Deeper issues
Salt to wounds
Get the drift
Letters to the Editor
Twisted heroism/Book review
The challenge of a legacy/Book review
Drill senses into the men in uniform/Book review
Persian connection/Book review
Answer to the point/Bookwise

There is something highly distressing in the way the Shiv Sena and its supremo, Bal Thackeray, have decided to react to the Maharashtra government’s decision to prosecute the latter for inciting communal violence during the riots in Mumbai in 1992-93. The reactions seem to convey the impression that Mr Thackeray and his party consider him to be above the law. Mr Thackeray makes no pretence of his hatred for the minorities: that hatred is, in fact, the first article of his creed and the raison d’ etre of his politics. The opposition to the prosecution has resulted in a showdown between the Shiv Sena and the government. There lurks the danger, given the disruptive power of the Shiv Sena, of a complete breakdown in law and order in Maharashtra. The situation has spun away beyond the boundaries of Maharashtra. Three ministers of the Shiv Sena have resigned from the coalition government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee. The resignations are typical of the political blackmail at which the Shiv Sena excels. The resignations are directed at forcing Mr Vajpayee to dismiss the Congress-led Democratic Front which now governs Maharashtra. Significantly, the Shiv Sena has not withdrawn support from Mr Vajpayee’s government; three ministers have resigned as a signal that worse might follow if Mr Vajpayee does not acquiesce to their demands. This kind of attitude only erodes democracy. But it should be remembered that the Shiv Sena has not been known as an advocate of democracy.

The distress caused by the Shiv Sena’s reaction is compounded by other considerations. The Congress-led Maharashtra government cannot be congratulated for being principled. There are enough grounds to believe that the Congress would not have reacted with similar alacrity if one of its own leaders had been implicated in arousing communal sentiments. One has only to recall the Congress’s record in Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. There are deeper issues involved. The political leadership of the country has to clarify the status of minorities. If hatred forms one end of the spectrum, at the other is the attitude which sees minorities as having special and separate interests. Both, in different ways, see minorities as being outside the national mainstream. This makes a mockery of India’s much-vaunted secularism. There is a complementarity, at the level of attitudes, between the politics of patronage and the politics of intimidation. The two codes, foreign to democracy, are easily interchangeable. Secularism has implicit within it a recognition of the idea of equality. Patronage and populism deny this as much as hatred does. This has given to Indian secularism a perpetual sense of fragility. Putting Mr Thackeray behind bars will be a triumph but the victory will be pyrrhic unless the deeper issues are addressed and political opportunism masquerading as secularism exposed and brought to a halt. It is not Mr Thackeray alone who should be in the dock.    

The pressure being placed on Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to reverse a 15 year old policy of iodizing all salt in India is a textbook example of a special interest group undermining the common good. The RSS and affiliates like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch claim that making salt iodization mandatory is helping multinational firms at the cost of small scale Gujarati salt makers. They claim big firms use iodization as an excuse to make salt costly. Health experts make the counter argument that iodine deficiency is the largest cause of brain damage among Indian children, it leaves millions every year suffering from goitre and cretinism. Between 1985 and 1994, nine per cent of Indian children between six and 11 suffered from goitre. Many countries have shown iodizing salt is a cheap and effective way to eradicate the consequences of iodine deficiency. The economic damage to several thousand small scale salt makers pales in comparison to the economic damage of burdening the country with millions of mentally retarded women and children. It is hard to believe that even a poor person would not be prepared to pay a little extra for salt if it prevents him and his family from the terrible effects of iodine deficiency. It is likely that no matter what New Delhi may decree, plain salt will continue to be sold on the market. In 1996, nearly a third of Indian households still did not use iodized salt.

The Indian prime minister is leaning towards accepting the RSS’s demand. It is unlikely he buys their absurd comparisons with M.K. Gandhi’s Dandi salt march. He simply believes he needs to give them a sop following his sharp rebuff to their criticism of his economic policies. While taking the iodine out of salt may seem trivial, its economic and social impact is considerable. Rather than conceding this demand out of hand, Mr Vajpayee should attempt some innovative policymaking. First, goitre is especially prevalent in the hill regions of India. It is negligible in coastal plain areas like Gujarat. New Delhi could think of restricting non-iodized salt sales to specific local areas where iodine deficiency is not a problem. Second, iodizing salt is not difficult or costly. One primitive means is to add liquid potassium iodide to salt crystals — and mix it by hand. The government could consider providing some assistance to small scale makers of salt so they can iodize their crystals. Given the threefold difference between plain salt and iodized salt, there must be a market niche for cheap iodized salt. Mr Vajpayee has put up some resistance to the RSS’s economic illiteracy. He cannot be wholly faulted for trying to grant the sangh a face saver. But with a little mental application, New Delhi can please the RSS without causing any serious social damage.    

No one is surprised that the demand for autonomy from the legislative assembly of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was rejected by the ruling coalition in New Delhi. But the haste with which the cabinet moved on the issue is bound to mark yet another watershed in the insensitive handling of local sentiments by successive regimes in New Delhi.

It was a measure of the flexibility in the early days of India’s independence that a Muslim majority state actually opted for this country in place of Pakistan. By the same yardstick, the erosion of the autonomous position of the state and the undermining of the legitimacy of elections and the democratic process itself made the ground fertile for the rise of militancy. After over a decade of bloodshed, a democratically elected legislature passed a resolution by a two-thirds majority, only to find itself denied even the minimal courtesy of a debate on the floor of Parliament.

The head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, K.S. Sudarshan, has explicitly called for the abrogation of Article 370 in order to complete the process of integration of the state with the rest of the Indian Union. Uniformity would ensure unity, conformity, the absence of conflict. He and his ilk like to blame the politics of flexibility represented by the said article of the Constitution for the present state of affairs in the valley. They raise the plight of the Kashmiri Pundits who have been the victims of assaults by militants, many trained and armed by a neighbouring country, to buttress their case. A senior minister and longtime journalist, Arun Shourie, goes even further, arguing that good governance and development are the balm the people really need. All else, including the resolution on autonomy are merely a sideshow.

There is no doubt that Farooq Abdullah’s arguments need not be taken at face value. But one does not have to be a member of his entourage to argue the case for autonomy for the state. In fact, it was the prime minister of India, P.V. Narasimha Rao, who used the term, “sky is the limit”, when making a significant overture towards the various sections of the state’s body politic. While particular details of the demand, such as the return to pre-1953 status, are debatable, the basic premise does have much going for it.

Those who raise the question of communal relations, especially within the valley, do have a point. No solution can work in the long term unless it can command the confidence of all the various ethnic groups and communities affected by the years of violence. Each region of the vast state, Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir, has its own minorities, both religious and cultural. The question really is how the valley, which Mahatma Gandhi himself described in 1947 as a haven of peace during Partition, came to be this way. Later that year, it was the Muslim volunteers of the National Conference who resisted the raiders sent in by Pakistan even as its leader, Sheikh Abdullah, raised the call of “Hindu-Muslim-Sikh itehaad” or brotherhood. He surmised there would be little place for a Kashmiri identity in the tightly run state of Pakistan whose very existence was based on the two-nation theory.

It was in recognition of these simple home truths of politics, the existence of a common thread among the people of the state and the ability of this country to prevent them from being swamped, that laid the basis of popular acceptance of the accession. Land reform and the spread of mass education, especially among women, gave the new regime a democratic character that was new to the former princely state.

It is a measure of the drift of the Congress that it is today competing with the Bharatiya Janata Party in criticizing the state leadership for the autonomy resolution. Yet, there is more in common between the two all India political formations on the issue than meets the eye. It was a Congress leadership under Jawaharlal Nehru that unseated the Abdullah government in 1953. Thirty years down the line, Indira Gandhi found the ways and means to engineer a palace coup against the elected government of Farooq Abdullah. It is a testimony to the health of Indian federalism that the latter act led to protest across India from Calcutta in the east to Hyderabad in the south. Unfortunately, the National Conference caved in to the demand for an accord with the ruling Congress in New Delhi. Widespread allegations of rigging in the 1987 elections damaged its credibility.

The Congress cannot escape its responsibility for the erosion of autonomy. In effect, the liberal model was never given a fair trial, for it flew against the political instincts of the ruling party in New Delhi. Unlike in most other parts of India, the price paid was indeed heavy. The political vacuum was filled, especially in the aftermath of the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan, by forces inimical not only to this country but to the basic values of democracy itself. The very areas where villagers had handed over Pakistani men dressed in mufti to the authorities in the prelude to the 1965 India-Pakistan war became hotbeds of militancy. The only exception to the general trend was the brief spell of the United Front government, but it was unable to formulate a coherent response to the deeper issues at stake.

Those who are crying themselves hoarse about the threats to Indian unity ought to ask whether a highly centralized political and economic system is really conducive to the interest of a unified polity. The latter has undeniable advantages, but these can only fructify if the Union evolves beyond its present quasi-unitary character. The Jammu and Kashmir resolution is not an isolated instance, even though the demands voiced by it are of more radical nature than those in other constituent units of the country. The Tamil Nadu assembly in 1974 asked for a minimalist Centre vested with only a few key powers. The ruling party of Assam fought and won the 1996 assembly polls on a similar plank. The Akali Dal is still committed to the Anandpur Sahib resolution of 1978, the adoption of which did not evoke a widespread outcry at the time it was adopted.

The silence of most regional parties on the issue shows that they are retreating from the arena of public debate. By not forming a federal front within the ruling coalition, they may be making a fatal miscalculation. The rumpus being created around the Srinagar resolution will, over time, make it difficult to raise even less farreaching proposals for federalist reforms. Further, nothing has inhibited the various arms of the sangh combine from using this chance to voice their own views. There is a basic fault line within the ruling alliance, and in fact in the political system as a whole between those who want a stronger Centre and others who favour stronger states. The political flux in the country has tilted the scales in the latter direction, but there is a need to proceed with more fundamental reforms.

Yet, there is no getting away from the immediate fallout of events in both Srinagar and New Delhi. Instead of letting go of a golden chance to renegotiate the framework of relations within a looser federal arrangement, reason has given way to tired dogmas. Progress on the broader question of federal reform must not be postponed. But politically articulate opinion should use this opportunity to push for change. There is enough room to work towards a middle ground between secession and uniform integration. In fact, those who speak for the latter may actually end up being the best allies of the former.

The author is an independent researcher on ecology and political affairs and former fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi    


Killer instincts

Sir — On the one hand, attempts are on to make the statutory warning on cigarette packs more intimidatory. On the other, the Bharatiya Janata Party gives green signal to the sale of non-iodized salt (“Atal sacrifice iodine to stop Dandi II”, July 18). To top it, the party’s general secretary, M. Venkaiah Naidu issues statements like “All these years, we have been taking non-iodized salt and nothing happened.” This amounts to saying that non-effective antiquated placebo is preferable to modern medicines. Since salt is a constant in the Indian diet, consumption of iodized salt ensures a reduced incidence of diseases like goitre, brought on by iodine deficiency. The BJP led government is not selling itself to foreign multinationals as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has alleged; it is holding the country’s health to ransom at the insistence of the sangh parivar. The agitations of the sangh against the government are mere eyewash since it has the latter tied to its little finger anyway.

Yours faithfully,
Samir Kumar, Calcutta

Northeast rages

Sir — The recent “quit India” notice served to 359 “foreigners” in Guwahati (“Quit notices served to 359 ‘aliens’”, July 2), raises fresh controversy over the problem regarding foreigners in Assam. All major political parties, including the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, have protested against the move. This is unfortunate, since whenever any step is taken to detect and deport Bangladeshi nationals, the Bengalis feel embarrassed. It is unclear why some people find bizarre associations between those who speak in Bengali and the Bangladeshis.

The “quit India” notice contradicts the spirit of the Assam accord signed between the All Assam Students Union leaders and the then prime minister of the country, Rajiv Gandhi. The accord mentions clearly that people who entered Assam from former East Pakistan during 1966-71 cannot be deported. But the notice has been served to many who have been staying in Assam for a long time. This is a part of a larger design by some ultra-Assamese nationalists to drive out Bengalis from the state.

So far, the agitations and movements spearheaded by AASU were never anti-Bangladeshi, only anti-Bengali in disguise. Since independence, Bengalis have been made the victims of many movements in Assam. It is surprising that at a time when unabated influx from across the border backed by the Inter-services Intelligence is almost changing the demographic pattern of Assam, the police is targeting Bengali Hindus instead of taking any action against those who have crossed the border.

Unlike the infiltrators, Bengali Hindus have neither created any law and order problem in Assam, nor can their patriotism be questioned. The Asom Gana Parishad government should realize that if the latest method is applied to detect and deport alleged illegal migrants, it would not only not solve anything, but would aggravate the already volatile ethnic problem.

Yours faithfully,
Sanjit Ghosh, Kokrajhar

Sir — The report, “Villagers beat up Ulfa men on extortion trip” (July 5), exposes the undercurrent of the general feeling against insurgency. The villagers of Rongoi Adharsatra under the Bhugdoi police outpost severely beat up the United Liberation Front of Asom militants and handed them over to the police. The two militants, Mrigen Bora and Nripen Mahanta, had been demanding money from a person over the past few months.

But it is sad to note that the government has not been able to tap this feeling of anti-insurgency among the public. A massive drive accompanied by a publicity blitz is needed. For this, the government must acknowledge that insurgency is a real problem in the Northeast, an issue which has almost always been evaded. Although the government has had some major military successes against the Ulfa, those are yet to register significantly on people’s minds. The brilliant marketing tactics of multinational companies should be an eyeopener to the security forces. If publicity becomes a priority, it will surely change the image of the army and the Central Reserve Police Force among the people.

Yours faithfully,
Prasanta Debnath, Dibrugarh

Sir — The news item, “VIP crash fails to pep up Assam village fortune” (July 10), by Pullock Dutta, recalled the historic event of November 4, 1977, which took place in the village of Tekala Gaon in the Jorhat district of Assam, renamed Desai Nagar since then.

The villagers got busy that night to help the then prime minister, Morarji Desai, and several other VIPs, including P.K. Thungaon, the then chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh. When their aircraft crashlanded here, Indreshwar Baruah, as mentioned in the report, was the first to offer them relief. The VIPs were pleased with the hospitality he offered. A man like Baruah makes the nation proud. It would have been logical to have recognized Baruah’s contribution formally by honouring him suitably for his action.

But look at how the country has paid him back. This is apart from the complete indifference shown by the government towards the village. The villagers of Desai Nagar are still waiting for the improvement of communications, especially roads, better health facilities and so on. Will the government ever provide the village with transport, water, medical facilities, and create employment for young people so they can upgrade their lives? Or will the wait turn out to be, in Samuel Beckett’s terms, “waiting for Godot”, with no promise of relief?

Yours faithfully,
Tilok Baruah, Rukminigaon

Sir — Ch. Phanindra Singh’s rejoinder, “In the shadow of the hills” (July 3), to Sujit Choudhury’s article, “Ethnic storm over a suffix”, June 1), although it claims to “set the record straight”, cites facts that cannot be seen as laurels on which “Meitiei-Jagoi”, Manipuri dance, rests. It is unfortunate that a section of Meiteis, mercifully not among the majority, hold Rabindranath Tagore’s chance encounter with Manipuri dance as a godsent.Without it, this section feels, the dance would not have enjoyed its present status internationally. The letter writer’s view, therefore, hurts the sentiments of the very people he has ostensibly sided with.

Manipuri dance has affinities with the languorous Laotian or Cambodian dances. The cult of Radha-Krishna was a late entry, coming with the surge of the Vaishnavite movement from Bengal, which began in 1702. It culminated in ras lila. But behind the romance are tales of bloodshed, of the nobility, who, having embraced the new religion and Bengali names, forced the religion on their unprepared subjects. Scores of dissenters were hunted down to be liquidated, copies of pre-Vaishnavite literature were destroyed, Meitei characters came to be forbidden and Bengali ones used instead.

What followed has been defined by sociologist M.N. Srinivas as “Sanskritization”. In the tragic aftermath of this process, fissures developed in the age-old fraternity between the Nagas and the Meiteis. Kanhailal’s national award-winning play, Pebet, focusses on the impact of this process on Meitei-Naga life.

This letter only tries to assert that we must have faith in the intrinsic merits of Meiteilon, rather than rely on superficial recognition from outside.

Yours faithfully,
Arambam Debashish Singha, Guwahati

Sir — I would like to draw the attention of the district authority of Majuli and the Assam government to the hazardous means of crossing the Brahmaputra river to get to Majuli. There is no safety measure on the ship used for crossing. True, when the river crosses the line of danger, the ferry service is banned. Otherwise, at least a thousand people cross the river daily. In an accident, not one will survive. The subdivisional officer in Majuli should immediately look into the matter.

Yours faithfully,
Mani Ram, Majuli

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph, 6 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]

Readers in the Northeast can write to:

Third Floor, Godrej Building, G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007    

True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna
By David Roberts, Simon &Schuster, $ 24

Since the adoption of metric measurement to mountains, attention has fixed on the world’s fourteen highest, over the magic 8000 metre mark. Despite the disproportionate attention given to Everest, the other peaks have seen their share of heartbreak and triumph. And the ascent of Annupurna, on June 3, 1950 — the only one to be successfully climbed at the first attempt — has become a legend. Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna remains a bestseller, with its evocation of idealism in quest of a common goal, and youthful high spirits.

A relatively small expedition set off with inadequate equipment, and inaccurate maps, succeeding against almost insuperable odds. They were not even sure whether Annupurna or its neighbour, Dhaulagiri was their objective. Valuable time was wasted while they floundered around looking for the mountain. The summit attempt was made barely days before the monsoon lashed the Himalayas, and at a terrible cost: both, Herzog and Louis Lachenal, lost all their toes, and Herzog his fingers as well. But the book ends with the splendidly optimistic sentence: “There are other Annupurnas in the lives of men.”

Herzog would go on to demonstrate the truth of that statement in subsequent years: mayor of Chamonix, president of the Alpine Club and minister of sports under Charles de Gaulle. Annapurna would go on to inspire generations of aspiring mountaineers, from Joe Simpson to David Roberts for whom “Annapurna came as a stunning revelation”. But what of Lachenal? Outside mountaineering circles, Herzog-Lachenal is not a pairing which comes as easily to mind as Hillary-Tenzing or Mallory-Irvine. He seems to have been written out of the record. Today hardly anyone remembers him or the other lead climbers, Gaston Rebuffat and Lionel Terray, members of the elite Chamonix Guides and climbing stars of their day.

David Roberts makes it clear in the lurid cover – with the subtitle superimposed over the cover of the original English edition of Annapurna – even this heroic feat will not survive critical scrutiny. He adopts the style common today of writing himself (and incidentally his French publisher) into the story. Presumably, this ensures that the readers share his dismay when his hero Herzog turns out to have feet of clay. In Annapurna, Herzog recounts a somewhat theatrical incident. Just before setting off, the expedition members had to swear an oath of unquestioning obedience to their leader, Herzog. They did so with a mixture of reluctance and embarrassment: Herzog wrote: “mountaineers don’t care for ceremonies”.

What he omitted from his account was the interdict placed on expedition members from writing anything about it for five years. This ban (as well as the oath) at the instance of Herzog’s friend Lucien Devies, the autocratic head of the French Club Alpin, ensured that Herzog’s was the only version to be known. A chance conversation with Michel Guerin, a leading French publisher of mountaineering books, that Annapurna was nothing more that “a gilded myth, one man’s romantic idealization”, sets Roberts off on his revisionist investigation. He seems to have had two aims, both of which were to disturb Herzog (the only survivor among the lead climbers) in his old age. First, to ensure that the contribution of Lachenal, Terray and Rebuffat gets the credit it deserves. Next, to compare Herzog’s gloss on events with the accounts left by them, when they came to write their own accounts.

What emerges from his assiduous research is a very different picture. Herzog’s selection as leader had less to do with his climbing record (satisfactory, but hardly outstanding), than to his closeness to Devies and the current ideal of “amateurism”, which devalued the professional guides like Lachenal, Rebuffat and Terray. From the outset the team was riven by dissent. Roberts was amazed to be shown the original manuscript of Lachenal’s Carnets du Vertige, the last part of which contained his diary of the expedition, and his comments five years later.

In Annapurna, Lachenal is portrayed as impatient, and impetuous, lacking Herzog’s sense of transcendence as they stood on the summit. When Roberts had earlier read the Carnets, he had not found significant differences with Herzog’s story, except that Lachenal was more down to earth. What he discovered was a murky story, which did injustice to the memory of a great climber who had literally been written out of the story. After Lachenal’s early death in a skiing accident, Herzog became tuteur (a sort of legal guardian) to his sons and took over the preparation of the Carnets for publication.

What he read seems to have driven him and Devies to fury: the manuscript is full of their annotations to have certain passages deleted. Edited by Gerard, Herzog’s brother, a professional editor, the published book was a sanitized version; anything which contradicted Herzog’s account was carefully excised.

The person who emerged from the manuscript was practical, impatient of theatrics and did not suffer fools gladly. The diary is actually full of bitter observations of Herzog’s errors of judgment and ditherings. The impatience to get down from the summit now seems justified, given the price both men paid for their achievement. Yet Lachenal’s selflessness comes through in an entry which gave Herzog a twinge of remorse. Knowing of his companion’s determination to get to the top, Lachenal suppressed his feelings that “I didn’t owe my feet to the youth of France” and followed him: “..if he continued alone, he would not return. It was for him and for him alone that I did not turn around”. But Devies had no hesitation in suppressing this passage.

Roberts focuses on the background of Rebuffat and Terray as well, and recalls his youthful identification with them. He has talked to their widows and detailed their subsequent careers. Both gave up their chances of a summit attempt to help their injured friends off the mountain. Both were ignored, in the honours which were heaped on Herzog. Roberts was fortunate to meet Herzog and the picture that emerges of him is not a pleasant one, constantly emphasizing his achievements, and referring to his amputated digits as “stigmata”.

Ultimately, Roberts admits that no single person can ever grasp what happened on June 3, 1950. Even Herzog gets his due for his courage and perseverance; that his tale is not the whole in no way undermines its heroic qualities.    

Michel Foucault: The Essential Works 2, Aesthetics
Edited by James Faubion, Allen Lane, £15

Michel Foucault, the French thinker and according to many, the most important one of the 20th century, had provided a unique definition of work. According to him work introduced a significant difference in the field of knowledge at the cost of difficulties for both author and reader which was compensated by pleasure and an access to another figure of truth. It was Foucault’s achievement that he provided intellectual tools to understand the various phenomena that shape the emergence, articulation and circulation of a work.

The Essential Works of Michel Foucault aim to use those very tools to understand Foucault’s work. A year before he died at the age of 54 of AIDS, Foucault had written a letter expressing a desire that there should be no posthumous publications. This letter was interpreted after his death as his will. Ten years later, Editions Gallimard published Dits et ecrits, over 3000 pages of texts which included all Foucault’s published texts not included in his books. These three volumes under the rubric Essential Works include all the writings that are central to the evolution of Foucault’s thought.

The first volume was devoted to Foucault’s notion of ethics and the third volume will be devoted to power relations and modes of domination. The second volume acts as a bridge between the other two since it brings together “a more abstract collection of postulates and positions which informs Foucault’s engagement and concern with ethics and power alike.” There are essays here that focus on madness and the shifting but constructed boundaries between reason and unreason and others that look at the self and its socio-cultural constitution. Foucault moves in these writings over painting and music, architecture and film, literature and history, mathematics and linguistics.

But most interesting are those essays in which Foucault reflects on Foucault. In an essay entitled “Foucault” — submitted for publication to the French Dictionary of Philosophers under the pseudonym, Maurice Florence — he describes himself as belonging to the “critical tradition” of philosophers like Immanuel Kant and his project as a “critical history of thought”. He declared that Foucault’s interest lay in those areas where the subject of a certain kind of knowledge is also posited as the object of that very same kind of knowledge. There can be no denying that Foucault has read himself with a certain degree of prescience.

Foucault argued through his oeuvre that through the reflexive use of power human beings can, within certain limits, undertake to envision and to revise themselves. Such “practices of freedom”, according to him involves a “will to know” a “will to truth” and, in the absence of anything better since Foucault did not call it anything, a “will to become”. The latter, the editor of this volume says, referred to a poetic will “that exercises itself on the psyche, on the self, for the sake of self-realization”.

Foucault was concerned with problematization which includes the three wills given and “the failure of the best-laid plans and the unexpected success of irresponsible frivolities. Foucault rejoiced in the possibilities contained in uncertainties.

He once wrote, “I would say that the work of the intellectual is in a sense to say what is, while making it appearable not to be, or not to be as it is...What reason experiences as its necessity one can perfectly well undertake a history of that and recover the network of contingencies from which it emerged. Which does not mean, however, that those forms of rationality were irrational: it means that they rest upon a base of human practice and human history; and since the latter were made, they can be unmade, provided one knows how they were made.”

This is the challenge of what has come to be called “the Foucault effect”.    

Not a Licence to Kill: Police Needs Paradigm Shift
By Rajendra Shekhar, Konark, Rs 350

The book analyses factors responsible for the ailing Indian police, whether there is a need for change and how this change could be brought about. The writer thus proposes a new paradigm within which the police can perform better.

Rajendra Shekhar, who served as director general of police in Rajasthan and as director of the Central Bureau of Investigation for a long time, makes use of his valuable personal experience in writing the book.

Divided into nine chapters with an exhaustive bibliography, the book presents a comprehensive and realistic overview of the Indian police system. It portrays the changes required in the very notion of police service — that empowerment to serve should prevail upon the licence to kill.

In the first two chapters, the author traces the hidebound origins of the police service — the colonial yoke — which continues to control its attitudes and work culture. The writer laments that there has been no serious attempt to overcome this, since those in power share the spoils at the expense of the common man. This also suits the bureaucracy. Shekhar makes a comprehensive appraisal of this aspect of the malaise in the Indian police system.

In the third chapter, the author highlights the process through which the proposed changes can be brought about. At the outset, Shekhar highlights the hurdles — pessimism and complacency — that grips the Indian police persistently.

The writer argues that the process of change can be divided into four stages, which are then analysed with the help of the “change effort curve” adapted from Clay Carr’s book, Following Through on Change. Shekhar feels that since changes are inevitable, strategies should be developed to harness the forces of this process as a matter of course.

In chapter four, Shekhar attempts to identify the agents of change in the Indian police service, arguing that those at the helm can best show the way. He also views the myths and styles of leadership, and presents his opinion on the issue.

Recalling his personal experience while presenting a critique of the style of police leadership, Shekhar observes: “During my practical training I was put under a very experienced, knowledgeable, but highly insular circle officer. He belonged to the old school of thought: control by fear of coercion and lure of reward. Keep your cards close to your chest and keep your distance. Give an impression of being a ‘know all’; a style of leadership very much prevalent then and still in vogue to a large extent.”

So what kind of leadership would be most appropriate in overcoming these constraints? Shekhar immediately poses this pertinent and relevant question. He then profiles at length the dynamics of leadership styles with the help of various studies and Likert’s profile of organizational characteristics.

Shekhar delineates the changes proffered by him in the new “paradigm” he creates for the police. In the functional terminology of the police, this would entail promoting the rule of law and rendering impartial service to the people.

In chapters seven and eight, the writer also deliberates over the theory and ethics of attitudinal change in the department. Certain basic norms for an ideal police organizational structure have also been dealt with.

This is useful and relevant particularly for the state governments which have been trying to reform the police whose service forms the very basis of good governance.    

The Making of Indo-Persian Culture: Indian and French Studies
Edited by Muzaffar Alam, Francoise “Nalini” Delvoye and Marc Gaborieau Manohar, Rs 875

Sixteen essays presented by scholars at a seminar held in the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1994 have been compiled together in this book. The ambitious title raises expectations that are fulfilled to some extent. Though a self-contained essay on the “making” of the culture would have enriched the volume, it nonetheless turns out to be an interesting read.

Indo-Persian culture is related to Islam, the Muslim rulers, mysticism, the ways of life and the art of governance. It is not the business of the scholars here to indicate how Islam spread throughout the country, but the book finally gives the impression of how deeply wedded the Indo-Persian culture is to the fabric of Indian life.

The essays written by different experts offer varied angles of vision. Here the editors have attempted to give to them some kind of an order by arranging them in a chronological sequence.

While the first two parts of the book deal with political institutions and religious traditions, the other three relate to painting, music, literature, historiography and the archives. With these few essays the editors have tried to cover a subject which is vast in time and scope.

Though they are few in number, the essays are thought provoking. In spite of being academic, they succeed in opening up new vistas in their approach.

Sunil Kumar deals with the hollowness of Alauddin Khilji’s pretensions in his proclaimed relationship with god. Muzaffar Alam takes up a 15th century text dedicated to the first Mughal emperor, Babur, and shows how far ethics served as a basis of good governance during the Mughal rule. Both the papers show the preponderance of rationalism during this period and the importance of sufism in shaping the course of people’s lives.

The second part of the book is entirely devoted to sufism and explores different traditions like Chishtiyya, Qalandariyya, Yasawiyya, the Ismaili tradition of the Khojas, the Rishis and even the tradition embodied in Saiyed Ahmed Barelwi. Apart from being informative, the four essays treat the mystical subject in interesting light.

The third part takes up painting and enlightens the reader on calligraphy and Persian manuscripts, especially 16th century manuscripts from the Deccan preserved in Bibliotheque nationale de France. Chahryar Adle’s paper is thought provoking. He explains that the idea that Mughal painting had its origin during the period of Humayun’s return from Persia is erroneous. Francis Richard’s essay, with some twenty rare photographs of unpublished manuscripts and paintings is worth reading.

The fourth part of the book is devoted to music, where Francoise Nalini Delvoye and Madhu Trivedi trace the development of the “art music” of Gujarat and the Awadh courts. There are discussions of Qawwali and Marsiya Khwani and how the latter contributed to the Indo-Persian culture.

The final part which deals with literature, historiography and the archives, contains five highly readable essays. There are discussions here on genres like Insha, Tarikhs and Tazkiras, and on writers like Aruzi Samarqandi, Abul Fazl and Hasan Nizami, who portray a vivid picture of the times.

The essays give the picture of Persian language during its heyday, as well as the decline of the Muslim rule in India. Also, they show how the language moved away from the courts to become popular with the ordinary man. The book is not just about language and culture, it is history told with a difference.    

Many academic publishers stress the inclusion of marketing information in the proposals they receive. This comes in the form of a standardized questionnaire that asks: How many other books have been published on the same topic? What makes your work on the subject different, and better than these others? Who will buy — not who ought to buy or who will read — this book?

Authors must answer these questions before publishers make an editorial examination of the typescript and offer a contract. To keep up with trends past and present, the author must turn to several sources. Any academic worth his salt must know what has gone before and the merits and demerits of every book that is mentioned in the standard reading lists of courses. Based on this information, he could make out a case on why a new book with a new approach was now necessary. This part of the research is easy.

But if the information is not adequate, an invaluable reference is the local bookseller, who is keenly aware of which subjects, and which authors, are running hot or cold. Add this to information provided by the librarian on the frequency with which some titles are issued out and you will have invaluable market direction insights.

It is important to bear in mind not to make exaggerated claims for your work in progress. Publishers always make their own independent inquiries on the potential of the proposal. Besides, no author — unless he has been a publisher and has worked closely with the marketing department — can ever know the ins-and-outs of marketing.

The real problem arises in providing information on what is in the pipeline with other publishers on the same subject. There is no specific source unless the work is in an advanced stage of production when the book is announced in the forthcoming lists of catalogues and in relevant journals. In its early days, book proposals are kept under wraps for the simple reason that publishers don’t want their competitors to know what is being considered before the contract is signed just in case it is snatched away with more lucrative offers. It is here that the authors have to work entirely on their own without any assistance from their publishers.

Networking with other academics who work in the same areas is the only answer. This isn’t difficult for authors because academics are a closed group . News also becomes “official” soon after the contract is signed, but this is confined to a select group of academics and interested parties. All the author has to do is collate the bits and pieces of data and make his presentation to the publisher — who then cross-checks to take a final decision.

Increasingly, the marketing questionnaire has become the most important hurdle to cross. There are some dos and don’ts for authors after the contract is signed that doesn’t necessarily mean that the agreement would be reneged, but could leave a bad taste in the mouth.

One, don’t advise the publisher on the number of copies to print. He knows best. Don’t tell the publisher how to market and sell the book. Advise him where to send the book for review or to whom for recommendation. Two, do insist on a tentative publishing date, firmly but politely. Publishers are notorious about slippages and it is best to guard against them.

If the groundwork is done properly, there is a good chance of your work being accepted for publication.    


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