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COVER STORY

18-08-2000

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Briefing

LET OFF, FOR NOW

A Mumbai court terminates prosecution proceedings against Bal Thackeray for his inflammatory writings that preceded the Mumbai riots of 1992-93. However, the State's Democratic Front government's resolve to bring the guilty to book bodes ill for the triumphal Shiv Sena, whose threat of terror has meanwhile been proved to be empty.

"If I am arrested... then the whole of the country up to Jammu and Kashmir will rise up. I am prepared. If a holy war is to begin because of me, than so be it."

- Bal Thackeray in Saamna, January 23, 1993.

ON July 17, as news of the Maharashtra government's decision to prosecute Bal Thackeray for inciting communal hatred spread through the State, an irate army of Shiv Sena workers attacked the Mayor's office in Thane. They broke furniture and windowpanes, and then proceeded to set papers in the office on fire. Newspaper reporters were perplexed, for the Mayor of Thane, Ramesh Vaiti, is himself a Shiv Sena leader. Even more surprising, he was leading the mob himself. It turned out that no one on the street s had joined the Sena's protest, driving its lumpen forces to vent their fury on themselves.

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Predictably, then, no holy war began through India when Thackeray was arrested nine days later, on June 25. Seven years after he authored his infamous threat in the party newspaper, Saamna, even the Shiv Sena's Mumbai citadel did not burn. Through the morning of their general's arrest, the lumpen armies of the Shiv Sena succeeded only in throwing stones at cars passing through some half a dozen neighbourhoods, while their representatives in the Maharashtra Assembly laboured to rip apart the fitti ngs in the House. The only things ablaze in Mumbai were the fireworks set off by Shiv Sena cadre later that day, to celebrate Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate B.P. Kamble's decision to terminate the legal proceedings against Thackeray.

Supporters of the Hindu Right have since been revelling in Thackeray's triumph, but Mumbai's would-be fuhrer has good reason for caution. The threat of Shiv Sena terror, India's longest-running political bluff, has without dispute been called by the Demo cratic Front (D.F.) regime. As important, Magistrate Kamble's controversial order is certain to face rigorous legal challenge. And with judges in the Supreme Court taking a decidedly less indulgent view of Thackeray's hate crimes than Magistrate Kamble, the Shiv Sena's orgy of self-congratulation could prove premature.

BAL THACKERAY walked into the Bhoiwada Magistrate's Court at 10 minutes to 12, some 20 minutes after his arrest at the Mumbai Mayor's residence. The Shiv Sena chief, in his capacity as the editor of Saamna, was charged along with the newspaper's e xecutive editor Sanjay Raut and publisher Subhash Desai with inciting communal hatred. Three editorials and an article written in January 1993, when the Shiv Sena unleashed a communal pogrom against Mumbai's Muslim community, formed the basis of the pros ecution case. Prosecution lawyer P.R. Vakil began by moving a remand application, announcing that he would shortly file a charge-sheet. Thackeray's lawyers, Adhik Shirodkar and Satish Manashinde, told Magistrate Kamble that they wished to move a bail app lication in the event that the court took cognisance of the charge-sheet.

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Less than half an hour after Thackeray appeared in court, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate had made up his mind. "As the case is time-barred," he said tersely, "the offence cannot be taken cognisance of, as also the State has not explained in its remand explanation the reason for its delay in filing the charge-sheet. Condoning such a delay is on the court's discretion. The accused is therefore released and the offence registered stands terminated." Kamble also said he was "considering what t he public is facing, at whose instance, and at what cost". The Judge also argued that an "unnecessary law and order situation was created which could have been avoided". Thackeray walked out of the court in triumph, demanding Deputy Chief Minister Chhaga n Bhujbal's dismissal for having dared to prosecute him.

But Magistrate Kamble's order has raised a number of difficult questions, for which answers will have to be found. The Magistrate relied on Section 468(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which mandates that the prosecution of offences which car ry maximum sentences of one and three years must begin within three years, although Section 473 of the CrPC mandates that a Judge may condone such delay if the "facts and circumstances of the delay have been properly explained" or even simply "in the int erest of justice". Magistrate Kamble chose not to exercise this power for the simple reason that the State never asked for the delay to be condoned. Indeed, the limitation clauses of Section 468 have formed a core element of the propaganda put out by the Hindu Right's legal luminaries.

Few in the media, like Magistrate Kamble, appear to have taken the trouble to test the claims of Thackeray's lawyers against the plain language of the law. The end of Section 468 of the CrPC makes clear that its mandates are binding "except as otherwise provided". Section 470(3) lays out one crucial exclusion. When "under any law", it reads, "the previous consent or sanction of the government or of any other authority is required for the institution of prosecution, then in computing the period of limita tion, the period of such notice or the time required for obtaining such consent or sanction shall be excluded". Since prosecutions under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) require government consent, the clause clearly applies. Put simply, the S tate made no application for the Judge to condone the delay in filing a charge-sheet because none was required.

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Prosecution counsel Vakil is not the only one perplexed by the events in court. For one, the sole reason Kamble's order gives for rejecting the mandates of Section 470 is that written copies of the State's sanction to prosecute were not produced. But Va kil has gone on record to say that Kamble did not give him an opportunity to produce the document, which he had with him in court. More important, the State had not filed a charge-sheet before the Magistrate at the time he threw the case out. How he coul d dismiss a case that had not been formally filed before him is one of the mysteries that will undoubtedly be explored in an appellate court.

Magistrate Kamble's digressions into the law and order situation or the State government's motives, too, have raised eyebrows. And some of the terminology in the Judge's order, notably the use of the word 'terminate', are unfamiliar to students of Indian criminal law.

"It is not proper for me to prejudge the High Court on these issues," says eminent constitutional lawyer P.P. Rao, "but I will say that it is a fit case for appeal."

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MYSTERIES, indeed, have been a recurrent motif of the two cases for which Bal Thackeray was arrested. Criminal Register number 420/93 and 459/93, filed in June and July 1993, each addressed two articles carried by Saamna in January that year. The first information reports charged Thackeray, Raut and Desai with offences not only under Section 153(A) of the IPC, but also Section 3 of the Police Act of 1922, which deals with the incitement of disaffection among police personnel. The use of this seco nd section, the prosecution of which requires the sanction of the Police Commissioner or District Magistrate concerned, was provoked by the allegations levelled in Saamna against certain Mumbai Police officers of Muslim origin. In April 1994, havi ng completed its investigation, the Mumbai Police applied to the State Home Ministry for sanction to prosecute Thackeray and his colleagues.

Then the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government took power and the cases disappeared. While the Sena-BJP withdrew over a dozen pending riot-related cases against Thackeray, CR 420 and 459 vanished into the nether reaches of the Home Ministry's Gener al Administration Department. There it lay through the Hindu Right government's four-and-a-half years in power. No one is certain whether this was simply oversight, or whether BJP leader and then Home Minister Gopinath Munde chose to keep the case as an insurance policy to rein in Thackeray in the event of a rift within the alliance. Whatever the truth, this period of delay, which is at the heart of the Shiv Sena defence that Thackeray's prosecution is barred by the laws of limitation, was clearly the r esult of inaction by the then government.

Action had to await the arrival of Bhujbal, a one-time Shiv Sena leader who had played a key role in the organisation's expansion out of its Mumbai heartland into rural Maharashtra. A sustained campaign by the Shiv Sena-BJP opposition to bring down the g overnment, with the support of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) dissidents grouped around Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, earlier this year prepared the ground for Bhujbal's offensive.

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Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, which has long charged Mumbai's Samajwadi Party chief Abu Asim Azmi with having connections with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), made demands for his arrest the centrepiece of its renewed offensive. Azmi made a spe ech at Mastan Talao on February 24, proclaiming that if Islam was attacked he was not bothered if India broke into pieces. Bhujbal promised to arrest Azmi, but also promised action against Thackeray on the same legal grounds. (On July 27, the police file d a charge-sheet in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate against Azmi for alleged offences under Sections 153 and 153(a) of the IPC.)

Over the next weeks, the Home Department got to work finding the files on CR 420 and CR 459. It took an extended search of records at the Dadar police station and the Mumbai Police's Special Branch to trace the documents back to the General Administratio n Department.

When the Shiv Sena began an ambitious programme of political mobilisation ahead of the monsoon season, attacking establishments perceived to discriminate against Maharashtrians and defaming Muslims, the need to act sharpened. The last straw appears to ha ve been the Shiv Sena-BJP's renewed flirtation with the NCP's eight dissident MLAs. Although these numbers were nowhere near those required to bring down the government, Bhujbal was now convinced that the D.F. had to take on the Hindu Right frontally if it was to survive.

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BUT few in the D.F. agreed with him, and Bhujbal's next move was made in complete secrecy. On July 15, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was working in his office, when images of Thackeray began to flit across a television screen at the far end of the roo m. It was not until he turned up the volume, and recovered from the shock of hearing that Bhujbal had sanctioned Thackeray's prosecution, that the Chief Minister asked his staff whether the Deputy Chief Minister had sent up a file on the subject. It turn ed out that he had done so, but it had been put aside on the assumption that the papers were of a routine nature. Bhujbal, sources say, explained that he had not intended to speak to the press on the issue, but was ambushed by reporters after news leaked of the sanction.

Deshmukh rapidly rallied around Bhujbal, bolstered by support from influential Congress(I) leaders in New Delhi. The real problem that remained was within the NCP. When NCP president and former Union Minister Sharad Pawar arrived in Mumbai on July 19, he believed the case against Thackeray was among those that had been thrown out by the Bombay High Court in 1994 when it heard a public interest litigation asking that the State be compelled to prosecute the Shiv Sena supremo for his writings in Saamna. Mohite-Patil and other senior NCP leaders also complained that the decision had been taken without building an inner party consensus, and that it might well backfire.

Younger NCP leaders, however, differed. Finance Minister Jayant Patil, for one, forcefully argued that a strong line against the Shiv Sena offered the moribund NCP its sole opportunity to expand its base in Maharashtra, and emerge as a powerful regional formation.

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By the time Pawar returned to Delhi the next day, he was evidently persuaded by what the radicals within his party were pushing for. He now issued a statement endorsing Bhujbal's prosecution. In Mumbai, both Deshmukh and Bhujbal got to work to reining in the Shiv Sena. Security was withdrawn for dozens of shakha pramukhs (branch heads), the cutting edge leadership of the Shiv Sena's lumpen forces. Much of the security had been granted after a welter of mafia-related attacks against the Shiv Sena, and often in contravention of security guidelines. Although the shakha pramukhs bitterly complained that their lives were in jeopardy, in the event none was harmed. As the Mumbai Police began a crackdown against Shiv Sena activists believed to be in the process of organising violence to protest against Thackeray's now-imminent arrest, dozens of activists quietly left town.

Blackmail was now the only line of defence open to Thackeray. On June 19, Shiv Sena Ministers Manohar Joshi, Balasaheb Vikhe Patil and Suresh Prabhu submitted their resignation to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The display did not work. That evenin g, Union Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan delivered a blunt warning from the Prime Minister to the Shiv Sena chief. "You already have one government as an enemy," he said, "do you really want two?" New Delhi made a minor ritual show of pres suring the Maharashtra Government by refusing additional Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) units to secure the city. This, however, had little real meaning, for a few additional companies would have done little to supplement the 40,000-strong Mumbai Po lice. Bhujbal responded by threatening to withdraw Maharashtra Police personnel from Central installations like the Mumbai Airport, scoring political points.

More than a few State BJP leaders gloated over the events, for they meant an end to the Shiv Sena's efforts to revitalise its apparatus. Mahajan now set about trying to broker deal through which Thackeray would agree to be prosecuted as long as he was no t arrested. Pawar rejected this offer out of hand. A second set of proposals, this time for detention at home rather than a humiliating encounter with the police, were in turn shot down by Bhujbal. In the two days before the arrest finally took place, Bh ujbal suggested that Thackeray surrender at the Commissioner of Police's office, and then be driven to the Magistrate's court. Thackeray, in turn, offered through Munde to surrender to the police at the Mumbai Mayor's residence instead. This deal was fin ally accepted, subjected to one important caveat: if the Shiv Sena chief did not tone down his violent polemic, the State would oppose bail. The threat worked. In Bhujbal's words, Thackeray promptly became "Gandhian", calling on his cadre to maintain the peace.

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MOST observers have seen the events at Magistrate Kamble's court as a crippling setback to secular forces in Maharashtra, and a triumph for the Shiv Sena. Newspaper reports have proclaimed that a revolt against Bhujbal is imminent, as NCP dissidents clam our for blood. Neither of these events, however, appears probable. For one, the expulsion of 12 Shiv Sena MLAs for their vandalism in the Assembly has given the D.F. the numbers it needs to survive the political attacks launched by dissidents within its ranks. Then, the Shiv Sena's tactical triumph in the court rests on uncertain legal foundations, and could well be reversed. Finally, the welter of prosecutions that is certain to open up when the Supreme Court takes up the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Report in August will also propel events.

Most important, the events of July have given anti-Shiv Sena political forces a coherent agenda for action. Bhujbal has, despite the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's order, emerged as a credible voice of a wide constituency made up of Dalits, b ackward classes, minorities and traditional Congress supporters who have been in search of leadership.

From the magistrate's order

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Excerpts from Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate B.P. Kamble's order:

IT was submitted on behalf of the State mainly that so far as limitation is concerned, it is not applicable in this case, because it runs only after the sanction obtained from the Government of Maharashtra. So far as defence is concerned the ld. advocate for accused has mainly emphasised for bail and release of accused.

After having considered the facts and circumstances over-all situation in both these remand applications the court cannot play role of mere spectator. It is the duty of court for correct application, real implementation and execution of legal values...

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In order to apply said principle of limitation and to calculate the alleged offence which has taken place before 7 years. An attempt is made to explain that u/s 470 CrPC on behalf of the State that said period pertains to exclusion of time in this case. Prosecution has given reference about Sec. 470(3) CrPC in order to compute the period of limitation which reads as follows:

Where notice of prosecution of an offence has been given or where under any law for the time being in force, the previous consent or sanction of the Government or any other authority is required for the institution of any prosecution for an offence, then in computing the period of limitation, the period of such notice or as the case may be, the time required for obtaining such consent or sanction shall be excluded.

I am unable to accept the position propounded by the prosecution that S.153-A of IPC. is governed by Sec.470(3) of CrPC. It elaborates particularly that sanction of Government is necessary under the virtues and rules by any law for the time being in forc e but Sec. 153-A IPC. does not fall under orbit of Sec. 470(3) CrPC. because no written sanction produced. As per Remand application averted as follows:

"On 24/04/1994 the application was made to the Govt. of Maharashtra under Sec.196-(a) of Code of Criminal Procedure seeking sanction for prosecution of accused for the said offences. By their communication dated 20/07/2000, the Govt. of Maharashtra has a ccorded the requisite sanction."

Obviously, the prosecution is not in hands the said written sanction. One cannot forget that there is limitation so far as filing the charge-sheet, completion of investigation. If it is not completed within 24 hours, the procedure followed in Sec.167(2) of CrPC. Can we say that there is no limit for filing charge-sheet? Is it the whims of prosecution? Unfortunately these questions are not explained by prosecution to my satisfaction.

Since investigation could not be completed for the reasons best known to the prosecution as contemplated u/s 167 CrPC therefore accused cannot be put to arrest and any more detention. The prosecution also failed to explain why condonation of delay, if an y, was not sought for. However, the interesting prayer of prosecution for suitable orders does not satisfy what categorically they require remedy for...

The application is brought for remand without support by the State. The arguments are made orally without production of any such sanction from the State government. Without sanction the court cannot take cognisance of offence. Cognisance means taking jud icial notice of an offence. Taking cognisance of an offence as a court of original jurisdiction amounts to initiation of the proceeding for the first time in a court and not in a subsequent inquiry or trial necessary for disposal of the case...

Offence registered is barred by limitation u/s 468(2)(c) of CrPC cognisance not taken by the court. Therefore accused No.1 Balasaheb Keshav Thackare, accused No.2 Sanjay Rajam Raut and accused No.3 Subash Rajaram Desai are released and offence registered stands terminated and closed.

'We will move a higher court'

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Interview with Chhagan Bhujbal.

Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal is without dispute the man the Shiv Sena hates most. Over the last month, it has also learned to fear him. In this interview to Praveen Swami, given shortly after the prosecution of Bal Thackeray was qu ashed by a magistrate's court, Bhujbal explains the reasons for his campaign to bring the Shiv Sena to book, and its political implications both for him personally and the Nationalist Congress Party. He also discusses his own reasons for breaking with th e Shiv Sena a decade ago. Excerpts:

It has been suggested that the only real outcomes of the effort to prosecute Bal Thackeray have been days of harassment for ordinary Mumbai residents, and egg on your face. In fact, some say your own job is in jeopardy. How would you respond to these criticisms?

I did not sanction Thackeray's prosecution to satisfy my ego. It was done to punish a man responsible for the death of hundreds of people in the riots of 1992-1993. It was done to signal to Maharashtra and India that no one, no one, is above the law. Aft er the order quashing the case, I offered to resign. But MLA after MLA, Minister after Minister, asked me not to, and demanded that we push ahead with our task of ensuring that justice is done.

As for the harassment of Mumbai residents, people know who threatened to burn down the city if he was arrested. They know who threw stones and tried to burn buses. They also know that we, for the first time in Mumbai's history, ensured that the Shiv Sena could not engage in widespread violence.

Why did you act against Thackeray at this time? Was it to cut off overtures by the Shiv Sena and the BJP to dissidents in the NCP?

No, no, these things are not connected. Look, the implementation of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission Report was part of the common minimum programme of the Democratic Front. That matter is before the Supreme Court, and we have every intention of pr osecuting Thackeray and others with a role in the violence for each and every offence. When we discovered there was a case for inciting communal hatred pending against Thackeray, we immediately took action. We cleared the necessary files, and moved to pr osecute him. What has dissidence got to do with it?

People ask why what happened 10 years ago is relevant now.

Only Shiv Sainiks ask this question. It is relevant to the families of the people who were killed, to those whose homes were burned, and the orphans left behind by the riots. Is this a joke? Can you, in a democratic country, murder people and escape puni shment only because you are powerful? Sixteen years after the 1984 riots in Delhi, the BJP is offering to set up another commission of inquiry. It is prosecuting people involved in killing Sikhs. I support this. But then they oppose doing the same thing in Maharashtra, which makes clear that what they are doing in Delhi is because of political convenience, not principles.

Is it true that you acted without consulting anybody?

That is not true. As the Chief Minister has said time and again, the decision to prosecute Thackeray was a collective decision. That is the truth.

What are your plans now to revive the prosecution of Thackeray in this case?

Well, we shall be moving a higher court very shortly. The legal advice we have received, and State counsel P.R. Vakil's own report to the government, are unanimous. We have a good case for appeal. Let nobody think the magistrate's order is the end of thi s affair. And then of course there are the Srikrishna Commission cases, which also we shall file.

Contrary to the fears of many people, the Shiv Sena does not seem to have been able to mobilise against Thackeray's prosecution in any major way.

I don't know what people are scared of. Thackeray is a cowardly man. Like all bullies, he cowers when he is confronted. When we said we would prosecute him, he said Mumbai would burn. He said he would not apply for bail. Then, he saw we were not intimida ted. Then Thackeray started saying he respected the law and called for peace. He became a Gandhian. When the Union government refused to give us additional forces, I said I would withdraw the Maharashtra Police from central installations. I withdrew secu rity to Shiv Sena workers who were not entitled to it. The Maharashtra Police did an excellent job of maintaining law and order. I was under so much pressure from so many people to place him under house arrest, not to oppose his bail application. The fir st thing his lawyers did was to apply for bail. The things that people asked on his behalf!

What you are saying seems strange coming from a man who spent decades in the Shiv Sena, and built it up outside Mumbai.

Look, there is a lot of misunderstanding about this, which I want to clarify. I come from a poor family of vegetable vendors, and grew up in a working class area of Mumbai. I studied hard, and got a seat to study at the VGTI engineering college. At that time, the mills in Mumbai were dying, and educated Maharashtrian youth were finding it difficult to get jobs. Most of the jobs in the new industries, which were coming up, went to outsiders. So, like everyone else in the college, I was attracted to the S hiv Sena. It was only later I realised that the organisation's claims to protect the rights of Maharashtrians were nonsense. One day we'd be beating up Dalits, the next day Muslims, and all the while the so called leaders of Maharashtrians were making mo ney. The Mandal Commission report was the last straw. When the Shiv Sena opposed reservations, I said that I could not stay on in an organisation which was hostile to the kind of background and community I myself had come from. Remember, I did not quit t o become a Minister. I had to suffer. The Shiv Sena even tried to liquidate me.

Finally, what are the political consequences of the magistrate's order? Is this going to strengthen the Shiv Sena?

People do not understand this, but there is a wide anti-Hindutva constituency in Maharashtra. It has just not been tapped properly. In the last elections, let us face facts, Dalits and Muslims did not trust my party. Although we promised to protect their rights, they thought we might join hands with the BJP or the Shiv Sena later. Today we have proved that we are serious about implementing what we say. People from every secular party in the country have been calling to congratulate us on taking a stand. We have a historic opportunity to consolidate and grow. For nine months, people thought this government was a joke. No one is laughing today.

A welter of evidence

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How Thackeray & Co. figure in the Srikrishna Commission Report.

PRAVEEN SWAMI

SOME of the most damning evidence of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's role in the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993 is tucked away between pages 172 and 176 of Volume II of the Report of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry.

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On the evening of January 8, 1993, as Mumbai burned, reporter Yuvraj Mohite ran into the city's Mayor, Chandrakant Handore. The Mayor decided to take Mohite along with him for a series of meetings that evening, which ended with a visit to Thackeray's res idence, Matoshri. There, the Srikrishna Report records, he found Thackeray "directing the Shiv Sainiks, Shakha Pramukhs and other activists of the Shiv Sena to attack the Muslims, to ensure that they gave tit for tat and ensure that 'not a single land ya (a derogatory term for Muslims) would survive to give oral evidence'." Shiv Sena leaders Ramesh More and Madhukar Sarpotdar, who arrived at Matoshri later that evening, were given similar instructions. A caller from Jogeshwari was asked to catch h old of Additional Commissioner of Police A.A. Khan, and "send him to 'Allah's home' at once".

Shiv Sena lawyer Adhik Shirodkar did his best to discredit this testimony. Mohite was cross-examined about everything, from the layout of Thackeray's home at the time of his visit to his political convictions. Nothing worked. "The Commission," Justice Sr ikrishna concluded, "sees no reason for not accepting the testimony of this witness."

Justice Srikrishna ended the first volume of his report with a brief quote from the Ramayana. "Persons pleasing in speech are easy to find," it reads, "it is difficult to find one who speaks or listens to the bitter, but wholesome, truth." On July 21, tw o years after Justice Srikrishna submitted his findings, a Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice A.S. Anand and Justices R.C. Lahoti and K.G. Balakrishnan finally made clear that someone, at least, is giving them a hearing. "When the report had given certain findings and held certain persons prima facie responsible for the riots," the judges said, "the logical corollary should be to prosecute them." Thackeray, who has been busy celebrating his triumph in a Magistrate's Court, could find his problems are just beginning.

Much of the Supreme Court's fury was focussed on the Union government, which had argued in its affidavit that it had no role to play in the affair. Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani had, however, been vocal in his criticism of the Maharashtra government for initiating proceedings against Thackeray, while Sena representatives in the Union Cabinet had demanded the dismissal of the Democratic Front (D.F.) regime. "It is distressing that comments are made by Cabinet Ministers while a petition seeking implem entation of the Commission's report is pending before the highest court in the land." "Telling something to the Court and playing to the gallery by saying something else to the public," the judges noted, "hardly behoves a person in a civilised society." It was almost as if, they concluded, the concept of collective responsibility was "not known to this government".

Faced with this extraordinary, but well-deserved, judicial critique, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was left with no option but to remove Jethmalani from the Union Cabinet. Jethmalani's observations against the Chief Justice of India and the charges he directed at Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee, have had obvious political consequences. As important, however, is the fact that Justice Anand's bench has reversed a long and disturbing history of judicial quiescence in the Shiv Sena's objectives. After the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government came to power in Maharashtra, the State began to withdraw more than a dozen cases pending against Thackeray for inciting communal hatred through the Shiv Sena newspaper, Saamna. The lower courts went along, with no sign of discomfort.

Matters did not improve in the High Court. Dealing with a 1994 petition asking that the State government be compelled to prosecute Thackeray, the High Court found his writing perfectly acceptable. On December 8, 1992, for example, Thackeray wrote that "M uslims should draw a lesson from the demolition of the Babri Masjid, otherwise they will meet the same fate as the Babri Masjid." "Muslims who criticise the demolition," he concluded, "are without religion, without a nation." The High Court, however, hel d that "these articles do not criticise Muslims as a whole, but Muslims who are traitors to India." Another article, authored on January 9, 1993, the Court held, did "not create feelings of ill-will, spite and hatred." It read: "The ugly and violent form of Muslim traitors was witnessed in the city yesterday... Our prophecy has come true. A Muslim, whichever country he belongs to, whatever position he occupies, is first a Muslim."

THE Srikrishna Report is clear just where the blame lies for the 1992-1993 riots. On the basis of the welter of evidence before him, the Judge concluded that "the communal passions of the Hindus were aroused to fever pitch by the inciting writings in (th e) print media, particularly Saamna and Navakal." "From 8th January 1993 at least," he concluded, "there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties from the level of S hakha Pramukh to the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran General, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims." He blamed "effete political leadership, vacillation for political reasons and conflicti ng orders issued to the Commissioner of Police" for the State's failure to contain the attacks on Mumbai's Muslims.

Justice Srikrishna's observations were based on the mass of evidence before him. Dozens of witnesses before the Commission identified Shiv Sainiks as those who attacked them. Reshma Umar Makki, who converted to Islam when she married Umar Makki, had to h ide her husband when a mob of Shiv Sena workers attacked her home on January 9, 1993. Two days later, another vigilante group broke into her home, and "abused her as to why she got married to a 'landya', and whether all Hindus were dead." "She ide ntified the mob," the Report records, "as comprising inmates of Andhra Chawl, out of whom she clearly recognised Umesh, a Shiv Sainik living near Sundar Hotel. He and three to four other boys entered her house, placed a chopper on her head, and threatene d her that, if she spoke up, she would be stripped, raped and killed."

Thackeray's loyal lieutenants, the evidence showed, controlled mobs like the one which attacked Reshma Makki's home. In Mahim, Shiv Sena corporator Milind Dattaram Vaidya was arrested for ordering his cadre to set fire to shops owned by Muslims. The poli tician was accompanied by a police constable, Sanjay Laxman Gawande, who witnesses said had been waving a sword. The Commission noted that Madhukar Sarpotdar, a member of the Legislative Assembly, had played a key role in spreading rumours that Muslims h ad demolished a Ganesh idol in Behrampada. He did not, however, pass on the evidence he possesses to the police, nor did he disclose his sources. Had Sarpotdar "displayed the same zeal in cooperating with the police which he showed in making speculative and unfounded allegations," Justice Srikrishna noted, "probably the miscreants could have been nailed. On January 11, 1993, Sarpotdar was intercepted by an Army column. The troops that searched his jeep found three handguns, two of them unlicensed, and s ome choppers and sticks.

Police officials willing to disgrace their uniforms formed the last element of Thackeray's offensive formations. "The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims," the Report records, "was utterly cynical and indifferent." "Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level," Justice Srikrishna found, "appeared to have an in-built bias against the Muslims." This bias, he noted, "manifested (itself) in their reluctance to firmly put down incidents of violence, lootin g and arson which went on unchecked." When Makki contacted Senior Police Inspector Vinayak Patil for help, he flatly refused to help. "If a Muslim dies," he said, "there would be one Muslim less." Witnesses before the Commission reported several cases of cold-blooded executions of Muslims uninvolved in the violence.

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WHEN hearings on the Srikrishna Commission matter begin again in September, Justices Anand, Balakrishnan and Lahoti might consider the fate of those indicted by the Srikrishna Commission. Put simply, no one has paid for their crimes. Joint Commissioner o f Police R.D. Tyagi was found by the Commission to have presided over the murder of nine Muslims at Suleiman Bakery. Although Tyagi claimed to have opened fire when the victims attacked him, forensic expert Pritam Phatnani held that all of them were in f act shot in the back, probably while attempting to flee. Then, although Tyagi claimed to have been fired upon by at least one Sten gun, not a single shell was recovered from the site, bar an unspent Kalashnikov cartridge, probably police issue. Far from being tried and punished, Tyagi was nominated for election to the Maharashtra Assembly by the Shiv Sena in July 2000.

Milind Vaidya, for his part, went on to become Mayor of Mumbai. Twice targeted by the Shakeel Ahmed Babu mafia for his role in the riots, he was neither charged nor punished, and continues to be an influential figure in the Shiv Sena hierarchy. As in the case of Vaidya, Sarpotdar's political career thrived following his well-documented criminal activities, which led him all the way to a seat in Parliament. As Justice Srikrishna observed, Sarpotdar could have been charged under the Terrorists and Disrupt ive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) for moving in a notified area with unlicensed firearms. No such charge was levelled.

None of the police personnel indicted in the Srikrishna Report has been brought to trial either, let alone be punished. Most of them remain in their posts. The intervention of the Supreme Court now appears to have ensured that this kind of contempt for j ustice can no longer be sustained. The court flatly rejected the Maharashtra government's affidavit, which said it had referred back the cases outlined in the Srikrishna Report to the State police's Crime Branch. "You appoint a High Court judge to head a Commission and this is the way you treat his Report?" the judges asked. Chief Justice Anand made clear in the course of hearing that while investigation was permissible, no re-assessment of Srikrishna's findings would be tolerated. "We're happy with the judgment," says Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal. "When we submit our affidavit, you will see that we are prepared to immediately commence prosecution of all those indicted in the Srikrishna Report."

While firm legal action, along with in-house fissures, might just cripple the Shiv Sena, it will take more than legal action to eliminate the root causes of the spread of fascism in Mumbai. In one of the more interesting passages in his Report, Justice S rikrishna points to the steady decline in the number of organised sector jobs in Mumbai from 1971 onwards, and the growth of a chaotic, exploitative informal sector. The worst hit by the death of Mumbai industry were immigrants from rural Maharashtra. Th e shrinking of economic opportunity provided the foundations for the xenophobic and chauvinist tendencies the Shiv Sena exploited, and finally gave communal shape to. Despite the Shiv Sena's legitimacy being eroded by evidence of massive corruption, the fact remains that Senaism continues to have more than a little mass support.

Mumbai's economic miracle has little space for the concerns of Maharashtra, particularly the State's poor. Most new jobs are technology oriented, and go often to well-educated immigrants from other States. Only poorly-paid informal sector jobs, for which there is bitter competition, are left. The sole avenue open for many young Maharashtrians are the State services, including the lower judiciary and the police, which have emerged as major bastions of pro-Shiv Sena sentiment. The Shiv Sena has also succe eded in establishing deep roots among the Mumbai elite, who find it a useful instrument of protection against working class mobilisation. Just how D.F. intends to engage with this larger problem is far from clear. While Bhujbal's clear-minded pursuit of justice will, in the short term, help build a political consensus against the Shiv Sena's communal fascism, the economic and cultural climate of Mumbai is certain to ensure the ideological battle will be a protracted one.

What Saamna said

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Saamna

SHIV SENA supremo Bal Thackeray's articles in the party organ Saamna played a key role in inciting violence against Muslims during the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993. Littered with abusive and sometimes obscene polemic, the articles legitimised the ant i-Muslim pogrom that was being carried out in the city then, and urged readers to join in the violence. Here, excerpts from the four articles which formed the basis of the police cases that led to Thackeray's arrest on July 25. The articles specifically target Muslim police officials, particularly A.A. Khan, the Assistant Commissioner of Police then. Three of these are editorials, and one a news article for which the Shiv Sena chief was held responsible as the editor of the newspaper. A fifth article, t he last in the set below, did not form part of the first information reports, but has been added to illustrate the point that such writing was typical of Saamna's reportage during riots. Indeed, front page news articles and headlines in Saamna< /I> were often more flagrantly inflammatory than the articles for which Thackeray was arrested.

From "Burning Pyres", editorial, Saamna, January 11, 1993:

* Hindus have been burned alive in Jogeshwari, and that is why they have taken to the streets. Dawood Ibrahim's man (ACP) A.A. Khan has tried to shoot these people. There is no justice, for fanatic traitors go scot-free while the terrorist Khan fires at Hindus. The people and the police have been fired at from mosques with Pakistani weapons. Why are we protecting them? It is not fair that you should allow them to do namaaz on their streets and let their loudspeakers blare out while our maha aa rtis are stopped. There should be equal justice.

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* Muslims in India are behaving as if they are Pakistani citizens. It is as if there are two countries within this one. The police are waiting for orders to shoot these people. Even they feel the anguish of innocent citizens. When the Muslims had finishe d what they want to do and when the Hindus decided to retaliate, (Chief Minister) Sudhakarrao Naik, Babanrao (Pachpute) and their Khan gangster friends including (ACP) Khan descended upon the Hindus. Hindus, open your eyes and see what is going on! Your funeral pyres are burning.

* Innocent Hindu boys are being killed, and you wait for orders to destroy the fanatic traitors in Bhendi Bazaar (a Muslim area in south Mumbai)? Have the police also become playthings in the hands of politicians? We predict that these traitors will kill you also. Since the police had not done anything, our young boys retaliated for the murders of Hindus on January 6. And what do we get? You kill those brave boys.

* (Sharad) Pawar and the police will never be able to live in peace from this moment on, because they have received the curses of these dead boys. It is easy to face people when they are alive, but the embers from their funeral pyres will be impossible t o confront. You could kill these children, but how will you stop these embers... People will spit on your corpses.

From "They Were Turned Into Lambs", editorial, Saamna, January 14, 1993:

* Religious fanatics brought their religion on to the road, and made life miserable for innocent citizens. The government supported this. But when Hindus reacted against this terrorism, and brought their religion on to the roads, the government, politici ans and traitors were turned into lambs... In spite of Thackeray's appeal for peace, the riots did not stop. All we have to say about this is that if it was not for his appeal, the entire city would have been reduced to ashes and not one religious fanati c traitor would have lived. Even government servants like Ghaffoor and Khan came out to help these fanatics. We have stopped for now, and will be quiet for the moment.

* We are tolerant, but our tolerance has limits. All this was started by the traitors. The Hindus only went back four steps and then displayed their strength. That's when the traitors put up white flags on their armed strongholds... We have to defend our selves, since the Khans and Ghaffoors, in whom the government has vested the responsibility for our protection, are hand-in-glove with the traitors. And so, we will have to be careful. Why should we die without fighting? And at the hands of religious tra itors like Khan and Ghaffoor?

* The government sent Syed Bukhari, the son of the Imam of the Juma Masjid, to Mumbai despite the situation. He had started the anti-national Adam Sena, which had shaken the government. This is the same snake who asked for military protection the minute he landed at the Mumbai airport, because he does not trust the police. Is this Bukhari India's President, to ask for military protection? We congratulate the police for having sent this anti-national parcel back to Delhi... Before leaving he had spoken t o A.A. Khan on the phone, and we are sure of this news... He gave Khan's unit the responsibility of killing patriotic Indians. We have been saying this again and again. The people must know about the conspiracy between Khan and the Imam's son. When Mumba i was burning, how could they allow this kind of explosive to land at the Mumbai airport? They should have been stopped. But no! If they are stopped, what will the Muslims think of the government?... Dilip Kumar will be playing cricket in Dubai for inter national peace. We say, you should tell his fanatic brothers in Bhendi Bazaar, Dongri and Behrampada to maintain peace... If the Muslims had stopped their leaders, none of this would have happened.

From "Behrampada Reverberates to a Maha Aarti", report, Saamna, January 21, 1993:

* The whole of Behrampada reverberated to a maha aarti performed at the Ganesh Temple today afternoon. The Sthaniya Lokadhikar Samiti announced that Behrampada would henceforth be called Rampada... "Pull out all the Bangladeshis and Pakistanis from Behra mpada," says Bamanrao Mahadik, "they are the ones who are ruining our country." "It's time to send these green hordes back to their country"... Shiv Sena leader Madhukar Sarpotdar said, "Javed Khan, A.A. Khan and Hassan Ghaffoor Khan, these three Khans, have murdered only Hindus. But remember that Hindus can also kill cruelly. You are bound to burn to ashes in the fire that you have lit".... Shiv Sena MLA Ramdas Kadam says, "If it was not for Shiv Sena Pramukhs and the Shiv Sena, Mumbai would have becom e Pakistan. Those who love Pakistan should be sent back there. If they can take the law into their hands, we will do so too."

From "Hindu Pride Must Be Upheld: The Country and Hindu Dharma Must Triumph", editorial, Saamna, January 23, 1993:

* Today is Saamna's fifth birthday. We would have liked to celebrate this event as we have done every year. The situation does not permit us to do so because fanatics have killed large numbers of our Hindu brothers and sisters. All of them have gi ven their lives for the holy war to keep this nation alive... Saamna and I have fought like real men in this holy war, regardless of the consequences.

* Some people suggested that we tone down the sharpness of our language, but we in turn ask, why? What will they do? Throw me in prison? I have kept my bags and all my medicines ready. I am not bothered by the thought of going to prison... If I am arrest ed, if the government takes any rash decision, while only Mumbai has seen rioting so far, then the whole of the country up to Jammu and Kashmir will rise up. I am prepared. This is not a threat. I am just telling the truth. The country has enough problem s. Don't add to them by arresting me. I am not saying this out of vanity. If a holy war is to begin because of me, than so be it.

* I have nurtured a new, fiery generation of Hindus in the form of the Shiv Sena, and Saamna has been instrumental in this task... Hindus woke up in Hindustan after December 6 (1992), and it is time we all burned like a torch. Anti-national traito rs should be burned to ashes in this flame... In some police stations there are monsters who are pulling out the nails from the hands and feet of our young children, and slapping false cases against them. (ACP) Khan has become famous because of (municipa l corporator) Milind Vaidya. Muslims started rioting in Vaidya's area, Mahim, and everyone knows what kinds of religious fanatics they are. Vaidya is a responsible Corporator and is on the peace committee of the area, but Khan has attacked Vaidya, and pu t him behind bars on a false charge of murder. This is Khan's law!

* The government tells us 1,75,00,000 Bangladeshi infiltrators are living in this country. Why are you giving us these numbers? What kind of security are you maintaining at the borders? We have trouble coming to Mumbai from Delhi. How then do Bangladeshi Muslims manage to get here? Vasant Saraf said that while he was the Director-General of Police, he had warned the government that a large number of Bangladeshi Muslims had entered India... Earlier, there was only one Bhendi Bazaar. Today there is Deonar , Govandi, Behrampada, Mahim. This is precisely where rioting took place and innocent people were killed.

From "Keep the Nation Alive", editorial, Saamna, January 9, 1993:

* Whoever comes is preaching to Hindus as if it is we who started the riots. What do we have with us to start riots with? All we have are rags dipped in kerosene! In Bhendi Bazaar, Dongri and Behrampada weapons brought from Pakistan and Bangladesh are be ing used. These weapons have been used to kill cruelly everyone from little babies who have not yet opened their eyes to old people. (ACP) Mundkur and (ACP) Khan have actually attacked unarmed Hindus in Dharavi and Kurla. They should go to Bhendi Bazaar and stop their brothers there. Now we can clearly see their real colours and their real loyalties. Whatever we had predicted has come true. A Muslim, irrespective of his country or status, will remain a Muslim. His religion and his community come before his country. The attacks on patriots over the last two days are an insult to the nation.

* Even policemen say this government is made up of gandus (an abusive term). They have their service revolvers with them but all they can do is count corpses. That is the only work the government is doing... The Indian and Maharashtrian people spi t on this government. The government is wearing a green burkha and standing at the Bhendi Bazaar crossroads wearing bangles.

* I am not provoking people. I am only expressing anguish.

Translations by Archana Chaudhary (The Hindu Business Line, Mumbai).

Contradictions in an alliance

The Prime Minister's ability to manage the proprieties and demands of coalition politics has been put under severe strain in the course of the recent developments.

THE Supreme Court's rather blunt suggestion on July 21 that the Central Government seemed innocent of the norms of collective ministerial responsibility was a rebuke that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) could have done without, though the tendency for the partners in the coalition to go their separate ways on important political issues made it, in the eyes of many observers, an eminently deserved one.

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Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Defence Minister George Fernandes, Home Minister L.K. Advani and other leaders during the meeting of the NDA's constituents on the eve of the monsoon session of Parliament.

The NDA, having attempted a unique experiment of forging a 24-party ruling coalition at the Centre, perhaps believed that its partners would take time to adjust themselves to the requirements of the Cabinet system of governance, as they have varied backg rounds and ideologies with unique perceptions of issues and events. However, if recent events are any indication, time is not on the side of the NDA, since most of the partners seem determined to use every available opportunity to further their independe nt political interests. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's carefully cultivated image may have partly motivated the NDA partners to come together. But his political skills have been repeatedly put to the test during the course of the NDA's career in o rder to ensure that the image of his government does not suffer from the disparate compulsions of a diverse coalition.

The way the Bal Thackeray arrest drama was handled in New Delhi exposed the limitations of the Prime Minister's authority. Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Manohar Joshi, Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers Suresh Prabhu, and Minis ter of State for Revenue Banking and Insurance Balasaheb Vikhe Patil - all belonging to Shiv Sena - submitted their resignations from the Union Council of Ministers on July 19, when the possibility of Thackeray's arrest loomed large. Prabhu's letter said that he was quitting as he was unable to redress the genuine difficulties of his leader and fellow Shiv Sainiks in an hour of crisis in Maharashtra. The Prime Minister promptly rejected the resignations, evidently as they were seen as "loyalty demonstra tions" and Mumbai-centric political tactic.

Although the Prime Minister was within his rights in rejecting the resignations, most observers thought that he would have been better advised to accept them. The reasons cited by the Ministers for their resignations were narrow and partisan in their sco pe and seemed contrary to any notion of collective Cabinet responsibility. But the resignation drama and the spectacle of the threesome rejoining the Ministry after obtaining due clearance from their chief in Mumbai, caused serious damage to the image of the government. For nearly a week, the three Shiv Sena Ministers kept away from their offices to mark their protest.

Obviously, the Shiv Sena's demand for Central intervention to stop Thackeray's arrest found little support within the Cabinet. The resignations were intended as an act of protest against the Centre's unwillingness to issue a directive to the State govern ment, restraining it from placing Thackeray under arrest. The Shiv Sena even forced the postponement of a crucial meeting of the NDA on July 24, by threatening a boycott. The Shiv Sena leaders had earlier stayed away from the meeting of NDA leaders, held at the Prime Minister's residence, to decide the agenda of the ensuing Parliament session. BJP apologists, however, suggested that the meeting was postponed only because of a perception among its membership that it would be improper to hold the meeting on a day Parliament was paying homage to Rajesh Pilot and other members who had passed away. The BJP spokesperson, M. Venkaiah Naidu, attributed the postponement to a throat infection contracted by Vajpayee, only to correct himself later with the asserti on that the leader had not been indisposed.

The NDA meeting, if held regularly, could provide a mechanism to air grievances and differences within the coalition. Held customarily on the eve of a Parliament session to brief all the allies, including those not represented in the Cabinet, about the g overnment's agenda and approach to issues, the NDA meeting could help evolve a consensus within the ruling coalition on a range of issues. However, no serious discussion takes place at such meetings, which are gone through almost as a ritual. The result is that individual constituents of the NDA feel at liberty to talk in public about any issue, thus exposing the multiplicity and diversity of interests and identities within the government.

The leader of the Shiv Sena Parliamentary Party, Anant Geete, hoped that the Prime Minister would reconsider the Ram Jethmalani matter and reinduct him into the Cabinet. The manner in which Jethmalani had been removed from the Cabinet disappointed the Sh iv Sena, on whose support he was elected to Rajya Sabha. Though none of the other NDA constituents was critical of the Prime Minister's decision to drop Jethmalani from his Cabinet, the Shiv Sena made its displeasure public.

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THE Prime Minister's move not to take even the NDA constituents and the BJP into confidence over the resignation of Jethmalani shows that he was not unduly concerned in this instance about the proprieties and demands of coalition politics, even when it w as an issue that affected his government's image. In practice, the Prime Minister's most intensive consultations take place within a narrow circle, which comprises Home Minister L.K. Advani, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, and the Ministers of s tate, Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie, whom he consult before taking key decisions.

Although Defence Minister George Fernandes is also thought to be a member of this privileged group, the Prime Minister apparently does not give much weight to his views. Samata Party president and Fernandes' associate, Jaya Jaitly, was involved in an uns eemly spat with Minister for Sports S.S. Dhindsa and Minister of State for Revenue Dhananjay Kumar over the Income-Tax Department's attempt to raid her house in connection with the investigation of assets held by cricketer Ajay Jadeja, who has had a long -standing friendship with Jaitly's daughter.

Jaya Jaitly used the Defence Minister's residence to hold a press conference in which she made allegations against the Income-Tax officials, who met her in connection with the abortive raid. The Prime Minister had to ask Fernandes to restrain Jaya Jaitly , and request Dhindsa and Kumar not to react to her statements. Clearly, leaders of major constituents in the NDA do not feel the need to project an image of cohesiveness before the public, if their own personal stakes are high.

The Prime Minister's proclivity to limit access to him to a chosen group became clearer in the aftermath of Jethmalani's resignation. Arun Jaitley became the Minister of State holding independent charge of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, apart from Inf ormation and Broadcasting. The Minister of State for Planning, Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Arun Shourie, has been entrusted with the additional portfolio of Disinvestment, earlier looked after by Jaitley. The former Minister of State fo r Law and Justice, O. Rajagopal, a BJP veteran from Kerala, now has to be content only with Parliamentary Affairs, as Jaitley is a Minister of State with independent charge.

Arun Jaitley played a substantial role in mitigating the immediate damage caused by Jethmalani's revolt, through his deft handling of the issue in Parliament and outside. He has since emerged as the Prime Minister's key crisis manager. He sought to re-es tablish the "cordial relationship" between the executive and the judiciary by calling on the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice A.S. Anand, immediately after the latter had cut short a visit to London and returned to New Delhi. Jaitley initiated a pro cess of consultation with him over the appointment of the Chairman of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTP) and the CJI cleared the name of the government's nominee, recommended earlier by Jethmalani.

The Prime Minister had another taste of the complicated coalition recipe, when the MPs from West Bengal belonging to the Trinamul Congress met him to demand the imposition of President's Rule in West Bengal following an outbreak of political violence in a few districts of the States. The Railway Minister and leader of the Trinamul Congress, Mamata Banerjee, endorsed the demand, in view of the deteriorating law and order situation in the State. The Prime Minister is inclined to discourage any such demand for Central intervention in States ruled by Opposition parties, a stand grounded on the reality of the NDA's lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha which means that it will not be possible to secure endorsement in the Upper House for such a move. But such demands continue to be made within the coalition, thus putting his ability to manage such contradictions under severe strain.

The Jethmalani revolt

The resignation of Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani and his public airing of allegations lead to an unseemly spat involving high constitutional functionaries and leave the Union government scurrying for cover.

"A MINISTER's resignation is not a private matter between the Prime Minister and the Minister and the whole nation is entitled to know what has been going on." Ram Jethmalani, former Union Law Minister, began his unread statement to the Rajya Sabha with these ominous words. Thwarted from placing his woes before the House to which he belongs, he chose to release his statement to the media on July 27. What set out as an explanation became effectively a settling of scores between Jethmalani and his detract ors - both real and perceived - within the judiciary and the government. Though he transgressed many a norm governing the relationship between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, he seems more than likely to get away with it. This says some thing for the prevalent state of relations between the institutions of governance in the country.

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Jethmalani's perception is that he has become the victim of judicial whim and political caprice. The event that led directly to his ouster was the hearing in the Supreme Court of a public interest petition seeking directions to the Maharashtra state gove rnment to initiate prosecution in line with the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry. This hearing, he pleads, was unconnected to the legal and political position he had taken on the prosecution of Shiv Sena chieftain Bal Thackeray in a case connected to the 1993 communal violence in Mumbai.

At the hearing of the Srikrishna Commission Report case on July 21, the Supreme Court Bench consisting of Chief Justice A.S. Anand, Justice R.C. Lahoti, and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, expressed its "distress" and "concern" at the statements of some Union Cabinet Ministers. These, they said, were at variance with what had been recorded in an affidavit filed on behalf of the Centre in the case.

What followed from the Bench were strong expressions which would have made a sensitive government protest instantly: the Bench wondered whether the concept of "collective responsibility" was not known to this government. Saying one thing to the court in an affidavit and something else for public consumption, it held, was not the way "a civilised government" should function.

The Bench was obviously referring to the statements of some Union Ministers that the Centre could intervene to stop the arrest of the Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, in a case brought by the Maharashtra State government. This was, strictly speaking, dist inct from the Srikrishna matter, since it pertained to a case registered under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code as far back as 1993.

The more diehard of Shiv Sena partisans within the Union Cabinet had since the crisis of Thackeray's arrest began brewing, been demanding that the Central government restrain the Vilasrao Deshmukh government in Maharashtra by issuing directions or suitab le advice under Section 256 of the Constitution. Elected to the Rajya Sabha as an independent supported by the Shiv Sena, Jethmalani was strongly associated with this demand. Among the others who echoed his views were Heavy Industries Minister Manohar Jo shi of the Shiv Sena and Petroleum Minister Ram Naik of the BJP. Others such as Minister for Information Technology Pramod Mahajan and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley shared Jethmalani's view that the case against Thackeray, in con nection with inflammatory writings by him in 1993 in the Sena's organ, Saamna, is barred by the statute of limitations.

Despite demands for a Central intervention, better sense prevailed with those who mattered. Guided perhaps by the legal opinion offered to him, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee decided against issuing any directions to the Maharashtra government. Inst ead, Mahajan was allowed to work out unofficially a face-saving deal that would be acceptable to both the Shiv Sena and the State government.

These publicly aired views had a bearing on the hearing of the Srikrishna matter in the Supreme Court. The Centre had stated in its affidavit that it could not intervene in the Srikrishna Commission case, as law and order is within the State government's jurisdiction. Though strictly speaking a distinct issue, the Supreme Court perhaps was justified in observing that the recent public statements of the Sena partisans in the Union Cabinet were contrary to the spirit of the affidavit filed in the Srikrish na matter. Representing the Union government, Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee convinced the Bench not to include its more severe views in its order. The Central and State governments are now obliged to file fresh affidavits before the Supreme Court within six weeks on what they propose to do with the Srikrishna Commission recommendations.

ALTHOUGH the Bench did not specifically name Jethmalani, its observations obviously rankled. A highly successful criminal lawyer before he became a Minister, he responded in pique, reminding the "learned Chief Justice" that "he was making comments about a minister who knows his law as well as anyone else". All the ingredients of an unseemly controversy were present when Sorabjee, accompanied by Jaitley, reportedly met the Prime Minister to drive home the point that Jethmalani's ouster seemed essential i n the interests of maintaining cordial relations between executive and judiciary.

Convinced of the merits of this argument, the Prime Minister asked External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to convey his decision to Jethmalani, who was away in Pune on the evening of July 22. The Prime Minister disagreed with Home Minister L.K. Advani, who urged him to retain Jethmalani in the Cabinet, even if in a different portfolio. The resignation, which was sent to the Prime Minister immediately, was accepted by President K.R. Narayanan on the morning of July 23.

Jethmalani soon went on the offensive. He termed his resignation as "sacking" and accused the Prime Minister of choosing to go by the advice of "a pliant Attorney-General rather than of a no-nonsense Minister of his Cabinet". He attributed his sacking to Sorabjee's failure to counter the Bench's broadsides against him during the hearing of the Srikrishna case. He charged Sorabjee with having encouraged the Bench to attack the government that had appointed him to the high office of Attorney-General.

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Sorabjee lost little time in issuing his clarifications. He had merely sought to defuse the situation in the court, he claimed, by saying that he had not himself come across the statements attributed to the Ministers by the Bench. His role was to defend the government, not individual Ministers, he pointed out. He reiterated the government's position, as stated in the affidavit, that it was for the State government to take action as it deemed fit, to implement the Srikrishna Commission Report.

Whatever the immediate provocation for Jethmalani's exit from the Cabinet, it is clear that he had been contemplating it himself for some time. He said in the statement meant for the Rajya Sabha, but released finally to the media: "Let me not pretend tha t I just resigned. I was sacked. It is true I would have resigned the next day anyhow but it does not cease to be a sacking." He went on to add: "I resigned without murmur because what the Attorney-General did or did not do during the hearing of the Srik rishna case was the culmination of a series of incidents which tell their own tale and give to the last act of Sorabjee, the effect of the last straw on the camel's back."

The Sorabjee-Jethmalani standoff acutely embarrassed the government. Alarmed by Jethmalani's decision to make a statement in the Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister's office went into damage control mode. It clarified that his exit from the Ministry was not intended as a reflection on his integrity. Somewhat mellowed by this certificate of good conduct, Jethmalani softened his attack on the Prime Minister. He claimed that his disappointments with the Prime Minister centred on the latter's inaccessibility, p erhaps caused by his busy schedule. He lamented that the Prime Minister did not bother to talk to him either before or after his resignation.

Jethmalani released his statement to the media, after the Rajya Sabha chairperson, Krishan Kant, sustained the objections raised by the Law Ministry over its contents. The 17-page statement with several annexures was referred by Krishan Kant to the gover nment, as he found many documents marked as confidential in the annexures. The government submitted its observations on July 27 and this was conveyed to Jethmalani. Jethmalani refused to remove those documents as he felt that in their absence his stateme nt would be unintelligible and futile. However, he did not share copies of these annexures with the media, either when he released his statement or later.

He dismissed the criticism voiced in the Rajya Sabha by Opposition MPs that he was guilty of violating the Official Secrets Act. He challenged the government to prosecute him if it wished. He admitted that he had made copies of his correspondence and use d them after his resignation. Later, when the government announced a legal inquiry into the leak, he scoffed. What was there to investigate, he asked, when he had admitted doing it himself. He claimed that his notions of confidentiality are different fro m that of the government, particularly in the context of the avowed objectives behind the recently-introduced Right to Information Bill.

Article 121 of the Constitution stipulates that a Judge's judicial conduct cannot be discussed in Parliament, except as part of an address to the President seeking his removal. It transpired that Jethmalani's statement explaining his resignation did prec isely this and then some more. In terms of propriety, this more than the use of confidential documents may have weighed with the Rajya Sabha chairperson when he ruled the former Law Minister's statement out of court.

ALTHOUGH his ire was in the main directed at Sorabjee, Jethmalani also reserved a few of his choicest references for the Chief Justice of India. Justice Anand, he alleged, was moved to pass severe strictures against him by certain prior events, such as a n exchange of letters over the appointment of the Chairman of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC). The CJI had refused to swear in Jethmalani's nominee, Brij Mohan Lal, the recently retired Chief Justice of the Patna High Co urt, even though his appointment was notified by the government with the concurrence of the Prime Minister. Justice Anand pointed out that the government ought to have consulted him before selecting Lal for the post. Jethmalani argued that he was not bou nd to consult the CJI over this appointment, as Lal was a retired Judge and there was no precedent of prior consultation with the CJI in such cases. The instances cited by Justice Anand pertained to appointments to tribunals, which the MRTPC decidedly wa s not. And if in the past there had been one case of the CJI being consulted in this appointment, it established neither precedent nor convention.

Justice Anand recorded, with some asperity, that the tone adopted by the Law Minister was unwarrantedly "impertinent" and "intemperate". When he drew the attention of the Prime Minister to this matter, he received no more than a routine assurance that it did not seem prima facie to involve any impropriety, though it would be further looked into.

Jethmalani also used the Kalchakra allegations on the land dispute between Mala Anand, wife of the CJI, and the Madhya Pradesh government (see follow-up investigation in Frontline, August 4, 2000), to highlight his differences with Justice Anand. He claimed that the President had referred the matter to him for evaluation and action. He had also, he claimed, received a representation from a prominent Sarvodaya leader seeking the prosecution of the CJI. He had, he claimed, met and talked to Justice Anand about this before and had apparently been satisfied with the explanation proffered. But to avoid all misapprehensions, he had requested the CJI on July 17 to send him a note on his version of the facts in the case, which could be placed on record.

By insinuating that this case, as also the unresolved dispute over the MRTPC Chairman, may have influenced Justice Anand to rebuke him and his government from the Bench, Jethmalani is questioning his judicial conduct in precisely the manner that the Cons titution prohibits. But he made these insinuations not within Parliament, but outside. This lays him open not to the charge of constitutional impropriety, but to contempt of court proceedings. Whether these will be initiated remains, at this moment, unce rtain.

THE Attorney-General has been marked out for special attention in Jethmalani's statement. The former Law Minister alleges that Sorabjee tendered advice to the London-based business family, the Hindujas, even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) w as investigating them for involvement in the Bofors pay-offs scandal. He strongly disapproved of the fact that the government continued consulting Sorabjee on policy matters, such as telecom transactions, when he was charging exorbitant sums as legal fee s. Jethmalani also accused Sorabjee of "pliancy" when the Centre issued a notification transferring corruption cases against the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo, Jayalalitha, and others, from Special Courts to regular courts dur ing Vajpayee's previous term as Prime Minister.

Sorabjee, for his part, responded with a number of clarifications. The opinion he gave the Hindujas was in connection with their proposed power project in Andhra Pradesh and this was done only after due permission was obtained from the then Law Minister, Rangarajan Kumaramangalam. It had no connection whatsoever with the Bofors case and, in fact, had a bearing on the inflow of valuable investments into the country.

Sorabjee also refuted the suggestion that he had been charging exorbitantly for his services. In respect of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India case in the Delhi High Court, he received only Rs.4,40,000 from the government, though the matter called for a major investment of time on his part. Under the rules, he further clarified, law officers are entitled to charge fees. He also denied that he was ever consulted in the case involving Jayalalitha, though Jethmalani still insists that he should have advised the government against plunging into a course of action that was later quashed by the Supreme Court.

JETHMALANI himself faced serious charges of impropriety in the M.S. Shoes case, which has its origins when he was Minister for Urban Development. He clarified that there was no justification for insisting that a private citizen (the promoter of M.S. Shoe s) should forfeit about Rs.40 crores on the grounds that he had failed to make a timely payment of instalments due to the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (Hudco). He claimed that when these allegations against him first surfaced, he had asked t he CBI to record a first information report (FIR) and investigate the matter. He undertook to waive all his privileges and immunities as a Minister if the CBI wished to expedite its inquiries.

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The government is under pressure to give a reply to Rajya Sabha MP Kuldip Nayar, who had given a notice for a question on this issue during the Budget session. Sorabjee apparently advised the Prime Minister that Jethmalani's decision in this case raised certain questions, and that perhaps the CBI could be asked to investigate it. The Janata Party leader, Dr.Subramanian Swamy has demanded the immediate arrest and prosecution of Jethmalani in the case, now that he is no longer a Minister.

ARUN JAITLEY, the new Minister of State for Law with independent charge, expressed the government's complete disagreement with Jethmalani's "perceptions". The Prime Minister justified the removal of the recalcitrant Minister, as he had very often express ed his "personal" views on matters which did not pertain to his Ministry. Examples include Jethmalani's opposition to the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, recommended by the Law Commission, and his qualified support to the Jammu and Kashmir autonomy resolut ion. On both these issues, his publicly expressed view was at variance with the government's thinking and decision. Jethmalani, however, defended his freedom to express his views on issues over which the Cabinet had not taken a decision, and matters pert aining to any law, as his Ministry is in-charge of drafting laws.

The main Opposition, the Congress(I), appears confused about its strategy on the Jethmalani affair. In the Rajya Sabha, it focussed its attacks on Jethmalani for violating the Official Secrets Act. But in the Lok Sabha it attacked the government for not letting Jethmalani make a statement in the Upper House. The much-needed strategic correction came too later, by when the government had managed to extricate itself from a sticky situation in Parliament. The fuller ramifications of this issue, though, may only begin unfolding in the days to come.

In this din, however, the Prime Minister's theory of the need for a "harmonious relationship" between the executive and the judiciary went almost unnoticed. While the Congress(I) MP, Madhavrao Scindia, found it to be too generalised a reaction, its impor t is considered far-reaching. Observers recall that Indira Gandhi talked about a committed judiciary in the 1970s, and played havoc with the independence of the institution. What does the Prime Minister mean by a harmonious relationship? Does he imply th at he wants the judiciary not to embarrass the executive by issuing adverse judgments, or does he believe that the executive could turn a blind eye to judges' accountability? If it is just about consultation between the two wings over a minor appointment , why did he write to the CJI during Jethmalani's absence, that there was no departure from convention in the matter of appointment of Justice Lal as the MRTP Chairman? These are questions that need to be answered by the Prime Minister.

The M.S. Shoes affair

the-nation
LYLA BAVADAM

ON April 6, 1995, Pavan Sachdeva, chairman of M.S. Shoes East Ltd., was arrested by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers at his Delhi office and taken to a police station. He was then flown to Mumbai and produced before the Additional Chief Met ropolitan Magistrate on April 10. Sachdeva was in Delhi to meet some executives of the Inter Continental Hotels Corporation and fund managers from Hong Kong in a bid to salvage a hotel project venture by M.S. Shoes. He had hoped that his foreign visitors would arrange funds to pay an instalment of Rs.40 crores, which was due to the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), which had put out the bid for the project.

The CBI levelled the following charges against Sachdeva:

* That he entered into a criminal conspiracy with officials of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the merchant bankers, SBI Capital Markets, to allow a gap of 90 days between M.S.Shoes' public issue (which was to start in April) and a rights issue. According to the CBI, this would have enabled Sachdeva to divert funds accrued from the public issue to subscribe to the rights entitlement of promoters, amounting to about Rs.130 crores. SEBI rules do not allow for a gap of more than 30 da ys between a public issue and a rights issue;

* That the company was permitted to collect 50 per cent of the subscription money on application against the norm of 20 per cent;

* That the prospectus did not mention the ex-rights price, thereby misleading investors into believing that the issue price of Rs.199 was attractive;

* That Sachdeva violated the Companies Act in using company money to buy its own shares.

The main charges centred on cheating, breach of trust and abuse of authority under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Sachdeva had caught the attention of the corporate world when he bagged a contract in the mid-1980s to develop at Andrews Ganj in New Delhi an integrated four-star and five-star hotel complex at a cost of Rs.456 crores. He entered into a tie-up with Inte r Continental Hotels for this. In 1985, the CBI initiated proceedings against the hotel venture on charges including the violation of the Customs Act and the Export Import Act. A fine of Rs.40,000 was slapped, after which project was out of Sachdeva's ha nds. This left him with the liability of a bridge loan of around Rs.100 crores, apart from other losses.

The money to make up the losses was expected to come from the company's activities. Its prospectus showed a projected turnover of Rs.200 crores for the year ending March 1995. The net profits, gross fixed assets and current fixed assets of M.S. Shoes wer e expected to reduce Sachdeva's burden. Besides, M.S. Shoes sent notices to all underwriters devolving the issue and decided to refund its shareholders their subscription money.

Sachdeva was supposed to pay about Rs.100 crores in instalments to HUDCO. When he defaulted on his payment, HUDCO cancelled the allotment and tried to re-tender the bid. Sachdeva appealed against this, lost the appeal, filed another appeal and managed to get a year's time. But he was still unable to pay HUDCO its due.

RAM JETHMALANI as Union Minister for Urban Development wanted to restore the allotment of the hotel contract to M.S. Shoes. He said that HUDCO had not obtained the necessary clearances on time and that was why Sachdeva could not make the payments. Appare ntly the officials of the Ministry maintained that the matter was beyond his jurisdiction and took up the matter with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Jethmalani retaliated by accusing the officials of stealing the relevant papers and passing them on t o Janata Party leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy.

The stand-off between Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee and Ram Jethmalani dates back to the beginnings of the M.S. Shoes affair. Kuldip Nayar, Rajya Sabha member, raised the matter of the M.S. Shoes project twice with the Prime Minister in the recent past. First he sent a letter seeking clarifications on Jethmalani's alleged attempt to bail out Sachdeva's company with regard to its dispute with HUDCO. Nayar was told that the matter had been referred to the A.G. Subsequently, Nayar sent another reminder, a nd on July 24 he raised the matter in the House. Apparently, the government has got a report from the CBI some months ago on the M.S. Shoes case. This was referred to the A.G., who sought a detailed CBI investigation into certain aspects of the case. The A.G. had also apparently stated that Jethmalani, as Law Minister, should be kept out of the HUDCO appeal in court.

A terror of a Bill

Consensus eludes the draft bill on prevention of terrorism, recommended by the Law Commission of India.

THE overall failure of the Central and State governments over the years to improve the policing machinery's efficiency in the matter of effectively and decisively combating terrorism has forced the Centre and also some State governments to conclude that there is indeed a need for a special law to deal with terrorism. The result is the Prevention of Terrorism (POT) Bill, drafted by the Law Commission, which however has provoked a nationwide debate. The governments favouring such a special legislation see m to have chosen that rather politically convenient option, even though their experience with such laws has been anything but encouraging in the past.

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The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA) was allowed to lapse in 1995, following a nationwide uproar against its abuse by the law-enforcement authorities. Originally enacted with a validity of two years, TADA was extended by Parliament every two years, until members of Parliament cutting across party lines decided to bury it. (The POT Bill, if enacted, will be in force for five years, and its term can be extended by Parliament before it lapses.)

Many of the persons detained under TADA are still in jail, awaiting trial under the now-defunct Act. Although nearly 75,000 persons were held under the Act, the rate of conviction was less than 1 per cent. There were several instances in which the Act ta rgeted people belonging to the minority communities. This situation cost the then ruling party, the Congress(I), dearly. Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which now defends the POT Bill, protested in the mid-1990s against TADA's continuance.

The Congress(I) government headed by P.V. Narasimha Rao wanted to replace TADA with another Act, and introduced the Criminal Law Amendment (CLA) Bill, 1995, in the Rajya Sabha. With this bill still pending before the House, the Union Home Ministry propos ed several amendments to it and requested the Law Commission to study afresh the need for suitable legislation to combat terrorism and other anti-national activities. The Commission circulated a working paper among the authorities, organisations and indi viduals concerned, inviting their views on the proposals. Two seminars were held for the purpose. In its 173rd Report, the Commission revised the CLA Bill and recommended the new, and harsher, POT Bill for enactment.

The bill in its present form contains draconian provisions and, expectedly, has triggered an intense debate. Divergent views have been expressed by political and other organisations. The Centre, however, has claimed that "a general consensus" was reached on the bill at a meeting of Chief Secretaries, Home Secretaries and Directors-General of Police called by the Union Home Ministry on June 28. Officials of some States were quick to challenge the claim. They told Frontline that it was too early to reach a consensus, as the State governments were yet to form their views on the provisions. The officials had agreed on the need for a law to replace TADA, but they reserved their views on the draft bill.

At the June 28 meeting, the Centre also came out with a proposal to constitute a Federal Law Enforcement Agency (FLEA) to deal with crimes involving modern technology and which have international ramifications, such as cyber crimes, terrorism, money-laun dering and militancy-related crimes. These are now dealt with by the law and order machinery in the States, and by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), if referred to it by the State governments. The Centre has argued that the State agencies may be dogged by jurisdictional questions when called upon to tackle these crimes. The CBI, a Union Home Ministry spokesperson said, was already over-burdened, and therefore the need for a federal agency was felt.

The Centre's proposal to set up a FLEA met with resistance from the State governments on the grounds that such an agency would infringe on the States' rights and lead to an erosion of State autonomy. The Chief Secretary of Karnataka, B.K. Bhattacharya, i nsisted that the Centre should not do anything that would involve interference with the States' jurisdiction in matters of law and order. Kerala also opposed the proposal, asserting that maintenance of law and order was a State subject. The State governm ents could deal with modern-day crimes also by improving the efficiency of their police force through necessary training, it argued.

The Chief Ministers' meeting, to be held on August 5 in New Delhi, is likely to discuss the POT Bill as well as the FLEA.

ALTHOUGH the Law Commission had invited the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Justice J.S. Verma, to inaugurate a seminar that it arranged in Delhi in December 1999 on the bill (see interview), neither the Law Commission nor the government found it necessary to seek the NHRC's reaction to the draft bill. The Centre sought the State governments' views, but did not bother to send a copy of the draft bill or the Law Commission's Report to the NHRC to elicit its opinion. (The Law C ommission's report was, however, available on the Web.) In the run-up to TADA's demise, the NHRC played a crucial role. It wrote to all the MPs not to extend TADA's life beyond May 1995, on the grounds that it was "incompatible with our cultural traditio ns, legal history and treaty obligations".

The NHRC, at a meeting of the full Commission, reviewed the draft bill, the Law Commission's 173rd report, the relevant Supreme Court judgments, and the views of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in this regard. It concluded that there was no need fo r the POT Bill or a similar piece of legislation. The NHRC noted that in 1995 it had held the view that TADA should be removed from the statute book because it had no place in a democracy. The Commission felt that the same view should hold good on the PO T bill also "unless there were compelling reasons" to alter its view.

The NHRC was convinced that the existing laws, if properly enforced, were sufficient to deal with any eventuality, including terrorist activities. It said that the real need was to strengthen the machinery to enforce laws.

A Home Ministry spokesperson, however, said "it is the view of the government that the normal criminal laws are not designed to deal with the activities of terrorist organisations, which have bases across the border." The government announced its intenti on to build a general consensus in favour of the bill through consultations with the States and the Union Territories, besides political parties, before presenting it in Parliament.

There was, however, no indication whether the government would make any attempt to allay the NHRC's fears about the draconian nature of some of the provisions in the bill. Disputing the government's stand that the existing laws are insufficient to deal w ith cross-border terrorism, the NHRC said that any action that threatened the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of the country was covered by Section 153-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 121-A of the IPC deals with conspiracy to overawe the Central or a State government by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force and the offence is punishable with life imprisonment. Section 122 of the IPC deals with "collecting arms, etc with intention of waging war against the government o f India". Section 124-A of the IPC deals with sedition.

The Commission said that all the "terrorist acts" proposed to be covered by the new bill appeared to come under the purview of existing laws, such as the Arms Act, 1959; the Explosives Act, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, the Unlawful Activi ties (Prevention) Act, 1967, and various preventive detention acts enacted by the Centre and the States.

The NHRC expressed the view that Section 3 (8) of the bill, which provided for punishment to those in possession of information about material assistance in preventing the commission of a terrorist act, or in securing the apprehension and prosecution of a suspected terrorist, would have a chilling effect on human rights. Section 3 (8) proposes imprisonment up to one year or fine or both for a person who fails, without reasonable reason, to disclose that information as soon as reasonably practicable to t he police. Read with Section 14, which gives powers to investigating officers to require individuals to furnish information in their possession, the bill could gravely jeopardise the work of professionals such as journalists, the NHRC said. Section 14 se eks to impose imprisonment up to three years on anybody who fails to furnish the information called for by an investigating officer on any offence under the bill.

The Law Commission, in its report, says that the freedom of the press flows from Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution, and it has been repeatedly held by the Supreme Court that the rights and privileges of the press are no greater than those of any citi zen of India. It says that even in the United Kingdom and the United States, no immunity in favour of journalists is recognised. However, the quantum of punishment, the Commission says, need not always be the maximum of one year's imprisonment: the court may use its discretion and sentence the journalist, if found guilty, to pay a token fine. Legal experts, however, disagree.

The Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to the Home Ministry, which consists of 38 MP representing different political parties, met on July 17, with Home Minister L.K. Advani in the chair, to discuss the issue. The overwhelming opinion at the m eeting was against the draft bill. While a couple of members defended the bill in its current form, many others approved the need for an Act to replace TADA but disapproved the draft bill. Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Somnath Chatterjee acknowle dged the need for special anti-terrorism legislation in view of the growing terrorist activities in different parts of the country but emphasised that any such law should be based on a political consensus and should have enough safeguards against its mis use. The Left parties - the CPI(M), the CPI, the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) - oppose the draft bill and have questioned the need for it when the existing laws, in their opinion, are sufficient to tackle terrorism.

Somnath Chatterjee clarified that the West Bengal government had informed the Centre that a special law might be required to fight terrorism. That, he said, was in tune with his statement that some sort of special provision might be helpful to combat ter rorism. However, he added that he was totally against the draft bill because it contained several draconian provisions.

Prakash Karat, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, said that although his party was yet to formulate its stand on the question whether the existing legal provisions were insufficient to fight terrorism, it was opposed to any preventive detention law, including t he POT Bill. "Let the government first convince us that the existing provisions are inadequate," Karat said. CPI National Secretary D. Raja questioned the need for a special law to fight terrorism as such laws had always been used against innocent citize ns.

Four MPs on the Committee, Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc), Ali Mohmad Naik (National Conference), Viduthalai Virumbi (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and G.M. Banatwala (Muslim League), opposed the need for the bill. Naik asked how many of those held under T ADA in Jammu and Kashmir were convicted. He feared that Section 3(8) of the draft bill, if enacted, would make even MPs and Ministers, leave alone journalists, liable for prosecution on flimsy grounds, as it could punish anyone who refused to share with the police any information in his or her possession on terrorists.

Banatwala argued that the safeguards provided in the draft bill would not really help an accused. For instance, the draft bill provides that the accused gets an opportunity to revise his of her confession (given to the police earlier) before a magistrate , a day after his or her statement is recorded by the police. But the fact that the accused may have to be under police remand for a period of 30 days at a stretch (which can be extended up to six months) would make it difficult for the accused to change his or her confession, which might have been secured by the police under duress. Secondly, Banatwala believes that terrorist organisations will be able to identify the witnesses even though the draft bill guaranteed their protection by concealing their identity before an accused during the trial.

With the opinion on the draft bill being so divergent, it is anybody's guess whether the Centre will risk its enactment, as recommended by the Law Commission. Even in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), there appears to be no unanimity on the need fo r the bill. Former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani himself is opposed to the bill; MPs belonging to some non-BJP constituents of the NDA have expressed their reservations about the bill.

The Congress(I) is yet to make its stand clear. Party spokesperson Anand Sharma told Frontline that the Congress(I) was totally opposed to the POT Bill in its present form as it had several "oppressive features". Congress(I) member of the in Rajya Sabha and former NHRC chairperson Justice Ranganath Mishra has come out strongly against the bill. He explained how it would affect civil liberties.

In these circumstances, it is clear, the Centre cannot achieve political consensus on the bill before it is introduced in Parliament.

'I would feel very unhappy if it is enacted'

other

Interview with Justice J.S. Verma, NHRC Chairperson.

Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), started his career as a pleader in the Judicial Commissioner's Court of Vindhya Pradesh at Rewa (now in Madhya Pradesh) in January 1955. After serving in various capacities in the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan High Courts, he became a Judge in the Supreme Court in 1989. He was the Chief Justice of India between March 1997 and January 1998. Justice Verma has delivered some landmark judgments - for instance , in the Sanjay Dutt case (1994) and the Vishakha case (1997, relating to the sexual harassment of a woman in her workplace). He was instrumental in enlarging the content and scope of Article 21 (the right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitutio n. Justice Verma spoke to V. Venkatesan on the draft Prevention of Terrorism Bill that has been recommended to the Government by the Law Commission and on the hawala case. Excerpts:

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At a seminar organised by the Law Commission in December 1999 on prevention of terrorism, you had said that a special law was necessary to fight terrorist activities in view of the worsening situation in parts of the country and that it should be a l aw with a human face (as carried in the Law Commission's 173rd report). The NHRC has, however, questioned the need for a special law.

What I said (while inaugurating the seminar) was that the inaugural session was meant to identify issues for a debate in the seminar. So the first question I posed was whether the Prevention of Terrorism Bill was necessary at all. If the answer was in th e affirmative, then what next? As far as I remember, and according to those who were present at the seminar, what I said was that it was a very important issue and that I would refrain from expressing any opinion. I said I would assume that a law was nec essary and comment on that. I don't know even now what ultimately is going to happen. But I had to express my opinion for consideration, assuming that such a law is required in the present context, where terrorism is not being tackled effectively. I said the law in that case should have a human face. So I spoke on what needs to be taken into account should such a law be enacted. But I did not say that such a law needed to be enacted. I never felt that way. Moreover, for a person inaugurating such a semi nar, it is not correct to express an opinion of that kind.

Secondly, it does not matter what was said. Judges should have an open mind, which we have been trained to have, throughout. So that even if you start with an impression and are not sure about it, and if you find on hearing arguments that the first impre ssion is wrong, you should be the first one to correct it. Even if I had said that, I would have no hesitation in saying this. But I could not have said that because I never really felt that way. How could I have commented on that day on the merits of a bill that was drafted later? Ultimately, it does not matter who said what. What we have to consider is the merits of the draft bill.

The Law Commission report has also quoted you as saying that the law cannot be dropped simply because of the apprehension that it could be abused.

The grounds for constitutional invalidity are different. They do not include the unwisdom of a law, or the need or desirability for enacting a law. But then these are relevant for being considered when you want to enact a law. In the court, you are conce rned with constitutional validity. That, of course, I would not comment on even now because if the need arises the court will do that. The desirability and the need to enact a law is something that needs to be addressed seriously. That is why we (the NHR C) have said in our opinion, released on July 14, that we need to consider the matter in the light of the experience with the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and, earlier, the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) of the Emergency days, the adequacies of the existing laws, and the provisions of international covenants to which India is a party. The absence of a need to enact such a law and its unwisdom are issues that are relevant for the performance of the functions of the Commission and of Parliament.

I was in the Supreme Court when I saw the implementation of TADA. I demitted office in the court after it was permitted to lapse. I was a Judge in 1972 when MISA was in operation. I had the privilege to see as a Judge the enforcement of MISA and the enti re period of TADA. My agony is that you don't have another machinery to implement it. It is the same machinery which had enforced MISA. As a Judge, I knew what kind of persons were detained, and that there was nothing to support their detention. You have the same machinery. I would feel very unhappy if it is enacted because any of these laws had not served the purpose or the avowed object for which it was enacted. TADA was misused. That is why my colleagues and I in the Commission thought we must voice our opinion. We expect that in a democracy, where the right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed, every individual - we are not excluded - is free to criticise, but I don't think anyone is free to say that the other man has no right to expre ss his opinion.

The Law Commission has proposed that Section 3(8) of the draft bill would place an obligation on a person receiving or is in possession of information regarding any terrorist activity to inform the police as soon as practicable. The NHRC has criticis ed the provision on the ground that it could gravely jeopardise the work of journalists. Do you think the existing laws are adequate to meet the objectives of this provision?

I don't want to go into the specifics beyond what the Commission has expressed in its opinion. But I am troubled about certain basics. The basic presumption that the accused remains innocent until he is found guilty is something of a statutory principle of criminal jurisprudence in any civilised legal system. Even a rebuttable presumption of innocence can be discharged by the accused by giving a plausible explanation. The burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the acc used. Now, tinkering with this presumption is a serious matter. When I talk of a more stringent procedure, I talk of tinkering with this basic procedural safeguard.

Secondly, Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act is there, and it continues to be good law. According to this section, a statement or a confession recorded by a police officer is not admissible. That continues to be the law for minor offences also. For a more stringent offence, you permit a policeman to record a confession and base a conviction on that - that, to me, appears to be wrong.

In the Sanjay Dutt judgment, which I wrote, we had a very limited scope, as the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of TADA in the Kartar Singh case earlier. If you read the Sanjay Dutt judgment, you could see the pains I have taken. Bec ause, there, a very great presumption against the accused arose on the basis of the fact of a mere possession of a firearm by him in a notified area. I said the police should prove "conscious possession" of the firearm by the accused.

How many people were convicted under TADA? Can anyone say that the detention of everyone under TADA was justified? In Gujarat, everyone admits that there was gross misuse of TADA. As a result of the Supreme Court judgment, a review committee of high offi cials had to be constituted. Those were our efforts to humanise the law. Enactment of a new law (on prevention of terrorism) is not in our hands. Our view is that it should not be made. In case such a law is made, humanise it, and prevent its misuse. If the old TADA had a less humane face, and could not contain terrorism, how could the new one with purportedly a more humane face achieve the purpose? This law or any other law of this kind will not enable you to get evidence that you want and cannot get u nder the ordinary law. If you feel a police officer's testimony is sufficient to convict an accused, then delete Section 25 of the Evidence Act.

Ram Jethmalani (then the Union Law Minister) met you after the Commission came out strongly against the proposed bill. Is the government concerned about the Commission's views?

Jethmalani had himself gone on record saying what he thought of the law. I have heard him argue all these TADA cases before me so many times. He was quoted or misquoted by the media as saying that it is not the NHRC's function to comment on the proposed bill. He was more concerned about my not misunderstanding him. The government is certainly bothered about what we say in the NHRC. I don't think that the government would share the impression that a person who is the former Chief Justice of India and ha s two former Judges of the Supreme Court and two other eminent persons as his colleagues (in the NHRC) has no right even to say what he thinks of this bill. You may or may not agree. You may or may not accept it. We never said that we are the only ones w ho are right.

The NHRC has said that it could express its opinion on the draft bill by virtue of Section 12(j) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, which enables it to perform "such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights."

The NHRC's functions include reviewing the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and suggesting measures for their effective implementation (Section 12-d of the Protecti on of Human Rights Act); and studying treaties and other international instruments on human rights and making recommendations for their effective implementation (Section12-f). Now, what someone has said is - I would not like to name the person - that its function is confined only to a law for the time being in force. So that if the law is enacted, we can comment, not before that. But that is not the correct conception, according to me.

Even if you take it in that limited form, the Commission is required to see the existing laws. Under Article 21 we need to read all international treaties, provisions of international conventions. In the Vishakha judgment (written by me), the Supreme Cou rt has clearly said that we are entitled to read the provisions of international conventions and treaties into the existing domestic laws, so long as they are not inconsistent with domestic laws. Under Article 21, you can read the provisions of the conve ntions against torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Even on that narrow construction which is suggested, one can say, if it is the existing law, therefore recommend measures for its effective implementation. The measure is: do not enact any law which will dilute these provisions. What hurts me most is any one thinking that it is not our function. Whenever any law is enacted, it is widely circulated for eliciting opinion, before legislation. It is part of the democratic process and debate in Parliament. Opinions are solicited. In our case, we had to secure a copy of the Law Commission's report on the bill through a lawyer friend.

In giving the NHRC's opinion, you have talked about political interference in police investigations. How can this be curbed?

Read my judgment in the hawala case. This law will not certainly eliminate political interference, but permit more political interference. What is the safeguard in this law to check political interference?

The NHRC has recommended legislation to check financing of terrorism.

I have expressed my anguish in the hawala case.

The origin of the case was this: two terrorists were apprehended, from whom a lot of money was found, and this led to the entire trail in which top politicians, bureaucrats, and everyone from every walk of life were suspected. This shows that there has t o be some nexus. And what I was crying hoarse about throughout was this: Please investigate that. Because at some point there has to be a common mind which is controlling everything - terrorists, corruption in politics, politicisation of crime, criminali sation of politics, corrupt bureaucracy, corruption in every branch. I am not excluding anyone. Unless you control funding, there will be no real solution.

Does the fact that almost all the accused in the hawala case have been acquitted show that the existing law is inadequate to deal with the problem?

We need a will to do what we talk of. It was just because of the shoddy investigation and that is something which brought down the credibility of the Central Bureau of Investigation. The court could only take the horse to the pond, it couldn't make the h orse drink the water. This is what I said. They got rid of the court by saying that we have filed the charge-sheets. That was the only scope of the monitoring process. But what kind of investigation they did?... Not one case of disproportionate assets wa s investigated, so that substantive evidence that was available could be corroborated. Even a first-year law student knows that under Section 34 of the Evidence Act no one could be held guilty on the basis of a diary entry. Corroborative evidence means t here should be something to corroborate a substantive piece of evidence. That was not the defect of law; that was just an eyewash of an investigation.

Supposing there was no case against the accused, why did they file the charge-sheets? All we said was, take the investigation to its logical conclusion. If you file charge-sheets, an ordinary process will take care, and in the Supreme Court we will do no thing. We said if you feel you don't have a case, then come to us, we will see whether you have done your duty of investigation properly. That they did not want us to do, so they filed the charge-sheets.

Then we said 'hands off monitoring'. There is no lacuna in the system. It is a case of bad workmen quarrelling with the tools. Why ask for more sophisticated tools when you cannot use the existing tools efficiently?

What about political interference in the judiciary?

At least I can talk of myself. No one ever dared to reach me. Any number of men have tried. I was at the highest level of the judiciary for almost 26 years.

In the hawala case, you did speak of a gentleman who tried to approach the judges.

I said he tried. But no one could touch me. I found my colleagues being approached. It was my duty as the Chief Justice and as a presiding Judge of the Bench to protect my Judges. And the purpose was served. My purpose was that any one who was trying sho uld not try anymore. And thereafter that effort completely stopped. And my colleagues also said so. I said it only when I found both Justice S.C. Sen as well as Justice S.P. Bharucha bringing it to my notice. My immediate reason for saying it was that th ey tried to approach Justice Bharucha and he told me that. Following the stand taken by me, it stopped. No one tried to approach any of my colleagues after that. There was thus no need to waste my time on establishing the identity of this gentleman, who m I never met or spoke to.

A ceasefire in Kashmir

For the moment, both India and the Hizbul Mujahideen have an interest in making sure it works, but the real dangers lie further in the future.

FOR most ordinary people of Jammu and Kashmir, the Hizbul Mujahideen's announcement of a ceasefire has had immediate and tangible consequences. Buses from Srinagar are no longer stopped every few kilometres. There are fewer search operations, and farmers heading out to water their fields at night are discovering that their chances of ending up dead in the process have markedly declined. There is little doubt that the ceasefire announcement, and the Indian government's responses to it, have provoked more optimism than any other event since the Assembly elections which brought the National Conference (N.C.) to power last year. But it is also true no one is celebrating - at least not yet. Jammu and Kashmir has seen more than one sunset that was mistaken f or a dawn, and there are more than a few reasons to believe that peace is not just around the corner this time either.

ABDUL MAJID DAR, under intense pressure from the security forces, had left for Pakistan in 1997 and shown little inclination to return. He had little to return to. The Hizb's cadre in Jammu and Kashmir had been at the receiving end of a major onslaught i n the wake of the Kargil War. Pakistani cadre from the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and, most recently, the Jaish-e-Mohammadi, had increasingly displaced the Hizb's predominantly Kashmiri recruits, sometimes relegating them to humiliating roles as porters and guides. Some Hizb leaders had begun to consider their options. At least one of the top Kashmir valley commanders, Ghulam Nabi Khan, was rumoured early this year to be flirting with political factions in both the People's Democratic Party a nd the N.C.

To add to the Hizb's troubles, its leadership in Muzaffarabad was anything but united. As Frontline first reported earlier this year (March 31), rifts had started showing up within the once-monolithic Hizbul Mujahideen. The organisation's supreme commander, Mohammad Yusuf Shah, better known by his nom de guerre Syed Salahuddin, faced sustained flak from second-rung leaders Riyaz Rasool and Ghulam Nabi Nowshera. Nowshera and Rasool, sources say, complained that Shah was not committing comma nders close to him to the bloody conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, allowing them instead to hide in Muzaffarabad. Mirroring splits within the organisation's parent, the Jamaat-e-Islami, some believed that the armed struggle was a futile one. Disgusted by th ese feuds and unsure of the future, Dar repeatedly turned down Shah's efforts to send him back to Kashmir.

Early this year, top Hizb commanders sent out feelers through a United States-based Kashmiri to the Indian government, exploring the possibility of a ceasefire. The Prime Minister's Office responded some six months back, through Research and Analysis Win g (RAW) chief A.S. Dulat. An India-based intermediary was sent to Pakistan, where a covert dialogue began on ceasefire plans and the possibility of talks with the government. After months of discussion, Dar asked to return to India. He would, the Hizb co mmander told his interlocutor, sound out the field cadre in Jammu and Kashmir on what position they thought the organisation should take on a possible ceasefire. The Hizb commander arrived in India late this April, with guarantees of protection from the many units of the Army and police who had long awaited his return.

Dar rapidly discovered a large constituency within the Hizb which wanted peace. He found a powerful ally in its deputy chief for the Kashmir Valley, who operates under the code name Masood Tantrey. District level commanders were sounded out next, and all but the head of the Hizb's Pir Panjal regiment, who operates in the Rajouri-Poonch area, proved receptive to the idea of a ceasefire. Within the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Abdul Ghani Bhatt and Abdul Ghani Lone enthusiastically endorsed Dar 's plans. The Jamaat-e-Islami's political chief, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was less enthusiastic, but was finally pressured into accepting the emerging position. The stage had been set for Dar's announcements.

A small group of Srinagar-based journalists were invited to meet the Hizbul Mujahideen commander-in-chief of operations at a secluded safehouse on July 24. It was perhaps one of the most dramatic press conferences ever held through Jammu and Kashmir's decade of terror. The Hizb's unilateral three-month ceasefire, Dar argued, was necessary to allow the initiation of a political process. The Hizb, he said, had to "dispel Indian propaganda that we are terrorists, rather than a people fighting for our bi rthright - freedom". He laid down few preconditions. The ceasefire, Dar said, was subject to the cessation of Indian violence against civilians and political activists. Then, he said, the use of the ceasefire by India as a "tactical weapon" for propagand a would subvert its purpose.

Much of the proceedings of the press conference was used to spell out the Hizb's larger political strategy. The Union government's nascent offer of dialogue with the Hurriyat, Dar suggested, was a positive development. "Let them talk to anybody," he said . "The aim of the exercise should be to resolve the issue amicably, through a dialogue without preconditions." The Hizb, Dar continued, would encourage politicians from India and abroad to visit the State, and participate in a process of dialogue with it s people. Conscious of the reaction his statement was certain to provoke from Pakistan-based far-Right groups, Dar described their cadre "our brothers who have come to our help". "Once the problem is resolved amicably and peace is restored," Dar conclude d, "they will return peacefully."

Peace was not on minds of any of the Pakistan-based jehadi organisations. The next day, news of Dar's press conference and Shah's subsequent endorsement of his stand were both blacked out on Pakistani television. The United Jihad Council, a coalit ion of 14 Pakistan-based terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir, promptly removed Shah from his post as chief of the organisation, and demanded that the Hizb immediately withdraw its ceasefire offer. Shah was deemed a traitor to the cause, and w idely condemned. And on July 26, the Jaish-e-Mohammadi, the Jamaat-e-Mujahideen, and the al-Omar Mujahideen claimed credit for a series of six bomb blasts in Srinagar, which they said had been set off to protest against the ceasefire.

Caught off guard, the APHC promptly reneged on its earlier commitments to Dar. Bhatt, who had been elected chairman of the organisation on July 20, defeating Lone by one vote, failed to stand up for a deal he himself had endorsed. A press release put out by the organisation did not condemn the ceasefire in itself, but said that it was "a step taken in haste". "The Hizb leadership," it argued, "has also failed to perceive the Indian machinations and cunning behaviour that has always been there to divide Kashmiri opinion on issues like this." At once, however, the APHC insisted that the dispute on Kashmir "should be resolved through peaceful means, to ensure the prosperity of the region". Taken by surprise at the speed at which events had moved, the APHC was clearly nervous about being left out in a potential dialogue between the Hizb and the Indian government.

WHAT are the prospects of such dialogue taking place? Both Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, who had been briefed right through the covert dialogue with the Hizb, welcomed the ceasefire. Shah briefly sought to cover his flanks, saying that a dialogue within the framework of the Indian Constitution would be fruitless, but a wide spectrum of secessionist leaders appear to have reacted with some optimism to the Union government's declaration. None of this, however, ob scured the difficult questions that a possible dialogue with the Hizb has opened. What could the Union government eventually concede to the organisation? Would hawks on the Hindu Right allow even a deal built around autonomy to go through? And could the Hizb settle for a deal that falls short of near-independence?

One disturbing sign has come from the involvement of the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in particular, in setting up the ceasefire. It has not passed unnoticed that the ceasefire came shortly after the head of Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Is lami, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, concluded a series of top-level meetings in Washington with State Department officials. The fact that Shah and Dar were allowed to conduct a ceasefire dialogue in the first place indicates that the CIA exerted all the influence at its command on Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

This deepening U.S. involvement in Jammu and Kashmir could push India into conceding damaging solutions peddled by Washington-based figures, notably conceding autonomy to the Kashmir Valley while sundering it from Leh and Jammu. As Jammu and Kashmir Law Minister P.L. Handoo recently pointed out, Vajpayee has failed to respond to repeated calls to rule out publicly the prospect of a carving up of the state on communal lines.

Nor is it clear that the ISI will respond to the ceasefire by allowing a sustained reduction in the levels of violence. Following the July 25 deliberations of the United Jihad Council, fringe groups in Pakistan have begun scrambling to occupy the space v acated by the Hizbul Mujahideen, and competing for the funds available from the ISI. Mushtaq Aksari, the head of the al-Badr faction of the Hizb, made up of Pakistani cadre, proclaimed that his one-time Kashmiri comrades-in-arms would be "dealt with as o ther traitors are". The Harkat-ul-Ansar's Maulana Fazlul Rahman Khaleel, who has been under intense pressure applied by the U.S. through the ISI, in turn announced that Dar had been "bought by the Indians". The emerging lines of confrontation between the Hizb and other groups could lead to a sharp escalation of violence in the not-too-distant future.

For the moment, both India and the Hizb have a strong interest in making sure that the ceasefire works. Although sources say that there have been half a dozen minor skirmishes between troops and Hizb formations since July 25, 15 Corps Commander J.F. Mukh erjee has made it clear that he intends to respect the ceasefire. On at least three occasions, the Jammu and Kashmir Police's Special Operations Group units have chosen not to act on information received on the location of Hizb commanders. In the weeks t o come, sources say, the modalities for monitoring the ceasefire, which would probably involve Hizb cadre locating themselves at defined fixed locations, will be set in place.

The real dangers lie further in the future. If dialogue begins, or if it proves fruitless, India could be placed in an embarrassing position. If a U.S.-authored dialogue does go through, and it ends in a Bharatiya Janata Party-sponsored tearing apart of Jammu and Kashmir, it could be even worse.

THE changing contours of politics within Jammu and Kashmir constitute yet another layer of uncertainty over the shape of events to come. One important event is the election of the new chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Hizb's political wing. On July 28, t he 90-member Majlis-e-Numaindgan, the lower house of representatives of the Jamaat-e-Islami, began deliberations on the issue. Its choice, made through a process of discussion rather than formal candidature, could have a bearing on the Hizb's plans. The Jamaat's Amir, G.M. Bhatt, paved the way for the ceasefire over a year ago when he called for an end to the armed struggle, arguing that it had achieved nothing. His principal challenger this year, the schoolteacher-turned-politician Ashraf Sehrai, is al so believed to favour dialogue, but has been a long-time associate of the hawkish Geelani.

APHC leaders, meanwhile, appear increasingly confused over the prospects of their own proposed negotiations with the Union government. A spectrum of figures, ranging from one-time journalist R.K. Mishra to former Foreign Secretary M.K. Rasgotra, are beli eved to have been engaged in informal dialogue with the APHC leadership, but neither the content nor the contours of the discussions are known. The fact that the Union government has been willing to engage in a dialogue with secessionists but not with el ected representatives has, in turn, infuriated many within the N.C. Despite Vajpayee's conciliatory gestures to the party on the occasion of Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's mother's funeral, the fact is that the bulk of the BJP leadership is arrayed aga inst any constitutional concessions of the kind he has demanded.

Many of these questions may acquire a sharper form after Prime Minister Vajpayee arrives in the U.S. on September 15. At least some observers believe that President Bill Clinton sees progress on Jammu and Kashmir as a kind of consolation prize after the breakdown of his initiatives on West Asia. The number of figures on the Hindu Right arguing for a cutting apart of Jammu and Leh from the Kashmir Valley in return for autonomy to the Valley is growing, which is a matter for disquiet. As important, it is unclear whether the Union government's initiatives to engage with the Hizb and the APHC are underpinned by any cogent vision of where it wishes a dialogue to lead to, and what it might be willing to concede. Except in the unlikely event that Vajpayee fin ds the resolve to move beyond covert initiatives, and initiates a genuine political debate on Jammu and Kashmir, it is hard to see the sound and fury signifying anything much very soon.

Of human bondage

The release of five Dalit bonded workers from a quarry in Mysore district has raised the question of the effectiveness of the state machinery in preventing atrocities on the weaker sections of society.

LIFE will never be the same again for five Dalit quarry workers and members of 23 families of Kadathanala village near Pandavapura in Karnataka's Mandya district, who lived in fear of the quarry owner and his men. Although unshackled from the 15 kg iron chains that had kept them fettered for two years, the five Dalits are yet to come to terms with their new-found freedom. "I am waiting for the government to provide me a job. The only work I know is to crush stones," says V. Gopal, 25, one of them, who b elongs to the Bovi community.

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Gopal and the other workers - his father Venkatesh (58), Venkatachala (40), Krishna (38) and Nagaraju (50) - were 'rescued' and 'released' on June 22 by 60-odd activists of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS). They had been subjected to such inhuman treatment (the clamps of the fetters had been welded in place) for allegedly failing to repay a debt they owed their employer.

Chamundeshwari Crusher, the stone quarry in Arakere near Hangarahalli, 35 km from Mysore, where Gopal and the other workers spent almost 10 years crushing stones from dawn to dusk for a remuneration of Rs.55 a tractor load at last count, has been closed down. The licence for the quarry had expired in 1997. Its owner Puttaswamy Gowda, who is a former Janata Dal (Secular) corporator from Mysore, his son Arun Kumar, quarry foreman Muniyappa, and two persons from a welding shop in Mysore, are in judicial cu stody.

While Venkatesh had borrowed Rs.4,250, the others had taken amounts ranging from Rs.500 to Rs.1,000. Their wages were cut to adjust against the loans, but the outstanding sums never diminished. The released workers claimed that the accounts had been fudg ed; for instance, an entry of Rs.500 was altered to Rs.5,000. They alleged that Puttaswamy Gowda used the ruse of 'unpaid' loans to prevent them from leaving the quarry.

According to Venkatesh, all hell broke loose two years ago when he told Muniyappa that since he had repaid the loan he would like to leave the quarry. He was accused of trying to leave without clearing his debt. He alleged that Gowda's goons thrashed him , took him to Mysore and chained him. The price of the chain and the cost of the welding job and also transport were added to his loan amount. Similar treatment was meted out to the other workers. According to them, they were locked in a dingy shed near the quarry by night and let out to work or to walk down to their huts, situated 100 metres away, to eat a meal. They were made to work six days a week, from 7 a.m. until dusk, with the fetters on. They were fined Rs.100 if they turned up for work even a few minutes late. This amount was added to their ever swelling loan. Added to this, if they did not crush the stones to a near-perfect 4 inch x 3 inch size, they would not be paid for any part of the load. This "punishment" was, of course, given to other quarry workers too.

Said Venkatachala about the chaining: "The chains prevented us even from wearing our underpants. We were not allowed to stay with our families. We were subjected to such harassment because we wished to leave the quarry. They were making an example of us. " The workers tried to escape as other quarries paid better wages.

Other workers too were treated mercilessly, and the punishment was always swift. The quarry owner's men would gather information about labourers who ran away and wait for them to appear at any of the 50-odd quarries in the area. They would then be bundle d into a jeep, taken back to the quarry and beaten. Tales of torture of workers after hanging them upside down from trees, humiliation of women workers and clobbering of children found not working have also surfaced. It is alleged that children were made to work the whole day for Rs.15.

Some workers, however, appear to have made good their escape. A group of 30 people from Kollipalya village near Chamarajanagar, near Mysore, met Divisional Commissioner G.K. Lokhare after the news about the chained workers broke, and said that they had e scaped from the same quarry. To substantiate their claim, they produced photographs of them taken with Puttaswamy Gowda during a Dasara festival, and also stamped papers, which they claimed were agreements between them and Puttaswamy Gowda.

Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna, who met the Dalits on July 5, ordered an inquiry into the matter by the Divisional Commissioner. Lokhare said that the only crime of the workers appeared to be that they belonged to a socially weak section. He serve d notices on the farmers in the neighbourhood to explain why they did not report the matter to the authorities.

What is shocking, according to local legislator Parvathamma Srikantaiah, is that the workers have no voting rights. (Their forefathers had migrated from Andhra Pradesh in search of work during the construction of the Krishnarajendra Sagar dam.) "As I did not feel the need to go to the quarry for campaigning I was not aware that they had no vote. The KRRS activists knew about it but they did nothing," the legislator said. The KRRS has denied this allegation.

Administration officials in the area who are supposed to safeguard the rights and interests of the workers were equally blind to the goings-on. Their statements were reflective of their action. Said a local official from the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited, which provides power to the quarry: "The quarry was under benami ownership. We were aware of the fact. So what? They paid the prescribed fees, and we provided the connection."

The workers were not allowed to speak to any outsider, not even to the drivers of lorries that came to collect the stones.

One worker said that a group of men punctured the tyres of a lorry when they spotted the driver talking to some workers. The workers allege that as a matter of strategy they would lodge theft cases against the workers in the Arakere police station and la ter Puttaswamy Gowda himself would visit the police station and have them released on bail.

While the fear of retribution prevented the workers from speaking about the atrocities, the question raised is why officials from any of the government departments - Labour, Police, Revenue, Electricity or Mines and Geology - did not realise what was hap pening in the quarry. Equally surprising is the fact that the chained workers were noticed by a KRRS leader only during the recent panchayat elections and that no politician from the area was aware of the Dalits' plight. Lokhare's inquiry would look into this aspect and the question of fixing of responsibility on the officials concerned.

M. Shivanna, the Minister in charge of Mandya district, accused a former Janata(S) legislator of Srirangapatna, Vijayalakshmi Siddegowda, of having been aware of the workers' conditions but having done nothing about it. She has denied this charge. Parvat hamma Srikantaiah's political rivals say that she was told about the existence of bonded workers when she campaigned in the quarry site.

The quarry workers, however, are not sure which woman politician visited the site. But they are certain about the role of the revenue officials. They allege that the personnel manning the police stations in the vicinity were aware of their bondage. Putta swamy Gowda, they allege, is a powerful man. According to them, he even had action taken against a a sub-inspector who intervened on behalf of the workers.

Lokhare admitted that there were lapses on the part of the officials. "I am going to find out to what extent they are responsible."

The government has gone through the right motions - seven officials have been suspended, a compensation of Rs.25,000 for each of the five chained workers has been announced, and 25 houses would be built at Gangam village in Srirangapatna to rehabilitate the affected workers. While some of the workers want the government to allot them agricultural land, others suggest that the government take over the quarry and run it under a cooperative.

Whatever the decision of the State government, the incident has once again proved the ineffectiveness of the various pieces of legislation meant to protect the weaker sections such as the Prevention of Atrocities Act, the Civil Rights Enforcement Act, th e Prohibition of Child Labour Act and the Bonded Labour Act.

Complicit in crime

world-affairs

An independent committee appointed by the Organisation of African Unity indicts the United States, France and the United Nations, among others, for their failure to prevent or halt the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

JOHN CHERIAN

AN independent panel of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) has severely criticised the United States, France and Belgium, besides the United Nations and the Catholic Church, for their role in the events that led to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which claimed more than 800,000 lives. In its report "Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide", the committee has said that these nations and organisations, along with the Hutu-led government of Rwanda, were guilty of complicity or negligence as extremist Hutu milit ias massacred the minority Tutsis.

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The panel was chaired by the former Canadian Ambassador to the U.N., Stephen Lewis. Its other members were Sir Ketumile Masire, former President of Botswana; Ahmadu Toure, former President of Mali; Lisbet Palme, Swedish expert on the U.N. Committee on th e Rights of the Child; Elen Jonson-Sirleaf, former Finance Minister of Liberia; Justice P.N. Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India; and Hocine Djoudi, an Algerian diplomat.

The panel, which submitted its report in the second week of July, has said that a "significant level of reparations" should be paid to Rwanda by the nations and institutions that failed to prevent or stop the genocide. It has asked the U.N. Secretary-Gen eral Kofi Annan to establish a commission to name the countries that are morally bound to compensate Rwanda for the devastation. Besides asking the U.N. to formulate an appropriate scale of compensation, the panel has demanded the cancellation of Rwanda' s international debts. The events of 1994 cannot be consigned to history as their impact is still being felt all over the region, according to the report.

The ongoing war in the Congo is an after-effect of the Rwandan genocide. "The 1994 genocide in one small country ultimately triggered a conflict in the heart of Africa that has directly or indirectly touched at least one-third of the nations on the conti nent," the report says. Unlike an earlier U.N. report on Rwanda, it delves into the history of the region.

The report is especially scathing about the roles of France and the U.S. According to the report, three months before the horrific event, the U.N. was aware that a genocide was being planned. The U.N. military mission in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, had informed the U.N. Secretariat that lists of Tutsis were being prepared for extermination. "At the U.N., the Security Council, led unremittingly by the United States, simply did not care enough about Rwanda to intervene appropriately. What makes the Secur ity Council's betrayal of its responsibility even more intolerable is that the genocide was in no way inevitable. First, it could have been prevented entirely. Then, once it was allowed to begin, the destruction could have been significantly mitigated. A ll that was required was a reasonable-sized international military force," the report says.

President Bill Clinton has said that the failure to prevent the genocide was owing to "ignorance" on the part of the international community. But the report says that the U.S. government knew precisely what was happening, including during the months of t he genocide.

"But domestic politics took priority over the lives of helpless Africans. After losing 18 soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the U.S. was unwilling to participate in any further peacekeeping missions, and was largely opposed to the Security Council's a uthorising any serious missions at all, with or without American participation," the report says. It concedes that genocide would not have taken place in the first place if Rwandans had not planned and carried it out; however, it points out that when "et hnic radicalism" was raising its ugly head, France had the wherewithal to arrest any dangerous trends. The report says that France had "unrivalled influence at the very highest level" of the Hutu-led government of the time.

The report points out that France was an ardent supporter of President Juvenal Habyarimana's government. Rwanda is politically and economically close to France. According to the report, the French government played a crucial role in preventing the Habyar imana government from being toppled by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The RPF had launched an invasion from neighbouring Uganda in 1991. "Rwanda was a French-speaking country, and the response from France was the most positive. Its forces prevented a swift RPF victory over the inept Rwandan army. And the French soldiers an d advisers remained in the country, counselling Habyarimana's people politically and militarily on keeping these "Anglo-Saxon" interlopers from English speaking Uganda at bay. The Habyarimana government learned it could always count on the unconditional public and private support of the French President and government," says the report.

According to the report, the French had, "with the surprising concurrence of the Security Council", sent a force to Rwanda, two months after the conflict started. The force created a safe zone in the southwest of the country. Frightened Hutu peasants as well as Rwandan soldiers and militia men involved in the genocide took shelter in this zone as the RPF advanced. The soldiers and the militia were then allowed to cross over to Eastern Zaire and join other "genocidaires" who had reached eastern Zaire thr ough other routes.

After the RPF took over the country, the extremist Hutus continued their war from Zaire, with disastrous consequences for the region. "The French government, with tacit American approval, supported Zaire's President Mobutu as the only person who could he lp with the refugee crisis in his country. In fact, important groups in the Zairean government became the primary suppliers of arms to the Ex-Far (the former Rwandan army) and militia, although many other countries and groups were involved in weapons tra ding as well," says the report.

Rwanda and Uganda organised an invasion of Zaire to overthrow the dictatorship of Mobutu Seseseko, an ally of the Hutu regime that was overthrown. This was in a bid to uproot the Hutu extremists from their sanctuaries in eastern Zaire. The new government in Kigali thought that Laurent Kabila, who was catapulted to the Presidency in Zaire, would be perpetually beholden to them. But Kabila had other ideas. Deciding to be his own man, he threw out his Tutsi advisors. Two years ago Rwanda and Uganda organis ed another invasion of Congo to overthrow Kabila and install a more pliable leader. But this led to an African war, with countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, rushing in troops to defend Kabila.

The war still continues, wreaking havoc on the economies and people of Central Africa. Stephen Lewis said in a statement that the French even sent in a shipment of arms even as the genocide was on. Lewis said: "There is almost no redemptive feature in th e conduct of the government of France." He was equally scathing about the U.S. role. "It is simply beyond belief that because of Somalia hundreds of thousands of Rwandans needlessly lost their lives. I want to say, as a personal observation, I don't know how Madeleine Albright lives with it," Lewis said. Albright was the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. at the time.

The Catholic Church has been criticised for its close connection with the Habyarimana government before the genocide. Some senior members of the Catholic clergy have been indicted for abetting the holocaust. Lewis said he regretted the absence of an apol ogy from France and the Catholic Church for their part in the human tragedy of major proportions.

The report says: "Within Rwanda itself, those with the heaviest responsibility were the Catholic and Anglican hierarchies and the French government, all supporters of the Habyarimana government. Church leaders failed to use their unique moral position am ong the overwhelmingly Christian population to denounce ethnic hatred and human rights abuse. The French government was guilty of the same failure at the elite level. Its unconditional public backing of the Habyarimana government constituted a major disi ncentive for the radicals to make concessions or to think in terms of a compromise." The Anglican Church had apologised for its role.

As the report has pointed out, the facts are not in question: A small number of major actors could directly have prevented or halted the genocide or at least reduced its extent. They include France, in Rwanda itself; the U.S. at the Security Council; Bel gium, whose soldiers could have saved countless lives if they were allowed to remain in the country; and Rwanda's church leaders. In the bitter words of the commander of the U.N.'s military mission in Kigali, the "international community has blood on its hands."

Endless embargo

world-affairs

A decade after the imposition of a sanctions regime, Iraq continues to be a victim of geopolitical manoeuvring and a scapegoat for the insecurities of the United States' client regimes in West Asia.

SUKUMAR MURALIDHARAN

THE last time the United Nations Security Council discussed the issue of the sanctions against Iraq, there seemed a hesitant and grudging recognition by the main proponents of the punitive regime - the United States and the United Kingdom - of the fact t hat the human costs of the brutal policy have gone far beyond any ethically admissible level. But as the sanctions regime completes a decade in operation, there seems little willingness even to begin to consider its withdrawal. Rather, Iraq continues to be the victim of geopolitical manoeuvring of a particularly sordid kind and a scapegoat for the multiple insecurities of the U.S.' client regimes in the region. And as the U.S.-brokered "peace process" for West Asia stutters into its last phase with litt le possibility that it will go even half way towards meeting Arab aspirations the need to keep Iraq boxed in and isolated would only seem to heighten.

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Introducing the discussion in the Security Council, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan effectively conceded that the moral advantage, if at all it existed, had been lost forever: "...the humanitarian situation in Iraq poses a serious moral dilemma for thi s organisation. The United Nations has always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and has always sought to relieve suffering, yet here we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population. We are in danger of losing the argument, or t he propaganda war - if we haven't already lost it - about who is responsible for this situation - President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations."

Tentatively the U.N. has, in seeming recognition of the moral dubiousness of its position, sought to move the notion of "smart sanctions" to the foreground. The groundwork was laid as far back as 1996, six years into the embargo on Iraq. As reported by t he U.N. Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, the objective was to "protect civilians" from the effects of sanctions, while "sharpening their targeting to increase their impact".

The U.K. envoy broadly endorsed the notion of "smart sanctions", but pointed out that the U.N. needed to acquire a broad range of technical skills to make it work. He thought that "modern technology" could be pressed into service by the Security Council to ensure that sanctions remained generally impermeable. And the technical means adopted, he continued, should have the capability to "tap into national facilities for information and investigation".

The intervention of the U.K. in the debate had the merit of stating with grim clarity that national sovereignty would be the first casualty of any regime of "smart sanctions". The recipients of the Security Council's attentions should in short, be vulner able to advanced espionage techniques that would render even their most sensitive national security matters an open book. In the absence of this condition, it would be subjected to the kind of open-ended and comprehensive embargo that Iraq has suffered n ow for a decade.

The U.S. envoy had by far the most unapologetic and yet self-contradictory contribution to the debate on sanctions. The U.N., he asserted, should recognise "without apology" that sanctions are an instrument of coercion. Sanctimoniously usurping the decis ion-making authority of the entire U.N. membership, he described sanctions as a "means of expressing the will of the international community to end unacceptable behaviour". To be effective, he continued, sanctions needed to be "carefully tailored to the particular situation in which they are to be applied". And then, there should be careful attention paid to the "minimisation, mitigation and management of unintended impacts, especially on vulnerable sectors of the population". With robust cynicism, howe ver, the U.S. representative urged the Security Council to acknowledge the fact that these "unintended impacts" could never be "eliminated entirely".

IN yet another respect, the U.S. behaviour has been contrary to its stated principle that "sanctions regimes must clearly enunciate the standards by which alterations to unacceptable behaviour would be measured". The termination of sanctions, the U.S. en voy declared, "should be directly and transparently linked to confirmation of the changed behaviour". In specific cases, he urged, an incremental relaxation of U.N. sanctions could be considered in response to the measured progress of the target nation i n altering its pattern of behaviour.

The U.S.' actual conduct has, needless to say, been contrary to these principles. Early on in the application of the sanctions it unilaterally inscribed into the U.N.'s stated objectives the tacit aim of effecting a change of regime in Iraq. It has wilfu lly overlooked a favourable report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iraqi cooperation with its disarmament mission. It repeatedly used the now defunct United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to seek to penetrate the innermost secu rity rings surrounding the top Iraqi leadership and to provoke confrontations with the Iraqi government. Far from maintaining a regime of transparency, it has arrogated to itself the absolute right to judge when Iraq should be deemed to be in non-complia nce with U.N. resolutions. And the punitive air strikes that it continues to carry out against the country have been lacking in any kind of authorisation from the U.N.

Since December 1998, when the U.S. and the U.K. carried out an intensive four-day long bombing campaign against Iraq, the air war has been continuing with little abatement. Iraqi government sources have reported a total of 21,600 violations of the countr y's air space by American and British war planes in this period. On an average there is a bombing run every alternate day, many of them targeted against civilian facilities from the safe altitude of 20,000 feet.

Russia, France and China have repeatedly called into question the rights and wrongs of air strikes against Iraq. In a particularly outspoken reaction, the French Foreign Ministry spokesperson recently described the bombings as "pointless and deadly": "We reaffirm our incomprehension, our profound unease, in relation to the pursuit and intensification of the air strikes against Iraq, in which the people are the principal victims."

This public excoriation coincided with the Security Council debate on the sanctions and drew an angry reaction from the U.S. State Department. But there is little question that American insensitivity has begun to engender a deep sense of unease even with in sections within the U.S. Early this year a group of Congressmen wrote to President Bill Clinton urging that the effort to disarm Iraq be separated from the economic sanctions. There was no need to condemn an entire people to widespread material depriv ation just to compel a government to cooperate in a programme of disarmament, they argued.

Clinton responded in the familiar vein of dissimulation that has become customary in U.S. policy towards Iraq. "The greatest problem the people of Iraq face today," he wrote, "is that Baghdad systematically limits the distribution of humanitarian goods t o preserve the suffering of its own people as a diplomatic asset". After this disavowal of all responsibility for the humanitarian suffering, Clinton went on to a broad reaffirmation of the value of sanctions. From seeking legitimacy in the multilateral sanction of the U.N., he quickly shifted focus to a statement of American geopolitical aims in the region: ".. the sanctions on Iraq will remain in place until Iraq has complied with all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. The sanctions prevent S addam from rebuilding his military. They deny him the cash that gave him broad influence in the Middle East before the Gulf War. They keep him weak and internationally isolated. They are a constant reminder to his people and to the world that Saddam Huss ein is not fully sovereign in Iraq. They prevent Saddam from disrupting regional stability. Finally, they impede his ability to develop and use weapons of mass destruction."

To bolster its defences, the U.S. administration in league with the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) - one of the most influential lobbies in Washington D.C. - orchestrated a letter from 100 U.S. Congressmen, insisting that sanctions r emain in place till the Iraqi regime is toppled. This was a maladroit move, transparent in its intentions. But it had the salutary effect of bringing to the foreground the Israeli interests that have driven the U.S. and the U.K. in the formulation of the ir policy towards Iraq in the last decade.

The patent falsehood that the Iraqi government is withholding essential supplies from its people, has been exposed as such by U.N. officials in charge of the humanitarian programme. Two of them - Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck - have resigned in pr otest against the persistently obstructive attitude of the U.S. and the U.K. In a recent interview Halliday went to the extent of accusing these two countries of "playing games" with the humanitarian programme through the sanctions committee of the U.N. The procedure is normally to put purchase contracts on hold. A clutch of contracts would be cleared, but one vital input - without which the rest would be rendered useless - would be denied. At last count, the U.S. and the U.K. had between them put on ho ld over 1,000 purchase applications by the Iraqi government, valued at over $1.7 billion. The magnitude may be small in relation to the total purchases that have been cleared under the "Oil For Food" programme. But in stopping essential supplies for infr astructural systems such as water supply, health care delivery, sewage disposal and power, these "holds" have had a lethal effect.

A fresh element has been infused into the debate by Scott Ritter, the former U.S. marine officer who served till 1998 as part of UNSCOM monitoring Iraqi disarmament. In an article that has set off alarm in the U.S. administration, Ritter argued in a rece nt issue of the influential journal Arms Control Today, that intensive weapons inspections between 1991 and 1998 had achieved the "qualitative disarmament" of Iraq. This is the best that can be achieved, since no system of inspections could concei vably achieve a full "quantitative disarmament". In other words, there is no feasible way of tracing every last ounce of potentially lethal material that may exist in Iraq, no way of neutralising the intellectual and scientific capabilities that may have been built up over the years, or of disabling institutional memories.

Similar sentiments have been expressed by Hans Blix, the former chairman of the IAEA, who is scheduled soon to begin a new round of weapons inspections under the aegis of UNSCOM's successor body - the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commissi on (UNMOVIC). Iraq has rejected the proposed regime of inspections, pointing out that the new body has no jurisdiction. The record of seven years of cooperation with the arms control effort, it has urged, should be taken into account and the sanctions li fted with no further delay.

Blix himself is hopeful of cooperation, though he is far from certain whether it will happen. The irritants in relations between the U.N. and Iraq, he has pleaded, are beyond his remit. He has little power to urge an amendment of the sanctions policy or to insist that the regular air strikes against Iraq be halted. Blix is a considerably more sympathetic character than the Australian diplomat Richard Butler, who was the last chairman of UNSCOM and the man principally responsible for bringing it into dis repute. But there is every likelihood of a new confrontation when UNMOVIC seeks to enter Iraq towards the end of August. Since this coincides with the start of the U.S. presidential election campaign, an intensified series of bombing raids ranks high on the list of probabilities.

As brazen and unrepentant as ever, Butler has been seeking to create the appropriate climate of opinion for this outcome. In recent articles and commentaries he has issued monitory warnings that Iraq has utilised the months since UNSCOM was terminated to rearm and rebuild its capacity to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. Significantly, the most recent such warning was delivered before a committee of the Israeli Knesset early in July.

And if all these complications were not enough, the Iraqi people have now been taken hostage in the partisan battles between Republicans and Democrats within the U.S. Richard Perle, a foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential contender George Bus h, recently accused the Clinton administration of not doing enough to effect a change of regime in Iraq. Democrat hopeful Al Gore responded by insisting that sanctions would remain in place till Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

The Republicans charge the Clinton-Gore team with failure to utilise the authority granted under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 to empower opposition forces to overthrow Saddam Hussein. They fail to appreciate that all the funds granted under the act ha ve barely been sufficient to buy the loyalty of the disparate groups that make up the Iraqi Opposition, far less to get them to unite or bestow upon them the legitimacy needed to launch a credible bid for power. Indeed, given the geopolitical complexitie s of the region, sanctions remain the only safe policy for the U.S. An attempt to effect a forcible change of regime could set off shock-waves in the entire region, perhaps destabilising friendly regimes more drastically than the U.S.' proclaimed enemies .

LESSONS TO LEARN

education

Ten years after 155 countries including India committed themselves to providing education for all by the year 2000, what is the reality on the ground? An illustrative picture from a tribal village in Bihar.

NITYA RAO

THE progress of education in different countries during the last decade came up for review at the World Education Forum meeting, held at Dakar, Senegal, from April 26 to 28 (Frontline, May 26, 2000). Apart from reviewing the extent to which the na tional commitments made at Jomtien, Thailand, 10 years ago in respect of the provision of Education for All by the year 2000 have been fulfilled, strategies for the future also were discussed at Dakar.

17160651jpg The school building in Chunjo.

As I heard a primary school teacher from Brazil describing the arduous, 24-hour journey she undertook from her village school to catch a flight to Dakar in order to attend the World Education Forum, it was impossible not to think of Munni Tudu from Chunj o, a remote village in Bihar's Dumka district. For, Munni is one of the 125 million children, or one of the 82 million girls worldwide, who never went to school. In March 2000, unable to repay 12 pais (1 pai is equivalent to 500 gm) of chick peas, worth about Rs.200, Munni's mother "leased out" her daughter as an annual farm servant to a farmer in a neighbouring village. The crop had failed, and Munni's family could not repay the seed loan. Munni gets lots of rice to eat and salt for the asking. On luck y days a bit of pulses and maybe some pork, but no money.

In spite of the poverty, Munni and all the children of the village would gladly go to school. Her village has one, but there is no teacher.

Munni was born in 1990, the year of Jomtien. At Jomtien, educationists and governments from 155 countries of the world had articulated the vision of Education for All by the year 2000. The Jomtien Framework for Action called for an expanded vision of bas ic education. Early childhood care and development opportunities; relevant, quality primary schooling or equivalent educational opportunities for out-of-school children; and literacy, basic knowledge and life skills training for youth and adults were its essential ingredients.

Much of this has remained on paper. While primary education has been the main focus of action in the last decade, the EFA (Education for All) Assessment 2000 initiated two years ago has found more than 125 million children the world over with no access t o primary education. Moreover, 880 million adults continue to be illiterate. Gender inequities as well as poor quality of education and learning persist in educational systems.

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Officially, the literacy rate in India has risen from 52 per cent in 1991 to about 62 per cent in 1997 (National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data). But India still accounts for more than a fourth of the world's non-literate population. There are no data on early childhood care and development. This falls under the Department of Women and Child Development, and therefore does not seem to be a concern of the Department of Education. Fifty per cent of Indian women remain illiterate. The literacy camp aigns in several districts of the country provided short-duration learning opportunities, but most of these have not been sustained. While Gross Enrolment Ratios at the primary level increased substantially to 90 per cent in 1997, the drop-out level cont inues to be high, making the Net Enrolment Ratio a little over 60 per cent. According to India's EFA 2000 Country Assessment Report, the goal of universal enrolment remains a distant dream.

The last decade saw even the most backward regions of the country clamouring for facilities for education, spurred as they were by the burgeoning literacy campaigns. The Public Report on Basic Education in India (PROBE) states that even the poorest paren ts want to educate their children, both girls and boys, making child labour an invalid excuse for the non-schooling of most of the country's children today. In fact, the absence of quality education itself is leading to the creation of child labour as in the case of Munni.

With the attention on numbers, on enrolments in schools and on literacy centres, supply side factors, which critically influence schooling, have been given the go-by. While 86 per cent of India's villages officially have a primary school within a distanc e of one kilometre, they are far from being institutions of learning. Apart from a lack of adequate materials and an environment that is conducive to learning, teacher absenteeism is widespread, at least in the poorer and remoter parts of the country. It is not a question of just walking in the rain to the next village school; the teacher has to be there too. Desperate to educate their children, even the poorest of parents are willing to pay for education, in some private school. Private schools, apart from being expensive and not necessarily of good quality, are not always available either. There is also the tragedy that children who manage to complete a minimum level in this educational system are unable to apply what they have learnt to their own co ntext. Thus they become misfits in their own society and join the ranks of the urban unemployed, forever in search of white-collar employment.

NUMBERS and alphabets make no sense to Munni, or any other child of school-going age in Chunjo. She does not have the three Rs, nor for that matter does her mother or her grandmother. At the age of 10, Munni is a maize plucker and paddy transplanter p ar excellence, a skill she shares with most other girls of her village. There are excellent cattle grazers among the six- to eight-year olds.

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Chunjo is a remote forest village comprising 70 Santhal adivasi households, almost 60 km from the district headquarters, Dumka. The village is 20 km from the nearest bushead, and the only way to get there is to walk. I have been working there for a year now. Chunjo lacks health services, electricity and potable water, but boasts of an anganwadi (pre-school) centre - the building lying partially built for several years. The village also has a primary school, which according to the records has a teacher. But the school does not function as the teacher does not come. The children gambol in the mud, climb trees, help their mothers, graze cattle and work in the fields.

Older children like Munni are "leased out" as farm servants. Slightly younger children like Saheb, Munni's brother, work as cowherds, often outside the village. Their mother says: "The children have to do something the whole day. Might as well earn some money. Where is the school that I can send them to?" Said one village leader: "It is no use complaining to the authorities. We have tried several times, but no one wants to come here."

AFTER nearly six months in the village, I finally met the teacher. Appointed in December 1998, he had not taught for more than a few days in the following year. He had a litany of problems including that of a dilapidated building which could collapse any time. Classes cannot be held outdoors during the rains and in the summer heat. The contract for a new building was given about three years ago. The contractor built the four walls and left. There was no one to follow up the matter. Further, teachers are deputed for all kinds of jobs, ranging from election duty to census enumeration. The question of coming to Chunjo from Dumka, where he stays, during the prolonged strike in 1999, when salaries were not paid for six months, did not arise. Rain prevents r egular travel to the village, and for him staying in the village was out of the question, what with the poor living conditions and the endemic cerebral malaria.

The teacher has built his own house and runs a business in Dumka. He has a motorcycle. As such, he is a typical representative of the teacher 'class' in any adivasi area in the country. He does not know the local language, Santhali, which is the only lan guage that Chunjo's children and most of their parents understand. He realises that these poor parents are voiceless in the current context and hence his employment as a teacher is secure.

He taught precisely for a week in January this year and organised a parade on Republic Day. The children's enthusiasm was tremendous. Classes were held in the field outside the school building. Five-year-olds like Suresh and David had learnt to write fro m one to ten and count in Hindi, also the vowels.

ON January 26, the teacher was restless by 8-30 a.m. All the children had not arrived. He complained, "There is no sense of time here. The children come whenever they please. For all you know, they would have taken the cattle out to graze and will come a t 11 a.m. How will we parade then?" Some children had been running behind him since morning. Sanju had a fever the previous day, her foot was sore, and she could barely walk, but the excitement of the parade was too much to keep her in bed. Yet the teach er found it difficult to concede even an iota of flexibility in terms of timing.

At 9 a.m., eight children started the parade, led by little Sailo holding the flag. They marched through the fields, shouting slogans, which started with Bharat mata ki jai, but later the jais (long live) got complicated with the entry of Subhash Chandra Bose and Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Of course, there were no adivasi luminaries to be cheered. The flag-bearer could not cope with so many alien Hindi names and was replaced by Sanju. She did manage somehow.

A few practice rounds later, the children marched through all the three hamlets of Chunjo. Their ranks swelled. The flag was planted firmly in front of the derelict school. Before dispersing, I told the children: "All of you must come to school from tomo rrow. Bring your other friends as well. There are 36 children registered in the primary school here, they should all learn."

I was shocked to find that the teacher was in a hurry because he was leaving the village immediately. The plea was that there was an election duty meeting in Dumka. He said that he would not be back for a couple of weeks. The children knew from experienc e that he would come probably the next year, to organise the Republic Day parade. That is why they had not come to school during the previous week.

I WALKED across the field in front of the school to Sumi's hut. They have plenty of land, but are still very poor. Two young children and poor health have made life a struggle. Moti is about six and ought to be going to school. He watches the other child ren at school from his house. Sumi said, "Moti does not go to school because he feels bad going without a slate. What will he do there? There is nothing to eat in the house, so we cannot buy him a slate. Anyway, the school will soon be over."

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The teacher had told me that the department does not give any slates, books or uniforms to the children anymore. It used to once. Maybe little things, but they mean a lot to the children.

The parents cannot be blamed for not being more active. Registering a complaint with the District Superintendent of Education means the loss of two days of work and at least Rs.100 as expenses, which has to come from one's own pcoket. That is a lot of mo ney here. Complaints in the past have been futile. Even the relatively better off are affected by the lack of transport and resources. In fact, the village moneylender told me that even the more prosperous leaders in the village had taken food loans duri ng the heavy rain and flooding last year.

THERE are 1,538 primary schools, 285 middle schools and 71 high schools in Dumka. Over 4,000 elementary teachers and 410 high school teachers are on the rolls. The elementary schools are co-educational. Of the 49 government-registered high schools, only seven are for girls. The Bihar government norms specify four high schools - three for boys and one for girls - in each block. None of these schools function in Gopikandar block, which includes Chunjo. But if they did, the system would discriminate agains t girls, something adivasi parents in the region do not.

The literacy rates in Dumka are dismal. Census figures showed a literacy rate of 11.68 per cent for men and 4.76 per cent for women in 1951, which rose to 37.26 and 14 respectively in 1991. The figures are likely to be even lower for the adivasis, who li ve in the more inaccessible parts of the district. In Chunjo, the highest level of education for women is Class 5 and for men Class 7.

The Department of Education is primarily responsible for the payment of salaries to the teachers. Infrastructure development in terms of school buildings is a function of the District Collector and the Block Development Officers. The Department of Educat ion has no scheme for the distribution of textbooks and other materials, unlike the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and the State Programme for Elementary Education Development (SPEED).

Officials of the department admit that the quality of education has been declining. Apart from the lack of infrastructure and resource materials, a major reason is the change effected in the procedure for the selection of teachers after 1988. The Bihar P ublic Service Commission now conducts a centralised examination for the selection of primary school teachers, which few adivasi candidates pass. The non-adivasi teachers appointed are unable to communicate with adivasi children, leading to a high dropout rate among children at the primary level. Unsuccessful adivasi aspirants to the teaching profession say that high levels of corruption and their inability to pay the necessary entry-level bribes spoil their chances. Of course, such charges are denied by the department.

The abrupt transfer of teachers compounds the problem. The rules stipulate that transfers be made every five years, to improve the school's working environment. The case of a female adivasi teacher, who taught in a school 4 km from her residence from 196 3 to 1999, is revealing. Under the new transfer policy, she was shifted to a distant village in early 1999. Committed to teaching, she refused to accept the posting as the new school was too far away to walk to: given the lack of transport facilities, sh e would be unable to get to the assigned school. For the last six months she has been running from pillar to post to get the transfer revoked.

The District Collector says that salaries to teachers are paid on time, but many teachers complain of a backlog of several months. This too has led to their not reporting to work. The Collector stated that this may be the case where teachers had disputed the department's calculation of leave after the strike last year. He is probably right, but then this seems to be the situation with the majority of teachers in the district.

"EDUCATION for all has to be about quality, not just filling in the classrooms," was a statement that resonated at the World Education Forum. The commitment to free and compulsory primary education of good quality emerged as a major thrust area in Dakar.

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While the issues of language, infrastructure and teacher attendance have to be sorted out for the effective imparting of education, the content of education too has to be made relevant and meaningful. More so because for a long time to come, most childre n in India - the rural, the poor, the marginalised and girls - will not get education for more than five years. Five years to equip them for the rest of their lives.

In my little village, the children are vastly knowledgeable about the environment - the many varieties of trees and their uses, for instance. A little exercise to collect different varieties of leaves and list out the uses of all the trees these were tak en from aroused a tremendous amount of interest. Environment, agriculture, water and forests could form here the basis for relevant and meaningful education, building upon local knowledge and taking it forward.

WITH the teacher gone from the village, I asked the children to come and study with me in the afternoons. They are there all the time.

These are the children of tomorrow, they want education. But they will have to struggle if they want even to be literate, leave aside access a meaningful and quality education. For them, this still is not a right.

Nitya Rao, who has been working in the field of development, focussing particularly on women's organisations, education and livelihood issues, is based in Mumbai. She attended the Dakar conference.

Was literacy a 'lollipop'?

education
VASANTHA SURYA

"PLEASE imagine what would happen if all the children in the country between six and fourteen years of age came to school? The entire school system would utterly collapse, because it has never been made ready for such an influx! Now imagine this: supposi ng all these children remain out of school for the next two to three years? They will then form part of the vast army of child workers, and will in time grow into the new century's first crop of adult illiterates. And will we launch another Literacy Miss ion for them, then?"

To those who, like this reviewer, took part in the work of the National Literacy Mission in the early years of the globalisation process, Anil Sadgopal's scathing indictment of what we liked to call "the second freedom movement" will cause a pang. He arg ues that the government, the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti and other non-governmental organisations, as well as the media played into the hands of the manipulators of the so-called global open market. Inflated hopes were raised about how literacy campaigns a nd non-formal education programmes were going to make "human resources" fit for the "level playing field".

According to Sadgopal, the logic was to keep India's labour "competitive", without raising the educational level so as to make for real improvement in productive skills. It meant forgoing an expense of Rs.400 crores on equipping government schools under "Operation Blackboard" in order to spend Rs.600 crores under the Seventh Plan on the district literacy campaigns. With Sam Pitroda, Chairman of the Telecom Commission, and Anil Bordia, Education Secretary in the Rajiv Gandhi government, promising to make India substantially, if not totally, literate by 1998, the Eighth Plan allocation for the National Literacy Mission (NLM) went up to more than Rs.1000 crores. The present demand by the NLM under the Ninth Plan is a whopping Rs.2000 crores. This demand i s being made in spite of the collapse of the literacy bubble following the Arun Ghosh Committee's rejection of the NLM's claims of having achieved "total literacy" as false and unreliable.

Enthusiasts have rationalised the quick slide-back into illiteracy of thousands of learners by saying that one should not be literal about literacy; it is "awareness" that matters. Some of us who were part of the dying literacy movement had hoped that th e neo-literates would raise an effective demand for more and better schools from State governments, that they would not only enrol their children but see to it that they completed school. Even this hope has been belied. The hugely popular campaigns, espe cially in Tamil Nadu's first three literacy districts, proved that far from being apathetic about education, people had a great zest for it, almost a hunger. But the schools are simply not good enough to prevent children from dropping out. Sadgopal has a lways maintained that literacy campaigns could never meet this hunger, and has called the whole exercise nothing but a "lollipop" and a "bhool bhulaiyyaan" (after the famous maze in Lucknow, where one 'forgets' one's way).

A vision for India's schools

education

To place the school at the very centre of society through community initiatives and involvement is the mission of Anil Sadgopal.

VASANTHA SURYA

HOW did the Ministry of Education get renamed the Ministry of Human Resource Development? When did "primary" education (for children in the 6-11 age group) begin to be stressed, rather than "elementary" education (for those in the 6-14 age group) as in A rticle 45 of the Constitution? How is it that nowadays nobody in government talks about the right to meaningful school education for all Indian children, but only about "raising literacy levels" through short-term literacy campaigns and non-formal educat ion? When the National Literacy Mission threw open its adult literacy programmes to nine year-old-children, what message did it send to their employers? And what is the connection between globalisation and the 100 million child workers of India?

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Investment of human energy and material resources in elementary education, though it takes years to bear fruit, is recognised as a crucial factor in any nation's life and development. Providing free elementary schooling for all children, regardless of th eir class, caste, language, region, community, gender and physical or mental handicap is seen by any modern nation across the globe, and across ideological barriers, as an indispensable duty of government. Can this be made possible in India?

Dr. Anil Sadgopal's latest book Shiksha mein Badlaav ka Savaal * bristles with challenging questions about why the government school has failed to grow into a common school system for all children, as in many other countries. Sadgopal, Head and De an of the Department of Education at the Maulana Azad Centre for Elementary and Social Education, University of Delhi, brings to the subject of educational policy a unique combination of methodological rigour, democratic commitment and visionary zeal. In these essays written in hard-hitting and unambiguous Hindi he gives an avalanche of hard-won facts and perspectives.

In his view, the politics of policy formation is just as deserving of scientific scrutiny as any "hard" scientific phenomenon, say, the hole in the earth's ozone layer. Not only does he demolish the difference between the physical sciences and the social sciences in respect of the possibility of acquiring reliable knowledge, he says that the study of social phenomena would be incomplete without the observation of emotions. This implies that the emotion generated by any social action has its own value as a source of data. A social scientist need not fight shy of emotion, provided it is the outcome of a genuine experience and his or her observations are made without prejudice.

The burden of Sadgopal's life and work has been to try and "awaken the Indian state" from what he calls its "Kumbhakarna-like sleep" on the question of change in the educational system. His particular passion has been to reshape the educational milieu so that elementary education will be recognised as a fundamental right. At present it is part of the Directive Principles of the Constitution (Article 45), and is not 'justiciable'. No Indian can go to court and claim government-funded schooling for her or his child.

Trained as a molecular biologist at Caltech in the United States, he worked at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai for some years. Sadgopal moved to Madhya Pradesh in the early 1970s to address the nitty-gritty of development. He established the Kishore Bharati Centre for Rural Development and Education along with a group of like-minded scientist friends and focussed on encouraging people to reach out for their rights, and to avail themselves of the benefits of already existing p overty alleviation and development schemes. Efforts were made to check the seasonal distress migration of agricultural labour and to improve agriculture and cattle breeding. Ringwell fabrication emerged as a small-scale industry. Environmental degradatio n was halted with the restoration of forest cover. Innovations were made in education, particularly in the teaching of science in government middle schools to bring it closer to the needs and the potential of the rural environment in its totality.

A JAMNALAL BAJAJ Award winner, Sadgopal's sense of what is possible and what is problematic in the Indian context stems from his experiments with the lowcost, high-intensity Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme (HSTP). Along with Sudarshan Kapoor and o thers at the Friends Rural Centre, the Kishore Bharati Group, which included Sadhna Saksena, Kamal Mahendroo and many others, he persuaded scientists at the TIFR and professors at the Indian Institute of Technology to come to Madhya Pradesh villages and towns. Summer after summer during the 1970s and early 1980s, they sat with personnel from the Regional Colleges of Education, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and government middle school teachers of Madhya Pradesh to fi nd new ways of teaching experimental science.

Taking inspiration from Gandhiji's idea of unifying the world of work and the world of knowledge, they pushed towards decentralisation of the curriculum, drawing directly upon the local environment, and persuading teachers to tap into the experience of t he community. From the teaching of science, HSTP expanded into social science teaching and, in the process, language teaching began to be looked at in a more creative way. The Hindi language, for instance, grew by leaps and bounds as HSTP recorded and am plified the work experience of whole villages, linking it with formal scientific theories, and coming up with new terms on a variety of subjects. Stimulating teachers and children to ask questions, to experiment and to participate, and to come up with te aching ideas and teaching aids, and more constructive approaches to problems of discipline, monitoring and evaluation - until then only a handful of expensive progressive schools in the country had ever considered taking such things seriously.

"Prayog" (experiment) and "Avalokan" (observation) became catchwords at the annual HSTP teachers' workshops in Hoshangabad, where they actually performed the same experiments they would teach to the children. The whole debate on pedagogy rose to new leve ls. Out of that experience have emerged some Statewide programmes in Madhya Pradesh on the HSTP model, as well as Ekalavya, a noteworthy centre for educational research and training.

By the mid 1980s Sadgopal began to feel that the Kishore Bharati Centre was itself becoming a part of the rural vested interests it had started out to challenge. In a candid and insightful essay he recounts its controversial winding up in the mid-1980s. In the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984, as Sadgopal worked with the Zahreeli Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha to organise the victims and bring out the chilling scientific facts regarding the disaster, he became interested in people's movements and rela ted struggles that took place outside the arena of formal party politics. Through his chronicling of trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi's role in the workers' struggle in Chhattisgarh, and his protest action in the early 1990s against the replacement of education with literacy as a national priority, what has stood out is his commitment to social justice. For him awareness of the need for social justice begins with a child's experience of school.

SADGOPAL calls attention to something that is taken for granted in India: an inequitous system of parallel schools and coaching sub-systems, at the very bottom of which are funds-starved, bureaucracy-choked government schools. The government schools form an "educational ghetto", far from welcoming even to the poorest children. Their chief use seems to be as squalid creches where parents can leave their children when they go to work; that too, only for a few years, until the children themselves go to wor k. It is not just that poverty continues to pull children out into the employment market, and into the marriage market in the case of girls. Going to a government school is perceived as an utter waste of a child's time, and with reason. Anyone even sligh tly better off prefers to pay fees at a private or "convent" school. The result is that by the most reliable estimates more than half of India's children are still out of school, and two-thirds of those so-called "drop-outs" are girls. Expenditure on the m is increasingly coming to be considered uneconomical, a social subsidy that does not fit in with the current agenda of economic reform. It is no wonder that government schools in some places are in danger of closing down. This has already happened in I ndore in Madhya Pradesh, and even in Kerala, which is credited with being the most enlightened State with regard to education.

Each thrust for change towards equality of basic educational opportunity has, in Sadgopal's view, been quickly neutralised before it could take any concrete shape. Based on his own experiences as a member of several high-level educational committees and think-tanks, Sadgopal closely examines the back-and-forth movement in policy-formation from the 1937 Wardha Conference and the Kothari Commission of the 1950s down to the New Education Policy of the late 1980s, the Acharya Ramamurthi Commission and the Y ash Pal Committees of the early 1990s, followed by the Janardhan Reddy and Arun Ghosh Committees.

According to Sadgopal, the precise point at which the Indian state jettisoned its constitutional obligation was at the 1990 International Conference on Education at Jomtien: Sadgopal resigned from the Acharya Ramamurthi Commission in protest against the government's backtracking on the goal of universalisation of elementary education. "Before the Jomtien Conference, the Government of India felt answerable to the Constitution on the subject of education: after Jomtien, it has felt answerable to the force s of globalisation."

The undertow of status-quoism in the making of educational policy is not explained by "inefficiency" or "corruption" or even just a failure of implementation of policies which the ruling class likes to think were well-intentioned. Sadgopal relentl essly questions the very intentions behind policies, and arrives at a disturbing answer: what prevents India from evolving into a modern civil state is the attitude of its ruling and educated classes towards the whole question of educating the rest of so ciety.

Not everyone wants everybody to benefit from development. In India, the educated classes are distinctly less than enthusiastic about the uneducated, to use a common Indian English expression, "coming up in life", about poor children competing with their children. National feeling and the pride in being a "democratic" country stops short of enthusiasm for this kind of basic social engineering. This may be true of elites elsewhere also. However, in the Indian social context, privilege legitimises itself r elatively easily. Scraps are thrown down - and grabbed by the strongest among the weaker sections - in the form of reservations, quotas, etc. In this process, a few among the deprived are added to the ranks of the privileged while significant numbers rem ain outside the power structures. The middle class needs the goods and services provided by cheap and plentiful labour (Sadgopal is sensitive about the commodification of human labour as human "resources"). The average well-to-do Indian is not concerned with the quality of government schools or hospitals, which are for those who cannot afford anything better. He or she may pay taxes towards these services which he or she makes no use of, but with a feeling of being exploited. And Sadgopal shows many ins tances of how this mindset manifests itself in the words and actions of bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen and intellectuals.

Added to this is the formidable power wielded by international funding agencies. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund frowns on all kinds of social spending - even for elementary schooling - in a "poor" developing country like India. The D istrict Primary Education Programme which the World Bank partially funds in Andhra Pradesh and other States, and literacy and non-formal education programmes, which are seen as miracle solutions, are quite different from the goal of universal elementary education - within ten years from the commencement of the Constitution as envisaged by the Constitution-makers. UEE is a bare minimum which not a single developed democracy - certainly not the U.S. which considers itself the Mecca of the free market - wo uld dare to remove from the public sector. But in this country, the quintessentially modern idea that a civil society must offer its citizens equality of elementary educational opportunity is being looked askance at, as Marxist at worst and utopian at be st. The tut-tutting about "populism" and "subsidies" by the godfathers of globalisation is now echoed by sections of Indian society for their own reasons.

"I will simply not accept that a country as big as India does not have enough money to educate its own children and must go to the international level to beg for this purpose. A nation which cannot change its own economic priorities to put together the n ecessary funds for such important work will in spite of begging and borrowing from abroad fail to give that work its due priority."

THE concept of the welfare state having taken deep roots via nationalist movements the world over, today a modern government's basic social obligations, such as providing elementary education, have come to be seen as non-negotiable. It will, of course, c all for a thoroughgoing demand for change in the political and administrative setup - and non-governmental organisations and voluntary organisations may help, but they cannot be totally entrusted with initiating change.

Sadgopal is a visionary, as most serious thinkers about education have been. The community initiatives and involvement he now advocates would place the school at the very centre of society. He envisages a common school system - the Lokshala or People's S chool - funded by the State, with each local community at the administrative block level running its own complex of elementary and high schools within a guaranteed framework of equal rights for all children. Lokshala is an outcome of "Manthan", a process which began in 1994 to bring about what he called a "churning". Using the "churning stick" of people's science to expose communalism and other threats to the country's ethos, Sadgopal evolved a forum - the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (BGVJ). Then he began t he laborious task of working with local communities to articulate the demand for 'Lokshala' - the People's School. With research personnel funded partly by the University Grants Commission, the BJVJ has already set up Advance Field Laboratories to prepar e the ground in 10 States, including four in the north-eastern region.

* Shiksha mein Badlaav ka Savaal - Samaajik Anubhavon se Neeti Tak (The Question of Change in Education: From Social Experience to Policy ) by Dr. Anil Sadgopal; Granth Shilpi, India, 2000; Rs.425.

The perils of global finance

other
C.T. KURIEN

The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman; W.W. Norton, New York, 2000; pages xxii+176, $12.95

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AN international business journal has described this book as "a lucid explanation of how economies work, grow, get into trouble, and - one hopes - get out of it". I am inclined to agree, with one major qualification, though. And that qualification is tha t the description is valid if the work of economies is viewed primarily as a play of finance. I do not blame Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for taking such a view. A great deal of what happened in the s econd half of the 1990s to the economies he has dealt with in this volume certainly was the play of finance. The problem that is dealt with in the book is the disease - the crisis, in fact - that economies that in the 1980s (and many of them even in the first half of the 1990s) were known for their "miracles" came to have in the closing years of the decade. These are the economies of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong in Asia, and Mexico, Brazil and Argentina in Latin Americ a. Krugman's account also touches upon Russia and China. It is the story - Krugman's narrative is exceptionally lucid - of the havoc that global finance played on these economies, all of whom Krugman credits with sound fundamentals, or strong "real" econ omies. The strong point of the book is that Krugman traces in layman's language the rise and fall of these economies, as well as the slow recovery many of them came to have towards the end of the decade. For those who wish to have a bird's eye view of th e miracles and crises of these economies, I have no hesitation in recommending this volume.

Krugman does not, of course, suggest that the problems faced by all these economies were the same. It would be strange to argue that Mexico in 1995 and Japan later in the decade, or Thailand in 1997 and Indonesia fairly soon after, confronted the same or even similar situations. Each crisis had its own specific factors, including mismanagement in some cases, corruption in some, and so on. But Krugman touches upon some common underlying factors.

The first is the fall of communism which, he says, took the heart out of the opposition to capitalism, and, again, according to Krugman, started with the Chinese reforms of 1987. "The fall of communism, by diminishing the perceived threat of radical take -over, made investing outside the safety of the Western world seem less risky than before." And so in the late 1980s and all through the 1990s a lot of capital from the advanced, capitalist countries, including Japan, moved into many Asian countries.

This movement of capital was not, in all cases, meant for long-term investment. This is the second common factor that Krugman identifies - the emergence of hedge funds, one of the most widely known among them being George Soros' Quantum Fund, which speci alise in earning quick and huge profits by taking advantage of changes in the external value of currencies and, indeed, in creating such fluctuations.

A separate chapter is devoted to the manner of operation of hedge funds that those who are not familiar with the phenomenon will find very informative. Hedge funds operate essentially by generating "self-fulfilling speculative attacks". Krugman points ou t that "modern financial markets, by creating many institutions that perform bank-like functions but do not benefit from bank-like safety nets, have in effect reinvented the possibility of traditional financial panics".

The third common factor and, in Krugman's analysis the most important one, is "the return of depression economics", by which he means the kind of demand deficiency that led to the Great Depression in the United States in the early 1930s and that formed t he central theme of Keynesian economics. The post-War achievements of capitalist economies and the frequent appearance of inflation had given the impression that depression economics was a thing of the past. No, says Krugman, using the case of Japan to a rgue the point. It is very much a contemporary phenomenon and emerges in monetised economies which make it possible for people to postpone present consumption: to hold cash instead of spending it.

TAKING these three common factors, Krugman outlines what he calls the trilemma of individual economies in the present-day global context. "There are three things that macro-economic managers want for their economies. They want discretion in monetary poli cy, so that they can fight recessions and curb inflation. They want stable exchange rates, so that businesses are not faced with too much uncertainty. And they want to leave international business free - in particular, to allow people to exchange money h owever they like - in order to get out of the private sector's way ... [But] countries cannot get all three wishes; at most they can get two."

That is bad enough. But what is even worse is that in trying to achieve two, they may invite trouble via the third. Note that this may be the fate even of economies that can claim to have their basics right and strong. Vulnerability is a built-in feature of economies that are open to global finance. "Bad things can happen to good economies," Krugman says rather helplessly.

Of the three policy measures, Krugman's preferred option is the first one - monetary policy affecting interest rates. This is because of his view that "it (the global financial crisis of the 1990s) all started with Japan", and that is true to some extent . Japan was the post-War economic miracle par excellence. No country had ever experienced as stunning an economic transformation as Japan did in the high-growth years from 1953 to 1973. There were predictions during that period that by the year 20 00 Japan would become the world's leading economy. Westerners kept wondering about the secret of Japan's unprecedented growth, and business schools in the U.S. and elsewhere started training students in Japanese management practices, believing that Japan had a superior form of capitalism.

The fundamentals of the Japanese economy were exceptionally sound. Japanese goods, especially automobiles and consumer durables, entered all countries, mainly the U.S. In the early 1990s Japan started buying real estate all over the world.

But a slump set in fairly soon. It started as a recession, a "growth recession", that is, a rate of growth not sufficient to make use of the increase in capacity that is generated. The standard (Keynesian) remedy for such situations is to stimulate deman d through increase in money supply, reduction in interest rates and so on. Krugman faults Japan's central bankers for not pursuing such policies in their anxiety to protect the value of the yen. Also, there was an increase in taxation early in 1997 to co ntain the growing fiscal deficit. And, sure enough, the economy plunged into recession. Soon the recession was passed on to other Asian economies as well.

THERE is some substance in Krugman's analysis of the Japanese and Asian crises. He is also right in pointing out that the contractionist policy that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prescribed for the Asian economies during their crises was wrong an d counter-productive. Krugman also makes the general point that when there is a demand failure the market by itself cannot solve the problem; public intervention of some sort is absolutely necessary.

It may also be conceded that demand failure that occurs from time to time is a systemic feature of capitalism and, in that sense, whether there is a global Great Depression around the corner or not (rather unlikely, it seems to me, though financial crise s and crashes are bound to occur even in unexpected situations) depression economics must be taken seriously.

Krugman's analysis has two drawbacks. He is aware of the first one. While expansionist policies may be necessary in some instances of financial crisis, that may not be the right remedy in other situations. Frequently, interventions to prevent a capital f light (however unpalatable it may appear) constitute the proper remedy. Krugman admits that that is what helped Malaysia to turn around. More important, he admits that regulation of capital movement is what prevented the big Chinese economy from experien cing a financial crisis. Other economies, such as that of Brazil, succeeded by letting their currencies find their own level.

The second drawback is more fundamental, relating to the manner in which Krugman interprets deficiency of demand as a problem of capitalism. He interprets it solely as a deficiency of consumer spending resulting from the decision of consumers to postpone spending to the future. That, of course, can and frequently does turn out to be a problem, and expansionist monetary policy may succeed in dealing with it. However, capitalism's chronic deficiency of demand arises because private investors fail to inves t adequately when future prospects are not bright from their point of view.

This happens not because socially useful investment opportunities do not exist, but because investments may not provide the kind of profits private investors desire. Such lack of confidence appears often when investors fear that the good performance of a n economy cannot be sustained for long. This is the problem that early critics of capitalism, Karl Marx in particular, featured. Capital moves from one country to another, thus becoming global, in search of "emerging markets" and profitable opportunities of investment. And when profits in the real sectors of the economy tend to diminish, speculation becomes more attractive and capital takes the form of finance which can move about much more quickly.

Krugman glides over these basic features of capitalism and relies on a modified version of Keynesian economics. Keynes himself had indicated that there may be situations where investment may fail to be stimulated by monetary policies and low interest reg imes (the "liquidity trap") even in the short run. So, to expect the problems caused by global capitalism and the innate problems of capitalism to be remedied by expansionist economic policies is rather naive. Krugman does not even acknowledge that a dee per level of analysis is necessary to understand the frequent crises of capitalism, including their recent manifestations.

Hindutva at play

other

Arvind Rajagopal graduated from Madras University and from the School of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1998, he is an Associate Professor at New York University.

In an interview with Darryl D'Monte in Mumbai recently, Arvind Rajgopal spoke about his forthcoming book, Politics after Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Indian Public (Cambridge University Press, New York, January 200 1). The book examines the impact of the screening of the Ramayan serial on Doordarshan in the late 1980s on Indian society.

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In 1992, he co-authored Mapping Hegemony: CBS Coverage of the United Mineworkers' Strike 1977-78. The title refers to a strike which ushered in the Reagan era and underlines Rajagopal's analysis of the mass media as an instrument for fashioning po litical participation based on consumer choice.

In the 1990s, Rajagopal studied the interface between three seemingly disparate elements: economic liberalisation, the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and the role of the mass media. Just as the market treats society as a single, undifferentiated and homoge neous entity, the forces of Hindutva see the Indian people as a vast mass which is waiting to find, or rediscover, its common culture and identity. The catalyst in the process was television. Although Ramanand Sagar's epic was screened by Doordarshan, it spawned several variants in regional languages as the state monopoly over television was withdrawn. The telecast of the Ramayan was the precursor of the Ram Janambhoomi movement which in turn saw the ascendancy of the BJP to the status of the sin gle largest party. Rajagopal also points to the difference in the way the regional language media and the English language press treated the epic. Currently, Rajagopal is studying how Indian society is changing with the penetration of market forces into new areas of public life.

What arguments or events does your book seek to explain?

In January 1987, the Indian government began broadcasting a Hindu epic in serial form, the Ramayan, to nationwide audiences on a regular basis. This violated a decades-old taboo on religious partisanship, and Hindu nationalists made the most of th e opportunity. What resulted was perhaps the largest campaign in post-Independence times, irrevocably changing the complexion of Indian politics. The telecast of a religious epic to popular acclaim created the sense of a nation coming together, seeming t o confirm the idea of Hindu awakening. But if audiences thought they were harking back to a golden age, key Hindu nationalist leaders were embracing the prospects of neo-liberalism and globalisation. Eventually what became clear was that the nation was f irst and foremost a coalition of contending castes, creeds, and classes, even if Hindu nationalists came to power. In my book, I explain how these very different events can be understood in terms of a political terrain changed by the advent of television and liberalisation. Hence, Politics After Television.

Why the focus on media? What is the justification for a book like this appearing at this time, so long after the events?

It is generally acknowledged that the introduction of national television, and the televising of the Hindu epics in particular, have led to irreversible changes in Indian society. Most people agree that the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party on the one h and, and the spread of liberalisation on the other, are both linked to the new prominence of the media. In my book I have tried to understand precisely how these three factors are related. I have approached this topic through the event of the Ramayan serial.

Battle scenes in a tele-epic were seen as models for Hindu militancy, and at the same time, the serial itself began to echo themes from the movement. A new historical conjuncture was in formation. There was, for a while, the feeling of a great clarity ab out the character and causes of social problems and the nature of their solution. What drew little attention, in the process, was the prominence of the media itself. As facilitator rather than prime mover, television enabled a new order of social connect ivity. For the first time there was a visual medium that extended across the country, and stood for the nation, in some sense.

We have begun to take for granted the presence of Hindu imagery in public life, and the association of such themes with majority political power. But it was in this period (roughly, 1987-93) that it took shape. A new public language emerged, one that was more intimate to a section of the population and intimidating to the rest. It resonated with themes of collective empowerment, albeit in ominous ways. This was of course not simply owing to the broadcast of some television programmes. To attribute causa lity to television in this way does little more than confirm our own fascination with its power. What was important was that the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign echoed some of the serial's key themes, and went on to offer both a socio-political critique and a s olution, however limited these were. And while television created the awareness, it was the press that most helped advance the movement's cause. Specifically, it was the cultural differences between the Hindi and the English press, cultivated and manipul ated by the BJP, that created both sympathy for the movement, and the friction necessary for its ascent.

Although the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign harked back to a putatively golden age, it was also an attempt to bring the spheres of economy, culture and politics into closer alignment with each other. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders described it as a way of bringing the uneducated masses into the national mainstream, and of instilling the discipline necessary for liberalisation. Now, liberalisation is conventionally understood by the Left as a transfer of power to the rich, and by the Right as democr atisation. The Right's view is exaggerated, but should not be completely dismissed. In fact, the BJP used Hindutva to expand political participation at the expense of minorities, to extend its base, while carrying out economic reforms that reduced the pr otections available to the poor.

We tend to look for a linear relationship between events such as the serialisation of the Ramayana epic and the rise of Hindu nationalism, but you clearly do not point to a direct cause and effect?

Causal models may be linear, but real historical processes tend to be non-linear. Unless we can detail what actually happened, we may exaggerate the causal force of one element, which is arbitrarily designated as the first element in the chain of events. The Ramayan serial was initiated by a professedly leftist Secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, S.S. Gill. Apparently Rajiv Gandhi expressed reservations about the departure from a secular policy, but Gill reassured him saying t his was a national epic. Once the serial started drawing mass audiences, that was considered ample answer to critics. You had the Congress government broadcasting the serial in the backdrop of certain happenings such as the Muslim Women's bill, drawn up after the Shah Bano case, and the opening of the Babri Masjid in 1986. Once the Congress realised that the serial was a success, it sought to make political capital out of it. But eventually it was the BJP that was able to profit by it - their party's 'b rand identification' with it was stronger and they had fewer inhibitions about playing the Hindu card.

In the serial itself, there were plenty of battle scenes, but for the most part, it was extremely slow and devotional in emphasis. If you talked to viewers, what they spoke about most often had to do with the virtues of Ram Rajya, as they saw it - the ki nd of feelings between a king and his subjects, between father and son and so on - that were thought to have existed before and had now vanished. It was very much harking back to a lost utopia. If it was originally meant to be cultural or political propa ganda, its impact was precisely the opposite: it served to remind people of all the drawbacks of today's age. This was another interruption in any straight line of causality. It was the BJP that was able to yoke this simmering discontent to their own pol itical criticism of the Congress party and the Babri Masjid issue.

Was the discontent with what you term the 'developmentalist' state, established through the Nehruvian consensus, encapsulated in the BJP's critique of its secularist policies?

Yes, all these elements came together. The perceived failure of the state to protect Hindu culture was of a piece with its failure to liberate market forces. The repressed energy of society, which was Hinduism, was equated with the repressed energy of en trepreneurial forces under the Nehruvian state.

Both these were somehow going to be released simultaneously in an outburst of Hindu creativity and prosperity. It is by no means coincidental that the BJP draws the bulk of its support from trading and smaller industrial classes. In the Gujarat Navnirman movement which led up to the Emergency, they were at the forefront.

It was about the time of the serialisation that the BJP began to be perceived by the English-language press and by big business as a likely replacement for the Congress. This involved a departure from its own traditional base of the trading classes, and now one can see some of that conflict, where these segments are not satisfied while certain others are. There was the idea that the BJP could come to power as a strong nationalist party to undertake ruthless action of the kind the Congress was never able to. Suddenly the BJP became the party of liberalisation, although until a few years earlier it had no economic policy except to follow in the wake of the Congress itself - Gandhian socialism, planned economy, and so on. It has not been appreciated suffi ciently why it is that the BJP alone of all the parties, has insisted on commemorating the Emergency. They gained the most from it by far. The RSS at this time became the organisation of the national opposition, thanks in part to Jayaprakash Narayan. For the first time, they were able to transcend their narrow base and go beyond the stultifying routine of shakha. With most national leaders in jail, they opened themselves to popular forces, and even tasted the fruits of their endeavours, in 1977. The period of the Emergency is quite critical in understanding how the Hindu Right has changed, but it has barely been studied. An effective national rallying theme was realised again with Ram Janmabhoomi, which brought a range of issues and groups toge ther. Once again, they were able to go far beyond their traditional trader class base, winning the confidence of sections of big business and the urban middle classes as well. In fact, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) formed the majority of the kar seva ks, pointing to the BJP's success in using Hindu themes while going beyond their previous bania base. It was in the wake of the BJP's rise that the lower castes began to assert themselves decisively, changing the balance of power in northern India. Event ually, the chief legacy of the Hindu nationalists may have been not upper caste domination so much as the introduction of methods that helped politicise such domination. What emerged was an era of more competitive politics, and more fluid electoral align ments and the realisation that no single party could any longer dominate the country. The BJP's attempt to establish sovereignty thus resulted, paradoxically, in the implosion of its claims about an undivided Hindu national family. I suggest that if we d o not understand the mechanisms through which the BJP advanced, namely through markets and the media, we cannot understand this paradoxical fallout.

So let us get back to the media. The market began to become liberalised after 1985 and more decisively since 1991. The serialisation of the epic began when the media was state-controlled but television was freed later on. Was there a convergence of t hese two forces?

The process began with the broadcast of the Asian Games in 1982 and continued with commercially sponsored serials. S.S. Gill, who tried to introduce developmental soap operas, brought in Hum Log; he did not want to abandon the government's mission of information and education. But the experiment was an utter flop because the sponsors did not want to underwrite such things. The pro-social aspect was jettisoned and it was continued as a family sit-com. The developmental component was carried over into the mythological serials, where it found its most lasting desi vehicle. Essentially what Ramanand Sagar did was to reformulate the Ramayan serial as a kind of parable about the nation state, projected back into the distant past. India was seen as always having pro-development rulers who were uplifting the lower castes, women in distress and so on. It endorsed the idealised view of Ram Rajya. Vedic sacrifices and rituals were s hown as scientific research and experiments undertaken for national defence. The rishis' weapons were described as nuclear missiles used for the benefit of the nation state. Many ideas about the modern national security state were carried back in time.

From my own interviews with the serial's viewers, this description of Hindu society was considered plausible. Here was Hindu modernity taking shape, whose fulfilment was being prevented by various latter-day avatars of the rakshasas - mainly politicians. The Ramayan serial was brought out at an extremely propitious time: there was state monopoly of television, one national channel. Everybody watched that or nothing else. During this smal l window of opportunity, this experimentation took place which succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of its progenitors. The sense of a Hindu civilisation which could be readied for a modern age came to inhabit the intimate spaces of daily life, with familiar ideas people could engage with. That a political party could take it up as a national campaign seemed a natural progression. Something very important happened in the course of this media development, once liberalisation occurred and state monop oly over TV was no longer maintained. You had the regularisationof the format of the mythological soap opera, which then branches off into regional channels - you have Tamil, Telugu variants. A new genre was carved out, which had not existed before, whic h forms a spectrum in the political and cultural life of the country. This has survived despite liberalisation.

You do not see any opposition between liberalisation, which represents modernisation and westernisation, and this kind of regression?

Opposition, contradiction and paradox are all politically creative energies that can be utilised. In fact, it is the lack of contradiction that would be worrisome for those who wish to mobilise popular energies. After all, what on earth did the demolitio n of a 16th century monument have to do with going into the 21st century? The Hindu nationalist party never lost sight of the fact that its audience was highly divided and had to be addressed in different languages and intonations. Advani, addressing vil lages, would say: "Ram Janambhoomi is not a political matter, it is religious; we want to restore the temple of Ram to its former glory." In the capital, he would say: "I am not a religious man, this is entirely a political issue; I am a secular person i n fact. There has been a misunderstanding of the concept of secularism and this is what we wish to correct." Astonishingly, the press never caught him out. It says a great deal about the kind of news routines that had been established, the editorial prac tices specifically in the English language press, and the mutual misunderstanding in the relationship between it and the vernacular press. This was accurately perceived and utilised by the BJP.

Were some of the visual symbols used in the serials carried forward in the rath yatra?

When the shila yatras were carried out, kar sevaks would actually dress like Ram and Lakshman in the TV serial. Party meetings would have painted backdrops with this iconography. The rath yatra itself resembled the kind of chariot we saw on TV. Repeatedl y, Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP leaders like Ashok Singhal thanked Ramanand Sagar, who appeared at VHP conclaves. Interestingly, Gill revealed that Sagar and he were part of the same intellectual circle in Lahore. Sagar was seen to be secular and t hat was why he gave him the brief. Gill was critical of the serial and blamed political parties for making capital out of it.

There were some contentious reformulations in the serial which were clearly political. For instance, Ram carries around a clod of earth - we do not see this till way into the serial. At Chitrakoot, he suddenly pulls this bundle out of his waistband and p laces it on the mantlepiece in his hut and prays to it, hailing the sacred soil of the Janambhoomi. This is not found in Valmiki or Tulsidas. This is a solitary prayer that he enacts, which is highly unusual because all the rest are group rituals. This i s something between Ram and his birthplace, echoing the new individualist imagery and rhetoric that the VHP crafted with a specific end in mind: that only by plucking Ram out of the pantheon he belongs to can he inspire others to follow his individual pa th. These interpolations clearly echoed the VHP's campaign. You had Morari Bapu (the well-known religious speaker), in the videotapes of the serial at any rate, saying things like: "Pichhle zamana me, yudh me dharm tha; aur aaj kal, dharm me yudh aa g aya" (In the old era, religion entered war; now war has entered religion). He would repeat this three or four times, without further elaboration. This seemed to resonate with the idea that the Hindu religion was at war with Islam. There were various things in the serial which seemed to reiterate the themes of the VHP's campaigns.

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Do you see a geographical divide in the kind of Hindu mobilisation that has taken place? The hard core of the Ram Janambhoomi movement was largely restricted to northern and western India, exempting the south?

There were a large number of kar sevaks from Andhra at Ayodhya. The Ramayan serial was the first to achieve record viewership across the country, cutting across language and regional divides. The bulk of the mobilisation did happen in the cow-belt . But I think the Ramayan serial and others that followed it laid the basis for the kind of mobilisation that the BJP has been able to achieve today. In 1994, for instance, there was a mahila sammelan in Delhi which had tens of thousands of partic ipants from southern India as well.

Muslim viewers of the serial whom I interviewed would say that it is just entertainment - natak. They would point to inconsistencies in the story. Some also said: "Look at Ram Rajya and see how awful things are today." There was a wider range of r esponse among Muslims. The Hindu Right would always argue that the fact that Muslims watched the serial was proof that it was not communal. There are religious broadcasts elsewhere in the world but they do not have the same charge as they do here. The hi story of Hindu-Muslim relations is unique in that respect, taken together with the secular dispensation that we had. I do not know of a parallel to this sequence of events.

In what precise ways are you distinguishing your study from others on the subject?

I argue that Hindutva in the late 1980s and early 1990s is quite different from its earlier incarnations, and that understanding the nature of this difference is essential in coming to terms with the new terrain of politics. It has actually been argued, in some recent scholarship, that recent Hindutva represents an expansion of political space, and that it helped usher in globalisation. I tend to agree. But we must also specify the mechanisms through which this change has occurred, namely, through force s of the market and the media. These are the more enduring bases of the change. Without locating these conditions, we cannot grasp the paradox of Hindutva. Specifically, its combination of authoritarian politics and expanding popular participation. This points to new methods of political mobilisation, and television both symbolises this change and casts light on it.

A people in peril

public-health

High levels of Hepatitis B infection among sections of the already minuscule tribal population of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands raise medical and social concerns.

R. RAMACHANDRAN

AN alarmingly high prevalence rate of Hepatitis B infection has been detected among the tribal people of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Compared to the average 4 to 5 per cent rate in the general population of mainland India, the prevalence rate in the se tribal populations is over 20 per cent. In the epidemiology of Hepatitis B, less than 2 per cent prevalence is termed 'low endemicity', that between 2 and 8 per cent is 'intermediate endemicity' and that over 8 per cent is 'high endemicity'.

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The figure is over 20 per cent here - the highest recorded in recent times. The high-endemicity areas of Africa (Senegal and Gambia) and South-East Asia (Taiwan) now have rates of 15 to 20 per cent. More seriously, the rate appears to have increased from an average of 15.5 per cent in 1989 to 23.3 per cent in 1999.

HBV is transmitted through body fluids, chiefly blood, and circulates in blood. The reasons and risk factors associated with such a high prevalence rate are not fully clear from the findings of this preliminary study. Also, the epidemiological and serolo gical profile of the infection have somewhat unusual features, and call for further studies. How and when the infection was introduced into this tribal population - it certainly predates 1989, given the findings - are even more difficult questions to ans wer, say scientists associated with the study.

Data are not available on the burden of chronic liver diseases or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer among these tribes. "However," warns the study, "taking into consideration the extent of chronic HBV infection, especially in children, the p ossibility of chronic liver diseases leading to appreciable morbidity cannot be ruled out." The follow-up study has begun and HBV vaccination has been initiated.

The study was carried out jointly by the ICMR's Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Port Blair and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. The findings of the research team, led by M. V. Murhe kar of RMRC, have been reported in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR), the ICMR publication. According to S. C. Sehgal, Director of the RMRC, the study constitutes the first phase of the investigations into HBV infec tion among the tribes who constitute about 9 per cent of the archipelago's total population of about 300,000.

There are in all six tribes in these islands, divided broadly into two racial groups - the Negrito race living in the Andaman group of islands and the Mongoloid race living in the Nicobar group of islands. The Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas and Sentine lese belong to the former while the Nicobarese and Shompens belong to the latter.

All the tribes apparently live as independent closed communities. There is little interaction between the tribes, let alone any with the external civilisation from the Indian mainland (Frontline, July 17, 1998). The Nicobarese number over 25,000 a nd constitute more than 90 per cent of the tribal population. The Nicobarese have apparently slowly integrated into the mainstream life of Port Blair but still, as a community, they lead an isolated existence. Outsiders too, by the government regulations in place, are not allowed direct access to, or contact with, the tribes. The Jarawas and Sentinelese are, however, still hostile to, and cut off from, the outside world. The investigations on disease prevalence could be carried out only among four tribe s - namely Nicobarese, Shompens, Onges and the Great Andamanese.

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The respective populations of the three non-Nicobarese tribes are 157, 102 and 32. (Apparently, the Great Andamanese were virtually driven to extinction by the British.) Of these four, the Shompens are said to be more primitive, who lead a nomadic life a nd do not encourage visits by outsiders to their huts which are situated deep in the jungles.

Till recently, the ICMR and the health authorities were largely concerned with controlling leptospirosis, a zoonotic infection (spread from animal hosts and rodents are the primary reservoirs of the microorganism leptospira), which has a significant prev alence in the population of the islands. Leptospirosis itself was discovered here in 1989 following an outbreak of unknown fever in the region.

Given its largely asymptomatic nature, HBV infection was believed to be largely absent in the tribal population. However, according to the report, jaundice apparently is a frequent occurrence. One of the clinical presentations of leptospirosis is jaundic e. Since other possible causes of jaundice had not been investigated, the RMRC instituted an investigation into HBV infection here in 1998. In fact, the apparent asymptomatic condition of the population had resulted in the health authorities of the Minis try stationed in Port Blair viewing the present research findings with scepticism. It was only after an independent survey by the Health Ministry's National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), New Delhi, which also found similar results, that the health authorities woke up to the problem. The intervention programme became possible after the Hyderabad-based company, Shantha Biotech, which has developed a relatively inexpensive indigenous Hepatitis B vaccine, donated 1,000 doses to the programme.

Says S. K. Acharya, an expert in Hepatitis infection at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi: "It has been known for the last 50 years that a majority of Hepatitis B carriers are asymptomatic. The infection is self limiting but in chronic carriers of the virus, it ultimately affects the liver leading to cirrhosis, cancer and other serious manifestations of the liver. It is for this reason the infection is termed a silent killer," he says. "India," Acharya points out, "is a sign atory to the World Health Assembly (WHA) united declaration in 1992 which recommends routine HBV vaccination in any population with more than 2 per cent prevalence as the most effective preventive strategy and integration of HBV vaccine into the national programme of immunisation for over 8 per cent prevalence. And yet, with over 5 per cent in this country, there is no strategy evolved for HBV vaccination."

Apparently it is the high cost of the imported (SmithKline&Beecham) vaccine that has prevented HBV vaccination from being made part of the national immunisation programme. But, even though the indigenous vaccine is nearly one-third the cost of the import ed vaccine, the health authorities have, for some inexplicable reason, failed to include the vaccine as part of the universal immunisation programme (UIP) of the government. According to Varaprasad Reddy, chairman and managing director of Shantha Biotech , a bulk order for UIP from the government will bring down the cost and make it affordable for a public health programme.

THE discovery of HBV in the recently collected blood samples of the tribal people led the investigating team to look for HBV infection in the decade old samples collected for investigations into leptospirosis, and preserved at the NIV. The 15.5 per cent HBV prevalence rate of that time comes from an analysis of the older samples, indicating very clearly that the HBV infection is certainly not of recent origin. According to Vidya Arankalle of the NIV, who is part of the HBV investigation team, though the earlier 2,000 samples were from both the tribal and settler populations, this high 15.5 per cent prevalence rate was found in the samples belonging to the tribal communities.

The reported findings on the prevalence of HBV infection are based on investigations carried out between April 1998 and March 1999 on 1,266 serum samples collected from among the four tribes, of which 1,144 samples - 535 males and 609 females - were from the Nicobarese. The sample sizes of the other three tribes were 37 (smallest because of their highly secluded existence), 58 and 27 respectively. Given the expected prevalence of HBV infection - that is the population which is the carrier of the HBV - o f around 5 per cent, the above total sample size is stated to be more than the minimum size required for statistically significant conclusions to be drawn.

Following HBV infection, which is self-limiting, the body sets up an immune response and the progression of infection is essentially a competition between the immune response that is mounted and the viral load. In the immediate aftermath of the infection , the immune response is in the form of certain antibodies to the core protein - rather than the surface protein - of the virus called immunoglobulins. These antibodies to the core antigen (anti-HBc) build up quickly, fight the invading virus and reach a plateau after a period. That is, anti-HBc is present all through, in association with HBsAg (the infection period), alone (the window period) and in association with anti-HBs (the recovery period).

Once these immunoglobulins neutralise the virus and clear the body of the viral load, antibodies to the surface protein appear. This is indicative of recovery from infection and onset of immunity to the infection. There is a time gap between the clearanc e of the viral load and the circulation of anti-HBs. During this period, which is called the 'window of infection', only anti-HBc will be circulating. If the infection load is more, the virus wins, the HBsAg continues to be present in the body tissues an d sera and the person becomes a carrier capable of transmitting the virus.

The serum samples were tested for the main disease causing antigen, the surface coat protein of the virus HBsAg, and those who were negative for HBsAg were tested for antibodies to this surface antigen (anti-HBs). Of the 1,144 Nicobarese samples, a total of 267 samples were found to be positive for HBsAg (see table). This implies a seropositivity or prevalence rate of 23.3 per cent and, of those who were negative for HBsAg, only 23.9 per cent were positive for anti-HBs.

According to Acharya, this low anti-HBs positivity is surprising. In a random sample of a highly endemic population such as this one would expect a far greater proportion of the population to have "recovered" from infection and acquired a certain level o f immunity. This would need to be investigated again, he felt. "We are certainly investigating this question again but we find even the larger sample size collected now seems to give a similar profile of low anti-HBs and we do not have an immediate answe r to this," Sehgal says.

This issue becomes more intriguing if one tries to estimate the exposure rate of the population. The exposure rate is clearly the sum of HBsAg positives (the virus carriers), the anti-HBs positives (the surface antibody carriers) and positives to anti-HB c (those in the window period). In a random sample of 95 HBsAg negatives, the study found a high percentage (nearly 57 per cent) of people were positive only for anti-HBc; that is, a very high proportion was in the window period. This is unusual because the window period is usually short (though this could vary from region to region and from population to population). This would imply the existence of a prolonged window period before the circulating surface antibodies build up to detectable levels. This also implies that the total exposure rate is enormously high.

According to Vidya Arankalle, such a long window period was not inconceivable though she was not aware of such a feature being reported from elsewhere. Another possibility, according to the study, is that, if there are variants of the virus with surface mutations, the assay designed to detect the normal anti-HBs may not pick up the antibodies to the mutated viral surface protein. This needs further investigation. The age distribution of the seropositivity for HBV, besides other epidemiological features, reflects the susceptibility of various age groups. It shows that over 30 per cent of children below age 10 were exposed to infection suggesting that transmission in childhood - which would be horizontal through child-child interaction - is an important mode. This also stands to reason for closed communities where children of the tribe are in constant interaction with one another.

That horizontal transmission is perhaps the basic mode of transmission is also evident from the fact that the virus carrying fraction in the 5 to 10 age group is low. However, since the study did not look at samples of newborns and children below five ye ars, direct evidence for vertical transmission - from mother to child at birth - cannot as yet be ascertained. In the second phase of the study, pregnant women and new borns will be focussed on, says Sehgal. But the possibility of vertical transmission i s certainly indicated, says Vidya Arankalle, because almost 20 per cent women in the reproductive age group were found to be carriers.

According to Acharya, however, the pattern of infection suggests that the situation is similar to what was found in tribes of Senegal and Gambia in Africa, where horizontal transmission was dominant. In some of these African tribal populations, this led to the prevalence rate being as high as 50 per cent, he says. However, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) intervention through intensive immunisation has brought down the rate enormously, he points out. In Taiwan, an area of high endemicity, the trans mission is largely vertical and, perhaps because of other environmental conditions, the rate of horizontal transmission is low. Vertical transmission leads to a carrier state. As a result, the prevalence rate has more or less stabilised and is, therefore , more amenable to prevention and control.

In mainland India the rate of vertical transmission is very low, according to Acharya. Of course, being populations of entirely different genetic make up, transmission modes among the Andaman and Nicobar tribes could be different from the mainland. The s tudy speculates that the low anti-HBs positivity rate could be owing to the "combined effect of an extensive vertical and horizontal transmission".

Investigation into the possible risk factors that could be associated with HBV infection did not single out any one of them with any statistical significance. However, the study found that a high fraction (over 50 per cent) of the persons tested gave a h istory of parenteral treatment. Nearly the same fraction had also undergone ear-piercing. Fractions that had a history of surgery or blood transfusion or promiscuous sexual behaviour were low, though the study believes that there could be under-reporting of the last of the factors.

The source of parenteral treatment is suspected to be the local primary health centres (PHCs) in Port Blair which Nicobarese, who have tried to join the mainstream, have in recent times begun making use of. According to some other research groups working in this region the state of these PHCs and resource constraints they face, could easily result in multiple uses of syringe needles and thereby spread HBV infection. However, the present data do not unequivocally associate any single risk factor with the infection. A larger sample size might be required to arrive at a more definitive association of risk factor(s) with the infection, says the study.

The study also found the prevalence of HBV in the three non-Nicobarese tribes to be significant. The prevalence rate among the Shompens was found to be the highest with 37.8 per cent. It was 31 per cent among the Onges and a low 3.7 per cent among the Gr eat Andamanese.

"There are certainly a whole lot of questions that need to be answered. But we have made a start and brought the awareness home that we have a serious public health problem at hand. This dawning of awareness has led to one good thing for the community: i ntervention has begun though in a limited way. Hopefully, the government would step in to immunise the tribes on a larger scale on a routine basis," says Sehgal.

What Saamna said

cover-story
Saamna

SHIV SENA supremo Bal Thackeray's articles in the party organ Saamna played a key role in inciting violence against Muslims during the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993. Littered with abusive and sometimes obscene polemic, the articles legitimised the ant i-Muslim pogrom that was being carried out in the city then, and urged readers to join in the violence. Here, excerpts from the four articles which formed the basis of the police cases that led to Thackeray's arrest on July 25. The articles specifically target Muslim police officials, particularly A.A. Khan, the Assistant Commissioner of Police then. Three of these are editorials, and one a news article for which the Shiv Sena chief was held responsible as the editor of the newspaper. A fifth article, t he last in the set below, did not form part of the first information reports, but has been added to illustrate the point that such writing was typical of Saamna's reportage during riots. Indeed, front page news articles and headlines in Saamna< /I> were often more flagrantly inflammatory than the articles for which Thackeray was arrested.

From "Burning Pyres", editorial, Saamna, January 11, 1993:

* Hindus have been burned alive in Jogeshwari, and that is why they have taken to the streets. Dawood Ibrahim's man (ACP) A.A. Khan has tried to shoot these people. There is no justice, for fanatic traitors go scot-free while the terrorist Khan fires at Hindus. The people and the police have been fired at from mosques with Pakistani weapons. Why are we protecting them? It is not fair that you should allow them to do namaaz on their streets and let their loudspeakers blare out while our maha aa rtis are stopped. There should be equal justice.

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* Muslims in India are behaving as if they are Pakistani citizens. It is as if there are two countries within this one. The police are waiting for orders to shoot these people. Even they feel the anguish of innocent citizens. When the Muslims had finishe d what they want to do and when the Hindus decided to retaliate, (Chief Minister) Sudhakarrao Naik, Babanrao (Pachpute) and their Khan gangster friends including (ACP) Khan descended upon the Hindus. Hindus, open your eyes and see what is going on! Your funeral pyres are burning.

* Innocent Hindu boys are being killed, and you wait for orders to destroy the fanatic traitors in Bhendi Bazaar (a Muslim area in south Mumbai)? Have the police also become playthings in the hands of politicians? We predict that these traitors will kill you also. Since the police had not done anything, our young boys retaliated for the murders of Hindus on January 6. And what do we get? You kill those brave boys.

* (Sharad) Pawar and the police will never be able to live in peace from this moment on, because they have received the curses of these dead boys. It is easy to face people when they are alive, but the embers from their funeral pyres will be impossible t o confront. You could kill these children, but how will you stop these embers... People will spit on your corpses.

From "They Were Turned Into Lambs", editorial, Saamna, January 14, 1993:

* Religious fanatics brought their religion on to the road, and made life miserable for innocent citizens. The government supported this. But when Hindus reacted against this terrorism, and brought their religion on to the roads, the government, politici ans and traitors were turned into lambs... In spite of Thackeray's appeal for peace, the riots did not stop. All we have to say about this is that if it was not for his appeal, the entire city would have been reduced to ashes and not one religious fanati c traitor would have lived. Even government servants like Ghaffoor and Khan came out to help these fanatics. We have stopped for now, and will be quiet for the moment.

* We are tolerant, but our tolerance has limits. All this was started by the traitors. The Hindus only went back four steps and then displayed their strength. That's when the traitors put up white flags on their armed strongholds... We have to defend our selves, since the Khans and Ghaffoors, in whom the government has vested the responsibility for our protection, are hand-in-glove with the traitors. And so, we will have to be careful. Why should we die without fighting? And at the hands of religious tra itors like Khan and Ghaffoor?

* The government sent Syed Bukhari, the son of the Imam of the Juma Masjid, to Mumbai despite the situation. He had started the anti-national Adam Sena, which had shaken the government. This is the same snake who asked for military protection the minute he landed at the Mumbai airport, because he does not trust the police. Is this Bukhari India's President, to ask for military protection? We congratulate the police for having sent this anti-national parcel back to Delhi... Before leaving he had spoken t o A.A. Khan on the phone, and we are sure of this news... He gave Khan's unit the responsibility of killing patriotic Indians. We have been saying this again and again. The people must know about the conspiracy between Khan and the Imam's son. When Mumba i was burning, how could they allow this kind of explosive to land at the Mumbai airport? They should have been stopped. But no! If they are stopped, what will the Muslims think of the government?... Dilip Kumar will be playing cricket in Dubai for inter national peace. We say, you should tell his fanatic brothers in Bhendi Bazaar, Dongri and Behrampada to maintain peace... If the Muslims had stopped their leaders, none of this would have happened.

From "Behrampada Reverberates to a Maha Aarti", report, Saamna, January 21, 1993:

* The whole of Behrampada reverberated to a maha aarti performed at the Ganesh Temple today afternoon. The Sthaniya Lokadhikar Samiti announced that Behrampada would henceforth be called Rampada... "Pull out all the Bangladeshis and Pakistanis from Behra mpada," says Bamanrao Mahadik, "they are the ones who are ruining our country." "It's time to send these green hordes back to their country"... Shiv Sena leader Madhukar Sarpotdar said, "Javed Khan, A.A. Khan and Hassan Ghaffoor Khan, these three Khans, have murdered only Hindus. But remember that Hindus can also kill cruelly. You are bound to burn to ashes in the fire that you have lit".... Shiv Sena MLA Ramdas Kadam says, "If it was not for Shiv Sena Pramukhs and the Shiv Sena, Mumbai would have becom e Pakistan. Those who love Pakistan should be sent back there. If they can take the law into their hands, we will do so too."

From "Hindu Pride Must Be Upheld: The Country and Hindu Dharma Must Triumph", editorial, Saamna, January 23, 1993:

* Today is Saamna's fifth birthday. We would have liked to celebrate this event as we have done every year. The situation does not permit us to do so because fanatics have killed large numbers of our Hindu brothers and sisters. All of them have gi ven their lives for the holy war to keep this nation alive... Saamna and I have fought like real men in this holy war, regardless of the consequences.

* Some people suggested that we tone down the sharpness of our language, but we in turn ask, why? What will they do? Throw me in prison? I have kept my bags and all my medicines ready. I am not bothered by the thought of going to prison... If I am arrest ed, if the government takes any rash decision, while only Mumbai has seen rioting so far, then the whole of the country up to Jammu and Kashmir will rise up. I am prepared. This is not a threat. I am just telling the truth. The country has enough problem s. Don't add to them by arresting me. I am not saying this out of vanity. If a holy war is to begin because of me, than so be it.

* I have nurtured a new, fiery generation of Hindus in the form of the Shiv Sena, and Saamna has been instrumental in this task... Hindus woke up in Hindustan after December 6 (1992), and it is time we all burned like a torch. Anti-national traito rs should be burned to ashes in this flame... In some police stations there are monsters who are pulling out the nails from the hands and feet of our young children, and slapping false cases against them. (ACP) Khan has become famous because of (municipa l corporator) Milind Vaidya. Muslims started rioting in Vaidya's area, Mahim, and everyone knows what kinds of religious fanatics they are. Vaidya is a responsible Corporator and is on the peace committee of the area, but Khan has attacked Vaidya, and pu t him behind bars on a false charge of murder. This is Khan's law!

* The government tells us 1,75,00,000 Bangladeshi infiltrators are living in this country. Why are you giving us these numbers? What kind of security are you maintaining at the borders? We have trouble coming to Mumbai from Delhi. How then do Bangladeshi Muslims manage to get here? Vasant Saraf said that while he was the Director-General of Police, he had warned the government that a large number of Bangladeshi Muslims had entered India... Earlier, there was only one Bhendi Bazaar. Today there is Deonar , Govandi, Behrampada, Mahim. This is precisely where rioting took place and innocent people were killed.

From "Keep the Nation Alive", editorial, Saamna, January 9, 1993:

* Whoever comes is preaching to Hindus as if it is we who started the riots. What do we have with us to start riots with? All we have are rags dipped in kerosene! In Bhendi Bazaar, Dongri and Behrampada weapons brought from Pakistan and Bangladesh are be ing used. These weapons have been used to kill cruelly everyone from little babies who have not yet opened their eyes to old people. (ACP) Mundkur and (ACP) Khan have actually attacked unarmed Hindus in Dharavi and Kurla. They should go to Bhendi Bazaar and stop their brothers there. Now we can clearly see their real colours and their real loyalties. Whatever we had predicted has come true. A Muslim, irrespective of his country or status, will remain a Muslim. His religion and his community come before his country. The attacks on patriots over the last two days are an insult to the nation.

* Even policemen say this government is made up of gandus (an abusive term). They have their service revolvers with them but all they can do is count corpses. That is the only work the government is doing... The Indian and Maharashtrian people spi t on this government. The government is wearing a green burkha and standing at the Bhendi Bazaar crossroads wearing bangles.

* I am not provoking people. I am only expressing anguish.

Translations by Archana Chaudhary (The Hindu Business Line, Mumbai).

Contradictions in an alliance

The Prime Minister's ability to manage the proprieties and demands of coalition politics has been put under severe strain in the course of the recent developments.

THE Supreme Court's rather blunt suggestion on July 21 that the Central Government seemed innocent of the norms of collective ministerial responsibility was a rebuke that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) could have done without, though the tendency for the partners in the coalition to go their separate ways on important political issues made it, in the eyes of many observers, an eminently deserved one.

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Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Defence Minister George Fernandes, Home Minister L.K. Advani and other leaders during the meeting of the NDA's constituents on the eve of the monsoon session of Parliament.

The NDA, having attempted a unique experiment of forging a 24-party ruling coalition at the Centre, perhaps believed that its partners would take time to adjust themselves to the requirements of the Cabinet system of governance, as they have varied backg rounds and ideologies with unique perceptions of issues and events. However, if recent events are any indication, time is not on the side of the NDA, since most of the partners seem determined to use every available opportunity to further their independe nt political interests. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's carefully cultivated image may have partly motivated the NDA partners to come together. But his political skills have been repeatedly put to the test during the course of the NDA's career in o rder to ensure that the image of his government does not suffer from the disparate compulsions of a diverse coalition.

The way the Bal Thackeray arrest drama was handled in New Delhi exposed the limitations of the Prime Minister's authority. Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Manohar Joshi, Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers Suresh Prabhu, and Minis ter of State for Revenue Banking and Insurance Balasaheb Vikhe Patil - all belonging to Shiv Sena - submitted their resignations from the Union Council of Ministers on July 19, when the possibility of Thackeray's arrest loomed large. Prabhu's letter said that he was quitting as he was unable to redress the genuine difficulties of his leader and fellow Shiv Sainiks in an hour of crisis in Maharashtra. The Prime Minister promptly rejected the resignations, evidently as they were seen as "loyalty demonstra tions" and Mumbai-centric political tactic.

Although the Prime Minister was within his rights in rejecting the resignations, most observers thought that he would have been better advised to accept them. The reasons cited by the Ministers for their resignations were narrow and partisan in their sco pe and seemed contrary to any notion of collective Cabinet responsibility. But the resignation drama and the spectacle of the threesome rejoining the Ministry after obtaining due clearance from their chief in Mumbai, caused serious damage to the image of the government. For nearly a week, the three Shiv Sena Ministers kept away from their offices to mark their protest.

Obviously, the Shiv Sena's demand for Central intervention to stop Thackeray's arrest found little support within the Cabinet. The resignations were intended as an act of protest against the Centre's unwillingness to issue a directive to the State govern ment, restraining it from placing Thackeray under arrest. The Shiv Sena even forced the postponement of a crucial meeting of the NDA on July 24, by threatening a boycott. The Shiv Sena leaders had earlier stayed away from the meeting of NDA leaders, held at the Prime Minister's residence, to decide the agenda of the ensuing Parliament session. BJP apologists, however, suggested that the meeting was postponed only because of a perception among its membership that it would be improper to hold the meeting on a day Parliament was paying homage to Rajesh Pilot and other members who had passed away. The BJP spokesperson, M. Venkaiah Naidu, attributed the postponement to a throat infection contracted by Vajpayee, only to correct himself later with the asserti on that the leader had not been indisposed.

The NDA meeting, if held regularly, could provide a mechanism to air grievances and differences within the coalition. Held customarily on the eve of a Parliament session to brief all the allies, including those not represented in the Cabinet, about the g overnment's agenda and approach to issues, the NDA meeting could help evolve a consensus within the ruling coalition on a range of issues. However, no serious discussion takes place at such meetings, which are gone through almost as a ritual. The result is that individual constituents of the NDA feel at liberty to talk in public about any issue, thus exposing the multiplicity and diversity of interests and identities within the government.

The leader of the Shiv Sena Parliamentary Party, Anant Geete, hoped that the Prime Minister would reconsider the Ram Jethmalani matter and reinduct him into the Cabinet. The manner in which Jethmalani had been removed from the Cabinet disappointed the Sh iv Sena, on whose support he was elected to Rajya Sabha. Though none of the other NDA constituents was critical of the Prime Minister's decision to drop Jethmalani from his Cabinet, the Shiv Sena made its displeasure public.

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THE Prime Minister's move not to take even the NDA constituents and the BJP into confidence over the resignation of Jethmalani shows that he was not unduly concerned in this instance about the proprieties and demands of coalition politics, even when it w as an issue that affected his government's image. In practice, the Prime Minister's most intensive consultations take place within a narrow circle, which comprises Home Minister L.K. Advani, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, and the Ministers of s tate, Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie, whom he consult before taking key decisions.

Although Defence Minister George Fernandes is also thought to be a member of this privileged group, the Prime Minister apparently does not give much weight to his views. Samata Party president and Fernandes' associate, Jaya Jaitly, was involved in an uns eemly spat with Minister for Sports S.S. Dhindsa and Minister of State for Revenue Dhananjay Kumar over the Income-Tax Department's attempt to raid her house in connection with the investigation of assets held by cricketer Ajay Jadeja, who has had a long -standing friendship with Jaitly's daughter.

Jaya Jaitly used the Defence Minister's residence to hold a press conference in which she made allegations against the Income-Tax officials, who met her in connection with the abortive raid. The Prime Minister had to ask Fernandes to restrain Jaya Jaitly , and request Dhindsa and Kumar not to react to her statements. Clearly, leaders of major constituents in the NDA do not feel the need to project an image of cohesiveness before the public, if their own personal stakes are high.

The Prime Minister's proclivity to limit access to him to a chosen group became clearer in the aftermath of Jethmalani's resignation. Arun Jaitley became the Minister of State holding independent charge of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, apart from Inf ormation and Broadcasting. The Minister of State for Planning, Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Arun Shourie, has been entrusted with the additional portfolio of Disinvestment, earlier looked after by Jaitley. The former Minister of State fo r Law and Justice, O. Rajagopal, a BJP veteran from Kerala, now has to be content only with Parliamentary Affairs, as Jaitley is a Minister of State with independent charge.

Arun Jaitley played a substantial role in mitigating the immediate damage caused by Jethmalani's revolt, through his deft handling of the issue in Parliament and outside. He has since emerged as the Prime Minister's key crisis manager. He sought to re-es tablish the "cordial relationship" between the executive and the judiciary by calling on the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice A.S. Anand, immediately after the latter had cut short a visit to London and returned to New Delhi. Jaitley initiated a pro cess of consultation with him over the appointment of the Chairman of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTP) and the CJI cleared the name of the government's nominee, recommended earlier by Jethmalani.

The Prime Minister had another taste of the complicated coalition recipe, when the MPs from West Bengal belonging to the Trinamul Congress met him to demand the imposition of President's Rule in West Bengal following an outbreak of political violence in a few districts of the States. The Railway Minister and leader of the Trinamul Congress, Mamata Banerjee, endorsed the demand, in view of the deteriorating law and order situation in the State. The Prime Minister is inclined to discourage any such demand for Central intervention in States ruled by Opposition parties, a stand grounded on the reality of the NDA's lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha which means that it will not be possible to secure endorsement in the Upper House for such a move. But such demands continue to be made within the coalition, thus putting his ability to manage such contradictions under severe strain.

A vision for India's schools

education

To place the school at the very centre of society through community initiatives and involvement is the mission of Anil Sadgopal.

VASANTHA SURYA

HOW did the Ministry of Education get renamed the Ministry of Human Resource Development? When did "primary" education (for children in the 6-11 age group) begin to be stressed, rather than "elementary" education (for those in the 6-14 age group) as in A rticle 45 of the Constitution? How is it that nowadays nobody in government talks about the right to meaningful school education for all Indian children, but only about "raising literacy levels" through short-term literacy campaigns and non-formal educat ion? When the National Literacy Mission threw open its adult literacy programmes to nine year-old-children, what message did it send to their employers? And what is the connection between globalisation and the 100 million child workers of India?

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Investment of human energy and material resources in elementary education, though it takes years to bear fruit, is recognised as a crucial factor in any nation's life and development. Providing free elementary schooling for all children, regardless of th eir class, caste, language, region, community, gender and physical or mental handicap is seen by any modern nation across the globe, and across ideological barriers, as an indispensable duty of government. Can this be made possible in India?

Dr. Anil Sadgopal's latest book Shiksha mein Badlaav ka Savaal * bristles with challenging questions about why the government school has failed to grow into a common school system for all children, as in many other countries. Sadgopal, Head and De an of the Department of Education at the Maulana Azad Centre for Elementary and Social Education, University of Delhi, brings to the subject of educational policy a unique combination of methodological rigour, democratic commitment and visionary zeal. In these essays written in hard-hitting and unambiguous Hindi he gives an avalanche of hard-won facts and perspectives.

In his view, the politics of policy formation is just as deserving of scientific scrutiny as any "hard" scientific phenomenon, say, the hole in the earth's ozone layer. Not only does he demolish the difference between the physical sciences and the social sciences in respect of the possibility of acquiring reliable knowledge, he says that the study of social phenomena would be incomplete without the observation of emotions. This implies that the emotion generated by any social action has its own value as a source of data. A social scientist need not fight shy of emotion, provided it is the outcome of a genuine experience and his or her observations are made without prejudice.

The burden of Sadgopal's life and work has been to try and "awaken the Indian state" from what he calls its "Kumbhakarna-like sleep" on the question of change in the educational system. His particular passion has been to reshape the educational milieu so that elementary education will be recognised as a fundamental right. At present it is part of the Directive Principles of the Constitution (Article 45), and is not 'justiciable'. No Indian can go to court and claim government-funded schooling for her or his child.

Trained as a molecular biologist at Caltech in the United States, he worked at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai for some years. Sadgopal moved to Madhya Pradesh in the early 1970s to address the nitty-gritty of development. He established the Kishore Bharati Centre for Rural Development and Education along with a group of like-minded scientist friends and focussed on encouraging people to reach out for their rights, and to avail themselves of the benefits of already existing p overty alleviation and development schemes. Efforts were made to check the seasonal distress migration of agricultural labour and to improve agriculture and cattle breeding. Ringwell fabrication emerged as a small-scale industry. Environmental degradatio n was halted with the restoration of forest cover. Innovations were made in education, particularly in the teaching of science in government middle schools to bring it closer to the needs and the potential of the rural environment in its totality.

A JAMNALAL BAJAJ Award winner, Sadgopal's sense of what is possible and what is problematic in the Indian context stems from his experiments with the lowcost, high-intensity Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme (HSTP). Along with Sudarshan Kapoor and o thers at the Friends Rural Centre, the Kishore Bharati Group, which included Sadhna Saksena, Kamal Mahendroo and many others, he persuaded scientists at the TIFR and professors at the Indian Institute of Technology to come to Madhya Pradesh villages and towns. Summer after summer during the 1970s and early 1980s, they sat with personnel from the Regional Colleges of Education, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and government middle school teachers of Madhya Pradesh to fi nd new ways of teaching experimental science.

Taking inspiration from Gandhiji's idea of unifying the world of work and the world of knowledge, they pushed towards decentralisation of the curriculum, drawing directly upon the local environment, and persuading teachers to tap into the experience of t he community. From the teaching of science, HSTP expanded into social science teaching and, in the process, language teaching began to be looked at in a more creative way. The Hindi language, for instance, grew by leaps and bounds as HSTP recorded and am plified the work experience of whole villages, linking it with formal scientific theories, and coming up with new terms on a variety of subjects. Stimulating teachers and children to ask questions, to experiment and to participate, and to come up with te aching ideas and teaching aids, and more constructive approaches to problems of discipline, monitoring and evaluation - until then only a handful of expensive progressive schools in the country had ever considered taking such things seriously.

"Prayog" (experiment) and "Avalokan" (observation) became catchwords at the annual HSTP teachers' workshops in Hoshangabad, where they actually performed the same experiments they would teach to the children. The whole debate on pedagogy rose to new leve ls. Out of that experience have emerged some Statewide programmes in Madhya Pradesh on the HSTP model, as well as Ekalavya, a noteworthy centre for educational research and training.

By the mid 1980s Sadgopal began to feel that the Kishore Bharati Centre was itself becoming a part of the rural vested interests it had started out to challenge. In a candid and insightful essay he recounts its controversial winding up in the mid-1980s. In the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984, as Sadgopal worked with the Zahreeli Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha to organise the victims and bring out the chilling scientific facts regarding the disaster, he became interested in people's movements and rela ted struggles that took place outside the arena of formal party politics. Through his chronicling of trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi's role in the workers' struggle in Chhattisgarh, and his protest action in the early 1990s against the replacement of education with literacy as a national priority, what has stood out is his commitment to social justice. For him awareness of the need for social justice begins with a child's experience of school.

SADGOPAL calls attention to something that is taken for granted in India: an inequitous system of parallel schools and coaching sub-systems, at the very bottom of which are funds-starved, bureaucracy-choked government schools. The government schools form an "educational ghetto", far from welcoming even to the poorest children. Their chief use seems to be as squalid creches where parents can leave their children when they go to work; that too, only for a few years, until the children themselves go to wor k. It is not just that poverty continues to pull children out into the employment market, and into the marriage market in the case of girls. Going to a government school is perceived as an utter waste of a child's time, and with reason. Anyone even sligh tly better off prefers to pay fees at a private or "convent" school. The result is that by the most reliable estimates more than half of India's children are still out of school, and two-thirds of those so-called "drop-outs" are girls. Expenditure on the m is increasingly coming to be considered uneconomical, a social subsidy that does not fit in with the current agenda of economic reform. It is no wonder that government schools in some places are in danger of closing down. This has already happened in I ndore in Madhya Pradesh, and even in Kerala, which is credited with being the most enlightened State with regard to education.

Each thrust for change towards equality of basic educational opportunity has, in Sadgopal's view, been quickly neutralised before it could take any concrete shape. Based on his own experiences as a member of several high-level educational committees and think-tanks, Sadgopal closely examines the back-and-forth movement in policy-formation from the 1937 Wardha Conference and the Kothari Commission of the 1950s down to the New Education Policy of the late 1980s, the Acharya Ramamurthi Commission and the Y ash Pal Committees of the early 1990s, followed by the Janardhan Reddy and Arun Ghosh Committees.

According to Sadgopal, the precise point at which the Indian state jettisoned its constitutional obligation was at the 1990 International Conference on Education at Jomtien: Sadgopal resigned from the Acharya Ramamurthi Commission in protest against the government's backtracking on the goal of universalisation of elementary education. "Before the Jomtien Conference, the Government of India felt answerable to the Constitution on the subject of education: after Jomtien, it has felt answerable to the force s of globalisation."

The undertow of status-quoism in the making of educational policy is not explained by "inefficiency" or "corruption" or even just a failure of implementation of policies which the ruling class likes to think were well-intentioned. Sadgopal relentl essly questions the very intentions behind policies, and arrives at a disturbing answer: what prevents India from evolving into a modern civil state is the attitude of its ruling and educated classes towards the whole question of educating the rest of so ciety.

Not everyone wants everybody to benefit from development. In India, the educated classes are distinctly less than enthusiastic about the uneducated, to use a common Indian English expression, "coming up in life", about poor children competing with their children. National feeling and the pride in being a "democratic" country stops short of enthusiasm for this kind of basic social engineering. This may be true of elites elsewhere also. However, in the Indian social context, privilege legitimises itself r elatively easily. Scraps are thrown down - and grabbed by the strongest among the weaker sections - in the form of reservations, quotas, etc. In this process, a few among the deprived are added to the ranks of the privileged while significant numbers rem ain outside the power structures. The middle class needs the goods and services provided by cheap and plentiful labour (Sadgopal is sensitive about the commodification of human labour as human "resources"). The average well-to-do Indian is not concerned with the quality of government schools or hospitals, which are for those who cannot afford anything better. He or she may pay taxes towards these services which he or she makes no use of, but with a feeling of being exploited. And Sadgopal shows many ins tances of how this mindset manifests itself in the words and actions of bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen and intellectuals.

Added to this is the formidable power wielded by international funding agencies. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund frowns on all kinds of social spending - even for elementary schooling - in a "poor" developing country like India. The D istrict Primary Education Programme which the World Bank partially funds in Andhra Pradesh and other States, and literacy and non-formal education programmes, which are seen as miracle solutions, are quite different from the goal of universal elementary education - within ten years from the commencement of the Constitution as envisaged by the Constitution-makers. UEE is a bare minimum which not a single developed democracy - certainly not the U.S. which considers itself the Mecca of the free market - wo uld dare to remove from the public sector. But in this country, the quintessentially modern idea that a civil society must offer its citizens equality of elementary educational opportunity is being looked askance at, as Marxist at worst and utopian at be st. The tut-tutting about "populism" and "subsidies" by the godfathers of globalisation is now echoed by sections of Indian society for their own reasons.

"I will simply not accept that a country as big as India does not have enough money to educate its own children and must go to the international level to beg for this purpose. A nation which cannot change its own economic priorities to put together the n ecessary funds for such important work will in spite of begging and borrowing from abroad fail to give that work its due priority."

THE concept of the welfare state having taken deep roots via nationalist movements the world over, today a modern government's basic social obligations, such as providing elementary education, have come to be seen as non-negotiable. It will, of course, c all for a thoroughgoing demand for change in the political and administrative setup - and non-governmental organisations and voluntary organisations may help, but they cannot be totally entrusted with initiating change.

Sadgopal is a visionary, as most serious thinkers about education have been. The community initiatives and involvement he now advocates would place the school at the very centre of society. He envisages a common school system - the Lokshala or People's S chool - funded by the State, with each local community at the administrative block level running its own complex of elementary and high schools within a guaranteed framework of equal rights for all children. Lokshala is an outcome of "Manthan", a process which began in 1994 to bring about what he called a "churning". Using the "churning stick" of people's science to expose communalism and other threats to the country's ethos, Sadgopal evolved a forum - the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (BGVJ). Then he began t he laborious task of working with local communities to articulate the demand for 'Lokshala' - the People's School. With research personnel funded partly by the University Grants Commission, the BJVJ has already set up Advance Field Laboratories to prepar e the ground in 10 States, including four in the north-eastern region.

* Shiksha mein Badlaav ka Savaal - Samaajik Anubhavon se Neeti Tak (The Question of Change in Education: From Social Experience to Policy ) by Dr. Anil Sadgopal; Granth Shilpi, India, 2000; Rs.425.

A people in peril

public-health

High levels of Hepatitis B infection among sections of the already minuscule tribal population of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands raise medical and social concerns.

R. RAMACHANDRAN

AN alarmingly high prevalence rate of Hepatitis B infection has been detected among the tribal people of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Compared to the average 4 to 5 per cent rate in the general population of mainland India, the prevalence rate in the se tribal populations is over 20 per cent. In the epidemiology of Hepatitis B, less than 2 per cent prevalence is termed 'low endemicity', that between 2 and 8 per cent is 'intermediate endemicity' and that over 8 per cent is 'high endemicity'.

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The figure is over 20 per cent here - the highest recorded in recent times. The high-endemicity areas of Africa (Senegal and Gambia) and South-East Asia (Taiwan) now have rates of 15 to 20 per cent. More seriously, the rate appears to have increased from an average of 15.5 per cent in 1989 to 23.3 per cent in 1999.

HBV is transmitted through body fluids, chiefly blood, and circulates in blood. The reasons and risk factors associated with such a high prevalence rate are not fully clear from the findings of this preliminary study. Also, the epidemiological and serolo gical profile of the infection have somewhat unusual features, and call for further studies. How and when the infection was introduced into this tribal population - it certainly predates 1989, given the findings - are even more difficult questions to ans wer, say scientists associated with the study.

Data are not available on the burden of chronic liver diseases or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer among these tribes. "However," warns the study, "taking into consideration the extent of chronic HBV infection, especially in children, the p ossibility of chronic liver diseases leading to appreciable morbidity cannot be ruled out." The follow-up study has begun and HBV vaccination has been initiated.

The study was carried out jointly by the ICMR's Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Port Blair and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. The findings of the research team, led by M. V. Murhe kar of RMRC, have been reported in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR), the ICMR publication. According to S. C. Sehgal, Director of the RMRC, the study constitutes the first phase of the investigations into HBV infec tion among the tribes who constitute about 9 per cent of the archipelago's total population of about 300,000.

There are in all six tribes in these islands, divided broadly into two racial groups - the Negrito race living in the Andaman group of islands and the Mongoloid race living in the Nicobar group of islands. The Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas and Sentine lese belong to the former while the Nicobarese and Shompens belong to the latter.

All the tribes apparently live as independent closed communities. There is little interaction between the tribes, let alone any with the external civilisation from the Indian mainland (Frontline, July 17, 1998). The Nicobarese number over 25,000 a nd constitute more than 90 per cent of the tribal population. The Nicobarese have apparently slowly integrated into the mainstream life of Port Blair but still, as a community, they lead an isolated existence. Outsiders too, by the government regulations in place, are not allowed direct access to, or contact with, the tribes. The Jarawas and Sentinelese are, however, still hostile to, and cut off from, the outside world. The investigations on disease prevalence could be carried out only among four tribe s - namely Nicobarese, Shompens, Onges and the Great Andamanese.

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The respective populations of the three non-Nicobarese tribes are 157, 102 and 32. (Apparently, the Great Andamanese were virtually driven to extinction by the British.) Of these four, the Shompens are said to be more primitive, who lead a nomadic life a nd do not encourage visits by outsiders to their huts which are situated deep in the jungles.

Till recently, the ICMR and the health authorities were largely concerned with controlling leptospirosis, a zoonotic infection (spread from animal hosts and rodents are the primary reservoirs of the microorganism leptospira), which has a significant prev alence in the population of the islands. Leptospirosis itself was discovered here in 1989 following an outbreak of unknown fever in the region.

Given its largely asymptomatic nature, HBV infection was believed to be largely absent in the tribal population. However, according to the report, jaundice apparently is a frequent occurrence. One of the clinical presentations of leptospirosis is jaundic e. Since other possible causes of jaundice had not been investigated, the RMRC instituted an investigation into HBV infection here in 1998. In fact, the apparent asymptomatic condition of the population had resulted in the health authorities of the Minis try stationed in Port Blair viewing the present research findings with scepticism. It was only after an independent survey by the Health Ministry's National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), New Delhi, which also found similar results, that the health authorities woke up to the problem. The intervention programme became possible after the Hyderabad-based company, Shantha Biotech, which has developed a relatively inexpensive indigenous Hepatitis B vaccine, donated 1,000 doses to the programme.

Says S. K. Acharya, an expert in Hepatitis infection at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi: "It has been known for the last 50 years that a majority of Hepatitis B carriers are asymptomatic. The infection is self limiting but in chronic carriers of the virus, it ultimately affects the liver leading to cirrhosis, cancer and other serious manifestations of the liver. It is for this reason the infection is termed a silent killer," he says. "India," Acharya points out, "is a sign atory to the World Health Assembly (WHA) united declaration in 1992 which recommends routine HBV vaccination in any population with more than 2 per cent prevalence as the most effective preventive strategy and integration of HBV vaccine into the national programme of immunisation for over 8 per cent prevalence. And yet, with over 5 per cent in this country, there is no strategy evolved for HBV vaccination."

Apparently it is the high cost of the imported (SmithKline&Beecham) vaccine that has prevented HBV vaccination from being made part of the national immunisation programme. But, even though the indigenous vaccine is nearly one-third the cost of the import ed vaccine, the health authorities have, for some inexplicable reason, failed to include the vaccine as part of the universal immunisation programme (UIP) of the government. According to Varaprasad Reddy, chairman and managing director of Shantha Biotech , a bulk order for UIP from the government will bring down the cost and make it affordable for a public health programme.

THE discovery of HBV in the recently collected blood samples of the tribal people led the investigating team to look for HBV infection in the decade old samples collected for investigations into leptospirosis, and preserved at the NIV. The 15.5 per cent HBV prevalence rate of that time comes from an analysis of the older samples, indicating very clearly that the HBV infection is certainly not of recent origin. According to Vidya Arankalle of the NIV, who is part of the HBV investigation team, though the earlier 2,000 samples were from both the tribal and settler populations, this high 15.5 per cent prevalence rate was found in the samples belonging to the tribal communities.

The reported findings on the prevalence of HBV infection are based on investigations carried out between April 1998 and March 1999 on 1,266 serum samples collected from among the four tribes, of which 1,144 samples - 535 males and 609 females - were from the Nicobarese. The sample sizes of the other three tribes were 37 (smallest because of their highly secluded existence), 58 and 27 respectively. Given the expected prevalence of HBV infection - that is the population which is the carrier of the HBV - o f around 5 per cent, the above total sample size is stated to be more than the minimum size required for statistically significant conclusions to be drawn.

Following HBV infection, which is self-limiting, the body sets up an immune response and the progression of infection is essentially a competition between the immune response that is mounted and the viral load. In the immediate aftermath of the infection , the immune response is in the form of certain antibodies to the core protein - rather than the surface protein - of the virus called immunoglobulins. These antibodies to the core antigen (anti-HBc) build up quickly, fight the invading virus and reach a plateau after a period. That is, anti-HBc is present all through, in association with HBsAg (the infection period), alone (the window period) and in association with anti-HBs (the recovery period).

Once these immunoglobulins neutralise the virus and clear the body of the viral load, antibodies to the surface protein appear. This is indicative of recovery from infection and onset of immunity to the infection. There is a time gap between the clearanc e of the viral load and the circulation of anti-HBs. During this period, which is called the 'window of infection', only anti-HBc will be circulating. If the infection load is more, the virus wins, the HBsAg continues to be present in the body tissues an d sera and the person becomes a carrier capable of transmitting the virus.

The serum samples were tested for the main disease causing antigen, the surface coat protein of the virus HBsAg, and those who were negative for HBsAg were tested for antibodies to this surface antigen (anti-HBs). Of the 1,144 Nicobarese samples, a total of 267 samples were found to be positive for HBsAg (see table). This implies a seropositivity or prevalence rate of 23.3 per cent and, of those who were negative for HBsAg, only 23.9 per cent were positive for anti-HBs.

According to Acharya, this low anti-HBs positivity is surprising. In a random sample of a highly endemic population such as this one would expect a far greater proportion of the population to have "recovered" from infection and acquired a certain level o f immunity. This would need to be investigated again, he felt. "We are certainly investigating this question again but we find even the larger sample size collected now seems to give a similar profile of low anti-HBs and we do not have an immediate answe r to this," Sehgal says.

This issue becomes more intriguing if one tries to estimate the exposure rate of the population. The exposure rate is clearly the sum of HBsAg positives (the virus carriers), the anti-HBs positives (the surface antibody carriers) and positives to anti-HB c (those in the window period). In a random sample of 95 HBsAg negatives, the study found a high percentage (nearly 57 per cent) of people were positive only for anti-HBc; that is, a very high proportion was in the window period. This is unusual because the window period is usually short (though this could vary from region to region and from population to population). This would imply the existence of a prolonged window period before the circulating surface antibodies build up to detectable levels. This also implies that the total exposure rate is enormously high.

According to Vidya Arankalle, such a long window period was not inconceivable though she was not aware of such a feature being reported from elsewhere. Another possibility, according to the study, is that, if there are variants of the virus with surface mutations, the assay designed to detect the normal anti-HBs may not pick up the antibodies to the mutated viral surface protein. This needs further investigation. The age distribution of the seropositivity for HBV, besides other epidemiological features, reflects the susceptibility of various age groups. It shows that over 30 per cent of children below age 10 were exposed to infection suggesting that transmission in childhood - which would be horizontal through child-child interaction - is an important mode. This also stands to reason for closed communities where children of the tribe are in constant interaction with one another.

That horizontal transmission is perhaps the basic mode of transmission is also evident from the fact that the virus carrying fraction in the 5 to 10 age group is low. However, since the study did not look at samples of newborns and children below five ye ars, direct evidence for vertical transmission - from mother to child at birth - cannot as yet be ascertained. In the second phase of the study, pregnant women and new borns will be focussed on, says Sehgal. But the possibility of vertical transmission i s certainly indicated, says Vidya Arankalle, because almost 20 per cent women in the reproductive age group were found to be carriers.

According to Acharya, however, the pattern of infection suggests that the situation is similar to what was found in tribes of Senegal and Gambia in Africa, where horizontal transmission was dominant. In some of these African tribal populations, this led to the prevalence rate being as high as 50 per cent, he says. However, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) intervention through intensive immunisation has brought down the rate enormously, he points out. In Taiwan, an area of high endemicity, the trans mission is largely vertical and, perhaps because of other environmental conditions, the rate of horizontal transmission is low. Vertical transmission leads to a carrier state. As a result, the prevalence rate has more or less stabilised and is, therefore , more amenable to prevention and control.

In mainland India the rate of vertical transmission is very low, according to Acharya. Of course, being populations of entirely different genetic make up, transmission modes among the Andaman and Nicobar tribes could be different from the mainland. The s tudy speculates that the low anti-HBs positivity rate could be owing to the "combined effect of an extensive vertical and horizontal transmission".

Investigation into the possible risk factors that could be associated with HBV infection did not single out any one of them with any statistical significance. However, the study found that a high fraction (over 50 per cent) of the persons tested gave a h istory of parenteral treatment. Nearly the same fraction had also undergone ear-piercing. Fractions that had a history of surgery or blood transfusion or promiscuous sexual behaviour were low, though the study believes that there could be under-reporting of the last of the factors.

The source of parenteral treatment is suspected to be the local primary health centres (PHCs) in Port Blair which Nicobarese, who have tried to join the mainstream, have in recent times begun making use of. According to some other research groups working in this region the state of these PHCs and resource constraints they face, could easily result in multiple uses of syringe needles and thereby spread HBV infection. However, the present data do not unequivocally associate any single risk factor with the infection. A larger sample size might be required to arrive at a more definitive association of risk factor(s) with the infection, says the study.

The study also found the prevalence of HBV in the three non-Nicobarese tribes to be significant. The prevalence rate among the Shompens was found to be the highest with 37.8 per cent. It was 31 per cent among the Onges and a low 3.7 per cent among the Gr eat Andamanese.

"There are certainly a whole lot of questions that need to be answered. But we have made a start and brought the awareness home that we have a serious public health problem at hand. This dawning of awareness has led to one good thing for the community: i ntervention has begun though in a limited way. Hopefully, the government would step in to immunise the tribes on a larger scale on a routine basis," says Sehgal.

SPORT AS APOCALYPSE

the-nation
Why global sport is in crisis today. MIKE MARQUSEE

Though't be a sportful combat Yet in the trial much opinion dwells. - William Shakespeare, in Troilus and Cressida

EVERYWHERE today, sport commands an increasing proportion of the public discourse - in advertising and politics, newspapers (front page as well as back), television and the Internet. More Londoners watched the telecast of the England vs Germany football confrontation in Euro 2000 in June than bothered to vote in the recent first-ever elections for a London Mayor.

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The sports explosion of the last years of the 20th century is hailed as a success story, a triumph of globalisation, but there have been losers as well as winners, and among the losers may be found both loathers and lovers of sport, and perhaps sport its elf. Amid the clamorous hyperbole emanating from the global sports industry, it is hard to remember that it all begins as play, that these exertions emerge from humanity's childhood, from the spontaneous but structured interaction of the human body with balls, sticks, baskets and tree stumps.

IN April 2000, key players in the industry assembled in London for 'Sport Business 2000', a high-power conference organised by Dow Jones, the firm of investment brokers and financial analysts, and sportbusiness.com, an on-line magazine. Among the partici pants were international governing bodies (the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, the International Association Football Federation), major broadcasters (Sky TV and Turner Sports), sponsors (Nike, Coca-Cola), specialist sports marketers, events ma nagers and agents (IMG, ISL), investment bankers, stadium architects, Internet enterprises (Yahoo, Sportal and sports.com), and not a few of the 1,000 consultancies said to be lubricating the sports sponsorship market, now worth $20 billion annually - up from a relatively paltry $500,000 thirty years ago. There were, however, no sports performers and no representatives of sports fans. The price of admission to the conference was 1,250 per delegate, plus VAT. Not a great deal to pay for the inside track in an industry that accounts for something like 2 per cent of GDP in the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia.

The topics discussed at the conference included the impact of new technology, the difficulties of managing intellectual property rights in a global marketplace, the commercial potential of new multi-use stadiums equipped with interactive "smart seats", a nd the relative merits of event versus broadcast sponsorship, on-site versus virtual advertising, cross-corporate convergence versus specialisation, and niche-marketing.

Intriguingly, one seminar was entitled, "How can investors reconcile sports' inherent uncertainties?" After all, the team you sponsor may not win the cup, the athlete who endorses your product may crack a vertebra. One answer to this conundrum came that very week from South Africa, where cricket captain Hansie Cronje confessed to accepting bribes from bookmakers.

Thanks to the convergence of a deregulated financial regime and the spread of information technology, money now flows from one account to another with blithe disregard for national boundaries or legal niceties. In this environment the illegal bookmaking syndicates have flourished. They are merely the dark underside of globalisation, and only one of a number of powerful forces seeking to exploit sport's huge popular base. Corporate sponsors, advertising and marketing agencies, media empires, government b ureaucrats, politicians and demagogues - all have an investment in the game, and all seek to shape it to their own ends, to "reconcile sports' inherent uncertainties".

The questions raised by the match-fixing revelations - about the governance of global sport, about the authenticity of the spectacle - are by no means confined to cricket. Football, rugby, athletics, tennis, boxing, baseball, not to mention the Olympics - all have been tainted by controversies arising from conflicts of interest and commercial pressures. Behind this crisis of governance and credibility lies the powerful and intricately interconnected corporate-media-sport nexus that was on display at the Sport Business 2000 conference. This nexus buys and sells sport, forever striving to reduce its refractory human complexity to commodity status. In doing so, it is changing the very look and feel of the world we share, and the way we share it.

THE Sri Lankans were playing a Test match against India at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. Loitering outside the heavily guarded gates was a young boy, barefoot, his scrawny legs sticking out of dirty shorts. Unable to afford the price of a ticket, he bided his time, hoping for a glimpse of Aravinda de Silva, Chaminda Vaas or some other deity of south Asian cricket. His tattered tee shirt was hand-decorated, with the letters N-I-K-E and a big, black swoosh, the Nike symbol, carefully drawn in felt tip pen. Like so many others around the world, this boy was prepared to do for free what Michael Jordan will do only for millions of dollars. At least, unlike so many of his contemporaries, he was not paying over the odds for the privilege. Replicating corporate symbolism was as close as he could come to joining the consuming classes.

The barefoot Sri Lankan was not alone. America's tatooists report that the swoosh is their single most requested design. And if Nike is too downmarket for you, there is always the elite "sports watch" market, in which an Alexander McQueen design gets the Colin Jackson endorsement. Because modern sport is universal and secular - crossing boundaries of language, religion, culture - it is a handy tool for the construction of global markets, and for the assignment of status within those markets.

Sport today is being used to 'brand' ever-expanding acres of public space - material, televisual and cyber. "The marks of international sports events have become extremely valuable properties," explains Gerhard Proschoka, "the visible expression of the l ink between supporters and events are an effective way of giving products added value."

Proschoka is head of licensing at ISL, one of the world's most successful sports marketing agencies, which, on FIFA's behalf, flogged more than 300 licences for 1998 World Cup-branded merchandise. Since retail sales amounted to some $1.2 billion, Proscho ka must be right about the 'added value'. As a highly flexible index of style and belonging, sport seems an ideal promotional tool, a short-cut to consumer consciousness.

In the last decade, the British market for sports clothing has grown by 145 per cent in value. Floor space is said to have expanded by 531 per cent since 1995. In addition, there has been a blurring of boundaries between sportswear and fashion in general as designer labels like Hilfinger, Gucci and DKNY enter the fray. Half of all global sports sponsorship now comes from sportswear industries. And the single biggest spender is Nike, whose dominance in the industry is intimately bound up with its associa tion with sports and sports stars. Over the years, Nike's best selling item has been the Air Jordan, a product whose market-position is largely derived from its association with a sports star.

MICHAEL JORDAN, of course, has been an advertiser's dream: cautious, conservative and consistently successful. But the human material of which sport is compounded is not always such. Shortly before his record-breaking 100-metre run in the 1996 Olympics, Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey told Sports Illustrated that Canadian society was "as blatantly racist as the United States". Bailey's sponsor, Adidas, was horrified. The Adidas spokesperson not only disowned on the company's behalf the contentio us remarks, but insisted they had "nothing to do with Donovan the athlete or the Donovan we know" - as if they were reclaiming the public persona in which they had invested so heavily. Bailey's political opinions had proved to be one of "sports' inherent uncertainties".

When Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler displayed a tee shirt backing the sacked Liverpool dockers at Anfield in 1997, he was immediately rebuked by the club and fined by the UEFA. The imperative here was not so much political as it was commercial; if they are to maximise revenue from branding, the club and the governing body must retain exclusive control over the use of any space (including players' chests) associated with the game. Because the branding of public space (including sports events) by private corporations implies an exclusive (if temporary) ownership of that space, challenges to corporate messages are inevitably squeezed out. Sometimes the censorship is overt. At the 1997 du Maurier Tennis Open in Toronto, student anti-tobacco protesters wer e removed from the arena - even though it was located on their own campus.

One of the salient features of an information-based economy is the increased value attached to symbolic goods (images and information) and the symbolic content of manufactured goods. Design and marketing account for an ever-rising proportion of total val ue. In this type of world, sport, which is both a symbolic good in itself and an effective carrier of symbolic values of all sorts, assumes inordinate significance.

THE single most powerful individual within the corporate-media-sport nexus must be Rupert Murdoch, whose diverse portfolio gives him a stake in nearly every aspect of the industry. Murdoch has explained his strategy frankly. He regards sports as a "batte ring ram" to enter and capture emergent markets. His Fox, Sky and Star TV networks broadcast major sporting events across North America, Europe, and Asia, and he is now collaborating with Globo, the biggest cable broadcaster in South America. He also has direct holdings in sporting institutions themselves - British and German football clubs, major league baseball teams, rugby league clubs in Australia. Murdoch's newspapers in Britain, the U.S., Australia and the Far East report on his televised sporting events, and he is anything but reluctant to take advantage of the convenient "synergy". Fox Sports has launched its own men's clothing line. "We are hoping to take the attitude and lifestyle of Fox Sports off the TV and onto men's backs, creating a nati on of walking billboards," explained Fox's chief executive officer.

In Asia, Murdoch's Star has joined forces with ESPN to carve up the sports market. ESPN boasts 20 television networks (including Euro-Sport) spanning 182 countries. It also runs the leading sports website in north America, where one third of all Internet use is said to be sports-related. ESPN is owned by the Disney Corporation, which controls the ABC television network as well as major league baseball's Anaheim Angels and an ice hockey team christened the Mighty Ducks, after the Disney film of the same name.

The bigger the investment in sport, the greater the temptation to exercise hands-on management. Murdoch and Disney are part of a trend towards increasing cross-ownership among the media, sponsors and sports entities. The Italian politician and television magnate Silvio Berlusconi is the principal owner of AC Milan and he has a major stake in Sportal, the British-based Internet sport company. Canal Plus, the French pay-TV station, owns the Paris St-Germain football club. Fiat owns not only the Juventus f ootball club but also the Ferrari Formula One motor-racing squad. EM.TV, the German media group, now controls 50 per cent of Formula One itself. Nike owns its own golf tour, and its contract with the Brazil football federation gives it a major role in de termining where and when the national team plays, and even, some whisper, who gets to play in it.

Meanwhile, sporting institutions themselves are expanding their interests into media and merchandising. Manchester United and the New York Yankees, perhaps the world's most valuable sports 'brands', have both entered the Internet and broadcasting busines s, and even taken stakes in other sports. As a result of all this increasing inter-connectedness, whose purpose is to minimise the risks posed by "sports' inherent uncertainties", special interests call the shots, and accountability and transparency go b y the wayside.

THE 'level playing field' beloved of the architects of the current world economic order is, of course, a metaphor from sport. But in an irony characteristic of the age, the level playing field imposed by global capital seems to be having a distinctly unl evelling impact on the sports field itself. The concentrations of wealth and power now driving the industry are generating new inequalities within sports, between sports, and among sporting nations. Scores of traditional and indigenous pastimes, as well as once-vital modern sporting sub-cultures such as West Indies cricket, Welsh rugby and Cuban boxing, are being pushed to the margins, and threatened with extinction. In south Asia, hockey has been overwhelmed by cricket; in England, cricket is being ove rwhelmed by football. What future awaits curling in Scotland, wrestling houses in Iran, elle in Sri Lanka, or kabbadi in India?

The impact of globalisation on sports' labour force is immediately apparent to anyone watching Chelsea or the New York Yankees. Major league baseball now recruits much of its talent from the Caribbean and South America; a multinational labour force is pl aced at the service of an overwhelmingly dominant north American market. Some north American players ply their trade in Japan, but there is no migration southwards - at least not since the flow of black ball players dried up after Jackie Robinson broke t he colour bar in 1947. Likewise, most African athletes who hope to shine on the world stage pursue their careers at north American colleges, and African footballers seek their fortunes in western Europe (though they can also be found playing in Turkey, I ndia and Japan).

According to the "rich list" compiled by Deloitte-Touche, all 20 of the world's wealthiest football clubs are now based in Europe. Long-established South American clubs with massive fan bases, like Flamengo of Brazil, have fallen down the list as satelli te and cable cash flows into the big western European leagues. In South America, cable hook-ups remain confined to a small elite (only 3.3 per cent in Brazil) and clubs are forced to boost income by selling players to Europe. The European matches in whic h the local heroes play are then telecast back to South America, reinforcing the superior status of European over local football.

During the 1990s, global expenditure on sports sponsorship trebled. But the distribution of this growth was highly imbalanced. In 1998, 37.8 per cent of this sum was spent in North America, 36.4 per cent in Europe and 20.8 per cent in Asia, with South Am erica way behind and Africa virtually out of the reckoning. What counts here is not just the size of TV audiences, but their relative disposable income. The CAF, the African football championship, is followed passionately by hundreds of millions, but, al as, as far as corporate sponsors are concerned, there is little profit to be made, and African football, for all its wealth of talent, remains an underdeveloped, shoestring affair.

Even in the developed world, the distribution of the spoils is highly unequal. In 1998, sports sponsorship in the United Kingdom was worth 350 million, two thirds of which was consumed by football and Formula One. Other sports are being marginalised, as are women's sports. A survey revealed that 82 per cent of companies involved in sports sponsorship said they were "not interested" in women's sport, although 57 per cent conceded that they would be interested if there was greater "sex appeal". Despite t he ever-swelling tide of sponsorship and television cash, and despite the increasing numbers of female participants in almost all sporting cultures, women's sports (with the exception of tennis and a few Olympic events) remain a well-guarded secret. The high profile that the last women's football World Cup final had is an exception that proves the rule. Here the United States met China, a dream match for the FIFA bigwigs seeking expansion into both markets. Ironically, the success of these women's teams - in a sport in which their male counterparts are minor powers - owes little to free enterprise. The Chinese footballers were, of course, groomed under a centralised sports bureaucracy. But the Americans were also indebted to state intervention in the f orm of Title IX, a powerful legacy of 1970s feminism requiring educational institutions to provide equal facilities for women's sport.

Increasing disparities in wealth are also compromising the integrity of sporting competitions. The pursuit of ever greater TV audiences led to a rapid expansion of major league baseball franchises and the adoption of a 'souped up' ball that is more likel y to fly out of the stadium. The result has been lop-sided competition and the devaluation of the home run. The fate of the FA Cup, the prototype modern spring competition, reflects similar pressures.

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As a handful of rich clubs outspend their competitors off the field, the spectacle on the field becomes more predictable and therefore less compelling. The giant-killing feats that once tingled the collective spine are becoming rarer. In the past, a Cup encounter between old rivals would always outdraw a league encounter. Now the reverse is the case. The premiership has evolved into a glamorous, exclusive coterie, and the European champions league outshines all else. The symbolic eclipse of the FA Cup w as the withdrawal in 1999-2000 of the Cup holders, Manchester United, who preferred instead to take part in a "world club" competition with no pedigree. In this they were backed by the British government, which saw the Manchester United move as a boost f or the country's bid to host the 2006 World Cup. For both the football club and the politicians, conquering global markets took precedence over preserving a long-established national institution.

The money flooding into sport has raised its social status, and with that rising status has come ticket-price inflation, the growth of the corporate hospitality industry and the colonisation of sports arenas by luxury boxes. Everywhere, sports fans from the lower income groups are finding it harder to gain access to live sporting events. According to the 1998 British Social Trends Report, during a three month period one third of those surveyed in the top bracket ABC categories had attended a live specta tor sports event. In contrast, only 18 per cent of Ds and 7 per cent of Es had attended one. In the last baseball World Series, a mere 5,000 seats, 10 per cent of the total, were placed on sale to members of the public in New York City. Concerns about th e exorbitant cost of attending matches in Japan during the 2002 World Cup met with a casual rebuff from Lennart Johansson, chair of FIFA's World Cup organising committee. "When it comes to the cost for the fans, they have to look in their wallets to see whether they can afford it or not."

As the new Internet, mobile phone and digital platform technology evolves and spreads, "an already sports rich world will become even richer," predicts sportbusiness.com. "Sport will be available on demand in the home, the office and even the car. Techno logy will make sport yet more international and that, in turn, will accelerate the development of truly global sporting super-brands with a devoted world wide audience."

But this global audience will be fragmented and segmented as never before. The greater flexibility of the medium will enable greater targeting of the product. One way or another, pay per view will become the norm. Outlets will proliferate, but attention to them will be much more casual. Sport will become part of that ceaseless, seamless flow of imagery and information that floats like a veil between individuals and the life they share with larger communities. Ideal, no doubt, for promoting the products of multinational corporations. But what will be left of the common experience of watching sport as part of a crowd, with all its biases, tensions and banter, its collective passions and heated arguments? For all their cultural differences and mutual igno rance, this was an experience which united sports fans across the globe, and out of it grew a wide variety of popular sporting cultures. In its heyday, modern sport helped bring strangers together; it helped forge new urban and even national communities. Sometimes, in some places, it still plays that role. But these days, as often as not it atomises communities and eviscerates collective identities.

LAST year the World Wrestling Federation was floated on the stock exchange for $1.5 billion. Financial analysts who predicted that the move would raise half that amount should have known better. In 1999, more than half of the top 60 pay per view events i n the U.S. were produced by the WWF or one of its affiliates. Head to head with the Michael Jordan-less NBA play-offs, the WWF outdrew the glamour sport of the 1990s by two to one. The WWF also runs one of the top three sports-related websites, with 1.6 million visitors in a single month. Then there is the merchandise, the playstations, and the videos, not to mention the WWF themed hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

With cable or satellite audiences in every continent, the WWF may be, after the Olympics and the football World Cup, the closest thing to a genuinely global sport. Except, of course, that it is not a sport. The outcome is determined and the action is reh earsed in advance - which is why no one will take a bet on a WWF match. Here "sports' inherent uncertainties" have been entirely eliminated. The WWF is a soap opera cast in the form of a perpetual sporting competition. With its commentators and pundits, technical jargon, pouting, preening superstars, super slo-mo (slow-motion) TV replays, vendettas, grudge matches and spurious controversies, it resembles a Gothic parody of big-time modern sport. The WWF founder and owner Vince Macmahon has even had hims elf and his family written into the scripts, which enact the now familiar conflict between superstars and sports bosses.

Pro-wrestling had been on the wane for years, spurned by broadcasters and sponsors as too downmarket, sleazy and naive for an increasingly sophisticated sports audience. Macmahon rejuvenated it in the 1980s, when the expansion of cable television gave th e old vaudeville show a new audience. During the same period, the detailed choreography of violence was becoming a commonplace attraction in the popular cinema (in Hollywood, Mumbai and Hong Kong). Macmahon enhanced the spectacle with light shows, heavy metal music and comic book imagery, and devised long-running plotlines through which he manipulated the larger-than-life dramatis personae of his company of actor-wrestlers (whose stage names remain the intellectual property of the WWF). The formu la proved so successful that Ted Turner launched a rival roadshow, the WCW.

In the WWF, victory and defeat, the goodies and the baddies, the twists and turns of sporting contests, come ready packaged, like junk food, and like junk food, their appeal crosses borders with only token resistance. Ironically, the WWF and its imitator s build on - and ultimately displace - a wide variety of indigenous and traditional combat-based entertainments. Only a generation ago the wrestler Dara Singh was a hero to children and adults alike across north India. Today he would have to sign up with Macmahon or Turner or one of their global competitors if he wanted to reach even his own home audience.

The rebirth of this fairground entertainment through the medium of a globalised economy and technology - and its funhouse mirror image of modern sport - is testimony not merely to the enduring popular taste for blood and thunder, but also to the increasi ng reduction of modern sport to an endless parade of packaged simulacra. The signifiers of modern sport have been detached from lived experience to float in a 'virtual' reality owned and designed by a private corporation. When Macmahon barred television advertisements for 'Beyond the Mat', a documentary account of life behind the scenes in the WWF, he argued that the film made unlicensed use of the WWF logo; he also claimed to be the sole proprietor of the public images of a number of individuals interv iewed in the film (including his wrestlers and himself).

Undoubtedly, he was also disturbed at the film's candid expose of the serious risks taken by the WWF stars in pursuit of TV ratings. Simply by making clear that the televised spectacle had some harsh consequences in real life, the film became subversive. In response, Macmahon sought to reclaim exclusive corporate ownership of the realities depicted in the film.

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Although it is entirely contrived from above, the WWF spectacle gives free rein to the most ferocious expressions of partisanship. Identities, loyalties and affinities that football or baseball clubs acquire over many years are market-researched, briskly manufactured and shamelessly promoted. Strangely, one reason for the appeal of the WWF seems to be the very nakedness of its artifice. In merrily discarding the higher ethos of sport and 'fair play', it seems less mealy-mouthed, less hypocritical, than many 'legitimate' sports.

When the boxer Naseem Hamed, frustrated by the defensive tactics of his opponent, resorted to an illegal body-slam, he was universally condemned for indulging in a "WWF-style" display, and was forced to issue an apology to broadcasters HBO, who had stump ed up the money for the fight. Yet it was HBO and the fight promoters who had already resorted to "WWF style" tactics to drum up a live audience for an event whose profit was overwhelmingly dependent on pay per view. The fight against the Mexican challen ger Cesar Soto was staged in Detroit, which is home to large Mexican and Arab minorities. Hamed hails from Yorkshire, but his Yemeni background has been crucial in shaping his image, and he often asserts his pride in being a Muslim. The fight was promote d in Spanish and Arabic in the appropriate neighbourhoods; ethnic identities were deployed as a commercial attraction.

Artificially-hyped collective antagonisms are certainly not confined to working class attractions like boxing and pro-wrestling. The Olympics have become a peculiarly noxious cocktail of national chauvinism and global capitalism. Even upmarket events lik e the traditionally genteel Ryder Cup golf contest between Europe and America have erupted in over-heated jingoism. And corporate sponsors and broadcasters alike now have a vested interest in hyping the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry to the limit - and b eyond. Earlier this year, as the two teams faced each other in Australia, their governments were exchanging mutual threats of nuclear annihilation, not to mention actual gunfire in disputed Kashmir. Murdoch, Disney and the soft drinks sponsors saw fit to promote this sporting encounter as "Qayamat" - apocalypse.

Perhaps the crowning irony of the contemporary media-corporate-sport nexus is that it has turned the over-inflated response to national sporting success and failure into a global phenomenon. When the European-based superstars of the Cote D'Ivoire footbal l team - whose yearly income is more than most of their countrymen will earn in a lifetime - performed poorly in the African nations championship, they were incarcerated by the military regime and given lessons in "patriotism".

The mood swings that have long characterised the inner life of the sports fan have been transformed into a public mania, manipulated for commercial and political advantage. One of the pleasures of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, a confessional account of life as a football fan, is that it never forgets that sporting partisanship, the habit of linking one's individual fate to that of a team or performer, is fundamentally absurd. For true sports-lovers, "sport inherent uncertainties" are its deepest att ractions; they are what drove generations of spectators and supporters through the turnstiles. The fan's amour fou has always been tragicomic, but the huge investments and excessive importance now attached to sport are coarsening the drama.

The justification of sport is that it is a harmless diversion, an end in itself. Those forces that subordinate it to other ends (the conquest and exploitation of markets) now threaten to ruin this delightfully trivial, yet somehow infinitely creative, ex ercise of human faculties.

Mike Marqusee is the author of Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties, published by Seagull (Calcutta).

This article is an extended version of an essay that appears in "This Sporting Lie", the latest edition of

the bimonthly London-based magazine.

The perils of global finance

other
C.T. KURIEN

The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman; W.W. Norton, New York, 2000; pages xxii+176, $12.95

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AN international business journal has described this book as "a lucid explanation of how economies work, grow, get into trouble, and - one hopes - get out of it". I am inclined to agree, with one major qualification, though. And that qualification is tha t the description is valid if the work of economies is viewed primarily as a play of finance. I do not blame Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for taking such a view. A great deal of what happened in the s econd half of the 1990s to the economies he has dealt with in this volume certainly was the play of finance. The problem that is dealt with in the book is the disease - the crisis, in fact - that economies that in the 1980s (and many of them even in the first half of the 1990s) were known for their "miracles" came to have in the closing years of the decade. These are the economies of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong in Asia, and Mexico, Brazil and Argentina in Latin Americ a. Krugman's account also touches upon Russia and China. It is the story - Krugman's narrative is exceptionally lucid - of the havoc that global finance played on these economies, all of whom Krugman credits with sound fundamentals, or strong "real" econ omies. The strong point of the book is that Krugman traces in layman's language the rise and fall of these economies, as well as the slow recovery many of them came to have towards the end of the decade. For those who wish to have a bird's eye view of th e miracles and crises of these economies, I have no hesitation in recommending this volume.

Krugman does not, of course, suggest that the problems faced by all these economies were the same. It would be strange to argue that Mexico in 1995 and Japan later in the decade, or Thailand in 1997 and Indonesia fairly soon after, confronted the same or even similar situations. Each crisis had its own specific factors, including mismanagement in some cases, corruption in some, and so on. But Krugman touches upon some common underlying factors.

The first is the fall of communism which, he says, took the heart out of the opposition to capitalism, and, again, according to Krugman, started with the Chinese reforms of 1987. "The fall of communism, by diminishing the perceived threat of radical take -over, made investing outside the safety of the Western world seem less risky than before." And so in the late 1980s and all through the 1990s a lot of capital from the advanced, capitalist countries, including Japan, moved into many Asian countries.

This movement of capital was not, in all cases, meant for long-term investment. This is the second common factor that Krugman identifies - the emergence of hedge funds, one of the most widely known among them being George Soros' Quantum Fund, which speci alise in earning quick and huge profits by taking advantage of changes in the external value of currencies and, indeed, in creating such fluctuations.

A separate chapter is devoted to the manner of operation of hedge funds that those who are not familiar with the phenomenon will find very informative. Hedge funds operate essentially by generating "self-fulfilling speculative attacks". Krugman points ou t that "modern financial markets, by creating many institutions that perform bank-like functions but do not benefit from bank-like safety nets, have in effect reinvented the possibility of traditional financial panics".

The third common factor and, in Krugman's analysis the most important one, is "the return of depression economics", by which he means the kind of demand deficiency that led to the Great Depression in the United States in the early 1930s and that formed t he central theme of Keynesian economics. The post-War achievements of capitalist economies and the frequent appearance of inflation had given the impression that depression economics was a thing of the past. No, says Krugman, using the case of Japan to a rgue the point. It is very much a contemporary phenomenon and emerges in monetised economies which make it possible for people to postpone present consumption: to hold cash instead of spending it.

TAKING these three common factors, Krugman outlines what he calls the trilemma of individual economies in the present-day global context. "There are three things that macro-economic managers want for their economies. They want discretion in monetary poli cy, so that they can fight recessions and curb inflation. They want stable exchange rates, so that businesses are not faced with too much uncertainty. And they want to leave international business free - in particular, to allow people to exchange money h owever they like - in order to get out of the private sector's way ... [But] countries cannot get all three wishes; at most they can get two."

That is bad enough. But what is even worse is that in trying to achieve two, they may invite trouble via the third. Note that this may be the fate even of economies that can claim to have their basics right and strong. Vulnerability is a built-in feature of economies that are open to global finance. "Bad things can happen to good economies," Krugman says rather helplessly.

Of the three policy measures, Krugman's preferred option is the first one - monetary policy affecting interest rates. This is because of his view that "it (the global financial crisis of the 1990s) all started with Japan", and that is true to some extent . Japan was the post-War economic miracle par excellence. No country had ever experienced as stunning an economic transformation as Japan did in the high-growth years from 1953 to 1973. There were predictions during that period that by the year 20 00 Japan would become the world's leading economy. Westerners kept wondering about the secret of Japan's unprecedented growth, and business schools in the U.S. and elsewhere started training students in Japanese management practices, believing that Japan had a superior form of capitalism.

The fundamentals of the Japanese economy were exceptionally sound. Japanese goods, especially automobiles and consumer durables, entered all countries, mainly the U.S. In the early 1990s Japan started buying real estate all over the world.

But a slump set in fairly soon. It started as a recession, a "growth recession", that is, a rate of growth not sufficient to make use of the increase in capacity that is generated. The standard (Keynesian) remedy for such situations is to stimulate deman d through increase in money supply, reduction in interest rates and so on. Krugman faults Japan's central bankers for not pursuing such policies in their anxiety to protect the value of the yen. Also, there was an increase in taxation early in 1997 to co ntain the growing fiscal deficit. And, sure enough, the economy plunged into recession. Soon the recession was passed on to other Asian economies as well.

THERE is some substance in Krugman's analysis of the Japanese and Asian crises. He is also right in pointing out that the contractionist policy that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prescribed for the Asian economies during their crises was wrong an d counter-productive. Krugman also makes the general point that when there is a demand failure the market by itself cannot solve the problem; public intervention of some sort is absolutely necessary.

It may also be conceded that demand failure that occurs from time to time is a systemic feature of capitalism and, in that sense, whether there is a global Great Depression around the corner or not (rather unlikely, it seems to me, though financial crise s and crashes are bound to occur even in unexpected situations) depression economics must be taken seriously.

Krugman's analysis has two drawbacks. He is aware of the first one. While expansionist policies may be necessary in some instances of financial crisis, that may not be the right remedy in other situations. Frequently, interventions to prevent a capital f light (however unpalatable it may appear) constitute the proper remedy. Krugman admits that that is what helped Malaysia to turn around. More important, he admits that regulation of capital movement is what prevented the big Chinese economy from experien cing a financial crisis. Other economies, such as that of Brazil, succeeded by letting their currencies find their own level.

The second drawback is more fundamental, relating to the manner in which Krugman interprets deficiency of demand as a problem of capitalism. He interprets it solely as a deficiency of consumer spending resulting from the decision of consumers to postpone spending to the future. That, of course, can and frequently does turn out to be a problem, and expansionist monetary policy may succeed in dealing with it. However, capitalism's chronic deficiency of demand arises because private investors fail to inves t adequately when future prospects are not bright from their point of view.

This happens not because socially useful investment opportunities do not exist, but because investments may not provide the kind of profits private investors desire. Such lack of confidence appears often when investors fear that the good performance of a n economy cannot be sustained for long. This is the problem that early critics of capitalism, Karl Marx in particular, featured. Capital moves from one country to another, thus becoming global, in search of "emerging markets" and profitable opportunities of investment. And when profits in the real sectors of the economy tend to diminish, speculation becomes more attractive and capital takes the form of finance which can move about much more quickly.

Krugman glides over these basic features of capitalism and relies on a modified version of Keynesian economics. Keynes himself had indicated that there may be situations where investment may fail to be stimulated by monetary policies and low interest reg imes (the "liquidity trap") even in the short run. So, to expect the problems caused by global capitalism and the innate problems of capitalism to be remedied by expansionist economic policies is rather naive. Krugman does not even acknowledge that a dee per level of analysis is necessary to understand the frequent crises of capitalism, including their recent manifestations.

Hindutva at play

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Arvind Rajagopal graduated from Madras University and from the School of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1998, he is an Associate Professor at New York University.

In an interview with Darryl D'Monte in Mumbai recently, Arvind Rajgopal spoke about his forthcoming book, Politics after Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Indian Public (Cambridge University Press, New York, January 200 1). The book examines the impact of the screening of the Ramayan serial on Doordarshan in the late 1980s on Indian society.

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In 1992, he co-authored Mapping Hegemony: CBS Coverage of the United Mineworkers' Strike 1977-78. The title refers to a strike which ushered in the Reagan era and underlines Rajagopal's analysis of the mass media as an instrument for fashioning po litical participation based on consumer choice.

In the 1990s, Rajagopal studied the interface between three seemingly disparate elements: economic liberalisation, the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and the role of the mass media. Just as the market treats society as a single, undifferentiated and homoge neous entity, the forces of Hindutva see the Indian people as a vast mass which is waiting to find, or rediscover, its common culture and identity. The catalyst in the process was television. Although Ramanand Sagar's epic was screened by Doordarshan, it spawned several variants in regional languages as the state monopoly over television was withdrawn. The telecast of the Ramayan was the precursor of the Ram Janambhoomi movement which in turn saw the ascendancy of the BJP to the status of the sin gle largest party. Rajagopal also points to the difference in the way the regional language media and the English language press treated the epic. Currently, Rajagopal is studying how Indian society is changing with the penetration of market forces into new areas of public life.

What arguments or events does your book seek to explain?

In January 1987, the Indian government began broadcasting a Hindu epic in serial form, the Ramayan, to nationwide audiences on a regular basis. This violated a decades-old taboo on religious partisanship, and Hindu nationalists made the most of th e opportunity. What resulted was perhaps the largest campaign in post-Independence times, irrevocably changing the complexion of Indian politics. The telecast of a religious epic to popular acclaim created the sense of a nation coming together, seeming t o confirm the idea of Hindu awakening. But if audiences thought they were harking back to a golden age, key Hindu nationalist leaders were embracing the prospects of neo-liberalism and globalisation. Eventually what became clear was that the nation was f irst and foremost a coalition of contending castes, creeds, and classes, even if Hindu nationalists came to power. In my book, I explain how these very different events can be understood in terms of a political terrain changed by the advent of television and liberalisation. Hence, Politics After Television.

Why the focus on media? What is the justification for a book like this appearing at this time, so long after the events?

It is generally acknowledged that the introduction of national television, and the televising of the Hindu epics in particular, have led to irreversible changes in Indian society. Most people agree that the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party on the one h and, and the spread of liberalisation on the other, are both linked to the new prominence of the media. In my book I have tried to understand precisely how these three factors are related. I have approached this topic through the event of the Ramayan serial.

Battle scenes in a tele-epic were seen as models for Hindu militancy, and at the same time, the serial itself began to echo themes from the movement. A new historical conjuncture was in formation. There was, for a while, the feeling of a great clarity ab out the character and causes of social problems and the nature of their solution. What drew little attention, in the process, was the prominence of the media itself. As facilitator rather than prime mover, television enabled a new order of social connect ivity. For the first time there was a visual medium that extended across the country, and stood for the nation, in some sense.

We have begun to take for granted the presence of Hindu imagery in public life, and the association of such themes with majority political power. But it was in this period (roughly, 1987-93) that it took shape. A new public language emerged, one that was more intimate to a section of the population and intimidating to the rest. It resonated with themes of collective empowerment, albeit in ominous ways. This was of course not simply owing to the broadcast of some television programmes. To attribute causa lity to television in this way does little more than confirm our own fascination with its power. What was important was that the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign echoed some of the serial's key themes, and went on to offer both a socio-political critique and a s olution, however limited these were. And while television created the awareness, it was the press that most helped advance the movement's cause. Specifically, it was the cultural differences between the Hindi and the English press, cultivated and manipul ated by the BJP, that created both sympathy for the movement, and the friction necessary for its ascent.

Although the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign harked back to a putatively golden age, it was also an attempt to bring the spheres of economy, culture and politics into closer alignment with each other. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders described it as a way of bringing the uneducated masses into the national mainstream, and of instilling the discipline necessary for liberalisation. Now, liberalisation is conventionally understood by the Left as a transfer of power to the rich, and by the Right as democr atisation. The Right's view is exaggerated, but should not be completely dismissed. In fact, the BJP used Hindutva to expand political participation at the expense of minorities, to extend its base, while carrying out economic reforms that reduced the pr otections available to the poor.

We tend to look for a linear relationship between events such as the serialisation of the Ramayana epic and the rise of Hindu nationalism, but you clearly do not point to a direct cause and effect?

Causal models may be linear, but real historical processes tend to be non-linear. Unless we can detail what actually happened, we may exaggerate the causal force of one element, which is arbitrarily designated as the first element in the chain of events. The Ramayan serial was initiated by a professedly leftist Secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, S.S. Gill. Apparently Rajiv Gandhi expressed reservations about the departure from a secular policy, but Gill reassured him saying t his was a national epic. Once the serial started drawing mass audiences, that was considered ample answer to critics. You had the Congress government broadcasting the serial in the backdrop of certain happenings such as the Muslim Women's bill, drawn up after the Shah Bano case, and the opening of the Babri Masjid in 1986. Once the Congress realised that the serial was a success, it sought to make political capital out of it. But eventually it was the BJP that was able to profit by it - their party's 'b rand identification' with it was stronger and they had fewer inhibitions about playing the Hindu card.

In the serial itself, there were plenty of battle scenes, but for the most part, it was extremely slow and devotional in emphasis. If you talked to viewers, what they spoke about most often had to do with the virtues of Ram Rajya, as they saw it - the ki nd of feelings between a king and his subjects, between father and son and so on - that were thought to have existed before and had now vanished. It was very much harking back to a lost utopia. If it was originally meant to be cultural or political propa ganda, its impact was precisely the opposite: it served to remind people of all the drawbacks of today's age. This was another interruption in any straight line of causality. It was the BJP that was able to yoke this simmering discontent to their own pol itical criticism of the Congress party and the Babri Masjid issue.

Was the discontent with what you term the 'developmentalist' state, established through the Nehruvian consensus, encapsulated in the BJP's critique of its secularist policies?

Yes, all these elements came together. The perceived failure of the state to protect Hindu culture was of a piece with its failure to liberate market forces. The repressed energy of society, which was Hinduism, was equated with the repressed energy of en trepreneurial forces under the Nehruvian state.

Both these were somehow going to be released simultaneously in an outburst of Hindu creativity and prosperity. It is by no means coincidental that the BJP draws the bulk of its support from trading and smaller industrial classes. In the Gujarat Navnirman movement which led up to the Emergency, they were at the forefront.

It was about the time of the serialisation that the BJP began to be perceived by the English-language press and by big business as a likely replacement for the Congress. This involved a departure from its own traditional base of the trading classes, and now one can see some of that conflict, where these segments are not satisfied while certain others are. There was the idea that the BJP could come to power as a strong nationalist party to undertake ruthless action of the kind the Congress was never able to. Suddenly the BJP became the party of liberalisation, although until a few years earlier it had no economic policy except to follow in the wake of the Congress itself - Gandhian socialism, planned economy, and so on. It has not been appreciated suffi ciently why it is that the BJP alone of all the parties, has insisted on commemorating the Emergency. They gained the most from it by far. The RSS at this time became the organisation of the national opposition, thanks in part to Jayaprakash Narayan. For the first time, they were able to transcend their narrow base and go beyond the stultifying routine of shakha. With most national leaders in jail, they opened themselves to popular forces, and even tasted the fruits of their endeavours, in 1977. The period of the Emergency is quite critical in understanding how the Hindu Right has changed, but it has barely been studied. An effective national rallying theme was realised again with Ram Janmabhoomi, which brought a range of issues and groups toge ther. Once again, they were able to go far beyond their traditional trader class base, winning the confidence of sections of big business and the urban middle classes as well. In fact, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) formed the majority of the kar seva ks, pointing to the BJP's success in using Hindu themes while going beyond their previous bania base. It was in the wake of the BJP's rise that the lower castes began to assert themselves decisively, changing the balance of power in northern India. Event ually, the chief legacy of the Hindu nationalists may have been not upper caste domination so much as the introduction of methods that helped politicise such domination. What emerged was an era of more competitive politics, and more fluid electoral align ments and the realisation that no single party could any longer dominate the country. The BJP's attempt to establish sovereignty thus resulted, paradoxically, in the implosion of its claims about an undivided Hindu national family. I suggest that if we d o not understand the mechanisms through which the BJP advanced, namely through markets and the media, we cannot understand this paradoxical fallout.

So let us get back to the media. The market began to become liberalised after 1985 and more decisively since 1991. The serialisation of the epic began when the media was state-controlled but television was freed later on. Was there a convergence of t hese two forces?

The process began with the broadcast of the Asian Games in 1982 and continued with commercially sponsored serials. S.S. Gill, who tried to introduce developmental soap operas, brought in Hum Log; he did not want to abandon the government's mission of information and education. But the experiment was an utter flop because the sponsors did not want to underwrite such things. The pro-social aspect was jettisoned and it was continued as a family sit-com. The developmental component was carried over into the mythological serials, where it found its most lasting desi vehicle. Essentially what Ramanand Sagar did was to reformulate the Ramayan serial as a kind of parable about the nation state, projected back into the distant past. India was seen as always having pro-development rulers who were uplifting the lower castes, women in distress and so on. It endorsed the idealised view of Ram Rajya. Vedic sacrifices and rituals were s hown as scientific research and experiments undertaken for national defence. The rishis' weapons were described as nuclear missiles used for the benefit of the nation state. Many ideas about the modern national security state were carried back in time.

From my own interviews with the serial's viewers, this description of Hindu society was considered plausible. Here was Hindu modernity taking shape, whose fulfilment was being prevented by various latter-day avatars of the rakshasas - mainly politicians. The Ramayan serial was brought out at an extremely propitious time: there was state monopoly of television, one national channel. Everybody watched that or nothing else. During this smal l window of opportunity, this experimentation took place which succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of its progenitors. The sense of a Hindu civilisation which could be readied for a modern age came to inhabit the intimate spaces of daily life, with familiar ideas people could engage with. That a political party could take it up as a national campaign seemed a natural progression. Something very important happened in the course of this media development, once liberalisation occurred and state monop oly over TV was no longer maintained. You had the regularisationof the format of the mythological soap opera, which then branches off into regional channels - you have Tamil, Telugu variants. A new genre was carved out, which had not existed before, whic h forms a spectrum in the political and cultural life of the country. This has survived despite liberalisation.

You do not see any opposition between liberalisation, which represents modernisation and westernisation, and this kind of regression?

Opposition, contradiction and paradox are all politically creative energies that can be utilised. In fact, it is the lack of contradiction that would be worrisome for those who wish to mobilise popular energies. After all, what on earth did the demolitio n of a 16th century monument have to do with going into the 21st century? The Hindu nationalist party never lost sight of the fact that its audience was highly divided and had to be addressed in different languages and intonations. Advani, addressing vil lages, would say: "Ram Janambhoomi is not a political matter, it is religious; we want to restore the temple of Ram to its former glory." In the capital, he would say: "I am not a religious man, this is entirely a political issue; I am a secular person i n fact. There has been a misunderstanding of the concept of secularism and this is what we wish to correct." Astonishingly, the press never caught him out. It says a great deal about the kind of news routines that had been established, the editorial prac tices specifically in the English language press, and the mutual misunderstanding in the relationship between it and the vernacular press. This was accurately perceived and utilised by the BJP.

Were some of the visual symbols used in the serials carried forward in the rath yatra?

When the shila yatras were carried out, kar sevaks would actually dress like Ram and Lakshman in the TV serial. Party meetings would have painted backdrops with this iconography. The rath yatra itself resembled the kind of chariot we saw on TV. Repeatedl y, Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP leaders like Ashok Singhal thanked Ramanand Sagar, who appeared at VHP conclaves. Interestingly, Gill revealed that Sagar and he were part of the same intellectual circle in Lahore. Sagar was seen to be secular and t hat was why he gave him the brief. Gill was critical of the serial and blamed political parties for making capital out of it.

There were some contentious reformulations in the serial which were clearly political. For instance, Ram carries around a clod of earth - we do not see this till way into the serial. At Chitrakoot, he suddenly pulls this bundle out of his waistband and p laces it on the mantlepiece in his hut and prays to it, hailing the sacred soil of the Janambhoomi. This is not found in Valmiki or Tulsidas. This is a solitary prayer that he enacts, which is highly unusual because all the rest are group rituals. This i s something between Ram and his birthplace, echoing the new individualist imagery and rhetoric that the VHP crafted with a specific end in mind: that only by plucking Ram out of the pantheon he belongs to can he inspire others to follow his individual pa th. These interpolations clearly echoed the VHP's campaign. You had Morari Bapu (the well-known religious speaker), in the videotapes of the serial at any rate, saying things like: "Pichhle zamana me, yudh me dharm tha; aur aaj kal, dharm me yudh aa g aya" (In the old era, religion entered war; now war has entered religion). He would repeat this three or four times, without further elaboration. This seemed to resonate with the idea that the Hindu religion was at war with Islam. There were various things in the serial which seemed to reiterate the themes of the VHP's campaigns.

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Do you see a geographical divide in the kind of Hindu mobilisation that has taken place? The hard core of the Ram Janambhoomi movement was largely restricted to northern and western India, exempting the south?

There were a large number of kar sevaks from Andhra at Ayodhya. The Ramayan serial was the first to achieve record viewership across the country, cutting across language and regional divides. The bulk of the mobilisation did happen in the cow-belt . But I think the Ramayan serial and others that followed it laid the basis for the kind of mobilisation that the BJP has been able to achieve today. In 1994, for instance, there was a mahila sammelan in Delhi which had tens of thousands of partic ipants from southern India as well.

Muslim viewers of the serial whom I interviewed would say that it is just entertainment - natak. They would point to inconsistencies in the story. Some also said: "Look at Ram Rajya and see how awful things are today." There was a wider range of r esponse among Muslims. The Hindu Right would always argue that the fact that Muslims watched the serial was proof that it was not communal. There are religious broadcasts elsewhere in the world but they do not have the same charge as they do here. The hi story of Hindu-Muslim relations is unique in that respect, taken together with the secular dispensation that we had. I do not know of a parallel to this sequence of events.

In what precise ways are you distinguishing your study from others on the subject?

I argue that Hindutva in the late 1980s and early 1990s is quite different from its earlier incarnations, and that understanding the nature of this difference is essential in coming to terms with the new terrain of politics. It has actually been argued, in some recent scholarship, that recent Hindutva represents an expansion of political space, and that it helped usher in globalisation. I tend to agree. But we must also specify the mechanisms through which this change has occurred, namely, through force s of the market and the media. These are the more enduring bases of the change. Without locating these conditions, we cannot grasp the paradox of Hindutva. Specifically, its combination of authoritarian politics and expanding popular participation. This points to new methods of political mobilisation, and television both symbolises this change and casts light on it.

A great force for good

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In the midst of spiralling violence, Neelan Tiruchelvam held steadfast to the cardinal principle of his political faith - non-violence. He was deeply distressed by the intolerance and increasing violence within Tamil society.

V. SURYANARAYAN

Why is this age worse than earlier ages? In a stupor of grief and dread have we not fingered the foulest wounds and left them unhealed by our hands? - Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet.

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NEELAN TIRUCHELVAM quoted these moving lines in the Sri Lankan Parliament on November 16, 1998. Neelan was participating in the budget debate and was highlighting the sharp regional disparities and inequities in Sri Lankan society. While the economy of t he south, despite the indirect effects of the war, had a sustained growth rate of more than 6 per cent, in the north 90 per cent of the people lived below the poverty line. The majority of them were dependent on government doles and relief programmes. Un employment in the Jaffna peninsula stood at 60 per cent, and, according to Neelan, "30 per cent of the population lives on the one meal a day". He described the tragic predicament of Sri Lanka by quoting the Russian poet again:

All has been taken away; strength and love My body, cast into an unloved city... And only conscience, more terribly each day rages, demanding vast tribute. For answer, I hide my face in my hands... But I have run out of tears and excuses.

Twelve months have elapsed since the passing of Neelan Tiruchelvam. The ugly and cruel deed of a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber snuffed out the life of a great personality who represented all that was noble and great in human civi lisation. Imbued with visionary idealism, Neelan unceasingly worked "to take the bitterness out of the ethnic divide and to heal history's wounds". As Malini Parthasarathy wrote in her tribute in The Hindu, "The Tamil political spectrum, which has been subjected to the LTTE's devastating annihilation tactics, has become much poorer with the stifling of the community's democratic conscience."

I first met Neelan Tiruchelvam in early 1983, and after that pleasant encounter I used to call on him whenever I visited Colombo. He showed unfailing courtesy and my discussions with him enabled me to have fresh insights into Sri Lankan society and polit ics. In measured words, in a persuasive manner, he always expressed hope, despite the terrible tragedy that had befallen the island. With his vast knowledge of comparative politics, he used to draw interesting parallels and point out how in similar situa tions other countries had tried to solve ethnic imbroglios. He often brought to my notice new books and articles. In mid-1985, Neelan asked me to read Golden Threads, authored by President J. R. Jayewardene (J.R.) and published by the Sri Lankan G overnment. Unfortunately, this publication has not received from the Sri Lanka specialists the attention that it deserves.

The book is interesting because it throws light on Jayewardene - the man and his mission. The book, which claims "to be a sketch of the history of our land", is divided into three parts. The first part deals with post-544 B.C. up to A.D. 1815. According to Mahavamsa, Prince Vijaya came to the island in 544 B.C. and the Kandyan kings surrendered their sovereignty to Britain in A.D. 1815. By beginning the island's history with the arrival of Prince Vijaya, Jayewardene completely blacks out the earl ier rich history of the country; he also pushes to the margins Tamils and other minority groups who have no "mythic charter" of their presence. Nor does Jayewardene consider 1948, the year in which Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was granted Independence, as a l andmark. More interesting, the third part begins with the United National Party (UNP) coming to power and Jayewardene becoming the Prime Minister in 1977.

Throughout the book, Sri Lanka and the Sinhala nation are used to convey the same idea. Jayewardene projects Sri Lankan Tamils as intruders who disturbed the peace and harmony of the island. The book states: "In the first quarter of the thirteenth centur y from South India came the Magha - the tiger. The wasteland that he created became the kingdom of the malaria, the domain of the anopheles breeding prodigiously in the dark stagnant waters of the great irrigation works." Jayewardene did not displ ay even an iota of sympathy for the minority groups, who became victims of communal riots, which became regular events in the post-Independence period. He referred to terrorism thus: "A world phenomenon raised its ugly head in the North and the East and some Tamils joined them to press for separation. In 1980 these activities increased and the killing of the Sinhala security forces in the North in 1983 was followed by Sinhala-Tamil riots throughout the island." By equating Tamil grievances and the resul tant violence with terrorism, Jayewardene clearly proved that he was not a neutral, non-sectarian head of state. When the communal holocaust took place in July 1983 - a "dark night of the collective soul" as Jonathan Spencer rightly described it - Jayewa rdene failed not only to express any sympathy for the victims but to condemn the lumpen sections of the Sinhalese population that ran amok in the Tamil areas of Colombo.

On another occasion, dealing specifically with Jayewardene's role in the exacerbation of the ethnic conflict, Neelan Tiruchelvam pointed out that J. R. could have easily entered into serious discussions with the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) soon after the massive victory of the United National Party (UNP) in the 1977 elections. The manifesto of the UNP had spelt out in a fair manner the accumulated grievances of the Tamils. The party held out the promise that if voted to power it would convene an all-party conference to find an amicable solution to the ethnic issue. Unfortunately, Jayewardene failed to take the initiative and the island slowly but steadily drifted into a quagmire. Neelan pointed out that J. R. recognised his failure to take de cisive action towards the resolution of the national question as his "biggest disappointment". Participating in the debate in Parliament on a resolution condoling the death of Jayewardene on November 19, 1996, Neelan referred to two incidents to substant iate his point. He quoted from a letter Jayewardene had written to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1987. He wrote: "It is a pity, of course, that the realism and pragmatism that contributed to the evolution of the constitutional setting for nati onal political life in a plural society did not come earlier. But my sorrow is tempered by the realisation that the very bitterness of the fruit has taught us the lesson." In another context, immediately after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, reporters asked him why he had not moved more rapidly. He replied candidly: "It is a lack of courage on my part, a lack of intelligence on my part, a lack of foresight on my part."

We used to discuss frequently India's role in the ethnic conflict. Neelan had great admiration and respect for G. Parthasarathy, his negotiating skills and, above all, his deep knowledge of the complexities of the problem. G.P. developed a "special relat ionship" with TULF leaders. During the Indira Gandhi era, New Delhi's Sri Lanka policy was based on the premise that since the TULF was the elected representative of the Tamils, it should be encouraged to negotiate with Colombo. Neelan used to refer to f requent dialogue with G.P., when he used to counsel that the Tamil stance "should be guided by internally consistent principles and not on the expediency of the moment". Given the Sinhalese fears of any federal arrangement, G.P. used to impress on the Ta mil leaders that the "substance of the Tamil demands would need to be woven into a scheme without the emotive content or the terminology which could trigger Sinhala resistance."

The unit of devolution remained, as it remains even now, a ticklish issue and an exasperated G.P. decided to make a direct appeal to Jayewardene. Neelan referred to a meeting G.P. had with J.R. on August 6, 1983 "in the company of Thondaman and one other leader" (was it Neelan?). G.P. presented the case for a larger unit of devolution. "It would result in an augmentation of power and resources. Tamils would need to be offered a package of proposals which seem a reasonable alternative to their demand.

Jayewardene seemed tired and exhausted. He listened to the presentations without comment. He seemed listless and it was not clear whether he had absorbed any of the points made. As the meeting ended and the delegation descended down the wrought-iron stai rcase at the President's house, G.P. observed reassuringly: "I am 73, Thondaman is 70, but the old man upstairs is in his eighties. Age must take its inevitable toll." Jayewardene, however, remained enigmatic. He had in fact followed the arguments and ag reed next morning to the creation of Provincial Councils."

From the point of view of India-Sri Lanka relations, it was unfortunate that the Rajiv Gandhi-Romesh Bhandari team sidelined G.P. That had disastrous consequences. The badge of legitimacy which the TULF had was removed by New Delhi and the recalcitrant T amil militants were frogmarched to Thimphu. And, as expected, the militants put forward unreasonable demands. The Thimphu talks ended in failure.

Another point deserves mention. G.P. was deeply sensitive to the fact that a Sinhala consensus was an essential pre-requisite for any lasting solution. Otherwise the competitive Sinhala politics would vitiate the issue. The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord failed t o address this basic question. While one section of the government led by Jayewardene and Gamini Dissanayake supported the Accord, another, and equally powerful, section, led by Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa and National Security Minister Lalith At hulathmudali, did everything to sabotage it. Without a Sinhala consensus the Accord itself became a source of discord in Sri Lanka.

Neelan Tiruchelvam used to point out that the India-Sri Lanka Accord was in many ways a continuation and an improvement on Annexure C. It endeavoured to provide a "conceptual framework for the resolution of the ethnic conflict and to outline institutiona l arrangements for the sharing of power between the Sinhala and the Tamil communities." What is more, the Accord declared that Sri Lanka was "a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual plural society" consisting of the Sinhalese, the Tamils and Muslims. It further recognised that the North and the East "had been areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking population." Neelan underlined the fact that these features had important "ideological significance in framing the policies of bilingualism, the provin cial council scheme and the temporary merger of the northern and eastern provinces as the unit of devolution."

Neelan often referred to the fact that the Provincial Council system did not bring about a change in the unitary character of the state. He further highlighted the point that the Centre was vested with the power to "determine national policy on all subje cts and functions", which enabled it, under the guise of protecting national policy, to make legislative inroads into the sphere devolved to the provinces under the provincial list or the Concurrent List."

The Provincial Council of the North-East had only a short life of 17 months: November 1988 to March 1990. It lacked financial resources. What is more, by "disingenuous mechanisms" such as characterising a subject as coming within the purview of "national policy", central authority was re-established in agrarian services and on the national transport corporation. Education was a devolved subject, but by characterising a school as a "national school", it could be brought under Colombo's control. The Presi dent also established Divisional Secretariats (which were under the control of the Centre) and they undermined the Provincial Councils. According to Bradman Weerakoon, former Presidential Adviser, a Divisional Secretariat acted as a government agency rig ht to the grassroots, which made any kind of power devolved to the Provincial Councils ineffective. In his inaugural address to the India-Sri Lanka Consultation on Devolution, Constitutional Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris admitted: "In fact, we have no devolution at all, decentralisation yes, local government yes, devolution no."

It is well-known that the devolution proposals suggested by the Chandrika Kumaratunga government had the full backing and support of Neelan Tiruchelvam. In fact, he has made his own contribution in fine-tuning some of the important provisions. He repeate dly pleaded for a bipartisan approach, so that the proposals did not get entangled in competitive Sinhala politics. As Prof. Peiris pointed out a few days ago, "Neelan was a source of stability and assurance, a solid anchor in the turbulent seas around u s. The gusts, the tempests were all around us, and there he was, offering assurance, stability, order. That is the great force for good which this country has lost irretrievably and forever."

In the midst of spiralling violence, Neelan held steadfast to the cardinal principle of his political faith - non-violence. He was deeply distressed by the intolerance and increasing violence within Tamil society. He wrote poignantly: "As the political l eaders committed to constitutional means were marginalised, Tamil militancy grew. It was even asserted by some that the violence of the victim was on a different moral plane from that of the oppressor. This was a dangerous doctrine, for the violence of t he victim soon consumed the victim, and the victim also became possessed by the demons of racial bigotry and intolerance which had characterised the oppressor. These are seen in the fratricidal violence between Tamils and Muslims, in the massacres at the Kathankudy mosque, in Welikanda and Medirigiya, and in the forcible expulsion of Muslims in the Jaffna and Mannar districts." In his last speech in Parliament on June 15, 1999, Neelan declared: "We cannot glorify death whether in the battlefield or othe rwise. We, on the other hand, must celebrate life and are fiercely committed to protecting and securing the sanctity of life, which is the most fundamental value without which all other rights and freedoms become meaningless."

Neelan Tiruchelvam was a superb seminarist and was an effective communicator. For those in the academic profession, he was a role model. The words of T. S. Eliot in Four Quartets aptly describe Neelan's communicative skills:

Every phrase and sentence that is right Where every word is at home Taking its place to support the others, The word neither diffident nor ostentatious An easy commerce of the old and the new, The common word exact without vulgarity, The formal word precise but not pedantic, The complete consort dancing together Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning.

Professor V. Suryanarayan is former Director, Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras, Chennai.

Post-Nandankanan dilemmas

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The Nandankanan tiger deaths highlight the need for a total reform of zoos in India and indeed a change in people's attitude to nature.

BITTU SAHGAL

THE irony of poisoning the zoo environment to save the inmates of the zoos seems to be lost on zookeepers in India. Having come to the debatable conclusion that the tigers in the Nandankanan zoo in Orissa died, on one cataclysmic day, of trypanosomiasis (and not because the Berenil injections may have been either faulty or faultily administered, without prior blood tests, or that inbreeding may have lowered the tigers' immunity), the zookeepers are on the verge of turning hundreds of zoos in the country into toxic hotspots (Frontline, August 4, 2000).

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The zookeepers, who met recently, appear to have decided to spray a combination of the world's most lethal organochlorines and organophosphates in and around cages, on plants visited by birds and insects, and even on the grain and other food items that t he animals eat. This, they believe, will help prevent disease-spreading flies from infecting the animals. That it could simultaneously damage their endocrine systems and endanger workers and visitors to zoos, including children, has simply not occurred t o them.

These are typical knee-jerk reactions of technical and administrative authorities who find themselves in the media spotlight after decades of cover-ups, mismanagement and apathy. Most other post-Nandankanan solutions suffer similar infirmities, which ste m from a lack of accountability. But this is par for the course; even the special committee that was sent by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to Nandankanan turned out to be a damp squib, with its leader P.R. Sinha, Member-Secretary of the Zoo Aut hority of India (ZAI), stating on July 8 that "The expert committee is not here to conduct any probe but to ensure that measures be taken for better management of the zoo in future." Predictably, zoo officials, not people from non-governmental organisati ons (NGOs), constituted the majority on the committee. Little, therefore, will change from within. And the circumstances that led to the death of 12 tigers recently in Nandankanan will continue to prevail unless radical reform is forced on the system.

Take just one issue, that of overpopulation in the zoos. Virtually every Indian zoo is guilty on this count; most zookeepers measure their own success by the number of births they are able to claim (No one publicises zoo deaths). It has time and again be en pointed out to zoo managers that such overcrowding is a prescription for disaster, but they accepted this fact only when the world media battered them over the Nandankanan deaths.

Now, the authorities of the Nandankanan zoo, who overbred the much-sought-after white tigers in order to exchange them for more exotic wild animals from other zoos, are falling over their feet to give their surviving white tigers away.

But other zoos in India are equally overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded. Sending big cats to them is unlikely to improve their condition. What the zoos need to do instead is to stop altogether exhibiting large and endangered animals such as lions, tigers, elephants and primates behind bars.

But this is not to suggest that zoo facilities be closed down. On the contrary, the suggestion is to improve them to a stage where zoos become true nature orientation centres and botanical parks, with all modern facilities and some incidental live animal exhibits to supplement film shows, slide-illustrated talks, nature trails and orientation camps. This would serve two cut purposes:

1. Real nature education: Currently zoos in the country do not perform this service. Asking children to see animals kept behind bars and calling this nature education is no better than sending children to city jails to educate them about crime.

2. Basic animal welfare: By having fewer animals and more space and money to look after them, inevitably the welfare of animals would improve vastly.

So what needs to be done about Indian zoos?

Some people even suggest euthanising sick and diseased animals. Biologists and naturalists in the country, including this writer, suggest instead that a policy of "no recruitment" be instituted for animals already incarcerated in zoos. This involves a sl ow reduction in the population of captive animals over the next 15 years (the average lifetime of most cats, for instance). As a matter of policy, zoo keepers should prevent births and desist from acquiring new animals to replace those that die with such abnormal frequency. With this straightforward strategy in place, 90 per cent of the problems would be solved without any additional expense and with dramatically reduced trauma to the suffering animals.

Obviously, such changed directions will need serious discussion and public pressure, which alone can change the mandate of zoos. The expertise of the very best zookeepers and veterinarians is needed to supervise the downsizing. Such welcome directions ha ve the best chance to succeed if all those concerned with wildlife and animal welfare agree to work on a common agenda of downsizing, even if they disagree on the broader canvas of the raison d'etre of zoos. As of now, virtually no biologists or e ven zoo keepers disagree on the pathetic state of the zoo system in the country. They also agree that entertaining humans is no longer an acceptable raison d'etre of zoos or circuses.

IN days gone by monarchs suffered no qualms or pressures from public opinion. They freely created menageries and pleasure gardens, stocked to the brim with exotic creatures. In their favour it might be added that at least there was no hypocrisy about the m. The animals were there, plain and simple, for the pleasure of humans, to entertain them and to imbue them with power over tooth and claw. Tickets were sold to the public to watch animals kill animals. This evolved into an unparalleled blood sport when , in the most "civilised" country in the world, Romans began to throw Christians to the lions.

Slowly, with the advent of scientific exploration, the idea of using captive facilities to expand human acquaintance with the animal world began to alter the purpose of such barbaric zoos. Towards the end of the 20th century, when the loss of wild habita ts became a frightening reality, many zoos volunteered to set up special breeding centres, "Animal Arks" of sorts, to prevent the extinction of wild species.

Some of these efforts have been markedly successful. These include the breeding of gharial crocodiles (ex-situ) from eggs collected from the wild for reintroduction into rivers in India where they can develop (in-situ). The same was done in the case of the American bald eagle and the California Condors. Efforts to reintroduce the Arabian oryx have also met with worldwide approval. Using similar strategies, the International Crane Foundation has nurtured endangered crane populations back to relative security in Asia.

Experts, however, point out that nothing can replace the protection of wild habitats as a strategy to prevent species extinction. This is where it should be possible for all to work together, but sadly that is not the case. Not enough money was ever allo cated to zoos, not even to the Delhi Zoo, which is under the direct care of the ZAI and should have been the example for all other zoos to follow.

Forest officers saw appointments to zoo as punishment postings. The inherent inability of the system to punish government officers, even when caught red-handed, has allegedly encouraged some zoo employees to divert medicines and food meant for animals. W hen you add hardcore insensitivity to the rights of animals in the millions of visitors for whom chimps and tigers are no more than a diversion from a family picnic you have a prescription for disaster - which is what all Indian zoos are today.

Instead of working together, therefore, one see the spectacle of pro- and anti-zoo people slugging it out in the press and at workshops and conferences. As accusations are exchanged, the animals whose best interests both sides claim to represent die in l arge numbers.

Sally Walker, a respected zoo professional and an ardent proponent of rational zoo reform, with whom I have had long and inconclusive discussions, says: "For a variety of reasons, Indian zoos... have not been able to construct a workable, systematic and scientific species management plan for endangered species. Instead, every year or two a list of species is drawn up in a zoo directors' meeting and different zoos are asked to regularise sex ratios, make pairs and separate related animals. However enthus iastic the zoo directors may be, when they return to their zoos they are unable to organise most of these exchanges. The bureaucracy attached to each institution is so complex and the understanding of the bureaucrats so poor that few animals have been ex changed which would forward the conservation of their species."

I also wrote to several experts around the world about the dilemma that India faces post-Nandankanan. The response from Dan Wharton, a dedicated wildlife expert with New York's Bronx Zoo best encapsulates their advice: "Zoos require enormous commitment a nd support from the community that maintains them. If the proper level of commitment and support is not there, the community and certainly the animals are better off with no zoo."

Most experts agree that deep-rooted chauvinism of almost any kind directed at virtually any source could result in serious long-term problems and must therefore be tackled quickly and effectively. Minority rights groups of all descriptions, often at grea t cost to themselves, consequently engage in daily battles against the tide of public practice. It is such battles that define the kind of societies we live in and the kind of people our children will grow up to become.

As a general rule, people who stand up for the unempowered tend to be sensitive and courageous, almost visionary. Strangely, however, even some of the most sensitive humans seem not to recognise the chauvinism inherent in their own attitudes towards anim als.

At the risk of entering the realm of the abstract, I wonder sometimes what it is about human beings that leads us to believe that we are not a part and parcel of nature. What, for instance, makes us shrink with horror at the thought of inflicting cruelty on other humans, while simultaneously condoning unspeakable brutality on animals?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word cruel suggests being: indifferent to, delighting in, another's pain or distress. No zookeeper in India sees himself or herself in such light, nor do the millions of people who visit zoos and poke, prod , feed, disturb and otherwise torture wild animals that have been robbed of their fight-or-flight response.

When I was a child I did love going to the zoo and to the circus. I mistakenly imagined that the animals were having as much fun as I was. I had not known that spears were used to move tigers from cage to cage, that both zoo and circus animals are beaten as a matter of routine that captive animals are treated like rugs, to be replaced when worn out. This is not the kind of lessons I would like any child to be exposed to; nor, I imagine, would even the most ardent zookeepers.

I would plead, therefore, for a national consensus on zoos. Every urban zoo is a valuable green lung for the city. The problems of overcrowding could be easily solved which would in turn help us focus our financial resources better. With imagination and sensitivity, existing zoos could be turned around and could become centres of nature education.

Bittu Sahgal is the Editor of Sanctuary magazine.

Missile defence or offence?

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This refers to your well-researched articles on the United States' National Missile Defence system (Cover Story: "Towards a new arms race", August 4).

"Give the dog a bad name and hang him," goes the saying. President Bill Clinton is practising this adage in letter and spirit by branding countries such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq "rogue" states. The project apparently is not for a defence system but for an offence system aimed as a deterrent in the case of the U.S.' potential rival, China. The U.S. is trying to cultivate India as a geopolitical counter to China. In view of the possibility of the U.S. emerging as a threat worldwide, the logical cours e for India, China and Russia is to join hands to thwart its designs.

K.P. Rajan Mumbai Kashmir

"Kashmir conundrum" (August 4), by Aijaz Ahmad, is an incisive analysis of the problem. A point on which Professor Ahmad may like to elaborate in some subsequent article concerns the communal and ethnic card that he describes as the imperialists' surest means to break up the larger unities of class and nation. It is the ideologically conservative and regressive expression of ethnicity, and its equation with nationalism, that is disruptive and dangerous. What the article would be referring to in the case of Yugoslavia is the U.S. policy of support to ethnic and fascist nationalisms, a policy continued with their undeclared support for a Kosovo that would be de facto independent, although within the framework of an official autonomy within Serbia.

From the Indian situation it could be argued that ethnicity has or could have another, a progressive, dimension, expressed through demands for a more federative system of governance, representation and autonomy. Whereas in India the unity of the nation i s being sought to be refounded using the "ethno-religious card", federalist assertion in a progressive form would be a way to meet the challenge of fascist nationalism.

Samir Jena New Delhi Syrian succession

Your coverage of Hafez al-Assad's death ("The Syrian succession," July 21)) missed out entirely on its effect on the foreign policy of Syria, barring a tail-end mention of Israel. There is another angle which is much more important.

In fundamentalism-ridden West Asia, there are only two countries, Syria and Iraq, that are totally secular; one has got a Christian Deputy Prime Minister in Tariq Aziz and the other has large Christian and Druze populations. They are also the two countri es in the region that have water. They are both controlled by the Baath party. With so much in common, Syria and Iraq should have been the best of friends. But, the "ego" of the two leaders did not permit it to happen.

Now, with Hafez-al-Assad gone, Saddam Hussein will try his best to normalise trade relations, which he very much needs. A land corridor to the Mediterranean Sea is all that Iraq needs to complete the mockery of United Nations sanctions. He has built a ra ilway right up to the border fence at Hsaiba and the highway too is there.

Syria too has a lot to gain: for instance, cheap oil. All that is needed is for the two Presidents to shake hands.

M. Seshagiri Rao Bangalore Parsis' contribution

India cannot forget the contributions of the Parsi community to its progress ("Survivors through history", July 21). Dadabhai Naoroji, Firozshah Mehta, J.R.D. Tata, Homi Jahangir Bhabha, S.P. Godrej and various other leaders/persons of this community are remembered in this respect. This community has had a powerful presence in almost every field, be it science, literature, social service, cinema, art, business or politics.

Jay Prakash Kumar Gupta Dehri-on-Sone, Bihar Women and welfare

The National Profile on Women, Health and Development, jointly produced by the Women Health Development Cell of the World Health Organisation and the Voluntary Health Association of India, establishes that there is a close link between the improvement in women's health and their overall development in various fields ("Of women and welfare", July 21).

In India, the state and society have neglected the health of women. Marriage at a very young age, early motherhood and frequent pregnancies create multiple health hazards for women. Female infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are high. The probl ems are compounded by nutritional deficiency in pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Education plays a crucial role in women's development, as has been established by the Kerala model of development.

The report rightly focusses on the declining sex ratio as a major cause for concern. A strong preference for male babies leads to female foeticide and infanticide. The girl child is by the family seen as a source of financial burden mainly because of the dowry system.

Formulating more programmes and creating institutions for the welfare of women is not the answer. It is the non-implementation or half-hearted implementation of welfare programmes that has kept women's status low on indices of socio-economic development, such as literacy and health. This is mainly because of the patriarchal social environment in the country.

To set right the situation, the state's efforts should be supplemented by community-level initiatives and by changing social attitudes towards women. Since women constitute 50 per cent of the population, their development is essential for India's develop ment.

Sanjai Kumar Hazaribagh, Bihar Iodisation of salt

Several million Indians do not consume the required amount of iodine ("Dilemma over iodisation," July 7). Small quantities (150 microgrammes a day) of iodine in combined form have to be taken for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Iodine defici ency causes goitre and other disorders. Iodisation of salt is a convenient method to fight iodine deficiency. The major outlets of salt, such as grocery stores, should be allowed to sell only iodised salt. It has been stated that consuming excess iodine causes health problems in some people. Hence there is a need to have a few special outlets, such as medical shops, for the restricted sale of non-iodised salt.

A.S. Rao Pune A lesson from Korea

The meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas was indeed a pathbreaking development ("A historic Korean summit", July 7). That they chose to meet is itself significant. If East and West Germany could merge and form a single entity, then there is ever y possibility of the unification of the Koreas, given the peoples' urge to reunite. They have so much in common that they cannot be separated by a barbed wire fence for ever. With the Cold War being a thing of the past, hopefully there will be no outside influences that will come in the way of unification. One day or the other the U.S. forces have to leave South Korea.

The historic summit should open our eyes to the possibility of a long-term solution to the problems that have come in the way of peaceful co-existence between India and Pakistan. The Lahore peace process should be reviewed immediately. Let there be one-u pmanship among the political leaders in dealing with Pakistan. Both countries have suffered enough because of the bitter conflict.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Cricket

The article "Blaming it on South Asia" (July 7) aptly drew the readers' attention to the connection between the denials of both the South African authorities and CLP (Cricket Loving Public) and that country's apartheid legacy. The international sports bo ycott was "a powerful weapon against (that) regime"; a revival of international boycott of South African cricket might be in order now. A massive popular boycott would certainly give the jitters to the sponsors who fund the multi-million-dollar telecast rights of international matches and pressure the South African authorities and the CLP to look inward.

Michael Kuttner Toronto Drought

This refers to the letters published on the topic of drought (July 21). It has become the practice of our planners to panic whenever the rainfall becomes scanty. Water conservation and rain harvesting in good monsoon years are the only long-term solution s to the drought. The government should ensure that water is not wasted by the people and establishments. Owing to the lack of planning, a lot of river water is allowed to go into the sea without any use to the common people.

We irrigate our fields with more water than necessary. This was pointed out by Japanese scientists who visited India some years ago. The drip method may be used to irrigate our fields and farms. Instead of building huge dams, lakes should be built to sto re rainwater, as the ancient Tamil kings did.

G. Ramachandran Pune Corrections

* In the article "Under a cloud" (August 4), the year in which the official letter demanding revenue arrears from Sushila Singh was sent was wrongly given as 1973 in three places. The date of delivery of the letter was September 7, 1972, as mentioned els ewhere in the article.

* The Madras Medical College was established in the year 1835, not in 1885 as mentioned in "A leader by tradition" (Special Feature: 'Education in Chennai', July 21).

* The amount allotted for the Functional Genomics programme under Samir K. Brahmachari at the Centre for Biochemical Technology (CBT) is Rs. 8.4 crores, not Rs. 40 lakhs as mentioned in "For a mission approach" (August 4)

V.R. Krishna Iyer

SUSPICION is the upas tree under whose shade reason fails and justice dies, said Ingersoll. Some journalists who 'stoop to conquer' abuse their power and sprinkle noxious suspicion over half-truths and fob off as final conclusions what are unsustainable verdicts. This prurience-persiflage-populism syndrome afflicts rags, not great journals. The gullible public, for whom reading time is short and masala material is morning's pleasure, consume as truth such fact-fiction concoctions without serious reflect ion. News reporters and columnists, at times unwittingly, indulge in exaggerations and even inventions, if the prey is important enough to generate sensationalism or occupies commanding heights of power. Character assassination, cleverly disguised, is al lergy to standard journals and any blend of veracity and mendacity, even if such a touch may capture circulation, is anathema. Tennyson rightly versified the injustice of half-truths being served as whole truths: "That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright,/ But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight."

There is another class of media literature, sensitive to high standards of journalism and sterling values, progressive perspectives and causes promotive of humanity's tryst with destiny. Such journals are few in number and Frontline is in the fron t line of this class in India and abroad. Thoughtful articles, radical presentations and lofty streams which elevate the human mind and defend the new world democratic order are the hallmark of N. Ram's fortnightly. Frontline has commanded my resp ect because every page I read makes me wiser and more reflective. This response of mine, poignantly written, is designed to bring home my humble view of one 'investigative' article in Frontline (issue of August 4, 2000; page 44).

THE author has transformed available material into journalistic serendipity while it is virtually a rehash of what was published earlier by a weekly called Kalchakra in Delhi. Journalistic grace and media ethics insist on minimum natural justice i n the sense of lending an opportunity for explanation to the target of the article affected by a seeming exposure of something unworthy. She may have a plausible reply. It is not fair to the victim, more so if he/she is available in Delhi (where the arti cle was written) and happens to be the wife of a high functionary.

I have no special brief for the robed brethren, some of whom are guilty of hubris, bias and venal traits. Judges too, like Caesar's wife, must be above suspicion. Their pontificatory ipse dixits and intimidatory contempt power should not silence < I>truthful disclosure. But the Press is indubitably accountable to society. When great journals, maintaining high principles, jettison restraint and responsibility and walk into the market of popular circulation one wonders whether Oscar Wilde's pres cription has fascinated them: "Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess!" Winston Churchill told the House of Commons that judges "are required to conform to standards of life" and conduct far more severe and restricted than that of ordinary people.

In lesser measure, editors and reporters of noble media may have to abide by this Churchillian prescription. "No public institution, or the people who operate it, can be above public debate" (Warren E. Burger). Press freedom is felonious while abusing pe n power because the pen is more lethal than the gun. The article which appeared in Frontline, made averments that mired the reputation of the Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, and is not quite becoming of Frontline. It made no personal im putation on him as Judge but roused suspicion by narrating incidents relating to his wife and some property.

V. Venkatesan, the journalist in question, has displayed superb skill, exalting marshalling of slender facts into the status of a verdict. The title, 'Under a cloud', immediately traps the reader's attention. The next lead sentence is opium: "A case invo lving a land dispute between Mala Anand, the wife of the Chief Justice of India..." But as a potential protective mantle it adds: "although the Chief Justice himself is not directly involved in the matter." Is he indirectly involved and, if so, was his o ffice an influence to achieve an injustice? I am surprised at a needle of suspicion without a plain imputation, which is the concealed object. The purpose is clear from the opening quotation in the article from Chief Justice Anand himself: "If a judge de cides wrongly out of motives of self-promotion, he is no less corrupt than a judge... financial gain." The blunt hint is that the article aims at a corrupt act associated with Chief Justice Anand. Why camouflage the intent in quotes? Why refer to a judic ial code of ethics unless the article is geared to unfolding Anand's alleged quasi-corrupt behaviour?

The writer, aware of a confidential, informal judicial code of ethics, violates the rules of professional journalism in failing to inquire from Mala Anand, who is very much in Delhi, whether she would respond to the allegations he has sourced from Kal chakra. Is it fair play to damn without the charity of asking the lady for her version, if any? If she declines, okay, you go ahead. What is the link between the Chief Justice and Mala Anand's property case? The writer is aware of the contempt power and circumvents it by hitting the lady while he cutely avoids the Judge. Kalchakra, on which he heavily relies, is bold and blunt and ready to face the penalty from the two justices. But this article is a study in contrast.

There is a grave charge, with frightful details, against Justice J.S. Verma made by the same Kalchakra and referred to in Frontline. The Frontline writer narrates the episode and wonders why the court failed to act. His investigative pursuit pauses without research into the alleged Verma bribery anecdote. Afraid? Discrimination? I, for one, know Justice Verma for a few years. His great performance in the hawala cases has made history and him a hero in the annals of the court. Indeed , public interest litigation found its finest hour and acquired a new dimension after Justice Verma made the executive and the mafia remain in panic by his court proceedings. Nevertheless, this article retreats from investigation into Verma while it hunt s for Anand. Why spare one and chase the other is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma!

Indeed, more intriguing is the fact that the article formally exonerates Justice Anand right at the top and chases Mala Anand, who is unable to speak because she is not contacted by the author. His visit to Gwalior is not equal to asking Mala what she ha d to say on the materials gathered. He would then have learned that a suit was filed long ago by Mala Anand against the Madhya Pradesh government regarding the land in dispute. She won the case and the State, dissatisfied, filed an appeal and lost it. Wanting to pursue the matter against Mala Anand, the government filed a second appeal and lost it again, and then a special leave petition was filed, which proved infructuous. It must be noted that all this took place a few years ago. Is it suggeste d that the trial judge, the appellate judge and the High Court were all influenced by Anand? Anand was not a Supreme Court Judge at all then. Is it the case that the Madhya Pradesh government colluded with Mala Anand? In which case why did the government contest the suit, file an appeal and a second appeal and a special leave petition? All these facts baffle one's understanding. The article makes much of a Commission to examine Mala Anand. Those who know the Procedure Code know this to be a simple discr etionary order. It is her evidence, not the Commission, that is relevant.

The effect here is to create irrelevant suspicion. Journalists must remember that jaundice mars one's objective vision. In more than one place, the writer evades positive assertions of his findings and merely states, "according to informed sources" or it is "alleged", and such like expressions which responsible journalism will be allergic to. The 'unkindest cut of all' is that for two years after everything was over and months after Kalchakra has published the charges against the two judges, the writer essentially discovered nothing more than what Kalchakra had mentioned earlier.

PERHAPS I am sad to say these things because Mr. N. Ram is a great human being and Frontline, the marvellous educator of the public.

Before concluding, I must make it perfectly plain that I am not wholly happy with the Mala Anand matter although it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that three courts and the Madhya Pradesh State colluded to help Mala Anand gain enormous wealth throug h some subterranean influence of her husband who was not anywhere in the Supreme Court!

Both Verma and Anand have been great judges. But even Homer nods. There may be black spots in the sun and in the moon. I feel distressed at the Kalchakra saga about these two judges. To my brethren on the Bench may I bend and beg and biblically me ntion: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? Accountability is applicable and transparency is necessary whenever our public interest is vested - in the journalist or the judge.

The Everest stature of the Indian judicature is the guardian of the constitutional order. To plunge it into an imbroglio, or separate it from the people by an iron curtain, is a misfortune, which we should do our best to avert.

Editor's Note: With reference to the fairness principle in journalism, we wish to point out that Frontline's Special Correspondent contacted Mala Anand's legal counsel for a full response before the publication of the article. The Chief Justice's wife is still free to exercise her right to reply, in a relevant and fact-based way, in these columns.

Of judicial standards and media responsibility

other
V.R. KRISHNA IYER

SUSPICION is the upas tree under whose shade reason fails and justice dies, said Ingersoll. Some journalists who 'stoop to conquer' abuse their power and sprinkle noxious suspicion over half-truths and fob off as final conclusions what are unsustainable verdicts. This prurience-persiflage-populism syndrome afflicts rags, not great journals. The gullible public, for whom reading time is short and masala material is morning's pleasure, consume as truth such fact-fiction concoctions without serious reflect ion. News reporters and columnists, at times unwittingly, indulge in exaggerations and even inventions, if the prey is important enough to generate sensationalism or occupies commanding heights of power. Character assassination, cleverly disguised, is al lergy to standard journals and any blend of veracity and mendacity, even if such a touch may capture circulation, is anathema. Tennyson rightly versified the injustice of half-truths being served as whole truths: "That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright,/ But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight."

There is another class of media literature, sensitive to high standards of journalism and sterling values, progressive perspectives and causes promotive of humanity's tryst with destiny. Such journals are few in number and Frontline is in the fron t line of this class in India and abroad. Thoughtful articles, radical presentations and lofty streams which elevate the human mind and defend the new world democratic order are the hallmark of N. Ram's fortnightly. Frontline has commanded my resp ect because every page I read makes me wiser and more reflective. This response of mine, poignantly written, is designed to bring home my humble view of one 'investigative' article in Frontline (issue of August 4, 2000; page 44).

THE author has transformed available material into journalistic serendipity while it is virtually a rehash of what was published earlier by a weekly called Kalchakra in Delhi. Journalistic grace and media ethics insist on minimum natural justice i n the sense of lending an opportunity for explanation to the target of the article affected by a seeming exposure of something unworthy. She may have a plausible reply. It is not fair to the victim, more so if he/she is available in Delhi (where the arti cle was written) and happens to be the wife of a high functionary.

I have no special brief for the robed brethren, some of whom are guilty of hubris, bias and venal traits. Judges too, like Caesar's wife, must be above suspicion. Their pontificatory ipse dixits and intimidatory contempt power should not silence < I>truthful disclosure. But the Press is indubitably accountable to society. When great journals, maintaining high principles, jettison restraint and responsibility and walk into the market of popular circulation one wonders whether Oscar Wilde's pres cription has fascinated them: "Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess!" Winston Churchill told the House of Commons that judges "are required to conform to standards of life" and conduct far more severe and restricted than that of ordinary people.

In lesser measure, editors and reporters of noble media may have to abide by this Churchillian prescription. "No public institution, or the people who operate it, can be above public debate" (Warren E. Burger). Press freedom is felonious while abusing pe n power because the pen is more lethal than the gun. The article which appeared in Frontline, made averments that mired the reputation of the Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, and is not quite becoming of Frontline. It made no personal im putation on him as Judge but roused suspicion by narrating incidents relating to his wife and some property.

V. Venkatesan, the journalist in question, has displayed superb skill, exalting marshalling of slender facts into the status of a verdict. The title, 'Under a cloud', immediately traps the reader's attention. The next lead sentence is opium: "A case invo lving a land dispute between Mala Anand, the wife of the Chief Justice of India..." But as a potential protective mantle it adds: "although the Chief Justice himself is not directly involved in the matter." Is he indirectly involved and, if so, was his o ffice an influence to achieve an injustice? I am surprised at a needle of suspicion without a plain imputation, which is the concealed object. The purpose is clear from the opening quotation in the article from Chief Justice Anand himself: "If a judge de cides wrongly out of motives of self-promotion, he is no less corrupt than a judge... financial gain." The blunt hint is that the article aims at a corrupt act associated with Chief Justice Anand. Why camouflage the intent in quotes? Why refer to a judic ial code of ethics unless the article is geared to unfolding Anand's alleged quasi-corrupt behaviour?

The writer, aware of a confidential, informal judicial code of ethics, violates the rules of professional journalism in failing to inquire from Mala Anand, who is very much in Delhi, whether she would respond to the allegations he has sourced from Kal chakra. Is it fair play to damn without the charity of asking the lady for her version, if any? If she declines, okay, you go ahead. What is the link between the Chief Justice and Mala Anand's property case? The writer is aware of the contempt power and circumvents it by hitting the lady while he cutely avoids the Judge. Kalchakra, on which he heavily relies, is bold and blunt and ready to face the penalty from the two justices. But this article is a study in contrast.

There is a grave charge, with frightful details, against Justice J.S. Verma made by the same Kalchakra and referred to in Frontline. The Frontline writer narrates the episode and wonders why the court failed to act. His investigative pursuit pauses without research into the alleged Verma bribery anecdote. Afraid? Discrimination? I, for one, know Justice Verma for a few years. His great performance in the hawala cases has made history and him a hero in the annals of the court. Indeed , public interest litigation found its finest hour and acquired a new dimension after Justice Verma made the executive and the mafia remain in panic by his court proceedings. Nevertheless, this article retreats from investigation into Verma while it hunt s for Anand. Why spare one and chase the other is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma!

Indeed, more intriguing is the fact that the article formally exonerates Justice Anand right at the top and chases Mala Anand, who is unable to speak because she is not contacted by the author. His visit to Gwalior is not equal to asking Mala what she ha d to say on the materials gathered. He would then have learned that a suit was filed long ago by Mala Anand against the Madhya Pradesh government regarding the land in dispute. She won the case and the State, dissatisfied, filed an appeal and lost it. Wanting to pursue the matter against Mala Anand, the government filed a second appeal and lost it again, and then a special leave petition was filed, which proved infructuous. It must be noted that all this took place a few years ago. Is it suggeste d that the trial judge, the appellate judge and the High Court were all influenced by Anand? Anand was not a Supreme Court Judge at all then. Is it the case that the Madhya Pradesh government colluded with Mala Anand? In which case why did the government contest the suit, file an appeal and a second appeal and a special leave petition? All these facts baffle one's understanding. The article makes much of a Commission to examine Mala Anand. Those who know the Procedure Code know this to be a simple discr etionary order. It is her evidence, not the Commission, that is relevant.

The effect here is to create irrelevant suspicion. Journalists must remember that jaundice mars one's objective vision. In more than one place, the writer evades positive assertions of his findings and merely states, "according to informed sources" or it is "alleged", and such like expressions which responsible journalism will be allergic to. The 'unkindest cut of all' is that for two years after everything was over and months after Kalchakra has published the charges against the two judges, the writer essentially discovered nothing more than what Kalchakra had mentioned earlier.

PERHAPS I am sad to say these things because Mr. N. Ram is a great human being and Frontline, the marvellous educator of the public.

Before concluding, I must make it perfectly plain that I am not wholly happy with the Mala Anand matter although it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that three courts and the Madhya Pradesh State colluded to help Mala Anand gain enormous wealth throug h some subterranean influence of her husband who was not anywhere in the Supreme Court!

Both Verma and Anand have been great judges. But even Homer nods. There may be black spots in the sun and in the moon. I feel distressed at the Kalchakra saga about these two judges. To my brethren on the Bench may I bend and beg and biblically me ntion: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? Accountability is applicable and transparency is necessary whenever our public interest is vested - in the journalist or the judge.

The Everest stature of the Indian judicature is the guardian of the constitutional order. To plunge it into an imbroglio, or separate it from the people by an iron curtain, is a misfortune, which we should do our best to avert.

Editor's Note: With reference to the fairness principle in journalism, we wish to point out that Frontline's Special Correspondent contacted Mala Anand's legal counsel for a full response before the publication of the article. The Chief Justice's wife is still free to exercise her right to reply, in a relevant and fact-based way, in these columns.

Veerappan's prize catch

The abduction of Kannada film star Rajkumar by Veerappan and his gang sends shock waves through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

THAT Veerappan the forest brigand was low on funds and may resort to abduction as a possible means to replenish his coffers was known to the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Special Task Forces (STFs), which had been constituted to nab him. But where and when he would strike was the question no one could answer. Now when he struck, he chose a precious target.

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According to Director-General of Police C. Dinakar, the violence had not acquired communal overtones. Six companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 10,000 police personnel of the State police, including 28 platoons of the Karnataka State R eserve Police and 30 platoons of the Bangalore City Police, were deployed in Bangalore. The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments have not suspended the STF operations. According to the Karnataka STF commander, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Dr. C. Ha rshavardhana Raju, the situation was being monitored. STF personnel were rushed to Talewadi, the nearest police station to Gajanur.

In a movie-like sequence that lasted hardly 10 minutes, Veerappan and his men abducted Kannada matinee idol and Dadasaheb Palke Award winner Dr. Rajkumar from his ancestral farmhouse at Gajanur, a hamlet in Tamil Nadu's Erode district 4 km from the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border, on the night of July 30. Coming to know of the actor's presence in the farm, which is in a forested area, Veerappan and his men in pouring rain stormed the new house, the "house warming" of which had taken place earlier in the day . The gang assaulted some of the people present there and forced them to disclose where the actor stayed. Rajkumar was in the old house, situated some 100 feet away.

Rajkumar, who along with wife Parvathamma and some relatives and friends had gone to Gajanur on July 27 to make preparations for the house warming, had just finished dinner when 10 or 12 men, some armed with self-loading rifles, barged in around 9 p.m. a nd asked in Tamil where he was. Veerappan then followed them into the house and escorted the 72-year-old actor out. Re-entering the new house, Veerappan inquired from Rajkumar about the people present there. When Rajkumar provided the information, he rou nded up three others - Rajkumar's son-in-law S.A. Govindaraj, another relative Nagesh and an assistant film director, Nagappa.

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According to Parvathamma, Veerappan gave her an audio cassette and asked her to hand it over to Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna. He also assured her that Rajkumar would not come to any harm. Parvathamma then asked her driver to take her to Bangalor e. She informed the government in the early hours of July 31 about the abduction.

By the time Krishna called a morning press conference to announce the news, Bangalore and the rest of Karnataka were all agog. Trouble began almost immediately in Bangalore: vehicles were damaged or burnt, roadblocks raised, processions taken out, stones hurled and commercial establishments told to down their shutters. A scooterist was stabbed to death. The Rajkumar Fans Association swung into action, demanding that the government secure the actor's release by that evening. Most offices remained closed for the day, and the government declared a two-day holiday for schools and colleges. Miscreants attacked the Bangalore offices of four Tamil newspapers - Dinamani, Dina Thanthi, Kalaikadir and Dinasudar - and set fire to newsprint reels. Two train s were blocked near Mandya and a bus was set on fire in Tumkur. The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce decided to suspend all its activities, including the screening of Kannada films, until Rajkumar was released.

Krishna told newsmen that he had informed Union Home Minister L.K. Advani about the abduction. Later in the morning he left for Chennai along with Parvathamma, his Minister for Home Mallikarjuna Kharge, film actor and Congress(I) member of Parliament Amb arish, and top officials to meet Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

BOTH the governments have their hands full. Rajkumar is by far the most high-profile hostage Veerappan has taken in all his years of banditry. According to Krishna, the cassette did not specify any demand: Veerappan only wanted the government to send an emissary, who will be told of his demands.

Veerappan's latest act of dare-devilry (the Karnataka STF would not describe it that way; according to it anybody toting guns can abduct anybody) after lying low for 19 months, has provided fresh proof of his ability to take hostages with impunity. He la st attacked a police outpost in Vellitirupur in Tamil Nadu on December 20, 1998.

The STFs had in the past warned Rajkumar against visiting the farmhouse. Both Harshavardhana Raju and the previous Joint STF Commander, Inspector-General of Police P. Kalimuthu, had warned Rajkumar about the threat perception. This has been acknowledged by the actor's son, Raghavendra Rajkumar, who said that his father had not taken the threat seriously. Rajkumar visited the farmhouse several times in recent months, and on the latest occasion he failed to inform the police.

According to informed sources in the STF, Raju and the overall commander of the Joint Task Forces, Tamil Nadu's Inspector-General of Police M. Balachandran, were ironically attending a meeting at Dimbum in Tamil Nadu, 55 km from the spot of the abduction , up to midnight. Said the STF source: "We had received information that Veerappan may visit a temple in the vicinity as it (July 30) happened to be 'Adi Amavasya' (new moon day). We were therefore present in full strength in and around Dimbum."

THE abduction of Rajkumar is the latest in a series by Veerappan in the decade and a half that he has been active in the forests that stretch from Denkanikote and Anchetti in Tamil Nadu's Dharmapuri district to the Palghat Gap on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala bo rder and from Tamil Nadu's Hogenekal in the east through Malai Mahadeswara (M.M.) Hills, Bandipur and Biligiri Ranga (B.R) Hills in Karnataka, right up to the Niligiri ranges in the Western Ghats. The area, which encompasses around 18,500 sq km, is chara cterised by thick vegetation, numerous ravines, river systems, peaks and valleys.

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Over the years, given his terrain superiority over the security forces hunting him and the support he gets from the residents of its 180-odd villages (largely populated by members of Veerappan's Padayachi/Vanniyar community) who live in the periphery of the forests, Veerappan has managed to stay out of the reach of the Border Security Force (BSF), which was deployed between 1993 and 1995, and the Karnataka STF (which has been looking for him since 1993) and the Tamil Nadu STF (which has been deployed al most continuously since 1995).

In recent years, there were a couple of close calls. In November 1998 he was sighted "face to face at a distance of 150 metres" by the Karnataka STF but he slipped away. In late January 1999, a suspected hideout of Veerappan at Needipuram in the Kolathur reserve forests close to Mettur dam was raided but Veerappan, who is apparently equipped with night vision binoculars, escaped. Balachandran says Veerappan is like a jungle fox. "He has always managed to burrow a hole and slip away."

According to Karnataka Police records, since 1989 Veerappan has killed 138 people, including 32 police officers (22 belonging to Karnataka, nine to Tamil Nadu and one to the BSF jawan), 10 forest officers (four of Karnataka, including a Deputy Conservato r of Forests, and six of Tamil Nadu); slaughtered over 2,000 elephants; smuggled out 40,000 kg of ivory (worth Rs.12 crores); and looted sandalwood worth Rs.100 crores.

Veerappan has often resorted to abducting forest or police personnel and even members of the public in retaliation for the killing of a member of his gang, or in order to gain time and seemingly wrest favourable terms for a surrender. But the offers of s urrender have turned out to be ploys to mislead the forces. In December 1994, he abducted Chidambaranathan, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Coimbatore, and two others; in November 1995, three Tamil Nadu forest officials from near the Andhiyur range were kidnapped; in July 1997, 10 Karnataka forest personnel were taken from their base camp in the Burude region of B.R. Hills; and in October 1997 he took six hostages from the Bandipur tiger sanctuary.

After every incident of hostage-taking, Veerappan has asked for huge sums of money. Although nothing has ever been paid officially, hostage-taking has unofficially proved lucrative, like in November 1995 when he received Rs.3,50,000. Most of his hostages have suffered from the Stockholm syndrome; they have always praised him on being released. He has never harmed a hostage, though his hostage drama has always been a long drawn-out affair.

The abduction of Rajkumar, who is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, has once again brought to the fore the inescapable truth that government forces have failed to nab him a good 13 years after full-scale operations for this purpose began. While lapses su ch as a non-existent intelligence network and low motivation were thae causes initially, lack of adequate strength has hampered STF work in recent months. In the hunt for Veerappan, it is quite evident that every man counts. Reports that the Karnataka go vernment would heed Harshavardhana Raju's request for an additional strength of 3,000 personnel for the STF have turned out to be untrue. In recent months, some tribal welfare and non-governmental groups complained to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that STF personnel raped, tortured and used "third degree methods" on tribal people and residents of villages to extract information on Veerappan's movement.

The S.M. Krishna government is not seen to be doing any better on the Veerappan front. Most of the Karnataka STF men are made up primarily of general duty personnel with little or no training in jungle operations. The question now is whether Rajkumar's a bduction will force the government to work out a strategy.

Or it could turn out to be another ploy of Veerappan to buy time, and, of course, extort a handsome payment.

The Tamil Nadu response

THE Tamil Nadu government decided to send an emissary to meet forest brigand Veerappan within hours after it received the news of the kidnapping of Kannada film actor Rajkumar and three others. The decision was taken after a 90-minute meeting between Chi ef Minister Karunanidhi and his Karnataka counterpart S.M. Krishna at the State Secretariat in Chennai. Subsequently it was announced that "Nakkheeran" Gopal, editor of the Tamil biweekly Nakkheeran, would be the emissary. The State Government had sent Gopal in July 1997 to secure the release of nine Karnataka Forest Department personnel held hostage by the brigand.

Krishna flew from Bangalore to Chennai along with Rajkumar's wife Parvathamma, son, the Karnataka Home Minister, the State's Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, and Director-General of Police to "request" Karunanidhi to send an emissary to Veerappan. Karuna nidhi was "gracious enough to lend support" to secure the release of Rajkumar and others, and "both of us will work towards that end", Krishna said at a joint press conference held after his meeting with Karunanidhi.

According to Krishna, Veerappan demanded in the recorded message he left with Parvathamma before taking away Rajkumar that an emissary be sent to meet him "to discuss some of the problems he is facing". He was "positive" that Veerappan made no other dema nds in the message, contained in a cassette. "On receipt of Veerappan's demands, we will consider the same," he added. According to officials, Veerappan has demanded that the emissary contact him within eight days.

Krishna ruled out joint combing operations by the Special Task Forces of the two States. "Let us not complicate matters further," he said.

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Tamil Nadu's Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order) S. Kumarasamy earlier told newspersons that the Tamil Nadu STF was "in a state of readiness". He said that Rajkumar had been cautioned not to go to his farmhouse without informing the Kar nataka STF and the Tamil Nadu police. The actor had ignored that request, he said.

Karunanidhi asserted that Rajkumar had not informed the police of either State when he went to stay at his ancestral farm. That was why no police protection was given to him, he clarified.

According to Krishna, Veerappan assured Parvathamma that he would take good care of Rajkumar and that he would not harm him. Rajkumar has been keeping indifferent health, he said.

On the steps his government would take to prevent attacks on Tamils in Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka, Krishna said he would request Kannadigas in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to show patience and forbearance "in the larger interests of getting the r elease of Rajkumar." Besides, they should help the administration of the two States to maintain peace, and law and order so that "things can happen faster than we expect," he said.

In a separate appeal, Karunanidhi said the abduction of Rajkumar had "shocked and pained" the people of both States. Both the governments would take appropriate steps to get in touch with Veerappan, he averred. "I expect that Veerappan will, in deference to the sentiments of the people of both States, release Rajkumar and the three others." Karunanidhi urged the people of Karnataka and Tamils in both States to maintain peace and cooperate with the State governments and the Centre in the efforts to secur e the release of Rajkumar.

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayalalitha alleged that Veerappan had regained strength and built up "a striking force of more than a hundred persons" after Karunanidhi returned to power in 1996. When she was Chief Minister, the STF had been deployed under DGP Walter Dawaram to nab Veerappan. Veerappan's "huge gang of 150" had been reduced to a small group of five, she claimed. Jayalalitha added: "His weapons were seized and in th e end, he was frantically fleeing in (sic) with just two rifles and running from place to place scouring for food." She demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the abduction.

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