Saturday, November 17, 2001, Chandigarh, India





National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


EDITORIALS

The Afghan endgame
I
NDIA won two points in its Afghan policy on Thursday. It is formally recognised by the UN as a key member to decide on the future set-up in Afghanistan. This ends the US sidelining of this country in tackling the Afghan problem. 

Gas sparks in Bangladesh
I
T does not take much time or effort to organise a strike in Bangladesh. In fact, it is done so often that it appears to be a national pastime. As such, the latest agitation on Thursday in protest against the proposed gas export to India should not come as a surprise.

How to tackle a nuke
I
N the event of the threat about the use of nuclear weapons by the Taliban coming true, few countries have the capability to tackle the crisis. Happily the USA is one of them, the country that keeps receiving threats of total annihilation at regular intervals ever since it launched a no-holds barred offensive against global terrorism. Osama bin Laden says he has nukes.





EARLIER ARTICLES
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November 16
, 2001
Quieter Divali
November 14
, 2001
Bin Laden’s bluster
November 13
, 2001
India’s major gains
November 12
, 2001
POTO is a must to tackle terrorism 
November 11
, 2001
Severe blow to farmers
November 10
, 2001
Anandgarh & Sainik Farms
November 9
, 2001
Back to Moscow ties
November 8
, 2001
Limited options for USA
November 7
, 2001
A farce of conversion
November 6
, 2001
A POTO start
November 5
, 2001
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
 
FRANKLY SPEAKING

HARI JAISINGH
India in today’s global politics
Lessons from PM’s three-nation tour
W
HERE does India stand after the three-nation tour of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee? The countries he has just visited are the world's major centres of power. The USA continues to remain supreme, though as a nation it is badly shaken after the September 11 events.

MIDDLE

Classifieds
Shriniwas Joshi
A
newspaper carries two types of advertisements — display and classifieds. The latter are for the needy who is in search of a room or a groom; a jar or a car; a bone or a loan and the former is the cackle of a hen. “A codfish lays ten thousand eggs in a single day, but it is done silently. A hen lays one egg and cackles. Nobody eats codfish eggs and nearly everybody eats chicken eggs.” 

REFLECTIONS

Giving readers good choices
Kiran Bedi
T
HE headlines in the newspapers and visuals on the televisions are becoming predictive and depressive at times. Violence and bloodshed occupy the headlines. For media it is huge circulation with sufficient financial returns. The captive viewers and readers foot the bill.

ON THE SPOT

Where modernisation is seen as an enemy of Islam
Tavleen Singh
L
AST week my travels took me to a couple of Muslim villages near the Rajasthani town of Nagaur. What brought me to the villages of Baasni and Kumari were rumours in Delhi’s political circles of a new, fundamentalist type of Islam creeping into the countryside and making Muslim villagers suddenly aware of their pan-Islamic identity.

75 YEARS AGO


Theft of Viceroy's cigarette case

A CENTURY OF NOBELS

1913, Literature: RABINDRANATH TAGORE

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

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The Afghan endgame

INDIA won two points in its Afghan policy on Thursday. It is formally recognised by the UN as a key member to decide on the future set-up in Afghanistan. This ends the US sidelining of this country in tackling the Afghan problem. India’s Ambassador S.K.Lamba, a retired foreign service officer, is flying out to finalise India’s role in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country in humanitarian and economic fields. These two decisions restore India’s pre-eminence in the region and the hope is that New Delhi has a vision. India is now firmly on the Russian side and is in a position to shape the coming events. Pakistan lost a big issue. The takeover of Kabul by the Northern Alliance (NA) is a big setback as its influence in Afghanistan has shrunk alarmingly. If the NA drives out the Taliban from Kandahar, which seems likely now, it will get a stranglehold on the landlocked country and it is fiercely opposed to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s policy has collapsed and it is bad news for General Pervez Musharraf. He wanted a select band of the Taliban to be in power so that his country can retain its clout there. But the pell-mell retreat of the militia and the unconfirmed uprising in southern provinces – five in all – have put paid to this wish. It is only a matter of time, days to be precise, before the Taliban becomes part of history. If the vacuum is filled by the NA as is most likely, Pakistan will be cut off the Afghan orbit forever. That will be a blow to national pride, since it has done so much to prop up the Taliban and keep it fit.

The USA is not very happy either. It relishes the success of the NA but is also aware of the discomfort of Pakistan over the easy victory of the NA. What is particularly intriguing is that the American special forces led the NA into Kabul despite a firm assurance that the USA would stop the NA militia from entering the capital. Now the NA is succumbing to its own momentum and advancing to Kandahar, the most important centre of the Taliban. The faction which marched into Kabul is only a partner of the NA with about 5000 fighters. Obviously it has decided to spread its power all over Afghanistan, which means that its puny force will be forced to control a vast territory bustling with Taliban irregulars. It is a dicey game and if it fails, the American idea of putting together a broad-based regime in Kabul will come crashing down. The UN has at last bestirred itself and has decided to send a team to Kabul to assemble a broad-based government; as the proverb goes, it is a wish that no God will grant. 
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Gas sparks in Bangladesh

IT does not take much time or effort to organise a strike in Bangladesh. In fact, it is done so often that it appears to be a national pastime. As such, the latest agitation on Thursday in protest against the proposed gas export to India should not come as a surprise. Rather, to ensure that more people joined it, there was a second string to the strike bow. It was also against the US-led war in Afghanistan. So, the success of the action was more or less assured. What has come as a surprise is the fact that the strike called by the Left Democratic Front had the active backing of the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who is otherwise considered pro-India by many. Her supporters castigated the proposal mooted by the new Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government of Begum Khaleda Zia to export gas to India. Sheikh Hasina Wajed went to the extent of alleging that her party was defeated in the October 1 elections primarily because it decided not to sell gas to India. That is a gross travesty of truth, but shows how strong anti-India current there is. The neighbour to the west has been a favourite whipping boy of the BNP and now even the Awami League has joined the chorus, apparently to rub off the pro-India tag. What is perhaps not being realised is that this petty oneupmanship will cost the country dear. Bangladesh is in dire financial straits and gas export would have earned foreign exchange. But keeping in view the ferocity of the agitation that is building up, the whole scheme might get bogged down. Ironically, Bangladesh does not have the infrastructure to exploit and use the gas reserves on its own. As Finance and Planning Minister M. Saifur Rahman has rightly pointed out, no resource in true sense is a resource if it remains under the soil.

This is one of those odd occasions when the Awami League is in the forefront of an anti-India agitation. That does not mean that the BNP has any hidden positive feelings for this country. On the contrary, anti-India feelings erupt whenever Begum Khaleda Zia takes over the reins. Even this time her return has been marked by atrocities on Hindus and their migration. The support to separatists in the North-East, which had dwindled under Sheikh Hasina Wajed, has also started again in right earnest. The shrill campaign launched by the BNP and its ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, against New Delhi during election campaign had given a clear premonition which is now coming true. Such wild policy swings are unfortunate not only for bilateral relations but for the whole region. Bad blood between India and Pakistan is understandable. But there is no reason why it should be present between Bangladesh and India as well, given the cultural and social linkages and a history of shared triumphs and defeats. One factor which causes misunderstandings is the vast difference in their sizes. The ISI is also up to its usual dirty tricks. But India also has to ask itself whether it has been unintentionally treading on any corns. A more sensitive approach can perhaps reassure the fledgling nation.
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How to tackle a nuke

IN the event of the threat about the use of nuclear weapons by the Taliban coming true, few countries have the capability to tackle the crisis. Happily the USA is one of them, the country that keeps receiving threats of total annihilation at regular intervals ever since it launched a no-holds barred offensive against global terrorism. Osama bin Laden says he has nukes. A journalist found nuclear weapons-related documents in an Al-Qaida safe hide-out in Kabul, now under the control of the Northern Alliance. Pakistan recently detained two nuclear scientists suspected to be hobnobbing with Al-Qaida activists. Since the USA would be the prime target in the event of the threats and claims of the Taliban and Al-Qaida proving correct, an exercise is currently on to deal with such an eventuality. The question that is being commonly asked is : who will protect us if a ticking nuke turns up in downtown Washington or New York? And the official response is rather reassuring. When Gerald Ford became President a hoax nuclear extortion call made the US Administration sit up and actually put into place a set of procedures for tackling a real nuclear emergency. At the initiative of the then President a special Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) was set up. There is a lesson in it for countries that have gone nuclear without the necessary infrastructure for tackling a nuclear emergency. Recently fear was expressed about the possibility of the nuclear weapons falling into wrong hands in Pakistan. Although the official agencies promptly denied the reports about lax security at its nuclear weapons facility, the global community has yet to receive more reassuring evidence that the current leadership in Pakistan itself would not make reckless use of the weapons against India for diverting attention from its links with terrorist training camps.

NEST in the USA is made up of 1,000 energy department physicists, engineers and computer programmers. They are scattered all over the country and are just a phone call away from the nearest likely target of nuclear attack. Of course it is next to impossible to find a nuke without a clue where to look for it. But portable gamma-rays and neutron detectors can sniff out some nukes from vans or helicopters. The NEST members have of course, been instructed not to discuss in public the details of how to disarm a nuke. All it is willing to admit is that it has received about 110 alerts up to 1998. Out of these 30 were deemed credible. In one case, a former nuclear plant employee was involved in the "pinching" of deadly uranium oxide. He demanded $100,000 for surrendering the lethal raw material. However, FBI agents were able to nab him and he was jailed. Since the entire globe faces the threat of nuclear attack from rogue states, the USA should be persuaded to share the "NEST secrets" at least with the nuclear weapons-nations for reasons that hardly need to be explained.
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FRANKLY SPEAKING

India in today’s global politics
Lessons from PM’s three-nation tour
HARI JAISINGH

WHERE does India stand after the three-nation tour of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee? The countries he has just visited are the world's major centres of power. The USA continues to remain supreme, though as a nation it is badly shaken after the September 11 events.

Russia is re-emerging as a new force to reckon with. Its priorities are changing, so is its perspective on global issues. Today, it is getting more Euro-centric than ever before. This will require considerable readjustment of India's policies and postures towards Russia.

New Delhi has the best of relations with Moscow. But fresh thinking will now be needed to work out new equations keeping in view Russia's changing politico-economic and strategic interests. Of course, Russia needs India as much as India needs Russia. But in the changing global setting, it is absolutely necessary to identify new areas of cooperation.

President Putin is busy evolving a new relationship with President George Bush. His approach is both pragmatic and forward-looking. He realises the importance of acquiring economic muscle and for this purpose he is depending on multinationals and western goodwill. How the new-found love for market economy is creating gaps within Russian society is a different matter.

On the face of it, everything looks fine and glittering. The Russia of yesteryears is undergoing transformation. Herein lies the challenge to Indian diplomacy. It will have to work out fresh strategies to put bilateral relations on a firm footing. What needs to be kept in mind is that President Putin sees everything in terms of dollars. This means certain advantages of the rupee trade will cease to exist in the coming months.

To say this is not to deny tremendous goodwill for this country in Moscow. But that may not be good enough to sustain new compulsions which will follow in the wake of Russia's Euro-centric thrust and the absence of the Cold War period hysteria.

In this changing scenario, Russia continues to maintain hold over Central Asian republics, which are of vital significance to India as well in the light of Afghan developments.

In fact, Central Asian republics look to India for the revival of their socio-economic, political and strategic relations. This will have to be worked out in cooperation with friends of India in the region. Unfortunately, South Block lacks the requisite dynamism to make India stand out and be taken more seriously than is the case right now.

Mr Vajpayee has done his part quite well. He is a highly respected elder statesman. He can be disarming in one-to-diplomacy provided the person at the other end is not crafty and cunning like General Pervez Musharraf whose smile hides his real agenda.

Mr Vajpayee's mild manners and amiable disposition are often seen as a sign of weakness. This is no fault of the Prime Minister. He knows when to hit hard and effectively. He did so in response to the Pakistani President's uncharitable remarks against this country at the UN Assembly and later at a Press conference. His message was fulsome. So was his warning to Islamabad to behave and talk sense.

The Prime Minister during this visit put India in focus by apprising the world leaders of Indian sensitivities. It is a different matter if India no longer draws as much attention of the western media as Pakistan does. There are several reasons for this indifference.

I feel that Indian diplomacy lacks a clear perspective and direction. Though our diplomats are second to none, in the absence of coordinated thinking and action we fail to get the desired results.

Also, I find considerable ignorance in the West about this country, especially in sensitive areas of Indo-Pakistan relations. What is particularly galling is the lack of appreciation of India's position on Kashmir, cross-border terrorism and other related issues. Whose failures these are remains matters of detail. Perhaps India's foreign policy lacks effective communication channels. It calls for total overhaul and reorientation to suit today's market-oriented PR. This job cannot be performed by men like the "ambassador at large", Bhishma Kumar Agnihotri.

Take India's case in Afghanistan. Mr Vajpayee has rightly put forward India's legitimate case in that turbulent land. However, the point which remains unanswered is: why did India withdraw itself from the Afghan scene and allow Pakistan to take charge? Of course, geography and geo-politics do favour Pakistan. Still a lot could have been done to keep India's interests in Kabul alive and kicking all these years.

Of course, everything is now left to the USA and President Bush is the kingpin of global power. He is making full use of General Musharraf to achieve his objectives and, in return, he is going out of his way to pamper the military dictator with millions of dollars and other favours. This is America's tactical game. India needs to look at the situation in a larger perspective.

The West's fight against terrorism is sure to be a trend-setter in the evolution of new international relations, though India is one country that has suffered the most at the hands of Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir. Still, there has not been much appreciation in the West of India's sufferings on this count. It speaks poorly of our communication system at the global level. Professionally speaking, one redeeming part of the trip was the opportunity Indian media persons got to meet a cross-section of British media personalities. It was a rewarding experience, thanks to the Indian High Commission in London.

What is, however, regrettable is that most of our leaders are more concerned about their votebank politics than national interests. Occasional visits of the Prime Minister to New York, Washington, Moscow and London do help, but in the absence of clear policy decisions and follow-up action, the "sab chalta hai" attitude persists.

I am not belittling the role of some of our outstanding diplomats who are doing a good job against all odds. What is lacking in our scheme of things is sharp goals and well-focused objectives which have to be pursued vigorously to promote national interests overseas. Pakistan has an advantage vis-a-vis this country in clearly conveying its set ideas and concepts.

Be that as it may. Contrary to the impressions in certain quarters, I must say that Mr Vajpayee's trip was a success on the whole. Today's competitive world environment demands constant interaction at the highest level. One-to-one relationship can make all the difference and provide the right thrust in our ties with the USA, Russia and the UK.

It will be unrealistic to expect the USA to endorse India's interests in toto. President Bush fully realises the importance of India as a long-term strategic ally, though for the present he needs General Musharraf more than Mr Vajpayee. In the long run, much will depend on how intelligently and subtly we play our cards. It is a pity that Indian leaders often give the impression of being poor bargainers of national interests.

China plays this game admirably. It knows what it wants and pursues its basic interests ruthlessly. In the absence of coordinated thinking, we often give in more than necessary without extracting much in return.

Take the question of arms purchases. When we buy weapons from Russia or the USA, we should know how we get the maximum from the deal, not in terms of commission which is quietly pocketed, but in protecting India's interests. Here the small-time shopkeeper's mentality can be disastrous.

It needs to be realised that the nation cannot be run by indulging in wheeling and dealing. This requires clear vision, dedication, commitment and wider understanding of national and global goals. Take the case of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He has emerged as a major player in today's global politics. He is President Bush's right-hand man. He can influence the US President once he is convinced about the rightness of a cause.

Mr Blair has been of considerable help to India as well. He got the Harkat-ul-Ansar and Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist outfits blacklisted by phoning up President Bush. He will continue to play an important role. Viewed in this context, Mr Vajpayee's equations with him can help promote better understanding of India by the western world. 
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Classifieds
Shriniwas Joshi

A newspaper carries two types of advertisements — display and classifieds. The latter are for the needy who is in search of a room or a groom; a jar or a car; a bone or a loan and the former is the cackle of a hen. “A codfish lays ten thousand eggs in a single day, but it is done silently. A hen lays one egg and cackles. Nobody eats codfish eggs and nearly everybody eats chicken eggs.” So, it is wiser to advertise for it helps raise the standard of living by raising the standard of longing.

Can’t the classifieds reflect the social and political milieu of a country? My pondering has resulted in the following ones:

— Tenders are invited for stones and pieces of broken bricks. The average weight of each piece should be between 100 and 250 grams. Quoted rates should include the carriage of the material to the rooftops or any other strategic location from the vicinity of which the proposed procession on “All religions lead to God” is scheduled to pass.

— Grand Clearance Sale of Kinnauri Caps with green or maroon Pattis. Ordinary male head size. A real investment at throwaway price. You will not regret the investment made today because the price is likely to go high after two years when the elections are held in Himachal Pradesh.

— Raths available on as are where are basis. Going cheap today. For best use in the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, contact Tez Raftari Rathwal known for mobile shop and mobile phone number.

— “Do nothing; Look busy” a capsule course for executives of the business world arranged at Seven Star Hotel. Fee may pinch your pocket but the well-experienced faculty from the Government Offices shall not make the pinch feel. Contact Looters and Hooters.

— Born quadruplets — all girls — in the year of women empowerment. Credit to the doctors of the State Health Department who had earlier performed the tubectomy operation on the “new” mother. Father depressed but is, so far, holding on his own.

— Wanted well-qualified teachers on peanut salaries to teach in an English medium public school. Odd jobs possible during and after prescribed school hours. Asking for pay raise would mean dismissal. Apply with minimum-most acceptable salary to the Trust comprising the Principal and her near relatives. Send the size of your waist to assess your requirements. Other bio-data details be ignored.

— A broad-minded Hindu bachelor in sixties who lost his twenties to fifties on slow horses and fast women needs to settle now. A spinster or widow having her own bungalow need apply. Caste, age, religion, colour no bar. Photograph (of bungalow only) should accompany all replies. Apply Box 2001.

— Wanted for the Government of India a female Railway Minister who has the ability to run all trains to one station and missing one when comes her turn. Preferably a Didi type. Apply Prime Minister.

— Dear Somu, mother not enjoying kitty parties. Father upset after sunset. All is forgiven. Please return home quick. And remember bringing the key of the bar-counter. Only yours Uncle Gopu.

— Wanted a beautiful, smart, youthful woman for the post of Deceptionist. Apply Box 420.Top

 

Giving readers good choices
Kiran Bedi

THE headlines in the newspapers and visuals on the televisions are becoming predictive and depressive at times. Violence and bloodshed occupy the headlines. For media it is huge circulation with sufficient financial returns. The captive viewers and readers foot the bill.

And this is exactly my anxiety. Why are we not giving choices to the viewers and readers? Is it because we have none left? Who are the directors of the focus lights and ‘dictating the priorities’? Some of these questions got partially answered in a recent experience with the electronic and print media. The occasion was the meeting of Magsaysay Awardees and the city was Jaipur. Over 20 laureates were meeting. This time the Magsaysay Foundation Trustees decided to hold their annual conference in India.

This obviously was an important event for the city media if not for the country. A press briefing was done by the Magsaysay Trustees. They explained to them the significance of the award, the selection process etc. In this briefing the awardees were not present. After a while the president of the Foundation came to the meeting where I too was present and said, if it was alright if we let the media take a few visual shots of our meeting. None of us had any objection.

But then as soon as the electronic media left, the scribes also came in large numbers wanting to ask questions. And the queries which they made gave us awardees some interesting insights into the priorities of some of the members of the media. One of them belonging to a national daily began by asking “what happens to those who are more deserving and do not get the award”? We did not know where to look for the answers. It embarrassed every one of us. They made us feel that perhaps none of us actually deserved. The second question asked was “Is the award not biased and is it not pro-west and pro-English”? The third one was “are the awardees not heavily dependent on the “western funds”? The fourth one was “are we not discussing what is happening in Afghanistan”? And the final question (now the trustees intervened to keep the briefing short) was “why do you select only the controversial individuals for the award”? To which the trustees retaliated by saying because “in our view controversial individuals are doers”.

We all broke for lunch. And a TV interviewer asked me on camera, “Why is it that NGO work is not so well known and respected”? I said it is the way the media respects and projects. And today good work appears to be no good news. Scandal is! Therefore, most of the time people do not get to see innovative work.

The following day I saw only one newspaper of the capital reporting the meeting with a headline ‘The awardees deny dependence on Western funds”. I wondered for myself if it wasn’t a case of lost opportunities? And what if the questions had been as follows: (i) “What were the common factors which were found in all the awardees by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation selectors?” (ii) “What has been the overwhelming reason of many Indians getting the awards?” (iii)“Was Ramon Magsaysay Foundation planning to update and document the work of awardees for the benefit of future aspirants?” (iv) “What did the awardees think ought to be global priorities and why?” (v) “What difference did the award make to life and careers of Awardees and in what way did their work strengthen their commitments?” (vi ) “What aspects of the controversies do the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation appreciate and recognise in consideration for the award?”

Had these been the questions then the headline could have been ‘Asian Nobel Laureates’ call for a jehad against poverty’. “And to do that people and government have to work together with a sense of commitment and integrity,” said the awardees.

I have a suggestion which I think is possible and it is for consideration. And this is, how about a page called ‘Hope’ on the same lines as the ‘Sports’ page. On this we put in all news which revives hope. That means every day alongside the alarming news, which inform and cause anxiety, we can also turn to a page called Hope which renews and inspires. I do believe it can be possible. It will require some juggling for space but it’s worth it. Can we give it a try and see?
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ON THE SPOT

Where modernisation is seen as an enemy of Islam
Tavleen Singh

LAST week my travels took me to a couple of Muslim villages near the Rajasthani town of Nagaur. What brought me to the villages of Baasni and Kumari were rumours in Delhi’s political circles of a new, fundamentalist type of Islam creeping into the countryside and making Muslim villagers suddenly aware of their pan-Islamic identity. But, when I got to Nagaur and asked local officials and journalists about these tensions they said they had not heard of any such thing.

Nagaur has a large Muslim population, they said, but there has only ever been one relatively mild Hindu-Muslim riot. It occurred in the early nineties when Muslims stoned a Hindu baarat that was going past a mosque with the usual noise and music. Some Muslims objected because it was their time for prayer so they stoned the procession. One person died in police firing. ‘Other than this, we have never had any problems between Hindus and Muslims in Nagaur’ said a local journalist.

The journalist agreed to accompany me to Baasni and Kumari to show me that Muslims here have been settled for more than 600 years.

Baasni is a big village, almost a small town, and signs of prosperity are everywhere. We drove past several impressive buildings and large houses and into the main square whose main feature was a large, attractive mosque. A group of elderly, white-bearded gentlemen sat in the square and it was them I first approached in my search for signs of the ‘creeping Islamic fundamentalism’ I had heard about. What were their views on the war in Afghanistan, I asked, and they said that they had none because they did not think that the war concerned them in any way. What did they think of Osama bin Laden? Nothing, they said, they knew nothing about him and were not at all interested. Had they heard of what happened in New York and Washington on September 11? Yes, they said, and they thought that it was very wrong to kill innocent people, it was against the tenets of Islam.

By this time, as usually happens when strangers arrive in villages, a large crowd of men had collected. Most of them were younger than the old gentlemen I had been talking to and wanted to know what had brought me to the village. I explained that I was seeking Muslim views on the attacks of September 11, Osama bin Laden and the war in Afghanistan. There was a moment of silence and then one of the younger men said there was no proof that Osama bin Laden was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I pointed out that one of his spokesmen had gone on worldwide television to announce that there would be further attacks, that the ground beneath America would burn and that Muslims should avoid tall buildings. Did this not sound like proof to them?

‘No, it doesn’t sound like proof’ said one man aggressively ‘we also hear the news on BBC and we know that Osama bin Laden has not directly claimed responsibility. In fact he has denied that he had anything to do with the attacks on America. We do not believe his spokesmen.’

So, did they think Osama bin Laden was a hero? A few moments of tense silence followed before someone said they had nothing to do with him or with the war in Afghanistan. They were not interested in any of these things. Did they think that the war on Afghanistan was an attack on Islam? Again, moments of tense silence followed before some of the young men said that they did indeed see it as an attack on Islam and were quickly silenced by the older men in the group.

I switched then to more general questions: did they think it was right to put women in purdah, right for children to go to madrasas, for Muslim men to grow beards. Yes, they said this was part of Islam. All the women in the village wore the burqa, none of them did jobs and all the children in the village attended the madrasa in order to learn about Islam and to learn Urdu. Television, they said was not popular in the village because it was not part of their culture. When one young man tried to say that it was against Islam he was quickly silenced.

In the neighbouring village of Kumari, I visited one of its three madrasas and found that as in Baasni all the local children attended it to learn about Islam. A teacher called Mohammed Ilyas told me that they resented the fact that people were saying that the madrasa was a breeding ground for terrorism. How can teaching children about Islam be considered dangerous? Again, I was told that local people were uninterested in the war in Afghanistan or in the Taliban but yes they believed that women should be veiled and that good Muslim men should grow beards. These were things that were part of their religion.

So, can I tell you that in these villages I came across Islamic fundamentalism? No. But, what I did see was a hostility to modernity and change accompanied by a very, narrow idea of what Islam was. There was an obsession with dress codes and learning the Quran by heart and ensuring that women did not start thinking of getting jobs or getting too educated. Every woman was in purdah and according to the men I talked to they were happy that way.

There was a cloistered, medieval air about the villages and an almost obsessive fear of change. The men I talked to clung to what they considered the tenets of Islam almost as if they were afraid that if they did not do so then their identity would be destroyed.

When seen through my non-Muslim eyes this was fundamentalist Islam but in the eyes of the Muslim villagers it was just Islam. The most worrying thing about this idea of Islam was that it seemed to be an idea that was in direct conflict with modernity and change. Although, nobody said it in so many words, it was clear that modernity was somehow seen as an enemy of Islam. Fertile grounds for fundamentalism? In my view, yes.
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Theft of Viceroy's cigarette case

Shimla
It is learnt from Ludhiana that two accused who were sentenced here recently and were sent to the Ludhiana Jail for having stolen, while accompanying their photographer-employer, the Viceroy's silver cigarette case which was recovered on person of one of them have now been released after 22 days' imprisonment. It is stated that the unexpired portion has been, according to the wishes of the Viceroy, remitted in exercise of their power of clemency by the Punjab government.
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A CENTURY OF NOBELS

 

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Come march ahead with courage, Face troubles bravely; no obstacles can check your progress while you are on the right path.

—Rig Veda, 1.80.3.

* * *

O non-violent seeker!

O persistent devotee!

Get rid of the feelings of envy, greed And other evil impulses.

—Sama Veda, 308.

* * *

Freedom from malice, absence of greed, control of the senses, love with fellow beings, austerity, continence, truthfulness, compassion, forbearance, fortitude; these constitute the unassailable fundamentals of Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Law)

—The Matsya Purana

* * *

Bestowing gifts on deserving persons, fixing one's thoughts on Sri Krishna adoration of one's parents, piety, offering a portion of the daily meal to all creatures, and giving a morsel of food to a cow — these are the six characteristics of dharma.

—The Padma Purana, Uttar-khanda

* * *

Man always seeks happiness by trying to satisfy his desires.

If a desire is fulfilled he feels happy.

And when it is not

He feels grief.

But the trouble is, Desire is a bonfire that burns with great fury

Asking for more fuel.

One desire leads to ten and man exhausts himself in trying to exhaust the demands of desire.

He has to be turned back from this path of never-ending desire to the path of inner content and joy.

* * *

Desire is storm, Greed is whirlpool, Pride is precipice, Attachment is avalanche, And ego is volcano.

Discard these and you will be liberated.

Desire is a bonfire that burns with greater fury, asking for more fuel. Desire is the sole cause of sorrow and distress.

—From the discourses of Sathya Sai Baba.
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