End of the deadlock
Choice before BJP
No significant achievement on the ground
The levy of 2 per cent education cess on all taxes in Mr P. Chidambaram’s Union Budget and the revival of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) by Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, after a gap of 10 years, are being seen as major policy initiatives taken by Dr Manmohan Singh’s government.
Muslim troops for
A victim of
Murder in Manipur
End of the deadlock
Good sense has at last prevailed and the National Democratic Alliance has withdrawn its decision not to participate in parliamentary committees. But in the ugly battle of allegations and counter-allegations, precious time of Parliament has been unnecessarily frittered away. Had the NDA not relented even now, the country would have been faced with the unseemly sight of the Budget being passed without the House committees scrutinising it. The compromise has been reached because of the efforts made by the Speaker and give and take by the ruling party as well as the Opposition. Under the deal, controversial statements made in the House by Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, and Mr V. K. Malhotra, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the lower House, at the height of the standoff over the “tainted” ministers issue are to be withdrawn. The formula is actually a fig-leaf. With the passage of time, the NDA had also realised that it was harming its own interests by persisting with the boycott.
Now when the diminishing returns of the boycott are being acknowledged, the politics of walkouts and dharnas should also come to an end. The people do not elect their representatives for indulging in such antics. The Opposition can play its role much better if it sticks to keeping an eagle eye on the government’s acts of commission and omission. By boycotting the proceedings of the House, it only lets the government off the hook.
Ironically, precedents have been set by every party to such an extent that none of them is in a position to blame the other. If the Congress is in the hot seat over the tainted ministers issue, it did not cover itself with glory while meting out a similar treatment to the then Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, over the Tehelka question. The unwarranted use of walkouts and boycotts has blunted their efficacy. It is time all parties agreed to make a new beginning and together decided to make Parliament an effective organ of the State.
Choice before BJP
IT is the eternal problem of the Bharatiya Janata Party – whether it should opt for Hindutva or not. The recent ‘chintan baithak’ of senior leaders of the party in Goa too failed to end this dilemma. The choice was between ‘Hindutva’ as advocated by Mr L.K. Advani and ‘development’ as stressed by Mr A.B. Vajpayee. After much deliberation, the party ended up endorsing a combination of nationalism and development without overtly mentioning the H-word. What sobered the hardliners in the party was the threat by the Janata Dal (U) that the party would review its continuance in the National Democratic Alliance if the BJP chose to espouse its Hindutva ideology. Mr Vajpayee’s exhortation to his partymen to keep the NDA intact might also have an impact on the conclave when it arrived at the 10-point conclusions.
By now it would have occurred to the BJP that without the adhesion of power, there was no compulsion for its allies to stay put with the party. Even the Shiv Sena, which is ideologically the closest to the BJP, has of late been making bold to act independently of the BJP. In any case, the NDA is no longer what it used to be. As practitioners of realpolitik, the BJP leaders cannot overlook the fact that their party could not have come to power on its own. Nor can it ever return to power without the help of allies. It needs parties like the JD(U) as much as the latter need the saffron-tinged to ever dream of bouncing back to power. Hence any rupture in their relations is bound to be lapped up by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
For a party which has ruled at the Centre for over five years and whose governments are in place in some of the key states, it is a pity that it has to debate endlessly on what constitutes its core strengths. Successive elections should have brought home to the party that Hindutva has only a limited appeal. By now it should also have known that espousal of divisive issues would drive away a large section of the secular-minded Hindus, not to speak of the minorities, from the party. This happened in the past and it will happen in the future also unless the BJP recognises the country’s diversities and reorient its policies and programmes to suit them.
Policy on education
The levy of 2 per cent education cess on all taxes in Mr P. Chidambaram’s Union Budget and the revival of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) by Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, after a gap of 10 years, are being seen as major policy initiatives taken by Dr Manmohan Singh’s government. While the cess is expected to raise a revenue of about Rs 5,000 crore, the CABE has been constituted with a 106-member high power team. Undoubtedly, education — be it primary, secondary or higher — deserves special attention with adequate funds for overall improvement. However, the Centre’s record in spending in this crucial sector is far from satisfactory. It is doubtful to what extent the new cess and the reconstituted CABE will help improve the general educational scene, because there has been no significant achievement on the ground.
Though the Kothari Commission had recommended in 1966 that the expenditure on education should be 6 per cent of the GDP, India spends far less than this. The states do not spend more than 3 per cent. Studies reveal that in 15 states, including Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, public spending in education has steadily come down due to the lack of commitment and political will on the part of the Centre and the states. Clearly, the money raised through the cess will be of little value if the Centre does not streamline its delivery mechanisms and show concrete results.
The country has no dearth of committees. Most recommendations have remained on paper. Nowadays, little is heard about Operation Blackboard. There is no improvement in the drop-out rate in the schools despite programmes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Schools in the countryside have no buildings, teachers or infrastructure. Worse, the funds either get diverted or siphoned off. The CABE and the authorities concerned must ensure that the cess proceeds are spent judicially for putting education on the right track.
Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
Muslim troops for Iraq
TWO ground realities about Iraq are bound to have far-reaching and long-term consequences, especially for the presidential elections in the United States. First, the resistance to American “occupation” — unaffected by the “transfer of sovereignty” to an Iraqi interim government — is much stronger and more widespread today than it was even six months ago. The daily death dance in Baghdad and other cities speaks for itself. The bland American pretence that the suicide bombers and others resorting to violence are confined to the “remnants of the Saddam regime” and some foreign terrorists which had sneaked into Iraq has been blown sky -high.
To be sure, foreign terrorist groups, some of them linked to Al-Qaeda, are there. Even so, it is meaningless to blame the “Baathist remnants”, if only because after committing the folly of disbanding the entire army and much of the police force, the American themselves are recruiting the Baathists into the new security forces. Ironically, police stations and army recruiting centres have become the main targets of suicide bombers.
Actually, the Iraqi resistance groups are numerous and have varying affiliations and agendas but their objective is the same: to make life hell for the American occupiers. For this purpose, many, though not all, of them have established a measure of coordination among them.
Some of them are obviously indulging in terrorism, and there can be absolutely no doubt that to take hostages or beheading innocent captives is an abominable crime against humanity. This country, among several others, has been at the receiving end of such barbarity. All those sympathising with the Iraqi people have a duty to urge them to put an end to inhuman acts and respect the rules of war. Sadly, however, the Iraqi resistance retorts that if the US observes no rule and is flouting all the basic tenets of international law, what are they, the “victims of American invasion and occupation”, to do?
It is against this backdrop that second stark reality about Iraq, the desperate US attempt to mobilise a “Muslim force” from various Islamic countries to help them comes in. The need to do so increases steadily both because of the religious ramifications of the Iraqi situation and the withdrawal from Iraq of their troops by Spain, the Philippines, and several Latin American countries. Some other countries with troops still in Iraq are planning to call them back home while those like France and Germany have made it clear that they would not contribute any soldiers to the US-led “coalition”.
There should, therefore, be no surprise about the elaborate and unending American efforts to persuade as many Muslim countries as possible to send their troops to Iraq to help the American forces that prefer to operate from behind the high walls of their heavy-security citadels.
For this purpose, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell, travelled personally to Saudi Arabia, “a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism”, in the judicious words of the 9/11 Commission, but still dear to the neocoms running the Bush administration. He was hopeful that Saudi money (available in plenty because of the Saudi monarchy’s total dependence on American protection) and American goading would persuade Algeria, Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and, above all, Pakistan to despatch their battalions to the Iraqi killing streets. But formidable obstacles to the fulfilment of these hopes can no longer be concealed from anyone.
In the first place, Iraq itself does not want the troops of any of its neighbours on its soil. This rules out Syria, Iran, Turkey, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. Secondly, the Philippines, a quintessential American ally in every sense of the term, withdrew its small garrison in Iraq to save the life of a Filipino hostage whose captors had threatened to kill him if Manila didn’t withdraw its contingent from Iraq.
On the other hand, having first released one Pakistani captive unconditionally, the abductors of two other Pakistanis mercilessly killed them because Gen Pervez Musharraf’s government failed to announce unambiguously that it would not send its troops to Iraq. All Islamabad would say was that “no decision has yet been taken on this issue”. Other Muslim countries — especially Egypt one of whose nationals shared the fate of the three Indian hostages — are watching the grim developments and drawing their own conclusions.
For instance, on the day the world media was speculating that Indonesia, being far away from the Iraqi scene, might send its troops there, an Indonesian Foreign Office spokesperson immediately corrected the media reports. He told CNN that his country would “consider” the proposal only if its troops were to be under the command of the UN, as part of a UN peacekeeping operation, not otherwise. There is no way the US is going to surrender the command to the world body, as has been made clear by Mr Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, now the UN “special envoy” to Iraq.
Interestingly, Mr Qazi’s appointment to his new post was the thin end of the wedge with which the US expected to manoeuvre Pakistan into sending its soldiers to Iraq. The US, more than the UN, told Pakistan that Mr Qazi’s establishment in Baghdad, grandiosely called the UN Headquarters, would need to be protected and it would only be appropriate that this task was assigned to 4,000 Pakistani troops.
General Musharraf, adept in running with the hare and hunting with the hound, is now caught in a cleft stick. He cannot afford to say no to the US and lose all the benefits and leverages he is enjoying as the sole super power’s “most favoured” ally, notwithstanding his numerous duplicities. And he cannot say yes for fear of inviting a virulent and violent backlash at home. The recent attempt on the life of his Prime Minister-designate, Mr Shaukat Aziz, in the wake of a similar attack on the Karachi Corps Commander, sufficiently indicates the prevailing mood in Pakistan.
Hence the General’s attempt to buy time by delaying a decision and laying down such conditions as that at least two other Muslim countries must send troops simultaneously and Pakistan’s parliament must endorse the despatch of troops.
Let the Pakistan President do what he thinks is best for him. But America’s neocons that are also dyed-in-the-wool “neocols” or neo-colonialists realise that Pax Britannica lasted a hundred years largely because of the Indian Army. America does not have, or hope to have, any such
A victim of Chinese fancy
First because of my feet I took fancy to the Chinese shoemakers on The Mall at Shimla. When I had started learning ice-skating, I was told by an expert,” Get the skates fixed through one of these. They do the job extremely well.” My pocket allowed me a pair of second-hand boots and a new pair of blades. I went to one of the Tungs or Fook Chongs with those old boots and that new pair of blades and requested him to get the work done. He asked for some time and gave me a date ahead. I went to him on the given date. He used sing-song tone, “Misther Juicy (Joshi), Sooo (shoe) no goood (good); Canth do anyteeng (anything). Sooo no goood.” I had to buy a new pair of shoes from him for which I had to open my purse wider.
Sweet and sour, Chow-min, hot and chilly noodles and what not were the gourmets that then fancied the Indian palate. The Chinese theory is to balance fan (grains and rice) with ts’ai (vegetables and meat) and to satisfy the complex system of the ying-yang balance of hot and cold based on Taoist perception of cosmic equilibrium. Despite the high-sounding theory, I could not develop taste for the cuisine. I have, perforce, to let my tummy be invaded by all that (sorry for what I call it) garbage because that is the in-thing these days and the taste buds of all at home — from my wife to granddaughter — start flowing yum-yum for it.
After satisfying the demand of our belly juices, my beloved Panchsheel neighbours turned their eyes towards my home. This time it was Feng Shui (pronounced Fung Shway), Chinese Dragon and others. “Have ‘dragons’ in your house for good luck. Never sleep with the foot of the bed facing the door. It brings death nearer. Remove the tree from outside the front door. It blocks the prosperity from entering the home” is the expert’s advice. Knowing full well that I have already wrested six years from another Indian’s life (average Indian lives up to 62 years), I am burning a hole in my purse to make changes in my home and buying dragon-embroidered carpets so that I may live for a few more years.
I am playing a perfect booby now when my garden is being upset. Bamboos for Fa, Fu, Lu, Soh and others are now gradually replacing the old plants. Grow bamboo and give bamboo in gifts, says Chinese culture. “giving bamboo” was considered obnoxious in the country of my birth but the Dragon onslaught had made it acceptable. Chinese tradition has it that the number of lucky bamboo stalks has different meaning and brings different beneficial factors into one’s life. One grows and thrives with eight stalks of bamboo. Three stalks will bring happiness, wealth and longevity. Ten stalks will make one a complete and perfect human being. Very powerful all-purpose blessing comes to one from 21 stalks.
Murder in Manipur
THOUSANDS of people in Imphal witnessed a horrifying scene on July 15. A dozen women, both young and old, assembled at the gate of Kangla, the historic seat of the Manipur kings. One by one, they shed their clothes to the last thread, all the while shouting anti-government slogans. They held aloft two screaming banners: “Indian Army Rape Us; Indian Army Take Our Flesh”.
Among the women were mothers and grandmothers. They were all activists of various women’s organisations in Manipur. They chose to demonstrate at Kangla as it was the headquarters of the Assam Rifles.
With the banners barely covering their midriffs, the naked women marched all the way to the Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum to the Governor. From there, they were taken away from the public gaze in a police van. Never before have women demonstrated in this manner anywhere in the country, where an attempt to disrobe Draupadi caused the Mahabharata war.
What provoked the Manipuri women to protest in this unheard of manner was the custodial death of a 32-year-old Manipuri woman, Thangjam Manorama. She was picked up by three men of the Assam Rifles from her house about six km south of Imphal in the small hours of July 11. Four hours later, her bullet-riddled body was found four km away from her house.
What happened during the four hours she remained in the custody of the security personnel will be known only if the P. Upendra Commission appointed by the state government to go into her death gives a truthful report. At present, there are conflicting reports about the circumstances in which she died.
Initially, the Assam Rifles claimed that she was associated with the outlawed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and was an incendiary expert. During the custodial interrogation, she reportedly confessed to her links with the PLA and agreed to take the jawans to a hideout of the insurgents. On the way, the woman was allowed freedom to ease herself. But she used the opportunity to run away, forcing the escorting jawans to open fire. Thus she fell to the Assam Rifles’ bullets.
As was only to be expected, there were no takers for the Assam Rifles’ story. People began to pick holes in this version which did not account for the fact that her body bore numerous torture marks. Also, she was shot from the front and not from behind. More important, she had also suffered the ultimate humiliation before she was shot.
The state has been witnessing protest march after protest march since she was ‘done to death’. In one such rally, called by a few women’s organisations, over a lakh people participated.
All this forced the Assam Rifles to come out with a statement which said, “Some lapses by the Assam Rifles personnel in implementation of instructions issued by the Army authorities for conduct of search operations have been revealed.”
By implication, it admitted that the Assam Rifles’ earlier version of Manorama’s death was not all that honest. The protests in the northeastern state were such that editorial writers in the Capital even wondered whether it was falling off the Indian map. This is because Manorama’s murder has stirred the Manipuri like no other incident has in recent times. It has shaken the people of the entire state like the people of Holcomb in Truman Capote’s extraordinary non-fiction account, In Cold Blood.
While Holcomb is a small village “numbering two hundred and seventy,” the Land of Gems has an area of 22, 327 km and a population of 1.84 million. In terms of anger too, Holcomb, which witnessed the gunning down of four members of the Clutter family, is nowhere near Manipur.
Manorama is to Manipur what Flory was to Kerala during the Liberation Struggle in 1959. For starters, Flory was a pregnant woman, whose killing at the hands of the police added fuel to the “Struggle” culminating in the dismissal of the first Communist Ministry in the state led by E.M. S. Namboodiripad. Little surprise, the Prime Minister was forced to discuss the Manipur situation with the Opposition and even change the Governor.
But will the firefighting measures succeed in satisfying the people, particularly when the Centre is silent about the root cause of the alienation? If the Manipuris are united on one thing, it is their opposition to the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958. It is not difficult to find out why.
The Act gives the armed forces extraordinary powers with virtually no accountability. The government can introduce the Act in any area or in the state as a whole by simply notifying it as “disturbed”. Once the Act is in force, no warrants are required for the jawans to enter and search any premises at any time of the day and night. They can also arrest any person. What’s more, if the raiding party is convinced that a building is likely to be used by the insurgents, it can smash it to smithereens.
If the officer conducting the operation “is of the opinion that it is necessary to do so for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of firearms, ammunition or explosive substance”. Mercifully, it does not provide for rape.
No prosecution of the guilty personnel is possible without the express sanction of the Central Government. In other words, they can get away with murder. It is now 24 years since the Act was introduced in Manipur. Yet, there are at least 24 insurgent groups active in the state, including the PLA of which Manorama was an alleged member. If anything it shows that it has failed to tackle insurgency while giving unlimited powers to the security forces.
Ideally, the Centre should repeal the controversial Act. If not, it should at least humanise it. In no case should it allow the alienation in Manipur to grow for, at stake is the integrity of the nation.
From Pakistan ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra)
shas said that no permission has been granted to FM Radio channels for airing Indian songs. Commenting on a news item published in a section of the Press, a Pemra spokesman said it was surprising that this report was carried without getting it confirmed. The spokesman added that there was no change in Pemra’s policy in this regard. Since its very inception Pemra has been determined for the promotion and development of the electronic media in Pakistan for fostering cultural values while preventing the negative effects of the foreign media.
— The News
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) shas said that no permission has been granted to FM Radio channels for airing Indian songs.
Commenting on a news item published in a section of the Press, a Pemra spokesman said it was surprising that this report was carried without getting it confirmed.
The spokesman added that there was no change in Pemra’s policy in this regard. Since its very inception Pemra has been determined for the promotion and development of the electronic media in Pakistan for fostering cultural values while preventing the negative effects of the foreign media. — The News
CJ: stop fake encounters
ISLAMABAD: Mr Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui, Chief Justice of Pakistan, has ordered the police to stop torturing people during investigation and killing anybody in fake encounters to restore peoples faith in the system. “There should be no illegal actions, no extra-judicial killings, no torture, no fake police encounters and the raids must not be conducted just to kill the people,” said the Chief Justice while addressing a group of Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASPs) on Tuesday. The Chief Justice stressed upon the duties of the police officers with reference to the Police Act, 1861, the Police Order, 2002 and the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan.
— Daily Times
ISLAMABAD: Mr Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui, Chief Justice of Pakistan, has ordered the police to stop torturing people during investigation and killing anybody in fake encounters to restore peoples faith in the system.
“There should be no illegal actions, no extra-judicial killings, no torture, no fake police encounters and the raids must not be conducted just to kill the people,” said the Chief Justice while addressing a group of Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASPs) on Tuesday.
The Chief Justice stressed upon the duties of the police officers with reference to the Police Act, 1861, the Police Order, 2002 and the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan. — Daily Times
Ex-minister is an offender
PESHAWAR: A former provincial minister and provincial vice-president of the Pakistan People’s Party, Syed Qamar Abbas, was declared a proclaimed offender by a judicial magistrate, Mr Asghar Shah Khilji, here on Tuesday. The court also declared an ex-mohalladar, Haji Nisar Ahmad, a proclaimed offender and issued non-bailable arrest warrants against two other suspects, Sabir Shah, a lecturer of the Superior Science College, and Mohammad Riasat, a Sub-Divisional Officer
(Construction). The former minister was declared a proclaimed offender after his repeated failure to appear before the court in a case of alleged wrong attestation of national identity card forms of a family.
— The Dawn
PESHAWAR: A former provincial minister and provincial vice-president of the Pakistan People’s Party, Syed Qamar Abbas, was declared a proclaimed offender by a judicial magistrate, Mr Asghar Shah Khilji, here on Tuesday.
The court also declared an ex-mohalladar, Haji Nisar Ahmad, a proclaimed offender and issued non-bailable arrest warrants against two other suspects, Sabir Shah, a lecturer of the Superior Science College, and Mohammad Riasat, a Sub-Divisional Officer (Construction).
The former minister was declared a proclaimed offender after his repeated failure to appear before the court in a case of alleged wrong attestation of national identity card forms of a family. — The Dawn
Wheat ban challenged
ISLAMABAD: The NWFP Flour Mills Association has filed constitutional pleas in the Supreme Court against the inter-provincial ban the Punjab government has slapped on the movement of wheat to smaller provinces. The petitioner, President of the Floor Mills Association, Mr Naeem Butt, has cited hardships being faced by the NWFP people because of the short supply of flour. The petitioner has cited constitutional provisions which have been violated with the ban on the inter-provincial movement of wheat. Mr Naeem in his petition pointed out that as many as 100 flour mills have been closed down in the province due to non-availability of wheat. However, 250 floor mills are still functioning.
— The Nation
ISLAMABAD: The NWFP Flour Mills Association has filed constitutional pleas in the Supreme Court against the inter-provincial ban the Punjab government has slapped on the movement of wheat to smaller provinces.
The petitioner, President of the Floor Mills Association, Mr Naeem Butt, has cited hardships being faced by the NWFP people because of the short supply of flour.
The petitioner has cited constitutional provisions which have been violated with the ban on the inter-provincial movement of wheat. Mr Naeem in his petition pointed out that as many as 100 flour mills have been closed down in the province due to non-availability of wheat. However, 250 floor mills are still functioning.
— The Nation
For one who serves the Yogis, who are greatly devoted to Me and who are possessed of pure knowledge and supreme bliss, Mukti is in the palm of his
hand. — Sri Rama What is the root of the good?: Freedom from desire, freedom from hatred, and freedom from illusion are the root of the good. — The Buddha Without the Guru, all is darkness; without the Word, we do not realise it. — Guru
Nanak Take heed that you do not give alms making it a show; otherwise you will have no reward of your Father in
heaven. — Jesus Christ If the Sun were to revolve round the Earth, instead of the Earth revolving round the Sun, then our days and our nights would be equal to several
years. — Swami Dayanand Saraswati
— Sri Rama
What is the root of the good?: Freedom from desire, freedom from hatred, and freedom from illusion are the root of the good.
— The Buddha
Without the Guru, all is darkness; without the Word, we do not realise it.
— Guru Nanak
Take heed that you do not give alms making it a show; otherwise you will have no reward of your Father in heaven.
— Jesus Christ
If the Sun were to revolve round the Earth, instead of the Earth revolving round the Sun, then our days and our nights would be equal to several years.
— Swami Dayanand Saraswati