Strike alert on Kashmir minorities
Clinton buys Atal’s China talk
After Bill, Naidu’s power bill
Old and bald and still wearing khaki
Calcutta weather

 
 
STRIKE ALERT ON KASHMIR MINORITIES 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, March 27 
Prompted by intelligence reports of a possible “massacre” of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre has instructed the state and the Unified Headquarters to concentrate security forces in minority enclaves.

Following last Monday’s massacre of 36 Sikhs in Chatti Singhpora village in Anantnag, the home ministry has also asked the Farooq Abdullah government to set up village defence committees in areas inhabited by minorities, including Hindu Pandits and Sikhs, both in Jammu and in the valley. Around 4,500 such committees are already functioning as the first line of defence against militants.

The directive to set up new defence groups was issued by home minister L.K. Advani, who feels the massacre was part of the process of “ethnic cleansing” started by pro-Pakistan terrorist outfits.

Home ministry officials said they have reports that Hindus could be the next target of foreign mercenaries. According to one wireless message intercepted by the BSF, the Hizbul Mujahideen has plans to “eliminate” double the number of Sikhs gunned down at Chatti Singhpora. The message, intercepted a couple of days ago, is believed to have originated from a district north of Doda along the LoC.

“It is an indication that the next attack against a minority community could be in Jammu region where the concentration of Hindus is more in some districts,” an official said.

The home ministry has asked the Unified Headquarters in Srinagar to despatch more troops, including army and paramilitary personnel, to minority pockets in six districts.

“As an immediate step, more security forces are being concentrated in and around Anantnag to dispel the sense of insecurity that has gripped the district, especially the Sikhs,” an official said.

Simultaneously, defence committees will be set up in about 300 border villages in the valley and 200 in Jammu. The process of arming the groups — each comprise nine volunteers led by two special police officers — will be carried out in two phases and could take nearly six months. “The system of VDCs has paid off in villages which may have to bear the brunt of terrorist raids first. VDCs in Udhampur, Doda, Rajouri and Poonch have proved successful,” an official said.

The home ministry believes the carnage could have been avoided. The BSF and other security forces have been “cautioned” that tougher measures need to be taken. “There was an intelligence failure on the part of the sector commander concerned, especially when a powerful transmitter was being used by Mohammad Wagey, the local chemist-turned-terrorist, to send messages to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen,” an official said.    


 
 
CLINTON BUYS ATAL’S CHINA TALK 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, March 27 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s letter to President Bill Clinton in May 1998 citing China as the main reason for India’s nuclear weapons programme helped stave off US pressure on India on the nuclear issue during Clinton’s visit last week.

Indeed, it was this controversial letter which persuaded Clinton to take the public stand in New Delhi that India and India alone could determine its security needs.

What is more, it resulted in an agreement between Vajpayee and Clinton that their governments will engage in a continuous dialogue on Asian security as part of the foreign office talks to be held regularly between the Indian foreign secretary and the US under-secretary of state for political affairs.

Of course, neither India nor the US referred in public at any time during Clinton’s visit to Vajpayee’s controversial letter, which put back Sino-Indian relations considerably soon after Pokhran-II. But in Clinton’s interview in New Delhi to Peter Jennings of ABC World News, which is rapidly becoming the bible for any analyst on the Clinton trip to South Asia, the US President candidly referred to the China factor in India’s nuclear programme.

Asked about the rationale for India’s atom bomb, Clinton had this to say: “I respect what the Indians say. They say, look it’s not just Pakistan — China has nuclear weapons. You know, it wasn’t so many decades ago we had a border war with China: we have our problems there.”

Of course he prefaced this with the general line of the US administration that “all nations would be more secure if we reduce the overall nuclear threat and reduce the number of people that had access to nuclear weapons”.

According to diplomatic sources here, while Clinton accepted in toto the Indian argument about a Chinese threat to Indian security as reflected in Vajpayee’s letter nearly two years ago, he did not concede that Pakistan was a credible enough threat for India to have the bomb.

On the contrary, he turned around India’s argument about China to make out a case rationalising Islamabad’s decision to test as a defence against India. He told this to Jennings as well.

“I think — they (Pakistanis) probably think they have a better argument, since they know they couldn’t win a conventional war with India, because India is so much bigger. And because Lahore, for example, one of the most important places, is close to the Indian border,” Clinton said.

The China factor also found its way into the “Vision Statement” adopted by Vajpayee and Clinton in New Delhi, although it is couched in diplomatese. It said: “The two leaders believe that close cooperation between the two countries is a factor of stability in the politically and culturally diverse and rapidly transforming Asia”.

Sources said Clinton was convinced about the Indian arguments on China even before he met Vajpayee. Part of the reason for this was the tremendous pressure brought to bear on the Clinton administration by Beijing just before the President’s South Asia trip to be tough with India.    


 
 
AFTER BILL, NAIDU’S POWER BILL 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, March 27 
Zooming ahead on the infotech highway and powering through power reforms, Chandrababu Naidu has no time to pick up the tabs for the electricity used by his farms.

The Andhra Pradesh chief minister today faced charges that he has defaulted on the payment of Rs 1.12 lakh as two-years’ electricity dues for his mango gardens in Nellore. He said he had no idea on the outstanding amount and read about it in the papers.

As the Congress mounted an attack on Naidu, demanding his resignation for not paying the bills, a cornered chief minister, while not denying the allegation, tossed aside the issue.

“If there is any truth in the charges, I will ask AP Transco to slap heavy penalties on me. I do not know why the Congress is raising such a small issue,” he said, adding that the managing director of the corporation could disconnect his power line if the allegation was proved correct.

Naidu, who had planned on trumpeting the successful visit by President Bill Clinton in the Assembly today, sought to turn the gun on the Congress. “It is the Congress which had urged all farmers not to pay their electricity dues during their poll campaigns. Now they are blaming me for not paying power bills of my farms,” he said.

Kicking up the issue in the Assembly, Congress leader Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy asked the energy minister to explain why the government had not snapped the power connection to the chief minister’s farm even though he had defaulted on payment.

“There cannot be one rule for the chief minister and another for the common man. If the chief minister is a defaulter, what action has been taken so far?” Reddy asked. He added that power officials are usually quick to crack down on defaulters and even seize pumpsets and other equipment from ordinary farmers.

Embarrassed, Naidu said the arrears, if any, would be paid immediately and AP Transco — the power utility set up as part of the reforms process to take care of transmission and generation — would initiate action against all defaulters, irrespective of who they were.

Reddy scoffed at the reply and demanded that the chief minister should resign on moral grounds, taking a cue from former Union minister Jagjivan Ram who had quit having failed to file income tax returns.

The Opposition walked out when Naidu rejected their demand, saying he was elected by a mandate and was answerable to the people. Naidu said though farmers owed the state a whopping Rs 270 crore, not a single connection had been snapped.    


 
 
OLD AND BALD AND STILL WEARING KHAKI 
 
 
BY RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
 
As the sun sets on the city of oranges, and cybercafes and multi-cuisine eateries get ready for business, away from the commercial hub a large crowd of senior citizens gears up to pay respect to tradition.

The venue is the RSS base at Nagpur’s Hedgewar Bhavan, a nondescript three-storeyed structure with no aesthetic aspiration. Clotheslines sagging under the weight of blue and white striped drawers, frayed vests and khaki shorts are the sights which greet the eye.

The occasion is the “boudhik”, an inspirational session to be addressed by new RSS sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan, anointed that morning. But the excitement that should have marked a change of guard in an organisation that claims to be the torch-bearer for the Hindus all over the world is conspicuous by absence. Instead, the ritual is played out with a precision arising more from decades of practice than enthusiasm for the days to come.

A band belts out the RSS anthem and other martial-sounding tunes, but with a plethora of false notes, it ends up sounding worse than a marriage barat. The master of ceremonies announces from a specially-erected dais that there are two separate enclosures for the sick and disabled swayamsevaks. Those unfit are not expected to go through the physical drill — a march past and a few callisthenics movements — that precede Sudarshan’s address. They are almost as many in number as the “able-bodied”.

Sudarshan, hailed as the “leader of the next millennium” as he formally took over the Sangh’s reins from Rajendra Singh in the morning, dwells more on the past, with Muslim-bashing as its underpinning, than the future. He starts off with why Mahatma Gandhi was “forced” to back the Khilafat movement launched by Muslims to protest the overthrow of the Khalif by Kamal Ataturk in Turkey, and when it “failed”, he pointed out that the Muslims “vented their ire” against the Hindus. “The Muslims who participated in the Khilafat andolan accepted an alien culture. Islam has no concept of a nation state, so it uses religion as the basis for creating nations. In that sense, a Muslim cannot be a nationalist or an internationalist, he can only be communal,” asserts Sudarshan.

From “Muslim communalism” to “Hindu awakening” — the RSS chief traces RSS history and ends with an exposition of the Ramjanmabhoomi chapter, which many swayamsevaks admit was written primarily by VHP chief Ashok Singhal. “Victory is ours. This is the fifth and the most decisive chapter in our history because an epic battle will be fought between the pro-Hindu and the anti-Hindu forces. But no one can stop the pro-Hindu forces from success and marching ahead,” he declares.

There are no cheers, no claps of the kind one had heard at the height of the Ayodhya days when Singhal and his rabble-rousing sants made more inflammatory statements. The swayamsevaks fill up barely a third of the sprawling Resham Bagh outside Hedgewar Bhavan. In the rest of the ground, unmindful of Sudarshan’s oratory, boys continue playing cricket and football.

In both its mindset and composition, the RSS seems to be afflicted with the geriatric syndrome. The city of Nagpur epitomises the problems that have caught up with the outfit which remains in a time-warp.

Barring the Maharashtrian Brahmin pockets of the old city, the rest of Nagpur seemed oblivious to the fact that a high-level delegates’ convention was taking place on March 10, 11 and 12. Avinash Deshpande, a former swayamsevak turned company-executive, explains the causes behind this apathy: “For a number of reasons, young people from the middle-classes are no longer attracted to the RSS. More than anything else it has to do with the fact that the present generation is completely apolitical and concentrates more on careers and opportunities abroad. The RSS has also not been able to infiltrate the working class areas and the slums.”

Ramaji, a taxi-service operator and a member of the Bahujan Mahasangh, gives the Dalit perspective on the RSS: “The worst communal flare-up in Nagpur took place some 30 years ago, and that was the turning point as far as we were concerned. We were used as the foot soldiers of the upper castes against the Muslims. We have woken up to this reality, and wherever there are politically conscious Dalits, the RSS has not been able to enter.”

The number of politicised Dalits sporting caps lettered “Save India, Save Constitution” all over Nagpur is itself a rebuttal to Sudarshan’s self-proclaimed agenda of junking Ambedkar’s document and having a “Hindutva-centric” one.

Caught between the trappings of liberalisation, evident in the burgeoning shopping complexes of Nagpur with Pantaloons, Nike, Shahnaz Herbal clinics, and Thai food outlets and the assertion of Dalit “power”, the RSS is in a Catch-22 situation. It cannot jettison the swadeshi shibboleth overnight and neither can it disown orthodox Hinduism with the in-built caste structure.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 34.8°C (normal) Minimum: 22.7°C (normal) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 88%, Minimum: 38% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Not much change in maximum or minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.46 pm Sunrise: 5.37 am    
 

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