Wednesday, October 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India





E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


EDITORIALS

Success in space
I
T is heartening to note that while India wallows in mediocrity and misery on terra firma, it manages to post spectacular triumphs in space. The country which still moves on bullock carts is making a name for itself in the field of satellite launches . The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) added another feather to its cap on Monday when its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) placed three satellites in orbit. 

A half-hearted sop
I
NDIA is getting more integrated with the global monetary system than many realise. The RBI’s decision to lower the bank rate – the interest it charges on its loans to banks – on Monday is a proof of it. The reduction by one half of one per cent is the third this year and follows a similar step by 14 central banks in the USA and Europe. Of course the USA is a champion; it has nudged down the bank rate nine times this year to bring it down to 2.5 per cent.


EARLIER ARTICLES
 

National Capital Region--Delhi

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
 
SYL as poll gimmick
P
UNJAB Congress President Amarinder Singh has threatened to refill the Satluj-Yamuna Link canal for saving Punjab from the "unholy secret deals" Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has allegedly struck with Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala. It is not the first time that such a threat has been issued. 

OPINION

Trends in US war against terrorism
Where does India’s interest lie?
G. Parthasarathy
O
N September 28, 2001, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved of Resolution 1373. The resolution requires all member-states to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist organisations, deny safe havens to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts and freeze their funds without delay. Member-states are required to suppress recruitment of terrorist organisations and eliminate their weapons supplies.

MIDDLE

My Manipur days
Roshni Johar
A
“fauji” is always on move. Daddy’s posting to Imphal resulted in the longest journey in terms of time, not kilometres. From Delhi an overnight train took us to Lucknow from where we travelled in yet another one to Amingaon. Here with bag and baggage, we boarded a steamer to cross the mighty Brahmaputra river over which no bridge had been built then, to arrive at the other end at Pandu. Into a third train and two days later, we alighted at Dimapur at foot of hills.

FOLLOW-UP

No justice for racial abuse victims in UK
Reeta Sharma
B
Y now it is well-known that racial assaults and violence, at times culminating in deaths, are increasingly becoming common in the West. But how are the various governments handling the cases in which the bubbling lives are snuffed out? The following are the two cases from England. They are progressing at a snail’s pace. The first relates to Lakhvinder Ricky Reel.

TRENDS & POINTERS

Illegal guns galore
IT is not hard to spot the hidden guns as warlords, drug kings and their bodyguards cruise around the dusty Pakistan frontier town of Quetta in their huge four-wheel drives. They wrap their traditional shawls around them, a dead giveaway that they've got something to hide.

DEBATE

Shabana versus Shahi Imam
Syed Nooruzzaman
I
T all began with the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA, leading to the death of 5,400 innocent persons. America, the world's superpower, acted equally ferociously, though after giving diplomacy a chance, to settle scores with the prime suspect, Osama bin Laden, and his protectors in Afghanistan, the ruling Taliban militia. In the American bombing too hundreds of innocent lives have been lost besides lakhs rendered homeless.

75 YEARS AGO


End of manufacture of poison gas

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

Top





 

Success in space

IT is heartening to note that while India wallows in mediocrity and misery on terra firma, it manages to post spectacular triumphs in space. The country which still moves on bullock carts is making a name for itself in the field of satellite launches . The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) added another feather to its cap on Monday when its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) placed three satellites in orbit. In this cutting-edge field, reliability is the key factor as is self-reliance. Indian scientists are coming good on both counts. Once technology stabilises, success becomes a routine, but this endeavour is indeed a major step forward, considering that this is the first time that the PSLV has achieved the task of placing satellites in different designated orbits. The Belgian payload was injected at a markedly higher orbit than that of the other two satellites, one Indian and the other German. That achievement can open new visas in the field of commercial launching. What is remarkable is that India has enhanced its capabilities with every launch and achieved an amazing 30 to 40 per cent growth in recent years. This may be maintained for another three to four years. That is highly credible in the face of stifling sanctions imposed on India following the Pokhran-II blasts. ISRO perhaps has the most cost-effective launch vehicle for medium and small satellites today. Moreover, it can boast of remarkable precision. For instance, the Indian Technology Experiments Satellite (TES) has been placed in an orbit of 567 km by 572 km, meaning a creditable precision of plus or minus 4 km. In fact, now that the USA has decided to ease technology transfer, there might be even faster refinement.

While commercial multiple-orbit launches can be a welcome foreign exchange earner, India has multifarious needs of its own. The Rs 75-crore TES not only has civilian capabilities but it can also serve several security purposes. In the backdrop of unpredictable developments taking place in the neighbourhood, the need for procuring vital information in real time cannot be overstressed. The satellite's uncanny earth observation capacity can be fully geared to collect vital data. ISRO scientists are confident that it would be a forerunner for a high-resolution satellite system. That is why some countries have described TES as the first Indian attempt at a military satellite. That capability is indeed present in the magnificent structure. However, India does not have to be apologetic about it, considering that several countries already have such payloads in orbit. As the developments after September 11 have proved, India has to take care of its security concerns on its own and it is very much within its rights to take all steps in that direction. 

Top

 

A half-hearted sop

INDIA is getting more integrated with the global monetary system than many realise. The RBI’s decision to lower the bank rate – the interest it charges on its loans to banks – on Monday is a proof of it. The reduction by one half of one per cent is the third this year and follows a similar step by 14 central banks in the USA and Europe. Of course the USA is a champion; it has nudged down the bank rate nine times this year to bring it down to 2.5 per cent. By comparison, India is a laggard; this is the third and still it is 6.5 per cent. A rate cut, as this action is called, is essentially a mechanism to tempt industrialists to borrow and invest or diversify and thus assist in industrial, and ultimately economic, growth. This may not work if experience is any guide. Indian economy is not so well developed as to instantly respond to marginal changes. Also, even after the 0.5 per cent cut, the real interest rate will remain high. The SBI charges 11.5 per cent on long term loans and inflation is at about 4 per cent. Deducting the latter from the former, the real interest rate works out to 7.5 per cent and just six years ago it was a mere 4 per cent. Again, the rate of interest is only a factor in influencing investment and hence in spurring the economy. Demand and profitability and also the overall government policy play an important part. This is evident from the post-budget developments. Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha packed his budget with tax concessions and measures to create demand, yet the economy is ill.

The RBI has slashed the CRR (cash reserve ratio) by 2 percentage points, from 7.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent. This will release Rs 8000 crore which banks can lend to prospective investors. But there is a big problem. Banks are sitting on huge money and have very few borrowers. There was a sluggish revival of demand for credit in September but it soon fizzled out after the terrorist attacks in the USA. Freeing idle funds has nothing to do with promoting investment. It will only result in banks making more losses. As it is, banks, for want of credit-worthy borrowers, are parking their funds in commercial papers earning an interest of less than 9 per cent compared to the 9.5 per cent they pay the depositors. Given this background, the RBI’s hope that the economy will grow by about 5 or 6 per cent is aimed at pleasing the government. Its earlier estimate was between 6 and 6.5 per cent. But the industry growing at 2.2 per cent in the first five months of the year (as against 5.6 per cent last year) and exports slipping by 2.3 per cent (an astonishing growth of 21 per cent last year), the RBI’s hopes are over-ambitious. 

Top

 

SYL as poll gimmick

PUNJAB Congress President Amarinder Singh has threatened to refill the Satluj-Yamuna Link canal for saving Punjab from the "unholy secret deals" Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has allegedly struck with Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala. It is not the first time that such a threat has been issued. And the Congress is not the only party that is in the habit of issuing such threats. The future of the SYL is a convenient pre-poll issue that the opposition parties in Punjab usually play up for maligning the party that is in power. During Congress rule similar charges of selling out Punjab's interest to Haryana were made by responsible leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal with the same passion and zeal as was shown by the redoubtable Capt Amarinder Singh at a press conference recently. He did not stop at issuing the threat of having the incomplete SYL canal filled up for putting an end to the alleged political deals with Haryana. If the former Maharaja of Patiala was allowed to have his way, he would not allow even a drop of water to Haryana, much less enter into a deal for the completion of the controversial SYL canal. But why this jingoism? Haryana is not outside India. Had the construction of the SYL not got mired in avoidable controversy, other parts of North India would have reaped the benefits of assured irrigation and made equally handsome contribution as Punjab does to the food basket of the country.

Even a political novice would have little trouble in seeing through Capt Amarinder's game. He has his eyes firmly set on the assembly elections. Nothing wrong with that. But why drag in the SYL for gaining undeserved political mileage? During the press conference he made a series of other disturbing and irresponsible statements that neither enhanced his stature as a leader nor that of the party he hopes to lead to victory in the assembly elections next year. Congress President Sonia Gandhi is currently preoccupied with drawing up an effective and credible strategy for reviving the party's poll prospects in Uttar Pradesh. However, her advisers should draw her attention to the myopic plan being put into place in Punjab by Capt Amarinder Singh. His threat to have the SYL filled up is not likely to ensure victory for the Congress in the state he represents. But the statement that the party would not allow "even a drop of water" to Haryana would make Mr Chautala extremely happy. All that the crafty Haryana Chief Minister has to do for causing political damage to the Congress is to refer to Capt Amarinder Singh's statement on SYL. It would certainly embarass Haryana Congress President Bhupinder Singh Hooda who recently accused Mr Chautala of not doing enough for the completion of the SYL canal. Mr Chautala and Mr Badal should invite Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Hooda for a public debate from a common platform on the future of the SYL for exposing the dubious game being played by Congress leaders both in Haryana and Punjab.

Top

 

Trends in US war against terrorism
Where does India’s interest lie?
G. Parthasarathy

ON September 28, 2001, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved of Resolution 1373. The resolution requires all member-states to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist organisations, deny safe havens to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts and freeze their funds without delay. Member-states are required to suppress recruitment of terrorist organisations and eliminate their weapons supplies. All UN members are required to prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls, and cooperate in criminal investigations involving terrorism. They are required to report that they are complying with the provisions of this resolution within 90 days. Most importantly, the provisions of this resolution are mandatory under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Those who do not fulfil or violate its provisions can face international sanctions. General Musharraf can no longer claim that armed groups operating from Pakistan and crossing the Line of Control or international border for terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India are “freedom fighters” involved in jehad.

Shortly after the resolution was passed, members of a group linked to the Mumbai underworld figure Chhota Shakeel were arrested. It was found that they were planning to assassinate Home Minister L.K. Advani. This should have come as no surprise, given the strong stand that Mr Advani had taken when he told General Musharraf recently that India expected Pakistan to extradite all those involved in the Mumbai bomb blasts, including their leaders like Dawood Ebrahim and Shakeel, to India. These persons now live in luxurious splendour, barely a few blocks away from General Musharraf’s own house in the Defence Housing Society area in Karachi. This is not all. Terrorists from Punjab belonging to groups like the Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation live in plush localities in Lahore. They have indulged in activities like the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. Activists of north eastern terrorist outfits like the ULFA and the NSCN regularly visit Pakistan and receive arms, funds and training from the Pakistan government. The hijackers of IC 814 and those released by India in the wake of the hijacking in Kandahar thrive in Pakistan under the benign eye of the ISI. It has been established that Omar Sheikh, released by India at Kandahar, actually remitted $100,000 to Mohammad Atta, leader of the hijackers who destroyed the World Trade Center. Finally, all the terrorist groups operating in J&K made up primarily of Pakistani nationals from its Punjab province collect funds and are armed and trained in Pakistan. Their infiltration across the LoC and the international border is facilitated by the ISI.

One would have normally expected New Delhi to prepare a comprehensive compendium of all Pakistani activities that violate provisions of Security Council Resolution 1373 and present it not only to the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi but also to all those involved in the implementation of the Security Council resolution. India has the right to demand that Pakistan should stop violating the provisions of this resolution. India should have made it clear that if Pakistan persists in proceeding on its present course, New Delhi reserves the right to act against those who perpetrate terrorism, just as the Bush Administration is proceeding with its action against the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. India should then have told Mr Colin Powell and Mr Tony Blair that the underlying cause for terrorism in J&K, is not “rivalry” between India and Pakistan or the Kashmir issue, but a struggle between those who believe in democratic pluralism and those who seek to promote medieval religious extremism through resort to violence.

The USA is today so engrossed in its own concerns that it is not in a mood to even accommodate the views of a close ally like Israel. It should have been obvious that Mr Colin Powell or Mr Tony Blair would not be receptive to our concerns on cross-border terrorism or say anything that could embarrass their newly found beacon of democratic freedoms, General Pervez Musharraf. But what any self-respecting Indian finds demeaning is the manner in which we repeatedly ask the Americans to fight our battles for us and get rebuffed. India should realise that in its campaign in Afghanistan, the USA has not given up its larger strategic objectives of containing Russian influence and marginalising the role of Iran in oil-and-gas-rich Central Asia. Thus, while we should cooperate with the USA as it seeks to destroy the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, we should have no doubt that in this effort our natural allies are the Northern Alliance, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the countries of Central Asia. It is ludicrous to refer to the USA as a “natural ally” in the present situation.

It is now obvious that the USA is finding it difficult to reconcile its military compulsions with its political and diplomatic imperatives. The USA wants to accommodate some “moderate Taliban” elements in any future set-up in Afghanistan to please General Musharraf. Taliban commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, who has maintained long-standing links with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, is said to be one such “moderate Taliban”. Yet even as he was speaking to his Pashtun brethren in the NWFP in the midst of US air-strikes, Haqqani pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar. He said that Mullah Omar would not step down merely because Mr George Bush wanted it. “We don’t like George Bush. Why doesn’t he step down?” the learned “moderate Taliban” leader asked. Describing the Soviets as a “brave enemy” and as being tougher than the Americans, Haqqani labelled the Americans as “creatures of comfort”. He added: “They will not be able to survive the harsh conditions that await them. We are eagerly awaiting the American troops to land on our soil, where we will deal with them in our own way.” The Taliban expect that just as no sophisticated gadgetry could counter the bombings of September 11, the winter weather and terrain in Afghanistan will enable them to hold out against American firepower and technology.

It is clear that the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA are at present pulling in different directions in the US campaign in Afghanistan. The Pentagon would have no qualms about arming the Northern Alliance and providing them extensive air support. This would, however, upset Mr Powell’s bosom buddy, General Musharraf. Because of their close relations with Uzbekistan, the Americans seem to be far more receptive to collaboration with Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostam than with the Russian-inclined Tajik leader General Fahim. Dostam has a track record of changing sides, and being at loggerheads with the Iran-backed Shia Hazaras and even his own fellow Uzbek generals. It is no surprise that the offensive to capture Mazar-e-Sharif has got stalled. It is imperative for us to liaise with Iran and Russia to see that such factors do not affect the battle against Taliban-ISI-sponsored terrorism. It is also important for India to see that the Pashtun leaders the former king, Zahir Shah, coopts in his proposed supreme council do not include those who have served as Pakistani surrogates. But to achieve all this we should not be perceived as supplicants of the USA. India and the USA can and should be natural strategic partners. But this need not be at the cost of our self-esteem or our own strategic autonomy.

The writer is India’s former High Commissioner to Pakistan.

Top

 

My Manipur days
Roshni Johar

A “fauji” is always on move. Daddy’s posting to Imphal resulted in the longest journey in terms of time, not kilometres. From Delhi an overnight train took us to Lucknow from where we travelled in yet another one to Amingaon. Here with bag and baggage, we boarded a steamer to cross the mighty Brahmaputra river over which no bridge had been built then, to arrive at the other end at Pandu. Into a third train and two days later, we alighted at Dimapur at foot of hills. The journey’s last lap was a few hour’s zig-zag drive in the hills, past Kohima to finally enter the beautiful valley of Imphal, capital of Manipur, the Land of Jewels.

For two years we lived in an old colonial army bungalow of Assam Rifles. It was built on stilts, three feet above ground to avoid extreme dampness of earth. Its verandah was lined with hanging baskets with eye-catching, butterfly-like pansies and nasturtiums trailing from them. We learnt later that these baskets were actually helmets of wounded or dead Japanese soldiers who had crossed over the border during World War II.

The Indian Airlines flight from Kolkata invariably used to bring the daily newspapers at 1 p.m. sharp. There was another “daily” too i.e. our bread in form of braided or spiralled dinner rolls, regularly put on the flight by Kolkata’s Oberoi Grand Hotel. Imphal had no bakery then. Later a small one with a big board proclaiming it as “The Grand Bakery” was set up though its bread was rather moist and sweetish. However, its die-hard owner was always experimenting with recipe’s ingredients to perfect his bread.

The ever-smiling and friending Manipuris’ lifestyle is simply captivating. Once I saw a Manipuri belle decked in her bridal finery seated atop an elephant while her groom walked beside her.

Polygamy is quite common. I recall a family where one of the wives presented her husband with a bicycle while the second one gave him a transistor and wrist watch. The third wife often bought him tickets for the English matinee, which changed every weekend at Kumar Talkies.

Dance is woven into the very fabric of Manipuri culture. The exquisite, slow-moving but very graceful Ras Lila dance continues to charm everyone. In Imphal’s market square, many women were topless and wore only a “fanek” i.e. a long wrap-around skirt made of hand woven cotton invariably in pink and brown stripes. They literally danced as they sold eels, fish, pineapples, lotuses, big brass containers and handlooms usually with the traditional cock motif.

My kid brother learnt dance till a Delhiite remarked: “Ye to chhokri ka kaam hai.” However, I found it delightful dancing Ras Lila, Thoibi Khamba, etc to the beat of “mridangam”

Perhaps nowhere else is Holi so beautifully celebrated as in Imphal. New clothes are worn and colours in powder form are smeared mostly in temples, never on roads. There is no hooliganism of any sort. Youth participating in the rhythmic Thobul Chamba folk dance at night are given consent to marry.

Tammu is a small village across the border and over a bridge with “Burma” painted on it. Its counterpart is Moreh on Indian soil. A visit there was on top agenda of every visiting army brass and their “memsahibs” who shopped there for foreign goods.

Top

 

No justice for racial abuse victims in UK
Reeta Sharma

BY now it is well-known that racial assaults and violence, at times culminating in deaths, are increasingly becoming common in the West. But how are the various governments handling the cases in which the bubbling lives are snuffed out?

The following are the two cases from England. They are progressing at a snail’s pace. The first relates to Lakhvinder Ricky Reel. Ricky and his three friends were racially abused and attacked by White boys in Kingston, West London, on October 14, 1977, night. Fearing for their lives, they fled the scene of the incident.

By the time Ricky’s family realised that their son was missing along with his friends, it was already midnight. Ricky’s family discovered that their son was racially abused. They immediately reported the matter to the police. But, according to the family, the police took no effective action.

The family, on its own, spent the first week organising search parties, besides speaking to witnesses. They videotaped everything to provide evidence to help the police investigate, but in vain. Finally, at the end of the week, Ricky’s body was recovered from a river close to the place where the assault had taken place. Despite vital video and circumstantial evidence, the British police had, within minutes of the discovery of the body, concluded that he had accidentally fallen into the river Thames while trying to urinate.

However, this theory was questioned by Dr Freddie Patel from the Department of Forensic Medicine at Guys Hospital, London. The doctor had found grievous injuries on the back of the body caused with a blunt impact against a hard surface. The doctor had further pointed out that the body, in all probability, was thrown into the Thames on its back. If Ricky had slipped while urinating, he should have fallen on his belly, asserts the family.

Disillusioned with the police investigation, the case was taken over by a voluntary organisation, “Race and Violent Crime Task Force”, in late 1998.

Meanwhile, Ricky’s family lodged a complaint against the poor response of the police. This was undertaken by the Surry Constabulary and supervised by the Police Complaints Authority. It completed its report in 1998 and by early 1999 it was released to the family and their solicitor on the condition that they will not disclose the details to the public.

In November 1999, the inquest into Ricky’s death began at Fulham Town Hall. It came as a rude shock to the Ricky family that the police once again declared Ricky’s death as an accident. However, the jury did not agree with the police. But for Ricky’s parents and voluntary organisations the racial murder of Lakhvinder Ricky would have been closed as an accident long ago. The case is still on and the family is clinging to the hope that one day murderers of their son would be put behind the bars.

In the second case the entire social set-up did not hesitate to target an innocent person who was first victimised and then held guilty. This case relates to another Asian, Satpal Ram. One evening, in 1986, in Birmingham, when he was having a quiet meal in a restaurant, he and his friends faced racial assault. Six drunken White men began hurling abuses trying to provoke Satpal and his friends.

When they failed to do so, they began shouting at the owner of the restaurant, “We do not want any more of your **** Paki music”. They began bashing Satpal and his friends. One of the White men, Clarke Pierce, smashed a glass on the table and hit Satpal with it twice across his cheek and shoulder. At this juncture, Satpal retaliated in self-defence. The fight stopped only when Clarke himself was injured.

According to the evidence put before the court, Pierce went to hospital but was very abusive to the medical staff and he pulled out his drips, saying he did not want to be treated by a woman doctor. He discharged himself and went home, where he later died.

But Satpal Ram was made to pay for Clarke’s folly of not getting himself treated. The case was built-up and handled with vengeance. Satpal was charged with the murder of Clarke. Even his barrister changed the plea from self-defence to provocation. Intriguingly, he also did not bring out the details before the court as to what had happened in the restaurant.

The National Civil Rights Movement (NCRM) that eventually began fighting for Satpal Ram has put on record that most of the evidence that was heard in the court came only from friends of Clarke. “Unsurprisingly, the all-White Jury convicted Satpal of murder within about half-an-hour of hearing. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but continues behind the bars today even after 13 years”, revealed Suresh Grover, a solicitor, who voluntarily works for the NCRM.

The agonising plight of Satpal did not end here. He faced racial abuse and assault even inside the prison, solely because he chose to challenge his conviction. The racial authorities within the prison not only continued to beat him but also allegedly starved him. He was repeatedly strip-searched and put in solitary confinement. He was denied bedding many a times. As per medical reports, he has progressively lost weight.

Ironically, when Satpal complained about the racial abuse within the prison the authorities retaliated by putting him up on a disciplinary charge for attacking prison officers. Meanwhile, NCRM, along with Satpal, are still fighting this long-drawn battle.

Top

 

Illegal guns galore

 IT is not hard to spot the hidden guns as warlords, drug kings and their bodyguards cruise around the dusty Pakistan frontier town of Quetta in their huge four-wheel drives.

They wrap their traditional shawls around them, a dead giveaway that they've got something to hide.

Usually it is the Kalashnikov, preferably the airborne version with folding metal stock that makes it shorter and easier to conceal.

You can buy a Kalashnikov rifle on the streets of the Baluchistan provincial capital for little more than $100, and many people do.

The Soviet- and Chinese-made Makarov and Tokarev pistols are half the price. But all the weapons are illegal, the product of two decades of warfare in neighbouring Afghanistan and a constant flow of refugees across a long and lawless frontier.

Malik Shuja Ali Awan knows all about it. His gunshop occupies a prime position on Jinnah Road, Quetta's major commercial thoroughfare. "See all those ammunition cartons," he said, pointing to the boxes piled high in the cupboards, in the windows.

"They're empty. All of them."

The gunracks at the back are empty, too, save for a pair of defective .303 Lee-Enfield rifles nearly a century old.

There are ammunition pouches, holsters, brushes, oils and waxes-but no guns.

"Two years ago, when General Pervez Musharraf and the military took power, he banned the issuing of new gun licences, along with the sale of weapons-even sporting weapons," Awan said.

"We can sell ammunition in limited quantities to sportsmen and trap-shooters with existing licences," he said.

But he said the crackdown did not mean a drop in crime or less violent streets.

"Not at all. It's just wiped out the legal trade in firearms, but the illegal trade is flourishing out there on the streets," he said.

Along with about 50 other legitimate gun traders from Baluchistan, Awan had appealed to the federal government for compensation. Reuters

Top

 

 

 

Shabana versus Shahi Imam
Syed Nooruzzaman

IT all began with the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA, leading to the death of 5,400 innocent persons. America, the world's superpower, acted equally ferociously, though after giving diplomacy a chance, to settle scores with the prime suspect, Osama bin Laden, and his protectors in Afghanistan, the ruling Taliban militia. In the American bombing too hundreds of innocent lives have been lost besides lakhs rendered homeless. In such a situation Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, could not keep quiet. He not only came down heavily on the USA but also expressed support for the Taliban and Bin Laden, though officially condemned worldwide for taking terrorism to unimaginable heights.

Ordinary Muslims in India are the least bothered about the Taliban and the Saudi fugitive, Bin Laden, but they nurse a strong anti-American sentiment which has got strengthened with the US bombing on Afghanistan bringing untold misery to innocent civilians. If there is any sympathy for Bin Laden and his hosts, it is mainly because the USA is on the opposite side. Imam Bukhari has failed to realise the distinction and gone to the extent of asking Muslims to join the Saudi fugitive and the Taliban in what is described as jihad. This is, however, not surprising. Imam Bukhari loves creating controversies.

What is disturbing is that his utterances have landed Islam and Muslims in an embarrassing situation and for no fault of theirs. The person who has come to their rescue in this hour of crisis is film actress-cum-social activist Shabana Azmi. The real-life role she is playing deserves appreciation and all-out support. In fact, the responsibility she has taken upon herself should have been shared by people like Shahi Imam who claim to echo the sentiments and aspirations of the Muslims in India.

Though Shabana's past as a film star comes in the way of her strong defence of Islam, the religion of her poverty-stricken community, she is playing a noble role at the moment. She along with her husband Javed Akhtar, a well-known poet and lyricist, is nearer the hearts of every Muslim for the endeavour to dispel the wrong impression being created about Islam — that it stands for violence, obscurantism, backwardness, etc.

What Shabana is doing will also prevent the side-effects of the Afghan war in India. She says the war is not between two religions but between “the fundamentalists and the liberals". She has a point of view, though many people may not agree with her. But the description does fit in with the goings-on between her and Imam Ahmed Bukhari. It seems she is waging a war to save India's secular fabric from getting weakened. This again goes to serve the cause of the community she is speaking for, as Muslims will suffer more than anybody else if secular India's identity gets blurred.

Yet the media refuses to give her statements as much prominence as it accords to anything Imam Bukhari says! Religiously speaking, he does not occupy any prominent position. Nor is he a great authority on Islam. He is nowhere near the late Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi (popularly known as Ali Mian) in the area of Islamic learning. He is also not associated with any big religious organisation like the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Hind. Yet he continues to remain in the media focus. Of course, over the years Delhi's Jama Masjid, built by Moghul emperor Shahjehan, has acquired a unique significance. Also, anything coming from Imam Bukhari makes good copy. But the media has certain responsibilities. Why allow an undeserving person to grow larger than life?

This is not to say that he has no democratic right to speak out his mind. The problem is that he does not know how to behave like a responsible person. He is always his arrogant best. He proved this on Sunday evening when approached on the telephone by the Star TV Network's Barkha Dutt for her widely popular programme, "We the people".

Instead of arguing for what he sees in the American action in Afghanistan and what Shabana Azmi has been repeating — Islam is not barbaric as wrongly depicted by the activities of the Taliban and Bin Laden — Imam Bukhari had this to say, "Main naachne gaane wali tawaifon ke sawalon ka jawab nahin dena chahta hoon." One expected him to have shown the normal decency which a woman on the other side of the fence deserved. He definitely harmed the image of Islam, which accords a pride of place to women in its scheme of things.

Why is he still popular among a section of Muslims? A baffling question, indeed. 

Top

 

End of manufacture of poison gas

London: The Times' Geneva correspondent says that the League's joint committee's report recommends that any State should be entitled to inform the league if another country is making hostile preparations. It points out that chemical factories can more or less speedily be adapted to poison gas manufacture, and it urges the cessation of subsidies to laboratories which are experimenting on these lines. Each state should in fact punish them for experimenting in war-like methods of employing bacteriological preparation or poison gas and should prevent air squadrons from carrying out tests with these.

Top

 

O King, though this age of Kali is full of vices, it possesses one great virtue, viz that (during this period) through mere chanting of Sri Krishna's Name and glories one can obtain release from the bondage of Karma and realise God. That which was attained through meditation is satya yuga, through performance of sacrifices is Treeta yuga and through personal service and worship of God in Dwapar yuga, can be attained in Kali yuga through mere chanting of Sri Hari's Name and glories.

—The ascetic Shukadeva's advice to King Prikshit

***

The sins of those who commit them on the strength of the Name,

Stick to them like a coating of adamant and cannot be washed out.

***

Know this as a Truth, O Arjuna, that the devotee who while chanting My Name dances in joy taking Me to be present before him, practically purchases Me.

—Lord Shri Krishna to Arjuna

***

Alone man comes, Alone he goes. When he departs naught will avail him (or bear him witness) when the reckoning is taken, what answer will he give? If then only he repents, he shall be punished.

***

Man should do good, so that he be not ashamed. Repent and oppress not, Otherwise hell-fire shall seize thee in the grave.

***

Holy men, Prophets, Shahs and Khans, The mark of not one remaineth in the world;

For man is but as the passing shade of the flying bird. 

— The Nasihat Nama of Nanak

***

Take out of my life, dear Lord all fret and brusqueness. Make me calm, gentle, and courteous. Put music into my voice and sunny graciousness into my manners.

— Charlotte Skinner, The Marks of the Master, VI
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 |