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EDITORIALS

Pak flexes muscles, again
Allows key plotter of 26/11 to walk free
Pakistan claims to be fighting terrorism and extremism, but the reality is contrary to it. Where it suits it, the Pakistan establishment considers such elements as “strategic assets”.

Meira at the helm
MPs should enhance dignity of House
I
t is a historic moment indeed that a woman — who also happens to be a Dalit — has been unanimously elected Lok Sabha Speaker. Mrs Meira Kumar will preside over the House to which she has been elected five times and her father, Deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, was a member eight times in a row. By opting for her, the Congress has made a strong social statement whose import cannot be missed by anyone.



EARLIER STORIES

Treading the beaten path
June 3, 2009
Friends, or foes?
June 2, 2009
Better days ahead
June 1, 2009
The fury of cyclone Aila
May 31, 2009
Tasks assigned
May 30, 2009
Team Manmohan
May 29, 2009
Lahore again
May 28, 2009
Let peace prevail
May 27, 2009
PM’s appeal
May 26, 2009
Mayawati goes berserk
May 25, 2009
Mandate for Manmohan
May 24, 2009


Tobacco kills
Message must be driven home loud and clear
V
irtually as a ritual, on World No Tobacco Day, every year the resolve to curb smoking is reiterated in India as elsewhere. Yet, tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of death worldwide. In India, despite the ban imposed on smoking in public places by former Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, its implementation is woefully inadequate.
ARTICLE

UP yearns for change
Caste, community factors lose appeal
by Syed Nooruzzaman
U
ttar Pradesh, which sends the highest number of people’s representatives to Parliament, has been known for favouring mainly two regional parties, the SP and the BSP, for many years. The two together have captured the traditional vote banks of the Congress, reducing the country’s oldest party to an insignificant existence in UP. But the outcome of the just concluded Lok Sabha elections brings to the fore an interesting change in the voters’ thinking.

MIDDLE

Cooking up a story
by Roopinder Singh
I
can’t cook to save my life, though I love food and like to experiment with various cuisines. Indian Takeaway was a title that intrigued me and as I read it, I enjoyed it, which was reason enough to review the book by Glasgow-born Hardeep Singh Kohli. He writes well, is funny and I liked his idea of cooking western food in India while travelling around.

OPED

Joint action can smash sea pirates’ safe havens
by Dinesh Kumar
F
or the fourth time in seven months, the Indian Navy foiled yet another major piracy attempt by suspected Somalis on a merchant vessel with an Indian crew in the Horn of Africa. The latest incident, which occurred on May 28, brings into focus the festering problem of high sea piracy in a region containing a majority of the world’s oil reserves and also the world’s busiest shipping route.

Sri Lanka’s trauma
by G.S. Bhargava
T
hat the LTTE (Lanka Tigers for Tamil Eelam) has been the most ruthless and blood thirsty terrorist outfit has been known. (Eelam can be roughly translated into homeland). A unique feature of its lethal repertoire, as prescribed by the Sanskrit text — sama, dana, bedha, danda — or besides war fighting with no holds barred, tactics like persuasion of non-conformists, overcoming the enemy by argument and dividing enemy ranks.

Tiananmen: Days to remember
by Dan Southerland
T
wo years ago I met a Chinese student who was entering graduate school in the United States. I told her I had been in Beijing during “6-4,” the Chinese shorthand for the massacre of June 4, 1989. “What are you talking about?” she asked.

 


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EDITORIALS

Pak flexes muscles, again
Allows key plotter of 26/11 to walk free

Pakistan claims to be fighting terrorism and extremism, but the reality is contrary to it. Where it suits it, the Pakistan establishment considers such elements as “strategic assets”. The release of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed from house arrest after a Lahore High Court judgement on Tuesday should be seen against this backdrop. The court verdict, which went in favour of Saeed, was along predictable lines. It has clearly been managed by Islamabad regardless of what it says about judicial independence. India had given sufficient proof of the JuD founder being the key plotter of the terrorist attack on Mumbai, but Islamabad did not present the required facts before the court because this did not fit in with its deceptive scheme of things. The results of the cases instituted separately against the other main terrorist figures behind the Mumbai carnage like the JuD’s Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah cannot be different.

As External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishan has said, “Pakistan’s seriousness to fight against terror is still under a cloud.” It cannot succeed in fooling the world by its half-hearted offensive against the Taliban. The JuD, the brainchild of Saeed, declared a terrorist organisation by the UN Security Council, has been allowed to function under a different name in complete disregard of world opinion. In fact, there is no restriction on all the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits involved in terrorist killings in India. These have been strengthening their support base, financial position and terrorist training infrastructure, with the Pakistan establishment playing a supportive role. Surprisingly, Islamabad refuses to learn from its experience with the Taliban, which has emerged as the most serious threat to stability in Pakistan.

The truth is that there is no change in the Pakistani mindset. The flexing of muscles can again be seen in Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s latest statement that “Pakistan remains committed to finding a just and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.” What is the point in raising the UN resolutions, which remain dead as dodo? Is this the way to have a “constructive and purposeful” dialogue with India? At least now Pakistani rulers should become wiser.
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Meira at the helm
MPs should enhance dignity of House

It is a historic moment indeed that a woman — who also happens to be a Dalit — has been unanimously elected Lok Sabha Speaker. Mrs Meira Kumar will preside over the House to which she has been elected five times and her father, Deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, was a member eight times in a row. By opting for her, the Congress has made a strong social statement whose import cannot be missed by anyone. Her deputy would be 72-year-old Karia Munda, who belongs to the ST community and has been elected from the Khunti constituency in Jharkhand six times. Both of them happen to be non-controversial and bring with them tremendous experience. Here is hoping that they will rise way above party lines to ensure smooth conduct of the House.

These august offices carry with them onerous responsibilities, not only because the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker have to walk a razor’s edge of fairplay, but also because the conduct of the MPs has been less than exemplary in the recent past. Even a normally unflappable Somnath Chatterjee was forced to throw up his hands in disgust. The newly sworn-in MPs would be watched for the quality of their contribution to House debates and discussions.

Ideally, there should be no need for the Speaker to remind them of what constitutes dignity, decency and decorum. But if they do stray — as it had happened many a time during the 14th Lok Sabha — then Mrs Meira Kumar and Mr Karia Munda will be well within their rights to mix their acknowledged amiability with firmness to ensure that Parliament runs smoothly. Unparliamentary conduct came into the Lok Sabha with the criminalisation of politics. Otherwise, the proceedings of earlier Lok Sabhas were a delight for the eyes and ears. Mrs Meira Kumar and Mr Karia Munda will be doing a great service to the nation if they can steer the House in that direction. The defeat of many candidates with a criminal background is a happy augury.
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Tobacco kills
Message must be driven home loud and clear

Virtually as a ritual, on World No Tobacco Day, every year the resolve to curb smoking is reiterated in India as elsewhere. Yet, tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of death worldwide. In India, despite the ban imposed on smoking in public places by former Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, its implementation is woefully inadequate.

Smoking alone, which causes 90 per cent of lung cancer deaths, leads to 9 lakh deaths in India annually. Besides, smokers and tobacco users are susceptible to other kinds of cancers. India is reported to have the maximum number of oral cancer cases in the world. Out of 10 cancer cases, four are oral. According to a study, 30 per cent of India’s cancer burden can be prevented by tobacco control. While smoking accelerates ageing, it doubles the risk of stroke, causes heart diseases and can reduce life span considerably. Alarmingly, the number of women smokers in India has increased by 18 per cent. Smoking makes them more prone to osteoporosis and can lead to early menopause. While smoking during pregnancy can impair the growth of the foetus, passive smoking has adverse effects, especially on children.

There indeed are gaping holes in India’s drive against smoking. Mere warnings alone will not make people kick the killer habit that threatens the health and lives of 120 million smokers in India. A holistic approach must include stepping up of public awareness drives, increasing access to quitting methods, forceful enforcement of the ban, a watchful eye on indirect advertisement and a more severe punishment than the Rs 200 fine imposed at present. The number of tobacco cessation centres, only a handful at the moment, must increase manifold. While the new Health Minister, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, has ruled out any ban on smoking in movies as impractical, celebrity endorsements in anti-tobacco campaigns can make a big difference, especially in targeting youth. The menace must be fought with greater determination.
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Thought for the Day

When sorrows come, they come not single spies,/But in battalions. — William Shakespeare
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ARTICLE

UP yearns for change
Caste, community factors lose appeal
by Syed Nooruzzaman

Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest number of people’s representatives to Parliament, has been known for favouring mainly two regional parties, the SP and the BSP, for many years. The two together have captured the traditional vote banks of the Congress, reducing the country’s oldest party to an insignificant existence in UP. But the outcome of the just concluded Lok Sabha elections brings to the fore an interesting change in the voters’ thinking. They appear to be losing faith in the capacity of both the SP and the BSP to take care of their growth-related problems. That is why the Congress has won 21 seats, a major gain compared to its score of nine in the 2004 elections.

Apparently, identity politics is losing its appeal. People are the least interested in caste and community factors today. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav applied all the tricks he could think of to woo voters, but in vain. When he got the impression that he could no longer depend on the support of the Muslims, who had been overwhelmingly voting for his party for the past few years, he forged an informal alliance with former BJP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh for ensuring overwhelming support of the Dalits and backward classes. But the strategy failed to work. The SP could hardly win 23 seats whereas in 2004 its score was 35.

The worse has happened with the BSP. The voters have virtually put the Mayawati government on notice: perform or perish. Even the BSP’s committed voters have rejected the party in as many as 60 of the state’s 80 constituencies. The party, identified with Dalit resurgence, has won only 20 seats though it should have got more than double this number, going by the BSP’s spectacular performance during the 2007 assembly polls. Clearly, the BSP government has not come up to the people’s expectations. This shows that the government’s priorities have nothing to do with the people’s real problems.

When the BSP was voted to power in the 2007 assembly elections, people were sick of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government’s style of functioning. The state was reeling under “goonda raj”. The SP Chief Minister could spare little time for attracting investors to the state, essential for increasing the availability of job opportunities. He was not bothered about the fast rising number of the unemployed. His government was concentrating on populist issues, ignoring those related to the people’s economic problems. Even Muslims, who constituted a major support base of the SP, were disenchanted with the Mulayam Singh ministry. So, when the time came, it was thrown out of power.

The Mayawati-led BSP was returned to power with a comfortable majority to form a government on its own. People, particularly those at the lower strata of society, had high expectations from the BSP. But their hopes were belied with the new government, too, indulging in the kind of activities which could not improve the people’s economic condition. The BSP leader had promised to end the “goonda raj”, but it did little on this front. Strangely, the BSP allowed many such elements to contest the Lok Sabha elections on the party ticket. That most of them were rejected by the electorate is a different story.

Ms Mayawati made high-sounding announcements on her birthday on January 15. But when it came to implementing her schemes, the stress was only on those of a populist nature. The eight-lane 1000-km Ganga highway-cum-industrial project she was inclined to launch was taken up in a haphazard manner. The state government did not take clearance from the Environment Impact Assessment Authority “in accordance with the law”. When the matter went to the Allahabad High Court, it restrained the government from going ahead with the project, aimed at linking the western and eastern parts of UP.  If Ms Mayawati succeeds in properly implementing even this single project it may change the face of the state, home to over 200 million people.

The truth is that Ms Mayawati’s heart lies elsewhere — developing memorial parks with statues of “Dalit icons”, including those of her own. Crores of rupees from the state exchequer are being wasted on these memorials whereas people are virtually crying for increased employment opportunities, avenues for job-oriented education, proper health care facilities, adequate supply of power and drinking water, link roads, etc. But she, it seems, has not been determined to take up projects which may transform people’s lives.

Despite the promises she had been making, the Chief Minister forgot to launch meaningful projects for alleviating the suffering of the drought-hit people of Bundelkhand, who had celebrated her coming back to power in 2007. The region has a large Dalit concentration. The Dalits in Bundelkhand, as elsewhere in the state, have shown that the BSP cannot take their support for granted.

If Ms Mayawati had handled properly the growth-related issues the story of her party’s electoral performance would have been different today. She began to dream of sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair, but ignored the interests of even her committed voters. People got the depressing message that it was not her problem if power-looms in many parts of UP, particularly in Poorvanchal, were unable to function even to 50 per cent of the capacity because of the poor state of power supply. The situation is no different till date. The result is that the power-looms, which employed a major chunk of the population, have become unviable and have been closed down at many places. Kanpur, once the industrial hub of UP, has been experiencing the closure of factories and flight of capital for some time. Whatever little industrialisation can be seen in UP is concentrated in the areas closer to Delhi.

After having been chastised by the electorate, Ms Mayawati is showing signs of desperation in her functioning today. She finds it difficult to believe what has happened — some of her committed supporters have shifted their loyalty to the Congress. Perhaps, a large number of people strongly believe that the Congress should be brought back to power in UP again. After all, they have tried all those who claimed to be a better alternative to the Congress — the SP, the BSP and the BJP — but with disastrous results. The governments run by these parties have only added to the mess.

The revival of interest in the Congress is believed to be the result of Mr Rahul Gandhi’s concerted efforts. During his frequent visits to various parts of UP for the past few years, he has given the impression that the Congress under his leadership will be a different party, interested mainly in growth-related issues. He has succeeded in infusing a new life into the party’s state unit. If he continues to focus on UP as he has been doing till the parliamentary polls, the Congress can re-emerge as a force to be reckoned with. The opportunity that has come its way may be lost if the Congress fails to make use of it intelligently.
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MIDDLE

Cooking up a story
by Roopinder Singh

I can’t cook to save my life, though I love food and like to experiment with various cuisines. Indian Takeaway was a title that intrigued me and as I read it, I enjoyed it, which was reason enough to review the book by Glasgow-born Hardeep Singh Kohli. He writes well, is funny and I liked his idea of cooking western food in India while travelling around.

Lately, thanks to my spouse, I have also been introduced to Nigella Lawson’s TV show on cooking — I normally work on the laptop or read while it is on, but anyone who’s seen it would understand that my gaze strays towards the TV often — the lady speaks very well and is also quite easy on the eye.

Seeing that Hardeep had splattered himself all over the cover, I made a somewhat uncharitable comparison of his appearance with that of Nigella in the review. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, I know, but sometimes we “just do it”, as the Nike ad says.

Moments before submitting the copy, I decided that I had to know more about her, now that she was figuring in my writing. Googling yielded, among other things, a Wikipedia entry as well as a link to her website.

I was on a roll and things were making sense! We had often observed that Nigella Lucy Lawson’s language was as classy as her looks — comes with having graduated from the University of Oxford, and you don’t become the deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times at age 26, just like that, you know!

There is much about her that subtly announced old money and breeding, easily understood when you find out that she is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, Baron of Blaby, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Vanessa Salmon, whose family owned a large British business.

Nigella is a millionaire in her own right, her cookware range is worth £7 million, and she has sold more than three million cookery books worldwide. She is also married to one of the richest men in the UK, worth more than £110million.

In the show, she refers to her children and she loves cooking for them. However, “I am determined that my children should have no financial security. It ruins people not having to earn money.” She does not want to leave her wealth to her children, something that her husband does not agree with. His opinion would find resonance among those who label their vehicles “Pappu te Tinki di Gaddi”.

We live in a culture where inheritance is taken for granted. Patiala, where I grew up, had many a home of a once illustrious family brought to ruin because children who did not work for a living and eventually ate into their inheritance, often at a blazingly fast rate. It takes a great mother to recognise this fact and show tough love. Nigella’s statement reflects what one would call her pragmatic positivism, as a tribute to her stepfather, the philosopher A. J. Ayer, the famous exponent of logical positivism, whose book Language Truth and Logic influenced one’s college days. From Lawson to logic, you just don’t know what a good chef can rustle up, really.
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OPED

Joint action can smash sea pirates’ safe havens
by Dinesh Kumar

For the fourth time in seven months, the Indian Navy foiled yet another major piracy attempt by suspected Somalis on a merchant vessel with an Indian crew in the Horn of Africa. The latest incident, which occurred on May 28, brings into focus the festering problem of high sea piracy in a region containing a majority of the world’s oil reserves and also the world’s busiest shipping route.

The Indian Navy forms part of a specially assembled multi-national force comprising naval vessels from about two dozen countries entrusted with the challenging task of deterring attacks on merchant shipping in a dauntingly vast 2.8 million square km area extending from the Gulf of Aden to the Indian Ocean.

The Navy was authorised by the government in November 2008 to undertake hot pursuit of pirates in the territorial waters of Somalia, a war-ravaged country where there has been a complete breakdown of civil society and governance for close to two decades now.

Only a month earlier, on October 23, the Navy had begun carrying out anti-piracy patrols in international waters in the Gulf of Aden to protect Indian sea-borne trade, to instill confidence in the seafaring community and act as a deterrent to pirates. A sixth of the world’s merchant vessel maritime crew comprises Indians and at least 25 Indian-owned ships sail through this region every month.

The Indian Navy first engaged in anti-piracy action on November 11 last year when an armed helicopter with marine commandos dispatched from a guided missile frigate, INS Tabar, prevented pirates from boarding and hijacking a 38,000 tonne bulk carrier owned by a Mumbai-based shipping company.

A week later, on November 18, the same Navy frigate destroyed what the Navy described a ‘mother ship’, the nature of which has been disputed by the ship’s owner.

Now more recently, marine commandos on board an armed helicopter, which flew from another guided missile frigate, INS Talwar, fired at a group of eight well-armed pirates trying to board a Liberia-registered cargo ship with an Indian crew.

But accolades to the Navy apart, of considerable concern to both India and the international community alike is that this piracy-infested region comprises three of the world’s strategic choke points: the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Bab-el-Mandeb. The bulk of the world’s trade is by sea (about 95 per cent in the case of India), a large portion of which passes through these choke points.

Of equal concern is that the region contains the vast majority of the world’s oil reserves with as much as 40 per cent of the world’s oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz and 11 per cent through the Suez Canal.

In addition, this region contains about 20 per cent of the world’s natural gas resources. On any given day more than 10,000 vessels of varying types are active in this region carrying millions of tonnes of raw and finished goods.

In response to the increasingly brazen attacks of piracy, the world community undertook several steps to protect the shipping lanes. In June 2008, the United Nations adopted Resolution 1816 permitting states to use “all necessary means to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery” in Somali waters.

In October, the UN passed Resolution 1838 calling all nations to intensify their efforts to combat piracy. Then in December 2008, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1851 approving anti-piracy efforts to include anti-piracy operations even in land.

Notwithstanding the UN resolutions and the creation of a Combined Maritime Force with three separate Combined Task Forces headquartered in Bahrain along with the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, the menace of piracy continues unabated on high seas by mostly Somali pirates.

Consider the statistics: In 2008, pirates attacked 122 ships in the Gulf of Aden region. This accounted for a 200 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Of these, 42 ships were hijacked and 815 persons on board taken hostage that resulted in a payment of between $ 20 to 40 million as ransom money.

At least 19 ships, including a Saudi Arabian oil tanker with $ 100 million worth crude oil and a Ukrainian cargo vessel with 33 T-72 tanks and other military equipment continue to be in the custody of armed pirates that have been steadily extending their area of operations to distances of up to 500 nautical miles from the shore.

Pirate clans now operate along more than 1,800 miles of the Somali coastline and have, in recent months, significantly extended the radius of offshore operations by using ‘mother ships’ masquerading as innocent fishing trawlers or dhows. For example, vessels transiting the east coast of Somalia have reported being attacked and fired upon at distances of more than 450 nautical miles.

In recent weeks, one ship even reported being attacked as far as 900 nautical miles from the coast. Most attacks have occurred at night and, on occasions, even on ships that have been deliberately kept unlit by the ship Master to avoid drawing attention. Indeed protecting ships in literally millions of square kilometers is akin to trying to find a needle in a haystack.

One visual evidence of the human catastrophe in this region is the Dadaab complex of refugee camps built by the United Nations about 80 km across the Somali-Kenyan border that holds 2,67,000 displaced people who fled Somalia after the last functioning central government collapsed.

A long-term solution eventually lies in the international community’s willingness to help establish stability and rule of law in Somalia so that the pirates’ safe havens can be eradicated. Until then, navies of the international community, backed by the UN, will have to continue strengthening their cooperation, coordination and information sharing system to keep piracy under check.
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Sri Lanka’s trauma
by G.S. Bhargava

That the LTTE (Lanka Tigers for Tamil Eelam) has been the most ruthless and blood thirsty terrorist outfit has been known. (Eelam can be roughly translated into homeland).

A unique feature of its lethal repertoire, as prescribed by the Sanskrit text — sama, dana, bedha, danda — or besides war fighting with no holds barred, tactics like persuasion of non-conformists, overcoming the enemy by argument and dividing enemy ranks.

India as the nearest and largest neighbour of Sri Lanka has been the target of all these methods of warfare.

Velupillai Prabhakaran founded the LTTE in May 1976 and the incumbent Sri Lankan President, Mahinde Rajpakse, significantly, announced its elimination in May 2009, in other words after 33 years of strife and bloodshed.

It is a tragedy, wrapped in rapacity and megalomania, to paraphrase Churchill in a different context. Compounding it has been the tendency of the combatants to live in the past. They have been concentrating on vanquishing the enemy, rather than promoting the welfare of the people and the country.

It is significant that notwithstanding 36 years of internal strife and severe blood letting, Sri Lanka has a better per capita GDP of $ 4, 300 as against India’s $ 1016. Of course, being a smaller country with a population of only 22 million might have helped.

Generally, the Sri Lankan record of human development indices has been better, indicating higher resourcefulness and greater capacity for resilience; as also, the flair for overcoming the ethnic divide. That Muthai Murlitharan of Tamil origin is the ace spin bowler in the Sri Lankan cricket team is an instance in point.

The LTTE, as stated, is a pariah but what about the record of the Sri Lankan leaders? It is not lily white either. In fact, it is difficult to say who, between Solomon Bandaranaike and Junius Richard Jayawardene, is a worse culprit.

Bandaranaike broke from the relatively conservative United National Party or UNP — ‘Frank’ Moraes who started his celebrated career as editor in Sri Lanka, would call it Uncle Nephew Party — to form his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

In a populist drive to promote his party he brought about the Sinhala only law, formally called the Official Language Act, in 1956. It meant condemning the nearly 15 percent Tamil population to second class citizenship. Ironically, since the UNP was pro-American, the tendency in Indian Leftist circles was to acclaim Bandaranaike.

Compounding the situation, Junius Richard Jayawardene — he quit Christianity to become a Buddhist — replaced the prevailing Westminster style parliamentary democratic system by the presidential form of government, making himself the country’s first executive president, with sweeping powers, far more extensive than those of the French head of State or even the US President.

The upshot was that Tamil had become a symbol of minority oppression. The Tamils were boxed in, without any opening for ventilating their case. The presidential form in the name of stability shuts out dissent.

From the Tamil side, C.N.Annadurai, E.V. Ramaswami and Rajaji rose to the occasion. Annadurai, who was then a member of the Rajya Sabha, announced that Tamil Nadu had given up its demand for secession! India being a parliamentary democracy, there was scope for such give and take. The presidential form of government would not allow it.

Meanwhile, Jayawardene who had made himself the executive president, visited Morarji Desai, the Janata Prime Minister, in Delhi in 1977, ironically claiming shared affinity to Gandhian principles with Morarji! His alibi was that he needed the draconian authority to fight the LTTE.

Like all bullies, Jayawardene caved in when Rajiv Gandhi, in 1983 ordered the Indian Air Force to drop supplies to the besieged Tamils in Jaffna. He quickly lifted the siege of Jaffna and signed the India-Sri Lanka accord of July 29,1983.

Instead of pursuing the gains of the July 1983 accord, Rajiv Gandhi embarked on the Tughlakian venture of the Indian Peace Keeping Force or IPKF in 1987. One hundred thousand Indian troops in different formations were dispatched to Sri Lanka for the supposed purpose of bringing the ethnic conflict to an end ultimately to facilitate the establishment of an autonomous Eelam within Sri Lanka.

In the result, however, both the Tamils and Sinhalese resented the presence of foreign troops on their soil and combined to resist them. The then President, wily Ranasinghe Premadasa and duplicitous Velupillai Prabhakaran objectively collaborated to see the IPKF out by 1990, that, too, after heavy casualties of both officers and men. Of course, the LTTE killed Premadase too, not long afterwards.

Meanwhile, the government shifted its offensive to the north into areas previously controlled by the Tamil Tigers, including their de-facto capital Kilinochchi, main military base Mullaitvu and the entireA-9 highway leading the LTTE finally to admit defeat on May 17, 2009.
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Tiananmen: Days to remember
by Dan Southerland

Two years ago I met a Chinese student who was entering graduate school in the United States. I told her I had been in Beijing during “6-4,” the Chinese shorthand for the massacre of June 4, 1989.

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

At first I thought she might not have understood my Chinese, but it soon became clear that “June 4” meant nothing to her. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

In the 20 years since that day in 1989 when Chinese troops opened fire on unarmed civilians near Tiananmen Square, Chinese censors have managed to erase all mention of that tragedy from the country’s textbooks and state-run media.

But for me, Tiananmen is impossible to forget. As Beijing bureau chief for The Post, I covered the student demonstrations that began in mid-April, tried to track a murky power struggle among top Chinese leaders and managed a small team of young, Chinese-speaking American reporters.

What I remember best was the sudden openness of many Beijing citizens of all professions. They were inspired by throngs of students calling for political reform, media freedom and an end to “official profiteering.”

People I believed to be Communist Party supporters were suddenly telling me what they really thought. Some who had been silent in the past even debated politics on street corners.

In early May, Chinese journalists petitioned for the right to report openly on the Tiananmen protests, which on May 17 swelled to more than a million people marching in the capital. Journalists from all the leading Chinese newspapers, including the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, joined in. Their slogan was “Don’t force us to lie.”

For a brief period, Chinese journalists were allowed to report objectively on the student protests. But this press freedom was short-lived and ended May 20 with the imposition of martial law and the entry of the People’s Liberation Army into Beijing.

At first, Beijing residents manning makeshift barriers blocked the troops. But late on the evening of June 3, tanks, armored personnel carriers and soldiers firing automatic weapons broke through to the square.

The death toll quickly became a taboo subject for Chinese media.

Chinese doctors and nurses who had openly sided with students on the square, and who had allowed reporters into operating rooms to view the wounded, came under pressure to conceal casualty figures.

One brave doctor at a hospital not far from Tiananmen Square led me and a colleague to a makeshift morgue, where we saw some 20 bullet-riddled bodies laid out on a cement floor. I later learned that the doctor was “disciplined” for allowing us to view that scene.

A Chinese journalist I considered a friend tried to convince me that government estimates of fewer than 300 killed were correct and that these included a large number of military and police casualties. I later learned from colleagues of his that this journalist was working for state security.

After comparing notes with others, my guess was that the actual death toll was at least 700, and that most of those killed were ordinary Beijing residents.

It’s almost incredible that the Chinese government has succeeded for so long in covering up a tragedy of this magnitude.

But for those who closely monitor the continued repression of civil liberties in China — and the government’s stranglehold on news deemed “sensitive” — it’s not surprising.

Chinese authorities continue to intimidate reporters, block Web sites and jam broadcasts of outside news organizations. China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists and cyber-dissidents.

China’s censorship is multipronged, sometimes heavy-handed and sometimes sophisticated, allowing debate on some issues and shutting it down on others, such as Tiananmen.

I work with several Chinese broadcasters who were students in Beijing on June 4. Many of them saw more than I did. And they are here to remind me — and many Chinese — of a history we should never forget.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post
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