Saturday, August 27, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Any apology forced by circumstances or others cannot be sincere. Manish Tewari not only hurt Anna by his comments on the Gandhian, but has also abused his country wide supporters. Since the 'sorry' is not from the heart, it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Also, since he made the statement as General Secretary of Congress, people have an insight of the Congress' views. Let next general elections convince the Congress of how sorry it should be !
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
American funding in Pakistan.
by Lawrence Wright, New Yorker, May 16, 2011
It’s the end of the Second World War, and the United States is deciding what to do about two immense, poor, densely populated countries in Asia. America chooses one of the countries, becoming its benefactor.
Over the decades, it pours billions of dollars into that country’s economy, training and equipping its military and its intelligence services. The stated goal is to create a reliable ally with strong institutions and a modern, vigorous democracy. The other country, meanwhile, is spurned because it forges alliances with America’s enemies.
The country not chosen was India, which “tilted” toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pakistan became America’s protégé, firmly supporting its fight to contain Communism. The benefits that Pakistan accrued from this relationship were quickly apparent: in the nineteen-sixties, its economy was an exemplar. India, by contrast, was a byword for basket case. Fifty years then went by. What was the result of this social experiment?
India has become the state that we tried to create in Pakistan. It is a rising economic star, militarily powerful and democratic, and it shares American interests. Pakistan, however, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state. And, despite Pakistani avowals to the contrary, America’s worst enemy, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there for years—in strikingly comfortable circumstances—before U.S. commandos finally tracked him down and killed him, on May 2nd.
American aid is hardly the only factor that led these two countries to such disparate outcomes. But, at this pivotal moment, it would be a mistake not to examine the degree to which U.S. dollars have undermined our strategic relationship with Pakistan—and created monstrous contradictions within Pakistan itself.
American money began flowing into Pakistan in 1954, when a mutual defense agreement was signed. During the next decade, nearly two and a half billion dollars in economic assistance, and seven hundred million in military aid, went to Pakistan. After the 1965 Pakistan-India war began, the U.S. essentially withdrew aid to both countries. Gradually, U.S. economic aid was restored, but the Pakistani military was kept on probation.
Those civilian-aid programs were largely successful. Christine Fair, a specialist on South Asia at the Center for Peace and Security Studies, at Georgetown University, notes that the original model for economic assistance was “demand driven”—local groups or governments proposed projects and applied for grants. Aid usually came in the form of matching funds, so that grantees had a stake in the projects. Moreover, American specialists presided over the disbursement of these funds and served as managers. “That was effective,” Fair says. “But we haven’t done it for decades.”
Then, in 1979, U.S. intelligence discovered that Pakistan was secretly building a uranium-enrichment facility in response to India’s nuclear-weapons program. That April, the military dictator of Pakistan, General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, hanged the civilian President he had expelled from office, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; he then cancelled elections. U.S. aid came to a halt. At the same time, Zia began giving support to an Islamist organization, Jamaat-e-Islami, the forerunner of many more radical groups to come. In November, a mob of Jamaat followers, inflamed by a rumor that the U.S. and Israel were behind an attack on the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, burned the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to the ground, killing two Americans and two Pakistani employees. The American romance with Pakistan was over, but the marriage was just about to begin.
The very next month, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter, in a panic, offered Zia four hundred million dollars in economic and military aid. Zia rejected the offer, calling it “peanuts”—the term often arises in Pakistani critiques of American aid, but it must have rankled the peanut farmer in the White House. Zia was smart to hold out. Under Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, U.S. aid nearly quintupled: about three billion dollars in economic assistance and two billion in military aid. The Reagan Administration also provided three billion dollars to Afghan jihadis. These funds went through the sticky hands of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the spy branch of the Pakistani Army.
Starting in 1987, the I.S.I. was headed by General Hamid Gul, a cunning and bitterly anti-American figure. The I.S.I. became so glutted with power and money that it formed a “state within a state,” in the words of Benazir Bhutto, who became Pakistan’s Prime Minister in 1988. She eventually fired Gul, fearing that he was engineering a coup.
Milton Bearden, a former C.I.A. station chief in Pakistan, once described Gul to me as having a “rococo” personality. In 2004, I visited Gul -- a short man with a rigid, military posture and raptor-like features -- at his villa in Rawalpindi. He proudly asked his servant to bring me an orange from his private grove. I asked Gul why, during the Afghan jihad, he had favored Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the seven warlords who had been designated to receive American assistance in the fight against the Soviets.
Hekmatyar was the most brutal member of the group, but, crucially, he was a Pashtun, like Gul. As I ate the orange, Gul offered a more principled rationale for his choice: “I went to each of the seven, you see, and I asked them, ‘I know you are the strongest, but who is No. 2?’ ” He formed a tight, smug smile. “They all said Hekmatyar.”
Later, Gul helped oversee the creation of the Taliban, reportedly using mainly Saudi money. The I.S.I. openly supported the Taliban until September 11, 2001. Since then, the Pakistani government has disavowed the group, but it is widely believed that it still provides Taliban leaders with safe harbor in Quetta, where they stage jihad against Western forces in Afghanistan.
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush cut off military aid to Pakistan. Ostensibly, this was in response to Pakistan’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, but it’s also true that, after the Soviets were pushed out of Afghanistan, in the late eighties, the U.S. lost interest in Pakistan. U.S. assistance, directed almost entirely toward food and counter-narcotics efforts, fell to forty-five million dollars a year, and declined further after 1998, when Pakistan began testing nuclear weapons.
After the September 11th attacks, Pakistan abruptly became America’s key ally in the “war on terror.” Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. gave billions of dollars to Pakistan, most of it in unrestricted funds, to combat terrorism. Pervez Musharraf, who served as President between 1999 and 2008, now admits that during his tenure he diverted many of those billions to arm Pakistan against its hobgoblin enemy, India. “Whoever wishes to be angry, let them be angry—why should we bother?” Musharraf said in an interview on the Pakistani television channel Express News. “We have to maintain our security.” Since Musharraf left office, there has been little indication that U.S. aid—$4.5 billion in 2010, one of the largest amounts ever given to a foreign country—is being more properly spent.
The main beneficiary of U.S. money, the Pakistani military, has never won a war, but, according to “Military Inc.,” by Ayesha Siddiqa, it has done very well in its investments: hotels, real estate, shopping malls. Such entrepreneurship, however corrupt, fills a gap, as Pakistan’s economy is now almost entirely dependent on American taxpayers.
In a country of a hundred and eighty million people, fewer than two million citizens pay taxes, and Pakistan’s leaders are doing little to change the situation. In Karachi, the financial capital, the government recently inaugurated a program to appoint eunuchs as tax collectors. Eunuchs are considered relentless scolds in South Asia, and the threat of being hounded by one is somehow supposed to take the place of audits.
In 2008, Pakistan’s government made the dramatic announcement that it was placing the I.S.I. under the control of its Interior Ministry—a restructuring that was revoked within hours by inflamed military leaders, who effectively vetoed the government. That November, Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization that has reportedly received backing from the I.S.I. to wage jihad in Kashmir, carried out attacks on tourists in Mumbai. According to American indictments, an I.S.I. officer directed the surveillance of suitable targets.
Those sites included the Taj and Oberoi hotels, the train station, the Leopold Café, and the Chabad House, a Lubavitch outpost run by an American rabbi and his pregnant wife. According to Sebastian Rotella, who has written extensively for ProPublica about the attack, “They were going out of their way to kill Americans.” At the hotels, the attackers sorted through passports, looking for American and British citizens. In the end, a hundred and sixty-six people were killed, but only six were Americans. The Pakistani government denied any involvement, although it eventually conceded that the attacks had been planned in Pakistan.
Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. special agent who interrogated many of the Al Qaeda members captured in Pakistan, told me that “the majority of them said that Lashkar-e-Taiba had given them shelter.” After the battle of Tora Bora, he added, the Al Qaeda members who fled to Pakistan—including top leaders—were greeted by Lashkar operatives and taken to safe houses. Some Pakistanis worry that Lashkar may become the new Al Qaeda.
In 2009, Senators Richard Lugar and John Kerry, recognizing that American military aid had given the Army and the I.S.I. disproportionate power in Pakistan, helped pass legislation in Congress sanctioning seven and a half billion dollars in civilian assistance, to be disbursed over a period of five years. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, apparently at the direction of the military, flew to Washington, and insisted that his country would not be micromanaged. So far, less than a hundred and eighty million dollars of that money has been spent, because the civilian projects require oversight and checks on corruption. The Pakistani military, meanwhile, submits expense claims every month to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad; according to a report in the Guardian, receipts are not provided—or requested.
One day in March, 2004, when I was in Peshawar, in northern Pakistan, a firefight broke out in the tribal areas nearby. The newspapers said the Army was fighting Al Qaeda, and had surrounded Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy. Zawahiri escaped, but the troops captured a number of Al Qaeda fighters, including Zawahiri’s son Ahmed.
The next day, a newspaper bore the headline “AHMED’S TALKING!” Yet Zawahiri doesn’t have a son named Ahmed. After that day, nothing more was said about Ahmed, but I kept puzzling over that tricked-up episode. I began to wonder, What would happen if the Pakistani military actually captured or killed Al Qaeda’s top leaders? The great flow of dollars would stop, just as it had in Afghanistan after the Soviets limped away. I realized that, despite all the suffering the war on terror had brought to Pakistan, the military was addicted to the money it generated. The Pakistani Army and the I.S.I. were in the looking-for-bin-Laden business, and if they found him they’d be out of business.
A number of investigative reports have suggested that the I.S.I. diverted American money designated for fighting terrorism to the Taliban. According to a 2007 document released by WikiLeaks, U.S. military interrogators at Guantánamo implicitly acknowledged this problem when they placed the I.S.I. on an internal list of “terrorist and terrorist-support entities.”
In October, 2009, I went to Washington to attend a daylong conference on “Al Qaeda and Its Allies.” (The event was sponsored by the New America Foundation and by the Center on Law and Security, at N.Y.U.’s law school, where I am a fellow.) The final panel discussion was devoted to Pakistan. Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani, a former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., spoke of the importance of having America and Pakistan united in their military strategy, especially in South Waziristan, which he called “the epicenter of militancy.”
The halfhearted efforts of the Pakistani Army to oppose its radical protégés there had created a ferocious backlash. The Taliban attacked I.S.I. offices and began taking over parts of Pakistani territory, including the Swat Valley, which is less than a hundred miles from Islamabad. Just two weeks before the conference, a group of Taliban fighters attacked the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, a mile from where General Durrani lives. The I.S.I. had lost control of its creation.
Durrani made a plea for the U.S. to continue its partnership with Pakistan. “Trust us, developing Pakistan’s capacity to fight terrorism will pay rich dividends,” he said. “I do not want to sound ungrateful, but what had been supplied over the last five years, in terms of hardware, is almost peanuts.” When I had the opportunity to ask a question, I pointed out that, since 9/11, the U.S. had given eleven billion dollars to Pakistan, the bulk of it in military aid, much of which was misappropriated to buy weapons to defend against India. If Pakistan didn’t have the equipment to fight insurgents and terrorists in the tribal areas, was that really America’s fault? And if American aid to Pakistan—especially military assistance—had done more harm than good, shouldn’t it be drastically reduced?
Another retired general on the podium, Talat Masood, responded that the losses Pakistan had suffered in the “so-called war on terror” amounted to more than forty billion dollars. “So please don’t harp on the eleven billion,” he said.
Pakistan has indeed suffered for its official alliance with the U.S. In 2006, there were six suicide bombings in the country; the next year there were fifty-six, with six hundred and forty people killed. Last year, twelve hundred people were murdered by suicide bombers. More than three thousand Pakistani soldiers and officers have been killed in the war, including eighty-five members of the I.S.I. Yet many of these wounds have been self-inflicted, for the military and the I.S.I. created and nurtured the very groups—such as the Taliban—that have turned against the Pakistani state. And the money used to fund these radical organizations came largely from American taxpayers.
Many foreign-policy experts maintain that America cannot, at this juncture, cut off military aid to Pakistan—even if elements of the I.S.I. turn out to have harbored bin Laden. There are two prongs to this argument. One is that America needs Pakistan’s support in order to defeat the Taliban. If the U.S. withdraws aid, it is argued, Pakistan might insist that we can no longer fly drones over tribal areas. But Pakistan has covertly supported the drone program for years, in return for the U.S.’s targeting of Taliban forces that it cannot vanquish on its own. Without U.S. aid, the Pakistani military will need drone assistance more than ever.
The more pressing concern is that radical Islamists will somehow get their hands on a nuclear bomb, either through covert means or by actually coming to power. “The military is playing on this fear,” a Pakistani reporter, Pir Zubair Shah, told me.
As much as half of the money the U.S. gave to the I.S.I. to fight the Soviets was diverted to build nuclear weapons. The father of Pakistan’s bomb, A. Q. Khan, later sold plans and nuclear equipment to Libya, North Korea, and Iran. A month before 9/11, Pakistani nuclear scientists even opened a secret dialogue with Al Qaeda. The government of Pakistan has denied knowledge of what Khan and his associates were doing.
In February, 2009, the Pakistani government announced that it had “dismantled the nuclear black market network.” There is no way of knowing if this is true. Neither the U.S. nor the International Atomic Energy Agency has been allowed to interview Khan. According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, the “current status of Pakistan’s nuclear export network is unclear.” Meanwhile, American policymakers have been paralyzed by Pakistan’s nuclear capability. They have repeatedly expressed the worry that, if Pakistan is alienated, its nuclear secrets and materials might get into the wrong hands. But that has already happened.
Not only has American military aid been wasted, misused, and turned against us; it may well have undermined the Pakistani military, which has feasted on huge donations but is far weaker than its nemesis, the Indian military. If the measure of our aid is the gratitude of the Pakistani people and the loyalty of their government, then it has clearly been a failure.
Last year, a Pew Research Center survey found that half of Pakistanis believe that the U.S. gives little or no assistance at all. Even the Finance Minister, Hafiz Shaikh, said last month that it was “largely a myth” that the U.S. had given tens of billions of dollars to Pakistan. And if the measure of our aid is Pakistan’s internal security, the program has fallen short in that respect as well. Pakistan is endangered not by India, as the government believes, but by the very radical movements that the military helped create to act as terrorist proxies.
Eliminating, or sharply reducing, military aid to Pakistan would have consequences, but they may not be the ones we fear. Diminishing the power of the military class would open up more room for civilian rule. Many Pakistanis are in favor of less U.S. aid; their slogan is “trade not aid.” In particular, Pakistani businessmen have long sought U.S. tax breaks for their textiles, which American manufacturers have resisted. Such a move would empower the civilian middle class.
India would no doubt welcome a reduction in military aid to Pakistan, and the U.S. could use this as leverage to pressure India to allow the Kashmiris to vote on their future, which would very likely be a vote for independence. These two actions might do far more to enhance Pakistan’s stability, and to insure its friendship, than the billions of dollars that America now pays like a ransom.
Within the I.S.I., there is a secret organization known as the S Wing, which is largely composed of supposedly retired military and I.S.I. officers. “It doesn’t exist on paper,” a source close to the I.S.I. told me. The S Wing handles relations with radical elements. “If something happens, then they have deniability,” the source explained. If any group within the Pakistani military helped hide bin Laden, it was likely S Wing.
Eight days before Osama bin Laden was killed, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani Army, went to the Kakul military academy in Abbottabad, less than a mile from the villa where bin Laden was living. “General Kayani told the cadets, ‘We have broken the backbone of the militants,’ ” Pir Zubair Shah, the reporter, told me. “But the backbone was right there.”
Perhaps with a touch of theatre, Hamid Gul, the former I.S.I. chief, publicly expressed wonder that bin Laden was living in a city with three army regiments, less than a mile from an élite military academy, in a house that appeared to have been built expressly to protect him. Aside from the military, Gul told the Associated Press, “there is the local police, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, the I.S.I. They all had a presence there.” ♦
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
At the time of Indian independence, none of the princely states were part of India. The Hindu ruler of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to remain independent. In spite of entreaties from various quarters including from Governor General of India Loius Mountbatten, the Maharaja continued to dither and remain non-committal.
Kashmir has never been an integral part of India: Arundhati Roy.
At the time of Indian independence, none of the princely states — Hyderabad, Gwalior, Mysore, Baroda and Kashmir, to name a few — were part of India. They were called princely states — quasi-sovereign states ruled by the Indian princes under the "suzerainty" of the British. There were as many as 568 states in India when the British decided to leave India.
In 1947, under the Mountbatten Plan, they were given two options — either affiliate with India or with Pakistan. Though most of the princely states thirsted for freedom, that option was closed at the insistence of the Congress party. Though the choice of which entity to join was left to the rulers of the princely states, it was largely understood that the religious denomination of the majority of the citizens and geographical contiguities of the states would be the preponderant determining criteria.
Kashmir fulfilled both these paramount criteria to join Pakistan — geographical contiguity with the newly-formed state and religious domination of the majority of its citizens.
However, there was a problem: The Hindu ruler of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh wanted something which was not on the table — azaadi, or freedom from both India and Pakistan. He wanted Kashmir to remain independent. In spite of entreaties from various quarters including from the Governor General of India, Loius Mountbatten, the Maharaja continued to dither and remained non-committal. And the situation reached a stalemate.
Jinnah and Pakistan perceived this intransigence of the Maharaja to be a clever ploy by India and Mountbatten to pluck Kashmir surreptiously from Pakistan's grasp. So, in an operation that today can be seen as a precursor of the Kargil Operation, Pakistan launched a military invasion of Kashmir on October 22, 1947.
Pashtun tribals and irregulars, morally and logistically supported by the Pakistan army, were sent in to force the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan. The invaders reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the capital. And threatened to besiege the city.
A frightened and panick-stricken Maharaja radioed Delhi for military help. The Indian leadership argued that it would not be legally possible to send in the Indian Army unless Kashmir acceded to India formally. After another bout of resistance, the Maharaja finally yielded and Mountbatten's aide V P Menon was sent to Srinagar to secure his signature on the Instrument of Accession. Once signed (on 26 October 1947), the Indian Army was airlifted to Srinagar and the Pakistani invaders were beaten back, but not before they controlled about one-third of Kashmir.
As soon as the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession, Kashmir's accession to India was complete in the legal and formal sense — the same Instrument of Accession that was signed by more than 500 other princely states. That is a fact of history, which cannot be disputed without stretching the truth. It's there in black and white. In fact, it can be argued that it was Pakistan's folly of invading Kashmir, overplaying its hand, which sowed the seeds of the Kashmir imbroglio.
When the irregulars from Pakistan invaded India on October 22, 1947, Prime Minister Nehru went to the UN in good faith to call on the world body to intervene and ensure that Pakistan pull back its troops. Based on the Indian complaint and the counter-arguments of Pakistan, the UN Security Council called for not only an immediate ceasefire, but also a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris.
India refuses to uphold the UN-mandated plebiscite that gives the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri people: Pakistan
When the irregulars from Pakistan invaded India on October 22, 1947, Prime Minister Nehru went to the UN in good faith to call on the world body to intervene and ensure that Pakistan pull back its troops. Based on the Indian complaint and the counter-arguments of Pakistan, the UN Security Council called for not only an immediate ceasefire, but also a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris.
Ignoring the advice of his Home Minister Sardar Patel and Indian Army commanders that India should not agree to a ceasefire before the area captured by the invaders was reclaimed, Nehru went ahead and not only ordered an immediate ceasefire but also agreed in principle to the plebiscite — a promise that has not been kept.
This is the instance used to castigate India for not only breaking the spirit of the UN resolution but also ignoring the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
But just look at what UN Resolution 38 of 17 January 1948 actually says about the run-up to the plebiscite —
"The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours: To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purposes of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State".
Please read that again.The much-bandied resolution, used to whip India with by the critics, clearly states that Pakistan will "withdraw" all "Pakistani nationals" and "tribesmen" who infiltrated on October 22, 1947 from the soil of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed then, without exception. This was the UN resolution's 'first condition' for the beginning of the process towards the plebiscite.
Has that condition been fulfilled by Pakistan? Has the land 'occupied' by the Pakistanis and the tribesmen in 1947 been vacated? Isn't the reality that Pakistan occupied and continues to occupy more than one-third of the territory of Kashmir?
As a way to fulfill the mandate and hold the plebiscite, will Pakistan be willing to vacate PoK now, 63 years after the resolution? The answer is written on the wall.
For all intents and purposes the UN resolution on Kashmir is as good as dead.
No wonder then that the wily but pragmatic General Musharraf gave up the usual Pakistani harping on self-determination in Kashmir for a more practical and doable out-of-the-box solution, which unfortunately is being disowned by the present Pakistani government.
Ignoring the advise of his Home Minister, Sardar Patel, and Indian Army commanders that India should not agree to a ceasefire before the area captured by the invaders was reclaimed, Nehru went ahead and not only ordered an immediate ceasefire but also agreed in principle to the plebiscite, a promise that has not been kept.
Pakistan has always stood by Kashmir, as against the brutality of the Indian security forces in the Indian side of Kashmir: Pakistan
a) Pakistan has carved out the Northern Areas (now called Gilgit-Baltistan, almost 72,971 Sq km) from Kashmir into a separate administrative and political unit. This area, which was part of the undivided Kashmir at the time of independence, has been 'annexed' by Pakistan, as it were, and separated from Kashmir.
b) In 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,800 sq km in the Trans-Karakoram Tract to China. The Tract was part of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir.
c) Pakistan actively encourages "other people" to settle in PoK and have even allowed the Chinese a huge presence in Gilgit-Baltistan, ostensibly for developing the infrastructure of the region.
a) Territorially, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is the same entity that existed in 1947, except for the portions gobbled-up by Pakistan/China.
b) The Freedom House Report, 2010, on the level of 'freedom' in PoK characterised it as "not free', while the Indian side of Kashmir was defined as "partly free".
c) No non-Kashmiri can buy as much as an inch of land in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. There has been no attempt by India to change the demographics or the state's ethnic character. The only demographic change that has happened in the state has been the "ethnic cleansing" of the Kashmiri pundits from the Valley. A mass exodus which has largely been ignored by the media and the powers-that-be.
Therefore, there is nothing much really that India has to feel defensive about. Whatever Arundhati Roy or others may put out on the air.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The govt. wants people to use this tool to highlight the problems they faced while dealing with Government officials or departments like
3) Telecom (incl. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) & Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL )
4) Urban Development ( Delhi Development Authority (DDA) , Land & Development Office (L&DO) , Central Public Works Department (CPWD) , etc)
5) Petroleum & Natural Gas
6) Civil Aviation ( Air India , Airports Authority of India , etc)
7) Shipping , Road Transport & Highways
9) Public Sector Banks Allahabad Bank, Andhra Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra, Canara Bank, Central Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Dena Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Industrial Development Bank of India Ltd, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Punjab & Sind Bank, Punjab National Bank, Small Industries Development Bank of India, State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of India, State Bank of Indore, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Travancore, Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, Union Bank of India, United Bank of India and Vijaya Bank.
10) Public Sector Insurance Companies GIC of India Life Insurance Corporation of India National Insurance Company Ltd. The New India Assurance Company Ltd. The Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. United India Insurance Company Ltd.
11) National Saving Scheme of Ministry of Finance
12) Employees' Provident Fund Organization
13) Regional Passport Authorities Regional Passport Office, Ahemadabad Regional Passport Office, Amritsar Regional Passport Office, Bangalore Regional Passport Office, Bareilly Regional Passport Office, Bhopal Regional Passport Office, Bhubaneswar Regional Passport Office, Chandigarh Regional Passport Office, Chennai Regional Passport Office, Cochin Regional Passport Office, Coimbatore Regional Passport Office, Dehradun Regional Passport Office, Delhi Regional Passport Office, Ghaziabad Regional Passport Office, Goa Regional Passport Office, Guwahati Regional Passport Office, Hyderabad Regional Passport Office, Jaipur Regional Passport Office, Jalandhar Regional Passport Office, Jammu Regional Passport Office, Kolkata Regional Passport Office, Kozhikode Regional Passport Office, Lucknow Regional Passport Office, Madurai Regional Passport Office, Malappuram Regional Passport Office, Mumbai Regional Passport Office, Nagpur Regional Passport Office, Patna Regional Passport Office, Pune Regional Passport Office, Raipur Regional Passport Office, Ranchi Regional Passport Office, Shimla Regional Passport Office, Srinagar Regional Passport Office, Surat Regional Passport Office, Thane Regional Passport Office, Trichy Regional Passport Office, Trivandrum Regional Passport Office, Visakhapatnam
14) Central Government Health Scheme
15) Central Board of Secondary Education
16) Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan
17) National Institute of Open Schooling
18) Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti
19) Central Universities
20) ESI Hospitals and Dispensaries directly controlled by ESI Corporation under Ministry of Labour
It is better to use this grievance forum and educate others who don't know about this facility than just talking about the 'System' in India.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
As a retired Army 0fficer, I never stop marveling at the gullibility of our countrymen to be provoked with alacrity into virulence in the name of religion and regionalism. I have never heard the word 'secular' during all my service -- and yet, the simple things that are done simply in the army make it appear like an island of sanity in a sea of hatred.
In the Army, each 0fficer identifies with the religion of his troops. In regiments where the soldiers are from more than one religion, the officers -- and indeed all jawans attend the weekly religious prayers of all the faiths. In earlier days how many times have I trooped out of the battalion mandir and, having worn my shoes, entered the battalion church or, taking them off again, entered the Gurudwara next door? A few years ago it all became simpler -- Mandirs, Masjids, Gurudwars and Churches began to share premises all over the army, and named Dharamsthan or Sarvadharamsthal. It saved us the walk.
Perhaps it is so because the Army genuinely believes in two central 'truths' -- oneness of God and victory in operations. Both are so sacred we cannot nitpick and question the basics.
In fact, sometimes the army mixes up the two! 0n a visit to the holy cave at Amarnath a few years ago I saw a plaque mounted on the side of the hill by a battalion that had once guarded the annual Yatra. It said, 'Best wishes from -....- battalion. Deployed for Operation Amarnath.
On another instance, I remember a Commanding 0fficer ordered the battalion Maulaviji to conduct the proceedings of Janamashtmi prayers because the panditji had to proceed on leave on compassionate grounds. No eyebrows were raised. It was the most rousing and best-prepared sermon on Lord Krishna I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.
On the Line of Control, a company of Khemkhani Muslim soldiers replaced a Dogra battalion. Over the next few days, the post was shelled heavily by Pakistanis, and there were a few non-fatal casualties. 0ne day, the junior commissioned officer of the company, Subedar Sarwar Khan walked up to the company commander Major Sharma and said, "Sahib, ever since the Dogras left, the mandir has been shut. Why don't you open it once every evening and do aarti? Why are we displeasing the Gods?"
Major Sharma shamefacedly confessed he did not know all the words of the aarti. Subedar Sarwar went away and that night, huddled over the radio set under a weak lantern light, painstakingly took down the words of the aarti from the post of another battalion!
How many of us know that along the entire border with Pakistan, our troops abstain from alcohol and non-vegetarian food on all Thursdays? The reason: It is called the Peer day -- essentially a day of religious significance for the Muslims.
In 1984, after Operation Bluestar there was anguish in the Sikh community over the desecration of the holiest of their shrines. Some of this anger and hurt was visible in the Army too.
I remember the first Sikh festival days after the event -- the number of army personnel of every religious denomination that thronged the regimental Gurudwara of the nearest Sikh battalion was the largest I had seen. I distinctly remember each officer and soldier who put his forehead to the ground to pay obeisance appeared to linger just a wee bit longer than usual. Was I imagining this? I do not think so. There was that empathy and caring implicit in the quality of the gesture that appeared to say, "You are hurt and we all understand."
We were deployed on the Line of Control those days. Soon after the news of disaffection among a small section of Sikh troops was broadcast on the BBC, Pakistani troops deployed opposite the Sikh battalion yelled across to express their 'solidarity' with the Sikhs.
The Sikh havildar shouted back that the Pakistanis had better not harbor any wrong notions. "If you dare move towards this post, we will mow you down."
Finally, a real -- and true -- gem....
Two boys of a Sikh regiment battalion were overheard discussing this a day before Christmas.
"Why are we having a holiday tomorrow?" asked Sepoy Singh.
"It is Christmas," replied the wiser Naik Singh.
"But what is Christmas?"
"Christmas," replied Naik Singh, with his eyes half shut in reverence and hands in a spontaneous prayer-clasp, "is the Guruparb of the Christians."
Sunday, September 12, 2010
HERE'S THE TEST
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Monday, June 22, 2009
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei is often described as lacking the charm and popular support of his predecessor. He brought to the position of Supreme Leader the powers and contacts he had made as president and has cemented his position by developing networks in the various institutions and security forces in Iran.
In 1997 he famously clashed with Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a respected scholar who ranks higher in the hierarchy. Ayatollah Montazeri, who is also one of Iran's leading dissidents, questioned the powers of the Supreme Leader. This led to the closure of his religious school, an attack on his office in Qom and to a period of house arrest.
In August 2000, he sided with the Guardian Council in rejecting a Majlis (parliament) bill reforming the country's press law. According to him the current law had prevented the "enemies of Islam" from taking over the press and any re-interpretation of the law was not in the interests of the country. That led to scuffles in the Majlis and to a debate on the powers of the Majlis and the Guardian Council. The press bill was withdrawn.
In his inaugural address as president in 1981, Ayatollah Khamenei vowed to stamp out "deviation, liberalism, and American-influenced leftists". That set the tone for his leadership. When pro-reform students rioted in June 2003, Ayatollah Khamenei was quick to warn that such actions would not be tolerated. And he blamed the US for stirring up the trouble. "Leaders do not have the right to have any pity whatsoever for the mercenaries of the enemy," he said
in a speech.
In 2009, when the President Obama offered Iran a "new beginning" of diplomatic engagement, Khamenei's response was muted. Addressing students a few days after the Iranian New Year message, he said he had seen no change in America's attitude or policy, singling out US support for Israel and sanctions against Iran. But he said that if President Obama altered the US position, Iran was prepared to follow suit.
Mir Hossein Moussavi
like most Iranians in power, Mir Hossein Moussavi does not believe in the existence of Israel. He defended the taking of the American hostages in 1979. He was part of a regime that regularly executed dissidents. And as late as April 2009, he opposed suspending the country's nuclear-enrichment program but said it would not be diverted to weapons use.
In 2003 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an unknown entity when he became the Mayor of Tehran. He was not even that well known when he won the 2005 presidential election. The son of a blacksmith, he was born in 1956 in Garmsar, near Tehran, and holds a PhD in traffic and transport from Tehran's University of Science and Technology, where he was a lecturer.
Six of the 52 Americans who were held hostage in the US embassy in 1979 have accused Mr Ahmadinejad of being among those who captured them. He has denied his role in the episode. Several known hostage-takers - now his strong political opponents - also deny he was with them.
When he became mayor of Tehran in 2003, he curtailed many of the reforms put in place by his predecessors. Reformist President Mohammad Khatami had barred Mr Ahmadinejad from attending cabinet meetings, a privilege normally accorded to mayors of the capital.
He also repeatedly defended his country's nuclear programme, which worried the US and European Union. Once in power, he made a defiant speech at the UN on the nuclear issue and refused to back down on Tehran's decision to resume uranium conversion. He continued his defiance despite the reporting of Iran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council and the possible threat of sanctions. Powerful figures such as former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani say Mr Ahmadinejad's confrontational approach backfired when Iran was reported to the Security Council.
Mr Ahmadinejad has called for an end to the Israeli state and has described the Holocaust as a myth. In October 2005, Mr Ahmadinejad made a statement in which he envisaged the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian state and called for Israel to be "wiped off the map", though this translation is disputed. During a speech at the UN in April 2009, he commented that Israel was a state founded on racist principles.
He also has a reputation for living a simple life and has campaigned against corruption.
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Mr Rafsanjani was speaker in the Majlis (Iran's parliament) from 1980-89. In the last year of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He is seen as the main mover behind Iran's acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution which ended the war.
Mr Rafsanjani was president for eight years from 1987 and ran again in 2005. He lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the second round. He has been openly critical of the president since then. He has condemned Mr Ahmadinejad's economic policies, accusing them of having seriously damaged Iran.
As President, Mr Rafsanjani sought to encourage a rapprochement with the West and re-establish Iran as a regional power. His influence in Lebanon helped to bring about the release of Western hostages there in the early 1990s. Domestically, he pursued an economically liberal policy that critics said failed to deliver on social justice.
However, he opposed harsh Islamic penal codes and promoted better job prospects for women. His financial policies aimed to move Iran from the state-controlled economy of the Iran-Iraq war years to a more market-based system.
On the nuclear issue, he was in favour of negotiation with the West, but "not to accept bullying and imposition". He favored using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
He has close links to Iranian industry and business and is considered to be the richest man in Iran. He was featured in the Millionaire Mullahs section of the Forbes Rich List in 2003. He has been accused of amassing a personal fortune due to his political connections - allegations that he has always denied.
He was a prominent backer of Mr Mousavi in the 2009 presidential elections when he stood against President Ahmadinejad.
Seyed Mohammad Khatami, the fifth president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was born in Ardakan, in the central Province of Yazd in 1943. Son of respected Ayatollah Ruhollah Khatami, President Khatami graduated with an MA in Tehran and returned to Qom to follow up on his philosophical studies at Qom Seminary.
He began his political activities at the Association of Muslim Students of Isfahan University, worked closely with Ayatollah Khomeini's late son, Hojjatoleslam Ahmad Khomeini.
After the revolution in 1979 he replaced Ayatollah Dr. Beheshti as Head of Hamburg Islamic Center in Germany.
He represented Ardakan and Meibod constituencies in the first term of Majlis [Parliament] in 1980. He was also appointed head of Kayhan newspaper institute by late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1981, a post he later resigned.
In 1982, he was appointed as the minister of culture and Islamic guidance during the premiership of Mir Hossein Mousavi. During the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, he served different responsibilities including deputy and head of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces and chairman of the War Propaganda Headquarters.
He was once again appointed as the minister of culture and Islamic guidance by President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1989. Following his resignation in 1992, Khatami was appointed as cultural advisor to President Rafsanjani and head of Iran's National Library. In 1996 He was appointed as a member of High Council for Cultural Revolution.
He was elected as the fifth President of the Islamic Republic of Iran in May 1997 elections by gaining almost 70 percent of the votes cast. And he was re-elected as president in 2001 election by greater mandate of Iranian people (almost 78% of the vote cast).
Mr Khatami speaks English, German and Arabic in addition to Persian. He has written a number of books and articles in different fields.
Ayatollah Khamenei had previously appointed Mr Larijani to head Iranian state radio and TV in 1994 - a post he held for 10 years. Before that, Mr Larijani served in President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's government as Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. His appointment to head the Security Council, replacing moderate, pragmatic cleric Hassan Rouhani, was seen as a signal that Iran was preparing to harden its stance on the nuclear issue.
As radio and TV chief Mr Larijani tried to curb foreign cultural influence over young Iranians by cutting imported programmes from schedules. In January 2004 this led some 150 reformist MPs to criticise IRIB for causing Iranians to turn to the foreign media.
Mr Larijani in turn has accused reformists of undermining Islamic values. According to him, "If reforms are not undertaken for the sake of religion, justice and morality, they do not constitute reforms”. And he has blamed reformists for corruption and neglect of the economy.
Larijani is one of the two representatives of the Supreme Leader to the council, the other being Hassan Rowhani. In his post as secretary he effectively functioned as the top negotiator on issues of national security, including Iran's Nuclear Programme .He is the current Speaker of the Iranian Majlis (Parliament).
Iran has two parallel land forces with some integration at the command level: the regular Artesh (Army), and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution also known as Pasdaran (IRGC). The Pasdaran was created by the clerics as a counter to the Atresh with the objective of preserving their rule over Iran.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
There was a 10-fold increase in the number of mobile polling stations - ballot boxes transported from place to place by agents of the interior ministry, which was run by a close ally of Mr Ahmadinejad. They were out of the control of the local authorities and the representatives of the candidates, and nobody knows what they have done to them.
Early on polling day, the SMS network was shut down, that made people keep guessing about what was going on.
Then the interior ministry [where results from polling stations around the country are collated] started kicking out its own employees so that just a few personnel and the top officials were left
Despite the high turnout, the count was remarkably quick, and the results unusually consistent, with none of the typical variations between different regions and cities.
For example, in Mr Mousavi's home province of East Azerbaijan, which is known to have fierce regional and ethnic loyalties to the reformist candidate, he polled far worse than expected. And the liberal cleric Mehdi Karroubi polled 5% in Lorestan, despite having won 55% there in the first round of voting in 2005 when he also stood as a candidate.
In some provinces like Khoresan or Mazandaran the number of people who voted exceeded the number of eligible voters in those provinces. If they wanted to manipulate the election results as they have done before, they could have done it in a more elegant and delicate way. This was not a manipulation, this is a coup.
The Guardian Council, the country's highest supervisory committee is investigating 646 complaints of misconduct. It's an admission there were irregularities. The problem is, the Guardian Council is headed by a cleric, who is a far-right hardliner and known big supporter of Mr Ahmadinejad. Asking that body to review the ballot is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Why does Union sports minister M S Gill not change his own name to MS Dill. Only inept politicians with no constructive agendas can come up with a suggestion to change the traditional name of a city. If Gill really wants to improve Delhi, there is no dearth of areas he can focus his limited imagination upon. There is the law & order situation, the dilapidated govt schools, traffic chaos, unkempt markets & roads to name just a few. May be these issues are too mundane for the Minister to waste his time on! Changing Delhi to Dilli? Full marks to Mr Gill for originality of ideas!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran on 1st February 1979. Ten days later Bakhtiar went into hiding, eventually to find exile in Paris. Processes against the supporters of the Shah started, and hundreds were executed.
On 1st April 1979, after a landslide victory in a national referendum in which only one choice was offered (Islamic Republic: Yes or No), Ayatollah Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic with a new Constitution reflecting his ideals of Islamic government. The constitution was some sort of a hybrid of democracy and unelected religious leadership. It appointed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- the leader of the revolution -- the supreme leader of the country. This was the Iranian Revolution.
Before Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989, he made it known that he wanted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to succeed him. Accordingly, Khamenei, 70, was appointed supreme leader for life in 1989. The supreme leader has the final say in all important matters of the country, such as ties with foreign nations or Iran's nuclear aspirations.
He appoints the Guardian Council - the country's election authority. He also appoints key posts in the intelligence services and the armed forces, including the powerful Revolutionary Guard. He also confirms the president's election. In theory, the supreme leader is appointed by a body of clerics whom voters elect. But in practice, this Assembly of Experts is subordinated to him.
The council has to approve all bills passed by parliament and has the power to veto them if it considers them inconsistent with the constitution and Islamic law. The council can also bar candidates from standing in elections to parliament, the presidency and the Assembly of Experts.
Reformist attempts to reduce the council's vetting powers have proved unsuccessful and the council banned all but six of more than 1,000 hopefuls in the 2005 elections. Two more candidates, both reformists, were permitted to stand after the Supreme Leader intervened. All the female candidates were blocked from standing.
In the present crisis, opposition leader Moussavi has had to take his grievance to the Guardian Council. It has agreed to some vote recounts
There were other, perhaps more important, reasons for establishing the Pasdaran. The Revolution needed to rely on a force of its own rather than borrowing the previous regime's tainted units. As one of the first revolutionary institutions, the Pasdaran helped legitimize the Revolution and gave the new regime an armed basis of support. The Pasdaran, along with its political counterpart, ‘Crusade for Reconstruction’, brought a new order to Iran. In time, the Pasdaran would rival the police and the judiciary in terms of its functions. It would even challenge the performance of the regular armed forces on the battlefield. The IRGC consists of ground, naval, and aviation troops, which parallel the structure of the regular military. Unique to the Pasdaran, however, has been control of Iran's strategic oil fields and missile and rocket forces.
In late July 2008 reports originating with Iranian Resistance network said that the IRGC was in the process of dramatically changing its structure. In a shake-up, in September 2008 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Pasdarans) established 31 divisions and an autonomous missile command. The reported new structure was largely decentralized, with the force broken into 31 provincal corps, possibly to reflect a far greater internal role, with one for each of Iran's 31 Provinces.
The Basij (Persian for mobilization) is an omnipresent paramilitary organization with multifaceted roles, and which acts as the eyes and ears of the Islamic regime. It is present in schools, universities, state and private institutions, factories, and even among tribes.
Between 700,000-800,000 Basij volunteers were sent to the front during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. They were used as cannon fodder when the Islamic regime, deprived of access to Western technology and arms, embarked on a series of disastrous human-wave attacks against Iraqi forces during the final years of the war. The sacrifice made by the Basij in the war with Iraq ensured that the force became one of the five main components of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), together with the army, navy, air force, and Quds Force. After the war, the Basij was reorganized and gradually developed into one of the Islamic regime's primary guarantors of domestic security.
The current commander of the Basij, Hasan Taeb, told the semi-official Fars news agency on November 25 that the force now numbers 13.6 million, which is about 20 percent of the total population of Iran. Of this number, about 5 million are women and 4.7 million are schoolchildren.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Two major student uprisings of 1999 and 2003 against the government, at a time when the fifth President, Mr Mohammad Khatami,was leading the country are relevant. Both uprisings were against a repressive Islamic system of governance. They were brutally suppressed, and failed due to a disconnect between the grass root agitating youth and political leadership of the time. Soon after the terror strikes of 9/11 in the United States, a sizable group of Iranian youth organized a candlelight vigil for the victims of 9/11, in obvious defiance of the Iranian government.
Viewed against the backdrop of periodic surfacing of peoples’ discontent, what we are now witnessing in Iran, might very well emerge as a major civil disobedience movement not just against Ahmadinejad, but in fact for more civil liberties, economic opportunities, human, civil and women's rights -- so far all within the constitutional boundaries of the Islamic republic. But this may in fact extend to target the non-democratic institutions within the Islamic republic, such as the office of the supreme leader and that of the Guardian Council.
Out of a population of 75 million and a total of 46 million eligible voters, some 40 million, upward of 80 percent, voted in this election, and a significant segment of them are against the draconian doctrine and policies of the Islamic republic, the economic calamities (double-digit inflation and endemic unemployment) of Ahmadinejad's domestic policies, and his belligerent positions on a range of issues, from the inanities of his denial of the Holocaust to his vacuous and flamboyant positions on a number of regional issues.
As Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has just said, this movement is challenging the very legitimacy of the Islamic republic. That the elections might or might not have been rigged is now a completely irrelevant.
Monday, June 15, 2009
declaring a win for Ahmadinejad is already established. The post election actions of the Iranian government also confirm the elections were an expensive fraud played out by the Guardian Council (comprising of powerful clerics) on the
people of Iran. Had the elections been a fair democratic exercise, the Supreme Leader would have ordered the probe before announcement of the election results, and not after street protests.
It is not possible that events such as massive demonstrations by students and supporters of pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi went un-noticed by Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council. Neither the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei nor his Guardian Council can pretend to have been unaware of the election fraud. It is no secret that they are the real power behind Ahmedinejad. The following actions of the Government must have had the express sanction of the Ayatollah and his Guardian Council:
(a) Opposition leaders and protesting students arrested, including the brother of ex-reformist President Khatami.
(b) Local and international phone and text message services interrupted.
(c) Social networking and newspaper websites blocked.
(d) “Heavy electronic jamming" from inside Iran to disrupt its Persian TV service.
(e) International journalists arrested and asked to leave.
(f) Iranian newspapers did not carry reports of the violence.
(g) Internet sites being blocked by the state.
(h) Brutal beatings of students and protesters by Baseeji (Iran’s secret police that operates in civil dress).
(i) Farsi-language satellite broadcasts of Voice of America were blocked over the weekend. Access to the BBC's Persian-language satellite TV channel and the BBC's news website were also curbed.
(j)The Guardian Council had ordered printing of 53 million ballots for the elections, but only 39 million were used. Fourteen million ballots were missing.
'guardianship of the jurisprudent,' ultimate political authority rests in the hands of the Shi'ite clergy, first among them the Supreme Leader, chosen by an unelected Assembly of Experts. Still, the regime always sought to affirm its
legitimacy through holding elections for parliament and the president.
solidly behind what many are charging is a carefully staged putsch by Ahmadinejad. "The willingness of the regime simply to ignore reality and fabricate election results without the slightest effort to conceal the fraud represents a historic shift in Iran's Islamic revolution.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Mr Sharad Yadav should first aquaint himself with the views of the Indian society before promising to take poison. There is no argument against the need for upliftment of backward castes. However, the quota route to upliftment of the down trodden has always been exploited by short sighted, thick skinned politicians to shore up their sagging political fortunes rather than out of any sense of social justice. Mr Sharad Yadav is no different.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
But time has a way of moving on. And while the gap between our Punjabis (from east Punjab which is now the only Punjab left in India) and our Tamils may actually have narrowed, thanks to improved communications, shared popular culture and greater physical mobility, the gap between Indians and Pakistanis has now widened to the extent that we are no longer the same people in any significant sense.
This was brought home to me most clearly by two major events over the last few weeks. The first of these was the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team on the streets of Lahore. In their defence, Pakistanis said that they were powerless to act against the terrorists because religious fanaticism was growing. Each day more misguided youngsters joined jihadi outfits and the law and order situation worsened. Further, they added, things had got so bad that in the tribal areas the government of Pakistan had agreed to suspend the rule of law under pressure from the Taliban and had conceded that sharia law would reign instead. Interestingly, while most civilised liberals should have been appalled by this surrender to the forces of extremism, many Pakistanis defended this concession.
Imran Khan (Keble College, Oxford, 1973-76) even declared that sharia law would be better because justice would be dispensed more swiftly! (I know this is politically incorrect but the Lion of the Punjab’s defence of sharia law reminded me of the famous Private Eye cover when his marriage to Jemina Goldsmith was announced. The Eye carried a picture of Khan speaking to Jemima’s father. “Can I have your daughter’s hand?” Imran was supposedly asking James Goldsmith. “Why? Has she been caught shoplifting?” Goldsmith replied. So much for sharia law.)
The second contrasting event was one that took place in Los Angeles but which was perhaps celebrated more in India than in any other country in the world. Three Indians won Oscars: A.R. Rahman, Resul Pookutty and Gulzar. Their victory set off a frenzy of rejoicing. We were proud of our countrymen. We were pleased that India’s entertainment industry and its veterans had been recognised at an international platform. And all three men became even bigger heroes than they already were.
But here’s the thing: Not one of them is a Hindu. Can you imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan? Can you even conceive of a situation where the whole country would celebrate the victory of three members of two religious minorities? For that matter, can you even imagine a situation where people from religious minorities would have got to the top of their fields and were, therefore, in the running for international awards? On the one hand, you have Pakistan imposing sharia law, doing deals with the Taliban, teaching hatred in madrasas, declaring jihad on the world and trying to kill innocent Sri Lankan cricketers.
On the other, you have the triumph of Indian secularism. The same people? Surely not. We are defined by our nationality. They choose to define themselves by their religion. But it gets even more complicated. As you probably know, Rahman was born Dilip Kumar. He converted to Islam when he was 21. His religious preferences made no difference to his prospects. Even now, his music cuts across all religious boundaries. He’s as much at home with Sufi music as he is with bhajans. Nor does he have any problem with saying ‘Vande Mataram’.
Now, think of a similar situation in Pakistan. Can you conceive of a Pakistani composer who converted to Hinduism at the age of 21 and still went on to become a national hero? Under sharia law, they’d probably have to execute him.
Resul Pookutty’s is an even more interesting case. Until you realise that Malayalis tend to put an ‘e’ where the rest of us would put an ‘a,’ (Ravi becomes Revi and sometimes the Gulf becomes the Gelf), you cannot work out that his name derives from Rasool, a fairly obviously Islamic name. But here’s the point: even when you point out to people that Pookutty is in fact a Muslim, they don’t really care. It makes no difference to them. He’s an authentic Indian hero, his religion is irrelevant.
Can you imagine Pakistan being indifferent to a man’s religion? Can you believe that Pakistanis would not know that one of their Oscar winners came from a religious minority? And would any Pakistani have dared bridge the religious divide in the manner Resul did by referring to the primeval power of Om in his acceptance speech?
The same people? Surely not.
Most interesting of all is the case of Gulzar who many Indians believe is a Muslim. He is not. He is a Sikh. And his real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra. So why does he have a Muslim name? It’s a good story and he told it on my TV show some years ago. He was born in West Pakistan and came over the border during the bloody days of Partition. He had seen so much hatred and religious violence on both sides, he said, that he was determined never to lose himself to that kind of blind religious prejudice and fanaticism. Rather than blame Muslims for the violence inflicted on his community — after all, Hindus and Sikhs behaved with equal ferocity — he adopted a Muslim pen name to remind himself that his identity was beyond religion. He still writes in Urdu and considers it irrelevant whether a person is a Sikh, a Muslim or a Hindu.
Let’s forget about political correctness and come clean: can you see such a thing happening in Pakistan? Can you actually conceive of a famous Pakistani Muslim who adopts a Hindu or Sikh name out of choice to demonstrate the irrelevance of religion?
My point, exactly!
What all those misguided liberals who keep blathering on about us being the same people forget is that in the 60-odd years since Independence, our two nations have traversed very different paths. Pakistan was founded on the basis of Islam. It still defines itself in terms of Islam. And over the next decade as it destroys itself, it will be because of Islamic extremism.
India was founded on the basis that religion had no role in determining citizenship or nationhood. An Indian can belong to any religion in the world and face no discrimination in his rights as a citizen. It is nobody’s case that India is a perfect society or that Muslims face no discrimination. But only a fool would deny that in the last six decades, we have travelled a long way towards religious equality.
In the early days of independent India, a Yusuf Khan had to call himself Dilip Kumar for fear of attracting religious prejudice. In today’s India, a Dilip Kumar can change his name to A.R. Rahman and nobody really gives a damn either way. So think back to the events of the last few weeks. To the murderous attack on innocent Sri Lankan cricketers by jihadi fanatics in a society that is being buried by Islamic extremism. And to the triumphs of Indian secularism.
Same people? Don’t make me laugh.