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EDITORIALS

It wasn’t a bluff
North Korea upsets the world

N
orth
Korea has ultimately done what it had been threatening for a long time and in the process mocked at the Bush administration. It has gone in for a nuclear weapon test as feared by the world, posing a serious threat to peace and stability in the region. The communist country had been known to have in its possession a few nuclear bombs for some time. t had only to demonstrate its weapon manufacturing capability, which it has done. 

Kanshi Ram’s legacy
He gave Dalits a voice and some powers

K
anshi Ram
had acquired an iconic status among the Dalits even in his lifetime. Now that he is no more, there is every chance of his being deified all the more. Therein lies a great danger: what he stood for might be supplanted by a personality cult that may emerge around him. He was too sick for the past many years to influence the movement that he started but if he knew in which direction it was going, he might have been none too pleased. 



 

 

EARLIER STORIES

Tactical victory
October 9, 2006
Reform the cop
October 8, 2006
Poverty of Congress
October 7, 2006
South African safari
October 6, 2006
Respite in Lanka
October 5, 2006
Ban at the helm
October 4, 2006
President’s dilemma
October 3, 2006
Politics of reform
October 2, 2006
Caste no bar
October 1, 2006
Build economic muscle
September 30, 2006
Creamless report
September 29, 2006
Anything goes
September 28, 2006
Brake on SEZs
September 27, 2006


The Galileo Club
India joining it will be beneficial
T
HE seventh India-European Summit in Helsinki next week is set to see India formally joining the Galileo satellite navigation project. Apart from the benefits of being a partner in a system that can provide a viable alternative to the American GPS system, the tie-up has the potential to result in several scientific, strategic and economic benefits for the country.
ARTICLE

A memoir meant for himself
Musharraf tells little about world leaders
by S. Nihal Singh

S
urely
, the most fascinating aspect of Gen Pervez Musharraf’s memoir is what he reveals about himself, rather than his justification about specific events. An account of a life of a serving president and Army chief can only be self-serving.

MIDDLE

In the lap of nature
by Parminder
T
HE district extended over two widely separated valleys. While the Lohit valley had a road upto the forward tehsil headquarters, Debang valley could boast of only footpaths.

OPED

No such thing as a good coup
by T.P. Sreenivasan
T
HE bloodless coup in Thailand was hailed as a move to protect democracy. Women in festive clothes were seen presenting flowers to the soldiers sitting on tanks in Bangkok a day after the coup.

Content cannot take a back seat
by Shakuntala Rao
M
Y mom says that girls used to wear Dev Anand’s picture in the locket of their chains,” confides Ginny, a student at Punjabi University, “That does not happen anymore. Now if I want to see John Abraham, all I have to do is turn on the TV.”

DELHI DURBAR
Feedback on government rules

Within days of taking over as Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation, former Deputy Chairperson of the House of Elders Najma Heptullah has swung into action.

  • DU students protest against clemency

  • Talking over terror

  • Bishnoi banking on posters

 

 

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It wasn’t a bluff
North Korea upsets the world

North Korea has ultimately done what it had been threatening for a long time and in the process mocked at the Bush administration. It has gone in for a nuclear weapon test as feared by the world, posing a serious threat to peace and stability in the region. The communist country had been known to have in its possession a few nuclear bombs for some time. It had only to demonstrate its weapon manufacturing capability, which it has done. The strange justification it has given is that “The nuclear test will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the surrounding region”. North Korea has cheated the world because only recently it had conveyed to China that it would drop its nuclear test plan if Washington agreed to talk to Pyongyang directly. It had also rejected the speculation that a North Korean nuclear test might be carried out either on the anniversary (Sunday) of Kim Jong II’s appointment as head of the Korean Workers’ Party in 1997 or a day later. But what has happened shows that North Korea was only bluffing the world at least until last week when it declared that it would go ahead with the blast. This time it was not believed by the West.

This open defiance of world opinion may prove to be too costly for North Korea. The UN Security Council had issued a warning on Friday asking North Korea to desist from taking to this dangerous course or be ready to face the consequences. China, an ally of North Korea, had been under tremendous pressure from various countries to prevail upon Pyongyang to abandon its controversial programme. But North Korea refused to listen to their pleas. It had been hell bent on realising its nuclear ambitions irrespective of the regional tension that it might cause. That was one reason why the agreement reached in September 2005 as a result of the six-party negotiations could not be implemented.

The North Korean nuclear blast has created a dilemma for China particularly. When Pyongyang conducted its controversial missile tests on July 5 China gave a vague hint of using the veto power to prevent the imposition of punitive sanctions by the Security Council. China and Russia were of the view that a sanctions regime would not help in containing the nuclear threat from North Korea. How these two allies of North Korea react now may provide an indication of the emerging world scenario. The Bush administration has clearly been treated with contempt by North Korea, and Japan is bound to be greatly upset over the development; it may have to rework its strategic calculations.

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Kanshi Ram’s legacy
He gave Dalits a voice and some powers

Kanshi Ram had acquired an iconic status among the Dalits even in his lifetime. Now that he is no more, there is every chance of his being deified all the more. Therein lies a great danger: what he stood for might be supplanted by a personality cult that may emerge around him. He was too sick for the past many years to influence the movement that he started but if he knew in which direction it was going, he might have been none too pleased. Still, he has to be given credit for giving an identity and a purpose to Dalits. If they are a force to be reckoned with today, wooed by every party, they owe this status to Kanshi Ram. That all this was achieved by projecting all the other castes as hate figures is another matter (remember “Tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro jute chaar”?). He can also be applauded for neither appropriating hordes of money for himself nor placing his family members in key positions.

Unfortunately, Ms Mayawati, to whom he lovingly passed the baton, ran in an unexpected direction. The BSP that she presided over was no better than other parties whose tyranny it was avowedly fighting. In fact, it was a mirror image of many of the discredited ones. The lady was as haughty and draconian towards her own brethren as the tyrants belonging to upper castes were in the past. Not only that, corruption too ruled the roost during her tenure. She had come to power on the slogan of changing the system and yet she acquired all its vices.

That is why the influence of the party founded by Kanshi Ram did not grow much beyond Uttar Pradesh and some pockets of Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. The BSP that Kanshi Ram formed has a reputation today of being a group of wheeler-dealers which has no qualms about supping with parties whom it despises. Many of the BSP stalwarts have moved to other parties in search of greener pastures. The BSP itself is taking in its ranks people from other castes and parties. That may make political sense but does not present the party in a very flattering light. The Dalits  needed his leadership but surely Kanshi Ram did not want the BSP to be what it has become today.

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The Galileo Club
India joining it will be beneficial

THE seventh India-European Summit in Helsinki next week is set to see India formally joining the Galileo satellite navigation project. Apart from the benefits of being a partner in a system that can provide a viable alternative to the American GPS system, the tie-up has the potential to result in several scientific, strategic and economic benefits for the country. The sixth India-EU summit in New Delhi last year saw the two entities signing a broad framework agreement. Next week’s agreement in will reveal the extent of Indian participation. Galileo has been estimated to cost about 3 billion euros (around Rs 15,000 crore). The project aims to put 30 satellites in medium earth orbit and is expected to reach Full Operational Clearance in 2008.

GPS devices based on the existing American system have widely proliferated and it is difficult to think of navigation today without GPS based radio positioning devices. GPS was initially developed as a military application, and though the services are free, the US is under no obligation to provide them on a consistent basis. Galileo will not only provide an alternative, but will be made commercially available. While basic services might be free, a user can pay for value addition with accuracy and assured availability of service. The civil aviation sector is particularly expected to benefit.

Galileo is not intended to be a rival in the traditional sense however, as it will in fact tie up with the US GPS and the Russian GLONASS. An agreement to this effect has already been signed and interoperability between various systems will be a key selling point of Galileo. Project costs are high, which is why the EU is keen on several partners, and India’s proven expertise in space make it an attractive candidate. India should position itself in such a way that it can derive a range of benefits from the agreement, including higher-end scientific cooperation and technology transfer, not to mention in the security realm, where satellite based radio-positioning can help in everything from detecting intruders to delivery of advanced weapons and precise targeting.

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Thought for the day

And we forget because we must/And not because we will.
— Matthew Arnold

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A memoir meant for himself
Musharraf tells little about world leaders
by S. Nihal Singh

Surely, the most fascinating aspect of Gen Pervez Musharraf’s memoir is what he reveals about himself, rather than his justification about specific events. An account of a life of a serving president and Army chief can only be self-serving. He has followed his role model, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, in proclaiming that he has come of age and his hope will be that he does not follow his mentor in tracing a graph of political decline after “Friends, Not Masters” saw the light of day.

Altaf Gohar, the ghostwriter of Ayub’s memoir, gave me an advance copy in Rawalpindi in the late 60s and I recall the bitterness of the Pakistani leader’s feelings about India. General Musharraf’s “In The Line Of Fire”, reportedly ghost-written by Altaf’s son Humayun, is somewhat less bitter about India. In a generational change, those who have been moulded in the crucible of Pakistani Army life see India as enemy country without the sentimental baggage of Ayub and his contemporaries.

Indeed, the picture that emerges of General Musharraf is of a rather average Pakistani Army officer with a lot of horse sense and a rare chutzpah accepting the parameters of cantonment conventional wisdom. He is only too happy to voice his contempt for politicians, is convinced of the unselfish nationalist timbre of the military and its destiny as the guiding star of the country’s future. A sample of his attitude to politicians was encompassed in the following tribute he pays to Z.A. Bhutto: “He was really a fascist — using the most progressive rhetoric to promote repressive ends, the first of which was to stay in power forever”.

Turkey was a strong formative influence on General Musharraf, who lived several years there by virtue of his father being attached to the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Ankara as an accountant. Apart from the love of dogs he acquired, his young mind was doubtless influenced by the fact of the Army’s presence in the governance of the country. Ataturk elevated the Army to the state and, apart from periods of direct rule, the Army remained a deciding political factor in Turkish politics.

Quite apart from General Musharraf, the Turkish model has appealed to the Pakistani Army establishment. In fact, General Jehangir Karamat’s forced resignation as Army chief demanded by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — the only instance of its kind — followed his suggestion for incorporating an Army-inclusive National Security Council to help govern the country. The attempt was and remains a mechanism to give a supervisory role for the Army in Pakistan’s governance, whatever the form of the government.

Army generals have always justified coups, but in President Musharraf’s case, he quotes Abraham Lincoln and offers us the following gem: “I know that in western democracies, military persons on active duty, especially the chiefs, are not supposed to make political statements. But then, in western democracies neither do the heads of government and state perennially drag Army chiefs into politics. In a country where such a practice is rampant, an Army chief cannot be blamed for getting involved, if he acts sensibly”. And he adds: “I still am struggling to convince the West that Pakistan is more democratic today than it ever was in the past. Ironically, to become so it needed me in uniform”.

Earlier, General Musharraf was happy to coast along as an Army officer, after his moments of puppy love, in the second instance for a Bengali girl; it was over because she migrated to the then East Pakistan. He was quite happy with the conventional match secured in the conventional manner and revelled in the machismo culture of his commando outfit, proud of his physical prowess and what he believed were his superior qualities as leader.

General Musharraf’s tenure with a commando outfit was a considerable source of pride. He harks back to it often and recalls it when he faced two unsuccessful assassination attempts. To his mind, he won the admiration of the men he commanded by being as good as, if not better than, his men. And even in his transformation from an Army officer to the head of his country’s government, he credits the commando experience as a valuable formative experience and quickly comes to the conclusion that Pakistan’s outfit is the world’s best.

General Musharraf believes in Pakistan’s need to match India, despite the great disparity in size, population and resources that exists between the two countries. After America gave him an ultimatum to join the “war on terror” or else, the President revealed that he chose to side with Washington after he had “war gamed” his Army and resources with America’s and came to the conclusion that he would be no match. There is no suggestion that he or the Army ever “war gamed” the resources of India and Pakistan. The successful quest for an atom bomb and missiles ran parallel to Pakistani efforts at securing strategic depth in Afghanistan, sadly interrupted by the “war on terror”.

The Pakistani leader is keen to present himself as a moderate Muslim although he proved flexible enough to team up with religious parties to marginalise the two main parties after he had deprived them of their respective leaders. He has harsh words for General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation programme and finds it difficult to turn the clock back on such issues as the Hudood Ordinance. Nor does he have kind words for Mr A.Q. Khan and his nuclear proliferation activities while maintaining the fiction of it being a one-man exercise.

President Musharraf gives little away in informing his readers about his interactions with world leaders, except in instances that help serve his purpose, as for instance with Mr A.B. Vajpayee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But he does make an exception in the case of China’s then premier Zhu Rongji. “Investors, he (Mr Rongji) said, are like pigeons. When a government frightens them with poor decisions, they all fly off together. When the government improves its policies to attract them back, they return only one by one”.

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In the lap of nature
by Parminder

THE district extended over two widely separated valleys. While the Lohit valley had a road upto the forward tehsil headquarters, Debang valley could boast of only footpaths.

The tehsil headquarters at Annini in the Debang valley was 14 days walking distance from the road head at Roving. The forward settlements in this valley were another three to four days walking distance.

During my last visit to Annini and some of the forward villages I had to be away from district headquarters for almost 40 days: walking up and down those steep slopes, all of those 40 days. I therefore, had no inclination to pay another visit to the valley.

Walking in the rain forest is a great experience; it is naturalist’s joy and botanist’s delight. The flora and insect life is breathtaking in their abundance and variety. Plants grow in great profusion and decay to grow again in an unending cycle, without ever being kissed by sunrays. The green canopy shuts out direct light or even filtered light. One is always wet and the rain gets to your very bones.

The best of precautions cannot keep the leeches from getting at you. When and how they get through layers of clothing and socks will always remain a mystery.

The general elections required of me to look into the arrangements in the Debang valley as well. Mercifully, an IAF helicopter had been arranged for this duty. It was a night of sharp showers and thunderstorms and we had given up all hope of the helicopter arriving in the morning. At dawn the sky was miraculously clear and the helicopter arrived on time.

We flew along the Brahmaputra valley over an impenetrable canopy of forest and at Nizam Ghat turned into the Debang valley. It had rained heavily during the previous night so there were innumerable small and large waterfalls along both sides of the valley. In the distance we could see a waterfall of great proportions. Soon we were over Annini, the tehsil headquarters where I had planed to stop on the return journey. Annini is at the junction of three valleys; one along which we had flown and the other two pointing Northwards, towards Tibet.

We took the right valley and landed at Dembuin, the last settlement in this valley. At the helipad the post commander and the village headman and his wife received us.

Dambuen is perhaps one of the remotest corners of the country. Tibet lay across a couple of ridge lines. Beside the usual, “Dhah” the headman wore an old cycle chain across his chest. He had never seen a cycle but the one who gave him this most valuable of his possessions must have explained it as a sinew of a metal horse, no different than his pony.

There was little to see at the polling booth. It was to be manned by the headman. After a check of the voting list and ensuring the headman and the post commander were familiar with the voting procedure, I asked to be left alone and walked to the nearby stream.

It was a shallow snowfed stream whose bed was covered with pebbles of all colour and shades. I dipped my feet in the ice-cold water and a chill ran though my body. Over the dark forested hills one could see the snow covered ranges. A light breeze wafted through the fur trees and made a hissing sound, adding to the nature’s music of water flowing over shingle. The ground was covered with wild strawberries and a variety of other flowers. Some mules lazily grazed on the edge of the dark forest. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful.

I had closed my eyes to imbed in my mind’s eye, this enchanting scenery, when I heard footsteps to my rear and a voice called out. “Madam, it is time to leave”. Reluctantly I got up and slowly ambled back to the helicopter.

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No such thing as a good coup
by T.P. Sreenivasan

THE bloodless coup in Thailand was hailed as a move to protect democracy. Women in festive clothes were seen presenting flowers to the soldiers sitting on tanks in Bangkok a day after the coup. Seven months of political uncertainty and wild rumours came to an end. A Prime Minister, who was accused of corruption, nepotism and inefficiency, was removed from power. Respect to the monarchy was restored.

Life came back to normal within forty-eight hours, except that many tourists cancelled their flights. The Thai Baht appreciated in value overnight against other currencies.

The coup leader was brief and to the point. He had to act in order to save the country from chaos. He proclaimed loyalty to the crown and implied that he had the blessings of the King to rise against the man who had appointed him as army chief. He would appoint a civilian government within days; he would have the constitution amended in one year and hold democratic elections under the new constitution in 2007.

As for the former prime minister, he was free to return to Thailand, but should answer charges. Foreign policy would remain unaltered and the Thai candidature for the post of UN Secretary General would be pursued. He gave no cause for concern about the future of Thailand. In other words, the coup was in the best interests of the people.

But the world did not heave a collective sigh of relief as the tanks rolled back to the barracks. The kind of situation which prevailed in Thailand in the last seven months prevails in many democratic countries of the world. If every military commander took law into his own hands, proclaiming that he loved his country more than his civilian bosses, democracy would not last very long.

The essence of democracy is that the people get the kind of governments that they deserve and want. If they make a wrong choice, the democratic machinery provides the modalities for change, even if it cannot be instant. Elected governments operate with the mandate of the people and good intentions alone should not alter that mandate. Coups, per se, strike at the very roots of democracy.

Bloodless, soft or benign coups are a contradiction in terms. The credit for a coup being bloodless should not go to its perpetrators, but to its victims, who take the situation in their stride. When the tanks roll and the soldiers walk the streets with automatic guns, they are ready to fire, not to shower flower petals. Violence is very much in their minds and their intentions are hardly peaceful.

Sitiveni Rabuka, the coup leader of Fiji, who took the government at gun point, said later that the revolver he carried into the Fiji Parliament was not loaded. But that did not diminish the seriousness of the crime he committed.

In fact, the coup in Fiji in 1987 was one of those good coups as far as half the population of Fiji was concerned. But for the other half, consisting of Indians who migrated to Fiji more than a hundred years ago, it was a nightmare as their only home was Fiji and the accusation that they were foreigners, who should have no say in Fiji politics was worse than death for them. But after a period of initial fear of an indigenous uprising against immigrants, even Australia and New Zealand condoned the coup as legitimate assertion of indigenous rights.

At least in one country in India’s neighbourhood, there was a case of a legitimate government handing over the country to the military commander for a short period. The commander, U Ne Win, returned the country to U Nu, but he did not take long to capture power again in a military coup, from which Burma has not yet recovered. Whatever the faults of the U Nu government, the damage that U Ne Win did to the country was unmatched by any democratic government.

In Pakistan and Bangladesh, we have seen coups that throw up military leaders, who think that once they wear civilian clothes, they become democratic. Western democracies quickly see merit in these leaders and urge India to do business with these dictators, on the assumption that those who come after them will be more fundamentalist.

Even democratically elected governments in Pakistan have not been able to break out of the grip of fundamentalism. The readiness with which developed democracies accept coup leaders in the developing world is a measure of their belief that these countries are not yet ready for democracy.

Personal ambition may not be a factor in some of the military coups. There could be other motivations like loyalty to a monarch or a section of the population. But the taste of power often makes coup leaders cling to their positions even after the mission is accomplished.

They begin to have an illusion of indispensability and invincibility till a revolt by the people or by another soldier brings them to book. Once the coup culture infects the military establishment, the coup becomes an option for political change, which is not conducive to the development of democracy.

The danger to democracy comes from acceptance of different definitions of it. Many leaders have begun to convince their people that their own brand of democracy is best suited for their country. Some even think that “pure” democracy will do more harm than good. The concept of “good” coups comes out of tolerance of such diversity of definitions.

The truth, however, remains that whether they are bloody or bloodless, coups do not establish governments of the people, by the people, for the people.

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Content cannot take a back seat
by Shakuntala Rao

MY mom says that girls used to wear Dev Anand’s picture in the locket of their chains,” confides Ginny, a student at Punjabi University, “That does not happen anymore. Now if I want to see John Abraham, all I have to do is turn on the TV.” Marketing of Bollywood movies has come a long way since Ginny’s mother’s days. For Ginny’s generation, marketing is as integral to movies as the movies themselves.

In a $ 100 billion industry like Bollywood, marketing is taking on a whole new turn. Today every film runs contests and quizzes on mobile phones and internet. Individual film sites are common and traffic has been booming. Hungama, a top online promotions company for Bollywood, recently announced that some of their larger sites attract up to 12 million page views a month. In fact, gone are the days when a few posters and promos took care of the entire marketing of a film. Advertising principles like right positioning, 360-degree branding, viewership segmentation and identifying target demographics are the buzz words.

Asutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan perhaps best exemplified the success of marketing. According to Gowariker “the cricket match event between cricketers and film stars held immediately after the film’s release evoked more interest in the film and led to repeat viewings.” Filmmakers grudgingly acknowledge that the intangible aspect of a movie — it’s ‘look’ — counts for a lot these days.

Marketing guru-turned filmmaker Pritish Nandy, encourages producers to initiate consumer research during the pre-release phase to address questions like ‘Is the movie the first choice of the viewer?’ and ‘Why would the viewer see the movie?’ An example where producers used pre-release communication to create the right expectation was in the case of Saathiya. Throughout its ad campaign the film was positioned as a ‘simple, love story’, giving an impression to audiences not to have too many expectations. And it worked — people went into the theatres and got more than what they bargained for.

Stars too have become acutely conscious of marketing strategies. Aamir Khan’s price for a single film is about six crores. But a producer who signs Aamir doesn’t get an actor who just shoots and leaves. Instead, he gets an actor who’s involved in every stage of promoting the film, from scripting to pre-production, post-production, attending premiers and press conferences.

Audiences, however, are smart. Although there is no clear research for Bollywood, there is indication that a large proportion of the potential audience will be affected by word of mouth.

Take the case of a film like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. The Bollywood technocrat-director, Karan Johar, made sure that KANK had a tie-up with Hewlett Packard which ran a promotion that offered buyers of Compaq Presario laptops a chance to win a range of KANK merchandise. A leading wireless provider offered exclusive content of Karan’s film on mobile phones. In addition, Johar made himself available for every press interview and photo opportunity. Even with all the marketing buzz and gimmicks, KANK was only a moderate success in metro cities and failed miserably in medium and smaller markets.

It is a lesson for filmmakers that marketing alone cannot save a film, it has to be well-written and well-made. Gowariker himself admits, “Content can never take a backseat.”

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DELHI DURBAR
Feedback on government rules

Within days of taking over as Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation, former Deputy Chairperson of the House of Elders Najma Heptullah has swung into action. She has taken steps to strengthen the Committee’s role as a link between the government and the people on the rules concerning various Acts.

After a meeting of the Committee recently, Najma, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, said that the website of the Committee was being made interactive. This will allow people to give their feedback on the rules relating to various central legislations. The website will provide links to all ministries, which have been asked to evolve rules relating to all Acts concerning them on their own websites. Laying stress on the value of feedback, Najma observed it will help the government improve rules where needed. Citing an instance she said there was confusion among the people about the rules pertaining to service tax.

DU students protest against clemency

A section of students in Delhi University, who have begun a signature campaign seeking capital punishment for Parliament attack convict Mohammed Afzal Guru, has sought punitive action against Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The latter’s request for clemency for Afzal is being perceived as anti-national.

Under the banner of Vivekanand Vichar Manch, these students claim that Delhi University Professor S. A. R Geelani and Azad, by pleading for mercy in respect of Afzal, have displayed their “anti-India sentiments” and therefore need to be punished.

These students, who later set fire to the effigies of Azad and Geelani, were also joined by the Kashmiri Pandit youth in their protest that is ostensibly aimed at countering the campaign initiated by Muslim groups in Kashmir, to extend support to the mercy appeals for Afzal.

Talking over terror

Many TV channels are broadcasting special programmes on the debate over the death sentence to Mohammed Afzal Guru. Former president of the Youth Congress and currently All India Anti-Terrorist Front Chairman Maninderjit Singh Bitta is invariably a guest.

The other day Bitta was called by one news channel for its show “Mudda”, in which SAR Geelani, who was also an accused in the Parliament attack case but was later acquitted, was also invited. Also present were Congress leader Rashid Alvi and JKLF’s Yaseen Malik.

During the discussion, Bitta began by making personal allegations against Geelani and tried to hijack the show by inciting the audience to raise slogans against him.

Incidentally, it later came to light that most members of the audience were Bitta’s supporters and were called to lend a sensational touch to the programme. After the show, Geelani and Malik had to be rescued by the organisers. With his commando security guards in tow, as well as his supporters, Bitta left the building twirling his moustache.

Bishnoi banking on posters

Congress MP from Bhiwani, Kuldeep Bishnoi, had been in the line of fire over his public outcry against the Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, over the land transfer to Reliance for the Special Economic Zone. But he now seems to have silenced his critics in the party.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s intervention in the SEZ debate, in which she asked the Chief Ministers of all states not to provide land to industry at the cost of farmers, has given Bishnoi an opportunity to score brownie points.

His supporters have put up posters along the national highway to Chandigarh which say that the Congress president had endorsed the position of the MP on the issue of land for the SEZs. Kuldeep, who seems to be positioning himself as the political heir to his father Bhajan Lal, is all over the poster in colourful headgear. How the High Command reacts to the poster campaign remains to be seen.

Contributed by Prashant Sood, Smriti Kak Ramachandran and Manoj Kumar

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