revealed and written
Review by Kuldip Dhiman
Foundations of Hinduism by A. Ramamurty. D. K. Printworld, New
Delhi. Pages 216. Rs 360.
you wish to make a Hindu uncomfortable, ask him these questions:
What is Hinduism? Who is your God? What book do you believe in?
Who is your equivalent of the Pope? Most Hindus would be ill at
ease and might not know what to say. Yes, I am a Hindu, but how
do I define it, the person might admit. And what God, what book,
and what Pope? I never thought of such matters before. Never
felt the need to.
such questions, many scholars in the past 100 years or so have
tried to define Hinduism within the theological framework of
Semitic religious traditions, especially the Christian
tradition. This approach is entirely erroneous, as it does not
do justice either to the Semitic tradition or to Hinduism.
attempts at understanding and defining Hinduism are
modern," asserts Prof A Ramamurty, the author of
"Philosophical Foundations of Hinduism", who is
presently UGC Emeritus Fellow, Philosophy Department, the
University of Hyderabad. He is a serious scholar who has
authored "Advaitic Mysticism of Sankara", "The
Central Philosophy of the Rgveda" and "Advaita: A
further, he says: "However, there are several traditional
works dealing with what is essential to various sects of
Hinduism like Vaisnavism and Saivism, the major forms of Hindu
religious life and worship. But Hinduism cannot be defined or
characterised in terms of anyone or all of them, even though
they are basically Hindu."
Hinduism has to be defined or understood at all, it should be
done by taking into account its sruti and smriti traditions.
One thing that is universally accepted by all Hindus is that the
sruti is revealed, and has the ultimate authority in religious
or spiritual matters. The main purpose of the smriti tradition,
on the other hand, is to adapt the Vedic wisdom or revelation to
the changing religious needs and demands of the people keeping
in view the heterogeneous character of Hindu society.
speaking, all texts such as the Vedas, which were composed
before the invention of writing belong to the sruti tradition,
and the ones such as the puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata,
which were composed after writing was invented, belong to smriti.
The smriti addresses itself to the task of adapting
the Vedic wisdom or revelation to meet the religious needs of
all sections of Indian society, especially the religious needs
of those who are denied direct access to the Vedas.
The object of
puranic literature is to reconcile and harmonise the popular or smriti
form of Hinduism with the sruti tradition. But although they
are integral part of Hinduism, the sruti and smriti traditions
are not always in agreement, in fact they go against each other
Hindu thinkers believe that the sruti tradition represents real
Hinduism. Profs. Ramamurty thinks this belief is mistaken. If we
wish to present a true picture of Hinduism, we must take the smriti
tradition into account as it is in reality the basis of
Hinduism as believed in and practised by almost all Hindus.
What are the
other differences between the two? While sruti is more
philosophical in its approach, the smriti is more
theological. While the intellectual or rational way of
understanding of the former is more impersonal, abstract and
detached, the emotional approach of the latter is more personal.
"While one is dharma-centred," asserts the
writer, "the other is faith-centred." While one is
impersonal, the other is personal. However, the contribution of
both is significant to the growth and development of Hinduism.
attempt to understand and determine the nature and meaning of
Hinduism in terms of any one stream or tradition or to identify
it with any one of them will not help us in comprehending the
nature and meaning of Hinduism. Both are an integral part of
Hinduism. And both represent Hinduism. While Purva Mimamsa and
the dharma form of religious life represents one
tradition, the bhagavata-dharma or devotional form of
religious life represents the other."
aspect of these two schools, however, is that although they are
different in many ways, their world-view of Hinduism is the
same. Whenever Hinduism has faced a challenge and tried to meet
the challenge, smriti has always relied on sruti
Now which of
the two traditions is more relevant to Hinduism? The author
believes that in its authority and validity smriti is
traditionally regarded as inferior or secondary to sruti, and it
has to conform to sruti if it is to have any authority and
validity. "And if smriti simply teaches what is
there in the sruti, then it cannot serve any meaningful
purpose except to present the teaching or wisdom of sruti in
a manner of language which is easy and intelligible to all. This
is the traditional view or understanding of the importance and
role of smriti in the development of Hinduism. But most
of the religious ideas, beliefs and doctrines as well as the
religious practices which are basic to smriti form of
religious life are not compatible with sruti. We cannot
find in sruti any support and justification for what is
essential to smriti tradition. Therefore, the major
concern of smriti is not just to present the wisdom of
Sruti in a popular form so that all can have access to it, but
to systematically present and justify the religious belief and
doctrines of different sects which developed themselves
independently of sruti."
for the emergence of smriti is that in order to be a
religious Hindu, you don’t necessarily have to follow
theological commandments to the letter. "Doctrinal and
theological differences are not therefore suppressed in favour
of an official theology or creed. Supreme importance is placed
on the inward experience of devotion and piety rather than on
the correctness of religious beliefs and doctrine."
In fact most
Hindus hardly ever see a copy of the Vedas or the Upanishads all
their lives. Just as to be a good Indian it is not really
necessary to read the Constitution of India. Most Hindus learn
their religion not in a temple at the feet of a priest, but
instinctively as they grow up.
is in store for
Review by Gobind Thukral
Millennium? edited by Romila Thapar. Viking, New Delhi. Rs
and sensitive thinker Romila Thapar has contributed some
serious content to the ongoing millennium debate. Where does
India stand today and what direction it is likely to take in
the next millennium have been perhaps debated enough.
Nevertheless this contribution has its own value for those who
are concerned with the future of the country.
— Another Millennium" is a collection of essays by 14
foremost scholars whom we often see in print. As Thapar says,
the concept of the millennium encompasses a sense of progress
and a hope for a better future. So it is an exploration in
that direction by these men of letters.
in the introduction she discusses in detail the concept of
time from Christian, Muslim and Hindu points of view. The
calculation of time in India involves immense figures: the
span of one major cycle being 43,20,000 years. These are
"mahayugas". And the present age is the Kaliyuga and
it becomes the explanation for the unexpected. In any case,
the editor measures up the contribution of each writer and she
also offers a general view of what kind of India we have lived
so far and what is likely to come up.
We are in the
age of globalisation and information technology and it is in
this context that the issues and problems faced by Indians in
the contemporary times are discussed. Events are taking place
with the speed of light but India with low literacy, widening
inequalities, population growth and gradual withdrawal of the
state from its social obligations... all go ill with the
formation of the civil society. Aping western models of
development and consumerism do not offer any hope for the
worsening inequality was the main feature of the nineties and
there shall be sharper conflicts over the control of resources
in the coming decades. There are many problems which Indian
society has failed to resolve in the past century. These
largely relate to poverty, ignorance, inequality, illiteracy,
increasing population, brutalisation of society and a weak
democratic system. India will continue to be plagued by these
issues, the book makes it amply clear.
An eassy by
Dhruv Raina, a scientist in Delhi, discusses the "Present
and the past: trajectories for the social history of
science". Raina describes how history-writing of modern
science has moved during the past 300 years or so. History of
science as a modern discipline, which dates back to ancient
Greek and Arabian traditions, sought to chronicle the idea and
development of the human mind and enlightenment. Intellectuals
saw in the progress of sciences and mathematics in particular,
an exemplary representative of human development.
He talks of
three important concerns relevant to those working on the
theme in India. The first relates to the tenability of the
relation of science to the project of modernisation per se.
Second, the historiography of sciences of East Asia has for
long worked within the paradigm of modernisation less science.
He also touches on the actual emergence of the precolonial
period and the sociological approaches to the history of
science. Raina provides useful reference material for those
who are interested in an in-depth study.
Aggarwal, professor of Economics at Delhi University, quotes
P.B. Shelley on gender equality. "Can man be free if
woman be a slave?... Well you know/what woman is, for none of
woman born/can choose but drain the the bitter dregs of
woe,/whichever from the oppressed to the oppressors
flow." She has traced how the fight for gender rights has
been going on and her emphasis is on woman’s education,
Bharucha, a Calcutta-based scholar and political thinker,
attempts to define the questions of culture. In a
thought-provoking essay he seeks a more questioning and
interactive culture for the new millennium — a culture whose
differences will need to be negotiated and shared across the
diversities of language, region, religion, gender and
profession. He speaks for marginalised cultures — whether of
the dalit or the grassroots suppressed or of the people. The
question of modernity and what Dipankar Gupta calls Indian
unmodern modernity is dealt within the contemporary context.
"For modernisation to truly materialise, the distance
between classes must decrease, so there is greater resemblance
between them," argues Gupta who teaches at Jawaharlal
Nehru University. He has made an excellent study of
integrating caste and understanding of hierarchy and
differences in Indian society. How technology brings changes
in culture and pushes society towards modernism has however
not been fully answered.
going to be plenty of politics in the coming decades, which
both rich and poor Indians shall have to encounter. This is
what Sunil Khilnani who wrote that famous book "The Idea
of India" tells us. He finds that the practice of
democracy has made Indian society deeply political. He
observes, "India is today an intensely political society
in the sense that Indians have come to see the main hazards,
threats and opportunities that confront them as the products
of human agency — and no longer as the effect of divine
sanction, of nature or of any other extra human agency."
view and pursue modernity is a question which Gopal Guru of
the University of Pune discusses. What role the philosophy of
Ambedkar and that of Karl Marx plays in making the dalits, the
most deprived section of Indian society aware of their rights
and push hard for equality.
century represented three tendencies in the intellectual life
of the dalits, argues Gopal Guru. One was the essentialisation
of Ambedkar’s thought and the second the ideologisation of
Ambedkar — that is to emphasise the convenient part of
Ambedkar’s writing either for bashing Marx or berating
Gandhi. The third was the 20th century dalit sensibility
represented only the art of suspicion that ridiculed or
rejected even the creative interpretation of Ambedkar. This
century will redefine Ambedkar and compare him more clearly
with Marx, Gandhi and Periyar.
How do the
Muslims or other minorities move in the next millennium is
discussed by Javeed Alam who teaches at Himachal Pradesh
University, Shimla. The question of Mandir and aggressive
Hindutva are discussed in detail. The communal question as a
legacy of partition, the hostile Indo-Pak relations do not as
yet allow any sensible solution. Are Muslims, or for that
matter, Sikhs and Christians becoming a pan Indian community?
Communal questions and divisions are indeed serious, and much
more thought needs to be given.
journalist P. Sainath, who has brought the question of poverty
to the forefront through his writings, makes another attempt
to make us aware of the age of inequality. "One
particular paradox will hit us soon. The gutting of the
nation-state is taking place at the very time that democratic
pressures are on the rise".
ordinary people begin to participate in the political process
in greater numbers, as more and more dalits, backward groups
and poor women enter panchayats (perhaps even Parliament) and
other representatives bodies, the clout of those institutions
is shrinking. That they could grasp the levers of power is a
big feat. But the new entrants could now find that these
levers have no power," he says.
deals with the question of the lessening capacity of the state
and how elected bodies at the grassroot level are losing power
which is why assertiveness is increasing and there is a dalit
upsurge and market fundamentalism is sharpening the clash. He
finds no decline in the incidence of poverty between 1990 and
1997. The number of poor rose by 70 million. This was the
period when the GDP growth had picked up.
Patnaik, the celebrated Marxist thinker, brings out
brilliantly the relevance of Marx and his ideology and builds
up a thesis that capitalism is not merely an exploitative
system but a spontaneous one. Production and exchange
relations under capitalism necessarily give rise to social
processes and tendencies and a conscious intervention can at
best restrain the operation of these processes for sometime
but cannot permanently overcome them within the confines of
bourgeois property relations.
bourgeois relations itself cannot be an arbitrary and
voluntary collective act and a bourgeois society does not
suddenly emerge fully formed and hence the agenda for
rejecting capitalism or bypassing it in some fashion is bound
to fail. The challenge of capitalism can be met only through
the organised Marxist approach.
Marxism very much relevant since mankind does not give up the
agenda for liberation easily.
N. Ram, editor of Frontline
and Business of Line discusses in great depth the issues
concerning the great Indian media bazaar. The issue of
ownership of the media, the role of the journalist and what
future there is for the print and electronic media is
discussed. He advocates independent media to inform the public
this man’s world, she has no right
Review by Anupama Roy
Discrimination and Human Rights by Swarn Lata Sharma. K.K.
Publications, New Delhi. Pages 308. Rs 545.
resurrection of the idea of human rights after World War II
reflected the concerns of building and preserving a world
community predicated on the idea of inherent and equal dignity
and worth of all human beings. Much of human rights activism in
the post-war world was organised around the affirmation of this
idea in documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
proclaimed as constituting "a common standard of all people
and all nations".
however, the human rights discourse can historically be seen as
occupying as well as representing a hierarchical field where
both the nature of this common standard and its universal
applicability were being persistently questioned. It was
argued that human rights, as incorporated in these common
standards, formed part of a hegemonic western-liberal discourse,
prioritising some rights, notably civil and political rights
which accrued to individuals. Economic, social and cultural
rights, seen as stemming from the collective needs and a sense
of deprivation of entire groups of people, which formed, some
would argue, the substantial conditions of justice and equality
within which all rights could be exercised, were edged out as
secondary in this process of standardisation.
question of priority informed the ideological debates on human
rights during much of the fifties, sixties and the seventies,
the next two decades may be seen as having raised concerns which
seek to transcend this ideological and contextual divide. With
the eighties anxieties pertaining to the sustainability of the
human world itself raised the imperative of evolving a system of
rights reflecting a shared concern for peaceful co-existence,
which placed duty before all persons irrespective of where they
lived and the ideologies they professed to invest in the
collective future of humanity.
solidarity rights, of which the 1989 Declaration of the Right to
Development is one manifestation, thus sought to transcend
contextual divides to emphasise the principles which lie at the
heart of human rights, the right of each person to be taken
seriously and the democratic principle of each person "to
stand up and be counted as one". These rights sought in
effect to change the nature of the "universal", the
characteristics of the universe itself, to make way for a more
egalitarian grounding of human rights.
Sharma’s book "Gender Discrimination and Human
Rights" should be read in the context of these developments
in the theory and practice of human rights. The startling facts
and figures pertaining to human rights abuses of women all over
the world serve to reinforce the feminist criticism of legal
instruments flaunted as uniform standards which fail to take
into account the special (debilitating) contexts which determine
women’s human rights at all layers of social and economic
groupings. On the other hand, it also brings out the futility
and irrelevance of ideological debates on the questions whether
rights need to be prioritised or the nature of the universe in
which these rights can be equitably exercised when women’s
right to be "human" is continually determined by
ideological constructions and socio-economic and political
forces which define women’s worth differently.
The author sets
out, therefore, to "expose" the "gender
asymmetrical distribution of human rights" in a "man’s
world". The manner in which this world is fashioned by
"gender biases" is discussed extensively by the author
to bring out not only its pervasiveness across religious,
cultural and political boundaries, but also the various ways in
which it circumscribes the choices and roles available to women.
These gender biases described by the author as "attitudinal
impediments in the realisation of women’s human rights"
is made manifest in "gender-discrimination" which
unravels in various institutionalised forms like unjust laws
relating to marriage and inheritance as well as cultural and
social practices like genital mutilation, female feoticide, etc.
"stark realities" are effectively listed by the author
to show how, despite the fact that women perform two-thirds of
the world’s work and contribute significantly to economic
production from an early age, they own only 1 per cent of the
world’s land and even less of the world’s property. The
devaluation of women’s work means not only that they earn
less, but more often than not they are not counted as part of
the labour force due to discriminatory and inadequate
and pervasive attitudes regarding the superiority of men and
anxieties emanating from possible threats to it as well as the
lack of any political will to evolve a gender-just
socio-cultural and political system, results in the perpetuation
of gender-based violence and harassments in the family, public
places, work place, police thanas, etc.
discusses at length how women’s political agency is curtailed
and how politics continues to be a male domain, limiting women’s
participation in discussions and decisions which affect their
author brings out in the last chapter that the right to
education which more than any other right prepares the ground
for the realisation of dignity and worth of women, is denied to
women. Thus, while more women than men are illiterate in most
parts of the world, in parts of Asia and Africa, the number of
illiterate women is disproportionately high.
The book is packed with
revealing facts, especially in the chapters on gender-based
violence, political participation of women and their access to
education, which add poignancy to the author’s arguments.
While asserting that both international measures and domestic
political will have been inadequate in dealing with women’s
human rights in a concerted way, social and cultural attitudes
regarding women’s capacities and roles have taken such deep
roots and seeped into and fed legal, political, institutional,
cultural norms and practices for so long that the feminist task
of moving beyond women’s rights (in a patriarchal world) to
women’s rights (in a human world) becomes a difficult one. The
struggle for democratic transformation would, however, continue,
and women as significant parts of various movements will provide
the creative source in defining its form and content.
by Nirmal Sandhu
of the Welfare State by Upamanyu Chatterjee. Viking, New Delhi.
Pages 437. Rs 395.
should read this book? An aspirant to the civil service keen to
know how rogues in the steel frame milk the State. A civil
servant for tips on how to manage if the sight of work upsets
him or how to handle a crisis arising from, say, touching a
female colleague’s bottom. An ordinary citizen driven to
desperation by unavoidable brushes with officialdom, or someone
who gets amused when the system is attacked.
Mammaries of the Welfare State" is Upamanyu Chatterjee’s
third book after his successful debut "English,
August" and "The Last Burden". It is a hilarious
satire. But the issue it focuses on — how the
politician-bureaucrat nexus uses the rule-ridden system of
governance to its advantage at the cost of the citizen — is
too serious to be laughed off. It provokes one to realise, how
worthless one’s upbringing has been when it comes to facing
one’s own country.
Mammaries...." is a sequel to "English, August".
The dope-smoking civil servant, Agastya Sen, moves from Madna to
the Capital’s corridors of power, still complaining about
"the pointlessness, the horrifyingly comic futility and
irrelevance of the daily acts" of his official life.
He is told:
"If you don’t like what you do for a living, quit. If you
can’t quit, shut up." Agastya thus justifies his
continuance in service: "The more years one spends in the
civil service, the more competent one becomes to remain in
he moves over to a woman friend. Upamanyu Chatterjee appears
uncomfortable and inadequate while describing their physical
relationship. Instead, he makes a liberal use of unprintable
words, his favourite being: "Personnel always moved like
lightning when it wanted to f..k somebody’s happiness".
Turning to an
IAS aspirant, the book answers the question he is quite often
asked — why do you want to join the civil service? Here is a
more realistic answer than the I-want-to-serve-society kind of
reply: "Because within the civil service, one is likelier
to have a peon, a personal assistant, and an Ambassador car as
buffers between one’s good self and the rest of the
government." But a more experienced official reaches the
conclusion that "No one is safe from them anywhere,
For a civil
servant there are tips aplenty. A golden rule: "Suck,
above, kick below." Another: "When you’re with your
boss, always, always make sure that your subordinate is with you
— someone to whom you can pass on the spot."
office car to drop the kids at school, faking income tax
returns, fudging the value of immovable property to reduce stamp
duty and avoiding capital gains, wealth and municipal taxes are
something that come natural to a civil servant.
What should a
civil servant or politician of the welfare state do if accused
of female bottom touching? The lady can be recommended for a
long-term, government-to-government, foreign training course.
The judge concerned too can be despatched abroad as an official
delegate to some world conference with return air ticket, six
free days in a deluxe hotel and facilities on a par with
If still put in
the dock he can take a "macro view" and plead as this
character in the book does. "Me laard, the sight of her
sari squeezed into the crevice of her bum upset my love for
order, so I plucked it out .... why should my love of order so
convulse the harmony of the world? Melaard, reflect instead on
the larger issues — bonded labour, corruption in high places,
freedom of speech, the suppression of immoral traffic, crimes
against women, caste reservations, violence in politics, the
police — or the welfare state."
For an ordinary
reader there is enough to mull over in this book. When not a
victim, he is a helpless spectator to the politico-bureaucratic
wastage and loot. A Prime Minister’s visit to a state town
costs the government over Rs 6 crore, says the author. Setting
up a Minister sets back the government by the usual Rs 1 crore.
Look at Parliament: 174 MPs have criminal records.There are
scandals galore: the Bofors gun scandal, the sugar deal, the
securities cover-up, the bank fraud, the telecom fiddle, the
fodder swindle, the urea scam, the insurance racket, the export
licence rip-off, etc.
remain shut up, leading a life of quiet desperation or speak
out? Agastya’s posers to the citizen require hard reflection:
(i) The welfare
state has used your money to lead you up to this jam. Does that
(ii) Why have
we allowed our present statesmen and bureaucrats to mess things
(iii) Why do
you want the welfare state to leave you alone?
(iv) Do you
want the most capable men and women of your country to (a) sell
wearunders, bags of cement, and sunflower cooking oil; (b) run a
newspaper; (c) or a hotel; (d) or a market research bureau; (e)
or the country?
could have spared the reader some 100 pages containing
unnecessary details which make his mockery of the system less
effective. You need tonnes of patience and disgust with official
wrong-doings to carry on with the book till the end.
Lest the reader, particularly
the impressionable civil service aspirant, gets the idea that
all is rotten with the state, he/she should also go through K.J.
Alphons’s "Making A Difference" to know how even one
individual can clean up a part of the mess.
Review by Amar Chandel
Witness by Mrinal Pande. Penguin Books,New Delhi. Pages 245.
this review is rather late in appearing, it is only because I
read the book not once, but twice.The first time I read it, I
could not grasp its central point. It was only during the
second reading that I realised that there is no thread that
runs through the narrative. The "novel" is simply a
compilation of loosely structured, every-day incidents from
the chronicle of the protagonist, who in this case happens to
be the author herself.
the changed names, this is her little concealed autobiography.
At times, the narrative is very close to real life. It you are
a contemporary, you won’t find it difficult to identify the
characters she is referring to. In fact, this guessing game is
quite a refreshing exercise because the author exposes the
angularities of some big guns.
does not embellish the narrative with dramatic elements. So,
the novel may be lacking in drama, but is so very close to
unvarnished truth. It is this realism that makes the book
leitmotifs appear through the book repeatedly, sometimes to
the extent of being annoying. One is the focus on the
perceived neglect of Hindi and Hindi-speaking people of India.
And the other is central character Krishna’s repeated
journeys to her mother’s house in the hills. She goes for
these "chhota breaks" so abruptly and so often that
you at times wish you were left behind at Delhi. Particularly
out of place are the minute details of the trip to Kedarnath
she undertakes. The travelogue does not add anything to the
book, except increasing the bulk. Then there are several
visits to "quaint uncles".
otherwise the storyline flits from the past to the present and
back to the past at a furious pace, leaving you a bit
confused. This back and forth transition is not at all healthy
for the narrative.
There is an
attempt to unfold the events in the backdrop of historical
incidents like the murder of Indira Gandhi and the subsequent
riots, but the relationship does not stand out.
stand out is the frustration and optionlessness of a
conscientious journalist whose brilliance is scuttled, first
because she dares to join a Hindi news agency and then because
she refuses to kowtow to the big bosses of a bilingual TV
channel, which she joins as an anchor-editor. She presents her
case forcefully. So you don’t mind even when the lead
character claims that she is the only one in the whole crowd
to be upright, not paying court to the employers and not
making money on the sly. Her dark, dingy office in Old
Building becomes the symbol of the high values for which the
privileged English lot in the fancy New Building have only
sensitivities appear all the more pronounced because she
happens to be a woman. The book provides a new insight into
the hurt psyche of a person who has to bang her head against
the glass ceiling time and again. Her independence stands out;
so does her existential dilemma. She is torn between the
desire to write in Hindi and her education in English.
her description, India is divided into two mutually exclusive
groups: the English-speaking and the vernacular-speaking. The
former enjoys dictatorial powers in all spheres of life, more
so in the journalistic world. She has a dig at various
sections like the TV chat show-wallah class. Nor does she
hesitate to use four-letter words where necessary.
The book ends as abruptly as
it begins. In between there is an unremitting montage of
scenes from a drab and dull life of a middle-class person.
Realistic it doubt is but not very moving. Such structure may
pass muster in a book by, say, Narasimha Rao.But Mrinal Pande?
ever present big force
Review by Harkishen Singh Mehta
in Contemporary Asia edited by David French and Michael
Richards. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 457. Rs 550.
book under review effectively captures the media scene (which
has becom more and more television-centred with every passing
decade) in post-World War II era. Its special focus is on the
past two decades of television broadcasting in Asia.
Edited by two
British professors, the volume has 22 chapters contributed by
27 scholars, including the editors who have written four key
chapters to this comprehensive and eminently readable book.
This is a "must read" book for professionals and
scholars in the field of journalism, mass communication, media
studies, television and broadcasting, cultural studies as well
as students of modernisation phenomena in contemporary Asia.
As the media and the market are impinging more and more on
each other, the book has a lot of information and many
insights which can be of great interest to any student of
political economy of the mono-systemic world which came into
being in the past decade of the previous century after the
retreat of socialism.
broadcasting made its debut in Asia in the 1950s with Japan
and the Philippines leading the pack in 1953 followed by
Thailand in 1955, China in 1958, India in 1959, Pakistan in
1964, etc. In almost all countries the initiative to set up TV
centres came from the government. Most of them followed the
BBC model with the aim to "educate, inform and
entertain" the audience or the more
ideologically-inspired Chinese aiming at "political
propaganda, education and enrichment of the peoples’
cultural lives" ruled the roost till new technologies
appeared. The film industry was a dominant segment of the
culture market till new technologies found global acceptance
because of their lower costs and the increasing effectiveness
of their reach.
The TV market
has been growing at a brisk rate all over, including Asia,
since the 1980s with cable operators also contributing their
share. Asia has seen an explosive growth of this industry when
satellite communication and cross-border telecasting have
become the order of the day. Most of the funding has come from
advertising when poor Asians, including the numerous Indians
and Chinese, are for the first time learning what is becoming
available in the market for good and comfortable living. The
public sector public service BBC model to "educate,
inform and entertain" television has become the
advertisement-driven model to "entertain, inform,
entertain" of the new age dubbed by old-time moralists as
the consumerist era.
thrust for expansion of the TV network is coming from private
investments, including multinational companies. Advertisers,
specially professional advertising agencies, almost dictate
the fare dished out on the small screen every evening, nay,
all the 24 hours of the day. In his chapter on
"Television in India: The Role of Advertising" Keval
J. Kumar informs the readers, "Multinational advertising
agencies in India, for instance, have been closely involved in
the making of soap operas like ‘Hum Log’, ‘Humrahi’
and ‘Shanti’. Not only do the advertising agencies select
the theme and format of the programme, they also direct and
produce them, employing their own infrastructure."
Doordarshan in India has a broader sweep than all the private
channels combined as these are only in the cable and satellite
(C&S) category. Only one-third of the homes with TV have
access to the C&S channels and hence they attract much
less revenue compared to DD. They have, however, a different
appeal for advertisers. Only three product categories among
the first 10 are common to DD and the C&S. In these also
revenue earning by DD is larger. In 1996 soft drinks,
detergents and two wheelers advertisement spendings were Rs
(in million) 4,975, 5,273 and 2,438 respectively on DD and
only Rs (in million) 331, 325 and 263 on all C&S channels
combined. The C&S channels were, however, able to attract
revenue of Rs 384 million on advertising alcoholic drinks as
it was their monopoly category with DD prohibited from doing
In view of
low revenues from advertising many channels like BITV, India
TV, NEPCTV, Yes TV, ABNI in Mumbai (Hindujas) had to close
shop. In 1999 only Zee and Sony TV made profits while Star
Plus, Star News, Channel V made affordable losses and are
still in business. Maybe, some more private channels re-appear
but because of limited advertisement revenues not many may
actually stay long.
going the privatisation way, China has gone the
decentralisation way in its commercialisation drive. In
addition to one all-China national channel CCTV, the number of
TV stations has increased from 52 in 1983 to 943 in 1997 with
the number of provincial stations going up from 29 to 32 in
the same period. And the number of stations controlled by the
municipalities and counties (like our zila parishad) has gone
up from 112 to 60 respectively in 1985 to 302 and 609 in 1997.
TV stations produce their own programmes and earn their own
revenues from advertisers and the central government gives
subsidey to loss-making stations. Programmes produced by
different stations are exchanged between stations free of
charge. By this mechanism many profit-making stations, mainly
in the provincial and specially in the municipal sector,
cross-subsidise the weaker stations in the rural sector.
and liberalisation (not privatisation) of the TV sector has,
however, brought the language/dialect question to the fore.
More programmes in the Cantonese dialect are being produced in
Hong Kong and the neighbouring mainland province of Guangdong.
In a way, revival and rejuvenation of regional Cantonese
culture has been taking place because of the decentralised
mechanism. One cannot say what will happen in future but the
percentage of people identifying themselves as Chinese first
and Hong Konger later is constantly rising. The policy of
decentralisation seems to be promoting national integration in
The policy of
cultural assimilation rather than multi-culturism followed by
the regime in Taiwan till the end of martial law rule in 1987
when at least 70 per cent of TV time was to be devoted to
Mandarin broadcasts, has so marginalised non-Han culture that
an independent Taiwanese identity with participation from all
inhabitants of the island, including the aborigines, is hard
China are two major players on the Asian television scene and
a lot of space has been given to these two countries in this
volume. Chapters on Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri
Lanka, Pakistan, Philippines, Japan and, of course, Hong Kong
and Taiwan find due place. One misses, however, any studies on
Bangladesh, Nepal and the Maldives from South Asia and the
Indo-Chinese nations of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
after chapter one gets the feeling that expansion of TV in all
Asian countries has come about as the process of globalisation
has picked up momentum in the mono-systemic world. The
cultural invasion of Asia, if any, came from American
programmes in English language. Major expansion of modern
western culture with its values of individualism, freedom of
sexual expression, etc. took place when Asian producers
started copying the Hollywood products in local or hybrid
languages like Hinglish. It is interesting to note that Asians
did not put up any resistance to the US effort to streamroll
the whole world into accepting liberalisation of trade in
films, TV and other cultural products.
We learn from
editor David French’s chapter on "Liberalisation of
communication markets" that free trade in the
audio-visual sector did become a sticking point in the Uruguay
Round. And not because of any awakening of swadeshi culture
by any Asian power. It is the Europeans who share the same
"decadent western culture" with the USA who brought
the Dunkel juggernaut to a halt so firmly that the WTO had to
be launched without liberalisation of trade in films, TV fare
and other audio-visual cultural products. According to French,
"The main source of resistance here were the countries of
the European Union (EU), which negotiated as a single,
powerful block, within which France was the most important
advocate of protectionism. The main advocate of free trade was
unsurprisingly the USA. The EU concern was with the protection
of film and television production as a means of protecting
national culture. The conduct of negotiations was
characterised by brinkmanship on both sides and the effective
outcome of the negotiations was to leave trade in this sector
on one side to avoid stalling the whole process."
negotiations for trade in audio-visual services have been kept
pending for some future round of negotiations, it has provided
an opportunity for Asians to unite with the EU to resist the
onslaught of Hollywood products to protect their native
culture. They could also devise intra-Asian interaction on a
viable basis as the intra-European consolidation has been
done. So far as India is concerned, it could easily work for
consolidating the Bengali and Punjabi culture markets by
negotiations with Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively.
The book is full of ideas
which could be of help in policy-making if students of
cultural studies, media studies, globalisation, modernisation
and post-modern multiculturalism reflect further on issues
raised in the book and enrich the debate on the subject.
by Randeep Wadehra
& Political Ideas: Vivekananda, Gandhi, Subhas Bose by
Sankari Prasad Basu. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi. Pages
ix+154. Rs 375.
Radical Change: What Indian Companies Must Do to Become World
Class by Sumantra Ghoshal, Gita Piramal and Christopher A
Barlett. Viking, New Delhi. Pages xvii+ 344. Rs 495.
of Indian Culture by Giriraj Shah. Diamond Pocket Books, New
Delhi. Pages 146. Rs 95.
& Political Ideas: Vivekananda, Gandhi, Subhas Bose by
Sankari Prasad Basu. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi. Pages
ix+154. Rs 375.
the very first chapter the author quotes Professor Binoy Kumar
Sarkar who had asserted that as Immanuel Kant was the father
of modern materialism in the West so was Vivekananda the
father of modern materialism in India. The comparison is apt
as Kant, the German idealist philosopher, whose classic works
include "Critique of Pure Reason" (1781) and
"Critique of Practical Reason" (1788), in
which he put forward his system of ethics based on the
categorical imperative, had argued that reason is the means by
which the phenomenon of experience are translated into
sanyasi, and certainly not an economist, Vivekananda too was
interested in the needs of common people. Poverty and famine
were his main concerns. In fact he placed material well-being
of an individual at par with, if not ahead of, his spiritual
uplift. He also realised the importance of industrialisation
as a means of banishing poverty. Towards this end he did think
in terms of setting up technical schools in India.
times sea crossing was a taboo. If anyone went on a voyage, he
was ostracised by society. Vivekananda fought that taboo and
other superstitions. Not only did he strive to inculcate a
scientific temper among his compatriots, but also to realise
the importance of material well-being.
He went so
far as to declare, "We talk foolishly against material
civilisation. The grapes are sour... In all India there are,
say, a hundred thousand really spiritual men and women. Now
for the spiritualisation of all these, must three hundred
millions be sunk in savagery and starvation? Why should anyone
starve? Material civilisation, nay, even luxury is necessary
to create work for the poor. Bread! Bread. I do not believe in
God who cannot give me bread here giving me eternal bliss in
In these days
when Gandhian socialism is our ruling elite’s mantra,
Sankari Prasad Basu has sought to debunk the Mahatma’s charkha
economy. He has also sought to raise some controversial
issues about Gandhian thoughts. But the author forgets that
Gandhi was a pragmatist. What he preached was relevant to his
times. Most probably he would have enunciated a different path
of material progress had he been alive today. In order to
place Gandhian thoughts as unchangeable dogmas is a folly that
is best avoided.
was more a symbol of self-reliance for the common man. One
can find this philosophy’s economic equivalent in the
Japanese model that has small-scale industrial sector as the
prime engine of economy. The behemoths of today are the end
result of Japan beginning with small production units. If only
we had understood the Mahatma’s message correctly, perhaps
we would have become an economic power today.
model suffered from its substantial reliance on foreign
technical and economic support. This is precisely what muzzled
indigenous capabilities. The end result is that today we are
one of the biggest markets for foreign industrial products,
while we fare miserably as exporters of finished products.
It is not
necessary to denigrate Mahatma Gandhi just to extol the
virtues of Vivekananda’s economic philosophy. Similarly to
project the issue of Subhas Bose’s candidature for the
Congress presidency as a battle of economic ideologies is more
an afterthought than the real bone of contention between the
two titans of our freedom struggle.
Radical Change: What Indian Companies Must Do to Become World
Class by Sumantra Ghoshal, Gita Piramal and Christopher A
Barlett. Viking, New Delhi. Pages xvii+ 344. Rs 495.
seldom been a strong point of captains of corporate India.
This failing is but an extension of our national character
where there is a strong tendency to let things drift till a
crisis engulfs us all. Of course, we do have a strong
hindsight and can identify all the ifs and buts and what could
or should have been, etc. Alas! Hindsight does not help in
retrieving what is lost. Our political, social and industrial
leadership seldom plans for future growth, let alone having a
well-thought out contingency plan.
phenomenon is stark in our industrial units, there are several
examples even among multinationals where inefficiency is
tolerated and mediocrity is allowed to survive. The authors
describe it as a corporate disease called "satisfactory
underperformance". It is an affliction that is easy to
catch and very difficult to get rid of. This becomes all the
more complicated when the managers know that they are
performing poorly but are reluctant to acknowledge before
their peers. For an established institution it is relatively
easy to deny of underperformance, but imperceptibly its
competitive strength begins to sag. Thanks to the resources at
its disposal — namely, an established customer base, a
historically developed distribution channel and strong brands
— the institution continues to make money.
takes several generations of managerial and other relevant
inputs to make it a success, the incumbent managers take all
the credit, without bothering even to think in terms of adding
to its value. The authors point out that before the crisis
hits it, a company can coast along in a state of satisfactory
underperformance "assigning all uncomfortable signs to
factors in the external environment, beyond management
control, and finding retionalisations, on the one hand, and
reducing ambition, on the other hand, so as to maintain
satisfaction in the face of the declining fortunes". And
when the crisis finally arrives, the institution crumbles like
a house of cards. We see it happening all the time without
learning any lessons.
A mixture of
opportunity, foresight and courage enables a company to
develop an effective business strategy, which matches the
company’s strengths and successfully caters to market
demands. The company becomes highly competitive and grows
while earning profits. The resulting accolades and media
publicity initially boosts the managers’ self-esteem. They
actually start believing that they are the best.
the period of success-oriented consolidation. With the growth
in the company’s size the managers realise they need more
support to collect all the information to bring all the
important choices and decisions to them. Thus more staff is
hired creating new slots or layers in the corporate hierarchy.
Then comes the era of managerial arrogance. After all, they
are top of the heap and can get away with growling at their
subordinates as well as the customers and suppliers.
initiative is stifled. Meritocracy is given a quiet burial.
Politicking begins with a vengeance. Demoralisation sets in at
all levels of the organisation. The dismal scenario is summed
up by the authors thus: "Those who can manage the
politics progress, those who side with customers or employees
or raise uncomfortable questions are seen as obstacles and are
soon sidelined or, better still, pushed overboard. Compliance
and fear take over from enthusiasm and passion. Gradually the
company slips into satisfactory underperformance and, finally,
into acute crisis."
has well researched chapters, illustrated with case studies,
on such subjects as "Shaping and managing the
future", "Revitalisation of people, organisation and
relationships", and "Transforming the corporate
philosophy". This book is a must for captains of the
Indian industry, as well as other institutions that have
somehow slid into the cozy but debilitating world of
of Indian Culture by Giriraj Shah. Diamond Pocket Books,
New Delhi. Pages 146. Rs 95.
once remarked, "Each nation, like each individual, has
one theme in life, which is its centre, the principal note
round which every note comes to form harmony... if one nation
attempts to throw off its vitality, the direction which has
become its own through the transmission of centuries, that
nation dies.... if one nation’s political power is its
vitality, as in England, artistic life is another and so on.
In India religious life forms the centre, the keynote of the
whole music of life."
Religion, or dharma,
as expounded by our forefathers was an all-encompassing
catholicity. And, as Dr Ruhela mentions in the foreword,
"The greatness of India is basically due to its culture
which blends this-worldliness and other- worldliness in a
is a continuum of an evolutionary process that began millennia
ago. Over the period of time it has been enriched as much by
the indigenous streams of thought like Buddhism, Jainism,
Sikhism, etc. as by those joining in from abroad like
Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity.
Shah’s slim volume under review deals with the enigma of the
origins of Indian society. Till date there has been no
unanimity on the manner in which our society came to be
formed. Some historians point to the strong possibility of the
existence of an advanced civilisation before the Vedic times.
Others consider the Vedic age as the beginning of Indian
society. Be that as it may, Shah has given a brief description
of the dawn of our civilisation, the era of great epics, the
sutras, the age of reforms and then on to the golden age of
the Gupta period.
a brief glimpse of our history, the author turns to the
interpretation of religion in the Indian context as well as
its place in the modern world. Hinduism and its various
reformist movements, the advent and influence of Islam and
Christianity. Then he goes on to Indian art, its roots, scope
and evolution, with the mandatory mention of the Ajanta and
Ellora caves. He has given a regionwise and periodwise
description of Indian art that might prove useful to students
of art and history. Literature and dance too are mentioned
A useful companion to those
who would like to have a quick overview of Indian history and
From the diary of India’s man in Kabul
Extracted from J.N. Dixit’s book, "My Afghan
formal farewell call on the Prime Minister on terminating my
assignment as joint secretary, External Publicity and in
relation to my impending assumption of charge in Kabul.
Meeting at 11.15 sharp; spent about 15 minutes. Referring to
Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said the stuation is static
and will remain so. Russians will not move out. Americans and
Pakistanis wish the Russians to stay on. It suits their
purpose. The PM said that India should be correct, should
maintain and sustain long-term linkages with the Afghan
people; must not antagonise the Soviets or arouse their
suspicion. She added: "We must try and increase Indian
presence and influence in Afghanistan. If not all over the
country, in Kabul, at least in selected fields of activities:
health, education, rural development, minor irrigation
me "to keep an eye on Pakistani and Iranian activities in
Afghanistan". Speaking about overture by Pakistan to
India for normalising relations, Mrs Gandhi said "You
must assure the Afghan leadership that we are not going to go
overboard with Pakistan in discussions regarding the
forthcoming no war declaration dialogue". There is still
a long way to go before we can accept Pakistan’s bona fides.
Speaking about Cuellar’s (UN Secretary General) UN mission
in resolving Afghan issues, the Prime Minister said that we
must encourage the process. But she said Cuellar is aiming for
higher positions. As I got up she said: "Good luck. I
think you need a lot of it in Kabul. I hope you have it."
credentials to Babrak Karmal. There was a guard of honour by
the Presidential Guards dressed in khaki and scarlet. The
drill and the presentation of arms was entirely Russian. The
arms were Kalashnikov rifles. The ceremony took place at the
Old Argh—a grey stone fortress with multi-coloured marble
flooring and marble top tables. It looked a very unlived-in
building, bare of all decorations or any personal touch.
Minister Shah Mohammed Dost was present. The ceremony was
followed by a 40-minute talk with Karmal. Most of the speaking
was done by him. He made a straight party-line presentation of
the Afghan situation: the USA, Pakistan, China and the
imperialist forces are the villains. "I realised the
mistakes made by us in 1978," he said. Amin and Taraq did
not quite understand the pulse of the people. We should have
reached out and established good relations with the common
people, religious and tribal leaders." Karmal added that
he is confident of controlling the situation and bringing
peace to the country. He acknowledged continuing disturbances
in Kandahar, Paktia and Jalalabad but pointed out that
unification and reconciliation efforts are also being made. He
mentioned about the establishment of the National Fatherland
Front as also elections up to the village level for party
representatives. He informed me of the forthcoming second
general conference of the ruling party to be held in March,
1982, and so on.
"I am flexible enough to bring about a political
solution. We accept the Iranian revolution. We accept and
respect Islam in Afghanistan. We are completely flexible in
dealing with Pakistan and Iran to find a peaceful solution but
they must also accept that the process generated by the Saur
Revolution is irreversible." He was warm and laudatory in
references to India and Mrs Gandhi: "Your Prime Minister,
she is wise, brave and strong." a world leader whom all
of us need, he said.
about five feet and four or five inches tall, swarthy,
shifty-eyed, gives the impression of great deliberation and
caution but also of being cagey and capable — capable of
violences — does not have any fire or vibrance or vision,
more a party apparatchik than the leader of a revolution. My
first impression is that he is as grey as the suit which he
completely silent throughout the interview: even seemed
distant and reserved towards Karmal. Nor did there seem to be
any camaraderie of vibrations between them.
March 12 to
Had a long
conversation with Russian Ambassador Tabeev. He spent most of
the time giving me a prognosis of what he expects to happen in
Afghanistan. The main point he made was: "We have come
here to stay. We would not allow the Pushtoons to dominate the
other tribes of Afghanistan who have linkages with the peoples
of Central Asian Republics of the Soviet Union. We want a
Parcham-dominated ruling party; we will maintain necessary
force levels to keep this country under control; we will
achieve initial consolidation of our position, both military
and civil, by August/September, 1982."
So went his
refrain, I do not quite see them (the Russians) totally
consolidating their position by September, 1982. However,
Afghanistan is now within the Soviet orbit and will be so not
only under political but territorial influence for a long time
to come regardless of the upheavals and violence that may
continue or the political solutions of various categories that
may be attempted.
Khan on the 13th. He was upset about the Afghans giving him a
lot of pulao and meat drenched in ghee. He wanted soups. I
made arrangements for that. Received a reply from Mrs Gandhi
to Badshad Khan’s message concerning his desire to meet
Brezhnev. Mrs Gandhi asked me to convey to him that she had
spoken to Soviet Vice-President Kuznetsov about this matter.
She had again conveyed Badshah Khan’s wishes to Yuli
Vorontsov, the Russian Ambassador in Delhi.
Minister’s assessment, however, was that nothing is going to
come out of Badshah Khan’s request. Neither the Russians nor
Karmal really have time for Badshah Khan. History has
travelled ahead of this great figure of our national movement.
He is remarkably alert for his 95 years of age. When I met him
again this evening (5 pm on March 14) he said: "Are you
sure you want to talk? This room might be bugged by the
Russians and the Afghans." He suggested that I talk when
he moves back to his own house in Wazir Akbar Khan Meena. He
is recovering satisfactorily. The bones have set and he can
walk with crutches. He is not very keen to go to Delhi for the
present. He told me to convey this to Mrs Gandhi.
March 15 to
Karmal on March 30. He was clad in a deep khaki-brown safari
suit. Foreign Minister Dost was in attendance. Received me
very warmly, embraced, kiss, kiss etc. Acknowledged an
improvement in iteraction between India and Afghanistan after
my arrival here, and so on. Told me about Mrs Gandhi:
"She is balanced and wise... She has the choice of either
having a friendly progressive government like ours which
respects and needs India, or she can have a number of
Zia-ul-Haqs and Khomeinis from Pakistan to Egypt." To my
mind, the choice was and is clear. No Zia-ul-Haqs or
cantankerous old religious zealots.
the above precisely in these words to Mrs Gandhi on April 3
when I met her at Delhi visiting for consultations. It was a
frenetic week in Delhi. I spent about half an hour with Mrs
Gandhi before she saw Dost later in the afternoon. She looked
drawn and distant after the Maneka contretemps between March
23 and April 3. Her reaction to the options voiced by Karmal
was to the point. She said she prefers Karmal but has to deal
with the Zias and Khomeinis also. She said she will not wait
for notes and papers to come from the Ministry of External
Affairs to announce the reactivation of the Indo-Afghan Joint
Commission. She asked if I felt that Dost could be informed of
it straightway. I said, yes. Mrs Gandhi said that the Russians
in Kabul are all right as a counter to Pakistan and the USA.
We must guard against developments which will bring the
Russians into Pakistan by breaking it up.
checked with Delhi, Foreign Minister Rao said that we share
Soviet apprehensions and that Karmal not leading the
delegation would contribute to lessening of disharmony at the
conference. I mentioned this to Tabeev on December 16. A
measure of the rather unconscious domination of Afghan
politics by the Soviet Union was Tabeev’s response.
"Tavarish Dixit, so you have given me valuable advice. It
is not necessary for Karmal to go to Delhi. You and I will
decide what the Afghan delegation to the non-aligned summit
should be. We will decide the composition under directives
from our leadership."
I kept quiet
and told him that the advice was given to him informally and
personally and that I am not going to voice this opinion to
the Afghan leadership when I hand over the invitation to them.
Tabeev, very blase, said: "Quite so, quite so."
Met Karmal on
December 18 at the Khana-e-Khalq to deliver Mrs Gandhi’s
letter of invitation for the non aligned summit. There was
nobody else. I was not received in the normal appointments
hall, but in Karmal’s private office at the palace. It is
the most spartan office of a Head of State which I have seen
in all my 25 years in the Foreign Service. There were no
hand-rests even for his chair. We sat around a small
conference table for six.
He was very
warm and gracious in his references to Mrs Gandhi. He looked
much better, slimmed down and with clear eyes than when I met
him on November 6 at the Soviet reception, and he had sounded
weary of continuing insurgent activities. He had then told me:
"Violence of this type is sad. But we have to overcome
it. We must, even if it takes time."
whether he himself should lead the Afghan delegation. I played
wooden and said that the invitation is addressed to him
personally. He said: "I am giving deep consideration to
this question and will let you know." I kept a straight
face. Zile Ilahi Tabeev already having decided that Karmal
should not go. All this pretence was redundant. Ambassadors
should have compalsory training in playing possum or straight
guy in all diplomatic comedies.
government carried out successful operations against
insurgents in Balkh, Mazar-e-Sharif and Badakshan. Anti
insurgent operations continued in Paktia, Gazhni, Kandahar,
Pakhtika and Nangarhar. Soviet and Afghan forces faced greater
resistance in the southern provinces. An additional handicap
affecting these operations is the conflict between the
soldiers of Khalqi and Parchamite affiliations. It is reported
that Khalqi-Parcham differences even turned violent in some of
the army units operating in Paktia and Gazhni. As a Soviet
official put it, the Afghan army at times finds it difficult
to make up its mind whether it should fight the
counter-revolutionaries or within itself.
adopted tactic by Societ forces of locating pickets on the
main highways connecting different urban centres seems to be
yielding some results. The disruption of government convoys
and civilian traffic between Kandahar and Herat and between
Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif has diminished considerably since
Soviet pickets were set up at different points on these roads.
The opposing forces were on the defensive because of the
strong Soviet military check-posts.
Afghan-Soviet attempt to seal off the border between Pakistan
and Afghanistan is still in an experimental stage and the
effort has not been tangibly successful so far. The pattern of
sporadic assassinations and desertions continues. An
interesting development in this context relates to a number of
women working as artistes and announcers with the Kabul TV
station who disappeared towards Pakistan with their children,
leaving their husbands behind to explain their conduct.
recorded earlier the fact that former King Zahir Shah had been
considered as a focal point for ensuring unity among the
various insurgent groups. A curious and interesting dimension
to this attempt is the report that King in Rome would be
willing to assume a political role in Afghanistan only if he
has indications from the Soviet Union as well as the Karmal
regime would accept him (the king) as a mediator or a unifier.
Mr Pazhwak who has recently come back to Pakistan form West
Europe has brought this message from the king to the different
Two new rebel
groups have come into existence over the past three or four
weeks. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has apparently organised a women’s
wing of his group which is called the "National Salvation
Party". Another insurgent group called "Hizb-e-Allah"
has come into existence in the Herat-Kandahar region with
general support from Rabbani and Mojaddadi. It will be
interesting to find out more details about this proliferation
of the opposition groups with new nomenclatures.
Karmal returned to Kabul after a five-week absence from
Afghanistan on August 15 Foreign Minister Dost also returned
with him. Karmal had completed his state visit to Mongolia on
13. He was in Moscow for a month and two days, basically for a
medical check-up which was announced through the Afghan media.
He suffers from high blood pressure and peptic ulcer. He
looked fit but a little exhausted at the airport ceremonies
held for receiving him.
me in the reception line he remembered that it was India’s
Independence Day, and delivered an impromptu but warm message
for our Prime Minister.
discussions which he had with the Soviet leadership primarily
related to the internal situation in Afghanistan and the
factionalism affecting the PDPA. Though the internal conflict
in the party has been tenuously patched up, the controversies
simmer. President Karmal faces the prospect of presiding over
a fractious party, affected not only by Khalqi-Parcham
differences but also by divisive tendencies within each
return, however, has set to rest negative speculation both
about the state of his health and his political future.
Mohammed Rafie, a member of the Politburo and Deputy Prime
Minister (former Defence Minister) who was away from Kabul for
over two years for "higher education", returned from
Moscow and was in fact, with Mr Karmal in the same plane. The
media has formally announced that he has permanently returned
and that he will assume his responsibilities in the party and
information is that General Rafie is expected to introduce an
element of firmness in handling both party and governmental
affairs in both ideological and disciplinary terms. Reports
are that his responsibilities will cover both defence and
internal law and order. He made it a point to walk down the
reception line behind but a little distant from Karmal, and to
shake hands with all diplomatic representatives. He told me;
"I was not here when you took up your assignment in
Kabul; we must meet each other as often as possible". I
told him that I will.
within the Afghan Cabinet continues. Practically, all Khalqi
members and some Parchamites in the Cabinet, the latter led by
Finance Minister Wakil, continue to gun for Mr. Keshtmand. For
the present, though his position does not seem to be
Charge d’ Affaires Garner’s comment on this interview was
interesting. He said,"that fellow Hekmatyar is a bounder;
I don’t know why the BBC interviewed him instead of some
sober opposition leader. Nobody will believe Hekmatyar’s
exaggerated claims of success."
The week was
characterised by a well-orchestrated publicity offensive
against the Government of Afghanistan. The BBC, the Voice of
America, the West German and French Radio and Television
networks broadcast special commentaries and news-items to mark
the fouth anniversary of what they called,"the Soviet
take-over of Afghanistan". There was criticism of the
Soviet Union and somewhat exaggerated claims regarding the
success of the rebels against the Karmal regime in these
audio-visual broadcasts. A number of seminars and functions on
prospects in Afghanistan was organised in the UK, the USA,
France and West Germany with participation by universities,
scholars, academic organisations and political commentators.
reports on demonstrations organised against Soviet Embassies
and Afghan Missions by exiled Afghan communities in different
parts of the world were broadcast and published.
leaders reacted to statements made by US and West-European
leaders with scepticism and firmness. The Afghan leadership
particularly pointed out the economic and social destruction
caused by the insurgents over the past four years, emphasising
that the rebels destroying schools and hospitals and vital
economic installations was proof of their lack of commitment
to the welfare and progress of the Afghan people. They
labelled expressions of concern and sympathy by President
Reagan and others for the poor Afghan people as patently
same could be said for both the Super Powers if one reflects
on their policies relating to Afghanistan.