Bose: Still a mystery

One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the ideas and dreams of one nation are bequeathed to the next.

-Subhash Chandra Bose

Subhash Chandra Bose was described “patriots of patriots” by Mahatma Gandhi. Bose left the lucrative career of Indian Civil Services and instead joined the national movement to fight for the independence. Today, 23rd January is his Birth Anniversary. A grateful nation pays her sincere tributes to one of the greatest leader. His bold step to form Azad Hind Fauz and lead the men of this country against the British in World War-II was the reason that British were left militarily weak post war and decided to leave India.

More than 60 years have passed and India is still clueless about the man who gave his blood to secure freedom for the country. As an individual, I may like or dislike Netaji but it is my right to know what actually happened to him. How he died and where? His body was never recovered and many theories have been put forward concerning his possible survival.

There are several questions which are doing rounds ever since he “died”. Did Netaji die in an air crash in 1945? Or was he alive and escaped to Russia? Was the crash done by British intelligence? If Netaji survived then where did he really went after that and why didn’t he made himself public? Did he come back to India in the guise of Sadhu? Was Goomnami Baba or hermit in UP really Netaji?

When the hermit died in Faizabad in 1985, Dr Pabitra Mohan Roy told hermit’s follower that “Ami mukh khulle deshe agun lege jabe.” (This country will burn if I open my mouth)

There are allegations that Indian government and political leadership was aware that Bose was alive but deliberately ignored it.

Under the public pressure, many enquiry commissions have been established but their reports are always disputed and contradictory. While Shah Nawaz committee and GD Khosla commission says that Netaji died in Taiwan but they never interacted with Taiwan government. The latest report submitted by Mukherjee commission in 2005 states that Bose did not die in the plane crash and ashes at Renkoji temple are not his. The commission came to this conclusion because Taipei government officials told that they don’t have any evidence of any such plane crash on August 18, 1945.

There are just too many loopholes and inconsistency in the reports.

So if you study the sequence of events then there can be few possibilities.

  1. USSR, USA, UK were part of the allied forces in Second World War. After it was clear that Axis Powers were loosing (of which Azad Hind Fauz was also an ally), they ensured that each and every leader of Axis forces is captured or killed. The announcement of Japanese radio might be an attempt to save one of India’s greatest leaders of the time.
  2. Bose might have returned but was not allowed to come to public to avoid any controversies.
  3. Bose might have been taken captive by USSR. He might have spent rest of his life in jail or might have been executed. USSR used to be very secretive those days and they never revealed any info.
  4. It is fact that British left India because they became militarily weak after Second World War and credit goes to Bose for creating mutiny in the armed forces. At that time Bose was most popular leader in the country. The leaders of the Congress party might have allowed Bose’s capture or execution to avoid any political competition.

There can be numerous such view points and many more will emerge unless documents related to his death are made public. The government has refused to release any document under RTI as well saying that it will have negative impact of India’s relation with some foreign countries. Why? Is there any hidden information?

Moreover, government destroyed a file related to Netaji’s death in 1972 and some time back PMO vehemently opposed before Central Information Commission to release any documents on the same after an NGO “Mission Netaji” filed a plea.

There are some people in the government and political circles who want this chapter to be remain close for ever irrespective of the public sentiments!!

The Demise of Parallel Cinema

Cinema was born out of the impetus to represent the reality in a more convincing manner. After the nation gained independence, the cinema focused on post colonial issues such as poverty, illiteracy and unjustified social system. Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Shanta Ram and Sohrab Modi were the few directors who made cinema pertaining to the issues of the early 1950s and their films were all chronicles of the social change that was taking place in the Indian society.

During 1970s, Indian economy was strained and the emergency imposed during that time created more frustration for the people. We witnessed suppression of civil liberties and subsequently Constitutional breakdown. It was during this time that Indian cinema came out of age. The films made during those days addressed the growing frustrations of the Indians by completely deviating itself from the feel good movies. Thus the parallel cinema came into existence. The birth of parallel cinema is also attributed to the various film schools that produced many educated filmmakers, who felt responsible for the cause of this new genre of cinema. The trend was witnessed in all parts of the country with names like Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Budhyadeb Das Gupta, Basu Chatterjee and many more. The movies like Interview, Ankur, Aakrosh captured the mood of an ordinary Indian. This new wave had great impact on the society but with the changing time the parallel cinema has lost to commercial films. I feel that the demise of parallel cinema is one of many bad things that happened with our cinema. Few of the best directors like MS Sathyu, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Shyam Benegal are on wane.

Mrinal Sen, at seminar in Kolkata very recently, said that, “No director today is capable of making films like Garam Hawa, Ardh Satya, Albert Pinto ko gussa kyun aata hai, Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho. New Age cinema is certainly not comparable to these classics.” Many factors are responsible to this death of ‘new wave’. The time has changed and we have made much progress. Moreover, the taste of audiences have changed and a filmmaker who wants to draw attention to some serious subject finds no takers. This has resulted in the loss of space for a rural/semi-urban Indian in the cinema. The films nowadays cater to multiplex audience and they are bound to make film which sells, no matter even if it is rubbish. The advent of numerous channels, the consumerist culture and the expansion of urban India has given birth to urban-centric audiences. The cinema, which portrayed class struggle and protests against hypocrisy, has given way to more ‘entertaining’ cinema.

The story is pretty bad for the lover of serious and meaningful cinema. The filmmakers who make the serious films have failed to make the cut with TRP-driven television channels. Ironically, the stakes have seldom been higher for major players in the Hindi film world and the losses steeper for lovers of serious cinema. But then population of this section is very less. Contrary to the assumption that people want good cinema, they don’t. Even if they get it for free, they don’t watch it. Even Doordarshan, where profit is not the main motive, does not want art house cinema. It is a battle for the eyeballs, a battle for bums on the seat. It is pure and simple economics, no art.

You must have witnessed numerous film festivals on the channels in the name of Amitabh Bachchan, SRK, Madhuri Dixit but none in the name of Shyam Benegal or Govind Nihalani. We always rue that Bollywood does not makes good film and over 90 per cent of the films bog on the box office. Well you can say that you are not offered good film to watch but the fact remains that “everybody talks of good cinema, nobody watches good cinema.” The population that has created an atmosphere for themselves has no interest in parallel cinema and they love to live in utopia. There is no doubt that our nation has progressed by leaps and bounds but as a society we have to cover a long distance still. It will be better if we can be motivated by something that integrates our society, pricks our conscience and break the obsolete social customs. Both commercial and parallel cinema can co-exist, but only if we want!

Exclusive: SIMI chief’s shocking revelations

From a moderate start to a dreaded terror outfit, the Students Islamic Movement of India has come a long way.

Though the theories attached to the shift in stance by SIMI are relatively old, Safdar Nagori, the most prominent face of the banned outfit, said in his confession statement before the Madhya Pradesh police that SIMI had decided to intensify operations in India in 2001 after it had been banned by the then National Democratic Alliance government.

Nagori in his confession statement admitted that he and his men had undertaken a massive recruitment drive .

In the process, they recruited several youth to the outfit following which training was imparted to each of them. He said that the idea was to transform SIMI into a militant outfit.

The confession is very much on the lines of the interview given by Nagori prior to the outfit’s ban.

In the interview, he said it is not when an individual is harmed, but when an entire community finds itself collectively persecuted that the cry for jihad is given.

If nothing works then one is forced to revolt, take to arms.

Nagori said that he was an extremist and not a fundamentalist and his actions were never on the basis of religion.

“I was pained and angered by the atrocities against Muslims worldwide and the turning point was the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat riots only made matters worse,” he said.

Giving details about the training programme, Nagori said that nearly 25,000 SIMI activists met in Mumbai in 2001 and this was the first time that the call for jihad was given.

The meeting also hailed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden as a true warrior. Prior to Nagori’s arrest, there were 400 active SIMI members known as the Ansars and 20,000 Ikhwans who were ordinary members.

The training programme for SIMI began in Jammu and Kashmir. They trained along with the Hizbul Mujahideen. Following this, the selected cadres were assigned to major terror operations in the country.

Further, he also gave information regarding a training camp in Choral, Madhya Pradesh. He confessed that the training camp in Choral was unique and was used to train different classes of militants for different kinds of operations.

Nagori also spoke at length about the manner in which the SIMI split into two groups, thanks to differences of opinion. He said during his interrogation that the main reason for the split was due to ideological differences between his faction and the Misba-ul-Islam faction.

While the Islam faction wanted the SIMI to have a more moderate approach, Nagori pressed for a more aggressive view. Nagori made the same claim during his narco-analysis which was conducted in Bengaluru recently.

He said that SIMI did give it a try to sort out the differences and they met at Ujjain. Nagori found that he had a majority of the members supporting him. This is when he decided to breakaway and carry forward the outfit with his ideology.

Nagori also spoke about his idea of recruiting more educated youth into the outfit. He said that persons from an IT background were preferred and in this regard a technical cell was also started. He said the idea of recruiting persons from an IT background was because these persons could remain low key and they were excellent planners.

Nagori also mentioned about the Shaheen Force, an all-woman wing of SIMI. He explained during his confession and narco-analysis that women could convince their children easily to take the SIMI route and hence he had decided to float this wing.

He felt that women could help boost the membership of SIMI.

Source: REDIFF

15th August: Happy Independence Day!

They fought for your freedom. There were million of people who gave their everything for our freedom. As an obliged national, this is my tribute on behalf of our targetgenx team to  those great souls. Here we have collected the photographs of few of them. Happy Independence Day!
Mangal Pandey

Mangal Pandey

Laxmi Bai of Jhansi

Rani Laxmi Bai

MK Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

JL Nehru

Jawahar Lal Nehru

SV Patel

Sardar Patel

Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Subhash Chandra Bose

Subhash Chandra Bose

Asfaque Ullah Khan

Ashfaque Ullah Khan

Khudiram Bose

Khudiram Bose

Lal-Bal-Pal

Lal-Bal-Pal

Rajguru

Shivram Rajguru

Sukhdev Thapar

Sukhdev Thapar

Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh


दिल से निकलेगी ना मर कर भी वतन की उल्फ़त

मेरी मिट्टी से भी ख़ुश्बू-ए-वतन आयेगी

देस मेरे देस मेरे मेरी जान है तू -२

देस मेरे देस मेरे मेरी शान है तू -२

सुनाई थी जो बचपन में वो ही लोरी सुना दे माँ

तू अपनी गोद में अब चैन से मुझ को सुला दे माँ

तेरे चरणों में सब कुछ हम लुटाने से नहीं डरते

देस मेरे देस मेरे मेरी जान है तू -२
देस मेरे देस मेरे मेरी शान है तू -२

मिटाने से नहीं मिटते डराने से नहीं डरते

वतन के नाम पे हम सर कटाने से नहीं डरते

हज़ारों ख़्वाब रोशन हैं सुलगती सी निगाहों में

क़फ़न हम बाँध के निकले हैं आज़ादी की राहों में

निशाने पे जो रहते हैं निशाने से नहीं डरते

हमारी एक मन्ज़िल है हमारा एक नारा है

धरम से जात से ज्यादा हमें ये मुल्क़ प्यारा है

हम इस पे ज़िन्दगी अपनी लुटाने से नहीं डरते

क़सम तुम को वतन वालों कभी मायूस मत होना

मनाना जश्न-ए-आज़ादी न मेरे वास्ते रोना

निगाहें मौत से भी हम मिलाने से नहीं डरत!

A brief candle; both ends burning
An endless mile; a bus wheel turning
A friend to share the lonesome times
A handshake and a sip of wine
So say it loud and let it ring
We are all a part of everything
The future, present and the past
Fly on proud bird
You’re free at last.
–By: Charlie Daniels

15th August

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.

Independence Day 15th August

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

Indian Subcontinent after 61 years

Indian SubcontinentINDIA WAS divided in 1947. Sixty one years have passed since then, but still the countries of the subcontinent especially Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have still not been able to deal with their internal problems and security issues. British divided India into Dominion of Pakistan and Union of India before leaving the country. This was done in accordance with Jinnah’s two nation theory. Jinnah’s two nation theory was based on separate countries for Hindus and Muslims. There was support and opposition of the partition, but many believed that was the best way out. The partition led to violence and riots and millions of Hindus and Muslims migrated to the country of their choice. Based on 1951 census of displaced persons, 7,226,000 Muslims went to Pakistan from India while 7,249,000 Hindus and Sikhs moved to India from Pakistan immediately after the partition. The province of Bengal was divided into two separate entities of West Bengal belonging to India, and East Bengal belonging to Pakistan. Pakistan was declared an Islamic state while India became a secular state. There was no denying that partition was based on hatred and this is still imprinted on our minds. Kashmir issue has been the centre of problem between India and Pakistan. The issue has led to many wars between the two countries.

Pakistan, a nation which was formed after the partition, moved towards fundamentalism. It surprises me that in the last 60 years, Pakistan has took keen interest on happenings in India rather than looking after itself. This led to unrest in East Pakistan, which launched a language movement in 1952 to declare Bengali as national language. Dominion status was rejected in 1956 in favour of an ’Islamic Republic within the Commonwealth’. Attempts at civilian political rule failed, and the government imposed martial law between 1958 and 1962 and 1969 and 1972. The government was dominated by military and oligarchies all rooted in the west. Significant amount of national revenues went towards developing the west at the expense of the east. The people of the eastern wing began to feel increasingly dominated and exploited by the west. There was violation of human rights in East Pakistan and the people revolted against the dictatorial regime in 1969. Thus Bangladesh was formed in 1971 and became an independent state after Pakistani army surrendered to India after 1971 war.

Thus we had three nations formed from one and their present is somehow dictated by happenings on the other two. Bangladesh was formed with an intention to create a secular state but the fundamentalists and politicians gave up this idea and declared Bangladesh as Islamic state after eighth amendment in constitution in the year 1988. The situation worsened for non Muslims in the country and large number of people fled from Bangladesh to India. The religion is still one of the major political issues in all the three countries. But there is no denying that India has done well to large extent. The sovereignty of the country is based on the equality of the people in terms of rights. India has been successful compared to the other two. In fact, I will say that the other two nations have failed miserably.
One thing that India has done and Pakistan has been unable to do in all these years after formation, is build sound democratic structures. It is these structures, be it the judiciary, legislature, our electoral system or the media, with all their faults, which have ensured that we don’t stray from the path of democracy amid tremendous challenges. Pakistan on the other hand, which has had a few flings with democracy, mostly sham ones, have repeatedly reverted to military dictatorships, when the democratic experiment failed. No wonder even after 61 years, Pakistan is yet to inculcate the democratic ethos and has allowed no democratic institution to flourish. This took a toll on the economy of the country as well.

The biggest tension that is mounting between the subcontinent countries is that of terrorism. Pakistan has constantly supported and funded the terror organisation in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Bangladesh has also opened the gates to terror outfits lately. India is surrounded by two states whose credibility on the fight against terror are questionable. Pakistan is the country that is almost universally identified as constituting the most serious active threat to our national security.

India is on the path to become a superpower. Even the world acknowledges the progress that our country has made in these years. Clyde Prestowitz, president of the think tank Economic Strategy Institute said that India can become the superpower in 21st century. He also said that we need to maintain a constant focus on the problems that we, as a nation are facing. We still have to work very hard to ensure social-economic development of the people from all the sections of the society. The fruits of development should be shared by one and all. The problem of internal threat should not be neglected.

At the same time, we need to refrain from communalism as that can be the biggest hindrance in the path of the development of the nation. Love for one’s country does not vary in degree from person to person nor it is distinguished by caste or religion. Loving one’s country is a universal feeling. The fundamentalist will try to fly the flag of religion as it has been the easiest way to crust the spirit of humanity. This is applicable to both Hindus and Muslims in our country. We should not have repercussions in our nation of something, which has happened in other parts of the world. One must strive hard, contribute and participate in the revolution that will witness the emergence of India as a superpower.

Vivekananda and Education in India

Today is Death Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

The society is inflicted from few serious crimes. We are witnessing more rapes, molestations, serial killings, drug addiction, school children killing their classmates, etc. The more surprising thing is that the children of affluent families and are also indulging in such crimes. There can be numerous reasons behind that but the primary reason is that our education has become totally materialistic. I am basically talking of moral and ethical values which are being left behind in this competitive world. The educational system and parents both are responsible for the same.
Swami VivekanandaVivekananda once said that the tremendous emphasis on the scientific and mechanical ways of life is fast reducing man to the status of a machine. Moral and religious values are being undermined. The fundamental principles of civilization are being ignored. Conflicts of ideals, manners and habits are pervading the atmosphere. Disregard for everything old is the fashion of the day. The defect of the present-day education is that it has no definite goal to pursue. A teacher has no clear idea about the goal of his teaching. The aim of education must be man making and this is where the education is failing.
We are not equipping children with a positive and healthy frame of mind. Modern-day children are averse to reading good books which teach the ‘lessons of life,’ they are glued more to the idiot box and computer games. This is the crux of the problem. If books furnishing tales of Harshvardhana or Shivaji or Asoka are read at an early age, the young mind starts idolising those characters. They try and emulate the great men, who become role models for them. The epics can dissuade them from aiding and abetting crime; it would encourage them to stand up for their beliefs and values. When the young ones don’t have such heroes to worship and ape in real life, things go wrong and they don’t know how to differentiate between right and wrong.
Swami Vivekananda also felt that the aim of education is to manifest in our lives the perfection, which is the very nature of our inner self. This perfection is the realization of the infinite power which resides in everything and every-where-existence, consciousness and bliss (satchidananda). After understanding the essential nature of this perfection, we should identify it with our inner self. For achieving this, one will have to eliminate one’s ego, ignorance and all other false identification, which stand in the way. Meditation, fortified by moral purity and passion for truth, helps man to leave behind the body, the senses, the ego and all other non-self elements, which are perishable. He thus realizes his immortal divine self, which is of the nature of infinite existence, infinite knowledge and infinite bliss.
He says, We need technical education and all else which may develop industries, so that men, instead of seeking for service, may earn enough to provide for them-selves, and save something against a rainy day. He feels it necessary that India should take from the Western nations all that is good in their civilization. However, just like a person, every nation has its individuality, which should not be destroyed. The individuality of India lies in her spiritual culture. Hence in Swamiji’s view, for the development of a balanced nation, we have to combine the dynamism and scientific attitude of the West with the spirituality of our country. The entire educational program should be so planned that it equips the youth to contribute to the material progress of the country as well as to maintaining the supreme worth of India’s spiritual heritage.
It is in the transformation of man through moral and spiritual education that he finds the solution for all social evils. Founding education on the firm ground of our own philosophy and culture, he shows the best of remedies for today’s social and global illness.

Image Courtesy: dailycupofyoga.wordpress.com

Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Investment Vs Justice

VictimBHOPAL, THE capital city of Madhya Pradesh, is also known as the centre of the ’biggest industrial disaster’ or the ‘Hiroshima of chemical industry’. On December 3, 1984, a union carbide pesticide producing plant leaked highly toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate into the air of a densely populated region of Bhopal. Of the 800,000 people living in Bhopal at that time, 2,000 died immediately, 300,000 were injured and as many as 8,000 have died since.Due to the accident, many people suffered from various diseases and disorders even till many years later. The worst part is that people living near the premises of the site still continue to suffer. People living around the Union Carbide plant site have two options when it comes to drinking water. Either they are forced to drink the contaminated groundwater, which continues to be affected by toxic wastes dumped in the plant premises, or the municipal water is supplied from the nearby Raslakhedi village, known for a huge sewer. The water from both sources has been officially declared unfit for drinking.

The Bhopal gas tragedy is a catastrophe that has no parallel in industrial history. Yet the people who have suffered are still awaiting justice, even after more than 23 years. On Wednesday, victims of the tragedy protested against the inaction on the part of the government to nail the culprits. The fight that the survivors of the tragedy are leading is now not restricted to them only. In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide for $9.3 billion, despite this, Dow has refused to accept moral responsibility and does not take accountability for the Bhopal gas tragedy. Even our Commerce Minister has also commented that ’Dow cannot be held accountable for Union Carbide’s liabilities’.

Union Carbide and its former chairperson, Warren Anderson, both of whom face charges of culpable homicide and grievous assault, are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. By virtue of its acquisition of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has inherited Carbide’s civil liabilities – of clean-up and compensation for water to the affected people. Also, in acquiring Union Carbide, Dow was well aware that it was inheriting an absconder.

The government went a step ahead and in the year 2006, it approved the collaboration between Reliance and Dow for the transfer of Union Carbide-owned patented technology. But according to the activists, this is illegal as Union Carbide’s assets in India are subject to confiscation as per the 1992 order of the Bhopal magistrate.

Instead of showing some sympathy and the will to fight for the victims, the government is worried about loosing the investment in the country. They feel any overtures to hold Dow liable for Bhopal-related issues will scare away Dow’s promised $1 billion investment in India and also discourage other American investors. Dow even admitted paying $22,000 (Rs 88 lakhs) as bribe to agriculture ministry officials to expedite registration of the three pesticides namely Dursban, Nurelle and Pride.

The company had to pay a fine of $ 325,000 (Rs 1.43 crores) to the Securities Exchange Commission for violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act last year. Dow tried to wash its hands off the controversy but there was substantial evidence against them. Dursban pesticide is banned in the US, as it is a neuro-toxin that can cause permanent damage to children’s brains but we are registering such pesticides so that we don’t loose investment. After all, who cares about the people when we have the population of over 1.1 billion.

In May 2007, Sharad Pawar said that the enquiry in this matter was going on by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The probe is concluded. But the report is gathering dust. Meanwhile, the pesticides and the culprits are roaming free and poisoning the children. Dow Chemicals should not be allowed to expand its operation in India until justice is meted out to the victims. Indian state’s unwillingness to discourage foreign private investment has been a crucial factor in the continuing injustice in Bhopal!

If you want to extend support to the cause please visit:

http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/

IHF Suspended- A Welcome Move

K P S Gill’s 15-year tenure as the hockey boss came to an unceremonious end with the Indian Olympic Association removing him by suspending the IHF and appointing an ad-hoc committee, headed by former Olympian Aslam Sher Khan. The ‘unanimous’ decision to suspend IHF was taken at an emergency meeting called by the IOA following the sting operation which caught Secretary K Jothikumaran purportedly accepting bribe to select a player in the national team.

The ad-hoc commiittee will have hockey greats such as Ashok Kumar, Dhanraj Pillay, Ajit Pal Singh and Zafar Iqbal as the other members.

“It is a painful decision that we made today. But it had to be taken since there were corruption allegations. We have taken the decision after discussions with former Olympians, captains and all those who have played for India,” IOA President Suresh Kalmadi told a packed press conference.

“Gill was there (meeting) throughout. It was a unanimous decision and no one spoke against it. We have great respect for K P S Gill and it is not personal. Jothikumaran did not come unfortunately, we wanted to hear him. It was an opportunity for him to present his case,” he said.

Indian Express

A Glimpse into the Past (Hindustan Times dated 29/04/08)

THE INDIAN Olympic Association (IOA) repeated history after 32 years by suspending the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).

It was in 1974 that the IOA had suspended the IHF for the first time after the Federation International de Hockey (FIH) had disaffiliated it following a series of disputes in the federation.

The IOA began managing the hockey affairs and the country’s participation in the 1975 World Cup was possible due to this development. Eventually, India went on to become world champions.

“There were disputes in the IHF and taking a serious note the IOA suspended the federation towards the end of 1974. The-then Punjab chief minister, Giani Zail Singh, offered to host the team’s preparation for the World Cup and thethen IOA president, Raja Bhalendra Singh, accepted the offer,” said Balbir Singh, who was named administrative officer of the camp and was later made chief coach-cum-manager of the team.

Balbir recalled, “The camp was held at the Punjab University and everyone extended their support for the cause. I took charge of the camp on November 14 and the only practice session I missed was on the afternoon of December 29 when my father was cremated. That was the passion we had towards our national sport.”

“After the IHF’s suspension, we became the world champions. Let’s see what’s on offer this time,” said the triple Olympics gold medallist. “In 1975, every player contributed his best and we won the title. If everybody gives his best, we can again become world champs.”

On the latest development, Balbir remarked, “Change is always for the better and our system was demanding this for a long time. It has finally happened. Hopefully, it will be towards the betterment of the sport.”

Aaj Ka Arjun: Piggybacking the Indian Reservations

Arjun SinghEighteen years can be an eternity in politics: on September, 6, 1990, a stirring speech was made in parliament criticising the Mandal commission report.

“If you believe in a casteless society, every major step you take must be such that you move towards a casteless society. And you must avoid taking any steps which takes you to a caste-ridden society. Unfortunately, the step we are taking today in accepting the Mandal report, is a caste formula. While accepting this reality, we must dilute that formula and break it by adding something to it. Even at this late hour, there is time to pull the country back from caste division… ministers are provoking caste wars. Are we going back to the Round Table Conference for having separate electorates? That was designed to break our country. An issue like reservation cannot be treated in a piecemeal manner. We must look at the whole picture.”

The author of the speech? None other than the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Given Arjun Singh’s love for history and the Nehru-Gandhi family (every room in his house is dotted with portraits of the Congress’s first family), it is possible that he has read Rajiv Gandhi’s intervention in parliament on the Mandal debate. Yet, as the scriptwriter for Mandal Part II, Singh may well be having a quiet chuckle as he describes the Supreme Court order upholding 27 per cent quotas for Other Backward Classes (OBC) as ‘historic’ and a ‘vindication’ of the stand he has taken. After all, in a rare display of unanimity, not a single politician worth his vote has chosen to voice even the slightest disagreement with Singh’s formula. The ghost of the Congress’s posterboy PM seems to have been well and truly buried.

What explains this tectonic shift? The answer must be found in the rise of competitive politics in the last two decades and the end of the era of Congress dominance. So long as the Congress enjoyed a monopolistic position in Indian politics, it could afford to ignore the yearnings for greater empowerment at the bottom and middle of the caste pyramid. The backward castes in south of the Vindhyas had already been accommodated within the ruling arrangement through a pre-independence social revolution. It was only when the winds of political change began to sweep across north India that the real transformation occurred. Once the Mulayams and the Lalus shook the foundation of the Congress in the 1990s and captured power across the Hindi heartland, the party had little choice but to fall in line with the new order.

Nehru, especially, was contemptuous of caste. In a circular sent to the presidents of all the Pradesh Congress committees in 1954, Nehru said:

“In particular, we must fight whole-heartedly against those narrow divisions which have grown up in our country in the name of caste, which weaken the unity, solidarity and progress of the country”.

Indira Gandhi, although much less ideologically inclined, was also discomfited by caste assertion, choosing to combat the rising power of the OBCs in the 1967 elections with her universal ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan. Rajiv Gandhi reflected an English-speaking public school educated mindset in dealing with caste politics: the speech in parliament in 1990 was only one example of his singular distaste for grappling with the complexity of caste equations.

When Gujarat chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki’s politically successful experiment in the mid-1980s with backward-caste alliances led to an upper-caste backlash, Rajiv was quick to dismiss him, an error of judgment for which the Congress is still paying a price in the state. Right through the Rajiv-Indira years, no attempt was made to push forward with the Mandal report commissioned by Morarji Desai’s government in 1977.

Why VP Singh resurrected the Mandal genie in the 1990 remains the subject of much debate: his supporters have suggested that the Raja of Manda was a genuine  revolutionary, committed to notions of social justice, and someone with the foresight to recognise the changing political landscape in the country. It is more likely that the Janata Dal PM saw the implementation of the report as a weapon to silence his critics within and outside his rickety coalition. VP’s Mandal operation was done by stealth, not conviction, designed to safeguard his own precarious position in the government.

Ironically, 18 years later, another upper-caste Thakur from north India, has chosen to make caste-based reservations his calling card. If VP Singh used the Mandal report to consolidate himself politically, Arjun Singh too has bolstered his stature by pushing ahead with OBC reservations. Both VP and Arjun cut their teeth in the Indira Gandhi school of politics: a politics of convenience, not always of conviction.

Both became CMs in the latter period  of the Indira era, neither showing any inclination in their home states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to engage in radical social engineering. Both were faced with shrinking political bases, Arjun Singh even facing the humiliation of coming third to the BSP in his pocket borough of Satna in 1996. In fact, both were recognised as good administrators rather than charismatic vote-gatherers or harbingers of a new political order. Both have masked their vaulting ambition under the guise of morality: if VP was the crusader against corruption, Arjun Singh has projected himself as the protector of Nehruvian secularism.

VP Singh at least managed to attain the ultimate prize. Arjun Singh, by contrast, has always been the also-ran, never the bridegroom. In 1991, he was a front-runner for the prime ministership, only to find himself being edged out by Narasimha Rao. As HRD minister in the Rao government, Singh showed no desire to push for reservations.

It was left to then social welfare minister, Sitaram Kesri, whose memory has now been virtually deleted from the Congress archives, to champion the Mandal report. Singh, by contrast, was identified  as the saviour of the minorities: demanding white papers on the Babri Masjid demolition, giving grants to minority institutes and organising seminars on secularism. With his nemesis Rao being seen as soft on Hindu communalism, it suited Arjun Singh’s political ambitions to emerge as a defender of minority interests.

Now, in his second coming as HRD minister, Singh has offered another alternative: If Manmohan Singh’s core constituency is the urban middle-class, Singh has appealed to the disadvantaged groups. If the PM is the symbol of the new economy based on merit and efficiency, Singh represents the older order based on handouts and patronage. If the PM wants to encourage private enterprise, Singh would prefer to strengthen the role of government through sops and entitlements.

If the left attacks the PM for elitism, Singh is embraced for chanting the mantra of equity. Reservations, be it for minorities or backwards, have been the Madhya Pradesh leader’s ultimate political weapon in his battle to retain relevance: having already worn the hat of secularism and socialism, he has now added the cap of social justice. It’s a triple whammy, the kind which should make it impossible to ignore or isolate him.

With such high political stakes, who then cares if the government’s flagship primary education schemes are in a mess? Who cares if the drop-out rate among Dalits, Muslims and backward caste students remains unconscionably high? Who bothers if the infrastructure is not in place to manage the reservation fallout in IITs and IIMs? Who worries if quality education continues to suffer?

Unfortunately, for Mr Singh, it may be too late now to achieve his ambitions: he is unlikely to be seen as a future prime ministerial candidate in a party waiting to see the emergence of a Rahul Raj. But there is compensation: Arjun Singh is the only member of the cabinet to have a road named after him. What Jamia Millia Islamia University has done today, pro-reservationists may wish to do tomorrow.

By Rajdeep Sardesai
From Hindustan Times dated 18/04/08

India today. Its been 60 years. Right??

Pride in being an Indian, nostalgia for what it must have been like in those heady days ahead of August 15th 1947. Looking at sepia-tinted images of Rajpath on the day India achieved freedom, one can imagine the frenzied crowds, the sense of utter joy at being a free nation. We take freedom for granted today. We couldn’t have been quite so bindaas 60 years ago. That perhaps is our greatest achievement, creating a sense of uninhibited freedom among millions (spit where you want, vote for whom you wish!).

Few gave this country a chance of survival 60 years ago. The prevailing wisdom was that India would crack apart into dozens of princely states, that the centre would simply not hold. By contrast, it was expected that Pakistan would be a more homogenous nation,united by religion. As it has turned out, Pakistan has become a nation undermined from within by religious fanaticism and an emasculated middle class. Sure, India too has its crisis points in the form of an imperfect democracy battling poverty, farmer suicides and unemployment, but despite the imperfections, it has been astonishingly resilient.

In the remarkable book, India after Gandhi, historian Ramachandra Guha had once tried to unravel the enigma of India.

“Why does India survive?”, he asked in his final chapter.

His answer, a sense of a shared symbols – cricket, cinema, music – a respect for diversity, and above all, a remarkable constitution that guarantees fundamental rights and enshrines the principle of one man one vote. I think this country owes a huge debt to the framers of the constitution. I cannot think of a more progressive document anywhere in the world, one that respected individual rights above all . We must be blessed that in the 1940s a collection of rare public figures came together to frame the constitution. It might be difficult to imagine this in our polarised times, but in the 1940s, Indians had the sagacity to realise that people of differing ideological persuasions needed to be brought together so that every possible talent could be harnessed. Maybe, we need to read our history books once again to understand the true meaning of freedom, of being an independent nation. Today’s young and restless I fear often have little knowledge or interest in history.

  • How many young Andhraites know of the sacrifice of Potti Sriramalu, the man whose fast unto death led to the formation of the modern Andhra Pradesh, and laid the basis for liguistic states?
  • How many young Maharashtrians know of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement and the sacrifice of those who fought for their state?
  • Is any young Punjabi interested in reading the biography of Tara Singh?
  • The Forward Bloc may keep the flame of Netaji alive, but do young Bengalis bother to read his life story?

Sadly, we are becoming a country ignorant of our history. We seem more comfortable with the quick fix cinematic idea of Gandhi in Munnabhai, than doing anything to really try and understand the man behind the Mahatma. In the 60th year of Independence, we need to make a pledge: a pledge to try and appreciate our history a little more.Remember that old chestnut:

“Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.”

Rachit Chandra