prime Ministers, the enquiry can be expanded to include many more, including Chief Ministers of various states who have been up in the air perpetually at the cost of the taxpayer.


ajpayee provided cohesion
by T. V. Rajeswar

ON October 12 Prime Minister Vajpayee’s NDA government completed one year. Its performance has been proclaimed by the BJP and supplements in the newspapers have been published by various ministries proclaiming their various accomplishments. The NDA government’s chequered career was no doubt an accomplishment due to the fact that about two dozen parties representing various interests constitute the government.

The most significant part of the NDA government’s performance is the role of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. There is no doubt that his tolerance and willingness to favourably consider even the most irrational demands and tantrums from some of the constituents speak of the man. Needless to say that but for him the NDA would not have survived and so long as he is at the helm of affairs there seems to be no challenge to the government. The largest Opposition party, the Congress, had tried to play its role as an Opposition party but the general impression is that it could have been more active. The other Opposition parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Leftists are not of much consequence. There is no possibility of all the Opposition parties combining to pose a challenge since it is possible only if some of the major constituents of the NDA were to break away from the coalition and join hands with the Opposition.

The Jayalalitha episode had demonstrated to the NDA constituents that their best interests and very survival depended upon their continuance in the NDA though they are at liberty to make critical noises over the government’s performance now and then. Even the redoubtable Chandrababu Naidu had fallen in line, even though at times such as when the PDS prices were increased, he was considerably upset. The Mamata Banerjee factor is a phenomenon by itself but it is not going to last for long. Once the West Bengal Assembly elections are over early next year she will be called to order and till then she will have to be kept in good humour.

What was the NDA’s track record during the year? The BJP’s listed achievements harped on foreign policy initiatives, absence of communal violence in the country, enhanced quota of foodgrains for the people living below poverty line, the creation of three new states and the various promises made and targets set by the Prime Minister. In the field of foreign policy, no doubt, the government could take justifiable credit. The tremendously successful visit of President Clinton was a major event. While it helped India to score points over Pakistan and its military administrator, General Musharraf, it is to be remembered that the sanctions imposed by the USA after Pokhran-II mostly remain even though the US legislature had left the decision to President Clinton to remove the sanctions.

The visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee to USA did not bring about this outcome either. The second most important event in the field of foreign relations was the visit of Russian President Putin and the various defence oriented pacts entered into with Russia. On the negative side, the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar necessitating the release of some of the most wanted religious fanatics and criminals need to be remembered.

Our relations with Pakistan remain in doldrums. After President Clinton’s pronouncement that suitable conditions should be created by Pakistan for the talks to resume, India did not see any compelling reason to start the talks with Pakistan on Kashmir. General Musharraf has no doubt repeatedly urged India to resume talks with him but India is not prepared to play ball with the man who planned and executed the Kargil war. There have been periodic hints and urgings from the USA and its western allies to resume talks with Pakistan over Kashmir but General Musharraf should make certain minimal positive moves such as a unilateral suspension of all militant activities. At the very least, he should disown the jehadis and his backing of jehad as fight for freedom.

Turning to the economic situation, the picture is fast becoming depressing. While the recent spurt in the international price of petroleum crude created fresh problems for India’s economy, there are far more fundamental problems afflicting the country’s economy. Industrial production has slowed down, the agricultural sector has recorded a downward trend, the stock exchanges are in total chaos and the inflation is on the rise. All these have brought down or are threatening to bring down the GDP growth rate from its original estimate of 8 per cent to 5.5 per cent. It was India’s hope that there would be an annual FDI of $10 billion over a period of 10 years which would lift the country’s economy to new heights. Regretfully these hopes have remained a mere dream.

But there are far more important factors which effectively tend to undermine India’s economy. Globalisation is no more acclaimed as a universal panacea, and certainly not for India or for other developing countries. While there have been initiatives in fresh economic reforms during the past 6-9 months by the NDA government, the liberalisation in imports and opening up of the markets at the instance of the WTO have tended to seriously affect India’s basic industrial structure as well as the agricultural sector. The Bombay School had all along raised an alarm, but this was challenged even by some of the captains of the industry. But now all of them have joined hands to point out that the liberalisation of imports resulting in dumping by the rich countries have seriously affected the industrial growth in the country.

Mr Jay Dubashi wrote recently that the real reason for the slowdown in the economy was the slow destruction of our industry, that reforms had devastated small and medium industries, that small industries had been ruined by imports and medium industry by foreign investors, that the entire soft drink industry had been destroyed, that the auto industry had been reduced to a shell and that foreigners were taking over our cement industry and also our drugs industry. He could have well added that the foreigners were taking over our bottled water industry also. By all accounts India is heading for a serious crisis in the economic field.

Politically also the NDA government is likely to face turmoil next year. The recent debacle in the Gujarat local elections had shown the trend. There are foreboding forecasts as regards the UP poll next year and the BJP may be trounced by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. With Bihar already out of BJP’s net, the slipping away of UP would be a serious development.

The RSS Chief, Mr K. Sudarshan, has been eloquent in putting forth certain concepts which are highly controversial and alarming. At the Rashtriya Raksha Mahashivir held at Agra recently, the RSS Sarsanghchalak made certain observations, which if taken literally, should sound a serious alarm. The RSS chief reportedly said that insurgency in the North East was the result of US conspiracy using the church and since the USA did not get military bases during the cold war in India it used the church to get access to the strategic North East. He also alleged that the church was part of the West’s arsenal to guide Christians into political actions. He wanted the church to be nationalised without foreign control. Mr Sudarshan also spoke of Indianisation of Islam and that Muslims in India should accept Hindu gods as part of their ancestry.

Mercifully the foreign countries and the foreign missions here are aware of the fact that while the RSS chief and his senior colleagues are respected by the Prime Minister and other BJP leaders, their writ does not run in the government except for a few rare exceptions. And there is now a BJP President, chosen by Prime Minister Vajpayee himself, who has made the right noises in respect of Muslims and other communities. Mr Bangaru Lakshman, the BJP president, is not a typical North Indian Brahmin or upper caste man as BJP Presidents used to be in the past.

The other source of danger to internal peace is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and allied organisations like the Bajrang Dal who have announced their intention to go ahead with the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. While they say that they would await the final outcome from the courts, they are nevertheless determined to go ahead with the Temple. It is hoped that the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues in the BJP would be able to prevail upon them to desist from any such enterprise.
The writer is former Governor of West Bengal and Sikkim.


Unplanned military modernisation
by B. K. Mathur

MODERNISATION of the armed forces is the latest mantra of Defence Minister George Fernandes — like Rajiv Gandhi’s in the 1980s. He repeated this twice in one day last week, first at a Territorial Army Day function and then in a keynote address at a seminar on “Air Power in India’s Security.” He said: “We must aim to be effective to raise the costs of aggressions to the levels which would dissuade the adversary from ever attempting to attack us.” To achieve his programme keeping in mind the military doctrine of “defensive defence and non-aggression”, Geroge Fernandes believes that the defence budget could be billed to the level of 3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by next year.

Good news for India’s armed forces, which is bound to make India’s potential rivals sit up, especially when the Defence Minister has claimed that the programme was “running parallel” with China and that “the planning was in no way inferior to Beijing’s”. What provoked the minister to compare New Delhi’s defence planning with China’s is not known. But experience shows that so far India has failed miserably on this front, even when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had considerably hiked the defence spending during the 1980s. The bane of India’s military planning has been ad hocing, without fixing priorities. In fact, there has never been a planned, well worked-out equipment policy.

In other words, India’s military procurement policy has been, by and large, reactive. For example, if one of our neighbours has procured from abroad one particular type of aircraft, weapon system or tank, our effort has always been to procure something to match that machine, without working out joint strategies or priorities. The Defence Minister is doubtless right in stating that there is need to keep parity in the region and that many changes are taking place in our neighbourhood, which will affect future power balance. But even to keep the future power balance, our priorities need to be fixed, keeping in mind the financial resources available. More important than this is the need to draw up priorities in consultation with the users, that is the armed forces, and not merely file-pushers in the ministry.

Besides prioritisation and consideration of the geostrategic compulsions in procurement of machines and systems, at least two other things have been neglected so far in military planning. They are required to be considered to raise the strike power of the forces. First for any military operation — advance to contact, defence, offence or withdrawal — the air-army cordination is essential. In case of the seaside operation, tri-service planning is “must” specially in present-day missile warfare.

During the Air Force Day programmes earlier this month, former IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh recollected in an informal chat his experiences of the 1965 war against Pakistan. He found to his dismay utter lack of cooperation between the two services.

Several Army Commanders at different levels who were fighting in various sectors in 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan have told me in informal talks that they never got air support on crucial moments of the battle — even when the enemy’s armour was about to enter Amritsar. It was only an artillery regiment which stopped the enemy’s march by repeated fire which totally demoralised the enemy. I told this gunner, a retired Colonel, only the other day what a retired Lt General had to say about this charge. While fully agreeing that there had been no air-army coordination in 1965 and 1971, blamed his own Army for the lapse !

The Lt-General’s explanation was that the army units during the two wars had kept their operational plans secret even to the air force from which they wanted support. After all, he said, the IAF has its own limitations in the war theatres, which include the limited sorties at their disposal. Until the air force is fully in the know of the entire operational plan of the army, their flying schedules or “operational readiness” at the base cannot be effectively worked out, however fast the communication system may be. Also, the inter-Service operations in time of war can be successfully achieved only when the concept of “joint command” is fully introduced. An exercise to this effect has already been undertaken and it is hoped it is fully implemented. More about this another time. First the lacunae in defence planning.

Take the Indian Air Force. The service celebrated its “day” on October 8 and, importantly, the air power has now a major role to play in future battles. The Defence Minister is giving higher priority to this service which, he believes, should be prepared to play a leading role to “dissuade the adversary from ever attempting to attack us.” During the anniversary celebrations, IAF Chief Anil Tipnis highlighted the need to evolve strategies to defend the skies from air intrusions. He has pleaded for a quick transition from air power to aerospace power. Which means highly expensive and sophisticated aircraft, airborne radar, communication, re-fueling systems and, above all, the much desired AWACS.

The last-named, Airborne Warning and Control System, reminds me of an offer made by the Russians more than a decade ago, when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had visited Moscow, for the supply of A-50 aircraft which had the warning and control system. An aeronautics expert who was then in Moscow had told me that the offer was “good and cheap”. I believe the offer has again been made with some modifications in the system. But the machine, whose cost has now been multiplied by several times, as in most other cases, is being rejected again by the IAF. What the defence planners are looking for is not known. The only thing known is that they are very keen to acquire the system.

There is no denying the fact that Russian machines are not as sophisticated as the ones from the Western sources. But it is well known that they are very reliable sellers and cheap suppliers — something that suits India very well. Importantly, they supply equipment along with production technology which India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is quick to adopt. Keeping this in mind, the agreement which India has just signed with Russia for the supply of the latest and state-of-the art SU-30 MK-I fighter aircraft is very welcome. What is important is the Russian offer for building the futuristic avionics and the weapon systems in the multi-role aircraft. Doubtless, this will boost India’s air power.

But this again means putting the cart before horse. Graduating the fighter pilots without having them completed the intermediate course, is the greatest folly, as former Chief of the IAF, Air Chief Marshal Nirmal Suri, used to say. In fact, five successive IAF Chiefs — Air Chief Marshal S.K. Mehra, Nirmal Suri, Kaul, Sareen and the present one Tipnis — had put the acquisi- tion of an advance jet trainer (AJT) at the top of their priorities and have repeatedly alarmed the government about the seriousness of the delay. More than a decade has elapsed, the badly needed AJT has not yet been provided to the fighter pilots. Tipnis told us the other day that price negotiations for the British Hawk are expected to be completed by the year-end, and then a contract will be signed. Which means a delay of at least one more year, if not more. Isn’t this unplanned military modernisation programme, Mr Defence Minister ? 


Dropping names

OUR son-in-law, Vivek Mehta, is quite happy to be living in the USA except for one minor irritant. Americans cannot pronounce simple foreign names right. In his own case, they shorten the ‘e’ in the first and drop the ‘h’ in the second, the latter possibly a habit inherited from their cockney ancestors. So, “Mehta” becomes ‘Meta’. Surprisingly, they get our daughter’s name, Meenakshi, which is completely alien to them, right the first time. The double “e” ensures that there is only one way it can be pronounced.

When they were expecting their first child they decided that if it were a girl, they would call her “Tara”. But, not trusting the natives, Vivek wrote it down on a piece of paper and ran it by the doctors and nurses in the hospital where he works, in Freeport, Illinois. Sure enough, every one of them muffed it. The first “a” they would not pronounce like the second, as is Lara, but would instead rhyme with “para”, probably because there is a farm by this name in “Gone With the Wind” and that is how they call “Tara” in it. GWTW is one of the abiding American icons. If it says so, then so it has to be. Even “Gandhi” suffers from a similar distortion of the first vowel the moment it passes the vocal chords of any westerner.

This, of course, was not acceptable to the parents-to-be. So, Vivek arrived at an ingenious solution He added another “a” to the first one and two years ago the little girl arrived in this world as “Taara”. There is no chance of anyone getting it wrong now.

The moral of the story is that if timely precaution is taken it is not necessary for a Kapoor to become a Cooper or a Hari Singh, a Harrison.

About his own name there is not much Vivek can do, but his brother Manu in San Francisco, one of those computer whizkids, decided that since he could not correct the distortion, he may as well put it to his advantage. A few years ago, when he set up his own company in the bits and bytes business, he called it Metabyte, a combination of two high-tech sounding syllables. And the business has done so well that there is a large building in one of the suburbs of the city known as the Metabyte Building.

Even Vivek sometimes finds that though they cannot get his name right, it has certain advantages. Very often he is asked if he is related to one Zubin. (They are not, being as far removed as Punjab is from Persia!). He denies it, but the connection refuses to go away. Like the time when one of his patients, while expressing gratitude for the care and courtesy he had received at Vivek’s hands, “which is becoming so rare in our country”, wrote further, “I do not know if you are related to Zubin Mehta, but if you were he would be proud of you.”


RSS must have peacetime agenda
Tavleen singh

ON a cold, wet winter morning in Delhi, some years ago, I went to my first RSS shakha. I was taken there by former BJP MP, B.L. Sharma ‘Prem’, the same gentleman who later disgraced himself and his party by describing the rape of the nuns in Jhabua (two years ago) as an expression of the people’s anger against Christianity. It was one of the first incidents, if you remember, of violence against Christians. Premji, as everyone called him, has since abandoned electoral politics and disappeared into relative obscurity but at the time he took me to see the shakha he was one of the most vocal activists of Hindutva. He invited me to the shakha in the hope of proving that the RSS represented patriotism and not communal hatred.

Indeed, there was nothing that happened during the shakha that could be described as communal. It was held on the dew-covered lawns of a park in South Delhi and despite the coldness of the morning the youths and old men who gathered wore only their regulation khaki knickers and flimsy white shirts, some were barefoot. They sang patriotic and religious songs, saluted their flag and performed a series of old-fashioned martial exercises with sticks. It was after the official business of the shakha was completed and we retired to someone’s home for a delicious Punjabi breakfast that I noticed why these daily morning drills were perceived by non-Hindus as dangerous. Breakfast conversation turned inevitably to politics and the RSS ideology and within minutes this friendly, middle class living room acquired a peculiarly venomous air. Nobody openly said anything anti-Muslim, nobody suggested that they should be thrown out of India but underlying everything they said on Indian history or politics a sense of grievance was easily discernible. This sense of grievance was directed at foreign rule, thereby Muslims, and was confirmed by Premji when he ended the discussion by saying, “We have to turn the Hindus into khalsas. Guru Gobind Singh is one of our heroes.” I hear that after he stopped being the MP from East Delhi Premji has gone on to become a Sikh but that is neither here nor there.

The point I want to emphasise is that everything the RSS does is tinged with that same sense of grievance I perceived that morning. I have since been to other shakhas, interview RSS leaders and visited their headquarters in Nagpur and in Delhi’s Jhandewalan district. I have read the works of their Guru Golwalkar and their many pamphlets explaining their version of Hinduism and Indian culture and have been less than impressed mainly because of that insidious sense of grievance that pervades everything they say and do. It reflects, in my view, an inferiority complex that makes little sense in an India that has been free of foreign rule for more than 50 years.

With a BJP Prime Minister ruling India we now see this sense of grievance and inferiority being exalted to the position of an ideology. A confused hate-filled ideology whose main contribution to modern India is destructive. When you examine the recent pronouncements of the RSS chief, V. Sudarshan, against this backdrop they become both easier to understand and more difficult to accept. In his speeches at the RSS Dusehra celebrations and the recent 75th anniversary bash in Agra Sudarshan articulated the following ideas. Economic liberalisation was bad because it could allow foreigners (multi-national companies) to take control of our economy and subjugate us once more. And, Christianity was acceptable in India only if Christians agree to Indianise the church. He mixed these two basic thoughts with a newly found reverence for Gandhiji and with particularly weird idea about cowdung and cow’s urine being able to save us the Rs 10,000 crore we spend annually on fertiliser.

If we concentrate, though, on the two main ideas we will find that they emanate from a sense of grievance and inferiority which, as an ideology, becomes paranoia.

As chief ideologue of the RSS Sudarshan would do well to ask himself what good can possibly come from paranoia. Christianity has existed in India for nearly 2000 years and never, until recent times, have the Christians — our smallest minority — been considered a threat to Indian nationhood. So, why target them? If you ask the soldiers of Hindutva this they immediately tell you that the Christians have been fermenting trouble in our north-eastern provinces. The more rabid see this as a massive conspiracy by the Vatican (and Western countries) to convert India to Christianity. Instead of paranoia what we need to see are concrete examples of Christian involvement in subversion. Neither the RSS, nor its more rabid sister, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has been able to come up with any. So, their movement against Christianity comes out as nothing more than a campaign of hate. No good can possibly come out of it.

Where the swadeshi movement is concerned the gains are likely to be equally useless. The economists (if there are any) who advise the RSS chief clearly belong to another time or they would have noticed by now that, in this age of information technology, Indian companies have an edge over many of their foreign competitors. Globalisation today is not a one-way street ending in India being exploited by foreigners. It works both ways as anyone can see from the number of Indians selling their wares and skills abroad. The RSS needs to clarify whether it is against swadeshi companies going abroad to ‘exploit’ foreigners.

The irony is that if the RSS could overcome the sanse of grievance that has fuelled its activities all these years it could discover that there is a great deal that a social and cultural organisation can do to make Bharat Mata a better place. RSS cadres have been known to do outstanding work in times of crisis. I have personally seen them work tirelessly to help victims of earthquakes and cyclones. What they do not seem to have is peacetime agenda.

If they did would the cleaning of our sacred rivers not be at the top of it? Why should RSS cadres waste their time fighting Christians and Muslims when they could be doing real national service by helping clean the Ganga and the Yamuna? What about saving the city of Varanasi from terminal decay instead of fighting Deepa Mehta? What about involving themselves in spreading the message of cleanliness and sanitation in our villages instead of banging on about what Muslim invaders did five hundred years ago to Hindu temples? What about building schools instead of more temples?

The RSS is today in a more powerful position than it has ever been. If proof were needed it came from the Home Minister last week when he clarified that the BJP would never sever its links with its parent organisation. This means that the RSS will have a say in government as long as we have a BJP Prime Minister ruling India. The tragedy of the RSS is that its sense of grievance and Hindu inferiority so overwhelms it that it prevents it from making more constructive use of its power.



Lighten our darkness,

We beseech Thee O Lord;

And by Thy great mercy

Defend us from all perils

And dangers of this night.

— Christian Evening Prayer


Thou art compassionate, O Lord! and I am deserving of compassion;

Thou art a donor and I am a beggar.

I am a notorious sinner and Thou art the destroyer of sins.

Thou art the Lord of the forlorn,

And is there anyone so forlorn as I?

There is no one so afflicted as I

And no allayer of sufferings as Thou.

Thou art the Universal Soul, and I, the individual Ego;

Thou art my Master, I Thy slave.

Thou art my father and mother, teacher and friend and my well wisher in every way.

Thou art related to me in so many ways, treat me as it pleases Thee.

O Merciful Lord! Tulsidas only seeks

The shelter of Thy feet...

— Goswami Tulsidas; The Heart's Prayer


The moths resolved,

And gathered round the flame.

Fearing not the flame,

They plunged into the fire.

They cared not for their heads,

And decided to lose.


Ask the moths

About the taste of burning,

They come flying

And plunge into the flame.

How can they resist

Who are love-stricken


Burn yourself as long as you live

Nothing but burning helps,

Must march in all seasons,

There is no time for respite.


Unconscious I was

Love woke me up.

— Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif


Each of us in an extension of God manifesting Diversity as a necessary corollary to unity. Each "I" is God's eye celebrating its own unique perspective. There is no one else like me, there can be no path for me other than the one directly under my own feet. Only when we are lights unto ourselves does the universe glow with attention and awareness.

—Rami Mark Shapiro,

Tying My Shoes: Ordinary Living and Everyday Discipline.

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