Sunday, January 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India 

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


UGC & state govts: Conflicts of concurrence
Bhim S. Dahiya
he University Grants Commission is empowered, not merely to disburse development grants to universities and colleges in the entire country, but also to maintain norms and standards of excellence in the field of higher education.

From democracy to a system of creeping kleptocracy
M.G. Devasahayam
ake no mistake about it. After half a century of drift, India’s bureaucracy is terminally ill and instead of being a bulwark of freedom and prosperity has become an albatross around the neck of the people. 

Lal Bahadur Shastri: A rose with an iron stem
S. S. Chib
am a small man and I believe in small projects with small expenditure so that we get quick results”. 
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Lal Bahadur Shastri’s 35th death anniversary falls on January 11.



Decline in farm income
January 5, 2002
Mirage of Akali unity
January 4, 2002
Terrorist challenge to HP
January 3, 2002
Vajpayee sets the tone
January 2, 2002
Laudable show of unity
January 1, 2002
POTO's latest edition
December 31, 2001
Re-examining the place of humanities in society
December 30, 2001
Another diplomatic salvo
December 29, 2001
It is election time
December 28, 2001
Politics of war cry
December 27, 2001
Border flashpoint
December 26, 2001


Caste bias in Muslim society
David Devadas
n the Indian sub-continent, caste-based discrimination is not unique to Hindus. Even among Kashmiri Muslims, distinctions based on descent are pretty common, and sometimes not very subtly.


Harihar Swarup
Sir Mark TullyKnighthood at last for the ‘Voice of India’
One wonders why the BBC had to refer to personal life of Mark Tully and, in a way, damn him while paying tributes to this “media legend” having been honoured with knighthood by the Queen of England. The naming of Mark Tully in the New Year Honours is recognition of the former BBC India correspondent’s deep understanding of his subject and respect in the region.


Vice-President poll: It’s advantage NDA
ubterranean political moves have already started for the post of Vice-President of India, the number two slot in the country’s constitutional hierarchy. Election for the post is due in August this year, a month after the Presidential elections fall due in July.

  • Laden with stink

  • Too mouthful

  • Meaningful silence

  • A mere slogan

  • Feather in the cap


Humra Quraishi
Closure of STD/ISD booths alienates Kashmiris
here is so much to write but let me begin with the fact that for the Kashmiris there couldn’t have been a gloomier start to the new year, what with the latest directive from the Centre to shut down ISD and STD facilities from PCO booths situated in the Valley and also the decision to shut down Internet facilities. 

  • Bureaucrats' ways

  • War hysteria

  • Bollywood's latestTop


UGC & state govts: Conflicts of concurrence
Bhim S. Dahiya

The University Grants Commission (UGC) is empowered, not merely to disburse development grants to universities and colleges in the entire country, but also to maintain norms and standards of excellence in the field of higher education. Its jurisdiction is all-inclusive. No college or university, course or discipline, can be started without its prior approval. It lays down the norms of selections and qualifications of teachers in the institutions of higher education as also the constitutions of the various selection committees for the recruitment of principals and teachers in the colleges and universities in the private and public sector.

As for the implementation of these and other mandatory provisions of the UGC’s charter, while the latter seems to show indifference, the States seem to show scant regard. The areas of conflict between the UGC and the States are continuously on the rise; the defiance by the States is also continuously unrelenting. Some of the more vital areas of the defiance can be cited here, which have been detrimental to the interests of higher education, affecting the quality of education and the autonomy of universities and colleges.

After over four decades of its creation, the UGC finds itself today faced with all sorts of defiances and derelictions committed, interestingly, not by the private sector institution, nor the autonomous universities, but by the state governments, who claim concurrent jurisdiction on education. How sensitively does the UGC react to these defiances and derelictions is another matter. A key area of conflict has been the recruitment of teachers in universities and colleges. Although the UGC’s stipulation requires a definite composition of selection committee for each category of teachers, the states have evolved their own mechanisms. While in Bihar, there is a separate commission of political appointees to make these selections, in UP, there is a similar body for the selection of college teachers for both govt and non-govt colleges. In Punjab and Haryana, while the selections of govt college teachers are made by their Public Service Commissions, those of the private college teachers are made by separate selection committees created as per the UGC’s guidelines. Various other States have altogether different mechanisms for selecting teachers for universities and colleges.

In Delhi, selections to teaching positions are made strictly in accordance with the UGC stipulations. Each govt college in Delhi appoints teachers through open selections made by selection committees constituted as per the UGC specifications. It is possible in Delhi because the University of Delhi enjoys the measure of autonomy denied to the state universities by the state governments concerned. The UGC remains unconcerned in the matter of these variations. One excuse is the concurrent powers of the States, but that is actually limited to the creation of state universities. As regards the norms and standards on the selection of teachers, the UGC is empowered with an overriding authority, which is seldom invoked in all sincerity. The utmost the UGC has done to respond to such violations of its stipulations is to write letters and reminders to the states, that too mostly indirectly through the universities of the state concerned.

Another practice in the states, excluding Delhi, is to fill the positions of principals in the govt colleges by promotion. The states have never bothered to seek the UGC’s permission to do so, nor even to inform the apex educational agency of the Centre. Nor has the UGC ever cared to take up this matter. Even in the selection of principals in the non-govt aided colleges, most States maintain their authority to override the selection committees. For instance, in Haryana, selection of principals and lecturers in the private colleges should be approved by the Director of Higher Education (DHE) and the Vice-Chancellor of the concerned university. In Delhi, only the Vice-Chancellor’s approval is required. The DHE has a nominee on each selection committee for the recruitment of principals and lecturers. Recently, an awkward situation arose with the Vice-Chancellor approving the selection of a college principal and the DHE not approving the same. Annoyed by the Vice-Chancellor’s action, the DHE is said to have sent him, a communication, which led to an amendment of the university’s statute to the effect that if the DHE’s or the Vice-Chancellor’s nominee is not agreed to a selection, the recommendation of the Selection Committee will not be approved. To make matters worse, this amendment has not been made by the other university in the State to which half the colleges of Haryana are affiliated. Perhaps the Vice-Chancellor of that university proved a little harder than expected. Whatever be the case, Haryana today has three different norms of selections, although the State itself, and subsequently its universities, are committed through official notifications to the UGC’s stipulated procedure of selection as a part of the package of new pay scales introduced from January 1996.

In the Union Territory of Chandigarh, Panjab University enjoys a strange status. It is neither a central university nor a state university. Large part of its funding comes from the Punjab Government and many colleges, govt. and non-govt., are affiliated to it. Recently, its Vice-Chancellor refused to approve the appointment of principals by promotion in the govt. colleges of the State and/ or of the Union Territory. Since the Vice-Chancellor is appointed by the Vice-President of India, and not by the Governor of Punjab or the Administrator of the Union Territory, he can perhaps get away with this action. If a Vice-Chancellor of a state university had done it, he would have been summarily dismissed in no time. We have had several such instances in the States, especially in Haryana. Punjab Government does, of course, shows its teeth whenever its dictates are not heard. The financial cuts are ordered at once. Also benefits, such as pension or retirement age on 62, are denied or withheld. Interestingly, when all this goes on, the UGC remains placidly unperturbed, showing scant concern for such matters of local interest.

Another area of conflict between the state and UGC or its cared universities is the management of colleges. While the govt colleges of Delhi, like all other colleges affiliated to the University of Delhi, have their separate governing bodies as required by the university’s charter, those governed by Haryana, Punjab or the Union Territory of Chandigarh have a single authority vested in the DHE, and through that office in the state govt. Hence, the UGC or the university concerned do not get to know how the colleges are being managed. Even though the universities have statutes related to the colleges affiliated to them, these autonomous institutions dare not even to bring these statutes to the notice of the authorities managing the govt colleges.

In Haryana, there is direct handling of the non-govt colleges, and even of the universities, by the DHE of the state. Any communication from that office automatically supersedes, the relevant statutes of the universities, and even the UGC stipulations. Matters such as the working hours, working conditions, creation of positions and recruitment, vacations and holidays, are all decided by the DHE. Other States are not far behind. In Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Bihar and UP, there have been cases of authoritarian aggression on the unprotected territories of higher education. The UGC finds its empire too vast and unruly to even try to come to grip with the problems arising out of its vastness and unruliness.

To mention one more example from the numerous, where the States have shown scant regard for the UGC’s directives, is the creation of state councils for higher education. To prevent direct govt intervention, the New Education Policy of 1986 had proposed such a council in each state. It is over 15 years now since the new policy was introduced, and the UGC has disbursed thereafter several thousand crores for three plan proposals to the state universities, but its letters, which are still being written, about these Councils remain unattended by most States. Only a few States have cared to take up the matter, and even those few have modified the UGC model to maintain their firm grip on the universities. Others such as Haryana and Punjab, have constituted a counter-force called the high power committee, which has ensured a more direct control and interference in the universities of the State than even before. As for the UGC, it has never lost its cool on such trivialities.

It is time the Union Government paid attention to the universities. University education should be made a Central subject. The second best would be to remodel the old and outdated edifice of the UGC. When created in 1956, we had only about 30 universities, all of the conventional kind. Today, we have about 250 universities, all of very different kinds. A handful of picked-up members and the conventional mode of disbursing funds cannot do justice to the vast and complex field of higher education.

A committee of competent academics can be appointed to prepare the new UGC charter with the specific mandate of modernising the agency, making it truly autonomous and functional. Another urgently needed measure is to permit the big business players to open private universities on the model of the best American universities in the private sector. The present-day model of the self-financing institutions in the private sector is not the one that can deliver the desired results. As of today, these institutions have to function under multiple controls, which in the name of maintaining academic norms and standards, have actually acquired bureaucratic sententiousness and circumlocution.

Consequently, corruption has become the order of the day. Vice-Chancellors and Chairmen, Deans and Directors, enjoying the authority to approve or affiliate, disapprove or disaffiliate, cannot escape the responsibility for the mismanagement of these institutions, more so for the absence of norms and standards required for achieving excellence in the most competitive arena of higher education.

The writer is a former Vice-Chancellor of Kurukshetra University.


From democracy to a system of creeping kleptocracy
M.G. Devasahayam

Make no mistake about it. After half a century of drift, India’s bureaucracy is terminally ill and instead of being a bulwark of freedom and prosperity has become an albatross around the neck of the people. There are no signs of improvement and if any there is only deterioration. Even the feeble attempts at economic and infrastructure reforms in the past ten years have completely bypassed bureaucracy. As a result the country is slowly moving away from democracy towards a system of ‘kleptocracy’ with politicians, for whom democracy is nothing more than a tool to capture power and the license to loot, at the centre. Around them in the orbit are the civil servants and the police each feathering their own nest.

‘Kleptocracy’ can be broadly described as a system of non-governance characterised by rampant greed and corruption. Politicians and bureaucrats have lorded over this country for over five decades now keeping up and in fact adding to the oppressive and draconian laws that were imposed upon us by the colonial masters. Though India essentially has a democratic political system, the ordinary citizen has to comply with a plethora of laws, rules and regulations and please a battery of officials even to gain access to basic services and amenities. The processes and procedures are so burdensome that the time and resources required to comply with them is simply beyond the means of the average citizen. In addition, the administrative system inherited from the Britishers only perpetrates sycophancy bordering on slavery.

A vast majority of people, particularly the youth, feel that all laws, rules and administrative system established by the British rulers was to keep our country in slavery permanently. After we got Independence, the laws enacted in the last 55 years are also of the same kind strengthening the same system leading to increase in slavery and decrease in freedom. So corruption and scandals are constantly increasing and today India is considered as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This perception was shared at a youth workshop held in Gandhiji’s Sevagram recently.

Law and the administrative system in the country have become so unjust and oppressive because each department, agency, bureau, form, and permit was created at the behest of interest groups seeking advantage through the political process. Leaders come and go with elections, but the basic function of the democratic system, as being practised has not been to protect person and property, but to allocate privileges and benefits to those groups that are most effective at organising politically. Many of the regulations are rationalised on the pretext of serving the public good, but the end result has been a system of mercantilism that makes economic rights subservient to political interests and power games.

This corruption and ravaging of the democratic system is known as “State kleptocracy” that has severely distorted our democratic system, which had been functioning reasonably well till 1975 when it received a severe jolt during the Emergency. That happened because a kleptocracy availing itself of the resources of the state had to develop the mentality of the conqueror and function as a petty autocrat. The greatest tragedy of State kleptocracy, however, is that it has eroded the moral fibre of the nation as a whole. The reason is that at the core of our political system was theft. The holders of political power, for the benefit of themselves and their cohorts, commandeered the resources of the State i.e. the resources produced by the work of ‘we the people’, to a shocking extent. This is presently evidenced from the way a charade called ‘reforms’ is being pursued by the Government elite touting ‘privatisation’ as the panacea of all economic and fiscal ills afflicting this country. The fact is that most of the Government and the public sector already stand ‘privatised’ by the politicians and bureaucrats for their own benefit. No wonder, a second ‘privatisation’ or ‘disinvestment’ in favour of Indian or international investors is just not taking off!

Though politicians are the largest beneficiaries of State kleptocracy, bureaucrats are its main perpetrators either by complicity or through compliance. Ironically, despite enjoying unique Constitutional safeguards unheard of elsewhere in the world, many of them are also are prime victims of the rot. In a kleptocracy, merit is the first casualty and competent and conscientious civil servants have been at the receiving end for quite some time. Commencing from the mid-seventies, except for a few notable exceptions, “men of undisputed mediocrity” were placed in charge of the commanding heights of Government and public undertakings through a skewed process of selection and placements. Instruments like frequent and arbitrary transfers, ‘compulsory wait’ and humiliating assignments were freely used to subdue public servants who were found inconvenient. Some of them were even trapped in vigilance inquiries and criminal cases and hounded out. The cumulative effect of all these is to reduce a covenanted and once proud Civil Service into ‘a lackey entity, a service for the deaf, the dumb, the mute and the inglorious’. This is the tragedy of governance in India because the Founding Fathers had pinned great faith on the ‘elite civil services’ to steer the nation ‘on an even keel’ in the midst of political and social convulsions and for that purpose conferred unprecedented Constitutional protection on this pampered lot. This faith has been betrayed.

The ‘super-bureaucrats’ who willingly formed part of the ‘loot-and-share system’ have spearheaded this betrayal. Till recently, these civil servants were considered a ‘sparkle in society’ and respected because of the high social perch and perks. The scenario has undergone a sea change now. It used to be said, “a good bureaucrat is one who when in doubt, mumbles; when in difficulty, ponders; when in charge, delegates; and whose job is to cut the red tape length-wise”. But today’s Indian mandarin is no longer a bureaucrat and suffers from no such uncertainties and infirmities. Indeed, he is turning to be an arrogant autocrat, cocksure and confident in his own actions and pluckily defiant about the devious ways of his modus vivendi. No vigilante outfits trail him, no visions of doomsday haunt him in his sleep, and no social ostracism of the traditional type shames him any more. His track record of winking at dubious orders and executing them for the benefit of those who matter makes him just the man to propel into the seat of ‘borrowed power and reflected glory’. All their desires now fulfilled this clan of bureaucrats mock at the Indian nation and its miserable millions, so munificent in giving them everything they had fantasised about, only to receive back contempt and non-governance.

Despite public revulsion and strong judicial pronouncements against corruption, political parties are ganging up to see that ‘corruption is not an issue’ in public life and the bureaucracy is endorsing it. Parliamentarians are blocking the passage of Lok Pal Act to escape the definition of ‘public servants’ while feasting themselves on high pay and perks. To keep bureaucrats in good humour they have been given massive increase in salaries and perquisites without any corresponding demands of efficiency and integrity. In order to gain the unstinted support of the police to sustain kleptocracy, draconian statutes like POTO are being contemplated and officials who flagrantly violated human rights are being protected. Nuclear blasts and military might are being paraded as symbols of a strong nation. Overwhelmed by corruption and non-performance, financial institutions are crumbling and falling by the wayside. Repeated pleadings of the Elections Commission for electoral reforms are falling on deaf ears. The functioning of the Central Vigilance Commission is being throttled and the human rights commissions are being reduced to toothless tigers. ‘Terrorism’ which is the fallout of all this rottenness is being touted as the mantra to garner votes!

Unless this degeneration is arrested and good, participatory governance restored, the inevitable drift towards ‘kleptocracy-autocracy’ that would drag one-sixth of the human race towards political and economic ruin cannot be halted. In the event the people must seriously consider dumping the present system of governance and opt for an alternative. Let bureaucrats who are maintained at massive cost to the exchequer to guard India’s democratic fabric beware before it is too late.

The bells are tolling loud and harsh. It is time for them to remember the resounding words of caution by John Donne: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls... it tolls for thee, tolls for thee”.

The writer is a former IAS officer.


Lal Bahadur Shastri: A rose with an iron stem
S. S. Chib

“I am a small man and I believe in small projects with small expenditure so that we get quick results”. This statement of Lal Bahadur Shastri while addressing his first cabinet meeting is all the more relevant today. Following Jawaharlal Nehru’s demise, the onus of chartering the ship of India’s destiny fell on Shastri whose 35th death anniversary falls on January 11. He was a small statured man but his shoulders proved to be broad enough.

Shastri always placed service before self. He gave serious and unbiased thought to every issue and acted firmly. His dogged determination to make India victorious in the 1965 Indo-Pak war against heavy odds, made him an enviable leader.

Shastri was called “a rose with an iron stem”. It is often said that what Nehru could not do in 18 years, Shastri had accomplished it in 18 months. Nehru had threatened disciplinary action against the Lieutenant General guiding Indian forces in Kashmir during 1947-48 war if he did not immediately call ceasefire. The General had asked him to wait for a week or so because he had entered the crucial stage of getting the entire Pak Occupied Kashmir (PoK) vacated. But the helpless General had to toe Nehru’s line. Had Nehru agreed, the more than half a century long tension would have been avoided. On the other hand, when our commanders sought Shastri’s advice after Chhamb was attacked in 1965, he promptly said that they were competent to take independent decisions.

A strict vegetarian and teetotaller, Shastri donated a part of his salary to the Servants of India Society (founded by Lala Lajpat Rai) every month till his end. Born on October 2 like Gandhiji, Shastri too led a simple life and was a true Gandhian in words and deeds. He called the Planning Commission “a talking shop of intellectuals” and searched for Indian solutions, indigenous paradigms and efforts rooted in the Indian soil for all our problems. He was against big projects as they “cornered” substantial resources for investment, generated limited employment opportunities, had long gestation period and delayed whatever benefits could accrue. Nobody could dissuade him from Gandhian economics, Gandhian ideals and Gandhian solutions to the problems confronting the nation.

During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Shastri did not bow to the USA’s gimmicks. Instead, he urged the people to observe fast every Monday evening and accelerate agriculture, animal husbandry and allied economic activities. The country could tackle the crisis and emerge victorious in the war. The Green revolution, White revolution as also Blue revolution (pisciculture) had their sound foundations laid during the Shastri regime. Though a vegetarian, he never lost sight of the ground realities and told meat-eating countrymen to rely more on non-vegetarian food and economise the consumption of cereals.

In the economic front, his top priority was to check price rise and create more and more employment opportunities. The authors of globalisation in India including Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr P. Chidambaram are just pygmies when compared with the lofty ideals of Shastri. The apt slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ was Shastri’s brainchild.

After Shastri became the Prime Minister, many people felt that even a promising poor and humble Indian could occupy the top position without muscle power, money power, and high-handedness. He vouched and practised respect for simplicity; his government placed emphasis on values beyond extravagance, ostentation and materialism. For him, the means were as important as the ends. His relentless campaign against corruption, which his predecessor could not carry, was his greatest contribution. The indictment of his Finance Minister, Mr T.T. Krishnamachari in the Mundra deal made him to quit office before Shastri could proceed to Tashkent. He accepted the resignation before proceeding to Tashkent. It is said that Shastri’s departure was slightly delayed because of this issue, but he won’t proceed until TTK was out of his Cabinet. Compare this with the present scenario. The corrupt continue at the helm and only the apex court sets things right.

Shastri used to prepare bed tea for himself and his spouse. He was very particular about every penny spent by the state. He appreciated and practised austerity and simplicity. Keeping in view the serious consequences of imbalanced foreign trade, he was extra careful about the foreign exchange reserves being put to use. He thought much less of himself than his qualities of head and heart deserved. Not Nehru but Gandhi was his preceptor. He often recalled Gandhi’s prophetic words; “If India is to attain true freedom and through India the world also, then sooner or later the fact must be recognised that people will have to live in the villages, not in towns, in huts not in palaces”.

Sadly, we do not remember this man either on his birthday or his death anniversary. Except paying homage on these two days, we do little to perpetuate his ideals and popularise his legacy. Except the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie, we have not named any university, project, plan or scheme after Shastri. The reasons are not far to seek. First, his tenure was too short to be remembered by the common masses. Second, his birth anniversary on October 2 is overshadowed by Gandhi Jayanti. And third, his immediate successors wiped out whatever image his short tenure had left on the public mind.

Indira Gandhi could never reconcile to the situation when Shastri emerged as the unopposed leader of the nation. Later, when she gave a Lok Sabha seat to Shastri’s son, Hari Shastri and another a ministership in UP, it became known that she was not opposed to the family but to Shastri’s image. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi inherited her prejudices, if not preferences. At Congress meetings, portraits of all important leaders, including Indira and Rajiv are displayed but not that of Shastri. Apparently, Nehru family’s prejudices are being protected by the Congress leaders, ignoring “the man of the masses”. It was Shastri who made Partap Singh Kairon to quit. He resolved the Punjabi language problem by allowing the creation of Punjab on linguistic basis.

It does not behove a nation to underestimate or overlook the contributions of its real builders and saviours. We have to take some concrete steps to unburden ourselves of the debt and burden, we owe to Shastri, to take our nation to dizzy heights. Shastri needs to be properly remembered and honoured. His ideals should be followed in letter and spirit.


Caste bias in Muslim society
David Devadas

In the Indian sub-continent, caste-based discrimination is not unique to Hindus. Even among Kashmiri Muslims, distinctions based on descent are pretty common, and sometimes not very subtly. Sayeeds, claiming descent from the Prophet, often consider themselves superior, as if they were Brahmins among Muslims.

In the late 80s, a barber happened to be at the wedding feast of a well-to-do family of Sayeed descent. When the meal was served, in traditional Wazwan style with four persons sharing a meal of many courses from the same large platter, three young men from Sayeed families found they would have to share their platter with the barber. One by one, each of them got up, making one excuse or another, and sat elsewhere. The barber got up and said that he would not eat unless those three boys shared his meal. A community leader of the orthodox Wahabi school of Islam got up and offered to share the barber’s meal but the young man would not settle for anything less. Finally, they had to return.

This little story was related to me by Dr. Bashir Ahmed Dabla, the head of the sociology department at the University of Kashmir, to illustrate the existence of the strongcaste bias in Kashmiri Muslim society. Most Kashmiris were Hindus once and the caste system has a way of withstanding the pressures of conversion. Muslim washermen, milkmen and bakers in Kashmir even have backward caste status under the rules of government recruitment.

Most tourists to Kashmir never realise it but the families that run houseboats, whom tourists often presume to be typical Kashmiris, are actually commonly reviled by most Kashmiris as Hanjis, the name of the boatmen’s caste. No doubt, those who visualised the Doordarshan serial Gul, Gulshan Gulfam, centred on the life of a houseboat owner’s family, did not realise how little other Kashmiris identify with boatmen.

The degree to which Kashmiris often carry their consciousness of their own and others’ caste backgrounds is sometimes amazing. Not just housewives around kitchen hearths but bright, well-educated young men will slip easily into descriptions of their own or other people’s caste antecedents. Even the veteran trade union leader and former member of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference general council, Ishtiaq Qadiri, told me one day without the slightest trace of embarrassment that he would not accept an invitation to dine with a milkman’s family.

The result of such social ostracism is that some families with a Hanji background who have taken to other occupations often adopt the surname Dar, which denotes descent from a sub-caste of distinction among Brahmin Kashmiris. Far more common among various other castes of Kashmiris is the adoption of the surname Sayeed. Indeed, if the number of Kashmiris who claim the Sayeed name are to be accepted at face value, there would be more descendants of the Prophet in Kashmir than in Arabia. Of course, it would also mean that all these families, at some point in history, migrated from further west. There is an irony in that too. For, among a people so conscious of the supposed superiority of a Brahmin background, the deference given to certain sorts of foreign origin is remarkable. For instance, Khans, who generally have Pathan antecedents, are almost as happy to have a match arranged with a Khan family as with a Sayeed. These Pathan families are not only descended from those who settled here during the highly oppressive period of Afghan rule in the first half of the eighteenth century. Some of them were also settled here as officers during the British or Dogra period.
Some Kashmiris also take such surnames as Naqshbandi or Makhdoomi after the names of Sufi saints whom they hold in reverence, although such saints as Naqshband Sahib were foreign.

The name Sheikh is particularly interesting. When used before the person’s name, as in the case of the Abdullah family, it denotes descent from Brahmins and often landlords. When used as a suffixed surname, it generally denotes the cleaner caste and so is generally looked down upon.

Certain Kashmiri caste names are similar to Parsi names, in that they denote the occupations of those with the name. Kokru, for instance, is rooted in the word kokur, which means chicken in Kashmiri and the bearer of the name is likely to have descended from a family that ran a hatchery.


Knighthood at last for the ‘Voice of India’
Harihar Swarup

One wonders why the BBC had to refer to personal life of Mark Tully and, in a way, damn him while paying tributes to this “media legend” having been honoured with knighthood by the Queen of England. The naming of Mark Tully in the New Year Honours is recognition of the former BBC India correspondent’s deep understanding of his subject and respect in the region. The damnation comes towards the fag end of a BBC commentary entitled, “Mark Tully: The voice of India”, written by Andrew Walker of the BBC’s News Profiles Unit and it reads thus: “Mark Tully’s private life is complicated. In Delhi, he stays with his girlfriend, Gillian Wright, while in London, he stays with his wife, and mother of his four children, Margaret, whom he has never divorced”. Still worse denunciation comes in the following lines which demonstrates the commentator’s lack of knowledge of Indian ethos: “It seems a typically Indian arrangement for an untypical Anglo-Indian man”. No one has known if such an “arrangement” ever existed in India.

Could this below-the-belt hit was evoked by Mark Tully’s clash with the BBC and his censure of the World Service way back in June, 1996, subsequently, paving the way for his parting of ways with the organisation which he served with distinction for 22 years. In an open letter to the BBC’s the then Director General, John Birt, he had voiced opposition to restructuring plan, which Mark felt, “will, at best, have a permanently negative effect on the World Service and at worse, silence the measured, impartial and highly respected voice of Britain broadcast to 140 million listeners world-wide” and “clearly these changes imply the end of the World Service’s editorial independence and capacity to set the news and programme priorities its audiences demand”.

Mark was also of the view that the restructuring would deprive Britain of the vast net benefits and they included promotion of values closely identified with Britain; democracy, tolerance and pluralism. Also BBC “teaches English to a world increasingly ready to speak Britain’s mother tongue; and diplomats and those in international trade say the quality of World service broadcasting helps them in their dealings abroad. In short, the World service helps Britain do business with the world”. All this, he feared, would be lost. He was also sore that the overall plan was kept a secret.

Born in Calcutta in 1936, Mark Tully was son of a wealthy accountant and had not seen Britain till he was ten years old. Having been used to bright sunshine and tropical breeze, he once remarked: “England struck me as a very miserable place; dark and drab, without the bright skies of India”. Educated at Marlborough public school and Cambridge, his time as an undergraduate was, as the BBC puts it, “by his own admission, dissolute. He womanised and drank to excess”.

Having completed his education at Cambridge, Mark considered becoming a priest in the Church of England but, after just two terms at Lincoln Theological college, he abandoned his vocation. The BBC quoted him as saying: “I just knew I could not trust my sexuality to behave as a Christian priest should and I didn’t want to be a cause of scandal”. In the assessment of the World service’s commentator: “Finding India a haven for his spiritual needs, Mark Tully’s pieces, whether for radio or television, invariably dodges the superficial, painting pictures of the reality behind the headlines and the effect of war, poverty and disease on ordinary people”.

Mark has lived in India for almost three decades, adopted this country as his home and known in UK more as an Indian than British. As BBC’s Bureau Chief in New Delhi, he had reported practically every event — natural and man-made disasters that included Bhopal gas tragedy, the 1971 war between India and Pakistan and assassination of Indira Gandhi. He rose higher in profession after he quit the BBC and worked as a freelance journalist contributing on South Asian affairs to CNN. He has also authored many books and they included “Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle”, “The Defeat of a Congressman: And other parables of modern heart of India” and “India: Forty years of Independence”.

Some of his lectures had created ripples. Addressing the National Hindu Students Forum in Britain in August, 1997, he expressed the view that Indian civilisation has a Hindu base to it and that Hindus should proclaim their identity with pride. So thrilled was the BJP that it devoted seven pages to Mark’s lecture in one of its mouthpiece, “BJP Today”. Also in yet another programme he observed: “The Christian missionaries came to India preaching `blessed are the poor’. They converted the poorest of the poor, the low caste Hindus and untouchables, who were eager to escape the humiliations that the caste system imposed on them. But the Christians found themselves treated just as harshly by their Christian brethren as they were by the upper caste Hindus”.

Mark was “totally surprised” when the British High Commissioner in India informed him that he has been awarded knighthood. His impromptu comment was: “I had rather thought I was yesterday’s man”. Sir Mark Tully proposes to celebrate the award by having dinner with close Indian friends. Top


Vice-President poll: It’s advantage NDA

Subterranean political moves have already started for the post of Vice-President of India, the number two slot in the country’s constitutional hierarchy. Election for the post is due in August this year, a month after the Presidential elections fall due in July.

The BJP is considering the candidature of its senior leader Sikandar Bakht and noted constitution expert and Rajya Sabha member L.M.Singhvi. Himachal Pradesh Governor Suraj Bhan is also said to have thrown his hat in the ring. A section of the BJP feels that it would send a good signal to the dalits and OBCs as Suraj Bhan is a dalit.

But the BJP seems to be under pressure from its allies in the NDA to leave the Vice-President’s post for a mutually acceptable candidate. NCP leader P.A. Sangma’s name is making the rounds in this context. If the BJP is unable to get its own candidate through, it may do the next best thing: prop up Sangma. By doing so, it would derive the satisfaction of having an anti-Sonia Gandhi man in a key constitutional position. A fact not to be ignored is that the Vice-President is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

In all this, no one is talking about the Congress because the number game is distinctly in NDA’s favour. The two houses of Parliament constitute the electoral college for Vice-President’s election. On this issue, parties like TDP, AIADMK and NCP in the two houses appear to be in NDA’s boat which puts their tally in the two at 433. This is quite comfortable lead over the “others” which are at 379. Considering that a seven-member separate group of Kerala Congress MP P.C. Thomas and a four-member group which split away from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s party are

also likely to support the NDA, it would raise its strength further to 444 and reduce the tally of “Others” to 368. Decidedly, it is Advantage NDA here.

Laden with stink

The Americans apparently called off their manhunt for Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora mountains of eastern Afghanistan on Thursday for reasons they had never anticipated. According to grapevine, the search team, which was sniffing for leads for the world’s most wanted fugitive, ended up instead perfuming their nostrils — they are said to have spotted human excreta.

It so happened that from the last of the yet-to-be-scoured hills, the American-Australian troops came across some rifles and diagrams of some non-lethal weapons. They also came across a tunnel. As they tip-toed inside the tunnel, they found it to be fairly long. After trotting for nearly 300 metres they reached the end of the tunnel. But Osama was nowhere in sight. To add to their exasperation they had to put up with the insufferable stink.

Disappointed with this anti-climax, the search party abandoned its operations announcing that “Mr OBL” was either dead or had fled Afghanistan.

Too mouthful

Globalisation is indeed a mighty big word. Ask a global citizen who raises his hands and apologises profusely for his inability to pronounce the ‘difficult word’. With the people around the globe addressing themselves as inhabitants of a global village it becomes necessary to at least pronounce our address with elan.

At a recent function held in the capital, one of our most revered global citizens had everyone giggling over his almost childlike sheepishness. Blushing as he spoke,” Global... so sorry I fail, its a very difficult word” he left the audience to deduce the incoherence with a heart warming smile.

Meaningful silence

The Congress has adopted a cautious approach on the current stand-off between India and Pakistan in the wake of December 13 attack on Parliament. The party has almost stopped crticising the Vajpayee government after its initial outbursts over the “security lapses’’ that led to the terrorist attack.

The party has, of late, been backing all the government moves and has also offered its participation in any delegation the government wishes to send abroad to put forth India’s viewpoint. Though it is not unprecedented for the main Opposition party to endorse all the major moves of the government, specially on issues relating to Pakistan, observers also see political reasons in the Congress approach. They say that wary of its experience over Kargil War, when the BJP was seen to have drawn a lot of mileage, the Congress does not want the ruling party to gain advantage in the current impasse with Pakistan.

By backing the government moves and not raising inconvenient questions, the Congress is leaving nothing for the Sangh Parivar to criticise it for in the run up to elections in four states.

A mere slogan

Speak and write in Hindi seems to be a mere slogan for Bharatiya Janata Party. On December 29, 2001, when BJP held its emergency Executive Committee meeting, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee addressed the meeting in Hindi. But, the party which considers to be “more nationalistic” than other parties issued an English translation of the Prime Minister’s speech to mediapersons when releasing the text in Hindi simultaneously would have been easier and more appropriate.

Feather in the cap

The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and MP from Sangrur, Simranjit Singh Mann could not have asked for a better gift on New Year. According to a recent intimation from the Rajya Sabha secretariat, the Akali leader has been nominated as a member of the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.

The 45-member committee is chaired Pranab Mukherjee, Cong MP (Rajya Sabha). Of the 43 members nominated to the committee so far, 28 are Lok Sabha MPs. Close to the date of Assembly elections in Punjab, the nomination has boosted the morale of party cadres who believe that it will add to Mr Mann’s clout, strength and credibility. Mr Mann is confident that the nomination to the prestigious committee is another feather to the party’s cap. He is also a member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Contributed by Rajeev Sharma, Tripti Nath, Prashant Sood, S. Satyanarayanan and Smriti Kak.


Closure of STD/ISD booths alienates Kashmiris
Humra Quraishi

There is so much to write but let me begin with the fact that for the Kashmiris there couldn’t have been a gloomier start to the new year, what with the latest directive from the Centre to shut down ISD and STD facilities from PCO booths situated in the Valley and also the decision to shut down Internet facilities. Now more people of the Valley are alienated. Kashmiris here are angry as they don’t know how to keep in touch with their families.

In fact, last July, when I had travelled in and around Srinagar, I found that e-mail facilities were bordering on nil, for with the server situated in Jammu, connection was almost impossible to get. And though Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area had several Internet cafes, getting connection was difficult. I remember how computer- equipped persons, the famous Amla brothers who own the Broadway hotel (where I stayed), NGO ‘Green Kashmir’ activists working against odds to save the Dal Lake and the mediapersons, all had dismal stories to say about the lethargic Internet functioning. It had taken me twelve hours to get the connection and by then the deadline for filing the stories was over. I couldn’t help but agree with young Kashmiri students that the establishment either wanted to take thembackwards in this age of technological advancement or to keep them cut off from the rest of the country.

One hears similar sentiments in Delhi. “The latest move will stand in the way of parents sending their children for study or work to different cities, for the very communication network is being tampered with ...” said a young Kashmiri student, staying in South Delhi.

Last week there was much unease amongst the Kashmiri students living here after the body of computer student Zafar Iqbal Mir (who was also working for a pharmaceutical company) was found near Defence Colony. Since there is no transparency in our system, till the time of my filing this column, it was not sure how he was murdered but the word doing the rounds is that he was interrogated (there were torture marks on his face) and then dumped. Though a probe has been ordered, there is little faith in government-appointed probes because the nexus gets very blatant.

This brings me to ask why there are no independent forums and platforms which parents/relatives can approach. The National Human Rights Commission should have a special cell for human rights violations, especially in the disturbed areas.

Sitting here, one is not certain about the extent of violations but Jammu-based People’s Union of Democratic Rights activist Balraj Puri’s one-liner can give you a rough estimate: “The situation is so bad here that even human rights activists are not spared!”

Top it up with this observation of a top city lawyer: “Just one hour spent in police custody is enough not only to wreck you, physically and mentally, but also to make you confess to any crime”!

Bureaucrats' ways

Last week, when the publishers of Food Corporation of India Chairman Bhure Lal’s book “Corruption — Functional anarchy in governance” (Siddharth publications) sent me a copy of it along with an invite for the book release, there were two spontaneous reactions from my end.

The first question: Is bureaucrat Bhure Lal on the verge of retirement? For as a rule, bureaucrats never write or speak against establishment nor about any of the ills of the system, unless of course they are retiring and looking for post-retirement avenues.

The second: Is Bhure Lal, a one- time favourite of former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, by any chance joining one of the Right Wing setups? For the book release card had no names of the literary heads of the city, rather those from the Right Wing setup, what with Union Minister for Consumer Affairs Shanta Kumar releasing the book, Rajya Sabha MPs T.N.Chaturvedi and B.P.Singhal as special guests.

War hysteria

I wish space constraints weren’t staring in the face otherwise I would have included details of the SAHMAT-organised evening that ushered in the first day of the year.

However, to sum up the mood, there were hundreds of secular apoliticals in the function. They sang, danced, recited and enacted to express and emphasise that we simply have to resist from giving in to war cry hysteria.

Bollywood's latest

The latest from Bollywood to get unleashed in the capial city is Esha Deol. She was here accompanied by her mom Hema Malini.

To all those unsettling queries pertaining to the very obvious absence of papa Dharmendra and stepbrothers, Sunny and Bobby, the promoters, had this naive explanation to offer:

“If they would have been here, the focus would be on them, that’s why they chose to stay away...”

Who’s to believe this, what with Dharamji no longer garam and the boys never having made it to the top slot.Top

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