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'Every thana is a virtual Maoist factory'

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By MEGHDEEP BHATTACHARYYA in Calcutta
  • Published 21.10.09
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Calcutta, Oct. 21: Jaswant Singh, who headed the defence, external affairs and finance ministries at the Centre, is in Calcutta to participate in a panel discussion — ‘Did Jinnah want a secular Pakistan?’ — presented by The Telegraph at the Town Hall on Thursday. In an exclusive chat, Singh spoke on issues ranging from Gorkhaland to his expulsion from the BJP. Excerpts follow.

Q: Has there been any realistic movement on the demand for Gorkhaland since you were elected?

A: The extreme strategic importance of Darjeeling must be appreciated. It’s the only district in the country adjoining four (not in geographical sense but because of proximity to China) international boundaries, it’s sitting at the door of illegal infiltration. Darjeeling is the gatekeeper of the East and the Northeast.

Considering all these, it is vital that we address the questions raised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha urgently and sympathetically. The demand for Gorkhaland is not disruptive, it is integrative and an issue vital for national security and interest.

I have been a member of Parliament from Darjeeling for just about six months. I am not disheartened by the progress made, considering the political turmoil within my own party, from which I was expelled. The first tripartite discussion on the issue took place in Delhi. The next one will be taking place in some time at Darjeeling itself.

I am satisfied that, for the first time, the issue of Gorkhaland has featured prominently in Parliament.

Q: Do you think the administration should go on the offensive to wipe out Maoist insurgency in Bengal and the rest of the country?

A: No! I am very clear in my mind that unless the answer to the Maoist question is found through redress of grievance in civil and police administration, calling the army would be a retrograde step.

Address the problem where it originates. Every thana is a virtual factory for producing Maoists. Recognise the reality to find realistic solutions to the problem.

Q: What do you make of the ongoing political rivalry between the Trinamul Congress and the Left in Bengal?

A: I would rather not comment on the ongoing political turmoil in the state.

Q: What about defence minister A.K. Antony’s remark on the army’s preparedness to meet the “Taliban threat”?

A: I would rather hope that the honourable defence minister desists from such mindless remarks. Taliban are less a military force or threat in India. It is essentially the manifestation of the social discontent of the NWFP in Pakistan.

We have to deal with terrorism, enough.

Q: What are your plans with the Lok Morcha?

A: The Lok Morcha is a parliamentary device, not a political party. In Parliament, independent members of the House do not get time allotted to them and individuals. But if a group is formed, as a group they are entitled to time allocation. Five to six of us, upon the initiative of Digvijay Singh from Bihar, have constituted this grouping.

The group was actually formed before I was expelled. Unfortunately, on August 19, I was expelled from the BJP, though I would’ve preferred the phrase “withdrew my membership from”. Anyway, Digvijayji invited me to join the group soon after.

Q: Are there any other books you’re working on right now?

A: Oh yes, I have two or three books on the anvil. One is on C. Rajagopalachari. I’m examining the possibility of a book of political diaries that I have kept over the years. I certainly hope more and more people in Bengal read my books, especially the one on Jinnah.

Q: Considering the controversies over your last two books, are you apprehensive of similar issues enveloping your forthcoming books as well?

A: You see, the controversies are not of my making. The fault lies not with me. It is in the eye of the viewer.

Do you still know what problem the BJP has with my book on Jinnah? Does anyone?

All anyone knows is that the president of the BJP went on record to state that nobody in the party must ever take the name of Jinnah. What do you say to that?

Q: Would you ever return to the BJP if it wants you back?

A: How do I, you tell me, go back to that which is yet to explain to me why they asked me to leave in the first place? The question therefore is really of academic interest.