Sunday, October 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India





E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


PERSPECTIVE

GUEST COLUMN
Combating proxy war: India can do it
I. D. Swami
W
HEN terror unleashed by an individual who entertains fanciful ambition struck America, world leaders’ attitude towards terrorism has suddenly taken a dramatic change. Indians are happy at this dramatic change of attitude, but we are grief-stricken that this realisation has come at a tremendous cost both in terms of lives and property.

Towards an enduring victory of ‘freedom over fear’
Ashwani Kumar

F
OR the first time, the United Nations Security Council has adopted a unanimous resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter spelling out a comprehensive anti-terrorism framework enforceable qua member states. The resolution mandates that terrorist acts be treated by member states as criminal offences under their respective national laws and enjoins upon members to deny any form of support, direct or indirect, to the perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters.



EARLIER ARTICLES

A scuttled initiative
October 13
, 2001
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
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

KASHMIR DIARY
Intriguing web of incongruities and links
David Devadas
M
Y friend Aftab got married in Srinagar a fortnight ago. His “Pinky bhabhi” took over the kitchen a few days before the wedding She cooked for his entire joint family, leaving his mother and sisters free to prepare for the wedding feast and spruce up the house for the bride. That may not sound at all remarkable, unless you consider that Pinky is not really Aftab’s sister-in-law but the wife of his best friend. That too may sound pretty mundane, unless you also consider that Pinky is from a Pandit family and travelled from Jammu just for this wedding along with her husband, Sunil, and daughter. That’s not all. Aftab is commonly known as Shahid-ul Islam, a name he adopted when he became chief commander of Hizbullah, one of Kashmir’s more radical Islamicist militant groups, in the early 1990s.

MIDSTREAM
New turn in Bangladesh
Rakshat Puri
T
HE bombing of Taliban positions in Afghanistan should have had an expected response from Begum Khaleda Zia’s new administration in Dhaka. The ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been subdued on the “Islamist” criticism of the US and its partners. In contrast to the BNP, the Jamat-e-Islami wants Bangladesh to be declared an Islamic state.

PROFILE

Harihar Swarup
Arduous task on hand to revitalise govt, party
B
ARELY a decade and half back, Narendra Modi was an unknown RSS worker in Ahmedabad, holding “sakhas” and propagating ideology of his organisation. His chequered journey to the post of Gujarat’s Chief Minister , often marked by controversies, has been arduous. He was virtually banished from Gujarat and directed to desist from meddling in the affairs of the State unit after Shankersinh Vaghela split the BJP in 1996. A staunch supporter of Keshubhai Patel then, Modi was largely blamed for alienating Vaghela. Paradoxically, Keshubhai put stiffest resentment in induction of Modi as his successor and in a burst of anger blurted out: “ the high command has forced me to quit at the cost of my self-respect”.

DELHI DURBAR

The shakehand that gets BJP worried
P
OLITICAL circles in the capital are busy speculating the likely fall-out of the new bonhomie between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress. It was the Samajwadi Party which was seen as having spoilt the chances of Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister when the Congress was desperately trying to cobble a majority after the ouster of the 13-month old BJP-led government in 1999. Even in the present Lok Sabha, the NDA government drew satisfaction from the division in the Opposition ranks with Samajwadi Party hardly attending any of the meetings called by the Congress for forming a joint strategy to take on the NDA government.
  • STD blues
  • Osama in India
  • Sarkaritel.com
  • Making news
DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER

Humra Quraishi
Anti-war protests galore in the capital
A
S the US continues to pound Afghanistan there have been anti-war protests and demonstrations here . In fact, on Friday evening, I attended a meet organised by several human rights bodies and they are planning to form a human chain on October 19 at 5.30 pm at the India Gate and thereafter, on October 30, a rally- cum-protest march — to blast the ongoing US bombardment and to focus on the human plight. But before these two events there will be yet another: this Tuesday evening will see several “very eminent citizens” of the city distributing anti-war pamphlets in different colonies of this city.

  • Nobel for Naipaul
  • Update on refugees



Top





 

GUEST COLUMN
Combating proxy war: India can do it
I. D. Swami


I. D. Swami

WHEN terror unleashed by an individual who entertains fanciful ambition struck America, world leaders’ attitude towards terrorism has suddenly taken a dramatic change. Indians are happy at this dramatic change of attitude, but we are grief-stricken that this realisation has come at a tremendous cost both in terms of lives and property. Realism also has dawned on the world community that terrorists’ ability to shock humanity has increased to unimaginable levels and their vision has achieved all the characteristics of apocalypse. The global network of terrorists has acquired the competence, coordination and precision to shock and panic even the most powerful nation in the world. The world woke up finally, and declared war on terrorism.

Major nuclear powers of the world more or less remained without involving themselves in any major war in the last 50 years. But the period has seen a spurt in terrorist activities including suicide attacks for a variety of causes, perceived and real. Regional conflicts and intra-state warfare have claimed more than six million lives and destroyed billions of dollars worth of property. No other nation in the world has paid such a heavy price as India has done for fighting terrorism — the elusive foe of humanity. We lost a Prime Minister, an ex-Prime Minister and not less than 50,000 very valuable innocent lives owing to terrorism.

Invasions and wars have altered the course of diplomacy in the past. But it is for the first time that terrorism has altered diplomatic relations radically across the globe. Diplomacy has changed the course after September 11. The most effectively used weapons in this war against terrorism are not merely the weapons of destruction but diplomatic efforts of persuasion. Diplomacy has been effectively preferred over the military muscle in the war. The world has not witnessed a war of this type before. The nation leading the war drops weapons to kill terrorists and also drops food packets for innocent civilians. The question posed is: why has India joined America in this war?

Most of the time, to fight a war would be a tragedy. But there are rare occasions in one’s life when a refusal to fight may lead to a calamity. We believe in “ahimsa parmo dharma”, yet we fought Mahabharata to put an end to hatred and evil. Today India had to support this war to prevent a greater calamity befalling humanity. When freedom to live is denied or imperiled, it is imprudent to remain a mute witness. India has, therefore, opted not to be neutral in this fight against terrorism. India has opted not to be nonaligned and to cooperate with America to endure freedom and to ensure that terrorism never succeeds again. India has opted to be with America without asking whose war it is anyway. The third position in this scenario is to “neither with the USA nor with the terrorist”. How can India, the biggest sufferer of terrorism, adopt such an unrealistic position?

The USA has tremendous support for its extended war against terrorism. Never before has the world seen such great earnestness among the international community to wage a war. Never before has one seen such an impressive array of countries prepared to fight. Of the countries that border Afghanistan — Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, all fellow-Muslim states — are talking against terrorism. Even China, normally a critic of America, is unlikely to upset the American plan to fight this war. The reason is simple and plain. It is not a fight against any faith. It is a fight against the traitors. It is not a crusade of the 21st century and it is not a clash of civilisations either. It is a fight for the survival of a civilised social order, which is becoming hostage to lawlessness. What is at stake is our right to live.

Democracy may not be very good breeding ground for terrorism because democratic governments innovate ways to address the cases of human dispute. Though democracy had expanded rapidly in the 20th century, dictatorship thwarted its expansion or undermined its effectiveness in many Muslim countries. What exist in many Islamic countries are military-influenced democracies. Though electoral democracies exist in 120 countries, respect for human rights and the rule of law is there only in 85 countries representing 38 per cent of the world’s population. Capable governance for preventing conflicts and violence can be provided only by representative governments.

Terrorism thrives on poverty. When people are in abject poverty — no home, no food, no hope — some of them at least will no longer be afraid to die. Nor will they care about which of their perceived enemies they take with them. Such people are the real recruits for the suicide squads and they are unstoppable. Landlocked Afghanistan, trapped in a medieval past, is a bizarre sight of an impoverished people ruined by decades of war dictated by religious fundamentalists. This is a nation deprived of basic civic, economic and social amenities. Its people have led a minimal existence. Every human-welfare and development index shows that the well-being of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the decline. The world community has come to regard Afghanistan and Pakistan as backward marching nations dead set on a course of deterioration.

Religious schools pose a major problem. They institutionalise segregation of people on the basis of faith. It is here the definition of right and wrong gets coloured. Here children are taught to hate people on the basis of faith and belief and to take revenge. Revenge and hatred are weapons of lethal effect, which can destroy the peace of society. Another factor, which helps breed terrorism, is the anger arising in the minds of people from events of the past over which the present has no control. This is particularly true in the case of Indo-Pak and Israel-Palestine relations.

Terrorists are flush with drug money. Drugs find their way to many countries creating serious social problems. The amount of dirty money (not all is drug money) being washed through the financial system of the world is huge. It is between $ 500 billion and $1.5 trillion a year. That is equivalent to up to 5 per cent of the gross world product. Terrorists have not only mastered the sheer complexities of global financial transactions but also perfected in moving their money in the world’s major financial centres beating the strictest rules and regulations. Vast amounts of money are being used for raising groups for cross-border terrorism.

Terrorists can create an economic pandemonium. Never before had an act of terrorism sent the economic scene of the world for a spin as it did on September 11. Travel came to a virtual standstill. Hotel rooms even today remain empty. It has immediately resulted in lakhs of job cuts; the airline industry alone has announced 116,000 job cuts. Stock markets all over the world nose-dived and in the first week following the attack the loss was calculated at $ 1.38 trillion. The projected loss for the airline industry for September is said to be $ 5 billion. The loss in terms of property is calculated at $ 20 billion. The loss due to the lost working hours is put at another $ 20 billion. The estimated cost to insurers alone is $ 35 billion.

Civil liberties are the first casualty of terrorism and war. For example, American society is one which never sacrifices them. But today Americans are more than willing to sacrifice it on the altar of security. Security profiling was anathema to this society, and today they realise that civil liberties do not require letting people with knives and box-cutters on board jet planes. The question arises: what happens if threats to civil society acquire a virulent form beyond the control of a government?

Terrorism rarely solves problems. Pakistan-sponsored terrorism from across the border has gone for naught in resolving any problem. This is not freedom struggle. We in India know what freedom struggle is. We know it more than anybody else because we fought for it nearly 100 years. But even in that long drawn-out freedom struggle (1857-1947), the number of people martyred (either killed or hanged by the British) was about 10,000. Terrorism alone has killed more than 50,000 in India so far.

We sincerely hope that the war now being waged against terrorism would signal the beginning of a safe world. But we are aware that the chances of success depend on winning as many countries and convincing as many people as possible to the side of those against terrorism. There should be a steely will to win. We are with the world community in this fight. This war has to be won or else a global calamity will befall humanity. India has both the will and strength to win its war against cross-border terrorism or the proxy war.

The writer is the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs. The views expressed are his own.
Top

 

Towards an enduring victory of ‘freedom over fear’
Ashwani Kumar

FOR the first time, the United Nations Security Council has adopted a unanimous resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter spelling out a comprehensive anti-terrorism framework enforceable qua member states. The resolution mandates that terrorist acts be treated by member states as criminal offences under their respective national laws and enjoins upon members to deny any form of support, direct or indirect, to the perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters. This resolution of the Security Council has been followed by the UN General Assembly debating measures to counter terrorism.

The “coalition of democracies” to wage a relentless and decisive war against terrorism anywhere is in effect a global effort endorsed by the comity of nations through the United Nations. The latter has responded in time to support the American initiative. Considering the larger objective, one must resist the temptation to score points against the USA despite its less than consistent and ambiguous role against terrorism in different parts of the world, depending upon its perception of its own strategic interests.

Indeed, support to anti-terrorist initiatives at this stage for a larger and global cause would be an eloquent reminder to the superpower that the principles and values of a civilised world are sustained more consistently by those who have borne with patience and fortitude the brunt of terrorism and the agony that goes with it, as against those who have resorted to a policy of expediency against terrorist groups and who now wish to police the world.

International terrorism could refer broadly to acts of violence which have been specifically identified and outlawed by international agreements and to acts which are outside the accepted norms of international diplomacy and the rules of war. In this connection, those who seek to justify acts of terror with reference to the morality of their cause need to be reminded that as early as 1972 during the course of debates in the UN General Assembly, the legitimacy of a cause has been declared to be irrelevant for the purpose of determining the legality of a terrorist act. (UN Doc.Gen. A/C 6/418, Nov. 2,1972, P.6).

By heeding the advice of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to ratify in requisite numbers the proposed UN Convention on International Terrorism, the world community would have taken a significant step forward in establishing an international legal framework for combating terrorism. This would also ensure that the use of force conforms to the prescribed norms of international law and is not disproportionate in its reach and destruction so as to be counter productive — a caution that must apply to the conduct of war in Afghanistan so that the victory of “freedom over fear” is secured on an enduring basis. In thus securing an institutionalised response to terrorist violence, international law would have defended its existence and relevance to world events. While power feeds upon its assertion, the legitimacy of its exercise must eventually rest upon the effectiveness of its use. The statement of US President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the war effort is directed against terrorists and not Islam or innocent people of Afghanistan is welcome and timely. To prevent the enlargement of the theatre of military conflict, this assurance should be vindicated in the conduct of war.

With Pakistan having emerged as a frontline state in the current effort against terrorism in Afghanistan, India should respond appropriately to subserve its vital security concerns; it should evolve a policy consistent with the realities of the current situation. The people of India who have for the past three decades withstood the onslaught of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir with the active involvement of Afghan mercenaries should now seize the moment and support a collective effort to inflict a decisive blow to terrorist outfits across our borders. We can ill-afford to show cracks in our unity as a nation when it comes to fighting an enemy that has for years sought to undermine the unity and territorial integrity of our nation. Nor does the situation admit of a partisan approach. Our Prime Minister should strive for the widest possible national consensus to deal with the emerging situation.

While we pursue a common mission against terrorism, countries that are generally regarded as being responsible for giving rise to it should concern themselves with the eradication of conditions of injustice and alienation that breed violence. Any serious reflection on the nature and causes of terrorism must begin with the realisation that politically motivated acts are rooted deeply in dedication to a ‘cause’. Thus any legal framework against international terrorism that avoids the question of motivation will not provide an enduring solution to the problem.

For the present, however, the resolve against acts of terror in our pursuit of victory for the values we cherish should remain undiluted. The effort against Osama bin Laden, his terrorists outfits and those harbouring them should be seen as a fight for bringing to justice those guilty of barbarism and for restoration of all those values that are cherished by a free people.

The collective effort against terrorism sanctioned by the comity of nations would indeed have served its purpose if we were to ensure thereby: “.... destruction of the machinery of terrorism wherever it is found; hope amongst all nations of a new beginning where we seek to resolve differences in a calm and ordered way; greater understanding by way of opinions and by way of faiths; and above all justice and prosperity for the poor and dispossessed so that people everywhere can see the chance of better future through the hard work and creative power of the free citizens, not the violence and savagery of the fanatic”.

We would also have vindicated the proposition that in relations between nations, the progress of civilisation is a movement from force to diplomacy, from diplomacy to law.

The writer, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, is Chairman, Vichar Vibhag, All India Congress Committee. The views expressed are his own.

Top


 

KASHMIR DIARY
Intriguing web of incongruities and links
David Devadas

MY friend Aftab got married in Srinagar a fortnight ago. His “Pinky bhabhi” took over the kitchen a few days before the wedding She cooked for his entire joint family, leaving his mother and sisters free to prepare for the wedding feast and spruce up the house for the bride. That may not sound at all remarkable, unless you consider that Pinky is not really Aftab’s sister-in-law but the wife of his best friend. That too may sound pretty mundane, unless you also consider that Pinky is from a Pandit family and travelled from Jammu just for this wedding along with her husband, Sunil, and daughter. That’s not all. Aftab is commonly known as Shahid-ul Islam, a name he adopted when he became chief commander of Hizbullah, one of Kashmir’s more radical Islamicist militant groups, in the early 1990s.

He is now a prominent leader of the Hurriyat Conference but neither his current political agitations for Kashmir’s freedom nor his years as a militant, his initial mujahid stint fighting in Afghanistan or his then pan-Islamic ideology ever affected his childhood friendship with Sunil. So close are they that even Sunil’s two brothers-in-law travelled from Jammu for this wedding and were shown as much deference as Aftab’s own brother-in-law.

It is of such contradictions that Kashmir’s society, politics and militancy are made. These ambiguities make the Kashmir issue tough to comprehend, leave alone untangle. In this once Islamicist militant’s household, Aftab’s sister’s daughter was in tears more than once during that week, out of jealousy over the way Sunil’s daughter was pampered. For Aftab’s family, there was no difference between the two five-year olds, except that the girl visiting from Jammu was slightly, just slightly, more their darling than the one who visits often from another part of Srinagar.

The complex, if silken, web binds Kashmiris to ostensibly unmatchable parts of a wedding. The major feasts organised by the groom were held in the garden of a house occupied by a Sikh friend and colleague of Aftab’s sister. This friend, her husband and their two boys opened their home and hearts to those of Aftab’s guests who would use their washroom or spare bedroom. Meat butchered in the jhatka style preferred by Sikhs was sent to their house for the Sikh guests at Aftab’s walima reception. The rest ate halaal meat under the vast tent in the garden, most of the Hindus from plates, Muslims and a few Hindus from tramis (platters from which four persons eat together).

Also there for the wedding from Jammu was Aftab’s aged grandmother, who speaks Punjabi rather than Kashmiri. Aftab’s mother’s family hails from the Jammu area and consider themselves more Punjabi than Kashmiri. One of his relatives sat down one evening to tell me about how differently weddings are celebrated “hamare yahan (among us).” The Sikhs had their own claims to superior methods of celebration and, to prove their point, invited me to a family wedding in Tral at the end of this month.

That wedding, like Aftab’s, is also to last three days. Aftab’s wedding formalities actually lasted more than a fortnight, though the feasting was concentrated on three days: the mehandiraat of singing, dancing and ritual washing of the groom’s hands and feet, the family feast and nikah the next day, and the walima on the third day. More than a week before all that, women of the extended family and the neighbourhood gathered at Aftab’s house for the ritual cleaning of the rice, the staple at any Kashmiri meal. A few days later, they seeded chillies and then cut onions and garlic. All these rituals were accompanied by traditional singing and, again, a Pandit friend of Aftab’s younger brother arrived from Jammu to lead. A gifted singer, Rajesh has perfomed Kashmiri folk music even at Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium and the women dragged him forcibly to sit in their midst as soon as his bus arrived from Jammu.

A few days later, Rajesh was kept busy through the entire evening and half the night, reading the palms and predicting the futures of a queue of Aftab’s cousins. He told me he had been taught astrology by a Sufi Muslim pir (seer), whose picture he fished out of his pocket, along with one of the Sai Baba of Shirdi. Both Muslim and Hindu saints were equally inspiring to this Kashmiri Hindu.

The web of ambiguities and connections gets only more intriguing as one gets more familiar with Kashmiri society. So do the unexpected ways in which tolerance, nay, affection, spring to the surface of a traumatised milieu.
Top

 

MIDSTREAM
New turn in Bangladesh
Rakshat Puri


Begum Khaleda Zia

THE bombing of Taliban positions in Afghanistan should have had an expected response from Begum Khaleda Zia’s new administration in Dhaka. The ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been subdued on the “Islamist” criticism of the US and its partners. In contrast to the BNP, the Jamat-e-Islami wants Bangladesh to be declared an Islamic state.

Contrary to the stand among the members of the Jamat-e-Islami, Khaleda Zia and her colleagues refrained from voicing any anti-India sentiment during the election campaign. The restraint on anti-India sentiment was effected even though the BNP stated in its election manifesto, like the Jamat-e-Islami, that its “global” objectives included the promotion of “the closest possible links with all Muslim countries”, and support for “struggles for freedom and self-determination” there. Kashmir, as such, was not mentioned. Apparently, this reference in the BNP’s manifesto was a sop for the Jamat, and for the votes that it appeared to influence. The BNP perhaps did not expect the landslide win, and at that stage wished to firm up support from the Jamat.

The Jamat will not try to embarrass the Khaleda Zia government. It will work to consolidate an “Islamic” sentiment. This, it expects, would send it back to the Jatiya Sangsad with an absolute majority. How, then, will it work for the consolidation of an “Islamic” sentiment? Obviously, by quietly encouraging, on the sidelines, all the fundamentalist “Islamist” groups and individuals so that their reach and numbers expand — even if this should mean acting against the Khaleda Zia administration in which the Jamat is now a partner. Right now, the Jamat is dispensable for Khaleda Zia’s BNP. So, if the latter were eventually to shed the former from the coalition, it would make marginal difference to the Jamat’s ultimate plan. In fact, if it were dropped from the coalition, the Jamat would begin to work openly for fundamentalist “Islamism”.

The Jamat’s quietly led “ideological” encouragement to fundamentalist “Islamic” elements that may in the long term create trouble for the Khaleda Zia administration by disturbing peace could be matched by the declared refusal of Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League to accept the electoral verdict. The elections, she and her party colleagues say, were massively rigged. She intends to agitate for fresh elections. In her stunned response to the people’s very decisive verdict, she has even accused New Delhi of being among the countries that she has listed as being against the interest of the League.

New Delhi’s concern over Bangladesh’s election results can hardly be underestimated. Bangladesh neighbours almost entirely on India — there is a tiny sector of common boundary with Myanmar. This should indicate the importance that both Dhaka and New Delhi might attach to affairs and attitudes in their two countries. In the past, Khaleda Zia’s administration is believed to have been actively sympathetic towards the activities of anti-India organisations such as Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, and others who were interested in pushing various separatist movements in the north-eastern states and territories. In contrast, Sheikh Hasina was pragmatic in her approach to relations with New Delhi even when fundamentalist elements in the Opposition described her as “subservient” to India. Because of her pragmatic approach, the Farakka issue was successfully tackled during her term. In addition, there was a perceptible decline in the activities of those who very “Islamically” sought to sow dissension and general trouble in India’s north-east.

Some reassurance has been forthcoming from Begum Khaleda Zia. Her statements have been sensitively moderate and her manner reserved. A number of issues remain to be tackled, the two most important being transit facilities for India’s north-eastern states and territories through Bangladesh; and development of trade and economic exchanges.

As regards transit facilities, Khaleda Zia might be reminded that “loosening” the border between India and Bangladesh would not help India alone, it is an essential prerequisite for increased economic exchanges, which were extremely important for Bangladesh too. India’s suggestion is not intended to dilute the sovereign status of Bangladesh. Both countries could gain through facilities like running of trains and buses between the two countries.

Secondly, such agreements would help make the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation a major economic community. Her late husband, Zia-ur-Rahman, had planned to make South Asia a culture-economic community, a single tariff barrier. He was the first South Asian leader to propose the formation of SAARC which has come a long way. Khaleda Zia could participate actively now to help it go further. After her phenomenal victory in the Jatiya Sangsad election, she has the power and the opportunity. She needs only the will and a sense of history to move in this direction. (Asia Features) 
Top

 

Arduous task on hand to revitalise govt, party
Harihar Swarup

BARELY a decade and half back, Narendra Modi was an unknown RSS worker in Ahmedabad, holding “sakhas” and propagating ideology of his organisation. His chequered journey to the post of Gujarat’s Chief Minister , often marked by controversies, has been arduous. He was virtually banished from Gujarat and directed to desist from meddling in the affairs of the State unit after Shankersinh Vaghela split the BJP in 1996. A staunch supporter of Keshubhai Patel then, Modi was largely blamed for alienating Vaghela. Paradoxically, Keshubhai put stiffest resentment in induction of Modi as his successor and in a burst of anger blurted out: “ the high command has forced me to quit at the cost of my self-respect”.

The BJP’s central leadership has in mind the assembly elections due in 18 months as they rail-roaded Modi to Ahmedabad in spite of resistance put forward by the state unit’s heavyweights. The leadership expects Modi to perform like his Uttar Pradesh counterpart, Rajnath Singh, and resurrect a fast declining party to face the coming electoral battle. Despite Rajnath Singh, the BJP leaders have been keeping their fingers crossed at the poll prospects in U.P. and even thought of a defeat in Gujarat terrifies them. The RSS, therefore, threw to winds its ground rule and, for the first time, allowed Modi, a full time “Pracharak” , to accept a high office.

Fifty-one-year old Modi is not a rabid diehard like many in the RSS hierarchy and known as “new age pracharak” ; designers spectacles, shining gold watch and good things in life is an indication to that effect.

His opponents dub him as arrogant and high-handed but, as spokesman of the BJP, he was amiable, always available to correspondents on the beat and more articulate in Hindi. He was, however, no match to Jana Krishnamurthi who has since become BJP President. Modi faltered when he tried to defend the indefensible or shift the blame for his party’s failures to the Congress and other opposition parties. He was bitter too when he talked of non-BJP leaders. He likened in an interview the state of third front leaders to old people who go in for wedding.” They dress up a bit too much. It gives them tremendous mental satisfaction. Rejected, retired and non-acceptable people are getting together as you can see. In the current atmosphere they are searching for a tailor to get new clothes made hoping for a swearing-in ceremony”. Invectives notwithstanding , Modi is an able organiser, a grassroot leader and a forceful speaker from the public platform.

Modi’s association with the RSS dates back to the later years of his teens. Eyes of a senior “pracharak” fell on a young man who was whiling away time in the canteen of Gujarat Road Transport office in Ahmedabad. The “spark” in the eyes of 18-year old youth impressed the senior RSS man and he introduced him to others in the organisation. Modi actively participated in the Navnirman student movement against Chimanbhai Patel government in 1973. Since then he steadfastly worked with the organisation and the reward came in 1986; he was appointed organisation secretary of the Gujarat BJP.

Modi’s organisational abilities sparkled when he came to the notice of L.K. Advani. He was said to be strategist behind Advani’s cross-country Rath Yatra, beginning from Somnath. He worked out even the minutest detail and, for the first time, came to be known nationally. His expulsion from Gujarat proved to be a blessing in disguise as he made steady headway in Delhi and looked after party’s affairs in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar at the time of elections. Modi has emerged an important leader in the BJP’s hierarchy when he was drafted to pull out the party out of doldrums in Gujarat, the last bastion of the Sangh Parivar. The central leaders were unanimous that only he could successfully lead the party in the assembly elections.

Modi is an OBC, belonging to “Ghanchi” community of north Gujarat. Man of action, as he is, within hours of being sworn-in as the Chief Minister, he directed his followers to refrain from sponsoring full-page advertisement in newspapers congratulating him on his elevation. “Give the same money to for earthquake relief work”, he told his supporters.

His agenda includes revamping a battered party, showing better management of relief operation, bridging the gap between the party and the government and launching a drive against corruption.
Top

 
DELHI DURBAR

The shakehand that gets BJP worried

POLITICAL circles in the capital are busy speculating the likely fall-out of the new bonhomie between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress. It was the Samajwadi Party which was seen as having spoilt the chances of Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister when the Congress was desperately trying to cobble a majority after the ouster of the 13-month old BJP-led government in 1999. Even in the present Lok Sabha, the NDA government drew satisfaction from the division in the Opposition ranks with Samajwadi Party hardly attending any of the meetings called by the Congress for forming a joint strategy to take on the NDA government.

The worry for the BJP is not limited to the Lok Sabha. In the coming assembly elections in UP, any alliance, even an understanding between the SP and Congress, can drastically alter the poll scenario to the detriment of the BJP. But these, Congress circles maintain, are early days and there was no talk yet of any joint electoral strategy. Observers here believe that the effusive praise of Congress president Sonia Gandhi by SP leader Amar Singh, after the two were at an anti-terrorism function organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, could not have come without approval of the party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Yet, Yadav has not so far responded to the bonhomie.

For the Congress, however, an amiable SP means a lot of gain. It enhances possibility of a Congress-led government coming to power at Centre in the polls to the Lok Sabha. Serious moves by the Opposition to dethrone the present government can also start. A senior Congress leader was quick to welcome Amar Singh revising his opinion about the party president but was guarded in saying anything further. “While the SP seems to have revised its opinion about the Congress, has the latter also changed its views?’’ he was asked. “We did not have strong views about the SP earlier too,’’ he chuckled.

STD blues

Such things can happen only on All Fools’ Day. The Department of Post and Telegraph in Leh suddenly got a patriotic brainwave and offered the Indian Army STD telephone connections from where the troops could make calls at 1/4th the market rate. The Army grabbed the offer and three telephones with only 25 per cent of the tariff started functioning from Partapur in the Siachen glacier area from April 1, 2001. Meanwhile, the Army authorities applied for two more connections which they got promptly. It was confusion of the worst kind. Nobody knew the exact status of the new STD phone connections and the Army presumed that the new connections too were functioning on concessional rates.

Two months ago, the Army authorities at Partapur were slapped with bills for the new phones. The concessional phone bills came to about Rs two lakh while the new ones were charged at the usual rate and the bill came to a staggering Rs eight lakh. Now the army authorities do not know how to deal with this bolt from the blue. Did the telephone authorities play an April Fool joke on the Army? Perhaps Pramod Mahajan can answer that.

Osama in India

It is festival time and Delhiites will have a special guest to mark the festivities. The guest will be none other than the most talked about fugitive of the new millennium, Osama bin Laden. The terrorist leader will represent evil in the festivities. The Durga Puja organisers in several parts of the capital said that they have asked the sculptors to incorporate larger than life images of Osama. It may be recalled that initially the organisers planned to highlight the killing of reformed bandit queen Phoolan Devi. Osama has, however, overshadowed her.

Osama will also make an appearance at the Ram Lila maidan where the organisers plan to burn his effigy along with that of demon kings Ravana, Kumbhakaran and Meghnath. The organisers have claimed that the burning of the effigies would be witnessed by the who’s who of politics including the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. It remains to be seen how the security agencies react to the proposal.

Sarkaritel.com

Sarkar and business don’t make good company. But an enterprising Delhi entrepreneur, Ameya Sathaye, has made business out of the Government. The IT professional has launched a unique portal on Government called “sarkaritel.com”. The website is a one-stop shop for any information on Government — the Centre and the States.

Apart from all relevant information pertaining to various government departments, basic information required by the common man like how to make a driving licence, ration card, photo identity card, passport and how and where to pay telephone, power and water bills etc are posted on the site. The site also offers to serve as a facilitator for Central and State Government agencies to disseminate information related to their policies and programmes. Says Ameya: The objective of the website in the coming days is to provide total solution to all the queries related to common man’s dealings with the government under one roof. Does it mean the days of troubling babus in sarkari departments are over?

Making news

For Doordarshan buffs, if there are any, there is good news. DD News Channel, launched with much fanfare on August 15, 1999 and which the government thought many a time to close down, may finally be saved from getting the boot. After months of apathy from politicians and babudom, DD News is finally getting some attention from the authorities concerned. Insiders say, while till late last month the government was inclined to wind up the channel for becoming a drain on taxpayers’ money, there was now a rethink on the whole issue. The government is now said to be thinking of amending the terms of agreement with the cable operators by making it mandatory for them to show at least four DD channels instead of the present three. Needless to say, DD News would be the fourth “mandatory” channel for the cable operators and it would go a long way in improving its visibility.

Moreover, the channel, which had so far been starved of advertisements because of its poor visibility, has now started bagging advertisements. It has already got ads worth nearly Rs two crore. The financial scenario of the channel is looking up as a 6-hour chunk, hitherto kept in the commissioned category, has now been put under the sponsors category.

Channel producers, Rajiv Kumar and Shekhar Chaudhary, have also decided to lay stress on in-house production rather than sub-letting the programmes to private producers.

This measure alone has saved the channel Rs 55 lakh in the last three months. Moreover, DD News channel watchers swear that in the past three months the quality of news-based programmes has improved considerably. Now that is news!

Contributed by Prashant Sood, Rajeev Sharma and T. V. Lakshminarayan.
Top

 
DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER

Anti-war protests galore in the capital
Humra Quraishi

AS the US continues to pound Afghanistan there have been anti-war protests and demonstrations here . In fact, on Friday evening, I attended a meet organised by several human rights bodies and they are planning to form a human chain on October 19 at 5.30 pm at the India Gate and thereafter, on October 30, a rally- cum-protest march — to blast the ongoing US bombardment and to focus on the human plight. But before these two events there will be yet another: this Tuesday evening will see several “very eminent citizens” of the city distributing anti-war pamphlets in different colonies of this city.

The idea to rope in citizens to distribute these anti-war pamphlets has come about as a reaction to the rather disturbing news of last week — when six students — said to be affiliated to the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) — were arrested and imprisoned (they have not been bailed out at the time of writing). Their fault was just that they were seen distributing anti-war and anti-US pamphlets. Several human rights activists sound extremely worried on precisely this account. Does chanting anti-war slogans or distributing anti-US pamphlets provide enough ground to get arrested and imprisoned on a non-bailable warrant? Till Tuesday, we will have to wait and watch to see what would happen to the eminent citizens of this city who will be going public with their anti war stance?

Nobel for Naipaul

There’s news that the 69-year-old author V. S. Naipaul, who has bagged this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, would be in the capital next week. I had met him and his Pakistani spouse on two earlier occasions at Khushwant Singh’s home. Last year on both occasions, Khushwant had arranged for cozy, relaxed dos in their honour and though Naipaul did very little talking, his better half (at least in terms of talking and interacting) seemed to make up for that... A former journalist who had worked in Lahore, she had met Naipaul while he was collecting background material in Pakistan for one of his books, she had told me that that soon after her marriage to Naipaul (this is her second marriage, she has two grown up children from her first marriage) she gave up writing and now doubles as his manager.

I can still recollect the detailed account she gave of Naipaul’s health fitness programme — which includes walking for several hours every week. And though the two seemed poles apart (no pun intended) they seemed to be extremely well adjusted, for though she did seem to talk excessively, he seemed to take it in his stride and occasionally smiled rather wryly.

He came across as one of those who speak through their eyes — large and expressive — which looked sad and tense. No, not intense. Enthusiasm seemed missing even when he spoke of the material he was collecting, while in his travels in the country, for one of his forthcoming books.

Update on refugees

Last week, Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee is said to have offered aid for the Afghan refugees pouring into Pakistan. But before that or at least simultaneously he should offer aid to the 11,684 Afghan refugees who are living as refugees in New Delhi.

Of these, only 721 Afghans are provided a bare minimum economic support by the UNHCR, the rest have to fend for themselves. Last fortnight, one of the dailies brought into focus the plight of an Afghan family here who had to pull out their two school going children because of lack of funds.

Interacting with them leaves you wondering that fairytales (albeit with unhappy ends) extend beyond sheaves of paper — for most of these refugees are from erstwhile well-to-do backgrounds but had to run for their lives when trouble first broke in Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees first came here in the late 70s following Soviet intervention in that country; the second lot came when Najibullah fallout took place in 1992. They continued coming here right till 1995.

Today there are 11,684 Afghan refugees. Of these, 5,405 are Sikhs (also called Indian-origin Afghans). There are about 3,220 Hindus (also called Indian-origin Afghans). The rest are Muslims.
Top

 

READERS’ RESPONSE

Kashmir: India shouldn’t look for outside help 

In his article ‘Defending war and advancing human freedom’ (Oct 7), Mr M.G. Devasahayam has profusely drawn from the emerging world political scenario vis-a-vis global terrorism that has shattered the very basis of the faith i.e freedom to live and let live.

He has rightly projected the fact that in essence the progenitor of terrorism in South Asia is the USA which overtly and covertly helped the Taliban during the Russian assault on Afghanistan. Pakistan was the main conduit to assist and patronise the Taliban with lethal and most destructive weaponry supplied by the USA.

After the Russians left Afghanistan, the weaponry and the arsenals, stockpiled by Pakistan found their way into Kashmir, where the Pakistan and the Taliban backed mercenaries have been engaging themselves in mass destruction, brutal killings of the locals, foreign tourists and security personnel. When the Indian Government invited the attention of the world bodies including the USA to this, they were indifferent .

Instead of looking for outside help in containing the Kashmir turbulence, the Centre and the State should help the aggrieved people with understanding and compassion. They should act fast before this valley of saints and seers is converted into rubbles of Stone Age like Afghanistan. A solution should be found in South Asia itself that will safeguard the interests of all Kashmiris including those who live in exile, within and outside India.

MOTILAL LIDHOO, Shimla

II

Pakistan, who had been instrumental in creating and supporting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, providing ‘pannaha’ to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, organising and imparting training to young men and women in terrorism, suddenly sprung a surprise by declaring ‘unstinted’ support to the USA in its fight against terrorism.

The USA, apparently, has forgiven and forgotten all the ‘naughtiness’ of its whorish ally and once again taken her into its lap, with a loving gaze.

It was amazing to watch British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as the number one PR man of the Western Alliance, telling the Indian leadership to believe that it would be in the interest of India to keep mum even after the latest killings in Kashmir and almost suggesting that it should join the queue for Western Alliance’s recognition and approval of any action against ‘cross-border’ terrorists and terrorism, wholly bred and fed by their frontline state, Pakistan.

He averred that presently the Western nations’ priority was to deal with those who had hurt one of theirs. Kashmir did not feature in their scheme of things, at least not yet.

Equally amazing is the Indian leadership’s acquiescence to such suggestions and inviting the British Prime Minister for extended discussions at a future date.

Pray, tell the nation what further is there to discuss with Blair and Bush, which they are not aware of?

Maj Gen K. KHORANA (retd), Panchkula
Top

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
|
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
|
121 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |