Sunday, March 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


The “injustice” of justice
Neglecting the flaws may affect credibility
S. S. Sodhi
erhaps the most significant and valuable right conferred by our Constitution is that of protection of life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21. 

Gujarat massacre: impact on the Muslim world
V. Gangadhar
In a way, India had derived some benefits from the September 11 terrorist attacks on America's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Had these not happened, the USA would have conveyed its displeasure to India over the happenings in Gujarat where more than 600, a majority of them Muslims, were killed in communal riots. 
Even the Prime Minister and Home Minister have acknowledged that the happenings in Gujarat were a 'blot' on the fair name of the country.


Mayawati's deft move
March 9, 2002
Arundhati effect
March 8, 2002
Seer shows the way
March 7, 2002
CM on probation
March 6, 2002
The bigger the better
March 5, 2002
For humanity’s sake
March 4, 2002
Journeying outside the fold for greater understanding
March 3, 2002
Freedom for farmers?
March 2, 2002
Tight squeeze
March 1, 2002
Highlighting growth capacity
February 28, 2002
Mixed fare
February 27, 2002
UP is the loser
February 26, 2002


The phenomenon called suicide bombing
I. D. Swami
ne million persons end their lives every year globally by committing suicide. Suicide is tragic. But suicide to effect mass murder is terrific. Today nuclear weapons are not the most dreaded weapons of the world.

Secularism Zindabad!
Abu Abraham
ould either Vajpayee or Advani say that the destruction of Babri Masjid was an act of terror? Certainly not. For Advani it was the saddest day in his life. For Vajpayee it was part of an unfulfilled national dream, its fulfillment coming with the building of the Ram Mandir.


Harihar Swarup
Truly a sage, a man of learning
his is, perhaps, for the first time that a Sankaracharya, most revered pontiff of the Hindu religion, met the Imams in his bid to resolve the Ayodhaya tangle. Swami Jayendra Saraswati, Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peethan is no ordinary person. 


Ganga jal at PM’s residence
nprecedented things happened at 7, Race Course Road, official residence of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, earlier this week. It all started with the visit of Kanchi Kamakoti Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati twice this week. 

  • Reining in VHP

  • Man Friday

  • Tale of revenge

  • Turn about

  • Amarinder’s woes


Humra Quraishi
Daily protests against Gujarat killings
here is one particular Union Minister from the Vajpayee Cabinet who has been telephoning mediapersons with tacit and express requests not to show images of the brutal happenings in Gujarat. 

  • Protest a day

  • Women's DayTop


The “injustice” of justice
Neglecting the flaws may affect credibility
S. S. Sodhi

Perhaps the most significant and valuable right conferred by our Constitution is that of protection of life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21. Judicial interpretation of its provisions has, over the years, greatly enlarged its scope and ambit but its core remains personal liberty. It is now well settled in law that if a person is deprived of his liberty under a procedure that is not "reasonable, fair or just", such deprivation would be violative of his fundamental right under Article 21 and he would consequently be entitled to enforce such fundamental right and secure his release. Such may no doubt be the law, but how does it fit in with the ground realities?

Take what is said to be the situation in our High Court today. Months elapse before the application of one seeking anticipatory bail or release from custody is taken up for hearing and finally decided. In the meanwhile the applicant remains under threat of arrest or languishes in jail as the case may be, and many who seek bail deserve it too.

Among lawyers a frequently heard remark is that, more often than not, when a bail application comes up for preliminary hearing before a Judge of the High Court notice of it is issued to the state and the state is given around three months' time to show cause why bail should not be granted to the applicant. During these three months, as mentioned earlier, the one who had sought anticipatory bail remains under constant threat of arrest while jail remains the abode of the person in custody.

This is not all, whether or not the bail application is taken up for hearing on the date fixed is dependent upon the court having time to deal with it and, of course, also the state counsel having the necessary instructions with regard to the relief sought. If on either account the matter has to be adjourned it could mean another couple of months' delay. To add to this, even if the bail application is heard the Judge may reserve his order and it can remain so for days or, as has often been said, even months. What this means is that the personal liberty of a citizen is held hostage to the unwieldy docket of the court and the inherent inefficiency and incompetence of the justice delivery system.

The picture is no different with regard to matters on the civil side. There is hardly any case, it is said, admitted to hearing that is ever taken up for final hearing. On those rare occasions when a case is finally heard instances are not lacking when the judgement is reserved and it may be months and in some cases years before it is eventually pronounced. This phenomenon of long pending reserved judgements has reached such proportions that the Supreme Court has been constrained to step in and lay down guidelines regarding the pronouncement of judgements. These guidelines inter alia provide that if a reserved judgement is not announced within two months the Chief Justice of the High Court shall draw the attention of the Bench concerned to it; if not announced within three months, any of the parties to the litigation may apply to the Bench that heard the matter to pronounce judgement at an early date and if not announced within six months any of the parties concerned may apply to the Chief Justice to withdraw the case from that Bench and place it before another Bench for hearing afresh.

The pertinent point to note with regard to these guidelines is that their entire scheme can be set at naught by the simple device of the Bench listing the matter for rehearing. After such rehearing the clock will start ticking afresh from that date and not from when the judgement was originally reserved. There are instances when this is known to have happened. In other words, if a Judge is so minded regardless of what the guidelines may be, he can still keep judgements reserved for months or even years.

Common experience, however, shows that almost the entire day in court is taken up in preliminary hearings of freshly instituted cases or in dealing with what are known as "notice of month" cases. Preliminary hearing of cases was designed to enable the Judge to consider whether or not the matter deserved to be admitted to regular hearing and if so what interim relief, if any, should be granted to the petitioner. This has now given way to an era of "notice of motion". Almost as an invariable rule, if a matter is not dismissed at the preliminary hearing, instead of admitting it to regular hearing, notice is directed to be given to the opposite parties to show cause why the petition be not admitted to hearing.

Experience has shown that it is after months and in some cases years and several adjournments that the opposite parties appear, file their replies and the matter is eventually taken up for hearing. The attempt of the Judge may no doubt be to finally decide the matter, but it is only in a few cases that he is able to do so. Most of the cases that are not dismissed are merely admitted to regular hearing. Instances are not unknown when even after hearing arguments of counsel spread over many days the case is merely admitted to regular hearing, leaving one wondering what counsel would say at such regular hearing that has not already been said. Unfortunately, once a case is admitted to hearing it will lie in cold storage, as it were, awaiting perhaps divine intervention to have it come up for hearing and final disposal. As things stand, such cases remain a legacy to be passed on from generation to generation.

It, however, deserves mention that the workload with the Judges of the High Court now is considerably more than what their predecessors had to contend with. Further, one would have to go far back into history to discover the day when the High Court at Chandigarh had its full sanctioned Judge strength. There are still several vacancies on the Bench and they have been there for many months.

For the common man his first brush with the "majesty of the law" is in the subordinate courts. More often than not the daily cause list of these courts is far beyond the capacity of any presiding officer of the court to deal with on any one working day. It is said that if the presiding officer were to call up all the cases on his list merely to adjourn them that alone would take up his entire day in court. No wonder this has given rise to the "three court syndrome" — implying thereby three separate cases being dealt with simultaneously in one court.

While the presiding officer is perhaps hearing arguments in one case, he has his stenographer recording the evidence of witnesses in another and the Reader too doing so in yet another case. The demeanour of witnesses while giving evidence being taken as an aid to assessing the weight to be given to their testimony stands rendered thereby a matter of no relevance. Obviously, law in the legal textbooks and in practice is a species apart. Ironically enough, this "three court syndrome" and its possible abuse are not unknown to the powers that be but they chose to turn a blind eye to it.

It would be pertinent, in this context, to narrate a "believe it or not" occurrence. A Judge of the High Court on inspection of subordinate courts stood incognito in a magistrate's court while the Reader was recording the evidence of a prosecution witness. The District Attorney examined the "witness" and later he was cross-examined by the defence counsel. Incredible as it may sound, it was only when this entire statement had been recorded that the person concerned (the witness) was called into the court room and asked to sign the statement and that too without what had been written being read over to him. One would wish to believe that this was merely an odd rare occurrence.

When such is the state of affairs should it not be imperative for there to be transparency and accountability in the functioning of the higher judiciary too, including its control over the subordinate judiciary? The reputation and credibility that our judiciary has earned for itself is too precious and valuable to be sacrificed by neglect of the flaws creeping within, whether on account of shortage of Judges or appointments being made on considerations other than merit or otherwise.

It needs to be appreciated that the image and public perception of any institution rests almost entirely upon the quality and calibre of the persons at its helm and in charge of its affairs. In other words, the judiciary cannot indulge in the luxury of being manned by people other than those who possess the requisite learning, understanding and competence and thereby lend dignity and stature to it.

The writer is a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Allahabad.


Gujarat massacre: impact on the Muslim world
V. Gangadhar

In a way, India had derived some benefits from the September 11 terrorist attacks on America's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Had these not happened, the USA would have conveyed its displeasure to India over the happenings in Gujarat where more than 600, a majority of them Muslims, were killed in communal riots. The USA would have witnessed an upsurge of anger and disgust over the ruthless killings, where innocent men, women and children were cruelly put to death. Human rights groups would have been on the roads registering their protests.

But these had not happened. The reactions, if any, had been muted. This was because after September 11, the Muslim became an unwanted species in the western line of thinking. There had been numerous instances of innocent Muslim citizens in the USA, who had had nothing to do with the September 11 outrage, harassed, humiliated and even assaulted.

People of Asian origin, particularly Muslims, are how a frightened lot in the West, particularly the USA where most people did not know the differences between a Muslim, a Hindu or a Sikh. Asian women these days preferred to wear jeans and tops rather than their traditional sarees or salwar kameez outfits. More and more men were shaving off their beards which could be a giveaway to their nationality and religion. These actions are justified because the US, in an apparent bid to crack down on terrorism and its fifth columnists had not done its homework in fixing the blame for the September 11 tragedy. It was clear that visas from Muslim countries were scrutinised more thoroughly and in most cases the applications rejected.

Unfortunately, every Muslim was suspected to have links with terrorists. The Bush Administration's tough line on this issue had met with media and public approval. The USA was now a more closed society which felt it could do without Asian migrants, particularly Muslims.

Perhaps, that is the reason why the Gujarat massacre, where most of the victims were Muslims, had not aroused the conscience of people in many parts of the world. Further, it is also being argued that though the massacre was regrettable, there was enough provocation for it, the burning of the train at Godhra where nearly 60 people died. This is exactly the argument put forward by Narendra Modi, the hapless Chief Minister of Gujarat, to justify his inactivity.

Even the Prime Minister and Home Minister have acknowledged that the happenings in Gujarat were a 'blot' on the fair name of the country. But they would be happy that international reaction, was, by and large muted. Take the case of Pakistan. There had been no hysterical outburst from Rawalpindi on the Gujarat killings and charges that Indian Muslims were no longer safe. This had been the predictable reaction from across the border during earlier communal riots in India. Pakistani leaders had called for international supervision on the living conditions of Indian Muslims and 'international probes' into such communal disturbances. This time there were no accusations of genocide against Indian Muslims and appeals to international communities to save them.

But Pakistan's low-key reaction to the recent killings is mainly due to Indian charges about the alleged involvement of the ISI and other anti-Indian focus. Of course, nothing had been proved on this count but as per reports, the role of a 'foreign hand' on this issue cannot be ruled out. The Godhra massacre was well planned. It could not have been the handiwork of some disgruntled local Muslims who were peeved at the insults hurled at their community by the swaggering, arrogant Kar Sevaks returning from Ayodhya.

During the past several years, Pakistan had had several friends in high places in the USA, including Senators, Congressmen and former envoys. They viewed Pakistan as a bulwark against the increasing Soviet influence in the region and India's friendship with the USSR. Pakistan was a willing member of the military pacts in the region. And the icing on the cake came when Islamabad openly welcomed the CIA intervention in Afghanistan and the open supplies of arms and money to the Taliban in its jihad against the Russians. Pakistan was the conduit to the arms, and the ISI was allowed a free hand. But all that changed after September 11 and only a chastened Musharraf prevented Pakistan from being labelled a rogue state. Rawalpindi quickly lost its friends and supporters in the American decision making bodies.

The rest of the Islamic world reacted more or less in the same way and this included Saudi Arabia, which liked to believe it was the leader of the Muslim world. The Saudis had always reacted sharply to what they perceived to be 'atrocities' against Muslims in any part of the world. Perhaps, the Saudis suspected some mischief from across the border which led to the Godhra massacre. Islamic nations are also painfully aware they are being made scapegoats for the September 11 incidents and could not expect much sympathy from the rest of the world even on occasions when Muslims were at the receiving end, as in the case of Gujarat.

After the 1969 communal riots again in Gujarat which took a fearful toll of human lives (more than 7000), the Islamic nations quite justifiably raised a hue and cry condemning the inaction on the part of the state government. Some months later at a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, India was roundly condemned. India's special envoy, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who was to become the President later, was rudely shown the door. The Indian government could not do much because the Gujarat government was clearly guilty in delaying calling the Army and protecting its people.

The reaction was equally hostile after the anti-reservation struggle of 1982 in Gujarat which turned communal. There were murmurs about cutting off oil supplies to India but nothing of the sort happened. In the heat of the moment over the killings of Muslims, the Islamic nations overlooked India's traditional support to Arab causes and its refusal to recognise Israel. After all, Egypt's President Gamal Nasser was a hero to India and a partner to Nehru on the non-aligned front. India had also been quick to condemn the West's attacks on Libya and reckless charges of international terrorism against President Gaddafi.

But in the long run, these are small doses of comfort to India whose reputation of a tolerant, secular democracy had taken a beating from which it may take a long time to recover. Thanks to advances in media and communication, the Gujarat riots were on TV screens all over the world and the pictures spoke more truly than any human voices. We can win back our lost prestige only if the guilty men of Godhra and Ahmedabad were caught and punished. Yet another futile, long-drawn-out judicial inquiry would be of no use. As it had happened so often in the past, its report would be thrown into the waste paper basket.


The phenomenon called suicide bombing
I. D. Swami

One million persons end their lives every year globally by committing suicide. Suicide is tragic. But suicide to effect mass murder is terrific. Today nuclear weapons are not the most dreaded weapons of the world. The phenomenon called suicide bombers is the most feared weapons.

Suicide bombers first appeared among the Jewish Sicaris in the 1st century. Ten centuries later, it was seen among the Moslem Hashishiyun. It appeared among Asians in the 18th century. Nineteenth century witnessed few attacks but its use became widespread in 20th century. The beginning of the 21st century has seen its most devastating and stunning effects. The world for the first time has seen terror with its various accoutrements on TV screens across the world.

Asians have emerged to earn the dubious distinction of perfecting the technology of suicide attacks. Nuclear bomb is relegated to second in the dreaded list because its use remains most unlikely even in a war. The reason — most of the nuclear weapons are in safe hands of responsible leadership of nuclear weapons states. In fact those weapons are not the real worry of the world. It is the intent of its controllers to use them that is the real worry. Fortunately for the world, there is no such intent expressed anywhere except once by a Pakistani leader.

The innocent looking, politically or religiously motivated, young men who come strapping the belt of explosives around their waist to transform themselves into human bombs have since emerged as the most desired weapons in the armoury of some terrorism sponsoring states. They can be effectively deployed to carry out a deliberate attack on state buildings; vital installations, top leadership or anything that they may think will inflict maximum damage and derive utmost publicity. Their deployment can be for killing, hijacking, abducting, bombing and for blowing themselves up together with their chosen targets. There is neither any radar device nor any spy satellite to detect their movement or destination. Their ability to disguise and blend with the local population is their advantage. There is no technology or procedure to prevent them; if any exists to stave them off, it has not been exhibited so far.

The Syrian Nationalist Party first introduced suicide bombers to the world in the 1980s. That gave the Arab-Israeli conflict a new twist. But the first major instance of suicide terrorism was the December 1981 devastation of the Iraqi embassy in Beirut killed 27 persons. Then, the Lebanon's Islamist militants used the method with devastating effect on October 23, 1982. A truck laden with more than 2250 kg of explosives was rammed into the barracks of the US Marine at Beirut killing 241 of them. That produced the largest explosion after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Terrorism, for the first time achieved a goal; the withdrawal of the US Marine Corps from Beirut. Another similar attack, the same day, killed 58 personnel in the nearby French military compound.

Similar bomb-laden trucks were used in the 1993 ( Feb 26) bombing of the WTC and the 1995 (April 19) bombing of US Federal building in Oklahoma. The former killed 6 persons and the latter- the biggest ever in domestic terrorism killed 168 persons. The US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-e-Salaam were bombed using similar methods on August 7, 1998. Bombing of the warship destroyer USS Cole took place on October 12, 2000 using bomb-laden boat killing 17 sailors and inflicting $243 million damage to the ship. All those paled into insignificance when compared to September 11, 2001, the toll of which is about 6000.

Many terrorism-sponsoring countries have now come to regard suicide bombers as the legitimate method of warfare. In Sri Lanka and some Islamic countries, it is relatively easy to get a person to strap the belt of explosives around his waist or to drive the vehicle of explosives to the targeted buildings. Inexpensive is this method, most effective is its impact and relatively easy is its execution.

Individuals, cars, trucks or boat can be used to carry explosives. Even nations with sophisticated weaponry fear this warfare. Spectacular is the effect it creates in damaging the morale of the enemy and unbelievable is the amount of publicity it derives instantly worldwide. Above all, it is easy to disown responsibility because generally no clues are left behind. Certain death of the perpetrator ensures that aspect.

There is no absolute safety against such attacks. What defence exists against unsuspicious aircraft flying over vital installations suddenly turning into missiles guided by kamikaze pilots? Can anyone be up in the air all the time to scan the horizon for such flights becoming suicide flights? This is the toughest terrorist act to prevent. Remember —the greatest act of crime against civilisation was committed with apparent ease crippling two cities, wounding a nation's psyche and numbing the world at large.

The world has witnessed 275 suicide bombings employed by about 15 different terrorist outfits in different countries between 1980 to 2000. The figure has gone up considerably since then and that biggest ever such act was witnessed on September 9. The LTTE that resorted suicide bombings since 1987 and has perpetrated the maximum number of suicide attacks-over 200. Islamic militants, according to a published paper executed the majority of the rest. But the LTTE is the only organisation in the world that has succeeded in assassinating two heads of state and wounding another by suicide bombings. It also killed former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, while on election campaign.

The fear now stalking the people's mind is whether suicide terrorists will now resort to mass-murder — methods employing the use of the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Former National Security Adviser of former President Boris Yeltsin once made a frightening disclosure that 100 out 250 Russian made suitcase-type nuclear weapons could not be accounted for. Each device is capable of causing about 1 lakh casualties in a city. Who can rule possibilities of their having fallen into the hands of terrorists or desperate fanatics?

A vast supermarket of weapons and materials of mass destruction has become available to the terrorists. For example, in 1970s, eco-terrorists group RISE planned to wipe-out the entire planet with several different microbial pathogens and then repopulate the world with their own genes. The plot was thwarted when group members informed the FBI. An epidemic capable of wiping out the entire inhabitants of a big city can be unleashed by a few hundred kilograms of anthrax bacteria.

It will be wrong to assume that terrorism will end after the fall of Taliban, or on crippling Al-Qaieda or on the death of Osama bin Laden. Terrorism has, like a cat, nine lives. It will not die and will exist in many ways and forms in many countries. In the fight against terrorism, what has to be destroyed first is fundamentalism and radicalism. It will not be wrong to predict that there will be a remarkable rise in Islamic fundamentalism and radicalism throughout the world now. Arab and Islamic countries should be saved to succumb to fanatic Moslem revolutionary movements that may come up post Taliban period.

The writer is the Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs, Delhi.


Secularism Zindabad!
Abu Abraham

Would either Vajpayee or Advani say that the destruction of Babri Masjid was an act of terror? Certainly not. For Advani it was the saddest day in his life. For Vajpayee it was part of an unfulfilled national dream, its fulfillment coming with the building of the Ram Mandir.

Uma Bharati did not jump with joy as the Babri Masjid came crashing down, as some journalist witnesses in Ayodhya would have us believe. She was merely jumping up and down for exercise, as any sports minister, keen on keeping fit, would.

Terrorism is terrorism only when it is of the cross-border kind. Our side of the border is all peace and harmony, sweetness and light. If occasionally a mosque or a church is attacked (by hoodlums wearing saffron headbands, as in the Mysore church incident, it goes under the name of law and order breakdown. Nobody owns responsibility. But maybe we should have a national debate on conversions, how about that?

POTO is there to make us all feel secure. A few missionaries massacred is a small matter when you think of how many of them are protected by POTO. What POTO will apply to people who say that the Ram temple will be built come what may, that when it comes to faith, courts have no jurisdiction?

Faith is the problem. All faith is blind; there is no other kind. Religion is 90 per cent faith and 10 per cent moral exhortation. And the 90 per cent has overwhelmed the 10 per cent throughout history. More wars, more tyrannies and suppression of truth have been caused by faith than anything else in history.

I wish religion were the opium of the people, as Marx described it. But it is far worse, more deadly than opium. Religion, unlike opium, does not put people to sleep. It excites them to persecute one another, to make a virtue of lawlessness, to claim for themselves an exclusive possession of the truth.

It is in this context that we should view the results of the election in U.P. The people of U.P have decided that enough is enough, and it is time to roll back the spate of intolerance that is threatening to destroy the very fundamentals of our society. They have shown that secularism and respect for law are not mere clichés, but meaningful to their lives. Why should they, after all, sacrifice their basic interests, like peace and communal harmony for the sake of a mythical faith that sows hatred so as to divide them and turn them against each other?

Ever since the BJP led government came to power at the Centre, the country has witnessed a gradual unpacking of a 'hidden agenda'. The 'disciplined' cadres of the RSS have unleashed a despicable campaign against the liberal elements of our cultured society - artists, film makers, writers - acting as guardians of our Bharatiya culture. Murli Manohar Joshi's HRD ministry has been busy substituting history with mythology. Rewriting history has been an exercise in suppressing facts. Whether or not Hindus ate beef in ancient times thus becomes not a matter of historical research but an assertion of Hindutva ideology. What the Ministry has been engaged in is a sort of cultural hooliganism.

Beneath the surface of this rowdyism lies a barely hidden distaste for the minorities and their history and culture. The minority Muslims and Christians hardly count in the narration of Indian history because they are supposed to be alien civilizations.

None of the lessons of the BJP's defeat that is obvious to others is going to be accepted by Hindu chauvinists whose aim is to assert their superiority over alien cultures that once dominated them. There will be many in the BJP and RSS who will say that their rout in the recent elections simply goes to show that the electorate has punished them for not acting with more determination in the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.

There is the danger now that the hardcore of the BJP and RSS will, in their frustration and despair, resort to even more radical policies, even more desperate hooliganism. But now that the electorate has shown that its priorities begin not with Ram temples but with drinking water, we can rest assured that the country is in safe hands. Top


Truly a sage, a man of learning
Harihar Swarup

This is, perhaps, for the first time that a Sankaracharya, most revered pontiff of the Hindu religion, met the Imams in his bid to resolve the Ayodhaya tangle. Swami Jayendra Saraswati, Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peethan is no ordinary person. Truly a sage, a man of learning, he radiates a divine energy and the Imams and other Muslim leaders were spellbound by his powerful mind and rich personality. According to some of them, almost child-like innocence and sincerity of purpose virtually compelled them to instantaneously repose confidence in him even as VHP leaders adopted stringent position. An amicable negotiated solution to the vexed temple issue may or may not be possible now but in words of Jameel Ahmed Ilyasi, President of the Organisation of Imams, "the direct contact has cleared the air of hatred between the two communities". Also the Imams rallied around the Sankaracharya's belief that building of mutual trust and brotherhood might help them to arrive at a consensus on the Ayodhaya problem.

Fiftynine year-old Jayendra Saraswati is the 69th Sankaracharya in line of Adi Sankara, believed to be an incarnation of the Supreme Lord in human form who renounced the world in his boyhood to spread spiritual message throughout the country. Adi Sankara died at the age of 32 but he did work of many long lives. Heading the 2,500-year-old Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham at Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. Jayendra Saraswati too, is no escapist, retiring into his shell or into a corner of forest seeking his own individual perfection, oblivious of what happens to others. He is a man of vast action and yet has no attachment to worldly possessions, does not have rancour or bitterness towards anyone, remains far away from the labyrinth of politics and, at the same time, so well informed about all current issues. He has his own views on issues ranging from Ayodhya to Atom Bomb and the good and harmful facets of liberalisation

His Holiness was saddened by the demolition of Babri Masjid and when a newsman drew his attention to the VHP-BJP slogan that next would be mosques in Mathura and Kashi, his reply was loud and clear: "There is a law into existence to protect these places of worship and enough care should be taken to ensure that they do not go Ayodhya way". A year back he drew a "laxman rekha" on Ayodhya issue; nobody should try to politicise the Ayodhya issue. He chastised both the "Sangh Parivar" and other political parties for exploiting temple issue for political ends.

In an interview the Shankaracharya justified nomination of former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, for the National Eminence Award in December, 2000 even though he had been convicted in the JMM case. His words were: " We don't see him as a wrong-doer at all, In spite of a minority, he did an excellent job of governing the country. In most cases he has been framed. Even in the JMM case the real culprits were set free but he was left to face the music. We don't see any problem in giving him the award because he has brought the country and its economy around from a very bleak point. Compared to how the current Prime Minister helplessly survives each day while his allies keep trying to pull the carpet, Narasimha Rao's tenure was any day better".

On the nuclear explosion and India's missile programme, His Holiness held the view that " the use of science and technology to kill is wrong. But you need to be prepared with preventive strike power since enemies surround us. The bomb can take care of the enemies without but the real problem is the enemies within". He supports liberalisation but feels, 100 per cent FDI may provide scope for more corruption and financial mishandling. "We should concentrate on import of technology for our benefit. We don't lack brains; we might be lacking in funds". He also holds the view that government should step back from business and let the private sector take over.

Jayendra Saraswati is also, possibly, only Shankaracharya who visited China. It was only purely by chance that the visit materalised last year. A Chinese cultural delegation had visited Kanchi and they requested him to come to China. His condition was that the Chinese Government should extend him a formal invitation. Within weeks he received a request to pay a visit to China. Before leaving for Beijing, he was asked about the status of Tibet and the reply was clear: " Like J&K, Tibet is an integral part of China." India and China have a lot of things in common their culture and religion and his visit would be confined to a discussion on spiritual matters, he told the questioner. Jayendra Saraswati was closely associated with his predecessor Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swami, who passed away at the age of 102.

A person of great divine powers and learning, he used to trek long distances, staying overnight in temples and trying to provide solace to the poor and needy. On one such trip Indira Gandhi, when she was out of office met the Jagadguru and spent 90 minutes with him.


Ganga jal at PM’s residence

Unprecedented things happened at 7, Race Course Road, official residence of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, earlier this week. It all started with the visit of Kanchi Kamakoti Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati twice this week. It was perhaps the first time ever when a Shankaracharya had come calling to the PM’s residence. As the Ayodhya row came to a flashpoint, the Kanchi seer willingly became the government’s interlocutor between the Hindu and Muslim leadership. When the Shakaracharya arrived, the pontiff’s car was allowed right inside — a privilege normally granted only to a select few. The Dalai Lama, SPG protectees like former Prime Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition, Ms Sonia Gandhi, normally enjoy this privilege.

Union Home Minister LK Advani, whose security of late has been brought at par with that of the PM’s, also enjoys this privilege.. The gesture to Shankaracharya spoke volumes about the status the Vajpayee government accorded to Jayendra Saraswati.

His disciples walked ahead of the Shankaracharya sprinkling ‘Ganga jal’ all over. The PMH had to specially order large quantities of ‘Ganga jal’ for Shankaracharya’s visit. Not only that, the PMH was given instructions to prepare ‘satvic’ food which meant Vajpayee, a non-veg buff, had to forego his favourite ‘tamsik’ dishes.

Reining in VHP

There was utter disbelief when the high-profile senior vice-president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Acharya Giriraj Kishore refuted reports about either the VHP or the Shriram Janmabhoomi Nyas giving any undertaking to abide by the court verdict on Ayodhya. He also observed that there was something common between demon king Ravana and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Both were Kanyakubja Brahmins. The Prime Minister’s Office and the leaders engaged in finding a peaceful solution to the Ayodhya tangle felt the VHP leader was trying to derail the efforts of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

The powers that be within the Sangh Parivar swung into action to contain the damage and roped in the RSS to rein in the VHP leader. Vajpayee also put in a word to the RSS leaders to discipline the VHP leader. The RSS bosses were more forthright in their approach and insiders say Giriraj Kishore was simply asked to shut up and not to do anything to upset the Shankaracharya’s effort. The efforts paid rich dividends as the very next day VHP supremo Ashok Singhal went public on the assurance given to the Shankaracharya and the Prime Minister.

Man Friday

Be it Mamata Banerjee or the Ayodhya issue, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee depends a lot on Defence Minister George Fernandes. This time too when the Vishva Hindu Parishad mounted pressure on the Vajpayee government on the Ram Temple issue in Ayodhya, Vajpayee preferred his Man Friday Fernandes to talk to Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Jayendra Saraswati. Observers were surprised that Home Minister L K Advani was not chosen for the job.

The Home Minister, who led the Ram Temple movement from

the front, has not taken kindly to Vajpayee’s tilt towards Fernandes. So much so when a scribe called up Advani the other day to apprise him of harsh realites in the riot torn Gujarat, the Home Minister advised the journalist to tell the tale to Fernandes.

Tale of revenge

First it was the turn of the Congress to get back on the Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav for refusing to back Sonia Gandhi’s claim for the Prime Ministership. It kept Mulayam Singh Yadav on the tenterhooks till the Governor finally recommended President’s rule. Smarting under the Congress strategy, SP leaders are livid and are talking of hitting back.

High-profile Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, who is referred in his party as deputy supremo, is so cheesed off with Congress President Sonia Gandhi for her delaying tactics in not immediately declaring support to his party for government formation in Uttar Pradesh that he told mediapersons that he would ensure that his party gets at least 55 MPs in the next Lok Sabha, forcing the Congress to beg them for support. Whether Mulayam Singh Yadav manages the numbers or not, he has at least ensured that the next general elections would be an interesting one.

Turn about

Those, who have witnessed the rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party, would recall that Kanshi Ram used to call the shots in the party and Mayawati used to follow the leader. But in the changing times, it is the other way round. Now she commands and he follows. While earlier, she had asked Kanshi Ram to restrict his movements to Punjab during the Assembly elections and not to come to Uttar Pradesh, she was seen leading her de jure leader from the front. When a scribe wanted to ask him a question in the galleries of Parliament where the two were walking, she winked at Kanshi Ram indicating that she would answer the query.

Amarinder’s woes

The ouster of the Badal government in Punjab could cost the State as far as relations with the Centre are concerned. Parkash Singh Badal had a personal rapport with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and during times of crisis he would just fly to Delhi and get decisions passed in his favour.

Whether it be enhanced MSP for foodgrains or clearance of Bathinda refinery, Badal had his way. However, with the Congress coming to power the equations have changed.

The newly-elected Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was in the Capital the other day to pay a courtesy call on all senior Central leaders. He did manage to get some kind of an assurance from the Food Ministry over the continued procurement of foodgrains by the Centre but it remains to be seen if the Centre keeps its word. After all, it has talked about revamping the existing procurement system and decentralising the role of central agencies. The Economic Survey also talked against the regular increase in the MSP for foodgrains.

The fate of Bathinda refinery is also in suspense as Hindustan Petroleum, which is implementing the project is likely to be privatised. The new owner may or may not implement the project. In this case, Capt Amarinder Singh would not have the shoulders of Vajpayee to cry on.

Contributed by Rajeev Sharma, Satish Misra and T.V. Lakshminarayan.


Daily protests against Gujarat killings
Humra Quraishi

There is one particular Union Minister from the Vajpayee Cabinet who has been telephoning mediapersons with tacit and express requests not to show images of the brutal happenings in Gujarat . This well sums up the state of affairs, this alone sums up the paradoxes at work, this alone goes to show that even ministerial level people have lost control over the likes of Narendra Modi , and perhaps, it's also a reminder of the fact that they seem little concerned about the carnage and instead their actual concern is to sabotage reports of the ongoing savagery.

And there is a strange silence here in the corridors of power and though for every accidental happening - manmade or otherwise, a few heads roll, and some tails are twisted, surprisingly not one head or tail of any of those from the Gujarat government has been touched. And not one officer from the IPS and IAS associations (Central or state) has spoken out against the brutal goings on in the state's capital. Is there something amiss in the very training of these men who are supposed to administer and police without any bias? Yesterday, I interviewed one of the seniormost civil servants in the country and he admitted that there are communal biases which seem to match the political mood, and also that if a civil servant does stand up to speak his mind or take any of the political bosses to task "chances are that he'd be called mad and much more ...I'm called mad because I speak without being scared of the politicians."

Protest a day

I don't know about other towns but here in New Delhi, everyday since last Saturday, a band of teachers, activists, writers, mediapersons, students and several eminent persons have been getting together to voice their protest at the government machinery at work in Gujarat and elsewhere. On Saturday there was a protest meet in front of the Gujarat Bhavan, Chanakyapuri, where students and a lecturer of Ramjas College (DU) spoke of how a right wing students' group caused disturbances on the campus and in spite of repeated calls, the police did little to control the situation. On Sunday morning, Delhi University students held a march near Vivekananda's statue and the same evening there was a candlelight vigil at the India Gate lawns. Prominent among others who were there was writer Arundhati Roy and her filmmaker husband Praia Kishen, and when I asked Roy what she felt should be done to control the communal madness, she looked sad and shrugged helplessly. On Monday, a large number of mediapersons, including editors of three national dailies, took out a protest march from the Press Club towards Jantar Mantar. It was touching to see the 88-year-old Khushwant Singh also join in the march. Members of several other organisations (AMU Old Boy's Associations, Minorities Forum etc.) were seen sitting on a day-long dharna there also. On Tuesday, academicians from JNU held a day-long symposium at the JNU city and several of those assembled said that shots of the carnage have begun to haunt and under no circumstances should one yield to political lobbies that have begun to speak in four or five different voices to confuse the saner elements around.

On Wednesday, Left parties held a demonstration, again at Jantar Mantar, and at the time of my filing this column there is news that several senior mediapersons are assembling today to voice their disgust at the happenings.

Earlier this week a group of journalists left on a fact-finding mission to Godhra — what with little being done by the government or any of its agencies to go into the incidents that led to bogies being put on fire — it is imperative to know the actual facts. Yes, it's time each one of us begins to question and voice our protest at the political games. I'm reminded of a film made by two Delhi-based activists — Sohail Hashmi and Gauhar Raza, screened at India Habitat Centre , and the parallels it managed to highlight between the happenings in our country and those which took place several decades back in Germany when Hitler's Nazism was on the rise. The film seemed a forewarning, an eerie reminder of the kind of brutality that can be unleashed. The power to stop such forces lies with us - the ordinary citizens of this country. I asked these two activists to screen this film in smaller towns of the country so that a forewarning could reach out.

Women's Day

It seems a mere formality to fit in events that took place here on March 8 (Women's Day), because today the very life of the human being is at stake, so it makes little sense to concentrate on just the woman. In fact, the topic of one major symposium which took place here (with speakers like Rani Jethmalani, Uma Nair etc.) on March 8 was whether Indian women would like cloning of their babies.

It would have been apt if the hyped Western concept of cloning had been bypassed and very survival of babies is made the vital issue.

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