Sunday, January 21, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


How Pakistan came into being

by V. N. Datta
ON March 23, 1930, the All-India Muslim League passed a resolution (popularly known as the Pakistan resolution) for the partition of the country in Minto Park, Lahore, a furlong from the Great Fort, and facing the Mughal emperor Shahjahan’s Badshahi mosque. 

Flight of Indian industry to China?
by Rakshat Puri
BJP leader connected with the party’s journal, Organiser, is reported to have suggested that educated and qualified Indians might profitably migrate in vast numbers to other countries — profitably for themselves, for the destination countries concerned, and for the Indian nation as well. “We have so much population and so much talent that we can afford to let millions go out.”


It pays to act tough
January 20
, 2001
MP as a tenure job
January 19
, 2001
An avoidable controversy 
January 18, 2001
Panchayat polls in J&K
January 17, 2001
Signals from Maghi mela
January 16, 2001
Lynching labour force
January 15, 2001
The Clinton Years
January 14
, 2001
The passport tangle
January 13
, 2001
Sugar melts in PDS
January 12
, 2001
Maruti in third gear
January 11
, 2001


Sikh identity after great persuasion
T has been anything but easy for the National Commission for Minorities to impress upon the representatives of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh to understand and agree that the Sikh community had a separate identity and religion. For a considerable length of time at the meeting with the NCM last Tuesday, the three representatives of the RSS insisted that Sikhs formed part of the larger Hindu fold. 


by Humra Quraishi
Top artists for Triennale — India
T’s going to be a very art-inclined week, if I may put it so. Though even art, in these decaying times, is getting so very commercialised that before writing anything on art and connected events I have to ponder and think several times. Anyway, before anything else, the month-long 10th Triennale-India, starts off from January 22.


by Harihar Swarup
The General who routed the French and USA
PEN any book on military geniuses of the world and you will come across big names — Rommel, MacArthur, Patton, Eisenhower, Montgomery and the great Russian General Georgy Konstgantinovich, who led the eastern drive towards Berlin and sounded the death knell of Nazism. Top


How Pakistan came into being
by V. N. Datta

ON March 23, 1930, the All-India Muslim League passed a resolution (popularly known as the Pakistan resolution) for the partition of the country in Minto Park, Lahore, a furlong from the Great Fort, and facing the Mughal emperor Shahjahan’s Badshahi mosque. The resolution read as follows: constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted with territorial adjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western zones of India should be granted to constitute ‘Independent states’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

A day earlier on March 22, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, President of the Muslim League, wearing a black achkan and Fez cap, was conducted by the Nawab of Mamdot, chairman of the Reception Committee, to a pandal under a multicolour canopy of flowers and was welcomed by a thunderous applause with slogans of Allah-hu-Akbar and ‘Mohammad Ali Jinnah zindabad’ amidst an audience of about 1,00,000 including delegates and visitors.

The resolution did not contain the word ‘Pakistan’. Jinnah complained later that the Hindu and British Press foisted the word ‘Pakistan’ and felt grateful for this help as a single word ‘Pakistan’ crystallised cryptically and coherently in one sweep the aspirations of the millions of Muslims. The resolution used words like ‘independent states’, ‘autonomous’, ‘federation’, ‘regions’, ‘zones’, ‘areas’, etc. Like political resolutions, it was left vague and was possibly hastily conceived and drafted. The resolution met unitarianism by separation.

Historians and politicians have viewed the Pakistan resolution from different angles. C. Rajagopalachari was the first one to condemn it as a ‘medieval concept — a quasi-tribal point of view’ and a product of ‘diseased mentality that threatens to lead to disaster’. Sir Chhotu Ram, the Punjab Union Minister, thought it ‘an absurd proposition’. On March 26 the Hindustan Times described it a ‘mock heroic at Lahore’. Jawaharlal Nehru called it a mad scheme. Mahatma Gandhi regarded the two-nation theory as ‘untruth’. To the Viceroy, Linlithgow it was Jinnah’s ‘political manoeuvering and taking the position against the Congress’. To Zetland, the Secretary of State for India, it was a council of despair.

In the Sole Spokesman, Ayesha Jalal argues that the resolution was a bargaining counter devised to protect Muslim interests and a strategic ploy, which had the merit of being acceptable to the Muslim majority provinces. According to Jalal, Jinnah, a versatile tactician, did not want Pakistan but kept his options open. To R.Coupland, the resolution was partition, pure and simple. In his analysis of the Pakistan resolution, R.J. Moore showed how Jinnah drew mainly from a flurry of schemes prepared for safeguarding Muslim interests, and thereby produced a blueprint for the partition of the country. Moore’s approach is strictly constitutional, leaving politics out.

This paper examines how and why Jinnah and the Muslim League adopted the course they did in passing the resolution when three years before there did not appear any sign for such a move. In 1935, Jinnah did not reject the Federal principle, but why this reversal took place ? Why this volte-face? This question has to be examined in the context of Indian politics and British policy.

Before 1937, the Muslim League torn by factionalism and marred by noisy scenes of rowdyism, was an upper class body of easy-going knights, Khan Bahadurs and landlords with little influence with masses, repeating usually pious resolutions annually as a ritual for the protection of Muslim interests. In the early 1930s, out of a total number of 500 members, there were 163 big landlords. For the building of the Muslim League, Jinnah is the key figure. Many of the writings on him are by acolytes or enemies too repelled by his formidable, taciturn and divisive personality to appraise a balanced estimate of what he was and what he achieved.

A firm and convinced constitutionalist, Jinnah had no political base before the 1937 elections and was at best a consultative politician, a sectional leader, quick at producing readymade formulas for the solution of Hindu-Muslim question. At one level, among a section of Muslims he was considered dangerously too Congress-minded, and at another level altogether suspect among Congressmen. Fazl-e-Husain, the unquestioned leader of the Punjab, distrusted him. He wrote, “Jinnah could not get on with anybody. He is no leader. I am afraid I will not go out of my way to be nice to him”. In May 1936, Jinnah sought Fazl-e-Hussain’s support for the 1936-37 elections, but he was rebuffed. At the Lahore Railway Station, he was received only by six persons. Such was his political standing!

In 1928 and even later Jinnah had accepted the abolition of separate electorates. He was not opposed to the Federal principle. He shared with Jawaharlal Nehru a common platform of the All-India Indian Students’ Federation in Lucknow in 1936. For the elections he extended his hand of cooperation to other political parties. Despite their strong reservations about the 1935 Government of Indian Act, both the Congress and the Muslim League contested elections. The Congress manifesto was drafted by Nehru, and the League by Jinnah. There was much in common between the two manifestos, particularly on the programme relating to social and economic justice, uplift of rural population and civil liberty.

Hailing the Lucknow Pact of 1916 as a unique demonstration of the purpose, earnestness and cooperation by the two great sections of the people of India, the League manifesto emphasised that since that time the Muslims had stood shoulder to shoulder with the Hindus in the attainment of self rule. The only difference lay in its insistence on separate electorate, and the promotion of Urdu. The League manifesto is free from any sectarian or religious bias and is saturated with Gokhale’s spirit of Victorian Liberalism, which Jinnah lauded. Nehru acknowledges that during the elections there was no conflict between the Congress and the League, and desire was to avoid it. There is reason to believe that there existed between the Congress and League something like a concord.

The elections (1936-37) resulted in a striking Congress success securing an overall majority in five provinces and emerging as the strongest single party in two others. By early 1939, the Congress formed ministries in 8 out of 11 provinces, and remained in power from July 1937 to October 1939. In the 1937 elections, the Muslim League won 4.6 per cent of the total Muslim vote. It had no success in the North West Frontier, almost a Muslim province with 92 per cent Muslims and in Sindh with 72 per cent Muslims. In Punjab, it retained only one Muslim seat . In Bengal with 54.7 Muslims, it fared better winning 37 out of 119 Muslim seats.

In respect of winning Muslim votes the Congress performance was dismal. In three Congress majority provinces, no Congressman won a Muslim seat. In U.P., the Congress contested only 7 out of 26 Muslim seats and lost all, but later in a by-election won only 1 from the special University constituency. In all, the Congress contested 58 Muslim seats and won only 26. The Muslim League won 108 only but was unable to form any ministry. However, in U.P. and Bombay it did better. In U.P., the League won 27 out of 64 Muslim seats.

After the elections, the Congress refused to share power with the Muslim League in U.P. and Mumbai, which rankled in the hearts of Muslims and resulted in the Hindu-Muslim antagonism. Nehru’s Muslim Mass Contact Programme devised to win over the Muslims under the direction of Dr. Mohammad Ashraf incensed the strength of Muslim militancy. Hindu-Muslim controversy entered into a new phase, and the Muslim League established its hold on the Muslim masses especially in the Congress provinces. Jinnah was altogether in a different mood, now bellicose and hard-hitting in his indictment of the Congress which he condemned as a purely Hindu totalitarian body determined to perpetuate the Hindu Raj.

The Lucknow Muslim League conference, in October 1937 chose what Gandhi called ‘a war path’, where the three Prime Ministers Sir Sikander Hayat Khan of Punjab, Sir Fazl-ul-Haq of Bengal and Sir M.Saddullah of Assam gave the fullest support by advising their respective party members to join the Muslim League. The U.P. leaders, including Shaukat Ali, Khaliquzzaman and Liaquet Ali Khan using the institution, Aligarh Muslim University at their base infused an entirely new spirit in the League. A few months after the Lucknow conference, 40 League branches were set up in UP and the Muslim League membership rose to 1,00,000. Jinnah came to be a symbol of Muslim destiny and began to be greeted in the country as the sole spokesman of the Muslims. Between 1937 and July 1942 in the byelections to Muslim seats in the Provincial Legislators based on Muslim electorates, the Muslim League won 47, independent Muslims 10, and Congress Muslims only four.

Realising the urgency to win over the Muslims, Nehru started his tirade against the Muslim League. He said that there were only two parties in the country, the Congress and the government to which Jinnah retorted that there was also the third. Such bitter verbal exchanges between the two continued throughout 1937-38. Nehru was aggressive and provocative, raising several issues and denigrating the Muslim League which Jinnah would dismiss laconically. Nehru questioned even Jinnah’s leadership: “There are Muslims in the country who can provide inspiration to a thousand Jinnahs. He (Jinnah) does not understand the significance and real spirit of national independence.”

Jinnah was firm and pungent, but still willing to negotiate by personal meetings rather than through correspondence. But gradually he got into a fighting mood. His correspondence with Gandhi proved fruitless. The Mahatma claimed to represent no one except himself and he was only crying to God for light, he wrote to Jinnah. The Mahatma even suggested Jinnah to discuss the matter with Maulana Abul Kalam also which further irritated Jinnah. By the time Subhas Chandra Bose took over as the Congress President in 1938, the Hindu Muslim relations had worsened. Jinnah wanted the Muslim League to be recognised as the authoritative and representative body of the Muslims, and the Congress at least by implications as simply a Hindu organisation, which, of course, the Congress refused to accept. The years 1937-38 proved utterly barren from the political angle. By the end of 1938, the Muslim grievances against the Congress rule multiplied culminating in a demand for enquiring into the alleged atrocities committed with reckless abandon. The Muslim fear of remaining perpetually a minority in the provinces and at the Centre under the Congress domination, and their exclusion from sharing power strengthened the clamour for enquiry into the alleged misdeeds of the Congress. Jinnah insisted on the appointment of a Royal Commission for this purpose.

Three enquiry reports were published, the first, the Pipuur (1938) by Raja Mohmud Mehdi, the second by A.K. Fazl-ul-Haq (Dec.1939) and the third known as the Shareef (Dec.1939), which was confined to Orissa. To substantiate the Muslim sufferings perpetrated under the Congress rule, particular reference was made to the compulsory singing of the Bande Mataram song, the introduction of the Wardha system of education in schools, imposition of Hindi, the hoisting of the Congress flag on public buildings and on ceremonial occasions, the campaign for cow protection and to the 55 communal riots which had resulted in 1100 casualties. These grievances may have been exaggerated and the British Government too thought so, but the Muslims believed them as true.

The Muslim League figured little in the British calculations during 1936-37. From a few thousands in 1937, the Muslim League membership rose to about a million in 1939. Jinnah opposed the Congress demand for the Constituent Assembly based on adult franchise to be drawn by Indians. The Muslim League was henceforth determined to prepare an alternative scheme for safeguarding the Muslim interests. By 1939 quite a number of such schemes were formulated by the Muslim League leaders and two Aligarh Muslim University teachers. The Pakistan resolution has to be seen in the context of these schemes which Jinnah and his colleagues scrutinised to produce the final resolution.

In 1930, Iqbal had suggested the consolidation of Muslim unity within a loose India federation. In 1933, Rehmat Ali at Cambridge had formulated a plan for the partition of the country into two independent countries which was considered impractical. In 1939, Dr Syed Abdul Latif’s plan envisaged two culturally homogeneous states in 5 zones within India. Sir Sikander Hayat Khan’s scheme recommended the autonomy of provinces with regional legislatures of seven zones within a loose federation. ‘A Punjab Scheme’ floated by Nawab of Mamdot recommended a confederation of two separate units. At the Muslim League Sindh provincial conference held in Karachi in 1938, it was proposed on the initiative of Sir Abdullah Haroon to split the country into two parts, but due to Jinnah’s intervention the proposal was withdrawn. In a detailed note in 1939, Professor Mohammad Afzal Husain Qadri of Aligarh Muslim University suggested the division of India into two blocks, Hindustan and Pakistan. The Pakistan block according to Qadri comprised the North-West unit, Bengal and the provinces of Delhi and Malabar while Hyderabad was to retain its independent sovereign character. It seems that the final Pakistan resolution approximates closely to the poet Iqbal’s original proposal. Jinnah also echoed in his Presidential Address at Lahore, Muslim League session Iqbal’s ideological justification for maintaining a separate cultural identity based on race and religion for the foundation of a new sovereign independent state.

The viceroy Linlithgow’s declaration of war against Germany on September 3, 1946, had a profound impact on the political developments in India. To enlist India’s support in the prosecution of the war, Linlithgow met 50 political leaders including Gandhi and Jinnah. The Linlithgow collection and Gandhi’s correspondence show that in 1936-38 both the Viceroy and Gandhi were on friendly terms and Gandhi was willing to lend unconditional support to Britain in her hour of trial. Dr. Radhakrishna told Zetland in February 1939 that Gandhi was the best friend among the Congress of the people of Britain.

The Congress insisted on the independence and the right of people to frame their Constitution to be drawn by the Constituent Assembly based on adult franchise. To this demand the British Labour Party leaders such as Attlee, Aneurin Bevan, Cripps and Harold Laski were committed. Nehru had met them in Filkins, Cripp’s country house in June 1938. Cripps met Gandhi and Nehru in December 1939 and urged that the Congress should stand firm as a rock upon its demands. I think that Cripps’s influence in reinforcing the Congress demand for independence was marked.

In his negotiations with the Congress, the Viceroy made it clear that he could not go beyond the immediate expansion of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, and Dominian Status of the Western type after the war. The Congress rejected the proposal, and asked the ministers to resign in October 1939. By resigning from 8 provinces where they had held power, the Congress threw away its bargaining power. Nehru even regretted this resignation as an error later which he admitted to Asaf Ali in 1941. Linlithgow believed that the Congress had pitched its demands high because of the encouragement that the British Labour Party had given to the Congress, much to the embarrassment of the British Government in India.

Because of the resignation of Congress ministers, and the non-cooperative attitude adopted by the Congress in the prosecution of war, there was a marked change in Linlithgow’s attitude towards the Congress. Naturally in such a situation which exasperated him, Linlithgow turned to Jinnah who readily assured his support to him which the Viceroy gracefully acknowledged in his correspondence with the new Secretary of State, Amery. Jinnah had opposed the Congress bid for Independence and the Constituent Assembly which he regarded as a political suicide for Muslims. By this time a number of schemes for the solution of Hindu-Muslim question had come up. At a number of meetings he held with Jinnah, Linlithgow urged him to produce an alternative to the Congress demand for Independence and the Constituent Assembly. In his interview with Jinnah on September 4,1939, Linlithgow said, " If Dominian States is not suitable, then the escape from the impasse is partition”. In his meeting with Fazl-ul-Haq, on February 7,1940, Linlithgow emphasised that Jinnah had no alternative. Again after his interview with Jinnah on Feb 6,1940, Linlithgow wrote in his letter to the Secretary of State, “At the risk of warning him (Jinnah), I had to repeat what I had said before that it was useless to appeal for support in Great Britain when policy was negation”.

A month and a half later, the alternative was there, the Pakistan resolution.

It has been shown in this presentation that the conflict between the Congress and the league was not ideological, a struggle between the forces of Nationalism and Communalism. Nor was Communalism a construct of India’s secular nationalism. The deeper problem was political, of sharing power, of the status of Muslims in the country. Statesmen who do not see the unforeseeable mortgage the future of the country. By refusing to share power with the Muslim League, particularly in U.P. and Bombay and by ignoring Jinnah, the Congress showed a lamentable lack of statesmanship. From 1937, the Muslim League gained tremendous support which is reflected in the by-election results, in the plethora of enquiry reports highlighting the Muslim sufferings under the oppressive Hindu majority rule, and the flurry of schemes devised to protect Muslim interests which were devised to satisfy popular demand. It was their sense of fear and alarm aroused by the Congress determination for Independence and the Constituent Assembly reducing the Muslims to a perpetual minority which accelerated the extreme demand for adopting the Pakistan resolution.

The Pakistan resolution was the counsel of despair, a desperate remedy, hurriedly conceived and adopted under the conditioning circumstances to protect Muslim interests to be threatened by the Congress clamour for Independence and the Constituent Assembly. Jinnah refused to accept the western type of Parliamentary system which he held thoroughly unsuitable to India. In the first phase of their political activity, the Muslims treated themselves as a minority. In the second phase, they thought in terms of consolidated Muslim regions in the North-West and Bengal, and in the third, they decided for an independent sovereign state. It was a journey from a minority to a community and to a nation, from a region to a separate country.

The contiguity of the Muslim majority areas in the North-West provided a key to the Muslim League for a separate homeland. By his adroit skills Jinnah capitalised on the Muslim grievances. Flushed with success by installing ministries in eight out of 11 provinces by early 1939, the Congress proved too confident to be prudent and in the rush of things resigned leaving the field open for the Muslim League to consolidate its position by British support. On March 13,1940, Jinnah met the Viceroy Linlithgow who was goading him to produce an alternative to the Congress demand for Independence and the Constituent Assembly. Ten days later the alternative was the Pakistan resolution, which became a battle-cry for Muslims who fought the struggle for Independence in the name of Islam. The Pakistan resolution was in many ways an echo of the poet-philosopher Iqbal’s formulation of a separate cultural identity based on racial, social and cultural aspirations. Henceforth the Muslim League became the authoritative and representative body of the Muslims, and Jinnah its sole spokesman.


Flight of Indian industry to China?
by Rakshat Puri

A BJP leader connected with the party’s journal, Organiser, is reported to have suggested that educated and qualified Indians might profitably migrate in vast numbers to other countries — profitably for themselves, for the destination countries concerned, and for the Indian nation as well:

“We have so much population and so much talent that we can afford to let millions go out.” The destination countries would include also Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and other Islamic countries — Indians must overcome their suspicion of Muslims! Set aside for the moment the practicability or otherwise of the BJP leader’s suggestion. Could an idea coming from Alice’s Wonderland be more wonderful? Indeed, there does appear to be a kind of beginning that approximates, waywardly, to his suggestion — which, if he balances his pros and cons, he may not find particularly exhilarating.

According to a special report of January 13 2001 in the Money Channel of, on the Net, the Patel Group, which promotes Ajanta Clocks, among the world’s largest manufacturers of wall clocks, and Orpat Electronics, which manufactures telephones and calculators, has decided to move the companies to China. At present the companies operate from Morbi, near Rajkot in Gujarat. The products of the companies, it is said, are sold in over 60 countries. The companies have won awards regularly for export of their products. Their combined turnover is estimated at Rs. 2.50 billion. They have, from all accounts, some 25,000 dealers all over India and about 180 service stations.

So, why has the Patel Group decided to move them to China, of all places? The special report quotes extensively from an interview with Jaisukh Patel, the Group’s export-finance director. He says, among other things: “Chinese traders have almost ruined our market. We too are shifting to China now because of the attractive incentives given to manufacturers there. If we don’t do that we will not be able to compete in the global market, and be wiped out.”

He details: “We have leased a building with 300,000 sq ft floor space in Shenzen. Our machinery — worth Rs. 3 billion — will be moved in phases to China. In the first phase we will shift about one-third of it. Six months later, we will shift all our machinery…. We will produce our goods in China and export them to India. It’s not possible for us to run the industry in India.”

A variety of reasons have led the Patel Group to decide on moving their industry to China. There is, for example, the cost of finance — in China, says Jaisukh Patel, the government gives loans at the rate of 5.5 per cent to help develop formerly-government-owned industries which the Chinese regime gave away into private hands; “for the same type of purpose we get loans at the rate of 14 to 15 per cent”. Red tape and lack of adequate infrastructure compound this — “in India I have to deal with two dozen government departments if I have to run a factory. Factory Act, labour department, sales tax, customs, excise, income tax, pollution control board, RBI, Central and State Ministries, licensing authorities, RTO, supply department, clerks of revenue office, collector, district industry centre…. As much as 30 per cent of the energy of entrepreneurs are spent on these proceedings…. In China all the procedures are completed in a day”.

This is not the end of the story. Jaisukh Patel has more to say: “I don’t pay an interest of even one Rupee; 5,000 workers work for me; I have the most popular brand name in the industry; I have 180 service stations in India; my marketing network is very good; my overheads are under control. . . . Yet I confess I am not in a position to compete with Chinese clocks, telephones and calculators in the Indian market.”

Patel has some relevant and sound advice for the Union Government: “To contain the Chinese factor there is need to change labour laws, the tax structure, and improve power supply. Tax on locally manufactured products should not be more than the duty on ready-made imported items. And the difference between the duty on raw materials and components, and tax on local final goods must not be more than 15 per cent to 20 per cent. This policy will revive Indian manufacturing units.

The rate of electricity should not be more than Rs. 2.50 per unit. How do you expect us to stand up to the Chinese onslaught when my factory is faced with power cuts at least three times a week?” Taking the example of Orpat calculators, Patel observed that the demand in India for calculators was about 40 million, and that Orpat made between two and 2.5 million — “when the demand was 20 million we manufactured about six to seven million pieces; now despite the demand having multiplied our production has been halved”.

The fact seems to be that some measure of complacency overtook prime-moving individuals in intellectual and government circles. Seen from hindsight, it appears that between 1960 and 1990 a comfortable but unrealistic sense of confidence — like the hare’s in the familiar race — lulled the Indian intellectual and government into a false sense of superiority, and into a supercilious disregard of the need to wake up and act. It was not enough for political leaders and others to keep patting themselves on the back for India’s being “the biggest democracy”, for being an “open society”, for having high science-and-techno talent.

In the last 20 years or so China’s growth rate is estimated to have been twice that of India’s; and China is said to attract many times the direct foreign investment that comes India’s way. Its exports are said to be at least five times those of India’s. Experts and commentators believe that about 40 per cent of Chinese exports are products of multinational companies operating in China. In India, it seems natural that Chinese manufactures should attract the buyer — they are priced a great deal lower than the domestic product. And, the price factor takes precedence over the low-quality factor.

Various reasons are given for the low cost and high availability of Chinese consumer items now being sold all over India — reasons that echo those which have driven the Patel Group to lose hope and decide to move to China. The three main reasons are said to be (in one commentator’s words) “the sheer impetus that imports receive in the country (China); the open-door policy in India; and the steep duties for Indian produce”. In some instances Chinese consumer items flooding the Indian market do of course come by way of smuggling. But the bulk are said to come in legitimately, by way of the Open General Licence.

It is not as if Indian industry is not expressing concern at the consumer scene as Chinese items displace the Indian. The Confederation of Indian Industry is reported to have set up “a watchdog committee to track Chinese imports”. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry reportedly “undertook a prospective study of the post-WTO scenario”. The All-India Association of Industries — half of whose members are said to be from the small-scale industry sector — is reported to have “demanded the continuation of protection for small scale industry units by scrapping central excise and ensuring other conducive norms”.

Imagine, dry battery cells from China are said to be selling at one rupee each, while Indian-made ones cost some seven rupees. Chinese bicycles are available here at between Rs. 600 and Rs. 800. An Indian-made bicycle would cost a few thousand rupees. Other consumer item-costs follow this pattern. And, as mentioned above, low-cost wins over low quality.

It is said that a substantial quantity of Chinese goods entering India comes also through Nepal and Bangladesh — primarily Nepal. India has a preferential trade agreement with Nepal. It can apparently not terminate that because of SAARC requirements. And, it seems, it cannot do anything also about the reported “string of fictitious factories” on the Indo-Nepal border from where come only “Chinese goods with ‘Made in India’ labels”. This is reportedly in addition to straight-smuggled Chinese goods, and Chinese goods imported into Nepal for re-exporting to India — goods of sophisticated make for manufacture of which Nepal does not yet have the capability.

In view of all this, the Patel Group’s decision, in hopelessness, to move their factories to China — in order, among other things, to export their products to India! — is understandable even if it is in many respects disagreeable. Will — can — the Indian Government move fast and effectively to better conditions for Indian industry, so that it may meet successfully the kind of challenge held out by Chinese items? And also meet, as successfully, the cost-and-quality challenges that come from other international areas?

It would be tragic if the Patel Group’s decision set any kind of trend. The BJP leader, connected with the party journal Organiser, who is reported to have suggested the idea of educated and qualified Indians migrating to other countries in millions, would perhaps like to ponder, along with his colleagues in Government, on the implications of the Patel Group’s decision? (Asia Features)


Sikh identity after great persuasion

IT has been anything but easy for the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to impress upon the representatives of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) to understand and agree that the Sikh community had a separate identity and religion. For a considerable length of time at the meeting with the NCM last Tuesday, the three representatives of the RSS insisted that Sikhs formed part of the larger Hindu fold. It took a while and persistence on the part of the NCM to convince the RSS representatives that even if all communities fell within the larger Hindu society, the minorities like the Sikhs and Christians felt genuinely aggrieved which needs to be addressed.

This pertained to the fears of the two minority communities that deliberate and calibrated attempts are constantly being made to interfere in their religious affairs, having an adverse impact on India's unity in diversity. Such uncalled for machination is also striking at the very root of the country's secular character and its unique attribute of being a melting pot of all religions. It also required some sustained backroom, no-holds-barred discussions by the NCM to convince the RSS to appreciate the problems of the minorities in its proper perspective. These closed door, extended sessions facilitated the NCM and the RSS expressing the unanimous view that the Sikhs ‘‘constitute a separate religion and a separate identity.’’

Vajpayee's headhunt

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government has not shied away from offering special assignments to seasoned bureaucrats and people of eminence irrespective of their ideology or past predilections. Some of these people approached by the NDA Government have politely declined the offers due to personal or other reasons.

Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, who had played no small role in bringing about economic reforms, had been actively considered for the ambassadorial assignment in Washington. Needless to say if he had given his nod, Mr Manmohan Singh would have been accorded Cabinet status. But that was not to be. Mr Vajpayee's trouble shooters had also approached former Comptroller and Auditor-General C G Somaiah with special offers at least on two occasions. The amiable Mr Somaiah declined the suggestions citing the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

Lakshman rekha

The Bharatiya Janata Party is often criticised for politicising Lord Ram. However, willy nilly the subject props up even in normal conversations. The other day when the Election Commission hosted a mega function at Vigyan Bhavan to mark its golden jubilee, Chief Election Commissioner M.S.Gill advised political parties to draw a "Lakshman rekha" (line of limit) when it came to use of muscle and money power in elections.

Mr Vajpayee, fresh from a controversy over his remarks on the Ayodhya shrine, could not restrain himself and in his typical inimitable style remarked that "Lakshman hamare paas hai, Aap rekha kheench deejiye. Hum usko manenge" (We have Lakshman. You draw a line, we will observe it.) He was obviously referring to the BJP President, Mr Bangaru Laxman.

The Prime Minister went on to draw a comparison with the Mahakumbh Mela in Allahabad. ‘‘Elections in India are not an ordinary event. They are the Mahakumbh of our democracy. And like the Kumbh, they too are an expression and a celebration of our people's faith — their unshakable faith in our democracy,’’

Sinha's choice

Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha always makes it a point to invite the fourth estate for pre-Budget discussions. However, unlike the previous years when he invited representatives from several newspapers for the discussions, this year he preferred to confine his meeting with editors of the so- called national dailies, including the pink financial dailies. It was an assembly of rivals.

Insiders say that what followed was utter chaos as each editor was trying to score over the other. Instead of giving concrete suggestions, the participants were trying to pull each other down. An insider admitted that nothing concrete emerged from the nearly three-hour meeting but then Mr Sinha had assured himself of some good publicity in the days to come.

"Young" Congressmen

How old is ‘‘young’’ in the Congress? The question is dogging the Congress Working Committee aspirants these days. Amid speculation that Congress president Sonia Gandhi would induct young blood into the CWC, there is an intense debate in the party as to who forms the youth in the party, specially since the question is of making it to the party's highest body. Whatever the reservations of the party's youth wing —the Indian Youth Congress — where the president is normally not above 35 years, the least age of ‘‘youth’’ being given by CWC aspirants, most of the party heavyweights, are in the 50-55 years age group.

‘‘India is not Russia where a 47-year-old can become the President,’’ claimed a 55-year-old CWC aspirant. ‘‘`You should have at least 10 years of parliamentary experience to be in the CWC,’’ a 52-year old aspirant having similar experience remarked. With so many veterans in the party, the not-so young workers are hoping that they would be counted among the youth in the party.

Super milkers

The National Dairy Development Board, known for heralding the white revolution in the country, has other achievements in the field too. For instance, it has been breeding some outstanding Holstein Fresian cows. A spokesman in the board's office in the Capital pointed out that some of the cows yield as much as 9000 kg of milk in one lactation. There is this 1994 born Saloni, which has produced 35,063 kg of milk in four lactations while Laxmi has produced 32,188 kg of milk. Ganga, born in January, 1996, produced a peak of 9,597 kg of milk in her second lactations, which is a record of sorts.

— (Contributed by TRR, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood, S. Satyanarayanan and P.N. Andley). 


Top artists for Triennale — India
by Humra Quraishi

IT’s going to be a very art-inclined week, if I may put it so. Though even art, in these decaying times, is getting so very commercialised that before writing anything on art and connected events I have to ponder and think several times. Anyway, before anything else, the month-long 10th Triennale-India, starts off from January 22. And countries like Austria, England and Hungary have already lined out receptions for the participating artists from their countries. The British Council’s director Edmund Marsden is hosting a reception for Catherine Yass, the participating British artist whose works centre around Bollywood, so much so that last November she spent two weeks in Mumbai, amongst the Bollywood stars and their working environs. And the Austrian Ambassador and spouse Shovana Traxl Narayan are hosting another reception for the participating artist from their country — Christy Astuy, who though an American has the distinction of having studied in Vienna art colleges and is at present working and living in Vienna. The Embassy of Hungary is introducing Hungarian artists Gabor Rosko and Jozsef Gaal on January 22, who will be participating in this Triennale. More details about the Triennale and artists in next week’s column.

Then as I have earlier mentioned in past columns, the Hungarian Cultural Centre is the one most active cultural centre here. In fact on January 27 they will be presenting “all of India’s studio potters” in one show. Amazing that on one platform fifty or more of our potters will get together from all over the country — Pondicherry, Mumbai, Calcutta and Baroda — and for a cause — “Earth for Animals”. The proceeds will go to Menaka Gandhi’s People For Animals. If getting together these potters isn’t enough this centre has an ongoing exhibition of `Wooden Churches in Transylvania’ by Agost Wildner — “the young Hungarian photographer who visited all the burning places in Europe and put the delicate churches on the reel before they are perished...” Before I move on I must write that I have found a strong resemblance between the architecture ( of these) with those ziarats of the Kashmir Valley — which historian Dr Percy Brown calls “the Indo Sarcenic type of architecture. The similarity of this form of Kashmir architecture to the timber construction of the mountainous countries cannot be overlooked, particularly its likeness to that of Scandinavia, and also to the regions of the Alps. In the wooden churches (Stavekirke) of Norway of the 11th to the 14th centuries, there are the sloping roofs rising in tiers so as to form a kind of pyramid with gables and overhanging eaves, each surfaced proofed with layers of birch bark, every feature of which has a counterpart in the wooden shrines or ziarats of Kashmir. Then the chalets of Austrian Tyrol with projecting upper stories, balconies with carved railings and casement windows bear a similar resemblance to the old houses of Srinagar...”

And the very mention of Srinagar provokes me to comment that for India International Centre’s annual day (January 22) there stands out an evening with the so-called ‘special focus on Kashmir...cultural glimpses of Kashmir’ together with a special menu ! The state of affairs in the Valley definitely requires focus beyond the cultural glimpses — if nothing else focus on how to preserve these cultural capsules of the state in the present turmoil where an average Kashmiri cannot think beyond food and power supply.

‘Zubeidaa’ depresses

On Thursday night the Smita Patil Trust (managed here by her sister Manya Chetan Seth) held a special screening of Shyam Benegal’s latest film Zubeidaa. In fact rumours had been afloat that the entire cast — Karishma, Manoj Bajpai, Rekha — would be present, but none came. Not even Benegal. The saving grace was his daughter Pia (who has designed the costumes) and Shama Zaidi (the script writer). Though the film — which is a tragic love story of the beautiful and feisty girl called Zubeida is unravelled through the eyes of her son who painstakingly pieces her story together — didn’t have the desired impact but towards the end one was left wondering whether such intense/passionate love can really exist as portrayed in the film. Maybe since it is a tale set in the 50s so it could have been a possibility. But not so now, what with many women openly saying that it’s time we have a separate ministry for Men’s Development for though, all through these years women have been trying to change but not the man. That’s why all this trouble and turmoil!

Anyway, back to the film preview. Though it was screened only at 9.30 pm but sure enough Delhi’s who’s who were to be spotted. Starting from Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit (incidentally she seems such a film buff that some months back whilst she was honouring Dilip Kumar she made it a point to say that as a teenager her heart went aflutter “dil dhak dhak hota tha” whenever she saw any of his films) to Nafisa Ali to socialite Bina Ramani’s daughter whose claim to fame has been wrapping the National Flag on herself and finally radio jockey Yuri. From the erstwhile royalty, the only one to be spotted was Karan Singh’s son. Ironical, especially in view of the fact that the story of this film is webbed on their lives, lifestyles and their great decline.

Time to ponder!

The latest U.N. newsletter carries this fore warning: “The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on January 8 warned of a “tough year” ahead for the estimated 830 million people worldwide who go hungry as a result of conflict, natural disaster or extreme poverty ... 2001 would be difficult for the millions of people trapped in poverty and those living in numerous “hot spots,” and indicated that war and drought continue to be the major culprits forcing people to go without food.”

In this backdrop it seems almost sinful to see the who’s who hosting parties/receptions on every possible occasion. At least this is the scene here, don’t know the trend in your towns and cities.


The General who routed the French and USA
by Harihar Swarup

OPEN any book on military geniuses of the world and you will come across big names — Rommel, MacArthur, Patton, Eisenhower, Montgomery and the great Russian General Georgy Konstgantinovich, who led the eastern drive towards Berlin and sounded the death knell of Nazism. In recent times, there is Gen Colin Powell, himself involved in the Vietnam war, and now tipped to occupy the sensitive post of US Secretary of State. But people across the globe are not so familiar with yet name — General Vo Nguyen Giap, who fought a 15-year-long battle with America and forced the mightiest nation of the world to its first defeat and humiliation. His military accomplishments are matched by few in the world yet he is little known, particularly in the western world.

In the fifties, Gen. Giap raised from among irregulars a military force that threw the French out of his homeland. Ironically, his initial knowledge of war and its politics came from his study of the French Revolution and the military exploits of Napoleon. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee during his recent visit to Vietnam met the 89-year-old General under whose command the Viet Minh fought the historical wars against the French and the Americans. ‘‘Victory at any cost’’ had been his motto and is also the title of his biography. Regarded as a master of tactics, logistics and strategy, he was inventor of a tactical warfare that neither the French nor the Americans were able to cope with. The French would call him ‘‘snow-covered volcano’’.

Known as a tough military man and a gentleman, General Giap has a many-faceted personality; he is a poet, a prolific writer and a forceful speaker. ‘‘Literature’’, he wrote, ‘‘can and must elevate a man's soul’’. Reminiscing his life in the wilderness of Vietnam as his Viet Minh warriors fought the first Indo-Chinese war against the French, the military prodigy wrote: ‘‘The chirp of a bird, the petal of a flower, a gentle breeze, a few drops of rain, a gust of wind in the spring, all these could stir the soul of a poet’’.

General Giap had a variegated life, having gone through the rough and tumble since his student days, exile in China, years as a journalist and propagandist and finally as the builder of a victorious army. His military accomplishments are matched by a few in history. Despite his military success late in life, General Giap has been a lonely man. His wife Dang Thi Quang Thai was tortured to death quite early in age when he was in exile and the void could never be filled. The couple could hardly live together for two years when World War II broke out. Giap and Quang Thai had by that time a daughter whom he named ‘‘Hong Anh’’, meaning ‘‘red queen of flowers’’. In April, 1940, the Communist Party's Central Committee decided to send Giap and a comrade to safety in China to plan for launching a future guerrilla movement within Vietnam. Giap held the baby in his arms as he urged his wife to go underground as quickly as possible and then they went separate ways, never to meet again.

A year after Quang Thai was arrested in her home town. Minutes before the colonial French police arrived, she passed on her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter to Giap's mother. The French put her in a horrid jail known as ‘‘oven prison’’, tried her before a military court for conspiracy against the security of France and sentenced her to life imprisonment. According to account given by an American journalist, she was tortured in the most horrified way till she was driven to the verge of insanity. The French, it was alleged, hung her by the thumbs and beat her to death. Another version was that unable to endure pain, she killed herself.

Giap had no chance to communicate with his wife throughout the years of the war. He lived in hiding in the far northern reaches of Vietnam and developed ways of combating the Japanese and French. After the war was over, he travelled to his native place to attend a meeting of the Central Committee and there, in casual conversion, came to know of his wife's death. An old comrade casually turned to him during a group conversation and, as an example of the danger in which they all lived, recalled the case of Giap's wife. ‘‘Quang Thai was caught because she didn't have time to find someone to care for the baby. She died in prison before we could do anything’’, said the comrade. Giap almost froze and asked: ‘‘You say Thai is dead’’. ‘‘What?’’, the comrade asked. ‘‘You didn't know’’.

Giap sat quietly, speechless for long minutes and then silently rose and left his fellows, struggling to reconcile with the death of his wife. He later wrote: ‘‘I thought I would at last have news from my family from whom I had not heard for all these years. I had written letters but didn't know if they ever arrived and I was thinking it would be long until I had news’’.

It is not known if General Giap wrote the following poem before or after death of his wife but the lines are moving indeed:

The earth bore you here to bring beauty. The earth bore

me here to love you deeply.

In love people kiss, The sweetness they would not miss,

My heart is passionate for you, Still I must go to battle.

My love, it is possible that I may die in combat, The lips

torn there by bullets might never be kissed by yours.

Even if I die, my love, I love you, though I am unable

To kiss you with the lips.

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