Sunday, May 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Over a cup of shame
Pran Chopra

OTHAN Joseph was an ancestor of the present generation of journalists. He was a mild-mannered man. He had his convictions, but he never let them get the better of his sense of proportion, moderation, fair play and gentle humour. He never boasted that just that morning he had boiled three politicians for his breakfast.

Time to combat Pak threat to use nuclear weapons
I. D. Swami

FOUR resolutions of the United Nations (1653(XVI) of 1961, 33/71B of 1978, 34/83G of 1979, 35/152D of 1980 and 36/92 I of 1981) declared that any use of nuclear weapons would be a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and a crime against humanity.

We shouldn’t succumb to Pak blackmail 
Partap Singh
LOUDS of war between India and Pakistan have dissipated for the time being due to American influence. Initially, General Pervez Musharraf had stated that tension along the international border had subsided. Later, Prime Minister Vajpayee declared that India would not commence war against Pakistan.



The ever widening chasm
David Devadas
NE of the most sacred shrines for Kashmir's Hindus is the temple of Khir Bhawani in the heart of the valley. Another is Shankaracharya, which dominates Srinagar. Over the past few years, temples of Khir Bhawani and Shankaracharya have come up in Jammu too.


Aung Suu Kyi: Myanmar’s most remarkable daughter
Harihar Swarup
HERE is not a single example, perhaps, in world history when a Nobel Laureate is held prisoner in his own country for almost a decade. The world’s most prestigious award, if conferred on a genius, is a matter of national pride but it was not so in Myanmar (formerly Burma).


The heat is on for Rashtrapati Bhavan
HE heat is on for the post of the next President. With no consensus as yet on the candidates, political parties and leaders are pitching in for different personalities. President K. R. Narayanan still remains a key figure. He apparently wants another term though the largest party in the ruling coalition — the BJP — is not in favour of giving him another term.

  • George at sea
  • Cong Flip-flop
  • Pervez's trick

African, Arab receptions are full of warmth
Humra Quraishi
FRICA Day falls on May 24. Though it involves several Arab countries together with a great majority of those in the African continent, the expected hype seems missing.

  • Another tragedy

  • Kaifi saab



Over a cup of shame
Pran Chopra

POTHAN Joseph was an ancestor of the present generation of journalists. He was a mild-mannered man. He had his convictions, but he never let them get the better of his sense of proportion, moderation, fair play and gentle humour. He never boasted that just that morning he had boiled three politicians for his breakfast. But he did make them squirm. When his barbs hit them they did not know where to look.

Because of these qualities, a column he used to write under the title “Over a Cup of Tea” was popular with readers who preferred a persuasive argument to noisy argumentation. Gradually, that title became synonymous with his quality of writing, an epitaph for a man who quietly scanned the newspaper in the morning and later chiselled the phrases of whatever comment he had chosen to make that afternoon, always with a half-consumed cup of tea by his side.

Of course, he was helped in all this by the temper of those times, when much was going right with the country, far less was going wrong, and what was shockingly wrong was most infrequent. So, the tasks of reading the newspaper and writing for it mixed pleasurably with a cup of tea. The reader did not have to bite his nails and the commentator did not have to chew his pencil, and neither had to tear his hair out. The palates of both were sensitive to finer tastes, and newspapers felt no compulsion to provide stronger stimulation. Commentators could afford to be more fair than pungent, editors did not have to go hunting for scams, a journalist’s ego was satisfied with reputation for accuracy, and for his fame he did not have to manufacture big images for the small screen and smaller minds.

The quality of public life was also not what it has become. The contrast between then and now came vividly home to me just a few days ago when the Delhi edition of a major newspaper was brought to me with the morning cup of tea. The lead story on the front page was that the police had found crores and crores of rupees tucked away in the lockers of the Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission. The suspicion clearly was that he had been making tons of money by selling prize jobs to wealthy candidates.

The next story was that a former Prime Minister, much respected in more innocent days for what appeared to be piety, frugality, and principles, was suspected to have acquired 500 acres of forest land by means which would not bear scrutiny. The next was that the National Human Rights Commission had chastised the government of the state of Gujarat — Gujarat, of all places — for the carnage which had been rocking the country for weeks. The gang-rape of a Kashmiri girl by security forces took up much of the rest of the front page, along with hide and seek between the treasury and Opposition benches in Parliament over whether and if so how to debate Gujarat. I can add some more examples of our debasement from what I read on that page. But as you must have guessed by now, my cup of tea was already overflowing with shame over the state of our media, our society and our institutions. All of them merit comment, but out of deference to Pothan Joseph one turns first to that lead story.

By what means Mr Sidhu became Chairman of the Public Service Commission of a major state must be a secret known only to a few people. But much more public must have been under the suspicion that he had made crores of rupees by getting jobs for people by culpable means. Thanks to him, thousands of persons are today holding public positions which they got only by greasing his palm.

As for the Gujarati media, their coverage of Godhra was inflammatory, not investigative. As they fanned the flames, they did great service to Pakistan. They disregarded the possibility that the fire in Godhra was deliberately lit by pro-Pakistan provocateurs who foresaw that it would spread and force the Indian Army to withdraw some units immediately from their crucial deployment on the Pakistan border for riot control duties in the hinterland. Pakistan’s gains grew further as the world heaped blame upon India as a whole for the events in one state.

Compared with that, the failures of the national media are minor, but their effects, including one of great relief to Pakistan, can be more pernicious in the long run. Few of them did anything to investigate the possible complicity of Pakistan in the Godhra tragedy, most of them forgot to mention it at all, and so did the foreign media, with some exceptions, since many of them take their cue from what they read in the Indian Press. Secondly, instead of preserving their independent judgement, they joined the chorus so well orchestrated in Parliament, that Chief Minister Narendra Modi must be dismissed. In doing so they forgot many things their own reports had shown, and some which a little reflection could have shown to them.

Much has happened to show that the plague which has again struck Gujarat is not of recent origin, and is too deep and wide to be traced to the door of one man. Its causes lie deep in our society. And in the political class as a whole because it has allowed all political parties, whatever their hue and not only in Gujarat, to undermine the administration, and particularly the police, by using it as a political tool. The demand that Mr Modi be dismissed is flawed on other counts also which have hardly figured at all in the media debate. It has only reduced Parliament to the most shameful bedlam to date, proving once again how thoroughly we can cripple our highest political forum when sane deliberation in it is most needed.

Parliament is not the forum for holding a state’s Chief Minister to account. That is the prerogative of the state’s legislature or electorate — unless the Centre takes over the administration of the state under Article 356. Opposition parties in Parliament would have been fully justified in demanding that the Centre must take over Gujarat, but not in demanding that it must dismiss Mr Modi without invoking that Article. They would have been equally justified in demanding dismissal of the Vajpayee government through a motion of no confidence if it had refused to take over the state. In any case, no legislature can ask for the head of any individual minister, because the Cabinet is collectively responsible to it. The legislature can ask the head of a government to dismiss an individual, but if he refuses it can only resort to a no-confidence motion against the government.

Why did the Opposition parties not take that course in the Lok Sabha or the Gujarat legislature ? An obvious part of the reason is that they lacked the numbers. But that is too obvious to be the whole reason. The real reason is that they were sensing rifts within the NDA at the Centre, and possibly also within the BJP in Gujarat, for example between Mr Modi and Mr Keshubhai Patel, and they realised that the former rifts would be healed if they moved against the NDA government as a whole, and the latter if they moved against the BJP government in Gujarat. Also parties which are in the Opposition in Parliament but in power in the states, and they are so in most of the states, did not wish to create a precedent which would encourage the Union Government to use the power it has in the Constitution to dismiss the government of a state on the plea that it has failed to maintain law and order. Andhra has failed to do so more than most other states.

But the effect of the Opposition’s tactics was entirely the reverse of the aim proclaimed by it, because the more it became obvious that Mr Modi’s head was being demanded as a trophy to be displayed in the political hallway of the next Prime Minister of India or Chief Minister of Gujarat, the more difficult it became for both governments to concede it. On the other hand, the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha moved a resolution which focussed more on remedial steps than on condemning the government, and the government promptly supported it.

It might have seemed all along that any concession to reason would have been impossible in the climate created in the Lok Sabha . But the House did get a chance in the closing minutes of its darkest hour. At that time, at about 3 o’clock that morning, a move began for an agreed and non-partisan resolution to be adopted unanimously, calling for urgent steps for peace in Gujarat and justice to victims. If it had worked, we might have seen two dawns within the next hour or two. Why did it not ? The government says the Opposition backed out of the compromise. Did it ?

I wish the media had given us an answer. Or told us what prompted the Chair in the Lok Sabha and the President outside it to do what our judges are better known for doing, that is indulge in questionable obiter dicta while performing their entirely appropriate duties. I think Pothan Joseph would have answered these questions while stirring his cup of tea.

But before leaving Joseph to rest in peace, I must take a few lines more to narrate a curious twist by a well-known television personality who is much less prickly in real life than he enjoys being on the screen. In a recent comment on the media, he referred to the distressing fact that people are misquoted, and he picked up a very telling example. He proved to the hilt that, at a time of extreme sensitivity in Hindu-Muslim relations, a newspaper of sorts had grossly misreported what the Prime Minister had said about Islam. But instead of asking the newspaper why it did so, he put on his camera ready prickliest best and asked why does the Prime Minister ask to be misquoted ?

The writer is a former Editor of The Statesman.


Time to combat Pak threat to use nuclear weapons
I. D. Swami

The Pakistani-made Ghauri-II, capable of carrying all kinds of warheads, was launched at Jhelum on April 14, 1999, in response to India’s Agni II.

FOUR resolutions of the United Nations (1653(XVI) of 1961, 33/71B of 1978, 34/83G of 1979, 35/152D of 1980 and 36/92 I of 1981) declared that any use of nuclear weapons would be a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and a crime against humanity. The UN General Assembly Resolution 55/34-G reiterated its request to the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations to reach agreement on an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

The International Court of Justice in a historic decision made on July 8, 1996 said: “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law…” The court could find no circumstances in which nuclear weapons could be used. The highest court of the world has thus, made the use of or threat of nuclear weapons practically impossible. The court unanimously decided that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”.

We all believe that since the end of the Cold War, the fear of a nuclear war has receded. The question arises: can we be complacent? Is not a nuclear mishap through nuclear terrorism more likely today than ever? Are we not gradually approaching the “mutually assured destruction” zone? Now join issue with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s statement that he will use nuclear weapons, if necessary to resolve the Kashmir dispute”.

This was not the first such threat that he held out against India. Nor is it going to be the last. He, on an earlier occasion, categorically said that if Pakistan’s security is threatened, it could use its nuclear bomb. The world leaders hardly reacted, as if he had said something sanctimonious. Disregarding grave utterances of this nature can sure invite catastrophic calamities.

Now remember what President Bush in his State of the Union speech said. “I will not wait on events while the dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The USA will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons”. The world cannot afford a nuclear war with so much of stockpiled (about 30,000 to 40,000) nuclear bombs.

None in the world can be allowed to become a nuclear hawk. Does Musharraf realise the terrible consequences of a nuclear exchange between India and his country? Is he condemning the world to live with threats of nuclear weapon or is he taking the world at gunpoint? Such threats are intolerable. The sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons invokes a moral imperative on the part of President Musharraf to apologise to the world for what he had uttered.

President Musharraf’s statements certainly rank among the most irresponsible and most dangerous ever made by anyone who happens to be having the reins of a nuclear weapon state. His threat should have alarmed the world leaders because he has the power to use the nuclear weapons. He is a dictator holding on to power desperately. He heads an army, which had always played dangerous game. He is unpredictable. What, if he gives a nuclear bomb to a terrorist group?

Imagine the likelihood of the nightmare scenario coming true in a world in which fundamental dangers posed by the terrorists exist. Pakistan is emerging as a dangerous rouge state. The danger becomes greater when a dangerous General heading it envisions triggering the nuclear device. What, if Pakistan’s nuclear capability proliferate to the theocratic Muslim states ruled by dictators? What if he deliberately allows terrorists to place nuclear devices in strategically important places and settings in India?

What if he helps to create more small rogue states with nuclear capabilities to bedevil the world? What the world leaders propose to do with his pronounced intention? Pontificate indefinitely? Or, are they waiting to act after he has carried out his threat? Peril is drawing closer and closer. When the President of a nuclear weapon state openly says that he will use weapons of mass destruction, it should shake the world. Nothing of the sort has happened. Musharraf remains emboldened.

Pakistan should have been included in the group of nations forming the USA’s axis of evil? Is it not an open secret that Pakistan has been receiving shipments of missile and other sophisticated weapons material from one of the members of that axis? Obtaining weapon material clandestinely from a country forming the axis of evil and Pakistan’s culpability in encouraging terrorism are reasons enough to treat it as a rouge state. Nuclear weapons as such are not dangerous. The real danger is the intent of evil men to detonate them. Musharraf has made that intent loud and clear.

Pakistan’s intention to flout international law and the will of the people is well known. Nuclear weapons are weapons capable of wiping out civilisations. How can one make statement about the use of such weapons so casually, without provocation and still get away with it? Come to the question of security threat to Pakistan. Who decides whether Pakistan’s security is threatened or not? The threat to security is such an all encompassing term. It could be twisted to mean anything that suits the ambitious General. The character of threats and challenges to the security of a nation clearly depends on many things and will keep changing.

An increasing number of local crises, regional conflicts, ethnic and religious strife, border disputes, human rights violations, natural and man-made disasters, a shortage of life’s essentials, economic and societal collapse, the weakening or disintegration of state institutions, etc can always be held out as reasons for security threat. In an age of globalisation, the economy exerts growing influence on issues of state security. Any trade decision in a particular country can create economic instability in the neighboring state or elsewhere and that can be held out as threat to security.

Pakistan is a nation that never gives peace a chance. If the General wanted to create a security threat, he can always do so. He has done that in Kargil. He planned it. He executed it. Security concerns are country-specific in nature. If few new arms or planes are added to India’s army or air force, Pakistan can claim that military balance in the region got altered. Then, Pakistan can always claim that its security is in peril and they have to defend it with their nuclear weapons. Can that bogey justify the use of nuclear weapons?

Musharraf’s idea of using nuclear weapon against India is most frightening. It is time world leaders stood up vigorously to put an end to such blatant threat. How the USA would have reacted if any country held out a similar threat against it? The USA knows better than anyone else in the world that threat to world peace these days come not from nuclear tipped ICBMs of big powers but from a relatively small nation like Pakistan whose leader’s temptation to trigger the nuclear device is no secret. There persists a clear danger that Musharraf can provide ingredients of nuclear bomb, if not nuclear bomb itself, to radical states or terrorist groups. Sooner the world leaders recognise the threat, the better it will be for the mankind. The threat is serious, act before it could get a lot worse.

What Musharraf unwittingly reveals is that he will go for a pre-emptive strike against India when India least expects it. The world has witnessed enough individuals or groups indulging in mad and suicide acts. Take a look at history’s flipside. An individual (Garrilo Princip) contemplating to commit suicide shot dead the Archduke Francis Ferdinand-heir to the Austrian throne. This incident caused World War I.

Hitler’s abhorrence towards Jews was cause of World War II. He blamed a Dutchman setting fire to Reichstag building on Jews, took over power democratically, became a dictator and later invaded Poland to ignite World War II.

An individual’s abhorrence towards ‘non-Islamic’ regimes was the cause of exploding passenger planes into America’s supreme combine of economic and military power. That was cause for the USA to declare war on terror. Is it now the turn of a nation to do a mad suicide act? World leaders should unite to prevent emergence of rogue regimes and rogue leaders through sanctions, isolation and international condemnation of nations and leaders showing tendencies of going rogue. Harsher steps are at times necessary to avoid catastrophe.

The writer is Union Minister of State for Home Affairs.


We shouldn’t succumb to Pak blackmail 
Partap Singh

CLOUDS of war between India and Pakistan have dissipated for the time being due to American influence. Initially, General Pervez Musharraf had stated that tension along the international border had subsided. Later, Prime Minister Vajpayee declared that India would not commence war against Pakistan. In the event of an all-out hostilities which seemed imminent, there was a possibility of its having culminated into a nuclear war between the traditional rivals.

The prevailing situation has highlighted one crude fact that a nuclear weapon state, howsoever small, can blackmail a large and more powerful country, if its political leadership lacks the requisite resolve by creating the fear of nuclear war and can continue inflicting heavy loss of lives and property on her with impunity through terrorist activities. To what extent this fear is justified or is unnecessary can be gauged from the succeeding analysis.

Available information reveal that India possesses nearly 90 atomic bombs while Pakistan has about 30 to 40. Dr A. P. J. Abul Kalam, former Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, confirmed on November 13, 2001 that India has hydrogen bomb but there is no such report about Pakistan. Both countries have the capability to carry and drop these weapons of mass destruction through aircraft and missiles. The whole of Pakistan in our weapons range whereas she can conceivably strike up to Karnataka, Orissa and Bihar.

The size of Pakistan’s nuclear bombs is believed to be equal to those dropped on Japanese cities during Second World War. How much destruction an atomic bomb of this kind can cause is difficult to assess. Nonetheless a fairly accurate picture can be established from the damage produced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities which were attacked on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively. The bomb which fell on Hiroshima was made of uranium, weighed four and half tons (9000 lbs) and the other one of Nagasaki was of plutonium weighing five tons (10,000 lbs).

Both the bombers took off from Tinian Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Colonel Paul Tibets dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima at 8.16 hours local time from an altitude of six miles which exploded on Dr Shima’s clinic. Fierce glowing fireball darted into the sky whose temperature at the core exceeded 50,000°C. Pressure exerted was hundreds of thousands of tons per square inch. According to the crew, they had a peep into hell and could see the tongue of fire at work on bodies of men. The objective of the second atomic bomb was Kokura city but this being enveloped by thick clouds, could not be spotted by the pilot Major General Charles Sweeney from the aeroplane despite making three circles over it. Perforce he had to target Nagasaki, the alternative objective and released the bomb at 11.02 hours local time flying seven miles above the city but the same missed its mark by two miles.

In the words of an eye-witness reporter in the aircraft, “we watched a giant pillar of purple fire 10,000 ft high shoot upwards like a meteor coming from earth. It was a living thing, seething and boiling in a white fury of creamy foam. The giant thunderclap was followed by continuous roar and silence of death”. Major General JFC Fuller, a military historian of repute records, “4.4 square miles of Hiroshima city was burnt completely, 62,000 houses were destroyed (In Japan these were generally made of wood). Official casualty list mentions 78,150 men as killed, 13,983 missing and perhaps equal number were injured. At Nagasaki despite the bomb being bigger and more destructive damage was not so massive. May be uneven layout of the city restricted it. Only 1.8 square miles of the built-up area was destroyed and nearly 40,000 men were killed and probably same number were wounded”.

On the same night of August 9, 334 bombers attacked Tokyo with 2000 tons of incendiary bombs which was the most devastating conventional air raid in history till then. Robert Gullian, a French journalist, remarked that this attack had destroyed a quarter of the city and caused more deaths than the number killed in Hiroshima. Hence it will be reasonably safe to deduce that the atomic bombs of the capacity of those dropped on Japanese cities which Pakistan has in its arsenal can destroy merely one-sixth portion of a city like Delhi.

Besides, in Hiroshima, radiation proved fatal only upto a radius of 3000 ft i.e. less than a kilometre. Eight minutes after the explosion at Nagasaki Lieutenant Nobukaju Komatsu and his crew flew over the city unknowingly at an altitude of 10,000 ft and nothing adverse happened. Moreover, the power supply was restored in Nagasaki by the third day on August 11. To accomplish this, technicians must have begun work on August 10 which further demonstrates that the risk on the land in the city next day of the blast will be negligible, that too, without anti-nuclear protective clothings. What is more, both cities began flourishing with vibrance within a few years.

The preceding facts testify that atomic bombs certainly do inflict mass casualties but those with Pakistan so far are not that immense that we can’t absorb and survive them. Today we are better equipped with knowledge. Pakistan, at the most, can destroy 15 to 20 cities that too if we are not vigilant enough. This fact should neither unjustifiably petrify us nor make us succumb to Pakistani nuclear blackmail at the cost of national honour.

We are, at the same time, capable of completely annihilating this country. Since Independence, more than one lakh people, military and civilians have perished in war with Pakistan and her terrorist related activities. It is sheer cowardice to die without reprisals. Whatever the consequences, the Prime Minister must take bold decisions for the sake of national dignity, pride and security of the public and teach Pakistan a bitter lesson.

The writer is a retired Colonel.



The ever widening chasm
David Devadas

ONE of the most sacred shrines for Kashmir's Hindus is the temple of Khir Bhawani in the heart of the valley. Another is Shankaracharya, which dominates Srinagar. Over the past few years, temples of Khir Bhawani and Shankaracharya have come up in Jammu too. Most of the tens of thousand Pandit (or Kashmiri Hindu) migrants who have taken refuge there over the past decade prefer their own places of worship — even in a place that calls itself a city of temples. On the other hand, very few local Hindus of the Jammu region worship at these Pandit shrines.

This is just one of several indicators I came across during a visit to Jammu last week that confirmed my knowledge of the deep chasm that separates the people of Jammu from those of Kashmir. The Dogras, who dominate the Jammu region, once ruled the entire state of what is called Jammu and Kashmir, and the mutual animosities, even derision, that were then engendered have clearly not diminished. Sitting with a group of young Kashmiri Pandits, sipping tea in a tiny room in the Muthi resettlement area one morning, I was struck by the extent to which their venom against Muslims was matched by their resentment against Jammu's people. They even castigated the Jammu unit of the pro-Hindu Shiv Sena, which has agitated against admissions to Pandits in educational institutions in Jammu. There was even a demand that separate schools, or separate afternoon classes, be held for the migrants.

One could see why. These Pandits nonchalantly observed that Jammu students would stand little chance of competing with the migrants in examinations or in the job market. So matter-of-fact were these statements that the implied derision almost did not seem to be meant. In fact, there has been a deep sense of deprivation among students from Jammu and Kashmir respectively. Successive governments have been forced to ensure that a balance was struck in admissions to educational institutions. The result: selection committees have had to bypass meritorious applicants in search of names from other communities farther down a list of candidates.

So deep is the consequent resentment among Pandits that these young men at the Muthi camp said they are not sure whether they are not worse off in Jammu than they would have been in the valley. They would never have moved here, they aver, if it had not been for immediate fear for their lives amid the passions of early 1990. Those Pandits who moved to Delhi or other parts of India were much better off, they say, adding that some among them try to move to places like Dehradun now. Jammu-based writer and activist Balraj Puri acknowledges that people from Jammu generally stay away from these Pandit camps while Muslims from the valley occasionally come to visit. “The bond of language is special,” says he.

Not surprisingly, D.R. Sharma, the representative of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Jammu, says “the Kashmiri people” owe him a debt they can never repay — for having lent his name to their cause. He says quite frankly that he is not a votary of Pakistan, or of independence. The Jammu unit of the Hurriyat simply stands in sympathy with the Kashmiri people and their human rights.

The Hurriyat's Jammu unit was started in 1997.The current chairman, Abdul Ghani Bhat, has largely ignored the Jammu unit, sending no funds for it. He recognises the futility of trying to build on commonalities across the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Every indicator in this city points to the pragmatism of the approach.


Aung Suu Kyi: Myanmar’s most remarkable daughter
Harihar Swarup

THERE is not a single example, perhaps, in world history when a Nobel Laureate is held prisoner in his own country for almost a decade. The world’s most prestigious award, if conferred on a genius, is a matter of national pride but it was not so in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Recall how in India a wave of jubilation swept the nation when Rabindranath Tagore or Hargovind Khurana or Amartya Sen (both were not living in India) became Nobel Laureates. In sharp contrast when Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Myanmar’s national pride was not rekindled. She languished in prison (house arrest) as the world acknowledged her as a great person of the 20th century and it was not known what fate beckoned for her then. It took a decade for the military junta of Myanmar to realise the harsh reality when they set her free last week. The truth finally triumphed.

Suu Kyi has been in conflict with her country’s military rulers since her party won 82 per cent of seats in a parliamentary election held in 1990. The military dispensation summarily set aside the results. One wonders if her release would open a new chapter in Myanmar’s history but freeing the world’s “greatest pro-democracy leader” has been welcomed the world over . Will the junta release all political prisoners and start a substantive dialogue with Suu Kyi ? Will the military rulers open the door for restoration of democracy slammed shut since 1962? The road to democracy still appears to be long and arduous for the long suppressed people of the country.

The year 1990 was a momentous yet disastrous year in the history of Myanmar as the people turned out in vast number to vote for Aung San Suu Kyi to become the head of the new government of her country .The result, an 82 per cent landslide in favour of the National League for Democracy (NLD), took the country’s military rulers by surprise. Refusing to acknowledge defeat, the generals claimed foreigners and communists had rigged the election. In the subsequent weeks hundreds of NLD members were rounded up and jailed. According to most authentic story of her life profiled by CNN, more than a thousand remain in their cells, never having been convicted of a crime.

The year 1991 was another landmark in her life; she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for what the Nobel committee described as “one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades.” Fearing that if she travelled to Sweden to accept the award she would not be allowed back into Myanmar, she instead opted to stay in Yangon, remaining under house arrest.

Nine years later she was honoured by US President Bill Clinton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour. Again, leaving Myanmar to receive the award was not an option. Leaving would end the daily restrictions on her life, but she had made it clear that she was not willing to abandon the struggle. CNN says such dedication has won Aung San Suu Kyi widespread respect and affection both inside and outside of Myanmar. But her popularity is based on more than her position as an Opposition leader; she is also the daughter of a national icon. Born in 1945, she is the child of assassinated Myanmar Independence hero Aung San — a man almost universally respected in the country, including the top ranks of the military.

In 1988 after spending most of her life in the UK, she returned to Myanmar to care for her ailing mother. Instead after the brutal suppression of a pro-democracy uprising that August she found herself swept into politics, delivering a series of speeches at rallies across the country calling for democratic government. Inspired by the writings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King she urged those opposed to the military rulers to follow a policy of non-violent protest.

Her commitment to her country was, however, most painfully illustrated in 1999 when her husband, the Oxford academic Michael Aris, became terminally ill with cancer. Denying him a visa for a final farewell visit, the government instead suggested that Aung San Suu Kyi travel to England to visit him. The generals had long been suspicious of Aung San Suu Kyi’s marriage to a foreigner and had used it on many occasions in the rigidly controlled state media to cast doubts on her patriotism. Fearing that if she left, she would not be allowed back, she refused to go, virtually throwing the government messenger out of her house. In March 1999, Aris died — the couple had not seen each other in three years.

A new dawn now breaks in the life of this remarkable “daughter of Myanmar” but life will not be same again without her husband. Suu Kyi, no doubt, loved her husband and was too attached to her two sons, Alexander and Kim now live in Oxford. Her tribute to her husband was too moving indeed. “I have been so fortunate to have such a wonderful husband, who had always given me the understanding I needed. Nothing can take that away from me”.



The heat is on for Rashtrapati Bhavan

THE heat is on for the post of the next President. With no consensus as yet on the candidates, political parties and leaders are pitching in for different personalities. President K. R. Narayanan still remains a key figure. He apparently wants another term though the largest party in the ruling coalition — the BJP — is not in favour of giving him another term.

The election, if required, as there could be more than one candidate, would be held next month and the notification for the election is likely to be issued in June first week. So far three major contenders have surfaced for the highest office: Maharashtra Governor Dr P. C. Alexander, former Sadar-i-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir Dr Karan Singh and Vice-President Krishan Kant.

While Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is reportedly in favour of Alexander, a former Congressman, the Congress seems to be in favour of Dr Karan Singh and is still not overlooking President Narayanan. Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who arrived in the Capital on Friday, is said to be pitching in for his long-time favourite Krishan Kant, who was also the Governor of the southern state for seven years.

Though the Naidu factor would certainly matter in the presidential race, an interesting twist has been added with reports of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray throwing his weight behind Alexander. The twist in the tale does not end here. Ram Jethamalani, a Sena-supported member of the Rajya Sabha, is also expected to throw his hat in the ring yet again.

George at sea

Facing the Opposition’s wrath in both Houses of Parliament, Defence Minister George Fernandes has not been able to make much impression everytime he gets up to give a reply. In fact his performance in both the Houses has been just a pale shadow of what he has been known for. This was particularly evident when the Opposition raised the issue of the purchase of caskets in the Rajya Sabha earlier in the week. Amidst the din, which lasted for over 40 minutes, the Defence Minister seemed so flustered that he was unable to defend himself against the Opposition’s barrage of allegations.

Mr Fernandes stood helplessly for a long time when Chairman Krishan Kant recognised his right to reply but the Opposition was not willing to yield. Mr Fernandes pleaded repeatedly with the Chairman, “Sir, how long will I have to stand like this, they are not willing to listen”. It was an expression which was not vintage Fernandes. Being on the other side of the fence seems to have knocked the power out of the Defence Minister.

It was finally another BJP member — Sanghpriya Gautam — who came to the rescue of Mr Fernandes. Seeing him all at sea trying to defend himself, Mr Gautam came up to Mr Fernandes and gave him a few tips which helped the Defence Minister to hang on in the arena. One of which was to gesturing from his hands in a rigorous manner.

Finally gaining some confidence from the tips provided by the BJP members, Mr Fernandes was able to gain confidence and put forth his explanation amid the din in the Rajya Sabha.

Cong Flip-flop

The Congress may be accusing the BJP of flip-flops but it has not been without some of its own. At last count, the party had twice deferred its annual AICC session, to be held in Delhi, for the simple reason of non-availability of venue. Considering that it is a party waiting to come to power at the Centre and has its own state government (now even the Municipal Corporation) in the national capital, it is difficult to imagine that it did not get booking for the Talkatora Stadium on the declared dates.

The session, originally scheduled for May 10, was deferred to May 18 and later to May 24. Now, if the bookings were not confirmed why were the previous dates announced or was the session deferred because of lack of adequate preparations? Even otherwise, the session where three big resolutions are passed on political, economic and foreign affairs, has been curtailed to a day. AICC delegates would be coming from all parts of the country for the session and a day seems a little too less for a thorough discussion. The media had initially thought that the AICC session had been squeezed into Parliament’s budget session (ending May 15) to keep focus on Gujarat. No prizes for guessing what could be the reason for curtailing the session.

Pervez's trick

Whoever thought Pakistan’s Press is docile and lacks teeth would do well to read what that country’s Urdu press had to say about President Pervez Musharraf’s phony April 30 referendum which gave him mandate to remain President for next five years. Nawa-i-Waqt said in its editorial (May 6) that Gen Musharraf who had been taunting politicians for using national resources for their personal interests, would have to face the same charge today “because billions of rupees spent on his personal projection have been spent from the national exchequer.

The newspaper quoted Pakistan Human Rights Commission report alleging that there have been massive irregularities in referendum all over Pakistan and polling station at two major cities of Karachi and Lahore were deserted. Nawa-i-Waqt said though they had not the opportunity to see for themselves the polling station there, they heard the election results on PTV where sycophancy was on its peak. It was being said on the state-run TV that Gen Musharraf had established a record by addressing 23 public meetings in his 20- day-long election campaign.

Another Urdu daily “Ausaf” reported that almost all polling stations in major cities except those ones where PML (Q) has following, were wearing a deserted look. It said people were forced by the law enforcing agencies to cast votes several times and the police and the polling staff stuffed ballot boxes themselves. The “Ausaf” report (May 3) said the people of Pakistan were surprised as to who polled 4.28 crore votes in favour of Gen Musharraf. It said non-participation of people in the referendum was their own decision and through it they made it clear to Gen Musharraf that they would not come out of their houses during general elections if he continued to promote IMF policies.

Contributed by T. V. Lakshminarayan, Rajeev Sharma, Girja Shankar Kaura and Prashant Sood.


African, Arab receptions are full of warmth
Humra Quraishi

AFRICA Day falls on May 24. Though it involves several Arab countries together with a great majority of those in the African continent, the expected hype seems missing.

A reception- cum-dinner would be hosted at a five-star set-up, but that seems to be about fact, diplomats from several developing countries have confided that there’s a difference in the treatment meted out to diplomats from that part of the world.

Surely, Africa Day should be the occasion to clear myths about the Africans and Arabs. The misconceptions are the ones fed by the Western media, right from barbaric civil wars, AIDS victims, famines etc.

In that backdrop, I was pleasantly surprised when the spouse of the First Secretary in the Sudanese Mission , Talib Morgan, told me that Sudanese men make the best husbands and several of her Indian friends have married Sudanese men and were living happily! .

In fact, it is no myth that Africans and Arabs make the most loyal friends and the receptions hosted by them are full of genuine warmth. This time, Africa Day is being hosted by the embassies of Senegal and Sudan.

Another tragedy

By now there’s no doubt that Natwar Singh’s daughter Ritu had committed suicide but what seems to be baffling her friends is the fact that all along she’d maintained a façade — in the sense she looked happy and chirpy even as depression was wrecking and ruining her to the extent of nagging and nudging her towards ending her life.

So shaken are some of her friends that they refuse to comment on her untimely death , though some insist that her depression may have got aggravated after her sister-in-law Natasha’s suicide.

Kaifi saab

Though poet Kaifi Azmi’s death cannot be termed untimely, it leaves a void .He was one of those stalwarts who stood for a certain cause.

I didn’t know him but I had heard him speak at many a gathering. Though he had been on the wheelchair for years, he spoke with force and conviction.

I think the last time I heard him speak was when Taliban forces had begun to destroy those gigantic statues in Afghanistan.

Kaifi saab appealed to the forces of destruction to put an end to that havoc but almost simultaneously drew a parallel to the forces of destruction in our country — the RSS and the right-wing outfits who destroyed the Babri Masjid.

There was a romantic side to his personality and it was his daughter Shabana who recounted how he’d not only wrote one verse after another to woo her mother Shaukat but used all the ploys till of course, she’d given her consent to marry him.


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