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Now Communal Budgeting: WILL PM STAND UP FOR INDIANS, By Poonam I Kaushish; 22 December 2007 Print E-mail

POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 22 December 2007

Now Communal Budgeting

WILL PM STAND UP FOR INDIANS

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Pyare Musalman bhaiya! Ab main aapki aur khidmat kar sakta hoon? (Beloved Muslim brethren. How else can I serve you now?) It needs no guesses to know who could have uttered these words. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of course! Remember, he said not so long ago that the Muslims had the first claim on the country’s resources.

 

Simplistically, minorityism has once again replaced cronyism as the fashion statement of the week. Take a 360 degree turn anywhere and minority appeasement hits you in the face. All in the garb of improving the Muslims’ quality of life (sic) which translates into “please give me your vote.” Never mind that it holds out monsterous portends for India’s unity and national security.

 

How else does one react to the Prime Minister’s latest bonanza for the minorities by earmarking 15 per cent funds of the 11th Five Year Plan “to enable them to become active participants in economic growth”. Sic. Speaking at the National Development Council, Manmohan Singh added, “This Plan lays special emphasis on the problems of the minorities. It has specific, focused programmes, both for skill development and education and also for improving the basic infrastructure in areas inhabited predominantly by these marginalised groups.”

 

But the Prime Minister had not bargained for an angry outburst from the BJP, which lambasted him for his “communal budgeting.” Gujarat’s Hindutva icon, Gujarat Chief Minister, Narender Modi, angrily asked: “What exactly is the message the Government proposes to send across the country by this discrimination?” Demanding a review of the PM’s 15-point agenda for the minorities, he warned that this was necessary “in the interest of maintaining the social fabric of the nation. It will not help the cause of taking the Indian people together on the path of development."

 

A defensive Manmohan Singh tried hard to dispel Modi’s misgivings by asserting that “the plan does not attempt to divide people on the basis of caste, creed or gender or religion." But there were few takers for his argument. The crucial question is: Does poverty have any religion? What has religion got to do with the Government’s strategy for inclusive growth? Does ‘inclusiveness of Muslims’ mean at the cost of other groups?

 

Arguably, how does it better the lot of the masses, if a few Muslims get benefited? When does minorityism supercede equality assured by our Constitution? Are quotas based on religion and community the answer for maintaining India’s social fabric? And more important, it’s crucial harmony?

 

Given the level of dishonesty, populism and irresponsibility which increasingly governs our political system, this step, like the previous ones, will be an invitation to disaster. In fact, a senior member of the Planning Commission was horrified by this “highly divisive” proposal. The member took up the matter informally with some colleagues warning: We will end up dividing each district with a separate authority to oversee the fund dispersal, then towns and cities and their mohallas and, finally, we will be left with 650 new de facto states.” All to no avail. 

In fact, if truth be told, the Muslim vote bank has become the tour de force of Indian politics. Towards that end, the UPA has recklessly moved quite a distance in its pro-Muslim charter. First, it set up a National Commission to examine the question of quotas for socially and economically backward sections among the Muslims.

 

Then came the Sachar Report “on social, economic and educational status” of the minority community. Next a Minority Affairs Ministry. Followed by the Ranganatha Mishra Commission for Linguistic and Religious Minorities, which has recommended 10 per cent reservation for Muslims in Government jobs.

 

Not just that. We also have the latest bonanza. A panel headed by academician Amitabh Kundu to remove anomalies in the representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. An Equal Opportunity Commission headed by eminent jurist N R Madhav Menon. The Government has also identified 90 minority-concentration districts for focused attention.

 

Clearly, the year 2006-2007 will go down in Indian history as the Year of the Muslim. Thus giving a major boost to diabolical communalism. Statistically, a large section of the Muslims do need a better quality life.

 

Data collated by Sachar and others show that socio-economic indicators for Muslims were below those for OBCs in many cases. (Recall also that most well-to-do Muslims, barring their lowest rung, left for Pakistan in 1947, a fact overlooked by Sachar) About 59 per cent were illiterate, only 10 per cent went to school and a mere eight per cent opted for higher education. Worse, even as they were vastly under-represented in official jobs, they were grossly over-represented in India’s prison population.

 

None can deny that the Government has a special responsibility to help uplift the minorities and the backward classes. But we also need to remember that if reservations based on castes are bad, affirmative action on communal basis is horrendous. It cannot be justified by ominous reasoning that it would bring the Muslims into the mainstream and ensure harmony between the majority and the minority communities. Moreover, it would prevent Muslims from being exploited any more as vote-banks by the so-called secular parties.

 

Really? Aren’t the intentions of the Congress and other so-called secular parties just that? Exploitation of these minorities in the name of social and economic upliftment. With our netagan merrily converting positive affirmation into vote percentage. Specially when they can reap a political windfall of over 70 per cent votes via reservation. Never mind, if it pushes India back by a century and plays havoc with the unity brought about by the Raj.

 

Arguably, the Congress has ruled India for nearly 50 years. What has it done to better the lot of the Muslims? Zilch. Only used them as milch cows for votes in return for promises galore of a better deal. Post Independence, Nehru increasingly politicized religious energy. But he never polled more than 43.6 per cent of the popular mandate. Significantly, the Muslim vote constituted 12 to 15 per cent of his total vote. Consequently, Muslim appeasement became a matter of life and death. To be manipulated and held hostage by dubious promises.

 

Indira Gandhi firmly reused to countenance any demand for reservations for Muslims in Government jobs or Public Sector, formally or informally. But even she quietly acquiesced in the carving of a separate Muslim majority district of Mallipuram in Kerala by the CPM Government headed by Namboodiripad, to keep its nationwide vote bank intact.

 

Rajiv Gandhi bowed to the demands of the fundamentalists in the Shah Bano case. Now his widow, Sonia, as the Congress supremo, has carried the family tradition one step further. The Congress not only came out in favour of a reservation policy on religious basis in the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA Government but Sonia has since chosen to play footsie with the Jamiat-ul-Ulema.

 

Let us for a moment think beyond vote-bank politics of our petty power-at-all-cost polity and look at the perilous security implications of all the ‘minority’ decisions. Which are fraught with dangerous implications for the unity of the country. It is willy-nilly encouraging the Muslim leadership to go communal, even resurrect the once-hated and anti-national Muslim League (to promote welfare of the community) and dictate India’s national agenda.

 

All this could eventually result in reservation for Muslims in Parliament and State Assemblies and even separate electorate a la the British Raj. Our self-serving leaders forget that communal virus spreads fast when they turn a Nelson’s eye to forces wedded to religious bigotry, social obscurantism and violence thinking only of themselves. It even encourages recklessness. Remember, how the UP Minister for Haj offered a huge award for killing the Danish cartoonist for caricaturing Prophet Mohammad.

 

Tragically, the Congress is unleashing a Frankenstein. Does it realize the ramifications of its actions? It could well be the first step in sowing the seeds of another partition --- a Muslim India and a Hindu India. There is no place for double standards or the Orwellian concept of ‘more equal than others’ in a democracy. Our Constitution provides for equal opportunities for all irrespective of caste, creed or sex.

 

Or we shall end up condemning ourselves and our country to repeating history. Where a nation can be plunged into communal anarchy once again. Remember, a nation is primarily a “fusion of minds and hearts” and secondarily a geographical entity. This portioning of the mind has brought us virtually to the cross-roads. How long will we allow brazen communalism to continue playing havoc with India’s unity, harmony and integrity? Will the PM please stand up for ‘we Indians’!  --- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)                        

  
Fake Police Encounters: NO USE FOR LIVE TERRORISTS!, By Poonam I Kaushish;New Delhi,15 December 2007 Print E-mail

POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 15 December 2007

Fake Police Encounters

NO USE FOR LIVE TERRORISTS!

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

In the wee hours of 26 November 2005, Sohrabuddin Sheikh was gunned down by the police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The Gujarat Government claimed that he was a member of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and was on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In Allahabad a year later, Pintu Mishra, described by the police as a small-time criminal, was “bumped” off because of his terrorists’ links. In 2007 an 18-year old boy, Abdul Rehman, was killed in Srinagar by the security forces for being hand in glove with the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

 

All three killings made headlines. All had one tenuous common link: the three were killed in fake police encounters. In, fact, the Supreme Court is presently hearing a petition against the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad Chief, DG Vanzara, for having Sohrabuddin killed as also for 21 other ‘encounters’ between 2003-2006. Modi has been hauled up for contempt for having spoken about Sohrabuddin and his killing during his controversial campaign for the Assembly poll.

 

Lost in the din of moral outrage against “fake killings,” is the larger picture: how does one combat the scourge of deadly terrorism which has enveloped India in its octopus-like embrace. Think. Of the 670 districts in the country, as many as 270 are terror-prone. Of these, 70 districts have already been ravaged by terrorists.

 

Terror has already cost India more than 72,000 civilians and 12,000 security personnel. Self-proclaimed Islamic terrorists alone have killed 5,617 Indians in the last three years. In fact, since 2004, India has lost more lives to terrorist attacks than the whole of North, South and Central America, Europe and Eurasia put together.

 

Each terror attack elicits a predictably standard State response, mostly soft and ritualistic. We continue to wallow in the false belief that wars are games born in the minds of men which can be won peacefully by merely waving the white flag. Or we promptly initiate a blame game. The BJP’s fake encounters vis-à-vis the Congress going soft on terrorism. Besides, terror has become a big yawn.

 

Indeed, Acharya Kriplani was ever so right. When he described Indians as the world’s biggest hypocrites and humbugs. We exhaust precious national energy, time and money on individual issues a la Sohrabuddin, but twiddle our thumbs when it comes to defying the Supreme Court verdict on Afzal Guru and not hanging the mastermind of the attack on Parliament in 2001. Why? Thanks to opportunistic political expediency. Tom-tomming human rights violations nets votes and helps score brownie points with the Muslims and their vote-banks.

 

Most sadly, the UPA Government has callously ignored the strong signal it has sent to the Muslims that the Government will not do anything which may even remotely hurt the Muslim sentiment, terrorism or no terrorism. Plainly, this is appeasement at its crassest worst. Moreover, there is no sense of shame or remorse that the families of those who laid down their lives to defend Parliament have returned the gallantry medals and monies in sheer and understandable disgust.

 

No amount of appeasement will change the intentions of the terrorists who are determined to bleed India whatever it takes. Forgetting that a war can be won only by a bigger war! Between 1998-2000, the special squads of Mumbai police ‘cleaned up’ the 300-strong Mumbai underworld with an average of 100 encounters a year. That is about eight a month. The police went by the Israeli strategy of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The officers were feted as super-heroes. Bollywood even immortalized them.

 

In Punjab, mouthing platitudes that the law would take its own course, talking ad nauseum about the iqbal of the State and upholding human rights, did not end the Sikh militancy in the 80’s. In fact, these measures proved to be an exercise in futility. No witness was willing to give evidence and no judge a verdict for fear of the terrorists. Terrorism was finally snuffed out by hitting back with State terror. Today, KPS Gill who spearheaded the State terror is lauded as a hero and his advice eagerly sought.

 

In Kashmir, Indian troops and police are known to commit atrocities day in and day out. Most Indians are shocked by this brazen brutality but accept it as an unavoidable part of the battle against militants. Ditto is the case in West Bengal. In the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Naxalite movement threatened the State, both the ruling CPM and the Congress colluded in crushing the Naxals by counter State terror. In Nandigram too, the CPM has thumbed its nose at the rule of law and described it as “morally and legally” correct. 

 

Arguably, Modi is right in this milieu when he asserts that the Centre and its UPA rulers have adopted double standards. Fake encounters are bad and unacceptable in Gujarat but right and much-needed in Punjab, Kashmir etc. How does one draw a distinction between one fake encounter and another fake encounter? Is, the police more sinned against than sinning in dealing with ruthless terrorists who enjoy the advantage of choosing the target, the place and the time?

 

It is an open secret that the police time and again not only take recourse to third degree methods in order to extract truth from alleged criminals but also kills them with impunity. True, this is abhorrent and unacceptable strictly from the human rights point of view and should be used only in extreme circumstances. It is also true that the security forces have abused power to dispense their own brand of rough and ready ‘justice’ on innocent persons, dubbed terrorists. More often than not to earn a reward and promotions. Or to kowtow to their political masters.

 

However what does one do in a situation where a terrorist holds the State hostage? Can a nation afford to sit back and let militancy gain an upper hand? Where militants call the shots? Isn’t it an inescapable side-effect of the battle against militants. Clearly, when the State’s existence is in peril, the only way to hit back is to carry the fight into the enemy camp effectively.

 

At times State terror can be justified so long as it for the greater common good. Former Punjab Governor, the late Dharma Vira (ex-Cabinet Secretary), was ever so right when under a spell of President’s rule during the height of Sikh militancy in the State he directed: “I have no use for live terrorists!” Indeed, the Kandhar fiasco would never have happened if only the three hijackers, Masood Azhar, Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar had been duly eliminated and not jailed.

 

Remember a terrorist has no caste or creed. For him terrorism is the religion. Be it a Hindu, a Muslim or a Sikh. He is an invisible enemy who uses our resources and freedom to hit us at will. An enemy that has no borders and no scruples. Adept in exploiting the latest technologies, he identifies and exploits our weaknesses. While we talk, he acts. Inflicting maximum loss at minimum cost. All at our expense.

 

Worse. We have failed to give ourselves stringent laws that security experts have been demanding for long. Like the defunct POTA, which is tough but provided for all the safeguards suggested by the Supreme Court in TADA. True, POTA was not able to end terrorism. Parliament was attacked when it was in operation.

 

Nevertheless, POTA helped in speedily tackling cases of terrorism and bringing terrorists like Afzal Guru to book. Such a revamped anti-terror law would send a much-needed signal down the rank and file of terrorists that India means business. But for obvious reasons, the Congress-led UPA Government chose to repeal POTA.

 

India needs to understand that when terror strikes, nations are expected to hit back with maximum force and carry the fight into the enemy camp. It is not enough to possess unrelenting, unremitting muscle power. On occasions it becomes necessary to display that power. Like the US and UK which have tougher laws than our dumped POTA and TADA.

 

Alas, the Centre continues to grope in the dark about how to deal with terrorism. This will go on and on till it is clear about fundamentals. The terrorism we face today is no longer terror in someone else’s backyard. Or the prerogative of spy thrillers. Terrorism poses a deadly challenge that can be met only through ruthless State power, not namby pamby platitudes. Remember, when our liberalism and freedom becomes the enemy’s Kalashnikov it is time for India to wake up and do some honest soul searching a la Mahabharat! ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 
Virodhi Or Dushman?:ENFORCE MORAL CODE FIRMLY, By Poonam I Kaushish; New Delhi, 8 December 2007 Print E-mail

POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 8 December 2007

Virodhi Or Dushman?

ENFORCE MORAL CODE FIRMLY

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Rajnetik virodhi ya jaani dushman? Tragically, the lines between a political opponent and a sworn enemy have got blurred. Nothing epitomizes this better than the brazen communal campaigning in the Gujarat Assembly poll. Which has trashed basic courtesies and decencies. Ended the camaraderie, bonhomie and respect among healthy rivals. Unabashedly revived the burning issue of communalism. And caste. That could set India ablaze and threaten its unity once more.

 

Everyone and everything has become game in the land of the Mahatma. From desh bhakts to desh drohis. For the Congress, confused about its support base, devoid of a vote plank and desperate about stopping its main opponent, the BJP from returning to power, it fell back to its tried and tested formula --- blatant minoritism, which, actually, is brazen communalism. For the Saffron Sangh it is a do-or-die battle for the Hindu poster boy Chief Minister Modi.

 

The ball was set rolling by the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, at a tribal rally in the State. Wherein she denounced Modi as a maut ke saudagar and promised to "throw the cheats and liars out of Gujarat." Retaliated Modi, “Italian mud will not stick on me. It is they who are hand in glove' with maut ke saudagar. Till today, Afzal Guru, who masterminded the attack on Parliament in 2001 hasn't been hanged defying the Supreme Court verdict.”

 

But he did not stop there. At another rally, Modi played the Hindutva card to the hilt. He asked the crowd: “You tell me what should have been done to Sohrabuddin? (An alleged Pakistani terrorist killed in a police encounter). “Kill him, kill him, kill him...,” the people responded. “Barobar chhe (that’s fine).” “Sohrabuddin got what he deserved. Do I need to take Sonia Gandhi’s permission for this? Hang me if I have done anything wrong.” Leaving none in doubt about his target: “Gujarat ke dharti pe maut ke saudagar nahin rahne doonga!

 

Retorted another Congress senior leader Digvijay Singh: “Modi is a terrorist and Gujarat has become a hub of Hindu terrorists.” Countered the BJP Dy Leader in the Lok Sabha Vijay Malhotra, “Sonia has a hatred for Hindus. She speaks against Hindus and chooses to remain silent when atrocities are committed against the community," Snapped the CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta: “Modi is an unchanged lunatic... He is a cynical and criminal challenge to democracy.” Added the Prime Minister for good measure: “If you are against the Modi Government, only God can save you.”

 

Today we may hang Modi. But will this stop the mud-raking. “No”. All are tarred by the same brush. Be it the Congress, the BJP or any other political party. If the Congress is upset now, it too has to accept its share of the blame. Was it correct for Sonia to dub Modi as a “maut ke saudagar?” Or for Digvijay to call him a “terrorist” and the PM to assert that “Bhagwan hi malik hai.”   

 

True, Modi has no business to incite the crowds on the Sohrabbdin issue, specially as the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. No matter that he may have been provoked by Sonia into commenting on Sohrabbdin. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

 

This see-saw battle between the BJP and the Congress seems to tell us everything, yet nothing about our polity. Indeed, a sad reflection on the depth of political depravation we have come to. What is most worrying is that the campaign of slander in the Sonia-Modi battle transgresses all limits of political and public decency and etiquette.

 

The issue is not whether the BJP is able to beat the Congress at the numbers game. Nor that both have sacrificed morality at the altar of power. The issue is also not that the Election Commission has issued a notice to Modi for his comments on “Sohrabuddin and linking his name to terrorism, made in the speech, amounts to indulging in activity which may aggravate existing differences, creating mutual hatred and causing tension between different communities, and would involve violation of the provision of clause (1) and (3) of Item I of the Model Code of Conduct " Nor is it about his reply.

 

Sadly, in a milieu where politics has degenerated to a euphemism for community and caste, cheap thrills and seetees. Chanted by one and all parties with each propounding its own recipe of communal and caste harmony, according to their own warped and selfish political needs. None cared a damn for morality and none had the patience to bother about the Election Commission reading the riot act under the model code of conduct, except for scoring brownie points against each other. Ends mattered not the means. Winning was the name of the game. To hell with Gandhi. That too in the Mahatma’s land, Gujarat.

 

The EC was left free under the Moral Code to cry hoarse that “no party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different caste and communities, religious or linguistic”. Also, “there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, churches, temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.”

 

Further, “criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work…Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion shall be avoided.” So what? The Congress has once more fallen back on its tried and tested formula --- putting its secularism against the communal forces. And Modi has dumped development and is now hooting for Hindutva.

 

With parties and candidates wantonly violating the Code, what is the remedy? Alas, the EC is powerless. Asserted Secretary Wilfred: “The Model Code of Conduct lacks legal sanction. It is intended to work as a moral policeman to ensure free and fair elections. We can only freeze a party’s election symbol or derecognize it as a national party. Nothing more, nothing less.” In other words one can merrily violate the code brazenly and yet get elected to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies.

 

Importantly, India is today at the moral crossroads. It is time to take a good fresh look at the Model Code of Conduct and, wherever necessary, recast it. We need to give more teeth to the EC. Even give it the power to countermand an election in case a candidate violates the Code.

 

Our leaders and parties too must get rid of their excess baggage of communalism and casteism made a lot more malignant by our unstable and fragmented politics. With everyone propounding his or her own recipe of communal harmony, the nation is getting sucked into the vertex of centrifugal bickering. Wherein none cares that if this continues, the colour of India’s river could turn blood red, a repeat of the horrendous pre-partition nightmare.

 

The people must not allow themselves to be fooled or taken for granted. Specially, as we know that our politicians have perfected the art of cultivating low morality and high greed, donning different party robes, according to their whims and fancies --- and the need of the hour. Leaving India dangerously communal, but the political parties and their leaders hypocritically secular. 

 

Clearly, it is high time that we start afresh our experiments with truth in the Mahatma’s land. More so, in our present all pervasive decadence, interspersed with growing public distaste, cynicism and despair. If not stopped now, it could result in a total breakdown our democratic of institutions, society, culture and ethical values.

 

As the nation and our polity readies for a new year there comes a moment of truth and reckoning, it is time to pause and ask: Are we putting a premium on slander? On immorality. Will profligacy be the bedrock of India’s democracy? How long do we suffer the stampede for sensation and slander? And, what is in the best interest of India and its democracy?

 

The parties should remember one age-old truth” If you point one slanderous finger at another, four other slanderous fingers will point back at you! Can a nation be bare and bereft of all sense of shame and morality? And, for how long?  ---- INFA

(Copyright, India New and Feature Alliance)

Nandigram…..A Half-Told Story: WHEN WILL TRUTH BE OUT?, By Poonam I Kaushish; New Delhi, 23 November Print E-mail

POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 23 November 2007

Nandigram…..A Half-Told Story

WHEN WILL TRUTH BE OUT?

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

What prompted a normally peace-loving Bengali turn into a monster, indulging in mayhem? The optimist would spew venom against the rising terrorism. The cynic would shrug it off as yet another sordid chapter in the Indian State losing its Iqbal and wily nily becoming partners in brutality. Both refusing to face the ugly and harsh truth that violence is increasingly becoming the rhetoric of our time!

 

The tragedy of India is that at the end of the day, every bloodbath evokes the same token response. The police quell the mob. A few arrests are made. Calm is restored and, finally, the incident is unceremoniously dumped in the garbage of history. With none the wiser about what precisely went wrong, where lay the fault-lines and who was to blame. Every incident remains a half-told or unfinished story…..Be it the 1984 Sikh riots in Delhi, the 2002 Godhra riots to the latest carnage in Nandigram.

 

The volcano of violence that erupted in peaceful Nandigram 11 months ago on January 3 finally engulfed Kolkata and neighbouring areas on November 21. Leading to the Army being called and curfew imposed. Even as Nandigram continues to resemble a battleground of dead bodies, missing people, burnt huts and refugee camps. The cries of grief drowned in the volley of accusations flying thick and fast between the people, State Government, the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee and exploding in Parliament.

 

Sadly, after the Prime Minster Manmohan Singh’s astonishingly bland description of the events in Nandigram as “unfortunate”, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya “sharing the PM’s concern and spirit,” but describing the happenings as “morally and legally right”, down to the day-long debate in the Lok Sabha and two-days in the Rajya Sabha none is wiser about what went wrong in Nandigram? Who were the perpetrators and what action was and is being taken to end the mayhem? All one has are sketchy accounts. Depending on which side of the political spectrum one is.

 

The Central Government would have us believe that the root cause of the trouble was the announcement by the State Government on January 3 of its decision to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on 10,000 acres of land in Nandigram. Asserted Union Information Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi: “It was not the Maoists or the Naxalites. It was the common people who retaliated because their lands were being acquired. And the compensation was to be paid to the land owners and not to them as share-croppers. How would they feed their children?  They, therefore, got united and said that they could not stake their land. Enough is enough” 

 

“Things went beyond control when the boss of the local area propagated the campaign, that it should be done. If only those who were identified by the police to be involved in the January incidents could have been booked and brought to justice, things would have taken a different turn. I think that objective introspection is required in the whole matter. (Sic).The people who are in the refugee camp and those outside should be brought to their homes. There should be peace and harmony.” Nothing more, nothing less.

 

Wrong, asserted the Opposition. It was the ruling CPM cadres behind the carnage. Charged the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, LK Advani, “When you try to convert the Party into a substitute for Government, then things go out of hand.  When I visited Nandigram, the same thing was again and again mentioned that party men, party cadres wore police uniforms and fired at the hapless people.

 

Underscoring his indictment by quoting from the Governor’s statement that he had “a feeling of cold horror” when he visited the area. “The happenings are totally unlawful and unacceptable.” The Kolkata High Court’s judgment that the “action of the police department to open fire at Nandigram on March 14 was wholly unconstitutional and cannot be justified under any provision of the law”. The State Home Secretary’s report of Nandigram resembling a “war zone.” Resting his case with the DIG, CRPF’s statement that his men were “prevented from entering Nandigram by the CPM.”

    

On the other hand, the State Government would have us believe that the mayhem in Nandigram was the handiwork of the Maoists. Speaker after speaker in both Houses asserted that the Maoists had taken control there. Towards that end they cited from last year’s Home Ministry Status Paper stating: “The Naxalite movement continues to persist in terms of spatial spread, intensity of violence, militarisation and consolidation, ominous linkages with subversive groups. They operate in vacuum created by absence of administrative and political institutions, espouse the local demands and take advantage of the disenchantment prevalent among the exploited segments of the population…”

 

Justifying their argument by raising umpteen questions. Why did the violence continue after the State Government had withdrawn the SEZ notification on January 4? Why was the movement and blockade not withdrawn and peace talks held? Why was the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee not disbanded?  Why were thousands of people driven out of Nandigram? They could not return to their homes for more than 11months.  Why was the police not allowed to enter?

 

The answer? It was under siege by the Maoists and became almost a liberated area. Sophisticated arms were smuggled in with the help of outside fundamentalist political forces. Farmers do not have AK-47 rifles, land mines and sophisticated material to kill a man. They don’t dig up trenches and make warlike preparations. Who did it? At whose behest was it done? Should we not condemn that? Will you allow a liberated zone to be created in Gujarat?  Can we allow a State within a State?  QED. It is another matter that the State Home Secretary’s statement contradicts their claim.

 

Perhaps to bail out the UPA’s principal ally, the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, reiterated: “We have information that some outsiders had instigated people from behind to take to violence. They also brought sophisticated weapons into the area." However, he refused to expand his statement by meekly stating that “he could not disclose more.”

 

But his reply left many unanswered questions. If Nandigram was the handiwork of outsiders, what was the need to give a “directive (read advisory) to the State Government in writing? Why advice that no one should be forced to leave his or her home and everybody should be brought back and given full protection. And demand that the State Government take steps to bring the situation back to normal including removing fear in minds of the people.

 

Further, he overruled the Opposition’s demand for a CBI inquiry into Nandigram, by expressing his helplessness. “Even if I want to send an investigating agency to any of the States to investigate, I cannot because that is not allowed by the Constitution. If you want that the CBI should inquire into a particular matter, it is for the State Government to suggest that the CBI should inquire into it or the Court to suggest that. I think, in this case the matter has been referred to CBI and the CBI has been looking into this. 

Shockingly, even as the CBI and the powers-that-be grope in the dark about what precisely happened in Nandigram and Kolkata, comes news that three serial blasts have taken place in U.P.’s Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow. The Harkut-ul-Ansar has accepted responsibility. Predictably, the polity is once again going through the routine--- mourning the dead, sympathizing with the wounded and pledging to cull out the perpetrators of the dastardly crimes. Failing to realize that action not words is the answer of the day.

In the ultimate, our polity needs to tackle barbarianism firmly and ruthlessly and make clear that it will not be tolerated. Where anyone takes the law into his own hands. The Iqbal of the State must be restored to ensure the rule of law. It is time to recall Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore’s words: “Let me not grope in vain, in the dark, but keep my mind still in the faith that the day will break and truth will appear in its simplicity.”---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)           

UPA In Tailspin: STUCK IN INDEFINITE LIMBO, By Poonam I Kaushish, New Delhi, 17 November 2007 Print E-mail

POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 17 November 2007

UPA In Tailspin

STUCK IN INDEFINITE LIMBO

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

It was a collision waiting to happen. Amidst the Congress-Left Parties continuing spat over the nuclear deal, the Congress’ doublespeak on Nandigram, the DMK’s derision of Lord Ram over Ram Setu, the RJD’s  raucous volley on rising prices, the NCP’s  stealthy subterfuge in Maharashtra and the BSP playing hardball. One thing emerges crystal clear: all is not well with the Congress-led UPA Government and, indeed, with the Congress itself. Any which way.

 

It remains to be seen whether there will be a mid-course correction? Or will it lead to an ignominious end of the coalition or yield to a new Front? Will the Left and other allies back-off as usual? Or, will the Congress have the last laugh?

 

The winter session of Parliament is still in its first week and the air is bristling with resentment. Reaching ludicrous proportions wherein it is difficult to distinguish between the Treasury and the Opposition Benches. Perhaps, it is too early to call it quits for the UPA Government. The alternate of a ‘communal’ BJP is too scary. What to say of the MPs mortal fear of losing power and pelf by going for early polls.

 

However, one thing is obvious. The tu-tu-mein-mein between the foes-turned-friends, going on from Day One of the UPA’s formation, has turned acerbic. The Congress, too, is fed up of backseat driving. But unlike in the past, the face-off over each and every issue is sure to widen the cracks drastically, which could well lead to a point of no return.

 

Specially, post the Assembly elections in UP wherein the Congress had to eat the humble pie while its bete noire, BJP, has formed the Government in Karnataka, its first in the South. The coming State polls in Gujarat and Himachal too hold no beacon for the party’s revival. A weak Congress is fodder for the allies who are busy extracting their pound of flesh. No matter the thunder and volley alongwith the show of strength (sic) at the AICC session in New Delhi last Saturday.

 

The signs are already there. The Congress response to the Nandigram violence over the setting up of a SEZ since March last exposes the dichotomy. Instead of slamming the CPM, the Congress ambivalence over the West Bengal Government’s brutal action exposes it as a Party in a no-man’s land. Shockingly, it refused to denounce Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s “moral and legal” justification of armed Left cadres “recapturing” the district from the farmers.

 

All it was willing to express was that “the violence is regrettable….it should not have happened…could not be condoned by any civilised society... law and order is a state subject, but the Centre has provided CRPF forces there and the Home Minister has assured that whatever is needed to be done will be done." Nothing more, nothing less. Never mind that the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priyaranjan Dasmunshi called it “state-sponsored massacre” and its State unit termed it a “genocide” and demanded imposition of President’s rule.

 

Worse, both the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveniently chose to ignore the State Governor Gopal Gandhi’s unprecedented indictment of the State Government in his letter to the Chief Minister wherein he stated, “The manner in which the recapture of Nandigram villages is being attempted is totally unlawful and unacceptable…Nandigram has become a war zone. No Government or society can allow a war zone to exist without immediate and effective action…Thousands of villagers have been intimidated into leaving their homes.

 

Ironically, the very same Congress continues to accuse Narendra Modi’s Government in Gujarat for the Godhra genocide. Arguably, are the Gujarat Muslims different from the Bengal Muslims, killed and gang raped in Nandigram? Whatever happened to upholding secularism?

 

The plight of the Grand Dame of Indian politics is understandable. By keeping the CPM in good humour, Sonia Gandhi ensures that the Government stays afloat. The Congress, with only 145 MPs in the Lok Sabha, is critically dependent on the support of 61 Left MPs Left and Co for its survival. But it has to grapple with the question of how much space should it cede to the Left. And it’s rippling effect on the other allies.

 

The Left has now allowed the Government to negotiate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). But with a rider: get back to us before operationalising the deal. Undoubtedly, backseat driving pays rich dividends with the CPM having its cake and eating it too. No matter it has pushed the country into suspended animation.

 

Moreover, in the event of the Left deciding to network the other allies on key policy issues like price rise, disinvestment, FDI, insurance, reforms, sale of PSUs, foreign policy etc. it could adversely affect Manmohan Singh’s governance agenda.. Worse, with ministers pulling in different directions, the Prime Minister has very little elbow room. Fire-fighting is fast becoming the signature tune of the UPA.

 

Adding to the Congress woes, all its allies have gone hammer and tongs against Finance Minister Chidambaram for ‘goofing up’ on the prices front. True inflation has come down, but consumer prices are on the upswing. Sonia’s staunchest ally, RJD’s Lalu Yadav castigated the Congress for ‘giving short shrift’ to the aam aadmi and the farmers. “Yeh GDP, FEP kya hai, aloo-pyaaz itna mehanga kyun hai?”

 

In Maharashtra, mistrust between the Congress and NCP has led to a tit-for-tat policy. Both are wary of each other and fought the panchayat and municipal polls separately early this year. With each party nursing grand ambitions of ruling the State independent of the other, the strain in this marriage of convenience is widening. Why NCP. Even the tiny Peasant sand Workers Party’s (PWP) ensured the defeat of the Congress in the zilla parishad poll.

 

Other allies too are upset with the Congress’ Big Brother attitude. If in Tamil Nadu, it is the ruling DMK, in Jammu & Kashmir it is Mufti’s PDP. In Chennai, Karunanidhi is shooting his mouth in all directions be it heaping scorn on Lord Ram or demanding the demolition of the Ram Setu, his flip-flop on the nuclear deal and the latest wanting a new federal Constitution!

 

The RJD’s Lalu and the BSP’s unreliable Mayawati too are there as long as it suits them. Mayawati has made no bones that she has her eyes on the Prime Ministership. Ditto is the case with Laloo. Till such time, they are busy extracting their pound of flesh to woo their vote-banks. See how the allies bludgeon the Government on increasing the subsidies and giving preference to the Muslims and other minorities. Exposing the fragile nature of the UPA.

 

Worse, the Congress’ own house is in disarray. The Congress is its own enemy. In Haryana, Himachal, UP, Gujarat and Maharashtra, senior party leaders have raised the banner of revolt. In Himachal an erstwhile Congressman was the raison de atre for the Party’s defeat in the recent by-poll to the Lok Sabha. And, things don’t look too rosy for the Assembly poll.   

 

In Maharashtra, the MLAs want a change of leadership. In UP, the party is in a comatose state without any sense of direction. Even Gandhi scion, Rahul, acknowledged this by stating candidly that the “challenge lay within.” In Gujarat, the Party has no “tall leader” to take on Modi. In Karnataka, Maharashtra Governor Krishna continues to play ducks and drakes with the State unit.

 

What next? Events have their own momentum. More so in the farcical nature of the Congress-UPA allies-Left ties and the inherent contradiction of being arch rivals in the State election arena. The allies have made plain their stand: Don’t take our support for granted. It remains to be seen how long the “tail will wag the dog”. The Congress needs to remember the wise adage: Power breeds arrogance and arrogance leads to defeat. Else, it should be prepared for the last tango. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)          

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