Sunday, November 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


War against terror: The public opinion conundrum
Sreeram Chaulia

The voice of people is the voice of God.
Jean Jacques Rousseau
here is a fundamental contradiction in the renewed love fest that the present war against terrorism has contrived between the United States and its old Cold War ally, Pakistan, an anomaly that has missed the sharp analytical brushes of most columnists and commentators in recent months.

Noam Chomsky

Chomsky and the American political fraud
Shelley Walia

ar on Afghanistan constitutes a greater terrorist act than the September 11 attacks”. Who else could have made this statement at a public lecture if not Noam Chomsky? 


What has Dalmiya done?
November 24
, 2001
BJP’s new stance
November 23
, 2001
Denness stumps cricket
November 22
, 2001
Call back the cricketers
November 21
, 2001
PM’s sangat darshan
November 20
, 2001
Politics of POTO
November 19
, 2001
Maharaja Ranjit Singh: Punjab’s benevolent ruler
November 18
, 2001
The Afghan endgame
November 17
, 2001
Doha resurrects WTO
November 16
, 2001
Quieter Divali
November 14
, 2001
Bin Laden’s bluster
November 13
, 2001
India’s major gains
November 12
, 2001


Mingling of Hinduism and Islam
Asghar Ali Engineer
ara Shikoh has made seminal contribution to the composite culture of India. He was appointed heir apparent by Shah Jahan and had he become emperor of India it would have certainly made much difference to religio-cultural scene in India.

Enough of prolonged saga of blood-letting
David Devadas
bdul Majid Dar could easily pass for a dapper professor. A salt and pepper beard and a receding grey hairline frame his smiling face as he lopes into the room looking like a gentleman at a golf course.


Harihar Swarup
A ray of hope for the victims of oppression
he Irish poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney presented a vintage, out of print, book — “The Golden Bough”— to Mary Robinson hours before she left Dublin for New York to take up her new assignment as UN High Commissioner for Human rights. Inscribed on the beautifully bound book were the words: “Take hold of it boldly and dulyà”. 


PM’s deft move in the battle of bahus
he last word has not yet been heard on the controversy surrounding the removal of Maneka Gandhi from the Union Culture Ministry but it is being seen as a deft move by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee which left the Congress leaders more angry than the removed minister. Vajpayee apparently tried to kill two birds with one stone. 

  • Political ex-governors

  • Forgotten Gupta

  • Punctuality hurts

  • Invitation fiasco


Humra Quraishi
Iftaar: A dash of politics, diplomacy & glamour
ftaar party diplomacy has begun as the month of Ramadaan entered the second week. No, I’m not hinting at the Iftaar hosted by the Pakistani envoy Ashraf Jehangir Qazi (which, I am told, was a damb squib with only a quarter of the invitees turning up).




War against terror: The public opinion conundrum
Sreeram Chaulia

The voice of people is the voice of God.
Jean Jacques Rousseau

There is a fundamental contradiction in the renewed love fest that the present war against terrorism has contrived between the United States and its old Cold War ally, Pakistan, an anomaly that has missed the sharp analytical brushes of most columnists and commentators in recent months.

The US-Pakistani alliance does not happen to be an alliance of the American and Pakistani people. The amount of mistrust, hostility and venom that Pakistanis spout for Uncle Sam is a ubiquitous and daily observable phenomenon. This animus is not to be confused with pro-Taliban or pro-Osama bin Laden sentiments in Pakistan, which could be argued as the domain of extremists and Islamic fundamentalists, particularly in the madrassas (seminaries) and the provinces bordering Afghanistan who have been outraged at the USA’s bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

What I am referring to is a generic and widely perceived hatred for America, American values and American institutions that is shared by moderates, extremists, peaceniks, warmongers, Punjabis, Sindhis, Pushtuns, Baloch, rich, poor, male, female, young and old. In a country struggling to weave its multiple identities into cohesive nationhood (to use World Bank economist Javed Burki’s phrase, “a nation in the making”), the only common emotion that is aired from occupied Kashmir to Karachi is that of anti-Americanism and intense visceral hatred for all things American. It is a more widely shared sentiment than the anti-India and “Kashmir liberation” issues if farsighted intellectuals like Sherbaz Khan Mazari are to be cited.

Why has such a state of affairs come about? Numerous editorials and op-ed columns in leading US dailies have been posing the question — why do ‘they’ hate us so much? I shall not take up the case of the entire Muslim world but stick to Pakistan. First of all, the generation of Pakistanis that has come of youthful age today feels forlorn, jilted and swindled by opportunist America which literally used their country during the Cold War but discarded it like dispensable debris after 1991. The rapid decade-long improvement of the USA’s ties with India, South Asia’s leading military and economic power, has given rise to a rethinking among Pakistanis that was ignored by opportunistic undemocratic rulers for nearly four decades: why did we barter our independence during the Cold War to later suffer withdrawal symptoms? Why did we not foresee a time when our ‘special relationship’ would be terminated and Washington will start pursuing the more logical policy of befriending the larger, stabler and econo- mically promising India?

Secondly, the appeal of the ‘rule of shariat/khilafa’ has become an increasingly seminal component stoking anti-Americanism among average Pakistanis. As the country tottered from fitful democracy to military coup and back again since Zia-ul-Haq’s death, the notion of a third way gained ascendance and the Mullahs stepped in to present fanciful constructions of a ‘true Islamic country’ that would follow the Prophet’s path and cleanse the rot of corruption and venality that both political parties and the Pakistan army have wallowed in. Theocratisation/ Talibanisation has thrived on universal Pakistani jeremiads of the cul de sac-facing future of the country under all those years of ‘modern’ forms of governance and the nostrum of a return to the principles on which the country was conceived, a ‘land of the pure’, Dar-ul-Islam.

Since every Islamic revolutionary movement like the Ayatollah’s in Iran had to identify a prominent hate-target, America became the khilafa-seekers’ whipping target, the source of all the debauchery, licentiousness and deracination that had overtaken Pakistan. And since there is already an established tradition of a worldwide Islamic fraternity, Maulana Fazlur-Rehman sought to give the Talibanisers a rallying cry — “Islam is the real superpower”, the one with global and heavenly backing as opposed to the one that Satan and the ‘in- fidels’ have erected — the USA.

Virulent anti-Americanism in Pakistan, brimming beyond boiling point since the bombing campaign has begun, must not be ignored by decision-makers in Washington. America is the second largest democracy of the world, where administrations claim to represent the people like nowhere else and where public opinion is theoretically considered a valuable component of foreign policy making. It is worth asking if the people of this country really desire the new alliance with Islamabad that reflects poorly upon the true feelings of the people of Pakistan.

General Musharraf has no legitimacy or mandate to be worried about what Pakistani people feel about his current Chameleonic volte-face, but should the Bush administration ignore its constituents? In other words, are the USA administrations free to make friends and foes without taking public opinion into account? During the hazy period straddling the end of World War II and the formal start of the Cold War (1947), Gallup used to conduct accurate and very informative public opinion polls asking Americans how they perceived of Soviet people and the USSR. There is historical evidence to the effect that public opinion was more ‘led’ by the Truman Administration’s portrayals of the ‘red menace’ rather than ‘leading’ the government through independent judgement. Whatever be the case, my challenge is for Colin Powell to go ahead and quantify for the American populace the so-called ‘friendliness’ of the Pakistani people he is claiming for the USA. Let there be an impartial opinion poll how much the American people trust Pakistan’s hand of ‘friendship’.

A mere 20 miles from Lahore, across the border, is the antidote. Indian people, across regional, religious and linguistic barriers, are true friends of America and the American value system. I was present in Hyderabad, a city with a very large percentage of Muslims, during Bill Clinton’s landmark visit (March 2000) and witness to the spontaneous reaction of people ranging from commoners to the VIPs: Absolutely ecstatic! Milkmen, grocers, rickshaw pullers and construction labourers queued up along the route that the Presidential itinerary was to take, taking leave from their daily chores, to catch a glimpse of ‘Clintonji’.

I asked a bystander, Abdul, a mechanic who absconded from his motor garage work, why he was wasting time when it was unlikely the President would even spot him in the milling crowds lining both sides. He said, he had heard that Americans are great and “most powerful” people who are helping ‘us’, India and Indians. All the highly literate and ‘smart’ people he knew in his neighbourhood were going to America, because they treat ‘us’ with respect and kindness and have a “lot of money” to give. Seduced by capitalism? So be it. Indians have welcomed Soviet-time dignitaries from Bulganin to Gorbachev, goaded by painstaking efforts of governments in Delhi to orchestrate a welcome by smiling school-children waving flags of Indo-Russian bonhomie on either side of the roads.

Clinton’s visit was significantly the first in independent India’s history when people of all hues and affiliations voluntarily pressed against the restraining security arrangements to extend wholehearted welcomes to a foreign luminary and take a closer glance at the man who represented a country and ideals they genuinely love, a love the President confessed was overwhelming him emotionally.

People-to-people contacts and empathies between America and Pakistan have never been qualitatively or quantitatively of any sizeable proportion and have been dealt the coup de grace since October 7 —the day on which the USA launched its bombing campaign in Afghanistan. To use diplomatic jargon, ‘thick relations’ with another country must include a strong cultural basis of friendship and goodwill between the two peoples. The USA should redirect its policy from this temporary marriage of convenience with a country that positively detests it and continue to boost its dynamic relationship with India and Indians who have contributed and shared the ‘American dream’. This is in keeping with its long-term interests.

For 40 years, by self-admission, Washington backed “the wrong horse” in South Asia. If it does not heed its own people and the Indian people and continues to do so even after the Afghan campaign — the rationale for befriending a country with an illegitimate ‘President’—ends, the conundrum of divergence between public opinion and administration policy will become a great scandal to besmirch American democracy.

The writer is research scholar, International Relations, Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse, New York.


Chomsky and the American political fraud
Shelley Walia

“War on Afghanistan constitutes a greater terrorist act than the September 11 attacks”. Who else could have made this statement at a public lecture if not Noam Chomsky? At the centre of practically every major debate over America’s role in the world stands this leading dissident American professor. No one has analysed the Palestinian problem or dissected more graphically the character of the Cold War consensus and the way it benefited the two superpowers than him.

And now he is at the centre of the debate on the Afghan war where he holds the Americans guilty for not seeking the United Nations sanction for the war which would have been very easily obtained. But obviously the Americans wanted to show to the world that they had the right to act unilaterally. This only implies that major decisions are not taken in the public arena.

A brilliant essay on the Spanish Civil War at the age of 12, the award of a Chair at MIT at 32, a long career in academics up until the Vietnam War make up his early career before he directed his angry attacks on America’s intervention in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Central America. Passion for human freedom, a tenacious attack on propaganda, modern democracy, and the ‘free press which is part of a stultifying conformity that pervades all aspects of American intellectual life’ have earned him the label of a rebel who has with impeccable research of official documents and insights exposed the workings and brutality, the irresponsible power and unjustified privilege of the so-called Western democracies.

Chomsky has never supported the Republicans or the Democrats, remaining consistently an independent left-wing anarchist, or as he puts it, a ‘libertarian socialist’ who has never seen eye to eye with the superpowers and their imperialist policies. He has argued against the idea of a ‘New World Order’, holding the view that it is a misnomer for the Western world where fear, apathy, religious fanaticism, and violence have wiped out the last signs of hope. Though formal imperialism has definitely come to an end with decolonisation, its firm entrenchment is the next logical step in its evolution. The continued and severe economic crises, the sale of millions of dollars worth of weapons to Hungary, Iraq, Israel and soon to Pakistan, large scale unemployment, the emergence of fascism in Europe and deep alienation from the new political structures sufficiently demolishes the optimism of a ‘New World Order’ and points only towards one fact: that imperialism is here to stay.

As Chomsky emphatically maintained in his lecture at Chennai, “The moves for extending the defence system and for total domination would only increase with the attempts towards globalisation. The forms which globalisation took were intended to benefit the West and the corporates and not the people’. Globalisation has only widened inequalities. All states, Chomsky feels, are terrorists or rogue states. Insisting that the USA was not a democracy, he argued that “the political system in that country was meant to protect the opulent classes against the majority of the people”. He maintained that alienation from politics was a result of the conspicuous indoctrination of the masses with “a consumerist culture of music, sports and purchasing”. In an interview in New Delhi he went on to elaborate on this: “There is a major effort being made to prevent the US population from understanding what is happening. The assumptions about massive starvation, the warnings from high officials of the UN, all this is not reported. What they see is that a bomb went astray and hit a village”.

The post-Cold War agenda of the USA remains unaltered. Though the most democratic of all nations, ‘unimaginably perfect’ in the view of many, it moves on unscrupulously backing its client regimes around the world even if they are dictatorships in Pakistan or Latin America, supporting its allies, brutally dominating the global economy to the detriment of the rest of the world. It is, Chomsky stresses, nothing more than an ingenuous piece of ‘historical engineering’ whereby the pretexts for the Cold War — nuclear threat, the Eastern Bloc menace — have been deftly replaced by a new set of convenient justifications for a Western agenda that largely remains unaltered. The older forms of colonialism are replaced by more efficient and lasting modes of subjugation. The USA has, in fact, displaced colonial control from the metropolis to the colony itself.

American motives might seem humanitarian but they differ little from the mechanisms of a totalitarian state. Double standards are adopted as is clear in America’s demand for the extradition of Bin Laden but complete refusal to grant Haiti’s request for the extradition of a criminal wanted in connection with atrocities committed in the Nineties. They supported Saddam Hussein through his worst atrocities and then talked about this ‘monster’ who gassed his own people. He did gas his own people, but as the world very well knows, it was done with the full patronage of the USA and Britain. Sending tanks to Prague is similar to the American organised genocide in Central America to destroy the popular organisations which “threatened to create a base for functioning democracy, perhaps allowing the people of this miserable region, long in the grip of American power, to gain some control over their lives”. The bombing of Afghan civilians is no different. Intervention in Afghanistan to wipe out the Taliban and to establish a government acceptable to the people is legitimate, but to end up killing thousands of civilians is nothing but an atrocity.

In his book “Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”, Robert McNamara, the author of the Vietnam disaster, holds the orthodox liberal view that Vietnam is the cause of all social evils in America such as racial tension, violent crime, drug abuse, suicide, unmarried motherhood and AIDS. But the truth is that it was the Americans who brought with them the home grown cult of drug abuse and sexual permissiveness, Black power and radical politics, which turned the soldiers into indisciplined fighters who raped and murdered civilians but were unable to fight the Army of North Vietnam. If they had stayed off, the South had the capabilities and the determination to achieve its political freedom, a goal which has largely been attained in recent years. And yet many feel that the South was corrupt and not capable of defending itself. Chomsky holds the media responsible for this misconception, and also the Rambo films through which many indulge in blood-thirsty dreams of revenge crippling them to come to grips with the reality of the Vietnam experience. The immorality of waging high technology war against an enemy largely composed of civilians is not raised. Nor is the folly of picking up the remnants of colonialism challenged. The question after the Afghan war is over will be: was the Afghan bombing like the Vietnam war wrong because the USA could not win it, or was it wrong because it was wrong?

And when one enemy disappears, a search for another begins. With Russians posing no threat, it is now, Chomsky argues, “international terrorism, Hispanic narcotraffickers, Islamic fundamentalism, or Third World instability”. Very few would have the awareness of the contribution of the USA and her clients to international terrorism, or the hand of the CIA in the post-World War II drug trafficking. Respectable scholarship refuses to show its concern and remains subservient to the ‘standard doctrinal camouflage’ of America’s real motives. Military power gives the USA the capability to punish enemies and discipline ‘allies’, but its weakening economic position compels her to try and involve other countries. The hard question that the USA and other countries have to face is that acts of terrorism, atrocities, and a generalised culture of violence arise from and are shaped by their way of life and by what at least some of them believe in.

Chomsky is brilliant at exposing the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of those who preach the higher good. He has finally come to the conclusion that the ‘New World Order’, is very much like the old, but in a new guise. There are important developments, but there are no fundamental changes, and no ‘new paradigms’.... The basic rules of world order remain as they have always been: “the rule of law for the weak, the rule of force for the strong”.

He sees some hope in those who refuse to accept this and do all that is possible to undermine it for the main aim of extending the scope of justice and freedom. Rich men of rich nations cannot be allowed to rule the world by manoeuvring and colluding with the rich of the poor nations. The garb of benevolence and harmony under which these capitalist guerillas operate has to be pulled down. Globalisation of economy through transnational corporations has ushered only a revised programme, nothing new from the old practice of using the state machinery and violence to seemingly establish a framework of liberal internationalism meant only for power and profit.

Sadly, the global village can be a violent place where the curse is the new intimacy and aggression, with societies so penetrated by each other physically and culturally that awful damage can be wrecked in a way that was not possible in the past.


Mingling of Hinduism and Islam
Asghar Ali Engineer

Dara Shikoh has made seminal contribution to the composite culture of India. He was appointed heir apparent by Shah Jahan and had he become emperor of India it would have certainly made much difference to religio-cultural scene in India.

Dara Shikoh had learnt Sanskrit and studied the Hindu scripture in original. He translated Upanishads into Persian directly from Sanskrit and called it Sirr-e-Akbar (The Great Mystery). And in introduction to this work he says that one finds in Upanishads the concept of tawhid (the doctrine of Unity of God, the most fundamental doctrine of Islam) after the Qur’an and perhaps the Qur’an refers to Upanishad when it refers to Kitab al-Maknun (The Hidden Book).

His work Majma`ul Bahrayn (Mingling of the Two Oceans i.e. Hinduism and Islam) is very seminal work in the history of composite culture of India.

Dara Shikoh, who was the disciple of the disciple of Mian Mir, the great Sufi saint who had laid the foundation stone of the Har Mandir Sahib in Amritsar at the instance of the Sikh Guru, shows in this book that there is great deal of similarities between these two great religions Hinduism and Islam. He divides his tract into twenty sections like The Elements, The Senses, The Religious Exercises, The Attributes, the Great Resurrection and so on. In each section he discusses similarities between Hinduism and Islam.

For example, in the first section “Discourse on the Elements”, he compares the concept of these elements in Islam and Hinduism. They are five in number i.e. Arsh-i-Azam (The Great Throne); secondly the wind, thirdly the Fire; fourthly the water and fifthly the Dust. In the Indian language, these are called Panch Bhut namely akas, vayu, tejas, jala and prithvi. He then discusses these elements and their similarities in both the traditions. Dara Shikoh for example compares Ruhi-i-Azam with Jivatma.

Then coming to Sifat-I-Allah Ta`ala i.e. Divine Attributes, he says in Islamic Sufi tradition there are two Beauty (Jamal) and Majesty (Jamal) while in Indian tradition it is three called Triguna called Sattva, Rajas and tamas which mean Creation, Duration and Destruction. Then he goes on to compare Brahma, Vishnu and Mahishvara with Jibrail, Mika’il and Israfil. He says that Brahma or Jibra’il is the (Superintending angel) of Creation; Vishnu or Mika’il is the angel of Duration (or Existence) and Mahishwara or Israfil is the angel of Destruction. Dara Shikoh further says that water, wind and fire are also allied with these angels. Thus water goes with Jibra’il, fire with Mika’il and air with Israfil. Similarly Brahma is water, Vishnu is fire and Maheshwara is air.

In all these 20 sections in Majma`ul Bahrayn, Dara Shikoh finds similarities between both Hindu and Islamic (particularly Sufi) traditions. The fanatics and fundamentalists in both the traditions denounce each other and try to prove the truth of their own religion. In such circumstances it is highly necessary to popularise writings of persons like Dara Shikoh who uphold the truth of all religious traditions.

The Sufi Islam has been a bridge between Hindus and Muslims in India. The very fundamental doctrine of Sufism has been sulh-i-kula i.e. peace with all.

The Sufis go with essence, not with phraseology or terminology. The Sufis studied the local traditions and adopted many of them. Even in the Qur’an, one finds remarkable similarities between some of the Hindu traditions and Islamic tradition. For example in Indian tradition we find Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram for God. One finds in the Qur’an Huwa’l Haq (He is Truth ), Jamil (Sundaram) and Jabbar (Shivam). All three Attributes are there in the Qur’an.

Also, the often quoted saying that Vasudhaiv Kutumbakum (entire universe is a family) finds its reflection in the Holy Prophet’s saying Al-khalqu ‘Ayalullah’ i.e. entire creation is Allah’s family. These are remarkable similarities between these two traditions. It is on these similarities that the Sufis and others built the bridges between the two communities.

However, it is some political interests, which selectively and superficially use some traditions to divide Hindus and Muslims. Thus one can easily say that while religions unite, politics divide.

Among the `Ulama persons like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad came out with the doctrine of unity of religion (wahdat-i-din) which is also a very constructive approach. There have been many Sufi saints in India like Mazhar Jan-i-Janan who accept Ram and Krishna as the Prophets of God as Allah has stated in the Qur’an that He has sent prophets to all nations. Thus we must promote similarities between Hindus and Muslims and there are abundant examples of these similarities in our scriptures.Top



Enough of prolonged saga of blood-letting
David Devadas

Abdul Majid Dar could easily pass for a dapper professor. A salt and pepper beard and a receding grey hairline frame his smiling face as he lopes into the room looking like a gentleman at a golf course.

He is wearing a checked shirt, an off-white windcheater and smartly-tailored brown pants. He goes straight up to the three journalists waiting to interview him and embraces each of them before politely motioning them to sit on the carpet. Only then does he take his own place beside them.

His eyes are warm, his cheeks lined — entirely different to any hackneyed notions one might conjure up of what the former operational chief commander of Kashmir’s once-dreaded Hizb-ul Mujahideen should look like. He has arrived on the pillion of a two-wheeler with a former political associate. Two or three of these associates, from his days in the Tehrik-ul Jihad Islami and the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, have arranged this meeting.

It took place a few weeks ago and was a somewhat cloak-and-dagger affair, but not very much. This reporter was asked to wait at a well-known spot in Srinagar that morning. Someone then arrived to drive along to the house of one of the associates, where a Canadian journalist had been separately brought, along with a veteran Kashmiri information man. All then drove in two cars through some bylanes to a secluded house to await Dar.

He has been in the eye of controversy over the past 16 months, ever since he declared a ceasefire and his group’s readiness for talks with the Indian government on a solution to the Kashmir issue. His call was rejected by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and reviled as a sell-out by other militant groups based across the Line of Control.

Dar has since been replaced as the Hizb’s operational commander in the valley but maintains that he still commands the loyalty of his men. He is a soft-spoken, evidently intelligent man, who draws quite often from his packet 555 international cigarettes.
When the Canadian journalist asks him his assessment of what impact the attacks at New York will have on Kashmir, he smiles wanly and mutters to his friends that it’s a tough question. He thinks for a moment before replying that both India and Pakistan saw that event as an opportunity to exploit for their own ends in Kashmir.

India wanted to project the attack as being the handiwork of the ISI, he says. On the other hand, although the Taliban was sponsored by Pakistan, that country was maneouvred into a frontline state against the Taliban. That has upset India no end and it has been trying to dub the Kashmiri movement as terrorism.

India’s operations here resumed the moment it withdrew its “so-called ceasefire” earlier this year, he adds. As for Pakistan, it serves the USA’s interests, helping it to fight Afghanistan, as long as it doesn’t interfere in Kashmir or dub the movement here as terrorist.

Asked how things have changed in Kashmir after the WTO attacks, Dar says that nothing has changed. Both countries have always tried to exploit anything that happened in the world to their advantage against the other.

India’s recent statement that militants are returning to Afghanistan is “propaganda” tailored to win favour in the West — “all politics.” Responding to India’s point that militancy is now almost entirely run by non-Kashmiris, Dar says that foreign involvement has not changed the indigenous character of Kashmir’s movement.

Asked about the recent Lashkar-e-Jabbar ultimatum to Kashmiri women to veil themselves, Dar says it is “unIslamic, uncivilised, inhuman” to use force the way they do. It’s a conspiracy, he adds.

Dar’s statements make it difficult to paint him as a spokesman of either Pakistan or India although many of his former colleagues in the militant movement believe he has become an agent of Indian intelligence agencies. As he looks, so he sounds, somewhat like an analytical professor.

He can also play the advocate of rights. However, he says “we are looking for justice but the current low profile military campaigns between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris is leading nowhere”.

The issue must be given a high profile so that it is settled, either diplomatically or through all-out war. Clearly, he has had enough of this prolonged saga of blood-letting that shows no sign of reaching anywhere.


A ray of hope for the victims of oppression
Harihar Swarup

The Irish poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney presented a vintage, out of print, book — “The Golden Bough”— to Mary Robinson hours before she left Dublin for New York to take up her new assignment as UN High Commissioner for Human rights. Inscribed on the beautifully bound book were the words: “Take hold of it boldly and dulyà”. She followed the advice of the Nobel Laureate in letter and spirit and held on steadfastly to the UN post for last four years with spectacular success. Also the conclusion to “The Golden Bough” — “If fate has called you, the bough will come easily, and on its own accord” — has been her beacon light as she provided succour and solace to the victims of oppression and tyranny in the world. She says: “As I wake up each morning thinking how best to protect human rights, I must also, and with modesty rely on fate”.

It was fate indeed that prevailed on Mary Robinson to end voluntarily her highly successful seven-year long tenure as the President of Ireland in September, 1997 to take up the UN job. She was the first woman President of her country and through that status created a new focus on women and inculcated in them a new confidence. Her state visits, her humanitarian journeys to areas such as Somalia, her speeches on justice and human rights, to the UN and other forums, made her a respected and admired diplomat. Also she was the first Head of State to visit Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide there. At the age of 25, armed with the law degrees from both Dublin and Harvard universities, she became the youngest-ever professor and went on to win a seat in Irish Parliament as a member of the Labour Party.

Mary Robinson is known in the portals of the UN and elsewhere in the world as a “remarkable woman”. That outstanding woman was in Delhi last week to receive ‘Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development’. Remarkable she is indeed; this is the impression one gets after watching her at the Rashtrapati Bhavan receiving the award, delivering her inspiring speech and later addressing a press conference. Her deep penetrating eyes reflect a commitment, a sense of purpose for a noble cause. She described Indira Gandhi as “personification of `shakti’— feminine power — that finds its home in South Asia”.

As a human right activist, she is an admirer, besides Mahtama Gandhi, of Amartya Sen. She is troubled by the position of the girl child in modern India and says: “ I totally agree with the analysis by Amartya Sen in which he placed emphasis on the importance of female literacy to empower women. Indeed, I believe that the single most effective way to address poverty in India would be to enable girls and women to change from being passive recipients of social equality to becoming active agents of social change”. Her advice to Indian women is: “Instead of rocking the cradle they should rock the system”.

One of Mary Robinson’s achievement as High Commissioner was to convene the UN Conference against Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia (bias) and related Intolerance in August, this year. The venue was Durban, the city where Mahatma Gandhi launched first non-violent movement against racial discrimination. Earlier, the problem was apartheid regime in South Africa but now the UN, according to her, has been grappling with victims of racism and discrimination, suppression of indigenous people, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and minorities.

The Durban conference was a roaring success and an elated Mary Robinson remarked: “When I became the secretary general of this world conference, it seemed like a burden, but more I have lived with the process, the more I truly believe that this is an unique opportunity to make a breakthrough against racism and discrimination, and to give recognition and hope and confidence to millions of people around the world who are put down because of who they are. Who never have their position considered. Who are discriminated against. Who are hurt by the way that others look at them and treat them or even, don’t see them. It is a true human rights conference”.

Robinson is greatly concerned over human rights in post-Taliban Afghanistan and says Afghanistan needs to break the pattern of human rights abuse, establish a safe environment for its women, men and children and ensure judicial accountability for criminal acts.

Her top most priority is to ensure that all interim governance initiatives will respect human rights and uphold the principle of accountability. She feels that the challenge and opportunities to build sustainable peace by entrenching attention to human rights in the aftermath of conflict is nowhere more clearly seen than in the situation of Afghanistan.


PM’s deft move in the battle of bahus

The last word has not yet been heard on the controversy surrounding the removal of Maneka Gandhi from the Union Culture Ministry but it is being seen as a deft move by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee which left the Congress leaders more angry than the removed minister. Vajpayee apparently tried to kill two birds with one stone. The removal of the minister, who had openly criticised the working of Congress president Sonia Gandhi as a member of certain centres named after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, was perceived as a goodwill gesture by Vajpayee to enlist her party’s support for the numerous bills pending in Parliament.

The feud between the two bahus of the Nehru-Gandhi family had become bitter after Ms Maneka Gandhi accused Ms Sonia Gandhi of motivating British author Katherine Frank’s biography of Indira Gandhi. The removal of Maneka Gandhi, coming a day before the birth anniversary functions of Indira Gandhi and on the eve of Parliament session, was widely perceived to have taken place at the instance of the Congress president.

It was talk of this link which disturbed the Congress leaders. Taken aback by the Prime Minister’s move, they did not react for a few days. Finally, the Congress spokesman took extra pains to clarify that the Congress president had never suggested to the Prime Minister to change the portfolio of Maneka Gandhi. The Congress was harsh on Vajpayee too. The change of portfolios was a “whimsical” move by a Prime Minister who had brought back “tainted” ministers into the cabinet, the Congress leaders said.

Political ex-governors

The suggestion of the Inter-State Council (ISC) that former governors refrain from taking part in active politics ruffled many a feather, both in the BJP and the Congress. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that he was personally against the recommendation of the ISC as ex-Governors had as much right to take part in politics as any other citizen. “As long as a person is Governor, he should be above party politics.

But after relinquishing his post, he can take part in normal political activity,” Dhumal said. Senior Congress leader Motilal Vora, a former Governor, was equally opposed to the recommendations. He said that the right to take part in political activities was given by the Constitution and a change had to be brought about in the statute to alter the present situation. Vora also said that the recommendations of the ISC could be considered only with prospective effect. The Governors, he said, were representatives of the President and not of the government.

With both the BJP and Congress leaders privately opposed to the ISC’s recommendation that former Governors were not expected to take part in politics, there is little hope of former governors staying away from politics.

Forgotten Gupta

Who remembers Ram Prakash Gupta today? The former UP Chief Minister was spotted the other day at a dinner jointly hosted by present BJP President K Jana Krihsnamurthi and one of his predecssor Kushabhau Thakre. Gupta was unceremoniously removed about a year back and replaced with the then Union Minister Rajnath Singh.

This was done as the BJP high command had got alarming reports about the declining popularity of the party. Gupta would have avoided the event in the normal course but for the fact that the dinner was being hosted to celebrate the birthday of his old friend Jagdish Prasad Mathur. Gupta, after wishing Mathur, decided to call it a day but while he was going out of the venue, happened to bump into Rajnath Singh who was talking to his admirers. Gupta apparently wanted to say hello to the Chief Minister but then could not catch the attention of Rajnath Singh for some time.

Finally, when Rajnath Singh turned to Gupta the veteran politician wished him with a “Namaskar” and was seen whispering something into his successor’s ears.

Punctuality hurts

The problem with being punctual is that there is nobody around to appreciate you. This was found the hard way by the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority Chairman N Rangachary the other day. A meeting on insurance related issues was held at the Press Club of India and it was supposed to begin at 9.30 a.m.. The invitees were members of the insurance industry, scribes and two Ministers of State for Financ e— Balasaheb Vikhe Patil and Gingee Ramachandran. Patil came at the appointed hour and found the venue nearly empty with only Rangachary and a few scribes at hand to greet him. Having realised that the function was not likely to begin for sometime, the Minister embarrassed Rangachary later called up the other Minister of State for Finance and requested his staff to cancel his visit to the Press Club.

It was not the only embarrassing incident concerning punctuality. In the same week at another book release function, the Labour Minister Sharad Yadav embarrassed his hosts by reaching the venue at the appointed time. In his case even the hosts were missing. Did somebody mention Indian Strechable Time?

Invitation fiasco

Dates and days have great significance. Senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra realised it in a quite embarrassing manner. The BJP legislative party spokesman, who invites scribes for a lunch every year around this time, extended an open invitation to journalists covering BJP for a lunch on Saturday, November 24, during a press briefing, and said a formal invitation would follow soon.

Subsequently, when he took it upon himself to extend the formal invitations to scribes, he realised, much to his embarrassment, that the invitation had the dates wrong as it was printed Thursday, November 29 instead of November 24. However, the cool-minded BJP leader acted fast and non-chalantly took back the “wrong-dated” invitations, donning a smile while doing so.

Contributed by Prashant Sood, Satish Misra, S. Satyanarayanan and T.V. Lakshminarayan.




Iftaar: A dash of politics, diplomacy & glamour
Humra Quraishi

Iftaar party diplomacy has begun as the month of Ramadaan entered the second week. No, I’m not hinting at the Iftaar hosted by the Pakistani envoy Ashraf Jehangir Qazi (which, I am told, was a damb squib with only a quarter of the invitees turning up).

I am writing about an even more dismal event — hosted in the India Islamic Cultural Centre where the chief guest was none other than HRD Minister MM Joshi and the guests were no more than twelve.

With one of the main functionaries even requesting the minister for funds. No, the minister didn’t quite say that they were being diverted elsewhere (for tasks like the re-writing of history texts etc) but was ever so blatant saying that they should have invited another minister for that !

Anyway, strange is the set up at the India Islamic Cultural Centre which has been in the making for last several years yet nothing seems to be moving along cultural lines, with several members pointedly blaming internal politics for it .

Back to iftaars. As the month progresses there will be more additions to this diplomacy. And news is that with the coming UP elections, every single politician connected with that state would host one.

Last year, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Iftaar party was simply pathetic with truckloads of people brought here from his constituency Lucknow, to make up for the lack of guests. This time, with the SIMI ghost still hovering around, it is to be seen whether the guest list dwindles still further. And though the Amar Singh Mulayam Singh duo leave no stone unturned to add a dash of Bollywood glamour to the dos hosted by them, this time news is that they would be concentrating only on the who’s who of the poor bifurcated state of Uttar Pradesh. And, of course, it would be laughing matter if hardliners in the present setup indulge in his sort of diplomacy. It’s yet to be seen if they find any takers for this sort of ploy. In fact, last year’s Id and Iftaar parties hosted by Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaaz Hussain, drew such small numbers that this time I am told he is thinking twice before hosting one on either occasion, unless truckers from his home constituency pick up some from here and there.

With George Bush hosting an iftaar in the White House his envoy here could follow the same tactical move — that is invite the envoys of the Arab countries together with the so-called 
prominent Muslims of the city.

But what the USA seems to overlook is the fact that with most of these countries turning democratic, the mood of the people has to be kept in mind which is by any standards definitely anti-USA.

And strains of this are becoming so strong that none of these tactical moves and gestures can change it .Unless the equations at the basic level get sorted out or the people are made to reach a higher plane.


There will be a series of lectures on anekant ( non-violence). Beginning this weekend at the IIC in collaboration with Jain Vishwa Bharati Institute. The person behind this is the Vice-Chancellor of this university Sudhamahi Regunathan. Earlier whenever we got talking she would say that since tensions and frustrations wouldn’t ever ebb for mankind, the only solution is to be taught the importance of non-violent reactions.

This series is nothing short of that, for “anekant is a concept that forms the basis of Mahavira’s idea of non-violence .Though the word as such occurs much later in the history of Jainism, the idea of anekant is the crux of Mahavira’s teachings... it says everything is relative and multi-dimensional with an inbuilt co - existence of opposites, each dimension being as plausible as another.

It is with relation to other factors like time, place and context that one dimension gains predominance over another. This forms the very essence of ahimsa or non-violence”.

This university had recently launched a certificate course in Delhi on training in non- violence in collaboration with Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti. While the government is bent on bringing in new ordinances and acts to combat terrorism, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if it concentrates on the very basics which are driving more and more towards the very edge.


It surprised many when midweek Sonia Gandhi spent about 90 minutes listening to ghazals rendered by Anita Singhvi at Hotel Inter-Continental.

The packed hall had Delhi’s top brass, as Anita rendered one ghazal after was a lovely relaxed evening with the security bandobasts not really coming in the way. And for many even language barriers didn’t come in the way, as envoys of several countries were also to be spotted.

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