Monday, September 20, 2010


(inspired by the editorial under this heading in Garhwal Post of 13th September, 2010)

I took the first flight to Srinagar from New Delhi on the morning of 31st August, 1965 as suggested by Ashok Sen, Joint Secretary in charge of J & K affairs, in the Ministry of Home Affairs the previous day, when I had called on him as advised by LP Singh, Union Home Secretary. That turned out to be the last flight to Srinagar, as Indo-Pak War of 1965 broke out by late that evening. I was the first one of the six young IAS officers, drafted by the Union Home Ministry to serve as Staff Officers to the Chief Secretary, J & K, in the wake of massive infiltration by armed tribals across the LoC, at the behest of the Pakistan army in July that year, overrunning large tracts of Indian territory and undoing civil governance in the areas thus overrun. The rest of the five officers were to join a week later, traveling by road to Srinagar from Pathankot. I was earlier Sub-divisional Officer and Magistrate Lalitpur, which I was asked by the Athar Hussain, District Magistrate of Jhansi to leave within 48 hours to report to LP Singh, Union Home Secretary in New Delhi at the earliest.

Asok Sen's first suggestion to me was to take the Indian Air force plane going to Srinagar, but he wisely advised that since, in the event of the plane getting shot down, my family was not likely to get any compensation for my likely certain death, taking the Indian Airlines morning flight the next day was the best option for me. I told him that I had no money to buy the air ticket and he promptly gave me a princely sum of Rs. 2000/- for my air ticket and some warm clothing to protect me from the cold of J & K. Sitting in the crowded Fokker Friendship plane of the Indian Airlines that morning, my very first plane ride, I was gratefully ruing the wise counsel of Ashok Sen to avoid the Indian Air Force plane for this journey. The impending Indo Pak War was till then not in my mind at all. My sense of excitement at this sudden adventurous turn in my IAS carrier, new no bounds that morning as I hungrily savoured the frugal breakfast and hot cup of tea that was soon served to us by the Indian Airlines.

The plane landed with a smooth touch down on the Srinagar Airport, which had been imminently threatened by the first massive raid of armed tribals across the Indian border in late 1947 (and miraculously saved by the brave men of the Indian Army, led by late Major Somnath of the Kumaon Regiment, who was awarded Param Vir Chakra posthumously), at the scheduled time of 8 am (flights in those days were very punctual). As I faced the cold morning breeze of Srinagar, I made a beeline to the Public Call Office (PCO) to ring up Sushital Bannerji, the Additional Chief Secretary of J & K to inform him of my arrival and to seek his instructions. He picked up the phone himself (officers did that in those days in emergencies) and gave me a warm welcome and asked me to drive straight to his residence in Srinagar. Sipping a hot cup of welcoming tea in Sushital Banerji's house as I faced him, it was a great relief to me to be addressed with warm affection, after the travails of the long hectic journey starting from Lalitpur four days ago. He told me to drive to the Tourist Centre (where we as IAS Probationers had stayed in 1961 during Bharat Darshan, but since burn't down and consigned to flames by rampaging mobs inspired by the separatists) in the heart of Srinagar, where a room had been reserved for me to take care of my board and lodging. I was asked to report to the Central Control Room in the State Secretariat, which was overseeing the fast changing scenario since the infiltration began a few months ago.

The War was to last for the next twenty two days, during which the six of us Staff Officers to the Chief Secretary were doing duty in shifts, round the clock in the Control Room, seeing the Chief Minister Mir Qasim, his Home Minister DP Dhar and other high ranking dignitaries of J & K State Government and the Indian Army every morning, deliberating on the fall outs of the fluctuating fortunes of the War and the infiltration. I distinctly specially remember the fall of what was known as the "Chicken's Neck" in the Chamb Jorian Sector, the only road link between J & K and the rest of India and the subsequent decision of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Prime Minister of India to order the Indian Army to attack Lahore, whereupon the Pakistani troops withdrew from the "Chicken's Neck" and the sense of elation in the Control Room that morning hailing Shastri ji for his courageous leadership. Shastri ji had already won the hearts of the people of the Valley, after his deft handling of the "Muwey Mukkaddas" crisis pertaining to the Holy Relic in the Hazratbal Shrine, during the previous winter, when the chill air with snow flakes wafting down and the snow covered streets of Srinagar were rented with the cries of milling crowds shouting "Shastri ji kee jai-Bharat kee jai". It was indeed, a rare experience for us young IAS officers to be witness to this drama of Indian history, unfolding before our own eyes, so early in our carriers.

Our duties once the War was over, was to visit the overrun areas of the state to oversee the restoration of civil governance, the development planning mechanism and other allied matters like restoration of civic morale of the people and law and order in those affected parts. I had occasion to sit with the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, an elderly officer from UP whose name I am forgetting now, to join him in planning the civil defense of Srinagar. I had occasion to visit the famous and strategic Haji Pir Pass which had been captured by the Indian troops during the War and other border pickets of the Indian Army. Every where we found the army officers and the jawans in high spirits and felt very proud of them and their valour. The quality of governance in J & K right from the Secretariat downwards to the field level in those days, was to my mind very inefficient and I kept wandering how such a dispensation could satisfactorily address the concerns of the people at large. After three odd months in Srinagar, inspite of my Kashmiri friends insisting on my staying back, I felt that I had no place in J & K with its lax work culture, being used to the austere and efficient work culture of UP in those days. Incidentally, UP in those days was reputed to be the best administered state in India and it was to take UP another two or three decades of inept political leadership, to slide to the bottom. In my memoirs with the title "Pandit Sriram Sharma Acharya As I Knew Him... Memoirs of a Civil Servant", I have compared the governance in J & K in those days to the governance that we experience in Uttarakhand today. This book could be accessed at the website "".

What ails J & K today appears again to be the inept governance that the state government has been practicing right since the days gone by. When a system of governance neglects its normal routine functions, overtime it gets reduced to a system of governance that is only engaged in fire fighting, which it must do in order to merely survive. I have attributed this state of affairs in my memoirs, to the sacrosanct Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which in the name of autonomy has shielded the J & K state administration from the progressive measures of governance that were communicated by the Government of India from time to time, to all other states of the Indian Union right from the early days after Independence. With poor governance, which it cannot admit, the state political leaders in power, use extraneous alibis like their unmet demand for a Political Package and the repeal of the Armed Forces' Special Powers' Act (AFSPA) etc, as the main problems of the people of J & K. It must be understood that a stance such as in favour of the repeal of AFSPA, could only be on the promptings of India's enemies across the border, who find the Indian Army as the only obstacle between them and annexation of the Valley. The Army Chief has recently stated that the infiltration of terrorists across the border and LoC has increased since the current stone throwing disturbances began. So, it should be clear to any one, what exactly is the purpose of the present sponsored stone throwing protests, that is rocking the Valley only. The sharp absence of freedom in POK needs to be compared with the freedom to throw stones in the Kashmir Valley.

A bold All-Party approach is now being worked upon and a delegation of all political parties of India is visiting J & K from Monday the 20th of September, with a mandate to meet all stake holders in the state. It must be remembered that the state of J & K comprises of the Jammu Region, the Laddakh Region and the Kashmir Valley and the concens of the other two distant and distinct regions have always been neglected by the state capital in Srinagar, which is perpetually bogged down with the sponsored protests of different varieties from time to time, on the promptings of India's enemies across the border. The various factions of the separatists are going to treat the All Party delegation differently, according to the instructions they receive from their mentors across the border and the delegation would be mercifully given all facilities to meet as many people of different colours and shades as possible by the state government. The Prime Minister is right to assert, that a decision would be taken on the basis of feedback the Government of India gets from the All Party Delegation. The Union Home Minister has stated that the promises made in the past in relation to J & K need to be revisited. By all means, these measures should prove effective if addressed honestly and sincerely, but they would still be no substitute to substantial improvements in the service delivery to the people of the state, on the part of the state government, pertaining to their basic essential needs. Lofty promises and populist policies give no relief to the people, who only want the bare essentials of good governance, comprising of safety of their life and property and a livelihood of dignity. I am firmly of the view that the "IDEA of INDIA" needs to be translated into sound enlightened good governance, based on "SATYAMEV JAYATEY", if the people of India, what to say of only the people of J & K, have to savour the fruits of freedom and democracy, so preciously won on 15th August, 1947 at such heavy cost to the Indian people.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


The fact that armed intervention in the present situation against Pakistan is not one of the options open to India for various obvious national and international reasons, the strategy of coercive diplomacy with the threat of armed intervention as a possibility is being discussed in the media, which does not really amount to much as an activity to assuage the outrage felt by every Indian without distinction of religion, region, language or caste at the INVASION of INDIA on 26/11. This show of national unity has come about for the first time after 1971 and is thus of signal importance in determining the options open to India. The country can really not expect the GOI to be able to do much since the cronies who have brought about 26/11 upon India with their vacillations on dealing with terrorism for the last five years are still very much in power in New Delhi. The state governments are worse. The district administration is still the only administrative unit working in India, however haltingly and civil society has its channels of communications with it still working. This is where WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA could begin to assert ourselves by organizing the Mohalla committees to become watch-dogs for detecting suspicious objects wrapped in polythene bags near garbage dumps, which are a standing invitation to the sleeping modules of the terrorists silently going about their lethal business of killing innocent people right in our midst. These Mohalla committees could also establish links with the various civic services to provide aid in an emergency to helpless people in the Mohalla. The various district and city associations could organize themselves to deal with all kinds of emergencies with the district administration as well as the Municipal or Mahapalika authorities and in this manner the whole district would be prepared to deal with every terror related episode on a continuous basis. It has been noticed that the terrorists only target locations or cities which are least prepared and the kind of preparation that is being mentioned here would not remain a secret. We in Dehradun have already started this process with admirable results. In this manner if every district in India was to do so WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA would have made it impossible for the terrorists to go about their business of killing innocent people and making INDIA a laughing stock of the whole world. WHY NOT TRY to do something instead of fuming at our impotent and corrupt political and society leaders. These leaders are never going to come to the aid of helpless people of India.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Road Ahead after INVASION of INDIA-26/11

We hear a great deal of political noise - a cabinet rejig: a new Home Miniser who is definitely more professionally competent. Would he get the go ahead from the HQ at Race Course Road to do what is needed to meet the developing situation? (i) The first is a comprehensive law to be even more effective than POTA - such deficiencies as may have been noticed in its implementation for three years (the NDA had taken almost two years in drafting it) to be rectified. (ii) An NSG like organization as a wing of ATS having crack policemen from state para-military organizations, (not at all from the army who are already manning the central NSG) at the state level by no further creation of posts for senior state police officers. (iii) A Federal Intelligence Co-ordination Mechanism (not a Federal Intelligence Agency advocated by PM for the last few years and opposed by the states, which would in any case be filled up by the henchmen of the ruling combine at the centre) as part and function of IB which already has state-level-units to do their bidding in the states (why should the PM be advocating vociferously for a Federal Intelligence Agency when IB was already charged with this responsibility for the last 60 years, really beats common sense). If IB is not doing its job properly it should be streamlined to do its assigned job instead of it being used for collection of political intelligence relating to the other political parties. (iv) A proper assessment of Muslim Terrorism which is not the same as Islamic Terrorism, realizing fully that the Wahabi sect of Islam (which is the state religion of Pakistan) advocates terrorism as a legitimate means to extend the domain of Islam. Only the Bareilly School of Islamic Clerics have termed the Wahabi sect as non- Islamic, all others while denouncing terrorism as un-Islamic are at heart in sympathy with the Wahabi sect. (v) Any other issues which those who are in the line of fire would know better. Let us see if any of this gets decided by the system of governance at New Delhi in the months to come before the LOK SABHA polls.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How are terrorists made?

It appears that the criminals of a few religions in the world have decided to adopt terrorism as a convenient means to carry on their trade under the garb of the "Name of God" ie religion which gives them great respectability in their community and they are never short of funds. At the same time they can satisfy their sadistic delight in innocent people getting killed and they can go down in history as martyrs in the rare event of their getting killed. The police which is usually busy guarding the VIPs has no clue of what is going on. The usual review of law and order mostly deals with offenses covered by the IPC or CrPC and terrorism does not figure there. So we have a wonderful situation of the criminals and the police never meeting and since the secure VIPs do not need to be too concerned about the innocent people getting butchered we have the well known stand of the government that "the guilty shall not go unpunished" and in the event of some expedient arrests being made, a declaration "Law will take its own course" seems to dispose off an episode of terrorism.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hindu Terrorism-Is it a fact or fiction?

If it is a fact it is alarming enough, but if it is a fiction and this media adventure-ism is only a political gimmick to frighten the minorities, then it is still worse because what is at present a fiction is likely to become a fact with passage of time. That cannot be a pleasing prospect! There is really no way a citizen can know what is really going on, the credibility of the police not being at its best. The neutral citizen can do his or her best to with-hold judgment till the forth-comming Lok Sabha elections are over. There is no doubt that the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution are of eternal validity and all people of India, it is hoped would continue to cherish them.

Friday, October 31, 2008


The recent Regional Conference on Health, Population and Social Development held in Chandigarh under the auspices of the Population Foundation of India (PFI) ended on an optimistic note that a socio-cultural movement in the country is now in the offing to begin celebrating every child-birth as an event which would in time signal the arrival of a new generation of Indians who would do their country and society proud. At long last the specter of population explosion that had been haunting the Indian planners ever since 1950 is now gradually receding and the social activists engaged in demographic concerns can now look up to reordering their priorities to begin a new series of advice to different states according to the stage of demographic transition that each state in the Indian Union may find itself in.

It was felt that this transition was likely to be multi-dimensional and broadly would have four distinct directions which were capable of multiplying as the transition progressed in each state. These could be stated as (i) new health issues such as rapid increase of problems of caring for the old due to longer life expectancy (such as in Kerala), child obesity due to lack of exercise to children leading to diabetes (nearly all over the country) and concerns relating to extending “health for all” due to greater health seeking behavior of the emerging population; (ii) new emerging reproductive and child health issues which would need to be addressed in tune with the demographic transition that each state may find itself in; (iii) the new socio-cultural responses that would become necessary to address the old prejudices in order to smother them and sublimate them to make way for an inclusive mindset conducive to social harmony. This would in turn call for a multidimensional approach to social discourse on population issues with special emphasis on also celebrating the arrival of a girl child in every family and last but not the least (iv) the legal issues arising out of the implementation of the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act or PNDT Act in short, the resort to Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act as means of family planning and the efficacy of the system of compulsory civil registration of every birth and death to deal with female foeticide. An interesting input came from a representative of a participating state government that an attitude of pro-active state intervention in population issues could have negative fallouts in the sense that the role of civil society would tend to get subverted in the long run and strangely, the civil society representatives in the conference seemed to disagree with this point of view. This article would explore these ideas one by one beginning from the last point relating to an attitude of pro-active state intervention and its perils.

The Sample Registration Survey (SRS) figures released by the Registrar General of India every year have been revealing for the first time after India’s independence that the rate of growth of population began to decline continuously after 1996. This happens to coincide with the change in the policy adopted by Government of India in relation to the Family Welfare (FW) programme with effect from that year i.e. adoption of a TARGET FREE approach to the sterilization (vasectomy and tubectomy) programme including the methods of contraception such as oral pills, IUCD, condoms etc as against a top-down-targeted approach to these methods adopted ever since the Family Planning (FP) programme was initiated in the first decade after independence. The new approach stressed on determining targets for the field workers (in consultation with them) on the basis of Community Needs Assessment (CNA) starting from the community at the hamlet level, the target for each worker adding up to the revenue village, the Panchayat, the block, the district and the state according to the worker’s jurisdiction, thereby granting them autonomy in their functioning. This bottom-up approach was in sharp contrast to the then prevailing practice of irrationally imposing targets top down uniformly from the Government of India on the basis of the population of a given administrative unit.

It may be of interest to quickly go over the various phases through which the FP movement in the country passed from an entirely clinical approach in the first two decades with the slogan HUM DO HAMARE DO. The main emphasis in this phase was to target the male population in the reproductive age group by fixing targets of vasectomies to be performed on the basis of the population of an administrative unit such as the states, the districts, the development blocks etc. This phase was characterized by quality work on the part of doctors in adhering to strict standards of surgical procedures etc but in terms of numbers of vasectomies performed they were few and far between to have any impact on the rate of growth of population and the targets set were seldom met. The decade of seventies saw a change in the strategy of implementation in the FP movement with the districts becoming the focus of attention. Each district was encouraged to hold FP camps in selected months of the year to suit the farmers and a camp was organized keeping in mind the highest standards of surgical procedures with a team of doctors working round the clock during the camps. Each case of vasectomy was treated like a VIP from beginning to the entire follow up right through the week after the surgery till the stitches were removed. Each camp was able to perform tens of thousands of vasectomies with each case of even a minor complaint being addressed at the level of the district magistrate.

Then came the year 1975 when all of a sudden district magistrates began to be coerced to adopt fair or foul means to achieve the impossible targets that began to flow from Government of India. Cinema halls began to be encircled to round up people to be taken straight to the operation table for getting a vasectomy nick and then to be driven away to make way for the next victim. Cinema halls across the country went deserted to avoid such a fate and in 1977 when Parliamentary elections were held the ruling party was decimated in North India and considerably weakened in the South. The new political formation that came to power at the center immediately changed the name Family Planning to Family Welfare and the programme content underwent some fundamental changes with considerable emphasis on health of mother and child. The programme suddenly acquired a human face. The other fallout not entirely humane was a shift in sterilization from vanishing vasectomies to tubectomies and the programme began to hunt the prospective female candidates for tubectomies to achieve the targets of sterilization. The story of targets being met year after year with little or no impact on the rate of growth of population is now well known, leading to an obvious conclusion that the figures of achievements were being fudged with immunity by the states to avail the Government of India’s cent per cent grant for targets met, led the latter to adopt the target free approach in 1996 after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994.

The steady decline in the SRS figures year after year relating to the rate of growth of population since then only go to confirm that the change in policy by Government of India in 1996 was a step in the right direction. It is strange that the critics of the target free approach are unable to see the absurdity of top-down approach to the fixing of targets which they seem to be beholden to, thereby compromising the quality of the family welfare services which would concentrate on meeting the targets (to avail Government of India grants for the targets met) instead of concentrating on client satisfaction. The point regarding the perils of a policy of pro-active state intervention has clearly emerged from this narrative. The state policy would best be such as to enable a couple in the reproductive age group to be able to decide how it would like to plan its family and the state system should provide an efficient delivery mechanism to enable the family planning services to perform at their optimal best without invading the privacy of each couple. It must be remembered that the sensitivity relating to maintaining the privacy of every couple in this most intimate of human relations was an important part of the training of FP workers when the programme was launched way back in the First Five Year Plan in 1950.

The New Health Issues:

Kerala is an example of a state which is witnessing the demographic transition very close to a stage of stabilized size of population. The number of aged persons is increasing rapidly with a totally changed spectrum of disease burden falling on the health-providing system whether in the state sector or the private sector, along with the socio-cultural aspects of looking after the old family members by the nuclear families. Similarly the incidence of obesity amongst the children, due to a progressively sedentary life style being adopted, as a status symbol of prosperity, is making them diabetic leading to a decline in their longevity. A doctor made bold to assert that it is for the first time in human history that people are going to see their children die during their own life-time. The health seeking behavior of the population has also undergone a drastic change with economic prosperity and increase in longevity and the increased disease burden due to newer strains of viruses of different kinds invading the rapidly urbanizing conglomerations, has greatly complicated the health scenario. This coupled with the states aiming at providing “health for all”, has imposed a greater responsibility on the health-providing system which would have to be addressed effectively in future with the help of progressively ascending investment in public health.

The Emerging Reproductive and Child Health Issues:

These issues are going to change as demographic transition of different shades get underway in different states in order to rearrange their priorities to choose out of the various strands and components of the entire strategy of population stabilization as it has evolved with the National Population Policy 2000. That policy emphasizes the sovereign right of each couple in the reproductive age group to decide for itself the means it would like to adopt to limit its family size. The nationwide surveys carried out in the last decade have established that the need for a small family is now universally accepted and the paradigm shift which came about after the Cairo Conference on ICPD in the realm of population concerns has underlined the significance of the role of women in this area. In this context the statistics of sex ratio in different states acquires special significance, and this happened to be the burning concern in the Chandigarh Conference organized by PFI for the three states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The high incidence of female foeticide in Punjab and Haryana and the tendency to have one son to inherit the family property in order to prevent its fragmentation, have led to the demographic situation of a very adverse sex ratio in these states. Himachal Pradesh was in contrast doing very well in nearly all the demographic parameters which herald a situation of a stabilized size of population in the near future in that state. The change in the mindset of people in Punjab and Haryana to enable them to successfully address the prejudices against the girl child could only come about when this problem is addressed on all possible fronts such as education, women and child development, medical and health, culture and so on so forth involving the state departments concerned also along with civil society activists in a proactive manner with optimal synergy, to trigger a social reform movement to enhance the status of women in these societies.

Sociological Issues:

States like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan which have historically been for long victims of internecine warfare and which have prided themselves for their manly vigour have had a tradition of prizing a male progeny in preference to a girl child, because the male would in any case be killed sooner or later in some skirmish either due to external aggression or some feud with a neighbouring chieftain. Changing this mindset nurtured for centuries in the past is not going to be easy and the social activists engaged in this area of social engineering must take into account the susceptibilities of people in these states while going about their mission to bring about change. The social discourse which needs to be initiated to bring about the necessary change in the mindset would have to contend with all the lewd and uncultured vocabulary that casually goes on at the level of people to assert their point of view to counter efforts to change their established mindset which they happen to cherish. This is where a multi-dimensional, multi-sectoral approach to social engineering in states undergoing similar demographic transition would need to be initiated both by civil society and the public sector in conjunction, to generate maximum synergy. The goal of such efforts would be to engender a mindset which would begin celebrating the arrival of a girl child also in each family as heralding the entry of goddess of wealth and prosperity Luxmi in the family. Taboos such as a daughter cannot light the funeral pyre of the deceased parents (giving mukhagni) or that old parents cannot stay with their married daughters need to be got over in order to minimize the significance for son-preference. These social mores have been engrained over centuries when they were perhaps relevant in the past, but now leading persons in such societies have to come forward to set examples so that others who may not be having the courage to go against the established traditions can make bold and help in modifying them.

The Emerging Legal Issues:

It has been mentioned earlier that the desirability of a small family has been well accepted in India by nearly all sections of society, but the traditional preference for a male child had by the decade of nineties of the last millennium introduced strange distortions in the prevailing social practices putting a premium on sex determination of the foetus prior to a child being delivered by a pregnant women. To counter this tendency Government of India promulgated the PNDT Act to come into effect from 1996, whereby sex determination before birth through ultrasound machines was made punishable. The implementation of this Act has come in for sharp criticism due to many legal and procedural lacunae. The significant input which came in the Chandigarh Conference was that each machine should be legally mandated under the rule making powers of the executive to maintain automatic records of ultrasounds performed, to be made available for inspection by the prescribed authority. This would effectively rule out any subversive activities to pander to local social pressures in return for a consideration. This coupled with an effective system of compulsory civil registration of births and deaths would go a long way to minimize chances of foeticide which apparently is being resorted to at the cost of the girl child. Yet another sensitive issue of a pregnant woman seeking abortion in the early stages of her pregnancy who has often to take resort to the services of quacks at great risk to her health and life came up for discussion in Chandigarh. In this context it was asserted that the MTP Act promulgated in the seventies of the last century had made safe abortions on the grounds of the woman’s health possible. It was felt that the distortions in the implementation of this Act over the last few decades too need to be reviewed.


The population stabilization movement known by different names during the last fifty years has always stressed on networking of all the agencies of civil society to address the concerns relating to population explosion in India. These agencies can be named as the state, the voluntary groups, the corporate sector, the different religious, social and cultural groups, the different caste panchayats, social activists of all hues and intellectuals ready to ‘walk the talk’. The optimistic note on which the Chandigarh Conference concluded seemed to suggest that there was now a fresh need to galvanize civil society to set right the distortions that may have crept in into this movement during its passage over the last half a century. This mobilization would have to be organized with the help of all these agencies, to begin celebrating every child birth instead of the state viewing it as a curse on the one hand and every family rejoicing it on the other. The need to take care of the nutrition available to each child in the first five years in every family would be the paramount responsibility of the state to ensure that their brains and physical growth are not starved for essential nutrients. We need to remind ourselves that signs of population explosion in India are now only visible in the metropolises, the state capitals, the district towns and mushrooming urban conglomerations due to rural-urban migration which has to be addressed by strategies different from those required for population stabilization. This trend of rural-urban migration is leaving quite a few villages deserted to the great detriment of the concerns relating to food security of the country. How would such a peoples’ movement as recommended in the session on the media’s role during the Chandigarh Conference be set into motion? Could the Population Foundation of India take the lead in this direction? The theme could be “ Ladka Ladki Aik Saman, Dono Ko Ho Vidya Dan” with all the other relevant issues relating to population stabilization skillfully woven into this theme.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Parsi Community of India

Has it ever been heard that a member of the Parsi community is or has been involved in a violent incident of rioting or in any manner of terrorist related violence in India? They are a minuscule of a minority community in India. Has this never occurred to anyone as to how or why it is so? Well, the most significant fact which comes to notice is that the Parsi community has no leaders who have sponsors abroad or in any political party in INDIA. They are a community which has been and is making its contribution to the national good in many ways through their whole-hearted participation in all major areas of national endeavors and at the same time they invest a great deal of effort and time to the welfare of their own community, i.e. they have an attitude that is known as enlightened self-interest.

Every incident of such violence only involves members of those communities some of whose selected leaders have sponsors abroad or amongst the political parties in the country. These foreign sponsors are to the north, east and west of India and also amongst political parties and some business houses who control the mass media inside the country. They are known to most of the important people in authority in India as well as to such leaders of all the communities involved in such incidents of violence. Apparently, all that happens suits all such leaders because such incidents of violence please their sponsors who are the first ones to condemn them after each incident. Any invitation to these community leaders by government for a dialogue is spurned by them because it would not suit their sponsors.

What is the solution to this problem? The straight answer is "INDIA HAS TO BECOME STRONG”, physically, intellectually and spiritually. Fortunately, India is strong in the last two of these areas and is growing in physical strength day by day. What will make INDIA STRONG? Concerted effort by all right-minded Indians to concentrate on only undertaking creative activities needs to be addressed. They need not waste their precious time in crab-like leg-pulling or making fun of fellow Indians, who may be trying to be creative. The rest may be left to Yogeshwar Vasudev Shri Krishna whose message of the Bhagwad-Gita is for the entire humanity. The prominent feature of his message is ‘To action alone hast thou a right, not at all to the fruits thereof. Let not fruits of action be thy motive, neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction’. Those having faith in the Guru, Lord Jesus Christ or Allah or Ahur Mazda or any other name representing the Divine may leave the results of their creativity to the Divine, since we have no control over the results. There are innumerable instances in India throughout its length and breadth where examples of people engaged in fundamental creativity can be seen to be taking practical shape. The external sponsors of violence in the country must be told very clearly "HANDS OFF!!". All the leaders involved would also understand this language and would decide to withdraw inside their respective cocoons. These are difficult times and one must not lose faith in the inherent strengths of India which have enabled her to survive with dignity, continuously for the past thousands of years. If my readers are looking for some creative ideas they can find plenty of them in our website

Now let us come back to the Parsi community. Why cannot other minorities adopt the ways of this community? What is the most prominent aspect of the Parsi community? It is 'Live well and let others also live well' and this dictum seems to extend to all fields of national endeavors, with Parsis excelling in all fields. It has never been heard that any one in India has discriminated against the Parsis. They have never demanded reservation in jobs, schools, technical and other institutions, but have made their way to the top by improving their own abilities. What do the masses of other minorities gain by their selected leaders trying to propagate the falsehood that India is not safe for the minorities and that they are being discriminated against? Why don't these masses stop listening to such selected leaders? These leaders have only amassed wealth at the cost of their respective communities. The minorities who depend on their own strength of mind and heart do not need political leaders to steer the welfare of their masses. The PARSIS do not have any political godfathers, so can other minorities prosper in India without political godfathers.

Let us recollect the names of prominent Parsis in contemporary India. Bharat Ratna JRD Tata stands out as an outstanding Indian who not only was an eminent captain of industries in India, but was also the father of civil aviation, being the first Chairman of Air India International as well as the Indian Airlines. His dream of a prosperous India led him to found what has now blossomed into the Population Foundation of India dedicated to stabilization of India’s population. The House of Tata’s is the only industrial house in India which has adopted the Gandhian Principle of Trusteeship in its management and has adopted a stringent code of ethics for all its employees so that their conduct does not bring a bad name to their industrial house. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw is a well known national hero whose exploits in the battlefield are already part of our folklore. Other prominent Parsis who can be named today are General Satarawala, Lt.General R.K. Nanavatty, the Indo-anglian poet Keki Daruwala, musician Pinaz Masani, astrologer Bejan Daruwala, politicians Feroze Gandhi, Minoo Masani and a host of other prominent Parsis whose names I am unable to recollect readily, not forgetting the prominent Parsis in India’s history. Suffice it to say that this community has proved what an intelligent minority community can achieve in an atmosphere and environment that India makes available to all its children who care for their motherland. This is not to say that there have not been many national heroes belonging to other minority groups, but these heroes are not the ideals of those selected members of the minorities who are engaged in promoting terrorism and forced religious conversions in India. How can anyone help any minority community whose talented selected members are not hesitating to shed the blood of innocent members of other communities or are using devious means to convert people of other faiths when every citizen of India has total freedom in this regard. The flow of foreign funds for these activities is not hidden from anyone in India. These selected members of the minority communities are the agents who raise such issues as human rights of terrorists and other underground outfits in the media to divert attention of all concerned to the main problems facing the country. They choose to be conveniently oblivious of the human rights of the innocent victims of their nefarious deeds. The distinguished members of these minority communities who are in the pay of external forces have no hesitation in compromising the fundamental issues relating to the basic welfare of the mass of their respective communities because they owe their loyalty only to their foreign sponsors. They seem to have mastered the art of manipulating the media and political leaders of their dispensation to do their bidding to come out with carefully tutored versions of current events and their fallouts. They would soon have to recognize the inherent strength of the Indian ethos which cannot be misguided indefinitely and they would be compelled by circumstances to let go of their hidden agendas and to stop their nefarious activities so that their masses do not continue to be misled by them.

It would be of interest to my distinguished readers if I were to take them back in history to trace the story of the initiation of the poison of what now-a-days passes for communalism practiced in the garb of minorityism by the ruling establishment which seems to have forgotten the mantra “Satymaiv Jayatey” meaning---‘Only Truth Prevails’ inscribed in the logo of the Government of India. This concern relating to minorityism is also practiced by a host of other political parties too to further their prospects in the periodic elections. Even the hated JAZIA TAX imposed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb on the Hindus could not provoke a violent response from the local people, but the East India Company had brought about the first communal riot in India within less than hundred years of the Battle of Plassey won by their army without firing a single canon in 1757 AD with the help of their deceitful ally Mir Jafar. This was in 1936 AD on the occasion of mourning relating to Moharram observed by the Muslims during the procession which was passing through a narrow street in a Hindu mohalla and the TAZIAS which are normally carried high above the shoulders and which are not supposed to be lowered while in the procession, happened to get obstructed. That was pretext enough to launch a massacre of Hindus in that mohalla. This was the new face of Islam in India, the WAHABI SECT who had been encouraged to practice their brand of Islam by the East India Company. That has been the story of these riots right till the now infamous GUJARAT RIOTS sparked by the gutting of a railway bogie transporting karsewaks from Ayodha in Uttar Pradesh. Pakistan as a nation has been following the tenets of this sect of Islam as their state religion since its formation and the Muslim League which was encouraged to bring about the division of India to create Pakistan was doing so before 1947 AD. It was the infamous massacre of Hindus of Bengal on 15th June 1947, the day of DIRECT ACTION, a call given by the Muslim League to force the partition of the country when the streets of the city then known as Calcutta were painted red with the blood of innocent people, which convinced even Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Azad that partition of India was no longer avoidable. It is another story that it is the Muslims of undivided India themselves who are the biggest sufferers of the creation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Otherwise Muslims would not have been a minority in undivided India by now.

Contemplating that eventuality, keeping in mind the state of terrorism in the name of Islam today which was actively promoted by the British since the twentieth century, would be an interesting exercise for those western powers who brought about India’s partition and who would have had to contend then, with their latest concern for tackling the global face of terrorism (earlier promoted by them only), not to mention the likely fate of the Christian minority, their latest other concern, in such an undivided India. Such are the quirks of history!! Both the minorities, Christians as well as Muslims are safe in India today in spite of all the provocations that the foreign sponsors of selected members of their respective communities are promoting assiduously ever since India became an independent nation in 1947. In fact, India was and continues to be a paradise for all shades of minorities of all faiths as well as for all its sons and daughters on account of an unbroken tradition of inclusive ideas, religious thoughts and cultural practices going back to over 5000 years of its recorded history and springing from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas. An average Indian (I do not count the highly educated and very rich Indians as being part of the average) is naturally living the twin perceptions of ‘Atmawat Sarbhuteshu’ meaning ‘all living beings are like me’ and ‘Vasudhaiv Kutambakam’ meaning ‘The World is a Family’. It is India which has to give to the world an inclusive culture which she has herself practiced and which alone would help create a climate for genuine WORLD PEACE. This has to be the vision of all concerned Indians for India’s role, once she becomes a WORLD POWER, the vision 2020 AD.

India longs for the Christianity of Lord Jesus Christ, whose message of love and service was adopted by Swami Vivekanand to start the Ramakrishna Mission. His Master as the Swami used to call his Guru Shri Ramakrishnadev had described Christ as Krishna Chetna and had himself done his sadhana as a devout Chriatian also. The intensity of missionary activity in India during the last 200 years can be gauged by the fact that as early as by 1820 AD the Holy Bible had been translated into 27 Indian languages. Even the Indian Constitution framed in 1950 has only 16 languages which have been scheduled. The poor of India are not starving to avail Christian charity but need assistance to stand on their own feet while keeping intact their self-esteem. The Christian charity of the missionaries would have them eat out of their hands for ever to make them dependant, in return for converting them to their faith. Here lies the rub; this attitude is what sows the seeds of conflict; this is how misrepresentation of Hindu deities and subterfuges of various kinds generates violence attributed to the Hindus of the area concerned. Even Mahatma Gandhi had cautioned the missionaries of various faiths of his day regarding their techniques. The Methodist Bishop Fischer of USA who had invited Mahatma Gandhi after the Round Table Conference in London in 1931 AD (which invitation the Mahatma declined due to pressing calls from India) and who was later to marry the lady who became famous as Mrs. Welthy Fischer for her work in India in the field of adult literacy, gave up his church on the issue of conversions in India. The Bishop contended that India was a country where people were naturally religious and don’t need to be converted. This was also the view of the German Philosopher Max Muller who contended that the missionaries in India need to understand that India was not the same as the African Continent because people here are instinctively religious philosophers.

Similarly, India longs for the Islam of the Prophet Hazrat Mohammed, as brought by the Sufi saints Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and his disciple Amir Khusro and later carried forward by Sheikh Farid and his disciple Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer right till the time of Aurangzeb. While the deposed President of Pakistan, Mian Musharraf was prompt to offer a chadder at the Muslim Shrine, the Dargah of Khwaza of Ajmer when he came to India to attend the Indo-Pak conference at Agra on Prime Minister Vajpai’s invitation, he had no qualms in regard to the cross-border militancy that he had sponsored like all his predecessors as a proxy war against India, at the behest of his patron ally the USA who had played an active role in enabling Pakistan to acquire a nuclear arsenal enough to destroy all the cities of India. It was the same USA which decided to befriend China in the decade of seventies of the last millennium, when Henry Kissinger was actively engaged in scheming on how to encircle India. I am sure my readers would be a little wiser by now as to who all are behind the mayhem that takes place periodically in India when serial blasts or Naxalite or ULFA related underground activities take place all over India killing innocent people, and the government of the day pledged to “SATYAMAIV JAYATEY” continues to be a silent spectator, and only confines itself to condemning the violent incidents from the highest quarters and announcing cash compensations which are seldom disbursed to their real victims. I feel a further peep into India’s history would be of interest to my readers who must be wondering that, after all from when and where did the story of India’s misfortunes begin.

Dealing with this matter chronologically backward I must take my readers to the times of Mughal Emperor Akbar who made a determined effort as an article of state policy known by the name of “SULAHKUL” to bridge the Hindu-Muslim divide perceived to be the most pernicious of divides in India right up to the present times, since the arrival of Islam in this country in the seventh century AD initially and later in strength in the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD. It may be of interest to know that it was in the reign of Akbar that Hindi as a link language of India came into its own in addition to flowering as a language of literature to which both Hindus and Muslims and still later, the Sikh Gurus made valuable contributions. Akbar’s favorite Subedar Abdur-Rahim-Khankhana who was a close friend of Goswami Tulsidas had described the famous literary creation of the latter, based on the life of Lord Ram and known by the name of Ramcharitmanas as equivalent to the Vedas of the Hindus and the Koran Sharif of the Muslims. Right to the present days the illiterate folk both Hindus and Muslims of east UP sing the verses of Ramacharitmanas while going about their daily chores nonchalantly. One would like to know the fate of the grave of Abdur-Rahim-Khankhana in old Delhi today. It is neglected with no one to care for it, not even the Archeological Survey of India under the government of India which is supposed to look after such historical monuments of the Mughal period. Why is it so? The self-styled leaders of Muslims in India right since the days of Emperor Akbar have not forgiven Rahim for his alleged blasphemy by calling Ramcharitmanas as equivalent to the Koran Sharif.

Such has been the intolerance of the so-called leaders of this minority community after Akbar the Great. All the successors of Emperor Akbar not only reversed his policy of “SULAHKUL” but even adopted a policy of persecution of the Hindus of the day. The persecution of the Sikh Gurus who were initially only propagating harmony amongst all faiths was carried to such an extent that by the time of the Tenth Guru Govind Singh Sikhism had become the KHALSA which was dedicated to defend the faith of the faithful by violent means if necessary. It was the first war of independence in 1857 AD that for the last time the Hindu-Muslim divide was forgotten under the leadership of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’ when all the people of India were united to fight the forces of East India Company. Even a formula for resolving the Ram Mandir dispute of Ayodhya was hammered out by an agreement for handing over the whole complex to the Hindus after the conflict was to be over. That was not to be. The first war of independence was lost and Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’ was banished to die in captivity in Rangoon in the then Burma in the Mandalay prison. The British saw to it that the Ayodhya dispute would continue to fester by not allowing the agreement to go through.

The story after that is almost contemporary history. India became an independent nation dedicated to secularism in 1947 AD, though in the process it suffered vivisection which is now regretted by the Muslims in India. My complaint against the Muslim leaders who bravely decided to stay back with India is-‘Why did they not do enough to mainstream the psyche of the Muslim masses when the going was good and India was being led by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru for 17 years after 1947?’ Panditji was a staunch secularist and was an undisputed leader of India in whom Muslim masses had implicit faith. Even in the time of Pandit Nehru Shri Ram Manohar Lohia, a prominent socialist politician and a firm adherent of the policy of secularism, had asked Panditji to issue a statement that India will not tolerate any mischief from a small section of Muslim leadership with links with some countries in the Middle East, which was still busy in their divisive game, a game which had earlier created Pakistan; and Pandit Nehru did do so, but it appears that the same was not followed up seriously enough by the majority of Muslim leadership which was with the ruling Congress party. The result is what we see today in India, with this small minority of Muslims who have the slogan ‘Lar ke liya Pakistan-Lar ke lenge Hindustan’ on their lips, which small minority then leads the Muslim vote-bank by the nose. It is only the Muslim clerics of the Bareilly School who have since disowned the extremist Wahabi sect of Islam. The Taliban claim their allegiance to Darul-Ul-Ulloom of Deoband (in Saharanpur district of UP) though Deoband now denies this for obvious reasons. So the hard-core of Muslim clerics are still wedded to the Wahabi extremist sect in India and this mindset continues to hanker for the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb as their role model; they support the terrorist activities of their lunatic fringe while outwardly denouncing the same and at the same time utilize the unsavory fallouts of such terrorist attacks to further their separatist designs. This is from where the foreign sponsors of terrorism and the Muslim leadership of the day pick up their inspirations from time to time and the major political parties banking on Muslim votes fall in line. They would have to change their attitude if peace has to return.

There is no political solution to this problem in sight now, so terribly are the issues mixed up with petty power politics where capturing power any how is the order of the day. Those in power want to make as much money while in power and their sole objective is to save for the rainy day, for they have no hope of winning the next elections. Those out of power are busy scheming their moves to come to power. The politicians of the day have no stomach for reforms, political, electoral or administrative. People are fast losing faith in the politicians. The only solution lies in what I have hinted already in the suggestions made in the earlier paragraphs of this article i.e. adopting a corrective and creative process by which the best elements of all concerned groups including all the minorities, begin to get together in a nationwide effort to give the right social values to the younger generation which is still free from the weight of past history. This is going to be a long and tortuous process for which honest efforts would have to be made by all concerned in a spirit of genuine camaraderie. The cream of Indian genius, which is on the verge of retirement or has retired from their active carrier-oriented lives in the recent past, need to put their heads together, for they have the time as well as energy enough to pull India out of the morass in which our politicians have landed her during the last 60 years. This they must do for the sake of their next generation, which would not forgive them if they fail to do so RIGHT NOW.