Friday, November 17, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Sonia’s victory
HAT Mrs Sonia Gandhi will win hands down the Congress presidential election was a foregone conclusion. The contest posed no challenge to her authority as the boss of this 115-year-old party.

A true filmic end 
F the energy of the collective sigh at the freedom of filmstar Rajkumar were to be trapped and released, it would unleash a supercyclone in some pockets of Bangalore.


by Hari Jaisingh
A passage to Nankana Sahib
Behind the General’s friendly smile
EEPING politics aside, one must appreciate Islamabad's gesture to allow Sikh pilgrims liberally to visit Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Devji.


Sell-off plan in mid-air
November 16, 2000
A presidential visit indeed
November 15, 2000
Mass murder of trees
November 14, 2000
Ganga-Mekong initiative
November 13, 2000
Is it dictated by public attitude?
November 12, 2000
Law of arrests
November 11, 2000
US election drama
November 10, 2000
Making same ends meet
November 9, 2000
Congress elections 
November 8, 2000
Kashmir cries for sanity
November 7, 2000




Lala Lajpat Rai: a forgotten hero
By V.N. Datta
HE title of this article may raise eyebrows! Philosophically, it may be said that history is ever silently turning over its pages.


Of hero and the villain
By R.C. Rajamani

Lord Rama has spent 14 years in forest," veteran Kannada actor Dr. Rajkumar readily agreed with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi who sought to comfort the thespian with these remarks after his horrendous experience as a hostage of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan for 108 days.


Unforgettable neighbours!
by Jagjit Puri
N Janmashtami Day, while watching Raas Leela on TV, my mind went back to my childhood where in flashes I saw Bibi Harbans Kaur, daughter-in-law of Rai Bahadur Shiv Parshad, engaging Raas Leela groups from Vrindavan to perform in her courtyard.




Sonia’s victory

THAT Mrs Sonia Gandhi will win hands down the Congress presidential election was a foregone conclusion. The contest posed no challenge to her authority as the boss of this 115-year-old party. Mr Jitendra Prasada knew it when he decided to exercise his democratic right to enter the ring. She has won securing all the 7712 votes polled minus a mere 94, which went in favour of the call for strengthening the democratic roots of the Congress. However, if Mrs Sonia Gandhi has earned a certificate as the first democratically elected Congress president coming from the Nehru-Gandhi family, the organisation she heads has also got a fresh stamp, if it was needed, that it is fully in the grip of a committed brigade. It has remained infected by the deadly virus of sycophancy ever since the days of Indira Gandhi. Since time is a great healer, one thought the organisation might have developed some immunity. But Wednesday's results have disappointed the political watchers who thought on these lines. The virus is very much active.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi's challenger, too, being a product of the thriving culture of "jee-huzoori", is no saint. He has never been known as a great democrat. It was he who presided over the unethical show enacted in New Delhi some time ago to ungracefully dislodge a democratically elected chief of the Congress, the late Sitaram Kesri, to get Mrs Sonia Gandhi seated on the "gaddi" , invoking the wish of partymen. By a quirk of circumstances his name disappeared from the good books of 10 Janpath. So, by raising the banner of inner-party democracy, the scheming Thakur from UP annointed himself as a challenger to clear himself of his old sins. He has also inadvertently helped his party leader to acquire a democratic veneer of legitimacy. It is not very important if he has got fewer votes than the late Ranjesh Pilot, who fought the 1997 party president's poll against Sitaram Kesri and secured a respectable tally of 323 votes. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is no Kesri, as Mr Prasada is no Pilot. Yet Mr Prasada could have done better, had the Sonia loyalists not succeeded in pressuring the party's central election authority chairman, Mr R. N. Mirdha, to allow them to tamper with the electoral process. Mr Mirdha's integrity is beyond reproach. But even a man of his credentials has his limitations. It, however, must be said to the credit of Mrs Sonia Gandhi that she has accepted the challenge to her position in the right spirit. She has declared that Mr Prasada was "well within his rights to do what he did". One wishes she also realised that the issues her adversary had highlighted were worth giving serious consideration, the foremost among them being an urgent review of the electoral process.


A true filmic end 

IF the energy of the collective sigh at the freedom of filmstar Rajkumar were to be trapped and released, it would unleash a supercyclone in some pockets of Bangalore. So relieved are both Kannada and Tamil residents that the day-long celebrations were truly regional in character and not sectarian. Karnataka Chief Minister S.M.Krishna gushingly confided that he was thrilled at the news as was his Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge. It was an unvarnished truth. The end of Rajkumar’s captivity also signalled their end of being a prisoner to mounting tension at what would happen if something untoward happened. If Wednesday’s frenzied reaction is any guide, the reversal of the mood would have been calamitous. A tragedy brings out anger and anger packs more destructive power than relief or happiness. In Tamil Nadu, which played the lead role in the drama, there is a quiet sense of achievement at its maneuver which has ended well. Barring one, the mediators are all from the state and handpicked by Chief Minister Karunanidhi. At one stage he swallowed his pride and sent to the forest a man who fancies himself to be the Indian counterpart of LTTE’s Prabhakaran. Mr Karunanidhi had been an ultra nationalist before he gave up the separatist ideology about four decades ago. For such a leader to seek the help of a nondescript rabble-rouser was politically astute. And it has paid off. The post-release wrangles have already started in Tamil Nadu. One TADA detenu has claimed that the state government has conceded some demands of Veerappan, without revealing how he knew about it from his prison cell. Ms Jayalalitha tried to muffle the loudly expressed feelings of relief by firing a blank in the form of demanding a white paper, particularly on P.Nedumaran, the pro-LTTE Tamil chauvinist. It is crass confrontationism but she tries to squeeze political gain where none exists.

Why has Veerappan, a nationally derided villain, released the real life hero? He has scripted this dramatic end on the pleading of the Tamils living in Bangalore. The leader of the Tamil Peravai (in loose translation, federation of all Tamil associations) went to the forest to convince the kidnapper of the likely rioting in the city, where the Tamils are concentrated, if there was a health emergency. And this is a distinct possibility during the coming monsoon rain in the dense forest. This argument carried much weight as Veerappan had demanded in one of the tapes he sent handsome compensation to those affected during the 1991 mob violence. The Tamil Nadu government procured letters from the five detenus whose release was a condition for the film star’s freedom. They had asked him to delink their case from that of Rajkumar as the Supreme Court had blocked their freedom. Above all, the presence of Nedumaran was the clincher. Nakkeran editor Gopal is an acquaintance since his sensational interview some years ago but Nedumaran is a soulmate. And he had a compelling reason to succeed in his mission. He was attacked and pilloried in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, which provoked him to refuse to go to the jungle. He later relented and today is beaming. Newspapers from Delhi have now shifted the focus to “getting” the criminal. A commando operation is the most favoured choice. Retired senior police officers have their pet plans. But it will be useful to review why the earlier elaborate manhunt by a special task force failed. Ideally, somebody must have planted an electronic tracking device on Veerappan so his hideout can be pinpointed and he arrested. But that is cool plotting and the Indian police does not have a stomach for it. 


A passage to Nankana Sahib
Behind the General’s friendly smile
by Hari Jaisingh

KEEPING politics aside, one must appreciate Islamabad's gesture to allow Sikh pilgrims liberally to visit Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Devji.

What lies behind this friendly face of Pakistan is a different matter. We know from experience that the military establishment does nothing without hard calculations, especially when it comes to India. It is a fact that the rulers at Islamabad are obsessed with this country. Could this be part of their India-phobia or, do they still find it difficult to reconcile to post-partition realities? There are indeed several historical, social, political, religious and psychological reasons for Pakistani's odd and hostile behavior pattern. The net result is that the ruling clique there does not play straight. More of it later.

Nankana Sahib is a living symbol of the Sikh faith. It holds tremendous emotional appeal for the Sikh community. No wonder, the devotees from India and abroad flock to Nankana Sahib on the historic occasion of the birthday of the founder of the Sikh religion.

Strained relations between India and Pakistan unfortunately create problems. There was confusion galore this time as well. Lack of coordination between the authorities on both sides of the border added to the problems of devotees. All this could and should have been avoided.

Religion is sacred. The Sikhs are passionately devoted to their religious tenets. It is, however, regrettable that Pakistan invariably uses religion as an instrument of politics with a view to dividing people in the subcontinent. It has used Islam to divide the Indian polity and grab Kashmir by proxy war. It has aided and abetted separatist elements in Punjab and other parts of the country. The ISI has spread its subversive network in every vital area. New Delhi does not seem to have the right answer to its mischievous games.

Even at Nankana Sahib this time, the Pakistani authorities used the pious occasion to incite the Sikh gathering with a view to activating the Khalistan movement.

A 12-member Sikh delegation, which included former Akal Takht Jathedar Darshan Singh, Dr Gurmit Singh Aulakh from Washington DC, Mr Ganga Singh Dhillon, and Mr Manmohan Singh of the Dal Khalsa based in the UK (all protagonists of the Khalistan movement) reportedly met Pakistan's Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad last week. The issues which came up for discussion are said to be the management and maintenance of the historic Sikh shrines in Pakistan, giving global representation to the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC), and support for the separatist movement in Punjab. This is an unfriendly act. This does not help the Indian authorities to resume the dialogue with Pakistan.

Pakistan's gameplan is clear. Having failed in its earlier moves in Punjab, it is making yet another desperate attempt to foment trouble with the help of some overseas disgruntled elements.

Such attempts are bound to fail. The people of Punjab will not become playthings in the hands of Pakistani rulers. They have suffered enough in the past. They have learnt their lesson.

The Sikhs possess earthy common sense. They know what is for whom and who is for what. It must be said to the credit of the SGPC that it imposed a ban on sending jathas to Pakistan. SGPC leaders understand why Islamabad has developed sudden love for the Sikh shrines which have been in a state of neglect for the past 50 years. In any case, the SGPC has been opposed to the formation of the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) which is headed by Lt Gen Javed Naser (retd), former Chief of the ISI. He is said to be behind the Bombay blasts of 1993 when he ran the ISI.

General Musharraf is apparently trying to open a new chapter in his proxy war via the religious route. But in the process he is playing with fire.

The PSGPC is known to be supporting Khalistanis. In fact, at the Nankana Sahib congregation, a number of Khalistanis were honoured. A siropa was presented to the Pakistani President, Mr Rafiq Tarar, who claimed that the minorities in his country enjoyed full freedom. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

How shabbily the Hindu and Christian minorities are treated in Pakistan is no secret. What is particularly regrettable is that the rulers in Islamabad are selectively playing politics with the minorities.

Today, Pakistan itself is sitting on a volcano, which has forced several ethnic groups to question the very concept of partition. Even Jinnah had apprehensions in this regard.

In his address to the Constituent Assembly in 1947, he told the legislators: "You are free; you are free to go to your temple. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed... that has nothing to do with the business of the state... we are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state."

Jinnah believed that Partition was right. But he had some doubts even then. "Any idea of a united India could never have worked and in my judgement, it would have led to terrible disaster", he said. At the same time he added, "Maybe that view is correct; maybe it is not; that remains to be seen."

However, his remark on his deathbed that Partition was a disaster acquires some credence in the light of the doubts expressed by Jinnah during his earlier days. But by then he was no more the master of the situation. Things were totally out of his control.

The very inability of Islamabad to integrate the Mohajirs, the people who were at the very helm of the Pakistan movement and who formed almost the Muslim aristocracy of India, into the mainstream of Pakistan even after half a century is nothing but the most blatant failure of Pakistan to take shape. It must be a matter of concern to any intelligent Pakistani.

The Pakistan elite believes that the hegemony of the Punjabis and the Pathans holds the key to political unity and control over their country and that Islam, its foundational vision, gives it legitimacy. Democracy has no place in such a society.

The Punjabis constitute 48 per cent and the Pathans 13 per cent of the population of Pakistan. They hold disproportionate positions in the army and civil services. There are no Sindhi or Baluch generals in the Pakistan army. And it is a fact that the army has practically dominated all segments of life ever since the fifties.

Islam is a brotherhood — an Umma. And all distinctions are supposed to be dissolved in it. And yet ethnicity won the day in East Pakistan. And it seems to be winning in Sindh and Baluchistan.

The rise of the military to dominance gave a false impression of unity and false hope about its capacity to contain fissiparous tendencies. At no time the ruling clique was ready to come to terms with the ethnic demand for autonomy. The secession of Bangladesh showed that a veneer of Islam is not enough to hold people together.

General Zia-ul-Haq thought that a more fundamental Islam would hold the people together. He advocated an orthodox Islam and made institutions conform to Islamic principles. He also tried out the divide and rule policy by encouraging the Urdu-speaking people to form the Qaumi movement as a counter to the growing Sindhi nationalism. It was also a move against the Bhutto family and the People's Party of Pakistan.

The failure of Pakistan to come to terms with the autonomy movement of ethnic groups led to sectarian unrest and killings in its fragile social fabric and became a heavy burden on its economy.

A shrewd tactician, General Zia had two goals: (1) to gain control of Kabul and (2) to take the Indian part of Kashmir. As direct confrontation had not worked well before, he resorted to the proxy war. The availability of Pakhtoons for Mujahideen work in Afghanistan helped Zia to control both money and weapons flowing from America. And the Afghan war made Pakistan's intelligence agency (ISI) an all-powerful organisation.

The Sunnis, who form the majority in Pakistan, consider the Shiias as lesser Muslims. The Shias are under constant attack. This has aggravated with the influence of Wahabi Islam, imported from Saudi Arabia. Shias, in turn, have threatened to wage a civil war like in Algeria. Sectarian violence has gone on against the Afghans also. Kabul had to protest against it.

The Pakistan state has ended in a miasma of moral doubts. It has been called a "failed state" by American think tanks. Others have called it a "flawed democracy." The fact is that it is one of the medieval states of our times—an anachronism. Over 4.4 crore people live below the poverty line under sub-human conditions.

In 1980 Prof. Stephen Cohen, the South Asia specialist, wrote: "Pakistan belongs to that class of states whose very survival is uncertain, whose legitimacy is doubted."

Today the ISI dominates over Pakistan. Dr Mubashir Hassan, founder Secretary-General of the PPP, confessed: "At present, the political system is the outcome of manipulation at the top and the rulers have become helpless before the intelligence agencies."

Jinnah had never envisaged an orthodox Islamic state. He wanted Pakistan to be a liberal state. This approach continued till Zia overturned the Jinnah tradition and brought in orthodox Islam. With it, sectarian violence became the order of the day.

Pakistan politicians supported more and more orthodoxy, not because of their piety, but because of their desire to hold on to power by hook or by crook. Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mr Nawaz Sharif made a major contribution to these developments. Today the monster they nourished has eaten them up.

The Pakistan elite, on its part, saw in orthodox Islam a way to contain autonomy assertions. Mr Nawaz Sharif went out of his way to promote the fanatics.

After two years of stint in Pakistan as the South Asia correspondent of The Observer (London), this is what Jason Burke had to say: "Pakistan's faultlines fissure across the country like the crazy web of cracks in an earthquake. There are a dozen languages, scores of sects, hundreds of tribes and sub-tribes, and deep regional enmities, massive social divisions between old feudal and new commercial classes, cultural splits and a hundred thousand other bifurcations, dichotomies, schizophrenias, and dilemmas."

He thinks Pakistan needs something more than its hatred of India, Islam and the PIA to hold it together. He believes that Pakistan has neither a clear idea of its past nor of its future.

Right from the days of Partition, there is one common desire among the rulers of Pakistan — the disintegration of India. And it is Pakistan which is facing disintegration today!

Islamabad hoped to gain its ends through wars. Even General Musharraf, who as a soldier should know better, told Pakistan troops that Indians are cowards. Well, it was the Pakistan army of 90,000 soldiers who surrendered to the Indian army.

Who is the coward?

Pakistan today is a brutalised nation. This is evident from the behavior of even a disciplined body like the army. It returned the mutilated bodies of Indian soldiers during the Kargil conflict—which is unheard of in our civilised world. And the Mujahideen exults in the fact that they slit the throats of children and women!

From India's point of view, there is no reason for pessimism but plenty of cause for concern. South Block will have to find right answers to frustrate Pakistan's evil designs. It has to realise that political management should be made of sterner stuff than has hitherto been the case.

As for the people, it is necessary that the Hindu, Sikh and all other communities stand together and fight unitedly the communalisation of consciousness and politics.

It is worth remembering that the USA today is one strong and united country. Its strength and vastness can be traced to the determined resistance offered and relentless war waged by Abraham Lincoln against the forces of disintegration.

If the USA can do it, so can India. After all, as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said during his U.S. trip, India and America are "natural allies!" We shall have to find effective ways to fix the forces of destabilisation both within and without. In fact, the real effectiveness of a government is not its capacity to tackle petty criminals, but its capacity and strength to meet the challenge posed by secessionists and communal forces.

Amidst these varied challenges, what is regrettable is that we lack proper understanding of Pakistan's changing profile. Even the academic world has neglected the study of our next-door neighbour. These serious gaps have to be bridged if New Delhi wishes to properly evaluate the crafty mindset of the possessed rulers in Islamabad.Top


Lala Lajpat Rai: a forgotten hero
By V.N. Datta

THE title of this article may raise eyebrows! Philosophically, it may be said that history is ever silently turning over its pages. We are too much engrossed by the present to think of the past and of those who made much of it. The idol of today pushes the hero of yesterday out of memory and will be supplanted by his successor. It may also be said as a rebuttal the Lajpat Rai is not forgotten as quite a number of monographs have appeared on his life and achievements. These include “Lajpat Rai, Writings and Speeches” (1888-1928, 2 vols), J.S. Dhanki; Lajpat Rai and Indian Nationalism”; and “Lajpat Rai in Retrospect: Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Concerns” (edited by J. S. Grewal and Indu Banga, a collection of scholarly papers, presented at a three-day seminar early this year under the aegis of the Lajpat Rai Studies Centre, Panjab University, Chandigarh. There also stands elevated on The Mall in Shimla Lajpat Rai’s grand status representing the solidity of his character and steadiness of his purpose weathering many storms of life with utmost composure and dignity.

I remember vividly that due to the initiative of Mr Krishan Kant, now Vice-President of India, a seminar on the occasion of Lajpat Rai’s birth anniversary in 1972 was held in Chandigarh in which Pandit Amar Nath Vidyalankar, Feroz Chand, a close associate of Lajpat Rai, a number of scholars, and a few others who recollected their association with the great leader participated. Despite some valuable publications, Lajpat Rai still awaits a historian! Each age has its history, and the process of valuation and re-valuation must go on intermittingly.

History remains an unending dialogue with the past. A full and an authoritative biography on him relating to the highly controversial issues in which he was involved and a complete annotated collection of his writings which lie scattered are a prerequisite to the understanding of his role in politics. It is a pity, and outrageous indeed, that ever since 1947 on Punjab government ever took interest in any project for the publication of such works on political leaders and revolutionaries, including Bhagat Singh, who had sacrificed all they had, their life and property, for the love and service of the country. It is only on their birth and death anniversaries that a troop of politicians stir and sing parrot-fashion hymn in their honour as a dull ritual.

There is no point in narrating principal events connected with Lajpat Rai’s life which is too well-known. I would like to focus on some of the striking and controversial issues relating to his public activities which need further thinking and reflection. Lajpat Rai was an independent-minded politician, a firm and convinced individualist who chose his own course by force of his inner resources. He never cared for public gaze or plums of office. A man of tearing personality, he would never, never give in. That is why Mahatma Gandhi called him “incorrigible”. The Mahatma thought that Lajpat Rai’s “frankness often embarrassed his friends and confounded his critics”. In this sense, he was a Punjabi in the authentic sense.

Of all the political leaders in Punjab who participated in India’s struggle for freedom, he was the only one who could talk on equal terms with stalwarts like C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Bipin Chander Pal, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Balgangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishan Gokhale. He has the courage to differ with them on crucial political issues. He opposed C.R. Das’s Hindu-Muslim Pact of 1923 and described it as a “document which shows a regrettable lack of foresight and statesmanship”. He admired the virtues of non-violence but criticised its use as a means of liberating the country from foreign rule. He believed that non-violence, if adopted without a change in human nature, would fail and leave things worse than before. He feared that the false idea of ahimsa might destroy Hindus and, therefore, condemned it. His perception of Kohat riots in 1924 was entirely different from that of the Mahatma, and he said so in public. Due to his differences, he resigned from the Swaraj Party on August 24, 1924, and formed with Malaviya the Congress Independent Party, but this honeymoon was short-lived. These changes in his party affiliations do not mean his tumbling into opportunistic politics but exemplify his firm commitment to his principles which he devoutly cherished.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, Lajpat Rai was an institution. He was, indeed, a pioneer in laying the foundation of some works of enduring value of public weal and utility. He was the founder of Indian Home Rule League with its headquarters in New York. He founded the Servants of People Society and Tilak School of Politics. A voracious reader of books and periodicals, he was highly proficient in English, Urdu, Persian and Arabic. He was widely travelled, and was substantially in touch with the current social and political ideas of the age. A robust intellectual, his mind bubbled with ideas. He had a firm grasp of Islamic law and theology, and a profound understanding of Vedantic philosophy. His association with C.F. Andrews brought him close to the teachings of Christianity. Though an admirer of the British parliamentary system, he was an inveterate foe of British imperialism that had brought misery to millions the world over. Like Rammohan Roy, his perspective was international. While the springboard of Rammohan Roy’s social and political ideals was the Brahmo Samaj in the case of Lajpat Rai it was the Arya Samaj.

Lajpat Rai regarded education as the key to all improvements for the moral, intellectual and social regeneration of society in order to fight the menace of illiteracy and poverty. What could be more potential weapons for the realisation of his ideals than the setting up of schools, colleges and newspapers. He was the founding father of D.V. College, Lahore, and floated the Panjabee in October, 1904, and an English weekly called The People in July, 25 1925, besides Bande Mataram, an Urdu daily. A prolific writer, he contributed articles to several newspapers, particularly The Tribune, and published books and pamphlets on the political and economic problems facing the country. His prose style was lucid, concise, engaging and manly.

Lajpat Rai has been condemned by some historians as a rank communalist or at best a liberal communalist because of his supporting the Shuddhi and Sangathan campaigns and thereby arousing communal passions and antipathy. Certainly there was a striking change in his attitude on the Hindu-Muslim question from 1923 onwards. In his Presidential address delivered at a Hindu Mahasabha conference at Calcutta, he exhorted the Hindus to consolidate themselves for safeguarding their interests. I think this change in his attitude on the Hindu-Muslim question has to be seen in the context of the communal riots that flared up in the country.

It must be emphasised that no political action is ever governed by an independently pre-determined purpose. That is why the forces of contingency operate in human affairs, and, therefore, consistency in politics is gratuitous. As Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible, and of the relative”. Lajpat Rai was opposed to the separate electorate idea. That is why he called the Lucknow Pact of 1916 a grave blunder. He criticised the Mahatma for bringing religion into politics. He firmly believed that the Mahatma’s Ram Rahim approach would fail in resolving the Hindu-Muslim conflict.

As an intellectual in politics, Lajpat Rai felt that the Hindu-Muslim question needed a deeper analysis, and he expressed his misgivings in a letter addressed to C.R. Das in December, 1922. He wrote, “I am prepared to trust the Muslim leaders. But what about the injunction of the Quran and the Hadis!” In other words, Lajpat Rai thought that the notion of umma and the kafir as interpreted by the ulema hindered the development of national spirit among Muslims. He sought Das’s advice on the matter. It is interesting to note that Jinnah took this Lajpat Rai’s letter and quoted from it at the historic Muslim League session held in Lahore on March 22, 1940, when the Pakistan Resolution was passed to split the country into two. Jinnah emphasised that Lajpat Rai was correct in maintaining that Hindus and Muslims represented altogether two separate civilisations and, therefore, there was no possibility of any settlement between them on the political problem in the country.

Lajpat Rai wrote a series of articles on the Hindu-Muslim question in The Tribune in November-December, 1924. I think these articles number no less than 14 though their exact number cannot be counted due to the brittle nature of the paper and gaps in the intervening series. These articles, hitherto mostly neglected and unused by historians, are of immense value in understanding Lajpat Rai’s views on the Hindu-Muslim question. They survey the role of Islam in Indian history and deal with the history of the separate electorate in details. Lajpat Rai emphasised that religion as practised in India had broken our back, stunted our growth, and proved a veritable curse to the country. Indian Muslims, he maintained, were Pan-Islamic and exclusive, and drifted from the mainstream of national life. He thought that shuddhi and tablig campaigns were communal and political but humanitarian.

Lajpat Rai condemned the use of religion for political ends. But he warned that Swaraj could no longer wait and must be attained without delay, whatever the difficulties. He argued that if communal harmony was not possible, then the only remedy lay in partitioning the country into two parts — Hindu and Muslim. According to this formula, which he devised and put forth in The Tribune on December 14, 1924, the Muslim State would comprise the North-West Frontier Province, Sind, Punjab and East Bengal. However, it is not clear whether this block of consolidated Muslim areas would constitute a completely independent sovereign State or remain an integral part of the Indian Union.

It may be maintained safely that Lajpat Rai is the precursor of the idea of Pakistan, which poet-philosopher Iqbal sustained and expounded in detail on an ideological footing in his presidential address delivered at the All-India Muslim League session at Allahabad in 1930, and which was translated into reality by Jinnah with his political astuteness and skills in 1947.

The writer is a well-known historian.


Of hero and the villain
By R.C. Rajamani

Lord Rama has spent 14 years in forest," veteran Kannada actor Dr. Rajkumar readily agreed with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi who sought to comfort the thespian with these remarks after his horrendous experience as a hostage of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan for 108 days. The DMK chief, also a product of the film world, knew the comparison would go well with the thespian's stoicism and his consummate ability to relate to the common people, the hallmark of his popularity throughout Karnataka. "I am dying to meet the people" were his well-chosen comments to a newspaper reporter after his release from captivity.

These two instances perhaps sum up the phenomenon, that is Rajkumar. Whatever he says and does directly touches the pulse of the people.

The other protagonist in the baffling hostage drama, forest brigand Veerappan, knew the priceless value of his hostage. From day one, he knew he could never harm Rajkumar. To the sandalwood smuggler and poacher of pachyderm, the soft-spoken and gentle actor was like the proverbial goose which laid the golden eggs. At the end of the harrowing crisis, it is still not clear if Veerappan had extracted any "golden egg".

But what is obvious is that the two state governments concerned - Karnataka and Tamil Nadu - have been left with egg on their faces. If they had been allowed to have their way, Veerappan could well have got away with more "golden eggs" than one. The tough stand taken by the Supreme Court with regard to the atrocious demands of the outlaw, in a way, saved the day for the two governments. But now they have to answer embarrassing questions on how Veerappan was allowed to acquire an invincibility that is incredible, seen in the light of the power and might that are at the disposal of the state administrations.

Veerappan is no less a phenomenon than Rajkumar. Each has proved to be a perfect foil to the other. The one extending his charisma from the screen to the streets and the other acquiring an image of Robinhood of sorts from his hideout in thick forests.

Rajkumar is easily the most popular figure in Karnataka. The 72-year old Dadasaheb Phalke award winner's charisma is of a piece with the phenomenon obtaining in the celluloid world in the southern states. M.G. Ramachandarn, N.T. Rama Rao and Jayalalitha all exploited their screen image to reap harvest in politics. But Rajkumar stopped short of entering politics though his countless fans once wanted him to do so. It is difficult to explain why the migration from cinema to big time politics has taken place only in the southern states. There have been equally popular stars from the Bollywood like Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, and Amitab Bachchan in recent times. But none of them made it permanently to the rough and tumble of politics.

The superstars from the south have always carried their screen image of do-gooders beyond cinema to their day-to-day life. With their well publicised acts of philanthrophy and charity, they were able to touch an emotional chord with the masses. This paid them good dividends when they finally decided to invest in politics as exemplified by MGR and NTR who both became Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively.

Rajkumar may not have become the Chief Minister but in sheer popularity he is streets ahead of anyone from any walk of life in Karnataka.

Veerappan knew this and landed on his "prize catch" when he kidnapped him on July 30 this year from the actor's ancestral house at Gajanur on the Tamil Nadu part of the border with Karnataka. Rajkumar had been well warned of such an eventuality but the actor stubbornly refused the offer of security cover.

"What will Veerappan get from me, except a simple dhoti and shirt," the unassuming actor had explained it away.

Used to the comforts that go with the life of any actor, Rajkumar has indeed borne the tough life in the forest with fortitude and equanimity.

For 50 years, Rajkumar has carried on his shoulders the destiny of Kannada film industry. No wonder, the entire film industry in the state came to a standstill after he was kidnapped. Not just films, he is identified with the entire gamut of Kannada culture, aver his fans. "He is bigger than the Chief Minister or the Governor of the State," they preen.

How Veerappan, the villain in the drama, was allowed to build an empire of his own inside the thick Satyamangalam forests on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border reads like a fairy tale.

Veerappan was in his teens when he gunned down a tusker with the help of his guru Sevi Gounder. Later on he took to sandalwood smuggling. Though arrested and jailed a few times since 1972, Veeraapan always managed to escape, making it difficult to believe that he did not enjoy political and police patronage. His record of slaughtering about 2000 elephants for lucrative smuggling of ivory and his cold-blooded murder of forest and police officials all go to establish a clear link between him and those in authorities.

After the kidnapping of Rajkumar, Veerappan made the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments dance to his tune. He had very nearly extracted his demands for the release of his associates, detained under TADA. It was only a case filed by the father of Sub-Inspector Shakeel Ahmed, killed by Veerappan during an encounter, and the timely intervention of the Supreme Court which prevented this. On more occasions than one, the Supreme Court used the harshest words possible, clearly telling the two state governments that what they were contemplating was nothing short of dereliction of duty.

The long drawn out drama saw emissaries such as Nakeeran Gopal, the journalist, and Nedumaran who entered the scene during the final stages. Nedumaran, a former Congressman, is a known LTTE sympathiser and is said to enjoy the confidence of Veerappan. The 108-day drama also revealed Veerappan's association with some banned Tamil extremist organisations. These are worrisome factors, not only for the two states but also for the Centre.


Unforgettable neighbours!
by Jagjit Puri

ON Janmashtami Day, while watching Raas Leela on TV, my mind went back to my childhood where in flashes I saw Bibi Harbans Kaur, daughter-in-law of Rai Bahadur Shiv Parshad, engaging Raas Leela groups from Vrindavan to perform in her courtyard.

Bibi Harbans Kaur was a unique personality in her own way. Although belonging to a very rich family and married in a rich family, she was extremely kind hearted. A few days before Janmashtami, she will send her servants to each and every mohalla informing everybody about the arrival of a Raas Leela group from Varindavan. Everybody after dinner will assemble in her courtyard and they will be entertained with childhood stories of Lord Krishna and Radha. This festivity will continue for a week. On Janmashtami day, a huge “bhandara” will be held, where she will serve food to rich and poor, high and low, irrespective of caste and creed.

Whenever a puppet troupe was in town, her pleasure was beyond measure. She will invariably invite them to perform at her courtyard where again everybody will be called to witness.

In my mind, another flash goes to Rai Bahadur Shiv Parshad, a retired Chief Engineer of the Government of India and former Principal of Roorkee University, who was also related to Bibi Harbans Kaur, being younger brother of her father-in-law. He and his wife were an institution in themselves. This issueless couple took the responsibility to educate, train and entertain the children of their neighbourhood.

Siri Ram was totally bald but in the pink of his health. Right at 5 a.m. in summer, he will knock at the doors of the children and will take them to Baradari Gardens for stroll, yoga and other exercises. In the day, whenever a child was free, he will take him/her to his study room, give lecture on how to fill the cheque book, how to maintain accounts, how to operate post office accounts and other necessary day-to-day activities which pertain to government system. In the evening he will again assemble all children of the mohalla and take them for a stroll. I recall he was strictly punctual and he used to enjoy paan chewing but will not allow children this extravagance. When one day all children protested, he agreed to give them paan with gulkand and almonds from his house.

Whenever a child was ill, he will bring a doctor and if the child’s parents were not in a position to buy medicines, he will buy them for the child. He will also keep track of their height and weight, advise parents suitable amendments in their food and nutrition requirements. Besides, he was also doing career counselling for the development of the children.

Bibi Rukmani and Siri Ram, doted on children. They were so sensitive to the psychology that whenever giving shagun to their relative’s children on religious occasions, they will ensure the payment of same amount to any child from the mohalla who happened to be present so that the child does not feel discriminated. Who can forget such neighbours even after 40 years.



O adorable Lord of Mercy and Love!


Grant us an understanding heart,

Equal vision, balanced mind,

Faith, devotion and wisdom.

Grant us inner spiritual strength

To resist temptations

and to control the mind.

Free us from egoism, lust, greed, hatred, anger and jealousy.

Fill our hearts with divine virtues.


Let us behold Thee

in all these names and forms.

Let us serve Thee

in all these names and forms.

Let us ever remember Thee.

Let us ever sing Thy glories.

Let Thy Name be ever on our lips.

Let us abide in Thee

for ever and ever.

— Swami Shivananda,
The Universal Prayer


Lord of Peace, give to us peace at all times in all ways.

May Thine own Peace

which passeth all understanding

guide our heart and thoughts.

— Charlotte Skinner,
The Marks of the Master


O adorable God!

Thou lifetest up mortal man

To superb immortality

By providing sustenance.

Thou bestowest happiness and sustenance

On the wise

In both the lives -

The present and the one to come.

— Rig Veda, 1.31.7


Not cast down by sorrow

Nor over-elate in joy;

Aloof from the power

Of pride, greed and coveting;

Such a man, saith Nanak,

Is the image of God.

— Guru Tegh Bahadur,
Slok 13, Sri Guru Granth Sahib,
page 1326

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