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COVER STORY

28-08-1998

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Briefing

FLASHPOINT KASHMIR

Reflecting the geopolitical realities after Pokhran-II, guns blaze along the Line of Control in Kashmir, marking the worst round of skirmishes since the 1971 war, while A.B. Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif have a face-off in Colombo.

A FORTNIGHT'S thunder of artillery across the Line of Control (LoC) subsided in early August, leaving over 50 persons dead on the Indian side of the border and perhaps twice as many in Pakistan. The shelling was the worst since the war of 1971. Most of the casualties were civilian, and artillery fire hit populated areas up to 30 km into the Indian side of the LoC. The intensity of the exchange, and the fact that it was timed to coincide with a meeting in Colombo between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee, make it clear that Pakistan is determined to force international intervention in its dispute with India. That prospect appears unlikely, but the fact remains that India has never been as bereft as it is now of space for manoeuvre. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government has no one to blame but itself for this predicament. The latest round of shelling, it is evident, is just one skirmish in a larger war set in place by India's nuclear tests at Pokhran: a war that could have profound consequences for India's position in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Not many people paid much attention to the beginning of the exchanges on the LoC on June 25. Such fire is routine through the summer months, when Pakistani forward posts have year after year used fire to aid groups of infiltrating terrorists to cross into India. The first shells fell in the Teetwal and Keran sectors of Kupwara district late that night, killing two civilians. Small arms fire was traded in the Samba and Ranbir Singh Pora areas, but without leaving any casualties. Similar incidents had taken place through the month, with an Army Colonel, P.B. Gole, losing his life in shelling on July 19. Twelve others had also lost their life in cross-LoC firefights when Indian villages and forward posts had been targeted in a significant way on July 3, 5, 12 and 15. By July 27, with Sharif and Vajpayee due to meet in just two days' time, the shelling escalated. Two shells hit Kargil, leading to a mass exodus from the town where Pakistani fire had killed 23 people last October. The next day, Pakistani troops fired over 50 rounds at positions in Kargil, killing one Army jawan and injuring six civilians.

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Three successive days of shelling and fire was unprecedented, all the more so because they coincided with the meetings of both countries heads of government. "It was evident to me," says the General Officer Commanding of the Army's 15 Corps, Lieutenant-General Krishan Pal, "that they were deliberately provoking us to react." He added: "The fire was unusually heavy and persistent, but I wasn't going to give them the pleasure of responding in they way they wanted me to."

In the event, the meeting between Sharif and Vajpayee was, by most accounts, of little import. Although both sides agreed that their Foreign Secretaries would meet to discuss how further dialogue might take place, and what might be discussed during meetings, Sharif made clear in an interview that he expected little from this process. Pakistani officials, who had been pointing to the firefights on the LoC as evidence of a deteriorating ground situation in Kashmir, at this point evidently decided to raise the stakes.

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As Foreign Secretaries Shamshad Ahmad and K. Raghunath engaged in their foretold-to-fail talks on the morning of June 30, a very different kind of dialogue was under way on the LoC. That morning, the Pakistan Army dramatically raised the stakes. An estimated 1,090 rounds of artillery were fired at Indian positions and civilian habitations, along with 510 rounds of mortar. Three anti-tank missiles, with ranges between 3.7 km and 4 km, were also fired at Indian military vehicles but missed the targets. Although officials at 9 Corps did not make available details of Indian retaliation, Pakistani television and newspapers showed that civilian locations on their side of the LoC had also suffered considerable losses. What is clear is that Indian retaliation was considerably more severe from July 30 than it had been over the previous three days, though Lt.-Gen. Krishan Pal told Frontline that his troops had been ordered only to respond "shell for shell, calibre for calibre."

The Foreign Secretary-level talks collapsed on July 31. In a blunt statement, Indian officials described Pakistan's "obsessive focus" on Kashmir as "neurotic", while Pakistan in turn blamed the crisis on India's "rigid and inflexible stand."

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Artillery fire on the border mirrored this sharp deterioration in the talks. Pakistani artillery fire almost doubled, with 1,983 being fired, along with 750 mortar shells and six anti-tank missiles. By evening, 24 people had been killed, including seven soldiers, and over 41 people had been wounded. The intended purpose of the heightened shelling was to impress on the world the seriousness of the situation on the LoC, and at least to some extent Pakistan achieved its objectives. United States Ambassador Richard Celeste claimed that India and Pakistan were "closer to a war than the Soviet Union and United States ever were" during the Cold War. "India and Pakistan have weapons within minutes (sic) of each other's capitals and there is firing almost every day on the LoC in Kashmir," Celeste told his audience.

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Presumably encouraged by this display of interest, the shelling intensified, reaching a peak on August 1. Within Kashmir, thousands of villagers and nomadic Gujjar shepherds fled the areas from Uri, Bandipore, Tangdhar and Keran. "We tried hiding out in nullahs and inside the jungles," Sikandar Khan, a shepherd, said. "But it became impossible to survive." "Homes and schools were being hit everywhere, and going out had become impossible. Our herds also scattered when shells fell nearby, threatening our survival. In the end, we had to run away." Impromptu refugee camps, run by the Army and the State administration, sprang up at Baramulla, Bandipore, Koregbal and Dawar, with villagers using schools, hospitals and government buildings for shelter. Conditions were generally abysmal. Akhtar Bi and her four small children, for instance, were stuck in Baramulla with no news of her missing husband's fate, dependent on Army handouts for food and shelter.

Many of the refugees had to flee leaving behind standing apricot crops, with newspaper reports suggesting that over 50,000 packed boxes were rotting in Uri town because of suspension of traffic owing to shelling. Stories of tragedy were common. Arab Jan, hit by splinters in Uri's Salamabad village, died leaving behind a four-year- old son, Shafat, himself injured by the 105 mm field gun shell that killed his mother. Her husband, Mohammad Rashid, however, was unable to cremate Arab Jan, simply because shelling was too intense to allow any sort of public gathering to take place. At Nambla village, villagers fled after 15 buildings, including the high school building and a panchayat property, were destroyed. "We've always had some shells landing in the hills around this area," said Manzoor Ahmad of Bayari village, "but I've never seen shelling as horrible as this." "Not a single window pane in our village is intact. We are all afraid that this is just the beginning, and that worse is to follow."

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Pakistan's objective in escalating tensions are obvious. Hit hard by the economic sanctions imposed in the wake of its nuclear tests at Chagai, and finding it impossible to sustain its terrorist campaign in Jammu and Kashmir, the Nawaz Sharif Government clearly needs international intervention to sustain its political position on Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP Government's mindless decision to carry out nuclear tests at Pokhran, and its even more mindless decision to link that decision with the future of Jammu and Kashmir, have offered the Pakistan Government precisely the space it needs. With the breakdown of bilateral talks in Colombo, and the wilful escalation of tension along the LoC, Pakistan can, and has been, arguing that a dangerous conflagration is imminent on the subcontinent, and also that international intervention is the sole prospect of preventing one. Both the U.S. and the United Kingdom have not so far gone beyond reiterating their willingness to mediate, but have not so far insisted that India accede to this demand.

Just how long this limited consolation will exist is unclear. For one, India's own position has been deeply compromised by Union Home Minister L.K. Advani's statements in May establishing a linkage between the Pokhran tests and the future of Jammu and Kashmir. Advani argued that India's "decisive step to become a nuclear weapon state has brought about a qualitative new state in India-Pakistan relations, particularly in finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem." "Islamabad," he said, "has to realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world."

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This not-so-subtle blackmail provoked a strong response. A Pakistan Government press release asserted that any Indian "misadventure" would invite a "swift and telling reply." U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin, for his part, said that India was "foolishly and dangerously increasing tensions with its neighbours, and is indifferent to world opinion." "We call upon India to exercise great caution in its statements and actions at this particularly sensitive time, with emotions running high."

More critically, India now has few options left in dealing with Pakistani intransigence on Jammu and Kashmir, or elsewhere. Escalation of tensions on the LoC, now involving two nuclear powers, will invariably invite international attention on Kashmir, restricting India's options of a punitive conventional military retaliation to Pakistani provocation. By way of example, suggests a senior intelligence official, "one of the key proofs of strong Pakistani control over terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir was that although heavy anti-aircraft weapons had been brought in, they were never used against military and civilian targets. This was because they knew such attacks would provoke a severe conventional retaliation, and raise the stakes to a dangerous level. Now, they could just carry out such attacks, because nuclearisation and its aftermath has forced us to raise our threshold of tolerance." De facto internationalisation of the Kashmir issue could in turn subvert other key elements of India's core policies. The U.S., in particular, could exert pressure on India's Kashmir policy to secure concessions on its core concerns, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The closing of India's strategic choices in Kashmir could not have come at a worse time, given developments within the State. That Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's first public action on returning to the State after a holiday with his family in the U.K. was to inaugurate a cinema is symptomatic of the malaise that has gripped the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The importance vested by Abdullah in the Broadway Theatre is unlikely to have been comprehensible to the estimated 10,000 families displaced by firing, whom he did not find time to visit.

Similarly, while nobody would grudge the Chief Minister spending time with his family, there has been no cogent explanation of why he could not interrupt or reschedule his holiday so he could engage with one of the worst periods of violence the State has seen in recent years. Corruption, poor administration and an unfocussed security policy threaten to undo the goodwill expressed in the elections of 1996, and have created an atmosphere of discontent which international uncertainty is adding to.

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Perhaps the sole reason for comfort within India is that over the next three months the snows will fall on the high passes across the LoC, silencing forward artillery posts and halting terrorist infiltration. But when the passes open again next spring, it will become clear whether any meaningful introspection on this summer's events has taken place or not. Among the major issues will be plans to use helicopters for military and police commando anti-terrorist operations in Doda, a move that could lead to retaliatory attacks on aircraft by insurgents and unpredictable military consequences. Just how the Union Government and the State Government intend to contain terrorist attacks on minorities in the Doda belt, and check the communalisation of the Jammu region, will also become apparent.

Most important of all, the Union Government will have to shape a cogent agenda to address the crisis it has created with its post-Pokhran street-corner machismo. Sadly, few entities in the BJP coalition believe there is a problem that needs to be dealt with in the first place, making it near certain that its Kashmir policy will consist largely of hawkish posturing, and in time, complete capitulation.

A crucial breakthrough

PRAVEEN SWAMI cover-story

A FEW minutes past 3 a.m. on August 9, a group of unmarked police vehicles rolled up around an inconspicuous house in Srinagar's old city, their engines turned off and headlights switched off. The silence was broken soon by loudspeaker annou ncements asking those inside the house to come out. These orders were met with assault rifle fire and grenades. Jammu and Kashmir Police Special Operations Group (SOG) commandos and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel returned fire, pinning down those who were launching an assault on them from behind the second floor windows. One commando group broke down the front door and brought out a woman and three children. A second group proceeded upstairs. Within a few minutes, one of the most important police operations in ten years of insurgency was complete - Hizbul Mujahideen chief Ali Mohammad Dar, his aide Ali Mohammad Bhatt and long-standing bodyguard Tauseef Ahmad, lay dead.

Ali Mohammad Dar, a long-standing Jamaat-e-Islami rukun (member) and a police constable until 1991, was a key figure in sustaining terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Dar, who was the acting chief of the large terrorist organisation, was technically second only to the Hizb's Pakistan-based Syed Salahuddin, whose position has, in recent years, been largely symbolic. Dar, who preferred to use his theatrical alias, Burhanuddin Hijazi, returned to India on April 27, 1997, after almost the entire field command of the Hizbul Mujahideen was killed. Joint operations by the SOG and the Intelligence Bureau had led to the elimination of top terrorists Firdaus Kirmani, Manzoor Khan and Naseebuddin Gazi in March 1997. SOG officials quickly learnt that Dar had returned and that he was operating under a new alias, Rafiuddin Ghazi. Two Hizbul Mujahideen wireless sets operating intermittently in central Srinagar carried orders under other code names - 'Khursheed', 'Daud', and most frequently, 'Junaid'.

In its search for 'Junaid', the SOG made two vital breakthroughs in recent weeks. Last month, SOG troopers arrested Abdul Latif Bhatt, a journalist working for Afaaq, a Srinagar newspaper. A powerful wireless set recovered from Bhatt turned out to be the principal Hizbul Mujahideen transmitter in Srinagar. The journalist had been operating this under the aliases of 'Muzammil', 'Idris' and 'Mudassir'. Bhatt's arrest recently led the SOG to Abdul Rauf Trambu, the Hizbul Mujahideen's finance chief. SOG undercover operatives then traced the Hizbul Mujahideen chief and his bodyguard to a home that his key aide Ali Mohammad Bhatt had bought recently. Bhatt was living there with his family (his wife and children were the people the commandos brought out of the house to safety).

The raid that put an end to Dar's career in terror was carried out by 20 SOG personnel and two platoons of the CRPF, led by Srinagar's Superintendent of Police (Operations), Manohar Singh. Manohar Singh, an SOG veteran, joined the group shortly after it was set up by his predecessor in office, Farooq Khan.

Dar's diary, recovered after the raid, has provided insights into the state of play in the Hizbul Mujahideen. It makes a mention of persistent differences within the Jamaat-e-Islami - between the Hurriyat Conference's chairman Syed Ali Geelani and Amir-e-Jamaat or supreme head G.M. Bhatt. It states that the latter's advocacy of peace has led the organisation's cadres increasingly to dissociate themselves from the Hizbul Mujahideen. Strategically, the diary records the problems encountered in bringing weapons across the Line of Control (LoC) and sketches the possibility of using the relatively more porous Rajasthan and Gujarat borders with the likely assistance of mafia baron Dawood Ibrahim's apparatus. Another section deals with the organisation's requirements for terrorist operations in Doda and adjoining Chamba. Manohar Singh said: "There are also records of the Hizbul Mujahideen's financial dealings in Kashmir, which were worth some Rs.80 lakhs a month. We will be investigating these entries and whether they are connected with the hawala cases against Hurriyat leaders."

THIS evidence of pressure on the Hizbul Mujahideen casts interesting light on the Hurriyat Conference's recent problems. Evidently anticipating immediate intervention, the organisation responded with delight to the fact that the international community's attention was again on Kashmir following the nuclear tests. This anticipation obviously emerged from the realisation that terrorist groups in the Kashmir Valley could no longer act to affirm the Hurriyat's relevance and authority. The Hurriyat leaders, who have been conducting largely ineffective and peripheral agitational programmes in recent months, fear that Pakistan may be forced to abandon them to their fate. This perception is shared by other secessionist groups, including the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's Amanullah Khan faction, which has been lobbying vigorously on the nuclear issue in the United Kingdom. The faction recently warned that if Pakistan gave in to pressure from the United States and signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, it would mean the virtual consigning of the conflict in Kashmir to the dustbin.

Meanwhile, New Delhi's Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government and the National Conference in Srinagar have claimed that Dar's elimination was an outcome of their "proactive" policies. The ironies will be evident to all those who are familiar with policing in Jammu and Kashmir. Requests by the Jammu and Kashmir Police for more personnel and weapons have met with little response from either the State Government or the Central Government. Four senior SOG officers who were instrumental in fighting terrorism were recently denied promotions by the State Government, while dozens of recommendations for police valour medals, including one for Manohar Singh, lie mouldering in the Union Ministry of Home. Whether the SOG's success will now result in a more serious approach by the bureaucracy and the Government remains to be seen.

'We have exercised the utmost restraint'

cover-story

Interview with Lieutenant-General Krishan Pal.

Lieutenant-General Krishan Pal, General Officer Commanding of the Army's 15 Corps, with its headquarters in Srinagar, and ex-officio Security Adviser to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, has been on the front line in the military showdown along the Line of Control. In an exclusive interview in March 1998 (Frontline, April 3), Lt.-Gen. Krishan Pal had called for hot pursuit action and strikes on terrorist bases located across the LoC. Pakistan's objective in provoking the recent exchanges of fire across the LoC, Lt.-Gen. Krishan Pal says, is to invite international intervention in the Kashmir dispute. The 15 Corps' responses to provocation, he said, have therefore been measured. Excerpts from an interview he gave Praveen Swami in Srinagar.

Why has there been a greater level of firing across the LoC than is routine at this time of the year?

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Pakistan is desperate because we have destroyed terrorism in the Kashmir Valley. First, the terrorists present in Kashmir are unable to strike; the evidence of this is clear. Although they banned the Amarnath Yatra, we ensured that the terrorists were unable to bring off any action even for effect, like firing from a distance with machine guns or shooting off rockets. The mercenaries whom Pakistan has sent in are hiding on mountain heights, passing time until their two-year tenure here is complete and they can return to collect the remainder of their payments. Second, we have had conspicuous successes in checking infiltration, and have been inflicting heavy losses on groups which have tried to enter through the Kupwara sector, for example. So, having failed in their attempt to gain Jammu and Kashmir by means of sponsoring an insurgency, they now hope to secure their goals by bringing about international political intervention. That is why they are attempting to create a war-like situation along the LoC.

Just how serious has the firing been? And what has been the nature of your response?

The firing has undoubtedly been considerably heavier than in the past. Pakistan has viciously targeted civilian areas, up to 30-40 km inside the LoC. You have been to the LoC and seen how they have deliberately fired on homes, schools and civil buildings without any military facilities nearby. They believed this would push us into an intemperate military response. But the only result has been that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have seen just how much Pakistan cares for them! They will never forgive Pakistan for the destruction it has caused here.

But Pakistan television, as well as some international publications, have been showing pictures of considerable civilian damage on the Pakistan side as well.

Look, when you have artillery exchanges, some collateral damage will be there. It is very tragic, but unfortunately there is no way to avoid this when we are confronted with blatant aggression from the Pakistan side. In Pakistan's case, civilian casualties are high because Pakistan deliberately positions its guns in the middle of populated areas. Chakoti is one example, and there are many other similar villages. If they want to protect civilian lives, then they should do as we do, and position their artillery well away from places where civilians live and work, instead of hiding behind innocent people. I want to make clear that I have not even used 40 per cent of my firepower, and I mean 40 per cent of my firepower, against the Pakistanis. If I had done so, the other side would have been obliterated. We knew what they were trying to do, and despite taking casualties, have exercised the utmost restraint. We have matched them round for round, calibre for calibre.

What do you make of the future? In the past, heavy firing has often been a cover for infiltration. Do you see an escalation of violence within the Kashmir Valley as being imminent? There are also rumours that heavier weapons may be used by terrorists in the future.

There will undoubtedly have been infiltration during this period, as sending out patrols and setting up ambushes becomes next to impossible when there is such heavy shelling. But as I told you, the mercenaries Pakistan is sending in are not interested in getting killed. The minute they establish themselves in inhabited areas, local people tell us of their presence, and we eliminate them. So all they are interested in doing is hiding out and staying alive until it is time to go back. But we are chasing them on the heights, and have succeeded in destroying a large number of their hideouts and inflicting heavy casualties. As for weapons, what heavier weapons are there than those they have already used?

Soon the passes will close on the heights, and we will renew our offensive. I will have three additional brigades in operation soon, which will become available after the end of the Amarnath Yatra. We will be able to destroy the terrorists in the Valley. Pakistan's game has failed, and the sooner they accept this fact, the better it will be for both them and us.

A summer of massacres

The killings at Kishtwar, followed by the massacres in Poonch, mark the escalation of the communal war in the Jammu region.

VIDYA DEVI first saw the group of armed terrorists, dressed in combat fatigues, moving through the dense Keshwan forests near Kishtwar early in the evening of July 27. The sight of such groups was common around her village, Sarwan, so she and other villagers paid little attention. Inaccessible by road and several hours' walk from the nearest security force picket, villagers in the area had arrived at a quiet truce with terrorists, providing them food and shelter.

But this particular evening, things were to go badly wrong. The terrorist group moved on to Thakrain-Hor village, reaching there at 8-30 p.m. Villagers were dragged out of their homes and lined up. Eight of them were shot dead, including three women who attempted to save their husbands. After stopping for three hours to loot cash and jewellery, the terrorists returned to Sarwan at 3-00 a.m. "They shouted 'we are from the army, come out'," recalls Vidya Devi. Her husband and brother-in-law complied. They were among the nine killed at Sarwan.

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The killings at Kishtwar followed by the massacres in the Kalaban forests in Chamba and Saliayan village in Poonch, mark the escalation of the communal war in the Jammu region. The bodies of the dead people from Sarwan and Thakrain were brought to Kishtwar in a militant procession, led by local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers. Within Kishtwar town, the chances of a communal battle were high. After 16 bus passengers were killed near the town on August 14, 1993, a full-scale riot broke out. Further trouble was averted thanks to police action. "We arrived just before the procession reached the town," says Deputy Inspector-General of Police Ram Lubhaya. "A truck full of timber was passing by, and we used that to cremate the dead then and there."

If this intervention ended the effort to turn the cremation procession into the vanguard of a riot, Kishtwar town remained under curfew for the best part of a week. Outside, tensions remained high. Muslims from the Bhandaarkot area, for example, reported receiving death threats from Village Defence Committees (VDCs), state-armed vigilante groups set up in areas with a vulnerable Hindu population.

INDEED, the VDCs have become a key point of tension between Doda's communities at war. Rhetoric on the issue is often surreal. "The VDCs," asserts Hurriyat Conference-affiliated civil rights activist Abdul Qayoom Zargar, "are part of project to change the demographic character of this area." "The Army cooperates with the VDCs in killing innocent Muslims. In fact, there is reason to believe that the recent massacres have not been executed by the terrorist, but by agents of the government."

Hindus respond to accusations of misbehaviour by VDCs with equal unreason. "There is a conspiracy here involving the police and the State Government to drive out Hindus from Doda," says Bharatiya Janata Party youth worker Anil Parihar. "The VDCs are our only defence against this plot." What is clear, however, is that there is an undisputed case for better control over the functioning of VDCs, and their eventual incorporation within the conventional police structure. Moves to recruit at least four VDC members from each village as Special Police Officers are already in place.

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Significantly, the Kishtwar killings have been linked to the murder of four family members of the deputy commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen in Doda, Mohammad Qasim, alias Abid, on June 19, allegedly by Army-backed vigilantes. Qasim's brother Mohammad Husain, his wife Sakeena, 17-year-old daughter Shaheena and elder sister-in-law Saleema were shot at their farm home at Machlal village by masked gunmen. Most Muslims in Doda blame the killings on the Army.

Qasim's surviving brother Mohammad Shafi told Frontline that one of the six gunmen spoke broken Kashmiri, and the others Urdu. "I cannot say who they were," he said, "but they did not sound like soldiers." Shafi said he was trying to persuade Qasim to surrender, rendering plausible claims that the killings were carried out by terrorists. At the same time, past attacks on Shafi, including the burning of his home at Ganika village, make it entirely possible that the Machlal killings were the result of a botched security force operation.

JUST as the killings have added to Hindu bitterness in Doda, state complicity in atrocities against Muslims has helped harden communal positions. On April 19, Abdul Qayoom, Ghulam Qadir, Abdul Ghani and Ghulam Mustafa were beaten to death by an RSS-led mob at Karara, near Doda, on National Highway 1. The four, residents of Kothi Pain village, were killed inside the local Border Security Force camp in reprisal for the killing of a BJP activist two days earlier. In January, nine unarmed villagers were killed when Rashtriya Rifles personnel used automatic weapons to disperse a stone-throwing mob at Qadrana, Kishtwar.

Politicians, for their part, have done little to build a political consensus against terrorism and communal violence. No National Conference politician of consequence visited Sarwan and Thakrain after the killings, or intervened in Kishtwar's tensions. Representation of the region's Hindus was thus vested in the RSS-BJP. On one recent occasion, the Doda MLA chose to share a platform with the Jamaat-e-Islami's Ataullah Suhrawardy, an action inexplicable other than as rank communal opportunism.

Could the killings in Kishtwar have been averted? It is evident that the killings were enabled by the Government's failure to move in additional forces after Chapnari. "We had a picket in the area until the day before the killings," says the 9 Sector Rashtriya Rifles' Brigadier Satish Behl. "Unfortunately, I have just three battalions to guard an enormous area, with Kashmir on one side and Himachal Pradesh on the other. We can't be everywhere." Behl's troops withdrew from the Sarwan-Thakrain area, moving further up in search of terrorist groups, just before the massacre. Some 150 Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police personnel and two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) companies have been withdrawn from operational work to protect the Amarnath Yatra at Banihal. Further CRPF and Special Operations Group companies are to protect three more yatras - the Mani Mahesh from Bhaderwah and Gandoh into Himachal Pradesh, the Macchal Yatra from Kishtwar and Bhaderwah and the Kailash Yatra to Kailash Kund beginning in mid-August. Doda Senior Superintendent of Police Munir Khan is blunt: "We just don't have the people we need to do our job."

Worst of all, the Government's commitment to fight the communal war is far from clear. Union Home Minister L.K. Advani's promises to deploy additional troops in the wake of the Chapnari massacre have remained unkept, while the effective counter-terrorist force level has declined through July. Neither have State Government promises to recruit 2,000 additional short-term Special Police Officers been kept.

Interestingly, Doda district, spread over 11,000 sq km of some of the most rugged mountain terrain in India, some four times the area of the Kashmir Valley, has fewer troops than a single Valley district of Baramulla. The appalling level of the telecommunications facilities, which means that officials in Doda cannot easily contact Bhaderwah and Kishtwar, as well as poor roads cut off for months on end by landslips, makes effective counter-terrorist work near-impossible. Cynics might be forgiven for concluding that if terrorists and their fascist political sponsors have an obvious vested interest in butchering the region's Hindus, the right-wing BJP-led coalition is also in no hurry to put an early end to the processes of violence that are driving communal polarisation through Jammu.

THE addition of Chamba to the list of areas in which terrorists are active was inevitable in this context. Before dawn on August 3, terrorists believed to belong to the same Lashkar-e-Toiba faction that was responsible for the Kishtwar killings surrounded tents housing road construction workers at the Khroey Bei outpost in the Kalaban woods, 10 km from the Doda border. The 12 terrorists lined up the workers in three rows before opening fire with assault rifles, killing 26 persons and injuring 11. Women and children, separated in a group, watched the butchery. As the dead and the injured lay on the ground, the terrorists robbed the tents of cash, valuables and gelignite sticks and detonators used for road building. Two of the injured, Dhyan Singh and Beli Ram, bleeding from their bullet injuries, managed to make their way to the Mansa police post, 8 km away. Even as Beli Ram and Dhyan Singh were making their way to the police post, a second terrorist group struck at Satrundi village. Residents of the village were again made to line up, and this time eight people were killed and three were injured.

Officials believe that though the time gap between the two incidents made it impossible for the killers to have made their way from Kalaban to Satrundi, the organisation involved in the killings was identical. Interestingly, though Union Home Minister L.K. Advani promptly announced that 30 companies of the Punjab Armed Police would be moved into the area, there has been no explanation as to why this was not done despite warnings of terrorist activity in the area. Four people from a Himachal Pradesh village who strayed into Doda searching for medicinal herbs and honey were shot by terrorists. Their mutilated bodies were recovered on July 7. Late last year, a group of 23 village people were robbed in the Baju ka Bagh forests in Doda by a large group of terrorists. "Just a month back," says the Rashtriya Rifles' Behl, "we had found a terrorist dump inside Himachal Pradesh, with supplies for a large group." Although measures had been taken to prevent terrorists from crossing the State border, force levels were inadequate to secure key routes, such as the Malur Pass in Kishtwar.

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It seems that such massacres will continue, but signs that large-scale collective reprisals authored by the State are being engineered have also begun to emerge. The latest of these was after midnight on August 3, when 19 members of top Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami terrorist Imtiaz Sheikh were shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Sheikh's father Lassa Sheikh, his brothers Hussain Mohammad and Ahmad Din, their wives, and 14 children, including 11 girls, appeared to have been lined up outside their home in Salian village, and shot with automatic weapons. Although no evidence has emerged that the families were shot by security personnel, rumours that this was the case was enough to push dozens of Muslim families to take refuge in nearby Surankote town. The killings followed the murder of a key source of the 9 Para Commando Regiment, an Army unit with a formidable reputation in northeastern of India. The source, Zakir Husain, was killed by terrorists earlier the same day, after being dragged off a passenger bus.

What makes official claims that the Saliyan killings were the result of feuds among terrorist groups suspect is their context. Although terrorists from Jammu and Kashmir have been less than happy about the influx of Pakistan-backed mercenaries, and have on occasion supplied information to security forces about their movements, there is no evidence of disputes between far-right organisations themselves. The Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami is a front organisation of the fascist Harkat-ul-Ansar, which in turn has close ideological affinities with the other fundamentalist group involved in the recent massacres, the Muridke, the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba. "The Hizbul Mujahideen and others have had their problems with the Harkat and Lashkar-e-Toiba," one intelligence official told Frontline, "but if these two are having a dispute, it's news to me." Neither has any indication emerged of what objective the killing of Imtiaz Sheikh's family by another terrorist group would have served. Whatever the truth, the fact remains that in a charged and violent atmosphere, such killings could easily provide legitimacy to reprisals against Hindus by terrorist organisations.

What shape events will take in Jammu province is clear, but whether there is the will to address the crises driving the violence remains to be seen. For one, there appears to be no commitment bar the token to providing the armed forces, the paramilitary organisations and the State police the resources they desperately need. The contrast between Advani's dramatic proclamations and reality are only too evident.

More important, the task of building a political consensus against terrorism and communalism has been ignored. An evidently embarrassed BJP has retreated into a shell, with its State leadership blaming the National Conference Government for all the problems of the region. The Congress(I), for its part, has been demanding that Doda be declared a Disturbed Area, a demand it had resisted when the BJP put it forward in 1995. The N.C., which knows that in each year bar 1995, the Muslims of Doda have been numerically the principal victims of terrorists, has instead chosen to consort with chauvinist elements in the region.

It may well be possible to end the violence in Jammu province through armed force: but will the communal scars heal?

Coping with violence

Director-General of Police Gurbachan Jagat is deeply concerned about the implications of the recent events in Jammu - as are most top officials in Jammu and Kashmir's security establishment. One version has it that the massacres in the region are the acts of desperate and marginalised terrorists. But they reflect new strategic realities in Jammu and Kashmir, and could have serious implications for the still relatively peaceful Valley. Constrained by inadequate resources and poor force levels, officials are struggling to shape a coherent response. Jagat discussed the recent massacres, and the measures needed to combat them, in this interview with Praveen Swami in Srinagar.

For the last year matters have been worsening in the Jammu province, and there seems to be no end to the violence. What is behind these killings, and what needs to be done to stop them?

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The first and most important factor is infiltration across the border. Unless we check infiltration through the Rajouri and Poonch borders, this problem will continue. Secondly, this contiguous belt from Poonch through Darhal and Buddhal areas into Rajouri, then into Gool and Mohor in Udhampur and finally from Doda, was once a route to Anantnag and the Valley. But for the past two years terrorists have settled down in these areas and created bases. They believe that massacres will force Hindus to migrate from the higher reaches, giving them a free run in the area. Of course, such killings have the added benefit, from their point of view, of provoking communal violence in Jammu. Finally, as far as Doda specifically is concerned, even reaching remote villages, let alone providing security there, is an enormous job, considering the terrain and the rudimentary roads and communication infrastructure. It can take over 40 hours to reach some points. On top of this, the force level in Doda has gone down over the past two years. The Kashmir Valley is much more compact, but we have much higher force levels here. So we desperately need more people.

Is having more soldiers the answer?

Certainly not. We need sustained operations over a period of time to flush out terrorists from the forests and mountains, and then neutralise them. We then need a good force level to hold the area and make sure they cannot make their way back. But as I said earlier, if we want a lasting solution, then the problem of infiltration has to be addressed.

On that question, what implication do you think this round of border firing, apart from the other issues it has raised, will have on infiltration?

In addition to whatever was taking place anyway, it is my conviction that larger numbers of infiltrators must have made their way in under cover of this firing in this period. This is something we need to give serious thought to.

Why are we unable to end infiltration, to seal the border as some people put it?

See, sealing the border is a concept which is not applicable here. If you see the Kupwara and Baramulla borders, they are mountainous and heavily forested. Fencing of the kind that was undertaken in Punjab is simply not possible. Nor can you man every inch of the terrain. So it has to be a combination of strategies. The Army has a two, three tier system of border operations, and we are working on adding a further tier of our own. Our strategies need to be creative and flexible.

So over the next weeks and months, should we expect an escalation in violence?

Normally the summer months do see an escalation in violence. Maize crops in the Jammu districts ripen, and the fields provide cover to terrorists to come right up to inhabited areas. The end of the summer is also the time that foreign mercenaries begin to go back to Pakistan, before the passes close in autumn. Until the passes close, yes, we should be prepared for high levels of violence.

Face-off in Colombo

The much-awaited meeting in Colombo between A.B. Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif failed to make any headway, with both countries refusing to budge from their stated positions.

THE 10th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held in July provided the first opportunity for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. For the international media corps assembled in Colombo, this meeting was in many ways a more important event than the summit itself.

The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan have brought South Asia into sharp international focus and put the Kashmir issue on the frontburner. Buoyed by the renewed international interest on Kashmir, Pakistan has been working hard to keep the issue on the boil. In the event, the dramatic escalation in the firing by Pakistani troops across the Line of Control at a time when Vajpayee and Sharif were scheduled to meet does not appear to have been a matter of coincidence.

In a letter that Vajpayee wrote to Sharif on June 14, he reiterated India's commitment to fostering peaceful and friendly relations between the two countries and developing a stable structure for cooperation. Vajpayee's proposal that the two Prime Ministers hold bilateral discussions in Colombo was accepted by Sharif. Many people expected that given the strong international pressure on Pakistan and the dire economic straits the country found itself in, Sharif would at the talks agree to resume the stalled Foreign Secretary-level discussions. However, the Indian side appears to have miscalculated Pakistan's resolve and ability to focus exclusively on Kashmir.

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Before Vajpayee left for Colombo, prominent diplomats, including former Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit, urged him to accept Pakistan's challenge and place Kashmir on top of the agenda of the bilateral talks. However, once in Colombo, the Indian side decided to stick to its original strategy of insisting that the Foreign Secretary-level talks be "composite and broad-based". Indian policymakers were not willing to depart from the script that has been in place since June 1997 when, after the second round of Foreign Secretary-level talks, a joint statement was issued identifying eight subjects for discussion and providing for the setting up of a mechanism to facilitate the discussions. The subjects identified were: peace and security, including confidence building measures; Jammu and Kashmir; Siachen; Wullar Barrage Project; Sir Creek; terrorism and drug trafficking; economic and commercial cooperation; and friendly exchanges in various fields. Pakistan continues to maintain that there has been no progress in starting a meaningful discussion on the Kashmir issue and that India is playing for time. The third and last round of Foreign Secretary-level talks were held in September 1997. Since then there has been no progress in the matter of the dialogue.

Pakistan has viewed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government with suspicion. Its suspicions were heightened when India conducted its nuclear tests in May and, following these, senior Ministers indulged in much talk about redrawing borders, employing a proactive policy on Kashmir and so on.

Before leaving for Colombo, a senior official of the External Affairs Ministry outlined the goals that New Delhi hoped to achieve there. He said that New Delhi's first priorities were to establish "stable and good relations" with Pakistan, to work on the basis of the many commonalities that exist between the two countries and, most important, to work "bilaterally to resolve issues". He said that the Indian Government had no ill-will towards Pakistan and added that Vajpayee was genuinely committed to a "stable and prosperous Pakistan". However, he said, the dialogue process with Pakistan was hampered by the virulent Pakistani propaganda, which was against the spirit of the Simla Agreement.

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FOR its part, the Pakistani delegation made its intentions clear almost as soon as it arrived in Colombo. In the interviews he gave Western news agencies before Vajpayee and Sharif were scheduled to meet, Gohar Ayub Khan, the then Foreign Minister, made it known that the Foreign Secretary-level talks could be resumed only if Kashmir was put on top of the agenda and India reduced its troop concentration in the Kashmir Valley and recognised the All Party Hurriyat Conference as the legitimate representative of the Kashmiri people. He said Pakistan wanted the Foreign Secretary-level talks to discuss the Kashmir issue in a Working Group, with another Working Group addressing the question of "peace and security".

At every available forum, the Pakistani side made it clear that it was opposed to the June 1997 formula favoured by India. It was obvious that Pakistan was not serious about resuming Foreign Secretary-level talks at this juncture. While the Pakistani side appeared to be intent on internationalising the Kashmir issue, the Indian side, until the last day of the summit, was cautiously optimistic about the prospect of bilateral talks being resumed.

THE high point was the meeting between Vajpayee and Sharif. The two leaders met for 45 minutes on July 29. The bonhomie that was evident during the meeting between Sharif and Prime Minister I.K. Gujral during the SAARC summit in Male in 1997 was noticeably absent here. When Sharif and Gujral jointly met the media in Male, Sharif had said that Gujral was a person he could trust. This time around, when an Indian journalist asked Sharif about his impression of Vajpayee, he smiled and said that Vajpayee was "a good man". Significantly, the two leaders chose to hold separate press conferences.

Vajpayee's interaction with the media was brief and terse. After reading out a short statement, he said that he had had a "good" meeting with Sharif, at which wide-ranging issues of mutual interest were discussed. For his part, Sharif too said that he had a good meeting with Vajpayee and described the talks as "frank and candid". He made it a point to emphasise that the nuclear tests and their aftermath had also been discussed.

According to sources, at his meeting with Vajpayee, Sharif indicated that the Foreign Secretary-level talks could be resumed only if the "core"' issue of Kashmir was dealt with expeditiously, preferably by a separate Working Group. He is also said to have made clear his preference for international mediation on Kashmir. Speaking to the media, he said that all the disputes that had been resolved between the two countries over the last 50 years had been through international mediation. Pakistan's position is that the Gujral Government had agreed to have a separate Working Group on Kashmir after the Sharif-Gujral meeting in Male but New Delhi backtracked later. However, in Male itself, Indian officials had tried to distance themselves from Pakistan's interpretation of the agreement.

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As expected, in Colombo, the Indian side stuck to its stand on the need to have a "comprehensive and composite" dialogue on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. However, reflecting his country's hardened stand on Kashmir, Sharif said that even the international community had acknowledged that Kashmir was the "core issue of tension" between the two countries and added that it had to be addressed meaningfully with a view to reaching a final settlement.

Sharif also brought the issue of the nuclearisation of South Asia to the fore at his press conference. He said that the tests had added another dimension to the region's security concerns. "It is imperative that we address ourselves to the issue of nuclear and conventional restraint and stabilisation, avoidance of conflict and confidence building measures." Sharif, who denied making threatening statements after Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests, said: "There were threatening statements from India."

Although both the leaders described their talks as "good", in an interview he gave a local newspaper the next day Sharif said that the outcome of the talks amounted to "zero". The talks had ended in a "stalemate", he said, and added that the leaders were in Colombo not to "waste each other's time". This undiplomatic outburst came as a surprise to the Indian side since both Vajpayee and Sharif had, only a day earlier, given the impression that the Foreign Secretary-level talks were about to be revived. In fact, Vajpayee had said that the two sides had agreed to resume the talks. Following his leaders's example, Tariq Altaf, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, virtually accused the Indian side of "unilaterally" announcing that the talks were going to be resumed. He said that Sharif had only told the media that the two sides had agreed "to continue the talks at the next available opportunity".

The last day of the summit witnessed the end of diplomatic niceties between the two sides. The otherwise soft-spoken Indian Foreign Secretary, K. Raghunath, termed Pakistan's behaviour as "neurotic" over its "obsessive" focus on a one-point agenda. Before departing for home, the Pakistani side distributed copies of a "non-paper" which proposed eight confidence building measures to reduce tension in the Jammu and Kashmir region. These included the strengthening of the team of United Nations military observers along the LoC, the release of Kashmiri militants kept under detention, the stationing of U.N. human rights monitors in the Valley, and the removal of Indian Army pickets in Srinagar. Raghunath, who rejected these, said that outside interference in Kashmir would not be tolerated. He reiterated that Kashmir would continue to remain an integral part of India.

THE international community has been exerting pressure on India and Pakistan to hold talks. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has offered U.S. mediation to settle the dispute. After the firing along the LoC escalated recently, the U.S. sent urgent messages to the two countries urging them to exercise restraint. A U.S. State Department spokesperson said: "The volatility of Kashmir is a stark reminder of the pressing need for India and Pakistan to resolve their differences." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the two countries to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and hold talks on Kashmir.

Hawkish, but mostly weary

Despite efforts by the Government and the media to keep the Kashmir issue uppermost in people's minds, the majority of the people of Pakistan no longer appear to view the issue as an unsolvable one.

THERE is only a 30-minute time zone difference between India and Pakistan, but for a person who has read the morning newspapers in India and goes through the Pakistani newspapers available aboard a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Mumbai the same afternoon, the two countries may seem to be worlds apart. While the Indian newspapers blame "our hostile neighbour" and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for the "unprovoked firing" along the Line of Control in Kashmir and the deaths of scores of people in Jammu and Kashmir and areas of Himachal Pradesh, Pakistani newspapers have reports datelined "Held Kashmir". These talk about the innumerable "martyrs" (shaheed is the word that is commonly used) who have succumbed to the "deliberate zulm" (atrocities) unleashed by the Indian armed forces in the "Indian-held Kashmir region".

However, propaganda is one thing and the actual feelings of the majority of people on both sides of the border are another. In Pakistan, a kind of weariness appears to have crept in vis-a-vis the Kashmir issue although political rhetoric in its shrillest form, beamed into people's homes by the official media, has managed to keep the Kashmir issue uppermost in the people's minds. The depressed state of the economy - Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves are down to $700 million despite help extended by Islamic countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, and the Islamic Development Bank, which have together provided around $2.5 billion - may just prevent it from defaulting on its foreign debt servicing in the next quarter. The average Pakistani has begun to ask questions about the Kashmir issue, a relatively new phenomenon in Pakistan.

An administrative manager in one of Karachi University's institutes (he was once interrogated by the ISI because he greeted warmly an Indian envoy visiting the campus) echoed popular public opinion when he said: "It is high time both the countries settled the Kashmir issue." He was, however, not voicing popular thinking when he asked: "Kya Kashmiri log Pakistan ke saath wafa karenge?" (Will the Kashmiris be loyal to Pakistan?) He said: "Even if a settlement between the two countries, call it plebiscite or by whatever name, results in India letting go of Kashmir, my personal view is that the people of Kashmir will opt to become an independent country." When asked whether Kashmir would survive economically and otherwise in such an event, he said: "If Azad Kashmir and that part of Kashmir that is now with India come together, they can form an independent country. As far as size and survival are concerned, you do have smaller countries like Panama."

However, what was significant was his couldn't-care-less attitude to Kashmir - whether it stayed with Pakistan or opted to become independent was irrelevant to him. With the Kashmir issue put behind it, Pakistan can, he said, "stop squandering millions of rupees on defence expenditure and move towards the path of self-reliance."

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Hanif Janoo, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the two countries "must solve the Kashmir issue because together, we are a big power." He said that even though India and Pakistan have become nuclear powers, they still had to face the economic issues. "So many of our people do not have one proper meal a day," he said and added that "the same is true of your country." "These people live below the poverty line. If the two countries join hands, just think of the things we can do for our people. I don't think a solution to the Kashmir issue is that difficult. It can be solved, provided we are sincere. If the issue is solved according to the U.N. Charter or an agreement between Kashmiris, Pakistan and India, the two countries can march ahead and give our people the future they have been dreaming of."

Janoo said that he was troubled by the fact that while a negligible percentage of people on both sides of the border live in air-conditioned comfort, "in several parts of Mumbai and Karachi there are people who live on footpaths." According to him, the situation will only worsen since the two countries, having become nuclear powers, will be spending a substantial chunk of their meagre resources on defence, thus depriving their people of basic necessities.

Janoo, who said that he was not in a position to speak about the presence or absence of a political will to solve the issue since he was not a politician, however predicted that if the two governments do not show the will to solve the issue, "a day will come when the people will say, 'Go to hell with all your atomic power.. give us bread and butter.' That day they will smash all the governments."

"With Kashmir out of the way," said Janoo, "just imagine the miracles we can achieve on the trade front." India has a very good industrial base and Pakistan has the market. "We have been importing wheat, dyes, chemicals and machinery from all over." According to him, the governments of both the countries owe it to their people to lead their countries into the next century as "dignified, honoured nations".

Anita Ghulam Ali, a well-known educationist and former Education Minister in the Sindh Government, who is currently the managing director of the Sindh Government Educational Foundation in Karachi, blames the British for leaving "a bone of contention" behind them. "As I grow older, I increasingly believe that the British played a very dirty game with both our countries, not only on Kashmir but on other things too... to ensure that we were left fighting each other for a long, long time." Wondering whether this was the British way of ensuring that they would always be remembered, she categorically said that unless the two countries solved the Kashmir issue, there could be no real future for them. Maintaining that circumstances would force them to find a solution, she said: "There are only two ways of looking at it. Either you develop economic relations and this will improve the political relations, or vice versa."

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THE argument that improving bilateral trade and economic cooperation between the two countries will in turn improve political relations is one that the hawks in Pakistan are not willing to buy. Editorials in the Pakistani media are scornful of this argument, which they describe as "Indian". Angry questions are being asked about how India could expect to improve its economic relations with Pakistan until the "central" issue of Kashmir is solved.

Writing in The Washington Post, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Editor of the Pakistan daily The News, advances the argument that while "India's nuclearisation is status-driven, Pakistan's is security-driven." Coming down heavily on the "U.S.-led international community", she wrote that the longer it "persists on a course of censure and sanctions, the greater the odds for quicker weaponisation and deployment, which neither country is as yet irrevocably pledged to do." "Isolating a region bristling with tensions, long-standing enmities and nationalist fervour to stand up to Western nuclear discrimination, is a recipe for more steps up the nuclear ladder. With punishment posing as policy, this could encourage a no-holds-barred nuclear competition and act as a disincentive to both Pakistan and India to exercise restraint."

Predictably enough, the Pakistani media are always alert for voices within the Indian media that advance an argument contrary to the official government line. It is therefore not surprising to find an editorial comment in The Statesman stating that India should "announce that the government will exhume the nearly five-decade-old U.N. proposal to hold a referendum on the question of the valley's territorial loyalties" finds an honourable mention in a Pakistani newspaper.

Daily statements from Pakistan's top leadership, especially Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, about Pakistan's ability to defend its sovereignty with its new nuclear identity are only to be expected since political rhetoric is so essential for a Government that is drawing flak from its people for the country's financial crisis.

However, what is worrying is the fact that along with the euphoria over the blasts, which is not lacking on the Indian side either, there seems to be a triumphant feeling that Pakistan has at last succeeded in focussing the international community's attention on the Kashmir issue. There is also a prevalent feeling that more and more nations are veering towards the Pakistani point of view that ties between India and Pakistan can be improved only if the Kashmir issue is solved.

As for the underprivileged and uneducated people of Pakistan, they are consistently being fed a diet of hype that Pakistan is the first Islamic nation to explode a nuclear bomb.

Today, Sharif may be asking the Islamic world's aid to help Pakistan tide over its financial crisis, but tomorrow, if any of the Islamic nations, however rich, require a nuclear bomb, they will have to knock on Pakistan's door. It is this line of argument that scares you more than the reports datelined 'Held Kashmir' that talk about zulm and shaheeds.

The end of equivocation

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has firmly indicated that India would sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; his statement in Parliament also seemed to spell out the outline of a nuclear weapons doctrine.

PRIME MINISTER Atal Behari Vajpayee's reply to the recent parliamentary debate on foreign policy has been read in some quarters as the first outline of an Indian nuclear weapons doctrine. In being the first comprehensive statement of policy by the head of government, the Prime Minister's statement in the Lok Sabha on August 4 supersedes the fragmented and somewhat uncoordinated discourse that his Cabinet colleagues were engaged in since the nuclear tests were conducted in May. To say that it reflects a political consensus may, however, be stretching the truth.

Vajpayee indicated that India's nuclear posture will be premised upon three elements: minimum deterrence, no-first use and accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). There could be varying interpretations of the relative importance of the three elements, although in actual strategic terms, Vajpayee's declaration of a policy of "minimum deterrence" is perhaps the most crucial. This is the firmest statement yet that nuclear weapons will indeed be fabricated and stockpiled. The qualification that the deterrence posture will be oriented towards a minimum agenda burdens the new doctrine with a substantial element of ambiguity - how minimal really is "minimum"?

Although an inescapable part of nuclear doctrine, ambiguity has never been known to contribute to stability in strategic planning. It leaves a wide area open for subjective judgment by both the proponent of doctrine and the adversary. In many respects, India's posture since its first nuclear test in 1974 could be described as one of "minimum deterrence". The knowledge base was established, the institutional framework was in place and the fissile material was known to exist, particularly since the research reactor Dhruva went on stream in 1985. If deterrence is almost entirely a matter of perception, then India had perhaps established its credentials as far back as 1974.

CLEARLY, India now stands in a more aggressive deterrent posture than before. It is not yet evident whether a sense of stable anchorage can be established for this new stance. Deterrence theory, as pointed out by Gen. Lee Butler, America's top nuclear warrior till 1994, is a voracious beast, which acknowledges no rational limits on the size or composition of nuclear arsenals. Far from constraining it, deterrence theory has, in fact, emerged as the most powerful justification of the nuclear arms spiral. Restraint is not inherent in the deterrence principle; appending the qualification of "minimum" does not render it any different. Rather, the possibilities of restraint are to be sought in two other components of the nuclear doctrine - only one of which, however, has been explicitly stated.

Although he has stirred up some apprehensions within the Opposition, Vajpayee has, in firmly indicating that India would sign the CTBT, put an end to weeks of equivocation. The Government's initial position after the nuclear tests on May 11 was that India would be prepared to accede conditionally to certain provisions of the CTBT. Following the second round of tests and the declaration of a moratorium on nuclear tests, a further promise was made to underwrite voluntary restraint with some kind of a de jure commitment.

Vajpayee's most recent statement sheds all ambivalence. He said that the Indian moratorium on nuclear testing reflected the country's commitment to nuclear disarmament and the general will of the international community. This could now be turned into a binding commitment, subject always to revocation if "supreme national interests" dictated such a step.

The phraseology is identical to Article IX of the CTBT, which was inserted at the insistence of the U.S. In striving to establish this identity of interests, Vajpayee has signalled his Government's willingness to accede to the treaty. However, although the suggestion of unconditional compliance is strong, the Government still seems to be holding something in reserve. "Ways and means" of formalising the moratorium on nuclear testing, said the Prime Minister, "are being explored through bilateral discussions with key interlocutors." These dialogues were underpinned by the assurance gained from the recent tests that "India no longer requires to undertake nuclear explosions", leading to the rather happy conclusion from the viewpoint of the Government that India could "maintain the credibility of (its) nuclear deterrent in future without testing."

EUPHEMISMS apart, the only interlocutor involved in the dialogue seems to be the U.S. Although September 1999 is the deadline fixed for the treaty to come into force, the BJP-led Government evidently has a compressed time schedule in mind. During his last round of talks with the Prime Minister's Special Envoy, Jaswant Singh, in New Delhi, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott conceded to the request for time to build up a favourable climate of political opinion for accession to the CTBT. Early accession by India would help the cause of ratification by the U.S. Senate and prevent the collapse of confidence among the many signatories who came on board with little sense of conviction in the treaty's effectiveness as a guarantee of international security.

If accession to the CTBT holds out an assurance that the Indian nuclear arsenal will be frozen in terms of technological sophistication, it still leaves the question of size open. The unstated part of the new nuclear posture comes up at this stage - as a corollary to its new-found commitment to the CTBT, India is also likely to join the negotiations towards a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

The first signals of a positive inclination towards the FMCT negotiations were sent out by the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary, Brajesh Mishra, as early as May 11. It was since banished to the peripheries of the nuclear debate, since public concern focussed almost exclusively on the new attitude towards the CTBT. Crucially, there has been no disavowal since Mishra's first statement. And today, the inherent logic of the situation the BJP-led Government finds itself in compels it to join the FMCT negotiations as an active participant and sponsor.

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As it has been conceived by the Clinton administration in the U.S., it is crucial to appreciate what the FMCT is and what it is not. It is decisively not a disarmament measure. It does impose an upper ceiling on the size of nuclear arsenals across the globe, but at levels that already threaten human survival several times over. It is partly about limiting the quantitative growth of nuclear arsenals, partly about preserving an existing balance of forces. It will put all output of fissile material under a comprehensive system of safeguards, without imposing any such constraints on existing inventories. Finally, it brings into its scope only two kinds of material - plutonium and highly enriched uranium. The fuels used in thermonuclear devices - tritium and deuterium - would remain uncovered.

IF India had kept the faith with the disarmament agenda that it has always advocated - often in solitary isolation, as in the CTBT negotiations of 1996 - then these aspects of the FMCT would have been sufficient to merit its summary rejection. Universal and non-discriminatory - these have been the appellations that India has consistently applied to its demands in international disarmament forums. The FMCT suffers from neither of these attributes. India's willingness to join negotiations is then little else than an act of apostasy. The cause of disarmament has been forgotten. India is now willing to be one among the "responsible" nuclear proliferators who arbitrate on the global balance of power.

The Rand Corporation in 1995 estimated that four nuclear threshold states (India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea) and three technically capable states (Brazil, Argentina and South Africa) have the capacity to produce fissile material adequate to fuel about 220 rudimentary nuclear devices every year. This, said the study, is in addition to the inventories of plutonium and highly enriched uranium that already exist in these countries, which should be sufficient for around 230 bombs. No less than 70 per cent of the existing inventory, the Rand Corporation adds, was accounted for by India and Israel.

In taking into account the spent fuel from nuclear power stations, the Rand Corporation may have overstated its case. Power reactor fuel is known to be less than optimal for nuclear explosive purposes, because of the high level of contamination by unwanted plutonium isotopes. Weapons grade plutonium, rather, has to be produced in custom-designed reactors such as Dhruva and the older Cirus, built with Canadian assistance, both of which are located in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai. An estimate based on the power output of these reactors and their average capacity utilisation factor, would suggest an inventory of plutonium in India that is adequate to fuel about 30 bombs, each of around 10 kilotons yield.

THIS, in effect, is the "minimum deterrent" that India intends to maintain after accession to the CTBT and the conclusion of the FMCT. In addition, if claims of having tested a thermonuclear device at Pokhran are accurate, there are virtually limitless possibilities as far as building a nuclear arsenal is concerned. A limitation would be the availability of fissile material which is required to trigger a thermonuclear explosion. But if India has acquired the capability to extract tritium from the heavy water used in its nuclear power plants, then the leverage available from even this limited inventory of fissile material - in terms of explosive yields - would be enormous.

The deviations from the doctrine of pacifism are sharp and have provoked some dissent. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has stuck to its formulation of the "two no's' - no weaponisation and no accession to the CTBT. India should not sign the CTBT, says the CPI(M), unless it is firmly situated in a context of global disarmament. The Congress has been a bit ambivalent about accession to the CTBT, since the step represents a reversal of priorities verging on crass opportunism. Vajpayee has made a conscious effort to disarm their opposition by invoking the precedent of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) of 1963, which put an end to atmospheric nuclear explosive testing. India had then wanted a comprehensive treaty anchored in a global schedule for disarmament. Yet, it went along with a partial measure and became one of the original signatories to the PTBT. That was in the broader national interests then, as accession to the CTBT is now, said Vajpayee.

The case still fails to carry conviction across the political spectrum, although as far as the third prop of the new nuclear doctrine is concerned, there seem to be few reservations. India's unilateral pledge that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in any context - and derivatively will assure non-nuclear weapon states of absolute immunity from the nuclear threat - has been generally welcomed. The Government's initial approach was to offer a mutually binding pact with Pakistan, committing both parties to a "no-first use" obligation. But over the weeks since Pokhran, the realisation dawned that Pakistan would never accede to such a pact, since that would neutralise the symmetry established in the nuclear realm and put it back into a status of inferiority in conventional weaponry. The unilateral adoption of a "no-first use" posture is an effort to win back the ethical high ground when strategic advantage has been lost. Yet it is far from apparent that the moral capital squandered with the Pokhran tests will ever be regained.

The Shiv Sena indicted

The Srikrishna Commission Report, released at long last, underlines the Shiv Sena's malevolent role in the communal riots in Mumbai in December 1992-January 1993, and points to the contribution of the BJP in the build-up to the violence.

THE Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission's verdict on the Shiv Sena's role in the communal violence that rocked Mumbai in the wake of the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid, riots of a magnitude and ferocity unparalleled in the city, is perhaps the most severe official indictment ever of the Sena.

"From January 8, 1993 at least," says the Commission, "there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders" from the level of shakha pramukh to that of Sena chief Bal Thackeray. It describes Thackeray as the "veteran general commanding his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims."

The Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government in Maharashtra has rejected the core of the report, which was presented before the two Houses of the legislature on August 6 along with a memorandum of action to be taken thereon. The Action Taken Report (ATR), seeks to establish that the report is one-sided. Going further, Chief Minister Manohar Joshi termed the report "anti-Hindu, pro-Muslim and biased." Just over a week earlier Thackeray had accused Justice Srikrishna, an eminent and respected sitting Judge of the Bombay High Court, of bias.

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The rejection of the report was foreshadowed by months of evasiveness by the Government on the question of when it would be made public. The report was submitted to the Government on February 16. Nine days later, Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde announced that the report would be made public within a week. But the schedule kept undergoing changes until there was very little scope for further postponement: statutorily, reports of commissions of inquiry have to be tabled within six months of submission.

The report also mentions speeches and slogans at BJP rallies seeking to intimidate Muslims from or about July 1992 as part of the campaign for the construction of a temple at Ayodhya. It also takes note of the "strident clamour" of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar for a temple at the disputed Ayodhya site growing louder by the day between October and November 1992, when preparations for kar seva at Ayodhya got under way.

The Commission notes that some of the speeches and slogans aimed at the Ram paduka processions, chowk sabhas and meetings organised by the BJP from or about July 1992 as part of the Ayodhya temple campaign were "downright communal, warning the Muslims that dissent on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute would be an act of treachery for which the Muslims would be banished from the country. Slogans like 'mandir vahin banayenge' (we will build the temple only there) and 'is desh men rahna hoga, to Vande Mataram Kahna hoga?' (You must utter Vande Mataram if you are to stay in this country) rent the air."

The report also observes that the "clashes and minor cases of rioting" which took place along the route of BJP leader L.K. Advani's rath yatra were "the distant thunderclaps portending the storm to come."

Nine hundred people died in the December and January riots, says the Commission, and the causes include police firing, stabbing, arson, mob action and "private firing". The injured numbered 2,036. In all, the Commission recorded the depositions, running into 9,655 pages, of 502 witnesses, and took on record as exhibits 2,903 documents (about 15,000 pages). Five hundred and thirty-six orders were passed.

Twenty-eight months after the Commission was appointed by the Sudhakarrao Naik Government on January 25, 1993, the Shiv Sena-BJP Government added the terms of reference pertaining to the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai on March 12, 1993. The Commission says the blasts claimed 257 lives, left 713 people injured and caused property damage worth about Rs. 27 crores.

On the serial blasts, the Commission had at its disposal the affidavits of six high-ranking police officers. It observes that the blasts seem to be a reaction to "the totality of events" at Ayodhya and in Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993. There is no doubt, it says, that "the major role in the conspiracy... was played by Muslims." But were the Mumbai riots and the blasts part of a common design? The Commission says that nothing of the sort is indicated by the material placed before it.

The riots took place in two phases - the December 1992 phase, lasting for five days to a week, and the January 1993 phase, which occurred between January 6 and 20. The Commission says there is no material to show that the riots in Mumbai after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 were anything other than "a spontaneous reaction of leaderless and incensed Muslim mobs, which commenced as peaceful protest but soon degenerated" into violence. "Hindus must share... the blame for provoking the Muslims by their celebration rallies, inciting slogans and rasta rokos (road blocks during demonstrations), which were... organised most by Shiv Sainiks, and marginally by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists."

There is no material on record, says the Commi-ssion, "suggesting that even during this phase any known Muslim individuals or organisations were responsible for the riots," though several individual Muslims and Muslim criminal elements "appear to have indulged in violence, looting, arson and rioting." The Commission also mentions some "insensitive and harsh" handling by the police of the mobs, "which initially were not violent".

The Commission notes that several incidents of violence took place between December 15 and January 5. But it was only on January 6 that large-scale rioting and violence resumed - by Hindus "brought to fever pitch by communally inciting propaganda unleashed by Hindu communal organisations and writings in newspapers like Saamna (the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece) and Navakal. It was taken over by Shiv Sena and its leaders, who continued to whip up communal frenzy" through their statements and acts as well as through the writings of and directives issued by Thackeray.

The Commission also notes the aggravation of communal tension by the maha arti ritual held from December 26, 1992 onwards "ostensibly to protest the namaz on the streets and the calling of azaans from mosques." The Commission says that the maha artis endangered the fragile peace during the interval between the two phases of rioting. "Some of the maha artis were later used as occasions for delivering communally inciting speeches; and the crowds dispersing from the maha arti indulged in damage, looting and arson of Muslim establishments..."

The maha artis, the Commission says, continued throughout January 1993. It says the police erred in treating them merely as religious activity - and, therefore, exempt from the operation of orders prohibiting assembly. "Although the responsibility for dealing with such assemblies on public streets is of the police, the police left it to the judgment of the then Chief Minister, who failed to act promptly and effectively and give clear-cut directives."

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FOR the undue delay in controlling the January riots, which raged for 15 days, the Commission blames the "effete political leadership" of the Congress(I) Government headed by Sudhakarrao Naik and the police force, whose "built-in bias" against Muslims "became more pronounced with murderous attacks on the constabulary and officers." It says that politics-induced vacillation on the Government's part left the lower ranks of the police confused and hamstrung, besides delaying by several days the effective use of the Army for riot control.

The Commission says that Sudhakarrao Naik reacted in a knee-jerk fashion to adverse criticism of the police handling of the December riots by instructing the police to "go slow". The report says: "A specific broadcast message was issued on December 10 instructing the men not to fire while dealing with communal mobs." The Commission adds that the order was countermanded only on January 10. "This order caused immense confusion among the police ranks." While some officers and policemen persisted with firing regardless, "a large number of officers did not fire, resulting in prolongation of the violent incidents."

Confronted with the broadcast message while deposing before the Commission, Shrikant Bapat, the Commissioner of Police of Mumbai at the time of the riots, denied that he had authorised it. He also asserted that the Government could not have issued the message without informing him. For his part, Sudhakarrao Naik denied before the Commission that he had ever given instructions for issuing the order conveyed by the message. Nevertheless, the Commission says it is inclined to believe that the Police Commissioner received instructions not to resort to firing, which were conveyed to subordinate officers.

The Commission also attributed the Government's failure to take the active aid of the Army "when such use was imperative" to "political dithering". The "dithering" held up the issue of a clear-cut order to the Commissioner on the use of the Army for operational purposes. "The flag marches by Army columns had no psychological effect on the rioting mobs," the Commission says.

While deposing before the Commission, Sudhakarrao Naik attributed the non-utilisation of Army columns for operational duties to resistance by the Army authorities until January 10, 1993. The Commission says that the Chief Minister displayed ignorance about the appropriate authority for issuing orders to an Army unit called in aid of civil authority. The deposition of Sharad Pawar, who was Defence Minister at the time of the riots, throws an equally unflattering light on Sudhakarrao Naik's understanding of the situation.

At a meeting at the Chief Minister's residence on January 8 or 9, 1993, said Sharad Pawar, Sudhakarrao Naik made the point that his Government had already requisitioned the Army. Lt.-Gen. A.S. Kalkat, General Officer Commanding in Chief (GOC-in-C), said that the Army units were willing to do the needful if a police officer familiar with the terrain accompanied each Army unit; and secondly, if a District Magistrate accompanied each Army column and gave written instructions.

Lt.-Gen. Kalkat and a fellow officer said that while the Army could act in aid of civil authority, the law said that the latter had to remain in control at all times. It was only after the State Government accepted the Army's conditions, said Sharad Pawar, a former Chief Minister of the State, that appropriate instructions were issued to the Commissioner of Police.

The Commission blames the police, too, for failure to utilise the Army effectively, which it says led to an avoidable loss of life and limb and property. The police "overestimated their ability to control the... riots, or were reluctant to requisition the aid of Army to disperse unlawful assemblies," the report says.

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The police have also been indicted for a "cynical and indifferent" response to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, and for their "harsh and brutal, on occasion bordering on inhuman" treatment of Muslim suspects and Muslim victims of the riots. Constables sometimes connived with rioting Hindu mobs and sometimes remained passive onlookers. The bias of policemen was also seen in their lack of enthusiasm for registering offences against Hindus even when the accused were clearly identified. "Even the registered riot-related cases were most unsatisfactorily investigated."

In this connection, the Commission observes: "Classification of offences is being used as a major tool by the police to short-circuit investigations. In the statistics given by the government before the Supreme Court... 55 to 60 per cent of the riot-related cases appeared to have been classified in 'A' summary, meaning 'true but undetected'."

On police firing, the Commission says it appears to have been unjustified and excessive on at least two occasions, with the result that innocent lives were lost. It identifies the occasions as the Suleman Bakery incident in the Pydhonie (south-central Mumbai) police station area and the Hilal (Hari) Masjid incident in the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Marg (central Mumbai) police station area.

Even after it became apparent that the Shiv Sena leaders were stoking communal fires, says the Commission, the police "dragged their feet on the facile and exaggerated assumption that if such leaders were arrested the communal situation would further flare up... A large number of vituperative and communally inciting writing in newspapers was ignored by the police, emboldening the writers of such material to greater height of abuse, incitement and calumny."

THE Shiv Sena has long asserted that the January riots were triggered by the murder of four mathadi (head-load) workers in a Muslim-dominated part of south-central Mumbai on the night of January 5 and the burning alive of six Hindus during the early hours of January 8 at Radhabai Chawl, a tenement block at Jogeshwari (northwest Mumbai). The Commission's finding is that sections of the print media, particularly the Sena mouthpiece Saamna and Navakal, gave exaggerated accounts of these incidents and contributed to the arousal of Hindu communal passions.

One of the mathadi workers, all of whom were sleeping in the godown of a transport company, was stabbed to death when he went out into the street to relieve himself. The other three, who came out to help him, also met the same fate.

It is admitted by Senior Police Inspector Subhash Kadam that the mathadi workers themselves did not consider the murders to be "communally motivated", says the Commission. "The blame for turning a case of simple murder into a communally motivated murder must... fall on Vaman Lad and Hemant Koli," a former Shiv Sena member of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and a Sena shakha pramukh (branch chief) respectively. The propaganda unleashed by this duo prompted some mathadi workers to stab a Muslim, says the Commission.

At Radhabai Chawl, some Hindu residences were locked from outside and set on fire by arsonists. "One male and three female members of a Hindu family... and their neighbours were charred to death and three other Hindus sustained serious burn injuries. One of the victims was a handicapped girl."

In the context of communally provocative propaganda during the run-up to the January riots, the Commission has also looked at a series of stabbing incidents that took place during the last week of December and the first week of January. Noting that most of them took place in Muslim-dominated areas and that most of the victims were Hindus, it says that Muslim criminals like Salim Rampuri and Feroz Konkani have been identified as the brains behind the incidents - apparently designed to build communal tension. "That they were criminals was underplayed by Hindus," says the Commission. "That they were Muslims was all that mattered, and a cry went up that the Muslims were bent upon a second round of riots."

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The Commission says such propaganda, reinforced by rumours to the effect that attacks by Muslims using sophisticated arms were imminent, turned some "irresponsible and hot-headed" Hindu elements violent.

"From January 8, 1993 at least, there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising violent attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders... from the level of shakha pramukh to... Bal Thackeray, who, like a veteran general, commanded... Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims." Statements and acts of Sena leaders and Thackeray's writings and directives meanwhile kept building up communal tension, says the Commission. "The... rioting triggered off by the Shiv Sena was hijacked by local criminal elements, who saw... an opportunity to make quick gains. By the time the Shiv Sena realised that enough had been done by way of 'retaliation,' the... violence was beyond the control of its leaders..."

The Commission attributes Shiv Sainiks' "vigilantism" of that time to the Sena's attitude as reflected in an interview that Thackeray gave Time magazine, its doctrine of 'retaliation' as expounded by then MLA Madhukar Sarpotdar (now a Member of Parliament) and the notion that the Shiv Sena "was the true guarantee of the safety of citizens."

THE Government's ATR proclaims substantial acceptance of the Commission's recommendations on what needs to be done administratively to prevent recurrence of riots, secure communal harmony and improve the law-and-order machinery, but rejects the Commission's conclusions on the events and the immediate causes of the riots and the apportionment of blame for them. It also finds its conclusions on the bomb blasts less than adequate.

Paradoxically, however, the ATR says that all the lapses or inadequacies observed by the Commission will be brought to the notice of the top police officers of the State and the city. "They will be directed to take necessary action..."

Facing the heat

politics

While the Shiv Sena-BJP Government is strident in its own defence, the Srikrishna Commission Report has provided secular forces the platform to launch a serious assault on the combine.

LYLA BAVADAM in Mumbai PRAVEEN SWAMI in New Delhi

IN its response to the report of the Justice Srikrishna Commission, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government in Maharashtra appears to have decided that offence is the best form of defence. When Congress(I) and Samajwadi Party (S.P.) politicians attempted to use the last day of the Vidhan Sabha session to attack the Action Taken Report (ATR), Shiv Sena and BJP legislators responded with slogans such as "is desh mein rehna hoga to Vande Mataram kahna hoga", and demands that Muslims "Go to Pakistan".

Although the Sena-BJP alliance believes that such polemic will salvage its political credibility, it may well be in for a surprise. The Srikrishna Report has provided the platform for the first serious assault by secular forces on the Shiv Sena-BJP, one that could have profound consequences in the months to come.

Union Home Minister L.K. Advani said that the strictures passed against Thackeray could not be a ground for dismissing the Shiv Sena-BJP Government. He added that it was not mandatory for State Governments to accept the reports of commissions set up by them.

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S.P. politicians in Maharashtra were the first to realise the political significance of the Srikrishna Report. "By rejecting the report," party MP Raj Babbar said acidly, "the Government has shown itself to be the protector of those who committed genocide." He asserted: "Those people who have always mocked the judiciary and law and order have once again shown their true colours." In the Legislative Council, S.P. member Hussain Dalwai tore up a copy of the ATR. Another S.P. legislator, Nawab Malik, burnt a copy of the ATR near the legislature premises. On August 7, the S.P. passed a resolution demanding the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Report and the prosecution of all those who had been indicted in it. If the Government does not act on these demands by October 2, the party says its legislators will resign. A seven-member task force led by the Mahatma's grandson Tushar Gandhi has already been set up to monitor implementation of the Report.

Like the S.P., the Congress(I) has understood the political import of the developments. Interestingly, there was some initial embarrassment in the party because of acid references in Justice Srikrisha's findings to the regime of Sudhakarrao Naik, the party evidently realised that there was no point in defending the indefensible.

After prolonged discussions at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in New Delhi on August 7, this hesitation was replaced by a confident posture. The CWC expressed "great anguish" over the Maharashtra Government's ATR, principally because it rejected the Srikrishna Report as ''pro-Muslim" and ''anti- Hindu''. This was, the CWC said, the first time in independent India's history that a Government had taken a decision based on denominational criteria and concerns. The CWC demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Manohar Joshi and the prosecution of all those held responsible for a role in the riots by the Srikrishna Commission. A delegation, made up of Pawar, Arjun Singh, P.A. Sangma, Ahmad Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad, met the Prime Minister the following day. Sources told Frontline that discussion focussed on the communal posture of the Joshi Ministry. "The mixing of religion and politics is prohibited by law," says Arjun Singh. "The Election Commission must consider debarring the Sena on the basis of evidence documented in the Srikrishna Commission Report."

Significantly, the press briefing after this CWC meeting was led by Sharad Pawar, who was assigned the task by Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi. When Pawar was asked about criticism directed at Sudhakarrao Naik, he replied that the Congress (I) "would have to accept that." Pawar also took on frontally references to him in the ATR. "There is no reference to me in the Srikrishna Report," he asserted, "but the ATR says there were differences between Naik and me." He said: "This fabrication is an attempt by the Maharashtra Government to save those indicted in the report."

Sharad Pawar has also pointed out a discrepancy between the English original and the Marathi translation of the report. The English word "retaliation" has been translated as "self-defence." he said. "This completely changes the picture. It seems the translation is self-serving."

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Reiterating the demand for Manohar Joshi's resignation, Sonia Gandhi added cryptically in Mumbai on August 9 that ''the time was not ripe for demanding the arrest'' of Thackeray.

ALTHOUGH the Congress (I), unlike the S.P., has not so far given out its plans for an agitation programme, the Left parties have planned a series of rallies and public meetings. On August 11, there will be a dharna at Azad Maidan by the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), the Communist Party of India(Marxist), and the Communist Party of India. These Left groupings are demanding the resignation of the Government as well as the arrest and prosecution of all those indicted by the Commission. The CPI(M) has called for demonstrations at taluk centres in Thane and Nasik districts, Pune town and at different places in Kolhapur, Aurangabad and Nagpur districts. On August 13, women's organisations, including Swadhar led by Mrinal Gore, the All India Democratic Women's Organisation and the Bharatiya Mahila Federation will also hold demonstrations. CPI(M) MLA Narsaiyya Adam outlined the Left's agenda in the Vidhan Sabha debate: "Don't divide people on lines of masjid, mandir or gurdwara. No religion has ever supplied jobs, food, clothing, shelter. The Sena has spread the communal virus. Bal Thackeray should be arrested."

These signs of renewed vigour among secular groupings could not have come at a worse time for the Shiv Sena. Chief Minister Joshi's aggressive posturing is in fact underpinned by deep insecurities. While tabling the Report in the Lower House, his hoarse voice, aggressive manner and strong language were uncharacteristic of a politician who has tried to project himself as the moderate face of the Shiv Sena. Joshi described the Report as "Muslim dharjinya" and "Hindu dwesta". Although the common translations of these phrases have been "pro-Muslim" and "anti-Hindu", the Marathi import of these terms is considerably more harsh. One element that shaped this presentation appears to have been the inner party skirmish between Narayan Rane and Joshi some weeks earlier. For some reason, Joshi appeared to have fallen out of favour with Bal Thackeray, who was seen as backing Rane. Seen in this light, Joshi's dramatic performance in the Vidhan Sabha was seen as an effort to reinstate himself with the Sena chief. One BJP senior functionary told Frontline that Joshi's intemperate display was "the only way to save himself from political oblivion."

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Thackeray himself has attempted to maintain a public display of calm. Addressing reporters a day after the report was tabled, he said that he believed it to be "biased". By way of example, Thackeray pointed to the burning of Hindu families in their homes at Radhabhai Chawl. The Srikrishna Report entitled its discussion of the riots that followed, 'Hindu Backlash Commences'. "If they do it," Thackeray said, referring to violence perpetrated by Muslims, "it is spontaneous." "If we retaliate, it is hamla (assault)." Questioned further on the bias issue, the Sena boss admitted he had yet to read Justice Srikrishna's findings, and was basing his opinions on what he had heard from others. This ignorance, however, did not prevent him from editorialising at length on the report's supposed biases in the party newspaper, Samna, on August 8, in which he repeated his allegations of bias. Interestingly, Thackeray reportedly admitted at the press conference that his editorials in Saamna during the riots had indeed been "inflammatory". "They were bound to be," he said, "the situation demanded it."

As the events on the last day of the Maharashtra Assembly indicate, the Shiv Sena-BJP have no intention of entering into any serious discussion on the ATR. That what should have been a day of debate centred on Samajwadi Party MLA Sohail Lokhandwala's refusal to sing 'Vande Mataram' because he felt portions of the song referring to mother earth violated his religious beliefs illustrates the ruling coalition's strategy.

If it continues its aggressive opposition to the core issues raised by the Commission, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance may well have to pay the political price for such a strategy in the months to come.

And quiet flows the Cauvery

the-nation

In the case of the long-festering Cauvery issue, conciliation has at last triumphed over confrontation.

V. VENKATESAN in New Delhi T.S. SUBRAMANIAN in Chennai PARVATHI MENON in Bangalore

DECADES-OLD dispute over the sharing of the Cauvery river waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka appeared to have been almost resolved in two days, on August 6 and 7, when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee held discussions with the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry. The dispute had proved intractable over the years despite several attempts to find a negotiated settlement, and it had recently threatened to develop yet again into a major conflict. However, the August 7 agreement seemed to satisfy both the main contenders, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, if one goes by the initial reactions.

The pattern in the last few years was that the dispute flared up during a season of water scarcity, when the rains failed or were insufficient, and Karnataka did not release the monthly quantum of water prescribed by the Interim Order issued in June 1991 by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. However, Karnataka maintains that although it opposed the premise and terms of the Interim Order, which stipulates that it must ensure that Tamil Nadu receives 205 tmc ft of water at the reservoir in Mettur through prescribed weekly and monthly releases, it failed to stick to the schedule only in 1995-96. In the current year the rains were good and Karnataka has more than fulfilled its obligation of releasing the month-to-month quota from its reservoirs. Nevertheless, tensions escalated.

In what appears to be a climbdown on its part, Karnataka, for the first time since the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (it was set up in 1990 during V.P.Singh's tenure as Prime Minister) gave an Interim Award, agreed at the Delhi meeting on August 7 that there could be a scheme for giving effect to the Interim Award and all related orders issued subsequently. Karnataka had opposed the Tribunal and the Interim Award and this had proved to be the stumbling block in the way of any negotiated settlement. The Supreme Court had issued directions regarding the framing of a scheme for the implementation of the Interim Award. At the meeting in New Delhi on August 6, Karnataka Chief Minister J.H. Patel declared: "There is no need to frame a scheme at this stage when the Tribunal is still adjudicating and the final orders are due in about a year's time. This not only is redundant but also leads to complications which are avoidable."

A draft scheme was framed in May 1997 under Section 6 of the Inter States Water Disputes Act, when I.K. Gujral was Prime Minister. The scheme, which proposed the creation of an infrastructure for the implementation of the Interim Award, was sent in September 1997 to all the basin States for approval. Karnataka strongly opposed the scheme on the grounds that it put unfair restrictions on the State's access to water (Frontline, July 11, 1997). Tamil Nadu generally welcomed the scheme. The other basin States also sent their comments. However, no consensus could be reached.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, which heard the case last July, gave the Government time up to August 12 to try and resolve the issues relating to the framing of the scheme.

At the Delhi meeting on August 6, Karnataka claimed that it had released more than 205 tmc ft of water every year except in the deficit year of 1995-96. But, according to observers, the releases were not made according to the schedule drawn up by the Tribunal, which was intended to ensure the supply of water to Tamil Nadu when the State badly needed it.

THE Karnataka Chief Minister finally agreed to the creation of an Authority under the scheme to implement the Interim Award. The Authority will comprise the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of Karnataka, Kerala, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu. The Authority, the Chief Ministers agreed, shall frame rules and regulations for the conduct of its business.

Ironically, Karnataka had also opposed the constitution of a Cauvery River Authority as mentioned in the draft scheme to give effect to the Interim Award. The Authority, according to the draft scheme, will consist of a three-tier 11-member authority, a 10-member Regulation Committee, and field organisations at seven structures/reservoir sites on the Cauvery. As a face-saver to Karnataka, the August 7 meeting modified the composition of the Authority so as to include its Chief Minister in it.

"The solution to the problem does not lie in the creation of a mechanism, or a regulatory authority, equipped with sweeping and draconian statutory powers," J.H. Patel said at the meeting. The draft scheme had empowered the Authority to take over the regulation of the structures and the reservoirs in case of non-compliance of the directions of the Authority. It also empowered the Regulation Committee, proposed to be created under the Authority, to ensure that Karnataka did not increase its area under irrigation beyond 11.2 lakh acres (about 4.53 hectares). Although the powers and functions of the Authority, to be created by the scheme approved at the meeting, are now unclear, it is obvious that it will not have the sweeping powers proposed to be vested with it in the draft scheme. Interestingly, the press note issued by the Government at the end of the talks does not call the Authority the Cauvery River Authority, as suggested in the draft scheme, probably to appease Karnataka.

It was also agreed at the Chief Ministers' meeting with the Prime Minister to create a Monitoring Committee consisting of the designated officers of the Central Government and the State Governments concerned. However, there was no consensus about the role, nature and functions of this committee. While Karnataka insisted that the Monitoring Committee should only assist the Authority, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry pleaded for empowering the committee to implement the Interim Award. Kerala remained neutral on this issue. Therefore, a drafting committee with the Cabinet Secretary as the chairman and the Chief Secretaries of the basin States as members was set up to go into this aspect.

Observers note that this minor disagreement and the lack of clarity about the powers and functions of the Authority could create problems in implementing the scheme. The Union Government's purpose in evolving a vague scheme appears to be to ward off any immediate pressure from the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a constituent of the ruling coalition, and other political parties in Tamil Nadu to notify the earlier scheme, which had evoked strong protests from Karnataka. It is a deft move by the Government that will enable it to delay the notification of the scheme, as the Supreme Court has asked it only to resolve issues relating to the framing of the scheme before August 12. It is thus not clear how the Authority would arrive at decisions - whether by majority or by consensus. Karnataka has suggested that the decision of the Authority shall be by consensus, which means that the State could use the power of veto if a majority decision goes against its interests.

The Prime Minister indicated at the meeting that it was necessary that an appropriate national policy was evolved within the framework of which river water disputes could be amicably resolved in the shortest possible time. This conformed to Karnataka's known position in this regard, although it is not clear how a national policy, put necessarily in general terms, could be of use in solving inter-State river disputes. According to sources, the Prime Minister told the Chief Ministers that he had only two options: one, to present to the Supreme Court on August 12 a report that has been approved by all the States concerned, and two, to tell the Supreme Court, in the event of a breakdown of talks, that a consensus was not possible, and leave it to the Court to give a verdict that would be binding on the States. This apparently forced the contending States to show varying degrees of accommodation.

The success of the scheme is an acid test not only for cooperative federalism, but for the effectiveness of Central intervention in inter-State disputes. Certainly, the Prime Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have reasons to celebrate at a time when the BJP's allies, in pursuit of their regional agendas, have kept the principal coalition partner on tenterhooks.

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THE reactions of the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers to the agreement have been positive. While J.H. Patel hailed the agreement as one which accommodated the State's proposals, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi described it as a breakthrough. Speaking to mediapersons in New Delhi after the talks, Karunanidhi paid due credit to the former Prime Ministers V.P.Singh and I.K. Gujral and Prime Minister Vajpayee for the roles they played in evolving a solution to the dispute. Indeed, Karunanidhi was confident that there would be no hiccups in the drafting committee's work. He put it succinctly: "Let us pray that it reaches an amicable solution; after all, there was no war between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on this issue."

A relaxed Karunanidhi, who arrived to a warm welcome at the Chennai airport on August 8, told mediapersons that it was not a victory for any individual but a victory for the people and farmers of both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Reacting in a sober manner, he said, "A solution has been found without any ill-feeling among the people of the two States. A long-festering problem has been solved. A solution has been found without any fanfare, in a quiet manner."

Karunanidhi was confident that Karnataka would not contravene the scheme evolved at the talks because it was a "gentlemen's agreement", reached among the Prime Minister and four Chief Ministers. If there was any violation of the scheme, an appeal could be made to the Authority, he said.

The Chief Minister praised the approach of Vajpayee, who spent nine hours trying to achieve the breakthrough; he also thanked Defence Minister George Fernandes and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Jaswant Singh for their help in breaking the impasse.

The reactions of the political parties in Tamil Nadu were almost on expected lines. While the allies of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), such as the Tamil Maanila Congress, the Communist Party of India (CPI), and the Janata Dal, as also the Congress(I) and the BJP have expressed their happiness at the agreement, the AIADMK and its allies - the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Janata Party, "totally rejected" it. In a joint statement, the leaders of these four parties - Jayalalitha, Ramadoss, Vaiko and Subramanian Swamy - demanded that the Centre gazette the original draft scheme (of May 1997) before August 12 and present it to the Supreme Court on August 12.

They complained that the newly formed Authority was proposed to be converted into a "full-fledged political set-up" with the Prime Minister heading it and the four Chief Ministers being its members. The Authority enjoyed no defined powers and would not be able to take decisions by a majority vote, they argued. They pointed out that opposition from one State was enough to stall a decision.

The four leaders said that their parties had predicted at the all-party meeting convened by Karunanidhi in Chennai on August 3 that the draft scheme of May 1997 would be diluted at the New Delhi meeting and had demanded that this should never be accepted. "What we feared has happened," they said. "It seems that the draft scheme has been totally abandoned. Karunanidhi has given his consent to this...Without consulting anybody, Karunanidhi has given his consent to a new scheme to be drafted. He has taken a unilateral decision, which has gone against Tamil Nadu's interests," they alleged.

They said that when a favourable situation had come for Tamil Nadu to realise its demands and the Supreme Court had ruled out any more adjournments, it was objectionable that Karu-nanidhi should abandon the original draft scheme and accept a new Authority which enjoyed no powers. "Each time a solution is in sight, it has become a practice for Karunanidhi to ruin it. If Karunanidhi had not gone to New Delhi heeding our suggestion, we (the four leaders) would have found a good solution to the Cauvery dispute by strongly pressuring the Centre to gazette the draft scheme," they claimed.

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In a sharp rejoinder, Karunanidhi said that the rejection of the agreement by Jayalalitha and her allies and the argument that he should have spurned the Prime Minister's invitation amounted to ridiculing coalition democracy. He expressed the fear that their views would harm the implementation of the agreement. The Monitoring Committee was set up not only to give advice but to frame rules and regulations, he said Interestingly, the AIADMK and its allies were among the 41 parties that authorised the Chief Minister, through resolutions at the all-party meeting, to take "appropriate and acceptable steps" that would help the Centre to finalise the draft scheme and notify it in the Gazette.

The AIADMK and its allies, including the Tamilaga Rajiv Congress, were represented at the all-party meeting by their second-string leaders. Along with seven other parties, they demanded first that the Chief Minister keep off the Delhi meeting. However, when a resolution was moved to the effect that he should take part in the meeting because it was a sequel to the Supreme Court's directive to the Centre and it formed part of the Centre's efforts to finalise the draft scheme, these parties gave their consent to his participation.

Jayalalitha, however, opposed the resolutions within hours. In an eight-page, polemical statement, she claimed that there was nothing to be achieved through talks with Karnataka. The statement said: "The New Delhi meeting of the Chief Ministers is only part of the delaying tactics adopted by the Centre. Even if it participates, Tamil Nadu is unlikely to get a favourable decision and the Karnataka Government will not concede anything."

The all-party meeting was an offshoot of a development in Delhi in the last week of July. Prior to the Chief Ministers' meeting, the Centre convened a meeting of the Chief Secretaries of the three States and the Union Territory of Pondicherry on July 29. The Tamil Nadu delegation was surprised when it received on the night of July 28 a copy of the modified draft scheme in which there was no mention of the proposal that the Cauvery River Water Authority should take over the management of the reservoirs in Karnataka if the latter did not implement the Interim Award. The Regulation Committee was retained, but an additional review committee was proposed.

According to the modified draft scheme, the Review Committee would be chaired by the Union Water Resources Min ister and its members would be the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Kerala. All the members should be present to review any decision of the Authority.

It was in this backdrop that Karunanidhi convened the all-party meeting on August 3. In his prefatory speech, he said that although the provision for the Authority to take over the management of the reservoirs was favourable to Tamil Nadu, "we can discuss whether we can consent to its removal from the scheme because we believe in State autonomy." He pointed out that it might not always be possible for all members of the Review Committee to be present. He suggested that a decision could be taken either unanimously or by majority vote.

As for Karnataka, it is a different story. From a position of rejecting the draft scheme in toto, the Government of Karnataka is now prepared to accept the scheme, albeit with conditions. This is a significant step forward. Karnataka's demands on the functions of the Monitoring Committee have been fully met: the committee is to be primarily a data-collecting and advisory body.

It is a measure of the spirit of accommodation of J.H. Patel that for the purpose of an agreement he set aside several of Karnataka's earlier objections to the Interim Award - starting with the figure of 205 tmc ft of water which Karnataka is to release on a yearly basis to Tamil Nadu. "Both sides have won," he declared at a press conference after his return to Bangalore.

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The negotiating team from Karnataka wisely decided that there was little point in maintaining the charade of the past: rejecting the Interim Award in public while complying with its terms on the ground. With the notification of the draft scheme, the Interim Award will govern water sharing until the final order of the Tribunal is made. More important, an official mechanism is now in place for the "sharing of distress in a year of water scarcity".

However, initially the negotiating team from Karnataka reacted to what has been called a "breakthrough" in the Cauvery talks very guardedly, and indeed with some measure of scepticism. "We reject the draft scheme in toto but are prepared to continue discussions with respect to the role and functions of the Monitoring Committee in the Drafting Committee that has been set up," a senior Cabinet Minister told Frontline. He said that there was no unanimity on the issue of the Monitoring Committee, with Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry rejecting Karnataka's position that the Monitoring Committee should have no executive powers or statutory functions but should restrict itself to "assisting" the Authority. "We have also not agreed to the ceiling of 4.53 lakh ha beyond which we cannot extend irrigation, as also to several other clauses in the draft scheme, such as the setting up of a field organisation," he said. "These issues will also come up before the drafting committee".

J.H. Patel has been careful to get a consensus from parties across the political spectrum at each stage of the negotiations. Representatives of the Congress(I), including former Chief Minister M. Veerappa Moily, BJP MLA H.N. Nanje Gowda, and former Chief Minister S. Bangarappa were in Delhi during the talks.

THUS, in the case of the Cauvery, conciliation triumphed over confrontation. S. Guhan, distinguished civil servant and intellectual who showed an abiding interest in finding a solution to the dispute until he died on February 12, 1998, had great faith in the conciliatory approach. A key advisor to Karunanidhi on the Cauvery issue, Guhan was of the opinion that the Cauvery system was one of the most exploited river systems in the world and there was little surplus water available from it. He believed that all river water disputes were amenable to solution if there was the will for conciliation. Guhan authored the much-acclaimed and thoroughly researched publication, "The Cauvery River Dispute, Towards Conciliation," published by Frontline. Paying tributes to Guhan, Karunanidhi said: "If Guhan had been alive today, he would have been very happy. I really feel his absence."

Role of the Monitoring Committee

V. VENKATESAN the-nation

THE decks were cleared for the announcement of a scheme to give effect to the Interim Award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal with the drafting committee finalising the role and functions of the Monitoring Committee at a late night meeting on August 7. The meeting was chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and the Chief Secretaries of the States and the Union Territory concerned attended it.

As per the consensus reached at the meeting, the role of the Monitoring Committee will be to assist the Authority in order to enable it to take decisions on the issues under consideration. The Committee will assist the Authority in collecting information and data, the three States and Pondicherry agreed. Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry appear to have given up their insistence that the Committee should have the power to implement the Interim Award. Asked about this, a Government spokesperson said: "How can the Monitoring Committee, which is subservient to the Authority headed by the Prime Minister, have more powers than the Authority?"

However, the agreement adequately takes into account the concerns of Tamil Nadu. The Monitoring Committee will assist the Authority by monitoring the implementation of the decisions of the Authority, the note issued by the Government claimed. It added that in case any difficulty arose in the implementation, the Committee should report the position to the Authority.

The States and the Union Territory have also agreed that the Monitoring Committee will assist the Authority in setting up a well-designed hydro-meteorological network in the Cauvery basin, along with a modern communications system for the transmission of data and a computer-based control room for data processing to determine the hydrological condition. These functions and the fact that the Committee will comprise representatives from the Centre and all the States and the Union Territory concerned should ensure that the mistrust that characterised the interaction between the contending States vanishes, the spokesperson claimed and added that the Monitoring Committee would be able to ensure that both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka got their requisite quantum of water during the dry season.

Although the Cabinet Secretary has requested the Chief Secretaries to obtain the clearance of their respective Chief Ministers on the role and functions of the Monitoring Committee, sources said that the Chief Ministers had already endorsed the formula revealed to them during the August 6-7 talks. The Authority, the first of its kind to be created (comprising the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers) in any river water-sharing agreement, would offer the much-needed political healing touch. The sources said that this had been achieved by the force of the Supreme Court's directive.

The Government spokesperson claimed that the Authority would take decisions only by consensus. What if Karnataka or Tamil Nadu opposes a decision that is perceived to be against its interests? In that case, the spokesperson hoped, Kerala and Pondicherry and the Centre would try to prevail upon the dissenting State to agree to the decision taken by the Authority.

A report and an agenda

The Action Taken Report on the Jain Commission's Final Report shows that the BJP-led Government has chosen to ignore the facts and use Justice Jain's "findings" to assault its political opponents.

POSTMODERN theorists will perhaps be the only category to be delighted by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government's Action Taken Report (ATR) on Justice M.C. Jain's Commission of Inquiry. A decisive triumph for fiction over fact, the ATR illustrates the stark reality that the search for the truth about former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination has been at best a peripheral concern of the Jain Commission and its various political sponsors. The BJP-led Government has decided to refer Justice Jain's enterprise, which spanned six years, to a Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The manufacture of non-facts on the assassination is therefore almost certain to continue into the 21st century, the age into which Rajiv Gandhi ironically sought to take India. Those who see the MDMA as part of a harmless game of political football would do well to consider its very real impact on the pending appeals by 26 persons sentenced in the assassination case.

At the heart of the MDMA's problems will be the fact that the ATR does not give a cogent account of just what it is supposed to investigate. Reliable sources told Frontline that CBI Director Trinath Mishra, consulted by the Government on its formation, made clear that he had no reason to dispute the findings of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which probed the assassination. Although the ATR proclaims that the "Government accept(s) the stand taken by the CBI on the role of the accused persons in the assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi as already established through the judgment of the Designated Court," the fact is that its decision to set up the MDMA suggests exactly the opposite. The SIT's charge-sheet, on the basis of which 26 persons have been convicted and sentenced by the Designated Court, rests or falls on the proposition that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) supremo V. Prabakaran ordered Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and a conspiracy followed from that order. If a different conspiracy did exist, as Justice Jain has suggested, the SIT's case would be significantly eroded, whatever the protestations of the Commission and the Government might be.

Even a cursory study of the Jain Commission Report and the ATR makes it evident that the conspiracy that the MDMA will seek to uncover will be very different from the one that the SIT established through painstaking, scientific investigation. Among the star subjects of the MDMA probe will be godman Nemi Chand Jain, better known as Chandraswami. Volume II of the Jain Commission Report gives central importance to Chandraswami's supposed role in the assassination, arguing that taking into account "the entire evidence, material and circumstances brought on record into consideration, a doubt does arise regarding Shri Chandraswami's complicity and involvement." Justice Jain's central argument is that the godman had links with international intelligence agencies as well as with the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which in turn was linked to the LTTE through accounts held by its arms procurer Kumaran Padmanabhan. This set of links, the Report affirms, "requires further probe".

When the MDMA seeks to do this, it will be confronted by the curious fact that the Government which has created it does not itself vest the Commission's evidence against Chandraswami with any great credibility. On page 205 of Volume II, Justice Jain has pointed to evidence provided by former Cabinet Secretary Zafar Saifullah on Chandraswami's links. "The statement of Shri Zafar Saifullah shows links of Shri Chandra- swami with CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and Mossad and there were some intercepts relating to Shri Chandraswami emanated from Israeli Intelligence Agency MOSSAD (sic.)," Justice Jain found. "This circumstance which has come in the deposition of Shri Zafar Saifullah is of great significance as he has deposed on the basis of knowledge gained by him while functioning as Cabinet Secretary and while interacting with the authorities in the concerned intelligence agency." Saifullah had said that while he had not seen the intercepts, officials had told him of their existence and of Chandraswami's links with major international intelligence agencies.

But was Saifullah's evidence, as Justice Jain would have us believe, "of great significance"? Even the authors of the ATR appear not to believe so. Saifullah (page 27 of the ATR records) was examined in camera, and the Central Government counsel therefore had no opportunity to examine him. "In his deposition," the ATR notes, "Shri Saifullah has not given any specific details about the messages." "However, after the deposition of Shri Saifullah, interrogatories were sent by the Commission to R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing) and IB (Intelligence Bureau) and they have clarified the position to the Commission that they had no messages as referred to by Shri Saifullah." Put simply, the intercepts Saifullah had mentioned in his deposition did not exist. This leaves open only the possibilities that he had invented them or he had been misled by those who provided him information. Indeed, Saifullah's bitter battles with former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao's Special Secretary A.N. Verma, and senior RAW officials associated with him, are well known. There is at least some reason, therefore, to believe that Saifullah's testimony was associated as much with past factional battles as with hard evidence.

If the Government does not agree with Justice Jain that evidence of Chandraswami being an agent of international intelligence agencies exists, what does it expect the MDMA to pursue? There are no answers in the ATR, only more mysteries. One key charge against Chandraswami in the report is that he received bank drafts in foreign currency worth a total of $ 11 million between October 9, 1985 and February 14, 1986, which was subsequently paid into the account of his associate and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi in the BCCI. Page 217 of Volume II of the Report seeks to link this financial wrong-doing with the assassination, arguing that Kumaran Padmanabhan's "account in the BCCI, Bombay Branch, prima facie establishes link of LTTE with the Bank." The ATR differs with this crucial second contention On page 28, it records that the accounts had been investigated by the SIT: "(i)However, these transactions were not found to have any relevance to the conspiracy to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi." The MDMA, the ATR promises without a blush, will investigate the drafts, although those transactions are already under investigation by a separate agency.

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THE MDMA's other major enterprise will be discovering if a Khalistani terrorist group was in some way involved in the assassination, with Chandraswami acting as a broker. This commitment in the ATR stemmed from Justice Jain's finding that "no definite clinching evidence establishing the link between Khalistani extremists and LTTE has come before the Commission, but the circumstances as considered above do warrant further probe." Those circumstances consist principally of the deposition of Mahant Sewa Das, a peripheral Akali politician, that Khalistan ideologue Jagjit Singh Chauhan had told him of a plan to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi. Sewa Das, said to have been recruited by former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar to negotiate dialogue with Chauhan, claimed that members of the LTTE and other terrorist groups had been present at a meeting in Chauhan's home when this disclosure was made. Just why Chauhan volunteered this information does not become evident from his account, but Justice Jain nonetheless found other reasons to find him credible.

He did so in a series of astonishing claims. On page 116 of Volume II, Justice Jain admits that the "statement of Mahant Sewa Das has not been found worthy of credence so far as the presence of representatives of the LTTE in the London meeting." This was because the politician had made no mention of their presence in pre-assassination communications with Rajiv Gandhi and the President of India, communications which had none-too-hidden political subtexts. But, Jain continues, other evidence affirms Sewa Das' basic proposition, including a joint press release issued on May 22, 1991 to the Punjabi newspaper Ajit by the Khalistani Guerilla Force and the Tamil Guerilla Force. The fact that no one had heard of either group before or subsequently, and that their claim that Rajiv Gandhi was killed using a satellite-signal triggered explosive was disproved by expert evidence, did not deter Justice Jain from coming to an astounding conclusion. "The very fact," he asserts, "of the press release having been issued the same night involving two different terrorist organisations becomes relevant and assumes importance from the point of view of establishing links between the two, and therefore it is quite possible that they may have acted in concert on the basis of which the press release was issued."

Is it? Frontline's study, admittedly brief given the constraints of time, of six 1991 volumes of the authoritative ''Punjab Police Intelligence Digest'', compiled by O.P. Sharma, the former Director-General of Police, who is now Governor, did not find a single reference to the Khalistani Guerilla Force, either as a principal organisation or as a front. Although reports did exist of Khalistani groups, by this time in need of arms and logistical support, seeking to make contact with other terrorist formations, there was no report that any such dialogue or arrangement had been entered into. But Justice Jain is willing to discredit the central thrust of the SIT finding, that the LTTE acted alone and in pursuit of its perceived interests, simply on the basis of a dubious witness whom he himself attributes only limited credence. To this, he appends Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's pre-election warning that he had "information that Rajiv's enemies will use the election period to get rid of him." Arafat's list of suspects included none that could not have been predicted by anyone who read Indian newspapers occasionally, "the LTTE or Sikh extremists". No effort was made by Justice Jain to establish Arafat's credentials on this issue, best illustrated by the Palestinian leader's recent claim that he brokered the 1972 Shimla Accord between Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

But the Khalistan spice is essential to Justice Jain's curry, for without it the ritual flaying of Subramanian Swamy would not have been possible. The Jain Report points to the Janata Party president's undisputed and controversial association with Chandraswami, but is positively ham-handed in its efforts to link him to the conspiracy. In essence, it centres around a visit Chandraswami and Subramanian Swamy are supposed to have made in June-July 1995 to London. Chandraswami, during his cross-examination by All India Congress Committee(I) counsel R.N. Mittal, was asked whether the purpose of that visit was to persuade Jagjit Singh Chauhan to turn approver. Chandraswami denied the proposition, and portions of his testimony contradicted Subramanian Swamy's. In view of these contradictions, Jain concluded: "It remains a mystery for what purpose and object both of them visited London, and it can be said that the suggestion given by R.N. Mittal to Shri Chandraswami may be true." If, as Justice Jain has insinuated, terrorists linked to Chauhan acted with Chandraswami's aid, why the godman would choose to make his way to the gallows by making Chauhan depose is far from clear, but is no more fantastic than Justice Jain's other observations.

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Why the BJP-led Government chose to ask the MDMA to investigate Subramanian Swamy's 1995 visit is unclear, since there is obviously no cogent account of what his complicity in the assassination might be. Indeed, Justice Jain's principal complaint against the politician is that he failed to disclose the sources of information he claimed to have on the assassination. The Jain Commission also expressed its ire with Subramanian Swamy's conduct as a witness. "It would appear," Volume VIII records on page 231, "that a consistent and persistent effort is there on his part not to answer the questions which are most relevant in order to find out the truth." The solution to that problem, as the ATR itself acknowledges, was available to Justice Jain under Section 5 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. Subramanian Swamy could have been compelled to give honest evidence, or else face punishment. Justice Jain preferred not to take that course, for reasons he best understands, but chose to link him insidiously with the assassination. The BJP-led Government, with which the politician has in recent times been engaged in a high-profile battle, seized on the opportunity.

Politics is also the key motivation in the ATR behind the disingenuous decision to make Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi a subject of the MDMA probe . Reference to Karunanidhi in the Report is cursory, pointing only to the fact that he was not interrogated on what Justice Jain believes were assassination-related issues. Indeed, Volume V of the Report marks a significant retreat from some of the more outrageous claims of the Interim Report. In Volume VII of that treatise, Justice Jain had argued that from "the evaluation of the material, the conclusion is irresistible that there was tacit support to the LTTE by Shri M. Karunanidhi and his Government and law enforcing agencies." This, Justice Jain's many critics had pointed out, was in part true, but could equally well have been said of a large spectrum of Tamil Nadu's political formations. Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran had gone public with displays of financial and moral support for the LTTE, and Rajiv Gandhi had himself met emissaries of the terrorist organisation in New Delhi shortly before his killing. The critique, which rested on the premise that sympathy was not the same as complicity in murder, evidently weighed on Justice Jain during his latest act of authorship.

But not on the BJP-led Government. Page 43 of the ATR deploys the findings of the Interim Report to open investigation of Karunanidhi, an unabashed concession to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Jayalalitha's political interests. The conclusions of the discredited Interim Report are used with Justice Jain's passing observation that Karunanidhi's interrogation would have been "quite relevant" on "many matters" to justify the reopening of investigation. Interestingly, on the 21 other persons the Jain Report recommends further investigation of, the ATR points out that the SIT had pursued these cases but not prosecuted them for want of evidence. "If the evidence now pointed out by the Commission," the ATR asserts quite correctly, "was considered enough to arraign the 21 persons identified by the Commission as accused, the Designated Court in the natural course and in the exercise of its statutory powers would have invoked Section 319(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code and arraigned such persons as accused."

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The ATR does not commit the MDMA to find further evidence, except in the cases of Kumaran Padmanabhan and former DMK leader Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan. Interestingly, the reason Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan was not charged by the SIT was that none of the six people she harboured were proclaimed offenders in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case at the time she gave them shelter. Given that, she was found by the SIT not to have known of her guests' complicity in the assassination, she had committed no crime related to the assassination. Those whom she harboured included proclaimed offenders in the case of the murder of Eelam Revolutionary People's Liberation Front leader K. Padmanabha in Chennai, separately entrusted to the Tamil Nadu Police for investigation. In her case, the MDMA probe will merely cover the terrain already traversed in a criminal investigation, while the agency has been given the carte blanche for a political witch-hunt against Karunanidhi.

NONE of this will surprise observers of the Jain Commission's interminable progress. The raison d'etre of the setting up of the Commission was political; Narasimha Rao set it up in the face of sober counsel in order to placate Sonia Gandhi. Through the first phase of its existence, the Jain Commission of Inquiry served as an instrument of vengeance for 10 Janpath, using the assassination as a pretext for assaults on Rajiv Gandhi's political rivals, notably Chandra Shekhar and V.P. Singh. That process reached its culmination when Congress(I) president Sitaram Kesri was pressured into bringing down the Government of Prime Minister I.K. Gujral after the Interim Report made unfounded allegations against Karunanidhi. The Congress(I), which ought to have learnt from the disastrous consequences of that decision, has now chosen to reject the ATR, but not the Jain Commission Report itself. It has discovered, to its discomfiture, that opportunism is a game two can play. The BJP-led Government is now using Justice Jain's convenient findings to assault its own political rivals and placate its coalition partners.

The real victims in the process are those who struggled against all odds to solve the Rajiv Gandhi case and pulled off what has without dispute been India's most spectacular criminal investigation and prosecution. Although the Jain Report and the ATR will not automatically lead to the subversion of the convictions secured in the Designated Court at Poonamallee near Chennai, it would be premature to assume that they will not have any impact on the appeals pending before the Supreme Court. "Judges are human beings," one anguished senior official of the SIT told Frontline. "When the Union Government, a Commission of Inquiry, and sections of media join in casting aspersions on the findings of the SIT and suggest there was something we hushed up, it will certainly introduce just that small element of doubt in the minds of the Judges, which will be in the interests of the accused." Members of intelligence agencies, who have been castigated for failure to decode intercepts pertaining to the assassination, are equally dismayed. "Any terrorist offence is the result of an intelligence failure," one official said, "but they do take place. Has any effort been made to understand the volume of work we have, and the resources we have to deal with it?"

There are no answers for these questions. Tragically, the sole beneficiaries of the Jain Commission of Inquiry, and the politicians who have sponsored it may be the 26 persons whose appeals are now pending in the Supreme Court.

Fallout in Tamil Nadu

THE Action Taken Report (ATR) is not so much an engagement with the Jain Commission of Inquiry's findings; it is a two-pronged political weapon. But there is reason to believe that both these prongs have already been twisted to point backwards. The first was to enable the BJP's coalition partner, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), to use the Jain Commission's Report to attack the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Government in Tamil Nadu. The second was to drive a wedge between Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy and AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha, thus bringing to an end the former's efforts to bring down the BJP-led Government. But Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M. Karunanidhi has so far wrested the political initiative, attacking the ATR as a "fraud". Even worse for the BJP, public opinion has been unmoved by the ATR, and media opinion has generally condemned its recommendations.

Karunanidhi was among the first to react to the ATR. His central point was that there was nothing in the Interim Report or the Final Report that attributed to either him or the DMK a role in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. He pointed out that his name did not figure among the 21 individuals against whom Justice M.C. Jain had recommended further investigation. The sole reference to Karunanidhi is the observation that he, along with former Prime Ministers Chandra Shekhar and P.V. Narasimha Rao, former Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan, Subramanian Swamy and Jayalalitha, "was also not interrogated" by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that investigated the assassination. "On many matters," the ambiguous second sentence referring to Karunanidhi reads, "his interrogation was quite relevant."

But the ATR nonetheless recommended that Karunanidhi be investigated by the MDMA the Government has established, by means of a simple ruse. It points to observations made by Justice Jain in his controversial Interim Report. Volume VII of that Report had concluded that "the conclusion is irresistible that there was tacit support to the LTTE by Shri M. Karunanidhi and his Government, and law enforcing agencies" (Volume VII, page 944, paragraph 73.32). "Taking such observations in the Interim Report into consideration together with the misgivings expressed by the Commission in its Final Report," the ATR records, "the Government have decided to entrust the Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency with the responsibility to decide how to proceed further in the matter." Reading the ATR as the vanguard of an effort to dismiss his Government, Karunanidhi "warned" the BJP that if it "in any way tried to disturb the DMK Government, it will be akin to stirring a hornet's nest."

The next day, Karunanidhi escalated his attack on the ATR and the BJP. In an obvious reference to Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko, the Chief Minister complained that the Jain Report exonerated a person who had links with the LTTE by making a distinction between "support for the LTTE leader Prabakaran and the LTTE's cause" and the "conspiracy" to kill Rajiv Gandhi. Karunanidhi added: "If one goes by their present test, the Kapur Commission on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination should have traced the events since the birth of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha." Karunanidhi also found it "ridiculous" that out of 21 suspects, only one person other than DMK legislator Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan was to be probed by the MDMA. SubbulakshmiJagadeesan, he said, had been acquitted in Court for the offence to be investigated now.

FOR the Congress(I), the ATR involved a painful negotiation with its own record on the issue. Having used Justice Jain's Interim Report to topple the second United Front Ministry headed by I.K. Gujral last year on the basis of the Interim Report's observations that the DMK Government had, between 1989 and 1991, lent "tacit support" to the LTTE, now it was not in any position to reject Jain's Final Report outright. But political compulsions dictated that the party maintain a functional relationship with the DMK. After a meeting, the CWC said it accepted the findings of the Jain Commission Report but rejected the ATR. This formula was by any standard of reasoning unsatisfactory, but it was perhaps the best that could be expected under the circumstances.

Perhaps paradoxically, elements of the ATR also served to embarrass the AIADMK. The attacks on Subramanian Swamy forced his one-time ally Jayalalitha to drop the politician like a hot potato. "It is for Swamy to face the allegations against him and defend himself," she said. At least this part of the BJP's objectives had been met. Subramanian Swamy has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of the "adverse remarks" made against him in the Final Report.

Informed political sources told Frontline that when the Union Cabinet discussed the draft ATR, the AIADMK Ministers present insisted that the Final Report's observations were enough to bring Karunanidhi within the ambit of the proposed MDMA. Leaders of the BJP proved only too willing to heed the voice of Jayalalitha's proxies. One reason for their eagerness was that their allies were unhappy at the earlier official rejection of Jayalalitha's demand that the DMK Government be dismissed. Senior BJP strategists believe that the ATR has bought them time from the worst-case scenario of Jayalalitha entering the orbit of Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi.

Jayalalitha duly deployed the gift offered to her by the BJP as a weapon of war. She pointed to "serious allegations" made in the Interim Report against Karunanidhi, including the charge that he and his associates had a "deep nexus" with the LTTE. The Jain Commission had said that the LTTE had converted Tamil Nadu into a "rear base" when Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister between 1989 and 1991. The MDMA, Jayalalitha demanded, should investigate Karunanidhi on the basis of the "serious observations" in the Interim Report and the "misgivings" in the Final Report. She also called for a First Information Report to be filed immediately against Karunanidhi, and for his resignation from office.

The deportation drive

The Maharashtra Government has suspended the deportation of alleged illegal immigrants from Bangladesh but insists that it will send back those people who do not provide proof of citizenship.

THE Maharashtra Government has suspended until October 1 the drive to deport "Bangladeshis" allegedly living as illegal immigrants in Mumbai. Chief Minister Manohar Joshi announced this at a press conference on August 1 after a three-member Trinamul Congress delegation, which was ostensibly on a fact-finding mission, met him.

The deportation controversy broke out after thousands of protesters, led by Rabin Ghosh, a Forward Bloc member of the West Bengal Assembly, attacked the Kurla-Howrah Express carrying 34 alleged illegal Bangladeshi immigrants at Uluberia station in West Bengal on July 23. It resulted in a stand-off between the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government in Maharashtra and the Left Front Government in West Bengal and, at the national level, between the Hindutva camp and the secular forces.

The suspension of the deportation operation seems to have been designed to boost the Trinamul Congress' stock in its West Bengal base by way of a quid pro quo: before Joshi made the announcement, delegation leader Ajit Panja, a former Union Minister, in effect told a press conference that there seemed to be nothing very wrong with the deportation operation and that the West Bengal Government, particularly Home Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, had behaved irresponsibly, needlessly vitiating the atmosphere.

According to K.C. Shrivastav, Maharashtra's Additional Chief Secretary (Home), the suspension of the operations pertains only to the actual despatch of the "Bangladeshis" to the border, to be handed over to the Border Security Force (BSF). He told Frontline that the process leading to the deportation, including identification and investigation of suspects, would however, continue.

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The Calcutta High Court, through its orders passed on July 24 and 27, has already stayed until mid-August the deportation drive. The Maharashtra Government's understanding of the orders, however, is that they apply only to the nine persons who sought the court's protection. While the West Bengal Government and the secular forces say that the expulsion of Bengali Muslims, who are Indian nationals, is being carried out under the pretext of weeding out illegal aliens, the Maharashtra Government, supported by the BJP-led Government at the Centre, has asserted that all the deportees are Bangladeshi infiltrators identified as such through a process in which the judiciary has a role.

What makes it difficult to accept the Shiv Sena-BJP Government's protestations at face value, granted that the ranks of the deportees include a few Hindus, is the known anti-Muslim stance of the Hindutva forces. The general awareness of this stance lends credibility to the assertion of many of the victims that they are Bengali-speaking Indians and not Bangladeshis.

Indications are that the State Government has grossly overestimated the number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Mumbai. Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde is on record as having said that there are more than one lakh such immigrants in the city. On the other hand, the 1991 census found that the total Bengali-speaking population in Maharashtra was 1,61,497. A spokesman of the office of the Director of Census Operations (Maharashtra) told Frontline that the district-wise break-up of this figure was being worked out. Asked whether the question of the Bengali-speaking people's nationality had been canvassed during the course of enumeration, he replied in the negative.

The State Government has put out figures to show that Bangladeshis illegally residing in Mumbai were being deported on a regular basis long before the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance assumed power. According to those figures, while 582 persons were deported in 1998 up to July 24, in all 8,013 persons have been deported since 1982.

But the figures tell a tale different from the one the Government wants them to. The largest number of people deported in any year before the Shiv Sena-BJP combine took office is 750, in 1991. Only in one other year, 1990, was the 700 mark crossed. On the other hand, the figure for 1996, the Manohar Joshi Government's first full year in office, is 771 and that for 1997 is 806. The deportation of 582 "Bangladeshis" this year took place in just 205 days. Forward projection provides a figure of 1,035 for the full year.

By the Government's own admission, 96 persons on the deportation list were put on trains bound for West Bengal in just three days, between July 20 and 22. It is futile for the Government, therefore, to pretend that the deportation operations were not stepped up.

It is conjectured that the intensification of the drive is directly connected with the approach of the August 16 deadline for the tabling in the Legislative Assembly of the report of the Srikrishna Commission, which inquired into the communal riots in Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993. The speculation is based on reports to the effect that the commission has indicted Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and other leaders of the party.

How does the Mumbai Police identify suspected illegal immigrants? Additional Commissioner of Police Raj Khilnani said that the beat staff of individual police stations would collect information. After preliminary enquiries, the police stations hand over the information to the Special Branch of the city police. Inspectors and sub-inspectors of the Special Branch then pursue the enquiries. The suspects would be asked to furnish documentary evidence of their citizenship status.

Stating that Section 9 of the Foreigners Act, 1946, placed the burden of proof on the suspect, Shrivastav said that any one of at least six categories of documents was accepted as proof of citizenship. These included birth certificates, domicile certificates, school leaving certificates, ration cards, identity cards issued by the Election Commission and passports. Asked how ration cards and school leaving certificates could constitute proof of citizenship, the Additional Chief Secretary said that the State Government had adopted a liberal approach. On the other hand, Khilnani said that ration cards by themselves would not be accepted as proof of nationality.

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Suspects who are unable to furnish the relevant documents are produced before a metropolitan magistrate, who is given the police report. Ordinarily, the magistrate would remand the suspects for a week, during which period a friend, relative or legal representative of a suspect may procure one or more of the required documents. While Khilnani said that the time given was a week, liable to be extended to a fortnight if the need for extension is explained to the satisfaction of the magistrate, Shrivastav said that the suspects would be given a fortnight to procure evidence and that in rare cases even an extension for a week would be considered. Only if no proof of Indian citizenship was provided at the end of the time granted would a suspect be deported, Shrivastav and Khilnani maintained.

The places where the police search for illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are shantytowns and concentrations of pavement-dwellings on the harbour branch of the Central Railway's suburban services. Bengali-speaking slum-dwellers and pavement-dwellers, most of them Muslims, eke out a living in the zari and jewellery trades and as casual workers. Even Indian citizens among slum and pavement dwellers do not ordinarily keep documentary proof of their citizenship for production at short notice.

One can be an Indian citizen by virtue of birth in the country, by virtue of either of one's parents having been born in the country, or through registration (naturalisation).

The registration of births is not a very common practice in all parts of the country. So a Muslim from West Bengal who is resident in a Mumbai slum may not have either his own birth certificate or the birth certificate of either of his parents. Not too many of them would have gone to school. And voter identity cards have been issued to only a fraction of the total number of voters. Evidence of ownership of land in a West Bengal village may be accepted as proof of Indian citizenship, but how many slum-dwellers would own land?

Suppose the evidence of a suspect's Indian citizenship is available in the records of the panchayat of a West Bengal village, will a slum-dweller in police custody be in a position to get someone else to procure the evidence? .

There have been several complaints of policemen picking up Bengali-speaking Muslims at random and abusing the procedure in order to extort money. There have also been complaints of policemen destroying documents on the ground that they are fake.

Mahendra Singh, Secretary of the Mumbai District Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that he had learnt after a visit to Bangalipura that the police declined to accept Bengali-language documents as proof of Indian citizenship and demanded an English version. According to his information, only 10 of the 34 deportees in the train that was attacked at Uluberia were Bangladeshis.

The issue provoked a storm in the Maharashtra legislature. Notice of a motion of no-confidence against Assembly Speaker Datta Nalavade was given on the ground of bias in the conduct of proceedings pertaining to the issue. The Chief Minister held out the prospect of a Maharashtra bandh in protest against West Bengal's stand on the question and threatened to withhold protection to those who opposed the bandh. Both he and his Deputy Chief Minister have asserted more than once that the Government will persist with the policy of deporting illegal immigrants.

Protest in West Bengal

A CROWD of about 3,000 people stopped the Howrah-bound Kurla Express from Mumbai at Ulubearia, 65 km from Calcutta, on the afternoon of July 23, demanding that a batch of 34 persons in the train be set free. These passengers, who included seven women, were Bengali-speaking Muslims, all zari workers. They had been "identified as Bangladeshis" and sent by the Maharashtra Government, with police escort, to be deported to Bangladesh at West Bengal's border town of Bongaon.

A section of the crowd even climbed on to the train, and the Maharashtra police personnel who were in the train fired five rounds in the air. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) too fired blank shots.Veteran Forward Bloc leader and Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Uluberia, Rabin Ghosh, who led the protesters, claimed that the deportees had valid documents to prove that they hailed from Barast, Bangaon, Uluberia, Howrah and Panchla in West Bengal.

On July 24, the RPF personnel, led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police, removed from the Down Kurla Express at Kharagpur another group of 38 Bengali-speaking Muslim workers coming from Mumbai, apprehending trouble. The persons, who included 13 Bangladeshis, were granted bail by the Fifth Judicial Magistrate of the Midnapore Subdivisional Court.The Left Front Government in West Bengal has taken exception to the way in which the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government of Maharashtra has been deporting Bengali-speaking Muslim zari workers from Mumbai, branding them Bangladeshis.

Muslim residents of Howrah, Midnapore, Hooghly and 24-Parganas districts are anxiously waiting for news from their relatives in Mumbai who are mainly engaged as zari, diamond, platinum and gold workers. Alauddin Mollah, one of them, told Frontline that he had not heard from his brother Salim Ali for over a month. He had heard about the raids conducted in parts of Mumbai where Muslim workers from West Bengal live.

The workers returning from Mumbai alleged that the Maharashtra Police made large-scale arrests of Muslims workers, mistaking all of them for Bangladeshi infiltrators simply because they spoke Bengali. "On July 9, the police raided a place under the Satra police station in Mumbai when my friends were asleep. The minute the police heard the terrified workers speak Bengali, they herded them into a van," Sheikh Dilwar, a resident of Bahira in Howrah district, said. Dilwar escaped being picked up since he was sleeping some distance away. News of the incident spread, and within days, almost all Bengali workers in Maharashtra left.

Immediately after the Uluberia incident, the West Bengal Government lodged a protest with the Centre and the Maharashtra Government on the issue of "deporting infiltrators". Describing the Shiv Sena-BJP Government's action as uncivilised, Chief Minister Jyoti Basu asked: "Are they dealing with cattle?" Admitting that infiltration from Bangladesh to West Bengal has taken place, he said that his Government had discussed the matter several times in the State Assembly. Steps were being taken to detect and deport such infiltrators, he said.

However, Jyoti Basu said that preliminary police reports revealed that among those sent back by Maharashtra, only five or six persons did not have proof that they were Indian citizens.

Reacting sharply to Union Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi's statement that the West Bengal Government was "lackadaisical" about detecting and deporting illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, West Bengal Home (Police) Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya pointed out that the Maharashtra Police had earlier pushed about 800 people back to Bangladesh from West Bengal's border areas without informing the State Government about the action. He asserted that West Bengal had always taken action against Bangladeshi infiltrators, but not in this manner. The State Government would prosecute Bangladeshis found to be staying in West Bengal without valid papers and hand them over to the Border Security Force.

Bhattacharya, who is also the acting Chief Minister, told Frontline that the State Government would seek an explanation from the Shiv Sena-BJP Government as to why it did not seek the West Bengal Government's permission before sending its police personnel to West Bengal. "Even if some of the deportees are Bangladeshis, this is no way to send them back. Is a Deputy Commissioner of the Maharashtra Police authorised to decide on deporting illegal immigrants? Do they have sufficient proof to establish that they are Bangladeshis?"

Bhattacharya said that the State authorities had been given the impression that the Mumbai Police had a court order, but it was found that there was none.

The Left Front Government has moved the Calcutta High Court against the Maharashtra Government's deportation of those whom the West Bengal Government believes are residents of the State. Meanwhile, Justice Samaresh Banerjee of the High Court passed an order on July 24 restraining the police and other respondents from deporting three petitioners to Bangladesh or any other country. The petitioners produced voters' lists and other relevant documents to show that they were citizens of India. They were among the 34 people whom the Maharashtra Police was escorting to Bongaon.

In another case, Justice Banerjee directed the West Bengal Police on July 27 to allow six petitioners to go to their houses in Howrah after taking an undertaking from them that they would not leave their houses without leave of the court. The Judge passed this order on the application of six deportees who had been handed over by the Maharashtra Police to the West Bengal police with the request that they be deported to Bangladesh.

Political parties in West Bengal, including the Congress(I), are angry with Maharashtra's move. Buddhadev Bhattacharya was, however, not pleased with Congress(I) supporters' action of defacing the walls of Maharashtra Nivas in South Calcutta. The Forward Bloc, a partner in the Left Front Government, sent to Mumbai a four-member team led by State Irrigation Minister Debabrata Banerjee to study the condition of the zari workers from Bengal in Maharashtra. A Trinamul Congress team led by Ajit Panja, Member of Parliament, also visited Mumbai in this regard.

A murder and an attack

An attack on N. Sankariah, Tamil Nadu State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), at Chidambaram on July 28 has drawn widespread protests.

CHIDAMBARAM, the pilgrim centre and university town 200 km away from Chennai, is panic-stricken. Fear stalks its streets after the murder of R. Palanivel, a young activist of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), on July 9 and the vicious attack on N. Sankariah, secretary of the Tamil Nadu State Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on July 28.

The latest incident of the attack on Sankariah's car and other vehicles that followed it, carrying the leaders of the CPI(M) and other parties, took place in the town as the leaders were going to address an all-party public meeting that was organised to condemn Palanivel's murder. Armed goondas smashed the windshield of the Tata Sumo car in which Sankariah was travelling. Its driver, K.S. Sampath, escaped death by ducking when a knife was aimed at his neck.

Sankariah called the attack the result of "a conspiracy and an attempt to murder" him because the CPI(M) was in the vanguard of a movement against the Vandaiyar family of nearby Kavarapattu village. He blamed G.M. Premkumar Vandaiyar and his younger brother G.M. Sridhar Vandaiyar for the "planned attack" and said that a "mastermind was at work" behind it. The brothers, he alleged, were "a big mafia"and Palanivel was murdered because "he tried to break their monopoly"in their business, which included, among other things, the running of liquor shops, a cycle stand near the municipal bus terminus, a pay-and-use toilet at the bus terminus and sand quarrying.

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Leaders of various political parties, including the CPI(M), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Communist Party of India (CPI), the MDMK, the Congress(I), the Tamilaga Rajiv Congress (TRC) and the Dravidar Kazhagam (D.K.), handed over a memorandum to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in Chennai on July 21 alleging that the Vandaiyar brothers were responsible for the murder of Palanivel and demanding that they be arrested.

The attack on the 77-year old Sankariah took place at a railway level crossing, a couple of hundred metres from a cinema, Mariappa Theatre, owned by Sridhar Vandaiyar.

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As the gate opened after a train passed, Sankariah's car moved forward, and a tipper truck carrying about 50 goons came from the opposite direction. They attacked the car with sickles, knives and stones. Sankariah said: "Four or five cars were coming behind. So we drove forward. They tried to hack the front portion of the Tata Sumo. An aruval (a long, curved knife) was aimed at Sampath's neck but he escaped by leaning back in his seat." Sampath was admitted to hospital with injuries caused by glass splinters.

The goondas also smashed a car belonging to the Cuddalore district committee of the CPI(M).

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In a statement, Karunanidhi said that the Government "will take impartial action against those who take to violence and it will not give any quarter to hegemonistic fanaticism." AIADMK general secretary Jayalalitha demanded that impartial action be taken against those connected with the incident. Leaders of the CPI, the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), the Congress(I), the MDMK, the TRC and the Tamil Nadu Rashtriya Janata Dal denounced the attack. CPI(M) cadres staged a road roko agitation in different parts of Cuddalore district and organised protest demonstrations all over the State.

A few days later the Chidambaram police seized the truck that carried the assailants. It had been repainted, and the initials "GMS" on the windshield had been crudely painted over.

According to Sankariah, what was most shocking was that the attack took place despite the presence of a large number of police personnel around the theatre. He describe as an "eyewash" the arrest of 15 persons. He alleged that the assailants came from the direction of the theatre and that stones were thrown also from the theatre. He demanded that goondas billeted in the cinema and in the marriage halls owned by the Vandaiyar family be evicted. The same day (July 29), the police arrested 43 persons from a marriage hall under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.

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Sankariah demanded that those leading the movement against the Vandaiyar family, including the CPI(M)'s Cuddalore district secretary K. Balakrishnan and Chidambaram town secretary B. Ibramsah alias Moosa, be given protection. Balakrishnan had received death threats, Sankariah pointed out.

According to Balakrishnan, the goons could not get close to Sankariah because the narrow road was divided in the middle by bitumen drums. Six vehicles were damaged, he said.

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The same evening, unrelated to the attack on Sankariah's car, violence broke out in different parts of Chidambaram town. Crowds directed their fury at shops belonging to the supporters of the Vandaiyar brothers. A group of people ransacked the house of an advocate, K. Venkataraman, who it was rumoured would file an application seeking anticipatory bail for the Vandaiyar brothers. (On August 6, another advocate moved anticipatory bail applications for the brothers before the Cuddalore District and Sessions Judge S.R. Singharavelu. The Judge rejected them.) Several buses were damaged in stone-throwing. Close to the venue of the public meeting, the police fired buckshots and used teargas to disperse angry crowds.

The public meeting drew an unprecedented crowd. Those who addressed the meeting and demanded action against the Vandaiyar brothers included Sankariah, CPI State secretary R. Nallakannu, PMK leader Dr.S. Ramadoss, TMC leader and Chidambaram Municipal Chairman V.M.S. Chandrapandian, Dr. Durai Krishnamurthi of the DMK, T.M. Selvaganapathy of the AIADMK, MDMK leader Gingee N. Ramachandran and BJP State general secretary L. Ganesan.

What has angered the CPI(M) leadership is that the case registered by the police does not include a charge under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The charges pertain only to Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) read with Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act.

Asked about this, Cuddalore District Super intendent of Police C. Sylendra Babu said that Sampath did not give a complaint that would attract the provisions of Section 307. He said that the 15 arrested persons had said that they attacked the cars in Sankariah's convoy because they had information that a convoy of cars had gone to Kavarapattu to attack the house of the Vandaiyar brothers. At the level crossing, when they saw a group of cars flying red flags, they thought that these were returning after carrying out the attack, they said.

Eventually, the Chidambaram police did include Section 307 in the charge on the basis of a statement given by a CPI(M) activist, Zakir Hussain, who was in Sankariah's car. Zakir Hussain said that the attackers had raised slogans threatening to "finish off" the CPI(M) leader.

THE Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), which has been asked to investigate Palanivel's murder, has announced a reward for information leading to the arrest of the two brothers Sridhar Vandaiyar and Premkumar Vandaiyar, who have been cited as accused in the case. The CB-CID, led by Deputy Inspector-General of Police K. Muthukaruppan and Superintendent of Police K. Thukkaiandi, have launched a hunt for them and three others - Thamba, Sivakumar and Suresh.

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The petition presented by party leaders to the Chief Minister accused the Vandaiyar family of involvement in smuggling, the sale of illicit liquor, monopoly bidding for liquor shops, the municipal cycle stand and sand quarrying, and stationing more than 200 goondas in the cinema and marriage halls owned by them. The memorandum added: "People from all parts of Chidambaram live in fear. There is no guarantee for the life of anybody. Although the police are aware of their (Vandaiyars') atrocities, there is no history of their taking any action."

Palanivel, secretary of the Kumaratchi Panchayat Union unit of the MDMK, dared to break the monopoly of the Vandaiyar family in bidding in auctions for liquor shops, the cycle stand, the pay-and-use toilets and the collection of fee from buses entering the bus stand.

Palanivel challenged the Vandaiyar family's monopoly in every way. According to Municipal Chairman Chandrapandian, Sridhar Vandaiyar "banned" the screening of the film "Marumalarchi" in a cinema hall in Chidambaram in January because it glorified a person belonging to the rival Padayachi community. Palanivel and others took the film cans in a procession and saw to it that the film was screened.

Palanivel was hacked to death on July 9 as he came out of the bath in Sharjahan Complex, a lodge in a busy area of Chidambaram town, where he stayed. The group of men who attacked him drove away in a van even as people watched in horror. The police later seized the van sans the number plate.

The Cuddalore police, acting on a tip-off, detained seven persons at the Cuddalore railway station and these persons readily confessed that they had murdered Palanivel. Mean while, the case was transferred to the CB-CID. Balakrishnan said:"When the CB-CID questioned these men, it was found that they did not know how Palanivel looked or where the lodge (Sharjahan Complex) was. Palanivel had 24 cut injuries. But these men said that they hacked him only two or three times and he died."

These men, all of whom worked for Sridhar Vandaiyar's family, were later let off. "The purpose of their surrender, the question of who directed them (to do so) and other questions are under investigation," the DIG said.

Violence broke out when Palanivel's body was taken in a procession on July 10 to his village, Kathirimedu. A cinema owned by the Vandaiyar family was stoned. Shops run by the Vandayars' supporters were damaged and vehicles were attacked. Effigies of Sridhar Vandaiyar were burnt at several places.

Balakrishnan alleged that the Vandaiyar family had exercised a tight grip over a number of villages around their village and organised a network of rowdy elements to help in shady activities such as smuggling since the 1940s. They set up kangaroo courts (kattai panchayat, in Tamil) to settle local disputes. Balakrishnan said: "Since they wanted to expand their hegemonistic boundaries, they entered Chidambaram town and started interfering in all kinds of matters." They acquired cinema halls and a marriage mantap in the town. They set up prawn farms and hatcheries and controlled the trade.

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In early 1998, Palanivel stepped in. He organised a "syndicate" to break the monopoly of the Vandaiyar family. Chandrapandian said: "The rowdies who were employed to run the cycle stand and the toilet often fought with villagers. Village elders were humiliated. They (the syndicate) wanted to stop all this."

According to Chandrapandian, the cycle stand fetched an auction sum of Rs. 24 lakhs this year, while the Vandaiyars had bid for it last year for Rs.1.65 lakhs. The pay-and-use toilet was auctioned last year for Rs.2.45 lakhs against Rs. 7 lakhs this year. Chandrapandian said: "In 1996, all the bids (by the Vandaiyars) fetched only Rs.16 lakhs. In 1997, they brought in Rs.37 lakhs. This year, all the bids together brought a revenue of about Rs.80 lakhs. That is how we could pay salaries to the staff of the municipality and we also became a selection grade municipality."

Balakrishnan said a liquor shop near the bus stand was bid (by the Vandaiyar family) for Rs.1.25 lakhs last year but it fetched Rs.11.45 lakhs this year. "So you can imagine the loss for the Government (in the preceding years) from the bids for 30 to 40 liquor shops in Chidambaram, Kattumannarkovil and Cuddalore taluks," Balakrishnan said.

One of those present at Mariappa Theatre, talking to Frontline, alleged that Vanniyars were creating trouble, under an all-party umbrella, because they resented the rise of the Vandaiyar community. They said that the houses of Vandaiyars at Tiruvasaladi village were burnt down.

Balakrishnan denied that there was any communal motive in these incidents. "We are not opposed to the Mukkulathor or the Vandaiyar community. The point is that Vanniyars form a majority here and the Vandaiyars are trying to split them."

Superintendent of Police Sylendra Babu, who quickly brought the incendiary situation in Chidambaram town under control, denied that there was any communal motive behind the incidents. In all, 62 persons have been arrested.

Cuddalore district Collector Sandeep Saxena also said that the situation in the town had come to normal.

A low-key summit

Leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meet in Colombo in the backdrop of rising tensions in the subcontinent and the economic meltdown in the neighbouring region.

THE 10th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held in Colombo between July 29 and 31. Sri Lanka was given the privilege of hosting the summit since this year marked the 50th anniversary of its Independence. The Sri Lankan Government went out of its way to ensure that the summit went off smoothly. Colombo was virtually sealed off for three days, and a national holiday was declared on the inaugural day of the summit.

The summit was held against the backdrop of rising tensions in the subcontinent and the economic meltdown in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. Predictably, even before the summit began there was a scaling down of expectations, and the hopes raised at the Male summit last year had all but evaporated. It was made clear at the conclusion of the ministerial meetings that preceded the summit that the much-heralded deadline for the establishment of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was no longer feasible. SAFTA was supposed to have been in place by the year 2001.

Even before the summit began, Pakistan began to lobby for the inclusion of the "peace and security" issue on the agenda. Although this demand did not find any takers, there was a realisation, widely reflected in the Sri Lankan media, that for the SAARC to be a meaningful organisation and not just "a talking shop", nuclear and bilateral issues should figure in the formal talks.

In an effort to pre-empt any hiccups during the proceedings, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, who addressed mediapersons before the summit, said that the summit would focus primarily on the challenges and problems faced by South Asia in the context of globalisation. He said that the summit would, within this broad context, look at ways and means to secure a more equitable distribution of the benefits of globalisation and respond to issues of debt, intellectual property, market access and conditionalities imposed by others. He also expressed satisfaction over the fact that SAARC member-states had articulated a common position at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva in May.

Alluding to the nuclear issue and Kashmir, Kadirgamar said that SAARC nations were not in favour of getting bogged down in conflicts that are "perceived, rather than real". He said that the summit would fundamentally and primarily be an economic one. Strongly defending the SAARC Charter, which prohibits discussions at the forums on bilateral issues, Kadirgamar said that he would prefer to continue with the tradition of informal dialogue on contentious political issues. According to him, political discussions had the potential to become divisive. "We must," he said, "concentrate on the matters on hand, matters that deal with the welfare of the people."

Even within ASEAN, which SAARC looks upon as a model, there have been calls for formal discussions on bilateral issues that crop up between member-countries. The unravelling of authoritarian governments in South-East Asia could lead ASEAN to becoming a forum that concerns itself also with the political realities that confronts its members. For instance, it will be difficult for ASEAN to sweep under the carpet the territorial disputes between its member-states. The economic crisis in the region has brought to the fore other potentially explosive issues as well, such as the expulsion of thousands of Indonesians from Malaysia.

AS expected, the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in May cast a shadow over the summit, despite Kadirgamar's efforts to downplay the issue. Before the SAARC leaders met formally at the summit, the South Asia Forum for Human Rights sent a "People's memorandum" highlighting its "dismay and alarm" over the nuclear tests. The memorandum, which stated that there could be no justification for the tests, was signed by prominent intellectuals and academicians from SAARC countries. The signatories urged India and Pakistan to sign immediately a bilateral treaty of peace enshrining the principles of non-aggression - declaring 'no first use' of nuclear weapons and abjuring the use of force to settle bilateral differences. They called on the South Asian states to engage in a constructive dialogue with all the known nuclear weapon states in order to create a non-discriminatory, transparent treaty for global nuclear disarmament and destruction of all nuclear weapons.

IN a speech she gave after taking over as the Chairperson of SAARC, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga told the delegates that although the issue of nuclear tests was not on the summit's official agenda, it could not be ignored. She reminded the delegates that the 1995 New Delhi SAARC summit had given a call to give utmost priority to the issue of nuclear disarmament. At the same time, she said, South Asia's nuclear concerns could not be divorced from the global security environment.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was more forthright. She described the nuclear tests as a development that could have been avoided. In her address, she said: "Nothing should be allowed to detract from our main focus and emphasis, namely combating widespread problems of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease in our region."

Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom pointed out that the SAARC had in all its previous summits called for nuclear disarmament. "Recent developments in South Asia have brought new concerns to the fore," he said. "In a global village, we all have a stake in the peace dividend." He added that the need for vigilance had now become greater.

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Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had come to Colombo to wrest the diplomatic initiative from New Delhi. He tried to shift the focus to the nuclear issue. He said that the summit was being held in "the sombre backdrop of a dangerous security environment" in the region and that "the shockwaves from the test have heightened fears about peace and stability in South Asia." He said that it was an "inescapable reality" that South Asia had become nuclearised. While speaking to the media, Sharif claimed that many SAARC leaders privately endorsed his views. Indirectly blaming India for the deteriorating security situation in the subcontinent, he said that left to itself, Pakistan would never have embarked on what he described as a "perilous course".

Nawaz Sharif said that SAARC was facing its greatest challenge since its inception and added that the time had come for it to redefine its role and priorities. According to Sharif, the primary reason for the failure of SAARC to live up to expectation was that it failed to discuss political problems. He said that peace was inseparable from progress and development and without peace, beneficial regional cooperation would have only limited success. In this context, he proposed a Peace, Security and Development Initiative for South Asia. According to Sharif, this Initiative should focus on bilateral issues and problems between member-states and promote economic progress in the regional context.

However, Sharif's Peace, Development and Security Initiative was not endorsed by other leaders, who chose to swear by the SAARC charter which excludes discussions on contentious bilateral issues. The Sri Lankan President diplomatically conveyed to Sharif that his proposal had not been submitted in time for it to be included in the official agenda. She, however, expressed the hope that it would receive the formal attention of the 1999 summit, scheduled to be held in Kathmandu.

In his speech, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that SAARC's agenda must continue to focus on strengthening the framework of regional economic cooperation. He said that it was the duty of the member-countries to ensure collectively that the momentum towards trade liberalisation was maintained and the negotiations for the South Asian Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA) were concluded quickly. India, he said, was willing to take concrete steps to speed up trade liberalistation in the region. Amidst applause, he announced that India was removing restrictions on over 2,000 products to help other SAARC countries gain access to Indian markets and increase their exports. He also announced that Indian negotiators had been given a mandate to offer significant tariff reductions during the SAPTA negotiations.

Touching upon the nuclear issue, Vajpayee said that the ''apprehensions'' about the recent developments in South Asia were misplaced and that the developments would not cause a setback to SAARC. He said that India was strongly committed to global nuclear disarmament, and added that India's security, as well as that of the rest of the world, would be best ensured in a nuclear weapons-free environment.

THE Colombo Declaration issued at the end of the summit pledged to work towards raising the living standards of the 1.3 billion inhabitants of the region. The SAARC leaders agreed to combat the trafficking in women and children, to draft a convention for the promotion of child welfare and to develop a social charter that will focus on poverty eradication, population stabilisation and human resource development. The leaders called for eradicating illiteracy in the region through cooperative endeavours within the SAARC framework. The Colombo Declaration condemned the exploitation of children by terrorist groups. The Indian viewpoint appeared to have prevailed on the issue of peace and stability. The leaders were of the view that stability, peace and security in South Asia could not be considered in isolation from the global security environment. They said that though the danger of a global nulcear conflagration had abated, states continued to maintain huge arsenals of nuclear weapons.

The much-heralded report of the Group of Eminent Persons (GEP) was released on the last day of the summit. The GEP's mandate was to prepare a report on the progress made by SAARC since its inception. The report stated that cooperation had been hindered by a lack of political will and that the Association was still very far from its goal of maturing into a regional economic grouping.

Expressing concern over the nuclear tests, the report stated that the consequent escalation of tension in the region could impede the progress of regional cooperation. The GEP report also observed that areas such as energy, manufacturing services, banking and finance were still outside the SAARC umbrella. The report pointed out that in many cases, even decisions taken at the highest political level continued to remain unimplemented.

Postponed polls

The Sri Lankan Government postpones the provincial council elections and declares a state of Emergency throughout the country, inviting controversy.

SRI LANKA's electoral system ran into yet another obstacle when President Chandrika Kumaratunga announced the postponement of the provincial council elections scheduled for August 28. While the announcement itself did not come as a surprise to a nation which had witnessed a debate on the issue for over a month, the method adopted and the reasons cited for the postponement have come under criticism.

Sri Lanka's provincial councils are a byproduct of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, which provided for the setting up of these elected bodies as a second tier of government in a unitary state. The accord provided for the temporary merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces, bringing the number of provinces to eight. Elections were to have been held in five of these provinces. The three provinces that were excluded were the temporarily merged North-Eastern province (on account of the ongoing war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam there) and the Southern and North-Western provinces (since the terms of office of the present councils are yet to expire).

The Government has taken the stand that the current security situation in the country is not conducive to elections, on account of the internal war. It also argued that electioneering could expose the contestants to grave danger. The Govern ment's stand was supported by statements issued by the law-enforcement authorities who said that they did not have enough security personnel to ensure peaceful polling. Sections of the Buddhist clergy said that the military offensive in the North should not be weakened at any cost.

However, those who oppose the Government's move on the grounds that the Government was thwarting a democratic process are of the opinion that it should conduct the elections to allow the people to choose their representatives. According to critics, the real reason for the Government's decision is the fear of faring badly in the elections, which could in turn affect its prospects in more important elections such as elections to Parliament or an early presidential poll.

The slender majority of the ruling People's Alliance in Parliament requires the ruling coalition to depend on the issue-based support given by parties such as the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and former Tamil militant groups that have turned to parliamentary politics to push through legislation and effect the routine extensions of the Emergency in the North-East. Unable to push through its constitutional reforms package (the package is described as far-reaching by its proponents and inadequate by its opponents) which requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament, the Government does not have much to show in terms of resolving the ethnic crisis, except good intentions. It is, however, doubtful whether such well-meaning intentions will help get votes. On the military side, Operation Jayasikuru, which is in progress in the North, could well have an important political role to play. If the armed forces succeed in securing the highway connecting the Jaffna peninsula to the rest of the Island, the Government would have something concrete to show the people. However, with the stalemate continuing on the constitutional front and no victory in sight in the battlefield, the ruling coalition has little to show. On the contrary, the Opposition is in a position to highlight the Government's failure in a whole range of issues.

THAT the Government planned to postpone the provincial elections was clear from the time it sought the Opposition United National Party's (UNP) support to amend the Constitution to postpone the polls and avoid the imposition of a state of emergency. The UNP's response was that it would do so if the presidential poll was advanced and held before the constitutionally stipulated minimum time of four years of the six-year term of the presidency expired. However, since the Government did not evince any interest in this proposal, the matter was left at that.

After the nomination process was over, the Election Commissioner issued a formal statement that the elections would be held on August 28. However, signs of election-related political activity, such as public meetings and the putting up of posters, were by and large non-existent. During the parliamentary debate on the extension of the Emergency in the disturbed northern and eastern regions in June, there was speculation that it would be extended to the rest of the island. However, no move in that direction was evident during the month when Colombo played host to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

On August 4, President Chandrika Kumaratunga, by a proclamation, extended the Emergency to the entire nation. The same day the Parliamentary Group of the People's Alliance met to discuss the issue of postponing the provincial elections. A Presidential Regulation postponing the polls was issued the same day. The Election Commissioner made a formal announcement the next day. After a debate, Parliament approved the Government Regulation by a majority of 32 votes.

Although the Government move sailed through Parliament, some of the members of the ruling People's Alliance coalition are opposed to it. One of the parties that took a public stand against the decision was the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). Its Member of Parliament Vasudeva Nanayakkara criticised the Government's move during the debate in Parliament and staged a walk-out. The LSSP's representative in the Cabinet abstained from voting. According to Nanayakkara, unless the matter is resolved soon, further strains could develop in the coalition.

While the UNP has declared that it would oppose the Government's move and take the issue to the people, the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana has said that it would, along with the Left parties, begin a nationwide protest against the Government's decision to impose the Emergency and to postpone the provincial elections. There have also been suggestions that the matter could be taken to court.

The Swarj saga

Beyond Boundaries: A Memoir by Swraj Paul; Viking-Penguin India; 1998, pages 228; Rs. 395.

THIS book is a readable account of an extraordinarily successful business career. From modest beginnings as an entrepreneur in Jalandhar, The Lord Paul of Marylebone became (in 1996) a member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. His story of the origin and exponential growth of Caparo, the acronym for his industrial empire, based mainly in the U.K., and with manufacturing facilities obtained by acquisition in the United States as well, makes fascinating reading. The style is simple, the thoughts are expressed in terse, clipped sentences and the number of vivid one-liners is considerable.

In 1910, Swraj Paul's father had broken away from the traditional occupation of agriculture and set up a small manufacturing business in Jalandhar. The main items of manufacture were agricultural implements and household items like buckets. The business was successful and the family, consisting of a number of brothers and sisters, led a comfortable life. It was in this household that Swraj was born in 1931, at the height of the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, demanding swaraj, literally self-rule for India; hence the name Swraj, given to the new addition to the Paul family. The family was very closely knit; its members worked together and shared a communal meal at the end of the day, cooked by a caring mother, a woman who wore no jewellery because her sons were her jewels. She passed away in 1938, when in her thirties, and Swraj became motherless when he was only seven years old.

Swraj writes: "By the early 1940s World War II had come to India. War, as wars often are, was good for business. My father began manufacturing an expanded range of items." The business prospered and his father acquired a second-hand car, the first in Jalandhar. Shortly afterwards, Swraj's uncle, Khemchand, died of a heart failure. Swraj's father was deeply attached to his brother, and "the shock was unbearable" for him. Three months later, Paul Senior died, when he was only 55. Swraj was orphaned at 13 - his "childhood had ended".

Swraj's elder brothers, Bhaiji and Jit, were very supportive. Thanks to them, Swraj received a good schooling, and he went on to the Foreman Christian College in Lahore in 1945. The American Principal, Rice, and his wife (who was the sister of the president of the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, U.S.) became very fond of him.

Unfortunately, the Partition of India and the bloodbath that followed interrupted Swraj's education. In mid-1947, Swraj was lucky to get back to Jalandhar in one piece. "I had been extraordinarily lucky," he writes. Swraj resumed his studies at Doaba College in Jalandhar, and graduated in 1949 with honours. He was accepted by MIT for enrolment the same autumn.

In spite of the financial strain, Swraj's elder brothers insisted on his joining MIT, which he did, though he had his misgivings and almost returned to India from London when he was halfway to Boston. MIT "helped to develop my personality." In 1952, when he was just 21, Swraj obtained both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from MIT, and went back to India, planning to return later for his Ph.D.

From 1953 to 1966, the Paul brothers, now helped by the youngest sibling Surrendra, ran a successful business from their base in Calcutta. They were mainly engaged in steel imports, and made a foray into shipping. Swraj describes the red tape, especially in regard to steel specifications (a British legacy) which the bureaucracy was unwilling to modify. Swraj, however, managed to import Russian steel, and the red tape was cut at last.

IN 1956, Swraj married Aruna Vij, a Calcutta socialite, who gave birth to twin sons, Ambar and Akash, in December 1957. A daughter, Anjali, was born in 1959. And then came Ambika, in November 1963. She was destined to change Swraj's life, imperceptibly but also irrevocably.

"The story of Ambika is an inexplicable tragedy," Swraj recounts. She "was an enchanting child, lively and intelligent beyond her years," but she was born with leukaemia. In 1966, Swraj and Aruna managed to get the necessary foreign exchange to take Ambika to London for treatment. For a year and more, she lingered on with spells of normalcy followed by bouts of illness and hospitalisation - until she passed away in 1968. This was a poignant and traumatic event in the life of Swraj and Aruna. They decided not to return to India but "to make a new beginning and a new home in England... Another life dawned... I returned to work. In small steps and incremental advances Caparo came into being."

AMBIKA'S illness also led quite fortuitously to a strong friendship between Swraj and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In December 1966, Swraj's three children, who had been left behind in India, wanted to join their parents and ailing sister for Christmas. But foreign exchange restrictions made this impossible. In desperation, Swraj wrote a personal letter to the Prime Minister, and in no time the legal requirements were met, and the family was re-united. "This was one of those frequent acts of kindness which Mrs. Gandhi undertook," he writes.

To overcome his deep sorrow, Swraj turned to work. Beginning with a small tube factory, called Natural Gas Tubes, acquired with the help of a loan of oe 5,000, he embarked on a career of acquisitions on both sides of the Atlantic, usually in the steel products manufacturing industry. Chapter 5, 'Building Caparo', gives the details. "Today Caparo is a conglomerate of small and medium-sized companies, with total sales of over oe 500 million, and operating profits in excess of oe 50 million in 1995." Unlike the industrial empires in India, these companies are held privately by Swraj and his family, and managed by the family with the help of some select business associates.

In most cases, Swraj acquired an ailing company, modernised it, made friends with the workforce and turned it around into a profitable venture. The magic touch failed only once, in the acquisition of an electronics-manufacturing firm called Fidelity, which proved unfaithful and was quickly disposed of. Even Homer nods.

Swraj believes in continuing efforts towards modernisation and slimming. His motto is: "Think lean, act mean, stay keen." He is vigilant to avoid pretensions of omniscience "and the traps of sycophancy." One of his favourite sayings is: "Hubris precedes nemesis."

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In his personal life, Swraj practises simplicity, as an example to his own family. In spite of all the pressures of entertaining and being entertained, he continues to be "a man of abstemious ways"- a teetotaller, a vegetarian, and a non-smoker. He follows the dictum, "Better to be a model than a missionary." He strongly believes in the unity of the family and in giving the younger generation the best possible education. "Financial resources can be dissipated; education cannot be lost."

Chapter 7 is devoted to Indira Gandhi, whose steadfast friend Swraj became, after her act of personal kindness in 1966. Through her years as Prime Minister; during the Emergency; when she was temporarily defeated; and when she came back as Prime Minister, Swraj remained totally devoted to her. He used his considerable influence and resources to mount a public relations campaign in England on her behalf. When her son Sanjay Gandhi died in an accident, Swraj called on her to offer his sympathy. Her reply, quoting her father, was: "Public figures cannot afford personal tragedies." Four years later, Indira Gandhi herself fell to an assassin's bullet. Swraj's requiem: "The lasting impression (of Indira Gandhi) is of a leader and a woman of indomitable courage."Chapter 8, titled 'Investing in India' is probably the chapter of most current interest to Indian readers. Its main content falls into two parts. The first relates to Paul's acquisition of a large number of shares in two well-known Indian companies - DCM, controlled by the Shriram family, and Escorts, controlled by H.P. Nanda. In the case of DCM, the Shriram family held only 10 per cent of the shares; in the case of Escorts, the Nandas held less than 5 per cent. Even so, this relatively small holding gave them a controlling interest because of the support given by public financial institutions and the backing, cultivated over the years, of politicians and the officialdom. In spite of Paul acquiring a larger share-holding than the Shrirams and the Nandas - all done openly through an established broker and normal banking channels - the shares were never registered in Paul's name, and finally Paul had to agree to sell them back "without loss".

The second instance is the account (pages 136-137) of the Paul family in India agreeing to invest in the establishment of a fertilizer plant, one of four authorised by the Government, involving a capital cost of some $300 million. Although the interest in this project began with some initial prodding by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, further developments continued after her assassination and when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister. Paul states that he was pressured to buy equipment offered by an Italian firm, Snam Progetti, although it cost $35 million more and their "equipment was not the best in technological terms." If indeed such pressure was applied - a contention vehemently denied by Rajiv's secretary Vincent George - Rajiv himself told Paul that he "should buy the best and the cheapest, and ignore everything else." Anyhow, in 1988, when the licence came up for renewal, Paul's licence alone was not renewed.

Both in Chapter 7, on Indira Gandhi, and in Chapter 8, on 'Investing in India', Paul's references to Rajiv Gandhi are disparaging and critical. Paul has written about Sanjay's death, but there is no reference to Rajiv's tragic end. On page 78 of his book, Paul has quoted extensively from Cicero. He may do well to remember another Latin saying - "De Mortuis, Nil Nisi Bonum" (Of the dead, nothing but good).

THE ninth and final chapter, 'Retrospect and Prospect', deals in part with Paul's involvement in Labour politics, and his friendship with, and admiration for, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Even before Blair became Prime Minister, he had recommended to John Major, the Tory Prime Minister, that a peerage be bestowed on Paul. This recommendation was accepted by Major and approved by the Queen. The public announcement was made on August 21, 1996. Lord Paul took his seat in the House of Lords on November 12, 1996. He made his maiden speech 16 days later. With the Labour Party's resounding victory in the May 1997 elections, Lord Paul occupies a pivotal position, as a close friend not only of Prime Minister Blair but also of Cook and Brown.

Among Paul's many benefactions, two are significant. Both were for the benefit of Regent's Park Zoo in London. The zoo was in danger of being closed down in 1992 because of financial constraints. Paul came to the rescue with personal funds, and also erected a fountain as a memorial to his daughter, Ambika. The fountain is adorned by a sculpture of Ambika. In 1997, Paul funded "the Baroness Paul pygmy hippo enclosure, dedicated to Aruna Paul, in celebration of forty years of marriage (1956-1996)."

Recently Lord Paul was appointed "the first ever pro Vice-Chancellor of London's Thames University". Paul has an abiding interest in education, and his appointment will no doubt help the university "in its expansion and development abroad."

THE appendices are also well worth reading. Appendix I on India deals with his Indian heritage and the value system that it represents, especially the ancient concept of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" - that the world is one family. The Indian influence also comes out in Appendix II, Paul's "Philosophy of Life". Two fundamental points are raised here. One is that we have today a global economy and no country can be an island. The second is the importance of manufacturing as an engine of a country's growth and development.

The book has important lessons for all men and women engaged in the pursuit of a career in business and industry in India. Lord Paul has shared his insights and the lessons he has learnt in the course of his own spectacularly successful business career spanning 45 years - from 1953 to this day.

I hope this important book, written in short, clipped sentences and eminently readable, will find a wide readership in India. The book is handsomely produced, and printed legibly on fine paper. There are some fine photographs of the important events in Paul's life, and also with members of his own family. The picture of Ambika, who passed away at so young an age, is very touching; also the photograph of the Ambika Fountain at the Regent's Park Zoo. Paul looks very impressive receiving the Padma Bhushan award from President Zail Singh in 1983, and every inch a lord in the full regalia of a peer of the realm (1996). The photograph of the Jalandhar house, the original home of the Paul family, only goes to show what a long way Lord Paul has come.

Coping with violence

Director-General of Police Gurbachan Jagat is deeply concerned about the implications of the recent events in Jammu - as are most top officials in Jammu and Kashmir's security establishment. One version has it that the massacres in the region are the acts of desperate and marginalised terrorists. But they reflect new strategic realities in Jammu and Kashmir, and could have serious implications for the still relatively peaceful Valley. Constrained by inadequate resources and poor force levels, officials are struggling to shape a coherent response. Jagat discussed the recent massacres, and the measures needed to combat them, in this interview with Praveen Swami in Srinagar.

For the last year matters have been worsening in the Jammu province, and there seems to be no end to the violence. What is behind these killings, and what needs to be done to stop them?

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The first and most important factor is infiltration across the border. Unless we check infiltration through the Rajouri and Poonch borders, this problem will continue. Secondly, this contiguous belt from Poonch through Darhal and Buddhal areas into Rajouri, then into Gool and Mohor in Udhampur and finally from Doda, was once a route to Anantnag and the Valley. But for the past two years terrorists have settled down in these areas and created bases. They believe that massacres will force Hindus to migrate from the higher reaches, giving them a free run in the area. Of course, such killings have the added benefit, from their point of view, of provoking communal violence in Jammu. Finally, as far as Doda specifically is concerned, even reaching remote villages, let alone providing security there, is an enormous job, considering the terrain and the rudimentary roads and communication infrastructure. It can take over 40 hours to reach some points. On top of this, the force level in Doda has gone down over the past two years. The Kashmir Valley is much more compact, but we have much higher force levels here. So we desperately need more people.

Is having more soldiers the answer?

Certainly not. We need sustained operations over a period of time to flush out terrorists from the forests and mountains, and then neutralise them. We then need a good force level to hold the area and make sure they cannot make their way back. But as I said earlier, if we want a lasting solution, then the problem of infiltration has to be addressed.

On that question, what implication do you think this round of border firing, apart from the other issues it has raised, will have on infiltration?

In addition to whatever was taking place anyway, it is my conviction that larger numbers of infiltrators must have made their way in under cover of this firing in this period. This is something we need to give serious thought to.

Why are we unable to end infiltration, to seal the border as some people put it?

See, sealing the border is a concept which is not applicable here. If you see the Kupwara and Baramulla borders, they are mountainous and heavily forested. Fencing of the kind that was undertaken in Punjab is simply not possible. Nor can you man every inch of the terrain. So it has to be a combination of strategies. The Army has a two, three tier system of border operations, and we are working on adding a further tier of our own. Our strategies need to be creative and flexible.

So over the next weeks and months, should we expect an escalation in violence?

Normally the summer months do see an escalation in violence. Maize crops in the Jammu districts ripen, and the fields provide cover to terrorists to come right up to inhabited areas. The end of the summer is also the time that foreign mercenaries begin to go back to Pakistan, before the passes close in autumn. Until the passes close, yes, we should be prepared for high levels of violence.

Face-off in Colombo

The much-awaited meeting in Colombo between A.B. Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif failed to make any headway, with both countries refusing to budge from their stated positions.

THE 10th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held in July provided the first opportunity for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. For the international media corps assembled in Colombo, this meeting was in many ways a more important event than the summit itself.

The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan have brought South Asia into sharp international focus and put the Kashmir issue on the frontburner. Buoyed by the renewed international interest on Kashmir, Pakistan has been working hard to keep the issue on the boil. In the event, the dramatic escalation in the firing by Pakistani troops across the Line of Control at a time when Vajpayee and Sharif were scheduled to meet does not appear to have been a matter of coincidence.

In a letter that Vajpayee wrote to Sharif on June 14, he reiterated India's commitment to fostering peaceful and friendly relations between the two countries and developing a stable structure for cooperation. Vajpayee's proposal that the two Prime Ministers hold bilateral discussions in Colombo was accepted by Sharif. Many people expected that given the strong international pressure on Pakistan and the dire economic straits the country found itself in, Sharif would at the talks agree to resume the stalled Foreign Secretary-level discussions. However, the Indian side appears to have miscalculated Pakistan's resolve and ability to focus exclusively on Kashmir.

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Before Vajpayee left for Colombo, prominent diplomats, including former Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit, urged him to accept Pakistan's challenge and place Kashmir on top of the agenda of the bilateral talks. However, once in Colombo, the Indian side decided to stick to its original strategy of insisting that the Foreign Secretary-level talks be "composite and broad-based". Indian policymakers were not willing to depart from the script that has been in place since June 1997 when, after the second round of Foreign Secretary-level talks, a joint statement was issued identifying eight subjects for discussion and providing for the setting up of a mechanism to facilitate the discussions. The subjects identified were: peace and security, including confidence building measures; Jammu and Kashmir; Siachen; Wullar Barrage Project; Sir Creek; terrorism and drug trafficking; economic and commercial cooperation; and friendly exchanges in various fields. Pakistan continues to maintain that there has been no progress in starting a meaningful discussion on the Kashmir issue and that India is playing for time. The third and last round of Foreign Secretary-level talks were held in September 1997. Since then there has been no progress in the matter of the dialogue.

Pakistan has viewed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government with suspicion. Its suspicions were heightened when India conducted its nuclear tests in May and, following these, senior Ministers indulged in much talk about redrawing borders, employing a proactive policy on Kashmir and so on.

Before leaving for Colombo, a senior official of the External Affairs Ministry outlined the goals that New Delhi hoped to achieve there. He said that New Delhi's first priorities were to establish "stable and good relations" with Pakistan, to work on the basis of the many commonalities that exist between the two countries and, most important, to work "bilaterally to resolve issues". He said that the Indian Government had no ill-will towards Pakistan and added that Vajpayee was genuinely committed to a "stable and prosperous Pakistan". However, he said, the dialogue process with Pakistan was hampered by the virulent Pakistani propaganda, which was against the spirit of the Simla Agreement.

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FOR its part, the Pakistani delegation made its intentions clear almost as soon as it arrived in Colombo. In the interviews he gave Western news agencies before Vajpayee and Sharif were scheduled to meet, Gohar Ayub Khan, the then Foreign Minister, made it known that the Foreign Secretary-level talks could be resumed only if Kashmir was put on top of the agenda and India reduced its troop concentration in the Kashmir Valley and recognised the All Party Hurriyat Conference as the legitimate representative of the Kashmiri people. He said Pakistan wanted the Foreign Secretary-level talks to discuss the Kashmir issue in a Working Group, with another Working Group addressing the question of "peace and security".

At every available forum, the Pakistani side made it clear that it was opposed to the June 1997 formula favoured by India. It was obvious that Pakistan was not serious about resuming Foreign Secretary-level talks at this juncture. While the Pakistani side appeared to be intent on internationalising the Kashmir issue, the Indian side, until the last day of the summit, was cautiously optimistic about the prospect of bilateral talks being resumed.

THE high point was the meeting between Vajpayee and Sharif. The two leaders met for 45 minutes on July 29. The bonhomie that was evident during the meeting between Sharif and Prime Minister I.K. Gujral during the SAARC summit in Male in 1997 was noticeably absent here. When Sharif and Gujral jointly met the media in Male, Sharif had said that Gujral was a person he could trust. This time around, when an Indian journalist asked Sharif about his impression of Vajpayee, he smiled and said that Vajpayee was "a good man". Significantly, the two leaders chose to hold separate press conferences.

Vajpayee's interaction with the media was brief and terse. After reading out a short statement, he said that he had had a "good" meeting with Sharif, at which wide-ranging issues of mutual interest were discussed. For his part, Sharif too said that he had a good meeting with Vajpayee and described the talks as "frank and candid". He made it a point to emphasise that the nuclear tests and their aftermath had also been discussed.

According to sources, at his meeting with Vajpayee, Sharif indicated that the Foreign Secretary-level talks could be resumed only if the "core"' issue of Kashmir was dealt with expeditiously, preferably by a separate Working Group. He is also said to have made clear his preference for international mediation on Kashmir. Speaking to the media, he said that all the disputes that had been resolved between the two countries over the last 50 years had been through international mediation. Pakistan's position is that the Gujral Government had agreed to have a separate Working Group on Kashmir after the Sharif-Gujral meeting in Male but New Delhi backtracked later. However, in Male itself, Indian officials had tried to distance themselves from Pakistan's interpretation of the agreement.

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As expected, in Colombo, the Indian side stuck to its stand on the need to have a "comprehensive and composite" dialogue on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. However, reflecting his country's hardened stand on Kashmir, Sharif said that even the international community had acknowledged that Kashmir was the "core issue of tension" between the two countries and added that it had to be addressed meaningfully with a view to reaching a final settlement.

Sharif also brought the issue of the nuclearisation of South Asia to the fore at his press conference. He said that the tests had added another dimension to the region's security concerns. "It is imperative that we address ourselves to the issue of nuclear and conventional restraint and stabilisation, avoidance of conflict and confidence building measures." Sharif, who denied making threatening statements after Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests, said: "There were threatening statements from India."

Although both the leaders described their talks as "good", in an interview he gave a local newspaper the next day Sharif said that the outcome of the talks amounted to "zero". The talks had ended in a "stalemate", he said, and added that the leaders were in Colombo not to "waste each other's time". This undiplomatic outburst came as a surprise to the Indian side since both Vajpayee and Sharif had, only a day earlier, given the impression that the Foreign Secretary-level talks were about to be revived. In fact, Vajpayee had said that the two sides had agreed to resume the talks. Following his leaders's example, Tariq Altaf, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, virtually accused the Indian side of "unilaterally" announcing that the talks were going to be resumed. He said that Sharif had only told the media that the two sides had agreed "to continue the talks at the next available opportunity".

The last day of the summit witnessed the end of diplomatic niceties between the two sides. The otherwise soft-spoken Indian Foreign Secretary, K. Raghunath, termed Pakistan's behaviour as "neurotic" over its "obsessive" focus on a one-point agenda. Before departing for home, the Pakistani side distributed copies of a "non-paper" which proposed eight confidence building measures to reduce tension in the Jammu and Kashmir region. These included the strengthening of the team of United Nations military observers along the LoC, the release of Kashmiri militants kept under detention, the stationing of U.N. human rights monitors in the Valley, and the removal of Indian Army pickets in Srinagar. Raghunath, who rejected these, said that outside interference in Kashmir would not be tolerated. He reiterated that Kashmir would continue to remain an integral part of India.

THE international community has been exerting pressure on India and Pakistan to hold talks. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has offered U.S. mediation to settle the dispute. After the firing along the LoC escalated recently, the U.S. sent urgent messages to the two countries urging them to exercise restraint. A U.S. State Department spokesperson said: "The volatility of Kashmir is a stark reminder of the pressing need for India and Pakistan to resolve their differences." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the two countries to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and hold talks on Kashmir.

Hawkish, but mostly weary

Despite efforts by the Government and the media to keep the Kashmir issue uppermost in people's minds, the majority of the people of Pakistan no longer appear to view the issue as an unsolvable one.

THERE is only a 30-minute time zone difference between India and Pakistan, but for a person who has read the morning newspapers in India and goes through the Pakistani newspapers available aboard a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Mumbai the same afternoon, the two countries may seem to be worlds apart. While the Indian newspapers blame "our hostile neighbour" and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for the "unprovoked firing" along the Line of Control in Kashmir and the deaths of scores of people in Jammu and Kashmir and areas of Himachal Pradesh, Pakistani newspapers have reports datelined "Held Kashmir". These talk about the innumerable "martyrs" (shaheed is the word that is commonly used) who have succumbed to the "deliberate zulm" (atrocities) unleashed by the Indian armed forces in the "Indian-held Kashmir region".

However, propaganda is one thing and the actual feelings of the majority of people on both sides of the border are another. In Pakistan, a kind of weariness appears to have crept in vis-a-vis the Kashmir issue although political rhetoric in its shrillest form, beamed into people's homes by the official media, has managed to keep the Kashmir issue uppermost in the people's minds. The depressed state of the economy - Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves are down to $700 million despite help extended by Islamic countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, and the Islamic Development Bank, which have together provided around $2.5 billion - may just prevent it from defaulting on its foreign debt servicing in the next quarter. The average Pakistani has begun to ask questions about the Kashmir issue, a relatively new phenomenon in Pakistan.

An administrative manager in one of Karachi University's institutes (he was once interrogated by the ISI because he greeted warmly an Indian envoy visiting the campus) echoed popular public opinion when he said: "It is high time both the countries settled the Kashmir issue." He was, however, not voicing popular thinking when he asked: "Kya Kashmiri log Pakistan ke saath wafa karenge?" (Will the Kashmiris be loyal to Pakistan?) He said: "Even if a settlement between the two countries, call it plebiscite or by whatever name, results in India letting go of Kashmir, my personal view is that the people of Kashmir will opt to become an independent country." When asked whether Kashmir would survive economically and otherwise in such an event, he said: "If Azad Kashmir and that part of Kashmir that is now with India come together, they can form an independent country. As far as size and survival are concerned, you do have smaller countries like Panama."

However, what was significant was his couldn't-care-less attitude to Kashmir - whether it stayed with Pakistan or opted to become independent was irrelevant to him. With the Kashmir issue put behind it, Pakistan can, he said, "stop squandering millions of rupees on defence expenditure and move towards the path of self-reliance."

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Hanif Janoo, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the two countries "must solve the Kashmir issue because together, we are a big power." He said that even though India and Pakistan have become nuclear powers, they still had to face the economic issues. "So many of our people do not have one proper meal a day," he said and added that "the same is true of your country." "These people live below the poverty line. If the two countries join hands, just think of the things we can do for our people. I don't think a solution to the Kashmir issue is that difficult. It can be solved, provided we are sincere. If the issue is solved according to the U.N. Charter or an agreement between Kashmiris, Pakistan and India, the two countries can march ahead and give our people the future they have been dreaming of."

Janoo said that he was troubled by the fact that while a negligible percentage of people on both sides of the border live in air-conditioned comfort, "in several parts of Mumbai and Karachi there are people who live on footpaths." According to him, the situation will only worsen since the two countries, having become nuclear powers, will be spending a substantial chunk of their meagre resources on defence, thus depriving their people of basic necessities.

Janoo, who said that he was not in a position to speak about the presence or absence of a political will to solve the issue since he was not a politician, however predicted that if the two governments do not show the will to solve the issue, "a day will come when the people will say, 'Go to hell with all your atomic power.. give us bread and butter.' That day they will smash all the governments."

"With Kashmir out of the way," said Janoo, "just imagine the miracles we can achieve on the trade front." India has a very good industrial base and Pakistan has the market. "We have been importing wheat, dyes, chemicals and machinery from all over." According to him, the governments of both the countries owe it to their people to lead their countries into the next century as "dignified, honoured nations".

Anita Ghulam Ali, a well-known educationist and former Education Minister in the Sindh Government, who is currently the managing director of the Sindh Government Educational Foundation in Karachi, blames the British for leaving "a bone of contention" behind them. "As I grow older, I increasingly believe that the British played a very dirty game with both our countries, not only on Kashmir but on other things too... to ensure that we were left fighting each other for a long, long time." Wondering whether this was the British way of ensuring that they would always be remembered, she categorically said that unless the two countries solved the Kashmir issue, there could be no real future for them. Maintaining that circumstances would force them to find a solution, she said: "There are only two ways of looking at it. Either you develop economic relations and this will improve the political relations, or vice versa."

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THE argument that improving bilateral trade and economic cooperation between the two countries will in turn improve political relations is one that the hawks in Pakistan are not willing to buy. Editorials in the Pakistani media are scornful of this argument, which they describe as "Indian". Angry questions are being asked about how India could expect to improve its economic relations with Pakistan until the "central" issue of Kashmir is solved.

Writing in The Washington Post, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Editor of the Pakistan daily The News, advances the argument that while "India's nuclearisation is status-driven, Pakistan's is security-driven." Coming down heavily on the "U.S.-led international community", she wrote that the longer it "persists on a course of censure and sanctions, the greater the odds for quicker weaponisation and deployment, which neither country is as yet irrevocably pledged to do." "Isolating a region bristling with tensions, long-standing enmities and nationalist fervour to stand up to Western nuclear discrimination, is a recipe for more steps up the nuclear ladder. With punishment posing as policy, this could encourage a no-holds-barred nuclear competition and act as a disincentive to both Pakistan and India to exercise restraint."

Predictably enough, the Pakistani media are always alert for voices within the Indian media that advance an argument contrary to the official government line. It is therefore not surprising to find an editorial comment in The Statesman stating that India should "announce that the government will exhume the nearly five-decade-old U.N. proposal to hold a referendum on the question of the valley's territorial loyalties" finds an honourable mention in a Pakistani newspaper.

Daily statements from Pakistan's top leadership, especially Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, about Pakistan's ability to defend its sovereignty with its new nuclear identity are only to be expected since political rhetoric is so essential for a Government that is drawing flak from its people for the country's financial crisis.

However, what is worrying is the fact that along with the euphoria over the blasts, which is not lacking on the Indian side either, there seems to be a triumphant feeling that Pakistan has at last succeeded in focussing the international community's attention on the Kashmir issue. There is also a prevalent feeling that more and more nations are veering towards the Pakistani point of view that ties between India and Pakistan can be improved only if the Kashmir issue is solved.

As for the underprivileged and uneducated people of Pakistan, they are consistently being fed a diet of hype that Pakistan is the first Islamic nation to explode a nuclear bomb.

Today, Sharif may be asking the Islamic world's aid to help Pakistan tide over its financial crisis, but tomorrow, if any of the Islamic nations, however rich, require a nuclear bomb, they will have to knock on Pakistan's door. It is this line of argument that scares you more than the reports datelined 'Held Kashmir' that talk about zulm and shaheeds.

A law unto itself

A. G. NOORANI the-nation

The Jain Commission has run amuck, flouting the Commissions of Inquiry Act, its own terms of reference, the rules of natural justice and the norms of the judicial function.

JUSTICE M.C. JAIN has driven a coach and four through the law in his Final Report. Let us consider first the law and, next, Jain's conduct. Section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act puts a strong fetter on the Government as well as the Lok Sabha's power to appoint a Commission of Inquiry. A Commission can be appointed only "for the purpose of making an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance." In the case of a former Chief Minister of Bihar, K. B. Sahay, the Supreme Court said: "If the charges were vague or speculative suggesting a fishing expedition, we would have paused to consider whether such an inquiry should be allowed to proceed." (AIR 1969 S.C. 258 to 262; emphasis added, throughout).

The Royal Commission on Tribunals of Inquiry headed by Lord Justice Salmon noted realistically that "as the agitation for an inquiry is very often the result of nothing more than general allegation and rumour, it is necessary to keep the Tribunal within reasonable bounds... The Act lays down ... that what is to be inquired into shall be a 'definite matter'. Accordingly, no Tribunal should be set up to investigate a nebulous mass of vague and unspecified rumours. The reference should confine the inquiry to the investigation of the definite matter which is causing a crisis of public confidence. (1966; Cmnd. 3121, p. 30, para 78). The Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1952 is based on the British statute, the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921.

The Jain Commission did just that - launch a fishing expedition spread over seven years. Similar violations of the law by the Thakkar Commission that inquired into Indira Gandhi's assassination and the Thakkar-Natarajan Commission that inquired into the Fairfax case have gone unnoticed. Secondly, appointed to inquire into a "definite" matter of public importance, the Commission's report must be based on legal evidence and it must either give a finding of fact or decline to do so if the evidence is inadequate. It is utterly impermissible for it to voice "suspicion", whether directly or indirectly. To mention mere "possibilities" as distinct from probabilities and refuse to "rule out" some is calculatedly to raise a suspicion that they did occur, the lack of evidence notwithstanding. No judicial exercise, be it in a court of law or an inquiry, can indulge in such an exercise.

The third violation of the law is as gross and occurs despite an important but overlooked ruling of the Supreme Court. No Commission of Inquiry has any right to recommend prosecution or interrogation of any individual. On December 11, 1956, the Government of India set up a Commission of Inquiry to go into the affairs of companies controlled by Ramkrishna Dalmia and his associates. Clause 10 of the terms of reference of the Commission directed it to inquire into "any irregularities" in those firms, except those in respect of which criminal proceedings were pending in a court of law and to recommend thus "and the action which in the opinion of the Commission should be taken as and by way of securing redress or punishment or to act as a preventive in future cases."

This part of Clause 10 was struck down by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. In the High Court, Chief Justice M. C. Chagla ruled that it was not open to the Commission "to point out to the Union Government what civil or criminal action can be taken with regard to these breaches of law" under the new Companies Act. That was "beyond the legislative competence of Parliament". The Commission was asked "to inform the Government in order that Government should launch civil or criminal proceedings. Now, such an investigation can only be instituted by means of the judicial process and not through the device of a Commission."

Justice Chagla amplified: "It is not open to the Government by this notification to put any individual in the position of an accused, to constitute a Commission to investigate into any offence that he might have committed, and to place before it materials collected so that on the strength of those materials a prosecution could be launched.... it would be competent to Government to get information with regard to breaches of law, so that legislation may be passed to prevent such breaches in future, and there is no reason to suggest why breaches of law referred to in the first part of Clause (10) were to be investigated into only for the purpose of instituting civil or criminal proceedings and not also for the purpose of legislation. In our opinion, therefore, the last part of Clause (10) from the words "and the action" to "in future cases" is ultra vires of the Act and the Government is not competent to require the Commission to make any report with regard to these matters (Ram Krishna Dalmia vs. Mr. Justice S. P. Tendulkar 59, Bom.L.R. 769 at 775).

The ruling was upheld by a unanimous judgment of a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court delivered by Chief Justice S. R. Das. He held that "there can be no objection even to the Commission of Inquiry recommending the imposition of some form of punishment which will, in its opinion, be sufficiently deterrent to delinquents in future. But seeing that the Commission of Inquiry has no judicial powers and its report will purely be recommendatory and not effective proprio vigor and the statement made by any person before the Commission of Inquiry is, under Section 6 of the Act, wholly inadmissible in evidence in any future proceedings, civil or criminal, there can be no point in the Commission of Inquiry making recommendations for taking any action 'as and by way of securing redress or punishment' which, in agreement with the High Court, we think, refers in the context to wrongs already done or committed; for redress or punishment for such wrongs, if any, has to be imposed by a Court of law properly constituted exercising its own discretion on the facts and circumstances of the case and without being in any way influenced by the view of any person or body, howsoever august or high-powered it may be. Having regard to all these considerations it appears to us that only that portion of the last part of Clause(10) which calls upon the Commission of Inquiry to make recommendations about the action to be taken 'as and by way of securing redress or punishment' cannot be said to be at all necessary for or ancillary to the purposes of the Commission." (AIR 1958 S.C. 538).

If the Jain Report is invalid on this score, the Action Taken Report (ATR) falls with it. Section 3(4) of the Act was amended in 1971 to bind the Government to lay before the Lok Sabha (or the State Assembly, as the case may be) the Commission's report "together with a memorandum of the action taken thereon within a period of six months from the submission of the report by the Commission..." The Government's ATR must be based on the Commission's Report ("thereon").

Fourthly, while Commissions of Inquiry are not bound by the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, they are not free to disregard the principles underlying it. The Law Commission's 24th Report (1962) on the Act quoted G.W. Keeton's remarks in his classic Trial by Tribunal (1960): "When the question of the involvement of a particular person in a particular transaction is under consideration, however, the Tribunal restricts itself to the facts admissible under the normal rules of evidence." The Law Commission said approvingly: "We recommend that the same practice should be followed in our country also." It did not recommend any statutory provision lest "a rigid provision may defeat the very object of the Act; namely, to find out the truth." But in its pursuit, speculation cannot be substituted for evidence.

In 1970, Justice Y. V. Chandrachud said in his report on the circumstances relating to the death of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya: "I have to grapple with quite a mass of irrelevant and hearsay evidence.... I could not reject that evidence on the ground of its inadmissiblity under the Evidence Act but that does not mean that I must accept it as good evidence" (p. 7). For instance, the Evidence Act makes inadmissible opinion evidence except in some specific cases such as handwriting or expert evidence (Sections 45 to 51). It is not open to a person to say, for instance, that in his opinion, X conspired to murder Y. He can only depose to facts within his personal knowledge. Jain declared open season on assassination "theories". The Radcliffe Tribunal, set up to probe into allegations in the press on espionage and breaches of security in the Admiralty, noted that "most of these statements, it turned out, were either pure comment expressed in the form of assertion of fact or else inferences put together from other readily accessible sources... Our only function, as we have seen it, is to try to report on the facts coming before us in our inquiry..."

Fifthly, if the Report must be based on facts, not opinions, what must be the standard of proof of the facts? Section 3 of the Evidence Act simply says that "a fact is said to be proved when, after considering the matters before it, the court either believes it to exist, or considers its existence so probable that a prudent person ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it exists." There is a similar formulation in regard to a situation in which a fact is "disproved". In contrast is the definition of "not proved" - "neither proved nor disproved". That is the honest course when evidence is inadequate. To seek refuge in suspicion when there is no proof is unjudicial. To arraign people on suspicion is unjust.

IT is all right to decide civil disputes on a balance of probabilities. But no "prudent man" will inflict punishment save on the basis of proof beyond reasonable doubt, the rule in criminal cases. The S.R. Das Commission on Partap Singh Kairon insisted on the stricter standard of proof. For, "No individual shall be condemned on suspicion, however strong. " The Evidence Act does not apply but its fundamentals do.

The J. R. Vimadalal Commission's Report (1978) on J. Vengala Rao, former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, opted for a lower standard but held that "the graver the consequence of a finding in regard to a particular allegation, the higher should be the preponderance of probability which a Commission of Inquiry should require to be established, before it holds a fact to be proved and arrives at a finding to that effect."

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These Commissions were concerned with charges of abuse of power by Chief Ministers. How much more stringent must be the standard of proof in a case in which the allegation is culpable neglect that leads to murder or actual complicity in it? No prudent person would accept any other test but proof beyond reasonable doubt.

There was a Commission of Inquiry which had to probe into a bizarre case seven years later. It was honest enough to pronounce "not proved" despite proven indications that could legitimately create suspicion in a layperson's mind. The Judge refused to endorse suspicions despite the fact that he detested the policies of the person under suspicion, Indira Gandhi. Justice P. Jaganmohan Reddy, one of the finest judges to have sat on, was appointed as Commission of Inquiry on June 9, 1977, to probe into the Nagarwala case. On May 24, 1971, R. S. Nagarwala was able to take out Rs. 60 lakhs from the State Bank of India's Parliament Street branch by "mimicking the voice of Mrs. Indira Gandhi" to Chief Cashier Ved Prakash Malhotra. Nagarwala died of heart attack in prison. Neglect by the authorities was patent. The investigating officer, D. K. Kashyap, was killed in a car attack. If Milap Chand Jain had been let loose on the case at the behest of the Government, a mountain of suspicion would have been raised. Justice Jaganmohan Reddy only listed four "incontrovertible facts" - one of them being the fact that Indira Gandhi did not have any account in that branch - but concluded that they were not sufficient to hold that the money belonged to her. "There were several lacunae," he said, and listed them. "To supply an answer to these (lacunae) would force me to leave the safe haven of facts which required to be established by evidence and enter the realm of conjectures and speculation." (p. 176). He did not talk of "needles of suspicion" nor direct a "finger of suspicion".

Lastly, a Commission's report is very much open to judicial review. It can be quashed by the High Court or the Supreme Court if, among other things, it has failed to abide by the rules of evidence or if its reasoning is illogical grossly. The Privy Council set aside the Report of a New Zealand Royal Commission set up under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1908. It applied the established rules of evidence, that is, ".... the person making a finding... must base his decision upon evidence that has some probative value.... What is required... is that the finding must be based upon some material that tends logically to show the existence of facts consistent with the finding and that the reasoning supportive of the finding, if it be disclosed, is not logically self-contradictory." Judicial review is allowed in relation to "primary facts... not supported by any probative evidence" and to "reasoning by which the decision-maker justify inferences of fact that he had drawn (but) is self-contradictory or otherwise based upon an evident logical fallacy."

Jain's Report would collapse if these six legal principles were applied to it. Courts in India have for over a century decided conspiracy cases. Jain could not apply the law because it would demolish his suspicions or conspiracy theories. Nor could he articulate them without contradicting himself. Sample this from Volume VI (p.29): "The standard proof is very high in criminal trial and it is difficult to collect such evidence in a case where people feel that there is deeper conspiracy, national and international. The theory of conducting the investigation from the scene of crime to the criminal may sometimes unearth the whole conspiracy but it is also very likely that the whole conspiracy may not be unravelled even after reaching to the executors of the conspiracy from the scene of the crime. In a case of the present nature, in which even the main culprits were not available as they have consumed cyanide and died or are absconding, it is all the more difficult to unearth the conspiracy if any behind the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)." Mark the words "if any."

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This special pleading is followed by these bold assertions: "In a Commission of Inquiry, the inadmissible evidence in a Court of Law can form the basis of factual findings and the standard of proof is not so strict before the Commission of Inquiry. The factual findings can be recorded on the basis of even probabilities."

THE entire Volume II on "persons/agencies responsible for the assassination" rests on opinions aired and theories spun heedless of implausibilities and contradictions. The Khalistan Guerilla Force (KGF) issued a press note on May 22, 1991, the day after the assassination, claiming responsibility for the crime jointly with the LTTE. The blast, it said, was made with '''satellite wave control' with the help of computer at a distance of 60 kms... about 90 persons... have been killed." Instant rejection would have been a sound response even in 1991. In 1998 no sensible person would waste a minute on this.

Jain dwells on it at length and ties himself up in knots: "The press note may be fake but it does point to a link with the LTTE." A fake provides guidance: "The Sikh militant group solely has not claimed responsibility. Any group by the name of Khalistan Guerilla Force may be non-existent. The group could have claimed the sole responsibility but it has not done so. If a fake responsibility was to be claimed, the group could have come out with claiming sole responsibility. But the note clearly makes out that it is not only the job of LTTE but there is some other force also behind the LTTE." So, whether the KGF's press note was fake or not, it "proves" a "wider conspiracy" to Jain's satisfaction. Such logic surfaces again on page 118: "Unless there is some link, it is inconceivable that such a claim would have been made in the press release that the assassination has been done in collaboration with the LTTE. It is quite possible that this may be with a view to mislead the investigation and instead of directing investigation towards the LTTE, it may take up investigation against the Khalistani extremists. But the question is how such a press release appeared on 22-5-1991 claiming assassination by the terrorist groups mentioned therein... The information contained therein regarding the method of blast with a satellite control system, may also be incorrect and this information may also be incorrect that Chintamani Raman has been baptised Sikh by taking Amrit at a Gurudwara."

"Without attaching any significance to these informations (sic.), the very fact of the press release having been issued the same night involving the two different terrorist organisations becomes relevant and assumes importance from the point of view of establishing link between the two, and therefore it is quite possible that they may have acted in concert on the basis of which the press release was issued." Such contradictions invalidate the Report.

The record shows that in December 1990, Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar sent Mahant Sewa Dass Singh to London at government expense to bring around Jagjit Singh Chohan and score a "victory" by "settling" the Punjab problem. The Mahant claimed that Chohan told him of a plan to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi. On May 28, 1991, he wrote to the President: "The anti-India forces are diverting the attention from the killers by blaming the Tamils or LTTE. The LTTE has repeatedly denied that they have hand in the killing of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. So I request to your goodself to ask the Government to direct the energies towards the real killers." Which Judge would waste his time on such a witness?

This letter was produced by D. R. Karthikeyan, then Joint Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), when he appeared before Jain on September 19, 1997. It did not worry Jain one bit. The Mahant also said: "The theory about the human bomb is all non-sense." Why? Because Chohan "himself told me this when I spoke to him on telephone after the assassination."

A professional investigator, Karthikeyan saw through the Mahant as any educated person would. Yet, Jain pressed him to accept other "possibilities". He writes: "On being questioned as to whether he rules out any possibility of any conspiracy beyond LTTE, or is there any conspiracy behind LTTE or behind the persons who have been prosecuted, the witness replied that Shri Rajiv Gandhi being a dynamic leader taking bold decisions in many fields, there may have been many groups inimical to him and many conspiracies also. Thus, there are any number of possibilities of any one of those numerous inimical groups targeting him. As an investigator, what he can speak about is about the conspiracy that actually fructified in the killing of Shri Rajiv Gandhi on 21-5-1991 at Sriperumbudur. He, however, stated that he agrees that there are possibilities of other groups inimical to Shri Rajiv Gandhi joining hands with an organisation like the LTTE to eliminate him but his submission is that he is talking about probabilities and not possibilities, and according to him involvement of any other terrorist group was most improbable and stated that LTTE is not just a mercenary who can be made to do a task by somebody else looking to their thinking, the making and the philosophy of the LTTE, and he expressed his firm opinion that in this operation, LTTE acted alone."

The contrast between the two attitudes emerges starkly and to the Judge's disadvantage in Volume V on the 21 suspects, in Chapter X on the SIT's stand "on theories (sic) beyond LTTE." Karthikeyan told him that "there is hardly anything either in its investigation or from intelligence from any quarter to lend credibility to and sustain such theories and hypothesis. In the absence of any evidence they have to remain as such for ever in the realm of endless speculation." He said emphatically: "I, as the leader of the Team, my officers and the prosecutors are confident that there is very little scope of involvement of any person or group beyond the LTTE and the 41 persons charged by us" - notwithstanding the difficulties in investigating a conspiracy several of whose participants were dead or beyond reach. Jain's comment on this defies belief: "His statement does not completely rule out the possibility of involvement beyond LTTE and beyond the 41 charge-sheeted accused persons." This deliberate misconstruction is followed by the admission that "the Commission has done that exercise to the extent possible" - a pursuit of "possibilities" followed by airing of suspicions.

It is in this context that Jain criticises the SIT for not interrogating six public figures, including Chandra Shekhar and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi. Regardless of that "failure" by the SIT, "the evidence and circumstances on some theories examined by the Commission do point some accusing finger on some agencies, organisations, outfits or individuals. The Government may adopt such course of action as it may think fit in respect thereto." (Volume V; Page 361). In law, a Commission of Inquiry can only return a finding based on evidence or decline to do so because the evidence is inadequate, as Justice Jaganmohan Reddy did. No Commission has the right to point "an accusing finger" on the basis of "theories" it has examined. No Government is entitled to act on such suspicion and launch a witchhunt.

But the "accusing finger" is waved all over the Report and recommendations for action by way of investigation or interrogation abound (Volume II, pp. 202 and 231). This is not the remit the Commission was given. It is unable to give a finding after years of inquiry and expects others to do better. "No definite clinching evidence establishing the link between Khalistani extremists and LTTE has come before the Commission but the circumstances as considered above do warrant further probe. "But, surely, there was to be some finality to the Final Report. The Commission's order of July 2, 1993 said that "a thorough probe is needed leaving no areas including the areas covered by the charge-sheet". That was five years ago. After nearly seven years of labour, the Jain Commission can do no more than urge "further scrutiny, examination and action in accordance with law," in respect of the 21 suspects it names. But, as Jain himself admitted, "This Commission is required to prove the criminal conspiracy. It has to find out the persons and agencies responsible for conceiving, preparing and planning the assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi and whether there was any conspiracy behind it."

THE ATR is motivated. Tongue firmly in cheek, it quotes the Interim and Final Reports together on some points to establish, without comment, Jain's inconsistencies. On his quaint notions of evidence, the ATR says: "While noting this observation of the Commission, Government understand that any probe must eventually result in judicially admissible evidence." Yet the "foreign hand" will be "examined in depth" by the Ministries of External Affairs and Home, and the I.B. and the RAW, all of which have nothing better to do, apparently. The ATR accepts the stand of the CBI and the judgment of the Designated Court generally and specifically, on the 21 suspects except in regard to Kumaran Padmanathan and Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan, oddly enough. The MDMA will also target Karunanidhi on the basis of "serious observations" in the Interim Report although the Final Report declares that "there is no indictment in the Interim Report of any individual" (volume VI, p. 60). The MDMA will be an instrument of the Government.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has good reason to be happy with Jain. He brought down the United Front Government and has this to say of the Godse case: "There was a conspiracy theory in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The RSS was banned and Savarkar was charged-sheeted and finally the political leaders were exonerated. The conspiracy as to who was responsible for the assassination of the Father of the Nation - not the particular Nathu Ram Godse who pulled the trigger - remains yet to be unveiled." He is wrong. The RSS was accused even by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel - who would have liked it to join the Congress - of spreading "communal poison". On September 11, 1948, Patel wrote to RSS chief M. S. Golwalkar: "As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact, opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji's death." Patel wrote to Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjee on July 18, 1948: "Our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies (RSS and Hindu Mahasabha), particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible..." Mahasabha president V. D. Savarkar was acquitted, despite the fact that the approver badge was found to be a reliable witness only because there was no independent corroboration of the approver's evidence as the law strictly required.

The end of imagination

other

No one has expressed his or her outrage at the recent testing of the nuclear bomb as passionately and vehemently as Arundhati Roy has (August 14). To quote Roy, "There is the unmistakable stench of fascism on the breeze". Fascism is the subordination of the individual to a totalitarian state that controls all aspects of national life. Fascism has not died with Hitler or the Second World War. It will rise again and again in the guise of jingoistic nationalism. Lest people forget, look around and consider the happenings today in India.

* A headline in The Times of India (July 30, 1998) says, "Pokhran II is a turning point in raising national morale."

* The Government manipulates people into believing that the testing of nuclear devices is a singular achievement and a matter of national pride. Will it make a documentary showing the horrors of a nuclear war in India and make compulsory its screening in all cinemas and broadcast on television?

* The Government declares that it will amend the Constitution.

* The Government declares that it will issue identity cards to all citizens to distinguish them from non-citizens. Who will be considered a national? What will be the status of Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, atheists, agnostics and Hindus who do not believe in temple worship? Will the 'non-citizens' have to wear a star as the Jews did in Nazi Germany?

* Intimidation of journalists, artists and intellectuals is on the rise and soon we will be afraid to speak out. The Government encourages stormtroopers to destroy works of art, burn books, burn copies of the Bible, destroy mosques and attack nuns and priests, and boycott musicians, sportspersons and film stars who are arbitrarily labelled anti-national and anti-Hindu.

* Government representatives inquire of schools which history books they are using. Arun Shourie has written an interesting article on school textbooks, especially those used in Pakistan (The Asian Age, June 19). Will someone care to examine what is happening in India with reference to school and university textbooks and make a list of those similar in content to the textbooks used in Pakistan?

* The Delhi Government declares that all girl students should wear salwar-kameez and not skirts and blouses as school uniform. How is this order different from the diktats of the Taliban Government? If we do not watch out, Indian women may be asked to cover their faces with dupattas or sari ends and may not be allowed to enter workplaces.

A whole generation of German youngsters knew nothing of the atrocities committed by the Third Reich in the name of nationalism. Their parents were aware of the happenings but chose to remain quiet. There are many instances to show that fascism is creeping into our society. If we, the people of India, do not protest against it and protect our freedom, we will be the 'willing executioners' of our own hapless, helpless people.

Rohini Oomman roomman@bom3.vsnl.net.in * * *

It was magnificent reading, the superb essay by Arundhati Roy. Full power to you and others in your efforts to halt and, most important, retrace the disastrous steps taken so far by the Government. But it is also the responsibility of the Left to accept the virtues of the CTBT and the MTCR (not, I stress, NPT) and educate the "masses" on them.

The ultimate education will be for the Left to accept the situation where there is less of state and more private effort, which would of course amount to throwing out their outdated economic ideology but retaining their secular and global outlook. It is necessary to liberate the country from the clutches of these mad mullahs whose vision does not go beyond their native villages of the cow belt.

Srini Balan rangan@shaw.wave.ca * * *

Congratulations to Arundhati Roy on her powerful, intimate, and scholarly essay spelling out the national and international implications of nuclear warfare. Should Arundhati Roy never again write non-fiction, ''The End of Imagination'' will stand as a permanent reminder of an artist's courage to confront global governance when the future of her people, and indeed of humanity, was at stake.

Dr. Lynette J. Dumble

Co-ordinator, Global Sisterhood Network, University of Melbourne, Australia.

* * *

I lived through the 1970s and early 1980s in the United Kingdom. I have attended Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rallies, read everything that was anti-nuclear and even moved countries in the end, just to feel safer. When India and Pakistan did what they did, I cried. I could not explain my horror. Arundhati Roy has expressed it for me. In all my years of reading, I rate this the best.

V. Krishnan krishnan@ozemail.com.au * * *

I was really moved by the article and want to congratulate Arundhati Roy on her boldness in exposing the fanaticism of our politicians. I would also like to congratulate Frontline on publishing this article. As she has said in her article: "We have the power to destroy everything that we have created." I shudder to think what would happen if there were to be a nuclear war between India and Pakistan tomorrow. Does India have the technology that can save it from the after-effects of a nuclear war? A country does not have to show its strength to the world by brandishing the size of the bomb it has; it must do so by strengthening itself economically. We have problems such as poverty, illiteracy and casteism that need immediate attention.

Suresh Byagathvalli sbyagathvalli@talus.net * * *

Arundhati Roy's critique is sharp enough, her concern for humanity is deep enough and her cry is loud enough to be heard by all sensible beings. If those politicians and scientists who claim to be the leaders of the nation cannot rethink on the nuclear programme, they do not deserve to be leaders.

Listen to Roy. If we bomb Lahore, Punjab will burn. If we bomb Karachi, then Gujarat and Rajasthan, perhaps even Mumbai, will burn. Any nuclear war with Pakistan will be a war against ourselves. What kind of national security do we get from nuclear bombs? It rather means jumping into problems. How will we overcome the radioactive fallout? How will we salvage our environment - poisoned water, toxic ice, polluted air and so on? If nuclear weapons are for defence, whom are we defending?

Shim. Shimray Bangalore * * *

I totally agree with Arundhati Roy's views. In a country like ours, where poverty, corruption and unemployment are rampant, it is hard to imagine that our Government decided to conduct nuclear tests. It just does not seem to get its priorities right.

In her essay, Roy talks about the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre official who advised people to take iodine pills in case nuclear war breaks out! How bizarre and foolish can one get!

Omar Shariff Bangalore * * *

Frontline has upheld the glory of humanity by publishing the photographs of those tragic events of August, 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and an essay by Arundhati Roy. The essay is an excellent analysis of the misdeeds of our so-called leaders. At this point, I am proud to cite a Kannada weekly, Lankesh Patrike, which has conducted a similar crusade.

Dr. T.S. Hanumanthe Gowda Kanakapura, Karnataka

* * *

Arundhati Roy's brilliant piece deserves to be translated into all Indian languages and widely circulated. Hers is a poetic and powerful appeal against the voices of madness and intolerance. All right-thinking people must support her appeal for a non-nuclear, peaceful world. She has given a graphic account of the horrors of a nuclear war which our nuclear bomb enthusiasts must read.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore * * *

The article by Arundhati Roy does express the feelings of a lot of people. But I would like to assure her of two things: the earth will not be destroyed, but the world as we know it will be destroyed; and the earth will not be destroyed by nuclear bombs, but the world as we know will be destroyed - by the earth itself (or should I say by the sun?).

The destruction of the world has happened a countless number of times. Every 5,000 years or so, to be more exact. The present cycle of 5,000 years is coming to an end in the next 20 years or so. This has happened countless times in the past, and has been recorded in our fables of 'Pralaya'.

So Arundhati, do not despair about the nuclear bomb; a bigger calamity awaits us.

Pullat Devadas Menon Thrissur, Kerala * * *

As indicated by Arundhati, the whole problem of the God-created earth is its division with boundaries created artificially in the name of nations. It is high time that the borders were thrown open. Like birds and animals, human beings also need no boundaries. Governments should take care of only law and order.

Only when the peoples interact (particularly when we talk of "one world, one environment") will mutual trust grow and one can think of achieving permanent peace. Any number of meetings of officials will never take us to that goal.

Bhuwan Mohan Delhi * * *

The effort of a Booker Prize-winning author, who is also popular, in coming forward to protest against nuclear weapons and their testing might bring in a lot of attention to the anti-nuclear lobby. But it is a pity that the author they have chosen has produced one more piece of emotional fiction. Winning a Booker alone does not qualify Arundhati Roy to be a master in any subject. If she is a citizen of the world let her go and campaign in the five nuclear super powers. She has not even spared the media which have given so much publicity to "The End of Imagination".

M.C. Vaijayanthi vaiju7@hotmail.com * * *

Arundhati Roy's article on the nuclear bomb has many commendable sentiments, which almost - but not quite - makes the reader overlook her overwrought and self-indulgent prose. In a way, "The End of Imagination" reminded me of her overrated novel, The God of Small Things.

Dr. Satadru Sen Seattle, U.S. Nuclear tests

An overwhelming majority of articulate opinion in India has evidently supported the decision of the BJP-led Government to detonate nuclear bombs at Pokhran on May 11 and 13. Only a handful of people (of whom I happen to be one) have expressed disapproval. One would therefore have expected the matter to be left there.

Still, at a recent meeting in Bangalore, President K.R. Narayanan has chosen to reinforce the rationale of the decision by quoting a statement of Jawaharlal Nehru made on June 26, 1946:

"As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest scientific devices for its protection. I have no doubt that India will develop its scientific research and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic power for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal. I hope India, in common with other countries, will prevent the use of atomic bombs" (The Hindu, July 29, 1998). The operative words here are "if India is threatened". So the question that arises is who threatened India, and when, to precipitate the decision taken in May.

That Pakistan did not pose a threat is evident from a variety of sources. The latest confirmation comes from "Visit to Pakistan" by Kuldip Nayar, published prominently in The Hindu of July 16, 1998. He writes: "... there is no doubting Pakistan's decision not to conduct the tests if India had not. Everyone confirmed it: political leaders, editors, intellectuals and human rights activists. Islamabad, with all its hostility towards New Delhi, could not have afforded to provoke India with the resources it has. The BJP's argument that Pakistan was already preparing to detonate the bomb is fallacious. The responsibility of exposing the subcontinent to nuclear warfare rests squarely on the BJP's shoulders".

There have also been other similar reports, such as the one from the Far Eastern Economic Review of June 25, 1998; the same journal, in a more recent issue dated July 23, 1998, has indicated at some length the "symbiotic relationship between the BJP and the shadowy RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)" and how the "May nuclear explosions... satisfied a long-time wish of the RSS for India to go nuclear."

So, instead of implying that the BJP-ruled Central Government was only responding to threats from Pakistan, what needs to be honestly investigated in India are the internal linkages within the Sangh Parivar and to what extent, if any, they account for he decision to explode the bomb. Those concerned with the proclivities of this communal organisation have considered it a greater threat to India's political and social stability than any nuclear threat from outside.

K.N. Raj Thiruvananthapuram

Correction: In the article "Buckling under U.S. pressure" (Frontline, August 14), the reference to the need for parliamentary ratification of any move by the Indian Government to sign the CTBT was erroneous. Accession to international treaties remains an executive privilege. The error is regretted.

Gathering momentum

The Convention Against Nuclear Weapons, organised on July 26 in Chennai, was testimony to a shift in the popular mood - from one of confused admiration to one which bears out a much better understanding of the BJP-motives behind the BJP-led Goverment's nuclear adventure.

WHEN the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Govern ment launched its ill-conceived nuclear adventure on May 11, it could hardly have expected things to turn sour so quickly. Pakistan responded in kind to Pokhran-II, and hostile international reaction mounted as days went by. Far more important, saner voices soon asserted themselves. Among the political forces, the Left stood firm against jingoism and initiated a powerful mass campaign against the suicidal nuclear misadventure and for a roll-back of nuclear weaponisation. A significant section of India's scientific intelligentsia took the exemplary initiative of countering Government and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Sangh Parivar propaganda with reasoned argument, in the popular press and in meetings across the country.

The Convention against nuclear weapons held in New Delhi on June 9, in which not only scientists and representatives of the Left parties but also highly knowledgeable persons who had occupied responsible positions in India's armed forces and the defence establishment took part, was a turning point in the campaign against weaponisation. The shift in the popular mood from one of confused admiration (brought about by orchestrated Government and Sangh Parivar propaganda) to a much better understanding of the perils of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Government's nuclear adventurism was sharply evident in the massive response to the Convention against Nuclear Weapons organised in Chennai on July 26 by the Campaign Committee Against Nuclear Weapons.

The venue of the convention, with a seating capacity of around 2,000, was packed and overflowing by 10 a.m. when the convention began. The composition of the assembly was particularly interesting. Perhaps about a third may have been activists or supporters of progressive and democratic movements, but the overwhelming majority were ordinary, non-political citizens from all walks of life. There were people in the audience who vividly remembered the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were numerous youngsters, including college students, who had been terribly confused by the events of May 11 and subsequent media coverage. There were many anxious middle class employees and professionals - both women and men - who were keen to understand the consequences of Pokhran-II and its aftermath for the country and for themselves. There was a fair sprinkling of women, though they were far fewer in number than the men. But perhaps the most impressive thing about the audience was that from 10 a.m., when the convention began, until 7 p.m., when it ended, the overwhelming majority of it stayed on and listened with rapt attention.

Welcoming everyone at the convention, N. Ram, Editor, Frontline, set out the aims of the convention. Pointing out that the atomic explosion carried out in May 1998 by India and Pakistan had seriously endangered peace and security in South Asia, Ram stressed the need for a powerful movement for nuclear disarmament and specifically for rolling back the programme of weaponisation that the BJP Government had embarked upon.

Admiral L. Ramdas, former Chief of the Naval Staff, inaugurated the Convention. Recalling the haste with which the minority BJP Government went ahead with Pokhran-II, he pointed out that the decision was taken within three weeks of the BJP coming to power. Worse, the armed forces do not seem to have been in the know of things at all. Citing the BJP's intra-coalition problems, its expectation that by this action it could gain prestige and the pressure brought upon the Government by the scientific establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy as possible proximate causes of this misadventure, Ramdas pointed out the absurdity of the claim that India had become a nuclear weapon state through Pokhran-II. There was no nuclear doctrine or strategy behind the Pokhran explosions. Nor was there even an awareness of the need for a full-fledged command-control-communication-intelligence system, he said. Stressing the need to counter this ruinous policy, Ramdas urged the improvement of relations with India's neighbours quickly. In conclusion, he pointed out that two square meals a day for every Indian was what would make India a strong nation and not the possession of an atom bomb.

Parliamentarian Murasoli Maran, former Union Minister for Industry and leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), lambasted the BJP-led Government for its sharp departure from the national policy consensus on the nuclear weapons issue. Recalling that the 13-day BJP Government of 1996 had tried to push through its nuclear agenda but was thwarted, Maran pledged the total support of the DMK to the convention and the movement against weaponisation. Maran released a collection of essays in Tamil on the nuclear question, brought out by South Vision Publishers. Admiral Ramdas received the first copy.

It is noteworthy that publications valued at more than Rs. 40,000 were sold at the convention.

THE highlight of the convention was a superb rendering by the well-known novelist Arundhati Roy of excerpts from an article of hers entitled "The End of Imagination". (The article has since been published simultaneously in Frontline and Outlook ). Not only was the text itself brilliant, but the eloquence with which it was rendered by Arundhati Roy was testimony to her sincere and deep commitment to peace, secularism and the pluralistic nature of India, as well as her abhorrence of the nuclear adventurism and the ensuing jingoism. Since a significant portion of the audience could not follow English adequately, the text was translated by a team led by M. Sivakumar and rendered in Tamil by R. Chandra, joint secretary of the Tamil Nadu State Committee of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA).

Among the distinguished speakers at the convention was the renowned agricultural scientist Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. In a brief but moving speech, Dr. Swaminathan highlighted the fact that a nuclear war was not only not "winnable" but would pollute the human gene pool permanently. Dr. C.T. Kurien, Chairman of the Madras Institute of Development Studies and a well-known economist, discussed the implications of the sanctions imposed by several developed countries on India in the wake of the Pokhran explosions. He pointed out that coming as they did at a time when the economy and the export sector were already performing poorly, the sanctions would worsen matters, especially in the social sector. Also, the huge negative impact of weaponisation on the country's economic development would be critical, he said.

In an important exercise, Dr. C. Rammanohar Reddy, Development Correspondent of The Hindu, brought out the cost of weaponisation. Estimating the cost at around Rs. 43,000 crores spent over five to 10 years, Dr. Reddy highlighted the useful investments that could be made in health, education and rural infrastructure if this money was available.

Mythily Sivaraman, national vice president of AIDWA, gave an inspiring account of the popular struggles for nuclear disarmament and against nuclear weapons. She highlighted the role of women in these struggles and emphasised that all sections of the democratic movement must intensify the campaign for universal nuclear disarmament and the roll-back of nuclear weaponisation.

Lalita Ramdas, who has been active nationally and internationally on issues of gender, education and development, elaborated the need for a broad-based and enlightened movement against nuclear weaponisation and against what she termed exclusivist, fascist and fundamentalist political forces. She also stressed the need to mobilise women in this struggle.

C.V. Narasimhan, who has served India with great distinction in the United Nations, exposed the hypocrisy and short-sightedness of both the Indian Government and the big powers. He called for strengthening the forces against nuclear weapons.

Dr. N. Srinivasan, former Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, and a former member of the Atomic Energy Commission, gave a succinct exposition of the science of the bomb, putting in proper perspective the claims being made by the defence and nuclear establishments. Noting that a bomb could be made by "putting together a few nuclear physicists, high pressure scientists, metallurgists and detonation control experts with laboratories and calculational facilities", Dr. Srinivasan said: "Lots remain to be done to reduce the costs of nuclear power stations and for reducing construction time and updating technology for reliable safe operation. It is time attention and resources are diverted towards tackling these issues rather than to self-destructive adventures like the tests."

A.B. Bardhan, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, recalled in his speech the perfidious role of the United States, which is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in utter disregard of all ethical considerations. Bardhan called for carrying forward the movement for peace and nuclear disarmament and against the present Indian Government's adventurist policies.

15170891jpg Frontline

In a typically crisp and lucid presentation, Prakash Karat, member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), set out the logic behind the BJP-led Government's disastrous nuclear policy and outlined the steps that needed to be taken to combat it. Noting that the Chennai convention was the most broad-based of all the conventions against Pokhran-II and its aftermath organised so far, Karat pointed out that this reflected the increasing popular support for the movement against weaponisation and exploded the myth of a "national consensus in support of the Pokhran explosions" so assiduously claimed by the Sangh Parivar. In Karat's view, there was an urgent need to carry out massive popular mobilisation on this issue. He noted that Pokhran-II flowed logically from the RSS understanding that India must possess nuclear weapons in order to be strong. Spewing venom against Pakistan and China was also part of the RSS-Sangh Parivar agenda. Further, their agenda linked the Ayodhya temple issue and nuclear weapons, he said.

The BJP's nuclear policy constituted, in Karat's view, a complete and sharp break with the national consensus that was in place right from Independence. This consensus had three aspects: a. Develop nuclear energy; b. Keep the nuclear option open but do not weaponise; and c. Do not become a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or any other discriminatory treaty that reflects the unequal world nuclear order, even while pursuing the goal of universal nuclear disarmament. Karat clarified that the CTBT should not be signed because it does not prevent the nuclear powers from producing and stockpiling weapons and, moreover, allows them to constantly improve their nuclear weaponry constantly. He pointed out that the BJP Government was moving from its initial nuclear adventurism to capitulationism and was seriously considering signing the CTBT. The utmost vigilance was therefore called for as the people needed to ensure that the Government did not surrender to big power pressures, he said. Karat called for building a powerful popular movement for the roll-back of weaponisation and the restoration of pre-1998 national consensus on nuclear policy.

N.M. Sundaram, general secretary, All India Insurance Employees' Association, moved the main resolution at the Convention. Tracing the sharp worsening of India's security situation to the BJP-led Government's nuclear misadventure, the Resolution demanded that the Government of India:

* Stop weaponisation forthwith and restore the status quo ante.

* Restore the policy of active propaganda to achieve the goal of universal nuclear disarmament and on that basis, oppose the unequal global nuclear bargain.

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* Initiate talks with Pakistan to resolve the current crisis and make efforts to sort out all outstanding bilateral issues. Promote confidence-building measures.

* Restore amicable relations with China on the basis of trust, cooperation and good-neighbourly spirit.

* Reaffirm India's commitment to peaceful and non-military uses of atomic energy. Emphasise the important role of science and technology in promoting human welfare and development.

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The resolution was seconded by Dr. T. Jayaraman, a physicist at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, and a leading national campaigner against nuclear weaponisation. The convention unanimously adopted the resolution.

Delivering the closing address of the convention, N. Sankariah, secretary of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), congratulated the campaign committee against nuclear weapons on organising the remarkably broad-based and highly successful convention. Pledging his party's and the Left's total support to the widest possible popular mobilisation on this issue, Sankariah called upon all those present to join the mass actions planned for Hiroshima Day on August 6.

Other eminent persons who participated and spoke at the convention included noted Tamil journalist Maalan; actor Dhritiman Chaterji; Dr. P. Mitra of Apollo Hospitals, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons; activist lawyer N.G.R.Prasad; Chief of Bureau (South) of Outlook magazine A.S. Panneerselvan; and nuclear medicine specialist Dr. V.M. Sivaramakrishnan.

Quattrocchi loses another round

The Delhi High Court ruling dismissing Ottavio Quattrocchi's petition challenging the arrest warrant issued against him by the CBI has removed yet another legal hurdle in the case.

ON August 5, the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition by fugitive businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi pleading for the quashing of the an arrest warrant issued against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It is difficult precisely to gauge what drove Quattrocchi to seek the protection of a judicial system that he was fleeing from. In moving the court in March, the Italian businessman and former friend of the Rajiv Gandhi family only succeeded in bringing into public focus some aspects of the Bofors scandal that till then had remained remote.

While dismissing Quattrocchi's petition, a Division Bench of the High Court upheld the arrest warrant and directed the CBI to execute it in accordance with the law. The warrant stood the test of legality, ruled Justices Devinder Gupta and N.G. Nandi, since there was prima facie evidence that Quattrocchi was involved in the Bofors case. This also meant that the 'red alert' issued by Interpol on the request of the CBI remained valid.

In dismissing Quattrocchi's petition, the court put on record its disinclination to accept the argument that the evidence against him was "scanty". Also turned down was the plea that no particular offence had been made out against him.

The task of bringing Quattrocchi back to face the legal process in India remains as knotty as ever, although the Delhi High Court's ruling means that his movements will remain restricted. The former agent of an Italian fertilizer conglomerate who managed to foist himself on the Indian Army's massive acquisition programme for howitzer field guns will find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain entry into any other country. Resident in Malaysia since being identified in July 1993 as one of the appellants contesting a Swiss court's decision to transfer to India documents connected to the Bofors payoffs, Quattrocchi remains vulnerable to arrest on entry even in his native Italy. Seemingly deprived of any other recourse, Quattrocchi has offered to clear the air by inviting some "responsible" person to interrogate him in his haven in Malaysia. Against the background of his persistent evasion of the CBI's queries, this must seem rather odd.

An attempt by the CBI to obtain his extradition in February 1997 was thwarted by the Malaysian police on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Malaysia, like India, is a signatory to the Commonwealth Convention on mutual assistance in matters criminal and its penal code is akin to India's. But it provides for the trial of extra-territorial offences only in the case of certain "offences against the state", which are defined precisely.

On a parallel track, the CBI was following the monies paid out by Bofors as they traversed a circuitous route across the world. The payoffs received in April 1986 were parked in a Zurich bank and moved to Channel Islands in a matter of days. A letters rogatory was sent to the British Government, which exercises sovereignty over Channel Islands, in November 1997. This was followed by the visit of a team of CBI investigators to Guernsey in Channel Islands.

What the CBI uncovered in Guernsey was the further rapid transit of the payoffs, to four coded accounts in Vienna and Geneva. This is the stage at which Quattrochhi made his counter-move, seeking a judicial quashing of the warrant issued against him.

QUATTROCCHI'S petition had the immediate effect of focussing minds. The CBI in its counter-affidavit formulated the state of knowledge on the Bofors investigations with a clarity that was lacking earlier. It states quite definitively, for instance, that A.E. Services - the mysterious shell company that materialised on the scene with an assured entitlement provided the howitzer deal was concluded within a tight deadline - was a Quattrocchi operation entirely owned by another of his registered firms.

A.E. Services had privileged information that Bofors was the likely winner of the contract. This alone enabled it to obtain a substantial chunk of the take without rendering any tangible assistance to the cause of either the purchaser or the seller. And in this respect, the CBI affidavit before the Delhi High Court was brutally candid: "Investigation has shown that the families of the then Prime Minister of India and Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi were on very intimate terms with each other and they used to meet frequently... Mr. Quattrocchi and family had free access to the Prime Minister's house."

A.E. Services' entry into the negotiations was in effect an agreement to cheat "because the two parties to the agreement conspired to deceive the Government of India and dishonestly induce it to part with moneys... to the tune of US $7.34 million," says the CBI affidavit.

IN its order dismissing Quattrocchi's plea, the Delhi High Court agrees with the CBI assessment that his offence is to be viewed in its illicit linkage with the actions of a number of Indian public servants. This removes another legal hurdle that had restrained the agency from launching prosecutions in the Bofors case. The political obstacles, however, are quite another matter. Consent is awaited from the Government for the prosecution of two senior civil servants from Rajiv Gandhi's tenure as Prime Minister - former Defence Secretary S.K. Bhatnagar and former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, G.K. Arora. These apart, Madhavsinh Solanki, External Affairs Minister in the Narasimha Rao Cabinet, faces prosecution for his maladroit attempt to obstruct the course of the law. These permissions, mandatory under Indian law, have been on hold for over a year.

Meanwhile, proceedings are on in a Swiss cantonal court for the transfer of documents pertaining to another set of Bofors payoffs - on the Pitco-Moresco track, believed to implicate an influential family of expatriate Indian businessmen. Once this hurdle is cleared, there is likely to be another appeal before the Swiss federal court. Whether the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government will, through this long haul, retain its fervour for the pursuit of wrong-doing is unclear. What is indubitable is that in the course of its seven-year long odyssey, the legal process connected to Bofors has established a degree of autonomy, which to an extent, puts it beyond the scope of political meddling.

Protest in West Bengal

A CROWD of about 3,000 people stopped the Howrah-bound Kurla Express from Mumbai at Ulubearia, 65 km from Calcutta, on the afternoon of July 23, demanding that a batch of 34 persons in the train be set free. These passengers, who included seven women, were Bengali-speaking Muslims, all zari workers. They had been "identified as Bangladeshis" and sent by the Maharashtra Government, with police escort, to be deported to Bangladesh at West Bengal's border town of Bongaon.

A section of the crowd even climbed on to the train, and the Maharashtra police personnel who were in the train fired five rounds in the air. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) too fired blank shots.Veteran Forward Bloc leader and Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Uluberia, Rabin Ghosh, who led the protesters, claimed that the deportees had valid documents to prove that they hailed from Barast, Bangaon, Uluberia, Howrah and Panchla in West Bengal.

On July 24, the RPF personnel, led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police, removed from the Down Kurla Express at Kharagpur another group of 38 Bengali-speaking Muslim workers coming from Mumbai, apprehending trouble. The persons, who included 13 Bangladeshis, were granted bail by the Fifth Judicial Magistrate of the Midnapore Subdivisional Court.The Left Front Government in West Bengal has taken exception to the way in which the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government of Maharashtra has been deporting Bengali-speaking Muslim zari workers from Mumbai, branding them Bangladeshis.

Muslim residents of Howrah, Midnapore, Hooghly and 24-Parganas districts are anxiously waiting for news from their relatives in Mumbai who are mainly engaged as zari, diamond, platinum and gold workers. Alauddin Mollah, one of them, told Frontline that he had not heard from his brother Salim Ali for over a month. He had heard about the raids conducted in parts of Mumbai where Muslim workers from West Bengal live.

The workers returning from Mumbai alleged that the Maharashtra Police made large-scale arrests of Muslims workers, mistaking all of them for Bangladeshi infiltrators simply because they spoke Bengali. "On July 9, the police raided a place under the Satra police station in Mumbai when my friends were asleep. The minute the police heard the terrified workers speak Bengali, they herded them into a van," Sheikh Dilwar, a resident of Bahira in Howrah district, said. Dilwar escaped being picked up since he was sleeping some distance away. News of the incident spread, and within days, almost all Bengali workers in Maharashtra left.

Immediately after the Uluberia incident, the West Bengal Government lodged a protest with the Centre and the Maharashtra Government on the issue of "deporting infiltrators". Describing the Shiv Sena-BJP Government's action as uncivilised, Chief Minister Jyoti Basu asked: "Are they dealing with cattle?" Admitting that infiltration from Bangladesh to West Bengal has taken place, he said that his Government had discussed the matter several times in the State Assembly. Steps were being taken to detect and deport such infiltrators, he said.

However, Jyoti Basu said that preliminary police reports revealed that among those sent back by Maharashtra, only five or six persons did not have proof that they were Indian citizens.

Reacting sharply to Union Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi's statement that the West Bengal Government was "lackadaisical" about detecting and deporting illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, West Bengal Home (Police) Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya pointed out that the Maharashtra Police had earlier pushed about 800 people back to Bangladesh from West Bengal's border areas without informing the State Government about the action. He asserted that West Bengal had always taken action against Bangladeshi infiltrators, but not in this manner. The State Government would prosecute Bangladeshis found to be staying in West Bengal without valid papers and hand them over to the Border Security Force.

Bhattacharya, who is also the acting Chief Minister, told Frontline that the State Government would seek an explanation from the Shiv Sena-BJP Government as to why it did not seek the West Bengal Government's permission before sending its police personnel to West Bengal. "Even if some of the deportees are Bangladeshis, this is no way to send them back. Is a Deputy Commissioner of the Maharashtra Police authorised to decide on deporting illegal immigrants? Do they have sufficient proof to establish that they are Bangladeshis?"

Bhattacharya said that the State authorities had been given the impression that the Mumbai Police had a court order, but it was found that there was none.

The Left Front Government has moved the Calcutta High Court against the Maharashtra Government's deportation of those whom the West Bengal Government believes are residents of the State. Meanwhile, Justice Samaresh Banerjee of the High Court passed an order on July 24 restraining the police and other respondents from deporting three petitioners to Bangladesh or any other country. The petitioners produced voters' lists and other relevant documents to show that they were citizens of India. They were among the 34 people whom the Maharashtra Police was escorting to Bongaon.

In another case, Justice Banerjee directed the West Bengal Police on July 27 to allow six petitioners to go to their houses in Howrah after taking an undertaking from them that they would not leave their houses without leave of the court. The Judge passed this order on the application of six deportees who had been handed over by the Maharashtra Police to the West Bengal police with the request that they be deported to Bangladesh.

Political parties in West Bengal, including the Congress(I), are angry with Maharashtra's move. Buddhadev Bhattacharya was, however, not pleased with Congress(I) supporters' action of defacing the walls of Maharashtra Nivas in South Calcutta. The Forward Bloc, a partner in the Left Front Government, sent to Mumbai a four-member team led by State Irrigation Minister Debabrata Banerjee to study the condition of the zari workers from Bengal in Maharashtra. A Trinamul Congress team led by Ajit Panja, Member of Parliament, also visited Mumbai in this regard.

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