Saturday, October 13, 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


EDITORIALS

A scuttled initiative
I
T was a bold and profoundly significant initiative by a Chief Minister but his party high command scuttled it, and it is a pity. Karnataka Chief Minister S.M.Krishna convened a meeting of his contemporaries from all states to debate economic reforms and build a broad consensus.

Brave old words
S
ILENCE is golden. And when it is made an element of state policy, particularly for dealing with sensitive issues like the security of the country, it often proves more precious than real gold. Of course, the current stock of Indian leaders was never known for attaching any importance to letting action speak rather than words. 

Honour, at last!
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad NaipaulI
T has been the same story during the run-up to the Nobel Prize announcement for the past many years. A hush falls on the literary circles and the buzz is that at least this time, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is going to make it. But the award had remained elusive, making the reclusive writer increasingly bitter and petulant. 



EARLIER ARTICLES

Complete isolation of Taliban
October 12
, 2001
War impact on economy
October 11
, 2001
Testing time for Musharraf
October 10
, 2001
Air raid on Afghanistan
October 9
, 2001
Blair’s blank words
October 8
, 2001
Concerted global effort needed to combat terrorism
October 7
, 2001
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
 
OPINION

Jayaprakash Narayan symbolised humanity
“Lok Nayak” needed today like never before
M. G. Devasahayam
“Q
UIT India Movement” launched by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8, 1942, was only making halting progress in the initial months despite Mahatma's mass following and the efforts of the Congress to make it a massive movement. 

ON THE SPOT

Leaping on to anti-US bandwagon
Tavleen Singh
I
T is, said the Taliban’s Ambassador to Ismalabad, an illegal action by the tyrant America. A terrorist act on the whole Muslim world, a disgrace and dishonour to the whole of the Muslim world. He was speaking a day after the first war of the 21st century began with an attack on Afghanistan last week.

WINDOW ON PAKISTAN

Musharraf finds English Press helpful
Gobind Thukral
O
BVIOUSLY it is the US bombing of Afghanistan and the consequent protests in several cities that continues to dominate the mainline newspapers in Pakistan. But then there is a vast difference what the moderate English newspapers like Dawn, The Nation, News International and magazines like the Friday Times or even Frontier Post write and what Urdu newspapers like Nawa-e-Waqt or Jung write.

A date with Naipaul in Chandigarh
Sanjeev Gaur
E
VERYTHING remains so vivid. After all, one was meeting the master, acknowledged as the prophet of the English prose among the living writers who should have got the Nobel Prize after the publication of his most famous novel, “A House of Mr Biswas.”

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

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A scuttled initiative

IT was a bold and profoundly significant initiative by a Chief Minister but his party high command scuttled it, and it is a pity. Karnataka Chief Minister S.M.Krishna convened a meeting of his contemporaries from all states to debate economic reforms and build a broad consensus. He also thoughtfully invited Prime Minister Vajpayee to be in the chair but mostly to listen to the voice from the other side as it were, the states. The meeting was to be held at Nandi Hills, a picturesque resort town away from the tyranny of bureaucracy and the glare of the media on October 25 and 26. The idea had several plus points and no minus points. It was the brainchild of a Congressman with proven credentials of being a reformist leader. And the Congress is the main opposition party at the Centre. This very fact will wipe out the false belief that the issue of economic reforms is a battle between the NDA government and the opposition. Further, a meeting called by a state government makes all participant Chief Ministers equal partners and not subservient delegates at a function hosted by the Centre and dominated by Union Ministers reading out the speeches written by their secretaries. Above all, it would have re-established the reputation of the Congress as the father of reforms and liberalisation initiated in 1991 by the Narasimha Rao government and particularly by the then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh.

All this has been lost. Some adviser of Congress president Sonia Gandhi convinced her that a possible consensus worked out at a Congress-convened conclave will project the party as the B team of the NDA and that is bad in the run-up to the Punjab and UP elections. Obviously it is a man or woman with an oppositionist mindset, one who believes that the sacred duty of an opposition party is to oppose, no matter what the issue is and what the national interests are. Frankly the Congress cannot disown economic reforms or globalisation, having introduced them with vigour in the first place. The Left parties have genuine ideological opposition to these policies and their ideas deserve to be incorporated in the final government decision. Regional and splinter political formations are confused or bent on distorting the basics to build their vote banks. The Congress does not have this choice as it sincerely hopes to come back to power one day. Its best option is to arrive at a consensus and be one up on the government and occupy the high reforms ground. It has lost the opportunity by directing Mr Krishna to cancel the meeting on the pretext of the Dasehra festival. Never has the festival been hijacked as this year. 
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Brave old words

SILENCE is golden. And when it is made an element of state policy, particularly for dealing with sensitive issues like the security of the country, it often proves more precious than real gold. Of course, the current stock of Indian leaders was never known for attaching any importance to letting action speak rather than words. Most of them simply love their voice. But must they continue to make statements that really do not add up to much at a time when the globe is virtually sitting on the edge watching with bated breath the outcome of the relentless pounding of a defenseless Afghanistan? It may be meaningless drivel meant for domestic consumption. But in the current globally surcharged climate a carelessly spoken word can invite a sharp reaction from the international community. American President George W. Bush did not waste time much in delivering a sharp rebuke to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for claiming to have received an assurance that the current action in Afghanistan would be short and target-specific. Unhappily when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee himself could resist the temptation of making a populist statement in the course of a public meeting in Balia it becomes difficult to find fault with the carelessly crafted "policy statement" issued as a matter of habit by External Affairs-cum-Defence Minister Jaswant Singh and Union Home Minister L.K. Advani.

Mr Vajpayee is said to have dropped a broad hint about the possibility of military action in Kashmir while inaugurating the year-long birth centenary celebrations of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan. The PMO is likely to issue a clarification or a denial or both. But the fact remains that not all the journalists covering the function could have misunderstood what the Prime Minister said about Kashmir. The reports clearly stated that the Prime Minister said that he was willing to examine Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's suggestion to go to war with Pakistan with the specific goal of destroying terrorist training camps in POK. The Prime Minister may have thought that since war on terrorism is the global flavour of the season, his statement would be taken as helping the same cause. He has evidently not read US Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that his country does not believe that India would try to take advantage of the prevailing situation for starting a conflict with Pakistan. Shorn of its diplomatic sheen it amounts to telling India to "lay off". And if the urge to pick up a fight with Pakistan at this juncture does not go America is capable of using much harsher language than General Musharraf used not too long ago. 
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Honour, at last!

IT has been the same story during the run-up to the Nobel Prize announcement for the past many years. A hush falls on the literary circles and the buzz is that at least this time, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is going to make it. But the award had remained elusive, making the reclusive writer increasingly bitter and petulant. This time the expectations were not as high as in the past. After all, he had just been dropped from the shortlist of this year's Booker Prize, an award he won as far back as 1971. So, his becoming the 98th Nobel literature laureate is not only a matter of delight, as he has said, but also of surprise. The achievement is all the more unusual if seen in the backdrop of the provocative remarks that he has been making of late. Because of his outburst against Islam's colonising principles and the artificial loyalties that the religion demands of its converts, many people had convinced themselves that he would not be in the reckoning this year. His selection is bound to make his critics uncomfortable, who will surely discover or invent political connotations in the signal honour conferred on him. But he has been his own man all his life. Just go through his remarks on civilisational clashes, E.M. Forster's homosexuality, literary merit of others and even the capabilities of the Nobel selectors and you will discover a highly anguished, independent and sensitive soul. Perhaps all this churning was the result of an acutely felt rootlessness that did not allow him the luxury of calling any country his own. At the same time, he wanted to be acknowledged by the best. Now that he has scaled the ultimate peak, perhaps his writing would touch an even higher plane.

The award is perhaps going to be cheered the most in India, a country in dire need of icons. In fact, the Trinidad-born has himself paid rich tributes to "England, my home" and "India, home of my ancestors," after winning the award. He has studiously avoided saying anything about Trinidad, the country which he is said to hate. Anyway, he has had a love-hate relationship even with India, a country which, he says, shattered him. But he is not as critical of this "Area of Darkness" as he used to be at one time. However, the Indians have always loved him like one of their own. The affection is bound to intensify now. After all, he has become only the seventh Indian or person with Indian roots to be awarded the Nobel Prize and only the second for literature after Rabindranath Tagore. Imagine having to wait for nearly 90 years (Tagore won the prize way back in 1913) for the signal honour. His detractors call him a "Hindu nationalist who has a deep dislike of Muslims". The writer of such gems as "A House for Mr Biswas" is least bothered. What matters most for all genuine lovers of literature - be they from India or any other country on the globe -- is that the award has gone to a man acknowledged to be the "greatest living writer of English prose", whose works "compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories". A man of such stature is more than entitled to his privacy, extreme views, eccentricities, idiosyncrasies and what have you. 
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Jayaprakash Narayan symbolised humanity
“Lok Nayak” needed today like never before
M. G. Devasahayam

“QUIT India Movement” launched by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8, 1942, was only making halting progress in the initial months despite Mahatma's mass following and the efforts of the Congress to make it a massive movement. But the daredevil escape of a revolutionary called Jayaprakash Narayan from the high security Hazaribagh Jail and the massive manhunt launched by the British regime to capture him 'dead or live' inflamed the country leading to the success of the Movement. A.P. Sinha, a close friend whom JP tried to persuade to join the escapade, had this exhortation to make to the latter prior to the escape: "J.P., I am sorry I cannot make the break with you. But let me help to cover your getaway. You have got the passion that can make people's spirits soar up. You can inspire them to self-sacrifices, to accept sufferings. You are a great national leader".

Yes indeed. Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP was among India's tallest leaders who had “worked and marched, fought and died” for Independence and the triumph of freedom in a country wherein live one-sixth of the human race-not once, but twice. But this “gift” of his has been ignored and his name is being virtually erased from public memory. This,in fact is the trauma and tragedy of the Indian nation, keeping its resourceful but miserable millions, at the bottom of the pit. We worship the high and the mighty or those anointed or propelled by them. We adulate self-seeking, power hungry hypocrites hailing them “messiahs” and “'revolutionary leaders” just because they throw some crumbs at us. But we ignore and indeed humiliate sincere, honest and selfless people who have given everything for the country and its people, but did not seek anything in return. JP is one such man who sacrificed his everything —his youth, his family, his health and his life— so that this country attained freedom and later sustained it. Tragically today at the centenary year of his birth, he stands near totally forgotten, slighted and ignored by the very people whom he loved so intensely and passionately.

More than a quarter century ego, in the dark hours of the night of 25/26th June 1975, when people slept, this ancient land of ours, wedded to freedom and democracy since independence, stealthily slipped into slavery. In earlier instances when Indians lost their freedom, these were through external aggression and hegemony. But this time around, the nation and its people were sought to be subjugated through internal repression and suppression of dissent wrought in by a native, democratically elected leadership, which was facing public wrath due to its various acts of commission and omission. This sordid saga of National Emergency which imposed dictatorship by suspending India's Constitution and depriving Fundamental Rights to its citizens, is the most devious and dubious chapter in India's 54 years existence as a free nation. Painfully so, since this was done with consummate ease and through a seemingly democratic process.

During the 18 months of active emergency, people moved in hushed silence, stunned and traumatised by the draconian goings on. Across the nation, groveling academicians, advocates and accountants vied with each other to sing paeans of glory to the emergency rulers, some signing pledges of loyalty and servitude in blood! Bulk of the Civil Service crawled when asked to bend. Higher echelons of Judiciary bowed to the dust and decreed that under emergency regime citizens did not even have the “'right to life”. Politicians of all hue and colour, barring honourable exceptions, lay supine and prostrate. There was gloom all around and it looked as if everything was over and the world's largest democracy was slowly but surely drifting into dictatorship. But through this all, one single soul, one lonely spirit, continued to stir in anguish and agony, for the first few months in captivity at Chandigarh and later attached to a dialysis machine at Bombay's Jaslok Hospital and a spartan house at Patna. Yet, this defiant, indomitable spirit in the person of Jayaprakash Narayan dared the might of Indira's dictatorship and defeated it thereby restoring India back to Freedom and Democracy. This he did despite being in the frailest of health and living on borrowed time. I had the distinct privilege of being a witness to this. In fact I have been a small instrument in accomplishing this, since at that time as Commissioner cum District Magistrate cum IG Prison of Chandigarh I was the custodian of 'JP in Jail'.

Those who were closely associated with JP during the post-independence period consider him as the "sentinel and custodian of the Indian conscience" who never sought after power. Dada Darmadhikari, a compatriot and close associate of JP says: "Two qualities were unique to Jayaprakash Narayan. This man was never a "candidate" for any office. Democracy allows a legitimate space for "candidature". But this man was never a candidate for office is indeed exceptional. In our country at least, with the exception of Gandhiji, there is no other such example. Jayaprakash was not intimidated by failure. It could never compel him to abandon his search. The long lines of failures were for him “stepping stones” towards success. This was something unique about Jayaprakash. Being with him one could risk being wrong. For many like me, it was a privilege and sheer joy to be with him in endeavours that involved the risk of grave failures. And yet the longing to overcome and accomplish never ceased".

This trait of JP was very much evident in 1977 when he rallied disparate political parties and forces of freedom and accomplished the “impossible” task of defeating Indira Gandhi at the polls and restore India to democracy. Calling him “an inconvenient prophet”, JP's chronicler Sunanda K. Datta-Ray has this to say: "The faithful regard him as the best prime minister India never had. Like Mohandas Gandhi and Ram Manohar Lohia, he declined to seek or hold public office". JP was an iconoclast with compassion and Datta Ray explains why: "He was heir to an ancient and formidable legacy. Bihar's Magadha heartland, where JP was born, "not only produced relentless fighters and exterminators of kings" but "hearkened at the same time to the devout teachings of Vardhamana Mahavira and Gautama Buddha".

JP was a dreamer and an idealist to a fault. It was Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's fiery oratory and his call to "lift up to the skies like leaves before a storm" that drew JP to the freedom movement. For JP freedom transcended beyond politics and included freedom from hunger, poverty and ignorance. This conviction was the hallmark of JP's struggle throughout his life before and after independence. Power and office did not appeal to him and he remained a revolutionary in thought and action. Though Jayaprakash was a believer in the Communist school of thought, he joined the Congress at the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru and fought for Independence shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ram Manohar Lohia, Ashoka Mehta, Achyut Patwardhan and Acharya Narendra Dev.

On the attainment of Independence when people scrambled for loaves of office JP stood apart concentrating on his efforts to lead the congress party towards the socialist path. He politely turned down Pandit Nehru's repeated invitations to join his Cabinet. In 1954 he blended himself with Vinoba Bhave's Sarvodaya movement. He gave up his landed property and withdrew from all personal activity to devote the rest of his life to the movement. He set up an “ashram” at poor and backward Hazaribagh trying to give Gandhian concepts a new dimension by using modern technology to uplift the villages. Even Prime Minister Nehru's suggestion in late fifties that JP could be his successor did not lure him back to politics.

But true to his idealism and passion, JP returned to active politics in 1974 at the ripe age of 73 when student unrest against corruption, unemployment and high inflation was spreading like wild fire threatening to turn violent and go beyond control. In the face of terror and repression unleashed on the students by the governments of Bihar and Gujarat, JP took charge and thus was born the “JP Movement” that shook corrupt and authoritarian governments at their very foundation. Riding the crest of a popular upheaval against all that was rotten in governance and public life JP declared at a massive rally in Patna: "This is a revolution, friends! We are not here merely to see the Vidhan Sabha dissolved. That is only one milestone on our journey. But we have a long way to go... After 27 years of freedom, people of this country are wracked by hunger, rising prices, corruption... oppressed by every kind of injustice... it is a Total Revolution we want, nothing less!"

In June, 1975, Indira Gandhi imposed emergency thereby extinguishing freedom and democracy, the very air patriots like Jayaprakash Narayan breathed. The thundering response of JP reverberated through out the length and breadth of the country: "Freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life and it has remained so ever since. Freedom with the passing of years transcended the mere freedom of my country and embraced freedom of man everywhere and from every sort of trammel-above all it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the mind, freedom of the spirit. This freedom has become a passion of my life and I shall not see it compromised for bread, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else". Mrs. Gandhi acted fast and incarcerated JP and all frontline leaders of the opposition, including rebels in her own party. But true to his words, JP fought back, put together a disparate coalition of political parties, defeated Indira's Congress and restored freedom to India within 21 months of the imposition of emergency. But ailing as he was and wedded to a dialysis machine, he did not live long to consolidate the forces of democracy. Within months this coalition collapsed and soon thereafter JP died a broken man in October 1979. Though JP always wanted only to be a “Lok Sevak” (People's servant) people in their abundant love hailed him as Lok Nayak (People's leader) Jayaprakash Narayan and the “Second Mahatma”.

Today, on the occasion of the centennial remembrance of this titan among men, Indian nation is crumbling. It is dissolving into bits and fragments. Like the jumble of various odds and ends, in a wayside shop, this nation lies scattered in innumerable castes and sects and communal fringes. The 'community' is nowhere in sight. Of the 'Nation' there seems not a trace. Governance seems to be at a deep discount, selling itself to the highest bidder. As to integrity and values in politics and public life, despite valiant efforts by some institutions like the Supreme Court, the situation appears to be grim. Politics has reached its nadir in some parts of the country and crafty politicians and political parties seem to have succeeded in persuading a section of the public that corruption is a virtue rather than a virus that destroys the very vitals of our society and economy. Manipulated and orchestrated “people's will” is being pitted against the majesty of India's Constitution, which is the very foundation of our freedom and democratic existence. If this is the state of the nation and its polity, it is time for “We the people who gave ourselves the Constitution” to question the kind of democracy being practiced in the country.

Among the tributes paid to JP, the most moving came from Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee way back in 1978: "JP was not merely the name of one person; it symbolised humanity. When one remembered Mr Narayan two pictures came to one's mind. One was reminded of Bhishmapitamah lying on a bed of arrows. There was only one difference between Bishmapitamah and Mr. Narayan: while the former fought for the Kauravas, the latter fought for justice. The second picture was one of Christ on the Cross and Mr. Narayan's life reminded one of Christ's sacrifices". Nevertheless, the government headed by Prime Minister Vajpayee has done precious little to perpetuate the memory of this great patriot who won India its “second freedom”.

Be that as it may, the memory of such a man can neither be forgotten nor erased. It will remain embedded deep within the hearts and minds of all those who cherish Freedom, Democracy and values of honesty and integrity in public life. As for JP's sacrifice it shall never go in vain. On this centenary year of JP's birth we can say in the words of poet Rudyard Kipling:

"The tumult and the shouting dies; the Captains and the Kings depart;

Still stands thine ancient sacrifice; an humble and a contrite heart,

Lord, God of hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget...Lest we forget"
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ON THE SPOT

Leaping on to anti-US bandwagon
Tavleen Singh

IT is, said the Taliban’s Ambassador to Ismalabad, an illegal action by the tyrant America. A terrorist act on the whole Muslim world, a disgrace and dishonour to the whole of the Muslim world. He was speaking a day after the first war of the 21st century began with an attack on Afghanistan last week. What was particularly offensive was the manner in which he tried to portray Afghanistan as the aggrieved party, as a victim not a villain.

President Bush, in his efforts to build an international coalition against terrorism, has repeated that there is no neutral ground in this war. You are either with America or on the side of the terrorists. The Taliban’s one and only ambassador, Abdul Salam Zaeef, could have been canvassing support on his behalf because the sense of grievance in his words was sickening when you remembered the real victims: those who died such terrible deaths and for no reason on September 11.

As the war progresses and refugees pour out of Afghanistan with tales of innocent victims of the war there will be a tendency to view America, as usual, as the big, bad super-bully. In our fair and wondrous land there have been signs of this ever since the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were attacked. Apologists for the liberals, the Left and “secularism” have tried in a variety of devious ways to make a case against America. Vishwanath Pratap Singh, former Prime Minister and famed trouble-maker, wrote on the edit page of one of our national newspapers that the war must not be against Islam. Who said it was? Not a single Western leader, only the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and various Islamic fundamentalists so it would be interesting to know where V.P. Singh really stands.

Well-known editors and columnists have tried to make the case that if the Palestinians had received more international support and if babies had not been allowed to die in Iraq (because of UN sanctions) there would have been no Osama and no terrorist attacks on America. Others have pointed out that Yasser Arafat was also once considered a terrorist by the West and still others have bemoaned the fact that India’s instant and generous efforts of support were spurned by America. Does this mean we should be on the side of the Taliban in this war?

We cannot be if only because the Taliban government, along with his allies in Pakistan, have succeeded in turning Kashmir’s so-called freedom movement into an Islamic jehad. We need to remember that this terrorist jehad has spilled over into the rest of India as well and any support for it is dangerous and wrong. Pakistan’s military ruler, in his first press conference after the attack on Afghanistan, was gracious enough to condemn the suicide bombing of the legislature in Srinagar. This was terrorism, he said, and had nothing to do with the “freedom movement”.

If only he had been as prescient in recognising terrorism as terrorism when innocent Sikh and Hindu villagers in Jammu and Kashmir were massacred by his so-called freedom fighters. But, perhaps, the fact that the war against terrorism is now considered a global enterprise has made him see things differently.

Musharraf’s remaining in power in Pakistan is important from an Indian point of view. Last week he jailed some of his country’s more troublesome clerics in an attempt to quell the violence that erupted against the attack on Afghanistan. It is one of these clerics, or perhaps a caboodle of them that could come to power if the General becomes increasingly unpopular for joining America’s fight. If this happens then the small chance we have, at some distant future date, of living in peace on the sub-continent fades. Muslim clerics, as we have seen in recent days, appear to live in an even smaller, deeper pond than our Hindu fanatics do and they would have no raison d’etre left if the Kashmir problem was ever solved.

We need General Musharraf, however, hated a figure he may be in India, if only because at the moment he looks like the only Pakistani ruler who stands between order and Talibanisation in his country. Those who complain about his being a military ruler need to remember that it was under democratically elected leaders like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif that the Taliban got created with the full support of the Pakistan government.

Meanwhile, we need to be prepared to face our own domestic fallout of the war in Afghanistan. Our own Muslim clerics got together last week to jointly condemn America for its war. Clearly, they also see the Taliban as the aggrieved party, this is worrying, particularly when our leftist and liberal opposition parties are also showing signs of leaping onto the anti-America bandwagon.Top

 
WINDOW ON PAKISTAN

Musharraf finds English Press helpful
Gobind Thukral

OBVIOUSLY it is the US bombing of Afghanistan and the consequent protests in several cities that continues to dominate the mainline newspapers in Pakistan. But then there is a vast difference what the moderate English newspapers like Dawn, The Nation, News International and magazines like the Friday Times or even Frontier Post write and what Urdu newspapers like Nawa-e-Waqt or Jung write. There are no shrieking headlines; of course banner headlines are the in thing in such a situation, yet there is no yelling at the Americans in the English language Press. The Urdu Press is more strident in its tones and since masses read this press with a degree of faith, it carries more conviction. Remember it was the Nawa-e-Waqt senior journalist who asked a simple but pertinent question from President Pervez Musharraf after his return from the Agra summit that got him in trouble.

And, now to add to the woes of the authorities, a large contingent of foreign journalists have landed in Pakistan. While Musharraf is apt at the handling of the Press, these “frangis” are a source of trouble. They could ask questions like corruption in the higher ranks of the army and why the ISI chief has been sacked and these then get reported in a prominent way in the local Press. Musharraf needs a friendly Press as much he needs American dollars to stay in power. And, at least the English Press is helpful.

But many newspapers were concentrating on Indo-Pak relations and the question of Kashmir. Commenting on the war against terrorism, Dawn in its editorial expressed some positive hope when it said, “As America’s war against terrorism focusing on Afghanistan stretches to the fifth day, some positive developments are emerging in the geopolitical scenario of the region. These could lead to greater stability and peace in South Asia, provided the war does not drag on indefinitely and the fighting in Afghanistan does not escalate. One key factor will be the role the US decides to play to help normalise India-Pakistan relations. It has been announced from Washington that the Secretary of State Colin Powell will be visiting the capitals of the two countries at the weekend to address their worries about how the Afghan crisis can impinge on their relationship. The second important development has been the move by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee to revive the Agra process, which will help ease, tensions between the two countries.”

The assessment offered by Dawn spoke about the possibilities. It said, “With India-Pakistan relations having touched a new low in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, the promise of a new turn in bilateral equations in South Asia is most encouraging. Although the US has made it clear that Colin Powell will not be mediating between the two countries, it has conceded that the Secretary of State would try to work with both to reduce tension in the region. There has even been mention of Mr Powell discussing ways to bring India and Pakistan closer to a settlement on Kashmir once the Afghanistan crisis is resolved. The fact is that without the good offices of a third party it is not easy to sort out the differences between the two countries.”

But Dawn had a word of caution. It opined, “However, for any such initiative to bear fruit, it is also important for both India and Pakistan to approach the question of their bilateral problems more flexibly and with greater accommodation than in the past. In fact, in the given context, they should see the wisdom of conducting themselves more maturely and responsibly on their own in dealing with these issues — and not under prodding from one or the other major power or under the force of circumstances.”

But the Frontier Post from Peshawar, the hotbed of the Afghan mujahideens made caustic comments on India. Calling the invitation extended by the Pakistani President to the Indian Prime Minister as a statesman-like approach, it said, “This was the statesman like thing to do in the face of the stark opportunism that the Indian leadership has put on display ever since last month’s terrorist attacks in the United States”. 
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A date with Naipaul in Chandigarh
Sanjeev Gaur

EVERYTHING remains so vivid. After all, one was meeting the master, acknowledged as the prophet of the English prose among the living writers who should have got the Nobel Prize after the publication of his most famous novel, “A House of Mr Biswas.” Remember the novel! The hero of the novel is a journalist, perhaps Naipaul himself or his father, who was also a journalist. His father worked for The Trinidad Guardian. He was basically a short story writer and Naipaul’s real teacher in the art of reading and writing. Naipaul has consistently acknowledged that he was groomed in writing by his father.

This was in 1989. Violence and militancy were still on the rise in the land of five rivers. This was the post-Operation Bluestar or the post-Bhindranwale phase in the border state — the killings of innocent people, more by “boys”, as the Punjab militants were called, and now and then also by the security forces, were still going on. A gentleman journalist, Rahul Singh, based in Mumbai, who had once edited one of the leading Chandigarh English newspapers during the peak of militant violence in Punjab, wrote to this writer in Chandigarh to announce Naipaul’s arrival in the city on April 2, 1989. “Naipaul is writing another book on India. He is keen to do a chapter on Punjab. He will speak to you about Punjab and particularly about your days with Bhindranwale”, Rahul Singh wrote to me in his matter-of-fact style.

Naipaul stayed in the posh Hotel Mountview, once owned by M.S. Oberoi. The same evening I was face to face with the celebrated writer whose prose as well as content I had admired since my college days. At first glance, he was deep — like his prose — not very tall, but his short, casually trimmed pepper-and-salt beard and those thinking eyes are still vivid in the mind. He was only interested in Bhindranwale, the man — how he looked like, how he talked — and Sikhs and Punjab. For about fifteen minutes, everything sounded very formal, cautions as well. He was a great listener. But then suddenly, like a school teacher, he said in a scolding voice: “But you are not opening up. You are not telling me the truth.” After a pause, he again carefully listened to the humble reply of this small fry. The reply was: “Sir, you know I was stabbed by the ‘boys’ for being critical of them and I don’t want to be a martyr for trying to tell the truth on Punjab.” Naipaul smiled. Now pen in his hand and his notebook on the lap, he said: “Don’t worry. I will give you a new name to protect your identity.” Feeling reassured, I gathered courage and then spoke frankly on Punjab, on Sikhs and on Bhindranwale, and also admiringly watched the master coolly writing his notes, only occasionally interrupting the flow. No wonder, he is the master of the narrative.

The meeting over “nimboo-pani” lasted nearly two hours. It was a joyful experience. Naipaul proved more intoxicating than scotch or even first love. He was full of grace but tough as an interviewer. The meeting for me was a great lesson in journalism. The best tool of interviewing and writing, Naipaul conveyed loud and clear, is not the pen, not the paper, not the typewriter and not even the computer. The art lies in asking questions like Naipaul asks when he interviews or when he converses with people and then listening — he is a listener par excellence, this I noticed during that memorable April evening meeting.

In September 1990, Naipaul’s “India — A Million Mutinies Now” arrived in the market. I picked up the book from a shop in Chandigarh’s Sector 17 and glanced through it. It was a joy to be quoted by Naipaul in the Punjab chapter. But in the master’s hands, Dilip, “another journalist”, speaks more intensely and in a more interesting manner in the same chapter. One wonders about Dilip whose identity remains unknown. Who is this unknown journalist who spoke to Naipaul at length about Bhindranwale, Sikhs and Punjab?
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You have to keep well. The secret is with you. No nibbling between meals. No fruit-chewing or anything else while walking. Take what you must at stated meals as so much for sustenance.

—Mahatma Gandhi to Amrit Kaur, July 30, 1945.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 81

***

Man is two men; one is awake in darkness, the other is asleep in light.

— Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

***

The full moon rose in glory upon the town and all the dogs of that town began to bark at the moon.

Only one dog did not bark, and he said to them in a grave voice,

"Awake not stillness from her sleep, nor bring you the moon to the earth with your barking."

Then all the dogs ceased barking, in awful silence.

But the dog who had spoken to them continued barking for silence, the rest of the night.

***

Upon a June day the grass said to the shadow of an elm tree,

"You move to right and left over often, and you disturb my peace."

And the shadow answered and said, "Not I, nor I. Look skyward.

There is a tree that moves in the wind to the east and to the west, between the sun and the earth."

And the grass looked up, and for the first time beheld the tree. And it said in its heart, "Why, behold there is a larger grass than myself."

And the grass was silent.

—Kahlil Gibran, The Wanderer

***

Eat only what will swallow

And gratify the hollow

Within with good digestion -

Put not your health in question.

—The Panchatantra, Book I
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