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Perspective

BJP opting for divisive politics
Advani’s rath yatra
by Shastri Ramachandaran
L
.K. Advani probably believes that it is better to journey hopefully than to arrive. The retired BJP president has seized upon the Varanasi bomb blasts to announce yet another yatra. It says a lot for Mr Advani’s never-say-die spirit.

On Record
JIC will impart rigour to the system: Nambiar
by Satish Misra
T
HE revival of the Joint Intelligence Committee is timely, says Deputy National Security Adviser Vijay Kunhianandan Nambiar, who is going to join UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as a Special Adviser.


EARLIER STORIES

PM flags off peace offer
March 25, 2006
Sonia outwits the BJP
March 24, 2006
Dialogue with Dhaka
March 23, 2006
Eleven years after
March 22, 2006
BJP’s creed — Intolerance
March 21, 2006
Fuel for Tarapur
March 20, 2006
Need to practice secularism in letter and spirit
March 19, 2006
A soft budget
March 18, 2006
EC gets tough
March 17, 2006
Jessica case goes to HC
March 15, 2006
The delivery of justice
March 14, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Burning issues without resolution
by Maj-Gen Himmat Singh Gill (retd)
I
T is with considerable pain that one has to point out the double standards of successive governments in Punjab and the Centre on some issues concerning the rural strata and poorer sections of society in Chandigarh.

OPED

Profile
Kunjarani: Going from strength to strength
by Harihar Swarup
T
HE year 2001 was the darkest period for Kunjarani Devi. She was stripped of her bronze amidst ignominy in the Asian weightlifting championship held in South Korea. It was hard to believe but she was tested positive in a drug test. In sharp contrast, 2006 turned out to be the brightest.

Reflections
Letter from inside a prison
by Kiran Bedi
I
am sharing herewith contents of a letter I received by post, from a (just) released prisoner. The letter is an eyewitness account of what happened to him inside the prison while he was there for about a month. And whatever else that generally goes on inside the prison despite all the layers of ‘supervisors’ and ‘supervisions’ we have created.

Diversities — Delhi Letter
Armed conflicts and the turbulence around
by Humra Quraishi
A
S conflicts, internal and external, are on the rise, there is the whole new set of debate on how to go about reporting those conflicts. This week there is coming up a two-day session of senior editors of the sub-continent wherein.


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BJP opting for divisive politics
Advani’s rath yatra
by Shastri Ramachandaran

L.K. Advani probably believes that it is better to journey hopefully than to arrive. The retired BJP president has seized upon the Varanasi bomb blasts to announce yet another yatra. It says a lot for Mr Advani’s never-say-die spirit. He is out to impress that he, more than any other person or party (including his own BJP) represents the Opposition to the United Progressive Alliance led by Dr Manmohan Singh.

The Prime Minister, however, may have no cause to lose sleep over Mr Advani’s promised pilgrimage. Contrary to the general perception of the good doctor Manmohan Singh being hard put to cope with the competing pulls and pressures of the not-so-good forces, he is doing pretty well for himself, the Congress party, the UPA and even the Left. If politics is the art of managing contradictions, and the competition, then so far, Dr Singh has shown himself to be far more adept at it than quite a few of his predecessors.

His biggest advantage is his personality. The so-called political deficit of charisma is actually an asset. He does not arouse any passion — for or against himself — which makes him the Prime Minister of the thinking classes, never mind what these classes think of his policies. His political persona does not lend itself as a target for those who may mobilise people on emotive or divisive issues. This frees him from expending time and energy on posturing or popularity contests; and denies his opponents a chance to draw him in to the ring for political sparring as a spectacle.

As a result, his opposition becomes that to which his party gives credence as the opposition. The BJP may be the elected, and recognised, Opposition in Parliament, but Dr Manmohan Singh’s, and the UPA’s, chosen opposition is his ally — the Left parties. The Left and the Congress are playing the ‘good-guy, bad-guy’ role to such perfection that the BJP is left with little standing room or visibility on the political stage. In fact, it is deprived of any role that can set it apart from the contenders already crowding the scene. This is, indeed, fortuitous for Dr Manmohan Singh and the Congress, and frustrating for the BJP.

The Left has proved to be a friendly yet fighting opposition. This brings to mind the situation in Andhra Pradesh, in 1984, when Indira Gandhi had toppled Telugu Desam Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao. All parties from the BJP and Janata Party on the right to the CPM and CPI rallied to the cause of pillorying the Congress and reinstating NTR. After resuming office, NTR embraced all these parties as “the friendly Opposition” — a contradiction in terms, but of great value in reinforcing anti-Congressism as well as keeping the Opposition as an ally.

The Left has not brought this concept and practice of a “friendly opposition” to the national level — where it is the acknowledged conductor of the UPA. No doubt, the conductor blows the whistle when the bus recurrently swerves from its charted course; but, when the bus does move forward, he gets as much credit as the man in the driving seat for sticking to the route; or, at least, for not aborting the journey. The driver-conductor drama is so absorbing that any opposition — oncoming traffic, in this case — has little chance of getting any attention, including from the passengers and onlookers. The conductor simply does not allow for a collision, because he is the first to stop the bus and pick a fight with the driver, leaving the others to either keep away or line up behind one of the two.

The analogy is apt for the situation in which the BJP finds itself. Ever since Dr Manmohan Singh assumed office as Prime Minister, the BJP has had to fight to be heard or seen in the din raised by the Left. The BJP hogs the headlines only for what goes wrong in the party — from Mr Advani’s ‘rediscovery of Jinnah and a partyman’s sexploits to the MPs involved in the cash-for-questions scandal or the ‘expulsive’ tantrums of Ms Uma Bharti and Mr Madan Lal Khurana.

From the nuclear deal with the US and the Iran vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency to Central Election Commissioner Navin Chawla’s ‘trust’ and to criticism of economic policy, the Left clamour has made the BJP remain unheard. Even when the initiative is taken by the BJP, as in the case of Mr Chawla, the Left usurps the issue.

That leaves the BJP with the option of either lending its voice to the Left-led opposition chorus or, by default, supporting the UPA. This is a cruel dilemma, particularly when the BJP’s change of helmsman attracted more attention for Mr Advani’s exit — and the manner of his primacy being devalued — than Mr Rajnath Singh taking charge. Till today, Mr Rajnath Singh is yet to make a public impact of the kind expected of the head of the main Opposition to the Congress. Much to his chagrin, post-Varanasi, it is as Mr Advani’s fellow yatri that Mr Rajnath Singh has got a bit of the spotlight.

As much as Dr Manmohan Singh, the Left may well revel in the paradox of its being ally, supporter, flak-absorber and Opposition to the UPA — in Parliament, on policy and in the streets. Those who feel that if the Left opposes something then Dr Manmohan Singh must be on the right track, willy-nilly end up backing the government.

Though the Left has manoeuvred to contrive a situation where it is the opposition, it is the main prop to the UPA. Of late, the Left feels little need to brandish the threat of “withdrawing support” when it differs with the government; after all, over-use can kill the efficacy of any weapon; so comfortable is it with its multiple roles. As flak-taker for the UPA, the Left serves the purpose through limited partnerships with those scorned by the Congress from drifting towards the BJP. The Left also keeps in line constituents of the UPA, as for example, the Nationalist Congress Party, when they want to stand apart from the Congress party.

The communist parties have always wielded an influence on the national scene that is out of all proportion to their numerical strength in Parliament, or presence in states. The UPA, and the Congress, are now further reinforcing this influence, and the presence of a talking head from the communist parties is now de rigeur even in conclaves of industry and business.

The Left may be wrong, but it is keeping all the right company. A dismayed BJP leadership, feeling ineffectual if not isolated, has returned to stir the cauldron of divisive politics. The proposed rath yatra, in both intent and effect, can only foment communal tensions, if not conflict. A ‘Shining India’ surely did not mean the blinding effect of sunlight on a million gleaming tridents.

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On Record
JIC will impart rigour to the system: Nambiar
by Satish Misra

V.K. Nambiar
V.K. Nambiar

THE revival of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) is timely, says Deputy National Security Adviser Vijay Kunhianandan Nambiar, who is going to join UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as a Special Adviser. Mr Nambiar has been looking at the national security scenario from close quarters for several decades having been India’s Ambassador to Pakistan, China and Afghanistan. After the Kargil conflict and 9/11, he manned the National Security Council Secretariat as its Secretary and then became the DNSA in April, 2005. In a frank and candid interview at his office, he speaks at length about national security.

Excerpts:

Q: How is the national security scenario today?

A: As the country grows economically and makes forward movement towards its intrinsic potential, challenges to its security and integrity are posed from various quarters. Internationally too, India has to play a bigger role. In this scenario, security needs to be viewed in the long, middle and short term perspective.

Q: What is the significance of the JIC’s revival?

A: When the NSC was set up in 1999, the JIC secretariat was re-designated as the NSC secretariat and its substructures. It was also mandated to continue with its original charter regarding coordination and assessment of intelligence. But as the NSC became occupied with the long-term energy security threats, environmental terrorism, dwindling water resources and security, original functions of preparing authentic and agreed assessment was lost out in the overall functioning.

Q: What was the impact of the Kargil war?

A: The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) pointed out that 45 vital intelligence inputs available before Pakistan launched the operation were ignored for want of a mechanism which could process them and make an agreed assessment. It underlined the need for an institutionalised intelligence coordination. The Task Force on the Intelligence Apparatus headed by former Jammu and Kashmir Governor G.C. Saxena and other members including the present NSA, M.K. Narayanan, set up by the GoM to examine the functioning of the intelligence apparatus recommended measures for improvement. It had suggested that the NSCS be divided into two separate divisions, the National Intelligence Assessment Wing and the Policy Wing. The Task Force had envisaged a dedicated group of analysts looking at intelligence matters to improve the end product. Meanwhile, 9/11 happened.

Q: Where was the problem?

A: Unfortunately, the critical recommendation of the Task Force was not implemented at that juncture. After the UPA government assumed power, NSA M.K. Narayanan drew Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attention to this crucial need. On Dr Singh’s advice, the NSA carried out the intelligence mechanism and examined various models. He found that the intelligence assessment needed a careful scrutiny of inputs which required the involvement of all agencies. The JIC mechanism was considered most suitable.

Q: How does the present JIC differ from the old mechanism?

A: The JIC, which will have intelligence inputs from all national intelligence agencies which include defence and technical agencies also, will process all the inputs. It will then provide a composite picture of the developments requiring attention of the policy makers. The JIC will analyse and assess intelligence reports and prepare the agreed all source assessments on critical national security issues. As earlier, the present JIC will comprise members nominated by intelligence agencies. The members must ensure that their agency remained sensitive to the JIC requirement.

The JIC members, having ranks of Additional Secretary or Special Secretary, in their respective organisations, would meet frequently under the chairmanship of JIC and approve all source assessments prepared by the JIC Wing. Additional agencies could be invited if necessary and organisations like the CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB etc would be requested to nominate nodal officers at the level of Additional DG who would be associated with the JIC work if required. We feel that such a mechanism will impart a certain rigour to the intelligence system process and eventually have a positive impact on national security policy making as well.

Q: Do you agree with the charge that the JIC would become a dumping ground for IPS officials?

A: First of all the present JIC chairman is not a retired official. Dr S.D. Pradhan is not an IPS official. He has a rich academic experience and is a professional intelligence analyst. He has worked in the intelligence set up and brings with him a deep and penetrating understanding of strategic and security issues as well as the process of converting intelligence inputs into final assessment. He has worked both in the NSC and the JIC for about two decades. By no stretch of imagination the JIC could be a dumping ground.

Q: What is the supervising mechanism over the JIC?

A: There is an oversight mechanism. Till now an element of accountability was missing. Now, a peer review mechanism under the NSA, which includes inter alia Principal Secretary and Cabinet Secretary, has been put in place which would ensure that intelligence inputs are owned and made accountable. It would also ensure that all inputs are made available to the JIC.

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Burning issues without resolution
by Maj-Gen Himmat Singh Gill (retd)

IT is with considerable pain that one has to point out the double standards of successive governments in Punjab and the Centre on some issues concerning the rural strata and poorer sections of society in Chandigarh. When day after day the Jessica Lal case is being debated in the media, the miscarriage of justice concerning a large segment of the Punjabis is not taken note of by the busybodies in the government and the media or the upholders of law and propriety in the country.

Three cases will suffice. First, the farmers’ agitation for reasonable Minimum support price for their crops. Capt Amarinder Singh is lucky that Punjab Capital is Chandigarh, a Union Territory. Otherwise, his government would not have been allowed to function because of its attitude towards the farmers.

Erratic monsoons, long standing debts on fertilisers and tractor loans, high cost of diesal, uncertain power supply to the tube wells and a MSP that does not even cover the input costs, have spelt doom for the Punjabi farmer who wastes his time growing foodgrains for the country. What do they get in return? Parkash Singh Badal and others should take note of this. What incentive has the Centre given to the farmers? If the Punjabi farmer dies, so will India.

Secondly, 22,000 families of the 1984 anti-ikh riot victims are yet to get compensation for losses to life, limb and property. What have the governments of Punjab, Centre and the SGPC done for their welfare? If the state government has received the money, who is scuttling the timely payment to the recipients, some many of whom tried the other day to immolate themselves.

Are middle level functionaries siphoning off the money? Are the victims being harassed by unnecessary detail and paper work? Why has a White Paper on the latest position in this case not been presented in the current Budget session of the Punjab Assembly? Polo matches, cultural festivals and Indo-Pak Punjabi conferences are okay, but we must also attend to crucial problems.

Thirdly, the Zee TV feature that some radical Sikhs will again take to terrorism by 2007is unfortunate. When Punjab is a peaceful state and when the stigma of a disturbed state is likely to be removed in the near future, how has a national TV channel been permitted to air such an offensive feature which has no basis or truth. What are the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, the Punjab Chief Minister, the Home Minister, the Press Council of India and the SGPC doing about this presentation? If any channel or individual has any information or intelligence about anti-national elements, should not this be handed over to the Home Ministry for further verification, before it starts claiming it as a scoop?

It is time all well meaning Indians, especially those in power, stared to resolve issues rather than covering up or forgetting them.

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Profile
Kunjarani: Going from strength to strength
by Harihar Swarup

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiTHE year 2001 was the darkest period for Kunjarani Devi. She was stripped of her bronze amidst ignominy in the Asian weightlifting championship held in South Korea. It was hard to believe but she was tested positive in a drug test. In sharp contrast, 2006 turned out to be the brightest. Kunjarani bagged India’s first gold at the Commonwealth Games at Melbourne. The five-year period — from Seoul to Melbourne — has been gruelling for her. She had taken her disgrace to heart and all her energies were directed towards one goal — to excel at the Commonwealth games. She would get up before sunrise and rigorously practice. Nothing, rain or thunder, would stop her.

Simultaneously, as Assistant Commandant in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), her day-long duty has been strenuous but she never paused. For a woman to survive in competitive sport till the age of 38 is indeed a feat and Kunjarani performed this phenomenal task. A quiet confidence reflected in her eyes as she emplaned for Melbourne leading the Indian squad.

Peering from behind thick lenses, this CRPF officer, could pass for a scholar. She may not have distinguished herself for any bookish knowledge but has done enough with weight lifting bars to earn a Ph.D in weightlifting. For her durability alone, an award after her name, like Dhyan Chand Award, deserves to be instituted.

Tough disciplines like weightlifting or boxing are not seen to be as glamorous as, say, tennis, which has fetched Sania Mirza far greater media exposure and even state honours like a Padma Shri before her time. It is fashionable to talk about Sania, her tennis, her skirts and T-shirts and ear rings rather that the feats of a Kunjarani Rani, the girl hailing from Manipur, a tiny state of North-East.

There are many little known facets of this iron woman. Kunjarani is one of nine siblings of her parent and was born tough. Even in her school days, she evinced great interest in a variety of sports and they included hockey, football and athletics. Why did she choose weight lifting? It was because she loved to lift heavy objects and throw them as far as she could. She enjoyed it.

Of all persons, it was her mother who spotted the weight lifting acumen in her and encouraged the daughter. Kunjarani gave up her interest in other sports and focused her energy on power lifting. Her progress was steady as she won the national title in power in 1993 in the 44-kg classification. But power lifting was not an Olympic sport and Kunjarani’s ambition was to go places. She moved on to weightlifting in 1985 and won the national championship that very year. Melbourne shows she is still going strong.

Kunjarani is, possibly, the only woman lifter with a record of winning a medal in every competition. She has the distinction of being the first Gold Medallist in the Commonwealth Championship in 1995. That was the year she was ranked World Number one. She has won 51 medals on the international stage and received full recognition for her achievements in weight lifting.

At home, she was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1990, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the country’s highest sports honour, in 1996 and the K.K. Birla Sports Award. Unfortunately, in between she injured her knee. It appeared it would be the end of her promising career, but she recovered before long with her sheer will power. She was in the ring again.

In the international sphere, her achievements have been spectacular. After winning three silvers in Manchester in 1889, she went on to win seven silver medals at the world meets — from Bulgaria and Turkey to China and Poland. She bagged a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1988. She won two golds at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. Kunjarani had joined the CRPF soon after graduation and made waves in the Police Championships and captained the Indian Police team from 1996 to 1998.

Waves of joy swept Imphal, the birthplace of Kunjarani, as the TV channels flashed the news of her feat at Melbourne, accompanied by her photograph. Lamps were lit up to mark her victory. Her mother was the proudest person as she was the one who had first spotted the talent in her daughter. She would like Kunjarani to retire now that she has reached the peak but her eyes, say her CRPF colleagues, is set on higher achievement — the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

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Reflections
Letter from inside a prison
by Kiran Bedi

I am sharing herewith contents of a letter I received by post, from a (just) released prisoner. The letter is an eyewitness account of what happened to him inside the prison while he was there for about a month. And whatever else that generally goes on inside the prison despite all the layers of ‘supervisors’ and ‘supervisions’ we have created.

The name of the prisoner and the prison is obviously protected for known reasons. Hence for the sake of this article the name of the prison be read as ABC.

The letter is in the words of the prisoner. (Now free). I quote:

“I happened to be one of the inmates of prison ABC. I was inside the prison for the past about one month. I am a highly qualified professional, presently unemployed. During my stay in the ABC, I observed gross mismanagement and exploitation going on inside the jail. I have written to all possible higher authorities. There may or may not be any outcome of this information.

“I am a non-smoker and the practice of smoking beedis is very much prevalent in the state. I requested the judicial magistrate (in whose court my case was being heard) asking him if he can instruct about this thing so that I am kept separately in a non-smoking area. He expressed his helplessness, but asked me to make a personal request to the jail superintendent. While inside the jail, nobody allowed me to meet the jail superintendent and my request was not heeded to at any level inside the jail. Finally I had to put up with other undertrials who were smoking all the time. I had severe headache during all my stay at the jail and had to spend time by keeping a handkerchief on my nose. I was a passive smoker and my body reacted badly to it. I am still recovering from this passive smoking.

“I want guidance from you as to where should I represent my case so that there are separate cells in jails for non-smokers. This is a significant issue these days because there is already a ‘hue and cry’ about smoking bans in films, public places, and public transport etc, but nothing has been done or said about this in jails.

“Madam, on some other issues, the prison is a den of corruption. The extortion process starts right at the entrance where searches take place. The person searching the incoming prisoners takes away the money and coupons are given for much lesser value than the actual amount. The contractor prisoners (known as numberdars) pay hefty amounts to jail administration and in turn extort much higher amount from the inmates.

“The inmates (the new arrivals) are forced to do heavy labour and other odd jobs, such as carrying bagfuls of wheat grain on their heads, useless spading on the vacant ground. Even the elderly prisoners are not spared. If anybody resists he is abused in choicest expletives and beaten by the numberdars of the ward.

“The food at the jail is another area which is most neglected. The tea given to the jail inmates is just hot water with hardly any milk or sugar. Infested and poor quality wheat grain is procured. The chapattis made of this poor quality wheat flour are very hard to digest. Stale chapattis are also served sometimes. The cooked vegetables meant for the jail inmates are such that even an animal would shun these…

“…The jail inmates are threatened if they complain anything to the Jail Superintendent during his visit. The Commissioner and other competent authorities also visit the jail but they hardly bother to check up the actual situation and just complete the formality…” (Unquote).

I have given only partial contents of the letter. There is much more still. But this is enough to ask basic questions on the quality of supervision the supervisors offer. And it is not one agency as one can see. There is more than one. But is there no one to detect these wrongs? Are they so difficult to detect? Are these not visible? Or impossible and hidden?

In fact, all these malpractices are writ large. The supervisors and visitors ought to be there often by surprise as well as announced. They ought to do test-checks of things as they are and as they exist.

In this case all that the visitors had to do was to visit the prison kitchen and take the tea as it is served and the food as cooked and distributed. They just have to talk to some prisoners separately and hear them out. All of this was simple and easy. In this case the prisoner did make a request to the court. Instead of doing something on his own or from an independent authority, the complainant was directed to the same supervisor who was inaccessible.

The real problem in supervision is that it has become distant, inaccessible, non-communicative, insensitive and apathetic. It is hierarchical. It thinks talking to ordinary persons or those lower in rank are beneath them. But what they forget is that they are there because of them. They actually owe their positions to these very persons who are in need.

It is not wrong when it is said, “when we do not resolve problems, we become a part of the problem ourselves.”

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Diversities — Delhi Letter
Armed conflicts and the turbulence around
by Humra Quraishi

AS conflicts, internal and external, are on the rise, there is the whole new set of debate on how to go about reporting those conflicts. This week there is coming up a two-day session of senior editors of the sub-continent wherein.

They would speak on exactly this aspect, “Reporting armed conflict; the media debates its role”.

It is premature to comment on what leading editors would comment on the reportage aspect, but as this is not the first such meet on this topic, I could share with you some important inputs from the earlier meets I had attended. For one, there has to be a clear understanding that today media reportage extends beyond the print media, with the television having unleashed every little aspect in your drawing room the picture gets absolutely stark.

The visual impact is far greater than the written word that follows. And as conflicts are on the increase, there is that full blown accompanying focus on international, humanitarian and customary law. But here again the very implementation gets missing. With that, the very collapse of every possible structure, human or otherwise.

In fact, as I had mentioned in one of my previous columns, to really understand the devastation that conflicts bring about, you have got to view the film, Hotel Rwanda. I have never seen such a film. Though it is based on the internal civil war in Rwanda, it’s not the setting that matters. The manner in which human beings are hacked, raped or starved to death is what haunts.

If I were to dwell with the set of rules to be followed during wars and conflicts, there are several. Many bordering along the humanitarian pattern. In theory, of course. Little on the implementation level in the changing world order of today.

During the launch of the ‘Customary Law Study’, it was a refreshing change to hear the International Committee of the Red Cross Regional Delegate, V. Nicode, speak of the laws that were followed much before complexities emerged. As he says, “many of these laws can be traced to ancient cultures where they were implemented long before the notion of humanitarian law treaties ever existed in the western world”.

Nicode says: “Centuries ago the Laws of Manu instructed who could be attacked and who should not be attacked during conflict including women, children, the aged and those warriors deprived of their chariot. These beliefs of the Mahabharata also banned the destruction of places of religion…”

He also dwelt with what Islam and African traditions hold out. “Hazrat Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of Islam instructed, remember you are always under the gaze of God; and on the eve of your death, you will have to reckon on the last day…let not the blood of women or that of children or the aged tarnish your victory. Do not destroy palm trees, do not burn dwellings or wheat fields, never cut down fruit trees; only kill cattle when you need it for food. When you agree upon a treaty, take care to respect its clauses. As your advance progresses, you will meet religious men who live in monasteries and who serve God in prayer; leave them alone, do not kill them or destroy their monasteries…”

Nicode also focussed on some of the African traditions of the previous years. In 1858, when King Mosheshwe of Lesotho in South Africa wrote to General Boshoff who was marching against him, “When you came to Thaba Bosigo, you fired more than ten cannons …shot at mission premises but the Lord did not allow you to touch them. And now, if my heart could allow me to copy your children, I would be justified in carrying women and children into captivity, in killing old and sick people and sending into eternity all blind people that could find. But this, if I did, would be too great a calamity.”

I think we need more such focusing to bring sense to the turbulence around. Though Nicode is Swiss, he took care to focus on the ancient traditional concepts of warfare and what the state and its so-called leaders could do to lessen human suffering.

And now let’s see what leading editors of this sub-continent have to say during this meet scheduled to be held at the India International Centre on March 28 and 29. It is hosted by the ICRC together with the Press Institute of India and the Jamia Millia Islamia.

Much focus on sufism

Going by the programmes and discussions on sufism, one would think that a great majority of New Delhi’s elite have embarked on some great spiritual journey. A few weeks back, Muzaffar Ali hosted a sufi music concert where Abida Perveen was especially flown in.

Last week, Ajit Cour held a three-day international meet on sufism — prevalent not just in India but also in several other countries. And now comes news that there is to be a festival on Hazrat Amir Khusro.

On the occasion of his 700th birth anniversary, scholars are coming from the Central Asian Republics and Germany. After all, this sufi was also known for his poetic renderings and was a close disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and lies buried at the dargah of Nizamuddin in New Delhi.

Today if we were to follow even one-tenth of what sufis stood for, we would be living in a much better environment — less of materialistic frills and more of bliss.

Amartya Sen’s latest book

Next week will see the launch of Professor Amartya Sen’s latest book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Penguin). It will be jointly released by Najam Sethi, Editor-in-Chief of The Friday Times and also that of The Daily Times (Pakistan) and N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu.

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