Only Subscribed user can access the archives

Get full access to our 16 year old archives

Subscribe Now

Already subscribed? Sign In

COVER STORY

16-03-2001

fl180500-Cover

Briefing

'The best window of opportunity since the war began'

President Chandrika Kumaratunga's

three day visit to India in the last week of February 2001 came at a sensitive and challenging time for Sri Lanka as well as for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The brutal and destruc tive war raging between the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan armed forces in the North and East of the island nation is a distorted expression of Sri Lanka's principal national question - the Tamil or ethnic questio n which has awaited resolution for over half a century. The SAARC process has been in a state of suspended animation since, in the wake of General Pervez Musharraf's coup in Pakistan, the Government of India vetoed a summit that should have been held in Kathmandu in November 1999. Sri Lanka, which has been SAARC chairman since 1998, is keen to see an early revival of the SAARC process, and as quickly as possible to make way for Nepal as regional grouping chairman.

There is no doubt about which is the top issue and concern for Sri Lanka's President, the charismatic 55-year-old leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the daughter of two Prime Ministers who has lost a father, a husband and an eye to the system' s failure to find a peaceful solution to the ethnic question, an anti-chauvinist visionary who is determined to go down in history as the architect of a just, peaceful and enduring solution to her country's principal national problem. President Kumaratun ga's determination to see through a negotiated constitutional settlement, military developments, international pressure, and Norwegian facilitation appear to have brought the LTTE to the threshold of talks with the Sri Lankan Government on substantive is sues - with an agreed agenda and time-frame.

But do the momentum gained by the Oslo initiative and the present positive indications presage a real willingness on the part of the extremist and Pol Potist LTTE to enter into serious negotiations with the Sri Lankan state to explore the contours of a p eaceful political settlement within the framework of a united, but federally re-structured, Sri Lanka? No one can answer this question with any confidence at this sensitive conjuncture of circumstances. The LTTE's track record presents a strong and unedi fying contra-indication. Not once over the past two decades has the organisation headed by Velupillai Prabakaran shown any inclination so much as to consider a negotiated political settlement within the framework of Sri Lanka remaining one. Not once has it entered a process of negotiations or substantive talks with such an end in view, even if it has, time and again and for its tactical politico-military ends, signalled a willingness to engage in 'talks about talks' and gone in for ceasefires.

Although she is fully aware of the LTTE's track record and character, President Kumaratunga projects cautious, or guarded, optimism about the prospects of peace in her country this time round. In this exclusive interview given to Frontline's Editor, N. Ram, in a suite on a presidential floor of New Delhi's Taj Palace hotel on February 23, 2001, President Kumaratunga speaks about the considerable progress made in getting the LTTE to agree to agenda- and time-bound talks on "substantive issu es" ("not dilly-dallying like they did thrice with the UNP and once with us before, but actual, positive negotiation, arriving at a definite solution or settlement") necessary for finding an enduring political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. She confirms, on the record, that working with Norwegian facilitation, her Government is "in the process of trying to agree on conditions that the LTTE calls 'conducive' (measures) before we begin to talk"; that 'talks about talks' have alread y begun and made progress; and that "yes, definitely" there has been forward movement in this peace process. And finally: "So what I can tell you is, Ram, that this seems to be the best window of opportunity that has been offered to any Government since the war began."

The interview also covers subjects such as relations between the People's Alliance Government and the main Opposition party, the United National Party; India-Sri Lanka relations ("at the political level... we have arrived at an excellent point in Indo-Sr i Lankan relations... they are fully supportive of the peace process that we have started.); how to revive the SAARC process; and the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement signed between the two countries in 1998.

Sri Lanka's articulate and highly regarded Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, and High Commissioner in India, Professor Senake Bandaranayake, were with the President during the interview. At one point the former offered a brief factual clarification in response to a question.

N. Ram: President, you have a comprehensive peace package in hand. Ranged against this are two well-known obstacles - LTTE extremism and intransigence, and a non-cooperative and what seems to be an obstructive stance by the main Opposition party, the UNP. Do you see any meeting ground between your P.A. Government and the LTTE? And also, separately, between the Government and the UNP?

President Chandrika Kumaratunga: Well, we have tried our best to persuade both these groups that you just mentioned to give us the necessary support to carry through the constitutional process - which we believe is the final and durable solution t o the Tamil people's problem. They have both been intransigent, to use your word. In fact, we could have carried it through despite the opposition of these two groups, which were about the only ones opposing it. Now the JVP, but at that time the JVP was not so strong; it had only one MP in Parliament.

18050041jpg

If it were not for the very odd Constitution that we have - you know that over these years - even if the UNP opposed it (the constitutional package), we could have carried it through. Because in the last Parliament, we had 80 per cent of electorates. In other words, we had 80 per cent of the voices in Parliament. In this Parliament, we have about 68 to 70 per cent. We have more than two-thirds. In other words, the people have given us this time a two-thirds majority, and last time a four-fifths majority . But given the manner in which it is counted and presented, finally we have only one vote more, or three votes more, in Parliament! So this is the problem, it's a bizarre problem.

This is why we were planning all kinds of ways of circumventing this situation. We think the obstacles that we are faced with have created an undemocratic situation. So that we have all the right in some way to circumvent some of the clauses in this Cons titution - it won't be undemocratic.

We have to now re-open the process. The main reason we could not use the other - alternative - methods of bringing in the (new) Constitution is: Number one, I got bombed. When I had very definitely told the people, "If you give me the mandate, I'm going to do it." - and that's why the LTTE wanted to kill me! Then, after that, the UNP showed some kind of flexibility and kept asking me when we were going to invite them to talks. Because soon after I got bombed, at the oath-taking ceremony, you know I made that speech...

Yes.

... inviting the UNP, the LTTE to come into the process. They (the UNP) seem to have taken it up and kept asking me, "When are you inviting us? We want to come." Not Ranil Wickremasinghe himself, but other leaders of the UNP. So I thought there was some chance of getting them on board. It is much better to get them on board rather than doing it against their will. They pretended they were coming on board for about seven-eight months. The Government and the UNP discussed for five months the draft that I had agreed to with the eight parties in the P.A. Government and supporter parties. The UNP wasted our time for five months and at the end of it, they didn't even say they were not going to vote with it in Parliament. They knew the whole objective was for me to bring it to Parliament. And then on the day I took it to Parliament, there was a huge furore and hooting and insults. It was terrible. They burnt the draft Constitution inside Parliament, in the Chamber. They tore it into bits and threw it all ove r the place!

18050042jpg

Anyway, I carried on nevertheless and tabled the bill. But we didn't go for a vote because we needed six or seven more (votes). Ten people had crossed over to us from the UNP because they were not in support of the UNP leader's decision to do all this. B ut we needed six or seven more votes. In this Parliament, it's going to be more difficult because we have fewer seats. The SLFP itself has won one MP more. But the Tamil parties have lost out a lot. Therefore, the majority we had with their support is no w much less.

So we have to now think of new processes of re-starting the whole dialogue. Even while we go into negotiations with the LTTE - which may happen - I believe that we have to have the entire population talking about this, dialoguing about it. The LTTE is ju st one force, they are not the be-all and end-all of the whole thing! So we are considering various ways and means of re-starting the constitutional process and a dialogue with the entire country on it.

You have also answered my next question, which was going to be: how do you see the end game of putting in place this process? The constitutional process is going to re-start. It's more things than settling the ethnic or Tamil question... Yes. ... but this is your principal national question, you've said that before.

Quite definitely, yes.

Given the military situation about which we don't have enough information, could you give us an assessment of where the LTTE is in relation to the achievement of its proclaimed goals?

That being 'Eelam'?

Yes, but that is ruled out of court. But where are they on the ground? How strong are they? 18050043jpg

They are weaker than they have been for a long time. Last year, they had several successes. At the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000, they were able to gain quite a bit of the Wanni and, as you know, the entrance into Jaffna Peninsula, the Elephant P ass, which was a big victory for them. But since then we decided to arm the forces much more heavily than we have done ever before. We've spent a lot of money and purchased military hardware, which has caused a lot of damage to the LTTE. They have lost m ore than half the number of active fighting cadres in the last six months of last year. According to their own declared information, broadcasts and so on, 2,700-odd cadres they have lost - and they don't have more than five to six thousand in the entire Northern Province.

This is one of the reasons why they are seemingly more flexible. And, of course, the international community's coming down on them a little bit, and the possible ban in the U.K., is worrying them a lot. So we have to keep the international pressure on if we want peace in Sri Lanka.

The LTTE's Political Adviser, A. Balasingham, made a statement to the effect that if the LTTE got banned under the Terrorism Act, 2000 in the United Kingdom, the whole peace process might be jeopardised. Do you see that as a real threat or something e lse?

In fact, it is the opposite that is true. If the international community takes the pressure off the LTTE, they will not be interested in peace at all. Because the LTTE does not believe in peace. The LTTE believes in bloodletting, violence and terror and I don't think they know anything else! They will never be comfortable with any other situation. They don't believe there is such a thing as democracy, or there should be!

The only reason why they would agree to a negotiated settlement in a positive manner - not just dilly-dallying like they did three times with the UNP and once with us before, but actual, positive negotiation, arriving at a definite solution or settlement . The only reason why they would come to it is if they are fighting with their backs against the wall. For that purpose, we need the support of the international community and we need to keep the military pressure going. '

When the U.K. Terrorism Act came into effect on February 19, there was an expectation that the U.K. Government would issue a list of proscribed organisations. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has been focussing very strongly on what he expects the Government of the U.K. to do. But it hasn't come up with any list yet. How do you read this and what is your expectation of the U.K. right now?

We clearly expect them to ban the LTTE because it is the most terroristic organisation operating from British soil at the moment. Their new law very clearly gives them the possibility of doing that. We are only surprised they haven't done it yet.

(Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar: They haven't banned anybody yet. Under their law, they are not obliged to put out a list by a particular date. But from now on they are empowered to do so...)

President Kumaratunga: But we are hoping they will do it.

N. Ram: There has been media speculation about a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka, worked out by Norwegian facilitation, as part of the preparatory business. Does such an MoU exist and, if so, could yo u give us an idea of its content and purpose?

No, there is no such MoU. But we are in the process of trying to agree on conditions that the LTTE calls "conducive" (measures) before we begin to talk. So once those conditions are worked out - they won't be any MoUs - we will put it down for both sides to see.

There has been some forward movement in this respect?

Yes, definitely.

Would you like to re-state, for the information of our readers, the framework or mind-set in which you are approaching these talks. I suppose there will be, first, talks about talks?

That has already begun. We have said very clearly - because we have gone through this process once before, it's not new to us, we know all the pitfalls and the procedures that need to be followed - we have made our position very clear. Because we noted t hat with us for eight months, with the UNP Government several times, they just kept talking about marginal matters, without ever engaging in the substantive issues - even in Thimphu. They were told what the substantive issues should be, but they never di scussed those. And then they just play for time and prepare themselves for a further attack and come and attack. And that is the end of the round of talks.

Therefore, we have told them that from Day One of the talks, there has to be a clear agenda. The agenda will include... one, two, three, four, all the substantive issues. Such as nature of the state, that kind of thing. 'Eelam' is out of the question, we are willing to discuss on anything else. So, in short, from Day One we start on the substantive issues. If they want to talk on marginal issues on how much more food is going to be sent and all that, thereafter we will talk. We said that on the same day , every day, two-thirds or something like that, 75 per cent of the time should be spent on substantive issues, but one-fourth, one-third of the time we can discuss whatever else they want... you know, practical matters. They have agreed to that.

We have also said that we want dates. Before we start rendering the atmosphere "conducive," we want to know for how long they want that before we actually start proper talks. That also has been indicated to us. Now we are talking of what those conducive conditions should be.

So what I can tell you is, Ram, that this seems to be the best window of opportunity that has been offered to any Government since the war began.

Really? I really hope so...

With the LTTE, one doesn't hope for anything. But for practical reasons, maybe reasons of opportunism, the chances seem better than before. That's all I can say.

Your constitutional package, insofar as it addresses your principal national question, the ethnic conflict, seems to have gone - I think it's widely recognised - much further than any previous attempt to offer a just solution to the Tamil questions, a lthough there are sticking points on issues such as unit of devolution, merger and so on. Now, in principle, President, if things go well, are you willing to improve on this package, if you are convinced that would help?

Yes, certainly. If it is to stop this destructive war and bring about a durable peace, certainly we are willing to look at amendments to our proposals and such like. Of course, we will have to ask the majority of the people of the country. Quite apart fr om the chauvinists. You can't please everybody. But I think we can carry it through if there is a positive response from the LTTE.

By whatever name called, this is not just devolution but a structural change attempted in your Constitution, with particular reference to Tamil areas. Some people have asked for a federal framework and so on. The name is not important, but you are com mitted to that structural change?

Well, we have said so. In the constitutional draft we have tabled in Parliament, it's very clear.

As Chairman of SAARC, you are reported to be keen on holding an early summit of SAARC leaders. I read that in the press. The Government of India, however, appears to have been lukewarm about joining the summit in view of its problematical relationship with General Musharraf's regime in Pakistan. Is there any forward movement in sight?

18050044jpg

Yes. Today, we discussed SAARC and there are those very strong unique issues. I had occasion to talk about this with the P.M. (Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee) today and the Foreign Minister (Jaswant Singh). Yes, I think there is a possibility of mov ing forward. Last year, after a sort of total halt of all SAARC processes for some time - since Kargil - we were able to have most of the technical committees sitting on the various subjects. Now the decisions of those committees cannot be implemented un til the Standing Committee of Foreign Secretaries meets and ratifies that. Then we can start that work: on the economic front, cultural, education, etc. Terrorism. The work has been done. Now the Foreign Secretaries have to meet. I think today we had a v ery positive response - and I'm very appreciative of that - from the Indian Government. They probably would agree that the Standing Committee meeting be held very soon in Colombo. That is the Foreign Secretaries, so we have to take it on from there.

There has been some media speculation, particularly in Sri Lanka, about Indian concerns, which you must have encountered. Are you satisfied that India is playing ball on your vital issue?

Yes, very much so. They have been playing ball very well with us. They are fully supportive of the peace process that we have started. They have always told us that. And they also believe, like us, that the final solution can only be found in a negotiate d settlement. They have told us that very clearly. And they are very supportive of our moves at the moment.

The LTTE issue will not pose any potential problem?

Doesn't look like it.

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and Sri Lanka has come into force. Sri Lanka's top exports are garments and tea. The exporters' lobbies have generally expressed the view that while the FTA has given them some room, its implementation is s till perhaps discriminatory in the sense of India allotting quotas and imposing other restrictions. For example, on the ports where tea can land in India. Do you propose to take this up at your level?

We have taken it up already. We have facilitated the entry of Indian goods under the FTA, but from the Indian side the obstacles have not yet been removed. And some new obstacles have been brought in after the signing of the agreement. The proportion of Sri Lankan goods to Indian goods exported has not changed - it's 1:13 in favour of India. I brought this up today with the Prime Minister and he has agreed to look at it at the highest level. I think it is just bureaucratic blocks.

And, finally, very briefly, how do you see Sri Lanka-India relations going at this stage?

Very well. Extremely well. We have no complaints at all (except the details of these [FTA-related] bureaucratic problems). At the political level, I think we have arrived at an excellent point in Indo-Sri Lankan relations.

A significant neighbourly call

In Delhi in the last week of February, President Chandrika Kumaratunga discusses with Indian leaders a range of issues, including the process to settle the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

MUCH importance is attached to Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga's three-day visit to India in the fourth week of February. It was Kumaratunga's first visit to Delhi after she was re-elected President in December 1999. The visit came at a time w hen the peace process facilitated by the Norwegian government in the island was gaining momentum. A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official said that Kumaratunga's visit to Delhi could "be seen as a prelude to peace talks" with the Liberation Tigers of Tami l Eelam (LTTE).

18050111jpg

Kumaratunga met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and apprised them of the peace talks and her government's efforts to introduce constitutional reforms to meet the demands of the Tamil people for greater devo lution of powers.

The Norwegians have put forward a set of confidence-building measures to facilitate the process of resolution of the ethnic conflict in the island. In recent days, Kumaratunga has expressed cautious optimism about the prospects for peace and emphasised t hat the opportunity to end the fratricidal war should not be lost. In an interview to a television channel in Delhi, she said that talks with the LTTE could start in two months. Kumaratunga said that she had the "total support" of the Indian government i n her efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the ethnic problem.

A statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry after the conclusion of the Sri Lankan President's visit said: "India reiterated its consistent support for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and for a negotiated political s ettlement of the conflict, as the only way to restore lasting peace which would meet the aspirations of all elements of Sri Lankan society."

Reports said that the United Kingdom and Japan would be invited to send observers to monitor a peace agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Officials in the External Affairs Ministry have said that during Kumaratunga's wide-ranging tal ks with Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh, India's "well-known" views of the concept of third-party monitoring were made clear. The officials pointed out that India was opposed to the concept of third-party monitoring in Jammu and Kashmir. India told Sri Lanka that it should approach the issue of "third-party monitoring" with caution and that third-party involvement had the potential to complicate matters further in the island nation. Indian officials pointed out that "third parties" may have their own agendas .

The Indian government seems to be unsure about the ramifications of multilateral mediation in the Sri Lankan conflict. Moreover, New Delhi is reluctant to be a mediator between the two sides. Indian policy-makers seem to be weighing the long-term implica tions of multilateral intervention in Sri Lanka for India's own internal conflicts. The official statement issued during Kumaratunga's visit said that the discussions "reflected the high priority attached by both countries to the maintenance of close and friendly relations based on mutual trust and understanding".

Although the Sri Lankans insisted that the issue of a monitoring group was premature, they pointed out that once a truce was in place groups from outside, acceptable to both parties, would have to do the monitoring. According to the Sri Lankans, no count ry has been short-listed for the job. An observer of South Asian affairs said that New Delhi was wary of the idea of "truce monitors" because it wanted to forestall the possibility of India being requested to send a token force to monitor a truce and thu s getting involved in the ethnic conflict. On the other hand, after the visit of the Sir Lankan Foreign Minister to Islamabad in mid-January, Pakistan gave $20 million in credit to Sri Lanka for military purchases.

"Some sort of a mechanism is necessary to oversee a ceasefire. This should not be a source of controversy. They (the monitors) should be treated like election observers from various countries. The monitoring mechanism should not be under the U.N. umbrell a, as no self-respecting sovereign country will accept it," said a Sri Lankan observer. Norway, he said, was ideally placed to play the role of a facilitator, as it had "no agenda and is far away from the area of conflict". Besides, Norway is one of the few countries that had a leverage over the LTTE, he added. Norway has given asylum to many Tamil refugees.

According to External Affairs Ministry officials, the Sri Lankan President's visit gave both countries an opportunity to discuss substantive issues. An important topic discussed during Kumaratunga's stay in Delhi was the South Asian Association for Regio nal Cooperation (SAARC) process. Indian officials said that there was a "forward movement" on the issue since the visit of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in December 2000. India had then agreed to re-start official-level meetings of the SAARC.

During Kumaratunga's visit, India announced that the SAARC Standing Committee meeting could be scheduled for the middle of 2001, provided the date was convenient for the rest of the SAARC members. The Standing Committee is the forum of Foreign Secretarie s of the member-nations. However, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman said that no consensus had emerged on the holding of the SAARC summit.

18050112jpg

Sri Lanka, however, feels that it had broken the logjam and re-started the SAARC process. Sri Lankan officials give considerable importance to the SAARC process since they believe that it would help bring about peace in the region. The Sri Lankans point out that a SAARC summit would allow Vajpayee and Pakistan's Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf to meet at a neutral venue. But a SAARC summit may not take place in the near future because of the strains that developed recently between New Delhi and Kathman du. The next SAARC summit is to be hosted by Nepal.

The Sri Lankan President kept the Indian leadership abreast of her government's efforts to speed up the process of introducing constitutional reforms. Kumaratunga has always insisted that any solution to the Sri Lankan conflict should be within a united Sri Lanka, with the devolution of more powers to the regions.

A senior Sri Lankan analyst said that the devolution process was almost over as much of the decentralisation process had been completed. He said that the focus was now on the proposed new Constitution as a bigger devolution package would be more difficul t to negotiate in a divided Parliament. The radical constitutional changes envisaged by Kumaratunga are needed to give the LTTE additional incentives so that it will give up terrorism and get involved in the democratic process. The efforts of the Kumarat unga government to get the new Constitution adopted before the general elections in October 2000 proved the honourable intent of her government to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil minority.

According to the analyst, the first challenge is to get the LTTE to accept the new Constitution. The second challenge is to get the Opposition, inside and outside Parliament, to support the new Constitution. As things stand, it was for the first time tha t Douglas Devananda and Feral Ashraff, two MPs from the north and the northeast, were given important portfolios in the new Cabinet.

Preparing for talks

The two sides are preparing to talk, but the political resolution of the conflict still appears to be elusive.

HAD Velupillai Prabakaran been allowed to write the entire script, it may have read differently. For instance, the Sri Lankan government would have responded at once to the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an d had it shown a reluctance to do so, the international community would have rapped it on the knuckles and forced it to do so. Of course, Britain's new anti-terrorist law would not have got past Parliament.

18050141jpg

As it happened, the LTTE leader wrote only a part of the script, and though he tried to dictate the rest, the problem was that there were too many other actors with minds of their own. Colombo ignored the ceasefire, not just when it was initially declare d for one month on December 24, but at each extension thereafter.

After some initial remarks by the junior British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain asking Sri Lanka to reciprocate the truce, the international community looked the other way as the security forces launched one military offensive after another in Jaffna Peninsula.

As for the U.K.'s Terrorism Act, 2000, the LTTE did not get outlawed under it when it came into effect on February 19 as the Sri Lankan government would have liked. Instead, acting more subtly, the British decided to put off indefinitely the announcement of a list of organisations that would be proscribed under the new law, thereby keeping the noose hanging over the LTTE's head.

Beginning with the meeting between the Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim and Prabakaran on November 1, 2000, the LTTE leader has projected himself as a messiah of peace. First he called for talks, then declared a truce, and seemingly turned the other ch eek as the security forces re-established themselves in Jaffna peninsula. Whether or not this is really a new Prabakaran, no one knows for sure. But at every step he seems to have moved closer to the negotiating table, even though the government stood aw ay. Now a stage has come when it is almost impossible for him to back off from the process.

In regard to the Norwegian initiative, the LTTE raised the stakes in mid-February, when Anton Balasingham, who has emerged as the LTTE's pointman, virtually threatened to pull out of the process should the U.K. ban the group under the Terrorism Act. Now that the British have put off the decision, the LTTE has little choice but to stay in the process. It is now fairly certain that peace talks will be held. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has said that negotiations are "likely to commence in a few mo nths time". But he added an all-important rider: "if all goes well".

Norway is said to be finalising a so-called memorandum of understanding which envisages certain "goodwill gestures" by both sides before the start of any talks. There is no official word about this "MoU", but reports in the Sri Lankan press have suggeste d that on the LTTE's side it includes a commitment not to attack any civilian targets - which mainly means no bombings or assassinations. The government, for its part, will send more food supplies to the LTTE-held areas in the north, and perhaps certain other items that have so far been embargoed, in order to address the LTTE demand for "normalisation" of civilian life in those areas.

The MoU also provides for an international committee to monitor the "goodwill gestures", and the composition of the committee is still being finalised. So far the government has held firm on its position that there will be no ceasefire from its side ahea d of talks. Both President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Kadirgamar have said that a ceasefire will become a possibility only after the start of negotiations and then, depending on the "satisfactory progress" of the talks. As if to drive home the point, the military launched a series of operations in December and early January, facing virtually no resistance from the LTTE. It thus re-established control over most of Jaffna Peninsula. Now the LTTE controls Elephant Pass, and Palai, its forward defence positi on for the Pass.

On February 22, the LTTE extended for another month its unilateral ceasefire, due to end on February 24. While doing this, it reiterated its demand that the government reciprocate the gesture, and urged the international community to use its "good office s" to persuade Sri Lanka to do so. But it seems that the Tigers may finally accept the government position on this.

While it has taken nearly three years for the Norwegians to get to the current stage of the process, the pre-talks phase of getting the two sides together, which seemed impossible at one time, may actually turn out to have been the easy part. The two sid es are preparing to talk, but there still seems to be no meeting ground on the "core issue", which according to the government is the political resolution of the conflict, and which should form the main substance of the negotiations.

In her address to the nation on February 4, Sri Lanka's Independence anniversary, Kumaratunga declared that the new Constitution drafted by her government, which it tried to put through Parliament last year, would form the bedrock of a political solution to the aspirations of the Tamil people. The LTTE shot back that it had to be the Thimphu principles. Balasingham said from his base in London that no solution would be acceptable to the Tigers unless it was based on the principles of the right to self-d etermination, the recognition of Tamils as a distinct nation, and of their right to a historically deemed homeland.

Let alone presenting it to the LTTE, the government has yet to build a Sinhala consensus on its draft Constitution. It was still-born in Parliament last year precisely because of the absence of such a consensus, and it is unlikely that there will be one now. So far the rift between the ruling People's Alliance (P.A.) coalition and the Opposition United National Party (UNP) seems only to be growing. The UNP complained recently that it was not being kept informed by the government of the developments in t he peace process, and that the little it knew was thanks to Solheim, who has made it a point to meet Opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe each time he is in Colombo.

If the government wants to negotiate a political settlement with the LTTE that will not be opposed by the Sinhalese majority, it is imperative for it to take the UNP along. That is the only way the real hardliners in the majority community, represented b y the Buddhist monks, the Sihala Urumaya and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, can be silenced. But such a bridge-building exercise is not on yet.

THERE are many more uncertainties. One of them is the Indian position on the peace talks. As Kumaratunga left in late February for a short visit to New Delhi, the question in Sri Lanka was whether India would countenance the legitimising of the LTTE, whi ch seems to be the inevitable consequence of the peace talks. In fact, in the current process, like it or not, the LTTE has seemingly emerged as the primary and main representative of the Tamil people.

It seems that India did not expect the Norwegian initiative to come this far, to the point where the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE are on the verge of talking to each other. New Delhi was in all probability surprised at the November 2000 Solheim-Pra bakaran meeting that set in motion the chain of events up till now.

Kadirgamar told Frontline that the LTTE was being accorded primacy in the talks because the immediate priority was to end the war. "For that purpose we have to bring to the table those with guns in their hands," he said. But, he added, when it com es to working out a durable political solution, there may well be other political parties to be involved.

But where are the other Tamil parties? Except for the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) and the Varatharaja Perumal faction of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), the others, including the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), have more or less signed away to the LTTE whatever remained of their claims to leadership, and seemed to have accepted the moral and political authority of the group as the chief negotiator on behalf of the Tamil people. Whether India can live with this fast-emerging reality is one of the many questions that will finally decide the shape and substance of the negotiations between the LTTE and the government, when they take place.

Truce and pressures

The ceasefire has opened political space for a constructive dialogue, but it appears that the government has failed to use the opportunity.

"VAASTU to solve the Kashmir problem," read a local newspaper headline about Jammu-based practitioner Akash Kumar's presentation to a conference on the currently fashionable architectural pretension. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's decision to extend the ceasefire in the State until May has sparked a frenzied search for ways to bring about an end to violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, the Indian government and the United States of America - all of them seem determined to salvage whatever remains of the peace process savaged by the unending rattle of guns.

18050221jpg

Sadly, no one's ideas seem to have any substantially greater chance of success than the vaastu practitioner's quixotic proposals to bring about a reordering of the State's physical spaces.

That Vajpayee chose to order a third extension of the ceasefire surprised few observers. Despite evidence that there was little meaningful decline in terrorist violence since November 2000, when the ceasefire was put in place, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has by now invested too much in the process to be able withdraw without tangible gains. The latest decision also had the cautious support of major political groups, including the Congress(I) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which were c onsulted a day before the Cabinet Committee on Security decided to extend the ceasefire. There appears to be a broad consensus that the ceasefire has opened political space, which can be used to begin a constructive dialogue on the State's future.

What is less clear is whether three months into the ceasefire the Union government has any clear idea of how to realise such a dialogue. Announcing the ceasefire on February 22, Vajpayee proclaimed that India would be ready to engage in a dialogue with a ll groups that "abjured violence". Since few of the secessionist formations in Pakistan or Jammu and Kashmir have called for an end to hostilities, this formulation was somewhat mystifying. Then, two days later, the Prime Minister announced that his gove rnment would be "willing to talk to all those who wished to". While the all-party meeting suggested the need to make the ceasefire contingent on some form of reciprocity, the conditionalities have yet to be spelt out.

Part of the problem seems to be the growing internal divisions in the Union government over the conduct of the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir. Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, and the Intelligence Bureau, opposed the ceasefire, arguing that a dialogue proc ess could continue even if military operations were resumed. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, for his part, attacked plans to allow the Hurriyat leadership to travel to Pakistan, arguing that this would legitimise the secessionist organisation's claims to be the sole representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. And even though Chief of the Army Staff General S. Padmanabhan felt otherwise, sources told Frontline that the commanders of the 15 Corps in Srinagar and 16 Corps in Jammu ar gued that offensive operations would have to resume in March, when the currently snow-bound mountain passes into Jammu and Kashmir will become clear.

HOW will these diverse pressures be managed in the months to come? It seems clear that pressure from the U.S. government has shaped Vajpayee's decision. In a February 7 letter delivered through Ambassador Richard Celeste, President George W. Bush made cl ear that his government would continue to play an interventionist role in Jammu and Kashmir. The letter asked India to "start in right earnest the stalled dialogue process with Pakistan", but it said nothing about the support offered by that country to t errorist groups of the Islamic Right. Both the Prime Minister and his Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra perhaps believe that the extension of the ceasefire will help establish India's desire for peace.

One key component of policy in the coming months will be a decision on whether to allow a Hurriyat delegation to travel to Pakistan. Many people believe that External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh's objections will now be overruled, and that the Hurriya t leadership will soon be issued travel documents. Interestingly, the U.S. appears to have played an important role in this decision as well. Even as the extension was being contemplated in New Delhi, U.S. Congressman David Bonier arrived in the city for discussions with the Hurriyat leadership. Hurriyat leaders, sources say, told Bonier that the principal purpose of their visit would be to persuade the Pakistan-based terrorist groups to end the violence in the State. During a subsequent visit to Ahmeda bad, Bonier expressly proceeded to call for an extension of the ceasefire. The Congressman's April 2000 visit to Srinagar had been instrumental in reversing the Hurriyat's historic rejection of any talks in which Pakistan was not involved.

But it is far from clear if the Hurriyat team itself is still particularly keen to travel to Pakistan. In January, in an interview to the Srinagar-based magazine Chattan, Abdul Gani Lone asserted that had he been consulted, he would have opposed the Hurr iyat team travelling to Pakistan. "On the one hand," Lone said of the APHC's demand for passports, "we ask for a legal right that stands denied to us. But in the same breath we say that allow us to go to Pakistan, and when we will reach there, we will t ell the Mujahideen to sharpen their weapons against India. I see no logic in it." Underlying this argument is the more than likely prospect that the Hurriyat centrists' calls for peace will be rejected by the Islamic Right in Pakistan. That would undermi ne the organisation's claims to be a credible interlocutor on Jammu and Kashmir.

Unsurprisingly, then, APHC centrist leaders led by its chairman, Abdul Ghani Bhat, and the Srinagar religious leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have been increasingly negative on the issue of a dialogue with the Indian government. Bhat's reticence was reinforc ed by a February 22 attempt on his life. They have been joined, unsurprisingly enough, by the Jamaat-e-Islami's Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has been the sole member of the Hurriyat executive committee hostile to the peace process. At a February 23 rally i n Baramulla, Geelani asserted that the Hurriyat "did not need to go to Pakistan". Rather, he said, adroitly shifting the goalposts, "Parliament should pass a resolution accepting the disputed status of Kashmir, in the same manner it resolved that Kashmir was an integral part of India." This, he said, "would enable us to ask the Mujahideen right from here to stop their activities".

GEELANI'S new confidence is based on the outcome of events on the ground. Ever since the February 16 killing of five unarmed protestors who were blocking the National Highway at Haigam to protest an alleged custodial death, the Kashmir Valley has seen a series of violent mass demonstrations. One person was killed the next day in the Srinagar neighbourhood of Maisuma, allegedly by a Military Intelligence officer, provoking further public outrage. Many people see such demonstrations, which are taking plac e for the first time since the early 1990s, as being a part of a new "Intifada" against Indian rule. The mass protests have served to undermine the Hurriyat centrists, and strengthen elements allied to Geelani, such as the Islamic Students' League's Shak eel Bakshi.

The proposition that a generalised uprising has begun is, however, flawed. For one, the wave of demonstrations predated the Haigam killings. Shortly after the abortive January 16 Lashkar-e-Toiba attack on Srinagar airport, more than 6,000 people came out to condemn the killing of the terrorists responsible. This was the first time that Kashmir had seen protests against the killing of Pakistani nationals. At subsequent protests, the favoured slogan was "Lashkar-e-Toiba aage badho, hum tumhare saath ha in" (Forge ahead, Lashkar-e-Toiba, we are with you). Again, policemen containing protests outside the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on February 17 were warned on the public address system that there was a Lashkar squad inside, prepared to block their entr y. Since January 2001, armed cadre of the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar have regularly appeared in public, often at Friday prayer gatherings.

It is improbable that there has been any sudden growth in the level of people's support for the Islamic Right in Kashmir, where even the Jamaat-e-Islami has generally commanded only a very limited constituency. Furthermore, much of the recent protests ha ve taken place in areas that have traditionally been hostile to Jammu and Kashmir being a part of India - notably in downtown Srinagar and urban centres such as Sopore and Baramulla. One plausible explanation is that the ceasefire has allowed terrorists, and their overground sympathisers, to assert their influence over civil society again. Many of their cadre have interpreted the ceasefire as a sign of Indian fatigue, and believe that capitulation by New Delhi is imminent. With terrorists able to move i n to Kashmir with relative ease, cadre of pro-India organisations have been coerced into submission. On February 20, for example, a 75-year old National Conference activist, Wali Moham-mad, was dragged out his home in Sadal Magam village, and executed in front of members of his family.

Continued violence by the Islamic Right, as highlighted by the killing of six policemen at Kokernag on February 23, could undermine the political processes that the ceasefire is premised on. U.S. pressure on Pakistan seems to have had little impact. On F ebruary 14, Pakistan Home Minister Moinuddin Haider announced a ban on street fund collections for the jehad in Jammu and Kashmir, and announced that he had ordered the police that if anyone was "seen displaying arms, stop them, warn them, and if they do not listen, just shoot them". No one, significantly, was shot in the fortnight that followed. Haider later backed down from the statement, announcing that Pakistan remained committed to the jehad in Jammu and Kashmir, and that it only oppo sed violence on its own soil. It has long been clear that Musharraf, whatever his personal inclinations, is unable to terminate the activities of groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammadi.

If the Islamic Right has taken control of political life in Kashmir, Hindu fundamentalists have used the ceasefire to capture street power in Jammu. The Jammu and Kashmir Nationalist Front, affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, succeeded in shut ting down the city on February 12, demanding that the State be sundered into three parts along its religious-ethnic faultlines. Issues such as the admission of Muslim students from a defunct private medical college in Kashmir to State-run institutions in Jammu have been used to gather support for its larger political agenda. Speaking in New Delhi on the day of the Jammu bandh, former Jan Sangh chief Balraj Madhok and the BJP's K.R. Malkani backed the Front's demands. "It must be understood," Malkani pro claimed, "that the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir is inevitable."

FOR the past fortnight, Udhampur and Jammu have been paralysed by protests over the disappearance of a teenage girl, Meenakshi Badyal. Initially, Badyal was alleged to have been kidnapped by a Muslim, Mohammad Aftab. Violence broke out in Udhampur, with protestors setting fire to Muslim-owned property and government vehicles. Aftab subsequently surrendered to the police. It transpired that while he was indeed a friend of Badyal, he had no role in the abduction. Two Hindu men, Anoop Khajuria and Vikram S alathia, were then arrested on charges of abducting the teenager. While there is little reason to believe that Badyal was in fact kidnapped, the matter has been used by the Hindu Right to spread communal venom, and discredit the Farooq Abdullah regime.

Curiously enough, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah seems to be the only person wholly satisfied with the way events are proceeding. In late February, he ordered the State Police to terminate its anti-terrorist operations and came out in support of a ceasef ire that he had opposed from the outset. Says one National Conference leader: "He knows that in the end nothing will come of this. Sooner or later, things will get so bad that the Army will have to be unleashed, with no holds barred. That will end any di alogue with the Hurriyat, and ensure that there is no opposition to the Chief Minister. Farooq Abdullah will be able to say he was right all along."

Everyone in the State knows that when the snow melts on the high passes, the war in the State will resume, ceasefire or no ceasefire. And everyone wants peace. It is just that the terms on which they want an end to violence are irreconcilable.

The Kot Charwal carnage

The formation of a village defence committee by a Muslim shepherd community provokes terrorists to carry out a brutal massacre.

AT first, the soldiers who arrived at Kot Charwal thought that the residents of the still-smouldering shack must have run off into the dense woods around the village to escape the terrorists who had set their home on fire. It was not until the afternoon of February 9, as the embers cooled, that they started clearing the debris, using freshly cut branches of fir trees. The first charred body emerged an hour later. Soon they found the burned body of a woman, wrapped around that of the infant she had been trying to protect. By late evening, 15 bodies had been found. Seven were of children, the youngest of them just four years old.

18050241jpg

The carnage at Kot Charwal illustrates the dark side of the current ceasefire, now due to run until May. Its victims were the families of Bakkarwal shepherds who had dared to take on terrorist groups active on the mountains above Rajouri. Residents of th e Salohi mohra (hamlet) had formed the first all-Muslim Village Defence Committee (VDC) in the district in December, after one local resident was executed by cadre of the Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM). The VDCs are local self-defence groups, officiall y equipped with rifles to help guard remote mountain hamlets against terrorist attacks and intimidation. Although the VDCs were set up to protect vulnerable Hindu minorities, the formation of a wholly Muslim unit at Kot Charwal was a development of some significance.

With the number of troops thinned down in the wake of the Ramzan ceasefire, Kot Charwal's villagers knew that reprisal was imminent. What they had not expected was its sheer brutality. A group of terrorists arrived late that night at the home of Mohammad Shafi. Shafi, a young herdsman, had aided Army operations in the area for a year, and had been instrumental in setting up the VDC. But on that fateful day, as it happened, Shafi was not at home. The terrorists began beating up members of his family, dem anding to know where he was. Taking advantage of the darkness, his wife and children ran into the woods. The terrorists then surrounded three nearby dhokes (shelters made of wood and earth), only one of which was occupied. The families of Abdullah Remo and Bashir Abdullah lived here together, using the other two huts to house their flocks of sheep.

No opportunity for escape was left this time around. The dhoke was bolted from the outside. Then one group of terrorists clambered on to its roof and cleared a hole to lob hand grenades inside. A few minutes later, kerosene was splattered over the structure, and it was set on fire.

The next dhoke that the group moved on to turned out to be Shafi's shelter for the night. Alerted by the noise and fire, he was ready. Troops from the 4 Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry picked up a distress call from the VDC member's single-frequenc y wireless set, and responded immediately. For the four hours it took the soldiers to make their way over the mountains to Kot Charwal, Shafi continued to exchange fire. Three days later, he was himself a part of the operation that ended in the killing o f the 10 HuM and Hizbul Mujahideen cadre who had executed the carnage, including their "commander", Kasim Bhat.

WHAT led Kot Charwal's Bakkarwal community to take on terror? Hundreds of Hindu families had left the heights around Kot Charwal in the summer of 1998, after the mass killing 28 villagers in nearby Prankot that April. Prankot is now just an abandoned clu ster of dhokes. The region's Gujjar and Bakkarwal communities, though in general hostile to the politics of far-Right Islamic groups, chose to stay on, making their peace with terrorist groups. Few people are certain just why Shafi started to aid the Army. Some believe that the HuM's cadre had harassed women in the village, but no one is willing to discuss the issue in any detail. "We were not treated well by the terrorists," is all village leader Mohammad Ismail will say. "They claimed to be fig hting for Islam, but they were just thieves."

Offensive operations in the high mountains were scaled back last autumn, and Kot Charwal's villagers were left increasingly vulnerable to terrorist violence. In November, Shafi's mentor Rashid Bakkarwal was tortured and then executed in the middle of Sal ohi mohra. HuM cadre left a note on his mutilated body, threatening to kill any villager who dared to bury him. Early the next month, Kot Charwal's village leaders asked 4 Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry's Colonel Varinder Singh for help to set up a VDC. The Colonel, in turn, asked the Rajouri Superintendent of Police Rajesh Kumar for weapons and ammunition to be issued to the villagers. Ten rifles were promptly made over to the village, and several young residents were given impromptu lessons in their use.

By January, Gujjar and Bakkarwal herdsmen who were allegedly cooperating with the police and Army were being executed on a regular basis. On February 3, for example, Hussain Mohammad Mithu, Jahir Bakkarwal and Abdul Karim were executed at Bandrei. The th ree are believed to have played a key role in the elimination of three terrorists in 1998. "Some of these killings," argues 163 Brigade Commander J.S. Jaswal, "were in fact the consequences of property disputes or private feuds." In one case at Darhal, t he murder of an old woman, allegedly by her daughter-in-law, was claimed to have been one carried out by terrorists as reprisal for the elimination of four of their cadre days earlier. While such stories were on occasion put out to avoid criminal prosecu tion or gain compensation, the fact remains that Muslims opposed to the Islamic Right were increasingly under attack.

For the moment, the Kot Charwal massacre does not seem to have achieved its objectives. That the Army and the Rajouri police promptly eliminated Kasim Bhat's HuM unit, made up of nine Pakistani nationals and a Doda area operative of the Hizbul Mujahideen , has given village residents some sense of security. A police post has now been set up in the village, and additional rifles have been distributed to the VDC. Several village residents also volunteered to join the Jammu and Kashmir Police after Chief Mi nister Farooq Abdullah made available 10 jobs. And if the Prankot massacre sparked a massive exodus, there are no signs that Kot Charwal's Muslims intend to leave their homes. But the killing of Muslims who are hostile to terrorists continues. On Februar y 18, another Mohammad Shafi was shot dead and then beheaded at Narkot, near Prankot, on charges of being an Army informer.

18050242jpg dhokes

SUCH killings are not new: and neither, in fact, is the mass murder of Muslims in the Jammu region. Seventeen Muslim villagers, including three women and three minor girls, were massacred at the Bachchai mohra near Surankote on June 28, 1999. The sole survivor of the mohra Bachchai massacre, Zubeida Bi, said that the killings were the outcome of a power struggle between two factions of the Hizbul Mujahideen, which pitted members of her family against the other group. Year after year, ordin ary Muslims have been the principal victims of terrorist violence, although the mass massacres of Hindus and Sikhs through Jammu and Kashmir have figured more prominently on the front pages of newspapers. And, unlike in the Kashmir Valley, there is littl e evidence of local support for terrorism in areas like Rajouri. Of the 224 terrorists killed in the district last year, 212 were foreigners, mainly of Pakistani or Afghan origin.

Sadly, that has not formed the basis of a political effort to build a people's consensus against terror. Not one mass protest against the killings has so far been seen in Rajouri or Jammu. Two days after the Kot Charwal killings, the hyperactive elements from among the Hindu Right in Rajouri busied themselves with the attempted rape of an eighth-grade Hindu girl by a Muslim classmate at Gambhir Brahmana. Muslim schoolteachers were singled out for attack by local Hindu groups after the incident. The same politicians found no time to agitate against the killings at Kot Charwal, or to mourn the Muslim victims of an effort the Hindu Right claims to hold so dear. While Farooq Abdullah and top politicians from New Delhi did fly into the village to express th eir grief, local figures from the National Conference, the Congress(I) and the Bharatiya Janata Party evidently felt that the six-hour trek was not worth their while. The contrast with killings of Hindus and Sikhs is only too stark.

Part of the problem is the bizarre framework of politics in rural Jammu. Both Hindu and Muslim politicians, along with terrorists of the Islamic Right, have made careers out of representing themselves as defenders of communities under predatory assault. Examples are not hard to find. The Mendhar massacre of Hindus on July 1, 1999, had its roots in the elopement of local resident Shankar Lal and Faheen Kauser. Muslim communalists insisted that the girl had been abducted, while their Hindu counterparts cl aimed that the police were harassing Shankar Lal's family. Terrorists joined in the fracas, threatening local Hindus that failure to return Kauser would invite their wrath. In August 1997, the marriage of school teacher Manzoor Hussain with Rita Kumari p rovoked physical violence by the Hindu Right. Hussain subsequently approached the Farid Khan group of the Hizbul Mujahideen for vengeance, who in turn massacred eight Hindus.

"If Hindu soldiers kill Hindu villagers," says one senior official acidly, "no Hindu politician will say a word. And if Muslim terrorists kill Muslim villagers, no Muslim politician will protest." In Rajouri today, it does not even take attempted rape or cross-community marriage to incite communal violence: a football match or a traffic accident is an adequate pretext. Underpinning the hatred is a decade of violence, which has fuelled a desperation exploited by politicians unable to deliver development or progress to the region. Sadly, the ceasefire seems certain to see a dramatic escalation in the levels of tension. In the first seven weeks of this year, 31 civilians have been killed in Rajouri, as against 65 in the whole of 2000. The ceasefire was su pposed to bring peace: but in Rajouri, it has taken the war to a new, even more ugly level.

Some lessons from Orissa

other

With support from the United Nations, Orissa makes a beginning in putting together a plan for disaster management and preparedness, involving the people in a big way.

T.K. RAJALAKSHMI in Bhubaneswar and Astarang

IN the wake of the Gujarat earthquake, another disaster, which occurred in Orissa not far back in time, offers several lessons in disaster management. A Community Contingency Plan which seeks to involve the community in the management of floods and cyclo nes has been prepared jointly by the United Nations and the Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA). The State, which has not yet recovered from the impact of the "super cyclone" that devastated its coastal districts and interior areas in Octo ber 1999, has a long way to go in being prepared to meet such disasters; but it has made a beginning in that direction.

18050351jpg

When the cyclone struck, western Orissa was already in the grip of a drought. It hit the landfall point near Paradip coast on October 29 with a wind velocity of 270 to 300 km an hour. That cyclone and the one that preceded it on October 17-18 together up rooted over 19 million people, including 3.5 million children. They affected some 128 blocks and 46 civic bodies in 14 districts. The worst-hit districts were Jagatsinghpur (see separate story), Khurda, Cuttack, Puri and Kendrapara.

Torrential rain that accompanied the cyclone caused floods in the basins of the Baitarni, Budhabalanga and Salandi rivers, affecting vast areas of Jajpur, Bhadrak, Keonjhar, Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts. Tidal waves five to seven metres high swept t hrough Jagatsinghpur, Puri, Kendrapara, Khurda and Cuttack districts; they affected Dhenkanal, Keonjhar and Nayagarh districts too. Bhubaneswar, the capital, and the commercial centre of Cuttack were hit. The ingress of seawater ruined agricultural land.

An estimated 10,092 people died and more than 300,000 head of cattle perished. Crops on 21 lakh hectares were damaged and the monetary loss, according to a study sponsored by the OSDMA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and conducted by the Centre for Disaster Management in the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), was Rs.1,800 crores. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the two cyclones destroyed 1.6 million homes.

Soon after the cyclone, the UNDP engaged the Centre for Disaster Management to prepare a comprehensive plan concentrating on six areas of disaster management: preparation of response plans for all the 30 districts of Orissa, covering all hazards, includi ng earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, cyclones, heat waves and epidemics; preparation of a geographic information system with spatial and non-spatial thematic overlays, with specific reference to disaster management and development planning; designing and i mplementing training programmes for and training modules on disaster management for senior administrators, elected representatives, community-based organisations and so on; assessment of early warning systems; strengthening of the disaster management uni t of the OSDMA; and setting up of a satellite-based control room network with satellite-based hotlines, e-mail links and so on.

The UNDP, as the convener of the United Nations Disaster Management Team, has been coordinating the activities of various U.N. agencies in the State. Maharashtra is the only State that has prepared a multi-hazard disaster management plan for all district s.

From rehabilitation and relief, the focus shifted to preparedness as the people as well as policy-makers realised that this was the only way to check loss of life and property during disasters. While preventive operations have not been undertaken on the required scale, some initiatives on the lines of a community contingency plan have been. It is now recognised that development work that has been taken up as part of relief efforts only aims to restore normalcy; it does not have any long-term perspective of the problem and is hardly sustainable in an area prone to droughts, floods and cyclones.

In the first phase of the OSDMA-UNDP initiative of preparing a Community Contingency Plan, a common model for community-based disaster preparedness (CBDP) to cope with disasters, was translated into Oriya from English. About 1,000 of the most vulnerable villages along the coast will now be identified for the CBDP and non-governmental organisations will be entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the plan. U.N. volunteers will train people in these villages.

Sundar Khatiari in Astarang block of Puri district is one of the villages identified for CBDP. Here, a shelter project is under way. It envisages the construction of 40 low-cost demonstration houses and the training of 600 engineers and masons.

In Khatiari, the UNDP has set up a summer-cum-monsoon shelter. A total of 500 shelters are planned, with support from UNICEF as well. Another project, at Sundar village in Astarang block, envisages supporting 250 self-help groups of women. A grant-in-aid of Rs.35,000 is given to these groups to restore agriculture and allied activities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) helped the State government set up a disease surveillance system, which will give early warning in case of an outbreak of diseases following a cyclone. In the worst-hit areas, several U.N. volunteer-doctors are involved in training field staff and improving the quality of disease surveillance.

However, according to Dashrath Pradhan of Patala village in Astarang block, drought still remains one of the prime concerns of the people. Patala, which normally produced two crops a year, had to make do with only one crop in the past two years following drought. He said there was no development work linked to drought relief in his village. People in the village ate only twice a day. The village had a multi-purpose building that served as a cyclone shelter as well, he said.

At the U.N. House in Bhubaneswar, Saroj Kumar Jha, Team Leader of the U.N. Inter-Sectoral Team, explained the role of the community in disaster management and preparedness. The first task, he said, was to rehabilitate the widowed and the orphaned. He sai d that the novel experiment of roping in civil society groups for disaster management had been tried out. Apparently, after the initial concern over the cyclone waned, it was left to these groups to carry forward a community contingency plan to deal with natural disasters. During the monsoon, when cyclones usually strike, these groups would meet and if there was a likelihood of a cyclone, the message would be passed on. Jha, who worked extensively in Ersama as Additional Relief Commissioner for Jagatsin ghpur district in the aftermath of the cyclone, feels that the large number of civil defence National Cadet Corps and Junior Red Cross volunteers could be effectively relied upon for disaster management. "We roped in some 150 civil defence volunteers to burn carcasses," he said. (Ersama is one of the worst-hit blocks in Jagatsinghpur district.)

Speaking generally on disaster mitigation and preparedness, Jha said that taking recourse to a calamity relief fund has its limitations as most of it went into wage employment. He felt the need to draw up long-term plans for watershed development, water harvesting and rejuvenating water bodies, which will mitigate the effects of calamities like drought to a considerable extent. He said that big farmers in the lower reaches of the watershed were seldom affected by drought. Water was always stored in the middle and lower reaches, areas which were never in the control of the small and middle class farmers. Droughts would continue to occur as long as there was no long-term perspective of watershed development and planning. Every village ought to have its o wn water harvesting plan, he said.

Describing Orissa as a microcosm of global development, UNDP Director Mark Malloch Brown, who visited some of the U.N. project areas in Astarang block, said vulnerability got multiplied by problems like poor quality of health, lack of housing and so on. The UNDP has launched a United Nations Information Technology Service project in at least five blocks: Ersama and Balikuda in Jagatsinghpur district, Astarang and Kakatpur in Puri district and Mahakalpada in Kendrapara district. A computer with a printer and a modem is provided to each block, and U.N. facilitators organise the training of community members, including gram panchayat members, in creating an information base for improved coordination in developmental activities.

18050352jpg

The prime need was to have community shelters that could withstand cyclones and floods. Jha said that people had never felt the need for such features in their individual homes. In an environment of agro-based economy, he said, concrete structures such a s those found in urban areas never worked. In this situation, traditional homes with some improvements in the foundation and elevation and with details such as cross bracings on the side walls that saved on bamboo, wall corners strengthened with "knee b racing" and "plain bracing" and triangular trusses used to prevent the verandah roof from being blown away had been experimented with successfully. This has been recommended for replication. Such homes could withstand cyclones with a speed of up to 180 k m an hour, Jha said.

He said that a real assessment of their needs would reveal that people preferred community shelters and normal housing with the kind of special features that had been tried out in other coastal areas. Unfortunately, he said, the government did not have m uch faith in using low-cost technology in traditional housing. The idea of building too many concrete houses may lead to other attendant complications; for instance, in their desire to save cost, contractors may not follow the norms of construction, Jha said.

On the lines of a manual brought out by the State Engineering Resource Centre (SERC) in Chennai seven years ago for the entire coastal area, 500 structures using traditional building technology and incorporating some cyclone and flood-resistant features had been built, Jha said.

He said that unlike an earthquake, a cyclone threatened food security. With cultivable agricultural land going under water, farmers, especially small farmers, are the most affected. Communication is one of the more important elements in the entire exerci se of preparedness, and the India Meteorological Department (IMD) was wanting in this aspect. Of the 31 early warning dissemination centres along the coastline, 25 were not working, said Jha. Orissa's low level of infrastructure development added to the problems. In Balikuda and Ersama blocks there were areas that were still inaccessible. At least 512 cyclone shelters were needed for people living 10 km from the coastline, but there were only 23 now, which meant that no new shelters were built after the cyclone. Work on 489 shelters was yet to begin, though funds for 240 had been allocated, he said.

In Orissa, 60 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and 53 per cent is malnourished. The female literacy rate is 35 per cent and school dropout rate for girls is high. Only 49 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water . These figures make it clear that in the eventuality of a disaster, the poor are hit the most. Among the reasons for the U.N. presence in the State are its poor public infrastructure, poor sanitation coverage, low per capita income and proneness to disa sters. In a State where resource inequities are glaring and land reforms non-existent, disaster mitigation and preparedness can only be temporary solutions for long-term questions of livelihood.

Jagatsinghpur revisited

While food-for-work programmes, especially those run by voluntary agencies, have so far played an important part in rebuilding lives in the devastated areas of Orissa, there is a need to restore sustainable means of livelihood.

A VISIT to Padampur village in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district is a grim reminder of the destruction caused by the "super cyclone" of October 1999. Padampur panchayat, comprising 23 blocks, had lost a large number of people in the devastation caused by t idal waves, the worst affected being Sankha block, where 600 out of 800 residents died. Local residents say that only those who could get to the solitary cyclone shelter in Padampur and those who managed to stay on treetops while the panchayat went under flood waters survived.

18050371jpg

The cyclone caused the destruction of the entire livelihood base of the people. One and a half years after the disaster, vast expanses of agricultural land remain barren; there are no coconut or cashew trees, and there is no evidence of cattle. It is cle ar that few efforts have been made to start the process of reconstruction in the area.

Padampur typifies the distress of villages in the entire cyclone-hit coastal region, comprising Ersama and Balikuda blocks of Jagatsinghpur district. This was among the richer areas of the State before the cyclone struck. It had two sources of wealth: ex ternal trade in non-farm produce such as betel leaves, coconut, fish, prawns and cashew; and the production of milk and rice, of which it was the largest producer in the State. However, the region depended more on external trade, the Paradip port being i ts nodal point. The local producers were at the lower end of the trading network; they sold their produce to local traders who sold these to companies. The companies sold them outside the area.

In the aftermath of the cyclone, Paradip port was the first to be restored to normalcy. However, several occupations that the people depended on had disappeared. A survey conducted by the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti and Action Aid India after the relief op erations were initiated showed that apart from agriculture, plantations, cattle and boats were the most severely affected. Since the measures taken for the reconstruction of the sources of livelihood were inadequate, the vulnerability of the people to ex ploitative relations of production has increased significantly.

The challenge of reconstruction lies mainly in ensuring equitable distribution of benefits and creating village-level infrastructure. This could be done only if the problems arising from the cyclone are addressed up front. One of the major problems cause d by the inundation of land by tidal waves was the contamination of water and the salinisation of land. This has had a direct impact on the productivity of low-lying lands. Last January the Krishi Vigyan Kendras of the Central Rice Research Institute, Cu ttack, distributed some salt-tolerant seed varieties to farmers in select villages. However, the harvest was poor.

18050372jpg

A Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report said that Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts would face their worst-ever food crisis, with the production of cereals and pulses falling by 4,000 million tonnes after the cyclone. It forecast that the p rices of foodgrains supplied through the public distribution system (PDS) would go up by 50 per cent by June 2000 if appropriate measures were not taken to revive agriculture in the region. In most regions the crop failed not only in June 2000 but in the following season. Even today there is little evidence of any extension work in the area, and this threatens food security in the region.

Land salinity too has affected food security. The extent of damage varies with the distance of the village from the coast and the number of days the field remained inundated by salt water. Farmers say that there was no chance of low-lying lands of villag es like Padampur yielding a tonne of rice an acre (the yield before the cyclone havoc). They also say that their agricultural system might recover only if the rains are good for the next two or three years or if sweet water is made available to them. The y want the government to build bunds on the seashore in order to prevent the ingress of seawater into their fields. Padampur is only a kilometre from the coast. Even villages that are up to 5 km from the coast face the problem.

People of Lacchimpura in Chatua panchayat, 3 km from the coastline, complain that no attempt has been made to rejuvenate the ponds or nalas in the area. As a consequence, the lands are dry and full of fissures. The paddy crop has withered. It cann ot be used as fodder because almost the entire cattle population in the area was wiped out in the cyclone. The milk economy shows little sign of recovery. All other avenues of seasonal employment are closed because coconut and cashewnut plantations have been uprooted and samplings planted will take between five and 10 years before they bear fruit. Only some indigenous tree species like jhau withstood the cyclonic winds. Used as fuel, jhau is not considered commercially valuable.

18050373jpg

In this desperate situation, the people of Ersama and Balikuda blocks still depend on food-for-work programmes that are mostly run by voluntary agencies. A government circular had said that its food-for-work programme would be in force only until March 2 000, after which reconstruction and rehabilitation work would start. The United Nations and the government worked in tandem, working out and coordinating rehabilitation plans during end-1999. They also developed the concept of "lead NGOs" in each gram pa nchayat in order to avoid duplication of work. In many cases the government and allied agencies made plans that were donor-based, that is, they concentrated on restoring the infrastructure and providing one-time assistance for reconstruction by individua l householders. This meant that in the event of failure of any restoration strategy based on this one-time support, individual producers would be responsible for that. This strategy goes to prove that the government has shown little interest in solving t he long-term problems caused by the cyclone.

The agricultural sector provides a classic example of the impact of such support. The government claims that it distributed seeds to farmers in the last kharif season. It has also stated that it dug tubewells in order to provide sweet water for irrigatio n. However, farmers claim that the crops failed. The lands lay fallow for the next three or four months. Consequently, voluntary agencies working in the area were forced to continue their food-for-work programmes.

There was little attempt to bring expertise into the area in order to solve the problems of salinisation of land and contamination of groundwater.

According to official figures, 13.50 lakh hectares of paddyfields were affected by the cyclone. Assuming that half that area remains saline even now, the task of conducting large-scale experiments, finding a solution for salinity and disseminating the me thods to farmers cannot be taken up by individual agencies. The people of Padampur believe that the restoration of agricultural production will take two or three years. They have started looking for new occupations, the most obvious alternative being pra wn farming. Data collected by the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti show that in Padampur panchayat about 352 acres (140.5 hectares) of land in nine blocks has been diverted to prawn cultivation.

The conversion of agricultural land can spell disaster for the region in the long run. First, both local people and experts agree that prawn cultivation would increase the salinity of the land and make the surroundings sandy and marshy. The land cannot b e cultivated again, leading to a decline in paddy production over a period. Secondly, the new production relations that this conversion entails are even more exploitative than the old ones. The most prominent change is the way in which big companies have begun to dominate the farming community. A farmer from Padampur said that a Bhubaneswar-based company gave farmers food in return for their labour in prawn farms. The work includes catching wild prawns from the sea, building bunds and providing after-ca re, which is necessary for breeding. The companies bear the cost of the feed and the materials that are necessary for prawn rearing and for bunding. They sell prawns at a high price of Rs. 400-500 a kg. There are instances of big farmers from Padampur bu ying or leasing lands from small farmers and getting the latter to do prawn farming for them. In effect, small farmers are becoming landless labourers. Another section that has taken up prawn farming are farmers whose lands have turned barren. These farm ers sell their produce to local middlemen who, in turn, sell them to companies. The price they receive from middlemen covers just the labour costs.

18050374jpg

Increasing exploitation is evident in the patterns of credit that have emerged after the cyclone. The survey conducted by Action Aid India in Ersama block showed that the levels of indebtedness and the number of wage labourers have increased, especially among the members of the Scheduled Castes, landless labourers and small farmers. Now they take an advance from traders to rebuild their houses, buy boats or restore betel vine plantations, and this ties them down to exploitative relations of production. This pattern of credit is in sharp contrast to the practice of mortgaging articles, which was prevalent in the period prior to the super cyclone.

Given this situation, there is an urgent need to restore sustainable means of earning livelihoods. So far food-for-work programmes, especially those run by voluntary agencies, have played an important part in rebuilding some of the community assets. This has also resulted in some amount of social engineering. For example, the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, along with Action Aid India has managed to mobilise people into Punar Nirman Samitis (reconstruction committees) in 350 hamlets. Elsewhere youth clubs ha ve sprung up with the help of NGOs, like the Committee for Legal Aid for the Poor. But all these efforts will go waste if the people are not aided to reconstruct their sources of livelihood in a sustainable manner. The greatest challenge therefore is not only to initiate the process of livelihood restoration, but also to organise people and demand that the government take up this task.

Archana Prasad is a social scientist who is associated with the All India People's Science Network.

Resistance and repression

In the Adivasi belt of Jharkhand's Ranchi district, a popular movement against the setting up of the Koel-Karo hydroelectric project that will involve the displacement of a large number of people, faces tough times.

A FADED green flag flies atop the shaheed smarak (martyr's column) at Tapkara village in Ranchi district of Jharkhand State. The flag is changed every year on March 2, one was told, in memory of five persons killed that day in a police firing at t hat site in 1946 while they were demonstrating, along with many thousand Munda Adivasis of the region, for the formation of a separate Jharkhand State.

18050431jpg

Ironically, history repeated itself on February 2, in the newly formed Jharkhand. According to information provided to this writer by activists of the Koel-Karo Jan Sangathan as well as individual policemen and information and impressions gathered by thi s writer at a meeting conducted in the area on February 3, the police opened fire on an unarmed assembly of around 5,000 Munda Adivasis, including children, women and men. According to eyewitness accounts, the police fired more than 150 rounds, killing f ive persons on the spot. Five others succumbed to their injuries in the following hours, bringing the toll to 10. As many as 12 of those who sustained bullet injuries were treated at the Rajendra Medical College and Hospital (RMCH) in Ranchi. Many other wounded were being treated locally. Eight persons from six villages were reported missing. The dead have been declared shaheeds of the Koel-Karo Jan Sangathan and buried next to the shaheed smarak. Thus 1946 and 2001 have become one in Tapk ara chowk.

Amrit Gudia, a retired military man, was returning from the jungle with a load of firewood in the afternoon of February 1 when he saw a police jeep break the barricade outside Derang village and drag it to a distance, and then policemen lift it into the jeep. This barricade, which looks like the bamboo checkpost on a highway, was first erected in 1984 by the Koel-Karo Jan Sangathan to prevent the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and government officials from going to Lohajimi, a village b eyond Derang, where a dam was to be built on the Karo river. In 1995, when the government announced its decision to restart the project and a 'janata curfew' was imposed by the Sangathan, more such barricades were installed on the road leading up to the dam site. A round-the-clock vigil was kept near the barricades to prevent officials and the police from entering the area without permission. These barricades therefore were no ordinary checkposts but a symbol of people's resistance to the project.

A furious Amrit Gudia now dropped his load, ran up to the mud road and obstructed the progress of the police party. Why had they broken the barricade, he asked. They should have at least consulted the people.

18050432jpg

His protests were met with abuse. He was beaten with lathis and hit with the butts of guns by four or five policemen. The police later claimed that he was drunk. This action of the police was viewed by the people as provocative. Pointing at a path on the side of the barricade, Soma Munda, president of the Sangathan, asked: "While going the police jeep used this path. Why then did they not return the same way but break the barricade? Neither the road nor the land on which the barricade was put up is gove rnment land; it is raiyati land belonging to two individuals, the late Marcel Barjo and the late Nathniyal Topno."

The Sangathan decided to call an assembly the following day. People started coming in by 8-30 a.m. from the surrounding villages, and by 3-30 p.m. there were around 5,000 people sitting outside the Tapkara police outpost.

The movement has been non-violent during its nearly three-decade-long struggle; this tradition was respected during the dharna too. Nobody was armed; there were neither the traditional bows and arrows nor lathis. "We would not have our children come with us if we wanted to be violent," said Biswasi Gudia of Derang village.

18050433jpg

The assembled people waited for the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Khunti sub-division, F.K.N. Kujur. The DSP and an official of magistrate's rank (who has the power to order a firing), arrived at 11 a.m. R.N. Singh, the daroga (police-i n-charge) of Tapkara outpost (under Torpa police station), and Akshay Kumar Ram, the daroga of the adjacent Rania police station, were present. Altogether there were around 40 policemen at the Tapkara outpost that day. While the people waited, the ir leaders presented the demands of the Sangathan. First and foremost, they demanded an explanation from the police authorities for breaking the barricade. Linked with this were three principal demands: that the officials who had ordered the beating of A mrit Gudia be suspended; that he be given a monetary compensation of Rs.50,000; and that the police reinstall the barricade.

The DSP said he could not meet their demands since he had no power to order suspension. So the people refused to move. In order to resolve the stalemate, the intervention of the local MLA, Koche Munda, was sought. He was brought on a motorcycle from Tor pa. The MLA, belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party, was stated to have confirmed the sangathan's demands to be just. The officials then decided to send a wireless message to the Superintendent of Police (Rural). Soma Munda, Paulus Gudia and other acti vists of the Sangathan then came out of the outpost, as did the MLA.

By this time the people had been sitting peacefully for six or seven hours. According to eyewitness accounts, even as the Sangathan leaders started briefing the people about the situation, the two darogas came running out of the police station sho uting, "aadesh mila...aadesh mila (got the order... got the order)" and began a lathi-charge. The women and children, who were sitting up front, were the first to be hit. Almost simultaneously firing in the air began. This was not done in full vie w of the public but from inside the outpost. Countless holes in the roof of the outpost bear testimony to this fact. Firing at the assembly followed immediately afterwards. Some people who ran towards the back of the outpost smelled teargas.

There was now utter chaos. People started throwing stones at the firing policemen even as they ran to protect themselves. Some, like Lucas Gudia of Gondra village forgot that theirs was an unequal combat and stones were hardly a match for bullets. Lucas is reported to have gone right upto the window of the police station in order to aim better. He was shot at and died on the spot. As young Adivasi activist-writer, Sunil Minz, points out, the history of Adivasi struggles of Jharkhand show that whenever A divasis get killed in similar incidents rarely do they get killed from shots fired from behind. An Adivasi faces and fights authority, even if armed. This fact was reiterated by other Sangathan members: "If we wanted to use violence, no policeman would h ave gone back alive. Their firearms would not have stopped us. We were in our thousands."

In the stampede that followed, Kumulen Gudia of Koynara village, who was five months pregnant, fell and was stamped over by running feet. She was carried later by other women until Dumkel village, 2.5 km away. She was then put on a cycle and wheeled the remaining 3 km of uneven terrain to her own village. She was unconscious for two days.

Samuel Topno of Gondra village was tortured by the police in his injured state. Admitted to the neuro-surgery ward of the RMCH, he said: "As soon as the firing started, I started running towards the back of the police station. Four policemen chased me an d fired. A bullet hit me on my left foot and I fell. Three boys tried to help me but fled when the policemen came after us. They put me on a sack and carried me to the police camp. Initially they thought I was dead and left me. But when they realised tha t I was alive, they started considering how to kill me. 'If we use bare hands, or fire from close range we could be in trouble,' I heard one of them say. They brought a log of wood and placed it on my neck. Two policemen then stood on either end of the l og. When I still did not die, they just kicked me on the head with their boots."

Another person who had a similar experience is Francis Gudia, also of Gondra village. After being shot in the top right part of his chest, he tried to drag himself away from the site of firing. "Some of my companions were helping me when the police came. They were threatening us and using abusive language. They took me to the police camp where they dumped me next to the dead, kicked me with their boots, then left me."

Samuel Topno, Francis Gudia and two others were sent by the police to RMCH a few hours after the firing. No attempt was made, however to dress their wounds, which continued to bleed. One of the injured died on way to the hospital. Most of the others who had sustained serious bullet injuries were treated locally that night. Vijay Gudia, general secretary of the Sangathan, pointed out the difficulties they had in trying to reach the injured to Ranchi that night itself. In the general atmosphere of terror that prevailed, nobody with private transport was willing to go. Nine of the seriously injured were taken by Sangathan members in the early morning bus to Ranchi.

School-going children had also joined the dharna on their way back from school. Of the five who died on the spot, three were in secondary school. Some other children were wounded, such as a Class IV pupil from Derang village, who was injured in both legs . According to reliable sources, a woman was also hit, though she has not yet been located. In the days immediately following the firing, Sangathan activists were going from village to village in order to determine how many were killed, how many were inj ured and how many were missing.

On the evening of February 2, after the firing, the police broke into a house where Silai Gudia, a youth from Lohajimi village, had taken refuge. Sticking the butt of a gun on his chest, the policemen accused him of brick-batting. Beating him, they took him to the Tapkara outpost. The police broke the doors of the houses of four non-Adivasis who were living close to the police outpost and arrested them. These four had been living in Tapkara for years and were engaged in masonry, carpentry and brick-maki ng locally. They were taken to the outpost and locked up. That evening they were made to load all the stuff from the out-post into vehicles. The police vacated the outpost around 1 a.m. with all their belongings as well as the bodies.The arrested were ta ken to Torpa police station and locked inside the inspector's room for the night. The following morning, they were made to unload the stuff from the vehicles. Naresh Gupta, one of the arrested, said: "We were made to work like labourers. We were not give n any bed or blankets even though the night was cold; nor did we get anything to eat or drink until our release the following day at 4 p.m."

A burnt police jeep stands outside the Tapkara outpost. A motorcycle in a similar state stands nearby. The outpost itself is almost completely destroyed. Its three rooms are scarred. The asbestos sheeting of the roof has been shelled, the doors and the w indow frames have been pulled out, there is debris and ash everywhere, pieces of brick lie scattered outside. Amid the ruins and remains one can just about make out Satyameva Jayatae (truth will be victorious) written on the front wall of the outp ost.

People claim that the police burnt the vehicles and wrought the destruction themselves as part of a strategy to enable them to claim that the public had turned violent and the police firing was therefore justified. Pointing at the missing tyres of the ch arred jeep, traders who live opposite the outpost said that the police had first taken the tyres off before setting the vehicle on fire. The motorcycle was then cast into the flames; a private vehicle, it had been seized by the police a few days earlier.

Not far from the outpost is a huge banyan tree. Its leaves are burnt, like the charred remains of three upturned jeeps lying under it. According to local sources, these three jeeps were set on fire by the civilians of Tapkara after the firing began. Some newspapers carried photographs of the burnt body of a policeman found some distance from the outpost. R.N. Singh as well as two dozen policemen were also reported to have sustained injuries in the brick-batting.

Several explanations have been offered regarding the incident. The official version is that the police had received some information regarding the presence of Maoist Coordination Committee (MCC) activists in the area and that the patrolling was part of t he ongoing anti-naxalite operation in the State. However, it is possible that the MCC's name was used as a pretext. Interestingly though police patrols in the area had ceased since the imposition of the 'janata curfew' in 1995, the DSP had gone to patrol the area as recently as December 22, 2000. Some people wonder whether this patrolling had anything to do with the incident on February 2.

Who ordered the firing? Was it ordered by the Superintendent of Police (Rural), whom the police officials at the outpost were trying to contact, or the magistrate who was present? Or was the decision to fire taken on the spot without official sanction? W hoever ordered the firing and whether or not it had official sanction, post facto, the police claim that the situation as it developed justified the firing. Official action following the firing seems to be based on this assumption. The Divisional Commissioner and the Deputy Inspector General of Police were reported t o have visited the Tapkara outpost that night, but they made no attempt to contact the people. The police officials involved in the firing have not been suspended. When asked why this was so, the Senior superintendent of Police, Neeraj Sinha, said that p rima facie there was no justification for immediate suspensions: official action would follow only after a high-level inquiry. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Babulal Marandi continued with his election campaign in Ramgarh as per schedule.

Members of the Sangathan feel that the police repression is aimed to weaken the people's resistance against the Koel-Karo project and to pave the way for the NHPC again. "When in the height of the struggle no incident occurred, why now? Lashon ko gira kar Koel-Karo nahi bandhaiga. Jab gaonvalai raji hongai tabhi" (Koel-Karo will not get built by laying down dead bodies... but only with people's agreement), said Santosh Horo.

The Sangathan has demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident, identification of and punishment to police officers and other personnel responsible for the killings; payment of Rs.5 lakhs to the families of those killed and Rs.2 lakhs to those seriously injured as compensation; appointment of only Adivasi police officers to police stations in Adivasi-majority areas of Jharkhand, and the cancellation of the Koel-Karo project. When a cheque for Rs.2 lakhs was offered to the relatives of each of the decea sed, it was refused. On February 8, a sankalp divas (vow day) was organised, when thousands of people vowed that they would not allow the construction of the Koel-Karo dam. They also resolved to keep the movement non-violent as it had been in the preceding decades.

The police firing is a clear violation of the democratic rights of the people of Koel-Karo. That people should expect the police to be accountable for their actions is an important part of democracy in practice. Breaking the barricade was no small incide nt. "Hamare gaon mai hamara raj" (our rule in our land) may be a slogan yet to be realised in other parts of the country, but in the heart of the Munda "country" (as S.C. Roy described the Mundas and their land in the early years of the 20th centu ry) it has been practised for long. The social and political system of Mundas is far more advanced than that of mainstream Indian society. Decision-making, for example, is based on consensus. There may be heads like Mundas and Parha rajas, but they do no t expect others to be subservient to them, nor would the others allow that. Each Munda Adivasi, like members of other Adivasi communities in Jharkhand, expect to be part of the decision-making process. That people belonging to such a society and culture should have assembled in large numbers to defend their rights and to demand an explanation for behaviour they do not understand is not surprising. Citizens are told time and again that they should not take the law into their own hands, but what happens w hen the police do the same?

This is not the first time that the State government has used gun power to silence people's power. Indeed, police firing has become part of the 'dialogue' that the state has with the people when they have tried to practise democracy. Between 1981 and 198 6, in Singhbhum alone, there were 17 police firings. This is what the police did in Chandil in 1978 and in Icha in 1982, where too the people were protesting against the ongoing construction of big dams on the Subarnarekha and Kharkai (part of the Subarn arekha multi-purpose project). In both Chandil and Icha the firing had an adverse impact on the incipient movements, which took some time to reorganise. The people of Koel-Karo are alert to their fate and determined that what happened to Subarnarekha and Kharkai should not happen to Koel.

Bela Bhatia is a researcher based at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.

Against the project

other
BELA BHATIA

THE Koel-Karo hydroelectric power project was initiated in 1973 by the Bihar Electricity Board. In 1980-81, it was handed over to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC). It aims to generate 710 MW of electricity by building two dams on the r ivers, Koel and Karo. The submergence zone is spread over Gumla, Ranchi and Singhbhum districts. Official estimates regarding the extent of displacement have tended to vary. In 1973, the government stated that 42 villages would be submerged. In 1986, whe n the resettlement plan was prepared, this figure was revised to 112. According to non-official sources, however, even the revised figure is an underestimate and 256 villages will face submergence, of which 135 will vanish affecting some 1.5 lakh people, most of them Adivasis. Besides the villages, the project will submerge some 26,400 hectares of prime land, of which roughly half is under cultivation and half is forest land. At least 152 Sarnas (groves that were part of forests before they were cleared for settlement and hence considered sacred) and 300 Sasan-diris (stone slabs that mark the ancestral graveyard of each family of khuntkattidars; these family Sasan-diris make up a village Sasan) will get submerged.

As in the case of some 'development' projects initiated in other States, in the case of Koel-Karo the Bihar government did not think it necessary to consult the people while planning the project or informing them about its implementation. The people got to know about it only when the land acquisition process began. It was then that the people of the Koel region in Gumla district formed the Jan Sangharsh Samiti and those in the Karo region in Ranchi district formed the Jan Sanyojan Samiti. In 1975-76, th ese organisations united to form the Koel-Karo Jan Sangathan. The Sangathan initially cooperated with the government on the issue of the project but eventually adopted a stand of uncompromising opposition. In its first communication with the government a fter its formation, the sangathan had stated that it was willing to welcome the project if the government was willing to consider it as a people's project and accordingly make its policies and plans transparent. But the government's indifferent attitude on such questions made it initiate a kaam roko (stop work) campaign in 1977-78. All work came to a halt. Ultimately, the authorities agreed to have a tripartite meeting involving the Sangathan, project officials and government representatives. It was decided to conduct a joint socio-economic survey of the villages. A survey was conducted in a few villages, but the process was interrupted when filled-in schedules vanished from the project office.

The Sangathan then prepared a document that defined sampoorn punarvas (total resettlement) as the people saw it. It observed that total resettlement was possible only if besides economic resettlement, social, cultural, and religious resettlement w as planned. The Sangathan proposed that the government resettle two villages as an example. If the people were satisfied they could go ahead with the resettlement programme. Even though this was agreed upon, nothing was done. Instead, in July 1984, the g overnment announced that force would be used to proceed with the project.

Armed police personnel arrived in the area but soon had to pack their bags: the nature of people's resistance was such that for the personnel even day-to-day survival had became impossible. They were stopped from cutting trees to set up their camps; nobo dy would sell them fuelwood; a rumour was spread that the water in the well had been poisoned; they were not even allowed to defecate in the forests. The police had to go all the way from Lohajimi to Torpa, 12 km away, to get fuelwood and water. Then wom en decided to sow on the mud road on which their jeeps plied, claiming that it was private land and not a public thoroughfare; if they still drove their jeeps then they would have to face their bows and arrows!

That same year a writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ordered that the project be stopped until the State complied with certain conditions regarding resettlement. This led to the government's announcement of a resettlement poli cy in 1991. In 1995, the Bihar government decided to restart the project and announced that the foundation stone would be laid on July 5 by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. This led to renewed and vigorous mobilisation in the area. Thousands of people participated in rallies and satyagrahas organised in villages, culminating in the imposition of 'janata curfew' from the midnight of July 1 in the project area. Three barricades were erected on the road leading to the dam site and these have been in plac e since then. The Prime Minister cancelled his visit. The foundation stone of the Koel-Karo project has yet to be laid. The Sangathan's stand is now firm - no compensation, no resettlement, and no project.

The roads to Myanmar

Jaswant Singh's visit to Myanmar, the first such visit by an Indian Foreign Minister in the last 20 years, opens a new chapter in bilateral relations between the two countries.

"YOU are travelling on India-Myanmar Friendship Road," reads a signboard on the 160-km Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road close to Myanmar's western border with India. The signboard was put up by Project Sevak, the 320-strong contingent of the India's Border Roads Organisation that built the road, linking Moreh (in Manipur) to Kalewa and Kalemyo, which will soon be linked to Mandalay in central Myanmar, the country's second largest city.

18050491jpg

The project was conceived in March 1993, when India's Foreign Secretary visited Myanmar. "The project was... aimed at promoting the vast potential available for cross-border trade between India and Myanmar as well as contributing to the overall socio-eco nomic development of the region," an official note said. What made it a unique venture was the fact that the money for it came from the Ministry of External Affairs. It was India's first foray into strengthening infrastructure in Myanmar. The constructio n of the road began in November 1997 and it was completed in three years.

On February 13, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh hopped across in an Indian Air Force (IAF) MI-8 chopper from Imphal to Tamu to inaugurate the road project. It was the first visit by an Indian Foreign Minister to Myanmar in 20 years.

The inauguration and the warm reception that Jaswant Singh received was only the first in a series of such events. The Minister, who flew to Kalewa in a Myanmar Air Force helicopter, was welcomed by hundreds of people who lined the "Friendship Road" from Kalewa to Kalemyo. In Kalemyo, several Myanmar Ministers were at hand to greet the Ministers from four northeastern States who accompanied Jaswant Singh, sending a strong signal that northeastern India was to be linked in a major way to Myanmar.

A formal border trade agreement was signed between the two countries when P. Chidambaram visited Myanmar in February 1995 as Minister of State for Commerce. However, formal trade is still to pick up, as a visit to the forlorn customs check-post in Moreh showed. The informal trade between Myanmar and India continues to flourish, with all manner of goods flowing across the international border. India constitutes Myanmar's largest export market, pulses and beans being the major items of export. From India medicines, cycles, spare parts and lungis (made as far away as in Coimbatore) continue to cross the border. The stakes, it would appear, are higher in the informal trade than in formal trade.

During Jaswant Singh's visit, it was decided to open four more trading points on the border, including one linking Champai in Mizoram to Yangon. The two countries have agreed to set up immigration and customs points in these areas. There is little doubt that India has earned an enormous amount of goodwill by upgrading the road in Myanmar. It will essentially benefit the local people in Myanmar, as it makes travel and trade easier for them. The mobility of the Myanmarese security forces is also likely to be increased by the construction of the road, thereby making things difficult for Indian insurgent outfits.

An insurgent group, the Revolutionary People's Front (RPF), announced in Imphal on February 11 that it would "boycott" the one-day visit of the External Affairs Minister to Manipur. According to a report in The Imphal Free Press, the RPF said that the road in Myanmar was aimed at "upsetting the existing cordial relationship between the people of Manipur and Myanmar".

The unhappiness of the Manipur "underground" was evident from the statement. It is also clear that Myanmar is not hesitant in cooperating with the Indian security forces in dealing with the insurgency problem. Myanmarese officials told Frontline t hat the hotlines between the security forces on both sides were operational and there was cooperation between the two sides.

Evidently, Myanmar is happy with the Indian involvement in infrastructural and other developmental work at a time when China has made inroads into the country. Thousands of Chinese have entered northern Myanmar from the Yunnan province, while trade betwe en the two countries has grown vastly - from a mere $40 million in 1988 to $760 million in 1995.

There is no doubt that India has few options but to engage with Myanmar. Given the fact that the military is firmly entrenched in Myanmar, India would have let its case go by default, without such engagement. A team of diplomats, led by Ambassador to Yan gon Shyam Saran did considerable groundwork in the last few years to make the engagement possible.

It was not easy in the initial stages, especially since India had taken a pro-democracy position in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, the ice had been broken and there was a series of contacts, capped by the visit of Gen. Maung Aye, Vice-Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta is known officially, to India in November 2000. A sign that the relationship was poised to grow came from indications that Myanmar was considering India's request to reopen its consulate in Mandalay. Currently, only China has a consulate there.

Indian officials make no bones about the fact that Myanmar is strategically important for India. Non-engagement with Myanmar, they argued, could only undermine India's interests. According to the officials, India had a stake in maintaining a friendly pos ture towards Myanmar. Any help from Myanmar to insurgents in northeastern India could prove disastrous, they said. "It's a matter of interest, not sentiment," they said. They added that both India and Myanmar need to have stakes in trade and infrastructu re development so that the international border remained tranquil.

The idea behind the road project is to ensure that Myanmar is not only friendly with India but also has a stake in keeping India's northeastern border peaceful. The officials believe that even if there is a change of government in Myanmar, the stakes in the relationship will ensure that everything proceeds smoothly. Building equations with different governments was a matter of diplomacy as long as there were common interests. India, the officials said, was aware of the "China factor" in the relationship but they denied that it was interested in matching the Chinese move for move. "Such an exercise will not be a productive one for India," they said. They are also keen to ensure that stronger relations are forged between the two countries; the projects t hat would be taken up in this regard include the construction of a gas pipeline from Myanmar to northeastern India.

While India and Indians must remain wedded to the concept of democracy (Jaswant Singh said in his talks that he had "commended" the military leadership for the steps taken for a return to democracy), it is evident that the policy of taking positions has long been abandoned by India. In fact, Jaswant Singh went so far as to say that India considered it a "privilege" to be a partner in the socio-economic development of Myanmar. "Since Independence, we have been happy to share our experiences, skills and t echnologies with friendly developing countries. In more recent years, there has been a rapid expansion in our political, economic, cultural, scientific and technical exchanges. The visit to India by H.E. Gen. Maung Aye... last November was an important l andmark in the growth of our understanding. Today the Tamu-Kalemyo-Kalewa road stands as visible proof of India's strong desire to develop and diversify its relations with Myanmar," he said.

In Yangon, Jaswant Singh inaugurated a Centre for Remote Sensing and Data Processing, which will use images from the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-1C. It is the first of its kind in Myanmar. Speaking on the occasion, Jaswant Singh said: "In develo ping countries like India and Myanmar, resource surveys are vital for national infrastructure development. The applications of remote sensing cover weather forecasting and disaster management capabilities, determination of forest cover and other land use delineations, cropping surveys, urban planning, environmental monitoring and groundwater survey. The Centre we have inaugurated...will continue to be an enduring symbol of our partnership as we move ahead into subsequent phases of upgradation."

Myanmarese Foreign Minister U Wing Aung told Frontline that Yangon had discussed with India the development of the Kyaukpyu port, in which the Chinese too have shown interest. Kyaukpyu, which can be developed as a deep-sea port, will offer India s ea access, through Mizoram, into the Bay of Bengal. However, U Wing Aung made it clear that Myanmar wanted good relations with both India and China. He said that peace between the two neighbours was essential for Myanmar. He added that Yangon was closely watching the bilateral interaction between Beijing and New Delhi. U Wing Aung confirmed that talks between the Myanmar government and the Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were part of a gradual process.

THERE have been other signs too that Myanmar wants to open up to the rest of the world after a prolonged period of isolation. Even the visit of the Indian media delegation that toured Myanmar along with the External Affairs Minister was considered a firs t in many years. A senior Myanmarese official told Frontline that his government's public relations record left much to be desired. Given the fact that the press is tightly controlled, Myanmar's case often goes by default. The only foreigner worki ng as a full-time correspondent in Myanmar is from China's Xinhua news agency. Perhaps, Yangon needs to appreciate the fact that while the press the world over would like the country to return to democracy, outsiders cannot dictate the course of such a p rocess. For instance, just the fact that Myanmar purely is an important neighbouring country, with a 1,463 km-long common land border, makes it necessary for India to engage with it. Just as India appreciates the "sensitivity" involved in dealing with th e Myanmarese government, Myanmar must understand that India is a democracy.

For Myanmar and India, a new chapter in bilateral relationship was inaugurated with Jaswant Singh's visit. Since both the countries have no overlapping claims of any sort, years of indifference could soon give way to a process of engagement. That can onl y be welcome.

Fighting fundamentalism

HAROON HABIB in Dhaka world-affairs

The Opposition in Bangladesh mobilises religious fundamentalists to try and dislodge the Awami League government and the latter takes up the challenge with unprecedented determination.

POLITICS in Bangladesh took a turn for the worse in the first fortnight of February when fundamentalist forces took to the streets, encouraged by a frustrated Opposition, In the violence that was unleashed in the name of religion, a policeman was killed inside a mosque, another was shot at in the police headquarters, and private and public property was destroyed. The Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina cracked down on the fundamentalists. The streets became zones of battle between gun-toting Op position and ruling party activists.

18050551jpg

The immediate provocation for the fundamentalists was a High Court judgment that made the issue of fatwas a punishable offence. The landmark ruling from the country's highest court, which has been stayed on an appeal, would have gone a long way in protecting women, who have been targets of fatwas issued by mullahs, suppressing their legal and social rights. Fundamentalist forces called a rally in Dhaka's Paltan Maidan on February 2, under the banner of the Islami Ain Bastabayan Comm ittee (Committee for the implementation of Islamic Laws), avowedly to wage a jehad (holy war) against the court ruling and also to "wipe out" non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that opposed the regime of fatwas. The mood at the rally was defiant. The speakers tried to provoke the large number of participants, drawn mostly from madrassas (Islamic religious schools), into launching a jehad. They issued death threats against the two Judges (one of them a woman) who delivered the judgment. The Judges were described as murtads, an expletive reserved for secular intellectuals and NGO leaders opposed to fanaticism.

No wonder the rallyists, mobilised by clerics from all over the country, turned violent. With covert support from the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami, they clashed with the police. They also announced their intention s to foil a rally called by the Oikya Badha Nagorik Andolon, a combine of the secular intellectuals backed by NGOs, against thefatwa regime on February 3. Interestingly, Khaleda Zia's BNP and Gen. Ershad's Jatiya Party have not commented on the co urt ruling while the Jamaat-e-Islami spoke against it bitterly.

Concerned at the flare-up and suspecting the hand of the BNP-led alliance in it, the government hit back. This it did, despite the risks involved in attacking the influential mullahs. The central committee of the Awami League blamed the BNP for th e trouble and warned that any design to re-introduce the "Pakistani model of politics"" in Bangladesh would be foiled. The ruling party believes that the current trouble is the result of a plan drawn up by the "secret agency of a particular country".

The Sheikh Hasina government, which was elected to power in 1996, will complete its term this year and hand over the reins to a constitutionally approved caretaker administration that will hold general elections within a few months.

The BNP, which leads a four-party alliance that includes Islamic fundamentalists, kept away from the Jatiya Sangsad, the national parliament, for the past two years as part of a political strategy. Undeterred by criticism from within the country and abro ad, the alliance increasingly resorted to hartals, demonstrations, road blockades and so on in an attempt to bring down the government.

The barrage of allegations against the Hasina government relate to the "deteriorating law and order situation" (for which the Opposition holds some close relatives of the ruling party members responsible); its "pro-Indian policy", "politicisation" of the administration and "persecution" of Opposition leaders and workers by implicating them in false cases. Successive agitations, however, did not pay political dividends. Taking the fundamentalist line, it appears, was their last resort. The latest charge against the Hasina government is that it is "anti-Islamic" and that it is conspiring to close down mosques and madrassas in order to stop Islamic education.

18050552jpg

The Jamaat-e-Islami is among the forces that still dream of a united neo-Pakistan. The Islamic Oikya Jote (IOJ), led by radical clerics, joined the BNP alliance. The alliance makes no secret of its plan in the event of a victory in the elections. It has announced that it would revive the "spirit of 1947" (that is, the period when the Two-Nation Theory became a reality), "restore Islamic values" and bring Bangladesh "out of Indian domination".

Independent analysts say that Khaleda Zia might have committed a blunder by openly aligning with and encouraging fundamentalism in her attempt to seek power. The shift from liberal democratic politics to religious fanaticism and communalism would alienat e the moderate, Bengali-speaking sections of Bangladeshi society. It might also lead to the consolidation of pro-liberation, democratic forces against the BNP. Much before the present flare-up, secular thinkers had issued repeated warnings about the impe nding danger of fundamentalism taking centrestage in national politics. The political parties, including the Awami League, the strongest secular power in the country, did not take them seriously.

Even within the BNP the moderates were unhappy about the party high command's decision to boycott Parliament and the induction of the Jamaat-e-Islami, (it had opposed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan) into the alliance. But the hard line prevailed .

THE fundamentalist surge is not a sudden phenomenon. It is the culmination of a process that was set in motion in December 1971 when Bangladesh emerged as an independent country. The objective of the process was to avenge the historic defeat of Pakistan in 1971 by propping up fundamentalists in such a way that they would be strong enough to challenge the secular forces. The fundamentalists in Bangladesh love to call themselves the "Taliban".

Fundamentalism got a big boost after the bloody coup of 1975 in which Gen. Ziaur Rahman assumed office. He rehabilitated most of the anti-liberation elements in politics, repealed the law that specifically sought to prosecute the collaborators of the Pak istani occupation army, and inducted several pro-Pakistanis as Ministers.

Thousands of madrassas were built across the country over the past few decades, and many of them have turned into camps of religious extremists who want to capture political power. In these madrassas, religious-minded youth are indoctrinate d into believing that unless they capture political power their economic future is bleak.

That Bangladesh has already turned a safe haven for religious fanatics became clear when the police arrested key leaders of an armed Rohingya organisation, which has been working for an independent Arakan Muslim state that would include greater Chittago ng and several areas of Myanmar, including Arakan. Sophisticated weapons, documents and videotapes of the military operations of Afghanistan's Taliban militia were seized from their hideouts.

Rohingyas were refugees from Myanmar. During the rule of Ziaur Rahman and Khaleda Zia, nearly six lakh Rohingyas entered Bangladesh and settled in the Cox's Bazaar and Bandarban areas. There are large populations of Bihari Muslims and "stranded Pakistani s" living in Bangladesh. The latter number half a million and Pakistan is reluctant to take them back. Analysts believe that it was among these two sections that fundamentalism has taken root.

Significantly, this is the first time in the last 30 years that the Bangladeshi state has taken on fundamentalism directly.

18050553jpg

Sheikh Hasina, who was the target of several assassination attempts by fundamentalists in the recent past, has made it clear that nothing would take place in Bangladesh in "Pakistani style". She appealed to Khaleda Zia to wait until the elections and cau tioned her against promoting fundamentalism. "The snakes you are playing with now may eventually bite you," she said.

The two leaders held meetings with foreign diplomats in this connection. Hasina told them that she wanted to free the mosques and madrassas from terrorists in order to protect their sanctity and also Islam. Khaleda told the envoys from Muslim coun tries that the Hasina government was trying to destroy Islam and Islamic education.

The fundamentalists, including Jamaat-e-Islami, do not have much popular following. When some fanatics were shot dead by the police during the recent street battles, there were few mourners from among the public. However, their armed cadres, foreign fund s and cheap religious slogans are cause for concern for secular-democratic Bangladesh.

Zones of conflict

A U.S. submarine surfaces and strikes a Japanese fisheries training vessel and leaves nine people dead off Hawaii. The incident raises another round of questions about an unwelcome presence in the region.

ON January 9, 2001, a 21-year-old U.S. Marine stationed in Okinawa decided to exploit the sunny climes of the islands to outrage a 16-year-old girl student's modesty by lifting her skirt and pointing a camera. He could never have imagined that his juveni le act would be the first of several events that would soon send historians back to Pearl Harbour in 1941, and strategists into the year 2015 to examine the logic of the U.S.-Japan alliance. That happened in the town called Kin.

THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER 18050621jpg

In mid-January, Lance Corporal Kurt Billie, sitting in custody in Camp Hansen, Okinawa, suspected of committing a series of arson attacks in the town of Naha, might have wondered "where's the fire?" It took another big incident at sea two weeks later to get the Americans to capitulate hurriedly and turn over Billie to the Japanese police.

The real fires had begun a few days later. The Ryukyu Shimpo (Ryukyu is the old name for the islands) published the text of an e-mail message from Lieutenant-General Earl Hailston, commanding the U.S. forces in Okinawa. In the e-mail he said that the Governor, the Deputy Governor and officials of the local administration of Kin town who he said "falsely claim to be our friends" were "standing idly by" as the Assembly "passed an inflammatory and damaging resolution". They, in his words, "were all nuts and a bunch of wimps".

Demonstrating appalling absence of judgment, Gen. Hailston had sent the e-mail to a dozen of his top staff officers, one of whom obviously leaked it. The text reached the Okinawa government and Tokyo. A concentrated psychological attack was mounted on Ha ilston by petty politicians. He was hauled in to the office of the Governor, Keiichi Inamine, and in full view of television cameras, he conceded being the loser in a cheap game of one-upmanship by local officials. Inamine deliberately made a point, on c amera, of walking away without shaking hands with a visitor to his office.

The history of Okinawa, as the "victim" territory subject to buffer treatment by Japan before its Emperor surrendered to the U.S. for fear of heavy casualties on the mainland, and the anger over the rape of a 12-year-old girl by an American GI in June 19 95, also in the town of Kin, touches a raw nerve on these islands about U.S. troop presence. On the other hand, many livelihoods are guaranteed by the presence here of most of the U.S.' 48,000-strong troops in Japan. Okinawa accounts for just 0.6 per cen t of all land in Japan but 75 per cent of land occupied by the U.S. forces all over Japan is in Okinawa, which hosts 26,000 troops.

Okinawan officials had indeed behaved like nuts and wimps, with an eye on a mayoral election on February 12, each side playing to the gallery, at the cost of an alliance. What the General did was to try and shore up staff morale after the Okinawa Assembl y called a special session and adopted a series of motions, based on the camera incident and the arsons, to call for a reduction of U.S. forces in Okinawa.

18050622jpg

CONFIRMATION, big-time confirmation indeed, of American misjudgment and a replay of Japanese emotion and "nuts" behaviour came on February 10. A 6,080-tonne nuclear powered submarine, the USS Greeneville, which carries Tomahawk cruise missiles, was on a training cruise just off Oahu Island in Hawaii. During a "show-off" demonstration it surfaced and struck a 499-tonne Japanese fisheries training vessel with 35 persons on aboard. The incident took place about 18 to 20 km, or nine nautical miles, off Oahu .

The smaller ship, the Ehime Maru, sank like a stone, but within an hour U.S. Coast Guard rescue crews had plucked 26 people out of the water. Nine were not found including four 17-year-old students, two teachers and three crew members. In Japan, about a dozen of some 50 fisheries training schools have their own vessels. The Ehime Maru and its passenger list belonged to the Uwajima Fisheries High School in southwestern Japan, under the command of Hisao Onishi. "The submarine made no attempt to rescue any of us," complained Onishi at a news conference in Hawaii. The U.S. side said that it was impossible to get the hatch open with waves of two metres.

There was to be no Valentine's Day exchanges three days later between the world's two closest military allies. The act perpetrated by the camera-toting Marine in Okinawa, followed by the arsons, the e-mail and now this incident, led historians to look ba ck to Pearl Harbour. In fact, the gift from Japan on Valentine's Day came in the shape of a condemnation by Toshitsugu Saito, Japan's Defence Agency chief. "The U.S. Navy is slack," said Saito, in a comment, the kind of which is seldom heard from one und er protection about one's protector, but making common cause with The New York Times, which admonished "the Navy's clumsy handling of the incident."

The Uwajima school has been training in waters near Hawaii for 20 years. In fact, the irony is that Japanese fisheries training earlier took place in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean. Later they moved to Hawaii, with its excellent maritime rescue, medica l assistance and overall safety facilities.

As soon as the magnitude of the accident had become as clear as the inexplicability of how a sonar and periscope scan had failed to detect a 58-metre civilian vessel on a clear afternoon, the U.S. had moved fast to take steps that it thought would mollif y Japan.

General Colin Powell, the new U.S. Secretary of State, called Yohei Kono, emphasising to the Japanese Foreign Minister that President George Bush was most apologetic about the matter. Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called Saito to tell him that eve ry relevant agency had been pressed into service. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Pentagon would investigate the matter fully.

The American Embassy in Tokyo offered to pay for all relatives travel to Hawaii and for their stay there. When President Bush went to Georgia to visit troops, he began with a prayer for the Japanese victims. "I am deeply sorry about the accident that too k place, our nation is sorry that it happened and we will do everything we can to help recover the bodies," said the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces.

But, East is East and West is West, ne'er shall the twain meet. Two or three countries can sign military alliances and hold any number of joint exercises a month, but the cultural distance never bridges the Pacific. The Japanese relatives of those who we nt down are appalled that the skipper of the submarine, Commander Scott Waddle, has not appeared before them or in public, to apologise. A week after the incident, at their first news conference in Honolulu, 20 relatives said the same thing.

"I want the captain to apologise to us directly," said Ryosuke Terata, whose 17-year-old son is believed dead. "If you are a man, you should fall on your knees and ask for our pardon," one of them said. Incidentally, after the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl, no less an officer than the commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific, Richard Macke, wore the unfair but situationally true Ugly American badge, when he said publicly that the serviceman who raped the schoolgirl should have instead paid a prostitute.

NEVER MIND that in situations similar to that in Hawaii, the Japanese authorities would look for cover-ups and scapegoats, but in a super-charged atmosphere when Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori too was under a cloud for having refused to rush back from a gol f course when informed of the incident, he was so testy that even at that level there was no politeness. His office put out a statement that Mori was all business with the U.S. President. When Bush called to apologise, Mori asked him to do all he could a nd pressed him to continue the search for the nine missing persons.

When the U.S. Ambassador in Tokyo, Thomas Foley, met Mori, he was told that the U.S. explanations about the submarine's inability to rescue anybody was scarcely credible. It seemed that civility too had gone overboard, on both sides. By the way, eight da ys after the sinking, neither Mori nor anyone from his Cabinet had visited Ehime province or Uwajima town.

A week later, a Scorpio-I robot vessel located the wreck of the Ehime Maru resting upright 600 m below the surface but the missing people were not immediately located. The Japanese were pressing for the bodies to be brought up so as to complete Buddhist rites.

The U.S. had instantly relieved the Greeneville's captain of his charge, effectively ending a naval career. A week later, a full court of inquiry was ordered by Admiral Thomas Fargo to find out if any of the three top officers on board were culpable, if not who was, and to make recommendations and prescribe punitive measures. The proceedings will be open to the public.

Compensation cases will come later, as they did in 1981. A U.S. Polaris submarine and a Japanese freighter had collided off Japan in a hit-and-run case. The U.S. was found responsible and the crew of the sunken Nissho Maru were paid yen 255 million. In 1 954, the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, a fishing boat, had its crew exposed to radiation from a hydrogen bomb test in the Bikini Atoll. Initially there were U.S. denials about any test. Then it said the fisherfolk were not exposed, then refused compensation.

In Hawaii, from the first day, the media were after the truth, and it came drip by drip and had to be extracted. There was no voluntary disclosure about having been civilians at the controls of the submarine, about the names of the 16 civilians. The N ew York Times editorialised: "It is imperative for the Navy to stop dodging legitimate questions and share what it already knows." The next day the Navy released the names but said the initial results of its own inquiry would be withheld because a co urt of inquiry, the highest form of administrative investigation, would be looking into that.

HOW could a late 20th century submarine of the world's foremost military machine miss a 58-metre long vessel? There are two detection mechanisms for submerged vessels. The periscope and the sighting flat screen image records and the active and passive so nars. The active sonar sends out what is called a "ping". The ping signals hit solid objects and bounce off them before detecting range.Passive sonar merely listens, and the sounds received are amplified through hydrophones. Passive sonar tracks surface traffic best as it covers an area much wider than an active one with its narrow focus. As it turns out, nothing worked here - except gung-ho.

THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER 18050623jpg

The U.S. has among the most disciplined and highly trained forces, post-Vietnam. But it also has a history of the devil-may-care attitude when it comes to civilian aircraft and vessels, even if one accounts for the fact that their presence is global and mistakes are part of life. The Aegis cruiser hit on an Iranian Airbus in the late 1980s and the Nissho Maru incident, are two incidents in the last decade or so. Perhaps just as controversial was the bombing of that part of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrad e in May 1999 where the communications gear was located. "I am unable to believe," said Chinese President Jiang Zemin, "that a country with cutting-edge military technology did not know" what was evident in Belgrade street maps.

The Greeneville error will cost the U.S. dear in terms of compensation to be paid to relatives of people in an area where wages are quite high. Especially now that it turns out that even during the so-called emergency main ballast bow manoeuvre, or blow deck, civilians were asked to be at the controls. It is not unusual for many armed forces to do some public relations demonstrations and show off to civilian benefactors. In this case, among the 16 aboard were donors to a non-profit foundation restoring the USS battleship Missouri. The chairman of the foundation is former President George Bush. But letting civilians undertake the fast ascent manoeuvre is a different matter.

The emergency manoeuvre is one where a submerging is followed by a quick surfacing. Safety is not sacrificed. John Hammerschmidt of the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the crew in the control room had scanned and tracked several civi lian vessels in the area before the demonstration. A Texas oilman, John Hall, told NBC TV that he was at the controls. "I was asked by the captain if I would like the opportunity to pull the levers that start the procedure called blow deck. "Sure, I'd lo ve to do that," Hall had replied. He added that the skipper personally inspected the seas at periscope depth, after a crew member had already done two complete rotations at 360. "All was clear," they reported, before surfacing.

That in substance was the situation as the U.S. shut down active search by planes and ships (to rescue survivors) and went into passive search mode, to bring up the bodies. The nine persons will not come up breathing, but the rising giant in the East in the shape of China will force the two allies, the U.S. and Japan, to put this incident behind them and retrieve the debris of public opinion about the U.S. forces. The only thing non-retrievable from the incident is Yoshiro Mori's political future. But t hat is another fallout from this episode and many others preceding this.

The bottomline is that Japan cannot afford to let the forces go, and the U.S. cannot afford it financially to take them away and pay what Japan pays for their upkeep.

The tragedy of Hyderabad

other
A. G. NOORANI

The Passing of Patrimonialism: Politics and Political Culture in Hyderabad 1911-1948 by Margrit Pernau; Manohar, 395 pages, Rs. 700.

18050751jpg

THIS is a fascinating study of cultural change. The author selected the princely state of Hyderabad as a case study for two reasons. "First, for centuries cultures encountered and fertilized each other in the Dekkan. This cultural openness, which at time s bordered on syncretism, was an important element in the self-perception mainly but not exclusively of the twentieth century elite. This secular tendency towards synthesis also had an impact on the relationship with British culture. Second, due to the s ystem of indirect rule, the state found itself in a protected position. Far from trying to impose their own culture, the British attempted - at least officially - to respect and support existing values and institutions, partially hoping to participate in the legitimation of traditional rule and partially believing these values and forms of rule to be most suited to Indian requirements, and thereby contributing to the Empire's stability."

The book focusses on the rule of the seventh and last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, from 1911 to 1948, and on the role of the social and political elites in the state. Its objective is to study social action and its values within the framework of the state, and the rules by which the game was played in it.

Osman Ali Khan was quite unlike his predecessors, especially the immediate one, the charismatic Mahbub Ali Pasha, who projected himself as the Harun al Rashid of Hyderabad. He died in 1911. "In contrast to his father, Mir Osman Ali Khan was a sober power -politician, who could neither charm the masses nor the historians. The unhappy end of his reign, comprising the rule of the radical Muslim party, Ittehadul Muslimeen, the Communist uprising in Telengana and the military confrontation with the Indian Uni on, may have contributed to the fact that this epoch to a large extent is still waiting for adequate historiographical treatment." (emphasis added, throughout).

Indian works are sometimes marred by tendentiousness; as sadly is Zubaidi Yezdani's work, despite industrious research. The author's survey of recent studies is helpful. None, however, is definitive in scope. There is paucity of literature on the Ittehad ul Muslimeen, which still plays a role in Andhra Pradesh politics. By comparison, there is plenty on the Telengana armed uprising (1946-51), which was "the largest peasant revolution in post-Second World War Asia after the Chinese revolution" - though a comprehensive history of the event is yet to be written.

Margrit Pernau's book is indispensable to an understanding of how Osman Ali Khan and the Ittehad drove Hyderabad to its doom. He was ever torn by dilemmas of his own making and eventually overplayed his hand. The most faithful ally of the British aspired to leadership of Muslims, to independent statehood and even dreamt of a corridor to Portuguese Goa. He used the Ittehad till it became a demon which destroyed his options. He resented Jinnah's ways but followed his advice, to his ruin and Jinnah's own d ebacle in Kashmir. The Nizam, was in W.C. Smith's brilliant phrase, "a clever man utterly destitute of wisdom."

THE book is a feat of research, drawing as it does on archives in London and Hyderabad, a wealth of private papers, extensive interviews and all that there is to read on the subject in English, German and Urdu especially some literature published in Kara chi. Volumes 3 and 4 of Jinnah Papers, published recently in Pakistan, throw much light on his disastrous intervention in Hyderabad's affairs. The Nizam submitted to it against better judgment.

The author provides a meticulously researched account of Osman Ali Khan's consolidation of his contested rule, his effort to acquire legitimacy in the eyes of people within and outside Hyderabad, his relationship with the British and his play with politi cal forces within the state, culminating in the rise of the Ittehad. For all his cunning, the man left himself no line of retreat in his quest for the mirage of independence.

Margrit Pernau writes with verve, especially in her pen portraits, of which by far the best is of Bahadur Yar Jung, a legend in his own lifetime. "Muhammad Bahadur Khan was a powerful speaker in Urdu, perhaps one of the greatest, whom India brought forth in this century. Only when one takes this into consideration and the tremendous impact, which beauty of diction, poetic imagery and impressive words are able to create on an Urdu audience, does the standing become comprehensible that this young Jagirdar quickly obtained not only among the masses but also vis-a-vis the aristocracy and even the Nizam. The impact of his speeches at times seemed to be almost autonomous of their contents - only thus can it be explained that even a politician like Sar ojini Naidu who certainly did not agree with his radical Muslim nationalism, neither as a Hindu nor as a secular-minded member of the Congress, nevertheless publicly declared him to be her 'son'. Although it is difficult to ascertain whether the enthusia sm of the listeners was directed at the language or at the content, this does not imply that all the ideas were drowned in the sound of the beautiful words and produced no effect. The Nizam himself seems to have proved highly susceptible not only to this concept of puritanical Islam, but also to the emphasis on the equality of all Muslims, at least at prayer meetings and similar religious occasions, and honoured the preacher with a title of nobility for words which would have cost anyone else his positi on or at least the goodwill of the ruler."

That was the golden age of Urdu oratory. Two other notable performers were the Ahrar leader, Ataullah Shah Bukhari, and Abul Kalam Azad. In 1938, Jinnah failed to persuade Bahadur Yar Jung to join the Muslim League, but a year later he succeeded in drawi ng his Ittehad into his own scheme in order to emerge as the leader of all Muslims. We have a first-hand account of Jinnah's deep affection for him in the legendary Saadat Hasan Mantos' book Ganje Farrishte based on his chauffeur's account Mere Saheb (My boss).

As Margrit Pernau remarks, "more disparate partners could not have joined in an alliance." Jinnah wept when he heard of his friend's death - allegedly by poisoning - while on a trip to Srinagar in 1944. It is one of the ironies of history that he fell ou t with Sheikh Abdullah precisely then, with consequences as fateful as his friendship with the Nawab and liaison with the Nizam.

In 1946, Qasim Razvi became the Ittehad's leader and harried the Nizam's friends and foes alike. Of the former, the role of his constitutional adviser Sir Walter Monckton remains shrouded in mystery. In October 1947 he advised rapprochement with India, a ccording to a document quoted by Lucien Benichou in his book From Autocracy to Integration. But Pernau cites his note of September 15, 1947 in which he advised that Hyderabad should reach out for a treaty, for "when the circumstances change, for e xample, if Pakistan and Hyderabad grow strong enough to warrant it, the Treaty can be denounced."

No one should have the temerity to advise this gifted scholar to pursue her research for a definitive study of the Nizam's diplomacy between 1945 and September 13, 1948 when the Indian Army walked in and put paid to his dreams. Her heart is set on a stud y of Old Delhi in the 19th century.

India in the politics of the 20th century

AIJAZ AHMAD the-nation
A Reflection on Our Times - VI. Frontline

AS was previously suggested in this series, it was really in the second decade of the 20th century, notably with the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, that the century took its specific, unique form, so that by the 1960s, roughly a third of h umanity was for some years freed from the capitalist system. The second momentous aspect of the century was the outbreak of national liberation movements across the Third World, leading to the dissolution of the great colonial empires of the 19th century and a crisis, right into the 1970s, which threatened to undo even the new imperialism led by the United States. Alongside these struggles for socialism and national liberation, there was also immense expansion of all kinds of democratic demand. It was o nly in the 20th century that mass struggles for the dissolution of monarchical and autocratic regimes, and similar struggles for constitutional governance, representative democracy and fundamental rights, gender equality, protection of the minorities and so on, became universal, erupting in all parts of the globe. Historic forms of organisation well known to 19th century Europe, such as the trade union and the peasant league, got gradually universalised throughout the Third World and now exist on an unp recedented, global scale.

18050801jpg

On the other side of the ledger is the capitalist offensive, which has gone through different phases. Latin American countries had been decolonised and then assimilated into the imperialist system as dependencies in the early decades of the 19th century. Colonial empires in Asia and Africa nevertheless remained key pillars of the system, well into the first half of the 20th century, when those empires were liquidated in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Far from weakening the system, however, the dissolution of the colonial empires created an unprecedented unity among the advanced capitalist countries, under the leadership of the U.S. This unity put an end to the inter-imperialist rivalries that had led to the two World Wars. Advanced capitalism then experienced its longest wave of prosperity during the quarter century after the Second World War. By the time growth rates began to slow down in the early 1970s, the material superiority of the core capita list countries over the socialist countries as well as the Third World had been established decisively.

This power of the new imperialism was demonstrated in several spheres. The combined output of all the socialist countries never reached even a quarter of that of the core capitalist countries, which then reinforced the latter's technological superiority. The military power of countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was such that even modest attempts to match it broke the back of the Soviet economy while the U.S. felt free to invade or otherwise intervene in dozens of Third World countries.

A handful of countries outside the Western bloc achieved relatively high standards of industrial production and prosperity, and in many other countries there arose new bourgeoisies which commanded much higher levels of accumulation than ever before. This meant that the gap increased not only between the core countries and the Third World as a whole but also between the newly industrialised countries and the rest, as well as between classes in individual industrialising countries. This increased differen tiation accounts for a structural disunity in the Third World.

India was also a part of this world system and could not escape those wider trends, even though each of the trends took a specific form here. It was the largest of the colonies, and one of the oldest. The colonial enterprise began here roughly at the sam e time as in the Americas and the decisive battle, that at Plassey, had been fought in the mid-18th century. The last great anti-colonial uprising of the traditional kind had been broken in 1857, when most of the African mainland and the Arab world still lay unoccupied. Local resistances continued and some economic nationalism had surfaced toward the end of the 19th century in a small section of the newly emergent professional strata.

On the whole, however, India entered the 20th century with extensive experience of colonisation but with hardly any organised anti-imperialist movement of the modern type; the Congress, which had been founded in 1885, was a deliberative body of individua ls who registered limited dissent against specific colonial policies but virtually no opposition to colonialism per se. It was really in the aftermath of the First World War that a mass movement of anti-colonial resistance emerged.

Until then, different parts of India had rather tenuous social and political links. As late as 1911, less than 1 per cent of Indians worked in what came to be called 'organised industry', 40 per cent of which comprised employment as indentured labour on tea plantations. In the same year, literacy figures were 1 per cent for English and 6 per cent for the vernacular languages. There was, in other words, neither an industrial bourgeoisie outside such enclaves as Bombay's textile industry, nor much of a pr oletariat or a widespread educated middle class. So, as colonial modernity began taking roots without even creating classes of a modern type, protest organisations emerged typically along the poles and fissures of caste, community and denominational loya lty. This was fully reflected in the reform movements which preceded the mass anti-colonial movement.

These were of several types. There was a westernising elite which sought to adopt some superficial aspects of European society but was too deeply entrenched in the very system of colonial patronage and property to be able to change radically the system a s such. Other reform movements tended to be led by those sections of the traditional strata which were losing their positions in the new system and for whom reform was deeply connected with revivalism and social conservatism.

Most initiatives for reform and development tended to be rooted in particular castes, communities and religious collectivities. Muslim reform movements were distinguished by their distance from comparable movements among non-Muslims. Numerous caste socie ties came into being with little cross-caste sympathies and affiliations. Linguistic assertion tended to solidify the positions of the literate minority against the rest. Development of vernacular literatures tended to take a competitive edge, as was not oriously the case between Hindi and Urdu. All this greatly reinforced the colonial policies of divide and rule. The result was that national, sectoral and communal ideologies were frequently propagated from the same platforms, often by the same groups an d even individuals.

ALL this bequeathed to Indian anti-colonial nationalism, when it emerged as a mass movement toward the end of the First World War, very special flavours and ambivalences. First, the leadership remained in the hands of essentially the same so-called "educ ated middle class", with its deep roots in property and privilege, which had founded the Congress in the first place. The national movement certainly included some very radical, even revolutionary, trends and it mobilised an immense mass of peasants. "Th e educated middle class", ultimately representing not the peasant but the bourgeois interest, nevertheless remained dominant. Equally notable was the fact that although the Congress had been established in 1885, it remained for some 40 years a mere delib erative body and an umbrella organisation for competing regional, communal and class interests. Even after 1919, nationalism remained for it something of a corporate idea that was held together by the powerful personal role of Gandhi himself who presided over an amorphous body of pressure groups. Colonial rule had obstructed the emergence of a nation held together by the unity of modern equal citizenship. The class character of the Congress, the central organisation in the national movement, precluded t he unity of the working classes as the driving force of Indian nationalism.

In this context, then, a vicarious kind of fictive national unity emerged through a policy of ideological accommodation, communal compromise and efforts to reconcile the irreconcilable conflicts of caste and class, not to speak of instrumental use of wom en who were mobilised and restrained at the same time. Secularism became not a creed of radical separation between religion and politics but of spiritualising politics itself, which often took the form of mutual accommodation of orthodoxies.

Thus it was that Indian nationalism failed in some of its key undertakings. It had succeeded in mobilising a large part of the peasantry, essentially on the promise of radical redistribution of agrarian property and power. The most oppressed sections of the peasantry also occupy the lowest positions of the caste hierarchy, so they saw the promise of liberation from landlordist exploitation as a promise of freedom from caste oppression. In reality, the bourgeois-landlordist state that the custodians of t he national movement created was capable of only such half-hearted land reforms that it led not to the liberation of the landless and the poor peasant but to the rise of a new bloc of landowners and rich peasants, while retaining the old quasi-feudal set -up in considerable parts of the country.

For all the policies of accommodating the Hindu Mahasabha within the Congress and all the rhetoric of Hindu reform, sanatan dharm and ram rajya, the Congress leadership failed to prevent the emergence of far-Right Hindu communalism outside its ran ks and the great permeation of those ideas within its own ranks. It was by no means responsible for Partition but its intransigence on possible constitutional frameworks undoubtedly contributed to it. The only answer it offered to the demands of justice and equality on the part of the oppressed castes was a paternalistic one; it urged the upper castes to include the oppressed ones into the Brahminical fold, at appropriately lower rungs, of course!

SUCH have been some of the failures. What have been the achievements? The most important was the mass mobilisation itself, for political ends. For the first time in India's history, the downtrodden became active historical actors in struggles over power, even though they were shackled by bourgeois dominance. Second, it did inculcate the ideology of national independence, even to some degree an anti-imperialist consciousness, among wide sections of society. The first generation of communists included an impressive number of individuals who were drawn into politics initially by the anti-colonial movement and who graduated to communism only when they understood the class limitations of the Congress. The great anti-caste movements of the 20th century arose not only out of their own autonomous histories but also in a dialectical relationship with the anti-colonial movement, where they were energised by the promise of liberation and then disillusioned by the politics of caste compromise.

India was one of the few countries in Asia and Africa which adopted the politics of constitutional governance, universal suffrage, representative democracy and civic freedoms on the morrow of Independence, despite its unwieldy size, its internal diversit ies and tensions. In bourgeois social science this is portrayed as a special gift of the great enlightened leaders such as Gandhi and Nehru. But good intentions of enlightened leaders can always be undone if structural conditions do not allow their fulfi lment. It is better to think of Indian democracy as a very special kind of class compromise, mainly between the peasantry and leaders of the national-bourgeois project, on the morrow of Independence. In this the popular masses (mainly peasants), who had made the anti-colonial movement the great force that it became, received not much land, not much protection against exploitation by the landlord and bourgeois classes, but did gain juridic equality and at least formal rights of equal citizenship.

To the extent that the democratic state was created by the success of the anticolonial movement, to that same extent this democracy is an achievement mainly of the masses who ensured that success. Marx's famous dictum that "socialism is the most complete form of democracy" should be read to mean not only that liberal democracy is so very much less than socialism, which is of course true, but also that the achievement of democratic freedoms is itself a step in the more tenacious struggle for full emancip ation from the rule of property.

What about the periodisation we have established previously for the century as a whole? The first thing to be said here is that, as in most other parts of the globe it is really with the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution that politics of the 2 0th century here begins. The brief period of 1919-1922 in which the Indian national movement came into its own was an extraordinary period in large parts of the world. Coming in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, this period witnessed a number of prol etarian uprisings in Europe, notably in Italy, Hungary and Germany. capitalist country in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution. Closer to home, it witnessed the May 4th movement in China, the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, and the emergence of the three re gimes of Amanullah Khan in Afghanistan, of Reza Shah in Iran and of Ataturk in Turkey which even Lenin hailed as progressive and to a degree nationalist.

The founding of the Communist Party in India in 1925 was similarly not only a part of a new militancy in the working class movement in the country or the move of a certain section of anti-imperialist intelligentsia toward communism but also a part of the rise of a large number of communist parties around the world, making the Communist International (Comintern) something that was much more than a European phenomenon.

The founding of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) during the same year was surely a domestic response to the emergence of a militant working class movement and the transformation of secular anti-colonialism into a mass movement. It was also part of a powerful international trend. Because fascism was able to capture state power only in a couple of European countries, notably Italy and Germany, one thinks of it now as a very special kind of phenomenon restricted to those countries, and one forgets tha t fascism was at that time a generalised phenomenon enveloping, to a lesser or greater degree, virtually every European country and numerous countries around the world, from Japan to Argentina, and from South Africa to Lebanon and Syria. The RSS was part of this global trend.

Key figures in the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, such as K.B. Hedgewar and Moonje, are known to have been inspired by Mussolini personally and by the Nazi phenomenon more generally. As elsewhere, this fascist Right never participated in the anti-colonial movement and actively opposed both secular nationalism and communism; as elsewhere, the communists were an integral part of the anti-colonial movement and were more consistent than the bourgeois nationalists on the question of the fascist current within Indian politics. Gandhi and Nehru, themselves incapable of a communal thought or action, kept the Hindu Mahasabha in their own counsels as long as they could, in the vain hope of taming it; no less a figure than Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was a member of Ne hru's own Cabinet. Sardar Patel did what he could to ease things for the RSS after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, and it was during his watch as Home Minister that idols of Ram were mysteriously installed in - and never removed from - Mir Baqi's antique little mosque in Ayodhya, otherwise known as the Babri Masjid.

THEY were the best of their kind. We need not recount how, in the last two decades, the pragmatic communalism of the Congress has, inadvertently or not, facilitated the programmatic communalism of the RSS. We need merely note that it was Indira Gandhi wh o first played the "Hindu card" in Jammu and Kashmir; that it was Rajiv Gandhi who opened his electoral campaign from Ayodhya with slogans of ram rajya; that it was P.V. Narasimha Rao who colluded with the RSS to make possible the destruction of t he Babri Masjid, in defiance of the Supreme Court. As for the more illustrious figures among those who left the ranks of the Congress, one need only recall Jayaprakash Narayan who did so much to bestow respectability and democratic credentials upon the R SS during the Emergency, relying on it for organisational skills for his rag-tag following. Or Morarji Desai who became Prime Minister at the head of a parliamentary majority in which the RSS constituted the largest bloc. Today a whole host of regional p arties with all kinds of anti-communal claims find it perfectly possible to be part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government.

No fascism ever took power anywhere in the world without the active support of a part of the liberal establishment. Mussolini became Prime Minister with his party occupying roughly 10 per cent of the seats in Parliament; Hitler first came to power comman ding roughly a third of the Reichstag. India has been no exception to this rule. The BJP commands less than a quarter of the national vote. Even so, the RSS continues to make significant inroads into state structures thanks to the past and present collus ion of the liberal establishment, which is itself divided in such a way that different sections of it make deals with the RSS on tactical grounds, with little regard for the consequences.

A right-wing politics which seeks sanction in religious or racialistic claims and pursues a politics of violence and hysteria is by no means specific to India in the global politics of our time. Already in the early 1970s a Gallup Poll had shown that the Evangelical Far Right accounts for some 27 per cent of the U.S. electorate. Powerful fascist movements exist now in such advanced countries as Austria, France, Italy and Germany, utilising race much as the RSS uses religion, and similar movements are in tegrally a part of the kind of capitalist orders that have arisen in Russia and the former Yugoslavia. Fundamentalist politics of various kinds have arisen during this same period all over the Islamic world, ranging from Sudan and Algeria to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Indeed, Pakistan and India are fast becoming, in this respect, two faces of the same coin, though their modes of travel to that same destination have been very different. This too can be put in the perspective of the periodisation we have s uggested for the post-War world as a whole.

The 30 years between the end of the Second World War and the revolutionary victory in Indochina were years of a general anti-imperialist upsurge around the world, and that upsurge had important consequences in India. In 1957, Kerala became the first plac e in the world to elect a communist government within a republic of the bourgeoisie; roughly a decade later, West Bengal became the first place where communists participated in a United Front government, which in turn became the prelude to the Left Front government which is still in power there after almost a quarter century of unbroken rule. During that same period, India emerged as one of the key leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement and an active supporter of wars of national liberation around the worl d, from Algeria to South Africa to Indochina. The policy of non-alignment was used to gain great favour with the socialist bloc and help from there was used, in the economic sphere, to drive more advantageous bargains with imperialism as well as for deve lopment in key areas such as oil, steel, petrochemicals and military hardware.

Domestically, India carried out the largest and most complex experiment of planned development within predicates of backward capitalism. A policy of relatively independent capitalist development was pursued under the heading of 'socialistic development', which used protectionism and public sector investments to nurture ("hothouse-fashion", as Marx once put it) a powerful Indian bourgeoisie while also implementing some land reforms.

In the political sphere, too, India had a singular achievement to its credit: nowhere in Europe or North America was a stable constitutional republic, based on universal franchise, established with such dire levels of illiteracy and poverty as we managed to do in India. This created pressures for democratisation in many other spheres: a political culture with a prominent place for communist and socialist currents, protections for the religious minorities, language-based reorganisation of States and the making of a multi-lingual polity, anti-caste movements and reservation schemes based on right of historical redress, and so on.

The global trends began to change, then, during the 1970s. Schematically speaking, we could say that if the victory of the Vietnamese revolution in 1975 heralded the great victory of the forces of socialism and national liberation, the Central Intelligen ce Agency-inspired coup of 1973 in Chile, which overthrew the great experiment in democratic socialism there, had already heralded the beginning of the defeat of the Left. Not that no more victories were then possible; the revolution in Nicaragua and the overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa were shining examples of the tenacity of the Left. But, as the subsequent defeat in Nicaragua and the full assimilation of the new South Africa into global corporate capitalism was to demonstrate, the ti de had turned.

In India, too, where the older system had already entered into a crisis phase some 20 years after Independence, the real shifts came during the 1970s, and the declaration of the Emergency then introduced distortions and pathologies in the state and civil society in India from which institutions of liberal democracy are yet to recover. The fact that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) fought against the Emergency while the CPI supported it meant that the Left was irreparably fissured, and it was the R SS which emerged as the main beneficiary of the anti-Emergency agitation. Having remained aloof from the anti-colonial movement, complicit in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and opposed to the Left/liberal majority in the country, the RSS had until then remained a marginal and largely despised force. It was in that crucible of the anti-Indira agitation that the RSS first obtained its democratic credentials, thanks to its alliance with Jayaprakash Narayan and others.

18050802jpg

By the late 1980s, when the Soviet system began to unravel and conditions were obtaining for a new phase of imperialism, many things in India had already changed. India no longer had a governing coalition with even a shred of economic nationalism. Thanks to the extensive protectionism and various forms of state subsidy to the private sector in previous decades, India now had a full-fledged bourgeoisie, headed by its monopolistic fraction, which had reached a level of accumulation where it felt secure en ough to forego much of that protection and strive to become, instead, one of the local and junior partners in the system of global capital. This was backed by a techno-managerial class, with the state bureaucracy itself at its epicentre, and which too ha d been a major beneficiary of the Nehruvian model but had been trained entirely in the ways of the imperialist knowledge systems. No longer having to serve a governing caste which once forced it to uphold non-alignment and relatively independent economic development, this fraction too was ready to implement the most extreme kind of neo-liberal policy.

"Globalisation" was the name given to this new offensive for re-colonisation, and there is no credible opposition to it outside the Left because all sections of the liberal bourgeoisie are agreed on it; Yashwant Sinha is only taking forward what Manmohan Singh began. The time had come also to redefine the meaning of nationalism itself. Democracy and secularism in India had been deeply tied to issues of internal social reform and anti-imperialist economic nationalism. The forces that were now ready to ab andon fully anti-imperialist nationalism were also forced to define a new kind of nationalism: irrationalist, market-friendly, quasi-fascistic, religiously defined, aggressively majoritarian and therefore highly divisive. Political parties that were oppo sed to that majoritarianism had no ideology they could pose against it because they had abandoned the alternative of anti-imperialist unity and therefore had no ideology but that of the pragmatics of power. Communal fascism is thus logically what we get when we give up anti-imperialism. If globalisation produces a society of mere aliens, it was logical that, having surrendered to it, we too would become communalised aliens to each other, immersed now not in a fight for equality but in the savage war of identity.

Thus it is that the century ended for us well before it ended on any calender, in 1997, when, on the 50th anniversary of Independence it was a veteran of the RSS who addressed the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort as its Prime Minister.

A scientist for peace

A tribute to Dorothy Hodgkin, scientist, peace activist and a friend of India, on the occasion of International Women's Day on March 8.

INTERNATIONAL Women's Day falls on March 8. Ninety-three years ago (then it was called the National Women's Day in the United States), this day represented a notable victory for democracy as a whole, for it was a symbol of the equality of men and women a t their workplaces and thus forged a unity of the working people. What is more, this triumph came at a time when women had entered certain professions hitherto barred to them, the scientific profession being the most spectacular among them. In a span of barely eight years, the Polish born French scientist Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes in science, thus demolishing the notion that the scientific profession was the monopoly of men of noble pedigree.

Dorothy Hodgkin, who would be England's first woman Nobel laureate in science, was born on May 12, 1910, in Cairo - just a year before Marie Curie won her second Nobel Prize - to a school inspector, John Crowfoot, and his wife Molly. Nobel Prizes are given every year, but not everyone is an Einstein or a Bohr or a Curie. Dorothy Hodgkin shares something common with these scientists of the "romantic era". She did science for "science's sake" and yet understood its great socio-political role. She had a disinterest in "fame", and yet when it came to her, she used it to promote science and also for the socio-political cause that she believed in. The International Women's Day became a world event primarily after the overthrow of the Czarist regime, thus recognising the Russian women's demand for "bread and peace". Do rothy was not essentially a political agitator, yet these were her aims too. This tribute to her on the eve of International Women's Day is a tribute to the democratic cause that the movement represents.

18050841jpg

Dorothy's early days were spent in Egypt and Sudan. It was here that she did her first experiments in science. Also here she had a first-hand glimpse of the brutalities of colonial rule: destruction of villages, massacres of men and cattle and of uprisin gs against the British rule. At the age of ten, when Dorothy left North Africa with her mother and sisters to join school in England, the wounds of the First World War had not yet healed. Her mother had lost all her brothers in the War and many English f amilies had suffered similar tragedies. Molly Crowfoot was a Labour Party member and became an active campaigner for peace. She took her children to the 6th Assembly of the League of Nations in 1925, in Geneva. For Dorothy, a future president of the Pugw ash Conference, this was one of the first public activities and she remembered "the atmosphere charged with emotion, of hope struggling against a sense of doom."

The Crowfoots did not have a son but gave all support to their daughters' education and Dorothy admits that she owed more to her mother than her father. Molly bought for Dorothy a set of lectures by William Bragg on X-ray crystallography. From then on Do rothy was fascinated by chemistry and by the world of crystals. She sat for the school-leaving examination in 1928 and won a 30 scholarship and an admission to Sommerville College, Oxford.

From the caring cover of her mother, Dorothy was now to face the world - and what a hostile world it was! Oxford was known to be a seat of social orthodoxy. Even in 1927 it had passed a legislation to limit the number of woman students. Many university b odies barred women from membership, and some Professors even refused to admit women to their classes. Such discrimination against women was not uncommon in England in those days, which gave voting rights to women only in 1928.

In college, Dorothy read chemistry and pursued X-ray crystallography. The German physicist Von Laue was the first to apply X-rays for the study of crystals. Laue had asked: "If X-rays can find cracks in bones, can they not find cracks in crystals?" It tu rned out that they could. Most of the space in crystals is empty, except for atoms, which sit at regular intervals. An X-ray photograph of a crystal shows some spots on a photographic plate. British crystallographers William and Lawrence Bragg (father an d son, who shared the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics) showed that the pattern formed by these spots could give the nature of the atomic arrangements in crystals. The main task of a crystallographer is to find the crystal structure from the positions of thes e spots and also by noting how dark these spots are. From these spots, a crystallographer first intuitively guesses the possible structures. Through detailed calculations one then eliminates the unlikely candidates and keeps refining the physically consi stent model of the crystal arrangements. The work is generally very tedious and involve lots of trial and error.

As a student Dorothy had developed insights into crystallography and decided to do a dissertation in the subject. In her B.A. (1932) she got a first class and secured a scholarship for further studies in Cambridge in the laboratory of John Desmond Bernal , a pioneer in applying X-ray crystallography for the study of chemistry and biology. Bernal's influence, however, went beyond the confines of crystallography. He was an avowed Communist and believed that only a socialist state, such as the Soviet Union, could free science from the shackles that held it and promote its development for the benefit of the entire humanity. Dorothy's own dormant radical ideas matched those of Bernal. Events such as the economic depression, the rise of fascism and the Spanis h Civil War had shaken the intelligentsia from its complacence and Bernal was their leader. When the War broke out he led British scientists in the War efforts. Dorothy felt that the best way she could help anti-fascist resistance was by keeping science alive in the British universities and went about doing her immediate task, that was X-ray crystallography.

The informality of Bernal's laboratory spelt freedom from the orthodoxy of Oxford. Dorothy's collaboration with Bernal produced 12 papers in two years, including the pioneering work on proteins. She left, somewhat reluctantly, when her alma mater, Sommerville College, offered her a job. This meant that the collaboration with Bernal would stop but it also gave her a chance to establish herself as a scientist in her own right. She returned to Oxford in 1934 and found her colleagues to be supportive of her. This was because the chemists had understood that her support from crystallography would be valuable for their understanding of chemistry. Barely a few months after Dorothy's return to Oxford, one of her senior colleagues brought her crystals of insulin and asked her to find its structure.

Insulin was first isolated in 1922 by Canadian scientists and was first crystallised in 1926 but no one had determined its structure. It was known that insulin controls the sugar concentration in the pancreas and has miraculous effects on diabetes patien ts. To understand its action, its structure was to be known and that was a challenge to Dorothy. She began this work in 1934, as a fairly inexperienced researcher, of only 25 years of age and it took her 35 years to solve the problem!

Dorothy's first major work on a large molecule involved the determination of the structure of penicillin. Though discovered in 1928, the first attempts at industrial production of penicillin began during the War years, for the treatment of wounded soldie rs. The known methods of preparing from fungus mould could not meet the needs of large-scale production. Synthetic methods were tried but the end products could not be confirmed. Much of the wasteful trial and error could be cut down if the structure of penicillin were known. Dorothy undertook this project with her students and later learnt that her work had become a 'military secret'. This was because penicillin was found immensely effective in treating wounded soldiers. Dorothy's results could not be used in Wartime, but after the War her methods were applied as effective means of drug design.

This work in penicillin established Dorothy as a crystallographer of eminence. In 1948, she got an offer to find the structure of vitamin B12. Like insulin and penicillin, this molecule too is clinically important. It is present in the liver and is known to cure pernicious anaemia. Dorothy had a special interest as a crystallographer to take up this work. B12 is more complex than penicillin but less complex than insulin. B12 could thus give her new insights into tackling the insulin problem. In common p arlance, it was a warming up exercise. But it gave her more. It brought her the Nobel and to chemistry and biology it gave greater insight into the question of organisation of molecules.

While working on the B12 molecule, Dorothy learnt that fierce competition had broken out between the drug monopolies, Merck and Glaxo, to "own" the B12 structure. These companies gave funds to research groups with conditions that results must not be made public and be handed over to the funding agency. Dorothy tried her best to stay clear of these lobbies as she found lobbying distasteful. But one "lobby", which she found to her "taste", was the peace movement. As a result of this involvement, she was d enied a visa in 1953 to visit the United States, just as her friend Linus Pauling (two-time Nobel winner - 1934 in Chemistry and 1962 for Peace) was refused a passport the previous year by the U.S. administration.

The B12 work took Dorothy twelve years to complete. It brought her the 1964 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This prize meant great satisfaction to her as also to her colleagues, past and present. Of special significance was the fact that she was the sole winne r of the chemistry prize that year. But this was not what she wanted. Dorothy always felt that she should have shared the prize with Bernal, whose guidance in every crucial problem, she always acknowledged. Bernal, it is noted by many, was the originator of many outstanding ideas in biology and about a dozen Nobel prize winners owe their success to him. Bernal himself never got the Nobel. Those who knew Dorothy recall that an important trait in Dorothy's character was her equanimity (like Bernal's) conc erning honours and her readiness to share the honour and acknowledge the credit where it was due.

With the Nobel Prize, a scientist is considered to have reached the summit. There are a few who aim for the clouds. To Dorothy, neither the B12 nor the Nobel Prize was the end of the road. the structure of insulin was still to be found. With her team she made a determined effort. In 1969 the problem was solved, as a fitting finale to a distinguished career. In the 37 years that Dorothy gave to crystallography, the field had changed. At every step she reviewed the developments in science and made use of the newer techniques that emerged. But at no stage of her life was she flush with funds. To a complaint that science in India was starved of finances, she had once remarked - to her student K. Venkatesan (who retired as Professor from the Indian Institut e of Science) - that her constraints in terms of funds gave her a challenge and made her more creative.

Dorothy retired in 1970 when she turned 60. The next year she faced a personal loss at the death of Bernal. It is known that as a young student she had fallen in love with Bernal, who was already married and being an ebullient personality was temperament ally Dorothy's opposite. But fortunately, Dorothy had met a young man in 1937, who matched her ideas of a husband. His name was Thomas Hodgkin, who hailed from an aristocratic family. Hodgkin's disease was identified by one of his grand uncles; the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology was won by one of Thomas' nephews. Thomas was a Communist Party worker. When they married, he had no regular income and Dorothy maintained the family with her meagre salary, even making dresses herself, and raising a kitchen gar den. This continued for many years and Dorothy brought up the three children, practically all alone as Thomas was away in long spells for his political work and often job hunting. Thomas too was an intellectual of rare ability and as an expert in African affairs served as an adviser to Ghana and other newly independent African states. Dorothy too would help the cause of these nations in her own way, and of course Bernal would be a source of support for the Hodgkin couple.

The decolonisation of the globe, which began after the Second World War, gave Dorothy hope and also responsibilities. She took many African and Asian students as her collaborators, many of whom later became scientific leaders in India. To all of them she reminded that it was their duty to return home and build science in their own countries. Dorothy's experiences, however, showed that this process of building science in developing countries faced impediments from a deep-rooted bureaucratic authoritarian ism, what J.B.S. Haldane called the new caste system.

THE Nobel Prize did not bring any extravagance to the Hodgkins but it made Dorothy more busy. She felt that it was her duty to work more actively for the causes she deeply believed in, but surprisingly it was to the women's movement that her links were t he weakest as she had differences with the so-called 'feminists'. It was not that she was unconscious of women's problems and the social stigma that womanhood often put. She was fortunate compared to other women scientists. Marie Curie never voted, for s he died well before suffrage was granted to French women. Neither she nor her daughter Irene (the 1935 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry) could qualify for the membership of the French Academy of Science. Dorothy was more fortunate. She became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947.

By temperament, Dorothy felt that the peace movement and the movement for scientific cooperation were dearest to her. She was elected president of the Pugwash Peace Conference and visited India in that capacity in 1976, to inaugurate its 26th session.

Dorothy had had an attack of rheumatism at the age of 28, which affected her mobility. It nearly crippled her in her old age but that did not deter her from travelling around the world, whenever the movement demanded it. She visited Africa many times wit h Thomas as also, the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Japan and India. In one of her last visits here (1979), she travelled to Kerala in poor health, to meet E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Her student M. Vijayan (Professor, Indian Institute of Science) recalls that any social movement that gave a fillip to the weaker sections of the people claimed the Hodgkins' personal attention. This visit to Kerala was thus very special for them. Thomas undertook this journey ignoring his failing health and nearly died of exhau stion.

18050842jpg

Dorothy was not an eloquent speaker. So "voicing" protests did not seem natural with her. Her association with the peace movement and the Medical Aid Foundation for Vietnam was her way of marking her protest against militarisation. Sometimes it would tak e more personal forms, for example when she decided to send her daughter Elizabeth to work in North Vietnam at the height of the Tet Offensive in 1968 (the visit materialised in 1973, amidst large-scale hostilities). When such personal acts appeared inef fective, vocal protests too came naturally to her, as she did to Henry Kissinger at the escalation of aerial bombing in Vietnam in 1971 and to Margaret Thatcher (her ex-student) at her anti-Sovietism.

The collapse of the Soviet Union must have been a great shock to Dorothy. Three years later, on July 29, 1994, she passed away. Her Nobel money had been spent in the social causes that she believed in. She was, as described by her friend and Nobel Prize winning crystallographer Mark Perutz, "a great chemist, a saintly, tolerant and gentle lover of people and a devoted protagonist of peace." As if to honour her posthumously (as also Linus Pauling, who died two weeks after Dorothy), the 1995 Nobel Peace P rize was awarded to the Pugwash Conference. This award symbolised an honour, to be shared by all peace lovers and would have been as dear to Dorothy as other numerous awards, she had won as an individual.

S. Chatterjee is a scientist at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore.

The new drug wars

Brazil and India find themselves at the forefront of a battle against patent laws that deny essential medicines to the poor.

EVER since the patent laws regime enshrined in the Charter of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into effect, multinational drug companies have been engaged in a low-level war of attrition against manufacturers of essential medicines in the developi ng countries. Their narrowly focussed, commercially driven strategy of maximising profits even at the expense of public welfare was not designed to make them popular, especially when concerns were growing over the global pandemic of AIDS, or Acquired Imm une Deficiency Syndrome.

18050931jpg

Seemingly, though, multinational companies have little use for public goodwill. Early in January, the United States government, responding to the scarcely concealed lobbying efforts of the powerful pharmaceutical industry, served notice that it intended to drag Brazil before the WTO dispute settlement mechanism for infringement of drug patents. At the centre of the dispute is the Brazilian drug industry, which manufactures a range of generic products to sustain a government-run therapeutic system for AI DS patients.

The foundation of Brazil's AIDS care system is the manufacture of reasonably priced generic drugs within the country. Ever since the efficacy of a cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs was proven in slowing and even halting the multiplication of the AIDS vir us, the Brazilian pharmaceutical industry has taken energetic measures to develop the requisite manufacturing capabilities. Today Brazil manufactures eight of the 12 drugs used in AIDS therapy. Public subsidies ensure that the treatment reaches the poor and the indigent free of cost. And an ethically oriented domestic pharmaceutical industry ensures that manufacturing costs, and with it public subsidies, stay within reasonable limits.

The latest U.S. move followed the failure of direct consultations launched last June, in which the European Union was also represented as an interested party. The WTO has since constituted a panel to examine the U.S. complaint. India and the Dominican Re public are among four WTO member-states that have chosen to be impleaded as countries that have "third party" rights in the dispute.

INDIA'S interests in this issue have been highlighted by a recent aggressive move into the global marketplace by one of its largest domestically owned pharmaceutical companies, Cipla Ltd of Mumbai. After prolonged negotiations with the international volu ntary organisation of doctors - the Nobel Peace prize winning Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) - Cipla announced that it would offer a combination of three anti-AIDS drugs for an annual price per patient of $350.

Cipla chairman Dr. Yusuf Hamied insists that he is capable of supplying ample volumes of three generic drugs used in AIDS therapy: stavudine, lamivudine and nevirapine. But the special offer made to MSF would not recover costs for his company. To compens ate for this loss, Cipla has worked out a three-tier pricing mechanism, offering the same combination of drugs at $600 to governments and $1,200 to wholesale distributors.

MSF lost little time in seeking to turn on the moral pressure, challenging the multinational drug majors to match the Cipla offer. All three drugs on offer have been patented by big global players. Bristol-Myers Squibb (Bristol) of the U.S. holds the pat ent on stavudine and sells it under the brand name Zerit. GlaxoSmithKline (Glaxo) of the U.K. has patented lamivudine under the brand name Heptovir and Boehringer-Ingelheim (Boehringer) of Germany retains the rights to nevirapine, which it markets under the name Viramune. Cipla's offer is in this sense guaranteed to raise hackles across continents.

The prices at which triple drug therapies are today offered in the industrialised countries range from $10,000 to $15,000. Assuming that Cipla's price for the wholesale trade would enable it to more than recover costs and meet the subsidies inherent in s upplies to MSF and the government sector, the drug multinationals are today under pressure to cut their prices by a factor of ten.

The firms that directly stand to suffer the impact of Cipla's proposals reacted with caution. Glaxo said that it had not been consulted prior to the Cipla announcement and would wait for details. "It would appear that the offer is partially one of drug d onations," said a company spokesman. "As a consequence of that, questions have to be raised about the sustainability of the offer." Boehringer refused to react to the Cipla offer, though it has in the past insisted that intellectual property rights must be respected.

Late last year Cipla suffered a bruising encounter with drug multinationals when it was compelled to pull out of a contract to supply a generic version of Glaxo's patented drug Combivir to Ghana. Cipla offered the combination of lamivudine and zidovudine at $1.74 a day, against the price of $16 that Glaxo charged till recently. And even though the African Regional Industrial Patents Authority (ARIPA) rejected the validity of Glaxo's patent in Ghana, Cipla proved unequal to the challenge of taking on one of the world's biggest drug companies.

It has since shored up its legal defences through intensive consultations with MSF and Ralph Nader's Washington-based advocacy group, the Consumer Project on Technology (CPT). James Love of the CPT, an expert on intellectual property law, was recently in Mumbai for discussions with Hamied. The outcome was a set of near-identical communications that Cipla addressed to four drug multinationals late in December. Apart from the drugs that had been patented by Glaxo, Bristol and Boehringer, Cipla expressed a n interest to manufacture Pfizer's patented anti-fungal agent fluconazole, which is of proven efficacy in treating opportunistic infections of meningitis in AIDS patients.

Citing the urgency of dealing with the AIDS pandemic, Cipla sought early clarifications on two questions: which were the countries in which the four companies sought to assert their patent rights on the drugs concerned? And what would be their terms to g rant Cipla a non-exclusive right to supply the same drugs in these countries? Partly pre-empting the response to the latter question, Cipla director Amar Lulla offered unilaterally to pay royalties on the company's sales in these countries, up to a maxim um of 5 per cent of revenues.

The February 6 announcement that Cipla would supply a triple therapy of AIDS drugs at a vastly knocked down price was an effort to take the discussion beyond these rather unproductive avenues. If the past is any guide, then the multinationals are unlikel y to let this challenge to their market dominance stand. The consequence, as the British charity organisation Oxfam recently warned, could be a massive erosion of their rapidly diminishing fund of public goodwill.

Oxfam estimates that since introducing Combivir into the market in October 1997, Glaxo has earned sales revenues of $1.5 billion on the product. Operating profits on this product alone could be conservatively estimated in excess of $450 million. Even if the multinationals' claim were to be accepted - that it takes on average $500 million to bring a new drug to the market - Glaxo would seem to have been amply rewarded for its entrepreneurship.

Pertinent here is a telling statistic brought to notice by Oxfam: that in the period concerned, the total health budget of all member-states of ARIPA was less than two-thirds of the profits earned by Glaxo on Combivir. It is yet another matter altogether , as CPT points out, that the main components of Glaxo's patented anti-AIDS drugs were evolved through publicly funded research in the university system. And still another matter that Glaxo had secretly decided as far back as January 1997 that a floor pr ice of $2 a day on Combivir - against the $16 it was charging - would still be a viable proposition.

FOR reasons connected to India's capability to manufacture a broad range of generic drugs, the powerful industry lobby in the U.S. - the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacture, America (PhRMA) - has always targeted this country for priority attention. P eriodic submissions made by PhRMA to the U.S. government have ensured that India along with Brazil and, in recent times, Thailand, has remained on the "watch-list" of countries that provide insufficient standards of protection for intellectual property. Since 1997, South Africa and even the tiny Dominican Republic have had to abandon ambitious programmes for domestic drug manufacture under the threat of U.S. trade sanctions. If Cipla's plans make any further progress, then India could also soon attract this dubious honour.

It is in Brazil, though, that the WTO patents regime constitutes a clear and present danger. The Brazilian government has licensed massive domestic capacity in anti-AIDS drugs using the exemption granted under Article 31 of the agreement on trade related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS). By any criterion, the AIDS crisis in Brazil met the description of a "national emergency or other circumstance of extreme urgency". And the delivery system that has been devised of anti-retroviral drugs i n that country is nothing if not a "public non-commercial use". In both these eventualities national governments are authorised under the TRIPS agreement to override the rights of a patent holder and either commence production on its own or license a thi rd party to do so.

All assessments of Brazil's AIDS control programme have agreed on its dramatic efficacy. Mortality rates have fallen and the number of fresh cases has declined as transmission rates have been curbed. In the mid-1990s, conservative forecasts held that Bra zil would have at least one million AIDS-afflicted persons by 2000. The actual figure was less than half that.

The U.S. complaint makes out a case that Brazil is not sufficiently mindful of its obligations under Articles 27 and 28 of the TRIPS agreement. In the context of the agreement on patents, these two Articles, though, constitute no more than the preamble. The later Articles in the TRIPS agreement provide all the qualifications, which a member-country of the WTO is entitled to utilise in the public interest.

THE complaint against Brazil marks a new low in the credibility of the multinational drug industry. Since the 1997 crackdown on South Africa's effort to build an AIDS therapeutic system on the lines of Brazil, the drug companies had endured scathing publ ic censure and been virtually declared international outlaws at all global health conclaves. In May 2000, in an effort to turn the tide of public opinion, a cartel of five companies announced a programme of subsidised drug supply to the countries worst a ffected by AIDS. This so-called Accelerated Access Initiative was launched in May 2000 with fanfare and the blessings of the United Nations.

Progress since then has been negligible, since the drug companies have insisted on separate - and secret - negotiations with all the countries that would like to avail of their initiative. The intent was clear: to maintain inflated prices in most markets while handing out selective discounts. Of the 26 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in imminent risk of AIDS or already afflicted by the disease, the number who stood to benefit from the initiative was no more than 900.

The Accelerated Access Initiative was designed to head off a challenge to the WTO patents regime, which the pharmaceutical giants had managed to tailor almost exactly to their specifications. With the U.S. now choosing to arraign Brazil before the WTO f or the alleged offence of maintaining an AIDS therapeutic system that is a model for the developing world, the tension has reached breaking point.

When Davos met Porto Alegre

The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre achieves its goal of being a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum at Davos.

"HEMINGWAY said that the rich are different from you and me. How can anyone expect the people in Davos to understand the crisis that globalisation has visited on the lives of people like those of us here in Porto Alegre?" That was going to be my opening line.

18050951jpg

When I arrived at the university studio on January 27 for the televised trans-Atlantic debate with George Soros, the financier, and other representatives of the global elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland, a visibly shaken Florian Rochat of the Swiss del egation was waiting for me. The Swiss are known for being impassive, but Florian was visibly shaken. "They are arresting protestors in Davos and other places in Switzerland," he told me. "They're killing democracy in our country. Our friends there are as king you to support them in calling for the shutting down of the World Economic Forum."

That request drove out any lingering desire to be "nice" in the coming exchange, which had been billed by its producers as a "Dialogue between Davos and Porto Alegre". The ambitious, one-million franc plus production involving four satellite hook-ups, ai med to explore if there was a common ground between the annual elite gathering in Davos and the newly launched World Social Forum (WSF) in this southern Brazilian city. Millions of people globally were waiting for the transmission.

Since I had been in Davos last year, the producers requested that I make the opening statement for the Porto Alegre side. I obliged with the following: "We would like to begin by condemning the arrests of peaceful demonstrators to shield the global elite at Davos from protests. We would also like to register our consternation that while we in Porto Alegre have painstakingly come up with a diverse panel of speakers, you in Davos have come up with four white males to face us. But perhaps you are trying to make a political statement.

"I was in Davos last year, and believe me, Davos is not worth a second visit. I am here in Porto Alegre this year, and let me say that Porto Alegre is the future while Davos is the past. Hemingway wrote that the rich are different from you and me, and in deed, we live on two different planets: Davos, the planet of the super rich, Porto Alegre, the planet of the poor, the marginalised, the concerned. Here in Porto Alegre, we are discussing how to save the planet. There in Davos, the global elite is discus sing how to maintain its hegemony over the rest of us. In fact, the best gift that the 2,000 corporate executives at Davos can give to the world is for them to board a spaceship and blast off for outer space. The rest of us will definitely be much better off without them."

The press termed the next 90 minutes not as a debate but as an emotional exchange that, as the Financial Times put it, "sometimes degenerated into personal insults". But I and the other panelists - among them, Oded Grajew of Brazil's Instituto Eth os, Bernard Cassen of Le Monde Diplomatique, Diane Matte of Women's Global March, Njoki Njehu of 50 Years Is Enough, Rafael Alegria of Via Campesina, Aminata Traole, former Minister of Culture of Mali, Fred Azcarate of Jobs with Justice, Trevor Ng bane of South Africa, Francois Houtart of Belgium, and Hebe de Bonafini of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo - were simply reflecting the non-conciliatory mood towards the Davos crowd of most of the 12,000 people who flocked to Porto Alegre.

For this constituency, a significant number of whom watched the debate at a huge auditorium at the Catholic University, globalisation was a deadly business, and many undoubtedly shared the feelings of Hebe de Bonafini when she screamed at Soros across th e Atlantic divide, "Mr. Soros, you are a hypocrite. How many children's deaths have you been responsible for?" That Soros in the course of the debate made some utterances regarding the need to control the negative impacts of globalisation failed to endea r him to this crowd, who saw him mainly as a financial speculator who had made billions of dollars at the expense of Third World economies.

The holding of the week-long WSF was nothing short of a miracle. Proposed by the Workers' Party of Brazil (PT) and a coalition of Brazilian civil society organisations, supported with significant funding by donors such as Novib, the Dutch agency, and pro vided with strong international support by the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique and Attac, the European anti-globalisation alliance, the event was put together in less than eight months' time. The idea of holding an alternative to the annual r etreat of the global corporate elite in Davos simply took off. While there were some glitches here and there, the event was a resounding success, despite the massive challenge of coordinating 16 plenary sessions, over 400 workshops and numerous side even ts.

A major reason for the WSF's success is that it had the organisational support of the government of the city of Porto Alegre and the government of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, both of which are controlled by the PT. Porto Alegre has, in fact, achieved the reputation of being a city that is run both efficiently and with sensitivity to social and environmental considerations. The city is said to be at the top of the quality of life index for Brazil.

The sharing in Porto Alegre focussed not only on drawing up strategies of resistance to globalisation but also on elaborating alternative paradigms of economic, ecological, and social development. Militant action was not absent, with Jose Bove, the celeb rated French anti-McDonalds' activist, and the Brazilian MST (Movement of the Landless), leading the destruction of two hectares of land planted with transgenic soybean crops by the American biotechnology firm Monsanto.

Porto Alegre achieved its goal of being a counterpoint to Davos. The combination of celebration, hard discussion, and militant solidarity that flowed from it contrasted with the negative images coming out of Davos. The Swiss town was the centre of Switze rland's biggest security operation since the Second World War. The Swiss police pulled out all the stops to prevent protesters from reaching the Alpine resort, and fired water cannons and teargas on demonstrators in Zurich, arresting many of them. Even c onservative Swiss newspapers condemned the police operation as a threat to political liberties in Switzerland.

Perhaps the outcome of the duel between Davos and Porto Alegre was best summed up by George Soros: "The excessive precautions were a victory for those who wanted to disrupt Davos. It was an over-reaction. It helped to radicalise the situation."

18050952jpg

On his performance in the televised debate with Porto Alegre, Soros commented: "It showed it is not easy to dialogue - I don't particularly like to be abused. My masochism has its limits." Observed the Financial Times: "Such uncomfortable experien ces seem temporarily to have scrambled his ability to deliver pithy soundbites."

But Soros was not alone in flubbing his lines. Soon after my opening statement, Bernard Cassen of Le Monde Diplomatique leaned over and told me: "Walden, it wasn't Hemingway who said the rich are different from you and me. It was Scott Fitzgerald. "

Walden Bello attended the World Social Forum as a representative of Focus on the Global South, a progressive research and advocacy institute based in Bangkok, Thailand.

An ambitious roadshow

The New Exploration Licensing Policy, announced recently by the Central government, will integrate India's petroleum sector with the global market. However, the question is - for better or for worse?

THE New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP-II) announced recently by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government gives you a feeling of deja vu. It offers a gilded package of extremely attractive terms to potential investors in the oil secto r, not unlike those offered by the P.V. Narasimha Rao-led Congress(I) government in the early 1990s to investors in fast-track power projects - a generosity that has almost crippled the once healthy Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB). A year afte r a sub-group set up by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) brought out a report - the Indian Hydrocarbon Vision 2025 - recommending a proactive and pre-eminent role for the government in accelerating the pace of oil exploration and production through the device of a fiscal package, the NDA government invited bids from private and foreign investors to invest in 25 oil and gas exploration blocks in the country.

18050991jpg

The 25 blocks that are now on offer under NELP-II include eight deep-water blocks and three shallow-water blocks on the west coast, five shallow-water blocks on the east coast and nine onland blocks - two each in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal an d one each in Assam, Orissa and Rajasthan. For the first time, deep-water blocks on the west coast and blocks in petroleum-rich Gujarat and Assam have been included in the NELP. Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Ram Naik claimed that all the b locks are located in proven and promising sedimentary basins. Under NELP-II, companies can bid for any or all of the 25 blocks either singly or in association with others through an incorporated or unincorporated venture. Each of the participating compan ies in the consortium must have a minimum interest of 10 per cent in the equity.

The policy lays down no minimum expenditure on exploration, no signature, discovery or production bonuses and no compulsory state participation. Moreover, it provides a seven-year tax holiday from the date of commencement of commercial production, zero c ustoms duty on imports required for petroleum operations and other attractive terms. It also promises 100 per cent cost recovery on exploration, production and development. More crucially, it offers full recovery of all royalties paid to the Indian gove rnment for the oil or gas extracted. The policy also offers the option of a 10-year amortisation of all exploration and drilling expenses. The successful bidder who hits black gold can sell it in the domestic market not at international prices, but at im port parity prices that include not only the cost of the oil or gas, but also the transportation cost right up to the nearest port. An exploration licence or a mining lease acquired by the successful bidder can be assigned with the approval of the Govern ment of India.

The fiscal package will be evaluated on the basis of the percentage of profits that the bidder offers to share with the Government of India after all the costs have been fully met. The model production-sharing contract (MPSC) envisages varying rates of p rofit-sharing to be offered by the bidder depending upon the pre-tax investment multiple achieved by the bidder. (The investment multiple is the net investment made by the successful bidder after all the exploration, production and development expenses h ave been recovered and the royalties paid.) The profit-sharing rates are biddable. The three biddable parameters in the offer are: 1. work programme commitment, 2. profit-petroleum share expected by the contractor at various levels of pre-tax multiple of investments reached and 3. percentage of annual production expected to be allocated to cost recovery.

Considering that most of the blocks are proven basins, thanks to the substantial resources already invested in proving them, the terms offered under NELP-II are attractive. There is no stipulation of targets for investments in exploration and each contra ctor can stretch the exploration up to seven years in three phases (eight in the case of deep-water blocks). Hence, bidders can quote attractive terms just to pre-empt others and corner the blocks. The negotiability of certain provisions in the relinquis hment clause provides scope for such behaviour. The assignability of the contracts makes such behaviour all the more lucrative, especially when global oil prices are high. A similar experience in the telecom sector should not be forgotten - Himachal Futu ristic Corporation Limited bid astronomical licence fees and won several circles in order to pre-empt other serious bidders.

18050992jpg

There are no signature bonuses to be paid for resources already invested and the investor is entitled to full recovery of all costs, including royalties paid to the government. The Panna-Mukta deal came under severe criticism for, among other things, the paltry signature bonus it paid. However, in the present case, even such a fig leaf has been dispensed with. Royalty has been pegged at 12.5 per cent for oil and at 10 per cent for natural gas. However, this can also be fully recovered by the contractor as part of costs.

The cost-plus approach might have adverse consequences just as it had in the power sector, although the manner in which this would work is quite different. Under the NELP, there is scope for inflating the exploration and production cost, especially when different technologies and equipment are brought in. Whether the management committee envisaged in the production-sharing contract (with two government representatives) - with its potential for corruption - will effectively check cost-padding is anybody' s guess. Since the policy envisages full cost recovery (with the option to do so in 10 years), profit-sharing can be delayed till such time as all the costs are recovered. Since the contractor can sell the produce in the domestic market at import parity prices, it is not clear what benefit the government expects from the deal except some foreign exchange saving. In any case, the saving in forex would be offset partially or entirely by the repatriation of certain costs such as equipment cost, technical f ee and so on allowed to the investors. Whether the residual gain in forex justifies the depletion of domestic oil reserves is a moot point.

Despite its generous terms, NELP-II is an improvement over the earlier policy in certain respects. There is a conscious effort to introduce a modicum of transparency in the bidding process since the weightages and broad parameters for bid evaluation have been explicitly set out. The bids will be evaluated on the basis of weightage to the extent of 6 per cent for technical capability of the bidder, 4 per cent for financial strength of the bidding consortium, 60 per cent for "committed work programme" and 30 per cent for the fiscal package offered.

The production-sharing contract signed under the first phase of NELP has since been revised, incorporating the suggestions of 43 companies and organisations from the petroleum sector. A MPSC is one of the documents that adorns the shiny folder handed out by the Ministry. The government has also put on sale basin information dockets, data packages and additional data items which prospective investors can use in their bidding considerations. Apart from the data viewing centre in New Delhi, two centres are being opened at the Indian High Commission in London and the Indian Consulate in Houston for inspection of data on exploration blocks and to provide clarifications to potential investors.

The anxiety of the government in ensuring adequate response to the offer is evident in the numerous roadshows that it has organised to peddle its project to prospective customers. The last date for submission of bids is March 31 and the bids would be ope ned on the same day. Whatever else it does, NELP-II will integrate India's upstream petroleum sector with the global marketplace - for better or for worse.

Swadeshi parade

The Hindutva version of swadeshi is put on show at the Swadeshi Industrial Fair in Coimbatore. The contradictions within the Sangh Parivar on the issue, however, remain.

SWADESHI, associated in the popular imagination with the spirit of the Indian freedom movement and Gandhiji, is back in business, but in a new avatar. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), widely seen as being committed to the core philosophy of Hindut va, has been driving the swadeshi bandwagon this time around.

18051021jpg

But the irony is evident. Look at the two contradictory postures adopted by members of the Sangh Parivar on issues related to the economic liberalisation programme. On the one hand, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is implementing the liberalisation pro gramme - in what is being referred to as the second stage of reforms. However, the SJM, the Sangh Parivar's economic wing of sorts, has been calling for a resistance to the "West-centric" reforms.

The SJM organised a Swadeshi Industrial Fair in Coimbatore from February 16 to 21. The SJM's proximity to the BJP-led government at the Centre, and its ideological closeness to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, brought the top brass of the political leade rship to the Fair. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee inaugurated the Fair, indicating the importance that the Parivar places on the SJM's concept of swadeshi and its role as an ideological standard-bearer of the RSS' core philosophy of Indian and Hindu nationalism. The Union Minister for Rural Development M. Venkaiah Naidu, and Minister for Information Technology and Parliamentary Affairs Pramod Mahajan attended. Minister for Human Resource Development Murli Manohar Joshi participated in the valedicto ry on February 21. The representatives of the BJP's allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) who attended the fair included Union Minister for Environment and Forests T.R. Baalu and general secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) Vaiko.

The Fair was organised by the Centre for Bharatiya Marketing and Development (CBMD) "a forum of the SJM", according to the website of the Fair (https://www.swadeshifairtn.org). Apart from promoting "Bharat's efforts in self-reliance through promotion of i ndigenous industry", it "aims to strengthen, promote and help national economy to grow within the overall framework of Bharatiya needs and value system by conducting research and formulating policies, organising melas, fairs and exhibitions." The CBMD ha s conducted similar fairs in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Shimla. The first one, held in New Delhi in January 1999, was also inaugurated by Vajpayee.

18051022jpg

The SJM managed to rope in the Coimbatore District Small Scale Industries Association (CODISSIA), the major organisation representing small manufacturers in the region, as a co-sponsor of the Fair, which was held at a sprawling exhibition centre construc ted recently. Although the organisers had announced on the eve of the fair that the achievements of Indian private industry - big and small, traditional and modern - would be displayed at the Fair, a striking aspect was the presence of a large number of public sector undertakings (PSUs).

Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), widely perceived to be at the receiving end of the power sector reforms since 1991, was present. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., again perceived to be victims of the reforms in the petroleum sector, also occupied large stalls. The ailing HMT, which has suffered as a result of lower tariffs on capital goods imports, was present. The Life Insurance Corporation and United India Assurance, facing a serious threat to their very existen ce following the initiatives taken by the BJP-led government in 2000 to privatise the insurance sector, were also at the Fair. Bank of India and the State Bank of India occupied stalls. Several Union Ministries and departments also displayed their achiev ements. The Union Ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Rural Development, and the Department of Industries were among those present.

A local industrialist told Frontline: "Is it not ironic that while these public sector units are on the verge of sale, they are being paraded here?" Remarks were heard also about the ruling political establishment's "duality". While the government is proceeding with its privatisation drive, another ideological arm of the Parivar is talking about protecting national interest. The implication of these adverse comments was obvious: Were these public sector units being compelled to participate in the Fair?

On the eve of the Fair, SJM Convener S. Gurumurthy told a press conference in Chennai that a diverse range of Indian companies would attend the Fair. "There is an Indian angle to the Indian economy," he said, "reflecting the specific and unique character istics of India, not understood by the intelligentsia." Gurumurthy said that the growth of small manufacturing, in places such as Tirupur, Ludhiana, and Rajkot "was possible only because of the talents of the local people". Gurumurthy stressed that the s uccess of these ventures, started by "local communities such as Goundars and Nadars in Tamil Nadu, and Kutchis and Patels in Gujarat, did not have to depend on state support."

The SJM promised to unfold every facet of Indian industry at the Fair on a single platform for the first time. Gurumurthy claimed that even bigger organisations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of C ommerce and Industry (FICCI) had been unable to do this. The Centre for Policy Studies, aligned to the SJM, put on show the Hindutva view on economic matters.

Coimbatore has been going through an industrial crisis in the last few years. The textile industry, the backbone of the city's economy, has been hit (Frontline, February 27, 1999). The textile machinery industries, and the foundries that depend on this industry, and the pump industry have all been affected. Almost every walk of life has felt the impact of the economic slump. Factories and mills have been either closed down or have downsized. Workers have been laid-off in thousands and industrial wages have fallen. Hundreds of small and medium-size businesses in the city, once proudly held out as examples of the "entrepreneurial spirit", have been extinguished. Almost every section of society ties the steep and relentless slide in the last few ye ars to the policies of economic liberalisation initiated in November 1991. So, was the SJM's choice of Coimbatore as the venue for the Fair just a chance occurrence, or was it part of a design?

It is evident that the economic reforms have taken their toll on large swathes of the economy. Several aspects of the reform programme, notably those relating to import tariffs and deregulation, have exposed small and medium industries to unprecedented c ompetition from imports. The removal of the remaining quantitative restrictions (QRs) by March 31 can only worsen the situation. The accelerated implementation of the rules of the international trading regime under the auspices of the World Trade Organis ation (WTO) compounds matters. Moreover, the financial sector reforms and the delinking of financial institutions from the task of developmental-lending threatens to force these units out of the organised credit market.

Hence, the economic reforms threaten to jeopardise large sections of the middle layer of society - small industrial producers, petty traders and small businesses, peasants with small holdings, the unemployed educated middle class in rural and urban India . Critics of the Sangh Parivar have pointed out that the modern variant of swadeshi banks on the primal fears of these affected sections. They argue that the Right-wing, historically opposed to state presence in industry and a votary of private enterpris e, is trying to woo these sections, collectively labelled as the petty bourgeoisie.

Significantly, the SJM was established soon after the economic reforms unrolled. In January 1992 it launched its "struggle against economic imperialism". In 1993 it initiated a campaign against the Dunkel Draft, which laid the foundation for the WTO in i ts present form. In 1995 it started its campaign against Enron's Dabhol power project. The SJM claims that its "strong agitation" against the deal resulted in a "massive victory" because the newly-elected BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra was force d to withdraw the deal. However, the SJM later gave the clearance for the project.

18051023jpg

The SJM claims that its version of swadeshi is based on an "India-first approach". It alleges that the pursuit of socialist ideals in the half century after Independence has been a disaster. However, it is also critical of "free market globalisation". It blames the "Anglo-Saxon worldview", adopted by the Indian "intellectuals and elites", for the state of affairs. So, what solution does the SJM suggest for the Indian economy and society?

"The word swadeshi," claims the SJM, "is the political, economic and civilisational life of India rooted in Indian nationalism." The SJM laments that "the fall-out of the West-centric thrust" has resulted in "individualism, fragmentation of families, com munities and societies." The "mindless pursuit of materialism" and the "erosion of national identities" have been other consequences. In order to reverse globalisation, the SJM advocates the establishment of an "international anti-WTO lobby". It calls fo r "a war that must be fought if we are to retain our market as well as grab other markets." The SJM also demands the Indian withdrawal from the WTO because "India has surrendered a part of its self-governance in economic matters".

The Hall of Information, put on display by the Centre for Policy Studies at the Fair, provided some clues about the SJM's version of nationalism, its views on globalisation and its attitude to industrialisation. A panel here, titled "Our Metropolitan Eli te Remains Hostile", pointed out that the "English-educated metropolitan elite thinks of town-based entrepreneurs, anchored in their families and communities, as obstacles in progress." It describes how the same elite, instead of encouraging local enterp rise in the fireworks industry in Sivakasi, has "been looking for ways of reversing the success story". It alleges that the "elite have for years been running a concerted battle against the Sivakasi fireworks industry, alleging that it thrives on child l abour." The panel claims that the campaign against the Sivakasi manufacturers has not stopped even after they "have conclusively proved that no children are employed in their units" (Frontline, May 12, 2000).

Observers of the Sangh Parivar have pointed out that Right-wing ideologies, at any given point in time, tend to portray some sections as aliens or outsiders. This could take the form of the minorities or, in the matter of the economic ideology, the "metr opolitan elite" or the "intelligentsia" who are presented as being alien to the "Indian ethos".

18051024jpg

Karuna Manoharan, who runs a small unit manufacturing precision tools in Coimbatore, is against the RSS' concept of swadeshi. He told Frontline that the SJM, despite its talk of swadeshi, "is trying to paper the fault lines in traditional Indian a nd Hindu society." He says that Indian industries have failed to meet the challenge of globalisation because "caste and kinship ties, rather than professional business practices, have held sway over their operations". This, he said, is reflected even in the labour recruitment policies of Indian companies. "Caste and communal loyalties, rather than competence, appear to be more important in these companies," he said. Manoharan also alleged that the Hindutva perception of national industry as a homogeneou s entity is flawed. For instance, he points out the contradictions between small and big industry. "The small-big relationship in India has been largely a parasitic one, by which bigger companies bleed the smaller companies to death," he said.

The swadeshi project of the SJM is seen as an attempt by the Sangh Parivar to keep its political and social options open in the long term. Its mobilisation of the victims of the reform process, while expressing helplessness despite enjoying access to sta te power, is seen as an attempt to gather dissent under its own banner. Critics of the Sangh Parivar allege that by doing so the Parivar hopes to prevent dissent from gathering on a progressive platform that is not confined by a narrow and sectarian bran d of nationalism.

BUILT-IN DANGER

While bringing down scores of high-rise buildings and killing hundreds of their residents, the January 26 earthquake exposed the weak foundations of Ahmedabad's building boom.

BY late evening, the skyline of Vastrapur, the cosmopolitan township to the west of Ahmedabad that absorbed much of the urban explosion that the city saw in the last 15 years, turns dark and quiet. The clusters of towering multi-storey structures that ar e normally aglow with light at this hour, are for the most part in darkness. There is the odd window here or door there that has light, the rare home which a family has not fled.

18051161jpg

The majority of those who live in the high-rise apartments of Vastrapur, however, have deserted their homes. They have not returned even a month after the earthquake of January 26, either because the damage suffered by their apartment blocks has made the m unsafe or simply because they feared another earthquake.

It is a fear that refuses to go away. Each aftershock or tremor - and there have been several since the January 26 event - heightens these fears. People rush out of their apartments with every tremor, real or imagined. Each time, they re-live the calami tous morning when they ran down eight or ten flights of stairs not knowing if they would make it to the ground before the roof caved in on them.

By bringing down scores of high-rise buildings, killing 745 persons and maiming hundreds, the earthquake exposed the rickety foundations of Ahmedabad's building boom. While the relentless pursuit of profits by private builders drove this boom, their path s and strategies remained unfettered by any meaningful government regulation. Independent media investigations, judicial interventions, and general public pressure on the State government to get to the bottom of the mess have resulted in the contours of a full-fledged scandal becoming exposed. Police investigations and media reports have brought to light wholesale violations of construction standards and building bylaws by influential builders, the negligence of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and t he Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA), and a nexus involving builders, politicians and the administration.

"The main cause for all this was that nobody told us that Ahmedabad is in seismic zone three and that therefore buildings had to be specially designed," Surendra Patel, AUDA Chairman, told Frontline. Patel, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party function ary who is also one of the party's fund collectors, has been criticised for his stewardship of a regulatory body that did little to stop unregulated and illegal construction activity in new Ahmedabad. Patel is an engineer by training, and his disarming i nnocence of Ahmedabad's seismic status further shakes public confidence in public servants and the institutions they head. "Buildings are normally designed to take vertical loads and an additional wind load if they are more than five storeys high," Patel explained. Earthquake-proof high-rise buildings must take vibrating horizontal loads. Most of Ahmedabad's low-rise buildings (those of five storeys and less), he said, are built on hollow plinths supported only by columns, which also cannot take horizon tal loads. Many of these structures had heavy water tanks on them which added to the instability of the building, Patel said.

The rule that architectural and structural drawing plans should be submitted either to the municipal corporation or the AUDA was waived a few years ago. Builders were asked to submit only the basic building plans for approval before they started construc tion. At one level, the decision made sense as it would have been an immense task to check each drawing for structural completeness. "It is like asking the Medical Council of a State to check the prescriptions each doctor gives," said a leading architect of Ahmedabad, who did not wish to be named. However, the authorities should have insisted that the structural plans should be submitted, at least for the record.

The builders usually violated the sanctioned plans in a number of ways. First, buildings built on land earmarked for residential purposes would in actual practice have a dual purpose. Most builders of high-rise apartments sold the ground storey to shops and commercial establishments. Secondly, the area shown as balcony space in the original plan would be covered either fully or partially to make for greater room space. Third, penthouses which were not part of the original plan, would be constructed. In the case of some of the apartments that collapsed, such as Mansi, in which 33 persons died and Shikhar, in which 88 died, there were illegal terrace gardens and swimming pools that added enormous weight to the structure.

Apart from these standard violations, builders also compromised on the quantity and use of steel and concrete. They got away with these violations as the municipal corporation and the AUDA rarely conducted inspections. Finally, most builders did not both er to obtain the completion certificate from either the municipal corporation or the AUDA. "Eighty to 90 per cent of buildings constructed in the last 20 years in Ahmedabad do not have a building use certificate," a prominent architect in the city told < I>Frontline.

In the area falling under the jurisdiction of the AUDA, 12 buildings collapsed. Of these, two were high-rise buildings and the rest low-rise ones. Surendra Patel said that the AUDA was not solely responsible for the collapse of these buildings. There was another main reason, he said - the lack of awareness among the people. Other factors that led to the problem, according to him, were the restrictive provisions of the Land Ceiling Act (repealed by the Bharatiya Janata Party government two years ago), wh ich created a shortage of land and thus pushed up urban land prices. Builders took advantage of this shortage by building vertically. Patel said that factors such as complicated bylaws, a tortuous procedure to get plans sanctioned and the lack of proper monitoring during construction were contributory factors.

Neither the municipal corporation nor the AUDA has gone public with the list of erring builders. News reports in the Gujarat press spoke of how the files that contained building plans had mysteriously disappeared. One report said that they were burnt dur ing the riots in 1991 and another that they were reportedly destroyed in last years floods.

The task of retributive justice has been left to the police. "Around 57 first information reports (FIR) have been filed by the residents of buildings that have collapsed," Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey told Frontline. "We are increasin g the scope of the FIRs to include builders, architects and competent authorities where negligence can be proved. Cases have been filed under Sections 304 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), apart from the provisions of the Gujarat Flat Ownership Ac t. To strengthen the cases, each of the sites were being inspected by experts from the forensic science laboratories, engineers of the quality control cell of the government's Roads and Buildings Division, and officials from the National Council for Ceme nt and Building Materials under the Ministry of Industries of the Government of India. Material from the sites is being tested against the Bureau of Indian Standards specifications," Pandey said.

The violations are shocking according to Pandey. For example, a four-storey building might have a one-metre foundation. A water tank which on paper has a sanctioned capacity of 500 to 600 litres would actually have a capacity of 50,000 or 60,000 litres. The police have issued arrest warrants against 14 persons and already arrested eight. These include Raju Vyas and Satish Shah, the builders of Mansi and Shikar apartments. Rambhai Pathre, the builder-cum-director of the Swaminarayan School in which 32 ch ildren died, and Bakulesh Oza, the builder of Sundarvan apartments in which 24 persons died, are also under arrest. The police have asked for the establishment of a special court to try builders. There are limitations to how far this investigative track can be taken. Although the arrested builders are still in custody, they have already moved the courts for bail. The criminal proceedings are likely to become a long-drawn process.

WHAT is being done about the safety of the standing structures? How can public confidence in them be restored? What is being done to make the existing structures earthquake-resistant? The municipal corporation and the AUDA could not have led a public con fidence-building campaign given their own culpability. In the circumstances, they have done the next best thing: the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad, has been made the nodal agency to assess and classify the extent of d amage to buildings. "We asked A.S. Arya, Chairman, Bureau of Indian Standards, to update the format used internationally to assess earthquake damage, taking into account the standard building practices here," P.U. Asnani, former Deputy Chairman of the mu nicipal corporation and currently Adviser to the Municipal Commissioner, told Frontline. "Damage is assessed on a scale from G to G5, that is, from no structural damage to building collapse. The joint team of the municipal corporation and the CEPT invited applications from flat and house owners who wanted assessment done of the damage to their buildings. We received about 5,000 applications from people who live in RCC (re-inforced cement concrete) structures," Vasnani said.

Structural engineers from all over the country were invited for a week and sent to sites in the city to assess the damage. The assessment work was completed in record time. Within a few weeks, most flat owners who had made applications in response to the initial advertisement had received a certification from the CEPT team. Each certificate states the level of damage (G-G5), describes the damage, and suggests the kind of retrofitting that is required to be done to make the building earthquake-resistant. In the case of those buildings that fall under categories G3 and G4, the CEPT team recommended vacation of the premises until repairs were carried out, Vasnani said.

18051162jpg

"The CEPT initiative has created enormous confidence among flat owners, as they now have a scientific assessment of their buildings' structural strength. More important, they know what must be done to retrofit the building. Our next plan is to empanel a group of structural engineers with a proven track record. They can be approached by house owners who need to make structural changes to their buildings," said Vasnani.

The announcement of a relief package by the Gujarat government for home owners whose properties were damaged or destroyed resulted in a flood of another 60,000 applications from around the city. The government relief package offers compensation based upo n the extent of damage. The maximum it offers is Rs.1.75 lakhs for a family whose house has been destroyed in a building using RCC, and Rs.1.4 lakhs for a house destroyed in a load-bearing (non-RCC) building.

The residents of Ahmedabad, however, see these initiatives as offering too little, too late. The compensation they may finally extract from the government may cover only a small part of the repair and reconstruction costs. Yet it may be to the hated buil der that house owners may finally have to turn for help.

Rebuilding Kutch

AT the Lal Tekri area in Bhuj, an apartment block teeters over the road traffic at an angle of over 30o. Major Y.S.S. Rao of 12 Madras Sappers has been given the go ahead to bring down the four-storey structure, which he does with all the fine sse of a professional, systematically demolishing the structural pillars to achieve the objective.

18051181jpg

The building symbolises the worst in terms of construction ethics. It was built over a deep nullah (an open drain) without reinforcement support, and so its foundations were incessantly subjected to erosion by the flowing water. When it collapsed, part of the structure sank into the nullah. Rescue teams had to crawl underneath to look for survivors.

The use of inferior construction materials was noticeable in practically every collapsed structure. Concrete slabs crumbled easily, for flat strips of non-load bearing mild steel had been used to make them, instead of steel rods of the requisite size.

While building in earthquake-prone zones (as a relevant aside, the British Geological Survey has said that the subcontinent should expect heightened further tectonic activity), a minimum of six kg of steel per square foot of built-up area needs to be use d. In Mumbai, builders use just 5 kg for a ground-plus-ten-storey structure and in Bhuj they used a mere 2.5 kg. For buildings in the earthquake-hit area that have been declared safe, further safety measures could include column strengthening by means of grouting or steel meshing.

There is no disputing the earthquake's severity or its capacity to leave even a well-constructed structure damaged. Central government buildings, built by the Central Public Works Department, are meant to be designed as earthquake-proof ones but at least some of these did not survive the quake. Yet, engineers and architects emphasise that adherence to rules of engineering and architecture would have resulted in lower casualty figures.

AT the Vivekanand Research and Training Institute (VRTI) in Mandvi, an experiment is in progress. Soon after the earthquake a team set out to work with the primary intention of creating a structure that could be in turns temporary, semi-permanent and the n permanent. The structure would have a high degree of strength in terms of the materials used and the inherent design qualities. It is expected to double as emergency shelters after being used to house people and store materials while permanent homes ar e being rebuilt for them.

It was inevitable that the team would settle on the dome. Not because a dome is entirely earthquake-proof but because "it's a handy structure and very stable", say the team-members (who prefer to see their work as that of a collective and therefore reque st anonymity).

Using Buckminster Fuller's (the U.S. architect and inventor) geodesic dome principles, the team recreated a model with the pentagon as a starting point. The roof of the dome is five-sided. Steel strips radiate from this, resulting in a wall face of hexag rams. For further verification of its usability, the team fed data into an engineering software programme and subjected the structure to a virtual stress analysis of situations and pressures that it would be likely to encounter on the ground. It passed a ll the tests.

As a temporary shelter the dome would be like an upturned basket, covered with tarpaulin. The covering would be held in place by nuts and rubber washers. The dome would rest on the ground and entry to it would be gained simply by lifting it. Once inside, there would be enough headroom to sit up.

18051182jpg

As a permanent shelter the dome would rest on a circular, column-based, stone or block masonry wall. The roof would be a three-or-four-inch thick slab of ferro cement (a wire mesh covered with mortar of sand and cement). The team envisages a dome 20 feet in diameter and loaded with a five-tonne roofing slab whose weight is distributed evenly over the dome. Even with such a heavy load, the computer analysis shows the deflection factor bearing up very well - just a 1.7 mm dip on the entire span. A dangero us deflection level would have been upwards of 25 mm.

The finer points regarding the dome are being worked out - would it be better to transport the dome in its entirety to the affected areas, or would it be better to let the recipients assemble it at the site itself? Both ideas have their pros and cons, bu t a strong reasons to opt for the latter is the fact that assembling their own shelter would give the affected people a strong sense of involvement and of getting to grips with their own rehabilitation - bolting together 400 strips of foot long metal str ips to make a patchwork of hexagons would take a group of three people about two hours.

The issue of relevant architecture has always been a matter of debate among civil engineers, architects, building contractors and real estate agents, all projecting their own points of view. In the process, the safety factor has often been ignored.

The traditional architecture of Kutch is typified the bhunga - a round-walled, single-room structure with a conical roof of grass. The walls are a mesh of sand, limestone, stones and grass. An eco-conscious, climate-friendly, socially-oriented str ucture with sound engineering features - this will be an accurate description of a bhunga. Mutva Miya Husen Gulbeg, sarpanch of Dhordo village proudly points out: "When bhungas fall they fall outwards - not on the people who built them."

Not that bhungas are the answer to the modern imperatives of space and amenities that towns such as Bhuj, Anjar, Bhachau and Mandvi need. But the VRTI team believes that construction in Kutch does not have the space restrictions of other areas of the country. One of the ways to deflect the effects of an earthquake of vast magnitude is to build low-standing structures. The less the height, the less the shear on the columns.

There is one factor that plays a large part in the damage to structures by an earthquake. This is called resonance, and refers to the interaction of the intensity of the vibrations with a structure at a particular point. It is possible to design for reso nance, but the requirements are at odds with commonly practised construction methods.

To some extent advanced geological mapping can point out areas that might be subjected to certain pressures, but since tectonic activity is mutable this would be a futile exercise as far as long-term construction plans are concerned. It does, however, go a long way in explaining why some buildings fell and others didn't in Kutch.

The head-count and some gaps

Census 2001, which is expected to make significant additions to the existing data on several counts, raises some controversies too, particularly in the matter of recording the caste identity of people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Sc heduled Tribes.

THE official website of India's Registrar-General and Census Commissioner (https://www.censusindia.net) claims that the "rich diversity of the people of India is truly reflected through the decennial Census, which is one of the basic tools to understand a nd study India." However, the enumeration in connection with Census of India 2001, which was undertaken from February 9 to February 28 and which will be followed by a revisional round from March 1 to March 5, has raised several questions about the validi ty of this claim.

The significance of Census 2001, the 14th since 1872 and the sixth since Independence, lies in the fact that it is the first Census of the 21st century and the third millennium. Will Census 2001 give a "complete account of the socio-economic development and demographic health of the ever-burgeoning population of India", as the first press note issued by the Office of the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner of India promises?

On the face of it, Census 2001 has not made any radical departure from the past decennial censuses in the matter of eliciting information from the people. Thus, when serious questions are raised about some aspects of Census 2001, they need to be understo od in terms of the socio-political changes that took place during the past decade.

Among the various aberrations that have come to light since the launching of the population enumeration on February 9 is the inability of the enumerators to record accurately the identity of people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Trib es. Under the Household Schedule, question number 8 requires the enumerator to record whether the respondent belongs to a Scheduled Caste, and the name of the Scheduled Caste from the list supplied to him or her. This list includes only those castes that are declared as Scheduled Castes in that particular State or Union Territory. As a result, if a Scheduled Caste respondent migrates from one State to another in search of employment or livelihood or better career prospects, he or she is not counted as b elonging to a Scheduled Caste.

Ridiculous though it might look, officials in the Office of the R.G. and Census Commissioner plead helplessness as they are guided by the provisions of the Census Act, 1948, as followed over the decades. This aberration was glaringly evident when Registr ar-General and Census Commissioner J.K. Banthia met President K.R. Narayanan on February 9 to launch the month-long enumeration drive. The President's enumerators found that they could not correctly list his caste status in the form supplied to him, as h is caste, Paravan, is a Scheduled Caste in Kerala but not in Delhi. Even though Census officials and the Rashtrapati Bhavan refuse to reveal how the matter was finally sorted out, under the plea that information collected through the Census is confidenti al, it is evident that in such cases enumerators have no option but to leave the column empty and not count the respondent as belonging to a Scheduled Caste.

Para 67 of the Census Manual (a set of instructions for the enumerators prepared by the Registrar-General of India) says: "You have been furnished with a list of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in relation to your State or Union Territory. Ascertai n if the person enumerated belongs to a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe and if he or she does, write the name of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe under the appropriate question. For a person who is not a member of any Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, put a 'dash' (-) under both the questions 8 and 9."

Para 67.1 goes on to say that if the person (respondent) merely claims to belong to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, but says that he/she does not belong to any of the notified communities applicable to the area, as reflected in the list supplied to you, he/she will not be reckoned as belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe."

Worse, Frontline learnt that in a few cases the enumerators, contrary to the requirement, did not have even the list of Scheduled Castes of the State where they did the head-count (there is reason to believe that their number could be large). If a respondent claims to belong to a Scheduled Caste, his or her claim is accepted and the caste declared is duly recorded in the Schedule. "It is for our superiors to find out whether the caste declared by a person claiming to belong to a Scheduled Caste i s in the list or not, and decide whether to count the respondent as belonging to an S.C.," an enumerator told Frontline. He said: "When even the Delhi S.C. list is not supplied to us, how can you expect us to carry all-India SC/ST lists?" Delhi, f or instance, has no S.T. list.

Para 67.3 of the Census Manual and Question 9 in the Schedule say that a Scheduled Tribe can belong to any religion. However, a Scheduled Caste person can belong to only the Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religion as per Question 8 in the Schedule. Here, Hindus or Sikhs or Buddhists would also include their sects and beliefs, the Manual explains. Judicial interpretations and legislative amendments have clarified that the list of Scheduled Castes would include only those following the Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist re ligions among the notified castes in every State, the upshot being that members of S.Cs who convert to religions other than Sikhism and Buddhism would lose their S.C. status. While the rights of Dalits among Sikhs were recognised in the 1960s, those of D alit Buddhists were recognised only in the 1990s, after a sustained struggle.

However, for Dalit Christians, who have been seeking inclusion among the Scheduled Castes, the Census Schedule and the Manual appear to be a major disappointment. The Bill to confer the S.C. status on Dalit Christians was to be passed in Parliament in 19 96. But it was abandoned on technical grounds, as it was introduced without giving the statutory notice period. The Bharatiya Janata Party opposed the Bill, arguing that it would cut into the benefits enjoyed by other S.Cs and that the Christian converts , who abandoned Hinduism, should not be entitled to the benefits that go with the S.C. status. The Bill has not yet seen the light of the day, even though it had raised hopes among Dalit Christians, who have been fighting for S.C. status for long.

John Dayal, secretary-general of the All India Christian Council, said: "This is a Census operation and not an application for government jobs. No downstream benefits will accrue from the Census. There is admittedly no caste in Christianity, Sikhism, Bud dhism and Islam. But there is Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Islam among Dalits. That is a fact."

The Council served a legal notice on the Registrar-General of India demanding that secondary questions on religion not be put to members of the S.Cs. According to the Council, tribal leaders from Madhya Pradesh and certain other States have complained th at local enumerators were not listing tribal Christians as belonging to the S.Ts, even though the Schedule and the Manual say that they can belong to any religion. It felt that there were ulterior political motives in several questions and that a blatant attempt was made to communalise the Census operation, thereby vitiating the exercise and seriously compromising its scientific-demographic character and development-oriented statistical utility.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has expressed its concern over the fact that a person belonging to a Scheduled Caste has been made to choose from among Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths to declare his or her religious faith, and wanted the Census Co mmissioner to ensure that persons belonging to the S.Cs who had converted to other religions or chose to remain animists or agnostics are also counted as belonging to S.Cs.

Muslim activist and former Member of Parliament Syed Shahabuddin pointed out in a letter to the Registrar-General that it was not just Christians who were aggrieved. He wrote: "Many Muslim Indians are descendants of untouchables who are now classified as Scheduled Castes and some of them still engage in the same vocation and form biradris (brotherhood) like Halalkhor, (scavenger community) which is akin to the Hindu group "Dom", recognised as a Scheduled Caste." Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, president of the Lok Jan Shakthi, who heads the All India Dalit Sena, is also supportive of the demand that Dalits converted to religions other than Sikhism and Buddhism should be classified as belonging to Scheduled Castes.

Common to all these protests is the perception that Census data should not be construed as a licence or a facilitator for positive discrimination. Even if the Constitution confers Scheduled Caste status only on those professing faith in three religions f or the purpose of reservation in Parliament and State Assemblies and in public employment, it does not prohibit the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner from following the same criteria for the head-count. The issue here is whether members of the Sc heduled Castes could enjoy the same freedom as other citizens in recording their religion. After all, no proof of identity is being insisted on by the enumerators; so why restrict the freedom of choice of religion to those who consider themselves as Dali ts or members of Scheduled Castes? According to Article 341, for instance, if there is no proof of conversion to a religion other than the Hindu religion but mere acceptance of certain ideological tenets, a person does not lose his or her status as the m ember of a Scheduled Caste (Chaturbhuj vs Moreswar, 1954, S.C.R.816 (841).

The crux of the controversy is the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, issued by the President under Article 341. In this Order, the President, exercising the authority conferred upon him by Article 341, specifies which of the castes are S.Cs. T he Order includes the lists of S.Cs. for each State. In its third paragraph, it says that no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu or Sikh religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste. This Order was amended in 1990 to include Buddhism as the third religion to which an S.C. person could belong. The 1996 Bill sought to add Christianity to the list. Christian groups have been agitating against this paragraph in the Order.

Fr. S. Lourduswamy, executive secretary of the Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said that the additions in Columns 8 and 9 of the Census Schedule were striking and that they poi nted to certain ulterior motives of the present government. He claimed that the addition, given within parentheses in Column 8, that there could be S.Cs only among Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists was not there in the 1991 Census Schedule. The clarification g iven in Column 9 that S.Ts could be from any religion was also not there in the 1991 Schedule. The only inference, he said, was that there was scope of misuse by enumerators who could be biased for various reasons. Can one belonging to an S.C. or an S.T. not declare oneself as an atheist or an animist? he asked.

Protests from other sections brought to light more inconsistencies. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) has warned that if the Census is held as scheduled in Jharkhand, a large number of tribal people living away from their homelands would be left out. The Registrar-General assured the party that a fool-proof system had been evolved to deal with such cases.

Other anomalies and aberrations include the categorisation of sex workers as beggars and the grouping of eunuchs as men. The new questions in the Schedule on fertility particulars seek details only of married, widowed, divorced or separated women. It doe s not, for instance, consider the possibility that fertility particulars could be obtained from unmarried women.

NOTWITHSTANDING these questions, Census 2001 would make a significant addition to the existing data on several counts. There are now questions on the age of marriage for males, disability by type and the mode of travel to the place of work, and a questio n for a household engaged in cultivation and plantation. In addition, to ensure accuracy and authenticity of the information collected, a provision has been made in the Schedule to record the name of the respondent and her/his relationship to the head of the family, and his/her signature or thumb impression with date.

Over two million enumerators and supervisors have visited about 200 million households in about 6.5 lakh villages and more than 5,500 towns and cities, and covering about a billion people. Despite the gaps, the Census will provide a snapshot of the popul ation of the country as on March 1. The first phase involving house-listing was completed between April and September 2000. Population enumeration in the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir and the snow-bound areas of Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh wer e completed in advance. The preliminary results of the Census, expected to be released towards the end of March, should throw more light on the effectiveness of this gigantic exercise.

The tragedy of Hyderabad

other
A. G. NOORANI

The Passing of Patrimonialism: Politics and Political Culture in Hyderabad 1911-1948 by Margrit Pernau; Manohar, 395 pages, Rs. 700.

18050751jpg

THIS is a fascinating study of cultural change. The author selected the princely state of Hyderabad as a case study for two reasons. "First, for centuries cultures encountered and fertilized each other in the Dekkan. This cultural openness, which at time s bordered on syncretism, was an important element in the self-perception mainly but not exclusively of the twentieth century elite. This secular tendency towards synthesis also had an impact on the relationship with British culture. Second, due to the s ystem of indirect rule, the state found itself in a protected position. Far from trying to impose their own culture, the British attempted - at least officially - to respect and support existing values and institutions, partially hoping to participate in the legitimation of traditional rule and partially believing these values and forms of rule to be most suited to Indian requirements, and thereby contributing to the Empire's stability."

The book focusses on the rule of the seventh and last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, from 1911 to 1948, and on the role of the social and political elites in the state. Its objective is to study social action and its values within the framework of the state, and the rules by which the game was played in it.

Osman Ali Khan was quite unlike his predecessors, especially the immediate one, the charismatic Mahbub Ali Pasha, who projected himself as the Harun al Rashid of Hyderabad. He died in 1911. "In contrast to his father, Mir Osman Ali Khan was a sober power -politician, who could neither charm the masses nor the historians. The unhappy end of his reign, comprising the rule of the radical Muslim party, Ittehadul Muslimeen, the Communist uprising in Telengana and the military confrontation with the Indian Uni on, may have contributed to the fact that this epoch to a large extent is still waiting for adequate historiographical treatment." (emphasis added, throughout).

Indian works are sometimes marred by tendentiousness; as sadly is Zubaidi Yezdani's work, despite industrious research. The author's survey of recent studies is helpful. None, however, is definitive in scope. There is paucity of literature on the Ittehad ul Muslimeen, which still plays a role in Andhra Pradesh politics. By comparison, there is plenty on the Telengana armed uprising (1946-51), which was "the largest peasant revolution in post-Second World War Asia after the Chinese revolution" - though a comprehensive history of the event is yet to be written.

Margrit Pernau's book is indispensable to an understanding of how Osman Ali Khan and the Ittehad drove Hyderabad to its doom. He was ever torn by dilemmas of his own making and eventually overplayed his hand. The most faithful ally of the British aspired to leadership of Muslims, to independent statehood and even dreamt of a corridor to Portuguese Goa. He used the Ittehad till it became a demon which destroyed his options. He resented Jinnah's ways but followed his advice, to his ruin and Jinnah's own d ebacle in Kashmir. The Nizam, was in W.C. Smith's brilliant phrase, "a clever man utterly destitute of wisdom."

THE book is a feat of research, drawing as it does on archives in London and Hyderabad, a wealth of private papers, extensive interviews and all that there is to read on the subject in English, German and Urdu especially some literature published in Kara chi. Volumes 3 and 4 of Jinnah Papers, published recently in Pakistan, throw much light on his disastrous intervention in Hyderabad's affairs. The Nizam submitted to it against better judgment.

The author provides a meticulously researched account of Osman Ali Khan's consolidation of his contested rule, his effort to acquire legitimacy in the eyes of people within and outside Hyderabad, his relationship with the British and his play with politi cal forces within the state, culminating in the rise of the Ittehad. For all his cunning, the man left himself no line of retreat in his quest for the mirage of independence.

Margrit Pernau writes with verve, especially in her pen portraits, of which by far the best is of Bahadur Yar Jung, a legend in his own lifetime. "Muhammad Bahadur Khan was a powerful speaker in Urdu, perhaps one of the greatest, whom India brought forth in this century. Only when one takes this into consideration and the tremendous impact, which beauty of diction, poetic imagery and impressive words are able to create on an Urdu audience, does the standing become comprehensible that this young Jagirdar quickly obtained not only among the masses but also vis-a-vis the aristocracy and even the Nizam. The impact of his speeches at times seemed to be almost autonomous of their contents - only thus can it be explained that even a politician like Sar ojini Naidu who certainly did not agree with his radical Muslim nationalism, neither as a Hindu nor as a secular-minded member of the Congress, nevertheless publicly declared him to be her 'son'. Although it is difficult to ascertain whether the enthusia sm of the listeners was directed at the language or at the content, this does not imply that all the ideas were drowned in the sound of the beautiful words and produced no effect. The Nizam himself seems to have proved highly susceptible not only to this concept of puritanical Islam, but also to the emphasis on the equality of all Muslims, at least at prayer meetings and similar religious occasions, and honoured the preacher with a title of nobility for words which would have cost anyone else his positi on or at least the goodwill of the ruler."

That was the golden age of Urdu oratory. Two other notable performers were the Ahrar leader, Ataullah Shah Bukhari, and Abul Kalam Azad. In 1938, Jinnah failed to persuade Bahadur Yar Jung to join the Muslim League, but a year later he succeeded in drawi ng his Ittehad into his own scheme in order to emerge as the leader of all Muslims. We have a first-hand account of Jinnah's deep affection for him in the legendary Saadat Hasan Mantos' book Ganje Farrishte based on his chauffeur's account Mere Saheb (My boss).

As Margrit Pernau remarks, "more disparate partners could not have joined in an alliance." Jinnah wept when he heard of his friend's death - allegedly by poisoning - while on a trip to Srinagar in 1944. It is one of the ironies of history that he fell ou t with Sheikh Abdullah precisely then, with consequences as fateful as his friendship with the Nawab and liaison with the Nizam.

In 1946, Qasim Razvi became the Ittehad's leader and harried the Nizam's friends and foes alike. Of the former, the role of his constitutional adviser Sir Walter Monckton remains shrouded in mystery. In October 1947 he advised rapprochement with India, a ccording to a document quoted by Lucien Benichou in his book From Autocracy to Integration. But Pernau cites his note of September 15, 1947 in which he advised that Hyderabad should reach out for a treaty, for "when the circumstances change, for e xample, if Pakistan and Hyderabad grow strong enough to warrant it, the Treaty can be denounced."

No one should have the temerity to advise this gifted scholar to pursue her research for a definitive study of the Nizam's diplomacy between 1945 and September 13, 1948 when the Indian Army walked in and put paid to his dreams. Her heart is set on a stud y of Old Delhi in the 19th century.

A scientist for peace

A tribute to Dorothy Hodgkin, scientist, peace activist and a friend of India, on the occasion of International Women's Day on March 8.

INTERNATIONAL Women's Day falls on March 8. Ninety-three years ago (then it was called the National Women's Day in the United States), this day represented a notable victory for democracy as a whole, for it was a symbol of the equality of men and women a t their workplaces and thus forged a unity of the working people. What is more, this triumph came at a time when women had entered certain professions hitherto barred to them, the scientific profession being the most spectacular among them. In a span of barely eight years, the Polish born French scientist Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes in science, thus demolishing the notion that the scientific profession was the monopoly of men of noble pedigree.

Dorothy Hodgkin, who would be England's first woman Nobel laureate in science, was born on May 12, 1910, in Cairo - just a year before Marie Curie won her second Nobel Prize - to a school inspector, John Crowfoot, and his wife Molly. Nobel Prizes are given every year, but not everyone is an Einstein or a Bohr or a Curie. Dorothy Hodgkin shares something common with these scientists of the "romantic era". She did science for "science's sake" and yet understood its great socio-political role. She had a disinterest in "fame", and yet when it came to her, she used it to promote science and also for the socio-political cause that she believed in. The International Women's Day became a world event primarily after the overthrow of the Czarist regime, thus recognising the Russian women's demand for "bread and peace". Do rothy was not essentially a political agitator, yet these were her aims too. This tribute to her on the eve of International Women's Day is a tribute to the democratic cause that the movement represents.

18050841jpg

Dorothy's early days were spent in Egypt and Sudan. It was here that she did her first experiments in science. Also here she had a first-hand glimpse of the brutalities of colonial rule: destruction of villages, massacres of men and cattle and of uprisin gs against the British rule. At the age of ten, when Dorothy left North Africa with her mother and sisters to join school in England, the wounds of the First World War had not yet healed. Her mother had lost all her brothers in the War and many English f amilies had suffered similar tragedies. Molly Crowfoot was a Labour Party member and became an active campaigner for peace. She took her children to the 6th Assembly of the League of Nations in 1925, in Geneva. For Dorothy, a future president of the Pugw ash Conference, this was one of the first public activities and she remembered "the atmosphere charged with emotion, of hope struggling against a sense of doom."

The Crowfoots did not have a son but gave all support to their daughters' education and Dorothy admits that she owed more to her mother than her father. Molly bought for Dorothy a set of lectures by William Bragg on X-ray crystallography. From then on Do rothy was fascinated by chemistry and by the world of crystals. She sat for the school-leaving examination in 1928 and won a 30 scholarship and an admission to Sommerville College, Oxford.

From the caring cover of her mother, Dorothy was now to face the world - and what a hostile world it was! Oxford was known to be a seat of social orthodoxy. Even in 1927 it had passed a legislation to limit the number of woman students. Many university b odies barred women from membership, and some Professors even refused to admit women to their classes. Such discrimination against women was not uncommon in England in those days, which gave voting rights to women only in 1928.

In college, Dorothy read chemistry and pursued X-ray crystallography. The German physicist Von Laue was the first to apply X-rays for the study of crystals. Laue had asked: "If X-rays can find cracks in bones, can they not find cracks in crystals?" It tu rned out that they could. Most of the space in crystals is empty, except for atoms, which sit at regular intervals. An X-ray photograph of a crystal shows some spots on a photographic plate. British crystallographers William and Lawrence Bragg (father an d son, who shared the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics) showed that the pattern formed by these spots could give the nature of the atomic arrangements in crystals. The main task of a crystallographer is to find the crystal structure from the positions of thes e spots and also by noting how dark these spots are. From these spots, a crystallographer first intuitively guesses the possible structures. Through detailed calculations one then eliminates the unlikely candidates and keeps refining the physically consi stent model of the crystal arrangements. The work is generally very tedious and involve lots of trial and error.

As a student Dorothy had developed insights into crystallography and decided to do a dissertation in the subject. In her B.A. (1932) she got a first class and secured a scholarship for further studies in Cambridge in the laboratory of John Desmond Bernal , a pioneer in applying X-ray crystallography for the study of chemistry and biology. Bernal's influence, however, went beyond the confines of crystallography. He was an avowed Communist and believed that only a socialist state, such as the Soviet Union, could free science from the shackles that held it and promote its development for the benefit of the entire humanity. Dorothy's own dormant radical ideas matched those of Bernal. Events such as the economic depression, the rise of fascism and the Spanis h Civil War had shaken the intelligentsia from its complacence and Bernal was their leader. When the War broke out he led British scientists in the War efforts. Dorothy felt that the best way she could help anti-fascist resistance was by keeping science alive in the British universities and went about doing her immediate task, that was X-ray crystallography.

The informality of Bernal's laboratory spelt freedom from the orthodoxy of Oxford. Dorothy's collaboration with Bernal produced 12 papers in two years, including the pioneering work on proteins. She left, somewhat reluctantly, when her alma mater, Sommerville College, offered her a job. This meant that the collaboration with Bernal would stop but it also gave her a chance to establish herself as a scientist in her own right. She returned to Oxford in 1934 and found her colleagues to be supportive of her. This was because the chemists had understood that her support from crystallography would be valuable for their understanding of chemistry. Barely a few months after Dorothy's return to Oxford, one of her senior colleagues brought her crystals of insulin and asked her to find its structure.

Insulin was first isolated in 1922 by Canadian scientists and was first crystallised in 1926 but no one had determined its structure. It was known that insulin controls the sugar concentration in the pancreas and has miraculous effects on diabetes patien ts. To understand its action, its structure was to be known and that was a challenge to Dorothy. She began this work in 1934, as a fairly inexperienced researcher, of only 25 years of age and it took her 35 years to solve the problem!

Dorothy's first major work on a large molecule involved the determination of the structure of penicillin. Though discovered in 1928, the first attempts at industrial production of penicillin began during the War years, for the treatment of wounded soldie rs. The known methods of preparing from fungus mould could not meet the needs of large-scale production. Synthetic methods were tried but the end products could not be confirmed. Much of the wasteful trial and error could be cut down if the structure of penicillin were known. Dorothy undertook this project with her students and later learnt that her work had become a 'military secret'. This was because penicillin was found immensely effective in treating wounded soldiers. Dorothy's results could not be used in Wartime, but after the War her methods were applied as effective means of drug design.

This work in penicillin established Dorothy as a crystallographer of eminence. In 1948, she got an offer to find the structure of vitamin B12. Like insulin and penicillin, this molecule too is clinically important. It is present in the liver and is known to cure pernicious anaemia. Dorothy had a special interest as a crystallographer to take up this work. B12 is more complex than penicillin but less complex than insulin. B12 could thus give her new insights into tackling the insulin problem. In common p arlance, it was a warming up exercise. But it gave her more. It brought her the Nobel and to chemistry and biology it gave greater insight into the question of organisation of molecules.

While working on the B12 molecule, Dorothy learnt that fierce competition had broken out between the drug monopolies, Merck and Glaxo, to "own" the B12 structure. These companies gave funds to research groups with conditions that results must not be made public and be handed over to the funding agency. Dorothy tried her best to stay clear of these lobbies as she found lobbying distasteful. But one "lobby", which she found to her "taste", was the peace movement. As a result of this involvement, she was d enied a visa in 1953 to visit the United States, just as her friend Linus Pauling (two-time Nobel winner - 1934 in Chemistry and 1962 for Peace) was refused a passport the previous year by the U.S. administration.

The B12 work took Dorothy twelve years to complete. It brought her the 1964 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This prize meant great satisfaction to her as also to her colleagues, past and present. Of special significance was the fact that she was the sole winne r of the chemistry prize that year. But this was not what she wanted. Dorothy always felt that she should have shared the prize with Bernal, whose guidance in every crucial problem, she always acknowledged. Bernal, it is noted by many, was the originator of many outstanding ideas in biology and about a dozen Nobel prize winners owe their success to him. Bernal himself never got the Nobel. Those who knew Dorothy recall that an important trait in Dorothy's character was her equanimity (like Bernal's) conc erning honours and her readiness to share the honour and acknowledge the credit where it was due.

With the Nobel Prize, a scientist is considered to have reached the summit. There are a few who aim for the clouds. To Dorothy, neither the B12 nor the Nobel Prize was the end of the road. the structure of insulin was still to be found. With her team she made a determined effort. In 1969 the problem was solved, as a fitting finale to a distinguished career. In the 37 years that Dorothy gave to crystallography, the field had changed. At every step she reviewed the developments in science and made use of the newer techniques that emerged. But at no stage of her life was she flush with funds. To a complaint that science in India was starved of finances, she had once remarked - to her student K. Venkatesan (who retired as Professor from the Indian Institut e of Science) - that her constraints in terms of funds gave her a challenge and made her more creative.

Dorothy retired in 1970 when she turned 60. The next year she faced a personal loss at the death of Bernal. It is known that as a young student she had fallen in love with Bernal, who was already married and being an ebullient personality was temperament ally Dorothy's opposite. But fortunately, Dorothy had met a young man in 1937, who matched her ideas of a husband. His name was Thomas Hodgkin, who hailed from an aristocratic family. Hodgkin's disease was identified by one of his grand uncles; the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology was won by one of Thomas' nephews. Thomas was a Communist Party worker. When they married, he had no regular income and Dorothy maintained the family with her meagre salary, even making dresses herself, and raising a kitchen gar den. This continued for many years and Dorothy brought up the three children, practically all alone as Thomas was away in long spells for his political work and often job hunting. Thomas too was an intellectual of rare ability and as an expert in African affairs served as an adviser to Ghana and other newly independent African states. Dorothy too would help the cause of these nations in her own way, and of course Bernal would be a source of support for the Hodgkin couple.

The decolonisation of the globe, which began after the Second World War, gave Dorothy hope and also responsibilities. She took many African and Asian students as her collaborators, many of whom later became scientific leaders in India. To all of them she reminded that it was their duty to return home and build science in their own countries. Dorothy's experiences, however, showed that this process of building science in developing countries faced impediments from a deep-rooted bureaucratic authoritarian ism, what J.B.S. Haldane called the new caste system.

THE Nobel Prize did not bring any extravagance to the Hodgkins but it made Dorothy more busy. She felt that it was her duty to work more actively for the causes she deeply believed in, but surprisingly it was to the women's movement that her links were t he weakest as she had differences with the so-called 'feminists'. It was not that she was unconscious of women's problems and the social stigma that womanhood often put. She was fortunate compared to other women scientists. Marie Curie never voted, for s he died well before suffrage was granted to French women. Neither she nor her daughter Irene (the 1935 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry) could qualify for the membership of the French Academy of Science. Dorothy was more fortunate. She became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947.

By temperament, Dorothy felt that the peace movement and the movement for scientific cooperation were dearest to her. She was elected president of the Pugwash Peace Conference and visited India in that capacity in 1976, to inaugurate its 26th session.

Dorothy had had an attack of rheumatism at the age of 28, which affected her mobility. It nearly crippled her in her old age but that did not deter her from travelling around the world, whenever the movement demanded it. She visited Africa many times wit h Thomas as also, the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Japan and India. In one of her last visits here (1979), she travelled to Kerala in poor health, to meet E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Her student M. Vijayan (Professor, Indian Institute of Science) recalls that any social movement that gave a fillip to the weaker sections of the people claimed the Hodgkins' personal attention. This visit to Kerala was thus very special for them. Thomas undertook this journey ignoring his failing health and nearly died of exhau stion.

18050842jpg

Dorothy was not an eloquent speaker. So "voicing" protests did not seem natural with her. Her association with the peace movement and the Medical Aid Foundation for Vietnam was her way of marking her protest against militarisation. Sometimes it would tak e more personal forms, for example when she decided to send her daughter Elizabeth to work in North Vietnam at the height of the Tet Offensive in 1968 (the visit materialised in 1973, amidst large-scale hostilities). When such personal acts appeared inef fective, vocal protests too came naturally to her, as she did to Henry Kissinger at the escalation of aerial bombing in Vietnam in 1971 and to Margaret Thatcher (her ex-student) at her anti-Sovietism.

The collapse of the Soviet Union must have been a great shock to Dorothy. Three years later, on July 29, 1994, she passed away. Her Nobel money had been spent in the social causes that she believed in. She was, as described by her friend and Nobel Prize winning crystallographer Mark Perutz, "a great chemist, a saintly, tolerant and gentle lover of people and a devoted protagonist of peace." As if to honour her posthumously (as also Linus Pauling, who died two weeks after Dorothy), the 1995 Nobel Peace P rize was awarded to the Pugwash Conference. This award symbolised an honour, to be shared by all peace lovers and would have been as dear to Dorothy as other numerous awards, she had won as an individual.

S. Chatterjee is a scientist at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore.

When Davos met Porto Alegre

The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre achieves its goal of being a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum at Davos.

"HEMINGWAY said that the rich are different from you and me. How can anyone expect the people in Davos to understand the crisis that globalisation has visited on the lives of people like those of us here in Porto Alegre?" That was going to be my opening line.

18050951jpg

When I arrived at the university studio on January 27 for the televised trans-Atlantic debate with George Soros, the financier, and other representatives of the global elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland, a visibly shaken Florian Rochat of the Swiss del egation was waiting for me. The Swiss are known for being impassive, but Florian was visibly shaken. "They are arresting protestors in Davos and other places in Switzerland," he told me. "They're killing democracy in our country. Our friends there are as king you to support them in calling for the shutting down of the World Economic Forum."

That request drove out any lingering desire to be "nice" in the coming exchange, which had been billed by its producers as a "Dialogue between Davos and Porto Alegre". The ambitious, one-million franc plus production involving four satellite hook-ups, ai med to explore if there was a common ground between the annual elite gathering in Davos and the newly launched World Social Forum (WSF) in this southern Brazilian city. Millions of people globally were waiting for the transmission.

Since I had been in Davos last year, the producers requested that I make the opening statement for the Porto Alegre side. I obliged with the following: "We would like to begin by condemning the arrests of peaceful demonstrators to shield the global elite at Davos from protests. We would also like to register our consternation that while we in Porto Alegre have painstakingly come up with a diverse panel of speakers, you in Davos have come up with four white males to face us. But perhaps you are trying to make a political statement.

"I was in Davos last year, and believe me, Davos is not worth a second visit. I am here in Porto Alegre this year, and let me say that Porto Alegre is the future while Davos is the past. Hemingway wrote that the rich are different from you and me, and in deed, we live on two different planets: Davos, the planet of the super rich, Porto Alegre, the planet of the poor, the marginalised, the concerned. Here in Porto Alegre, we are discussing how to save the planet. There in Davos, the global elite is discus sing how to maintain its hegemony over the rest of us. In fact, the best gift that the 2,000 corporate executives at Davos can give to the world is for them to board a spaceship and blast off for outer space. The rest of us will definitely be much better off without them."

The press termed the next 90 minutes not as a debate but as an emotional exchange that, as the Financial Times put it, "sometimes degenerated into personal insults". But I and the other panelists - among them, Oded Grajew of Brazil's Instituto Eth os, Bernard Cassen of Le Monde Diplomatique, Diane Matte of Women's Global March, Njoki Njehu of 50 Years Is Enough, Rafael Alegria of Via Campesina, Aminata Traole, former Minister of Culture of Mali, Fred Azcarate of Jobs with Justice, Trevor Ng bane of South Africa, Francois Houtart of Belgium, and Hebe de Bonafini of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo - were simply reflecting the non-conciliatory mood towards the Davos crowd of most of the 12,000 people who flocked to Porto Alegre.

For this constituency, a significant number of whom watched the debate at a huge auditorium at the Catholic University, globalisation was a deadly business, and many undoubtedly shared the feelings of Hebe de Bonafini when she screamed at Soros across th e Atlantic divide, "Mr. Soros, you are a hypocrite. How many children's deaths have you been responsible for?" That Soros in the course of the debate made some utterances regarding the need to control the negative impacts of globalisation failed to endea r him to this crowd, who saw him mainly as a financial speculator who had made billions of dollars at the expense of Third World economies.

The holding of the week-long WSF was nothing short of a miracle. Proposed by the Workers' Party of Brazil (PT) and a coalition of Brazilian civil society organisations, supported with significant funding by donors such as Novib, the Dutch agency, and pro vided with strong international support by the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique and Attac, the European anti-globalisation alliance, the event was put together in less than eight months' time. The idea of holding an alternative to the annual r etreat of the global corporate elite in Davos simply took off. While there were some glitches here and there, the event was a resounding success, despite the massive challenge of coordinating 16 plenary sessions, over 400 workshops and numerous side even ts.

A major reason for the WSF's success is that it had the organisational support of the government of the city of Porto Alegre and the government of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, both of which are controlled by the PT. Porto Alegre has, in fact, achieved the reputation of being a city that is run both efficiently and with sensitivity to social and environmental considerations. The city is said to be at the top of the quality of life index for Brazil.

The sharing in Porto Alegre focussed not only on drawing up strategies of resistance to globalisation but also on elaborating alternative paradigms of economic, ecological, and social development. Militant action was not absent, with Jose Bove, the celeb rated French anti-McDonalds' activist, and the Brazilian MST (Movement of the Landless), leading the destruction of two hectares of land planted with transgenic soybean crops by the American biotechnology firm Monsanto.

Porto Alegre achieved its goal of being a counterpoint to Davos. The combination of celebration, hard discussion, and militant solidarity that flowed from it contrasted with the negative images coming out of Davos. The Swiss town was the centre of Switze rland's biggest security operation since the Second World War. The Swiss police pulled out all the stops to prevent protesters from reaching the Alpine resort, and fired water cannons and teargas on demonstrators in Zurich, arresting many of them. Even c onservative Swiss newspapers condemned the police operation as a threat to political liberties in Switzerland.

Perhaps the outcome of the duel between Davos and Porto Alegre was best summed up by George Soros: "The excessive precautions were a victory for those who wanted to disrupt Davos. It was an over-reaction. It helped to radicalise the situation."

18050952jpg

On his performance in the televised debate with Porto Alegre, Soros commented: "It showed it is not easy to dialogue - I don't particularly like to be abused. My masochism has its limits." Observed the Financial Times: "Such uncomfortable experien ces seem temporarily to have scrambled his ability to deliver pithy soundbites."

But Soros was not alone in flubbing his lines. Soon after my opening statement, Bernard Cassen of Le Monde Diplomatique leaned over and told me: "Walden, it wasn't Hemingway who said the rich are different from you and me. It was Scott Fitzgerald. "

Walden Bello attended the World Social Forum as a representative of Focus on the Global South, a progressive research and advocacy institute based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Swadeshi parade

The Hindutva version of swadeshi is put on show at the Swadeshi Industrial Fair in Coimbatore. The contradictions within the Sangh Parivar on the issue, however, remain.

SWADESHI, associated in the popular imagination with the spirit of the Indian freedom movement and Gandhiji, is back in business, but in a new avatar. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), widely seen as being committed to the core philosophy of Hindut va, has been driving the swadeshi bandwagon this time around.

18051021jpg

But the irony is evident. Look at the two contradictory postures adopted by members of the Sangh Parivar on issues related to the economic liberalisation programme. On the one hand, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is implementing the liberalisation pro gramme - in what is being referred to as the second stage of reforms. However, the SJM, the Sangh Parivar's economic wing of sorts, has been calling for a resistance to the "West-centric" reforms.

The SJM organised a Swadeshi Industrial Fair in Coimbatore from February 16 to 21. The SJM's proximity to the BJP-led government at the Centre, and its ideological closeness to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, brought the top brass of the political leade rship to the Fair. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee inaugurated the Fair, indicating the importance that the Parivar places on the SJM's concept of swadeshi and its role as an ideological standard-bearer of the RSS' core philosophy of Indian and Hindu nationalism. The Union Minister for Rural Development M. Venkaiah Naidu, and Minister for Information Technology and Parliamentary Affairs Pramod Mahajan attended. Minister for Human Resource Development Murli Manohar Joshi participated in the valedicto ry on February 21. The representatives of the BJP's allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) who attended the fair included Union Minister for Environment and Forests T.R. Baalu and general secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) Vaiko.

The Fair was organised by the Centre for Bharatiya Marketing and Development (CBMD) "a forum of the SJM", according to the website of the Fair (https://www.swadeshifairtn.org). Apart from promoting "Bharat's efforts in self-reliance through promotion of i ndigenous industry", it "aims to strengthen, promote and help national economy to grow within the overall framework of Bharatiya needs and value system by conducting research and formulating policies, organising melas, fairs and exhibitions." The CBMD ha s conducted similar fairs in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Shimla. The first one, held in New Delhi in January 1999, was also inaugurated by Vajpayee.

18051022jpg

The SJM managed to rope in the Coimbatore District Small Scale Industries Association (CODISSIA), the major organisation representing small manufacturers in the region, as a co-sponsor of the Fair, which was held at a sprawling exhibition centre construc ted recently. Although the organisers had announced on the eve of the fair that the achievements of Indian private industry - big and small, traditional and modern - would be displayed at the Fair, a striking aspect was the presence of a large number of public sector undertakings (PSUs).

Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), widely perceived to be at the receiving end of the power sector reforms since 1991, was present. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., again perceived to be victims of the reforms in the petroleum sector, also occupied large stalls. The ailing HMT, which has suffered as a result of lower tariffs on capital goods imports, was present. The Life Insurance Corporation and United India Assurance, facing a serious threat to their very existen ce following the initiatives taken by the BJP-led government in 2000 to privatise the insurance sector, were also at the Fair. Bank of India and the State Bank of India occupied stalls. Several Union Ministries and departments also displayed their achiev ements. The Union Ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Rural Development, and the Department of Industries were among those present.

A local industrialist told Frontline: "Is it not ironic that while these public sector units are on the verge of sale, they are being paraded here?" Remarks were heard also about the ruling political establishment's "duality". While the government is proceeding with its privatisation drive, another ideological arm of the Parivar is talking about protecting national interest. The implication of these adverse comments was obvious: Were these public sector units being compelled to participate in the Fair?

On the eve of the Fair, SJM Convener S. Gurumurthy told a press conference in Chennai that a diverse range of Indian companies would attend the Fair. "There is an Indian angle to the Indian economy," he said, "reflecting the specific and unique character istics of India, not understood by the intelligentsia." Gurumurthy said that the growth of small manufacturing, in places such as Tirupur, Ludhiana, and Rajkot "was possible only because of the talents of the local people". Gurumurthy stressed that the s uccess of these ventures, started by "local communities such as Goundars and Nadars in Tamil Nadu, and Kutchis and Patels in Gujarat, did not have to depend on state support."

The SJM promised to unfold every facet of Indian industry at the Fair on a single platform for the first time. Gurumurthy claimed that even bigger organisations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of C ommerce and Industry (FICCI) had been unable to do this. The Centre for Policy Studies, aligned to the SJM, put on show the Hindutva view on economic matters.

Coimbatore has been going through an industrial crisis in the last few years. The textile industry, the backbone of the city's economy, has been hit (Frontline, February 27, 1999). The textile machinery industries, and the foundries that depend on this industry, and the pump industry have all been affected. Almost every walk of life has felt the impact of the economic slump. Factories and mills have been either closed down or have downsized. Workers have been laid-off in thousands and industrial wages have fallen. Hundreds of small and medium-size businesses in the city, once proudly held out as examples of the "entrepreneurial spirit", have been extinguished. Almost every section of society ties the steep and relentless slide in the last few ye ars to the policies of economic liberalisation initiated in November 1991. So, was the SJM's choice of Coimbatore as the venue for the Fair just a chance occurrence, or was it part of a design?

It is evident that the economic reforms have taken their toll on large swathes of the economy. Several aspects of the reform programme, notably those relating to import tariffs and deregulation, have exposed small and medium industries to unprecedented c ompetition from imports. The removal of the remaining quantitative restrictions (QRs) by March 31 can only worsen the situation. The accelerated implementation of the rules of the international trading regime under the auspices of the World Trade Organis ation (WTO) compounds matters. Moreover, the financial sector reforms and the delinking of financial institutions from the task of developmental-lending threatens to force these units out of the organised credit market.

Hence, the economic reforms threaten to jeopardise large sections of the middle layer of society - small industrial producers, petty traders and small businesses, peasants with small holdings, the unemployed educated middle class in rural and urban India . Critics of the Sangh Parivar have pointed out that the modern variant of swadeshi banks on the primal fears of these affected sections. They argue that the Right-wing, historically opposed to state presence in industry and a votary of private enterpris e, is trying to woo these sections, collectively labelled as the petty bourgeoisie.

Significantly, the SJM was established soon after the economic reforms unrolled. In January 1992 it launched its "struggle against economic imperialism". In 1993 it initiated a campaign against the Dunkel Draft, which laid the foundation for the WTO in i ts present form. In 1995 it started its campaign against Enron's Dabhol power project. The SJM claims that its "strong agitation" against the deal resulted in a "massive victory" because the newly-elected BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra was force d to withdraw the deal. However, the SJM later gave the clearance for the project.

18051023jpg

The SJM claims that its version of swadeshi is based on an "India-first approach". It alleges that the pursuit of socialist ideals in the half century after Independence has been a disaster. However, it is also critical of "free market globalisation". It blames the "Anglo-Saxon worldview", adopted by the Indian "intellectuals and elites", for the state of affairs. So, what solution does the SJM suggest for the Indian economy and society?

"The word swadeshi," claims the SJM, "is the political, economic and civilisational life of India rooted in Indian nationalism." The SJM laments that "the fall-out of the West-centric thrust" has resulted in "individualism, fragmentation of families, com munities and societies." The "mindless pursuit of materialism" and the "erosion of national identities" have been other consequences. In order to reverse globalisation, the SJM advocates the establishment of an "international anti-WTO lobby". It calls fo r "a war that must be fought if we are to retain our market as well as grab other markets." The SJM also demands the Indian withdrawal from the WTO because "India has surrendered a part of its self-governance in economic matters".

The Hall of Information, put on display by the Centre for Policy Studies at the Fair, provided some clues about the SJM's version of nationalism, its views on globalisation and its attitude to industrialisation. A panel here, titled "Our Metropolitan Eli te Remains Hostile", pointed out that the "English-educated metropolitan elite thinks of town-based entrepreneurs, anchored in their families and communities, as obstacles in progress." It describes how the same elite, instead of encouraging local enterp rise in the fireworks industry in Sivakasi, has "been looking for ways of reversing the success story". It alleges that the "elite have for years been running a concerted battle against the Sivakasi fireworks industry, alleging that it thrives on child l abour." The panel claims that the campaign against the Sivakasi manufacturers has not stopped even after they "have conclusively proved that no children are employed in their units" (Frontline, May 12, 2000).

Observers of the Sangh Parivar have pointed out that Right-wing ideologies, at any given point in time, tend to portray some sections as aliens or outsiders. This could take the form of the minorities or, in the matter of the economic ideology, the "metr opolitan elite" or the "intelligentsia" who are presented as being alien to the "Indian ethos".

18051024jpg

Karuna Manoharan, who runs a small unit manufacturing precision tools in Coimbatore, is against the RSS' concept of swadeshi. He told Frontline that the SJM, despite its talk of swadeshi, "is trying to paper the fault lines in traditional Indian a nd Hindu society." He says that Indian industries have failed to meet the challenge of globalisation because "caste and kinship ties, rather than professional business practices, have held sway over their operations". This, he said, is reflected even in the labour recruitment policies of Indian companies. "Caste and communal loyalties, rather than competence, appear to be more important in these companies," he said. Manoharan also alleged that the Hindutva perception of national industry as a homogeneou s entity is flawed. For instance, he points out the contradictions between small and big industry. "The small-big relationship in India has been largely a parasitic one, by which bigger companies bleed the smaller companies to death," he said.

The swadeshi project of the SJM is seen as an attempt by the Sangh Parivar to keep its political and social options open in the long term. Its mobilisation of the victims of the reform process, while expressing helplessness despite enjoying access to sta te power, is seen as an attempt to gather dissent under its own banner. Critics of the Sangh Parivar allege that by doing so the Parivar hopes to prevent dissent from gathering on a progressive platform that is not confined by a narrow and sectarian bran d of nationalism.

The earthquake

other

The Cover Story, "The aftershocks" (March 2, 2001), gives the picture of a chaotic administration, which failed to utilise effectively the flood of assistance that came from across the world. Worse still was to learn that casteism and communalism played a role in the distribution of relief materials and that corporators and councillors cornered some of these. Has human kindness really dried up in Gujarat?

The suggestions made in the articles should be looked into by the government so that it is not caught napping when another disaster strikes.

Mani Natarajan Chennai * * *

The cover photograph gives us hope in the midst of chaos and mass destruction. A woman with courage picks up the remains of her house to build a new home - it reveals the behaviour pattern of Indian society. She would not be scared even if thousands of a ftershocks occur in the coming days.

Beno A. Enose Kanyakumari * * *

The Cover Story made extremely painful reading. It seems even a strong military operation, armed with enough salvage and rescue materials, was not sufficient to relieve the people of the pain of the terrible tragedy.

R. Ramasami Tiruvannamalai * * *

The Cover Story ("The killer earthquake", February 16, 2001) was a blend of well-gleaned facts and poignant pictures of the destruction - bodies under debris, disruption of communications, shortage of water, lack of medical facilities. The promptness wit h which the military and other agencies helped the victims is applaudable, but the other side of the story is disappointing. Why were we unable to handle the emergency effectively? Why did the buildings crumble like sand hovels? Why was there a delay in reaching help to all quarters? The problem lies not in the attitude of the authorities but in the inadequacy of our preparation to meet the immediate problems arising out of a catastrophe.

Shahnawaz Karim By e-mail * * *

People from all walks of life have risen to the occasion and offered help to the people of Gujarat in whatever way they could. With the economy already in a bad shape (a huge fiscal deficit, rising inflation, and so on), imposing an additional surcharge of 2 per cent on income-tax in the name of Gujarat, raising railway fares, slashing food and fertilizer subsidies and so on do not augur well for the people. Politicians, instead of rendering lip-service, should undertake austerity measures themselves.

Among the aid received from foreign countries, perhaps the most welcome contribution was the supply of relief materials from Pakistan, which was followed by a brief conversation between Pervez Musharraf and Atal Behari Vajpayee. With the ice having been broken, leaders of both countries should make good use of the opportunity to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

S. Balakrishnan Jamshedpur Colliery accident

As your story on the Bagdiggi colliery accident showed, there is an almost total disregard for miners' lives in India (March 2). This was a disaster waiting to happen.

Prof. B.K. Kejriwal of the Indian School of Mines has analysed all the major accidents and disasters and made this remark: "Almost all cases of inundations have occurred due to gross negligence and utter disregard for the safety regulations on the part o f management" (Safety in Mines - A Survey of Accidents, Their Causes and Prevention, 1901-1993). Bagdiggi is no exception.

However, politicians should not be allowed to get away with just blaming Coal India or BCCL officials. In 1995, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted a new convention on the health and safety in mines (ILO Convention 176), which laid down t he minimum standards for mines safety. In accordance with the ILO Constitution, the government should have submitted this to the Lok Sabha by December 1996 at the latest. It still has not done so. A year ago the Ninth National Tripartite Conference on Sa fety in Mines was held in Delhi - the first such conference since the ILO adopted the convention. The Ministry of Labour draws up the agenda. Was the ILO Convention mentioned? No. None of the political parties - the BJP, the Congress(I) and various Third Front constituents - did anything serious about mine safety when it was in power.

Stirling Smith, Labour and Society International Bolton, England

* * * Rahul Jain Agra Economic policy

Three contributions in Frontline (March 2), "Pre-Budget reflections" by Arun Ghosh, "A shoddy guidebook" by C.P. Chandrasekhar and "Development policy and right to development" by Arjun Sengupta, are splendid companion pieces that merit being read together. For good reasons.

The pieces by Professors Ghosh and Chandrasekhar put across very pertinently that the recipes proffered by the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council's (EAC) recent report are evidently those from the World Bank's soup-kitchen, as it were. The report is neither innovative nor path-breaking. It does not capture the real state of the prevailing economic turf in India; it recommends a stiffer dose of the LPG (liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation) pill for every economic ill. The fact remains that a decade of administration of the pill has served only to swell the number of the poor and deprived in India and create, paradoxically, a band of consumerist middle class that is indifferent, if not hostile, to the plight of the poor.

The EAC report has lost sight of the fact that India lives in nearly six and a half lakh villages and scores of urban slums, the quality of life of whose inhabitants is indescribably miserable. It sadistically advises the removal of whatever protectionis t fig leaves that remain for the poor. The report follows the World Bank rationale that economic growth will take care of poverty alleviation - a rationale that puts the economic growth cart before the poverty horse. The report's advice has touches of th e Marie Antoinette counsel, that the poor eat cake since bread is scarce.

It is against this backdrop that Sengupta's essay becomes relevant, particularly since he argues that development is a human right, the ends of which can be served in a poor country like India only by ensuring distributive justice with priority rather th an chasing the mirage of economic growth. If China is attempting market-socialism now, it needs to be accepted that it has done quite some economic levelling over a period of five decades - a fact that the EAC report does not take into account at all. Th e EAC has not taken note of an interesting fact that Chandrasekhar has highlighted - the recent evidence that loss of employment has accompanied reforms in China, threatening a return of poverty among sections of the population.

Contextually, it merits mention that the World Bank has shifted its development idiom. The Bank's Presidents, from Robert McNamara to James Wolfensohn, used to parrot that the raison d'etre of the Bank's operation was poverty-alteration.

Of late, the Bank repeats the refrain, "Our dream is a world free of poverty". Does the World Bank intend to shift its identity from a 'doer' to a 'dreamer'? Is it well-advised to follow the advice of the EAC to toe the World Bank line? Obviously not. An alternative development paradigm, based on the plank of distributive justice with priority, warrants serious consideration, at least now.

John Mammen Thiruvananthapuram Crisis in agriculture

The problems faced by our agricultural economy owing to the impact of globalisation are acute. This shows clearly the lack of vision of our governments.

At each step towards globalisation, warnings were issued by experts, political parties and non-governmental organisations about the vicious impact it may have on the economy. Had the governments considered them, held discussions at various platforms and arrived at a consensus, we could have avoided these cries over spilt milk. At least we could have prepared ourselves for these changes. Even countries smaller than India could bargain and get more than it while India remained a mere spectator. If its agr icultural economy collapses, what will be the future of India?

Binoy Zacharia Kottayam * * *

It is true that the gains made by the State in the social sector are mostly because of land reforms. However, it must also be noted that productivity in the agriculture sector came down steadily after land reforms. Today the State's farm sector shows a d ismal picture. One of the original objectives of land reforms was to increase agricultural output. In almost all States that have not introduced any kind of land reforms, agricultural output has considerably increased after the Green Revolution. If land reforms would only fragment landholdings and bring down productivity, it should be viewed as something that is detrimental to the interests of the nation.

Dr. Swaminathan's scholarly views on the paradoxical situation that has emerged in Kerala is solicited.

Pradeep Krishnan Palakkad

From the Sundarlal Report

other
CONFIDENTIAL To:

(1) The Honourable the Prime Minister, Government of India, New Delhi.

(2) The Honourable the States Minister, Government of India, New Delhi.

Sir,

We were asked by the Government of India to proceed to Hyderabad State on a goodwill mission. After completing our task there we now beg to submit our report.

(1) The delegation consisting of Pandit Sundarlal, Kazi Abdul Ghaffar and Moulana Abdulla Misri arrived at Hyderabad on the 29th of November and returned to Delhi on the 21st of December 1948. During this period we toured through 9 out of the 16 district s of the state, visiting 7 district headquarters, 21 towns and 23 important villages. In addition we interviewed over 500 people from 109 such villages as we did not visit.

Further 31 public meetings at various places and 27 private gatherings of Hindus, Muslims, Congress men, Official Members of Jamiat Ullma and of the Ittahadul Muslimeen, the staffs and students of some Educational Institutions, Members of the Progressive Writers Association and of the Hindustani Parchar Sabha, etc., were addressed by members of the delegation.

Amongst important men and officials interviewed by us may be mentioned H.E.H. the Nizam, H.E. the Prince of Berar, Major General Choudhri, Mr. Bakhlo, the Chief Civil Administrator, Swami Ramanand Tirtha, Dr. Malkote, Messrs Ramchander Rao, Ramachari, K. Vadya, Venkat Rao and Abul Hassan Sayed Ali, Nawab Ali Yawar Jung, Nawab Zain Yar Jung, Raja Dhonde Raj, Moulana Abu Yousuf, Moulvi Abdul Khair, and Moulvi Hameed uddin Qamar Farooqi.

At all these meetings and interviews the main problem discussed was that of the creation and maintenance of cordial relations between the communities. Appeals were made to the people to forget the past and to work unremittingly for the establishment of p eace and harmony amongst themselves. The aim and policy of the Indian Union was also explained and special emphasis was laid on the objective which was the establishment of a secular government for the people of Hyderabad, in which all of them irrespecti ve of religion, caste or creed will enjoy equal freedom and civil rights and will have equal opportunities for development and progress. It was made perfectly clear that the military administration had been charged with the duty of implementing that poli cy. We clarified our position, whenever opportunity presented itself saying that ours was not a Commission of investigation or Inquiry into events proceeding or following the police action and that ours was merely a goodwill mission charged with the task of restoring better communal relations. All the same, we feel it our duty to bring to your notice what we saw and gathered in our tourings, as it has, in our opinion, an importance all its own.

(2) Hyderabad State has 16 districts, comprising nearly 22,000 villages. Out of them only three districts remained practically, though not wholly, free of communal trouble which affected the state first during the activities of the Razakars and then duri ng the reprisals that followed the collapse of that organisation. In another four districts the trouble had been more serious but nothing like the havoc that overtook the remaining eight. Out of these again the worst sufferers have been the districts of Osmanabad, Gulburga, Bidar and Nanded, in which four the number of people killed during and after the police action was not less, if not more than 18,000. In the other four districts viz. Aurangabad, Bir, Nalgunda and Medak those who lost their lives num bered at least 5 thousand.

We can say at a very conservative estimate that in the whole state at least 27 thousand to 40 thousand people lost their lives during and after the police action. We were informed by the authorities that those eight were the most affected districts and n eeded most the good offices of our delegation. We, therefore, concentrated on these and succeeded, we might say, to some extent at least, in dispelling the atmosphere of mutual hostility and distrust.

It is a significant fact that out of these eight the four worst affected districts (Osmanabad, Gulburga, Bidar and Nanded) had been the main strongholds of Razakars and the people of these four districts had been the worst sufferers at the hands of the R azakars. In the town of Latur, the home of Kasim Razvi - which had been a big business centre, with rich Kuchhi Muslim merchants, the killing continued for over twenty days. Out of a population of about ten thousand Muslims there we found barely three th ousand still in the town. Over a thousand had been killed and the rest had run away with little else besides their lives and completely ruined financially.

(3) Almost everywhere in the affected areas communal frenzy did not exhaust itself in murder, alone in which at some places even women and children were not spared. Rape, abduction of women (sometimes out of the state to Indian towns such as Sholapur and Nagpur) loot, arson, desecration of mosques, forcible conversions, seizure of houses and lands, followed or accompanied the killing. Tens of crores worth of property was looted or destroyed. The sufferers were Muslims who formed a hopeless minority in r ural areas. The perpetrators of these atrocities were not limited to those who had suffered at the hands of Razakars, not to the non-Muslims of Hyderabad state. These latter were aided and abetted by individuals and bands of people, with and without arms , from across the border, who had infiltrated through in the wake of the Indian Army. We found definite indications that a number of armed and trained men belonging to a well known Hindu communal organisation from Sholapur and other Indian towns as also some local and outside communists participated in these riots and in some cases actually led the rioters.

(4) Duty also compels us to add that we had absolutely unimpeachable evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian Army and also to the local police took part in looting and even other crimes. During our tour we ga thered, at not a few places, that soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses. At one district town the present Hindu head of the administration told us that there was a general loot of M uslim shops by the military. In another district a Munsif house, among others was looted by soldiers and a Tahsildar's wife molested. Complaints of molestation and abduction of girls, against Sikh soldiers particularly, were by no means rare. We were gen erally told that at many places out of the looted property cash, gold and silver was taken away by military while other articles fell to the share of the mob. Unfortunately there was a certain element in the army which was not free from communal feelings probably because some of them could not forget the atrocities committed elsewhere on their own kith and kin.

Lest we might be understood to imply a slur on the Indian army we hasten to record our considered opinion that the Indian Army and its officers in Hyderabad generally maintained a high standard of discipline and sense of duty. In General Choudhri we foun d a man without any tinge of communal prejudice, a firm disciplinarian and thorough gentleman.

We were given by Muslims instances in which Hindus had defended and given protection to their Muslim neighbours, men and women even at the cost of their own lives. In some professions the fellow feeling was particularly marked. For instance at places Hin du weavers defended Muslim weavers against Hindu and protected them often at a very heavy cost (including loss of life) to themselves. Many Hindus helped in the recovery of abducted Muslim women.

(5) This communal trouble followed close upon the heels of the police action and the consequent collapse of the Razakar organisation, which had stood in the Muslim mind, as an effective barrier against the establishment of responsible government which wa s synonymous, to the average Hyderabadi Muslim, with Hindu Raj, because it would be based on the will of the Hindu majority. Muslim masses were generally slow to realise that their sufferings were the inevitable repercussions of the atrocities committed on the Hindus only, a few days before, by the Razakars. The Razakars movement had the sympathy of a good number of Muslimans in Hyderabad. Such of them as dared publicly to oppose that madness paid heavily for their temerity, so much so that one of them fell before the bullet of an assassin. Like the Razakars the perpetrators of crimes against the Muslims encouraged the belief that they had the backing of the authorities...

Before closing we must gratefully acknowledge the valuable help and willing cooperation given to us by the Military Administration in Hyderabad, by Government officials in the districts we visited, by public workers and prominent citizens and lastly by o ur two Secretaries Messrs Furrukh Sayer and P.P. Ambulkar.

Of a massacre untold

A revealing account surfaces of happenings in Hyderabad state in the wake of the Indian Army's 'Police Action' there in 1948.

"AT times one has to close his (sic) eyes in national interest." The "senior police officer" who made this confession to The Indian Express, in Srinagar on February 17, provided a truthful explanation for the compromises which sections of the medi a and academia tend to make in the "national interest".

The officer was speaking of the volte-face his chief, A.K. Suri, had performed with regard to the disclosure of the arrest by the police of a man from Military Intelligence, in plain clothes, for firing wantonly on a group of youngsters in Maisuma , in Srinagar. But, let alone matters of immediate occurrence or issues of current interest such as Kashmir and the border dispute with China, even on historical events one finds a practice of economising with truth.

That K.M. Munshi, India's Agent-General in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad, did not mention in his memoirs The End of an Era (1957) the massacre of Muslims in many areas in the wake of the Indian Army's "Police Action" in September 1948 - itself a compromise with the truth - was but to be expected in view of his outlook. Not so its omission in standard works by writers who aspired to scholarly values and who were not communal; only "patriotic" in a perverted but familiar manner. A rare exception was the book by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader P. Sundarayya, Telengana People's Struggle and its Lessons (1972). He wrote of the "untold miseries" that were inflicted on "the ordinary Muslim people" (pages 88-89).

Suppression of records is not only unethical but futile. More often than not, the foreign scholar will unearth it from archives in London or Washington, or in India itself. A German scholar has done just that. Margrit Pernau records in her book The Pa ssing of Patrimonalism that "while the occupation by the Indian army had been quick and had caused only relatively few casualties, the following communal carnage was all the more terrible. The Razakars had sown wind and reaped not only storm but a hu rricane which in a few days cost the lives of one-tenth to one-fifth of the male Muslim population primarily in the countryside and provincial towers". (page 336, emphasis added, throughout. See review on page 75).

Professor Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a scholar on Islam and a critic of Jinnah's politics, wrote a seminal article in the periodical The Middle East Journal in 1950 (Volume 4) titled Hyderabad: A Muslim Tragedy. He was Lecturer in Islamic Hist ory at the University of the Punjab and at the Forman Christian College, Lahore (1940-1946) and visited Hyderabad in 1949. In a critique of the Nizam's policies and of Qasim Razvi, the leader of the Razakars, he also fairly described the aftermath.

"Off the battlefield, however, the Muslim community fell before a massive and brutal blow, the devastation of which left those who did survive reeling in bewildered fear. Thousands upon thousands were slaughtered; many hundreds of thousands uprooted . The instrument of their disaster was, of course, vengeance. Particularly in the Marathwara section of the state, and to a less but still terrible extent in most other areas, the story of the days after 'police action' is grim.

"The only careful report on what happened in this period was made a few months later by investigators - including a Congress Muslim and a sympathetic and admired Hindu - commissioned by the Indian Government to study the situation. The report was submitted but has not been published; presumably it makes unpleasant reading. It is widely held that the figure mentioned therein for the number of Muslims massacred is 50,000. Other estimates by responsible observers run as high as 200,000, and by some of the Muslims themselves still higher. The lowest estimates, even those offered privately by apologists of the military government, came to at least ten times the number of murders with which previously the Razakars were officially accused... In some areas, all the men were stood in a line, and done to death. Of the total Muslim community in Hyderabad, it would seem that somewhere between one in ten and one in five of the adult males may have lost their lives in those few days. In additio n to killing, there was widespread rape, arson, looting, and expropriation. A very large percentage of the entire Muslim population of the Districts fled in destitution to the capital or other cities; and later efforts to repatriate them met with scant s uccess." He was referring to a report by Pandit Sundarlal (1886-1980) and Kazi Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar(1889-1956).

In 1988, Omar Khalidi, a devoted chronicler of Hyderabad, published what he claimed were extracts from their Report in his compilation of essays, Hyderabad: After the Fall (Hyderabad Historical Society; Wichita, Kansas; U.S.). His introduction to the extracts, though informative, is marred by inaccuracies and intemperate language. He had relied, somewhat uncritically, on an interview with Yunus Salim who claimed inaccurately, that he was a member of the team led by Sundarlal which toured Hyderaba d in November-December 1948. A 32-year-old State attorney then, he was dismissed from the post for having helped the team.

Yunus Salim was a Deputy Minister for Railways in Indira Gandhi's government (1969) and a Governor of Bihar in 1991. Garbled versions of the Report appeared in Pakistan. Khalidi writes: "In addition to the copy in the Union Home Ministry, Srinivas Lahoti , a Communist Party of India leader in Hyderabad, owned a copy. In an interview in February 1988 he claims to have deposited it with the National Archives of India, New Delhi upon his party's instruction. The present writer obtained fragments of t he Report (which is partly in English and partly in Urdu) from owners who wish to remain anonymous. The portion in English is being reproduced without any alteration. The Urdu portion is translated into English."

Khalidi was misled. The entire document is in English and the "fragments" he reproduces should have put him on notice that it is not safe to rely on them. The brief Introductory portion is intrinsically unreliable. The rest is a village-wise and d istrict-wise account.

Union Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel reacted angrily to the Report in a letter to Abdul Ghaffar dated January 4, 1949:

"I notice that in your report you mentioned that you were asked by the Government of India to proceed to Hyderabad State on a goodwill mission. At least I am not aware of any such mission having been entrusted to you by the Government of India. As far as I know, you wanted to go there and it was arranged that you should go there at Government expense. There could have been no question of Government of India sending any goodwill mission to Hyderabad State.

"I notice that your report is and your activities were, restricted to making inquiries about what happened during and after the police action. There is nothing in it about the extent and consequences of Razakar atrocities. Probably that was out of the terms of reference which you had set for yourselves. At the same time, you have covered in your reports matters which could by no stretch of imagination, have formed the purview of your enquiry. I should also like to say at once that the detailed in quiries which have been made by the local administration over a fairly long period as opposed to the roving enquiries which you have made during such a short period show that your estimate and your appreciation of the position lack balance and proportion . Finally you have rushed into a sphere which might have been more appropriately left to be covered by experienced statesmanship and administrative ability."

The assertions were simply untrue and the aspersions were unworthy of Sardar Patel. In those days nobody could have toured the State without official approval. That the team went there admittedly "at government expense" revealed a lot. And, as we know "e xperienced statesmanship and administrative ability" do not guarantee impartiality in inquiries. The report censured the Razakars and was balanced.

Kazi Abdul Ghaffar was a bitter critic of Razvi's Majlis-e Ittihadul-Muslimin and was trusted by the State Congress. He was editor of Firangi Mahal's Khilafatist paper Akhuwat (1919-20) and of Payam (1934-46) and was respected as a scholar- journalist. He visited Hyderabad in October along with Padmaja Naidu and alerted Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to the happenings there. Pandit Sundarlal was vice-president of the United Provinces Congress (1931-36) and as president of the All-India Peace Counc il (1959-63), urged rapprochement with China against the majority view of the times.

His magnum opus, The Gita and The Quran, is a neglected work. An English translation was published in 1957 by the Institute of Indo-Middle East Cultural Studies, Hyderabad. Neglected also is Volume 8 (second series) of Selected Works of Jawahar lal Nehru (1990) (pages 102-113).

In a Note to Sardar Patel's Ministry of States, dated November 14, 1948, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, while denying Pakistan's propaganda, wrote: "I have recently had talks with Kazi Abdul Ghaffar and Miss Padmaja Naidu, who have just returned from H yderabad. They are both reliable observers... The impression I have gathered from these talks is that while our army is generally believed to have functioned well and to have protected the people, there is little doubt that a very large number of outbreaks took place in the small towns and villages resulting in the massacre of possibly some thousands of Muslims by Hindus, as well as a great deal of looting, etc... This information is contrary to what I had believed and I should like it to be verified through our military and civil authorities in Hyderabad. We must know the truth, or else we shall be caught saying things which are proved to be false later." It is unlikely that those reports did not reach the ears of the Minister concerned, Vallabhbhai Patel.

Even men like Dr. Zakir Hussain's brother, the academic Dr. Yusuf Husain Khan, and Dr. M. A. Ansari's nephew, M.A. Ansari, a High Court Judge, were "removed from their post", Nehru complained. He added: "One of the persistent charges made is that we inte nd to kill what is called Muslim culture. Hyderabad is known all over the Middle East as a city of Muslim culture. The Osmania University is well known and even better known is the publication department and the translation bureau of the State."

With a letter to V.P. Menon, the secretary of the Ministry, dated November 26, 1946, Nehru enclosed a note on the situation in Hyderabad and remarked: "If possible, some good non-officials should go there to help the administration and to try to produce a better frame of mind both among the Muslims and the Hindus."

The editor to the volume recorded: "A four-man goodwill mission, consisting of Kazi Abdul Ghaffar, Pandit Sundarlal, Moulana Abdulla Misri and Furrukh Sayer Shakeri, was sent to Hyderabad at the personal instance of Nehru to study existing conditions and to help in the establishments of communal harmony. After a brief visit to Bidar and Osmanabad districts by Major-General Chaudhury, Pandit Sundarlal, Akbar Ali Khan and Fareed Mirza, two teams, one consisting of Pandit Sundarlal, Kazi Abdul Ghaffar, Mul la Abdul Basith and Mohammed Yunus Saleem had toured Bidar, Osmanabad and Nanded while the other consisting of Moulana Abdulla Misri, Furrukh Sayer and Fareed Mirza visited Aurangabad, Bhir and Gulbarga. They took stock of the information collected and s ent a report to Vallabhbhai Patel."

All of which shows Sardar Patel's repudiation of the officially sponsored team to be less than honest. Nehru's note cited "additional reports from Hyderabad" about the killing and looting. It said: "If there is even a fraction of truth in these reports, then the situation in Hyderabad was much worse than we had been led to believe. It is important that the exact facts should be placed before us. We want no optimistic account and no suppression of unsavoury episodes. That would lead us to form incorrect judgments... A sense of fear seems to pervade the Muslims of Hyderabad. That is perhaps natural after all that has happened. But unless we can lessen this fear, the situation will become worse."

Dr. Charan Sandhilya, Director of Pandit Sundarlal Institute of Asian Studies at Ghaziabad obtained for this writer a copy of the full text of the Sundarlal Report from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi (excerpts on facing page). It record s official sponsorship and reflects their objectivity in denouncing the Razakars' murderous attacks on Hindus, in praising officials where praise was due, yet never flinching from telling the terrible truth about the massacre of Muslims. This is a truth which hardly any Indian scholar has deigned to admit this day.

The Sundarlal Report is of more than historical importance; it is of current relevance, for the massacres, coupled with the national indifference to them, have left scars in the minds of Muslims in the State, Hyderabad city in particular. And some Muslim communal parties have not been slow to exploit these scars.

Justice gone awry - II

THE first legal breakthrough in the Samba spy case came on July 8, 1994, when a full bench of the Delhi High Court held, on the petition of one of the accused, Major N.R. Ajwani, that the order of termination of service is justiciable (Vol. 55 (1994) DLT 217). Section 18 of the Army Act says, "every person subject to the Act shall hold office during the pleasure of the President."

On November 17, 1994 the Supreme Court dismissed the government's special leave petition and ruled: "All that the impugned judgment holds is that an order passed under Section 18 of the Army Act can be challenged on the ground of mala fides. This statement of law is unexceptional. However, it is for the person who challenges it on the ground of mala fides, to make out a prima facie case in that behalf. It is only if he discharges the said burden, that the government is called upon t o show that it is not passed in the mala fide exercise of its powers. While doing so, the government is not precluded from claiming the privilege in respect of the material which may be in its possession and on the basis of which the order is pass ed. The government may also choose to show the material only to the court." ((1996) 9 S.C.C. 406).

However, rather unusually, the court recorded in para 3 of its order: "The appellants (the Union of India) are permitted to withdraw from the appeal-memo, pp. 221 to 232 which according to the learned Solicitor-General have been annexed to the memo inadv ertently."

Indian Express revealed on December 28, 1994 what this was about. "A confidential internal note at the highest level of the Indian Army has acknowledged that there is a lack of evidence against some of those court-martialled in the notorious Samba spy case. 'It may be difficult for us to justify our action to the courts,' the advisory note concedes. 'The relevant records, if placed before the courts, would not convince the courts that the decision to terminate the services of the Army officers co ncerned was rational, based upon sound and reliable material and that it did not suffer from mala fides'."

The note was meant for the Additional Solicitor-General. "In a bizarre mix-up, the confidential note got attached to the copy of the written submission to the court and was presented to the three-member Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.B. Sawant, G.N. R ay, and S.B. Majumdar, hearing the said appeal of the Union government against the decision of the Delhi High Court. Once the blunder was discovered, red-faced lawyers asked the Bench's permission to withdraw the note. The Judges gave their consent and t he note was technically treated as withdrawn, and it was agreed that the opposing sides would not refer to it."

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling came a series of disclosures. Indian Express on December 4, 1994 published an article by T.V. Rajeswar, former Director, I.B.. He revealed: 'The Director, Military Intelligence, who was handling the investig ation was reluctant to let the Intelligence Bureau participate in the interrogation of the suspects even though there were clear standing instructions that the IB should be associated in the interrogation of the Army suspects in episonage cases."

He relented towards the end of 1979. "Eventually a joint team consisting of representatives of IB, RAW and the J&K Police, headed by a IB Deputy Director, looked into the case thoroughly and recorded the evidence. The IB Deputy Director, Mr. V. K. Kaul, was an expert in counter-episonage investigations, (He later headed the Bureau of Police Research and Development in the Home Ministry).

"The interrogations were carried out in the Delhi Cantonment in the presence of Army officers as designed by the MI Directorate. The team after a thorough job of investigation came to an unanimous conclusion that the case built up by the Army authorities was totally suspect." Yet, the Army continued to proceed against the remaining suspects.

IN February 1980, when he became Director, I.B., Rajeswar was asked by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to examine a petition by the dependents of the court-martialled Army officers. "After examining the files carefully, I discussed the case at length with t he head of the joint team, Mr. V. K. Kaul, and it was clear to me that there was something very seriously wrong in the case. I sent a detailed report to Mrs. Gandhi stating that the entire spy case was doubtful, unsubstantiated and unreliable."

The Army opposed a review and she left it at that.

In 1986, he wrote to Rajiv Gandhi, who ordered a review. Hence Captain Ranbir Singh Rathaur's release and grant of gratuity.

The Times of India of December 5, 1994 carried a report quoting Sarwan Dass' admission of guilt. "I had not even seen their (Rathaur and A.K. Rana's) faces. I had not even heard their names. I implicated these officers and others because I was for ced to do so."

The report also quoted V.K. Kaul's remarks: "Why did this huge Army fail to deliver justice to their own men over such long period of time?" Why, indeed?

As Deputy Director, I.B., V.K. Kaul met Rathaur and found "his ears were swollen up like a ball. He was stammering and he looked dazed. When I asked the Army officials about him they told me that Rathaur is a boxer and he got injured" (The Times of In dia, December 7, 1994).

Sarwan Dass has given the names, as The Hindustan Times of January 15, 1977 reported. "He was interrogated by the IB Military Intelligence and told them that apart from Aya Singh (a gunner in the Army) no one else was involved in the episonage act ivities. But over a period of two years, while he was in the custody of MI Officers, Sarwan Dass claims in an affidavit signed in December 1984, he was tortured and made to name several others. 'Pursuant to inhuman torture by Capt. Sudhir and Maj. Jolly, I broke down and agreed to write whatever I was asked to... I falsely implicated one Gunner Banarasi Das, Gunner Baburam, Gunner Sriram, N/Sub. Daulat Ram only to satisfy Capt. Sudhir and Maj. Jolly who kept on insisting that I should implicate more and more personnel, Sarwan Dass says in his affidavit."

On December 6, 1996, the hero of the 1965 war, Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh, broke down and wept at a function in New Delhi to release Lt. Col. Ved Parkash's book The Samba Spying Case. "I am shocked and ashamed at the level of degeneration in the Indi an Army which we had raised... Here we have an example of officers being meted out third degree treatment by their own colleagues." V. K. Kaul also spoke on the occasion: "Samba scandal was the most gigantic fraud to have been perpetrated on the nation i n which many Army officers were wrongly convicted for a crime they had not committed." He ridiculed the Army's studied silence despite the revelations (The Pioneer, December 9, 1996).

Sarwan Dass even appeared at a press conference in New Delhi on December 19, 1994 along with Rathaur and Rana and said that over a three-year period he had been made to implicate officers whom - he had never seen or met, by officials of the MI. He was tr eated well and paid his full salary even during his incarceration (Indian Express, December 20, 1994.)

TWO other cases deserve note. One concerns Major Ajwani who served as Judge Advocate-General in the Army for 16 years. This refugee from Pakistan was accused of spying for it in the company of Rana. He was at the Samba Brigade HQs to conduct a murder tri al of Army officers during his alleged stay in Pakistan.

It was pure vendetta. "In July-August 1978, in my capacity as Judge Advocate-General in the Northern Command headquarters, I was conducting a trial of court martial against gunner Om Prakash on charges of espionage. When I refused to help the military in telligence build up the espionage case by refusing to admit Om Prakash's oral confessions."

He was arrested on January 23, 1979 and detained at Deolali for over a year. When witnesses refused to give false evidence against him, the GCM was dissolved; he was sacked; but the order was altered to one of termination of services. He received his vin dication, like others, only on December 21, 2000.

So did Major R. K. Midha. His crime was to have refused to cooperate in the disposal of the corpse of Havildar Ram Swaroop. On April 16, 1997, Justices Mahinder Narain and Lokeshwar Prasad of the Delhi High Court directed the Army to produce medical reco rds of the Havildar's alleged custodial death in October 1978. It was on a petition by his widow Angoori Devi, assisted by Major Ajwani, who has rendered yeoman service to fellow victims, courageously and generously.

Major Midha in his sworn affidavit alleged: "I say that the said Havildar was murdered by Major (S.C.) Jolly and Captain Sudhir (Talwar) and their associates while they were interrogating him. The said Major Jolly and Capt. Sudhir are the same officers w ho interrogated (and tortured) all those who were proceeded against in Samba spy case." The affidavit said, "I (Major Midha) as the Commanding Officer of the deceased told the court of inquiry (on the death of the Havildar) that death had occurred before the body reached the base hospital and that it had 39 injuries." However, the findings of the court of inquiry, where Maj. Midha produced the letter of the doctor stating about the injuries, were rejected by the military intelligence and a fresh court o f inquiry was instituted.

Maj. Midha alleged that Brigadier T.S. Grewal asked him to tell the second court of inquiry that the Havildar was a drug addict, but he refused to oblige the senior official and told the court of inquiry that Havildar Ram Swaroop was not a drug addict at all. Consequently, he said, the second court of inquiry was dissolved and a third one was instituted. This time he was allegedly threatened by one Col. Solanki to tell the court of inquiry that the death of Havildar Ram Swaroop was due to drug addiction , or face the consequences. On his refusal to do so, Maj. Midha said in his affidavit that he was falsely implicated in the Samba spy case. Angoori Devi's petition is due to be heard by the Delhi High Court in March 2001.

The court's judgment of December 21, 2000 was concerned with the limited issue of whether the appellants had proved mala fides. On January 11, 1980, 11 of the Samba accused were dismissed from service without a trial. The pattern in case after cas e was the same - court martial's dissolution; dismissal order rescinded and altered to termination of service. The cases were, fortunately, heard together - Rathaur's, Rana's, Ajwani's, Midha's and others'. The court remarked: "But for the fact, by sheer coincidence all the cases came to be argued before us we would in the normal course of events would not have been inclined to consider the case put forth on behalf of the officers, in case finality had been reached on an adjudication by this court on fa cts after the perusal of the records maintained by the respondents in respect of the concerned officers. That has not been done. Not only now, on the earlier occasions also, the respondents had not taken care, totally ignoring their constitutional duty t o this court, to produce the relevant records."

The court's censures were appropriately strong. "The respondents think that they are the law unto themselves and whatever they say must be accepted as the last word in the matter. The whole of the bundle of facts in the instant batch of cases would appea r to be a pot boiler to project the image of the Military Intelligence Directorate, leaving us at the end with a cliff hanger without any iota of materials to form an opinion about the involvement of the appellants and the petitioners."

It said: "Some of the officers in the Intelligence Directorate at the relevant time apparently thought that they could manipulate the needle of suspicion against any of the officers they had chosen to make complaint of espionage had miserably failed to f ollow the law.... We are of the view that the respondents have failed miserably to show that they had acted in accordance with law in initiating proceedings against the officers, holding GCMs against the officers, concluding it in two cases only and conv icting them and that too without any shred of evidence. In other cases, on realising that they were likely to be acquitted like the GCMs were dissolved and proceedings were dropped. Without any basis, without any reason and without assigning any causes t he services of the officers were dispensed with. We are clearly of the view that all the proceedings taken against the officers are completely void in law and all the proceedings are liable to be annulled."

The orders of termination and the sentences by the two GCMs were set aside. The Union of India and the Chief of the Army Staff were ordered to "grant consequential reliefs to all the officers including all monetary benefits."

Speaking to the press in Mumbai on December 28, 2000, Rathaur, Ajwani and Rana called for legal action against Brigadier T. S. Grewal; Lt. Col. R. P. Madan; Major S.C. Jolly; Major P.S. Solanki and Captain Sudhir Talwar who "made life hell for 53 innocen t persons" (The Times of India, December 29. 2000).

These officials directly interacted with the Samba case accused. At the apex were two men of high repute - Chief of the Army Staff General O. P. Malhotra (June 1978-May 1981) and Lt. Gen. H.N. Kaul, DMI. No one questions their personal integrity. Obvious ly, they relied on subordinates, uncritically, who convinced them that it is Pakistani spies they were handling. The danger to the rule of law comes from men of integrity who neglect their duty by the law for "patriotic" reasons.

Nothing short of a full inquiry into the conduct of the officials named by the three victims on December 28, 2000 will suffice. They owe a duty to account. Gen. O.P. Malhotra and Lt.Gen. K.N. Kaul owe a duty to speak out. Silence is not an option.

Of principled social commitment

Indrajit Gupta, 1919-2001.

INDRAJIT GUPTA, veteran leader of the Communist Party of India, longest serving member of the Lok Sabha and former Union Home Minister, died on February 20 at the age of 82.

18051281jpg

Parliament had missed the presence of Indrajit Gupta all through its winter session. The "Father of the House", as he was known in the Lok Sabha, was in Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences, undergoing treatment for a cancer that had been disc overed a few months earlier. As tempers flared over the Opposition parties' demand that Ministers charge-sheeted in connection with the Ayodhya vandalism of 1992 should be held to account, Gupta's sage counsel and principled moderation were sorely missed . Those who valued his long years of association with the institutions of parliamentary democracy knew that he was probably waging his final battle in Kolkata, where he had been shifted. But even so, when news of his death reached Delhi, the sense of los s that his colleagues in Parliament felt was profound.

Words, though, proved inadequate to the occasion as members of Parliament assembled to pay homage to a man who had brought honour and dignity to the deliberations of the Lok Sabha for close to four decades. S. Jaipal Reddy of the Congress(I), in obvious distress, referred to Gupta as an "icon" who had been a role model for his generation of politicians. Somnath Chatterjee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who from the front benches of the Lok Sabha often worked in tandem with his fraternal coll eague, spoke of how he was privileged to function for many years as a "younger brother" of Indrajit Gupta. Though a reluctant Minister in the United Front government of 1996-98, he had served with "sincerity and compassion", he added.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee referred to Gupta's ideological steadfastness which always commanded his respect, despite the wide gulf in political beliefs that separated them. In times of crises, he could always be counted on to work towards buildi ng a consensus, said the Prime Minister. Agriculture Minister Nitish Kumar suggested that Gupta's speeches in Parliament, which invariably constituted one of the high points of every major debate, be compiled into a volume. Others thought that a portrait of the veteran member would be appropriate within the premises, to commemorate his services to the institution.

INDRAJIT GUPTA was one among a generation of Left-wing politicians who parted with their moorings in the privileged strata to embrace the cause of the working class. The British universities of the 1930s, which witnessed an intellectual ferment during th e years of global capitalist crisis, were the crucible in which the views of this generation were moulded. Indrajit Gupta, Jyoti Basu, Bhupesh Gupta, Mohan Kumaramangalam, Parvati Kumaramangalam, N.K. Krishnan, Renu Chakravarti and Nikhil Chakravartty, w ere all part of an active group of Indian students committed to both the struggle for national independence and the fight against fascism in Europe.

Returning to India, Gupta volunteered for political work in the Communist Party of India, then declared an unlawful organisation and facing the brunt of the imperial government's repression. It was a radical step of social commitment for one who came fro m a family of wealthy Bengal land-owners and public servants. But it was in keeping with the temper of the times for Indrajit Gupta to serve as an underground "courier" in the Communist movement, transporting proscribed literature and linking up the more senior leaders who were otherwise immobilised by the constant vigil of the authorities.

With the removal of the formal ban on Communist organisations, Indrajit Gupta was sent to Calcutta and assigned to the trade union wing of the party. His initial engagements were with the jute workers and then the port and dock workers of Calcutta. This was to be a lifelong commitment, taking him to the apex of the CPI's trade union wing, the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), in his later years. Although his speeches and polemics always reflected a deep literary sense, Indrajit Gupta has few publi shed works. One of these, Capital and Labour in the Jute Industry, was written shortly after independence, and is still a valuable reference work from that period. Another contribution of his is Self-Reliance in National Defence, a w ork that reflects some of the abiding concerns and commitments of his party.

Indrajit Gupta was first elected to the Lok Sabha through a byelection in 1960. The poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, himself a long-time fellow-traveller of the Left parties, recalls how he visited the Lok Sabha as a young and impressionable schoolboy and saw the youthful prodigy of the CPI taking on Jawaharlal Nehru in debate. It was, he confesses, a moving experience, actually to see the freshman parliamentarian taking on the redoubtable veteran of India's freedom struggle.

When the Communist Party split in 1964, Indrajit Gupta went with the more moderate faction that believed that a compact with what was then known as the "national bourgeoisie" was still the appropriate policy for the Left movement. It was a political cour se that saw the party lurch sharply to the Right, especially in the context of the upsurge of Left extremism following 1967. The logical consummation for the CPI was the embrace of Indira Gandhi's Congress and the controversial endorsement of her authori tarian Emergency regime. In the elections which followed the Emergency, Indrajit Gupta suffered his only defeat. The next three years mark the only interruption in his otherwise unbroken tenure in the Lok Sabha.

When his party corrected course and came back to its traditional moorings on the Left, Indrajit Gupta was naturally enough seen as a valuable asset for the parliamentary wing. This began his second innings in the Lok Sabha, when he was invariably on the front benches, often working in close coordination with his articulate colleagues from the CPI(M). A second phase of temptation came with the upsurge of separatist insurgencies in the 1980s, and the Congress' subtle suggestions that the Left parties shou ld really be endorsing its struggle against what it branded the revanchist politics of the Right. Sections within the CPI were beguiled by the appeal, but Indrajit Gupta, along with C. Rajeshwara Rao and A.B. Bardhan, held course. Halfway through its ten ure, as the Rajiv Gandhi regime began to sink into a morass of incompetence and corruption, Indrajit Gupta emerged as one of its most trenchant critics in Parliament.

The years of Congress parliamentary hegemony induced a consolidation of all the Opposition parties in the 1989 general elections. The CPI and the CPI(M) had deep reservations about the willingness of the centrist Opposition party, the Janata Dal, to coha bit with the Bharatiya Janata Party. But they went along with the rather novel venture of the National Front government supported from outside by both Left and Right forces. Of course, when V.P. Singh took on the rampant forces of Hindutva communal mobil isation, the CPI and CPI(M) were firmly with him.

IN 1992, Indrajit Gupta took over as general secretary of the CPI. The paradigm of anti-Congressism was gradually giving way to a new model of politics, conditioned in the main by the upsurge of majority communalism. But the equivocation of the Congress( I) as it confronted this challenge - not to mention its rapid descent into the depths of corruption - left no room for any accommodation. Indrajit Gupta was one among the principal ideologues and motivating forces for the politics of consolidating a "Thi rd Force", lending valuable moral support to the more visible efforts of V.P. Singh and the CPI(M)'s Harkishan Singh Surjeet.

The 1996 general elections threw up another political oddity - a broad-based coalition of Left and regional parties propped up in government by the external sustenance of the Congress(I). It was the only response then considered feasible, given the twin threats of the Congress(I)'s malfeasance and the BJP's dangerous extremism.

Although the CPI(M) opted out of joining the Ministry, the CPI decided to enter the portals of governance. Indrajit Gupta, as one of the most senior members of the newly constituted United Front, was a natural choice for Union Home Minister. This began a new phase in a remarkable political career, the inherent ironies of which were not lost on most observers. Time magazine, in one of its many inconsequential sections which purports to list the "winners and losers" of a given week's global events, listed Indrajit Gupta among the winners. "Longtime lefty", it said, has been "appointed head of India's Home Ministry, which once policed the commies".

It was not the happiest of tenures in government. For one, Indrajit Gupta's natural instincts of openness and accessibility came into collision with the bureaucratic compulsions of maintaining maximum distance from public scrutiny. And his famous procli vities towards blunt speech and biting sarcasm, though appropriate for oppositional politics, often ran the risk of bruising tender egos among associate parties. Early in his tenure, Indrajit Gupta was provoked by some crude political pressure tactics to denounce the Congress(I) as a party that had been so thoroughly discredited that it would be "greeted with slippers" by the public were it to withdraw support to the United Front. The furies were let loose, though he managed to salvage the situation wit h his transparency and candour.

AS Home Minister, Indrajit Gupta believed firmly in the tenets of fair play, even at the expense of partisan compulsions. When the 1996 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh threw up an indecisive outcome, he opposed the extension of President's Rule since there was no constitutional mandate to deny a State an elected government for more than a year. His stand was upheld by the Allahabad High Court, though the matter was mothballed by reference to the Supreme Court, where it lies undecided even now.

In 1997, when Laloo Prasad Yadav was indicted for involvement in the fodder scandal, Indrajit Gupta took the stand in Parliament that he should resign his chief ministership in Bihar. However, he also ruled out of court the BJP demand that he should be d ismissed under Article 356 of the Constitution. Later when the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh was dismissed by Governor Romesh Bhandari, as meddlesome and unprincipled an occupant of the Raj Bhavan as any, Indrajit Gupta as Home Minister opposed him , even at the risk of offending his partners in the U.F. Yet again, he was vindicated when the Union Cabinet withdrew its advice to the President that he dismiss the U.P. government in accordance with the Governor's advice.

IN standing up for principle, he often found himself isolated and unfairly pilloried. His final crisis as Home Minister, which also was the U.F.'s last hour, was the interim report of the M.C. Jain Commission of Inquiry into the conspiracy behind the ass assination of Rajiv Gandhi. Irked by what he thought was a farcical report long on rhetoric and short on substantive findings, Indrajit Gupta referred the report to a team of officials for an evaluation of its factual basis. The Congress(I) reacted with almost theological fury to this measure, which it saw, with characteristic illogic, as questioning the legacy of a departed leader. But the veteran of many battles was unfazed, even by thundering denunciations from the Congress(I) about his unsuitability for the office of Home Minister. The rest, of course, is recent history. Indrajit Gupta held firm as did the rest of the U.F. The Congress(I) pulled out of its commitment to support the government unconditionally. Three months later, the BJP was ensconc ed in government though in the uneasy company of a disparate coalition.

As a man who had seen things from both sides, Indrajit Gupta's last three years in the Lok Sabha set a distinct tone. The scathing wit and occasional sternness were set aside in favour of a more reflective, almost paternal attitude. He was invariably hea rd by the members with the respect and deference due to his moral authority, his uncompromising integrity and his deeply held convictions. His passing removes one more individual of a heroic generation from Indian politics, leaving it considerably poorer . For his colleagues in Parliament, the media and above all, for the people he represented and fought for, the void will take long to fill.

Cricket's legend

Donald George Bradman, 1908-2001.

THE cricketing world is mourning Australia's best-known son, Sir Donald Bradman, who died on February 25. No Australian in any sphere has been more widely known or continuously celebrated as Bradman.

18051301jpg

In every arena where cricket is played, watched and loved, Bradman's name and that of W.G. Grace stand beside each other at the head of the game's pantheon. "It is a demonstrable fact," wrote Michael Parkinson, "that no single athlete has either so domin ated or changed a sport as Bradman did." Bernard Hollowood was even briefer: "Bradman was like W.G. Grace, but without the fallibility."

For Australians with any sense of their own history, the Don's influence extends far beyond the realm of cricket. Long after his playing career had come to an end, his name has remained the central symbol and familiar cipher for a young nation's best dre ams about itself.

DONALD George Bradman was born at Cootamundra on August 27, 1908, the year in which Dr. Grace made his final first-class appearance. He was only two when the family moved to Bowral, and it was in school and district competitions that his uncanny ability began to emerge. Quick natural reflexes and terrific ball sense were sharpened by solo games the boy devised to amuse himself.

Bill O'Reilly, who Bradman would later identify as the greatest bowler he ever faced, played for nearby Wingello, and first encountered the Bowral boy in 1925. He left a whimsical portrait of "a diminutive figure", approaching "the wicket with... the dif fident gait of a stop-gap performer... His pads seemed to reach right up to his navel. Still, he shaped up as though he knew what the game was all about..."

By that Saturday evening the Bowral boy was undefeated on 234. Within a year he was called to Sydney for trials conducted by the State selectors. He celebrated his St George first grade debut in late 1926 with a century in even time. In December 1927 he travelled to Adelaide for his first Sheffield Shield game.

The most celebrated of first-class careers began with a boundary off Clarrie Grimmett, and proceeded without fuss to a century. All the fanfare that day was reserved for Bill Ponsford, who was busy setting a new world record of 437 in Melbourne. At the A delaide Oval, umpire George Hele was as impressed by the 19-year-old's self-confidence as by his ability. This cheerful and absolute self-belief would soon be shared by millions. The confidence as much as the uncanny skill would break bowlers' hearts for decades to come.

Within a year he was playing his first Test match. By early 1930 he had broken Ponsford's record and made certain his place in the touring side for England. By the end of that northern summer, in one unbelievable bound, he had also made certain a unique place in cricketing history.

He began the tour with a double century, and in the year he became the first tourist to score 1,000 runs before the end of May. In Test matches alone he scored 974 runs, at an average of just under 140. At Lord's, a chanceless 254 left his critics gropin g for words. "The most murderous onslaught I have ever known in a Test match," wrote Neville Cardus years later.

Then came a memorable July day in Leeds, when the youngster marched into history and Yorkshire hearts. The eager, lithe figure stepped confidently into the Headingley sunshine, to face a strong England attack already buoyed by an early Australian scalp. When stumps were drawn that evening, his score stood at 309 not out. It was an innings so glorious, reported The Times, London, the next day, under the headline 'Bradman Versus England'.

The 14-year-old Leonard Hutton was one of 20,000 who watched in wonder. When he later broke the Don's record, he was to spend almost twice as long at the crease, and thus highlight an aspect of Bradman's batting so easily lost in a maze of statistics. He almost invariably scored quickly, and the sense of anticipation, the attractive cricket thus created, began to draw huge crowds to any game in which he played.

It was not just that he broke almost every existing record, nor that he made his runs so swiftly and attractively. His rise coincided with the onset of the Depression, and for many whose lives were hopeless in the 1930s the young genius offered near-cert ain hope each time he strode to the crease. His first-class career shows a century (often doubled or even trebled) every second match.

Sheffield Shield crowds swelled to unheard-of levels. A New South Wales-Victoria game of the 1930s would attract 7,000 people if Bradman were not playing, 35,000 if he was. By 1936-37, when he had moved to Adelaide, 84 per cent of Sydney's Shield revenue for the season came from the South Australian game, when Bradman was back in town. Little wonder that his first class career coincided with what became known simply as the Bradman era.

RADIO was coming into its own, and along with the popular press ensured that Australia's first superstar received the maximum exposure. Bradmania became a national epidemic, with the mixed results that always ensue. The young man himself, though assured and canny in his handling of so public a life, soon wearied of adulation and 24-hour exposure. A lifetime on media terms was not part of his ambition.

His success also meant resentment from various quarters. The crowds came only to see him bat, the opposition longed to get him out, and his team-mates wanted at least some of the strike. So there were bound to be tensions. A few players voiced their comp laints, but they were dealing with a tidal wave. On one trip the wry Arthur Mailey refused to introduce an awed fellow passenger to Bradman. "Why not?" asked the star-struck man. "No one introduced you to me," replied Mailey, catching nicely the frustrat ions produced by Bradman's fame.

The most infamous and public confrontation sparked by his phenomenal ability was, of course, the Bodyline series of 1932-33. The tactics and attitudes of the patrician English captain, Douglas Jardine, were designed specifically to contain Bradman and wi n the Ashes. But everything is relative, and it is often forgotten that an improvising Bradman still topped the Australian averages and eclipsed the English stars Sutcliffe and Hammond, who had no bodyline bowling to face.

Also forgotten in the maze of batting statistics are his other skills. As a young man he was without peer in the outfield, 'none more thrilling in chase and pick-up and deadly return', wrote Cardus. Denzil Batchelor recalled one memorable run-out: "The f lying Bradman took the ball inches from the fence in his fingertips and, apparently straightening while still airborne, without putting foot to ground, broke the far wicket with his throw-in."

More significant for Australian cricket in the long term was his captaincy. Appointed vice-captain under Woodfull for the 1934 Ashes tour, he took over as captain for the 1936-37 series at home. As with each fresh challenge, Bradman was single-minded in his application to the new job. In time his sure hand, shrewd judgment, and will to win were to make him one of the most successful of all captains, though in fairness it should always be remembered he had Bradman to bat for him.

It was in adversity that his personal qualities emerged most clearly. In the final 'timeless' Test at the Oval in 1938, the Australians fielded through a mammoth English innings which sealed their defeat by an innings and 579 runs. "I do not think I have ever admired anything on the cricket field so much as his leadership during those heartbreaking days," wrote H.S. Altham. "His own fielding was an inspiration in itself, and... it was, one felt, his courage and gaiety that alone sustained his side."

It was feared - Bradman himself was confident - that he would not return to the first-class game after the War. But he did, and capped his career leading a new generation of players on that final, triumphant tour of England in 1948. This trip saw the ful lest flowering of his abilities beyond the bat. He was a canny tactician and selector, a captain-encourager and an ambassador in a round of social functions that was endless simply because it was Bradman's last tour.

THE vacuum on his retirement was inevitable. "Suddenly cricket was like a room with the light switched off," wrote Ray Robinson. However, the legend, so firmly entrenched in the Australian psyche, continued to grow. It was as if each new generation absor bed the lore effortlessly, and could picture the neat, still figure awaiting the bowler. No tap-tap of bat on pitch, no nervous shuffle of the feet. Quietness complete, but the quiet of a tiger ready to spring.

In less public but no less effective ways his light continued after 1948. Effectively selector from 1936-37 until 1971, with only a brief break, he was, said Richie Benaud, "easily the best selector I came across in the game anywhere in the world". He al so served two terms as incisive chairman of the Australian Board of Control.

He contributed untold wisdom and assistance at every level of the game, notably in various capacities in his adopted South Australia. As player, as selector and as administrator, he pressed for lively, positive, entertaining cricket, for the declaration above the safe draw, a stirring result above stolid mediocrity.

As a writer he made fine contributions to cricket literature. He took up golf, and by 1951 had reduced his handicap to scratch. And all this time the amateur cricketer had had to make a living. As journalist, stock-broker, director and board member, he p ursued a life beyond cricket from the year he left school.

From the time of his marriage to childhood sweetheart Jessie Menzies ("my best critic and my best friend"), he kept his personal life largely shielded from the public eye. The herculean effort this involved for a man of Bradman's profile was a measure no t just of his determination, but also his instinctive distrust of the sensational element in journalism.

Maintaining a life out of the public glare was one hardship among many. Sir Donald himself nearly died on the 1934 tour of England, after an emergency appendix operation and the threat of full-blown peritonitis. As he prepared to take over the captaincy in 1936, the Bradmans lost their first-born child - a day-old son. Their two surviving children, John and Shirley, had to transcend serious or chronic conditions. Lieutenant D.G. Bradman was invalided out of the Army in 1941 with fibrositis, and for a ti me it seemed he would not play much of anything again.

Through all of this Sir Donald had to deal with the consequences of fame, virtually undiminished by his retirement from public view. He had to steer as sane a course as possible through the massive industry which grew around his name. Privately, he dealt with hundreds of requests, letters and enquiries every week of his life.

By arrangement with The Canberra Times

Other Issues

View All