Tuesday, October 23, 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

Build on the triumph!
T
HERE was a time when whatever might happen in other disciplines, a victory in hockey was assured. No longer. We are as much in the dumps in the national game as in any other. So strong is the despondency that even when the hockey colts were on giant-killing spree in the Junior World Cup at Hobart, no arrangements were made to telecast the matches live. 

50 years of BJP
A
CTUALLY it is not half a century of the BJP, which was born only in 1980 after its expulsion from the crumbling Janata Party. But it was a reincarnation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which joined three other formations to form the Janata.

APEC and terrorism
W
HEN the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organisation was founded 12 years ago it was decided that the forum would never discuss politics, or anything other than ways and means to promote economic growth.


EARLIER ARTICLES
 
OPINION

How fair is Army judicial system?
Parliamentary body on defence groping in the dark
Harwant Singh
T
HE Parliamentary Committee on Defence in its report, tabled in Parliament a few weeks ago, has severely criticised the Army judicial and redressal system. The stinging comments on the military’s judicial system are apparently due to the increasing number of personnel seeking relief from the civil courts.

 
REALPOLITIK

Middle class backlash against Vajpayee
P. Raman
‘V
INASHAKALE viparita buddhi’ has been a quote nauseatingly used by disgruntled politicians to snipe at each other. But even the Prime Minister’s friends and admirers now find it impossible to find any other explanation for his government’s successive measures that tend to alienate his own constituency.


Churchill chased flying saucers
Paul Harris
B
RITISH scientists and generals drew up a top secret report on Unidentified Flying Objects and then decided to cover up a wave of rumours and sightings that swept Britain in the 1950s, The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.



75 YEARS AGO

Ramlila at Delhi

TRENDS AND POINTERS

Taliban looting charity offices?
O
NE of the main non-governmental aid groups working in Afghanistan said all its offices in the Taliban-held north had been ransacked by the Islamic movement and were now closed. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), which runs extensive medical and education facilities in the country, said its office in the city of Ghazni, on the road between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, had also been closed.

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS



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Build on the triumph!

THERE was a time when whatever might happen in other disciplines, a victory in hockey was assured. No longer. We are as much in the dumps in the national game as in any other. So strong is the despondency that even when the hockey colts were on giant-killing spree in the Junior World Cup at Hobart, no arrangements were made to telecast the matches live. Now that the "glory boys" have lifted the cup, some pinching is going on to know if it is for real. After all, hardly any title crown has come India's way since the 1980 Moscow Olympics. But the wild celebrations that have spontaneously erupted everywhere are not only because this happens to be a rare victory. It would have counted as a signal victory even if India were claiming titles every day. The huge margin is also an indicator how authentic the supremacy was. That the adversary was none other than Pan-American champion Argentina made it all the more sweet. We were losing tamely to the same team not too long ago. It is interesting that while senior hockey has been on the decline during the past two decades, the juniors have been on the ascendancy. Inch by inch, they have climbed to the pinnacle. Now that they are there, there are two possibilities. One, the long-awaited conquest could become the turning point in their fortune and coax them to scale still-higher peaks. And, two, it might just be a flash in the pan after which things go back to the normal, dismal self. The boys have shown that as far as grit and talent are concerned, these are available aplenty. It is only a question of nurturing them well. That, unfortunately, is one department where we fare consistently badly.

Actually, sports administration is a mess. Politicians and bureaucrats rule the roost; sportsmen themselves are second-rate citizens in this cesspool. An international event is not meant for providing exposure to players, but to facilitate globetrotting for the administrators. Favouritism, regionalism you name the "ism" and it is there, eating the entrails of Indian sport. That is why most veteran sportspersons are a frustrated lot. The jubilant boys winging their way back home are yet to contract the standard infections. If they are kept beyond the ill effects of the usual dirty games that the sports administrators play, they can bring laurels to the country. The golden age of hockey can be revived even by a small band of committed sports lovers. Just weed the leeches out. At the same time, let us provide a level playing field to all games. As former Olympian Zafar Iqbal has commented so poignantly, if hockey can get even 10 per cent of the support that cricket gets, we would be world-beaters again. Anyone listening?

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50 years of BJP

ACTUALLY it is not half a century of the BJP, which was born only in 1980 after its expulsion from the crumbling Janata Party. But it was a reincarnation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which joined three other formations to form the Janata. It shrewdly decided to claim the legacy of the Janata Party which roared into power in the aftermath of the emergency regime. Otherwise there was no reason to re-emerge under a new name that lacked lustre. The party’s reclaiming of its past, which is relegated to history, is very interesting. It is revitalising for an organisation to look at its roots and examine once again its strengths which have pummelled it to power. Anyway, in a country where the mortality rate of political parties is alarmingly high, the stamina and success of the BJS/BJP are remarkable and praiseworthy. And it is a happy thought that some of the founding members, a small group, are still available to guide the organisation. They are all RSS members still struggling to come to terms with political power in a complex polity.

The India, rather the Bharat, of their dreams is receding inexorably and the political wing (BJP) realises that it cannot arrest the drift. But the mother organisation and those not in power and who hark back to past commitments think otherwise. Supreme RSS pracharak Atal Behari Vajpayee accurately felt the pulse. He admits that there is a communication gap between the BJP-led government and the party. Seemingly, it is about a misunderstanding on his presence at the celebratory function. But given his style, he was referring to the widening ideological differences within the party. As he rightly said, the 24-party coalition is balanced by give and take. Every party has given up something to stay together. The BJP has given up its hard pro-Hindu stand and if he has his way, he will stall the building of a majestic Ram mandir. This has proved to be divisive and as the leader of the coalition, he is more committed to government stability than to sharpening the communal issues the party believes in.

Home Minister Advani obviously belongs to the other group. He links the massive success of the party to the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation with the climax of his rath yatra. But he knows that the hyper Hinduisation will bring in diminishing returns as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajnath Singh realises. Mandalisation and the BJP’s attempt to unite the Hindus in the name of cultural nationalism has intensified the natural fault lines in Indian society, along caste divisions. This has grave implications and parties which identify with high castes have much to lose. And the BJP is one of them. But banish this thought when the BJP is somewhat noisily celebrating its 50th birthday.

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APEC and terrorism

WHEN the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organisation was founded 12 years ago it was decided that the forum would never discuss politics, or anything other than ways and means to promote economic growth. The two-day Shanghai (China) gathering that ended on Saturday deviated from the chosen path, of course, under extraordinary circumstances following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA. The world leaders who gathered under extremely tight security discussed, besides trade-related issues, the non-economic problem (terrorism) but "in general political terms", as one media representative described it, quoting Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Guangya. This was unavoidable, as terrorism leads to economic instability which must be prevented by every international grouping. Moreover, the USA was specifically interested in winning from this significant gathering, dominated by Asian nations, unrestricted support for the military action in Afghanistan. President George W. Bush, who left the shores of his country for the first time after terrorists struck at New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, lobbied backing for his Operation Enduring Freedom but could not succeed beyond what the Shanghai declaration said, "Leaders commit to prevent and suppress all forms of terrorist acts", besides giving a "call for increased cooperation to bring perpetrators to justice". There was no mention of the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, which has claimed hundreds of innocent lives and forced lakhs of people — women, children, the old and the ailing — flee their homes to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

In fact, host China joined the two predominantly Muslim APEC members — Malaysia and Indonesia — to express qualms about what was going on in that landlocked country ruled by the condemned Taliban militia. The Malaysian and Indonesian stand is that any measure taken to stamp out terrorism should not go against the civilian population. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri wants the bombing on Afghanistan to end soon as it may lead to socio-economic destabilisation in her country. But more embarrassing is the statement issued by China and certain other APEC members that there should be "no double standards" in tackling the international scourge. China has its own terrorism problem in Xinjiang province where the Uighur minority (Muslims) is up in arms demanding separation from the mainland. Perhaps, the developments at the crucial APEC meeting, the first such gathering after the US-led bombing began in Afghanistan on October 7, have had their impact on the thinking of the American leadership. The latest US declaration that the military action is likely to be rounded off soon before the onset of the Islamic month of fasting — Ramazan — reveals more than it hides.

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How fair is Army judicial system?
Parliamentary body on defence groping in the dark
Harwant Singh

THE Parliamentary Committee on Defence in its report, tabled in Parliament a few weeks ago, has severely criticised the Army judicial and redressal system. The stinging comments on the military’s judicial system are apparently due to the increasing number of personnel seeking relief from the civil courts. The number pending in the civil courts in 1992 was 1723, which jumped to 6024 in 2000. During the last year the civil courts decided 1100 cases but the fresh cases during the same year were 1500. The committee attributes this exodus to the civil courts to the loss of faith in the military’s internal arrangement for the redressal of the grievances and fairness of its judicial system.

Mr KTS Tulsi, former Additional Solicitor-General, opines that General Court Martial (GCM) proceedings lay “excessive” emphasis on discipline and the “hierarchical system.” Obviously, Mr Tulsi feels that a halfway house to discipline is possible and should meet the requirement of the Army. He is not aware of the central position discipline holds in the military scheme of things and the rationale to the hierarchical system. Discipline is the very bedrock on which the military structure rests, without which it will simply collapse like a house of cards. Adherence to the channel of command is vital to the military functioning without which there would be confusion and chaos. That a former Additional Solicitor-General of India should be so unaware of the basic ethos and functional demands of the Army is indeed a sad reflection on the level of knowledge of the military on the part of those dealing with the military’s legal cases.

Civil courts are generally not familiar with the peculiar environments and extraordinary conditions under which the military is required to operate and rightly reluctant to accept cases pertaining exclusively to the armed forces. That used to be so earlier but not anymore, and this in spite of the Supreme Court’s caution in the case of Major Hussain versus the Union of India (Civil Appeal No 6257 of 1995, D/-8-12-1997). If a court martial has been properly convened and there is no challenge to its composition and the proceedings are in accordance with the procedure prescribed, the high court or for that matter, any court must stay its hands. Proceedings of a court-martial are not to be compared with the proceeding in a criminal court.......”

This lack of knowledge of the military system of justice (GCM) by our higher judiciary had led to an order by a high court that the military court at a GCM should record a speaking/reasoned order. The court at a GCM is somewhat similar to a jury in a civil court. Its members have no legal qualifications and as such are not in a position to write a speaking/reasoned order. Such a reasoned order could be subjected to scrutiny in case an appeal is made before a civil court, which in today’s climate is more often the rule than an exception. The Supreme Court of India was alive to the fact that the very nature of composition of a court at a GCM did not qualify it to record a speaking/reasoned order and, consequently, in the case of S.M. Mukherjee versus the Union of India (AIR 1990, SC 1984, PARA 43), held that at the stage of recording findings and sentence, the court martial is not required to record its reasons.

Subsequently, Parliament, in its wisdom, passed a Bill giving birth to the Army Amendment Act, 1992, making it mandatory for the court at a GCM to record a speaking/reasoned order. Thereby hangs a tale of delivering a grievous blow to the military system of justice by lawmakers, in blissful ignorance of the nature of military law.

The requirement of recording speaking/reasoned order by the court at a GCM tends to subvert the very spirit and nature of the jury system of this court. The Judge Advocate Branch Officer on the court is there only in an advisory capacity on issues specific to law points and procedures and does not form part of the court. Since he is the only qualified officer in legal matters and the one who can (in fact does) write the speaking/reasoned order, he has come to exercise undesirable influence on the court, thus undermining the very rationale to the jury system at the GCM.

Of the 1100 cases decided by the civil courts during the year 2000, 86 per cent were in favour of the military and the remaining 14 per cent in favour of individuals (against the military). Of these 14 per cent, 70 per cent related to medical disability and pension cases (administrative matters concerning the MoD) and the remaining 30 per cent were miscellaneous cases. Out of the miscellaneous category, only 7 to 8 per cent pertained to disciplinary cases. Therefore, statistically in less than 5 per cent of the GCM/SCM (Summary Court Martial) cases the verdict is reversed by the civil courts. Now this percentage is much lower than the reversal of verdicts of lower courts by high courts and those of high courts by the Supreme Court. This clearly establishes the fairness of the military justice system. Obviously, the Parliamentary Committee on Defence is short on detail and tall on comments. It should rather search elsewhere to find out the reasons for so many disciplinary cases and petitions in the Army.

Why should medical disability cases end up before the civil courts when the military is sympathetic to their cause. The rub lies in the procedure worked out by the MoD (Ministry of Defence). A medical disability case is decided by a full medical board. Its proceedings are then reviewed at the MoD (CDA-Pensions), and in a large number of cases the degree of disability recommended by the medical board is arbitrarily lowered. Almost all of the cases taken up with the civil courts in the medical disability category pertain to this unjustifiable action at the MoD. This is so in spite of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Sapper Mohinder Singh versus the Union of India (SLP (C) No 4233 of 1993) wherein the court had ruled that the percentage of medical disability sanctioned by a medical board can be altered only by another duly constituted medical board. The court annulled the reduction in his disability brought about by the CDA (Pensions).

Spare a thought for Sepoy Mohinder Singh (and similar others cases). He lost a leg, may be over a mine in Sri Lanka, or was frost-bitten at Siachen or hit by a bullet on the LoC. The medical board gave him 40 per cent disability (adding Rs 130 to Rs 140 per month to his meagre pension). The CDA (Pensions) arbitrarily reduced it to 20 per cent; cutting his disability pension by half (Rs 65 to 70). Mohinder had to fight his case all the way to the Supreme Court, with the Union of India, in whose cause he lost his leg, opposing him tooth and nail, at every stage, to deny him the princely sum of Rs 65-70 per month! Also consider what it takes for a poor and illiterate sepoy to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court and be heard.

Mercifully, a recent administrative order has removed the provision for review of the medical board recommendations. But this ruling is not being applied to the earlier cases and, consequently, these continue to be taken up by the civil courts. Other cases pertain to pensions where illogical and arbitrary scales are imposed by the MoD.

Over time the Army has undergone attitudinal/behavioural changes and, keeping in step with the nation, the value system has seen a fall. Taking up of cases by the civil courts offers great advantage. The case can go on for years and in the meantime the accused can continue in his job with all the service benefits. Dilatory and delaying tactics of the civil courts are now increasingly being applied during GCMs as well, as seen during the recently held GCMs of Major Bhatnagar and Major Madhan at Chandigarh. The nature of their offences was so serious and sensitive that they required disposal in matter of days/weeks through Summary General Court-Martials for which due authority rests with the Northern Command.

Among the miscellaneous category, some percentage pertains to the denial of promotion, where in very rare cases the civil courts are able to grant relief. The promotion prospects in the Army are so poor that 50 to 55 per cent of the officers are denied promotion at the very first selection rank — rank of Lieut-Colonel. The system is so warped that officers with above average service record also find themselves rejected because the selection is vacancy based. This high rejection rate is due to the pyramidical rank structure which can be easily broadened at this level of the pyramid. Earlier this disadvantage was somewhat compensated by a Running Pay Band provision, which was done away with by the Fifth Pay Commission, in spite of vehement protests from the armed forces. The assured career progression (three promotions) laid down by the Fifth Pay Commission has also not been applied to the Army. Cases in this category being taken up with the civil courts must be seen in the light of general frustration resulting from this most unjust system.

Therefore, the cause for the large number of military personnel rushing to the civil courts is not that the justice and redressal system is unfair and partial and, consequently, has resulted in a loss of faith, but the Army itself has been dealt with in an unfair manner. An acute shortage in the officer cadre and a large number of officers seeking premature retirement are perhaps a reflection on the unattractive nature of the military service itself. There is general discontentment and frustration in the Army for various reasons — rising aspirations blocked by poor promotion prospects, inadequate compensation for a hard, demanding and risk-filled life, constant disruption in children’s education, etc. Unfortunately the Parliamentary Committee on Defence failed to examine the problem in its correct perspective. It has picked up the wrong end of the stick. It should have rather looked into the very causes for so many disciplinary cases and complaints in the Army rather than work with incorrect data and jump to wrong conclusions.

Reverting to the military system of justice, some of the steps that need to be taken are:

  • Parliament should repeal the Army Amendment Act, 1992, because it is contrary to the rationale of the composition and functioning of the court at the GCM.
  • Military law as a subject should be reintroduced in the promotion examinations and relevant Army courses, etc.
  • The Armed Forces Administrative and Court-Martial Tribunal should be constituted without further delay so that reviews are carried out by it rather than civil courts.
  • The Parliamentary Committee on Defence should take up the issue of assured career progression as applicable to civil services and seek to reintroduce the Running Pay Band provision for the Army.
  • The MoD (CDA-Pensions) should renege on all previous cases where it has altered the disability granted by the medical boards.

Finally, the Parliamentary Committee on Defence in a separate report has expressed deep concern over the constant lowering of status of military officers. This has had a corresponding effect on their pay, allowances, pension, etc, and led to demoralisation, frustration and disenchantment. These are serious issues which the parliamentary committee should take up in earnest in Parliament and with the government.

The writer, a retired Lieut-General, is a former Deputy Chief of Army Staff.

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Middle class backlash against Vajpayee
P. Raman

‘VINASHAKALE viparita buddhi’ has been a quote nauseatingly used by disgruntled politicians to snipe at each other. But even the Prime Minister’s friends and admirers now find it impossible to find any other explanation for his government’s successive measures that tend to alienate his own constituency. If the present trend persists, Atal Behari Vajpayee will soon have the distinction of being in the pantheon of the middle classes’ fallen idols like Rajiv Gandhi, V. P. Singh and P.V. Narasimha Rao.

For our influential middle classes, they have all been messiahs who were expected to lift them from the beaten track set by hardboiled politicians. The young Rajiv Gandhi began with a clean slate with full of fresh ideas that had inspired the youth. Those who were fed up with scandals and corruption as symbolised by Bofors, found fresh hopes in V.P. Singh who had a spotless, clean background.

The low-profile Narasimha Rao became the darling of the middle classes after he launched his IMF-induced economic reform. The trust in him was so deep that the reform-inspired middle classes had continued to disbelieve the allegations against Rao and his kith and kin, including the charge of accepting a suitcase with money. But by the end of his term, his Teflon coating against scandals and sleaze had worn off even though he could maintain a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha. He was finally pulled him down in the subsequent election.

Vajpayee’s position looks much similar to Rao’s. He could maintain the Teflon longer than Rajiv Gandhi and V P Singh but certainly not longer than Rao. The latter had full control over his flock, through bribe or defection. But Vajpayee has been a prisoner of NDA partners like Fernandes as well as his own parivar. The latest has been the blackmail by George Fernandes. Until the beginning of this year, it seemed that Vajpayee would be able to retain his Teflon at least as much as Rao did. But his weak-kneed policies, surrender to vested interests, and inability to perform on any front led to the deep, popular resentment.

You may curse the stars. But the fact remains that in the past few months, every measure he initiated has made the middle classes fret and fume. The Fernandes episode marks the finale of the honeymoon. When in March last, Fernandes had resigned on ‘moral grounds’, few believed him. Those who had still nursed some hopes on Vajpayee’s commitment to fair play, went by the PMO’s claim that he was asked to step down. Now even these sections seem to have lost faith in the Prime Minister’s ability to stand up to pressures.

A series of compromises on principles and political morality have further strengthened this assumption. Fernandes alone was not the beneficiary of this viparita buddhi. The BJP high command under Vajpayee decreed that all tainted persons should be rewarded with ministerial posts, wherever they are. This is not an exaggeration. This was what had happened within 72 hours after the canonisation of Fernandes. Two murder accused — one at the Centre and other in Gujarat — who were removed earlier on moral grounds, were given ministership while the case is still pending. (The higher court had only asked to reframe the charges on technical ground).

Purshotam Solanki, a former TADA detenu indicted by the Srikrishna Commission, has been reaccommodated with promotion. While the BJP high command’s new protégé dropped many with clean record, tainted men were all picked up for rewards. Even Bangaru Laxman, who was seen accepting wads of currency notes as bribe by millions of TV viewers, has been given a ‘clean’ certificate by the Prime Minister who recently sat with him on the dais. The party has now gifted him a proud post.

The ire is not confined to the middle class or the traditional BJP fans. Ask any senior leader or middle-level party worker in private. They may not come out in anger like Shatrughan Sinha (who on record asked how could the party now blame Laloo and Rabri). But they do lament that the BJP has lost its once effective planks of ‘value-based politics’ and ‘swaraj’. The tragedy has been that those millions who felt disillusioned by the earlier alternatives and had looked to Vajpayee in 1998 and 1999 as being of a different stuff, now dismiss him as a failed god.

Those who had derided Rajiv Gandhi for his frequent Cabinet reshuffles, find Vajpayee’s record no better. The former did it on whims and the latter under pressure — to accommodate a Nitish, please an Ajit Singh or appease a Fernandes. A refusal might have invited trouble. This is how his defence of Fernandes’ return is viewed by the alienated sections. True, Fernandes was not chargesheeted. But then commissions don’t do it to any one. If the commission’s work is delayed, as Vajpayee alleges, his government was also responsible for it as for three months it was not given the minimum facilities. The claim that in the entire NDA, Fernandes alone could look after defence is seen as a big joke.

Suppressed anger at the contempt for the judicial process is such that some even blame President K.R. Narayanan for not refusing to administer oath to Fernandes. Had he declined to do so — as some governors did and subsequently the apex court endorsed — it might have set a new precedent. Returning a Bill or Cabinet recommendation to dismiss a state government are the tools with the President to caution the government and arouse national conscience. Narayanan may have his own reasons for avoiding a confrontation on such an issue.

The middle classes have always struck chord with things like outcry against the new ordinance for a more Draconian TADA, efforts to punish mediapersons who fail to disclose the source, use of inquiry panels and state agencies against political adversaries and press. They resented it during the JP movement and the Emergency. The present ruling party was seen as a champion of the fight against all such authoritarian trends. This makes the intelligentsia’s disillusionment sharper. Remember the middle class acclaim after the Pokhran blast and endorsement of the resistance to the subsequent US sanctions against India.

This had, rightly or wrongly, come to symbolise the national pride, the kind which had always been a cardinal part of the RSS parivar’s agenda. Now the same heroes are seen as mere appendages of the sole super power, always buckling under its pressures. To these sections, acts like the instant endorsement of the US missile system while the rest of the world was resisting it, unsolicited offer of Indian bases to the US and release of the terrorist hijackers are like turning India into a nation without soul.

Now that a backlash is clearly evident, to restore the lost trust is going to be an impossible task for Vajpayee. The same kind of ‘save-democracy’ groups, which the BJP had once blessed, are coming up again. Of late, some feeble moves were made by the worried friends in the BJP for a course correction. But entangled in the new power culture, few have time to listen to such old style informal exchange of fresh ideas.

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Churchill chased flying saucers
Paul Harris

BRITISH scientists and generals drew up a top secret report on Unidentified Flying Objects and then decided to cover up a wave of rumours and sightings that swept Britain in the 1950s, The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.

The existence of the UFO report, written in 1951 and later used to brief Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was denied by the Ministry of Defence for almost 50 years. But the six-page document has recently been unearthed by UFO historians Andy Roberts and David Clarke as they researched a book on UFOs and the Cold War. The report has been a 'holy grail' of British 'ufology' and details the conclusions of a shadowy panel called the Working Party on Flying Saucers. This group was the idea of Sir Henry Tizard, one of Churchill's most trusted scientific advisers during World War II and a key figure behind the development of radar.

But anyone looking for an elusive 'X-file' that confirms the existence of aliens will be disappointed. The report concludes that all sightings were explainable by natural events, such as the weather or meteors, or were of normal aircraft.

But it does speak volumes about the scale of paranoia in Britain at the start of the Cold War. From 1950 onwards, hundreds of UFO sightings were reported across Britain and were regular front page news. Leading public figures, including Lord Louis Mountbatten, came out with their belief that Earth was being visited by aliens. The phenomenon terrified the top brass on both sides of the Atlantic. Generals were worried that reports of flying saucers could be used by the Soviet Union to disguise an earthly attack or that the sightings were giving the Russians a clue that Britain's radar network was faulty and easy to penetrate-which was actually true but unknown within the Soviet bloc. 'This was a time of great paranoia and fear. The Government took a decision to throw a blanket over the UFO scare and say as little as possible about it,' said Clarke.

“There certainly was a cover-up, but what was being covered up was Cold War paranoia and our fears over our radar system. It was nothing to do with aliens.”

Despite the official silence, the UFO scares did not die down. In 1952 Churchill fired off a memo to his advisers in the wake of fresh UFO sightings in the United States. “What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to? What can it mean? What is the truth?” Churchill wrote Observer News Service

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Ramlila at Delhi

Delhi: From today the authorities have taken all necessary precautions against any possible breach of the peace. The procession which passed through the main streets had a strong police escort besides the police pickets posted at principal points of the routes. House tops at either side of the route were guarded by the armed police and as the procession passed along at night, policemen with lanterns moved with it. Ramlila will last till the 18th.

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TRENDS AND POINTERS

Taliban looting charity offices?

ONE of the main non-governmental aid groups working in Afghanistan said all its offices in the Taliban-held north had been ransacked by the Islamic movement and were now closed. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), which runs extensive medical and education facilities in the country, said its office in the city of Ghazni, on the road between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, had also been closed. The office in Mazar-i-Sharif, the key northern city now under attack by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, was looted and fuel was set ablaze, the SCA said. After some Taliban forces cleared the building, other factions re-occupied it.

In Pul-i-Kumri, a main regional office on the road toward Kabul, SCA guards were beaten, buildings were looted and vehicles stolen, the organisation said. "Staff has fled for their safety and their actual whereabouts cannot be confirmed," it said. Country Director Sidney Petersson told Reuters four-wheel drive vehicles had been stolen from many of its offices. SCA said it suspected Taliban officials had used them to flee. In addition, the SCA office in the centre of the capital Kabul was damaged this week in an attack aimed at a nearby location occupied by Taliban forces, including Arabs, Petersson said. Reuters

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Once I said to a scarecrow, "You must be tired of standing in this lonely field.?"

And he said, "The joy of scaring is a deep and lasting one, and I never tire of it."

Said I after a minute of thought, "It is true; for I too have known that joy."

Said he," Only those who are stuffed with straw can know it."

***

A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said,

"I will have a camel for lunch today."

And all morning he went about looking for camels. But at noon he saw his shadow again — and he said, "A mouse will do".

***

Yestereve, on the marble steps of the Temple, I saw a woman sitting between two men. One side of her face was pale, the other was blushing.

***

In the shadow of the temple my friend and I saw a blind man sitting alone. And my friend said, “Behold the wisest man of our land.”

Then I left my friend and approached the blind man and greeted him.

And we conversed. After a while I said, “Forgive my question; but since when hast thou been blind?”

“From my birth,” he answered.

Said I, “And what path of wisdom followest thou?”

Said he, “I am an astronomer.”

Then he placed his hand upon his breast saying, “I watch all these suns and moon and stars.”

—Kahlil Gibran, The Madman

***

The Name itself is the best atonement for sins committed against the Name. Through constant Kirtana of the Name all our desires can be fulfilled.

—The Padma Purana

***

Practice japa of the Name through every breath,

Except this there is no other way.

—Sant Kabir

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