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EDITORIALS

400 years of Light
Adi Granth is beacon for entire humanity
Although the message of Adi Granth is eternal, the 400th year of its installation at the Golden Temple in Amritsar is a special occasion and a golden opportunity to reorient oneself to the Gurus’ teachings.

Mark of Antony
Quitting to fight another day
K
erala Chief Minister A. K. Antony’s resignation, ostensibly assuming responsibility for the Congress-led United Democratic Front’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, is unlikely to fool anyone.

Apang’s ‘home-coming’
Politics of opportunism in Arunachal
A
runachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang’s return to the Congress does not come as a surprise. Ever since the defeat of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre in the Lok Sabha elections, he has been desperately trying to return to the Congress.


EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

ARTICLE

BJP treading a dangerous ground
It must not bring Parliament into disrepute
by S. Nihal Singh
I
N trying to resolve its dilemmas, the Bharatiya Janata Party is re-defining the role of the Opposition at the federal level. For the present, it has settled on a confrontational stance, making Parliament a punching bag, throwing propriety and discretion to the winds.

MIDDLE

Magic lantern in Fatehgarh Churian
by Jamila Verghese
I
n the early nineteen hundreds we did not yearn for larger and flatter TV screens or for a huge cinema version of it. It was a time when you could imagine a fairy dressed in stars, wrapped in mist, instead of having her defined for you as a large bosomed allurer!

OPED

Dateline Washington
Iraq dominates US election
Deep divisions over foreign policy
by Ashish Kumar Sen
T
ens of thousands of protesters with differing political ideologies, ethnicities and sexual orientation marched the streets of Midtown Manhattan united by a common agenda: "No more Bush!". New York city, the venue of the Republican National Convention that runs from August 30 to September 2, has turned into a Mecca for those with a cause.

Delhi Durbar
Gearing up for talks
I
t is not just Indo-Pak cricket matches that evoke immense enthusiasm among people on either side of the border. Political-level talks too are a big hit, at least in the media.

  • Probe into rape in Manipur

  • Bansi Lal rally despite rain

  • Rubber-stamp Chief Minister

 REFLECTIONS

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400 years of Light
Adi Granth is beacon for entire humanity

Although the message of Adi Granth is eternal, the 400th year of its installation at the Golden Temple in Amritsar is a special occasion and a golden opportunity to reorient oneself to the Gurus’ teachings. Guru Granth Sahib is a treasure trove not only for the Sikhs but the entire humanity. While it is revered as a scripture, it is also a guidebook which tells everyone the precepts of noble living. The values of tolerance, harmony and peace that it enshrines are as relevant today as they were four centuries ago. Unfortunately, they are conspicuous by their absence in day-to-day life these days. These can be revived only if these are practiced as passionately as these are preached. The Great Gurus were arguably among the greatest reformers that the world has ever seen and what they taught was of relevance for all human beings and all ages. Unfortunately, lesser mortals remember their words but not their message. Guru Granth Sahib is seen as the Holy Book of the Sikhs, but there is no reason why all others should not learn and benefit from it, because its essential message is universal brotherhood.

At a time when there are schisms even among those who are otherwise committed to the Holy Book, there is need for deep and close introspection. The Gurus’ message is all-pervasive. Any attempt to give their teaching a narrow interpretation or divisive edge is not fair to their cherished memory. Let the celebrations of the anniversary be an occasion to strengthen the values of love of all mankind.

For instance, the Great Gurus always fought against rituals. In fact, their entire crusade was against the tyranny of middlemen who positioned themselves between Man and God. Similarly, they fought against differentiation between people on the basis of their religion, caste or creed. Any excesses on the oppressed were also an anathema to them. Those who swear by the words of Adi Granth must help in the eradication of all these evils from society the way Guru Sahibs themselves did. That will be the finest and the greatest obeisance to the majesty and spirit of Guru Granth Sahib.
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Mark of Antony
Quitting to fight another day

Kerala Chief Minister A. K. Antony’s resignation, ostensibly assuming responsibility for the Congress-led United Democratic Front’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, is unlikely to fool anyone. Coming a 100 days after the Congress-led UPA assumed charge at the Centre and being the only chief minister picked to play the sacrificial role, the resignation is evidently compelled by other considerations. Yet, if the Congress party has chosen to take this moral high ground, it is because the move has been dictated more by the Kerala unit’s unending internal squabbles.

No doubt, in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress drew a blank with the only one of 20 seats being bagged for the UDF by Mr E. Ahamed of the Muslim League. However, no candidate of the Muslim League is in the reckoning as Mr Antony’s successor. The hats in the ring are of the usual suspects from the Congress. Clearly, this reveals that it is the internal dissensions within the Congress unit in Kerala that have forced Mrs Gandhi’s hand to allow Mr Antony to demit office. Had it been otherwise, he should have been relieved when he asked to be – immediately after the election results. If he was not, it was because a game plan had to take into account the factional equations and neutralise dissidents like Mr K. Karunakaran who actively contributed to wrecking the party’s electoral prospects.

The choice of Mr Antony’s successor may reveal whether internal cohesion can be revived to rebuild the Kerala unit’s strength which has been dissipated in tussles of one-upmanship. One consolation is that elections are due only in 2006 and there is time to put the house in order. But Mr Antony’s critics in his party need not feel elated over his exit. He will still play a role in the Congress party —- at the Centre as well as in the state. After all, he enjoys the confidence of No. 10 Janpath.
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Apang’s ‘home-coming’
Politics of opportunism in Arunachal

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang’s return to the Congress does not come as a surprise. Ever since the defeat of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre in the Lok Sabha elections, he has been desperately trying to return to the Congress. Moreover, politics in the North-Eastern states almost always revolves around the Chief Ministers’ bid to stay close to the party in power at the Centre. This was precisely the reason why Mr Apang, then heading a regional party called the Arunachal Congress, engineered defections in the Congress last year, toppled the Mukut Mithi government and joined the BJP. The announcement of the State Assembly elections on October 7 provided a perfect setting for Mr Apang to announce his “home-coming” after a gap of eight years.

It would be premature to say to what extent Mr Apang’s return would help the Congress’ prospects in the elections. The state Congress party president and former Chief Minister, Mr Mukut Mithi, and Mr Apang do not see eye to eye ever since the latter ousted the former in a dramatic coup last year. Mr Mukut reportedly resisted Mr Apang’s return to the Congress. It would be interesting to watch whether both would bury the hatchet now and jointly work for the success of the Congress in the ensuing elections.

Arunachal Pradesh has been a victim of politics of opportunism. Frequent change of governments in small states do affect the pace of development. Though the Anti-Defection Law has been made more stringent to prevent defections from one party to another, there is a need to check large-scale defections so that small states are saved from the self-serving nature of opportunistic politicians and enjoy a fair amount of political stability for development. 
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Thought for the day

One religion is as true as another.

— Robert Burton
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BJP treading a dangerous ground
It must not bring Parliament into disrepute
by S. Nihal Singh

IN trying to resolve its dilemmas, the Bharatiya Janata Party is re-defining the role of the Opposition at the federal level. For the present, it has settled on a confrontational stance, making Parliament a punching bag, throwing propriety and discretion to the winds. Often, it appeared during the Budget session that the BJP believed it was doing a favour to the country to participate in Parliament’s proceedings.

Regrettably, Opposition parties have often disturbed parliamentary proceedings, but never before has a principal Opposition party behaved in as bizarre a fashion as the BJP has over an extended period. Every perceived slight was exaggerated into a crisis worthy of boycotts of one kind or another, starting with the Finance Minister’s Budget presentation. The removal of a plaque of Veer Savarkar from the Cellular Jail became a cause celebre and the serving of an arrest warrant by a Karnataka court on Ms Uma Bharati, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, was reason enough to compel Parliament to shut shop.

Amazingly, the BJP proposed that the Budget be passed without detailed discussion. A reluctant government agreed, but on the eve of the passage of the Budget, an Opposition delegation led by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr L.K. Advani, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to present a memorandum suggesting changes in the Budget proposals. The task of parliamentary debate was sought to be usurped through a backroom deal. When the Prime Minister refused to accept the memorandum, Mr George Fernandes of the National Democratic Alliance cried blue murder, saying that the gentle-mannered Prime Minister had been unspeakably rude.

The Opposition then boycotted Parliament’s proceedings the next day. Even more extraordinarily, the BJP brought out its big gun, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who fully endorsed Mr Fernandes’ verdict. Given his stature, one would have expected the former Prime Minister to moderate the almost childish stance of the NDA. Instead, he stoked the fire. Which leads one to believe that the party was following a prepared script: create a crisis for the new government by making life as difficult for it as possible.

It has been universally acknowledged that the BJP has not been able to reconcile itself to its defeat in a general election it had assumed all along was in its pocket. Introspection on the defeat at various levels has not brought the party peace of mind. Instead of framing a plan of action to improve its standing and organisation, the BJP seems to have come to the conclusion that its salvation lies in attacking the government on every conceivable topic to compound its problems of governance.

Having been outsmarted by Ms Sonia Gandhi, who declined the Prime Minister’s office, the ladies’ brigade of the BJP led by Ms Bharati and Ms Sushma Swaraj, went to town by attacking the Congress president for allegedly instigating the Karnataka arrest warrant. One has only to recall the dire promises of performing penance made by these two ladies if Ms Gandhi were to assume the Prime Minister’s mantle. The BJP leaders seem to believe that emotional and evocative fulminations against Congress leaders will serve to blacken their image. The Opposition opened its account by campaigning against “tainted” ministers in the Cabinet, turning a blind eye to the distinguished men in the NDA galaxy.

The BJP is treading on dangerous ground if it has decided to sacrifice the principles of parliamentary government to try to enthuse its troops. The problems facing the party are clear enough. There is the obvious demand from the hardliners to return to the Ayodhya path. Equally, the prospect of returning to power is inevitably tied to the party’s resolve to refrain from taking a radical road. The BJP’s mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, imposes its own straitjacket while the more extreme elements of the Sangh Parivar have their own agenda.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment of the BJP’s conduct since it lost the general election has been the performance of Mr Vajpayee. First, there was the flip-flop over his assessment of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi. Subsequently, he has periodically emerged in public to propagate the narrowest interests of his party. It is a salutary tradition in a democracy to give a new government the first 100 days to settle in.

As the Prime Minister himself has confessed, he has had a rough ride. To begin with, he took office under exceptional circumstances and has had to contend with working with the Congress president who has bequeathed him the top job. Second, a Congress-led government was viable only on the strength of a disparate set of parties, the Left ultimately deciding to stay out of the Cabinet. The dual centres of power have also meant lax discipline among Congress members of the government. Some ministers have been maladroit in enunciating policy and have not quite weighed the repercussions of their moves and statements.

But the BJP must bear the prime responsibility for its extraordinary behaviour during Mr Manmohan Singh’s first 100 days. To make a mockery of Parliament day after day is not a sign of maturity. Nor can the BJP win friends and influence people by giving the impression that its adherence to the tenets of parliamentary democracy is flexible depending upon its own prospects. The induction of new leaders and classes in the Indian system — the triumph of Indian democracy — has already imposed new burdens on governance. We do not need the calculated tantrums of the erstwhile ruling party to make the system harder to work.

Perhaps the distress and despair of the electorate in reacting to the BJP’s conduct in Parliament and outside it will serve to induce second thoughts among the party’s leaders in the parliamentary recess. The media — both print and electronic — have played their role in highlighting the Opposition’s irresponsibility and the cavalier way in which it has wasted the crores of rupees in tax-payers’ money it costs to run Parliament each day. Beyond the money, it would be a sad day if politicians were to succeed in bringing the institution into disrepute.
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Magic lantern in Fatehgarh Churian
by Jamila Verghese

In the early nineteen hundreds we did not yearn for larger and flatter TV screens or for a huge cinema version of it. It was a time when you could imagine a fairy dressed in stars, wrapped in mist, instead of having her defined for you as a large bosomed allurer! We read our comics and enjoyed the antics of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the gap-toothed Goofy, excitedly watching them later in life on a black and white screen.

Life nowadays would be unthinkable without the latest incarnations of a telephone. Earlier, only the rich and famous owned them. In early school, we wrote on a wooden slate with a reed pen, a qalam. The inkpot and pen with a nib came later. Good handwriting got you good marks from a bleary eyed examiner, dipped in ink. A fountain pen was a birthday present to wonder at, especially a Parker! Even that had to be refilled with the best Quink or later with Swan ink.

The installation of our first gramophone which needed rewinding and a change of needle for each 78 rpm record, became a family celebration. Ours was a present for my eldest sister, on her 16th birthday. She stands shyly in our family album, half hidden by the open gramophone.

The occasional Magic lantern shows that came to Fatehgarh Churian and Mama’s baby organ with foot pedals were our greatest delights. Winter brought us special joy. We hugged our fireplace in the drawing room, cracking walnuts, peanuts and chilghoza (pine nuts), faces ablaze and frozen backs. Somewhere between all this, a great deal of homework was fitted in, supervised by mama, a professional teacher.

The hot dry summers with the cumbersome, white frilly punkah hanging under the ceiling, that moved to the command of the punkah wallah’s rope, expertly manipulated by his great toe as he squatted out in the verandah.

The summer dust storms had us whirring around with the swooshing winds: The red dust of the “lal aandhi”, and the yellow sky of the “peeli aandhi” would set our teeth on edge. The shout “kaali aandhi!” would send us scurrying through the darkening rooms, pulling at the tangled strings of the many skylights, to secure them against the threatening storm! Work accomplished, we would run out shrieking like banshees!. The wind would pick us up and shake us like puppies, laughing and spluttering. Suddenly it would tire of the game. The stinging thunder shower that always followed filled us with renewed energy.

Next, the race to the compound hand pump. My sisters would pump the handle, while I jumped up and down under the wonderful flow of water! But before we could get back into the house, we would lie flat on the ground inhaling the wonderful sweet fresh scent of our clean, wet, storm-blown earth.

Next came our cleaning of the lamps for the evening. The largest and most impressive was the Petromax. This awesome object was handled entirely by our father. The lamp’s white mantel gleamed purple white when daddy pumped the lamp. The tiny bedside lamp was my own special duty. I loved making it shine with Brasso and rubbed it with a special soft cloth and then with old paper, but I was too small to fill it with kerosene.

The charpais, our string cots, came out next, and we all did our own bed. It was fun stretching the mosquito nets between crossed poles at the head and foot of each cot. Next, the net tops were tied on to the poles and the bottoms tucked under the bedding, to the chagrin of the singing mosquitoes. All Out had not been invented yet, and Flit got dispersed in the open compound.

A routine Lifebuoy soap bath and a change into comfortable clothes. The Murshidabad brass gong was struck, calling us to the folding dining table in the garden . Here the Petromax reigned supreme , as we assembled to sing a grace before our meal. The air was filled with the tangy aroma of the Niazbo bushes against the wall between us and DAV School. The school cat on his wall and our dog at a safe distance from daddy’s formidable kicking leg, stayed alert for any delicacy surreptitiously slipped under the table by us.

Later, lying down under the mosquito nets, the brilliant stars hung like a benediction over us. Jeetoo our chowkidar’s occasional shout alerted all hopeful miscreants. Daddy’s snores, and the tick tock of his timepiece on the stool by his bed, and an occasional gleam from his tall Eveready torch assured us that all was well with the world and God and daddy were in charge.

What more could one have asked of life?
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Dateline Washington
Iraq dominates US election
Deep divisions over foreign policy
by Ashish Kumar Sen

Tens of thousands of protesters with differing political ideologies, ethnicities and sexual orientation marched the streets of Midtown Manhattan united by a common agenda: "No more Bush!"

New York city, the venue of the Republican National Convention that runs from August 30 to September 2, has turned into a Mecca for those with a cause. Over the weekend, the city's streets have teemed with demonstrators marching against what they saw as a transparent ploy by President George W Bush and the Republican Party to exploit the tragedy of September 11, 2001, for political gain.

America and the world

Organisers had expected 250,000 people to participate in the marches. By Sunday evening, with Manhattan's streets overwhelmed by a display of disaffection, they concurred the turnout had exceeded their wildest expectations.

The war in Iraq, oil and the absence of weapons of mass destruction were predominant themes emblazoned across placards, banners and T-shirts. Several people carried flag-draped, coffin-shaped boxes symbolising the continuing American casualties in Iraq.

For the first time since the Vietnam era, foreign affairs and national security issues are looming larger than economic concerns in a presidential election. The September 11 attacks and the two wars that followed not only raised the stakes for voters as they consider their choice for President, but also created deep divisions and conflicting sentiments over U.S. foreign policy in a troubled time.

A nationwide survey of foreign policy attitudes by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, conducted in association with the Council on Foreign Relations, found dissatisfaction with Iraq shaping opinions about foreign policy as much, if not more than, Americans' concerns over terrorism.

Americans are acutely aware of and worried about the loss of international respect for the United States given disillusionment over Iraq. The Pew survey found that two-thirds say the United States is less respected by other countries than in the past.

The country's growing unpopularity across the globe was evident this weekend when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was forced to cancel a visit to Athens in the face of massive anti-American protests in the Greek capital.

In New York, Manhattan deejay DJ Rekha has re-christened her popular Thursday night Basement Bhangra. "Bhangra Against Bush" has attracted a crowd whose passion for bhangra rivals its yearning to see President Bush out of job.

"We are putting all our energies into getting Bush out of office and also opposing the war that's going on," DJ Rekha told a local publication. "This is the way I articulate my policies by doing what I do. I think the most effective way people can make change is to make change from where they are standing."

Last week another event with a distinct South Asian flavour was organised in downtown Manhattan. Sholay Productions, an entertainment company that caters to New York city's vibrant South Asian gay and lesbian community, organised a "Bye Bye Bush" fund-raising dance. A "hard core Democrat," Sholay Productions co-founder Ashu Rai said: "I wonder what's going to happen to us, as immigrants, and to the entire world in general, if Bush is re-elected. It's very worrisome."

The Republican convention is being held at Madison Square Garden, a short distance from the site where the World Trade Center once stood. Incidentally, the gala comes a few days before the third anniversary of the attacks that reduced the twin towers to a heap of smoking debris.

Critics of the Bush administration have questioned the timing of the convention and the choice of New York as the host city. Many residents of the predominantly Democratic city complain New York has been "exploited" by the Bush administration. "They are using 9/11 as an excuse to further their own right-wing agenda," is a common refrain.

The "war on terror" that followed the attacks on September 11 has been a relentless refrain of the Bush administration and the centerpiece of the President's re-election campaign.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who spent a good portion of time at an unspecified location following the terrorist attacks, will speak at the convention on Wednesday. On September 2, Mr Bush will accept his party's nomination for a second term in office and lay out his agenda for the next four years.
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Delhi Durbar
Gearing up for talks

It is not just Indo-Pak cricket matches that evoke immense enthusiasm among people on either side of the border. Political-level talks too are a big hit, at least in the media.

Who knows this better than the External Publicity (XP) Division of the Ministry of External Affairs? It has sought a special permission from the Prime Minister’s Office for sparing the Ball Room of Hyderabad House for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan.

The Foreign Minister-level talks are scheduled to be held in Delhi on September 5 and 6. The reason: the Ball Room is more spacious and the MEA expects scribes and cameramen dotting every square inch of Hyderabad House for covering the event. Since the Ball Room is reserved for the Prime Minister, the PMO’s permission is a must.

Probe into rape in Manipur

While the Army claimed earlier last week that the Assam Rifles personnel accused of rape and murder of Manorama Devi in Manipur have been “made available” to the Justice C Upendra Enquiry Commission going into the incident, the fact was that the men failed to make it for in-camera statements at Imphal on August 26.

The Army had sought in- camera statements of the men as a result of the security situation prevailing in Manipur. The release also said that should any individual be found guilty, the Army would initiate strict disciplinary action against the accused.

Bansi Lal rally despite rain

Haryana Vikas Party chief Bansi Lal was quite unsparing in his criticism at the SYL Sangarsh Rally held in the Capital recently. The rally, held amid heavy downpour, saw the former Chief Minister hit out at the INLD, the Congress and the BJP in varying degrees.

The difficulties faced by the audience due to heavy rain provoked the HVP chief to admonish the organisers too. “They are zalim (cruel). They could have fixed the rally ten days later after the monsoon was over,” he said. The candidness was not lost on the assembled gathering who listened to him till the end under umbrellas.

Rubber-stamp Chief Minister

When Babulal Gaur succeeded Uma Bharti as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, many in BJP circles felt that the former would be Uma’s Paneerselvem. Paneerselvam who? In case the readers have forgotten, Paneerselvam was the rubber-stamp CM of Tamil Nadu for a brief period when Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had stepped down due to her conviction in a corruption case. Paneerselvam used to admit himself that he was a rubber-stamp CM and he consulted Jayalalithaa before taking any decision.

Gaur was quick to announce that he would resign the moment Uma Bharti is cleared of the case or out of jail. But a section of the Gaur-watchers differs with this rather uncharitable comparison and insists that time would prove that Gaur is not the north Indian edition of Paneerselvam.

This became evident when Gaur demonstrated his free hand while constituting his Council of Ministers. He effected a few changes and dropped a few ministers. This when none other than the “Lauh Purush” L K Advani had directed Gaur not to tinker with Bharti’s Council of Ministers.

Rajeev Sharma, Girja Shankar Kaura, Prashant Sood, S. Satyanarayanan
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Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

— Mahatma Gandhi

The day and the sun, the night and the moon, and the innumerable stars shall pass away. God alone is eternal and shall stay for ever…Nanak tells the truth.

— Guru Nanak

Let us not be justices of the peace but angels of peace.

— Saint Therese of Lisieux

Let a man be a Christian in the matter of mercy, a Muslim in the matter of strict observance of external forms, and a Hindu in the matter of universal charity, charity towards all living creatures.

— Sri Ramakrishna

He who is most slow in making a promise is the most faithful in its performance.

— Rousseau 
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