Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Pakistan suffers from a home grown terror it has assiduously cultivated while India is the victim of that same terror employed externally as a “strategic asset” against it, even in Afghanistan.

Beyond “Lectures” and “Literature”

Quiet discussion and tutorials after a pause have their place too. The Prime Minister is not alone in seeing value in engagement with Pakistan after the post-26/11 stand-off.

By B G Verghese

New Indian Express, 1 March, 2010

The Pakistan Foreign Secretary came to Delhi and said he wanted to move beyond lectures (on terror) and literature (on Hafeez Saeed). He had heard and seen all this before. Such defensive intransigence remains a disappointment. Yet the fact that both sides met, said their piece and agreed to remain in contact is progress. Quiet discussion and tutorials after a pause have their place too. The Prime Minister is not alone in seeing value in engagement after the post-26/11 stand-off.

The Indian side reiterated its concerns about cross-border terror. Islamabad may insist that it is also a victim. However, the world knows that Pakistan suffers from a home grown terror it has assiduously cultivated while India is the victim of that same terror employed externally as a “strategic asset” against it, even in Afghanistan. Hafeez Saeed is periodically banned and arrested but reappears in a new avatar and is always released because he is arraigned under acts and sections unrelated to the charges levelled against him. His incendiary rantings with others against India, most recently on February 4 and 5, is clear proof of incitement. The parallel with the Shiv Sena does not hold as these jingoists have never bombed Pakistan.

The argument that internal elements could have been involved in Mumbai and Pune may be true.  All leads are being vigorously investigated and action will follow if hard evidence is found. Even if true, this cannot extenuate the proven guilt of the Pakistani nationals and their handlers in Mumbai. For Pakistan to argue that they must remain free unless suspected Indian elements are arraigned is absurd.

Sharing intelligence has been suggested. But if dossier after dossier is treated as ‘literature’ and not evidence then Pakistan simply does not want to know in order to retain the fiction of plausible deniability. Contrast this with Pakistan’s counter charges against India. It keeps asserting that India is supplying weapons and money to insurgents in Balochistan but has failed to adduce any evidence though eight months have passed since Sharm el-Sheikh where the charge was formally made.

On waters, Bashir listed five complaints : Indus Treaty violations, unwillingness to resolve issues, ongoing project concerns, deforestation in the upper watersheds and glacier melt because of human activity. These are hollow charges. The Indus Commission provides an established and well used mechanism and Pakistan has even resorted to adjudication by a neutral expert on Baglihar. If the Tarbela and Mangla dams have silted, India cannot be held responsible. Indeed, Pakistan has resolutely blocked the Wular Barrage on the Jhelum which would have reduced the silt load at Mangla and augmented its power output. Indians have proposed  joint exploration and development of projects in the upper Indus basin under Article VII of the Indus Treaty and Dr Manmohan Singh has hinted that this could be one way of making the LOC irrelevant and building complementarities and even confederal ties between the two parts of J&K without impairing sovereignty on either side. This idea, wholly consistent with the agreed Musharraf-Manmohan formula of 2006, has now been repudiated by Islamabad, which is intent on moving backwards.

If Pakistan wants all or nothing, and rouses fundamentalist belligerence to that end, it will get nothing and could destroy itself in the process. Its flamboyant courting of the divided Hurriyat, which it has long patronized, is part of its habitual grandstanding. Meanwhile, India should persevere with quiet talks with all concerned in J&K to evolve a just and honourable internal solution fair to all regions and interests. The jihadis are desperate to play spoiler as they fear that movement towards settlement could upset their apple cart. Lumpen youth recruited as stone-pelters are pumped up after Friday prayers week after week to riot on trumped up issues and provoke violence, demonstrations and hartals.

These elements must be dealt with firmly and removed to training camps where they can be taught an avocation and assisted to become constructive citizens.  The mohallas where they riot should be collectively fined to repair the damage caused by these ruffians. This could act as a brake on sponsored hooliganism. Their attack on a young couple taking an ill infant to hospital, resulting in its tragic death, speaks of a callous and unrepentant disregard for civilized norms as there was no remorse, as in  the earlier case of the fake Shopian rape incident.

Meanwhile, if any kind of settlement is to make headway, the BJP will have to shed petty politicking and come on board. It cannot turn its back on a peace process boldly initiated by Vajpayee which is wholly consistent with constitutional norms. This demands regular back-channel contact between the Prime Minister and leading members of the Opposition and chief ministers so that a national consensus is evolved. The Sangh Parivar has unfortunately taken an even more rigid stand with Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, seeking to tether its members, including the BJP, to a narrow Hindutva.

The acquisition of Qatari citizenship by 95 year old M.F. Husain, a lovable and quintessential Indian after being hounded for years by petty Hindutva zealots has been rightly described as a national shame. His crime: canvasses painted long years ago of nude goddesses in  the classic tradition of Indian art, The argument that he should have stood firm on principle and remained a prisoner of vandals who had threatened to destroy his paintings is surreal. If his creativity was censored by violence, Husain would simply wither away. Offers of state security are beside the point. The question that must be asked is why crude, chauvinistic vandals who have repeatedly held society and art to ransom have virtually got away scot free. Typically, a Kanpur Bajrang Dal  convenor has described the Husain episode as a “win” for Hindutva. What a sick certificate ! Remember the sacking of the Bandarkar Library in Pune, the MS University Art Department in Baroda, the “bans” on Deepa Mehta’s films, the My Name if Khan episode and so on. If Husain’s tormentors were locked away, and a firm message sent out that cultural censorship would not be tolerated, he would have remained.

Many wear religion on their sleeves and feign anger at supposed insults to faith to proclaim piety. Recently Christians demonstrated in Punjab and Meghalaya as an advertisement depicted Jesus with a beer mug and cigar. Christ surely had a better sense of humour than those demonstrating today. Meanwhile, Dalits often continue to be treated reprehensibly with the perpetrators shown undeserving social tolerance despite the law. All of us need to move beyond “lectures” and “literature”.

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