Sunday, June 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


How sound is Indian edifice of secularism after Gujarat?

New political culture is needed
Asghar Ali Engineer
It pays to learn from history
C. Narendra Reddy

The Gujarat carnage in which the Narendra Modi Government itself was involved has much deeper implications for secularism as a state ideology. Secularism was adopted by the Constitution makers despite partition of the country on communal lines.

The principles of liberty and quality that form the bedrock of all modern democratic constitutions evolved historically first from the struggle for religious liberty and equality. The two party system in Britain is traced to the 17th century Reformation and Revolution of 1642 and 1688. 

Restoring discipline in the services
P.H. Vaishnav
he resolve to revive and enforce the already established system of discipline in the three wings of the Army needs to be clearly articulated for the benefit of both the defence services and the political leaders in the interest of professionalism in the defence services.





Journalists under attack
David Devadas
afar Iqbal is the picture of innocence. The lean, reticent boy would hardly pass for an adult if it were not for his six-foot height. Protective of their only son, Zafar's parents insisted that he should only work day shifts when he got his first job at Srinagar's new English daily, Kashmir Images. 


Harihar Swarup
The moving spirit behind Almaty conference
he man, who was little focussed at Almaty summit, was one of the tallest leaders of Central Asia. The host, Nursultan Abishevick Nazarbaev, President of Kazakhstan, was the moving spirit behind the first-ever Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia but he was overshadowed by Mr Vajpayee and Gen Musharraf.


How Alexander is politically correct for BJP
hy should the BJP be interested in a man like P.C.Alexander for the high office of President? That too when the Maharashtra Governor has already served as Principal Secretary to two Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi? 

  • Paswan's plans

  • Different CM?

  • Mani’s antic

  • Another war

  • Plastic row

  • Iron-curtain


Humra Quraishi
Kashmiris would opt for India than Pakistan
hy is the establishment so suspicious of Kashmiris? Ask my several Kashmiri friends living in the capital. The extent of suspicion drilled into our psyche can be judged from the fact that passers-by gave me those strange looks when last year I had gone locating the Hurriyat office in Malviya Nagar.

  • Diplomats galore



How sound is Indian edifice of secularism after Gujarat?
New political culture is needed
Asghar Ali Engineer

The Gujarat carnage in which the Narendra Modi Government itself was involved has much deeper implications for secularism as a state ideology. Secularism was adopted by the Constitution makers despite partition of the country on communal lines. Partition was followed by widespread communal carnage on both sides of the communal divide and despite communal carnage, secular convictions of our political leaders were not shaken. However, the RSS and the Jan Sangh and its ideologues, partition or no partition, were never enthusiastic about secularism. V.D.Savarkar, father of the Hindutva ideology himself propounded the theory of two rashtra (two nations) in 1938 Hindu Mahasabha session much before Jinnah propounded it in 1940.

Despite severe opposition from the Sangh Parivar (though it was not known by this name in those days) the Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad adopted secularism as the political philosophy for India. It was a great and courageous step, which proved to be the cement for our unity and integrity so far. Pakistan was broken into two in 1971 and the concept of Islamic unity could not save it. However, India, despite much greater diversity, remained united thanks to our political commitment to secularism.

The Sangh propaganda and partition of the country on communal basis as well as our historical legacy since the British period, created several problems for our commitment to secularism. Nehru had expected that communal violence will be a past history and that independent India will enjoy communal peace and political stability. He thought partition was the final solution of the communal problem. However, communal violence continued to erupt from time to time delivering blow after blow to the secular credentials of our state.

The Gujarat carnage represents the peak of communal violence in independent India. It was for the first time that state machinery was directly involved and Chief Minister Narendra Modi not only justified it by saying it was the natural reaction to the Godhra incident but also looked the other way when innocent people were being killed most brutally and women were being raped. Even in the 1984 Sikh massacre, the state was not so directly involved though it did have a role.

The carnage has deeply shaken the whole nation and our civil society, though its secular political space has been increasingly shrinking, thanks to the powerful propaganda machinery of the Sangh Parivar, specially the RSS, that reacted strongly to the carnage. Writers, journalists, artists and poets are also now gradually rising to the occasion and doing their bit to promote communal harmony.

The opposition parties like the Congress, the Communists (CPI and CPM) and the Samajwadi Party have also done their best in Parliament to oppose and expose the communal forces belonging to the Sangh Parivar in Parliament and outside. Of course all other parties have faltered some time or the other in their commitment to secularism but both the communist parties have been most consistent on the question of secularism and communal harmony.

The Congress has also been shaken into some kind of awakening by the carnage in Gujarat. The Congress has repeatedly faltered in its commitment to secularism, if not notionally, functionally. Jawaharlal Nehru, among the Congress leaders, was the most consistent in his commitment to secularism. Indira Gandhi appeared promising initially, but began to falter after the Emergency and even turned to Hindutva in the early eighties. She also manipulated Sikh politics on communal lines in Punjab and herself became its victim and was assassinated by her Sikh body guard.

Rajiv Gandhi had hardly any commitment to any thing. He was not even brought up, like Indira Gandhi, in the secular ethos of Nehru family. He hardly had much understanding of the intricacies of Indian politics. He encouraged both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism to his advantage but failed. He changed the Supreme Court judgement in the Shah Bano case and passed the Muslim Women’s (on Divorce) Act giving a blow to secularism and then threw open the doors of the Babri Masjid for Hindus to worship, delivering another blow to secularism. He even went to the extent of laying the foundation stone of the Ramjanambhoomi Mandir on the eve of the 1989 general elections. He thus displeased Muslims and lost the elections. The Congress has still not recovered from that blow.

The Congress thus lost all its secular credentials in the eyes of people of India. It lost the support of minorities and suffered debacle after debacle in UP, and some other states. The Gujarat carnage has given the Congress also a great jolt and it is re-emphasising its secular credentials. Mrs Sonia Gandhi as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha fought effectively against the BJP-led NDA Government on the issue of the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi has at last realised that without giving effective fight to communal forces and without de-communalising the Indian polity, the Congress cannot return to power and national unity and integrity too will be seriously affected. She even talked about raising a force to promote communal harmony but her concept about it is not very clear. She only talked about taking care of riot victims and sending women volunteers to the riot-affected areas to take care of the victims.

Fight against communalism is no easy job. The Sangh Parivar has deeply communalised the Hindu middle classes and, as mentioned above, the secular political space has shrunk considerably over a period of time. The RSS Pracharaks work round the year with a sense of mission and spread communal virus in the Indian society. The RSS can today boast of thousands of such Pracharaks. They are systematically trained for the job and are sustained economically by the abundant funds the RSS has at its command collected from Hindu businessmen every year.

The secular forces cannot boast of any such force. What Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has announced has no such concept. The Congress Seva Dal once set up with some such intention never worked with devotion or sense of mission. At best it looked after the arrangements at the AICC sessions. The Congress Seva Dal is no more an effective organisation. The socialists also had once set up Rashtra Seva Dal. It too is a historical entity now though symbolically it exists even now in parts of Maharashtra. It is only the RSS which works with as much enthusiasm as it was set up with. Its enthusiasm and commitment to its mission has not waned. It has instead increased over the years.

There is greater need today to reflect deeply as to why the RSS has been able to maintain its sense of commitment to politics of religious hatred whereas all secular parties and organisations have not been able to sustain their work even for a few years. Does religious fanaticism inspire more than secular ideals? It seems so. But religious fanaticism brings great disaster to the country and to the humanity and we have seen this everywhere, not just in Gujarat.

It is time the secular political parties honestly took stock of the situation. They should take measures, which will save India from further disaster like the one in Gujarat. The secular parties should also realise that secularism should not be limited only to the attempt to get minority votes. Then they would find themselves in deeper morass. Unfortunately, after Nehru, secularism for political parties, especially the Congress, became only an instrument for minority votes. Its members, even at the best of time, were not seriously committed to it. Thus instrumentalisation of secularism exposed the Congress to the charge of the “appeasement of minorities” though the charge was itself politically motivated and the BJP wanted to capture the attention of the Hindu middle classes by levelling such charges against the Congress.

The Congress could not even refute such ridiculous charge because it was not seriously committed to secularism. Had it been so, Babri Masjid would not have been demolished with impunity under the Congress rule. Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, the then Congress Prime Minister, thus destroyed completely whatever was left of secularism in the Congress. Thus the Congress party was completely alienated from all minorities and lost the elections that followed.

Though the Congress now has realised the ill-effects of its less than serious attitude towards secularism, it is not so easy for it to revive the Nehruvian commitment to it. But there is hardly any other alternative. The leaders of the Congress should take secularism more seriously and not treat it as an instrument of power. Unity in diversity cannot be maintained without it. “Unity in diversity” was not merely a slogan for leaders like Gandhi, Nehru and Azad. It was a political philosophy, the core of secularism. No society as diverse as Indian society can survive without the cementing force of secularism.

Secularism essentially means prioritising citizenship over religion. Though constitutionally, citizenship has priority over religion, our civil society, due to constant efforts to communalise it, is still grappling with this problem. Our education system itself is deeply infected with the communal virus. Our textbooks still demonise minority religions like Christianity and Islam and project history through communal angle. Thus secularising education system should be given top priority.

We need secularism today for building a vibrant civil society and not to win elections. The political parties should help build a new political culture, which is based on tolerance and respect for human values. Today our political culture is thoroughly infected with casteism and communalism. Post-Gujarat we must urgently realise the need for a new political culture — secular and humanistic.

The writer, a well-known Islamic scholar, is Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.


It pays to learn from history
C. Narendra Reddy

The principles of liberty and quality that form the bedrock of all modern democratic constitutions evolved historically first from the struggle for religious liberty and equality. The two party system in Britain is traced to the Seventeenth century Reformation and Revolution of 1642 and 1688. The bitter clashes that had occurred due to religious intolerance led the informed, influential and emerging new classes to freedom in religious thought and practice. It was the great poet, John Milton, secretary to Oliver Cromwell, who wrote the finest defense of liberty in his book Areopagatica. That had set the stage for the Age of Reason when it was fully recognised that “truth, if there was such a thing, was many sided.”

Since then the connection between religion and politics became less close. But it was only towards the end of the Eighteenth century that political opposition became pardonable. It took another century towards the end of the nineteenth for the acceptance of agnosticism or theism. The God was thought to be finally exorcised in the Twentieth century. But what happened in Bosnia and in Gujarat recently shows that religious intolerance has not yet been stamped out. The virus is still alive. The reasons for this malaise are not far to seek.

The civil liberties grew out of the Nineteenth century laissez-faire philosophy. It emphasised that the action of the State must be directed to achieve happiness and prosperity of all sections of the community, without regard to wealth, social prestige, race or religion. Civil liberty is a consequence of political liberty, which in turn was achieved after long struggle starting for religious liberty. Finally, as Ivor Jennings, who has been a long time critique of the Indian Constitution, rightly said, liberty is a consequence not of laws and institutions but of an attitude of mind.

The American adoption of secularism also grew out of their struggle and long experience. The religious differences between various religious sects continued long after they threw out the British monarchy in the Eighteenth century. The experience showed them that the states where religious tolerance was established prospered and grew economically faster than those where religious persecution persisted. Soon the Americans built strong walls to separate religion from the State (See The American Democracy by Harold Laski).

From the Western experience, it is clear that there should be three conditions, one necessary and two sufficient, for secularism to sustain. The first necessary condition is a bent of mind and tradition of religious tolerance and freedom among the people. The second is constitutional and legal guarantees that protect and promote religious equality and liberty. The third is the important role of the institutions. It is not enough to have impartiality in laws. There should be impartiality of the courts and the administration. (Fortunately, our courts are still not affected by the religious virus though they may be affected by other considerations. But the same cannot be said of the executive.) The strict neutrality of the state in matters pertaining to religion is the third dimension of secularism.

Are these three conditions obtaining in India? The type of Hindutva that some leaders of the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad are preaching is totally alien to the ethos of Hinduism from time immemorial. In this it would be opt to quote no less an authority than C. Rajagopalachari, who had done beautiful translations into English, the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In one of his thoughtful writings on religion Rajagopalachari said, “The Hindu doctrine of all ways trading to God with the resulting attitude of the Hindu creed towards all other religions is unique. No other creed has arrived at this all embracing fraternity of faiths, which Hinduism stand for. A pious Muslim and a sincere Christian are both as good Hindus as any pious and sincere Hindu. Akasat Sarvadeva Namaskarah Kesavam Prati Gachati. The quotation is from Mahabharata.

Rajagopalachari further interpreted this to say, “It is folly to imagine that a dislike of Muslims or Christians amounts to loyalty to Hinduism. Apart from the Constitution, which guarantees equality in all respects to them, it is not true Hinduism to treat them as aliens. All religions are universal and it is most unfair to Hinduism to make it a nationalist institution.”

The deep catholicity of Hinduism along with the other great religions of the soil, the Buddhism and Jainism, who do not believe in God, persisted for centuries and prevailed even during Muslim invasions and the British rule. It was only during the last segment of their rule, the British deliberately sowed the seeds of communal discard. The British started playing the game, in which they have been very adept, of divide and rule of the two communities shaken by the 1857 revolt. It became their official policy since October 1908 when the then Viceroy Minto recommended that Muslims should be granted separate electorates. The communal Award in April 1932 by the then Prime Minister, Macdonald, according representation in the legislatures and administration carried their policy of discard to the limits. That was the starting point that eventually led in 1947 to the partition of India (This is now confirmed by the official records released by the British Government).

It should go to the credit of the Indian people that despite all encouragement for discord shown by the British, in the elections to the state assemblies held in 1937, the Muslim League performed very poorly and the Congress party secured overwhelming majority to form governments in seven out of 11 provinces. The Muslim League then adopted the Pakistan resolution in March 1940. The British policy became clear that they wanted to continue as arbitrators even after they leave the country (See George Schuster and Guy Wint, India and Democracy).

The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly to frame the Constitution held on December 9, 1946 was preceded three days earlier on December 6 by the announcement by the British conceding the formation of Pakistan. (The date seems to be ominous in Indian history). Despite the surcharged atmosphere, the Objectives Resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru promised to accord adequate safeguards for minorities, backward and tribal areas and other backward classes.

When the proposal for reservation of seats in Parliament and state legislatures for religious groups and communities came up, Sir Vallabhbhai Patel who was the chairman of the Advisory Committee proposed that such a weighty question should not be decided by a snap vote but it was for the Muslim and Sikh representatives to discuss amongst themselves and decide the issue. A broad consensus was found that the final recommendation not to give such separate representation for religious communities was adopted, “creating a truly secular polity in which special protection and safeguards were reserved only for backward sections of the people”.

The liberty of belief, faith and worship is enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution. This is protected by incorporating the fundamental rights of all citizens relating to freedom of religion in Articles 25 to 29 which guarantee to each individual freedom of conscience and profess, practice and propagate his own religion without interference and at the same time assure strict impartiality on the part of the state and its institutions towards all religions. The Constitution further provides certain guarantees and protection of the rights of minorities to establish and run educational institutions under Article 30.

The Americans learned over years that those states, which practiced religious liberty and equality, prospered and developed faster than those states which got bogged down by religious turmoil. They found it a practical principle for the states and the federal government to adopt secularism and observe strict neutrality of the state with respect to religion. So much so the American governments bolstered by their Supreme Court rulings have erected strong walls between the state and religion.

The strict neutrality of the state is a sine qua non for secularism to prevail. In India, there seems to be confusion about the role of the secular state. The ideal of Seva Dharma Samabhav should be followed by one and all. As far as the state is concerned, it should keep away from religion because as the American experience has shown, it would needlessly get embroiled in unresolvable religious disputations and controversies.

The Ayodhya Land Acquisition Act and the Presidential reference to the Supreme Court to decide whether a temple existed in the past at the disputed site was a false step taken by the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, whatever the compulsions were at that time. The Supreme Court has rightly held the operative portion of the Act as unconstitutional and has respectfully declined to answer the Presidential reference. Political parties concerned should settle the dispute either in the court or outside. The Government should have nothing to do with it.

The blatant use of religion and caste in the Mandir and Mandal issues by major national political parties in elections is not touched upon here because all election matters are governed by the statute, the Representation of People’s Act. Though the Act makes appeals to religion and caste a corrupt practice, any remedy lay only through an election petition in individual cases after the elections. It must be said to the credit of Mr Narasimha Rao that he got a Cabinet note prepared during his time in 1993 for comprehensive electoral reforms including empowering the Election Commission to derecognise a political party consistently indulging in appeals to religion or caste. The Bill is in cold storage till now.

Further, as Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, former judge of the Supreme Court had stated in his Indira Gandhi Memorial Lecture at the University of Trivandrum, that neither the Government nor the courts have so far utilised the powerful provisions specially provided in the Constitution to promote integration among various communities.

The writer is former Political Editor, The Financial Express.


Restoring discipline in the services
P.H. Vaishnav

The resolve to revive and enforce the already established system of discipline in the three wings of the Army needs to be clearly articulated for the benefit of both the defence services and the political leaders in the interest of professionalism in the defence services.

Discipline at all levels in the Army is given over-riding importance. A want of it not only invites punishment but is also regarded as professionally dishonourable. Crossing proper channels and getting sifarishes even from defence officers themselves invites action.

On the civil side too the need for stemming the rot cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, in civil services political canvassing has become so endemic that it has been accepted as a natural law and no one seems to feel concerned about the prevailing indiscipline. It is wrong to limit the emphasis on discipline to uniformed services alone.

As things stand today, on the civil side, indiscipline has become a licence to individual members of the services to adopt any means open to them to secure their advancement in their careers regardless of merit. Even worse, political support is invoked for geting away with insubordination and corruption. There is a tendency to rationalise misdemeanour of officers violating the code. The most common is the argument that all people are indulging in the violation of the code. Therefore, “singling out” of individuals is held forth as a grievance and blamed on discrimination practised from communal/caste and provincial motives. In civil employment, it is the delinquent who is fearless on account of the near certainty of nothing happening. On the other hand, those, whose responsibility it is to enforce discipline and integrity and accountability, find themselves at the receiving end.

The corrupt and the indisciplined are usually the most cantankerous litigants and even if eventually they fail they are able to line up the supervisory levels at least as respondents. They enjoy the advantage of an accuser and an individual treated as a protected source of media and the vigilance machinery. This class of government officials devotes a considerable part of its time ferreting out secrets and even making available public documents to the Press. They become the valued agents of the media whom they can use with advantage and impurity to say things which they themselves cannot say within the discipline of the civil service. On the other hand, the honest and straightforward officials find themselves without allies. Misapplied vigilance processes and defamatory attacks resulting from the intrigue of such elements have brought about an extraordinary devitalisation of the decision-making machinery.

Both in the Army and in the civil service, therefore, it is necessary to evolve methods of dealing with the genuine grievances of personnel. But having provided this, there should be only one appellate level consisting of a committee of judicial and military or judicial and administrative seniors of the different services. Except for perverse cases of injustice and highhandedness, the justification for judicial intervention needs to be reassessed. In particular, attacks on the score of malafide need to be treated with great caution.

A useful instrument of personnel management that has been thrown into disuse is the system of annual reports. In the days when our system had not deteriorated to the extent it has, the function of recording annual appraisal was taken very seriously. Except on the grounds of malafide or patent error of facts, the remarks were not expunged. The column of “integrity”, which has now been deleted, was an important item of comment. A free and frank opinion, therefore, did not put the reporting officer on the defensive. It is no longer so now.

In consequence, the service record of an officer provides no guidance to the government as to where he could best be utilised or where he should most certainly not be posted. Above all, at the time of the review of the record for the purpose of deciding on retaining or retiring the officer at the age of 50 or 55 years, the government has no means of making a judgement and justifying it. Thus, in spite of provisions enabling the government to retire officials in the public interest or because of poor performance, the indisciplined and corrupt cannot be shown the door nor the deadwood weeded out. Civil servants themselves should not shelter those who are a very bad advertisement for their service out of a misplaced kindness. If this is done, it will be a big step forward.

In the matter of transfers and postings, the political executive needs to accept the wisdom of shedding what is today an obsessive pre-occupation. The golden rule should be transferred or punished. On the other hand, representations in favour of officials for this or that posting should not be entertained. The function of the elected representative is to focus on shortfalls in performance and enforcing accountability and not on promoting particular individuals. This will ensure firmly the institutional subordination of services, military and civil, to the political executive while leaving them with the desired autonomy in the management of services.

It will send a message down the line that indiscipline and bad performance and lobbying through media and the political executive will not pay. This is the only way of stamping out lawlessness and corruption, rampant on the civil side no less than in the Army. Hopefully, it will promote the much-needed but ever-diminishing work culture.

The writer is former Chief Secretary, Punjab.


Journalists under attack
David Devadas

Zafar Iqbal is the picture of innocence. The lean, reticent boy would hardly pass for an adult if it were not for his six-foot height. Protective of their only son, Zafar's parents insisted that he should only work day shifts when he got his first job at Srinagar's new English daily, Kashmir Images. Ironically, that is why Zafar was the only journalist in the office when three young men walked in one afternoon about ten days ago. They posed as a courier delivery team but shot Zafar in the head as soon as he accepted the package and turned away from them.

Miraculously, Zafar survived his four bullet injuries but his trauma illustrates the immense tension and pressures under which journalists must work in Kashmir. Just a few days earlier, Aaj Tak channel's outdoor broadcast van had to speed across the vast Idgah grounds chased in a cloud of dust by a mob that appeared to be in the mood for a lynching. Four journalists have been killed in the course of their work over the past decade. Others have been burnt or maimed because they were too close to an explosion.

Journalists who live in the valley have learnt to either live behind security lines — which greatly hampers their access — or to walk a tightrope.

One problem is that, amid the previous 13 years' maelstrom, many local journalists started out in unprofessional ways. Some of them were typists, teleprinter operators or barmen before they stepped into the out-sized shoes of the fleeing Pandits around 1990. Others were in the ranks of militancy. Many of these were uneasy in writing English. Confused about their loyalties and confounded by the demands of the profession they had stumbled into, they sometimes made Mephistopheles' deals early in their careers. Some accepted payments from militant groups or intelligence agencies — even, in some cases, from rival agencies — for publishing doctored or false reports. The founding of some local papers were similarly funded. No wonder their former patrons feel betrayed when the same journalists fail to follow their dictates.

Young Zafar belongs to a new generation of journalists, who chose this career while they were still in the protected environs of academia. He took a masters degree in mass communication last year from Kashmir University. It is a popular course and admission, through three consecutive tests, is tough. The University started a separate Urdu course last year but the course in English remains the favourite. Even at the height of militancy, the department insisted that its students visit distant corners of the valley to train for field reporting assignments. And it sends its brightest students for a couple of months every year to the Film & Television Institute.

Eager to follow the best traditions of journalism, post-graduates from this mass communication department too often find themselves stuck in a milieu that does not vouchsafe professionalism. Kashmir Images Editor Bashir Manzar, to whom Zafar’s attackers were looking for, is one of the only editors who pays relatively decent salaries. Some of the other local editors do not pay enough to attract the best talent — or at times do not feel secure with talented bright sparks around them.

Unfortunately, last fortnight's attack could farther damage the future of professional journalism in this beleaguered valley. I found the door leading to the Srinagar office of a major television channel bolted just a couple of hours after Zafar was shot. That is not a good portent for the freedom of expression.


The moving spirit behind Almaty conference
Harihar Swarup

The man, who was little focussed at Almaty summit, was one of the tallest leaders of Central Asia. The host, Nursultan Abishevick Nazarbaev, President of Kazakhstan, was the moving spirit behind the first-ever Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) but he was overshadowed by Mr Vajpayee and Gen Musharraf. President Nazarbaev’s gracious gesture in hosting the summit brought on the same platform seven top leaders of the region and they included such high and mighty as Russian President, Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Premier, Jiang Zemin. All eyes were, however, set on India’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan’s Gen.Pervez Musharraf. Both the hostile neighbours have now built up arsenals of nuclear weapons as their armies menacingly confront each other, sending shock waves in the entire region. The fall out of an Indo-Pak war, if it ever takes places, will be felt by the neighbouring countries and that includes Kazakhstan.

A major achievement of the CICA, the first exercise of its kind, was the repeated promises by both India and Pakistan that they would not risk a war and endanger the region, for that matter the world, with a nuclear warfare. Another was bringing on the world map the oil-rich Kazakhstan, its breathtakingly beautiful Capital, Almaty, and pitchforking of President Nazarbaev on the world scene. He was first elected President since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and formation of the Republic of Kazaksthan. The decade-long road for Nazarbaev and his new-born country had been tortuous but he managed to maintain political stability and peace with 120 ethnic groups. He faced economic turmoil, territorial disputes, environmental disasters and legacy left by the Kremlin.

The change has come but not without pain for a nation of 15.5 million people. President Nazarbaev admits that it was very hard to learn new democratic values as only a decade ago the Soviet Union was in power here, and for a long period Kazakhstan was part of the Communist system. There was referendum on his Presidency in 1995 and his term was extended by four years followed by general election in which he comfortably romped. President Nazarbaev has truly emerged as the architect of modern Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan now has no nuclear weapon on its territory in sharp contrast to years following break up of the Soviet Union when the infant nation inherited a huge stockpile of such arms of mass destruction; fourth largest in the world. President Nazarbaev says: “Today we have no nuclear weapons. We have closed the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing area; it was one of the first acts of our independence. With direct assistance from the USA, the infrastructure which has been founded for testing nuclear weapons has almost been completely dismantled. The enriched uranium, the stuffing for nuclear charges, were taken away from Kazakhstan. Having decided to join the pact of non-proliferation it was, historically, a right decision”.

Sixty two -year-old Nursultan was born in a village in Almaty region in a peasant’s family. In 1967 he graduated from a technically-oriented higher educational establishment under the Karagandy Iron-and-Steel Works. Starting his career as a construction worker in a steel plant, he rose to important positions in the metallurgic plants and finally to executive positions in the powerful

Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow. He represented Kazahkstan in the party’s hierarchy. His wife, Sara Nazarbaev too is an engineer by profession and now heads the international children's charity fund known as “Bobek”. The couple have three daughters and three grand children.

With the liquidation of the Taliban regime, the threat of terrorism spreading over to Kazakhstan and other Central Asian Republics has abated. Though Kazakhstan broke away from the parent country and initially there was bickering in relation with Moscow, now says President Nazarbaev, “Russia is our biggest neighbour and we have very friendly, trusting relations with it. We have a friendship treaty with Moscow, and one-third of our trade is with Russia”.

Another important neighbour of Kazakhstan is China with which Kazaks had a territorial dispute. President Nazarbaev had visited China more than once and says: “We have settled the dispute and made a demarcation of the borders. Bilateral trade with China has grown up to one billion dollars”. China is building an oil pipe line ensuring the flow of Caspian sea oil outside Kazakhstan. The northern Caspian Sea, off the cost of Kazakhstan, is estimated to have oil reserves of 50 billion barrels.



How Alexander is politically correct for BJP

Why should the BJP be interested in a man like P.C.Alexander for the high office of President? That too when the Maharashtra Governor has already served as Principal Secretary to two Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi? Grapevine has it that if Alexander is firmly ensconced in Rashtrapati Bhavan, the BJP would go to people with a one-line question: “Do you want Christians in the two top posts of the country?” This may well make things difficult for Sonia Gandhi and her party. Obviously because she is the “second” Christian being alluded to.

It is for this reason that Vice-President Krishan Kant is likely to miss the bus despite Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu strongly pushing his candidature for President. Naidu seems to have fallen in line with Vajpayee. After all, Vajpayee had sent him an SOS from Almaty, Kazakhstan and asked him to come to New Delhi for parleys on presidential elections.

There is another dimension to this. The BJP is clubbing it with the vice-presidential polls which are also due shortly. The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure from the BJP cadres and leaders who see it as a tailor-made opportunity for the party to instal somebody from its rank and file as the country’s next Vice-President. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, a long-time chum of the Prime Minister and three-time chief minister of Rajasthan, is said to be a strong contender for the post.

Paswan's plans

Why did Ram Vilas Paswan quit Vajpayee’s cabinet and part company with the National Democratic Alliance? The reason behind the dalit leader’s surprise move is something more than meets the eye. When Paswan resigned from the Council of Ministers and withdrew the support of his Lok Janshakti Party to the Vajpayee government citing the government’s lack of action on the communal violence in Gujarat as the reason he had tried to make a capital out of the fate accompli that was awaiting him.

A little bird tells us that the Prime Minister had decided to drop him as part of the deal that the BJP had struck with the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Kanshi Ram. But more than Kanshi Ram, it was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, who wanted to retain her numero uno position as the leader of the dalits and insisted on Paswan being shown the door.

Different CM?

Congress chief ministers normally seek an opportunity to be by the side of party chief Sonia Gandhi but Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh apparently was not very enthusiastic when Sonia Gandhi touched Punjab on her way to Himachal Pradesh to address a rally in the hill state. AICC sources say that Amarinder Singh reportedly conveyed his inability to be at Pathankot to receive the party president due to some pre-occupation. It needed gentle prodding by a senior party functionary to make Amarinder Singh do what a Congress chief Minister normally does during the visit of the party’s top boss to his state.

The Chief Minister also did not exactly please the high command when he sent his political secretary to know who had been selected as the party candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat. The Chief Minister was politely told to talk directly to the concerned general secretary on confidential matters.

Mani’s antic

Congress secretary Mani Shankar Aiyer, chairman of the AICC Training Cell, organised last week a high profile training camp for party workers on the theme “Contemporary challengess to secularism” in Bhopal. The camp was held to prepare for countering the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh and other opposition parties. Mani’s idea of arranging such a meeting, which also had non-Congress experts like Indian Muslim League MP G.M.Banatwala and social activist Madhu Kishwar, had the blessings of party president Sonia Gandhi.

Mani, known for his haste and riding roughshod over his colleagues, issued invitations to many but chose to ignore his own co-chairman Harikesh Bahadur who was not even taken into confidence for organising such a camp. Bahadur’s absence was noted and obviously brought to the notice of the Madam who has reportedly made a note of it for action.

Another war

The war with Pakistan may wait. But the Vajpayee government is pulling up its socks to wage another war, perhaps more important. After successfully launching a countrywide polio eradication drive, it is now the turn of Hepatitis B, a major killer disease. The government is all set to inaugurate an immunisation programme which will cover 17 states including Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. The significance that the government is attaching to this war can be gauged by the fact that none other than the Prime Minister himself would be inaugurating the pilot project on June 10.

The carrier rate of Hepatitis B in the country stands between three to eight per cent, which groups India under the intermediary zone. The success rate of the polio eradication programme is not just a moral booster but also translates into more resources being made available for other projects. And if those who are the moving spirit behind this project are to be believed, there is no Line of Control in this war.

Plastic row

Two arms of the government are embroiled in the “Glass-is-half-or-full” controversy. It depends which way you look at it. Both points of view may be correct. Those who got stumped at the Gas Authority of India’s decision of saying yes to plastics would do well to remember this. The Ministry of Environment’s crusade against plastics is well known. The GAI’s logic is that discarding plastics means cutting 20 lakh more trees.


The Ministry of Defence has finally done what it could not during the Tehelka controversy: make its headquarters in South Block iron-curtained. With war clouds hanging low, the MoD has come out with the latest fiat in the name of security drill. Visitors are now allowed in South Block only between 10 am and 12 pm and 3 pm and 4 pm. Journalists, too, are not spared. Not even those journalists who are accredited with the MoD.

Contributed by T.V.Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood, Satish Misra, Girja Shankar Kaura, Smriti Kak and Rajeev Sharma.


Kashmiris would opt for India than Pakistan
Humra Quraishi

Why is the establishment so suspicious of Kashmiris? Ask my several Kashmiri friends living in the capital. The extent of suspicion drilled into our psyche can be judged from the fact that passers-by gave me those strange looks when last year I had gone locating the Hurriyat office in Malviya Nagar. I write this in the backdrop of the findings of the UK-based survey firm, the MORI, which go on to prove that the majority of Kashmiris (living in the Valley, Jammu belt, and in the Leh region) are in favour of opting for India than Pakistan.

This news came as no surprise for my Kashmiri friends have all through been harping on this factor alone — they'd either want full-fledged independence with a unification of the two Kashmirs or they'd prefer to go in favour of India than opt for Pakistan. In spite of the negatives down the line, the latest being the murder of Abdul Ghani Lone, the average Kashmiri has his reasons lined out — “India can offer us better stability and also the fact that greater part of the undivided Kashmir lies here, so if we were to merge with Pakistan we could be treated as outsiders, where Punjabiat and not Kashmiriat would be the focal is mischievous and wrong to bring religion into this, for us Kashmiriat goes beyond religious lines...”

In fact, last year during the course of an interview, Lone had repeatedly said that he would like to see both segments of Kashmir coming together, together with the regions of Jammu and Ladakh. “Kashmir is not complete without the segment with Pakistan...yes we want independence and that would mean Azad Kashmir to be with us, otherwise it would be an unfinished struggle...for me it is very important to see Pandits, Buddhists and Muslims all living together in this Kashmir..."

Though the MORI survey findings confirm that Kashmiris certainly do not want to detach themselves from India, given a choice between India and Pakistan, for some reason, the establishment has failed to highlight even these survey findings. Afterall, it’s a big and positive news that a majority of people of a troubled state opt to stay in India, though a great majority of right wing leaders have not interacted with the troubled people of this troubled state and have kept their highly publicised visits (to this particular state) limited to opening and closing of cultural festivals, alighting at a particular helipad and getting whisked off to another, with security bandobasts along the way.

Diplomats galore

In the midst of the news of diplomats leaving our country for safer havens — after Vajpayee and Musharraf have been indulging in all those war cries — I have been pleasantly surprised to see Arab and African diplomats at the several dos. At the Africa Day reception at Hotel Ashoka, there were a thousand guests, of whom one third were Arab and African diplomats, together with their spouses and children...yes many Europeon faces could also be spotted, the most prominent being that of the Ambassador of Romania.

When I asked several West Asian diplomats whether they were contemplating leaving the country for safer destinations, they smiled wryly before quipping “Where to? We are used to war and destruction...look at what’s happening in the Middle East, look what's being unleashed on Palestine...we 'd not be moving out because of the threats of war, maybe some senior diplomats are on an annual holiday or travelling because of work compulsions but they'd be back soon, war or no war...”

Crosschecking this fact wasn't difficult. The Ambassador of Libya to India, Dr Nuri, had been away to Libya for a fortnight, escorting a group of the so-called Indian intellectuals. Arab League envoy to India, Dr Mahmud Gaddafi, has been away on leave and would be back early next week. This weekend when I met Bangladeshi envoy Tufail Haider at a dinner hosted by socialite BhaiChand Patel, I did ask him whether he would also be off but he said, he isn't moving from here, the whole of this long summer stretch.

It would be interesting to make a list of the missing Indians in the who's who category — running away from home shores, to escape the heat and also to escape the mess heaped on us by the political men who continue to rule/misrule.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |