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EDITORIALS

Election season
A barometer of UPA’s popularity
T
HE significance of the October elections in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh cannot be overemphasised. The first to be held after the UPA government was installed at the Centre, they will show in which direction the wind blows.

View and review
Confrontation on SYL remains
Q
UITE expectedly, the Supreme Court has dismissed the review petition of Punjab seeking reconsideration of its order asking the Centre to construct the unfinished portion of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.



EARLIER ARTICLES

Virtue out of necessity
August 25, 2004
On a different track
August 24, 2004
Congress parivar
August 23, 2004
We will withhold our guns but not withdraw, says Varavara Rao
August 22, 2004
Doping shame
August 21, 2004
Delayed duty cuts
August 20, 2004
Silver streak
August 19, 2004
Peace in Parliament
August 18, 2004
Unrest in Northeast
August 17, 2004
Ethics in politics
August 16, 2004
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Gun culture
Bangladesh situation alarming for India
B
ANGLADESH is in the grip of a culture of violence. The latest proof is Saturday's grenade attack on a rally in Dhaka resulting in the death of 20 persons.  It was addressed by Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was reportedly the primary target of the killers, but she had a providential escape.
ARTICLE

Dialogue with Pakistan
Avoid hype, exaggerated expectations
by G. Parthasarathy
W
HEN Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Gen Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad during the SAARC Summit in January this year, India agreed to the resumption of the dialogue with Pakistan following a categorical commitment by the General that he would not allow any territory in Pakistan or under its control to be used for terrorist activity.

MIDDLE

A delicate mission!
by Vepa Rao
T
HE father was in tears: “They pronounce my daughter’s name wrongly and have forgotten even mine. Padmavati has become yajmabatti. I, instead of Vajreshwar, have become Laloo Yadav, Govinda, Sehwag, etc.” He pointed to his son Banteshwar sulking in a corner chair and the bahu curled up in the bed with a severe headache.

OPED

Unsafe in Himachal Pradesh
Crime against women on the rise
by Pratibha Chauhan
T
HE recent acid attack on a 19-year-old Shimla girl has served another reminder of the rising incidence of crime against women in Himachal Pradesh. When National Commission for Women chief Poornima Advani made a plea to the police and the Home Department to take steps not only to nab the acid attack culprits, but also to make sure such incidents were not repeated, she unwittingly invited focus on the proliferating crime against women in the state.

From Pakistan
85 children in jails

ISLAMABAD:
As many as 85 children, including 45 new-born, are languishing in different jails of Pakistan just because their mothers are undergoing various prison terms. The official record shows that 45 children were born to women prisoners during the first six months of the current year.

  • Constitution to be amended

  • Who cares for child rights?

  • Water shortage feared

 REFLECTIONS

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Election season
A barometer of UPA’s popularity

THE significance of the October elections in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh cannot be overemphasised. The first to be held after the UPA government was installed at the Centre, they will show in which direction the wind blows. Since byelections in several states will also be held simultaneously, the results will be a barometer of the Manmohan Singh government's popularity. This itself shows how crucial the elections are to the United Progressive Alliance. It was the fear of an electoral setback that compelled the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra to play safe and not dissolve the Assembly when Lok Sabha elections were held in May. The UPA will lose much of its appeal if the Congress-NCP combine is unable to retain power in the state. The alliance has been under strain and it is the fear of the Shiv Sena-BJP combine that has been keeping the two united.

Past byelections in Maharashtra showed that the ruling parties were no longer in the pink of health. The situation has gone from bad to worse. The movement for a Vidarbha state has picked up momentum with BSP leader Mayawati demanding that it be formed and named after Babasaheb Ambedkar. It was to counter this demand and to keep the Congress-NCP's vote banks among Dalits intact that a move was made to rename Nagpur airport after the Dalit icon. But the announcement of the elections has put paid to the plans. The BSP is not the only one to cut into their vote share. The Samajwadi Party, which is cut up with the Congress over the treatment meted out to it, is certain to field its candidates in constituencies where Muslims have a large presence. A division of the Muslim votes will prove costly to the Congress, whose greatest strength is the goodwill the UPA government still enjoys.

Similarly, the stakes are high for the Congress in Arunachal Pradesh. It won the elections last time but could not keep the state in its hands when the old warhorse, Mr Gegong Apang, found ways to pip it to the post. Once again, he gave the Congress a shock when he dissolved the Assembly and frustrated the latter's attempt to form a government with the support of defectors. Now it is the turn of the voters to decide who should rule the state - the Congress or the BJP-led United Democratic Front.

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View and review
Confrontation on SYL remains

QUITE expectedly, the Supreme Court has dismissed the review petition of Punjab seeking reconsideration of its order asking the Centre to construct the unfinished portion of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. The order would have been modified only if any error of facts or the law had been detected. That brings things back to square one, as they existed on June 4 when the apex court had passed the judgement. Much water has flowed down the Sutlej since then. One, the Centre has moved an application for a fresh direction on the SYL issue. However, it has not been listed for hearing as yet. Two, Punjab has terminated all river water agreements with neighbouring states since 1981 by passing a piece of legislation. Three, the Union Government has sought the apex court's opinion on the validity of Punjab's Act through a Presidential reference. Since the Supreme Court is yet to give its considered opinion on the matter, the possibility of any forward movement on the SYL front is as remote as ever.

As the court has itself clarified, construction of the canal has nothing to do with the water sharing dispute between Punjab and Haryana. That means that even if the canal is somehow built, there is no chance of the water dispute coming to an end. Since the first step is itself proving to be so cumbersome, the second and crucial step is almost unthinkable under the present circumstances.

In its order, the Supreme Court had passed severe strictures against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and has now refused to expunge them. The court had observed that "it is the constitutional duty of those who wield power in the states to create appropriate political climate to ensure respect for the constitutional process and not set such process at naught only to gain political mileage". Implicit in this observation was the assessment that the Punjab Government was failing in its duty. Unfortunately, the court strictures have not brought about any attitudinal change. The climate stands vitiated and leave alone an improvement, there is a real danger of things going from bad to worse, considering that political volcanoes are still spewing a lot of lava and smoke.

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Gun culture
Bangladesh situation alarming for India

BANGLADESH is in the grip of a culture of violence. The latest proof is Saturday's grenade attack on a rally in Dhaka resulting in the death of 20 persons. It was addressed by Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was reportedly the primary target of the killers, but she had a providential escape. Her party again organised a two-day protest strike ending on Tuesday in which at least 80 persons were injured. This time activists of the Awami League, the Left alliance and the Jatiya Smajtantrik Dal indulged in violence throughout the country. The situation has been taking a turn for the worse.

Only a proper enquiry can identify the forces behind Saturday's killings. But the accusing finger is bound to be raised at the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (JUJI), believed to be having links with the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami Okiya Jote. The two latter organisations are the partners in the coalition government led by Begum Khaleda Zia. The HUJI is suspected to have been behind several assassinations, and its targets have been mostly people with secular credentials. At one time it was associated with Al-Qaida.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is, therefore, in a dangerous company if the reports about the HUJI's connections with her allies are true. She must come down heavily on the forces of violence, giving a bad name to Bangladesh. Destructive forces on any side of the political spectrum must be contained in the interest of peace. The political parties in Bangladesh should learn from Nepal, where extremists have been taking advantage of the chaos created by politicians. Such elements in Bangladesh are capable of taking over the administration in Dhaka if political parties refuse to behave properly. The situation is getting more and more alarming for India as widespread chaos in Bangladesh suits the insurgents in the Northeast.

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Thought for the day

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.

— T.S. Eliot


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Dialogue with Pakistan
Avoid hype, exaggerated expectations
by G. Parthasarathy

WHEN Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Gen Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad during the SAARC Summit in January this year, India agreed to the resumption of the dialogue with Pakistan following a categorical commitment by the General that he would not allow any territory in Pakistan or under its control to be used for terrorist activity. It should have been evident even to a school student that General Musharraf believes that promises are made only to be broken when circumstances warrant.

He had, after all, promised to "permanently" end the support to cross-border terrorism to US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in 2002 when there was military pressure from India and simultaneous diplomatic pressure from Uncle Sam. Yet Mr Armitage himself recently declared: "Clearly, all the infrastructure and cross-border support activities have not been dismantled. Some infrastructure has been dismantled, but the level of infiltration was still too high". Asked if terrorism had come down in J&K, Mr Armitage said: "People are still dying and that was not acceptable. We will talk to Pakistan about it."

It would be naïve to expect that General Musharraf, who once proclaimed that low-intensity conflict with India would continue even if the Kashmir issue was resolved, would end support for terrorism in India merely by inane assertions from our side about an "uninterrupted dialogue" with his country. Experience has shown that the General and the military establishment he leads mend their ways only if they find the diplomatic, financial and military costs too high to sustain their adventurism. There is little evidence to show that the UPA government has yet devised any coherent strategy to raise the political, diplomatic and military costs for Pakistan if it persists with supporting terrorism in J&K and elsewhere in India.

General Zia-ul-Haq's son Ijaz-ul-Haq, who is the Minister for Religious Affairs, proclaimed at a function at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad on August 17: "We will not sit in peace unless the Pakistan flag is hoisted in Kashmir." He added: "Pakistan should render support to the Kashmiris at every front. India is a born enemy of Pakistan."

India has been too defensive in dealing with Pakistan on J&K. This has led to increasing Pakistani belligerence while speaking about developments on this side of the LoC. The time has now come to make India's position clear to Pakistan, when its Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri arrives in Delhi on September 5. The unanimous resolution of Parliament adopted in 1994 categorically states that the whole State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. India's negotiating strategy should, therefore, be to see how it can now get the portion of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistan's occupation, including the so-called Northern Areas, increasingly integrated with India.

Ever since 1947 both Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the so-called Northern Areas have been ruled as virtual colonies of Pakistan. They enjoy virtually no autonomy, with POK being administered by a so-called "Kashmir Council" dominated by the Federal Government. Its so-called "President" is a retired Major-General who has been a long-time crony of General Musharraf and General Aziz Khan. Similarly, people in the Shia-dominated Northern Areas have no representative institutions. The region has been in perpetual turmoil. Curfews and crackdowns by the occupying Pakistani forces are commonplace. Pakistan has constantly sought to change the sectarian composition of the Northern Areas by bringing in Sunni settlers from across the country. While Article 370 safeguards people of Jammu and Kashmir from ethnic marginalisation, the ethnic composition of POK has also been altered since 1947.

Pakistan has for long sought to use the Hurriyat Conference as its Trojan horse in Jammu and Kashmir. This conglomerate does have some distinguished figures who have genuine grievances about the fairness of the past elections in the state. It is, however, made up largely of political leaders with a limited political base. It received some support from the State Department and presumably the CIA when Ms Robin Raphael headed the South Asian Bureau. It is, however, now widely perceived to be made up of people with limited influence, most of whom depend on outside financial support and on the ability of the ISI-armed terrorists to call disruptive strikes and hartals. That is why the Kashmiris in the valley refer to the Hurriyat Conference as the "Hartal Conference".

Recognising their declining influence, a predominant section of the Hurriyat responded positively to New Delhi's offer of unconditional talks. Pakistan reacted by patronising the hardline fundamentalist Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Other Hurriyat leaders were then intimidated by not so subtle threats to their lives to abandon the path of dialogue with Delhi. Having witnessed the assassinations of Abdul Ghani Lone and the father of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq by ISI-trained terrorists, Hurriyat leaders obviously feel that discretion is the better part of valour and are fighting shy of a dialogue with New Delhi. The Pakistani aim is to subvert moves by New Delhi to widen the political space for dialogue within Kashmir.

New Delhi should adopt a two-pronged strategy in dealing with Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir. Externally, we need to highlight the absence of autonomy and democratic freedoms across the Line of Control and insist that Pakistan should hold democratic elections that meet international yardsticks in the Northern Areas and grant as much autonomy to POK and the Northern Areas as enjoyed by the government in J&K. In order to ensure that the Pakistan Army functions in a democratic manner, the Force Commander of the Northern Areas should be required to work under the orders of the elected leadership there, just as the Unified Command of the Indian forces in J&K functions under the Command of the Chief Minister.

New Delhi should also insist that settlers in POK and the Northern Areas should not enjoy any electoral rights pending a final settlement of the Kashmir issue. These should be essential prerequisites for greater dialogue between the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control. Finally, given the reluctance and fears of the Hurriyat to enter into any dialogue process with New Delhi or even to talk to fellow Kashmiris, while betraying virtual servility while talking to Pakistan Government functionaries, a process should commence to encourage Kashmiris of all political, religious and sectarian persuasions to commence an intra-Kashmiri dialogue on how they would like the peace process in Kashmir to proceed. It is obvious that old recipes will not work. The time has come for new thinking.

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A delicate mission!
by Vepa Rao

THE father was in tears: “They pronounce my daughter’s name wrongly and have forgotten even mine. Padmavati has become yajmabatti. I, instead of Vajreshwar, have become Laloo Yadav, Govinda, Sehwag, etc.” He pointed to his son Banteshwar sulking in a corner chair and the bahu curled up in the bed with a severe headache.

They had just returned from honeymoon — whispered to be rather ineffective .

“Their occupation?”

“My son is with Chak-Chak news channel and bahu works for Ji-Handy T.V “.

I smiled. The diagnosis came like a flash.

“Don’t worry, it’s just an occupational ailment “, I consoled the confused family.

“We couldn’t even go to toilet or even have a bath these last few days. No sleep either, and nothing…”, Banteshwar glanced meaningfully at me, “nothing is working out !”

“What have you been wearing ?”

“Mostly kurta, pyjama. She, of course, a saree”.

Without wasting time, I made him change into a suit with a dandy neck-tie and she moved into a flashy safari suit. Under my instructions, she changed her hair-do, and they both painted their faces heavily. “Now”, I said, “keep grinning aimlessly as you do facing the cameras at work. Keep flashing smiles and chattering away non-stop. That’s better! Now, proceed to the toilets, and try “.

They emerged a happier couple minutes later.

Disbelief was writ large on the faces all around.

I gave another instruction to the bahu. She spoke breathlessly for full five minutes — from Swamy Vivekananda’s philosophy to the plight of Iraqi prisoners and the latest shoe- shop in town. Only then could she ask us, the audience, the simple question I had given her: “Which is your favourite programme on the T.V?”

Soon, Banteshwar and wife began to feel normal.

“What about the names thing?”, the father wailed. I had to tell him gently that it was incurable. But, I assured him, it meant they were strong physically, mentally, and above all, professionally.

“But uncle, we don’t feel like eating or drinking!” Banteshwar complained.

Suddenly, we saw from the window, a shop across the road burning. They picked up a mike, ran out, and thrust the mike at the wailing family members. They plunged into asking the usual questions like: “How do you feel now? What are your future plans? Your suggestions for preventing such accidents please “ etc.

They were smiling too. I knew they would now feel like eating also. My mission was over.
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Unsafe in Himachal Pradesh
Crime against women on the rise
by Pratibha Chauhan

THE recent acid attack on a 19-year-old Shimla girl has served another reminder of the rising incidence of crime against women in Himachal Pradesh. When National Commission for Women chief Poornima Advani made a plea to the police and the Home Department to take steps not only to nab the acid attack culprits, but also to make sure such incidents were not repeated, she unwittingly invited focus on the proliferating crime against women in the state.

She said the state needed to establish a helpline for women and increase women personnel in police stations to allay fear and insecurity among girls. The generally purveyed conception about Himachal Pradesh as a peaceful, law-abiding state suffers a jolt when tested on the parameter of status of women. It is quite a shock to see the hill state ranked fourth among the states with the highest incidence of crime against women in the country.

What is most glaring about the statistics of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) is the fact that even Bihar and Uttar Pradesh rank way below Himachal Pradesh as far as crime against women is concerned.

Cases of molestation and cruelty towards women have shown an alarming rise in recent years in the state — a trend that is worrying for the law enforcement agencies as well as for sociologists.

Senior police officers tend to portray that the proliferation of such cases was particularly noticed in the districts of Kangra, Una and Hamirpur, which border Punjab. It may only be incidental though and does not necessarily reflect the impact of Punjab’s social life on the neighbouring districts of the hill state. Moreover, the NCRB data proclaim Punjab as “low” on the status of crime against Himachal’s ranking as “high”.

In fact, Punjab is at the bottom of the 15 major states surveyed by the Bureau for crime against women. Moreover, statistics reveal that besides Kangra, the districts of Mandi and Shimla too have recorded a high rate of crime against women.

The Director General of Himachal Police, Mr A.K. Puri, said: “We have set up one women cell at every district headquarters to help women come forward with their complaints.

Mr Puri says the figures also include cases of abduction and kidnapping, which are ultimately cancelled and are not reflected in the crime data. The police is also in touch with the Council for Women and Child Welfare for gender sensitisation of the police force.

The police has introduced a scheme called “Samarth Yojana” in schools and colleges under which girls are imparted 21-day training in judo-karate to equip them with basic skills to resist a molestation attempt. Ten teams of the police have been constituted.

The Additional DGP, Law and Order, Mr Anirudh Uppal, says they are not particularly concerned with statistics. "In Himachal the registration of cases is very high, mainly because anybody can approach the police which is very accessible. Schemes like Suvidha Yojna, where a complaint can be registered in any part of the state, irrespective of the place of the crime, is to encourage free registration, which is possibly one of the reasons for the high figures.”

Another factor is the rising awareness level among women. The state has a high literacy rate among women which has obviously made them aware about their rights and encouraged them to come forward to report any crime or injustice meted out to them.

The other factors contributing to the unhealthy trend of crime against women include drug abuse among men and migrant population.

The Chairperson of the State Commission for Women, Mrs Viplove Thakur, says "what is now essential is to change the mindset of men. For this we will hold interaction with them all over the state.” The State Commission for Women will shortly increase the number of helplines for women, which are already functioning at Dharamsala, Una and Banikhet in Chamba district.

Next to Kerala, Himachal Pradesh has the highest number of female-headed households — 220 per 1,000 households in the rural areas and 222 in the urban areas. Kangra district has 42.28 per cent widows, the highest among all districts.

Migration of male family members for jobs and widowhood are mostly responsible for the existence of female-headed households. Sociologists feel there is need to pay special attention towards social security and welfare of these households in general and widows with no children in particular.

The National Commission on Self Employed Women maintains that the number of women-headed households is the maximum among the poor, as a result of widowhood, migration, desertion, unemployment and drug addiction among women.

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From Pakistan
85 children in jails

ISLAMABAD: As many as 85 children, including 45 new-born, are languishing in different jails of Pakistan just because their mothers are undergoing various prison terms.

The official record shows that 45 children were born to women prisoners during the first six months of the current year. The record was provided to the Senate by the Interior Ministry in response to a question by Senator Enver Baig.

A copy of the record obtained by The Dawn showed that the number of children born to women in captivity was the highest in Punjab, followed by the NWFP and Sindh, while no births had been shown in official prison records of Balochistan.

According to the record, 11 children were born to women in captivity in the NWFP, 10 in Sindh and 24 in Punjab. As many as nine women prisoners, including seven undertrial ones and two convicts, gave births in Rawalpindi Central Jail during the current year. All these women are in the age group of 19 to 28 years. — The Dawn

Constitution to be amended

ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday agreed with the Opposition parties to amend the existing Constitution in order to address the provinces' grievances and ensure the provision of rights to the federating units, sources told The Nation here.

The government and the opposition Senators held a long meeting here and finalised the Terms of References (ToRs) under which a Special Committee of Upper House of Parliament would work out recommendations to amend the existing Constitution.

The outgoing Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujat Hussain had announced on the floor of the Senate last Monday to constitute a special committee on the Balochistan issue, and as a follow-up the ruling and treasury members held a long meeting at the office of the Senate Chairman and decided to widen its scope. — The Nation

Who cares for child rights?

Karachi: In Pakistan, children's rights, theoretically, are protected by numerous laws that incorporate elements of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). However, the existing mechanism has failed to enforce and implement these national and international laws and bindings.

This was stated during a three-day Youth Leadership Training Workshop On Child Rights that ended on August 21 at St Joseph's School organised by the Madadgaar Child Rights Club (MCRC).

At present, there are 26 schools that are members of the MCRC. This training aims at creating awareness and interest among the youth on national and international concepts of child rights. Simultaneously, it aims at harnessing the creative energies of youth by inspiring them to participate in constructive activities. The News

Water shortage feared

LAHORE: The country may suffer up to 60 per cent of water shortage if there are no flood-causing rains in the remaining monsoon season. According to the projections prepared by Punjab, the shortage may be anywhere between 50 and 60 per cent.

These calculations are based upon the current behaviour of rivers and may go wrong if there is any flood situation by mid-September, when the current monsoon season ends. The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has convened a meeting of its Technical Committee on August 31 to discuss water distribution during September and finalise projections for the next Rabi season. The Dawn

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The measure of your holiness is proportionate to the goodness of your will.

— Jan Van Ruysbroek

Prema or ecstatic love is attainable only by a few. These few are men of extraordinary powers, entrusted with a Divine commission.

— Sri Ramakrishna

Not by hatred is hatred appeased. Hatred is appeased by not-hatred. This is an eternal law.

— The Buddha

By praising the True one and adoring the Truth, I have attained the perfect Lord.

— Guru Nanak

Our creed is devotion to truth, and our business is the search and insistence on truth.

— Mahatma Gandhi

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