Sunday, October 7, 2001, Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


PERSPECTIVE

Concerted global effort needed to combat terrorism
Kuldip Singh Bajwa
T
HE terrorist strikes in the USA on September 11 have brought the scourge of terrorism into very sharp global focus. Who are these people who can so deliberately and so callously snuff out so many innocent lives? What motivates them to throw away the most precious gift of their own lives?

Defending war and advancing human freedom
M. G. Devasahayam

‘M
AKE no mistake about it’ — overwhelmingly supported by its people, the mightiest nation on earth is at war for ‘defending and advancing human freedom’. Addressing the joint session of US Congress and Senate recently President George W. Bush put it in so many words. 

MIDSTREAM
Afghanistan caught in the crossfire
Rakshat Puri
A
FGHANISTAN is passing through a crucial phase in its history. The American, British, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, Taliban, Northern Alliance and other leaders have all pronounced themselves on the situation. 


 

EARLIER ARTICLES

Hijack drama
October 6
, 2001
Saving the Taj
October 5
, 2001
After Taliban what?
October 4
, 2001
Killing spree unabated
October 3
, 2001
Madhavrao Scindia
October 2
, 2001
UN bans terrorism
October 1
, 2001
Kairon: Punjabi dynamism, American accent, lasting legacy
September 30
, 2001
India on the sidelines
September 29
, 2001
Dominant thinking in USA
September 28
, 2001
Shedding staff flab
September 27
, 2001
Proof muddle
September 26
, 2001
Have pity on civilians
September 25
, 2001
 

Paradox of development
B. R. Lall
“A
M I not a son of India?'' “Can’t we have even a single good classroom in our school?'' These two questions put by a Class IV student of a primary school in an Arunachal Pradesh village as far back as February 1989 continue to ring in my ears till this day. 

PROFILE

Harihar Swarup
Daunting challenges before Khaleda Zia
T
WO warring Begums of Bangladesh, not on talking terms and disagreeing on almost everything, have performed a feat; they have ushered in democracy in their poverty-stricken country. Begum Sheikh Hasina, Banga Bandhu Mujibur Rahman’s daughter, has completed full five-year term as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister and now the leader of the opposition, Begum Khaleda Zia, comes to power in a general elections which, international observers say, was free and fair.

DELHI DURBAR

Madhavrao Scindia’s last rally in Punjab
W
HILE news of Madhavrao Scindia’s sudden death in a plane crash was a bolt from the blue for the people of Gwalior, residents of Malaut in Mukstar district of Punjab were equally shocked. It was here that Madhavrao had addressed his last big election rally. 

  • QUESTION OF TEMPLE

  • HOT SEAT

  • CUP OF WOES

  • SPIRITED CAUSE

DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER

Humra Quraishi
Non-violence isn’t a hollow proclamation
F
IRST things first. Together with the keyword of the month, terrorism, it is absolutely critical to add another to it: non-violence. Almost like an antidote. For the past weeks, there have been informal discussions here, stressing on the counter measures for the growing unrest and backlash.

  • HIJACK DRAMA

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Concerted global effort needed to combat terrorism
Kuldip Singh Bajwa

THE terrorist strikes in the USA on September 11 have brought the scourge of terrorism into very sharp global focus. Who are these people who can so deliberately and so callously snuff out so many innocent lives? What motivates them to throw away the most precious gift of their own lives? What fringe of lunacy takes hold of their human psyche? There is an urgency to find answers to these and many more questions that have come to haunt us.

Terrorism is a weapon of the weak, be they individuals, groups or a state. It’s agenda is often irrational and cannot be easily achieved by a peaceful political process. Recourse to violence is intended to either punish or restrain or coerce a more powerful or an arrogantly indifferent adversary. For example, Pakistan has fought four abortive wars against India but failed to take over Kashmir. In desperation, it has been trying for over a decade to take over the State through a sustained terrorist campaign.

An act of terror is intended to make a statement. This is it and this must be conceded. It is both a presence and a promise. A presence that nothing is beyond the reach of the terrorist. A promise that if the demands are not conceded more of death and destruction will follow. The greater the destruction and more the blood that flows, the wider is the exposure and more traumatic is the impact. Surprise with which the violence is unleashed further enhances the impact. The impact is also proportional to the power of the adversary and the inaccessibility of the target. Such has been the genre of the recent terrorist strikes in USA as well as that of the suicide squads (Fidayeen) raiding well-defended police and the army installations in Kashmir.

In the modern information driven world, the media unwittingly enhances the visibility and thereby the impact of the terrorist strike. The more intense the violence and greater the bloodshed, the more focused is media attention. In the short-term, it goes to enhance the impact of the act of terror. Unfortunately, if carried too far, it is apt to invest the terrorist with omnipotence and invincibility. Undoubtedly in the long run, the global media coverage mobilises public and leadership opinion against terrorism. In response, calm reflection into the causes and the essence of the terrorist objectives is very essential. Impulsive and indiscriminate use of military power would invariably inflict counter terror and serve the purpose of terrorists. Effective antidotes lie in a viable combination of political, economic, social, diplomatic and military effort.

Can a terrorist be reduced to an archetypal profile? Traditionally, a foot soldier in the terrorist ranks was often found to be poor and ill-educated. This may still be so in some cases. If so, money is invariably the lure. This is largely true of Afghan, Pakistani and some of the other mercenaries fighting Pakistan’s terrorist war in Kashmir. Experience has, however, clearly shown that an international terrorist can no longer be type cast. Nevertheless some traits are common. The terrorist is generally young, often a disillusioned male and a driven human being. The common factor is a narrowly focused ideology rooted in religion or a revolutionary dogma that induces blind faith in the cause. This faith is built upon and sustained with intense indoctrination. Here in lies the hold of a deliberately twisted concept of jehad and the promise of supra-human rewards in heaven. The faith is also closely identified with the leader, who is obeyed without question. Leaders like Osama bin Laden, drawing their relevance from religion, acquire an added meassianic aura.

The terrorist divorces himself from the effects of the violence he unleashes. He is completely insensitive to the pain and suffering inflicated. He has, therefore, no emotional involvement with his victims. Killing and bloodshed are dehumanised. Although willing to die for the cause, he is not suicidal. In fact sacrificing his own life goes to resolve the moral dilemma posed by the death and distruction inflicted on innocent people. Death is invested with martyrdom, which not only promises glory but also a slice of immortality. This may be a perverted concept but it does find a hold.

The international terrorists operating in the western countries are far removed from the traditional mould. They are invariably well educated and possess fairly high degree, of technical skills. Among the terrorists, who highjacked the four commercial airliners in the USA, were skilled pilots capable of handling these high-tech and sophisticated aircraft. It can be safely averred that the present-day terrorist is neither deranged nor a psychopath. He has full control over his feelings and sense. He has shown himself quite capable of applying his mind to the planning and conduct of complex operations. This is borne out by the meticulous planning and cool execution involved in the terrorist strikes in the USA. The use of fuel laden commercial aircraft as controlled missiles to crash into pre-selected targets, speaks volumes for innovation and meticulous planning.

The terrorist organisation too have become supra-national and global. The world wide inter-mingling of people of different faiths, the diaspora, the facilities for travel, the global media coverage and the internet have together vastly extended the scope of penetration. In this process, individual leaders like Osama bin Laden, howsover charismatic, are not indispensable. It is vital to dismantle the whole structure wherever it exists. A concerted global effort is needed to eliminate the scourge of terrorism.

The writer is a retired Major General.
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Defending war and advancing human freedom
M. G. Devasahayam

‘MAKE no mistake about it’ — overwhelmingly supported by its people, the mightiest nation on earth is at war for ‘defending and advancing human freedom’. Addressing the joint session of US Congress and Senate recently President George W. Bush put it in so many words. To assist in this war, this nation, perceived as the ‘leader of the free world’, is putting together a formidable and awesome military arsenal that have the capacity to decimate ‘mother earth’ many times over.

Unfortunately though, despite resounding rhetoric and massive mobilisation, this war does not seem to have a face. The essential preconditions for a war are a clearly identified enemy force, specific targets and achievable objectives within a definite time frame. None of these are present in the war declared against terrorism by the USA and NATO forces. The identified enemy, Osama bin Laden, is an individual and the country-Afghanistan-harbouring him do not even have a regular armed force. In the event, it would be better to call it a ‘campaign’ to search and destroy terrorists and their hideouts and also ensure that they do not resurface.

Semantics apart, the purpose for which America is going to defend war and advance human freedom is laudable and deserve the full support of all civilised people. But the images and words put forth so far by American and world media have created a feeling that the war is between the USA plus NATO and Afghanistan and the targets are Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, the truth is that Taliban and Bin Laden are not Afghanistan. In the words of Tamim Ansary, An Afghan-American writer: “They’re not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1996. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think “the people of Afghanistan”, think “the Jews in the concentration camps”. “It’s not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators”.

Comparing the current Afghan situation with Nazi Germany is ominous. In fact German callousness during the Nazi rise to power and the American indifference towards assaults on human freedom and the escalating terrorism elsewhere in the world also bear comparison. If Americans look back, keeping their emotions in check, they would realise that they have been exhibiting a callous indifference towards victims of terrorism and totalitarian rule. India and Afghanistan are typical examples. During the last decade there have been innumerable instances of cross-border terrorism in Mumbai, Punjab, North-east and more importantly Jammu and Kashmir leading to death, destruction and uprooting of families and communities. Pakistan has been the main perpetrator of these terrorist acts and despite requests from the people and Government of India, Americans were not moved and the US Government did not do anything to contain Pakistan whose leaders equated cross-border terrorism with ‘freedom struggle’ justifying loss of innocent lives.

Similar is the case with Afghanistan and the growth of Taliban, which has been ravaging the country and its people, particularly women in the most inhuman manner. Tamim Ansary’s description of this ravage is truly heart rending: “Afghans today are a starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering people. There are at least 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan — a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with landmines. Afghans have no homes, no schools, no hospitals, no infrastructure, no medicines and no health care. In today’s Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around”. Again it was Pakistan’s military that had created and groomed Taliban and imposed them on Afghanistan.

One thought that what happened in Nazi Germany was history and its horror was long past. But unfortunately history has an uncanny way of repeating itself and haunts those who did not heed its lessons. This is what has really happened in the horrendous ‘massacre of the innocents’ by airborne hijacker-terrorists in New York and Washington. America has rightly taken it as an act of horrendous terror and attack on freedom and is going to war against the forces that perpetrated it. But inexplicably, it is terrorist aiding and despotic Pakistan, not democratic and free India, which is America’s partner and ally in the international coalition for fighting terrorism and advancing human freedom! Under the circumstances, the assurance of White House that “the US President’s message to terrorists is clear that those who carry out acts of terror that threaten freedom will find a very strong foe in the United States and in the coalition” does not carry conviction. It looks as if America has not yet learned the ‘lessons of history’.

Be that as it may, “advancing human freedom” would be an empty rhetoric as long as it does not address the issues of hunger and humiliation. It is to this aspect that the emerging coalition should address itself. Terrorism, which is the worst enemy of freedom is not merely a ‘shooting and bombing’ phenomenon of death and destruction but encompasses the human elements of poverty, hunger and indignity. ‘Human security’ that combines dignity and poverty reductions should be at the core of any campaign to advance human freedom. Human security can be described as “a condition of existence in which basic material needs are met along with human dignity, including meaningful participation in the life of the community. While material sufficiency lies at the core of human security, in addition, the concept encompasses non-material dimension to form a qualitative whole. Human security is oriented towards an active and substantive notion of democracy from the local to the global”. This concept of ‘human security’ in essence means freedom from hunger, fear, indignity and ignorance and without such security there cannot be any meaningful human freedom.

Here again, the USA have largely failed despite spending billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money in myriads of aid and assistance programmes through out the world. A dispassionate review of programmes and projects structured, supported and funded by the US aid agencies during the last few decades would reveal that they have benefited only a handful of people and interests ‘towing the official line’. The stated objectives of ‘poverty alleviation’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘advancing freedom’ have hardly been achieved. ‘Human security’ as envisaged above has not even been attempted. This is not confined to India, but applies throughout the Third World. This is why despite spending more money than all other countries put together on aid programmes, the perception of Americans among the poor and lower middle class in the Third World is not very positive. In fact, many of them are aggrieved.

Terrorism gets its birth in aggrieved people’s minds and then makes its presence felt in the world outside. Thus, it must be fought at two levels. The move to destroy the infrastructure for training and harbouring terrorists should be accompanied by serious efforts to quickly find answers to the sensitive problems agitating the people’s minds i.e. human security. Here the USA should not forget its obligations as the most powerful and resourceful nation today. The horrendous happening of Black Tuesday is a nameless abomination that has not only hurt the Americans but the entire civilised people. But hurt, no matter how grave is any excuse for seeking vengeance for vengeance sake. Focused military and counter-insurgency operations to capture the terrorists and destroy their hideouts are in order. But in the ultimate analysis, the battle against terrorism must be fought and won in the minds of people who see themselves as poor, oppressed and humiliated.

It was Pope Pius XII who said: “Freedom is the outcome of the tranquility of peace. Peace comes from within the soul”. The soul of the poor, the oppressed and the humiliated of the world are not at peace. They are haunted by the fear of the known and the unknown. Military action, however mighty it may be, cannot remove this fear and bring peace to the soul. The solution lies in compassion and not in conflict. It is this solution that America and its allies should seek in the ‘war for advancing freedom and justice’. Only then it will be abiding.

The writer is a former IAS officer.
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MIDSTREAM
Afghanistan caught in the crossfire
Rakshat Puri

AFGHANISTAN is passing through a crucial phase in its history. The American, British, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, Taliban, Northern Alliance and other leaders have all pronounced themselves on the situation. The Taliban is clear about its continuous rule over Afghanistan. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said that the Bush administration is determined to “unseat the Taliban in Kabul”, and that “if this meant embracing the Northern Alliance, that would be the direction”. The Russian leaders are reportedly backing the Northern Alliance without reservation and would like to rule over a third of Afghanistan.

The Russians want India to join them and the Iranians to provide unstinted support to the Northern Alliance. Pakistan’s Gen Pervez Musharraf, in course of an interview with CNN Television, voiced concern over American and others’ resolve to replace the Taliban with any alternative regime, especially the Northern Alliance. But he added somewhat cryptically: “Our position is that the Government in Afghanistan should reflect the aspirations of all and take care of the ethnic composition of the country.” He said that he did not know how far the Northern Alliance fitted into this category.

Afghanistan is an artificially created state. It was created jointly by the British and the Russians as a buffer between the two empires. The majority population of Afghanistan is Pashtun. Between 40 and 45 per cent of the people are non-Pashtun. The Pashtuns, who remain a tribal society, occupy the territory’s eastern and south-eastern parts, and spill over into Pakistan’s extreme north-west along the entire Durand Line. The two sides of the border are at most places occupied by the same tribes... the Afridis, the Shinwaris, the Mohmands, the Yusafzais, the Suleman-Khels, the Wazirs, and several others. The Pashtuns, though Sunni Muslims, are known to describe themselves as Beni Israel... the children of Israel.

Afghanistan comprises the southern Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar regions. The Taliban are almost all Pashtuns. To the south-west and along the Kalat-Afghan boundary, in the Registan area, the Afghan population is in the main a smattering of Baluchis. The area is contiguous with Pakistani as well as Iranian Baluchistan, and figured as part of the Greater Baluchistan movement led by Ataullah Mengal, for long resident as an exile in Britain. The Registan area bounds on Iran’s Sistan and Khorasan areas, and its thin and nomadic population is Persian speaking, and Shia.

Moving northward with Khorasan on the west, the journey would take one to the third major Afghan city, Herat, in the Greek-name Parapomisus heights which move eastward to become the formidable Hindu Kush. The Hindu Kush divides Afghanistan into north and south. Along the Hindu Kush and around Kabul live the Hazaaras, who are Shia and Persian-speaking. They are descended from the Hazaars, the regiments, of the Mongol conquerors. To the immediate south and south-east of Herat live the Perso-Turkic Khilji tribes, described in most books as Ghilzais. They are neighbour to the Persian-speaking Abdalis, just north of Herat, who subsequently changed their name to Durrani (after Ahmed Shah Abdali was referred to as Durr-e-Durran — or Pearl of Pearls). Again, to the north of Herat, in the area going right up to the fourth main city, Mazar-e-Sharif, the population is Uzbek-origin. The Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum is of Uzbek origin.

The language spoken in this area is generally Turki, interspersed with Tajiki Persian. (Tajiki Persian was the official language in Delhi’s court from the time of Balban in 1265 until the coming of English in Macaulay’s time, and which has remained an official language in Kabul, along with Pashtu, under the name of Dari). To the east of Mazar-e-Sharif lies Badakshan, containing the Panjsher Valley, and the mountainous Nuristan region bounded on the east by the Kunar and Bashgul rivers, along the frontier with Pakistan’s Chitral. Here the population is mainly Tajiks, speaking Tajiki Persian. Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was murdered by terrorists very recently, was a Tajik.

In addition to Tajiks in this area, there are also small ethnic groups speaking various languages and dialects that remain to be researched and identified. The historical origin of these ethnic groups also remains to be traced — they have been there from Vedic times, and took to Islam barely a century ago. It is said the Nuristan area was formerly known as Kafiristan.

Afghanistan is ruled by the Pakistani-backed, Pakistani-educated, and Pakistani-equipped Taliban. Though under a single ruler, Afghanistan does not give the impression of a nation. It may well become a number of small nations like Yugoslavia.

Though Yugoslavia is ruled by a federal government from Belgrade, various ethnic groups have separated to become different nations. Gen Musharraf’s cryptic remark that “the government in Afghanistan should respect the aspirations of all and take care of the ethnic composition of the country” should be viewed in this context. Was this a way of expressing fear at the consequences of what might happen also to Pakistan if the ethnic groups in Afghanistan begin to claim statehood?

If Afghanistan is divided, it would very likely be along the Hindu Kush, between the Pashtun south and south-east and the Turki-Tajik north and north-west. If the Pashtun south and south-east of Afghanistan were to become a nation-state, what would be the situation in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and the Quetta-Chaman region of its Baluchistan province... both inhabited almost all along the boundary by the same Pashtun tribes? What about the other major players in the Afghan conflict? Are the Russians, the Americans, the British and others pushing policies that relate to the idea of a partitioned Afghanistan? Are they aware that Pakistan’s NWFP and the Quetta-Chaman region would struggle to join a Pashtun nation if Afghanistan were partitioned into north and south? Will the big powers talk over such a proposition with the leaders of the Taliban and of the Northern Alliance? Will they refer to such a proposition at the UN?

The Taliban and the Northern Alliance would not be able to rule Afghanistan and ensure stability and peace; nor does the present situation indicate that the two sides can coalesce for this purpose. King Zahir Shah’s induction might at best be a temporary reprieve. (Asia Features).
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Paradox of development
B. R. Lall

“AM I not a son of India?'' “Can’t we have even a single good classroom in our school?'' These two questions put by a Class IV student of a primary school in an Arunachal Pradesh village as far back as February 1989 continue to ring in my ears till this day. During a visit to Donigaon village in East Kameng district, as part of a training course in the North-Eastern Police Academy in Shillong, I was shocked to see the deplorable condition of the school.

Donigaon is located across a small river. The school in question is a small thatched hut. The plight of the students is miserable. Its leaky roof compounds the problem whenever it rains. Moreover, half the year it rains and for another 3-4 months, high velocity winds disrupt the normal life in this area. As a result, it is virtually impossible for teachers to run the school for nine months!

We had no answers to the two questions raised by the student. They were genuine and heart-rending. Nonetheless, we could hardly help the students, given the magnitude of the problem. Unfortunately, even though this region is endowed with rich bounties of nature having preserved the centuries-old jungles, orchids, rivulets and everything that nature can offer, it is surprising that the fruits of development have not yet reached here despite 54 years of Independence.

This is only one side of the story. The living conditions of the people here is far worse. The people seemed to be living in the Stone Age. They grow some little grain and supplement it with jungle produce. And strangely, some stones are exchanged as legal tender! Paradoxically, even though Donigaon is only 5 km away from the District Headquarters of East Kameng, we appeared to have travelled tens of centuries behind!

I did raise this matter during a dinner session with the Deputy Commissioner of the district. But he expressed his helplessness. Paucity of funds is said to be the problem. The same was the response when I suggested a small 4-5 room Assam-type school building. I was amazed at the DC’s response. For, Assam-type buildings, which we had built for our academy near Shillong, cost Rs 30 per sq ft towards material cost. It wouldn’t have cost a fortune if these buildings were constructed in each of the 2,973 villages. Each building would have roughly cost Rs 60,000 or so. I was stunned to know that the cost of the plinth area in Arunachal Pradesh was Rs 370 per sq ft.

I raised a volley of questions. But all the DC had to say was that he was unable to check corruption, especially involving politicians and officials. Citing an example, he said that neither he nor his staff have ever claimed any margin money. The cost of the plinth area is Rs 270 per sq ft, the margin being Rs 100 per sq ft of the area constructed. Even though neither he nor his staff have ever demanded any money, he is unable to check the menace, especially at the level of the politicians and some civil servants.

This sums up the crux of the problem. Corruption is endemic in the system and is the root cause of the region’s underdevelopment. Consider the extent to which corruption has permeated into the system. Any amount of funds channelled towards development f this region will be meaningless if the officers in charge of these funds are not honest and committed.

Though most of the people seem to feel helpless and have accepted corruption as a way of life, some like the Class IV student are people with a difference and are made of hard mettle. They appeal for their slice of the cake as a matter of right and, if not fulfilled, they would turn violent. This streak of violence is self-annihilating as the people are ultimately pitted against the might of the State.

The innocent face of the Donigaon student continues to haunt me with greater intensity and regularity. I see desperation and indignation in his eyes. Very often, I feel chasing him as a police officer and hear him saying, after being overpowered, “Sir, I never wanted to be a terrorist.’’

The writer, a senior IPS officer, is presently Chairman and Managing Director, Haryana Police Housing Corporation.Top

 

Daunting challenges before Khaleda Zia
Harihar Swarup

TWO warring Begums of Bangladesh, not on talking terms and disagreeing on almost everything, have performed a feat; they have ushered in democracy in their poverty-stricken country. Begum Sheikh Hasina, Banga Bandhu Mujibur Rahman’s daughter, has completed full five-year term as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister and now the leader of the opposition, Begum Khaleda Zia, comes to power in a general elections which, international observers say, was free and fair. Democracy, it appears, has been taking roots in what was East Pakistan 30 years back, but in the truncated Pakistan, the people’s verdict was stifled repeatedly and there is not even remote possibility of revival of the popular rule. Had Bangladesh not been formed, the Bengali people too would have been still groaning under the army rule.

Both the Begums come from entirely different background but have one aspect in common; they were victims of tyrannical army officers. Some disgruntled officers assassinated the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujib, his wife, three sons and all the inmates of his residence to grab power on August 15,1975. Luckily, Sheikh Hasina was then on a visit to West Germany. Six years later, Begum Khaleda’s husband, Ziaur Rehman, who had won the parliamentary elections leading the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was mercilessly gunned by a handful of army officers in the wee hours at Chittagong Circuit House.

Both Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda had taken a vow to end army dictatorship, bring democracy and they have redeemed their pledge. Sheikh Hasina had to struggle for a decade under the banner of her party, the Awami League , to free her countrymen from the yoke of the military rule. Life was much more difficult for Begum Khaleda Zia after assassination of her husband. Unlike Sheikh Hasina, she did not have any political experience and led the life of an housewife even after Ziaur Rehman became the President. Long years of struggle against the autocratic rule of Lt-Gen H.M. Ershad, the man who plotted the cold-blooded murder of her husband, made her an iron-willed leader. She bravely led demonstrations against the military dictator’s rule even after Ershad banned political activities and rounded up large number of leaders including Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda. Both were kept under protective custody.

During her seven-year long struggle — from 1983 to 1990 — Begum Khaleda repeatedly declared, even at the cost of repression by the army rulers: “The main objective of our current movement is to re-establish the democratic system and democratic stability but to achieve this objective, there is need for free and impartial election. As long as Ershad government is in power no election can be free, fair and impartial. The fall of this government is inevitable”. Her words proved prophetic; in December 1990, Gen Ershad, the mighty autocrat, who had unconstitutionally usurped power in a bloodless coup in March 1982, was ousted. Begum Khaleda’s party, leading an alliance, won in the general elections held in March 1991 and she became the first woman Prime Minister of Bangladesh and second in the Muslim world. She joined the galaxy of three great women of the subcontinent — Indira Gandhi, Srimavo Bandaranayake and Benazir Bhutto — who had led the governments in their respective countries. India looks to her for better ties as she begins second term in the Prime Minister’s office.

August 15, 1945 was an auspicious day in Iskandar Mazumdar and Be-gum Tayeba Mazumdar’s family. A lovely and chubby girl was born to the couple in their quiet house in the suburb of Jalpaiguri town. The newly born’s elder sister, who had a few days back broken her doll, instinctively , called the infant as “Putul” ( meaning doll) and this became her household name till she was named “Khaleda”. So charming and beautiful was “Putul” that many in the neighbourhood thought she must have been a fairy or princess in her previous life. The chubby girl grew to become Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the second term.

Khaleda Zia faces daunting challenges as the region is threatened by terrorism and war clouds loom over the horizon. Her brief announcement, soon after the landslide victory outlining the policy of her government, is a manifestation of maturity and foresight. She categorically rejected suggestion of converting Bangladesh ever into an “Islamic republic” even though such a possibility was mentioned in the poll manifesto of an alliance partner implying, thereby, that her country will remain secular. She also asserted that her government would not tolerate terrorism in any form and maintain good relations with India and solve all problems through mutual discussions.
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DELHI DURBAR

Madhavrao Scindia’s last rally in Punjab

WHILE news of Madhavrao Scindia’s sudden death in a plane crash was a bolt from the blue for the people of Gwalior, residents of Malaut in Mukstar district of Punjab were equally shocked. It was here that Madhavrao had addressed his last big election rally. A national leader that he was, Madhavrao was regularly invited by Congressmen from Hindi heartland for garnering support in their favour. In Punjab, he shared a special relationship with Congress MP from Faridkot, Jagmeet Singh Brar. One reason for this was that both of them were office-bearers of the Congress parliamentary party. Mr Brar made it sure that Mr Scindia came for the party’s last zonal rally, held at Malaut on September 11, as part of preparations for the coming Assembly polls.

As it turned out, the Malaut rally was the last big rally Mr Scindia addressed and he could not make it to the party’s rally in Kanpur. An overwhelmed Mr Brar came to Gwalior with a 35-member delegation to pay homage to Madhavrao. The delegation later paid their obeisance at Qila Bandichor Gurdwara in Gwalior which is associated with the Guru Hargobind. Locals say that the Guru was imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. Before accepting his release, the Guru got free 22 local kings who had also imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor.

QUESTION OF TEMPLE

Having paid their last respects to their beloved Maharaja, the people of Gwalior are finding it hard to answer one question. Whose temple would be built opposite the place where Mr Scindia has been cremated in the Chatri grounds?

It has been a recent tradition of Scindia royal family to cremate its family members in front of the temples of Gods they adored and worshipped. There is a temple of Vishnu in front of the memorial of Gajraraja Scindia, of Krishna near the memorial of Maharaj Jivajirao and of Rama close to the memorial of Vijayraje Scindia. Even priests of the temples in Chatri are not sure whose temple would be built near the memorial of Madhavrao Scindia. People say that the `Maharaja’ was not known to specially worship any one diety and paid his obeisance to all with equal respect. He visited places of worship of other religions with as much devotion.

HOT SEAT

This is a Cabinet position where the incumbent is not very comfortable. For the youngest Minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet, Shahnawaz Hussain, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is proving to be too hot. Having spent comfortable days in innocuous Ministries like Coal and Sports, and that too as Minister of State, Shahnawaz was catapulted to the rank of a full- fledged Cabinet Minister in the Ministry of Civil Aviation in the last refshuffle. His flight in cloud nine did not last long as the terror attacks in the USA brought world focus on the airline industry. The industry has gone into a recession since then with flights operation half empty seats to major destinations. Insurance cover for the public sector Indian Airlines and Air India has also become a major issue. The security aspect for airlines had become another sensitive issue.

The Minister had not even recovered from the new workload that the hijack drama took place last week in Delhi. Shahnawaz Hussain had to literally burn the midnight oil to tackle the situation. He heaved a sigh of relief when he learnt that there was no hijack and it was a wrong call. At the end of it all, the Minister confided to a scribe that the aviation sector was a dicey area. People are killed, hijacked and what not. To add to his miseries, the Opposition Congress is now seeking his resignation over the hijack episode.

CUP OF WOES

The number of books which India churns out every year and the number of publishers in the country show that we are book crazy. Unfortunately, this does not translate into direct sales if the country’s 5,000-strong publishers are to be believed. The publishers’ cup of woes is spilling over the brim and they look forward to their new representative body leader, Sukumar Das, to redress their grievances.

One major problem of the publishers is that most libraries instal photocopier machines in blatant violation of the Copyright rules. The publishers are up in arms against this move because while it provides students with a cheap alternative, it does so after hitting the publication industry below the belt. Das, who was earlier this week elected President of the Federation of Publishers and Booksellers Association of India, is determined to declare an open war on this illegal practice. He is all set to mobilise the apex body of publishers to take up the matter with the government to throw the photocopiers out of the college libraries.

SPIRITED CAUSE

It was a cause for which the Army had no compunction in being associated with a liquor company. In a noble gesture, Seagram India has decided to adopt families of five soldiers of the Rajputana Rifles who laid down their lives in various military operations in the country. The company has set aside a sum of Rs 10 lakh in the form of a fixed deposit and the interest would be sent to the families directly every month. Each adopted family is also being provided a sewing machine.

Carried out in association with the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Cell of Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre, Delhi Cantt, the Country General Manager of the company, Param Uberoi, said they were committed to extend all possible support to the Army in future too. Three cheers for that spirited assurance.

Contributed by Prashant Sood, T.V. Lakshminarayan and Rajeev Sharma.
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DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER

Non-violence isn’t a hollow proclamation
Humra Quraishi

FIRST things first. Together with the keyword of the month, terrorism, it is absolutely critical to add another to it: non-violence. Almost like an antidote. For the past weeks, there have been informal discussions here, stressing on the counter measures for the growing unrest and backlash.

And for several people here, it’s back to discussing the great merits of non-violence. “After all non-violence is a state of mind and it is very essential to teach its true concept to our people, to the masses especially in the times we are living in... if only we are taught non-violence at the school or college or even later at the University, a person would react differently even if angry and frustrated’’, says Sudhamahi Reghunathan, Vice-Chancellor of the Jain VishwaBharti Institute University in Rajasthan. These are not mere hollow proclamations, for the University has actually begun teaching non- violence in the Bachelor and Masters level and now plans to extend it to correspondence courses. GOI is planning a new agency on the pattern of the USA’s dreaded FBI, but why should we Indians overlook our very own indigenous method to contain violence —Gandhi’s non- violence. Ironically, the US is patenting our neems and basmatis and here we go westwards looking for the so-called solutions.

Moving on, it is said that one of the first signs of troubled times (and we definitely seem to be amidst them) is that more and more of the written word will be getting churned out .And this week writer activist Saroj Vasishth (whose name is synonymous with the humanitarian work she’d done at the Tihar Jail and is presently engaged in doing similar work in the jails of her home state, Himachal Pradesh, sent me Sahitya Akademi’s bi-monthly journal, “Indian Literature’’. This latest issue (July-August) provides special focus on Himachal Pradesh. It’s an excellent idea to dwell on each one of our states and its people and Vasishth’s introductory note together with short stories by several writers connected with the State gives a detailed account of Himachal’s history, its periods of turbulence, people and literature. And whilst on the power of the written word, let me also include the anguish laden words of Punjabi writer Ajeet Cour who not only heads the Academy of Fine Arts And Literature but is also on the governing council of the SAARC countries’ literary wing. She has circulated amongst the general public a letter titled, ‘Appeal for Peace and Sanity’.

Impossible to overlook space constraints but here are some of the lines penned by her which should stir the sensitivity especially of those who have gone through pain. I quote “The world is not the same after September 11,2001. Tremors are being heard all over the world even now. A nameless, faceless terror seems to be stalking the streets of every city and every village, and in the unknown conscious and subconscious dusky retreats of our hearts and minds...Now we see thousands and lakhs of Afghan refugees travelling on no-road roads, dragging their innocent children and veiled women on dusty paths, with thirst-parched lips, and hunger as constant companion, walking towards unknown destinations...And I am reminded of similar hungry and thirsty and tattered caravans of helpless people, tens and thousands of them, with whom I travelled on the same sort of unfriendly dusty roads at the time of Partition of India 1947’’.

In fact, last week I myself visited several Afghan refugee families in New Delhi and each had a harrowing tale to render. Living on the brink of bankruptcy on every front, a different sort of fear stalks them. The fear of hopelessness and the no job scenario. Some of the men were bureaucrats in Afghanistan whilst others have been professionals, but without jobs now. Some of them did mention in discreet terms that police keeps an extra vigil on them though the UNHCR’s Chief of Mission in India, Mr A.P.Mahiga , had told me that the Afghan refugees in India are law-abiding people and keep to themselves. I wonder why most of us find it so easy to forget our own painful history and are refusing to offer a hand of friendship to those displaced.

HIJACK DRAMA

Call it ridiculous or unfortunate, there seems something amiss about the government’s explanation to the hijack drama which unfolded and then folded up here. Insiders say, Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaaz Hussain cannot be taken to task because then they (the Vajpayee Government) would lose the Muslim showpiece in the Cabinet. If you have politics running along caste and religious lines, then this is the inevitable aftermath.
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