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COVER STORY

13-10-2000

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Briefing

Contours of militancy

cover-story
Armed militancy raised its head in a major way in Kashmir over a decade ago. Senior lawyer and political analyst A.G. NOORANI makes an assessment of the roots, motivation and nature of militant groups active in the Valley.

OVER a decade after armed militancy erupted in Kashmir, people seem to be no wiser about its roots, the recent impetus, its varied nature, motivation, and its objectives. There is simply no desire to reckon with the grim truth realistically. It is so dis turbing. Parrot cries of "proxy war", "mercenaries" and the like are, as in the case of any other form of self-deception, very reassuring. Consequently, there is not the slightest trace of a considered, coherent policy on Kashmir, whether towards its peo ple or the interlocutor of old, Pakistan.

The very people whom Jawaharlal Nehru on August 25, 1952, derisively called "soft and addicted to easy living" have become assertive to a degree none imagined they ever would. They have all the intense resentment of a people who feel they have been wrong ed. The armed militancy is central to the problem. Popular alienation and militancy have fed on each other. Pakistan has not been slow to exploit the situation and, indeed, to sponsor and set up several militant groups. An informed, realistic assessment of the contours of militancy would have deterred people from the wild conjectures they aired when the Hizbul Mujahideen proclaimed a ceasefire on July 24 and wilder ones on its revocation on August 8. Without such an assessment India shall be groping in the dark mindlessly as it has been all this last decade; crying "proxy war" and "mercenaries" with increasing shrillness in the hope that the United States would bail it out. The U.S. has its own agenda.

Realistic assessments of the militancy will also make for a better understanding of the parlous state of Pakistan's polity and of the tensions between it and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan of which those in India have only hazy and simplistic notions.

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One thoroughbred professional has never hesitated to speak his mind, heedless of the ignorant Establishment - civil and military. The Director-General of the Border Security Force (BSF), E.N. Rammohan, said on television on August 9 that the Hizb is 95 p er cent Kashmiri. As for the rest - the Harkat, Lashkar and others - Pakistan has "not much control" over them. The mere fact that infiltrators receive payments does not make them "mercenaries". They are "motivated". He should know. He served in Kashmir and "interrogated many of them" as he told Swati Chaturvedi of The Indian Express (August 13, 1999). "They are indoctrinated to face martyrdom in Kashmir. They actually come prepared to die." In his "many encounters" they preferred death to surren der. Except for the Hizb, "the local insurgent groups had been wiped out... So the ISI perforce had to rely on Pakistanis, besides some Afghans."

He minimises the importance of neither the role of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) nor the motivation of the men it sends across. This duality is what we are up against. Foreigners cannot survive without local support. Only a professional wi ll appraise the nuances correctly as he does. Did the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) become India's "instrument" for all the help it received?

The stark reality, which hardly anyone cares honestly to face, is that: (a) armed militancy had reared its head in Kashmir at least 20 years before Zia-ul-Haq launched his covert operation there and (b) even in the best of times the people were op posed to accession to India, as Indira Gandhi wrote to her father on May 14, 1948 and Vice-President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan informed President Rajendra Prasad who, in turn, alerted Nehru on July 14, 1953. The then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheik h Muhammad Abdullah, could contain the situation because he was a popular leader manifestly independent of New Delhi. Alienation from India did not imply preference for accession to Pakistan then; it does not now either.

Sheikh Abdullah threw dissenters into prison or across the ceasefire line. An article in a respected daily, Kashmir Times, founded by the veteran socialist Ved Bhasin, written by Abu Ali Talib described in great detail (September 12, 1993) his tec hniques as also the early stages of revolt that nobody cares to recall now: "Against the politics of Hadri Chadri (Hoodlum Politics) there were scores of voices like Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas, Ghulam Nabi Gilkar... Prem Nath Bazaz, Jagan Nath Sathoo, Mir Ab dul Aziz, Pitambar Nath Fani... and other hundreds of young men. All of them were either sent across the Cease Fire Line or put behind bars." The Enemy Agents Ordinance came in handy. After 1953, it was used by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed against the Sheikh's men.

Two events triggered agitations, led in each case by student leaders who are now prominent in the State's politics. One was Pakistan's war of aggression in August-September 1965. The other was the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord in February 1975.

With the Sheikh and his close associate, Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg, interned in Kodaikanal, and others like Maulana Mohammed Saed Masoodi in prison, student leaders like Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, Nazir Ahmed Wani and Mohammed Altaf Khan (alias Azam Inquilabi) took to the streets holding demonstrations. The Jammu and Kashmir Student and Youth League was established in 1963-64 under Beg's patronage. Shabbir Shah began his career as a League activist. A Young Men's League was also set up under Beg's patronage.

Zafar Meraj recorded these early signs in Kashmir Times (September 24, 1989). In the first instance of its kind, some youths were arrested in 1967 for allegedly attempting to murder a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawan in the Nawakadal area in Srinagar. Their trial in the Nawakadal Conspiracy Case, though held in camera, evoked keen public interest. Next came, in 1968, an attempt to steal rifles from the rooms of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in the Islamia College. Beg, a brillian t lawyer, led the defence team which included Sheikh Nazir Ahmed, who is now general secretary of the National Conference.

Meanwhile, in 1967 some college teachers were arrested for being the "core group" of Mohammed Maqbool Butt's Kashmir National Liberation Front. He had been arrested and sentenced to death in 1966 for the murder of an intelligence officer. Butt was commit ted to guerilla warfare and to the State's independence; not accession to Pakistan. He escaped from prison in 1968, only to be rearrested in 1976, and retired in 1981. The Kashmir Liberation Army, of which ex-Major Amanullah Khan was a member, was his cr eation. Amanullah Khan set up the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in the United Kingdom in 1978, with Dr. Farooq Haider holding the fort in Rawalpindi.

Events in the State, meanwhile, were taking their own course. On January 13, 1971, the authorities claimed to have unearthed the Al-Fateh group. Its members were alleged to have been plotting to storm the Hazratbal branch of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as p art of its plans to "liberate Kashmir by resorting to armed struggle". Ghulam Rasool Zahgeer headed this underground outfit which had been set up in 1967-68. Prominent among its members were Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, Nazir Ahmed Wani and Azam Inquilabi.

Beg defended the accused at their trial, but he was, before long, in the thick of parleys with G. Parthasarathi which led to the 1975 accord. That split the group. Zahgeer supported Beg's Plebiscite Front. Wani and others opposed its new policy.

Tension in Srinagar was palpable in 1974 as reports of the parleys came in. The rift led to the birth of the Jammu and Kashmir People's League on October 13, 1974, with Qureshi as its chairman. Sati Sahni's version in his book Kashmir Underground (Har-Anand, pp. 520; Rs.595) that Farooq Rehmani founded the League (page 364) is one of the many inaccuracies in a book cramped with a lot of useful information. It contains a brief bio-data of personalities and organisations; useful as a secondary sour ce, unreliable as a principal guide. Its omission to cite sources impairs its worth and credibility.

The People's League marked a watershed. Its founders shot into prominence later - Sheikh Abdul Aziz, Musaddiq Adil, Bashir Ahmed Tota, Azam Inquilabi, Abdul Hamid Wani (alias S. Hamid) who was president of the Young Men's League, and Shabbir Shah, its ge neral secretary. The two had been arrested on October 3, 1974. The League was stoutly opposed to the 1975 accord. The Sheikh, and New Delhi also, had acquired an opposition force they could not suppress in the new clime of the 1970s as they had done in t he 1950s. But the League was star-crossed, rather like the Socialist Party in India with its multiple splits and mergers. Azam Inquilabi left it soon after to set up his Islamic Students and Youth Organisation, later re-named the Islamic Jamiatul Tulaba, under the leadership of Tajammul Islam, a student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

A former close associate of the Sheikh, Sufi Muhammad Akbar, parted company with him over the Accord and attracted some support. Sheikh Abdullah held sway. None had his commanding personality, resources or muscle. Upon his death in 1982, Farooq Abdullah succeeded him with ease. When Indira Gandhi ousted him from the office of Chief Minister in July 1984, Farooq Abdullah became immensely popular. There was no less than 72 days' curfew in Srinagar during the first three months alone. But he was not cut ou t for the role. Farooq Abdullah made his peace with Rajiv Gandhi and returned to power under an accord with him in November 1996. By common consent the Opposition Muslim United Front (MUF) would have won not less than 20 seats in the Assembly elections i n March 1987. Their rigging proved fateful for two reasons. First, the candidates and their polling and counting agents were not only cheated but imprisoned and beaten up. Secondly, having backed the MUF enthusiastically, Kashmiri youth lost faith not on ly in the electoral process but the political system itself. They took to arms. All those who later spearheaded the insurgency had participated in the electoral process in some capacity or another. Four prominent members of the Islamic Students Le ague, formed in 1986 - Abdul Hamid Shaikh, Ashfaq Majid Wani, Javed Ahmed Mir and Mohammed Yasin Malik, called the HAJY group - campaigned actively for the MUF. Mohammed Yusuf Shah, now the Hizb's supremo under the nom de guerre Syed Salahuddin, was an M UF candidate from Amirakadal constituency in Srinagar against Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, now senior Minister.

Seeds of revolt, sown in a fertile field for years, were ready to sprout. Events elsewhere provided the opportunity for an organised expression of resentment. Amanullah Khan found himself in a spot when on February 3, 1984, a group calling itself the Kas hmir Liberation Army kidnapped India's Deputy High Commissioner in Birmingham, Ravindra Mhatre, demanded a ransom and killed him two days later. On February 11, Maqbool Butt - whose writings are banned in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) - was hanged in t he Tihar jail. The mistake was compounded by demanding Khan's deportation from the U.K. Deported to Pakistan on December 15, 1986, he was embraced warmly by the ISI.

Elated over the success of his "low cost, little risk, high return" investment in Punjab, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq turned his attention to Kashmir. Mark Amanullah Khan's admissions: "For one and a half years we were planning our strategy." Asked whether guerilla training was part of the preparations, he replied, "Yes, there was training" (Zahid Hussain; Newsline, February 1990).

He said: "Our armed struggle started on July 31, 1988, by blasting three buildings belonging to the Government of India in Srinagar" (Sunday, March 18, 1990). One of Pakistan's leading journalists, M.A. Niazi, reported in The Nation (May 21 , 1990) from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, that its ruling party "credits Zia with laying the foundations for the present uprising" in Kashmir. He revealed on May 31: "The operations mounted during the late President Zia-ul-Haq's time caused fierce d ebate in policy-making circles with opponents warning that such activities would cause war."

With Zia's death in August 1988, Amanullah lost a patron and Pakistan the only man who knew how to combine the use of force with diplomacy. The eruption of the insurgency in December 1989 and the enormous and unexpected popular support it evoked alarmed Pakistan as much as India. If a Muslim majority State of Jammu and Kashmir could seek independence, what message would it send to restive Sindh, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP)? In 1990 a million people came out on the roads betwe en Srinagar and Chrar-e-Sharif. Azadi seemed to be just round the corner.

No propaganda by "fundamentalists" in Kashmir or from across the Line of Control (LoC) could have produced that. Only the fatal mix of repression, corruption, electoral fraud and denial of basic rights could have accomplished that. With the modern state' s monopoly of instruments of terror, external aid alone can foster and sustain armed insurgency. India produced the alienation, Pakistan provided the gun. The alienation has deepened over the decade. Guns flow and men cross the LoC even more brazenly fro m Pakistan, mired now in a gun culture which threatens its own polity.

A conscious policy decision appears to have been taken very quickly in Islamabad, in fact, to curb the independence sentiment that clearly lay at the foundation of the movement. A generally very well informed Kashmiri observer residing in Pakistan put it this way to the author: "While the People's Party was yet in power, Pakistani leaders became aware of the need to assert more Pakistani control of the uprising... In early February 1990, a meeting was held in Islamabad, with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutt o in the chair, and with the Chief of the Army Staff, General Aslam Beg, and the President and Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir in attendance. They decided they had to curb the Azadi forces, meaning they would not equip them and not send them into the Vall ey." (Robert G. Wirsing; Pakistan in 1992; Charles Kennedy (ed.); Westview, 1993, pages 150).

Pakistan did more than bridle the JKLF. It floated a rival, the Hizbul Mujahideen, which set about spreading communal hate through sheer terror and rejected the secular Kashmiriyat of the JKLF. Amanullah Khan bitterly complained to Yusuf Jameel that Paki stan "does not help us" because the JKLF stood for independence. It was destroying "the third option" on the ground. On April 16, 1990, the State government banned several tanzeems (organisations), the JKLF included. The Hizb was not among them. I t surfaced in 1990, as Mir Abdul Aziz noted (Insaf; September 7, 1993).

In Newsline of May 1990, Maleeha Lodhi noted the "transformation" in the movement with its "symbolism changing from the secularism of Amanullah Khan's JKLF to the Islamic slogan of the newer, younger militants". Mushahid Husain wrote in Frontie r Post of May 18, 1991, about "the Islamic component" as against the JKLF which "traditionally espoused a secular line seeking an independent Kashmir". Its student wing, the J.K. Students' Liberation Front, became Ikhwan-ul Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherh ood), as Hilal Ahmed Beg announced on April 28, 1991. It parted from the JKLF.

Those who boast, confess unwittingly. Mushahid Husain added: "Twice in the last 18 months India has sought and received Pakistan assistance in getting daughters of two prominent pro-Indian Kashmiri Muslims (Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Saifuddin Soz) releas ed from the captivity of the freedom fighters."

The HAJY Group of the JKLF had gone over to Pakistan, and returned to take up arms. None has questioned its idealism or integrity; only, its judgment. It took help but stuck to its own commitments. The others, especially the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen and the H izb, injected criminality.

So did other groups which mushroomed. Chattan (an Urdu weekly from Srinagar) recorded in an able survey (January 4, 1999) how "all of a sudden" many tanzeems, estimated at 150, had sprouted. Pakistan feared that a single body might settle w ith India, as the Sheikh did. The murders of Mir Mustafa, MLA, Maulana Masoodi, Mir Waiz Maulvi Mohammed Farooq, H.L. Khera, the veteran Communist and poet Abdul Sattar Ranjoor, Prof. Mushir-ul-Haq, Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University, and his secretar y Abdul Ghani, the trade unionist H.N. Wanchoo, who documented human rights violations, and the surgeon Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, revealed the ugly face of militants' terrorism.

Two documents reveal what was afoot. One is a press release issued by the JKLF from Rawalpindi on April 26, 1990. It is referred to in footnote 166 on page 131 of the Asia Watch Report Kashmir Under Siege in Chapter V, which documents militants' e xcesses.

Entitled "The kidnapping and execution of Mashir-ul-Haq (sic.), and Abdul Ghani: An Explanation," it was issued in response to protests over the execution of Mushir-ul-Haq. "The JKLF wants to clarify its position... it might occasionally become necessary to organise operations like kidnapping and execution of hostages, hijacking, etc..." The targets should be government officials and collaborators, not "sons and daughters of the soil. That was why though he ordered the kidnapping of the daughter of Muft i (Mohammed) Sayeed to obtain the release of some freedom fighters, Mr. Amanullah Khan took care to see that no harm came to her. We were also opposed to the kidnapping and execution of Mir Mustafa... but unfortunately, our advice was not heeded by Hizb- e-Mujahideen, which carried out this operation on the instructions of the ISI and Brig. Imtiaz."

Plans for a similar operation were "discussed at a meeting convened by Imtiaz at the office of the Liberation Cell in Muzaffarabad. Dr. Farooq Haider represented the JKLF at this meeting. It was Imtiaz who suggested the kidnapping of Mushir-ul- Haq, Abdul Ghani and Khera, in order to obtain the release of three freedom fighters. The idea was strongly supported by Prof. Ashraf Saraf, G.M. Shafi and Ghulam Hassan Lone. Dr. Haider and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar were initially hesitant to support the operation... Imtiaz, Prof. Ashraf Saraf and G.M. Shafi, however, insisted that the operations should be launched, and appealed for unity of action between the JKLF and Hizb-e-Mujahideen... Imtiaz threatened that if the JKLF did not support the operation , the ISI and Cell No. 202 would stop all assistance to it and would in future only assist the Hizb-e-Mujahideen. He also threatened to have Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar arrested. We then agreed to support and participate in the operation on condition that no ha rm would be caused to the hostages...

"We were shocked to learn that Imtiaz had, on his own, used the name of Mr. Amanullah Khan and conveyed instructions to the freedom fighters through Prof. Ashraf Saraf and Shafi for the execution of the hostages... We strongly condemn this duplicity and perfidious role of Imtiaz. We call upon the freedom-fighters to be aware of the mischievous role being played by the leaders of the Hizb-e-Mujahideen on the instructions of the ISI and Cell No. 202" (emphasis added, throughout).

The other document is an Agreement signed in Islamabad on April 2, 1993 by representatives of the Hizb - Abdul Majid Dar (adviser general), Shamsul Haq (member, supreme command council) and Prof. Ashraf Saraf (representative of the Jamaat-e-Islami for Te hreek-e-Hurriyat Kashmir) - and those of the JKLF: namely, Raja Mohammed Muzaffar (senior vice chairman), Dr. Haider Hijazi (central press and publicity secretary) and Dr. Farooq Haider (senior leader). They recognised each other's right "to preach and p roject its ideology" (Para 1); the right of the people to choose either independence or accession to Pakistan (Para 2); and pledged mutual cooperation (for the text, vide Mushtaq ur Rehman; Divided Kashmir, Bahri Sons, New Delhi, 1996, pages 196). Clashes between the two were very common. The Hizb did its job. It decimated the JKLF.

Amanullah Khan and Farooq Haider fell out, as did the Khan and Yasin Malik. The JKLF split in both parts of the State. On March 30, 1996, the State Police raided the headquarters of one faction at the Hazratbal shrine and wiped out the entire top leaders hip of the JKLF (Siddiqui) including its president, Shabir Siddiqui. Of the HAJY group, Ashfaq Majid Wani died in a mishap on March 30, 1990 and Sheikh Abdul Hamid was killed by the security forces on November 19, 1992. Shortly after his release from pri son, on May 17, 1994, Yasin Malik declared a unilateral ceasefire.

Splittism affected the Hizb, no less, fairly early in the day (vide Masood Hussain's able survey in Kashmir Times, August 10, 2000). In August 1990 Master Ahsan Dar, its first chief commander (operations), called it the "armed wing" of the Jamaat- e-Islami and earned the ire of Nasir-ul-Islam, chief of the non-Jamaat faction (The Indian Express, October 7, 1990). He suspended Dar from membership and also dissolved the Majlis-e-Shoora (general assembly) headed by Syed Salahuddin, who retaliated by expelling the offender. Shortly thereafter, the Tehreek-e-Jehade Islami, led by Abdul Majid Dar and Muzaffar Ahamd Shah, merged with the Hizb. Nasir-ul-Islam set up the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen on July 26, 1991. Salahuddin became supreme comman der on November 11, 1991 with Ahsan Dar, the chief commander (operations). In December 1993 he sacked Ahsan Dar, who set up shop under the name of Muslim Mujahideen. It is no small achievement that Syed Salahuddin has continued to rule the roost for near ly a decade.

Salahuddin has twice dissociated the Hizb from the Jamaat (September 5, 1992 and November 26, 1997). The Hizb has suffered grave losses in life and through defections. Without popular support it could not have survived as the only authentically indigenou s militant tanzeem which matters. Others depend on it for its knowledge of the people and the terrain; the invaluable logistical support. The ISI found its assertiveness offensive; the Hizb chafed at its patronage and its dependence.

THREE main Pakistani outfits were active in Kargil - Al Badar Mujahideen, Harkatul Mujahideen (HUM), and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) besides the small, obscure Tehrik-e-Jehad. Only the first of the three had an agenda confined to Kashmir. The rest aspire to change Pakistan. "With 1,000 members Al-Badar is the third largest militant group," Zaffar Abbas wrote (The Herald, August 2000). It had killed very many Bengali nationalists in East Pakistan in 1970 and fought in Afghanistan a decade later as a f action of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizbe Islami. It trained the first batch of 15 Kashmiris who crossed the LoC in 1989. Its chief, Bakht Zameen (45), a law graduate, recalled: "The rank and file of Hizb mostly belonged to Kashmir. Our Mujahideen also went with them... Thus people thought that we were part of the Hizbul Mujahideen which hindered us..." The Hizb comprised two regiments, Al Badar and Pir Panjal. Al Badar opted out in September 1998, accusing the Jamaat-e-Islami of interfering with the Hizb. Syed Salahuddin reorganised the Hizb, renaming the Pir Panjal regiment as "Hizbul Mujahideen, J&K" and setting up another "Hizb, Pakistan" (Zaigham Khan; ibid). Over the years the reportage of Zahid Hussain (Newsline), Zaffar Abbas and Zaigham Kha n (The Herald), Arif Jamal (News) and Khaled Ahmad (Friday Times) on these bodies has been invaluable.

The Al Badar's cadres are "highly educated" and "economically better off.... a number of them have private jobs and many others run small businesses" (Arif Jamal, News, August 29, 1999). Educated youth, uncomfortable with madrassa recruits, "are a t ease in the company of engineers, doctors, computer scientists and social scientists" of the Al Badar. Recruits have to undergo rigorous religious as well as commando training. Its four training camps in Afghanistan were abandoned when Hekmatyar's foes , the Taliban, took over in 1996 and gave them to the HUM instead. Its sole training facility is the Ma'askar Al Badar in the jungles of Manshera in the NWFP.

The HUM and the LeT are more autonomous and ambitious with roots in religious parties. They coordinate, yet contest against each other. "The Pakistani armed forces number nearly 500,000 while there are nearly 300,000 armed mujahideen in the country" (Ari f Jamal, News, July 9, 2000). What this spells for the future of Pakistan is not hard to imagine.

A WORD about the sectarian divide. The Jamaat-e-Islami was founded in Pathankot by Maulana Abu'l Ala Maududi. Brilliant, extremist, and opposed to Partition, he demanded an Islamic state in Pakistan. The Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, founded in 1919, supported the Congress and became a political spokesman for the seminary Daru'l Uloom at Deoband (Uttar Pradesh). The Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Pakistan became its ideological successor. Its leader, Mufti Mahmud, led the opposition in 1977. His son Maulana Fa zlur Rehman, and Maulana Samiul Haq, split the JUI. Both became mentors to the HUM and to the Taliban; Haq particularly. The JUI opposed the Jamaat, which was Zia's favourite. Fazlur Rehman joined Benazir Bhutto's coalition in 1993 and acquired access to power and links with the ISI. Samiul Haq's madrassa became a training ground for the Taliban. Both the JUIs and the Taliban are staunch Deobandis, a reformist movement which started in the 19th century in India to revive Islamic values and to reconcile the law with modern realities. The movement is restrictive in regard to women's rights and the Shias. The HUM, a JUI product, is also Deobandi.

The LeT was set up by the Ahle-Hadis, doctrinally close to the Saudi Wahabis. They hate ritual and reject Sufism. With them, the texts yield only one meaning. They insist on substantial individual responsibility in interpreting the law, rejecting recogni sed Sunni schools, unlike the Deobandis.

Opposed to them is the other 19th century movement of Ahle-Sunnat Wa Jama'at, popularly called the Barelwis: devotees of saints, visitors to shrines and followers of Sufis, to the resentment of the rest. This group was organised by Ahmed Riza Khan Barelw i (1870-1920) who denounced doctrinal rivals as infidels. The Deobandis hold sway in the NWFP and the Barelwis in Punjab; while the Jamaat became an ally of Hekmatyar's Hizbe Islami in Afghanistan and supported the Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir, the JUI w as close to the clergy-led Afghan parties of Maulvi Khalis and Maulvi Mohammed Nabi Mohammadi and backed the HUM in Kashmir. It is close to the Taliban as fellow Deobandis.

Doubtless, the ISI finds them useful in Kashmir and assists them. They are not its creatures, however, and are not amenable to its control, as Rammohan recognised; all the greater is their menace.

The HUM is one of the JUI's splinters. It was formed in 1990 under Fazlur Rehman Khalil to whom the Taliban handed over in 1996 the camp vacated by the Al Badar. First known as the Harkatul' Jehad-e-Islami, the group was founded in the early 1980s by Mau lana Irshad from Punjab. It split into two factions. One, led by Qari Saifullah Akhtar, continued under the old name; the other became Harkatul Ansar (HUA) under Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil from the NWFP. They reunited as the HUM, only to part in 1996. On the U.S. State Department listing the HUA as a terrorist outfit in 1997, the HUA restyled itself as the HUM.

Khalil (38) is soft-spoken but radical. He denies any links with the JUI or its Maulana Fazlur Rehman. "I am not a member of the Taliban but we belong to the same school of thought," he told Imtiaz Gul (Friday Times; February 4, 2000). Maulana Mas ood Azhar had resigned from the HUM in mid-1997, he said. The hijacking was "not good for Pakistan and the Jehadi groups". Khalil claimed that the Harkat was "the most effective group involved" in Kashmir. "We never utter a single word which can ignite s ectarian strife". The Harkat's present chief is Farooq Kashmiri. Khalil is secretary-general. The HUM is linked to both factions of the JUI, the denial notwithstanding.

Shortly after Azhar's release from prison in India, following the Kandahar deal on December 31, 1999, Khalil disowned him ("no links"). Azhar retaliated on January 27 by declaring that he would float a new body. On February 4 he announced that he would h ead a group called Jaish-e-Mohammed Mujahideen-e-Tanzeem to unite all the jehadi groups. Before long, the Jaish was enlisting the Harkat's cadres. Associated with him was Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, head of the seminary Jamiat-ul-Uloom-Islamia at Bi nori mosque, Karachi, a Pakhtun Deobandi and Pakistan's most powerful cleric. Reportedly, his disciple Mullah Omar, the Taliban chief, met Osama Bin Laden in 1989 in that mosque under his auspices.

The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba ("the army of the pure") is a different kettle of fish. It is the military wing of the Markaz Dawat wal Irshad (the centre for preaching and education). The Markaz was set up in 1986 by three university teachers - Professor Hafiz Mo hammad Saeed, Zafar Iqbal of the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, and Abdul Azam of the International Islamic University, Islamabad - to preach Islam and promote jehad. When the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the Markaz decided to stay there, but turned its attention to Kashmir from 1991 onwards.

The Markaz headquarters is housed in Muridke, about 50 km north of Lahore, over 80 hectares of land. It is Pakistan's largest and best organised jehadi tanzeem. Recruits are given intensive military training besides religious and secular education . By 1997 it was running 30 schools with 5,000 students.

"It costs millions to make a tank but only a few rupees to defend against it," a Lashkar advertisement in Pakistan's leading newspapers proclaimed early this year. "The Talibans are a group of misguided elements. We have higher ideals," Vice-Chancellor Z afar Iqbal said last May. The Taliban are Deobandis. The Markaz is Ahle Hadis. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed candidly told Azmat Abbas of News (March 5, 2000) that "they (mujahideen) were in the frontline in Kargil although the role played by the ar med forces cannot be denied" - which exposes Pakistan's false denial.

In 1993 these Pakistan-based bodies entered Kashmir as "guest fighters" and came to dominate all others by 1995 - except the Hizb. On January 17, 2000, Mir Waiz Maulvi Umar Farooq warned that "the foreign elements" would increase "and we cannot resist it as frustration among youth is on the rise. Militancy is taking new shape which will be beyond any control now" - the Hurriyat's, India's or Pakistan's.

A. H. Nayyar wrote (News; March 5, 2000) that "an estimated 300,000 mujahideen have acquired military training... it is estimated that not more than 5,000 mujahideen are fighting" in Kashmir. The LeT is utterly intolerant. It first converts Muslims from other sects into the Ahle Hadis sect and, next, indoctrinates them to fight in Kashmir. Three of its training camps are in PoK, where it has trained over 10,000 men. It has over 2,000 offices and 200 schools all over the country. There are few places in Pakistan where its workers are not present.

The smaller Pakistani groups are no less menacing. The Harkat-ul-Jehade-e-Islami (HUJI) was revived in late 1996. It had merged with the HUM to form H-U-Ansar in 1993 but parted three years later. Ali Akbar is its leader in Jammu and Kashmir. It consider s the JUI its political wing. It has been operating since 1998 in Poonch, Rajouri and Doda.

The Barelwis have not been inactive. Politically, their Jamiat-ul-Ulema Pakistan (JUP), famous in the 1960s, under Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani, is a spent force now. Marginalised by the Deobandis in the JUI, the Harkat and the Jaish, and by the Ahle Hadis -led LeT, the Barelwis declared at a mammoth conference of the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat in Multan last April: "Pick up the gun or risk losing the position". Significantly, several speakers called for curbs on "the terrorist organisations which have been organi sed in the name of jehad in Kashmir".

Jamal reported (April 4): "Several jehadi groups which recruit mujahideen had set up their camps at the conference. These included the Tanzeemul Arifeen, Tehrik Jehad (Pir Panjal Regiment) Jammu and Kashmir, Sunni Jehad Council, Harakat Inquilab I slami, Lashkar Islam, Lashkar Mustafa and Lashkar Ababeel. All these nascent jehadi groups energetically solicited young men for military training. Two other Sunni jehadi outfits, the Sunni Mujahideen and the Lashmar Ahle Sunnat, were also present and carried out their efforts to recruit young Sunni men for military training." The Barelwis were then already in the process of setting up their armed wing, the Lashkar Ahle Sunnat.

So sharp is the sectarian divide among the Deobandis, Ahle Hadis and the Barelwis that they run separate mosques and do not pray under an imam of another sect. All are anti-Shia.

To his credit Maulvi Abbas Ansari of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) in Kashmir has all his life sought to bridge the divide. He is not responsible for the Shia Kashmiri outfit which operates from PoK, the Hizbul Momimeen, J&K, which was set u p in 1991. Its cadres are educated; dress well and eat well, too (Kashmiri Wazuan). This Hizb's base is confined to Srinagar, Baramulla and Badgam. Shuja Abbas (30), a graduate from Srinagar and the Amir (chief), has enrolled himself in a Pakistani insti tution for further education. Compared to the others this body functions democratically through consultation. Abbas is accountable to a six-member Shura Khadmee (consultative council). Jamal noted (March 5) that besides the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Shia Hi zbul Momineen is the only Kashmir-based tanzeem "which is not dying" despite its smaller numbers.

A QUICK survey of the small fry. The Tehrikul Mujahideen has only one training camp, in Manshera, and is headed by Maulana Abdullah Ghazali. But it is the Amir of the base camp, Sheikh Jamilur Rehman, who is in charge. Its credo is Ahle Hadis. The Jamiat -ul-Mujahideen, which joined the LeT in a suicide squad attack on an army camp in Badgam on September 12, was formed by Nasir-ul-Islam from the Hizbul Mujahideen's youth wing. It advocates the strictest enforcement of Islamic law and is intolerant to the core.

We are concerned with the players of today. Many of the outfits set up in 1990 faded away. No one hears about the Allah Tigers, the Operation Balakote, the Hizbullah, or the Al Barg. Tracing their lineage would require the industry of the editors of Burk e's Peerage. Amidst all this, the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, a women's organisation headed by the fiery Asiya Andrabi, has stood its ground. Others left a trail which comes to life suddenly and vanishes; for instance, the Al Umar Mujahideen of Mushtaq Ah mad Zargar, who was released at Kandahar.

The People's League would have become a powerful body had it remained united. Historians of the decade-old militancy will perforce rely on the Urdu weekly Chattan, edited by Taher Mohiuddin; especially, the survey by Hamid Salik since January 4, 1 999. He recorded how by 1993 one militant leader of stature after another realised the futility of the gun. Some, like Azan Inquilabi, also denounced dictation by the ISI. He noted (March 16, 1998) that the People's League was split into five fact ions - under Farooq Rehmani, Naeem Khan, S. Hameed, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, released from jail on September 5, after seven years. He was chief of the Al-Jehad, the People's League's armed wing. Shabbir Shah had distanced himself but not separated from the Peo ple's League. He has his own party, the Democratic Freedom Party. Fazlul Haq Qureshi set up his People's Political Front in 1993. The Hurriyat seems congenitally divided. But it has not split. Its leaders cannot afford to, for fear of incurring odium. Ka shmir's leaders have shown a deplorable lack of maturity and discipline. Everyone wants to be the leader with his own small outfit - derh eemth ki masjid, as the Urdu phrase goes (a mosque of a brick and a half). Sheikh Abdul Aziz has made a point ed reference to the need for mutual consultation and united collective leadership (Yusuf Jameel, The Asian Age; September 14). Like all others, he sees the irrelevance of the gun.

One must distinguish between tanzeems Kashmiri and Pakistani; the ones with roots in Kashmir, though aided by the ISI, and those the ISI set up; the ones whose agenda is confined to Kashmir and others who seek to fashion Pakistan in their own imag e. Without the Pakistani gun, armed insurgency would have been almost impossible.

Hamid Salik attacked Pakistan (Chattan, February 1; 1999) for the "poisonous mushrooming" of militant bodies, for its deep distrust of Kashmiri Nationalism which was reflected in its efforts to keep militants as well as politicians divided. He also censured Kashmiri politicians for their blind acceptance of Pakistan's credentials as a reaction to India's repression. Militancy rages in Kashmir; but "the remote control" lies outside it. He added that Kas hmiris had surrendered to policy directives by people across the LoC and acquiesced in their "dictates". They did not care to acquire control of the militancy at all. "Now the entire 'game' is being played by Pakistan." It negotiates with India at will. Its support to the "Kashmiri movement" is not disinterested. "If Kashmir had produced a courageous leader who could have transformed militancy into a political movement, the situation would have been entirely different... but we accepted rank strangers a s our messiahs." They and their accomplices in Kashmir saw to it that Kashmiris remain divided so that the "reins" remain in Pakistan's hands.

This brilliant critique shows the reality and depth of Kashmiri Nationalism as well as the consequences of India's repression which drove Kashmiris into Pakistan's treacherous arms. Today the Kashmir issue cannot be settled without the consent of both - the Kashmiris as well as Pakistan.

Even if militancy is crushed, the deep popular alienation which provides haven to insurgency would remain. Most in New Delhi would not mind that. The people would acquiesce with the passage of time, they calculate. Popular feeling is irrelevant, a s it has ever been in New Delhi's calculations.

The people have suffered grievously at the hands of the militants. Their partiality towards them is similar to that of the Sri Lankan Tamils towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Mavai Senadhirajah, a Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) MP, said , "The Tamils feel that the LTTE has to display its military prowess to get anything substantive from the government on the ethnic question" (The Hindustan Times, April 28, 2000). Nirupama Subramanian's excellent reportage consistently makes this point: "Most believe that if the LTTE were to be defeated militarily, the Sinhala political establishment would close the chapter on the 'Tamil problem' and bury their political aspirations forever" (The Hindu, May 15, 2000).

This is precisely how Kashmiris feel about militancy and the feeling exists even in the ranks of the National Conference, as the Assembly debates last June revealed. If India can be so negative even on autonomy within the Union, despite the militancy, what hopes can they have of a fair deal when militancy is crushed? And yet there is a universal yearning for peace.

But crushing it is New Delhi's sole objective and there are no degree to which it will not stoop in doing so. In 1995 it replicated in Kashmir state-sponsored terrorism it had practised in Punjab. Sanjoy Hazarika, who first exposed that in The New Yor k Times, wrote on "The Gambit" in The Illustrated Weekly of India; July 10, 1988 (vide "The Underground Army", India Today, September 15, 1998 and December 15, 1995). There is an entire Report of Human Rights Watch/Asia (May 1996) on "India's Secret Army in Kashmir". Pankaj Mishra's superb report (The Hindu, August 27, September 3 and 10) records how the surrendered militants whom the Army enrolled as "friendlies" but are popularly known as "renegades" had "recently helped open the BJP office in Anantnag". They are used to killing former colleagues as well as "journalists and human rights activists who were seen as too eager to report on the excesses committed by the Army. In return, the Army and the civil administration looked the other way when the renegades kidnapped and killed for money". One of them is an MLA "but there were still 1,500 young men with guns on the government's payroll". These renegades are "the most dreaded people in the Valley, more than the jehadi guerillas, mo re than the Army and police officials..." Pankaj Mishra makes an important point: "The problems and people of the State have remained unknown to most Indians."

When Firdous Syed Baba opted out of militancy, he told Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda: "I am not going to be a counter-insurgent and killing my own people." On February 8, 1996, he along with Bilal Lodhi, former chief of the Al Barq, the militant wing of Abdul Ghani Lone's People's Conference, Ghulam Mohiuddin and Imran Rahi, former deputy chiefs, respectively, of the Muslim Mujahideen and the Hizbul Mujahideen, declared their opposition to the Hurriyat and set up the Forum for the Permanent Resolution of J&K. The Forum withered away; the Hurriyat has survived. Popular support to the latter, which only the blind deny, made the difference. So did massive human rights violations. On July 29, 1998 Spain's Supreme Court sentenced a former Interior Minister to 10 years' imprisonment for his role in Spain's Dirty War - the killing of Basque militant separatists during 1983-87. This is the technique used by Latin American dictators. And, that should be practised by India.

However, if India's policy is a fiasco in political and moral terms, more so is Pakistan's. It had sought to reopen what India regarded as a closed chapter. Reopened it has been now, to the discomfiture of both. But that is only through the self-assertio n and sacrifices of the people of Kashmir. Pakistan has done incalculable damage to Kashmir and to itself. India cannot be made to "leave" Kashmir. Pakistan failed even to promote a meaningful dialogue. In January 1994 it offered India the surrender terms - a plebiscite. Its operation was not linked to diplomacy but ran autonomously and mindlessly. As Hans J . Morgenthau wrote in his classic Politics Among Nations: "The means at the disposal of diplomacy are three: persuasion, compromise, and threat of force. No diplomacy relying only upon the threat of force can claim to be both intelligent and peace ful. No diplomacy that would stake everything on persuasion and compromise deserves to be called intelligent." A diplomat must simultaneously "use persuasion, hold out the advantages of a compromise, and impress the other side with the military strength of his country. The art of diplomacy consists of putting the right emphasis at any particular moment on each of these three means at his disposal."

A covert armed operation makes sense only as an aid to diplomacy. If, as practitioners of realpolitik hold, diplomacy devoid of the sanction of force is sterile, use of force unrelated to the ends of diplomacy can be ruinous. After Zia, Pakistan's government and the ISI became autonomous entities, with the latter calling the tune. The diplomats were hamstrung. Two important rules were flouted - there was no fall-back position, no exit strategy for Pakistan; and it offered India no line of retreat . Even at the height of the militancy, Pakistan never offered India terms it could accept without loss of face and loss of domestic support. It harped on a plebiscite. India was ready to sit out.

But it cannot do so for long. Even the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. V.P. Malik, recognised on September 11 that "ultimately there has to be a political solution to the problem". Political initiatives were necessary "to counter the alienation of the l ocal population". A Kashmir University professor said realistically: "As long as alienation from India continues and Pakistan keeps supporting insurgency, militancy will return again and again." Having expended all that it has for over a decade, Paki stan will not simply wind up the show - except as part of a deal. That will not be easy with the HUM, the LeT and the rest. There is no other way, however.

India's endeavour should be to seek consistently with its national interest and Kashmir's non-negotiable membership of the Union, alternatives which both Pakistan and the people of Kashmir can accept; that is, a congruence of interests. It will have t o be a compromise and compromises are evolved only through unconditional dialogues, conducted sincerely.

The distinguished French journalist and diplomat, Eric Rouleau, revealed in an interview, on April 24-25, 1993, that when De Gaulle's advisers suggested that he negotiate with an Algerian moderate, (Beni Oui Oui, a yesman) who had not taken up arms, and not with the FLN, his reply was - "if you want to forge a lasting peace, you have to negotiate with those who are firing on your soldiers; you don't negotiate with those with no blood on their hands because they are irrelevant." In Kashmir, all the sides involved have nothing but blood on their hands.

HORSEPLAY IN HARAPPA

cover-story
The Indus Valley Decipherment Hoax

MICHAEL WITZEL, a Harvard University Indologist, and STEVE FARMER, a comparative historian, report on media hype, faked data, and Hindutva propaganda in recent claims that the Indus Valley script has been decoded.

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LAST summer the Indian press carried sensational stories announcing the final decipherment of the Harappan or Indus Valley script. A United News of India dispatch on July 11, 1999, picked up throughout South Asia, reported on new research by "noted histo rian, N.S. Rajaram, who along with palaeographist Dr. Natwar Jha, has read and deciphered the messages on more than 2,000 Harappan seals." Discussion of the messages was promised in Rajaram and Jha's upcoming book, The Deciphered Indus Script. For nearly a year, the Internet was abuzz with reports that Rajaram and Jha had decoded the full corpus of Indus Valley texts.

This was not the first claim that the writing of the Indus Valley Civilisation (fl. c. 2600-1900 BCE) had been cracked. In a 1996 book, American archaeologist Gregory Possehl reviewed thirty-five attempted decipherments, perhaps one-third the actual numb er. But the claims of Rajaram and Jha went far beyond those of any recent historians. Not only had the principles of decipherment been discovered, but the entire corpus of texts could now be read. Even more remarkable were the historical conclusions that Rajaram and his collaborator said were backed by the decoded messages.

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The UNI story was triggered by announcements that Rajaram and Jha had not only deciphered the Indus Valley seals but had read "pre-Harappan" texts dating to the mid-fourth millennium BCE. If confirmed, this meant that they had decoded mankind's earliest literary message. The "texts" were a handful of symbols scratched on a pottery tablet recently discovered by Harvard University archaeologist Richard Meadow. The oldest of these, Rajaram told the UNI, was a text that could be translated "Ila surrounds th e blessed land" - an oblique but unmistakable reference to the Rigveda's Saraswati river. The suggestion was that man's earliest message was linked to India's oldest religious text.1 The claim was hardly trivial, since this was over 2,000 year s before Indologists date the Rigveda - and more than 1,000 years before Harappan culture itself reached maturity.

Rajaram's World

After months of media hype, Rajaram and Jha's The Deciphered Indus Script2 made it to print in New Delhi early this year. By midsummer the book had reached the West and was being heatedly discussed via the Internet in Europe, India, and the United States. The book gave credit for the decipherment method to Jha, a provincial religious scholar, previously unknown, from Farakka, in West Bengal. The book's publicity hails him as "one of the world's foremost Vedic scholars and palaeographer s." Jha had reportedly worked in isolation for twenty years, publishing a curious 60-page English pamphlet on his work in 1996. Jha's study caught the eye of Rajaram, who was already notorious in Indological circles. Rajaram took credit for writing most of the book, which heavily politicised Jha's largely apolitical message. Rajaram's online biography claims that their joint effort is "the most important breakthrough of our time in the history of Indian history and culture."

Rajaram's 'computer enhancement' of Mackay 453, transforming it into a 'horse seal' (From the book The Deciphered Indus Script, p. 177)

(Left) Figure 7.1a: The 'Horse Seal' (Mackay 453) (Right) Figure 7.1b: The 'Horse Seal' (Artist's reproduction)

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Boasts like this do not surprise battle-scarred Indologists familiar with Rajaram's work. A U.S. engineering professor in the 1980s, Rajaram re-invented himself in the 1990s as a fiery Hindutva propagandist and "revisionist" historian. By the mid-1990s, he could claim a following in India and in migr circles in the U.S. In manufacturing his public image, Rajaram traded heavily on claims, not justified by his modest research career, that before turning to history "he was one of America's best-known wor kers in artificial intelligence and robotics." Hyperbole abounds in his online biography, posted at the ironically named "Sword of Truth" website. The Hindutva propaganda site, located in the United States, pictures Rajaram as a "world-renowned" expert o n "Vedic mathematics" and an "authority on the history of Christianity." The last claim is supported by violently anti-Christian works carrying titles like Christianity's Collapsing Empire and Its Designs in India. Rajaram's papers include his "Se arch for the historical Krishna" (found in the Indus Valley c. 3100 BCE); attack a long list of Hindutva "enemies" including Christian missionaries, Marxist academics, leftist politicians, Indian Muslims, and Western Indologists; and glorify the mob dest ruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992 as a symbol of India's emergence from "the grip of alien imperialistic forces and their surrogates." All Indian history, Rajaram writes, can be pictured as a struggle between nationalistic and imperialistic forces.

In Indology, the imperialistic enemy is the "colonial-missionary creation known as the Aryan invasion model," which Rajaram ascribes to Indologists long after crude invasion theories have been replaced by more sophisticated acculturation models by seriou s researchers. Rajaram's cartoon image of Indology is to be replaced by "a path of study that combines ancient learning and modern science." What Rajaram means by "science" is suggested in one of his papers describing the knowledge of the Rigveda poets. The Rigveda rishis, we find, packed their hymns with occult allusions to high-energy physics, anti-matter, the inflational theory of the universe, calculations of the speed of light, and gamma-ray bursts striking the earth three times a day. The l atter is shown in three Rigveda verses (3.56.6, 7.11.3, 9.86.18) addressed to the god Agni. The second Rajaram translates: "O Agni! We know you have wealth to give three times a day to mortals."

One of Rajaram's early Hindutva pieces was written in 1995 with David Frawley, a Western "New Age" writer who likes to find allusions to American Indians in the Rigveda. Frawley is transformed via the "Sword of Truth" into a "famous American Vedic scholar and historian." The book by Rajaram and Frawley proposes the curious thesis that the Rigveda was the product of a complex urban and maritime civilisation, not the primitive horse-and-chariot culture seen in the text. The goal is to link the Rigv eda to the earlier Indus Valley Civilisation, undercutting any possibility of later "Aryan" migrations or relocations of the Rigveda to "foreign" soil. Ancient India, working through a massive (but lost) Harappan literature, was a prime source of civilis ation to the West.

The Deciphered Indus Script makes similar claims with different weapons. The Indus-Saraswati Valley again becomes the home of the Rigveda and a font of higher civilisation: Babylonian and Greek mathematics, all alphabetical scripts, and even Roman numerals flow out to the world from the Indus Valley's infinitely fertile cultural womb. Press releases praise the work for not only "solving the most significant technical problem in historical research of our time" - deciphering the Indus script - but for demonstrating as well that "if any 'cradle of civilisation' existed, it was located not in Mesopotamia but in the Saraswati Valley." The decoded messages of Harappa thus confirm the Hindutva propagandist's wildest nationalistic dreams.

Rajaram's 'Piltdown Horse'

Not unexpectedly, Indologists followed the pre-press publicity for Rajaram's book with a mix of curiosity and scepticism. Just as the book hit the West, a lively Internet debate was under way over whether any substantial texts existed in Harappa - let alone the massive lost literature claimed by Rajaram. Indus Valley texts are cryptic to extremes, and the script shows few signs of evolutionary change. Most inscriptions are no more than four or five characters long; many contain only two or three characters. Moreover, character shapes in mature Harappan appear to be strangely "frozen," unlike anything seen in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt or China. This suggests that expected "scribal pressures" for simplifying the script, arising out of the repeate d copying of long texts, was lacking. And if this is true, the Indus script may have never evolved beyond a simple proto-writing system.

Mackay 453 before its 'computer enhancement' by Rajaram. When you look at the original picture, it is clear that the seal impression is cracked.

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Once Rajaram's book could actually be read, the initial scepticism of Indologists turned to howls of disbelief - followed by charges of fraud. It was quickly shown that the methods of Jha and Rajaram were so flexible that virtually any desired message co uld be read into the texts. One Indologist claimed that using methods like these he could show that the inscriptions were written in Old Norse or Old English. Others pointed to the fact that the decoded messages repeatedly turned up "missing links" betwe en Harappan and Vedic cultures - supporting Rajaram's Hindutva revisions of history. The language of Harappa was declared to be "late Vedic" Sanskrit, some 2,000 years before the language itself existed. Through the decoded messages, the horseless Indus Valley Civilisation - distinguishing it sharply from the culture of the Rigveda - was awash with horses, horse keepers, and even horse rustlers. To support his claims, Rajaram pointed to a blurry image of a "horse seal" - the first pictorial evidence eve r claimed of Harappan horses.

Chaos followed. Within weeks, the two of us demonstrated that Rajaram's "horse seal" was a fraud, created from a computer distortion of a broken "unicorn bull" seal. This led Indologist wags to dub it the Indus Valley "Piltdown horse" - a comic allusion to the "Piltdown man" hoax of the early twentieth century. The comparison was, in fact, apt, since the "Piltdown man" was created to fill the missing link between ape and man - just as Rajaram's "horse seal" was intended to fill a gap between Harappa and Vedic cultures.

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Once the hoax was uncovered, $1000 was offered to anyone who could find one Harappan researcher who endorsed Rajaram's "horse seal." The offer found no takers.

The "Piltdown horse" story has its comic side, but it touches on a central problem in Indian history. Horses were critical to Vedic civilisation, as we see in Vedic texts describing horse sacrifices, horse raids, and warfare using horse-drawn chariots. I f Rigvedic culture (normally dated to the last half of the second millennium BCE) is identified with Harappa, it is critical to find evidence of extensive use of domesticated horses in India in the third millennium BCE. In the case of Hindutva "revisioni sts" like Rajaram, who push the Rigveda to the fourth or even fifth millennium, the problem is worse. They must find domesticated horses and chariots in South Asia thousands of years before either existed anywhere on the planet.

Evidence suggests that the horse (Equus caballus) was absent from India before around 2000 BCE, or even as late as 1700 BCE, when archaeology first attests its presence in the Indus plains below the Bolan pass. The horse, a steppe animal from the semi-temperate zone, was not referred to in the Middle East until the end of the third millennium, when it first shows up in Sumerian as anshe.kur (mountain ass) or anshe.zi.zi (speedy ass). Before horses, the only equids in the Near East w ere the donkey and the half-ass (hemione, onager). The nearly untrainable hemiones look a bit like horses and can interbreed with them, as can donkeys. In India, the hemione or khor (Equus hemionus khur) was the only equid known before the horse; a few specimens still survive in the Rann of Kutch.

As shown by their identical archaeological field numbers (DK-6664), M-772A (published in Vol. II of Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions, 1991) is the original seal that seven decades ago created the seal impression (Mackay 453) that Rajaram claims is a 'horse seal.'

17200046jpg 17200047jpg M-772A (flipped horizontally) Mackay 453

The appearance of domesticated horses in the Old World was closely linked to the development of lightweight chariots, which play a central role in the Rigveda. The oldest archaeological remains of chariots are from east and west of the Ural mountains, wh ere they appear c. 2000 BCE. In the Near East, their use is attested in pictures and writing a little later. A superb fifteenth-century Egyptian example survives intact (in Florence, Italy); others show up in twelfth-century Chinese tombs.

Chariots like these were high-tech creations: the poles of the Egyptian example were made of elm, the wheels' felloes (outer rim) of ash, its axles and spokes of evergreen oak, and its spoke lashings of birch bark. None of these trees are found in the Ne ar East south of Armenia, implying that these materials were imported from the north. The Egyptian example weighs only 30 kg or so, a tiny fraction of slow and heavy oxen-drawn wagons, weighing 500 kg or more, which earlier served as the main wheeled tra nsport. These wagons, known since around 3000 BCE, are similar to those still seen in parts of the Indian countryside.

The result of all this is that the claim that horses or chariots were found in the Indus Valley of the third millennium BCE is quite a stretch. The problem is impossible for writers like Rajaram who imagine the Rigveda early in the fourth or even fifth m illennium, which is long before any wheeled transport - let alone chariots - existed. Even the late Hungarian palaeontologist S. Bokonyi, who thought that he recognised horses' bones at one Indus site, Surkotada, denied that these were indigenous to South Asia. He writes that "horses reached the Indian subcontinent in an already domesticated form coming from the Inner Asiatic hors e domestication centres." Harvard's Richard Meadow, who discovered the earliest known Harappan text (which Rajaram claims to have deciphered), disputes even the Surkotada evidence. In a paper written with the young Indian scholar, Ajita K. Patel, Meadow argues that not one clear example of horse bones exists in Indus excavations or elsewhere in North India before c. 2000 BCE.3 All contrary claims arise from evidence from ditches, erosional deposits, pits or horse graves originating hun dreds or even thousands of years later than Harappan civilisation. Remains of "horses" claimed by early Harappan archaeologists in the 1930s were not documented well enough to let us distinguish between horses, hemiones, or asses.

All this explains the need for Rajaram's horse inscriptions and "horse seal." If this evidence were genuine, it would trigger a major rethinking of all Old World history. Rajaram writes, in his accustomed polemical style:

The 'horse seal' goes to show that the oft repeated claim of "No horse at Harappa" is entirely baseless. Horse bones have been found at all levels at Harappan sites. Also... the word 'as'va' (horse) is a commonly occuring (sic) word on the seals. The sup posed 'horselessness' of the Harappans is a dogma that has been exploded by evidence. But like its cousin the Aryan invasion, it persists for reasons having little to do with evidence or scholarship.

Rajaram's "horse," which looks something like a deer to most people, is a badly distorted image printed next to an "artist's reproduction" of a horse, located below a Harappan inscription.4 The original source of the image, Mackay 453, is a ti ny photo on Plate XCV of Vol. II of Ernest Mackay's Further Excavations of Mohenjo-Daro (New Delhi, 1937-38). The photo was surprisingly difficult to track down, since Rajaram's book does not tell you in which of Mackay's archaeological works, whi ch contain thousands of images, the photo is located. Finding it and others related to it required coordinating resources in two of the world's best research libraries, located 3,000 miles apart in the United States.

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Once the original was found, and compared over the Internet with his distorted image, Rajaram let it slip that the "horse seal" was a "computer enhancement" that he and Jha introduced to "facilitate our reading." Even now, however, he claims that the sea l depicts a "horse." To deny it would be disastrous, since to do so would require rejection of his decipherment of the seal inscription - which supposedly includes the word "horse."

Once you see Mackay's original photo, it is clear that Rajaram's "horse seal" is simply a broken "unicorn bull" seal, the most common seal type found in Mohenjo-daro. In context, its identity is obvious, since the same page contains photos of more than two dozen unicorn bulls - any one of which would make a good "horse seal" if it were cracked in the right place.

What in Rajaram's "computer enhancement" looks like the "neck" and "head" of a deer is a Rorschach illusion created by distortion of the crack and top-right part of the inscription. Any suggestion that the seal represents a whole animal evaporates as soo n as you see the original. The fact that the seal is broken is not mentioned in Rajaram's book. You certainly cannot tell it is broken from the "computer enhancement."

While Rajaram's bogus "horse seal" is crude, because of the relative rarity of the volume containing the original, which is not properly referenced in Rajaram's book, only a handful of researchers lucky enough to have the right sources at hand could trac k it down. Rajaram's evidence could not be checked by his typical reader in Ahmedabad, say - or even by Indologists using most university libraries.

The character of the original seal becomes clearer when you look more closely at the evidence. Mackay 453, it turns out, is not the photo of a seal at all, as Rajaram claims, but of a modern clay impression of a seal (field number DK-6664) dug up in Mohe njo-daro during the 1927-31 excavations. We have located a superb photograph of the original seal that made the impression (identified again by field number DK-6664) in the indispensable Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions (Vol. II: Helsinki 19 91, p. 63). The work was produced by archaeologists from India and Pakistan, coordinated by the renowned Indologist Asko Parpola. According to a personal communication from Dr. Parpola, the original seal was photographed in Pakistan by Jyrki Lyytikk spe cifically for the 1991 publication.

Like everyone else looking at the original, Parpola notes that Rajaram's "horse seal" is simply a broken "unicorn bull" seal, one of numerous examples found at Mohenjo-daro. Rajaram has also apparently been told this by Iravatham Mahadevan, the leading I ndian expert on the Indus script. Mahadevan is quoted, without name, in Rajaram's book as a "well known 'Dravidianist"' who pointed out to him the obvious. But, Rajaram insists, a "comparison of the two creatures [unicorns and horses], especially in [the ] genital area, shows this to be fallacious." Rajaram has also claimed on the Internet that the animal's "bushy tail" shows that it is a horse.

Below, on the left, we have reproduced Lyytikk's crisp photo of the original seal, compared (on the right) with the seven-decade-old photo (Mackay 453) of the impression Rajaram claims is a "horse seal." We have flipped the image of the original horizon tally to simplify comparison of the seal and impression. The tail of the animal is the typical "rope" tail associated with unicorn bull seals at Mohenjo-daro (seen in more images below). It is clearly not the "bushy tail" that Rajaram imagines - although Rajaram's story is certainly a "bushy horse tale."

Checking Rajaram's claims about the "genital area," we find no genitals at all in M-772A or Mackay 453 - for the simple reason that genitals on unicorn bulls are typically located right where the seal is cracked! This is clear when we look at other unico rn seals or their impressions. One seal impression, Parpola M-1034a (on the right), has a lot in common with Rajaram's "horse seal," including the two characters on the lefthand side of the inscription. The seal is broken in a different place, wiping out the righthand side of the inscription but leaving the genitals intact. On this seal impression we see the distinctive "unicorn" genitals, identified by the long "tuft" hanging straight down. The genitals are located where we would find them on Rajaram's "horse seal," if the latter were not broken.

Other unicorn bull seal impressions, like the one seen in Parpola M-595a, could make terrific "horse seals" if cracked in the same place. Unfortunately, Parpola M-595a is not broken, revealing the fact (true of most Harappan seals) that it represents not a real but a mythological animal. (And, of course, neither this nor any other unicorn has a bushy tail.)

Rajaram's 'computer enhancement' of Mackay 453 on the left; the arrow points to an object apparently stuck into the original image. On the right, pictures of Mohenjo-daro copper plates showing similar telephone-like 'feeding troughs.'

(Left) Figure 7.1a: The `Horse Seal' (Mackay 453)

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A Russian Indologist, Yaroslav Vassilkov, has pointed to a suspicious detail in Rajaram's "computer enhancement" that is not found on any photo of the seal or impression. Just in front of the animal, we find a small object that looks like a partia l image of a common icon in animal seals: a "feeding trough" that looks a little like an old-style telephone. Who inserted it into the distorted image of the "horse seal" is not known. Rajaram has not responded to questions about it.

Below, we show Rajaram's "computer enhancement" next to pictures of Mohenjo-daro copper plates that contain several versions of the object.

'Late Vedic' Sanskrit - 2000 Years Before Schedule

The horse seal is only one case of bogus data in Rajaram's book. Knowledge of Vedic Sanskrit is needed to uncover those involving his decipherments. That is not knowledge that Rajaram would expect in his average reader, since (despite its pretensions) th e book is not aimed at scholars but at a lay Indian audience. The pretence that the book is addressed to researchers (to whom the fraud is obvious) is a smokescreen to convince lay readers that Rajaram is a serious historical scholar.

The decipherment issue explains why Rajaram continues to defend his "horse seal" long after his own supporters have called on him to repudiate it. He has little choice, since he has permanently wedded his "Piltdown horse" to his decipherment method. The inscription over the horse, he tells us, reads (a bit ungrammatically) "arko-hasva or arko ha as'va" - "Sun indeed like the horse (sic)." The reading clearly would be pointless if the image represented a unicorn bull. Rajaram claims that there are links between this "deciphered" text and a later Vedic religious document, the Shukla Yajurveda. This again pushes the Rigveda, which is linguistically much earlier than that text, to an absurdly early period.

As we have seen, Rajaram claims that the language of Harappa was "late Vedic" Sanskrit. This conflicts with countless facts from archaeology, linguistics, and other fields. Indeed, "late Vedic" did not exist until some two thousand years after the start of mature Harappan culture!

Let us look at a little linguistic evidence. Some of it is a bit technical, but it is useful since it shows how dates are assigned to parts of ancient Indian history.

The Rigveda is full of descriptions of horses (as'va), horse races, and the swift spoke-wheeled chariot (ratha). We have already seen that none of these existed anywhere in the Old World until around 2000 BCE or so. In most places, they did not appear until much later. The introduction of chariots and horses is one marker for the earliest possible dates of the Rigveda.

Linguistic evidence provides other markers. In both ancient Iran and Vedic India, the chariot is called a ratha, from the prehistoric (reconstructed) Indo-European word for wheel *roth2o- (Latin rota, German Rad). ( A chariot = "wheels," just as in the modern slang expression "my wheels" = "my automobile.") We also have shared Iranian and Vedic words for charioteer - the Vedic ratheSTha or old Iranian rathaeshta, meaning "standing on the chariot." Indo -European, on the other hand - the ancestor of Vedic Sanskrit and most European languages - does not have a word for chariot. This is shown by the fact that many European languages use different words for the vehicle. In the case of Greek, for example, a chariot is harmat(-os).

The implication is that the ancient Iranian and Vedic word for chariot was coined sometime around 2000 BCE - about when chariots first appeared - but before those languages split into two. A good guess is that this occurred in the steppe belt of Russia a nd Kazakhstan, which is where we find the first remains of chariots. That area remained Iranian-speaking well into the classical period, a fact reflected even today in northern river names - all the way from the Danube, Don, Dnyestr, Dnyepr and the Ural (Rahaa = Vedic Rasaa) rivers to the Oxus (Vakhsh).

These are only a few pieces of evidence confirming what linguists have known for 150 years: that Vedic Sanskrit was not native to South Asia but an import, like closely related old Iranian. Their usual assumed origins are located in the steppe belt to th e north of Iran and northwest of India.

This view is supported by recent linguistic discoveries. One is that approximately 4 per cent of the words in the Rigveda do not fit Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit) word patterns but appear to be loans from a local language in the Greater Panjab. That language is close to, but not identical with, the Munda languages of Central and East India and to Khasi in Meghalaya. A second finding pertains to shared loan words in the Rigveda and Zoroastrian texts referring to agricultural products, animals, and domestic goods that we know from archaeology first appeared in Bactria-Margiana c. 2100-1700 BCE. These include, among others, words for camel (uSTra/ushtra), donkey (khara/xara), and bricks (iSTakaa/ishtiia, ishtuua). The evidence suggests that b oth the Iranians and Indo-Aryans borrowed these words when they migrated through this region towards their later homelands.5 A third find relates to Indo-Aryan loan words that show up in the non-Aryan Mitanni of northern Iraq and Syria c.1400 BCE. These loanwords reflect slightly older Indo-Aryan forms than those found in the Rigveda. This evidence is on e reason why Indologists place the composition of the Rigveda in the last half of the second millennium.

This evidence, and much more like it, shows that the claim by Rajaram that mature Harappans spoke "late Vedic" Sanskrit - the language of the Vedic sutras (dating to the second half of the first millennium) - is off by at least two thousand years! At bes t, a few adventurous speakers may have existed in Harappa of some early ancestor of old Vedic Sanskrit - the much later language of the Rigveda - trickling into the Greater Panjab from migrant "Aryan" tribes. These early Indo-Aryan speakers could have mi ngled with others in the towns and cities of Harappan civilisation, which were conceivably just as multilingual as any modern city in India. (Indeed, Rigvedic loan words seem to suggest several substrate languages.) But to have all, or even part, of Hara ppans speaking "late Vedic" is patently absurd.

But this evidence pertains to what Rajaram represents as "the petty conjectural pseudo-science" called linguistics. By rejecting the science wholesale, he gives himself the freedom to invent Indian history at his whim.

Consonants Count Little, Vowels Nothing!

According to Rajaram and Jha, the Indus writing system was a proto-alphabetical system, supposedly derived from a complex (now lost) system of pre-Indus "pictorial" signs. Faced with a multitude of Harappan characters, variously numbered between 400 and 800, they select a much smaller subset of characters and read them as alphabetical signs. Their adoption of these signs follows from the alleged resemblances of these signs to characters in Brahmi, the ancestor of later Indian scripts. (This was the scri pt adopted c. 250 BCE by Asoka, whom Jha's 1996 book assigns to c. 1500 BCE!) Unlike Brahmi, which lets you write Indian words phonetically, the alphabet imagined by Jha and Rajaram is highly defective, made up only of consonants, a few numbers, and some special-purpose signs. The hundreds of left-over "pictorial" signs normally stand for single words. Whenever needed, however - and this goes for numbers as well - they can also be tapped for their supposed sound values, giving Rajaram and Jha extraordin ary freedom in making their readings. The only true "vowel" that Jha and Rajaram allow is a single wildcard sign that stands for any initial vowel - as in A-gni or I-ndra - or sometimes for semi-vowels. Vowels inside words can be imagine d at whim.

Vowels were lacking in some early Semitic scripts, but far fewer vowels are required in Semitic languages than in vowel-rich Indian languages like Sanskrit or Munda. In Vedic Sanskrit, any writing system lacking vowels would be so ambiguous that it would be useless. In the fictional system invented by Jha and Rajaram, for example, the supposed Indus ka sign can be read kaa, ki, ku, ke, ko, etc., or can also represent the isolated consonant k. A script like this opens the door to an enormou s number of alternate readings.

Supposing with Jha and Rajaram that the language of Harappa was "late Vedic", we would find that the simple two-letter inscription mn might be read:

mana "ornament"; manaH"mind" (since Rajaram lets us add the Visarjaniya or final -H at will); manaa "zeal" or "a weight"; manu "Manu"; maana "opinion" or "building" or "thinker"; miina "fish"; miine "in a fish"; miinau "two fish"; miinaiH "with fish"; muni "Muni", "Rishi", "ascetic"; mRn- "made of clay"; menaa "wife"; meni "revenge"; mene "he has thought"; mauna "silence"; and so on.

There are dozens of other possibilities. How is the poor reader, presented with our two-character seal, supposed to decide if it refers to revenge, a sage, the great Manu, a fish, or his wife? The lords of Harappa or Dholavira, instead of using the scrip t on their seals, would have undoubtedly sent its inventor off to finish his short and nasty life in the copper mines of the Aravallis!

If all of this were not enough to drive any reader mad, Rajaram and Jha introduce a host of other devices that permit even freer readings of inscriptions. The most ridiculous involves their claim that the direction of individual inscriptions "follows no hard and fast rules." This means that if tossing in vowels at will in our mn inscription does not give you the reading you want, you can restart your reading (again, with unlimited vowel wildcards) from the opposite direction - yielding further al ternatives like namaH or namo "honour to...," naama "name," and so on.

There are other "principles" like this. A number of signs represent the same sound, while - conversely - the same sign can represent different sounds. With some 400-800 signs to choose from, this gives you unlimited creative freedom. As Raj aram puts it deadpan, Harappan is a "rough and ready script." Principles like this "gave its scribes several ways in which to express the same sounds, and write words in different ways." All this is stated in such a matter-of-fact and "scientific" manner that the non-specialist gets hardly a clue that he is being had.

In other words, figure out what reading you want and fill in the blanks! As Voltaire supposedly said of similar linguistic tricks: "Consonants count little, and vowels nothing."

A little guidance on writing direction comes from the wildcard vowel sign, which Rajaram tells us usually comes at the start of inscriptions. This is "why such a large number of messages on the Indus seals have this vowel symbol as the first letter." Wha t Jha and Rajaram refer to as a vowel (or semi-vowel) sign is the Harappan "rimmed vessel" or U-shaped symbol. This is the most common sign in the script, occurring by some counts some 1,400 times in known texts. It is most commonly seen on the left side of inscriptions.

Back in the 1960s, B.B. Lal, former Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, convincingly showed, partly by studying how overlapping characters were inscribed on pottery, that the Harappan script was normally read from right to left. Much other hard evidence confirming this view has been known since the early 1930s. This means that in the vast majority of cases the U-sign is the last sign of an inscription. But here, as so often elsewhere, Rajaram and Jha simply ignore well-establi shed facts, since they are intent on reading Harappan left to right to conform to "late Vedic" Sanskrit. (In times of interpretive need, however, any direction goes - including reading inscriptions vertically or in zig-zag fashion on alternate lines.)

The remarkable flexibility of their system is summarised in statements like this:

First, if the word begins with a vowel then the genetic sign has to be given the proper vowel value. Next the intermediate consonants have to be shaped properly by assigning the correct vowel combinations. Finally, the terminal letter may also have to be modified according to context. In the last case, a missing visarga or anusvaara may have to be supplied, though this is often indicated.

How, the sceptic might ask, can you choose the right words from the infinite possibilities? The problem calls for a little Vedic ingenuity:

In resolving ambiguities, one is forced to fall back on one's knowledge of the Vedic language and the literary context. For example: when the common composite letter r + k is employed, the context determines if it is to be pronounced as rka (as in arka) or as kra as in kruura.

The context Rajaram wants you to use to fill in the blanks is the one that he wants to prove: any reading is proper that illustrates the (imaginary) links between "late Vedic" culture and Indus Civilisation. Once you toss in wildcard vowels, for example, any rk or kr combination provides instant Harappan horseplay - giving you a Vedic-Harappan horse (recalling their equation that arka "sun" = "horse") long before the word (or animal) appeared in India.

Why did the Indus genius who invented the alphabet not include all basic vowel signs - like those in Asoka's script - which would have made things unambiguous? It certainly could not be because of a lack of linguistic knowledge, since Rajaram claims that the Harappans had an "advanced state of knowledge of grammar, phonetics, and etymology," just as they had modern scientific knowledge of all other kinds. But vowels, of course, would rob Rajaram of his chances to find Vedic treasure in Harappan inscript ions - where he discovers everything from horse thieves to Rigvedic kings and advanced mathematical formulae.

Peculiarly, in contrast to the lack of vowel signs, Jha and Rajaram give us a profusion of special signs that stand for fine grammatical details including word-final -H and -M (Visarjaniya and Anusvaara; if these are missing, you can just toss them in); special verb endings like -te; and noun endings such as -su. All of these are derived from Paninian grammar more than two thousand years before Panini! They even find special phonological signs for Paninian gu Na and vRddhi (that is, u becomes o or au) and for Vedic pitch accents (svara).

Although the scribes lacked vowels, they thus had signs applicable only to vowel combination (sandhi) - which is remarkable indeed, given the absence of the vowels themselves.

A Hundred Noisy Crows

It is clear that the method of Rajaram and Jha is so flexible that you can squeeze some pseudo-Vedic reading out of any inscription. But, with all this freedom, what a motley set of readings they hand us! Moreover, few of their readings have anything to do with Harappan civilisation.

What were Indus seals used for? We know that some (a minority) were stamped on bales of merchandise; many were carried around on strings, perhaps as amulets or ID cards. Many of them were lost in the street or were thrown out as rubbish when no longer ne eded. Sometimes a whole set of identical inscriptions has been found tossed over Harappan embankment walls.

In their usual cavalier way, Rajaram and Jha ignore all the well-known archaeological evidence and claim that the inscriptions represent repositories of Vedic works like the ancient Nighantu word lists, or even the mathematical formulae of the Shulbasutras. The main object of Harappan seals, they tell us, was the "preservation of Vedic knowledge and related subjects."

How many merchants in the 5000-odd year history of writing would have thought to put mathematical formulae or geometric slogans on their seals and tokens? Or who would be likely to wear slogans like the following around their necks?

"It is the rainy season"; "House in the grip of cold"; "A dog that stays home and does nothing is useless" - which Rajaram and Jha alternately read as: "There is raw meat on the face of the dog"; "Birds of the eastern country"; "One who drinks barley wat er"; "A hundred noisy crows"; "Mosquito"; "The breathing of an angry person"; "Rama threatened to use agni-vaaNa (a fire missile)"; "A short tempered mother-in-law"; "Those about to kill themselves with sinfulness say"; or, best of all, the refreshingly populist: "O! Moneylender, eat (your interest)!"

By now, we expect lots of horse readings, and we are not disappointed. What use, we wonder, would the Harappans have for seal inscriptions like these?

"Water fit for drinking by horses"; "A keeper of horses (paidva) by name of VarSaraata"; "A horsekeeper by name of As'ra-gaura wishes to groom the horses"; "Food for the owner of two horses"; "Arci who brought under control eight loose horses"; an d so on.

The most elaborate horse reading shows up in the most famous of Indus inscriptions - the giant "signboard" hung on the walls of the Harappan city of Dholavira. The "deciphered" inscription is another attack on the "no horse in Harappa" argument:

"I was a thousand times victorious over avaricious raiders desirous of my wealth of horses!"

In the end, readers of Jha and Rajaram are likely to agree with only one "deciphered" message in the whole book: apa-yas'o ha mahaat "A great disgrace indeed!"

Vedic Sanskrit?

Before concluding, we would like to point out that the line we just quoted contains an elementary grammatical error - a reading of mahaat for mahat. The frequency of mistakes like this says a lot about the level of Vedic knowledge (or lack thereof) of the authors. A few examples at random:

- on p. 227 of their book we find adma "eat!" But what form is adma? admaH "we eat? At best, adma "food," not "eat!" - on p. 235, we find tuurNa ugra s'vasruuH. No feminine adjectives appear in the expression (tuurNaa, ugraa), as required by the angry "mother-in-law" (read: s'vas'ruuH!). - on p. 230, we read apvaa-hataa-tmaahuH, where hataatma might mean "one whose self is slain," or the "self of a slain (person)," but not "those about to kill themselves." In the same sentence, apvaa does not mean "sinfulness" (whic h is, in any case, a non-Vedic concept) but "mortal fear." - on p. 232, we have amas'aityaarpaa, supposedly meaning "House in the grip of cold." But amaa (apparently what they want, not ama "force") is not a word for "house," but an adverb meaning "at home." The word s'aitya "cold" is not "late Vedic" but post-Vedic, making the reading even more anachronistic than the other readings in the book. - on p. 226, we find paidva for "horses," in a passage referring to horse keepers. But in Vedic literature this word does not refer to an ordinary but a mythological horse.

Many similar errors are found in the 1996 pamphlet by Jha, billed by Rajaram as "one of the world's foremost Vedic scholars and palaeographers."

None of those errors can be blamed on ignorant Harappan scribes.

History and Hindutva Propaganda

It might be tempting to laugh off the Indus script hoax as the harmless fantasy of an ex-engineer who pretends to be a world expert on everything from artificial intelligence to Christianity to Harappan culture.

What belies this reading is the ugly subtext of Rajaram's message, which is aimed at millions of Indian readers. That message is anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, anti-Indological, and (despite claims to the opposite) intensely anti-scientific. Those views pr esent twisted images of India's past capable of inflicting severe damage in the present.

Rajaram's work is only one example of a broader reactionary trend in Indian history. Movements like this can sometimes be seen more clearly from afar than nearby, and we conclude with a few comments on it from our outside but interested perspective.

In the past few decades, a new kind of history has been propagated by a vocal group of Indian writers, few of them trained historians, who lavishly praise and support each other's works. Their aim is to rewrite Indian history from a nationalistic and rel igious point of view. Their writings have special appeal to a new middle class confused by modern threats to traditional values. With alarming frequency their movement is backed by powerful political forces, lending it a mask of respectability that it do es not deserve.

Unquestionably, all sides of Indian history must be repeatedly re-examined. But any massive revisions must arise from the discovery of new evidence, not from desires to boost national or sectarian pride at any cost. Any new historical models must be cons istent with all available data judged apart from parochial concerns.

The current "revisionist" models contradict well-known facts: they introduce horse-drawn chariots thousands of years before their invention; imagine massive lost literatures filled with "scientific" knowledge unimaginable anywhere in the ancient world; p roject the Rigveda into impossibly distant eras, compiled in urban or maritime settings suggested nowhere in the text; and imagine Vedic Sanskrit or even Proto Indo-European rising in the Panjab or elsewhere in northern India, ignoring 150 years of evide nce fixing their origins to the northwest. Extreme "out-of-India" proponents even fanaticise an India that is the cradle of all civilisation, angrily rejecting all suggestions that peoples, languages, or technologies ever entered prehistoric India from f oreign soil - as if modern concepts of "foreign" had any meaning in prehistoric times.

Ironically, many of those expressing these anti-migrational views are emigrants themselves, engineers or technocrats like N.S. Rajaram, S. Kak, and S. Kalyanaraman, who ship their ideas to India from U.S. shores. They find allies in a broader assortment of home-grown nationalists including university professors, bank employees, and politicians (S. S. Misra, S. Talageri, K.D. Sethna, S.P. Gupta, Bh. Singh, M. Shendge, Bh. Gidwani, P. Chaudhuri, A. Shourie, S.R. Goel). They have even gained a small but vo cal following in the West among "New Age" writers or researchers outside mainstream scholarship, including D. Frawley, G. Feuerstein, K. Klostermaier, and K. Elst. Whole publishing firms, such as the Voice of India and Aditya Prakashan, are devoted to pr opagating their ideas.

There are admittedly no universal standards for rewriting history. But a few demands must be made of anyone expecting his or her scholarship to be taken seriously. A short list might include: (1) openness in the use of evidence; (2) a respect for well-es tablished facts; (3) a willingness to confront data in all relevant fields; and (4) independence in making conclusions from religious and political agendas.

N.S. Rajaram typifies the worst of the "revisionist" movement, and obviously fails on all counts. The Deciphered Indus Script is based on blatantly fake data (the "horse seal," the free-form "decipherments"); disregards numerous well-known facts ( the dates of horses and chariots, the uses of Harappan seals, etc.); rejects evidence from whole scientific fields, including linguistics (a strange exclusion for a would-be decipherer!); and is driven by obvious religious and political motives in claimi ng impossible links between Harappan and Vedic cultures.

Whatever their pretensions, Hindutva propagandists like Rajaram do not belong to the realm of legitimate historical discourse. They perpetuate, in twisted half-modern ways, medieval tendencies to use every means possible to support the authority of relig ious texts. In the political sphere, they falsify history to bolster national pride. In the ethnic realm, they glorify one sector of India to the detriment of others.

It is the responsibility of every serious researcher to oppose these tendencies with the only sure weapon available - hard evidence. If reactionary trends in Indian history find further political support, we risk seeing violent repeats in the coming deca des of the fascist extremes of the past.

The historical fantasies of writers like Rajaram must be exposed for what they are: propaganda issuing from the ugliest corners of the pre-scientific mind. The fact that many of the most unbelievable of these fantasies are the product of highly trained e ngineers should give Indian educational planners deep concern.

In a recent online exchange, Rajaram dismissed criticisms of his faked "horse seal" and pointed to political friends in high places, boasting that the Union government had recently "advised" the "National Book Trust to bring out my popular book, From Sarasvati River to the Indus Script, in English and thirteen other languages."

We fear for India and for objective scholarship. To quote Rajaram's Harappan-Vedic one last time: "A great disgrace indeed!"

Michael Witzel & Steve Farmer, 2000

Michael Witzel is Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University and the author of many publications, including the recent monograph

Boston: ASLIP/Mother Tongue 1999. A collecti on of his Vedic studies will be published in India by Orient Longman later this year. He is also editor of

Steve Farmer, who received his doctorate from Stanford University, has held a number of academic posts in premodern history and the history of science. Among his recent works is his book

different

The Deciphered Indus Script: Methodology, readings, interpretations

South Asian Studies Electronic Journal of Vedic Sanskrit The Book Review Graphics source credits: Frontline **

Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions 1. Collections in India

Collections in Pakistan The Deciphered Indus Script Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization

The direction of Harappan writing

IN their attempts to "force fit" Harappan script into Sanskrit moulds, Rajaram and his collaborator ignore many known facts about Harappan inscriptions. One of the most glaring conflicts with the evidence comes in their claim that in most cases the scrip t is to be read from left to right, like Sanskrit.

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Much evidence has accumulated over seven decades that this is the reverse of the case. Indeed, one of the few things that all Harappan researchers agree on concerns the usual right-left direction of the script. Writing direction in ancient scripts often varied in different contexts, but evidence of many sorts suggests that Harappan deviated from right-left patterns in less than seven per cent of inscriptions.

Some of this evidence arises from studies of inscriptions on pot sherds. As B.B. Lal showed in the 1960s, examination of overlapping lines on those inscriptions shows that the script was normally inscribed from right to left. Other evidence is apparent t o the untrained eye. Below, we give two examples from images in the Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions compiled by Asko Parpola and his collaborators. The evidence in both cases has been known since the early 1930s.

One kind of evidence involves the spacing of characters. In seal impression M-66a (using Parpola's numbers), shown below, we see one of many cases where an engraver ran out of room when engraving the seal, causing a bunching of letters on the left. In th e seal, no room at all was left for the "jar sign" often found at the end of inscriptions. This forced the engraver to place it below the rest of the inscription, on the far left. Its placement would be inconceivable if the "jar sign" were a wildcard vow el beginning inscriptions, as Rajaram and Jha claim.

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Other evidence shows up in Parpola's seal H-103a, shown below. The unusually long inscription in this case runs around three sides of the seal, with the top of the symbols pointing towards the nearest edge. This suggests that the inscription was to be re ad by turning it around in the hand to read its three parts. Only the top side of the inscription is filled with symbols, indicating that this is the first line. The inscription was hence to be read right to left, turning it clockwise to see the rest.

Further evidence comes from studies of initial and final sign sequences, from studies of repeating sign combinations, and other data. All this evidence has been discussed by a long line of researchers stretching from G.C. Gadd in 1931 to Gregory Possehl in 1996. None of this evidence is mentioned in Jha and Rajaram's book.

Hindutva and history

ROMILA THAPAR cover-story

Why do Hindutva ideologues keep flogging a dead horse?

Frontline

"THE Aryans" became a historical category in the late nineteenth century. There was much confusion between "Aryan" as race and as language, a confusion that has not entirely cleared in popular perception. In its application to Indian history, it was argu ed that the aryas referred to in the Rigveda were the Aryans who had invaded and conquered northern India, founded Indian civilisation, and spread their Indo-Aryan language. The theory had an immediate impact, particularly on those with a politica l agenda and on historians.

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Jyotiba Phule maintained that the Aryan invasion explained the arrival of alien brahmans and their dominance and oppression of the lower castes. The invasion was necessary to this view of history. For those concerned with a Hindutva ideology, the invasio n had to be denied. The definition of a Hindu as given by Savarkar was that India had to be his pitribhumi (ancestral land) and his punyabhumi (the land of his religion). A Hindu therefore could not be descended from alien invaders. Since H indus sought a lineal descent from the Aryans, and a cultural heritage, the Aryans had to be indigenous. This definition of the Hindu excluded Muslims and Christians from being indigenous since their religion did not originate in India.

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Historians initially accepted the invasion theory and some even argued that the decline of the Indus cities was due to the invasion of the Aryans, although the archaeological evidence for this was being discounted. But the invasion theory came to be disc arded in favour of alternative theories of how the language, Indo-Aryan, entered the sub-continent. In 1968, I had argued at a session of the Indian History Congress that invasion was untenable and that the language - Indo-Aryan - had come with a series of migrations and therefore involving multiple avenues of the acculturation of peoples. The historically relevant question was not the identity of the Aryans (identities are never permanent) but why and how languages and cultures change in a given area.

Why then do Hindutva ideologues - Indian and non-Indian - keep flogging a dead horse and refuse to consider the more recent alternative theories? For them the only alternative is that if the Aryans were not invaders, they must have been indigenous. That there is a range of possibilities between the two extremes of invaders or indigenes does not interest them. The insistence on the indigenous origin of the Aryans allows them to maintain that the present-day Hindus are the lineal descendants of the Aryans and the inheritors of the land since the beginning of history. This then requires that the presence of the Aryans be taken back into earliest history. Hence the attempt to prove, against the prevailing evidence from linguistics and archaeology, that the authors of the Rigveda were the people of the Indus cities or were possibly even prior to that.

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The equation is based on identifying words from the Rigveda with objects from the Indus cities. That the village-based, pastoral society of the Rigveda could not be identical with the complex urban society of the Indus cities is not conceded. Yet there a re no descriptions of the city in the Rigveda or even the later Vedic corpus, that could be applied to the Indus cities: no references to structures built on platforms, or the grid pattern of streets and the careful construction of drainage systems, to g ranaries, warehouses and areas of intensive craft production, to seals and their function, and to the names of the places where goods were sent. If the two societies were identical, the two systems would at least have to be similar.

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In order to prove that the Indus civilisation was Aryan, the language has to be deciphered as a form of Sanskrit and there has to be evidence of an Aryan presence, which currently is being associated with the horse and the chariot. Attempts to decipher t he language have so far not succeeded and those reading it as Sanskrit have been equally unsuccessful. But there are linguistic rules that have to be observed in any decipherment. These make it necessary for a claim to stand the test of linguistic analys es. The readings also have to show some contextual consistency. These have been demonstrated as lacking in the decipherment claimed by Rajaram and Jha.

To insist that a particular seal represents the horse as Rajaram does, was an attempt to foreclose the argument and maintain that the horse was important to the Indus civilisation, therefore it was an Aryan civilisation. Quite apart from the changes made in the computer enhanced image of the seal to give the impression of a horse, which have been discussed in the article by Witzel and Farmer, the animal in the photograph of the seal is clearly not a horse. Furthermore, if the horse had been as central t o the Indus civilisation as it was to the Vedic corpus, there would have been many seals depicting horses. But the largest number of seals are those which depict the bull unicorn.

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Indian history from the perspective of the Hindutva ideology reintroduces ideas that have long been discarded and are of little relevance to an understanding of the past. The way in which information is put together, and generalisations drawn from this, do not stand the test of analyses as used in the contemporary study of history. The rewriting of history according to these ideas is not to illumine the past but to allow an easier legitimation from the past for the political requirements of the present. The Hindutva obsession with identity is not a problem related to the early history of India but arises out of an attempt to manipulate identities in contemporary politics. Yet ironically, this can only be done if the existing interpretations of history are revised and forced into the Hindutva ideological mould. To go by present indications, this would imply a history based on dogma with formulaic answers, mono-causal explanations, and no intellectual explorations. Dogmatic assertions with no space for alternative ideas often arise from a sense of inferiority and the fear of debate. Hence the determination to prevent the publication of volumes on history which do not conform to Hindutva ideology.

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History as projected by Hindutva ideologues, which is being introduced to children through textbooks and is being thrust upon research institutes, precludes an open discussion of evidence and interpretation. Nor does it bear any trace of the new methods of historical analyses now being used in centres of historical research. Such history is dismissed by the Hindutva ideologues as Western, imperialist, Marxist, or whatever, but they are themselves unaware of what these labels mean or the nature of these readings. There is no recognition of the technical training required of historians and archaeologists or of the foundations of social science essential to historical explanation. Engineers, computer experts, journalists-turned-politicians, foreign journa lists posing as scholars of Indology, and what have you, assume infallibility, and pronounce on archaeology and history. And the media accord them the status.

The article by Witzel and Farmer is a serious critique of the claims that have been made by Rajaram and Jha about the Aryan identity of the Indus civilisation and the decipherment of the Harappan script. The critique was first put out on the Internet but those who have access to the Internet in India are still a limited few. It is important for this article to be published, for it is a salutary lesson for the media to be more cautious in unfamiliar areas and not rush to publicise anything that sounds se nsational. It is also necessary that the debate be made accessible to the reading public so that people are not repeatedly taken for a ride. It shows up the defective library resources in India that would need to be radically improved if research in earl y Indian history is to be made more effective. But above all, the article demonstrates the lengths to which historical sources can be manipulated by those supporting the claims of Hindutva ideology.

Romila Thapar, 2000 Frontline

An opportunity lost

The opposition parties criticise the Prime Minister for going overboard on issues of national importance and have started asking him probing questions about the visit.

ON his return from the fortnight-long visit to the United States, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that between New Delhi and Washington there was "increasing convergence" of views on "non-proliferation issues" . He claimed that there was also "g reater appreciation" in the U.S. of the Indian government's management of the country's internal and external security affairs. The response of the U.S. media and general public to the visit was lukewarm; Vajpayee did not make it to the front pages of an y of the leading U.S. dailies, and only than one-fourth of the legislators were present when he addressed Congress. However, this was more than made up by the high-level interaction Vajpayee had with President Bill Clinton and top administration official s. Vice-President and Democratic Party candidate for the presidency Al Gore took time off from campaigning to meet the Prime Minister. The Republican Party candidate George W. Bush, had a 10-minute telephonic conversation with Vajpayee.

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Now that Vajpayee is back, the Opposition has started asking probing questions about the visit. There have been demonstrations in New Delhi to protest against Vajpayee's speech at a gathering in which activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) shared t he dais with him. The Prime Minister had said that he was proud to be a "swayamsevak" and that he was committed to the Hindutva agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP). The Prime Minister later tried to distance himself from the statement but th e damage had already been done. The liberal facade of BJP leaders has a tendency to crumble when they are on foreign soil. During his visit to Israel in July this year, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh was quoted in the Israeli press as saying tha t India's relations with Israel suffered adversely owing to "Muslim vote bank politics".

Arab and other Muslim countries have not been happy with frequent statements of top Indian officials and Ministers, including Jaswant Singh and Home Minister L.K.Advani, implicitly equating Islam with terrorism in their speeches during their trips abroad . Vajpayee's constant references to "jehad" and terrorism in the U.S. may have touched the right chords in certain quarters in the U.S. but they could be misunderstood in the Arab and Muslim world. A Pakistani official points out that "jehad" had been a politically correct word when the U.S. and Pakistan together waged a war against the legal government of Afghanistan in the 1980s. He said that U.S. memories could not be all that short. According to the official, U.S. officials who had wor ked closely with Pakistan during the Afghan war were still in influential positions.

But now there seems to be a tilt towards New Delhi in Washington. The military takeover in Pakistan has not had many backers in the U.S. Pakistani officials admit that the overthrow of the democratically elected government has resulted in a diplomatic se tback for their country. Clinton and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had got on a first name basis. The Pakistan government's handing over of the two prime suspects in the 1998 Nairobi embassy bombing was appreciated in Washington.

The new tilt in Washington is reflected to an extent in the resolution authored by Congressman Benjamin Gilman, which called for enhanced US-India relations. The resolution, passed during the course of the Vajpayee visit, said: "China's hegemonic ambitio ns, Islamic terrorism spilling out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the narco dictatorship in Burma, and China's illegal occupation of Tibet, are serious concerns to both the United States and India." Gilman went on to add that the U.S. and India "must devel op a closer military and intelligence relationship... to confront our mutual enemies".

There was pressure on the Clinton administration to raise the "religious freedom issue" with Vajpayee. Elliot Abrams, Chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, wrote to Clinton in the second week of September urging him to raise with Vajpayee "the need for his government to take more effective steps to protect the religious freedom and the lives and security of persons of religious minorities in India". The Commission recommended that the U.S. President "impress on the Prime Minister that promotion of religious freedom is indispensable to healthy relations between India and the United States". According to diplomatic sources, the religious freedom issue figured in the talks between Clinton and Vajpayee.

The Opposition has alleged that Vajpayee made far too many concessions to Washington. Critics of the government say that one reason why he was received so enthusiastically was the significant concessions the Indian government extended to U.S. multination als in the telecommunications and power sectors, which have been opened up for them. The privatisation of these sectors was a long-standing demand of visiting U.S. officials. In the Joint Statement issued by the U.S. President and the Prime Minister on S eptember 15, the two countries agreed to build on the new momentum in their relationship "to further enhance mutual understanding and deepen cooperation across the full spectrum of political, economic, commercial, scientific, technological, social and in ternational issues".

THE Joint Statement specifically highlighted the role of the two countries in launching the "Community of Democracies" earlier in the year. The concept behind the "Community" is a throwback to the Cold War days and is aimed at isolating countries such as Cuba and China. France, for instance, had refused to sign the document calling for the establishment of the Community at the U.S. sponsored meet in Warsaw in June.

India, on the other hand, was a co-convener of the Warsaw meet. The French government was of the view that the exercise was an attempt to impose Western political culture on the rest of the world. It was revealed after the conclusion of the Vajpayee visi t that the Clinton administration had even wanted India to assume a leadership role in the Community and host a summit in New Delhi. Good sense seems to have prevailed in South Block: despite immense pressure from Washington, New Delhi declined the dubio us privilege of hosting the next meeting of the Community of Democracies. The concept behind the community of democracies runs counter to the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)).

The Joint Statement also expressed optimism about the prospects of improving the bilateral trade environment and contributing to the strengthening of the global financial and trading systems. It also noted significant progress on other important economic issues, which included mutual taxation and investment in the power and other sectors. The two leaders pledged their "committed support for efforts that will make capital markets more efficient, transparent and accountable to attract the billions in priv ate investment that is needed". They recognised the need for "appropriate technology for power generation". The leaders "noted with satisfaction the signing of several major commercial agreements, under which U.S. firms will contribute to the development of the power industry in India".

The Joint Statement said that the two leaders had discussed matters relating to international security. It particularly, mentions "the long history of Indo-U.S. cooperation in U.N. peacekeeping operations, most recently in Sierra Leone". The difficulties that Maj.Gen. Vijay K. Jetley, the Indian commander of the peace-keeping force, had got himself into were highlighted in the U.S. press during the Vajpayee visit. According to informed sources, the Indian side had expressed their concerns to the America ns about the political predicament in Sierra Leone. It was at the urging of the Clinton administration that India had sent its peace-keepers to troublespots such as Somalia and Sierra Leone.

After the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the U.S. had refused to be part of any U.N. peace-keeping in Africa. In Somalia and Sierra Leone, it found countries such as India to do its bidding. In Somalia, the Indian peace-keepers could not achie ve much but they came out relatively unscathed. In Sierra Leone, the Clinton administration has not been able to bail them out of the political quagmire for which the Americans are responsible to a great extent. A few days after Vajpayee's return, the In dian government announced that it was withdrawing its troops from Sierra Leone. In Washington, Clinton and Vajpayee had agreed to "broaden their cooperation in peace-keeping".

India made a strong commitment in the Joint Statement of its intention to adhere to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), even before the issue has been debated in Parliament. "India reaffirmed that, subject to its supreme national interests, it will continue its voluntary moratorium until the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty comes into effect," the Joint Statement said. It reiterated that the Indian government would "continue efforts to develop a broad political consensus on the issue of the Treaty, w ith the purpose of bringing these discussions to a successful conclusion", and support for a global treaty to halt the production of fissile material for weapons purposes. Both countries have agreed to continue their dialogue on security and non-prolifer ation, notably on "defence posture". Some experts feel that discussions that related to India's defence posture could effectively amount to restraint in terms of nuclear deployment. The Joint Statement is also a written commitment by India that it will n ot conduct another nuclear test until the CTBT is ratified.

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Several leaders of the left parties have criticised the Prime Minister for "going overboard on his United States visit". Harkishan Singh Surjeet, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said that the Vajpayee had expressed opinions on serious issues without taking the people's representatives, the political parties and Parliament into confidence. Surjeet said that India under the BJP-led government had been kowtowing to Washington with the result that it has lost its leadership posit ion among the developing countries. "The U.S. will only look after its own business and strategic interests," Surjeet warned.

The general secretary of the Communist Party of India, A.B. Bardhan, said that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was pursuing policies that were contradictory to the time tested and consistent foreign policy positions India had been espou sing. "The present government works for the benefit of a political party rather than for the good of the country," he said. Vajpayee, speaking at the banquet Clinton had hosted in his honour, had said that the U.S. and India "stand on the right side of h istory".

Foreign policy spokesman of the Congress(I), K. Natwar Singh, said that the Prime Minister's trip was a failure as he could not get the sanctions imposed by the Clinton administration on India in the wake of the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, lifted. He said that India's demand for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council also did not get a positive response from Washington. Instead, the U.S. President had once again reiterated his views about Kashmir being the "main cause of tension in the region and t he core issue" between India and Pakistan, Natwar Singh said.

Natwar Singh said that Vajpayee should have registered a protest against the comments of the U.S. President. "The new phraseology is unacceptable to the people of India. During the last 53 years not a single U.S. President had made such comments," he sai d. U.S. officials in Islamabad have gone out of their way to stress that they will work with Pakistan's military government on contentious issues such as Kashmir and terrorism rather than seek to isolate and discredit Pakistan, as desired by New Delhi. I ndia wants the Clinton administration to name Pakistan specifically as a state that supports terrorism. Vajpayee did not succeed in this endeavour.

According to CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat, the only achievement that the government has claimed from the visit is that India has now emerged as a "strategic ally" and "political partner" of the U.S. Karat said that the reality is that the Ind ian government has accepted the status of a "junior partner". "The Vajpayee government has unreservedly accepted Washington's position on international issues by its proclamation of allegiance to the U.S.," Karat said. He pointed out that during the cour se of his visit, Vajpayee did not express "any qualifications or reservations" on U.S. policy.

India itself has many problems and areas of conflict with the U.S. "The continuing sanctions on India are only a part of this," Karat said. The U.S. stance on economic issues, the CTBT, transfer of technology, and the democratisation of the U.N. are othe r major issues where there are serious differences between Washington and New Delhi. Karat said that no one was against India and the U.S. having a balanced relationship. He said that the relationship had become even more "one-sided" after the Vajpayee v isit. "In the anxiety to be acceptable to the U.S. we are willing to give up our principles," he said.

Karat criticised Vajpayee's preoccupation with Pakistan during his visit. He said that the government had not learnt from similar mistakes made immediately after Pokhran-II. According to Karat, the government seems to be willing to accept U.S. arbitratio n provided the U.S. tilts towards India. "This is not a sensible policy, as the pro-U.S. tilt will undermine all other aspects of our foreign policy," Karat said. He characterised the present government's policies as unidimensional. "Whatever America wan ts us to do, we do," he said. On the other hand, according to Karat, the U.S. position on issues such as Kashmir and CTBT has not changed. Before the Vajpayee visit, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot had made it clear that as far as the Clinto n administration was concerned, these two issues would be the main issues. Karat pointed out that there was no public articulation by the Prime Minister about India's anxieties about the U.S. position on these.

The sustained pressure from the Clinton administration on New Delhi for a resumption of dialogue with Islamabad may yield results soon. Vajpayee insisted in Washington that dialogue with Islamabad could be resumed only when cross-border terrorism is stop ped. But a speech by Jaswant Singh in San Francisco in the third week of September, indicated that there would be a resumption of high-level talks. "India remains committed to dialogue. We can change friends but we cannot change neighbours. So have patie nce, talks will be resumed," Jaswant Singh told his audience. Pakistani officials say that even Track II initiatives are becoming exercises in futility with the Indian government stonewalling all efforts for the resumption of dialogue. Probably, Vajpayee 's U.S. visit could have led to the change in the hitherto hardline Indian attitude towards dialogue with Pakistan.

With renewed resolve

Chief Minister Jyoti Basu removes all uncertainty about his continuance in the leadership of the Left Front in West Bengal and warns the Centre against any move to dislodge his government.

HAVING put the issue of retirement behind him, Jyoti Basu, the country's longest-serving Chief Minister, has taken a firmer grip of the reins of power in West Bengal with a renewed resolve. "I am close to 90 but I must try to serve you as long as I can," Basu told a cheering gathering at Santiniketan while opening a cultural complex on September 15.

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The announcement, which came just two days after he had cautioned partymen at a huge rally in Calcutta against the Centre's attempt to impose President's Rule on the State, signals the 87-year-old Marxist veteran's resolve to lead the ruling Left Front's campaign for the Assembly elections early next year. Basu, who has served as Chief Minister for 24 years, had expressed his desire to retire in September, but was persuaded to stay on in power by Harkishan Singh Surjeet, general secretary of the Communi st Party of India (Marxist). He is now all set to lead the battle against Trinamul Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and, by extension the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre, of which the Trinamul Congress is a constituent. Raising a hue and cry over what she described as the breakdown of law and order in the State and "state-sponsored terrorism" in certain pockets of Midnapore and Bankura districts, Mamata Banerjee has been demanding imposition of President's Rule in West Bengal. She has threatened that she will pull out of the Union Cabinet unless the Centre punishes the Left Front government. She has suggested designating the "violence-scarred" areas as "disturbed" in case President's Rule cannot be imposed for some reason.

Jyoti Basu had not shown any sign of his present combativeness until the NDA sent a team of "observers" for an on-the-spot study of the situation in Midnapore district. Then came the visit of Defence Minister George Fernandes in early September and Union Home Minister L.K. Advani's letter to the West Bengal government seeking its explanation for the comments made by Fernandes."I have gone through the Centre's observations, all inaccurate," Basu said, dismissing the Defence Minister's comments as "untrut hs".

Fernandes did not recommend President's Rule but gave a grim report on West Bengal's law and order situation, comparing it with that in Bihar. Countering Basu's allegation that he visited West Bengal under pressure from Mamata Banerjee and that he had no t bothered to check the facts with either the Chief Minister or other representatives of the State, Fernandes said he went to West Bengal on instructions from the Prime Minister and prepared a report based on what he saw and heard from the people. He com mented in the report that the entire constitutional structure seemed to be crumbling in West Bengal. He, however, recalled that the ruling coalition at the Centre had once before burnt its fingers in Bihar. "Our experience of imposing President's Rule in Bihar was not happy. We do not want the experience repeated," Fernandes said. That means the government would not venture to invoke Article 356 in West Bengal without the Congress(I)'s support. The dismissal of a State government would require the appro val of both Houses of Parliament, and as things stand, the NDA, which does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, must win the Congress(I)'s support for the move to succeed.

An alternative is to declare Midnapore and Bankura districts as "disturbed", under the Disturbed Areas Act. The Centre would have to amend the law in order to do so and that can be done through an ordinance. "The government has options, but these have to be weighed and deliberated before the Centre can come to any conclusion," Fernandes said.

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Jyoti Basu, who dismissed the Defence Minister's report as "ridiculous", challenged the Centre to clamp President's Rule on the State, and declared that "no one can dislodge us from power since we have been working for the people". A measure of how comba tive Basu is can be had from the stance he adopted at the public meeting in Calcutta. "We must warn them (the Centre and Mamata Banerjee) that people will give them a fitting reply if they try to dislodge our government by adopting unfair and unethical m eans," he thundered.

Dismissing Advani's letter as containing nothing except a "threat to intervene", Basu said he would not bow to pressure as the situation did not merit Central intervention. "I have gone through Advani's lengthy letter, which wanted to know more about pol itical violence taking place in the State. I want to make it clear that political clashes are limited to only three police station areas out of 47 in Midnapore district and everything is under control there," he said in his reply to Advani's letter. In t he 10-page letter faxed to Basu, Advani had indicated that the State was not fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities "effectively and convincingly".

Deputy Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya told Frontline that the State had received seven letters from the Home Ministry since April, and all of them had been answered. He said that the letters were largely vague. While some of them sought det ails about Midnapore and Bankura, others sought information on different districts. "Their information is incomplete. We have doubts about their claims and are suspicious about their news sources. The Defence Minister did not bother to talk to senior dis trict officials. He was taken on a tour of certain pockets so that he got biased views," Bhattacharya said.

Sources in the Trinamul Congress said that hours before Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's return to New Delhi on September 19 from his visit to the United States, Mamata Banerjee had made another appeal to Advani to invoke Article 356 or promulgate the Dist urbed Areas Act in West Bengal. However, informed sources said that the NDA government, well aware of the political and technical pitfalls of imposing President's Rule, was against taking any "extreme step". The latest report of Governor Viren J. Shah to the Home Ministry only added to the government's problems. While the report talks about what it called the "deteriorating law and order" situation in certain districts, it does not say anything about a constitutional crisis in the State. So the main eff ort of the Vajpayee government now is to find a face-saver for the Trinamul Congress chief.

It is not difficult to understand why Mamata Banerjee is repeatedly calling for Central intervention in West Bengal, particularly when she is aware of the fact that most constituents of the NDA are in principle against the use of Article 356. In their re asoning, Mamata Banerjee seems to be working on two basic planks in talking about the twin issues of the law and order situation in West Bengal and any Central action relating to that. First, they feel that with the Assembly elections approaching, she is trying to whip up an anti-CPI(M) atmosphere and fill the anti-Left space, galvanise her army of supporters into combat mode well in time for the elections, and project herself as an alternative to Jyoti Basu. She was encouraged in this by her party's su ccess in the last civic polls and its victory in the Lok Sabha byelection from Panskura. Secondly, according to Left leaders, by repeatedly calling for Central intervention, Mamata Banerjee is also trying to keep open her option of deserting the NDA and reaching out to the Muslim electorate, which influences nearly one-third of the Assembly segments. In trying to magnify the law and order situation she is essentially trying to sidetrack uncomfortable questions about the economic policies of the NDA gove rnment, of which her party is a part. She is silent when questions relating to disinvestment, unemployment, price rise or the closure of public sector units in the State are raised. Mamata Banerjee's current moves are geared towards changing the politica l matrix with the help of the Congress(I), which she loves to ridicule in public. No matter how hard she tries to give the West Bengal Congress(I) a bloody nose, she realises that she can hope to win the next elections only if she has as an ally the Cong ress(I), which controls the bulk of minority votes. With the BJP in the State ending up at the bottom of the electoral scoreboards, Mamata's need for the party is diminishing.

Mamata Banerjee's persistent demand for the dismissal of the Jyoti Basu Government is said to have come as a blessing in disguise for the Left Front. A high-level meeting of the Left parties held in Delhi on September 14 underlined the need to remove the ir internal differences and unitedly face the electorate.

A joint statement released after the meeting warned the BJP-led government against trying to dislodge the Jyoti Basu government. Describing any move in that direction as "grossly illegal" and intended to appease Mamata Banerjee, the statement said that " the Left parties wish to warn the Vajpayee government against indulging in any such steps as the use of Article 356 or invoking the Disturbed Areas Act." The statement added that it only exposed "the petty politicking and opportunist concerns which domin ate" the NDA coalition. In the Left leaders' perception, Mamata Banerjee now has little option but to climb down in her campaign against the Basu government.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has laid emphasis on revitalising its front organisations in the rural areas to counter the Trinamul Congress-BJP campaign. Anil Biswas, Polit Buro member and secretary of the State unit of the CPI(M), told Frontline that the party had asked its front organisations to get their act together within the next two months. The district committees had been asked to activate their members and allocate responsibility to each. The party, Biswas said, was also conducting a detailed an alysis of its strengths and weaknesses, constituency-wise.

"The unity of the Left forces is the crux of our sustenance all these years. In the future too, we would stress on the unity of the Left Front. We will not only hold joint party programmes, but also conduct bilateral talks from the State to the block lev el with all our Left partners in order to do away with misunderstandings and strengthen our unity against forces that are trying to destabilise us," Left Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta said.

The Bengal battle

the-nation

The National Democratic Alliance stops with offering just symbolic support to the Trinamul Congress in its tussle with the Left Front government in West Bengal, but it may develop into a major political war as the Assembly elections come closer.

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN in New Delhi

DEFENCE MINISTER and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convener George Fernandes released on September 23 a resolution of the ruling coalition that requested the Union government to "take whatever steps it deems necessary to prevent destruction of democ ratic institutions in West Bengal". Although this sought to signify that the NDA stood united behind the Trinamul Congress and its chief Mamata Banerjee, who has been carrying on a relentless campaign against the Left Front government in West Bengal, the overwhelming impression in political circles was that the rest of the NDA leadership had offered only symbolic support to Mamata Banerjee.

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This feeling was evident among Trinamul Congress leaders and activists themselves. Obviously, they had expected a more specific and concrete proposal from the NDA meeting in the form of a directive either to impose President's Rule in West Bengal under A rticle 356 of the Constitution or to bring certain districts of the State under the Disturbed Areas Act. It was the build-up before the meeting that had aroused such expectations.

For three weeks, several constituents of the NDA had unleashed an unprecedented campaign against the West Bengal government. Top leaders, including George Fernandes and new Bharatiya Janata Party president Bangaru Laxman, visited the State and declared t hat the law and order situation there had collapsed. Union Home Minister L.K. Advani and officials in his Ministry engaged Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and his government in an exchange of letters, and the process became more and more acrimonious. According to these NDA leaders, the State presented a fit case for the imposition of President's Rule. In fact, even as the resolution was formulated on the evening of September 23, at the meeting of the NDA Coordination Committee chaired by Prime Minister Atal B ehari Vajpayee, Laxman was in West Bengal expressing support to the idea of imposing President's Rule.

Mamata Banerjee claimed consistently that not only the NDA, but even the Congress(I) wanted concrete steps against the Left Front government. According to her, Congress(I) leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi had written to the Prime Minister seeking impositio n of the Disturbed Areas Act in districts such as Midnapore, Bankura and Hooghly, which recently witnessed intense political clashes. At the NDA meeting, Mamata Banerjee reportedly pressed her plea for action against the Left Front government with the su pport of photographs and documents. She reportedly concluded her speech with a demand that at the minimum the Disturbed Areas Act should be enforced in some parts of the State.

In the event, the meeting did not oblige her: and all that she could get was offer of support and solidarity. Trinamul Congress leaders, however, claim that the September 23 resolution was nothing but what NDA constituents had been demanding - Central ac tion in West Bengal. The constituents held that the nature of the action should, however, be left to the Union government. "We have done our bit. Now it is for the Centre to decide. The allies were unanimous that the law and order situation in West Benga l was going from bad to worse," said Mamata Banerjee after the meeting.

By all indications, a variety of political and legal factors prevented the NDA leadership from deciding on a more specific course. The prime reason was the inability of NDA partners to agree on either imposing President's Rule or using the Disturbed Area s Act. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) opposed in clear terms both the proposals, while the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) expressed the view that Article 356 should be invoked only after careful consideration. The DMK leadership said that the party had al ways held that the Disturbed Areas Act should be brought into play in accordance with the procedure laid out for the purpose - that it should be done only with the concurrence of the State government concerned.

The Act pertains specifically to tackling the insurgency situation in the northeastern States, and if it is to be enforced in any other State the consent of the State government is a pre-requisite. This norm can be bypassed only by issuing a presidential Ordinance and getting it approved by Parliament. Here again, the NDA leadership was unsure whether President K.R. Narayanan - who has repeatedly shown that he is a thinking President, and not one given to signing on the dotted line - would agree to sign such an ordinance.

And even if an ordinance is issued, getting it approved by Parliament, particularly the Rajya Sabha, is not an easy task. Parliamentary approval depends on the support of the Congress(I) in the Rajya Sabha, and the NDA leadership knew that the Congress ( I)'s support cannot be taken for granted, despite statements from leaders such as Das Munshi and West Bengal Congress(I) president Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, who have generally supported Mamata Banerjee's campaign. The Congress (I) had "similarly let down" the NDA when the Rabri Devi-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) government in Bihar was dismissed, although Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi had earlier questioned the RJD's moral authority to continue in office.

Das Munshi had, however, qualified his association with the Trinamul Congress. Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mamata Banerjee, he said that Congress(I) workers in West Bengal were concerned about the political violence and that he was "pers onally" in favour of declaring some of the areas as disturbed. The emphasis was on the "personal" nature of the opinion.

NEVERTHELESS, it is clear that the major constituents of the NDA, including the BJP and the TDP, have resolved to harass the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which leads the Left Front and its government, in order to keep the Trinamul Congress happy. The NDA resolution as well as the way Advani briefed the media about the exchange of letters between him and Jyoti Basu indicated this. While the resolution commended the "courage and fortitude" shown by Mamata Banerjee and her party persons, Advani pres ented a strong defence of Mamata Banerjee and branded Basu's criticism of her as "intemperate". Advani said that Basu had chosen not to respond to specifics raised by the Centre but had, instead, called names. The resolution said that the CPI(M) had "per petrated" violence on the people of West Bengal because they had voted for NDA candidates in the recent panchayat elections and the byelection to the Lok Sabha from the Panskura constituency.

The reasons for this defence of Mamata Banerjee are not far to seek. The Trinamul Congress is indisputably the main Opposition party in West Bengal and its support is vital for the BJP to gain ground in the State. On her part, Mamata Banerjee has indicat ed that she does not allow considerations of ideology and commitment to come in the way of choosing political partners and that she can ditch them the moment she feels that they have served their purpose. In fact, a day before the NDA meeting, she gave a n indication to the BJP leadership that she was not averse to swinging 180 degrees and having the Congress(I) as her main ally in the State. This was done rather ingeniously, by taking Das Munshi to a meeting with the Prime Minister. Although the matter discussed was reportedly the flood situation in West Bengal, the underlying political message was not lost on the BJP leadership.

The TDP's spirited support to the Trinamul Congress has apparently to do with the developments in Andhra Pradesh. Together with the Congress(I), the CPI(M) launched an agitation against the steep increase in power rates by the TDP government. The struggl e between the government and the CPI(M) turned violent, and the government was in the dock following police excesses against the agitators. Interestingly, the TDP had consistently opposed the invocation of Article 356.

The CPI(M) has repeatedly highlighted the political gamesmanship that determines the position of NDA constituents such as the BJP and TDP on West Bengal. In a statement its Polit Bureau issued a day before the NDA meet, the party said that the NDA's blin d support to the Trinamul Congress' demands "would only serve to bring public ignominy to the Vajpayee government" for "putting a coalition partner's narrow political interests above democratic norms". The CPI(M) had earlier asked the BJP's allies to cla rify their stand on the use of Article 356 and other means of subverting Centre-State relations. Recalling that the TDP itself was a victim of the abuse of Article 356 in 1984, CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat said that even the Disturbed Areas Act could be u sed against States such as Andhra Pradesh and in a manner that is directed against parties such as the TDP at a later stage. The party said that the barrage of charges against the Left Front government were baseless and were made only to justify the "mis use of government machinery" that the Centre contemplated.

It is important that though the NDA has not approved either of the two "concrete steps" favoured by the Trinamul Congress, it has at least vaguely requested the Union government "to take whatever steps it deems necessary to prevent destruction of democra tic institutions in West Bengal". Possibly the next move by the Home ministry will be the dispatch of a team of officials to the State. Clearly, that will be a bid to build up a record of complaints regarding the law and order situation. Informed sources in the NDA say that the leadership is of the view that this would come in handy at some stage before the Assembly elections, due in March 2001.

At another level, they would serve the purpose of harassing Jyoti Basu and the State government. In fact, the run-up to the NDA meet provided ample indications of this, and they attracted a stern and strong reaction from the Chief Minister.

It all began with the tour of West Bengal by an NDA team led by TDP leader S. Venugopalachari. The team submitted a report to the Union Home Ministry, and the Ministry sought clarifications from the West Bengal government on certain points it raised. The NDA followed it up with high-profile visits by leaders including Bangaru Laxman and George Fernandes. These visits, portrayed as "inquiry missions", saw these leaders going around a few places in the State and condemning the government.

The Left Front government reacted sharply. Jyoti Basu and his ministerial colleagues termed them and the protestations of the NDA leaders politically vindictive and biased action. The letters between Basu and Advani followed this.

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While the basic effort of the Chief Minister was to emphasise that the law and order situation was all right in West Bengal, the letters from Advani and Home Ministry officials questioned this claim. Every one of the State government's reports was dismis sed as unsatisfactory and lacking in substance.

These exchanges many a time acquired a distinctly personal and rancorous tone. When Jyoti Basu said that George Fernandes' fact-finding mission was a joke since he neither met nor interviewed any CPI(M) functionary, Fernandes retorted: "Jyoti Basu and h is men treated my visit as if I was an intruder in the State." Basu replied that the Defence Minister did not seek any appointment with him or the Deputy Chief Minister. Fernandes dismissed as "absolute nonsense" Basu's charge that he rushed to West Beng al only to placate Mamata Banerjee.

The contention in Advani's letters and public pronouncements was that Basu had not denied the basic fact of the prevalence of political violence in the State or contradicted the charge about attacks by CPI(M) cadres on political adversaries. And hence, h e said, action should be taken against the Left Front government. Advani also said that the use of "intemperate language" against Mamata Banerjee by the Chief Minister was a "clear manifestation of the Left Front's panic at the challenge raised by her ag ainst their hegemony in the State". On his part Basu asked Advani to "restrain one of your Cabinet colleagues from this State who has a propensity to incite people to take to the path of violence" through speeches and other activities. He asserted that t he Left Front government was not in power at the Centre's "grace".

This war of words is bound to continue, whether or not the NDA Ministry takes any precipitate action in the matter. According to sources in the NDA, not many in the BJP itself are convinced about the propriety of Central intervention in West Bengal on la w and order grounds although everybody has subsumed themselves to Mamata Banerjee's tactics. These sources rate that one round of "Operation West Bengal" has come to a close with the September 23 meet. The next round, they believe, is bound to start arou nd the winter session of Parliament. That would be followed by a final round before the Assembly elections. Predictably, the war would feature politics at its acrimonious worst.

Fact and fiction on Point 5353

PRAVEEN SWAMI the-nation

The defence establishment's response to the controversy over Point 5353 plumbs new depths.

IN August, news broke that Pakistan holds one of the most important mountain features in the Drass Sector, Point 5353-metres. Since then, there has been a welter of fresh revelations, the most important of them being lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP R.K. Anand' s disclosure that five other positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) are held by Pakistan. Anand also made public Army's internal correspondence on the causes of the debacle over Point 5353. The revelations did not lead to a considered rebuttal, but generated a wave of hostile official polemic, often through pro-establishment journalists. One so-called security affairs expert charged that the revelations were part of a Pakistani intelligence plot to generate a "divisive debate" in Indi a.

Addressing an audience of businessmen in Mumbai in early August, Union Defence Minister George Fernandes put forward the sole cogent official response to the revelations about Point 5353. "5353," he said, "is the point over which the LoC goes. The fact i s, our troops had never occupied that. The normal practice among them has been that where the line goes over a peak, then nobody occupies it." The Minister then proceeded to assault what he perceived to be irresponsible media organisations, much to the d elight of the assembled Mumbai businesspersons, many of whom have had their own skirmishes with reporters. But an analysis of Fernandes' statement shows not only little concern for fact, but an alarming willingness to use falsehood to ensure that his cho sen team in the defence establishment can continue to be incompetent with impunity.

"5353 is the point over which the LoC goes"

Assertions that the LoC is imprecisely defined on the ground, and that the territorial status of Point 5353 is therefore unclear, have formed the central component of official discourse on the controversy. A few hours spent poring over old newspapers are all that it takes to set the record straight. Sadly, few of the many commentators who have engaged with the revelations made in Frontline and other publications on the status of Point 5353 have seen it fit to make the effort.

During the Kargil war, Pakistan had put forward claims that the LoC was undefined on the ground, and that its territorial contours were imprecise. An irate spokesman of the Union Ministry of External Affairs responded on June 19, 1999. "The LoC is well d efined and delineated," he said, "and is the very cornerstone of Indo-Pakistan relations." Pointing out that detailed co-ordinates of the LoC were given in 19 annexures to the agreement of December 11, 1972, arrived at between Lieutenant-General Abdul Ha mid Khan and Lieutenant-General P.S. Bhagat, the spokesman added that "so far as the de jure position is concerned, there are no doubts."

Speaking in New Delhi on June 23, 1999, his first press conference after military operations began in Kargil, Chief of the Army Staff V.P. Malik was even more explicit. "In today's display," he said after a formal presentation, "we have also given you de tails of the LoC; its delineation; how it was delineated." "With marked maps, a military man without a GPS (Global Positioning System) can make an error of a few hundred metres on the ground, but an error of 8 to 9 kilometres is unimaginable."

No one appeared to be in any doubt about just where Point 5353 was during the Kargil war itself. The Press Trust of India (PTI) put out official responses to Pakistan claims that Point 5353 was on its side of the LoC on July 28, 1999. "The maps signed by the Indian and Pakistani DGMOs (Directors General of Military Operations) in 1972 clearly indicate that it belongs to India," the PTI despatch noted. On July 30, a PTI depatch repeated the assertion in a report on fighting around Point 5353: "In this se ctor, Pakistan claims some mountains to be a part of this territory whereas the maps signed between the Directors General of Military Operations in December 1972, are contrary to this claim."

Maps published in Frontline, and also separate documents made available to the press by Anand, both make clear that Point 5353 is at an aerial distance of almost a kilometre from the LoC on the Indian side. On the ground, that would mean a trek of several kilometres, given the terrain's savage contours. How what was "well defined" and "well delineated" only a year ago has now become so confused is a question only the defence establishment's apologists can answer.

"Where the line goes over a peak, nobody occupies it"

Leaving aside the so far undenied fact that Pakistan is indeed in occupation of Point 5353, this second element of Fernandes' argument raises more than a few interesting issues. Right through the Kargil war, Indian officials made clear that the fight for Point 5353 had been joined. But that fight would have served little purpose had the strategically located peak not fallen inside Indian territory.

Northern Command chief H.M. Khanna announced in Srinagar on July 21, 1999 that while the bulk of the Pakistan intrusion had been vacated, "some 50 to 70 intruders still held three positions along the LoC in Kargil". Two days later, The Tribune, ci ting official reports, noted that "fierce fighting was on in Batalik and Kaksar sub-sectors as the Indian troops launched operations to evict the intruders from the three pockets they were holding." "Fighting," the report noted, "was under way at Point 5 353 in Drass, Muntho Dhalo and Shangruti Ridge in Batalik, and also at a position in Kaksar." These are much the same areas as Anand referred to in his press conference.

Nothing much changed over the next few days. On July 24, The Tribune again reported that "Pakistani intruders continued to hold their position in the small pockets of intrusion". The same day, the Asian Age's special correspondents in New D elhi and Srinagar quoted Union Defence Minister George Fernandes as saying that "a very few Pakistani soldiers are occupying one point each in Drass. Batalik and Mushkoh." "These points," he insisted, "will be cleared at any time." Officials did their be st to prove their Minister right, announcing both on July 25 and July 26, 1999 that the last of the intrusions had been cleared.

Fernandes and Lieutenant-General Nirmal Vij, the Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO), were, in fact, being economical with the truth. On July 28, PTI reported that fighting continued in several areas. One soldier was killed in shelling in the Batalik area while another died in the Muntho Dalo area. The Pakistan Army, PTI recorded, "also launched a counter-attack on Sando Top and Zulu Spur." The Zulu Spur forms the junction of ridges from the Mushkoh Valley and the Marpo La area. Most importan t of all, PTI noted that "in Mushkoh sub-sector of Drass both sides exchanged small arms fire around Point 5353". What Indian troops were doing there if the peak is not on the Indian side of the LoC remains a mystery - particularly if, as the Army's publ ic relations staff insist, the peak is of little strategic significance and poses no real threat to National Highway 1A.

Pakistan, which now denies that it holds any territory on the Indian side of the LoC, clearly understood the gains it had made. On July 26, even as officials in New Delhi announced that the last Pakistani intruder had been evicted from the Indian side of the LoC, the Pakistan Army's Brigadier Rashid Qureshi made a significant, but little noticed, statement. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that "contrary to Indian claims, the Pakistan Army is still holding some strategic heights along the Li ne of Control and can effectively tackle any Indian attack." "We are in a position to target Indian vehicles on the Kargil-Drass road," it quoted Qureshi as saying.

But in the triumphal glow provoked by the end of Operation Vijay, news regarding Point 5353 disappeared from the press. No reportage on the fighting in the area appeared after the PTI report of July 28. A similar fate befell operations in the Batalik are a. On July 9, Army spokesperson Bikram Singh announced that "valiant Gorkha Rifles soldiers, who had recaptured Khalobar and Point 5287, regained point 4821 and Kukerthang". "The gallant Bihar regiment," he continued, "took control of the Tharu hills in an overnight operation." "Now," he concluded, "only one or two pockets where the intruders are giving resistance are left to be recaptured." Nothing about those pockets, which included the Shangruti feature on the LoC, was heard of again.

"Fact is, our troops had never occupied that"

The argument that Point 5353 was never held by India has been regularly used by the Army public relations apparatus to rebut the charge that operational incompetence and strategic errors led to its occupation by Pakistan during the Kargil war. The claim is, in fact, true. India did not hold Point 5353 before the war broke out. What has not been reported widely is that this statement of fact rebuts nothing, for no one ever claimed that the peak was physically held by India before the war. Indeed, reports that appeared in Frontline and Business Line made quite clear that the peak was not held by either side in the build-up to the conflict.

Point 5353, along with the features around it, was occupied by the Pakistani troops at the start of the Kargil war. When the hostilities ended, the Indian troops had succeeded only in taking back Charlie 6 and Charlier 7, two secondary positions on the M arpo La ridgeline. The Indian troops had also been unable to evict Pakistani soldiers from Point 5240, some 1,200 metres from Point 5353 as the crow flies. Amar Aul, the 56 Brigade Commander in charge of the operations to secure Point 5353, responded by occupying two heights on the Pakistani side of the LoC, 4875 and 4251, just before the ceasefire came into force.

Aul later tried to use these two heights to bring about a territorial exchange. In mid-August 1999, his efforts bore fruit, and both sides committed themselves to leave Points 5353, 5240, 4251 and 4875 unoccupied. Indian and Pakistani troops pulled back to their pre-Kargil position as part of a larger agreement between their respective DGMOs. In October that year, however, the deal broke down. Aul tasked the 16 Grenadiers to take Point 5240 and the 1/3 Gorkha Rifles to occupy Point 5353, choosing to vio late the August agreement rather than risk a Pakistani reoccupation of these positions. The operation was mishandled, and when the Pakistani troops detected the Indian presence on 5240, they promptly launched a counter-assault on Point 5353.

Pakistan rapidly consolidated its position on 5353 after the abortive Indian offensive. Concrete bunkers came up on the peak, and a road was constructed to the base of the peak of Benazir Post. And with Point 5353 and its adjoining area now linked by roa d to Pakistan's rear headquarters at Gultari, any attack will lead to a full-blown resumption of hostilities. No official from the Army or the Defence Ministry has, until the third week of September, denied this sequence of events.

Nor has a denial been made of significant new revelations made by Anand. Anand made available the correspondence between Captain Navneet Mehta, who led an unsuccessful attack on Peak 5353 in May 1999. The correspondence outlines the errors that led to th is debacle. Aul has not been called to account for his actions. Nor has the Army denied or accepted this highly decorated solider's part in the debacle. Neither have his superiors seen it fit to explain why Pakistan was left in possession of the peak, an d why the subsequent exchange-deal was terminated to India's evident disadvantage. Most significant, Anand's claim that Point 5353 was indeed held by India in 1992-1993, successfully cutting off Pakistani supply routes, has not been rebutted.

In the wake of Anand's intervention on the 5353 debate, General Malik has chosen to distance himself from the entire controversy. At an August 31 press conference, held to inaugurate the Army Wives Welfare Association's website, Malik said the issue had now entered the "political domain." "We are going through his statement," Malik said. "We have the answer, but let the government react." Coming from an Army chief who allowed his officers to brief the Bharatiya Janata Party on the conduct of the Kargil war, and permitted his soldiers to host a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-organised religious function in Leh, the new disdain for politics is interesting.

The worrying lack of answers about Point 5353 is not the only problematical aspect of the affair. Many of the Army's responses to Point 5353 stories were put out not through attributable statements, for which officials could later be held accountable, bu t through off-the-record briefings held behind closed doors. In effect, a section of the media allowed itself to be used as the public relations wing of an incompetent defence apparatus. One Calcutta-based daily even apologised for the unpardonable sin o f having failed to censor Anand's press conference on behalf of the defence establishment.

India's defence establishment and much of the press have chosen to hide from uncomfortable truth. But the silence does no one any favours, least of all the soldiers who could one day have to pay again with their lives for the failures of the Kargil war.

The poor as a problem

The Maharashtra government's new population control project, which seeks to deprive the violators of the two-child family norm of the benefits of welfare measures, causes concern among people working for the rights of women and the poor.

LAXMI KAMBLE lives in a one-room shack near the Goregaon bus terminus in Mumbai, along with her unemployed husband and their four children, the first three of them girls.

In August, the Maharashtra government, it would seem, decided that people like the Kambles are enemies of progress because they have too many children. Starting next year it plans to cut off access to over 60 state-run welfare programmes to people who vi olate the two-child norm. After May 2001, government employees who have large families will lose out on loans and benefits like medical subsidies, and could even end up with unfavourable remarks in their confidential reports. Newly appointed government e mployees will have to commit in writing to a two-child family. The state will only provide free school education to the first two children of a family and will even cut off access to subsidised foodgrains, sugar and kerosene through the Public Distributi on System (PDS) for any children born after the second one. People who have more than two children will not even be entitled to stand for election to local bodies.

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Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's campaign to stop families like the Kambles from using state subsidies and infrastructure to support themselves has been cheered on by middle class and elite opinion in Maharashtra. Funnily, the Kamble family itself is n ot much bothered over the prospect that families in their situation will face sanctions just a year down the road. Laxmi Kamble's husband does not think his daughters need to go to school much longer. No one in the family uses state medical care because none exists near their slum. Although they have lived in Mumbai for seven years, the family does not have a ration card either. Market prices of kerosene and sugar are high, but the Kambles do not have a choice. "We live in rented premises," she says. "T hey don't give ration cards to people who don't own their own shack."

Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh has made no secret of what he thinks of the new policy. "I have an even better idea," he says wryly. "Let's execute all people who have more than two children. That way, we'll solve the population problem, and at least ch ildren won't be punished for their parents' actions."

It does not take much to see just why the Maharashtra government's prescription is unlikely to achieve its stated objective. States which have succeeded in bringing down their population growth rates have done so by improving public access to pre and pos t-natal healthcare, and, above all, by making women's education universal. Ensuring that the educational, social and financial status of women improves, and discouraging repeated pregnancies in the quest for a male child, have been central to successful population control programmes. The Maharashtra government's population policy, announced in May 2000, makes polite noises in support of all these objectives. Where it falls short, however, is in the matter of specific policy objectives and, more importan t, commitments of cash. All that remains is a welter of coercive measures, which are likely to do nothing other than to punish the poor for being poor.

Little in the State's population policy suggests that serious thinking has gone into its making. The official body that will represent women when it comes to population issues, for example, consists of nine politicians' wives, including those of the Chie f Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, six bureaucrats, the Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai's SNDT Women's University, and the Family Planning Association of India's Avabai Wadia. No representatives of organisations that work for women's empowerment and rights are on the list. There is no mention of widening access to basic health services for women and children, only, strangely enough, of bringing laparoscopy to rural areas - where even primary health centres are often unknown. And while the policy does menti on the enforcement of laws to end child marriage and sex determination tests, it makes no effort to explore just how regulatory authorities charged with such functions and that have failed to work for decades will now be made to function effectively.

No one seems entirely certain exactly how the new measures will be administered. The below poverty line (BPL) families are issued yellow colour ration cards, which entitle them to a flat 12 kilograms of wheat and 8 kg of rice a month. Sugar and kerosene are, however, made available on a per head basis. Officials seem unsure of whether, and how, BPL families may be subjected to the two-child norm in this matter.

Foodgrain for families that are deemed to be above poverty line (APL) is distributed on a per head basis, making this category of PDS consumers more easily subject to the two-child regulation. Whether the cuts would apply to existing consumers, or only t o children born after May 2001, however, is not known. Educational regulations are similarly vague. Maharashtra's laws entitle all girl children to free school education, but it is still unclear whether this facility will now be subjected to the two-chil d rule.

Unsurprisingly, most people working for the rights of women and the poor are deeply disturbed by the new policy. For one, the punitive measures that form the core of the population policy are certain to hit women most. Where food is scarce in families, f or example, girls and women are certain to bear the brunt of the shortage. If education is to be denied to some among a family's children, money is more likely to be spent on sending boys to school. The fate that befell the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corpora tion's two-year old decision to charge women for their third delivery at the BMC's hospital is instructive. There has been no evidence that the scheme has worked as a deterrent against having a large family, or that it has reduced the birth rate in a soc iety where male children are assigned special value. "The whole policy," says the All India Democratic Women's Association's Sonya Gill, "will simply inflict more hardship on the poor."

AN examination of the Maharashtra government's record on the PDS illustrates just how absurd its proposals to use food as a weapon with which to combat population growth are. Since the early 1990s, efforts have been made to cut food subsidies, both by ra ising costs and seeking to target only the poorest of people. The impact of high PDS issue prices has been dramatic. BPL families get wheat at Rs.4. a kg and rice at Rs.5.40 a kg. APL families get 8 kg of foodgrain per adult at Rs.9.80 a kg for wheat and Rs.13.40 a kg for rice. These price levels, reached after repeated hikes, in many cases mirror or even exceed the market rates. By some estimates, the offtake from ration shops in Mumbai has declined by some 25 per cent since the latest series of hikes that started in January. The Maharashtra government, on an average, makes available 10 kg of grain for each ration card each month, a third of its stated target.

If the poor can no longer afford to buy the grain meant for them, the numbers of poor that the PDS serves in Maharashtra are also alarmingly low. Slightly over a third of those who hold ration cards in Maharashtra have been deemed to be poor, on the basi s of rules which mandate that their monthly family income must be below Rs.15,000 in urban areas, and Rs.4,000 in the countryside. In Mumbai, a city of one crore people where half the population lives in slums or is homeless, under the income criteria ju st over 450,000 families, accounting for around a tenth of the population, have been deemed poor for PDS purposes. The Rationing Control Officer in Dharavi, known as Asia's largest slum with a population of half a million, discovered in 1997 that it had only 365 poor families. In a remarkable illustration of how governments actually "eliminate" poverty, that figure was reassessed, and fell to just 151 last year.

Data gathered by AIDWA general secretary Kiran Moghe, a longtime watchdog and campaigner on the PDS scene in Maharashtra, illustrates the point that the picture is not very different elsewhere in the State. In the major industrial towns of Nashik, Maleg aon and Ahmednagar, the numbers of families granted a BPL category card are abysmally low. In November last year, just 39,750 yellow cards were held in Nashik, 37,500 in Malegaon and 1,130 in Ahmednagar. "The government does not believe workers are poor, " notes Moghe. As important, it evidently believes that the numbers of poor are falling dramatically. Between November 1999 and September 2000, Moghe has found, the number of BPL category cards in Kothrud, home to some of the largest slums in Pune, fell from 3,718 to 2,587, or by some 30.4 per cent. In Yerawada, home to many of the city's poor Dalit families, the fall was even more dramatic. Only 261 families had BPL cards in September 2000, a fall of an incredible 97.6 per cent.

Clearly, the post-liberalisation project of restricting access to the PDS has denied vast numbers of people in Maharashtra, as elsewhere, affordable food. National Family Health Survey data for 1992-1993 show that in Maharashtra, 18.5 per cent of boys an d 22 per cent of girls from the age of 1 month to 47 months were severely malnourished. That placed India's richest State in the same league as Uttar Pradesh and Orissa, and worse off than poor Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. With the level of access to PD S food having declined since the early 1990s in Maharashtra, the figures may well have deteriorated further. Denying PDS grain to children under the two-child family norm will lead to even more appalling conditions among the poor and will do little to co ntain population growth. "It's going to be one more nail in the coffin," says Moghe, "one more move towards doing away with the PDS altogether."

It is important to remember that the PDS is not the only government poverty-alleviation project that will be hit by the two-child policy. Schemes run by those ranging from the Animal Husbandry Department to business start-up funds for Dalits will now be subjected to the new regime. Contrary to popular perception, there is no evidence to show that poor people have larger families than the well-off. But the relatively well-off need less state support than the poor, and they are unlikely to be particularly perturbed by the shrinking of welfare that the two-child policy envisages. As important, the rich are certain to be more able than the poor to purchase their way around employment and loan restrictions. As such, the coercive regime that Maharashtra is p utting in place specifically targets the worst off sections, seeking to restrict their numbers by any means necessary.

How then does one account for the widespread support that Vilasrao Deshmukh's plans have received from liberal opinion in the State? It has passed little notice that the two-child only policy is the outcome of a distinct Mumbai-centred ideological projec t, hinged on the belief that the poor are the problem. Massive migration from poor Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the argument goes, has encouraged the rise of fascist and xenophobic forces like the Shiv Sena. Reducing welfare is seen as an instrument to disco urage migration, and thus restore both urban order and Mumbai's secular and cosmopolitan culture. Chhagan Bhujbal, who is now the Deputy Chief Minister, had given vent to one of the more express assertions of this claim in Pinki Virani's book Once Was Bombay (1999). "Bombay has really been up for grabs this last decade," he said, adding, "too much kindness can also kill a city."

Little empirical data has been made available in support of this reactionary posture. In fact, there are more than a few facts to show that Mumbai's real problems of unemployment and mass poverty are the outcome not simply of migration but of poor planni ng and what several observers have described as "casino capitalism". Maharashtra's fertility rate, and population growth, is nowhere near levels prevailing in some other States, and simply does not justify the repressive two-child policy. The Congress(I) -Nationalist Congress Party regime has, sadly, shown little inclination to address the real economic problems of Maharashtra. If Chief Minister Deshmukh is indeed serious about reducing population growth, he might do well to spend more on education, nutr ition and health, something that the State government has shown no signs of being willing to do.

Globalisation: a society of aliens?

AIJAZ AHMAD the-nation
A Reflection on Our Times - V

'GLOBALISATION' is only a word, in some key respects a misleading word. We could simply say 'Empire'. That might even be more accurate. Perhaps 'American Empire'. Perhaps even more exact - but in other ways again somewhat misleading! Because what we actu ally have is, finally, for the first time in history, a globalised empire of capital itself, in all its nakedness, in which the United States imperium plays the dominant role, financially, militarily, institutionally, ideologically. We shall continue to use the word 'globalisation', however, because it is more familiar and serves the purpose. But we shall have to explain what it means and how it came about.

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In a previous essay in this series ("Colonialism, Fascism and 'Uncle Shylock'," Frontline, September 1, 2000) I made a few points that are relevant to the present discussion. First, the drive toward an integrated world market has been inherent in the logic of capitalism from the beginning, and colonisation of the world was therefore not an incidental aspect but an integral basis for this system. Second, between the end of the 15th century, when it all began, until the end of the 18th, the process of real colonisation was mostly centred on the Americas and it was only in the 19th century that Asia and Africa were intensively colonised, dividing the world into a set of core industrialised countries of the advanced West and a vast hinterland of non -industrialised colonies and dependencies, many of them formally independent. The story of the 20th century is essentially the story of the crisis and dissolution of that system, brought about by wars of national liberation in the colonies and for social ism world-wide; but also the story, equally, of the rise of a new kind of non-territorial world empire and consequently a new kind of postcolonial, imperial sovereignty.

The full American domination of the world as it stands now is, in other words, a novel phenomenon in the history of capital and empire. We shall later comment briefly on the uniqueness of this new imperial arrangement. But how did it all begin? As in pre vious reflections in this series, the story begins again with the War of 1914 which had four major consequences germane to the present discussion.

That war propelled the process which finally led to the final dissolution of the colonial system, even though the main wave of decolonisation came only after the Second World War and continued for some more years. Second, the U.S. which was already the w orld's leading industrial power now emerged as the pre-eminent power in all spheres - industrial production, financial concentration, military strength, and so on. Third, the Bolshevik Revolution created the first socialist state, which had the effect of vastly energising anti-colonial movements and turning socialism into a world-wide challenge to capitalism even though the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) remained isolated and further socialist revolutions only came after the Second World War .

Finally, Germany, which too had emerged, alongside the U.S. as a more powerful industrial power than either Britain or France, lost the First World War, rose again under the Nazis with global ambitions, and was again defeated in the Second World War. Tha t German defeat ensured that the tottering British and French empires would be inherited by the U.S. instead. The U.S. was never again to vacate that pre-eminent position in the world system. Gore Vidal, an American novelist and hardly a man of leftist p ersuasions (a cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, actually), tells us that the U.S. has spent $7.1 trillion on military strength since 1946 to maintain that position. The position itself was essential if the U.S. was to keep Japan and western Europe dependent on its own power as it fought an unremitting war, both hot and cold, against national liberation in the imperialised zones and against communism world-wide, which cost the peoples of the Third World some 20 million lives.

It was in this larger context that the most implacable conflict of this century, between the U.S. and the USSR, was joined. Just a couple of things about the condition of the USSR, compared to the statistics of U.S. power given above, should prove how un equal the terms of conflict were. The losses and economic disintegration in consequence of the First World War, the civil war immediately after the Revolution and the invasion of the USSR by a coalition of Western powers which came quick on the heels of the civil war meant that by 1921 the economy had been cut to mere 10 per cent of its pre-war size. Between the two wars, the Soviet economy grew faster than any other on the planet but the Second World War again cost it 25 per cent of its material assets and 20 million of its citizens. The U.S. economy grew by some 10 per cent annually during both wars, and neither was fought on its soil. One might add that since the Second World War the resources of the rest of advanced capitalism have also been at the disposal of the U.S. so far as that War was concerned.

There were a few preconditions for the emergence for a full-scale globalisation in more recent years that can be summarised. 1. The divisions of the old colonial empires had to be overcome if the whole capitalist world was to be united under a single heg emony. 2. There had to be a pre-eminent power equipped to accomplish this. 3. The socialist states had to be dissolved and brought back into the capitalist market so as to make it truly global. 4. A degree of industrialisation of the former colonies was necessary if the reach of the capitalist market was to be deepened. 5. New kinds of technology were required to integrate the world financial markets and make productive capital itself more mobile. 6. Similarly, new types of military technologies, the fa mous 'automated battlefields' for example, were required which could deliver imperial power effectively and swiftly against various and largely elusive little enemies that were perceived to be proliferating all over the world. 7. Finally, a complex netwo rk was required for moral pressure, ideological legitimisation and cultural acceptance, ranging from all kinds of non-governmental organisation (NGOs) to high-minded postmodernism to the 'End of History' ideology.

Globally integrated finance is the central agent for the unification of this Empire. The problem with most discussions of globalisation, however, is that they give one the sense that it was a matter mostly of the velocity at which financial information a nd virtual monies now travel through cyberspace. As a fully-fledged imperialism, globalisation is an integrated system of economic, political, military and ideological powers and geopolitical arrangements supervised by real people in real boardrooms. The geopolitical aspect, for example, comes through very well in a recent formulation of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as the National Security Advisor in the Carter administration, supervised the beginning of the Afghan war and credits himself for having bought down the Soviet system. He begins by observing that "for the first time ever, a non-European power has emerged not only as the key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world's paramount power." Then, in the true spirit of the son o f a Polish aristocrat that he is, he starts speaking of "vassals and tributaries" of "the first and only truly global superpower" which seem to include states of Western Europe itself. Brzezinski then recommends: "The three great imperatives of geopoliti cal strategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." [Z. Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, New York, Basic Books, 1997]

The "barbarians" are of course the people of the Third World, but two other aspects of this formulation are worth emphasising. One is that far from representing it as the outbreak of equality, liberty and opportunity that many soft sellers of globalisati on would portray it as being, Brzezinski is a tough-minded professional, with aristocratic disdain for the weak, and describes globalisation as a three-tiered hierarchy, with barbarians at the bottom and a single superpower at the top, but one in which E urope and Japan, although dominant inside what he calls "Eurasia," are merely straggling in the middle.

Since it is in the nature of "vassals and tributaries" to connive and conspire against the feudal lord, the European Union and Japan must be prevented from colluding against the U.S. which can keep them "pliant" by keeping them dependent upon itself for their military security - as, for example, by ensuring access to petroleum from the Gulf region which the U.S. had done for decades now. Germany is of course the leading power in Europe, so in order to keep Germany "pliant" the U.S. may even help it achi eve its aims in Yugoslavia.

This pretty much sums up the geopolitical thinking that President Clinton has inherited and is now exercising through his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, whom Brzezinski had once tutored. This geopolitical vision at the end of the 20th century is consistent with President Teddy Roosevelt's statement at the beginning of this century that the U.S. has no choice but to take up the task of an "international police power." With this clarification of how the chief architects of U.S. policy themselves understand the geopolitical architecture, we can turn to a basic description of the system and then comment on some of its key aspects.

TERRITORIALLY, the empire covers the entire globe, thanks to the dissolution of the Soviet bloc and the full integration of China into the world market, so that there are no significant spaces left which are outside the direct dominantion of capital. Thi s extensive expansion of the market is then combined with an intensive deepening, so that the partial industrialization of the former colonies, the assimilation of most agriculture around the world into money economy, and the rapid world-wide decline of non-monetised peasant production mean that almost the whole world has been brought effectively under the same law of value. This law is of course administered diffrentially around the world as wages and prices are set locally and nationally.

Washington D.C. serves as the capital city of this empire because it is, together with New York, the headquarter not only of the U.S. government, but also of most key institutions of this new imperial sovereignty: Wall Street, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations, and so on. The financial integration of this world takes the form not of an imperfect integration of autonomous and interlocking national markets, but that of a single organism funct ioning through a technology that has brought effectively to zero the time required to transmit from one end of the world to another the information incorporating key financial decisions of the world.

This whole edifice is upheld in a complex system of law and regulation which has two overlapping aspects. There are first of all the regulatory regimes of the IMF, the World Bank, the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), and so on, which are, tog ether, fast emerging as a new world government for imposing uniform policies, obligations, and conditionalities around the world, especially the imperialised world. The debt crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, for example, was used by these agencies to establ ish a global regime of disciplinary neoliberalism which has defined the Third World side of globalisation ever since.

International agencies such as the IMF have been central in perfecting this system, and they of course have their own very complex legal frameworks and regulatory regimes that individual nation-states are to abide by. But an equally crucial aspect of thi s globalisation of law and sovereignty is that national legal systems are being constantly pressed into altering their own laws to make them more compatible with - often mere facsimiles of - American law. The non-territorial empire that has its capital i n Washington D.C. thus takes over the actual internal functioning of far-flung nation-states three times over: under the lure and power of private transnational capital, under the regulatory regimes of the supra-national institutions (the IMF and so on), and by turning the laws of various nations into replicas of American law.

In a parallel move within this new, evolving law of empire, all kinds of moral philosophers and jurists, mainly from the U.S., are being mobilised to expound theories of 'just war' and laws pertaining to the 'right of intervention'. The use of the U.N. t o legitimise American military designs is as old as the Korean War of the 1950s. Then, in the period of revolutionary upsurge of the next 20 years, this unholy alliance receded. For a transitory moment in the mid-1970s, just about the time of the liberat ion of Vietnam, the U.N. had even tried to patch up with the revolutionary temper of the times. Thus, in 1974 it enacted a Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States which proclaimed that members-nations had the right to "regulate and exercise autho rity over foreign investment" and to "regulate and supervise the activities of multinational corporations"... even to "nationalise, expropriate or transfer ownership of foreign property."

Those were the old days, before the defeat of socialism and national liberation. By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union the U.N. had again become a tool of American policy and legitimising American interventions became one of its major responsib ilities. The Gulf war, which began the systematic destruction of Iraq with full connivance of the U.N. Security Council, was a turning point in this regard and served as a test case both in the military sphere and in the moral claims of empire. The use o f military force was preceded and later legitimised by the mobilisation of moral force. The media, sections of the Church and prominent NGOs such as the Amnesty International actively collaborated in the demonising of Saddam Hussein on the issue of 'huma n rights' and 'minority rights'. Rarely was it said that the record of the Kuwaiti monarchy, which the U.S. had set out to restore, was hardly better on this score; you only have to ask the immigrant labour which has in fact produced Kuwait's fabulous we alth and served its masters.

Then came the high-minded moral philosophers from the elite U.S. universities speaking of "just war" - a concept, interestingly enough, first developed in imperial Rome - and the 'right of intervention' on the side of human rights. This had a remarkable effect globally, starting with the imperial centres but spreading among the empire's clients in the Third World. If Saddam Hussein was indeed a demon, then the whole rhetoric of the "Evil Empire" from the days of the Cold War could now be remobilised and the death of tens of thousands of Iraqis, from soldiers to children, could then be represented as a regrettable aspect of a just war.

Meanwhile, the new military technology was fused into this new moral economy of the imperial mission. The basic fact is that only those whom Brzezinski calls "the barbarians" were dying. No one among the "civilised" who had gone to exorcise the demons wa s dying. Civilisation was safe from barbarism, indeed triumphing over it. In the high visibility of television screens, tables were turned. The victims were made invisible, and the evils of empire were represented as 'the right of intervention' against t he evil that lurks in all corners of the world occupied by "the barbarians". By the time Kosovo came along, no one cared any longer.

It is the nation-state, or coalitions of them, that make war; and it is the nation-states that are the objects of war. Yet, the mythology of globalisation includes the sizeable myth that the nation-state is on the way out. We hear of 'the global village' and of 'world citizens', mostly from people who carry passports and citizenships of advanced capitalist countries. When the socialist countries were still there, Western ideologues used to talk a lot about "free movements of people." Now, in the days of global neo-liberalism, we only hear of free movement of capital and commodities, even as the advanced countries themselves have high tariff walls wherever such walls are to their advantage. As for 'free movement of peoples', all they have to do is to ab olish the system of passports. Then all the Western capital can come to India and all the Indian labour can go to the imperialist countries.

In reality, imperialism itself needs not the abolition of nation-states in the Third World but the strengthening of them for its own purposes. What has happened is that with the defeat of the socialist countries and the retreat of workers' movements gene rally, the bourgeoisies no longer feel compelled to retain a strong role of the state in ensuring at least a minimum degree of citizens' welfare. In deed, this role is being cut back systematically across the globe and people are being left to the discip line of the market more and more brutally ever since the new offensives of the Right began in the mid-1970s. However, it is the state that is dismantling welfare and implementing liberalisation in all the countries across the globe. In other words, the n ation-state has become weaker in relation to capital, whose will it must implement most savagely, and weak in relation to labour, whom it treats with hateful contempt. In other words, the state is now not even pretending to be anything but the managing c ommittee of the whole bourgeoisie - and this time, not only the whole but also the transnational bourgeoisie. In the Third World, the state no longer even pretends to represent the people against imperialism. It represents imperial i nterest to the people.

One of the side-effects of this 'retreat of the state' from the realm of popular entitlements, health, education, employment, preservation of natural resources, and so on is that it leaves a vast vacuum which is to be filled, more or less fitfully, by di verse NGOs and 'social movements', always narrow and local in focus and frequently dependent on foreign funding agencies. As these NGOs lay claim to what had been conceived of as the social responsibility of the nation-state, they seek also to occupy the space previously claimed by such historic forms of mass organisation as the trade union and the political party, which then disorients large sections of the well-meaning and idealist youth. Great many of these NGOs are funded from the imperial centres a nd have channels to such things as the World Bank; their opposition to the nation-state combined with the myth of the 'disinterested' nature of their funding - an interest in 'disinterest' that the donor and the recipient share equally - then grea tly strengthens the claim of the imperial centres that they represent a higher morality than that of the local 'barbarians'. For the participants themselves, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between the politics of moral force and the politics of opportunism. This phenomenon is a major component in the moral economy of empire and a major source of corruption among activists in an age of the imperial management of protest.

In the advanced countries, meanwhile, the neo-liberal cry of 'too much government' and celebration of 'the retreat of the state' has come at the time when the information technology upon which globalisation rests has come wholly out of state-funded progr ammes, and it is the state that oversees monetary stability in the face of wild speculations, channelises investments into the military-industrial complexes and systematically redistributes incomes from the poor to the rich through sweeping legislation.

American capital is the most mobile and aggressive in the world because only the U.S. has the military power to guarantee its safety in all corners of the globe. Japanese capital is both transnational and aggressively Japanese. Germany has achieved its e xpanded national unification only recently, and it is the combined determination of the German state and German capital that is pushing the frontiers of German power eastward and southward, into the territories left to its mercies by the defeat of the so cialist states in those regions.

Moreover, even as capital internationalises itself, labour regimes are enforced by nation-states. Capitalism makes labour relatively mobile, but capital is always immeasurably more mobile than labour. In this equation, labour always remains relatively ve ry immobile. So, the control of labour is always local and national, even where immigrants are involved. In the new imperial sovereignty, it is the laws of the nation-state that are made to conform to the imperial law. Inside India, it is the Indian stat e that guarantees the conditions in which foreign capital makes money in India and exploits Indian workers. Why would multinational capital undermine a state in which Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee can represent, in chaste Hindi, the illicit embrace of lib eralisation and Hindutva?

MUCH could be said about the social, cultural and ideological aspects of this imperial system. In this realm, globalisation today is where internationalism once was. Globalisation, as the form of the world market in our time, is a system of infinite comp etition. Internationalism, in revolutionary ideology, was a system of solidarities transcending race, religion, nation and so on, in the pursuit of a common humanity. Globalisation is said to be, above all, the effect of a technology which facilitates th e velocity of financial transactions which, in turn, transform the world. Internationalism was a human compact, face-to-face here, nation-to-nation there, universal above all.

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Universal equality was the fundamental social and cultural value of internationalism. Globalisation's only commitment to something universal is that in perfecting the market it turns everything, including all cultural products, into commodities, universa lly, and sells locally produced cultural goods both locally and on the global market. It is the selling that is universal, while production is always local. In social relations, meanwhile, the basic ideology of globalisation is not - cannot be - Equality ; it is Difference. Not cooperation for common ends and common dreams, but individual or group competition for separate ends - resulting in countless nightmares.

Religion, region, language, caste - and in the international frame, nationality and ethnicity - anything and everything has been used to break working class solidarities, or to prevent such solidarities from emerging, at the work place and in the residen tial communities alike. In all the former socialist countries, a re-discovery of religious and communal hatreds is considered a fundamental necessity for a transition from socialism to capitalism. Irrationality is the order of the day, because irrational ity of human beings must correspond to the irrationality of the market. Meanwhile, globalisation unites the market and divides human beings, because human beings can be best used for purposes of the global marketing if they act as individual consumers an d not as a people in solidarity with each other. Postmodernism on a global scale, and postcolonial theory in relation to the Third World, are the main instruments in this battle to replace the politics of Equality with the politics of Difference, the soc iety of Cupertino by the society of infinite competition.

None of it would eventually work if people still believed in the possibility of revolution. Globalist ideology must destroy that belief. Postmodernism accomplishes part of that mission. If every little group can be sundered away from every other, on the pretext of identity, then there is no collective humanity to make the revolution. Only international finance capital is then united and its victims can then be infinitely divided and subdivided. But the other part is played by a twin ideology, that of th e 'End of History'; revolution is impossible, socialism has been defeated, the triumph of capitalism is final. Names of famous Americans are attached to the authorship of that ideology. But none of it would matter if that was not brought to us daily by o ur own leaders. When External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh refers to the period of non-alignment in our past history as 'wasted decades' he means precisely that any idea of independent national development is an illusion and we must all accept the supr emacy of the global market. The subjection of the whole nation to imperialism through liberalisation is the other face of dividing the nation on the axis of religion and community.

We could in fact say of globalisation what Saint Augustine once said in a somewhat different context: "While this Heavenly City is on pilgrimage on earth, it calls out all peoples and so collects a society of aliens, speaking all languages." Turning this "society of aliens" into a solidarity of common, forward-looking people is the real task.

A new government in Mauritius

JOHN CHERIAN world-affairs

The Opposition alliance of the Mouvement of Socialiste Mauricien and the Mouvement Militant Mauricien registers a landslide victory in the elections in Mauritius.

THE change of government in Mauritius seems to have gone somewhat unnoticed in the rest of the world. The end of the Cold War and the end of ideology in Mauritian politics are factors responsible for the fading international interest in the Island countr y. In the 1970s, when Paul Berenger arrived with his Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) and a radical brand of politics, he was viewed with suspicion in the West. He was a Leftist, who demanded, among other things, the return of Diego Garcia to Mauritius . Dirty tricks were used to keep him out of power. Those were after all the Cold War days, and Mauritius occupied a strategic space in the Indian Ocean Rim area. Today Berenger is the most powerful politician on the island, after having emerged as the pi votal figure in the elections held in the second week of September.

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The alliance of the MMM and the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien (MSM), led by former Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, registered a landslide victory over the Mauritius Labour Party (MLP)-led coalition of Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam. The victory was so decisive that the alliance secured 53 of the 62 seats in Parliament. Ramgoolam, however, managed to retain his seat. He had surprised his own party members by calling elections ahead of schedule by dissolving Parliament on August 11, without giving any r easons. He was elected in 1995 and his government's five-year term would have ended only in December. Ramgoolam's gamble did not work despite his coalition hiring the services of a French consultancy firm to help in the campaign.

There were no great ideological differences between the two competing fronts. Berenger had evolved from a radical socialist into a free marketeer. Mauritius, one of the richest countries in Africa, has an annual per capita income of about $3,600. Not sur prisingly, none of the political groupings argued for a radical change in economic policies. Most of the income is generated by sugar and textile exports and tourism.

The country also attracts a lot of off-shore capital, some of it of dubious origin. As far as economic issues were concerned, none of the parties wanted to rock the boat. The MMM-MSM coalition, however, highlighted the corruption and nepotism during the five years of MLP rule. Ramgoolam's government was rocked by financial scandals involving some of his close associates.

The Mauritian economic boom started in the 1980s, when the government was led by Jugnauth in coalition with Berenger. It was during that time that the country became a high-tech manufacturing centre and a base for financial services. Jugnauth was Prime M inister for 13 years, after heading his coalition to victory in three consecutive elections in 1983, 1987 and 1991. He lost office after he fell out with Berenger in the early 1990s. In the 1995 elections, Berenger was again the kingmaker, helping Ramgoo lam sweep the polls. The political honeymoon between the MLP and the MMM, however, did not last long. Berenger says that Ramgoolam reneged on his promise to liberalise the economy further and introduce wide-ranging constitutional reforms.

Jugnauth, 60, who has once again taken over as Prime Minister, said that the new government's priority would be the restoration of law and order and "combating fraud and corruption". Under the terms of the pre-poll agreement between the MMM and the MSM, Jugnauth will be Prime Minister for three years, after which he will take over as President, a largely ceremonial post. Berenger would then assume the post of Prime Minister. Until then Berenger will occupy the important post of Finance Minister.

If both the parties stick to the agreement, Mauritius, for the first time in its history, will have in three years' time a citizen of non-Indian origin as Prime Minister. Berenger is of Franco-Mauritian origin. Many in Mauritius believe that Berenger wou ld have been Prime Minister a long time ago but for his race and religion.

Race, religion, class and caste play an important role in Mauritian society and politics. People of Indian origin make up around 66 per cent of the population of around 1.2 million. Out of them, around 50 per cent are Hindus and 16 per cent Muslims. The Afro-Creole population, to which Berenger belongs, constitutes 30 per cent of the population. Mauritians of Chinese origin make up around 3 per cent of the population.

There were attempts to create a communal and ethnic divide in the run-up to the elections. The Opposition was not very happy at the attempts of Ramgoolam to highlight his close links with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Vajpayee has already m ade two official visits to Mauritius since becoming Prime Minister. His last visit, in March, became a matter of controversy in the election campaign. Some Opposition leaders alleged that Vajpayee's visit was timed to give Ramgoolam's campaign a headstar t. Vajpayee visited Ramgoolam's constituency and made a speech. Some senior Opposition politicians even alleged that India interferred in the domestic politics of Mauritius.

After the results were announced, India was no longer in the firing line. Berenger, instead, criticised the role of the French team in charge of Ramgoolam's propaganda machinery. "They (the French) lost in Senegal some time back, now they have lost in Ma uritius too," he was quoted as saying. The former President of Senegal, Abdou Diouf, was perceived to be a favourite of Paris but despite help from France the long-serving leader lost to an Opposition candidate in the election held earlier in the year.

No major policy changes are expected from the new government under Jugnauth. However, he may prefer to strengthen further Mauritius' ties with South African Development Community (SADC) members such as South Africa. Jugnauth is an old friend of New Delhi , and his return to power can have no adverse impact on the bilateral relations between Mauritius and India.

'Big brother' surveillance

GLYN FORD world-affairs

The European Parliament sets up a committee to investigate the activities of Echelon, a spy network engaged in intercepting international communications.

PERHAPS more appropriate to the world of James Bond than to the European Union, Echelon, an international spy network in which governments covertly cooperate with one another to intercept global communications, is causing a stir in the European Parliamen t.

Relying on secrecy and denial, governments rarely admit the existence of networks such as Echelon, a system run since 1947 by the secret services of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to intercept global communicatio ns. However, a move in the European Parliament to bring such systems finally to account has gained momentum. Since James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), confessed in The Wall Street Journal that the system existe d but claimed that it was only used to stop other countries from bribing their way to lucrative contracts, denial is no longer a viable option. Many people now recognise that a clear boundary between law enforcement and the interception of international communication for the sake of 'national security' is essential for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Notwithstanding European laws designed to protect civil liberties, many members of the European Parliament were concerned that not enough was being done to protect citizens' rights from intrusion by the Echelon. Attempts to bring the system to account ar e emerging within the European Union. In France, an investigation has been launched into the Echelon's operations, and in the Netherlands a parliamentary committee has announced plans to hold hearings on the issue in the autumn. In the European Parliamen t, at the initiative of the Socialist Group a vote was taken during the last plenary session in July to establish a temporary committee on the Echelon interception system.

Political parties in the European Parliament responded to the reluctance of national governments to take a strong position on the Echelon issue. The committee will not have any powers to call upon witnesses to testify or the right of access to confidenti al documents. Nevertheless it will put the issue on the political agenda for the first time in more than half a century. Investigations into Echelon will quell some of the wilder speculations about the system and hopefully help assess the extent of surve illance activity and the ways in which it can be subjected to democratic checks and balances. The committee will be instructed to determine whether and how such a system can be made compatible with community law, in particular where the public's right to be protected against secret service activities is concerned.

Echelon is the most powerful intelligence-gathering organisation in the world. Emerging from cooperative efforts during the Second World War to intercept radio transmissions, it has developed into a global system of "big brother" surveillance. Using tele communication satellites, Echelon covertly interprets and processes international communications. Sophisticated "dictionary" computers tap into telecommunications traffic - domestic and international - indiscriminately. Searches are conducted on all phon e calls, faxes and e-mails using "keywords" and "voiceprints" to identify anything and anyone that is deemed interesting. The information is then transferred to the appropriate country.

What is needed is to solve the dilemma over allowing intelligence services like Japan's Chobetsu to monitor criminal activities such as terrorism, drugs trafficking and organised crime without undermining basic civil rights. Clearly it needs to be ensure d that the police and the security services can keep up with organised criminals as their means of communication become increasingly sophisticated and international. However, there is a problem with the use of Echelon and similar systems to monitor peopl e indiscriminately, regardless of democratic control or accountability. Day-to-day operations of the police and the security services should not be under political control, but these forces must be accountable to the over-arching principles under which t hey operate. Politicians need to be able to control the categories of people monitored and scrutinise the contents of the dictionary.

It will not be easy for governments to take on intelligence communities, which are accustomed to operating beyond the realm of political control. But the impetus may come from less philanthropic sources. The investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, in h is report for the European Parliament, "Intercepting Capabilities 2000", contended that those involved in Echelon used their worldwide array of satellite devices to conduct industrial espionage and suggested that "there are European enterprises in the si tuation of having unfair chances as a result of this system". More recently he estimated that this cost Japan and Europe $20 billion a year in lost contracts. The committee has been asked to investigate this aspect of Echelon's operations. If it is found to be true, that would cause more concern in some quarters than the civil liberties dimension.

Another remit of the Committee will be to investigate whether encryption - prevention of the processing of message content and associated traffic - will defeat hostile communications intelligence activity. As the European Union puts the finishing touches to its telecommunications policy, it will have to consider whether locking the doors to electronic snooping is in the national and international interest. There is no agreed 'code of conduct' to protect jobs and investments from economic spying while al lowing criminals to be monitored wherever they are in the world. The committee will be invited to submit policy and legislative proposals where it is appropriate and where conflicts of interest will be difficult to surmount. The committee is expected to recommend measures and a framework within which such a code of conduct could be established. A great deal hangs on how effectively the committee does its work.

Glyn Ford is a member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom.

A long way to go

NITYA RAO education

What prevents India from reaching the goal of Education for All? A report prepared by the government in line with a global initiative launched by the World Education Forum makes an attempt to find the answer.

THE World Conference on Education for All (EFA) was held in 1990 at Jomtien, Thailand. At the Conference, India, along with 155 other countries, committed itself to universalise primary education and halve the adult illiteracy rate by 2000. The new visio n for education was to ensure a better life to all people by providing the knowledge, skills and values required to achieve it.

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In April 2000, the World Education Forum was convened in Dakar, Senegal, to review the achievements of the last decade (Frontline, May 26, 2000). How far have the Jomtien commitments been met? To facilitate this review, an EFA Assessment process w as initiated in 1998. Technical guidelines, that included 18 key indicators, were developed by the EFA Forum Secretariat, located at the premises of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris. Based on these gu idelines, national governments prepared their own reports. The reports were then synthesised into sub-regional, regional and finally the global report.

However, in India the process of reviewing the educational achievements went much beyond the global framework. The India Report was not only viewed as a stocktaking exercise, but also as a base for future planning. Hence, it attempted to present a relati vely honest view of the educational situation as it exists and the problems and challenges that the country faces in making 'Education for All' a reality. Perhaps that is why it was not formally released in India. Apart from the main country report, 25 t hematic and sub-sectoral studies were commissioned and these were largely prepared by experts and practitioners from the academia and non-governmental agencies.

In setting the context, the Report identifies the following goals the country set for itself in 1990, when it signed the Jomtien Declaration: a holistic view of basic education with greater linkages between pre-school, primary, non-formal and adult educa tion; improved access for the deprived sections; quality improvement; community participation and involvement of NGOs; decentralisation in education management and increasing financial support.

Even before Jomtien, India had formulated a National Policy on Education (NPE) in 1986, with the goal of providing education to all. Conceptually, the NPE, a sound and forward-looking document, recognised quality as a major factor, the need to make educa tion relevant to the life contexts of both children and adults. It redefined learning in an empowering context, changing curricula and texts to address the life concerns of the disadvantaged.

India's literacy rate increased from 18.33 per cent at the time of Independence to 52.21 per cent in 1991. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation's 53rd Round figures for 1997, the literacy rate is 62 per cent. This is no mean achievement, despite both definitional problems and problems of measuring literacy. We cannot forget, however, that in absolute numbers India still accounts for one-third of the world's illiterate people. More than 290 million adults continue to be illiterate and 38 million children remain out of school. While the world is talking of a minimum of 10 to 12 years of education for all, India continues to struggle with five years of primary schooling.

The strategy for the 1990s was aimed not only at linking the different stages of education across generations but also at relating programmes of education with national concerns such as health, environment and so on and for this ensuring the collaboratio n between different departments of the government. By and large we seem to have failed in this.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is recognised as being important both for the development of the young child and to facilitate the enrolment in primary schools, particularly in the case of the girl child. Its importance in terms of facilitating women's work is not highlighted. The importance of a multi-sectoral intervention is recognised in terms of providing a combination of health, nutrition, immunisation and pre-school education services. The only programme for ECCE so far has been the Inte grated Child Development Services (ICDS). Initiated in the mid-1980s, ICDS was universalised in 1995-96. Yet the actual outreach and coverage seem to have been poor, given that the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) improved from 10.33 per cent in 1990 to only 16.9 per cent in 1997-98. Further, the coverage is uneven across States, with Bihar and Uttar Pradesh having only an 8 per cent coverage. Across the board, however, the emphasis on educational interventions in ICDS has been poor. While it is supposed to be an inter-sectoral programme, coordinated by the Department of Women and Child, inputs from and coordination with other departments has been minimal.

In the urban areas there has been a mushrooming of pre-school and day-care centres. Most of these are in the private sector, without any supervision, regulation or support from the government. In some areas, NGOs have been encouraged to run day-care cent res, but rarely are they linked to the mainstream educational system. A significant exception in this regard is Pratham in Mumbai, that has been working in tandem with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

The thrust of the educational efforts in the last decade has been on primary education. Some 95 per cent of the population now has access to a primary school within one km from home. The GER improved to almost 90 per cent in 1997. The Net Enrolment Ratio (NER), however, was only 71 per cent at the primary level. Further, wide regional, sectional and gender disparities persist. For instance, 16 per cent of habitations, most of these in remote, tribal pockets of the country, lack access to a primary schoo l as per this norm.

A distressing fact, however, is that even the GER has declined substantially from 67.8 per cent to 58.5 per cent between 1991 and 1997 at the upper primary level. The Report does not offer any substantive explanation for this phenomenon. One possible exp lanation is that as a substantial number of older children who are first generation learners are being brought into primary school, the enrolment is lower at the upper primary level. Another factor appears to be the availability and access to upper prima ry schools relative to primary schools. The ratio was one to three in 1993. This issue is discussed further in the section on quality.

IN 1991, there were more than 300 million illiterate adults in the country. The National Literacy Mission sought to cover 100 million people by 1999 by adopting a mass campaign approach and making adult literacy a people's movement. As a result of the ca mpaigns, the literacy rate in the country has improved, with female literacy (11 percentage points) improving at a faster rate than male literacy (nine percentage points). The literacy campaigns have definitely been successful in large-scale community an d social mobilisation, increasing school enrolment, enhancing awareness on issues of social and gender equity, but the achievement and retention of literacy skills per se has been poor.

The problem seems to have been largely one of design. The campaign came as a whiff and disappeared, without leaving in place adequate, responsive or relevant mechanisms to sustain the fragile gains made. Five literacy centres each were combined into one post-literacy circle. For small and remote habitations, this often meant travelling far from home, which was at times not convenient, and being taught what they did not want to learn. There were hardly any materials in the different dialects, using visua l language, using learners as writers and designers or building on folk knowledge and oral traditions. Nellore district once hit the headlines, thanks to women's action against the sale of arrack and liquor. The money earlier spent on arrack was saved, a nd this led to the growth of a savings movement. Today, much of this initiative has been bureaucratised and the women of Nellore have been deprived of an excellent real-life learning opportunity. Whatever small efforts persist today are not linked to any efforts by the State.

While there have been some links between primary schooling and adult literacy, the approach has been a far from holistic one. Schools could have been used to reach out to adults as well, contributing to the building of a learning society. On the contrary , in several districts today one finds conflicts between the District Primary Education Programme and the Adult Literacy Programme. Even this tenuous linkage does not exist in the case of early childhood education.

J.P. NAIK, Member-Secretary of the Education Commission in India, in answer to the question: "Who has benefited most from the expansion in education that has been achieved in the post-Independence period?" wrote in 1965, "...the largest beneficiaries of our system of education are boys, the people of the urban areas, and the middle and the upper classes. Educational development, particularly at the secondary and higher stages, is benefiting the 'haves' more than the 'have-nots'." These views were strong ly endorsed in Education and National Development: Report of the Educational Commission (1964-66), soon after.

While there has been some progress, wide disparities remain, with the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, girls, disabled and working children being at a clear disadvantage. While the Report does not provide data that are disaggregated on all these counts, Stat e-wise data are available for key indicators, and also gender disaggregated data. Of the 38 million children who still remain out of school, 33 million are in the nine States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Mad hya Pradesh and Orissa.

In terms of gender differences, 81 per cent of the girls were enrolled in primary school in 1997, as against 98.5 per cent of the boys, but at the upper primary level this fell to 49.5 per cent for girls. Girls seem to continue to be at a disadvantage in the transition from primary to upper primary. While the reduction in drop-out rates has been more for girls than for boys in recent years, the situation is far from satisfactory. Cultural and socio-economic barriers increase as girls grow older, and hen ce the educational system too needs to respond more directly to their special needs. Apart from scholarships and financial assistance, the issue of timings, special schools, curriculum, safety and so on need to be addressed.

While the NER at the primary level is 71 per cent, the drop-out rates are high, at 38 per cent. This is an improvement on the dropout rate of 48 per cent at the beginning of the decade. At the upper primary level, however, there has been no improvement, with a drop-out rate of 55 per cent. Even when children enrol, why do they not want to continue in school?

The Yash Pal Committee Report (Learning without Burden, 1993) stated, "a significant fraction of children who drop out may be those who refuse to compromise with non-comprehension..." A study by UNESCO's Asia Pacific Programme for Education for Al l (APPEAL) in South Asia in 1998 notes that while there have been efforts to widen access and increase enrolment, there has been no concern about whether children find what they learn at all relevant to their needs and interests. While some effort is mad e to relate education to life in adult literacy programmes, such attempts to give a "life orientation" to primary education are lacking. Most texts fail to acknowledge children's knowledge as valuable. They tend to focus on information, rather than on co ncept-formation, creativity and analysis.

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India is nowhere near achieving the goal of "satisfactory quality" as promised by the NPE, despite several efforts such as decentralised training of teachers at the district level, provision of mid-day meals, incentive schemes such as free textbooks and uniforms and so on. Incentive schemes have encouraged enrolment, but the lack of a suitable learning environment, relevant learning materials, learner-centred pedagogy and teacher absenteeism have led to a loss of interest and high drop-out rates. Where "quality" issues have been tackled head-on, as in Kerala, the Shikshak Samakhya programme in parts of Madhya Pradesh or by the Lok Jumbish Project in Rajasthan, some improvements were visible. However, when attempts were made to address the life issues o f the marginalised sections of the population, there has been resistance from the established forces. In both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the experiments have tended to retract rather than struggle on (Texts in context by A. Rampal, MHRD/NIEPA, 2000).

The Report repeatedly emphasises the important roles played by NGOs in educational interventions. The facts present a different story. In India, NGOs have mainly been engaged in the provision of non-formal education to out-of-school children, both child workers and those in remote areas. India has almost 11.28 million child workers and another seven million children engaged in various household duties (1991 Census). The number of NFE centres being run by NGOs was close to 58,000 in 1998-99. In terms of total numbers, this is minuscule, with the whole of NFE covering only 3.5 per cent of enrolment at the primary school level.

Increasingly, several NGOs have developed innovative strategies for multi-grade teaching, developing innovative curriculum, improving pedagogies and textbooks, yet bringing these efforts into the mainstream has been an uphill task. While much has been wr itten in the Report about partnerships with NGOs, one can count hardly six of them that have been able genuinely to partner with the State in improving the quality of education - Lok Jumbish, along with Digantar and Sandhan Shodh Kendra in Rajasthan, Ekl avya in Madhya Pradesh, the Rishi Valley Rural Education Centre in Karnataka and Pratham in Mumbai. If the State were genuinely serious about using the strengths of NGOs in terms of their skills and innovations particularly in quality improvement, surely more such linkages would have emerged during the decade. Upscaling such innovations is not merely about replication, but about a change in attitude towards education. Involving teachers in reviewing and redesigning the curriculum based on the local soci al and cultural context of the children, can lead towards an empowering education.

Decentralisation, both in management and educational support, has been a buzzword of this last decade. District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET) have been set up in each district. Efforts are in progress to set up Block Resource Centres and Cl uster Resource Centres to facilitate capacity-building among teachers. While the ideas are good, one needs to remember that apart from setting up such institutional mechanisms, simultaneously there needs to be a focus on strengthening skills and capaciti es at the local level to deliver the sort of support and training they are expected to. Otherwise we end up with these decentralised structures, reproducing centralised norms and guidelines in a more routine and unimaginative way than even the centre. Ex ceptions today relate to areas where NGOs have collaborated in the processes of training, material development and providing space for experimentation and innovation.

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While the NPE sought an increase in financial outlays to education to 6 per cent of GNP, this is yet to happen. In 1996-97, 3.8 per cent of GNP was invested in education. The current public expenditure on elementary education has actually declined from 1 .69 per cent to 1.47 per cent of GNP during the 1990s, despite a shift in favour of elementary education within the educational allocations.

Several of the thematic papers commissioned as part of the India country report have in fact critically analysed some of the issues raised here - on decentralisation, on the status of women and girls, on the contextual relevance of texts, on post-literac y and continuing education, amongst others. The writers are experts in their own right. How far will their insights and suggestions be incorporated both into State education policies and, more importantly, into practice, remains to be seen. Lack of polit ical will, though the Report claims the contrary, and the rigidity of the bureaucracy, have been major obstacles to providing an education that is relevant, meaningful and convergent with broader development issues and sectors. This needs to change.

Dr. Nitya Rao works with the Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education, Mumbai.

Contours of militancy

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Armed militancy raised its head in a major way in Kashmir over a decade ago. Senior lawyer and political analyst A.G. NOORANI makes an assessment of the roots, motivation and nature of militant groups active in the Valley.

OVER a decade after armed militancy erupted in Kashmir, people seem to be no wiser about its roots, the recent impetus, its varied nature, motivation, and its objectives. There is simply no desire to reckon with the grim truth realistically. It is so dis turbing. Parrot cries of "proxy war", "mercenaries" and the like are, as in the case of any other form of self-deception, very reassuring. Consequently, there is not the slightest trace of a considered, coherent policy on Kashmir, whether towards its peo ple or the interlocutor of old, Pakistan.

The very people whom Jawaharlal Nehru on August 25, 1952, derisively called "soft and addicted to easy living" have become assertive to a degree none imagined they ever would. They have all the intense resentment of a people who feel they have been wrong ed. The armed militancy is central to the problem. Popular alienation and militancy have fed on each other. Pakistan has not been slow to exploit the situation and, indeed, to sponsor and set up several militant groups. An informed, realistic assessment of the contours of militancy would have deterred people from the wild conjectures they aired when the Hizbul Mujahideen proclaimed a ceasefire on July 24 and wilder ones on its revocation on August 8. Without such an assessment India shall be groping in the dark mindlessly as it has been all this last decade; crying "proxy war" and "mercenaries" with increasing shrillness in the hope that the United States would bail it out. The U.S. has its own agenda.

Realistic assessments of the militancy will also make for a better understanding of the parlous state of Pakistan's polity and of the tensions between it and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan of which those in India have only hazy and simplistic notions.

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One thoroughbred professional has never hesitated to speak his mind, heedless of the ignorant Establishment - civil and military. The Director-General of the Border Security Force (BSF), E.N. Rammohan, said on television on August 9 that the Hizb is 95 p er cent Kashmiri. As for the rest - the Harkat, Lashkar and others - Pakistan has "not much control" over them. The mere fact that infiltrators receive payments does not make them "mercenaries". They are "motivated". He should know. He served in Kashmir and "interrogated many of them" as he told Swati Chaturvedi of The Indian Express (August 13, 1999). "They are indoctrinated to face martyrdom in Kashmir. They actually come prepared to die." In his "many encounters" they preferred death to surren der. Except for the Hizb, "the local insurgent groups had been wiped out... So the ISI perforce had to rely on Pakistanis, besides some Afghans."

He minimises the importance of neither the role of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) nor the motivation of the men it sends across. This duality is what we are up against. Foreigners cannot survive without local support. Only a professional wi ll appraise the nuances correctly as he does. Did the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) become India's "instrument" for all the help it received?

The stark reality, which hardly anyone cares honestly to face, is that: (a) armed militancy had reared its head in Kashmir at least 20 years before Zia-ul-Haq launched his covert operation there and (b) even in the best of times the people were op posed to accession to India, as Indira Gandhi wrote to her father on May 14, 1948 and Vice-President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan informed President Rajendra Prasad who, in turn, alerted Nehru on July 14, 1953. The then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheik h Muhammad Abdullah, could contain the situation because he was a popular leader manifestly independent of New Delhi. Alienation from India did not imply preference for accession to Pakistan then; it does not now either.

Sheikh Abdullah threw dissenters into prison or across the ceasefire line. An article in a respected daily, Kashmir Times, founded by the veteran socialist Ved Bhasin, written by Abu Ali Talib described in great detail (September 12, 1993) his tec hniques as also the early stages of revolt that nobody cares to recall now: "Against the politics of Hadri Chadri (Hoodlum Politics) there were scores of voices like Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas, Ghulam Nabi Gilkar... Prem Nath Bazaz, Jagan Nath Sathoo, Mir Ab dul Aziz, Pitambar Nath Fani... and other hundreds of young men. All of them were either sent across the Cease Fire Line or put behind bars." The Enemy Agents Ordinance came in handy. After 1953, it was used by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed against the Sheikh's men.

Two events triggered agitations, led in each case by student leaders who are now prominent in the State's politics. One was Pakistan's war of aggression in August-September 1965. The other was the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord in February 1975.

With the Sheikh and his close associate, Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg, interned in Kodaikanal, and others like Maulana Mohammed Saed Masoodi in prison, student leaders like Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, Nazir Ahmed Wani and Mohammed Altaf Khan (alias Azam Inquilabi) took to the streets holding demonstrations. The Jammu and Kashmir Student and Youth League was established in 1963-64 under Beg's patronage. Shabbir Shah began his career as a League activist. A Young Men's League was also set up under Beg's patronage.

Zafar Meraj recorded these early signs in Kashmir Times (September 24, 1989). In the first instance of its kind, some youths were arrested in 1967 for allegedly attempting to murder a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawan in the Nawakadal area in Srinagar. Their trial in the Nawakadal Conspiracy Case, though held in camera, evoked keen public interest. Next came, in 1968, an attempt to steal rifles from the rooms of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in the Islamia College. Beg, a brillian t lawyer, led the defence team which included Sheikh Nazir Ahmed, who is now general secretary of the National Conference.

Meanwhile, in 1967 some college teachers were arrested for being the "core group" of Mohammed Maqbool Butt's Kashmir National Liberation Front. He had been arrested and sentenced to death in 1966 for the murder of an intelligence officer. Butt was commit ted to guerilla warfare and to the State's independence; not accession to Pakistan. He escaped from prison in 1968, only to be rearrested in 1976, and retired in 1981. The Kashmir Liberation Army, of which ex-Major Amanullah Khan was a member, was his cr eation. Amanullah Khan set up the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in the United Kingdom in 1978, with Dr. Farooq Haider holding the fort in Rawalpindi.

Events in the State, meanwhile, were taking their own course. On January 13, 1971, the authorities claimed to have unearthed the Al-Fateh group. Its members were alleged to have been plotting to storm the Hazratbal branch of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as p art of its plans to "liberate Kashmir by resorting to armed struggle". Ghulam Rasool Zahgeer headed this underground outfit which had been set up in 1967-68. Prominent among its members were Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, Nazir Ahmed Wani and Azam Inquilabi.

Beg defended the accused at their trial, but he was, before long, in the thick of parleys with G. Parthasarathi which led to the 1975 accord. That split the group. Zahgeer supported Beg's Plebiscite Front. Wani and others opposed its new policy.

Tension in Srinagar was palpable in 1974 as reports of the parleys came in. The rift led to the birth of the Jammu and Kashmir People's League on October 13, 1974, with Qureshi as its chairman. Sati Sahni's version in his book Kashmir Underground (Har-Anand, pp. 520; Rs.595) that Farooq Rehmani founded the League (page 364) is one of the many inaccuracies in a book cramped with a lot of useful information. It contains a brief bio-data of personalities and organisations; useful as a secondary sour ce, unreliable as a principal guide. Its omission to cite sources impairs its worth and credibility.

The People's League marked a watershed. Its founders shot into prominence later - Sheikh Abdul Aziz, Musaddiq Adil, Bashir Ahmed Tota, Azam Inquilabi, Abdul Hamid Wani (alias S. Hamid) who was president of the Young Men's League, and Shabbir Shah, its ge neral secretary. The two had been arrested on October 3, 1974. The League was stoutly opposed to the 1975 accord. The Sheikh, and New Delhi also, had acquired an opposition force they could not suppress in the new clime of the 1970s as they had done in t he 1950s. But the League was star-crossed, rather like the Socialist Party in India with its multiple splits and mergers. Azam Inquilabi left it soon after to set up his Islamic Students and Youth Organisation, later re-named the Islamic Jamiatul Tulaba, under the leadership of Tajammul Islam, a student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

A former close associate of the Sheikh, Sufi Muhammad Akbar, parted company with him over the Accord and attracted some support. Sheikh Abdullah held sway. None had his commanding personality, resources or muscle. Upon his death in 1982, Farooq Abdullah succeeded him with ease. When Indira Gandhi ousted him from the office of Chief Minister in July 1984, Farooq Abdullah became immensely popular. There was no less than 72 days' curfew in Srinagar during the first three months alone. But he was not cut ou t for the role. Farooq Abdullah made his peace with Rajiv Gandhi and returned to power under an accord with him in November 1996. By common consent the Opposition Muslim United Front (MUF) would have won not less than 20 seats in the Assembly elections i n March 1987. Their rigging proved fateful for two reasons. First, the candidates and their polling and counting agents were not only cheated but imprisoned and beaten up. Secondly, having backed the MUF enthusiastically, Kashmiri youth lost faith not on ly in the electoral process but the political system itself. They took to arms. All those who later spearheaded the insurgency had participated in the electoral process in some capacity or another. Four prominent members of the Islamic Students Le ague, formed in 1986 - Abdul Hamid Shaikh, Ashfaq Majid Wani, Javed Ahmed Mir and Mohammed Yasin Malik, called the HAJY group - campaigned actively for the MUF. Mohammed Yusuf Shah, now the Hizb's supremo under the nom de guerre Syed Salahuddin, was an M UF candidate from Amirakadal constituency in Srinagar against Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, now senior Minister.

Seeds of revolt, sown in a fertile field for years, were ready to sprout. Events elsewhere provided the opportunity for an organised expression of resentment. Amanullah Khan found himself in a spot when on February 3, 1984, a group calling itself the Kas hmir Liberation Army kidnapped India's Deputy High Commissioner in Birmingham, Ravindra Mhatre, demanded a ransom and killed him two days later. On February 11, Maqbool Butt - whose writings are banned in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) - was hanged in t he Tihar jail. The mistake was compounded by demanding Khan's deportation from the U.K. Deported to Pakistan on December 15, 1986, he was embraced warmly by the ISI.

Elated over the success of his "low cost, little risk, high return" investment in Punjab, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq turned his attention to Kashmir. Mark Amanullah Khan's admissions: "For one and a half years we were planning our strategy." Asked whether guerilla training was part of the preparations, he replied, "Yes, there was training" (Zahid Hussain; Newsline, February 1990).

He said: "Our armed struggle started on July 31, 1988, by blasting three buildings belonging to the Government of India in Srinagar" (Sunday, March 18, 1990). One of Pakistan's leading journalists, M.A. Niazi, reported in The Nation (May 21 , 1990) from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, that its ruling party "credits Zia with laying the foundations for the present uprising" in Kashmir. He revealed on May 31: "The operations mounted during the late President Zia-ul-Haq's time caused fierce d ebate in policy-making circles with opponents warning that such activities would cause war."

With Zia's death in August 1988, Amanullah lost a patron and Pakistan the only man who knew how to combine the use of force with diplomacy. The eruption of the insurgency in December 1989 and the enormous and unexpected popular support it evoked alarmed Pakistan as much as India. If a Muslim majority State of Jammu and Kashmir could seek independence, what message would it send to restive Sindh, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP)? In 1990 a million people came out on the roads betwe en Srinagar and Chrar-e-Sharif. Azadi seemed to be just round the corner.

No propaganda by "fundamentalists" in Kashmir or from across the Line of Control (LoC) could have produced that. Only the fatal mix of repression, corruption, electoral fraud and denial of basic rights could have accomplished that. With the modern state' s monopoly of instruments of terror, external aid alone can foster and sustain armed insurgency. India produced the alienation, Pakistan provided the gun. The alienation has deepened over the decade. Guns flow and men cross the LoC even more brazenly fro m Pakistan, mired now in a gun culture which threatens its own polity.

A conscious policy decision appears to have been taken very quickly in Islamabad, in fact, to curb the independence sentiment that clearly lay at the foundation of the movement. A generally very well informed Kashmiri observer residing in Pakistan put it this way to the author: "While the People's Party was yet in power, Pakistani leaders became aware of the need to assert more Pakistani control of the uprising... In early February 1990, a meeting was held in Islamabad, with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutt o in the chair, and with the Chief of the Army Staff, General Aslam Beg, and the President and Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir in attendance. They decided they had to curb the Azadi forces, meaning they would not equip them and not send them into the Vall ey." (Robert G. Wirsing; Pakistan in 1992; Charles Kennedy (ed.); Westview, 1993, pages 150).

Pakistan did more than bridle the JKLF. It floated a rival, the Hizbul Mujahideen, which set about spreading communal hate through sheer terror and rejected the secular Kashmiriyat of the JKLF. Amanullah Khan bitterly complained to Yusuf Jameel that Paki stan "does not help us" because the JKLF stood for independence. It was destroying "the third option" on the ground. On April 16, 1990, the State government banned several tanzeems (organisations), the JKLF included. The Hizb was not among them. I t surfaced in 1990, as Mir Abdul Aziz noted (Insaf; September 7, 1993).

In Newsline of May 1990, Maleeha Lodhi noted the "transformation" in the movement with its "symbolism changing from the secularism of Amanullah Khan's JKLF to the Islamic slogan of the newer, younger militants". Mushahid Husain wrote in Frontie r Post of May 18, 1991, about "the Islamic component" as against the JKLF which "traditionally espoused a secular line seeking an independent Kashmir". Its student wing, the J.K. Students' Liberation Front, became Ikhwan-ul Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherh ood), as Hilal Ahmed Beg announced on April 28, 1991. It parted from the JKLF.

Those who boast, confess unwittingly. Mushahid Husain added: "Twice in the last 18 months India has sought and received Pakistan assistance in getting daughters of two prominent pro-Indian Kashmiri Muslims (Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Saifuddin Soz) releas ed from the captivity of the freedom fighters."

The HAJY Group of the JKLF had gone over to Pakistan, and returned to take up arms. None has questioned its idealism or integrity; only, its judgment. It took help but stuck to its own commitments. The others, especially the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen and the H izb, injected criminality.

So did other groups which mushroomed. Chattan (an Urdu weekly from Srinagar) recorded in an able survey (January 4, 1999) how "all of a sudden" many tanzeems, estimated at 150, had sprouted. Pakistan feared that a single body might settle w ith India, as the Sheikh did. The murders of Mir Mustafa, MLA, Maulana Masoodi, Mir Waiz Maulvi Mohammed Farooq, H.L. Khera, the veteran Communist and poet Abdul Sattar Ranjoor, Prof. Mushir-ul-Haq, Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University, and his secretar y Abdul Ghani, the trade unionist H.N. Wanchoo, who documented human rights violations, and the surgeon Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, revealed the ugly face of militants' terrorism.

Two documents reveal what was afoot. One is a press release issued by the JKLF from Rawalpindi on April 26, 1990. It is referred to in footnote 166 on page 131 of the Asia Watch Report Kashmir Under Siege in Chapter V, which documents militants' e xcesses.

Entitled "The kidnapping and execution of Mashir-ul-Haq (sic.), and Abdul Ghani: An Explanation," it was issued in response to protests over the execution of Mushir-ul-Haq. "The JKLF wants to clarify its position... it might occasionally become necessary to organise operations like kidnapping and execution of hostages, hijacking, etc..." The targets should be government officials and collaborators, not "sons and daughters of the soil. That was why though he ordered the kidnapping of the daughter of Muft i (Mohammed) Sayeed to obtain the release of some freedom fighters, Mr. Amanullah Khan took care to see that no harm came to her. We were also opposed to the kidnapping and execution of Mir Mustafa... but unfortunately, our advice was not heeded by Hizb- e-Mujahideen, which carried out this operation on the instructions of the ISI and Brig. Imtiaz."

Plans for a similar operation were "discussed at a meeting convened by Imtiaz at the office of the Liberation Cell in Muzaffarabad. Dr. Farooq Haider represented the JKLF at this meeting. It was Imtiaz who suggested the kidnapping of Mushir-ul- Haq, Abdul Ghani and Khera, in order to obtain the release of three freedom fighters. The idea was strongly supported by Prof. Ashraf Saraf, G.M. Shafi and Ghulam Hassan Lone. Dr. Haider and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar were initially hesitant to support the operation... Imtiaz, Prof. Ashraf Saraf and G.M. Shafi, however, insisted that the operations should be launched, and appealed for unity of action between the JKLF and Hizb-e-Mujahideen... Imtiaz threatened that if the JKLF did not support the operation , the ISI and Cell No. 202 would stop all assistance to it and would in future only assist the Hizb-e-Mujahideen. He also threatened to have Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar arrested. We then agreed to support and participate in the operation on condition that no ha rm would be caused to the hostages...

"We were shocked to learn that Imtiaz had, on his own, used the name of Mr. Amanullah Khan and conveyed instructions to the freedom fighters through Prof. Ashraf Saraf and Shafi for the execution of the hostages... We strongly condemn this duplicity and perfidious role of Imtiaz. We call upon the freedom-fighters to be aware of the mischievous role being played by the leaders of the Hizb-e-Mujahideen on the instructions of the ISI and Cell No. 202" (emphasis added, throughout).

The other document is an Agreement signed in Islamabad on April 2, 1993 by representatives of the Hizb - Abdul Majid Dar (adviser general), Shamsul Haq (member, supreme command council) and Prof. Ashraf Saraf (representative of the Jamaat-e-Islami for Te hreek-e-Hurriyat Kashmir) - and those of the JKLF: namely, Raja Mohammed Muzaffar (senior vice chairman), Dr. Haider Hijazi (central press and publicity secretary) and Dr. Farooq Haider (senior leader). They recognised each other's right "to preach and p roject its ideology" (Para 1); the right of the people to choose either independence or accession to Pakistan (Para 2); and pledged mutual cooperation (for the text, vide Mushtaq ur Rehman; Divided Kashmir, Bahri Sons, New Delhi, 1996, pages 196). Clashes between the two were very common. The Hizb did its job. It decimated the JKLF.

Amanullah Khan and Farooq Haider fell out, as did the Khan and Yasin Malik. The JKLF split in both parts of the State. On March 30, 1996, the State Police raided the headquarters of one faction at the Hazratbal shrine and wiped out the entire top leaders hip of the JKLF (Siddiqui) including its president, Shabir Siddiqui. Of the HAJY group, Ashfaq Majid Wani died in a mishap on March 30, 1990 and Sheikh Abdul Hamid was killed by the security forces on November 19, 1992. Shortly after his release from pri son, on May 17, 1994, Yasin Malik declared a unilateral ceasefire.

Splittism affected the Hizb, no less, fairly early in the day (vide Masood Hussain's able survey in Kashmir Times, August 10, 2000). In August 1990 Master Ahsan Dar, its first chief commander (operations), called it the "armed wing" of the Jamaat- e-Islami and earned the ire of Nasir-ul-Islam, chief of the non-Jamaat faction (The Indian Express, October 7, 1990). He suspended Dar from membership and also dissolved the Majlis-e-Shoora (general assembly) headed by Syed Salahuddin, who retaliated by expelling the offender. Shortly thereafter, the Tehreek-e-Jehade Islami, led by Abdul Majid Dar and Muzaffar Ahamd Shah, merged with the Hizb. Nasir-ul-Islam set up the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen on July 26, 1991. Salahuddin became supreme comman der on November 11, 1991 with Ahsan Dar, the chief commander (operations). In December 1993 he sacked Ahsan Dar, who set up shop under the name of Muslim Mujahideen. It is no small achievement that Syed Salahuddin has continued to rule the roost for near ly a decade.

Salahuddin has twice dissociated the Hizb from the Jamaat (September 5, 1992 and November 26, 1997). The Hizb has suffered grave losses in life and through defections. Without popular support it could not have survived as the only authentically indigenou s militant tanzeem which matters. Others depend on it for its knowledge of the people and the terrain; the invaluable logistical support. The ISI found its assertiveness offensive; the Hizb chafed at its patronage and its dependence.

THREE main Pakistani outfits were active in Kargil - Al Badar Mujahideen, Harkatul Mujahideen (HUM), and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) besides the small, obscure Tehrik-e-Jehad. Only the first of the three had an agenda confined to Kashmir. The rest aspire to change Pakistan. "With 1,000 members Al-Badar is the third largest militant group," Zaffar Abbas wrote (The Herald, August 2000). It had killed very many Bengali nationalists in East Pakistan in 1970 and fought in Afghanistan a decade later as a f action of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizbe Islami. It trained the first batch of 15 Kashmiris who crossed the LoC in 1989. Its chief, Bakht Zameen (45), a law graduate, recalled: "The rank and file of Hizb mostly belonged to Kashmir. Our Mujahideen also went with them... Thus people thought that we were part of the Hizbul Mujahideen which hindered us..." The Hizb comprised two regiments, Al Badar and Pir Panjal. Al Badar opted out in September 1998, accusing the Jamaat-e-Islami of interfering with the Hizb. Syed Salahuddin reorganised the Hizb, renaming the Pir Panjal regiment as "Hizbul Mujahideen, J&K" and setting up another "Hizb, Pakistan" (Zaigham Khan; ibid). Over the years the reportage of Zahid Hussain (Newsline), Zaffar Abbas and Zaigham Kha n (The Herald), Arif Jamal (News) and Khaled Ahmad (Friday Times) on these bodies has been invaluable.

The Al Badar's cadres are "highly educated" and "economically better off.... a number of them have private jobs and many others run small businesses" (Arif Jamal, News, August 29, 1999). Educated youth, uncomfortable with madrassa recruits, "are a t ease in the company of engineers, doctors, computer scientists and social scientists" of the Al Badar. Recruits have to undergo rigorous religious as well as commando training. Its four training camps in Afghanistan were abandoned when Hekmatyar's foes , the Taliban, took over in 1996 and gave them to the HUM instead. Its sole training facility is the Ma'askar Al Badar in the jungles of Manshera in the NWFP.

The HUM and the LeT are more autonomous and ambitious with roots in religious parties. They coordinate, yet contest against each other. "The Pakistani armed forces number nearly 500,000 while there are nearly 300,000 armed mujahideen in the country" (Ari f Jamal, News, July 9, 2000). What this spells for the future of Pakistan is not hard to imagine.

A WORD about the sectarian divide. The Jamaat-e-Islami was founded in Pathankot by Maulana Abu'l Ala Maududi. Brilliant, extremist, and opposed to Partition, he demanded an Islamic state in Pakistan. The Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, founded in 1919, supported the Congress and became a political spokesman for the seminary Daru'l Uloom at Deoband (Uttar Pradesh). The Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Pakistan became its ideological successor. Its leader, Mufti Mahmud, led the opposition in 1977. His son Maulana Fa zlur Rehman, and Maulana Samiul Haq, split the JUI. Both became mentors to the HUM and to the Taliban; Haq particularly. The JUI opposed the Jamaat, which was Zia's favourite. Fazlur Rehman joined Benazir Bhutto's coalition in 1993 and acquired access to power and links with the ISI. Samiul Haq's madrassa became a training ground for the Taliban. Both the JUIs and the Taliban are staunch Deobandis, a reformist movement which started in the 19th century in India to revive Islamic values and to reconcile the law with modern realities. The movement is restrictive in regard to women's rights and the Shias. The HUM, a JUI product, is also Deobandi.

The LeT was set up by the Ahle-Hadis, doctrinally close to the Saudi Wahabis. They hate ritual and reject Sufism. With them, the texts yield only one meaning. They insist on substantial individual responsibility in interpreting the law, rejecting recogni sed Sunni schools, unlike the Deobandis.

Opposed to them is the other 19th century movement of Ahle-Sunnat Wa Jama'at, popularly called the Barelwis: devotees of saints, visitors to shrines and followers of Sufis, to the resentment of the rest. This group was organised by Ahmed Riza Khan Barelw i (1870-1920) who denounced doctrinal rivals as infidels. The Deobandis hold sway in the NWFP and the Barelwis in Punjab; while the Jamaat became an ally of Hekmatyar's Hizbe Islami in Afghanistan and supported the Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir, the JUI w as close to the clergy-led Afghan parties of Maulvi Khalis and Maulvi Mohammed Nabi Mohammadi and backed the HUM in Kashmir. It is close to the Taliban as fellow Deobandis.

Doubtless, the ISI finds them useful in Kashmir and assists them. They are not its creatures, however, and are not amenable to its control, as Rammohan recognised; all the greater is their menace.

The HUM is one of the JUI's splinters. It was formed in 1990 under Fazlur Rehman Khalil to whom the Taliban handed over in 1996 the camp vacated by the Al Badar. First known as the Harkatul' Jehad-e-Islami, the group was founded in the early 1980s by Mau lana Irshad from Punjab. It split into two factions. One, led by Qari Saifullah Akhtar, continued under the old name; the other became Harkatul Ansar (HUA) under Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil from the NWFP. They reunited as the HUM, only to part in 1996. On the U.S. State Department listing the HUA as a terrorist outfit in 1997, the HUA restyled itself as the HUM.

Khalil (38) is soft-spoken but radical. He denies any links with the JUI or its Maulana Fazlur Rehman. "I am not a member of the Taliban but we belong to the same school of thought," he told Imtiaz Gul (Friday Times; February 4, 2000). Maulana Mas ood Azhar had resigned from the HUM in mid-1997, he said. The hijacking was "not good for Pakistan and the Jehadi groups". Khalil claimed that the Harkat was "the most effective group involved" in Kashmir. "We never utter a single word which can ignite s ectarian strife". The Harkat's present chief is Farooq Kashmiri. Khalil is secretary-general. The HUM is linked to both factions of the JUI, the denial notwithstanding.

Shortly after Azhar's release from prison in India, following the Kandahar deal on December 31, 1999, Khalil disowned him ("no links"). Azhar retaliated on January 27 by declaring that he would float a new body. On February 4 he announced that he would h ead a group called Jaish-e-Mohammed Mujahideen-e-Tanzeem to unite all the jehadi groups. Before long, the Jaish was enlisting the Harkat's cadres. Associated with him was Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, head of the seminary Jamiat-ul-Uloom-Islamia at Bi nori mosque, Karachi, a Pakhtun Deobandi and Pakistan's most powerful cleric. Reportedly, his disciple Mullah Omar, the Taliban chief, met Osama Bin Laden in 1989 in that mosque under his auspices.

The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba ("the army of the pure") is a different kettle of fish. It is the military wing of the Markaz Dawat wal Irshad (the centre for preaching and education). The Markaz was set up in 1986 by three university teachers - Professor Hafiz Mo hammad Saeed, Zafar Iqbal of the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, and Abdul Azam of the International Islamic University, Islamabad - to preach Islam and promote jehad. When the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the Markaz decided to stay there, but turned its attention to Kashmir from 1991 onwards.

The Markaz headquarters is housed in Muridke, about 50 km north of Lahore, over 80 hectares of land. It is Pakistan's largest and best organised jehadi tanzeem. Recruits are given intensive military training besides religious and secular education . By 1997 it was running 30 schools with 5,000 students.

"It costs millions to make a tank but only a few rupees to defend against it," a Lashkar advertisement in Pakistan's leading newspapers proclaimed early this year. "The Talibans are a group of misguided elements. We have higher ideals," Vice-Chancellor Z afar Iqbal said last May. The Taliban are Deobandis. The Markaz is Ahle Hadis. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed candidly told Azmat Abbas of News (March 5, 2000) that "they (mujahideen) were in the frontline in Kargil although the role played by the ar med forces cannot be denied" - which exposes Pakistan's false denial.

In 1993 these Pakistan-based bodies entered Kashmir as "guest fighters" and came to dominate all others by 1995 - except the Hizb. On January 17, 2000, Mir Waiz Maulvi Umar Farooq warned that "the foreign elements" would increase "and we cannot resist it as frustration among youth is on the rise. Militancy is taking new shape which will be beyond any control now" - the Hurriyat's, India's or Pakistan's.

A. H. Nayyar wrote (News; March 5, 2000) that "an estimated 300,000 mujahideen have acquired military training... it is estimated that not more than 5,000 mujahideen are fighting" in Kashmir. The LeT is utterly intolerant. It first converts Muslims from other sects into the Ahle Hadis sect and, next, indoctrinates them to fight in Kashmir. Three of its training camps are in PoK, where it has trained over 10,000 men. It has over 2,000 offices and 200 schools all over the country. There are few places in Pakistan where its workers are not present.

The smaller Pakistani groups are no less menacing. The Harkat-ul-Jehade-e-Islami (HUJI) was revived in late 1996. It had merged with the HUM to form H-U-Ansar in 1993 but parted three years later. Ali Akbar is its leader in Jammu and Kashmir. It consider s the JUI its political wing. It has been operating since 1998 in Poonch, Rajouri and Doda.

The Barelwis have not been inactive. Politically, their Jamiat-ul-Ulema Pakistan (JUP), famous in the 1960s, under Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani, is a spent force now. Marginalised by the Deobandis in the JUI, the Harkat and the Jaish, and by the Ahle Hadis -led LeT, the Barelwis declared at a mammoth conference of the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat in Multan last April: "Pick up the gun or risk losing the position". Significantly, several speakers called for curbs on "the terrorist organisations which have been organi sed in the name of jehad in Kashmir".

Jamal reported (April 4): "Several jehadi groups which recruit mujahideen had set up their camps at the conference. These included the Tanzeemul Arifeen, Tehrik Jehad (Pir Panjal Regiment) Jammu and Kashmir, Sunni Jehad Council, Harakat Inquilab I slami, Lashkar Islam, Lashkar Mustafa and Lashkar Ababeel. All these nascent jehadi groups energetically solicited young men for military training. Two other Sunni jehadi outfits, the Sunni Mujahideen and the Lashmar Ahle Sunnat, were also present and carried out their efforts to recruit young Sunni men for military training." The Barelwis were then already in the process of setting up their armed wing, the Lashkar Ahle Sunnat.

So sharp is the sectarian divide among the Deobandis, Ahle Hadis and the Barelwis that they run separate mosques and do not pray under an imam of another sect. All are anti-Shia.

To his credit Maulvi Abbas Ansari of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) in Kashmir has all his life sought to bridge the divide. He is not responsible for the Shia Kashmiri outfit which operates from PoK, the Hizbul Momimeen, J&K, which was set u p in 1991. Its cadres are educated; dress well and eat well, too (Kashmiri Wazuan). This Hizb's base is confined to Srinagar, Baramulla and Badgam. Shuja Abbas (30), a graduate from Srinagar and the Amir (chief), has enrolled himself in a Pakistani insti tution for further education. Compared to the others this body functions democratically through consultation. Abbas is accountable to a six-member Shura Khadmee (consultative council). Jamal noted (March 5) that besides the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Shia Hi zbul Momineen is the only Kashmir-based tanzeem "which is not dying" despite its smaller numbers.

A QUICK survey of the small fry. The Tehrikul Mujahideen has only one training camp, in Manshera, and is headed by Maulana Abdullah Ghazali. But it is the Amir of the base camp, Sheikh Jamilur Rehman, who is in charge. Its credo is Ahle Hadis. The Jamiat -ul-Mujahideen, which joined the LeT in a suicide squad attack on an army camp in Badgam on September 12, was formed by Nasir-ul-Islam from the Hizbul Mujahideen's youth wing. It advocates the strictest enforcement of Islamic law and is intolerant to the core.

We are concerned with the players of today. Many of the outfits set up in 1990 faded away. No one hears about the Allah Tigers, the Operation Balakote, the Hizbullah, or the Al Barg. Tracing their lineage would require the industry of the editors of Burk e's Peerage. Amidst all this, the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, a women's organisation headed by the fiery Asiya Andrabi, has stood its ground. Others left a trail which comes to life suddenly and vanishes; for instance, the Al Umar Mujahideen of Mushtaq Ah mad Zargar, who was released at Kandahar.

The People's League would have become a powerful body had it remained united. Historians of the decade-old militancy will perforce rely on the Urdu weekly Chattan, edited by Taher Mohiuddin; especially, the survey by Hamid Salik since January 4, 1 999. He recorded how by 1993 one militant leader of stature after another realised the futility of the gun. Some, like Azan Inquilabi, also denounced dictation by the ISI. He noted (March 16, 1998) that the People's League was split into five fact ions - under Farooq Rehmani, Naeem Khan, S. Hameed, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, released from jail on September 5, after seven years. He was chief of the Al-Jehad, the People's League's armed wing. Shabbir Shah had distanced himself but not separated from the Peo ple's League. He has his own party, the Democratic Freedom Party. Fazlul Haq Qureshi set up his People's Political Front in 1993. The Hurriyat seems congenitally divided. But it has not split. Its leaders cannot afford to, for fear of incurring odium. Ka shmir's leaders have shown a deplorable lack of maturity and discipline. Everyone wants to be the leader with his own small outfit - derh eemth ki masjid, as the Urdu phrase goes (a mosque of a brick and a half). Sheikh Abdul Aziz has made a point ed reference to the need for mutual consultation and united collective leadership (Yusuf Jameel, The Asian Age; September 14). Like all others, he sees the irrelevance of the gun.

One must distinguish between tanzeems Kashmiri and Pakistani; the ones with roots in Kashmir, though aided by the ISI, and those the ISI set up; the ones whose agenda is confined to Kashmir and others who seek to fashion Pakistan in their own imag e. Without the Pakistani gun, armed insurgency would have been almost impossible.

Hamid Salik attacked Pakistan (Chattan, February 1; 1999) for the "poisonous mushrooming" of militant bodies, for its deep distrust of Kashmiri Nationalism which was reflected in its efforts to keep militants as well as politicians divided. He also censured Kashmiri politicians for their blind acceptance of Pakistan's credentials as a reaction to India's repression. Militancy rages in Kashmir; but "the remote control" lies outside it. He added that Kas hmiris had surrendered to policy directives by people across the LoC and acquiesced in their "dictates". They did not care to acquire control of the militancy at all. "Now the entire 'game' is being played by Pakistan." It negotiates with India at will. Its support to the "Kashmiri movement" is not disinterested. "If Kashmir had produced a courageous leader who could have transformed militancy into a political movement, the situation would have been entirely different... but we accepted rank strangers a s our messiahs." They and their accomplices in Kashmir saw to it that Kashmiris remain divided so that the "reins" remain in Pakistan's hands.

This brilliant critique shows the reality and depth of Kashmiri Nationalism as well as the consequences of India's repression which drove Kashmiris into Pakistan's treacherous arms. Today the Kashmir issue cannot be settled without the consent of both - the Kashmiris as well as Pakistan.

Even if militancy is crushed, the deep popular alienation which provides haven to insurgency would remain. Most in New Delhi would not mind that. The people would acquiesce with the passage of time, they calculate. Popular feeling is irrelevant, a s it has ever been in New Delhi's calculations.

The people have suffered grievously at the hands of the militants. Their partiality towards them is similar to that of the Sri Lankan Tamils towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Mavai Senadhirajah, a Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) MP, said , "The Tamils feel that the LTTE has to display its military prowess to get anything substantive from the government on the ethnic question" (The Hindustan Times, April 28, 2000). Nirupama Subramanian's excellent reportage consistently makes this point: "Most believe that if the LTTE were to be defeated militarily, the Sinhala political establishment would close the chapter on the 'Tamil problem' and bury their political aspirations forever" (The Hindu, May 15, 2000).

This is precisely how Kashmiris feel about militancy and the feeling exists even in the ranks of the National Conference, as the Assembly debates last June revealed. If India can be so negative even on autonomy within the Union, despite the militancy, what hopes can they have of a fair deal when militancy is crushed? And yet there is a universal yearning for peace.

But crushing it is New Delhi's sole objective and there are no degree to which it will not stoop in doing so. In 1995 it replicated in Kashmir state-sponsored terrorism it had practised in Punjab. Sanjoy Hazarika, who first exposed that in The New Yor k Times, wrote on "The Gambit" in The Illustrated Weekly of India; July 10, 1988 (vide "The Underground Army", India Today, September 15, 1998 and December 15, 1995). There is an entire Report of Human Rights Watch/Asia (May 1996) on "India's Secret Army in Kashmir". Pankaj Mishra's superb report (The Hindu, August 27, September 3 and 10) records how the surrendered militants whom the Army enrolled as "friendlies" but are popularly known as "renegades" had "recently helped open the BJP office in Anantnag". They are used to killing former colleagues as well as "journalists and human rights activists who were seen as too eager to report on the excesses committed by the Army. In return, the Army and the civil administration looked the other way when the renegades kidnapped and killed for money". One of them is an MLA "but there were still 1,500 young men with guns on the government's payroll". These renegades are "the most dreaded people in the Valley, more than the jehadi guerillas, mo re than the Army and police officials..." Pankaj Mishra makes an important point: "The problems and people of the State have remained unknown to most Indians."

When Firdous Syed Baba opted out of militancy, he told Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda: "I am not going to be a counter-insurgent and killing my own people." On February 8, 1996, he along with Bilal Lodhi, former chief of the Al Barq, the militant wing of Abdul Ghani Lone's People's Conference, Ghulam Mohiuddin and Imran Rahi, former deputy chiefs, respectively, of the Muslim Mujahideen and the Hizbul Mujahideen, declared their opposition to the Hurriyat and set up the Forum for the Permanent Resolution of J&K. The Forum withered away; the Hurriyat has survived. Popular support to the latter, which only the blind deny, made the difference. So did massive human rights violations. On July 29, 1998 Spain's Supreme Court sentenced a former Interior Minister to 10 years' imprisonment for his role in Spain's Dirty War - the killing of Basque militant separatists during 1983-87. This is the technique used by Latin American dictators. And, that should be practised by India.

However, if India's policy is a fiasco in political and moral terms, more so is Pakistan's. It had sought to reopen what India regarded as a closed chapter. Reopened it has been now, to the discomfiture of both. But that is only through the self-assertio n and sacrifices of the people of Kashmir. Pakistan has done incalculable damage to Kashmir and to itself. India cannot be made to "leave" Kashmir. Pakistan failed even to promote a meaningful dialogue. In January 1994 it offered India the surrender terms - a plebiscite. Its operation was not linked to diplomacy but ran autonomously and mindlessly. As Hans J . Morgenthau wrote in his classic Politics Among Nations: "The means at the disposal of diplomacy are three: persuasion, compromise, and threat of force. No diplomacy relying only upon the threat of force can claim to be both intelligent and peace ful. No diplomacy that would stake everything on persuasion and compromise deserves to be called intelligent." A diplomat must simultaneously "use persuasion, hold out the advantages of a compromise, and impress the other side with the military strength of his country. The art of diplomacy consists of putting the right emphasis at any particular moment on each of these three means at his disposal."

A covert armed operation makes sense only as an aid to diplomacy. If, as practitioners of realpolitik hold, diplomacy devoid of the sanction of force is sterile, use of force unrelated to the ends of diplomacy can be ruinous. After Zia, Pakistan's government and the ISI became autonomous entities, with the latter calling the tune. The diplomats were hamstrung. Two important rules were flouted - there was no fall-back position, no exit strategy for Pakistan; and it offered India no line of retreat . Even at the height of the militancy, Pakistan never offered India terms it could accept without loss of face and loss of domestic support. It harped on a plebiscite. India was ready to sit out.

But it cannot do so for long. Even the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. V.P. Malik, recognised on September 11 that "ultimately there has to be a political solution to the problem". Political initiatives were necessary "to counter the alienation of the l ocal population". A Kashmir University professor said realistically: "As long as alienation from India continues and Pakistan keeps supporting insurgency, militancy will return again and again." Having expended all that it has for over a decade, Paki stan will not simply wind up the show - except as part of a deal. That will not be easy with the HUM, the LeT and the rest. There is no other way, however.

India's endeavour should be to seek consistently with its national interest and Kashmir's non-negotiable membership of the Union, alternatives which both Pakistan and the people of Kashmir can accept; that is, a congruence of interests. It will have t o be a compromise and compromises are evolved only through unconditional dialogues, conducted sincerely.

The distinguished French journalist and diplomat, Eric Rouleau, revealed in an interview, on April 24-25, 1993, that when De Gaulle's advisers suggested that he negotiate with an Algerian moderate, (Beni Oui Oui, a yesman) who had not taken up arms, and not with the FLN, his reply was - "if you want to forge a lasting peace, you have to negotiate with those who are firing on your soldiers; you don't negotiate with those with no blood on their hands because they are irrelevant." In Kashmir, all the sides involved have nothing but blood on their hands.

A regime of restrictions

The outcome of the Senate vote on the Hatch Bill, which seeks to raise the cap on the number of H-1B visas for professionals issued by the U.S. government, will be one indicator of the level of success of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's visit to the U.S.

One of the bills pending before the U.S. Senate that is being hotly debated is the Hatch Bill (S. 2045) that seeks to raise the cap on the number of H-1B visas issued by the United States government, a large percentage of which go to Indian computer engi neers, scientists and physicians. It is not clear whether Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's apparently successful visit to the U.S. will have any influence over the way Congress votes on the bill.

In 1998, the annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas was reached in May, more than four months before the end of fiscal year 1998 (October 1, 1997 to September 1998). After a dramatic battle, under the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 19 98, Congress raised the cap for three years. It was raised to 115,000 for FY1999 and FY2000 and 107,500 for FY2001, to be rolled back to 65,000 thereafter. But, even with 115,000 visas, the cap was hit two thirds of the way into FY1999.

In July, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) announced that it had already issued the 115,000 H-1B visas available for FY2000. In August it announced that no more FY2000 applications were being processed and that it had begun adjusting appli cations against the FY2001 quota. According to the INS, it has almost 30,000 H-1B applications that count toward the FY 2001 cap, which will begin on October 1, 2000. This means that without an amendment to the H-1B programme, there are fewer than 80,000 visas available after the adjustment of this 30,000. The INS expects that without congressional action the cap will be hit even earlier than March next year.

The worst-hit every year by such early caps are the academic institutions where recruitment takes place during spring and summer and the process peaks around July. According to the INS, academic institutions account for only 5 per cent of the number of H -1B visas issued. Academic institutions, therefore, argue that this should make allocations of H-1B quotas to them possible so that their research programmes do not suffer.

In December 1999, the Department of Labour released a report indicating that the U.S. will need a dramatically greater number of computer workers in the next decade than had been projected in earlier reports. According to the report, nearly two million j obs will be created in the computer sector. However, only 46,000 Americans are expected to graduate each year with technology degrees. Those who were critical of the raising of the H-1B cap in 1998 had claimed that reports of a labour shortage in the sof tware sector were exaggerated and that the problem could be addressed with some retraining efforts.

This report suggests that the shortage is indeed real and will only get worse. This gave a shot in the arm to the demand for raising the cap further and formed the basis for the various bills introduced in Congress in this context. Among them is the Hatc h Bill (S. 2045), known after Senator Orrin Hatch who introduced it early this year. Also called the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act, the bill proposes an increase in the caps to about 200,000 every year from FY2001.

Whether this raise in the cap is passed or not, the status of a non-resident Indian professional working in the U.S. will remain unaltered with regard to access to high technology. He or she does not have any greater access to technologies that are contr olled for export by the U.S. export administration regulations (EAR) or the so-called "dual-use" technologies. This flows from what is called the "Deemed Export Rule" of the EAR.

The "Deemed Export Rule" states that an export of technology or software source code - this does not include encryption technology and encryption software (both object and source code) - is "deemed" to take place when it is "released" to a foreign nation al within the U.S. That is, the transfer of technology to a foreign national working in the U.S. is "deemed" as an export to the person's home country and all the regulations of the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) of the Department of Commerce, suc h as export licence requirements for controlled technologies, apply. The "release" is deemed to take place when the technology "is available for visual inspection (such as reading technical specifications, plans, blueprints and so on); is exchanged orall y; or is made available by practice or application under the guidance of persons with the knowledge of the technology". The deemed export rule is not applicable to foreign nationals who hold a permanent resident visa (the 'Green Card') or have been grant ed U.S. citizenship or granted the status of a "protected person" under U.S. law (say, on political grounds).

Therefore, if a licence is required for the export of a given technology (or source code) to India, the employer would have to apply for an export licence if an Indian employee will have access to it. A pertinent question is with regard to the present co ntext of sanctions on export of dual use technologies on Indian entities. In such cases the BXA has clarified that the status of the foreign national will be examined with regard to the person's family, professional, financial and employment ties on a ca se-by-case basis. For example, the "catch all" provision of the Enhanced Proliferation Control Initiative (EPCI) that puts restriction on all persons or organisations suspected to have links with organisations engaged in nuclear or missile development ac tivities, will come into play during such examination. That is, the embargoes and sanctions would apply to the NRI scientist as well if he or she has or had any affiliation or links to an organisation which is on the Entities List.

Indeed, the BXA regulations require that applications for "deemed export" licence (DEL) for controlled technologies provide complete details of the foreign national concerned, including personal background and past employment history, the nature of the j ob in the U.S., the kind of projects and technologies or software he or she is associated with, the forms in which data or software will be provided, the applicability or technical scope of the technology or software in different uses, its availability a broad and so on. In fact, since 1990 (when the EPCI became effective), a system of visa application review by the BXA has been put in place for new immigrant foreign professionals in high-tech areas. Under this, companies are required to go through this licensing exercise before the hiring stage if the nature of the work has entirely to do with controlled technologies.

This detailed personal data to the extent required by the BXA for the purpose of issuing DELs, would even seem to contradict U.S. domestic regulations under the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) rules which do not permit the employer to se ek such detailed personal information. On this apparent contradiction the BXA has clarified as follows: "The information that BXA may request as part of licence application process is required in order to determine whether BXA should authorise the releas e of such controlled technology. The hiring of foreign nationals is not prohibited or regulated by the EAR. The justification for the 'deemed export' rule is that there is no more effective way of disclosing sensitive technical information (for example, design know-how) than to work side by side in a laboratory or on the production floor of a company." This implies that if the requested information is not provided, the DEL may not be approved.

According to Robert Majak, Assistant Secretary for Export Administration, the increase in the numbers of H-1B visas issued over the years has indeed resulted in an increase in the number of applications for DELs for potential employees. According to him, in most cases these licences are approved but conditions and restrictions are imposed upon the activities of those employees, namely, access to specific programmes or technologies of the employer organisation. Those restrictions will generally apply unt il the employee becomes a permanent resident or citizen. He claimed that only about 3 per cent of the applications are rejected. (Of course, post-sanctions, the number of denials are likely to have shot up for India and Pakistan, resulting in visa denial s.)

The "deemed export" rule has, however, seen periodical changes and the recent changes effected (on July 20) have reduced the need for export applications with regard to every employed foreign national for company which hired ten or more foreign nationals under DELs in the past or expect to submit requests to recruit 10 or more foreign nationals in the future. According to this latest revision, the concept of a comprehensive DEL has been introduced which will cover more than one individual foreign nation al. That is, the new DEL will permit the addition or deletion of individual foreign nationals under a single comprehensive licence. Under this, companies can notify the BXA of each proposed release of controlled technology and may proceed unless informed by BXA within 30 calendar days that the release of controlled technology is denied or that more time will be needed to review the request.

Fundamental research, however, does not come under the purview of "deemed export" requirements. For the purpose of applicability of EAR, fundamental research is defined as basic and applied research where the resulting information is published and shared broadly within the scientific community. This is distinguished from proprietory research and from industrial development, design, production and product utilisation which are usually proprietory or restricted for national security reasons. The BXA has a lso clarified that research that is intended for publication, whether or not it is ever accepted for publication by scientific journals, is considered to be "fundamental research". Because any information, technological or otherwise, that is publicly ava ilable is not subject to the EAR, it will not require any DEL.

That is, while being in the U.S. may provide a better work environment, in the matter of access to sophisticated equipment and better basic research facilities, the NRI scientist or IT specialist faces the same restrictions imposed by the EAR on access t o high-tech, controlled data, classified information and software in source code as a scientist or IT professional working in India if he or she is associated with proprietory technologies. In the light of this, it would be interesting to know how sancti ons have affected the situation. But there is no direct way of obtaining such data except by inferring from the increase in the number of DEL denials for NRIs. Disaggregated data of the BXA on DEL denials over the last couple years may give some idea, bu t that is not easy to come by.

Wasted food, wasted opportunities

columns

The procurement of foodgrains and, consequently, the quantum of stocks with the government, have risen beyond desired levels even as offtake from the public distribution system has fallen. Meanwhile the poor continue to go hungry in much of the country and the plight of the farmer worsens.

THE most striking fact about the Indian economy today is the combination of huge excess holding of foodgrain stocks in the public sector with the presence of about 350 million people living in absolute poverty (that is, with estimated consumption inadequ ate to meet the minimum survival food requirements). When it is known that this combination is also associated with very high levels of open unemployment or underemployment, the situation becomes even more stark.

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This bizarre - indeed, appalling - combination is something that is difficult to explain to complete outsiders or even schoolchildren, who take a straightforward commonsensical view of how to deal with such matters. For them, the solution would be quite simple: use the surplus foodgrain stocks to implement food-for-work schemes in the rural areas and even in urban pockets, and use such work to provide much needed physical infrastructure, which is currently inadequate and poorly maintained.

This would not only reduce the excess foodgrain stocks which are now being held by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) at considerable expense and eaten only by rats but also provide much-needed consumption relief to the poor of the country and simultane ously provide productive employment and contribute to future economic expansion by easing infrastructure bottlenecks. Thus, if the surplus stocks were to be used to alleviate poverty and hunger through properly executed employment generation programmes, this would have the eminently desirable further results of generating rural capital formation and giving rise to positive multiplier effects.

It speaks volumes for India's policy-makers and the elite that such an option is not even seriously considered, and barely gets any attention in the mainstream English language press. This is really hard to explain in terms of any rational discourse, and the explanation can come only from the peculiar political economy of government in India today.

Consider the facts. At present there are about 40 million tonnes of foodgrain stocks being held with the FCI in its godowns. This is approximately double the desired level. This has occurred because of the combination of more procurement in the past few years, with falling offtake from the Public Distribution System (PDS) as the prices have been continuously raised.

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The irony is that the higher procurement has not meant that farmers in the country are better off: in fact, their condition is worse than it has been for some time. Cultivators have been very adversely affected by continuing low prices of their produce, even though for many crops there has been a decline in output in the past year, and the economic condition of many farmers has reached crisis point. All this is because the government is no longer able to meet the basic objectives of agricultural price p olicy - to stabilise prices and ensure producer incentives while simultaneously protecting the poor against undue food price increases.

This disastrous conjunction is the culmination of several policies and processes. First, the opening up of agricultural trade to world markets which has brought Indian prices of agricultural commodities closer to world levels, in a context of falling int ernational prices of such goods. Second, the ham-handed attempt to reduce food subsidies by increasing the prices at which food is available though the PDS for the population defined as Above Poverty Line (APL). Third, the attempt to placate sections of farmers by raising the minimum support prices of certain crops like wheat well above the levels at which the FCI's procurement can be balanced by offtake, given the parallel (unstated) agenda of dismantling the PDS.

International prices have fallen or remained low because developed countries have continued their very high levels of direct and indirect subsidies to agriculture despite the stated intentions of the Agreement on Agriculture in the General Agreement on T ariffs and Trade (GATT). And these subsidies have been operating in a world context of depressed demand for agricultural products. And this is precisely the period when the Indian government has removed quantitative restrictions (QRs) on imports for a wh ole range of agricultural and agro-based goods as well as progressively reduced import tariffs.

Thus, farmers have to compete with imports which are cheaper because of subsidies, even as domestic cultivation costs have been going up because of higher fuel costs, higher fertilizer prices and in some areas higher user charges for electricity and wate r as well. And these constraints are becoming more acute because the government system of supporting cultivation through procurement and ensuring public distribution at reasonable prices has all but collapsed.

Thus, the real problem faced by the government is that the increase in procurement - which has still been inadequate in terms of preventing further price falls for farmers - has coincided with a reduction in offtake from the PDS. And this has occurred be cause of the completely misguided attempt to reduce budgetary expenditure on food subsidy by raising the issue prices of foodgrain provided to APL households by the PDS to equal the "economic cost" of the FCI. Thus there has been a doubling of the price of foodgrain for APL households over a 15-month period, while for below poverty line (BPL) households, the price has increased by 80 per cent.

Now, simply to deal with this situation in which stocks with the FCI have reached unmanageable levels even as the poor continue to go hungry in much of the country, the decision has been made to offload stocks to millers through the open market sales sch eme. An anomalous situation has arisen whereby sales to millers through the open market sales route are now made at a lower price than sales to the APL population through fair price shops. Thus, the issue price of wheat provided to fair price shops is Rs .830 a quintal while the price for the open market sales scheme is Rs.650 a quintal in northern India and around Rs.700 in the rest of India.

In effect, this amounts to an abandonment of the PDS. This is bad news not just for food consumers: it also bodes ill for farmers. This is because no minimum support price scheme can be sustained without large procurement, and without a functioning PDS t here is no justification for large procurement. So the government is also implicitly washing its hands of any attempt to provide minimum support to farmers, even while exposing them to heavily subsidised import competition.

Meanwhile, multinational companies dealing in food production, storage and distribution are waiting in the wings gleefully. The government has already declared its intention to rely on their "help" in managing the unbearable load of food stocks. It is on ly a matter of time before the effective dismantling of the public food distribution system is followed by the entry of multinational companies that can exploit the simultaneous and collective impoverishment of Indian farmers and food consumers to their own advantage.

The other suggestions that have come from official channels to deal with the current mess are even more ludicrous. Thus, the Union Minister for Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has suggested that each Member of Parliament be given 10,000 to nnes of foodgrain to dispose of as he/she sees fit! Another option that is being considered is to ask the Planning Commission to identify the very poorest households in the country and deliver grain to them.

All this would be laughable if it did not have such tragic implications for hundreds of millions of people. The tragedy is not only in terms of the continued material pressure because of high food prices and low employment opportunities that is so marked especially in the countryside, but because of the wasted opportunity.

The standard bureaucratic response when asked about why the food stocks cannot be used productively through employment generation schemes is, "Where is the money? This is the era of fiscal discipline - the government cannot just go ahead and spend on suc h areas." This type of response simply illustrates the basic economic fallacy which has got so entrenched through sheer repetition.

The point is that while there are such excess food stocks, such spending simply cannot be inflationary. Even if it were financed entirely through deficit financing, much of the money so expended would simply accrue to the FCI, which in turn could use thi s to reduce the level of borrowing it is currently undertaking simply to finance the stock holding. The governments' net indebtedness would not have gone up; the total interest obligation would not go up and could even go down. So in fiscal terms there i s no justification for denying such a scheme.

It is true that much of the bureaucracy and the urban elite have fallen prey to the bad economics imposed by finance capital. But what remains inexplicable is why the politicians - many of whom must still have to answer for their actions to the people - also fall for this peculiar position and do not push for the productive use of the rotting foodgrain stocks. Perhaps it is the case that still, not enough of the citizens of the country know the actual dismal facts. If they did, they would surely demand that a more rational and democratic outcome is achieved.

Saving a valuable collection

V. SRIDHAR the-nation

In a unique conservation effort, the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram in Hyderabad salvages thousands of historical writings that were damaged in the August floods.

A MAJOR conservation effort, perhaps the first of its kind in India, is on to salvage more than 1,25,000 historical writings, mostly of the 19th and the 20th centuries, that were damaged in the flash floods that hit Hyderabad on August 24. The collection s are housed in two unique libraries - the Research Library and the Urdu Research Centre (URC) - at the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram (SVK). The effort, hailed by international library conservation experts as a model in crisis management, has also served as an example of international cooperation to save historical heritage. Working in close coordination with the organisers of the SVK, conservation experts from the United States provided timely technical expertise, responding quickly to pleas for help from Hyderabad via e-mail.

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The Research Library has a valuable collection of Telugu literature and other material belonging to the 19th and 20th centuries. The URC has what may be the world's finest collection of early Urdu periodicals and printed books. The URC was initiated by t he Urdu Research Library Consortium (URLC) in which several major U.S. universities are participants.

The opening of the floodgates on August 24 in order to release surplus waters from the various tanks in Hyderabad resulted in the flash floods. Several areas in the city were covered in sheets of water. The SVK was submerged in three metres (10 feet) of water in a span of less than 30 minutes.

Dr. Atlury Murali, Reader in History at the University of Hyderabad, and a member of the trust that governs the SVK, sent an SOS to library conservation experts in the U.S. "I am reporting a tragedy with tears in my eyes," Murali wrote to James Nye, Bibl iographer for South Asia at the University of Chicago, on the evening of August 24. Murali informed him that while hundreds of books and other printed material were floating in the library premises, other sodden material remained on the shelves.

The first response to the desperate e-mail came from David Magier of Columbia University. Magier's posting advised the SVK organisers to refer the technical leaflets on emergency management in libraries at the website of the Northeast Document Conservati on Centre (NDCC), Maryland, U.S.

Over the next few days, the Preservation Office at the Library of Congress, the NDCC, the Weissman Preservation Centre at Harvard University, the Preservation Department at the University of Columbia Libraries and the Preservation Department at the Unive rsity of Chicago Libraries assisted in the salvage operations. In addition, the Association of Research Libraries, the Centre for Research Libraries, the Council of American Overseas Research Centres and the Library of Congress' New Delhi Field Office of fered assistance in various ways.

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The experts' advice was that although the immediate task was to get the material out of the water, it was equally important to prevent the formation of mould on the books and other material. As the humid conditions in the aftermath of the floods threaten ed to provide an environment conducive to the growth of mould, one expert even suggested that the books rather remain under water until arrangements to move them into freezers were fully in place. It was recommended that the books and records be placed i n wooden or plastic crates, their spines facing downwards and one layer deep in order to prevent further damage.

According to an online leaflet of the NDCC, titled "Emergency Salvage of Wet Books and Records", paper-based collections distort immediately upon becoming wet. Books distort, paper cockles, inks and pigments tend to run and coated paper begin to adhere. Mould blooms rapidly in wet collections, first attacking the spines of bound material. "Once established," the leaflet points out, "mould is extremely difficult to control and eradicate..." Time is of the essence in any recovery operation. The process o f stabilisation of the collections and the facilities in which they are housed are the key to a successful salvage operation. Stabilisation means that water is removed, temperature and humidity are brought under control and the dry collections are protec ted. In most instances, wet books and records must be stabilised by freezing. The NDCC observes, from experience in the last decade in the U.S., that "if sound recovery methods are followed, it is less expensive to dry original collections than to replac e them".

The NDCC provides information on the various drying techniques available to library conservators. Air drying, the oldest and most common method, is more suitable when small volumes of material are involved. However, it is inexpensive because it does not require sophisticated equipment. Dehumidification is suitable for drying library or archive buildings that have suffered extensive damage by water. However, this method is more effective when used in conjunction with other techniques.

Freezer drying, the method now employed by the SVK, involves the placing of the material in freezers for several weeks, or even months to enable drying. Cryogenic drying, a variation of the freezer drying method, is a patented process. It is primarily me ant for the recovery of rare books and manuscripts, particularly those bound in leather or vellum. Vacuum freeze drying is a more expensive option, requiring sophisticated equipment.

The technical literature on salvaging printed material from water advocates an ideal temperature of 0 degrees Celsius. According to experts, at 99 per cent humidity and with the temperature at 35 degrees Celsius, mould will form within two days. At 90 pe r cent humidity and at the same temperature, mould formation will occur in about four days. And, at about 80 per cent humidity, mould growth will take place in about 13 days. This meant that unless the SVK organisers were sure about the logistics of the freezing operations, the books had a better chance of survival in water rather than out of it.

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The experts suggested that manuscripts, miniature paintings and other material in water-soluble media be retrieved on a priority basis. "Prolonged immersion," an expert informed Murali, "will not dissolve the paper in most situations." However, exposure to water could make the ink "bleed" or dissolve. The image layer of coated glossy paper also ran the risk of being softened.

Wet books and records require different methods of treatment. Paper records need to be separated quickly to avoid the risk of damage owing to adhesion. Individual sheets of records must be laid on floors or such other flat surfaces and if possible be pro tected by paper towels to ensure quicker absorption of water.

Wet books are a more difficult proposition. Every few pages have to be interleaved using paper towels or clean unprinted newsprint. The interleaving has to be replaced regularly to remove the moisture. However, excessive interleaving would cause damage, making the spine concave, distorting the shape of the book. Care has to taken to prevent stacking of books as this would damage the volumes.

The consensus of the experts in the U.S., who had started hectic consultations among themselves, was that the books should be freeze-dried at the earliest. Murali and his associates were urged to move the books quickly into freezers. Over the next few da ys, Sambi Reddy, the secretary of the SVK, and Murali consulted the experts on all aspects of the conservation effort. A conservation expert at Columbia University advised Murali to "bring out of the water only as much as you think you can spread out and dry right away". The books had to be washed gently to remove mud. The delicate nature of the cargo meant that only 25 books could be carried in a crate. Soon enough, the SVK organisers ran short of plastic crates. They procured 2,000 wooden crates but only a limited number of books could be accommodated in each of them. The books were kept in a single row, their spines facing down.

With the help of some friendly bureaucrats, the organisers located some cold storage space for free for the rather unusual consignment. By the morning of August 26, the first truckloads of material in 300 plastic crates were ready to be moved to the deep freezers. Volunteers from the Students' Federation of India (SFI) were engaged in this operation because Murali believed that they would "handle the books with sympathy".

By the night of August 30, the first leg of the recovery operation was over. More than one lakh books and about 1,250 Urdu manuscripts, in 2,200 plastic crates, were placed in cold storage. About 1,700 crates are being kept in -2 degrees Celsius and the rest at 2 degrees Celsius, as advised by the experts. The SVK has hired about 7,500 cubic feet of cold storage space, at a cost of about Rs.1 lakh a month. Sambi Reddy estimates that about 60 per cent of the Telugu collection and more than 90 per cent of the Urdu collection are now in the deep freezer.

Murali told Frontline that the collection would remain in the freezer until December. He is confident of a 100 per cent recovery. Since most of the books are of 19th and early 20th century vintage, the problem is more with the paper, which is brit tle, rather than the ink. The Urdu manuscripts, he said, were in good condition as they were kept in plastic covers and also because "traditional ink does not spread as fast as the normal ink we use". James Nye hopes that the recovery operation will be c ompleted by April.

The operations have so far cost the SVK Rs.3 lakhs. Murali expects that the entire cost of the recovery is likely to be in the region of Rs.25 lakhs. Academics in the U.S and in India are trying to raise the resources.

The international community of library conservationists is all praise for the salvage operations. An e-mail sent by James Nye to Murali and Sambi Reddy on August 28, just as the operations were drawing to a close, sums up the appreciation. Nye described them as "miracle workers". "That phrase," he wrote, "is one which international conservation experts here (in the U.S.) have used to describe your actions." He contrasted the successful effort in Hyderabad with a 1966 episode in Florence, Italy, where hi storical records suffered similar damage in floods. Much of the records have been lost forever. An economist in Chennai still rues the loss of some 1981 Census records following a heavy downpour in 1982.

The making of the rare library

V. SRIDHAR the-nation

THE Sundarayya Vignana Kendram (SVK) was established in 1988 in memory of P. Sundarayya, the Communist stalwart and popular hero of the Telengana peasant uprising in the 1940s. It is managed by a registered non-profit trust. Although the Andhra Pradesh g overnment donated the land for housing the Kendram, the entire construction cost of Rs.1 crore was met from public donations. A public research facility, the SVK, seeks to promote studies on the socio-economic and cultural aspects of Indian society, and scientific theories of socialism, democracy and other schools of thought. In keeping with the popular image of Sundarayya, the SVK also promotes studies on popular movements, political parties and organisations. On an average, about 400 people visit the library's reading room every day, and about 300 scholars and teachers have joined the Kendram as members.

The Research Library has a collection of rare books, journals, newspapers, reports, pamphlets, manuscripts, private papers and other material in various languages. It has a particularly rich collection of resource material in Telugu and English on the so cio-cultural, economic and political histories of and popular social movements in central India between the 12th and 20th centuries.

The inspiration to initiate a Telugu collection came from Sundarayya's personal collection of more than 10,000 books, in addition to his private papers running to more than one lakh pages, considered to be invaluable historical material. Sundarayya had c ollected publications from the 19th and 20th centuries on a range of subjects. This provided the basis for the establishment of the Research Library.

The library also has the personal collections of Arudra, a progressive Telugu writer and intellectual, and Dasarathi, another writer. The collections of these two literary figures are rich in the Prabandha kayas, literary criticism and writings on the Bhakthi movement in the Deccan, in particular the creative writings of the followers of Veerasaiva and Vaishnava religious reform movements from the 13th century. The library also has a rich collection of Dalit literature in Telugu. It is said that the library has almost all the Telugu publications of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Urdu collections have a moving story behind them. Abdus Samad Khan, a car mechanic and a lover of books, despite his meagre resources, had collected a significant number of books in Urdu. In an interview to the BBC in 1975, Samad Khan said that for s ix days a week he would be at his garage but on the seventh day he would travel around the city collecting books and magazines. Between 1963 and 1975, he had collected 7,000 books, 32,000 magazines, 500 manuscripts, 200 travelogues, 200 to 250 texts of U rdu prose, 50 dictionaries and numerous pamphlets. Among the collections were 125 special issues of magazines on Ghalib and almost an equal number on the poet Iqbal. Samad Khan started collecting books as a schoolboy in Delhi, and later turned his collec tion into the URC. He indicated to the BBC that already fatigue had set in. After a period of closure, the URC started functioning again in 1987.

In 1996, James Nye was involved in the negotiations to purchase Samad Khan's collection on behalf of the Urdu Research Library Consortium (URLC). (Earlier Nye was involved in the execution of the project to preserve the Tamil collections at the Roja Muth iah Research Library in Chennai.) Samad Khan was paid $50,000 by the URLC for the URC collection. In mid-1996, the URC shifted to the SVK.

Samad Khan's collections include 26,500 monographs, works on historical subjects ranging from the Qutb Shahi dynasty and the rule of the Nizams (including government gazettes, court records and histories of official service) to the condition and social c ustoms of Muslims in India and Partition. There are about 2,000 titles in this section at the Centre. The URC has about 12,000 titles detailing the development of the Urdu language - the tazkiras (Urdu prose), grammar and phonetics and more than 2,500 vo lumes on poetry. It also includes 4,000 titles on religious subjects (among them are Urdu tracts on Hinduism, Jainism and Christianity) and 2,000 biographies and autobiographies.

The URC's collection of periodicals, mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries, is considered to be the finest in South Asia. More than 60,000 journals and newspapers, including Sahifah, the first newspaper published from Hyderabad in Urdu and Persian, are found in this section.

The SVK is a partner in the Digital South Asia Library project, a global collaborative effort aimed at providing wider international access to rare historical resources. The SVK is only one of three Indian institutions involved in this international vent ure which includes some of the best universities in the world.

A pioneering leader

M.H.M. Ashraff, 1948-2000.

THE tragedy of September 16 involving an MI-17 helicopter of the Sri Lanka Air Force above the Urakanda mountain range in the Aranayaka area in Kegalle district of Sabaragamuwa province resulted in the death of a dynamic political leader of the island - Cabinet Minister M.H.M. Ashraff. Along with him were killed 14 others including crew members, security personnel, personal staff and political supporters. Investigations are on to ascertain whether the crash was an accident or the result of sabotage. Wha tever the outcome of the probe, there is no denying that the demise of Ashraff, the founding president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the island's largest Muslim party, has created a political vacuum.

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Muhammed Hussain Mohammed Ashraff was a pioneering leader of Sri Lankan Muslims in particular and the country in general. He was ahead of his times in more ways than one. He realised the vast untapped political potential of his community and strove to ch arter a course that would have enabled his people to have their grievances redressed and aspirations fulfilled. At a time when the conflict within the island was perceived in simplistic terms as a "Sinhala versus Tamil" issue, the efforts of Ashraff brou ght to the fore the problems faced by Muslims. The eloquent and effective advocacy of the Muslim cause by Ashraff led to a general awareness that the seemingly intractable ethnic crisis was not merely a Sinhala-Tamil bilateral issue but a trilateral one involving Muslims too.

The Muslims of Sri Lanka, also known as Moors, have a unique ethnic identity. Constituting 8 per cent of the island's population, they are distributed somewhat evenly with about two-thirds of them in the seven predominantly Sinhala provinces and the rest in the Tamil majority North and East. The bulk of the community including sections living amidst the Sinhala population speaks Tamil at home and are classified as Tamil speaking. The medium of instruction in schools is chiefly Tamil. The community has a lso thrown up a number of Tamil scholars, writers, poets, journalists and artists who have reached eminent positions. In spite of this, the community does not perceive itself as being "Tamil" but "Muslim". The Muslim self-perception is based on ethno-rel igious and not ethno-linguistic lines. This socio-cultural reality has acquired sharp political dimensions in recent times.

Although they are a scattered population, Sri Lankan Muslims have their single largest concentration in the Eastern Province where the ethnic ratio according to the 1981 Census (the last official count) was 42 per cent Tamil, 33 per cent Muslim and 25 pe r cent Sinhala. It is unofficially estimated that at present the Sinhala component has risen considerably while the Tamil component has declined and that the Muslim count remains even. Muslims of the Eastern Province live interspersed among Tamil village s along the littoral areas known as "Eluvaankarai" (Coast of the Rising Sun). The majority of the Eastern Muslims are farmers and fisherfolk. The "enclave" factor has helped the Eastern Province Muslims to elect at least four to six parliamentarians from the Province at each election. The Eastern "bloc" has at times constituted almost 50 per cent of the total Muslim representation in Parliament. Despite this advantage, the overall leadership of the community was not in the hands of the Eastern Muslim. T he comparatively advanced Muslim leaders from the Central, Western and Southern provinces were in charge, lording it over the Muslims from the Eastern backwaters. All this, however, changed with the arrival of Ashraff.

Ashraff was born on October 23, 1948 in the Muslim village of Sammanthurai in Amparai district. He grew up in the town of Kalmunai, in the same region. After schooling in Kalmunai, Ashraff entered Law College where he passed the examination with first cl ass honours. Ashraff went on to acquire a bachelor's and later a Master's degree in Law from Colombo University. The latter feat was achieved in 1995 when he was a Cabinet Minister. He took silk in 1997 as President's Counsel.

Ashraff began his political career like many an Eastern Muslim leader as an admirer of the Tamil father figure S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, the founder leader of the Federal Party. He spoke on F.P. platforms and in 1976 attended the historic Vaddukkoddai Confer ence where the newly formed Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) unanimously adopted the demand for a separate state of Tamil Eelam. In 1977 Ashraff was the driving force behind the Muslim United Front. He signed an agreement with Appapillai Amirthalinga m of the TULF, which helped MUF candidates contest the elections under the TULF symbol on an Eelamist platform. Ashraff did not contest, but actively campaigned. The highlight of Ashraff's speeches then was his public pronouncement that even if Amirthali ngam himself abandoned the goal of Eelam Ashraff would continue to strive for it. While the Tamil candidates of the TULF swept the polls, no Muslim from the party won a seat in the polls.

Ashraff parted ways with the TULF in 1980 and the MUF entered a state of decay. He founded the SLMC on September 21, 1981. At that point, the SLMC was more or less an Eastern outfit concerned with socio-cultural issues. The July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom an d the consequent escalation of armed Tamil militancy led to a situation where Muslims became increasingly insecure and apprehensive of their future in a "Tamil" state. On the other hand, the contemptuous manner in which the J.R. Jayewardene regime dismis sed the Muslim opposition to the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel touched a raw nerve in the community. Ashraff was instrumental in organising protest demonstrations over the issue. However, Sri Lankan Muslims were immune from the global tr end of growing Islamic consciousness and radicalism. The Muslim community in the East also produced a new generation of educated and ambitious youth. All this created a suitable climate for Ashraff and his brand of politics to arrive on the national scen e.

The catalyst was the outbreak of violence between Tamils and Muslims in the Kalmunai-Karaitheevu areas in 1985 which was aided and abetted by agents of the state. Threatened by Tamil militants, Ashraff was compelled to shift to Colombo. There his politic al horizons began to extend beyond the East. He recogised the disappointment among the Muslim masses with their elitist leaders. Ashraff identified the need and yearning of the community to assert boldly and articulate their identity. In 1986, he redefin ed the objectives and redrafted the constitution of the Muslim Congress to make it an all-island party. It was formally accredited by the Election Commissioner and allocated the symbol of the tree on February 11, 1988. The proportionate representation sy stem helped the fledgling party to record an impressive showing in the provincial council elections. The Muslim Congress had come of age.

Although he was not happy with the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987 which he felt neglected the Muslim viewpoint, Ashraff supported its provisions. The Muslim Congress participated in the North-East provincial council elections of 1988 and became t he chief Opposition party. The SLMC also supported Ranasinghe Premadasa in the 1988 presidential elections. In 1989 the Muslim Congress contested the parliamentary polls and won four seats. Ashraff himself was returned with a massive number of preference votes. The SLMC discovered that in spite of its all-island appeal the parliamentary seats it was able to garner came from the North-East alone. Ashraff realised that if the party was to maximise its representation, tactical compromises would have to be made and strategic alliances with major parties formed. In 1994 he did just that in the accord with Chandrika Kumaratunga's People's Alliance. The SLMC contested under its own symbol in the North-East and on the P.A. ticket in the other provinces. The pa rty won six seats and got another three on the national list.

The SLMC played a constructive "Queen maker" role to install the Chandrika Kumaratunga government in a hung Parliament. Ashraff became Minister for Ports, Shipping and Rehabilitation. Later he lost shipping in a reshuffle. Two other SLMC members, Hizbull a and Aboobakr, became Deputy Ministers. SLMC general secretary Rauff Hakeem became Chairman of committees.

Ashraff's ministerial tenure was eventful and controversial.

He was accused of providing Muslims jobs on a massive scale in the various harbours coming under his purview. Likewise he was faulted for giving priority to Muslim areas in the matter of rehabilitation projects. A tempestuous feud between Ashraff and ano ther Muslim Minister, Fowzie, saw sparks fly at regular intervals. This led to Ashraff throwing political tantrums at every turn and threatening to resign. In the most recent episode of its kind, his resignation over the Fowzie issue was not accepted by Kumaratunga.

Ashraff was also autocratic in his handling of party affairs. He was the supreme "Thalaiver" and brooked no nonsense from within. At the time of his death, he had suspended the party membership of three MPs and sent a show-cause notice to another.

Apart from the charismatic sway Ashraff had over the Muslim masses, his strength was his adaptive flexibility . The SLMC's fundamental demand had been for the creation of a territorially non-contiguous Muslim majority council consisting of the Muslim div isions in the North and East. Ashraff's rationale in this issue was to preserve for the Eastern Province Muslims their 33 per cent representation as far as possible in a proposed merger situation where it would have dwindled to 17 per cent. The inspirati on for the territorial non-contiguity principle was the Indian model for the Union Territory of Pondichery, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe where areas far apart came under a single administrative system. When he found the demand unachievable, he substituted it for the South Eastern Provincial Council comprising the electoral divisions of Sammanthurai, Pottuvil and Kalmunai. He gave up that too when it became necessary and opted for a merged North-East with adequate safeguards for Muslims including a de-merger proviso by referendum in 10 years's time.

While the interests of his own community were paramount for him, Ashraff was also extremely sympathetic to the Tamil problems and grievances. Except where the interests of Tamils and Muslims clashed directly, he tried to help realise the legitimate aspir ations of Tamils. He also arrived at an understanding to achieve a working relationship with the Ceylon Workers' Congress representing Tamils of Indian origin.

Ashraff's greatest virtue was his metamorphosis from a "sectarian" leader to a "national" one. He set up the National Unity Alliance comprising all the communities. The NUA was scheduled to contest in four districts in the coming elections. The NUA's bir th indicated that the one-time "Tamil Eelamist" supporter who pioneered an exclusive party for Muslims had reached an evolutionary stage where his outlook was blossoming into a nationalist one. That Ashraff's life was snuffed out at this critical junctur e is a setback to the limitless possibilities offered by the grand alliance.

A school's century

The Kodaikanal International School, which has a cosmopolitan student population, begins its centennial celebrations.

ON August 26, 2000, the Kodaikanal International School (KIS) began year-long celebrations marking a hundred years of its founding in 1901.

On the school campus at Kodaikanal on August 26, before an international gathering that was essentially Indian in spirit, consisting also of alumni from as far ago as the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s as well as pupils in their teens today, Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan released a commemorative stamp to mark the occasion. The stamp was received by Dayavu Dhanapal, who joined the school in 1944 as its first Indian woman staff member. (Her father, Z. Samuel, constructed the school gymnasium in 1 911.) Another person, Naomi Carman, also received the stamp. She and her husband John S. Carman came to Kodaikanal in 1934. Her 11 children and grandchildren graduated from the KIS.

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Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram delivered the convocation address, urging the students to prepare for a "borderless world". The 21st century would make a pluralistic society celebrate its diversity, he said.

There was later a round of square dance, with the young and the old participating with gusto. The school band struck the school song. Then came the delicious dinner.

The previous day, Bernad Alter, the U.S. Consul-General in Chennai, released a centennial volume, "In Celebration", published in the U.S. (Rounds of celebration are under way in the United States as well, a notable one having been at Lake Tahoe.) The 'In troduction' to this book, which featured a good collection of rare pictures of Kodaikanal in its early years, was written by KIS Principal Dr. Paul D. Wiebe. The historical account was compiled by Jane Cummings.

One vignette from the book: "Today, Dayavu (Dhanapal) is still in Kodai with all her delicious secrets about Kodai kids. Dayavu's memories encompass nearly sixty years of Kodai history and make it virtually impossible for any Kodai kids to return with to o inflated an opinion of their current self importance. Dayavu's daughter, Priscilla Dhanapal Mohl, is currently a teacher at the school and Priscilla's daughter, Dana, Mr. Samuel's great granddaughter, will graduate with the KIS class of 2000."

Dr. Wiebe, who is from the U.S., is himself an alumnus, having graduated from the KIS in 1956. He said: "We are celebrating our centennial with a fine birthday party. We look back with pride at our accomplishment in educating children from around the wor ld, including India. We look forward with excitement to the new challenges in future. We want to be responsible to Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India and the international community."

The KIS had its beginnings at a little hotel called the Highclerc, situated on a hill near the Kodaikanal lake as a school for the children of American missionaries in South India. The Highclerc School became the Kodaikanal School in the 1950s. As the mi ssionary era wound down in the 1960s, the school acquired a truly international students profile. In 1975, it became the Kodaikanal International School.

Today, the KIS is a Christian, multicultural school. The mission statement says, "KIS is an autonomous residential school with a broad college-oriented curriculum, serving young people from a wide variety of cultures. The school's academic programme is i ntentionally set within a community life based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and devoted to service in India and the whole of human community." Dr. Ashish Chrispal, Administrative Principal, said, "We provide secular education with respect an d appreciation for other religions." Dr. Wiebe added, "We are based on a certain set of values. The values we want to encourage are accountability, appreciation and concern for others and the environment."

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The KIS is co-educational, with 500 pupils and 100 teachers. The students are from about 30 countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan and countries in North America, Europe, Latin America and Africa. The teachers are from India, the U.S., Cana da, Australia, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Tanzania and Tibet (China).

The school offers an international baccalaureate (IB) programme, which is a rigorous two-year pre-university course.

According to Dr. Chrispal, the KIS was the first school in India to offer an IB diploma. The IB programme is followed in more than 700 affiliated schools in 65 countries. In the last 20 years, the KIS has had a 90 per cent pass rate in IB diploma results compared to 75 to 80 per cent worldwide. Since 1960, the KIS has been accredited to the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Philadelphia, U.S. The Association of Indian Universities has recognised the KIS diploma of high school graduation as equivalent to a pass in Plus two.

K.V. Mathew, vice-chairman of the board of management of the KIS, spoke of the school library with 50,000 volumes and the top-notch programme in computer education. It has a good music department. Mathew said, "We are as advanced as any school in the use of educational resources." Both teachers and students form part of the decision-making process at the KIS.

The history of the KIS is entwined with growth of Kodaikanal as a hill station. Kodaikanal is situated on the crest of the Palani hill ranges at an altitude of 2,133 metres.

The Palani hills were first surveyed by an Englishman, Lt. B.S. Ward, in 1821 but the survey was published only 16 years later. The first to build houses in Kodaikanal were missionaries of the American Madura Mission, which had been established in Madura i in 1834. When several young American missionaries died of "a fearful attack of cholera", Sirumalai hills, about 30 km from Madurai, was chosen as a "sanatorium". The missionaries built two bungalows there. However, malaria killed some of them, and a se arch began for another high-altitude base. In The Indian Hill Station: Kodaikanal (University of Chicago, Department of Geography, Research Paper No: 141, 1972), Nora Mitchell writes, "At this stage, the Americans appealed for assistance to the Br itish. The nearest hills were the Palanis and they were of considerably higher altitudes, a feature now recognised to be of the greatest importance."

In 1844, the missionaries turned to an Englishman named Fane, who had a godown in Kodaikanal, and to Judge Cotton, who, after retiring from service in Madurai, cultivated coffee in the Palani hills. On Fane's advice, the missionaries decided to found the ir settlement in the Kodaikanal basin. By June 1845, two bungalows were built. According to Charlotte Chandler Wyckoff, author of Kodaikanal, 1845-1945 (published in 1945 by London Mission Press, Nagercoil), the two bungalows were "scarcely better than shacks - with huts for servants". The British also built some houses in 1846. Thus the hill station was born.

Charlotte Wyckoff was one of the first 13 pupils who joined the Highclerc School in 1901. As years passed, more and more missionaries came to Kodaikanal in the summer months and built their own houses. "The life of a child during this time was idyllic an d carefree," says Jane Cummings in In Celebration. "Days of freedom from lessons provided ample time to explore the sholas, fish in the lake, wade in the streams, search the woods for beetles or stuff their pockets with roly-poochies. Soon, howeve r, there was to be an end to such unbridled childish freedom." The missionary parents felt the need for a school in Kodaikanal for their children.

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In June 1900, the committee established by the Kodaikanal Conference said in its report: "We, the undersigned... believe for the following reasons that a School for Missionary Children at Kodaikanal is a desideratum:-"

"By the establishment of such a school parents could secure for their children good training in a salubrious clime and at the same time be with them a part of every year on the plains during the children's Winter Holiday and on the Hills during the paren ts' Season of Rest..." The committee suggested that a matron be found "who shall be a lady of culture and some experience in India, preferably of missionary experience, as well as a Lady Instructor secured from America or England."

These recommendations were affirmed by members of the London Missionary Society, the American Lutheran Mission, the Wesleyan Mission, the American Arcot Mission, and the American Madura Mission. However, only the American Madura Mission and the American Arcot Mission agreed to put up the money. On June 5, 1901, Rev. J.H. Wyckoff of the American Madura Mission wrote: "Dear Brethren, Our respective missions having authorized the opening of the school from July 1, 1901, certain preparatory measures have be en taken informally by members of the committee." They included employing a principal and finding a location for the school.

At that time, one Margaret Eddy, was in Madras (now Chennai) visiting her son, a missionary. She was persuaded to become the school's principal. According to Jane Cummings, "It was an extraordinary providential move for the fledgling school. Mrs. Eddy wa s a woman of remarkable ability... Besides being a competent administrator, she was a motherly type with a keen sense of humour and wide interests." Highclerc Hotel, which had been built in the late 1880s on a hill overlooking the lake, was rented to hou se the school. Cummings says, "On July 1, 1901, thirteen little tykes, boys in their knickers, girls in their pinafores, appeared at the Highclerc Hotel to start school."

As the rent at the hotel became high, Margaret Eddy and her pupils moved to Central House and Rock Cottage in 1902. In 1905, owing to failing health, Margaret Eddy resigned and returned to the U.S. However, she remained principal emeritus until her death in 1935. She stayed in touch with alumni and helped in recruiting teachers. She was succeeded by Miss Case and by Mrs. Allen.

The institution became a high school in January 1930. According to In Celebration, "Tracy Manley was the first proud student to receive a high school diploma from Kodai School in 1930." More buildings were added through the 1910s to the 1930s. In 1924, a classroom building, the Quadrangle was built with a grant. The Quad went through a major renovation in 1999. "This renovation involved taking the old building down stone by stone, pillar by pillar, beam by beam and rebuilding it in the same place , with the same stones and pillars in the same design in a record eighty-three days," says Jane Cummings. The gym was built in 1911 on what once was a lovely garden. The gym still stands, having undergone renovations in 1932 and 1995.

Until the late 1920s, only "children of pure European descent" were admitted to the school. In 1930, members of the school council resolved that "... admission shall also be open to any child whose parents are from North America, Europe or Australia - be they missionaries or civilians."

For 26 years from 1932, Carl Phelps, a "diminutive dynamo of organisational and academic energy", led the school as its principal. According to Jane Cummings, Highclerc School was essentially an American school through the 1940s and the 1950s, "predomina tely for the children of missionaries but with a liberal sprinkling of the non-mission, European types who wandered from time to time... The curriculum was not too much help for those who wanted to go to Cambridge University or the Universities of Nottin gham, Berlin or Delhi."

The 1960s saw big changes. The missionary era and the colonial era came to an end. In evocative images, Jane Cummings says: "Missionaries... encouraged Indian colleagues to take over their work in churches, schools, hospitals and orphanages. As the shift in leadership was realised, most missionaries willingly handed over and departed; but not without a lump in the throat or tear in the eye for the country where they had lived for twenty, thirty, sometimes fifty years and which was their spiritual and em otional home in a way that Buffalo or Chicago or Portland could never be again." The nature of the student body changed; it became cosmopolitan and this brought new challenges to the administration.

Also, a debate began on the Christian education the school offered. A meeting of the school council in 1971 decided to favour "the development of the Kodaikanal School into an autonomous, plural cultural, multinational Christian school". Dr. Frank Jayasi nghe, a remarkable man with international experience in education, was principal from 1973 to 1983.

Statistics show a noticeable shift in the nature of the student population since the 1960s. In 1966, 90 per cent of the students were from North America. In 1971, 83 per cent of the 280 students were from North America and only 5 per cent from India. In 2000, of 480 students, 312 (65 per cent) are Indians and 168 (35 per cent) are from 23 other countries of which 49 are from North America. As Jane Cummings says, "Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, French or Korean can be heard in the corridors or dorms alongside English, but all conversations are still laced with Kodai slang which is passed from generation to generation: dish, budge, slips, canteen chuma, hunk, hey man, cool..." The school has had several student newspapers, which include Highclerc Herald, Ko dai Kourier, Kodai Times and Tahr Tribune.

It was a memorable home-coming for Dr. Wiebe in 1988 when he took over as principal. He and his wife Donna Beth have become synonymous with the school in the last 12 years. Dr. Wiebe and former Finance Director D. Ernest Chandrasekaran together fought a six-year legal battle to retrieve the six-acre Loch End, the portion of the school campus that was occupied by a Karur-based company in June 1991 when the children had gone home on vacation. About future plans, Dr. Wiebe said that a practical course on e nvironment studies and a social studies centre with cooperative effort from teachers from other schools were being added.

With renewed resolve

Chief Minister Jyoti Basu removes all uncertainty about his continuance in the leadership of the Left Front in West Bengal and warns the Centre against any move to dislodge his government.

HAVING put the issue of retirement behind him, Jyoti Basu, the country's longest-serving Chief Minister, has taken a firmer grip of the reins of power in West Bengal with a renewed resolve. "I am close to 90 but I must try to serve you as long as I can," Basu told a cheering gathering at Santiniketan while opening a cultural complex on September 15.

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The announcement, which came just two days after he had cautioned partymen at a huge rally in Calcutta against the Centre's attempt to impose President's Rule on the State, signals the 87-year-old Marxist veteran's resolve to lead the ruling Left Front's campaign for the Assembly elections early next year. Basu, who has served as Chief Minister for 24 years, had expressed his desire to retire in September, but was persuaded to stay on in power by Harkishan Singh Surjeet, general secretary of the Communi st Party of India (Marxist). He is now all set to lead the battle against Trinamul Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and, by extension the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre, of which the Trinamul Congress is a constituent. Raising a hue and cry over what she described as the breakdown of law and order in the State and "state-sponsored terrorism" in certain pockets of Midnapore and Bankura districts, Mamata Banerjee has been demanding imposition of President's Rule in West Bengal. She has threatened that she will pull out of the Union Cabinet unless the Centre punishes the Left Front government. She has suggested designating the "violence-scarred" areas as "disturbed" in case President's Rule cannot be imposed for some reason.

Jyoti Basu had not shown any sign of his present combativeness until the NDA sent a team of "observers" for an on-the-spot study of the situation in Midnapore district. Then came the visit of Defence Minister George Fernandes in early September and Union Home Minister L.K. Advani's letter to the West Bengal government seeking its explanation for the comments made by Fernandes."I have gone through the Centre's observations, all inaccurate," Basu said, dismissing the Defence Minister's comments as "untrut hs".

Fernandes did not recommend President's Rule but gave a grim report on West Bengal's law and order situation, comparing it with that in Bihar. Countering Basu's allegation that he visited West Bengal under pressure from Mamata Banerjee and that he had no t bothered to check the facts with either the Chief Minister or other representatives of the State, Fernandes said he went to West Bengal on instructions from the Prime Minister and prepared a report based on what he saw and heard from the people. He com mented in the report that the entire constitutional structure seemed to be crumbling in West Bengal. He, however, recalled that the ruling coalition at the Centre had once before burnt its fingers in Bihar. "Our experience of imposing President's Rule in Bihar was not happy. We do not want the experience repeated," Fernandes said. That means the government would not venture to invoke Article 356 in West Bengal without the Congress(I)'s support. The dismissal of a State government would require the appro val of both Houses of Parliament, and as things stand, the NDA, which does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, must win the Congress(I)'s support for the move to succeed.

An alternative is to declare Midnapore and Bankura districts as "disturbed", under the Disturbed Areas Act. The Centre would have to amend the law in order to do so and that can be done through an ordinance. "The government has options, but these have to be weighed and deliberated before the Centre can come to any conclusion," Fernandes said.

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Jyoti Basu, who dismissed the Defence Minister's report as "ridiculous", challenged the Centre to clamp President's Rule on the State, and declared that "no one can dislodge us from power since we have been working for the people". A measure of how comba tive Basu is can be had from the stance he adopted at the public meeting in Calcutta. "We must warn them (the Centre and Mamata Banerjee) that people will give them a fitting reply if they try to dislodge our government by adopting unfair and unethical m eans," he thundered.

Dismissing Advani's letter as containing nothing except a "threat to intervene", Basu said he would not bow to pressure as the situation did not merit Central intervention. "I have gone through Advani's lengthy letter, which wanted to know more about pol itical violence taking place in the State. I want to make it clear that political clashes are limited to only three police station areas out of 47 in Midnapore district and everything is under control there," he said in his reply to Advani's letter. In t he 10-page letter faxed to Basu, Advani had indicated that the State was not fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities "effectively and convincingly".

Deputy Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya told Frontline that the State had received seven letters from the Home Ministry since April, and all of them had been answered. He said that the letters were largely vague. While some of them sought det ails about Midnapore and Bankura, others sought information on different districts. "Their information is incomplete. We have doubts about their claims and are suspicious about their news sources. The Defence Minister did not bother to talk to senior dis trict officials. He was taken on a tour of certain pockets so that he got biased views," Bhattacharya said.

Sources in the Trinamul Congress said that hours before Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's return to New Delhi on September 19 from his visit to the United States, Mamata Banerjee had made another appeal to Advani to invoke Article 356 or promulgate the Dist urbed Areas Act in West Bengal. However, informed sources said that the NDA government, well aware of the political and technical pitfalls of imposing President's Rule, was against taking any "extreme step". The latest report of Governor Viren J. Shah to the Home Ministry only added to the government's problems. While the report talks about what it called the "deteriorating law and order" situation in certain districts, it does not say anything about a constitutional crisis in the State. So the main eff ort of the Vajpayee government now is to find a face-saver for the Trinamul Congress chief.

It is not difficult to understand why Mamata Banerjee is repeatedly calling for Central intervention in West Bengal, particularly when she is aware of the fact that most constituents of the NDA are in principle against the use of Article 356. In their re asoning, Mamata Banerjee seems to be working on two basic planks in talking about the twin issues of the law and order situation in West Bengal and any Central action relating to that. First, they feel that with the Assembly elections approaching, she is trying to whip up an anti-CPI(M) atmosphere and fill the anti-Left space, galvanise her army of supporters into combat mode well in time for the elections, and project herself as an alternative to Jyoti Basu. She was encouraged in this by her party's su ccess in the last civic polls and its victory in the Lok Sabha byelection from Panskura. Secondly, according to Left leaders, by repeatedly calling for Central intervention, Mamata Banerjee is also trying to keep open her option of deserting the NDA and reaching out to the Muslim electorate, which influences nearly one-third of the Assembly segments. In trying to magnify the law and order situation she is essentially trying to sidetrack uncomfortable questions about the economic policies of the NDA gove rnment, of which her party is a part. She is silent when questions relating to disinvestment, unemployment, price rise or the closure of public sector units in the State are raised. Mamata Banerjee's current moves are geared towards changing the politica l matrix with the help of the Congress(I), which she loves to ridicule in public. No matter how hard she tries to give the West Bengal Congress(I) a bloody nose, she realises that she can hope to win the next elections only if she has as an ally the Cong ress(I), which controls the bulk of minority votes. With the BJP in the State ending up at the bottom of the electoral scoreboards, Mamata's need for the party is diminishing.

Mamata Banerjee's persistent demand for the dismissal of the Jyoti Basu Government is said to have come as a blessing in disguise for the Left Front. A high-level meeting of the Left parties held in Delhi on September 14 underlined the need to remove the ir internal differences and unitedly face the electorate.

A joint statement released after the meeting warned the BJP-led government against trying to dislodge the Jyoti Basu government. Describing any move in that direction as "grossly illegal" and intended to appease Mamata Banerjee, the statement said that " the Left parties wish to warn the Vajpayee government against indulging in any such steps as the use of Article 356 or invoking the Disturbed Areas Act." The statement added that it only exposed "the petty politicking and opportunist concerns which domin ate" the NDA coalition. In the Left leaders' perception, Mamata Banerjee now has little option but to climb down in her campaign against the Basu government.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has laid emphasis on revitalising its front organisations in the rural areas to counter the Trinamul Congress-BJP campaign. Anil Biswas, Polit Buro member and secretary of the State unit of the CPI(M), told Frontline that the party had asked its front organisations to get their act together within the next two months. The district committees had been asked to activate their members and allocate responsibility to each. The party, Biswas said, was also conducting a detailed an alysis of its strengths and weaknesses, constituency-wise.

"The unity of the Left forces is the crux of our sustenance all these years. In the future too, we would stress on the unity of the Left Front. We will not only hold joint party programmes, but also conduct bilateral talks from the State to the block lev el with all our Left partners in order to do away with misunderstandings and strengthen our unity against forces that are trying to destabilise us," Left Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta said.

The Bengal battle

the-nation

The National Democratic Alliance stops with offering just symbolic support to the Trinamul Congress in its tussle with the Left Front government in West Bengal, but it may develop into a major political war as the Assembly elections come closer.

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN in New Delhi

DEFENCE MINISTER and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convener George Fernandes released on September 23 a resolution of the ruling coalition that requested the Union government to "take whatever steps it deems necessary to prevent destruction of democ ratic institutions in West Bengal". Although this sought to signify that the NDA stood united behind the Trinamul Congress and its chief Mamata Banerjee, who has been carrying on a relentless campaign against the Left Front government in West Bengal, the overwhelming impression in political circles was that the rest of the NDA leadership had offered only symbolic support to Mamata Banerjee.

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This feeling was evident among Trinamul Congress leaders and activists themselves. Obviously, they had expected a more specific and concrete proposal from the NDA meeting in the form of a directive either to impose President's Rule in West Bengal under A rticle 356 of the Constitution or to bring certain districts of the State under the Disturbed Areas Act. It was the build-up before the meeting that had aroused such expectations.

For three weeks, several constituents of the NDA had unleashed an unprecedented campaign against the West Bengal government. Top leaders, including George Fernandes and new Bharatiya Janata Party president Bangaru Laxman, visited the State and declared t hat the law and order situation there had collapsed. Union Home Minister L.K. Advani and officials in his Ministry engaged Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and his government in an exchange of letters, and the process became more and more acrimonious. According to these NDA leaders, the State presented a fit case for the imposition of President's Rule. In fact, even as the resolution was formulated on the evening of September 23, at the meeting of the NDA Coordination Committee chaired by Prime Minister Atal B ehari Vajpayee, Laxman was in West Bengal expressing support to the idea of imposing President's Rule.

Mamata Banerjee claimed consistently that not only the NDA, but even the Congress(I) wanted concrete steps against the Left Front government. According to her, Congress(I) leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi had written to the Prime Minister seeking impositio n of the Disturbed Areas Act in districts such as Midnapore, Bankura and Hooghly, which recently witnessed intense political clashes. At the NDA meeting, Mamata Banerjee reportedly pressed her plea for action against the Left Front government with the su pport of photographs and documents. She reportedly concluded her speech with a demand that at the minimum the Disturbed Areas Act should be enforced in some parts of the State.

In the event, the meeting did not oblige her: and all that she could get was offer of support and solidarity. Trinamul Congress leaders, however, claim that the September 23 resolution was nothing but what NDA constituents had been demanding - Central ac tion in West Bengal. The constituents held that the nature of the action should, however, be left to the Union government. "We have done our bit. Now it is for the Centre to decide. The allies were unanimous that the law and order situation in West Benga l was going from bad to worse," said Mamata Banerjee after the meeting.

By all indications, a variety of political and legal factors prevented the NDA leadership from deciding on a more specific course. The prime reason was the inability of NDA partners to agree on either imposing President's Rule or using the Disturbed Area s Act. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) opposed in clear terms both the proposals, while the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) expressed the view that Article 356 should be invoked only after careful consideration. The DMK leadership said that the party had al ways held that the Disturbed Areas Act should be brought into play in accordance with the procedure laid out for the purpose - that it should be done only with the concurrence of the State government concerned.

The Act pertains specifically to tackling the insurgency situation in the northeastern States, and if it is to be enforced in any other State the consent of the State government is a pre-requisite. This norm can be bypassed only by issuing a presidential Ordinance and getting it approved by Parliament. Here again, the NDA leadership was unsure whether President K.R. Narayanan - who has repeatedly shown that he is a thinking President, and not one given to signing on the dotted line - would agree to sign such an ordinance.

And even if an ordinance is issued, getting it approved by Parliament, particularly the Rajya Sabha, is not an easy task. Parliamentary approval depends on the support of the Congress(I) in the Rajya Sabha, and the NDA leadership knew that the Congress ( I)'s support cannot be taken for granted, despite statements from leaders such as Das Munshi and West Bengal Congress(I) president Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, who have generally supported Mamata Banerjee's campaign. The Congress (I) had "similarly let down" the NDA when the Rabri Devi-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) government in Bihar was dismissed, although Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi had earlier questioned the RJD's moral authority to continue in office.

Das Munshi had, however, qualified his association with the Trinamul Congress. Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mamata Banerjee, he said that Congress(I) workers in West Bengal were concerned about the political violence and that he was "pers onally" in favour of declaring some of the areas as disturbed. The emphasis was on the "personal" nature of the opinion.

NEVERTHELESS, it is clear that the major constituents of the NDA, including the BJP and the TDP, have resolved to harass the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which leads the Left Front and its government, in order to keep the Trinamul Congress happy. The NDA resolution as well as the way Advani briefed the media about the exchange of letters between him and Jyoti Basu indicated this. While the resolution commended the "courage and fortitude" shown by Mamata Banerjee and her party persons, Advani pres ented a strong defence of Mamata Banerjee and branded Basu's criticism of her as "intemperate". Advani said that Basu had chosen not to respond to specifics raised by the Centre but had, instead, called names. The resolution said that the CPI(M) had "per petrated" violence on the people of West Bengal because they had voted for NDA candidates in the recent panchayat elections and the byelection to the Lok Sabha from the Panskura constituency.

The reasons for this defence of Mamata Banerjee are not far to seek. The Trinamul Congress is indisputably the main Opposition party in West Bengal and its support is vital for the BJP to gain ground in the State. On her part, Mamata Banerjee has indicat ed that she does not allow considerations of ideology and commitment to come in the way of choosing political partners and that she can ditch them the moment she feels that they have served their purpose. In fact, a day before the NDA meeting, she gave a n indication to the BJP leadership that she was not averse to swinging 180 degrees and having the Congress(I) as her main ally in the State. This was done rather ingeniously, by taking Das Munshi to a meeting with the Prime Minister. Although the matter discussed was reportedly the flood situation in West Bengal, the underlying political message was not lost on the BJP leadership.

The TDP's spirited support to the Trinamul Congress has apparently to do with the developments in Andhra Pradesh. Together with the Congress(I), the CPI(M) launched an agitation against the steep increase in power rates by the TDP government. The struggl e between the government and the CPI(M) turned violent, and the government was in the dock following police excesses against the agitators. Interestingly, the TDP had consistently opposed the invocation of Article 356.

The CPI(M) has repeatedly highlighted the political gamesmanship that determines the position of NDA constituents such as the BJP and TDP on West Bengal. In a statement its Polit Bureau issued a day before the NDA meet, the party said that the NDA's blin d support to the Trinamul Congress' demands "would only serve to bring public ignominy to the Vajpayee government" for "putting a coalition partner's narrow political interests above democratic norms". The CPI(M) had earlier asked the BJP's allies to cla rify their stand on the use of Article 356 and other means of subverting Centre-State relations. Recalling that the TDP itself was a victim of the abuse of Article 356 in 1984, CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat said that even the Disturbed Areas Act could be u sed against States such as Andhra Pradesh and in a manner that is directed against parties such as the TDP at a later stage. The party said that the barrage of charges against the Left Front government were baseless and were made only to justify the "mis use of government machinery" that the Centre contemplated.

It is important that though the NDA has not approved either of the two "concrete steps" favoured by the Trinamul Congress, it has at least vaguely requested the Union government "to take whatever steps it deems necessary to prevent destruction of democra tic institutions in West Bengal". Possibly the next move by the Home ministry will be the dispatch of a team of officials to the State. Clearly, that will be a bid to build up a record of complaints regarding the law and order situation. Informed sources in the NDA say that the leadership is of the view that this would come in handy at some stage before the Assembly elections, due in March 2001.

At another level, they would serve the purpose of harassing Jyoti Basu and the State government. In fact, the run-up to the NDA meet provided ample indications of this, and they attracted a stern and strong reaction from the Chief Minister.

It all began with the tour of West Bengal by an NDA team led by TDP leader S. Venugopalachari. The team submitted a report to the Union Home Ministry, and the Ministry sought clarifications from the West Bengal government on certain points it raised. The NDA followed it up with high-profile visits by leaders including Bangaru Laxman and George Fernandes. These visits, portrayed as "inquiry missions", saw these leaders going around a few places in the State and condemning the government.

The Left Front government reacted sharply. Jyoti Basu and his ministerial colleagues termed them and the protestations of the NDA leaders politically vindictive and biased action. The letters between Basu and Advani followed this.

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While the basic effort of the Chief Minister was to emphasise that the law and order situation was all right in West Bengal, the letters from Advani and Home Ministry officials questioned this claim. Every one of the State government's reports was dismis sed as unsatisfactory and lacking in substance.

These exchanges many a time acquired a distinctly personal and rancorous tone. When Jyoti Basu said that George Fernandes' fact-finding mission was a joke since he neither met nor interviewed any CPI(M) functionary, Fernandes retorted: "Jyoti Basu and h is men treated my visit as if I was an intruder in the State." Basu replied that the Defence Minister did not seek any appointment with him or the Deputy Chief Minister. Fernandes dismissed as "absolute nonsense" Basu's charge that he rushed to West Beng al only to placate Mamata Banerjee.

The contention in Advani's letters and public pronouncements was that Basu had not denied the basic fact of the prevalence of political violence in the State or contradicted the charge about attacks by CPI(M) cadres on political adversaries. And hence, h e said, action should be taken against the Left Front government. Advani also said that the use of "intemperate language" against Mamata Banerjee by the Chief Minister was a "clear manifestation of the Left Front's panic at the challenge raised by her ag ainst their hegemony in the State". On his part Basu asked Advani to "restrain one of your Cabinet colleagues from this State who has a propensity to incite people to take to the path of violence" through speeches and other activities. He asserted that t he Left Front government was not in power at the Centre's "grace".

This war of words is bound to continue, whether or not the NDA Ministry takes any precipitate action in the matter. According to sources in the NDA, not many in the BJP itself are convinced about the propriety of Central intervention in West Bengal on la w and order grounds although everybody has subsumed themselves to Mamata Banerjee's tactics. These sources rate that one round of "Operation West Bengal" has come to a close with the September 23 meet. The next round, they believe, is bound to start arou nd the winter session of Parliament. That would be followed by a final round before the Assembly elections. Predictably, the war would feature politics at its acrimonious worst.

Fact and fiction on Point 5353

PRAVEEN SWAMI the-nation

The defence establishment's response to the controversy over Point 5353 plumbs new depths.

IN August, news broke that Pakistan holds one of the most important mountain features in the Drass Sector, Point 5353-metres. Since then, there has been a welter of fresh revelations, the most important of them being lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP R.K. Anand' s disclosure that five other positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) are held by Pakistan. Anand also made public Army's internal correspondence on the causes of the debacle over Point 5353. The revelations did not lead to a considered rebuttal, but generated a wave of hostile official polemic, often through pro-establishment journalists. One so-called security affairs expert charged that the revelations were part of a Pakistani intelligence plot to generate a "divisive debate" in Indi a.

Addressing an audience of businessmen in Mumbai in early August, Union Defence Minister George Fernandes put forward the sole cogent official response to the revelations about Point 5353. "5353," he said, "is the point over which the LoC goes. The fact i s, our troops had never occupied that. The normal practice among them has been that where the line goes over a peak, then nobody occupies it." The Minister then proceeded to assault what he perceived to be irresponsible media organisations, much to the d elight of the assembled Mumbai businesspersons, many of whom have had their own skirmishes with reporters. But an analysis of Fernandes' statement shows not only little concern for fact, but an alarming willingness to use falsehood to ensure that his cho sen team in the defence establishment can continue to be incompetent with impunity.

"5353 is the point over which the LoC goes"

Assertions that the LoC is imprecisely defined on the ground, and that the territorial status of Point 5353 is therefore unclear, have formed the central component of official discourse on the controversy. A few hours spent poring over old newspapers are all that it takes to set the record straight. Sadly, few of the many commentators who have engaged with the revelations made in Frontline and other publications on the status of Point 5353 have seen it fit to make the effort.

During the Kargil war, Pakistan had put forward claims that the LoC was undefined on the ground, and that its territorial contours were imprecise. An irate spokesman of the Union Ministry of External Affairs responded on June 19, 1999. "The LoC is well d efined and delineated," he said, "and is the very cornerstone of Indo-Pakistan relations." Pointing out that detailed co-ordinates of the LoC were given in 19 annexures to the agreement of December 11, 1972, arrived at between Lieutenant-General Abdul Ha mid Khan and Lieutenant-General P.S. Bhagat, the spokesman added that "so far as the de jure position is concerned, there are no doubts."

Speaking in New Delhi on June 23, 1999, his first press conference after military operations began in Kargil, Chief of the Army Staff V.P. Malik was even more explicit. "In today's display," he said after a formal presentation, "we have also given you de tails of the LoC; its delineation; how it was delineated." "With marked maps, a military man without a GPS (Global Positioning System) can make an error of a few hundred metres on the ground, but an error of 8 to 9 kilometres is unimaginable."

No one appeared to be in any doubt about just where Point 5353 was during the Kargil war itself. The Press Trust of India (PTI) put out official responses to Pakistan claims that Point 5353 was on its side of the LoC on July 28, 1999. "The maps signed by the Indian and Pakistani DGMOs (Directors General of Military Operations) in 1972 clearly indicate that it belongs to India," the PTI despatch noted. On July 30, a PTI depatch repeated the assertion in a report on fighting around Point 5353: "In this se ctor, Pakistan claims some mountains to be a part of this territory whereas the maps signed between the Directors General of Military Operations in December 1972, are contrary to this claim."

Maps published in Frontline, and also separate documents made available to the press by Anand, both make clear that Point 5353 is at an aerial distance of almost a kilometre from the LoC on the Indian side. On the ground, that would mean a trek of several kilometres, given the terrain's savage contours. How what was "well defined" and "well delineated" only a year ago has now become so confused is a question only the defence establishment's apologists can answer.

"Where the line goes over a peak, nobody occupies it"

Leaving aside the so far undenied fact that Pakistan is indeed in occupation of Point 5353, this second element of Fernandes' argument raises more than a few interesting issues. Right through the Kargil war, Indian officials made clear that the fight for Point 5353 had been joined. But that fight would have served little purpose had the strategically located peak not fallen inside Indian territory.

Northern Command chief H.M. Khanna announced in Srinagar on July 21, 1999 that while the bulk of the Pakistan intrusion had been vacated, "some 50 to 70 intruders still held three positions along the LoC in Kargil". Two days later, The Tribune, ci ting official reports, noted that "fierce fighting was on in Batalik and Kaksar sub-sectors as the Indian troops launched operations to evict the intruders from the three pockets they were holding." "Fighting," the report noted, "was under way at Point 5 353 in Drass, Muntho Dhalo and Shangruti Ridge in Batalik, and also at a position in Kaksar." These are much the same areas as Anand referred to in his press conference.

Nothing much changed over the next few days. On July 24, The Tribune again reported that "Pakistani intruders continued to hold their position in the small pockets of intrusion". The same day, the Asian Age's special correspondents in New D elhi and Srinagar quoted Union Defence Minister George Fernandes as saying that "a very few Pakistani soldiers are occupying one point each in Drass. Batalik and Mushkoh." "These points," he insisted, "will be cleared at any time." Officials did their be st to prove their Minister right, announcing both on July 25 and July 26, 1999 that the last of the intrusions had been cleared.

Fernandes and Lieutenant-General Nirmal Vij, the Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO), were, in fact, being economical with the truth. On July 28, PTI reported that fighting continued in several areas. One soldier was killed in shelling in the Batalik area while another died in the Muntho Dalo area. The Pakistan Army, PTI recorded, "also launched a counter-attack on Sando Top and Zulu Spur." The Zulu Spur forms the junction of ridges from the Mushkoh Valley and the Marpo La area. Most importan t of all, PTI noted that "in Mushkoh sub-sector of Drass both sides exchanged small arms fire around Point 5353". What Indian troops were doing there if the peak is not on the Indian side of the LoC remains a mystery - particularly if, as the Army's publ ic relations staff insist, the peak is of little strategic significance and poses no real threat to National Highway 1A.

Pakistan, which now denies that it holds any territory on the Indian side of the LoC, clearly understood the gains it had made. On July 26, even as officials in New Delhi announced that the last Pakistani intruder had been evicted from the Indian side of the LoC, the Pakistan Army's Brigadier Rashid Qureshi made a significant, but little noticed, statement. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that "contrary to Indian claims, the Pakistan Army is still holding some strategic heights along the Li ne of Control and can effectively tackle any Indian attack." "We are in a position to target Indian vehicles on the Kargil-Drass road," it quoted Qureshi as saying.

But in the triumphal glow provoked by the end of Operation Vijay, news regarding Point 5353 disappeared from the press. No reportage on the fighting in the area appeared after the PTI report of July 28. A similar fate befell operations in the Batalik are a. On July 9, Army spokesperson Bikram Singh announced that "valiant Gorkha Rifles soldiers, who had recaptured Khalobar and Point 5287, regained point 4821 and Kukerthang". "The gallant Bihar regiment," he continued, "took control of the Tharu hills in an overnight operation." "Now," he concluded, "only one or two pockets where the intruders are giving resistance are left to be recaptured." Nothing about those pockets, which included the Shangruti feature on the LoC, was heard of again.

"Fact is, our troops had never occupied that"

The argument that Point 5353 was never held by India has been regularly used by the Army public relations apparatus to rebut the charge that operational incompetence and strategic errors led to its occupation by Pakistan during the Kargil war. The claim is, in fact, true. India did not hold Point 5353 before the war broke out. What has not been reported widely is that this statement of fact rebuts nothing, for no one ever claimed that the peak was physically held by India before the war. Indeed, reports that appeared in Frontline and Business Line made quite clear that the peak was not held by either side in the build-up to the conflict.

Point 5353, along with the features around it, was occupied by the Pakistani troops at the start of the Kargil war. When the hostilities ended, the Indian troops had succeeded only in taking back Charlie 6 and Charlier 7, two secondary positions on the M arpo La ridgeline. The Indian troops had also been unable to evict Pakistani soldiers from Point 5240, some 1,200 metres from Point 5353 as the crow flies. Amar Aul, the 56 Brigade Commander in charge of the operations to secure Point 5353, responded by occupying two heights on the Pakistani side of the LoC, 4875 and 4251, just before the ceasefire came into force.

Aul later tried to use these two heights to bring about a territorial exchange. In mid-August 1999, his efforts bore fruit, and both sides committed themselves to leave Points 5353, 5240, 4251 and 4875 unoccupied. Indian and Pakistani troops pulled back to their pre-Kargil position as part of a larger agreement between their respective DGMOs. In October that year, however, the deal broke down. Aul tasked the 16 Grenadiers to take Point 5240 and the 1/3 Gorkha Rifles to occupy Point 5353, choosing to vio late the August agreement rather than risk a Pakistani reoccupation of these positions. The operation was mishandled, and when the Pakistani troops detected the Indian presence on 5240, they promptly launched a counter-assault on Point 5353.

Pakistan rapidly consolidated its position on 5353 after the abortive Indian offensive. Concrete bunkers came up on the peak, and a road was constructed to the base of the peak of Benazir Post. And with Point 5353 and its adjoining area now linked by roa d to Pakistan's rear headquarters at Gultari, any attack will lead to a full-blown resumption of hostilities. No official from the Army or the Defence Ministry has, until the third week of September, denied this sequence of events.

Nor has a denial been made of significant new revelations made by Anand. Anand made available the correspondence between Captain Navneet Mehta, who led an unsuccessful attack on Peak 5353 in May 1999. The correspondence outlines the errors that led to th is debacle. Aul has not been called to account for his actions. Nor has the Army denied or accepted this highly decorated solider's part in the debacle. Neither have his superiors seen it fit to explain why Pakistan was left in possession of the peak, an d why the subsequent exchange-deal was terminated to India's evident disadvantage. Most significant, Anand's claim that Point 5353 was indeed held by India in 1992-1993, successfully cutting off Pakistani supply routes, has not been rebutted.

In the wake of Anand's intervention on the 5353 debate, General Malik has chosen to distance himself from the entire controversy. At an August 31 press conference, held to inaugurate the Army Wives Welfare Association's website, Malik said the issue had now entered the "political domain." "We are going through his statement," Malik said. "We have the answer, but let the government react." Coming from an Army chief who allowed his officers to brief the Bharatiya Janata Party on the conduct of the Kargil war, and permitted his soldiers to host a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-organised religious function in Leh, the new disdain for politics is interesting.

The worrying lack of answers about Point 5353 is not the only problematical aspect of the affair. Many of the Army's responses to Point 5353 stories were put out not through attributable statements, for which officials could later be held accountable, bu t through off-the-record briefings held behind closed doors. In effect, a section of the media allowed itself to be used as the public relations wing of an incompetent defence apparatus. One Calcutta-based daily even apologised for the unpardonable sin o f having failed to censor Anand's press conference on behalf of the defence establishment.

India's defence establishment and much of the press have chosen to hide from uncomfortable truth. But the silence does no one any favours, least of all the soldiers who could one day have to pay again with their lives for the failures of the Kargil war.

A regime of restrictions

The outcome of the Senate vote on the Hatch Bill, which seeks to raise the cap on the number of H-1B visas for professionals issued by the U.S. government, will be one indicator of the level of success of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's visit to the U.S.

One of the bills pending before the U.S. Senate that is being hotly debated is the Hatch Bill (S. 2045) that seeks to raise the cap on the number of H-1B visas issued by the United States government, a large percentage of which go to Indian computer engi neers, scientists and physicians. It is not clear whether Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's apparently successful visit to the U.S. will have any influence over the way Congress votes on the bill.

In 1998, the annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas was reached in May, more than four months before the end of fiscal year 1998 (October 1, 1997 to September 1998). After a dramatic battle, under the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 19 98, Congress raised the cap for three years. It was raised to 115,000 for FY1999 and FY2000 and 107,500 for FY2001, to be rolled back to 65,000 thereafter. But, even with 115,000 visas, the cap was hit two thirds of the way into FY1999.

In July, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) announced that it had already issued the 115,000 H-1B visas available for FY2000. In August it announced that no more FY2000 applications were being processed and that it had begun adjusting appli cations against the FY2001 quota. According to the INS, it has almost 30,000 H-1B applications that count toward the FY 2001 cap, which will begin on October 1, 2000. This means that without an amendment to the H-1B programme, there are fewer than 80,000 visas available after the adjustment of this 30,000. The INS expects that without congressional action the cap will be hit even earlier than March next year.

The worst-hit every year by such early caps are the academic institutions where recruitment takes place during spring and summer and the process peaks around July. According to the INS, academic institutions account for only 5 per cent of the number of H -1B visas issued. Academic institutions, therefore, argue that this should make allocations of H-1B quotas to them possible so that their research programmes do not suffer.

In December 1999, the Department of Labour released a report indicating that the U.S. will need a dramatically greater number of computer workers in the next decade than had been projected in earlier reports. According to the report, nearly two million j obs will be created in the computer sector. However, only 46,000 Americans are expected to graduate each year with technology degrees. Those who were critical of the raising of the H-1B cap in 1998 had claimed that reports of a labour shortage in the sof tware sector were exaggerated and that the problem could be addressed with some retraining efforts.

This report suggests that the shortage is indeed real and will only get worse. This gave a shot in the arm to the demand for raising the cap further and formed the basis for the various bills introduced in Congress in this context. Among them is the Hatc h Bill (S. 2045), known after Senator Orrin Hatch who introduced it early this year. Also called the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act, the bill proposes an increase in the caps to about 200,000 every year from FY2001.

Whether this raise in the cap is passed or not, the status of a non-resident Indian professional working in the U.S. will remain unaltered with regard to access to high technology. He or she does not have any greater access to technologies that are contr olled for export by the U.S. export administration regulations (EAR) or the so-called "dual-use" technologies. This flows from what is called the "Deemed Export Rule" of the EAR.

The "Deemed Export Rule" states that an export of technology or software source code - this does not include encryption technology and encryption software (both object and source code) - is "deemed" to take place when it is "released" to a foreign nation al within the U.S. That is, the transfer of technology to a foreign national working in the U.S. is "deemed" as an export to the person's home country and all the regulations of the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) of the Department of Commerce, suc h as export licence requirements for controlled technologies, apply. The "release" is deemed to take place when the technology "is available for visual inspection (such as reading technical specifications, plans, blueprints and so on); is exchanged orall y; or is made available by practice or application under the guidance of persons with the knowledge of the technology". The deemed export rule is not applicable to foreign nationals who hold a permanent resident visa (the 'Green Card') or have been grant ed U.S. citizenship or granted the status of a "protected person" under U.S. law (say, on political grounds).

Therefore, if a licence is required for the export of a given technology (or source code) to India, the employer would have to apply for an export licence if an Indian employee will have access to it. A pertinent question is with regard to the present co ntext of sanctions on export of dual use technologies on Indian entities. In such cases the BXA has clarified that the status of the foreign national will be examined with regard to the person's family, professional, financial and employment ties on a ca se-by-case basis. For example, the "catch all" provision of the Enhanced Proliferation Control Initiative (EPCI) that puts restriction on all persons or organisations suspected to have links with organisations engaged in nuclear or missile development ac tivities, will come into play during such examination. That is, the embargoes and sanctions would apply to the NRI scientist as well if he or she has or had any affiliation or links to an organisation which is on the Entities List.

Indeed, the BXA regulations require that applications for "deemed export" licence (DEL) for controlled technologies provide complete details of the foreign national concerned, including personal background and past employment history, the nature of the j ob in the U.S., the kind of projects and technologies or software he or she is associated with, the forms in which data or software will be provided, the applicability or technical scope of the technology or software in different uses, its availability a broad and so on. In fact, since 1990 (when the EPCI became effective), a system of visa application review by the BXA has been put in place for new immigrant foreign professionals in high-tech areas. Under this, companies are required to go through this licensing exercise before the hiring stage if the nature of the work has entirely to do with controlled technologies.

This detailed personal data to the extent required by the BXA for the purpose of issuing DELs, would even seem to contradict U.S. domestic regulations under the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) rules which do not permit the employer to se ek such detailed personal information. On this apparent contradiction the BXA has clarified as follows: "The information that BXA may request as part of licence application process is required in order to determine whether BXA should authorise the releas e of such controlled technology. The hiring of foreign nationals is not prohibited or regulated by the EAR. The justification for the 'deemed export' rule is that there is no more effective way of disclosing sensitive technical information (for example, design know-how) than to work side by side in a laboratory or on the production floor of a company." This implies that if the requested information is not provided, the DEL may not be approved.

According to Robert Majak, Assistant Secretary for Export Administration, the increase in the numbers of H-1B visas issued over the years has indeed resulted in an increase in the number of applications for DELs for potential employees. According to him, in most cases these licences are approved but conditions and restrictions are imposed upon the activities of those employees, namely, access to specific programmes or technologies of the employer organisation. Those restrictions will generally apply unt il the employee becomes a permanent resident or citizen. He claimed that only about 3 per cent of the applications are rejected. (Of course, post-sanctions, the number of denials are likely to have shot up for India and Pakistan, resulting in visa denial s.)

The "deemed export" rule has, however, seen periodical changes and the recent changes effected (on July 20) have reduced the need for export applications with regard to every employed foreign national for company which hired ten or more foreign nationals under DELs in the past or expect to submit requests to recruit 10 or more foreign nationals in the future. According to this latest revision, the concept of a comprehensive DEL has been introduced which will cover more than one individual foreign nation al. That is, the new DEL will permit the addition or deletion of individual foreign nationals under a single comprehensive licence. Under this, companies can notify the BXA of each proposed release of controlled technology and may proceed unless informed by BXA within 30 calendar days that the release of controlled technology is denied or that more time will be needed to review the request.

Fundamental research, however, does not come under the purview of "deemed export" requirements. For the purpose of applicability of EAR, fundamental research is defined as basic and applied research where the resulting information is published and shared broadly within the scientific community. This is distinguished from proprietory research and from industrial development, design, production and product utilisation which are usually proprietory or restricted for national security reasons. The BXA has a lso clarified that research that is intended for publication, whether or not it is ever accepted for publication by scientific journals, is considered to be "fundamental research". Because any information, technological or otherwise, that is publicly ava ilable is not subject to the EAR, it will not require any DEL.

That is, while being in the U.S. may provide a better work environment, in the matter of access to sophisticated equipment and better basic research facilities, the NRI scientist or IT specialist faces the same restrictions imposed by the EAR on access t o high-tech, controlled data, classified information and software in source code as a scientist or IT professional working in India if he or she is associated with proprietory technologies. In the light of this, it would be interesting to know how sancti ons have affected the situation. But there is no direct way of obtaining such data except by inferring from the increase in the number of DEL denials for NRIs. Disaggregated data of the BXA on DEL denials over the last couple years may give some idea, bu t that is not easy to come by.

A pioneering leader

M.H.M. Ashraff, 1948-2000.

THE tragedy of September 16 involving an MI-17 helicopter of the Sri Lanka Air Force above the Urakanda mountain range in the Aranayaka area in Kegalle district of Sabaragamuwa province resulted in the death of a dynamic political leader of the island - Cabinet Minister M.H.M. Ashraff. Along with him were killed 14 others including crew members, security personnel, personal staff and political supporters. Investigations are on to ascertain whether the crash was an accident or the result of sabotage. Wha tever the outcome of the probe, there is no denying that the demise of Ashraff, the founding president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the island's largest Muslim party, has created a political vacuum.

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Muhammed Hussain Mohammed Ashraff was a pioneering leader of Sri Lankan Muslims in particular and the country in general. He was ahead of his times in more ways than one. He realised the vast untapped political potential of his community and strove to ch arter a course that would have enabled his people to have their grievances redressed and aspirations fulfilled. At a time when the conflict within the island was perceived in simplistic terms as a "Sinhala versus Tamil" issue, the efforts of Ashraff brou ght to the fore the problems faced by Muslims. The eloquent and effective advocacy of the Muslim cause by Ashraff led to a general awareness that the seemingly intractable ethnic crisis was not merely a Sinhala-Tamil bilateral issue but a trilateral one involving Muslims too.

The Muslims of Sri Lanka, also known as Moors, have a unique ethnic identity. Constituting 8 per cent of the island's population, they are distributed somewhat evenly with about two-thirds of them in the seven predominantly Sinhala provinces and the rest in the Tamil majority North and East. The bulk of the community including sections living amidst the Sinhala population speaks Tamil at home and are classified as Tamil speaking. The medium of instruction in schools is chiefly Tamil. The community has a lso thrown up a number of Tamil scholars, writers, poets, journalists and artists who have reached eminent positions. In spite of this, the community does not perceive itself as being "Tamil" but "Muslim". The Muslim self-perception is based on ethno-rel igious and not ethno-linguistic lines. This socio-cultural reality has acquired sharp political dimensions in recent times.

Although they are a scattered population, Sri Lankan Muslims have their single largest concentration in the Eastern Province where the ethnic ratio according to the 1981 Census (the last official count) was 42 per cent Tamil, 33 per cent Muslim and 25 pe r cent Sinhala. It is unofficially estimated that at present the Sinhala component has risen considerably while the Tamil component has declined and that the Muslim count remains even. Muslims of the Eastern Province live interspersed among Tamil village s along the littoral areas known as "Eluvaankarai" (Coast of the Rising Sun). The majority of the Eastern Muslims are farmers and fisherfolk. The "enclave" factor has helped the Eastern Province Muslims to elect at least four to six parliamentarians from the Province at each election. The Eastern "bloc" has at times constituted almost 50 per cent of the total Muslim representation in Parliament. Despite this advantage, the overall leadership of the community was not in the hands of the Eastern Muslim. T he comparatively advanced Muslim leaders from the Central, Western and Southern provinces were in charge, lording it over the Muslims from the Eastern backwaters. All this, however, changed with the arrival of Ashraff.

Ashraff was born on October 23, 1948 in the Muslim village of Sammanthurai in Amparai district. He grew up in the town of Kalmunai, in the same region. After schooling in Kalmunai, Ashraff entered Law College where he passed the examination with first cl ass honours. Ashraff went on to acquire a bachelor's and later a Master's degree in Law from Colombo University. The latter feat was achieved in 1995 when he was a Cabinet Minister. He took silk in 1997 as President's Counsel.

Ashraff began his political career like many an Eastern Muslim leader as an admirer of the Tamil father figure S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, the founder leader of the Federal Party. He spoke on F.P. platforms and in 1976 attended the historic Vaddukkoddai Confer ence where the newly formed Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) unanimously adopted the demand for a separate state of Tamil Eelam. In 1977 Ashraff was the driving force behind the Muslim United Front. He signed an agreement with Appapillai Amirthalinga m of the TULF, which helped MUF candidates contest the elections under the TULF symbol on an Eelamist platform. Ashraff did not contest, but actively campaigned. The highlight of Ashraff's speeches then was his public pronouncement that even if Amirthali ngam himself abandoned the goal of Eelam Ashraff would continue to strive for it. While the Tamil candidates of the TULF swept the polls, no Muslim from the party won a seat in the polls.

Ashraff parted ways with the TULF in 1980 and the MUF entered a state of decay. He founded the SLMC on September 21, 1981. At that point, the SLMC was more or less an Eastern outfit concerned with socio-cultural issues. The July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom an d the consequent escalation of armed Tamil militancy led to a situation where Muslims became increasingly insecure and apprehensive of their future in a "Tamil" state. On the other hand, the contemptuous manner in which the J.R. Jayewardene regime dismis sed the Muslim opposition to the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel touched a raw nerve in the community. Ashraff was instrumental in organising protest demonstrations over the issue. However, Sri Lankan Muslims were immune from the global tr end of growing Islamic consciousness and radicalism. The Muslim community in the East also produced a new generation of educated and ambitious youth. All this created a suitable climate for Ashraff and his brand of politics to arrive on the national scen e.

The catalyst was the outbreak of violence between Tamils and Muslims in the Kalmunai-Karaitheevu areas in 1985 which was aided and abetted by agents of the state. Threatened by Tamil militants, Ashraff was compelled to shift to Colombo. There his politic al horizons began to extend beyond the East. He recogised the disappointment among the Muslim masses with their elitist leaders. Ashraff identified the need and yearning of the community to assert boldly and articulate their identity. In 1986, he redefin ed the objectives and redrafted the constitution of the Muslim Congress to make it an all-island party. It was formally accredited by the Election Commissioner and allocated the symbol of the tree on February 11, 1988. The proportionate representation sy stem helped the fledgling party to record an impressive showing in the provincial council elections. The Muslim Congress had come of age.

Although he was not happy with the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987 which he felt neglected the Muslim viewpoint, Ashraff supported its provisions. The Muslim Congress participated in the North-East provincial council elections of 1988 and became t he chief Opposition party. The SLMC also supported Ranasinghe Premadasa in the 1988 presidential elections. In 1989 the Muslim Congress contested the parliamentary polls and won four seats. Ashraff himself was returned with a massive number of preference votes. The SLMC discovered that in spite of its all-island appeal the parliamentary seats it was able to garner came from the North-East alone. Ashraff realised that if the party was to maximise its representation, tactical compromises would have to be made and strategic alliances with major parties formed. In 1994 he did just that in the accord with Chandrika Kumaratunga's People's Alliance. The SLMC contested under its own symbol in the North-East and on the P.A. ticket in the other provinces. The pa rty won six seats and got another three on the national list.

The SLMC played a constructive "Queen maker" role to install the Chandrika Kumaratunga government in a hung Parliament. Ashraff became Minister for Ports, Shipping and Rehabilitation. Later he lost shipping in a reshuffle. Two other SLMC members, Hizbull a and Aboobakr, became Deputy Ministers. SLMC general secretary Rauff Hakeem became Chairman of committees.

Ashraff's ministerial tenure was eventful and controversial.

He was accused of providing Muslims jobs on a massive scale in the various harbours coming under his purview. Likewise he was faulted for giving priority to Muslim areas in the matter of rehabilitation projects. A tempestuous feud between Ashraff and ano ther Muslim Minister, Fowzie, saw sparks fly at regular intervals. This led to Ashraff throwing political tantrums at every turn and threatening to resign. In the most recent episode of its kind, his resignation over the Fowzie issue was not accepted by Kumaratunga.

Ashraff was also autocratic in his handling of party affairs. He was the supreme "Thalaiver" and brooked no nonsense from within. At the time of his death, he had suspended the party membership of three MPs and sent a show-cause notice to another.

Apart from the charismatic sway Ashraff had over the Muslim masses, his strength was his adaptive flexibility . The SLMC's fundamental demand had been for the creation of a territorially non-contiguous Muslim majority council consisting of the Muslim div isions in the North and East. Ashraff's rationale in this issue was to preserve for the Eastern Province Muslims their 33 per cent representation as far as possible in a proposed merger situation where it would have dwindled to 17 per cent. The inspirati on for the territorial non-contiguity principle was the Indian model for the Union Territory of Pondichery, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe where areas far apart came under a single administrative system. When he found the demand unachievable, he substituted it for the South Eastern Provincial Council comprising the electoral divisions of Sammanthurai, Pottuvil and Kalmunai. He gave up that too when it became necessary and opted for a merged North-East with adequate safeguards for Muslims including a de-merger proviso by referendum in 10 years's time.

While the interests of his own community were paramount for him, Ashraff was also extremely sympathetic to the Tamil problems and grievances. Except where the interests of Tamils and Muslims clashed directly, he tried to help realise the legitimate aspir ations of Tamils. He also arrived at an understanding to achieve a working relationship with the Ceylon Workers' Congress representing Tamils of Indian origin.

Ashraff's greatest virtue was his metamorphosis from a "sectarian" leader to a "national" one. He set up the National Unity Alliance comprising all the communities. The NUA was scheduled to contest in four districts in the coming elections. The NUA's bir th indicated that the one-time "Tamil Eelamist" supporter who pioneered an exclusive party for Muslims had reached an evolutionary stage where his outlook was blossoming into a nationalist one. That Ashraff's life was snuffed out at this critical junctur e is a setback to the limitless possibilities offered by the grand alliance.

A school's century

The Kodaikanal International School, which has a cosmopolitan student population, begins its centennial celebrations.

ON August 26, 2000, the Kodaikanal International School (KIS) began year-long celebrations marking a hundred years of its founding in 1901.

On the school campus at Kodaikanal on August 26, before an international gathering that was essentially Indian in spirit, consisting also of alumni from as far ago as the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s as well as pupils in their teens today, Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan released a commemorative stamp to mark the occasion. The stamp was received by Dayavu Dhanapal, who joined the school in 1944 as its first Indian woman staff member. (Her father, Z. Samuel, constructed the school gymnasium in 1 911.) Another person, Naomi Carman, also received the stamp. She and her husband John S. Carman came to Kodaikanal in 1934. Her 11 children and grandchildren graduated from the KIS.

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Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram delivered the convocation address, urging the students to prepare for a "borderless world". The 21st century would make a pluralistic society celebrate its diversity, he said.

There was later a round of square dance, with the young and the old participating with gusto. The school band struck the school song. Then came the delicious dinner.

The previous day, Bernad Alter, the U.S. Consul-General in Chennai, released a centennial volume, "In Celebration", published in the U.S. (Rounds of celebration are under way in the United States as well, a notable one having been at Lake Tahoe.) The 'In troduction' to this book, which featured a good collection of rare pictures of Kodaikanal in its early years, was written by KIS Principal Dr. Paul D. Wiebe. The historical account was compiled by Jane Cummings.

One vignette from the book: "Today, Dayavu (Dhanapal) is still in Kodai with all her delicious secrets about Kodai kids. Dayavu's memories encompass nearly sixty years of Kodai history and make it virtually impossible for any Kodai kids to return with to o inflated an opinion of their current self importance. Dayavu's daughter, Priscilla Dhanapal Mohl, is currently a teacher at the school and Priscilla's daughter, Dana, Mr. Samuel's great granddaughter, will graduate with the KIS class of 2000."

Dr. Wiebe, who is from the U.S., is himself an alumnus, having graduated from the KIS in 1956. He said: "We are celebrating our centennial with a fine birthday party. We look back with pride at our accomplishment in educating children from around the wor ld, including India. We look forward with excitement to the new challenges in future. We want to be responsible to Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India and the international community."

The KIS had its beginnings at a little hotel called the Highclerc, situated on a hill near the Kodaikanal lake as a school for the children of American missionaries in South India. The Highclerc School became the Kodaikanal School in the 1950s. As the mi ssionary era wound down in the 1960s, the school acquired a truly international students profile. In 1975, it became the Kodaikanal International School.

Today, the KIS is a Christian, multicultural school. The mission statement says, "KIS is an autonomous residential school with a broad college-oriented curriculum, serving young people from a wide variety of cultures. The school's academic programme is i ntentionally set within a community life based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and devoted to service in India and the whole of human community." Dr. Ashish Chrispal, Administrative Principal, said, "We provide secular education with respect an d appreciation for other religions." Dr. Wiebe added, "We are based on a certain set of values. The values we want to encourage are accountability, appreciation and concern for others and the environment."

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The KIS is co-educational, with 500 pupils and 100 teachers. The students are from about 30 countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan and countries in North America, Europe, Latin America and Africa. The teachers are from India, the U.S., Cana da, Australia, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Tanzania and Tibet (China).

The school offers an international baccalaureate (IB) programme, which is a rigorous two-year pre-university course.

According to Dr. Chrispal, the KIS was the first school in India to offer an IB diploma. The IB programme is followed in more than 700 affiliated schools in 65 countries. In the last 20 years, the KIS has had a 90 per cent pass rate in IB diploma results compared to 75 to 80 per cent worldwide. Since 1960, the KIS has been accredited to the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Philadelphia, U.S. The Association of Indian Universities has recognised the KIS diploma of high school graduation as equivalent to a pass in Plus two.

K.V. Mathew, vice-chairman of the board of management of the KIS, spoke of the school library with 50,000 volumes and the top-notch programme in computer education. It has a good music department. Mathew said, "We are as advanced as any school in the use of educational resources." Both teachers and students form part of the decision-making process at the KIS.

The history of the KIS is entwined with growth of Kodaikanal as a hill station. Kodaikanal is situated on the crest of the Palani hill ranges at an altitude of 2,133 metres.

The Palani hills were first surveyed by an Englishman, Lt. B.S. Ward, in 1821 but the survey was published only 16 years later. The first to build houses in Kodaikanal were missionaries of the American Madura Mission, which had been established in Madura i in 1834. When several young American missionaries died of "a fearful attack of cholera", Sirumalai hills, about 30 km from Madurai, was chosen as a "sanatorium". The missionaries built two bungalows there. However, malaria killed some of them, and a se arch began for another high-altitude base. In The Indian Hill Station: Kodaikanal (University of Chicago, Department of Geography, Research Paper No: 141, 1972), Nora Mitchell writes, "At this stage, the Americans appealed for assistance to the Br itish. The nearest hills were the Palanis and they were of considerably higher altitudes, a feature now recognised to be of the greatest importance."

In 1844, the missionaries turned to an Englishman named Fane, who had a godown in Kodaikanal, and to Judge Cotton, who, after retiring from service in Madurai, cultivated coffee in the Palani hills. On Fane's advice, the missionaries decided to found the ir settlement in the Kodaikanal basin. By June 1845, two bungalows were built. According to Charlotte Chandler Wyckoff, author of Kodaikanal, 1845-1945 (published in 1945 by London Mission Press, Nagercoil), the two bungalows were "scarcely better than shacks - with huts for servants". The British also built some houses in 1846. Thus the hill station was born.

Charlotte Wyckoff was one of the first 13 pupils who joined the Highclerc School in 1901. As years passed, more and more missionaries came to Kodaikanal in the summer months and built their own houses. "The life of a child during this time was idyllic an d carefree," says Jane Cummings in In Celebration. "Days of freedom from lessons provided ample time to explore the sholas, fish in the lake, wade in the streams, search the woods for beetles or stuff their pockets with roly-poochies. Soon, howeve r, there was to be an end to such unbridled childish freedom." The missionary parents felt the need for a school in Kodaikanal for their children.

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In June 1900, the committee established by the Kodaikanal Conference said in its report: "We, the undersigned... believe for the following reasons that a School for Missionary Children at Kodaikanal is a desideratum:-"

"By the establishment of such a school parents could secure for their children good training in a salubrious clime and at the same time be with them a part of every year on the plains during the children's Winter Holiday and on the Hills during the paren ts' Season of Rest..." The committee suggested that a matron be found "who shall be a lady of culture and some experience in India, preferably of missionary experience, as well as a Lady Instructor secured from America or England."

These recommendations were affirmed by members of the London Missionary Society, the American Lutheran Mission, the Wesleyan Mission, the American Arcot Mission, and the American Madura Mission. However, only the American Madura Mission and the American Arcot Mission agreed to put up the money. On June 5, 1901, Rev. J.H. Wyckoff of the American Madura Mission wrote: "Dear Brethren, Our respective missions having authorized the opening of the school from July 1, 1901, certain preparatory measures have be en taken informally by members of the committee." They included employing a principal and finding a location for the school.

At that time, one Margaret Eddy, was in Madras (now Chennai) visiting her son, a missionary. She was persuaded to become the school's principal. According to Jane Cummings, "It was an extraordinary providential move for the fledgling school. Mrs. Eddy wa s a woman of remarkable ability... Besides being a competent administrator, she was a motherly type with a keen sense of humour and wide interests." Highclerc Hotel, which had been built in the late 1880s on a hill overlooking the lake, was rented to hou se the school. Cummings says, "On July 1, 1901, thirteen little tykes, boys in their knickers, girls in their pinafores, appeared at the Highclerc Hotel to start school."

As the rent at the hotel became high, Margaret Eddy and her pupils moved to Central House and Rock Cottage in 1902. In 1905, owing to failing health, Margaret Eddy resigned and returned to the U.S. However, she remained principal emeritus until her death in 1935. She stayed in touch with alumni and helped in recruiting teachers. She was succeeded by Miss Case and by Mrs. Allen.

The institution became a high school in January 1930. According to In Celebration, "Tracy Manley was the first proud student to receive a high school diploma from Kodai School in 1930." More buildings were added through the 1910s to the 1930s. In 1924, a classroom building, the Quadrangle was built with a grant. The Quad went through a major renovation in 1999. "This renovation involved taking the old building down stone by stone, pillar by pillar, beam by beam and rebuilding it in the same place , with the same stones and pillars in the same design in a record eighty-three days," says Jane Cummings. The gym was built in 1911 on what once was a lovely garden. The gym still stands, having undergone renovations in 1932 and 1995.

Until the late 1920s, only "children of pure European descent" were admitted to the school. In 1930, members of the school council resolved that "... admission shall also be open to any child whose parents are from North America, Europe or Australia - be they missionaries or civilians."

For 26 years from 1932, Carl Phelps, a "diminutive dynamo of organisational and academic energy", led the school as its principal. According to Jane Cummings, Highclerc School was essentially an American school through the 1940s and the 1950s, "predomina tely for the children of missionaries but with a liberal sprinkling of the non-mission, European types who wandered from time to time... The curriculum was not too much help for those who wanted to go to Cambridge University or the Universities of Nottin gham, Berlin or Delhi."

The 1960s saw big changes. The missionary era and the colonial era came to an end. In evocative images, Jane Cummings says: "Missionaries... encouraged Indian colleagues to take over their work in churches, schools, hospitals and orphanages. As the shift in leadership was realised, most missionaries willingly handed over and departed; but not without a lump in the throat or tear in the eye for the country where they had lived for twenty, thirty, sometimes fifty years and which was their spiritual and em otional home in a way that Buffalo or Chicago or Portland could never be again." The nature of the student body changed; it became cosmopolitan and this brought new challenges to the administration.

Also, a debate began on the Christian education the school offered. A meeting of the school council in 1971 decided to favour "the development of the Kodaikanal School into an autonomous, plural cultural, multinational Christian school". Dr. Frank Jayasi nghe, a remarkable man with international experience in education, was principal from 1973 to 1983.

Statistics show a noticeable shift in the nature of the student population since the 1960s. In 1966, 90 per cent of the students were from North America. In 1971, 83 per cent of the 280 students were from North America and only 5 per cent from India. In 2000, of 480 students, 312 (65 per cent) are Indians and 168 (35 per cent) are from 23 other countries of which 49 are from North America. As Jane Cummings says, "Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, French or Korean can be heard in the corridors or dorms alongside English, but all conversations are still laced with Kodai slang which is passed from generation to generation: dish, budge, slips, canteen chuma, hunk, hey man, cool..." The school has had several student newspapers, which include Highclerc Herald, Ko dai Kourier, Kodai Times and Tahr Tribune.

It was a memorable home-coming for Dr. Wiebe in 1988 when he took over as principal. He and his wife Donna Beth have become synonymous with the school in the last 12 years. Dr. Wiebe and former Finance Director D. Ernest Chandrasekaran together fought a six-year legal battle to retrieve the six-acre Loch End, the portion of the school campus that was occupied by a Karur-based company in June 1991 when the children had gone home on vacation. About future plans, Dr. Wiebe said that a practical course on e nvironment studies and a social studies centre with cooperative effort from teachers from other schools were being added.

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