Thursday, November 13, 2008

Linking 'Palestine issue' to 'Kashmir issue'

Assuaging Arab Islamism
Faced with Arab rage after it abandoned its Palestine mandate, a cynical Britain decided to undermine India’s stand on Jammu & Kashmir to contain incipient Islamism. With Obama as President, the US may be tempted to similarly use the ‘Kashmir issue’ to deal with Muslim rage against America
By Kanchan Gupta
After Britain took the Palestine issue to the United Nations in April 1947 and announced its decision to abandon its mandate by May 1948, resulting in the General Assembly adopting a Resolution for the creation of separate Jewish and Arab states, thus unleashing Arab rage against the West, especially the United Kingdom, the British Foreign Office embarked on a duplicitous and dangerous course. It convinced the British Government, struggling to cope with the rapidly changing post-War geopolitical realities, that the only way Britain could contain — and reduce — Arab anger was by adopting a policy on Jammu & Kashmir that would be perceived as weighing in favour of Pakistan, a Muslim state. It believed this would assuage enraged ‘Arab nationalism’ (which the British Foreign Office, to its credit, had the far-sight to recognise as incipient radical Islamism). A second factor that propelled British policy in this direction was Britain’s oil interests that had become crucial in post-War Europe’s search for energy sources that would reduce dependency on coal.
British Foreign Office records, including minutes of discussions approved by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ernest Bevin, substantiate this assessment. For instance, a Foreign Office minute prepared for Prime Minister Clement Attlee said, “The Foreign Secretary has expressed anxiety lest we should appear to be siding with India in the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir which is now before the United Nations Security Council. With the situation as critical as it is in Palestine, Mr Bevin feels that we must be very careful to guard against the danger of aligning the whole of Islam against us, which might be the case were Pakistan to obtain a false impression of our attitude in the Security Council.” If six decades ago the Attlee Cabinet was keen to appease Islamists by short-changing India on Jammu & Kashmir, Mr Barack Hussein Obama’s Administration may be tempted to do something similar to establish its credentials in the Islamic world since it won’t dare to push around Israel.
Interestingly, Louis Mountbatten, who had played no small role in steering the Jammu & Kashmir issue to the Security Council, found the British Foreign Office policy harmful to larger Commonwealth interests. In one of his reports he recorded: “Everybody here (in India) is now convinced that power politics and not impartiality are governing the attitude of the Security Council... Indian leaders counter this (attempts to dispel this conviction) by saying that the Anglo-American Bloc apparently attaches so high a value on the maintenance of Muslim solidarity in the Middle-East that they are even ready to pay the price of driving India out of the Commonwealth into the arms of Russia...”.
Not known for being tolerant of Indian sensitivities, Philip Noel-Baker, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, was easily persuaded by Bevin’s perspective and he took it upon himself to pro-actively lobby with the US and non-permanent Security Council members to toe a pro-Pakistan line in enforcing a solution to the Jammu & Kashmir issue through a UN-sponsored plebiscite. Noel-Baker had his way with Resolution 39 adopted by the Security Council on January 20, 1948, on the setting up of a three-member UN Commission for India and Pakistan which would visit the two countries, study the ground situation, and report back to the Security Council.
Noel-Baker followed this up by aggressively pushing a draft resolution that was crafted in a manner to favour Pakistan. The US representative was initially hesitant to go along with Noel-Baker’s draft, but was soon won over. Surprisingly, at this stage the Chinese representative came up with an alternative draft that was comparatively more balanced. In a change of tactics, necessitated by his being reprimanded by Attlee who feared ‘irreparable damage’ to relations with India, Noel-Baker seized upon this draft and cunningly had it amended to such an extent that it bore no resemblance with the original draft; the Noel-Baker version of the Chinese draft came to be adopted as Resolution 47 by the Security Council on April 21, 1948.
Resolution 47 set out the terms of reference in two parts. Part One increased the number of members of the UNCIP from three to five (Noel-Baker believed that a larger team would enable a report more in tune with his perspective) and instructed the UNCIP to “proceed at once” in order to “place its good offices and mediation” at the disposal of India and Pakistan with the twin goals of restoring peace and order and holding a plebiscite. Part Two comprised the Security Council’s recommendations to India and Pakistan for achieving these goals:
i. Pakistan should “use its best endeavours” to secure the withdrawal of the raiders (tribesmen and other Pakistani nationals) from Jammu & Kashmir;
ii. India should withdraw its forces and reduce them to the minimum level required for the maintenance of law and order; and,
iii. UNCIP might employ troops of either dominion “subject to the agreement of both the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan”.
Pakistan rejected Resolution 47, demanding an amendment that the deployment of Pakistani troops should not be subject to the agreement of the Government of India. The amendment was defeated. India rejected the Resolution on the ground that it was weighed in favour of Pakistan and that it skirted the main issue as contained in India’s reference to the Security Council — that of vacating the Pakistani aggression. India also pointed out that the Security Council had failed to issue a clear call to Pakistan to withdraw the raiders before going into the plebiscite arrangements. However, both India and Pakistan accepted the setting up of the UNCIP and agreed to receive the Commission.
The UNCIP visited India and Pakistan in July 1948. By May 1948, the ground situation had undergone a radical material change with Pakistani Army regulars being deployed in the occupied areas of Jammu & Kashmir. Zafarullah Khan admitted to the UNCIP that Pakistani Army regulars had been deployed since May 1948. This was seen by the UNCIP as a violation of earlier Security Council Resolutions that had insisted on there being no material change in the ground situation.
The UNCIP’s findings and its subsequent Resolutions (of August 13, 1949, and January 5, 1948) were not influenced by Noel-Baker primarily because there was no British representative in the commission. Also, by then India had launched a diplomatic offensive as well as demonstrated its determination to force out the Pakistani invaders militarily. Therefore, the UNCIP reports and Resolutions, unlike the Security Council’s Resolution 47, did not reflect a deliberate pro-Pakistan tilt; recognised that the entry of Pakistani Army into Jammu & Kashmir was a violation of Security Council Resolution 38; demanded that Pakistan must withdraw its forces from Jammu & Kashmir since their presence constituted a “material change in the situation”; and, conceded primacy to a ceasefire based on withdrawal of the invaders.
The rest is history.

OPEDITORIAL The Pioneer, November 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American interventionism as policy
By Kanchan Gupta
US President-elect Barack Hussein Obama’s utterances on Jammu & Kashmir, indicating that the so-called ‘Kashmir issue’ will figure on the agenda of his Administration, just as it featured on the ‘To Do’ list of Mr Bill Clinton during his first term as President, have raised more than eyebrows in India. To his credit, President George W Bush had steered clear of the ‘Kashmir issue’; he snubbed Pakistan each time it tried to push for a revival of American interventionism, insisting that Islamabad had to deal directly with New Delhi. Even Gen Colin Powell, with his pronounced pro-Pakistan bias, could not get Mr Bush to change his view and send in Nosy Parkers from the State Department to play their insidious games. Recall a busybody called Ms Robin Raphael whom Mr Clinton promoted during his first presidential term to ‘solve’ the ‘Kashmir issue’. She used the opportunity to forge the All-Party Hurriyat Conference with disastrous consequences in Jammu & Kashmir, and colluded with Benazir Bhutto to create the monster called Taliban in the hope Mullah Mohammed Omar would look after Unocal’s business interests.
With the shadow of American interventionism as policy looming large, it would be instructive to scan the past, if only to figure out the genesis of the West’s proclivity to interfere in an issue that neither impacts it directly nor does it understand entirely. Interestingly, much before the US decided to get into the act, it was the UK which manipulated events in a manner that whetted Washington’s appetite. Equally interesting is the reason that shaped Anglo-American perception and policy on Jammu & Kashmir, which does not figure in much of the discourse on this issue but has been presented in great detail by former diplomat C Dasgupta in his path-breaking book, War and Diplomacy in Kashmir — 1947-48.
First, some bare facts. Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, making Jammu & Kashmir an integral part of India. Simultaneously, Indian forces were airlifted to Srinagar to evict the Pakistani invaders and establish India’s sovereignty over its territory. The accession was — and remains — entirely valid in terms of the Government of India Act of 1935 and India Independence Act of 1947; it is total and irrevocable in international law. Speaking in the UN Security Council on February 4, 1948, the US representative, Warren Austen, said: “The external sovereignty of Kashmir is no longer under the control of the Maharaja... with the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India, this foreign sovereignty went over to India and is exercised by India and that is why India happens to be here (at the UNSC) as a petitioner...”.
India went to the UN in good faith after Pakistan refused to vacate territory occupied by its armed raiders. In its formal reference, lodged with the Security Council on January 1, 1948 under Article 35 of the UN Charter, which permits member states to bring any situation whose continuance is likely to endanger international peace and security to the attention of the Security Council, India asserted: “Such a situation now exists between India and Pakistan owing to the aid which invaders, consisting of nationals of Pakistan and of tribesmen from the territory immediately adjoining Pakistan on the North-West, are drawing from Pakistan for operations against Jammu & Kashmir, a State which has acceded to the Dominion of India and is part of India... The Government of India request the Security Council to call upon Pakistan to put an end immediately to the giving of such assistance which is an act of aggression against India.”
In the reference, India also asserted its right, under international law, to self-defence by initiating military action against Pakistan by way of what is today termed as ‘hot pursuit’: “In order that the objective of expelling the invader from Indian territory and preventing him from launching fresh attacks should be quickly achieved, Indian troops would have to enter Pakistan territory...”.
In addition to the five permanent members, the UNSC in 1948 had Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Syria and Ukraine as non-permanent members. The instant reaction of the UNSC was to issue a Presidential Statement on January 6, 1948, making an “urgent appeal (to India and Pakistan) to refrain from any step incompatible with the (UN) Charter and liable to result in an aggravation of the situation”. This was followed by Resolution 38 on January 17, 1948, reiterating the Presidential Statement and requesting both countries to immediately report to the Security Council any material change in the situation.
Across the Atlantic, the Commonwealth Relations Office entered the picture at this point, formulating a political perspective that came to greatly influence the Security Council’s subsequent handling of the ‘Kashmir issue’, at least up to the formation of the UN Commission for India and Pakistan. The CRO’s perspective was rooted, and strangely so, in the British Foreign Office assessment of the emerging political crisis in West Asia. Britain in those days stood accused by Arabs (and their sympathisers in Europe and the US) of having abjectly failed in its Mandate over Palestine as it had been unable to control the immigration of Jews. Britain was also seen as having failed in its responsibility to prevent or contain the outbreak of what was then referred to as ‘civil war’ (which still continues to rage between Palestinians and Israelis).
Britain took the Palestine issue to the UN in April 1947 and announced its decision to abandon its mandate by May 1948. The UN General Assembly immediately adopted a Resolution for dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, paving the way for Israel’s re-birth as the homeland for Jews in Palestine and the Diaspora. The Arab reaction was vicious, instantaneous and directed in bulk against Britain.
(Tomorrow: Linking the ‘Palestine issue’ to the ‘Kashmir issue’.)

OPEDITORIAL The Pioneer November 13, 2008

Preparing for shift in American policy

Dealing with change in US
Coffee Break Kanchan Gupta
On Thursday, July 10, 1969, at 4.30 pm the then Minister for External Affairs, Dinesh Singh, called on Richard Nixon for preparatory discussions prior to the American President’s visit to India. The ‘RoD’, or record of discussion, of the brief meeting (Nixon didn’t think much of India and the conversation was desultory) which took place in the Oval Office of the White House is instructive of how New Delhi conducted its diplomacy in those days and the distance we have travelled in the last four decades, emerging as a key player in regional and global affairs. The real break with the past, when foreign policy was no more than received Nehruvian wisdom, came during the NDA years when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee brought about a tectonic shift in the manner we see the world, thus forcing an irreversible change in the way the world looks at India. But we digress from the meeting between a surly President Richard Nixon and a prim and proper Raja Dinesh Singh.Let me quote from the official record of the discussion, recently declassified by the US State Department. “The President said that he wanted to note one serious problem that would affect our (American) ability to cooperate — the Vietnam war. Speaking quite candidly, he felt that Asian nations ultimately have a great stake in how that war ended. If the mass of Americans are disillusioned with the costs of the war and what it will have achieved, they will be unlikely to support extensive American cooperation with Asians in the future...”. After hearing out Nixon’s gripe, Singh responded with an amazing one-liner: “India does not wish to see frustration or defeat on either side.”For those who were born much after the dramatic fall of Saigon in 1975 and the chaotic evacuation of American troops as the triumphant Vietnamese guerrillas prepared to storm the last bastion of US military power in Indochina, it would be worthwhile to recall that India had routinely criticised the war as a display of Asian solidarity and to prove its ‘non-aligned’ credentials. This must have weighed heavily on the minds of both politicians and their flunkies in South Block while preparing for Nixon’s visit. They knew that the Americans would raise the issue of India’s position on the Vietnam war and point out that New Delhi had to choose between Washington, DC and its foes. Mr George W Bush is not the first American President to subscribe to the two-option theory — “Your are either with us or against us” — nor shall he be the last; it’s just that he made a public declaration of what till then was conveyed in the privacy of one-on-one meetings. So, in anticipation of Nixon raising the issue during his meeting with Singh, an official response had to be drafted and kept ready.We can be sure that much deliberation, discussion and debate went into formulating the response — “India does not wish to see frustration or defeat on either side” — and the Minister was tutored accordingly. We can also be sure that there was much mutual back-slapping after the Oval Office meeting: Everybody must have gloated over how India had craftily warded off taking a position by indulging in waffle. Neither the US nor its critics could fault us — after all, we had not wished defeat for either the US troops or the Vietcong, never mind the fact that no war is without a winner and a loser, even if it ends as ignominiously as it did for the Americans in Vietnam.There has been a sea change in our responses since that July afternoon meeting in the White House. India now does not hesitate to vote along with the US against Iran, nor does it feel compelled to abuse Israel just because Nehru willed against diplomatic relations with the Jewish state to please his friend Gamal Abdel Nasser and to keep Moscow in good humour. From being dependent on American wheat shipments during the humiliating PL 480 years when American aid prevented mass starvation, we are now able to engage the US as equals.The geo-political realities of the post-Cold War world, the blossoming of Indian enterprise at home and abroad, the opportunities that have come our way in the 21st century, and our being in the forefront of the information technology revolution have contributed to this shift in foreign policy formulation, as has the emergence of China and the looming threat it poses to the region and beyond. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would not have had the chance to hug President George W Bush and declare his “deep love” for the man who has contributed the most to strengthening India-US relations had his predecessor not set the stage for two estranged ‘natural allies’ to come together in a strategic partnership. Pokhran II was much more than sending out mushroom cloud signals to the world; it was an unequivocal announcement that India had broken free of the shackles of Nehruvian consensus.As a new regime prepares to take charge in Washington, DC and the US celebrates the ‘change’ it has voted in, South Block should get down to the task of dealing with the Obama Administration. If the ‘change’ that has been promised comes true, then there will be many subtle and overt shifts in American foreign policy, which will demand a matching response from India. Even on domestic issues like outsourcing of American business processes to Indian firms, New Delhi cannot afford to be taken by surprise. Of course, it is too early to try and figure out the contours of Mr Barack Hussein Obama’s foreign policy thrust, but given the fact that he has opted for the ‘inside-the-beltway’ establishment, the Washington ‘insiders’ for whom he showed nothing but disdain during the campaign but who have invariably found a place in his team, it should not be difficult to imagine the blueprint. More so because most of them have served in the Clinton Administration — Mr Obama’s choice of Mr Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff is symbolic of the change we can expect.While Mr Obama will no doubt be preoccupied with shoring up the rapidly collapsing American economy during his early months in office, sooner or later he will have to focus on two wars being waged by America. The pullout of US troops from Iraq over the next 18 months is now a foregone conclusion. But what about the war against terror in Afghanistan? And what if we were to be asked about our position on this war? Would we then say, “India does not wish to see frustration or defeat on either side?” America’s victory or defeat in Vietnam was of no consequence to us. But a ‘tactical’ though abject surrender to the Taliban, as is being talked about increasingly in Europe and America, so that Pakistan’s ‘strategic depth’ is restored and Islamabad sufficiently appeased to help smoke out Osama bin Laden, will be disastrous for India. The time for equivocation is over.

AGENDA Sunday Pioneer November 9, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Church now touts 'casuist' Gandhi!
Coffee Break: Kanchan Gupta
Jomo Kenyatta had a sharp tongue and a sharper mind, both of which he used to devastating effect while lashing out at the 'civilising' West. The White man's fictional burden of taming the savage East and enlightening the 'dark continent' was no more than a convenient cover to hide his role as the master of the subjugated races. Colonialism and Empire-building were inspired as much by a sense of racial superiority as driven by greed; it was a complex social, political and economic enterprise facilitated in no small measure by Christian missionaries who helped deracinate the indigenous people -- the 'heathens' -- and convert them into loyal subjects of an alien Emperor.As in India, so in the African colonies were people uprooted from their ancient cultural moorings in preparation for their political suppression and economic deprivation. They were accorded the 'privilege' of embracing a strange faith and genuflecting at the altar of Christ in exchange of what they possessed and held dear till then: Their land, their language, their rites and rituals, and their religion. By the time the natives realised that all this was no more than a con job to disinherit them and enrich their foreign rulers, they had invariably lost most, if not all, of what once belonged to them. Jomo Kenyatta, not given to niceties and asphyxiating political correctness, put it succinctly: "When the missionaries came, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray'. We closed our eyes. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible!"At a recent gathering of Christian missionaries, I made bold to recall Jomo Kenyatta's famous comment which fetched a fusillade of denial and denunciation. I was accused of trying to divert attention from the depredations of 'rapacious' and 'murderous' Hindu mobs which have brought a 'bad name' to the land of Mahatma Gandhi, the "apostle of peace" as one of them described him. That's a Christian description, I protested, to which the response was: How else would you describe him? Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a crafty politician who made a fetish of non-violence; so call him a 'man of peace' if you must, but don't describe him as a follower of Jesus, as were the 12 apostles of Christ, which he definitely wasn't.In any event, the Mahatma the Church now holds up to shame those who object to proselytisation and conversion through allurement and deceit, the harvesting of the souls of the poor and the vulnerable, was mercilessly denigrated and lampooned in his lifetime by Christian missionaries in keeping with their loyalty to the Empire. Charles Freer Andrews was an exception and his association with Gandhi did not exactly make him welcome in mission drawing rooms. Many years ago, while researching the Goa Inquisition, I had chanced upon material about the attitude of Christian missionaries towards Gandhi. Those notes resurfaced while I was clearing out the accumulated, fraying papers in my study; they make for interesting reading, especially when Gandhi is being touted by Christian missionaries in an effort to silence their critics.Gandhi's politics of peaceful resistance to colonial rule had found expression in the non-cooperation agitation. This in turn set alarm bells ringing -- the colonial establishment, including the Church, was quick to realise his potential. It retaliated in full force, using its arsenal, including missionaries and their publications. In September 1919, the Christian Missionary Review fired the first salvo, but was circumspect. A year later, it described Gandhi as an "extraordinary casuist", an "unscrupulous and irresponsible demagogue" responsible for the disturbances in Punjab. Urging India's colonial masters to "adequately" deal with Gandhi's "egotistical mysticism", the Christian Missionary Review said that unless put down, Gandhi and his nationalism would emerge as "one of the dangerous phenomena of present day politics in India".The terrible misdeeds of the British administration in Punjab, of which the Rowlatt Act is but only one example, found ample support among the missionaries. Bishop Henry Whitehead not only supported the Act but went on to denigrate the nationalist agitation against it as a "striking illustration of the incapacity of a large section of Indian politicians to face facts and realities, or to understand the first principles of civilised Government". Those 'principles' were on display at Jallianwala Baag. Marcella Sherwood, speaking on behalf of the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, and Rev Canon Guildford, representing the Church Missionary Society, were to later applaud Gen Dyer's brutality, saying it was "justified by its results". The Christian Missionary Review, describing Gen Dyer as a "brave man", said his action was "the only means of saving life". Another missionary publication, rather disingenuously named The Young Men of India, heaped praise on Sir Michael O'Dwyer, the Lt Governor of Punjab during those bleak and brutal days, saying that he was "the strongest and best ruler the country has had in modern times". The Harvest Field, another missionary journal, was quick to point out that during the nationalist uprising against the Rowlatt Act, Indian Christians were not found "wanting in loyalty to the (British) Government". The International Review of Missions was clear in its pronouncement that the means and methods adopted by the British to put down the uprising in Punjab were neither un-Christian nor a blot on British rule. On the other hand, the Christian Missionary Review described Gandhi's political agenda as dangerous, predicted that it would lead to violence, chaos and anarchy. The Young Men of India, commenting on Gandhi's concept of satyagraha, declared: "Though Mr Gandhi may have satisfied his conscience as to its morality, to plain common sense it means playing with fire, with the certainty that if used with masses of Indian people, the fire will become a conflagration...". The Harvest Field, in its May 1921 issue, put on record its belief that "Mr Gandhi's teachings" would result in "chaos and anarchy only". Gandhi, it said, had brought a "sword to his beloved land". The Madras Christian College Magazine, in its October 1921 issue, declared, "We have always regarded the doctrines he has been preaching and the policy he has advocated as pernicious." The journal then went on to offer a homily: All those who want "peace and sobriety of life and progress" should reject the "sophistry of non-violence"Yet today we are told by Christian missionaries to follow Gandhi's doctrines, pay heed to his philosophy of non-violence. Amazing sophistry!

AGENDA Sunday Pioneer, November 2, 2008
If Sardar Patel was a ‘terrorist’, so am I

Coffee Break: Kanchan Gupta

Ever since Azamgarh hit the headlines in newspapers and grabbed prime time on 24x7 news channels after the police tracked many of the bombers responsible for the slaughter of innocent people in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi to this district of Uttar Pradesh, mullahs and politicians who trade in Muslim votes have been flocking there to record their indignation that those guilty of mass murder should be brought to justice.Earlier, Azamgarh would provide the cannon fodder for Mumbai’s vicious and bloody gang-wars with Azamgarhis offering their services as ‘hitmen’ to Dawood Ibrahim and others of his ilk. The argument one would often hear in justification of their carrying out ‘supari’ killings was two-fold: The lure of Mumbai’s glittering lifestyle and easy money; and, the frustration of unemployed Muslim youth discriminated against in ‘Hindu’ India.Those who terrorised Mumbai’s rich and famous, ran extortion, betting and hawala rackets, killed defaulters and the defiant in cold blood, and took delivery of contraband ferried to the city’s shoreline from Dubai in dhows were not to blame for their crimes — they were victims of an elaborate ‘conspiracy’ against Muslims and an ‘uncaring’ system. Any effort to tame the mafia was resolutely met with howls of protest and cries of ‘Muslims are being targeted’.Few people would remember today that when Mrs Indira Gandhi introduced what was then considered a tough law to fight organised crime and money-laundering under the guise of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, popularly known as COFEPOSA, she was accused of ‘targeting Muslims’ and trampling on ‘civil liberties’ because most of the high profile arrests were those of Muslim gangsters like Haaji Mastaan. According to an apocryphal story of that time, when the police went to arrest a notorious racketeer in Gujarat’s Jamnagar his henchmen claimed their boss was praying and hence could not be disturbed. When the police insisted on entering the house, a huge crowd gathered to block their way, raising slogans similar to those heard in Jamia Nagar in Delhi after Atif and Sajid, two members of the murderous Indian Mujahideen, were killed in an encounter on September 19. Later it transpired that the wanted man was busy burning incriminating documents; what could not be destroyed, including wads of high denomination currency notes, was cleverly concealed under the burqas of the women in the house.Riding the crest of the ‘Muslims-under-attack’ protest, Haaji Mastaan floated the Muslim Majlis Party; that it sank without a trace soon after bears testimony to the fact that most Indian Muslims are as repelled by criminals who use the cloak of Islam to justify their crimes as the rest of India. If they falter, it is on account of cynical politicians and rabid mullahs, though not necessarily in that order, of the variety that has been travelling to Jamia Nagar and Azamgarh to genuflect at the altar of jihadi Islamism.To take note of the utterances of politicians like Mr Amar Singh and Ms Mamata Banerjee, who have been visiting Jamia Nagar and denigrating the supreme sacrifice of MC Sharma, a Delhi Police anti-terrorism expert, with the sole purpose of instigating a Muslim blowback which they hope will fetch them votes, would be tantamount to elevating them as those worthy of comment. But it would be a grave mistake to ignore the statements of the mullahs because embedded in them is the sinister strategy to radicalise India’s Muslims and thus make them a part of the global surge in Islamism; they also indicate a design to reiterate and reaffirm Muslim separatism anchored in bogus grievances and imagined victimhood.Last Monday, the Ulema Council organised an Ajimoshaan Ehtazazi Ijlaas-e-Aam, a conclave that was attended by 100 Muslim clerics from across the country, where mullahs made two points through their fire-and-brimstone speeches, listened to with rapt attention by 15,000 people. First, Akbar Ahmed ‘Dumpy’, BSP MP from Azamgarh and a former Sanjay Gandhi crony who recently appeared in Parliament with his face covered with an Arabic kaffiyeh much like Osama bin Laden’s foot soldiers, Mr Iliyas Azmi, BSP MP from Shahbad, and Mr Abu Azmi, SP member of Rajya Sabha who openly preaches hate and worse, would not be allowed to enter Azamgarh unless they conveyed to the world the ‘outrage’ over the arrest and killing of Muslims from the district, never mind the fact that they went about setting off bombs in bazaars and hospitals. Second, they “resolved to teach a lesson” to those who had renamed Azamgarh as ‘Atankgarh’: The credit for this goes to the atankwadis or terrorists who seem to flourish in the gullies and mohallahs of Azamgarh but as always, pretending victimhood, the mullahs have sought to place the blame on the victims of the Indian Mujahideen. All this was of a piece with what Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, had said while commiserating with the jihadis of Azamgarh: “We have lost faith in the administration and the police of the country and are feeling insecure.” What was not mentioned but disingenuously implied is that having lost their faith in the Indian state, India’s Muslims must now look elsewhere.But it was Taslim Rehmani, the chief mullah of Muslim Political Council, Delhi, who made the most startling declaration at last Monday’s Ajimoshaan Ehtazazi Ijlaas-e-Aam: He described Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as a “terrorist”. Later, when contacted by this newspaper, he lashed out at Sardar Patel for “forcibly annexing Hyderabad” and reiterated his assertion: “Sardar Patel was responsible for all the riots after Partition, for lakhs of Muslims who were killed in the riots. He deliberately allowed them to be killed. He was a terrorist.”There are those who would scoff at Rehmani as an inconsequential mullah and urge others to ignore his rant. This is the usual response to every offensive statement, each hateful allegation, and all despicable calumny that we get to hear from the spokesmen of the community, berating Hindus, shaming the Indian state, belittling the nation, and denigrating national icons. To listen to the counsel of those who are not perturbed because they do not wish to see their vote-bank go the way of Lehman Brothers would be to toe the line of least resistance. As a nation we must stand up and counter such insidious propaganda that nourishes jihadi Islamism and confront the preachers of hate and peddlers of fiction as fact who masquerade as ‘learned men’, or ulema. To prevaricate would be to delay the inevitable clash between those who are with India and those who are against the idea of India. The cost then would be enormous.

AGENDA Sunday Pioneer, October 26, 2008

Bogus Booker Award!

Adiga's ‘truth’ about India would shock Indians
Kanchan Gupta
The morning after Aravind Adiga won this year's 50,000-pound Man Booker prize with his novel The White Tiger, British newspapers — as also some published in India — were ecstatic. The Daily Telegraph described Adiga's debut novel as the "savage and brilliant tale of Balram, the son of a rickshaw-puller trying to escape poverty." The author's tale is in the form of letters from Balram to China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, written on the eve of his visit to India.The judges who selected The White Tiger for this year's top honour described it as a "complete novel". Two obvious choices, Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies and Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence, were markedly overlooked. Ghosh made it to the short list; Rushdie was not so lucky."In the opinion of these five people (the judges) taken together, Salman Rushdie's was not one of the top six books for us. We didn't have a huge debate about it," Michael Portillo, chair of the judges, told mediapersons. "I can say that the discussions we had about Salman Rushdie, as with all the other books, was a discussion about the book and not about the author," he added.We don't know what either Portillo or his fellow judges had to say about Ghosh and his Sea of Poppies. We do know, however, that Rushdie, apart from presenting Fatehpur Sikri as a steaming, scheming seraglio also portrays an Akbar who is neither great nor tolerant but as human (or inhuman) as the Muslim rulers who preceded or followed him. Britain's lib-left intelligentsia would not be comfortable with such an idea of Akbar the Great.We also know that Ghosh has been scathing in exposing the 'free trade' promoted by John Company between India and China as no more than illegal drug-running. The profits of the opium thus traded kept the Empire in the black. That lives were ruined here and in China were of no consequence and remain none of Britain's concerns. In this age of neo-colonialism sustained by the West's concept of 'free trade', Sea of Poppies is an anachronism and a subversive text.The publishers of The White Tiger are ecstatic; they hope to sell 100,000 copies of the book in India alone. That may well be possible but studies have shown that people who buy books that have won prizes never get down to reading them cover to cover; it is unlikely Adiga's novel will meet a better fate.So they will never get to know of its contents, which in any case have been smothered by hyperbolic praise that really means nothing. Few will discern the sneering tone, the deliberate though sly denigration of all that is India today and which, Adiga's fans claim, has been captured in The White Tiger. Just how shallow this claim is proved by excerpts from those portions of the book that have been splashed in British newspapers.Here's a sample of the ‘truth about India laid bare' by Adiga. "It is an ancient and venerated custom of people in my country to start a story by praying to a Higher Power… I too should start off by kissing some god's arse." And then Balaram asks, "Which god's arse, though? There are so many choices. See, the Muslims have one god. The Christians have three gods. And we Hindus have 36,000,000 gods. Making a grand total of 36,000,004 divine arses for me to choose from."And while he does the choosing and kissing, he asks the Chinese premier for time. "Bear with me, Mr Jiabao. This could take a while. How quickly do you think you could kiss 36,000,004 arses?"We are not told what Wen Jiabao had to say to this.

FRONT PAGE Sunday Pioneer, October 26, 2008