Editorial / In his hands
Under the flag of nationalism
This Above all / Imperial meetings by the river
People / Rudolf Giuliani
Letters to the editor

Mr George W. Bush, the president of the United States, is one of the political leaders who has had greatness thrust upon him. His country faces the gravest crisis in its history. When Mr Bush first appeared on television after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he looked lost and desolate. He reminded one of the former Indian prime minister, Mr Narasimha Rao, fumbling and helpless, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. It seemed on September 11, that Mr Bush was far removed from any kind of greatness. There was speculation about the performance Mr Bill Clinton would have put up, if a similar crisis had occurred during his presidentship. These initial evaluations were obviously misleading. Mr Bush has grown with the crisis and it is now clear that he deserves to be president of the world’s most powerful nation. It is facile — and not even funny — to describe Mr Bush as a 21st-century cowboy. Mr Bush has shown that he is a responsible statesman, and is not inclined to shoot from the hip. But he has also shown that he is relentless in his pursuit of the enemy. Mr Bush has made it clear that the attack will not pass without retaliation.

That retaliation is being preceded by diplomatic groundwork. This is the true measure of Mr Bush’s sense of responsibility. He and his team have made the US behave like a true world power and not just as a nation pursuing its own particular self-interest. The diplomatic initiatives are directed at persuading other nations that at this conjuncture their interests and those of the US are congruent. The attacks on New York and Washington DC are a threat to the entire civilized world and the community of nations because they originate from a group of people who are faceless and unwilling to own up to their own actions. Through these initiatives, Mr Bush has achieved what a few days ago was considered impossible: a ceasefire between Palestine and Israel, and a coming together of most of the Muslim nations in a front against the taliban. This is not a mean achievement. Mr Bush has transformed what could easily have been the US’s war against terrorism into the world’s war against terrorism. He has brought forth a bipolar world but of a very different kind: the world versus terrorism.

The creation of this common front has come not from a position of weakness but from one of strength. The statesman in Mr Bush prevailed over the politician; the world leader over the national leader. But in the process, Mr Bush did not sacrifice his resolution to strike back. He did not compromise his goal of bringing the “enemies to justice or bringing justice to enemies”. This is the best chance and the best coalition the world has of eradicating terrorism. The complete success of the project is dependent on a number of factors not all of which are under the control of Mr Bush. It will have to be admitted that he has worked over time with great determination and patience to create the necessary conditions for the success of the project. The poet, T.S.Eliot, once said, “For us there is only the trying’’. Mr Bush has gone beyond trying. He thus wears the mantle of greatness.


“…all these things were wonderful and great; But now I have grown nothing, knowing all.

W.B. Yeats, “Fergus and the Druid”.

The economics department of the University of Chicago is the Vatican of the ideology of free market. The political rider of this ideology relates to the minimalist state, a state power that does not intervene in economic matters. The proponents of free market have argued for the rolling back of the state, and these arguments have been strengthened by the collapse of the state-driven planned economies. The state may not have withered away, but the economic dons of Chicago claim to have put put the state firmly in its place, and that place is not too big.

In the new era of free markets and globalization, one of the key players has been the IT wallahs. In their view, not only the state but also the nation state is dead. Cyberspace knows no national boundaries. Borders are not even shadow lines, they are non-existent. It is a free and open world which can be accessed by anybody who has a computer and knows the right keys. The computer whiz-kid or the nerd who goes to work in shorts and a reversed baseball cap and is a millionaire before he is thirty and a burnt-out case before he has left his youth does not recognize identities outside the cyber world.

The other familiar figure in this brave new world is the pin-striped investment banker or stockbroker, armed with cell phone and laptop, whose globe is no bigger than a village and whose outlook is international. Neither technology nor capital knew of any national frontiers.

It would appear, after the events of September 11, that prophecies about the demise of the state and the nation state were somewhat premature. After the attacks, the United States has reacted like a nation state. Its reaction and its rhetoric have been those of a nation under attack to which it must retaliate. The nation state is alive after all. The individualism — it is tempting to put the adjective, “crass”, before the word — of the new era of high-tech and finance has been replaced by a new sense of bonding and belonging. Those who died in the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were not isolated individuals, but “one of us”, men and women, who despite their diverse origins had made the US their home. Terror has created a community out of individuals.

The state has come back with this community. There will be an enormous increase in state spending on reconstruction. Something to the tune of $ 20 billion will be spent on New York alone. The expansionary impact of this spending might produce a virtuous cycle for an economy in the midst of a slowdown. The state will thus act as the engine to end recession. The advocates of a minimalist state may well pause and ponder if they were right in their prescriptions.

The purpose of this long preface is to emphasize the churning process that the terrorist attacks on the US has begun. The churning is not confined to diplomacy, international relations, military strategy and intelligence gathering. The process embraces the world of ideas and perceptions, as the previous paragraphs have tried to suggest. If the emerging crisis in global politics and the threat of war is a cause for concern, there are good reasons for those who traffic in ideas to reflect on the categories they deal in and to be a little less hasty in their pronouncements.

In the Eighties, among those who wrote on political theory, there was a debate about the nature of nationalism. A distinction was made by some writers between “good” and “evil” nationalism; the first standing for Western nationalism and the latter for Eastern nationalism. “Good” nationalism was seen as a significant moment in the evolution of liberty, reason and progress. “Evil” nationalism began as an imitation of its Western exemplar, but in certain manifestations of it, had acquired features like irrationality and fanaticism, and had become a destructive, rather than an inspiring, force.

The debate, long considered passé, has been resurrected. For surely, two very different kinds of nationalism are at odds in today’s world. The US has fallen back on nationalism and that nationalism, branded though it is with self-defence, has a destructive, non-discriminating and an avenging face. Pitted as the enemy is Islamic fundamentalism, wherever it is located. The demonization of Islam has reached hysterical levels. The whole terrain of nationalism is thus once again open to debate and even contest.

Islamic fundamentalism is being excoriated and rightly so. This is serving to obscure other kinds of fundamentalism. “The US is always right” is also a fundamentalist proposition which is seldom, if ever, questioned. Once the current mess has been sorted out, world opinion will have to decide if this is a valid proposition on which international relations can be premised and thus it serves as a strong foundation for world peace.

The phrase, “world opinion”, is important since never before — not even during World War II — has world opinion been mobilized to an extent as is currently visible. This, of course, takes something away from the argument that the nation state has made a comeback. What we are witnessing is a coming together of a vast number of nation states to make common cause against a common enemy that is seen as a threat to the entire world. Even though this coming together is at the behest of the US, the very fact that US decision-makers feel the need for such a united effort before precipitating any overt military action would suggest that the US is moving outside the domain of unilateralism. This provides a chance to think outside the framework of Realpolitik in which nation states have thrived.

Such developments could be read as an attempt by nationalism and nation states to recreate itself in the world of the 21st century. Commenting on the “cunning of Reason”, Hegel, in a passage pregnant with significance and foreboding, noted how Reason sets “the passions to work in its service” while it “keeps Itself in the background, untouched and unharmed”. The same could be said of the nation and nationalism, especially as the history of the West has seen a marriage between Reason and nationalism.

The point is important because Ideology had been declared dead by the gospel from Chicago and its attendant political revelations. Ideology has not experienced a resurrection since it was perhaps never dead, but is experiencing a revival. Right and wrong or good and evil or moral and immoral — whatever the polarities — are all being driven by an ideology which, for the lack of a better label, can be seen as different articulations of nationalism. In the contrived corridors of history, nationalism has deceived with whispering ambitions: revenge has become a virtue. A globalized world defends itself in the guise of nationalism.

The confusion may not signal a warning for politicians, but there is a moral for analysts who rush to announce the end of history or ideology, and for those knights of the free market and the cyberworld who misread the staying power of the state and the nation. They have much to heed from that magnificent injunction of Hegel: “The owl of Minerva flies only after dusk.” Human wisdom is invariably post facto. This is the human condition. History laughs at those who play at being God.


Those of us who live north of the Godavari are only vaguely aware of the land that lies south of the river and the kind of people who live there. The luckier ones go as tourists, visit ancient caves and temples but rarely bother to learn the language of the land or try to befriend the people. A great pity because the southern half of India is richer than the north, having preserved its ancient traditions, language and literature. Every time I read a book by a “southey” (no disrespect meant), I learn something new. My latest find is Ranga Rao’s The River is Three-Quarters Full. I have read Ranga’s earlier publications: there was nothing southish about them. He has been living in Delhi for the last 40 years, teaching English at the Venkateswara College; I assumed he was a Dilliwala.

Ranga Rao is an Andhra-ite from an eastern district of the state adjoining Tamil Nadu once known as Coromandel, where the Krishna drains into the Bay of Bengal. For reasons best known to him, he has chosen to write of this region as it was in the 1830s. The East India Company had recently established itself in Madras and Bengal. It was gradually turning from a trading company to the virtual ruler of the country. White sahibs still mixed with the natives, enjoyed smoking hookahs, nautch girls and keeping harems. Most of them were in making quick money: shaking the pagoda tree which dropped gold and returning to Ole Blighty to live in luxury on their ill-gotten gains. However, there were some who took the white man’s burden as a sacred duty and behaved with rectitude. Apart from shooting tigers, bears and elephants, and spearing wild boars, the only indulgence they allowed themselves was a black mistress or two in their servants quarters or a visit to the local brothels. By then, English girls looking for well-placed men as husbands had started arriving in droves (they were dubbed “the fishing fleet”) and became obstructions to these liaisons. This is the setting of Ranga Rao’s latest novel. He takes you through depredations by Pindari hordes, and a return to prosperity after the devastation caused by famine. The uncertainty of the times is summed up in the refrain, “Who knows tomorrow?”

What makes this novel unique is that Rao has chosen to narrate it largely through a close-knit circle of English men and women posted in the town, Kausola. They are a god-fearing lot who respect Indians and their ancient learning. They have trouble explaining their conduct to their bosses in Madras and super-bosses in Calcutta. In a letter to written to her mother in England, one of the coterie explains their predicament: “I am confident, sooner than later, British values and British personnel will put things in order, the company servants do think of matters besides hunting big game, pig-sticking, wine and cheese — and mistresses and black beebees. Don’t forget we have in part inherited this mess, and of course we have also added our bit to it, but…I am certain, sooner than later, we will make this place — people so different from us, and speaking tongues as incomprehensible as the clucking of hens or the squealing of squirrels, or pebbles being rolled in a tin can — we will make this land, this territory of ours, safe for the subjects and Europeans…These people have no character in a crisis, just squat down and chatter: they are a uniquely talkative nation. We are the Master Race, Grace, there is no doubt about it. We will make men of the lower orders. And we’ll make men of even the savage tribes. Regeneration of India, with British technology, British values, is a moral mission for all of us.”

They have no illusions about Indians wanting to keep their distance from the beef-eating, wine-swilling sahibs. “The Hindu will walk with us, talk with us, but like Shylock, he will not eat with us — forget about drinking with us — or go to church with us, or pray with us.”

Apparently sarkari babus were as much of a headache then as they are today: “All that matters to the papier mache heads packed with yellow paper and red tape is revenue,” says one of the characters.

The River is Three-Quarters Full is a highly readable and informative novel. It made me fall in love with Telugu-speaking people.

Scholar’s dream is up for grabs

I met Surjit Singh Kandhari very briefly in Oslo about 10 years ago when I was there on a week-long lecture tour. After visiting a few universities and towns in the snow-bound north, I returned to Oslo for a couple of days before proceeding on my journey homeward. Kandhari was away on a business trip, but his Norwegian wife invited me over to spend a day in her home, which was in a village over a hundred miles away from the capital. It was a big house with a large garden, full of books and Indian artefacts. Thereafter I lost contact with the Kandharis.

Surjit Singh was back in India early September to offer the government historical documents he had acquired on a visit to Pakistan in the Seventies. He was in Karachi when someone told him that a dealer in antique books had many ancient manuscripts, looted from Hindu and Sikh families when they migrated to India in 1947. Kandhari went to the house of the antique dealer and found a huge pile of handwritten granths. He bought the lot for Rs 20,000. He had to square Pakistani customs officials before being allowed to take them out of the country. Back in Norway, he had the granths examined by Oriental scholars. They are two hand-written copies of the Adi Granth, the Sikhs’ sacred scripture, and a copy of the Bhagwat Puran. The most valuable of his collection is a copy of the Dasam Granth, compiled by the last Sikh guru, Gobind Singh. The original was lost in 1705, a compilation was made again by the guru’s closest disciple and scribe, Bhai Mani Singh, between 1724 and 1726. It is likely that this is what Kandhari has deposited in the vaults of the Bank of Norway for safe custody. Kandhari is willing to give away his treasure to any institution, museum or archive, provided it is used for historical research. His contact address in India is: 81, Hargobind Enclave, Delhi-92.

Tied up in knots

Amir C. Tuteja from Washington has compiled some observations on the institution of marriage. Few take a kindly look at life-long bonding. To wit:

Getting married is very much like going to a restaurant with friends. You order what you want, then, when you see what the other fellow has, you wish you had ordered that.

At the cocktail party, one woman said to the other, “Aren’t you wearing your wedding ring on the wrong finger? The other replied, “Yes, I am. I married the wrong man.”

Man is incomplete until he is married. Then he is really finished.

Marriage is an institution in which a man loses his bachelor degree and the woman gets her master.

Young son: “Is it true, Dad, I heard that in some parts of the world, a man doesn’t know his wife until he marries her?” Dad: “That happens in most countries, son.”

Then there was a woman who said, “I never knew what real happiness was until I got married, and then it was too late.”

A happy marriage is a matter of give and take; the husband gives and the wife takes.

Married life is very frustrating. In the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman speaks and the man listens. In the third year, they both speak and the neighbours listen.

After a quarrel, a wife said to her husband, “You know, I was a fool when I married you.” And the husband replied, “Yes, dear, but I was in love and didn’t notice it.”

A man inserted an “ad” in the classifieds, titled, “Wife wanted”. The next day, he received hundreds of letters. They all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”



Along came a hero

When Rudolf Giuliani built a $13 million emergency shelter on the 23rd floor of one of the smaller buildings of the World Trade Center complex, he proudly christened it ‘The Bunker’. It was the perfect place to hold out from a natural disaster or terrorist strike, the security-conscious New York mayor had said. On September 11, The Bunker came tumbling down shortly after the twin towers collapsed. Giuliani didn’t.

As the first images of the disaster started to flicker on TV screens around the world, the Americans everyone wanted and expected to see – George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell — were nowhere around. Rudy Giuliani was. Very much at the helm of things.

Ducking chunks of fallen debris, he rushed to the World Trade Center as soon as the first hi-jacked plane slammed into the building and was part of the crowd running for their lives when the building cascaded down. Like many other New Yorkers he walked down the streets with grey silt on his hair and soot on his shoes. Television viewers across the world heard and then saw the mayor right there in the middle of things, ensuring practical help, hope and reassurance for the future. The next day’s images showed him wearing a surgical mask.

Ever since terror hit the American mainland, the 57-year-old mayor has been rising every day at 5 p.m. to hold meetings with city officials. He remains absorbed by the most particular details: the amount of debris hauled per day; the number of bodies recovered; the speed of DNA, which will end the awful pain of relatives still missing.

But, he just hasn’t stopped at being an effective crisis manager. The man, whose personality it used to be said “can sometimes grate”, has also been the face of hope and sympathy. The bespectacled mayor with a smile often described as “devilish” was the angel of the moment. As the whole of America looked petrified and devastated, he rallied around rescue workers and spoke wisely from his heart. Both a healer and an inspirational leader.

The applause has been instantaneous. Talk show host David Letterman, a good gauge of the American mood, said: “If you did not know what to do all you had to do was watch the mayor.” A national poll showed a 92 per cent approval rating for the mayor of New York whose terms ends on December 31 this year.

How things change. Till the other day, Giuliani was the city’s most controversial public figure with an enviable daily picking of hate-mail. Depending from which side the story’s told, New York’s ‘clean-up man’ could be:

— The man who has ordered the false arrests of thousands and the illegal stopping and frisking of hundreds of thousands based solely on their skin colour.

— The man who used tanks to evict homeless squatters from abandoned buildings.

— The man who ordered the illegal arrests of more than 700 artists and had thousands of pieces of their original art destroyed without ever bringing a single artist to trial.

— The man who cut in half the list of poor dependent on government support, forcing them to what he described as “the dignity of self-sufficiency”.

Or, he could just be the man who disproved a popular notion that New York is ungovernable. Elected in 1993 on a ticket focusing on the quality of life, crime, business and education, the mayor did cut crime by half and the murder rate by 70 per cent. The dangers of New York’s streets were once notorious. For the past five years, the FBI has rated it as the safest large city in America. The city is cleaner, Times Square no longer a centre of sleaze. Business came flooding back, Wall Street and the fateful twin towers became happening places again. New York re-elected him in 1997.

Till terror struck, the American-Italian Giuliani, whose favourite book is The Godfather, enjoyed living up to his tough image. Now he is playing to perfection the other role, that of the protector of his flock. Born in Brooklyn, one of New York’s five boroughs, to a working-class family, the grandson of Italian immigrants, the Big Apple has been Giuliani’s whole life. After graduating from law school he climbed the legal ladder until he made headlines as US attorney for one district of New York.

Spearheading the effort to jail drug dealers, mobsters and white-collar criminals, he secured more than 4,000 convictions and lost only 25 cases. He continued being ruthless — and racist — in his drive to clean up the city.

One of the worst crises of his mayoralty was the Amadou Diallo killing, when four policemen fired 41 bullets into the unarmed African immigrant. And as the police department came under fire, Giuliani went out and earned the hatred of a couple of thousand more people as he defended the NYPD. The actions of four cops, he said, should not tarnish the reputations or hard work of the other 38,000 NYPD officers who put their lives on the line on some very mean streets every day.

Last year saw an uncharacteristically vulnerable Giuliani when he announced he had prostate cancer. He withdrew from the New York Senate race, giving Hillary Clinton a walkover. A troubled private life has dogged him since. Soon after he spoke about his cancer publicly, came another announcement: he was separating from his actress-wife Donna Hanover. Married in 1983, the couple have two children — but the long-time strained relationship finally gave way in May last year.

The separation was public enough to have made Giuliani wish his was a slightly less high-recall name, given that as the couple went to court the mayor was forced to leave his official residence and was told by a judge that he could no longer visit the residence with his girlfriend while his wife and children continued to live there. But, like all clouds, this too came with a silver lining, as New Yorkers suddenly saw the more liberal face of Giuliani — who moved into the spare room of an apartment belonging to two gay friends.

Now, watching him in action at the devastated WTC site, has helped wipe his black slate squeaky clean. On the day of the tragedy, the Democrats and Republicans were to have elected their respective candidates to replace Giuliani who leaves office on December 31. New Yorkers are now saying they are ready to write in Mr Giuliani’s name on their ballot papers in the November elections. Heroes are hard to come by and the world has just found one.



Autumn of the patriot

Sir – The death of the charismatic leader, Ahmed Shah Masood, known for his staunch resistance of the taliban regime, comes as a shock to his admirers (“Masood dies after suicide attack”, Sept 16). As a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States this news did not get enough coverage. The demise of Masood, who fell prey to a suicide bomb attack, has created a major void in the anti-taliban Northern Alliance. The announcement of his death makes it increasingly clear that it would be difficult to find another leader like Masood, who proved to be the main military obstacle to the taliban’s attempt to establish their rule all across Afghanistan. The least one can say is this would affect the war torn country in the long run.

Yours faithfully,
Subhashish Ray, Calcutta

Let down by justice

Sir — The article, “Justice delayed and denied” ( Sept 5), is thought-provoking. The rule of law and a good judicial system are the foundations of a democratic nation. Our archaic legal system lets notorious criminals and corrupt elements occupy seats in the state assemblies and in Parliament. Amending the Constitution and introducing suitable changes in the judicial machinery can save our country from imminent danger.

Yours faithfully,
C.B. Deogam, Chaibasa

Sir — The Supreme Court recently remarked that inordinate delay in the disposal of cases causes unwanted harassment to the litigants, and people begin to lose confidence in the judiciary. The Indian legal system moves at a snail’s pace. For example, the Babri Masjid case is pending before the special bench of the Allahabad high court for several years.

Taking advantage of this delay, the international secretary-general of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Pravin Togdia, has recently threatened that the VHP would forcibly start the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site in March, 2002. The judiciary and the Uttar Pradesh government should take due note of this.

Yours faithfully,
G. Hasnain Kaif, Bhandara

Sir — The decision to introduce village-panchayats in a country, where the literacy level is extremely low, is a grave blunder. Kangaroo courts are mushrooming in various districts of UP. Here justice is dispensed by the court with utter disregard for the rule of law. The members of the village panchayats are oblivious of the existence of the Indian Penal Code, Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes and so on. The recent report, “Parents held in twin killings”(Aug 9), of a couple being hanged by the parents as a result of the panchayat’s directive in a UP village, for getting married in defiance of caste rules, brings to notice one among numerous atrocities committed by the village panchayats. The courts should take immediate action against the guilty and raise awareness among illiterate people regarding the Indian judicial system.

Yours faithfully,
S.S. Bankeshwar Thane

Futile conclave

Sir — The much publicized conclave of the non-Bharatiya Janata Party chief ministers in New Delhi, promoted by the West Bengal chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, to protest against the National Democratic Alliance government’s education policy, was a total failure (“History lesson”, Sept 4). Only three chief ministers chose to attend. Interestingly, many of the non-BJP chief ministers were in Delhi on the same day to attend an official meeting with the prime minister. On the other hand, Murli Manohar Joshi is getting support from unexpected quarters. It had been reported that Sonia Gandhi had instructed her party’s chief ministers not to attend the conclave.

The Marxists have always made their way into the national policy-making bodies. However, their proposals and suggestions have certainly not inspired educated Indians to stay in the country and work for it, evident from the yearly exodus towards Western shores. Must the NDA be dubbed “communal” if it tries to Indianize education?

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — Given that almost all Indian politicians consult astrologers, it is understandable that the support for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s conclave protesting against astrology in the curriculum was not overwhelming. Have politicians decided not to be hypocritical just this once?

Yours faithfully,
Shipra Sarkar, Calcutta

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