Arms for the General
Saving Aravalli hills
A peep into the Muslim mind
Lahore then and now
Threat of a food crisis looms large
Vilayat Khan: last of a dying generation
‘Spend more time with family’
Arms for the General
IT is difficult to wake up somebody who is pretending to be asleep. US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s statement on Thursday that his country would designate Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally reminds one of this adage. It implies that Pakistan will be entitled to a host of military benefits. Powell and his master alone know why the US suddenly felt the urge to bestow this enhanced status on Pakistan, which will place it in the league of Israel, Japan and the Philippines. The US decision lacks rationale of any kind. Had the US been guided by the conduct of Pakistan in recent years, it would have had every reason to come down heavily on Islamabad. What has pleased the US is the cooperation Pakistan has been extending to the US in its fight against terrorism. But is Pakistan in the forefront of the war on terrorism as the US seems to believe?
Every major terrorist incident in the world has had a Pakistani connection. And the country where the remnants of the Al-Qaida settled themselves after they were smoked out of the Tora Bora hills in Afghanistan was Pakistan. Again, the destination of the Taliban was Pakistan. It was no other country but Pakistan which gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, who reportedly has to undergo dialysis to remain alive. If anything, this exposes the duplicitous beaviour of Pakistan, a fact which every nation save the US recognises. India has a large body of clinching evidence to suggest that Pakistan has a record of aiding and abetting jehadis for creating trouble in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.
The inglorious A.Q. Khan incident has brought to the public domain what everybody believed all through that one of the biggest nuclear proliferators was Pakistan. The pardon Pakistan hastily gave to the rogue scientist was more to cover up the misdeeds of the powers that be in
Islamabad without whose knowledge he could not have acted as a peddler of the Islamic bomb. Pakistan’s clandestine dealings with North Korea, Iran and Libya in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction should have alerted the US about the dangerous possibility of its nuclear know-how reaching undesirable elements. Far from condemning Pakistan for its transgressions, the US is rewarding it with a new status.
THE abortive attempt on the life of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu some months ago had precipitated early elections in the State, with the perceived sympathy wave becoming a deciding factor. But the latest wave of violence by the Peoples War Groups Naxalites is hitting the ruling party in a different way. Many of the mandal-level activists of the Telugu Desam Party and the BJP have been resigning in response to the threats issued by the Naxalites. The militants had openly vowed not to allow both parties to campaign in villages. The fears of the party workers have come true with the cold-blooded murder of the husband of the Andhra Pradesh Minister for Tribal Welfare, Mrs M. Manikumari, and another TDP worker on Thursday. The fear is that the banned organisation may step up violence even further. It had declared a protest week on Tuesday and has unleashed a bloody wave of violence ever since. The campaigning has been hit not only in rural areas but also in some urban pockets.
The unfortunate thing is that some political leaders and parties hobnob with the terrorists for their petty ends and such links ensure that the action against them does not gather the momentum that it should. There is no dearth of soft targets and the ruthless killers have no qualms about targeting either hospitals or women and children.
As many as 15 of the 23 districts of the State have been identified as Naxalite affected. The campaign against them has been stepped up especially after the attack on Mr Naidu. The Centre has sanctioned a grant of Rs 225 crore and even Army helicopters are likely to be used against them. But the inter-state coordination is still a weak point. At the same time, there is need for improving the social conditions in the affected areas. Extreme poverty prevalent in many far-flung areas ensures that there are enough suicidal volunteers to do the Naxalites’ bidding.
Saving Aravalli hills
THE Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday not to vacate the stay on mining that it had imposed in the Aravalli hills is welcome. Unfortunately, mindless and haphazard mining has threatened the fragile ecosystem in the Aravalli hill region that extends from Haryana all the way to Rajasthan. This region is known for its rich mineral and forest wealth and hence it is attracted by rapacious contractors with high political connections to plunder the resources. In the last three years, the apex court has been firm on the issue of protecting the ecological balance in this region from the clutches of the contractors. Surprisingly, however, the state governments, bowing to the pressure from the mining lobby, have been trying to circumvent the court’s orders to ensure their non-compliance. The Central Empowerment Committee set up by the Supreme Court has maintained that the Aravalli range constitutes a “watershed”, being the source of “several seasonal streams”. This “watershed”, according to the committee, has significantly contributed to recharging the ground water in the area.
However, illegal mining has affected the Aravalli hill range of Haryana and Rajasthan comprising Gurgaon, Faridabad and Alwar districts in many ways. Several studies have pointed out that the natural drainage system and the ground water table of the entire region have been badly affected over the years. Mining has also led to the rapid dwindling of trees and an increase in the pollution levels. A London-based survey by the Environmental Investigation Agency says that the key tiger habitat in Rajasthan’s Jamwah Ramgarh Wildlife Sanctuary is under serious threat. Quarrying for talc and marble is also causing hardship to local farmers.
What distinguishes Thursday’s ruling from the earlier directives is the Supreme Court’s decision to constitute a monitoring committee under the Central Pollution Control Board with environment experts as members to ensure that the directives are enforced in toto. As the issue in question is one of health and the general well-being of the people as also the flora and fauna, Haryana and Rajasthan governments have a moral and constitutional duty to implement the court’s directives to save the Aravalli hills.
A peep into the Muslim mind
IS it possible to vote as an Indian? If the answer is in the affirmative, then why do we accept the importance of regional, caste and community-based analyses of voting trends? And which vote should be counted as an Indian vote? The one that has consistently supported the Left parties in West Bengal for close to three decades or the one that has rejected the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
To a large extent, a person in West Bengal votes as a Bengali, and that is why this vote does not follow the broad national trend. Uttar Pradesh? It is a cesspool of caste and communal politics. Ms Mayawati’s importance lies in her hold over the Dalit constituency. Mr Mulayam Singh is essentially an OBC leader who managed to project himself as the messiah of the Muslims after he placed the Babri Masjid beyond the reach of the VHP kar sevaks.
The Mandalisation of Indian politics has given the Dalits and the OBCs the power to influence electoral trends. However, the revival of religion-based public discourse has caused a crisis of identity among a large section of Indian Muslims. Yet, the electoral importance of over 12 crore Muslims cannot be wished away. When parties begin to talk sweetly to them, the Muslims know that they will have to endure the agony of being feted until voting day and forgotten thereafter.
Soon media surveys will tell us that the 20 per cent Muslim voters in UP are confused. Their trust in Ms Mayawati was eroded after she made a habit out of becoming Chief Minister with the support of the BJP. For half the same reason they have now begun to suspect Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav. They will have to ignore the cultivated Babri Masjid related pain for returning to the Congress. The situation is no better across the country. Getting to know the Muslim mind is the toughest political assignment. The Dalit and the OBC political preference is easy to understand. Not that of the Muslims.
Why should we limit our concern to understanding and analysing the confusion among a large section of the Indian Muslims only when elections are announced? War-time rhetoric is phoney, but peace-time expression of concern is genuine. When was the last time a party or a leader made a conscious effort to identify and solve the problems and grievances of the second largest Muslim population in the world? Look at the list of non-issues for which they have been made to agitate: status of Aligarh Muslim University, the future of Urdu, the sanctity of personal laws, the right to convert and four marriages and the threat to Islam from Salman Rushdie. When was the first time the nation witnessed the spectacle of Muslims marching to Delhi for demanding the right to modern education, food, shelter and social justice? Not once since India became independent.
Getting to know the mind of any section of society will remain a futile exercise unless it is given the tools to make an informed choice; not only about which party or candidate to vote for but also about its economic goals and how to achieve them. The name of the tool is education. Do the vast majority of Muslims have this tool to fashion their destiny as also that of the nation?
It sounds good to think in terms of Indian votes and not Hindu votes or Muslim votes. But that breed of politicians died with Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Can the future of Indians in general and Muslims in particular be safe under Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav or Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav or Ms Mayawati? All three of them have dreams of becoming Prime Minister. Their contribution to espousing the cause of the minorities can be gauged from the D. P. Yadavs they have given to Indian politics by patronising the likes of Mohammad Shahabuddin in Bihar and Mukhtar Ansari in UP.
It is not a sin for a community to take pride in its achievements and identity. There should be no confusion about the role of individuals and communities in the process of nation-building. The Punjabis are proud of their Punjabiyat and equally of their contribution in building the nation. Among religious denominations, the Parsis take legitimate pride in their role in building industries and promoting the economic growth of the nation. Similarly, the country and the community remembers Brig Usman and Havaldar Abdul Hameed as brave Indians and worthy Muslims.
The future of any community cannot be safe in the hands of irresponsible leaders. How many Muslim leaders of stature has post-Independence India thrown up. Abul Kalam Azad and Rafi Ahmad Kidwai were grassroots politicians. Nurul Hasan was not and neither is Mrs Najma Heptullah. Barkatullah Khan became the Chief Minister of Rajasthan and Abdul Gafoor of Bihar. A.R. Antulay was more a Maharashtrian than a Muslim. It was this identity that was killed by a piece of investigative journalism that projected him as Abdur Rahman Antulay. Even if the number adds up to one thousand, is it enough?
Look at the current crop of Muslim politicians. Mukhtar Ansari and Mohammad Shahabuddin are extreme examples of criminals being projected as Muslims representing their constituency in the country’s legislatures. The community certainly deserves better leaders than Mr Shahnawaz Hussain, Mr Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Mr Arif Mohammad Khan, Mr Akbar Ahmad Dumpy and Mr Rashid Alvi. Of the eight members returned to the Lok Sabha in 1999, there is little that is known about most of them.
I can at this point of time think of only two names who are Muslims with a national perspective. One is Mr Salman Khursheed, grandson of Dr Zakir Husain, who unfortunately has yet to win an election from Qaimganj. The other is Mr Saleem Iqbal Sherwani. He comes from a family of Allahabad-based industrialists. He won the last Lok Sabha election from Badaun. It is difficult to include Syed Shahabuddin in this list in spite of his eminence in other fields. He is a bad politician.
The community will have to seek the help of eminent educationists, from any religion, for leading the vast majority of Muslims from ignorance to knowledge. Once that goal is accomplished, the uncertain Muslim vote will get converted into a very potent informed Indian
Lahore then and now
IT was a gray afternoon of February, 1990, when the PIA flight landed at Lahore. The Indian hockey team had arrived to participate in the World Cup. I had been deputed by the Ministry of Home Affairs to accompany the team. We were hurried to a bus with dark glasses. Through lonely roads we were taken to Hotel Pearl Continental. I sensed a restrained turbulence and hostility in the air. Next day I had a meeting with DIG Lahore and expressed my security concerns. After some formal talk in Oxbridge accent he asked me if it was my first visit to Lahore. I told him that I had come back after 43 years. He smiled and said, “Pher tan ghar aa gaya” (You have come home). After that the conversation was informal and in chaste Punjabi. On the day of the match the stadium was jam-packed. When the Indian team started playing the people in the stands erupted. They performed “Syapa — the mourning rites” by beating their breasts and yelled “Maro juttian enha sale kuttian nuh” (Give a shoe-beating to these dogs). There was something elemental about hostility and expression of this hatred. It was a hatred that rose from the belly and was as pure as the hatred of one animal for another. In a nearby enclosure were sitting school children. On seeing the Indian team they raised their chant “East or west India is the worst.” This happened every time the team played. In the bazaars of Lahore I found the Pakistani obsession with Kashmir. I found placards, banners and buntings proclaiming “Kashmir banega Pakistan”. The performance of the Indian team was extremely poor. It practically lost all the matches. General Tikka Khan, the Governor of Punjab, at a reception hosted by him asked me as to why the Indian team was fairing so poorly. I said that maybe it was the atmosphere of the field. He remarked, “Indians had been the Prince of hockey. Atmosphere should not affect them.” The mayor of Lahore hosted a reception in the Shalimar Gardens. A VIP sitting next to me asked about his village Kadian. He recalled the marriage of his paternal aunt as a young boy and how the whole village looked after the barat which stayed on for four days. He remarked “Partition nahin hona chaida see” (This partition should not have taken place.) I told him that it was his generation which was responsible for partition. He abused the politicians of UP in chaste Punjabi. He said that had that Punjab stayed as it was, from Peshawar to Delhi, the PM would have always been from Punjab. Many years later during the start of Delhi-Lahore bus, the team from Islamabad had come to Delhi to work out the modalities. I told a senior member of the delegation that with the bus there would be qualitative improvement in the relationship of the two countries. He said, “Insha Allah!” and recited this couplet, “Mumkin nahin halat ki guththi suljha saken ahle danish ne bahut soch ke uljhaya hai.” When Kargil happened I remembered this couplet. The Indian team is in Pakistan, the enthusiasm on both sides is bordering on hysteria. The PM’s exhortation of “Dill bhi Jeeto” has a ring of authenticity. I am sure it will find an echo there. The scent of goodwill can be sensed on both sides. That was the winter of despair; this could be the summer of
We were hurried to a bus with dark glasses. Through lonely roads we were taken to Hotel Pearl Continental. I sensed a restrained turbulence and hostility in the air. Next day I had a meeting with DIG Lahore and expressed my security concerns. After some formal talk in Oxbridge accent he asked me if it was my first visit to Lahore. I told him that I had come back after 43 years. He smiled and said, “Pher tan ghar aa gaya” (You have come home). After that the conversation was informal and in chaste Punjabi.
On the day of the match the stadium was jam-packed. When the Indian team started playing the people in the stands erupted. They performed “Syapa — the mourning rites” by beating their breasts and yelled “Maro juttian enha sale kuttian nuh” (Give a shoe-beating to these dogs). There was something elemental about hostility and expression of this hatred. It was a hatred that rose from the belly and was as pure as the hatred of one animal for another. In a nearby enclosure were sitting school children. On seeing the Indian team they raised their chant “East or west India is the worst.” This happened every time the team played. In the bazaars of Lahore I found the Pakistani obsession with Kashmir. I found placards, banners and buntings proclaiming “Kashmir banega Pakistan”.
The performance of the Indian team was extremely poor. It practically lost all the matches. General Tikka Khan, the Governor of Punjab, at a reception hosted by him asked me as to why the Indian team was fairing so poorly. I said that maybe it was the atmosphere of the field. He remarked, “Indians had been the Prince of hockey. Atmosphere should not affect them.”
The mayor of Lahore hosted a reception in the Shalimar Gardens. A VIP sitting next to me asked about his village Kadian. He recalled the marriage of his paternal aunt as a young boy and how the whole village looked after the barat which stayed on for four days. He remarked “Partition nahin hona chaida see” (This partition should not have taken place.) I told him that it was his generation which was responsible for partition. He abused the politicians of UP in chaste Punjabi. He said that had that Punjab stayed as it was, from Peshawar to Delhi, the PM would have always been from Punjab.
Many years later during the start of Delhi-Lahore bus, the team from Islamabad had come to Delhi to work out the modalities. I told a senior member of the delegation that with the bus there would be qualitative improvement in the relationship of the two countries. He said, “Insha Allah!” and recited this couplet, “Mumkin nahin halat ki guththi suljha saken ahle danish ne bahut soch ke uljhaya hai.”
When Kargil happened I remembered this couplet.
The Indian team is in Pakistan, the enthusiasm on both sides is bordering on hysteria. The PM’s exhortation of “Dill bhi Jeeto” has a ring of authenticity. I am sure it will find an echo there. The scent of goodwill can be sensed on both sides. That was the winter of despair; this could be the summer of
Threat of a food crisis looms large
THE granary of India comprising Punjab, Haryana, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh may not be able to feed the country's teeming millions for long. With Punjab finding it difficult to sustain the existing level of production and Haryana, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh figuring high on the list of food insecure states, this high food potential region is now crumbling under the after-effects of over-production.
So even as India shines by exporting 17 million tonnes of foodgrains in spite of the starving millions here, the country's net foodgrains output per capita has fallen by about seven kilograms since the mid-90s owing to the slowing of output growth. Other than the four states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the rest of the country is already in the red in terms of food security. On an average, an Indian now consumes 154 kilograms of food in a year as compared to 174. 3 kilograms per head in the 90s.
In fact, it took just a year of drought (2002-03) to run down the notion of " problem of plenty" and raise doubts about the country's food security. Of the 58 million tonnes of buffer stocks in the beginning of this decade, 10 million tonnes were exhausted (through the public distribution system, and under the food-for-work schemes during the drought year). Even then the foodgrains were exported to foreigners for their cattle as starvation deaths in various parts of the country and suicides by debt-ridden farmers became common.
These buffer stocks lying in the godowns and in the open fields have to be checked for quantity (there have been allegations of scam in the record keeping of foods) and quality (these are infested with pests and rodents, making them unfit for human consumption). A bad weather could easily erode these stocks, bringing to an end the decades of labour of the Green Revolution.
Cautions Dr Joginder Singh, an agricultural economist at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana," We have reached a stage where we have to be very careful in formulating policies to manage foodgrains in the country without bringing about a significant shift in the overall economic system. The surpluses are illusionary, and we may land into a food crisis again."
In India, till the 80s the foodgrain production increased much faster than the growth of population, which made the food situation comfortable. The per capita availability of foodgrains increased from 409 grams per day in 1961 to 510 grams per day in 1991. It was then that, apart from meeting the domestic requirement, the foodgrains were available for export.
However, with the area shift towards agriculture reaching a plateau and the population increasing steadily, the productivity is not in consonance with the population growth. Informs Dr Joginder Singh," During the 90s, the population growth was 1.93 per cent per annum, while the annual compound growth rate of food production fell to 1.86 per cent, which means that the per hectare productivity growth is less than the population growth".
The ongoing diversification efforts in the high potential food region of Punjab, Haryana, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh have added to the fears of decline in foodgrain production. These states are even finding it difficult to sustain the existing level of production owing to problems like a decline in the water table ( especially in central Punjab, where the fall in the water table is 13 cm to 43 cm per year), an alarming decrease in pest resistance in crops and the deteriorating soil health.
Says an eminent agricultural economist and Padam Bhushan awardee, Dr S.S. Johl, " Even today one-third of the country's population does not have two square meals a day. Since this population does not have the purchasing power, supply exceeds demand. But with the high potential food growing areas finding it difficult to maintain the present levels of production, the threat of a food problem looms large."
He says that the solution lies in taking Punjab away from the wheat-rice crop rotation to other high value crops, and instead using the 20 million hectares of fertile land in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on a nine-monthly cropping pattern since the area remains flooded for three months during the monsoon.
"We have to shift from the wheat rice cropping pattern to pulses and oilseeds , with active funding by the state at the rate of Rs 12,500 per hectare. With this, the pressure on land will decrease and areas cultivating wheat and rice will be reduced, saving the state coffers Rs 8,967 crore incurred on the procurement, transport and storage of foodgrains".
He adds that emphasis has to be on Central and Eastern India for producing the staple foodgrains, and requisite technology has to be brought in for having a nine-month cropping pattern there," he adds.
Agricultural experts say that it will take a concerted political will and a definite policy to again usher in a new Green Revolution and make the country secure in food. If this is sacrificed at the altar of politics, the country may head for a food problem. They say that 26 per cent of the population is below the poverty line and is under-nourished, in spite of the various programmes to streamline food distribution. We have to consider their increasing requirements that would result from their economic upliftment, as and when it occurs.
Vilayat Khan: last of a dying generation
IT was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Ustad Vilayat Khan, without doubt one of the greatest musicians of our time in all categories.
He had long been a favourite with New York audiences, especially since he took up residence in Princeton in the 1990s.
I first came to hear the music of Vilayat Khan around 1964 as an art student in London when a friend of mine lent me a recording. I was so taken by what I heard that I began to seek out his recordings at HMV on Oxford Street.
I was overjoyed to pick up a recording a year or two later featuring Vilayat Khan with another of my favourite Indian artists, Ustad Bismillah Khan, the celebrated shehnai player. This record (on the EMI label) became one of my treasured possessions.
Thirty years later, in 1996, I had the great pleasure of bringing these two giants together again in celebration of Bismillah Khan’s 80th birthday. Perhaps more rewarding than the sold-out concert, which took place at Town Hall, was the joy expressed by Vilayat Khan when I delivered Bismillah Khan and his party to Vilayat’s home in New Jersey.
Within minutes they had both taken out their instruments and were trading riffs. This was Indian music at its most brilliant — two great improvisers who had not seen each other for more than 20 years with immediate rapport.
Much has been said about the uniqueness of Vilayat Khan’s style, the so-called "gayaki ang" or vocal style. Yet I wonder if that is what set him apart from other Indian musicians. After all instrumental music in the classical Indian tradition has always sought to imitate the human voice.
On reflection I think it was much more his ability to take his audience by surprise, to move the raga in unexpected directions.
Few artistes were able to meet this master on his terms, but those that did, such as Ustad Bismillah Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain, were able to make his concerts memorable events.
His ability to improvise was unsurpassed and he had an enormous influence on younger musicians as well as many of his own generation. In his hands a single note spoke volumes — bending and twisting in every direction — speaking to our very soul.
I had hoped to talk to him about his early life as a court musician. He was, after all, the last of a dying generation — those artists who made their living under the patronage of the royal courts of India.
The World Music Institute’s first concert with Ustad Vilayat Khan took place in 1987 at the Triplex Theatre in downtown Manhattan, where he left the capacity audience spellbound. He then performed two concerts at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Centre, in 1989 and 1994 but perhaps his crowning achievement was at the Music Festival of India at Carnegie Hall in 1997.
This was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, which featured a host of India’s master musicians. Ustad Vilayat Khan headlined the concert with Zakir Hussain, performing before a capacity audience of more than 2,750.
His last two New York performances were in 1999 at Town Hall where he performed with both his sons, Shujaat and Hidayat, and at the 4th All-Night Concert of classical Indian Music, a co-presentation with Lotus Fine Arts and Chhandayan at Synod Hall.
The concert originally scheduled for Zankel Hall on May 22 will become instead a tribute with members of his illustrious musical family.
Ustad Vilayat khan will be sorely missed but his legacy will continue through his sons Shujaat and Hidayat and through his brother Ustad Imrat Khan and nephews Nishat and Irshad. — IANS
‘Spend more time with family’
THE heads of the Sikh community in New Jersey are counselling its members to spend more time with their families after a teenager admitted to fabricating a story of assault that had rattled citizens.
“What we realised after the incident was that there is a lot of peer pressure on our children,” said Mr Yadvinder Singh, President of the American Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, an umbrella organisation for Sikh shrines in the US.
Two Sikh teens in Glen Rock, New Jersey, admitted last week that they had fabricated the story of an assault in a city park on March 3, alleging that their hair was shorn and were robbed of $40.
Simrandeep Singh, one of the teens, apologised to a congregation organised at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha gurdwara on March 13.
Yadvinder Singh said he and other community leaders spoke with the families of the two teens involved. “We felt parents need to spend more time with their children and educate them.”
The world does not evolve of itself in a continuous process, but it requires at every critical stage of its evolution Divine intervention in the shape of a direct descent of the Divine Consciousness. — Sri Aurobindo Genius always gives its best at first; prudence, at last. — Lavander They who ever sing His glory, are blessed and radiant with His beauty. — Guru Nanak The senses, say the wise, are the horses, Selfish desires are the roads that travel. — The Katha
Upanishad With fools there is no companionship. Rather than to live with men who are selfish, vain, quarrelsome, and obstinate let a man walk alone. — The Buddha The soul is free in (doing) its actions, but dependent on the law of God in the enjoyment of their fruit. Similarly, God is free in doing all righteous acts. — Swami Dayanand Saraswati
— Sri Aurobindo
Genius always gives its best at first; prudence, at last.
They who ever sing His glory, are blessed and radiant with His beauty.
— Guru Nanak
The senses, say the wise, are the horses,
Selfish desires are the roads that travel.
— The Katha Upanishad
With fools there is no companionship. Rather than to live with men who are selfish, vain, quarrelsome, and obstinate let a man walk alone.
— The Buddha
The soul is free in (doing) its actions, but dependent on the law of God in the enjoyment of their fruit. Similarly, God is free in doing all righteous acts.
— Swami Dayanand Saraswati