Sangh drive for reality in diversity
Old PMs train guns on govt �hidden agenda�
Rajasthan village tops President�s list of �bests�
Cloud over actress death
Palace tribute to Indian soldiers

Nagpur, March 28 
When RSS sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan was asked by the press whether the BJP government would overshadow its parent organisation in the near future, his earnest reply was: �The government exists for the present. The RSS thinks of 25 years ahead.� In other words, a government willy-nilly was forced to be short-sighted while the RSS was a visionary.

What is Sudarshan�s �vision�? In an interview in the latest issue of Sangh mouthpiece, Organiser, he spelt it out along predictable lines: It was, what else, Hindu rashtra based on �dharma�. �Its identity lies in one motherland, one sanskriti, common ancestry and heritage and unity in diversity. It is these three that constitute national culture,� Sudarshan said.

Whether this concept of �one nation, one culture, one people� can co-exist with the present-day realities of coalition politics �which even the BJP has accepted and practises � does not concern the RSS. Indeed, RSS veteran H.V. Seshadri put a spin on Sudarshan�s �vision� to claim that even states like Tamil Nadu, which once subscribed to �separatism�, had fallen in line and subsumed themselves in the so-called �nationalist mainstream�.

In a reference to the BJP-DMK alliance, Seshadri said in his annual report on RSS� activities: �The changed political scenario in Tamil Nadu has opened up the long-awaited opportunity for well-intentioned people to come out with their suppressed nationalist feelings.

Leading personalities in the state, including many political leaders known for their separatist stance earlier, have started associating themselves with Sangh functions.� The result of this �trend�, he said, was that the �so-called Tamilian/Dravidian identity is very much a part of the all-comprehensive Hindu identity that is becoming more manifest in the popular mind�.

Sangh sources said attempts to bring together the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh and to �co-opt� Dalit leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar were in keeping with the Sangh�s blueprint of cementing pan-Hindu bonds. �Ambedkar�s dream of a separate electorate for Dalits is a dangerous thing and must be erased from the community�s collective consciousness,� said an RSS functionary.

So, though Sudarshan has demanded that the country must have a �brand new� Constitution, the Centre�s decision to set-up a review panel has been welcomed as a �beginning of sorts�. �We must be realistic and not ask for the moon,� admitted a senior RSS office-bearer. �Sections of the backward castes and Dalits have been responsive to us and we must not derail the process by taking a hard line on matters of the Constitution. If we do so, it will be promptly interpreted as a design to do away with the reservation quotas,� he added.

Notwithstanding the sarsanghchalak�s sweeping pronouncements on swadeshi and liberalised economics, a section of the RSS, led by joint general secretary Madan Das Devi and prachar pramukh Sreekant Joshi, is realistic enough to acknowledge that having a �sympathetic� government is better than a hostile one. �Whatever be the economic agenda, we know this government has to last for 10 years. There is no alternative,� Joshi said.

Hence, the acquiescence on the Centre pressuring the Gujarat government to withdraw its controversial circular permitting its employees to participate in RSS activities and sugarcoating the acceptance with a nonchalant statement: �The RSS doesn�t depend on official circulars for its survival and growth.�

Underlying the supposed indifference is a fear that if official patronage was not forthcoming, the RSS may be relegated to the political fringes and reduced to taking up �unfashionable� causes like swadeshi, environment and cow slaughter � a role BJP MP and former Sangh torch-bearer Arun Shourie had once envisaged for the Left parties.

Although leaders like Madan Das Devi claimed that the RSS had over 50,000 shakhas across the country, they were unable to give comparative statistics to establish its supposed growth rate. On the other hand, concern was repeatedly voiced in the just-concluded pratinidhi sabha over the Sangh�s dwindling membership and a high drop-out rate.

Veteran swayamsevak Bapurao Vararpande � a contemporary of Seshadri and Balasaheb Deoras � attributed it to the country�s �apolitical� ambience, obtaining from a free-market economy. �The RSS drew its sustenance from the educated middle-classes. Their youth are now more interested in their careers and looking for opportunities abroad,� he explained.

In Nagpur, the RSS has tried out various ways to attract the upwardly mobile youth, but failed. �In my area, I tried hosting inter-shakha cricket matches, but instead of discussing the Sangh�s ideology, I found the boys were more interested in how much money Sachin and the others were making through advertisements,� admitted a swayamsevak-turned-journalist.

Info-tech is seen as another avenue the Sangh could tap to work on young minds, but it will take a long time to work that concept into reality.

Within the confines of Hedgewar Bhavan, realisation is dawning that if the organisation is to survive in the free-market era, the Sangh�s version of �idealism� may involve hardsell.    

New Delhi, March 28 
The four former Prime Ministers � Chandra Shekhar, V.P. Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral � have jumped headlong in their search for relevance, announcing that they plan to launch a nationwide awareness drive against the BJP-led government�s �misrule�.

After the third of their well-publicised meetings, they announced that they are going to mobilise public opinion to highlight the �anti-people� policies of the Vajpayee government. The ex-Premiers exhorted the �nation and its democratic fora� to remain vigilant against the �hidden agenda� of the saffron party.

Gowda, Singh and Gujral said they would talk to Jyoti Basu to seek the CPM�s support for their cause. �I know his (Basu�s) mind, he will back us,� Gowda told The Telegraph. Asked how long the Vajpayee government will last, Gowda said: �Ask the allies.�

The ex-Prime Ministers held meetings yesterday and today at the residences of V.P. Singh and Gowda. Today, they issued a joint statement which severely indicted the Vajpayee government. The first meeting of the former Prime Ministers were held on March 3 at Chandra Shekhar�s residence.

For starters, the former Premiers are planning a series of rallies and demonstrations in various states and interaction with economists, intellectuals and academicians at various state capitals to mobilise public opinion. Gowda and V.P. Singh will address a rally at Ghaziabad on April 9 and another at Agra on April 15, Gowda said. �We are not going to sit in Delhi. We are on the move. Nobody can stop us,� he added. He said detailed programmes would be chalked out later.

Briefing reporters, the former Prime Ministers, however, took pains to explain that their efforts were not to launch any front or group, but to highlight important issues �in the interest of the country and the people�. They wanted the government to publish a list of �rich defaulters of huge sums payable to the public sector banks and financial institutions�.

The ex-Premiers are in touch with former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao as well, as they are waiting for a shake-up in the Congress. While attacking the BJP, Chandra Shekhar did not spare the Congress either. �There is very little difference between the Congress and the ruling coalition. The Congress is not discharging its duty. It should change its behaviour,� he said.

Some of the old Prime Ministers are talking to BJP allies, the Indian National Lok Dal, the Telugu Desam Party and National Conference.

Disagreeing that the move had a hidden agenda of destabilising the Vajpayee government, Shekhar said: �Mobilisation of public opinion is the first step. Then other steps will follow.�

Dismissing the suggestion that their meetings were a prelude to revive the third front, Gujral said the nation�s welfare is not confined to political parties.

In their joint statement, the ex-Premiers assailed the BJP�s move to issue a White Paper on Constitution review. The statement lambasted the government for its abject failure on the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the economic front, the �anti-poor budget� in particular.

It condemned the policy on imports of agricultural produce, reduction of subsidy on urea and foodgrain, �which is bound to effect food production and food security�.    

Alwar (Rajasthan), March 28 
After Bill Clinton�s visit to Rajasthan, our very own President K.R. Narayanan today followed suit to present the Down To Earth-Joseph C. John award for India�s best environmental community to the villages of Bhaonta-Kolyala.

The award has perhaps for the first time been given to a community and was chosen from over 35 names that were shortlisted from about 145 entries. These included various states from all over the country like Nagaland and Kerala. John, an environmentalist, is known for his work on the Silent Valley hydro-electric project.

The several thousand villages of this arid region have been grappling with the problems of acute water shortage with rainfall of just a few hundred millimetres every year. And what has come to their rescue is no great scientific technology but the revival of earthen check dams that prevent rain water from running off, allowing it to percolate into the ground and recharge ground water.

These villages in the mid-eighties, like several other drought prone areas, were faced with the problems of mass exodus to the cities and poverty was fast rising. It was then that Tarun Bharat Sangh, a voluntary organisation led by Rajendra Singh, took up the cause along with some villagers to revive the johads. �Government help in the matter did not come easily.,� said Rajendra Singh, �So we had to do things ourselves including funding.� Thus Arvari, the river that flows through Bhaonta-Kolyala and several other villages began brimming.

The 45 km Arvari river today helps nearly 70 villages on its way. For good management, these villages in the watershed have formed the Arvari River Parliament to ensure that the Arvari and its villages remain prosperous and all disputes are settled.

Narayanan while presenting the citation along with a cash award of Rs 1 lakh said, �While it is the responsibility of the government to create a situation where people can develop, it is up to then people to themselves work for the achievement of true Gram Swaraj. Village Bhaonta-Kolyala and its surrounding villages have shown how people can do this on their own.� He praised the efforts of the villagers who have raised funds to constructs the johads.

Along with the President, thousands of villages received a oat on their backs from Rajasthan Governor Ashuman Singh and chief minister Ashok Gehlot who were also present on the occasion. Proudly holding the cheque, Arjun Gujjar said he would use the money for the johads� maintenance.    

Mumbai, March 28 
Actress Priya Rajvansh, a close companion of late film-maker Chetan Anand, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Chetan�s Juhu flat late last night.

The 57-year-old Priya, a veteran of many Chetan Anand starrers, was found dead by a servant on the bathroom floor. She had fallen off the toilet seat. Chetan�s son, Ketan, was home and has been questioned by the police. Chetan was actor Dev Anand�s brother.

The Juhu police, who are investigating the case, feel that the death cannot be passed off as natural since the actress was found dead in Chetan�s flat. She had moved to her own flat nearby after Chetan�s death two years ago.

Talking to The Telegraph, Chetan�s younger son, Vivek, said: �She was getting ready to go out last evening to a friend�s place. After some time, her friend called to ask why she was late. So we sent our servant upstairs to check, who found her dead in the bathroom.� He said there were no injury marks on her body

Vivek said though Priya lived in a separate flat, she used to visit the Anand household in Juhu every evening. He added that Priya had not complained of any illness in the past and �looked fine�.

Sources in the Anand household have told the police that relations between Ketan and Priya �were strained�. However, Priya still continued to visit the Anand household.

Dev Anand�s relationship with brother Chetan had also soured over his close relationship with Priya. She acted in almost all of Chetan�s films, like Heer Ranjha, Haqueeqat, Hanste Zakhm, Sahib Bahadur, Kudrat and Hathon Ki Lakeeren.

The police have conducted a post-mortem and are waiting for the vicera report, which could take a couple of days. Deputy commissioner of police, Zone 7, Rajendra Singh, who is supervising the probe, said: �There were no injury or strangulation marks. So we cannot immediately conclude that there was foul play. However, since the deceased was healthy, a sudden death has to be taken notice of.�

Priya had said only two weeks ago that she wanted to join the small screen and get into production of television serials.    

London, March 28 
The winning design of wrought iron gates which will be erected right outside Buckingham Palace to commemorate the contribution of mainly Indian soldiers in two World Wars, is to be unveiled in London tomorrow.

The gates, which will be 20 metres across and attached to four piers, are to be put up at the junction of Hyde Park corner with Constitution Hill, one of the busiest and most prestigious locations in London.

The site reflects the importance attached to the contribution made by India in the two World Wars. Many � and not just Indians � have felt this recognition was long overdue. Since India cannot be mentioned in isolation, the names of Pakistan and Bangladesh will also be carved in gold lettering into the piers, although the latter are post-war creations. The piers will also carry the words, Africa and the West Indies, to signify that Britain received help from all her former colonies.

However, it was Indian valour which turned the war in Britain�s favour at critical moments. The biggest volunteer army known in history was raised in India. At the end of the First World War, 113,743 Indians were reported dead, wounded or missing; by the end of the Second, 36,092 Indians had been killed or were missing, 64,350 were wounded and 79,489 taken prisoner. Yet, until recently, all this was ignored by Britain.

The campaign for the memorial gates to remember Indian war dead has been led by, among others, Baroness Shreela Flather, the first Indian woman in the House of Lords. Out of six designs submitted, the one picked was submitted by Liam O�Connor, a 38-year-old London architect.

A design by the Bombay architect, Charles Corea, was among those shortlisted. O�Connor said the gates would be hand-made, using age old English techniques of wrought iron work. When erected, the gates would fit in with two other important architectural elements in Hyde Park � Aspley House and the Wellington Arch, built in 1815 and 1828 respectively by Decimus Burton.

The three constructions would comprise an �architectural trilogy�, he pledged.

The concept of the memorial gates is being strongly supported by Prince Charles and his sister, Princess Anne. She said she was surprised when she came across Indian names in a war cemetery in Ethiopia and felt that �it�s not before time that somebody has thought of doing something about it�.

The gates will cost one million pounds, with the expense being met through donations and a grant from the Millennium Commission. Another 700,000 pounds will be used for an educational programme so that British school children are taught about the sacrifices of Indian and other Commonwealth soldiers in their history lessons.

Baroness Flather was among many Indians who were offended when a comedian, Bernard Manning, made a racist jibe on television two years ago. He said: �There were no Pakis in Dunkirk� and suggested that Asian troops were not on the frontline during the Second World War.

This enraged Lady Flather, who said today: �If I had been in the audience, he wouldn�t have got away with it. To the question, where were the Pakis I would have told him, actually, they were a little busy � taking Monte Cassino. The British and the Australian assault failed but we took it.�

This was a reference to one of the fiercest battles of the Second World War in Europe when Sikh soldiers distinguished themselves by their bravery and military professionalism.    


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