Sunday, April 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Female infanticide and falling status of women
D. R. Chaudhry
ATRIARCHY in social organisation has been the dominant reality to define the nature of gender relations in human society that rendered it male-dominated in most parts of the world since the dawn of human civilisation. Much has changed since the primitive times but the male dominated ethos still holds sway. In spite of all the advances made in the field of woman emancipation, male hegemony is still the dominant reality.

Perennially unsafe Delhi
Shyam Rattan Gupta

EFORE attempting a survey of the current messy situation in Delhi after the Gujarat earthquake, it is relevant to recapture the memories of Delhi and its history in 1945-55. Barring stray incidents of commercial frauds, Delhi in, 1945 presented a maturity of composite culture “havelis” and alleys subsisted along with Civil Lines in what was called “Old Delhi”.




J&K elephant and blind men
Rakshat Puri
HE Vajpayee Government has announced a general and open invitation for talks to all those sections and groups in Jammu-Kashmir that want peace. It has asked persons from "all walks of life" to suggest ways of bringing peace - to suggest, "How it can be attained in the troubled State". The Government has appointed the Planning Commission's Deputy Chairman K. C. Pant as the interlocutor. 


Harihar Swarup
Congress leader with solid base
OME people never give up and octogenarian K. Karunakaran is one of them. Completing 83, he has always thrived on controversies and once a challenge is thrown to him, he enjoys the fight. Also, he is the only Congress leader in Kerala with a solid base, commands the allegiance of party workers and wields influence in as many as 23 constituencies.


Devi Lal’s past and present
ORMER Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal’s glory remained with him even after his death. The popular leader of the farmers, who passed on his mantle to Om Prakash Chautala, was given a befitting farewell. The honours bestowed on him was doubled as he was not only a former Deputy Prime Minister and the former Chief Minister of Haryana but also the father of the present Chief Minister of Haryana.

  • Double-speak
  • Uncomfortable questions
  • Committed Clinton
  • Fowl play
  • Flavour of Punjab

Ripples of discontent in MEA
Humra Quraishi
ATELY we have been swinging between extremes. Full concentration on the foreign tours of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister while somewhat bypassing the rumblings going on in the MEA. In fact last week several senior IFS officers met the new Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer and apprised her of the fact that the previous list of transfers and postings seems to have sidelined these several senior officers who had been awaiting postings.

  • I.T. loses bright boy!
  • Three in one evening
  • This passport photo might haunt



Female infanticide and falling status of women
D. R. Chaudhry

PATRIARCHY in social organisation has been the dominant reality to define the nature of gender relations in human society that rendered it male-dominated in most parts of the world since the dawn of human civilisation. Much has changed since the primitive times but the male dominated ethos still holds sway. In spite of all the advances made in the field of woman emancipation, male hegemony is still the dominant reality.

The Divine Right of Kings theory gave unlimited arbitrary powers to the kings in Europe. The French thinker Rousseau in his Theory of Social Contract first of all, cogently challenged this. The liberative core of the ideas of thinkers like Rousseau, Voltair and others led to social churning culminating into the French Revolution in 1789. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were the basic postulates of this great social upheaval. This finally led to the democratic form of governance in Europe that enabled the people to elect their own rulers through voting. However, equality, one of the moving ideas behind the social churning, eluded women for a long time and they acquired the right to vote quite late in several European countries after arduous struggle. Moreover, equality, in substantial terms, still eludes them.

The USA is one of the most developed and educated parts of the world. The egalitarian principle as symbolised in the gigantic Statue of Liberty in New York is supposed to be the moving force in American society. But women there are still clubbed with the socially deprived and marginalised sections like African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, etc. that go by the appellation of minorities. The policy of the affirmative action has been followed since the days of President Kenned. It gives preference to these groups in matter of employment, admission in educational institutions, allotment of government contracts, etc. Unlike India, there is no quota system and the Federal and state governments have devised their own methods to provide relief to these groups. In spite of all this, the American society is very much in the grip of white male domination.

Woman’s lot still continues to be at a disadvantage in the developed parts of the world like Europe and North America. The situation is much worse in developing countries. The problem has been further compounded in India where the powerful scriptural authority has been invoked to downgrade woman.

A shaloka in Rig Veda reads: “Women have unsteady brains. They are not trustworthy”. Manusmrity, a basic Brahminical text to define the cantours of social organisation, says: “A girl, a young woman or even an old woman should not do anything independently. In childhood, a woman should be under her father’s control, in youth her husband’s, and when her husband is dead, under her son’s. She should not have independence.” The Biblical idea of woman as a weaker vessel, open to temptation and Hamlet’s anguished cry over his mother’s perfidy equating woman with frailty (Frailty, thy name is woman) get much more concrete expression in the Hindu scriptures. Right from womb to the tomb, woman has to traverse this long journey under the male hegemony. Ram Charit Manas of Goswami Tulsidas has a powerful impact on the Indian psyche and therein woman has been clubbed with “Shudras, animals and the uncivilised who need to be thrashed.” The veil has been a symbol of ignorance and darkness that needs to be cast aside if one has to have the glimpse of the ultimate reality as stressed by Waris Shah and Mira. However, this veil (ghunghat) fell to the share of woman in India.

An attempt to understand the nature of gender relations can be facilitated by referring to the concept of the ideal womanhood. Sita and Draupadi are the two towering women in Indian mythology and folklore. Sita, the consort of Rama in Ramayana, is gentle, docile and submissive. She symbolises the purity of spirit as well as the body. Her unshakable fidelity and devotion to her husband marks her out as an exceptional woman. Draupadi, the consort of five Pandavas in the Mahabharata, stands in sharp contrast to Sita. She is aggressive, assertive and self-willed. She is conscious of her rights and fights valiantly for them. Her knowledge of the affairs of the world is remarkable and her debating and argumentative skill exceptional. She would not meekly submit to a man because he happens to be her husband.

Who should be the ideal woman out of the above two? Dr Ram Manohar Lohia who did seminal thinking on the issue of oppression in Indian society voted for Draupadi and it is difficult to discount his arguments. He wanted to start a debate on the topic that India’s ideal woman was Draupadi and not Sita or Savitri. The Indian society could not advance, argued Lohia, so long as half of its population was cast in the image of Sita. Crusaders for the downtrodden like Jyotiba Phule and Ramasamy Naicker exhorted women to come forward and assert their identity. Mahatma Gandhi laid due emphasis on woman uplift. However, in spite of all efforts made by numerous social reformers and thinkers, the depressed state of the Indian woman continues to stick out like a sore thumb, thanks to the inexorable operation of the patriarchal structures in society. Her image as an ‘abla’— a hapless creature — persist as conveyed by the well-known Hindi poet, Maithli Sharan Gupt: “Abla jeewan haai tumhari yehi kahani/ anchal mein hai dudh aur ankh mein pani.” (Milk in breast and tears in eyes. This is the story of hapless woman). Myths depict Indian woman as tender, passive and helpless while the male counterpart symbolises activism, sternness and physical valour. Myth represents reality in its heightened form and is not its replica. Often, it is at variance with social reality.

Haryana is primarily an agrarian society and its towns too are like villages with modern facilities. There is not a single town in the state that has the ambience and culture of a metropolitan centre. In such a social milieu, a woman’s sensibility is very much shaped by agrarian lifestyle. A Haryanvi woman is not a soft creature as reflected in the Indian myths. She does not very much burdened by scriptural authority and Brahminical value system. However, male-dominated ethos still holds sway in Haryana society as human relations are governed by patriarchal structures.

In a male-dominated social ethos, the quest for a male child is incessant while the female child is treated as a curse. Haryana folklore crudely depicts female child as highly unwanted. An example or two would suffice here. “Chhora mare nirbhag ka, chhori mare bhagvan ki” (One who loses a son is unlucky and one who loses a daughter is god-like), or “Dunia mein do garib batae, aek beti, aek bail” (There are two lowly creatures in the world: a daughter and a drought bull). This mindset is reflected in the declining social status of woman in Haryana.

Sex ratio is an important indicator of gender relations. South Asia is the least gender sensitive region in the world. The global ratio (excluding South Asia) of female to male is 106 while in South Asia there are only 94 women per 100 men. Haryana’s record is shocking in this respect.

As per 1991 census, the female-male ratio in Haryana is 865: 1000. The latest figure is much worse. It is the worst in the world and negates the popular image of Haryana as a modern, progressive state. Even sub-Saharan African countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ghana marked by famines, epidemics, civil wars and political instability, present a better record. Material advance is no guarantee of the healthy gender relations. Per capita income in Kerala is much lower than the one in Haryana but Kerala can match any advanced country in matter of indicators like sex ratio, access to education, health services etc.

Female infanticide in the form of foetal genocide is rampant in Haryana. Clinics conducting sex-determining tests have mushroomed all over the state. Now vans fitted with necessary equipment visit villages to destroy female foetus. The latest figures show an all-time low of 861 women per 1000 men in Haryana.

The gross distortion in sex ratio in Haryana has created an explosive situation. It is likely to have devastating consequences in times to come. The unsustainable imbalance in the sex ratio is fast reviving the outdated, hideous custom of ‘atta-satta’ (exchange of brides between two families) in some areas. The green revolution has reached its plateau and there is crisis in agriculture in the state. The lifting of quantitative restrictions on import of many items relating to agriculture and dairy as a consequence of the WTO regime and the gradual dismantling of the minimum support price mechanism for the agricultural produce by restricting the role of the Food Corporation of India would further compound the problem. The fragmentation of land holdings has rendered agricultural operations unviable in case of the most of the peasant families in the state. This has rendered the employment scene in rural Haryana too dismal for words. There is no industrialisation worth the name in the state to absorb the unemployed youth. The state government is rubbing salt into the wound by taxing the unemployed youth to bolster its financial position. An application form for the post of a constable has been priced at Rs 500. The unemployment coupled with dim prospect of matrimonial alliance has made the rural youth restive. This finds expression in the rising crime graph in the state. Several dozen young men from Baas village in Hansi subdivision are lodged in Hisar jail to face trial under different charges. When the Haryana Chief Minister visited the village as a part of the programme of ‘sarkar apke dwar’ (government at your door step) and asked for the demands, the village demanded setting up of sub-jail in their villages to obviate the trouble of going all the way to the district headquarters to meet their wards in the jail.

The UNO’s Fourth Conference on Women held at Beijing, the capital of China, in 1995 laid down nine major concerns for women like education, health, violence against women, women and property etc. Haryana’s rulers have been most insensitive about a girl’s share in the parental property. The Central Government passed the Hindu Succession Act in 1956, putting a daughter on a par with a son in matter of parental property. The Haryana Assembly passed a resolution in 1967 requesting the Central Government to change the Act. However, the then Indira government refused to oblige. A similar resolution was passed in 1979. The President of India withheld his assent to it.

The growing assertion of the khap panchayat in matter of marriage between consenting individuals in the recent past is enigmatic. Kangaroo courts are held and barbaric judgement like liquidation of the couple, tonsuring their heads in public, ostracising them from the community, depriving them of their right to property and residence in the village, etc. are passed if a particular marriage is suspected of violating certain norms thought to be sacrosanct by the panchayat mukhias.

A parallel judicial system is emerging in Haryana. It is again the girl who suffers most in this medieval system of justice.

There is an urgent need for gender-specific development paradigm to correct the pervasive gender inequities in our society. The hope of male generosity in this matter is misplaced as is evident from the fate being meted out to the proposed bill on reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and in state legislatures. Women have to work out their own salvation. They have to organise themselves and struggle, with active help from the enlightened section of the male population. No society can acquire dynamism if almost half of its population is kept in a state of servitude. 



Perennially unsafe Delhi
Shyam Rattan Gupta

BEFORE attempting a survey of the current messy situation in Delhi after the Gujarat earthquake, it is relevant to recapture the memories of Delhi and its history in 1945-55. Barring stray incidents of commercial frauds, Delhi in, 1945 presented a maturity of composite culture “havelis” and alleys subsisted along with Civil Lines in what was called “Old Delhi”. New Delhi, the city Lutyens created, was the city of upstarts, opportunists and sycophants, white foxes, jackals and wild cats roamed the wilderness behind the Imperial Gymkhana Club on the edge of government bungalows on one side and Connaught Place on the other. Only those who still dreamt of imperial glory of a by-gone age lived in New Delhi, insulated from the currents, cross-currents and under-currents in Old Delhi. British civilians, who had tasted the flavour of civilian life in Old Delhi despised and derided the supercilious culture of the New Delhi rulers.

For wartime needs, temporary hutments were constructed while a couple of “colonies”, including Sujan Singh Park houses — numbering 82 apartments — and Lodi Estate bungalows, had been constructed with the building materials directed from the Vice-Regal Palace, two Secretariat blocks and the Circular Parliament. These buildings breathed of an alien architecture while the descendants of Lord Curzon nurtured the illusion of imperial presence in India.

Most Delhiites did not care about the dreams of the dynasties, one after the other, of their permanence, as they were realists, pursuing their professional work. The transport system was not undependable.

Horse cabs plied safely and were a part of the social and civic life. Most persons walked to work and small shopping centres catered to the modest needs of the residents. Faces of the affluence and poverty were neither lined with arrogance nor misery. Life in Delhi in the mid-1940s was placid, calm and mostly free from crime.

While Old Delhiites mingled with each other, those in New Delhi considered themselves a class apart, living in islands of conceit, vanity and racial-ruling class superiority.

The peaceful, more or less harmonious, coexistence of the many Delhiites was disturbed in September 1939 and again in August 1942. The “day of deliverance” after the resignation of the popular-elected governments headed by old-fashioned Congress leaders, nursing moral and ethical outlook divided the pro-and-anti World War II ranks, notwithstanding the active participation of many persons inspired by mixed ideals from both majority and minority communities. Less than three years, the “Quit India” movement and Mahatma Gandhi’s 21-day fast whetted the appetite of those who considered themselves the legitimate heirs-apparent of the British India rulers. The denizens of New Delhi were now embattled in their bungalows and clubs while the handful of civilians found some solace and refuge in the three hotels in Old Delhi — Maidens for bohemians, Cecil for those who despised the Lutyen’s demoniac architectural splendour and Swiss for those who loved Continental follies and frolics eve as the war decimated, enslaved and rolled over Europe and Asia.

With the end of World War II and British Prime Minister Clement Atlee’s secret, off-the-cuff innate dictum to Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy succeeding Lord Wavell in March 1946 in New Delhi to “get us, the enfeebled British off the back” from India, the Old Delhiites blocked to New Delhi to survey the wilderness and wasteland of Lutyen’s city to see if they could buy, acquire or lay claims to plots of the land. To be close to the imperial seat of power, they abandoned the civic, civilised and composite culture of good governance and better life.

Mountbatten, responding to the unspoken desire “to get us off the back of India” advanced the date of Independence from June 1948 to August 14-15, 1947. Unknowingly, he was the victim of hustlers. Along with others, he precipitated an unprecedented two-way blood-stained exodus of people, known only in Biblical times, propelled by natural disasters, not by political upheavels or inhuman brutality. The Delhi and New Delhi were caught up in the vortex of crisis and chaos. Almost all British rulers, civilians and of Armed Forces officials left on homeward-bound ships.

Fortunately, for Delhi, there were saviours on the eve of Independence. Jawaharlal Nehru and his band of peace-makers roamed the streets quelling violence with a swagger-stick and appeals for amity. His deputy, Sardar Patel, felt that the migrants’ madness must be dissipated and Delhi should be insulated from the pressure groups clamouring revenge and reprisals, and demanding homes and flashy lifestyles along with risky adventures and lucrative vocations.

Gandhi’s martyrdom on January 30, 1948 and Sardar Patel’s passing away a couple of months later stunned Delhiites but only temporarily. The golden hordes from the West and the turmoil, political turbulence on the north-west and north-east boundaries of the partitioned India and post-partition India made Delhi the focal centre for pressure groups from all over South Asia. Jawaharlal Nehru could cope with these vexing problems unsuccessfully.

Already, colonies after colonies sprang up with hardly any place, rhyme or reason.

By 1964, Delhi, especially New Delhi, geologists declared was resting on sub-soil water lakes and it was declared that no buildings in Delhi should have more than two-storeys. Tubewells were bored to pump out sub-soil water and it was decreed that the lawns should not be watered indiscrimately. A couple of tremors in 1964-65 alarmed the Delhiites. There were cracks in the massive Reserve Bank of India building on Parliament Street but both sub-soil water logging, with damp walls in Teen Murti Marg, were conveniently forgotten, while government “colonies” were sited all over New Delhi on grounds littered with white-cuts mole-hills, especially in the preferred areas of Chanakyapuri, cleared of rocks and rodents. The apartments for government officials were badly constructed by errant builders and contractors, with urban planners as their friends and accomplices. With hardly any planning, multi-storeyed buildings were constructed, both government and private builders being the guilty agents. Who permitted the desecration of the imperial, post-independent capital of India? Master-planners themselves were the “dream merchants”. At the end of 1960s, Vikas Minar, a 24-storey tower was built to oversee the Yamuna and dwarf the Qutab Minar. Who was the Shahenshah, succeeding Qutubuddin of the medieval age, in the 1970s?

Simultaneously, the Delhi skyline changed with skyscrapers, in and around Connaught Place.

Since Delhi is now the cesspool of crime, polluted atmosphere, traffic snarl-ups, hundreds of jhuggis and the sacred Yamuna being the outlet for numerous sewerage systems, combined with water and power shortages, what should be done to save Delhi and rescue it from these mentally-deficient dwarfs and grandiose dreamers?

Answers from geologists and seismic experts are loud and clear, and if these fall on deaf, arrogant, mindless, insensitive urban planners and politicians, Delhi’s doomsday is sealed within the next 10 years or so. A few tremors will bring the skyscrapers, like Vikas Minar, tumbling down, causing uncalculable loss of life and property.

To begin with, Vikas Minar should be demolished as a signal for correcting a gigantic blunder of builders, planners and dreamers. Gradually all government buildings dotting the Central Vista should be “de-cupped” by removal of the three or four storeys and the “solar hats” from them. Bureaucrats, who love large, lavishly furnished office rooms should sit and function in glazed halls, watching the subordinates working under them to be at their desks and not play truant as they now do.

Similarly, private corporations and agencies must assure work-space, not ornate offices and reception for their highly-paid heads and directors.

If living and office is “rationed”, elitism contained and we progress towards egalitarian economic and common order, building and construction materials will be available for housing slum-dwellers and elderly persons, today despised by politicians and policy makers, except they “serve” as “voting banks” during the elections. Why don’t we insist on electing “barefoot” parliamentarians and legislators?

It is also now desirable to guard against these thoughtless planners of high-rise buildings to bring them before the appropriate courts to book them and at the same time indict them at the bar of public opinion — the silent majority of India — so that these mindless leaders do not assume power by becoming turncoats “in the volatile political spectrum of the 21st century”.

It is timely how to foster and support revolutionary steps if Delhi and many Delhiites have to be protected against future shocks. Why should we not recommend that all Union Ministers live in the 35-room Rashtrapati Bhavan, a symbol of the imperialism of Lutyens? Elsewhere, all over the country, in its metropolises, cities and towns, living spaces should be “rationed” to accommodate the growing population, now estimated to be 1,000 million in India.

If it is practicable to relocate 70,000-odd polluting units of Delhi to dissipate pollution and cleanse the air in Delhi, it should not be beyond our planners, architects, urban development experts, builders and construction agencies to “educate” the people to live within the limited “rationed” space allowed to them, whosoever they be.

Future shocks have to be guarded against in the present, not tomorrow when seismic predictions overtake us in Delhi as in Gujarat.

The writer is a retired IIS & IFS officer and diplomat. 


J&K elephant and blind men
Rakshat Puri

THE Vajpayee Government has announced a general and open invitation for talks to all those sections and groups in Jammu-Kashmir that want peace. It has asked persons from "all walks of life" to suggest ways of bringing peace - to suggest, "How it can be attained in the troubled State". The Government has appointed the Planning Commission's Deputy Chairman K. C. Pant as the interlocutor. Some commentators have tended to see the general invitation and the appointment as an attempt to give the five-month old unilateral ceasefire a political content.

Meanwhile, the Jammu & Kashmir issue seems now to be like the elephant in that old familiar narrative about some blind men feeling its body to find out what it looks like. A number of blind men are feeling and fumbling around the body of the J & K elephant trying to understand and decide what it looks like, how it moves. The part of its body touched - its head, ears, mouth, trunk, tail etc - gives each blind man his own picture of the elephant. None of the blind men can agree with any of the other blind gropers about what the elephant is like.

The first blind man is the Vajpayee Government. In spite of the use of adjectives like "commendable" by some commentators, there seems little to say for its general and unspecific invitation for talks. In addition, the Government seems to speak on the subject in many differing voices The phrase "all walks of life" seems intended to embrace socio-religious groups, non-government organisations and other similar sections.

The invitation and the appointment of K. C Pant as interlocutor is hardly going to convince either the Hurriyat or those groups in J & K which are "currently engaged in militancy within the State". How can this kind of casual-seeming approach persuade serious response?

Even though, some commentators have seen in the invitation a departure by the Government from its traditional approach. It is pointed out that omission of the familiar reference to "composite dialogue" indicates that New Delhi "may be prepared for talks centred only on the Kashmir dispute". Will this make any impression in Islamabad?

The Vajpayee Government has not been notably consistent, nor has its moves on J & K been marked invariably by far-sightedness. Consider, for instance, the recent demand for autonomy led by Farooq Abdullah - for Constitution-based autonomy. Had the Government acceded to the legitimate demand, it might have effectively moved towards checkmate by just surrendering a piece.

Or take the case of the Hurriyat leaders wanting to go to Pakistan. Was there need for Home Minister L.K. Advani to make an issue of it - and to leave the impression of scuttling any chance of a compromise solution?

Why should the Home Minister have concluded that the going of the Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan would affect the Vajpayee Government's own basic approach - of talks with Pakistan on only a bilateral basis; and only when the Islamabad regime genuinely curbed "jehaadi" terrorists crossing to the

Indian side of the Line of Control? Nor would the Hurriyat leaders' journey to Pakistan have automatically made them intermediaries between India and Pakistan - New Delhi's insistence on bilateral Indo-Pak talks would have stayed relevant. More: the Hurriyat leaders would have travelled to Pakistan as Indian citizens carrying Indian passports.

This would have placed Hurriyat argumentation in a certain context based on assumptions that may not have been undesirable from India's point of view.

The second blind man is the Musharraf regime. Instead of seeking clarifications on the latest Vajpayee Government's offer, and waiting for details to become available, Pakistan's military ruler rushed into rejection. He has described the offer as an attempt to drive a wedge between Islamabad and the Hurriyat - the Pakistani dependence on the

Hurriyat is touching. Musharraf's spokesman Rashid Quereshi has stated, "the Indian Government is not sincere". He has harped on the "December 2 Pakistani formulation" - restraint on the LoC, withdrawal of troops from the border, tripartite talks involving the Hurriyat leaders, Pakistan and India.

The "formulation" seems almost as if intended to perpetuate the situation in J&K- counterpart to an appearance in Delhi of scuttling chances of a compromise settlement!

Musharraf has said nothing about curbing cross-border terrorism - he refers to the terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and other "Islamic" groups as "jehaadis". He is either unwilling or unable to control "Islam" claiming terrorist groups based in Pakistan.

Talks with Musharraf's regime would be futile if he cannot or will not control the terrorist groups. These groups, actively encouraged from the time of Zia-ul Haq, appear to have become a more than commonly influential factor in Pakistan - a Pakistan that seems in a precarious socio-economic condition.

A correspondent writing in The Friday Times of Pakistan, Zahid Hussain, has observed that if a hundred randomly picked Pakistanis were asked to "choose the five most important things to them" — schools, hospitals, Kashmir, law and order, and gainful employment — "an overwhelming majority will pick employment, schools, hospitals, or law and order, before Kashmir". But, he continues, with the "top politicians" Kashmir

will top the list: "That is the essence of our foremost dilemma. Official Pakistan does not care about what the silent majority of Pakistanis want."

Ayaz Amir has some relevant observations to make in Dawn : For the Musharraf military regime, in Kashmir, "tactical engagement has become an end in itself, with no strategic purpose, at least none readily identifiable or consistent with reality... Over-extended reach, over-extended lances that is our predicament: the tilting at windmills

in the distance when more pressing problems nearer home call for attention. Taxes the state cannot collect, law and order it cannot maintain, or at least not adequately.

But it must be prey to grandiose, if not farcical, ambitions."

Pakistan has an external debt of some $37 billion. The interest payments on this, according to Zahid Hussain, "could build 12,000 new schools every year, employ 200,000 additional teachers and educate four million Pakistanis" and build some 2,000 medical care facilities every year. But "we are poor and illiterate because the priorities of official Pakistan are at variance with the needs of the people".

The third blind man is J & K All-Party Hurriyat Conference. It is a collection of largely disagreeing parties that include the Jamaat-e-Islami, People's Conference, Muslim Conference, JKLF, Omar Mir Waiz and his supporters, the Shiaiite leader Maulvi Abbas Ansari and his supporters, and others.

Some 23 groups have formed the APHC. Funds for the Hurriyat are said to come from foreign-settled Kashmiri Muslims including Fai and Farooq Kathwari in the USA and Rathor in Britain - whether these Kashmiri Muslims are the source of or the conduit for funds is anybody's guess. During an interview with this columnist in Britain in the early 1980s, Pakistan-based JKLF leader Amanullah merely hummed-and-hawed when asked bluntly from where the funds came for his organisation. The rise of the Hurriyat followed the blatant rigging of elections in 1987.

The latest internal difference between Hurriyat leaders is in their response to the Government's general invitation for talks and appointment of K. C. Pant as interlocutor. Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Jamaat-e-Islami has rejected the invitation. Abdul Ghani Lone of People's Conference says, "We will give a positive response".

Another blind man fumbling around the J & K elephant are the so-called "Islamic jehaadis", most of whom are non-Kashmiri based in Pakistan and have no other stake in J&K than their cockeyed version of "Islam".

Islam is not what they make it out to be — just as Hinduism is not what the "Hindutva" projecting fanatics in India make it out to be. Both are two sides of a single old and outdated South Asian coin that they are trying to pass.

Since their "religiosity" has nothing to do with spirituality, which can only be personal belief and search, and since their "religious" approach is based on decrying the "other person's" faith, the present phase may not last too long. It will not be able to withstand progress in this hi-tech century. The tragedy is in the social and individual cost that will be extracted before this phase ends.

The US and Britain have their hands on many effective levers in Pakistan. They could certainly prevail on Islamabad to curb the "jehaadis" and get into bilateral talks with New Delhi. India and Pakistan have enormous potential for mutual economic gain once mutual trust is established. The proposed gas pipelines one example and could be a beginning.

Can New Delhi convince the Bush administration, after Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh's satisfying visit to Washington, that it is in the US's own eventual interest to prevail upon Islamabad to curb the terrorists and get into bilateral talks with Delhi? As things are, the J-K elephant is getting restive with all the pawing and groping of the blind men. It could lose patience and start some kind of stampede. 
(Asia Features)



Congress leader with solid base
Harihar Swarup

SOME people never give up and octogenarian K. Karunakaran is one of them. Completing 83, he has always thrived on controversies and once a challenge is thrown to him, he enjoys the fight. Also, he is the only Congress leader in Kerala with a solid base, commands the allegiance of party workers and wields influence in as many as 23 constituencies.

Though his bete noir, A.K.Antony, has a clean image and is known to be incorruptible, he lacks the shrewdness of Karunakaran who has acquired the image of a ‘‘skilful manipulator’’ and ‘‘master political strategist’’.

Members constituting the Central Election Committee (CEC) of the Congress before antagonising the Kerala strongman should have realised that if he turns hostile, the Congress may loose a winning electoral battle in the politically sensitive state where literacy is almost 100 per cent.

Instead of trying to function in a ham-handed manner, the CEC members should have kept the old man in good humour. Karunakaran was not only declined an audience with Mrs Sonia Gandhi but his daughter, Padmaja, and some of his supporters were denied the party ticket.

Having served the Congress for 68 years, the patriarch of Kerala felt humiliated and his anguish was reflected in his outburst: ‘‘ The behaviour of the high command was very disgraceful... I will never forget it’’.

Alarm bells started ringing when he quit the Congress Working Committee as a permanent invitee. Frantic efforts were launched to pacify him. Karunakaran's next move is still awaited but indications are that he may not harm in the party in next month's election. However, he is certain to create a hurdle if the party gets majority and Antony is projected as the Chief Minister.

Though Karunakaran and Antony are arch rivals, they have one thing in common; both are Gandhian in personal life but in the political sphere antithesis of each other. While there is no holds barred for the octogenarian leader, Antony, much younger in age, is a stickler of morality and lofty principles. Antony's wife works as a clerk in a bank in Thiruvanthapuram and travels by bus, while Karunakaran's son is an MP, whom the powerful father would like to be the next Chief Minister.

Though age has starting telling on Karunakaran, he is still fit, walks fast, swims and loves to drive fast. He is a highly religious man and on the first of every Malayali month drives to the famed temple at Guruvaur to be at the feet of ‘‘Guruvayurappan’’ (Lord Krishna). He firmly believes that ‘‘Guruvayurappan’’ comes to his rescue whenever he faces a grim situation.

Little do people outside Kerala know that Communists call Karunakaran ‘‘the black leg’’ and this nomenclature was given to him when he was in his twenties. ‘‘A person, who betrays and escapes; a person who moves fast and disappears’’ is the literal meaning of the term commonly used in Kerala.

Shrewdly, Karunakaran himself adopted that nomenclature meant to run him down. He derisively began describing himself as ‘‘the black leg’’ much to the discomfiture of his Marxist adversaries.

One of the major achievements of Karunakaran was leading an almost unorganised resistance against the powerful Communist movement, particularly in the area of trade union in Kerala. Not only he spearheaded a non-Communist labour movement but penetrated some of impregnable strongholds of the Marxists. He also exploded the myth that no dispensation in the state can survive without the support of Leftists and, thereby, began an experiment in coalition Governments.

Karunakaran headed a massive coalition in 1977 and completed the full term of his ministry — from 1982 to 1987.

Karunakaran's penchant for fast driving had almost cost him his life. His preference always had been a Mercedes Benz and a couple of years back the Benz could have taken his life.

It was in the early hours of the morning and the road was empty as the Benz, at breakneck speed, raced towards Thiruvanthapuram. It skidded, rolled over and turned over thrice. The VIP passenger on the back seat lay crumpled when his was pulled out. So badly was the Kerala leader hurt that he had to be taken to USA for treatment.

He was in bad shape when he returned and nobody thought that he would be the same Karunakaran again. But the old man, subsequently, showed astonishing recovery and depended on Ayurvedic medicines to regain his health.

Two tragic events had shaken the generally cool and composed Karunakaran; the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi and the death of his wife, Kalyanikkuty, in 1993. She had been a source of inspiration to him and wielded a lot of influence on her husband.

Kalyanikkuty had been suffering from an heart ailment and was flow to USA for treatment. Hours before she passed away a call came from the USA saying that she was improving. Karunakaran was in Delhi at that time. The telephone rang again and the caller conveyed the sad news; she was no more. As his aides ran in and switched on the lights, the Kerala leader asked them to leave him along and switch off the lights. He might have cried in the darkness. 


Devi Lal’s past and present

FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal’s glory remained with him even after his death. The popular leader of the farmers, who passed on his mantle to Om Prakash Chautala, was given a befitting farewell. The honours bestowed on him was doubled as he was not only a former Deputy Prime Minister and the former Chief Minister of Haryana but also the father of the present Chief Minister of Haryana.

Chautala’s clout at the Centre assured that his father was allowed to be cremated at Kisan Ghat, near Mahatma Gandhi’s mausoleum and near the memorial of kisan leader Charan Singh. While allowing the cremation of the Haryana leader at the memorial site, the Centre rescinded on its earlier order to stop all cremations in the area. Incidentally, it was Devi Lal who along with Mahender Singh Tikait fought with the Centre to allot Kisan Ghat for Charan Singh’s memorial.

His death also brought his old friends closer to Chautala. Former Prime Minister V.P.Singh for one forgot his differences with his then Deputy Prime Minister to heap praises on the kisan leader. In the process he has endeared himself to the people of Haryana.

Another patch-up was that of former Janata Dal President S.R. Bommai. When Bommai came to call on Chautala, the Haryana Chief Minister jocularly remarked that in 1991 he had got him ousted from the top post in the State following the Meham incident. Bommai remarked that it had become inevitable to save the V.P. Singh Government of which Devi Lal too was an integral part. Chautala’s parting remark was that the then Janata Dal chief could neither save the Haryana Government nor the one at the Centre.


Is the Tehelka expose a “wake-up call” or a “conspiracy” for the BJP? The party leaders have been speaking in different voices on the issue to the glee of the Congress. While Union Home Minister L.K. Advani described the Tehelka expose as a wake-up call for the BJP, party President Jana Krishnamurthy described it as a conspiracy.

The Congress, looking for every opportunity to nail the government on the Tehelka expose, was quick to point the apparent contradiction. “It is another case of BJP double-speak to confuse the people,” a party leader said.

Uncomfortable questions

BJP leaders have devised their own strategies to handle questions about former party President Bangaru Laxman. Some give vague answers, others switch subject and some just keep smiling after giving a nod or two. BJP member and Governor of Himachal Pradesh, Mr Suraj Bhan was confronted with questions about Mr Bangaru Laxman when he announced the launch of a national apolitical trust for the welfare of SCs and STs.

Was Mr Bangaru Laxman, who till the other day was among the most visible and prominent Dalit leader of the saffron party, a member of the trust, Mr Bhan was asked. The Governor simply gestured to say no and then smilingly added that he would not take any more questions on the subject.

Questions rained but the Governor just kept smiling. To questions about his being able to find time for the trust work even while he was Governor, Mr Bhan said that he could do justice to both and certain tasks he could do in his personal capacity also.

Committed Clinton

Former US President Bill Clinton came to India with a single point agenda — that of getting relief for quake-hit Gujarat. And, nothing could deviate him from his path as was evident during his meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, which was scheduled just before the gala dinner of Zee chief Subhash Chandra.

The meeting, which was originally planned for just half an hour, went on for over an hour as Clinton started narrating his plan for preparing a long-term strategy to meet challenges like the earthquake that struck Gujarat in January this year.

Sonia Gandhi, who was accompanied by Natwar Singh and Aneil Mathrani, had an opportunity to have a first-hand account of Clinton’s assessment of the prevailing ground realities in Gujarat. The USA has rich experience and technologies to deal with such calamities, Clinton said, adding that he would work to transfer the knowhow to India.

Fowl play

It may well turn out to be a battle royale between our very own tandoori chicken and an American product. And only time will tell who throws in the towel first. The hype and hoopla for the battle has already started.

The Indian poultry industry is crying foul about the safety of the frozen American chicken legs and the potential danger of it swarming the country’s market at throwaway prices. Leg pieces, or murg taangri, is not at a premium in the USA unlike India. The battle, therefore, is already tilted in their favour, even before it has started, they say.

Unwilling to let the matter rest, the US Department of Agriculture has come out strongly in defence of fowl, stating that reports were a “ misinformation” campaign. It is safe and not so cheap they say. One only has to see whether the ensuing fowl-play does not metamorphose into a bitter foul play on the battle field.

Flavour of Punjab

The ongoing Punjabi food festival at South Delhi’s Park Royal hotel seems to have appealed to the palate of Japanese and Chinese tourists. Since April 5 when the festival began, foreign tourists, in particular Chinese and Japanese, have come in small groups to taste the much talked about Punjabi food. The festival has also afforded the Punjabi community a chance to prove to their non-Punjabi friends the rich variety the cuisine offers and the fact that they treat eating as a sacred ritual, a matter of celebration.

The entire menu comprises recipes of the legendary Jiggs Kalra. While the liquor menu remains unchanged, the main menu comprises matha, shikanjvi, ambian da panna, Amritsari machhi, Lawrence roadwalley tawae de tikkey tak-a-tin (named after Amritsar’s high street), murg kaalimirch, gurh ka halwa and khasta pinni.

(Contributed by Satish Misra, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Tripti Nath, Prashant Sood and P. N. Andley)


Ripples of discontent in MEA
Humra Quraishi

LATELY we have been swinging between extremes. Full concentration on the foreign tours of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister while somewhat bypassing the rumblings going on in the MEA. In fact last week several senior IFS officers met the new Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer and apprised her of the fact that the previous list of transfers and postings seems to have sidelined these several senior officers who had been awaiting postings. Whether alterations will be made in the list of postings/transfers seems doubtful but a total “review” of those postings is said to be ongoing, for many feel that the former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh left behind many disgruntled in the MEA. And though Chokila Iyer is being described as a “woman of steel” but for her to go back on the previous list would be almost impossible. However, others in the MEA add that this is nothing new for each time there’s a new person at the helm, similar ripples of discontent appear briefly, before they settle down.

I.T. loses bright boy!

Coming to other realities of the day, there’s considerable shock at NASSCOM chief Dewang Mehta’s very sudden death, and that too at the age of 38 years. Before I proceed further with Mehta’s sudden rise it is important to mention that he was diabetic (which could have led to the sudden heart attack and with that another one liner — diabetes is on the rise at an alarming pace, so much so that in another three years every fifth diabetic in the world will be an Indian and blame the scenario on the lack of awareness, stress levels going up, poor diet, nil medical backups). And though I am no enthusiast of the Information Technology spread but Mehta would be more than missed for he was the one man institution who put IT atop the rest of the so-called agendas and did it the hard way. A Gujarati who lost his parents early in life came to Delhi to study (if I am not mistaken it was at the Bharti Vidya Bhavan that he did one of the diploma courses) and then went ahead. In fact there had been as much speculation about his personal life as about his hairline (if Mehta was around in any of the parties the conversation would definitely include surmises about whether it was a wig or natural hair on his head) and the fact that even at the age of 38 years he remained single seemed too much for the rest of the Indians to actually digest. And if it were to be believed that he was “waiting to fall in love” then one can chant with a great deal of confidence that information technology hadn’t corrupted his attitude to life and though Mehta may not have been conventionally good looking, his talks and their diversity (his friends say that he would talk with the same ease about a fashion show, models and fashion wear as about a technology mart) seemed to make up for that. And now the IT sector would have to make up, to find another Dewang Mehta could be difficult.

Three in one evening

Then, as usual parties/receptions/get-togethers eat into each evening. On Baisakhi day it was actually so maddening that in all that rush I couldn’t make it for Tara Punjabi’s special Baisakhi celebrations, complete with Sunanda Sharma and Barkat Sidhu’s sufiyana qalaam. The evening lay fitted with the Sanskriti Awards — for Literature it went to Nazir Mansuri, for Journalism to Smruti Koppikar, for Art to Jitish Kallat, for Music to Niladri Kumar and for ‘Cultural Achievement’ to Sumant Jayakrishnan. Thankfully these awards go to the lesser known and not to the well established who make it a point to grab awards here and there. The same Baisakhi evening 80-year-old Sarla Markandya’s book of poetry, “I Had A Dream” was released and though I have not gone through the verses but what’s special about these poems is that the poet is an 80-year-old woman who wrote to get over a certain turmoil. “This collection of my poems is compiled over a period of time from 1990 to 2000. These are the expressions of my emotions that were triggered off with the complete loss of my hearing, enabling me to enjoy and traverse on the vast landscape of life, which I relish.” Writing can do wonders to you, it has therapeutic powers, has the power to take you away from the world of pain to the world of make believe — not in the fairytale sense but a world complete with realms of paper where pain could be released.

The same evening also saw the opening of paintings by German artist Karsten I.W. Kunert, at the Lokayata. Titled ‘Hidden Beauty’ the special aspect about these paintings is that the artist actually lived for a considerable time in some of our slums in the Safdarjung Enclave to be able to depict the realities from a different angle. Absolutely astonishing to know that this artist trained at the Fine Arts Academy (Leipzig, Germany) and also at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Copenhagen, Denmark) would care to spend time with the slum dwellers. Such artists definitely deserve the media glare and hopefully he should get it.

This passport photo might haunt

Then, psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar’s just launched book ‘Ecstasy’ (Penguin) hasn’t been able to whip up much hype but call it sheer coincidence that around the same time I was going through Amitava Kumar’s book ‘Passport Photos’ (Penguin) and he has mentioned Kakar in a different context — in the context of the Indian servant of Madeline Slade (Mahatma Gandhi’s Mira). To put it in perspective — after shifting from India in 1958, Slade lived at her home in the forests near Vienna with a dog and an old Indian servant, where Sudhir Kakar had visited her “and when the psychoanalyst was leaving the farmhouse Slade’s servant ran after him and begged to be taken to India. The old man was left standing on the grassy meadow as the visitor drove away. Somehow hours after I had finished reading the book this image of the Indian servant of Madeline Slade continued to haunt. If he’s alive, our MEA ought to intervene and get him back, to home lands.


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