By Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan
Five successful Nuclear Tests in Pokharan desert area in Rajasthan have led to varieties of public opinion within and outside India. Barring BJP, almost all the political parties have denounced the tests. A vast majority of the intellectuals have condemned this. Many organizations working for peace and solidarity among people belonging to different faiths have raised their voice of protests.
It has to be admitted that Indian scientists have proved to the world that they are second to none if the national interest warrants certain scientific endeavour. The capabilities of Indian scientists are well recognized through out the world. The late Ramanujam was a wizard in Mathematics at the early age of his thirties. Sir, J.C.Bose, Homi Bhabha, Sir C.V. Raman, Sir. M. Visveshvaraya, made great contribution to the development of scientific temper and knowledge in the past.
Currently, Dr. Raja Ramanna, Dr. R. Chidambaram and Dr. Abdul Kalam have established their credentials as Nuclear scientists. The nation should salute these giants who have enhanced the status of the country. Nobody can question their integrity, honesty and capability. The country has rightly, aptly and abundantly made use of their greatness.
Making nuclear bombs has been considered as an unfortunate necessity in the context of growing tensions, suspicion and competition. India has always been a peace loving country with a burning urge to establish most cordial relationship with its immediate neighbours, particularly Pakistan and China. India is definitely convinced that its future would very much depend upon the type of social relationship with these countries. India was a co-author of the doctrine of 'Panchasaheela', the main goal of which was development based on harnessing mutual goodwill and potentialities. The late Pandit Nehru and President Nasser of Egypt played a notable part in this. India's role in the establishment and management of the of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a classical example of India's commitment to the cause of peace and progress of all these countries.
Given this background, what has surprised many is the way in which the nuclear tests were conducted recently. The whole world was shocked. There is an almost world wide opposition and condemnation. USA, Japan, Germany, Australia are some of the leading countries which have questioned India's wisdom in conducting five nuclear tests. Economic sanctions have been imposed. Aid has been stopped. Political relationship is at stake. This is said to be something which is a real threat to Indian economy. A country which is reeling under persistent poverty and which is trying to rebuild its economic structure to help millions of poor people is now on the verge of facing great hardships. This is definitely a great set back.
As said earlier, many leading persons in India have expressed their opposition, annoyance and apprehension. Recently, 75 intellectuals of great reputation held a meeting at Delhi and discounted the claims made by the BJP Government. Protest meetings have been held in different parts of the country. Almost all the political parties, barring the ruling BJP, have expressed their genuine concern. They fear that this will lead to serious economic problems affecting several ongoing projects as well as future projects and this would threaten peaceful co-existence in the neighbourhood. Signs of strained relationship with China are seen at a time when fresh attempts are being made for constructive and positive relationship. Justice V.M. Tarkunde and celebrated journalist Mr. Kuldip Nayar have condemned the tests. Dr. Raja Ramanna, a great nuclear scientist, who had a great role in making nuclear weapons, has himself said, "It is good to have a giants strength, but is very bad to use it".
The Prime Minister, Vajpayee, has opposed celebrations as this might give wrong signals. But the Vishwa Hindu Parishat activists have proposed to construct a "Shakti temple" at the place where the tests were conducted. This has to be opposed as this is likely to give a religious colour to scientific achievements. There is absolutely nothing that warrants invocation of Gods and goddesses. The only prayer that all of us have to offer to Almighty is to ensure peaceful co-existence. Nuclear weapons shall not be allowed to be used against human beings as this is likely to annihilate the human race. The fertile brain shall not create a graveyard. It should rather create a beautiful garden of roses which pleases all. It is highly desirable that all countries which have or are likely to have nuclear weapons sign the famous Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to uphold the dignity of mankind and to assure the Almighty God that his grace and gifts will not be used for destruction of the human race.
(Prof. Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan , 18, I, 'C', Main Road, Gangenahally Extn. BANGALORE -560032.)
By Yoginder Sikand
Indo-Pakistani relations have never been so bad in recent years than they are today. Imagine, then, my surprise, and delight, when a friend of mine from Lahore sent me a packet of pamphlets brought out by a little-known group called the 'Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy'. An association of leading intellectuals and social activists from both sides of the border, the People's Forum, as its name suggests, is an attempt to build people-to-people contact between ordinary Indians and Pakistanis, for to hope for the governments of both countries to improve bilateral relations is, they believe, and rightly so, is to hope for the impossible.
In its statement of objectives the Forum announces that the politics of confrontation between the two countries has not benefited the people of India or Pakistan in the least. Rather, it has, contrary to what rabid, ultra-nationalist demagogues insist, only worked to exacerbate the people's own woes. Peace between India and Pakistan would actually lead to a significant decline in communal and ethnic tensions in the region as a whole, and enable the governments of the two countries to channel their valuable resources to the economic and social development of their own people, instead of further escalating the perilous arms race. Accordingly, the Forum advocates that India and Pakistan must agree to 'an unconditional no-war pact immediately without yielding to any third-party pressure'.
As part of its mass awareness generating efforts, the Forum has already conducted three well-attended conventions; the first in New Delhi in 1995, the second in Lahore in late 1995, and the third in Calcutta in 1996. Following these conventions it has set up joint committees of leading Indian and Pakistani citizens to formulate proposals and action plans for a range of areas including denuclearisation, demilitarisation, combating communal intolerance and resolving the Kashmir dispute.
Among the several proposals that have followed from these conventions the most significant have to do with meeting the very real possibility of war between the two countries. The Forum suggests that in no way must war be resorted to as a means to resolve bilateral disputes. Accordingly, India and Pakistan must take immediate steps towards 'mutually balanced reduction of conventional forces'. To begin with, there should be a reduction of the level of forces of war-waging capability by 25% over a period of some three years, accompanied by a curtailing of military spending. Simultaneously, confidence-building measures such as withdrawing heavy military deployments from the borders, opening military exercises of each country open to observers from the other country, and agreeing to prevent cross-border support for insurgencies and proxy wars, should be taken up.
On the vexed Kashmir issue, the Forum suggests that both governments must realise that the matter is not simply one over territory but, rather, is a real human as well as political problem that can in no way be solved without taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people themselves. Accordingly, the Forum has set up a joint committee on Kashmir which will hold discussions with all concerned Kashmiri groups from both sides of the Line of Actual Control to contribute towards a 'peaceful and democratic solution' of the issue.
The Forum has interesting proposals to make for building bridges between ordinary Pakistanis and Indians. These include setting up a joint publishing company and newsletter with the editorial board consisting of leading Indian as well as Pakistani social activists; a common television channel, and a system of syndicated articles by journalists across borders. To combat communal stereotypes it suggests forming a joint committee for the critical evaluation of school text-books, and even holds out the possibility of common text-books as well as exchange of students and teachers. A watch-dog group to monitor communal violence is also suggested, as are exchange of visits by students groups, women's groups and social activist and human rights organisations and professionals. At a more symbolic, though no less effective, level, it suggests the renaming of roads and public monuments after common historical heroes, an annual march by concerned citizens to a common point on the international border on February 24, to be commemorated as 'South Asia Peace Day', and even regular cricket matches between a joint India-Pakistan team and the rest of the world to raise funds for peace initiatives in the region.
Other concrete suggestions for developing people-to-people contact between ordinary Pakistanis and Indians that the Forum puts forward include lifting of restrictions on the exchange of newspapers, books and magazines, relaxing visa policies, restoring road and railway links and lifting barriers to commerce. All this, it notes, must be accompanied by an overall strengthening of the forces of civil society, entailing also an overall reduction of the coercive apparatus of the State, including repealing anti-democratic laws, decentralisation of power, combating chauvinist forces in both countries and encouraging the process of regional cooperation under the SAARC umbrella.
In the present climate of Indo-Pak relations, the Forum might sound like a cry in the wilderness, but it is certainly heartening to note that the voices of sanity, though muffled, still refuse to surrender.
For more information on the Forum, contact: Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy, K-14 Green Park Extension, New Delhi–110016. Or Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy, 11 Temple Road, Lahore, Pakistan
By Hasan Mansur
It is necessary to recall the background of events that gave a dramatic rise to the presence of the BJP in the Southern states. Undoubtedly, the bomb blasts in Coimbatore in mid-February 1998 was gift from heaven to the Sangh Parivar and its political outfit, the BJP and legends of Pakistani ISI, anti-national Muslim terrorists and Arab connection were conjured out of thin air. To combat this tissue of lies, there is need to trace the events that led to these bomb blasts.
The deeper political processes that led to the growth of extremism among sections of Muslim youth are well documented by J.Jeyaranjan, consultant with the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, in his article, "Islamic fundamentalism in Tamil Nadu" published in the Hindu dated April 30, 98. He makes the following points: Between 1980 and 1990, how the slow and steady erosion of the secular politics of the Dravidian movement began with M.G.Ramachandran and his ministers openly donning the Hindu identity that made H.V.Seshadri, General Secretary of the RSS declare while supporting the AIDMK in the elections, "Now the Hindu loyalty has replaced the Tamil loyalty". Jayalalitha began identifying herself with Vedic Hinduism in public sphere, taking charge of administering temple funds, founding the Tamil Nadu Institute of Vedic Studies, open support to the kar seva and building the Ram mandir, manoeuvring to let the Hindus have the Ganesh procession while Muslims refrained from their Idd Milad procession. The Hindu Munnani (a variant of the Hindu Vishwa Parishad) founded in 1982 drew blood fomenting clashes between Hindu and Christian fishermen, in Kanyakumari district, and went on a campaign of converting Vinayaka Chathurthi, a domestic ritual for centuries in to a demonstration of muscle power against the Muslims. In response to these events, Jehad Committee and al-Umma were set up in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Further, following the bomb blasts in December, 1993, in the RSS office in Chennai, police raided Kottaimedu, a Muslim-dominated locality in the heart of Coimbatore, ransacking Muslim homes, arresting their youth and provocatively set up 3 check posts at important entry points and 4 pickets inside the locality, thus isolating the community.
The senseless killing of Selvaraj, a constable by three Muslim youths on Dec 29, 97 unleashed police firing killing 27 Muslim youths injuring 100, genocidal killings aided and abetted by Hindu fanatics. Muslim youth, now politically conscious and desperate with a sense of alienation, retaliated with the bomb blasts killing 46 and injuring 200. This indefensible and cruel act has led to a campaign of vilification and lying slander against the Muslim community accusing it of links with ISI, Arab money and so-called Islamic terrorism.
Organiser, the Mouthpiece of the RSS in its "Nuclear India" issue of May 17, 98, carried an ominous article entitled, "The time has come..".
Blaming Jinnah and Nehru for the partition, the latter for reviving the Muslim League, the author, H.V.Seshadri points to the alleged presence of the ISI all over India. He accuses the Muslim leadership of aligning with the Dalits and charges it with presenting a human face which is terrorist. The age old slander of Muslim responsibility for partition is represented and a demand is made that Muslims must disown their leadership, disown Babar and Aurangazeb and charges the left as abetting the enemy. According to him, nationalist Muslims must convince Hindus of their nationalism, distancing themselves from all these, i.e. Muslim leadership, Moghul kings, Dalits and the Left.
Copies of the same issue of Organiser, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Pokharan nuclear tests, were sent by courier to the mainstream media Delhi, hours before the nuclear blasts on May 11, 1998, thus hinting the RSS had information of the impending test. It also announced that the RSS supremo. Rajendra Singh had visited the BARC and quoted him declaring, "Pokharan has sent an important message to the world". K.S. Sudharashan, top-notch leader of the RSS, revealed that the BJP had planned these tests during its 13 day rule in 1996, but failed because its government fell. R.C. Batura, another RSS ideologue writing in the same issue reveals in his article, "The nuclear option" how he visited Pokharan at a request of the Indian army, a few weeks after the test. All these conclusively prove how the RSS has been an extra constitutional authority.
The foremost question is of threat perceptions. Vajpayee, George Fernandes and the Chief of the Indian army had dismissed the Pakistani Ghouri as no threat at all. As for China, its chief staff had visited India and a Chinese delegation led by one of its ministers had come on a 9-day visit. Besides, the Confidence-building-Measures (CBM) between China and India initiated by Rajiv Gandhi had vastly improved relations. Hence the threat perception manipulated by that stooge of the BJP, George Fernandes, does not wash at all.
The BJP has been worsted by its fractious allies since it came to power; its slogan of stability ironically turned into its own in stability in the alliance. To recover lost ground, to put in their place its fractious partners, to wrest the initiative and stabilise its own position, it launched these tests to strengthen its Hindutva vote banks in case it is driven to fresh elections, so that it could go to the people with this new nationalist mandate to muster a majority on its own and not be at the mercy of fractious, unreliable partners.
The nuclear tests have shattered the Congress (I) and the Janata Dal who are bleating helplessly in support of this adventure. Only the Left has termed it as adventurism to rouse jingoism and chauvinism to cover up its own troubles with its allies. Democratic governance that lies in rational policy making, the consultative process, consensus-building and collective responsibility have been given the go by, with the sole intention of fulfilling the bomb-lobby's dream of India as a nuclear state. It is also evident that the whole national interest has become hostage to objectives and methods defined and chosen by a small political, scientific and military coterie. The jingoistic euphoria whipped up by the BJP, appropriating the tests brazenly as a symbol of nationalism, creating a war psychosis to consolidate its own political bases; thus the howl exercise is meant to drown the critics of the Sangh Parivar by nationalist drum-beating and also to bring its fractious allies to order and quell popular protests with its iron heel.
The adverse effects of the foreign and domestic policies of a militaristic nature on the daily lives of citizens are reflected in a growth of a culture of violence and aggressive communalized nationalism, a distorted model of masculinity with increasing sense of insecurity. The BJP game-plan is to cover up its dismal record of governance, through riding on the crest of a wave generated by the nuclear test-induced nationalism and to conceal its failure on all fronts, cynical disinclination to address itself to priorities like unemployment, rising prices, illiteracy, abject poverty which affect the majority in the country and who can never be a party to the euphoria over the nuclear fireworks. It shows the Sangh Parivar and its political outfit, the BJP, as totally impervious to the pressing needs of the people. With economic sanctions and the coming deepening crisis, the Sangh Parivar will distract the people by turning the Muslims into scapegoats and thus unleash genocidal killings. The victims of their sinister conspiracy will be the Dalits, tribals, other backward classes and the minorities; in a word all the poor, all the marginalised of the country.
The time has to come to challenge the self-styled nationalists and patriots who had no role whatsoever in the anti-colonial struggles of this country; on the contrary, they sided and abetted the colonial regime. These pseudo-nationalists and pseudo-patriots whose cynical unconcern for the poor, their diabolic conspiracy to restore the hegemony of the upper castes and the support they have in the constituency of the elite who are immoral in their single-minded pursuit of consumerism, the philistine affluent middle class, are the real enemies of the toiling masses of this land. The poor who have no stake in the grandiose dreams of nuclear hegemony should call this nuclear bluff by ridding the body politic of this communal chauvinistic cancer and strive to restore the health of our pluralistic society. A popular front of all democratic and progressive forces, committed to the democratic ethos must be organised to meet head on the challenge of these medieval dark forces who are conspiring to drag the country back to the middle age. The people of this country will defeat these dark forces and will come through to establish an egalitarian society wedded to social justice where the poor will inherit this earth and at last find a place in the sun.
By D.A. Sait
The most virulent of diseases affecting mankind every day of their lines, for which no permanent cure has yet been discovered yet, is hunger. You fill yourself to the brim with a sumptuous breakfast, feeling replete like a python that has swallowed a lamb, and in no danger of feeling hungry again. And what happens? Within a couple of hours of reaching your office or business place as the case may be and pushing through a few files or raking in a few thousands of rupees of the ever popular tainted money, you are as hungry as ever. The five kilo breakfast comprising bread butter and chicken that you had for breakfast might never have been. By 1 P.M. you are hungry as a starving python again and are in a mood to gobble up anything in sight including the Vidhana Soudha. Another round of biriyani, chicken et al and you are as good as new once gain, you are so full that you feel another morsel would kill you. But wait till 8 P.M. and you would then feel that not taking in a morsel is going to kill you. You see, there is no end to this orgy. This hunger is there for keeps, no matter if you are one of those bigwigs rolling in the stuff or a poor labourer working his fingers to the bone. It is a leveller all right, this hunger, bringing the most fastidious gourmet and the starving under dog down to the same level, that of the hungry. It is for this reason that Islam has made fasting compulsory for its followers to remind the haves of the pangs of the have nots.
Just imagine. If there were no hungry there would be no hungry labourer working in your factory or business or building your mansion. You are able to buy his services because he needs to ensure three square meals for himself and his family.
This life goes on because living beings are hungry. Hunger is the motivating force behind creation. Hunger for food, hunger for love, hunger for fame, hunger for pelf. It is hunger of some kind or the other all the way. I instead of trying to still the pangs of hunger by honest work you resort to short cuts. You become a dacoit, a poacher, a smuggler. After acquiring enough of pelf through one of these short cuts to be started going on with, you become a politician, then a minister, and selling away petrol pumps and LPG agencies and take in crores and crores. Soon you come across your big chance-the scam. Now you are on velvet and sitting pretty. You go on foreign jaunts at the government's expense to study the foreigner's method of cleaning your toilet or sweeping your backyard. And if you think your hunger for power stops at this, think again.