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APRI L 18, 2014 I N D I A S N A T I O N A L M A G A Z I N E W W W . F R O N T L I N E . I N RS.

60
WILDLIFE CORBETT RESERVE
Delights & dangers 67
INDIA & CHINA WAR OF 1962
The true story 117
FRONTLINE
Standing up to
the EMPIRE
With his deant moves on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir
Putin seeks to change the rules of the game in international politics
VOLUME 31 NUMBER 7 APRI L 05- 18, 2014 I SSN 0970- 1710 WWW. FRONTLI NE. I N
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Air Surcharge: Colombo - Rs.20.00 and Port Blair - Rs.15.00
GENERAL ELECTI ON
A tale of two campaigns 24
NORTH: Saffron euphoria
Madhya Pradesh:
Advantage Shivraj 26
Chhattisgarh:
BJP upbeat 27
Rajasthan: BJP all the way 28
Haryana: Uncertain race 30
Delhi: Demographic
dynamics 32
MAHARASHTRA:
Waiting for change 34
SOUTH: Interesting contests
Tamil Nadu: New alliances 36
Caste divide 38
DMK & sons 40
Karnataka:
Triangular contest 41
Kerala: Evenly poised 43
NORTH-EASTERN STATES:
Head start for Congress 47
Stalwarts & surprises 49
Tripura: Left in front 51
Sikkim:
An alternative force 53
WORLD AFFAI RS
Libya on edge 58
Malaysian Airline tragedy:
Flight into mystery 61
U.N. report on
Arab integration 64
WI LDLI FE
In Jim Corbett landscape 67
THEATRE
International Theatre
Festival of Kerala 83
Kitchen katha 84
Interview:
Deepan Sivaraman,
artistic director, IFToK 87
Interview:
Prof. M.V. Narayanan,
University of Calicut 88
COVER STORY
Russian riposte
With its intervention in Crimea, Russia
is sending a clear message to the U.S.
and its Western allies that the unipolar
world order is not viable anymore and
the rules of engagement have to be
changed. 4
RELATED STORI ES
Interview: Alexander M. Kadakin,
Russias Ambassador to India 6
The 'Great Game' in Europe 10
U.S. double standards 19
SOCI AL I SSUES
Kathputli Colony: Artists
protest against demolition 93
OBI TUARY
Khushwant Singh:
Electric man in a blub 107
Tony Benn:
A steadfast socialist 110
TRI BUTE
R.K. Srikantan:
Inimitable purist 115
ESSAY
India-China war:
The true story 117
Jingoismfrom Jana
Sangh to BJP 126
COLUMN
C.P. Chandrasekhar:
Financial strains in China 55
K. Satchidanandan:
The politics of rereading 89
Jayati Ghosh:
A raw deal for migrants 104
Sashi Kumar:
The act of killing 112
DATACARD 128
BOOKS 97
LETTERS 130
On the Cover
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
COVER DESIGN: U. UDAYA SHANKAR
PHOTOGRAPH:MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS
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RUSSIAN RIPOSTE
RUSSI AN
PRESI DENT
Vladimir Putin signs a
Bill making Crimea
part of Russia, in the
Kremlin on March 21.
SERGEI CHI RI KOV/AP
COVER STORY
With its intervention in Crimea, Russia is sending a clear message to the
U.S. and its Western allies that the unipolar world order is not viable
anymore and the rules of engagement have to be changed.
BY VLADI MI R RADYUHI N I N MOSCOW
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THE STAND-OFF BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE
West over Ukraine has been called the worst East-West
crisis since the end of the Cold War. Future historians
will probably look back at it as the dawn of a new era in
world politics, marked by Russias push to rewrite post-
Cold War realities.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton com-
pared Russias takeover of Crimea to Hitlers annexation
of Austria and Czechoslovakias Sudetenland in 1938.
Britains Foreign Secretary William Hague called it the
biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century, while NATO
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke about
the gravest threat to European security and stability
since the end of the Cold War.
The Western ire is understandable: no country in the
top league has so demonstrably challenged the post-Cold
War global order as Russia did with the reunion of Cri-
mea. Even Russias thrashing of George W. Bushs de-
mocracy beacon Georgia in 2008 did not cause so much
anger because the West was not immediately involved. In
Ukraine, Putin thumbed his nose directly at the United
States and its European allies.
Putin explained in no uncertain terms that his move
in Crimea was in response to the Western policy of
containment of Russia. We have every reason to as-
sume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the
18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are
constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we
have an independent position, because we maintain it
and because we call things like they are and do not engage
in hypocrisy, Putin said in his keynote speech at a Krem-
lin ceremony to sign the Crimea reunion treaty on March
18.
By orchestrating a replay of the 2004 colour revolu-
tion in Ukraine, the West had crossed the line, Putin
said. There is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine,
our Western partners have crossed the line. Russia
found itself in a position it could not retreat from. If you
compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap
back hard.
Putin stated clearly that in Ukraine, Russia not only
defended its vital interests but stood up against what the
NATO chief called the rule book the alliance members
have spent decades to build. Our Western partners, led
by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided
by international law in their practical policies, but by the
rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclu-
sivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the desti-
nies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act
as they please: here and there, they use force against
sovereign states, building coalitions based on the princi-
ple If you are not with us, you are against us. To make
this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary
resolutions from international organisations, and if for
some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the
U.N. Security Council and the U.N. overall.
The West has rebuffed Russias attempts to streng-
then the level of trust and to build equal, open and fair
relations, Putin said. On the contrary, they have lied to
us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed
before us an accomplished fact. This happened with
NATOs expansion to the East as well as the deployment
of military infrastructure at our borders, the Russian
leader recalled. It happened with the deployment of a
missile defence system. In spite of all our apprehensions,
the project is working and moving forward. It happened
with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues,
promises of fair competition and free access to global
markets.
The current crisis is not only about Ukraine. Howev-
er, the outcome of the East-West standoff in Ukraine may
be crucial for deciding the success or failure of Russias
new policy of deance.
Crimeas takeover has solved the problem of the Rus-
sian Black Sea Fleet, which Ukraines new leaders had
vowed to drive out of Sevastopol and for which there is no
other basing location that does not freeze in winter.
Russia has thus consolidated a strategic grip on the
region and the ability to project its naval and air power to
the Mediterranean and beyond.
But the battle for Ukraine still lies ahead. Putins key
demands are that Ukraine remain neutral and switch
from a unitary to a federal state structure. This would
give the countrys pro-Russian south-east regions veto
power over Kievs key foreign policy decisions, such as
membership in NATO, and keep Ukraine in the Russian
orbit.
Crimea was Putins trump card and he has played it.
He has a mandate from the Russian Parliament to in-
tervene militarily in Ukraine to protect ethnic Rus-
sians, but sending troops into mainland Ukraine is not a
feasible option as this would involve military confronta-
tion with serious international complications whichRus-
sia avoided in Crimea.
Putin has other instruments of leverage to push
through the federalisation agenda. Moscow has made it
clear that it is ready to apply economic pressure. It has
already suspended the disbursement of a $15-billion aid
package it had extended to the Viktor Yanukovich gov-
ernment and has threatened to scrap the hefty price
discounts on its gas supplies to Ukraine. This would
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RUSSIASAmbassador to In-
dia, Alexander M. Kadakin,
spoke to Frontline on the
question of Crimean acces-
sion and related issues. Kada-
kin is a scholar in Indian
studies, who rst came to the
country as a young diplomat
in the early 1970s. He is the
senior-most serving Ambas-
sador in the Russian Foreign
Service. He has the rare distinction of having held the
position twice in India. Excerpts from the interview:
What was the rationale for Crimeas accession to
Russia?
The most important, of course, was the will of the
local people, which was very clearly expressed in the
referendum of March 16. The will of the people was the
guiding beacon for the Russian authorities. Apart from
that, there were forces in Kiev which had accelerated the
process in Crimea. The rst thing the so-called new
government in Kiev did was to pass a decree abolishing
Russian as an official language instead of focussing on
economic recovery. They rectied it later but it was a
bad mistake on their part. It immediately alienated
Crimeans and hastened the process [of accession].
But, apart from all that, the Crimean situation is
different from similar cases around the world. First and
foremost, in 1954, Khrushchev whimsically decided to
gift Crimea to Ukraine, where he was once the Commu-
nist Party chief. Never before had Crimea been with
Ukraine. The Russian empire had fought three major
wars with the Turks for Crimea and it was only during
the time of Catherine the Great that complete posses-
sion of Crimea took place.
In Ukraine now, very radical ultra-nationalist ele-
ments have entered the government who, unfortunate-
ly, are ruling that satanic bowl. They are from western
Ukraine, which was never originally part of that coun-
try. And Crimeans thought that with these forces having
the upper hand in government, the lakhs of Russian
lives laid down for Crimea would go in vain.
More than one million Russians perished in the
three wars. One hundred and fty thousand Russians
are buried in a cemetery in Sevastopol.
And after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has
been complete neglect on the part of Kiev about the
needs and requirements of the Crimean people. World-
famous resorts there have fallen into ruin. Kiev was
more preoccupied with its internal political struggles.
How important is the port of Sevastopol for Russia?
Even before 1954, Sevastopol had a special status as
the base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It was always
subordinate throughout its history to the central gov-
ernment in Moscow.
What about the impact of the sanctions on Russia?
Inconsequential. The world has changed. There is
much more interdependency now. Russia has always
been and continues to be against any kind of sanctions.
We never joined the West-led sanctions against India in
1998, which is somewhat forgotten these days. Against
the background of globalisation, any sanctions will boo-
merang. Europeans are not united on the issue. The
German Chancellor has said that they do not want to
have an economic war with Russia.
President Obama has described Russia as a mere
regional power.
Only God can judge whether Russia is a regional or a
superpower, and the American President is not God.
What would you call a country that has the capacity to
destroy the planet a thousand times?
Russia was suspended from the G8 and there was a
call by the Australian Prime Minister to keep Putin out
of the G20 summit.
Their discourteous language about Russian mem-
bership in the G8 and the G20 was unwarranted. If the
G8 has done its job, so be it, but it is not up to any G20
member to either expel or not invite another member
state. We are not bound to those formats and do not
consider it a badge of honour.
The G8 is just a gentlemans club with no conse-
Russia had no other option
nearly double the price of Russian gas for Ukraine, put-
ting a crippling burden on households and industry. The
U.S. and the European Union have promised Ukraine
nancial assistance but Russia believes that the West will
not be willing to bear the enormous cost of bailing out
Ukraines near-bankrupt economy and will eventually
ask Russia to step in.
Putins main card at this stage is Ukraines Russian-
speaking regions. Crimeas rebellion against the coup in
Kiev has inspired Russian speakers in the east and south
of Ukraine to demand greater autonomy from the central
government. The rise of Far-Right and neo-Nazi groups
in western Ukraine, who spearheaded deadly clashes
with the police during the Kiev protests, widened the
chasm between Ukraines Russian-speaking south-east
and nationalist west. Thousands of people in Ukraines
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main industrial centres of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lu-
gansk have demonstrated in support of their demand to
hold local referendums on a new power-sharing arrange-
ment. With Kiev categorically opposed to reform, pro-
Russian activists in eastern Ukraine have been setting up
armed militias, vowing to resist pressure from the illeg-
itimate government in Kiev. This has raised the spectre
of a civil conict that can lead to the break-up of Ukraine.
Moscow hopes to persuade the Western backers of
the new government in Kiev that federalisation of Uk-
raine is the only way to keep it from falling apart.
Despite their tough rhetoric, the U.S. and the E.U.
have so far refrained from slapping biting economic
sanctions against Russia that would inevitably have a
crippling blowback effect on Europes struggling econo-
my. The assets-freeze of select Russian individuals is
likely to misre since Putin ordered all government offi-
cials last year to close their bank accounts and sell off
properties abroad.
If and when wider economic sanctions come, Rus-
sians appear to be solidly lined behind their leader. A
March poll found that more than 90 per cent of respon-
dents supported Crimeas reunion with Russia.
Western efforts at international isolation of Russia
have had limited effect. Russia has shrugged off its sus-
pension from the G8, pointing out that the group has
been losing its relevance anyway. China, India and other
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) part-
ners have refused to join the Western campaign to con-
demn Russia. In his March 18 speech, Putin thanked
India and China for their stance on the Ukraine crisis.
Even as G7 leaders announced their boycott of Russia at a
meeting at The Hague on the sidelines of a nuclear
security conference on March 25, the BRICS Foreign
Ministers, meeting in the same venue, denounced the use
of sanctions and hostile language and rejected Austra-
lias threats to block Russia from attending a G20 sum-
mit in Brisbane later this year.
The Ukraine crisis has prompted fears of a new Cold
War between Russia and the West. However, in Putins
calculus, this is an unlikely scenario. Unlike the Soviet
Union, Russia is deeply integrated into the world econo-
my. It is the E.Us third-largest trading partner and
Russian oil and gas supplies meet 80 per cent of Europes
energy needs. The U.S. needs Russias cooperation on
Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.
Putting too much pressure on Russia would push it
quence. The G20 is denitely more important.
Is Russia happy with the response of the BRICS
nations and the result of the U.N. vote on Crimea?
The response of the BRICS countries was con-
structive and well-balanced. We value the position
they took. The outcome of the U.N. General Assembly
vote was absolutely balanced. The vote has shown that
there is a great force emerging now, which rejects the
policies of a unipolar world. It reminds me of the
golden days of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Is Russia not unhappy with India and China for
abstaining from the U.N. vote?
Not at all. President Putin in his Kremlin speech
after the incorporation of Crimea emphatically
thanked the Indian and Chinese governments for
their far-sighted and objective position. He also sin-
gled out India for its constructive approach.
Is the continued expansion of NATO a concern?
Unfortunately, double standards and deceit have
always been the guiding principles of our partners.
They had given assurances to the Soviet Union and
Russia that they would not move to our borders. Now
Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic republics
that were part of the USSR are members of NATO.
Then what are their promises worth? Not even a paisa.
There was betrayal even in Ukraine.
Yes. What was the value of the agreement the three
Foreign Ministers signed in Kiev? One day Yanukov-
ich was very much at the helm and the next day the
agreement was discarded like toilet paper by the West.
The West has been using the pretext of a Russian
military build-up on the Ukraine border to ratchet up
the tensions.
We do have to protect Russia from the instability
in the neighbouring countries and even fraternal
countries. Look what happened yesterday in Kiev.
Those bandits stormed the Parliament building. Putin
had clearly stated that he did not want any frag-
mentation of Ukraine. He said that he wanted a pros-
perous and stable Ukraine. Chaos in Ukraine is not in
Russias national interest.
John Cherian
PEOPLE QUEUE UP to get their Russian passports in
the Crimean capital of Simferopol on March 24.
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closer to China. Russia would step up defence supplies to
China and reorient its energy exports from Europe to the
East. During Putins upcoming visit to China in May, the
two countries are expected to nalise a contract for the
sale of Russias latest Su-35 ghter jets and a long-pend-
ing deal for Russian gas exports to China.
China would be only too happy to strategically bind
Russia to itself, said Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of
Russias authoritative Council for Foreign and Defence
Policy. China is calculating that by the 2020s, when the
strategic rivalry with the U.S. is likely to take on a new
military-political dimension, Russia will have no slack to
play with and will have to side with its Asian neighbour,
he said.
Japan, Chinas main competitor for Russian natural
resources, has refused to cancel ambitious investment
plans in Russia. On the day Russias apex court endorsed
the Crimea reunication treaty, a major Russia-Japan
investment forum opened in Tokyo, attended by 1,000
businessmen.
India may also benet from Russias pivot to the East.
Russias First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has
said that Moscows top priority in the post-Ukraine sce-
nario is to nd new partners and those who look kindly
for our attention, and we need to turn to them and
discover opportunities to sell our goods. Igor Sechin,
Putins trusted lieutenant and head of Rosneft, Russias
largest oil company, visited India in the last week of
March to offer the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation
(ONGC) 10 offshore oil and gas blocks in the Barents Sea
and in the Black Sea.
India is a very important country for Russia. We
want to expand our cooperation, Sechin told PTI. We
are (also) looking at supplying crude oil to Indian
reneries.
Putins long-term policy is not to reignite East-West
confrontation but to make the West see the realities: the
post-Cold War unipolar system has collapsed and world
powers need to agree on new rules of the game. Back in
the era of George Bush Sr, the U.S. ignored Putins idea of
building a new global security architecture from Van-
couver to Vladivostok.
In his famous speech at the Munich Security Confer-
ence in 2007, Putin returned to the idea: I am convinced
that we have reached that decisive moment when we
must seriously think about the architecture of global
security.
In the wake of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, Russias
then President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a draft Eu-
ropean security treaty that would address territorial dis-
putes and renounce the use of force. The West turned a
deaf ear again.
With his move in Ukraine, Putin has screamed to the
West: either we sit down and write a new rule book or
the world sinks into free-for-all chaos.
Russia has started a very big game. The risks are
great, but the possible gains are enormous as well, ana-
lyst Lukyanov said. The old world order has almost
stopped functioning and a new one is about to take shape.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the rst to speak about the
need for a new world order in 1986, failed to build it.
Vladimir Putin is returning to the crossroads to make a
new attempt.
Early reactions from the West are not very encourag-
ing for Russia. On March 21, the E.U. signed the political
part of an association and free trade accord with Ukraine
which commits Kiev to the same deal that former Presi-
dent Yanukovich refused to sign last November and
which led to his overthrow. The political accord binds
Ukraine to Europes defence and security policy, while
the free trade pact, to be signed later this year, would
prohibit Ukraine from joining the Russia-led Eurasian
Economic Union. Is the West back at its old game of
containing Russia?
AT THE RED
SQUARE in Moscow
on March 18, people
celebrate the
incorporation of
Crimea into the
Russian Federation.
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COVER STORY
The Great Game
in Europe
In its eagerness to complete the encirclement of Russia by turning
Ukraine into a forward country for positioning NATO bases, the U.S.
is paving the way for fraternal genocide and ethnic cleansing. A closer
strategic alliance between Russia and China may well be the one positive
outcome of the Ukrainian asco. BY AI JAZ AHMAD
A POSTER with a Nazi swastika printed on a Russian ag and reading The colours of the occupiers in Independence
Square in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, on March 12.
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ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN WAS A LEGEND-
ary anti-communist, the man who successfully injected
the word Gulag into an intercontinental vocabulary for
discussions of the Stalin period, the novelist who was
awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature as part of the Swed-
ish Academys anti-Soviet drive but whose literary merit,
like that of Boris Pasternak, was acknowledged even by
Georg Lukacs, the great Marxist philosopher and literary
critic. In the passage quoted here from his interview
given in 1994, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union,
he expresses a double regret: that while Ukraine was still
a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR),
its territory was wrongfully enlarged by awarding it large
chunks of Russian territory and Russian-speaking pop-
ulation; and that the collapse of communism in the
Soviet Union precipitated an unwarranted territorial
break-up of the Union between Russia and Ukraine
(sudden and crude fragmentation of the intermingled
Slavic people so that borders have torn apart millions of
ties of family and friendship, in his words).
After the recent referendum in the Crimean penin-
sula and its reintegration into Russia, Mikhail Gorba-
chev, the Russian leader who initiated the dismantling of
the Soviet system, expressed a similar view. A historic
wrong has been corrected, he said.
We shall return to these issues of the intermingling
of the Slavic people and the fragmentation of borders
and peoples with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Suffice
it to say for now that the United States-sponsored Euro-
Nazi coup in Kiev in February 2014 and, in response, the
reintegration of the Crimean peninsula into Russia in
March signify something of a turning point, a watershed
event, in the post-Soviet era.
Let me begin by listing some of the salient aspects of
this novel development and then offer extended com-
ments on some of these aspects:
1. Quick on the heels of President Barack Obamas
much-brandished Asian pivot, with the express intent
of tightening the noose around China, has come a spec-
tacular and violent turn in Americas European pivot,
with the even more urgent intent of completing the
encirclement of Russia and of abolishing the one, crucial
buffer that was still left between Russia and the dogged
advance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisations
(NATO) network of bases into territories that were for-
merly part of the Warsaw Pact and, in some cases, of the
Soviet Union itself.
2. Samuel Huntingtons famous Clash of Civilisa-
tions thesis, highly inuential in Washingtonian circles,
draws a sharp civilisational line between what he calls
Western Christianity (Catholics and Protestants of
Western Europe) and Eastern Christianity (the Ortho-
dox churches, Russian, Greek, Levantine). Ukraine is a
borderland shared by the two, as was the Serbo-Croatian
region in the former Yugoslavia. We know how Croatia
with its Catholic majority was encouraged to break the
union with the predominantly Orthodox Serbia, with
murderous, even genocidal consequences all around. In
attempting to turn Ukraine into a forward country for
In 1919. Lenin gave her several Russian provinces
to assuage her feelings. These provinces have never
historically belonged to Ukraine. I am talking about
the eastern and southern territories of todays
Ukraine.. Then, in 1954, Khrushchev, with the
arbitrariness of a satrap, made a gift of the Crimea
to Ukraine.. As a result of the sudden and crude
fragmentation of the intermingled Slavic people, the
borders have torn apart millions of ties of family
and friendship. Is this acceptable? I am myself
nearly half Ukrainian, I grew up with the sounds of
Ukrainian speech.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian Nobel laureate,
in an interview on May 9, 1994.
I sometimes get the feeling that somewhere across that
huge puddle, in America, people sit in a lab and
conduct experiments, as if with rats, without actually
understanding the consequences of what they are
doing.
Vladimir Putin, Russian President, March 4, 2014
CHI NESE PRESI DENT HU JI NTAO (right) ushers
Russian President Vladimir Putin to the welcoming
ceremony of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
summit at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on
June 5, 2012.
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positioning of NATO bases against Russia, the U.S. is
paving the way, wittingly or unwittingly, for potentially
that same kind of fraternal genocide and ethnic cleans-
ing. They once put together an international jehadi army
in Afghanistan for the containment of communism; the
consequences of that are still with us, across the globe.
What happens when the equivalent of an Afghanistan is
staged in a major country that is geographically at the
junction of East and West inside Europe.
3. The Ukranian economy isand has beenin dire
straits. According to Moodys rating agency, the country
will need $24 billion to cover its budget decit, debt
repayment, natural gas bills and pension supports just in
2014. Over the past two decades, the Russian subsidy for
Ukraines oil and gas purchases has amounted to about
$200 billion, in addition to other kinds of loans and
nancial support that Russia has offered, essentially to
safeguard Ukraines neutrality as well as to help the one
country in its immediate neighbourhood with which
Russia is linked most closely by history, language, eth-
nicity and emotional bonds of various kinds. The West is
offering little driblets of money and International Mone-
tary Fund (IMF) loans if Ukraine agrees to the kind of
austerity that has been imposed on Latvia, Slovenia,
Greece, and others. In Latvia, IMF-imposed austerity
meant that 10per cent of the population, including much
of its professional personnel, left the tiny country and
became economic refugees in other countries. Without
Russian generosity, the Ukrainian economy will be in
ruins. IMF-imposed austerity on a ruined economy and
NATO-propelled militarisation for eyeball-to-eyeball
confrontation with Russian power is just the kind of
combustible combination that may well lead to a civil
war, a regional war, and heaven knows what elsein a
PRO-RUSSI AN DEMONSTRATORS clash with Maidan
supporters as they storm the regional government building
in Kharkiv on March 1. Some 20,000 people joined the
protest against Kievs new pro-West government after the
ouster of the Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich, and
later around 300 people launched the assault on the
government building.
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country where 70 per cent in a recent Gallup poll voted
against joining NATO. (In another poll about the same
time, 56 per cent said that the collapse of the Soviet
Union was a disaster.)
GOOD NAZI S, BAD NAZI S
4. It is no longer fashionable to call oneself a nazi or a
fascist. Since they are so much a part of Europes politi-
cal landscape, they now call themselves nationalists,
and the media obliges them by referring to them as
right-wing nationalists, extremists, xenophobes,
and so on. However, as the saying goes, a rose by any
other name is still a rose. Descendants of fascists have
been used extensively in the formation of governments in
a number of post-socialist states such as Croatia, Hun-
gary and Slovenia. Parties of fascist vintage also have a
major presence in some West European countries, in-
cluding France, Austria and Denmark. However, Uk-
raine is the rst European country to now have in its
government at least three distinct political groupings
which openly identify themselves with the Nazi heritage
and which currently control the security apparatus of the
statewith the overt patronage of the U.S. and the full
consent of the European Union (E.U.).
5. This neo-Nazi march into the highest offices of a
major European country, with the full backing of all the
Western countries, is bound to serve as a heady elixir for
other parties of the fascist vintage across Europe. Con-
versely, this use of the Nazi-led coup in the encirclement
of Russia is a qualitatively new stage in American de-
mocracy promotion through forces of the Far Right. We
have known the good jehadis in the anti-Soviet cam-
paign in Afghanistan; the good narco-terrorist militias
in subverting El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Latin
American Left more generally; the good Al Qaeda un-
leashed in Syria, and so on. Now, we have the good
Nazison European soil itself.
6. While Crimea was still a part of Ukraine, Russian
was the rst language for roughly half the population of
Ukraine. With Crimea gone, they still comprise over a
third of the population, which is largely concentrated in
the eastern and southern zones. The extreme hatred of all
things Russianthe language, the culture, the peo-
plethat continues to emanate from the new rulers of
Kiev means that a third or more of the population now
lives in mortal fear and may even be thinking of exercis-
ing the Crimean option, that is, opt out of Ukraine itself
either peacefully, through a referendum, or through
ethnic strife and civil warunless the U.S. steps back,
reshuffles its Ukrainian clients and opts for a radical
constitutional reform that turns Ukraine into a loose
federation with substantive and extensive powers vested
in the regional governments. Even that will not be
enough. Ukraine needs massive economic rescue. Russia
has paid most of the bills so far. Going from that into the
full embrace of the IMF and Western nance is likely to
create a level of economic distress that may well snap
social and inter-regional bonds.
TWO WESTERN LI ES
7. Paul Craig Roberts, who served as Assistant Secretary
of the U.S. Treasury under Ronald Reagan, is so appalled
by the Western medias willingness to routinely repeat
the lies told by Western leaders that he has taken to refer
to them as presstitute media. We are now faced with
two momentous lies, told by the U.S. government and
repeated ad nauseumby every media outlet, from cheap
tabloids to The Guardian, the prestigious British news-
paper, and from Fox News to the supposedly Left-liberal
Bill Maher on U.S. television. The rst lie is that the new
government in Kiev has been taken over not through a
coup but through a constitutional procedure. The second
lie is that Russia invaded Crimea and the referendum
there was unconstitutional, manipulated, and so on. We
shall come to the facts later. The point here is that these
two lies lead then to the hysterical demands that sanc-
tions must be imposed on Russia and that President
Vladimir Putin must be held personally responsible and
punished.
8. Putin is no angel but it is also the case that no
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Russian leader since Joseph Stalin,
whether communist or anti-commu-
nist, has been vilied as vociferously as
he. We shall come to the issue of sanc-
tions later, at some length, when we
discuss the economics of it all. Briey,
our belief is that no serious, far-reac-
hing, substantive sanctions of the sort
that may in fact hurt the Russian
economy decisively are possible with-
out doing extensive damage to West-
ern economies and the world economy
in general; Russia is too big an eco-
nomic power now, and there is far too
much interpenetration between the
Russian and E.U. economiesthe
German economy in particularfor
the U.S. to be able to impose serious
economic sanctions.
9. Lacking that leverage, what is
the likely U.S. line of action? Two
things are likely. One, the lie that
there was a Russian invasion of Cri-
mea (thus of Ukraine) shall be used to portray Russia as a
militarily belligerent menace to its neighbours and,
therefore, to dramatically increase the U.S. military pres-
ence and power not only in the European states and
statelets close to Russia but also in the so-called -stans
in Central Asia that were once part of the Soviet Union.
Additional advantage of the latter is that those -stans are
also close to China.
10. The second move, legitimised for the people of the
Western democracies by the representation of Putin as
the latest of the sinister gures ranging from Adolf Hitler
and Stalin to Ayotollah Khomeini/Saddam Hussein/
Muammar Qadda/Bashar al-Assad, would be to launch
internal subversion in Russia in the shape of a colour
revolution for democracy and against dictatorship
and corruption. Watch for social movements in the
streets of Moscow as nuclear warheads get moved into
Poland, Romania and (who knows) Ukraine.
11. Russia suffers from an unresolved conict in the
cultural history of its dominant elitesa schizophrenia
that should be much too familiar to us here in India.
Russians tend to be inordinately proud, almost mystical-
ly so, of the antique traditions of their church, their Slavic
uniqueness, the vastness of their lands, the distinguished
history of their cities, their medieval arts, their unity in
diversity, and so forth. At the same time, centred as all
this pride is in the European parts of Russia, they agonise
over not being European enough, there being just too
much Asia/East in them as a totality, aching to be Eu-
ropeans like the French. They wish to be accepted as they
are and, at the same time, mistaken for being Parisians.
This is a characteristic of great many nationalisms out-
side the core countries of advanced capitalismthe dis-
ease of feeling superior because you feel inferior; the sort
of thing that goes from Kemalism and Nehruvianism at
the grandest level to the pettiest kind of ethno-national-
istic chauvinisms that do not have
recourse to past grandeurs on the
scale of Russia, Turkey or India. It
was therecopiously, shamefully-
in the Czarist upper class; it got
repudiated by the Bolsheviks, who
upheld the proletarian, the peasant
and the pleb, always as deant to-
ward the European capitalist core as
that core was contemptuous of them,
not just politically but also cultur-
ally; and, as a new kind of Russian
class was just striving to emerge, the
rst signal of the counter-revolution
that this particular author picked up
was when Gorbachev started prat-
tling on about our common Europe-
an home. That is the problem with
Putin. He still talks too much of our
American and European partners.
Delusions of the 19th century Rus-
sian bourgeoisie haunt him.
12. But what happens when the
Americans decide to teach him a bitter lesson, tell him
that he is not one of them, threaten to send him to the
gallows for the crime of insubordination. Will he wake up
to the fact that he may be a European, personally, but
most of Russia really is not and that it is in fact self-
divided between histories and cultures of St Petersburg
and Vladivostok? Spurned by the G8, as the grouping
petulantly redenes itself as G7, and supported on the
question of Russias membership of the G20 by the
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)
countries and the Non-Aligned Movement, more gener-
ally, might he not recall the Shanghai Cooperation Orga-
nisation? The Russian bourgeoisie has steadfastly kept
its face turned towards the West even as the West ignored
or slapped that face. Now, slapped hard by a declining
and desperate imperialism, but ush with oil and gas,
leading not a prostrate but a newly prosperous Russia,
sharing a virtually interminable border with a China that
commands immense resource of cash but is dreadfully
exposed to the machinations of those who control the
global markets in energy resources (not the least through
petrodollars), might Putin, the Euro-Russian bourgeois,
turn East? Decisively? Strategically?
PRAI SE FOR CHI NA AND I NDI A
13. In his historic address to the Russian Duma on March
18, Putin chose his words carefully: We are grateful to
the people of China, whose leaders have always consid-
ered the situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into
account the full historical and political context, and
greatly appreciate Indias reserve and objectivity. Ful-
some praise for China, great appreciation for Indias
reserve. He thanked none other. Russia and China have
already agreed on hugely well-funded supply lines for
Russian energy to Chinese hubs. Putin is visiting China in
May. The U.S. appears to be full of bluster after putting in
YULI A TYMOSHENKO. The
former Ukrainian Prime Minister
became a leader of the
movement to overthrow the
elected government.
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power an alliance of meek IMF-oriented clients and
unruly, mutually feuding neo-Nazis, but faced with deci-
sive action by the Crimean populace as well as the Rus-
sian government, the U.S. also seems to be at a loss as to
how to proceed. This indecision is compounded by the
fact that European governments, pliant as ever, are none-
theless afraid of what Russia (only if backed by China,
silently) might do to them if they go too far. Six hundred
German companies doing business in Russia, with tens of
billions of dollars at stake and, therefore, breathing down
her neck, Chancellor Angela Merkel wonders while the
rest of Europe holds its breath, waiting for her to speak.
14. An alliance between Russia and China is a fatality
for the American empire that is waiting to happen; Rus-
sia has the worlds largest pool of energy resources, China
has the largest pool of cash to play any sort of market, for
commodity or nance. Unlike the Americans, the Chi-
nese seem to prefer investing over speculation. American
arrogance might make this marriage between energy
resources and nance in contiguous countries happen
quicker than it might otherwise. The bizarre irony of it all
is that both of them, Russia and China, have offered
themselves as abject junior partners time and again, and
it is the U.S. that is unwilling to grant either of them the
place that is rightfully theirs. Which is predictable. For
the rising power it is safer to grow in the shadow of the
declining one, until a point is reached when the balance
between the declining and the rising powers shifts. But
the declining power knows this too. Hence, the enhanced
U.S. aggression towards both. A closer strategic alliance
between Russia and China may well be the one positive
outcome of the Ukranian asco.
15. With the predominance of its economic power in
relative decline, the U.S. nevertheless commands a mil-
itary machine and a global empire of military bases that
the combined power of the next 10 most powerful coun-
tries cannot match. Hence, the propensity to seek solu-
tions through credible military pressure and frequent
exercise of military power. Part of the reason behind the
war on Syria was the bid to deprive Russia of its naval
facility in Tartus. Part of the impetus to stage a dramatic
coup in Kiev and pull Ukraine swiftly into NATO was to
grab the Russian naval base at Sevastopol on the Crimean
coastthe birthplace of Russias Black Sea Fleet, in
Putins words (not just the birthplace in fact but a
permanent home of that eet for close to 300 years). This
kind of American military belligerence is likely to contin-
ue.
16. With the controversial and ecologically disastrous
technologies of hydraulic fracturing (also known as
fracking) ready to be used in exploitation of coalbed gas
deposits and for production of shale oil over vast expans-
es in Canada and the American Midwest, the U.S. hopes
to soon become the worlds leading energy producer,
competing with and, perhaps, bypassing Russia, Saudi
Arabia and other energy-rich counties. If the E.U.s ener-
gy dependence on Russia turns out to be the main imped-
iment blocking E.U.s full compliance with U.S. military
designs, the U.S. can offer to make up for the shortfall by
releasing sizable quantities of oil and gas from its own
strategic reserves in the short run and, for the long run,
dangle the fruits of fracking in front of the energy-hungry
European states. Making a serious dent in Russias ener-
gy exports and incomes and securing European markets
for its own envisioned shale oil and gas production is very
much a part of the U.S. bid to bring the Great Game into
Europe itself.
UKRAI NE, CRI MEA, RUSSI A: CHEQUERED
HI STORI ES
Four lines into his March 18 address to the Duma, Putin
said: This is the location of ancient Khersones, where
Prince Vladimir was baptised. His spiritual feat of adopt-
ing Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the
culture, civilisation and human values that unite the
peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of
Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the
Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevasto-
pol, a legendary city with an outstanding history, a for-
tress that serves as the birthplace of Russias Black Sea
Fleet. Then, towards the end of the speech, he added:
Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our
common source and we cannot live without each other.
The intensity of the sentiment and the sense of a
common history (of the intermingled Slavic peoples) is
the same as the one encountered in the words of Solz-
henitsyn at the beginning of this article. We might regard
all this as part of an expansive Russian national-chauvin-
ism (even though Solzhenitsyn identies himself as
nearly half Ukranian). So, we might turn to an Amer-
ican scholar, Gary Leupp, Professor of History at Tufts
University, with a secondary appointment in the Depart-
ment of Religion. Appalled by the ignorance and arro-
gance of the Washingotonian establishment, he writes:
Why, many Russians must think, is the West so
intent on incorporating Ukraine, fountainhead of Rus-
sian culture, into the Western zone? Dont they know that
the Russian state traces its origins to Kievan Rus in the
early ninth century, before there was a Russia or Uk-
raine? Dont they know that Ukraine only emerged as a
state after the Mongol invasions, and then as a satrapy of
Poland, before joining Russia in 1654 by the Treaty of
Pereyaslav? And then not as an independent kingdom
but as a Russian principality? Dont they realise that
that Russian principality of Ukraine for over two centu-
ries was centred in the region west of the Dnieper river,
and that the Russian-speaking eastern section was only
added after the Bolshevik Revolution, with the inception
of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic? And that the
Crimean Peninsula had been Russian territory since
1783, until 1954 when it was turned over, perhaps fool-
ishly and capriciously, to Ukraine? Dont they care
about Babi Yar? Do they even know what this was? No
doubt they dont.
Brand new territorial states try to give the impression
that their origins go deep into a remote historical past. In
reality, Ukraine as a separate, independent state came
into being for the rst time only about 20 years ago, and
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that too messily, resulting neither from a lasting inde-
pendence movement nor even a referendum but out of
the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, encompassing
the enlarged territories bestowed upon it by the leaders in
Moscow. Even after the recent departure of Crimea from
this newly minted state, ethnic Russians account for
roughly 45 per cent of the population in the remaining
eastern provinces. The Ukranian elite itself likes to speak
Russian as the Czarist aristocracy of Saint Petersburg
spoke French as the language of high culture. We might
illustrate the point with reference to the bizarre person-
ality of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Yulia Tymoshenko is a former Prime Minister who
was sentenced to a prison term by the Ukrainian courts
on charges of massive corruption, and at the height of the
recent mass demonstrations, she was released thanks to
U.S. pressure, became a leader of the movement to over-
throw the elected government and is now manoeuvring
to regain her position as Prime Minister. Her persona is
that of a militant Ukrainian nationalist, and in public,
she speaks only in Ukrainian.
A phone conversation of Yulia Tymoshenko with Uk-
rainian Member of Parliament and former government
official Nestor Shufrych was leaked on YouTube recently
in which she is recorded as saying, among other things:
One has to take up arms and go wipe out these damn
katsaps together with their leader, (meaning Putin;
katsaps is the Ukrainian abuse word for Russians). She
also said, I am hoping that I will use all my connections
and will get the whole world to rise up so that not even
scorched earth would be left of Russia. According to
AFP, Discussing the fate of Ukraines eight million eth-
nic Russians with Shufrych, Yulia Tymoshenko was also
heard as saying that they should be nuked. Faced with
the recording of her own voice, she acknowledged the
conversation but claimed that the objectionable pro-
nouncements have all been injected into her speech by
Russian intelligence. The signicant fact is that all this
anti-Russian venom is delivered not in the Ukranian
language but in impeccable Russian.
Towards the end of the passage we have quoted
above, Professor Leupp refers to Babi Yar as an illustra-
tion of those crucial aspects of a shared Russian/Ukrai-
nian historynot in the remote past but in mid-20th
centurythat are seared into the memory of modern
Russians. What iswasBabi Yar (aside from serving as
the title of Yevgeny Yevtushenkos famous poem? The
opening passage of the Wikipedia entry on Babi Yar runs
as follows:
Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and
a site of a series of massacres carried out by the Nazis
during their campaign against the Soviet Union. The
most notorious and the best documented of these mas-
sacres took place on September 2930, 1941, wherein
33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation. The
massacre was the largest single mass killing for which the
Nazi regime and its collaborators were responsible dur-
ing its campaign against the Soviet Union and is consid-
ered to be the largest single massacre in the history of the
Holocaust to that particular date. Victims of other
massacres at the site included thousands of Soviet pris-
oners of war, communists, gypsies, Ukrainian national-
ists and civilian hostages. It is estimated that between
100,000 and 150,000 lives were taken at Babi Yar during
the German occupation. Admirers of those German oc-
cupiers now hold key posts in Kiev, not far from that
ravine, after the recent coup.
QUESTI ON OF FASCI SM
Susan Rice, the U.S. National Security Adviser, claims
that the allegation of fascism is a red herring trumped up
by opponents of the revolution in Kiev. It is best, there-
fore, to recall certain basic facts.
The phenomenon is actually far wider but the two
major organisations of fascist vintage are the Svoboda
(Freedom) party and Praviya Secktor (Right Sector).
Svoboda was founded in 1991 and was originally called
National-Social in memory of the official name of the
Nazis, National Socialist German Workers Party. It
claimed to be a successor to the Organisation of Ukrai-
nian Nationalists (OUN) founded in 1929 by Stephen
Bandera, a man of many parts who was later jailed by the
Nazis themselves, but before the falling out, Bandera had
received large sums of money from them and had raised
two battalions for them to ght against the Soviet troops;
according to the Simon Weisenthal Centre, a think tank
that documents details of the Jewish Holocaust, one of
Banderas battalions is known to have rounded up 4,000
Jews for the Nazis in Liviv in July 1941. In celebrating the
memory of his heroes in the OUN, Svoboda party leader,
Oleh Tyahnybok, has said: They did not fear but took up
their automatic ries, going into the woods to ght Mus-
covites, Germans, Jewry and other lth and he calls
upon his own followers to liberate Ukraine from the
Muscovite-Jewish maa. As late as 2010, the official
Svoboda website read (in part):
To create a truly Ukrainian Ukraine in the cities of
the East and South, only one lustration will not be
enough, we will need to cancel parliamentarism, ban all
political parties, nationalise the entire industry, all
media, prohibit the importation of any literature to Uk-
raine from Russia completely replace the leaders of the
civil service, education management, military (especially
in the East), physically liquidate all Russian-speaking
intellectuals and all Ukrainophobes (fast, without a trial
shot. Registering Ukrainophobes can be done here by any
member of Svoboda), execute all members of the anti-
Ukrainian political parties
When Svoboda won 12 per cent of the popular vote
and an impressive number of seats in the Ukrainian
elections in 2012, the resolution adopted by the Europe-
an Parliament on December 13, 2012, On the situation
in Ukraine, said unambiguously:
Parliament is concerned about the rising national-
istic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the
Svoboda party, which, as a result, is one of the two new
parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraines parlia-
ment]; recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic
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views go against the E.U.s fundamental values and prin-
ciples and, therefore, appeals to pro-democratic parties
in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or
form coalitions with this party.
Max Blumenthal, author of the bestseller Republican
Gomorrah among other books, gives an account of what
he saw during the agitation leading up to the coup:
White supremacist banners and Confederate ags
were draped inside Kievs occupied City Hall, and dem-
onstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power sym-
bols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After
[Viktor] Yanukovich ed his palatial estate by helicopter,
Euromaidan protesters destroyed a memorial to Ukrai-
nians who died battling German occupation during
World War II. Sieg heil salutes and the Nazi Wolfsangel
symbol have become an increasingly common sight in
Maidan Square, and neo-Nazi forces have established
autonomous zones in and around Kiev. In the Ukrai-
nian Parliament, where Svoboda holds an unpreceden-
ted 37 seats, Tyahnyboks deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is
fond of quoting Joseph Goebbelshe has even founded a
think tank originally called the Joseph Goebbels Politi-
cal Research Center. According to Per Anders Rudling, a
leading academic expert on European neo-fascism, the
self-described socialist nationalist, Mykhalchyshyn is
the main link between Svobodas official wing and neo-
Nazi militias like Right Sector. In a leaked phone con-
versation with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to
Ukraine, [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria] Nu-
land revealed her wish for Tyahnybok to remain on the
outside, but to consult with the U.S. replacement for
Yanukovich, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, four times a week.
Before getting elevated to this position, Tyahnybok
used to appear at rallies with U.S. Senator John McCain.
Members of Svoboda now hold several ministerial posts,
including that of Vice Prime Minister, Minister of De-
fence, and Prosecutor General. Meanwhile, Right Sector,
which criticises Svoboda for being too pacist and pro-
vided the most vicious of the stormtroopers for the coup
that overthrew an elected government through street
violence, holds key posts in the Ministry of Internal
Affairs, responsible for the police. Between the two, they
more or less monopolise the whole of the national securi-
ty apparatus, that is, the means of violence at the disposal
of the Ukrainian statein addition to their own militias
(paramilitary training is compulsory for membership in
Right Sector.)
It is quite possible that the E.U. and the U.S. shall get
eventually embarrassed by so overt and dominant a posi-
tion of fascists and anti-Semites at the helm of a govern-
ment they have sponsored in a major European country.
Some kind of camouage and reshuffle is likely. Howev-
er, two kinds of mass unrest are also likely in the near
future. First, the rampant, loud, vicious anti-Russian
hatred among all sections of the new ruling dispensation
is likely to cause social unrest in the eastern provinces in
particular and, more generally, among ethnic Russians
thinly spread even in the western parts. Second, conse-
quences of the IMF-imposed austerity that is so much in
the offing will compound the social unrest in unpredict-
able ways. Democratic institutions in Ukraine are fragile
enough, all the so-called liberal political parties are
dominated by criminals and oligarchs, and the fascists,
having tasted power, are not going to go away so easily.
Indeed, as various kinds of social unrest increase, these
reorganised fascists may well emerge as the indispens-
able party of order for liberals of all stripes, Ukrainian,
American, Eurolanders.
In other words, the Ukraine crisis is still unfolding
and it is still too early to judge its eventual contours and
consequences, nationally or internationally.
In the second part of this article, we shall try to
answer a complex question: Are we at the threshold of a
new Cold War?
A RUSSI AN NAVY ship enters the harbour of Sevastopol, Crimea, on March 18.
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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, DESPITE THE
loud threats of sanctions and other punitive actions by
the West, went along with the wishes of the people of the
Crimean peninsula and on March 21 duly signed a treaty
incorporating the region into the Russian Federation.
The overwhelming vote by the Crimeans in favour of
rejoining Russia in the March 16 referendum had left
President Putin with no other choice. Putin, in his speech
to the Russian Parliament, pointed out that Crimeas
referendum was in line with the United Nations Charter,
which speaks of the right of nations to self-determina-
tion. Putin reminded his Western critics that Ukraine
had followed a trajectory similar to Crimeas when it
seceded from the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Re-
publics). Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to
the well-known Kosovo precedenta precedent our
Western colleagues created with their own hands in a
very similar situation, when they agreed that the uni-
lateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what
Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require
any permission from the countrys central authorities,
Putin said in his speech.
Coincidentally, it was 15 years ago that the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) launched its 78-
day war on Yugoslavia, leading to the complete fracturing
of the Yugoslav Federation and ultimately the creation of
Kosovo in 2008. Before that, in 1991, Croatia and Sloven-
ia had conducted their own referendums on the issue of
secession from Yugoslavia. These referendums had the
full backing of the West. In January 1992, the European
Union recognised the independence of the two states. A
similar referendum held against the will of the central
government in Belgrade was repeated in Bosnia in 1992.
The West was quick to recognise the independence of
that state. These events signalled the beginning of the
bloody war in the Balkans, which ended with NATO
U.S. double standards
U. S. PRESI DENT BARACK OBAMA and other G7 leaders meet at The Hague on March 24, on the sidelines of the
Nuclear Security Summit, to decide the response to Russias incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation.
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Crimeas overwhelming vote to rejoin Russia, assailed by the U.S., is of
a piece with Kosovos separation from Serbia and Croatias and
Slovenias from Yugoslavia, all backed by the West. BY JOHN CHERI AN
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military intervention and the break-up of the Yugoslav
Federation. Putin highlighted the double standards of
the West, led by Washington, saying that they do not
adhere to the rule of law but to the rule of the gun,
believing in their exclusivity and exceptionalism. They
use force against sovereign states, building coalitions
based on the principle If you are not with us, you are
against us.
SUPPORT FOR RUSSI A
The international community is, therefore, not im-
pressed with the stand of Washington and Brussels that
Russia has impinged on the sovereignty of Ukraine. The
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)
group, represented by their Foreign Ministers, issued a
statement on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Sum-
mit at The Hague in the last week of March that it
regretted the use of sanctions as a weapon against Russia.
The bloc rejected a move initiated by Australian Prime
Minister Tony Abbott to suspend Russia from the G20
summit due to be held later this year in Brisbane on the
Crimean issue. Abbott even suggested that Putin be
barred from attending the summit. The statement by the
BRICS nations is a clear indication that the developing
countries have no appetite for the sanctions regime that
the West wants to impose on Russia.
The escalation of hostile language, sanctions, coun-
tersanctions, and force does not contribute to a peaceful
and sustainable solution, according to international law,
including the principles and purposes of the United Na-
tions Charter, the BRICS statement said. In a pointed
criticism of the Australian Premier, the statement said no
single member of the G20 can unilaterally take a deci-
sion on behalf of the group. Russia has been getting
support from Latin American countries like Argentina.
Argentine President Christina Fernandez accused the
United States and the United Kingdomof having double
standards. She compared the referendum in Crimea
with that held in the Falklands (the Malvinas), an island
over which Argentina has valid claims. The two countries
were quick to recognise the results of the referendum in
the island, in which the 2,000 residents there voted to
stay part of faraway Britain. We demand that when the
great powers talk of territorial integrity, that it be appli-
cable to everyone, Christina Fernandez said in a speech
in Paris. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai also came
out in strong support of Russias action in Crimea.
China and India have been more circumspect. The
issue of self-determination for disputed territories is a
VLADI MI R PUTI N with Crimeas Prime Minister Sergei
Aksyonov (front left), Crimean Parliament Speaker Vladimir
Konstantinov (hidden) and Sevastopol Mayor Alexei Chaliy in
Moscow on March 18 after signing a treaty on making the
Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula a part of Russia.
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delicate issue for both governments. China has to deal
with separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang and the question of
reunication with Taiwan. For India, the Kashmir issue
has been recognised as a territorial dispute by the in-
ternational community since the early 1950s. Neither
country wants Crimea to be a precedent. China abstained
in the vote on the U.N. Security Council resolution con-
demning the referendum in Crimea and did not join
Russia in vetoing it. U.S. President Barack Obama had a
meeting with he Chinese President Xi Jinping on the
sidelines of The Hague summit and sought to canvass
support against Moscow. Xi Jinping, while voicing sup-
port for Ukraines sovereignty, refrained from saying
anything critical about Russias actions in Crimea. Putin
had made it a point to call up Xi Jinping and Indian
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the crisis erupt-
ed. He publicly thanked India and China for their under-
standing and support.
The new Ukrainian government itself is being viewed
as illegitimate, having replaced a duly elected govern-
ment by using violent means and outside support. The
U.S. and the E.U. lent a helping hand in the overthrow of
the democratically elected President, and Washington
took the lead in condemning Moscow. Obama, in a vit-
riolic attack in a speech in Brussels, said Russia was
challenging truths and added that the borders of Eu-
rope cannot be redrawn by force. He even whitewashed
previous American military interventions, including
those in Kosovo and Iraq.
E. U. RESTRAI NT
European leaders have been more restrained in their
criticism of Russia. Germany, the most inuential E.U.
member, has strong economic and energy ties with Rus-
sia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the
E.U.s move to cut its long-term dependence on Russian
oil and gas supplies. A former German Chancellor, Hel-
mut Schmidt, is however of the view that Russias action
in Crimea is completely justiable.
Many Russian oligarchs have parked their funds in
London, the nancial hub of Europe. The E.U. does ten
times as much trade with Russia as the U.S. does.
The Obama administrations decision to target a few
oligarchs and its plans to impose economic sanctions
could hurt European governments more in the long run.
Some Russian commentators say Putin will not be un-
happy if the nancial clout of the oligarchs, who made
their fortunes in the days of Boris Yeltsin, is further
diminished.
Russia has imposed countersanctions on U.S. and
Canadian businessmen and officials.
The G7 leaders meeting at The Hague in the last week
of March decided unanimously to suspend Russia from
the G8. The G8 summit was scheduled to be held in the
Russian city of Sochi on the Black Sea coast later this
year. The G7 leaders issued a statement condemning
what they termed as Russias illegal attempts to annex
Crimea in contravention to international law. The G7
leaders warned that they were ready to intensify actions
that could have a signicant impact on the Russian
economy.
In his landmark speech to the Russian Parliament on
March 18 announcing Crimeas incorporation into the
Russian Federation, Putin gave an assurance that there
would be no further moves to split Ukraine despite the
growing clamour in the Russian-speaking parts of east-
ern Ukraine for breaking away.
In the U.S., both Democrat and Republican law-
makers are unhappy with the lukewarm steps most Eu-
ropean nations have taken so far against Russia. The E.U.
is far from united on the issue of dealing with Russia.
Many European leaders realise that a showdown with
Moscow at this juncture will have a negative impact on
the economic recovery programmes in their countries.
Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy and Cyprus will be partic-
ularly affected if the economic warfare between the West
and Russia escalates.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking
after a meeting with his American counterpart John
Kerry at The Hague, stressed the need for the new gov-
ernment in Kiev to institute constitutional reforms that
would take into consideration the interests of all the
Ukrainian regions. According to Lavrov, that is the only
way the current political crisis in the country can be
resolved. Lavrov had a meeting at The Hague with the
newly appointed Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Andrei
Deschytsia. This was another strong indication that Mos-
cow was keen to calm the diplomatic waters and that it
did not intend to move militarily beyond the Crimean
peninsula.
CONTROVERSI AL UKRAI NE- E. U. PACT
But the interim government in Kiev is using the secession
of Crimea to forge closer military and economic ties with
NATO and the E.U. In the third week of March, the
government, which lacks a popular mandate, signed a
political association agreement with the E.U. It was Pres-
ident Viktor Yanukovichs decision not to sign such an
agreement that led to his being overthrown. Lavrov was
of the view that Kiev should have waited for the forma-
tion of a popularly elected government before rushing
into an agreement with Brussels. One of the rst things
the pro-Western leaders now running the government
did was to call for the deployment of NATO troops in the
country. The government is mobilising its army and has
allotted more than $600 million to bolster its military
defences. The U.S. and the E.U. are providing the neces-
sary funding for a newly created 60,000-strong Nation-
al Guard. The leadership of the new force will be under
the neo-fascist and right-wing politicians belonging to
parties like the Svoboda and the Right Sector.
There are already signs of disunity in the interim
government. A notorious paramilitary leader of the Right
Sector, Oleksandr Muzychko, who had played a leading
role in the violent demonstrations in the Maidan, was
killed by Ukrainian security forces in late March. The
Ukrainian Defence Minister, Ihor Tenyukh, has been
removed from his post, to which he was appointed only in
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February. He has been blamed for the asco faced by
Ukrainian military units trapped in their bases in Cri-
mea. In the last week of March, Ukraine withdrew all its
remaining troops from Crimea.
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a darling
of the West, was caught on tape calling for the annihila-
tion of Russians. She was talking to one her condants
after the Crimea and Sevastapol accession treaty was
signed. This is really beyond all bounds. It is about time
we grab our guns and go kill all katsaps together with
their leader, she was heard saying in the phone con-
versation which has since been uploaded on YouTube.
Katsaps is a derogatory Ukrainian word for Russians.
For good measure, she added that if she were in power
there would be no f*****g way they would get Crimea.
Yulia Tymoshenko has not denied that the voice on the
tape is hers but has accused Russian intelligence of doc-
toring it.
NATO- UKRAI NE TI ES
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has
pledged a new partnership with Ukraine after a recent
visit to Kiev. The proposed partnership includes devel-
opment of ties with the Ukrainian military as well as the
expansion of joint drills. The NATO chief announced
that henceforth NATO would more actively involve Uk-
raine in its multinational projects regarding the devel-
opment of military potential.
Poland, a NATO member since 2004, has announced
plans to form a multinational military brigade that will
include Ukraine and Lithuania. There are efforts to draw
in Georgia and Azerbaijan into this alliance, which will
be a cats paw for NATO. Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Erdogan has threatened to close the Bosphorus Straits
for Russian shipping in case there is violence against the
Crimean Tatar minority. Turkey, a NATO member, had
sent its military to create the so-called Turkish Republic
of Northern Cyprus in 1983. Turkey had intervened on
the pretext of protecting its compatriots on the island
from the Greek Cypriots.
In his speech to the Russian Parliament, Putin under-
lined the threat posed by the Western military alliance
knocking at the countrys doors. NATO remains a mil-
itary alliance, and we are against a military alliance, and
we are having a military alliance making itself at home
right in our backyard or in our historical territory. I
simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevasto-
pol to visit NATO sailors, remarked Putin. Sevastopol on
the Black Sea is Russias only all-weather naval base.
Obama during his visit to the NATO headquarters in
Brussels stressed the need to strengthen the military
grouping further in the wake of the recent events in
Ukraine. He urged the European nations to contribute
more to strengthen NATO. Most European nations had
sharply curtailed their military budgets after the end of
the Cold War. The U.S. President also referred to the
importance of Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which re-
quires member-states to come to each others aid in case
of a military attack. The U.S. has worked for a long time
to get Ukraine and Georgia to be NATO members. The
U.S. has military bases in all NATO member-states that
surround Russia. The ongoing effort to expand NATO
and the E.U. does not bode well for lasting peace and
tranquillity in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.
Russia has many diplomatic cards to play yet. The
U.S. needs Russias help to deal with Iran in the ongoing
nuclear talks. Russia is in a position to ease the draconian
sanctions regime on Iran by engaging in barter trade that
would enable Teheran to sell more of its oil. Russias help
will also be needed when American troops start with-
drawing from Afghanistan and to deal with the bloody
political aftermath the withdrawal is sure to trigger in
that country. Russia and the U.S. are also engaged in
nding a resolution to the crisis in Syria.
Though Obama has said that he does not consider the
accession of Crimea to the Russian Union a done deal,
Washington will have to reconcile with the facts on the
ground and start doing business as usual with Moscow
again. Russia, after all, is not the USSR and there is no
great ideological divide between the two countries.
PUTI N CHAI RS A MEETI NG of his government at his residence outside Moscow on March 19.
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GENERAL ELECTION
THEheat of the campaign often generates witticisms
from the grass roots that can sum up a developing sit-
uation in a better way than political analysts can. One
such witticism that has started doing the rounds in sever-
al parts of north India, including in Delhi, the national
capital, involves inventing new names for the two main
parties in the fray, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP). The BJP has been renamed the Bharatiya
Jagada (tussles) Party in this popular refrain. The Con-
gress was rst the Indian Reluctant Congress and later
the Indian Compulsion Congress. Evidently, these witti-
cisms were linked to the situations that developed in the
two big parties aroundthe resistance of leaders to contest
and then the choice of candidates.
The internal tussles in the BJP on the question of
nominations reached such a stage that many of its veter-
an leaders decided to challenge the existing power struc-
ture and contest as independents. They include leaders
like former Union Minister Jaswant Singh, who held
such important portfolios as Finance and External Af-
fairs, and Lalmani Choube, one of the senior-most lead-
ers of the BJP in Bihar.
The decision of these leaders to contest as independ-
ents came at the end of a series of insults and humili-
ations heaped upon a number of leaders, including
former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, Mur-
li Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj, by the reigning
power centres in the party headed by president Rajnath
Singh and prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
While Joshi was denied his favourite Varanasi seat to
make way for Modi himself, Advani was made to stick to
Gandhinagar in Gujarat though he wanted to shift to
Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. Jaswant Singh was denied a
seat outright, overlooking his sentimental attachment to
his home constituency of Barmer in Rajasthan. Along
with these humiliations came the accommodation of
persons like B. Sriramulu, the controversial aide of the
mining baron Janardhana Reddy of Bellary, in Karnata-
ka and Colonel Sonaram Chaudhary in Barmer in Rajas-
than. The latter, who was preferred over Jaswant Singh,
had switched to the BJP from the Congress only recently.
In Sriramulus case, the opposition of Sushma Swaraj
was brushed aside nonchalantly. Her tweets that the
denial of a seat to Jaswant Singh was not decided by the
A tale of two campaigns
The two major parties are nding the going tough. While the BJP is
faced with dissent and revolt by senior leaders who are upset with the
growing personality cult, the Congress has trouble convincing its
heavyweights to enter the election fray. BY VENKI TESH RAMAKRI SHNAN
L. K. ADVANI , Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh. The current BJP campaign has seen a series of
insults and humiliations heaped upon a number of senior leaders.
MANI SH SWARUP/AP R. V. MOORTHY ROHI T JAI N PARAS V. V. KRI SHNAN
25 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
central election committee were also
not addressed seriously.
Sections of the BJP and even the
larger Sangh Parivar perceive these de-
velopments as the by-product of the
personality-oriented campaign that the
BJP and the National Democratic Alli-
ance (NDA) have built around Naren-
dra Modi. The main slogans of the BJP
in this election are Ab ki baar Modi
Sarkaar (This time Modi government)
and Har Har Modi (Everybody is Mo-
di). The BJP was forced to withdraw this
slogan following objections from Hindu
seers who saw it as an insult to the Har
Har Mahadev chant praising Siva.
Personality-oriented campaigns
have been witnessed only twice before
in the country. The first was in 1980,
after the collapse of 1977-79 Janata Par-
ty government, when the Congress
came up with the slogan Indiraji ko
bulavo, India bachavo. Then, in 1998,
the BJP sought to advance its case using
Atal Bihari Vajpayees candidature with
the slogan Bari, bari, sab ki bari, ab ki
bari, Atal Bihari. But there is little
doubt that the scale and magnitude of
the current Modi campaign is light
years ahead of the 1980 and 1998 cam-
paigns. All this has strengthened the
feeling that there is a rising personality
cult in the BJP. Such is the strength of
this perception that even Rashtriya
Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) sarsang-
chalak Mohanrao Bhagwat cautioned
RSS activists at a national meet in Ban-
galore that chanting Namo Namo
should not be their job.
If this is the uneasy and at-times-
volatile situation in the BJP, the Con-
gress is going through a different kind
of upheaval. Senior leaders are running
away from the contest and the partys
top brass, including Congress president
Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, have
had to compel many of them to enter the fray. The
wisecracks about the Indian National Congress turning
into the Indian Reluctant Congress and then into the
Indian Compulsion Congress have their genesis in these
convulsions.
The pressure exerted by leaders such as Sonia Gandhi
did indeed compel relatively junior leaders such as Sa-
chin Pilot to contest the elections, but others, including
Ministers P. Chidambaram, Manish Tewari and G.K.
Vasan, as well as former Union Minister K.V. Thang-
kabalu, withstood the pressure and refused to face the
electoral challenge. Other leaders who ultimately suc-
cumbed to the high command diktat include former
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder
Singh, Punjab State party president
Pratap Singh Bajwa, and senior leader
Ambika Soni. There are indications that
the Congress is cracking the whip on
many other reluctant leaders and forc-
ing them to contest.
Amidst all this, the smaller parties
are making their forays into the electo-
ral eld. These include the Aam Aadmi
Party (AAP), the Left parties under the
leadership of the Communist Party of
India (Marxist) and the Communist
Party of India (CPI), the Mulayam
Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party
(S.P.), the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj
Party (BSP), the Nitish Kumar-led Ja-
nata Dal (United), the Jayalalithaa-led
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kaz-
hagam (AIADMK), the Dravida Mun-
netra Kazhagam (DMK) led by
Karunanidhi, the Mamata Banerjee-led
Trinamool Congress and the YSR Con-
gress led by Jaganmohan Reddy.
While all these parties have their
own areas of inuence, the AAP, as in
the Delhi Assembly elections of Decem-
ber 2013, has unleashed spirited cam-
paigns in different parts of the country.
It has also been able to grab more media
space than other non-Congress, non-
BJP parties by striking uncharacteristic
political postures. The decision of AAP
convener Arvind Kejriwal to take on Na-
rendra Modi in Varanasi was one such
move. By all indications, the traction
that it has generated in the temple town
and nearby constituencies is indeed
worrying the BJP. The decision of the
saffron party to hastily tie up with the
Apna Dal, an Uttar Pradesh-based re-
gional party with a predominantly OBC
Kurmi support base, is perceived as a
reaction to the panic. The Apna Dal has
pockets of inuence in the Allahabad-
Varanasi region and can prove to be a valuable electoral
ally for the BJP.
Other regional parties such as the Telugu Desam
party (TDP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)
are playing multiple games at the same time. Both the
parties are, so to speak, behaving like political pendu-
lums: they are alternately seeking and distancing from an
alliance with the BJP. The TRS had initially announced
that it would ally with the Congress but later turned to
the BJP. Later, it was in discussions with the CPI. Clearly,
these are early days yet in the long election process and
one will witness many more such somersaults. In the
meantime, the redenition of the two big parties is also
bound to acquire new dimensions.
CONGRESS LEADERS who
refused to enter the fray:
(fromtop) P. Chidambaram,
Manish Tewari and
K.V. Thangkabalu.
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MADHYA PRADESH
Advantage Shivraj
BY PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI
OUR tiranga has three colourssaffron, green and
white. We have already seen a Green Revolution, we have
also seen a White Revolution. Now it is the time for a
saffron revolution, thundered the Bharatiya Janata Par-
tys (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi,
while inaugurating the rst solar power plant of Madhya
Pradesh at Neemuch near Indore on February 26. While
he was referring to the saffron revolution metaphorically,
associating the colour saffron with energy, he might as
well have been talking of the political colour of the State.
Madhya Pradesh, which saw a saffron wave in November
2013 taking the BJP to power for a third successive time,
might see a repeat of the wave that could help the BJP
full its dream of capturing power at the Centre.
The State leaders of the party did not call it a day after
the conclusion of the Assembly elections. The political
process was carried forward, Delhi being the destination
this time. We intend to better our 2004 performance,
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan happily declared
at Neemuch. In 2004, the BJP won 25 out of 29 seats and
captured 48.13 per cent of the votes. This, however,
dipped to 16 in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, and the
vote share also went down to 43.45 per cent. The Con-
gress, on the other hand, improved upon its 2004 per-
formance, winning 12 seats with 40.14 per cent of the
votes. In 2004 it had won only four seats with 34.07 per
cent of the votes. What worked in favour of the Congress
in 2009 was not any exceptional leadership charisma but
the scare among minorities of having a BJP government
SAFFRON EUPHORIA
In north India, the BJP hopes to strike it rich in Madhya Pradesh,
Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh while its chances are uncertain in
Haryana. In Delhi, it will be a tight battle between
the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party.
MADHYA PRADESH CHI EF MI NI STER Shivraj Singh Chouhan (left) at a rally in Satna.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
at the Centre and State simultaneously. This polarised
the situation in favour of the Congress. We dont want a
Gujarat to be repeated in Madhya Pradesh, said a mi-
nority community leader.
Though the BJP hopes to improve upon its 2009
performance, the fear factor among the minorities is even
greater this time. Muslims are having nightmares about
Modi, waking up from their sleep with a start, a Muslim
cleric told Frontline recently. This fear, he said, might
force them to vote en bloc for the Congress, though
complaints against the Congress, too, are many. At least
it is the lesser evil, he said.
And it is this realisation that makes the Congress
smug. Muslims will vote for us lock, stock and barrel. We
will do even better than in 2009, said a senior Congress
leader from Bhopal. Another thing that may go in favour
of the Congress is the resentment brewing within the
BJP. The partys senior leaders are being ignored and
some candidates are not known gures. All this will go in
our favour, said a Congress leader.
But given the respec-
tive parties performance
in the last election, the
balance appears heavily
tilted in favour of the BJP,
which improved upon its
performance considerably
in the previous Assembly
elections. Chief Minister
Shivraj Singh Chouhan is
extremely popular and
people may well vote in or-
der to see him as the next
Prime Minister.
His low-prole, hum-
ble image and his easy ac-
cessibility and his
pro-people schemes such
as the Ladli Laxmi Yojana (under which nancial assist-
ance is given to a family at the birth of a girl child) and
Kanyadaan Yojana (mass marriages) for girls from poor
families have made him popular across castes and reli-
gions. The fact that his Kanyadaan initiative benets
Hindu and Muslim girls has won him many supporters.
Though Madhya Pradesh lags behind in various key
indices of development, people still view him as one who
has at least tried and delivered to the best of his ability. In
cases where he has not been able to full his promises, he
has cleverly shifted the blame to the Centre, claiming that
there has not been enough cooperation from the United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The popular
perception is that a BJP government at the Centre will
help the State government perform better. This feeling
runs across castes and communities.
There has never been a Chief Minister like him. He
has shared our joys and sorrows and has not discrimi-
nated between Hindus and Muslims. He has helped
many poor families marry off their daughters. What
more can we ask? said Shaukat Khan of Salamatpur
village in the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency. Chouhans
overwhelming inuence on the States politics is some-
thing which even his rivals grudgingly admit. His own
image, his style of working and his comparatively good
performance is something which gives the BJP a certain
advantage, said a senior Congress leader in Bhopal.
What may make the results in Madhya Pradesh cru-
cial is the probability of the BJP falling short of a majority
in the next Parliament and Chouhan, who has always
been viewed as a rival of Modi, emerging as a consensus
candidate for prime ministership. L.K. Advanis prefer-
ence for him has been well known. Recently, Advani
expressed a wish to contest from Bhopal instead of Gand-
hinagar.
Advanis preference for Chouhan was also evident
again at a ceremony to inaugurate the linking of the
Kshipra river with the Narmada, which was held in
Ujjayani near Ujjain on February 25. Praising Chouhans
success in getting the project completed in time and in
rejuvenating the Kshipra with Narmada waters, Advani
spoke of a similar work having been done in Ahmedabad
by another Chief Minister who had similarly revived the
Sabarmati river there with Narmada waters. The refer-
ence to Modi was clear, yet Advani did not pronounce
Modis name even once. He went on to say that Chouhan
had achieved a miracle.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has so far not made its
presence felt in the State. Madhya Pradesh, on the whole,
has mostly seen a bipolar contest and that is likely to
remain unchanged this time.
CHHATTISGARH
BJP upbeat
BY PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI
IN Chhattisgarh, the BJP, buoyed by its victory in the
November Assembly elections, is upbeat. Its election
slogan is Ek aur ek gyarah (one and one is eleven),
implying that the Raman Singh-Narendra Modi com-
bine will sweep all the 11 Lok Sabha seats in the State.
With a BJP government ruling the State, the party is
trying to sell the promise of faster development if there is
a BJP government at the Centre.
What we are saying has a basis. We have the Chhat-
tisgarh model to showcase. We can tell people that the
sort of development that has taken place in Chhattisgarh
will be seen all over India if the BJP comes to power, said
Pankaj Jha, the BJPs election management committee
member, in Raipur.
Signicantly, it is not the Gujarat model of devel-
opment but the Chhattisgarh model that the party is
talking about. In both 2004 and 2009, we won 10 out of
11 seats here. This time we are aiming at winning all the 11
seats, that is why the Ek aur ek gyarah slogan is immedi-
ately establishing a connect with the people, said Jha.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 28
Yet, the sailing may not be all that
smooth for the BJP. The Congress
gave the party a tough ght in Novem-
ber and lost the Assembly elections by
just 0.7 per cent of the votes. If the
trend continues, the Congress may
well win three or four seats, including
a couple of seats in the crucial tribal
areas where it won eight of the 12 As-
sembly seats in November. Senior BJP
leaders admit in private that it may not
be an easy election. Despite the Con-
gress losing all but one seat in 2004
and 2009, that of Ajit Jogi in Mahasa-
mund, we cannot write it off. Ajit Jogi
is back in Mahasamund, and there he
has his own inuence and is likely to
win that seat again, said a senior BJP
leader.
There are two or three other seats
where the BJP is likely to face a tough
ght from the Congress: Korba, for
instance, where former State Congress president Charan
Das Mahant is the candidate; and Bilaspur, where Karu-
na Shukla, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayees
niece, is the candidate. Charan Das Mahant was a Union
Minister, but last year he was sent to the State to revital-
ise the party after most of the top State Congress leaders
were killed in a naxalite attack. He did manage to put life
back into the Congress, which was evident in the tough
ght it gave the BJP. Mahant is inuential in his area and
is a strong candidate.
Karuna Shukla switched sides during the Assembly
elections after being sidelined in the BJP and cam-
paigned for the Congress candidate, Alka Mudaliyar, the
widow of the slain Congress leader Uday Mudaliyar, in
Rajnandgaon, where Chief Minister Raman Singh was a
candidate. The Congress did manage to give the BJP a
scare.
With Karuna Shukla herself being a candidate from
Bilaspur now, the BJP there is slightly nervous. These
three-four seats can be tough, we may or may not win
them, a BJP leader said.
The Congress, on the other hand, is still to get its act
together. After the As-
sembly election defeat, the
State president was re-
placed with senior leader
Bhupesh Baghel, but that
has not shown any visible
effects on Congress work-
ers morale. Having lost
the Assembly elections
with such a narrow mar-
gin, it is normal for work-
ers to be demoralised.
Besides, the leadership too
has yet to exhibit that killer
instinct which is required
for victory, said a senior Congress
leader from Raipur. According to him,
the Congress has been a loser in the
Lok Sabha elections for some 15 years,
so the workers seem to be bogged
down by the realisation that the party
has nothing to gain or lose. If Jogi or
Mahant win or lose, it is their personal
victory or defeat, not of the party, and
this realisation seems to be bogging
down the average party worker, said
a senior leader.
It is, however, surprising that a
party which came so tantalisingly
close to victory barely a few months
ago should appear so demoralised
now. The Congress won 39 seats while
the BJP formed the government with
49 seats in the 90-member Assembly.
Interestingly, the Congress does have
a substantial number of votes in
Chhattisgarh: in the 2009 Lok Sabha
elections, it won only one seat but got 37.31 per cent of the
votes. In 2004 also, the Congress won just one seat but
40.16 per cent of the votes. The BJP, on the other hand,
won 10 seats both the times, with 47.78 per cent of the
votes in 2004 and 45.03 per cent of the votes in 2009.
The BJPs vote share actually went down in 2009, but the
Congress did not benet from this.
The AAP has elded Soni Sori, a tribal schoolteacher
who was jailed on charges of being a naxalite sympa-
thiser. How her presence will impact the election re-
mains to be seen. Besides, the Left parties also have
decided to contest four seats: Kanker, Bastar, Janjgir
Champa and Sarguja. The Communist Party of India
(CPI) will ght in the rst three while the Communist
Part of India (Marxist) will contest in Sarguja. The tribal
vote this time will get divided four ways and ultimately
end up helping the BJP, feels a veteran CPI leader from
Chhattisgarh, C.R. Bakshi.
But with Rahul Gandhi taking a personal interest in
the selection of candidates in the State and visiting it
frequently, the Congress may just pull itself together.
RAJASTHAN
BJP all the way
BY T.K. RAJALAKSHMI
THE outcome of the elections to the parliamentary
seats from Rajasthan, to be held in two phases on April 17
and 24, is not going to be vastly different from the results
of the Assembly elections in December 2013. Of the 25
seats, six are reservedfour for the Scheduled Castes and
two for the Scheduled Tribes.
The BJP, which swept the Assembly elections under
CHHATTI SGARH CHI EF
MI NI STER Raman Singh during
a visit to New Delhi.
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the stewardship of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, win-
ning 163 of the 200 seats, is expected to repeat its per-
formance in the Lok Sabha elections, too. This has been
more or less the trend in the State, where Assembly
results have often mirrored the outcome of the preceding
Lok Sabha elections. The additional reason why the BJP
will do well is that the Vasundhara Raje government,
being relatively new, will face negligible anti-incumben-
cy effect. The Congress, which won 20 seats in 2009
against the BJPs four, is now a demoralised unit and may
win about four seats.
CONTROVERSI ES GALORE
What is interesting is that despite the overwhelming
mood favouring the BJP, the State unit of the party has
witnessed intriguing dissension in its ranks, with former
Union Minister and MP from Darjeeling Jaswant Singh
deciding to contest the Barmer seat as an independent.
He was denied the ticket while the official BJP nominee,
Colonel (retd) Sona Ram, is actually a former Congress
legislator who was defeated by Jaswant Singhs son Ma-
navendra in the recent Assembly elections.
Barmer is going to be keenly watched as it will be a
three-cornered contest. It is intriguing that in the case of
Jaswant Singh, a combination of State and central lead-
erships apparently essayed a role in denying him the
nomination. The reason given was that a Jat candidate
was needed; Jaswant Singh is a Rajput. The matter went
public with leaders such as Sushma Swaraj expressing
her unhappiness over the way things were handled and
Arun Jaitley sermonising on how leaders should learn to
accept no after being showered with privileges. Needless
to add, Jaswant Singh, who had not yet made up his mind
to contest, became even more resolute and responded by
saying that even a peon has a better place, and is treated
in a better way, than the place he had in the BJP.
Jaswant Singh, who has represented Jodhpur and
Chittorgarh in the past, accused Vasundhara Raje and
BJP president Rajnath Singh of betraying him. Barmer is
the largest parliamentary
constituency in the State.
All the eight MLAs in this
constituency are from the
BJP and have sworn their
allegiance to Jaswant
Singh. While Jaswant
Singh quit the BJP, Buta
Singh left the Congress to
join the BJP and is now
the partys nominee for the
Jalore (reserved) seat.
At Sikar, too, the BJP
is facing a problem, with
three-time MP and former
Rural Development Min-
ister Subhash Maharia deciding to contest as an inde-
pendent after being denied the ticket, which, on the
recommendation of yoga guru Baba Ramdev, went to one
Swami Suvidhanand, a political nonentity from Rohtak.
All the six BJP legislators in Sikar objected to his nomi-
nation. There were violent protests on the day he led his
nomination but later the protesters were placated by the
Chief Minister. Apparently, two candidates of the BJP,
one in Sikar and the other in Alwar, are the unofficial
nominees of Baba Ramdev and both of them are from
Haryana. Like the BJP nominee, the Congress nominee
too is a political greenhorna former bureaucrat with
little experience in ghting elections.
In fact, Sikar may see a multi-cornered contest with a
BJP rebel, a Congress rebel, official party nominees, and
four-time MLA of the Communist Party of India (Marx-
ist) Amra Ram in the fray. Unlike the other candidates,
Amra Ram, who is the president of the All India Kisan
Sabha, has a history of leading and participating in suc-
cessful farmer agitations in the Sikar-Ganganagar area.
The other constituency to watch out for is Dausa,
where it is a battle between two brothers, both former
Directors General of Police (DGPs): Namo Narain Mee-
na, a sitting MP from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur and Minis-
ter in the UPA government, is pitted against his younger
brother, Harish Meena. Interestingly, Kirori Lal Meena,
the sitting MP (independent) from Dausa, wanted his
younger brother, Jagmohan Meena, to be given the Con-
gress ticket, which created some resentment in the local
unit there. The choice of the Congress nominee for Tonk,
cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin, was met with resist-
ance as the party was accused of ignoring the claims of
the local unit. At Churu, too, the local Congress unit has
been up in arms against the official nominee, calling him
an agent of the BJP.
The BJP also has its share of celebrity nominees.
Olympic medallist Rajyavardhan Rathore will taken on
former Pradesh Congress Committee chief and senior All
India Congress Committee member C.P. Joshi in Jaipur
Rural. Ajmer is another seat to watch out for as here the
newly inducted PCC chief and MP Sachin Pilot is pitted
against State Cabinet Minister Sanwarlal Jat. In the
Assembly elections, the Congress did not win a single seat
BJP CANDI DATE SANWARLAL JAT presents a
memento to Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje
at a public meeting in Ajmer on March 26.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 30
from Ajmer. It was learnt that the BJP was keen to add
Ajmer to its kitty and hence elded one of its senior
Ministers with a view to woo Jat votes.
It has been observed that caste and candidate calcula-
tions play a role only to the extent of helping consolidate
support in favour of a party that already has an edge. The
emphasis on elding family members of discredited Jat
candidates in the Assembly elections did not yield any
dividends to the Congress, given the strong mood against
the party.
In Kota, the Congress has renominated its sitting MP,
Ijyaraj Singh. Vasundhara Raje, who had a major say in
the ticket allocation process, has elded her condant
Om Birla from there in the hope of winning back the
traditional BJP seat. She was present on the day Birla
led his nomination, but said that she did not possess a
magic wand to solve all the problems of the State. The
opposition has justiably picked up on this statement. In
Jhalawar, sitting MP Dushyant Singh, who is the Chief
Ministers son, faces former Congress legislator Pramod
Jain Bhaya.
While Vasundhara Raje has consolidated her posi-
tion as the undisputed leader of the BJP in the State and
may have called the shots as far as ticket distribution is
concerned, it is also clear that some veterans in her party,
such as Ghanshyam Tiwari, who won from Jaipur with
the largest margin, 65,000 votes, in the Assembly elec-
tions, are unhappy at being denied a Lok Sabha nomi-
nation. In Bharatpur, too, the local BJP unit is unhappy
that Digambar Singh, who lost the Assembly elections,
has been instrumental in deciding who would get the Lok
Sabha nomination for the seat.
In what is going to be a largely bipolar contest, the
spoils will be unequally distributed between the two
main parties, with the advantage going to the BJP. This is
because there has been no ostensible reason for people to
get enthused by the Congress and the effects of the double
anti-incumbency factor that were felt in the Assembly
elections will resonate once more. Other political forma-
tions, such as the Bahujan Samaj Party, the National
Peoples Party and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha, a
broad front of non-Congress and non-BJP parties, will
play a role but not to the extent of winning seats.
HARYANA
Uncertain race
BY T.K. RAJALAKSHMI
THE cliched adage In politics, there are no perma-
nent friends or foes may be apt for Haryana where not
only have major switchovers taken place in March, but
the political weather seems to have somewhat eased for
the ruling Congress. In fact, when Chief Minister Bhu-
pinder Singh Hooda declared rather triumphantly on
television Tamaasha dekho (watch the fun), while re-
ferring to the BJP having inducted at least eight Congress
members on udhaar (loan), viewers were left stupeed.
He was referring to the exodus from his own party. While
this highlighted the relative political bankruptcy of the
BJP, it left no one in doubt about the similarity of the
policies and politics practised by the two major parties.
While the predominant mood continues to be very
much against the establishment in the State and at the
Centre, certain developments coupled with the lack of a
much-talked-about wave show that the Congress,
which had been completely written off earlier, may yet,
notwithstanding the defections, be able to weather the
storm, albeit to a reduced degree.
It is now clear that there are going to be multi-
cornered contests for each of the 10 seats in the State,
with the parties vying for a share of the caste pie. Price
rise, corruption, unemployment, and widespread insecu-
rity faced by women and Dalits continue to be major
issues affecting the incumbent government at the State
and the UPA at the Centre, but the division of the electo-
rate may throw up some interesting results, which could
have a resonance in the Assembly elections later this year.
The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which has
always been the principal opposition party in the State, is
contesting all 10 seats on its own with a little support
from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a constituent of the
National Democratic Alliance (NDA). SAD president
Sukhbir Singh Badal campaigned for the INLD candi-
date at Hisar, a development that did not go down well
with the State unit of the BJP. As pointed out by Fron-
tline (Honour at stake, April 4), the BJP, which was
expected to reap much of the benets of anti-incumbency
factor, may have miscalculated by having an alliance with
the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), founded by the late
Bhajan Lal. In the process, the BJP dumped the INLD, its
long-term ally. The BJP is contesting eight seats and the
HJC two, Hisar and Sirsa.
Predictably, the understanding of the INLD with the
CHI EF MI NI STER BHUPI NDER SI NGH HOODA
with his son and Congress candidate Deepender Singh
Hooda at a public meeting in Rohtak on March 21.
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SAD with regard to the Sirsa seat has not gone down well
with the BJP. The INLD candidate here is none other
than a sitting MLA of the SAD. The Sirsa seat will be one
to watch out for as the newly anointed State Congress
president, Ashok Tanwar, is pitted in a four-cornered
contest there. His main rivals include the candidates of
the HJC and the INLD. The HJC candidate is supposed
to be a formidable opponent; it is learnt that Tanwar was
reluctant to contest from the seat and delayed ling his
nomination until the last minute.
REBELLI ON ACROSS THE BOARD
The prominent Congress leaders who have either joined
the BJP or been made nominees include sitting Gurgaon
MP Rao Inderjit Singh; Ambala MLA and the right hand
man of the Chief Minister, Venod Sharma; two-term
Congress MLA and Chief Parliamentary Secretary Dha-
rambir, who is contesting on the BJP ticket from Bhiwa-
ni-Mahendargarh against the sitting MP, Shruti
Chowdhary; and Sushil Kumar Indora from Sirsa, who is
contesting on the HJC tick-
et. Indora has twice been
an INLD MP. He lost in the
2004 elections and later
joined the Congress only to
leave it again.
At Sonepat, the denial
of the ticket to Pradeep
Sangwan, son of the late
Kishan Singh Sangwan,
three-time MP of the BJP,
led to a rebellion. In fact,
the Congress had given up
on this seat when its sitting
MP, a condant of Hooda,
declined to contest again,
fearing defeat. Pradeep
Sangwan decided to join
the fray as an independent.
Later, on March 25, he
joined the Congress and withdrew his candidature. Given
the dissension within the BJPs ranks, the situation
seems to favour the Congress nominee. The official BJP
candidate here is a former Congressman. In Karnal, too,
where the local unit refused to accommodate former
Congressman, Venod Sharma, the official BJP nominee,
an outsider, is considered weak.
At Rohtak, where the re-election of two-time MP
Deepender Singh Hooda of the Congress was being con-
sidered an uphill task in what has become a four-cor-
nered contest (the AAP launched its campaign from
Rohtak with a huge rally), the open rebellion within the
BJP has now made his election rather smooth. In fact, by
disregarding the claims of both party spokesperson Cap-
tain Abhimanyu and State vice-president Naresh Malik
and making Om Prakash Dhankar, national president of
the Kisan Morcha, the nominee, a virtual rebellion has
broken out within the BJP. State president Ram Bilas
Sharma was shown black ags. Similarly, in Bhiwani-
Mahendargarh, too, the local BJP unit has expressed
open resentment as the official nominee here, Dharam-
bir, was with the Congress until a few weeks ago.
There appears to be no wave favouring any particular
person or party at the moment despite the highly person-
alised nature of national campaigns. Voters do not ap-
pear enthused as the opposition is highly fragmented and
appears opportunistic as well. The AAP, too, has had its
share of rebellion. The general observation about the
party has been that it had put up khaas aadmi (special
people) as opposed to aam aadmi (ordinary people).
There were reports of en masse resignation from the
Gurgaon unit of the party a day after AAP convener
Arvind Kejriwals road show in the region. The lack of an
organisational structure is proving to be debilitating for
the party even though there appears to be a fair degree of
sympathy for Kejriwal. At best, the AAP is expected to
ruin the equation in seats where tough contests and
narrow margins are expected.
As a political observer said, the AAP started off with
the politics of non-politics. Therefore, it was not diffi-
cult for the party to call on non-governmental orga-
nisations, farmer outts and even khaps to join it. When a
section within the AAP criticised the party for the in-
vitation to khaps, the AAP leadership made the invitation
conditional, expressing reservations about some of the
unlawful pronouncements by the caste councils. This had
the effect of khaps turning down the invitation extended
at the Rohtak rally. Khaps are not non-political bodies.
They are highly political. This had to boomerang, com-
mented an academic.
THE I SSUES
While on the face of it there appears to be no dearth of
issues, barring the Left parties, and the AAP to an extent,
no other political outt has been highlighting them. The
Left parties are contesting ve of the 10 seatsthe CPI
(M) three and the CPI two. The Left parties have held
rallies in Hisar and Karnal. Several populist sops were
announced by the Hooda government but there has been
resentment brewing at various levels. The Left parties
have promised the implementation of the Swaminathan
Commission recommendations. The commission, which
was set up in 2004 in the rst term of the UPA at the
insistence of the Left parties, came up with several pro-
farmer recommendations, such as returning 50 per cent
of the cost of production to the farmers as minimum
support price, offering cheap credit to them, and imple-
menting land reforms. Interestingly, the BJP, which re-
mained silent for long, has started talking about
implementing the commissions recommendations.
A large section of the Dalit community that faced
sustained violence during Congress rule also feels let
down. In fact, Congress president and UPA chairperson
Sonia Gandhi visited the village in Narwana district
where a Dalit girl had committed suicide and vice-presi-
dent Rahul Gandhi visited Mirchpur village where Dalit
homes were set ablaze and an elderly man and a disabled
girl died. But there were many more incidents that need-
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ed the attention and response of the State government.
The All India Democratic Womens Association (AID-
WA), supported by the CPI(M), pursued several cases,
including the gang-rape of a student in Dabra village in
Hisar, which led to the arrest of the accused.
The promise of the government to allot 100 square
yards (84 square metres) of land to landless families too
caused frustration. Where it was allotted, the regis-
tration was not done. Where registration was done, no
possession was given. There were cases where land was
allotted in areas already owned by private individuals or
which were under illegal possession, a villager pointed
out.
There were several decisions of the government per-
taining to the recruitment of teachers or to the land
acquisition that had been set aside by the courts. There
were several protests in the State over the increase in toll
tax which raised bus fares, the increase in electricity
tariffs, the imposition of development fees and regu-
larisation charges for unauthorised colonies, and the
proposed privatisation of Haryana Roadways. For three
days in January, employees representing various sectors
went on a strike across the State. There is a feeling that
even if the government gave some sops like old-age bene-
ts, it took away much more with other measures, an
employee said.
There is discontentment among the people but there
are few alternatives. The manner in which the major
political parties are conducting themselves, hoping to
blunt the public anger by elding star speakers and
campaigners, is all there to see. Given a highly fragment-
ed polity and a divided opposition, coupled with the
absence of a wave in favour of any particular dispensa-
tion, no one party is likely to score a clear victory in these
elections.
DELHI
Demographic
dynamics
BY AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA
WHEN the Congress secured all the seven parlia-
mentary constituencies of Delhi in 2009, riding an un-
precedented wave of popularity, it looked as if there was
no turning back for the grand old party of India. Such an
epic victory from the National Capital Region had signif-
icant strategic impact for the party at the national level.
First, it galvanised the powerful secular-urban intelligen-
tsia of the city to move into the fold of the Congress.
Secondly, with around 60 per cent votes polled in its
favour, the party re-emerged as the ag-bearer of the
citys poor and a sizeable number of migrants.
In 2014, however, the tables are turned. In the As-
sembly elections held in December 2013, voters showed
the Congress the door by giving it just eight seats in a
70-member House.
A resurgent BJP and the edgling AAP were the
beneciaries of a perceptible anti-incumbency sentiment
against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance
government at the Centre. Not surprisingly, therefore,
the Congress has renominated the same candidates for
all the seven constituencies. We could not have taken the
risk of elding new candidates, given the anti-incum-
bency sentiment against our party. We had to rely on the
sitting MPs to perform well in the election, a senior
Congress leader told Frontline.
With the Congress still recovering from the shock of
the Assembly election defeat and with hardly any time to
launch its political campaign on a different note, repeat-
ing candidates was the safest possible strategy. The idea
is not just to exploit the traditional caste equations that
have worked in its favour until now but also to cash in on
the celebrity status of some of its MPs.
For instance, in constituencies such as Chandni
Chowk and New Delhi where a large number of literate,
urban voters dictate the results, the candidatures of polit-
ical bigwigs Kapil Sibal and Ajay Maken have helped the
Congress make the contest tougher for the opposition
parties.
Similarly, the Congress believes that elding Ramesh
Kumar, brother of the tainted Congress leader Sajjan
Kumar, will help it garner the support of the Jats, a force
to reckon with in South and Outer Delhi. With Mahabal
Mishras candidature, the Congress hopes to cash in on
the Poorvanchali (migrants from eastern Uttar Pradesh
and Bihar) votes again.
The Congress clearly has no novel electoral strategy.
Despite a growing anger against price rise and other
problems bothering the common man in the metropolis,
the Congress candidates are still beating the old drums of
infrastructure development during the partys regime.
While the message from the urban poor was clearly
against the Congress in the last Assembly elections, the
party seems to have learnt little. For instance, Sandeep
Dikshit, its MP from East Delhi, listed the redevelop-
ment of highways and the removal of traffic bottlenecks
as one of his primary achievements.
On the other hand, both the BJP and the AAP are
talking about issues such as
sanitation, living condi-
tions of the poor and issues
of livelihood. Political anal-
ysts say that for these rea-
sons Delhi will vote for a
party with a political vision
and not for individual can-
didates. The political dis-
course in Delhi, they say, is
held together by a vocabu-
lary of idealism that the
AAP has initiated in the
capital.
At a time when the gen-
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
eral election is being sought to be projected as a referen-
dum on the BJPs prime ministerial candidate, Narendra
Modi, Delhi seems to be an exception. Here, the AAPs
campaign on livelihood issues has forced the BJP to shun
its development discourse and, instead, talk of the ac-
tual concerns of people in every constituency.
The BJP, therefore, is leaving no stone unturned. It is
talking about a corruption-free government, better facil-
ities for people, and its plans for greater social expendi-
ture in the citya break from its national campaign that
relies on the neoliberal development model. To counter
the AAPs inuence among the Delhis poor, it has pre-
pared a list of the failures and lies of the 49-day AAP
government, using it as its primary campaign material.
It has elded Bhojpuri superstar Manoj Tiwari as one
of its candidates as part of its efforts to give repre-
sentation for the sizeable Poorvanchali population of the
city. This is the rst time the BJP has elded a Poor-
vanchali candidate. The Congress elded Mahabal Mis-
hra, a Poorvanchali candidate, in the last election.
There seems to be a discernible shift in the BJPs
strategy. Unlike the last few elections, the BJP has elded
national leaders such as Meenakshi Lekhi and the recent
recruit, Udit Raj, a Dalit leader, to counter the celebrity
faces of the Congress. The party also hopes that Modi will
become a huge factor in inuencing peoples choices as
the elections draw nearer. Modi, therefore, is the face of
its campaign in Delhi.
The AAP has elded candidates from various back-
grounds. Ashish Khetan, a journalist known for his in-
vestigation into the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in
Gujarat and, more recently, for his sting operation on the
Gujarat Police tailing a woman allegedly at the behest of
Modi, is contesting from the New Delhi constituency.
Author and Mahatma Gandhis grandson Rajmohan
Gandhi has been elded against Sandeep Dikshit in East
Delhi.
The kind of electoral representation that each politi-
cal party is giving weight to suggests that political equa-
tions have drastically changed in Delhi in the last 15
years. I would have never imagined such diverse repre-
sentation a few years ago. Every political party tried to
exploit only the traditional Punjabi-Khatri and Jat votes
in the city. This is a signicant moment in Delhis politics.
Adequate representation of all communities and an
equal stress on the anti-corruption dialogue, a politics of
idealism, are coming-of-age factors in Delhis politics,
said Sanjay Kumar of the New Delhi-based Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).
Such change in electoral dynamics was only possible
because of the changing demography of the city, which
got adequately represented in the delimitation exercise
in 2008. Now there is not one constituency in Delhi
where a political party can bank on the support of just one
dominant caste group for victory. For instance, North
West Delhi constituency, which was carved out of the
erstwhile Jat-dominated Outer Delhi constituency, is the
largest of the seven Lok Sabha constituencies (17.9 lakh
voters) and has the highest percentage of Dalit voters (21
per cent).
The constituency, which shares its border with Ha-
ryana, also has a sizeable Jat population (16 per cent).
Among the other communities that make up the constit-
uency are Brahmins (12 per cent), Banias (10-11 per
cent), Other Backward Classes (20 per cent) and Mus-
lims (5-8 per cent).
The BJP and the Congress do not have the bipolar
electoral advantage that they have traditionally enjoyed
because of the predominance of any one caste segment.
The composite demography of Delhi, in a way, has aided
the grand entry of the AAP, which was the rst political
party to have successfully addressed the concerns of the
public in this scenario. Therefore, despite the BJP play-
ing up the Modi factor, it is clear that Dalits, the urban
poor, and a signicant section of the lower middle class
are supporting the AAP. Muslims did not vote for the
AAP in the last Assembly elections. However, in the last
two months, we see a signicant number of Muslims
shifting towards the party, said Kumar.
The BJP will be banking upon the upper caste and
upper class votes. Kumar says that the elections in Delhi
will see a great divide between the rich and the poor
voting for different parties. The upper class and the
upper caste could vote for the BJP, given Modis projec-
tion as the Prime Minister candidate. However, if it has
to win, it cannot do so without the support of the poor in
Delhi. Delhi will see a clear division of votes in terms of
class, he said.
At present, therefore, the elections are pitched as a
tough battle between the BJP and the AAP, with the
Congress hoping to benet from an unprecedented divi-
sion of votes that Delhi will witness for the rst time in its
electoral history.
NARENDRA MODI and yoga guru Baba Ramdev during
a Yoga Mahotsav in New Delhi on March 23.
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GENERAL ELECTION/MAHARASHTRA
ITis odd that ve years after the last elections, neither
the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)
combine nor the saffron Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Par-
ty (SS-BJP) alliance can nd a stout enough stick of
omissions or commissions to beat each other with in the
run-up to the elections.
In both rural and urban Maharashtra, there has been
no dearth of issues. Here are just a few of the larger ones.
Unseasonal rain and hail in 28 of the 35 districts de-
stroyed crops in over 19 lakh hectares. The tragedy in-
tensied when an estimated 37 farmers ended their lives,
unable to sustain their families. There was the
Rs.70,000-crore irrigation scam. In the Adarsh Cooper-
ative Housing Society scam, illegal beneciaries were
granted ats in a building meant for retired armed forces
personnel. Others include the controversial land allot-
ment for a tech park in Pune, the Rs.1,000-crore educa-
tion scam involving State-run schools, a public
distribution system scam involving bogus ration cards,
BJP leader Gopinath Mundes boast that he had spent
more than Rs.8 crore in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections,
and, most recently, NCP chief Sharad Pawars exhorta-
tion to his loyal mathadi workers to vote twiceonce in
Mumbai, where they work, and then
again in their villageswith a reminder
to erase the voting dot.
There is no area of life that has not
been touched by some sort of corruption.
And yet, there is no palpable feeling that
the opposition is raring to attack the gov-
ernment. Parties are going around with
furrowed brows, engrossed in their own
troubles. The BJPs prime problem is
ironically also its greatest trophy. The
larger-than-life image of Narendra Modi
is turning out to be larger than the party.
And while this was initially exciting, it
has progressively lost a great deal of its
shine. A BJP source compared Modis
campaign to a sele [in which] one is
only thinking about oneself and how one
looks you are the subject, you are the
photographer nothing else is important. The point
being made by this disgruntled senior BJP worker is that
the campaign is all about Modi, and the party has been
relegated to the back seat. Indeed, the BJPs headquar-
ters in Mumbai proves this with its huge hoarding that
proclaims: Vote for India Vote for Modi. What hap-
pened to voting for the BJPs State MPs, or can they be
dispensed with? This is the sort of question that is being
murmured in Mumbai though not too loud because the
Big Brother style of functioning (and its consequences)
that Modi has entrenched in Gujarat is only too well
known.
Modi himself has been taking huge strides across the
State, visiting farmers in Yavatmal who have lost their
crop to hailstorms, holding a rally in Mumbai, and con-
ducting his chai pe charcha meetings. His prime minis-
terial aspirations and his casual manner towards some
senior BJP leaders have created a new set of problems for
some of the States parties. The Senas Uddhav Thackeray
stubbornly supports the old guard in the BJP. This nat-
urally means that Uddhavs cousin, Raj Thackeray of the
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), had to take a
contrary view. Modi, the realist, tried to get the Sena and
the MNS on the same page, knowing the
value this would have for the Sena-BJP
combine in terms of garnering votes. But
he had not reckoned with the fact that the
cousins had split not over ideology but
over power-sharing and hence could not
be appealed to. In fact, the BJP has been
trying to persuade the MNS to either ally
with them or not contest the Lok Sabha
elections. In 2009, the MNS had unwit-
tingly eaten into the saffron vote and in-
directly helped the Congress-NCP to win
all six Mumbai seats. Despite this, the
MNS has decided to contest as a separate
entity. The SS-BJP combine has extended
its inuence with a pre-election alliance
with the Republican Party of India (Atha-
vale) and the Swabhiman Shetkari Sang-
hatana.
Waiting for change
Though many scams have rocked the State, the run-up to the elections
has been quiet, with parties engrossed in their own internal troubles.
BY LYLA BAVADAM I N THANE AND NASHI K
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The Sena has seen unprecedented defections in the
run-up to this election. With Uddhav at the head after the
death of his father, Bal Thackeray, the Sena has been in a
ux. Uddhavs milder ruling style has been (wrongly)
mistaken for weakness, and after the breaking away of his
ery cousin Raj, membership in the Sena is no longer
seen as a lifelong commitment. Among the spate of defec-
tions, the most shocking one was that of Rahul Narvekar,
the vociferous spokesman-cum-lawyer, who left the Sena
saying that he was being victimised by the party. Three
sitting MPs have quit the Sena and joined the NCP. Part
of the reason for the defections is supposedly Uddhavs
weak leadership, but if this were true, then the defectors
should logically go to the MNS, which is closest to the
Sena in terms of ideology. But the MNS seems to have
zzled out after its impressive debut in the 2009 Assemb-
ly elections. So the reason for Sena men leaving seems to
have more to do with their feeling that Uddhavs neglect
of Modi, as well as his poor relationship with BJP leader
Nitin Gadkari, may lead to the Sena itself being margin-
alised politically. Thus, the defections have more to do
with personal career paths than with political factors.
In the Congress, perhaps the most interesting person
is Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Incidentally, he has
just completed three years in office. Not only did he
inherit an administration that was burdened by scams
and inefficiencies but he has also had to survive political
storms. Now he has the additional responsibility of en-
suring that the Congress and the NCP put up a good show
so that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance
(UPA) can return to power in New Delhi. With more than
seven crore voters and 48 Lok Sabha seats, Maharashtra
is second only to Uttar Pradesh when it comes to the
numbers game in politics.
The opportunistic behaviour of candidate-hopefuls
and party functionaries and the low level of public en-
gagement by the parties have so far made this a very jaded
pre-election period. Perhaps the only aspect of the elec-
tion that seems to have some semblance of integrity and
excitement is the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The AAP came into prominence in the State when the lid
was blown off an irrigation scam in 2012 in which the
NCPs Ajit Pawar was allegedly involved. The AAP has
consciously pitted itself against all the 22 NCP candi-
dates. Social activist and national executive member of
the AAP Mayank Gandhi has called the NCP a corrupt
political party, pointing out that NCP Ministers like Ajit
Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal face corruption charges
while Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare and High-
er Education Minister Rajesh Tope have beenindicted by
a judicial committee in the Adarsh scam. Notable candi-
dates of the AAP in the State are the activist Medha
Patkar, irrigation scam whistle-blower and retired bu-
reaucrat Vijay Pandhare and ex-banker Meera Sanyal.
For Mumbaikars, the constituencies worth watching
will be Mumbai South, where Meera Sanyal takes on the
Congress sitting MP and Union Minister of State for IT
and Communications Milind Deora, and Mumbai
North-East, where Medha Patkar faces sitting MP San-
jay Dina Patil of the NCP and Kirit Somaiya of the BJP.
South Mumbais slum population has increased drasti-
cally. Like all established parties, the Congress has not
neglected slum voters, and this has lessened newcomer
Meera Sanyals chances of a political advantage.
In Mumbai North-East, Medha Patkar has a distinct
advantage despite this being her rst foray into politics.
She is up against two seasoned ghters who have the
nancial backing of their parties while her campaign
managers have been forced to appeal to the public tofund
the campaign. However, her activist image will stand her
in good stead in this constituency where she was well
known long before she entered politics. She has fought
for the right to housing and livelihood in the area, which
has been beleaguered by infrastructure projects that have
left many homeless. To that extent, Medha Patkar has
already proved her mettle to her potential voters. She has
another advantage over Sanjay Dina Patil who, in the last
election, won only by a small margin of fewer than
10,000 votes. In Mumbai North-West, Mayank Gandhi
has been pitted against the Congress stalwart and sitting
MP, Gurudas Kamat, who has had ve terms from this
constituency.
Showing its spunk, the AAP has even entered the
lions den, elding a retired Indian Police Service officer,
Suresh Khopade, against Sharad Pawars daughter Su-
priya Sule in Baramati. Likewise, in Nagpur, the AAP has
elded its Maharashtra convener Anjali Damania
against Nitin Gadkari.
What voters are talking about is a need for change.
The only sense of impending change comes from the
AAP, but the party is too inexperienced. The non-AAP
opposition, which has so much ammunition to use
against the government, is caught in a trap of Modi
monotheism. Gridlocked with internal issues, it is unable
to belabour the Congress-NCP combine. All in all, it has
been an extraordinarily dull start to the 16th Lok Sabha
election campaign.
SHI V SENA CHI EF UDDHAV THACKERAY
addressing an election rally at Dombivli near Thane.
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GENERAL ELECTION/SOUTH
TAMIL NADU
New alliances
BY T.S. SUBRAMANIAN
THE April 24 single-phase elections to the Lok Sabha
from Tamil Nadu promise to be interesting because a
six-cornered contest is in the offing in almost all the 39
constituencies. The lone seat in the neighbouring Union
Territory of Puducherry also faces a multi-cornered con-
test. In 2009, the battle was essentially between the two
powerful alliances led by the Dravida Munnetra Kaz-
hagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Mun-
netra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
The DMK has no major allies after it pulled out of the
Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the
Centre in March 2013 over what it perceived as the
Centres insensitive stand on the Sri Lanka Armys killing
of an estimated 60,000 Tamils in May 2009 during the
nal stages of its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE). The DMK has retained its alliance with
the Viduthalai Chiruthai Katchi (VCK) and the Indian
Union Muslim League (IUML). It has also brought into
its fold the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) and the
Puthiya Thamizhagam (P.T.), both of which were with
the AIADMK during the 2011 Assembly elections. The
DMK will contest 35 seats, the VCK two, and the IUML,
the P.T. and the MMK one each. The Aam Aadmi Party
(AAP) plans to contest 25 seats.
The AIADMK is going it alone. In a display of over-
condence, the ruling party showed the Communist Par-
ty of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India
(CPI) the door; both were its allies in the 2009 and 2011
elections. The All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi
(AISMK), founded by the actor and legislator R. Sarath-
kumar, and a few caste outts are backing the AIADMK.
Chief Minister and party general secretary Jayala-
lithaa named the AIADMKs candidates for the Tamil
Nadu and Puducherry seats on February 24, her birth-
INTERESTING
CONTESTS
In Tamil Nadu, there is no big issue working against the AIADMK, but
the formation of the DMDK-led front has made the picture a bit
unclear. In Karnataka, there is disconnect between the Congress and
the masses, and the BJP appears rejuvenated with the return of
B.S. Yeddyurappa. In Kerala, the Congress and the CPI(M) are aiming
to win the maximum number of seats.
CHI EF MI NI STER Jayalalithaa speaking at an AIADMK
election campaign in Theni district on March 25.
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day. The announcement carried a hint of what was in
store for the Left parties. She, however, said talks were
under way with them on seat-sharing. After an agree-
ment is reached on the sharing of constituencies, the
AIADMK candidates will withdraw from the constitu-
encies allotted to these two parties, Jayalalithaa said.
She then swung into the election campaign from March
3, ignoring the two Left parties. Left leaders held several
rounds of negotiations with AIADMK leaders. In the
end, Jayalalithaa despatched a few Ministers to the CPI
(M) office on March 4. Amma had asked them to tell the
Left leaders that we came together happily and let us
part gladly, the Ministers said. The AIADMK thus uni-
laterally broke this partnership.
Unfazed, the CPI(M) and the CPI decided to face the
elections together, a decision that has enthused their
cadre. The two parties will contest nine seats each. We
are not able to ascertain the causes for the AIADMKs
unilateral decision, a senior CPI(M) leader said. It is a
political decision. It is not the number of seats that led the
AIADMK to break its relationship with us, he added.
Informed sources said that with pre-election surveys
predicting a win for the National Democratic Alliance
(NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jayala-
lithaa didnot want to antagonise the BJP by remaining in
the company of the Left. She shed her ambition of becom-
ing the Prime Minister as she did not want to be seen as a
rival to the BJPs Narendra Modi. If a government were
to be formed at the Centre with the AIADMK taking part
in it, the people of this country will get a lot of benets.
You will also get benets. Tamil Nadu will prosper, is her
refrain as she reads from a prepared text at meeting after
meeting. While she attacks the DMK and also the UPA,
of which it was a constituent, for corruption and non-
performance, she spares the BJP. She does not even utter
the name BJP in her 45-minute addresses. No wonder
CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat,
State CPI(M) secretary G. Ramakrishnan,
and CPI State secretary D. Pandian crit-
icise her for her silence on the BJP.
According to informed sources, howev-
er, Jayalalithaa is annoyed withthe BJPfor
its camaraderie with actor-turned-politic-
ian Vijayakant. She had tried to neutralise
the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam
(DMDK) he leads, and eight of its legisla-
tors had deserted it. The BJP worked for
about three months to herd together sworn
rivals such as the DMDK, the Pattali Mak-
kal Katchi (PMK), the Marumalarchi Dra-
vida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), the
Kongu Nadu Makkal Desiya Katchi
(KNMDK) and the Indian Jananayaga
Katchi (IJK) under its overarching um-
brella. Thamizharuvi Manian, a writer and
former Congressman, played an important
role in forging this coalition of parties with
differing ideologies and caste affiliations.
While the lions share of 14 seats has gone
to the DMDK, the BJP and the PMK will contest from
eight constituencies each, the MDMK from seven, the
KNMDK, the IJK and the All India N. Rangasamy Con-
gress (in Puducherry) from one each. What holds ones
interest are the developments on two different fronts.
One is the plight of the Congress, which is completely
isolated in Tamil Nadu. The other development is the
sibling feud between M.K. Azhagiri and M.K. Stalin, sons
of M. Karunanidhi, DMK president and former Chief
Minister. Azhagiri would not accept Karunanidhis vir-
tual declaration that Stalin would be his successor. His
activities resulted in his expulsion from the party on
March 26 (see box).
CONGRESS PREDI CAMENT
The Congress, which nds itself without any allies, has to
blame itself for this pitiable situation. The factors that
have alienated the Tamil voter include the insensitive
handling of the issue by the Centre of the Sri Lanka Navy
ring on shermen from Ramanathapuram, Tiruvarur,
Nagapattinam and Pudukottai districts of Tamil Nadu;
its claimin the Supreme Court that the Katchativu island
belongs to Sri Lanka and not to Tamil Nadu; and the
perception that it is shielding Colombo from an interna-
tional probe into its war crimes against Tamils in May
2009. Defeat is staring so hard at the State Congress that
its senior leaders such as P. Chidambaram, G.K. Vasan
and K.V. Thangkabalu have ed the ring even before the
bell has rung for the bout. Chidambarams son, Karti, will
be the Congress candidate from Sivaganga, which has
been the Union Finance Ministers bastion. The Con-
gress is elding its candidates in all constituencies.
Congress leaders told Frontline that their party found
itself in this terrible situation because of the AICCs [All
India Congress Committee] attitude and approach in
providing guidelines to the TNCC [Tamil Nadu Congress
Committee] on who should be its elec-
tionpartners. The AICC did not consult
the TNCC about the partys strategy for
the Lok Sabha elections in the State and
it had no planning managers to devise
State-wise strategies, one of themsaid.
Even after the AIADMK decided not to
have any truck with the Congress and
the DMK general council resolved on
December 15, 2013, that the party would
not align either with the Congress or
with the BJP, the AICC was in no hurry
to nd out whether the State unit could
forge an alliance with the DMDK, the
PMK and others.
In the DMK camp, party treasurer
Stalin was 100 per cent against the
revival of ties with the Congress. Stalin
was able to resist pressure from a power-
ful group that included Azhagiri (who
had to resign as Union Minister for
Chemicals and Fertilizers when the
DMK pulled out of the Manmohan
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Singh government), T.R. Baalu, Kanimozhi (Karunanid-
his daughter), N.K.K.P. Periasamy and Suresh Rajan, all
of whom saw nothing wrong in the renewal of ties.
The NDA, too, hit big roadblocks when seat-sharing
talks were on. The sticking points were constituencies
from where the BJP, the PMK and the DMDK wanted to
contest. For instance, the BJP, the PMK and the DMDK
wanted to contest from Salem. Besides, the DMDK and
the PMK demanded Villupuram, Arni and Kallakurichi.
The BJP was put in an embarrassing position when
Vijayakant started his election campaign on March 14 as
planned although no seat-sharing agreements had been
reached. He began his campaign from Gummidipoondi
in Tiruvallur constituency and even named the DMDK
candidates for Madurai, Tiruchi, Namakkal, Tiruvallur
and Chennai Central. His failure on March 14 to canvas
for the BJP or mention Modi created consternation in the
BJP. It took six more days to iron out the differences
before the BJP-led front became a reality in the presence
of BJP president Rajnath Singh.
During an election tour of Madurai, Theni, Virud-
hunagar, Sivaganga, Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Kanyaku-
mari constituencies in southern Tamil Nadu between
March 17 and 20, this correspondent found that there
was no big issue working against the AIADMK. If the
16-hour daily power cut hobbled the industrial and farm
sectors and made homes dark for 30 months after the
AIADMK came to power in May 2011, the duration of
daily power cuts varies between four and 10 hours now.
While Jayalalithaa maintained that she inherited the
power shortage from the previous DMK government,
Karunanidhi blamed the AIADMKs failure to start new
electricity generation projects when it was in power from
2001 to 2006 for the power crisis.
NORTHERN TAMIL NADU
Caste divide
BY R. ILANGOVAN
IN the 12 constituencies (four reserved) in the
parched Vanniyar heartland (spread over Kancheep-
uram, Cuddalore, Vellore, Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai
and Tiruvallur districts), there are interesting pointers to
the fact that the contest this time has moved beyond the
contours of the traditional rivalry between the two Dravi-
dian majors. The formation of the front including the
BJP, the DMDK, the PMK and the MDMK has forced
mood readers and poll strategists to rework their calcu-
lations. Much to their surprise, besides issues such as
water scarcity and prolonged power outages, intense
caste affiliations have taken centre stage in this round of
elections.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss 14-month-long mobil-
isation of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the
Most Backward Classes (MBCs), predominantly Vanni-
yars, against Dalits seems to have changed the caste
demography in the northern districts and laid a strong
foundation for identity politics.
MDMK GENERAL SECRETARY VAI KO, DMDK president
Vijayakant, BJP president Rajnath Singh and PMK leader
Anbumani Ramadoss at a meeting in Chennai on March 20
when the three parties joined the NDA.
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The high point that occasioned this shift was the
death of a Dalit youth, Elavarasan, after resistance to his
marriage with a Vanniyar girl sparked a caste are-up in
Natham colony, where he lived, in Dharmapuri district.
For the rst time in a general election, voters remain
divided sharply on caste lines, where migration from one
to another is strictly prohibited.
My caste is important for me since people of my caste
can help me and my family in times of crises. Although
other political parties have elded candidates belonging
to my caste, I will support Doctor Ayya [Ramadoss] who
wants us to remain united as one caste block, said Govin-
dan, 55, a vegetable farmer and a Vanniyar in Ural, a
remote hamlet in Villupuram district. Ural is part of
Arani constituency, where former Union Minister A.K.
Moorthi is contesting as the PMK candidate against
candidates of the AIADMK and the DMK, also Vanni-
yars.
The PMKs annual Chitra Pournami (full-moon day
in the Tamil month of Chitirai) conferences at Mahaba-
lipuram (organised by the Vanniyar Sangam, a commu-
nity organisation attached to the PMK) had played a
major role in facilitating Vanniyar consolidation and
restoring the PMKs electoral relevance and bargaining
power, which it had lost following a steep fall in its
political prospects. The hate campaign against Dalits is
all-pervasive in almost all the villages falling under the 12
constituencies. Dalits have been pushed to the margins,
socially and politically.
Thimmaraju, 35, of Periyathappai hamlet, some 17
kilometres from Palacode block in Dharmapuri district,
claimed that the Chitra Pournami conclave had instilled
caste pride in him. We prefer doctor Anbumani [son of
Ramadoss and a rst-time contestant in Dharmapuri
constituency]. A vote for the PMK is a vote for Vanni-
yars, he said.
The Vanniyars strong preference for the PMK does
not come as a surprise. In fact, they dismiss Vanniyar
candidates elded by other parties as aliens. When we
have no other choice, we support caste candidates of
other parties, explained M. Pandiyan of Mangalam vil-
lage in Tiruvannamalai district, who, surprisingly, is a
DMK loyalist. The PMK is contesting in Tiruvannamalai
against the AIADMK and the DMK, both of which have
elded OBC candidates.
Thus, the message from the community is loud and
clear: the PMK is for Vanniyars and Anbumani Rama-
doss, who has been studiously marketed through effec-
tive caste-based manoeuvres, is the partys future face.
But the sociopolitical churning in these districts is
not welcomed by the OBCs, such as Mudaliars, Reddys
and Chettiars.
The OBCs feel they are caught between two major
social blocks. The emerging Vanniyar consolidation and
the increasing alienation of Dalits, they fear, will prove
risky in the long run. The balancing mechanism needs
to be in place for peaceful coexistence, said an office-
bearer of a weaving society in Arani. The weavers are
mostly Mudaliars, a major landholding group which con-
trols the economy in this region. But this time they have
decided to back the PMK since a few fringe local Dalit
groups are trying to threaten their economic superiority.
OBC voters in the reserved constituencies prefer candi-
dates belonging to non-Dalit parties. For instance, non-
Dalit voters in Tiruvallur (Scheduled Caste) constituency
have decided to vote for the AIADMK candidate and
sitting MP, Dr P. Venugopal, instead of D. Ravikumar, a
senior functionary of the VCK.
The fear the vested interests have instilled in the
minds of the OBCs against the militant Dalit groups has
vitiated the social environment, which is very unfortu-
nate, said Stalin Rajangam, a Dalit sociologist based in
Madurai.
But I remain a peoples candidate, above caste and
creed, Ravikumar said.
This polarisation was visible in Chidambaram (re-
served) constituency where VCK leader Thol. Tirumava-
lavan is seeking re-election. He is banking on the DMK
and minority votes besides the votes of Dalits, who con-
stitute a formidable 27 per cent of the electorate, almost
equal to Vanniyars.
But the gamble of politically isolating Dalits, which
appears to be successful at present, may have social
consequences. A counter-mobilisation is under way even
in remote villages. Dalits have started reacting aggres-
sively to the subtle attempts to isolate them politically.
They are naturally backing candidates elded by Dalit
parties.
Besides, they have decided to vote for the DMK in the
other constituencies. We will never vote for the DMDK-
led BJP alliance because it includes the PMK, said Ren-
DMK CHI EF M. Karunanidhi with his sons, M.K. Azhagiri
and M.K. Stalin, at an event in Chennai on January 13,
2009. Dayanidhi Maran, former Union Minister, is
standing behind him.
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THE problem is over. It does not exist anymore,
exulted a senior leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kaz-
hagam (DMK) at Anna Arivalayam, the partys head-
quarters located in Chennai, on March 26, reacting to
the dismissal of M.K. Azhagiri, the elder politician
son of party president M. Karunanidhi, from the par-
ty. Our leader made adjustments to the maximum.
But Azhagiri kept overreaching himself. The people
with him are no good, the leader said, explaining why
the former Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister
and DMK south zone organising secretary was ex-
pelled the previous day.
It is a moot point whether the problem is over.
That is, whether the long-suppurating sibling feud
between Azhagiri and his younger brother, M.K. Sta-
lin, on who should take control of the DMK from
Karunanidhi, has come to an end or will continue to
smoulder. But the day after the high command took
the swift and decisive action against Azhagiri, a re-
laxed atmosphere prevailed on the Anna Arivalayam
premises, giving the impression that Azhagiris ex-
pulsion was a non-issue. Azhagiri was suspended
from the party on January 24 after he questioned the
leaderships attempt to rope in the Desiya Murpokku
Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) headed by Vijayakant
into the DMK-led alliance for the coming elections.
The die was cast when Azhagiri met Vaiko, general
secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam (MDMK), on March 23. The meeting took
place at Azhagiris residence in Madurai. Soon after
the meeting, Vaiko claimed that Azhagiri had agreed
to support the National Democratic Alliance candi-
dates in Tamil Nadu in the April 24 elections.
In the eyes of the DMKs top leadership, Azhagiri
meeting Vaiko was a cardinal sin. For the DMK high
command had suspicions about Vaikos ambitions in
the 1990s before he quit the DMK in 1993 to found
the MDMK. Besides, Azhagiris reported promise to
support Vaiko and other MDMK candidates was a
grave provocation. It would affect the prospects of
DMK candidates. The DMK leadership has not for-
gotten how Azhagiri elded rebel candidates in the
2001 Assembly elections and ensured the defeat of
several party candidates in the southern districts.
As if on cue, candidates belonging to the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress made a beeline
for Azhagiris residence and requested his support for
their candidates. Those who met him included H.
Raja (BJP), who is contesting from Sivaganga, and
J.M. Haroon Rashid and Bharat Natchiappan (Con-
gress), who are contesting from Theni and Madurai
respectively. Hence, the DMK high command decid-
ed to take the bull by the horns.
Karunanidhi, party general secretary K. Anbaz-
hagan and Stalin held talks on March 25, after which
Anbazhagan put out a terse statement that Azhagiri
had been dismissed from the DMK for ridiculing the
leadership and for damaging the partys interests.
Azhagiri had done all this when he was under suspen-
sion for contravening party discipline and bringing
disrepute to the party, the statement said. Karunanid-
hi told reporters that Azhagiri had not only failed to
provide a proper explanation for his actions but con-
tinued to slander top leaders. Hence, the general
secretary [Anbazhagan] and I consulted each other
today and announced that Azhagiri is being perma-
nently removed from the party, said Karunanidhi.
In Madurai, Azhagiri told reporters that he would
challenge his expulsion in the court as no show-cause
notice had been served on him. No notice had been
served when he was suspended in January either.
Azhagiri was punished for pointing out certain short-
comings in the selection of district secretaries and
party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. Is there
any rule that one should not highlight such short-
comings? he asked.
Azhagiri made light of his meeting with Vaiko.
How can I say no when Vaiko wanted to meet me?
he asked. He pointed out that Karunanidhi had met
Vaiko in the Special Court at Poonamallee, near
Chennai, when he was jailed under the Prevention of
Terrorism Act. He said he and his supporters would
always remain with the DMK as they had contributed
to the partys growth. Anna Arivalayam was built
with my hard work, too, Azhagiri said.
In the sibling rivalry over who should succeed
Karunanidhi, the father favoured Stalin and system-
atically groomed him for the job. The on-off feud
burst into the open on January 6, 2013, when Karuna-
nidhi declared that if I, as an individual, were to get
an opportunity, I would propose only Stalins name
for leadership. Azhagiris reaction was sarcastic. The
DMK is not a [religious] mutt, he said (Frontline,
February 8, 2013).
The rivalry erupted again in January this year
when Azhagiris supporters put up posters in Madurai
announcing their intention to hold a rival DMK gen-
eral council meeting, leading to the suspension of 10
of his supporters and his own suspension on January
24. He was also suspended from the post of the DMKs
south zone organising secretary (Frontline, February
21). The issue came to the fore yet again when posters
reappeared in Madurai in March announcing the
formation of Kalaignar DMK. The posters virtually
called Azhagiri the new partys general secretary and
announced that the party and its ag are ready and
we will meet the parliamentary elections. The posters
had the pictures of Azhagiri, his son Durai Dayanidhi,
and the DMK ag in black and red with a picture of
Karunanidhi in the middle.
T.S. Subramanian
DMK and sons
ganathan, a petty Dalit trader of Attur village near Kan-
cheepuram. The caste divide, many fear, will revive the
bitter memories of violence and destruction.
A.K. Moorthy arrived to a hostile reception in Periya
colony, a Dalit habitation in Vandavasi in Tiruvannama-
lai district. Stones were hurled at him, forcing him to
withdraw his campaign hastily. Our votes are not for
Vanniyars, said Sureshkumar, a 20-year-old carpenter
from the colony. But Moorthy dismissed the incident as
an aberration. I am condent of winning, he told Fron-
tline. It is Ramadoss who frayed the peace that prevailed
in the northern districts after both the PMK and the VCK
decided, in 2004, to bury their differences and share a
common platform, ostensibly for the cause of Tamils.
Everything went on smoothly after that. Peace prevailed
and no untoward incident took place until violence
erupted in Dharmapuri [over the inter-caste marriage].
We even worked together amicably for the local body
elections and also in the 2011 Assembly elections, Ravi-
kumar said. For political considerations, Ramadoss is
playing the caste card, which is unfortunate, he said.
In a highly fragmented electoral eld, the chances of a
vote transfer from the DMDK (10 per cent) to the PMK
(5.75 per cent) and vice versa are remote. The electoral
understanding between these two parties, which were
hostile to each other in the not-too-distant past, remains
conned at the top level. Can you expect a Vanniyar in
Salem to vote for the DMDKs L.K. Sudheesh, a non-
Vanniyar? asks a senior PMK functionary in Salem. The
PMKs youth wing secretary, R. Arul, had to withdraw in
favour of the DMDK candidate under alliance compul-
sions after having canvassed for nearly 150 days.
The BJP is a nonentity here and Narendra Modi a
stranger. Guhanraj, a college student in Villupuram dis-
trict, said: My village has always voted for the
AIADMK. The BJPs rainbow coalition has distanced
the minorities from both the PMK and the DMDK. This
is discernible in Vellore where Muslims are present in
predominant numbers.
KARNATAKA
Triangular contest
BY RAVI SHARMA
JUST under a year ago, a rejuvenated State Congress,
riding on a wave of voter disenchantment with the in-
cumbent BJP government, swept to power in Karnataka
by winning 121 of the 223 Assembly seats on offer, in the
process decimating the saffron party and neutralising the
vote-pulling capacity, if any, of its prime ministerial can-
didate, Narendra Modi. The defeat was a big blow to the
BJP, which came to power in 2008 hoping to make
Karnataka its political springboard in the south. The BJP
managed to win just 40 seats and secured under 20 per
cent of the votes polled. The Congress polled 36.59 per
cent of the votes.
The BJPs State unit was lost and in disarray. With its
party workers disillusioned and its primary support base
among the dominant Lingayat community broken, it
looked incapable of replicating in the future the feat it
had accomplished in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by
winning 19 seats (the highest number of seats for the
party among all the States) and 41.63 per cent of the
votes.
The Congress appeared to be in a position to ace out a
lame-duck BJP and an equally divided Janata Dal (Secu-
lar), which has remained an H.D. Deve Gowda and sons
party for more than a decade.
But, almost a year on, the political scene in the State,
whose 28 Lok Sabha constituencies will go to the polls on
April 17, could not look more different. For a start, most
of the constituencies will witness the traditional three-
cornered contests, unlike the four- and even multi-cor-
nered contests seen in the Assembly elections in May
2013. While the Congress will be locked in a straight ght
with the BJP in the northern, central and coastal dis-
tricts, it must grapple with the Janata Dal (Secular) in the
Old Mysore area (comprising Bangalore, Mysore, Man-
dya, Kolar, Tumkur, Chitradurga, Shimoga and Hassan
districts).
The AAP is yet to generate the kind of noise or
interest that can help it win a few Lok Sabha seats.
Signicantly, despite the relatively efficient adminis-
tration led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, there is a
disconnect between the Congress and the masses. The
grand old party is rattled by dissidence and dissatis-
faction over seat distribution. Also spoiling the partys
interests and fortunes is the spectacularly poor perform-
ance of the UPA government at the Centre. With percep-
tion being everything in politics, this is not good news for
the Congress in Karnataka, which has always looked at
cashing in on the achievements of the national leadership
rather than banking on its own accomplishments. The
Congress, which won six Lok Sabha seats in 2009 and
polled 37.65 per cent of the votes, has failed to capitalise
on the anti-BJP sentiment and adequately trumpet the
Siddaramaiah governments social justice programmes.
The State BJP, after being in the doldrums for almost
10 months, has got a boost from two factors: the return of
senior BJP leader and Lin-
gayat strongman B.S. Yed-
dyurappa, who had broken
away from the party and
formed the Karnataka Ja-
nata Paksha (KJP), to its
fold, and, to a lesser extent,
the return of the Bellary
politician B. Sriramulu. A
close ally of the Bellary
mining baron G. Janardha-
na Reddy, Sriramulu quit
the BJP in 2011 and formed
the Badava Shramika
Raitha (BSR) Congress af-
ter he was denied a berth in
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 42
the D.V. Sadananda Gowda Cabinet. The BJP hopes his
re-induction into the party, notwithstanding senior BJP
leader Sushma Swarajs opposition, will revive the partys
fortunes in Bellary (where it won only 19.35 per cent of
the votes in the Assembly elections), Raichur and Koppal
parliamentary constituencies.
Yeddyurappa was forced to step down as Chief Minis-
ter after being indicted by the Karnataka Lok Ayukta on
corruption charges. Subsequently, he quit the party in
2012 and vowed to defeat it. In the 2013 elections, his
nascent party won six seats but took away 9.79 per cent of
the votes, which would have otherwise gone to the BJP.
His KJP was able to take away crucial votes, primarily
those of Lingayats, who constitute 18 per cent of the
States population. In Karnataka, where identity politics
read caste politicsis the key factor and vote your
caste, not cast your vote is the norm, the Lingayat vote
becomes crucial in the nal outcome. Lingayats, along
with Vokkaligas, constitute the States social, economic
and political powerhouse. Concentrated in critically high
numbers in almost all of the States Bombay-Karnataka,
Hyderabad-Karnataka and central regions, comprising
Chikkodi, Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Rai-
chur, Bidar, Koppal, Bellary, Haveri, Dharwad, Davan-
agere, Tumkur and Chitradurga Lok Sabha
constituencies, Lingayats helped the BJP win 12 of these
14 seats in 2009. The Congress former Chief Minister N.
Dharam Singh and Railway Minister Mallikarjuna
Kharge won Bidar and Gulbarga respectively, because of
their individual popularity.
Following Yeddyurappas exit from the BJP, the Lin-
gayat vote split three ways between the KJP, the Congress
and the BJP, inuencing the outcome. An illustrative
example is the Assembly segments in the Hyderabad-
Karnataka regions ve Lok Sabha seats (Bidar, Gul-
barga, Bellary, Koppal and Raichur), where the Congress
won 23 of the 40 Assembly seats and the BJP just ve. Of
the 69,56,806 votes polled in this region, the Congress
secured 17,98,885 votes, while the votes of the BJP, the
KJP and the BSR Congress added up to 20,36,539.
An analysis of the voting gures for the Assembly
elections shows that the BJP could have more than dou-
bled its seat tally of 40 had it remained undivided. There-
fore, it came as no surprise that the State BJP unit
convinced the central leadership to forget, if not forgive,
Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu for their indiscretions and
allow them back into the party. With corruption being a
non-issue except in television chat rooms and in the
campaign of the AAPthanks to the Congress and the
Janata Dal (Secular)s own share of tainted leadersthe
re-induction of Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu has not
been raked up at political meetings.
Although it is important to have alliances to win
seats, the BJP State units enthusiasm to rope in friends
of all hues has left the central leadership red-faced. On
March 23, the State unit inducted Pramod Mutalik, the
controversial chief of the Sri Rama Sene, a self-appointed
Hindu right-wing vigilante organisation whose moral
policing, including the January 2009 attack on young
women and men patronising a pub in Mangalore, has
drawn protests. Mutalik, who is facing over 40 criminal
cases, had threatened to contest against the BJP if he was
not given the ticket. The State unit felt the need to rope
him in so as to avoid the loss of potential support in his
constituency. However, wiser counsel prevailed and the
central leadership hastily directed the State unit to annul
Mutaliks induction.
The BJP is hoping that Modi will turn out to be its
vote winner. In 2013, Modi undertook two campaign
visits to Karnataka and addressed rallies in Belgaum and
B. S. YEDDYURAPPA, the BJP candidate for Shimoga, on
his way to le his nomination papers on March 20.
V
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CHI EF MI NI STER Siddaramaiah greets Nandan Nilekani
(left), Congress candidate for South Bangalore, on March 24.
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Mangalore, but failed to make any real impact on the
voters even in the Hindutva heartland of Dakshina Kan-
nada. The BJP, which has held the Dakshina Kannada
parliamentary seat (called the Mangalore Lok Sabha seat
before the delimitation exercise in 2008) since 1991,
nds itself on the back foot, with the Congress holding all
but one of the constituencys eight Assembly segments.
The BJP is banking on Modis divisive brand of politics.
State party president Prahlad Joshi explained the partys
stand when he stated that it was his job to ensure that the
Modi effect was maximised in the State and the party
capitalised on it.
Senior BJP leader Suresh Kumar said: The nation
wants change and a strong leader and Modi fulls these
needs. Modis visit to Karnataka on September 13 galvan-
ised our campaign and we were able to transform and
energise ourselves. We were the rst to hold booth com-
mittee meetings, we organise outreach programmes for
non-BJP supporters and visited homes in the rural areas
to educate voters on the lack of governance by UPA-II.
We have focussed on development, stability and an able
leadership.
The BJP hopes to win 16 to 18 seats, most of them
from the northern, central and coastal areas. Interesting-
ly, the party has never won in Hassan, Kolar, Mandya,
Chamarajanagar and Chikkaballapur. In Bangalore Ru-
ral, it has won just once (1998).
The Congress, which according to Siddaramaiah will
win at least 20 seats, sees no Modi factor in Karnataka.
Education and Tourism Minister R.V. Deshpande said:
We are not bothered by the Modi factor. In fact, he will
have no inuence on Karnatakas electorate. There is an
entire section of society that has reservations about him
and he is seen as dictatorial. He has been harping on the
success of Gujarat. But much of this so-called success is
untrue. The Plan expenditure has not been met, poverty
levels are high, and farmers demands have not been
fullled. The elections will be fought on the achievements
of the UPA and the Siddaramaiah governments versus
the corruption and tyranny that prevailed during BJP
rule.
Deshpandes son Prashant Deshpande is contesting
from Uttara Kannada.
If the BJP is banking on the support of Lingayats,
Brahmins and voters in the urban areas and the Modi
effect, the Congress, which lacks a strong Lingayat lead-
er, hopes to counter this with the continued support it
enjoys from the Backward Classes (B.Cs), the Scheduled
Castes and minorities. This block has contributed the
most to the Congress 32 to 37 per cent vote share in most
elections. A consolidation of this base is what the Con-
gress is looking to achieve. Although the B.Cs have had a
long history of asserting their identity, going back to the
1920s when they were provided reservation in the prince-
ly state of Mysore, they did not become a force to reckon
with until the 1970s when Chief Minister D. Devaraj Urs,
in a bid to break the Vokkaliga-Lingayat domination,
consolidated and gave them a political identity. But not
being a homogeneous group (they are made up of more
than 100 sub-sects) has meant that the B.Cs continue to
play second ddle to Vokkaligas and Lingayats.
Siddaramaiah, who was instrumental in launching
Ahinda (Kannada acronym for minorities, B.Cs and S.Cs)
in 2005 after he quit the Janata Dal (Secular), is often
accused of overly championing the interests of his own
Kuruba community (the third most populous communi-
ty in the State and a powerful constituent of the B.Cs).
The Congress, of course, is hoping that dissenting
groups under the Ahinda umbrella will not play spoil-
sport. While some Muslim leaders have criticised Sidda-
ramaiah for inadequate representation for their
community in his Cabinet, S.C. leaders, including Karna-
taka Pradesh Congress Committee president M. Para-
meshwar, have said that despite their communitys
continued support to the Congress, the party had pre-
vented S.C. leaders such as Kharge, B. Basavalingappa
and K.H. Ranganath from even becoming Deputy Chief
Ministers.
Although the Janata Dal (Secular) enjoys strong sup-
port among Vokkaligas, minorities and agriculturists,
the party has lost much ground in recent years. Out of
power ever since H.D. Kumaraswamy, Deve Gowdas
son, stepped down as Chief Minister in 2007, the party
has stumbled from one defeat to another. It is also seen as
anti-Lingayat and not urban-friendly. There are no in-
dications that the party is coming out of the morass, but it
is likely to retain the Hassan seat and win Mandya, where
the Congress is facing a rebellion of sorts.
KERALA
Evenly poised
BY R. KRISHNAKUMAR
GIVEN the scandals that had besieged his govern-
ment and the troubles in his party and the ruling coali-
tion earlier, few would have expected Chief Minister
Oommen Chandy to declare that the April 10 Lok Sabha
elections in Kerala would be a referendum on the State
government too, or that, if the ruling United Democratic
Front (UDF) fared badly in the State, the responsibility
for it would rest on him primarily.
The condence with which Oommen Chandy said
this implied that the credit for a possible good showing
should also be his own. This, perhaps, was the signicant
part of his inaugural campaign pitch.
But, regardless of his statement, both the Congress
and the CPI(M), the leading partners of the two coali-
tions in Kerala, have decided that their principal goal will
be to win the maximum number of seats from Kerala.
And both sides are acutely aware of the harm that over-
condence would result in this time.
For one, Keralas political landscape has changed a
lot since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when the UDF
won 16 of the 20 Parliament seats in the State. It also won
nearly 70 per cent of the seats in the local body elections
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 44
held a year later. In the Assembly elections in 2011,
however, it came to power in the State with a narrow
margin, winning 72 of the total 140 seats, just four seats
more than the Left Democratic Front (LDF).
Meanwhile, since the 2009 elections, an incremental
realignment of political forces has altered the nature and
sphere of inuence of the only two fronts that have ruled
the State.
The LDF has seen three of its prominent part-
nersthe Kerala Congress (Joseph), a splinter group of
the Janata Dal (Secular) and recently, the Revolutionary
Socialist Party (RSP)leave its fold during this period,
displeased with the treatment they received from the
CPI(M), and seek refuge in the UDF.
The latest and the most shocking of these departures
was that of the RSP, a Left Front partner for over three
decades, in protest against it being denied the Kollam
Lok Sabha seat (its most inuential region) for the third
time in a row by the CPI(M).
The result, for the Congress (I) and the UDF, was the
short-term benet of bringing in more sections of voters
under its inuence (and, surely, the possibility of long-
term acrimony when it comes to the sharing of the
spoils).
The parties that left the LDF were among the CPI
(M)s most inuential minor partners, with their own
vote pockets; but those which sought to replace them
were much weaker groups, such as the Janathipatya
Samrakshana Samiti (JSS) and the Communist Marxist
Party from the UDF, the Forward Bloc, the Indian Na-
tional League (INL) and so on.
Second, this election is different in that faction feuds
within the Congress (I) and the CPI(M) have been tamed
to a large extent and have not marred the candidate-
selection process, the campaign, or (according to early
indications, at least) the prospects of the candidates or
the coalition partners in both the fronts.
Within the Congress (I), such election-eve geniality
was achieved by the decision of the party high command
to appoint V.M. Sudheerana veteran leader with a
clean image who had remained largely neutral during the
long factional wars within the partyas the Pradesh
Congress Committee (I) president.
In the CPI(M), on the other hand, cordiality sprouted
abruptly, just as this seasons campaign was about to
begin, with the opposition leader, V.S. Achuthanandan,
doing a volte-face and openly concurring with the official
party line on the highly sensitive issues of the murder of
the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader T.P.
Chandrasekharan and the SNC-Lavalin corruption case.
UNI TED FACE
Just as the LDF campaign was about to begin, Achutha-
nandan, in a television interview, surprised Kerala by
speaking in defence of the conclusions of the official party
inquiry into the Chandrasekharan murder (which, unlike
the ndings of a lower court, claimed it to be the result of
personal rather than party-instigated political enmi-
ty). This was contrary to his earlier stand on this issue.
Similarly surprising was his response to a question on
the SNC-Lavalin case. He said that CPI(M)s State secre-
tary, Pinarayi Vijayan, once an accused in the case, can-
not any longer be considered guilty of any act of
corruption now that a lower court had exonerated him in
the case.
The dismay that Achuthanandans volte-face gener-
ated among RMP leaders, party detractors and a section
of the general public who had helped sustain Achutha-
nandans rebellion within the CPI(M) until now, espe-
cially against the official group led by Pinarayi Vijayan,
could only be matched by the salving that followed in
equal measure within his own party because of it.
Achuthanandans unexpected alignment with the of-
cial party line during what is obviously a very crucial
election for the CPI(M) in Kerala led to even Pinarayi
Vijayan describing the subsequent phase in the State
party as something which every party member and
friend had been looking forward to.
CHI EF MI NI STER OOMMEN CHANDY addressing an election rally of the UDF in Kannur on March 24.
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But the election-eve cordiality within the Congress (I)
and the CPI(M) has the potential to create quite the
opposite effect on the Kerala electorate. While the Con-
gress and the UDF seemed to be all the more better for
the unity that its leaders have achieved, the CPI(M) is
likely to lose rather than gain, at least in the short term,
for having co-opted Achuthanandan to the official party
line on the two issues.
For, the line adopted by Achuthanandan against the
State party leaderships position on these and several
other issues was exactly what made him a star campaign-
er for the LDF in many elections in Kerala. On several
occasions, it had stood the party in good stead and helped
it rally the support of not just an exasperated rank and
le, but independent sections of the general public also
under its banner, even as they disagreed with the partys
position.
This new unity, if it can be sustained, may prove
benecial to the CPI(M) in the long term, but it is un-
likely to benet it and the LDF in this election.
UNSETTLI NG I SSUE
The third signicant facet of this election is the threat the
UDF faces in several of its traditional strongholds from
an unexpected issue: the controversy that grew out of the
State governments responses to the recommendations of
the Gadgil and Kasturirangan Committees for the pro-
tection of the ecology of the Western Ghats.
Genuine fears about the impact of the restrictions
recommended by the committees in ecologically sensi-
tive areas (ESAs) on the lives and properties of nearly 22
lakh people living in the 123 villages along the Western
Ghats have been used well against the Congress and the
State government by a combination of forces. They in-
clude: (a) the Kerala Congress (Mani), which used the
issue as a leverage for its demand for an
extra seat (Idukki) within the UDF; (b)
the vested interests who fear that the pro-
posals would affect their business inter-
ests; and (c) the opposition LDF, which
saw it as a grand political opportunity to
win the condence of the settler farmers
in constituencies that has been the pre-
serve of the Congress (I) and its coalition
partners.
What they have reaped together,
therefore, is the large-scale disaffection
among the settler farmers of Kerala, who
have been the UDFs traditional and re-
liable vote bank, who constitute a strong
lobby of largely Catholic Christian voters,
with a majority of them spread over at
least ve of the 20 constituencies in the
State.
As the campaign progressed, the only
factor that might help the Congress (I) in
these constituencies was the softening of
the attitude of the Catholic church to-
wards it.
The UDF was also on the defensive over several anti-
incumbency factors, especially the Team Solar corrup-
tion case that rocked the Chief Ministers office, scandals
involving some Ministers and MPs, allegations of corrup-
tion and grievances over rising prices of petroleum prod-
ucts and essential commodities. But how these factors
would play out at the ground level in each constituency
would be known only during the last phase of the
campaign.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(M), then
ruling the State, lost 10 of the 14 seats it contested. It
squeezed through in the four seats it won then: Attingal
in the south, Palakkad, Alathur and Kasargod in the
north. All the four candidates that the CPI, the second
largest partner in the LDF, elded, in Thiruvananthap-
uram (against Shashi Tharoor), Pathanamthitta, Thris-
sur and Wayanad, also lost.
The UDF, on the other hand, won 10 of the 11 south-
ern and central Kerala constituencies from Thiruvanan-
thapuram to Thrissur (except Attingal, a CPI(M)
fortress), and six of the nine others in north Kerala. The
Congress (I) won 13 of the 17 seats it contested; the
Muslim League won both Malappuram and Ponnani, its
strongholds, and the Kerala Congress (Mani) won Kot-
tayam, its native turf, for the rst time, defeating three-
time CPI(M) MP Suresh Kurup.
The April 10 election will certainly be a tougher one
for the UDF and the LDF, with close contests expected in
at least a dozen constituencies, including Thiruvanan-
thapuram, Pathanamthitta and Wayanad. The Congress
(I) is contesting only in 15 seats this time (instead of 17 in
2009), to accommodate the RSP and the Janata Dal, in
Kollam and Palakkad, respectively.
The RSPs rebellion in the LDF had a sobering effect
on the two fronts, especially with regard to the demands
and concerns of smaller coalition part-
ners. While the RSP itself was welcomed
wholeheartedly into the UDF, with the
offering of the Kollam seat, the Janata
Dal factions in the two fronts, whose
claims were ignored initially, were of-
fered one seat each by the CPI(M) and the
Congress (I).
Thus, Socialist Janata Dals (SJD)
M.P. Veerendra Kumar is the UDFs can-
didate in Palakkad (against the CPI(M)s
M.B. Rajesh) and his former party col-
league, Mathew T. Thomas of the Janata
Dal (Secular) is ghting Jose K. Mani in
Kottayam.
The contest in Kerala has become a
close one, and for the rst time in its
history, the CPI(M), which is contesting
in 15 seats, has invited individuals with no
previous link with the Left to contest as
independent candidates in ve of them.
Among them are two disgruntled
Congressmen, Peelipose Thomas (a for-
mer All India Congress Committee mem-
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ber from Pathanamthitta) and V. Abdurahiman (in
Ponnani); a popular comedian in Malayalam cinema,
Innocent (pitted against P.C. Chacko, the chairman of
the joint parliamentary committee(JPC) probing the
allocation of 2G spectrum, in Chalakkudy); and Christy
Fernandez, a Gujarat-cadre IAS officer who served the
former President Pratibha Patel as well as in the Na-
rendra Modi administration.
Prominent CPI(M) candidates this time include Polit
Bureau member M.A. Baby (in Kollam, against the RSPs
former MP and Minister, N.K. Premachandran); all the
four current MPs of the party, P. Karunakaran (Ka-
sargod), M.B. Rajesh (Palakkad), P.K. Biju (Alathur) and
A. Sampath (Attingal); a former State Minister, P.K.
Sreemati (Kannur); and a former MP, A. Vijayaraghavan
(Kozhikode). The CPI is contesting in four seats, and has
also elded an independent, a nominee of the Church of
South India (CSI), Dr Bennet Abraham, in Thiruvanan-
thapuram, reportedly with an eye on the substantial
number of Nadar Christian votes in the constituency
where Union Minister of State Shashi Tharoor is seeking
a re-election and is locked in a multi-cornered ght with
the BJPs O. Rajagopal, among others.
THE OTHER PLAYERS
The AAP is taking its edgling steps in Kerala in this
election by targeting mainly the sections that are sick of
the corruption and the complacency of the parties that
have been in power. It has attracted some attention by
elding the writer Sarah Joseph (in Thrissur), the jour-
nalist Anita Pratap (in Ernakulam), the anti-endosulfan
campaigner Ambalathara Kunjikrishnan (in Kasargod)
and a former IPS officer Ajith Joy (in Thiruvananthap-
uram). The AAP is, however, still far from making a dent
in the two-coalition political tradition in the State.
The BJP has once again elded its strongest candi-
dates, O. Rajagopal, former Union Minister of State for
Railways, and K. Surendran, a State general secretary, in
Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod constituencies
where it hopes to break through nally this time.
The BJP, however, is yet to break through the coali-
tion arrangement in Kerala and win in an Assembly or
Parliament election, despite gaining between 6.22 to
10.39 per cent of votes in the past ve Lok Sabha contests.
But its votes are spread throughout the State and not
concentrated in pockets like the smaller partners of the
two coalitions that use them to win elections. Moreover,
the partys divisive agenda often alienates it further from
the voters and political alliances in a State like Kerala.
Narendra Modi was, however, the rst national lead-
er to visit Kerala before the election, to address a huge
rally of the Pulaya Maha Sabha, which represents a
prominent backward class community in the State. Last
year, too, he was in the State, participating in a meeting
organised by the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yo-
gam at Varkala, and wooing the powerful Ezhava com-
munity in the State.
In the end, it may be Narendra Modis BJP which
may turn out to be the key factor in turning the vote for or
against the two coalitions in Kerala. Muslim and Chris-
tian communities have a sizeable presence in the State,
with the former accounting for 25 to 60 per cent of the
population in the eight northern constituencies from
Palakkad to Kasargod. A similar Christian concentration
of between 22 to 37 per cent of the population is present
in eight central Kerala constituencies from Pathanam-
thitta to Thrissur, as well as in Thiruvananthapuram in
the south.
The Congress (I) and the CPI(M), especially the for-
mer, may be banking on the possibility of a last-minute
consolidation of minority votes against the Modi factor in
the northern and central districts of the State, for eventu-
ally tilting a more or less equally poised election in their
favour.
OPPOSI TI ON LEADER V.S. Achuthanandan speaks at an election meeting of LDF candidate M.B. Rajesh in Palakkad.
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IN the Lok Sabha elections in Assam, to be held on
April 7, 12 and 24, the main contestants are the ruling
Congress, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) and the All India United Democratic
Front (AIUDF).
In 2009, the BJP, in partnership with the AGP, dou-
bled its tally to four seats and expanded its organisational
base in the Brahmaputra Valley. However, the AGP
failed to derive much benet from the alliance. It could
win only one seat, Tezpur, which it wrested from the
Congress, and lost the two seats it held, Lakhimpur and
Dibrugarh.
In 2009, AIUDF president Maulana Badruddin Aj-
mal wrested the Dhubri seat from the Congress. The
AIUDF was also responsible for the erosion in the Con-
gress support base among Muslims, which helped the
BJP win the Gauhati seat and regain Silchar. In Gauhati,
the AIUDF candidate, Sonabor Ali, secured 73,316 votes
and caused the defeat of the Congress Captain Robin
Bordoloi. The BJPs Bijoya Chakrabarty won the seat by
11,855 votes.
This time the Congress has pinned its hopes on win-
ning the Gauhati seat because the AIUDF has elded a
non-Muslim candidatethe partys MLA from Boko,
Gopinath Das. It is hopeful of the Muslim votes, which
earlier went to the AIUDF, going to the ruling party
candidate this time. Besides, the sitting BJP MP will have
to face the AGP heavyweight and former Rajya Sabha
Head start for
the Congress
In Assam, the failure of the BJP and the AGP to form an alliance
and the AIUDFs soft approach are likely to work to the Congress
benet. In the rest of the region, too, the Congress appears
better prepared. BY SUSHANTA TALUKDAR
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RAHUL GANDHI , CONGRESS VI CE-PRESI DENT, on the campaign trail at Nagaon in
Assam on February 26.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 48
member Birendra Prasad Baishya. The AIUDF was oat-
ed by Badruddin Ajmal after the Supreme Court, in July
2005, scrapped the Illegal Migrants (Determination by
Tribunals) Act. It accused the Congress of not doing
anything to prevent the scrapping of the Act, which was
seen as a piece of soft legislation that protected the
minorities from undue harassment during the identica-
tion of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. The AIUDF won 10
seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly in the 2006
elections. The party increased its tally to 18 in 2011 and
emerged as the principal opposition party in the Assemb-
ly, pushing the AGP, which had 10 seats, to the second
position.
The AGPs attempts to forge a pre-election alliance
with the BJP this time failed because of differences with-
in the leaderships of both parties and opposition from the
State BJP unit. AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta
blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and
the State BJP leadership for the parties failure to forge an
alliance. The AGPs overtures towards the BJP pushed
the party away from the two Left parties. The Communist
Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of
India have elded candidates in three and one seat re-
spectively.
The Congress hopes to reap dividends from a possible
split in the anti-Congress votes among candidates of the
opposition parties. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is con-
dent that his party will get more seats than last time and
claims that the Modi magic will not work in Assam. He
downplays the dissidence within the party and says that
despite differences the party will rise in unison to win the
maximum number of seats from Assam.
The AIUDFs choice of candidates for this election
has fuelled speculation that the party has reached a tacit
understanding with the Congress.
Both the Congress and the AIUDF
have denied allegations of such an
understanding and of having elded
weak candidates in any constituen-
cy.
Election watchers pointed out
that in 2009 Badruddin Ajmal him-
self contested the Silchar seat apart
from Dhubri, which he won. How-
ever, this time the AIUDF rst an-
nounced the name of Pervez
Ahmed, son of former President
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, as its candi-
date for Silchar. However, Pervez
Ahmed joined the Trinamool Con-
gress the next day and the party
named him as its candidate for the
Barpeta seat.
The AIUDFs vacillation fuelled
the speculation about its alleged un-
derstanding with the Congress,
which has renominated its MLA
from Silchar, Sushmita Dev, daugh-
ter of former Union Minister San-
tosh Mohan Dev, as the candidate. The BJP has
renominated the sitting party MP, Kabindra Purkaystha,
for the seat.
The Congress won nine Lok Sabha seats in Assam in
2004 when the AGP and the BJP did not have an alliance
and the AIUDF did not exist. The AGP and the BJP won
two seats each, while the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF),
the Congress ally, won one seat.
The BJP in the State is hopeful of the Modi wave
causing a severe erosion in the Congress support base in
favour of the BJP to balance the split in votes between the
AGP and the BJP. BJP leaders argue that leaders and
workers have deserted the AGP and joined the BJP. They
cite the instances of former AGP president Chandra
Mohan Patowary and former Minister Hitendra Nath
Goswami quitting the AGP and
joining the BJP. Patowary is the BJP
candidate from Barpeta where the
AGP has elded its senior leader
Phanibhushan Choudhury.
The exodus of top AGP leaders
to the BJP began in 2011 when the
present State BJP president, Sarba-
nanda Sonowal, quit the AGP along
with his supporters. Sonowal, who
won the Dibrugarh seat on the AGP
ticket in 2004, is contesting from
Lakhimpur this time against sitting
Congress MP and Union Minister
for Tribal Affairs Ranee Narah.
Dr Nani Gopal Mahanta, Pro-
fessor of Political Science in Gauhati
University, observes:
Assams complex demographic
mosaic will not provide a smooth
ride for the so-called wave of the
BJP under the leadership of Naren-
dra Modi. However, the Modi image
is discernible for those dissatised
with the performances of the Con-
PRAFULLA KUMAR MAHANTA
releasing the AGPs manifesto in
Guwahati on March 14.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
gress governments in the State and at the Centre. At a
time when the State is highly polarised on religious lines
on the issue of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, the BJP
may secure a sizeable chunk of the Assamese caste-Hin-
du and Bengali Hindu votes, which went to the Congress
in 2009. However, the challenge for the BJP is that it has
to contest with the prominent regional party of the state,
the AGP, for its vote share. A BJP-AGP combination
would have been a formidable challenge for the Congress
and the AIUDF as the two parties draw their support
from a similar political base. The AGP may be spoiler for
the BJP this time.
As the election dates approached, the ruling Congress
appeared better prepared. It was ahead of others in
choosing candidates, while the opposition parties had to
settle for party hoppers in some constituencies.
Stalwarts & surprises
THE 25 seats of the seven north-eastern States and
Sikkim play an important role in the numbers game at
the Centre. Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and
Manipur elect two Lok Sabha members each, and Naga-
land, Mizoram and Sikkim one each. In 2009, the Con-
gress won six of these 11 seats, the CPI(M) two and the
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Naga Peoples
Front (NPF) and the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF)
one each.
The region as a whole grapples with problems of a
similar nature, including insurgency involving ethnic
outts clamouring for overlapping ethnic homelands, a
serious development decit, illegal migrants, crippling
unemployment, and poor connectivity. These are the
issues that come into play in both Assembly and Lok
Sabha elections across the region.
In Meghalaya, the return of former Lok Sabha Speak-
er Purno Agitok Sangma to national electoral politics,
ending six and a half years of retirement, has made the
elections all the more interesting. He is contesting the
Tura seat, comprising the Garo Hills region of Megha-
laya, as a candidate of the National Peoples Party (NPP),
which he heads. In 2009, Sangmas daughter and former
Union Minister Agatha Sangma won the seat on the NCP
ticket. She rst won the seat in a byelection in 2008 to
become the youngest member of the 14th Lok Sabha
while making her debut in electoral politics.
Purno Sangma is in a straight contest with the ruling
Congress Daryl William Ch. Momin, the 27-year-old
grandson of Captain Williamson A. Sangma, the rst
Chief Minister of Meghalaya. The Congress, fresh from
its victory in the 2013 Assembly elections, is eyeing the
seat on the strength of its performance in the Garo Hills.
The party won 13 of the 24 Assembly seats in the region.
This was up from the seven it won in 2008 when the NCP
led by Sangma won 15 seats in the 60-member Assembly,
13 of them in the Garo Hills.
In Shillong, the only other Lok Sabha seat in the
State, the Congress, whose candidate is the sitting MP
Vincent H. Pala, appears to have the advantage in the
absence of any alliance of regional parties against it. The
Hill State Peoples Democratic Party (HSPDP), the Unit-
ed Democratic Party (UDP), and the Khun Hynniewtrep
National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) had come
together as the All Regional Parties Alliance (ARPA) and
formed a non-Congress Executive Committee (EC) to
rule the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council
(KHADC), elections to which were held recently. Howev-
er, the APRA failed to put up a common candidate in
Shillong, with the UDP elding its working president
Paul Lyngdoh and the HSPDP and the KHNAM backing
an independent, Rev. P.B.M. Basaiawmoit.
In Tripura, the CPI(M)-led ruling Left Front is con-
dent of retaining both the Lok Sabha seats (see separate
story).
Arunachal Pradesh will have simultaneous elections
for the two Lok Sabha seats and 60 Assembly seats on
April 9. The tenure of the Assembly was to end on No-
vember 4, but with the Governor, on March 6, accepting
the recommendation of the State Cabinet to dissolve the
Assembly and advance the elections, the Election Com-
mission decided to hold it along with the Lok Sabha
elections. The move by the Nabam Tuki government
appeared to be aimed at ensuring that the outcome of the
PURNO SANGMA, former Lok Sabha Speaker, on his
way to address an election rally in East Garo Hills in
Meghalaya. He is the NPP candidate in Tura in the Garo
Hills. At left is his daughter and former Union Minister
Agatha Sangma.
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Lok Sabha elections did not have a bearing on the As-
sembly elections.
The Arunachal East Lok Sabha seat is poised for a
three-cornered ght between sitting MP and Union Min-
ister of State for Minority Affairs Ninong Erring of the
ruling Congress, former MP Tapir Gao of the BJP and
Wangman Lowangcha of the Peoples Party of Arunachal
(PPA), which won four of the 60 Assembly seats in the
2009 Assembly elections. In the Arunachal West seat it is
a multi-cornered contest. Those who have led their
nominations are the sitting MP Takam Sanjoy of the
Congress; Kiren Rijiju, a former MP of the BJP; Jalley
Sonam of the PPA; Habung Payeng of the Aam Aadmi
Party (AAP); Gumjum Haider, former president of
North East Students Organisation (NESO), as the Trina-
mool Congress candidate; Gicho Kabak of the NCP; and
Taba Taku of the Lok Bharati Party.
The return of Gegong Apang, a former Chief Minister
and a Congress stalwart, to the BJP has come as a force
multiplier for the party. Apang led the rst BJP govern-
ment in Arunachal Pradesh and in the region for a year
before defecting to the Congress ahead of the 2004 As-
sembly elections. However, with Congress candidates
winning unopposed in seven Assembly seats, it is clear
that the opposition parties were caught napping by the
advancement of the Assembly elections.
In Manipur, the Congress has renominated its two
sitting MPs. The BJP is contesting both seats and is
backed by the Manipur Peoples Party (MPP). However,
neither the BJP nor the MPP could win any seat in the
Assembly elections in 2012. In Inner Manipur constitu-
ency, the sitting Congress MP, Thokchom Meinya, is
locked in a multi-cornered contest with the candidate of
the BJP, the CPI and the Trinamool Congress. Of the
seven seats that the Trinamool Congress won in the last
Assembly elections, six are part of the Inner Manipur Lok
Sabha constituency. The CPIs M. Nara came second in
the 2009 elections. The CPI drew a blank in the 2012
Assembly elections. The Congress expects its candidate
to win this time too because of the division of the non-
Congress votes.
In the Outer Manipur constituency, the Congress
Thangso Baite faces a stiff challenge from the Naga
Peoples Front (NPF), the Trinamool Congress and the
BJP. The constituency has 20 Assembly seats in the hills
and eight in the valley. In 2012, the Congress won 14
Assembly seats in the hills and seven in the valley. The
NPF, the ruling party of Nagaland, won four Assembly
seats.
In Nagaland, Chief Minister Neiphu Rio, who has
been heading a regional party government for the past 11
years, is the consensus candidate of the ruling Democrat-
ic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) led by the NPF for the
lone Lok Sabha seat. The Congress has elded former
Minister K.V. Pusa. Neiphu Rios bid to enter national
politics has signalled a likely change of guard in the State,
where the dominant issue is the ongoing peace talks
between the insurgent National Socialist Council of Na-
galim (Isak-Muivah) and the Government of India. Rio is
also the convener of the North East Regional Political
Front (NERPF) formed by 10 regional parties in October
2013 in Guwahati. The BJP, an ally in the NPF-led DAN,
won seven seats in the 60-member Assembly in 2003,
but its number fell to two in 2008 and to one in 2013.
For the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram a triangular
ght is on the cards between the sitting Congress MP C.L.
Ruala, Robert Romawia Royte of the United Democratic
Front (UDF) led by the Mizo National Front (MNF), and
M. Lalmanzuala of the AAP. The Congress is banking on
its agship New Land Use Policy (NLUP) to retain the
seat. It helped Chief Minister Lalthanhawla steer his
party to a landslide victory in the November 2013 As-
sembly elections: the Congress won 34 seats in the 40-
member Assembly. The opposition Mizo National Front
(MNF) won ve seats and its ally, the Mizoram Peoples
Conference (MPC), won one seat.
The core objectives of the NLUP are to wean farmers
away from jhum (slash-and-burn cultivation) practices
and assist them to nd employment in economic ven-
tures that create productive assets in each family, to keep
60 per cent of Mizorams total land area under rainfor-
ests, and to improve the income of both rural and urban
poor through sustainable farming, micro-enterprises
and small and cottage industries.
It will be a challenging task for the UDF and the AAP
to reach out to all the beneciaries of the programme and
promise them something more attractive.
The Congress appears to be in an advantageous posi-
tion in the absence of a formidable opposition in the
northeastern States where it is in power.
GEGONG APANG, former Chief Minister of Arunachal
Pradesh, returns to the BJP and is welcomed by party
president Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi on February 19.
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FRESH from its resounding victory in the Assembly
elections just a year ago, the ruling Communist Party of
India (Marxist)-led Left Front in Tripura seems set to
retain both its Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming general
election. The voting will be held in two phases in the
StateApril 7 for the West Tripura constituency and
April 12 for East Tripura.
The Left Front, under the leadership of Chief Minis-
ter and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Manik Sarkar,
returned to power for the fth consecutive time in the
State, winning 50 of the 60 State Assembly seats last year.
It is not likely to face any problem in the Lok Sabha
elections against a disunited and dispirited opposition
comprising the Congress, the All India Trinamool Con-
gress, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This time
the Left is elding new candidatesSankar Prasad Dat-
ta, the State general secretary of the Centre of Indian
Trade Unions (CITU), from West Tripura, and Jitendra
Choudhury, the State Minister for Forests, Rural Devel-
opment, and Industries and Commerce, from the East
Tripura seat reserved for the Scheduled Tribes.
The Left has been going from strength to strength in
the State with its thrust on peace and development, while
the opposition has been falling increasingly into disarray.
The alternative policies that are being pursued by the
Left Front government in Tripura have been welcomed
by the people. Our overall performance in every sphere of
development has brought about a major socio-economic
change in the State. We hope to increase our vote share by
at least 5 per cent in this election, Gautam Das, spo-
kesperson for the CPI(M)
in Tripura, told Frontline.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha
elections, the total vote
share of the Left Front was
61.69 per cent.
The Congress-led front
consisting of the Indige-
nous Nationalist Party of
Twipra (INPT), the Nation-
al Conference of Tripura
(NCT) and the Peoples
Democratic Front (PDF)
is still reeling from its de-
feat in the Assembly elec-
tions. There has been a steady erosion of its support base,
and it has been losing its workers not only to the Trina-
mool Congress, which has of late been trying to assert
itself in the State, but also to the Left. The two candidates
elded by the Congress are Arunoday Saha, former Vice-
Left in front
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front is likely to
retain the two seats in Tripura. BY SUHRI D SANKAR CHATTOPADHYAY
TRI PURA CHI EF MI NI STER Manik Sarkar.
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Chancellor of Tripura University, in West Tripura and
Sachitra Debbarma in East Tripura. Essentially these
candidates were chosen for their good image. They are
individuals who will be accepted by the people, said a
Congress leader of the State. However, the dwindling
crowds in its rallies, the lacklustre performance of its
workers, and its inability to hold its ock together do not
paint an encouraging picture for the Congress.
On the other hand, the Trinamool Congress, which
did not eld any candidate in the Assembly elections last
year but will contest both the Lok Sabha seats this year,
has been more successful than the Congress in drawing
crowds. The recent migration of a large number of work-
ers as well as some leaders from the Congress has bol-
stered the condence of Mamata Banerjees party unit in
Tripura. Even though we have not had much time to
prepare, the main battle in this election will be between
the Left Front and the Trinamool, Ratan Chakraborty,
the Trinamool candidate from West Tripura, told Fron-
tline. Mukul Roy, the general secretary of the All India
Trinamool Congress, had said a few months earlier in
Agartala, the State capital: We have no doubt that we
will snatch power from the CPI(M) in the next Assembly
elections.
However, in reality, the Trinamool Congress has not
yet taken over the position of the main opposition party,
probably for the simple reason that it has not had enough
time to establish a solid base across the State. The recent
exodus from the Congress is unlikely to alter drastically
the present political equations in the State though un-
deniably it has left the Congress considerably weaker and
more demoralised. Some of the inuential leaders who
left the Congress include former Minister Ratan Chakra-
borty, former Tripura Pradesh Congress president Suro-
jit Datta, and former Leader of the Opposition Jawhar
Saha.
The Pradesh Congress leadership, as expected, has
been dismissive of the Trinamools prospects. The lead-
ers who have left the Congress to join the Trinamool
wield little inuence in the State. Their departure will
make no difference to the Congress. In Tripura, the two
main political parties will always be the CPI(M) and the
Congress, and even if Mamata Banerjee comes here a
hundred times, she will not be able to make a dent here,
Birajit Sinha, chairman of the Pradesh Congress Election
Committee and a ve-time MLA, told Frontline.
The BJP, though never a major player in Tripura,
hopes to secure more votes this time. Its presence in the
State, however, is so negligible that it is unlikely to make
any difference. In fact, according to political observers,
even if the BJPs vote share does increase, it will work to
the Left Fronts advantage as it will result in a further
division of the anti-Left vote. As far as the opposition is
concerned, the coming election in the State is likely to be
a tussle for the second position.
While the Left Fronts message to the electorate is of a
national nature, calling for a non-Congress and non-BJP
secular alternative, the main thrust of the opposition
parties campaign is a paribartan (change) in the State.
However, the way political equations stand, it is doubtful
that the Lok Sabha election will be a harbinger of any
paribartan in Tripura.
TRI NAMOOL CONGRESS candidate Ratan Chakraborty ling his nomination papers in Agartala on March 19.
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Sabha seat, the SDF candidate, Prem Das Rai, who won
by a margin of 84,868 votes against the Congress Khara-
nanda Upreti in 2009, will be looking to retain his seat,
but this time his opponent is the SKMs T.N. Dhakal, a
former bureaucrat and a new face in Sikkim politics. The
SDF has the tradition of supporting whichever party or
alliance that comes to power at the Centre.
One interesting fact is that for the rst time since
1979, Nar Bahadur Bhandari, formerly of the Congress
and a three-time Chief Minister, is not a factor in the
politics of the State. Bhandari, whowas the main political
opponent of Chamling for the past 20 years and who
fought the 2009 elections as the president of the Sikkim
Pradesh Congress, disappeared into political obscurity
after his party was routed by the SDF. He has since
rejoined his old party, the SSP, which he had left to join
the Congress in 2003. The Congress, which has been the
main opposition since 2004, has lost its relevance in the
State. While it is largely acknowledged that the SDF has
An alternative force
GENERAL ELECTION
The ruling SDF faces a strong challenge from the newly formed SKM in
Sikkim. BY SUHRI D SANKAR CHATTOPADHYAY
CHI EF MI NI STER and Sikkim Democratic Front
president Pawan Kumar Chamling, a le photograph.
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FOR the rst time since 1999, the ruling Sikkim
Democratic Front (SDF) may face a tough challenge
from the main opposition, the newly formed Sikkim
Krantikari Morcha (SKM), in the upcoming Assembly
and Lok Sabha elections in Sikkim, which will be held
simultaneously on April 12. However, the SDF seems set
to return to power in the State for the fth consecutive
termand also retain the lone Lok Sabha seat.
In the last two elections, the SDFs political dom-
inance in the State was absolute. In the 2004 elections, it
won 31 out of the 32 Assembly seats, and in 2009, it made
a clean sweep, winning all 32 seats, including the Sangha
seat reserved for the monks and nuns of Sikkims monas-
teries.
For long, the main opposition was the Congress. This
time, however, the challenge comes from the SKM under
the leadership of an erstwhile heavyweight of the SDF,
Prem Singh Golay, a three-time MLA, a Cabinet Minister
since 1994, and until last year the second-most powerful
man in the SDF after Chief Minister Pawan Kumar
Chamling. Golay quit the SDF last year and formed the
SKM. In a State where politics is dominated by individu-
als rather than political parties, the battle between
Chamling and the former number-two man in his party
promises to be interesting. The last time the SDF faced
any kind of challenge was in
1999, when the Sikkim
Sangram Parishad (SSP),
led by former Chief Minis-
ter Nar Bahadur Bhandari,
won seven seats and se-
cured 41.8 per cent of the
votes.
Chamling is contesting
from his usual seat, Nam-
chi-Singithang, and also
from Rangrang-Yangang in
South Sikkim district,
while Golay is contesting
from Upper Burtuk in East
Sikkim district, where he is
the sitting MLA, and also
from Soreng Chakung, his
home constituency in West
Sikkim district. For the Lok
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been performing well and development work has been
going strong with substantial growth in the tourism sec-
tor, the States main revenue earner, it is also undeniable
that the anti-incumbency factor is quietly at work. It is
this desire for change that the SKM has taken up with its
call for paribartan (change). For the last 20 years of the
SDFs rule, it has been one persons control over every-
thing. The people now want a change. They want political
and economic freedom; they want equal opportunities
for all, SKM leader Jacob Khaling told Frontline. The
SKMs election campaign also highlights the allegations
of corruption and nepotism against the SDF government.
The main thrust of the SDFs campaign has, as usual,
been on development work. We have secured peace,
prosperity and security for the people of Sikkim. We are a
tried and tested party that has the best imaginable cre-
dentials. Already, the people are getting disenchanted
with the SKM and the politics of violence that it is
associated with, senior SDF leader Prem Das Rai told
Frontline.
However, according to political sources in Sikkim,
the SDF leadership has reasons to be worried. People
from various other parties, including the Congress, have
been shifting to Golays camp, and Golay is the most
formidable opponent Chamling has faced in a long time.
Not only is Golay aware of the functioning of the SDF, he
is also believed to have played a key role in many of the
SDFs sweeping electoral victories. Moreover, the Other
Backward Classes (OBC) which account for over 52 per
cent of the total electorate and are so far the most impor-
tant component of the SDF vote base may split, with a
section voting for the SKM. This is the rst time in many
years that the opposition has a leader, Golay, who belongs
to the OBC. This must be worrying the SDF, a political
source told Frontline.
According to political observers, the fact that the
SDF, in spite of the anti-incumbency factor working
against it, chose to introduce only 10 new faces, retaining
11 of its sitting MLAs and recalling nine ex-MLAs, in-
dicates that Chamling is not willing to take any chances,
and is relying more on veterans this time. The SKM, on
the other hand, has chosen to eld mostly new faces as a
counter to the SDFs strategy. The main battle is expected
to take place in the East and West districts. The South
district still remains an SDF stronghold, while the West
district is considered the heartland of the SKM. Howev-
er, the SDF is not without any inuence in these.
The main advantage that the SDF has over all its
opponents is its disciplined, well-oiled, cadre-based par-
ty machinery. It was the rst to release the list of candi-
dates; and while other parties, including the SKM, were
desperately trying to nalise their own lists, SDF leaders
were already on the campaign trail. With less than a
month left for the elections, the scenes at the different
party offices were revealing. While the SDF headquarters
in Gangtok wore an empty look, with most of its leaders
out at work, there was frenzied activity in the offices of
the other parties as last-minute details were nalised.
Moreover, when all the other parties have been in a
state of ux for the last six months, with leaders and party
workers constantly shifting allegiances, the SDF camp
suffered hardly any attrition. Even when Golay left the
SDF, not too many leaders followed him. But it cannot be
denied that the idea of the SKM as an alternative to the
SDF has been gathering momentum in the State. The
result can go either way, said a resident of Gangtok.
SI KKI M KRANTI KARI MORCHA chief Prem Singh Golay addressing a rally at Singtam in February.
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ARLY in March, the largest
private steel producer in Chi-
na, Shanxi Haixin Iron and
Steel Group, defaulted on loans from
Minsheng Bank estimated at 20 bil-
lion yuan ($3.57 billion) that had fall-
en due. This set off one more spurt of
speculation on whether we are seeing
the beginning of the end of the Chi-
nese growth miracle, precipitated
by an internal meltdown of the -
nancial sector. The international -
nancial media are replete with stories
on the fragile foundations of Chinas
rapidly built edice of bond-based
debt and the possibilities of a crisis.
There are a number of reasons
why an event relating to a rm that is
a relatively small steel producer com-
pared with its state-owned rivals is
seen as heralding the collapse of an
emerging giant. To start with, a few
days earlier, another relatively small
company, Shanghai Chaori Solar En-
ergy Science & Technology, failed to
ing in quick succession, the two
events could be seen as indicators of
an emerging trend that could spiral
into a debt crisis.
Such speculation seems plausible
also because there are many econom-
ic sectors in China that have experi-
enced the creation of large excess
capacities nanced with easily ac-
cessed credit and are now in trouble.
A typical example is the steel sector
to which Haixin belongs. According
to reports, other steel mills burdened
with excess capacities and large
debts are running losses because of
the slowdown that China and the
world economy are experiencing.
But steel is not the only industry thus
affected. There are many more in ar-
eas as diverse as solar power and real
estate.
Finally, while debt defaults may
be common in other contexts, these
are special events in China. The
Chaori Solar instance was the rst
meet its commitment to pay up 89
million yuan ($14.5 million) in in-
terest due on bonds worth 1 billion
yuan ($163 million) it had issued two
years back. With these defaults com-
Financial strains in
the new China
Two recent cases of debt default bring into focus the rising corporate
debt in China, estimated at around $12 trillion in 2013, with most of
the loans provided by trust companies that populate the shadow
banking sector and account for 30 per cent of credit advanced in 2013.
CHINESE PREMIER LI KEQIANG.
He said recently that defaults on
bonds and other nancial products
were unavoidable.
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corporate default in the country in 17
years. Like many other so-called
emerging markets, and on a much
larger scale, China has seen a huge
credit boom over the years, with that
boom having been augmented by the
stimulus measures adopted in re-
sponse to the 2008 global crisis. But
this did not seem to matter because
the government had always inter-
vened to bail out potential defaulters
and foreclose any possibility of in-
stability in nancial markets, which
are important instruments for sus-
taining Chinas investment-led
growth. This encouraged the belief
that all debt from the nancial sys-
tem was implicitly guaranteed by the
state. The condence that came with
that belief is now being challenged.
Not just by the Chaori and Haixin
defaults, but also by evidence that
there is a subtle change occurring in
the stance of the government.
DEFAULTS UNAVOI DABLE
In the period between the two de-
faults under discussion, Chinese Pre-
mier Li Keqiang, suspected by many
to be a neoliberal reformer, an-
nounced at a press conference that
defaults on bonds and other nancial
products were unavoidable. This
seemed to be a signal that there are
sections at the top in government
which want to withdraw the hand of
support the state had provided bor-
rowers and lenders in order to pre-
vent default so as to deal with the
problem of growing moral hazard.
The implicit promise of a bailout
when needed reduces the pressure to
exercise due diligence when making
lending decisions.
The governments decision to
stand back in the two recent cases of
default is surprising because a little
more than a month earlier it had
intervened to bail out investors in an
unusual trust product or security is-
sued by China Credit Trust, one of
Chinas many shadow banking
companies. Named Credit Equals
Gold No. 1, it attracted investments
to the tune of 3 billion yuan ($490
million), but proved a dud because it
was backed by loans to a coal mining
company that went bust. Yet the in-
vestors were bailed out by interven-
tion to make good the loan, with only
interest for the third year reportedly
shaved off. According to Financial
Times, Moodys, as expected, de-
clared: Although the current pro-
posed settlement does entail losses to
investors in terms of foregone inter-
est, by fully repaying their principal,
it reinforces the perception that in-
vestors will be bailed out one way or
another when the products go sour,
which is contrary to the establish-
ment of sound market discipline and
a healthy credit market. Given this
history, it must be the case that either
sections in the government that are
in agreement with nancial markets
have gained the upper hand, leading
to the Chaori and Haixin defaults, or
the government now nds itself
faced with a wave of defaults that it
cannot simultaneously address with-
out some difficulty, making some of
them unavoidable as Premier Li
put it.
If more defaults are inevitable,
they could trouble China, where cor-
porate debt, for example, has soared
THE CHI NA MI NSHENG BANK in Beijing. Shanxi Haixin Iron and Steel
Group, the largest private steel producer in the country, defaulted on loans
estimated at $3.57 billion from this bank.
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THE PRODUCTI ON LI NE at Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science and
Technology Co Ltd in Jiujiang. The company failed to meet its commitment to
pay up $14.5 million in interest due on bonds it had issued in 2012.
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in recent years. According to reports,
Standard & Poors has estimated the
size of corporate debt in China to be
around $12 trillion or 120 per cent of
the gross domestic product (GDP) at
the end of 2013. At the margin, a
large chunk of these loans has been
nanced with investments in trust
products issued by the shadow bank-
ing sector, such as Credit Equals
Gold. According to gures released
recently by the Peoples Bank of Chi-
na (PBC), Chinas central bank, loans
provided by trust companies that
populate the shadow banking sector
rose by an annual 23 per cent to
touch RMB17.3 trillion ($2.9 tril-
lion), or 30 per cent of credit ad-
vanced in 2013. Around $650 billion
of trust loans are expected to fall due
in 2014, raising the possibility of fur-
ther defaults in different parts of the
economy. Under observation are
rms such as Zhejiang Xingrun Real
Estate, a provincial real estate devel-
oper that would have to repay
RMB3.5 billion ($569 million) of
debt soon.
The other borrowers receiving
large loans were local governments,
which, after a central borrowing ban
in 1994, set up off-budget local gov-
ernment nancing vehicles to receive
the loans and nance infrastructural
and other prestige projects. They re-
ceived loans not just from official
agencies such as the China Devel-
opment Bank but also from the
trusts. According to Chinas National
Audit Office, local government debt
had risen by as much as 70 per cent
from the end of 2010 to touch $3
trillion in June 2013.
To this must be added the large
volume of credit that has poured into
Chinas real estate sector, giving rise
to its own version of a housing and
commercial real estate bubble. Ac-
cording to a 2013 survey by the econ-
omist Gan Li (quoted by William
Pesek of BloombergView), about 65
per cent of Chinas wealth is invested
in real estate. A lot of this investment
could be speculative, with 42 per
cent of housing demand in the rst
half of 2012 coming from those who
already owned at least one home. In
many areas, these new properties re-
main unoccupied, indicating that
some of the construction is in areas
where demand is low. This has led to
price declines that can be damaging
since the investment has been -
nanced by credit that needs to be
repaid. Overall, credit in China is es-
timated to have risen from 130 to 210
per cent of GDP over the last ve
years.
The need to restructure this over-
hang of debt, by imposing losses in
areas where the risks are not seen as
systemic, may be driving the decision
of the reformist elite to allow defaults
to occur. But the problem is to identi-
fy which of the problem loans carry
systemic risks with them. Consider
Shanxi Haixin, for example. It may
not just be a borrower unable to meet
payments that fall due but rather an
entity that is carrying risks residing
in other parts of the economy. Some
argue that Haixin is entangled in a
web of debt involving other compa-
nies. It was, reportedly, the lead in-
vestor, along with other partners, in a
credit guarantee company that guar-
anteed the debts of others for a fee
(Financial Times, March 14). Ex-
ploiting nancial liberalisation,
companies such as these have given
themselves a foothold in nance to
beef up prots. As in the case of En-
ron and other such companies en-
gulfed by the lure of prots from
nance rather than from production,
it seems unclear to what extent Haix-
in is a brick-and-mortar steel com-
pany and to what extent a nancial
intermediary. If its latter role is im-
portant, the systemic implications of
its failure can be much larger than its
size as a steel producer indicates.
Moreover, many companies such
as these use raw materials. Their fail-
ure could affect demand and depress
the prices of raw materials. That
would affect the value of the stocks of
these raw materials used as collateral
for loans. Recent bond defaults are
reportedly adversely affecting cop-
per prices, already under pressure
because of rising inventories. If debt
guaranteed with metals such as cop-
per, zinc and iron ore face default,
investors will bring more metal to
market, depressing prices further.
What all this suggests is that
what were being considered unrelat-
ed problems in separate compart-
ments of the Chinese economy are, in
fact, part of a web that nance has
woven. That has happened because
China chose to liberalise its nancial
sector and continues to do so despite
the warning signals it receives. At a
recent press conference, Li Keqiang
placed his emphasis on energising
the market and stimulating social
creativity rather than on reining in
speculative capital. In his words:
How can an arrow shot be turned
back? Were most determined to see
the reform through.
RUBBLE OF RESI DENTI AL BUI LDI NGS demolished to make room for
skyscrapers in downtown Shanghai. According to a 2013 survey, about 65 per
cent of Chinas wealth is invested in real estate, much of it speculative.
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CREW MEMBERS of the tanker that had made off with
illegally bought oil from the rebel-controlled
Es Sider port being brought to Tripoli port on
March 23. U.S. forces seized the tanker, which is now
docked at Tripoli.
WORLD AFFAIRS
LIBYA ON EDGE
Ravaged by terrorism and hit hard by reduced oil exports,
Libya nds itself in a chaotic situation. BY JOHN CHERI AN
LIBYA SEEMS TO BE ON THE VERGE OF
imploding three years after the regime change imposed
on it by the West. The interim government does not even
have control of the capital, Tripoli, if recent events are
any indication. The seat of parliament has been raided by
militias, political gures have been targeted for assassi-
nation, the international airport has been targeted with
missiles, and the Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, was briey
kidnapped. In the second week of March, Zeidan was
forced to ee the country after the government issued a
warrant for his arrest. This was after he was dismissed
from his post by the interim parliament, dominated by
Islamist parties, on charges of incompetence and
corruption.
Meanwhile, tribal militias and Al Qaeda-affiliated
groups are ruling the roost in other parts of the country.
Militias of various political and tribal hues have their
own jails and torture cells. Saif al Qadda, the former
Libyan leaders heir apparent, is in the custody of the
Zintan militia. They are a law unto themselves and have
refused to hand over Saif al Qadda either to the central
government or to international authorities for trial. And
in late February, the government in neighbouring Niger
handed over another surviving son of the former ruler,
Saadi Qadda, to the Libyan government to stand trial.
The government of Niger is no doubt aware of the chaos
and lawlessness prevailing in the country. In February,
an Indian doctor was killed in Derna, a stronghold of
extremist groups. There are fears that Indian medical
professionals, numbering over 1,600, may nd it difficult
to stay on. The Libyan health-care system will collapse if
there is an exodus of Indian doctors.
On February 14, one of the leading Central Intelli-
gence Agency (CIA) assets in Libya, Major General
Khalifa Hifter, announced that he would carry out a
military takeover of the government. The national com-
mand of the Libyan army is declaring a movement for a
new road map to save the country, Hifter declared. He
grandiosely announced the suspension of parliament. He
claimed that he was replicating the path being taken by
Gen. Abdul Fattah El-Sisi in Egypt. Gen. Sisi had also
announced a new road map for Egypt while staging his
coup last July. The Libyan army, powerless as it
is, did not respond to the call made by Hifter,
a man with a seedy reputation. He was own in by the
Americans from his exile in the United States prior to the
overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011.
On January 18, a group of heavily armed men storm-
ed an air force base outside the city of Sabha in southern
Libya. They expelled forces loyal to the interim govern-
ment. There are reports that in areas dominated by
black Libyans in the south of the country, the green ag
of the previous government is once again uttering. Early
this year, the Deputy Industry Minister, Hassan al
Drouie, was assassinated in the city of Sirte, a stronghold
of Qadda and one of the last cities to fall to the rebels
and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
The situation today is so grim that the Libyan govern-
ment had to issue an appeal in the third week of March to
the international community for urgent help to ght
terrorism. The appeal comes in the wake of a series of
suicide bombings and terror attacks in Benghazi and
clashes with militias controlling oil reneries and ports.
A U.S. security official, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who led
the elite U.S. security force in Libya before the targeting
of the American consulate in Benghazi and the killing of
the U.S. Ambassador, has said that there are now more Al
Qaeda ghters in the country than before. The U.S.
Congress was told that between 10,000 and 20,000 sur-
face-to-air missiles were still unaccounted for.
According to a recent United Nations report, sophis-
ticated arms from Libya
have reached insurgent
groups all over the conti-
nent, including the Boko
Haram, which has been
causing mayhem in
northern Nigeria. Many
of the weapons from
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to stop the illegal export of oil that led to the
exit of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (right).
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Libya were sent to Syrian rebel forces under the patron-
age of the Americans and the Gulf monarchies. The U.N.
report suggested that members of the Libyan armed
forces were continuing to sell handguns in their invento-
ries to civilians. Given the general breakdown in law and
order in the country, there is a great demand for such
weapons. The U.N. report said that the security situation
had considerably deteriorated and that incidents of
carjacking, robbery, kidnappings, tribal disputes, politi-
cal assassinations, armed attacks and clashes, explosions
from improvised explosive devices and demonstrations
had increased markedly.
REDUCED OI L EXPORTS
The country is almost totally dependent on oil exports for
survival. But its oil exports have been sharply reduced,
from 1.5 million barrels a day in 2011 to 250,000 barrels
today. Hariga, the countrys largest centrally controlled
oil terminal in the eastern region, is now under the
control of armed militias that are bent on secession. Even
petrol for domestic consumption is now in short supply
in Tripoli, which has a population of more than two
million, one-third of the countrys population.
The government accused terrorist groups of waging
war against Benghazi, Sirte and other cities. The Libyan
army, trained by Western and Gulf Arab countries, is not
up to the task of militarily confronting the well-armed
militias, which are organised mainly on a tribal and
regional basis. Washington has now decided to do hands-
on training of Libyan army troops. According to reports,
the U.S. has already begun preparations for a larger
mission to train Libyan troops in Bulgaria. Around 500
soldiers from the U.S. 1st Infantry Division will train
around 8,000 Libyan troops in basic combat skills as part
of the larger NATO effort to improve security in the
country.
It was the inability of the government to stop the
illegal export of oil that precipitated the exit of the Libyan
Prime Minister. The military was unable to stop a tanker
carrying illegally purchased oil from the rebel-controlled
Es Sider port in eastern Libya from leaving Libyas wa-
ters. Initially, the tanker was described as North Korean-
owned, but it was actually contracted by a rm with its
headquarters in Dubai. Two Israelis and a Senegalese
A REBEL under militia leader Ibrahim Jathran guards
the entrance of Es Sider port in Ras Lanuf on March 11.
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were arrested by the police in Cyprus on charges of
attempting to buy the cargo. Libyan naval ships de-
stroyed by NATO have not been replaced. The Libyan Air
Force is rudderless after the dismissal of its chief. Most of
the pilots refused to obey government orders to interdict
the rogue oil tanker. The ship was nally interdicted by
the U.S. Navy and returned to the custody of the central
government.
The action against the ship has not gone down well
with the powerful militia grouping led by Ibrahim Jath-
ran, who was previously the army-appointed head of the
national oil protection force. Last year he had set up the
Cyrenaica Political Bureau in deance of the central
government, demanding that the bulk of the oil revenues
from his region be ploughed back for the benet of the
residents there. Libya was divided into three independ-
ent partsTripolitana, Cyrenaica and Fezzan until it was
colonised by Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini. After
the ouster of Muammar Qadda, separatist feelings have
resurfaced with a vengeance. Much of the oil produced in
Libya comes from the eastern province of Cyrenaica.
Jathran claims that at this juncture he is only ghting
against the Muslim Brotherhoods domination of politics
in Tripoli. But his spokesman has said that if the Muslim
Brotherhoods policies lead to civil war, the east would
be forced to become an independent state. But with the
intervention of the U.S. Navy on behalf of the central
government in the incident involving the tanker carrying
oil being sold by the Cyrenaica Political Bureau, the rebel
militias now have the Western powers to contend with.
The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones, de-
scribed the sale of oil by the Jathran-led militia as a theft
from the Libyan people.
However, Jathran now has an ally of sorts in the
ousted Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan. Speaking after his
dramatic escape from Tripoli, Zeidan, hand-picked by
the West for a leadership role in post-Qadda Libya,
blamed the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated interim
government in Tripoli for his tribulations. He accused
the Islamists of wanting to impose their will on the
country and described his dismissal as illegal. The power-
ful Zintan militia in the west of the country has rallied in
support of him. If they join with Jathrans forces in the
east, the central government might well face the prospect
of a total blockade on the export of oil from the west as
well as the east.
The central government now has aligned with a pow-
erful group of militias from the south, called the Libya
Shield, from the city of Misrata. They have been tasked
with liberating the reneries and ports in the east that are
under the control of Jathran and other militias support-
ing his bid for greater control over the oil and gas pro-
duced in the region. The federalist forces in Cyrenaica,
with their stronghold in Benghazi, are preparing for a
showdown. There are reports suggesting that the militias
in Benghazi are preparing for a unilateral declaration of
independence for Cyrenaica. The rebel forces hope to get
the support of the Libyan Air Force. Three air force bases
had earlier supported the abortive coup by Gen. Hifter.
61 F R ONTL I NE
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they were individually informed by the Malaysian au-
thorities about the loss of the aircraft.
In the fortnight after the plane disappearedon March
8 while on a scheduled direct ight from the Malaysian
capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing, close kin of the mis-
sing passengers were already distraught with the slow
ow of information, some of which was misleading, from
the Malaysian authorities. After the loss of the aircraft
was officially announced, relatives and friends of those
who perished led an angry demonstration in front of the
Malaysian Embassy in Beijing. The Chinese authorities
had to use force to stop the protesters from entering the
Embassy compound.
In a statement released to the media, the Malaysian
authorities said that the ongoing multinational search
operations will continue, as we seek answers to the ques-
tions which remain. The circumstances surrounding the
disappearance of the Boeing 777 could end up as one of
the unsolved mysteries of our times. The navies and air
forces of the major countries of the world have been
helping the Malaysian government to locate the plane
since it disappeared from the radar screens in the early
hours of March 8. Initially, on the basis of the preliminary
information provided by the Malaysian authorities, in-
tensive search operations were conducted in the Anda-
man Sea between India and Thailand. Now the focus has
shifted decisively to the southern reaches of the Indian
Ocean, 2,500 kilometres south-west of Perth, where Aus-
tralian, Chinese and French satellite imagery showed
what appear to be large pieces of oating debris belong-
ing to the plane.
International aviation authorities will now focus on
locating the black boxesthe cockpit voice recorder and
the ight data recorderwhich will be key to the in-
vestigations into what happened tothe passenger jet. The
Malaysian authorities have now nally come around to
the theory that the plane suddenly changed direction and
turned back, initially ying over the Malacca Straits.
THE FORMAL ANNOUNCEMENT BY MALAYSIAN
Prime Minister Najib Razak that Malaysian Airlines
Flight MH370 had in all likelihood crashed into the
Indian Ocean south-west of the Australian city of Perth
will not bring immediate closure to the grief and anger
that the incident has left in its wake. The Malaysian
government based its conclusions on the new satellite
data provided by the British company Inmarsat that
conclusively showed that the last position of the plane
was in the southern Indian Ocean. Floating debris, spot-
ted by satellites and by search aircraft, in the area is
further proof of the general location of the crash. At the
time of writing, it is yet to be conrmed that any of the
debris is connected to the plane. Relatives of the Chinese
passengers on board the plane, who were assembled in
hotels in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, were naturally
shocked and some of them had to be hospitalised after
Flight into mystery
MALAYSI AN PRI ME MI NI STER NAJI B RAZAK
making the formal announcement on March 24 about
the loss of Flight MH370. Also in the picture is Defence
Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who concurrently
holds the transport porfolio.
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The official announcement that Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370
probably crashed into the Indian Ocean brings little relief to the families
of those on board and leaves many questions unanswered as the search
for the plane continues. BY JOHNCHERI AN
WORLD AFFAIRS
MALAYSI AN AI RLI NE TRAGEDY
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They now admit that their radars had data that showed
that the plane had taken a sudden turn and gone in a
southward direction. Malaysian officials say that they
could only denitively decipher the data after consulting
with their American counterparts. Analysts say that in
the process precious time was wasted in the search oper-
ations.
Most experts have warned that even if parts of the
plane are found, nding the main body of the plane could
take many years. The sea in the present search area is
around 4 km deep, with waves currently reaching the
height of 6 metres.
This air accident is similar tothe disappearance of Air
France Flight 447 in June 2009. The plane, an Airbus
A330-220 ying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, disap-
peared over the Atlantic Ocean. It took three years for the
mystery of the missing Air France plane to be solved. The
plane had stalled in mid-air and plunged into the ocean
because of pilot error. Statistics have shown that more
than 50 per cent of fatal air crashes are due to pilot error.
Aviation experts are divided in their opinion on what
could have led to the crash of MH370. Many have con-
cluded that a calamitous engine failure an hour or so
after the plane departed from Kuala Lumpur and entered
Vietnamese air space led to the plane going off course,
while others have not ruled out a human hand in the
crash.
More than 150 of the 239 passengers on board the
plane were Chinese nationals, ve were Indians, and
there were nationals of 12 more countries. The Chinese
authorities did background checks of their nationals and
cleared them of links to terrorism. On March 1, Uighur
extremists killed 29 people in a gruesome terror attack in
the Chinese city of Kunming. The initial fears of Uighur
extremist involvement in the disappearance of the plane
have now been ruled out. There was one Chinese national
of Uighur ethnicity on the ight. Two young Iranian
nationals travelling on fake passports were also given
clean chits.
The needle of suspicion continues to point to the
pilot, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and the co-pilot,
27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid. As the investigations go
on, conspiracy theories are growing by the day. Malay-
sian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who
concurrently holds the transport portfolio, had initially
told the media that data had been deleted from the ight
simulator the pilot had kept in his home. This statement
raised eyebrows. Before that, the Malaysian Prime Min-
ister had suggested that someone had deliberately di-
verted the plane one hour after take-off. Hishammuddin
in one of his many briengs to the media had conrmed
that two satellite communications systems in the plane
were also deliberately switched off. The Malaysian police
are continuing with their investigations of the two pilots.
Zaharie was an experienced pilot. Leaders of Malay-
sias opposition were critical of the Defence Ministers
remarks, saying that he was imputing motives to a man
who was not in a position to defend himself. Zaharie was
related to the daughter-in-law of the opposition leader
Anwar Ibrahim. Ibrahim was recently sentenced to an-
other ve-year jail term on sodomy charges, which many
Malaysians view as being trumped up. He is currently
free on bail pending an appeal. Zaharie was openly sym-
pathetic to the opposition. Malaysia today is politically
polarised down the middle. In the elections last year, the
opposition won the majority of the popular votes but got
fewer votes than the ruling United Malays National Or-
ganisation, which has monopolised power since the
country became independent.
Mike Glynn, a member of the Australian and In-
ternational Pilots Association, said that pilot suicide is
the most likely cause for the disappearance of Flight 370.
A pilot rather than a hijacker is more likely to be able to
switch off the communications equipment, he told the
media. There are two well-publicised incidents of this
kind. A SilkAir crash during a ight from Singapore to
Jakarta in 1997 and an EgyptAir ight from Los Angeles
to Cairo in 1999 were blamed on pilot suicide. In the 1999
crash, the co-pilot deliberately plunged the plane into the
Atlantic Ocean. Investigators from the United States
concluded that the co-pilot, after nding himself alone in
the cockpit, switched off the autopilot and pointed the
plane down while repeating the sentence I rely on God
11 times. The last communication from the Malaysian
plane was from the co-pilot. His last words were All
right. Good Night. Mozambican officials are still in-
vestigating a plane crash that killed 33 people last No-
A CREW MEMBER of the Australian Navy ship HMAS
Success looking for debris in the southern Indian Ocean.
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vember. Preliminary investigations blame the pilot for
deliberately bringing down the plane.
The Chinese authorities are treating the incident as a
national calamity. Distraught families, almost all of
whom have lost an only son or daughter, have been
waiting for denitive answers from the Malaysian au-
thorities. The general consensus is that the Malaysian
officials, who are dealing with an aviation disaster of this
scale for the rst time, have not measured up. There has
been a lot of criticism in the Chinese and international
media of their disaster management capabilities.
However, the Chinese Ambassador to the country,
Huang Huikang, diplomatically stated that the Malay-
sian authorities had done their best but they had in-
sufficient capabilities, technologies and experiences in
dealing with the MH370 incident. China has put a lot of
its resources into the search mission. A Chinese warship
and an icebreaker, the Sea Dragon, have reached the
remote Indian Ocean area where the oating debris was
seen. China has reason to feel slighted at the attitude
adopted by Malaysian authorities, who have preferred to
depend more on the U.S. for technical help and military
expertise. The U.S. took its time to respond to Malaysias
plea to share information gathered in Pine Gap, Amer-
icas top intelligence-gathering base in Australia. Hish-
ammuddin had said that the U.S. had the best capability
to locate the plane using its radar and satellite systems.
The Barack Obama administration was instead keener to
rush agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
to Kuala Lumpur.
India did not accede to Chinas request to be allowed
to send its ships and planes into Indian territorial waters
for the initial search-and-rescue mission in the Andaman
Sea. Australia, a staunch member of the Western military
alliance, on the other hand, has allowed Chinese military
planes to operate from its bases. Ian Storey, a senior
fellow at Singapores Institute of Southeast Asian Stud-
ies, told the Reuters news agency that there was still a lot
of distrust among countries in the region. Countries are
unwilling to share sensitive intelligence because it reveals
their military capabilitiesor lack of capabilities, he
said. The Wall Street Journal reported that Indian offi-
cials gave conicting comments on whether radar sys-
tems in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were
operational on March 8. The Malaysian Defence Min-
ster showed his unhappiness with the level of cooper-
ation he was receiving in the initial stages. He said that
his country had put aside national security and urged
other countries to decide on what sort of military and
other data they are willing to share with us. If there had
been more coordination, the location of the wreckage
could have been identied much earlier and the pain and
agony of the next of kin of those on the missing plane
could have been alleviated to an extent.
RELATI VES OF PASSENGERS of MH370 at a protest rally outside the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing on March 25.
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IN LATE FEBRUARY, THE
United Nations Economic and
Social Commission for West
Asia (ESCWA) released a report,
Arab Integration: A 21st Centu-
ry Development Imperative, in
Tunis (Tunisia). Ordinarily, a re-
port such as this does not merit
comment in the press. Over the
course of the past 30 years, U.N.
reports have not been given the
kind of consideration once af-
forded them. In the 1950s and
1960s, high U.N. officials spoke like oracles, providing
moral leadership alongside the newly emboldened lead-
ers of the Third World. As those leaders stepped off the
stage of history and as their states convulsed before a host
of problems, the U.N.s star was also eclipsed. Wars and
refugee crises marked the U.N. Its agencies, such as those
for the rights of children (UNICEF) and for food security
(the Food and Agriculture Organisation, or FAO), be-
came accumulators of data on the escalating crisis of
human well-being. U.N. reports seemed written to ame-
liorate the thin skin of the donor states (largely the
West). What point was it to pay attention? It was suffi-
cient to extract the data from the reports and move along.
Little in the new ESCWA report resembles what one
generally sees from the U.N. It comes as the shine of the
Arab Spring has begun to tarnish. The lead authors of the
report are some of the leading intellectuals of the Arab
world, most from the generation of the 1960s who have
seen the promise of Arab independence fade and who
have marvelled at the rise of the Arab masses in 2010-11.
Habib Mohamed Marzouki helped write the Tunisian
Constitution, Haifa Zangana is a major Iraqi novelist and
activist, Abdullah al-Dardari is a former Vice-Premier of
Syria, while Nader Fergany is an Egyptian scholar who
was the primary author of the landmark 2002 Arab
Human Development Report. That the ESCWA decided
to release the report in Tunis is signicant. A month
before, Tunisiawhere the Arab Spring rst broke out
saw the passage of a new Constitution. It took its
National Constituent Assembly nearly two years to draft
the document, which, despite some consistency prob-
lems with Article 6 on religion, redeems the promise of
the Arab Spring. The ESCWAs head, Rima Khalaf, called
the constitution the most important in the Arab region,
as it guarantees rights and liberties and consecrates the
Tunisian peoples aspirations for freedom and dignity.
Tunisias success is overshadowed by the collapse of
the promise in the rest of the Arab world. Egypts revolu-
tion appears in cold storage (Cairos quest, April 4).
Syrias war continues to metastasise, with the death toll
rising beyond the U.N.s actuarial capacity (Road to
Raqqa, February 7). An emboldened Saudi monarchy
has now turned its diplomatic and nancial muscle
against Qatar, whose support for the Muslim Brother-
hood in the region threatened Saudi interests and expec-
tations. This Saudi-Qatari feud shows that the kingdoms
rulers no longer imagine a secular and democratic move-
ment as their main threat. Tahrir is quiet, the guns in
Aleppo are loud, and the opening of 2010-11 seems to
have closed. At least that is how things seem at present.
THE PHOENI X TAKES FLI GHT
The phoenix of Tahrir Square took ight not long after it
appeared. Arab intellectualssuch as those who author-
ed the ESCWA reportdig amongst the ashes of Tahrir
in search of reminders of the phoenix and for clues as to
how to reconstruct it. The fruits of their consideration are
in many documentsreports, newspaper columns, po-
ems, stories, the sighs of the living room and the cafe. It is
impossible to travel anywhere in the region and not nd
oneself in the midst of this ongoing conversation. The
ESCWA report puts itself rmly in this discussion. It
celebrates the uprising but its writers are too honest to be
blinded by it. They turn quickly to the reasons not for its
failurebecause that would be too nalbut for its in-
Arab phoenix
The U.N. report on Arab integration roots itself in the Arab renaissance
traditionhonest about the problems that bedevil the region, but hopeful
about the future that must come for a people who have ample resources to
construct it. BY VI JAY PRASHAD
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ARAB NATI ONS
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completion. The forces of change may have found them-
selves temporarily stalled by events, they write, but that
does not mean that they have been deterred.
Transitions are complex events, with much longer
timescales than the expectations of the people or the
news cycle of television. Comparison with the transitions
in Eastern Europe provides two quick answers to its
incompleteness: unlike the Eastern European situation,
the Arab worlds upsurge came during the worst econom-
ic recession in recent memory and it was hastily beset by
hostile and inuential forces in the region with vested
interests in restoring the status quo. The authors leave
this last point vague. As a U.N. body, it cannot point its
ngers at this or that member state. But the dramatis
personae are clear.
Will the dynamic of Tahrir sit quietly as its promise is
squashed by vested interests? The U.N. report is more
optimistic than most other accounts. Democracy in the
Arab countries will encounter obstacles and pitfallsas
has been the case everywhere else in the worldbut there
is little doubt that it will ultimately prevail. What gives
the authors this condence? They have walked the
squares and streets and seen the faces of the civic resist-
ance.
That public, especially its younger cohort, has exed
its muscles, tasted freedom and demonstrated the power
of active civil resistance in the face of injustice. It will not
brook a counter-revolution on its watch. But nor will the
vested intereststhe Gulf Arab monarchies and their
Western allies.
The Gulf monarchies have much more to lose than
the republican dictators of the Arab world. For the latter,
the removal of the leader (Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni
Mubarak) did not mean the destruction of the state. State
institutions, such as the military, remained intact and
provided the platformfor good or illfor the new order
that emerged. In the Gulf, the collapse of the ruling
family would mean the collapse of the state, which iron-
ically means that the ruling families have a much deeper
coalition that works to retain them in power. The social
base of the counter-revolution, therefore, is much more
secured than it seems from the outside. Arabia without
sultans? After the sheikhs? This seems more wishful
thinking than realistic analysis.
Rather than a full frontal assault on the vested in-
terests, the U.N. report provides a strategic vision for
Arab regionalism. It calls for the three goals to enhance
freedom, two of which are long-term threats to the cul-
ture of monarchy and of dictatorship. A call for a robust
notion of dignied Arab citizenship with a new social
contract challenges the idea that Arabs are culturally
incapable of democracy and politically unwilling to ght
for it. The idea of dignity was a fundamental call in the
streets during 2010-11in Tunisia, they named their
ANTI -GOVERNMENT demonstrators (background) confront supporters of the Hosni Mubarak regime during the Arab
Spring uprising, in Cairos Tahrir Square on February 2, 2011. Arab intellectuals, such as those who authored the ESCWA
report, dig amongst the ashes of Tahrir in search of reminders of the phoenix and for clues as to how to reconstruct it.
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uprising the Thawrat al-Karamah, the Dignity Revolu-
tion.
Economic integration, the second freedom goal, is far
more familiar to the ESCWA. The U.N. created regional
economic and social commissions to promote integration
of national projects in the Asia-Pacic (ESCAP, 1947),
Latin America (ECLAC, 1948), Africa (ECA, 1958) and
West Asia (ESCWA, 1973). These commissions have
worked with nation-states to nd ways to increase re-
gional trade, reduce burdens of customs duties to en-
hance trade, and provide ways to integrate the social and
cultural landscape of neighbours. The most successful
example of regionalism in the current period has been in
Latin America, whereunder the inuence of Bolivia,
Brazil and Venezuelaits states have attempted to draw
the continent together and to develop along an alterna-
tive policy path. Nothing like that has worked elsewhere.
The ESCWAdoes not look to Latin America in its report,
but it might. Its own suggestions remain within a neolib-
eral policy framework.
The third freedomto unshackle Arab culture from
self-inicted limits and conictsis a powerful chal-
lenge. Too often the global South looks outward to the
West for cultural validation. This longing turns the elite
against its own population and drives a wedge between a
countrys present and its past. Cultural freedom also
includes a challenge to religious thoughtthe aim is to
break the doctrinal and institutional chains that have
conned religious thought to the past and to liberate true
Islam from rigid interpretations by restoring independ-
ent reason. Some would cavil that scholars of Islam have
always been in the midst of the confounding debate over
reason. This might be so but it does not translate into
educational institutions that favour rote learning over
critical thought, the latter being a crucial element in the
revitalisation of Arab institutions. Any Arab renaissan-
ceas any renaissance in the global Southmust con-
tend with the debate between reason and received
wisdom, whether in the domain of religion or in econom-
ic policy.
JEWI SH STATE
One of the great impediments to Arab integration has
been the unresolved Palestinian struggle. The Wests
uninching support for Israel has corrupted the ability of
states in the region to nd common ground. Old trade
routes that linked Syria to Egypt have been interrupted
and resources that should have been turned towards
social development have perforce been shifted to military
purposes. Billions of dollars of military aid from the
United States to Israel and Egypt and U.S. treaties for the
defence of Saudi Arabias monarchy lower the need for
regional peace.
Arab Integration wades rmly into the morass of
discussions about Israel. U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry claims to have a new approach to bring the Pal-
estinians and the Israelis to the table. There is little
regional pressure to make this happen. Egypt and Jordan
both have full relations with Israel, and the Gulf Arab
monarchies play a duplicitous game with Palestinian
aspirations. The report challenges the Arab states to live
up to their international obligations, including a boycott
of goods produced by Israeli industry in the burgeoning
settlements on Palestinian land. Without directly nam-
ing them, the report points to Egypt and Jordan as Arab
states whose purchase of illegal Israeli products hinders
the possibility of a Palestine state.
One other barrier to Arab integration and to Arab
dignity is the constant suggestion in the Western media
and in Israel that Arabs are incapable of democracy and
that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.
The report frontally challenges this assertion. Israel
insists on being recognised by the world and the Arabs as
an exclusively Jewish state, write the authors. It impos-
es this recognition as a condition for reaching a settle-
ment with the Palestinians. This policy is based on the
concept of the religious or ethnic purity of states, which
brought to humanity the worst crimes and atrocities of
the twentieth century. These are strong words. It implies
that a better comparison for Israel than its preferred
glance westward is to the southto Saudi Arabia, anoth-
er state that bases itself on religious supremacy and
denies minorities rights. It is a comparison that the
Israelis might not want to adopt. No wonder that they
have strongly opposed this report, and asked the U.N.
Secretary-General to rectify the situation.
The report ends with a quote from the Palestinian
poet Mahmoud Darwishs Identity Card (Bitaqat Ha-
wiyya, 1963): Write down, I am an Arab! Darwish was
a nahdawi, a person of the Arab renaissance, who was
eager for his world to make its appointment with mod-
ernity. The ESCWA report roots itself in that tradition
honest about the problems that bedevil the region, but
hopeful about the future that must come for a people who
have ample resources to construct it.
MEMBERS OF THE TUNI SI AN National Constituent
Assembly celebrate the adoption of the new Constitution
in Tunis on January 26. It is hailed as one of the most
progressive Constitutions in the Arab world.
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In Jim Corbett
landscape
TI GER PUG
MARKS on a
riverbed in the
Jim Corbett
Tiger Reserve.
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ABUNDANT tiger and elephant signs along the Pa-
terpani sot (spring, stream) indicated that this sot in the
heart of the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand was
the favoured haunt of tigers and elephants in the reserve.
Their tracks overlapped on the sandy and muddy stream
bed, and a strong smell of tiger spray and elephant dung
and urine permeated the air. Over the tracks of these two
charismatic animalsone the national animal and the
other the national heritage animalthere were signs of
other animals too, such as the chital and the sambar. The By A.J.T. JOHNSINGHand BIVASH PANDAV
A walk through the Corbett
Tiger Reserve in
Uttarakhand, taking in its
many wildlife delights.
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overall ambience reminded us that the Corbett Tiger
Reserve was a place where one has to walk with immense
respect for the elephant, the tiger and the king cobra
(later we came across the body of a three-metre-long king
cobra in a pool on a different riverbed).
We were accompanying 20 officer trainees of the
10-month diploma course of the Wildlife Institute of
India on their orientation tour to the reserve. It was late
September 2013 and the torrential rains that had
brought untold misery to the people of Uttarakhand had
stopped, and yet the water in the stream was turbid.
The seven-kilometre walk along the stream to the
Paterpani forest rest house, built in the early part of the
20th century, and the nine-kilometre return walk along
the road through a forest with a dense tiger population to
the saddle dam of the picturesque Ramganga reservoir
A ROBUST TI GER, a camera-trap image. Pressures from
Kotdwar town (in the background) are a threat to the Rajaji
National Park-Corbett Tiger Reserve corridor.
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formed one of the highlights of the tour. Sightings in the
pools of the stream of the golden mahseer (one of the
most beautiful wildlife species of India) that came up
from the reservoir to spawn, the goral (a mountain goat)
on the steep hill slopes, and birds such as the Himalayan
pied kingsher and white-crested laughing thrushes
(whose cackling often coincided with someone slipping
and falling down on the stream oor) and frequent en-
counters with oriental pied hornbills were the high
points of the walk.
The rst time one of us (Johnsingh) wanted to take
the trainees on this walk nearly 15 years ago, accompa-
nied by two armed guards, the reserve director, aware of
the frequent use of the stream by the tiger, the elephant
and the sloth bear, gave us permission but with a warn-
ing: You are doing the walk at your own risk. The
BI VASH PANDAV
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faculty during the September 2013 trip included, besides
Bivash Pandav (a third batch MSc Wildlife Science stu-
dent of the institute), who has walked all over the Corbett
landscape in the past 10 years, Suresh Kumar (fth
batch), who is good at bird identication; Johnson, an
expert on sh; and Abhijit, who has a great passion for
amphibians and reptiles. There were 14 trainees from
India, ve from Bangladesh and one from Vietnam.
We had two guards, one carrying a double-barrelled
shotgun and the other a rie. If required, the gun, which
could spray pellets, could be used to scare away ele-
phants, while the rie would be effective against poach-
ers. Guards of the Corbett Tiger Reserve would impress
anyone with their dedication, tness, knowledge of the
area and animals, the way they carry their weapons (al-
ways pointing towards either the sky or the ground, never
A TUSKER standing its ground.
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at people), and their courage in times of need. Our rst
surprise, as soon as we started walking along the stream,
was the near absence of the mahseer, weighing upto 3 kg,
which used to be a common sight in the pools. We had
come prepared with atta (wheat our) balls to attract and
view the sh, but none turned up when we threw the balls
into the water. It is reported that the golden mahseer
tends to retreat to the reservoir/main river after spawn-
ing in the streams, and as Uttarakhand had received
heavy rains in early June, they had possibly completed
spawning and gone back to the reservoir.
As we walked, we soon came across a large pool where
some years ago we had spotted the bones of a nearly
four-year-old elephant calf which had been killed and
eaten by four tigers. The staff on patrol duty had seen the
tigers feeding on the kill.
Tigers killing elephant calves is not a rare occurrence,
and one factor that could be controlling the population of
the around 800 elephants of the Corbett landscape is
THE HOG DEER, an endangered species, in the tiger
reserve.
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predation on calves by tigers. Angered tigers are capable
of killing even a bull elephant, as epitomised by E.A.
Smythies in Journal of Bombay Natural History Society
(Volume 41: 654-656). This ght, between a tusker and
two tigers, took place on the right bank of the Sharada
river in September 1939, and eventually the bull, which
carried tusks weighing close to 60 kg, was killed. Now,
the burgeoning Tanakpur town has encircled the loca-
tion where the ght occurred. As we walked along the
stream, a goral ran across, a barking deer gave an alarm
and, as usual, we found the last bit of the walk (about 500
m) to reach the rest house through the elephant grass
which had grown rank during the rains a bit taxing as
there was no clear path.
The rest house overlooks a valley where the sot begins.
The valley is in a typical bhabar area. Whatever water is
received, either as rain or as oodwater, rapidly perco-
lates, leaving the valley dry even in early winter. So the
grass in the valley is dominated by species such as Imper-
ata cylindrica, Saccharum spontaneumand Saccharum
munja, which are characteristic of the at areas of the
bhabar habitat. Anyone sitting in the veranda of the rest
house and observing the riverbed in the valley in the
morning and evening for two or three days is bound to
glimpse a tiger. One memorable stay for us in the rest
house was in early summer in 1992 when Johnsingh
brought the third batch of MSc (Wildlife Science) stu-
dents from the Wildlife Institute of India accompanied
by colleagues G.S. Rawat and Ajith Kumar. The reserve
was then managed by A.S. Negi, an exemplary forest
officer of the Uttaranchal cadre. He permitted us to walk
around escorted by two armed guards. One day, while
returning to the rest house, which was then kept in
exceedingly good condition, after exploring the nearby
hill, which appeared to be a goral habitat from a distance
and while crossing the Paterpani sot, we saw three hog
deer. The staff identied them as chital and we explained
to them the difference between hog deer and chital.
The grassland-dependent hog deer within the Cor-
bett Tiger Reserve is an endangered species as the major
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One factor that could be
controlling the 800-strong
elephant population in the
Corbett landscape is predation
on elephant calves by tigers.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 74
population of 30 to 50 animals is now largely conned to
the Dhikala and Phulai chaur (grassland) of the reserve.
The total habitat of the two grasslands in summer, when
the water level in the Ramganga reservoir recedes, could
be close to 10 square kilometres, which may be large
enough to support 300500 hog deer.
Nevertheless, two problems continue to depress the
population. One is predation by the jackal and the other
is the periodic inundation of the Phulai chaur by the
Ramganga reservoir during the rains in July and August.
When the grassland is submerged, the hog deer is forced
to move to the forest where they may be easily preyed
upon by the tiger and the leopard. Johnsingh once col-
lected leopard scat from Kanda (1,000 m, where Jim
Corbett shot the Kanda man-eater), which along the road
is 20 km from Phulai chaur (300 m). The scat contained
the remains of a hog deer.
When chased by jackals, which often hunt in pairs,
the hog deer does not run into the forest to escape but
turns around and runs back into the grassland, where it is
killed by the jackals.
If we are determined to save the hog deer in the
CONTROL OF THE JACKAL POPULATI ON may revive the hog deer population.
BI VASH PANDAV
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
Corbett Tiger Reserve, we should keep the Dhikala and
Phulai chaur free of jackals for several years and closely
monitor the hog deer population. Except in the Kazi-
ranga Tiger Reserve (where nearly 600 hog deer die in
oods every year), in almost all other places the hog deer
faces a dismal future. While returning from Paterpani,
along the road to the Saddle dam, the repeated alarm
calls of the hog deer alerted us. Bivash went ahead and
photographed three hog deer by the side of a stream in a
patch of grassland, which is a continuation of the Pater-
pani chaur. Johnsingh joked with Bivash that the three
hog deer he photographed, which turned out to be little
out of focus, were the same seen 20 years ago when
Bivash had come to Paterpani as a student.
During this programme we found time to visit the
Jhirna (built in 1908) and the Dhela (1926) forest rest
houses. As part of various exercises, largely along the
southern boundary of the tiger reserve and often along
the riverbeds, the class had walked a total of about 50km.
On the sandy and muddy riverbeds, an amazing number
of tiger signs were seen but not a single leopard track.
On the walk between Paterpani and saddle dam, we
WOODLANDS WI TH MEADOW HABI TATS can ensure the nilgais presence along the reserves southern boundary.
BI VASH PANDAV
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 76
had checked a camera trap maintained by the Forest
Department. There were many pictures of tigers but only
one of the leopard. The tiger considers the leopard its
arch enemy, and therefore at the rst opportunity it tries
to kill the leopard and the killed leopard is eaten up. If the
habitat is suitable with hills and climbable trees, a leop-
ard can escape from a tiger. But in an area with high tiger
density, such as the Corbett Tiger Reserve, although the
terrain is hilly, leopards are often pushed to the periphery
of the forest areas. The stately sal trees, with straight and
large boles, which are common in the reserve, may not be
suitable for leopards to escape from the tiger when they
are rushed.
On the last day, the sky was sea blue and the sun was
bright and warm, and we walked from the saddle dam
road to the main roada distance of 6 kmwatching the
CHAMPA, A GUJJAR anti-poaching watcher,
who survived a tiger attack.
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THE JHI RNA forest rest house, built in 1908.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 78
goral, the langur and birds and taking pictures of pro-
fusely owering plants. Notable among the plants were
Ipomoea nil with pinkish blue owers, Ipomoea quamo-
clit with blood-red owers, Ipomoea pes-tigridis with
white owers and leaves like tiger pug marks, Urena
lobata with small rose-coloured owers and Mimosa
himalayana which was profusely decorated with red-
dish-violet and cream-coloured owers.
As we crossed the main dam and drove to the edge of
the forest, we observed that the Irrigation Department,
which manages the dam, had unnecessarily fenced off
areas below the dam with barbed wire and iron rods with
spikes, thereby preventing elephants, tigers and sambar
from freely using the area. The department had done so
with the intention of maintaining a park. In fact, there is
no need for such a park within the tiger reserve. This
problem is known to Surendra Mehra, the current Direc-
tor of the Reserve, a former trainee officer of the Wildlife
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URENA LOBATA in the tiger reserve.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
Institute of India, and he assured us that he would get the
fences removed. There should never be barbed wire fenc-
es within wildlife habitats as they can cause injury to
large mammals.
Mehra also informed us that he was aware of the
importance of the inconspicuous Kalagarh corridor (a
small nallah that drains from the saddle dam area to the
Ramganga river). He promised to take measures to pro-
tect it by banning woodcutting along the nallah by the
people of Kalagarh village and by removing structures,
including barbed wire fences, below the nallah, estab-
lished in the past for the Kalagarh township. If a tiger or
an elephant decides to move from the extensive forests
south and south-east of the reservoir (when full, the
reservoir spreads over an area of about 80 sq km) to the
Kalagarh forests to the west of the Ramganga river, the
easiest and the safest route is to go along the nallah, cross
the river and enter the Kalagarh forests. Therefore, the
MI MOSA HI MALAYANA in September.
A. J. T. JOHNSI NGH
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THE TI GER RESERVE is a stronghold
of the golden mahseer.
nallah and the patch of forest below it should be kept
totally free from disturbance.
Before returning to Dehradun, we made a brief visit
to Kaladhungi, where Jim Corbetts winter homenow a
museumis situated. Before reaching Kaladhungi, we
had to cross the Boar river, and as we walked over the iron
bridge, we discussed Corbetts days, when he used to
catch his dinner, 23-pound (11.5 kg) golden mahseer,
in the river even in March. Now, in summer, the Boar
river below the bridge runs bone dry. When we crossed it,
there was a copious amount of water. But, as persons who
are familiar with the status of the golden mahseer along
the foothills, we would say that 23-pound mahseer no
longer inhabit the Boar river.
Our return journey to Dehradun was through the
magnicent forests of Kalagarh and Lansdowne where
we had sightings of a large group of nilgai, a group of four
sambar with a superb stag in the last stages of velvet
(most sambar stags get into hard antlers and ready for rut
in November), and barking deer. We also met Champa, a
brave Gujjar anti-poaching watcher on patrol duty, who
has the unique experience of surviving a tiger attack. As
soon as we crossed the Ramganga river, we saw the nilgai
in a Zizyphus woodland, where the ground was covered
with a carpet of short grass. We had not seen the nilgai
during our ve days of wandering in the forests east of the
river where, within the boundary of the Corbett Tiger
Reserve, it, like the hog deer, is an endangered animal. A
minimum population of 100 could be supported provid-
ed we maintain Zizyphus woodlands with short grass
rather than tall grass (for example, Vettiveria zizanoides)
in locations such as Dhara, Jhirna, Kotirau and Laldhang
where successful village relocation (thanks to A.S. Negi)
and lantana eradication (thanks to Rajeev Bharthari,
former Director of the reserve, and Professor C.R. Babu
of Delhi University,) have taken place.
BI OTI C PRESSURE
Jim Corbett shot the Rudraprayag man-eater upstream
of the Ganga, the Kanda and Mohan man-eaters north of
the present-day tiger reserve, and the Thak, Chuka and
Talla Des man-eaters upstream of the Sharada on its
right bank. Therefore, this bhabar landscape in Uttarak-
hand, which holds the bulk of the tiger and elephant
populations, can be rightly called the Jim Corbett land-
scape. The unbroken part of this landscape stretches
from the eastern part of the Rajaji National Park to the
Gola river and is in the safe hands of Surendra Mehra,
Saket Badola (Deputy Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve,
and a wildlife-trained officer who does a lot of foot pa-
trolling), Amit Verma (Divisional Forest Officer, Kala-
garh Forest Division, who is responsible for the
notication of the Nandhour Wildlife Sanctuary and who
does foot patrolling and works on the resettlement of
Gujjars from the Division), Neha Verma (Divisional For-
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 82
est Officer, Lansdowne Forest Division) and Subhudi,
Director, Rajaji National Park, who is determined to
establish the long-pending Chilla-Motichur corridor
across the Ganga and persuade the Gujjars in the land-
scape to opt for resettlement and move out of the forest.
The upcoming Rajaji Tiger Reserve will have the Lald-
hang and Kotdwar ranges, which are at present in the
Lansdowne Forest Division, as part of its buffer zone.
This will hopefully keep away proposed development
works such as a State highway through these ranges.
Roads bring in lots of threats to the forest areas, which
are already under enormous biotic pressure.
One problem to which the Uttarakhand government
is not yet alive is the growing rewood and fodder needs
of the people living in the towns and numerous villages in
the bhabar track. The tiger and elephant habitat is gradu-
ally getting whittled away by woodcutting. Khatima
Range in the Terai East Forest Division is almost lost to
rewood cutting by people from Nepal and India. There
should be a dedicated, sustained programme throughout
Uttarakhand encouraging people to grow fodder and
rewood on their private lands and along the forest
boundary. The best-known fodder species is mulberry
(Morus alba), which should be propagated in the thou-
sands wherever possible. We should not hesitate to grow
even exotics such as Acacia auriculiformis, Eucalyptus
spp and Casuarina equisitifolia along with Dalbergia
sissoo to meet the growing rewood needs of the people
of the bhabar area. Otherwise the Jim Corbett landscape
of Uttarakhand will gradually lose its reputation for a
high density tiger population.
A.J.T. Johnsingh is with Nature Conservation Foundation,
Mysore, and WWF-India; and Bivash Pandav is with Wildlife
Institute of India, Dehradun.
THE PI CTURESQUE Ramganga reservoir.
A. J. T. JOHNSI NGH
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THEATRE
WHEN Mohan Rakesh wrote
Aashad Ka Ek Din, he was trying to
re-image history in terms of the pre-
sent; by extricating history from its
space and recasting it into the pre-
sent as a work criss-crossing ques-
tions of literature and theatre, he had
rendered history ctional. Rakesh al-
so went on to say that his Hindi dra-
ma was not linked to any theatrical
tradition. Aashad Ka Ek Din was for
Rakesh, which he said in a later re-
sponse, clearly a search for new the-
atrical possibilities.
Theatre, like any other perform-
ance art, has tried from time to time
to redene what it constitutes in
terms of its language and narrative.
Aashad Ka Ek Din, mentioned here
as a case in point, uses history to
speak of its departure from it. Con-
stantly interrogating its relationship
with tradition, theatreas bothwrit-
ten and performance textshas
wondered what the nature of its con-
nection with the past should be, what
the breakaway point is, and what the
contemporary needs of theatre and
society are. Theatre today is explor-
ing new spaces and new modes of
articulation. In this exploration one
sees a conglomeration of ideas and
narratives waiting to be crystallised
into mature expressions. Having dis-
banded Western notions of stage,
theatre looks for different possibil-
ities, closer to the lived experiences of
today.
What is transition, or change, in
theatre? Is modern contemporary? If
contemporary theatre captures to-
days experience and is therefore au-
thentic, does then one understand
that tradition is past and hence irrel-
evant to contemporary experience?
In post-Independence India, mod-
ern theatre, or theatre of the roots
as it was called, was that which
forged new connections with the
ancient. This was born in an attempt
to reject the Eurocentric idioms of
PHOTOGRAPHS: BY SPECI AL ARRANGEMENT
SATYASHODHAK was performed by safai karmacharis of the Pune Mahanagarapalika Kamgar Union.
Stage of transition
International Theatre Festival of Kerala 2014 made possible a platform
where different kinds of concerns on the range of subjects that
constitute theatre could be articulated. BY DEEPA GANESH
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 84
theatre that were prevalent during
the British Raj. We, in this present
moment, are talking of yet another
modernity, one that wants to shed
the baggage of the past to evolve con-
temporary theatre practices. It seeks
to break away from the idea of per-
forming spaces, and get down to the
nitty-gritty, to methods of storytell-
ing.
The sixth edition of the Interna-
tional Theatre Festival of Kerala (IT-
FoK) was held from January 27 to
February 3 in Thrissur and had
transition as its theme. The huge
turnout each day to this festival of
inspiring dynamism was proof of the
Malayalis quintessential love for
theatre going. Through plays, semi-
nars and discussions, the ITFoK
brought to the fore theatre in the
process of being redened as an ex-
perience that was more directly link-
ed to the here and now, establishing
its connections with the sociopolit-
ical, erasing boundaries between
theatre and other performing arts,
and privileging interdisciplinary
ideas and freedom of narrative over
adherence to the disciplines of form
or content. The curatorial team said
ITFoK 2014 would be a curtain-rais-
er to welcome 21st century world
theatre where the strict boundaries
of theatre and visual art were slowly
fading, and a new form of post-dra-
matic theatre was emerging. It cer-
tainly challenged spectatorship and
on how theatre was viewed and expe-
rienced.
SATYASHODHAK
For the director Atul Pethe, transi-
tion was more a systemic issue.
Evolving a new aesthetic with his
cast and its suppressed folk music
traditions, Pethe in his play Satyash-
odhak stressed the power of theatre
to bring about social change. The
work, based on G.P. Deshpandes
play on the life of Jyotiba Phule, the
revolutionary reformist of Maha-
rashtra, reinterprets the reformers
vision in the modern context. The
play was originally performed nearly
20 years ago by the Jana Natya
Manch, and now Pethes production
is being performed to an overwhelm-
ing response from audiences across
States. It all beganfor himwitha lm
he made on sewage and sanitary
workers, The Garbage Trap. Work-
ing on it was an eye-opener to their
appalling living conditions: Social
change hadnt reached them. Doing
proscenium theatre and addressing
middle-class angst seemed so super-
cial. I wanted to create awareness
and change the perceptions of people
more than make something beauti-
ful, explainedPethe of his inner stir-
rings. Although the play was written
when the country was burning with
the agitations over Mandal Commis-
sion report, it gains many more di-
mensions in the light of
contemporary politics.
Speaking about his political
plays, G.P. Deshpande himself said
that it was important to look at the
political culturally. For him, transi-
tion was not something that absolved
itself from history or the past. It was
primarily a look at the political proc-
ess. I wanted to question and attack
our too unambiguous, too uncompli-
cated view of history as a grand, well-
dened story. The fresh look at histo-
ry amounts to coming to terms with
ones own surroundings, with ones
own errors and mistakes because
someone like me has come through
very different kinds of ideological
and political positions, and been tor-
mented in the process. My third ob-
jective, of course, is the retrieval of
the language.
Satyashodhak does not seek to
radically change the narrative style
or alter established theatrical proc-
esses. The fact that it is performed by
safai karmacharis of the Pune Maha-
nagarapalika Kamgar Union is revo-
lutionary and the telling gains an
unusual authenticity. They are illit-
erate, but very sharp. They under-
stand politics far better than the
educated middle class, said Pethe.
The lm and the play have been get-
ting an immense public response, so
much so that the government has
NEELAM MANSINGH CHOW-
DHRY is a theatre director and
academic. Roysten Abels play The
Kitchen brought back memories
of her sensory treat Kitchen
Katha, performed in the 1990s.
The play, which had an elaborate
kitchen on stage, told the story of
women for whom the kitchen was
a sanctuary; it was a place where
they could unburden themselves
and garner energy.
Recalling the play, Neelam
Mansingh says:
My play Kitchen Katha spoke
of the olfactory, which had never
been explored in theatre before.
My father grew up in a gurdwara
in Rawalpindi. Post-Partition,
when my grandparents moved to
Chandigarh, they lived in a gurd-
wara in Amritsar. Whenever I vis-
ited them, I was witness to a lot of
eating, sharing, cooking and do-
ing things together. The kitchen of
a gurdwara is central to several
activities. This picturesque way of
life in the gurdwara and its kitch-
en was lying in the archives of my
memory.
The Punjabi poet Surjit Patar,
with whom I have done a lot of
work, wanted me to do a play on
food. As I started thinking about
it, a narrative evolved. It is some-
thing that takes place between
women working in the kitchen as
they share stories of Partition, life,
their relationships and several
other things that are part of their
inner life. Food here is a medium
for expressing their emotions and
escaping miseries. For Chand
Kaur, the simple act of peeling an
onion, for instance, is the perfect
subterfuge for some quiet tears. A
spirit of community comes from
the food, and it nurtures the soul
and space. Food has always fasci-
nated me visually, so I also wanted
to capture the transformation of
food in the play, apart from other
things.
Deepa Ganesh
Kitchen katha
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released 80,000 job opportunities
for the members of the safai kar-
machari community. Excellent per-
formances and the remarkable
musical abilities of the safai karma-
charis make Satyashodhak a moving
piece of theatre.
THE KI TCHEN
The festivals inaugural play was the
ceremonial, grand production of
Roysten Abels The Kitchen. Encap-
sulating transition in stage lan-
guage, the play juxtaposed two very
different things. A one-line story of a
couple, traditional payasammakers,
who get into a ght as the payasam
gets cooked. It is set against the ritu-
alistic mizhavu drumming, an ac-
companiment for the traditional
koothu and koodiyattam perform-
ances of Kerala. The play references
Rumis kitchen in Turkey, not only in
trying to forge a connection between
food and spirituality but also in the
manner in which the play is laid out
it is said that Rumi sat to meditate
on a raised platform, with the cooks
on a level below that. The extraordin-
ary mizhavu players from Kalaman-
dalam occupy tiny chambers in a
huge structure that resembles the
mizhavu itself and the couple occupy
the front of the stage. As they embark
on the elaborate procedure of mak-
ing the payasam, a raging ght en-
sues between them: as the payasam
gets cooked, the audience, too, gets
cooked in their rage. The stunning
scenography, the aesthetic and visual
grandeur keeps one engaged with the
happenings on the stage. However,
the performance leaves one with dis-
jointed, fragmented experiences.
There is no moment of dialogue be-
tween the mizhavu players and the
couple, and everything remains as
disparate as it is in the beginning. In
this wordless play with striking vi-
sual qualities, even the drama that
the act of making the payasam in-
vokes becomes a part of the design,
failing to transcend into a metaphys-
ical experience. The deeply spiritual
nature of the mizhavu remains
haunting, independent of everything
else. In all, the philosophy of the play
remains a statement and not an en-
actment. The Kitchen is fraught with
the danger of privileging aesthetics
over actual theatre.
THE CAUCASI AN CHALK
CI RCLE
The reasons for Janakaraliya moving
away from the audience-goes-to-the-
theatre convention were completely
social. This Sri Lankan mobile cul-
tural group takes theatre to the peo-
ple: it moves from one place to the
other within the country holding
performances in the huge tents it
carries along with it. For the director,
Parakrama Niriella, the journey of
the multi-ethnic Janakaraliya into
the interiors of Sri Lanka is with the
intention of creating bridges be-
tween communities and taking the
message of peace. This practice,
known as applied theatre, seeks to
socially mobilise underprivileged ru-
ral communities and help war-torn
Sri Lanka surmount its difficulties
culturally.
Janakaraliyas tent was packed
for the lively and engaging perform-
ance of Bertolt Brechts The Cauca-
sian Chalk Circle. The play, which in
many ways reects the lives of the
Sinhalese, is about how civil war and
political upheaval can turn lives up-
BERTOLT BRECHT S THE CAUCASI AN CHALK CI RCLE performed by
Janakaraliya (theatre of the people), Sri Lanka.
FROM THE FESTI VAL S OPENI NG PLAY, Roysten Abels The Kitchen
(Can & Abel Theatre, India).
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 86
side down. Although it is unusual for
a Brechtian play to be kind to the
human lot, The Caucasian Chalk
Circle upholds the resolute spirit of
mankind. With the ring of the tent
transforming into its performance
space, Janakaraliya struck an instant
chord with the audience, who gradu-
ally became a part of the goings-on.
The festival brought into focus
many dimensions of the question of
transition. Transition meant differ-
ent things to different practitioners,
local and international. If for some
depiction in terms of language and
scenography was crucial, for others it
was intent. Quoting Elizabeth Le
Compte of the Wooster Group, Noel
Witts, in his lecture on shifts in the
language of European theatre, said:
My meaning is in the piece itself.
Witts saidthat performance material
could be representative of a country
or a choreographer or a directors
personal concerns. It could be a col-
lective solution or an attitude to
space or an acknowledgement of the
need of new and younger audiences.
NOT ONLY ABOUT STAGE
Theatre is not only about stage, said
Bartosz Szydowski, the Polish direc-
tor of Bath New Theatre. With the
belief that theatre was also about
building a commune, he started the
biggest project of his life eight years
ago in the neglected Nowa Huta
post-industrial district of Krakow.
This was his return to old-fash-
ioned concepts such as community
and social responsibility, taking the
route of sustainability. It seemed
that he could renew the perception of
a modern society. When we started
our Laznia Nowa Theatre in an old
factory and in a place that was de-
serted, with media support we told
people to come, discuss and chat
with us. Not just about theatre, but to
bring objects from their homes and
tell us stories. Even as Szydowski
triggered the communitys imagina-
tion with his project, he realised that
it was possible to practise good theat-
re without giving up ones dreams.
This model of publicly funded in-
stitution has strengthened the bonds
of the community, and theatre has
become an organic part of the life of
people in this marginalised district.
Nowa Huta now occupies an impor-
tant place in the map of theatre and
its festival is now one of the most
sought after in Europe.
Found theatre, said Prof. Susie
Tharu, was thinking of theatre as the
staging or framing, in other words, a
reection and analysis, of events that
were actually taking place in real life.
This, in a way, extended the thoughts
of many practitioners. But apart
from transition, since the discussion
was also around gender and violence,
basing her analysis on the campus
broadsheet of the English and For-
eign Languages University, she said
even though many of the writings
were based on gender issues, they
marked a major shift in thinking
about gender. It is a breakaway from
yesterdays engagement with sexual
violence, including the tools and con-
cepts that were developed. However,
gender discourses in university
spaces were more inclusive to issues,
she felt.
THE WALK
The actor, director and theatre
teacher Maya Raos performance The
Walk, in response to the December
2012 Delhi gang-rape incident,
seemed to say that methods of vio-
lence against women may have
changed, but the body bore a histor-
ical memory, and hence it was a mat-
ter of continuity. A performance that
has stirred and motivated audiences
at universities, on the streets, on for-
mal stages and several other venues
recognised that there were hardly
any de-gendered spaces for a wom-
M. D. PALLAVI in her cutting solo
performance C Sharp C Blunt (Flinntheatre
and M.D. Pallavi, Germany and India).
REVOLUTI ONARY MESSAGES (Grusomhetens Theatre,
Norway) and (on facing page) Transguration (Olivier de
Sagazan, France) blurred the lines between theatre and dance.
87 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
an. Wondering if in the actual sense
of the term she was a mere perform-
er in The Walk, she said: The Walk
is not just about the freedom to walk
the street at any hour of day or night
without fear; its about taking hold of
the night to think, reect, talk to each
other.
There was certainly a great ele-
ment of the personal for M.D. Pallavi
in her cutting solo performance in C
Sharp C Blunt. Have things changed
for the woman operating in the mod-
ern, technology-driven world or have
forms of violence just grown sharper
and more nuanced? Playing with
language, the performance brought
into sharp focus the altered methods
of commodication of the woman;
while she continues to be a sexually
loaded object, she is now also a user-
friendly app.
In contrast to the seemingly so-
phisticated modern world are socie-
ties like those in Africa, where
violence lives in its blatant forms.
Homosexuality is seen as going
against African spirituality by men
and women in African society. Their
method to set lesbians straight is
something called corrective rape,
explains Sara Matchett, who teaches
at the Department of Drama, Uni-
versity of Cape Town. The over-
whelming civil response in India to
the horric gang rape in Delhi shook
South Africans, at least momentar-
ily, surprising in a society which has
DEEPAN SIVARAMAN, artistic
director of International Theatre
Festival of Kerala 2014, is an asso-
ciate professor at the School of
Culture and Creative Expressions
of Ambedkar University, Delhi.
What were your guiding concerns
as the artistic director?
I have been part of earlier edi-
tions of the ITFoK, and as we
stand in the 21st century, I asked
myself what the questions we need
to address in this festival are. It is
important to question our notions
of text and stage. So where is dra-
ma? What kind of theatre gains
validity in this context? What is its
language? Theatre has to be seen
as collaborating with other visual
arts. So I decided to bring produc-
tions that use a new language of
theatre. I wanted people to watch
it and become a part of the de-
bates. Over the years, one has to
recognise that ways of seeing have
also changed. Proscenium theatre
is largely a civilised performance.
We are so used to seeing it in one
single way. The world over they
have experimented with theatre
space. It was important for me to
record the transition in
spectatorship.
Every artistic director comes with
his own curatorial concerns. Do
you think your beliefs about the
practice of theatre took it in a
particular direction?
Theatre is a response to socie-
ty, so you cannot do away with the
story. Whether it is Brecht or
Shakespeare, there has to be a sto-
ry. Then, as we were discussing,
the subject of violence came up.
The recent Supreme Court verdict
about sexuality brought even this
into the curatorial space.
Going by your works, your idea of
theatre is very different from the
prevalent modes of telling. Can
you explain?
It is not easy to step back or
move away from your beliefs. I
have been exploring theatre for
the past 10 years. The philosophi-
cal inquiry the world over has been
into visual language. All these
years the supremacy was with text,
and hence the writer was the core
of the play and not the director.
The dialogue is a dramatic text;
only when the transition takes
place will there be a performance
text. You watch a performance,
and listen to a performance. I
think it is time to move away from
a textual performance to a visual
performance.
Performances like Mephisto
Waltz, Transguration and
Revolutionary Messages pose
quite a challenge to the Indian
viewer. Do you not feel that
avant-garde performances such
as these are alien to the Indian
experience?
We are a country of storytell-
ers with rich oral traditions. Most
works that came had the story for-
mat for their narrative. But radical
things are happening outside In-
dia. And the theatre audience in
India needs to know exactly what
is happening even when they have
the right to reject it. For me, IT-
FoK 2014 is a curtain-raiser for
theatre of the world. It is easy to
access the world of cinema and
literature and nd out what is
happening. But it is nearly impos-
sible in theatre. People may hate a
play like Revolutionary Messages,
but you should see it to relook into
our own theatre practices.
For visual language
Interview with Deepan Sivaraman, artistic director
of ITFoK 2014. BY DEEPA GANESH
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 88
no space for gender imbalances in
most of its struggles. In South Afri-
ca, a woman gets raped every 26 sec-
onds.
The issues of transition and gen-
der have from time to time been ad-
dressed by theatre. In the light of
sociopolitical transformations, they
acquire new dimensions, which
could be in experimenting with form,
language, stage design, and so on. To
sumit up, Anuradha Kapoor, former
director, National School of Drama,
said: Through an aggregation of
productions made largely by women
directors, the 1980s saw a body of
work that signalled realities that
were on a register different from the
one dominantly inscribed in the
eld. Women directors devised, im-
provised, reinterpreted given texts,
and repurposed classical narratives.
They also sought to open up ques-
tions of gender, subjectivities and
identities in ways that were new.
These jolted the spectator out of a
moral complacency. The generation
of theatre makers now appear to be
the affiliates. These are lateral ties
spreading on the ground.
ITFoK 2014 made possible a
platform where different kinds of
concerns on the range of subjects
that constitute theatre could be artic-
ulated. It brought together ideas and
ideologies of what transition meant
to practitioners, local and interna-
tional. Avant-garde performances
like Mephisto Waltz, Transgura-
tion, and Revolutionary Messages,
which blurred the lines between the-
atre and dance, opened a window to
changing theatre practices in the rest
of the world. The audience, going by
its reaction, certainly remained
amazed by what the human body
could achieve. Nevertheless, theatre
is more important for what it says
and disseminates than for the mate-
rial it brings together. Whether one
remains with history and tradition or
moves away from it, whether theatre
is playwright-centric or director-
centric, whether it employs a new
language and new dynamics, theatre
is a lot about a story told effectively,
stories that have the power to change
society. The ITFoK set in motion a
meaningful debate.
M.V. NARAYANAN, Professor of
English at the University of Cali-
cut, was in the three-member
team that organised the colloqui-
um at the ITFoK. He was able,
with clarity and scholarship, to
map the trajectory of theatre theo-
ry and practice.
Has body become central to the
new discourse of theatre?
There is a moving away from
the literary text to focus on the
actuality of theatre. It is a moving
away from tradition to what is ac-
tually happening, a looking at the
self. Body and space are becoming
key issues in our discussions in
theatre. Now the focus is on the
material of theatre. Words are be-
coming less important. If it is
through the body you know the
world, body becomes an embod-
iment of culture.
With the self forming the
epicentre, does it take theatre
away from the community?
Body is not necessarily the in-
dividual body. Chandralekhas
work focussed on the body in
many different ways. They were
bodies in interaction with each
other. So, questions like what is
body? what can be done? how do
you work through the body? come
up. In all these questions, there
are other bodies involved. Pinter
speaks of a door. Its very presence
constitutes anticipation. If a per-
son comes in, it changes the dy-
namics of the room. If no one
does, there is anticipation of
someone coming. The presence of
a body is always in anticipation of
another. So body is not a biolog-
ical body but a cultural body.
Is theatre more political than
before? Can we wish away
tradition?
As spectators, audience, theat-
re makers, we are perhaps more
aware of it. In the world that we
live in, every action is loaded, it is
difficult to ignore that. He or she
is constrained to act in a certain
way, question in a certain way.
This knowledge is reected in
their practice and work.
Having said that, in all these
years of history was there any-
thing that was apolitical? Our life
is made up of stories; we are con-
stantly making stories and it is
something that we can never
avoid. We need to be conscious of
the various levels of the story. We
unmake one thing to make some-
thing else of it. Interpretations al-
ways try to be total, whereas
phenomena are not.
A performance like Mephisto
Waltz coexists with Bharatana-
tyam and Koodiyattam; however,
the responses to them are contem-
porary. You can ght and resist
Bharatanatyam and Koodiyat-
tam, nevertheless you are working
within it.
Why does theory and practice
always remain separate?
It is true of most creative dis-
courses. They are like oil and wa-
ter. There needs to be a dialogue,
but there are also limitations to
that dialogue. In fact, writers like
[Wole] Soyinka spoke about the
importance of knowing the nitty-
gritty of theatre. I am not sure
how far a critical discourse will
help a creative artist. Theory is
another ball game altogether.
Now the focus is on
the material of theatre
Interview with M.V. Narayanan, Professor of
English, University of Calicut. BY DEEPA GANESH
R
EREADINGS and counter-
readings are a way of retriev-
ing texts and making them
available to contemporary readers in
new ways in which they can easily
relate to them as also for diverse aes-
thetic and ideological uses. The theo-
retical premise that encourages
multiple readings of a text was pre-
pared chiey by reception theorists
like Wolfgang Iser, Roman Ingarden
and Jonathan Culler and thinkers
and analysts like Pierre Macherey,
Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida
whose meta-readings of old and new
texts led to their radical re-evalua-
tions. There are many factors that can
make a rereading radical or other-
wise: the social and historical prem-
ise; the ideological tools being used;
the readers (critics) positions vis-a-
vis gender, social class, caste, race,
sexuality and majority/minority
which could be status-quoist and he-
gemonic or revolutionary and coun-
ter-hegemonic/subaltern. I am
speaking here only of rereadings,
which however cannot completely be
extricated from rewriting, of which
examples abound in contemporary
nia Bharati, Pudumaipithan, Ambai,
Chalam, Volga, and othershave
been brought together. Writers like
Pratibha Ray, M.T. Vasudevan Nair,
P.K. Balakrishnan, S.L. Bhyrappa,
Girish Karnad, Ratan Teyam, Ma-
hasweta Devi and Lathalakshmi
have attempted rewritings of epi-
sodes and re-visioning of characters
from Mahabharata while others like
Paul Zacharia, Sara Joseph and
Anand have rewritten tales from the
Bible.
Rereadings of canonical texts
side by side with the discovery of bur-
ied and forgotten texts have certainly
literature, especially in the work of
subaltern writers who have rewritten
episodes from epics like Mahabhara-
ta and Ramayana, religious texts like
the Bible as well as regional myths
and legends. But that is subject
enough for another essay. I may just
point to Ramayana Stories in Mod-
ern South India edited by Paula
Richman (University of Indiana
Press) as one anthology where sever-
al rewritings of episodes from Ra-
mayanaby Kumaran Asan, N.S.
Madhavan, K.B. Sreedevi, C.N. Sree-
kantan Nair, K. Satchidanandan,
Kuvempu, Vijaya Dabbe, Subrama-
The politics of rereading
Rereadings of canonical texts side by side with the discovery of buried
and forgotten texts have certainly unleashed a lot of radical energy
in the realm of criticism.
ROMI LA THAPAR.
R
.
R
A
G
U
Thapar reveals
the Orientalist
determinations
behind the
reception of
Sakuntala.
89 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 90
unleashed a lot of radical energy in
the realm of criticism. Just to take
examples from a single language,
Malayalam, critics like B. Rajeevan,
V.C. Sreejan, S.S. Sreekumar, E.V.
Ramakrishnan, P. Udayakumar, V.
Sanil, S. Saradakkutty, J. Devika, Di-
leep Menon and M.T. Ansari have
been consistently rereading texts
from various, mostly subaltern,
points of view. They have been trying
to expose the ideological determina-
tions that underlie representations,
especially of Dalits, Muslims, Adiva-
sis and women, in the texts they
choose to reread. The new readings
of Sree Narayana Guru and C.V. Ra-
man Pillai by P. Udayakumar, the
reading of Pothery Kunhambus Sa-
raswativijayam, a Dalit novel, by
Dileep Menon, the readings of Chan-
du Menon by M.T. Ansari, the read-
ings of some texts of Kumaran Asan
by S. Saradakkutty and V. Sanil il-
lustrate this trend. B. Rajeevan and
P. Udayakumar, for example, have
looked at the evolution of the con-
cept of the body in Sree Narayana
Guru as he moves from works like
Mananateetam, Siva Satakam and
Indriya Vairagyam to Atmopadesa
Satakam, Advaita Jeevitam and
Suddhipanchakam. Sree Narayana
Guru denies ontological status to the
body, but gives it epistemological
status and discovers a subtle body
(sookshma sareera) within the gross
body (sthoola sareera).
The body can attain purity once it
is liberated from the gross body.
Then it will be capable of spiritual
bliss. This is the moment where com-
munity enters Sree Narayanas sys-
tem, for, the reforms within the
communitiesin education, econo-
my, health, etc.enable societies to
attain this bliss, as the material and
spiritual arrangements need to be
coordinated like the organs of a body
to lead to enlightenment, to recall his
statement in AdvaitaJeevitam. Here
he reminds us of Tirumular, the Ta-
mil Saivite saint, as well as Basava,
the Kannada Saivite reformer, both
of whom accepted the interdepend-
ence of the body and the soul. It is the
body that bears the organic marks of
distinction in man; caste marks and
caste titles are an aberration that
hide these organic markers. So there
are only two castes among humans
men and women. (The third gen-
der was probably theoretically invis-
ible at that point of time.) Sree
Narayana thus views caste as a false
distinction, religion as nothing more
than a matter of opinion, and the
community as the locus of concrete
social action. In 1916, Sree Narayana
declared that he did not belong to
any caste or religion. Human com-
munity, he said, would be born only
when false distinctions and hierar-
chies disappeared. This was the basic
principle of the Renaissance that was
soon to transform the society in
Kerala.
Dileep Menons reading of Sa-
raswativijayam, a novel by Pothery
Kunhambu published in 1892, looks
at Kunhambus project closely to dis-
cover that initially he, too, had
thought of reforming the Hindu so-
ciety but later abandoned it as im-
possible. The author, an Ezhava who
was often called Pulayan Kunham-
bu for his concern for the Pulaya
community, found that tradition was
impervious to modernity. The novel
is an example of the spatial delineat-
ion of issues of power, hierarchy and
inequality as the characters traverse
different territories of freedom and
knowledge. Travel becomes a meta-
phor of individual redemption here
as the cruel landlord, Kuberan Nam-
boodiri, travels to Kasi, Marathan,
the Pulaya protagonist travels to Ma-
dras, and Subhadra, the Namboodi-
ris daughter falsely accused of
extramarital relations and banished
from her caste, travels to Kannoor to
escape from the enclosed space of
historical memory. Kuberan has a
change of heart; Marathan converts
to Christianity, studies law and be-
comes a judge; Subhadra, too, con-
verts and becomes a teacher and gets
reunited with her husband who, too,
converts to Christianity.
Christianity is the mediator of
modernity in the text. Kunhambu
did share the creative tension be-
tween the possibility of an internal
critique of Hinduism and the prag-
matic and robust alternative of em-
powerment through colonial
education, though nally he found
that liberation was unattainable
within the Hindu fold, a fact that
Ambedkar, too, was to discover later,
though his choice was not Christian-
ity, but Buddhism. Saraswativi-
jayam is not a revenge novel, nor a
conversion tract; conversion here is a
metaphor for the new possibilities
opened up by colonialism and mod-
ernity. It may be noted that while
elite thinkers like Ramakrishna, Vi-
vekananda and DayanandaSaraswa-
ti championed an internal critique of
Hinduism and found habitation
within reformed religion, most of the
subaltern thinkers found a solution
to caste inequality only in conver-
sion. Sree Narayana was an excep-
tion, as, through a philosophical
inversion, he could free himself from
all religions.
DI FFERENT SAKUNTALAS
Romila Thapar has reread Kalidasas
Abhijnana Sakuntalam from a his-
torical point of view to reveal the
Orientalist determinations behind
its reception. She has shown how Ka-
lidasas Sakuntala is delicate, shy,
meek, faithful and unquestioning in
her obedience, returning with tears
from Dushyantas court when he dis-
owns her, as different from the Sa-
The anthology edited by
Susie Tharu and K. Lalita
traces the evolution of
women's writing in India
across centuries.
91 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
kuntala of Adiparva in the
Mahabharata where she is strong
and independent and boldly interro-
gates Dushyantas sense of justice
and decorum. She puts certain con-
ditions even before she enters into a
gandharva relationship with the
king. Kalidasas description ts in ve-
ry much with the romantic concept
of the innocent forest virgin embar-
rassed by the awakening of desire. In
fact, there is a whole romantic oppo-
sition at work here between the sim-
ple, picturesque ashram in the woods
that represents rusticity and inno-
cence and the splendid palace of the
king that stands for the urban with
its accent on power and cunning. Ka-
lidasas Sakuntala was the kind of
ideal heroine that the romantics
were looking for. Goethe describes
her as a rustic girl, a child of na-
ture with elegant limbs and graceful
undulating gait. Popularised in the
West through Monier Williams En-
glish translation, from which the
German translation was done by Ge-
org Forster in 1791, Abhijnana Sa-
kuntalam tted very well with the
Orientalist project of romanticising
the East reected equally well in co-
lonial photography and the Compa-
ny paintings.
The Germans also exulted in the
racial bonds between the ancient In-
dians and Europeans whom they
considered Aryans, whatever that
term stands for. For French Indol-
ogists like Sylvane Levy and Russian
Indologists like Oldenberg, Sakunta-
la was part of their fantasy about
India. She was the ideal Hindoo
woman, also, for the Indian middle
class nationalists, who, like the Ori-
entalists, bemoaned the fall of the
ideal Indian womanhood. Rabindra-
nath Tagore also upheld Sakuntala,
combining in his approach the Brit-
ish Orientalist attitudes of the 19th
century, the nascent nationalist sen-
timent and Victorian moralism. Ro-
mila Thapar upholds Shantarams
portrayal of Sakuntala in his lm
Stree as being faithful to her por-
trayal in the Mahabharata as also the
contemporary interpretation one
comes across in Nachiket Patward-
hans Anant Yatra, which brings Sa-
kuntala to modern Bombay where
Dushyanta is a business executive.
The lm hints that any appreciation
of the naive and frail Sakuntala today
can only be an escape from contem-
porary oppressive patriarchal urban
reality.
Postcolonial readings, especially
informed by Edward Saids theoret-
ical insights, have helped unearth the
colonial prejudices behind a lot of
work on Indianot literature alone,
but also photographs and paintings.
These interrogations, while at times
reductive or eclectic, have helped
make writers and readers conscious
of the dangers of (mis)representa-
tion.
The patriarchal canons are being
interrogated, myths revisioned, texts
decoded and literary history revised
by many feminist critics and theoret-
icians. Susie Taru and K. Lalita have
traced in their introduction to the
anthology Women Writing in India,
Sixth Century B.C. to the Present
(Oxford University Press) the evolu-
tion of womens writing in India
across centuries. Uma Chakravarty,
Vijaya Dabbe, Madhu Kishwar, So-
nal Shukla, Leela Mullati, Parita
Mukta, Vijaya Ramaswamy and oth-
ers have reread the poetry of women
saints like Lal Ded, Akka Mahadevi,
Satyakka, Kadire Rammavve, Aya-
dakki Lakkamma, Muktayakka, An-
dal, Karaykkal Ammayar, Meerabai,
Gangasati, Janabai and Bahinabai to
show how Bhakti was to them a tool
to escape gender distinction, patri-
archal oppression and domestic con-
nement just as it was to the
Buddhist nuns like Mutta, Ubbiri or
Sumangalamata of the sixth century
BCE.
God becomes a way of dissolving
an otherwise impossible situation in
these saints. Their worldly marriag-
es, actual as well as potential, repre-
sent both the lure and the bondage of
the world while their relationship to
God represents a renunciation of the
world and the womans traditional
roles in it. Like Susie nds the lyrics
of Terigatha to be, their poems are
epiphanic experiences in which the
painful constructions of secular life
fall away and the torment of feelings
subsides as the peace and freedom of
nirvana are attained. While they ex-
ult in their new life transformed by
Bhakti, they also contrast it to the
painful worlds they have left behind.
These poets created an alternative
family, resisted the oppressive social
role imposed upon them by the male-
dominated society and simultane-
ously created a parallel language of
experience and emotion.
A lot of scholars and academics
like Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Malashree
Lal, Vrinda Nabbar, Brinda Bose,
Ruth Vanita, Gayatri Chakravarty
Spivak, J. Devika, Anita Devasia,
G.S. Jayasree and S. Saradakkutty
have also done considerable research
in womens discourses and the repre-
sentation of women in literary texts
by men. Same-sex Love in India:
Readings from Literature and Histo-
ry edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem
Kidwai (Macmillan), while being an
anthology of gay and lesbian texts,
also rereads a lot of ancient and me-
dieval Indian texts like Mahabhara-
ta, Krittivasa Ramayana,
Manikanthajataka, Panchatantra,
Kathasaritsagara, Padmapurana,
Bhagavatapurana, Skandapurana
and Shivapurana from the homoe-
rotic point of view.
Eco-criticism is another mode of
rereading that focusses entirely on
This collection, edited by
Paula Richman, brings
together several
rewritings of episodes
from Ramayana.
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 92
the text without looking at its organic
relationship with nature and the
larger universe. Even though it was
William Rueckert (Literature and
Ecology: An Experiment in Eco-Crit-
icism, 1978) who introduced the
term, it was Joseph Meekers The
Comedy of Survival: Studies in Lit-
erary Ecology (1974) that rst de-
ned the subject. According to
Meeker, literary ecology was con-
cerned with the biological themes
appearing in literature. Its aim was
also to discover the role of literature
in human ecology. Literary works, he
said, often reveal mans beliefs about
the truth of natural processes and the
cultural ideologies that have brought
human race to the modern environ-
mental crisis. Cherryll Glotfelty, who
edited the rst eco-criticism reader
(1996), describes eco-criticism as an
attempt to unravel the exchanges be-
tween nature and culture. It has one
leg in literature and the other on
earth: as a theoretical discourse it
connects equally with human beings
and non-human ones. Writers world
is not only the social world, but the
ecosphere itself. Earth, she says, is at
the centre of eco-criticism just as
gender is at the centre of feminist
criticism and class at that of Marxist
criticism. Eco-criticism, according to
Lawrence Buel, brings space into the
critical agenda that has so far been
conned to the theme, plot and char-
acters. He sees it as an umbrella term
that embraces various modes and
approaches.
It has also been called ego-crit-
icism (Sven Birkerts, Only God can
Make a Tree: The Joys and Sorrows
of Eco-Criticism) as it rereads litera-
ture to discover what it has to say
about mans egocentrism, greed and
craze for wealth and power. Some
eco-critics also draw strength from
Engels Dialectics of Nature, Ray-
mond Williams insights into the
city-country contradictions, and the
works of Adorno, Walter Benjamin
and other new Marxist thinkers. The
anthology Haritaniroopanam Ma-
layalathil (Green Criticism In Ma-
layalam) edited by G.
Madhusoodanan carries 76 different
samples of what can be broadly
called eco-criticism in Malayala-
malong with 16 theoretical piec-
esthat began to grow with the
environmental awareness generated
by the struggle against the proposed
dam in the rainforests of the Silent
Valley. The book carries rereadings
of many Malayalam literary texts
based on the concepts of eco-Marx-
ism, eco-Feminism, eco-Ethics and
eco-Spirituality in literary criticism.
It was perhaps Sharad Patils
book in Marathi, Abrahmani Sah-
ityanche Saundaryasastra, that rst
launched an attack on Brahmin aes-
thetics and spoke of the need for a
counter-poetics. Sharan Kumar
Limbale in his book Towards an Aes-
thetics of Dalit Literature has at-
tempted a critique of status-quoist
Marathi aesthetics as also of the ad-
ulatory as well as negative criticism
of Dalit literature by savarna critics.
He points out that Dalit literature is
not meant to entertain readers but to
provoke them into rethinking their
society and its ethics and aesthetics.
It is impossible to investigate Dalit
writing with its rebellion, rejection
and commitment with the establish-
ed critical tools meant for the litera-
ture of acquiescence and consent. He
does not agree with critics like Yadu-
nath Thatte who want to enlarge the
rasa theory to include revolt and cry
as the tenth and eleventh rasas.
What is needed is a new aesthetics
that takes into account the differ-
entness of Dalit writing in content
as well as form. Aestheticist criticism
cannot digest the non-traditional
stance of Dalit literature. For that
freedom will have to be recognised as
an aesthetic value. The intensity of
experience, the way the experience is
socialised, its power to cross the
boundaries of time and spacethese
are the standards Limbale proposes
for the evaluation of Dalit literature.
DALI T I MAGI NATI ON
D.R. Nagaraj in his book The Flam-
ing Feet: A Study of the Dalit Move-
ment in India has gone deeper into
the specics of Dalit sensibility and
Dalit imagination and the problem
of cultural memory in the context of
the cosmologies of caste and the real-
ism in Kannada ction. He traces the
cultural memory of Dalits to the sub-
altern, radical, traditions, folk cos-
mologies, rural myths and oral
narratives which are getting lost in
the oppressive process of Sanskriti-
sation pursued by Hindu revivalists.
He looks at the cults of Madeswara
and Manteswamy in southern Kar-
nataka as examples. He points out
how the cultural paradigm of the na-
tionalists had no place for Dalit cul-
tural traditions and practices. The
monolithic cultural model erected
on the basis of Vedanta by the Hindu
Right also precludes all the philoso-
phic and cultural expressions of Da-
lits. Nagaraj makes a very insightful
comparative rereading of U.R.
Anantha Murthys Samskara and
Devanoor Mahadevas Kusumabale
to show how caste has been an im-
portant factor in determining their
modes of representation and imag-
ination. Samskara gives the readers
an insight into the self-image of the
Brahmin by allowing them to see the
world through the eyes of Pranesa-
charya, whose attempts to break the
system miserably fail as against that
of Naranappa, his alter ego who com-
pletely breaks free of tradition and its
taboos.
This, according to him, is also the
failure of the novel as it cannot estab-
lish the sexual contact between the
Brahmin and the non-Brahmin as a
possible way to break free of the op-
pressive caste society. Realism frus-
trates the novels radical ambitions.
But Kusumabale rejects the notion
of veriable reality at the very outset
and follows a folk narrative form.
While Samskara ignores the socio-
economic power structures, thus
turning its concern more metaphys-
ical, Kusumabale counterposes the
personal and the political realms of
the caste structure and nds that sex-
ual contact like the one in Samskara
can only lead to violence within the
existing power structure. Devanoor
Mahadeva revives the Dalit mode of
imagination as when a cot tells a sto-
ry and a lamp turns into a woman
who comments on the events of the
day. The narrative is open and works
at multiple levels while Samskara is
highly centred and has an ending
that closes the narrative.
satchida@gmail.com
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SOCIAL ISSUES
ON March 9, New Delhi wit-
nessed an unusual exhibition of tra-
ditional art forms at a most unlikely
venue. Acrobats walked the tight-
rope displaying their bravura and
puppeteers put up a good show in a
ne exhibit of their skills. In a corner,
a few artists deftly carved complicat-
ed animal gurines out of wood,
while in another, some women dex-
terously made chic, colourful wall
mounts in minutes. Qawwals, or Su
vocalists, brought out their spiritual
selves on stage, and traditional per-
cussionists drummed up enthusiasm
for a uniquely pulsating environ-
ment created by this diverse group of
artists. A display of skills rather than
art, this exhibition stood out for its
magnicence. However, what
seemed like celebrations galore were
in fact a protest against the govern-
ment by these artists who live in a
slum that stands, perhaps, only to be
demolished by April 1.
Kathputli Colony, the venue of
the exhibition, is a slum or what the
Delhi government calls a jhuggi jho-
pri cluster in west Delhi. It derives
its name from the puppeteers who
rst settled here around 60 years
ago. As time passed by, it became a
slum inhabited not only by artists,
artisans, and sculptors from differ-
ent parts of the country but also mi-
grant labourers, safai karmacharis,
construction workers and masons.
Today, there are at least 12 organised
communities that stay here, each
community with its own pradhan,
the nominated head. The residents of
the slum claim that the puppeteers
from Rajasthan converted the erst-
while swampy, high grasslands of
what is now called the Kathputli Col-
Strings attached
Residents of Kathputli Colony protest against the Delhi Development
Authoritys plans to demolish their slum and develop it with the help
of a prominent construction company. BY AJOY ASHI RWAD MAHAPRASHASTA
AN ARTI ST RESI DI NG I N KATHPUTLI COLONY at the cultural exhibition to protest against the Delhi Development
Authoritys move to demolish the slum and develop it.
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ony into a liveable place. There were
just jungles in and around this place.
We lled up this land to make it in-
habitable. Since we were a group of
artists staying here, it became a nat-
ural abode for other poor artists who
came to Delhi for work, said Ra-
mesh Tandon, a puppeteer who was
born in the slum 55 years ago.
Kathputli Colony is unique be-
cause of its composition. Being a
slum populated mostly by artists, it is
a colourful colony, with most resi-
dents moving around in their tradi-
tional attire. Children pick up their
familys traditional art form at an
early age. One can see children as
young as ve years playing drums or
the shehnai, trying their hands at
making sculptures, or working on
puppets. Many have been called to
perform at international venues.
Many have also received government
awards. And yet they have remained
poor, with hardly any income to live
beyond their own jhuggis.
In the last fortnight, Kathputli
Colony became one of the most
prominent sites of contestation be-
tween the people and the govern-
ment. The Delhi Development
Authority (DDA), the capitals pre-
miere urban planning body under
the Union government, plans to de-
molish the slum and develop it with
the help of a prominent construction
company. What the DDA promises
the slum-dwellers at present is a
multistorey apartment complex in
situ in a period of two years. If the
project goes through, each registered
family will get a 38-square-metre
house in this complex. In the mean-
time, the DDA wants the residents of
the colony to shift to a transit camp
made for them in Anand Parbat,
around 12 kilometres from the colo-
ny. The transit camp is run by the
construction company.
Under the Rajiv Awas Yojana, a
scheme that was started in 2009 to
cater to the housing needs of the ur-
ban poor, the construction rm land-
ed the contract the same year to
develop the slum. In a public-pri-
vate partnership (PPP) project, the
DDA awarded this rm around 14
acres of land (one acre is 0.4 hectare)
to construct a multistoreyed apart-
ment complex in Kathputli Colony
for its residents. In return, the build-
ers were asked to deposit Rs.6.11
crore with the DDA as tender money
and a refundable sum of Rs.10 crore
as performance guarantee. After the
completion of the project, the build-
ers are to be given 0.97 acre of land,
in which they can construct commer-
cial complexes and residential apart-
ments.
However, given the history of
slum demolitions in New Delhi, the
residents are sceptical. Instead of a
multistoreyed house, they are de-
manding that if at all the DDA is
planning to develop the colony, they
should be given plots of land in
which they can make their own
houses according to their require-
ments. They told Frontline that none
of the slums that had been demol-
ished were rehabilitated in situ. We
do not believe that the DDA will let
us come back here if we leave. It has
sold off our homes to the builders,
said Dileep Bhatt, pradhan of Bhule
Bheesre Kalakaar Sahakar Samiti, a
KATHPUTHLI COLONY derives its name from the puppeteers who rst
settled there around 60 years ago. Today it has artists, artisans, sculptors,
daily-wage labourers, construction workers and safai karmacharis.
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conglomerate of artists living in
Kathputli Colony. The samiti has
been in existence since the 1970s.
REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT
The government did not consult us
even once before it went ahead with
this redevelopment project. It must
understand that such small houses in
a multistoreyed apartment will be re-
dundant for us as we need more
space to work. Some of us make pup-
pets, some are sculptors. Where will
we keep our paraphernalia in a one-
room house? Even the drummers,
the Kalandars and the magicians in
the village will need space to keep
their instruments. The DDA should
conduct a public hearing to under-
stand our demands, he said.
The transit camps where the resi-
dents of the colony are expected to
stay in the interim period are con-
structed with bre and are one-room
sets, something like porta cabins.
The residents claimed that most peo-
ple who had moved into such transit
camps in other parts of the city were
never rehabilitated. But what both-
ered them the most was that the shift
could take a heavy toll on their live-
lihoods. Most women in the colony
work as domestic helps in nearby ar-
eas. It will burn our pockets to com-
mute from the transit camps. Many
work as daily-wage labourers in the
locality. We fear our work will suffer
if we shift, said Rama, a resident of
the colony.
The DDA dismisses the resi-
dents fear. We want them to live in
hygienic conditions and in modern
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A SLUM POPULATED MOSTLY BY ARTI STS, Kathputli Colony is a colourful place. Most residents move around in their
traditional attire, and children pick up their familys traditional art form at an early age. One can see children as young as
ve years playing drums or the shehnai, trying their hands at making sculptures, or working on puppets.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 96
houses. What is wrong with the pro-
ject? If the builders are unable to
perform, we will conscate the secu-
rity amount, said S.P. Auluck, the
DDA official in charge of the project.
However, information accessed
by a few residents through the Right
to Information (RTI) Act suggests
that the DDA has been quite lenient
with the builders. When the con-
struction rm was awarded the con-
tract, the completion date for the
project was September 2011. But, vi-
olating the terms and conditions of
the agreement, it was given an exten-
sion without any hesitation when it
could not complete the project.
The residents feel that the project
will only benet the private devel-
oper who stands to make a prot of
around Rs.600 crore. They are pro-
testing against four main irregular-
ities after they accessed information
under the RTI.
Firstly, the audit report of the
project by the Auditor General, Del-
hi, in March 2011 reports that Kath-
putli Colonys land, costing Rs.1,043
crore according to a conservative es-
timate, was auctioned off to the con-
struction rm for a mere Rs.6.11
crore. Secondly, the State Environ-
mental Appraisal Committee and
the Delhi Urban Arts Commission
have pointed out problems with the
site plan and expressed grave con-
cerns about the misuse of FAR (oor
area ratio) provisions to enlarge
commercial and remunerative com-
ponents while reducing the space
available for the 2,700 EWS ats
(under the economically weaker sec-
tion category) proposed for the resi-
dents of Kathputli Colony.
Thirdly, of the roughly 3,200
families on the site who were sur-
veyed in 2010-11, only 2,641 gure
on the list published on the DDAs
website as on February 24, 2014.
Over half of these families are re-
corded to have no supporting docu-
ments other than the ration card,
which will have to be further veried.
And lastly, in the viability calculation
of the project, the actual costing of
the ats has been done on the basis of
19.6 sq m as opposed to the 38 sq m
promised to the residents.
To top the woes of residents,
there have been minimal efforts by
the DDA to introduce transparency
in the whole process and winthe con-
dence of the residents. Instead,
through the month of February, the
DDA and police officials were threat-
ening the residents with force, most
residents claimed. After sustained
protests by the residents of Kathputli
Colony, the Lieutenant Governor of
Delhi postponed the demolition un-
til April 1. Taking note of the opacity
in the process of eviction, the Delhi
High Court directed the DDA on
March 21 to conduct a survey to en-
sure that all families eligible for relo-
cation were included. It also took an
undertaking from the DDA that no
force would be used during the reset-
tlement process.
SANI TI SI NG THE CI TI ES
Redevelopment of slums in Indian
metropolises has come to mean san-
itising the cities and driving out the
poor to their peripheries. Kathputli
Colony is not the rst one that could
meet this fate. In 2010, during the
preparations for the Commonwealth
Games, many big slums of New Delhi
were razed to put up a facade of a
world-class city in front of the for-
eigners who visited India. Instead of
implementing dynamic urban de-
signs to accommodate the poor with-
in the city limits, the governments
have sought to demolish the habita-
tions of the poor in big cities. And
this is being done in the name of
redevelopment of slums.
The New Delhi-based Housing
and Land Rights Network (HLRN)
has attempted to track forced evic-
tions across India during 2013. The
data are not complete, but according
to information received on instances
of forced evictions, at least 11,400
families, which means at least
60,000 people, including women,
children, members of religious mi-
norities, the Scheduled Castes, per-
sons with disabilities and the elderly,
were forcibly evicted from their
homes in 2013, for reasons ranging
from road widening to city beauti-
cation. Rehabilitation has report-
edly not been provided in most of the
cases and the majority of the dis-
placed families have been left to fend
for themselves. The HLRN lists out
20 such incidents in 2013 where re-
habilitation has not happened.
A document prepared by the Na-
tional Forum for Housing Rights
points out that the so-called Gujarat
development model that is being cel-
ebrated by the Bharatiya Janata Par-
ty has a very poor record when it
comes to affordable housing and
slum demolition. As recently as Feb-
ruary 2014, the government of Guj-
arat forcibly evicted 474 families
(affecting over 2,500 women, men
and children) across the State and
demolished their homes, its press re-
lease says.
As per Census of India 2011, a
total of 13.75 million households live
in slums. Many believe the gure is
an underestimation. The Rajiv Awas
Yojana proudly claims that it intends
to build a slum-free country. How-
ever, a crony capitalist system has led
to private builders benetting the
most out of the scheme. In the proc-
ess, the urban poor are pushed to the
peripheries of the city.
In her essay Maximum City,
Minimum Shelter, Usha Rama-
nathan, a lawyer, while speaking
about the slum demolition drive,
says, The Indian city is in the throes
of change. It is being reimagined,
with ambitions of becoming a
Shanghai, a Singapore, or, more gen-
erally, a world city. Naturally, there
is no longer any space in it for the
poor and their squalid settlements.
Characterising the slum-dweller as
an encroacher and as being in ille-
gal occupation [of] government
land has lent language and an as-
sumed legitimacy to the epidemic of
demolitions that has been unleashed
on the urban poor the imagery has
taken the slum-dweller past illegality
to criminality.
The protest in Kathputli Colonys
is only a symbol of the bigger dis-
connect that has happened between
the Indian state and its people. What
ostensibly looks like slum demolition
is actually a systematic process
through which the Indian city is
gradually transforming its demo-
graphic character. The sanitisation
of the Indian city comes at the cost of
the poor.
97 F R ONTL I NE
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BOOKS in review
W
E cannot lose faith in
the collective will
and power of citizenship.
The participatory politics
of peoples movements
lends respectability to the
idea of democracy and
sends out a clear message:
it is time for the public to
realise that every ve years
the country engages in an
electoral exercise that be-
stows power in the hands
of a few while the public is
totally silenced until the
next elections. This is an
electoral lie of democra-
cies. As Elisee Reclus, the
French anarchist, argued,
to vote is to abdicate.
Choose your masters and
then sanction privileged
ways of maintaining the
powerful institutions of
domination. Through the
right to vote, you become
the self executioner of
your right to dissent or in-
tervene.
Normand Baillargeon,
in his timely book Order
Without Power, argues
through his analysis of the
philosophy of anarchism
that in order to full hu-
man nature and ensure
that human life thrives, it is
imperative to respond to
and resist the global phe-
nomenon of oppression.
His examination of the his-
tory of social and political
mise individual freedom,
which is ones birthright, is
through a brand of anar-
chism that has both a his-
torical force and a deeply
positive ideology of abso-
lute welfare of the public.
Unfortunately, in the
hands of the media and
their controllers, this
school of thought takes a
rather destructive or
negative complexion as
seen in the heated debates
over the unlawful inter-
ventions of the Aam Aadmi
Party (AAP).
Noam Chomsky is of
the view that anarchism is
a tendency in the history
of human thought and ac-
tion which seeks to identify
coercive, authoritarian,
and hierarchic structures
of all kinds, and to chal-
lenge their legitimacy.
Baillargeon elaborates that
the philosophy of anar-
chism is misunderstood
not only by the common
man but also by the right-
wing intellectuals. It is not
the absence of government
or order, as regarded by
many, but etymologically
anarchy stands for the ab-
sence of power or author-
ity, where an means
absence and archie gov-
ernment. Order in society
does not ensue from con-
trol or governance; order,
born in the absence of pow-
er, is produced in a state of
freedom. Opposition to au-
thority is not a state of dis-
order; it is a cry for
freedom and justice, an
Committed anarchist
An insight into revolutionary politics from below. BY SHELLEY WALI A
Order Without
People
An Introduction to
Anarchism: History &
Current Challenges
by Normand
Baillargeon
Seven Stories Press,
New York
Pages: 143
Price: $16.95
Oh good elector,
inescapable imbecile, poor
wretch go home and
start a strike.
Octave Mirbeau
Under the overwhelm-
ing force of capitalism and
bureaucracy, the smoul-
dering undercurrents of
anarchism will always be
there, which, in the words
of Rudolf Rocker, the anar-
cho-syndicalistwriter and
activist, is a denite trend
in the historic development
of mankind, which
strives for the free, unhin-
dered unfolding of all the
individual and social forces
in life. Anarchism must re-
place democracy with its
foremost objective being
to secure the personaland
social freedom of men.
However, the state takes all
measures to silence the an-
archists to a routine of es-
tablished inertia or
irrelevance so visible in the
working of our established
and unchanging govern-
ance mechanisms.
Keeping in view the po-
litical philosophy of Jean-
Jacques Rousseau, the Car-
tesians and other
libertarians, it is believed
that the best way to maxi-
dissent demonstrates that
there have been upright,
law-abiding citizens who
believed that they had been
driven by their conscience
to alter the system over is-
sues that infringed the fun-
damental rights of man.
In a constantly chang-
ing world, it is through re-
sort to protests that
antiquated laws are revisit-
ed and then undergo nec-
essary revisions. Vaclav
Havel, the writer and for-
mer President of Czechos-
lovakia, maintains, You
do not become a dissident
just because you decide
one day to take up this
most unusual career. You
are thrown into it by your
personal sense of respon-
sibility, combined with a
complex set of external cir-
cumstances. You are cast
out of the existing structur-
es and placed in a position
of conict with them. It be-
gins as an attempt to do
your work well, and ends
with being branded an
enemy of society.
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 98
idea inimical to the state
apparatus that holds its
legitimacy through a con-
stitution that weighs heav-
ily towards public control.
It must be clear to
those who consider anar-
chism unruly that it re-
frains from overlooking
institutions that use power
for the enforcement of le-
gitimate regulations. Ge-
orges Brassens, the famous
French singer, put it em-
phatically: I am such an
anarchist that I go out of
my way to cross at the
crossroads! The concept
is, therefore, wrongly given
the semantics of violence
and disturbance. Legiti-
macy cannot be read into
fossilised systems of au-
thority that fail to achieve
the desired results. The
surveillance of any drug
trafficking by the public,
for instance, gains legality
if the police system fails.
Although appearing to be
the assertion of turbulent
ideas or what is often
termed unconstitutional
interference, the anarchy
that we have seen in the
past few months in India
has behind it what Peter
Kropotkin, the Russian
revolutionary philologist,
calls the innite variety of
needs and aspirations of a
civilised being.
Opposition leaders
would tell you that a mod-
est-sized party like the
AAP is of no consequence.
This is the argument of
those who have no idea of
revolution, underscoring
their distaste for dissent
and reaction against a pop-
ular and inspiring uprising
against established insti-
tutions. Political move-
ments across the globe,
from the Zapatista-led rev-
olution in Mexico to the
Occupy Wall Street move-
ment and the Arab Spring,
have been made possible
by the masses possessing
the audacity to challenge
the status quo of a mori-
bund system and with no
interest in power.
DEMOCRATI C SPACE
In view of the critical anal-
ysis of anarchism, the book
makes out a case for living
with dignity and not the
triumph of a single party,
but to create a democratic
space where diverse points
of view can be heard. The
libertarian anarchist
stance combined with a so-
cialist ideology that anar-
chists like AAP leader
Arvind Kejriwal adopt
leads to the ght for causes
of social justice, unmask-
ing the perceptible duplic-
ity of politicians and
intellectuals. Such ideo-
logical positions involve
building autonomous
structures that give people
not only water and elec-
tricity but an environment
conducive to a developed
civil society where the judi-
ciary, the executive and the
legislature work in collab-
oration to usher in eco-
nomic and judicial
processes that ensure basic
standards of living. Still,
the mainstream media, in
tandem with the ounder-
ing political parties, dis-
parage such movements by
ingenious strategies of in-
cessant debates to con-
vince the public of its
unconstitutional and an-
archic functioning and dis-
miss what is accomplished.
Anarchism, therefore,
as a revolutionary philoso-
phy in the works of think-
ers such as William
Godwin, Pierre Joseph
Proudhon, Mikhail Baku-
nin, Emma Goldman and
Chomsky, focusses on the
idea of the common hu-
man abilities that can
speak truth to power. Ex-
ternal control cannot
check the evolution of
moral and intellectually
rebellious cultures. Wil-
helm von Humboldt, the
founder of the University
of Berlin, and John Dewey,
the philosopher, as well as
Adam Smith, have written
extensively on the treason
of the intellectual elite and
the political leadership
that works for prot at the
cost of public exploitation.
Rather than laying out a
plan for any single revolu-
tionary moment that
would bring about the in-
tended social transforma-
tion, their emphasis is on
the imperceptible changes
that would occur under a
process that seeks to liber-
ate people from oppres-
sion and domination, an
ideology that has as its cen-
tral tenet the understand-
ing of social reality and
commitment to change.
This school of thought
is blatantly anti-capitalist
with the underpinnings of
a non-hierarchical social
structure. The liberalism
of the American New
Deal brand of cut-throat
competition and corporate
authoritarianism in the in-
dustrial sector is what elite
intellectuals take upon
themselves to support,
whereas the socialist anar-
chist stands polemically
opposed to such hierarchi-
cal fascism so integral to
corporate thinking. The
deception cast by the
media, by the ood of liter-
ature at all levels of special
institutions such as
schools, churches, televi-
sion and cinema, makes
the people believe in the
sincerity and moral ac-
tion of the state. The fa-
cade of classlessness or
democracy is cast on the
public, manipulating it to
believe that the state up-
holds the principle of equal
opportunities.
Empowering individu-
als is one way of meeting
this challenge and provid-
ing a meaningful form of
freedom, a critical practice
that refuses to put all ini-
tiatives and solutions in
the hands of the bureau-
cratic establishment.
Therefore, the idea is not
to overthrow governments
but to take over institu-
tions so that they begin to
work more in favour of the
sovereignty of the people.
This is the Cartesian un-
derpinning of an inspiring
and adamant movement,
an impulse towards the
non-systematic and highly
relative and exible char-
acter of everything in so-
ciety from organisations to
individuals. Here, govern-
ance as a communal activ-
ity is not to be left in the
hands of the specialists
who focus narrowly on
their respective areas of in-
terest, ignoring the larger
well-being of society.
The book is relevant to
the understanding of revo-
lutionary politics from be-
low. However, there is no
reason to suppose that the
battle is won. The structur-
es of authority and dom-
ination are not easy to
dismantle. It would be na-
ive to undervalue the pow-
er and privileges of the
state. As Chomsky argues,
In todays world, the goals
of a committed anarchist
should be to defend some
state institutions from the
attack against them, while
trying at the same time to
pry them open to more
meaningful public partici-
pationand ultimately, to
dismantle them in a much
more free society, if the ap-
propriate circumstances
can be achieved.
99 F R ONTL I NE
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BOOKS in review
I
N 1938, Pope Pius XI
addressed a group of vis-
itors to the Vatican. There
were some people, he said,
who argued that the state
should be all-power-
fultotalitarian. Such an
idea, he went on, was ab-
surd, not because individu-
al liberty was too precious
to be surrendered, but be-
cause if there is a totalitar-
ian regimein fact and by
rightit is the regime of
the church, because man
belongs totally to the
church.
As David Kertzer dem-
onstrates repeatedly in this
nuanced book, to be crit-
ical of fascism in Italy in
the 1930s was not neces-
sarily to be liberal or a lover
of democracy. And to be
anti-Semitic was not to be
unchristian. The Pope told
Mussolini that the church
had long seen the need to
rein in the children of Is-
rael and to take protec-
tive measures against their
evil-doing. The Vatican
and the fascist regime had
many differences, but this
they had in common.
Kertzer announces
that the Catholic church is
generally portrayed as the
courageous opponent of
fascism, but this is an exag-
ianism, and the profound
suspicion of the Jews.
Pius XI (formerly
Achille Ratti), librarian,
mountain-climber and ad-
mirer of Mark Twain, was
elected Pope in February
1922, eight months before
Mussolini bullied his way
to the Italian premiership.
For 17 years, the two men
held sway over their sep-
arate spheres in Rome. In
all that time they met only
once, but they communi-
cated ceaselessly by means
of ambassadors and nun-
cios, through the press
(each had his tame organ)
and via less publicly ac-
countable go-betweens.
From the copious records
of their exchanges, Kertzer
has uncovered a fascinat-
ing tale of two irascible
and often irrationalpo-
tentates, and gives us an
account of some murky in-
tellectual nagling, and an
often startling investiga-
tion of the exercise of
power.
The accession of Mus-
solini, known in his youth
as mangiaprete (priest-
eater, or anti-clerical per-
son), did not bode well for
the papacy. The fascist
squads had been beating
up clerics and terrorising
Catholic youth clubs. But
Mussolini saw that he
could use the church to le-
gitimise his power, so he
set about wooing the cler-
gy. He had his wife and
children baptised. He gave
money for the restoration
of churches. After two gen-
erations of secularism,
there were once again to be
crucixes in Italys courts
and classrooms. Warily,
slowly, the Pope became
persuaded that with Mus-
solinis help Italy might be-
come, once more, a
confessional state. Only
gradually did it become
clear how much the church
might lose in the process.
Pius fretted over inade-
quately dressed women
backless ballgowns and
the skimpy outts of fe-
male gymnasts were par-
ticularly worrisome.
Mussolini played along,
solemnly declaring that, in
future, girls gym lessons
would be designed only to
make them t mothers of
fascist sons. He was ac-
commodating in aiding the
Popes war on heresy
banning Protestant
books and journals on de-
mand. But Mussolini was
geration. There is a coun-
ter-tradition, John
Cornwells ne book Hit-
lers Pope on Pius XII (who
succeeded Pius XI in 1939)
exposed the Vaticans cul-
pable passivity in the face
of the wartime persecution
of Italian Jews. But Kertzer
describes something more
fundamental than a church
leaders strategic decision
to protect his own ock
rather than to speak up in
defence of others. His ar-
gument, presented not as
polemic but as gripping
storytelling, is that much of
fascist ideology was in-
spired by the Catholic tra-
ditionthe intolerance of
opposition, the authoritar-
Mussolini and
the Vatican
The book investigates an unwritten understanding
between Italian fascism and the Catholic church
despite their many differences. BY LUCY HUGHES- HALLETT
The Pope and
Mussolini
The Secret History
of Pius XI and the
Rise of Fascism in
Europe
By David I. Kertzer
Oxford
Pages: 549
Price: 20 (hardback)
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 100
creating a heresy of his
own. Schoolchildren were
required to pray to him: I
humbly offer my life to
you, o Duce.
In January 1938, he
summoned more than
2,000 priests, including
60 bishops, to participate
in a celebration of his agri-
cultural policy. Neither the
Pope nor his secretary of
state was happy, but they
feared offending the dicta-
tor. And so the priests
marched in procession
through Rome. They laid
wreaths not at a Christian
shrine but on a monument
to fascist heroes. They sa-
luted Mussolini as he stood
on his balcony and attend-
ed a ceremony where they
were required to cheer his
entrance, to pray for bless-
ings upon him and roar out
O Duce! Duce! Duce!
That the fascists (be-
ginning with their precur-
sor, Gabriele dAnnunzio)
had appropriated eccle-
siastical rituals and litur-
gies could perhaps be
taken as a compliment to
the church, but to recruit
its priests for the worship
of a secular ruler was to
humiliate Gods vicar on
earth. Mussolini was cock-
a-hoop. It was easy to ma-
nipulate the church, he
told his new allies in Nazi
Germany. With a few tax
concessions, and free rail-
way tickets for the clergy,
he boasted, he had got the
Vatican so snugly in his
pocket it had even declared
his genocidal invasion of
Abyssinia a holy war.
RACI AL LAWS
When it comes to the Jew-
ish question, Kertzer
demonstrates that the
Popes failure to protest ef-
fectively against the fascist
racial laws arose not sim-
ply from weakness but be-
cause anti-Semitism
pervaded his church. Mus-
solini scored a painful hit
when he assured Pius that
he would do nothing to
Italys Jews that had not
already been done under
papal rule. Roberto Fari-
nacci, most brutal of the
fascist leaders, came close
to the truth when he an-
nounced: It is impossible
for the Catholic fascist to
renounce that anti-Semitic
conscience which the
church had formed
through the millennia.
And Catholic anti-Semi-
tism was thriving. Among
Pius most valued advisers
were several whoas
Kertzer amply demonstra-
tessaw themselves as
battling against a diabol-
ical alliance of communi-
sts, Protestants,
Freemasons and Jews.
Avoiding overt parti-
sanship, Kertzer coolly lays
out the evidence; he de-
scribes his large and vari-
ous cast of characters, and
follows their machina-
tions. We meet the genial
Cardinal Gasparri who,
narrowly missing the pa-
pacy himself, became Pius
secretary of state, handling
the negotiations that led in
1929 to the Lateran Ac-
cords between the Vatican
and the regime. Gasparri, a
peasants son who had ris-
en far, considered Musso-
lini absurdly ignorant and
uncouth; Mussolini
thought him very
shrewd. We meet the Je-
suit father Tacchi Venturi,
Pius unofficial emissary, a
rm believer in conspiracy
theories, who claimed to
have been nearly killed by
an anti-fascist hitman (the
story does not stand up).
We meet Monsignor Cac-
cia, Pius master of cere-
monies, who was known to
the police and to Mussoli-
nis spies for luring boys to
his rooms in the Vatican
for sex, rewarding them
with contraband ciga-
rettes. And we meet the
motley crew familiar from
histories of fascism: the
doltish Starace, Mussoli-
nis bulldog; Ciano,
plump and boyish and, in
the opinion of the Amer-
ican ambassador, devoid of
standards morally or po-
litically; and Clara Petac-
ci, the girl with whom
Mussolini spent hours of
every day on the beach.
Some of this is familiar
territory, but what is new,
and riveting, is how fascist
and churchmen alike were
forced into intellectual
contortions as they strug-
gled to justify the new
laws. Racism was good.
Exaggerated racism was
bad. Anti-Semitism was
good, as long as it was Ital-
ian. German anti-Semi-
tism was another thing
entirely.
Eventually Pius XI
drew back from this ca-
suistry. Kertzer describes
the old Pope on his
deathbed, praying for just
a few more days so that he
could deliver a speech with
the message that all the
nations, all the races
(Jews included) could be
united by faith. He dies.
Cardinal Pacellisuave,
emollient and devious,
where Pius XI was a table-
thumper who had no
qualms about blurting out
uncomfortable truths
clears his desk, sup-
presses his notes and per-
suades the Vaticans
printer, who has the
speechs text ready for dis-
tribution, to destroy it so
that not a comma re-
mains. Eighteen days later,
Pacelli becomes Pope Pius
XII. It is a striking ending
for a book whose narrative
strength is as impressive as
its moral subtlety.
Lucy Hughes-Halletts The
Pike: Gabriele dAnnunzio
has won the Samuel
Johnson prize for non-
ction, the Costa
biography award and the
Duff Cooper prize.
Guardian News & Media 2014
PREMI ER BENI TO MUSSOLI NI (centre) surrounded by officials of the Vatican and the
Italian government, on February 11, 1932, the occasion of his rst visit to Pope Pius XI.
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BOOKS in review
R
ECONSTRUCTING
someones richly lived
life through a pastiche of
shared memories, experi-
ences and actual writing
can be a daunting task.
More so when the person is
Mythily Sivaraman, for-
mer national vice-presi-
dent of the All India
Democratic Womens As-
sociation (AIDWA), who
spent almost four decades
of her life highlighting the
importance of class strug-
gle through her activism
and writings. Her experi-
ences, detailed in her arti-
cles, shaped her own
understanding even as she
fought for the rights of the
working class and women.
A life that began as a
child looking at various in-
equalities in the private
realm and the public
sphere; a life that was
shaped by the social, eco-
nomic and political forces
of the times, and which
took a decisive turn after
the burning alive of 44 Da-
lits by a landlord at Keezh-
venmani (now in
Nagapattinam district, Ta-
mil Nadu) in 1968, her
writing reects a certain
integrity devoid of
schmaltzy activism.
The year 1968 was an
epochal period in more
and Mainstreamhave been
included in Haunted by
Fire.
Mythily Sivaramans
understanding of the
world, therefore, is very
much derived from the ide-
ology she believed in. V.
Geetha and Kalpana Karu-
nakaran (Mythilys daugh-
ter), who have written the
introduction to the book,
have compiled her writ-
ings, jottings and ideas.
This was after Mythily Siv-
araman was diagnosed
with Alzheimers. They felt
the need to put all her
thoughts on major issues
together and in the process
helped her recapture a lot
of those memories.
The book is divided into
seven sections with several
chapters and subsections,
which are inextricably con-
nected to one another. Sec-
tion I is on Dalits, which
includes her writings from
the late 1960s, under the
titles Children of Dark-
ness and Harijans. The
rst one (published in
Mainstream in 1969) was
written when the nation
was celebrating the Gand-
hi centenary year. It is a
case study of a village in
Tamil Nadu, where Mythi-
ly Sivaraman found a hie-
rarchy among Harijans
(this was the time when the
nomenclature Dalit had
not yet entered political
parlance), which made her
realise that casteism was
not an exclusive monopo-
ly of the higher-ups. Hari-
jans have their own
hierarchy too with the Pal-
lars at the apex and living
separately from the Parai-
yas. She nds that caste
hierarchy was also based
on food habits. The second
section, Understanding
the Dravidian Movement,
looks critically at the limi-
tations of the model of so-
cial and economic
emancipation of the main
Dravidian parties, the gaps
between their socialist
rhetoric and the politics
they practised on the
ground.
In the third section en-
titled Land and Labour,
her articles closely look at
the caste massacres of
Keezhvenmani and Pu-
ducheri in Thanjavur dis-
trict, which were in
response to the resistance
organised by the Commu-
nist labourers against the
landlords. The demands
were the samefair wages.
Ironically, four decades
than one sense. This was
the year Mythily Sivara-
man joined the Communi-
st Party of India (Marxist)
and was associated with
the Centre of Indian Trade
Unions, one of the largest
central trade unions in the
country. Not only did she
participate in industrial
strikes in various public
sector units but also active-
ly associated herself with
the Institute of Social Sci-
ences in Chennai, which
published The Radical Re-
view, a journal of socialist
ideas and politics. She was
its full-time editor and
wrote extensively. Some of
the articles she wrote for
The Radical Review, Eco-
nomic & Political Weekly
A class apart
Mythily Sivaramans nuanced understanding of the
importance of class struggle and her belief in the
rights of the working class and women come out
vividly in the compilation. BY T. K. RAJALAKSHMI
Haunted by Fire
Essays on Caste,
Class,
Exploitation and
Emancipation
By Mythily
Sivaraman
LeftWord Books,
2013
Pages: 467
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 102
down the line, the de-
mands continue to be the
same though now couched
in the sophistry of rights
and entitlements and es-
poused by several non-gov-
ernmental organisations.
The basic demand and
ght for fair and just wages
continues and has been left
to the communists.
In Workers and
Unions, she nds that
there was not much differ-
ence between the industri-
al policies of the Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam
(DMK) and the Congress.
The DMK sought to use the
socialist rhetoric. From
the scientic socialism of
1962 the DMK had come a
long way in 1971 to social-
ism without tears to social-
ism with private property
intact.
DMK has broken no
new ground, made no ma-
jor radical departure from
the policy of the Congress.
There are two case
studies of union ac-
tionthe workers strike in
Madras Rubber Factory
(MRF) in 1971 and the
plantation workers strike
in the Annamalais. The
government attempted to
break the strike at any cost.
In this effort, she points
out, there is not much of a
difference between the
DMK, the ruling party in
Tamil Nadu then, and the
Congress, which was in
power at the Centre.
The third section in
this chapter is about the
murderous attack on V.P.
Chintan, a trade unionist
and senior leader of the
Communist Party of India
(Marxist). The subsequent
section, All-out attack on
the Working Class, shows
that no government in Ta-
mil Nadu, despite its so-
cialist pretensions ever did
any good to the interests of
the working class in mea-
ningful terms. Through
three shocking narratives
of police torture, she pro-
vides a vignette of the
Emergency excesses.
The section on Electo-
ral Politics in Chapter 6
looks critically at the ways
in which the communist
parties should chart their
path independently with-
out losing sight of the class
character of the parties
with whom they enter into
electoral alliances some-
times. What emanates
from her writings is her
rm belief that there canbe
no alternative other than
the Left.
DI SARMI NG HONESTY
The articles, written most-
ly in the 1970s and early
1980s, remain relevant
even today. Mythily Sivara-
man uses self-criticism as a
tool for a better under-
standing of the world. In
the manner of a true com-
munist, her writings reect
a disarming honesty and
candour. For instance,
when she writes about the
relevance of E.V.R. Periyar
in a 1971 article in The Rad-
ical Review, she says that
the Left had not under-
stood him entirely. She is
critical of the non-Brah-
min movement (Justice
Party) in its initial stages
when it collaborated with
the British. However, she
says, when Periyar helped
form the Madras Provin-
cial Association, which was
the nationalist counter to
the Justice Party, things
underwent a radical
change. But he failed to see
the link between the meth-
ods of production and so-
MYTHI LY SI VARAMAN visiting Keezhvenmani (now in Nagapattinam district) in 1969,
where 44 Dalits had been burnt alive by a landlord a week earlier.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
cial, cultural and political
values and substituted
caste for class, she writes.
His direct action was more
against Brahminism, not
capitalism. Even as she is
critical of Periyar and is
conscious of the limita-
tions in his approach as
well as the many contradic-
tions that emerged, Mythi-
ly Sivaraman feels that the
communist movement did
not adopt a clear policy on
Periyar on the basis of
study and analysis. Accord-
ing to her, Tamil national-
ism and its understanding
of the class struggle, cap-
italism and caste needed a
closer look.
In fact, writing in the
1970s, she observes how
ritualism had become
widespread and the DMK
was able to do little about
it. However, in the era of
identity politics where
classes exist with the castes
of the oppressed and where
politics has developed
around caste identity, the
questions that she raises
are relevant.
Mythily Sivaraman ar-
gues that Marxists should
have understood other
phenomena such as mass
culture. Had they inuen-
ced and carried forward
the linguistic and cultural
aspects of Tamil culture, it
would not have been the
DMK that had ridden the
anti-Congress wave. And
Tamil nationalism would
not have been reduced to
rabble-rousing. She minc-
es no words in her critique
of the damage that identity
politics of caste had done to
the class struggle.
To an extent, her cri-
tique of the inability of
Marxists to occupy the
space taken by the Dravi-
dian parties appears legiti-
mate. However, had
Marxists taken the non-
Brahmin movements line,
they would have suc-
cumbed to the idea of the
notional emancipation
symbolised by the non-
Brahmin struggles early
on. The fact that none of
the so-called non-Brahmin
caste-based parties could
actually address the eco-
nomic questions of in-
equality shows the
limitations of ghting class
questions through caste or-
ganisations.
In another article in
The Radical Review in
1970, she writes how in
the absence of a commit-
ment to the socialist ideol-
ogy based on a scientic
understanding of the evo-
lution of social history and
in the absence of adequate
experience in working class
struggles, the DMK had
proved much too vulnera-
ble to pressures from the
dominant economic inter-
ests.
In the section ex-
pounding the class charac-
ter of the DMK, she says
that the party in its initial
years may have had the
character of a bourgeois
democratic party but sub-
sequently it had come to
reect capitalist interests.
And the recent quagmire of
scams and corruption that
the DMK has found itself
in can perhaps be traced to
its deviations since the
1970s.
On reading these arti-
cles written more than
three decades ago, one
nds that the understand-
ing of caste and class by
contemporary analysts is
pedestrian. With this un-
derstanding, the debate
does not go beyond the su-
percial framework of
dignity, a parameter the
government is comfortable
with because it does not
ask for anything morea
decent and living mini-
mum wage, for instance.
The inadequacy in under-
standing the class hierar-
chies within the oppressed
castes has been the biggest
failure of the Dravidian
parties. It is precisely be-
cause of this failure that
they have been unable to
eradicate the caste scourge.
Why is it that even after 45
years of the Keezhvenmani
massacre caste atrocities
continue in the State,
which has been alternately
ruled by the two major
Dravidian parties? The
reason lies not in the resil-
ience of caste but in the
Dravidian parties failure
to take social transforma-
tive politics to the realm of
economic contradictions.
Mythily Sivaramans
writings make it clear that
there cannot be any short-
cut approach to class strug-
gle. And there is no doubt
in her mind at least as to
who should play the role of
the vanguard in that strug-
gle.
MYTHI LY SI VARAMAN (standing) with (from right) Vimala Ranadive,
Ahilya Rangnekar, Sushila Gopalan and Papa Umanath at the 5th national conference
of AIDWA held in Bangalore in 1998.
The articles, written mostly in
the 1970s and early 1980s,
remain relevant even today.
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 104
P
ERHAPS the most poignant
moment in the lm Peepli
Liveeven though the movie
is really more about the media than
about the socio-economic realities of
Indiais at the very end, when the
hapless protagonist, now a former
farmer presumed to be dead and so
without an identity, is seen as one of
the many faceless workers on one of
the innumerable large construction
sites that clutter the urban landscape.
The story leading up to that particular
denouement may be concocted and
exaggerated, but the background of
many migrant workers in urban India
is often no less dramatic, reecting
not just simple differences in wage
expectations but extreme exigencies
of domestic circumstances and indi-
vidual survival.
The forces generating the move-
ment of people for work are complex
and rarely unidimensional, but it is
still the case that a signicant part of
economic migration is the result of
desperation rather than hard-headed
economic calculation. And that, in
therefore, associated with quite ap-
palling conditions, especially for
women workers, who typically faced
not only low wages and dreadful liv-
ing conditions but even threats to
their physical security. This was
somewhat ameliorated from 2006
turn, affects the conditions under
which workers migrate as well as
their lives and their work in the desti-
nation.
The signicant increase in short-
term distress migration of both men
and women in the mid-2000s was,
A raw deal for migrants
A signicant part of economic migration is still the result of
desperation rather than hard-headed economic calculation. This, in
turn, affects the conditions under which workers migrate and their
lives and work as well.
MI GRANT WORKERS take a break at a construction site in Gurgaon.
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onwards by the spread of the Mahat-
ma Gandhi National Rural Employ-
ment Guarantee Scheme
(MGNREGS), even though the rural
employment programme has still not
been implemented fully in either let-
ter or spirit. Certainly, employers in
the construction industry and other
activities reliant on migrant labour
were heard to be complaining that
workers were no longer available at
the real wages (often breadline and
lower than subsistence) that had be-
come the norm.
In recent years, the rise of real
wages and the expansion of the con-
struction industry has led some anal-
ysts to argue that migration (even
short-term migration) is no longer
distress-driven but demand-led, re-
sulting from the rapid economic
growth that has led to a proliferation
of non-agricultural jobs in urban and
peri-urban areas. The implicit corol-
lary is that this is associated with
signicantly better conditions of mi-
grant workers, as employers are
forced by labour market pressures to
offer a better deal for workers.
This rather optimistic assess-
ment can be interrogated, of course,
and recently several studies have
highlighted that the conditions of
migrant workers, especially recent
and short-term migrants, remain
problematic and even pathetic. A
new study of migrant workers in
Gurgaon district of Haryana (Ex-
ploring rural-urban dynamics: A
study of inter-State migrants in Gur-
gaon, Society for Labour and Devel-
opment, March 2014) throws this
into sharp relief.
THE GURGAON EXAMPLE
Gurgaon is possibly one of the most
iconic representations of the new In-
dia, combining in its shiny new exte-
riors and squalid byways all the
possibilities, inequalities and contra-
dictions of emerging Indias recent
rapid economic growth. Unlike Fari-
dabad, its sister satellite city in the
National Capital Region, Gurgaon
emergedone could even say erup-
tedin completely unplanned fash-
ion, with civic authorities always
several steps behind the private land
developers who exploited its loca-
tional advantages. The township is
now a city in its own right, with be-
tween two and three million estimat-
ed residents, even without counting
the otsam and jetsam of temporary
and unregistered migrants who are
essential to its construction and ex-
istence. It is home to some of the
important automobile manufactur-
ers who have made this an important
exporting industry; to software com-
panies; to services both modern and
traditional that cater to those em-
ployed in these companies; and of
course to the land development and
construction industry that made it all
possible in the rst place.
Many of the countrys elite now
live in Gurgaon, commuting to the
nations capital, in a reection of the
fact that the power that used to radi-
ate outwards from the central heart
of New Delhi is now nding other
more upstart sources. But it is still a
Wild West kind of place, bubbling
with energy and aggressive assert-
iveness, only just beginning to be
moderated by some norms as settle-
ments begin to take root.
So the conditions of migrant
workers in this most dynamic of ur-
ban locations must surely be at least
a proximate guide to how they are
faring elsewhere in the country. This
recent study is fascinating because it
examines migrant workers in their
current location of Gurgaon as well
as their earlier conditions and the
lives of their families in their place of
origin. It covered 200 migrant work-
AT A PROTEST I N GURGAON by workers of various auto manufacturing
units in and around Gurgaon.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 106
ers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and
Jharkhand, with the districts of Ru-
ral Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Nalanda,
Nawada and Hazaribagh being cho-
sen specically for their predomin-
ance as place of origin among the
migrant community in Gurgaon.
The surveyed workers included
those in the garments and auto parts
industries, in construction, in do-
mestic work, and self-employed peo-
ple in various activities. Four-fths
of the interviewees were male work-
ers, while the females were all either
garment workers or domestic work-
ers. The respondents were mainly
young, nearly 90 per cent of them
between 18 and 40 years old. They
also dominantly came from Other
Backwards Classes, with a sprinkling
of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes.
The most striking result of this
survey was just how low the wages
were for these migrant workers: 70
per cent of them earned between
Rs.5,000 and Rs.7,000 a month, and
17 per cent more than Rs.7,000 but
less than Rs.10,000. In all their
cases, the monthly income of house-
holds back home was even lower,
which constituted an obvious and
important reason for migration. The
power relations experienced by them
in both work and life generally were
skewed heavily against them.
The migrant workers in this sur-
vey reported authoritarian manage-
ment practices, frequent physical or
verbal abuse and a climate of intimi-
dation created by hired goons, and in
general a sense of the work environ-
ment being both unfriendly and un-
healthy. Average daily work hours
ranged between eight and 12 hours
without overtime, and four to six ad-
ditional hours of overtime. In the au-
to parts and garments factories,
during periods of heavy production,
overtime work was made compulso-
ry to full the demand. Nearly three
quarters of the surveyed workers
worked six days a week, while one-
fth worked all seven days of the
week.
Taking more than a weeks leave
from work, for whatever reason,
could result in dismissal. This was
particularly an issue for the women
workers, who got absolutely no ma-
ternity benets. Both domestic and
garments workers could not claim
paid maternity leave as a right. In-
deed, the women working in gar-
ments factories noted that it was
uncomfortable to work in the male-
dominated factory oor in the last
few months of pregnancy. So it was
the typical practice for women work-
ers to leave the job several months
before delivery and return after
childbirth to search for a fresh job.
None of the respondent workers
had secure contracts, and even those
who had been in the city a decade or
more hadchanged several jobs, with-
out any provision for job loss com-
pensation. The insecurity of tenure
also affected living conditions since
rented accommodation became
more difficult to access and land-
lords typically did not agree to certify
that the workers were their tenants
on a regular basis. This in turn affect-
ed other quotidian aspects of urban
life such as getting a gas connection,
opening a bank account, and so on.
One result was that most of the work-
ers buy LPG for cooking at the mar-
ket price of Rs.100 a kg, which came
to Rs.1,450 a cylinder.
In any case, the living quarters of
the workers were generally cramped
and ranged from modest to appall-
ing. Their places of residence varied
from rented room in chawls and
multistoreyed buildings to tempora-
ry slum dwellings. The rented rooms
were typically in buildings that con-
tained anywhere between 30 and
100 rooms. Generally, a 10 x 10
square feet room was occupied by
four to six workers. The investigators
found that many of the rooms occu-
pied by the migrant workers did not
have proper ventilation, full-time
water supply and electricity, and
proper sewage and drainage systems,
and several buildings did not even
have all-weather accessible roads.
For these rooms, rents had to be paid
by the 7th or 10th of every month,
with a fee penalty for late payment
and likely eviction for repeated non-
payment.
Inevitably, sanitation conditions
were dreadful as well. In the chawls
and rented buildings, toilets were
shared across ve to eight rooms,
with uncertain water supply. Only 2
per cent of the workers described the
conditions of their toilets as good,
while more than half thought they
were bad or very bad. Open and over-
owing drains were common sights
in the localities where they lived. Un-
hygienic conditions were likely to be
associated with more frequent ill-
nesses, especially of waterborne dis-
eases and pollution-related chest
and lung problems. Yet the workers
could ill afford the luxury of falling ill
because of the loss of their wage in-
comes and the costs associated with
privatised medical care.
Low wages combine with really
impoverished living conditions
and all for the necessity of remit-
ting at least some money back home.
If this is demand-pull migration,
what on earth would the distress-
push kind look like? And what sort of
destitution and degradation is pre-
vailing in rural areas and the urban
hinterland to encourage movement
of labour in such dreadful condi-
tions?
Reports like this one, and others
that expose the real conditions of mi-
grant workers in India, need to be
focussed on much more not only by
policymakers but by citizens in gen-
eral. We cannot hope to build a civ-
ilised and just society on the basis of
such crass exploitation.
In a recent survey in Gurgaon, workers
reported authoritarian practices,
physical or verbal abuse and a climate
of intimidation created by hired goons.
107 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
OBITUARY
THAT he was prolic is clearly an
understatement. With close to 100
books, Khushwant Singh, who died
on March 20 at the age of 99, was a
phenomenon. For many, he was a
curious icon who could write in a
very engaging style about things seri-
ous and yet slip into inexplicable me-
diocrity of thought. But, like him or
not, the verdict on Khushwant is that
whatever he penned was entertain-
ing and he could churn out copy like
few others can. The man himself ad-
mitted that he had lost count of all
that he had writtenhis weekly co-
lumns, short stories, novels, mem-
oirs and assorted books on varied
subjects, including the celebrated
and scholarly two volumes on Sikh
history, were too much to keep track
of. Five decades of writing feverishly
cannot be committed to an individu-
als memory. When he was asked in
his later years about the secret be-
hind his humungous and unrelent-
ing output, Khushwant came up with
this self-effacing reply so typical of
him: No one has so far invented a
condom for a writers pen.
From what one learns from those
who knew Khushwant well, he never
took himself seriously and, in turn,
he looked at others through the same
bifocal. It did not matter who or how
powerful his targets were or whether
they were dead or alive. He made
irreverence his trademark and his
right. As a result, he stepped on many
toes and often came in for severe
criticism. The editor Vinod Mehta
has jocularly observed in his memoir
Lucknow Boy that some of Khush-
Electric man in a bulb
Khushwant Singh (1915-2014) could talk to and entertain his readers
without being condescending, and there will be no one like him again.
BY AJI TH PI LLAI
KHUSHWANT SI NGH, a 2004 photo.
A
F
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F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 108
want Singhs columns deserved to
come with the statutory warning
Can be dangerous. He should
know. While he was editing The Sun-
day Observer in the 1980s, the Sar-
dar with malice towards one and all
had made some observations on the
former Bombay Pradesh Congress
Committee president Rajni Patel af-
ter the latters demise. Khushwant
wrote about the colourful life of the
Congressman with a socialist bent
who loved the good things in life (in-
cluding women) and recalled how
one evening Patel had invited a bevy
of millionaires to raise money to help
the drought-stricken in Maharash-
tra. With Royal Salute whiskey and
French champagne we discussed
hunger and famine.
The column angered many, in-
cluding Patels rst wife Bakul, and
friend and condant, the late ad-
man and writer Frank Simoes. Si-
moes wrote a rejoinder in which he
turned all his ire on Khushwant. To
quote: If I grieved at the death of my
friend Rajni Patel, I was immeasur-
ably saddened by Kushwant Singhs
degrading epiphany. From time to
time, one has observed Mr Singh
putting the boot into a prostrate foe.
But sticking a knife into a dead body
is self-inicted mutilation, the cas-
tration of the psyche, and serves no
useful purpose. The Sardar bravely
took the criticism on his chin and left
it to his son, Rahul Singh, to rise up
in defence. He said that all his father
had attempted was an objective
obituary of Rajni Patel.
For all his claims that he was
open to and unfazed by criticism,
there was one attack on him that hurt
him deeply. It was an objective,
though imaginary, obituary of
Khushwant Singh by the talented
young journalist Dhiren Bhagat,
which was published in The Sunday
Observer on February 13, 1983, 31
years before Khushwant left his
earthly abode. It is rather ironic
though that the writer of the imag-
ined obit died in November 1998 in a
road accident. Khushwant Singh
outlived him by 26 years, but when
the piece appeared he was upset and
even wrote to the editor of The Sun-
day Observer that he would never
ever write for any publication that he
edited or was associated with. He
only made his peace with Vinod
Mehta much later, after he launched
Outlook in the mid-1990s. What ap-
parently upset Khushwant was the
fact that people started calling up his
family, offering condolences. Many
failed to see that what they had read
was a spoof and reckoned that it was
not impossible for a man of 68 (that
was Khushwants age then) to pass
away a few years too soon.
Given the impact it had on the
man, it would be in the order of
things to recall what Dhiren had
written. So here goes:
I was saddened to read that
Khushwant Singh passed away in his
sleep last week. What a quiet end for
so loud a man. How the gods mock
the mocking.
Contradictions surrounded
Khushwant at every stage of his life.
He strove to give the impression that
he was a drunken slob yet he was one
of the most hard-working and punc-
tual men I knew. He professed ag-
nosticism and yet enjoyed kirtan as
only few can and do. He was known
nationally as a celebrated lecher but
for the past thirty years at least it was
a hot-water bottle that warmed his
bed. He devoted his last years in the
service of a woman who decisively
spurned him in the end. He made a
profession of living off his friends
important names and yet worked
single-handedly to diminish that ve-
ry importance. Empty vessels make
the most noise but Khushwant was
always full of the Scotch he had
cadged off others. He was a much
misunderstood man. So before the
limp eulogies start pouring in (how
Khushwant would have hated
them!) let me set the record straight.
As Khushwant once said, the obitu-
ary is the best place to tell the truth,
for dead men le no libel suits. (An
agnostic to the end, he didnt believe
in the Resurrection).
Much after the storm over the
obit had died down I asked Dhiren
why he had written the piece. He said
he did it simply because he wanted to
have fun and Khushwant was a bub-
ble waiting to be burst. I thought
Khushwant being Khushwant, he
would take it in the right spirit. But,
of course, I was questioning his very
existence which was perhaps going
too far and getting too personal, I
recall him saying. To be fair to
Khushwant, though he raised objec-
tions on that one occasion, he was in
the main not averse to criticism. In
fact, he had no pompous pretensions
of being an intellectual and said he
simply wrote what came to his mind,
which, luckily, sold well, generating
more demand for outpourings from
his pen.
However, he also believed that
churning out copy like he did was no
easy task. Im a hack. I dont hold
myself in any esteem. Someone once
accused me of making bullshit into
an art form. I told him: You try it. It
isnt so easy, he said in a magazine
interview.
For all his efforts to downplay his
intellectual capabilities and placing
his Banta Singh-Santa Singh racial
109 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
jokes on the same pedestal with ev-
erything else that he wrote, there was
also a scholarly side to Khushwant.
His two volumes on Sikh history are
a case in point. Funded by the Rocke-
feller Foundation, the book was re-
searched in Delhi, London, Canada,
the United States, Japan, Burma
(Myanmar) and Singapore. It took
Khushwant four years to write the
book, which was published in 1963
by the Princeton University Press
and led to several teaching assign-
ments abroad, including the univer-
sities of Rochester, Princeton,
Hawaii and the Swarthmore College
near Philadelphia. According to
Khushwant Singhs son Rahul, get-
ting teaching assignments abroad
and being considered an academic
was rather peculiar given that his fa-
ther had not done well in either
school or at university and was a
rather mediocre student. He did not
even have a doctorate to aunt.
Teaching Indian culture and history
to foreign students was a challenge in
that it was difficult to keep their in-
terest alive in subjects so alien to
them. Khushwant revealed later that
he managed to keep the students
awake by being very simplistic and
spicing up lectures with anecdotes.
This he said was the same mixthe
serious with the masalahe adopted
when he took over as the editor of
The Illustrated Weekly of India in
1969.
Revamping that publication was
his major contribution to journal-
ism. Until then, the concept of a gen-
eral interest magazine did not exist
in India. Most publications merely
recorded social events. Khushwants
weekly was markedly different and
covered social changes and trends,
politics, cinema and what have you.
The not-to-be-missed feature of ev-
ery issue was the Editors Page with
the iconic illustration by Mario Mi-
randa of a Sardar in a light bulb with
Scotch and dirty pictures. The Illus-
trated Weeklys circulation skyrock-
eted from 60,000 to 4.1 lakh during
Khushwant Singhs editorship. He
was with the magazine for nine years
before the management asked him to
leave one week before his retirement.
The Editors Page moved with him
and when he nally joined The Hin-
dustan Times, it metamorphosed in-
to the column With Malice Towards
One and All, which was later syn-
dicated and became a hit
nationwide.
For a prolic writer like him,
once you take out his short stories,
there are only a handful of signicant
books to speak off. The novel Train
to Pakistanis the most written about
and perhaps the most evocative. It
deals with Partition and is based in
the imaginary village of Mano Manj-
ra on the India-Pakistan border
where Muslims and Sikhs live in har-
mony. And then a local moneylender
is murdered, shattering the peace.
The crime, it is believed, was com-
mitted by the local hood Juggut
Singh, who is in love with a Muslim
girl. Violence spews out of control
when a train with bodies of Sikhs
arrives at the village. The book was
later made into a lm.
Some of his other writings, like
the historical novel Delhi, The Com-
pany of Women and Burial at Sea,
were panned by critics. In fact, in his
book on his father, Rahul Singh con-
fesses that he has not read some of
the novels written by Khushwant.
Delhi and The Company of Women
got such scathing reviews that I de-
cided not to read them, though I
knew that Delhi was the culmination
of several years of research, mainly
on the history of the city. Both the
books did well commercially, though
Khushwant did not gloat in their suc-
cess. They get panned but they sell,
was his constant credo.
Khushwants tryst with politics
was a controversial one and it began
while he was editing The Illustrated
Weekly. When Indira Gandhi de-
clared the Emergency in 1975, he was
initially shocked but later he felt he
had to defend her and her son Sanjay
Gandhi. Given the position he took,
he expected his days to be numbered
at the Weekly once the Emergency
was lifted and elections were an-
nounced. Rahul Singh, in the biog-
raphy of his father that he wrote,
alleges that it was Morarji Desai,
who replaced Indira Gandhi as the
Prime Minister, who insisted that
Ashok Jain, chairman of the Times of
India group, announce a change of
guard at the Weekly. When the new
government fell and Indira Gandhi
returned to power, Khushwant
Singh was given the Rajya Sabha
ticket. He was elected to the Upper
House but soon became disillu-
sioned with politics. After Indian
troops stormed the Golden Temple
in 1984, he returned as a mark of
protest the Padma Bhushan he was
awarded in 1974. After that he devot-
ed himself to writing, although,
through his columns, he took strong
positions on communal and political
issues. He also stood up against the
Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 and
condemned the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In the nal analysis, will there be
another Khushwant Singh? One
cannot see anyone on the horizon
like him with such remarkable per-
severance. Khushwant was a writer
who could communicate with his
readers without looking down on
them or preaching from a pulpit. He
was also someone who thought that
life without a bit of fun was no life at
all. Among his quotable quotes is one
where he declares that every novel-
ist puts sex in his novels. If he
doesnt, he has no business writing
ction and that one persons por-
nography turns into anothers love
story. He became famous, or infa-
mous, for the naughtiness in his writ-
ings. But do not be surprised to see
his translations of Urdu and Persian
poetry, or the evening and morning
prayers of Sikhs sharing space on the
bookshelves with his more popular
work.
Revamping The
Illustrated
Weekly of India
was his major
contribution to
journalism.
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 110
OBITUARY
TONY BENNthe lodestar for
the Labour left for decades, orator,
campaigner, diarist and grandfa-
therdied aged 88 after a long ill-
ness, his family announced.
Tributes poured in for one the
countrys most extraordinary and
controversial MPs, who, in what he
described as the blazing autumn of
his career outside Westminster,
came to be regarded as an anti-estab-
lishment voice for democracy.
Although he said self-deprecat-
ingly in one of his later interviews:
All political careers end in failure;
mine just happened to end earlier
than most, many regarded his nal
decades outside Westminster with
greatest affection.
In a statement, his children Ste-
phen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua
said: It is with great sadness that we
announce that our father Tony Benn
died peacefully early this morning
[on March 14] at his home in west
London surrounded by his family.
We would like to express our
heartfelt thanks to all the NHS [Na-
tional Health Service] staff and car-
ers who have looked after him with
such kindness in hospital and at
home.
We will miss above all his love
which has sustained us throughout
our lives. But we are comforted by
the memory of his long, full and in-
spiring life and so proud of his devo-
tion to helping others as he sought to
change the world for the better.
Born Anthony Neil Wedgwood
Benn, he entered Parliament in 1950
as MP for Bristol South East, becom-
ing the youngest member of the
House at the age of 25.
He had to leave the Commons a
decade later, as the death of his fa-
ther, a Labour peer, meant he inher-
ited the title of Viscount Stansgate.
However, he campaigned for a
change in the law and returned to his
seat three years later after renounc-
ing the title.
During his 50-year parliamen-
tary career, Benn served as Minister
for Technology, Industry and Energy
under Harold Wilson and James
Callaghan. He also campaigned
against European Union member-
ship and oversaw the development of
the Concorde.
After a successful Cabinet career
under Wilson in the 1970s, he swung
to the Left politically and challenged
Denis Healey for the Labour deputy
leadershiponly losing by the nar-
S
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TONY BENN. His inuence tended to emerge through his thinking, diaries,
oratory and, latterly, appearances at literary festivals and political rallies.
A steadfast socialist
Tony Benn (1925-2014) was a veteran Labour politician in the U.K.
who came to be regarded as an anti-establishment voice for democracy.
BY PATRI CK WI NTOUR &ROWENA MASON
111 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
rowest of margins after one of the key
unions switched sides at the last
minute. He then became instrumen-
tal in using Labour Party machinery
to develop a left-wing manifesto on
which Michael Foot fought the 1983
election.
He was also central to the cam-
paign to make Labour MPs more ac-
countable to their constituencies
through automatic reselection, a re-
form hated by many Labour MPs at
the time but now regarded as wholly
uncontroversial.
After Foots defeat and the emer-
gence of Neil Kinnock as party leader
in 1983, the party shifted to the cen-
tre, and Benn began to lose his direct
political inuence over the party. He
was heavily defeated when he stood
against Kinnock for the party lead-
ership in 1988 and left Parliament in
2001, after the rst term of the Tony
Blair government, to spend more
time on politics.
From there on his inuence tend-
ed to emerge through his thinking,
diaries, oratory and latterly appear-
ances at literary festivals and politi-
cal rallies.
He became known for his cam-
paign against the invasion of Iraq,
addressing the United Kingdoms
biggest ever demonstration during
the Stop the War rally of 2003.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader,
said: The death of Tony Benn repre-
sents the loss of an iconic gure of
our age. He will be remembered as a
champion of the powerless, a great
parliamentarian and a conviction
politician. Tony Benn spoke his
mind and spoke up for his values.
Whether you agreed with him or dis-
agreed with him, everyone knew
where he stood and what he stood
for. For someone of such strong
views, often at odds with his party, he
won respect from across the political
spectrum. This was because of his
unshakeable beliefs and his abiding
determination that power and the
powerful should be held to account.
Miliband said he had done work
experience with Benn at the age of
16. I may have been just a teenager
but he treated me as an equal, the
Labour leader said.
Margaret Beckett, a contempo-
rary during some of the most bitter
Labour inghting in the 1980s said:
He was an absolutely brilliant
speaker he had such clarity of ex-
pression. She added that he was a
charming, nice man. He made ene-
mies and kept enemies but on the
whole most people regarded him
with a good degree of affection long
before it came to the stage when it
was thought he could cause no harm.
He was out of step for many years
with whoever was in the charge of the
leadership. He wanted to make peo-
ple think and that was an admirable
thing.
David Cameronwho once said
he had been strongly inuenced by
Benns book Arguments for Democ-
racytweeted: Tony Benn was a
magnicent writer, speaker and
campaigner. There was never a dull
moment listening to him, even if you
disagreed with him.
The former Labour Cabinet Min-
ister Peter Hain said: Tony Benn
was a giant of socialism who encour-
aged me to join Labour in 1977: won-
derful inspirational speaker and
person: will be deeply missed.
The Labour MP for Hackney
North and Stoke Newington, Diane
Abbott, also paid tribute to Benn.
Admired so many things about
Benn, she said. Unwavering princi-
ples; always open to new ideas; stel-
lar political speaker but unfailingly
courteous.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of
the British civil liberties advocacy or-
ganisation Liberty, said: In the nal
decade of an extraordinary political
life, Tony Benn was a great friend of
Liberty and human rights. He spoke
to packed audiences up and down
the country against internment and
identity cards and for values of in-
ternationalism and humanity. And
he often shared the stage with speak-
ers of different political stripes with
considerable generosity. I shall never
forget his many kindnesses to me,
including when he ripped up a pre-
pared speech he was about to deliver,
in order to make my own nervous
and novice remarks sound slightly
less unplanned. In an age of spin, he
was solid, a signpost and not a
weathervane.
Benn was a divisive gure within
the Labour Party because of his
steadfast support for traditional so-
cialism. His son Hilary, the Labour
MP for Leeds Central and shadow
Secretary of State for communities
and local government, famously de-
scribed himself as a Benn, not a
Bennite. The Sunonce askedwheth-
er his rebrand views made him the
most dangerous man in Britain.
Some old ministerial colleagues
from the 1970s and 1980s privately
made plain they would be making no
public comment, reluctant to speak
ill of the dead. But bitterness against
what they still see as his destructive
and dishonest conduct during the
Bennite ascendancy remains toxic.
His death prompted tributes
from many Eurosceptic MPs who re-
membered his longstanding opposi-
tion to the E.U.
Benn had suffered from ill health
since a stroke in 2012, spending
much of the subsequent year in hos-
pital. In an interview with Daily
Mirror last year, he said he was not
frightened about death. I dont
know why, but I just feel that at a
certain moment your switch is
switched off and thats it. And you
cant do anything about it, he said.
Benn was admitted to hospital
again in September last year and had
recently moved to sheltered accom-
modation near his Holland Park
home in west London.
Outside his home in his garden
stands the bench on which he pro-
posed to Caroline, the wife he was
devoted to and whom he missed
grievously after her death.
Guardian News & Media2014
All political
careers end in
failure; mine just
happened to end
earlier than
most.
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 112
I
MAGINE a documentary set
against the backdrop of the vio-
lence unleashed against Muslims
in Gujarat in 2002, in which those
who killed, maimed, raped, disembo-
welled pregnant women and de-
stroyed foetuses gloat about how they
went about it, in gory detail; how they
keep sickening score of how many
each of them dealt with. In the cur-
rent climate of political correctness,
you are not allowed to proceed with
that imagination without matching
it, balancing it, with another remem-
brance: of the slaughter of, and equal-
ly despicable atrocities inicted on,
Sikhs in 1984. So go ahead and be
even-handed and imagine a parallel
documentary on the perpetrators of
that carnage, too, crowing about their
handiwork. And, since it is only imag-
ination, and really costs nothing, take
it a step further and think of some of
these people, in the process of their
lending themselves to the making of
the documentary, revisiting what
they have done, and, unknown to
them, their veneer of grisly accom-
plishment peeling off to reveal a
throb, a twinge of self-doubt.
This is very different from an in-
stitutionalised and cathartic truth
Modi. The import of that meeting
did not, perhaps, proceed beyond a
photo-op, but it was, nevertheless,
signicant. There is a potential docu-
mentary there in what took Mochi
and Ansari through what they re-
spectively did and underwent, and
what now brings them together.
It is in the former category of the
hatchet man willingly collaborating
with the documentarist and unwit-
tingly coming face to face with his
own hideousness that Joshua Op-
penheimers The Act of Killing be-
longs. It is a throwback (only in
terms of reference; there is no period
recreation or footage) to Indonesia
in 1965-66 when Suharto displaced
Sukarno and it was open season on
all communists in the population,
more than 500,000 of whom (or who
were assumed to be communists)
were ruthlessly killed in a purge
across the country.
Four decades later, it does not
take Oppenheimer too much effort
to seek out those who did the actual
killing, because they are not shying
away, are not repentant or remorse-
ful, and are in fact eager to brag
about what they did. Communism
and communists continue to be seen
and reconciliation effort where vic-
timiser and victim come face to face
and, sometimes, to terms with one
another; although such an exercise
may have been, in both the instances
of 1984 and 2002, far more useful
than the rigmarole of a commission
of enquiry whose proceedings drag
on and on until they are in a limbo.
There was a semblance of a truth and
reconciliation moment when two
iconic and polar opposite images of
the 2002 Gujarat riots recently came
together.
The tailor Qutubuddin Ansari,
whose visage of victimhoodhis
shirt specked with blood, his eyes
brimming with tears of desperate-
ness, his hands folded in a beseech-
ing prayer for pity and succouris
seared in the public memory, and the
cobbler Ashok Mochi, whose visual
as victimiserhis arms thrust ag-
gressively in the air, an iron rod held
aloft in the right hand, with a saffron
band around his head, a menacing
mien and a re raging in the back-
groundis also etched in the pop-
ular consciousness, shared the same
platform in Kannur in Kerala, made
up and shook hands and declared
themselves on the same side against
The act of killing
Joshua Oppenheimers documentary The Act of Killing is a
blistering unblinking gaze at the humungous nature of human cruelty.
JOSHUA
OPPENHEI MER with the
best documentary award
for "The Act of Killing" at
the BAFTA Film
Awards in London on
February 16.
makes us cringe, but to him is a job
well done, or should one say, well
executed, we dont want to look and
yet cant look away.
It is not as if the lm-makers
coolly homicidal subject belongs to a
different moral universe. The killer is
now a fond grandfather who plays
with his grandchildren, was even
then, when he took to and led a life of
killing, full of the zest for the good
life, loved Hollywood movies and
Western pop, idolised John Wayne
and the way he went after the Red
Indians, and Elvis Presley and his
musical amboyance, and Al Pacino
as mobster boss, in fact initially
made a living peddling movie tickets
in the black, was fond of stylish hats,
good clothes and cuisine and drinks
and shing and the rest. It was per-
haps as normative to be all this and
be pathologically anti-communist at
the same time in Indonesia of the
mid-1960s as it was in the national
mood that prompted the persecu-
tions and prosecutions of communi-
sts or their sympathisers in the
United States by the House of Repre-
sentatives Committee on un-Amer-
ican Activities from the late 1930s.
In fact, the U.S. state and Holly-
wood stand indicted at one remove
in The Act of Killing. At one point in
the lm, when the question of ac-
countability for their crimes and the
possibility of being hauled up before
the International Criminal Court at
The Hague are raised, Anwar Con-
gos friend and fellow executioner
from 1965, Adi Zulkadry, counters
scoffingly that it would not be in the
interest of the West to do so, that
after all George W. Bush too has his
Guantanamo Bay and his stigmatise-
and-eliminate operation against
Saddam Hussein and the lives of nu-
merous Iraqi civilians to answer for.
Oppenheimer himself, who has, for
over a decade, been tracking the cir-
cumstances of the massacre of the
communists in Indonesia in 1965,
states categorically in an interview
that it was a U.S.-sponsored geno-
cide, with the U.S. providing money,
weapons and communication sup-
port to carry it out.
Hollywood is as much implicated
as imbricated, in terms of its formal
and aesthetic structuring and the in-
spiration its central gure draws
from its lm lore, in the work. In
1965, the Indonesian Left had led a
boycott of American lms because
the head of the American Motion
Picture Association in Jakarta, the
body responsible for importing lms
from the U.S., was revealed to be a
CIA operative involved in the over-
throw of the Sukarno government.
The languid pace of The Act of Kill-
ing is part of the lm-makers ploy
and does not, in any case, detract one
whit from the visceral engagement in
which it holds you. There is, you
know, something devastating wait-
ing for you round the next corner,
and the next. The director provides
time and space for his characters to
just be themselves, and introduces,
every once in a while, a stretch of
make-believe atmospherics for them
to reconstruct their crimes as con-
scious and conscientious actors on
camera, or driving the action them-
selves in their alternate role play of
directors behind the camera. They
are on a macabre roll. The overall
effect is weird and surreal and more
truthful than factual.
There are in the docu-
mentary, shot over a
longish span be-
tween 2005 and
2011, snippets of
contemporary
as pathogens that need to be kept out
of the body politic of Indonesia even
today. Those who persecuted and ex-
terminated them continue to enjoy
the status of folk heroes. Oppen-
heimer encounters 40 such eager
beavers before he settles on the forty-
rst, Anwar Congo, an elderly, be-
nign-looking man, as the main char-
acter, and a handful of his
contemporaries and younger cohorts
as the real-life cast of his lm. Congo
has the personal satisfaction of hav-
ing himself killed 1,000 persons, in a
variety of ways.
Imagination plays a crucial role
in the work, but not in sanitising or
obfuscating the callous cruelty that
drives its protagonists. It becomes a
clever hook to draw them out in their
incriminating entirety by pandering
to their Hollywood xations and us-
ing role play and re-enactment as
devices to get them to graphically, in
eerily dead earnest, recapitulate
their crimes.
When we come across news, in
the daily media, about the police tak-
ing an accused person who has ad-
mitted to his crime to the scene of the
crime to re-enact the crime, we pass
by it as a routine investigative chore
which combines some logistics and
some forensics to establish a fool-
proof case or to fully understand the
modus operandi of the criminal. But
when the criminal, with an air of
assurance of impunity and approval
for his deeds, volunteers details and
takes the investigator (in this case
the lm-maker and his team)
through a conducted tour of the loca-
tions of his murders, recounting in
chilling clinical detail how he
tortured and killed, all of this as if
particular to establish
his stamp of ownership
on what to us is repul-
sive violence, the sheer
description of which
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life and political practice in Indone-
sia which come across as anachro-
nistic enough to make us wonder
whether we are talking about this
day and age, and indicate a virulently
unrelenting mindset against the
Left, which has, since it was literally
wiped out in the mid-1960s, strug-
gled to cling on in the margins. Op-
penheimer, in a television interview,
describes his own impression of this
strange political psychosis akin to
wandering into Germany 40 years
after the Holocaust with the Nazis
still in power there.
We see the incestuous, blood-
stained relationship between people
like Anwar Congo and the leaders
and cadres of the Pancasila Youth, a
notorious banding of rogues and
thugs who did Suhartos dirty job for
him of snuffing out the communist
resistance and physically eliminating
anyone suspected to be a communist.
We see the new generation of the
Pancasila brigade, now supposedly
three-million-strong, whipping
themselves up into a frenzy of hatred
for anything liberal, their leader
taunting detractors, saying, They
say Pancasila Youth is a gangster or-
ganisation. If we are gangsters I am
the biggest gangster of all. He then
proceeds to the golf course where be-
tween hitting the ball he laments
that we have too much democracy.
Its chaos things were better under
military dictatorship. The rather
stupid epicurean motto he lives by is
Relax and Rolex.
We see, even more disturbingly,
Anwar Congo viewing his shot foot-
age on a television screen and rather
irritated with himself for wearing the
wrong kind of clotheshe always
wore, he reminisced, dark colours
when he was engaged in his killing,
nothing like the white trousers in
which he was now canned recreating
itand for laughing out of place and
not giving the scene the criminal
gravitas it called for. We see him
demonstrate with verve and fun how
he and his accomplices would be
seated on a table, their legs dangling,
all of them gaily singing together,
Hello Bandung, city of good times
city of happy memories the ene-
mys burned you down, now lets win
you back, while one leg of the table
was all along placed on the throat of
their victim lying facing upward on
the oor, crushing his windpipe.
We see him almost become his
old agile self as he shows, with nim-
ble dance steps thrown in, and on the
same rooftop terrace of the building
that he did it days on end, the blood-
less (theres no need to clear the
bloody mess after, you see) and la-
bour-saving ( you only need one man
to do the job) advantage of garrotting
victims using a long length of cable:
tie one end of the cable rmly to a
pipe or pillar, pass it a short stretch
later around the victims neck, and
pull at the other end until his life is
wrung out. We see too his younger
cronies extorting money, with
threats and insults, from the shop-
keepers in the ethnic Chinese quar-
ter of the town. The mix of long
suffering and fear on their faces, as
they hasten to pay this ragtag bunch
of bullies its demanded price to leave
them alone, is poignant.
The legacy of evil that seems to sit
lightly on Anwar Congo as he goes
about his daily chores with jaunty
steps and a tune on his lips has, how-
ever, begun to eat into him in the
process of the making of the lm.
When we have almost given him up
as irredeemably damned, he begins
to crack under the weight of his
crimes.
The Act of Killing is a blistering
unblinking gaze at the humungous
nature of human cruelty. What is re-
ally frightening is that it can all be
recalled and recounted, by those who
have revelled in it, so normally, like a
quotidian narrative. The lm was
nominated in the documentary cate-
gory at the recent 86th Academy
Awards, but lost to Twenty Feet from
Stardom. Just as well, because Holly-
wood was an ineluctable part of An-
war Congos curious mental
make-up. The lm somehow seems
better off without an award from the
same source that was part of its prob-
lem.
ADI ZULKADRY AND ANWAR CONGO (right), two of the subjects featured
in The Act of Killing, being made up before recreating one of the 1965
massacres in Medan, Indonesia.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
TRIBUTE
EVEN at 94, the Carnatic vocalist
R.K. Srikantan had a packed sched-
ule. He travelled to perform at nearly
70 music events in 2013 and that
made him the only nonagenarian
performing musician in the country.
He was a follower of the chaste Car-
natic paddhati or tradition, was
blessed with a voice with a resonant
timbre, and had good control over it
until his end came on February 17 in
Bangalore.
Thatha, how are you feeling, is
your voice okay? his grandson
Achintya had enquired a day before
Srikantans death in hospital. I feel
physically weak, but my voice has all
the strength, shall I sing? Srikantan
replied. The next six minutes was a
beautiful build-up of Begada, recol-
lects Achintya about his grandfa-
thers voice booming from his
hospital bed.
Breathing exercises and medita-
tion were part of his voice mainte-
nance routine for several decades. A
voracious reader, Srikantan con-
stantly updated his vidwat (knowl-
edge) and used them in every way for
his musical interactions, but it was
time-honoured music formats that
he religiously stuck to.
The conviction with which Sri-
kantan journeyed through his be-
liefs, the simplicity of life that he
vouched for, and the exacting ways in
which he taught his 500-odd stu-
dents for nearly ve decades were
features that reected the scrupu-
lously principled mans towering
personality.
No wonder the ace mridangist
Umayalapuram Sivaraman often
commented, Srikantan is the Sem-
mangudi Iyer of Karnataka.
When this writer, who was work-
ing on his biography Voice of a Gener-
ation, released in January 2014,
visited him a few months ago, thou-
sands of books on music, literature
and poetry, and a host of notepads
with notes, notations and songs sat
in all corners of his 10x10 room at his
residence. With several award certif-
icates and citations hanging on the
wall, his satisfaction seemed im-
mense, his contentment evident in
the way he reminisced about his mu-
sical life, sitting in his rosewood
chair. This chair is like a throne to
me, I feel as if I am in a palace of
music, as Naada Soukhya (melodic
bliss) is all I yearn for till my end, he
said. Be it my students or my guests,
it is this cosy room that hosted them
all along. This modest lifestyle is
what I relish. But when it comes to
food, I am like a king, hot rasam and
badam halwa being my good voice
companions!
His younger son Kumar said his
resolve and willpower was iron-like,
and that nothing would disturb his
focus. Another appreciable quality
was his sincerity to his commit-
ments. My father, who had a hip
fracture in 1995 at the age of 75, nev-
er even entertained thoughts of can-
celling his Ramanavami season
concerts that year. He literally
hopped onto platforms with support
and presented nearly a dozen con-
certs seated on a chair! he said.
Ramakanth, his eldest son and a
vocalist who accompanied Srikantan
for two decades, said, Even 10 days
before his death, when cough and
cold were bothering him, we had
asked him to cancel a temple concert
in the city. But he rmly retorted, In
case you dont want to come, I can go
ahead and keep up my word to Lord
Anjaneya!
Srikantan hails from a family of
rened and cultured Vedic scholars
and musicians from Rudrapatna,
who savoured the revered Cauvery
water and chose to stay away from
the comforts of the royal patronage
in Mysore, said Semmangudi Srini-
vasa Iyer when he arrived for Srikan-
tans 75th birthday celebration.
Hailing the purity of the music Sri-
kantan was taking forward, Sem-
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R. K. SRI KANTAN addressing a
seminar on performing arts in
Bangalore in August 2011.
Inimitable purist
R.K. Srikantan (1920-2014) was a follower of the chaste Carnatic vocal
tradition and never hankered after recognitions. BY RANJANI GOVI ND
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 116
mangudi said: A huge lifetime
investment that Srikantan made was
in reserving time every day for devel-
oping his students musical skills.
Call it the best and prudent outlay of
his musical life.
SANKETI HERI TAGE
Rudrapatnam Krishna Sastry Sri-
kantan was born on January 14,
1920, at Rudrapatna village in Has-
san district of Karnataka. He went to
Mysore when music and other cul-
tural activities received the patron-
age of the Wadiyar rulers.
He belonged to the Sanketi com-
munity, a small sub-sect of the Siva
worshippers in Karnataka who are
said to have migrated from Shencot-
tai in southern Tamil Nadu nearly a
thousand years ago. They are found
mostly in the Old Mysore area of the
State (especially in the neighbour-
hood of the Cauvery and Tunga riv-
ers) which was noted for agriculture,
study of the Vedas, and classical mu-
sic. They speak a dialect that has
words and grammatical structures
freely borrowed from Kannada, Ma-
layalam and Tulu, besides some orig-
inal Tamil elements.
Srikantans father, Krishna Sas-
try, was a Sanskrit and Veda scholar,
while his three elder brothersR.K.
Venkatrama Sastry, R.K. Narayanas-
wamy and R.K. Ramanathanwere
performers during their times. His
father and brother Venkatrama Sas-
try were Srikantans initial tutors. He
went on to gather the ner nuances
of rendering vocal after imbibing the
best from several yesteryear stal-
warts of the genre (Ariyakudi Rama-
nuja Iyengar, Musiri Subramania
Iyer and Semmangudi), which grad-
ually evolved into a signature Srikan-
tan baani, acknowledged by the then
music stalwarts in All India Radio
(AIR) where Srikantan had joined as
a staff artist in 1947.
Having gathered the best of the
mores from musical geniuses of the
era and in a climate that got him
further acclimatised to the genre by
visiting musicians at AIR, Srikantan
gave on air music classes called
Gaanavihara, which over the years
earned him scores of indirect dis-
ciples throughout south India in the
1970s. He even scored melody to
hundreds of Dasa Sahityakirtanas
of the Haridasas of Karnatakain
the authentic Bathis raga musical
scales which were originally propa-
gated by the 13th century Dasas
themselves. He set to tune verses of
Karnataka litterateurs and poets; his
workshops and lecture demonstra-
tions on the Trinity and other aca-
demic aspects were judged veritable
textbooks for students and connois-
seurs. Said Ramakanth: In 1949, the
renowned Kannada poet Pu.Ti. Na-
rasimhachar agreed to the melodic
rendering of his poems on AIR My-
sore only because it was to be sung by
the inimitable purist Srikantan.
The same conformist could get
away from the shackles of orthodoxy
and perform at the open-air Orion
Mall, declares his student Mahen-
dran Unni. He practised simplicity,
but mediocrity in rendition never ap-
pealed to him. Once during my swa-
ra rendition he intervened to
demonstrate how sarvalaghu pat-
terns were brought about pleasingly
than korvais that fastened artists to
technical eccentricities. A surprised
Unni had then asked him: You need
no practice, sir? Srikantan was for-
thright: Music requires lifelong
practice!
T.S. Sathyavathi, Sanskrit schol-
ar and a student of Srikantan, said:
My gurus sangeeta was a mirror of
his wholesome personality. His My-
sore shastreeyate brought in him an
impeccable diction, while his assid-
uously nurtured manodharma made
him conform to a madhya vilamba
pace in his rendering, a facet of his
rened melodic standing. The ump-
teen raga deliberations from us will
never match a single sangati of our
maestro who pithily sketched the ab-
solute essence of the raga bhava. He
revelled in succinct phraseology that
conveyed the best in the opening ex-
pressions itself. His voice had an
emotive calling to it, a dard that his
dwani conveyed, so intense with
bhava rasa. I can trace these features
to his saatvika aahaara and his calm
mental disposition for ever exploring
divinity.
Indian Space Research Organi-
sation (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhak-
rishnan, a student of Srikantan for
35 years, says, The best way to re-
member R.K. Srikantans teachings
would be to have his lessons aired by
Akashvani [AIR] as a series on con-
noisseurs. In this post-Srikantan
phase we need to resurrect the trea-
sure trove of the AIR archives where
RKS Gaanavihara, Geetharadhana
or Sangeetha Samrajya will prove to
be a fund of knowledge-gathering
music sessions. It is essential that his
meaningful school of music is carried
forward through his large set of stu-
dents to help future generations be
aware of the great master.
RKS performances matched his
teaching capabilities, andsenior mu-
sicians such as Ramakanth, M.S.
Sheela and T.S. Sathyavathi, who
were his shishyas, stand testimony to
this. But was he ever rewarded in his
lifetime for all the treasures he cre-
ated for posterity? Says Chiranjiv
Singh, former Additional Chief Sec-
retary to the Karnataka government
and an acionado of the classical
genres: Srikantan was far above all
awards, they didnt mean anything to
him. Who remembers all awardees
anyway? Did Bade Ghulam Ali Khan
or Ustad Amir Khan get Padma
awards? Their music is still immor-
tal. I have seen people run after
awards, but the modest Srikantan
never ever entered the portals of the
Vidhana Soudha [State Assembly]
soliciting such recognitions. I met
him only at music platforms! He be-
longs to the league of Girija Devi,
Mallikarjun Mansur, Kishori Amon-
kar and Gangubai Hangal, for whom
music was a lifelong tapasya.
Incidentally, it was on Chiranjiv
Singhs official insistence that Sri-
kantan got the Padma Bhushan in
2011. Singh says, I would have been
happier if he had received the Padma
Vibhushan.
RKS was so evolved, says Singh,
that after a point everyone knew he
was singing only for the divine. Be
it the kritis of the Trinity or the Dev-
aranama, he internalised them to
convey the inherent bhava. And
whenever I heard a Tyagaraja kriti,
rendered so poignantly by him, I al-
ways thought even Tyagaraja must
have sung it that way.
117 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
ESSAY
I
FMaxwell were to put the report online, no red faces
will be noticed in South Block. They will be covered
with egg. I take no credit at all for this prediction (Pub-
lish the 1962 War Report now; The Hindu, July 2, 2012).
For the last two decades I have been pleading for its
publication (Looking back: A case for publishing the
Henderson Brooks report; Frontline; April 10, 1992). I
cited evidence to prove that Australian journalist Neville
Maxwell had a copy of the report, a fact which I learnt as
far back in 1970 from the proofs of his article in The
China Quarterly (London). I pointed out also that his
book Indias China War, published by Jaico (Bombay) in
1970, was very much based on that report, which was
prepared by a two-member internal inquiry team com-
prising Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks and Bri-
gadier Prem Singh Bhagat of the Indian Army.
The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat
Habibullah, who on March 19, 2009, rejected Kuldip
Nayars application to make available a copy of the
report, had egg on his face when the report was put
online on March 17. Unlike him, his colleague, Informa-
tion Commissioner M.L. Sharma, did not give press in-
terviews or appear on the TV to justify the report on
spurious grounds.
Even more shameless was the reaction of the Bharati-
ya Janata Partys (BJP) spokespersons. Never short of
venom, they picked on Jawaharlal Nehru as the target of
their fusillades. In this, they are being dishonest, charac-
teristically so (see box). Predictably, Maxwell came in for
abuse because he is uncritically and stridently pro-China,
whether on the Sino-Soviet boundary dispute or on Hong
Kong. We are in for a repeat performance of this panto-
mime when Maxwell fulls his promise: A second edi-
tion of which [his book] will appear shortly (Economic
& Political Weekly; December 22, 2012). He had earlier,
in the same journal, revealed his possession of a copy of
the report: The Henderson Brooks Report is long (its
main section, excluding recommendations and many an-
nexures, covers nearly 200 foolscap pages) (EPW; April
INDIA-CHINA WAR:
THE TRUE STORY
Now that the Henderson Brooks
report is out in the public
domain, are we at least now
prepared to accept the historical
truths, swallow false pride,
alert the nation to the truths
and make an earnest,
determined bid for a solution
to the boundary dispute with
China? BY A. G. NOORANI
DECEMBER 6, 1962: Prime Minister Jawaharlal
Nehru and Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan talking to
jawans in one of the bunkers in the forward areas in
NEFA.
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14, 2001; emphasis added throughout). Thanks to Habi-
bullahs disgraceful order, the public is deprived of a vital
part of the reportthe recommendations, besides, of
course, the telltale annexures. No prizes for guessing the
identity of the source who revealed to the media that the
annexures contain Lieutenant-General B.M. Kauls let-
ters with juicy details.
In 1962, Kaul was Chief of the General Staff under
General P.N. Thapar, Chief of Army Staff. Kauls Deputy
was Major-General J.S. Dhillon. Brigadier D.K. Palit was
Director of Military Operations. The Eastern Command,
based in Lucknow, was headed by its GOC-in-C, Lt.-Gen.
L.P. Sen, ever at loggerheads with Lt.-Gen. Umrao Singh,
who led the XXXIII Corps based in Shillong. Lower
down came 4 Division, based in Tezpur, commanded by
Major-General Niranjan Prasad with its two Infantry
brigades. 7 Brigade was commanded by the famous Bri-
gadier John Dalvi, author of Himalayan Blunder.
Reading the 190 pages of the report, one admires, and
feels grateful to, Neville Maxwell for providing in 1970, in
elegant prose, an extremely lucid and readable survey of
the report. This document is itself ably written and free
from jargon. Predictably, the issues it raises are over-
looked in the partisan noises as well as the disingenuous
efforts by some to belittle the document.
HONEST APPRAI SAL
But the report brooks no underestimation. It is an honest
APRI L 19, 1960: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
greeting Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai upon his arrival in
New Delhi. Zhous visit afforded the Jana Sangh an
opportunity to address a memorandum to Nehru on
China's supposed evil designs on India.
119 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
appraisal, in restrained language, which is amply docu-
mented in the record. It squarely raises four issues: (1) Its
origin. Why was the inquiry set up? (2) The course of the
inquiry and the hurdles put in its way; (3) The bogey of
violating the terms of reference; and (4) What does the
report actually say? There are, however, issues beyond
and outside the report which the BJP dare not reckon
with because, along with others, it was complicit in the
folly of spurning a compromise and seeking a military
solution to a boundary dispute.
We must also consider the implications of the CICs
order in the light of the law, international practice and
the many contradictory and self-serving explanations to
the media by its chief, Wajahat Habibullah. It is as
unprecedented as it is highly improper. Lastly, it is im-
perative that we reect on the fundamental issueare we
at all prepared even now to accept the historical truths,
swallow false pride, alert the nation to the truths and
make an earnest, determined bid for a solution to the
boundary dispute with China? All comments have cen-
tred on the military aspectthe Forward Policyto the
neglect of this basic question which persists still.
True, it was an internal army inquiry, but one in-
stituted to allay public disquiet and in fullment of
Prime Minister Nehrus promise to Parliament on No-
vember 9, 1962. I hope there will be an inquiry so as to
nd out what mistakes or errors were committed and
who was responsible for them. Informing Parliament of
the conclusion of the probe, Defence Minister Y.B. Cha-
van acknowledged on September 2, 1963, that this in-
quiry is the type of inquiry which the Prime Minister had
in mind when he promised such an inquiry to the House
in November 1962. But publication of this report which
contains information about the strength and deployment
of our forces and their locations would be of invaluable
use to our enemies. Even Chavan did not suggest that
publication would undermine Indias case on the bound-
ary dispute or affect its relations with China as Habibul-
lah said nearly 50 years later.
HAMPERI NG THE PROBE
The probe was hampered from the word go by none other
than the main culprit, Kauls condant, the wily D.K.
Palit (see his book War in the Himalaya, Lancer In-
ternational, 1991; pages 388-392). He refused to hand
over the documents, telling Henderson Brooks, falsely,
that following the Army Chief Gen. J.N. Chaudhuris
orders he had not kept a copy of my review in the
Directorate (page 389). But earlier (page 376) he re-
cords how he gave the Chief two copies of my Summary
of Events and Policies and told him deantly that I
intend to keep a personal copy too when the Chief said I
dont want any record of this kept in your office. He also
refused to hand over the papers to Lt.-Gen. Prem Bhagat,
Henderson Brooks colleague in the probe. I was not
authorised to hand over government les, records or
notes and the Army Chief had no authority either. Only
the PM or the Defence Minister can authorise the docu-
ments in question to be released to a non-ministerial
committer of inquiry (page 389). This was sheer non-
sense. The Chief and the man he had asked to inquire had
that authority. It is a pity that Brooks and Bhagat did not
seek an explicit mandate from the Defence Minister after
this stone-walling. It is a pity, no less, that they did not
ask Kaul and Dalvi to give evidence nor (to the best of my
knowledge) my [Dalvis] repatriated Commanding
Officers.
R.D. Pradhan, Private Secretary to Chavan, records
Chavans decision. The inquiry would be ordered by the
COAS on the basis of a directive from the Defence Minis-
ter himself. The COAS nominated Lt. Gen. Henderson
Brooks and Brigadier P.S. Bhagat V.C. to undertake the
probe (Debacle to Revival; Orient Longman, 1998; page
138). The Cabinet Secretary, S.S. Khera, who was also the
principal Defence Secretary, was asked to prepare a
statement on the report for Chavan to read in Parliament
(page 143). The job was actually done by one of the ablest
civil servants we have known who, sadly, died premature-
ly, Deputy Secretary Susheetal Banerjee. It was revised by
Pradhan. The report, including the appendices, ran into
seven bound volumes. It was in two sets and was not
available to the Defence Ministry or Army HQs for sever-
al years (page 175). Maxwell, Pradhan claims, could not
have seen the report. Pradhans book was published in
1999. Maxwells access to the report was known by 1970.
Small wonder that the report repeatedly refers to inade-
quate information and lack of access to Army Head
Quarters documents. Minutes of important meetings
were not kept on Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menons
orders, the report repeatedly complains. There was no
telephonic log, either.
To be sure, Brooks and Bhagat crossed their remit in
some respects, but, inevitably so. The Army Chief in-
stituted an Operation Review on December 14, 1962, to
go into the armys reverses and what went wrong with
training, equipment, system of command, physical t-
ness of the troops, and capacity of commanders at all
levels to inuence the men under the command. That
capacity, surely, depends on their ability to inspire
respect and condence. Now, read at page 74 of the
report. In any case, the General Staff, sitting in Delhi,
ordering an action against a position 1000 yards north-
east of Dhola Postto say the leastis astounding. The
country was not known, the enemy situation vague, and
for all that there may have been a ravine in between, but
yet the order was given. This order could go down in the
annals of history as being as incredulous as the order for
The Charge of the Light Brigade. That no action was
taken on this signal is natural, but it was orders such as
these that could well shake eld commanders condence
in their higher commanders and the General Staff. This
was a reference to a signal of September 15, 1962, order-
ing capture of Chinas post 1,000 yards North East of
Dhola post. Could this have inspired condence among
the ranks? Was this then not a valid part of the remit?
The quality of intelligence is also a relevant factor.
The report can hardly be faulted for scrutinising the
intelligence set-up. It also mentions the irritation and
121 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
Menon, published a map to depict Indias gains.
The Western Command, headed by the formidable
Lt.-Gen. Daulat Singh, protested against the Forward
Policy on August 17, 1962. (Like all other documents it
gures in full in an appendix). He wrote: It is imperative
that political direction is based on military means. If the
two are not coordinated there is a danger of creating a
situation where we may lose both in the material and
moral sense much more than we already have. Thus there
is no short cut to military preparedness to enable us to
pursue objectively our present policy aimed at refuting
the illegal Chinese claim over our territory. Kaul like,
Mullik, Director of Intelligence Bureau, and above all the
Prime Minister, were all convinced that China would not
react. Foreign Secretary M.J. Desai heartily concurred.
Kauls deputy, Major-Gen. Dhillon, told Lt.-Gen. L.P.
Sen in September 1962 that the experience in Ladakh
had shown that a few rounds red at the Chinese would
cause them to run away.
WHY THE FORWARD POLI CY AT ALL?
One must pause here and ask why such a policy was
conceived at all in the rst place, quite irrespective of how
it was executed. What was the motive? Kaul reveals,
Nehru was aware of the mounting criticism of the people
on this subject but also
knew the handicaps
from which our Armed
Forces were suffering.
He was therefore anx-
ious to devise some via
media and take action,
short of war, in order to
appease the people.
Nehru accordingly had
a meeting in his room
somewhere in the au-
tumn of 1961 in which
Krishna Menon, Gener-
al Thapar and I were
present. He rst saw on
a military map all the
recent incursions China
had made against us.
He said that whoever
succeeded in establish-
ing (even a symbolic)
post, would establish a claim to that territory, as posses-
sion was nine-tenths of law. If the Chinese could set up
posts, why couldnt we? A discussion then followed, the
upshot of which I understood to be that (since China was
unlikely to wage war with India), there was no reason
why we should not play a game of chess and a battle of
wits with them, so far as the question of establishing
posts was concerned.
If they advanced in one place, we should advance in
another. In other words, keep up with them, as far as
possible, and maintain a few of our symbolic postswh-
ere we couldon what we were convinced was our terri-
tory. This defensive step on our part at best might irritate
the Chinese but no more. This was how, I think, this new
policy on our borders was evolved which was referred to
by some as forward policy. By the end of the year (1961),
we had established over fty such posts in Ladakh and
NEFA (North-East Frontier Agency] and hence our oc-
cupational rights in some 2000 square miles of Indian
territory. These posts were set up, not for the purpose of
administration, as there was no population there, but to
ensure that the Chinese did not repeat the Aksai Chin
story in NEFA or even in Ladakh. I think Nehru framed
this policy principally for the benet of the Parliament
and the public and also perhaps as a strategy of beating
the Chinese at their own game. (B.M. Kaul; The Untold
Story; Allied; 1967; pages 279-281). The Chinese were
expected to sit back and watch.
NEHRU S REFUSAL TO NEGOTI ATE
However, there was more to it than this. Even before
Zhou En-lais arrival in New Delhi in April 1960, Nehru
had said that there was no common ground between
the two sides. He rejected Zhous offer which included
acceptance of the McMahon Line. He told the Rajya
Sabha on February 20, 1961, The question will only be
settled when they leave this territory. Indias case was
almost foolproof.
Nehru had painted India into a corner by his ada-
mant refusal to negotiate; his unilateral changes to the
official map in 1954; and, what is little realised, uni-
lateral changes to the alignment of the McMahon Line. It
is a border which is not described in the agreement in
words (The Indo-Tibetan Exchange of Notes on March
24, 1914). It is simply delineated on a map attached to the
Notes; a line drawn with a thick nib dipped in red on a
map (8 miles to the inch) which suffers from the car-
tographic inrmities of a map of 1914. We have aerial
cartography now. Here again, Nehru arrogantly did the
incredible and the illegal, if not indefensibly immoral.
On September 12, 1959, Nehru candidly told Parlia-
ment that, in some parts, the McMahon Line was not
considered a good line and it was varied afterwards by
us. On June 4, 1962, the Dhola Post was set up within
that altered line but beyond the map linean area of 60
square miles. On September 8, Chinese troops took up
positions dominating it. Responding to public anger,
Nehru ordered their eviction.
Taxed for laxity in Ladakh, Nehru had always plead-
ed, We attached more importance to it (NEFA). Now,
the McMahon Line itself was in peril, as he wrongly
imagined. Fed on the official myth, so did the nation, and
so it does even now. The BJP will not accept that nor will
the other opposition parties. But as far back as in Septem-
ber 1959 China had demurred to the Indian claim on the
precise alignment of the McMahon Line, as distinct from
its legality. This was made all too clear on a map publish-
ed by Peking Review on September 15, 1959. It was not
banned then.
The most important part of the report is the section
dealing with this venture. DHOLA Post was established
BRI GADI ER PREM SI NGH
BHAGAT. He was Brooks
colleague in the inquiry.
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 122
NORTH of the McMahon Line as shown on maps prior
to October/November 1962 edition. It is believed the old
edition was given to the Chinese by our External Affairs
Ministry to indicate the McMahon Line. It is also learnt
that we tried to clarify the error [sic] in our maps, but the
Chinese did not accept our contention. The General Staff
must have been well aware of this; and it was their duty to
have warned lower formations regarding the dispute.
This was not done, and the seriousness of the establish-
ment of the DHOLA Post was not fully known to lower
formations. The post was set up on June 4, 1962. In 1954
Nehru had ordered revision of the 1950 map to depict the
Aksai Chin as Indian Territory and demanded that China
accept the 1954 map. He repeated this on the McMahon
Line as well.
At a meeting on September 12, 1962, the Army Com-
mander (East) Lt.-Gen. L.P. Sen said that there was
some doubt in the minds of Officers regarding the align-
ment of the McMahon Line west of Khinzemane. The
doubt was shared by none other than the Commander of
the 4 Division in the affected sector, Maj. Gen. Niranjan
Prasad based at Tezpur, as Palit mentions: westward
from the Khinzemane, the Line was marked as lying well
to the South of the main Thag-la ridge (Palit; page 188).
Dalvi reminded the Army Commander Lt.-Gen. L.P. Sen
that we had all along been apprehensive of establishing
a post in an area which the Chinese do not concede to be
ours (page 170). He calls it a disputed area and the post
a potentially explosive commitment (page 134).
Prof. H.K. Barpurjari is a historian of international
repute who specialised in the history of Assam. He noted
that in NEFA the Assam Ries pushed up and occupied
several new positions; some of these, particularly Dhola
or Che Dong, South of the Tag La ridge was located a few
miles North of the (McMahon) Line. (Problem of the Hill
Tribes: North-East Frontier 1873-1962; Spectrum Publi-
cations, Gauhati; 1981; Vol. III; p.318).
DOUBTS ON ALI GNMENT
The report says: It is clear in the planning stage and after
the establishment of the DHOLA Post that XXXIII
Corps and formations under it were working under the
impression that the McMahon Line as such was as given
in the map then available to them. XXXIII Corps letter of
24 February 1962 (Annexure 37) recommending the es-
tablishment of posts specically mentioned the estab-
lishment of a post at the old version of the TRI
JUNCTION (Sketch H). Later, in their letter of 15 August
1962 (Annexure 42), after the DHOLA Post was estab-
lished, XXXIII Corps brought out the doubt and asked
NOVEMBER 14, 1962: A rally in Bangalore in support of
the military action. The nation, fed on myths, believed that
the McMahon Line was under threat.
123 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
for clarication as also the fact if Posts could be establish-
ed on the THAGLA Ridge. No clarication of the align-
ment nor decision for establishing posts was given till this
conference. Had this been done earlier perhaps we might
have forestalled the Chinese. The Foreign Secretarys
suggestion of establishing a post on THAGLA Ridge
alongside the Chinese, viewed against the happenings in
LADAKH, seems incredible.
The report sets out the deliberations on the schedule
for Chinas eviction. Kaul leaked to Prem Bhatia his
eviction plans which he reported in The Times of Indiaon
September 27, 1962. On October 4, Kaul was made head
of a new IV Corps. Nehru and the nation entire were bent
on staking the countrys prestige on this disputed piece of
land and on territory in dispute all through the 19th
century, as the British consistently acceptedthe Aksai
Chin.
CHI NA S POSI TI ON
Annexed to the famous Premier Zhou En-lais letter to
the Leaders of Asian and African countries on the Sino-
Indian Question, dated November 15, 1962, were a set of
six tell-all maps including the Indian Surveyor Generals
map of 1950 and Nehrus altered one of 1954as well as the
map annexed to the India-Tibet exchange of Notes on
March 24, 1914 (in 2 sheets) and an enlargement to show
Indian posts beyondthe McMahon Line. The legend read
thus: This is an enlargement of that part of the original
map of the illegal McMahon Line showing the western
end of the Line. It can be seen that the western extremity
of the Line is at 27 degree 44.6N, 91 degree 39.7E, that
the Line runs from here eastward, and that the Kechilang
River and the Che Dong area are north of the Line. But
the Indian side insists that the western extremity of this
Line is at 27 degree 48N, 91 degree 40E. In this way the
Line is pushed north of the Kechilang River. This is
arbitrarily shifting the position of the so-called McMa-
hon Line. The Indian troops intrusion into the Kechilang
River and the Che Dong area on this pretext was all the
more a deliberate violation of the line of actual control
between the two sides and a provocation of armed
conict.
THE LOCATI ON OF DHOLA
All this was known to anyone who cared to read the maps
which New Delhi wisely kept under wraps. In 1962, The
Indian Express, which had its main editorial set-up at
Sassoon Docks in Bombay under the editorship of Frank
Moraes, had on its staff an English journalist Stephen
Hugh-Jones who wrote also for The Manchester Guardi-
an and The Economist, which he joined in 1964. After his
recent retirement he contributes now an erudite column
to The Telegraph on the quirks of the English language. I
began writing a column in The Indian Express in April
1961 and stopped writing for it in 1992. Stephen and I
became, and remain, good friends. Imagine my surprise
when in September 1962, shortly after the Dhola post
incident, he showed me a map he had bought in London,
which unlike Indian maps, showed the coordinates in
detail and revealed that the Dhola Post was to the north
of the McMahon Line. Stephen denounced China when it
launched its armed attacks on October 20, 1962. The
NOVEMBER 27, 1962: Tibetan refugees haul long sticks of wood along a mountain road in NEFA to help Indian troops.
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 124
Embassies in New Delhi were no less informed. Zhous
letter had a huge impact.
CI C DECI SI ON
This brings us to the CICs Decision Notice on March
19, 2009, on Kuldip Nayars application. It cited only
three grounds for the rejection. There is no doubt that
the issue of the India-China Border particularly along
the North East parts of India is still a live issue with
ongoing negotiations between the two countries on this
matter. The disclosure of information of which the Hen-
derson Brooks report carries considerable detail on what
precipitated the war of 1962 between India and China
will seriously compromise both security and the relation-
ship between India and China, thus having a bearing
both on internal and external security. We have exam-
ined the report from the point of view of severability u/s
10(10) (of the Act). For reasons that we consider unwise
to discuss in this Decision Notice, this Division Bench
agrees that no part of the report might at this stage be
disclosed.
The duo, the CIC Wajahat Habibullah and M.L.
Sharma, were shorn of doubt though all the three
grounds cited are manifestly spurious. It is not a live
issue in the negotiations with China. The dialogue has
moved far in the last half a century. The subtext of course
is the Armys doubt on the Dhola Posta tacit but
honest admission of the truth about it. But that truth,
known to the knowledgeable even in 1962, is now accept-
ed by all except the Establishment and its stooges. It
cannot possibly affect the talks.
That applies also to the second groundThe detail
on what precipitated the war of 1962. That is as well
known and it is puerile to say that it will seriously
compromise (a) security and (b) the relationship be-
tween Indian and China. China will not be offended by
Indias acceptance of the well-known truth. It might be
pleased. On this fatuous conclusion is built another
pleathus having a bearing both on internal and ex-
ternal security. Even enlightened babus would know
better; only Establishment babus would write thus, and
they are the ones who abused the law to block the offend-
ing websites.
But the Central Information Commission is a quasi-
judicial bodyset up by a statute, the Right to Information
Act, 2005. The order is too clever by half. It cites a Delhi
High Court ruling that access to information is the rule
and its refusal an exception. Section 8(1)(a) of the Act has
the usual bar on disclosure inter alia of information
which affects security or relation with a foreign state.
But Sub-section (2) has an overriding proviso, which
says: Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets
A WOUNDED VI CTI M of the war being carried to an
Indian Air Force helicopter in NEFA for evacuation to a
hospital.
Act, 1923, or any of the exemptions permissible in ac-
cordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may
allow access to information, if public interest in dis-
closure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
To be sure, this is quoted in the Decisionas a
prelude to the result which makes a mockery of it. It is not
open to a judge or a member of a quasi judicial tribunal to
give press interviews or appear on the TV. Wajahat Habi-
bullah did so with abandon. The episode serves as a
warning against planting civil servants on the CIC.
Let us consider at least four of Habibullahs apol-
ogies. On August 25, 2010, he told a correspondent: The
report reveals the incompetence of the military top brass.
But that was not why we rejected the plea for its dis-
closure. It (CIC) felt that the report hinged on the ques-
tion [sic] which are still items of negotiation between
India and China (The Times of India; August 26, 2010).
1. Apart from the impropriety of the interview, un-
precedented in a quasi-judicial body, the rst part com-
pounds it. He abused his privileged access to the report in
a public capacity under a statute arrogantly to pro-
nounce in a personal capacity, in a press interview, his
opinion on the conduct of the army which he professes to
love ardently. In this, he had no greater rights than any
citizen. But he barred access to the citizen while feeling
free himself to pronounce his opinion. The second part,
items of negotiation, to use his quaint language, is, as
the record shows, utterly false.
2. On October 22, 2012, Hindustan Times published
yet another Habibullah fatwa based on his privileged
access to the report. It bears quotation in extenso, for it is
most revealing. India presented contradictory maps on
the McMahon Line to China in the fties and in 1960-61,
which ultimately led to the war with China in 1962. This
revelation was made by Wajahat Habibullah, former
Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), perhaps the on-
ly civilian besides defence secretaries to have officially
accessed the top secret Henderson
Brooks-Bhagat report.
We had given maps with seri-
ous contradictions on the layout of
the McMahon Line to China. This
led the Chinese to believe that one of
the pickets being controlled by our
forces in the Northeast was their-
saccording to one of the maps giv-
en to them by us, said Habibullah,
declining to name the picket along
the Arunachal Pradesh border with
China. Accordingly, on October 20,
1962, the Chinese army crossed over
to occupy the border picket, leading
to open hostilities. The report, he
revealed, was in 28 volumes.
The offence is repeated with a
palpably wrong appraisal of the
cause of the conict. Stating that he
still believes the report should not be
declassied, Habibullah said: From
1962, the deployment of our armed forces has not sub-
stantially changed in these areas. So, declassifying will
lead to supplying the Chinese with defence information.
Moreover the report on the role of the Indian army is
so scathing that it would have a demoralising effect on
the forces even now. Which is the true reason? The one
on the deployment is laughable; the other on demor-
alisation disregards the Armys justied resentment at
the conduct of the top brass. It wanted them to be
censured.
3. After the publication of the report, the tune
changed. Habibullah made two pronouncements on the
very next day, March 18, now injecting a tone of regret.
He told DNA that the question still trails him as to why
he did not agree to release the secret report. I often ask
myself whether I should have allowed to release that
Henderson Brooks report. Personally speaking, I strong-
ly believe that every Indian has the right to know what
had actually happened and what went wrong during the
1962 war. Disclosure of information, on what precipitat-
ed the war of 1962 between India and China will seriously
compromise security and the relationship between India
and China, and would have a bearing on internal and
external security.
Since I have an army background, I have a soft
corner for the army. And if the report were allowed to be
made public, it would have certainly had an impact on the
morale of our armymen and might have compromised on
national security. In that case he ought to have recused
himself, not hawked his soft corner to justify a wrong
decision. But he still harped on national security, as
even it is I, I and I all the time.
4. Faced with the anchor and other participants on a
TV channel, his defence crumbled. He now pleaded that
he grew up in a family with an army background and
some of the senior officers he called uncle. Subtext?
Forgive me, I was moved by emotion. What was shocking
beyond words was this claim on the
TV show in the evening of March 18:
the CICs decision was based on the
decision of the Army headquarters.
If they had said so we had no ob-
jection. This is abject abdication of a
statutory duty. The Right to Infor-
mation Act mandated him to decide
as a matter of public duty whether
the Armys objections were justied
or not. Instead, he based his deci-
sion on that of the Army. Person-
allybut, of coursehe was only too
willing to oblige and was sorry for the
decision.
WARS ARE NOT FOUGHT
OVER MAPS
Countries do not go to war over dis-
crepant maps. Every student knows
when China decided to go to war and
why. Cheng Feng and Larry M. Wort-
WAJAHAT HABI BULLAH, who,
as Chief Information Commissioner,
rejected an application for a copy of
the Henderson Brooks report.
K
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K
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125 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 126
BRIGADIER JOHN DALVI truthfully wrote: 1962
was a National Failure of which every Indian is guilty. It
was a failure in the Higher Direction of War, a failure of
the Opposition; a failure of the General Staff (myself
included); it was a failure of Responsible Public Opin-
ion and the Press. For the Government of India, it was a
Himalayan Blunder at all levels. (Himalayan Blunder;
1969; page xv). It is a personal narrative of 7 Infantry
Brigade. Dalvi was captured as prisoner of war.
In 1958, Acharya J.B. Kripalani declaimed in the
Lok Sabha: We had believed that in a non-violent
India, the last thing the government would contem-
plate would be an increase in the military budget, but I
am sorry to say, and I think it would disturb the soul of
the father of the nation [Gandhi], that in recent years
there has been an increase of about [Rs.1,000 million]
more than in the previous year, and then in the supple-
mentary demands there was an increase of [Rs.140
million]. May I ask why we are increasing our mil-
itary establishment? (Maxwell, page 190, the Penguin
edition, 1972).
Yet, his Praja Socialist Party (PSP), the Swatantra
Party, the Lohia Socialists, all consistently pressed for
military actions against China to expel the aggressor
from our territory. Leading the pack was none other
than the Jana Sanghs leader in the Lok Sabha, Atal
Bihari Vajpayee. The BJP is the Jana Sangh itself,
dissolved in 1977 and revived in 1980 under a false label.
On September 12, 1959, Vajpayee tabled a motion in
the Lok Sabha demanding that (a) More effective steps
should be taken to meet Chinese inroads into Indian
territory than hitherto adopted and to this end: (i)
China be asked to vacate aggression by a particular date
line, (ii) China be informed that negotiations in respect
of any border adjustments can be held only subsequent
to such vacation, and that too only on the basis of the
McMahon Line, and (iii) Circulation of Chinese Maps
which have falsely depicted parts of India as Chinese
territory, and of Chinese magazines, or other literature,
which have been publishing such maps, be banned in
India; and (b) Immediate steps be taken to reinforce
our northern defences and develop transport and com-
munication facilities in border regions for better pro-
tection of the area. (Lok Sabha Debates, 12 September
1959, Cols. 8001-8002).
In August 1960, the same stand was taken at the
Jana Sanghs General Council meeting in Hyderabad
when its president demanded military action by India
as an imperative for our national dignity and our sover-
eignty. The party resented that Prime Minister Nehru
had allowed a clear case of aggression to be converted
into just a boundary dispute by avoiding the use of the
word aggression and by
agreeing to examine at an offi-
cial level the matter regarding
the border. The situation to-
day simply stated in this; Chi-
na continues nonchalantly to
consolidate her illegal hold on
Indian Territory while India
continues to look on in abject
helplessness. (Motilal A.
Jhangiani; Jana Sangh and
Swatantra; Manaktalas,
Bombay, 1967, pages 66-67).
The Nagpur session of the
Jana Sangh in January 1960
called for the military expul-
sion of the Chinese and advo-
cated: (1) recognition of Tibetan independence; (2) the
withdrawal of Indian support for Chinas admission to
the United Nations; (3) a close watch on pro-Chinese
elements in India; and (4) increase in Indias military
capacity. While these demands have changed in detail
or have been more strongly emphasised they remain the
basic posture of the Jana Sanghs successor toward
Communist China. The visit of Zhou En-Lai to Delhi in
April 1960 gave the Jana Sangh an opportunity to
address a memorandum to Nehru as to the evil designs
of the Chinese on India. The Jana Sangh was against
holding the Nehru-Zhou En-lai summit and demanded
that no concessions be made in the talks (Craig Baxter;
The Jana Sangh; University of Pennsylvania Press;
1969; page 199). Two days before his arrival in New
Delhi, several thousand Jana Sangh volunteers went to
Nehrus residence waving placards that proclaimed:
Invaders, quit India; no surrender of Indian territory;
down with Chinese Imperialism (Maxwell; page 155).
Nath Pai of the PSP was not one ever to be left
behind in jingoism or demagogy. May I ask one small
question of the Prime Minister? If the setting up of a
base on our territory by the Chinese Republic [sic], he
does not think will lead to wars why should we be
worried that destroying the base set up by them will lead
to war? He lived to see in 1962 the sheer folly of this
question which he so condently posed in the Lok
Sabha on November 28, 1961.
The Jana Sangh president Deen Dayal Upadhyaya
saw to it that he was never left behind in this contest in
jingoism. Early in 1962 he asserted boldly: Jana Sangh
is condent that our armed forces are quite competent
to turn the Chinese out. The government [sic] appre-
hension of a world war, if there happens to be an armed
conict in Ladakh, is nothing but an aberration of a
Jingoismfrom Jana Sangh to BJP
DEEN DAYAL
UPADHYAYA, Jana
Sangh leader. In early
1962, he was condent
that the Indian forces
would drive the
Chinese out.
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4
weak mind(Upadhyaya in S. L. Poplai (ed.); 1962
Elections, page 57). As late as on September 24, 1962,
the Jana Sangh was demanding that the government
issue an ultimatum to China (The Hindu; Septem-
ber 25, 1962). One wonders if Upadhyaya or Vaj-
payeeL.K. Advani was a nobody thenhad the
slightest knowledge of military affairs or had made
the slightest effort at educating themselves in these
matters. It was an utterly irresponsible behaviour
inspired not by a concern for the national interest
but for petty political gains.
As Maxwell remarked, On the Right, the Jana
Sangh probably reaped some benet from the na-
tionalist emotions aroused by the border war, and
from the sense of national humiliation, more lasting,
that followed it. But the inuence of the Sino-Indian
dispute on the political balance within India was far
from radical, and probably it did no more than accel-
erate trends already in progress (page 484). Large
sections of the Congress and the media were
infected.
Remember the National Democratic Alliance
governments Defence Minister George Fernandes
denunciation of China in 1998 as a main threat to
India? He attacked the Nehru government for
speaking the language of capitulation before Chi-
na. Invited to deliver the D.R. Mankekar Memorial
Lecture in August 1998, he launched into a tirade
against China to the embarrassment of former Indi-
an diplomats present there. Its upshot was his spon-
soring a new edition of Mankekars The Guilty Men
of 1962 (1968), which was worse than badly written.
It was a shoddy piece of work. Mankekar did not
disclose to the reader what he disclosed to Maxwell,
who wrote in the Preface to his book: D.R. Manke-
kar, in his research for a history of the post-inde-
pendence Indian Army, was similarly given access to
unpublished les, and I am grateful to him for allow-
ing me to quote from his original transcription of a
crucial memorandum. That was Nehrus memo of
July 1, 1954, ordering Indias official maps, which
showed the boundary in Ladakh as undened,
should be altered to show a dened boundary which
was not open to discussion. Maxwell suspected Man-
kekar had been accorded access to the Brooks report.
The latest in the series is the BJPs prime minis-
terial nominee Narendra Modis denunciation of
China, on February 22 as an expansionist power.
This was said at an election rally in Arunachal Pra-
desh. (It was North-East Frontier Agency in the
relevant period, 1959-1962). To think that this is the
man the BJP wants to send to the Annual Sessions of
the United Nations General Assembly and to talk to
the heads of government of the United States, Bri-
tain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
A.G. Noorani
zel mention in their brief study of the war that In July
1962 Chairman Mao Zedong instructed the PLA [Peo-
ples Liberation Army] on the guiding principles to coun-
ter Indias canshi zhengce, or nibbling policy. Briey
stated, Chinas anti-nibbling rules told PLA troops:
Never make a concession, but try your best to avert
bleeding; form a jagged, interlocking pattern to secure
the border; and prepare for long-time armed co-exist-
ence. The PLA General Staff Department Headquarters
told Chinese troops to implement the rules of engage-
ment strictly, and explained the guiding principles in
greater detail: If Indian troops do not open re, Chinese
frontier guards should not open re. If Indian troops
press on toward a Chinese sentry post from our direction,
Chinese frontier guards should press on toward the Indi-
an stronghold from another direction. If Indian troops
encircle Chinese frontier guards, another Chinese force
should encircle the Indian troops. If Indian troops cut off
a retreat route for Chinese forces, Chinese frontier guards
should cut off the Indian troops retreat. Chinese forces
should keep a distance away from Indian troops, leaving
them some leeway, and withdraw if Indian forces permit
withdrawal.
That was soon after India had planted a post at Dhola
on June 4, 1962. The situation did not improve. Diplo-
matically there was a deadlock. On June 23, China struck
a deal with the United States on Quemoy, enabling
500,000 troops to be withdrawnto be sent eastward to
Tibet. Mao Zedong returned to Beijing from Beidaihe on
August 6. Xu Yans book The True History of the Sino-
Indian Border War records that, on October 6, the bor-
der forces were ordered to hit back. On October 16, the
Chinese decided to annihilate Indian troops. The or-
ders followed the next day. On October 14, Khrushchev,
had given the Chinese Ambassador his green signal for
the attack.
The Chinese were faced with the Forward Policy, in
both sectors, east and west, revealing Nehrus decision to
settle the dispute by recourse to force. In this the nation
backed him; the opposition was the most vociferous on
this.
The enduring lessons of the Henderson Brooks re-
port is not so much on the military aspect as on the
diplomatic aspect: for, that mentality still governs Indias
policy which our Defence Minister A.K. Antony so well
summed up on February 23, 2014, a propos the Italian
marines affairThere is no compromise.
POSTSCRI PT
Ananth Krishnan reported that in October 2012 China
declassied documents on the 1962 war (The Hindu,
October 20, 22, 25, 2012). On March 12, 2014, Englands
Court of Appeal rejected the Prince of Wales Prince
Charles claims of privacy in respect of the letters he had
shot off to government departments on environment
issues. In doing so, the three judges did not express any
regret at their refusal to accept the plea of one who was
like a nephew to them and whose mother, the Queen,
they loved as much as one loves an aunt.
129 F R ONTL I NE
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AP R I L 1 8 , 2 0 1 4 130
LETTERS
ANNOUNCEMENT
Letters, whether by surface mail or e-mail, must
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or the name with initials.
THE Cover Story Whose development is
it anyway? (April 4) was informative and
thought-provoking. States are only de-
centralised units of administration. How
can they claim separate economic and
development models? Gujarat cannot
boast of its capitalism, Bihar cannot eu-
logise itself as a harbinger of socialism
and the future Telangana cannot foresee
exceptional growth. Most developmental
and livelihood indicators are more or
less the same in all States except for
Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Alas, when all
political parties are ghting elections un-
der the banner of the neoliberal model,
one really does not have any choice be-
tween political parties and is only left
with the NOTA (none of the above) option.
ARAVEETI RAMA YOGAIAH
HYDERABAD
I AMreally sad to say that your report on
the Gujarat development model was bla-
tantly biased. I do not have any statistics
at my disposal to measure development.
But the changes I have seen for myself
are phenomenal. The water supply
meets the requirements of most of the
people. Similarly, electricity is in surplus
in spite of Gujarat being a highly industri-
alised State; there are good roads and
transportation facilities are good. Be-
sides, millions of jobs were created to
cover almost the entire population. Is
this not development? The non-working
class will always have complaints. They
are leeches who drain the economy of all
its resources.
V.R. GOPINATH
KOZHIKODE, KERALA
Ukraine
FROM the article on Ukraine, one was
able to discern that Russia intervened in
Crimea because of geopolitics and to
protect the interests of the more than a
million ethnic Russians who live in Cri-
mea (Crossing the line, April 4). Russia
should nd a way to ensure the security
of Russians in Ukraine without infringing
onUkraines national integrity so that the
world can see that intervening in a na-
tions affairs can be done without involv-
ing its populace in fratricidal warfare,
something the U.S. failed to achieve in
Syria, Sudan and several other nations.
MD. SHAHID ANWAR
DHANBAD, JHARKHAND
Syria
THE article Rebels in retreat (April 4)
made one thing absolutely clear: Bashar
al-Assad continuing as President of Syria
is inimical to permanent peace and the
crisis in the country is worsening be-
cause of his callous and brutal rule.
G. AZEEMODDIN
ANANTAPUR, ANDHRA PRADESH
Reliance
DHIRUBHAI AMBANI was a visionary,
and the establishment of Reliance
amidst political chaos is an indication of
his clear intentions regarding its forma-
tion (Cover Story, March 21). In order to
expand his empire, he dealt with political
bigwigs in a manner that the situation
demanded. By building Reliance, Dhirub-
hai took India to a new global platform,
marking the culmination of an era of in-
dustrial growth and development.
SHREYA JHA
PATNA
CORRUPTION together with crony cap-
italism has become the major issue just
before the election. Before every elec-
tion, political parties raise these kinds of
issues to get votes and afterwards they
forget what they promised the people
and tag along with the same capitalist
class. And the vicious cycle of corruption
continues. To eradicate corruption and
crony capitalism, people must rst be
made aware of their constitutional rights
and ethical duties, and for this the litera-
cy rate needs to be increased from the
grass-roots level, accountability in pub-
lic service has to be ensured, and the
legal system has to be bolstered.
SUBHRADEEP SARKAR
KOLKATA
Banking
PUBLIC sector banks have played a stel-
lar role in the growth of India and should
be given credit for expanding their ambit
to the unbanked rural areas (Backbone
of the economy, March 21). The govern-
ment did the right thing by allowing them
to increase their branches there. Howev-
er, some of the governments other deci-
sions such as opening up the sector to
private players, outsourcing regular
bank jobs, and handing over rural bank-
ing to so-called business correspond-
ents are fraught with disastrous
consequences for the industry and must
be stopped.
J. ANANTHA PADMANABHAN
TIRUCHI, TAMIL NADU
Death penalty
THE Supreme Courts verdict commut-
ing the death sentences of the assassins
of Rajiv Gandhi is unfortunate (Life after
death, March 21). Although the reason
behind it was to ensure judicious dispos-
al of all clemency petitions in order to
prevent the mental torture of convicts, it
is ironic that criminals who have commit-
ted heinous offences expect humanitar-
ian consideration from the highest
judicial fora! It needs to be understood
that in the instant case the death sen-
tences were commuted primarily be-
cause of a systemic failure to dispose of
mercy petitions in a time-bound manner
and not because the convicts are inno-
cent. Hence, the jubilation expressed by
some people after the verdict is mis-
placed. These convicts are hard-core
criminals who had scant regard for hu-
man life and committed a cold-blooded
assassination, which truly ts into the
category of the rarest of rare cases.
B. SURESH KUMAR
COIMBATORE, TAMIL NADU
Arun Ferreira
IT is worth protesting against the Mah-
arashtra government and police for the
injustice done to Arun Ferreira (Free at
last, this fortnight, March 7). His
torture by the police cannot be pardoned.
Frontline through this article rightly re-
vealed the ghastly face of the State gov-
ernment and police. The Rs.25 lakh
lawsuit that Ferreira has led against the
government is no remedy. Those respon-
sible must be punished and sent to jail for
their disregard for human rights so that
no government will ever dare to arrest
innocent people.
BIPINCHANDRA S. SHAH
MALEGAON, MAHARASHTRA
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Development
Published on alternate Saturdays.WPP No.AP/SD-07/WPP/2014-15 & MH/MR/South-180/2012-14.Postal Regn. No.H/SD/479/14-16. RNI No.42591/84