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COVER STORY

14-08-1998

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A capricious visa regime

JOHN CHERIAN the-nation

Scientists from India have arbitrarily been denied visas by the U.S. and some other Western nations following the nuclear tests.

COLLABORATION between India and the United States in the defence arena was the first casualty of the sanctions imposed by the Clinton administration in the wake of the nuclear tests. Other Western nations, some of which did not go so far as to impose sanctions, too scaled down the level of their military cooperation with India. Now, however, the "review" of the extent of cooperation appears to have been extended to the scientific arena.

Four scientists of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who were working in the U.S. on the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project were told to leave almost immediately after India's nuclear tests. Further, the U.S. company GE withdrew product support for the LCA's F-404 engines. However, the Indian Defence Ministry is confident that the LCA project will be completed with an indigenously designed Kaveri engine.

The U.S. administration has also put the defence exchange programme on hold. In May, the Indian Government had given its approval for joint naval exercises with the U.S., to be conducted in two phases: the first in Hawaii in July/August, and the second off the Indian coast in December. In late May, the U.S. administration told the Indian Government that it was calling off the joint exercises.

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Significantly, similar joint military exercises with Pakistan were not cancelled: one such exercise was held in the third week of July. From available indications, Washington blames India more than Pakistan for the situation in the subcontinent: in the U.S.' perception, it was India which triggered the arms race in the sub-continent by conducting nuclear tests first.

Immediately after the nuclear tests, many Western countries, with the exception of France, started denying visas to Indian military delegations. The United Kingdom spelt out its position clearly: in early July it announced that it had severed all contacts with nuclear scientists and establishments in India and Pakistan. India's Army and Navy chiefs cancelled their proposed visits to the U.K. Australia and New Zealand were the first to announce the severing of defence ties with India. Japan denied visas to officers from the National Defence College (NDC) who were on a familiarisation tour of the region. Some of the Scandinavian countries and Germany also adopted a tough policy while considering the visa applications of defence personnel and scientists associated with the DRDO and the Atomic Energy Commission.

The U.K. denied in May visas to four leading Indian scientists, among them Placid Rodrigues, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, and his colleague Baldev Raj. Another scientist from the same institute, N. Ravi, was not issued a visa for a visit sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in late-June. Rodrigues and Raj were scheduled to attend a meeting of editors of a scientific encyclopaedia at Oxford University.

It was the denial of a U.S. visa to Dr. R. Chidambaram, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, that brought the arbitrary policy of visa denials into focus. Chidambaram was to attend a four-day executive committee meeting of an international group of crystallographers in the third week of July in Arlington, Virginia. He was denied a visa around the same time the Indian Prime Minister's special envoy Jaswant Singh was busy holding secret talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in Frankfurt.

Initially, sources in the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi said that Chidambaram had "withdrawn" his visa application. Chidambaram himself quickly refuted this and said that he had been denied a visa. U.S. administration sources in Washington later admitted that the denial of visa was "a direct result of the tests". Chidambaram, who is vice-president of the International Union of Crystallographers, hoped that the visa restrictions on Indian scientists would be eased soon. "The issue should not be blown out of proportion as it did not mean the end of Indo-American collaboration on science and technology," he said. The denial of a U.S. visa to Chidambaram citing the nuclear tests is somewhat ironical: in 1969, the U.S. Government had invited Chidambaram to witness an underground nuclear test.

The Indian Government has sought to underplay the denial of visa, evidently with the intention of keeping the Clinton administration in good humour.

The U.S. had indicated that after Pokhran-II, it would deny visas to "selected people", particularly nuclear scientists, to prevent "unwanted transfer of technology". The Clinton administration seems to have taken a decision in principle to ban the entry of Indian scientists and researchers on the grounds that they would profit from academic contacts and use the information to further India's nuclear and missile programme. A U.S. State Department official said that it was the prerogative of every country to formulate its visa policy. "While we encourage the free movement of people, we are looking carefully at people who can gain more information on nuclear and missile technology," the official said. He, however, denied that visa restrictions were part of the sanctions policy imposed by the U.S.

Many close relatives of top Indian scientists in the defence and atomic energy fields work in high-security research centres in the U.S. Others, who have secured admission to U.S. universities, are unsure if they will be given visas. A senior DRDO scientist's son, who has secured admission to a major U.S. university, has submitted his visa application and is waiting for it to be processed. There have been reports that more scientists from the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research have been denied visas. Three scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation are the latest victims of the capricious U.S. visa policies.

In olden days, only Communists were disallowed entry into the "land of the free". After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Communists were removed from the list and were supplanted by citizens from states that have been classified as "terrorist" by the State Department. Among them are Cuba, Sudan, Syria, Iran and Libya. Today, the Clinton administration seems to be doing the same thing to Indian scientists.

Israel, whose clandestine nuclear weapons programme has been well documented, has no such problems. Many Israeli scientists have "dual" U.S. and Israeli citizenship and face no restrictions. The message is clear. Sanctions and visa restrictions will be lifted only after India makes significant concessions on the nuclear and missile fronts, which the BJP-led Government appears to be working towards.

An unsettling picture

A Home Ministry report presents a grim picture of the law and order situation in the country.

THE Union Home Ministry's report to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs presents an alarming picture of the country's internal security situation. Simply put, it states that roughly half of the country's 535 districts are facing unrest and 210 districts are "affected by one crisis or the other". A variety of factors have been specified as causing the unrest. They include communal violence, insurgency, left-wing extremism and ethnic conflicts.

The report is significant in many ways. First, it highlights the decline in the security climate. Secondly, it shows that in spite of playing the role of "Big Brother" in recent times, the Central Government has not been able to respond positively to the demands from various States for help to meet the challenges to internal security. Thirdly, it points out that the management of border security in insurgency-prone States leaves a lot to be desired. The report also establishes that despite the Home Ministry's attempts to present Opposition-ruled States as areas where the law and order situation has collapsed, the deterioration is widespread and covers Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled States such as Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, West Bengal, ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front, does not figure in the list of problem areas, although the Centre had sent a Home Ministry team to probe the "collapse of law and order" in that State.

The States that have been most affected by law and order problems, the report says, are Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and northeastern States such as Nagaland and Manipur. The situation in Delhi and Tamil Nadu has also been described as disturbing.

According to the report, 10 out of the 14 districts in Jammu and Kashmir have been affected by militancy and 48 out of the 69 districts in northeastern India witness violence on a regular basis either because of insurgency or because of ethnic conflicts.

The problem in Uttar Pradesh, the Home Ministry overview states, is the rise in the incidence of communal violence. The reference is to the communal clashes that took place in the past six months in Moradabad and Old Lucknow. The cause of concern in Bihar is the increase in the incidence of organised crime by militant groups, including private armies and left-wing extremists. More than 200 people, including prominent political leaders, fell victim to their criminal activities in the recent past.

Three factors have been mentioned as contributing to the tense situation in Tamil Nadu: the continuing influence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the growth of Muslim fundamentalist organisations, and caste clashes.

In a special reference to Delhi, the Home Ministry said that the series of bomb blasts in the recent past and the expansion of the activities of anti-social elements have added a new dimension to the law and order situation. The Parliamentary Committee, apparently responding to this observation as well as to the deposition of Delhi's Commissioner of Police before it, noted that the "present strength of personnel in Delhi Police is not adequate to cater to the need of effectively and efficiently managing the law and order and security duties in the capital." The Committee also remarked that it was imperative to initiate action immediately to raise the strength of the Delhi Police.

The report stated that along with the rise in the number of disturbed districts, there was an increase in the demand to deploy Central paramilitary forces. Commenting on this trend, the Parliamentary Committee said that "the supply of central paramilitary forces to the States was not commensurate with the demands of the States." It also pointed out that the deployment of the Border Security Force (BSF) was not satisfactory in many insurgency-prone States. "The existing deployment has left huge gaps, as a result of which the movement of extremists across the border is taking place very easily." The Committee expressed the view that the deployment of the BSF needed to be reviewed.

Amidst a plethora of references to the worsening of internal security, the Home Ministry lists a few areas that have recorded improvement. According to it, the situation in Punjab has improved considerably. The report suggests that even in terms of border security, Punjab is better off than other States that are contiguous to the international border. Similarly, the situation in Mizoram and Meghalaya is better than that in the other States in the northeastern region.

Besides suggesting that the response from the Home Ministry to the demands of State governments should improve and be more appropriate, the Committee stated that the Centre should take steps to implement the National Police Commission's (NPC) recommendations. It pointed out that the replies of the Government to queries on action taken on the NPC's directions are "too general and vague". The Committee said that the Government should prepare lists of recommendations that had been implemented by the States and Union Territories, that were pending with them, and that had been found to be impossible to implement. Pranab Mukherjee, Chairman of the Committee, told Frontline that only after studying these could the implementation of the NPC's recommendations be taken up constructively.

He said that the Committee's study of the report underlined the need to improve the security and policing machinery with special emphasis on trouble-prone areas such as Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern India, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi. It also emphasised the need for better coordination among the Centre and the State governments on this front.

However, several Opposition members of Parliament were of the view that a report of this kind could become an instrument of domination in the hands of the BJP. According to former Internal Security Minister, Rajesh Pilot, "given its ideology which militates against decentralisation of power, the BJP could use a report like this to bypass State governments and interfere in the law and order machinery in the States."

The Cauvery conundrum

With the Supreme Court setting a July 12 "deadline" for the Centre to work out a negotiated settlement to the Cauvery dispute, the Vajpayee Government finds itself pulled in different directions by political parties in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

THE Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government at the Centre is virtually being torn apart by intense pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the Cauvery waters issue. And much to its discomfiture, it finds itself running short of time to find a negotiated settlement to the decades-old dispute between the two States. On July 21, a Bench of the Supreme Court adjourned to August 12, hearing in the case relating to the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal's interim award, in order to enable the Centre to inform it of the steps taken in the matter of framing a draft scheme to implement the June 25, 1991, award. The Court ruled out further adjournments: "Thus far and no more," observed the Bench, which comprised Chief Justice M.M. Punchhi and Justice Syed Shah Mohammed Quadri.

Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee wanted the court to give the Government at least six weeks to find a negotiated settlement. He said that the Government was hopeful of creating a "harmonious atmosphere" between the two States to settle their differences. However, senior counsel for Tamil Nadu, K. Parasaran, opposed a "long adjournment". He said that the issue related only to the implementation of the draft scheme and that quite a number of attempts to resolve the issue had been made at the highest level without success. He pleaded that no further time be lost.

The interim award had directed Karnataka to release 205 tmc ft of Cauvery water a year to Tamil Nadu. The draft scheme has been circulated to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.

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BARELY days before the proceedings in the Supreme Court, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayalalitha, the leader of the BJP's principal alliance partner in Tamil Nadu, had warned Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of "disastrous consequences" if the Centre did not notify immediately the scheme on Cauvery waters in the official gazette and table it in Parliament. She asked the Prime Minister to ensure that the Centre did not again seek an adjournment in the Supreme Court when the matter came up on July 21. Instead, she said, arrangements should be made to notify the scheme and the court should be informed of it. She said categorically that there was no possibility of a compromise between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the problem. A memorandum signed by members of Parliament belonging to all political parties in the AIADMK-led front in Tamil Nadu, barring the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), was submitted to the Prime Minister.

The AIADMK's shrill protest was a sequel to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's letter to the Prime Minister asking the Centre to notify the scheme to implement the award. Karunanidhi recalled that eight adjournments had been sought in the past by the Attorney-General and that the Centre had committed itself to framing a scheme under Section 6A of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, on the interim award. Jayalalitha, however, accused his party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and its electoral ally, the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), which were key constituents in the United Front Governments, of doing little to get the order implemented. She also questioned Karunanidhi's right to address letters to MPs of the AIADMK and its allies on the Cauvery issue.

Jayalalitha's latest warning to the Prime Minister - interpreted by many people to mean that her party would withdraw its support to the BJP-led Government at the Centre if her demand was not met - failed to have any impact on the BJP. In the party's view, Jayalalitha was merely responding to the compulsions of competitive politics in Tamil Nadu where an emotive issue like the Cauvery dispute could be used to gain political mileage. The impression in BJP circles was that Jayalalitha had understood the futility of demanding the dismissal of the DMK Government, and needed a new issue to flog. The emotive Cauvery issue served this purpose.

BJP general secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu declared, however, that the Centre could not, and would not, work under pressure. The Government's approach in the Supreme Court, to which the Attorney-General gave expression on July 21, was to ask for time, but not to appear to be resorting to dilatory tactics. Sorabjee told the court: "We are not going back on the scheme. There appears to be only a small difference of perception between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. We are hopeful of ironing out the difference."

However, the Government's optimism was not shared by MPs from Tamil Nadu. Members belonging to the AIADMK, the DMK, the MDMK and the TMC walked out of both Houses of Parliament on July 21, protesting against the Centre's "betrayal" of Tamil Nadu's interests in the Cauvery issue.

On July 22, Jayalalitha urged the Centre to notify the scheme without waiting until the August 12 deadline set by the court. In a strongly-worded, five-page statement, which singled out the BJP for attack, she said that the party was playing partisan politics and giving in to sectarian demands. The BJP was sacrificing the interests of Tamil Nadu, which had only three BJP MPs, in favour of Karnataka, which returned 13 BJP MPs, she alleged. Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana's statement that a meeting of the Chief Ministers of the States would be convened was intended to delay the issue, Jayalalitha said.

Members of Parliament from Karnataka too brought pressure to bear on the Centre. An all-party delegation of 30 MPs from Karnataka - comprising members from the Lok Shakti, the BJP, the Janata Dal and the Congress(I) - submitted a seven-page memorandum to the Prime Minister, urging him not to notify the award. The delegation, led by Janata Dal leader S.R. Bommai, demanded that a meeting of Chief Ministers of the four riparian States be called to resolve the issue. The memorandum demanded the framing of a national river waters policy, which would lay down guidelines for the sharing of river waters among riparian States.

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THE draft note circulated by the Government among the States that are parties to the dispute, has evoked a range of reactions. Kerala's response was that the machinery sought to be created to implement the scheme, namely, the Cauvery River Authority, was not adequate to deal with the problem. Kerala, whose interest in the scheme is peripheral, disagreed with the scheme's proposal that the decision of the Authority be made final. "Appeals to the courts should be permitted," said the Kerala Government's counsel in the Supreme Court, P. Subramanian Potti. Kerala Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar also wrote to Vajpayee asking the Centre not to take any decision on the Cauvery issue without seeking Kerala's opinion. He said that Kerala could not carry out several projects in the Cauvery's catchment area for want of clearance. Some of the stipulations regarding the functioning of the proposed River Authority went against the spirit of the federal structure of the Constitution, he said.

Karnataka too expressed its reservations. The memorandum submitted by the all-party delegation to Vajpayee stated: "The solution to the problem does not lie in the creation of a mechanism or a regulatory authority equipped with statutory powers." It also opposed certain provisions of the draft scheme, which restricted Karnataka from taking up the construction of new projects, although the Tribunal had not imposed such restrictions.

Many observers believe that a negotiated settlement between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is the only possible solution to the Cauvery dispute. Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, who is now with the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, said that any agreement would face criticism from some quarters in both the States, and it required political maturity to strive for a negotiated settlement by surmounting such opposition. He said that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had shown political courage in signing the Ganga Water Treaty with India in 1996, even though Opposition parties in Bangladesh had dubbed the treaty a "sell-out". He warned that the attempts by politicians in Tamil Nadu to politicise the issue further would harm the State's interests. He reasoned that any delay in finalising an agreement would not harm the interests of Karnataka, an upper riparian State; on the other hand, with the passage of time, it would become difficult to enforce the Tribunal's award to safeguard Tamil Nadu's interests, given the chauvinistic sentiments evident in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

According to Ramaswamy Iyer, Tamil Nadu's insistence on securing the same quantity of water as it was getting before Karnataka began its massive irrigation efforts in early 1970s has no legal basis. Tamil Nadu used to get about 480 tmc ft of water from the Cauvery; its share was subsequently reduced to 340 tmc ft. The Tribunal's award directing Karnataka to share 205 tmc ft out of about 670 tmc ft was not "excessively generous", he said. At the same time, he felt that Karnataka had to recognise that Tamil Nadu too had a pre-determined right over the Cauvery. If Karnataka was doubtful about its capacity to share water during lean seasons, it should convey its concerns to the Tribunal, which might consider Karnataka's case then. Unfortunately, Karnataka did not allow the only conflict-resolution mechanism to function, he said.

Judicial standoff

The Union Government and the Chief Justice of India are at odds over key judicial appointments.

"The process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts is an integrated participatory consultative process for selecting the best and most suitable persons available for appointment; and all the constitutional functionaries must perform this duty collectively with a view primarily to reaching an agreed decision, subserving the constitutional purpose, so that the occasion of primacy does not arise."

- from the majority judgment in Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association v. Union of India and Others (1993).

THIS principle laid down in the 1993 judgment of the Supreme Court with regard to choosing judges for the apex court and the High Courts has now come under test. The Union Law Ministry is yet to take a decision on the recommendations of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice M.M. Punchhi, regarding the appointment of six Judges to the Supreme Court. In the 26-member court there are four vacancies. Two more vacancies are likely to arise in September, when two judges retire.

The candidates recommended by the CJI are Justice K. Sreedharan, Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court; Justice U.C. Bannerjee, Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court; Justice R.C. Lahoti of the Delhi High Court; Justice Bhawani Singh, Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court; Justice B.N. Agarwal of the Patna High Court; and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan of the Gujarat High Court.

While holding back a decision, the Ministry reportedly sought to know from the CJI whether the recommendations reflected the collective view of the CJI and his two senior colleagues. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that the CJI had consulted his two senior colleagues, Justice G.N. Ray and Justice S.C. Agarwal, before making the recommendations, which were sent to the Government before Justice Ray retired on May 1. Justice A.S. Anand has since become the third seniormost Judge in the Supreme Court and the CJI did not seek his views. Justice Anand is likely to succeed Justice Punchhi as CJI in October 1998.

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Justice Punchhi has said that he was not bound by the precedent set by his predecessor Justice J.S. Verma of consulting five senior Judges of the Supreme Court before formalising recommendations regarding such appointments. According to columnist Kuldip Nayar, Verma said that he had consulted, when he was in office, not only the senior-most judges but also senior members of the Bar. To this, Sibal replied: "Each Chief Justice evolves his own procedure to deal with appointments. The 1993 judgment makes it mandatory for the CJI to consult only two of his senior colleagues."

THE stalemate over the Supreme Court appointments follows the Centre's refusal to approve the transfer of the Chief Justices of three High Courts. The recommendations were returned to Justice Punchhi for reconsideration. Justice Punchhi had recommended that the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, M.S. Liberhan, be transferred to the Guwahati High Court. The Government reportedly felt that both the Chief Minister and the Law Minister of Tamil Nadu had spoken against his transfer and that any such decision could be construed as a political move and could send out wrong signals. Pending before a two-member bench that includes Justice Liberhan is a petition by Jayalalitha, the general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a key ally of the ruling coalition at the Centre, challenging the constitution of special courts to try cases against her and her associates.

The Government has held that Justice Liberhan is junior to Justice V.D. Gyani, the acting Chief Justice of the Guwahati High Court, who will retire on August 7, and the transfer as suggested by the CJI would cause embarrassment to both of them. In the case of Justice Om Prakash of the Kerala High Court, Justice Punchhi initially recommended his transfer to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, but subsequently modified it as a transfer to the Delhi High Court. The Government, however, found that Justice Om Prakash's daughter and son-in-law practised in the Delhi High Court and therefore decided that the transfer would be "contrary to basic postulate of transfer policy, namely inadvisability of judges presiding in courts in which their relations are practising."

The third transfer recommended by Justice Punchhi was that of Justice A.B. Saharya from the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the Rajasthan High Court. Justice Saharya had been transferred as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court only on November 11 last year. Under a 1993 judgment, the Government held that repeated transfers within a short span of time should be avoided unless compelling public interest is to be subserved by such transfer, which was not indicated by the CJI.

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However, unlike in the case of the transfer of High Court judges, the Government is yet to write to the CJI expressing its reservations about his nominees for the vacancies in the Supreme Court. Kapil Sibal said: "Let the Government write to the CJI on why the nominees suggested by him are not suitable. If he is convinced, he may agree to drop those names from the list." The senior lawyer took umbrage at Urban Affairs and Employment Minister Ram Jethmalani's unfavourable remarks about some of the nominees without specifying any allegations against them. Sibal said: "Let the Law Ministry tell the CJI about its reservations over his nominees."

Jethlamani had said about some of the nominees of Justice Punchhi that "they are not the best persons" for the job. The Prime Minister's Office, however, disowned Jethlamani's statements, saying that "they are his own and not that of the Government." The PMO, in a statement, cautiously added that the Government did not question the right of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to recommend judges for appointment to the Supreme Court. However, the statement remained silent on the crucial question of why the Government was delaying a decision on his recommendations.

The CJI's recommendations have provoked those Chief Justices of the High Courts who in the normal course would have been promoted to the Supreme Court by virtue of their all-India seniority and merit. Justice P.S. Mishra, Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, resigned alleging that he was being superseded in the selection process. The Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, Justice S.N. Phukan, has threatened to resign if he is superseded. Phukan brought to President K.R. Narayanan's notice the fact that Punchhi's nominees Justice Bhawani Singh, Justice Bannerjee and Justice Lahoti are junior to him. Phukan, who belongs to the northeastern region, has also warned that his supersession might lead to a feeling of alienation among the people of the region.

Phukan was earlier the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, where Justice Bhawani Singh was a judge. Bhawani Singh later became the Chief Justice of the High Court. Phukan has had an unblemished record both in Shimla and in Cuttack. He complained in his letter to the President that Bhawani Singh, as the senior-most Judge of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, had not only close political connections but also tremendous influence with executive officials.

The Vajpayee Government, which cleared Punchhi's appointment as CJI despite intense pressure against his promotion by the Committee on Judicial Accountability (CJA), seems to be preparing itself for a confrontation with the CJI by delaying a decision on his recommendations. If the CJI's recommendations are returned to him for reconsideration, he could send them once again to the Government with or without any modifications; then it would be binding on the Government.

However, before returning the recommendations after "reconsideration", is the CJI bound to consult again his seniormost colleagues and carry their views? Yes, says Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate and a member of the CJA. In his view, the Government can insist on a wider consultation before finalising the appointments. Kapil Sibal, on the other hand, answers the question in the negative. He suggests that the CJI can again invoke the collective opinion that guided his first recommendations, if he so desires.

The 1993 majority judgment, in its summary, says: "In exceptional cases alone, for stated strong cogent reasons, disclosed to the CJI, indicating that the recommendee is not suitable for appointment, that appointment recommended by the CJI may not be made. However, if the stated reasons are not accepted by the CJI and the other judges of the Supreme Court who have been consulted in the matter, on reiteration of the recommendation by the CJI, the appointment should be made as a healthy convention."

The Government, avers Prashant Bhushan, can delay a decision on the CJI's recommendations until the present CJI retires in October, as the 1993 judgment does not prescribe any time limit for the Government to approve the recommendations. Probably this apprehension has provoked a public interest petition in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre to fill the large number of vacancies of judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court. The petition, filed by advocate Mohan Lal Gupta, sought the court's intervention in the transfer and appointment of Chief Justices and Judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court on the recommendation of the CJI. As per the 1993 judgment, in the event of conflicting opinions by constitutional functionaries, the opinion of the judiciary, "symbolised by the view of the Chief Justice of India" and formed in the manner indicated, has primacy.

Interestingly, Justice Punchhi, who gave the dissenting judgment in 1993 in the case relating to the appointment of judges, disagreed with the majority view of the Constitution Bench - that the CJI in actual practice must be one in a body of men, that is, he with two of his colleagues in the order of seniority, and collectively as an oligarchy, recommend the appointment of Judges to the Supreme Court, and likewise in a body of more than those two, in the matter of the appointment of Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts. The thrust of his opposition to the view was that it diluted the status of the CJI. "This is the barter which the CJI must accept to get back from the executive his lost primacy. He must forever muzzle his singular voice," he had said. He added: "The position of the institution of the Chief Justice, being singular and unique in character under the Constitution, is not capable of being disturbed."

A climbdown

Faced with protests over the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar district in the proposed Uttaranchal State, the BJP-led Government appears to be having second thoughts on the proposal.

RAJYA SABHA member and former Union Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia looked pleased as members of Parliament belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party huddled together on July 17 to discuss the proposed legislation to create the new States of Uttaranchal, Vananchal and Chhatisgarh. Standing outside the main gate of Parliament House, the Sikh leader, who represents Uttar Pradesh in the Upper House, told this correspondent that he was sure that the "roll-back Government" (a reference to the BJP-led Government's reversal of several budgetary proposals) "is getting set to modify one more of its exalted announcements" (on the creation of new States). The meeting, he added, would create the atmosphere for the deferment of the introduction of the bill on the formation of the new States.

Ramoowalia's delight at the prospect of such a deferment was understandable. He has been campaigning against the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar district in the proposed Uttaranchal State. As such, any decision by the BJP-led Government that would result in a delay in the creation of the State was, in his opinion, welcome, for it would give the Udham Singh Nagar Raksha Samiti (USNRS), which is spearheading the agitation, time to mount pressure on the Government to meet its demand.

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In the end, Ramoowalia's prediction in respect of the BJP MPs' meeting was proved right. The MPs were briefed on the difficulties in introducing the bill in the Budget session. The agitation in Udham Singh Nagar and the Uttarakhand hills as well as "the opposition of the BJP's alliance partners such as the Akali Dal (see box) to the formation of the State as envisaged" were among the reasons cited. It was also pointed out that the Government was still "studying the economic viability of the proposed States" as well as the "geographical and cultural affinity" among the various regions that would form the new States.

Significantly, the language used at the meeting was reminiscent of the arguments of the USNRS in support of its demand: the USNRS said that the Terai belt, which included Udham Singh Nagar, was not culturally and geographically compatible with the hill districts. Clearly, the BJP was resorting to prevarication.

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh's visit to New Delhi on July 18 gave further indications of this. After meeting Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, Kalyan Singh told journalists that his Government would accept whatever decision the Centre would take in respect of Udham Singh Nagar. This stance implied a clear shift from his position of only a week earlier, when he had asserted in Lucknow that Udham Singh Nagar would be part of the proposed new State.

Other developments in Lucknow, Udham Singh Nagar and the hill districts also pointed to a change in the BJP's plans in respect of Uttaranchal. The most significant of these were the statements of two BJP leaders from the hill districts, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal and K.C. Singh Baba. These leaders made their case for a "greater Uttaranchal" that would include parts of districts in the plains, such as Bareilly, Rampur and Hardwar. Pokhriyal is a member of the Kalyan Singh Ministry and Baba is an MLA.

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According to BJP sources, Ila Pant, the BJP MP from Nainital, had appealed at party meetings for the inclusion of Baheri, the Assembly constituency in Bareilly district that is part of the Nainital Lok Sabha constituency, in the new State.

These suggestions acquire significance in the context of the rethink at the Centre; within the USNRS, there are some who would not mind the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar in the new State if more regions from the plains are also included. According to a section of the USNRS, the biggest problem with regard to the proposed State is not geographic and cultural incompatibility but the advantage that the hill people would have in the new State's Assembly owing to demographic reasons.

If the new Assembly is formed as currently envisaged, more than two-thirds of the seats will fall in the hill areas. USNRS executive committee member Yashwant Kumar Mishra told Frontline: "That would give the hill people the kind of political weightage with which they can run us down." The new suggestions from the BJP leaders from the hill areas are evidently aimed at offsetting this perceived imbalance in the proposed power structure. If more regions from the plains are included in the new State, the number of Assembly seats from the plains would also increase.

The manner in which the USNRS' "direct action" phase cooled off after a brisk beginning on July 9 may indicate behind-the-scenes efforts to work out a new proposal on the lines suggested by Pokhriyal and Baba. The USNRS' agitation programme started with a two-day bandh that brought to a halt almost all activity in the district, including court proceedings. The USNRS had announced that the direct action programme would continue for an indefinite period beyond July 12 if its demand for the exclusion of Udham Singh Nagar district from the new State was not accepted.

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However, even though neither the Centre nor the State Government has responded positively to the USNRS' demand, the organisation has not intensified its agitation. Its leaders are reported to be holding discussions in Lucknow with BJP leaders and the State Government. The BJP seems to have accepted the suggestion to include in the new State more areas from the plains. BJP sources are, however, unable to say whether such a move will satisfy the hill people who have waged a prolonged struggle for the new State.

According to BJP leaders, the shift in the BJP stance was triggered by the realisation that Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was seeking political mileage with his overt support to the USNRS agitation. "Mulayam Singh was gaining not only in Udham Singh Nagar district, but also in other parts of Uttar Pradesh," a senior BJP leader told Frontline. The reason, according to him, was the perception in the rest of Uttar Pradesh that including Udham Singh Nagar in the new State would be as good as taking prosperity out of Uttar Pradesh and from the hands of the plainspeople. The leader also added that the only way this trend could be removed was to assure the people of the plains that their interests would be protected in the new State.

Clearly, the BJP-led Government's announcement on the formation of new States is caught in the familiar web of political compulsions. How these compulsions will influence the issue is to be seen. But what is certain is that until a via media is found, the BJP leadership will strive ever so hard to explain the "difficulties" in introducing the bill on the formation of the new States in the near future.

A widening rift in Punjab

WHAT is most interesting about the Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) stand on Udham Singh Nagar district is the developments that have surrounded and shaped it. It takes little to see that the SAD's intervention in Uttar Pradesh's Terai region is an expression of the formation's deep aspiration to be the sole political platform of Sikhs everywhere. But what has remained largely unnoticed is that the SAD's aggressive posture on Udham Singh Nagar district has come at a time of renewed Hindu chauvinistic mobilisation in Punjab. The skirmishes on the Udham Singh Nagar issue are a sign of troubles to come, with consequences not just for the SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance, but for the future content of Punjab's politics.

Interestingly, the first political mobilisation on the Udham Singh Nagar issue came not from the SAD, but from the centre-left. Former Union Minister and Punjab Bhalai Manch (PBM) leader Balwant Singh Ramoowalia began to campaign in mid-June on behalf of Terai Sikhs who believed that their lands and economic future would be compromised with the integration of the district into the new Uttaranchal State. SAD's silence was curious. Several important SAD figures own large holdings in the Terai belt although the Punjab Government has denied that any of its Ministers possesses such property. Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal is known to have owned lands in Bazpur. However, those close to him claim that they were sold some years ago. The denial has found few takers because much of the land in Udham Singh Nagar is registered under fictitious names, a strategy adopted to circumvent land ceiling laws.

Nonetheless, the SAD began to focus on the issue only when the Punjab Congress(I) began to back Ramoowalia's campaign. On July 6, shortly after being appointed Punjab Pradesh Congress(I) president, Amarinder Singh announced that the future of Udham Singh Nagar would be one of his key concerns. "This district," he said, "has nothing in common with the hill people."

Sikh disquiet with the new proposals, he said, stemmed from the fact that "in the hill area there is a land ceiling law which allows land holding up to one hectare only, and the farmers would be losing land."

With the Congress(I) implicitly attacking the SAD's credentials as a genuine representative of Sikh interests, Badal took up the issue. In the wake of Amarinder Singh's press conference, an SAD-BJP delegation from Punjab met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to press its case. The members of the delegation attacked Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana's earlier argument that constitutional regulations barred the exclusion of Udham Singh Nagar from the new State. The alliance then established contact with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Jayalalitha and Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee to seek their support on the issue. Interestingly, Badal's address to the Punjab Assembly earlier in the day made no reference to the issue.

On July 9, former Chief Minister and Congress Legislature Party chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal raised the issue in the Assembly. Pandemonium erupted in the House, with both the Congress(I) and the SAD accusing each other of hypocrisy. The Communist Party of India's Hardev Arshi attempted to inject some reason into the debate by pointing out that while the issue was of a serious nature, it did not constitute a matter of concern for the Punjab Assembly. Few members seemed to listen to his plea. Later in the day, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Gurcharan Singh Tohra made oblique threats of withdrawing support to the BJP-led Government at the Centre and appeared to suggest the possibility of an SAD-led mass agitation on the issue. Although Tohra later denied having made these statements, the fact remained that he represented a growing sense of panic within the SAD on the issue of merging Udham Singh Nagar district with Uttaranchal.

Of perhaps more concern to the SAD was its alliance partner's State-level stand on the issue. Although two BJP Ministers had accompanied the June 6 delegation to New Delhi, the party did not intervene in the subsequent debate on the subject. The Punjab BJP's rank and file remained hostile to the SAD demand, and one senior BJP leader told Frontline that the SAD was "reacting as if Udham Singh Nagar was to be separated from Punjab."

This sourness reflected a broader breakdown in relations between the two parties. On July 5, BJP State general secretary Jagmohan Kaura had openly complained that the SAD had sabotaged his party's prospects in the recent panchayat elections. Activists of the BJP, he claimed, were routinely mistreated by SAD Ministers. Kaura's extraordinary outburst reflected the resurgence of Hindu chauvinist sentiments against the SAD in recent months. In one peripheral but significant development on July 5, the Punjab Shiv Sena had demanded reservation in employment and education for Hindus in the State.

The SAD is facing similar problems on its own flanks. Far-right communal groupings, until recently subservient to the SAD, are showing signs of breaking free. At the end of a three-day training camp sponsored by the Sikh Students Federation's Mehta faction, the grouping resolved to continue "the struggle for the spread of Sikh religion started by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale," and promised to honour all those who had laid down their lives in this struggle. In a thinly veiled attack on Tohra and other centrist SAD figures, the faction complained that many SGPC members were not amritdhari (baptised) Sikhs. The World Sikh Council's recent assault on the SAD's unwillingness to exhume the legacy of the post-1982 insurgency also suggests a hardening of the far-right forces' stand. Clearly, the SAD's claim to represent all Sikhs is being questioned, with potentially disastrous electoral consequences for the formation.

What implications will these developments have for the future of Punjab politics? Each previous alliance between past variants of the SAD and the BJP fell because of pressures from hard-liners in both the camps. As the Udham Singh Nagar issue illustrates, both SAD and the BJP have been forced to adopt postures aimed at placating the fringes of their communal constituencies. In hastening the coming into being of these mutually irreconcilable positions, the Congress(I) has proved adroit. Although it is unlikely that either the SAD or the BJP will allow the alliance to collapse in the short run, long-term trends point in the direction of a growing rift with grave communal implications. Udham Singh Nagar, it is evident, is only the pretext: the real battle is being waged behind the scenes.

A deadlocked peace process

Talks between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah), which virtually runs a parallel government in Nagaland, have made little headway, and the ceasefire agreement between them is about to expire. The prospects for peace appear bleak.

THE ceasefire agreement between the Central Government and the outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah) expires on July 31. But the peace initiative undertaken by the Government to find a political solution to the 50-year-old insurgency problem in Nagaland through negotiations with underground Naga leaders has made little progress. The talks between the two sides remain deadlocked; the most recent meeting, between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's emissary and senior Supreme Court advocate Swaraj Kaushal and NSCN(I-M) leaders in Bangkok in early June, failed to make any headway.

During the meeting with Kaushal, NSCN(I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and president Isaac Chishi Swu demanded political discussions without any conditions and in the Prime Minister's presence to be held outside India. Underground sources said that the rebel leaders had told the emissary that if the Prime Minister participated in the talks, the NSCN(I-M) would give up its demand that the peace talks be held under United Nations supervision. Evidently, this was unacceptable to the Prime Minister's Office.

Kaushal's brief was to try to evolve a mutually beneficial and consensual solution to the insurgency problem within the framework of the Constitution. Some of the demands that the NSCN(I-M) placed before Kaushal could not be accommodated within the constitutional framework. For instance, the NSCN(I-M) wanted Nagaland to be given the status of a protectorate, much like the status that Bhutan has. NSCN(I-M) vice-chairman K. Yanthum said recently from his hideout in London that his organisation would plead for the grant of such status for Nagaland.

Kaushal sought to secure the Naga leaders' response to the idea of working out an arrangement under which the Congress(I) Chief Minister of Nagaland, S.C. Jamir, would step down and make way for a leader of the rebels' choice. He cited the example of Mizoram where Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla at one point stepped down to make way for Laldenga, president of the banned Mizo National Front (MNF). But Muivah is reported to have rejected the proposal, saying that Mizoram was not Nagaland and the Naga people were not like the Mizos. According to Muivah, Laldenga accepted the arrangement because it came at a time when the MNF leader was thinking of giving up the underground movement and giving himself up to the authorities. The NSCN(I-M), on the other hand, was determined to continue its fight for "a sovereign Nagaland", he said.

According to NSCN(I-M) sources in Kohima, Muivah told Kaushal categorically that only direct talks with the Prime Minister could revive the peace process. Muivah is reported to have refused to discuss political matters with Kaushal since, in his view, the Government of India had backed out of many previous agreements. This time too, he said, New Delhi was backtracking on its commitment made to the Nagas.

It is claimed that when the ceasefire agreement was worked out in May, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government agreed that the ceasefire would cover all the areas inhabited by the Naga people, not just Nagaland. Besides this, according to the NSCN(I-M), New Delhi made three commitments: that the peace talks would be unconditional, that they would he held at the level of the Prime Minister, and that they would take place at a venue outside India. According to Muivah, the Government violated the agreement on all counts. It had conducted Army operation in areas inhabited by the Naga people in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and refused to hold unconditional peace talks at the Prime Minister's level, he said.

The NSCN(I-M) is the main underground organisation in Nagaland and was the first to respond to the proposal for talks made by the Congress(I) Government headed by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao some years ago. Several rounds of talks were held between the Indian Government and guerilla leaders when the United Front was in power. These resulted in the declaration of a ceasefire with the NSCN(I-M) on July 25, 1997. Since then the ceasefire has been extended several times; the latest agreement, for a three-month extension, was made effective from May 1 this year.

UNDERGROUND sources in Dimapur feel that even if the NSCN(I-M) comes to an understanding with the Vajpayee Government, it will not mean an end to the insurgency. Two other major underground organisations, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and the Naga National Council (NNC), have set themselves against any kind of peace proposal from the Centre. The NSCN(K), which is not a party to the ceasefire agreement, has declared that its "offensive against the Indian occupation force in Nagaland would continue." Since May 1, its guerillas have killed 21 Army personnel.

Although the NSCN(K) is not a party to the ceasefire, the security forces had avoided a confrontation with the Khaplang group in order to give the ceasefire a chance. But when the NSCN(K) resorted to unprovoked attacks on Army personnel, the Army resumed active operations against it. Analysts believe that the NSCN(K)'s sudden resort to violence after lying low for some time may be intended to subvert the peace talks. Chief Minister Jamir appealed to the NSCN(K) leadership to accept the Government's offer for unconditional talks. The Centre said it was "unfortunate" that there had been no "favourable response" from the NSCN(K) to the ceasefire offer. Action against the group would, therefore, continue, a State Government spokesman said.

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Underground leaders of the NSCN(I-M) allege that some leaders in the State who have a vested political interest are using the NSCN(K) to target the security forces so as to disrupt the peace process initiated by New Delhi. They claim that the Centre is aware of this but is unable to do anything about it. They allege that NSCN(K) leader S.S. Khaplang, who belongs to the Hemi Naga community from Myanmar, operates from bases close to the India-Myanmar border and that he has links with at least one senior political leader in the State.

THE mood among the Naga people is in favour of securing an extension of the ceasefire; they would also like to see peace talks between the Government and the NSCN(I-M) continue. But they believe that no solution is possible without the involvement of the other factions of the NSCN. In the estimation of the Naga people, a peace agreement with the NSCN(I-M) can at best bring about a piecemeal solution to the problem. Jamir too believes that without the involvement of all the insurgent groups in the peace talks, a permanent solution cannot be found.

Former Chief Minister Vizol told Frontline that the Centre should declare a "comprehensive and blanket " ceasefire and include the NSCN(K) and the NNC in the agreement. He said that although the level of violence had come down during the ceasefire period, violence continued in some places. Unless the other two NSCN factions were included in the ceasefire agreement, no peaceful solution to the problem was possible, he said.

A prominent leader in Imphal said that a solution to the Naga insurgency problem hinged on how the NSCN(I-M) presented its demands during the negotiations. The group's demand for a "sovereign Nagaland" has been rejected by the Centre. Union Home Ministry officials have made it clear to the NSCN(I-M) leadership that secession from India would not be allowed at any cost.

The NSCN(I-M)'s insistence on including in the discussions all areas inhabited by the Naga people has given rise to other problems. The Centre is unwilling to discuss such areas outside Nagaland because that would invite objections from neighbouring Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The Manipur Government is opposed to areas within the State's boundary coming under the ambit of the negotiations process. The major constituent of the coalition ruling the State, the Manipur State Congress (MSC), has offered support to the BJP-led Government at the Centre on condition that the Prime Minister announce on the floor of Parliament that Manipur's territorial boundary would not be altered.

Underground sources have hinted that both Isaac and Muivah may renounce insurgency and enter mainstream politics if certain concessions - such as territorial adjustments to include within the geographical area of Nagaland the areas inhabited by the Naga people in Manipur's Ukhrul district and the grant of special constitutional provisions to the State - are made. Most of the top NSCN(I-M) leaders, including Muivah, K.K. Hurrey, Atem and R.H. Raising, are from Ukhrul district.

The NSCN(I-M) virtually runs a parallel government in Nagaland, and is therefore willing to consider a peace agreement only on its terms. Addressing a gathering of Naga rebels on the occasion of the 19th "republic day" of the government of the "People's Republic of Nagaland" somewhere near the Nagaland-Manipur border on March 21, Isaac said that if negotiations with the Government of India did not yield a solution, the fight for a "sovereign Nagaland" would continue. "Thousands of Nagas have shed their blood for the redemption of Nagalim (Naga identity) and thousands more are queueing up to sacrifice their lives for the nation," he said.

Isaac and Muivah criticised the Indian Government for its "shameless imposition" of "bogus elections" on "the unwilling Naga people" in February. They asserted that such "forced elections" were "absolutely unacceptable now and shall be so for all time too come."

Letters to the nation

Another set of historically important letters written by Mahatma Gandhi is on its way back to the country.

ON July 15, a set of 18 letters written by Mahatma Gandhi, dealing with the themes of Hindu-Muslim unity and non-violence, were purchased for the nation when they were auctioned by Sotheby's in London. The letters were written between 1918 and 1924, at the time of the Khilafat movement, to Maulana Abdul Bari, an Islamic scholar and founder of the Jamiat-e-Ulemai-e-Hind. A good part of the correspondence deals with plans for joint Hindu-Muslim demonstrations in support of the movement. The Ali brothers, Shaukat Ali and Mohammed Ali, who led the Khilafat movement along with Gandhiji, were the Maulana's disciples.

The collection also contains four letters in Urdu, some of which are in the original and some are copies, from Motilal Nehru to Maulana Bari, as well as two letters from Jawaharlal Nehru to the Maulana.

While five of Gandhiji's letters in the collection were in his own hand, several others were written by his secretaries and signed by him. Some letters were written and signed on Gandhiji's behalf by his secretaries. Several of the letters have also been translated into Urdu, either for or by Maulana Bari.

The letters were put up for auction by the Maulana's descendants settled in the United Kingdom. As on previous occasions when letters by the Mahatma were put up for sale, the Indian Government was anxious to acquire them and add them to the existing collections of Gandhiji's correspondence in various museums and archives. However, the Government was unwilling and unable to purchase them directly. An outright purchase by the Government was not feasible as it involved administrative questions such as where the funds should come from. Besides, officials were concerned that if the Government made it known that it was willing to buy all correspondence by Gandhiji, then hordes of other Gandhi letters would come into the market at inflated prices.

The problem of acquiring the set of letters and bringing them to India without direct government involvement was solved by Dr. L.M. Singhvi, India's former Indian High Commissioner in the U.K. Singhvi, who was present in London, used his contacts with non-resident Indian businesspersons and raised the funds for the purchase from two millionaires, G.K Noon and Nat Puri. Apart from the bidder who acted on behalf of Singhvi, there was one more bidder. Although Sotheby's had suggested a price between 10,000 and 15,000 the competitive bidding raised the price to 18,000.

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Singhvi is a veteran in the purchase of Gandhi letters and memorabilia. He was involved in earlier purchases of a letter written by Gandhiji on the subject of khadi and a copy of Bhagvad Gita that belonged to the Mahatma. Two years ago Singhvi was involved in the prevention of the sale of a collection of drafts of letters written by the Mahatma, which were in the possession of one of his secretaries, V. Kalyanam (Frontline, November 29, 1996). This was done after doubts were cast on the legal right of the secretary to sell the drafts. That collection was eventually handed over to the Indian Government and is now with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.

In the present case, there are no doubts about the legality of the sale. The sellers were the descendants of the Maulana, to whom the letters had been addressed, and had title to the letters. As Dr. Peter Beale, an expert at Sotheby's, said, the sale that was attempted two years ago related to the drafts of letters that had been retained by someone who had no clear title; this time, the sale related to letters that had been sent by post to a recipient, whose family members were now selling them, as they had a right to do so.

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Singhvi said that the letters would probably be given to the Nehru Memorial Museum in New Delhi to be added to its collection of Gandhiji's correspondence. The letters were in poor condition and needed expert archival care if they were to last, he added.

The letters deal with Gandhiji's attempts to build a common Hindu-Muslim front through the Khilafat movement. They also reveal the Mahatma's disappointment in the failure of his ideal of non-violence to take root. In one letter written in 1922 after Gandhiji was forced to call off the civil disobedience movement when it degenerated into violence, he writes: "I am disappointed because I have come away (from Delhi) with a majority that has no faith even in the policy of non-violence...I feel thoroughly helpless...that our opponents magnified our violence and terrorised us is only too true, but we expected no more from them, and no less. Hindus are as bad as Mussalmans, but unfortunately as both are weak our policy depends on hearty cooperation of both..."

He goes on to say: "I am clear that all aggressive activity must be stopped. Our ranks must be purged of all undesirable elements. If really as a result of our experiment we have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to control the mass violence or to convince the majority of our countrymen of the necessity of remaining non-violent, we may revise our programme, but it would be suicidal to delude ourselves into the belief that we are following the policy of non-violence when we are not."

He asks the Maulana for suggestions on ways to re-establish a non-violent programme. "Please think over the matter and let me know what can be done. If we can re-establish a non-violent atmosphere we must be able to work out the constructive programme laid down."

In other letters, Gandhiji discusses his plans for civil disobedience, and his various travels to settle disputes, such as a visit to Hoshangabad to settle a "cow sacrifice dispute". In one letter written in 1921, he asks the Maulana to come to Bombay (Mumbai) to help quell the rioting that had broken out. "Crowds (are) out of control (and) internal strife (is) proceeding," he writes. In a letter from jail, Gandhiji writes that he was "enjoying himself" in "this abode of freedom".

He also suggests that the road to Hindu-Muslim unity is through the spinning of khaddar. "I have come to the conclusion that the only conclusive demonstration of Hindu-Muslim unity is the universal adoption by them of the spinning wheel...Khaddar cannot become universal without both the great communities taking it up....from the very commencement of the struggle we have been wanting boycott of foreign cloth... For me the spinning wheel and Khaddar have a deep religious significance because it means Hindus and Muslim sympathy for the poor people who are dying today from hunger and disease. The Khaddar programme is therefore the greatest and surest I can foresee to the country."

For an international criminal court

USHA RAMANATHAN world-affairs

More than a hundred countries agree on the fundamentals for an international court to prosecute war criminals and tyrants, but the final document cobbled together with compromises is less than many people had hoped for.

THE United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court adopted the statute for the establishment of an ICC on July 17 in Rome. When the Chairman of the Conference, Philippe Kirsch, said, "It is so decided," and brought down his gavel, it signalled the conclusion of a range of negotiations, which involved teasing out knots and hammering out compromises, to create a statute politically acceptable to an overwhelming majority of the participant states at the Conference.

The final tally, taken when the United States called for an unrecorded vote, found 120 states voting for the statute - seven states, including the U.S., China and Israel voting against, and 21 states, including India, abstaining.

The process of negotiations of the statute moved through consultations on the International Law Commission draft, to the six Preparatory Committee meetings where every article of the statute and every clause in every article was discussed and debated, to the Diplomatic Conference spread over five weeks when the final text was reconstructed and adopted. The challenge was in ensuring an independent and effective court even while accommodating the concerns of the states in an effort to find general acceptance for the statute.

The court, when established, is to try individuals accused of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression (once this crime is defined). While the purpose of establishing the court was to end impunity, deter such crime and provide redress to the victim, the focus in the negotiations was on any inroads that the jurisdiction and functioning of the court may make into the power and authority of states.

The issue of the jurisdiction of the court, central to the participating states' concerns, pursued the negotiations all the way. A German proposal for universal jurisdiction would have let the court try crimes detailed in the statute. The absence of state consent to the statute would not protect a person accused of a crime from prosecution. This was narrowed down by a Korean proposal, which made state consent relevant and gave the court the power to act where any one of four states - the state in whose territory the crime was committed, the state of nationality of the accused, the custodial state, or the state of nationality of the victim - had accorded its consent, making itself a state party. In a further compromise, the final text, as it was adopted, reduced the categories of state to the first two, thus requiring that either the territorial state or the state of nationality of the accused would have to be a state party for the court to assume jurisdiction automatically.

The related issues of complementarity and inherent jurisdiction was the subject of much debate and compromise. As it stands, national jurisdictions are the primary players in investigating, prosecuting and dealing with crimes, including the crimes over which the ICC is to have jurisdiction. It is when, generally stated, states are either "unwilling or genuinely unable" to prosecute that the ICC will acquire jurisdiction. This would make the ICC complementary to national jurisdictions, and not a super-national court. The power to decide the unwillingness or inability of a state has been laid at the door of the ICC.

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Citing national sovereignty as its concern, India, as also the U.S., advocated that an opt-in mechanism should allow states to decide whether the court should try a case. It was evident that both states were looking for ways to avoid the jurisdiction of the court, and that such an arrangement threatened to paralyse the court even before it was established. The proposal found few takers. There was some mention of it in a British proposal, which was retained as an option in a Bureau Draft which constituted the first package circulated early in the week ending on July 17, but it was at no point a serious contender for inclusion.

What has, however, got into the statute is a provision prompted by France. Euphemistically termed 'transitional provisions', this allows a state to opt out of the jurisdiction of the court in the matter of war crimes for a period of seven years from the date of its becoming a state party. This is a rather extraordinary concession. It also contradicts the position that the statute does not provide for reservations.

While India and the U.S. were at one about the opt-in option, in the matter of the Security Council they were far apart. Through the negotiations, it was patent that the U.S. was preparing to be a non-signatory while creating scope for wielding power over, and through, the court. Its efforts were therefore directed at making the Security Council a powerful player.

India, on the other hand, categorically opposed any role whatsoever for the Security Council. In his plenary address, the head of the Indian delegation, Dilip Lahiri, asserted that the setting up of an ad hoc tribunal for the former Yugoslavia did not constitute a precedent. In his Explanation of Vote delivered at the tail-end of the conference, he argued that the decisions to set up the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) and for Rwanda (ICTR) were of "dubious legality", and that the Security Council "did so in any case, and can do so again, only because its power cannot be challenged". This proposition does not appear to have found many supporters. The genesis of the statute explains, at least in part, the difficulties encountered in getting the Security Council to exit the statute. The ILC drafted the statute at the behest of the General Assembly and appears to have worked on the basis of the ICC being part of the U.N. system. The negotiations, however, found the statute being converted into a multilateral treaty independent of the U.N. though in a relationship with it; the relationship too would be negotiated by the States Parties to the statute.

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There were also expectations that the U.N. would be asked to contribute financially to the establishment and running of the court. Moreover, one of the purposes of the establishment of a permanent court was to make the setting up of ad hoc tribunals redundant. If the Security Council were not to be allowed to refer matters to the court, it was wholly probable that it would continue with its ad hoc, ex post facto creation of courts, and that the funds of the U.N. would be diverted to the ad hoc tribunals rather than the ICC.

In the event, the statute now gives the Security Council the power to refer cases to the court, and such referral will confer jurisdiction on the court, rendering redundant questions of state consent redundant. Further, the statute also permits the Security Council to defer cases for a year at a time; this is not confined to cases it refers to the court. It is small consolation that this power of deferral is confined to matters of peace and security (Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter), and that such deferral has to be effected by a resolution by consensus of the five permanent members of the Council. What was averted was the vesting of any power in the Security Council to veto a case being prosecuted in the court.

THERE was a certain tentativeness about the debate on the inclusion of aggression as a triable crime by the court. Given that the Tokyo War Crimes trials convicted and sentenced to death persons for the crime of aggression, the argument that no acceptable definition of aggression existed in international law and that aggression should therefore be left out of the statute was unconvincing. The final text fashioned out a formula which recognised aggression as a crime within the court's jurisdiction, but only after a definition is chiselled out.

At one point in the proceedings, every argument seemed to stall on the question of the death penalty. Irreconcilable differences between countries that have outlawed the death penalty, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, and those who have it as a part of their national law, including the Arab states and the island state of Trinidad and Tobago, resulted in what threatened to be an impasse.

At one point Trinidad and Tobago suggested that the death penalty be removed to a protocol or addendum to the statute so that it would not impact on the states participating in the statute. The final text does not have the death penalty. A declaration read out at the Conference, prompted by the Working Group on Penalties, attempted to clarify that "not including the death penalty in the statute would not in any way have a legal bearing on national legislation and practices with regard to the death penalty."

The Arab states and Trinidad and Tobago have spoken about the absence of the death penalty as having influenced their decision to stay out of the statute. Even Singapore, which otherwise played a constructive role through the process of constructing the statute, abstained from voting, citing the non-inclusion of death penalty as a negative factor in its reckoning.

THE inclusion of issues of gender created a flutter at the Conference. At the centre of the controversy was the inclusion of 'forced pregnancy' as a crime - a crime that can no longer be denied after the experience in Bosnia. The interpretation of this term as one that necessarily requires state policies of abortion in the case of women who have been forcibly made pregnant found the Vatican and the Arab states joining forces to have this provision deleted. The presence of the Women's Caucus, a part of the NGO Coalition for an ICC (which was, as was said in jocular seriousness, the largest delegation at the Conference), ensured that the crime was not cast aside in the midst of the deals being frantically negotiated at the Conference. The statute does recognise 'forced pregnancy' as a crime, and, while explaining that it means "the unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law," goes on to clarify: "This definition shall not in any way be interpreted as affecting national laws relating to pregnancy."

Of India's two proposals to the Conference, one sought the inclusion of terrorism as a crime to be tried by the ICC, and the other wanted the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons to be included as a crime within the statute. The fact that India argued for opt-in jurisdiction for all crimes other than genocide (since India is already a party to the Genocide Convention 1948) seemed to take the punch out of the proposals. As a senior delegate intoned: "We (the Indian delegates) are ploughing a lonely furrow." Although the delegation made a case for the inclusion of nuclear weapons as a "point of principle" made by "a nuclear weapon state", it was almost uniformly dismissed as hypocrisy.

India has said that it will not be able to sign the statute. Yet, it is now becoming clear that even a non-state party may find its nationals before the court. The statute needs 60 states as parties in order to become operative. After that, it will become important to monitor the court to ensure that it is independent and that it functions in an impartial manner. There is a provision for amendments, or even for a Review Conference, seven years after the statute becomes operative. Clearly, there is work to be done.

Usha Ramanathan is a researcher on law.

Looking for a strategic umbrella?

HAROON HABIB in Dhaka world-affairs

Bangladesh has not ruled out further negotiations with the U.S. on a Status of Forces Agreement, but it is reconsidering the implications of such an agreement. The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan are a major factor here.

A DEBATE is raging in Bangladesh on the advisability or otherwise of entering into a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States. Given the close relations that the Awami League Government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had maintained with the U.S. administration ever since it came to power in mid-1996, it seemed at one point that Bangladesh would sign the agreement unhesitatingly. It was believed that the agreement would be signed during President Bill Clinton's scheduled visit to Bangladesh later this year.

However, after mulling over the issue for months, the Sheikh Hasina Government has indicated that the prospects of its signing the agreement are "bleak". In its reckoning, Bangladesh has nothing to gain by signing SOFA in its present form; if anything, the agreement would be detrimental to the country's interests.

The agreement was proposed by the U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson, during his visit to Bangladesh earlier this year. The issue came up for discussion during the visit of the U.S. Army chief, Gen. Dennis Reimer. Although the Bangladesh Government has not yet rejected the proposal outright and shut the door on negotiations with the U.S., the fact that a process of rethink is under way is considered significant.

Sections of the media and the intelligentsia and Left-leaning politicians are critical of SOFA. They argue that its inequitous provisions will work against Bangladesh's sovereignty and dignity. The "pro-liberation" group, which supports the Awami League Government on most issues, too came out against such an agreement, as it would compromise the country's sovereignty.

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Responding to such criticism, the U.S. authorities clarified on June 18 that SOFA was not conceived as a military pact and that it would not facilitate the establishment of a U.S. military base in Bangladesh. They said that the agreement would lay down the procedures for "the movement of U.S,. personnel and supplies into a host nation for an exercise." It would also "clarify the legal procedures to be followed, should U.S. military personnel harm individuals or property in the host nation during an exercise," the authorities added.

SOFA would facilitate unhindered entry of U.S. troops into Bangladesh, without having to comply with even visa and passport formalities. Equipment and supplies would also be allowed to be brought in without being subjected to Customs formalities. However, according to sources in the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the agreement does not provide reciprocal facilities to Bangladesh defence personnel who may be sent to the U.S. for training or for other purposes. In addition, the Bangladesh Government is not happy with the idea of granting unhindered entry to U.S. troops and weapons supplies. Apart from the fact that these provisions would require a constitutional amendment, such an arrangement would be politically risky.

WHY is the U.S. interested in such an agreement? Analysts believe that South Asia is no more a low-priority region for the U.S. administration. Clinton's scheduled visit to Bangladesh gains added significance in the light of the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, which invited U.S. sanctions, contributed to a deterioration in relations between the sub-continental neighbours, and strained Sino-Indian relations. Further, U.S. economic interest in Bangladesh, particularly in the field of oil and gas exploration, has increased in recent years.

Military analysts also believe that since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Clark and Subic Bay bases in the Philippines, Bangladesh may serve as a "half-way house" for U.S. forces in the region.

U.S. troop platoons have visited Bangladesh on several occasions in the past to conduct joint military exercises. There have been three such exercises involving the armies of the two countries in the last 10 years. Since 1982, a liaison team comprising the Pacific Command of the U.S. and the Bangladesh military has been in operation to coordinate their actions in the Indian Ocean Zone, including in times of disasters, breach of peace and or hostility in the region. More than 300 military personnel from Bangladesh have received training in the U.S. since 1979. U.S. military assistance to Bangladesh has been fairly steady since the 1980s.

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During the Gulf war in 1991, Bangladesh contributed a contingent of 2,300 troops to the anti-Iraq coalition led by the U.S. Bangladesh troops also participated alongside U.S. troops in the Haiti mission in 1994.

The two countries are signatories to a temporary treaty for conducting joint exercises; they have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding relating to the status of U.S. troops. (U.S. authorities in Dhaka said that the two countries had concluded a SOFA for a year when a cyclone struck Bangladesh in 1991; about 7,500 military personnel and civilians were involved in Operation Sea Angels, as it was called; the U.S. also provided $120 million in relief for the victims.)

Washington sees the proposed agreement as a logical extension of the MoUs signed by the two countries to determine the status of U.S. forces during joint exercises. This year, the joint exercises focussed on combating the narcotics mafia, organising disaster relief, conducting air and sea rescue operations, building schools and providing medical training and treatment.

As recently as July 6, the two countries signed an MoU to implement a U.S. Peace Corps programme under which the first batch of 25 volunteers will arrive in Bangladesh in November. They will work in primary training institutes to enhance the level of English-teaching. Sources in the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka said that before taking up their assignments, the volunteers would undergo a training course as part of which they will learn the Bengali language and get acquainted with Bangladesh's culture, history and the education system.

POLITICAL forces in Bangladesh that were opposed to the independence struggle in 1971 - the so-called "anti-liberation" group, which is an ally of religious fundamentalist forces - have called upon the people to support a Sino-U.S. security initiative for the South Asian region. The anti-liberation group argues that Bangladesh needs a "security umbrella" of a major power to defend its interests in the now-nuclearised sub-continent. Strategic affairs experts who subscribe to this theory have said that consequent to India's nuclear tests, it would be necessary for Bangladesh to enter into a military cooperation agreement with a major nuclear power "even if it meant that one of the islands in the Bay of Bengal would have to be made a base for that power." Several intellectuals have likewise argued in favour of Bangladesh taking shelter under the security umbrella of a major power like the U.S. "to counter any Indian design".

Former Prime Minister and Bangladesh National Party president Begum Khaleda Zia has accused the Sheikh Hasina Government of succumbing to pressure from India not to sign the agreement. A section of the media reported that during their meeting in New Delhi recently, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee advised Sheikh Hasina against entering into such an agreement with the U.S.

Some analysts argue that it will not be in the interests of Bangladesh, considering its dependence on foreign aid and assistance, to antagonise the U.S. over SOFA. Notably, Dhaka has not called off negotiations on the proposal. According to government sources, "The matter is still under consideration."

WHEN Bangladesh was born in 1971, it did not have the U.S.' good wishes. The administration of President Richard Nixon had opposed the bloody creation of Bangladesh and had even despatched an aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal in an attempt to intimidate India, which supported the liberation movement. The U.S. State Department erred in failing to understand and appreciate the rise of secular Bengali nationhood in the 1970s in what was at that time East Pakistan. Despite this bit of history, there is no evidence of mindless anti-Americanism in Bangladesh.

The Sheikh Hasina Government also views SOFA from another perspective. In its view, Bangladesh, as an active member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, owes it to the region not to allow the entry of foreign forces "which may have profound and far-reaching consequences." The Government has elaborately, but cautiously, explained that the stationing of foreign troops or their frequent entry into the country might have an "adverse impact" within and outside the country.

Questions are being asked about the need to have a permanent foreign troop presence: apart from the staging of joint exercises and the provision of relief during cyclones and floods, what will the U.S. troops do, many people wonder. In the end, however, the fragile state of the country's economy too may be a crucial factor in the Government's calculations. The current volume of U.S. investment in Bangladesh, about $2.8 billion, is likely to zoom to $10 billion by the year 2000. Should strains show up in the relations between the two countries over the SOFA issue, these investments are certain to be affected.

The question, then, is whether Bangladesh, a small and militarily weak country, should make compromises with its sovereignty in anticipation of economic rewards. Overall, the public mood seems to point to an unwillingness to enter into such a security arrangement. One top Foreign Office official said: "We do not see any reasonable ground or need to have an umbrella agreement like the SOFA."

In addition, Bangladesh is also factoring in the views of its friends in the region, who might be displeased by such an agreement. Bangladesh has military cooperation arrangements with a number of other countries, including India, Pakistan, China, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore. For now, the Sheikh Hasina Government is treading cautiously, although it has kept open the option of further negotiations with the U.S.

Lessons from life

Pebbles in a Tin Drum by Ajeet Cour, HarperCollins, 1998; pages 190; Rs. 145.

THIS work, a series of clearly subjective memoirs strung together as the author wants them, makes a fitting chronicle for a fractured country teeming with insecure people blindly following the path of success which they confuse with that of happiness. For a society opening up to the market principle at the cost of its humanity, a process that is equally the driving force of consumer-packaged globalisation as the neo-Hindu swadeshi, her chronicle is a stark warning that India should take note of.

It starts off with an account of the death of her daughter Candy, in France, when she seems destined for success in a world of academic plums, scholarships and the like. It is to the credit of Ajeet Cour that she raises it above the level of a tear-jerker by linking the youthful tragedy with her own long-drawn-out experience of life in the framework of that very Punjabi ethos of happiness and success being one and the same thing.

One is amazed at the price an individual pays for this. The abandonment of her first love, Baldev, whose inspiration seems to bring out the best in her, for the illusory security of a loveless marriage that ends after eight bouts of exile, is the first of the many episodes in this atomised search for a secure life heightened by the backdrop of Partition in 1947.

This is followed up by an equally disastrous attempt to get published by succumbing to the blandishments of a Delhi publisher who seems to be given to mixing business with pleasure to the detriment of those he does business with. With growing horror one realises how that liaison is mistaken for love by her and she pays a terrible price for it. The book ends after a futile aeroplane chase from Delhi, to Mumbai, Bangalore and back, and a glimpse of Satya Sai Baba thrown in, with only a fever to keep her company. As she puts it: "It kept me constant company for twentytwo days. Maybe it realised I needed a companion. Maybe it had come to know how lonely I was."

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One is left wondering what price the publisher paid in his search for success as happiness, or for that matter those hundreds of Punjabis still scouring the corners of the earth on the lookout for this elusive mix? For many it brought on sudden death, like the young men thrown into the sea off the Aegean coast in 1996. And it is to the author's credit that the vignettes of her life take on the character of a Victorian cautionary tale.

It is no accident that the book has come at a time when Indian society is being torn apart at the seams by a force no less than the one that Frederick Engels wrote about in his book on the conditions of the British working class or Dewan Chamanlal in his two-volume study of Indian bonded labourers, which a fellow Punjabi, Mulk Raj Anand, gave a literary life to in his book, Coolie.

However, Ajeet Cour drags one through the other side of the picture, as it were, with Ministers (only at the end of a telephone), bureaucrats, money-grubbing businessmen, drink-sodden hangers-on and utterly respectable middle-class people actually submitting to these marauders in the silence behind their bamboo screens in their search for respectability, while upright characters like Baldev drop out and are replaced by Oma, who sometimes appears to be only a shade different from Fagin in Dickens' Oliver Twist.

The modernity in Ajeet Cour's memoir lies in the fact that it is a Ramayana without a Rama. The wife throws herself out of the house and into the hands of the Ravana. And with remarkable courage the author spells out how things should not be done.

Ultimately one is left wanting to know more about the Baldevs, grandmothers, dairy-owners, servants, the millions of peasants and workers around one, or even gentle Toshi, the friend who stands by at all times. And one is repelled by the "successful family man", Oma. This is a book that every would-be yuppy ought to read - before it is too late.

A true revolutionary ANTJIE KROG M.S. PRABHAKARA

Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary by Stephen Clingman; David Philip and Mayibuye Books, Cape Town/University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1998; pages 500; Rands 110.

BRAM FISCHER, christened Abram but known by the shorter form of the name, is an enigma in South African history. Many people find themselves drawn, connected and bonded in various ways to him than to any other figure in our past. People who feel thus come from a variety of cultures, countries and backgrounds. Bram Fischer also seems to have become one of the most quoted examples of a model of commitment to the cause of liberation of all the people of South Africa by the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), one of the greatest heroes of South African history. This excellent and well-researched biographical study provides some answers to why this is so.

The life of Bram Fischer (April 23, 1908-May 8, 1975) has haunted Afrikaners for years. Born into a well-known and politically influential Afrikaner family of Bloemfontein in Orange Free State, he had ahead of him the best possible future that Afrikanerdom could offer at the prime of its power and dominance. His grandfather, Abraham Fischer, was the first Prime Minister of Orange River Colony and his father, Percy, was the Judge-President of the Free State. On his mother's side, the "extremely wealthy" Fichardt family was "European but belonging to no European country", a cosmopolitanism that could equally fit the Fischer family. At the same time, the family was also steeped in the anti-imperialist traditions and memories of Afrikaner nationalism - though one should always bear in mind the limits of that anti-imperialism, informed as it was by opposition to and hatred for the British, which was understandable in the context of Britain's unspeakable conduct during the Anglo-Boer war. Ignored (except as providers of cheap labour) in this contention between British imperialism and the colonialism of the settler was the majority of the truly indigenous people, not to speak of "the Cape Malaaier (Malay) and the stinking Coolie", in the words of grandfather Fischer.

IN his own mind Bram Fischer remained loyal and true to what he viewed as the staunch and noble anti-imperialist traditions of Afrikaner nationalism and saw his commitment to Communism not as a betrayal of his Afrikaner identity but rather as its fulfilment. But Afrikaners believe that in his commitment to Communism and active membership of the Communist Party he turned his back on Afrikaner nationalism, forfeiting things most Afrikaners would die for. They saw him as having betrayed his own people. Among ordinary Afrikaners familiar with his impressive heritage, Bram Fischer was the ultimate example of how impeccable breeding can go wrong; how a family can have everything right and do everything right, and yet in the same family, "the one is Abel and the other Cain".

Clingman's delineation of this moral and political journey from a narrowly perceived Afrikaner nationalism to Communism along a convincing sequence of events shows that Bram Fischer's later life was not necessarily a break with his past; that his commitment to Communism was a natural consequence of the deepest positive values he believed was within Afrikanerdom. However, Bram Fischer was not merely an 'Afrikaner Revolutionary' (of the subtitle) but an Afrikaner Communist Revolutionary, a member of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and, after it was banned in 1950, of the clandestinely restructured South African Communist Party (SACP), occupying leading positions in both the structures. His Afrikaner heritage was as central to his personality and politics as his commitment to Communism as an ideology and its practical application in his membership of the Communist Party. There is no way in which these can be separated.

This rather obvious point needs to be stressed because there is a tendency to view Bram Fischer's life as somehow "wasted" because of his commitment to an "outdated" ideology like Communism. Following this is the further wistful perception that had he not been a Communist and had he not so drawn the vengeful wrath of the regime, which carried on its vendetta against him even after his death, he could have contributed so much to South Africa. This is a perspective which this account too, in particular the judgmental Epilogue, reflects. Situating Bram Fischer in the tradition of the heroic but flawed characters of classical Greek tragedy (the epigraph from The Poetics of Aristotle is central to this perception), Clingman says that "Bram Fischer's flaw was that he was swayed by a morally compromised ideology."

Given his heritage and intellectual accomplishments, it is true that had Bram Fischer not been an active Communist and put his political convictions into practice in a manner he judged best and most effective, he might have had a very successful career on the Bench. Further, had he chosen to be false to what he viewed as the true Afrikaner heritage and made common cause with the thugs of the Nationalist regime, he may even have made a successful career as a politician. But then, who remembers all the legal luminaries and politicians of the old South Africa except in disdain of the former, for their acquiescence in and active dispensation of apartheid law and justice, and loathing of the latter?

The biography provides several access points to the human factors that animated that life - not of the saintly or politically correct but of the vulnerable kind. Bram Fischer was indeed an Afrikaner and a South African whose life, in the words of his first biographer, Naomi Mitchinson, was "a life for Africa". But his life also captures and encapsulates the minds of the lonely, of those who "dis-belong". Political heroes usually have followers, have possessed crowds or enthusiastic groups around them; they usually have "their own people" standing by them. Bram Fischer, however, stood alone. He never had "his people" standing by him. Those who did, like his family, paid a very high price. The rest around him were those who adopted him, mainly black and Jewish comrades in the Communist Party who took him to be one of their own.

Asked if the blacks had any heroes among the whites, Steve Biko, the raison d'etre of whose Black Consciousness movement was the liberation of the black people from dependency upon even well-meaning whites for their liberation, simply said: "Yes, Bram Fischer." According to the judge who presided over the Treason Trial, Bram Fischer (who had led the team of advocates for the defence) would be remembered long after he himself and many others are forgotten. For Edwin Mofutsanyana, an old black comrade of Bram Fischer from Lesotho, responding to a question from Clingman whether he ever thought of Bram Fischer: "I think of all the Afrikaners I have known, Bram Fischer was always the best... He was always in... my mind. As I say, he was a very good person."

One of the most fascinating, indeed poignant, aspects of the book is what is revealed through the letters that Clingman has gained access to. These, between parents and children, between wives and husbands, reveal a family life in which the members had open, warm and intelligent relationships and interactions, where a son's progressive thinking into politics is shared openly with his parents - though only up to a point. Bram Fischer was indeed a revolutionary, but he was no mindless rebel. He lived his life by the book; he worked hard, studied the correct courses, followed the chosen career in which he achieved great material success. He lived out the logical conclusions of his upbringing which, perhaps inevitably, perhaps nevertheless, led to the destruction of his life because no other Afrikaner, not even his open-minded parents, felt themselves bound by these codes. "Ultimately, it is because this story is about finding a home, which turns out to mean how one defines oneself. It becomes a story of identity - of how that, in its origins, transformations and destination, becomes inseparable from the journey it undertakes."

The most eloquent and moving description of this political journey from Afrikaner nationalism to Communism is to be found in Bram Fischer's political testament - the "statement from the dock" he made at the beginning of his trial in Pretoria on March 23, 1966. He was then 58 years of age, a distinguished and highly successful barrister who had never concealed his political commitments, standing trial for his life on charges of sabotage (a capital crime) and membership of the illegal Communist Party - on which charge he had already been on trial.

He had joined the party in the 1930s when he was a student at Oxford, though the clandestine nature of the recruitment has been so well preserved that even Clingman's thoroughgoing researches have not been able to establish precisely when or under what circumstances Bram Fischer joined the party. The closest we get to this is the view ascribed to George Bizos, the well-known advocate, that Bram Fischer "considered himself" a member of the party by 1938; and that the late Dr. Yusuf Dadoo was the one who recruited him. One would have been even more interested in knowing the circumstances under which his wife Molly Fischer joined the party, for given the strength and independence of her character, it is most unlikely that she simply went along with and adopted her husband's political beliefs. Her death in a motor accident, a day after the Rivonia trialists were sentenced, was a loss from which he never recovered.

The trial at which Bram Fischer made his "statement from the dock" was as it were his second trial. He had been on trial, with 11 others, on charges of belonging to the Communist Party. The peculiar awe and hatred that he provoked in the Afrikaner establishment and more specifically in the National Party Government is perhaps best exemplified in the fact that he was allowed, while on trial on charges that could well lead to a life sentence, to travel to London to argue a complex case on behalf of a leading mining house before the Privy Council. Despite some expectation and perhaps hope that he would decide not to return - and so spare the establishment from prosecuting the case further and providing it with further proof of the "extra-territorial loyalty" of the Communists - he chose to return, only to deliberately "absent himself from the remainder of the trial" at the moment of his choice and to continue the struggle in a manner he judged necessary and appropriate.

Clingman's account of that decision provides some new insights, including a discussion in a London park with the SACP leadership in exile on whether he should return and face almost certain imprisonment or break conditions of his bail and stay outside the country. Again and again, the 'code' operates: he had given his word that he would return; returning to South Africa, certain in the knowledge of what that would entail, was a matter of personal honour. But it was not merely a question of codes and personal undertakings.

As Joe Slovo recalled later, Bram Fischer convinced the leadership that he had to return. He explained this in the letter read to the court on January 25, 1965: "I believe that it is the duty of every true opponent of this Government to remain in this country and to oppose its monstrous policy of apartheid with every means in his power. That is what I shall do for as long as I can." The "emphasis added" is important, explaining as no "rational" reading of those hard days can, the choices that Bram Fischer made; and for which he paid with his life.

He remained "underground" - in fact very much in Johannesburg for most of the time - for almost nine months and was captured on November 11, 1965. Sentenced to life imprisonment on May 9, 1966, he was subjected in prison to very harsh and degrading treatment - a chosen object of the wrath of the regime which could never forgive the treachery from an Afrikaner, far more unforgivable than the treachery of the recognisable enemy. He was very nearly on the point of death, and despite appeals from his family, the state would not release him; a life sentence meant exactly that. He was finally "released to the custody" of his brother Paul in Bloemfontein in March 1975, with the house being declared a prison. He died there on May 8, less than two months after his "release" and exactly nine years after he was sentenced to life imprisonment. But the state was unrelenting in its vendetta even after his death. Since he died a prisoner, his ashes were seized as "state property". A brick-sized slab in the Garden of Remembrance outside Bloemfontein (Panel 3, Row 4, Slab 7, from the left entrance) bearing the name A. Fischer, with the dates of his birth and death respectively preceded by a star and a cross, is the only memorial that physically exists in South Africa. But he lives in the memories of the people.

Memories. Here are two incidents that reflect the fragility of human memories, true and false, enduring and evanescent.

On May 8, 1995, the 20th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, a joint session of Parliament in Cape Town paid tribute to those who died in the fight against Fascism and Nazism in Europe. Representatives from all political parties spoke eloquently. Not one of them, not even known members of the SACP who quite correctly paid tribute to the heroic role of the Soviet Union in that struggle, even so much as mentioned the fact that the day also marked the 20th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest fighters against the same evil forces within South Africa, a true Afrikaner Communist revolutionary.

Antjie Krog, who writes poetry in Afrikaans, is the parliamentary editor for SABC radio. Until recently, she headed the SABC radio team covering the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her book Country of My Skull (Random House, Johannesburg, 1998) presents a personal and professional narrative of her interaction with the TRC process.

'The truth as I see it'

literature
Interview with Nadine Gordimer.

Nadine Gordimer was only 16 when she read for the first time A Passage to India. More than 50 years later, she still remembers that what had then struck her most in this early chronicle of a failed encounter between Europe and its Other was not so much the ontological distress of the protagonists, but just the two words: "only connect". "I was becoming aware of my growing up in a society, my country, where there was no connection recognised between ourselves, the whites, and the surrounding blacks. A world of strangers. Only connect, was it possible for me, for us?... Through Forster I began to have an inkling of understanding of my place and time, the world around me," she writes.

The two words that showed the way out of the narrow world of a South African mining town where Gordimer grew up, are also probably the best key to the understanding of her fiction. Her oeuvre comprising 12 novels and more than 200 short stories (available in Penguin paperbacks in India) is based around the predicament of colour and race, exacerbated in South Africa by the inhuman segregation laws of the former apartheid regime. She shows the impact that segregation has on human relations and the way it affects the lives of the people. Her characters are blacks and whites, but she seems to be most comfortable with the white liberal heroes who forge relationships ("connections") across the colour barriers and divisions. She explores with masterly craft their contradictions, their fears and the sense of guilt that drives them sometimes into emotional and ideological impasses.

Nadine Gordimer began to write in the 1950s and joined the African National Congress (ANC) more or less at the same time. Throughout the apartheid years, she wrote with a great sense of commitment: commitment to the ideals of reason, of social justice and of a non-racial state. Her fiction reflects her attachment to these convictions, but at the same time manages to rise beyond specific national contingencies by weaving these into universal patterns of human quest for love and liberty. It is this "transforming imaginative dimension" of her writing and the quiet irony of her prose rather than the political involvement which appealed to the 18-member jury of Nobel prize for literature who bestowed on her the award in 1991.

With the end of apartheid and of white supremacy in South Africa, there is today a visible shift in Nadine Gordimer's concerns. The two novels that she has published since the demise of the old regime, None to Accompany Me and The House Gun, describe the hopes and woes of a new South Africa where former black exiles and the white bourgeoisie discover unexpected complicities which help them to cope with personal despair and social violence. But will they be able to connect?

In this interview with Tirthankar Chanda, Nadine Gordimer talks about her childhood, the authors who influenced her, her political involvement, her own writing and the future of literature in a free South Africa. Excerpts:

You conclude your latest book of essays on literature (Writing and Being) by affirming that you are no longer a colonial. When does one really cease being colonial?

You cease being colonial only when law makes the coloniser and the colonised absolutely equal, when there is nothing that favours the coloniser in the law. So long as I was favoured as a white by the law, whether I liked it or not, I was a colonial. I am no more a colonial because today we are all equal under the law, everybody has the same freedoms as I have, everybody has the same social institutions that I have. Till now I could only say that I was born in South Africa. Now I truly belong to it, because I am not favoured in any way under the law. The psychological side is another thing. Some people will always remain colonial in their mentality. But I was fortunate to free myself of it long, long ago.

Through writing?

Partially yes. But it has been a long process.

I believe your first piece of original writing was a laudatory poem on President Kruger.

That was in 1932. I was only nine then. Three years later, Johannesburg's Sunday Express published in its children's section my first short story. But I wrote my first serious piece at the age of 16. It was a short story which I had called "Come Again Tomorrow". It appeared in a Johannesburg weekly.

What did actually draw you to writing?

First of all, reading. I was fortunate because in this little gold mining town called Spring where I lived, there was a very good library. My mother made me a member of the children's section of the library when I was six years old. Once the children's section had revealed all its secrets to me, I remember I would wander around that library, pick up something that caught my fancy from the adults' section. I was then 10 or 11 years old. I was just feeding on everything like a pig in a pigsty. One book led to another. From Forster to D. H. Lawrence, from Lawrence to Chekhov, to Dostoevsky and to Proust. So it went on. I half-understood what I read. But I was very lucky because nobody guided me. It was just my own appetite that led me.

Your appetite seems to have led you essentially to fiction. But I think you wanted to be a journalist?

Well, I think it is my imaginative temperament which drew me to novels. That is what probably explains why I have become a novelist and not a journalist. Imagination is something that you are born with. There are lots of people who want to write. For various reasons. Many want to write because they want to see their name printed on a book. But during the writers' workshops that I conducted for the Congress of South African Writers, I realised that only those who have imagination are capable of writing stories that move us. I suppose I had that natural faculty of imagination. I have always found it exciting to make up an imaginative life, which is other than my own, and I was endowed with a tremendous curiosity, which all children must have if they are going to be writers. They must be able to look at the world with a sense of wonder.

What were you curious about?

Curious about the world in general. I was also very much looking for an answer to the question of existence. I had been brought up without any religion. My parents were both Jewish. My father came from a very conventional, orthodox background. He was born in a little village in Latvia and came to South Africa at the age of 13. My mother's family had been living since generations in London. They were cockneys. And they were very much assimilated. As a result, my mother did not follow any Jewish tradition and was completely deracinated. She made my father, who was a profoundly religious person, feel very uncomfortable. To her all these beliefs in God and after life were a lot of nonsense. Moreover, as she was the dominating figure in the house, we children - my sister and I - were brought up without any religious background at all. We were for instance never told that here is the explanation for death: You go to a higher state and God receives you in heaven. I never had that kind of assurance. I began to write and I still write out of an overwhelming need for explanation - explanation of myself, of you, of what human beings are.

Was there a conscious decision from the moment you began to write to use writing to denounce political and social injustice?

At the time I wrote my first stories, I was totally ignorant of politics. But I think I was slowly becoming aware of what politics and political conflicts are based on: the social destiny of human beings. What I was seeing around me in my life made me begin to question the way blacks were treated in our society. The answer was in the political formation of the country, the answer was in racism that took on a political form. In fact, one of the first stories that I wrote was about how blacks were harassed for brewing liquor. This story reflected something that was common at that time. Black people were not allowed to buy liquor. As a result, there was a tremendous amount of illicit home brewing everywhere. And it went on in the backyards of white people's houses too.

From time to time, the police would come into the suburbs where the whites lived and raid the backyards where the servants lived to make sure that they were not brewing beer. This was something so tolerated by the whites that the police would not even knock on the door to ask if we would not mind if they searched our servants' quarters. They would just come in, open the gate and go in.

When I was about 15, this happened in our house at about two o'clock at night. I was reading in bed and there was this hullabaloo in the garden. I looked out by the window and I remember seeing torches lighting the garden. The police used to look into the compost heap, under flowerbeds, because naturally the blacks had got very clever at hiding the stuff. We then had a woman working for us. She had been with my mother since I was two years old. She was a sort of second mother to me. She would give me three on the bottom if I did not behave. I got up. So did my parents. There were the police all around in the garden, in the yard. This woman Littie had a room there, a miserable little room! The police had forced open the door, dismantled the bed, turned the mattress upside down, pulled out all her poor little possessions. Everything was spread around and she was just standing there. My parents did not do anything. They did not say: "What are you doing to this woman?" Because obviously they approved of the idea that if she was brewing beer, she had to be punished. They just let her be humiliated in this way.

What I saw that night troubled me so much that I wrote one of my first stories, very much from the point of exposing this brutality and this indifference through a fictitious white family, which was really my own. I wanted to express my outrage.

Did you have black friends at that time?

I started having black friends since about 1948 when I was in my twenties when I went briefly to university in Johannesburg. I did not live in residence. I travelled back by train to where I lived. At the university there were a few black students whom I got to know because we had a common interest in writing. There was nobody in my town in this little petit bourgeois milieu in which I lived who was interested in literature. My writing was a secret occupation. But here I suddenly found people who were passionate about the same thing as I. It did not matter that they were blacks, or Indians or of mixed origin. They wanted to write, they read a lot because they wanted to understand more. We naturally became friends. These friendships across the colour barrier were much more important to me than the kind of friendships that I had at home. I call this the beginning of the human side of my political consciousness.

When did your active involvement with politics begin, with the African National Congress, for example?

That began in the late 1950s, during the time of the passive resistance campaign. It was a very Gandhian tactic at that time. The only difference was that if you lay down in front of a train in India the driver would not go over you, as far as I know. But in South Africa, if you did that, he would have. So, those were the limits of passive resistance. However, this campaign made people think about what blacks were being deprived of and it was the first time that a number of whites, who had just been sympathetic - it was easy to be sympathetic - till then, risked themselves for the first time and went indeed to prison.

After the passive resistance stage came the period of militant rebellion and the first big treason trials. I went then for the first time in my life to a political trial in a courtroom and there I got to know the relatives of people who were on trial and even the people themselves. That's when I really began to think about what one could do about the situation. It was no good saying how terrible that blacks are oppressed this way! But what does one do about it? Having black friends and partying together, which was not done in the 1950s, was very nice from the human point of view. This was a kind of liberal attitude. You liberated yourself from the racism that was imposed upon you, but you did not liberate the people who were on the other side of the colour bar. At that time they still had a pass in their pockets. They were living segregated. They could not do any of the things that you could do. According to the liberal logic, by mixing with black people you were liberating them, but you were not. I then began to think more closely about politics and to inform myself. Then came the real test.

In the 1960s, my black friends got into terrible trouble. They were on the run. They would come to me for help. But to hide somebody on the run was dangerous because you could end up in prison yourself. That was the test. I began to do these things, to help people get out of the country. I learned to lead a kind of double life and became a wonderful liar. We all became the most accomplished liars in order to protect other people. You had all the time to maintain a facade so that you could do the other things that you were doing behind that facade. That is really how I became more and more drawn into the whole political scene.

Although I knew people in other movements that came up at that time such as the Black Consciousness movement, I was naturally drawn to the ANC. The ANC did not have white members as such, but it always held the non-racial aspect. If you shared their aspirations or their political philosophy, you were acceptable.

How did the literary institutions in the 1950s and 1960s cope with segregation?

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There was a lot of turmoil among writers. It was all very political. There was a branch of the PEN Club International. It was run by whites and indeed because of the kind of books I had written even when I was young, it took them a long time to invite me to become a member. It was a white Sunday writers' club that published their own books, a mutual admiration society. They had little parties during which they patted each other on the back. They were convinced that literature was something that belonged to them. It came from Europe. Then they began to get a bit nervous and they invited one or two blacks. It was usually black academics who had written some harmless historical things that had little to do with contemporary politics. But this was nothing more than just window dressing.

So, along with a couple of other people, we decided to form a writers' organisation, which should reflect what such an organisation should be and not become a little white club. We started the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW). From the beginning, COSAW had a very strong political orientation. We saw writers as the cultural wing of the struggle, whose task was to fight constantly against censorship, encourage small publishing houses to take the risk of publishing stuff that probably would be banned. We saw our role as giving support and courage to each other and to writers who were having great difficulty. We even functioned as a support group for writers who needed help not only for what they wrote but also for their political activities. For those who went to prison, we collected money and supported their families and we also paid for their defence when they came up on trial.

The 1960s and 1970s were also the years when many of your books were banned by the apartheid government. Did you consider going into exile as many of your black counterparts did?

I considered exile only once. That was when the Black Consciousness movement came up and rejected the whites. It was an awful period of political malaise. The ANC had been banned. Its major leaders were in prison or had gone underground. Radical black intellectuals were pointing out that collaboration with the whites who were supposed to be on the side of the blacks had not brought liberation. Why not do things on our own? So they formed an association called African Writers' Association (AWA), which was exclusively black. At one time it would not even have coloured people or Indians. What a paradox! Because certainly among Indians there were so many people who were heroes of the liberation movement, who were in prison!

For a person like myself, this meant that I could go on writing books that would get banned, but I could not be with any group with which I could identify. This was before COSAW. During that time, I asked myself what I was doing there. I was living the life of a privileged white. I was simply living there without being effective in the community at all. I was unable to identify. I was shut out. So, perhaps I should go. But where could I go? I was not a European. To me the idea of going to Europe or to London was totally unimaginable. I mean, if I had been in danger of going to prison for years I would no doubt have taken the decision to leave. At that time I had connections in Zambia. I thought maybe I should go to a neighbouring African country where I can identify myself freely. But then I realised that in a place like Zambia I would be like any other expatriate. I would be identified by my whiteness. I would never be accepted there as part of their national reconstruction. My status there would not be very different from that of the Western experts who were sent there by their country or their university and did their term for a year or two. So I would really have been without any identity. I did not go and was soon very pleased that I did not go because very soon the liberation movement lifted its head again and the United Democratic Front (The UDF was set up in 1983 in order to unite all opposition to the apartheid government. The organisation disbanded after the unbanning of the ANC in February 1990.) was formed. I was able to move in a community context once again.

Fragmentation, discontinuity, the tragedy of history are some of the themes that you have developed in your apartheid fiction. In the two novels that you have published after the advent of universal democracy, you seem to reflect upon more contemporary concerns such as the return of the exiles as in None to Accompany Me or, as in The House Gun, the traumatic reconciliation of blacks and whites at an individual level. What are your major concerns today?

I don't know. I started to write None to Accompany Me in 1989. It was written in the middle of the period of transition. Naturally it has got its tentative aspects because it belonged to that period. However, some of the themes that I have touched upon there are, I think, going to be the big themes in the coming years. The question of the exiles is extremely important. I am every day in touch with my young black friends who have come back from abroad. I can see how different their lives turn out to be from what they thought they would be.

Many interesting situations come up with this whole idea of integration, of moving into town. Class differences have also become a tremendous issue. For instance, the television people. Some of them are now very successful, they are well-paid and quite rightly live in very nice houses in the best suburbs. Their children go to good private schools. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are also blacks, who come from the same black ghettos as the former, but they continue to live in overcrowded small apartments in certain areas of town, having to lead a life of precarity. Lower down still are the squatters who have nothing, no work, no skills, no education. I am sure the emerging writers will deal interestingly with this issue of class differences.

Imaginative fiction - novel, short story - seems to be your favourite mode of expression. Have you ever been tempted by travel-writing a la Naipaul or by testimonial literature that you have said you value highly today?

For me to write non-fiction is a great effort. It's not my metier at all and probably if I had not become politically engaged, I would never have written any non-fiction. The non-fiction that I write comes out of the necessity to speak my convictions whereas when I am writing from the imagination, I have a greater freedom to see things much more at a distance. That's why my characters are never monolithical. They may be heroes as revolutionaries, but I have always attempted to show them with all their faults as human beings, with all the personal betrayals. It's not because they adhere to the political views that I hold, that they are without faults or are not devious. In other words, human beings are fallible and in my fiction I am free to present them warts and all.

What will post-apartheid South African literature look like?

We can't have a South African literature which is only in English with a little sprinkling of Afrikaans. Both English and Afrikaans are European languages. We must give the blacks the opportunity to write in their mother-tongue because that is where the emotions are, that is where for many people the deepest feelings reside.

I am not suggesting that the blacks must abandon English. People should be free to write in any language. But while conducting workshops I have seen that writing in English is something unfamiliar to many. And yet people don't feel motivated to write in their mother-tongues because no one is ready to publish them in these languages. Publishers say that it is too difficult to distribute books in African languages, which is quite true because the bookshops and the libraries are in the towns, in the cities, and there is nothing in the big areas where blacks live and will continue to live for a very long time.

But I still think that there is a big reading public who would like to read not just political tracts, but interesting, imaginative literature, even detective stories. God knows the black people have enough experience of the police. There is a market for decent, popular literature that people will enjoy reading and that is what I have been trying to promote.

In the emergent South Africa, you are perceived as being close to the Establishment. Don't you fear that your closeness to the Prince may in the long term effect your credibility as a story-teller?

I think you are right. There is a danger. But I know in myself that I will never toe the party line - my party being the African National Congress. I have to face the fact that I will be regarded as somebody who belongs to a group that is politically correct, but I have to accept that. I know in myself that I am not adjusting my writing in order to please my political colleagues and comrades. I think I have proved that in None to Accompany Me, where people come back from exile and enter political life. There is a lot of conflict shown there. The new South Africa is not portrayed in my latest novels as a wonderful place where everybody agrees, where nobody has personal ambitions, where the people who are now in power don't struggle with one another for power.

To me, storytelling is more important than political correctness because storytelling is the truth and in the end the best way you can serve your society is through the arts. My integrity as a writer demands that I tell the truth as I see it and it is by telling the truth as I see it that I can best render service to my society, to my community.

Nadine Gordimer's works

Novels 1953: The Lying Days, London, Gollancz. 1958: A World of Strangers, London, Gollacz. 1962: Occasion for Loving, New York, Viking. 1963: The Late Bourgeois World, London, Gollacz. 1970: A Guest of Honour, New York, Viking. 1974: The Conservationist, London, Cape. 1979: Burger's Daughter, New York, Viking. 1981: July's People, New York, Viking. 1987: A Sport of Nature, London, Cape. 1990: My Son's Story, London, Bloomsbury. 1996: None to Accompany Me, London, Bloomsbury. 1998: The House Gun, London, Bloomsbury. Short stories 1956: Six Feet of the Country, London, Gollancz. 1960: Friday's Footprint, London, Gollancz. 1965: Not for Publication, London, Gollancz. 1971: Livingstone's Companions, New York, Viking. 1975: Selected stories, London, Cape. 1980: A Soldier's Embrace, London, Cape. 1984: Something Out There, New York, Viking. 1992: Jump and Other Stories, London, Bloomsbury.

Nadine Gordimer's works

Novels literature

1953: The Lying Days, London, Gollancz. 1958: A World of Strangers, London, Gollacz. 1962: Occasion for Loving, New York, Viking. 1963: The Late Bourgeois World, London, Gollacz. 1970: A Guest of Honour, New York, Viking. 1974: The Conservationist, London, Cape. 1979: Burger's Daughter, New York, Viking. 1981: July's People, New York, Viking. 1987: A Sport of Nature, London, Cape. 1990: My Son's Story, London, Bloomsbury. 1996: None to Accompany Me, London, Bloomsbury. 1998: The House Gun, London, Bloomsbury.

Short stories

1956: Six Feet of the Country, London, Gollancz. 1960: Friday's Footprint, London, Gollancz. 1965: Not for Publication, London, Gollancz. 1971: Livingstone's Companions, New York, Viking. 1975: Selected stories, London, Cape. 1980: A Soldier's Embrace, London, Cape. 1984: Something Out There, New York, Viking. 1992: Jump and Other Stories, London, Bloomsbury.

Colour and will

Velu Vishwanadhan's abstract painting, which builds upon Indian modernist sources, traces the painter's passage, as a particular sort of person, through the world as he finds it.

AT the close of the century, assessing abstraction is a hazardous business. Faced with one of Gerhard Richter's recent Abstract Paintings, to give an obvious example, one cannot easily guess at what the work attempts. The blankly literal title counters the 20th-century habit of declaring a painting untitled, and may be meant to show up the aesthetic autonomy that Modernist abstraction is supposed to strive for, because leaving a work untitled was one way of claiming that sort of autonomy for it. Abstract Paintings, moreover, makes one ask if the works are not images of certain sorts of later Modernist abstraction, rather than abstract paintings themselves. And to the extent that aesthetic autonomy requires the abolition of the image, the way these works look warrants saying that they show up, somehow, the desire for autonomy.

But one should not go even this far. The most that one can claim with any assurance is that Richter's surfaces communicate a certain ambivalence about autonomy. Asserting anything more - that, for instance, they parody or simulate or in some other way subvert the desire for it - would provoke immediate disagreement. At this point the critic has two options: he can declare that the work only has, and that painting now can persuasively only have, this rudimentary sort of meaning; or he can claim that meaning here is complex but, although visible, simply eludes words.

One is not quite brought to this pass by Velu Vishwanadhan's work: but before going on to it I should note that to take the first option is to concede that painting as an art is exhausted. (Arthur Danto, one of the more important philosophers of art today, has argued for some time that art itself - Western art, at least - has come to an end by transmuting itself in some Hegelian fashion into philosophy.) That seems extreme: one hopes, rather, that paintings can still make sense in new and intricate ways, even if words can no longer easily bring out how they do. Richter's work communicates a very complex attitude towards the image as it is now, an attitude which can be articulated only in painting (and only in painting which has Modernist art behind it. Here I am using the word "Modernist", with a capital M, only to refer to European and American art.).

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THE excursus above was needed because Vishwanadhan has lived in Paris for almost 30 years, and one expects that he will have taken account of recent painting, and thinking about painting, in Europe and America. At first glance, his new work (see Figure 4) might seem to allude to, or even quote in some oblique way, the Optical Art of the 1960s, or some other variety of what was called post-painterly abstraction in America. But a more attentive eye will pause, and come to suspect that Vishwanadhan's relation to the late Modernist past is not so easily glossed. (And whatever that relation may be, the artist is surely not appropriating these modes of painting in any postmodern fashion.)

One reason to pause is that Vishwanadhan continues to regard himself as an Indian painter. It is very difficult nowadays to say just what the pictorial consequences of that might be, and Vishwanadhan's painting has never advertised its Indianness (as some of Raza's 'neo-tantric' exercises do, for instance; incidentally, Raza too has spent the better part of his life as a painter in France). In conversation, Vishwanadhan maintains that his eye is essentially Indian, and that the interaction of colour in his painting, to use Josef Albers' phrase, is governed by the rich experience of colour that he had on a daily basis while he was growing up in India. (The ritual use of colour, for instance, would have been a factor in this.) In Formalist painting of the sort mentioned above, on the other hand, the role of colour is shaped not merely by the painter's daily experiences of the use of colour. (The canonical accounts of the work, at least, would not admit that.)

Very broadly, one could venture to say that the measured play of colour in Vishwanadhan's work makes the historical subject that he is somehow visible, whereas relations of colour in late Modernist painting are meant to manifest - to a self whose vision has been released from the exigencies of its own time - the very essence of painting as Art. (This is almost a caricature of Formalist critical ideas. Greenberg's thought, for instance, is much more nuanced.)

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HOW does Vishwanadhan's painting bear all this out? That is difficult to say, but the retrospective of his work - showing at the Lalit Kala Akademi auditorium in Chennai; it came from the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and will go on to Calcutta and Mumbai - is a good place to begin tackling the question. There is a wide enough selection of work there, from the mid-1960s (when he was living and working in the Cholamandal artists' village near Chennai) to the present. The four pieces reproduced here should give one an idea of the formal direction that his painting has taken.

Vishwanadhan himself describes his work as a trace of his passage, as a particular sort of person, through the world as he finds it. The word "trace" has played a large role in writing about art in the last two decades or so, and its repeated use has dulled its edge somewhat. But if one keeps this characterisation of the work in mind, the painting should lead the eye in ways it otherwise would not.

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Looking again at the new piece (Figure 4), the hint of the hand in the broad lozenges of colour - visible in how pigment might collect at an edge, for instance, or in how edges overlap - now communicates a certain volition, of a kind and degree that late Modernist painting would not show. The subtle presence of will in the work cannot be called post-painterly (mainly because one does not read it now as negating or refusing the Abstract Expressionist's gestural brush stroke). On the other hand, the painting does not entirely contradict Formalist thinking on the potency of colour because the painter's will seems to have been taken up by the work, as it were, and then somehow completed by the interaction of colour. This is why the epithet "postmodern" is inappropriate for Vishwanadhan's painting.

THIS is one way of taking in what is visible. The suggestion that colour be seen as active in this way might seem fanciful, but the exercise can be carried out, and doing so should endow the work with a distinctly sensuous character. To begin, one might set the new work next to an earlier one (Figure 3), where the pictorial will seems to be a different quantity, something directing colour, rather (through its central triangle: it is instructive to see how the unprimed canvas in the new painting now, by contrast, only inflects the emergence and recession of colour).

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The will that is taken up by the new work is a particularly formed one - the pictorial will of a subject with a certain history. And history is not obscured by how the interaction of colour completes will here. (That is needed if the painting is to be regarded as a trace of the sort of historical subject that Vishwanadhan is.) Making good such a claim would be very difficult. One strategy is to argue that Vishwanadhan's oeuvre has steadily developed a sensuous character, which the new work, when it is read this way, extends or refines. Doing that requires that we describe how his painting builds from Indian modernist sources. The earliest work reproduced here, for instance, shows the tutelage of both K.C.S. Panicker, under whom Vishwanadhan studied, and J. Swaminathan, who was quite a presence in Indian art in the 1960s. (It is worth noting that Swaminathan paid attention to Albers and that he seems to have looked at Albers' work through the filter of the Indian past - through Basholi painting, for instance.)

None of this can be attempted here, of course, and a sceptical reader might ask for a more direct pleasure from the work than my reading of it allows. Vishwanadhan's recent painting will more than oblige him. Looked at keenly, it communicates a sureness and a poise, which restores to the eye some power native to it. And that is a very good reason to look.

The National Gallery of Modern Art is one of the sponsors of this retrospective. The logistical support it provided was doubtless crucial. But no attempt was made to relate Vishwanadhan to his contemporaries here in India - the catalogue could have taken up the question - and that is a serious lack.

The false ceiling

Urban Affairs Minister Ram Jethmalani has proposed the repeal of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976, in the belief that this would improve drastically the housing situation in the country. But, given the history of the legislation, his attempt is unlikely to succeed.

IN coalition politics the most innocuous of legislative initiatives can get entangled in controversy. This should be particularly so with a piece of legislation like the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act (ULCRA): in the past decade, attempts made by various governments, even governments with comfortable majorities in Parliament, have had to abandon their attempts to amend the law in the face of stiff resistance from various quarters. Yet, Union Urban Affairs Minister Ram Jethmalani, who introduced a bill in the last session of Parliament to repeal the Act, was sanguine about its smooth passage.

Contrary to his expectations, 64 MPs, led by the activist-actress Shabhana Azmi, presented a memorandum opposing the bill to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. The bill has since been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Affairs. The chances of it getting passed in the current session have receded as even some Ministers of the previous United Front Government, which first proposed the repeal of the ULCRA, have done an about-turn and joined in the chorus of opposition. They include former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Tamil Maanila Congress leader Jayanti Natarajan and former Welfare Minister B.S. Ramoowalia. With 22 out of the 45 members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee belonging to non-BJP parties, it is unlikely that the bill will be approved in its present form.

The proposal to repeal the ULCRA was based on the plea that the law never achieved the objective for which it was enacted. In fact, the bill goes one step further to propose that all vacant land acquired so far under the ULCRA, but not yet built upon, will be restored to the original owners if they returned the amount of compensation paid by the Government.

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Few people can disagree with Jethmalani's assessment that the ULCRA has failed to check the concentration of a valuable and finite resource like land in a few hands, restricting the housing supply for the poor and the middle class. The ULCRA was enacted by the Indira Gandhi Government in 1976 as a sequel to the imposition of a ceiling on agricultural land "to prevent speculation and profiteering and to ensure equitable distribution of land in urban agglomerations to subserve the common good." It imposed a ceiling on the quantum of vacant land that any individual can possess in an urban agglomeration. In 'A' class cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, this was no more than 500 square metres. The excess land identified was to have been acquired by the government after compensating the owners and used to provide housing to various sections of the people.

However, things did not work out that way. Sections 20 and 21 of the ULCRA provided a host of escape routes for the landed gentry who were loath to part with their land. These sections empowered the State Governments to grant discretionary exemptions for a variety of reasons, prompting almost all landowners with excess land to claim such exemptions. The ULCRA thus became a vehicle for corruption. Those who could not or would not bribe their way to get exemption went to court, and the acquisition process became an agonising legal battle. Twenty-two years after the enactment of the ULCRA, less than eight per cent of the land that was identified as surplus has actually been acquired. This also explains why successive governments have toyed with the idea of amending or repealing the ULCRA, but never did so.

Frequent reviews of the legislation led to various recommendations. However, none of them sought to scrap the Act altogether. The Report of the National Commission on Urbanisation, by far the most important review that was released in 1990, called for the strengthening of state control over land and the elimination of all discretionary exemptions under Sections 20 and 21. It stated: "What is exempt is mandatory, and what is not exempt cannot be exempted by any authority." It recommended that all property developed in breach of norms, should be liable for confiscation by the state without payment of compensation. It also recommended that during the period when land in excess of the ceiling is kept vacant, a cess or tax, ranging from Rs. 3 to Rs. 50 per square metre, depending on the size of the town, location and so on, be paid to a Shelter Fund for each urban centre. The idea was to make people pay for keeping vacant land vacant. Even a National Housing Seminar held in New Delhi in October 1996 recommended only an amendment to the Act. While recommending "guided development" instead of the takeover of surplus land, the seminar suggested that a vacant land tax be imposed. It also recommended that the government mop up a part of the unearned increases in land values resulting from the implementation of the ULCRA.

THERE is unanimous agreement about the fact that the ULCRA suffered because of various loopholes and poor implementation. However, the repeal of a well-meaning legislation merely on the ground that it was not implemented seriously defies logic.

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Yet, this is precisely what the BJP-led coalition Government has done. It has set in motion the process of repealing the Act and there is no mention of the Shelter Fund. Jethmalani told Frontline that the proposal to scrap the Act was first mooted by the United Front Government. According to him, now that the Punjab and Haryana legislatures have passed the enabling resolution seeking its repeal, he had no option but to oblige them. The ULCRA falls within the ambit of Article 252 (2) of the Constitution which stipulates that the Centre may enact a law on a State subject if any two States pass a resolution recommending such a measure. Subsequently, the State Governments that are keen on implementing the Central law will have to adopt it through the corresponding State legislation.

But Jethmalani glosses over the fact that while the governments of Punjab and Haryana (as also other States) will have a choice in the matter of the repeal as their legislatures have to adopt the measure, there will be no such leeway available to the Union Territories.

According to the Urban Affairs Ministry, once the ULCRA is repealed by Parliament, ceilings on vacant land holdings will cease to exist in Delhi, Chandigarh and Pondicherry. There are indications that some States, including Maharashtra, will adopt the repeal. (Incidentally, Tamil Nadu did not adopt the Central land ceiling law. It has its own ceiling norms, which will remain unaffected by the repeal by the Centre.)

It is no wonder then that champagne bottles are being uncorked in Delhi and Mumbai. If the Maharashtra legislature opts for the repeal, industrialist Adi Godrej alone will get back acres of prime real estate in Mumbai. In Delhi, the beneficiaries will largely be the feudal landowners, including some princely families.

WHAT will be the impact of the repeal on the housing scene? Will land prices going to drop significantly when surplus land locked in litigation reverts to their owners? If they do, will it translate into cheaper housing for the poor and the middle class?

"Extremely unlikely," says Professor Amitav Kundu of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, an expert on urbanisation. "You must remember that the land locked in dispute over acquisition by the government under the ULCRA will revert back to their owners now," he said, "but the value of the land that is reverting back to the owners has appreciated manifold in the 22 years since the ULCRA was passed." "This value appreciation came about almost entirely because of government investments in infrastructure, not because of any private initiative. All of this will now accrue to the landowners and the real estate developers who will buy the land from them without the government getting a penny out of it." Kundu also believes that while real estate prices may drop marginally in the next two years, they will increase in the long run. "Besides," he said, "most of the land that will be released will be in central areas of cities that are in any case out of the reach of the middle class, leave alone the poor, so much so that any fall in prices is unlikely to benefit them." According to him, builders will buy up prime real estate at prices that will make it unviable for them to build anything other than commercial complexes and deluxe apartments for the high income groups. This would, in turn, lead to downtown areas becoming increasingly elitist.

While presenting the Budget, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha announced that the Government would construct 20 lakh houses for the urban poor. But can the poor afford houses built on land purchased at market prices?

Jethmalani believes that by giving tax breaks for housing for the poor, he can induce builders to build for the poor. However, Kamal Nayan Kabra, Professor at the Indian Institute of Public Administration asks: "The margins from elite housing will be much larger than the tax breaks. So where will you find takers for the tax breaks?" Kabra believes increased availability of land will not make any difference to the poor and the middle class who cannot afford it anyway. "The Land Ceiling Act did not increase the availability of land for housing for the poor because of poor implementation," he said. "The repeal of the law is not going to achieve it either." He also believes that the Act should have been amended and made to work, instead of being scrapped.

JETHMALANI has announced a few drastic policy measures for Delhi as well. At a joint press conference addressed by Jethmalani and Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma in June, an announcement that all unauthorised colonies in Delhi would be regularised and that the Delhi Development Authority's monopoly over the development of land would end, was made. Private developers will henceforth be allowed to build apartments in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone, where high-rise buildings were not allowed to be put up till now.

The regularisation of unauthorised colonies will put a heavy burden on the capital's already stretched civic amenities. Infrastructure facilities, including electricity, water supply and so on are already being stretched beyond capacity. But even more striking is the jubilation of New Delhi's real estate developers who are confident that they can acquire the newly-regularised colonies from the occupants for throwaway prices. "It invariably happens," said Kundu, "every time you give land titles to the poor occupants of unauthorised colonies, builders coax them into parting with them at ridiculous prices." "Even as the poor move out to establish new unauthorised colonies, builders convert the land into elite colonies."

The DDA is blamed for the ills plaguing housing for the poor in the capital. However, the failure to acquire surplus land identified under the ULCRA is not the responsibility of the DDA, but of the State Government. The DDA, which has been providing affordable housing to the capital's middle class, will now have to buy land from the market at market rates, instead of getting subsidised land from the State Government. P.K.Ghosh, Vice-Chairman of the DDA, said: "Our costs will go up, but we will continue to cross-subsidise housing for the poor from our margins in commercial complexes."

Jethmalani also announced the BJP Government's decision to allow foreign investment in the housing sector. This, despite the fact that several elite apartment complexes and colonies built by non-resident Indians have remained unoccupied for years in cities such as Pune. Surely, the Urban Affairs Minister does not expect multinationals to invest in creating housing facilities for the poor.

In a country where the shortage of urban housing alone is estimated to be 9.5 million units, the BJP-led Government appears to be rushing into hitherto unchartered waters. Jethmalani's justification is: "The previous experiment failed. Let us try this one." But at what and whose cost?

Time for a new regime

Popular dissatisfaction with the Ryutaro Hashimoto Government's handling of the economy has led to a change of government in Japan, but to see the vote as an implicit vote for financial restructuring will be a mistake.

ACROSS the world, the attention of economic analysts and policy-makers is focussed on Japan. Once again the country is set to get a new Prime Minister from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The change in leadership was dictated this time by the LDP's disastrous performance in elections to the Upper House of the Diet.

Early estimates had expected the party to pick up an additional eight seats, relative to the 61 it occupied out of the 126 seats for which elections were being held. Japan's voters, it was argued, would possibly strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and back his effort to reform Japan's ailing economy by giving the LDP a majority in the Upper House. But Hashimoto's inability to turn the economy around, partly because of his failure in early 1997 to join hands with other countries in the region to create a regional fund to stabilise currencies and stall a crisis, changed the course of events. In an election with an unexpectedly large voter turnout (59 per cent as compared with the 44 per cent recorded in 1995), voters chose to slash the LDP's strength by 17 seats, giving it 44 out of the 126 contested. The reason appears clear to all: dissatisfaction with the Government's handling of the economy. Thus, unlike earlier, when issues like corruption forced a change of guard, this time the LDP is getting a new leader and Japan a new Prime Minister because of economic policy ineptitude.

The inadequacy of economic policy does not concern only Japan's citizens. Japan's negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 3.7 per cent over the year ending the first quarter of 1998, an industrial recession as a result of which industrial production fell by an annualised 21 per cent over the last three months and political uncertainty, is threatening to stall world economic growth. Japan's poor performance worsens the year-old crisis in East Asia, resulting in a decline in output of a magnitude far greater than earlier projected. It also threatens to weaken the yen further, which could "necessitate" competitive depreciations in China and, therefore, a collapse in the already debilitatingly poor export performance of the Asian industrialisers.

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The problem, however, is not merely one of a "second crisis" in Asia. As slow growth in the region begins to tell on the bottom lines of American and European transnationals and the currency depreciations in the region transform their trade deficits with the rest of the world into surpluses, the paradox of robust growth in the West and deep recession in the East looks unsustainable. This is generating a change in perception in the West.

Till recently, Western governments had sought to present the crisis as a peculiarly Asian problem, at the centre of which was the accumulation of large non-performing assets by an unusually opaque financial sector. But the United States' intervention in currency markets to stabilise the yen and occasional signs of nervousness in U.S. stock markets in response to new evidence of a deepening recession in Japan indicate that the fear of an easterly economic wind that could prove damaging to the West is real. The difficulty, however, is the helplessness of the U.S., other Western governments and even of the Japanese rulers when it comes to halting the decline.

The first opportunity came just when the currency crisis struck East Asia and governments in the region, including those of Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia began discussing the possibility of pooling their foreign exchange reserves to create an Asian regional fund that could be used to defend the region's currencies and provide individual countries time to restructure their real and financial sectors. That effort was, however stalled when Japan withdrew from the proposed arrangement in deference to U.S. perceptions that the task of dealing with the crisis should be left to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It is now clear that Japan's refusal to contribute to a regional adjustment effort not only forced an unduly deflationary 'adjustment' programme on countries like Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia, but that the consequent recession in the region has made Japan's effort to reflate its own economy near-futile.

Japan's slow growth is not a new problem. Since 1992, GDP growth has averaged just 1.3 per cent a year. During those years, developed country governments adopted a schizophrenic attitude with respect to global economic policy: while they wanted most countries to opt for reduced government spending or a deflationary fiscal stance, they wanted Japan to play a greater role as a locomotive of world growth by pump-priming its own economy. According to an OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) estimate, between 1992 and 1995, at least yen 64,000 billion had been outlayed on packages aimed at stimulating the Japanese economy, which included income tax cuts that reduced government revenues by yen 17,000 billion, new public investment totalling about yen 38,000 billion, and government land purchases and public loans to the tune of yen 20,000 billion. Partly as result of that spending and partly because of stronger export growth fuelled by the depreciation of the yen, Japan experienced a recovery in 1996, when output expanded at 3.5 per cent.

While this trend of acceleration was maintained during the first quarter of 1997, a sharp deceleration set in during the second quarter of that year and has worsened since. The causes are obvious. The first cause is the onset of recession in the East Asian region to which Japan is closely tied. That is, Japan is paying the price for its refusal to contribute to a regional solution to the currency crisis triggered by financial liberalisation. The second cause is a disastrous decision, fuelled by conservative finance, to impose a consumption tax to prevent the budget deficit from rising too much.

Since the first signs of slowdown in the summer of 1997, the Japanese Government has announced five packages aimed at reviving the economy. The most recent was the yen 16,000 billion ($124 billion) package announced on April 24 once again to spur domestic consumption and investment demand.

According to the Government, there is an equivalent of yen 12,000 billion in extra spending in that package which should raise growth by 2 percentage points over 12 months. It is now clear that the package is having little impact on the Japanese economy, since its effects are being neutralised by the adverse impact of the regional downturn on exports and the profits of Japanese conglomerates. Japan's failure to offer an alternative to and its acquiescence in the face of IMF-style deflation in East Asia is what explains its own crisis. It is to conceal this fact that Western governments and the Western media are making it appear that the problems being faced by Japanese banks, whose non-performing assets have burgeoned in the course of the crisis, represent the "structural" cause of the crisis.

UNDER G-7 pressure, the LDP had begun a process of financial restructuring in which healthy financial firms like the Sumitomo Trust Bank were to take over or merge with unhealthy ones like the Long Term Credit Bank. The problem with this strategy related to the handling of the large portfolio of bad loans accumulated by the weak banks. The LDP's strategy was to get the Government to purchase these loans either through existing institutions like the Resolution and Collection Bank or new institutions in the nature of "bridge banks", paving the way for a relatively painless restructuring of the banking system. The thrust of policy prescriptions pushed by the G-7 was to further this process by even allowing a few banks to close if resources were not available. Western governments and the media conveniently interpreted the economically motivated vote of the Japanese people as an implicit vote for financial restructuring that closes banks and drives corporations to bankruptcy.

This is far from the truth. One of the major beneficiaries of the loss in confidence in the LDP has, for example, been the Japanese Communist Party, which is no symbol of the forces backing a strategy of financial restructuring and liberalisation of the conservative kind. The JCP, which occupied six seats out of the 126 up for election, more than doubled its strength to 15, and together with another eight it holds among seats not contested, accounts for 23 seats in the House of Councillors; this is the highest number it has ever held. What is more, in terms of vote strength the party garnered 14.6 per cent of the votes cast in the national proportional representation constituency.

Interestingly, the focus of the JCP's campaign was not larger outlays for banking reform but larger outlays for growth of a kind which relies on higher consumption from people at large. In the campaign, the JCP called for a cut in the consumption tax rate to 3 per cent as a first step towards overcoming the present deep economic depression and to safeguard the people's living conditions. As the Asahi Shimbun of July 13, 1998 commented, "When the JCP raised the question 'whether to use 30 trillion yen for supporting the banks or to cut the consumption tax rate to 3 per cent to help the working people,' these diametrically opposed views became part of the whole election campaign."

There are others like U.S. economist Paul Krugman who argue that tax cuts alone are not enough. What is required in their view is a dose of inflation, which deals with the difficulty of cutting Japan's rock bottom nominal interest rates by making real interest rates negative by raising the rate of inflation. This would ostensibly encourage businesses and consumers to borrow and spend on investment and consumption, triggering in the process a recovery.

The difficulty with views of this kind is that while they challenge the obsession with financial restructuring which can intensify the recession by worsening the credit situation and driving not just banks but also firms to bankruptcy, they also treat the current problem as purely internal to Japan. The fact that the beginnings of a recovery in Japan were aborted by the crisis in East Asia suggests that Japan should look outward towards the region and realise that its recovery is linked to a recovery in the rest of Asia. If that be the perspective, then the challenge is to correct the error in which by refusing to participate in a regional financial arrangement to stave off currency crises, Japan brought the current recession upon itself. This would require finding means by which instead of letting capital migrate to the U.S. in search of higher interest rates it migrates to the rest of Asia, and uses the benefit of depreciated exchange rates, deflated asset prices and low costs in those countries to trigger another growth episode which then impacts on Japan as well.

This of course calls for a complete rethink of strategy which the politically devastated LDP is hardly in a position to undertake. Perhaps what Japan needs is not just another Prime Minister from the same party, but a whole new election to the House of Representatives where the LDP currently commands a majority, so that a new set of forces can come to power with a Prime Minister who has the mandate to change the way Japan thinks of itself vis-a-vis the U.S. and the rest of the region and the world.

The false ceiling

Urban Affairs Minister Ram Jethmalani has proposed the repeal of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976, in the belief that this would improve drastically the housing situation in the country. But, given the history of the legislation, his attempt is unlikely to succeed.

IN coalition politics the most innocuous of legislative initiatives can get entangled in controversy. This should be particularly so with a piece of legislation like the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act (ULCRA): in the past decade, attempts made by various governments, even governments with comfortable majorities in Parliament, have had to abandon their attempts to amend the law in the face of stiff resistance from various quarters. Yet, Union Urban Affairs Minister Ram Jethmalani, who introduced a bill in the last session of Parliament to repeal the Act, was sanguine about its smooth passage.

Contrary to his expectations, 64 MPs, led by the activist-actress Shabhana Azmi, presented a memorandum opposing the bill to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. The bill has since been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Affairs. The chances of it getting passed in the current session have receded as even some Ministers of the previous United Front Government, which first proposed the repeal of the ULCRA, have done an about-turn and joined in the chorus of opposition. They include former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Tamil Maanila Congress leader Jayanti Natarajan and former Welfare Minister B.S. Ramoowalia. With 22 out of the 45 members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee belonging to non-BJP parties, it is unlikely that the bill will be approved in its present form.

The proposal to repeal the ULCRA was based on the plea that the law never achieved the objective for which it was enacted. In fact, the bill goes one step further to propose that all vacant land acquired so far under the ULCRA, but not yet built upon, will be restored to the original owners if they returned the amount of compensation paid by the Government.

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Few people can disagree with Jethmalani's assessment that the ULCRA has failed to check the concentration of a valuable and finite resource like land in a few hands, restricting the housing supply for the poor and the middle class. The ULCRA was enacted by the Indira Gandhi Government in 1976 as a sequel to the imposition of a ceiling on agricultural land "to prevent speculation and profiteering and to ensure equitable distribution of land in urban agglomerations to subserve the common good." It imposed a ceiling on the quantum of vacant land that any individual can possess in an urban agglomeration. In 'A' class cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, this was no more than 500 square metres. The excess land identified was to have been acquired by the government after compensating the owners and used to provide housing to various sections of the people.

However, things did not work out that way. Sections 20 and 21 of the ULCRA provided a host of escape routes for the landed gentry who were loath to part with their land. These sections empowered the State Governments to grant discretionary exemptions for a variety of reasons, prompting almost all landowners with excess land to claim such exemptions. The ULCRA thus became a vehicle for corruption. Those who could not or would not bribe their way to get exemption went to court, and the acquisition process became an agonising legal battle. Twenty-two years after the enactment of the ULCRA, less than eight per cent of the land that was identified as surplus has actually been acquired. This also explains why successive governments have toyed with the idea of amending or repealing the ULCRA, but never did so.

Frequent reviews of the legislation led to various recommendations. However, none of them sought to scrap the Act altogether. The Report of the National Commission on Urbanisation, by far the most important review that was released in 1990, called for the strengthening of state control over land and the elimination of all discretionary exemptions under Sections 20 and 21. It stated: "What is exempt is mandatory, and what is not exempt cannot be exempted by any authority." It recommended that all property developed in breach of norms, should be liable for confiscation by the state without payment of compensation. It also recommended that during the period when land in excess of the ceiling is kept vacant, a cess or tax, ranging from Rs. 3 to Rs. 50 per square metre, depending on the size of the town, location and so on, be paid to a Shelter Fund for each urban centre. The idea was to make people pay for keeping vacant land vacant. Even a National Housing Seminar held in New Delhi in October 1996 recommended only an amendment to the Act. While recommending "guided development" instead of the takeover of surplus land, the seminar suggested that a vacant land tax be imposed. It also recommended that the government mop up a part of the unearned increases in land values resulting from the implementation of the ULCRA.

THERE is unanimous agreement about the fact that the ULCRA suffered because of various loopholes and poor implementation. However, the repeal of a well-meaning legislation merely on the ground that it was not implemented seriously defies logic.

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Yet, this is precisely what the BJP-led coalition Government has done. It has set in motion the process of repealing the Act and there is no mention of the Shelter Fund. Jethmalani told Frontline that the proposal to scrap the Act was first mooted by the United Front Government. According to him, now that the Punjab and Haryana legislatures have passed the enabling resolution seeking its repeal, he had no option but to oblige them. The ULCRA falls within the ambit of Article 252 (2) of the Constitution which stipulates that the Centre may enact a law on a State subject if any two States pass a resolution recommending such a measure. Subsequently, the State Governments that are keen on implementing the Central law will have to adopt it through the corresponding State legislation.

But Jethmalani glosses over the fact that while the governments of Punjab and Haryana (as also other States) will have a choice in the matter of the repeal as their legislatures have to adopt the measure, there will be no such leeway available to the Union Territories.

According to the Urban Affairs Ministry, once the ULCRA is repealed by Parliament, ceilings on vacant land holdings will cease to exist in Delhi, Chandigarh and Pondicherry. There are indications that some States, including Maharashtra, will adopt the repeal. (Incidentally, Tamil Nadu did not adopt the Central land ceiling law. It has its own ceiling norms, which will remain unaffected by the repeal by the Centre.)

It is no wonder then that champagne bottles are being uncorked in Delhi and Mumbai. If the Maharashtra legislature opts for the repeal, industrialist Adi Godrej alone will get back acres of prime real estate in Mumbai. In Delhi, the beneficiaries will largely be the feudal landowners, including some princely families.

WHAT will be the impact of the repeal on the housing scene? Will land prices going to drop significantly when surplus land locked in litigation reverts to their owners? If they do, will it translate into cheaper housing for the poor and the middle class?

"Extremely unlikely," says Professor Amitav Kundu of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, an expert on urbanisation. "You must remember that the land locked in dispute over acquisition by the government under the ULCRA will revert back to their owners now," he said, "but the value of the land that is reverting back to the owners has appreciated manifold in the 22 years since the ULCRA was passed." "This value appreciation came about almost entirely because of government investments in infrastructure, not because of any private initiative. All of this will now accrue to the landowners and the real estate developers who will buy the land from them without the government getting a penny out of it." Kundu also believes that while real estate prices may drop marginally in the next two years, they will increase in the long run. "Besides," he said, "most of the land that will be released will be in central areas of cities that are in any case out of the reach of the middle class, leave alone the poor, so much so that any fall in prices is unlikely to benefit them." According to him, builders will buy up prime real estate at prices that will make it unviable for them to build anything other than commercial complexes and deluxe apartments for the high income groups. This would, in turn, lead to downtown areas becoming increasingly elitist.

While presenting the Budget, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha announced that the Government would construct 20 lakh houses for the urban poor. But can the poor afford houses built on land purchased at market prices?

Jethmalani believes that by giving tax breaks for housing for the poor, he can induce builders to build for the poor. However, Kamal Nayan Kabra, Professor at the Indian Institute of Public Administration asks: "The margins from elite housing will be much larger than the tax breaks. So where will you find takers for the tax breaks?" Kabra believes increased availability of land will not make any difference to the poor and the middle class who cannot afford it anyway. "The Land Ceiling Act did not increase the availability of land for housing for the poor because of poor implementation," he said. "The repeal of the law is not going to achieve it either." He also believes that the Act should have been amended and made to work, instead of being scrapped.

JETHMALANI has announced a few drastic policy measures for Delhi as well. At a joint press conference addressed by Jethmalani and Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma in June, an announcement that all unauthorised colonies in Delhi would be regularised and that the Delhi Development Authority's monopoly over the development of land would end, was made. Private developers will henceforth be allowed to build apartments in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone, where high-rise buildings were not allowed to be put up till now.

The regularisation of unauthorised colonies will put a heavy burden on the capital's already stretched civic amenities. Infrastructure facilities, including electricity, water supply and so on are already being stretched beyond capacity. But even more striking is the jubilation of New Delhi's real estate developers who are confident that they can acquire the newly-regularised colonies from the occupants for throwaway prices. "It invariably happens," said Kundu, "every time you give land titles to the poor occupants of unauthorised colonies, builders coax them into parting with them at ridiculous prices." "Even as the poor move out to establish new unauthorised colonies, builders convert the land into elite colonies."

The DDA is blamed for the ills plaguing housing for the poor in the capital. However, the failure to acquire surplus land identified under the ULCRA is not the responsibility of the DDA, but of the State Government. The DDA, which has been providing affordable housing to the capital's middle class, will now have to buy land from the market at market rates, instead of getting subsidised land from the State Government. P.K.Ghosh, Vice-Chairman of the DDA, said: "Our costs will go up, but we will continue to cross-subsidise housing for the poor from our margins in commercial complexes."

Jethmalani also announced the BJP Government's decision to allow foreign investment in the housing sector. This, despite the fact that several elite apartment complexes and colonies built by non-resident Indians have remained unoccupied for years in cities such as Pune. Surely, the Urban Affairs Minister does not expect multinationals to invest in creating housing facilities for the poor.

In a country where the shortage of urban housing alone is estimated to be 9.5 million units, the BJP-led Government appears to be rushing into hitherto unchartered waters. Jethmalani's justification is: "The previous experiment failed. Let us try this one." But at what and whose cost?

A widening rift in Punjab

WHAT is most interesting about the Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) stand on Udham Singh Nagar district is the developments that have surrounded and shaped it. It takes little to see that the SAD's intervention in Uttar Pradesh's Terai region is an expression of the formation's deep aspiration to be the sole political platform of Sikhs everywhere. But what has remained largely unnoticed is that the SAD's aggressive posture on Udham Singh Nagar district has come at a time of renewed Hindu chauvinistic mobilisation in Punjab. The skirmishes on the Udham Singh Nagar issue are a sign of troubles to come, with consequences not just for the SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance, but for the future content of Punjab's politics.

Interestingly, the first political mobilisation on the Udham Singh Nagar issue came not from the SAD, but from the centre-left. Former Union Minister and Punjab Bhalai Manch (PBM) leader Balwant Singh Ramoowalia began to campaign in mid-June on behalf of Terai Sikhs who believed that their lands and economic future would be compromised with the integration of the district into the new Uttaranchal State. SAD's silence was curious. Several important SAD figures own large holdings in the Terai belt although the Punjab Government has denied that any of its Ministers possesses such property. Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal is known to have owned lands in Bazpur. However, those close to him claim that they were sold some years ago. The denial has found few takers because much of the land in Udham Singh Nagar is registered under fictitious names, a strategy adopted to circumvent land ceiling laws.

Nonetheless, the SAD began to focus on the issue only when the Punjab Congress(I) began to back Ramoowalia's campaign. On July 6, shortly after being appointed Punjab Pradesh Congress(I) president, Amarinder Singh announced that the future of Udham Singh Nagar would be one of his key concerns. "This district," he said, "has nothing in common with the hill people."

Sikh disquiet with the new proposals, he said, stemmed from the fact that "in the hill area there is a land ceiling law which allows land holding up to one hectare only, and the farmers would be losing land."

With the Congress(I) implicitly attacking the SAD's credentials as a genuine representative of Sikh interests, Badal took up the issue. In the wake of Amarinder Singh's press conference, an SAD-BJP delegation from Punjab met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to press its case. The members of the delegation attacked Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana's earlier argument that constitutional regulations barred the exclusion of Udham Singh Nagar from the new State. The alliance then established contact with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Jayalalitha and Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee to seek their support on the issue. Interestingly, Badal's address to the Punjab Assembly earlier in the day made no reference to the issue.

On July 9, former Chief Minister and Congress Legislature Party chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal raised the issue in the Assembly. Pandemonium erupted in the House, with both the Congress(I) and the SAD accusing each other of hypocrisy. The Communist Party of India's Hardev Arshi attempted to inject some reason into the debate by pointing out that while the issue was of a serious nature, it did not constitute a matter of concern for the Punjab Assembly. Few members seemed to listen to his plea. Later in the day, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Gurcharan Singh Tohra made oblique threats of withdrawing support to the BJP-led Government at the Centre and appeared to suggest the possibility of an SAD-led mass agitation on the issue. Although Tohra later denied having made these statements, the fact remained that he represented a growing sense of panic within the SAD on the issue of merging Udham Singh Nagar district with Uttaranchal.

Of perhaps more concern to the SAD was its alliance partner's State-level stand on the issue. Although two BJP Ministers had accompanied the June 6 delegation to New Delhi, the party did not intervene in the subsequent debate on the subject. The Punjab BJP's rank and file remained hostile to the SAD demand, and one senior BJP leader told Frontline that the SAD was "reacting as if Udham Singh Nagar was to be separated from Punjab."

This sourness reflected a broader breakdown in relations between the two parties. On July 5, BJP State general secretary Jagmohan Kaura had openly complained that the SAD had sabotaged his party's prospects in the recent panchayat elections. Activists of the BJP, he claimed, were routinely mistreated by SAD Ministers. Kaura's extraordinary outburst reflected the resurgence of Hindu chauvinist sentiments against the SAD in recent months. In one peripheral but significant development on July 5, the Punjab Shiv Sena had demanded reservation in employment and education for Hindus in the State.

The SAD is facing similar problems on its own flanks. Far-right communal groupings, until recently subservient to the SAD, are showing signs of breaking free. At the end of a three-day training camp sponsored by the Sikh Students Federation's Mehta faction, the grouping resolved to continue "the struggle for the spread of Sikh religion started by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale," and promised to honour all those who had laid down their lives in this struggle. In a thinly veiled attack on Tohra and other centrist SAD figures, the faction complained that many SGPC members were not amritdhari (baptised) Sikhs. The World Sikh Council's recent assault on the SAD's unwillingness to exhume the legacy of the post-1982 insurgency also suggests a hardening of the far-right forces' stand. Clearly, the SAD's claim to represent all Sikhs is being questioned, with potentially disastrous electoral consequences for the formation.

What implications will these developments have for the future of Punjab politics? Each previous alliance between past variants of the SAD and the BJP fell because of pressures from hard-liners in both the camps. As the Udham Singh Nagar issue illustrates, both SAD and the BJP have been forced to adopt postures aimed at placating the fringes of their communal constituencies. In hastening the coming into being of these mutually irreconcilable positions, the Congress(I) has proved adroit. Although it is unlikely that either the SAD or the BJP will allow the alliance to collapse in the short run, long-term trends point in the direction of a growing rift with grave communal implications. Udham Singh Nagar, it is evident, is only the pretext: the real battle is being waged behind the scenes.

A deadlocked peace process

Talks between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah), which virtually runs a parallel government in Nagaland, have made little headway, and the ceasefire agreement between them is about to expire. The prospects for peace appear bleak.

THE ceasefire agreement between the Central Government and the outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah) expires on July 31. But the peace initiative undertaken by the Government to find a political solution to the 50-year-old insurgency problem in Nagaland through negotiations with underground Naga leaders has made little progress. The talks between the two sides remain deadlocked; the most recent meeting, between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's emissary and senior Supreme Court advocate Swaraj Kaushal and NSCN(I-M) leaders in Bangkok in early June, failed to make any headway.

During the meeting with Kaushal, NSCN(I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and president Isaac Chishi Swu demanded political discussions without any conditions and in the Prime Minister's presence to be held outside India. Underground sources said that the rebel leaders had told the emissary that if the Prime Minister participated in the talks, the NSCN(I-M) would give up its demand that the peace talks be held under United Nations supervision. Evidently, this was unacceptable to the Prime Minister's Office.

Kaushal's brief was to try to evolve a mutually beneficial and consensual solution to the insurgency problem within the framework of the Constitution. Some of the demands that the NSCN(I-M) placed before Kaushal could not be accommodated within the constitutional framework. For instance, the NSCN(I-M) wanted Nagaland to be given the status of a protectorate, much like the status that Bhutan has. NSCN(I-M) vice-chairman K. Yanthum said recently from his hideout in London that his organisation would plead for the grant of such status for Nagaland.

Kaushal sought to secure the Naga leaders' response to the idea of working out an arrangement under which the Congress(I) Chief Minister of Nagaland, S.C. Jamir, would step down and make way for a leader of the rebels' choice. He cited the example of Mizoram where Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla at one point stepped down to make way for Laldenga, president of the banned Mizo National Front (MNF). But Muivah is reported to have rejected the proposal, saying that Mizoram was not Nagaland and the Naga people were not like the Mizos. According to Muivah, Laldenga accepted the arrangement because it came at a time when the MNF leader was thinking of giving up the underground movement and giving himself up to the authorities. The NSCN(I-M), on the other hand, was determined to continue its fight for "a sovereign Nagaland", he said.

According to NSCN(I-M) sources in Kohima, Muivah told Kaushal categorically that only direct talks with the Prime Minister could revive the peace process. Muivah is reported to have refused to discuss political matters with Kaushal since, in his view, the Government of India had backed out of many previous agreements. This time too, he said, New Delhi was backtracking on its commitment made to the Nagas.

It is claimed that when the ceasefire agreement was worked out in May, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government agreed that the ceasefire would cover all the areas inhabited by the Naga people, not just Nagaland. Besides this, according to the NSCN(I-M), New Delhi made three commitments: that the peace talks would be unconditional, that they would he held at the level of the Prime Minister, and that they would take place at a venue outside India. According to Muivah, the Government violated the agreement on all counts. It had conducted Army operation in areas inhabited by the Naga people in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and refused to hold unconditional peace talks at the Prime Minister's level, he said.

The NSCN(I-M) is the main underground organisation in Nagaland and was the first to respond to the proposal for talks made by the Congress(I) Government headed by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao some years ago. Several rounds of talks were held between the Indian Government and guerilla leaders when the United Front was in power. These resulted in the declaration of a ceasefire with the NSCN(I-M) on July 25, 1997. Since then the ceasefire has been extended several times; the latest agreement, for a three-month extension, was made effective from May 1 this year.

UNDERGROUND sources in Dimapur feel that even if the NSCN(I-M) comes to an understanding with the Vajpayee Government, it will not mean an end to the insurgency. Two other major underground organisations, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and the Naga National Council (NNC), have set themselves against any kind of peace proposal from the Centre. The NSCN(K), which is not a party to the ceasefire agreement, has declared that its "offensive against the Indian occupation force in Nagaland would continue." Since May 1, its guerillas have killed 21 Army personnel.

Although the NSCN(K) is not a party to the ceasefire, the security forces had avoided a confrontation with the Khaplang group in order to give the ceasefire a chance. But when the NSCN(K) resorted to unprovoked attacks on Army personnel, the Army resumed active operations against it. Analysts believe that the NSCN(K)'s sudden resort to violence after lying low for some time may be intended to subvert the peace talks. Chief Minister Jamir appealed to the NSCN(K) leadership to accept the Government's offer for unconditional talks. The Centre said it was "unfortunate" that there had been no "favourable response" from the NSCN(K) to the ceasefire offer. Action against the group would, therefore, continue, a State Government spokesman said.

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Underground leaders of the NSCN(I-M) allege that some leaders in the State who have a vested political interest are using the NSCN(K) to target the security forces so as to disrupt the peace process initiated by New Delhi. They claim that the Centre is aware of this but is unable to do anything about it. They allege that NSCN(K) leader S.S. Khaplang, who belongs to the Hemi Naga community from Myanmar, operates from bases close to the India-Myanmar border and that he has links with at least one senior political leader in the State.

THE mood among the Naga people is in favour of securing an extension of the ceasefire; they would also like to see peace talks between the Government and the NSCN(I-M) continue. But they believe that no solution is possible without the involvement of the other factions of the NSCN. In the estimation of the Naga people, a peace agreement with the NSCN(I-M) can at best bring about a piecemeal solution to the problem. Jamir too believes that without the involvement of all the insurgent groups in the peace talks, a permanent solution cannot be found.

Former Chief Minister Vizol told Frontline that the Centre should declare a "comprehensive and blanket " ceasefire and include the NSCN(K) and the NNC in the agreement. He said that although the level of violence had come down during the ceasefire period, violence continued in some places. Unless the other two NSCN factions were included in the ceasefire agreement, no peaceful solution to the problem was possible, he said.

A prominent leader in Imphal said that a solution to the Naga insurgency problem hinged on how the NSCN(I-M) presented its demands during the negotiations. The group's demand for a "sovereign Nagaland" has been rejected by the Centre. Union Home Ministry officials have made it clear to the NSCN(I-M) leadership that secession from India would not be allowed at any cost.

The NSCN(I-M)'s insistence on including in the discussions all areas inhabited by the Naga people has given rise to other problems. The Centre is unwilling to discuss such areas outside Nagaland because that would invite objections from neighbouring Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The Manipur Government is opposed to areas within the State's boundary coming under the ambit of the negotiations process. The major constituent of the coalition ruling the State, the Manipur State Congress (MSC), has offered support to the BJP-led Government at the Centre on condition that the Prime Minister announce on the floor of Parliament that Manipur's territorial boundary would not be altered.

Underground sources have hinted that both Isaac and Muivah may renounce insurgency and enter mainstream politics if certain concessions - such as territorial adjustments to include within the geographical area of Nagaland the areas inhabited by the Naga people in Manipur's Ukhrul district and the grant of special constitutional provisions to the State - are made. Most of the top NSCN(I-M) leaders, including Muivah, K.K. Hurrey, Atem and R.H. Raising, are from Ukhrul district.

The NSCN(I-M) virtually runs a parallel government in Nagaland, and is therefore willing to consider a peace agreement only on its terms. Addressing a gathering of Naga rebels on the occasion of the 19th "republic day" of the government of the "People's Republic of Nagaland" somewhere near the Nagaland-Manipur border on March 21, Isaac said that if negotiations with the Government of India did not yield a solution, the fight for a "sovereign Nagaland" would continue. "Thousands of Nagas have shed their blood for the redemption of Nagalim (Naga identity) and thousands more are queueing up to sacrifice their lives for the nation," he said.

Isaac and Muivah criticised the Indian Government for its "shameless imposition" of "bogus elections" on "the unwilling Naga people" in February. They asserted that such "forced elections" were "absolutely unacceptable now and shall be so for all time too come."

Letters to the nation

Another set of historically important letters written by Mahatma Gandhi is on its way back to the country.

ON July 15, a set of 18 letters written by Mahatma Gandhi, dealing with the themes of Hindu-Muslim unity and non-violence, were purchased for the nation when they were auctioned by Sotheby's in London. The letters were written between 1918 and 1924, at the time of the Khilafat movement, to Maulana Abdul Bari, an Islamic scholar and founder of the Jamiat-e-Ulemai-e-Hind. A good part of the correspondence deals with plans for joint Hindu-Muslim demonstrations in support of the movement. The Ali brothers, Shaukat Ali and Mohammed Ali, who led the Khilafat movement along with Gandhiji, were the Maulana's disciples.

The collection also contains four letters in Urdu, some of which are in the original and some are copies, from Motilal Nehru to Maulana Bari, as well as two letters from Jawaharlal Nehru to the Maulana.

While five of Gandhiji's letters in the collection were in his own hand, several others were written by his secretaries and signed by him. Some letters were written and signed on Gandhiji's behalf by his secretaries. Several of the letters have also been translated into Urdu, either for or by Maulana Bari.

The letters were put up for auction by the Maulana's descendants settled in the United Kingdom. As on previous occasions when letters by the Mahatma were put up for sale, the Indian Government was anxious to acquire them and add them to the existing collections of Gandhiji's correspondence in various museums and archives. However, the Government was unwilling and unable to purchase them directly. An outright purchase by the Government was not feasible as it involved administrative questions such as where the funds should come from. Besides, officials were concerned that if the Government made it known that it was willing to buy all correspondence by Gandhiji, then hordes of other Gandhi letters would come into the market at inflated prices.

The problem of acquiring the set of letters and bringing them to India without direct government involvement was solved by Dr. L.M. Singhvi, India's former Indian High Commissioner in the U.K. Singhvi, who was present in London, used his contacts with non-resident Indian businesspersons and raised the funds for the purchase from two millionaires, G.K Noon and Nat Puri. Apart from the bidder who acted on behalf of Singhvi, there was one more bidder. Although Sotheby's had suggested a price between 10,000 and 15,000 the competitive bidding raised the price to 18,000.

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Singhvi is a veteran in the purchase of Gandhi letters and memorabilia. He was involved in earlier purchases of a letter written by Gandhiji on the subject of khadi and a copy of Bhagvad Gita that belonged to the Mahatma. Two years ago Singhvi was involved in the prevention of the sale of a collection of drafts of letters written by the Mahatma, which were in the possession of one of his secretaries, V. Kalyanam (Frontline, November 29, 1996). This was done after doubts were cast on the legal right of the secretary to sell the drafts. That collection was eventually handed over to the Indian Government and is now with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.

In the present case, there are no doubts about the legality of the sale. The sellers were the descendants of the Maulana, to whom the letters had been addressed, and had title to the letters. As Dr. Peter Beale, an expert at Sotheby's, said, the sale that was attempted two years ago related to the drafts of letters that had been retained by someone who had no clear title; this time, the sale related to letters that had been sent by post to a recipient, whose family members were now selling them, as they had a right to do so.

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Singhvi said that the letters would probably be given to the Nehru Memorial Museum in New Delhi to be added to its collection of Gandhiji's correspondence. The letters were in poor condition and needed expert archival care if they were to last, he added.

The letters deal with Gandhiji's attempts to build a common Hindu-Muslim front through the Khilafat movement. They also reveal the Mahatma's disappointment in the failure of his ideal of non-violence to take root. In one letter written in 1922 after Gandhiji was forced to call off the civil disobedience movement when it degenerated into violence, he writes: "I am disappointed because I have come away (from Delhi) with a majority that has no faith even in the policy of non-violence...I feel thoroughly helpless...that our opponents magnified our violence and terrorised us is only too true, but we expected no more from them, and no less. Hindus are as bad as Mussalmans, but unfortunately as both are weak our policy depends on hearty cooperation of both..."

He goes on to say: "I am clear that all aggressive activity must be stopped. Our ranks must be purged of all undesirable elements. If really as a result of our experiment we have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to control the mass violence or to convince the majority of our countrymen of the necessity of remaining non-violent, we may revise our programme, but it would be suicidal to delude ourselves into the belief that we are following the policy of non-violence when we are not."

He asks the Maulana for suggestions on ways to re-establish a non-violent programme. "Please think over the matter and let me know what can be done. If we can re-establish a non-violent atmosphere we must be able to work out the constructive programme laid down."

In other letters, Gandhiji discusses his plans for civil disobedience, and his various travels to settle disputes, such as a visit to Hoshangabad to settle a "cow sacrifice dispute". In one letter written in 1921, he asks the Maulana to come to Bombay (Mumbai) to help quell the rioting that had broken out. "Crowds (are) out of control (and) internal strife (is) proceeding," he writes. In a letter from jail, Gandhiji writes that he was "enjoying himself" in "this abode of freedom".

He also suggests that the road to Hindu-Muslim unity is through the spinning of khaddar. "I have come to the conclusion that the only conclusive demonstration of Hindu-Muslim unity is the universal adoption by them of the spinning wheel...Khaddar cannot become universal without both the great communities taking it up....from the very commencement of the struggle we have been wanting boycott of foreign cloth... For me the spinning wheel and Khaddar have a deep religious significance because it means Hindus and Muslim sympathy for the poor people who are dying today from hunger and disease. The Khaddar programme is therefore the greatest and surest I can foresee to the country."

Lessons from life

Pebbles in a Tin Drum by Ajeet Cour, HarperCollins, 1998; pages 190; Rs. 145.

THIS work, a series of clearly subjective memoirs strung together as the author wants them, makes a fitting chronicle for a fractured country teeming with insecure people blindly following the path of success which they confuse with that of happiness. For a society opening up to the market principle at the cost of its humanity, a process that is equally the driving force of consumer-packaged globalisation as the neo-Hindu swadeshi, her chronicle is a stark warning that India should take note of.

It starts off with an account of the death of her daughter Candy, in France, when she seems destined for success in a world of academic plums, scholarships and the like. It is to the credit of Ajeet Cour that she raises it above the level of a tear-jerker by linking the youthful tragedy with her own long-drawn-out experience of life in the framework of that very Punjabi ethos of happiness and success being one and the same thing.

One is amazed at the price an individual pays for this. The abandonment of her first love, Baldev, whose inspiration seems to bring out the best in her, for the illusory security of a loveless marriage that ends after eight bouts of exile, is the first of the many episodes in this atomised search for a secure life heightened by the backdrop of Partition in 1947.

This is followed up by an equally disastrous attempt to get published by succumbing to the blandishments of a Delhi publisher who seems to be given to mixing business with pleasure to the detriment of those he does business with. With growing horror one realises how that liaison is mistaken for love by her and she pays a terrible price for it. The book ends after a futile aeroplane chase from Delhi, to Mumbai, Bangalore and back, and a glimpse of Satya Sai Baba thrown in, with only a fever to keep her company. As she puts it: "It kept me constant company for twentytwo days. Maybe it realised I needed a companion. Maybe it had come to know how lonely I was."

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One is left wondering what price the publisher paid in his search for success as happiness, or for that matter those hundreds of Punjabis still scouring the corners of the earth on the lookout for this elusive mix? For many it brought on sudden death, like the young men thrown into the sea off the Aegean coast in 1996. And it is to the author's credit that the vignettes of her life take on the character of a Victorian cautionary tale.

It is no accident that the book has come at a time when Indian society is being torn apart at the seams by a force no less than the one that Frederick Engels wrote about in his book on the conditions of the British working class or Dewan Chamanlal in his two-volume study of Indian bonded labourers, which a fellow Punjabi, Mulk Raj Anand, gave a literary life to in his book, Coolie.

However, Ajeet Cour drags one through the other side of the picture, as it were, with Ministers (only at the end of a telephone), bureaucrats, money-grubbing businessmen, drink-sodden hangers-on and utterly respectable middle-class people actually submitting to these marauders in the silence behind their bamboo screens in their search for respectability, while upright characters like Baldev drop out and are replaced by Oma, who sometimes appears to be only a shade different from Fagin in Dickens' Oliver Twist.

The modernity in Ajeet Cour's memoir lies in the fact that it is a Ramayana without a Rama. The wife throws herself out of the house and into the hands of the Ravana. And with remarkable courage the author spells out how things should not be done.

Ultimately one is left wanting to know more about the Baldevs, grandmothers, dairy-owners, servants, the millions of peasants and workers around one, or even gentle Toshi, the friend who stands by at all times. And one is repelled by the "successful family man", Oma. This is a book that every would-be yuppy ought to read - before it is too late.

A true revolutionary ANTJIE KROG M.S. PRABHAKARA

Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary by Stephen Clingman; David Philip and Mayibuye Books, Cape Town/University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1998; pages 500; Rands 110.

BRAM FISCHER, christened Abram but known by the shorter form of the name, is an enigma in South African history. Many people find themselves drawn, connected and bonded in various ways to him than to any other figure in our past. People who feel thus come from a variety of cultures, countries and backgrounds. Bram Fischer also seems to have become one of the most quoted examples of a model of commitment to the cause of liberation of all the people of South Africa by the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), one of the greatest heroes of South African history. This excellent and well-researched biographical study provides some answers to why this is so.

The life of Bram Fischer (April 23, 1908-May 8, 1975) has haunted Afrikaners for years. Born into a well-known and politically influential Afrikaner family of Bloemfontein in Orange Free State, he had ahead of him the best possible future that Afrikanerdom could offer at the prime of its power and dominance. His grandfather, Abraham Fischer, was the first Prime Minister of Orange River Colony and his father, Percy, was the Judge-President of the Free State. On his mother's side, the "extremely wealthy" Fichardt family was "European but belonging to no European country", a cosmopolitanism that could equally fit the Fischer family. At the same time, the family was also steeped in the anti-imperialist traditions and memories of Afrikaner nationalism - though one should always bear in mind the limits of that anti-imperialism, informed as it was by opposition to and hatred for the British, which was understandable in the context of Britain's unspeakable conduct during the Anglo-Boer war. Ignored (except as providers of cheap labour) in this contention between British imperialism and the colonialism of the settler was the majority of the truly indigenous people, not to speak of "the Cape Malaaier (Malay) and the stinking Coolie", in the words of grandfather Fischer.

IN his own mind Bram Fischer remained loyal and true to what he viewed as the staunch and noble anti-imperialist traditions of Afrikaner nationalism and saw his commitment to Communism not as a betrayal of his Afrikaner identity but rather as its fulfilment. But Afrikaners believe that in his commitment to Communism and active membership of the Communist Party he turned his back on Afrikaner nationalism, forfeiting things most Afrikaners would die for. They saw him as having betrayed his own people. Among ordinary Afrikaners familiar with his impressive heritage, Bram Fischer was the ultimate example of how impeccable breeding can go wrong; how a family can have everything right and do everything right, and yet in the same family, "the one is Abel and the other Cain".

Clingman's delineation of this moral and political journey from a narrowly perceived Afrikaner nationalism to Communism along a convincing sequence of events shows that Bram Fischer's later life was not necessarily a break with his past; that his commitment to Communism was a natural consequence of the deepest positive values he believed was within Afrikanerdom. However, Bram Fischer was not merely an 'Afrikaner Revolutionary' (of the subtitle) but an Afrikaner Communist Revolutionary, a member of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and, after it was banned in 1950, of the clandestinely restructured South African Communist Party (SACP), occupying leading positions in both the structures. His Afrikaner heritage was as central to his personality and politics as his commitment to Communism as an ideology and its practical application in his membership of the Communist Party. There is no way in which these can be separated.

This rather obvious point needs to be stressed because there is a tendency to view Bram Fischer's life as somehow "wasted" because of his commitment to an "outdated" ideology like Communism. Following this is the further wistful perception that had he not been a Communist and had he not so drawn the vengeful wrath of the regime, which carried on its vendetta against him even after his death, he could have contributed so much to South Africa. This is a perspective which this account too, in particular the judgmental Epilogue, reflects. Situating Bram Fischer in the tradition of the heroic but flawed characters of classical Greek tragedy (the epigraph from The Poetics of Aristotle is central to this perception), Clingman says that "Bram Fischer's flaw was that he was swayed by a morally compromised ideology."

Given his heritage and intellectual accomplishments, it is true that had Bram Fischer not been an active Communist and put his political convictions into practice in a manner he judged best and most effective, he might have had a very successful career on the Bench. Further, had he chosen to be false to what he viewed as the true Afrikaner heritage and made common cause with the thugs of the Nationalist regime, he may even have made a successful career as a politician. But then, who remembers all the legal luminaries and politicians of the old South Africa except in disdain of the former, for their acquiescence in and active dispensation of apartheid law and justice, and loathing of the latter?

The biography provides several access points to the human factors that animated that life - not of the saintly or politically correct but of the vulnerable kind. Bram Fischer was indeed an Afrikaner and a South African whose life, in the words of his first biographer, Naomi Mitchinson, was "a life for Africa". But his life also captures and encapsulates the minds of the lonely, of those who "dis-belong". Political heroes usually have followers, have possessed crowds or enthusiastic groups around them; they usually have "their own people" standing by them. Bram Fischer, however, stood alone. He never had "his people" standing by him. Those who did, like his family, paid a very high price. The rest around him were those who adopted him, mainly black and Jewish comrades in the Communist Party who took him to be one of their own.

Asked if the blacks had any heroes among the whites, Steve Biko, the raison d'etre of whose Black Consciousness movement was the liberation of the black people from dependency upon even well-meaning whites for their liberation, simply said: "Yes, Bram Fischer." According to the judge who presided over the Treason Trial, Bram Fischer (who had led the team of advocates for the defence) would be remembered long after he himself and many others are forgotten. For Edwin Mofutsanyana, an old black comrade of Bram Fischer from Lesotho, responding to a question from Clingman whether he ever thought of Bram Fischer: "I think of all the Afrikaners I have known, Bram Fischer was always the best... He was always in... my mind. As I say, he was a very good person."

One of the most fascinating, indeed poignant, aspects of the book is what is revealed through the letters that Clingman has gained access to. These, between parents and children, between wives and husbands, reveal a family life in which the members had open, warm and intelligent relationships and interactions, where a son's progressive thinking into politics is shared openly with his parents - though only up to a point. Bram Fischer was indeed a revolutionary, but he was no mindless rebel. He lived his life by the book; he worked hard, studied the correct courses, followed the chosen career in which he achieved great material success. He lived out the logical conclusions of his upbringing which, perhaps inevitably, perhaps nevertheless, led to the destruction of his life because no other Afrikaner, not even his open-minded parents, felt themselves bound by these codes. "Ultimately, it is because this story is about finding a home, which turns out to mean how one defines oneself. It becomes a story of identity - of how that, in its origins, transformations and destination, becomes inseparable from the journey it undertakes."

The most eloquent and moving description of this political journey from Afrikaner nationalism to Communism is to be found in Bram Fischer's political testament - the "statement from the dock" he made at the beginning of his trial in Pretoria on March 23, 1966. He was then 58 years of age, a distinguished and highly successful barrister who had never concealed his political commitments, standing trial for his life on charges of sabotage (a capital crime) and membership of the illegal Communist Party - on which charge he had already been on trial.

He had joined the party in the 1930s when he was a student at Oxford, though the clandestine nature of the recruitment has been so well preserved that even Clingman's thoroughgoing researches have not been able to establish precisely when or under what circumstances Bram Fischer joined the party. The closest we get to this is the view ascribed to George Bizos, the well-known advocate, that Bram Fischer "considered himself" a member of the party by 1938; and that the late Dr. Yusuf Dadoo was the one who recruited him. One would have been even more interested in knowing the circumstances under which his wife Molly Fischer joined the party, for given the strength and independence of her character, it is most unlikely that she simply went along with and adopted her husband's political beliefs. Her death in a motor accident, a day after the Rivonia trialists were sentenced, was a loss from which he never recovered.

The trial at which Bram Fischer made his "statement from the dock" was as it were his second trial. He had been on trial, with 11 others, on charges of belonging to the Communist Party. The peculiar awe and hatred that he provoked in the Afrikaner establishment and more specifically in the National Party Government is perhaps best exemplified in the fact that he was allowed, while on trial on charges that could well lead to a life sentence, to travel to London to argue a complex case on behalf of a leading mining house before the Privy Council. Despite some expectation and perhaps hope that he would decide not to return - and so spare the establishment from prosecuting the case further and providing it with further proof of the "extra-territorial loyalty" of the Communists - he chose to return, only to deliberately "absent himself from the remainder of the trial" at the moment of his choice and to continue the struggle in a manner he judged necessary and appropriate.

Clingman's account of that decision provides some new insights, including a discussion in a London park with the SACP leadership in exile on whether he should return and face almost certain imprisonment or break conditions of his bail and stay outside the country. Again and again, the 'code' operates: he had given his word that he would return; returning to South Africa, certain in the knowledge of what that would entail, was a matter of personal honour. But it was not merely a question of codes and personal undertakings.

As Joe Slovo recalled later, Bram Fischer convinced the leadership that he had to return. He explained this in the letter read to the court on January 25, 1965: "I believe that it is the duty of every true opponent of this Government to remain in this country and to oppose its monstrous policy of apartheid with every means in his power. That is what I shall do for as long as I can." The "emphasis added" is important, explaining as no "rational" reading of those hard days can, the choices that Bram Fischer made; and for which he paid with his life.

He remained "underground" - in fact very much in Johannesburg for most of the time - for almost nine months and was captured on November 11, 1965. Sentenced to life imprisonment on May 9, 1966, he was subjected in prison to very harsh and degrading treatment - a chosen object of the wrath of the regime which could never forgive the treachery from an Afrikaner, far more unforgivable than the treachery of the recognisable enemy. He was very nearly on the point of death, and despite appeals from his family, the state would not release him; a life sentence meant exactly that. He was finally "released to the custody" of his brother Paul in Bloemfontein in March 1975, with the house being declared a prison. He died there on May 8, less than two months after his "release" and exactly nine years after he was sentenced to life imprisonment. But the state was unrelenting in its vendetta even after his death. Since he died a prisoner, his ashes were seized as "state property". A brick-sized slab in the Garden of Remembrance outside Bloemfontein (Panel 3, Row 4, Slab 7, from the left entrance) bearing the name A. Fischer, with the dates of his birth and death respectively preceded by a star and a cross, is the only memorial that physically exists in South Africa. But he lives in the memories of the people.

Memories. Here are two incidents that reflect the fragility of human memories, true and false, enduring and evanescent.

On May 8, 1995, the 20th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, a joint session of Parliament in Cape Town paid tribute to those who died in the fight against Fascism and Nazism in Europe. Representatives from all political parties spoke eloquently. Not one of them, not even known members of the SACP who quite correctly paid tribute to the heroic role of the Soviet Union in that struggle, even so much as mentioned the fact that the day also marked the 20th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest fighters against the same evil forces within South Africa, a true Afrikaner Communist revolutionary.

Antjie Krog, who writes poetry in Afrikaans, is the parliamentary editor for SABC radio. Until recently, she headed the SABC radio team covering the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her book Country of My Skull (Random House, Johannesburg, 1998) presents a personal and professional narrative of her interaction with the TRC process.

A scheme of appointments

A selective implementation of the Supreme Court order on the grant of autonomy to Central investigative agencies is being contemplated to undermine certain pending cases.

IS there a move to implement partially the Supreme Court judgment in the Jain hawala case, in the course of which a three-member Bench headed by the then Chief Justice, Justice J.S. Verma, laid down detailed guidelines for granting autonomy to the Central Government's investigative agencies? If so, would not such a move be tantamount to short-circuiting the procedure prescribed by the apex court and, in the process, jeopardising the very autonomy of the agencies which the move was supposed to strengthen?

There are indications that Union Law Minister M. Thambi Durai and Minister of State for Revenue and Banking, R. Janarthanan, both representing the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government, are exploring the possibility of doing just that to serve a certain immediate, limited purpose. The Home Ministry has referred the judgment to the Law Commission to draw up a draft law for its implementation.

When the Supreme Court gave its landmark judgment in the Jain hawala case, it also gave detailed directions for strengthening the autonomy of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (E.D.). The ruling was necessitated by the observed increase in corruption in high places, especially among politicians who occupied high office, which the agencies found difficult to investigate since they functioned under the control of the very functionaries against whom they had to launch investigative and prosecution proceedings.

The court ruled that the CVC be given statutory status and that the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVCr) be selected from among a panel of outstanding civil servants with impeccable integrity, the list being furnished by the Cabinet Secretary. The selection was to be made jointly by the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. A CVCr so selected shall then preside over the panels which would select the CBI and E.D. chiefs. For good measure, the judgment had added that the CVC shall be entrusted with the responsibility of superintendence over the CBI's functioning. The procedure for the selection of the CBI and E.D. chiefs by the CVCr was also prescribed by the apex court.

However, according to a Cabinet source, the present Government (as was its predecessor) is reluctant to surrender the control of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) over the CBI to another agency. Especially since the days of Indira Gandhi, the CBI has emerged as a powerful weapon in the hands of the ruling party, Bofors being just one example of how that weapon has been used.

The United Front Government made vague noises of commitment when the Supreme Court pronounced directions to grant autonomy to the investigative agencies. Yet it did not take any steps to implement the judgment. But then, it had a fig leaf for its inactivity in its lame duck status.

Four months into power, the BJP-led Government's attitude to the implementation of the judgment is no less ambivalent and apparently without any justification other than its preoccupation with its own survival. Finally, on June 16, almost five months after the Supreme Court ordered the Government to implement its directions "immediately", the BJP-led Government entrusted to the Law Commission the task of drawing up the necessary legislation. Simultaneously, under pressure from the AIADMK, the BJP's alliance partner, the Attorney-General's views were sought on the feasibility of implementing the order partially as an interim measure.

The Law Ministry is learnt to be exploring the possibility of asking S.V. Giri, the incumbent CVCr, to appoint new chiefs for the CBI and the E.D. Giri had resigned a few weeks ago, presumably to facilitate the implementation of the apex court order. The Government requested him to continue in office until it appointed a new CVCr in accordance with the procedure laid down by the apex court.

Therefore, as of now, Giri's status is that of an officiating CVCr. This being the case, will it be proper for the Government to ask Giri to appoint the new CBI and E.D. chiefs even as an interim measure, more so when there are rumours that Giri may be reappointed CVCr as and when the Government implements the apex court order?

THE urgency for this interim arrangement seems to stem from the various cases against Jayalalitha's close associates on charges of violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act (FERA) which are being actively pursued by the E.D. The CBI is also actively pursuing one case of corruption against Jayalalitha but this case has not yet reached a critical stage as in the matter of the FERA cases. The removal of Trinath Mishra, the incumbent CBI Director who has proved to be much less tractable than the BJP Government might have wanted him to be, will not inconvenience the Government. And the removal of M.K. Bezboruah, the E.D. chief, is perceived to be useful in undermining the FERA cases against persons close to the AIADMK supremo. Herein lies the reason for the move to implement the Supreme Court order selectively and immediately.

Meanwhile, the Law Commission, to which the judgment has been referred, is preparing a bill very much on the lines prescribed by the Supreme Court. Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, the Chairman of the Commission, told Frontline that the bill would not deviate in any sense from the apex court's recommendations but, if possible, improve upon it. Although the matter was referred to the Commission only by mid-June, the bill will be ready in a few days. However, the Law Commission's recommendations are not binding on the Government and therefore could be disregarded once the immediate purpose has been accomplished, namely, the removal of the two independent chiefs of the not-so-independent investigative agencies.

Setback to the market regulator

A controversial ruling by the Appellate Authority in the Finance Ministry has reversed a SEBI order and absolved Hindustan Lever of charges of insider trading.

THE Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the country's regulator of the securities markets, has suffered a blow in its first - and a high-profile - test case of insider trading regulations. On July 14, the Appellate Authority in the Finance Ministry set aside SEBI's March 1998 ruling that Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL), the biggest Indian company in terms of market capitalisation, had indulged in insider trading on the eve of the merger of Brooke Bond Lipton India Ltd (BBLIL) with it in 1996. Both HLL and BBLIL were subsidiaries of Unilever.

Although HLL has reasons to be euphoric over its latest victory, the case offers important lessons for it in corporate governance.

The Appellate Authority has reversed SEBI's order that the company and five of its directors be prosecuted and also struck down the ruling that HLL pay Rs. 3.04 crores to the publicly-owned Unit Trust of India (UTI), the alleged victim of the instance of insider trading. It also said that SEBI's ruling suffered from "procedural lapses" and that it used powers beyond its jurisdiction. However, the grounds on which the Authority based its ruling and the manner in which it interpreted the SEBI (Insider Trading) Regulations, 1992, and the SEBI Act, 1992, have raised a controversy.

The ruling has come at a time when the Government is considering allowing companies to buy back their shares. There are fears that the precedent set by the Authority may affect SEBI's ability to curb insider trading. Although P. Chidambaram had announced while presenting the 1997-98 Budget as Finance Minister in the United Front Government, that share buy-backs would be made possible during the financial year, the proposal was delayed primarily because it was feared that companies would misuse it. The Authority's order has strengthened the fears that a weak piece of legislation on insider trading will allow companies to manipulate share prices, using privileged information not generally available to the market.

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It is not just the merits of the order that are being contested; more fundamentally, questions are being raised about the structure of the Authority. A specific question is whether officials in the Finance Ministry - in this case, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Finance Secretary, and C.M. Vasudev, Special Secretary (Banking) - can be entrusted with the task of hearing appeals from corporates with whom they deal with on a regular basis.

In March 1998, SEBI ruled that HLL had indulged in insider trading while purchasing eight lakh BBLIL shares from the UTI on March 25, 1996 (Frontline, April 17).

In April 1998, both HLL and UTI appealed to the Authority against the SEBI order. While HLL pleaded that it be absolved of the charges of insider trading, the UTI contended that the compensation of Rs.3.04 crores was inadequate. The Authority had to deal with two crucial aspects of the case. The first related to HLL's contention that it was not an "insider" and the second was whether the information available with HLL was price-sensitive.

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UTI, the second biggest shareholder in both HLL and BBLIL after Unilever (which now has a 51 per cent stake in HLL), had complained that the information on the proposed merger of BBLIL with HLL was not known to it when it bought the shares. SEBI ruled that the companies were well on the way towards a merger and that the directors of Unilever, HLL and BBLIL were actively involved in the exercise. As a result, SEBI reasoned that while HLL, a party to the transaction, had access to privileged "price-sensitive" information, UTI, the other party, had no knowledge of the proposed merger.

HLL also claimed that the market was generally aware of the merger talks and that UTI would have discounted for this in the price at which the share was traded. However, SEBI said that there was a fundamental difference between the general information that was available to UTI and the specific information available to HLL.

Resorting to the legal proposition that "no person can be an insider to himself," HLL argued that it was not an insider as defined in the Act. It told SEBI that it was a separate entity and that its information on the merger with BBLIL arose out of it being a party to the merger and not because it was an "insider". SEBI overruled this, maintaining that the "competence" to decide about BBLIL's merger with HLL did not vest with HLL alone but also with BBLIL and Unilever. Therefore, it said, the information about the merger did not "constitute HLL's own knowledge about its own affairs or even its knowledge as a principal party." SEBI pointed out that a core team, comprising the directors of BBLIL and HLL, had been formed in January 1995 and that Unilever had granted "in-principle" approval to the merger proposal in January 1996. The core team, it held, met between March 6 and 10 and decided to make the announcement about the merger on April 29. SEBI alleged that the company kept back from UTI concrete information on the merger when the transaction was made on March 25, 1996. SEBI also charged that HLL failed in its "fiduciary duty" to UTI, the second biggest shareholder of the company.

HLL laid great emphasis on the fact that it did not have the details of the swap ratio - the ratio at which BBLIL shares were exchanged for shares of HLL - at the time of the transaction. It argued that the mere information about the proposed merger did not constitute price-sensitive information and that only information on the swap ratio would have materially affected share prices. SEBI dismissed this plea, saying that although the swap ratio may be a price-sensitive factor, it was by no means the only factor. It pointed out that HLL had circulated a note prohibiting company officials from investing in the shares of group companies in situations in which mergers or acquisitions were imminent because they would impact on the share price.

The Appellate Authority agreed with SEBI's ruling that HLL was an "insider". It observed that Unilever was the dominant shareholder in both HLL and BBLIL and that they were "connected" and that the merger was not driven by decision processes entirely internal to HLL. Moreover, the Authority accepted the SEBI's ruling that the information on the merger constituted price-sensitive information available to the company. The Authority also agreed with the SEBI ruling that the share purchase was intended to maintain Unilever's holding in the merged company at 51 per cent. In effect, the Appellate Authority concurred with SEBI that HLL was an "insider" in the transaction; that HLL had privileged price-sensitive information; and that HLL had a motive in pushing through the transaction. However, its ruling has been based on the reasoning that the proposal on the merger was generally known.

In support of its ruling, the Appellate Authority cited press reports that indicated "prior market knowledge of the merger." However, by its own admission, there were only a few reports "prior to the actual purchase (of shares from UTI)." The Authority has come down heavily on UTI, suggesting that it was not market-savvy, that it did not know what was generally known in the market. But consider this: If UTI accepts that it knew about the proposed merger, it would be accused of having participated in a collusive deal using privileged knowledge; if it admits that it differentiated between market gossip and rumour and information, it would be ridiculed for not being market-savvy. In fact, the burden of the Authority's ruling rests on the premise that the information was freely available and that trading in that information would not have offered either party any advantage or special privilege.

Lawyers specialising in corporate law have argued that the weightage given to media reports of mergers and other such information cannot be equated to hard market information or concrete information available especially within companies. They allege that the ruling has raised market and media gossip and speculation to the status of hard and accurate information.

SEBI has also been criticised for relying just on the evidence presented by UTI's Chief General Manager. The Authority says that SEBI should have given "due weightage" to "market reports". While exonerating HLL of the charges of insider trading, the Appellate Authority says: "At the same time, it would have been desirable if at the time of purchase of shares, HLL had informed UTI that the core committee is considering the proposal of amalgamation." (In fact, Unilever had already granted in-principle approval for the merger. Moreover, valuers had already been appointed to work out the swap ratio at the time of the share purchase from UTI.) After absolving HLL, the Authority has suggested that SEBI initiate adjudication procedure against the company under less punitive sections of the Act, which, according to legal observers, will at the most mean a fine of Rs. 5 lakhs. Why the Authority has suggested this course is a matter of speculation.

The case assumes importance because it also raises issues of corporate governance. HLL is one of the biggest companies in India with a turnover of nearly Rs.8,000 crores. Unilever, the parent company, is in the process of restructuring HLL's operations through a series of amalgamations, which commenced in 1993 with the merger of TOMCO with HLL. Since then Lakme and Ponds have also been merged with the company.

Unilever's publicly stated strategy is to maintain a 51 per cent stake in the group companies in India and this has had a strong influence in the case. Its pre-merger holding in BBLIL was below 51 per cent. If its intention was only to keep its holding in BBLIL at 51 per cent, it need have purchased only three lakh shares and not eight lakh shares as it did from UTI. However, if it had bought only three lakh BBLIL shares, its holding in HLL post-merger would have fallen below 51 per cent. In fact, SEBI observed that "there is no ambiguity that the purchase was made based on the knowledge of the impending merger".

If Unilever had adopted another route to hike its stake in the merged company - for example, issuing preference shares - it would have had to obtain various clearances from the Reserve Bank of India and the Government, apart from bringing in foreign exchange to buy the shares. HLL depleted its own reserves to buy the shares for one privileged shareholder, Unilever. That in itself is a cardinal sin in corporate governance - favouring one set of shareholders at the expense of others. Moreover, HLL's action violated the legal proposition that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.

Both SEBI and the UTI are likely to appeal against the Appellate Authority's ruling in the High Courts in Mumbai and Delhi.

A life of service

Father Pierre Ceyrac, S.J., who was honoured by the French Government recently, has devoted all his life to the service of the poor and the needy.

FOR over 60 years he has worked for the poor and the needy. He has also served refugees in strife-torn Rwanda and in Cambodia. He takes care of the basic needs of some 18,000 poor and abandoned children in Tamil Nadu. He works for the cause of women, peasants and Dalits. And Father Pierre Ceyrac, S.J., has gone about doing all this work ever so quietly.

The services rendered by the 84-year-old French missionary came into focus last fortnight when the French Government conferred on him the Chevalier De La Legion D'Honneur for a lifetime dedicated to the cause of the poor and the deprived. According to Claude Blanchemaison, the French Ambassador to India, the decision to honour Fr. Ceyrac was taken at the initiave of French President Jacques Chirac himself.

But Fr. Ceyrac is self-effacing. All he has done, he says, is to make the poor, the destitute and the sick feel cared for. According to him, "more than doing something for them, what is important is to make them feel wanted and cared for".

Born in 1914 in the French province of Limozane, Pierre Ceyrac grew up in a large family along with five brothers and a sister. Keen to serve the poor, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1931. His interest in Third World issues, particularly those concerning India, led him to learn Sanskrit in the University of Paris. In 1937 he came to Chennai, where he took a bachelor's degree in Tamil literature at Pachaiyappa's College.

He became a priest in 1945 and moved to Loyola College in 1951 when he was appointed adviser to the All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF), which was then active in 86 universities. The next year he became AICUF's chaplain-general, a post he held for 16 years.

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As the national adviser to AICUF, then as its chaplain-general, and later as a missionary-social worker, Fr. Ceyrac encouraged activism among the youth, and organised camps, conventions, seminars and consultations. He made students work in the rural areas and encouraged them to discuss and share their experiences and problems with others. A pioneer in the National Service Scheme (NSS) movement, Fr. Ceyrac is convinced that more than reading and hearing about socio-economic and political realities, students need to experience them.

According to Dr. S. Joseph Amal Packiaraj, Professor of English, Loyola College, who has known Fr. Ceyrac for 35 years, in the early 1950s when Jawaharlal Nehru gave a call to the youth to "build a new India", Fr. Ceyrac gave the youth the slogan: "We are the India. We are the revolution." He launched a drive to sensitise students to the needs of the country and make them realise where they can serve best. For this he organised leadership education programmes, workshops and training camps with focus on rural India. Of the thousands of students influenced by Fr. Ceyrac, a large number today serve the country as senior officials and political leaders in government.

After working with AICUF for 16 years he was involved in rural and child development projects for the next 13 years, concentrating on those interior villages of Tamil Nadu's drought-prone Ramnad district (now divided into Ramanatha-puram, Sivaganga and Virudhunagar districts) where government schemes hardly reached. He started an 'Operation 1,000 Wells' programme and helped take new farm technologies to poor farmers.

In 1980, he was chosen by Caritas India, an international Christian Charity organisation, to head a 12-member team, including doctors and nurses, posted to the Thai border to help Cambodians rendered refugees following the Khmer Rouge action. Although the other members of the team returned to India at the end of their six-month term, Fr. Ceyrac stayed on there for 14 years serving the victims of landmine blasts. He then went to serve the refugees in Africa's strife-torn Rwanda for a year. He returned to India in 1994.

IT was with reluctance that the media-shy missionary (who says "publicity spoils people as they become self-conscious") agreed for a "small chat". At the Loyola College Jesuit residence in Chennai, where he has spent almost half a century, the octogenarian briskly walked into the visitors' lounge, apologised for a slight delay and began talking passionately about the poor, helpless children, widows and Dalits, and on current political and social issues.

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Fr. Ceyrac comes across as a simple, passionate, progressive, secular and tough human being with the fire and zeal to serve the poor and the destitute burning brightly in him.

Fr. Ceyrac classifies his work into four areas. First is emergency or charity work, where help to the needy is rendered on an emergency basis. Relief work during floods and providing aid to the critically ill come under this category.

A second area relates to social work. Sending poor and abandoned children to school, and helping destitute women, widows and youth to acquire skills to take care of themselves, fall in this category.

The third category relates to development work. Under this comes his work in the dry, drought-prone interior villages of Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga and Virudhunagar districts.

The fourth task relates to "liberation." For instance, mobilising Dalits to fight for their rights. The liberation of human beings, he says, is the aim of all his work. His idea is that one must help the needy to help themselves, for that is ultimate liberation. Asked if he works on human rights issues too, he said, "I am fighting for the rights of Dalits to be humans, leave alone their human rights."

Interestingly, he does not run any institution nor does he operate from any fixed premises. According to him, if there is an orphanage, the children would be called orphans and society would see them differently. What he does is to help the family of, say, a widow who agrees to take care of a couple of orphans. Fr. Ceyrac then provides the person with a means of livelihood and takes care of the children (hers and the two she takes into her fold) till they complete schooling. Of the 18,000 children he takes care of, 3,000 are orphans and over a thousand have only one parent.

Fr. Ceyrac has three major programmes running in Tamil Nadu. One programme is for the children of daily wage earners and farm workers, as also for orphans and abandoned and sick children. The second is a rural development programme in Sivaganga district covering 120 villages. Under this programme, over 1,100 wells have been dug for poor farmers. And the third programme involves organising Dalits to fight for their rights. This programme also operates in Sivaganga district, covering 20 villages and three lakh people. He has formed 90 cooperatives for Dalits and other downtrodden people of the region.

Fr. Ceyrac gives credit for all this to the efforts of six men who work with him. He says, "I am just with them. That is all."

Fr. Ceyrac's basic dictum is "As much to be done for so many by so few with little means." Indeed, he has managed much, with limited resources. Getting funds, he says, has always been a problem. He relies largely on philanthropists and charitable organisations. "It is amazing," he says, "how much we can do by just touching the lives of people."

In the middle of the conversation he took a little time off to talk with one of his six lieutenants about the progress of some work in Sivaganga district. And then, with the same enthusiasm he met a couple of leprosy patients who had come seeking medical help. Putting his arms around their shoulders, he listened to their problems patiently and promised help. And, then, as he saw them off, he shook their hands. "More than giving them money it is the hand-shake and respect that matters most to them," Fr. Ceyrac then remarked.

For such a man, obviously religion or caste do not matter as much as his work. A devout Christian with a secular outlook, he considers communalism the bane of India. He is also a champion of women's causes, and supports the demand for reservation of women in Parliament and the State legislatures; but he feels that 33 per cent reservation is not enough, and that it should be 50 per cent. Politics, he says, cannot be seen in isolation from the socio-economic reality. Thus, it is imperative that women get into politics in a big way. For, change, particularly in the rural areas, can come only through women.

Quoting from the Upanishads and the Mahabharata, the French missionary-social worker sums up his life through a verse of the Tamil savant Thayumanavar: "Apart from wanting people to be happy, I want nothing else from life, God."

Article 356

letters

The Cover Story ("Who is afraid of Article 356?", July 17) made for thoughtful reading. Given Jayalalitha's public admission of a pre-election "conspiracy", it is now clear that if the BJP ever takes recourse to Article 356 in the case of the M. Karunanidhi Government, the court will have enough space to establish mala fides and restore the status quo ante. But Article 356 is still a draconian measure. The remedy requires explicit constitutional provisions rather than ambiguous assumptions made from judicial pronouncements.

Contingencies where a Ministry defeated in the Legislative Assembly resigns and no other Ministry commanding a majority is available, or where a party in majority declines to form the government and the Governor fails in his efforts to install a coalition Ministry, should all be kept out of the purview of Article 356. Such situations are not impossible, and provisions to deal with them should be provided for in the Constitution. Some sort of a 'State caretaker government' would not be inappropriate here.

Article 356 should be used only to heal wounds inflicted upon the federation by a unit of the federation and not to inflict wounds upon a unit of the federation. It is necessary to modify Article 356 so that it confines itself to dealing with a total breakdown of the constitutional machinery, that is, a virtual impossibility of governance or attempted secession in a State.

Again, besides providing a set of guidelines for Governors, not merely their appointment but their dismissal also should be kept out of the Union Government's discretionary powers. Their integrity will be reinforced if their tenure is substantially, if not absolutely, secured against arbitrary interventions.

Above all, the President has a moral obligation to prevent the misuse of Article 356 - by not committing himself to an illegitimate exercise of Article 356. One may recall the premature death of the Post Office (Amendment) Bill, 1986, even after its passage in Parliament. Widely criticised as severely curtailing the citizen's freedom, it was (taking advantage of the absence of any time limit for returning the bill for reconsideration in Article 111) declared neither assented to nor withheld by the then President, Zail Singh. Let us hope President K.R. Narayanan will, true to his style, act according to his own wisdom and conscience.

Article 356 is not a blunder of our Constitution-makers. Nor is it a blunder to continue to have it. A reformed Article 356 is very vital for our country to preserve the federation - especially to preserve the territorial geography of India.

R. Natarajan Natham, Tamil Nadu Nuclear issues

This refers to the article "From Hiroshima to Pokhran" (July 17).

The feud within the BJP front prompted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to decide on Pokhran-II and pressure from the masses in Pakistan forced Nawaz Sharif to respond to India's action with nuclear tests. Both the educated and the illiterate in the two countries have shown excessive enthusiasm in welcoming these unwise acts. Despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the majority of people in India seem to be unaware of the consequences of a nuclear war.

In this context, the speeches delivered by the three-member delegation from Japan at Pokhran and Khetolai were an eye-opener to all of us. The people of the villages at these places and the organisers of this campaign should be appreciated. I take this opportunity to appreciate Frontline for its bold stand vis-a-vis the nuclear tests.

A.V.K. Moideen Tirurangadi, Kerala

I am a regular reader of your magazine. I have always held it in high esteem for its frank, fair, non-partisan and wide coverage of varied subjects. Its balanced, objective and in-depth analyses have been of immense help to students. Unfortunately, it appears to me that in the last few issues (which focussed on the nuclear tests by India) there has been a marked deviation from the standards you have maintained hitherto.

You seem to have approached the entire issue with a bias. Therefore your articles lack objectivity. It appears that you have approached the matter from a particular ideological perspective rather than national interest and thereby have pursued some political goal. The majority of articles on the nuclear tests were written by people who do not have knowledge about India's strategic requirements.

The Editorial entitled "The perils of nuclear adventurism" (June 5) was objectionable. By no stretch of the imagination can India's tests be termed nuclear adventurism. Similarly, Aijaz Ahmad's article titled "The Hindutva weapon" seems to have ignored the section of public opinion that does not consider India's bomb a 'Hindu weapon'. There are many such examples.

From your coverage a lay reader will draw the conclusion that it is India which is the real 'villain' and that the sole responsibility for the tensions in the region lies with India. The Indian nuclear tests should be seen in the context of the nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan, the test-firing of the Ghauri missile by Pakistan, the pressure on India to sign the NPT and the CTBT and so on.

It is true that the BJP Government acted in haste and that it tried to derive political mileage out of it. But we cannot find fault with its decision to test the nuclear devices. We may sharply disagree with its rhetoric, jingoism and inept handling of the entire affair but to say that it is producing a 'Hindu bomb' to destroy Islamic Pakistan is to distort facts.

Amitendra Nath Sinha Delhi Atomic energy

Indian engineers and scientists may lack state-of-the-art equipment, first-hand experience with the emerging technologies, and luxurious facilities. But they have the intelligence to identify any technological problem and the dexterity to improvise tools. This is evident from the successful revival of two reactors at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station ("Revived reactors," July 17) at a fraction of the cost that was quoted by unwilling foreign agencies.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board faced a similar crisis several years ago. A huge electrical transformer supplied by Canada failed during the warranty period. The Canadians would not agree to have it repaired in India. Perhaps they did not have confidence in local expertise or did not want Indian engineers to pick up the knowhow. They sought nearly a year's time to get the transformer repaired in Canada and to bring it back. It was then decided to repair the unit, which incorporated a highly advanced technology, in India itself. A team took charge of the work. A key member of the team was not even a qualified engineer. His rich experience spanning three decades compensated for the deficiency in academic qualifications. The team completed the daunting task in record time at a fraction of the cost estimated by the foreign agency.

D. Rohan Chennai Jarawas

The article "Jarawa excursions" (July 17) mentioned that the Jarawas had ventured out of the forest into modern settlements with a desire to establish contact with settlers from the mainland. Their diminishing access to traditional food resources has forced them to do this.

It is regrettable that illegal encroachments have come up in the reserve area with political patronage. The rights of the tribal communities to have a homeland and to travel all over the country are to be protected.

Tribal communities are among the most economically backward sections of society. Their fragile life-support systems have been destroyed. Conventional development methods that destroy the traditional socio-economic and cultural structures of the tribal people should be replaced by socially just, ecologically sustainable and economically viable programmes.

T.V. Jayaprakash Palakkad ICHR

"The Hindutva take-over of ICHR" (July 17) was a grim reminder of the influence the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh exercises on the BJP-led Government.

The hurried reconstitution of the Indian Council of Historical Research is an attempt to promote the so-called cultural nationalism of the Sangh Parivar. As part of its project, textbooks have already been rewritten in States such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In a U.P. textbook titled Gaurav Gatha, it is mentioned that the Qutb Minar was built by Samudra Gupta and that its real name is Vishnu Stambha. Another book titled Ithihaas Ga Raha Hai says that invaders came with a sword in one hand and the Koran in the other.

In 1977, Jan Sangh ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh drew up a set of guidelines to assess existing textbooks. There was an attempt to ban an NCERT textbook authored by Prof. R.S. Sharma, which provided evidence that people belonging to certain communities in ancient India may have been beef-eaters. In 1992, Ekalvya, a non-governmental organisation in Madhya Pradesh, was repeatedly attacked by the Sangh Parivar for having published textbooks that did not conform to the Parivar's notion of history. The NGO's offices were raided and its textbooks burnt on the streets.

In the book Communalism and the Writing of Indian History, eminent historians Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra show how Indian history can be misused by pseudo-historians under the influence of the Sangh Parivar to sow the seeds of mistrust and communal hatred in young minds.

Ekramul H. Shaikh Hoosna Banu Surat

It is unfortunate that Frontline, from the publishers of The Hindu, is not free and fair. In its opinion, freedom of the press means upholding the cause of the Leftist forces unreservedly. I have been a fan of Frontline ever since the first issue came to the market about 15 years ago. Whenever I got an opportunity I told friends and foes alike to read Frontline. Not merely the articles and the write-ups, the photography, too, used to be superb.

Particular appreciation came for features on nature, wildlife, art and architecture, the environment, heritage and so on. I did not lose an opportunity to tell the student community that they were "fortunate to have magazines of international standard like Frontline and the Discovery Channel, at their disposal."

A sample of your venom against the present establishment in New Delhi is the article "The Hindutva take-over of ICHR" and the interview with Murli Manohar Joshi. Prof. B.B. Lal has replied to a similar version in The Hindu (July 1998). Joshi has reacted very mildly and charitably, "Is this an interview or are you conducting a debate?" In fact, the interview was like the trial of Warren Hastings.

I hope you will make Frontline readable by The (entire) Hindu family, including lakhs of readers.

K.C. Kalkura Kurnool The Left's role

I am a regular reader of Frontline since its launch. After reading the last few issues, I am quite convinced that the future of India lies in the hands of the secular-democratic Left forces. The pity is that they do not understand it. I have no faith in the so-called secular parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, or the regional parties. Even the Janata Dal is no exception. They do not have a national perspective; nor do they have a clear-cut economic policy. The Congress party is still in the doldrums. Groupism and indiscipline are its eternal problems. So, only the Left parties can salvage this great country from the hands of communal forces.

I do not think there is any ideological difference between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India now. Why cannot they reunite and appeal to all other splinter groups on the Left to join their ranks? The toiling masses of India will welcome such a move. The only problem that comes in the way of reunification is the personal egos of some leaders belonging to these parties. If they are ready to shed this for the welfare of this country, there is hope of a bright future. Otherwise India will soon be converted into a theocratic state like Pakistan. If that happens, history will not forgive the Left parties and their leaders.

K.R. Janardhanan Thrissur, Kerala Environment

Thank you for being more environmentally aware than most other publications. As a non-resident Indian, I find that Indian publications tend to focus much too little on environmental problems, which arguably is one of the most pressing problems facing India.

Keep up the good work. We welcome an increase in stories that deal with grassroots efforts to fight corruption and to protect the environment.

Shabnam Merchant New Jersey, U.S.

Corrections: In the article "Jarawa excursions" (July 17), a few errors crept in at the editing stage. In the fourth paragraph , the first sentence should read: "Moreover in February and March... for up to two weeks." The first sentence in the sixth paragraph should read: "Anthropologists explain this as some kind of cultural dilemma faced by Enmey." In the tenth paragraph, the fourth sentence should read: "Today there are only an estimated 250 of them..." The first sentence in the twelfth paragraph should read: "The 340-km Andaman Trunk Road, which slices through the heart of Jarawa territory..." The second sentence in the twentieth paragraph should read: "Just as one of the boatmen... was pushing his boat into the creek..." In the first sentence in the twenty-fourth paragraph, the portion "...made in the Lok Sabha..." should be deleted. The errors are regretted.

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