Only Subscribed user can access the archives

Get full access to our 16 year old archives

Subscribe Now

Already subscribed? Sign In

COVER STORY

22-12-2000

fl172500-Cover

Briefing

Temple desecration in pre-modern India

RICHARD M. EATON cover-story

The historical experience of temple desecration in pre-modern India - and, at a more general level, contested history revolving round Indo-Muslim rulers and states - has become a sensitive mass political issue in contemporary India. The demolition of the Babri Masjid, on December 6, 1992, by storm-troopers of the Sangh Parivar, and the train of communal violence and 'ill-fare' this vandalism brought to different regions of the country, propelled the issue to national centre-stage. The ideologues of the Hindu Right have, through a manipulation of pre-modern history and a tendentious use of source material and historical data, built up a dangerously plausible picture of fanaticism, vandalism and villainy on the part of the Indo-Muslim conquerors and rule rs. Part of the ideological and political argument of the Hindu Right is the assertion that for about five centuries from the thirteenth, Indo-Muslim states were driven by a 'theology of iconoclasm' - not to mention fanaticism, lust for plunder, and uncompromising hatred of Hindu religion and places of worship. In this illuminating and nuanced essay on temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states, which Frontline offers its readers in two parts, the historian Richard M. Eaton presents important new insights and meticulously substantiated conclusions on what happened or is likely to have happened in pre-modern India. - Editor, Frontline

PART I

IN recent years, especially in the wake of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992, much public discussion has arisen over the political status of South Asian temples and mosques, and in particular the issue of temples desecrated or replaced by mosqu es in the pre-British period. While Hindu nationalists like Sita Ram Goel have endeavoured to document a pattern of wholesale temple destruction by Muslims in this period,1 few professional historians have engaged the issue, even though it is a properly historical one.

17250621jpg

This essay aims to examine the available evidence with a view to asking,

* What temples were in fact desecrated in India's pre-modern history?

* When, and by whom?

* How, and for what purpose?

* And above all, what might any of this say about the relationship between religion and politics in pre-modern India? This is a timely topic, since many in India today are looking to the past to justify or condemn public policy with respect to religious monuments.

FRAMING THE ISSUE

Much of the contemporary evidence on temple desecration cited by Hindu nationalists is found in Persian materials translated and published during the British occupation of India. Especially influential has been the eight-volume History of India as Tol d by its Own Historians, first published in 1849 and edited by Sir Henry M. Elliot, who oversaw the bulk of the translations, with the help of John Dowson. But Elliot, keen to contrast what he understood as the justice and efficiency of British rule with the cruelty and despotism of the Muslim rulers who had preceded that rule, was anything but sympathetic to the "Muhammadan" period of Indian history. As he wrote in the book's original preface:

17250622jpg

The common people must have been plunged into the lowest depths of wretchedness and despondency. The few glimpses we have, even among the short Extracts in this single volume, of Hindus slain for disputing with Muhammadans, of general prohibitions agains t processions, worship, and ablutions, and of other intolerant measures, of idols mutilated, of temples razed, of forcible conversions and marriages, of proscriptions and confiscations, of murders and massacres, and of the sensuality and drunkenness of t he tyrants who enjoined them, show us that this picture is not overcharged....2

With the advent of British power, on the other hand, "a more stirring and eventful era of India's History commences ... when the full light of European truth and discernment begins to shed its beams upon the obscurity of the past."3 Noting the far greater benefits that Englishmen had brought to Indians in a mere half century than Muslims had brought in five centuries, Elliot expressed the hope that his published translations "will make our native subjects more sensible of the immense advantag es accruing to them under the mildness and the equity of our rule."4

Elliot's motives for delegitimising the Indo-Muslim rulers who had preceded English rule are thus quite clear. Writing in 1931 on the pernicious influence that the colonial understanding of pre-modern Indian history had on subsequent generations, Mohamma d Habib remarked: "The peaceful Indian Mussalman, descended beyond doubt from Hindu ancestors, was dressed up in the garb of a foreign barbarian, as a breaker of temples, and an eater of beef, and declared to be a military colonist in the land where he h ad lived for about thirty or forty centuries.... The result of it is seen in the communalistic atmosphere of India today."5

17250623jpg

Although penned many years ago, these words are relevant in the context of current controversies over the history of temple desecration in India. For it has been through selective translations of pre-modern Persian chronicles, together with a selective u se of epigraphic data, that Hindu nationalists have sought to find the sort of irrefutable evidence that would demonstrate a persistent pattern of villainy and fanaticism on the part of pre-modern Indo-Muslim conquerors and rulers. One of Goel's chapters is even entitled "From the Horse's Mouth." In reality, however, every scrap of evidence in this controversial matter requires careful scrutiny.

TEMPLE DESECRATION BEFORE INDO-MUSLIM STATES

It is well known that, during the two centuries before 1192, which was when an indigenous Indo-Muslim state and community first appeared in north India, Persianised Turks systematically raided and looted major urban centres of South Asia, sacking temples and hauling immense loads of movable property to power bases in eastern Afghanistan. The pattern commenced in 986, when the Ghaznavid Sultan Sabuktigin (reign 977-997) attacked and defeated the Hindu Shahi raja who controlled the region between Kabul an d northwest Punjab. According to Abu Nasr `Utbi, the personal secretary to the sultan's son, Sabuktigin "marched out towards Lamghan (located to the immediate east of Kabul), which is a city celebrated for its great strength and abounding in wealth. He c onquered it and set fire to the places in its vicinity which were inhabited by infidels, and demolishing the idol-temples, he established Islam in them".6

17250624jpg 17250625jpg

Linking religious conversion with conquest - with conquest serving to facilitate conversion, and conversion serving to legitimise conquest - `Utbi's brief notice established a rhetorical trope that many subsequent Indo-Muslim chroniclers would repeat.

Notwithstanding such rhetoric, however, invasions of India by Sabuktigin and his more famous son Mahmud of Ghazni (r. 998-1030) appear to have been undertaken for material reasons. Based in Afghanistan and never seeking permanent dominion in India, the e arlier Ghaznavid rulers raided and looted Indian cities, including their richly endowed temples loaded with movable wealth, with a view to financing their larger political objectives far to the west, in Khurasan.7 The predatory nature of these raids was also structurally integral to the Ghaznavid political economy: their army was a permanent, professional one built around an elite corps of mounted archers who, as slaves, were purchased, equipped, and paid with cash derived from regular infusi ons of war booty taken alike from Hindu cities in India and Muslim cities in Iran. For example, Mahmud's plunder of the Iranian city of Ray, in 1029, brought him 500,000 dinars' worth of jewels, 260,000 dinars in coined money, and over 30,000 dinars' wor th of gold and silver vessels. India, however, possessed far more wealth than the more sparsely populated Iranian plateau. Mahmud's 1026 raid on Somnath alone brought in twenty million dinars' worth of spoil.8

The dynamics of north Indian politics changed dramatically, however, when the Ghurids, a dynasty of Tajik (eastern Iranian) origins, arrived from central Afghanistan toward the end of the twelfth century. Sweeping aside the Ghaznavids, Ghurid conquerors and their Turkish slave generals ushered in a new sort of state quite unlike that of the foreign-based Ghaznavids (see Figure 1). Aspiring to imperial dominion over the whole of north India from a base in the middle of the Indo-Gangetic plain, the new De lhi Sultanate (1206-1526) signalled the first attempt to build an indigenous Muslim state and society in north India. With respect to religious policy, we can identify two principal components to this project: (a) state patronage of an India-based Sufi o rder, the Chishtis, and (b) a policy of selective temple desecration that aimed not, as earlier, to finance distant military operations on the Iranian Plateau, but to delegitimise and extirpate defeated Indian ruling houses.

The first of these policies was based on a conception of religion and politics well summarised by the Deccani court-poet `Abd al-Malik `Isami. Writing in 1350, `Isami observed that

17250626jpg

the existence of the world is bound up closely with that of the men of faith. In every country, there is a man of piety who keeps it going and well. Although there might be a monarch in every country, yet it is actually under the protection of a fakir (S ufi shaikh).9

Sufis, in other words, were understood as the "real" sovereigns of Indo-Muslim states. Among all South Asian Sufi orders, moreover, the Chishtis were the most closely identified with the political fortunes of Indo-Muslim states, and especially with the p lanting of such states in parts of South Asia never previously touched by Islamic rule. The pattern began in the first half of the fourteenth century, when that order's rise to prominence among Delhi's urban populace coincided with the political expansio n of the imperial Tughluqs.10 By effectively injecting a legitimising "substance" into a new body politic at the moment of its birth, the patronage of Chishti shaikhs by governors in Tughluq provinces, or by independent rulers succeeding to po wer in those provinces, contributed positively to the process of Indo-Muslim state-building.

Equally important to this process was its negative counterpart: the sweeping away of all prior political authority in newly conquered and annexed territories. When such authority was vested in a ruler whose own legitimacy was associated with a royal temp le - typically one that housed an image of a ruling dynasty's state-deity, or rastra-devata (usually Vishnu or Siva) - that temple was normally looted, redefined, or destroyed, any of which would have had the effect of detaching a defeated raja fr om the most prominent manifestation of his former legitimacy. Temples that were not so identified, or temples formerly so identified but abandoned by their royal patrons and thereby rendered politically irrelevant, were normally left unharmed. Such was t he case, for example, with the famous temples at Khajuraho south of the Middle Gangetic Plain, which appear to have been abandoned by their Candella royal patrons before Turkish armies reached the area in the early thirteenth century.

17250627jpg

It would be wrong to explain this phenomenon by appealing to an essentialised "theology of iconoclasm" felt to be intrinsic to the Islamic religion. It is true that contemporary Persian sources routinely condemned idolatry (but-parasti) on religio us grounds. But it is also true that attacks on images patronised by enemy kings had been, from about the sixth century A.D. on, thoroughly integrated into Indian political behaviour. With their lushly sculpted imagery vividly displaying the mutual inter dependence of kings and gods and the commingling of divine and human kingship, royal temple complexes of the early medieval period were thoroughly and pre-eminently political institutions. It was here that, after the sixth century, human kingship was est ablished, contested, and revitalised. Above all, the central icon housed in a royal temple's "womb-chamber," and inhabited by the state-deity of the temple's royal patron, expressed the shared sovereignty of king and deity (see Figures 2 and 3).

Moreover, notwithstanding that temple priests endowed a royal temple's deity with attributes of transcendent and universal power, that same deity was also understood as having a very special relationship, indeed a sovereign relationship, with the particu lar geographical site in which its temple complex was located. As revealed in temple narratives, even the physical removal of an image from its original site could not break the link between deity and geography.11 "A divine power," writes Davi d Shulman, "is felt to be present naturally on the spot."12 The bonding between king, god, temple, and land in early medieval India is well illustrated in a passage from the Brhatsamhita, a sixth century text: "If a Siva linga, i mage, or temple breaks apart, moves, sweats, cries, speaks, or otherwise acts with no apparent cause, this warns of the destruction of the king and his territory."13 In short, from about the sixth century on, images and temples associated with dynastic authority were considered politically vulnerable.

17250628jpg

Given these perceived connections between temples, images, and their royal patrons, it is hardly surprising that, as Richard H. Davis has recently shown,14 early medieval Indian history abounds in instances of temple desecration that occurred amidst inter-dynastic conflicts. In 642 A.D., according to local tradition, the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I looted the image of Ganesha from the Chalukyan capital of Vatapi. Fifty years later armies of those same Chalukyas invaded north India and brou ght back to the Deccan what appear to be images of Ganga and Yamuna, looted from defeated powers there. In the eighth century Bengali troops sought revenge on king Lalitaditya by destroying what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state-d eity of Lalitaditya's kingdom in Kashmir.

In the early ninth century, the Rashtrakuta king Govinda III invaded and occupied Kanchipuram, which so intimidated the king of Sri Lanka that he sent Govinda several (probably Buddhist) images that had represented the Sinhala state, and which the Rashtr akuta king then installed in a Saiva temple in his capital. About the same time, the Pandyan king Srimara Srivallabha also invaded Sri Lanka and took back to his capital a golden Buddha image that had been installed in the kingdom's Jewel Palace. In the early tenth century, the Pratihara king Herambapala seized a solid gold image of Vishnu Vaikuntha when he defeated the Sahi king of Kangra. By the mid-tenth century, the same image was seized from the Pratiharas by the Candella king Yasovarman and instal led in the Lakshmana temple of Khajuraho.

In the early eleventh century, the Chola king Rajendra I furnished his capital with images he had seized from several prominent neighbouring kings: Durga and Ganesha images from the Chalukyas; Bhairava, Bhairavi, and Kali images from the Kalingas of Oris sa; a Nandi image from the Eastern Chalukyas; and a bronze Siva image from the Palas of Bengal (see Figure 4). In the mid-eleventh century, the Chola king Rajadhiraja defeated the Chalukyas and plundered Kalyani, taking a large black stone door guardian to his capital in Thanjavur, where it was displayed to his subjects as a trophy of war (see Figure 5). In the late eleventh century, the Kashmiri king Harsha even raised the plundering of temples to an institutionalised activity; and in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, while Turkish rulers were establishing themselves in north India, kings of the Paramara dynasty attacked and plundered Jain temples in Gujarat.15

17250629jpg

This pattern continued after the Turkish conquest of India. In the 1460s, Kapilendra, the founder of the Suryavamshi Gajapati dynasty in Orissa, sacked both Saiva and Vaishnava temples in the Cauvery delta in the course of wars of conquest in the Tamil c ountry.16 Somewhat later, in 1514, Krishnadevaraya looted an image of Balakrishna from Udayagiri, which he had defeated and annexed to his growing Vijayanagara state. Six years later he acquired control over Pandharpur, where he seems to have looted the Vittala image and carried it back to Vijayanagara, with the apparent purpose of ritually incorporating this area into his kingdom.17

Although the dominant pattern here was one of looting royal temples and carrying off images of state-deities, we also hear of Hindu kings engaging in the destruction of the royal temples of their political adversaries. In the early tenth century, the Ras htrakuta monarch Indra III not only destroyed the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpa near the Yamuna River), patronised by the Rashtrakutas' deadly enemies, the Pratiharas, but also took special delight in recording the fact.18

1725062ajpg

IMPERIALISM OF THE DELHI SULTANATE, 1192-1394

In short, it is clear that temples had been the natural sites for the contestation of kingly authority well before the coming of Muslim Turks to India. Not surprisingly, Turkish invaders, when attempting to plant their own rule in early medieval India, f ollowed and continued established patterns. The table and the corresponding maps in this essay by no means give the complete picture of temple desecration after the establishment of Turkish power in Upper India. Undoubtedly some temples were desecrated b ut the facts in the matter were never recorded, or the facts were recorded but the records themselves no longer survive. Conversely, later Indo-Muslim chroniclers, seeking to glorify the religious zeal of earlier Muslim rulers, sometimes attributed acts of temple desecration to such rulers even when no contemporary evidence supports the claims. As a result, we shall never know the precise number of temples desecrated in Indian history.

Nonetheless, by relying strictly on evidence found in contemporary or near-contemporary epigraphic and literary sources spanning a period of more than five centuries (1192-1729), one may identify eighty instances of temple desecration whose historicity a ppears reasonably certain. Although this figure falls well short of the 60,000 claimed by some Hindu nationalists,19 a review of these data suggests several broad patterns.

First, acts of temple desecration were nearly invariably carried out by military officers or ruling authorities; that is, such acts that we know about were undertaken by the state. Second, the chronology and geography of the data indicate that acts of te mple desecration typically occurred on the cutting edge of a moving military frontier. From Ajmer in Rajasthan, the former capital of the defeated Cahamana Rajputs - also, significantly, the wellspring of Chishti piety - the post-1192 pattern of temple d esecration moved swiftly down the Gangetic Plain as Turkish military forces sought to extirpate local ruling houses in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century (see Table and Map 1: nos. 1-9). In Bihar, this included the targeting of Buddhist monast ic establishments at Odantapuri, Vikramasila, and Nalanda. Detached from a Buddhist laity, these establishments had by this time become dependent on the patronage of local royal authorities, with whom they were identified. In the 1230s, Iltutmish carried the Delhi Sultanate's authority into Malwa (nos. 10-11), and by the onset of the fourteenth century the Khalji sultans had opened up a corridor through eastern Rajasthan into Gujarat (nos. 12-14, 16-17).

Delhi's initial raids on peninsular India, on which Khalji rulers embarked between 1295 and the early decades of the fourteenth century (nos. 15, 18-19), appear to have been driven not by a goal of annexation but by the Sultanate's need for wealth with w hich to defend north India from Mongol attacks. In 1247, Balban, the future sultan of Delhi, had recommended raiding Indian states for precisely this purpose.20 For a short time, then, peninsular India stood in the same relation to the North - namely, as a source of plunder for financing distant military operations - as north India had stood in relation to Afghanistan three centuries earlier, in the days of Sabuktigin and Mahmud of Ghazni. After 1320, however, a new north Indian dynasty, the Tughluqs, sought permanent dominion in the Deccan, which the future Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq established by uprooting royally patronised temples in western Andhra, most prominently the Svayambhusiva complex in the centre of the Kakatiyas' capital city of Warangal (nos. 20-22. See Figure 7). Somewhat later Sultan Firuz Tughluq did the same in Orissa (no. 23).

THE GROWTH OF REGIONAL SULTANATES, 1394-1600

From the late fourteenth century, after the tide of Tughluq imperialism had receded from Gujarat and the Deccan, newly emerging successor states sought to expand their own political frontiers in those areas. This, too, is reflected in instances of temple desecration, as the ex-Tughluq governor of Gujarat and his successors consolidated their authority there (see Map 2: nos. 25-26, 31-32, 34-35, 38-39, 42), or as the Delhi empire's successors in the South, the Bahmani sultans, challenged Vijayanagara's c laims to dominate the Raichur doab and the Tamil coast (nos. 33, 41). The pattern was repeated in Kashmir by Sultan Sikandar (nos. 27-30), and in the mid-fifteenth century when the independent sultanate of Malwa contested renewed Rajput power in eastern Rajasthan after Delhi's authority there had waned (nos. 36-37).

In the early sixteenth century, when the Lodi dynasty of Afghans sought to reassert Delhi's sovereignty over neighbouring Rajput houses, we again find instances of temple desecration (nos. 43-45). So do we in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth cent uries, when the Bahmani Kingdom's principal successor states, Bijapur and Golconda, challenged the territorial sovereignty of Orissan kings (nos. 55, 59; Maps 2 and 3), of Vijayanagara (no. 47), and of the latter's successor states - especially in the so uthern Andhra country (nos. 50-51, 53-54, 60-61; Maps 2 and 3).

Unlike the Deccan, where Indo-Muslim states had been expanding at the expense of non-Muslim states, in north India the Mughals under Babur, Humayun, and Akbar - that is, between 1526 and 1605 - grew mainly at the expense of defeated Afghans. As non-Hindu s, the latter had never shared sovereignty with deities patronised in royal temples, which probably explains the absence of firm evidence of temple desecration by any of the early Mughals, in Ayodhya or elsewhere. The notion that Babur's officer Mir Baqi destroyed a temple dedicated to Rama's birthplace at Ayodhya and then got the emperor's sanction to build a mosque on the site - the Babri Masjid - was elaborated in 1936 by S.K. Banerji. However, the author offered no evidence that there had ever been a temple at this site, much less that it had been destroyed by Mir Baqi. The mosque's inscription records only that Babur had ordered the construction of the mosque, which was built by Mir Baqi and was described as "the place of descent of celestial bein gs" (mahbit-i qudsiyan). This commonplace rhetorical flourish can hardly be construed as referring to Rama, especially since it is the mosque itself that is so described, and not the site or any earlier structure on the site.21

However, whenever Mughal armies pushed beyond the frontiers of territories formerly ruled by the Delhi sultans and sought to annex the domains of Hindu rulers, we again find instances of temple desecration. In 1661 the governor of Bengal, Mir Jumla, sack ed the temples of the neighbouring raja of Cooch Bihar, who had been harassing the northern frontiers of Mughal territory (no. 64; Map 3). The next year, with a view to annexing Assam to the imperial domain, the governor pushed far up the Brahmaputra val ley and desecrated temples of the Ahom rajas, replacing the principal one at Garhgaon with a mosque (nos. 65-66).

1725062bjpg

All of these instances of temple desecration occurred in the context of military conflicts when Indo-Muslim states expanded into the domains of non-Muslim rulers. Contemporary chroniclers and inscriptions left by the victors leave no doubt that field com manders, governors, or sultans viewed the desecration of royal temples as a normal means of decoupling a former Hindu king's legitimate authority from his former kingdom, and more specifically, of decoupling that former king from the image of the state-d eity that was publicly understood as protecting the king and his kingdom. This was accomplished in one of several ways. Most typically, temples considered essential to the constitution of enemy authority were destroyed. Occasionally, temples were convert ed into mosques, which more visibly conflated the disestablishment of former sovereignty with the establishment of a new one.

The form of desecration that showed the greatest continuity with pre-Turkish practice was the seizure of the image of a defeated king's state-deity and its abduction to the victor's capital as a trophy of war. In February 1299, for example, Ulugh Khan sa cked Gujarat's famous temple of Somnath and sent its largest image to Sultan `Ala al-Din Khalji's court in Delhi (no. 16; Map 1). When Firuz Tughluq invaded Orissa in 1359 and learned that the region's most important temple was that of Jagannath located inside the raja's fortress in Puri, he carried off the stone image of the god and installed it in Delhi "in an ignominious position" (no. 23). In 1518, when the court in Delhi came to suspect the loyalty of a tributary Rajput chieftain in Gwalior, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi marched to the famous fortress, stormed it, and seized a brass image of Nandi evidently situated adjacent to the chieftain's Siva temple. The sultan brought it back to Delhi and installed it in the city's Baghdad Gate (no. 46; Map 2).

Similarly, in 1579, when Golconda's army led by Murahari Rao was campaigning south of the Krishna River, Rao annexed the entire region to Qutb Shahi domains and sacked the popular Ahobilam temple, whose ruby-studded image he brought back to Golconda and presented to his sultan as a war trophy (no. 51). Although the Ahobilam temple had only local appeal, it had close associations with prior sovereign authority since it had been patronised and even visited by the powerful and most famous king of Vijayanag ara, Krishnadevaraya. The temple's political significance, and hence the necessity of desecrating it, would have been well understood by Murahari Rao, himself a Marathi Brahmin.22

In each of these instances, the deity's image, taken as war trophy to the capital city of the victorious sultan, became radically detached from its former context and in the process was transformed from a living to a dead image. However, sacked images we re not invariably abducted to the victor's capital. In 1556, the Gajapati raja of Orissa had entered into a pact with the Mughal emperor Akbar, the distant adversary of the sultan of Bengal, Sulaiman Karrani. The raja had also given refuge to Sulaiman's more proximate adversary, Ibrahim Sur, and offered to assist the latter in his ambitions to conquer Bengal and overthrow the Karrani dynasty. As Sulaiman could hardly have tolerated such threats to his stability, he sent an army into Orissa which went st raight to the Gajapati kingdom's state temple of Jagannath and looted its images. But here the goal was not annexation but only punishment, which might explain why the Gajapati state images were not carried back to the Bengali capital as trophies of war. 23

Whatever form they took, acts of temple desecration were never directed at the people, but at the enemy king and the image that incarnated and displayed his state-deity. A contemporary account of a 1661 Mughal campaign in Cooch Bihar, which resulted in t he annexation of the region, states that the chief judge of Mughal Bengal was ordered to confiscate the treasure of the defeated raja, Bhim Narayan, and to destroy the image of the state-deity. But the judge himself issued orders against harming the gene ral population, warning that if any soldiers were caught touching the property of the common people, their hands, ears, or noses would be removed.24 In short, in newly annexed areas formerly ruled by non-Muslims, as in the case of Cooch Bihar, Mughal officers took appropriate measures to secure the support of the common people, who after all created the material wealth upon which the entire imperial edifice rested.

If the idea of conquest became manifest in the desecration of temples and images associated with former enemies - itself an established tradition in pre-Turkish Indian practice - what happened once the land and the subjects of those same enemies were int egrated into an Indo-Muslim state? This question, together with the pattern of temple desecration under the imperial Mughals, will be taken up in the second of this two-part essay.

Richard M. Eaton teaches South Asian history at the University of Arizona, U.S., and is the author of several books on pre-modern India, including The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997) and Essays on Islam and Indian History (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000).

See Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, vol. 1: A Preliminary Survey (New Delhi: Voice of India, 1990); vol. 2, The Islamic Evidence (New Delhi: Voice of India, 1991). H.M. Elliot and John Dowson, trans. and eds., The History of India as Told by its Own Historians, 8 vols. (Allahabad: Kitab Mahal, n.d.), 1:xxi. Ibid., 1:xvi. Ibid., 1:xxii, xxvii. K.A. Nizami, ed., Politics and Society during the Early Medieval Period: Collected Works of Professor Mohammad Habib (New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1974), 1:12. `Utbi, Tarikh-i Yamini, in Elliot and Dowson, History of India, 2:22. C.E. Bosworth, The Later Ghaznavids, Splendour and Decay: The Dynasty in Afghanistan and Northern India, 1040-1186 (1977; repr. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1992), 32, 68. C.E. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran, 994-1040 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1963), 78. `Abd al-Malik `Isami, Futuhus-salatin by Isami, ed. A.S. Usha (Madras: University of Madras, 1948), 455; Agha Mahdi Husain, ed. and trans., Futuhu's-salatin, or Shah Namah-i Hind of `Isami (London: Asia Publishing House, 1967), 3:687. See Simon Digby, "The Sufi Shaikh as a Source of Authority in Mediaeval India," in Marc Gaborieau, ed., Islam and Society in South Asia, in Purusartha 9 (Paris: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1986), 69-70. Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), 122, 137-38. David D. Shulman, Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1980), 48. Emphasis mine. Cited in Davis, Lives, 53. Davis, Lives, 51-83, passim. See Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, and Bipan Chandra, Communalism and the Writing of Indian History (Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1969), 14, 31. See Phillip B. Wagoner, Tidings of the King: A Translation and Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Rayavacakamu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), 146. Davis, Lives, 65, 67. Michael Willis, "Religion and Royal Patronage in north India," in Vishakha N. Desai and Darielle Mason, eds., Gods, Guardians, and Lovers: Temple Sculptures from North India, AD 700-1200 (New York: Asia Society Gal leries, 1993), 59. Entry for the date 1688 in "Hindu Timeline," Hinduism Today (December, 1994), cited in Cynthia Talbot, "Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self: Hindu-Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India," Comparative Studies in Society and History 37, no.4 (Oct., 1995), 692. See Minhaj Siraj Juzjani, Tabakat-i-Nasiri, trans. H.G. Raverty (1881; repr. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corp., 1970), 2:816. See S.K. Banerji, "Babur and the Hindus," Journal of the United Provinces Historical Society 9 (1936), 76-83. Muhammad Qasim Firishta, Tarikh-i Firishta, trans. John Briggs, The Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India (1829; repr. 4 vols., Calcutta: Editions Indian, 1966), 3:267. Khwajah Ni`mat Allah, Tarikh-i Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani, ed. S.M. Imam al-Din (Dacca: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 1960), 1:413-15; Abu'l-fazl, Akbar-nama, trans. Henry Beveridge (repr. New Delhi: Ess Ess Publications, 1979), 2:381-2, 480. S. Moinul Haq, trans., Khafi Khan's History of `Alamgir (Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 1975), 142-43. SOURCES Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica Epigraphia Indica, Arabic & Persian Supplement Annual Report of Indian Epigraphy Indian Antiquary Jahangir, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, tr. A. Rogers, (Delhi, 1968), v. 1 Firishta, Tarikh-i Firishta tr. J. Briggs, History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India (Calcutta,1971), 4 vols. Kanbo, `Amal-i Salih (text: Lahore, 1967), v. 2 A. Butterworth and V.V. Chetty. A Collection of the Inscriptions on Copper-Plates & Stones in the Nellore District (Madras, 1905), v. 3 Khafi Khan, Khafi Khan's History of `Alamgir, tr. S.M. Haq (Karachi, 1975) A. Cunningham, Four Reports Made during 1862-65 (Varanasi, 1972) S.N. Sinha, Subah of Allahabad under the Great Mughals (New Delhi, 1974) Saqi Must`ad Khan, Maasir-i `Alamgiri, tr. J. Sarkar (Calcutta, 1947) Saqi Must`ad Khan, Maasir-i `Alamgiri (text: Calcutta, 1871) Nizamuddin Ahmad, Tabaqat-i Akbari, tr. B. De (Calcutta, 1973), 3 vols. Ishwardas Nagar, Futuhat-i `Alamgiri, tr. T. Ahmad (Delhi, 1978) Surendranath Sen, ed. & tr., Siva Chhatrapati (Calcutta, 1920), v.1 P. Sreenivasachar, ed., Corpus of Inscriptions in the Telingana Districts of H.E.M. the Nizam's Dominions, pt. 2 (Hyderabad, 1940) Shah Nawaz Khan, Maathir-ul-Umara, tr. H. Beveridge (Patna, 1979), v. 1 Z.A. Desai, Published Muslim Inscriptions of Rajasthan (Jaipur, 1971) G. Roerich, tr., Biography of Dharmaswamin (Patna, 1959) Minhaj-i Siraj, Tabakat-i Nasiri, tr. H. Raverty (New Delhi, 1970), v. 1 Chattopadhyaya, D., ed., Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India (Calcutta,1980) Hasan Nizami, Taj al-ma`athir, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 2 Amir Khusrau, Miftah al-futuh, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Amir Khusrau, Khaza'in al-futuh, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Shams-i Siraj, Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Zia al-Din Barani, Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Khwajah Ni`mat Allah, Tarikh-i Khan-Jahani wa makhzan-i-Afghani (text: Dacca, 1960), v. 1 Sikandar bin Muhammad, Mirat-i Sikandari, in E.C. Bayley, Local Muhammadan Dynasties: Gujarat, ed. N Singh (repr. New Delhi, 1970) Azad al-Husaini, Nau-Bahar-i Murshid Quli Khani, tr., Jadu Nath Sarkar, Bengal Nawabs (1952, repr. Calcutta, 1985) Abd al-Hamid Lahori, Badshah-nama, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 7 South Indian Inscriptions (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India) George Michell, "City as Cosmogram," South Asian Studies 8 (1992) Jonaraja, Rajatarangini, ed. S.L. Sadhu, trans. J.C. Dutt (repr. New Delhi, 1993) Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui, tr., Waqi`at-e-Mushtaqui of Shaikh Rizq Ullah Mushtaqui (New Delhi, 1993) Jagadish Narayan Sarkar, Life of Mir Jumla (Calcutta, 1952)

A state of siege

K.T. RAVINDRAN cover-story

How four decades of official apathy, corruption and distorted plan implementation have resulted in a royal mess in Delhi.

FOR the two million-odd workers who lived on the industries of Delhi, the current crisis is nothing short of a state of siege. The system has declared war on their workplace and pushed them beyond the line of legality. For the first time, the real politi cal import of the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) has finally come out in the open: from the rarefied realms of technicalities into the contested public domain. In the complex terrain of Delhi's development, the stakes are high, the players are big and the co nsequences are disastrous, seemingly only for the urban poor. The current crisis, though unprecedented, is the second assault on the poor - now in their place of work after the demolition drive on their homes. The Master Plan as a legal document is once again here, redefined in the background of the new aspirations of the Indian middle class for a higher quality of life of international standards, to create "beautiful" cities that can attract global capital. Four decades of urban planning in Delhi, whic h progressively marginalised both the urban environment and the poor, is now faking an encounter between the two. Shooting from the shoulders of the judiciary, the liberalised mindset that is benumbed by the visions of "the city beautiful" is somehow lon ging to relive the idealised image of suburbia as conceived in the Master Plan. For this, "The New Vision" is willing to cleanse the city of the poor and the polluting, while the real maladies lie outside - in the many daggers that are drawn in Delhi's p olitical arena, in the commissions and omissions by the multiple implementing authorities, in the deeply corrupted markets of the city's commodified public spaces and in the Master Plan mode of development itself.

17251161jpg

Back in 1962, the first Master Plan for Delhi was brought out with the help of Ford Foundation-sponsored experts from the United States and a group of young Indian planners trained in England and the U.S. The Nehruvian brand of socialism was the politica l backdrop with industrialised urbanisation as the chosen mode. The Master Plan was a trendsetter in that it became the model instrument for negotiating the growth of cities all over India. After 38 years, in the light of today's crisis, some of the prim ary underpinnings of that Master Plan need to be re-evaluated for their legitimacy.

The maladies of the Master Plan

As a direct derivative of the industrial logic, the Master Plan assumes that a healthy environment can be achieved only through strict zoning of functions. Using a two-dimensional mode of representation as a land use plan, it assumes that the complex fac tors that make up for the vibrant economy of an ever-expanding, changing Indian city can be contained and controlled by this feeble instrument, albeit its legal sanctity. Small industrial towns and suburbs may be successful in isolating its industry and production centres from housing, institutional and commercial areas. But that is not the stuff the Indian metropolis is made of. Its morphological structure is a reflection of its multi-ethnic population base, complex functional structure, the power play that determines its institutional disposition, the historic layering of its urban fabric and above all its economic propensity poised to change direction at any moment. The often repeated expression that cities are "the engines of growth" of our economy , recognises this characteristic, while planned development through the 100-odd Master Plans in currency today in India refuse to provide the rudimentary structure necessary to facilitate them.

Large industrial estates zoned in the plan normally generate a scurry of auxiliary production units that churn out from slums and other non-conforming areas, products that are monetarily cheap (in spite of the high borrowing rates of private finance), bu t at great social cost to its labour. In other words, most products we have in the Indian markets are affordable because they are subsidised by the poor. Besides the support to the large, formal sector industries, the informal sector provides for almost the entire consumer needs of the urban poor and to a large extent, of the middle classes, through production and distribution networks that entirely depend on the non-conforming areas and public spaces like footpaths. The evasion of excise duty and sales tax merely help offset the 40 per cent inherent slush money that is drained out by the politico-bureaucratic networks, put-ting back squarely the real cost of a soft production location and the subsidy by the workers. And let us face facts, the mainstre am planned production process can never meet these needs of the majority in the city, and therefore has no right to subvert deliberately the informal sector.

The lessons from the traditional urban centres of India such as Banaras (now Varanasi), Kancheepuram, Ajmer and Old Delhi are most evidently of the richness of mixed use. More significantly, it is through function-specific building typology that old citi es of India salvage the dignity of the multiple functions that the residential neighbourhoods accommodated. Through strict mono-functional zoning and the absence of follow-up urban design of building typology, the Master Plan failed to protect the reside ntial quality as well as criminalise the small entrepreneurs who are priced out of the market and are left with no option but to operate from their already overcrowded homes. Strict zoning, as prescribed in the Master Plan, to start with, is a violation of the lifestyle of Indian people and the economic propensities of our metropolitan cities.

Compounding the ill-effects of an unimaginative mono-functional zoning is the failure of the plan implementation agencies to produce almost 30,000 industrial units of various hues it provided for in the two Master Plans. Consequently, with a highly buoya nt monetary environment and the support from a well entrenched land mafia-politician-bureaucracy nexus, the polluting industries and the informal sector have invaded the soft areas of the city: the unauthorised settlements and the environmentally sensiti ve areas left out of the development plan. In the face of the failure of the state and the industrial apparatus to provide basic housing to the labour, slums and other vulnerable, high-density, low-income settlements, the urban villages and even the fact ory sheds often provide cheap, overcrowded housing for the labour employed by both the formal and informal sectors. Thus both at their place of work and home, the working people of Delhi are kept out of the mainstream planning process.

17251162jpg

However, it is indisputable that the polluting industries must be moved out of the residential areas to places where pollution can be contained and treated. The resettlement policy for this is yet to take any formal shape with the two parties in power in Delhi squabbling over amendments to the Master Plan for land-use change to provide for the relocation. Besides, the relocation plan prepared for the Bawana area in the west of Delhi also suffers from the same pitfall of mono-functional zoning, without a ny provision for workers' housing. And the plan expects them to commute 30 to 40 km by the proposed Metro Rail scheme to their places of work! This new industrial area, as planned, also has a half-baked pollution control and treatment provision and a min imum size of 100 square metre plots, which would be clearly out of the reach of the majority of the industries that need relocation. The villages around the new industrial sites have meanwhile staged political protests against the waste disposal system p roposed in the plan. Altogether, it is a royal mess, resulting from four decades of apathy, corruption and distorted plan implementation.

At the same time, the very agencies that demand strict zoning in housing areas to save the environment are continually amending the Master Plan (more than 220 times till date) to accommodate the powerful land mafia, the banks and the newly empowered reli gious groups. Comm-unity centre sites legally zoned as such in the Master Plan are amended to put up hotels and commercial centres of international standards (a euphemism for consumption centres for imported products and foods). Multiple five-star hotel sites and fly-overs are eating into the city's Ridge. The Yamuna river bed, which is the main recharge zone for Delhi's groundwater sources, is today dumped with millions of tonnes of fly ash that leech toxic chemicals into the aquifer, for reclaiming la nd for globalised investments in the transport sector and to achieve the vision of a new Manhattan on the river front. And all these by amending the Master Plan and against the recommendations of, or in the absence of a proper, environmental impact asses sment. Clearly the planning and implementation authorities in Delhi have lost the moral authority to lament the loss of environmental quality in residential areas, when their proactive role is leading to such deep damage to the city's environment.

The Master Plan, once notified in the Gazette, is a legal document, or the Master Plan becomes the legally acceptable framework laid down for the regulative as well as generative systems in the development of the city. As such, every citizen within the d esignated area of the city and for the time span of 20 years as prescribed in the plan, is obliged by law to abide by the plan. Any deviation from this prescription then becomes "non-conforming" and therefore illegal.

If the citizens are legally bound by the Master Plan, does it not stand to logic that the authority that prepares the plan is also bound by its provisions? Is it not then a violation of law when the governmental agency does not implement large parts of i ts own stipulations to develop Special Areas for mixed use (MPD 2001) and thousands of industrial units within the plan period? Is there one law for the citizens and another for the law-makers? The irony of it is that those who did not implement the lega l provisions in the Master Plan are now waging war on those who fulfilled the large gap in industrial provisions made by the Master Plan.

Lack of public participation

The genesis of the problem can also be traced to the poor provisions for public participation in the Master Plan process. As practised in the first two plans for Delhi (or for that matter every plan in the country), a Draft Master Plan is published, invi ting public objections within a certain period. Any citizen can write in to register objections and the planning authority collates and discusses the objections. Subsequently, the plan is presented to the elected body, in the case of Delhi to the Central government. As representatives of the people, the elected body is expected to express the people's will. Once the Cabinet approves the Plan, it is gazetted. In this system, the authority is not obliged to react to or accommodate all or any of the object ions. In other words, it can put out the plans for approval pretty much the way it wants. The elected body is often unable to comprehend the full import of the plan, as the plan relies heavily on charts, maps and other technical data as well as on some u nderlying assumptions. The fact that 40 per cent of the city is living in slums and the present crisis of industries make it abundantly clear that people's participation has not been structural to the decision-making process in the city.

The Nagar Palika Bill or the Constitution 74th Amendment, passed by an Act of Parliament is the law of this land since 1994. This Bill lays down a clear-cut structure for physical development, defines the composition of the bodies that are to prepare the Physical Plan (Master Plan) and prescribes a bottom-up system, where the needs of people are articulated at the lowest level, by the ward committees. Planning being a State subject in India, the 74th Amendment, delineates responsibility for the State an d the elected municipalities. In this disposition it is the responsibilities of the municipality to prepare the Master Plan, taking into consideration the ward committee requirements as well as the needs of other bodies above it in the hierarchy.

In the light of this, when one looks at Delhi, a number of ambiguities emerge. As the nation's capital, Delhi has two elected governments - the Centre and the State, both with legitimate stakes in its development. Land and police are with the Centre and the Delhi Development Authority that prepares the Master Plan works directly under the Centre. Besides these, the National Capital Region Planning Board is also involved indirectly in the development of Delhi. The State government controls the industrial sector, while the two elected municipalities, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), along with the DDA implement the Master Plan. The power lines cross here, and short circuits are aplenty. Delhi today is a contested territory, with many masters and many hitmen. The electoral mandate that backed different parties at the Centre and the State has further confounded the confusion. And now we also have the judiciary playing an active role, bringing all the stakeholders into direct confrontation. Sadly, the victims of this political and administrative charade are once again the city's poor.

If the MPD were truly a product of people's participation as prescribed in the 74th Amendment, the situation would have been very different. The accountability of elected representatives would have been far more clearly etched out and the plan implementa tion could not have taken such a brutal turn against the very people who willed it. Why is there such an inertia in implementing the six-year-old 74th Amendment? If the citizens of Delhi are made party to the decisions that affect their lives, the homes of the poor can be spared from being the battlefield of the titans of this country.

K.T. Ravindran is Professor and Head of the Department of Urban Design, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

DELHI'S DILEMMA

Caught between livelihood concerns and a judicial mandate, the national capital struggles to cope with the causes and consequences of massive pollution.

AFTER over a fortnight of often rancorous sittings, the Supreme Court on December 1 adjourned its hearings on the location of industrial units in "non-conforming" areas of Delhi. Laboured explanations by the Delhi State government on the reasons why the y were unable to transfer these units elsewhere and secure conformance with the Master Plan evolved for the National Capital Region (NCR), failed to win the approval of the court. The spirited effort by counsel for the State government to shift the respo nsibility to the Central government and its agencies like the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), again won it little sympathy. When hearings resume, presumably in January, it is likely that there will be a prolonged phase of bargaining over an alternativ e time-table for the court-mandated industrial relocation. After successive defaults by the regulatory authorities, it would take an act of faith to believe that a fresh set of commitments given to the judiciary will actually be fulfilled.

17250041jpg

The backdrop to the judicial proceedings was provided by days of turmoil and unrest on Delhi streets. Restive industrial workers, threatened with a loss of livelihood, came out to defend what they perceived as an inalienable right. Their anxieties were s toked by industrial entrepreneurs who saw the Supreme Court's activism on pollution as a major irritant and an inconvenience. When the dust settled, life went on very much as before in the national capital. The matter is now reduced to a tense standoff b etween a Union Minister used to occupying the high moral ground and a Delhi State government that has capitulated to the demands of political populism.

It is a striking feature of the prevalent situation that Jagmohan, the Union Minister for Urban Development, still retains his halo of moral rectitude in the public perception. Despite the fact that the Delhi government is no more than a seven-year old e ntity which shares little of the responsibility for the proliferation of industrial units in unauthorised areas, the entire burden of correcting the situation is being thrust upon it. The Urban Development Ministry and its subordinate body, the DDA, whic h had untrammelled authority to oversee land use in the NCR, has so far faced none of the pressure of judicial or public interrogation.

This is rather curious, since Jagmohan during his prolonged stewardship of the DDA is known to have very often trampled upon key provisions of the 1962 Master Plan for the capital. This was indeed the first comprehensive blueprint prepared to regulate la nd use in the capital city and its environs. Keeping in view Delhi's unique status as an administrative city that had absorbed a flood of refugees from the Partition of the sub-continent, it made ample provision for the growth of industry. In order to ca pitalise on the advantages of starting off with a relatively clean slate, the Master Plan provided for a dispersed pattern of industrial development that would minimise the need for workers to travel long distances to reach their workplaces and mitigate the need for large investments in traffic management.

Few of the plans for developing industrial locations were implemented. The consequence was that Delhi responded to the pressure of a continuing flood of immigrants, through an unplanned and chaotic pattern of industrialisation. This has, over the years, taken a toll of public health and hygiene, providing the inspiration for legal vigilantes to seek redress through the judicial process.

17250042jpg

Courtrooms are rather inappropriate forums for formulating policy, though the judiciary could presumably seek to redress public grievances over departures from agreed policy. There is invariably a wide chasm between the real world and the drawing board w here plans are evolved. The realities of a situation where the uncoordinated actions of multiple agents determine the course of economic and industrial growth often compel the abandonment of the best-laid plans.

Planners work with a certain set of preconceptions of the public good, without the benefit of knowing whether these notions are shared by the larger public. Nor do they have any feasible means of force-fitting reality into the mould that they cast. To re cognise the reasons why the real world fails to conform to their ideals, is to go part of the way towards evolving more effective planning methodologies. There may be no cause to submit to the realities of an unplanned and uncoordinated scheme of develop ment. It would be equally unreasonable to believe that a recalcitrant reality could be coerced into a preordained course of development. No government, leave alone court, has so far been able to assume coercive powers of such a magnitude.

The situation in Delhi today focusses attention on some of the inherent irrationalities of using judicial fiat to settle complex matters of public importance. On November 28, a toxic gas leak afflicted dozens of residents of an industrial suburb in the w estern part of Delhi. The source of the hazard was plastic wastes being processed in an aging incinerator, releasing noxious fumes that were being freely vented into the atmosphere through a hole in the industrial unit's roof. The owner of the unit was b ooked under a clause of the Indian Penal Code dealing with "poisonous substances endangering human life". Residents of the area had in the past repeatedly brought the unit's depredations to the notice of local authorities. But the operator of the unit ha d apparently evaded all accountability by manoeuvring his way through the thicket of laws and regulatory agencies.

This incident provided additional fuel to the Supreme Court as it went about its mission of berating the local government. Certain observers believe that the court should perhaps be more mindful of its inherent limitations. A judicially measured response , they feel, would have been for the court to focus its attention on the means it has at its disposal, to empower local communities to deal with the hazards of unplanned industrial growth. The industrial operator in west Delhi has for long years been ven ting noxious gases into his neighbourhood without the slightest fear of punishment or penalty, because there is no well-developed system of legal liability that he is subject to. Indeed, the Supreme Court has in the past had the opportunity to develop a feasible concept of legal liability, but failed to do so.

17250043jpg

In 1985, in a case involving the leak of toxic oleum fumes from a chemical unit in Delhi, the Supreme Court propounded the notion of "strict" or "absolute" liability. The concept had a certain value in a context where regulatory agencies are often ill-e quipped to cope with the growing complexities of modern industry. In its application, it had a certain simplicity: official agencies could exercise broad powers of oversight, but could not feasibly supervise every aspect of an industrial unit's functioni ng. But if the unit at any point endangered human life and well-being, then it would be held absolutely liable and would pay maximum penalties. There would, in other words, be a presumption of wrongdoing applying in cases where industrial units cause dea th or injury.

After having firmly resolved this question, the Supreme Court in subsequent cases seemed to wobble. The most infamous case, of course, remains the settlement of the claims arising from the Bhopal gas tragedy. The court in 1989 gave its approval to a coll usive settlement of the case between the Union government and the Union Carbide Corporation. The judiciary lost the moral high ground there. Subsequent efforts to reclaim it through fiats have simply failed to carry conviction.

CERTAIN fundamentals seem to have escaped public attention in the prevalent euphoria over the Supreme Court's approach on the question of pollution. Is it, for instance, the function of the judiciary to force its way into the domain of policy formulation and seek an accretion to its own powers? Or would the judiciary better serve the public interest by empowering individuals and communities to claim what are their rights -- the right to a clean environment being as important as the right to livelihood?

It is more the rule than the exception, of course, that the pressures of earning a livelihood in a chronically employment deficient economy, have engendered a rather casual attitude towards occupational and environmental safety. A suitable antidote would then have to be administered by means of altering the relative application of rights and obligations. By all accounts the judicial hearings over industrial pollution in Delhi have run into a stalemate. The resolve of the judiciary to enforce its writ ha ve encountered the inability of the government to reconcile the divergent interests of its constituents. Failing a radical change in the paradigm of judicial intervention in the matter, it may be unrealistic to expect any progress at all when the hearing s resume.

The fight for survival

Amid all the talk of environmental issues, planning priorities and relocation processes, the interests and concerns of the ordinary worker seem to receive the least priority.

IN the second week of November, the National Capital Territory witnessed industrial turmoil and social unrest on an unprecedented scale following the Supreme Court's notice to Delhi Chief Secretary P.S. Bhatnagar warning of contempt proceedings for non-c ompliance with its directives regarding the closure and relocation of polluting industrial units. The proliferation of these units in the "non-conforming" or residential zones violated the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD). The Delhi State government in a knee- jerk reaction to the court's strictures, had issued orders to all such units to close down and relocate immediately. With no immediate relocation plans on the board, it disconnected water and electricity supply to these industries.

17250081jpg

According to estimates the State government submitted before the court, there are 1,26,218 small-scale industries (SSIs) in Delhi, of which 97,411 are located in the non-conforming areas. Of these, 2,224 are stated to be polluting, and these have been sh ut down. Some 20 lakh workers are estimated to be employed in the SSIs and tiny units.

As was to be expected, the owners and workers of the SSIs, who faced the prospect of loss of livelihood, took to the streets, bringing road traffic to a halt. As the rampaging mob began burning government-owned buses, the police resorted to several round s of firing. Three persons were killed and several others injured. There was no let-up in the fury for some days. On November 20, owners of the industrial units called a Delhi bandh, which was supported by all trade unions.

The unions, meanwhile, launched independent action in various parts of Delhi. In a rare occurrence, workers and owners came together on a common platform, even as a three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court, hearing the case of polluting units, held that ho oligans were holding the city to ransom. In the discourse on pollution and relocation of industrial units, the case of thousands of workers in the unorganised sector was being overlooked. In the majority of cases, the owners did not even pay them minimum wages, leave alone other benefits.

While a sparring match was on involving former BJP Chief Ministers of Delhi Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma and Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, Union Urban Development Minister Jagmohan declared in Parliament that the MPD could not be amended to all ow the industrial units to remain within residential areas. He admitted that exact figures were not available on their total number, leave alone the polluting ones, as no proper survey had been undertaken. Jagmohan, however, climbed down from this positi on later at the urging of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. The intervention probably became necessary as the difference of opinion within the BJP was getting louder. Khurana even threatened to launch an agitation, ostensibly to protect the interests of the affected people.

However, the lines on which the amendments to the MPD will be made are not known. It was decided that "household industry" would be redefined as that involving the use of 5 kW power load, but the SSI unions argued that such power levels were not enough t o run even a wheat grinding machine.

The Laghu Udyog Sangharsh Samiti, representing the owners of SSI units, has demanded provisions to allow three kinds of zones - purely residential, industrial and mixed-use where industries have co-existed with homes for three decades. The unions, especi ally the Left unions, which have opposed the uprooting of the workers, have demanded a survey to identify the industrial units and the number of workers employed in them.

A NEW MPD is to replace the present one, which expires in March 2001, but there is no clue as to what will happen to the units and their workers.

The MPD, the amendment of which is a bone of contention between the Delhi government and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, has a controversial background, characterised by the questionable role played by the previous Delh i governments. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), constituted in 1957 by an Act of Parliament "to check the haphazard and unplanned growth of Delhi....", developed the first Master Plan in 1962. Some 8,000 industries were identified then and several new industrial areas were announced. By 1971, the number of non-conforming industries had increased to 13,000. Between 1971 and 1982, when the new Master Plan was to come into force, many unauthorised colonies came up, but they were regularised for polit ical and other reasons, and resettlement colonies were established on the edges of the city to accommodate squatter families. Much of the resettlement took place during Congress(I) rule. The new Master Plan did not materialise, while the provisions of th e old Master Plan were flouted. The aftermath of the Asiad Games in 1982 saw the construction of building complexes as well as flyovers in contravention of the Master Plan.

The draft of the second Master Plan came up for public discussion that year. The first plan was criticised and the Delhi Urban Arts Commission was asked to prepare another plan, called the Delhi Master Plan-2001. The plan came into effect only in 1991.

According to DMP-2001, in 1981 there were about 46,000 industrial units, of which 77 per cent had fewer than 10 workers and 16 per cent had between 10 and 20 workers. It was estimated that by 2001 the number of units would increase to 93,000. It noted th at the percentage share of workers in the industrial sector among the total workforce had constantly increased and a considerable change had taken place in the industrial structure in the last three decades, more so after 1975. Two kinds of industries gr ew rapidly - those involving electrical and electronics goods and those involving rubber, plastic and petroleum products.

A large number of existing units were non-conforming ones. Several recommendations were made to shift them and the Plan was categorical that hazardous units would not be permitted in Delhi. According to the plan, no new extensive units were to be permitt ed except in already identified industrial areas, and existing non-conforming extensive units would be shifted to the 'extensive industrial use zone' within three years of the allotment of plots.

The same rule was applied to non-conforming light and service industries employing 20 or more workers. Incentives, apart from plots, were also offered. However, those units with 10 to 19 workers could continue to operate in their existing locations but t hey would be subject to review after five years, before which they could relocate to industrial use zones. The MPD permitted household-based industrial units with a maximum of five workers and using 1 kW of power to continue in residential areas and new units in residential areas, with the caveat that no polluting unit would be permitted in the "household industry" category.

A category of hazardous industries was drawn up in 1991, and in 1995 only 1,220 units were identified as being hazardous. However, the Central Pollution Control Board issued notice to 9,164 units to show cause why they should not be asked to be shifted f rom Delhi. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee scaled down the figure to 171. The list grew to 1,226, and all the units were served notice. Finally, in 1996, only 168 units were identified as hazardous, and the Supreme Court ordered their removal. At t he same time, a high-power committee was set up by the court to consider the matter of regularisation of industries in non-conforming areas. Of the 43,405 applications received, only 376 were found to be eligible and the rest had to move out. Application s for relocation were invited and 51,846 applications were received. Of these, 22,399 were short-listed by the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation, and it received advance payments.

Till date, there are no accurate figures of the number of industrial units in the non-conforming areas or the number of workers employed in them. Delhi's Industry Minister Narinder Nath admitted that no proper survey had been done. In order to obtain acc urate details, the Delhi Assembly passed an Act recently making it mandatory for industries to register themselves. Whether it would be mandatory for employers to give the details about their workers and the wages paid was not known, although the Ministe r said these details would be ascertained.

While the water-polluting industrial units were to be relocated at Narela, another outlying area in North Delhi, Bawana, was the identified for relocation of non-water polluting units. A new industrial area was developed on 1,065 acres of land, which was hardly adequate to accommodate all the industries. The units were offered incentives to move to areas falling in the National Capital Region, located in the adjoining States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.

MPD-2001 faulted the 1962 Master Plan for not proposing a monitoring system to register the changing socio-economic profile of the community as well as the physical structure of the city, for certain other reasons. The absence of such a framework had led to unintended growth, in the form of unauthorised colonies, squatter settlements, the informal sector and the non-conforming industry, all of which needed to be monitored. It was forgotten that government agencies, such as the Municipal Corporation of D elhi, had issued licences to the majority of these units and many of them were paying sales tax.

The anger of the factory owners was therefore palpable. Nand Kumar, owner of Mahajan Metals, a water-polluting unit that made aluminium vessels, was agitated that despite installing an effluent treatment plant the authorities had sealed his factory. The majority of his workers came from Bihar. "They have not given us the plots. They talk as if a ready-made building is going to be shifted to the new site in Narela," he said. By December 31, all water-polluting units have to pay for the plots as the Delhi government intends to shift such industries first. Their licences were renewed six months ago and subsequently cancelled following the crackdown on the units. "We do not know if we will take back the workers. The authorities have not even asked us to pr ovide a list of employees," he said.

In the entire debate on relocation, the blame continued to be traded. If MPD-2001 blamed the previous Plan for not taking into account the proliferation of industries, the Congress(I) and the BJP accused each other of non-implementation of the court's or ders. Narinder Nath averred that there was not enough land for all industries to shift. While 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) were required, the Delhi government acquired only 1,800 acres of undeveloped land. Further, village people in the vicinity of the n ew industrial zones could resist the move.

17250082jpg

The BJP claimed that the land had been acquired during the tenure of Sahib Singh Verma. The Congress(I) argued that as the DDA, the Delhi Urban Arts Commission and the MCD to a large extent were under Central government control, the Delhi government did not have the sanction or authority to conduct any development work on the land to begin the process of relocation.

According to Dunu Roy, director of Hazards Centre, a technical support group for community and mass organisations, the concept of non-conforming vis-a-vis conforming is part of a mindset. He says that the formal system of planning in Delhi represe nted by the Master Plan has never taken into account the informal dynamics, including the fact that Delhi, compared to the rest of the country, has low overhead costs and the highest minimum wage. This has been one of the major reasons for the large-scal e migration and concentration of small business and industry in Delhi in the last three decades. He said that a look at the areas that saw early industrialisation would show that they were all located along railway lines and national highways. Even the n ewer ones were situated in and around old industrial areas, he pointed out. The units relocated following their classification as hazardous ones have been replaced by new ones although their pollution potential is not known, according to him. Industry an d residential areas had traditionally co-existed in Delhi and the Master Plan failed to recognise this pattern, he said. Instead, while major violations of the Plan, like that of the Asiad Village complex, took place, no petition took cognisance of this. The focus was on de-industrialising Delhi. "To imagine that only 168 industries are responsible for the environmental degradation of the city is to take things too far," said Dunu Roy.

From hazardous, the focus shifted to non-conforming. Even here, among the industries that had to relocate, the ones that were short-listed were those that had paid an advance. There was no mention of the plight of the thousands of casual workers of these units. In the MPD or the court order there was no scheme for the selection of workers. In any case, as there are no lists of factory workers, it was evident that owners would make the most of the situation, leaving the workers high and dry.

Dunu Roy argued that only some 7 per cent of the 52,000 industrial units would be classified as polluting ones. He alleged that environmental activism had gained strength because some units were coming up in the posh areas in south Delhi where policy-mak ers live. "I look at all the clean places in the city and I find policy-makers live there. If cleanliness is associated with these people, then I would suggest that they move to the allegedly polluting areas of East and West Delhi and automatically they will ensure that the place is kept clean," he said. Industrial units were after all concentrated only in some areas, whereas vehicular pollution was spread all over Delhi. In any case, the fact that industrial pollution constitutes a very small portion o f the total pollution load in the capital is borne out by the Central Pollution Control Board.

According to a joint paper of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the Delhi Science Forum (DSF), at the heart of the matter lay the attempt to change the land-use policy in Delhi. The MPD had a distinct class bias, which was reflected in its lac k of provisioning for the resettlement of the nearly 30 lakh people living in slums. There are also no projections regarding provision of basic amenities to these people. All the social infrastructure facilities that the MPD talks about are meant to serv e the middle and upper income groups, the paper says.

The process of relocation has always spelt disaster for workers and it is speculated that what happened in the majority of cases following the closure and relocation of hazardous units would be repeated in the case of the SSIs of Delhi as well. The owner s of a large number of the 168 units that had moved out following the 1996 court order, were able to get rid of their old workers, especially those who had formed unions. Birla Textile Mills, Swatantra Bharat Mills and Ayodhya Textile Mills are examples. A report titled "Things Fall Apart - Voices of Women Affected by the Closure of 168 Units" by the Janwadi Adhikar Manch, says workers' families were severely hit by the closures. Of the 53 families interviewed, only 16 were found to have some source of income. Women and children had taken to piece work as family incomes had dropped steeply (Frontline, May 22, 1998). While the factory owners netted big sums by selling their industrial land in Delhi, very few of them established units elsewhere or re-employed their workers.

Workers of G.D. Rathi Steel Limited had a pathetic story to tell. The factory shifted to sites in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, but the workers were not reinstated. Many of them were not paid gratuity or other benefits. Most of these workers had put in 15 to 20 years of work and settled in the factory's neighbourhood. So moving to Alwar in Rajasthan, where there was no guarantee of jobs and where the minimum wages were low compared to Delhi, was an unrealistic proposition. The industry owners got the cou rt to accept that they could relocate anywhere in the country. So the workers were asked to report for work at places like Baddi in Himachal Pradesh in the case of Birla Mills or Tonk in Rajasthan in the case of Swatantra Bharat Mills.

A team of the All India Lawyers' Union that went to Baddi in 1998 found infrastructure for production or housing absent there. The Supreme Court order had held that workers who refused to go to the new place of work would be given one-year's wage as comp ensation instead of six years' in the case of closure. Neither Congress(I) nor BJP leaders took up the cause of the workers, for the numbers affected were not as big as in the case of the SSIs.

According to the CITU-DSF study, the majority of workers in the factories of Delhi are employed without any official record - there are no wage registers, wage slips, appointment letters, or Employees State Insurance or Provident Fund accounts. Full infr astructural facilities, credit and tax incentives are promised to the owners for relocation, but nothing is done to protect the interests of the workers.

17250083jpg

Surajbhan Bharadwaj, general secretary of the CITU's Delhi unit, told Frontline that until a survey was done no worker should be removed and no industrial unit closed down. In a memorandum submitted to Jagmohan, the CITU has demanded the continuan ce of the units that have existed for decades in residential areas; provision of water, electricity, residence and civic amenities for workers in those places where the unit is supposed to shift; re-employment of workers in the relocated sites in accorda nce with the figures in the survey; and provision of minimum wages according to the skills of the workers, and enforcement of labour laws and payment of compensation for dislocation. It has asked the Central government to keep the interests of the worker s and the industrial units in mind while drafting the new Master Plan.

It remains to be seen what posture the Central and Delhi governments will adopt in the coming months.

Temple desecration in pre-modern India

RICHARD M. EATON cover-story

The historical experience of temple desecration in pre-modern India - and, at a more general level, contested history revolving round Indo-Muslim rulers and states - has become a sensitive mass political issue in contemporary India. The demolition of the Babri Masjid, on December 6, 1992, by storm-troopers of the Sangh Parivar, and the train of communal violence and 'ill-fare' this vandalism brought to different regions of the country, propelled the issue to national centre-stage. The ideologues of the Hindu Right have, through a manipulation of pre-modern history and a tendentious use of source material and historical data, built up a dangerously plausible picture of fanaticism, vandalism and villainy on the part of the Indo-Muslim conquerors and rule rs. Part of the ideological and political argument of the Hindu Right is the assertion that for about five centuries from the thirteenth, Indo-Muslim states were driven by a 'theology of iconoclasm' - not to mention fanaticism, lust for plunder, and uncompromising hatred of Hindu religion and places of worship. In this illuminating and nuanced essay on temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states, which Frontline offers its readers in two parts, the historian Richard M. Eaton presents important new insights and meticulously substantiated conclusions on what happened or is likely to have happened in pre-modern India. - Editor, Frontline

PART I

IN recent years, especially in the wake of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992, much public discussion has arisen over the political status of South Asian temples and mosques, and in particular the issue of temples desecrated or replaced by mosqu es in the pre-British period. While Hindu nationalists like Sita Ram Goel have endeavoured to document a pattern of wholesale temple destruction by Muslims in this period,1 few professional historians have engaged the issue, even though it is a properly historical one.

17250621jpg

This essay aims to examine the available evidence with a view to asking,

* What temples were in fact desecrated in India's pre-modern history?

* When, and by whom?

* How, and for what purpose?

* And above all, what might any of this say about the relationship between religion and politics in pre-modern India? This is a timely topic, since many in India today are looking to the past to justify or condemn public policy with respect to religious monuments.

FRAMING THE ISSUE

Much of the contemporary evidence on temple desecration cited by Hindu nationalists is found in Persian materials translated and published during the British occupation of India. Especially influential has been the eight-volume History of India as Tol d by its Own Historians, first published in 1849 and edited by Sir Henry M. Elliot, who oversaw the bulk of the translations, with the help of John Dowson. But Elliot, keen to contrast what he understood as the justice and efficiency of British rule with the cruelty and despotism of the Muslim rulers who had preceded that rule, was anything but sympathetic to the "Muhammadan" period of Indian history. As he wrote in the book's original preface:

17250622jpg

The common people must have been plunged into the lowest depths of wretchedness and despondency. The few glimpses we have, even among the short Extracts in this single volume, of Hindus slain for disputing with Muhammadans, of general prohibitions agains t processions, worship, and ablutions, and of other intolerant measures, of idols mutilated, of temples razed, of forcible conversions and marriages, of proscriptions and confiscations, of murders and massacres, and of the sensuality and drunkenness of t he tyrants who enjoined them, show us that this picture is not overcharged....2

With the advent of British power, on the other hand, "a more stirring and eventful era of India's History commences ... when the full light of European truth and discernment begins to shed its beams upon the obscurity of the past."3 Noting the far greater benefits that Englishmen had brought to Indians in a mere half century than Muslims had brought in five centuries, Elliot expressed the hope that his published translations "will make our native subjects more sensible of the immense advantag es accruing to them under the mildness and the equity of our rule."4

Elliot's motives for delegitimising the Indo-Muslim rulers who had preceded English rule are thus quite clear. Writing in 1931 on the pernicious influence that the colonial understanding of pre-modern Indian history had on subsequent generations, Mohamma d Habib remarked: "The peaceful Indian Mussalman, descended beyond doubt from Hindu ancestors, was dressed up in the garb of a foreign barbarian, as a breaker of temples, and an eater of beef, and declared to be a military colonist in the land where he h ad lived for about thirty or forty centuries.... The result of it is seen in the communalistic atmosphere of India today."5

17250623jpg

Although penned many years ago, these words are relevant in the context of current controversies over the history of temple desecration in India. For it has been through selective translations of pre-modern Persian chronicles, together with a selective u se of epigraphic data, that Hindu nationalists have sought to find the sort of irrefutable evidence that would demonstrate a persistent pattern of villainy and fanaticism on the part of pre-modern Indo-Muslim conquerors and rulers. One of Goel's chapters is even entitled "From the Horse's Mouth." In reality, however, every scrap of evidence in this controversial matter requires careful scrutiny.

TEMPLE DESECRATION BEFORE INDO-MUSLIM STATES

It is well known that, during the two centuries before 1192, which was when an indigenous Indo-Muslim state and community first appeared in north India, Persianised Turks systematically raided and looted major urban centres of South Asia, sacking temples and hauling immense loads of movable property to power bases in eastern Afghanistan. The pattern commenced in 986, when the Ghaznavid Sultan Sabuktigin (reign 977-997) attacked and defeated the Hindu Shahi raja who controlled the region between Kabul an d northwest Punjab. According to Abu Nasr `Utbi, the personal secretary to the sultan's son, Sabuktigin "marched out towards Lamghan (located to the immediate east of Kabul), which is a city celebrated for its great strength and abounding in wealth. He c onquered it and set fire to the places in its vicinity which were inhabited by infidels, and demolishing the idol-temples, he established Islam in them".6

17250624jpg 17250625jpg

Linking religious conversion with conquest - with conquest serving to facilitate conversion, and conversion serving to legitimise conquest - `Utbi's brief notice established a rhetorical trope that many subsequent Indo-Muslim chroniclers would repeat.

Notwithstanding such rhetoric, however, invasions of India by Sabuktigin and his more famous son Mahmud of Ghazni (r. 998-1030) appear to have been undertaken for material reasons. Based in Afghanistan and never seeking permanent dominion in India, the e arlier Ghaznavid rulers raided and looted Indian cities, including their richly endowed temples loaded with movable wealth, with a view to financing their larger political objectives far to the west, in Khurasan.7 The predatory nature of these raids was also structurally integral to the Ghaznavid political economy: their army was a permanent, professional one built around an elite corps of mounted archers who, as slaves, were purchased, equipped, and paid with cash derived from regular infusi ons of war booty taken alike from Hindu cities in India and Muslim cities in Iran. For example, Mahmud's plunder of the Iranian city of Ray, in 1029, brought him 500,000 dinars' worth of jewels, 260,000 dinars in coined money, and over 30,000 dinars' wor th of gold and silver vessels. India, however, possessed far more wealth than the more sparsely populated Iranian plateau. Mahmud's 1026 raid on Somnath alone brought in twenty million dinars' worth of spoil.8

The dynamics of north Indian politics changed dramatically, however, when the Ghurids, a dynasty of Tajik (eastern Iranian) origins, arrived from central Afghanistan toward the end of the twelfth century. Sweeping aside the Ghaznavids, Ghurid conquerors and their Turkish slave generals ushered in a new sort of state quite unlike that of the foreign-based Ghaznavids (see Figure 1). Aspiring to imperial dominion over the whole of north India from a base in the middle of the Indo-Gangetic plain, the new De lhi Sultanate (1206-1526) signalled the first attempt to build an indigenous Muslim state and society in north India. With respect to religious policy, we can identify two principal components to this project: (a) state patronage of an India-based Sufi o rder, the Chishtis, and (b) a policy of selective temple desecration that aimed not, as earlier, to finance distant military operations on the Iranian Plateau, but to delegitimise and extirpate defeated Indian ruling houses.

The first of these policies was based on a conception of religion and politics well summarised by the Deccani court-poet `Abd al-Malik `Isami. Writing in 1350, `Isami observed that

17250626jpg

the existence of the world is bound up closely with that of the men of faith. In every country, there is a man of piety who keeps it going and well. Although there might be a monarch in every country, yet it is actually under the protection of a fakir (S ufi shaikh).9

Sufis, in other words, were understood as the "real" sovereigns of Indo-Muslim states. Among all South Asian Sufi orders, moreover, the Chishtis were the most closely identified with the political fortunes of Indo-Muslim states, and especially with the p lanting of such states in parts of South Asia never previously touched by Islamic rule. The pattern began in the first half of the fourteenth century, when that order's rise to prominence among Delhi's urban populace coincided with the political expansio n of the imperial Tughluqs.10 By effectively injecting a legitimising "substance" into a new body politic at the moment of its birth, the patronage of Chishti shaikhs by governors in Tughluq provinces, or by independent rulers succeeding to po wer in those provinces, contributed positively to the process of Indo-Muslim state-building.

Equally important to this process was its negative counterpart: the sweeping away of all prior political authority in newly conquered and annexed territories. When such authority was vested in a ruler whose own legitimacy was associated with a royal temp le - typically one that housed an image of a ruling dynasty's state-deity, or rastra-devata (usually Vishnu or Siva) - that temple was normally looted, redefined, or destroyed, any of which would have had the effect of detaching a defeated raja fr om the most prominent manifestation of his former legitimacy. Temples that were not so identified, or temples formerly so identified but abandoned by their royal patrons and thereby rendered politically irrelevant, were normally left unharmed. Such was t he case, for example, with the famous temples at Khajuraho south of the Middle Gangetic Plain, which appear to have been abandoned by their Candella royal patrons before Turkish armies reached the area in the early thirteenth century.

17250627jpg

It would be wrong to explain this phenomenon by appealing to an essentialised "theology of iconoclasm" felt to be intrinsic to the Islamic religion. It is true that contemporary Persian sources routinely condemned idolatry (but-parasti) on religio us grounds. But it is also true that attacks on images patronised by enemy kings had been, from about the sixth century A.D. on, thoroughly integrated into Indian political behaviour. With their lushly sculpted imagery vividly displaying the mutual inter dependence of kings and gods and the commingling of divine and human kingship, royal temple complexes of the early medieval period were thoroughly and pre-eminently political institutions. It was here that, after the sixth century, human kingship was est ablished, contested, and revitalised. Above all, the central icon housed in a royal temple's "womb-chamber," and inhabited by the state-deity of the temple's royal patron, expressed the shared sovereignty of king and deity (see Figures 2 and 3).

Moreover, notwithstanding that temple priests endowed a royal temple's deity with attributes of transcendent and universal power, that same deity was also understood as having a very special relationship, indeed a sovereign relationship, with the particu lar geographical site in which its temple complex was located. As revealed in temple narratives, even the physical removal of an image from its original site could not break the link between deity and geography.11 "A divine power," writes Davi d Shulman, "is felt to be present naturally on the spot."12 The bonding between king, god, temple, and land in early medieval India is well illustrated in a passage from the Brhatsamhita, a sixth century text: "If a Siva linga, i mage, or temple breaks apart, moves, sweats, cries, speaks, or otherwise acts with no apparent cause, this warns of the destruction of the king and his territory."13 In short, from about the sixth century on, images and temples associated with dynastic authority were considered politically vulnerable.

17250628jpg

Given these perceived connections between temples, images, and their royal patrons, it is hardly surprising that, as Richard H. Davis has recently shown,14 early medieval Indian history abounds in instances of temple desecration that occurred amidst inter-dynastic conflicts. In 642 A.D., according to local tradition, the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I looted the image of Ganesha from the Chalukyan capital of Vatapi. Fifty years later armies of those same Chalukyas invaded north India and brou ght back to the Deccan what appear to be images of Ganga and Yamuna, looted from defeated powers there. In the eighth century Bengali troops sought revenge on king Lalitaditya by destroying what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state-d eity of Lalitaditya's kingdom in Kashmir.

In the early ninth century, the Rashtrakuta king Govinda III invaded and occupied Kanchipuram, which so intimidated the king of Sri Lanka that he sent Govinda several (probably Buddhist) images that had represented the Sinhala state, and which the Rashtr akuta king then installed in a Saiva temple in his capital. About the same time, the Pandyan king Srimara Srivallabha also invaded Sri Lanka and took back to his capital a golden Buddha image that had been installed in the kingdom's Jewel Palace. In the early tenth century, the Pratihara king Herambapala seized a solid gold image of Vishnu Vaikuntha when he defeated the Sahi king of Kangra. By the mid-tenth century, the same image was seized from the Pratiharas by the Candella king Yasovarman and instal led in the Lakshmana temple of Khajuraho.

In the early eleventh century, the Chola king Rajendra I furnished his capital with images he had seized from several prominent neighbouring kings: Durga and Ganesha images from the Chalukyas; Bhairava, Bhairavi, and Kali images from the Kalingas of Oris sa; a Nandi image from the Eastern Chalukyas; and a bronze Siva image from the Palas of Bengal (see Figure 4). In the mid-eleventh century, the Chola king Rajadhiraja defeated the Chalukyas and plundered Kalyani, taking a large black stone door guardian to his capital in Thanjavur, where it was displayed to his subjects as a trophy of war (see Figure 5). In the late eleventh century, the Kashmiri king Harsha even raised the plundering of temples to an institutionalised activity; and in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, while Turkish rulers were establishing themselves in north India, kings of the Paramara dynasty attacked and plundered Jain temples in Gujarat.15

17250629jpg

This pattern continued after the Turkish conquest of India. In the 1460s, Kapilendra, the founder of the Suryavamshi Gajapati dynasty in Orissa, sacked both Saiva and Vaishnava temples in the Cauvery delta in the course of wars of conquest in the Tamil c ountry.16 Somewhat later, in 1514, Krishnadevaraya looted an image of Balakrishna from Udayagiri, which he had defeated and annexed to his growing Vijayanagara state. Six years later he acquired control over Pandharpur, where he seems to have looted the Vittala image and carried it back to Vijayanagara, with the apparent purpose of ritually incorporating this area into his kingdom.17

Although the dominant pattern here was one of looting royal temples and carrying off images of state-deities, we also hear of Hindu kings engaging in the destruction of the royal temples of their political adversaries. In the early tenth century, the Ras htrakuta monarch Indra III not only destroyed the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpa near the Yamuna River), patronised by the Rashtrakutas' deadly enemies, the Pratiharas, but also took special delight in recording the fact.18

1725062ajpg

IMPERIALISM OF THE DELHI SULTANATE, 1192-1394

In short, it is clear that temples had been the natural sites for the contestation of kingly authority well before the coming of Muslim Turks to India. Not surprisingly, Turkish invaders, when attempting to plant their own rule in early medieval India, f ollowed and continued established patterns. The table and the corresponding maps in this essay by no means give the complete picture of temple desecration after the establishment of Turkish power in Upper India. Undoubtedly some temples were desecrated b ut the facts in the matter were never recorded, or the facts were recorded but the records themselves no longer survive. Conversely, later Indo-Muslim chroniclers, seeking to glorify the religious zeal of earlier Muslim rulers, sometimes attributed acts of temple desecration to such rulers even when no contemporary evidence supports the claims. As a result, we shall never know the precise number of temples desecrated in Indian history.

Nonetheless, by relying strictly on evidence found in contemporary or near-contemporary epigraphic and literary sources spanning a period of more than five centuries (1192-1729), one may identify eighty instances of temple desecration whose historicity a ppears reasonably certain. Although this figure falls well short of the 60,000 claimed by some Hindu nationalists,19 a review of these data suggests several broad patterns.

First, acts of temple desecration were nearly invariably carried out by military officers or ruling authorities; that is, such acts that we know about were undertaken by the state. Second, the chronology and geography of the data indicate that acts of te mple desecration typically occurred on the cutting edge of a moving military frontier. From Ajmer in Rajasthan, the former capital of the defeated Cahamana Rajputs - also, significantly, the wellspring of Chishti piety - the post-1192 pattern of temple d esecration moved swiftly down the Gangetic Plain as Turkish military forces sought to extirpate local ruling houses in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century (see Table and Map 1: nos. 1-9). In Bihar, this included the targeting of Buddhist monast ic establishments at Odantapuri, Vikramasila, and Nalanda. Detached from a Buddhist laity, these establishments had by this time become dependent on the patronage of local royal authorities, with whom they were identified. In the 1230s, Iltutmish carried the Delhi Sultanate's authority into Malwa (nos. 10-11), and by the onset of the fourteenth century the Khalji sultans had opened up a corridor through eastern Rajasthan into Gujarat (nos. 12-14, 16-17).

Delhi's initial raids on peninsular India, on which Khalji rulers embarked between 1295 and the early decades of the fourteenth century (nos. 15, 18-19), appear to have been driven not by a goal of annexation but by the Sultanate's need for wealth with w hich to defend north India from Mongol attacks. In 1247, Balban, the future sultan of Delhi, had recommended raiding Indian states for precisely this purpose.20 For a short time, then, peninsular India stood in the same relation to the North - namely, as a source of plunder for financing distant military operations - as north India had stood in relation to Afghanistan three centuries earlier, in the days of Sabuktigin and Mahmud of Ghazni. After 1320, however, a new north Indian dynasty, the Tughluqs, sought permanent dominion in the Deccan, which the future Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq established by uprooting royally patronised temples in western Andhra, most prominently the Svayambhusiva complex in the centre of the Kakatiyas' capital city of Warangal (nos. 20-22. See Figure 7). Somewhat later Sultan Firuz Tughluq did the same in Orissa (no. 23).

THE GROWTH OF REGIONAL SULTANATES, 1394-1600

From the late fourteenth century, after the tide of Tughluq imperialism had receded from Gujarat and the Deccan, newly emerging successor states sought to expand their own political frontiers in those areas. This, too, is reflected in instances of temple desecration, as the ex-Tughluq governor of Gujarat and his successors consolidated their authority there (see Map 2: nos. 25-26, 31-32, 34-35, 38-39, 42), or as the Delhi empire's successors in the South, the Bahmani sultans, challenged Vijayanagara's c laims to dominate the Raichur doab and the Tamil coast (nos. 33, 41). The pattern was repeated in Kashmir by Sultan Sikandar (nos. 27-30), and in the mid-fifteenth century when the independent sultanate of Malwa contested renewed Rajput power in eastern Rajasthan after Delhi's authority there had waned (nos. 36-37).

In the early sixteenth century, when the Lodi dynasty of Afghans sought to reassert Delhi's sovereignty over neighbouring Rajput houses, we again find instances of temple desecration (nos. 43-45). So do we in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth cent uries, when the Bahmani Kingdom's principal successor states, Bijapur and Golconda, challenged the territorial sovereignty of Orissan kings (nos. 55, 59; Maps 2 and 3), of Vijayanagara (no. 47), and of the latter's successor states - especially in the so uthern Andhra country (nos. 50-51, 53-54, 60-61; Maps 2 and 3).

Unlike the Deccan, where Indo-Muslim states had been expanding at the expense of non-Muslim states, in north India the Mughals under Babur, Humayun, and Akbar - that is, between 1526 and 1605 - grew mainly at the expense of defeated Afghans. As non-Hindu s, the latter had never shared sovereignty with deities patronised in royal temples, which probably explains the absence of firm evidence of temple desecration by any of the early Mughals, in Ayodhya or elsewhere. The notion that Babur's officer Mir Baqi destroyed a temple dedicated to Rama's birthplace at Ayodhya and then got the emperor's sanction to build a mosque on the site - the Babri Masjid - was elaborated in 1936 by S.K. Banerji. However, the author offered no evidence that there had ever been a temple at this site, much less that it had been destroyed by Mir Baqi. The mosque's inscription records only that Babur had ordered the construction of the mosque, which was built by Mir Baqi and was described as "the place of descent of celestial bein gs" (mahbit-i qudsiyan). This commonplace rhetorical flourish can hardly be construed as referring to Rama, especially since it is the mosque itself that is so described, and not the site or any earlier structure on the site.21

However, whenever Mughal armies pushed beyond the frontiers of territories formerly ruled by the Delhi sultans and sought to annex the domains of Hindu rulers, we again find instances of temple desecration. In 1661 the governor of Bengal, Mir Jumla, sack ed the temples of the neighbouring raja of Cooch Bihar, who had been harassing the northern frontiers of Mughal territory (no. 64; Map 3). The next year, with a view to annexing Assam to the imperial domain, the governor pushed far up the Brahmaputra val ley and desecrated temples of the Ahom rajas, replacing the principal one at Garhgaon with a mosque (nos. 65-66).

1725062bjpg

All of these instances of temple desecration occurred in the context of military conflicts when Indo-Muslim states expanded into the domains of non-Muslim rulers. Contemporary chroniclers and inscriptions left by the victors leave no doubt that field com manders, governors, or sultans viewed the desecration of royal temples as a normal means of decoupling a former Hindu king's legitimate authority from his former kingdom, and more specifically, of decoupling that former king from the image of the state-d eity that was publicly understood as protecting the king and his kingdom. This was accomplished in one of several ways. Most typically, temples considered essential to the constitution of enemy authority were destroyed. Occasionally, temples were convert ed into mosques, which more visibly conflated the disestablishment of former sovereignty with the establishment of a new one.

The form of desecration that showed the greatest continuity with pre-Turkish practice was the seizure of the image of a defeated king's state-deity and its abduction to the victor's capital as a trophy of war. In February 1299, for example, Ulugh Khan sa cked Gujarat's famous temple of Somnath and sent its largest image to Sultan `Ala al-Din Khalji's court in Delhi (no. 16; Map 1). When Firuz Tughluq invaded Orissa in 1359 and learned that the region's most important temple was that of Jagannath located inside the raja's fortress in Puri, he carried off the stone image of the god and installed it in Delhi "in an ignominious position" (no. 23). In 1518, when the court in Delhi came to suspect the loyalty of a tributary Rajput chieftain in Gwalior, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi marched to the famous fortress, stormed it, and seized a brass image of Nandi evidently situated adjacent to the chieftain's Siva temple. The sultan brought it back to Delhi and installed it in the city's Baghdad Gate (no. 46; Map 2).

Similarly, in 1579, when Golconda's army led by Murahari Rao was campaigning south of the Krishna River, Rao annexed the entire region to Qutb Shahi domains and sacked the popular Ahobilam temple, whose ruby-studded image he brought back to Golconda and presented to his sultan as a war trophy (no. 51). Although the Ahobilam temple had only local appeal, it had close associations with prior sovereign authority since it had been patronised and even visited by the powerful and most famous king of Vijayanag ara, Krishnadevaraya. The temple's political significance, and hence the necessity of desecrating it, would have been well understood by Murahari Rao, himself a Marathi Brahmin.22

In each of these instances, the deity's image, taken as war trophy to the capital city of the victorious sultan, became radically detached from its former context and in the process was transformed from a living to a dead image. However, sacked images we re not invariably abducted to the victor's capital. In 1556, the Gajapati raja of Orissa had entered into a pact with the Mughal emperor Akbar, the distant adversary of the sultan of Bengal, Sulaiman Karrani. The raja had also given refuge to Sulaiman's more proximate adversary, Ibrahim Sur, and offered to assist the latter in his ambitions to conquer Bengal and overthrow the Karrani dynasty. As Sulaiman could hardly have tolerated such threats to his stability, he sent an army into Orissa which went st raight to the Gajapati kingdom's state temple of Jagannath and looted its images. But here the goal was not annexation but only punishment, which might explain why the Gajapati state images were not carried back to the Bengali capital as trophies of war. 23

Whatever form they took, acts of temple desecration were never directed at the people, but at the enemy king and the image that incarnated and displayed his state-deity. A contemporary account of a 1661 Mughal campaign in Cooch Bihar, which resulted in t he annexation of the region, states that the chief judge of Mughal Bengal was ordered to confiscate the treasure of the defeated raja, Bhim Narayan, and to destroy the image of the state-deity. But the judge himself issued orders against harming the gene ral population, warning that if any soldiers were caught touching the property of the common people, their hands, ears, or noses would be removed.24 In short, in newly annexed areas formerly ruled by non-Muslims, as in the case of Cooch Bihar, Mughal officers took appropriate measures to secure the support of the common people, who after all created the material wealth upon which the entire imperial edifice rested.

If the idea of conquest became manifest in the desecration of temples and images associated with former enemies - itself an established tradition in pre-Turkish Indian practice - what happened once the land and the subjects of those same enemies were int egrated into an Indo-Muslim state? This question, together with the pattern of temple desecration under the imperial Mughals, will be taken up in the second of this two-part essay.

Richard M. Eaton teaches South Asian history at the University of Arizona, U.S., and is the author of several books on pre-modern India, including The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997) and Essays on Islam and Indian History (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000).

See Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, vol. 1: A Preliminary Survey (New Delhi: Voice of India, 1990); vol. 2, The Islamic Evidence (New Delhi: Voice of India, 1991). H.M. Elliot and John Dowson, trans. and eds., The History of India as Told by its Own Historians, 8 vols. (Allahabad: Kitab Mahal, n.d.), 1:xxi. Ibid., 1:xvi. Ibid., 1:xxii, xxvii. K.A. Nizami, ed., Politics and Society during the Early Medieval Period: Collected Works of Professor Mohammad Habib (New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1974), 1:12. `Utbi, Tarikh-i Yamini, in Elliot and Dowson, History of India, 2:22. C.E. Bosworth, The Later Ghaznavids, Splendour and Decay: The Dynasty in Afghanistan and Northern India, 1040-1186 (1977; repr. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1992), 32, 68. C.E. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran, 994-1040 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1963), 78. `Abd al-Malik `Isami, Futuhus-salatin by Isami, ed. A.S. Usha (Madras: University of Madras, 1948), 455; Agha Mahdi Husain, ed. and trans., Futuhu's-salatin, or Shah Namah-i Hind of `Isami (London: Asia Publishing House, 1967), 3:687. See Simon Digby, "The Sufi Shaikh as a Source of Authority in Mediaeval India," in Marc Gaborieau, ed., Islam and Society in South Asia, in Purusartha 9 (Paris: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1986), 69-70. Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), 122, 137-38. David D. Shulman, Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1980), 48. Emphasis mine. Cited in Davis, Lives, 53. Davis, Lives, 51-83, passim. See Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, and Bipan Chandra, Communalism and the Writing of Indian History (Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1969), 14, 31. See Phillip B. Wagoner, Tidings of the King: A Translation and Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Rayavacakamu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), 146. Davis, Lives, 65, 67. Michael Willis, "Religion and Royal Patronage in north India," in Vishakha N. Desai and Darielle Mason, eds., Gods, Guardians, and Lovers: Temple Sculptures from North India, AD 700-1200 (New York: Asia Society Gal leries, 1993), 59. Entry for the date 1688 in "Hindu Timeline," Hinduism Today (December, 1994), cited in Cynthia Talbot, "Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self: Hindu-Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India," Comparative Studies in Society and History 37, no.4 (Oct., 1995), 692. See Minhaj Siraj Juzjani, Tabakat-i-Nasiri, trans. H.G. Raverty (1881; repr. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corp., 1970), 2:816. See S.K. Banerji, "Babur and the Hindus," Journal of the United Provinces Historical Society 9 (1936), 76-83. Muhammad Qasim Firishta, Tarikh-i Firishta, trans. John Briggs, The Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India (1829; repr. 4 vols., Calcutta: Editions Indian, 1966), 3:267. Khwajah Ni`mat Allah, Tarikh-i Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani, ed. S.M. Imam al-Din (Dacca: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 1960), 1:413-15; Abu'l-fazl, Akbar-nama, trans. Henry Beveridge (repr. New Delhi: Ess Ess Publications, 1979), 2:381-2, 480. S. Moinul Haq, trans., Khafi Khan's History of `Alamgir (Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 1975), 142-43. SOURCES Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica Epigraphia Indica, Arabic & Persian Supplement Annual Report of Indian Epigraphy Indian Antiquary Jahangir, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, tr. A. Rogers, (Delhi, 1968), v. 1 Firishta, Tarikh-i Firishta tr. J. Briggs, History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India (Calcutta,1971), 4 vols. Kanbo, `Amal-i Salih (text: Lahore, 1967), v. 2 A. Butterworth and V.V. Chetty. A Collection of the Inscriptions on Copper-Plates & Stones in the Nellore District (Madras, 1905), v. 3 Khafi Khan, Khafi Khan's History of `Alamgir, tr. S.M. Haq (Karachi, 1975) A. Cunningham, Four Reports Made during 1862-65 (Varanasi, 1972) S.N. Sinha, Subah of Allahabad under the Great Mughals (New Delhi, 1974) Saqi Must`ad Khan, Maasir-i `Alamgiri, tr. J. Sarkar (Calcutta, 1947) Saqi Must`ad Khan, Maasir-i `Alamgiri (text: Calcutta, 1871) Nizamuddin Ahmad, Tabaqat-i Akbari, tr. B. De (Calcutta, 1973), 3 vols. Ishwardas Nagar, Futuhat-i `Alamgiri, tr. T. Ahmad (Delhi, 1978) Surendranath Sen, ed. & tr., Siva Chhatrapati (Calcutta, 1920), v.1 P. Sreenivasachar, ed., Corpus of Inscriptions in the Telingana Districts of H.E.M. the Nizam's Dominions, pt. 2 (Hyderabad, 1940) Shah Nawaz Khan, Maathir-ul-Umara, tr. H. Beveridge (Patna, 1979), v. 1 Z.A. Desai, Published Muslim Inscriptions of Rajasthan (Jaipur, 1971) G. Roerich, tr., Biography of Dharmaswamin (Patna, 1959) Minhaj-i Siraj, Tabakat-i Nasiri, tr. H. Raverty (New Delhi, 1970), v. 1 Chattopadhyaya, D., ed., Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India (Calcutta,1980) Hasan Nizami, Taj al-ma`athir, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 2 Amir Khusrau, Miftah al-futuh, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Amir Khusrau, Khaza'in al-futuh, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Shams-i Siraj, Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Zia al-Din Barani, Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Khwajah Ni`mat Allah, Tarikh-i Khan-Jahani wa makhzan-i-Afghani (text: Dacca, 1960), v. 1 Sikandar bin Muhammad, Mirat-i Sikandari, in E.C. Bayley, Local Muhammadan Dynasties: Gujarat, ed. N Singh (repr. New Delhi, 1970) Azad al-Husaini, Nau-Bahar-i Murshid Quli Khani, tr., Jadu Nath Sarkar, Bengal Nawabs (1952, repr. Calcutta, 1985) Abd al-Hamid Lahori, Badshah-nama, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 7 South Indian Inscriptions (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India) George Michell, "City as Cosmogram," South Asian Studies 8 (1992) Jonaraja, Rajatarangini, ed. S.L. Sadhu, trans. J.C. Dutt (repr. New Delhi, 1993) Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui, tr., Waqi`at-e-Mushtaqui of Shaikh Rizq Ullah Mushtaqui (New Delhi, 1993) Jagadish Narayan Sarkar, Life of Mir Jumla (Calcutta, 1952)

Questions about the Aryan identity

other
SUKUMAR MURALIDHARAN

The Vedic People, Their History and Geography by Rajesh Kochhar; Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2000; pages xiv + 259, Rs.425.

17250731jpg

"HISTORY cannot be written without implicating the historian," says Rajesh Kochhar as he begins his journey into the remote past. By any standards, he is an unconventional historian, an astrophysicist who has equipped himself with the tools of diverse di sciplines - ethnography, linguistics, metallurgy, paleobotany, among others - to interpret a period which to this day remains wrapped in mystery. More than the obscurity of the archaeological and scriptural records, the more formidable barriers to unders tanding have been posed by the layers of political partisanship that the study of the Vedas - as historical documents - have acquired over the years.

Interpretations of the Vedas have always been closely interwoven with competing views on the construction of the modern Indian state. Theorists of nationhood as a primordial solidarity dating back to antiquity, cite the authority of the Vedas in self-rat ionalisation. In the early days of India's struggle against colonialism, the liberal sections of the nationalist leadership were torn by a question of priorities: should nationalist consolidation precede or follow social reform? Lala Lajpat Rai, the grea t spokesman of Hindu nationalism, had a simple solution to the conundrum: "Reform is revival and revival is reform". While national consolidation through social reform was undoubtedly important, this should be based entirely on rational foundations, said Lajpat Rai. And "nothing can be national or rational which is against the spirit of the Vedas".

This variety of blind faith has inspired a whole branch of history which today purports to be the truly scientific interpretation, purged of all the political implants. In this context, Kochhar's work represents an effort to apply the widely accepted rul es of rational inquiry to both summarise the existing state of knowledge of the Vedas and propose some rather bold solutions to its many unresolved questions. He points out that the Vedas began to acquire value as historical documents, as opposed to pure ly priestly records of ritual, with the early European arrivals in India. The term "Arya", which occurs frequently in the Vedas, was first understood as an epithet that could be applied to the speakers of the Vedic and analogous languages. But later phil ologists, in the flush of their discovery of the common roots of what are today called the Indo-European languages, provided a much broader ambit for the term.

A further note of controversy was imparted by the elevation of the Aryan theory of race - tenuous at the best of times - to a hallowed principle of national revival. The German philologist Max Mueller had a crucial role in this respect. For certain eleme nts within Indian nationalism, the connotations of racial equality that the Aryan theory of race carried, seemed a promise of national redemption. The racial or ethnic basis of the Indian nation was its primeval origin in the days of Aryan glory and its scriptural underpinnings were provided by the Vedas. Since the idiom of nationalism then required every religion to have an encoded system of values, beliefs and practices, Hindu nationalism had little difficulty in casting the Vedas in that role.

Archaeological excavations beginning around 1920 turned up evidence of the Indus Valley civilisation, confronting this school of thought with a serious challenge. This left the Hindu nationalists with no recourse but to seek to assimilate the Harappan ru ins to the Vedic literary corpus. In this enterprise, the antiquity of the Vedas had to be pushed back several centuries and the Vedic river Sarasvati had to be assigned a greater priority than the Indus as a cradle of ancient civilisation.

The initial verdict from the archaeologists was devastating for the pretensions of the Vedic nationalists. As summed up by Mortimer Wheeler, "Indra", the principal deity of the Vedas, "stood accused" of destroying the Harappan civilisation. One of the ma ny attributes of Indra that attracts frequent references in the Vedas is in fact, "Purandara" or "destroyer of forts". From here, it was all too easy to build the theory of Aryan conquest over a settled Harappan civilisation, entrenching the supposed ant inomy of Aryan and Dravidian even deeper into the Indian political psyche.

The "Aryan conquest" was a welcome hypothesis for the thinkers who had consistently opposed the Hindu revivalist agenda and read the Vedas as little more than a manifesto of racial separation and social hierarchy. Always a battleground of modern ideas, a ncient India became after this an even more sharply contested political terrain. Rationality could very easily have been the principal casualty of this sharp contest of political interests. Fortunately though, historical inquiry managed to transcend this bitter conflict between contemporary political interests.

The varieties of evidence that Kochhar seeks to marshal in his task of establishing the authentic history of the Vedic people cover a wide range. When examining the literary evidence of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, he proceeds with the robust premis e that these Puranas "are a classic example of how history should not be recorded". And yet, these oral accounts which were committed to written texts far after the events they purport to describe, remain the only source for the study of ancient history, and "rejecting them outright would be like throwing the baby with the bathwater".

Kochhar has no alternative, then, but to proceed on the basis of a number of plausible surmises. All genealogies are traced in the Puranas to the primal figure of Manu. Kochhar assumes that the lines of monarchical succession delineated in these texts ar e accurate and that a generation is roughly of 18 years duration. He then tests the narrative against astronomical phenomena of the period, which can be inferred with a fair measure of accuracy. Oblique references to the state of mathematical and geometr ical knowledge are culled out from the text and correlated with known details of the evolution of Indian thinking in these disciplines. His conclusion is that the Bharata battle, as an epic contest of strength between the diverse clans and tribes of the region, must have taken place around 900 B.C. He intentionally eschews the term "Mahabharata' since the "Maha" he argues, refers only to the numerous embellishments that succeeding years have added on to the original account. This dating, in his view, is infirm when viewed in isolation. But it concurs with the dating that can be inferred from "more reliable sources such as the Vedic texts and archaeology".

IT is a verity often overlooked that modern territorial definitions have no meaning in the study of ancient history. To study the Vedas (or the first of them, the Rigveda) in isolation from the Zend Avesta, an almost equally hoary record of established r eligious practice from the Iranian region, would be in Kochhar's view, completely futile. The congruences in the vocabulary and the content are too numerous to overlook and the partly antithetical philosophies strongly suggest an element of political con testation between the adherents of the two orthodoxies. Kochhar follows up this study of the texts with a broader analysis of their linguistic contexts in the larger Indo-Iranian and Indo-European habitats.

A particularly striking feature of the book is its effort to separate the verbiage and the poetic effusions that surround the Rigvedic cult of Soma, (or Haoma in the Avesta) and identify its material basis. As a plant whose alkaloid resin is supposed to produce certain magical effects on its users, Kochhar examines several possible candidates for the category, before finally narrowing his focus to the ephedra plant which is known to grow profusely in the mountainous regions of Central Asia.

The life-sustaining rivers Sarasvati and Sarayu are similarly common to both the Vedas and the Avesta. Modern orthodoxy allows that the Vedic Sarasvati could possibly refer to the Ghaggar river system, which is a rainwater drain for the Shivaliks and lat er broadens its channels as it transits into the Cholistan desert in modern-day Pakistan. Kochhar finds this identification to be rather flimsy for several reasons. Even after allowing for all possible geological and ecological changes over the millennia , it is simply implausible, he argues, to say that the mighty Sarasvati of the Vedic narrative could be in such reduced circumstances as today's Ghaggar.

The inferences that Kochhar draws are arresting and deserve quotation at some length: "...the river names Sarayu and Sarasvati, that occur in both the Rgveda and Avesta, refer to the rivers in Afghanistan. Sarayu is the same river, Hari-rud, in both cas es, whereas the name Sarasvati applied to the Helmand in the Rgveda is transferred to its tributary, the Arghandab, in the Avesta... The significance of the occurrence of the names Sarayu and Sarasvati in both the texts needs to be fully appreciated... T he most natural explanation for the commonality of these names is that they were given to the Afghan rivers by the Rgveda composing branch of the Aryans. The Iranian branch which came to dominate the area later, decided to retain the names. When the Rgve dic people moved eastwards, they carried these names along and selectively reused them. The names that were not reused lost their geographical identity and became literary terms. This would explain the curious fact that in spite of the Rgveda's uninterru pted sanctity and the continuous Aryan presence in India, a large number of the Rgvedic names of rivers, lakes and mountains are unrecognisable."

The numerous "well-established linkages" between the Rigveda and the Avesta, Kochhar argues, firmly rule out "the Indian origin of the Aryans". Equally definitively, it is simply inconceivable that the Harappan civilisation could have been Aryan. A numbe r of arguments are advanced in support of this assertion, one among them being the absence in known Harappan sites of any well-testified remnants of the horse, a crucial animal in Vedic lore.

There are also serious mismatches between the available archaeological record and the Vedic descriptions, which fly in the face of the effort to identify the Ghaggar as the Vedic Sarasvati and ascribe to it a greater priority than the Indus in the Harapp an civilisation. "Archaeologically," Kochhar points out, "the oldest (Harappan) sites are in Baluchistan, followed by the lower Indus, lower Ghaggar and upper Ghaggar in that order." The Rigveda reverses this entire chronology, since the hymns venerating the Sarasvati are its oldest. Archaeologically in other words, there is a pointer to an eastward migration of the Vedic people, which can only be squared with the scriptural evidence if the Vedic Sarasvati is identified as the rivers of Afghanistan.

All this constitutes a very provocative reading of ancient India. Being a relative outsider to the discipline of history, Kochhar is able to advance bold hypotheses that the more conventional historian would stop short of. But the audacity of his inferen ces is underpinned by rigorous scientific reasoning. And he forswears the notion of an Aryan conquest, preferring to argue on the basis of the preponderance of evidence that the reality was one of a gradual migration eastwards, an assimilation of pre-exi sting cultures in the Indus region and of progress into the Ganga-Yamuna basin following the discovery of iron.

As a historian fully implicated in the process of inquiry, Kochhar brings to bear a unique combination of skills. His work is a synthesis of specialised writings in a range of disciplines, leavened by bold leaps of conjecture and imagination. The non-spe cialist would be amply rewarded for the effort put into comprehending Kochhar's multifarious arguments. For the specialist, they constitute a challenge to innovate and work with new techniques of inquiry, to lay bare the social realities of the distant p ast.

A political novel and a morality tale

other
SUSAN RAM

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; Bloomsbury, London, 2000; pages 521, &pound16.99 (price in India Rs.764) (hardback).

17250781jpg

IN a down-at-heel cottage above a gorge on the edge of a town not far from Toronto, a woman in her eighties sits writing. Conscious of her approaching death (her heart is 'acting up'), she has broken at last with a lifetime's practice of concealment, of stashing the truth away in the manner of the papers and mementoes mouldering in her battered travel trunk. Across a span of months (her bones aching in the humid heat of summer, her step cautious in winter's frozen treachery) the woman unwinds the past, sends it twisting and spiralling in an unstoppable black flow across the pages. For whose eyes, she is not clear. But the urgency of the project is insistent: impending foreclosure flays her on, reopening old wounds, forcing her to confront life in all i ts bewilderment and pain.

This, in the sparest of terms, is the framework of The Blind Assassin, the novel which has won for the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood this year's Booker Prize. This was the fourth time Atwood, a multiple award winner elsewhere in the world, had b een short-listed for the prize; her previous near-winners were The Handmaid's Tale (1986), Cat's Eye (1989), and Alias Grace (1996). In her latest book (the fifteenth novel in a body of work which includes poetry, children's fiction and several volumes of literary criticism), Atwood explores again a theme central to her fictional universe: what happens - to relationships, to human potential, to the possibility of happiness - when women are kept subordinate, stultified by their infer ior status and locked in silence.

Iris Chase, the woman who unravels her past across the pages of The Blind Assassin, is at first sight an improbable victim of history. The granddaughter of an entrepreneur who built an empire out of the manufacture of buttons and cheap clothing fo r the masses, she has lived for the most part cocooned from economic hardship. In her narrative, she conjures up the whimsical splendours of Avilion, the evocatively titled domain her grandparents built in celebration of their new wealth and status and t he place where she spent her childhood. Reliving her marriage to a young tycoon with political ambitions, she takes us into the sumptuous between-the-Wars world of the highly moneyed: the fur-draped fashions, the dinner parties, the Atlantic crossings on luxury liners. Such landscapes, replete with nostalgia, have in our own times yielded rich pickings to advertisers and commercial film-makers aware of the power of the past. In Atwood's case, however, evoking a class experience characterised by profliga cy and privilege is done not to beguile us or set the book on course for film rights. Rather, it establishes a polarity: that between material advantage and emotional poverty, between the possibilities opened up by access to plenty and the reality of fut ile, empty lives. In a real sense this is a political novel; it is also a morality tale.

To tell the story Atwood applies a structure which at first seems complex and disjointed. In the book's opening pages, information is thrown at the reader from a variety of sources: from a narrative we do not yet understand to be Iris'; from newspaper c lippings; and from a book, The Blind Assassin, written by Laura Chase, Iris' sister. The last carries immediate poignancy, for we already know Laura to be dead, her car having plunged from a bridge; there is speculation that it was suicide.

This choice of structure allows Atwood to introduce, from the start, a sense of the contended nature of experience: there is a world of difference between the clipped prose of the pro-establishment local paper and the dead Laura's unfolding of emotion (h er novel is a high-intensity story of unmarried love which generated shock waves following its publication in the late 1940s). The structure also builds in elasticity, enabling the writer not only to throw the past against the present but also to change pace, to intensify and then release in a way that tightens her hold on our sensibilities, propelling us deeper into the mystery.

There is a further dimension to this structure: through it we, the readers, find ourselves repeatedly revising the assumptions we formed at the novel's beginning. In the manner of a landscape viewed from a moving vantage point, the story shifts, rearrang es itself, discloses elements once hidden from view. To specify the changes would be to give away too much of the plot, reducing the novel's capacity to surprise and challenge. What Atwood is attempting, one senses, is not a bid for authorial cleverness designed to leave the reader stunned and bemused, but rather a journey towards the truth which invites her reader to question, reformulate and reinterpret. Despite its old technology form, this is an interactive novel.

For the reader who accepts the invitation, this is a journey into pain. Atwood wields her pen like the most deadly and delicate of knives, cutting through to the raw edge of emotion, exposing our areas of greatest vulnerability: our relationships with pa rents, with siblings, with lovers. Part of the stiletto sharpness of her writing derives from a use of language that is precise and alive to the sheer potency of words. The newly married Iris, locked into what is essentially a business alliance without e ven the semblance of love, finds her wedding trousseau replete with connotations:

That's my trousseau, I thought. All at once it was a threatening word - so foreign, so final. It sounded like trussed - what was done to raw turkeys with skewers and pieces of string. Toothbrush, I thought. I will need that. My body sat there, inert. Tro usseau comes from the French word for trunk. Trousseau. That's all it meant: things you put into a trunk. So there was no use in getting upset about it, because it just meant baggage. It meant all the things I was taking with me, packed away. (page 238)

Atwood's use of analogy, too, can bring the reader up short. When Iris' father, lamed and broken, returns home in his uniform from the First World War, his medals "are like holes shot in the cloth, through which the dull gleam of his real, metal body can be seen". On board ship at the start of her honeymoon, Iris watches professional dancers perform a passionless tango accompanied by music that is "jagged, hobbled - like a four-legged animal lurching on three legs. A crippled bull with its head down, lu nging".

As in earlier novels (for example, Alias Grace, a journey into the mind of Grace Marks, a nineteenth century murderess of particular notoriety), Atwood opens up a human life in such a way as to evoke a portrait of an age, one that teems with detai l and vitality. The emotional play of her central characters takes place in the context of, and is mirrored by, larger catastrophes: war, depression, Red-baiting, Fascist ascendancy. Historical events are presented not as background but as intrinsic elem ents that, as much as individual human character and weakness, warp lives and forestall possibilities. Running through this novel in a subtle, understated way is the dog-eat-dog reality of capitalism: the vicious combat between old money and economic ups tart, the calculated cruelty of lay-off and dole, the futility of seeking to endow business practice with fellow feeling and other human impulses.

This is also a book rich in a tongue-in-cheek humour that at several points had me laughing out loud. In a narrative that has a strong aural quality to it, a pervasive sense of voice play, Atwood makes artful use of the character of Reenie, the housekeep er at the ancestral home to whom Iris and Laura, having lost their own mother, turn for maternal attention. A working class woman with a no-nonsense outlook on life, Reenie offers, through her repertoire of proverbs, sayings and catch-phrases, a running commentary on events that both entertains and unsettles. But the primary source of humour is Iris herself: curmudgeonly and difficult in old age, she is possessed of a capacity for wry observation, an ability to lay bare the incongruities of life, the hu mour jostling the sadness.

Rich in texture, replete with themes, remorseless in its tapping into painful areas of our experience, The Blind Assassin is beyond quick characterisation or easy appraisal. To read it is to embark on a journey in which you, the reader, cannot esc ape confronting elements of your own past. Atwood's achievement, beyond the plaudits of the Booker panel and the praise of critics, resides in her capacity to summon us from the distractions of the present and make us look afresh at life - at our particu lar entanglement with the muddle of it all, the pain and the delight.

A panspermic view of life

science-and-technology
Interview with N. Chandra Wickramasinghe.

Two recent experiments in the United States have once again drawn the attention of scientists to the theory of panspermia. (Panspermia, which literally means seeds everywhere, underlies the hypothesis that the (biological) stuff of life did not have its origins in terrestrial resources but in inter-stellar space. The theory maintains that life on the earth was seeded from space and that life's evolution to higher forms depends on complex genes (including those of viruses and diseases) that the earth rec eives from space from time to time.)

17250801jpg

In one experiment reported in October, environmental biologists Russell H. Vreeland and William D. Rosenzweig claimed that they discovered the longest surviving (250 million years) bacterial spores locked inside a salt crystal formation in Mexico that co uld be revived. This was considered as evidence that life - even one-celled micro-organisms - could survive in suspended animation for eons and float on comets to far away planets.

In another experiment reported on October 27, a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology, Vanderbilt and McGill Universities discovered that small pieces of space rock could be transferred from Mars to earth without its interior get ting excessively heated up, thus enabling living organisms to ride in them.

The renewed interest in panspermia also comes in the wake of space-based discoveries that include recent findings of some simple amino acids and sugars in inter-stellar space; the announcement by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in August 1996 of evidence of fossilised ancient life in a meteorite from Mars; evidence in the same year by geneticists that many genes are much older than what the fossil record would indicate; the discovery by a Russian microbiologist in 1998 of a mic ro-fossil in a meteorite was a previously unknown bacterium; and the announcement by NASA in April this year of the detection of very large organic molecules in space in its Stardust Mission launched in February and that the non-biological origins of suc h large molecules are not known.

The earliest proponent of the panspermia concept is believed to be the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, Socrates' teacher. However, for the next 2,000 years or so, Aristotle's view that life was generated spontaneously on the earth became the preferred para digm of the sciences. In 1864, on the basis of his experiments, Louis Pasteur revived the idea of extra-terrestrial origins of life. This found support from British physicist Lord Kelvin and German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz in the 1870s. And in the early 1900s, the Swedish chemist and Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius postulated that bacterial spores propelled through space by light were the seeds of life on the earth. This panspermic view of life in the universe was revived in the context of moder n astrophysics and cosmology by British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle and his Sri Lankan student, and long-standing collaborator, N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, in the 1970s.

Clearly, this view is totally opposed to the neo-Darwinian concept of terrestrial evolution, the Oparin-Haldane concept (advanced in the 1920s) of spontaneous generation of life on the earth from the primordial chemical soup and the supporting laboratory experiments of Stanley Miller and Harold C. Urey in 1953 that amino acids can indeed be chemically made from ammonia and methane. Though the evidence or even a convincing theoretical argument for the spontaneous generation of life forms from amino acids is still lacking, the Oparin-Haldane paradigm, together with the Darwinian principles of random mutations in the genes and environmental selection of the genomes for survival, still prevails despite arguments of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe to the contrary.

17250802jpg

The key argument of the duo is that, given the fact that the life of the earth is about 3.8 billion years, the time scales available are, probabilistically speaking, very small for the kind of chance mutations and selection by accumulation of mutational errors to occur and the consequent emergence of higher life forms (like humans) entirely based on terrestrial processes. They argue that the time scales in the universe as a whole, particularly unbounded time in the context of steady state cosmology as a gainst the big-bang cosmology, and the combined resources of all the comets around all the stars in all the galaxies would be more conducive for life to begin. Once started, the robustness of life, for which Hoyle and Wickramasinghe claim there is suffic ient experimental evidence, ensures its "essential immortality".

Comets and meteorites function as transporting vehicles for these across space, as space between stars is littered with cometary debris. Life forms survive and are repeatedly regenerated in the warm watery interiors of comets, the duo argue. Comets arriv ing on the earth from the 100 billion-strong Oort cometary cloud brought the first life on the earth. The evolution of the earth was directed by the continued arrival of cometary bacteria, which are probably still arriving. In the evolution into higher l ife forms, genes of viruses and viroid particles which have complex genes, would have played a crucial role, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe believe. While there may have been local transfer of microbes between some of the planets, like Mars and the earth, thes e would be minor aspects of panspermia. The main transfer, according to them, is through comets to inter-stellar and inter-planetary space, back to comets, amplification in comets, transfer from comets to all prospective habitats on planets and planetar y satellites.

Hoyle and Wickra-masinghe did not begin their investigations with the aim of disproving Darwinism. In the early 1960s, they were essentially interested in explaining the observed spectrum (in the infrared) of inter-planetary dust and understanding its na ture. This led them to postulate in 1972 the existence of a cellulose like polymer based on the molecule formaldehyde besides micrometre-sized graphite spheres in the dust. Continuing from here, they found that the absorption of starlight by the interven ing stardust could be best explained by postulating the presence of biological molecules, even living cells, some of which had become selectively degraded into graphite. Conventional models of inter-stellar dust had not been successful in explaining the data till then. Bacteria, they said, seem to be present on a galaxy-wide scale.

While they regard their investigations as conclusive, these views have not found acceptance in mainstream science. One of the reasons for the general scientific community being not in favour of panspermia is what is known as the Occam's Razor principle - that is, you do not invoke more entities than necessary in explaining physical (and biological) phenomena. They attribute the failure on the part of most of the scientists to recognise clear evidences for panspermia to the early indoctrination in Darwin ism on the one hand and the Christian beliefs in creationism on the other. Besides the general disagreement over the manner of interpretation of data, opponents to the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe view argue that panspermia only shifts the idea of spontaneous cr eation from the earth to a different realm with no answers as to how it might have happened out there. Indeed, some say that even the theory of panspermia would require "deliberate intervention" of some sort and in that respect it is no different from cr eationism.

Wickramasinghe, who is also director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology in the United Kingdom, is currently involved in experiments to detect life processes in space. Excerpts from his e-mail responses from Cardiff to Walter Jayawardhana's que stions posted from Los Angeles:

Why is there a renewed interest in the panspermia theory today among the scientific community?

(a) There are many different lines of evidence to indicate that life may not have originated in a primordial soup generated entirely on the earth. The oldest evidence of life on the earth has been pushed back to before 3,900 million years at a time when the planet was being severely pounded by comet and asteroid impacts. Life thus shows up here under conditions when it is almost impossible to survive, let alone originate. This goes a long way towards showing that life in the form of microbes may have co me to the earth along with the impacting comets.

(b) From the late 1970s onwards Sir Fred Hoyle and I, along with a handful of colleagues, have shown that there is ample astronomical evidence for the widespread cosmic occurrence of life's building blocks. These building blocks, scattered in inter-stell ar and cometary dust, are not the molecules of life, they are intact freeze-dried micro-organisms. This evidence too has expanded as the years have rolled by. Only a few months ago NASA scientists analysed the remnants of five inter-stellar dust particle s as they impacted detectors on the Stardust satellite at high speed. What they found were structures that could hardly be anything else but the shattered fragments of the cell walls of bacteria.

(c) Micro-organisms have been discovered in recent years to have amazing abilities to survive the harshest of conditions. Recently, a quarter of billion year old bacterial spore was brought back to life from an ancient salt crystal. Then, there was a rep ort in a recent issue of Science to indicate that microbes may have survived within the cool interiors of a meteorite that came from Mars... And the catalogue of supportive facts grow by the day.

The late Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma, the Sri Lankan scientist who was attached to the Ames Research Institute of NASA, had professed that life began on earth in a primordial soup. How is your theory different from his? (A Frontline interview with Dr. Pon namperuma app-eared in the issue dated March 25, 1994.)

Our theory is diametrically opposed to that point of view. We argue that life could not have started here on the earth, and there is evidence now to support this position. Life is the most highly informational, the most highly ordered system we know of i n the universe. To get life started from non-living matter involves super astronomical improbabilities. This is true, however we look at life. So... such a near-miraculous event happening on the earth is impossible. The earth is too small and too insigni ficant a venue to achieve this near-miracle.

If life did not start in a primordial soup on the earth where could it have started?

I think the origin of life must have taken place on a cosmological scale. It required all the resources of all the stars in the entire universe to get started. But once started the incredible survival properties of microbes makes it inevitable that it sp reads across the universe. The huge cloud of cosmic dust we see stretching across the Milky Way and beyond are made up of myriads of bacterial cells. It does not matter even if 99.9999999 per cent of these bacterial cells are killed. There could always b e enough survivors for the panspermia theory to be valid. The amazing replication capabilities of bacteria take care of that.

If life is not unique on the earth, what do you think about the possibilities of the existence of intelligent life in other parts of the universe?

If life on the earth came from space 4,000 million years ago, it continued to arrive even to the present day. I think that this continuing input of bacterial genes contributed immensely to the evolution of life on the earth. The emergence of intelligent creatures like ourselves has been the eventual outcome of these processes. I think the cosmic genes that led to life and eventually intelligence must rain down on every habitable planet in the cosmos. Recent astronomical studies have shown that planet fo rmation might be a commonplace occurrence. Several dozen extra-solar planets have been discovered to date, and this list is growing. Of the 100 billion sun-like stars in our galaxy it is likely now that one per cent or so may have planetary systems like ours. That makes for billions of earth-like planets in our Milky Way alone. The same assemblies of cosmic genes leading to intelligence must then have taken place on a fair fraction of these. So, I believe on this basis that the universe must be teeming with intelligent or super-intelligent life.

Until recently many scientists did not regard panspermia as a scientific hypothesis. How did it gain recognition since your guru, Fred Hoyle, started preaching it?

I have already indicated the reasons. First, there was the difficulty of starting life on the earth under conditions that seemed inappropriate. Then there was the detection of organic molecules in inter-stellar dust and comets. By the end of the 1980s it became clear that cosmic dust added properties that made them indistinguishable from freeze-dried bacteria and their degradation products. Then came the story about the Martian meteorite, and so on.

17250803jpg

If life travelled from another part of the universe to the earth, could it also have travelled from the earth to other planets?

Yes, I think that reverse panspermia is possible and must also be happening. The evolutionary heritage and history of the earth will not be destroyed entirely when our planet eventually becomes uninhabitable. Living cells are lofted to the high atmospher e and some can reach space. The Martian meteorite evidence shows certainly that within a piece of rock or meteorite, life can be transported between planets in the solar system.

How do you react to the recent claim by Russell Vreeland and his colleagues that they have discovered 250 million year old microbes and the claim of Caltech geobiologist Joseph Kirschvink and others that a Mars rock travelling to the earth did not he at up?

I think these are pieces of supportive evidence, as I have said before.

What is the significance to your panspermia theory of NASA's Stardust Mission to collect dust from Comet Wild-2 in 2004?

17250804jpg

At the time when Stardust was conceived of it was not thought sensible to look for living particles. So the collection methods were not optimised to ensure survival. However, the serendipitous discovery of tell-tale signs of life in the impacting dust gr ains has already been found. And similar confirmations may be forthcoming in the sample returns that are being planned.

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation are scheduled to launch a balloon to collect samples of comet dust from the stratosphere and seek proof of the continuing arrival of life from space. Could you please comment on the experiment and your contention that contagious diseases are introduced to earth from space?

I think the ISRO experiment could be the most decisive experiment for proving panspermia... From the previous flight (in 1999) some tantalising evidence for the unusual bacterial strain in the stratosphere has come to light. If microbes are raining down on the earth at the present time, of course it is possible that on occasion they could be pathogenic to plants, animals and humans. I think we cannot ignore this possibility, although this is still the most highly contentious part of the theory of panspe rmia.

With inputs from R. Ramachandran for the introduction.

ISRO's balloon experiment

science-and-technology
R. RAMACHANDRAN

ONE way to test the theory of panspermia is to examine a sample of cometary material under the microscope and search for cometary micro-organisms. In fact, this is one of the chief objectives of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Stardust Mission and also some other future space missions. There is already accumulated evidence to support the existence of prebiotic chemicals from remote-sensed data of the Comet Halley. The next step in settling the scientific question of panspermia involves the detection of viable micro-organisms from cometary material and inter-stellar space.

17250821jpg

The main aim of the Stardust Mission is to capture a sample of dust from the well-preserved Comet Wild-2 on January 2, 2004, and to return the material safely to the earth on January 15, 2006. The comet dust is to be captured in a tennis-racket-shaped "p article catcher" filled with aerogel, the material with lowest known density. The idea is that the aerogel would act as a soft landing cushion to slow the comet particles from an initial relative speed of 6.1 km a second to rest fairly gently, without si gnificantly altering the original chemical structures.

The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) ongoing balloon experiment aims to do essentially the same at a fraction of the cost of the Stardust Mission and may produce results well ahead of the NASA experiment.

It is known for some time now that cometary dust is present in the outer reaches of the earth's atmosphere. All that is required is to collect such dust non-destructively and without biological contamination. The ISRO experiment involves the collection o f such material by suction using a balloon-borne cryogenic pump comprising many sterilised chambers fitted with valves and cooled to liquid neon temperatures. When the valves are opened at pre-determined heights - between 15 km and 30 km - the ambient ai r, which will include cometary aerosols, is sucked in. These will be recovered on the ground and will be subjected to chemical and microbial examination under contaminant-free conditions. The flight will have two series of cryo-chambers to allow independ ent microbial analysis in India and the United Kingdom.

Sterilisation techniques that are to be used both in sample retrieval and experimental preparation are expected to achieve levels of microbial sterility that can essentially eliminate even the presence of a single contaminant micro-organism. At the same time, the use of extremely sensitive fluorescent dyes would enable the detection of single viable cells in the collected samples. The difference in the isotopic composition (of C, O and H) between terrestrial and extra-terrestrial bacterial material will be used to identify extra-terrestrial bacteria.

The key parameter that will be measured in the experiment is the microbial density profile with height. The stratosphere is expected to contain a mixture of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial organisms. However, if panspermia is a valid concept and there is a flux of such organisms from cometary material whose density increases with height, one expects the density profile to be U-shaped with a definitive minimum occurring at some altitude; that is, it will gradually drop up to a certain height and pick u p again with the increase of extra-terrestrial organisms higher up. In fact, a component of the experiment - which will include several balloon launches - is to determine this profile at different times, say, when there is a comet pass-by or there is an increase in solar wind which would increase the flux rate into the earth's atmosphere.

In April 1999, ISRO carried out a preliminary balloon flight with cryo-chambers riding piggyback on some other experimental flight. An initial analysis of the collected sample has indicated some surprises. The presence of some bacteria has been seen and analyses on that are in the process of being completed. The microbiological analysis was carried out at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. The results are expected to be published soon. Apparently, the finding involves known bacteria but its interaction with the environment seems to be somewhat different from what is known on the earth. However, this finding was to be confirmed by repeating it during the balloon experiment flight.

The institutes participating in the ISRO experiment are the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, the CCMB, and the Centre for Astrobiology, University College, Cardiff, Wales. The experiment is coordinated by Jayant V. Narlikar, Director of IUCAA, and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, director of the Cardiff Centre. The sterilisation and coordination of the microbial in vestigations are carried out by Pushpa M. Bhargava, former director of the CCMB, the other prime mover of the experiment besides Narlikar and Wickramasinghe. The experiment is expected to cost about Rs.1 crore, with the British sources contributing 15 to 20 per cent.

A questionable termination

R. RAMACHANDRAN the-nation

The abrupt removal of R.S. Paroda as Director-General, ICAR, and Secretary, DARE, bodes ill for the administration of agricultural research in the country.

ON November 16, Rajendra Singh Paroda was abruptly relieved of his dual charge of Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and Director-General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The official order simply sa id that he would be on "compulsory wait until further orders" - a euphemism for removal from office that allows one to collect the salary. A well-known plant breeder and geneticist, and a Padma Bhushan awardee (conferred by the Vajpayee government in 199 7), he has been the Director-General for six and a half years. He had occupied the post after relinquishing a senior position in the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

17250861jpg

No other senior official of the ICAR was asked to take over charge. Instead, R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was assigned the additional charge of DG, ICAR. And an Indian Administrative Servic e (IAS) officer, Bhaskar Barua, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), was given additional charge of the post of Secretary that Paroda held. Only the previous day Paroda and Barua had shared a podium and addressed a meeting at the D irectorate of Rice Research (DRR) in Hyderabad and had returned to Delhi by the same flight.

By convention, Secretary, DARE, becomes ex-officio DG, ICAR, and thus the technocrat's post of DG, ICAR, had been accorded the rank of a Secretary to the government. The present move to bifurcate the two, however, is perceived by many in scientific circl es as an ominous one.

The administration of agricultural research in the country may well be the next bastion to fall in the ongoing tussle between technocracy and bureaucracy. The first in the series was environment, then electronics and later non-conventional energy.

The bifurcation also implies that a scientist-head of the ICAR becomes a subordinate and answerable to a non-scientist bureaucrat. Recently such a move was witnessed with regard to the status of DG, National Informatics Centre (NIC), when the NIC was mer ged back with the Department of Electronics in its new avatar as the Ministry of Information Technology (MIT) which has an IAS officer as its Secretary. All this would seem to be in tune with the downgrading of status and salary structures of scientists vis-a-vis IAS officers in the course of the implementation of the reommendations of Fifth Pay Commission.

Since the consolidation of agricultural research in various centres of the country in the mid-1960s, DARE has provided for functional linkages between agricultural research under the wings of the ICAR and other government departments. This institutional framework was put in place by the efforts of Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, the first scientist to head the ICAR. The separation could once again mean a lesser role for the ICAR's research base and expertise in national policy-making in the agricultural and food sector.

Indeed, many people believe that the move to ease out Paroda may have been motivated by this consideration, given the current climate towards liberalisation in the agricultural sector, research in particular, resulting in the entry of multinationals and the increasing impact of World Trade Organisation (WTO) dictated trade policies in the agricultural sector. On many occasions the ICAR had opposed moves by the government to liberalise the import of basic food items (such as soya and wheat) and seeds (li ke potato). The original recommendation of the ICAR to give a greater role for the agricultural research community as the "competent authority" to oversee the implementation of the Plant Varieties Protection Act and the Biodiversity Act was not received well by the government, and a dilution of this aspect is evident in the final drafts of the bills. The apparent reason for Paroda's removal - alleged irregularities in computer purchases, which would hardly warrant such a drastic action - seems, therefor e, to be a facade for this larger motive to ensure that the scientific community has a lesser say in matters of policy-making.

EXPECTEDLY, there has been all round criticism of the government action by the agricultural research and academic community.

Dr. Swaminathan, widely regarded as the man responsible for establishing the ICAR system as it is today, and Dr. M. G. K. Menon, were the first to come out against Paroda's removal and the undermining of the agricultural research, education and extension system under the ICAR/DARE umbrella. Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug, who was closely associated with the Green Revolution, too voiced his concern to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and urged him to reconsider the decision to dismantle the system that has served well. In a faxed appeal to Vajpayee, commending the achievements under Paroda, Borlaug said: "The Green Revolution of 1965-75... could not have been achieved without the close co-ordination between research (ICAR) and extension and production (DARE)... It was because of the need for this close coordination that the Director-General of ICAR also functioned as Secretary of DARE. I personally believe that the system as it has been structured since 1965 up to the present has functioned well... I am fearful that to change the structure now may again weaken the linkage at the Centre between research, extension and production and, moreover, will weaken linkage between provincial agricultural research, extension, production programmes and the agric ultural universities."

A host of associations and forums of scientists and other employees too appealed to the highest political authorities to review the decision and reinstate Paroda. Among these is a resolution passed by the Association of Indian Agricultural Universities a t its annual conference in New Delhi (November 20-21) and signed by the Vice-Chancellors of 31 agricultural universities and four deemed universities.

Paroda was only recently elected Chairman of the Global Forum on Agriculture Research (GFAR). ICAR scientists feel that the leadership that India was providing to developing countries in global forums like the FAO would now stand eroded. Some of them po int out that in recent times the bureaucracy has been resentful of the standing that the ICAR had come to gain in such forums and generalist officers had begun to lead scientific delegations abroad which would normally have been led by senior ICAR scient ists.

And then there is the Indian Science Congress 2001, of which Paroda is the general president and which was to be the ICAR's show. This will be attended by many foreign scientists and, as per convention, the Prime Minister inaugurates it, in New Delhi in the first week of January. But the situation could prove embarassing for the Prime Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister for Science and Technology, and Nitish Kumar, who could be sharing the podium with Paroda.

One of the achievements during Paroda's tenure was the establishment of the plant gene bank, one of the largest in the world. It is vital for the interests of the developing world with the growing importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) issues i n agriculture and in the preservation and conservation of national biodiversity. The National Agricultural Research Information System (ARIS) was an important infrastructural system that was conceptualised and established under his charge with the object ive of increasing the productivity of the system and meeting the challenges of emerging trade regimes under the WTO dispensation. Towards implementing ARIS, Paroda was instrumental in conceptualising and initiating a major World Bank-funded National Agri cultural Technology Project (NATP), a key component of which was the computerised networking of research units and agricultuaral universities across the country. Ironically, it is a controversy surrounding this project, particularly allegations regarding computer purchases, that seems to have led to his removal.

The government, or specifically Agriculture Minister Nitish Kumar, has so far not publicly stated in clear terms the reason for the action. That the ostensible reason has to do with computer purchases is only to be inferred from planted news stories. The only official indication that this indeed is the issue, came from the Minister's remark to the media that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry has been ordered. That only makes the government's position weak because even before a detailed inq uiry is completed, let alone the framing of charges based on the findings of the inquiry, a government official of the rank of Secretary has been removed without even granting the right to present a defence.

A preliminary internal inquiry was ordered by the Minister in July but its findings have been kept under wraps. Interestingly, though a copy of the Minister's letter ordering the inquiry was marked to DG, ICAR, the report was not been shown to him. Some news reports alleged that according to the internal inquiry Paroda was not cooperating in the investigation and that he had been removed to facilitate the investigation. Evidence, however, points to the entire episode being the handiwork of a senior offi cial in the ICAR in charge of ARIS, who, for the last 10 months or so, has been bombarding the Minister and other key officials in the Ministry, the Central Vigilance Commissioner N. Vittal, and the media with allegations against Paroda and a few other I CAR scientists in the implementation of the NATP. A document purporting to be part of the internal audit report and the internal inquiry report was making the rounds. This document implicates the DG, the DDG (Engineering), the DDG (Education) and the pre sent National Director, NATP, in computer purchase irregularities. News reports based on this appeared recently.

The language of the document indicates that it is a fake. The falsehood is apparent, for the present Director of the NATP, P.L. Gautam, took charge only in April 2000 and could not have been involved in computer purchases during 1998-99. The irony is tha t the officer who has been levelling the charges himself was a key person responsible for computer purchases for the NATP and it would appear that his allegations constitute a pre-emptive tactic to cover his own misconduct and misdeeds in this case as we ll as others.

The internal inquiry and the subsequent action against Paroda was triggered by a news item in The Indian Express (May 15) which alleged that the ICAR official in question had been divested of his responsibilities in the NATP because he had raised questions about various irregularities. But according to key officials involved in the project including those of the World Bank, that official, whose services had merely been requisitioned under the supervision of Anwar Alam, DDG (Engineering), was hind ering the progress of the project. The project had clear milestone targets to be met and he had to be kept out of it for its proper implementation. The official had been disassociated from the NATP on January 10.

Some observers within the ICAR say that the government was only waiting for such an opportunity. The controversy around the NATP provided it a convenient handle to turn for its own greater political ends. Undercurrents of factionalism along caste and reg ional lines in the higher echelons of the ICAR plus the technocrat-bureacrat divide were exploited by the Ministry, ICAR scientists feel. With the recent two-year increase in a Secretary's term coming in the way of the bureaucrats' bid to grab DARE from scientists, the situation offered an opportune moment to strike, they say. Also, this allows the government to appoint someone more pliable at the helm of the ICAR, it is argued. Be that as it may, the facts of the NATP computer deal are still loaded aga inst the government's action.

The allegations against Paroda relate to the $239-million World Bank-funded project, conceptualised in 1998 and expected to run till December 2003. The alleged irregularities related to imported computer hardware worth Rs.17.79 crores. International bids were invited for the supply of 1,432 PCs and the peripherals in October 1998 as per Bank norms. In February 1999, Siemens-Nixdorf Information Systems and Vinitec Pvt. Ltd. were awarded the contracts and they were to supply the hardware by June 1999.

The allegations against Paroda centred on the claim that the companies were allowed to delay the supply for over a year. The delay, it was claimed, enabled the companies to make the supply after prices had fallen substantially. There were also allegation s that the penalty clauses meant to be invoked for the delay were changed, resulting in losses.

An internal inquiry was ordered by the Minister on July 29 with a deadline of August 31 set for its completion. Pawan Raina, the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, an IAS officer, led the inquiry. In early August, Paroda enquired if the inquiry officer required access to any more documents for the probe. Raina, it is stated, sent a note to Paroda on August 29, saying that some files were missing. Paroda's reply sent the following day, seeking clarifications, drew no response. The inquiry was completed soon afterwards, in early September.

The speed with which the inquiry was conducted has raised eyebrows. Even more surprising is the fact that the Minister seems to have acted on the basis of this apparently incomplete report, that too when no charges had been framed. Although the Minister has stated that another inquiry is being ordered, till date the case has not been referred to either the CBI or the Central Vigilance Commission.

The World Bank guidelines are clear and the entire process is carried out with the approval of Bank officials, says Ashok Seth, the Bank's Task Manager for the NATP. According to the agreement between the Bank and the ICAR, the annual accounts of the NAT P are to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India. The period pertaining to the computer purchases is under audit, according to CAG's office.

According to Seth, the purchase procedures have been transparent. The delays, he says, were caused by the abrupt insistence on benchmarking and 100 per cent post-shipment 24-hour burn-in testing of the systems by the customer - which was not part of the original contract. "In any case, there is a one-year warranty and there is a guarantee of 5 per cent of the cost against performance. In addition, 20 per cent of the amount is to be released only after acceptance certification of systems," says Seth. On October 25, Siemens-Nixdorf filed a suit against the ICAR demanding release of the amount.

The delay of nearly four months caused by 100 per cent testing could put future disbursements for the project in jeopardy, according to Seth. No disbursements will be made after January if the targets are not met. Further, the controversy has only compli cated matters, he says.

What irks the ICAR scientists and officials associated with the NATP is that when all purchase procedures have been evolved through committees involving several people and monitored at various levels, the DG alone should have been implicated. The controv ersy has adversely impacted not just the NATP's progress but normal work at ICAR, where senior scientists are wary of taking any important decision - lest they be implicated too on some charge or the other.

'Neutron bomb capability exists'

other
Interview with Dr. Anil Kakodkar.

Dr. Anil Kakodkar took charge as Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), on December 1. This former Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, succeeded Dr. R. Chidambaram to these posts. Dr. Kakodkar, 57, obtained a B.E. degree in mechanical engineering from Bombay University and an M.Sc. from Nottingham University in the U.K. In 1963-64 he underwent training in nuclear science and technology with the then Atomic Energy Establishm ent, Trombay. Associated with research and development related to nuclear reactors since 1964, he was involved in India's first Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) experiment of May 1974. He played an important role in the five nuclear tests conducted in Ma y 1998. He played a key role in the design and construction of Dhruva, the 100 MW high flux reactor at Trombay and the development of indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) system. His work in the rehabilitation of the two reactors at Kalpakkam and the first unit at Rawatbhatta, which at one stage were on the verge of being written off, are examples of his engineering capability. He has built teams of specialised engineers and scientists in the reactor engineering programm e. His dream project is to build the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) that uses thorium-uranium 233 as primary energy source with plutonium as the driver fuel. The unique reactor system, with simplified but safe technology, will generate 75 per cent o f electricity from thorium.

17250891jpg

T.S. Subramanian met Dr. Kakodkar for an interview at Trombay. Excerpts:

You have stated that India's nuclear energy programme has come of age. Could you elaborate on this?

Any research and development (R&D) programme must ultimately lead to technological benefit to the society. In our atomic energy programme, as a result of the R&D that has been done at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and other institutions, and R &D contributions from industry in manufacturing technology, we have today the PHWR programme which is in a successful commercial domain. We are able to build our own nuclear power reactors, manufacture all the essential nuclear inputs such as heavy water , zirconium alloy components and nuclear fuel. The PHWRs are operating at a high capacity factor. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited has been making considerable profits. It is a demonstration of the successful migration of technology from th e laboratory to the industry. So there is a degree of maturity in the DAE.

Obviously, if the nuclear power programme has to grow, there should be more and more PHWRs, with larger unit sizes too. Right now we are building 220 MW PHWRs. At Tarapur we have started construction of 500 MW PHWRs. We should take up more reactors for c onstruction and the 500 MW reactor programme should get considerable acceleration.

This programme is no longer limited by technology. It is a question of creating more investments, and more projects, and megawatt capacity would follow. This is important because nuclear electricity generation today forms only a low fraction of the total electricity generated in the country. We should take it to a reasonably higher fraction because this is a future energy source. Once we take the nuclear power capacity (generation) to 7,000 or 8,000 MWe level, the internal surplus generation will be abl e to support a substantial capacity-building programme. We must have a programme where work is going on simultaneosuly at several sites. Also the technology development to support the PHWR programme has to continue because the technology is never static.

Will the construction of the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) begin at Kalpakkam soon?

We are almost ready. The second stage of our nuclear power programme, that is, the construction of the Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs), should reach a commercial deployment stage as we have with the first stage PHWRs today. This is the key to exploiting the full potential of our nuclear energy resources and enlarging the nuclear power generation capacity. The Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam has done extremely well and all its technological objectives have been met. The Indira Gandhi Centre fo r Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam has done a lot of technological development work in building the full-size components for the PFBR. So they are poised to take up the construction of the PFBR. On the basis of that experience, we should be in a posi tion to start construction of a series of FBRs in India. This will be the second stage of our nuclear electricity programme.

As the FBR programme starts, we have to think of further advancement in terms of faster doubling time. The PFBR will constitute the reactor technology and we have to advance in fuel cycle technology. That is a major programme which will go on for some ti me at the IGCAR.

The third stage of our nuclear electricity programme will use thorium as fuel. Here also there will be several stages of evolutions in the thorium utilisation programme. The ultimate objective of this will be to build a pure thorium-uranium 233 based rea ctor. The AHWRs will form only the first phase of the third stage. The idea here is that we should move towards thorium utilisation on a very substantial scale, using the heavy water technology that we have. The AHWR is designed to get a large fraction o f energy output from thorium. It incorporates several advanced safety features which characterise innovative reactor designs worldwide.

What are the technological challenges that you will have to overcome in building AHWRs?

The main objective of the AHWRs is to achieve a larger degree of safety through the use of what is known as passive safety systems. For example, with, natural circulation of water, safety is no longer dependent on active components such as pumps, which m ay fail. Passive systems depend on physical principles and you thus get a large safety advantage.

In the AHWR, energy extraction from the core is through passive means. Residual heat removal is through passive means. Containment heat removal and containment circulation are both by passive means. There are several other such features.

The AHWR would be economically advantageous too. We are building into it features which will lower its capital cost. This is because there is no active equipment, or there are just one or two, which require nuclear classification. We have eliminated most of the costly equipment that require nuclear classification.

You do require some active components to back up, but they are all conventional equipment. You can buy them in the market and they are cheap. Using factory assembled coolant channels, we expect to do the coolant channel replacement work quite fast. In on e normal shutdown of the reactor, you can replace the coolant channels. This is the kind of capability we are trying to build. This is the second objective.

The third and the most important objective is to demonstrate large-scale generation of electricity from thorium. So the reactor will be in a self-sustaining mode as far as the uranium 233-thorium cycle is concerned. Whatever uranium-233 is consumed for e lectricity generation, the same amount of uranium-233 will be produced in the reactor. Of course it will require a certain amount of plutonium as a kind of driver fuel. That is why it (the AHWR) forms the first phase of the third stage...

We are defining the road map for shaping the third stage. There are several elements in it: the technologies that will go into the uranium-233 fuel cycle, that is, the fuel cycle technology; the reactor technology, and so on. For some time, the FBRs and the thorium reactors will be in a tandem mode. You breed fuel and you support more thorium capacity. Afterwards it will go into pure thorium mode.

While this is going on, we probably have to look for technologies that will make the third stage more efficient. There is a possibility that accelerator driven sub-critical systems can achieve that objective.

Are breeder reactors relevant when people talk about accelerator driven sub-critical systems?

Breeder reactors are more relevant in the sense that the technology development for them is way ahead of the technology development for accelerator driven systems...

In the accelerator driven systems, the advantage is that you get a variety of characteristics. Conceptually, it is a variation of the AHWR core coupled with a fast driver core and spallation source driven by an accelerator. We can, on the one side, have a thorium-uranium 233 fuel cycle with better doubling time. On the other side, we can incinerate the long-lived waste in the same system. So it will become a kind of self-consistent system where you can breed more fuel than you consume and incinerate mos t of the long-lived waste. This is a major advantage... This is an area where a lot of work is required to be done for a long time, for 15 to 20 years. This is a major technological challenge which is important for us. This is factored into our strategy for shaping the third stage of our nuclear power programme of thorium utilisation.

What will be the scale of import of light water reactors to reach the goal of generating 20,000 MW of nuclear electricity by 2020? Russia's Deputy Minister for Atomic Energy E.A. Reshetnikov who visited the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station in September was keen to sell six VVER-1000 reactors to India including two that are to be built at Kudankulam. Will India buy light water reactors from France or Canada?

The share of nuclear electricity in the overall electricity generation in the country should go up. Nuclear power technology is environmentally very benign. It does not emit greenhouse gases. It is a source of bulk power generation and thus there is a ne ed to increase its share. From that point of view, the imported systems are welcome as an additionality over and above the domestic programme. At this moment it will be difficult for me to say how many they will be... We can accommodate a fairly large sh are of such capacity. For example, accommodating 6,000 MWe or 7,000 MWe of light water reactor capacity or even more should not be a problem. As far as we are concerned, we will welcome it then.

Why have no new sites been identified for building PHWRs ? Why are PHWRs being bunched at the existing sites?

There is a committee looking at probable sites. The important consideration is that if there is a site, depending on its chacteristics, it can accommodate a certain capacity. So we must make full use of that site's potential. If you put multiple units at the same site, you get economic advantage. That is why we are adding more units at the same site. But there are sites which have been looked at in the past. It is necessary to look at all of them again in the present context because we have to see what are the conditions that obtain today, and also identify new sites. At the moment it appears to me that it is more urgent for us to open new projects at the existing sites. While we do that, we should define additional sites where work can be taken up in future.

Have we reprocessed enough plutonium to operate the planned FBRs?

We have to adjust the reprocessing capacity in tune with the requirements of the FBR programme. As the requirements increase, we will increase the reprocessing capacity. I don't envisage any serious problem on this front.

The three sub-kiloton nuclear devices that India exploded at Pokhran in May 1998 have given the country the capability to do sub-critical tests. Are any sub-critical tests planned?

That really depends on the government's decision. As far as R&D work is concerned, it is an ongoing process.

Are facilities in place to conduct sub-critical tests ?

No comment.

What led to the nuclear tests of May 1998? Was it because India could not keep the nuclear option open indefinitely? Was it because the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was to be wrapped up, and there would be pressure on India to accede to the CTBT? Wa s there pressure from the nuclear scientists in the country to go for the tests?

No, no. The question is... The scientific community has to respond to national needs. So once the decision was made, it was implemented. The fact is that it was well known that nuclear weapons existed in our neighbourhood, and also the way the CTBT discu ssions went on... there was a deadline. So it was perhaps necessary, essential for national security requirements, that this option was exercised. That is what must have been at the back of the government's decision.

How advanced is India in the matter of nuclear weaponisation? A former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr.P.K. Iyengar, says that the process of weaponisation must continue, leading to the development of neutron bombs and testing them.

The development work must continue. It is an ongoing process. What was the objective of these nuclear tests? It was to have a credible, minimum nuclear deterrent. For that purpose, what you really require (is weapons) from several kilotons to a couple of hundred kilotons range. These weapons must be compact, lightweight and compatible with the delivery vehicles. This has been the basis of configuring the five tests, and I think we have sufficient information on the basis of these five tests to build a c redible, minimum nuclear deterrent.

Now, the neutron bomb is strictly a tactical weapon. There is no problem about the capability of building a neutron bomb.

The capability of building a neutron bomb in our country?

That capability exists. At this moment we are talking about this credible deterrent that can be established based on the five tests done. If you are talking about a credible deterrent, then I think that whatever has been done is sufficient.

Are you convinced that we need not explode more nuclear devices, thermo-nuclear bombs with bigger yields?

I will not put it the way you are putting it. The 45-kiloton thermo-nuclear test that we did was in a configuration which allows us to easily go up to 200 kiloton. So far as thermo-nuclear technology is concerned, there is no doubt that we have the full capability.

A thermo-nuclear device is popularly called the hydrogen bomb. According to a top DAE scientist, the hydrogen bomb and the neutron bomb are the same. Is there any difference between them?

A thermo-nuclear bomb or hydrogen bomb is a two-stage weapon, which consists of the primary which is based on fission or boosted fission system, and the secondary is where the radiation implosion is used to get a large yield. So any thermo-nuclear weapon will have a certain amount of energy coming in the form of fission, and a certain amount of energy coming in the form of fusion.

In a neutron bomb, the fusion energy is maximised. With minimum fission energy, you get maximum fusion energy. So you end up getting a much larger neutron output and so it can create much more damage by radiation. That is the difference.

But the neutron bomb is usually a small yield weapon and it is more useful as a tactical weapon.

Scientist S.K. Sikka of the BARC has been quoted as saying that computer simulation (of nuclear tests) is extremely expensive even in the United States and that therefore that country had no alternative but to do the real tests.

Yes, in those days, a long time ago. Is it less expensive now?

It is a question of availability of computing power. When the computing power that was available was small, it was probably easier to carry out the tests, in relative terms. The computing power that is available now is much higher. So you can get a lot o f information through simulation. To that extent, the number of tests that we need to carry out comes down.

Can we do computer simulation?

We certainly have some capability. We are continuously improving on it.

Are there moves afoot to split the BARC into a nuclear-weapons facility and a non-weapons facility...

There is no question of doing that. The strength of the BARC lies in its multi-disciplinary character. It is because of that we are able to run our programmes in nuclear power; national security; several aspects of isotope and radiation technology in the area of food, agriculture, health and industrial support; in the area of nuclear desalination and so forth, which is important. The BARC has a strong basic research component in physics, chemistry and biology. It has a strong technology application comp onent in electricity generation; in food security in terms of better agricultural mutants and prevention of food spoilage through radiation processing; and in health in diagnostics, that is, imaging of different body organs and radiation therapy for canc er patients. We have programmes in the area of water. We are building a 6,300-cubic-metres-a-day nuclear desalination demonstration project plant at Kalpakkam.

We give support to industry in terms of monitoring the performance of petrochemical equipment, leakage of oil pipelines, etc., using radiation technology. Even computer floppies can be treated by radiation. The BARC has the unique capability of doing all this. That comes about by its multi-disciplinary character. That has to be preserved.

How advanced is India in storing solid wastes?

We are one of the few countries that have this full capability, in the sense that we not only carry out the immobilisation of the radioactive waste in a vitrified matrix but we have the facility for interim storage of the overpacks that contain this vitr ified waste in a surveillance mode.

What does it mean?

You first concentrate the waste. You immobilise it in vitrified mass, special glass which cannot leach out. You encapsulate this vitrified mass in a metal container. This is put in another metal container and this is called overpack. This overpack is kep t in a specially engineered facility and its construction is such that there will be continuous circulation of air around this overpack. This is done by natural circulation. There are no pumps, just a chimney. It is based on physical principles so that y ou will always have natural circulation of air and so it cools. The temperature is kept under limits.

You keep monitoring the temperature and the radioactivity so that if there is any rupture, you will immediately come to know about it. You can isolate it and repair it. As time passes, 30 years or 40 years down the line, the activity decays. The heat gen eration comes down. You also confirm the integrity of the isolation, the container, the barriers to radiation. That is why it is called Solid Storage under Surveillance Facility.

To balance regulation and compliance

DWIJEN RANGNEKAR the-nation

The Biodiversity Bill now before Parliament incorporates several progressive elements, but a number of provisions in it require further strengthening.

THE latest draft of the Biodiversity Bill, now in Parliament, is marked by specific progressive elements, which reflect the consultative process undertaken by the government and positive engagement by groups and individuals. The Bill represents the gover nment's efforts to actualise the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), by providing the framework for a regime governing access to, and use of, biological resources and associated knowledge. The question is whether the current draft realises the objectives of the Convention and whether other institutions/laws will be supportive or pose hurdles.

17250951jpg

The successes with regard to overturning patents in the West, as in the case of turmeric, basmati 1 and neem, are but piecemeal achievements and insufficient in terms of a long-term strategy to stall misappropriation and biopiracy. Repeated fo rays into courts in the West are expensive and definitely not something that the government, domestic companies or communities can afford - a point recognised by the Indian government in a recent submission to the World Trade Organisation's Commission on Trade and Environment (WTO, 2000). Hence, beyond being a useful public relations success there is little comfort or gain in these victories.

The need to have a legal framework must be well appreciated. Without a national (and hopefully a regional) regime controlling transactions involving biological resources and associated knowledge, nothing can be achieved in terms of recognising and/or rew arding communities and indigenous peoples or in securing the sustainable utilisation of biological resources. There is much at stake - even in a simple economic sense, global estimates of the market for plant-derived pharmaceuticals is estimated at $40 b illion (UNDP, 1994) 2. Agreeably, a national and/or regional regime is constrained by the absence of an adequate and legally binding international framework, particularly in countries where patents are secured - it is in these markets that the potential revenues reside.

THERE are several progressive elements in the Bill. Two specific provisions that lead to the empowerment of communities are notable. Clause 41 provides for locally constituted Biodiversity Management Committees that are directed towards "promoting conser vation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity... and chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity". The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and its counterparts in the States are obliged to consult the committees while taking decisions concerning biological resources and associated knowledge within their respective territorial jurisdiction. Importantly, committees may charge a levy for access and collection of biological material and associated knowledge. Further suppo rt for communities and indigenous peoples comes in the form of provisions for the Central government to "respect and protect the knowledge of local people relating to biological diversity" through measures that include appropriate legislation (for exampl e, a sui generis legislation), administrative steps such as registering innovations (for example, the Honey Bee Network) and compilation of biodiversity registers (for example, the Karnataka case) (Clause 36). The inclusion of these provisions in the dra ft is an important development reflecting the government's eventual, but belated, appreciation of a range of possibilities. These provisions finally bring to bear on domestic legislation some of the rhetoric the government articulates in international fo rums, namely, its submissions at the WTO (Protection of biodiversity and traditional knowledge - The Indian experience: Submission by India to the Committee on Trade and Environment, Council for TRIPS; WT/CTE/W/156 & IP/C/W/198; 2000; Item 8: The relatio nship between the TRIPs agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity: Submission by India to the Committee on Trade and Environment. WT/CTE/W/65; 1997).

Existing literature suggests that empowering communities requires a framework overseeing processes and procedures concerning access to, and benefit-sharing from, the use of biological resources and associated knowledge (Posey, 1996; Mugabe et al., 1997), which has become a central feature of biodiversity-related legislation following the ratification of the CBD (L. Glowka, 1998). It is felt that these access regimes will form the basis for stopping biopiracy.

At a fundamental level the Bill seeks to prohibit the movement of biological material and associated knowledge occurring in India without the previous approval of the NBA, irrespective of whether the request is for research or commercial exploitation (Cl ause 3(1)). Provisions concerning intellectual property rights (IPRs) strengthen this principle - prior approval of the NBA is required by persons seeking IPRs on "inventions based on any research or information on a biological resource obtained f rom India". The NBA is obliged to consult the State and local Biodiversity Committees while making its decision. Further, the NBA is empowered to establish benefit-sharing arrangements and/or royalty payments with respect to the commercial utilisation of such rights (Clause 6). The revenues generated from benefit-sharing arrangements could accrue directly to specific individuals and/or groups where they are identifiable; in other instances the revenue will enter a National Biodiversity Fund (Clause 21(2 )).

Quite apart from efforts directed at conservation and sustainable utilisation of biological resources, the Bill is aimed at biopiracy-related issues. Not only is the transfer of biological resources and associated knowledge prohibited, but applications f or IPRs on 'derivative' inventions require prior approval from the NBA. Chapter V of the Bill, which outlines the approval process to be developed by the NBA, reiterates this thrust of stopping biopiracy. The NBA is required to scrutinise all application s for obtaining and transferring biological material and associated knowledge, and also oversee applications for IPRs on inventions derived from, or based upon, biological material and associated knowledge obtained in India. Interestingly, the Bill empow ers the NBA to "take any measures necessary to oppose the grant of IPRs in any country outside India on any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge associated with such biological resource which derived from India" (Clause 18(4)).

The latter provision is worthy but should not be considered as the primary means to stop biopiracy as it will lead the government into an expensive and time-consuming process of litigation. At best, selective use of the courtroom needs to be attempted, p artly for the public relations victory and to establish crucial legal precedence in terms of standards of patentability. Closely related to the three thrusts identified above is the effort to secure revenue streams. Clearly, the pristine principle aimed at the recognition of the contributions made by communities, indigenous peoples and individuals to inventions has been supplemented by demands for sharing in the financial benefits arising from the commercial exploitation of the end product. The massive global market in products based on, or derived from, biological resources and associated knowledge is clearly there for the picking. The Bill reasserts this principle of recognition accompanied by benefit-sharing through a number of provisions, some of w hich have been noted above.

There are several provisions in the Bill that require further strengthening. One of these involve the need to develop cross-linkages with other pieces of legislation. Biological resources and associated knowledge are widely used in different sectors of t he industry. Naturally, a successful legal framework for access and benefit-sharing must impinge on these other sectors. The Bill attempts this in a number of ways, in particular by requiring prior informed consent of the NBA (and the relevant communitie s) for obtaining and transferring biological resources and/or associated knowledge and when IPRs are applied for. The real problem is two-fold:

* will individuals and companies seeking IPRs on derivative-inventions fulfil the stipulated obligations of the Biodiversity Bill?

* even if the various institutions set up under the provisions of the Bill function efficiently and effectively, will the functioning of other relevant institutions undermine the principles of the Bill?

As regards the first, there is no basis for a priori assumptions that individuals and/or companies, Indian or foreign, will voluntarily behave in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Bill.

Contemporary practice and widely publicised instances of misappropriation of biological resources and associated knowledge are adequate testimony to this allegation. Yet, consistent guidelines across all relevant institutions (that is, in particular the IPRs granting offices) could induce the necessary (voluntary) compliance. As regards the second, one cannot be sure that grants of IPRs do not jeopardise the objectives of the Bill. In this regard, the NBA is empowered to provide prior approval to releva nt applications for IPRs. Quite apart from requiring the NBA to be ever vigilant, are there measures to ensure compliance at the stage at which IPRs are granted?

Ensuring the latter, that is, a means of effective cross-linkage, requires specific provisions governing the process of securing IPRs. Here some, though not adequate, support is present in the proposed amendments to the Patent Act of 1970:

* disclosure of the source of origin of the biological material involved in the subject matter of their application 3, and

* declaration that the prior informed consent of the country of origin has been adequately fulfilled4.

While these measures are fundamental, one remains cautious for the following reasons:

* other IPRs system, namely, plant breeders' rights (PBRs), do not have these provisions; hence, the required cross-linkages are now incomplete,

* measures to ensure that the IPRs granting offices will seek to verify the authenticity of the declarations made by applicants are insufficient, and

* there is a case to reconsider the conditions for patentability in the class of inventions involving biological resources and associated indigenous knowledge.

As regards the latter point, one recommends the following two complementary solutions, which can be also gleaned from legislative effort in other countries, namely, Costa Rica (Rivera and Cordero, 1999 BIOIPR):

* To simplify the task facing IPRs granting offices, the statutory submission of a certificate of clearance issued by the relevant biodiversity authority of the country of origin, which will fulfil the requirement of a declaration that prior informed con sent has been secured.

* A solution to the problem of standards of patentability requires a reconsideration of what should be considered inventive in the class of inventions involving biological resources and associated traditional knowledge. Apart from overhauling the patent system - a strategy that should not be entirely avoided - it might be worth the while to involve the NBA in all IPRs applications that have such subject matter.

The cross-linkage recommended here involves closer cooperation between the NBA and all offices granting IPRs. In the absence of this cross-linkage one suspects that the objectives of the Bill will not be met. Yet, it is important to realise that complian ce of IPRs offices outside India, the real bone of contention, is another matter entirely. Hence the need to pursue urgently multilateral negotiations after having set right the domestic institutions.

Despite the many measures aimed at empowering communities that are noted above, one feels that there is still ground for some improvements. For example, the members constituting State Biodiversity Boards include non-governmental 'experts', which some obs ervers note might subtly disenfranchise local communities from participating in the Boards (Kothari, 2000). Another possible improvement would be to use existing local institutions, such as gram sabhas and joint forest management systems, as ways to devo lve the task of overseeing compliance. Local governance is recognised as a means of 'spreading the risks' of compliance and securing wider participation. In this regard, Kothari (as above) makes a useful suggestion: to empower citizens to approach the co urts if they detect violations of the provisions of the Bill.

STRIKING the appropriate balance between regulation and compliance so as to ensure that the wider objectives of the Bill, such as securing recognition and reward for local communities, are met is a difficult task. There is an urgent need for an adequate legal framework to control access to, and use of, biological resources and associated knowledge as means to provide equitable benefit-sharing and ensure sustainable use. The current draft does include specific progressive elements that require implementa tion - though these require further strengthening. More important, the implementation of this legislation in India will have critical global relevance and provide the necessary impetus for renewed pressure to clarify principles concerning the grant of IP Rs on subjects involving biological resources and indigenous knowledge.

Even while the draft is progressive, particularly in contrast to most initiatives concerning biological resources and communities, one feels the real test is in the directives concerning the implementation of the law. However, there are important changes required if the objectives of the Bill are to be met. Two broad sets of revisions have been noted here: (a) better cross-linkages with other institutions and laws and (b) greater democratisation.

Dr. Dwijen Rangnekar is a Research Fellow at the School of Public Policy, University College, London.

The Economic Times

2 A more recent statistic suggests the global market is valued at over $500 billion (Peter Crane, 2000). All such estimates are highly suspect for a number of reasons. Further, one should be aware that in all instances of use of traditional knowledge the original users are legally entitled to compensation. Either way, there is a significantly large global market in pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic products derived from, and dependent on, patterns of use of biological resources pioneered by indigeno us communities.

3 Gadgil and Devasia (1995) provide a useful and early articulation of the possibilities of using certificates of origin as a means of identifying misappropriation of biological resources and associated knowledge.

'We learn much from our work in India'

economy

Interview with Fawzi Hamad Al Sultan, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was established as a specialised agency of the United Nations in 1977 through a resolution adopted by the 1974 World Food Conference. The objective was to establish a Fund "to finance agricultura l development projects primarily for food production in developing countries". The IFAD, with its headquarters at Rome, has a specific mandate: to combat poverty and hunger by helping the rural poor in the poorest regions of the world. The Fund has the a mbitious target - one that it shares with other multilateral lending institutions - of reducing the proportion of the extremely poor in the world by half, by 2015.

17251021jpg

The IFAD is not a relief agency, nor is it a commerical organisation like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank. Most of its lending is at highly concessional rates for long tenures. The majority of its beneficiaries are countries that belong to the very low income category. The Fund's resources come from voluntary contributions made by member-states and also from loan repayments and income from investments. So far the IFAD has financed 548 projects in 114 countries for a total commitm ent of approximately $6.8 billion.

In 1999, the IFAD launched an in-depth study of rural poverty and came up with a report highlighting the regional variations in the causes and manifestations of rural poverty. The report found that landlessness was the prime cause of poverty in Asia, whe reas in North Africa the poorest were members of farming households with insufficient land or water resources. Increasing rural unemployment was another cause. In Latin America and in the Caribbean, the landless and the near-landless are the fastest grow ing categories of rural poor. The IFAD is currently fashioning strategies that will address the specific needs of each region so as to optimise the utilisation of its resources.

A study on the effectiveness of 38 projects supported by the IFAD revealed that there were substantial improvements in the income and standard of living of the beneficiaries. This was facilitated mainly by improved technologies - that is, access to bette r irrigation and improved seeds - and, more important, access to rural credit. In fact, the IFAD found that credit was critical for an increase in the household incomes of cash-crop growers and micro-entrepreneurs. One important finding that emerged from the study was that mere targeting, however accurate, would not by itself improve the lives of the poorest and that beneficiaries must take an active part in the decision-making. It also found that environmental awareness played a key role in the success of a project.

Since 1979, the IFAD has invested about $400 million in India through 15 loans. The projects aim at increasing public participation in anti-poverty initiatives, strengthening grassroots institutions and increasing the access of the poor to resources, inc luding financial services. Initially, the projects' focus was on the irrigation sector, but since the late 1980s, it has shifted to tribal development, women's development and rural credit.

Fawzi Hamad Al Sultan took over as President of the IFAD in February 1993, after having served the World Bank in several capacities. He was Executive Director of World Bank for nine years, from 1984 to 1993. He is a Kuwaiti national with a Master' s degree in Economics from Yale University, with specialisation in International Finance and Economic Administration. Al Sultan was in New Delhi in November to discuss India's contribution to the Fifth Replenishment of IFAD resources. India is the IFAD's second largest customer. Excerpts from an interview he gave Sudha Mahalingam:

What prompted the setting up of the IFAD?

During the World Food Programme meet in 1974, the need for a specialised agency to meet the needs of the rural poor came into focus. We found that investments in agriculture were not taking place to the desired extent. A dedicated agency that would focus on this key area was necessary because poverty poses a challenge - a moral, social and economic challenge - to society and hence the IFAD was set up to address this need. While organisations like the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) target de velopment projects of all kinds, we concentrate only on the rural poor.

Do you compete with other multilateral agencies like the World Bank, the UNDP or the Asian Development bank (ADB) in your programmes?

We are essentially complementary. Other agencies like the World Bank and the ADB finance larger infrastructure projects, while ... our role has been to support secondary projects. In Tamil Nadu, we financed a Women's Development Programme, which was late r replicated in six States because of its success. We start a programme and then the other agencies take it up. When we look for technical assistance, we turn to the UNDP, or we coordinate with the World Food Programme. Our advantage has been that we foc us on a very narrow field and remain consistent. Our expertise is focussed. Right now we are reaching out to 12 million people a year. In about 15 years we have reached over 150 million people. That I think is a pretty good share. Resources by themselves don't amount to much. How they are used, what policies are framed by the governments concerned, and so on also matter.

Do you have any control over the policies of these governments?

As a group we do. With a fair degree of coordination, we are able to sit with the governments, talk to them and tell them that these are the policies you need to adopt, this is the evidence, and so on. We have had several rounds of dialogue with many of the governments we have been lending to. There is no government which does not want to see fewer poor people. So, if they find something that works, they get persuaded into putting in place policies that will help them achieve this objective.

Does your funding also come with conditionalities like those of the World Bank, for instance?

We don't have the kind of conditionalities that the large institutions have. While ours is not a relief agency, neither is it a commercial organisation. We are a development organisation and we lend about 70 per cent at less than 1 per cent interest for up to 30 years and there is a huge grant element in the loans. Another 20 per cent is at the middle rate and even the top rate is much lower than the market rates. But like the World Bank, we lend only to governments. Even NGOs (non-governmental organis ations) are funded through the medium of national governments. Occasionally we do support NGOs directly, but that's not the norm.

The World Bank President was in India recently to "stock-take" as to why disbursements are not picking up. In the case of India, the Bank has committed, but undisbursed, funds of over $8 billion. Its net lending to India is also negative. Do you have similar problems?

No, we don't. The funds may be disbursed over a three-, four-, or five-year period for each project, but there are no undisbursed funds. The repayments are also satisfactory. And our net lending is not negative.

During the last 23 years of your operations, have you tracked and monitored systematically the economic status of the beneficiaries of your programmes? What are your findings?

We do have evidence of improvement in the status of the target beneficiaries - some of it hard evidence. But the reason why you do not get more hard evidence is that countries do not keep track of progress. They disburse the funds to NGOs, but there is n o system to monitor constantly the implementation of the projects.

The other reason is that we may fund investments, but certain things have to be done by the governments, and unless they put in place an enabling policy structure you cannot expect significant improvements. What we are trying to develop now is to put in place a monitoring system in the beneficiary countries. It is a long process and people need to be trained. But there are certain indicators that are useful in such an assessment - like increase in production, certain macro indicators, etc. The feedback from these indicators shows that there is a positive impact on the target population.

Macro indicators may not reflect improvement in the individual's economic status. Mere growth without distributive justice may not be a good indicator.

That's right. That's why we look at factors like household prosperity, children's education, and if the people are happy. But I agree that we lack the wherewithal to measure the impact. We are trying to put in place a system for the purpose. There are in dicators like nutrition, which the community will have to measure and give us a feedback on. But then there are other indicators that are readily visible. The bottomline is, if the household is reasonably well looked after, if the children are being educ ated, then you know it has been working.

Could you tell us about your success with micro-credit in Bangladesh?

We were among the very early supporters of the Grameen Bank projects. Since then, we have learnt the concept of micro-credit. These were very poor people who had no regular income, no security - no bank would have ever considered lending to them . But th ese were the people who need credit the most. Some way had to be found to reach out to these people. Grameen Banks did just that. Now about 30 per cent of our lending is in the forms of micro-credit and rural finance. In India we work through rural banks , because there is already a structure, a network reaching out to these people, but there are some countries where you have to adopt a different approach because there are no village banks there. In fact we have had to deal with very varied situations - where settlements are scattered, for instance. We tried to link up a few of them. The concept is the same but it has to be adapted to the situation.

The brochure of the IFAD says that investments are one of its main sources of finance. What kind of investments does it mean?

Our investments are basically in the international markets. But this is more to use the money well while it is waiting to be disbursed. When we commit a loan, it is normally disbursed over a seven-year period. During this time, we keep the money invested . In fact, a third of our revenues come from such investments.

How does India figure in the IFAD's scheme of things?

India is a very important country for us. We are learning so much from the work we do here. So much innovation is going on in the different States. The types of intervention in different States teach us so much about what needs to be done and how it is t o be done. Apart from our existing projects, we are also looking at northeastern India where we believe there is great scope for bettering the lives of the rural poor. India is the second largest beneficiary of our funds. I don't think we shall be able t o reach any kind of development target if we leave India and China out of our programmes.

1. Maharashtra Rural Credit Project: It began in 1993, covering Chandrapur, Nanded, Yavatmal and Pune districts. It involved the participation of commercial banks in self-help groups. Of its 91,250 beneficiaries, 55 per cent are women. The project demonstrated that lending to the rural poor could be "demand-driven".

2. Tamil Nadu Women's Development Project (1990-1998): Recruited 27 NGOs to work with women self-help groups. Provided micro-credit to women to acquire livestock, and also for handicrafts and small-scale trading. Over 1,08,300 women in eight distr icts were covered. As many as 68,800 loans were granted on market terms by 108 branches of the Indian Bank. Women availing themselves of the schemes became more independent and confident and acquired a better say in household decision-making.

3. Andhra Pradesh Tribal Development Project: Started in 1991, co-financed by the Government of the Netherlands and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). Integrated Tribal Development Agencies in Seethampeta, Parvatipuram, Pederu and Rampachodavaram. Project aimed at introducing innovative agricultural practices that would make land more productive while protecting the soil with appropriate soil conservation measures. There are 63,370 households as beneficiaries.

Thoughts on Tibet

Two recent articles on the subject of Tibet by N. Ram, Editor of Frontline, and a scholarly study on Sino-Indian relations, viewed through the Tibetan prism, by Dr. Subramanian Swamy, are very timely ("Tibet - A Reality Check" and "Sino-Indian rel ations through the Tibet prism," September 15; "Educational take-off in Tibet", September 29). The first of the two articles by Ram is an exhaustive overview of the present situation in Tibet in its historical context, and the report is of Pulitzer Prize quality. The second article deals with the present state of education in Tibet, which is at the "take-off" point.

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama sought political asylum in India as a refugee, in the wake of the armed revolt against China in 1959, it used to be said, jokingly, that Prime Minister Nehru was caught on the horns of a "Dalai Lama". The dilemma arose fr om the fact that the official position of India was that Tibet was considered a part of China, a point that was reaffirmed in the India-China Treaty on Tibet of 1954.

For his part, the Dalai Lama has been waging a political campaign for the "independence" of Tibet from a secure base in Dharmasala, where a large number of his adherents have joined him. This campaign seems to be well-financed. The Dalai Lama has made se veral claims which seem to be highly exaggerated. One claim relates to his stand on Greater Tibet with a population of six million people. Another relates to the Chinese authorities' attempt to "Han-ise" Tibet by the induction of a large number of ethnic Chinese, with a view to their forming a majority in the total population of Tibet. The third relates to a "holocaust" of some one million Tibetans put to death by the Chinese authorities between 1951 and 1979. These statements have been made by the Dala i Lama in such forums as the U.S. Congress in 1987. The Dalai Lama's charismatic personality and his appearance of total sincerity have lent additional credence to his claims and charges. However, all his efforts to internationalise the issue and place i t on the agenda of the United Nations have failed. On the other hand, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama in 1989 has helped him in his political campaign for the independence of Tibet.

What are the facts? The Tibet of the Dalai Lama days was no Shangrila for the Tibetans. It was a theocracy ruling over a poor country, with the agrarian population, mostly serfs, eking out a precarious living from the arid soil. The standard of living wa s very low. Illiteracy was the rule: 95 per cent of the population was illiterate.

The situation in Tibet today is by no means ideal, but it does represent a great improvement. Politically, Tibet is an "autonomous region" of China. Its total population, according to the most recent Census (1990), is 2.196 million. These figures are no doubt the official figures provided by the Government, but I see no reason to question them. They are a far cry from the figure of six million claimed by the Dalai Lama. 95.5 per cent of the population consists of ethnic Tibetans; only 3.7 percent are Ha n Chinese. The agrarian economy is still poor by any standard, but represents a considerable improvement over the last four decades. Education is taking off, although Tibet has still a long way to go. Religious freedom has been guaranteed, as indeed over all of China. The Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 was of course a setback, but this was the case over all of China; thankfully it is well behind us. Today there are some 46,000 resident monks and nuns, and Buddhism "is a strong all-pervasive presence in Tibet."

I began by saying that these articles are timely, giving - as they do - a more reliable picture than has been painted by propagandists of Dharmasala. Among our top leaders, especially the Hindu Right, there is an ambivalent attitude on the subject. Lip s ervice is paid to the indisputable fact that the Tibet Autonomous Region is a part of China. But there is also a great deal of sympathy for the Dalai Lama and his claims. This ambivalence can cost us dearly if it leads to any impairment of our friendly r elations with China.

India is in a very vulnerable position in this regard. We have major ethnic problems in the north-eastern region. In the North-West, we have the longstanding problem of Kashmir. We must recognise that, in spite of its friendship with Pakistan, China has not taken a public position in favour of Pakistan. It has also kept aloof from the separatist politics in the north-eastern region.

Dr. Swamy has made two important points. First, India should not risk giving rise to a situation when a joint China-Pakistan attack may be launched against India. Second, India should do its best to settle all outstanding issues with China, including the border issue. Dr. Swamy has stated that "China has borders with 14 nations and, except for India, it has resolved its disputes with all, including Russia. India has borders with six countries and excluding Bhutan, it has disputes with all five." In fact , "in India that is Bharat", there are border disputes among the constituent States forming the Union of India - vide a recent report about a border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra.

It should be clear that India's interests are best served by a policy that lends no support to the political activities of the Dalai Lama and his entourage. We cannot support the claim of the Dalai Lama to an independent Tibet, since by Treaty we recogni se that Tibet is an integral part of China. The pretence of a government-in-exile is also unworthy of support. The Chinese authorities have invited the Dalai Lama to come back to Lhasa, solely in his capacity as a religious leader. If the Dalai Lama acce pts this invitation, that would be a "consummation devoutly to be wished." I doubt if he would, or should, although Dr. Swamy recommends that the Dalai Lama return to Lhasa.

Let the Dalai Lama remain on Indian soil as long as he wishes, or lives. But let us make it clear that he is not heading "a government in exile". Let us take steps to prevent him and his entourage from engaging in anti-Chinese political activities. Let t he Vajpayee government speak with one voice on the subject in all public statements, whatever private views individual Ministers may have. Let us also start on a new round of talks with China, to mend our fences and solve all outstanding problems, includ ing the border issue.

C.V. Narasimhan (former Under-Secretary General of the U.N.) Chennai

Palestinian struggle

I would like to add my pennyworth to Aijaz Ahmad's "Israel's killing fields" (November 24).

The article contains numerous references to sources, most of which present one-sided views from various known and unknown personalities. It seems Aijaz Ahmad is not interested in facts as he had already made up his mind.

The words "Israeli terror" imply that Israelis do not have the right to defend themselves when fired upon. Palestinian gunmen target not only soldiers and policemen but civilians, including women and children. What does the writer expect the Israelis to do? To lie down and die in the cause of Palestine?

In Nehru's time, India's role was biased and totally one-sided. In international forums, India always voted against Israel, regardless of whether Israel was right or wrong. Russia and the Eastern bloc always supported India's stand.

The author has made some wrong statements. Ariel Sharon did not enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, he only visited the Temple Mount. This visit was coordinated with the Waqf, the Muslim religious council (nominated by the Palestinian Authority). The author says that the trouble began the very next day, Friday, when Israeli security forces were massed and then the shooting started and corpses began to mount. The writer does not tell us what kind of provocation the Palestinians made. Why does he not understand that we the Israelis do not take kindly to those who throw stones at us, knife us, or simply shoot us?

A demonstration is a gathering of people, chanting slogans and carrying placards. Stone throwing and destruction of property are actions that form part of a riot, not a demonstration. Israel has preserved and will preserve the sanctity of holy places as long as they are used for prayers and religious teaching.

Sharon did not order the massacres of Sabra and Shattila (Lebanon 1982). His failure was that he did not act quickly to stop the killing done by the Lebanese Christian Phalangist. The figures of the extent of territory handed over or to be handed back ar e wrong. The Embassy of Israel in New Delhi could have given the right statistics.

I feel sorry about the loss of life, including children.(Why are these children not in school? Who sends them as cover for the Palestinian gunmen, police, and other organisations? Why teach children at kindergarten to be in uniform, hold replicas of weap ons and use the Israeli flag as a rug?)

David L.Yarkony Received on e-mail

I had expected this kind of a hysterical response. That is why I took care to quote and cite prestigious Israeli newspapers such as Ha'aretz, eminent award-winning British journalist Robert Fisk, and one of the great intellectuals of our time, Noa m Chomsky, who regards Ariel Sharon a war criminal. And I quoted the French president, Jacques Chirac, criticising Sharon for 'provocation' at the Al-Aqsa.

There are numerous Israelis who are deeply perturbed by the colonial mission of their rulers. It is a pity that Mr.Yarkony is not one of them.

Horseplay in Harappa

I would have preferred to stay away from this controversy about the decipherment of the Harappan script offered by N.S. Rajaram and N. Jha and criticised by Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer ("Horseplay in Harappa", October 13). However, I am forced to wri te this letter as my name is mentioned among the 'revisionists'. I must make it clear that I do not subscribe to the Hindutva ideology or scholarship. In fact, I have opposed it. I strongly object to the manner in which they have grouped me along with ot hers.

My research is apolitical and completely academic, objective, based on scientific principles. I am researching in Indology from 1959 onwards.

I find the mention of my name amongst the Hindutvavadis an insult and a humiliation - because there are some amongst them who are retained by the Hindutvavadis to produce polemical books and pamphlets, letters and so on, and who have no academic backgrou nd or training.

I read Witzel and Farmer's article but have not seen the book by Rajaram and Jha. The latter two authors seem to have committed an unforgivable act of concocting evidence by creating a new seal with a horse on it! I have studied most of the seals and the ir inscriptions and it is true that no such horse seal is in existence. To be ignorant or unsystematic is not a sin but to be dishonest is!

In view of this, the National Book Trust and the translations in 13 other languages must be held at abeyance and the government should not support such unsound projects, to say the least.

I am convinced from what Witzel and Farmer have written about me that they have not read, much less studied, any of my writings - books or articles. No scholar of any repute in his senses would want to 'rewrite' history. But would they permit others the same scientific interest in finding facts and historical truth that they profess themselves?

The short list Witzel and Farmer have provided towards the end of the article of four items will be acceptable, excepting No.2. But they must remember that even some of the so-called established facts need to be questioned in view of the discovery of new data, new points of view and the inadequacies of the earlier facts/formulations, and so on. Scholars must have the courage to question them. Without this no new theories or formulations can be built up. In the natural sciences 'scientific revolutions' t ake place. Something comparable must happen in the humanities, and especially in Indology which has become a completely stagnant pool.

It is correct that 'hard evidence' is the only sound weapon but the self-appointed judges must study and consider evidence presented by others and then only judge them.

Dr. Malati J. Shendge Pune Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer respond:

We understand Malati Shendge's displeasure that our article allies her works with those of ultranationalistic "revisionists" like N.S. Rajaram, K.D. Sethna, or S. Talageri. While we accept Shendge's protests that her research is meant to be apolitical, t here are good reasons for our claims, which we made in full awareness of the nature of her writings.

Shendge's The Civilised Demons (1977) anticipated much of the recent wave of "revisionist" history by linking Harappan and Vedic civilisations in ways hardly less fantastic than those of N.S. Rajaram and his associates. The most typical feature of Shendge's books, which are taken seriously by few Indian or Western Indologists, is her odd identification of Vedic gods with historical persons, which she associates with both Harappan and Vedic cultures. This allows her to make detailed "reconstructio ns" of ancient Indian history that have been used to support one of the core items on the Hindutva agenda - the myth that Indian history has been thoroughly Hindu ever since Harappan times.

While Shendge's views of the Aryans have changed over time - most recently, she has them speaking Sumerian - the fictional links she imagines between Vedic and Harappan civilisations are central to all her works. Thus in The Aryas: Fact without Fancy and Fiction (Abhinav Publications, 1997), just as in her earlier books, Shendge portrays Indra, the chief god of the Rgveda, as the flesh-and-blood hero of the Aryans; the god Varuna becomes the leader of the "Asuras," which Shendge imagines to be an Indus Valley or Harappan clan; the god Vishnu becomes "the young, tall, lanky assistant of Indra"; the divine Rudras and Ashvins are transformed into Indus Valley governmental functionaries; and so on.

A single paragraph is enough to give the flavour of Shendge's works. The following passage from The Aryas tells of the first part of the supposed fall of the "Asuras" - a class of gods or demons in the Rgveda and Avesta, but represented by Shendge as an Indus Valley clan. The suggestion is that the fall occurs in part through Vishnu's spy work:

When the Aryas could not defeat the Asuras in straight fight, they beg for a patch of land and are granted one grudgingly. Erecting temporary sheds, they begin to live there. Vishnu, the young, tall, lanky assistant of Indira, disappears thrice. Where he goes is not known but apparently he makes three exploratory trips under disguise into the Asura territory to collect information on their sensitive points. On its basis a strategy is hatched. The quarrels and jealousies between the Asura chiefs or court iers are used and one is aided against the other. So Indra emerges as a friend of some of them. With their help, he gets access to the Asura weapons and secures a vajra, thunderbolt, from the chief counsellor of the Asuras, Ushanas...

We assume that Shendge's repudiation of the Hindutva "revisionists" is meant in earnest. But her frequent attacks on accepted Indological research - combined with her wholly fictional links between Harappan and Vedic cultures - puts her in very political company nonetheless.

Michael Witzel Cambridge, Massachusetts witzel@fas.harvard.edu Steve Farmer Palo Alto, California india@safarmer.com

* * *

Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer seem to have lost the perspective when they say that "the sign is totally abstract and does not contain a hint of any animistic form" in regard to N.S. Rajaram's second horse. True, as I. Mahadevan asserts, one sees what o ne wants to, but one has to have trained eyes to see properly and "decipher" correctly. It is not an "illusion" as Witzel and Farmer want us to believe because the perspective of view renders illusion to forms. The view of the animal in the seal is from the rear looking down at ca. 15-20 degrees from the horizontal. This view would explain why the turned head looks much thicker than the neck that seems abnormally twisted. The left half of the roof element may signify a leash, which along with the two at hwart bars suggest that the character depicts a domesticated animal. One must realise that there is abstraction in symbolic depiction, whether it is modern art or an ancient Harappan seal.

Dr. S. Sinha-Roy Deputy Director General (retd.) Geological Survey of India Jaipur

Judiciary

This has reference to the article "On charges and response" (November 24). It is indeed distressing to see the revival of the unfortunate controversy relating to proceedings in courts in Madhya Pradesh in an action initiated by Mrs. Mala Anand, wife of D r. Justice A.S. Anand, Chief Justice of India, and her mother. It is common knowledge that, most regrettably, this issue got intertwined with the resignation of Ram Jethmalani from the Union Cabinet. When it became obvious that there was no secretive, an d much less, surreptitious, operation involved and that it was simply a case of a person approaching courts seeking redress, the matter ceased to occupy space in the media.

On the heels of this sprang up the issue of the alleged incorrect age furnished by Justice Anand to the Inner Temple. It was pathetic to see that the allegation in this regard was based on a letter of doubtful authenticity, purpotedly issued by a functio nary whose authority is obviously in question. The Union Law Ministry had promptly and effectively refuted the allegation. The Bar Council of India, which is the apex statutory body governing the legal profession, expressed in a resolution its grave conc ern over the controversy raised, saying that it has the effect of bringing the highest office of the judiciary and the institution into disrepute.

In the wake of all this, we now find yet another report in Frontline adverting once again to the land matter involving Mrs. Mala Anand and her mother, dealt with by courts in Madhya Pradesh. The cause for the article appears to be the letter of Mr . Fali S. Nariman, dated September 12, 2000 addressed to the Hon'ble Chief Justice and his colleague justices of the Supreme Court. Nariman, who had earlier expressed the view that the judgments of the trial court and the High Court in the said case were unexceptionable, which incidentally is also the opinion expressed by three other eminent counsel, was evidently exercised over the manner in which the statements of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, explaining the circumstances in which the Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court was withdrawn, were reported in a daily. Nariman, while expressing his anguish and calling for action against the Chief Minister, suggested the recalling of the order of withdrawal and hearing of the petition afresh. I t is a different matter that many may not agree with the views expressed by Nariman, as the suggested course of action besides being unprecedented may not serve the purpose, as a doubting mind is not likely to accept determination of one's cause by broth er judges as an unquestionable answer. In any event, the letter of Nariman has served its purpose of proposing a course of action for consideration by those to whom the communication was meant. It is unfortunate that this presumably confidential letter o f Nariman should constitute the cause for the revival of a controversy which had otherwise gained quietus.

It is axiomatic that no functionary in our constitutional framework can remain beyond the realm of accountability. It is nevertheless important that endeavour should always be to ensure that the faith of the common man in courts and the purity of justice dispensed by them is not eroded by undue publicity to unwarranted controversies involving the judiciary.

V.R. Reddy Senior Advocate and former Chairman, Bar Council of India New Delhi

From ceasefire to dialogue

The ceasefire in Kashmir will make sense as an act of statesmanship only if Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee buttresses it by inviting the Hurriyat to talks and by inviting Pakistan separately to resume the Lahore process.

INDIA'S stand that talks with Pakistan on Kashmir are conditional on its ending "cross-border terrorism" was adopted abruptly only on July 12, 1999, the very day after Kargil was declared free of intruders from Pakistan. Never before that. It marked a sh arp reversal of the position India had taken after the intrusion was detected in May and the one it had taken during previous conflicts. The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in November and December 1947 while the war in Kashmir raged. So did th eir officials. By December 8, even a draft agreement was drawn up by V. P. Menon and Mohammed Ali. In 1948, the two countries held talks under the auspices of the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan. A ceasefire went into force only on January 1, 1949 .

Even after the insurgency erupted in 1989, the Prime Ministers continued to meet in the course of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summits and in New York during U.N. General Assembly sessions. The Foreign Secretaries held several rounds of talks and drew up useful agreements on confidence building measures (CBMs). At the last round in November 1998, India flatly rejected a fundamental on Siachen that had been accepted for over a decade, namely, mutual withdrawal. Pakistan, true to form, responded to the Indian intransigence with criminal folly. The closer integration of Kashmir and the refusal of talks in 1964 drove it to launch a war in 1965. All accounts have it that it took the decision on the Kargil intrusion in November 19 98.

The record during the Kargil crisis reads thus: June 13, 1999 at Srinagar after a trip to Kargil, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said: "India is for the continuation of the Lahore process which includes a commitment to the Shimla agreement, but, for that process, it is absolutely necessary for the status quo ante to be restored on the LoC" (The Hindu, June 14, 1997). This was justified since the intruders were yet to be evicted. Even so, Vajpayee declared: "Our plan is to regain that area th rough peaceful means and dialogue" (The Indian Express, June 14). This was a day after Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, came to New Delhi on July 12.

Vajpayee reiterated this stand the next day (June 14) at a public meeting in Udhampur: "You withdraw your troops and then we are prepared for talks" (The Hindustan Times, June 15). The report added: "Vajpayee said he had also emphasised that India was for the continuation of the Lahore process but pointed out to Sharif (who had called him over the phone in Srinagar 'repeatedly'), that this presupposed that both sides would adhere to the Shimla Agreement."

In an interview to Seema Guha, Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh said: "The treachery of Pakistan is self-evident. But I am neither disheartened by it nor discouraged in my ultimate goal. For that goal, there is now a route chart, which we have announced - restore the status quo ante of the LoC; permit the de-escalation to take place by going back; and we can then resume the composite dialogue process" (The Times of India, June 27, 1999). The route chart could not have been more precise or more sensible. It was not an off-the-cuff pronouncement, but a deliberate one. The reference to the "composite dialogue process" clearly revealed this.

The Indo-Pakistan Joint Statement in Islamabad on June 23, 1997 "set up a mechanism, including working groups at appropriate levels to address all these issues in an integrated manner." This was a reference to the preceding paragraph in which eight "outs tanding issues of concern to both sides were listed". One of them was Siachen, while "Jammu & Kashmir" and "Terrorism and drug-trafficking" were mentioned separately. "Cross-border terrorism" was in full bloom. Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral cynically reneged on the accord. Kashmir was not to be discussed substantively as an issue.

Despite the nuclear tests in May 1998, at Pokhran and Chagai respectively, the dialogue was revived by the Prime Ministers in New York on September 23, 1998. They decided that the mechanism envisaged in the Islamabad Joint Statement "would not be made op erational". The November 1998 meeting of Secretaries ended in bitter failure because the Bharatiya Janata Party regime's Defence Minister, George Fernandes, had declared in advance that there would simply be no Indian withdrawal from Siachen.

The Lahore Declaration of February 21, 1999 revived the peace process and gave momentum to it. The Prime Ministers set up a back channel through their representatives, Brajesh Mishra and Niaz A. Naik (vide the writer's article "Misread lessons of Kargil" , The Statesman, February 12, 2000; also "Back-channel diplomacy", October 14, 1999). Naik's proposals were as wildly unrealistic as his indiscretions were grave. The "Chenab solution", which spelt a partition of Kashmir on communal lines, was a b rainchild he nursed devotedly.

Pakistan is yet to appreciate the justification and depth of Indian resentment over Kargil. The peace process was wrecked by Gujral's cowardice in 1997 and Pakistan's treachery in 1999. However, following diplomatic precedents in India and elsewhere, not ably during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, India continued the talks. Naik descended on New Delhi on June 25 and met Vajpayee. He revealed in an interview to the BBC, broadcast on June 29, that Vajpayee's "message to me was that if the situation is re solved as quickly as possible then the process which he had started along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can easily be resumed and accelerated. He twice used the word 'accelerated' (The Asian Age, July 1, 1999).

On July 4 came the Clinton-Nawaz Sharif "Joint Statement on Kashmir Conflict". Pakistan had to quit Kargil. Once that was done, the Indo-Pakistan dialogue should be resumed: "The President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging an expediti ous resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored."

In form, the Joint Statement represented a bilateral agreement. But, if Clinton interrupted the parleys to talk to Vajpayee, it could not have been to brief him on what had gone on between him and Nawaz Sharif. The briefing could have been done at the end, as is commonly done. Clinton, obviously, was putting forth his proposals to Vajpayee to make sure of his acceptance of the deal he had persuaded Nawaz Sharif to accept. It was left to Sandy Berger and Strobe Talbott to fill in the details, resp ectively, with Brajesh Mishra and Jaswant Singh. It was in effect, though not in form, a tripartite accord.

After a remarkable week's lull in public utterances, news broke that the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries had met at Attari on the border on July 11. What transpired there is as relevant to the credibility of the BJP-led government as what went on at Blair House a week earlier, on July 4, is. The two were clearly linked. Vajpayee gave the "good news" to a hurriedly convened all-party meeting that very day - as hurriedly as the DGMOs met that day.

Brajesh Mishra merely detected "some evidence of the withdrawal already taking place" in some sectors of the LoC. Sartaj Aziz, on the other hand, said plainly enough: "The DGMOs... agreed on the modalities of de-escalation, including sector-by-sector ces sation of ground and air operations to facilitate the Mujahideen's disengagement." He also said: "Following the Mujahideen's positive response to our appeal to de-escalate in Kargil, the Government of Pakistan and the Government of India have been in con tact on the question of the restoration of the LoC." He was reading out to the press a prepared statement. This was an accord on ceasefire. Mishra gave the game away when he said: "We hope that in seven days the status quo ante on the Line of Control will be restored if it goes according to plan": an agreed plan, obviously. (vide "Kargil diplomacy", Frontline, August 13, 1999).

On July 12, the day after Pakistan's withdrawal, the official spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs announced a total and sudden reversal of India's position: "We have stated the irreducible minimum of our demands: withdraw, reaffirm the sanctity and inviolability of the LoC and show action on the ground that cross-border terrorism in Kashmir will cease" (The Indian Express, July 13, 1999). India was no longer seeking the restoration of the situation as it prevailed prior to 1999, but to the one that prevailed before 1989 when insurgency broke out in Kashmir.

For a while Jaswant Singh persisted in his favourite parlour game of playing with words. This was not a "precondition" but a "pre-requisite" for talks, he said on July 20. Clearly the reversal had been planned for making it public after a ceasefire.

Not a single country has supported this stand. It rested on two false assumptions. First, that world opinion, finding Pakistan's conduct disgusting, would punish it as a terrorist state and demand far-reaching amends from it. Secondly, the United States would reverse its stand on Kashmir and endorse India's stand. Some American statements did come close to doing just that. Even the old formulation reiterated since 1990, that Kashmir is "disputed territory", was left unsaid, studiously.

New Delhi began to bask in the glory of "visiting dignitaries" vying with one another in paying compliments to India's "growing stature". Abba Eban once poured scorn at fellow citizens who jumped with joy whenever a state accorded recognition to Israel. Evidently, the Indian leaders' vulnerability to flattery has acquired such international recognition that the dignitaries came to New Delhi with pales of butter for thick spreads over demanding egos there; within and outside the government.

The astute Bill Clinton gently but calculatedly put an end to the ecstasy in an interview to Shobhana Bhartia, published in The Hindustan Times on September 3, 2000, on the eve of his meeting with Vajpayee: "I am troubled by the threat to peace po sed by the Kashmir dispute." He urged "direct discussions between India and Pakistan... sincere efforts to end violence... And, of course, the wishes of the Kashmiri people must be taken into account." The last formulation was repeated when the interview er sought his views about a settlement "within the existing territorial framework of the two countries". What has gone unnoticed is his reply to her pointed question: "When in the subcontinent, you had suggested that this century does not reward those wh o seek to redraw borders in blood. Are you, therefore, saying that the Kashmir issue can be solved within the existing territorial framework of the two countries?"

The point was well taken. In India, Pakistan and the U.S., Clinton's remark was indeed construed as an endorsement of the LoC as an international border in a future accord. He swiftly dispelled the impression: "My belief that nobody's goals will be achie ved through violence does not pre-ordain any particular type of settlement for the dispute. What a solution looks like will be determined by the participants in the process of dialogue that brings peace to Kashmir." Reliance on American support now will prove as unwise and futile as did reliance once on the Soviet veto.

If any accord on the Kashmir question must reflect and respect the wishes of the people - in all the regions, and of all the communities - their participation in the talks at some stage cannot be ruled out, morally and politically. Likewise, it is too late in the day to question Pakistan's locus standi as a party to the Kashmir dispute. A host of Indo-Pakistan agreements since 1947 recognise that. The Shimla Pact (Para 6) binds both sides to resolving it, as do the Islamabad Joint Statemen t and the Lahore Declaration. There is another good reason. George Fernandes said on November 20 that the Kashmiri "militant groups are funded and trained by Pakistan. They need Pakistani approval before reacting."

All the more reason, then, to talk to Pakistan. The Hizbul Mujahideen's offer of ceasefire, on July 24, 2000, had the full backing of Pakistan. It was not its injection of any new terms but the Indian government's firm resolve to exclude talks with Pakis tan and political parleys with the Hizb itself that led to their collapse on August 8 (vide this writer's "Questions about the Kashmir ceasefire", Economic and Political Weekly, November 4, 2000).

Vajpayee's announcement on November 19 of a month's ceasefire during "the holy month of Ramazan" sought reciprocity from both Pakistan and the militants. But, he did not offer to talk to either, while affirming his commitment to "a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue". A ceasefire buttresses the status quo which the militants seek to alter; a point the government missed when it offered surrender terms to the Hizb at the Srinagar talks on August 3. The Hizb had declared a ceasefire preparatory to ta lks, which would cover Pakistan at a later stage. India sought, instead, the Hizb's surrender and its help to fight the other militant groups.

Dare one hope that the lesson of August has been learnt now? Or, is this ceasefire another exercise in gimmickry? At some point India will have to climb down from the petard on which it has impetuously hoisted itself since July 12, 1999. The asset garner ed in 1999 - goodwill following Kargil - has begun to dwindle. The cordon sanitaire around Pakistan that was sought to be erected has collapsed. On October 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in New Delhi that the Kashmir issue should be reso lved bilaterally, peacefully and "on the basis of a compromise".

If the ceasefire is to make sense as an act of statesmanship, it is but right that the Prime Minister should buttress it by inviting the Hurriyat to talks and by inviting separately Pakistan to resume the Lahore process as well. Disclosure of an "underst anding" between the DGMOs of both countries, on November 21, to de-escalate firing on the LoC, just two days after announcement of the ceasefire on November 19 gives ground for hope that moves in that direction are being considered.

A state of siege

K.T. RAVINDRAN cover-story

How four decades of official apathy, corruption and distorted plan implementation have resulted in a royal mess in Delhi.

FOR the two million-odd workers who lived on the industries of Delhi, the current crisis is nothing short of a state of siege. The system has declared war on their workplace and pushed them beyond the line of legality. For the first time, the real politi cal import of the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) has finally come out in the open: from the rarefied realms of technicalities into the contested public domain. In the complex terrain of Delhi's development, the stakes are high, the players are big and the co nsequences are disastrous, seemingly only for the urban poor. The current crisis, though unprecedented, is the second assault on the poor - now in their place of work after the demolition drive on their homes. The Master Plan as a legal document is once again here, redefined in the background of the new aspirations of the Indian middle class for a higher quality of life of international standards, to create "beautiful" cities that can attract global capital. Four decades of urban planning in Delhi, whic h progressively marginalised both the urban environment and the poor, is now faking an encounter between the two. Shooting from the shoulders of the judiciary, the liberalised mindset that is benumbed by the visions of "the city beautiful" is somehow lon ging to relive the idealised image of suburbia as conceived in the Master Plan. For this, "The New Vision" is willing to cleanse the city of the poor and the polluting, while the real maladies lie outside - in the many daggers that are drawn in Delhi's p olitical arena, in the commissions and omissions by the multiple implementing authorities, in the deeply corrupted markets of the city's commodified public spaces and in the Master Plan mode of development itself.

17251161jpg

Back in 1962, the first Master Plan for Delhi was brought out with the help of Ford Foundation-sponsored experts from the United States and a group of young Indian planners trained in England and the U.S. The Nehruvian brand of socialism was the politica l backdrop with industrialised urbanisation as the chosen mode. The Master Plan was a trendsetter in that it became the model instrument for negotiating the growth of cities all over India. After 38 years, in the light of today's crisis, some of the prim ary underpinnings of that Master Plan need to be re-evaluated for their legitimacy.

The maladies of the Master Plan

As a direct derivative of the industrial logic, the Master Plan assumes that a healthy environment can be achieved only through strict zoning of functions. Using a two-dimensional mode of representation as a land use plan, it assumes that the complex fac tors that make up for the vibrant economy of an ever-expanding, changing Indian city can be contained and controlled by this feeble instrument, albeit its legal sanctity. Small industrial towns and suburbs may be successful in isolating its industry and production centres from housing, institutional and commercial areas. But that is not the stuff the Indian metropolis is made of. Its morphological structure is a reflection of its multi-ethnic population base, complex functional structure, the power play that determines its institutional disposition, the historic layering of its urban fabric and above all its economic propensity poised to change direction at any moment. The often repeated expression that cities are "the engines of growth" of our economy , recognises this characteristic, while planned development through the 100-odd Master Plans in currency today in India refuse to provide the rudimentary structure necessary to facilitate them.

Large industrial estates zoned in the plan normally generate a scurry of auxiliary production units that churn out from slums and other non-conforming areas, products that are monetarily cheap (in spite of the high borrowing rates of private finance), bu t at great social cost to its labour. In other words, most products we have in the Indian markets are affordable because they are subsidised by the poor. Besides the support to the large, formal sector industries, the informal sector provides for almost the entire consumer needs of the urban poor and to a large extent, of the middle classes, through production and distribution networks that entirely depend on the non-conforming areas and public spaces like footpaths. The evasion of excise duty and sales tax merely help offset the 40 per cent inherent slush money that is drained out by the politico-bureaucratic networks, put-ting back squarely the real cost of a soft production location and the subsidy by the workers. And let us face facts, the mainstre am planned production process can never meet these needs of the majority in the city, and therefore has no right to subvert deliberately the informal sector.

The lessons from the traditional urban centres of India such as Banaras (now Varanasi), Kancheepuram, Ajmer and Old Delhi are most evidently of the richness of mixed use. More significantly, it is through function-specific building typology that old citi es of India salvage the dignity of the multiple functions that the residential neighbourhoods accommodated. Through strict mono-functional zoning and the absence of follow-up urban design of building typology, the Master Plan failed to protect the reside ntial quality as well as criminalise the small entrepreneurs who are priced out of the market and are left with no option but to operate from their already overcrowded homes. Strict zoning, as prescribed in the Master Plan, to start with, is a violation of the lifestyle of Indian people and the economic propensities of our metropolitan cities.

Compounding the ill-effects of an unimaginative mono-functional zoning is the failure of the plan implementation agencies to produce almost 30,000 industrial units of various hues it provided for in the two Master Plans. Consequently, with a highly buoya nt monetary environment and the support from a well entrenched land mafia-politician-bureaucracy nexus, the polluting industries and the informal sector have invaded the soft areas of the city: the unauthorised settlements and the environmentally sensiti ve areas left out of the development plan. In the face of the failure of the state and the industrial apparatus to provide basic housing to the labour, slums and other vulnerable, high-density, low-income settlements, the urban villages and even the fact ory sheds often provide cheap, overcrowded housing for the labour employed by both the formal and informal sectors. Thus both at their place of work and home, the working people of Delhi are kept out of the mainstream planning process.

17251162jpg

However, it is indisputable that the polluting industries must be moved out of the residential areas to places where pollution can be contained and treated. The resettlement policy for this is yet to take any formal shape with the two parties in power in Delhi squabbling over amendments to the Master Plan for land-use change to provide for the relocation. Besides, the relocation plan prepared for the Bawana area in the west of Delhi also suffers from the same pitfall of mono-functional zoning, without a ny provision for workers' housing. And the plan expects them to commute 30 to 40 km by the proposed Metro Rail scheme to their places of work! This new industrial area, as planned, also has a half-baked pollution control and treatment provision and a min imum size of 100 square metre plots, which would be clearly out of the reach of the majority of the industries that need relocation. The villages around the new industrial sites have meanwhile staged political protests against the waste disposal system p roposed in the plan. Altogether, it is a royal mess, resulting from four decades of apathy, corruption and distorted plan implementation.

At the same time, the very agencies that demand strict zoning in housing areas to save the environment are continually amending the Master Plan (more than 220 times till date) to accommodate the powerful land mafia, the banks and the newly empowered reli gious groups. Comm-unity centre sites legally zoned as such in the Master Plan are amended to put up hotels and commercial centres of international standards (a euphemism for consumption centres for imported products and foods). Multiple five-star hotel sites and fly-overs are eating into the city's Ridge. The Yamuna river bed, which is the main recharge zone for Delhi's groundwater sources, is today dumped with millions of tonnes of fly ash that leech toxic chemicals into the aquifer, for reclaiming la nd for globalised investments in the transport sector and to achieve the vision of a new Manhattan on the river front. And all these by amending the Master Plan and against the recommendations of, or in the absence of a proper, environmental impact asses sment. Clearly the planning and implementation authorities in Delhi have lost the moral authority to lament the loss of environmental quality in residential areas, when their proactive role is leading to such deep damage to the city's environment.

The Master Plan, once notified in the Gazette, is a legal document, or the Master Plan becomes the legally acceptable framework laid down for the regulative as well as generative systems in the development of the city. As such, every citizen within the d esignated area of the city and for the time span of 20 years as prescribed in the plan, is obliged by law to abide by the plan. Any deviation from this prescription then becomes "non-conforming" and therefore illegal.

If the citizens are legally bound by the Master Plan, does it not stand to logic that the authority that prepares the plan is also bound by its provisions? Is it not then a violation of law when the governmental agency does not implement large parts of i ts own stipulations to develop Special Areas for mixed use (MPD 2001) and thousands of industrial units within the plan period? Is there one law for the citizens and another for the law-makers? The irony of it is that those who did not implement the lega l provisions in the Master Plan are now waging war on those who fulfilled the large gap in industrial provisions made by the Master Plan.

Lack of public participation

The genesis of the problem can also be traced to the poor provisions for public participation in the Master Plan process. As practised in the first two plans for Delhi (or for that matter every plan in the country), a Draft Master Plan is published, invi ting public objections within a certain period. Any citizen can write in to register objections and the planning authority collates and discusses the objections. Subsequently, the plan is presented to the elected body, in the case of Delhi to the Central government. As representatives of the people, the elected body is expected to express the people's will. Once the Cabinet approves the Plan, it is gazetted. In this system, the authority is not obliged to react to or accommodate all or any of the object ions. In other words, it can put out the plans for approval pretty much the way it wants. The elected body is often unable to comprehend the full import of the plan, as the plan relies heavily on charts, maps and other technical data as well as on some u nderlying assumptions. The fact that 40 per cent of the city is living in slums and the present crisis of industries make it abundantly clear that people's participation has not been structural to the decision-making process in the city.

The Nagar Palika Bill or the Constitution 74th Amendment, passed by an Act of Parliament is the law of this land since 1994. This Bill lays down a clear-cut structure for physical development, defines the composition of the bodies that are to prepare the Physical Plan (Master Plan) and prescribes a bottom-up system, where the needs of people are articulated at the lowest level, by the ward committees. Planning being a State subject in India, the 74th Amendment, delineates responsibility for the State an d the elected municipalities. In this disposition it is the responsibilities of the municipality to prepare the Master Plan, taking into consideration the ward committee requirements as well as the needs of other bodies above it in the hierarchy.

In the light of this, when one looks at Delhi, a number of ambiguities emerge. As the nation's capital, Delhi has two elected governments - the Centre and the State, both with legitimate stakes in its development. Land and police are with the Centre and the Delhi Development Authority that prepares the Master Plan works directly under the Centre. Besides these, the National Capital Region Planning Board is also involved indirectly in the development of Delhi. The State government controls the industrial sector, while the two elected municipalities, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), along with the DDA implement the Master Plan. The power lines cross here, and short circuits are aplenty. Delhi today is a contested territory, with many masters and many hitmen. The electoral mandate that backed different parties at the Centre and the State has further confounded the confusion. And now we also have the judiciary playing an active role, bringing all the stakeholders into direct confrontation. Sadly, the victims of this political and administrative charade are once again the city's poor.

If the MPD were truly a product of people's participation as prescribed in the 74th Amendment, the situation would have been very different. The accountability of elected representatives would have been far more clearly etched out and the plan implementa tion could not have taken such a brutal turn against the very people who willed it. Why is there such an inertia in implementing the six-year-old 74th Amendment? If the citizens of Delhi are made party to the decisions that affect their lives, the homes of the poor can be spared from being the battlefield of the titans of this country.

K.T. Ravindran is Professor and Head of the Department of Urban Design, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

Pollution and the rights of citizens

columns

The Supreme Court judgment on relocation of polluting industrial units in Delhi implies a skewed definition of the rights of citizens.

17251181jpg

THE capital city of the country has experienced some turmoil in recent weeks, stemming in the immediate instance from the move to close or relocate a large number of industries defined as "polluting". As the order would affect the livelihood of 10 lakh t o 15 lakh workers who would be left with no material means of support, this has inevitably led to protest not only by such workers and their employers, but also by a wider section of sympathisers and human rights activists.

There is one strand of middle class reaction to these developments - which is also largely reflected in the print and visual media which cater to this class and the elite - which seeks to express the entire argument in terms of a fight between "green" en vironment-friendly citizens (the good guys) and dirty polluting industrialists (the bad guys, who could almost have stepped out of some children's cartoon). This position lauds the Supreme Court judgment for being forward-thinking even as it derides poli ticians for pandering to "special interest groups" such as petty industrialists and their workers.

Thus, the environmental activist and lawyer M.C. Mehta, whose original public interest petition can be said to have started this particular ball rolling, has declared that "the Supreme Court of India has played a dynamic role in evolving a judicial relie f system for environment protection and sustainable development in India". The capital's English-language media is abuzz with plaudits for such intervention, even as it insists on the rigorous enforcement of these decisions no matter what their costs in terms of lost employment and destruction of livelihoods of a very significant share of the city's population.

The current process effectively began in March 1995, when the Supreme Court issued orders to the Central Pollution Control Board, directing it to issue individual notices to some 8,378 units, indicating that "these industries have to stop functioning in the city of Delhi and be relocated elsewhere".

In July 1996, the Court directed that the time had come for the industries concerned to stop production and move out by the end of November that year. This referred to 168 industrial units in Delhi which were considered to be polluting and/or were operat ing in non-conforming areas in violation of the Master Plan of Delhi.

This judgment, which was passed by the Supreme Court without giving any proper hearing to the workers or their unions, provided for a mere one-year's wages as retrenchment benefit for the workers that they would be entitled to in case they could not be p rovided alternative employment in the new sites. Incidentally, the order also provided a land-use package wherein the owners would be able to retain 32 per cent of the real estate, with 68 per cent going to the government.

A revised judgment in December 1996 enhanced the retrenchment benefit to six-years' wages and made the availability of 32 per cent land to the owners conditional on actual relocation. The closure option was thus made more difficult, and the potential for and timing of relocation has subsequently become the focus of the debate between the Delhi State government and the Supreme Court.

There are many points of opposition to such a process, and several of these have been forcefully expressed by workers and their representatives, and even by the owners of units and politicians with an ear to the ground. The most significant of these rela te to the denial of the rights of workers to their livelihood, in the urge to ensure for some others a more "pollution-free" environment.

It has been pointed out that in Delhi, two-thirds of the atmospheric pollution is caused by vehicular traffic and the dominant part of the water contamination is caused by untreated sewage flowing into rivers and canals. It is therefore not just unfair t o make workers the prime victims of a sudden drive to clean up, it is also illogical and bizarre.

But even apart from these obvious and significant points, there are aspects of the judicial stress on relocation of polluting units, which are extremely puzzling from a basic human rights perspective. Take the idea of protection from atmospheric and wate r pollution. The judgment (and middle class support to it) implicitly seems to suggest that such pollution cannot be accepted in the deemed "residential" parts of Delhi - but that it is all right if it happens in other parts.

There is thus an obsession with the Master Plan of Delhi, an outdated and unsystematic plan which has continuously been outpaced by the reality of migration, population growth and actual urban expansion. This plan has become the tenuous base for a sweepi ng attempt at massive relocation which would - if fully implemented as stated - become a historically unprecedented forced migration.

Note that the judges have not demanded cleaner technology (which is actually available) so that such pollution does not occur at all or is reduced. Rather, they have simply demanded that the polluting units move, and go and do their noxious stuff elsewhe re. This clearly suggests that those residing in designated "residential area" - the middle and upper classes - deserve clean air and water more than those residing in less happily classified areas. There appears to be no judicial outrage or concern, for example, over the plight of the very large population of poor working people living in tenements in the Badarpur area (not classified as a residential areas despite its large resident population), which is surely one of the worst polluted zones of the c ity.

Similarly, the Supreme Court - which must after all take into consideration the interest of all the citizens of the country - seems to be especially concerned with the plight of those within the city who currently live near polluting units. What about th ose who live in or near the areas to which such industries are to be relocated? Are they not entitled to clean air and water?

Even more inexplicable is the court's apparent inability to consider the worst sufferers of industrial and other forms of pollution - the workers themselves. Surely it must be obvious that if a factory produces noxious gases and poisonous effluents, the most likely and immediate victims are the workers who are forced to spend many hours in such conditions, and who typically are also forced to live near the place of work in highly unsanitary conditions. What about their rights to a clean environment?

The untutored observer can be forgiven for thinking that somewhere in all this there is an implicit hierarchy of rights. What defines this hierarchy? It cannot be sheer number, for the number of workers and of the population affected adversely by such a judgment is very large indeed, while the number of those who would benefit may well be significantly smaller. Certainly location, or cartographic position, plays a role, since those who are lucky enough to live in "residential" colonies - even if there a re finally fewer people living in them than in "non-residential" areas - are given preference.

But underlying all this there may be the most significant hierarchy of all, that of class position. This defines how important it is for some people to have a clean and healthy environment, while the environment and even livelihood of many others is not seen as significant at all. Thus it is that we have a judiciary, English language media and a set of elite and middle class people that get extremely agitated about polluting units and want them all thrown out of the city, even as they themselves contrib ute to atmospheric pollution far more definitively by daily adding to the number of vehicles on the roads.

Of course, such an implicit hierarchical perception of the rights of citizens is not a new one - it has existed in many societies and cultures before. But it does sit uneasily in a society which claims to be democratic and universalist, and where the cou rts are meant to uphold a Constitution that enshrines the fundamental equality before law of all its citizens. And it exposes the unabashedly elitist base of some of this new-found upper class "green activism".

Of the Chief Justice's age

The order that a two-member Bench of the Supreme Court passed on November 27 in a contempt proceeding relating to allegations about the age of Chief Justice A.S. Anand has only served to accentuate public misgivings.

THE controversy stirred up by a document annexed to Ram Jethmalani's book Big Egos Small Men has assumed serious proportions. The document in question, dated September 4, 2000, was issued by S. Behr of the Bar Examination Records of the General Co uncil of the Bar of the United Kingdom and addressed to Sohal & Co., a firm of solicitors in the U.K. It stated thus:

"To Whom It May Concern: ADARSH SEIN ANAND

This is to certify that the above was enrolled as a Student Member of Inner Temple on 4th January, 1962 and, at that time, gave his year of birth as 1934."

This document generated a lot of interest because Justice Anand's declared official date of birth is November 1, 1936 and if his year of birth indeed was 1934, he would have reached the age of superannuation in 1999. This document was picked up by a Chen nai-based advocate, S.K. Sundaram, who had in 1991 filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court seeking an investigation into the question of Justice Anand's age. Recently he sent a telegram to the Chief Justice of India. This telegram, couched in the most objectionable terms, asked the Chief Justice to step down on the basis of the allegation that he had attained the age of superannuation. Sundaram further threatened that if that was not done, he would be constrained to move a criminal court for the offences of cheating, criminal breach of trust and forgery for falsification of age. Sundaram also threatened that in case the Chief Justice did not resign, he would file a writ of quo-warranto and seek a direction to pay a sum of Rs.3 crores for 'usurpi ng' the office of the Chief Justice after attaining the age of superannuation.

The Chief Justice directed this telegram to be placed before a Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justices K.T. Thomas and R.P. Sethi, who on November 7 suo motu issued notice for criminal contempt to Sundaram. The court, while issuing the notice, also asked the Solicitor-General of India, Harish Salve, to assist the court in the matter.

On November 21, Sundaram appeared in court and sought more time to file an affidavit in the matter and four weeks' time to file a proper affidavit in reply to the contempt notice. He also said that he was a "heart patient". The court, however, told him t hat he could not be given any more than six days' time and that he must file his reply to the contempt notice not later than November 27, when the case would be taken up again.

On November 21, Solicitor-General Salve filed in court a compilation of certain documents which included a copy of a criminal complaint filed by Sundaram against the Chief Justice before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Chennai. The main basis of Sunda ram's complaint was the document issued by the General Council of the Bar on September 4, 2000. On the basis of this document, Sundaram alleged that the Chief Justice had declared his year of birth as 1934 and, therefore, wanted action for criminal breac h of trust, cheating and forgery to be taken against him. On November 10, the Metropolitan Magistrate dismissed this complaint on the ground that there was no sufficient ground to proceed further in the matter.

Salve also produced in court on November 21 the copy of a letter dated November 20 written by Niall Morison, Chief Executive of the General Council of the Bar, in which he said that the information provided by Behr regarding the year of birth of the Chie f Justice "is based on records that we hold and which were inherited by us in 1996 from the Council of Legal Education when the General Council of the Bar assumed responsibility for regulatory matters in these areas. We believe that the information provi ded to the Council of Legal Education in respect of the day of birth was provided by the Inner Temple."

Morison added that "according to the original documents produced by the Sub Treasurer of the Inner Temple at the meeting with you on 16th November, 2000, the date of birth of Dr. Anand given in those documents was 1 November, 1936. It would appear theref ore that the information on the date of birth given by Mr. Behr to Sohal & Co. was incorrect." The chief executive's letter went on to say that the letter of September 4 reproduced in Big Egos Small Men was not identical to the copy they held. The layout differs from their copy. "For instance the figure '4th' which appears at the end of the first line in the book appears on our copy of the original on the second line." Morison also attached a copy of a letter dated September 4, 2000 issued and he ld by the General Council of the Bar. This was identical, word for word and comma for comma, with the document in Jethmalani's book. The only difference was that in the copy used in Jethmalani's book, the figure '4th' appeared in the first line itself in stead of at the beginning of the second line, without any difference in the content of the sentence.

On November 23, Jethmalani held a press conference at which he released a letter dated November 2, written by Jonathan Hirst, Chairman of the General Council of the Bar, to Justice Anand in response to Justice Anand's letter to him dated October 25. Jeth lamani expressed surprise that while Salve had placed before the court the letter of November 20, of the Chief Executive of the General Council of the Bar, he had suppressed this letter of the Chairman of the General Council, which contained the followin g statements.

1. The General Council of the Bar of England had received records from information provided by the Inns of Court on forms completed by those applying for student membership of the Inns.

2. These records had been scanned (to preserve a facsimile copy of the record) on to an electronic database at the General Council, two to three years ago.

3. Having examined the scanned image relating to Justice Anand's record closely, it appeared to the Chairman that the year of birth was recorded as 1934, when the record card was completed in 1962.

4. A copy of the scanned record was enclosed as requested.

Jethmalani went on to say: "In these circumstances, for the Solicitor-General to suppress this vital document from the court and produce the 'Certificate' of the so-called 'Chief Executive' of the General Council and seek to cast a doubt on the very auth enticity of the original document dated 4th September, 2000 issued by Examiner of Records, Mr. Behr, is unpardonable.

"It is obvious that insidious attempts are being made to suppress the document existing in the records of the General Council and confuse this issue on the basis of suspicious certificates obtained from some 'Chief Executive'. This far from helping to re solve the issue only accentuates the suspicion.

"Unless there is some explanation of how and why the CJI declared his year of birth as 1934 in the form which was sent to the General Council of the Bar, this matter will continue to agitate the minds of the people of this country. The only way to set th ese doubts to rest would be a thorough investigation into the matter."

Jethmalani also released a letter to Salve in which he suggested that Salve issued a left-handed compliment for having gone all the way to the U.K. to investigate the issue of the age of the Chief Justice, which had made him an investigator and a materia l witness in the matter and open to cross-examination. Jethmalani asked Salve to assist the cause of truth and justice by getting from the Chief Justice a copy of his scanned record, which was sent by the General Council of the Bar and which showed his y ear of birth to be 1934.

On November 27, when the contempt proceedings were heard again, Salve handed over another compilation, which contained the letter of November 2, of the Chairman of the General Council of the Bar addressed to the Chief Justice, as well as Jethmalani's let ter to him. Although the court adjourned the hearing of the proceedings against Sundaram to the next day, the Judges, K.T. Thomas and R.P. Sethi, proceeded to pass an order directing a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the genuineness of t he letter of the General Council of the Bar of September 4, and to trace out the person responsible for creating it. The court observed: "On a perusal of the documents produced by the learned Solicitor-General of India, we feel, prima facie, that the document purported to have been sent by the General Council of the Bar, London, dated 4.9.2000 under the name of S. Behr to Sohal & Co., is not a genuine document." The Judges added that the "question of age of Shri Adarsh Sein Anand has been decided by the President of India as per order dated 15.5.1991. In view of Article 217(3) of the Constitution of India the President of India is the only authority having jurisdiction to decide that question. Hence the finality attained on that question is a re ality."

While directing the CBI to investigate into the genuineness of the document dated September 4, the court clarified that "the CBI is not to go into the question of the age of Dr. Justice Adarsh Sein Anand, whose age was determined by the President even wh ile he was a Judge of the High Court."

The next day, Jethmalani filed an intervention application in the matter with the grievance that the court in its order of November 27, had recorded a prima facie finding that the document dated September 4 of the General Council of the Bar annexe d to his book was not a genuine document. Jethmalani's grievance was that such an aspersion cast a reflection on his reputation and that this was done by the court without even issuing a notice or giving him any hearing in the matter. He pointed out that if a hearing had been granted to him, he would have demonstrated conclusively that the document was not only genuine but its authenticity had been affirmed by the General Council of the Bar to the Chief Justice himself in a letter of the Chairman dated November 2, 2000. He said that even the copy of the document issued by the Bar Council, which had been attached to the letter of the Chief Executive of the Bar Council dated November 20, was identical word for word with the one produced in the book. Poin ting out that the court had ordered the investigation by the CBI in complete violation of the mandatory sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure, he said that Salve had again withheld from the court the annexure to the letter of the Chairman of the Gen eral Council of the Bar dated November 2 to the Chief Justice, which was a scanned image of the Chief Justice's record, which showed his year of birth to be 1934. Jethmalani submitted that the dispute about the age of a Judge of the Supreme Court was to be resolved by a procedure created by Parliament under Article 124 (2A) of the Constitution. The earlier determination under Article 217 might have some evidentiary value but would not be conclusive. These executive orders, Jethmalani contended, were pas sed by evidence then available and could be made again if fresh evidence became available. Also, the issue of the Chief Justice's age could not be determined in a contempt proceeding; it could only be decided in an appropriate proceeding for that purpose .

The court, however, refused to hear Jethmalani's application on the ground that it should be filed in the Registry and come up for hearing before the court in due course. The hearing of the contempt application against Sundaram, however, had to be adjour ned to December 6 on account of Sundaram collapsing in court with his blood pressure shooting up abnormally.

WHATEVER be the ultimate fate of the contempt proceedings against Sundaram and whatever be the orders passed in Jethmalani's intervention application, a few things must be said about the extraordinary order passed by the court on November 27.

It is noteworthy that the court records in its order a prima facie finding that the document dated September 4 issued by the General Council of the Bar was not a genuine document. This is so since the only document dated September 4 before the cou rt was the document annexed to the letter of September 20 of the Chief Executive of the General Council of the Bar addressed to Salve. This letter itself affirms that the annexed document written by Behr dated September 4 was the copy of the original hel d by the General Council. How then could the court say that this document did not appear to be genuine? Moreover, the letter of the Chairman of the Bar dated November 2 to the Chief Justice also unambiguously confirms the authenticity of Behr's letter da ted September 4 and also confirms that Behr had correctly stated that the year of birth recorded in Justice Anand's record card completed in 1962 was in fact 1934.

What is surprising is that the court ordered a CBI investigation into the genuineness and authorship of the document whose genuineness and authorship had been affirmed repeatedly by the General Council of the Bar, which had issued this document to Sohal & Co.

But there is something even more noteworthy about the court's order of November 27. The court goes on to record that the question of the age of Justice Anand was finally determined by the President in 1991 and that that determination had become final and could not be reopened and, therefore, the court specifically barred the CBI from making any investigation into the question. Apart from the fact that there was no inquiry made into the issue of the age of Justice Anand even in 1991 when the order of the President was that no such inquiry is necessary, it is an unstatable proposition that once such determination had been made, on the basis of some material or evidence at one point of time, it bars any further inquiry or investigation or determination at a later point of time when fresh material becomes available, and which casts some doubt on the declared age of a Judge. How can a determination on a frivolous application made on no evidence bar an investigation when new material becomes subsequently av ailable?

Moreover, was the court justified in making such an order in a case arising out of a contempt proceeding against Sundaram, which was initiated because of a highly objectionable telegram sent to the Chief Justice? Will the court wait for the outcome of th e CBI investigation before deciding whether Sundaram's telegram amounted to contempt?

After Jethmalani's book was released, several documents have mysteriously surfaced in certain sections of the media, which if authentic establish that his official date of birth is correct. These include his matriculation certificate of 1951, which he ha d declared as misplaced when he got enrolled in the Delhi Bar Council in 1964. But while from these documents his official date of birth does appear to be correct, the manner in which certain documents are being selectively suppressed and others released , and the unusual manner in which the Supreme Court has been handling the contempt matter, have only served to accentuate public misgivings about the whole matter. The whole controversy has certainly not enhanced the reputation of the judiciary.

Prashant Bhushan is a lawyer practising in the Supreme Court of India.

A remarkable turnaround

A team of world-class physicians make an incredible recovery possible for Union Minister Murasoli Maran who battled with a rare type of heart ailment for over a month at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.

UNION Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran was discharged from the Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, on November 30 after successful treatment for a rare type of cardiac condition, "hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy". Said a cheerful Maran while leaving the hospital after a 34-day-stay: "I have got my life back. I am really proud of this world-class institution." Timely intervention by a team of world-class medical specialists and physicians, quick and well-informed decisions made by family memb ers and, above all, Maran's will to fight made this remarkable recovery possible.

17251221jpg

Maran, admitted to the hospital on October 28 with acute migraine and breathlessness, benefited from the timely emergency injection given at home by his daughter, a doctor, as soon as his distress was noted. In hospital, the Minister was given intensive treatment and administered de-hydro crojotemin injection for the "acute episode of migraine." He continued to suffer breathlessness and his condition worsened as the "hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy", from wh-ich he has been suffering since 1989 without major complications, showed up suddenly and led to "diastolic left ventricular dysfunction", a genetic problem that impairs the pumping function of the heart. This problem manifested itself as an increase in the muscle mass (it was three times th at in a normal heart) of the left chamber of the heart, obstructing blood flow. This reduced pumping capacity and led to a mitral valve leak.

The panel of doctors attending on Maran decided to alter the line of medical management to improve the basic cardiac condition and suggested a special type of pacing - "sequential pacing". This was done on November 6, and Maran responded well to the temp orary pacemaker.

Though he appeared to recover immediately, his condition worsened the next day as he developed severe pulmonary oedema (collection of fluid in the lungs). With the lungs burdened with almost 20 litres of fluid, he was unable to breathe. His vital paramet ers went beyond control and the kidneys were on the verge of a shut-down. He was then put on a ventilator.

Two specialists from New Delhi - from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals - joined the medical team. Four more specialists from Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, arrived later that day. There were two opt ions. Open-heart surgery or the revolutionary "alcohol ablation of the septum of the left chamber of the heart", a procedure to shrink the increased muscle mass. Senior consultant cardiologist Dr. P. Ramachandran, who had done seven septal ablation proce dures, suggested the "alcohol ablation", an accepted modern management method for "chronic obstructive cardiomyopathy".

Describing the situation as of November 7, Apollo Hospitals chairman Dr. Prathap C. Reddy said that the massive pulmonary oedema led to a critical drop in all vital parameters, including "a renal shutdown". With such a lung condition Maran was in no stat e to undergo surgery. The panel of doctors decided on ablation and his family's consent was taken. According to Dr. Ramachandran, who performed the ablation procedure using a catheter, it was a "last, desperate measure". There were immediate results in t he form of "increase in oxygen saturation and urine output".

The ablation procedure was done at 1 a.m. on November 8 by introducing a balloon into the septal artery (which had expanded from the normal 10 mm to 27 mm), and 1.5 ml of absolute alcohol was injected in the affected area to produce a "controlled infarct ion of the intra-ventricular septum", to kill the extra muscle mass and shrink it. This led to a "dramatic improvement", and according to Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, there was a "turn in Maran's condition". Blood pressure returned to normal and oxygen saturati on rose from 70 to 98 per cent. More important, the patient's renal functioning was activated. However, Maran remained on the ventilator and pulmonary oedema persisted.

Pioneers in the field of interventional cardiology from the United States and the United Kingdom flew into Chennai to review the line of treatment. Dr. Ulrich Sigwart, an interventional cardiologist from the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, who invented the ablation procedure, arrived on November 9. Appreciating the line of treatment, he felt that the ablation procedure, performed perhaps in the best possible manner, had a significant beneficial effect on Maran's condition.

Dr. Horst Kuhn of Stadtlschen Kliniken, Germany, another interventional cardiologist, was the next international expert to arrive. Responding to the persisting lung congestion on account of diastolic dysfunction, he suggested another ablation procedure, and injected 2.75 ml of absolute alcohol in small doses into the septal arteries on November 11. Noting that there was a marked improvement in blood flow from the heart and in the lung condition, Dr. Horst Kuhn said that administering septal ablation on a critically ill patient was a rarity, and of the total ablation procedures done globally, only 3 per cent was done on the critically ill. He also said that the success rate of the procedure was 90 per cent.

Soon the obstruction in the left ventricle totally cleared, and the mitral valve leak stopped. Doctors implanted a dual-chamber permanent pacemaker in Maran.

The panel of doctors included cardiologists Drs. P. Ramachandran, I. Sathyamurthy, K. Subramanyam and Mathew Samuel Kalarickal, anaesthetist I.S. Naidu, and cardio thoracic surgeon M.R. Girinath of Apollo Hospitals; visiting cardiologists Drs. K.K. Talwa r of the AIIMS, Jaishankar of the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Hyderabad, and Sreenivasa Rao and Narasimhan of CARE Hospital, Hyderabad; and Maran's personal cardiologist Dr. S. Thanickachalam, Dean of Faculties, Sri Ramachandra Medical Co llege, Chennai, and his personal physician Dr. Gopal. Using the hospital's telemedicine facility, the doctors and hospital authorities remained in touch with experts around the world.

Even while Maran was on and off the ventilator till November 28, he showed steady progress. He came out of the Intensive Care unit on November 25 and was taken off all life-supporting systems on November 28, before being discharged on November 30. The do ctors have advised a certain line of treatment and two weeks' rest for the 66-year-old Minister before he resumes work.

According to Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, Maran needs no further medical or surgical intervention as he has received "total treatment". He needs to be under observation for some time. "Septal ablation had offset the need for an open heart surgery to loosen his heart muscles," he said.

According to Dr. Thanickachalam, Maran has had obstructive cardiomyopathy since 1989 and has been getting himself examined whenever he went abroad. Experts in the U.S. and the U.K. had suggested the ablation procedure for him in case of an emergency.

DELHI'S DILEMMA

Caught between livelihood concerns and a judicial mandate, the national capital struggles to cope with the causes and consequences of massive pollution.

AFTER over a fortnight of often rancorous sittings, the Supreme Court on December 1 adjourned its hearings on the location of industrial units in "non-conforming" areas of Delhi. Laboured explanations by the Delhi State government on the reasons why the y were unable to transfer these units elsewhere and secure conformance with the Master Plan evolved for the National Capital Region (NCR), failed to win the approval of the court. The spirited effort by counsel for the State government to shift the respo nsibility to the Central government and its agencies like the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), again won it little sympathy. When hearings resume, presumably in January, it is likely that there will be a prolonged phase of bargaining over an alternativ e time-table for the court-mandated industrial relocation. After successive defaults by the regulatory authorities, it would take an act of faith to believe that a fresh set of commitments given to the judiciary will actually be fulfilled.

17250041jpg

The backdrop to the judicial proceedings was provided by days of turmoil and unrest on Delhi streets. Restive industrial workers, threatened with a loss of livelihood, came out to defend what they perceived as an inalienable right. Their anxieties were s toked by industrial entrepreneurs who saw the Supreme Court's activism on pollution as a major irritant and an inconvenience. When the dust settled, life went on very much as before in the national capital. The matter is now reduced to a tense standoff b etween a Union Minister used to occupying the high moral ground and a Delhi State government that has capitulated to the demands of political populism.

It is a striking feature of the prevalent situation that Jagmohan, the Union Minister for Urban Development, still retains his halo of moral rectitude in the public perception. Despite the fact that the Delhi government is no more than a seven-year old e ntity which shares little of the responsibility for the proliferation of industrial units in unauthorised areas, the entire burden of correcting the situation is being thrust upon it. The Urban Development Ministry and its subordinate body, the DDA, whic h had untrammelled authority to oversee land use in the NCR, has so far faced none of the pressure of judicial or public interrogation.

This is rather curious, since Jagmohan during his prolonged stewardship of the DDA is known to have very often trampled upon key provisions of the 1962 Master Plan for the capital. This was indeed the first comprehensive blueprint prepared to regulate la nd use in the capital city and its environs. Keeping in view Delhi's unique status as an administrative city that had absorbed a flood of refugees from the Partition of the sub-continent, it made ample provision for the growth of industry. In order to ca pitalise on the advantages of starting off with a relatively clean slate, the Master Plan provided for a dispersed pattern of industrial development that would minimise the need for workers to travel long distances to reach their workplaces and mitigate the need for large investments in traffic management.

Few of the plans for developing industrial locations were implemented. The consequence was that Delhi responded to the pressure of a continuing flood of immigrants, through an unplanned and chaotic pattern of industrialisation. This has, over the years, taken a toll of public health and hygiene, providing the inspiration for legal vigilantes to seek redress through the judicial process.

17250042jpg

Courtrooms are rather inappropriate forums for formulating policy, though the judiciary could presumably seek to redress public grievances over departures from agreed policy. There is invariably a wide chasm between the real world and the drawing board w here plans are evolved. The realities of a situation where the uncoordinated actions of multiple agents determine the course of economic and industrial growth often compel the abandonment of the best-laid plans.

Planners work with a certain set of preconceptions of the public good, without the benefit of knowing whether these notions are shared by the larger public. Nor do they have any feasible means of force-fitting reality into the mould that they cast. To re cognise the reasons why the real world fails to conform to their ideals, is to go part of the way towards evolving more effective planning methodologies. There may be no cause to submit to the realities of an unplanned and uncoordinated scheme of develop ment. It would be equally unreasonable to believe that a recalcitrant reality could be coerced into a preordained course of development. No government, leave alone court, has so far been able to assume coercive powers of such a magnitude.

The situation in Delhi today focusses attention on some of the inherent irrationalities of using judicial fiat to settle complex matters of public importance. On November 28, a toxic gas leak afflicted dozens of residents of an industrial suburb in the w estern part of Delhi. The source of the hazard was plastic wastes being processed in an aging incinerator, releasing noxious fumes that were being freely vented into the atmosphere through a hole in the industrial unit's roof. The owner of the unit was b ooked under a clause of the Indian Penal Code dealing with "poisonous substances endangering human life". Residents of the area had in the past repeatedly brought the unit's depredations to the notice of local authorities. But the operator of the unit ha d apparently evaded all accountability by manoeuvring his way through the thicket of laws and regulatory agencies.

This incident provided additional fuel to the Supreme Court as it went about its mission of berating the local government. Certain observers believe that the court should perhaps be more mindful of its inherent limitations. A judicially measured response , they feel, would have been for the court to focus its attention on the means it has at its disposal, to empower local communities to deal with the hazards of unplanned industrial growth. The industrial operator in west Delhi has for long years been ven ting noxious gases into his neighbourhood without the slightest fear of punishment or penalty, because there is no well-developed system of legal liability that he is subject to. Indeed, the Supreme Court has in the past had the opportunity to develop a feasible concept of legal liability, but failed to do so.

17250043jpg

In 1985, in a case involving the leak of toxic oleum fumes from a chemical unit in Delhi, the Supreme Court propounded the notion of "strict" or "absolute" liability. The concept had a certain value in a context where regulatory agencies are often ill-e quipped to cope with the growing complexities of modern industry. In its application, it had a certain simplicity: official agencies could exercise broad powers of oversight, but could not feasibly supervise every aspect of an industrial unit's functioni ng. But if the unit at any point endangered human life and well-being, then it would be held absolutely liable and would pay maximum penalties. There would, in other words, be a presumption of wrongdoing applying in cases where industrial units cause dea th or injury.

After having firmly resolved this question, the Supreme Court in subsequent cases seemed to wobble. The most infamous case, of course, remains the settlement of the claims arising from the Bhopal gas tragedy. The court in 1989 gave its approval to a coll usive settlement of the case between the Union government and the Union Carbide Corporation. The judiciary lost the moral high ground there. Subsequent efforts to reclaim it through fiats have simply failed to carry conviction.

CERTAIN fundamentals seem to have escaped public attention in the prevalent euphoria over the Supreme Court's approach on the question of pollution. Is it, for instance, the function of the judiciary to force its way into the domain of policy formulation and seek an accretion to its own powers? Or would the judiciary better serve the public interest by empowering individuals and communities to claim what are their rights -- the right to a clean environment being as important as the right to livelihood?

It is more the rule than the exception, of course, that the pressures of earning a livelihood in a chronically employment deficient economy, have engendered a rather casual attitude towards occupational and environmental safety. A suitable antidote would then have to be administered by means of altering the relative application of rights and obligations. By all accounts the judicial hearings over industrial pollution in Delhi have run into a stalemate. The resolve of the judiciary to enforce its writ ha ve encountered the inability of the government to reconcile the divergent interests of its constituents. Failing a radical change in the paradigm of judicial intervention in the matter, it may be unrealistic to expect any progress at all when the hearing s resume.

The lethal zones

R. RAMACHANDRAN cover-story

The haphazard industrial development and the anarchic operations of the units have had a disastrous impact on Delhi's environment.

IN the context of the current imbroglio in Delhi over the relocation of non-conforming industrial units, the following needs to be emphasised from the perspective of industrial pollution. One, pollution from industrial units should be controlled whether they are in conforming (industrial) areas or in non-conforming areas. Two, even if an industrial activity in residential or non-conforming areas is non-polluting by itself, as in the case of a software or computer assembly unit, its indirect polluting im pact on the environment can become significant, if its size is large, through vehicular traffic, constant movement of people and other ancillary polluting activities that it may attract around it. Industrial units, according to the Master Plan of Delhi ( MPD), are non-conforming if they operate from residential areas or commercial use zones.

17250141jpg

In the last couple of decades, from a 'Service Town' the Delhi region has rapidly grown into a major industrial area. There were merely 8,000 industries in 1951, 18,500 in 1961, 26,000 in 1971, 46,000 in 1981, 93,000 in 1993 and 125,000 in 1996, accordin g to the figure (based on a survey by the Delhi government) given to the apex court when it gave the historic judgment in 1996 ordering the closure of 146 industries found violating the zoning regulations. According to the Centre for Science and Environm ent (CSE), 10 per cent are hazardous units, mostly based in the industrial areas of Wazirpur, Zakheera, Moti Nagar and Mayapuri. Large and medium industries, which have the wherewithal to implement some kind of pollution control mechanisms, number less t han 150. Moreover, the bulk of the small-scale industries (SSIs) are in non-conforming areas. According to the 1996 survey, 98,000 units are non-conforming ones, operating outside the 28 industrial areas of Delhi.

According to a 1988 survey, of the 12 zones into which Delhi is divided for administrative purposes, Karol Bagh (which is also a large residential area) is the most heavily concentrated zone with more than 20 per cent of the industries located there. The next is Shahdra with 18.5 per cent, followed by Paharganj 12.1 per cent. New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) areas and the Delhi Cantonment have the lowest concentration of about 0.001 per cent. Of the nearly 13,400 polluting industries, only one-fou rth are located in conforming areas. Karol Bagh also has the highest share (33.1 per cent) of polluting industries. Of these units, general engineering constitutes 27.1 per cent, hosiery and garments 7.4 per cent, PVC/plastics 7 per cent and food product s 6.4 per cent. While the absolute numbers would have increased greatly by now, the distribution may be expected to be roughly on the same pattern.

MPD-2001 had served as the basis for the Supreme Court's judgment on a public interest petition filed by activist-lawyer M.C. Mehta seeking a directive to relocate polluting industries away from Delhi. With regard to preventing pollution, the court's ord ers required that:

* 168 hazardous industries be moved from Delhi to suitable locations in the National Capital Region (NCR), or closed down by November 30, 1996;

* 513 and 334 extensive industries in residential and non-conforming areas respectively (H category in MPD-2001) be closed down by January 31, 1997, and relocated outside Delhi;

* 46 hot mix plants be closed down by February 28, 1997;

* 243 brick kilns be closed by June 30, 1997, and relocated outside Delhi;

* 21 arc/induction furnaces be closed by March 31, 1997;

* the Delhi administration ensure all (non-extensive F category) units operating in non-conforming areas, except light and service industries as permitted by MPD-2001 (employing less than 10 workers and consuming less than 1kW of power), be either reloca ted or closed down.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), immediately after the court order, 1,228 units were closed down. In effect, this meant that all the orders had been complied with except the last one, the most contentious issue that led to the wid espread demonstrations in Delhi. Indeed, there is no record of the exact number of non-conforming units, the registration of their activities or their polluting status. Figures vary from source to source. In response to a court directive, a high-power c ommittee was set up, which invited applications from non-conforming units for relocation. As of July 2000, 51,851 applications had been received by the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation (DSIDC), which had been entrusted in March 1998 by the high- power committee to implement the relocation scheme. Of these, according to the DSIDC, 27,915 applications have been rejected on technical grounds.

Also, it is unclear whether these 51,851 applications represent the actual number of F category units because of the existence of a large number of unlicensed units, and the lack of proper registration procedures and monitoring of these units. Even the 1 996 survey, which is supposed to have generated the figure of 98,000, is apparently not reliable because it was done without fixing proper criteria or guidelines. It is learnt that school teachers were asked to collect the data for payment of an honorari um depending upon the number surveyed. The figure, particularly those of the non-conforming ones, could be unreliable, say officials in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Furthermore, as the steering committee constituted to review MPD-2001 observed, several units obtained licences declaring their operations to be non-polluting and within the allowed power-load. Subsequently, they changed their activities. With the implementation of municipal laws being ineffective and the number of unautho rised power connections growing, the polluting units have multiplied in number. Given this situation, exact current figures of the total number of industries and those operating in the non-conforming areas simply do not exist.

The problem began not so much as a result of any move to implement the 1996 order to relocate non-conforming industries but the steps taken by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to implement the Supreme Court order of September 1999 that no ind ustry be allowed to discharge any effluent without conforming to the standards laid down by the CPCB. The steering committee on MPD-2001 Review (1996) had stated that, of a total of about 150 large and medium (L&M) units, about 85 per cent of the large u nits and 20 per cent of the medium units had installed effluent treatment plants (ETPs). While most of the L&M units with water polluting potential, except the three thermal power plants, had been shut down following the 1996 order, the SSIs, which compr ise nearly 99 per cent of the industrial units in Delhi, and do not have ETPs, were still operating. The DPCC identified 2,276 such water polluting ones. Despite the DPCC serving notices, ETPs were not being set up and when, failing to get an extension o f the six month deadline from the court, the committee began closure of units, trouble began. While that debate was on, the apex court has also sought to examine the Delhi government's compliance with the 1996 orders on relocation and has initiated proce edings to examine contempt of court charges. According to sources in the CPCB many of the closed water polluting small units have started reoperating after the recent trouble. CPCB officials also point out that this inventory has not included the 30-odd bus depots of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), which discharge large quantities of effluents.

The combined impact of haphazard industrial development and the almost anarchic operation of industries and rampant corruption on the environment of Delhi has been perhaps disastrous. According to the White Paper on Pollution in Delhi - An Action Plan, a 1997 report of the MoEF, about 1,900 million litres a day (mld) of domestic waste water and 320 mld of industrial waste water is discharged. The contribution of the medium and large scale units to the total discharge volume is nearly half while the SSIs account for the remaining half. The quantity of industrial effluent may appear insignificant but their quality would have a greater environmental impact because of its toxic nature. Although the impact of the closure of L&M water polluting units would b e significant, data on industrial effluent discharge after the closure are not readily available.

THE Yamuna enters Delhi at Wazirabad in the north and leaves it at Okhla in the south, covering a distance of 25 km. The water in the stretch is severely polluted owing to heavy industrial and domestic waste water discharges. The Najafgarh drain alone co ntributes more than 80 per cent of the waste water entering the river. This drain passes through important industrial complexes such as Najafgarh Road, Lawrence Road, Wazirpur Industrial Area, Mayapuri, Kirti Nagar, Naraina and Anand Parbat. These areas are chiefly clusters of SSIs which generate significant amounts of effluent discharges. For a cluster of a given type of industry, the concept of common effluent treatment plants (CETPs), which has worked in other States, was mooted. Based on a survey an d the strategy suggested by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, a laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), 15 CETPs were proposed to cover the 21 industrial areas where effluent dis charges are significant.

The project has remained a non-starter for the last five years, largely owing to lack of adequate response from the industry. The DSIDC was entrusted with the task of erecting these CETPs. NEERI had estimated the cost of erecting the 15 CETPs at Rs.90 cr ores. The funding pattern was worked out on the lines of a similar World Bank scheme that is in place in other parts of the country. That is, half of the cost would be shared by the Centre and the Delhi government and the rest borne by the industrial uni ts concerned. For the industry component, a formula has been worked out by which the industry would put in 20 per cent while the rest will be raised through IDBI (Industrial Development Bank of India) loans. The first contribution is in: as against a tot al share of Rs.45 crores, a sum of Rs.21.46 crores has been received from industrial units until July 2000. As a result, work on only three CETPs - Wazirpur, Mayapuri and Mongolpuri - has begun.

According to informed sources, many controversies have dogged the CETP project. Besides the inherent unwillingness on the part of industry, the evaluation of individual units' contribution was not acceptable to the units. Industry sources say that the de mand that their entire contribution be paid in one go is unreasonable. Contributing to this is the fact that NEERI's calculations of the rate of effluent flow have been found to be faulty, according to B. Sengupta, Member-Secretary, CPCB. The problems ha ve been compounded by the fact that there is no single industrial association in each area to speak for the entire cluster. The last date for payment was May 31, 2000, and the government, according to the DSIDC, is taking measures to realise the unpaid s um from the defaulters.

THE level of industrial air pollution has definitely come down over the years, but vehicular pollution, which contributes about 64 per cent of the pollutants, is rising rapidly. The quantum of pollutants emitted daily has been estimated (1996) to be of t he order of 2,000 tonnes. According to the CPCB, there are about 20,000 air polluting units in Delhi (1996 data). The three thermal power plants (at Indraprastha Estate, Rajghat and Badarpur) contribute 16 per cent, the rest of the industry 12 per cent a nd domestic activity 8 per cent. Accordingly, industrial sources other than the power plants emit about 240 tonnes of pollutants every day. Of this, it had been estimated that the 243 brick kilns accounted for 33 per cent, the 20 pottery units 16 per cen t, the 70 large foundries/rolling mills/forging units 10 per cent and the hot mix plants 5 per cent. Now that the brick kilns and hot mix plants are reportedly shut down, the industrial air pollution would have come down to an extent.

Thermal plants emit sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter. All the three thermal power plants have electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) to control particulate emission. However, the poor quality of coal led to increased par ticulate emission, which has since been brought down by the use of beneficiated coal, according to the CPCB. SO2 and NOx emissions are controlled by regular monitoring of stacks from which they are emitted at specified heights for wider dispersal and gro und level concentrations are kept low.

The total quantity of fly ash coming from the three power plants is about 6,000 tonnes per day (tpd). While Badarpur and Rajghat have fly ash collection facilities, they do not have adequate storage facilities. The fly ash is generally disposed of in ash ponds. These, located near the river, tend to overflow, particularly during monsoon. Besides, groundwater could be contaminated from the leaching of heavy metals present in the fly ash. According to the CPCB, despite the regulatory directives none of th e thermal plants has an action programme for large-scale utilisation of fly ash. Some progress has been made in recent times. For new thermal plants, like the one in Rajghat, the regulation is that 20 per cent of fly ash should be used in the first year. With an annual increase of 10 per cent, 100 per cent utilisation is to be achieved by the end of the ninth year. In order to provide an impetus to the utilisation of fly ash (say, in the building of roads, making of bricks and so on) the use of topsoil has been prohibited for up to 50 km radius from a unit generating fly ash. Fly ash from the Rajghat power plant is being used by the Cement Corporation of India (CCI) for its cement plant in Delhi.

17250142jpg

Even though the contribution of industry may seem less significant, their effect is more lethal because of the localised effect and the higher toxicity of the emissions. A component of industrial air pollution in Delhi, particularly in non-conforming are as, is toxic fumes from the electroplating and anodising industry. Obviously, the workers are the first to be affected by it. Rolling and pickling units too generate toxic gases. Some of the industrial areas like Wazirpur and Rajasthan Udyog Nagar, where there are many such units, are close to residential localities. With the expansion of the urban sprawl in Delhi, many residential areas are now dangerously close to industrial areas housing hazardous units. It is not even clear what solution even the cu rrently evolving MPD-2021 has for this growing problem. In fact, observing that Delhi is not an ideal industrial location, the steering committee drew attention to this problem and said that relocation of industries should be one of the major objectives.

Waste disposal by industrial units in general, and hazardous waste in particular, leaves a great deal to be desired. A major part of the problem stems from the fact that most of the hazardous waste generating units do not have the authorisation required under the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 (now amended). Usually it is dumped arbitrarily, to be collected as ordinary solid waste and taken to land-fill areas, only to contaminate groundwater. According to R.N. Jindal of the CPCB, one large chemical factory in Ashok Vihar, a non-conforming area, has been dumping toxic waste by the roadside for long and many eucalyptus trees in the area are dead. In January 1997, the MoEF delegated powers to the DPCC to close down units handling ha zardous wastes operating in violation of the rules. But without primary data on the units and a proper characterisation of the wastes, no action could be taken. The draft inventorisation and categorisation was only completed recently by the DPCC. However , according to Jindal, all the 70-odd lead units, serving mainly the countless unauthorised reconditioned vehicle battery units, have been shut down, which have since moved into the neighbouring States. As a result, battery units are still operating in t he city. Clandestine operations cannot be ruled out, says a CPCB official.

"But the data in the DPCC draft is completely untrustworthy," says Indrani Chandrasekharan of the MoEF. Even the exact number of such units operating is not available let alone the amount of waste generated, she says. The directive from even a body like the high-power committee under Dr. M.G.K. Menon to provide basic data was of no avail. She said: "I have data for every other State. For Delhi there is nothing. It is sheer anarchy." Now that the rules have been amended - we now have identification of su ch units by the (44) industrial processes employed rather than 18 kinds of industrial wastes generated in the earlier rules - the DPCC has carry out a fresh survey. But she wonders how this will be achieved without even ensuring registration.

Another aspect which has been virtually ignored is the implementation of the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989, points out Jindal. The DPCC survey only covered the large petrol pumps and godowns of petroleum products, whe reas there are thousands of small units importing and using all kinds of hazardous chemicals, he points out.

NOISE is another important aspect of pollution, but not much attention is paid to it. Data pertaining to some industrial areas are available but this does not give the true picture. The values shown are averaged over very large areas whereas the effect o f noise pollution is localised. This is particularly true of non-conforming areas where isolated or a few units might be generating high decibel levels. Interestingly, the MPD does not characterise a permissible non-conforming activity in terms of noise pollution, or water usage for that matter, which can be high even if the power consumption is less than 1 kW and less than 10 people are employed. Indeed, the largest number of complaints about non-conforming units in Delhi that have been received by the CPCB are cases of noise pollution.

Under the Industries Relocation Scheme formulated in 1996, the DSIDC has acquired 431 hectares in Bawana and Holambi Kalan in suburban Delhi to relocate non-conforming units. According to the DSIDC, another 324 ha is being acquired and allotment against the 51,851 applications is in progress. Of course, these will hardly suffice to relocate 98,000 units. However, it is a moot point whether any assessment of the water and power requirements and other infrastructure needs in the new areas have been made f or the relocated industries to operate smoothly. Also, indiscriminate allotment of plots, irrespective of the nature of the industrial activity, could be counter-productive, says Jindal. Since land is scarce, multi-storeyed units should be built and appr opriate shop floor space should allotted depending on the nature of the activity. But with basic data lacking, haphazard development could be the norm even in the relocated areas, even if the relocation process gets under way in the wake the current cont roversy and the move to amend MPD-2001 and relax the criteria for light and service. However, this has been struck down by the court for now, but things could change. That is how things have been, are and will be in the NCR.

The Action Plan outlined by the MoEF's White Paper on Pollution in Delhi had set some targets to be achieved to control pollution in Delhi. Clearly, besides the issue of relocation, there are other gross measures to be taken which also have been delayed owing to apathy and lack of will on the part of the government.

In defence of judicial activism

Supreme court advocate and environmental activist Mahesh Chander Mehta, whose 1985 public interest petition in the Supreme Court has resulted in the orders to relocate polluting industries in Delhi, finds the legal battle to be an unequal and prot racted one. Recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay award 1997 for public service, Mehta's contribution to creating environmental awareness is widely recognised. However, his crusade against environmental pollution has earned him many critics. In this interview to V.Venkatesan, Mehta defends his case and blames the political class for Delhi's urban chaos.

17250161jpg

Your case against the polluting industries has resulted in serious social unrest and disruption of law and order.

It is all unjustified. Such things should not have happened. What happened was at the behest of politicians. When the first Delhi Master Plan (1962) was formulated, there were less than 20,000 industrial units in residential areas. The Master Plan requir ed that all these industrial activities should move out of Delhi. This could have been done earlier. Having not done this, the authorities could have at least disallowed any new industrial activity in residential areas in violation of the Master Plan. Bu t the Centre, which had responsibility over Delhi in the 1960s and 1970s, allowed and even encouraged mushroom growth of such industries in violation of the Delhi Development Act, 1957, the Delhi Master Plan, the Water Pollution Act, 1974, the Air Pollut ion Act, 1981, the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957.

Is not the Delhi Master Plan outdated?

It is not. There was nothing outdated either in the first Master Plan (1962-1981), or the second Master Plan (1990-2001). In fact, Delhi could have become a model for the entire country if there was strict adherence to its Master Plan. If you propose to amend the plan, what message are you sending?

Why do the courts require the polluting industries to be shifted to Delhi's neighbourhood? If Delhi is entitled to a pollution-free environment, so are its surrounding areas. Residential areas have come up at places where the relocation of the units has been recommended.

If you have separate industrial estates, you can control industrial activity. You can try to ensure that norms governing environment protection, such as proper garbage disposal and treatment plants, are enforced strictly. Industries flouting the law can be identified. If industrial activity is spread all over Delhi, officials connive and violators of such norms go scot-free. In Delhi, polluting industries have led to a rise in diseases, and in noise pollution.

Studies have shown that bulk of Delhi's pollution is caused by vehicular pollution. Can the court not address this issue first, rather than insist on relocating existing industries?

Delhi has to be decongested. Delhi today is a fragile city, and it has to survive. You have to see that its infrastructure remains intact. You have to ensure that its roads do not have too much pressure of vehicles. If these polluting industries were clo sed two decades ago, or even a decade ago, the vehicle population would have been far less today. Industries require raw materials, and these have to be transported. This leads to vehicle movement. Besides, workers require transport to commute between th eir homes and places of work. While vehicular pollution is a major threat, it is the cumulative impact of water, air and noise pollution that we need to address. The city has to be seen as a whole. Delhi's Ridge has been encroached upon. Industrial devel opment is all right, but it should be planned, so that it does not choke the city and does not hurt the welfare of its citizens.

The court has done much to control vehicular pollution. The introduction of Euro I and Euro II standards, catalytic convertors, and the ban on commercial vehicles that are more than 15 years old were all results of Supreme Court directives. However, I ag ree that there is still a need to introduce cleaner technology, and be a strong movement to improve the public transport system. But why should a citizen have to go to court every time to achieve these? Has the government collapsed?

Your first petition in the case was filed in 1985. How did it take so long to reach this stage?

In 1985, my petition demanded the closure of stone crushers, which caused dust pollution, affecting half a million people. More than 2,000 tonnes of dust was being emitted into the air. However, I had drawn the court's attention to the violation of all r elevant laws and the Master Plan. In 1992, the court acted on my petition, and ensured the closure and relocation of 300 stone crushers outside Delhi.

Then I petitioned the court, through interlocutory applications, against the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and other agencies for allowing pollution of the Yamuna. Seventy-five per cent of the effluents were being discharged into the Yamuna and they wer e not doing anything. In 1994-95, the Supreme Court ordered that at 16 places in Delhi, effluent treatment plants should be set up. Now, the plants have come up at 13 places and construction is going on at three more places. The court continues to monito r the progress in this case.

The court ordered stoppage of encroachment on the Ridge. It also ordered that the Ridge should be declared a reserve forest. That was also an outcome of the writ petition. Many areas that come under the Ridge were thus freed from encroachment.

The court then took up the issue of the hazardous industries, which were not allowed in 1962 by the Master Plan. Some 1,325 industries were identified, and the Supreme Court ordered their closure in phases. The issue of polluting industries in residentia l areas was taken up, because in this case, the Delhi government did not even have an inventory of such industries. So the court passed orders in 1995, that the government should do a full survey of the industries or such activities in the residential ar eas. The survey was carried out by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

The DPCC told the court that about 93,000 industries were located in residential areas. The court directed the government to ensure wide publicity in the media asking these industries, to relocate or close down, and apply before a high-power committee, w hich was duly constituted by the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government, for licence to run an industry. Under the Master Plan, you could run an industry if you have five workers, one kW of electricity and 30 sq m of ground floor area, provided the indu stry is approved.

About 51,000 industries applied for permission, 95 per cent of whom were found ineligible to stay in residential areas. The court took a compassionate view and wanted to protect the livelihood of the workers and the interests of those suffering because o f pollution, and asked the government to give such industries space outside Delhi. For those industries that did not apply for permission and were unwilling to relocate, the court set a January 1, 1997 for closure. But this did not happen. It is for the government to ensure that the workers who are retrenched or relocated get due compensation, and whenever such violations of court's orders were brought to its notice the court took cognisance of it and issued directions.

When the Delhi government sought time to purchase lands to relocate these units, the court agreed and asked the government to submit quarterly reports about the progress in complying with the court's orders. In 1998, I pointed out to the court that the r eports were very sketchy and repetitive. In September 1999, the court heard the case again and fixed the deadline of December 31, 1999. Now, almost a year has passed, but nothing has happened. Therefore the court was compelled to issue contempt notice in November to the Chief Secretary, Delhi government.

Is there an implicit assumption in the Supreme Court's orders that Delhi is special and that there is no harm if the polluting industries are relocated elsewhere?

I am also against pampering Delhi. But here the objective of relocating polluting industries is to check migration to Delhi. As per the National Capital Region Planning Act, 1985, the National Capital Region Planning Board has to ensure that industrial a ctivities are shifted from Delhi to the satellite towns. Enforcing stringent norms are all right, but Delhi no longer has the infrastructure for them.

Will judicial activism help achieve a pollution-free environment?

No, the court has not crossed its limits. It only asks the authorities concerned not to violate the law, but to enforce it. When the executive and the legislature fail to give relief, a citizen has no recourse but to go to the court. Why did the Chief Se cretary not hold an inquiry, as directed by the court, against officials who erred in not enforcing the Master Plan? It is an unequal battle against those who have the power and the money. There is no political accountability.

Temple desecration in pre-modern India

RICHARD M. EATON cover-story

The historical experience of temple desecration in pre-modern India - and, at a more general level, contested history revolving round Indo-Muslim rulers and states - has become a sensitive mass political issue in contemporary India. The demolition of the Babri Masjid, on December 6, 1992, by storm-troopers of the Sangh Parivar, and the train of communal violence and 'ill-fare' this vandalism brought to different regions of the country, propelled the issue to national centre-stage. The ideologues of the Hindu Right have, through a manipulation of pre-modern history and a tendentious use of source material and historical data, built up a dangerously plausible picture of fanaticism, vandalism and villainy on the part of the Indo-Muslim conquerors and rule rs. Part of the ideological and political argument of the Hindu Right is the assertion that for about five centuries from the thirteenth, Indo-Muslim states were driven by a 'theology of iconoclasm' - not to mention fanaticism, lust for plunder, and uncompromising hatred of Hindu religion and places of worship. In this illuminating and nuanced essay on temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states, which Frontline offers its readers in two parts, the historian Richard M. Eaton presents important new insights and meticulously substantiated conclusions on what happened or is likely to have happened in pre-modern India. - Editor, Frontline

PART I

IN recent years, especially in the wake of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992, much public discussion has arisen over the political status of South Asian temples and mosques, and in particular the issue of temples desecrated or replaced by mosqu es in the pre-British period. While Hindu nationalists like Sita Ram Goel have endeavoured to document a pattern of wholesale temple destruction by Muslims in this period,1 few professional historians have engaged the issue, even though it is a properly historical one.

17250621jpg

This essay aims to examine the available evidence with a view to asking,

* What temples were in fact desecrated in India's pre-modern history?

* When, and by whom?

* How, and for what purpose?

* And above all, what might any of this say about the relationship between religion and politics in pre-modern India? This is a timely topic, since many in India today are looking to the past to justify or condemn public policy with respect to religious monuments.

FRAMING THE ISSUE

Much of the contemporary evidence on temple desecration cited by Hindu nationalists is found in Persian materials translated and published during the British occupation of India. Especially influential has been the eight-volume History of India as Tol d by its Own Historians, first published in 1849 and edited by Sir Henry M. Elliot, who oversaw the bulk of the translations, with the help of John Dowson. But Elliot, keen to contrast what he understood as the justice and efficiency of British rule with the cruelty and despotism of the Muslim rulers who had preceded that rule, was anything but sympathetic to the "Muhammadan" period of Indian history. As he wrote in the book's original preface:

17250622jpg

The common people must have been plunged into the lowest depths of wretchedness and despondency. The few glimpses we have, even among the short Extracts in this single volume, of Hindus slain for disputing with Muhammadans, of general prohibitions agains t processions, worship, and ablutions, and of other intolerant measures, of idols mutilated, of temples razed, of forcible conversions and marriages, of proscriptions and confiscations, of murders and massacres, and of the sensuality and drunkenness of t he tyrants who enjoined them, show us that this picture is not overcharged....2

With the advent of British power, on the other hand, "a more stirring and eventful era of India's History commences ... when the full light of European truth and discernment begins to shed its beams upon the obscurity of the past."3 Noting the far greater benefits that Englishmen had brought to Indians in a mere half century than Muslims had brought in five centuries, Elliot expressed the hope that his published translations "will make our native subjects more sensible of the immense advantag es accruing to them under the mildness and the equity of our rule."4

Elliot's motives for delegitimising the Indo-Muslim rulers who had preceded English rule are thus quite clear. Writing in 1931 on the pernicious influence that the colonial understanding of pre-modern Indian history had on subsequent generations, Mohamma d Habib remarked: "The peaceful Indian Mussalman, descended beyond doubt from Hindu ancestors, was dressed up in the garb of a foreign barbarian, as a breaker of temples, and an eater of beef, and declared to be a military colonist in the land where he h ad lived for about thirty or forty centuries.... The result of it is seen in the communalistic atmosphere of India today."5

17250623jpg

Although penned many years ago, these words are relevant in the context of current controversies over the history of temple desecration in India. For it has been through selective translations of pre-modern Persian chronicles, together with a selective u se of epigraphic data, that Hindu nationalists have sought to find the sort of irrefutable evidence that would demonstrate a persistent pattern of villainy and fanaticism on the part of pre-modern Indo-Muslim conquerors and rulers. One of Goel's chapters is even entitled "From the Horse's Mouth." In reality, however, every scrap of evidence in this controversial matter requires careful scrutiny.

TEMPLE DESECRATION BEFORE INDO-MUSLIM STATES

It is well known that, during the two centuries before 1192, which was when an indigenous Indo-Muslim state and community first appeared in north India, Persianised Turks systematically raided and looted major urban centres of South Asia, sacking temples and hauling immense loads of movable property to power bases in eastern Afghanistan. The pattern commenced in 986, when the Ghaznavid Sultan Sabuktigin (reign 977-997) attacked and defeated the Hindu Shahi raja who controlled the region between Kabul an d northwest Punjab. According to Abu Nasr `Utbi, the personal secretary to the sultan's son, Sabuktigin "marched out towards Lamghan (located to the immediate east of Kabul), which is a city celebrated for its great strength and abounding in wealth. He c onquered it and set fire to the places in its vicinity which were inhabited by infidels, and demolishing the idol-temples, he established Islam in them".6

17250624jpg 17250625jpg

Linking religious conversion with conquest - with conquest serving to facilitate conversion, and conversion serving to legitimise conquest - `Utbi's brief notice established a rhetorical trope that many subsequent Indo-Muslim chroniclers would repeat.

Notwithstanding such rhetoric, however, invasions of India by Sabuktigin and his more famous son Mahmud of Ghazni (r. 998-1030) appear to have been undertaken for material reasons. Based in Afghanistan and never seeking permanent dominion in India, the e arlier Ghaznavid rulers raided and looted Indian cities, including their richly endowed temples loaded with movable wealth, with a view to financing their larger political objectives far to the west, in Khurasan.7 The predatory nature of these raids was also structurally integral to the Ghaznavid political economy: their army was a permanent, professional one built around an elite corps of mounted archers who, as slaves, were purchased, equipped, and paid with cash derived from regular infusi ons of war booty taken alike from Hindu cities in India and Muslim cities in Iran. For example, Mahmud's plunder of the Iranian city of Ray, in 1029, brought him 500,000 dinars' worth of jewels, 260,000 dinars in coined money, and over 30,000 dinars' wor th of gold and silver vessels. India, however, possessed far more wealth than the more sparsely populated Iranian plateau. Mahmud's 1026 raid on Somnath alone brought in twenty million dinars' worth of spoil.8

The dynamics of north Indian politics changed dramatically, however, when the Ghurids, a dynasty of Tajik (eastern Iranian) origins, arrived from central Afghanistan toward the end of the twelfth century. Sweeping aside the Ghaznavids, Ghurid conquerors and their Turkish slave generals ushered in a new sort of state quite unlike that of the foreign-based Ghaznavids (see Figure 1). Aspiring to imperial dominion over the whole of north India from a base in the middle of the Indo-Gangetic plain, the new De lhi Sultanate (1206-1526) signalled the first attempt to build an indigenous Muslim state and society in north India. With respect to religious policy, we can identify two principal components to this project: (a) state patronage of an India-based Sufi o rder, the Chishtis, and (b) a policy of selective temple desecration that aimed not, as earlier, to finance distant military operations on the Iranian Plateau, but to delegitimise and extirpate defeated Indian ruling houses.

The first of these policies was based on a conception of religion and politics well summarised by the Deccani court-poet `Abd al-Malik `Isami. Writing in 1350, `Isami observed that

17250626jpg

the existence of the world is bound up closely with that of the men of faith. In every country, there is a man of piety who keeps it going and well. Although there might be a monarch in every country, yet it is actually under the protection of a fakir (S ufi shaikh).9

Sufis, in other words, were understood as the "real" sovereigns of Indo-Muslim states. Among all South Asian Sufi orders, moreover, the Chishtis were the most closely identified with the political fortunes of Indo-Muslim states, and especially with the p lanting of such states in parts of South Asia never previously touched by Islamic rule. The pattern began in the first half of the fourteenth century, when that order's rise to prominence among Delhi's urban populace coincided with the political expansio n of the imperial Tughluqs.10 By effectively injecting a legitimising "substance" into a new body politic at the moment of its birth, the patronage of Chishti shaikhs by governors in Tughluq provinces, or by independent rulers succeeding to po wer in those provinces, contributed positively to the process of Indo-Muslim state-building.

Equally important to this process was its negative counterpart: the sweeping away of all prior political authority in newly conquered and annexed territories. When such authority was vested in a ruler whose own legitimacy was associated with a royal temp le - typically one that housed an image of a ruling dynasty's state-deity, or rastra-devata (usually Vishnu or Siva) - that temple was normally looted, redefined, or destroyed, any of which would have had the effect of detaching a defeated raja fr om the most prominent manifestation of his former legitimacy. Temples that were not so identified, or temples formerly so identified but abandoned by their royal patrons and thereby rendered politically irrelevant, were normally left unharmed. Such was t he case, for example, with the famous temples at Khajuraho south of the Middle Gangetic Plain, which appear to have been abandoned by their Candella royal patrons before Turkish armies reached the area in the early thirteenth century.

17250627jpg

It would be wrong to explain this phenomenon by appealing to an essentialised "theology of iconoclasm" felt to be intrinsic to the Islamic religion. It is true that contemporary Persian sources routinely condemned idolatry (but-parasti) on religio us grounds. But it is also true that attacks on images patronised by enemy kings had been, from about the sixth century A.D. on, thoroughly integrated into Indian political behaviour. With their lushly sculpted imagery vividly displaying the mutual inter dependence of kings and gods and the commingling of divine and human kingship, royal temple complexes of the early medieval period were thoroughly and pre-eminently political institutions. It was here that, after the sixth century, human kingship was est ablished, contested, and revitalised. Above all, the central icon housed in a royal temple's "womb-chamber," and inhabited by the state-deity of the temple's royal patron, expressed the shared sovereignty of king and deity (see Figures 2 and 3).

Moreover, notwithstanding that temple priests endowed a royal temple's deity with attributes of transcendent and universal power, that same deity was also understood as having a very special relationship, indeed a sovereign relationship, with the particu lar geographical site in which its temple complex was located. As revealed in temple narratives, even the physical removal of an image from its original site could not break the link between deity and geography.11 "A divine power," writes Davi d Shulman, "is felt to be present naturally on the spot."12 The bonding between king, god, temple, and land in early medieval India is well illustrated in a passage from the Brhatsamhita, a sixth century text: "If a Siva linga, i mage, or temple breaks apart, moves, sweats, cries, speaks, or otherwise acts with no apparent cause, this warns of the destruction of the king and his territory."13 In short, from about the sixth century on, images and temples associated with dynastic authority were considered politically vulnerable.

17250628jpg

Given these perceived connections between temples, images, and their royal patrons, it is hardly surprising that, as Richard H. Davis has recently shown,14 early medieval Indian history abounds in instances of temple desecration that occurred amidst inter-dynastic conflicts. In 642 A.D., according to local tradition, the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I looted the image of Ganesha from the Chalukyan capital of Vatapi. Fifty years later armies of those same Chalukyas invaded north India and brou ght back to the Deccan what appear to be images of Ganga and Yamuna, looted from defeated powers there. In the eighth century Bengali troops sought revenge on king Lalitaditya by destroying what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state-d eity of Lalitaditya's kingdom in Kashmir.

In the early ninth century, the Rashtrakuta king Govinda III invaded and occupied Kanchipuram, which so intimidated the king of Sri Lanka that he sent Govinda several (probably Buddhist) images that had represented the Sinhala state, and which the Rashtr akuta king then installed in a Saiva temple in his capital. About the same time, the Pandyan king Srimara Srivallabha also invaded Sri Lanka and took back to his capital a golden Buddha image that had been installed in the kingdom's Jewel Palace. In the early tenth century, the Pratihara king Herambapala seized a solid gold image of Vishnu Vaikuntha when he defeated the Sahi king of Kangra. By the mid-tenth century, the same image was seized from the Pratiharas by the Candella king Yasovarman and instal led in the Lakshmana temple of Khajuraho.

In the early eleventh century, the Chola king Rajendra I furnished his capital with images he had seized from several prominent neighbouring kings: Durga and Ganesha images from the Chalukyas; Bhairava, Bhairavi, and Kali images from the Kalingas of Oris sa; a Nandi image from the Eastern Chalukyas; and a bronze Siva image from the Palas of Bengal (see Figure 4). In the mid-eleventh century, the Chola king Rajadhiraja defeated the Chalukyas and plundered Kalyani, taking a large black stone door guardian to his capital in Thanjavur, where it was displayed to his subjects as a trophy of war (see Figure 5). In the late eleventh century, the Kashmiri king Harsha even raised the plundering of temples to an institutionalised activity; and in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, while Turkish rulers were establishing themselves in north India, kings of the Paramara dynasty attacked and plundered Jain temples in Gujarat.15

17250629jpg

This pattern continued after the Turkish conquest of India. In the 1460s, Kapilendra, the founder of the Suryavamshi Gajapati dynasty in Orissa, sacked both Saiva and Vaishnava temples in the Cauvery delta in the course of wars of conquest in the Tamil c ountry.16 Somewhat later, in 1514, Krishnadevaraya looted an image of Balakrishna from Udayagiri, which he had defeated and annexed to his growing Vijayanagara state. Six years later he acquired control over Pandharpur, where he seems to have looted the Vittala image and carried it back to Vijayanagara, with the apparent purpose of ritually incorporating this area into his kingdom.17

Although the dominant pattern here was one of looting royal temples and carrying off images of state-deities, we also hear of Hindu kings engaging in the destruction of the royal temples of their political adversaries. In the early tenth century, the Ras htrakuta monarch Indra III not only destroyed the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpa near the Yamuna River), patronised by the Rashtrakutas' deadly enemies, the Pratiharas, but also took special delight in recording the fact.18

1725062ajpg

IMPERIALISM OF THE DELHI SULTANATE, 1192-1394

In short, it is clear that temples had been the natural sites for the contestation of kingly authority well before the coming of Muslim Turks to India. Not surprisingly, Turkish invaders, when attempting to plant their own rule in early medieval India, f ollowed and continued established patterns. The table and the corresponding maps in this essay by no means give the complete picture of temple desecration after the establishment of Turkish power in Upper India. Undoubtedly some temples were desecrated b ut the facts in the matter were never recorded, or the facts were recorded but the records themselves no longer survive. Conversely, later Indo-Muslim chroniclers, seeking to glorify the religious zeal of earlier Muslim rulers, sometimes attributed acts of temple desecration to such rulers even when no contemporary evidence supports the claims. As a result, we shall never know the precise number of temples desecrated in Indian history.

Nonetheless, by relying strictly on evidence found in contemporary or near-contemporary epigraphic and literary sources spanning a period of more than five centuries (1192-1729), one may identify eighty instances of temple desecration whose historicity a ppears reasonably certain. Although this figure falls well short of the 60,000 claimed by some Hindu nationalists,19 a review of these data suggests several broad patterns.

First, acts of temple desecration were nearly invariably carried out by military officers or ruling authorities; that is, such acts that we know about were undertaken by the state. Second, the chronology and geography of the data indicate that acts of te mple desecration typically occurred on the cutting edge of a moving military frontier. From Ajmer in Rajasthan, the former capital of the defeated Cahamana Rajputs - also, significantly, the wellspring of Chishti piety - the post-1192 pattern of temple d esecration moved swiftly down the Gangetic Plain as Turkish military forces sought to extirpate local ruling houses in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century (see Table and Map 1: nos. 1-9). In Bihar, this included the targeting of Buddhist monast ic establishments at Odantapuri, Vikramasila, and Nalanda. Detached from a Buddhist laity, these establishments had by this time become dependent on the patronage of local royal authorities, with whom they were identified. In the 1230s, Iltutmish carried the Delhi Sultanate's authority into Malwa (nos. 10-11), and by the onset of the fourteenth century the Khalji sultans had opened up a corridor through eastern Rajasthan into Gujarat (nos. 12-14, 16-17).

Delhi's initial raids on peninsular India, on which Khalji rulers embarked between 1295 and the early decades of the fourteenth century (nos. 15, 18-19), appear to have been driven not by a goal of annexation but by the Sultanate's need for wealth with w hich to defend north India from Mongol attacks. In 1247, Balban, the future sultan of Delhi, had recommended raiding Indian states for precisely this purpose.20 For a short time, then, peninsular India stood in the same relation to the North - namely, as a source of plunder for financing distant military operations - as north India had stood in relation to Afghanistan three centuries earlier, in the days of Sabuktigin and Mahmud of Ghazni. After 1320, however, a new north Indian dynasty, the Tughluqs, sought permanent dominion in the Deccan, which the future Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq established by uprooting royally patronised temples in western Andhra, most prominently the Svayambhusiva complex in the centre of the Kakatiyas' capital city of Warangal (nos. 20-22. See Figure 7). Somewhat later Sultan Firuz Tughluq did the same in Orissa (no. 23).

THE GROWTH OF REGIONAL SULTANATES, 1394-1600

From the late fourteenth century, after the tide of Tughluq imperialism had receded from Gujarat and the Deccan, newly emerging successor states sought to expand their own political frontiers in those areas. This, too, is reflected in instances of temple desecration, as the ex-Tughluq governor of Gujarat and his successors consolidated their authority there (see Map 2: nos. 25-26, 31-32, 34-35, 38-39, 42), or as the Delhi empire's successors in the South, the Bahmani sultans, challenged Vijayanagara's c laims to dominate the Raichur doab and the Tamil coast (nos. 33, 41). The pattern was repeated in Kashmir by Sultan Sikandar (nos. 27-30), and in the mid-fifteenth century when the independent sultanate of Malwa contested renewed Rajput power in eastern Rajasthan after Delhi's authority there had waned (nos. 36-37).

In the early sixteenth century, when the Lodi dynasty of Afghans sought to reassert Delhi's sovereignty over neighbouring Rajput houses, we again find instances of temple desecration (nos. 43-45). So do we in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth cent uries, when the Bahmani Kingdom's principal successor states, Bijapur and Golconda, challenged the territorial sovereignty of Orissan kings (nos. 55, 59; Maps 2 and 3), of Vijayanagara (no. 47), and of the latter's successor states - especially in the so uthern Andhra country (nos. 50-51, 53-54, 60-61; Maps 2 and 3).

Unlike the Deccan, where Indo-Muslim states had been expanding at the expense of non-Muslim states, in north India the Mughals under Babur, Humayun, and Akbar - that is, between 1526 and 1605 - grew mainly at the expense of defeated Afghans. As non-Hindu s, the latter had never shared sovereignty with deities patronised in royal temples, which probably explains the absence of firm evidence of temple desecration by any of the early Mughals, in Ayodhya or elsewhere. The notion that Babur's officer Mir Baqi destroyed a temple dedicated to Rama's birthplace at Ayodhya and then got the emperor's sanction to build a mosque on the site - the Babri Masjid - was elaborated in 1936 by S.K. Banerji. However, the author offered no evidence that there had ever been a temple at this site, much less that it had been destroyed by Mir Baqi. The mosque's inscription records only that Babur had ordered the construction of the mosque, which was built by Mir Baqi and was described as "the place of descent of celestial bein gs" (mahbit-i qudsiyan). This commonplace rhetorical flourish can hardly be construed as referring to Rama, especially since it is the mosque itself that is so described, and not the site or any earlier structure on the site.21

However, whenever Mughal armies pushed beyond the frontiers of territories formerly ruled by the Delhi sultans and sought to annex the domains of Hindu rulers, we again find instances of temple desecration. In 1661 the governor of Bengal, Mir Jumla, sack ed the temples of the neighbouring raja of Cooch Bihar, who had been harassing the northern frontiers of Mughal territory (no. 64; Map 3). The next year, with a view to annexing Assam to the imperial domain, the governor pushed far up the Brahmaputra val ley and desecrated temples of the Ahom rajas, replacing the principal one at Garhgaon with a mosque (nos. 65-66).

1725062bjpg

All of these instances of temple desecration occurred in the context of military conflicts when Indo-Muslim states expanded into the domains of non-Muslim rulers. Contemporary chroniclers and inscriptions left by the victors leave no doubt that field com manders, governors, or sultans viewed the desecration of royal temples as a normal means of decoupling a former Hindu king's legitimate authority from his former kingdom, and more specifically, of decoupling that former king from the image of the state-d eity that was publicly understood as protecting the king and his kingdom. This was accomplished in one of several ways. Most typically, temples considered essential to the constitution of enemy authority were destroyed. Occasionally, temples were convert ed into mosques, which more visibly conflated the disestablishment of former sovereignty with the establishment of a new one.

The form of desecration that showed the greatest continuity with pre-Turkish practice was the seizure of the image of a defeated king's state-deity and its abduction to the victor's capital as a trophy of war. In February 1299, for example, Ulugh Khan sa cked Gujarat's famous temple of Somnath and sent its largest image to Sultan `Ala al-Din Khalji's court in Delhi (no. 16; Map 1). When Firuz Tughluq invaded Orissa in 1359 and learned that the region's most important temple was that of Jagannath located inside the raja's fortress in Puri, he carried off the stone image of the god and installed it in Delhi "in an ignominious position" (no. 23). In 1518, when the court in Delhi came to suspect the loyalty of a tributary Rajput chieftain in Gwalior, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi marched to the famous fortress, stormed it, and seized a brass image of Nandi evidently situated adjacent to the chieftain's Siva temple. The sultan brought it back to Delhi and installed it in the city's Baghdad Gate (no. 46; Map 2).

Similarly, in 1579, when Golconda's army led by Murahari Rao was campaigning south of the Krishna River, Rao annexed the entire region to Qutb Shahi domains and sacked the popular Ahobilam temple, whose ruby-studded image he brought back to Golconda and presented to his sultan as a war trophy (no. 51). Although the Ahobilam temple had only local appeal, it had close associations with prior sovereign authority since it had been patronised and even visited by the powerful and most famous king of Vijayanag ara, Krishnadevaraya. The temple's political significance, and hence the necessity of desecrating it, would have been well understood by Murahari Rao, himself a Marathi Brahmin.22

In each of these instances, the deity's image, taken as war trophy to the capital city of the victorious sultan, became radically detached from its former context and in the process was transformed from a living to a dead image. However, sacked images we re not invariably abducted to the victor's capital. In 1556, the Gajapati raja of Orissa had entered into a pact with the Mughal emperor Akbar, the distant adversary of the sultan of Bengal, Sulaiman Karrani. The raja had also given refuge to Sulaiman's more proximate adversary, Ibrahim Sur, and offered to assist the latter in his ambitions to conquer Bengal and overthrow the Karrani dynasty. As Sulaiman could hardly have tolerated such threats to his stability, he sent an army into Orissa which went st raight to the Gajapati kingdom's state temple of Jagannath and looted its images. But here the goal was not annexation but only punishment, which might explain why the Gajapati state images were not carried back to the Bengali capital as trophies of war. 23

Whatever form they took, acts of temple desecration were never directed at the people, but at the enemy king and the image that incarnated and displayed his state-deity. A contemporary account of a 1661 Mughal campaign in Cooch Bihar, which resulted in t he annexation of the region, states that the chief judge of Mughal Bengal was ordered to confiscate the treasure of the defeated raja, Bhim Narayan, and to destroy the image of the state-deity. But the judge himself issued orders against harming the gene ral population, warning that if any soldiers were caught touching the property of the common people, their hands, ears, or noses would be removed.24 In short, in newly annexed areas formerly ruled by non-Muslims, as in the case of Cooch Bihar, Mughal officers took appropriate measures to secure the support of the common people, who after all created the material wealth upon which the entire imperial edifice rested.

If the idea of conquest became manifest in the desecration of temples and images associated with former enemies - itself an established tradition in pre-Turkish Indian practice - what happened once the land and the subjects of those same enemies were int egrated into an Indo-Muslim state? This question, together with the pattern of temple desecration under the imperial Mughals, will be taken up in the second of this two-part essay.

Richard M. Eaton teaches South Asian history at the University of Arizona, U.S., and is the author of several books on pre-modern India, including The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997) and Essays on Islam and Indian History (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000).

See Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, vol. 1: A Preliminary Survey (New Delhi: Voice of India, 1990); vol. 2, The Islamic Evidence (New Delhi: Voice of India, 1991). H.M. Elliot and John Dowson, trans. and eds., The History of India as Told by its Own Historians, 8 vols. (Allahabad: Kitab Mahal, n.d.), 1:xxi. Ibid., 1:xvi. Ibid., 1:xxii, xxvii. K.A. Nizami, ed., Politics and Society during the Early Medieval Period: Collected Works of Professor Mohammad Habib (New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1974), 1:12. `Utbi, Tarikh-i Yamini, in Elliot and Dowson, History of India, 2:22. C.E. Bosworth, The Later Ghaznavids, Splendour and Decay: The Dynasty in Afghanistan and Northern India, 1040-1186 (1977; repr. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1992), 32, 68. C.E. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran, 994-1040 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1963), 78. `Abd al-Malik `Isami, Futuhus-salatin by Isami, ed. A.S. Usha (Madras: University of Madras, 1948), 455; Agha Mahdi Husain, ed. and trans., Futuhu's-salatin, or Shah Namah-i Hind of `Isami (London: Asia Publishing House, 1967), 3:687. See Simon Digby, "The Sufi Shaikh as a Source of Authority in Mediaeval India," in Marc Gaborieau, ed., Islam and Society in South Asia, in Purusartha 9 (Paris: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1986), 69-70. Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), 122, 137-38. David D. Shulman, Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1980), 48. Emphasis mine. Cited in Davis, Lives, 53. Davis, Lives, 51-83, passim. See Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, and Bipan Chandra, Communalism and the Writing of Indian History (Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1969), 14, 31. See Phillip B. Wagoner, Tidings of the King: A Translation and Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Rayavacakamu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), 146. Davis, Lives, 65, 67. Michael Willis, "Religion and Royal Patronage in north India," in Vishakha N. Desai and Darielle Mason, eds., Gods, Guardians, and Lovers: Temple Sculptures from North India, AD 700-1200 (New York: Asia Society Gal leries, 1993), 59. Entry for the date 1688 in "Hindu Timeline," Hinduism Today (December, 1994), cited in Cynthia Talbot, "Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self: Hindu-Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India," Comparative Studies in Society and History 37, no.4 (Oct., 1995), 692. See Minhaj Siraj Juzjani, Tabakat-i-Nasiri, trans. H.G. Raverty (1881; repr. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corp., 1970), 2:816. See S.K. Banerji, "Babur and the Hindus," Journal of the United Provinces Historical Society 9 (1936), 76-83. Muhammad Qasim Firishta, Tarikh-i Firishta, trans. John Briggs, The Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India (1829; repr. 4 vols., Calcutta: Editions Indian, 1966), 3:267. Khwajah Ni`mat Allah, Tarikh-i Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani, ed. S.M. Imam al-Din (Dacca: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 1960), 1:413-15; Abu'l-fazl, Akbar-nama, trans. Henry Beveridge (repr. New Delhi: Ess Ess Publications, 1979), 2:381-2, 480. S. Moinul Haq, trans., Khafi Khan's History of `Alamgir (Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 1975), 142-43. SOURCES Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica Epigraphia Indica, Arabic & Persian Supplement Annual Report of Indian Epigraphy Indian Antiquary Jahangir, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, tr. A. Rogers, (Delhi, 1968), v. 1 Firishta, Tarikh-i Firishta tr. J. Briggs, History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India (Calcutta,1971), 4 vols. Kanbo, `Amal-i Salih (text: Lahore, 1967), v. 2 A. Butterworth and V.V. Chetty. A Collection of the Inscriptions on Copper-Plates & Stones in the Nellore District (Madras, 1905), v. 3 Khafi Khan, Khafi Khan's History of `Alamgir, tr. S.M. Haq (Karachi, 1975) A. Cunningham, Four Reports Made during 1862-65 (Varanasi, 1972) S.N. Sinha, Subah of Allahabad under the Great Mughals (New Delhi, 1974) Saqi Must`ad Khan, Maasir-i `Alamgiri, tr. J. Sarkar (Calcutta, 1947) Saqi Must`ad Khan, Maasir-i `Alamgiri (text: Calcutta, 1871) Nizamuddin Ahmad, Tabaqat-i Akbari, tr. B. De (Calcutta, 1973), 3 vols. Ishwardas Nagar, Futuhat-i `Alamgiri, tr. T. Ahmad (Delhi, 1978) Surendranath Sen, ed. & tr., Siva Chhatrapati (Calcutta, 1920), v.1 P. Sreenivasachar, ed., Corpus of Inscriptions in the Telingana Districts of H.E.M. the Nizam's Dominions, pt. 2 (Hyderabad, 1940) Shah Nawaz Khan, Maathir-ul-Umara, tr. H. Beveridge (Patna, 1979), v. 1 Z.A. Desai, Published Muslim Inscriptions of Rajasthan (Jaipur, 1971) G. Roerich, tr., Biography of Dharmaswamin (Patna, 1959) Minhaj-i Siraj, Tabakat-i Nasiri, tr. H. Raverty (New Delhi, 1970), v. 1 Chattopadhyaya, D., ed., Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India (Calcutta,1980) Hasan Nizami, Taj al-ma`athir, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 2 Amir Khusrau, Miftah al-futuh, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Amir Khusrau, Khaza'in al-futuh, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Shams-i Siraj, Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Zia al-Din Barani, Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 3 Khwajah Ni`mat Allah, Tarikh-i Khan-Jahani wa makhzan-i-Afghani (text: Dacca, 1960), v. 1 Sikandar bin Muhammad, Mirat-i Sikandari, in E.C. Bayley, Local Muhammadan Dynasties: Gujarat, ed. N Singh (repr. New Delhi, 1970) Azad al-Husaini, Nau-Bahar-i Murshid Quli Khani, tr., Jadu Nath Sarkar, Bengal Nawabs (1952, repr. Calcutta, 1985) Abd al-Hamid Lahori, Badshah-nama, in Elliot & Dowson, History, v. 7 South Indian Inscriptions (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India) George Michell, "City as Cosmogram," South Asian Studies 8 (1992) Jonaraja, Rajatarangini, ed. S.L. Sadhu, trans. J.C. Dutt (repr. New Delhi, 1993) Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui, tr., Waqi`at-e-Mushtaqui of Shaikh Rizq Ullah Mushtaqui (New Delhi, 1993) Jagadish Narayan Sarkar, Life of Mir Jumla (Calcutta, 1952)

A state of siege

K.T. RAVINDRAN cover-story

How four decades of official apathy, corruption and distorted plan implementation have resulted in a royal mess in Delhi.

FOR the two million-odd workers who lived on the industries of Delhi, the current crisis is nothing short of a state of siege. The system has declared war on their workplace and pushed them beyond the line of legality. For the first time, the real politi cal import of the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) has finally come out in the open: from the rarefied realms of technicalities into the contested public domain. In the complex terrain of Delhi's development, the stakes are high, the players are big and the co nsequences are disastrous, seemingly only for the urban poor. The current crisis, though unprecedented, is the second assault on the poor - now in their place of work after the demolition drive on their homes. The Master Plan as a legal document is once again here, redefined in the background of the new aspirations of the Indian middle class for a higher quality of life of international standards, to create "beautiful" cities that can attract global capital. Four decades of urban planning in Delhi, whic h progressively marginalised both the urban environment and the poor, is now faking an encounter between the two. Shooting from the shoulders of the judiciary, the liberalised mindset that is benumbed by the visions of "the city beautiful" is somehow lon ging to relive the idealised image of suburbia as conceived in the Master Plan. For this, "The New Vision" is willing to cleanse the city of the poor and the polluting, while the real maladies lie outside - in the many daggers that are drawn in Delhi's p olitical arena, in the commissions and omissions by the multiple implementing authorities, in the deeply corrupted markets of the city's commodified public spaces and in the Master Plan mode of development itself.

17251161jpg

Back in 1962, the first Master Plan for Delhi was brought out with the help of Ford Foundation-sponsored experts from the United States and a group of young Indian planners trained in England and the U.S. The Nehruvian brand of socialism was the politica l backdrop with industrialised urbanisation as the chosen mode. The Master Plan was a trendsetter in that it became the model instrument for negotiating the growth of cities all over India. After 38 years, in the light of today's crisis, some of the prim ary underpinnings of that Master Plan need to be re-evaluated for their legitimacy.

The maladies of the Master Plan

As a direct derivative of the industrial logic, the Master Plan assumes that a healthy environment can be achieved only through strict zoning of functions. Using a two-dimensional mode of representation as a land use plan, it assumes that the complex fac tors that make up for the vibrant economy of an ever-expanding, changing Indian city can be contained and controlled by this feeble instrument, albeit its legal sanctity. Small industrial towns and suburbs may be successful in isolating its industry and production centres from housing, institutional and commercial areas. But that is not the stuff the Indian metropolis is made of. Its morphological structure is a reflection of its multi-ethnic population base, complex functional structure, the power play that determines its institutional disposition, the historic layering of its urban fabric and above all its economic propensity poised to change direction at any moment. The often repeated expression that cities are "the engines of growth" of our economy , recognises this characteristic, while planned development through the 100-odd Master Plans in currency today in India refuse to provide the rudimentary structure necessary to facilitate them.

Large industrial estates zoned in the plan normally generate a scurry of auxiliary production units that churn out from slums and other non-conforming areas, products that are monetarily cheap (in spite of the high borrowing rates of private finance), bu t at great social cost to its labour. In other words, most products we have in the Indian markets are affordable because they are subsidised by the poor. Besides the support to the large, formal sector industries, the informal sector provides for almost the entire consumer needs of the urban poor and to a large extent, of the middle classes, through production and distribution networks that entirely depend on the non-conforming areas and public spaces like footpaths. The evasion of excise duty and sales tax merely help offset the 40 per cent inherent slush money that is drained out by the politico-bureaucratic networks, put-ting back squarely the real cost of a soft production location and the subsidy by the workers. And let us face facts, the mainstre am planned production process can never meet these needs of the majority in the city, and therefore has no right to subvert deliberately the informal sector.

The lessons from the traditional urban centres of India such as Banaras (now Varanasi), Kancheepuram, Ajmer and Old Delhi are most evidently of the richness of mixed use. More significantly, it is through function-specific building typology that old citi es of India salvage the dignity of the multiple functions that the residential neighbourhoods accommodated. Through strict mono-functional zoning and the absence of follow-up urban design of building typology, the Master Plan failed to protect the reside ntial quality as well as criminalise the small entrepreneurs who are priced out of the market and are left with no option but to operate from their already overcrowded homes. Strict zoning, as prescribed in the Master Plan, to start with, is a violation of the lifestyle of Indian people and the economic propensities of our metropolitan cities.

Compounding the ill-effects of an unimaginative mono-functional zoning is the failure of the plan implementation agencies to produce almost 30,000 industrial units of various hues it provided for in the two Master Plans. Consequently, with a highly buoya nt monetary environment and the support from a well entrenched land mafia-politician-bureaucracy nexus, the polluting industries and the informal sector have invaded the soft areas of the city: the unauthorised settlements and the environmentally sensiti ve areas left out of the development plan. In the face of the failure of the state and the industrial apparatus to provide basic housing to the labour, slums and other vulnerable, high-density, low-income settlements, the urban villages and even the fact ory sheds often provide cheap, overcrowded housing for the labour employed by both the formal and informal sectors. Thus both at their place of work and home, the working people of Delhi are kept out of the mainstream planning process.

17251162jpg

However, it is indisputable that the polluting industries must be moved out of the residential areas to places where pollution can be contained and treated. The resettlement policy for this is yet to take any formal shape with the two parties in power in Delhi squabbling over amendments to the Master Plan for land-use change to provide for the relocation. Besides, the relocation plan prepared for the Bawana area in the west of Delhi also suffers from the same pitfall of mono-functional zoning, without a ny provision for workers' housing. And the plan expects them to commute 30 to 40 km by the proposed Metro Rail scheme to their places of work! This new industrial area, as planned, also has a half-baked pollution control and treatment provision and a min imum size of 100 square metre plots, which would be clearly out of the reach of the majority of the industries that need relocation. The villages around the new industrial sites have meanwhile staged political protests against the waste disposal system p roposed in the plan. Altogether, it is a royal mess, resulting from four decades of apathy, corruption and distorted plan implementation.

At the same time, the very agencies that demand strict zoning in housing areas to save the environment are continually amending the Master Plan (more than 220 times till date) to accommodate the powerful land mafia, the banks and the newly empowered reli gious groups. Comm-unity centre sites legally zoned as such in the Master Plan are amended to put up hotels and commercial centres of international standards (a euphemism for consumption centres for imported products and foods). Multiple five-star hotel sites and fly-overs are eating into the city's Ridge. The Yamuna river bed, which is the main recharge zone for Delhi's groundwater sources, is today dumped with millions of tonnes of fly ash that leech toxic chemicals into the aquifer, for reclaiming la nd for globalised investments in the transport sector and to achieve the vision of a new Manhattan on the river front. And all these by amending the Master Plan and against the recommendations of, or in the absence of a proper, environmental impact asses sment. Clearly the planning and implementation authorities in Delhi have lost the moral authority to lament the loss of environmental quality in residential areas, when their proactive role is leading to such deep damage to the city's environment.

The Master Plan, once notified in the Gazette, is a legal document, or the Master Plan becomes the legally acceptable framework laid down for the regulative as well as generative systems in the development of the city. As such, every citizen within the d esignated area of the city and for the time span of 20 years as prescribed in the plan, is obliged by law to abide by the plan. Any deviation from this prescription then becomes "non-conforming" and therefore illegal.

If the citizens are legally bound by the Master Plan, does it not stand to logic that the authority that prepares the plan is also bound by its provisions? Is it not then a violation of law when the governmental agency does not implement large parts of i ts own stipulations to develop Special Areas for mixed use (MPD 2001) and thousands of industrial units within the plan period? Is there one law for the citizens and another for the law-makers? The irony of it is that those who did not implement the lega l provisions in the Master Plan are now waging war on those who fulfilled the large gap in industrial provisions made by the Master Plan.

Lack of public participation

The genesis of the problem can also be traced to the poor provisions for public participation in the Master Plan process. As practised in the first two plans for Delhi (or for that matter every plan in the country), a Draft Master Plan is published, invi ting public objections within a certain period. Any citizen can write in to register objections and the planning authority collates and discusses the objections. Subsequently, the plan is presented to the elected body, in the case of Delhi to the Central government. As representatives of the people, the elected body is expected to express the people's will. Once the Cabinet approves the Plan, it is gazetted. In this system, the authority is not obliged to react to or accommodate all or any of the object ions. In other words, it can put out the plans for approval pretty much the way it wants. The elected body is often unable to comprehend the full import of the plan, as the plan relies heavily on charts, maps and other technical data as well as on some u nderlying assumptions. The fact that 40 per cent of the city is living in slums and the present crisis of industries make it abundantly clear that people's participation has not been structural to the decision-making process in the city.

The Nagar Palika Bill or the Constitution 74th Amendment, passed by an Act of Parliament is the law of this land since 1994. This Bill lays down a clear-cut structure for physical development, defines the composition of the bodies that are to prepare the Physical Plan (Master Plan) and prescribes a bottom-up system, where the needs of people are articulated at the lowest level, by the ward committees. Planning being a State subject in India, the 74th Amendment, delineates responsibility for the State an d the elected municipalities. In this disposition it is the responsibilities of the municipality to prepare the Master Plan, taking into consideration the ward committee requirements as well as the needs of other bodies above it in the hierarchy.

In the light of this, when one looks at Delhi, a number of ambiguities emerge. As the nation's capital, Delhi has two elected governments - the Centre and the State, both with legitimate stakes in its development. Land and police are with the Centre and the Delhi Development Authority that prepares the Master Plan works directly under the Centre. Besides these, the National Capital Region Planning Board is also involved indirectly in the development of Delhi. The State government controls the industrial sector, while the two elected municipalities, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), along with the DDA implement the Master Plan. The power lines cross here, and short circuits are aplenty. Delhi today is a contested territory, with many masters and many hitmen. The electoral mandate that backed different parties at the Centre and the State has further confounded the confusion. And now we also have the judiciary playing an active role, bringing all the stakeholders into direct confrontation. Sadly, the victims of this political and administrative charade are once again the city's poor.

If the MPD were truly a product of people's participation as prescribed in the 74th Amendment, the situation would have been very different. The accountability of elected representatives would have been far more clearly etched out and the plan implementa tion could not have taken such a brutal turn against the very people who willed it. Why is there such an inertia in implementing the six-year-old 74th Amendment? If the citizens of Delhi are made party to the decisions that affect their lives, the homes of the poor can be spared from being the battlefield of the titans of this country.

K.T. Ravindran is Professor and Head of the Department of Urban Design, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

A questionable termination

R. RAMACHANDRAN the-nation

The abrupt removal of R.S. Paroda as Director-General, ICAR, and Secretary, DARE, bodes ill for the administration of agricultural research in the country.

ON November 16, Rajendra Singh Paroda was abruptly relieved of his dual charge of Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and Director-General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The official order simply sa id that he would be on "compulsory wait until further orders" - a euphemism for removal from office that allows one to collect the salary. A well-known plant breeder and geneticist, and a Padma Bhushan awardee (conferred by the Vajpayee government in 199 7), he has been the Director-General for six and a half years. He had occupied the post after relinquishing a senior position in the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

17250861jpg

No other senior official of the ICAR was asked to take over charge. Instead, R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was assigned the additional charge of DG, ICAR. And an Indian Administrative Servic e (IAS) officer, Bhaskar Barua, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), was given additional charge of the post of Secretary that Paroda held. Only the previous day Paroda and Barua had shared a podium and addressed a meeting at the D irectorate of Rice Research (DRR) in Hyderabad and had returned to Delhi by the same flight.

By convention, Secretary, DARE, becomes ex-officio DG, ICAR, and thus the technocrat's post of DG, ICAR, had been accorded the rank of a Secretary to the government. The present move to bifurcate the two, however, is perceived by many in scientific circl es as an ominous one.

The administration of agricultural research in the country may well be the next bastion to fall in the ongoing tussle between technocracy and bureaucracy. The first in the series was environment, then electronics and later non-conventional energy.

The bifurcation also implies that a scientist-head of the ICAR becomes a subordinate and answerable to a non-scientist bureaucrat. Recently such a move was witnessed with regard to the status of DG, National Informatics Centre (NIC), when the NIC was mer ged back with the Department of Electronics in its new avatar as the Ministry of Information Technology (MIT) which has an IAS officer as its Secretary. All this would seem to be in tune with the downgrading of status and salary structures of scientists vis-a-vis IAS officers in the course of the implementation of the reommendations of Fifth Pay Commission.

Since the consolidation of agricultural research in various centres of the country in the mid-1960s, DARE has provided for functional linkages between agricultural research under the wings of the ICAR and other government departments. This institutional framework was put in place by the efforts of Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, the first scientist to head the ICAR. The separation could once again mean a lesser role for the ICAR's research base and expertise in national policy-making in the agricultural and food sector.

Indeed, many people believe that the move to ease out Paroda may have been motivated by this consideration, given the current climate towards liberalisation in the agricultural sector, research in particular, resulting in the entry of multinationals and the increasing impact of World Trade Organisation (WTO) dictated trade policies in the agricultural sector. On many occasions the ICAR had opposed moves by the government to liberalise the import of basic food items (such as soya and wheat) and seeds (li ke potato). The original recommendation of the ICAR to give a greater role for the agricultural research community as the "competent authority" to oversee the implementation of the Plant Varieties Protection Act and the Biodiversity Act was not received well by the government, and a dilution of this aspect is evident in the final drafts of the bills. The apparent reason for Paroda's removal - alleged irregularities in computer purchases, which would hardly warrant such a drastic action - seems, therefor e, to be a facade for this larger motive to ensure that the scientific community has a lesser say in matters of policy-making.

EXPECTEDLY, there has been all round criticism of the government action by the agricultural research and academic community.

Dr. Swaminathan, widely regarded as the man responsible for establishing the ICAR system as it is today, and Dr. M. G. K. Menon, were the first to come out against Paroda's removal and the undermining of the agricultural research, education and extension system under the ICAR/DARE umbrella. Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug, who was closely associated with the Green Revolution, too voiced his concern to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and urged him to reconsider the decision to dismantle the system that has served well. In a faxed appeal to Vajpayee, commending the achievements under Paroda, Borlaug said: "The Green Revolution of 1965-75... could not have been achieved without the close co-ordination between research (ICAR) and extension and production (DARE)... It was because of the need for this close coordination that the Director-General of ICAR also functioned as Secretary of DARE. I personally believe that the system as it has been structured since 1965 up to the present has functioned well... I am fearful that to change the structure now may again weaken the linkage at the Centre between research, extension and production and, moreover, will weaken linkage between provincial agricultural research, extension, production programmes and the agric ultural universities."

A host of associations and forums of scientists and other employees too appealed to the highest political authorities to review the decision and reinstate Paroda. Among these is a resolution passed by the Association of Indian Agricultural Universities a t its annual conference in New Delhi (November 20-21) and signed by the Vice-Chancellors of 31 agricultural universities and four deemed universities.

Paroda was only recently elected Chairman of the Global Forum on Agriculture Research (GFAR). ICAR scientists feel that the leadership that India was providing to developing countries in global forums like the FAO would now stand eroded. Some of them po int out that in recent times the bureaucracy has been resentful of the standing that the ICAR had come to gain in such forums and generalist officers had begun to lead scientific delegations abroad which would normally have been led by senior ICAR scient ists.

And then there is the Indian Science Congress 2001, of which Paroda is the general president and which was to be the ICAR's show. This will be attended by many foreign scientists and, as per convention, the Prime Minister inaugurates it, in New Delhi in the first week of January. But the situation could prove embarassing for the Prime Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister for Science and Technology, and Nitish Kumar, who could be sharing the podium with Paroda.

One of the achievements during Paroda's tenure was the establishment of the plant gene bank, one of the largest in the world. It is vital for the interests of the developing world with the growing importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) issues i n agriculture and in the preservation and conservation of national biodiversity. The National Agricultural Research Information System (ARIS) was an important infrastructural system that was conceptualised and established under his charge with the object ive of increasing the productivity of the system and meeting the challenges of emerging trade regimes under the WTO dispensation. Towards implementing ARIS, Paroda was instrumental in conceptualising and initiating a major World Bank-funded National Agri cultural Technology Project (NATP), a key component of which was the computerised networking of research units and agricultuaral universities across the country. Ironically, it is a controversy surrounding this project, particularly allegations regarding computer purchases, that seems to have led to his removal.

The government, or specifically Agriculture Minister Nitish Kumar, has so far not publicly stated in clear terms the reason for the action. That the ostensible reason has to do with computer purchases is only to be inferred from planted news stories. The only official indication that this indeed is the issue, came from the Minister's remark to the media that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry has been ordered. That only makes the government's position weak because even before a detailed inq uiry is completed, let alone the framing of charges based on the findings of the inquiry, a government official of the rank of Secretary has been removed without even granting the right to present a defence.

A preliminary internal inquiry was ordered by the Minister in July but its findings have been kept under wraps. Interestingly, though a copy of the Minister's letter ordering the inquiry was marked to DG, ICAR, the report was not been shown to him. Some news reports alleged that according to the internal inquiry Paroda was not cooperating in the investigation and that he had been removed to facilitate the investigation. Evidence, however, points to the entire episode being the handiwork of a senior offi cial in the ICAR in charge of ARIS, who, for the last 10 months or so, has been bombarding the Minister and other key officials in the Ministry, the Central Vigilance Commissioner N. Vittal, and the media with allegations against Paroda and a few other I CAR scientists in the implementation of the NATP. A document purporting to be part of the internal audit report and the internal inquiry report was making the rounds. This document implicates the DG, the DDG (Engineering), the DDG (Education) and the pre sent National Director, NATP, in computer purchase irregularities. News reports based on this appeared recently.

The language of the document indicates that it is a fake. The falsehood is apparent, for the present Director of the NATP, P.L. Gautam, took charge only in April 2000 and could not have been involved in computer purchases during 1998-99. The irony is tha t the officer who has been levelling the charges himself was a key person responsible for computer purchases for the NATP and it would appear that his allegations constitute a pre-emptive tactic to cover his own misconduct and misdeeds in this case as we ll as others.

The internal inquiry and the subsequent action against Paroda was triggered by a news item in The Indian Express (May 15) which alleged that the ICAR official in question had been divested of his responsibilities in the NATP because he had raised questions about various irregularities. But according to key officials involved in the project including those of the World Bank, that official, whose services had merely been requisitioned under the supervision of Anwar Alam, DDG (Engineering), was hind ering the progress of the project. The project had clear milestone targets to be met and he had to be kept out of it for its proper implementation. The official had been disassociated from the NATP on January 10.

Some observers within the ICAR say that the government was only waiting for such an opportunity. The controversy around the NATP provided it a convenient handle to turn for its own greater political ends. Undercurrents of factionalism along caste and reg ional lines in the higher echelons of the ICAR plus the technocrat-bureacrat divide were exploited by the Ministry, ICAR scientists feel. With the recent two-year increase in a Secretary's term coming in the way of the bureaucrats' bid to grab DARE from scientists, the situation offered an opportune moment to strike, they say. Also, this allows the government to appoint someone more pliable at the helm of the ICAR, it is argued. Be that as it may, the facts of the NATP computer deal are still loaded aga inst the government's action.

The allegations against Paroda relate to the $239-million World Bank-funded project, conceptualised in 1998 and expected to run till December 2003. The alleged irregularities related to imported computer hardware worth Rs.17.79 crores. International bids were invited for the supply of 1,432 PCs and the peripherals in October 1998 as per Bank norms. In February 1999, Siemens-Nixdorf Information Systems and Vinitec Pvt. Ltd. were awarded the contracts and they were to supply the hardware by June 1999.

The allegations against Paroda centred on the claim that the companies were allowed to delay the supply for over a year. The delay, it was claimed, enabled the companies to make the supply after prices had fallen substantially. There were also allegation s that the penalty clauses meant to be invoked for the delay were changed, resulting in losses.

An internal inquiry was ordered by the Minister on July 29 with a deadline of August 31 set for its completion. Pawan Raina, the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, an IAS officer, led the inquiry. In early August, Paroda enquired if the inquiry officer required access to any more documents for the probe. Raina, it is stated, sent a note to Paroda on August 29, saying that some files were missing. Paroda's reply sent the following day, seeking clarifications, drew no response. The inquiry was completed soon afterwards, in early September.

The speed with which the inquiry was conducted has raised eyebrows. Even more surprising is the fact that the Minister seems to have acted on the basis of this apparently incomplete report, that too when no charges had been framed. Although the Minister has stated that another inquiry is being ordered, till date the case has not been referred to either the CBI or the Central Vigilance Commission.

The World Bank guidelines are clear and the entire process is carried out with the approval of Bank officials, says Ashok Seth, the Bank's Task Manager for the NATP. According to the agreement between the Bank and the ICAR, the annual accounts of the NAT P are to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India. The period pertaining to the computer purchases is under audit, according to CAG's office.

According to Seth, the purchase procedures have been transparent. The delays, he says, were caused by the abrupt insistence on benchmarking and 100 per cent post-shipment 24-hour burn-in testing of the systems by the customer - which was not part of the original contract. "In any case, there is a one-year warranty and there is a guarantee of 5 per cent of the cost against performance. In addition, 20 per cent of the amount is to be released only after acceptance certification of systems," says Seth. On October 25, Siemens-Nixdorf filed a suit against the ICAR demanding release of the amount.

The delay of nearly four months caused by 100 per cent testing could put future disbursements for the project in jeopardy, according to Seth. No disbursements will be made after January if the targets are not met. Further, the controversy has only compli cated matters, he says.

What irks the ICAR scientists and officials associated with the NATP is that when all purchase procedures have been evolved through committees involving several people and monitored at various levels, the DG alone should have been implicated. The controv ersy has adversely impacted not just the NATP's progress but normal work at ICAR, where senior scientists are wary of taking any important decision - lest they be implicated too on some charge or the other.

To balance regulation and compliance

DWIJEN RANGNEKAR the-nation

The Biodiversity Bill now before Parliament incorporates several progressive elements, but a number of provisions in it require further strengthening.

THE latest draft of the Biodiversity Bill, now in Parliament, is marked by specific progressive elements, which reflect the consultative process undertaken by the government and positive engagement by groups and individuals. The Bill represents the gover nment's efforts to actualise the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), by providing the framework for a regime governing access to, and use of, biological resources and associated knowledge. The question is whether the current draft realises the objectives of the Convention and whether other institutions/laws will be supportive or pose hurdles.

17250951jpg

The successes with regard to overturning patents in the West, as in the case of turmeric, basmati 1 and neem, are but piecemeal achievements and insufficient in terms of a long-term strategy to stall misappropriation and biopiracy. Repeated fo rays into courts in the West are expensive and definitely not something that the government, domestic companies or communities can afford - a point recognised by the Indian government in a recent submission to the World Trade Organisation's Commission on Trade and Environment (WTO, 2000). Hence, beyond being a useful public relations success there is little comfort or gain in these victories.

The need to have a legal framework must be well appreciated. Without a national (and hopefully a regional) regime controlling transactions involving biological resources and associated knowledge, nothing can be achieved in terms of recognising and/or rew arding communities and indigenous peoples or in securing the sustainable utilisation of biological resources. There is much at stake - even in a simple economic sense, global estimates of the market for plant-derived pharmaceuticals is estimated at $40 b illion (UNDP, 1994) 2. Agreeably, a national and/or regional regime is constrained by the absence of an adequate and legally binding international framework, particularly in countries where patents are secured - it is in these markets that the potential revenues reside.

THERE are several progressive elements in the Bill. Two specific provisions that lead to the empowerment of communities are notable. Clause 41 provides for locally constituted Biodiversity Management Committees that are directed towards "promoting conser vation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity... and chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity". The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and its counterparts in the States are obliged to consult the committees while taking decisions concerning biological resources and associated knowledge within their respective territorial jurisdiction. Importantly, committees may charge a levy for access and collection of biological material and associated knowledge. Further suppo rt for communities and indigenous peoples comes in the form of provisions for the Central government to "respect and protect the knowledge of local people relating to biological diversity" through measures that include appropriate legislation (for exampl e, a sui generis legislation), administrative steps such as registering innovations (for example, the Honey Bee Network) and compilation of biodiversity registers (for example, the Karnataka case) (Clause 36). The inclusion of these provisions in the dra ft is an important development reflecting the government's eventual, but belated, appreciation of a range of possibilities. These provisions finally bring to bear on domestic legislation some of the rhetoric the government articulates in international fo rums, namely, its submissions at the WTO (Protection of biodiversity and traditional knowledge - The Indian experience: Submission by India to the Committee on Trade and Environment, Council for TRIPS; WT/CTE/W/156 & IP/C/W/198; 2000; Item 8: The relatio nship between the TRIPs agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity: Submission by India to the Committee on Trade and Environment. WT/CTE/W/65; 1997).

Existing literature suggests that empowering communities requires a framework overseeing processes and procedures concerning access to, and benefit-sharing from, the use of biological resources and associated knowledge (Posey, 1996; Mugabe et al., 1997), which has become a central feature of biodiversity-related legislation following the ratification of the CBD (L. Glowka, 1998). It is felt that these access regimes will form the basis for stopping biopiracy.

At a fundamental level the Bill seeks to prohibit the movement of biological material and associated knowledge occurring in India without the previous approval of the NBA, irrespective of whether the request is for research or commercial exploitation (Cl ause 3(1)). Provisions concerning intellectual property rights (IPRs) strengthen this principle - prior approval of the NBA is required by persons seeking IPRs on "inventions based on any research or information on a biological resource obtained f rom India". The NBA is obliged to consult the State and local Biodiversity Committees while making its decision. Further, the NBA is empowered to establish benefit-sharing arrangements and/or royalty payments with respect to the commercial utilisation of such rights (Clause 6). The revenues generated from benefit-sharing arrangements could accrue directly to specific individuals and/or groups where they are identifiable; in other instances the revenue will enter a National Biodiversity Fund (Clause 21(2 )).

Quite apart from efforts directed at conservation and sustainable utilisation of biological resources, the Bill is aimed at biopiracy-related issues. Not only is the transfer of biological resources and associated knowledge prohibited, but applications f or IPRs on 'derivative' inventions require prior approval from the NBA. Chapter V of the Bill, which outlines the approval process to be developed by the NBA, reiterates this thrust of stopping biopiracy. The NBA is required to scrutinise all application s for obtaining and transferring biological material and associated knowledge, and also oversee applications for IPRs on inventions derived from, or based upon, biological material and associated knowledge obtained in India. Interestingly, the Bill empow ers the NBA to "take any measures necessary to oppose the grant of IPRs in any country outside India on any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge associated with such biological resource which derived from India" (Clause 18(4)).

The latter provision is worthy but should not be considered as the primary means to stop biopiracy as it will lead the government into an expensive and time-consuming process of litigation. At best, selective use of the courtroom needs to be attempted, p artly for the public relations victory and to establish crucial legal precedence in terms of standards of patentability. Closely related to the three thrusts identified above is the effort to secure revenue streams. Clearly, the pristine principle aimed at the recognition of the contributions made by communities, indigenous peoples and individuals to inventions has been supplemented by demands for sharing in the financial benefits arising from the commercial exploitation of the end product. The massive global market in products based on, or derived from, biological resources and associated knowledge is clearly there for the picking. The Bill reasserts this principle of recognition accompanied by benefit-sharing through a number of provisions, some of w hich have been noted above.

There are several provisions in the Bill that require further strengthening. One of these involve the need to develop cross-linkages with other pieces of legislation. Biological resources and associated knowledge are widely used in different sectors of t he industry. Naturally, a successful legal framework for access and benefit-sharing must impinge on these other sectors. The Bill attempts this in a number of ways, in particular by requiring prior informed consent of the NBA (and the relevant communitie s) for obtaining and transferring biological resources and/or associated knowledge and when IPRs are applied for. The real problem is two-fold:

* will individuals and companies seeking IPRs on derivative-inventions fulfil the stipulated obligations of the Biodiversity Bill?

* even if the various institutions set up under the provisions of the Bill function efficiently and effectively, will the functioning of other relevant institutions undermine the principles of the Bill?

As regards the first, there is no basis for a priori assumptions that individuals and/or companies, Indian or foreign, will voluntarily behave in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Bill.

Contemporary practice and widely publicised instances of misappropriation of biological resources and associated knowledge are adequate testimony to this allegation. Yet, consistent guidelines across all relevant institutions (that is, in particular the IPRs granting offices) could induce the necessary (voluntary) compliance. As regards the second, one cannot be sure that grants of IPRs do not jeopardise the objectives of the Bill. In this regard, the NBA is empowered to provide prior approval to releva nt applications for IPRs. Quite apart from requiring the NBA to be ever vigilant, are there measures to ensure compliance at the stage at which IPRs are granted?

Ensuring the latter, that is, a means of effective cross-linkage, requires specific provisions governing the process of securing IPRs. Here some, though not adequate, support is present in the proposed amendments to the Patent Act of 1970:

* disclosure of the source of origin of the biological material involved in the subject matter of their application 3, and

* declaration that the prior informed consent of the country of origin has been adequately fulfilled4.

While these measures are fundamental, one remains cautious for the following reasons:

* other IPRs system, namely, plant breeders' rights (PBRs), do not have these provisions; hence, the required cross-linkages are now incomplete,

* measures to ensure that the IPRs granting offices will seek to verify the authenticity of the declarations made by applicants are insufficient, and

* there is a case to reconsider the conditions for patentability in the class of inventions involving biological resources and associated indigenous knowledge.

As regards the latter point, one recommends the following two complementary solutions, which can be also gleaned from legislative effort in other countries, namely, Costa Rica (Rivera and Cordero, 1999 BIOIPR):

* To simplify the task facing IPRs granting offices, the statutory submission of a certificate of clearance issued by the relevant biodiversity authority of the country of origin, which will fulfil the requirement of a declaration that prior informed con sent has been secured.

* A solution to the problem of standards of patentability requires a reconsideration of what should be considered inventive in the class of inventions involving biological resources and associated traditional knowledge. Apart from overhauling the patent system - a strategy that should not be entirely avoided - it might be worth the while to involve the NBA in all IPRs applications that have such subject matter.

The cross-linkage recommended here involves closer cooperation between the NBA and all offices granting IPRs. In the absence of this cross-linkage one suspects that the objectives of the Bill will not be met. Yet, it is important to realise that complian ce of IPRs offices outside India, the real bone of contention, is another matter entirely. Hence the need to pursue urgently multilateral negotiations after having set right the domestic institutions.

Despite the many measures aimed at empowering communities that are noted above, one feels that there is still ground for some improvements. For example, the members constituting State Biodiversity Boards include non-governmental 'experts', which some obs ervers note might subtly disenfranchise local communities from participating in the Boards (Kothari, 2000). Another possible improvement would be to use existing local institutions, such as gram sabhas and joint forest management systems, as ways to devo lve the task of overseeing compliance. Local governance is recognised as a means of 'spreading the risks' of compliance and securing wider participation. In this regard, Kothari (as above) makes a useful suggestion: to empower citizens to approach the co urts if they detect violations of the provisions of the Bill.

STRIKING the appropriate balance between regulation and compliance so as to ensure that the wider objectives of the Bill, such as securing recognition and reward for local communities, are met is a difficult task. There is an urgent need for an adequate legal framework to control access to, and use of, biological resources and associated knowledge as means to provide equitable benefit-sharing and ensure sustainable use. The current draft does include specific progressive elements that require implementa tion - though these require further strengthening. More important, the implementation of this legislation in India will have critical global relevance and provide the necessary impetus for renewed pressure to clarify principles concerning the grant of IP Rs on subjects involving biological resources and indigenous knowledge.

Even while the draft is progressive, particularly in contrast to most initiatives concerning biological resources and communities, one feels the real test is in the directives concerning the implementation of the law. However, there are important changes required if the objectives of the Bill are to be met. Two broad sets of revisions have been noted here: (a) better cross-linkages with other institutions and laws and (b) greater democratisation.

Dr. Dwijen Rangnekar is a Research Fellow at the School of Public Policy, University College, London.

The Economic Times

2 A more recent statistic suggests the global market is valued at over $500 billion (Peter Crane, 2000). All such estimates are highly suspect for a number of reasons. Further, one should be aware that in all instances of use of traditional knowledge the original users are legally entitled to compensation. Either way, there is a significantly large global market in pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic products derived from, and dependent on, patterns of use of biological resources pioneered by indigeno us communities.

3 Gadgil and Devasia (1995) provide a useful and early articulation of the possibilities of using certificates of origin as a means of identifying misappropriation of biological resources and associated knowledge.

'Neutron bomb capability exists'

other
Interview with Dr. Anil Kakodkar.

Dr. Anil Kakodkar took charge as Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), on December 1. This former Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, succeeded Dr. R. Chidambaram to these posts. Dr. Kakodkar, 57, obtained a B.E. degree in mechanical engineering from Bombay University and an M.Sc. from Nottingham University in the U.K. In 1963-64 he underwent training in nuclear science and technology with the then Atomic Energy Establishm ent, Trombay. Associated with research and development related to nuclear reactors since 1964, he was involved in India's first Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) experiment of May 1974. He played an important role in the five nuclear tests conducted in Ma y 1998. He played a key role in the design and construction of Dhruva, the 100 MW high flux reactor at Trombay and the development of indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) system. His work in the rehabilitation of the two reactors at Kalpakkam and the first unit at Rawatbhatta, which at one stage were on the verge of being written off, are examples of his engineering capability. He has built teams of specialised engineers and scientists in the reactor engineering programm e. His dream project is to build the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) that uses thorium-uranium 233 as primary energy source with plutonium as the driver fuel. The unique reactor system, with simplified but safe technology, will generate 75 per cent o f electricity from thorium.

17250891jpg

T.S. Subramanian met Dr. Kakodkar for an interview at Trombay. Excerpts:

You have stated that India's nuclear energy programme has come of age. Could you elaborate on this?

Any research and development (R&D) programme must ultimately lead to technological benefit to the society. In our atomic energy programme, as a result of the R&D that has been done at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and other institutions, and R &D contributions from industry in manufacturing technology, we have today the PHWR programme which is in a successful commercial domain. We are able to build our own nuclear power reactors, manufacture all the essential nuclear inputs such as heavy water , zirconium alloy components and nuclear fuel. The PHWRs are operating at a high capacity factor. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited has been making considerable profits. It is a demonstration of the successful migration of technology from th e laboratory to the industry. So there is a degree of maturity in the DAE.

Obviously, if the nuclear power programme has to grow, there should be more and more PHWRs, with larger unit sizes too. Right now we are building 220 MW PHWRs. At Tarapur we have started construction of 500 MW PHWRs. We should take up more reactors for c onstruction and the 500 MW reactor programme should get considerable acceleration.

This programme is no longer limited by technology. It is a question of creating more investments, and more projects, and megawatt capacity would follow. This is important because nuclear electricity generation today forms only a low fraction of the total electricity generated in the country. We should take it to a reasonably higher fraction because this is a future energy source. Once we take the nuclear power capacity (generation) to 7,000 or 8,000 MWe level, the internal surplus generation will be abl e to support a substantial capacity-building programme. We must have a programme where work is going on simultaneosuly at several sites. Also the technology development to support the PHWR programme has to continue because the technology is never static.

Will the construction of the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) begin at Kalpakkam soon?

We are almost ready. The second stage of our nuclear power programme, that is, the construction of the Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs), should reach a commercial deployment stage as we have with the first stage PHWRs today. This is the key to exploiting the full potential of our nuclear energy resources and enlarging the nuclear power generation capacity. The Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam has done extremely well and all its technological objectives have been met. The Indira Gandhi Centre fo r Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam has done a lot of technological development work in building the full-size components for the PFBR. So they are poised to take up the construction of the PFBR. On the basis of that experience, we should be in a posi tion to start construction of a series of FBRs in India. This will be the second stage of our nuclear electricity programme.

As the FBR programme starts, we have to think of further advancement in terms of faster doubling time. The PFBR will constitute the reactor technology and we have to advance in fuel cycle technology. That is a major programme which will go on for some ti me at the IGCAR.

The third stage of our nuclear electricity programme will use thorium as fuel. Here also there will be several stages of evolutions in the thorium utilisation programme. The ultimate objective of this will be to build a pure thorium-uranium 233 based rea ctor. The AHWRs will form only the first phase of the third stage. The idea here is that we should move towards thorium utilisation on a very substantial scale, using the heavy water technology that we have. The AHWR is designed to get a large fraction o f energy output from thorium. It incorporates several advanced safety features which characterise innovative reactor designs worldwide.

What are the technological challenges that you will have to overcome in building AHWRs?

The main objective of the AHWRs is to achieve a larger degree of safety through the use of what is known as passive safety systems. For example, with, natural circulation of water, safety is no longer dependent on active components such as pumps, which m ay fail. Passive systems depend on physical principles and you thus get a large safety advantage.

In the AHWR, energy extraction from the core is through passive means. Residual heat removal is through passive means. Containment heat removal and containment circulation are both by passive means. There are several other such features.

The AHWR would be economically advantageous too. We are building into it features which will lower its capital cost. This is because there is no active equipment, or there are just one or two, which require nuclear classification. We have eliminated most of the costly equipment that require nuclear classification.

You do require some active components to back up, but they are all conventional equipment. You can buy them in the market and they are cheap. Using factory assembled coolant channels, we expect to do the coolant channel replacement work quite fast. In on e normal shutdown of the reactor, you can replace the coolant channels. This is the kind of capability we are trying to build. This is the second objective.

The third and the most important objective is to demonstrate large-scale generation of electricity from thorium. So the reactor will be in a self-sustaining mode as far as the uranium 233-thorium cycle is concerned. Whatever uranium-233 is consumed for e lectricity generation, the same amount of uranium-233 will be produced in the reactor. Of course it will require a certain amount of plutonium as a kind of driver fuel. That is why it (the AHWR) forms the first phase of the third stage...

We are defining the road map for shaping the third stage. There are several elements in it: the technologies that will go into the uranium-233 fuel cycle, that is, the fuel cycle technology; the reactor technology, and so on. For some time, the FBRs and the thorium reactors will be in a tandem mode. You breed fuel and you support more thorium capacity. Afterwards it will go into pure thorium mode.

While this is going on, we probably have to look for technologies that will make the third stage more efficient. There is a possibility that accelerator driven sub-critical systems can achieve that objective.

Are breeder reactors relevant when people talk about accelerator driven sub-critical systems?

Breeder reactors are more relevant in the sense that the technology development for them is way ahead of the technology development for accelerator driven systems...

In the accelerator driven systems, the advantage is that you get a variety of characteristics. Conceptually, it is a variation of the AHWR core coupled with a fast driver core and spallation source driven by an accelerator. We can, on the one side, have a thorium-uranium 233 fuel cycle with better doubling time. On the other side, we can incinerate the long-lived waste in the same system. So it will become a kind of self-consistent system where you can breed more fuel than you consume and incinerate mos t of the long-lived waste. This is a major advantage... This is an area where a lot of work is required to be done for a long time, for 15 to 20 years. This is a major technological challenge which is important for us. This is factored into our strategy for shaping the third stage of our nuclear power programme of thorium utilisation.

What will be the scale of import of light water reactors to reach the goal of generating 20,000 MW of nuclear electricity by 2020? Russia's Deputy Minister for Atomic Energy E.A. Reshetnikov who visited the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station in September was keen to sell six VVER-1000 reactors to India including two that are to be built at Kudankulam. Will India buy light water reactors from France or Canada?

The share of nuclear electricity in the overall electricity generation in the country should go up. Nuclear power technology is environmentally very benign. It does not emit greenhouse gases. It is a source of bulk power generation and thus there is a ne ed to increase its share. From that point of view, the imported systems are welcome as an additionality over and above the domestic programme. At this moment it will be difficult for me to say how many they will be... We can accommodate a fairly large sh are of such capacity. For example, accommodating 6,000 MWe or 7,000 MWe of light water reactor capacity or even more should not be a problem. As far as we are concerned, we will welcome it then.

Why have no new sites been identified for building PHWRs ? Why are PHWRs being bunched at the existing sites?

There is a committee looking at probable sites. The important consideration is that if there is a site, depending on its chacteristics, it can accommodate a certain capacity. So we must make full use of that site's potential. If you put multiple units at the same site, you get economic advantage. That is why we are adding more units at the same site. But there are sites which have been looked at in the past. It is necessary to look at all of them again in the present context because we have to see what are the conditions that obtain today, and also identify new sites. At the moment it appears to me that it is more urgent for us to open new projects at the existing sites. While we do that, we should define additional sites where work can be taken up in future.

Have we reprocessed enough plutonium to operate the planned FBRs?

We have to adjust the reprocessing capacity in tune with the requirements of the FBR programme. As the requirements increase, we will increase the reprocessing capacity. I don't envisage any serious problem on this front.

The three sub-kiloton nuclear devices that India exploded at Pokhran in May 1998 have given the country the capability to do sub-critical tests. Are any sub-critical tests planned?

That really depends on the government's decision. As far as R&D work is concerned, it is an ongoing process.

Are facilities in place to conduct sub-critical tests ?

No comment.

What led to the nuclear tests of May 1998? Was it because India could not keep the nuclear option open indefinitely? Was it because the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was to be wrapped up, and there would be pressure on India to accede to the CTBT? Wa s there pressure from the nuclear scientists in the country to go for the tests?

No, no. The question is... The scientific community has to respond to national needs. So once the decision was made, it was implemented. The fact is that it was well known that nuclear weapons existed in our neighbourhood, and also the way the CTBT discu ssions went on... there was a deadline. So it was perhaps necessary, essential for national security requirements, that this option was exercised. That is what must have been at the back of the government's decision.

How advanced is India in the matter of nuclear weaponisation? A former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr.P.K. Iyengar, says that the process of weaponisation must continue, leading to the development of neutron bombs and testing them.

The development work must continue. It is an ongoing process. What was the objective of these nuclear tests? It was to have a credible, minimum nuclear deterrent. For that purpose, what you really require (is weapons) from several kilotons to a couple of hundred kilotons range. These weapons must be compact, lightweight and compatible with the delivery vehicles. This has been the basis of configuring the five tests, and I think we have sufficient information on the basis of these five tests to build a c redible, minimum nuclear deterrent.

Now, the neutron bomb is strictly a tactical weapon. There is no problem about the capability of building a neutron bomb.

The capability of building a neutron bomb in our country?

That capability exists. At this moment we are talking about this credible deterrent that can be established based on the five tests done. If you are talking about a credible deterrent, then I think that whatever has been done is sufficient.

Are you convinced that we need not explode more nuclear devices, thermo-nuclear bombs with bigger yields?

I will not put it the way you are putting it. The 45-kiloton thermo-nuclear test that we did was in a configuration which allows us to easily go up to 200 kiloton. So far as thermo-nuclear technology is concerned, there is no doubt that we have the full capability.

A thermo-nuclear device is popularly called the hydrogen bomb. According to a top DAE scientist, the hydrogen bomb and the neutron bomb are the same. Is there any difference between them?

A thermo-nuclear bomb or hydrogen bomb is a two-stage weapon, which consists of the primary which is based on fission or boosted fission system, and the secondary is where the radiation implosion is used to get a large yield. So any thermo-nuclear weapon will have a certain amount of energy coming in the form of fission, and a certain amount of energy coming in the form of fusion.

In a neutron bomb, the fusion energy is maximised. With minimum fission energy, you get maximum fusion energy. So you end up getting a much larger neutron output and so it can create much more damage by radiation. That is the difference.

But the neutron bomb is usually a small yield weapon and it is more useful as a tactical weapon.

Scientist S.K. Sikka of the BARC has been quoted as saying that computer simulation (of nuclear tests) is extremely expensive even in the United States and that therefore that country had no alternative but to do the real tests.

Yes, in those days, a long time ago. Is it less expensive now?

It is a question of availability of computing power. When the computing power that was available was small, it was probably easier to carry out the tests, in relative terms. The computing power that is available now is much higher. So you can get a lot o f information through simulation. To that extent, the number of tests that we need to carry out comes down.

Can we do computer simulation?

We certainly have some capability. We are continuously improving on it.

Are there moves afoot to split the BARC into a nuclear-weapons facility and a non-weapons facility...

There is no question of doing that. The strength of the BARC lies in its multi-disciplinary character. It is because of that we are able to run our programmes in nuclear power; national security; several aspects of isotope and radiation technology in the area of food, agriculture, health and industrial support; in the area of nuclear desalination and so forth, which is important. The BARC has a strong basic research component in physics, chemistry and biology. It has a strong technology application comp onent in electricity generation; in food security in terms of better agricultural mutants and prevention of food spoilage through radiation processing; and in health in diagnostics, that is, imaging of different body organs and radiation therapy for canc er patients. We have programmes in the area of water. We are building a 6,300-cubic-metres-a-day nuclear desalination demonstration project plant at Kalpakkam.

We give support to industry in terms of monitoring the performance of petrochemical equipment, leakage of oil pipelines, etc., using radiation technology. Even computer floppies can be treated by radiation. The BARC has the unique capability of doing all this. That comes about by its multi-disciplinary character. That has to be preserved.

How advanced is India in storing solid wastes?

We are one of the few countries that have this full capability, in the sense that we not only carry out the immobilisation of the radioactive waste in a vitrified matrix but we have the facility for interim storage of the overpacks that contain this vitr ified waste in a surveillance mode.

What does it mean?

You first concentrate the waste. You immobilise it in vitrified mass, special glass which cannot leach out. You encapsulate this vitrified mass in a metal container. This is put in another metal container and this is called overpack. This overpack is kep t in a specially engineered facility and its construction is such that there will be continuous circulation of air around this overpack. This is done by natural circulation. There are no pumps, just a chimney. It is based on physical principles so that y ou will always have natural circulation of air and so it cools. The temperature is kept under limits.

You keep monitoring the temperature and the radioactivity so that if there is any rupture, you will immediately come to know about it. You can isolate it and repair it. As time passes, 30 years or 40 years down the line, the activity decays. The heat gen eration comes down. You also confirm the integrity of the isolation, the container, the barriers to radiation. That is why it is called Solid Storage under Surveillance Facility.

Thoughts on Tibet

Two recent articles on the subject of Tibet by N. Ram, Editor of Frontline, and a scholarly study on Sino-Indian relations, viewed through the Tibetan prism, by Dr. Subramanian Swamy, are very timely ("Tibet - A Reality Check" and "Sino-Indian rel ations through the Tibet prism," September 15; "Educational take-off in Tibet", September 29). The first of the two articles by Ram is an exhaustive overview of the present situation in Tibet in its historical context, and the report is of Pulitzer Prize quality. The second article deals with the present state of education in Tibet, which is at the "take-off" point.

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama sought political asylum in India as a refugee, in the wake of the armed revolt against China in 1959, it used to be said, jokingly, that Prime Minister Nehru was caught on the horns of a "Dalai Lama". The dilemma arose fr om the fact that the official position of India was that Tibet was considered a part of China, a point that was reaffirmed in the India-China Treaty on Tibet of 1954.

For his part, the Dalai Lama has been waging a political campaign for the "independence" of Tibet from a secure base in Dharmasala, where a large number of his adherents have joined him. This campaign seems to be well-financed. The Dalai Lama has made se veral claims which seem to be highly exaggerated. One claim relates to his stand on Greater Tibet with a population of six million people. Another relates to the Chinese authorities' attempt to "Han-ise" Tibet by the induction of a large number of ethnic Chinese, with a view to their forming a majority in the total population of Tibet. The third relates to a "holocaust" of some one million Tibetans put to death by the Chinese authorities between 1951 and 1979. These statements have been made by the Dala i Lama in such forums as the U.S. Congress in 1987. The Dalai Lama's charismatic personality and his appearance of total sincerity have lent additional credence to his claims and charges. However, all his efforts to internationalise the issue and place i t on the agenda of the United Nations have failed. On the other hand, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama in 1989 has helped him in his political campaign for the independence of Tibet.

What are the facts? The Tibet of the Dalai Lama days was no Shangrila for the Tibetans. It was a theocracy ruling over a poor country, with the agrarian population, mostly serfs, eking out a precarious living from the arid soil. The standard of living wa s very low. Illiteracy was the rule: 95 per cent of the population was illiterate.

The situation in Tibet today is by no means ideal, but it does represent a great improvement. Politically, Tibet is an "autonomous region" of China. Its total population, according to the most recent Census (1990), is 2.196 million. These figures are no doubt the official figures provided by the Government, but I see no reason to question them. They are a far cry from the figure of six million claimed by the Dalai Lama. 95.5 per cent of the population consists of ethnic Tibetans; only 3.7 percent are Ha n Chinese. The agrarian economy is still poor by any standard, but represents a considerable improvement over the last four decades. Education is taking off, although Tibet has still a long way to go. Religious freedom has been guaranteed, as indeed over all of China. The Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 was of course a setback, but this was the case over all of China; thankfully it is well behind us. Today there are some 46,000 resident monks and nuns, and Buddhism "is a strong all-pervasive presence in Tibet."

I began by saying that these articles are timely, giving - as they do - a more reliable picture than has been painted by propagandists of Dharmasala. Among our top leaders, especially the Hindu Right, there is an ambivalent attitude on the subject. Lip s ervice is paid to the indisputable fact that the Tibet Autonomous Region is a part of China. But there is also a great deal of sympathy for the Dalai Lama and his claims. This ambivalence can cost us dearly if it leads to any impairment of our friendly r elations with China.

India is in a very vulnerable position in this regard. We have major ethnic problems in the north-eastern region. In the North-West, we have the longstanding problem of Kashmir. We must recognise that, in spite of its friendship with Pakistan, China has not taken a public position in favour of Pakistan. It has also kept aloof from the separatist politics in the north-eastern region.

Dr. Swamy has made two important points. First, India should not risk giving rise to a situation when a joint China-Pakistan attack may be launched against India. Second, India should do its best to settle all outstanding issues with China, including the border issue. Dr. Swamy has stated that "China has borders with 14 nations and, except for India, it has resolved its disputes with all, including Russia. India has borders with six countries and excluding Bhutan, it has disputes with all five." In fact , "in India that is Bharat", there are border disputes among the constituent States forming the Union of India - vide a recent report about a border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra.

It should be clear that India's interests are best served by a policy that lends no support to the political activities of the Dalai Lama and his entourage. We cannot support the claim of the Dalai Lama to an independent Tibet, since by Treaty we recogni se that Tibet is an integral part of China. The pretence of a government-in-exile is also unworthy of support. The Chinese authorities have invited the Dalai Lama to come back to Lhasa, solely in his capacity as a religious leader. If the Dalai Lama acce pts this invitation, that would be a "consummation devoutly to be wished." I doubt if he would, or should, although Dr. Swamy recommends that the Dalai Lama return to Lhasa.

Let the Dalai Lama remain on Indian soil as long as he wishes, or lives. But let us make it clear that he is not heading "a government in exile". Let us take steps to prevent him and his entourage from engaging in anti-Chinese political activities. Let t he Vajpayee government speak with one voice on the subject in all public statements, whatever private views individual Ministers may have. Let us also start on a new round of talks with China, to mend our fences and solve all outstanding problems, includ ing the border issue.

C.V. Narasimhan (former Under-Secretary General of the U.N.) Chennai

Palestinian struggle

I would like to add my pennyworth to Aijaz Ahmad's "Israel's killing fields" (November 24).

The article contains numerous references to sources, most of which present one-sided views from various known and unknown personalities. It seems Aijaz Ahmad is not interested in facts as he had already made up his mind.

The words "Israeli terror" imply that Israelis do not have the right to defend themselves when fired upon. Palestinian gunmen target not only soldiers and policemen but civilians, including women and children. What does the writer expect the Israelis to do? To lie down and die in the cause of Palestine?

In Nehru's time, India's role was biased and totally one-sided. In international forums, India always voted against Israel, regardless of whether Israel was right or wrong. Russia and the Eastern bloc always supported India's stand.

The author has made some wrong statements. Ariel Sharon did not enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, he only visited the Temple Mount. This visit was coordinated with the Waqf, the Muslim religious council (nominated by the Palestinian Authority). The author says that the trouble began the very next day, Friday, when Israeli security forces were massed and then the shooting started and corpses began to mount. The writer does not tell us what kind of provocation the Palestinians made. Why does he not understand that we the Israelis do not take kindly to those who throw stones at us, knife us, or simply shoot us?

A demonstration is a gathering of people, chanting slogans and carrying placards. Stone throwing and destruction of property are actions that form part of a riot, not a demonstration. Israel has preserved and will preserve the sanctity of holy places as long as they are used for prayers and religious teaching.

Sharon did not order the massacres of Sabra and Shattila (Lebanon 1982). His failure was that he did not act quickly to stop the killing done by the Lebanese Christian Phalangist. The figures of the extent of territory handed over or to be handed back ar e wrong. The Embassy of Israel in New Delhi could have given the right statistics.

I feel sorry about the loss of life, including children.(Why are these children not in school? Who sends them as cover for the Palestinian gunmen, police, and other organisations? Why teach children at kindergarten to be in uniform, hold replicas of weap ons and use the Israeli flag as a rug?)

David L.Yarkony Received on e-mail

I had expected this kind of a hysterical response. That is why I took care to quote and cite prestigious Israeli newspapers such as Ha'aretz, eminent award-winning British journalist Robert Fisk, and one of the great intellectuals of our time, Noa m Chomsky, who regards Ariel Sharon a war criminal. And I quoted the French president, Jacques Chirac, criticising Sharon for 'provocation' at the Al-Aqsa.

There are numerous Israelis who are deeply perturbed by the colonial mission of their rulers. It is a pity that Mr.Yarkony is not one of them.

Horseplay in Harappa

I would have preferred to stay away from this controversy about the decipherment of the Harappan script offered by N.S. Rajaram and N. Jha and criticised by Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer ("Horseplay in Harappa", October 13). However, I am forced to wri te this letter as my name is mentioned among the 'revisionists'. I must make it clear that I do not subscribe to the Hindutva ideology or scholarship. In fact, I have opposed it. I strongly object to the manner in which they have grouped me along with ot hers.

My research is apolitical and completely academic, objective, based on scientific principles. I am researching in Indology from 1959 onwards.

I find the mention of my name amongst the Hindutvavadis an insult and a humiliation - because there are some amongst them who are retained by the Hindutvavadis to produce polemical books and pamphlets, letters and so on, and who have no academic backgrou nd or training.

I read Witzel and Farmer's article but have not seen the book by Rajaram and Jha. The latter two authors seem to have committed an unforgivable act of concocting evidence by creating a new seal with a horse on it! I have studied most of the seals and the ir inscriptions and it is true that no such horse seal is in existence. To be ignorant or unsystematic is not a sin but to be dishonest is!

In view of this, the National Book Trust and the translations in 13 other languages must be held at abeyance and the government should not support such unsound projects, to say the least.

I am convinced from what Witzel and Farmer have written about me that they have not read, much less studied, any of my writings - books or articles. No scholar of any repute in his senses would want to 'rewrite' history. But would they permit others the same scientific interest in finding facts and historical truth that they profess themselves?

The short list Witzel and Farmer have provided towards the end of the article of four items will be acceptable, excepting No.2. But they must remember that even some of the so-called established facts need to be questioned in view of the discovery of new data, new points of view and the inadequacies of the earlier facts/formulations, and so on. Scholars must have the courage to question them. Without this no new theories or formulations can be built up. In the natural sciences 'scientific revolutions' t ake place. Something comparable must happen in the humanities, and especially in Indology which has become a completely stagnant pool.

It is correct that 'hard evidence' is the only sound weapon but the self-appointed judges must study and consider evidence presented by others and then only judge them.

Dr. Malati J. Shendge Pune Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer respond:

We understand Malati Shendge's displeasure that our article allies her works with those of ultranationalistic "revisionists" like N.S. Rajaram, K.D. Sethna, or S. Talageri. While we accept Shendge's protests that her research is meant to be apolitical, t here are good reasons for our claims, which we made in full awareness of the nature of her writings.

Shendge's The Civilised Demons (1977) anticipated much of the recent wave of "revisionist" history by linking Harappan and Vedic civilisations in ways hardly less fantastic than those of N.S. Rajaram and his associates. The most typical feature of Shendge's books, which are taken seriously by few Indian or Western Indologists, is her odd identification of Vedic gods with historical persons, which she associates with both Harappan and Vedic cultures. This allows her to make detailed "reconstructio ns" of ancient Indian history that have been used to support one of the core items on the Hindutva agenda - the myth that Indian history has been thoroughly Hindu ever since Harappan times.

While Shendge's views of the Aryans have changed over time - most recently, she has them speaking Sumerian - the fictional links she imagines between Vedic and Harappan civilisations are central to all her works. Thus in The Aryas: Fact without Fancy and Fiction (Abhinav Publications, 1997), just as in her earlier books, Shendge portrays Indra, the chief god of the Rgveda, as the flesh-and-blood hero of the Aryans; the god Varuna becomes the leader of the "Asuras," which Shendge imagines to be an Indus Valley or Harappan clan; the god Vishnu becomes "the young, tall, lanky assistant of Indra"; the divine Rudras and Ashvins are transformed into Indus Valley governmental functionaries; and so on.

A single paragraph is enough to give the flavour of Shendge's works. The following passage from The Aryas tells of the first part of the supposed fall of the "Asuras" - a class of gods or demons in the Rgveda and Avesta, but represented by Shendge as an Indus Valley clan. The suggestion is that the fall occurs in part through Vishnu's spy work:

When the Aryas could not defeat the Asuras in straight fight, they beg for a patch of land and are granted one grudgingly. Erecting temporary sheds, they begin to live there. Vishnu, the young, tall, lanky assistant of Indira, disappears thrice. Where he goes is not known but apparently he makes three exploratory trips under disguise into the Asura territory to collect information on their sensitive points. On its basis a strategy is hatched. The quarrels and jealousies between the Asura chiefs or court iers are used and one is aided against the other. So Indra emerges as a friend of some of them. With their help, he gets access to the Asura weapons and secures a vajra, thunderbolt, from the chief counsellor of the Asuras, Ushanas...

We assume that Shendge's repudiation of the Hindutva "revisionists" is meant in earnest. But her frequent attacks on accepted Indological research - combined with her wholly fictional links between Harappan and Vedic cultures - puts her in very political company nonetheless.

Michael Witzel Cambridge, Massachusetts witzel@fas.harvard.edu Steve Farmer Palo Alto, California india@safarmer.com

* * *

Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer seem to have lost the perspective when they say that "the sign is totally abstract and does not contain a hint of any animistic form" in regard to N.S. Rajaram's second horse. True, as I. Mahadevan asserts, one sees what o ne wants to, but one has to have trained eyes to see properly and "decipher" correctly. It is not an "illusion" as Witzel and Farmer want us to believe because the perspective of view renders illusion to forms. The view of the animal in the seal is from the rear looking down at ca. 15-20 degrees from the horizontal. This view would explain why the turned head looks much thicker than the neck that seems abnormally twisted. The left half of the roof element may signify a leash, which along with the two at hwart bars suggest that the character depicts a domesticated animal. One must realise that there is abstraction in symbolic depiction, whether it is modern art or an ancient Harappan seal.

Dr. S. Sinha-Roy Deputy Director General (retd.) Geological Survey of India Jaipur

Judiciary

This has reference to the article "On charges and response" (November 24). It is indeed distressing to see the revival of the unfortunate controversy relating to proceedings in courts in Madhya Pradesh in an action initiated by Mrs. Mala Anand, wife of D r. Justice A.S. Anand, Chief Justice of India, and her mother. It is common knowledge that, most regrettably, this issue got intertwined with the resignation of Ram Jethmalani from the Union Cabinet. When it became obvious that there was no secretive, an d much less, surreptitious, operation involved and that it was simply a case of a person approaching courts seeking redress, the matter ceased to occupy space in the media.

On the heels of this sprang up the issue of the alleged incorrect age furnished by Justice Anand to the Inner Temple. It was pathetic to see that the allegation in this regard was based on a letter of doubtful authenticity, purpotedly issued by a functio nary whose authority is obviously in question. The Union Law Ministry had promptly and effectively refuted the allegation. The Bar Council of India, which is the apex statutory body governing the legal profession, expressed in a resolution its grave conc ern over the controversy raised, saying that it has the effect of bringing the highest office of the judiciary and the institution into disrepute.

In the wake of all this, we now find yet another report in Frontline adverting once again to the land matter involving Mrs. Mala Anand and her mother, dealt with by courts in Madhya Pradesh. The cause for the article appears to be the letter of Mr . Fali S. Nariman, dated September 12, 2000 addressed to the Hon'ble Chief Justice and his colleague justices of the Supreme Court. Nariman, who had earlier expressed the view that the judgments of the trial court and the High Court in the said case were unexceptionable, which incidentally is also the opinion expressed by three other eminent counsel, was evidently exercised over the manner in which the statements of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, explaining the circumstances in which the Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court was withdrawn, were reported in a daily. Nariman, while expressing his anguish and calling for action against the Chief Minister, suggested the recalling of the order of withdrawal and hearing of the petition afresh. I t is a different matter that many may not agree with the views expressed by Nariman, as the suggested course of action besides being unprecedented may not serve the purpose, as a doubting mind is not likely to accept determination of one's cause by broth er judges as an unquestionable answer. In any event, the letter of Nariman has served its purpose of proposing a course of action for consideration by those to whom the communication was meant. It is unfortunate that this presumably confidential letter o f Nariman should constitute the cause for the revival of a controversy which had otherwise gained quietus.

It is axiomatic that no functionary in our constitutional framework can remain beyond the realm of accountability. It is nevertheless important that endeavour should always be to ensure that the faith of the common man in courts and the purity of justice dispensed by them is not eroded by undue publicity to unwarranted controversies involving the judiciary.

V.R. Reddy Senior Advocate and former Chairman, Bar Council of India New Delhi

From ceasefire to dialogue

The ceasefire in Kashmir will make sense as an act of statesmanship only if Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee buttresses it by inviting the Hurriyat to talks and by inviting Pakistan separately to resume the Lahore process.

INDIA'S stand that talks with Pakistan on Kashmir are conditional on its ending "cross-border terrorism" was adopted abruptly only on July 12, 1999, the very day after Kargil was declared free of intruders from Pakistan. Never before that. It marked a sh arp reversal of the position India had taken after the intrusion was detected in May and the one it had taken during previous conflicts. The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in November and December 1947 while the war in Kashmir raged. So did th eir officials. By December 8, even a draft agreement was drawn up by V. P. Menon and Mohammed Ali. In 1948, the two countries held talks under the auspices of the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan. A ceasefire went into force only on January 1, 1949 .

Even after the insurgency erupted in 1989, the Prime Ministers continued to meet in the course of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summits and in New York during U.N. General Assembly sessions. The Foreign Secretaries held several rounds of talks and drew up useful agreements on confidence building measures (CBMs). At the last round in November 1998, India flatly rejected a fundamental on Siachen that had been accepted for over a decade, namely, mutual withdrawal. Pakistan, true to form, responded to the Indian intransigence with criminal folly. The closer integration of Kashmir and the refusal of talks in 1964 drove it to launch a war in 1965. All accounts have it that it took the decision on the Kargil intrusion in November 19 98.

The record during the Kargil crisis reads thus: June 13, 1999 at Srinagar after a trip to Kargil, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said: "India is for the continuation of the Lahore process which includes a commitment to the Shimla agreement, but, for that process, it is absolutely necessary for the status quo ante to be restored on the LoC" (The Hindu, June 14, 1997). This was justified since the intruders were yet to be evicted. Even so, Vajpayee declared: "Our plan is to regain that area th rough peaceful means and dialogue" (The Indian Express, June 14). This was a day after Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, came to New Delhi on July 12.

Vajpayee reiterated this stand the next day (June 14) at a public meeting in Udhampur: "You withdraw your troops and then we are prepared for talks" (The Hindustan Times, June 15). The report added: "Vajpayee said he had also emphasised that India was for the continuation of the Lahore process but pointed out to Sharif (who had called him over the phone in Srinagar 'repeatedly'), that this presupposed that both sides would adhere to the Shimla Agreement."

In an interview to Seema Guha, Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh said: "The treachery of Pakistan is self-evident. But I am neither disheartened by it nor discouraged in my ultimate goal. For that goal, there is now a route chart, which we have announced - restore the status quo ante of the LoC; permit the de-escalation to take place by going back; and we can then resume the composite dialogue process" (The Times of India, June 27, 1999). The route chart could not have been more precise or more sensible. It was not an off-the-cuff pronouncement, but a deliberate one. The reference to the "composite dialogue process" clearly revealed this.

The Indo-Pakistan Joint Statement in Islamabad on June 23, 1997 "set up a mechanism, including working groups at appropriate levels to address all these issues in an integrated manner." This was a reference to the preceding paragraph in which eight "outs tanding issues of concern to both sides were listed". One of them was Siachen, while "Jammu & Kashmir" and "Terrorism and drug-trafficking" were mentioned separately. "Cross-border terrorism" was in full bloom. Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral cynically reneged on the accord. Kashmir was not to be discussed substantively as an issue.

Despite the nuclear tests in May 1998, at Pokhran and Chagai respectively, the dialogue was revived by the Prime Ministers in New York on September 23, 1998. They decided that the mechanism envisaged in the Islamabad Joint Statement "would not be made op erational". The November 1998 meeting of Secretaries ended in bitter failure because the Bharatiya Janata Party regime's Defence Minister, George Fernandes, had declared in advance that there would simply be no Indian withdrawal from Siachen.

The Lahore Declaration of February 21, 1999 revived the peace process and gave momentum to it. The Prime Ministers set up a back channel through their representatives, Brajesh Mishra and Niaz A. Naik (vide the writer's article "Misread lessons of Kargil" , The Statesman, February 12, 2000; also "Back-channel diplomacy", October 14, 1999). Naik's proposals were as wildly unrealistic as his indiscretions were grave. The "Chenab solution", which spelt a partition of Kashmir on communal lines, was a b rainchild he nursed devotedly.

Pakistan is yet to appreciate the justification and depth of Indian resentment over Kargil. The peace process was wrecked by Gujral's cowardice in 1997 and Pakistan's treachery in 1999. However, following diplomatic precedents in India and elsewhere, not ably during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, India continued the talks. Naik descended on New Delhi on June 25 and met Vajpayee. He revealed in an interview to the BBC, broadcast on June 29, that Vajpayee's "message to me was that if the situation is re solved as quickly as possible then the process which he had started along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can easily be resumed and accelerated. He twice used the word 'accelerated' (The Asian Age, July 1, 1999).

On July 4 came the Clinton-Nawaz Sharif "Joint Statement on Kashmir Conflict". Pakistan had to quit Kargil. Once that was done, the Indo-Pakistan dialogue should be resumed: "The President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging an expediti ous resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored."

In form, the Joint Statement represented a bilateral agreement. But, if Clinton interrupted the parleys to talk to Vajpayee, it could not have been to brief him on what had gone on between him and Nawaz Sharif. The briefing could have been done at the end, as is commonly done. Clinton, obviously, was putting forth his proposals to Vajpayee to make sure of his acceptance of the deal he had persuaded Nawaz Sharif to accept. It was left to Sandy Berger and Strobe Talbott to fill in the details, resp ectively, with Brajesh Mishra and Jaswant Singh. It was in effect, though not in form, a tripartite accord.

After a remarkable week's lull in public utterances, news broke that the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries had met at Attari on the border on July 11. What transpired there is as relevant to the credibility of the BJP-led government as what went on at Blair House a week earlier, on July 4, is. The two were clearly linked. Vajpayee gave the "good news" to a hurriedly convened all-party meeting that very day - as hurriedly as the DGMOs met that day.

Brajesh Mishra merely detected "some evidence of the withdrawal already taking place" in some sectors of the LoC. Sartaj Aziz, on the other hand, said plainly enough: "The DGMOs... agreed on the modalities of de-escalation, including sector-by-sector ces sation of ground and air operations to facilitate the Mujahideen's disengagement." He also said: "Following the Mujahideen's positive response to our appeal to de-escalate in Kargil, the Government of Pakistan and the Government of India have been in con tact on the question of the restoration of the LoC." He was reading out to the press a prepared statement. This was an accord on ceasefire. Mishra gave the game away when he said: "We hope that in seven days the status quo ante on the Line of Control will be restored if it goes according to plan": an agreed plan, obviously. (vide "Kargil diplomacy", Frontline, August 13, 1999).

On July 12, the day after Pakistan's withdrawal, the official spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs announced a total and sudden reversal of India's position: "We have stated the irreducible minimum of our demands: withdraw, reaffirm the sanctity and inviolability of the LoC and show action on the ground that cross-border terrorism in Kashmir will cease" (The Indian Express, July 13, 1999). India was no longer seeking the restoration of the situation as it prevailed prior to 1999, but to the one that prevailed before 1989 when insurgency broke out in Kashmir.

For a while Jaswant Singh persisted in his favourite parlour game of playing with words. This was not a "precondition" but a "pre-requisite" for talks, he said on July 20. Clearly the reversal had been planned for making it public after a ceasefire.

Not a single country has supported this stand. It rested on two false assumptions. First, that world opinion, finding Pakistan's conduct disgusting, would punish it as a terrorist state and demand far-reaching amends from it. Secondly, the United States would reverse its stand on Kashmir and endorse India's stand. Some American statements did come close to doing just that. Even the old formulation reiterated since 1990, that Kashmir is "disputed territory", was left unsaid, studiously.

New Delhi began to bask in the glory of "visiting dignitaries" vying with one another in paying compliments to India's "growing stature". Abba Eban once poured scorn at fellow citizens who jumped with joy whenever a state accorded recognition to Israel. Evidently, the Indian leaders' vulnerability to flattery has acquired such international recognition that the dignitaries came to New Delhi with pales of butter for thick spreads over demanding egos there; within and outside the government.

The astute Bill Clinton gently but calculatedly put an end to the ecstasy in an interview to Shobhana Bhartia, published in The Hindustan Times on September 3, 2000, on the eve of his meeting with Vajpayee: "I am troubled by the threat to peace po sed by the Kashmir dispute." He urged "direct discussions between India and Pakistan... sincere efforts to end violence... And, of course, the wishes of the Kashmiri people must be taken into account." The last formulation was repeated when the interview er sought his views about a settlement "within the existing territorial framework of the two countries". What has gone unnoticed is his reply to her pointed question: "When in the subcontinent, you had suggested that this century does not reward those wh o seek to redraw borders in blood. Are you, therefore, saying that the Kashmir issue can be solved within the existing territorial framework of the two countries?"

The point was well taken. In India, Pakistan and the U.S., Clinton's remark was indeed construed as an endorsement of the LoC as an international border in a future accord. He swiftly dispelled the impression: "My belief that nobody's goals will be achie ved through violence does not pre-ordain any particular type of settlement for the dispute. What a solution looks like will be determined by the participants in the process of dialogue that brings peace to Kashmir." Reliance on American support now will prove as unwise and futile as did reliance once on the Soviet veto.

If any accord on the Kashmir question must reflect and respect the wishes of the people - in all the regions, and of all the communities - their participation in the talks at some stage cannot be ruled out, morally and politically. Likewise, it is too late in the day to question Pakistan's locus standi as a party to the Kashmir dispute. A host of Indo-Pakistan agreements since 1947 recognise that. The Shimla Pact (Para 6) binds both sides to resolving it, as do the Islamabad Joint Statemen t and the Lahore Declaration. There is another good reason. George Fernandes said on November 20 that the Kashmiri "militant groups are funded and trained by Pakistan. They need Pakistani approval before reacting."

All the more reason, then, to talk to Pakistan. The Hizbul Mujahideen's offer of ceasefire, on July 24, 2000, had the full backing of Pakistan. It was not its injection of any new terms but the Indian government's firm resolve to exclude talks with Pakis tan and political parleys with the Hizb itself that led to their collapse on August 8 (vide this writer's "Questions about the Kashmir ceasefire", Economic and Political Weekly, November 4, 2000).

Vajpayee's announcement on November 19 of a month's ceasefire during "the holy month of Ramazan" sought reciprocity from both Pakistan and the militants. But, he did not offer to talk to either, while affirming his commitment to "a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue". A ceasefire buttresses the status quo which the militants seek to alter; a point the government missed when it offered surrender terms to the Hizb at the Srinagar talks on August 3. The Hizb had declared a ceasefire preparatory to ta lks, which would cover Pakistan at a later stage. India sought, instead, the Hizb's surrender and its help to fight the other militant groups.

Dare one hope that the lesson of August has been learnt now? Or, is this ceasefire another exercise in gimmickry? At some point India will have to climb down from the petard on which it has impetuously hoisted itself since July 12, 1999. The asset garner ed in 1999 - goodwill following Kargil - has begun to dwindle. The cordon sanitaire around Pakistan that was sought to be erected has collapsed. On October 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in New Delhi that the Kashmir issue should be reso lved bilaterally, peacefully and "on the basis of a compromise".

If the ceasefire is to make sense as an act of statesmanship, it is but right that the Prime Minister should buttress it by inviting the Hurriyat to talks and by inviting separately Pakistan to resume the Lahore process as well. Disclosure of an "underst anding" between the DGMOs of both countries, on November 21, to de-escalate firing on the LoC, just two days after announcement of the ceasefire on November 19 gives ground for hope that moves in that direction are being considered.

Of the Chief Justice's age

The order that a two-member Bench of the Supreme Court passed on November 27 in a contempt proceeding relating to allegations about the age of Chief Justice A.S. Anand has only served to accentuate public misgivings.

THE controversy stirred up by a document annexed to Ram Jethmalani's book Big Egos Small Men has assumed serious proportions. The document in question, dated September 4, 2000, was issued by S. Behr of the Bar Examination Records of the General Co uncil of the Bar of the United Kingdom and addressed to Sohal & Co., a firm of solicitors in the U.K. It stated thus:

"To Whom It May Concern: ADARSH SEIN ANAND

This is to certify that the above was enrolled as a Student Member of Inner Temple on 4th January, 1962 and, at that time, gave his year of birth as 1934."

This document generated a lot of interest because Justice Anand's declared official date of birth is November 1, 1936 and if his year of birth indeed was 1934, he would have reached the age of superannuation in 1999. This document was picked up by a Chen nai-based advocate, S.K. Sundaram, who had in 1991 filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court seeking an investigation into the question of Justice Anand's age. Recently he sent a telegram to the Chief Justice of India. This telegram, couched in the most objectionable terms, asked the Chief Justice to step down on the basis of the allegation that he had attained the age of superannuation. Sundaram further threatened that if that was not done, he would be constrained to move a criminal court for the offences of cheating, criminal breach of trust and forgery for falsification of age. Sundaram also threatened that in case the Chief Justice did not resign, he would file a writ of quo-warranto and seek a direction to pay a sum of Rs.3 crores for 'usurpi ng' the office of the Chief Justice after attaining the age of superannuation.

The Chief Justice directed this telegram to be placed before a Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justices K.T. Thomas and R.P. Sethi, who on November 7 suo motu issued notice for criminal contempt to Sundaram. The court, while issuing the notice, also asked the Solicitor-General of India, Harish Salve, to assist the court in the matter.

On November 21, Sundaram appeared in court and sought more time to file an affidavit in the matter and four weeks' time to file a proper affidavit in reply to the contempt notice. He also said that he was a "heart patient". The court, however, told him t hat he could not be given any more than six days' time and that he must file his reply to the contempt notice not later than November 27, when the case would be taken up again.

On November 21, Solicitor-General Salve filed in court a compilation of certain documents which included a copy of a criminal complaint filed by Sundaram against the Chief Justice before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Chennai. The main basis of Sunda ram's complaint was the document issued by the General Council of the Bar on September 4, 2000. On the basis of this document, Sundaram alleged that the Chief Justice had declared his year of birth as 1934 and, therefore, wanted action for criminal breac h of trust, cheating and forgery to be taken against him. On November 10, the Metropolitan Magistrate dismissed this complaint on the ground that there was no sufficient ground to proceed further in the matter.

Salve also produced in court on November 21 the copy of a letter dated November 20 written by Niall Morison, Chief Executive of the General Council of the Bar, in which he said that the information provided by Behr regarding the year of birth of the Chie f Justice "is based on records that we hold and which were inherited by us in 1996 from the Council of Legal Education when the General Council of the Bar assumed responsibility for regulatory matters in these areas. We believe that the information provi ded to the Council of Legal Education in respect of the day of birth was provided by the Inner Temple."

Morison added that "according to the original documents produced by the Sub Treasurer of the Inner Temple at the meeting with you on 16th November, 2000, the date of birth of Dr. Anand given in those documents was 1 November, 1936. It would appear theref ore that the information on the date of birth given by Mr. Behr to Sohal & Co. was incorrect." The chief executive's letter went on to say that the letter of September 4 reproduced in Big Egos Small Men was not identical to the copy they held. The layout differs from their copy. "For instance the figure '4th' which appears at the end of the first line in the book appears on our copy of the original on the second line." Morison also attached a copy of a letter dated September 4, 2000 issued and he ld by the General Council of the Bar. This was identical, word for word and comma for comma, with the document in Jethmalani's book. The only difference was that in the copy used in Jethmalani's book, the figure '4th' appeared in the first line itself in stead of at the beginning of the second line, without any difference in the content of the sentence.

On November 23, Jethmalani held a press conference at which he released a letter dated November 2, written by Jonathan Hirst, Chairman of the General Council of the Bar, to Justice Anand in response to Justice Anand's letter to him dated October 25. Jeth lamani expressed surprise that while Salve had placed before the court the letter of November 20, of the Chief Executive of the General Council of the Bar, he had suppressed this letter of the Chairman of the General Council, which contained the followin g statements.

1. The General Council of the Bar of England had received records from information provided by the Inns of Court on forms completed by those applying for student membership of the Inns.

2. These records had been scanned (to preserve a facsimile copy of the record) on to an electronic database at the General Council, two to three years ago.

3. Having examined the scanned image relating to Justice Anand's record closely, it appeared to the Chairman that the year of birth was recorded as 1934, when the record card was completed in 1962.

4. A copy of the scanned record was enclosed as requested.

Jethmalani went on to say: "In these circumstances, for the Solicitor-General to suppress this vital document from the court and produce the 'Certificate' of the so-called 'Chief Executive' of the General Council and seek to cast a doubt on the very auth enticity of the original document dated 4th September, 2000 issued by Examiner of Records, Mr. Behr, is unpardonable.

"It is obvious that insidious attempts are being made to suppress the document existing in the records of the General Council and confuse this issue on the basis of suspicious certificates obtained from some 'Chief Executive'. This far from helping to re solve the issue only accentuates the suspicion.

"Unless there is some explanation of how and why the CJI declared his year of birth as 1934 in the form which was sent to the General Council of the Bar, this matter will continue to agitate the minds of the people of this country. The only way to set th ese doubts to rest would be a thorough investigation into the matter."

Jethmalani also released a letter to Salve in which he suggested that Salve issued a left-handed compliment for having gone all the way to the U.K. to investigate the issue of the age of the Chief Justice, which had made him an investigator and a materia l witness in the matter and open to cross-examination. Jethmalani asked Salve to assist the cause of truth and justice by getting from the Chief Justice a copy of his scanned record, which was sent by the General Council of the Bar and which showed his y ear of birth to be 1934.

On November 27, when the contempt proceedings were heard again, Salve handed over another compilation, which contained the letter of November 2, of the Chairman of the General Council of the Bar addressed to the Chief Justice, as well as Jethmalani's let ter to him. Although the court adjourned the hearing of the proceedings against Sundaram to the next day, the Judges, K.T. Thomas and R.P. Sethi, proceeded to pass an order directing a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the genuineness of t he letter of the General Council of the Bar of September 4, and to trace out the person responsible for creating it. The court observed: "On a perusal of the documents produced by the learned Solicitor-General of India, we feel, prima facie, that the document purported to have been sent by the General Council of the Bar, London, dated 4.9.2000 under the name of S. Behr to Sohal & Co., is not a genuine document." The Judges added that the "question of age of Shri Adarsh Sein Anand has been decided by the President of India as per order dated 15.5.1991. In view of Article 217(3) of the Constitution of India the President of India is the only authority having jurisdiction to decide that question. Hence the finality attained on that question is a re ality."

While directing the CBI to investigate into the genuineness of the document dated September 4, the court clarified that "the CBI is not to go into the question of the age of Dr. Justice Adarsh Sein Anand, whose age was determined by the President even wh ile he was a Judge of the High Court."

The next day, Jethmalani filed an intervention application in the matter with the grievance that the court in its order of November 27, had recorded a prima facie finding that the document dated September 4 of the General Council of the Bar annexe d to his book was not a genuine document. Jethmalani's grievance was that such an aspersion cast a reflection on his reputation and that this was done by the court without even issuing a notice or giving him any hearing in the matter. He pointed out that if a hearing had been granted to him, he would have demonstrated conclusively that the document was not only genuine but its authenticity had been affirmed by the General Council of the Bar to the Chief Justice himself in a letter of the Chairman dated November 2, 2000. He said that even the copy of the document issued by the Bar Council, which had been attached to the letter of the Chief Executive of the Bar Council dated November 20, was identical word for word with the one produced in the book. Poin ting out that the court had ordered the investigation by the CBI in complete violation of the mandatory sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure, he said that Salve had again withheld from the court the annexure to the letter of the Chairman of the Gen eral Council of the Bar dated November 2 to the Chief Justice, which was a scanned image of the Chief Justice's record, which showed his year of birth to be 1934. Jethmalani submitted that the dispute about the age of a Judge of the Supreme Court was to be resolved by a procedure created by Parliament under Article 124 (2A) of the Constitution. The earlier determination under Article 217 might have some evidentiary value but would not be conclusive. These executive orders, Jethmalani contended, were pas sed by evidence then available and could be made again if fresh evidence became available. Also, the issue of the Chief Justice's age could not be determined in a contempt proceeding; it could only be decided in an appropriate proceeding for that purpose .

The court, however, refused to hear Jethmalani's application on the ground that it should be filed in the Registry and come up for hearing before the court in due course. The hearing of the contempt application against Sundaram, however, had to be adjour ned to December 6 on account of Sundaram collapsing in court with his blood pressure shooting up abnormally.

WHATEVER be the ultimate fate of the contempt proceedings against Sundaram and whatever be the orders passed in Jethmalani's intervention application, a few things must be said about the extraordinary order passed by the court on November 27.

It is noteworthy that the court records in its order a prima facie finding that the document dated September 4 issued by the General Council of the Bar was not a genuine document. This is so since the only document dated September 4 before the cou rt was the document annexed to the letter of September 20 of the Chief Executive of the General Council of the Bar addressed to Salve. This letter itself affirms that the annexed document written by Behr dated September 4 was the copy of the original hel d by the General Council. How then could the court say that this document did not appear to be genuine? Moreover, the letter of the Chairman of the Bar dated November 2 to the Chief Justice also unambiguously confirms the authenticity of Behr's letter da ted September 4 and also confirms that Behr had correctly stated that the year of birth recorded in Justice Anand's record card completed in 1962 was in fact 1934.

What is surprising is that the court ordered a CBI investigation into the genuineness and authorship of the document whose genuineness and authorship had been affirmed repeatedly by the General Council of the Bar, which had issued this document to Sohal & Co.

But there is something even more noteworthy about the court's order of November 27. The court goes on to record that the question of the age of Justice Anand was finally determined by the President in 1991 and that that determination had become final and could not be reopened and, therefore, the court specifically barred the CBI from making any investigation into the question. Apart from the fact that there was no inquiry made into the issue of the age of Justice Anand even in 1991 when the order of the President was that no such inquiry is necessary, it is an unstatable proposition that once such determination had been made, on the basis of some material or evidence at one point of time, it bars any further inquiry or investigation or determination at a later point of time when fresh material becomes available, and which casts some doubt on the declared age of a Judge. How can a determination on a frivolous application made on no evidence bar an investigation when new material becomes subsequently av ailable?

Moreover, was the court justified in making such an order in a case arising out of a contempt proceeding against Sundaram, which was initiated because of a highly objectionable telegram sent to the Chief Justice? Will the court wait for the outcome of th e CBI investigation before deciding whether Sundaram's telegram amounted to contempt?

After Jethmalani's book was released, several documents have mysteriously surfaced in certain sections of the media, which if authentic establish that his official date of birth is correct. These include his matriculation certificate of 1951, which he ha d declared as misplaced when he got enrolled in the Delhi Bar Council in 1964. But while from these documents his official date of birth does appear to be correct, the manner in which certain documents are being selectively suppressed and others released , and the unusual manner in which the Supreme Court has been handling the contempt matter, have only served to accentuate public misgivings about the whole matter. The whole controversy has certainly not enhanced the reputation of the judiciary.

Prashant Bhushan is a lawyer practising in the Supreme Court of India.

A remarkable turnaround

A team of world-class physicians make an incredible recovery possible for Union Minister Murasoli Maran who battled with a rare type of heart ailment for over a month at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.

UNION Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran was discharged from the Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, on November 30 after successful treatment for a rare type of cardiac condition, "hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy". Said a cheerful Maran while leaving the hospital after a 34-day-stay: "I have got my life back. I am really proud of this world-class institution." Timely intervention by a team of world-class medical specialists and physicians, quick and well-informed decisions made by family memb ers and, above all, Maran's will to fight made this remarkable recovery possible.

17251221jpg

Maran, admitted to the hospital on October 28 with acute migraine and breathlessness, benefited from the timely emergency injection given at home by his daughter, a doctor, as soon as his distress was noted. In hospital, the Minister was given intensive treatment and administered de-hydro crojotemin injection for the "acute episode of migraine." He continued to suffer breathlessness and his condition worsened as the "hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy", from wh-ich he has been suffering since 1989 without major complications, showed up suddenly and led to "diastolic left ventricular dysfunction", a genetic problem that impairs the pumping function of the heart. This problem manifested itself as an increase in the muscle mass (it was three times th at in a normal heart) of the left chamber of the heart, obstructing blood flow. This reduced pumping capacity and led to a mitral valve leak.

The panel of doctors attending on Maran decided to alter the line of medical management to improve the basic cardiac condition and suggested a special type of pacing - "sequential pacing". This was done on November 6, and Maran responded well to the temp orary pacemaker.

Though he appeared to recover immediately, his condition worsened the next day as he developed severe pulmonary oedema (collection of fluid in the lungs). With the lungs burdened with almost 20 litres of fluid, he was unable to breathe. His vital paramet ers went beyond control and the kidneys were on the verge of a shut-down. He was then put on a ventilator.

Two specialists from New Delhi - from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals - joined the medical team. Four more specialists from Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, arrived later that day. There were two opt ions. Open-heart surgery or the revolutionary "alcohol ablation of the septum of the left chamber of the heart", a procedure to shrink the increased muscle mass. Senior consultant cardiologist Dr. P. Ramachandran, who had done seven septal ablation proce dures, suggested the "alcohol ablation", an accepted modern management method for "chronic obstructive cardiomyopathy".

Describing the situation as of November 7, Apollo Hospitals chairman Dr. Prathap C. Reddy said that the massive pulmonary oedema led to a critical drop in all vital parameters, including "a renal shutdown". With such a lung condition Maran was in no stat e to undergo surgery. The panel of doctors decided on ablation and his family's consent was taken. According to Dr. Ramachandran, who performed the ablation procedure using a catheter, it was a "last, desperate measure". There were immediate results in t he form of "increase in oxygen saturation and urine output".

The ablation procedure was done at 1 a.m. on November 8 by introducing a balloon into the septal artery (which had expanded from the normal 10 mm to 27 mm), and 1.5 ml of absolute alcohol was injected in the affected area to produce a "controlled infarct ion of the intra-ventricular septum", to kill the extra muscle mass and shrink it. This led to a "dramatic improvement", and according to Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, there was a "turn in Maran's condition". Blood pressure returned to normal and oxygen saturati on rose from 70 to 98 per cent. More important, the patient's renal functioning was activated. However, Maran remained on the ventilator and pulmonary oedema persisted.

Pioneers in the field of interventional cardiology from the United States and the United Kingdom flew into Chennai to review the line of treatment. Dr. Ulrich Sigwart, an interventional cardiologist from the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, who invented the ablation procedure, arrived on November 9. Appreciating the line of treatment, he felt that the ablation procedure, performed perhaps in the best possible manner, had a significant beneficial effect on Maran's condition.

Dr. Horst Kuhn of Stadtlschen Kliniken, Germany, another interventional cardiologist, was the next international expert to arrive. Responding to the persisting lung congestion on account of diastolic dysfunction, he suggested another ablation procedure, and injected 2.75 ml of absolute alcohol in small doses into the septal arteries on November 11. Noting that there was a marked improvement in blood flow from the heart and in the lung condition, Dr. Horst Kuhn said that administering septal ablation on a critically ill patient was a rarity, and of the total ablation procedures done globally, only 3 per cent was done on the critically ill. He also said that the success rate of the procedure was 90 per cent.

Soon the obstruction in the left ventricle totally cleared, and the mitral valve leak stopped. Doctors implanted a dual-chamber permanent pacemaker in Maran.

The panel of doctors included cardiologists Drs. P. Ramachandran, I. Sathyamurthy, K. Subramanyam and Mathew Samuel Kalarickal, anaesthetist I.S. Naidu, and cardio thoracic surgeon M.R. Girinath of Apollo Hospitals; visiting cardiologists Drs. K.K. Talwa r of the AIIMS, Jaishankar of the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Hyderabad, and Sreenivasa Rao and Narasimhan of CARE Hospital, Hyderabad; and Maran's personal cardiologist Dr. S. Thanickachalam, Dean of Faculties, Sri Ramachandra Medical Co llege, Chennai, and his personal physician Dr. Gopal. Using the hospital's telemedicine facility, the doctors and hospital authorities remained in touch with experts around the world.

Even while Maran was on and off the ventilator till November 28, he showed steady progress. He came out of the Intensive Care unit on November 25 and was taken off all life-supporting systems on November 28, before being discharged on November 30. The do ctors have advised a certain line of treatment and two weeks' rest for the 66-year-old Minister before he resumes work.

According to Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, Maran needs no further medical or surgical intervention as he has received "total treatment". He needs to be under observation for some time. "Septal ablation had offset the need for an open heart surgery to loosen his heart muscles," he said.

According to Dr. Thanickachalam, Maran has had obstructive cardiomyopathy since 1989 and has been getting himself examined whenever he went abroad. Experts in the U.S. and the U.K. had suggested the ablation procedure for him in case of an emergency.

Other Issues

View All
Oct 9,2020