Friday, July 25, 2008

AIADMK questions Centre's stand in SC over Ram Sethu

AIADMK questions Centre's stand in SC over Ram Sethu

Chennai, July 25: Opposing any move to demolish the Ram Sethu for implementation of the Sethusamudram project, AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa on Friday said nowhere was it stated in Ramayan that Lord Ram himself destroyed the bridge, as stated by the Centre in the Supreme Court.

"The Centre had said Ram used his magical bow to break the bridge into three parts. The UPA government now allows the Hindus in the country to have faith in every aspect of the Ram legend except the bridge as this has to be demolished to make way for the SSSP," she said.

"It is important to note that various experts on the Ramayana state emphatically that nowhere in Ramayan is it mentioned that Lord Ram destroyed the bridge," she said in a statement here reacting to the Centre's latest affidavit in the apex court on petitions challenging the project.

Claiming that any damage to the bridge would lead to a communal strife in the country, she said if any such move was sought to be implemented, the AIADMK would "fight it in the Supreme Court to uphold the true spirit of secularism."

She alleged that the Centre was trying to precipitate communal strife to divert public attention from more pressing problems like rise in the prices of essential commodities, petrol, diesel, LPG and milk and 'disintegration' of farm sector and other issues.

"What does the Central Government, egged on by the DMK leaders, who have their own economic agenda in dredging the Sethusamudram canal, stand to gain by antagonising virtually every denomination of society? After having backtracked once, why has the Centre once again cobbled together arguements to justify the demolition of the Ram Sethu at the cost of sentiments and faith?" she asked.

Jayalallithaa asked whether the Centre's averment in the court that Lord Ram himself had destroyed the bridge was due to "the pyrrhic" victory obtained in the recent vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha through "crass money power?".

She said the Centre which earlier denied the existence of Ram, now acknowledged the fact that he had built the bridge.

If UPA, at the behest of DMK, continued to ignore pressing issues and persisted with its "patently anti-people actions, people will throw them out in next elections," she said.

Demolishing Ram Sethu amounted to destroying a valuable piece of the cultural heritage of South India. "It is a pity that Dravidian parties like the DMK and Viduthalai Chirthaigal Katchi for narrow political gains, are becoming party to this desecration of their own heritage," she said.

She said according to Ramayan, the Ram Sethu was built by the Vanara Sena (monkey brigade) over a pre-existing oceanic ridge and the vanaras were people, who lived in the forests of south India. "In verity, they were the original south Indians.

Ram sethu was a marvel of ancient South Indian engineering skills," she said adding "True Dravidian parties have every reason to be proud of it."

Alleging that the Centre was adopting different yard sticks for different religions, Jayalalithaa said when it came to Hindu sentiments or faith, the UPA Government became "insensitive and does not hesitate to ride rought-shod over their feelings. What sort of secularism is this," she asked.

"I am an Indian. I am a secular Indian. I was born a Hindu and educated in a Christian institution. To me, secularism implies that all religions should be equally respected... It is not for the governments or politicians to tamper with matters of faith," she said adding "Perhaps, the government is taking the monumnetal tolerance of the Hindu community for granted."

Bureau Report


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Acid test to decide Sonia's political fate

Acid test to decide Sonia's political fate

In the changing political scenario, it is difficult to predict who will be the winner. But for the first time in the history of Indian Parliament an interesting discussion is taking place over the N-deal.

V Gopalakrishnamurthy

AS THE acid test for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government approaches, power politics in the Capital is taking numerous turns and twists. In this fierce battle over who wins the game, the country is guessing and watching. Speculation is mounting over Sonia Gandhi’s clearing the litmus test, which she is facing for the first time in her political career.

In the similar tests in 1993, the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao lost by 14 votes and Atal Bihari Vajpayee was defeated by a solitary vote. During Rao’s regime everyone thought, he would lose, but fortune favoured him. In contrast, when Vajpayee moved the confidence motion in 1999, all were expecting him to survive but he failed due to former chief minister of Orissa Gamango’s vote. The late Speaker Balayogi wanted him to vote with his conscience and this lead to Vajpayee’s fall.

Interesting, the political mentor of present prime minister, Narasimha Rao, like a ‘Chanakya’ won the game with the help of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) members and a splinter group of Janata Dal (JD). Now, the same JMM has become a crucial party to pull out of the UPA and more or less Ajit Sigh as well. When we see all these could Manmohan Singh use the same wisdom of his late ‘guru’.

Let us now look into numerology. There were only two occasions so far when a close floor fight took place. One among them was in the year 1993. If we add all these, the numbers total to 22.

Once again add that, and an even number of four will come.

At this time the Late Rao had succeeded. When Vajpayee was deserted by Jayalalita’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), he sought the confidence of the House. That happened in 1999. If you add these numbers an even number of 10 will come. But Vajpayee was defeated by a single vote. Compare them with the present situation which took place in 2008. When we add all these digits a number of 10 will come. So, the Manmohan Singh is also facing the same critical period which Vajpayee faced a few years ago. Then Jayalalitha was the heroine and now Mayawati is challenging the government.

Barring all this numerology, the issue now in front of the parliament is very different from the previous motions of the same category. For the first time in the country’s Parliament a deal of two countries is under discussion by the members. The two days of Parliament will be watched by the millions of people on television, the same way it was watched in 1999.

At this juncture, if the numbers game is won by the present government the prestige of Sonia Gandhi will touch the sky and the Congress party will get a new strength to fight the next elections. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to Congress in future and the UPA will dissimulate.


UPA Vs. NDA-UNPA: The Numbers Game


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Friday, July 18, 2008

Nelson at ninety: THE HINDU

Nelson at ninety

Jorge Heine

A smile that lightens up every room he enters, a great sense of humour and the capacity to put people at ease are part of Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary ability to win people over.

— Photo: AP

Ultimate leadership act: Nelson Mandela’s decision not to stand for re-election, announced early in his presidency, depersonalised and institutionalised South Africa’s democratic transition

Margaret Thatcher famously said “anyone who thinks the ANC will form the government of South Africa is living in cloud cuckoo-land.” If Mrs. Thatcher may be faulted for lack of foresight, what to say of the U.S. State Department, which until recently had the ANC, South Africa’s ruling party since 1994, on its list of terrorist organisations, whose members, including Nelson Mandela, needed a special waiver to enter the United States? Lack of hindsight?

This would be, I suppose, just another expression of what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics.” It has led to the imposition of such absurd rules as those that allowed, a few weeks ago, a Canadian airport security guard to confiscate the mother’s milk of a returning-home, young American lawyer, who had laboriously pumped it from her breasts for her infant child back in San Diego, as it exceeded the prescribed limit (100 ml) of liquid airplane passengers are allowed to take on board.

Yet, outside the corridors of power of London and Washington (and even within some of them) Nelson Mandela, “Madiba” to his friends, is regarded as one of the very few iconic leaders of the twentieth century — up there with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles de Gaulle and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. As he turns 90, happily married to Graca Machel (the only woman to have been First Lady of two countries), he is still active, leading three foundations, collecting honorary degrees from 50 of the world’s leading universities, and dividing his time between his native hamlet of Qunu in the Transkei and Johannesburg. The recent concert held in his honour in London, broadcast around the world 20 years after the one held in 1988 to demand his release, shows the enormous esteem he is held in.

I first met Nelson Mandela on a rainy, late June 1994 morning in De Tuynhuys, the South African President’s office in Cape Town, when I presented my letters of credence. It was the first such ceremony for both of us, the 18th century building next to Parliament — which once housed the Governors of the Cape — was being refurbished (this was a scarce six weeks after Mandela’s inauguration) and it took us a while to get going. Yet, after the speeches and the photo-ops, I had my 15 (that turned into 30) minutes in private with him and a couple of aides — that sound tradition that has fallen by the wayside in so many countries.

The standard template for such meetings is to exchange social pleasantries, and perhaps talk about the weather, but certainly not about any bilateral issues, about which the head of state would not necessarily be fully briefed. I departed from the script, took my chances and brought up the question of the potential creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa. Justice Minister Dullah Omar, a good friend, had been pushing for it, partly inspired by the Chilean experience with a TRC, but these were early days and there was no consensus either in the government or in the ANC. Mandela listened intently to my description of Chile’s TRC, why it was considered to have set the standard for such bodies at the time, and why it represented a good compromise between two extreme solutions that had not worked to deal with an evil past: the creation of special courts to prosecute human rights violations under authoritarian rule, and, on the other hand, a blanket amnesty for those involved in such shenanigans.

I could see his mind at work, assessing what was at stake. Instead of asking one of his aides to take notes for a possible follow-up (that might never take place), which would have been the SOP for such a demarche, he asked me a couple of questions about how TRCs worked, and then whether I had anything in writing about the Chilean Commission. I happened to have an 80-page, English-language summary version of the three-volume report of the latter, which I sent to him by hand that very afternoon.

I would like to think that exchange played a role, however small, in the subsequent launch of the South African TRC, whose activities became one of the defining features of Mr. Mandela’s presidency, and a body that, under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his deputy, Alex Boraine, would set a new standard for Truth Commissions. In 1998, when the South African TRC delivered its report, including criticisms of what had transpired in the ANC camps, the party made a big ruckus, but Mr. Mandela held his peace.

In this, as in so many other matters, Mr. Mandela showed an uncanny sense of that “middle road” that marked his presidency and his leadership — one that stood for certain basic principles, without necessarily antagonising and alienating his adversaries and political rivals. One year after our initial meeting, in June 1995, his famous gesture of donning the South African rugby team’s captain’s jersey (a sport widely identified with whites and white supremacy) in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium, on the day the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup, was emblematic of his push for reconciliation, and did much to bring Afrikaners around to the country’s new dispensation.

Less known is his visit to Betsy Verwoerd, the widow of former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the true architect of apartheid. In late 1994, Mr. Mandela hosted a lunch party in Johannesburg for prominent South African women from all walks of life: Adelaide Tambo, Amina Cachalia, Nadine Gordimer, Helen Suzman and Frene Ginwala were all there. He invited Betsy Verwoerd, who lived in Orania, a town in the middle of the Orange Free State (originally set up, in the Afrikaner delirium, as a “whites only” town) but she declined. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Mandela flew to Orania and had tea and koeksusters with her, thus reaching out to Afrikaners in the very heart of their laager.

After being imprisoned and “banned” (meaning he became a “non-person”, who could not be quoted or mentioned in the media or in public) by the apartheid regime for 27 years, Mr. Mandela suddenly found himself surrounded and idolised by white, Afrikaner children during his visits to schools, something to which his regal bearing and innate elegance helped — to see him with Queen Elizabeth during her 10-day visit to South Africa was to see two monarchs, one a democratic one, the other a constitutional one, with great respect and appreciation for each other.

Mr. Mandela’s ultimate leadership act was his decision, announced early in his presidency, not to stand for re-election, thus depersonalising and institutionalising South Africa’s democratic transition, giving it a stability so sadly missing in so many other African countries (witness Zimbabwe today), where the penchant of leaders to perpetuate themselves in power, even long after their welcome period has expired, has caused so much harm. Much as Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk provided the role model for the effective reformer in 20th century politics, Mr. Mandela has provided the one for the democratising leader that successfully makes the transition from head of the liberation struggle to advocate for peaceful reconciliation, something very few of his counterparts have managed anywhere.

Mr. Mandela’s significance and success, then, goes way beyond that much overused word — charisma, though he has plenty of it. A smile that lightens up every room he enters, a great sense of humour (whenever he would meet us he would ask my wife, “do you remember me?”) and a remarkable capacity to put people at ease are part of this extraordinary ability to win people over, be they friend or foe. His loyalty to those who supported him and his struggle is legendary. Taiwan kept its Embassy in Pretoria till 1997, as he refused — against the opinion of many advisers — to break diplomatic ties with Taipei. He also publicly expressed his gratitude to Indonesian strongman Suharto, not exactly a champion of democracy, by inviting him for a state visit to South Africa.

So has been his ability to change course as the political situation demanded. In the 60s, as the apartheid state swung into full repression mode, he moved from non-violent, Gandhian opposition to white rule to espousing armed struggle. And then, in the 90s, he switched back again from armed resistance to peaceful negotiation and reconciliation — but only after being released from prison, pointedly refusing an early 1985 release entailing a commitment to giving up the struggle, arguing that “ only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

Happy birthday, Mr. President!

(Jorge Heine is CIGI Professor of Global Governance at Wilfrid Laurier University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario. He served as Chile’s Ambassador to South Africa from 1994 to 1999.)

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pondicherry: Re-allocation of work for IAS officers

Re-allocation of work for IAS officers

Staff Reporter

PUDUCHERRY: The Lieutenant Governor has re-allocated certain subjects and departments to the Indian Administrative Service officers in the Union Territory.

As per the notification issued on Tuesday, Secretary to Government (Personnel) D. C. Sahoo, in addition to the charges already held by him would look after Industries and Commerce, Transport and Information Technology.

Secretary to Government (Local Administration) G. C Joshi, in addition to the charges already held by him, had been allocated departments such as Power, Port, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs. He had been also appointed as Chairman, Puducherry Agro Products, Food and Civil Supplies Corporation Limited.

Secretary to Government (Revenue) T. M. Balakrishnan in addition to the charges already held by him, had been allocated departments such as Health and Science, Technology and Environment.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


A betrayal of India’s constitutional vision

A betrayal of India’s constitutional vision

V.R.Krishna Iyer

Sovereign India is justly sceptical about the Manmohan Singh government’s specious nuclear strategy.

There are shining victories to be won in the cause of peace and social justice. We shall reach the new freedom by not submitting to economic slavery… forward with the people.

— From an editorial in Daily Mirror in 1945, as reproduced in Hidden Agendas, by John Pilger; Vintage, Great Britain, 1998.

The unity and integrity of India are tending to dwindle amid the divisive polemics over the ongoing dubious nuclear politics. But the real issue is not the import of enriched uranium, nuclear plant equipment or technology from the U.S.: it goes deeper. The issue involves U.S. suzerainty over India’s national economy and foreign policy, although the countrywide debate is currently centred on the nuclear deal. American nuclear big business is keen to make India its meg a-market, using for the purpose a willing and weak Prime Minister.

The grave implications of this business are profound, as is obvious from Dr. Manmohan Singh’s defiant do-or-die determination demanding a confidence vote in the Lok Sabha. He is staking his government’s very survival on the energy deal. Whoever wins the vote in the House, the nation has lost its solidarity, integrity and fraternity. George Bush’s stubborn hegemonistic strategy promoting U.S big business investment has become India’s national policy, facilitated by the Sonia-Manmohan commitment. This is virtually a reversal of the Nehru-Indira socialistic non-alignment stance and the principles of Panch Sheel. This basic battle is at the raging core of the controversy. The hideous hidden agenda could spell the de facto defeat of the Indian people’s historic tryst with destiny, the betrayal of India’s constitutional vision and mission.

We should not miss the real nature of the ideological war involved in this naively simplistic treaty dispute. Let us not be beguiled by the nuclear alibi. Are we a sovereign nation, or a mere satellite? Who decides our import-investment policies, the direction of swadeshi agriculture and native industrial development? Are we a ‘banana republic’ of sorts? The Sonia-Manmohanomic party is neither Indian nor national: the Congress has formally become the brand name of a political business corporation. We have politicking operators with no democratic swaraj ideology or crimson nationalism. Communal concatenation and power-crazy cliques are the shopping complexes in the Indian power bazaar. Mr. Bush browbeats or buys these political engineers as his proxies. The Constitution is now rendered irrelevant by logomachy.

Parties barter seats and votes and try to make Parliament an enterprise with commercial stakes. The media report of seats and deals for high prices, and micro-parties and independents as being available commodities. The Supreme Court’s stultifying jurisprudence on parliamentary bribery being immune to judicial discovery has made ‘horse trading’ a less risky operation than democratic decency would have tolerated. Appalling judicialese sometimes incinerates finer values, lets opportune alliances going and allows corruption inside the hallowed House.

My entreaty is to preserve undiminished the dynamics, dimensions and dialectical realities of our democracy without the authoritarian patronage and commanding directives of a big power beyond the Atlantic. Do not ‘nuclearise’ our freedom. We need no U.S. nuclear imports to attain energy swaraj. We have uranium of our own yet to be mined. We have large thorium resources. We have enough alternative resources and technology. But where is the will to tell Mr. Bush that we do not need him? We shall not surrender our freedom in disgrace. Parliamentary votes are not private commodities. Bondage to Mr. Bush and U.S. big business is nothing but colonialism.

At the recent meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Manmohan Singh, where the staggering mutual admiration was evident, it was stated in a spirit of (tragic) triumph that in the field of space, defence, educational exchanges and other strategic areas Indo-American “cooperation” has attained a new high status — which is but a euphemism for acquiescence by India in American domination.

The common Indian masses are totally innocent of this vicarious but unveracious appreciation by some people of the hated Mr. Bush. Mr. Manmohan Singh never consulted Indians by means of a referendum or a House debate, and the fake tribute paid to the Prime Minister by a lame-duck President is of little consequence.

To be fair to Dr. Manmohan Singh, I hold him as being personally simple, clean, gentle, non-communal and capable. What scandalises me as a puzzle, a riddle and pro-Yankee obscurantism, is his forsaking of the Indian have-nots. He is gravely neglecting his socialist, constitutional oath-bound commitment to liberate the poor and implement poverty economics and going for globalisation and privatisation, which are liberal with imports and investments. This drive is also marked by a Bush-friendly foreign policy and defence strategy and an extravagant addiction to American nuclear import dependence.

Do we require nuclear generation of energy? No. It involves the potential for dangerous radiation, high-cost generation, and the use of delicate technology that could be disastrous. After all, it feeds nuclear bombs in a world that faces instant annihilation with nuclear terrorism under big-power arsenals. Terrorists are everywhere and nuclear pilferage is a grave possibility.

Crime against humanity

The diabolic, dreadful immortality of nuclear waste that can cause lethal radiation after two or three decades of use of each nuclear power plant represents the gravest crime against humanity. The proposed deal violates the principles of nuclear non-proliferation. Let us be honest. Anyone who is knowledgeable in nuclear affairs will agree with the irony of the treaty. “It is almost as if the Titanic was going down, and the passengers were watching TV. India’s atomic energy programme has been subjected to a stunning managerial disaster over the past two decades, the results of which are visible now. We have known through the 1990s that India has all the uranium needed to run its nuclear power plants, currently running at half their capacity, wasting Rs. 16,000 crore of taxpayers’ money.” (Neelesh Misra, Hindustan Times, June 30, 2008)

Three great nuclear scientists who have been in high office without blame, Dr. P.K. Iyengar, Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan and Dr. A.N. Prasad, have fiercely opposed U.S. imports for reasons they have spelt out in a signed statement. Sarkari scientists, looking out for personal prospects, will obviously sign away contrary assertions.

The cult of the atom, those who know swear, is the enemy of ecological safety and the good earth where humanity still survives in billions. The high priests of the nuclear religion are specialists in the art of misleading public opinion. Neither Russia nor the U.S. will dare have a nuclear power plant after their bitter experience. Chernobyl (USSR) and Three Mile Island (U.S.) remain sombre warnings to humanity. Most Western nations, save France and Japan, now avoid new nuclear power plants.

But the nuclear barons have the power of unveracious propaganda. The political economy of nuclear electricity is forbidding. A widening agenda of dissent and oppositional strategies are mounting against atomic fission. Leading research-oriented jurists like Ralph Nader regard the menace of the atom as a culture of global destruction. Then why go in for this terrible worldwide thanatos?

Our country has abundant solar energy and the technology is accessible. It is culpable default for the authorities in the States and at the Centre not to explore, exploit and execute projects that run on solar power — which is far less costly and far safer than the nuclear graveyard alternative. We have potential hydel power from rivers that range from the Ganga to the Krishna, and tidal power from the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. We have prodigious wind energy potential. We have thermal power and coal-generated energy. Astonishing is the discovery that we have unused uranium in mega-quantity but not yet mined.

Amid this opulence of energy resources, why beg for or borrow American stuff that has strings attached and involves unfamiliar technology? History will one day record the traitor-tainted guilt of those in state power who, drugged by dollar power, run after Mr. Bush and big business. Their offer is aggressively expensive. Their supplies constitute a big-power gamble. The technology they offer is unfamiliar.

Why is the U.S. itself not building nuclear plants? Every patriot in Parliament must examine the relative implications of swaraj and exotic nuclear raj from the angle of Indian autonomy and alternative energy sources. Why are we boneless satellites? Why is there such indecent haste? What is behind this undignified speedy mendicancy and this mad seppuku instinct? The nuclear deal that Dr. Manmohan Singh is in a hurry to sign is a fatal testimony of subordination, what with the Hyde Act and other prints brought out as proof by Ashok Partharasathi (The Hindu, July 15, 2008).

Parliament has supreme power. Here is my appeal to India’s parliamentarians. Beware. The secret deal constitutes a game against India’s autonomy. It involves a dubious alibi and a hidden agenda. To seek to hitch Bharat’s wagon to the U.S. star at this phase of eclipse for Mr. Bush is but seppuku. The Prime Minister should tell the House the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Otherwise, any confidence vote that he may win will lose its value.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Strengthening the prosecution system

Strengthening the prosecution system

N.R.Madhava Menon

Given the organisational set-up of the prosecution and its sensitive relations with the police, the prosecution machinery suffers from multiple disabilities.

Almost every aspect of criminal justice administration is badly in need of reform. Several committees have recommended legal and institutional changes to strengthen the system. Among them, those in respect of investigation and prosecution are considered primarily significant. The Supreme Court had to direct the Centre and State governments in the Prakash Singh case (2005) to introduce police reforms urgently to save the system from total collapse.

The prosecution agency is that segment of the criminal justice system responsible for prosecuting those found by the police to have committed a criminal offence. Under the federal scheme of the Indian Constitution, criminal procedure including the prosecution system is an item in List III of the Seventh Schedule, under which both Parliament and the State Assemblies are entitled to legislate.

The objective of the prosecution proceedings is to protect the innocent and seek conviction of the guilty. Given this dual purpose and the adversary nature of criminal proceedings, the role of the prosecutor is value-laden with notions of fairness and justice. The prosecutor is motivated neither by any sense of revenge nor commitment to get a conviction. He is an officer of the court who is personally indifferent to the outcome of a case. His duty is to place all evidence before the court, irrespective of whether it goes against or is likely to help the accused. In this sense, the impartiality of the public prosecutor (PP) is as vital and significant as the impartiality of the judge.

Normally, the PP’s role begins after the investigation agency presents the case in court. Of course, it is open to the police to get the best legal opinion but it is not obligatory for them to take the opinion of the PP for filing the charge sheet (2004 [4] SCC 461). After the amended Criminal Procedure Code was enacted in 1973, the prosecution agency was expected to be separated from the Police Department. The objective was obviously to ensure that police officers who investigated a case would have no manner of control or influence over the prosecutors.

Though varying in details, the existing prosecution machinery in the 29 States is quite similar in organisation and functions, except in a few States in the northeast where the separation of the executive from the judiciary is still to be completed. The others are governed by the same provisions of the Code.

Given the organisational set-up of the prosecution and its sensitive relations with the police, the prosecution machinery suffers from multiple disabilities, some systemic and some incidental. The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System in its report (March 2003) identified, inter alia, some weaknesses in the prosecution machinery and its functioning. They are discussed here with allied proposals for strengthening the prosecution service.

(a) Insufficient coordination between the prosecutor and the investigating officer: Prior to the Cr.PC (Amendment) Act, 1973, prosecutors appearing in the courts of magistrates functioned under the control of the Police Department. They scrutinised police papers and advised the police on legal issues before filing them in court. The prosecutor used to keep a close watch on the proceedings of a case, inform the jurisdictional police to produce the witnesses on the day of the trial, refresh the memory of witnesses with reference to their police statements and examine them at length. Thanks to close monitoring, very few witnesses turned hostile. If and when they did, the prosecutor exposed them through effective cross-examination.

But the 1973 amendment changed the situation and weakened police-prosecution coordination. The 14th Report of the Law Commission observed that it would not be possible for PPs to exhibit the degree of detachment necessary for fair prosecution if they were part of the police organisation. Consequently, the prosecution wing was separated from the Police Department and placed under a Directorate of Prosecution (Sections 24 and 25 Cr.PC). The Supreme Court also reiterated this position and directed the States to place the prosecution wing administratively and functionally under the direct control of the State government (AIR 1995 SC 1628). While in some States, the Directorate of Prosecution functions under the administrative control of the Home Ministry, in others it works under the Law Department. The decision was left to the discretion of the State Council of Ministers. Similarly while in some States, the Director of Prosecutions is an officer of the higher judicial service (district and sessions judge), in others he is a police officer of the rank of Inspector-General or Additional Director-General. The PP’s impartiality depends largely on who controls the agency.

Most police officers as well as some administrators and judges believe that the lack of coordination caused by the separation has resulted in falling conviction and disposal rate, filing of poorly investigated cases, indifferent management of trial proceedings including bail, and lack of effective review, particularly at the district level. There is no doubt that the police-prosecution interface is in need of immediate remedial action but giving the prosecution back to the police is neither desirable nor practical.

(b) Lack of professional competence and commitment among PPs and APPs is another factor contributing to the weakness of the system. They are appointed under the provisions of Sections 24 and 25 of the Cr.PC which envisage a regular cadre of prosecuting officers in every State. Unfortunately, it does not exist in many States. Since no specific guidelines for the appointment of APPs are set in Section 25 of the Code, it has become a matter of political patronage rather than merit.

There is no attempt to professionalise the prosecution service systematically. Selection is neither merit-based nor competitive. Remuneration and conditions of service are not attractive. There is no system of education and training for prosecutors. Because of this, the morale of the service is very low and prosecutors become vulnerable to bribery and corruption.

If the prosecution at the district level is to function efficiently and impartially, it is essential not only to have a proper system of selection and training but also provide for a closer supervision and monitoring mechanism, particularly at the junior level. This would require a unified integrated structure which may be functionally separate in terms of the tasks of investigation and prosecution. While the prosecutor should not be dependent on the police, he or she should be able to seek closer cooperation with the investigating officer. The investigating officer’s intimate knowledge of facts can certainly help the prosecutor in countering defence. At the same time, the investigator will gain immensely from the prosecutor’s expert legal knowledge. Since the functions are integral and complementary and as the personnel employed in the two agencies cannot work in isolation, a total divorce is undesirable. Some degree of unification of control is necessary for effectiveness in prosecution. To achieve mutual cooperation without subordination of one to the other and without impinging upon the independence of either, an arrangement should be worked out to have a common centre of control and accountability.

At the district level, a cadre of APPs, selected and trained under Section 24(6), and accountable to the Directorate, should be established. The other recommendations of the committee on the district prosecution agency may be summed up as follows:

All APP appointments shall be made through competitive examinations held by the Public Service Commission; half of the vacancies in the posts of PP and APP at the district level in each State shall be filled up by selection and promotion on a seniority-cum-merit basis. The rest shall be filled by selection from a panel prepared in consultation with district magistrates and district judges; no person appointed APP or promoted PP shall be posted in his or her home district, or where he or she was practising; PPs appointed directly from the Bar shall hold office for three years. However, the State may appoint as special public prosecutor any member of the Bar for any class of cases for a specified period; in appointing PPs and APPs to various offices, sufficient representation shall be given to women; intensive, continuous training shall be given to all APPs; promotional avenues should be given to prosecutors; the Director of Prosecution must ensure accountability by calling for reports on all acquittal cases from both the prosecutor and the Superintendent of Police; all prosecutors should work in close cooperation with the Police Department and render advice and assistance from time to time for efficient performance of their duties; a provision may be made for posting PPs and senior APPs at the offices of the Police Commissioner and District Superintendent of Police for rendering legal advice; the Commissioner of Police and the special prosecutor may be empowered to hold monthly review meetings of PPs and APPs for ensuring proper coordination and efficient functioning of the prosecution system.

The failure of prosecution is not always of its own making. While it is important to select prosecutors properly and give them adequate training, and constitute an independent directorate for professionalising the system, it is equally necessary to study the systemic and structural weaknesses in the criminal law and its administration. After all, effective investigation and successful prosecution are the basic guarantees the state has made to victims of crime. Strengthening the prosecution system consistent with the rights of the accused is a pre-requisite for fair and impartial justice.

(The author was Chairman of the Committee appointed by the Government of India to draft a National Policy on Criminal Justice, and consultant to Criminal Justice Reform in Bangladesh.)

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Guru Arrest: PMK urges Centre to invoke Art.256 of Constitution

PMK leaders meet Manmohan, seek Guru’s release

Special Correspondent

Led by Anbumani Ramadoss, they complain against “politically motivated vendetta” of the regime

“Attempt to stifle PMK’s democratic freedom and undermine the party”

State government’s action against Mr. Guru unconstitutional, say leaders

NEW DELHI: A Pattali Makkal Katchi delegation met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday and complained against “politically motivated vendetta” of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam regime against the party.

This was specially with regard to the arrest of the senior PMK functionary J. Gurunathan alias Guru, who was detained under the National Security Act (NSA) recently.

The delegation, comprising seven MPs and 21 MLAs from Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry and led by Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, met the Prime Minister at his residence on Wednesday evening.

The leaders urged the Centre to exercise its supervisory powers under section 14 of the NSA to revoke the detention order against Guru and direct him to be released forthwith.

A similar representation was given to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

Later, Dr. Anbumani told reporters that the Dr. Singh had promised to look into the matter.

A similar assurance was given by Mr. Patil.

Dr. Anbumani said they had also complained against the bugging of telephones of senior PMK leaders.

Asked why the PMK had chosen to meet the Prime Minister and Home Minister even as the government was trying to stay in office by seeking a confidence vote in Parliament, Dr. Anbumani said the meeting had nothing to do with the confidence motion.

The PMK had announced its wholehearted support to the government and all the party MPs would vote in favour of the Manmohan Singh government in the Lok Sabha.

The party’s memorandum to the Prime Minister charged that the DMK’s action against Mr. Guru was unconstitutional.

Explaining how the Centre could intervene in the matter, the PMK said though Parliament had delegated the powers to the State government, the NSA contained certain inherent safeguards by making the Centre a supervisory authority.

The Act stipulated that the State government must report any exercise of power to detain a person without trial to the Centre within 10 days. The Centre had the correlative duty and responsibility to set aside and correct any misuse by the the State government.

“Such an exercise of supervisory power by the Centre is essentially required in this case,” the memorandum stated.

The PMK delegates wanted the Centre to issue a notice to the Tamil Nadu government under Article 256 of the Constitution as there had been serious misuse of power in order to undermine the party and stifle its democratic freedom.

They also requested the Centre to issue a statutory warning to the DMK government.

The delegates included PMK president G.K. Mani, Union Minister of State for Railways R. Velu, Lok Sabha MP from Pondicherry M. Ramadass and former Union Ministers E. Ponnuswamy and A.K. Moorthy.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Pondicherry: Pollution Under Control Certificate needed for Vehicles

Transport Department’s appeal to vehicle owners

Staff Reporter

“Get Pollution Under Control Certificate from any of the seven authorised firms in Puducherry”

PUDUCHERRY: The Transport Department has appealed to owners of vehicles to obtain Pollution Under Control Certificate (PUC certificate) from any of the seven authorised firms in Puducherry.

A release issued by the Transport Commissioner S. M Khannaji said the PUC certificate issued by the manufacturer through the dealers was valid only for one year.

Thereafter the vehicle should be produced before any of the seven firms, including the Government Automobile Workshop, to obtain the certificate, the release said.

The owners had to produce the PUC certificate at the time of inspection of vehicles for fitness certificate, it added.

The government has fixed Rs. 30 for motorcycle and light motor vehicles (three-wheeler), Rs. 50 for light motor vehicles (four-wheeler) and Rs. 100 for medium goods, medium passenger, heavy goods and heavy passenger vehicles as fees for obtaining the certificate, the release said.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


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Sunday, July 13, 2008

DMK rule won’t last long: PMK

DMK rule won’t last long: PMK

Sat, 12 Jul, 2008,03:21 PM

The PMK on Saturday resorted to some voluble and rhetoric-filled demonstration against the arrest of its senior leader 'Kaduvetti Guru'.

A couple of days ago the Tamilnadu government slapped the provisions of the National Security Act (NSA) on him.

The words spoken were on typical lines. But the mood carried an extra edge of animosity.

‘The detention of Guru under the NSA is a murder of democracy. The ‘arrogant rule’ by the DMK will not last long’, said PMK president GK Mani said at the meeting.

‘It is an act of vendetta. The government with the help of police are foisting cases’.

Urging the government to release Guru immediately, Mani said, arresting him for his speech at the PMK general council meeting is not right.

‘The PMK had strived hard to help the DMK assume power in the State. They have shown their gratitude by arresting Guru and letting loose terror against the PMK men.

The State government and the police department should be held responsible for the volatile situation prevailing in Ariyalur and Perambaloor districts,’ he added.

Mani reiterated that he had called on Karunanidhi personally to express his regret for Guru’s speech a few months ago. ‘

The Chief Minister too accepted our regret then and it appeared in various sections of the media too.

But by going ahead with his arrest, they have exposed their vindictive attitude towards our party’, he added.

Taking a dig at the DMK leaders, Mani said, ‘they had used derogatory words on MDMK orator Nanjil Sampath recently. Will the government initiate action against their own men? Also the DMK speaker Vettrikondan is known for his loose tongue. Will he be arrested for his speeches under the NSA?’

Questioning the motive behind Guru’s detention under the NSA, Mani said, ‘those who are seen to be a threat to the sovereignty and safety of the nation alone are booked under the NSA.

The slapping of NSA on Guru exposes the dubious motive of the State government’.

The participants at the demonstration wore black shirts and black badges. They shouted slogans condemning the DMK government and demanded Guru’s immediate release.

Those who took part in the protest include PMK MP A K Murthy, party MLAs Velmurugan, Thirukachoor Arumugham, Sakthi Kamalammal, Thamzharasu, Nedunchezhian, Ilavazhagan, Meganathan and Kaveri.


Who will get magic number 272?

Dinamalar ePaper

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What happens next in Indian politics?

Convene special Assembly session: AIADMK

Convene special Assembly session: AIADMK

Puducherry, July 13: AIADMK has urged the Lt Governor of Puducherry to convene a special session of the territorial Assembly immediately to discuss issues concerning the union territory, particularly complaints on shortage of funds to implement various schemes.

Addressing reporters here today, party's local unit secretary a Anbalagan, MLA said it was indeed "mind boggling" that all five ministers - V Vaithilingam, E Valsaraj, M Kandasamy, Malladi Krishna Rao and M O H F Shahjahan - were alleging that their respective departments were unable to implement various scheme due to shortage of funds.

When it was claimed by these ministers last year that they had succeeded in getting enhanced allocation from the planning commission for fiscal 2008-2009, how could they now come out with complaints of paucity of funds, he wondered.

The Chief Minister, who was holding finance portfolio, and all his five ministerial colleagues had held discussions with Planning Commission and fixed plan amount at Rs 1,750 crore, for the current year.

But now the ministers were alleging that they were struggling for more funds and the Chief Minister on the other hand claimed that there was no paucity of funds at all, he said.

People are entitled to know the truth and for this a special session of the Assembly should be convened by the Lt Governor for a detailed debate, he added.

Bureau Report


PMK imposes pre-condition for survival of Cong. Govt.

PMK imposes pre-condition for survival of Cong. Govt.

Sunday July 13 2008 01:13 IST

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

N.Ram interviews top BJP leader L.K.Advani

“In the name of energy autonomy, you are surrendering our strategic autonomy”

N. Ram

N. Ram interviews top BJP leader L.K. Advani on the present political crisis, the nuclear deal, election prospects, and other key issues. The one-hour indepth interview was conducted at the residence of the Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday.

Advaniji, how do you see the present political situation in the country, with the Left withdrawing support and the Samajwadi Party being drafted in to make up the numbers along with smaller players?

It is surprising that this kind of final outcome should have taken so long. In fact, I will recall the first statement in this regard, which made everyone who follows political events feel that this alliance between the Left and the Congress could not continue for long. This was when the Prime Minister told The Telegraph correspondent, and perhaps consciously, that so far as the deal was concerned, the government had decided to finalise it. It was non-negotiable. And so if the Left parties didn’t like it, they were free to do what they wanted. I was told by those related to that interview that he wanted it to be published very prominently.

At least I assumed that this was very calculated and either they had decided, ‘All right, we’ll go to the people on this issue,’ or they had made alternative arrangements to continue in the government. Because 61 members is not a small figure. When you have two major partners in the government taking up positions of this kind, I said, ‘This is the starting point.’ Apart from the discussions held in both Houses of Parliament on this issue several times where it appeared that there was a wide gulf in the thinking. But even then, all the while, the replies given by the Prime Minister were of a nature that made Parliament feel, even we who were opposed to it for different reasons, that they would not agree to what America wanted, and that the assurances given in Parliament would be taken due care of either by America itself or if it did not do it, the deal would not go through in its present form.

I think it was some time in August 2007 that this exchange took place, the Prime Minister’s statement and the reply from the other side, in which Prakash Karat’s statements had been as resolute — I won’t use any other word. And it seemed that it was the end.

‘Close contest’

Unfortunately since then, the whole thing has been dragging on in a manner as to make even the common man feel that the government is not concerned with anything else. It’s concerned only with this and it is not able to make any progress. This is apart from the other factors, namely prices, the condition of the farmers, the repeated assaults on internal security either by the terrorists or by the naxalites, or even what’s happening around us, which often indicates a failure of foreign policy — numerous failed states around us, the happenings in Nepal …The common man, particularly agonised by prices and his day-to-day life, feels: ‘What kind of government is this, which seems so obsessed with one agreement that nothing else seems to matter with it!’ This is one main reason why the people have been getting more and more disillusioned with the government.

And the aam aadmi, who doesn’t go into the nuances … and for many in the country perhaps this is something esoteric, asks: ‘What is this deal, about which they are quarrelling so much?’ So when it came yesterday, I said: ‘At least, it’ll be a new chapter now.’ That chapter will depend very much on whether they are able to survive the vote of confidence that is going to be taken in Parliament. Today it seems it’s a close contest, at least on the face of it. And particularly if the reports about the Samajwadi Party are correct. Some say it is five, some say it is eight, I don’t know.

Are you satisfied with the government opting for a vote of confidence ahead of going to the IAEA Board of Governors, a demand that the BJP made first?

Yesterday, immediately after our meeting here, where we gave an official reaction on behalf of the party, I had a lecture. There I said, ‘I welcome it. I demanded it and I’m told they propose to have a special session soon and move a vote of confidence, seeking the approval of the Lok Sabha. Manmohan Singh said on the plane itself: ‘I’ll see to it that all parliamentary norms are observed.’ I said in this situation that’s the parliamentary norm. Because the government had been formed on the basis of the support extended to it by these 61 members of the Left parties, who have withdrawn their support. Whether others’ support will be forthcoming or not is a subsequent matter. It has to be tested on the floor of the House.

Possibilities If the government fails to win the vote, an early general election is certain. If it makes it through, as it evidently expects to do, what will the political scenario look like? Will it strengthen the stock of the Con gress party and the UPA ahead of the 15th general election? That’s the big question.

Suppose, for instance (as it is said), they propose to convene a special session of the Lok Sabha on the 21st of July. If they win a vote of confidence, the situation continues to be what it is today. Then the option is before them of holding an early general election or holding it in 2009. It’s their choice. But if they lose this confidence vote, I’m sure they will resign. The President will ask them to continue until alternative arrangements can be made, which means until the elections are held and another government comes in.

The situation today is that if the Central government asks the Election Commission to prepare for the Lok Sabha election, the Election Commission, as I can see it, is sure to tell them that by November so many State Assembly elections are due. So the Lok Sabha election can be held along with them. That would be what seems natural. These are the two possibilities, unless the Election Commission wants to advance one or some of those Assembly elections. The States due to go to the polls are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, and Mizoram. It should not be difficult to hold these Assembly elections together and link up the Lok Sabha elections with them.

But during this period, however short or long it is, do you see the Congress and the UPA improving their political stock?

What improvement can come about at this point of time? It’s the fag end. Everyone — the government as well as the opposition as well as the Communist parties — will all be engaged in preparing for the elections. And a government which has lost a vote of confidence in the House would have no choice for taking any new initiatives. That’s a parliamentary convention.

You have listed the key issues before the people, as you see them. At a time of 13 per cent inflation, how will implementing the nuclear deal play with the electorate?

My own feeling all along has been that the nuclear deal is not an issue of the people. After all, the proposal is, ‘We are short of energy sources and nuclear energy will provide us the wherewithal — after 25 years!’ And that too a small percentage of our requirements. It is welcome, whatever it is. But it is not crucial, it is not vital for the people.

We were against it but we reiterate that our opposition to this deal has been different from that of the Communist parties. The Communist parties feel — they may not have spelt it out that way, but I found an article in your newspaper that is quite clear on that — that we are accepting their [the United States’s] supremacy over us by becoming part of their strategic alliance. It’s not merely the 123 agreement by itself. We are opposed to the 123 agreement because it is also preceded by the Hyde Act. We do not agree with the government’s stand that ‘the Hyde Act has nothing to do with us, we are governed only by the 123 agreement.’ Whenever they have made a statement of this kind, it has been immediately rebutted by the American spokesman.

Therefore, our objection has been not to the strategic relationship, which 123 may involve. Our objection has been to the Hyde Act, which imposes a constraint on our strategic options in the nuclear field. Furthermore, I would say, it was during our period, when we were in government — we did not start the nuclear deal, as is often said — but we did start the process of strategic relationship. I for one — it was not my Ministry at all — but I said several times that India and the USA are the two major democracies of the world — one the strongest, the other the largest. It would be in the interest of the world, of these two countries themselves, if there is a relationship beyond merely friendship. If you call it a ‘strategic relationship,’ it is fine. It should be there.

So we are not against any strategic relationship with the USA. In fact, I would feel that the Communist parties, after all that has happened, also should be able to get out of that mindset. After all, during that entire period of the Cold War, we also were never very favourable to the USA. Because at that time, their relationship was entirely with Pakistan. They were hostile to us. In a way, it is America which has made even the Congress government change Pandit Nehru’s approach of utilising nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes. That was a consistent policy followed by India not only when it was under the Congress regime of Pandit Nehru but even when it came to Morarji Desai, in whose government we also were there. (Vajpayee was there, I was there.) Before going to the U.N. once, when he was to make a speech about nuclear weapons, he categorically said, ‘India will never go in for nuclear weapons.’ Categorical. He read it out to us deliberately, because he knew ours was the only party in the country which had been advocating that course of action.

So it was America which during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 sent its nuclear fleet here. It was this which prompted Indira Gandhi to go in for Pokhran-I in ’74. She did Pokhran-I in ’74; we completed the process in ’98. In between, efforts were made but somehow they were not completed. Preparations were made but they were not executed. I don’t want to go into all that. Once [former President R.] Venkataraman, in a book release function, publicly complimented Vajyapee-ji for what he had done, saying ‘When I was Defence Minister, this was planned but somehow we could not go forward with it. I compliment you for completing it.’

I am referring to all this because there is that basic difference between what happened in our time [and the rest]. And yet our relations with America — yes, they imposed sanctions on us. I cannot forget that Pokhran-II was criticised not only by the Leftists but even by Dr. Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha. He severely criticised us. ‘Why have you done it?’ There was a very sharp exchange between my colleague K.R. Malkani, Editor of The Organiser, who was a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha, and Manmohan Singh. He said he did not buy the argument that the economic sanctions would not hurt India, ‘You do not understand what will happen to the country’s economy by what you have done!’ Malkani said, ‘Nothing will happen. You wait and watch.’ Actually nothing happened. One by one, all those restrictions were lifted. In fact, today some of those restrictions imposed after ’74 may be continuing but not those imposed after ’98.

Basically I feel, for a long time America has been wanting to make every non-nuclear country part of the non-proliferation regime, by having them sign the NPT. Even Pandit Nehru or Morarji Desai, who were not in favour of making India a nuclear weapon state, said: ‘We are not going to sign any Treaty which binds us now.’

Our complaint about this [deal] is that in the name of energy autonomy, you are surrendering our strategic autonomy. This is what we oppose.

One criticism of your stand is that there is an underlying continuity of nuclear policy between 1998 and now. In the sense Prime Minister Vajpayee made a number of policy commitments, for example on joining the CTBT a nd the unilateral moratorium on nuclear explosive testing, and this was continued through the Jaswant-Talbott talks.

I know that. When any country by itself says something, there is no restriction or a change in policy. And secondly, even the argument given now, that in any case there will be economic sanctions, that is always there. But economic sanctions coming, as they came in ’98 or as they came in ’74, were not because we violated any law or violated any agreement or any international commitment. This would be a violation of an international commitment. If we sign this agreement, we accept the Hyde Act. At one stage, therefore, what I had suggested was this — if they discussed it at length with us, we might have suggested it. I said, ‘All right, after all the Hyde Act is a domestic law of America. Let our legal experts consider whether India’s own Atomic Energy Act can be amended in a way as to insulate India from the consequences of the Hyde Act. Let’s examine that.’

One of my biggest complaints about this government, and Dr. Manmohan Singh personally, has been that if they were really so serious about it that they have brought their own government to the brink on this basis, what was the difficulty in accepting our suggestion that ‘this matter has been discussed thrice in Parliament after you signed that joint statement with President Bush; and numerous misgivings, numerous questions have been raised. You have answered many of them very categorically: “If this does not happen, then the deal will not take place.”

Let a parliamentary committee examine all that and then make the suggestion to you. If they had done that, we would have made this suggestion there. We would have offered other suggestions also. Instead of that, first they said that no committee could be formed in respect of a proposed international agreement. And then they formed a committee with the Left. A UPA-Left committee was formed, which again and again … even today Prakash Karat was quoting that: ‘This is what they have said, this is what they have said.’ It’s a very curious way of running the government and a very curious way of implementing something you think is very important.

One last question on this particular issue. I think the BJP’s position is, should you come into government, as is distinctly possible, after the 15th general election, you will renegotiate the deal. You said that about WTO earlier. Is it feasible, is it practicable to renegotiate this agreement, assuming it goes through?

If it is not practicable, if America says, ‘No, we are not going to renegotiate,’ we will naturally deal with the situation as it is there. But the objective is there. Sometimes people say, ‘You do not agree with this agreement. So will you rescind it, scrap it?’ I would like to tell them that if the major objection to this is that it brings us into a strategic relationship with America, that’s not our objection. A strategic relationship with America, as I have said, was first talked about when we were there. The objection is particularly to the Hyde Act. So our objective of renegotiation would be: Is it feasible to reword this agreement or to do something? The option of having our own domestic law, which insulates us from the consequences of the Hyde Act, is always open. This is what we would examine.

(Part II of the interview will follow.)

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Also read the Second Part of his Interview

“Coalition dharma means whatever is agreed upon in a common minimum programme should be implemented”

Top BJP leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani answers N. Ram’s questions on the BJP’s electoral prospects; lessons learnt from 2004; coalition governance; Ayodhya; Gujarat 2002; his reputation as a hardliner; the intra-parivar controversy over his Jinnah remarks in Pakistan; the explosive Amarnath Shrine land affair; combating terrorism; and the contemporary meaning of Hindutva. This is the concluding part of an in-depth interview given toThe Hinduat the residence of the Leader of the Opposition in New Delhi on Wednesday. The first part was published on July 11.

— Photo: V. Sudershan

L.K. Advani: ‘Somehow, I have acquired an image’ of a hardliner

Advaniji, you are not known to exaggerate the political prospects of your own party or formation. What is your realistic assessment of the political prospects of the BJP and the NDA at this juncture?

In a country like ours, so large, such a large electorate, so many States to bear in mind, it is never easy, particularly when you don’t know when the elections are going to be held — in November or some time next year? — to be precise or even close to precision insofar as the outcome of an election is concerned. But I’ve seen elections right from ’52 till today, every election I’ve seen. I have never seen so much despair in the people and so much disillusionment in the people with an incumbent government as with the present government.

In fact, people have been asking me, ‘If NDA comes to power tomorrow, we will be inheriting a very difficult situation, in the field of economy as well as in the field of foreign policy and several other fields … the problems of agriculture.’ But as I said to some of my colleagues yesterday: ‘All these have to be tackled. But much more than that, during the six years of NDA rule there was a feeling of buoyancy. The development of the infrastructure; the highways built up; numerous facilities, like the kisan credit card and all that, were given to the farmers. And happily, the growth in the field of IT came at that time. Telephones, which were a real headache for us for decades; I have been in Parliament from 1970 and I know that one of the biggest complaints from the constituency was ‘Telephone mil sakta hai kya, telephone mil sakta hai kya? [can you help us get a telephone?]’ And suddenly these mobile phones and all that came.

Of course it’s technology development but it came at that time. We managed the IT development and the communications in a manner that gave great satisfaction to the people. I wish our plans for the interlinking of rivers also had made some progress. We set up a committee. Now all these things had made the country buoyant, the people buoyant. The feeling was that the country was moving forward. Unfortunately in the last four years, there has been a feeling of despair. So I said to my colleagues that the first task is to be able to do things in the first two years itself which recreate hope — that now things are happening and the country will move forward.

Lessons from 2004? As the next Prime Minister should the NDA or the BJP-led coalition win the next general election, you surely know that the outcome of the last one was a political upset. Virtually no one I knew — other than Sharad Pawar, who once gave me a fairly accurate prediction — expected that. What is the lesson you have learnt from the last experience, in particular the campaign that highlighted the “India Shining” theme?

[The lesson from] the last experience is: ‘Don’t be overconfident. And do not neglect your own constituency.’ I’m not referring to the individual constituency, I’m talking of the party’s constituency.

It was neglected?

Yes, they did feel neglected. We did not neglect them. And very often that has been a continuing process of education for my own constituency also in these years. But if you have a coalition government, then the limitations imposed by a coalition also should be borne in mind. They should not be disregarded, not only by the party or those who are in power but also by its constituency.

May I tell you this has been a contrast — talking about the nuclear issue. In our case, among the distinctive features that the BJP incorporated in its [2004 election] manifesto, which were not there in the manifesto of any of our allies, one was that the BJP was in favour of making India a nuclear weapons state. Therefore, we would develop a nuclear deterrent of our own. No other alliance partner of ours had this in its manifesto. So when we were preparing our common minimum programme, we discussed with them all these things. And it was only when they accepted it, all of them, including the AIADMK and the Akali Dal and all of them who were with us, that we incorporated it in the common minimum programme, which we described as the National Agenda of Governance.

Our other distinctive features, they would not agree to. We did not press them at all — except subsequently at one stage when they agreed that if a temple can be built at Ayodhya, either by a court verdict or by agreement between the two communities, it should go through. It was much later. But in the National Agenda of Governance, only one point, namely: ‘Yes, we should go in for Pokhran.’ Pokhran was not [specifically] mentioned, but nuclear deterrent. And the credit goes to Vajpayee-ji that on the 19th of March 1998 he was sworn in and within less than two months, on the 11th of May, 1998, we had Pokhran-II.

And in contrast — the Communists have a point, the Left parties when they complain, ‘Was this in the Congress manifesto? Was this in the Common Minimum Programme? It wasn’t there,’ so they have a point …

Nor the ‘strategic alliance.’

Therefore our coalition functioned very well. And today one of the points that we are going to hammer home to the electorate is: ‘You just compare the functioning of these coalitions — one the NDA, the other the UPA — and see the contrast!’

On the backburner? Now this brings me to the other issues you referred to — the issue of the Ram temple, Article 370, and the Uniform Civil Code. They were kept on the back burner during NDA rule.

I won’t call it the back burner. I don’t call it the back burner. If we were to have a government of our own and we don’t do it, then it’s on the back burner. But when a coalition is formed of several parties who do not agree, then whatever is agreed upon has to be implemented. I remember that this is what I said the first time even to V.P. Singh when he became Prime Minister, with our outside support. I as president of the party wrote him a long letter, in which I said that ‘In my manifesto and your manifesto, the Janata Dal manifesto, there are many common points. I hope — ‘even though I’m supporting you from outside, without my support your government cannot be formed’ — I hope that while carrying out your programmes, you will keep in mind that the issues that are common to both should be implemented, freedom of information, this, that, there were several things. But if there is any issue on which there is a difference of opinion, we would be free to withdraw support. And that’s what happened actually.

Yes. This could be repeated because in the next test, your allies could do quite strongly in some States, you will have formidable allies ...

Therefore, coalition dharma. The first and foremost guideline should be: whatever is agreed upon in the common minimum programme should be done.

Hindutva hardliner? Now this question you must have been asked in many forms. Mr. Vajpayee, who was once described by Mr. Karunanidhi as ‘the right man in the wrong party,’ was reputed for taking along coalition partners of different ideological hues. You have a reputation for being a hardliner on core Hindutva issues. That’s the perception. Is that a valid differentiation? Why don’t you let us into your innermost thoughts on this question?

Anyone who calls my party a ‘wrong party,’ you cannot expect me to agree with him in his assessment. No one — not Vajpayee-ji — would agree with him. But I can tell you that, in my experience, what surprised me was my experience in Pakistan. Even today people coming from Pakistan to Delhi, meeting everyone, whosoever has invited them, they invariably ask: ‘Can we not meet Advani?’ Anyone who goes to Pakistan will find that the impression about Advani in Pakistan, where this [the perception of him being a hardliner] should have been the maximum, [is quite different]. So it only means that somehow I have acquired an image. So many people have contributed to it, not only adversaries but others also. I don’t mind it that way.

Remarks on Jinnah of August 1947 In fact, this brings me to your celebrated remarks in Pakistan, of which The Hindu did quite a bit of editorial coverage …

Yes, you wrote an editorial. I greatly appreciate all that you wrote that time…

… about your remarks on Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s secular vision of August 1947.

Yes and surprisingly before going to Pakistan, I made a longish speech here — just on this lawn outside, releasing a book on Pakistan — where I quoted exactly what Jinnah had said in his first speech in the Constituent Assembly. Because I had just then come from Kolkata where Swami Ranganadananda had reminded me of that speech. Nothing happened at that time. I was Deputy Prime Minister at that time.

That was misconstrued and even targeted within your camp.

I know that.

How did you respond to that?

I don’t blame them. It was not targeted. It was misunderstood. There was no deliberate criticism of it.

How did you cope with that period? Must have been difficult for you.

I felt… Prannoy Roy interviewed me on NDTV and I told him: ‘I did feel distressed about the reaction in my party but my greater distress was that my party lost an opportunity.’ When in six days whatever I said or did there [in Pakistan] was able to change the totally wrong and negative image that the party had. I wish the party had followed it up, built on that.

Gujarat 2002 What happened in Gujarat in 2002 was a very serious matter. You were in government. At the least it was one of the issues on which people might have judged the BJP adversely in the 14th general election. What is your feeling now about what happened in Gujarat in 2002, this huge loss of life, this genocide?

There was no genocide. Genocide is a word that should not be lightly used. But in India there have been riots and riots — and sometimes riots far worse than those that took place in Gujarat in 2002. In fact, in the capital itself, I have been witness to what was not a riot — because not a single Hindu was killed when 3500 Sikhs were killed, in 1984. It’s sad. It’s tragic. It should not happen. It is to be condemned. So also in Gujarat I condemned it, everyone condemned it. Whether it was Godhra or the post-Godhra riots, all were condemnable. But that doesn’t mean that you blame whosoever is at the helm of affairs for ‘genocide’ and what not. And the only Chief Minister in the country who has distinguished himself by his performance also being pursued in a manner, so viciously, as to have him denied a visa in America, which has never happened before with any Chief Minister of the country! This is not fair. And therefore I did defend Narendra Modi.

Amarnath land controversy Now on the Amarnath shrine land issue, the issue of the GO which perhaps was misconstrued. But the campaign on both sides raised communal tensions. Had you been in the central government, how would you have handled this in the first instance? A sensitive issue was clearly mishandled when we don’t need more trouble in Jammu & Kashmir.

I wish the Chief Minister’s advice had been respected. I went to Amarnath on the 20th of June, just two days after the yatra started. I spoke to the shrine executives who told me all that had been going on. And I spoke to many of the pilgrims. There were thousands there, at the shrine itself and all along the way. Spoke to many. Almost everyone was telling me that ‘Whatever assistance we have got, help we have got, we have got it from the Army, not from the State officers.’

Because the PDP’s attitude was hostile. They were critical even of the Chief Minister at that time. The Chief Minister also was unhappy about it. I have been several times to Vaishnavodevi [in Jammu] where a similar shrine has been created. And there similar facilities and land allotment have also been made to enable the pilgrims to feel happy. Today those who are used to going on pilgrimages often come back from Vaishnavodevi with a comment: ‘Why cannot all the places in the country which are places of pilgrimage be run in the same manner as Vaishnavodevi is being run?’

The shrine in Amarnath is also, like the Vaishanavodevi Shrine, created by a resolution of the Assembly. Here that shrine is created and then when the government thinks of giving all the facilities — temporary facilities, toilets, this, that, resting places, lighting, etc. — there is such an uproar!

Instead of correcting it and telling the PDP that ‘You are wrong,’ the authorities succumbed and succumbed in a manner as to lose even the stewardship of the government, lose the government. What kind of attitude is this? There is no reason, no justification, no explanation — except that it is a very glaring example of what I have always described as pseudo-secularism. ‘That may be a Hindu shrine, all right, do with it what you want. But this is in a Muslim locality, where the bulk of the people are Muslims. Therefore you cannot have land here.’ Because — of course, those are the extremists and fundamentalists — who said: ‘There is a demographic design, to change the population.’ So absurd.

I wish the Government of India had realised that the consequences of this can be very serious, if you condone it.

Combating terrorism On the issue of terrorism, what’s the difference between your handling of it and the present government’s?

My handling was not confined to merely following up an event. After an incident occurs, investigate, apprehend the culprits, punish them. It was a continuing process. During NDA regime, the terrorist threat was very serious and therefore the IB agencies and the other agencies dealing with terrorists were told to carry out continuing and vigorous search for the ISI modules, wherever they are. And apprehend them, destroy them. That process went on continuously. Nearly every year, a large number of modules were destroyed. That process stopped. And even when events occur, the investigations have been of such a nature that till today so many incidents have occurred which I can list out and there has not been a single case in which people have been charge-sheeted, what to say of punished.

Hindutva as cultural nationalism The last question: on Hindutva. You have written a great deal on it in terms of ‘cultural nationalism.’ You have been charged with majoritarianism and worse. In response to the contemporary situation, what is your summation of Hindutva?

Majoritarianism is a word coined: it can be applied to America, it can be applied to every democracy. But the fact is that in India political parties, after Partition, came to the conclusion that even though India has been divided on the basis of Hindu and Muslim, we would like it to be a successful democracy. So let us run the government, run the country through this process of elections and vote.

In the process, however, some people discovered that Hindus are not a homogeneous community: they are divided into castes, they are divided into languages, and their identity is more related to that caste or language than to the fact that they are Hindus. In the case of Muslims, it’s different. In that case, it is the religious identity which is predominant. Therefore, if you want to get votes, you try to mobilise vote banks — casteist, linguistic vote banks in the case of the Hindus, religious vote banks in the case of the Muslims or the Christians. That is the reason why all this came in.

So far as we are concerned, we have held that … it was my first party general secretary, Deendayal Upadhyaya [1916-1968], who taught us that in India, Hinduism is not the name of a religion. It’s more of a national connotation. I was just reading an old book by that famous historian of philosophy, Will Durant. It was banned by the Britishers. Because it was Will Durant’s The Case for India [Simon and Schuster, New York, 1930], an excellent book about how the Britishers tortured India, what they did here. But in that he again and again uses the word ‘Hindu.’ ‘I have not consulted any Hindu while writing this,’ meaning I have not consulted any Indian. For him, Hindu and Indian are totally synonymous.

I was telling you about Deendayal Upadhyaya, who has been the greatest influence on me, in terms of conduct as well as in terms of my thinking. He said: ‘In independent India, we want India to be a secular country in which all citizens are equal. Hindutva should be equated to Bharatiyata. Bharatiyat is a Hindu. Indianness and Hindutva are synonymous. Don’t make a distinction between the two. It should mean nationalism essentially.’ Therefore it is that I grew up with cultural nationalism.

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