Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Jamila Verghese
Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

The LTTE is one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world and was partly bred in Tamil Nadu where Prabhakaran abused the freedom of Indian soil to mount his murderous campaign.

Treading Dangerously in Tamil Waters

The DMK’s action in holding a gun to the government’s head, demanding the Centre intervene on behalf of the LTTE, is fraught with peril. Here’s why.

By B G Verghese

New Indian Express, 22 October, 2008

Incivility and treading dangerously appear to be the flavour of the season. The DMK’s demarche on Delhi to lean on Colombo to save the LTTE from the severe military mauling it appears to be receiving is a brazen demand to hand over India foreign policy to Chennai in order to serve parochial interests. That the Centre should even seem to be cowed by Karunanidhi’s blackmail is dismaying and fraught with grave consequences.

No country can dictate to another sovereign nation how it should conduct its internal affairs. The plea that India impose a ceasefire to halt the Lankan offensive that threatens the LTTE stronghold of Kilinochchi, ostensibly to save innocent Tamil lives, essentially reflects the compulsions of Tamil Nadu power play. President Rajapaksa has rejected such dictation while offering assurances that everything is being done to protect civilian lives and ensure humanitarian assistance to the large number of Tamils displaced by the fighting. The LTTE is one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world and was partly bred in Tamil Nadu where Prabhakaran abused the freedom of Indian soil to mount his murderous campaign. That sorry chapter, culminating in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, must not be repeated.

At a time when India is fighting terrorism, separatism and other brands of disruptive and divisive violence, it cannot ask, let alone arm-twist, others to desist. There may be no military solution to most political problems but when a separatist terror group takes to the gun and exploits every pause to regroup and indulge in more brutal killings, using child soldiers and hapless citizens as a shield, the State cannot sit back. It has a duty and responsibility to discharge. If the DMK carries out its threat to call in the resignations of its MP’s if it does not get satisfaction by October 28, so be it. A government that surrenders to such bluster will not be worth saving. If the NDA and Left support the DMK, the more shame on them.   

Coalition politics is here to stay but all sides must join to set the rules. Partners cannot be permitted to dictate which portfolios they will have and who from their ranks shall fill them. This makes for irresponsible government, with each element reporting directly to a state or party boss. There is also been the disgraceful episode in Goa where a Minister has been protecting his son, charged with rape, and not surrendering him to the police on the ground that another Minister is framing him. In Mumbai, Raj Thackeray’s goons have again beaten up North Indian railway examinees. Too much latitude has been casually allowed on a variety of grounds and must be retracted by common consent if we are to uphold good governance. Immunity has bred impunity and the threshold of decency and values been constantly lowered.

Suspense on postponing J&K elections to match some imagined “improved” political climate has sensibly been resolved in favour of early polls. Deferment would have handed a huge a victory to and reinforced the assumed veto powers of separatist elements that are afraid to face the people and yet claim to speak in their name. Worrying about the turnout and degree of participation is irrelevant as those who put a gun to peoples’ head to prevent a poll will be responsible for preventing an expression of self-determination by the people, which is what an election implies. Mehbooba Mufti’s huffing and puffing betrays an inner incoherence in the PDF in its shrill effort to be all things to all men. The Hurriyat’s call for a poll boycott follows the United Jihad Council’s earlier diktat from across the border, while its parroting the call for “tripartite” talks presumes credentials that it simply does not possess minus the gun. Dr Manmohan Singh has again shown the way forward by calling for “making boundaries irrelevant” and reiterating Government’s willingness to dialogue with all concerned,  including the Hurriyat, and press forward talks with Pakistan. That thousands joyfully took a train ride in the Valley a day after a forced bandh kept everybody away from the inaugural function is an index of popular sentiment. At worst, a bad poll is better than no poll in the prevailing situation in J&K. To funk this would be folly.    

Meanwhile, Mayawati’s effort to throw a last minute spanner in the works of Sonia Gandhi’s proposed ground breaking ceremony for a railway coach factory in Rae Bareli on land cleared by her own government shows how low civility has sunk. It is one thing to question why so many goodies should go to the constituencies of the powerful, but quite another to stall the development process to score a pathetically petty political point. If the chief minister thought she was qualifying for the prime ministerial league by challenging the UPA chairperson and hustling her off her turf, she was quite mistaken. She only managed to demean herself and her quick reversal of gear only makes the initial ploy more absurd. The Congress spokesman was, however, also guilty of dangerous overreach by warning Mayawati that Congress workers could likewise prevent her visiting other parts of the country. Freedom of movement and assembly are fundamental rights and not the prerogative of any individual or group to license. Such statements, even if rhetorical, are subversive of national unity which is already under considerable strain. The CPM’s public slandering of the West Bengal Governor, Gopal Gandhi, for his interventions on public issues in the state, were also churlish and unbecoming.

It is good that the National Integration Council convened after an unconscionable gap of years, but little resulted excepting polemics and pious platitudes. This is because the composition and format of the Council are faulty. A body of 141-plus members with all the antagonists arrayed for battle is calculated to yield more heat than light, especially in the absence of preparation. A smaller body of 75-100 persons, including the heads of the national commissions for SCs and STs, religious and linguistic minorities and women, could more usefully discuss one or two well thought out and focused position papers with reasoned conclusions or recommendations, circulated well in advance. Harangues and apologia by chief ministers and others are seldom purposeful. These can be circulated and taken as read. The general discussion should be followed by meetings of smaller sub-committees to examine the output more closely and distill heads of agreement, dissonance and agreed points for action. The purpose of the NIC is not to provide a forum for confrontation but a mechanism for understanding, harmonisation and reconciliation.
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