Saturday, September 27, 2008

Karnataka is safer than other states: State Home Minister

'Karnataka is safer than other states'

Q&A: V S Acharya

Anil Urs / New Delhi September 28, 2008, 0:43 IST

Karnataka Home Minister V S Acharya spoke to ANIL URS in the wake of the attacks on churches which rocked the state recently.

How has the state government tackled the fallout of the attack on churches?

The state is peaceful. On September 14, when these most unexpected and shocking incidents occurred in Mangalore, we rushed to the place and met all concerned and convinced them. A joint statement for communal harmony was issued by Christian and Hindu leaders. Thereafter, not one incident has been reported from that belt. I stayed there for four days, the chief minister himself visited the area on September 15. Again, we both made earnest attempts to bring back normalcy and peace. Thereafter, our endeavour has been to maintain peace throughout the state. But unfortunately, our political adversaries instigated some anti-social elements, and they started creating problems. Though minor in nature, they drew the attention of the public through the media, and it became national news.

What assurance has the state government given the archbishop?

We told the archbishop and the bishop of Mangalore that we are committed to protecting every community and such incidents will never recur. They should also cooperate and have confidence in us. I visited the bishop when he was in the hospital at Falnir. I also visited a few injured Christian friends in various other hospitals. Congress leaders Janardhan Pujari and Margaret Alva have wrongly stated that nobody visited these areas in Mangalore. I have visited the scene of crime and every hospital to see policemen and Christian nuns, and have assured them of help and assistance.

Was the Karnataka government caught unawares? Why did it fail to anticipate more attacks in the subsequent days?

Yes, even I was caught unawares. We never expected such a development as we were busy celebrating our first 100 days in office and charting the roadmap for the next 100 days. We were also busy with our party’s national executive council meet in Bangalore. The shocking news came to us at 10.30 pm when we were holding a special meeting to review the situation after the Delhi blasts on September 13. Thereafter the chief minister and I were fully involved in maintaining peace.

Why did the crisis spread to Bangalore?

We did not anticipate this since there was no reason to. But even the two stray incidents are totally unrelated. In one case, it looks like a rear door was broken when the police were present in the front. Some miscreants took away records and money and it looks like a dispute within themselves, that is, between a Malayalam and a Kannada group. This was confirmed later when we met a few local Christians. We would not call the Bangalore incidents alarming, but we are sorry that they happened.

In the coastal districts and Chikmagalur, the conversion issue has been alive for many years. Did your government anticipate a collision with the church on the issue?

In the coastal regions, there was and is an apprehension of forceful enticement by taking advantage of people’s helplessness. There have been conversions in these areas in the recent past, especially among the fishermen community and a few below the poverty line. The Roman Catholic Church and, by and large, the principal Protestant Church have denied this. They have said they are against conversions through inducements and against those churches that indulge in such conversions. The bishop of Mangalore is on record saying they are opposed to such conversions and the New Life Church and Pentecostal Church are a problem for them as well. For example, in a Milagres church, I believe all 53 families have gone over to New Life. This was brought to my notice by the bishop of Mangalore.

How do you propose to tackle the issue of conversion through inducement?

People must come forward to locate and isolate these sections who indulge in conversions, and complain to the police. The police will then handle the issue. People should not take the law into their own hands.

Will the BJP government look into complaints of such conversions?

Sarva Dharma Sambhav — treating all religions respectfully — is our party’s policy and one of our five guiding principles. The chief minister has been saying from day one that people should not take the law into their own hands; let the government handle it.

Were the Sangh Parivar outfits told to keep away from the Hindutva agenda when your party came to power for the first time in the south?

No, I don’t think so. People know what Hindutva is. It is a tolerant philosophy. The BJP should go about the task of governance.

Is there a call from the RSS to treat religion and governance as one?

No. They know what are our limitations are and how we should conduct ourselves. That is not a problem for us.

What is the RSS’s view on the crisis? Did it offer any advice?

They say it should not have happened. They are opposed to violence and say that everybody must be treated equally and whoever takes the law into their hands must be tackled. In their view, forceful conversion is the root cause of all this unnecessary violence.

Your party is accusing the opposition of creating trouble for political gains. Do you have any proof against them?

We are collecting evidence. The results are coming in and they are encouraging. In retrospect, do you regret the police action on Christian protesters last Monday in Mangalore? Any police action does not look happy retrospectively. People marched with lathis. Our policemen are the best response we have to tide over such a situation. We have to respect our policemen, but somebody threw stones on their heads from above (from the top of buildings) and beat them up with sticks. That being the case, we are at a loss to say who is right and who is wrong. In all, 45 policemen were injured and 26 members of the public. Anyway, it is important that the situation was controlled within two days. Also, there were no major casualties, no loss of life, no damage to property. This is the physical balance sheet.

The central observers’ report could be damaging for the state’s image. How do you plan to tackle its fallout?

We will tackle it. Nothing much has happened. The situation is by and large normal. There are many other states where the situation is really bad. Compared to them, Karnataka is safe. Their (central observers’) statement cannot contradict the situation prevailing here. We will give sufficient evidence and also ask people to come forward and give evidence.

Do you see any long-term repercussions on foreign investment flow into the state, especially since Christian groups are planning to raise the issue aboard?

Everybody knows the issue has settled down. Some vested interests are out to tarnish India’s image, BJP’s image.

Has the Centre invoked Article 355 in spirit, if not in letter?

Article 355 has not been invoked. Two letters of an advisory nature have come. We have no problem with that. If they go further and unnecessarily interfere, we will react.


Asif Ali Zardari: President of Pakistan

Elected President


Pakistan: Asif Ali Zardari is the long-awaited fully constitutional and democratically elected President.


President Zardari at a press conference in Islamabad on September 9

EVEN the sight of jiyalas – that untranslatable Urdu word used only to describe committed workers of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – clambering over the gates of the once unapproachable Aiwan-e-Sadr, the palatial presidential residence in Islamabad, to greet its new occupant could not dispel the air of unreality hanging over the words “President Asif Ali Zardari”. Nor could the shouts of “Je-aay Bhutto” (Long live Bhutto) that rang out inside the hall as the 53-year-old husband of the slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as the President of Pakistan.

But there is no doubt about it. Zardari, who less than a year ago was as far from the presidency as anyone could imagine, is the new President, and a fully constitutional and democratically elected one at that. The media could have screamed all they liked about “Mr 10 per cent”, a nickname he earned for his alleged corruption from the time he was Minister in Benazir’s Cabinet, and his New York psychiatrist’s submission to a London court that his patient suffered from a range of mental illnesses. But Zardari was voted in by an electoral college comprising legislators of the National Assembly and the Senate and the four Provincial Assemblies in which the PPP and its allies hold the majority votes, the result of the February 18 elections. Fair and square.

Zardari is also the most powerful civilian President in Pakistan’s history, armed as he is with near-absolute constitutional provisions, an unintended gift of the preceding Musharraf presidency. He chairs the powerful National Security Council; he appoints the three service chiefs including the Army chief; and he has the powers to dissolve government, although the last may be unnecessary as he presides over a government led by his own party.

The question that now preoccupies Pakistan and the international community is whether President Zardari can steer the country out of the mess in which it currently finds itself, and which is as much dangerous to itself as to the rest of the world.

In the run-up to the elections, Zardari showed himself to be an exceptional navigator through Pakistan’s choppy political waters. Despite dire predictions that his leadership would cause an implosion of the PPP, he has rendered the party stronger than it ever was. Skulduggery notwithstanding, he adroitly outmanoeuvred the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader, Nawaz Sharif, at his own game.

Sharif wanted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and others of the higher judiciary, who were dismissed by Musharraf, restored. Not only would he have reaped political credit for their reinstatement, the judges would have reopened cases against Musharraf’s eligibility for the presidency; they may also have pronounced favourably on a pending appeal against Sharif’s disqualification from contesting elections. Given the PML(N)’s popularity for taking a “principled position” on the judges issue, this was the Sharif road to power, as Zardari saw it.

So Zardari diverted Sharif with the appealing proposition that they both should join hands to get rid of Musharraf, and the restoration of the judges would follow. Lulled by this promise, Sharif threw his weight behind the move to impeach Musharraf. But in the hours after Musharraf was forced into announcing his resignation, it was clear that the judges were not going to be reinstated, at least not in the manner Sharif wanted.

Instead Zardari, taking due credit for getting rid of Musharraf without any blood on the carpet, was ascending to the presidency. Now having reached the pinnacle of power, he is faced with the unenviable task of running a country that has teetered on the edge of being dysfunctional for some time now. Many are the challenges ahead and diverse are the expectations from the new President.

The principal challenge is, of course, the “war on terror” and the impact it has on the United States-Pakistan relations as well as on the problematic civil-military relations within the country. Pakistan has a lead role in eliminating the sources of global terrorism but is badly divided over how it should play this role. Some prominent actors even question if Pakistan has a role, maintaining that this is not “our war”.

This, even as the Taliban sets up enclaves of parallel governance in the tribal areas and makes inroads into other parts of the country. Even the Pakistan government now says what it never said before – that the Taliban in Pakistan is an “extension” of Al Qaeda.

Under presure

Meanwhile, Islamabad is under pressure from an increasingly impatient U.S. to destroy the Taliban freeholds in the tribal areas. The U.S. has made it quite clear that it will take unilateral military action to destroy these safe havens if Pakistan does not do so. The first half of September saw five unilateral operations, including one unprecedented ground incursion by U.S. troops, in the tribal belt. The others were missile strikes carried out most likely by unmanned U.S. planes.

Coinciding as these strikes did with U.S. President George W. Bush’s statement that Pakistan was one of the main battlegrounds in the war against terror, and the belligerent statements by the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Mike Mullen, the country fears it is about to be drawn into a war that could prove as destructive as that in Iraq.

On his very first day in office, Zardari sent out a loud and clear message that the war on terror was his number one priority. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who Pakistan loves to hate, was the only foreign leader invited to Zardari’s swearing-in ceremony, and later the two leaders addressed a joint press conference.

But Zardari’s facetious and flippant one-liners to most questions left many wondering if he was equal to the task that is now before him. There was a sense of disappointment both among those who want Pakistan to “do more” and among those who believe Pakistan has done enough.

The diplomatic community voiced doubts if his style of breezy leadership would deliver on the war on terror, while the country – or more specifically, the belligerent Pakistani media – castigated him for not coming out strongly enough against the Americans for their unilateral strikes. They lashed out at him for sharing the podium with an “American puppet” on his big day as also Pakistan’s as it marked the transition to a full democracy. But by comparison, even the much-reviled Karzai seemed to take a tough line on the civilian casualties as a result of operations by the international forces on both sides of the border.

The complexity of Pakistan’s role in the war on terror was to come out a day later, when the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, made an unprecedented statement reiterating the country’s sovereignty and asking the U.S. to keep out. The Army chief’s remarks showed up the simmering tensions in U.S.-Pakistan relations as distrust grows in Washington over the Pakistan military’s suspected divided loyalties towards America, its patron, and the Taliban, its old client. It also set off the speculation that the military was rushing in to fill the perceived leadership vacuum.

In a reflection of the delicate power balance in Islamabad, the democratic government quickly rallied around the Army chief’s statement to dispel the impression that there were any differences between the civilian leadership and the military.

Later, Gen. Kayani, too, came out with what appeared to be a clarification, stating that “all elements of the national power under the new democratic leadership will safeguard the territorial integrity of Pakistan with full support and backing of the people of Pakistan”.

For the moment at least, it appears that the Army has no intention of intervening in the responsibilities of the civilian government. Analysts believe that the situation is so messy that the Army would not want to take upon itself the task of running the country at this point, especially if it means antagonising a vast majority of the people.

Immediate hope

Both within Pakistan and in the international community, the immediate hope is that Zardari may at the very least restore political stability, which in turn will enable other steps, including those needed to tackle the Taliban. It means the PPP and the PML(N) must live and let live.

The PPP has to let the PML(N)-led government in Punjab survive, and Nawaz Sharif’s party must play a constructive role in the opposition without destabilising the federal government. But this could get increasingly difficult if the PPP keeps up its attempts to engineer the downfall of the Shahbaz Sharif government, through its Governor in Punjab, Salman Taseer.

The PML(N) does not have a majority of its own in Punjab and, at the moment, needs the PPP’s support. It also has supporters in the PML(Quaid-e-Azam). Despite assurances from Zardari that he respects the mandate won by the PML(N) in Punjab, Taseer has ruffled the Sharif feathers considerably by his meetings with the PML(Q) leadership, hinting at the PPP’s hopes of government formation in Punjab with the help of the Musharraf ally.

The PML(N) is also concerned about the concentration of powers in Zardari’s hands and wants him to take the lead in reverting to the 1973 Constitution, which envisages the President as no more than a figurehead.

Flagging the concerns about Zardari’s leadership abilities at this critical juncture for Pakistan, I.A. Rehman, a respected political commentator who is associated with the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said in an article in Dawn that Zardari “will be required to guard against himself”.

“Clever tacticians do offer their audience exciting fare but they rarely have long lives in politics. They become unpredictable and each time they win by a surprise move public trust in them is eroded,” Rehman said. He also pleaded that the new President be given some time to prove himself.

As Rehman pointed out, Pakistan has had only a few democratically elected Presidents, and Zardari is undoubtedly one of them.


Dasara festival in Mysore

Maximum festival

in Mysore

The 10-day Dasara festival in Mysore is a rare blend of the ancient and the modern.


Jamboo Savari, the grand procession on Vijayadasami in 2007

MYSORE comes alive in all its glory at Dasara time. This year’s celebrations will be from September 30 to October 9 and will culminate, as usual, in a procession on Vijayadasami day to underline the victory of good over evil. Called “Naada Habba” or State festival, Dasara in Mysore has metamorphosed into a rare blend of the religious and the secular. The festivities have assumed the character of a carnival in which the modern mix with the ancient, without diluting the religious essence of the events.

In recent years, Dasara has become the fulcrum of activities to promote Mysore as a tourist and investment centre. Given the heady cocktail of history, old-world charm and modernity, Mysore represents both continuity and change. And “Brand Mysore” never fails to leave an impression on the minds of investors and tourists.

Dasara, over the years, has come to represent different things for different people. For the connoisseurs of art and culture, it is an opportunity to soak in the glory of classical music and dance; for youngsters, it is time to swing to the music of Indipop stars at the Yuva Dasara (Dasara for Youth) events; for heritage enthusiasts, it is an opportunity to take a tonga ride or feast on the beauty of Mysore’s historical buildings; and for stakeholders in tourism, the mega event helps market Mysore as a hot destination for domestic and international tourists.

Ideal Destination

Mysore has an incredible mix to become an ideal tourist destination throughout the year – the temple architecture of Somnathpur, the Bandipur wildlife sanctuary; Srirangapatana with its historical legacy; the desert dunes of Talakad at T. Narsipura, not to mention Mysore city itself, which has enough to keep a dedicated tourist occupied for days.

This year, heritage rides, food melas, flower shows, traditional wrestling, classical dance, as well as cultural programmes in front of the illuminated Mysore Palace will entertain revellers. The palace provides the perfect setting for open-air music concerts.

It has seen the likes of Hariprasad Chaurasia, Rajan Sajan Mishra, Lalgudi Jayaraman and the late Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan enthralling crowds. A new concept to be introduced this year is Mahila Dasara, which will highlight the work of self-help groups. The State government, for its part, makes an earnest effort to showcase and project the city of palaces. It has sanctioned Rs.10 crore this year for the celebrations.



The scion of the royal family, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, holding durbar at the Amba Vilas Palace during Dasara 2007

Dasara is believed to have originated as a simple thanksgiving ceremony to Indra for providing timely rains. It acquired complex connotations later such as the triumph of good over evil as symbolised by the killing of the demon-king Ravana by Rama. In Mysore, Dasara and Vijayadasami are also associated with the slaying of the demon Mahishasura by the main deity of the city, Chamundeswari.

The origin of Dasara in Mysore is traced to the celebrations that the Vijayanagar emperors (A.D. 1336 -1565) conducted. During their rule, Dasara became the state festival and was organised on a grand scale. The Wodeyars, who were the feudatories of the Vijayanagar emperors, inherited this tradition, which continues to date.

When the capital shifted from Srirangapatana to Mysore after the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, the Wodeyars introduced the concept of holding a public durbar during the celebrations. The special durbar that was held exclusively for British nobles and European guests brought fame to the Mysore Dasara.

A glimpse of the Dasara of yore is brought alive in 26 classical murals that adorn the Kalyana Mantapa in the Mysore Palace. These have helped immortalise Dasara. There have been significant changes in the festivities in the post-Independence era.

For instance, the procession on Vijayadasami day earlier had the Maharaja seated in the golden howdah and carried by caparisoned elephants. But after the abolition of the privy purse, the Maharaja was replaced by the idol of goddess Chamundeswari, while the traditional durbar was abolished. From a military affair during the rule of the Maharajas, the procession has now become an occasion to showcase the cultural diversity of the State and the achievements of the State government.

However, tradition has not been supplanted in its entirety. Images of a bygone era unfold in the main palace as the scion of the royal family and former Member of Parliament, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, performs all the religious rituals associated with the festivities, clad in royal robes. On all the 10 days, he goes through a ceremonial bath, worships the family deity in the palace, enters the durbar to the accompaniment of the chanting of mantras, ascends the golden throne and receives tributes from courtiers in what is purely a family affair witnessed by a select audience.

The ceremonies are held in the Amba Vilas Palace, which is also known as the Diwan-e-Khas.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Hearty triumph of humanism

Long Live Humanism!!!!!!!

Long Live A.P.Hithendran!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hearty triumph of humanism

Ramya Kannan

“The police did a commendable job of keeping all lights green”

Great: A.P. Hithendran (right) with his parents, the Ashokans, and younger brother

CHENNAI: Shanti (name changed) has a long list of people to thank — the Ashokans, their son Hithendran, the surgeons, the hospital staff and most unlikely of all, the traffic police.

The 9-year-old girl, who had a condition that would have killed her, dilated cardio myopathy, now has a chance simply because the traffic police literally carried her heart to her.

When the Ashokans decided to donate their son Hithendran’s organs after he was declared brain dead, a suitable recipient was quickly identified in Shanti, a patient at Dr.Cherian’s Frontier Lifeline Hospital. Her heart had swollen and the chest cavity had expanded to fit the heart. That is one reason why the 16-year old’s heart could be used for a nine-year old, doctors say.

K. M. Cherian, paediatric cardiac surgeon, appealed to Chennai Commissioner of Police R. Sekar for help to rush the organ to the hospital.

Mr. Sekar, in turn, instructed the traffic police to facilitate this. Sunil Kumar, Joint Commissioner, Traffic, told The Hindu, “the best way to rush the organ was to take it in our own vehicle, and by ensuring green lights at every signal. As a result, we managed to take the heart from Apollo Hospitals in Teynampet to Frontier Lifeline in Mogappair in exactly 11 minutes.”

The surgery was performed by Dr.Cherian after his team, which was headed by consultant cardiac surgeon Madhu Shankar, rushed the heart in a bag of ice to the hospital in the police vehicle. “The police did a commendable job of keeping all lights green. The procedure commenced as soon as we reached the hospital and in 30 minutes, the heart was in place,” he says.

He adds that the harvested organ will have to be transplanted within four hours, and the faster it is done, the better are the outcomes.

Shanti is now under observation in the hospital’s ICU.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


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Environment: Website on ‘99999’ campaign launched

Website on ‘99999’ campaign launched

Staff Reporter

Union Minister lays stress on increasing forest cover

— Photo: R. Shivaji Rao.

Union Minister S. Regupathy hands over ‘Office Exnora Magic Log Book’ to Mayor M.Subramanian at a function in Chennai on Wednesday. Exnora’s founder (left) M.B.Nirmal and its president Sulochana Ramaseshan are seen in the picture

CHENNAI: Government agencies must also plant trees to increase the forest cover in the respective cities, apart from the people to prevent global warming, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests S. Regupathy said here at a function organised by Exnora International on Wednesday.

Launching the website ‘’ aimed at campaigning against global warming, he said government departments, including the Highways and Agriculture, must involve themselves in tree planting to achieve the goal of increasing the forest or tree cover to one-third of the total area in the country.

At present, the forest cover in the country is 25 per cent and the national goal is to increase it by 2012, he said.

Elaborating on the hazards of global warming, Mr. Regupathy said such initiatives would help create awareness among public. He also released ‘Office Exnora Magic Log Book’ that facilitates self audit of the energy and resources used in offices and industries.

Chennai Mayor M.Subramanian, who received the first copy of the book, spoke on the Corporation’s initiatives to manage the garbage generated in the city. Nearly Rs. 16 lakh has been collected as fine for dumping waste and debris on roads. He also stressed tree planting by residents.

Commending the Exnora’s initiative, he said awareness of impact of global warming and the need for source segregation was being created by Corporation among students in the city.

Exnora International founder M.B.Nirmal said several offices were already turning their waste into wealth, he said. Compact discs about solutions to manage the waste were also released during the occasion.

On the Office Exnora log book, he said the office complexes and households could make use of it to reduce the carbon footprint and prevent global warming.

Coordinator of the ‘88888 lights out’ campaign Preetam Alex said that besides details about the ‘99999’ lights-out awareness campaign, the website would also have an Exnora helpline with contact details of about 80 resources persons be it tree planting or solid waste management.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Tension at Ariankuppam: THE HINDU

Tension at Ariankuppam

Staff Reporter

PUDUCHERRY: Tension prevailed in Ariankuppam for a few hours on Tuesday morning following an agitation planned by two rival groups on different issues.

According to the police, former MLA T. Jayamoorthy planned to organise a rally from Kamaraj Thirumani Nilayam to the PWD office to protest the delay in construction of a new bridge on Cuddalore Road at Ariankuppam. Tension brewed as MLA R.K.R. Anantharaman also came out with his supporters to stage a demonstration in front of the Ariankuppam Commune Panchayat to protest against the “poor handling” of civic problems in the area. Following the intervention of the police, Jayamoorthy and his supporters decided to abandon the plan and instead, submit a memorandum to PWD officials.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Sunday, September 21, 2008

AIADMK General Council Meet at Chennai on Sep 19

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pondicherry: Advocates to resume work today

Advocates to resume work today

Special Correspondent

PUDUCHERRY: The Pondicherry Bar Association on Wednesday decided to suspend the agitation demanding amendment to the entry 9 IV (a) in the Table under Rule 8 of the Puducherry Judicial Service (Cadre and Recruitment) Rules, 2008, besides calling for preference to residents of Puducherry in the selection of civil judges.

General secretary of the Bar Association M.S.Maruthupandian said in a statement here that the extraordinary general body meeting of the organisation also unanimously decided that the advocates would resume work from Thursday.

Entry of 9 IV (a) provided for law graduates working in Group A, B and C posts in any court in Tamil Nadu or equivalent posts in the Union Territory and those who had not enrolled themselves as advocates getting appointed as civil judges (junior division) in Puducherry, he said.

The Bar Association had also been urging the government to incorporate a clause in the Puducherry Judicial Service (Cadre and Recruitment) Rules to ensure that advocates having their residence in the Union Territory were given preference in the appointment to the judicial service, he said.

The organisation expressed its gratitude to the Chief Minister and the Law Minister of Puducherry for accepting its demands in principle and directing the Law Secretary to forward the proposed amendments to the Madras High Court.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Must read: Bankruptcy of TNEB

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Anna birth centenary


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Pondicherry: V.Vaithilingam replaces N.Rangasamy

End of an impasse


V. Vaithilingam replaces N. Rangasamy as Chief Minister in Congress-ruled Puducherry.


V. Vaithilingam taking the oath of office at Raj Nivas on September 4

AFTER a gap of 12 years, V. Vaithilingam is back at the helm of affairs in the Union Territory of Puducherry. The change of guard took place following the premature exit of the government headed by N. Rangasamy on August 28. Vaithilingam was sworn in as Chief Minister along with five Ministers, four of them from the outgoing Cabinet, on September 4.

Puducherry has had unstable governments ever since its liberation from French rule in 1954. So the latest development did not come as a surprise. It has only reiterated the fact that the political turf of the Union Territory is unstable. What the people actually agonised over was the nine-month-long standoff between Rangasamy and his Cabinet colleagues, which brought the entire administration to a standstill. Putting all development and welfare activities on the back burner, all the five Ministers in the Cabinet shuttled between Delhi and Puducherry to achieve their one-point programme of ousting Rangasamy as Chief Minister. He was chosen as Chief Minister for a second time after the Congress-Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) combine won 17 of the 30 seats in the 2006 Assembly elections.

Direct confrontations between the Chief Minister and his Ministers, burning of effigies and fisticuffs marked the infighting in the Cabinet and in the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC). The Ministers had the backing of Union Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy while Rangasamy was supported by the then PCC chief and party veteran, P. Shanmugam, who was subsequently replaced by A.V. Subramanian.

Rangasamy always attempted to steer clear of controversy. His equations with the Congress high command appeared to be so good that he was tipped for the second term in June 2006. Just as he started to consolidate his position in the government, his Ministers raised the banner of revolt. “Non-allocation of funds” for various schemes, including the special component plan meant for the welfare of Dalits, and “inept handling of the law and order” situation (the Chief Minister also handled the Home portfolio) were cited as reasons for demanding his ouster. Rangasamy was criticised for allotting all major developmental schemes, including the multi-crore government Medical College and Research Institute project, to Thattanchavady, his home constituency, while other Assembly segments were left “high and dry”.

The differences within the Cabinet assumed serious proportions when the Ministers decided not to participate in Cabinet meetings until their demands were met. As no Cabinet meeting was held after March 2008, several schemes announced by the government on the basis of the Congress’ electoral promises could not take off and many ongoing schemes had to be kept in cold storage. The Ministers consistently claimed that paucity of funds came in the way of execution of projects.

Attempts by Rangasamy to allay his detractors’ apprehensions about the availability of funds and assurances that the Planning Commission had approved a plan size of Rs.1,750 crore for 2008-09 did not work.


The infighting became so intense that not only the opposition parties such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Puducherry Munnetra Congress (PMC) but also the Congress’ alliance partners – the DMK, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) – expressed their displeasure at the government’s “inertness”. Although the Congress had only 10 elected members in the 30-member Assembly and the minority government relied on its allies for survival, repeated appeals by them to the Chief Minister and the Ministers to bury the hatchet and work for the welfare of the people in a more cohesive manner went unheeded.

The ruling party did not respond favourably to their suggestion to form a coordination panel to air their views. The Left parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the CPI, cautioned the government against incurring the wrath of the public by stretching the factional feud too far.

As the Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues began making conflicting statements on the financial status of the Union Territory, the Left parties urged the government to present a White Paper on the issue. They held protests jointly and separately against what they called the acts of omission and commission of the Congress government.


N. Rangasamy, who stepped down as Chief Minister

At one stage, the legislators belonging to the CPI, the PMK and the PMC sought the intervention of the Lieutenant Governor to convene the Assembly to end the political stalemate. The efforts made by successive Lt. Governors to promote cohesiveness in the government and transparency in governance made little impact.

The damage-control measures resorted to by All India Congress Committee observers through their interactive sessions with the Chief Minister, the Ministers and party functionaries could not bring about any significant change. As the infighting intensified, several issues that were considered vital for the progress of the Union Territory and many sectors that needed urgent government attention were ignored by the administration. One such was the demand for full statehood for Puducherry.

Although in the last Budget session the Assembly passed a near-unanimous resolution (only Minister for Tourism Malladi Krishna Rao from the Yanam region opposed it), the issue was not pursued.


Another issue that has not got due attention is the high rate of farmers’ suicide, as per data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau, in the Union Territory. Several non-governmental organisations and farmers’ associations have expressed concern over the decline in the net area of cultivation following the lack of stringent measures to regulate the real-estate business.

The government also found it difficult to explain as to how Puducherry had 1.35 lakh red ration cards (issued to below poverty line families) while the Chief Minister claimed that the per capita income had crossed Rs.60,000. No measures were taken to curb the increasing rate of unemployment. According to figures in the live register at the employment exchange, there are 1.96 lakh unemployed people in Puducherry, which has a population of 9.74 lakh as per the 2001 Census.

Although the government won acclaim for the relief and rehabilitation measures in the post-tsunami period, it has not constructed its share of permanent houses for the affected people, particularly fishermen. The feud in the Congress resulted in situations such as private medical colleges failing to fulfil their commitment to earmark 50 per cent of the seats for candidates selected by the centralised admission committee and private fleet operators effecting a fare hike arbitrarily.

Rangasamy found himself in a catch-22 situation, unable to proceed further despite claiming that the high command was satisfied with his stewardship. What tilted the scale in favour of his detractors was the decision of A. Namassivayam, Parliamentary Secretary and Rangasamy’s close relative, to join the rebel group. The Chief Minister submitted his resignation shortly before the Congress Legislature Party elected Vaithilingam its new leader.

Vaithilingam told the media after assuming office that his government would give top priority to the implementation of the election promises. The DMK and the PMK have assured the party to continue their support to Vaithilingam. The Leader of the Opposition, A.M.H. Nazeem, has asked the new government to focus on schemes that have already been sanctioned.

Vaithilingam and his team will surely have to walk a tightrope.


Also read the related stories

Pondicherry: CM & Ministers Portfolios announced

Police will have free hand, says Vaithilingam

Freedom of religion as guaranteed by law

Conversion debate

in New Delhi

The violence in Orissa is the result of prejudice caused by a flawed understanding of the freedom of religion as guaranteed by law.


Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo, Ganatantra Parishad (Swatantra Party) leader, was the Chief Minister when the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, was passed

ORISSA was the first State in India to enact a piece of legislation restricting religious conversions. The Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, provides that no person shall “convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means”.

What were the compulsions in 1967 for Orissa to enact this law, which became a precedent and a model for several States, namely, Madhya Pradesh (1968), Arunachal Pradesh (1978), Gujarat (2003), Chhattisgarh (2003), Rajasthan (2005), Himachal Pradesh (2006), and Tamil Nadu (a law was enacted in 2002, but repealed in 2004)?

Before Independence, some princely states enacted anti-conversion laws meant to protect the local people from religious conversion against their free will. Among these were the Raigarh State Conversion Act, 1936, the Sarguja State Apostasy Act, 1942, and the Udaipur State Anti Conversion Act, 1946.

The adoption of the Constitution of India in 1950, with Article 25 guaranteeing freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, these pre-Independence Acts were seen more as anachronisms and were allowed to lapse with the integration of the princely states into the Indian Union. But suspicions lingered over the activities of Christian missionaries, especially in States such as Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, which had large tribal populations.

The Government of Madhya Pradesh set up a committee to inquire into the activities of Christian missionaries in the State. The committee’s report focussed on, among other things, the inflow of money from abroad. This raised concerns about the misuse of the money in the garb of social service and charitable activities. Strangely, the report of this Madhya Pradesh committee became the basis for Orissa’s law.

Does conversion undermine faith?

The basic premise of the Orissa Act was debatable. The Act claimed: “Conversion in its very process involves an act of undermining another faith. This process becomes all the more objectionable when this is brought about by recourse to methods like force, fraud, material inducement and exploitation of one’s poverty, simplicity and ignorance.” As the Orissa Act became the model for other States, which provided more scope for abuse by the authorities than what the Orissa Act had envisaged, it deserves a close scrutiny.

The Act defines conversion as renouncing one religion and adopting another. It explains that “force” shall include a show of force or a threat of injury of any kind, including the threat of divine displeasure or social excommunication. Under the Act, “inducement” shall include the offer of any gift or gratification, either in cash or in kind, and shall also include the grant of any benefit, either pecuniary or otherwise. “Fraud” has been defined to include misrepresentation or any other fraudulent contrivance. Each of these definitions is amenable to varied interpretations, and the scope for its abuse is inherent.

Section 3 of the Act states that no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means nor shall any person abet any such conversion. The loose language in the provision suggests that in its scope, it encompasses every act of conversion, whether forced or otherwise.

The Madhya Pradesh Act introduced an additional provision requiring that whoever converts any person, either as a religious priest or by taking part directly or indirectly in a ceremony necessary for such conversion, must send an intimation to the District Magistrate that such a conversion has taken place. Failure to do so would invite imprisonment up to one year and a fine. The Act substitutes the word “inducement” used in the Orissa Act with “allurement” but makes no difference in the scope of its abuse.

Both the Orissa and Madhya Pradesh Acts were challenged in the respective High Courts. The Orissa High Court declared the Orissa Act ultra vires of the Constitution, insofar as it infringed upon the right guaranteed by Article 25. The court also held that the State legislature had no legislative competence to enact such a law, as only Parliament could legislate on matters concerning religion under Entry 97 of the Union List under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. Both the States had claimed that they were competent to legislate in terms of Entry 1 of List II (State List) dealing with public order. However, the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the Madhya Pradesh Act.

The Supreme Court’s five-Judge Constitution Bench heard the appeals against these two verdicts in Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Others (1977) and upheld these Acts. As the Supreme Court’s judgment became a sort of licence for other States to enact similar anti-conversion laws, it needs to be asked whether the judgment was correct. The court considered whether the two Acts were violative of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 25(1) of the Constitution and whether the State legislatures were competent to enact them.

Right to propagate


AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa. Tamil Nadu enacted an anti-conversion law in 2002, when she was Chief Minister, only to repeal it in 2004

Under Article 25(1), subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of Part III of the Constitution dealing with Fundamental Rights, all persons are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. The court rejected the argument that the right to “propagate” one’s religion meant the right to convert a person to one’s own religion.

Relying on the dictionary meaning of the word “propagate”, the court held that what Article 25 granted was not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets. The court further held that Article 25(1) guaranteed “freedom of conscience” to every citizen, and not merely to the followers of one particular religion, and that, in turn, postulated that if a person purposely undertook the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from his effort to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion, that would impinge on the “freedom of conscience” guaranteed alike to all citizens.

There are enough reasons to suggest that the court’s ruling needs reconsideration by a larger Bench. H.M. Seervai, the eminent author of Constitutional Law of India, whom the Supreme Court often cites in its many judgments as an authority in support of its conclusions, has pointed out in Volume 2 (1993) of his book that it was unfortunate that the legislative history of Article 25 was not brought to the Supreme Court’s attention in this case (page 1287). Seervai wrote:

“When the matter was debated in the Constituent Assembly, there was considerable discussion on the word ‘propagate’. In the course of the debate, T.T. Krishnamachari pointed out what is clear from the language of Article 25 itself, namely, that it was ‘perfectly open to the Hindus and the Arya Samajists to carry on their suddhi propaganda as it is open to the Christians, the Muslims, the Jains and the Buddhists and to every other religionist so long as it is subject to public order, morality and the other conditions that have to be observed in any civilized society’.

“But the speech of Mr. K.M. Munshi gave the historical background of Article 25(1) in the paragraph set out below, in which he pointed out the insertion of the word ‘propagate’ was the result of a compromise to reassure the minority communities, particularly the Indian Christian community. He said:

‘Moreover, I was a party from the very beginning to the compromise with the minorities, which ultimately led to many of these clauses being inserted in the Constitution and not because they wanted to convert people aggressively, but because the word ‘propagate’ was a fundamental part of their tenet. Even if the word were not there, I am sure, under the freedom of speech which the Constitution guarantees it will be open to any religious community to persuade other people to join their faith. So long as religion is religion, conversion by free exercise of the conscience has to be recognised. The word ‘propagate’ in this clause is nothing very much out of the way as some people think, nor is it fraught with dangerous consequences’” (emphasis added by Seervai).

Seervai was clear that Chief Justice A.N. Ray’s conclusion in the Stainislaus judgment ran counter to legislative history. He submitted that Chief Justice Ray did not ask the central question that was involved in the appeals before him, namely, whether conversion was a part of the Christian religion. This omission, he said, was indefensible because the judgment of the Orissa High Court delivered on October 24, 1972 (Yulitha Hyde vs. State), was under appeal to the Supreme Court and that judgment had squarely raised the central question whether conversion was a part of the Christian religion.

In its judgment, the Orissa High Court had held: “Counsel for the several petitioners have freely quoted from several Christian Scriptures of undoubted authority to show that propagating religion with a view to its spreading is a part of religious duty for every Christian and, therefore, must be considered as a part of the religion. Learned Govt. Advocate does not dispute this assertion of fact. We, therefore, proceed on the basis that it is the religious duty of every Christian to propagate his religion” (emphasis added by Seervai).

The High Court thus recorded its finding that Article 25(1) saw propagation of religion and conversion as a part of the Christian religion. Seervai observed that the Supreme Court, which reversed the judgment of the Orissa High Court, made no attempt to show that the question raised and decided was either irrelevant, or was wrongly decided. It is clear from Seervai’s comment that the Orissa High Court’s finding still holds the field, irrespective of what the anti-conversion statutes enacted by various States may say.

Seervai also explained the basic misconception in the judgment of Chief Justice Ray. He wrote: “Ray C.J. mistakenly believed that if A deliberately set out to convert B by propagating A’s religion, that would impinge on B’s ‘freedom of conscience’. But, as we have seen, the precise opposite is true: A’s propagation of his religion with a view to its being accepted by B gives an opportunity to B to exercise his free choice of a religion.”

Freedom of religion

Seervai was convinced that the “freedom of religion” guaranteed in Article 25(1) is not limited to the religion in which a person is born but includes any religion. Freedom of conscience, he wrote, harmonises with this, for its presence in Article 25(1) shows that our Constitution has adopted “a system which allows free choice of religion”. Therefore, freedom of conscience gives a person freedom to choose or not to choose any one of the many religions that are being propagated.

He elaborated further: “The right to propagate religion gives a meaning to freedom of choice, for choice involves not only knowledge but an act of will. A person cannot choose if he does not know what choices are open to him. To propagate religion is not to impart knowledge and to spread it more widely, but to produce intellectual and moral conviction leading to action, namely, the adoption of that religion. Successful propagation of religion would result in conversion” (italics supplied by Seervai). Seervai concluded his discussion thus: “The Supreme Court’s judgment is clearly wrong, is productive of the greatest public mischief and ought to be overruled.” The huge atmosphere of prejudice against Christians in Orissa and elsewhere is based on a myth that conversion is unconstitutional. The words of Seervai, who passed away on the Republic Day in 1996, are indeed prophetic.

‘Public order’ and anti-conversion laws

A study carried out by the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC), New Delhi, and published in Economic and Political Weekly (January 12, 2008) has revealed that none of the anti-conversion laws enacted by the States demonstrates any credible nexus with public order, a justification for the enactment of these laws. The study points out that while the phrase “public order” is very broad, the discretion this leaves to the State legislatures is not unlimited. The State should be required to demonstrate adequately that the disturbance extends beyond mere maintenance of law and order and qualifies as a public order issue, on the basis of its scale and extent, the study has pointed out.

The Rajasthan Bill (before its enactment), for instance, merely stated that owing to alleged conversions by force, allurement and fraud, there had been “annoyance in the community”, a weakening of the “inter-religious fabric”, and “law and order problems”. The Bill, therefore, aimed to curb illegal activities and maintain harmony amongst persons of various religions – objectives which could only be termed as vague and irrelevant to the legislation. Indeed, the SAHRDC study found that the crucial distinction between public order and law and order was not reflected in the language of these pieces of legislation.


Jaya: MK has given up rights of State

ALL SMILES: AIADMK chief J.Jayalalithaa on her arrival at Theni on Sunday
'MK has given up rights of State'

Express News Service

15 Sep 2008 03:03:00 AM IST

THENI: Former Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary J Jayalalithaa on Sunday laid a virtual charge-sheet against Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on several counts and blamed him for giving up the rights of the State and the people to the Centre, just for the sake of ruling Tamil Nadu with the support of the Congress.

Addressing a public meeting here in connection with Anna’s birth centenary, she said Karunanidhi had made several assurances in 2006 and all of which turned out to be empty ones later.“He is ruling a minority government in the State with the help of others. He has not implemented any schemes for the eradication of poverty and improving the livelihood of people,’’ she remarked.

Jayalalithaa accused Karunanidhi of not concentrating on his official duties and instead whiling away most of his time writing screenplays and dialogues, besides attending poetry sessions and producing movies. Jayalalithaa alleged that the ‘Re one kg’ PDS rice would only help smuggling of rice to other states.

Even the ‘Rs two kg’ rice supplied lacked quality. She questioned the rationale in providing the rice at ‘Re one kg’ when the prices of other food items had gone up considerably. Whenever Karunanidhi came to power, the livelihood of people was affected.Karunanidhi had given up the rights of the State on Palar, Hogenakkal and Katchatheevu, she alleged.

Earlier, she was given a rousing reception on her arrival at Theni by party functionaries, including former ministers O Panneerselvam, K A Senkottaiyan, D Jayakumar, Thambidurai, Nainar Nagendran, Anitha Radhakrishnan and Valarmathi. However, Sasikala did not accompany Jayalalithaa this time. Even TTV Dinakaran, MP, was conspicuous by his absence.


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