Sunday, January 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Constraints in the study of freedom struggle
V. N. Datta
owards Freedom’ denotes one of the most crucial phases of our historical past, a past which is both tied up with the evolution of India as a modern society, and its development as a new nation. There is no substitute for primary sources in the writing of history because we hear therein the authentic voice.

Tryst with cybercafes
David Devadas
he Government of India is not very popular among some of Srinagar’s young lovers these days. No, it’s not as if politics runs through their little love lives. It’s just that they’ve lost their favourite meeting spots. Just before the new year, these young couples suddenly found that the cybercafes, where they had often enjoyed hours of uninterrupted private time together, had been forced to close.






Harihar Swarup
Zhu Rongji: China’s reformist face
henever a top Chinese leader visits India, it makes big news. Remember the visits of Zhou Enlai during the heydays of “Hindi Chini bhai bhai”. Time has moved fast since the days of Zhou and so much has changed for both India and China. 


‘PM’ Jaswant Singh: A faux pas or US desire?
o the Americans really look upon External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh as the future Prime Minister? Remember last time in October when US Secretary of State Colin Powell had come to India? He was addressing a joint press conference with Jaswant Singh in Maurya Sheraton when an American reporter posed a question to Jaswant Singh describing him as “Mr Prime Minister”. 

  • Confused left

  • Close watch

  • Phoolan legacy

  • Miss-a-meal


Humra Quraishi
When a book release attracted literati & glitterati
he evenings here have been going packed ....actually not really surprising that so many turned up for the release of David Davidar’s book “The House of Blue Mangoes” at the Taj Mahal Hotel. 

  • Missing links

  • True patriotTop


Constraints in the study of freedom struggle
V. N. Datta

‘Towards Freedom’ denotes one of the most crucial phases of our historical past, a past which is both tied up with the evolution of India as a modern society, and its development as a new nation.

There is no substitute for primary sources in the writing of history because we hear therein the authentic voice. From 1913 to 1929, a considerable part of the Government of India records were weeded out; it is calculated that 92 per cent of them were destroyed, and some viceroys took away their correspondence to England. The records concerning the Political Department were not spared, and Jawaharlal Nehru, Vice President of the Interim government protested against the ‘vandalism’ for destroying the historical material.

The discovery of a small fact and the availability of a short letter that may be pivotal, is calculated to produce a drastic revision of the whole field of study. However, the exclusion of a single document containing vital information is likely to give only a partial picture of the story. But then what is the clue and how to make up for the information lost when so much has been destroyed?

The records relating to the Indian freedom movement are scattered in India, Germany, Japan, the USA and the UK. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Union Education Minister assisted by Dr Tara Chand had realised the difficulty of scholars, and he took up the question of the transfer of records from the Indian office library, London, or their duplicates to India, but due to the strong resistance offered by the vested interests vociferously articulated by the arch-Imperialist historian C.H. Philips and his cohorts, the plan was scuttled.

The paucity of funds available to researchers in India is bound to affect the quality of research adversely on the study of the freedom movement in India. In some British libraries, such as the South Asian Centre at Cambridge, a repository of first-class source-material at the grass-root level donated by the British district officers in India, xeroxing of the material is disallowed. Living in the UK is expensive and unless adequate funds are available, no worthwhile research is possible. The Viceroy’s microfilm records available in India are mostly prepared from the printed material in England, and a great deal of manuscript material, still unpublished, can only be consulted there.

In India, difficulties are altogether of a different nature. The post-1947-Nehru papers, and the Krishna Menon papers in Teen Murti are not open to scholars. The same is true of the Intelligence Department files, and the material relating to India’s borders, and the Sino-Indian relations and Afghanistan.

I was not permitted to publish some of Kamala Nehru’s letters to Dr Syed Mahmud, and also Jawaharlal Nehru’s letters when I was editing the Syed Mahmud correspondence which is now deposited in Teen Murti. I think Dr S. Gopal’s editing of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru is easily the best from the point of view of arrangement, citation and annotation. But a close reading of this immensely valuable text will show striking gaps in the narrative. Possibly, Gopal has excluded some sensitive material from it. I think that Nehru’s prison diary he wrote in the Ahmednagar fort which is usually neglected by historians, offers a most valuable analysis, of his reactions against the Mahatma’s obduracy on non-violence, and abstaining from helping the allied powers during the Second World War. Nehru held Gandhi responsible for going the wrong way, and one is really astounded to read what Nehru has to say in his diary against his ‘master’, usually neglected by historians.

The Mansergh twelve volumes on the “Transfer of Power” published in 14 years unfold how the British policy was hammered out under extreme pressure, week by week, day by day, and hour by hour. Of the 12 volumes, no less than six are devoted to the 17 months leading to August 15, 1947. From these volumes, it is apparent that politics for the Indian leaders had become a battlefield. The Congress and the Muslim League leaders appear in these volumes as social climbers, naive in politics, small lawyers, looking for petty gains and devoid of wider perspective, while the British officials look meticulously formal, imbued with a lofty sense of duty to advance India on the path of self-government. The Mansergh volumes knock down the image of Mountbatten playing a decisive role in India’s march to freedom. It seems that Indian leaders had lost the grip and the events inexorably were moving fast to freedom from foreign rule.

I fear that the picture in respect of the published correspondence of political leaders such as Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad, Rajendra Prasad, Govind Vallabh Pant, B.R. Ambedkar and Subhas Bose is unedifying. This massive correspondence contains considerable duplicate material including the proceedings of the provincial legislative assemblies, and other tittle-tattle matter. These works invariably suffer from a lack of direction and coordination. Ironically, duplicate microfilming of the Viceroy’s correspondence is a common practice in the Teen Murti and the National Archives of India, New Delhi. But the unpretentious “Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi” competently edited are indispensable for researchers on the Freedom Movement in India.

Though history may appear to be universal and unbiased account of the progression of events, its interpretention remains stubbornly nationalistic. That is not fair. We tend to produce that type of interpretation which is appropriate to the temper of our times, caters to the needs of some political party or government or bows to some vested interests. The official history of the Congress by Pattabhai Sitarammaya, though useful in some respects is out of date. Sitarammaya was no historian, and some portions of it are laudatory and filled with irrelevant material. The histories of the political parties, especially of the Congress and the Muslim League are still to be written. B.B. Misra’s “Political parties in India” is indeed a broad survey of the political parties. A.M. Zaidi’s history of the Muslim League is a mere record of the proceedings of the Muslim League. “A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress (1885-1985”), especially its first three volumes, unfold the principal events leading to India’s freedom. Except for Chapter X of the volume one by A.K. Datta, the whole work tells far more of India’s struggle for freedom, than the Congress.

On the Muslim League politics, K.K. Aziz and Syed Sharifuddin have compiled valuable source material. Two volumes of the Qaid-i-Azam papers in five parts edited by Z.A. Zaidi, C.H. Philip’s protégé, have been brought out by the National Academy of Pakistan, Islamabad. Jinnah wrote little, and confided to no one. A good deal of material relates to his personal life, buying shares, investments, and property. A large portion of the material is drawn from the Mansargh volumes and Urdu newspapers. These volumes show Jinnah’s close links with Winston Churchill and Mrs K. Rallia Ram of Lahore, who was his regular informer. These volumes reveal how Jinnah and his Muslim League leaders organised the direct action movement in Punjab and the North Western Frontier to topple the Khizr and the Khan Sahib ministries. Further, these volumes sufficiently repudiate Ashya Jalal’s myth that Jinnah did not want Pakistan and that the slogan of Pakistan was only a battle-cry as a bargaining ploy to wrest the maximum political advantage from the British Government and the Congress.

The Indian Council of Historical Research has published so far three volumes during the last 25 years. The volume covering the period 1943-44 of about 3,000 pages, as a counterpoise to the Mansergh volumes is concerned with mass upsurge represented in the form of ‘subversive activities’, students’ unrest and the civil servants’ sympathies with the national cause. The volume dealing with 1938 focuses on the reactionary politics, international situation, economic conditions and social and communal rifts. In these two volumes, the material is largely derived from the Home Department of the Government of India, newspapers and published correspondence of British officials which makes them a curious blend of ‘high politics’ and the fervently grassroot popular support for the national movement.

In their autobiographies, writers do not forfeit their privacy nor do they go public by way of self-exposure unless they have the courage to write freely without caring for what people think of them, and their views. From my experience as a researcher, I have always felt that diaries rather than autobiographies are more reliable because autobiographies are reconstructions in retrospect, unless they are like Hitler’s which Trevor-Roper had declared as fake. Autobiographies tend to suppress far more than what they give out particularly on sensitive issues.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s autobiography besides being personal is a record of the principal events connected with the national movement but says little of the internal Congress conflicts which assailed it except, of course, his strong criticism of what calls the ‘drawing room’ nationalist Muslims as a class for their infirm and pusillanimous role in fighting the canker of communalism. I have cried from house top which is evident from my book on Maulana Azad that “India Wins Freedom” attributed to the Maulana is not the book he wrote. Nehru had initially strong reservations about the authorship of this work. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, Maulana Azad’s literary confidant and an outstanding Urdu writer was firmly convinced that “India Wins Freedom” was not the Maulana’s book. Yet not only in India is the book used as primary evidence, but in Pakistan has become very popular as a stick to damn the Congress for its misdemeanours in 1937, 1942 and 1946. There may be some validity in such allegations but to treat them as the bitter complaints nursed by Maulana Azad against his colleagues on the Congress policy as evidence is totally unjustified.

J.P. Thompson’s Diary deposited with the South-Asian Centre Cambridge provides a first-class evidence on the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy in 1919, particularly from the official point of view throwing light on the compulsions that led General Dyer to order shooting on an unarmed crowd. Thompson was an experienced British official holding the position of the Chief Secretary, Punjab. The opposite official viewpoint expressing disenchantment with the government’s hostile and sickening policy in handling the situation is expressed by Malcolm Darling who was socially ostracised by his die-hard imperialist colleagues.

Mahatma Gandhi’s wrestling with the political problems in 1941 and early 1942 was strongly criticised by Nehru who pours out his heart in his Ahmednagar Fort Diary of 1943 which has not been paid sufficient attention by his biographers. Nehru wrote that the Mahatma had undermined the international situation, and the result was that “narrow nationalism overshadowed the international scene”. He adds that “Bapu’s utterances were unwise”, particularly to his reference asking the British to leave India to “anarchy”. According to Nehru, Gandhi was convinced that the Japanese were going to win the war. Nehru goes to the extent of saying that “Bapu lacked constructive ideas” in this phase of the struggle, and that the civil disobedience was not started by the Congress, but was a spontaneous upsurge ignited by the arrest of the Congress leaders, for which the Congress had to pay a big price. The Congress was swept away by the tide of events which shows how the historical process works inexorably and moves in unintended directions. Nehru foresees what he calls the “end of the so-called the Gandhian era” which became a reality by mid-1946. Nehru wrote about the Mahatma on June 14, 1943 that “with his very great qualities, he has proved a poor and weak leader. The great man in many ways but the sagacity and initiative doing the right things are no longer in evidence”.

We need to look at the freedom struggle not from communalism versus nationalism, or nationalism versus imperialism. This is to me India’s advancement to self-government through constitutional means which became the leitmotif of the British policy and in this respect the Cripps draft proposals of 1942 occupy a pivotal position.

Sir Stafford Cripps, a man of pronounced left-wing sympathies, was a member of Churchill’s Cabinet. Cripps was on good terms with Nehru. He brought the draft proposals for the resolution of the Constitutional problem of India in March 1942. I think that this draft proposal was an advance on anything that had gone before, an unambiguous assurance of independence after the war. In their proposals, Pakistan was not conceded, but not excluded, and it was proposed to set up the new Viceroy’s Executive Council including representatives of the political parties.

Prof.Reginald Coupland, perhaps the greatest authority on the Constitutional History of India wrote in his Diary covering the period from January 1941-42 now deposited in Rhodes House, Oxford gives a close first-class contemporary account of the Cripps proposals and the inside story of how and why they were rejected by the Congress and the Muslim League. These proposals did not admit of any modification. Coupland was closely in touch with Cripps and gives a blow-by-blow account of the dialogues that ensued Cripps and the leaders of various Indian political parties. The Diary hitherto published, and partly used by R.J. Moore emphasises that there could be no possibility of India’s freedom without an agreement between the Congress and the League; and that Jinnah was the creation of the Congress which had refused to share power with the League in 1937-39.

Coupland emphasises that the Muslim minority problem was the constitutional problem, and curiously, the Muslims even in the Muslim majority provinces were deprived of setting up the Muslim League provisional ministry under the Government of India Act 1935 which unless drastically modified, the Muslims would remain eternally a minority sulking in bitterness at the mercy of the Muslims.

In the Diary, there is a close analysis of the Indian political parties, and their reactions to the Cripps proposals. Initially, the Muslim League accepted them. From the beginning, Gandhi rejected them, though Azad and Nehru were undecided, but C. Rajagopalachari welcomed them. Later Azad and Nehru accepted them with modification. Coupland writes there are two parties in the Congress: Gandhi on one side and Azad and Nehru on the other side. Quoting C. Rajagopalachari Coupland writes, “a day or two before the Congress had accepted but something happened. Perhaps Gandhi turned the wobblers to the non-corporation side”. “The Transfer of Power volumes show the telephonic conversation that the Mahatma had from Wardha with the Congress leaders in Delhi which turned the tables and Nehru made a volte-face. According to Coupland, “Cripps was working for a gentlemanly understanding whereby the Governor-General while retaining constitutional powers would in practice as far as possible refrain from using them. This proposal was conveyed to the Congress leaders without the knowledge of the Muslim League. I think by rejecting the Cripps proposals the last opportunity of keeping India united was lost.

It is the underlying subterranean forces and not the system of ideas that determine the course of historical events. The political schisms, particularly from the early 1930s within the Congress in terms of power has greatly influenced the formation of policy of the Congress which needs further analysis. The history of India as evolved from 1940 onwards witnessed a terrible blow to nationalism with the rise of communalisation of our society. The struggle from freedom was challenged by a movement for a separate nation. Much work has appeared on this crucial yet painful phase but still more needs to be done by using the primary material to broaden the canvas and to integrate this history of separatism with the history of freedom movement under British rule.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to write freely on the freedom movement in the country. This has never been so, though personally, I had to suffer for it during the Congress regime. The power-wielders, not trained in the austerities of historical discipline, brandish their swords and dare pontificate on the purpose and morality of history. History is a scientific discipline, and its standards are universal.

Excerpts from a lecture delivered at the Indian History Congress held at Bhopal recently. 


Tryst with cybercafes
David Devadas

The Government of India is not very popular among some of Srinagar’s young lovers these days. No, it’s not as if politics runs through their little love lives. It’s just that they’ve lost their favourite meeting spots. Just before the new year, these young couples suddenly found that the cybercafes, where they had often enjoyed hours of uninterrupted private time together, had been forced to close. For these furtive young lovers, India’s preparations for war and its tactic of preventing militants’ communications were all very distant.

Srinagar’s cybercafes almost always provide little cubicles with swing doors around each terminal and two little chairs can fit into each. They are sometimes occupied by two or even three schoolboys sharing their pocket money to surf certain colourful sites. As often, they are occupied by a young couple, sitting cheek by jowl, if not mouth to cheek, in a cubicle.

The cybercafe buiness has mushroomed in Srinagar since it was first introduced in a small space on the upmarket Polo View Road in 1998 under the C-Net shingle. C-Net then charged Rs 100 for an hour of surfing and competitors estimate that, with 10 terminals running ten hours a day, the owner probably raked in Rs 1,50,000 a month in the first few months. The going remained good even when the next five or six cybercafes came up in that area. They formed a cartel under the banner ‘Kashmir Cyber Cafes Association’ and fixed their charge at Rs 80 an hour.

Competition caught up with the cartel in the form of a cafe right across the road from the Government College for Women on Maulana Azad Road, and just up the road from Srinagar’s most prestigious men’s college, Sri Pratap. The owner of that cafe slashed rates. Soon, he was drawing a constant queue of college boys and girls, and school boys attracted by the rates.

After that, every other cybercafe had to provide some form of cubicle or curtain around each terminal for, in the year that ushered in a new millennium, Srinagar’s cybercafes became the favourite meeting point for young lovers. Cybercafes were not only cheaper and more private than any restaurant — the surfing gave the lovers’ trysts a more colourful dimension.

When Zahoor-ul-Hassan started as technical manager of Off Limits, the first cybercafe on the Boulevard along the Dal lake, he soon decided to make it a 24-hour establishment. It was difficult for him and the three other staff to vend their way home through the various security checks after dark. Zahoor lives in the inner city. So they decided to take turns to stay the entire night instead of closing shop at dusk.

Cybercafes have mushroomed and, last summer, rates were reduced to as little as Rs 10 for each half-hour in the heart of town. Interestingly, most young people from posh Srinagar localities gravitate to this market area but don’t patronise cybercafes near their homes. Perhaps it has to do with showing one’s neighbours one doesn’t have a connection at home — or being seen with a friend.

There are even three cybercafes in Anantnag now and one was opened in Pulwama too. It couldn’t function, though, because Pulwama’s telephone exchange doesn’t offer the facility to dial up the BSNL service provider’s number.

Even in Srinagar, connectivity has been a major problem. The proxy server for the entire north India is located in Chandigarh and has to cut the line to each feeder node for a couple of hours every day because it caters to 20 feed-in servers instead of the 15 it has the capacity for. This also implies that, even when the line is connected, the speed is far slower than users would wish. Some cafes lose business every time ‘Socket Error’ begins to flash on every screen in the house. 


Kleptocracy is no alternative to democracy

Mr M.G. Devasahayam, in his article “From democracy to a system of creeping kleptocracy” (January 6) has very finely discussed the features of kleptoracy ruining our country. But his concluding suggestion that people must seriously consider dumping the present system of governance and opt for an alternative, is not practical.

To bring any change, people have to be guided by a leader. In kleptocracy, leaders enjoy power and are least bothered to bring about any change. For ushering in change, people choose new leaders who initially fight the prevailing system but sooner or later, become part of it and start enjoying power and pelf at people's cost. In the past, we have seen many student leaders fighting for people's cause and later becoming a part and parcel of kleptocracy. In such a situation, thinking that bells are tolling loud and harsh for politicians and bureaucrats is only wishful thinking. The truth is that there is no alternative to kleptocracy. We have to live with it, whatever our position may be. No change seems to be in sight in the near future.



Mr Devasahayam deserves congratulations for highlighting the drift to democracy over the last three decades. He has correctly identified the causes of evils in the public life due to terminal illness of the bureaucracy in connivance with the political parties. It is true that State kleptocracy has so severely distorted the democratic system that it has completely eroded the moral fibre of society.

The people appreciate the situation but find themselves helpless. They are in the dire need of strong and dynamic leadership. To rebuff this challenging situation, the time has come for a group of like-minded citizens to come together and initiative effective steps to give the requisite leadership so that the bells which are tolling loud and harsh are checked and the dooms day which is approaching fast is deferred.

R. P. CHAUHAN, Ambala City

Of grave concern

This is for the first time since 1971 that land-mines have been laid at select places by the Indian Army. However, three land- mine accidents on the international border at Ganganagar and Longewal in Rajasthan and Attari in Punjab, which have claimed the precious lives of many soldiers should be a matter of grave concern to the Army.

In conventional warfare, compared with Pakistan, India has the superiority in arms and ammunition, air and naval power if the troops and machinery deployed against China are withdrawn to launch an offensive against terrorist camps across the border as the USA and allied forces did against the Taliban. Otherwise, there is parity of weapons between India and Pakistan. Thus, in the present circumstances, India cannot launch an attack across the Line of Control or international border.

Our MiG 21s are of old vintage; they need upgradation. We should also buy the latest T-90s from Russia. The Indian Navy has the edge but Pakistan will go into the defensive mode while making occasional forays into the Indian waters. A war cannot be won by the superiority of manpower alone though here too, our Army has a shortage of over 13,000 officers. In a short-time offensive, we need hi-tech arms and ammunition.

The USA achieved air and ground superiority in Afghanistan due to its hi-tech war machinery. Thus, India should first equip its armed forces with hi-tech arms and ammunition before launching any attack on the terrorist camps across the border. Second, it must restore the lost prestige of our soldiers.

P. K. VASUDEVA, Panchkula

Unique culture

In his beautiful write-up “Mingling of Hinduism and Islam”, Mr Asghar Ali Engineer has said that Dara Shikoh (actually Shukoh) has made seminal contribution to the composite culture of India. Dara Shukoh was one of the greatest scholars of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit and a patron of art and literature. He employed learned persons like Chandra Bhan Brahman. Besides Sirr-e-Akbar (The Great Mystery), Persian version of the Upanishads and Majma’ul Bahrayn, mentioned by the learned writer, Dara translated the Atharva Veda, the Bhagvat Gita and the Yoga Vasishtha Ramayana into Persian and also wrote brilliant works on Sufi philosophy.

I have read Swami Alakh Dhari’s Alakh Parkash, a faithful Urdu version of Sirr-e-Akbar, with zeal and gusto. It has been sent to me by Mr Wazir Chand Rampal, a very pious person of Nangal township. There is no doubt that in the Upanishads, one finds the concept of “tauheed”, i.e. the doctrine of unity of the godhead.

Being a man of liberal disposition and secular temperament, Dara showed keen interest in Hindu mysticism and the tenets of other faiths. He not only mixed with the votaries of different religions but also studied the doctrines of the Vedanta and the holy books of other faiths. He had an earnest desire to seek for the common truth underlying the different faiths and find a modus vivendi amongst them.

Because of his belief in eclecticism, although he observed the essential dogmas of Islam, he incurred the wrath of orthodox Muslims. The bigoted Aurangzeb considered his practices and opinions heretical. He was captured and paraded through the streets of Delhi with disgrace and beheaded on the false charge of apostasy from Islam. According to Bernier “the crowd assembled was immense and everywhere I observed the people weeping and lamenting the fate of Dara in the most touching language...”Even his corpse was paraded throughout the city under orders of Aurengzeb before it was buried in a vault of Humayun’s tomb. Looking at the grave of this eclectic prince, Sir William Sleeman felt that had he ascended the throne “the nature of education and therewith the destiny of India would have been different”.



Mr Asghar Ali Engineer’s piece on Hinduism and Islam is thought-provoking. Indian love for multi-culralism is unique and age-old. In a multi-strand Indian civilisation, Muslim is another strand. But their love for exclusivity and the attempts like the Faraizi movement in Bengal in the 19th century and the Tariqa-i-Muhammadiya in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been widening the gulf.

We are all inheritors of a common heritage. We should recognise our roots. We should not feel shy of extending our hands. Tolerance, harmony and understanding are required to co-exist, and co-exist we must, for the nation and for our children. A confrontationist attitude has not helped — and will not help — the either stand.

We should take a cue from the Parsis who have loved the nation and done a lot for the nation and have not lost their identity.


Crush terrorism

In their articles on the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (December 2), Mr S.K.Datta and Mr M.G.Devasahayam have examined the various dimensions of POTO. We certainly cannot ignore the serious threat terrorism poses to the unity and integrity of the country, particularly after the attack on our Parliament on December 13. The externally-induced internal terrorism needs to be tackled on a war footing, as pleaded by Mr Datta. We do need a special law like POTO to deal with the menace of terrorism but we should ensure that it is not misused like TADA and other Acts.

We should also address the concern voiced by Mr Devasahayam who says: “Laws such as POTO can only help legal cover to the police for blatant acts of terrorism against innocent people”. We must remember that power lends itself to abuse unless checked. Thus, the real issue is whether we can trust our law enforcing agencies with such vast powers that would flow from POTO. Experience suggests that even while implementing ordinary laws, there has been flagrant misuse of laws with impunity. One wonders how India survived this abuse of power.

It would be better if the enforcement of POTO by the police authorities is closely monitored and scrutinised by their own peers to guard against any possible abuse of power. On a different though related plane, we must ensure that there are cool-headed political responses to the challenges of cross-border terrorism so that the issue of terrorism does not degenerate into what Mr Devasahayam calls “election fodder”.

The Union Government should equip the police, military and intelligence units with latest equipment and technologies to tackle terrorism more effectively. We will have to make harsh choices. We should strengthen the hands of our security forces and the law enforcing agencies. We have to keep their morale high as while fighting terrorism, they have put their lives at stake.


Not in right spirit

In his article “Osama will soon be forgotten” (December 2), Mr Abu Abraham has mentioned that Afghans were liberated from the barbaric oppression and now they could listen to music and shave off their “ugly beards”. Describing beard as ugly may be the writer’s idea of beauty and ugliness but this certainly hurts the feelings of Siks and Muslims. Hurting the sentiments of people and deriding their religious practices is also a sort of mental torture.

I. S. AHLUWALIA, New Delhi


Zhu Rongji: China’s reformist face
Harihar Swarup

Whenever a top Chinese leader visits India, it makes big news. Remember the visits of Zhou Enlai during the heydays of “Hindi Chini bhai bhai”. Time has moved fast since the days of Zhou and so much has changed for both India and China. There were, therefore, moments of curiosity, more so because of Beijing’s proclaimed “all weather friendship” with Pakistan, when the Chinese Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji, came to New Delhi last week. The lurking curiosity turned into high expectation as he declared: “We have more common understanding than differences and our interests far outweigh any friction”.

Unlike many top Chinese leaders, Zhu is little known in India but he is truly reformist face of China having acknowledged as the foremost architect of the current economic reforms in the most populous country of the world. His critics call him “China’s Gorbachev” but he reacts sharply to that comparison and hates being likened to the Russian leader who is accused of destroying the mighty Soviet Union. “Whether you call me Gorbachev or whether you call me an economic tsar, I don’t like it”, he repeatedly told the Western media for coining the illustration.

Zhu has acquired the reputation of a leader who gets things done. He personally follows up on all his policies and directives. He goes strictly by merit to put the right people at right places and also, at the same time, fires people incapable of delivering goods. Specialists on China say this is somewhat unusual in a communist set up but Zhu does not spare shirkers, time servers and incompetent hands. This is, perhaps, the reason that, in words of western media, “People respond when Zhu wants to do something”. How one wishes India too have leaders like him who are doers rather than succumbing to manipulation of a corrupt political system. Regrettably, doers like Jagmohan, fall prey to petty political expediency and the lobby of land mafia thrives.

When Zhu became the Prime Minister of China a little over three years ago, China needed to create jobs to absorb millions of unemployed, the economy was up against an increasingly saturated consumer market with falling spending and prices. He has markedly improved the position though the problem still haunts his country. When he took over he vowed to maintain stable economic growth amidst the background of sweeping government reforms. Also he began overhauling five sectors of the economy including agriculture, banking and the tax system. Zhu’s supporters say that he has no political ambitions beyond his five-year term, and will, therefore be willing to take tough decisions like slashing the plan three years ago and also China’s bloated bureaucracy.

Western media initially portrayed him as a glum faced leader and having short temper but mediapersons later discovered that they were off the mark. Zhu himself changed the impression of the international media about himself at his first press conference in Beijing. He made fun of himself saying “I am rather ugly” as he responded to every question. At the World Bank-IMF conference at Hong Kong in early 1998 he charmed the international audience by his wit. “Please don’t come too quickly”, he advised them as he welcomed them to open banks in China. “If you come too quickly and if you can’t make any money because of that, please don’t complain to me”.

Zhu had a tough time during Mao’s regime, having been labeled as “Rightist” in 1958 and sent to work as a teacher at a cadre school. Rehabilitated in 1962, he worked as an engineer for the National Economy Bureau of the State Planning Commission. Come the “Cultural Revolution” and he was again in trouble. Zhu was purged in 1970 and forced to undergo “reeducation” at a Cadre School until 1975. He was, in fact, rehabilitated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 when as China’s supreme leader he launched his reform programme and was looking for like-minded economic advisors. Thereafter there was no looking back for Zhu. He rose to the position of the Mayor of Shanghai in 1988 and in 1991 became a vice-premier.

When a correspondent asked him about his experience during the “Cultural Revolution”, his reply was: “I learned deeply from it. It was not a happy experience. I do not want to talk about it”.

Zhu Rongji was born in 1928 at Changsha in Hunan Province in an intellectual family. Although his ancestors were once wealthy landowners, the death of his father before he was born reduced Zhu’s mother to poverty and he was forced to educate himself. Young Zhu did so well, in fact, that he won scholarship to China’s prestigious engineering university — “Quighua” — where he studied electrical engineering.


‘PM’ Jaswant Singh: A faux pas or US desire?

Do the Americans really look upon External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh as the future Prime Minister? Remember last time in October when US Secretary of State Colin Powell had come to India? He was addressing a joint press conference with Jaswant Singh in Maurya Sheraton when an American reporter posed a question to Jaswant Singh describing him as “Mr Prime Minister”. The entire house burst out laughing and Powell lost no time as he took a step towards Jaswant Singh and “congratulated” him for the elevation. An embarrassed Singh murmured that he would lose his job.

As luck would have it, the same episode was enacted all over again. The same set of circumstances (a joint press conference), the same set of personalities (Jaswant and Powell), the same reporter committing the faux paus and the same hotel. The American reporter, while putting a question to Jaswant Singh committed the same faux paus when she referred to the minister as “Mr Prime Minister” at Friday’s press conference.

Of course, the lady reporter from a television channel realised her mistake and apologised profusely, blaming her slip of the tongue on her jet lag. Powell was amused but there was no congratulatory gesture from him to Jaswant Singh this time. He merely remarked: “The same thing happened at the last press conference”.

Now the question is whether it was a case of an individual going wrong for the second time in three months in the same set of circumstances or whether it reflects the American mind in general? The American reporter’s mistake proves to be all the more glaring particularly as it came just a few days after the unprecedented high-profile US visit of Union Home Minister L K Advani, widely regarded as Prime Minister Vajpayee’s “natural successor”.

Confused Left

Left, right and the Centre. The wide ideological spectrum will be on display at the forthcoming by-elections with the Left parties virtually deciding to chart out an independent course. The emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party as the ruling party had put the Leftists in a dilemma as the need for tie-up with the Congress was felt to defeat the common enemy. Previous Parliament sessions have seen the two sides making common cause on several issues to corner the BJP. So much so that it was widely speculated that in a realignment of forces, the Left and the Centre could come together to defeat the Saffron brigade.

However, hopes for a common front against the BJP and its allies have dimmed with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) making it clear that it will fight both the BJP and the Congress. According to a draft resolution released for the party’s 17th Congress, the CPM talks about fighting the BJP and having no truck with the Congress. The CPM sees both the BJP and the Congress as having pursued economic policies which are inimical to the country. It points out that the Congress adopts certain positions only because it is an opposition party but on economic policies it does not have any differences with the BJP. These differences will come to the fore in forthcoming by-elections.

Close watch

Though elections in Himachal Pradesh are still about a year away, Congressmen from the state were closely watching the party’s list for Punjab to draw appropriate lessons. The loyalists of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, whose equation with the PCC chief Vidya Stokes is not exactly harmonious, were quick to note that in case of Punjab many recommendations of the PCC were changed by the Congress Central Election Committee. The high-command, leaders from Himachal Pradesh said, had not given an overwhelming domination to any particular section in Punjab though the PCC chief had been given due say in deciding seats.

The most heartening aspect of the ticket distribution for these leaders from Himachal Pradesh was that the party had almost made it a policy decision to give tickets to sitting party MLAs and to those who had lost by narrow margins. This way, felt Virbhadra Singh loyalists, majority of the party candidates would be from their camp. But the moot question is about the CM. In almost all states where Congress has returned to power in recent past, it is the PCC chief who has become the CM, something not easily digestable to the followers of the present CLP leader in Himachal Pradesh.

Phoolan legacy

Even while the family members of slain Samajwadi Party MP Phoolan Devi fight for her legacy, the Centre has stepped in to recover the Government house allotted to her. In a swift operation, officials of the Central Public Works Department, accompanied by a large posse of policemen, sealed the 44, Ashoka Road residence of the once dreaded bandit queen and put paid to hopes of family members to convert the residence into a memorial for the slain MP.

Phoolan’s younger sister, Munni Devi and widower Umed Singh have laid claim to the legacy of the Samajwadi Party MP. Her husband Umed Singh has decided to file his nomination papers from Mirzapur for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Umed, who had all along claimed that he had no interest in politics as his late wife was a victim of political conspiracy, said he was entering the polls due to pressure from the public. When the people want him to carry on the good work of Phoolan Devi how could he say no to them?


The Government has always taken pride in the various initiatives launched to encourage children to attend school. And,the mid-day meal is the most popular of them all which lures poor families to send their children to school for the sake of a meal. However, like many other schemes, the mid-day meal too has suffered of late with shortage of funds and problem of rotten food giving the Government a bad name.

It was perhaps this state of affairs that was in Prime Minister Vajpayee’s mind when he attended a function on children’s education. Mr Vajpayee with all humility accepted the failure of the Government for failing to provide a “miss-a-meal” scheme. The shocked audience, which included a large number of government officials, tried to correct the Prime Minister on the name of the scheme. After the speech was over, it made one ponder whether the Prime Minister’s slip of the tongue was only a faux paus or was it his conscience speaking aloud?

Contributed by Rajeev Sharma, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood and Smriti Kak.Top


When a book release attracted literati & glitterati
Humra Quraishi

The evenings here have been going packed ....actually not really surprising that so many turned up for the release of David Davidar’s book “The House of Blue Mangoes” at the Taj Mahal Hotel. But what was really surprising was to find that one of the special guests that evening was former prime minister Narasimha Rao, who not only turned up a good 20 minutes late (though he stays in a bungalow very close to this particular hotel). He left rather too hurriedly, after whispering an apology or two in David’s ear. Late comers were many that evening including writer Arundhati Roy accompanied by husband Pradip Krishen, but nobody seemed to end the long partying session which followed the book release.

Adman Suhel Seth did an excellent job of reading out two long extracts from this book and it was one of those functions which were sans speeches. Credit goes to Khushwant Singh for bypassing those formalities, “’s time for celebration and not for giving speeches”. With that go-ahead, celebrations began that evening...I think there were no prominent absentees from the literati or glitterati. This speaks volumes for David’s popularity...almost everybody of this city was there ...Yes, there must be something about David Davidar that brought along the city’s who’s who and kept them there till late in the night. Till about 10 pm when I tried to return home on foot, (my car has started showing signs of strain what with trying to cope with my driving around a little too much...), very few had begun to move away and these included Outlook’s Shiela Reddy and writer Madhavan Kutty and his spouse who finally gave me the much-needed lift. I kept reflecting on David’s debut novel which is the story of a family, the Dorai family settled in Chevathar village which itself is situated on India’s southernmost river and how the history of modern India ebbs and flows with the story of this family ....simply told yet the story flows effortlessly and each one of those characters stand out, with the twists and turns in history affecting lives, which in turn affects the fabric that binds them...

Missing links

Another packed evening was the one held in the memory of Lebanese poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran. Habitat Centre’s main auditorium couldn’t have contained more, but like I had mentioned in last week’s column, Kathak steps couldn’t really flow with those lines of Gibran.True, Shovana’s dance did focus on those lines (many must have come just to see her dance that evening) but there were missing links, in the sense that philosophy cannot really be danced away!And what I found absolutely unpardonable was Jwala Prasad’s singing of Nashad Jaunpuri’s lines in the backdrop of that fusion. I failed to understand why Gibran’s nuances had to be interpreted by Jaunpuri’s verse, and after a while went and stood outside the auditorium ...I wasn’t the only one, there were several like me and one of the faces looked familar. It was Deepti Naval, looking serene and content. And unlike others from Bollywood didn’t speak about herself or about her forthcoming films. Rather interacted with the others standing around — Impresario India’s KK K ohli and his daughter Manu working with Music Today, Sehr’s Sanjeev Bhargava, Art Karat’s Kamal Modi, journalist Renuka Narayan.

And as the evening matured, it spread out towards Lebanese cuisine. Less of cuisine and more of those interactions. Again, it was one of those evenings where you could have met (rather bumped into) just about everybody, for there seemed no prominent absentees. The most prominent guest was former President R. Venkataraman, who was late by 25 minutes, but this didn’t cause any disturbance in the packed auditorium and thankfully the organisers didn’t really wait for his arrival to begin the evening’s programme. Maybe they couldn’t really do so for the crowds had arrived on time to hear more and more on Gibran. You could call it amazing the way many in the audience almost murmured along with the lines, those simple lines are enough to lessen confusion, within and outside.

Lebanese Ambassador to India Jean Daniel looked overwhelmed by this response...he had every reason to, for he had made the day memorable for hundreds that evening.

True patriot

Usually polo players don’t really look beyond horses and the greens, but Naveen Jindal has been different — patriotic in the truest sense. He saw to it that each one of us, the citizens of this country, is given the right to hold our Tricolour with immense pride and happiness. Thank you , Naveen!

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