Rohit Kumar's Views

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Independent Incredible India Celebrates Corruption

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By Nick Langton

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ascends the ramparts of Old Delhi’s Red Fort on Monday to address the nation on the 64th anniversary of its independence, it will be as a political leader whose government, party, and personal reputation are seriously bruised. This will be Singh’s seventh Independence Day address since becoming prime minister in 2004.

Although Prime Minister Singh continues to be regarded as a man of personal integrity, the scandals on his watch have raised serious questions about his leadership. Photo: Flickr user World Economic Forum.

The speech is an opportunity to review his government’s achievements during the past year, highlight national challenges, and outline a vision for the future. At no point in Singh’s tenure, the longest of any Indian prime minister except Jawaharlal Nehru, has he or his party seemed so embattled.

The immediate problem is a string of high-level corruption scandals that has wracked the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. A year ago, Singh devoted one line of his Independence Day address to the issue of corruption, stating that government programs should be managed “more effectively, minimizing the chances of corruption and misuse of public money.” His reference to systemic corruption gave no hint of the grand corruption that would surface in subsequent months. First came charges of favoritism and kickbacks during preparations for the October 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which led to the arrest of organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, a Congress Party stalwart. Next was the Adarsh Housing Society scam where the government was accused of irregularities in allocating expensive apartments in downtown Mumbai. The most debilitating blow was the 2G spectrum scam in which the now jailed telecommunications minister, A. Raja, was charged with under pricing licenses at an estimated cost to the government of a staggering $40 billion in lost revenues.

Corruption scandals are hardly new in India, but the scale of the alleged transgressions is unprecedented and public reaction strong. In April, veteran Gandhian activist Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike demanding that the government establish a lokpal, or ombudsman, office with broad powers to investigate corruption. Although Hazare’s India Against Corruption (IAC) movement has been criticized for its tactics, middle-class following, and alleged partisan bias, it raises widespread public concerns that cannot be ignored. The corruption debate has paralyzed parliament for months, with the political fallout spreading both within and outside of the UPA. In late July, in a move to protect its own credibility, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) removed its powerful chief minister in Karnataka, B.S. Yeddyurappa, on charges he misused his influence to allot valuable mining land to his sons.

Although Prime Minister Singh continues to be regarded as a man of personal integrity, the scandals on his watch have raised serious questions about his leadership. A technocrat not known for his skills as a political street fighter, he is often at the mercy of competing interests, including those within his own Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi. Since the UPA government holds only 262 seats in the 552-seat Lok Sabha, it must piece together support from an on-again-off-again collection of allies to retain a majority. The government’s actions in response to the corruption scandal have reinforced the perception of weakness. A cabinet reshuffle in July was viewed as little more than window dressing. That the draft Lokpal Bill placed before parliament last week exempts the judiciary and elected officials from oversight, including the prime minister’s office, has compounded the problem. Whether or not the legal and constitutional arguments for the bill’s construction are valid, it is a public relations debacle. Anna Hazare has threatened to publicly burn copies of the draft and begin a new fast on August 16 if the government does not withdraw the current bill.

The corruption scandals and parliamentary gridlock have also raised economic concerns. Capital expenditure dropped during the first quarter of 2011, a possible sign of reduced investor confidence. In his Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Singh cited India’s relative success in avoiding the global economic slowdown. He noted high inflation as a challenge, especially for the poor, but said he was confident that the government would tackle it. Economic growth has dropped slightly during the year, with the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council recently reducing its 2011-12 projection from 9 percent to 8.2 percent. While the government has been successful in bringing food inflation from a 22 percent high in February 2010 to 8.3 percent today, overall inflation hovers around 10 percent. This is above the government’s target of 5 percent, which is considered a safe threshold level if the economy is to avoid overheating.

In response to financial jitters following Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating last week, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee asserted that India would not be affected because its “fundamentals are strong.” But how strong are they? Despite a robust growth rate, industrial production slowed during the past year, and the government has not made progress on reforms in the energy, land, and education sectors that are needed for India to maximize its advantages, such as the “demographic dividend” from a growing workforce. As finance minister in 1991, Manmohan Singh played a historic role in unleashing the economic transformation that India has undergone during the past two decades. As leader of a weak coalition today, he seems unable to push through the second generation of economic and governance reforms that would help to secure his own legacy as a transformational leader.

While Prime Minister Singh’s speech on Monday is unlikely to outline bold new initiatives, it provides an important opportunity for him to candidly address the nation’s challenges and outline his personal vision. To some extent, India’s economic growth and continuing rise as a global power are inexorable given the current momentum, but riding the wave is not enough. Long-term growth that is stable and inclusive requires effective leadership and good governance. Corruption scandals during the past year and parliamentary dysfunction have hindered the ability of Prime Minister Singh and the UPA government to drive needed reforms, especially as coalition members begin to eye elections in 2014.

India’s Orissa state ‘halts’ offensive against Maoists

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The government in the eastern Indian state of Orissa has halted an offensive against Maoist rebels after they abducted a senior official.

Mr Krishna was on his way to inspect a government project when he was seized

R Vineel Krishna, district collector of Malkangiri, and another official were kidnapped on Wednesday evening.

The Maoists have demanded the release of rebels held in prisons and an end to the offensive by security forces.

Indian forces are battling Maoists in several states. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor.

Orissa’s Home Secretary UN Behura said the government was “stopping all combing operations in the state” and was ready to talk to the rebels.

Reports said the state government had contacted leading social worker Swami Agnivesh to negotiate with the rebels to secure Mr Krishna’s release.

The Maoists’ 48-hour deadline to the government to release rebels held in prison expires on Friday evening.

Correspondents say the deadline is likely to be extended in view of the government’s efforts to talk to the rebels.

Malkangiri is among the districts worst affected by Maoist violence in India.

The hilly and forested terrain make it an ideal place for Maoists to run their camps there and launch operations against security forces.

Mr Krishna, 30, is a graduate from the premier Indian Institute of Technology and joined the civil service in 2005. He was appointed to head Malkangiri district 16 months ago.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India’s biggest internal security challenge.

A government offensive against the rebels – widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt – began in October 2009.

It involves 50,000 troops and is taking place across five states – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

Indian PM vows to punish corrupt officials

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NEW DELHI: India’s embattled prime minister defended his government Wednesday against a string of corruption scandals, saying that he took the allegations seriously and would punish anyone involved, no matter their position.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been wracked by allegations that Cabinet ministers and ruling party officials orchestrated shady deals over the sale of cellular phone licenses, presided over faulty preparations for the Commonwealth Games and were involved in other alleged scams that cost the government billions of dollars.

The scandals have dominated politics in India for months. The entire winter session of parliament was paralysed by the opposition amid demands for the establishment of an independent investigative body, which Singh refused.

Singh told reporters during a news conference Wednesday that the guilty would be punished.

“I wish to assure you, and I wish to assure the country as a whole that our government is dead serious in bringing to book all the wrongdoers, regardless of the positions they may occupy,” he said.

He denied any personal connection to the scandals, and expressed concerns that the nation’s image was being badly tarnished.

“We are weakening the self confidence of the people of India. I don’t think that is in the interest of anybody that is in our country. We have a functioning government…we take our job very seriously. We are here to govern and govern effectively,” he said, mildly chiding reporters for focusing so heavily on the scams.

“India as a whole has to march forward,” he said.

Advani: bring back black money stashed away abroad

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MUMBAI: Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani on Sunday welcomed the Supreme Court’s move to make public the details of black money stashed away abroad by Indians.

Senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani at the ‘Mahasangram’ rally in Mumbai on Sunday. Others in the photograph are, from left, JD (U) president Sharad Yadav, BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray.

Speaking at the Mahasangram rally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) against corruption and price rise here, he said, the Supreme Court pulled up Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam and asked him why the government could not divulge the details of those who had kept black money abroad.

Mr. Advani said that he would appeal to the court to take the steps on this front to a logical conclusion. The Indian government must ensure that all the money abroad was brought back and it must punish the people involved and make special laws, if necessary on this issue. He called on the Congress which had belittled him when he raised key questions on black money and said it must reply to NDA’s letter on this issue and called the party to account.

This had happened in other countries, the U.S. and Germany got back money and there was a law on this subject, he said. Linking the issue of black money in foreign banks to corruption and scams, Mr. Advani said this was the key issue related to corruption.

“In 2009 I said black money by those who have earned it through nefarious means, is kept in countries like Switzerland, where banking norms allow having secret accounts and no one will even ask you. Banking secrecy laws are there in many countries. Now there is a chance, the U.S., Germany felt that their money should return to their countries during the time of the economic slowdown. The United Nations passed a Convention on corruption and now laws are being drafted for the repatriation of money,” he pointed out. “When NDA raised the issue, the Congress reacted by saying no country will change laws for us, how will they give us back the money and they made fun of me,” he added.

Before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had created a task force, and Vaidyanathan who was a member, gave examples of how much money was stashed in foreign banks. Global Financial Integrity, an international group published a small booklet and estimated that Indian money abroad at Rs. 20.85 lakh crore, Mr. Advani said.

The NDA rally on corruption and scams came down heavily on the Congress and the Maharashtra government. BJP president Nitin Gadkari, said this was a government which looted its people by making laws to suit them. For instance, for the Commonwealth Games, there was a rule that contractors had to have previous experience with such games and thus all the Indian contractors were ruled out.

Suicide by farmers

He said lakhs of farmers have committed suicide, and there were reports which said that in India 70 per cent of the people spend less than Rs. 20 a day. On the one hand, while Mr. Pawar was Agriculture Minister, foodgrains were rotting, there was no storage facility, gas prices were spiraling, he said.

Calling on the Congress to reply to all allegations of corruption, Mr. Gadkari said that he had all the evidence of Win Chaddha’s son’s accounts, and also proof that Quattrochi had deep relations with the Gandhis. He also had information on Mr. Quattrochi’s bank accounts but refused to divulge more details.

He also reiterated the NDA’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into 2G scam and asked the Congress “what is wrong thing we have done by asking for a JPC?” The Congress was afraid because their faces were already blackened and they were afraid that more scams would spill out. Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav said this was a fight for justice. He said a majority of the parties wanted a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum and the Commonwealth Games scam, even the Congress allies were game, but the Congress with 206 seats was not relenting. “Even during the meeting with Pranab Mukherjee all of us had agreed to the JPC probe from 1998. It is the Congress which by its refusal has put a lock on Parliament,” he said.

Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said, the Congress and its allies had no shame. He said “an economist heads the country and a farmer’s son is the Agriculture Minister. Yet farmers are committing suicide and prices are going out of control.”

Referring to the Adarsh Society, he said, while the Environment Minister suggested that the building be demolished, the question of the Lavasa remained to be seen. Mr. Sharad Pawar’s ‘connections’ with the Lavasa implied that little was said about it, he alleged. He dared the Environment Ministry not to clear the Lavasa. If the Adarsh was not demolished by the government then common people would take the law into their hands, he warned.

The Congress wanted to target Hindutvawadis as terrorists, said Mr. Thackeray. “Action must be taken against whoever is against the State. But why give a colour to terrorism,” he asked. How did Aseemanand’s confession came to the press and Digvijay Singh first, he wondered.

Political dissent Indian urged to repeal sedition law

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ISLAMABAD: International human rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Indian government to immediately repeal the colonial-era sedition law, which local authorities are using to silence peaceful political dissent.

According to the Kashmir Media Service, the HRW said that the Indian government should drop sedition cases against prominent human rights activists such as a vocal critic of the Chhattisgarh state government’s counter-insurgency policies against Maoist, Dr Binayak Sen, Arundhati Roy, and others.

“Using sedition laws to silence peaceful criticism is the hallmark of an oppressive government,” said the South Asia director at HRW, Meenakshi Ganguli. “The Supreme Court has long recognised that the sedition law cannot be used for this purpose, and India’s parliament should amend or repeal the law to reflect this.”

“Considering that India wants the world to celebrate its independent judiciary and active civil society, these actions are both bizarre and regressive,” Ganguly said. “Local authorities do not need to wait for parliament to pass any changes in the sedition law to act lawfully, but instead should just stop pursuing cases against their critics.”

Govt taps about 5,000 people’s phones on average

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NEW DELHI: Telephone calls of about 5,000 people are being recorded by central security agencies daily as part of security and preventive measures.

Government sources said on an average telephones of about 5,000 people are being kept under surveillance by intelligence agencies suspecting their linkages with terror activities, hawala operators and members of banned organisations.

Telephones of a number of people involved in various economic offences are also being monitored.

Sources said that conversations of terrorists and insurgent outfits in Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and the banned CPI (Maoist) are mostly under the scanner of intelligence agencies.

“A lot of times the phone tapping is done for only sixty days. But when it involves persons who are facing any criminal case or are under the scanner of investigating agencies, their phones are kept under surveillance for a longer period,” a senior Home Ministry official said.

As per official procedures, the phone tapping by intelligence agencies is done with the consent of the Union Home Secretary . The government can authorise tapping for 60 days which can be extended again as per needs.

The sources said that emails are also being monitored by government agencies after getting the consent of the service providers.

Sources said that tapping of telephone conversations of leading corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, whose name has cropped up in the 2G Spectrum row , with several influential persons were authorised by the government.

We definitely need sports, what we don’t need are Jakhrani, MA Shah and Ijaz Butt

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By Mohammad Malick

ISLAMABAD: Nobody can argue with Tuesday’s house resolution demanding raising of standards for sports in the country and creation of sports facilities for youngsters. The perfect beginning could be made by terminating the shameful innings of PBC chairman, Ijaz Butt who brings nothing but shame to the country and losses to the national cricket team. The next best thing would be the sacking of sports minister Ijaz Jhakrani who did not even bother turning up for the discussion, and anyway who wants a sports minister who only landed in the rough of the pitch after being hounded out of the health ministry due to lot of corruption talk in the power corridors. And of course the latest entrant to the hall of shame is the Sindh sports minister, Dr Shah who literally stole the national flag from the heartbroken athlete anointed to carry it in the opening ceremony of the ongoing Commonwealth Games. Once the national sports arena is cleared of such old debris and the new hubris, we can get on with the much delayed and badly needed task of putting our youngsters in the playing fields and away from the prying hands of criminals and religious exploiters.

The power of sports is evident from the fact that on a big day like Pakistan playing India or the like, even the suicide bombings stop. When Aisam Ul Haq wept with joy at the governor’s reception, millions of watching Pakistani’s got teary eyed. When we won a cricket match recently, the national mood shrug off desperate despondency like nobody’s business. But when you see the government putting a man like Jhakrani in charge of a vehicle that could literally galvanize the youth and transform the national mood then you know it’s nothing but a cruel joke, another golden opportunity squandered. Sports, and lots of it is not an option but a necessity in a country where almost 65% of the population is under 25 years of age, where 40% live below poverty line and real literacy runs in single digits. We can channelize the bursting energy of the youth positively or let it be exploited by those with guns in one hand and the promise of heaven in the other. Hardly a sporting thought.

On a lighter side though, the press gallery hacks could be heard chuckling when a smiling Speaker, Fehmida Mirza squeezed all the seriousness of the world in her voice and proposed the revival of parliamentarians sports teams. To be fair to the lady, parliamentarians used to play cricket and other games in the good old days and the leader of the opposition Ch. Nisar for one used to be a formidable cricketer. But despite all the talk about tolerance and policy of coexistence, we know the underlying political realities and the simmering rages so the matches would be one hell of an entertainment fiesta. Imagine the prime minister coming in to bat and refusing to hit the ball thrown in by Ch Nisar out of his compassion for consensus and no-offense strategy. Imagine Babar Awan keeping the wickets behind a swashbuckling Khwaja Asif, only for Asif to turn around and find out that like the zillion overnight amendments, the number of his wickets too have been amended to provide a larger target to the bowler. And we could have some equally interesting pairing in some other games including Sherry Rehman and Maulana Fazlur Rehman teaming up for playing mixed-doubles in a tennis match. In fact our imagination is the only limit.

But sharing her serious passion for reviving parliamentary sports later in a conversation, Speaker Fehmida Mirza was spot on when she talked of the “fund raising potential” of say a friendly sports match of a good parliamentary team with a media team or a team comprising a celebrity mix, with the proceeds going to the flood victims. It’s definitely a doable thing, rather a must do thing but before embarking on such a venture the parliament must grant constitutional immunity to players of the other teams for causing any injury to a legislature.

magine a delivery bowled by a Jang group guy hitting a PPPP chap on the head, he would instantly be accused of leading a campaign against the government (though he should be credited for knocking some sense into senseless heads). But all said and done, it’s a good day and we are game if the parliament is, and the parliamentarians are still around in the cricketing winter season.

FOOTNOTE: Law minister Babar Awan presented a good documented defence against the opposition allegations about him sneaked in a dirty NAB ordinance while hoodwinking an unsuspecting prime minister. But numerous angry opposition speakers and his irritatingly calm rejoinders later the key issue still remained unanswered: what was the unholy emergency that caused the promulgation of the arguably controversial ordinance in the first place? If only the minister can explain this because rest is all procedural rigmarole. What do you say minister?

No evidence of China supporting Maoists: Chidambaram

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The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Government on Wednesday said it has no evidence of China lending support to Maoists.

“….we have no evidence on reports that China is lending support to them (Maoists),” home ministerP Chidambaram informed the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

He said the government also did not have any information on Maoists receiving any support from anti-national forces.

“On whether anti-national or international forces are supporting Maoists, we have no evidence of any covert support to them. There was one unconfirmed report about a contact between a Nepalese organisation and Maoists,” he said.

Chidambaram, however, said the government was keeping a watch and would take action with the help of friendly countries if such reports are confirmed.

He said Maoists are generating funds internally through extortion and by looting banks. They are also smuggling arms through borders along Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“But, there is no proof of Maoists getting money from international agencies,” he said.

To a supplementary that Maoists carry out money laundering and even Interpol and audit firm KPMG have given estimates that it has reached large proportions, Chidambaram said though the issue of money laundering is dealt with by the finance ministry, “these estimates are exaggerated. I don’t believe.”

To another query, he said circulation of fake currency is a separate issue and not only the Indian rupee, but all major currencies of the world are facing this problem. “We have caught consignments of fake currencies on various occasions.”

The home minister said there is a mechanism to monitor use of money under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 1976.

“No banned organisation or their front organisations are given permission to receive foreign contribution under the Act. Central intelligence and security agencies work in close cooperation with their counterparts in states to gather information regarding this matter,” he said.

He informed the House that the Act is proposed to be replaced by a new one which will incorporate provisions for greater transparency and accountability. The regulatory mechanism would also get further strengthened, he said.

The minister said government has taken action in 100 cases where the Act was violated.

‘Bringing On The Army Against The Naxals Will Be A Disaster’

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EN Rammohan, former Director General of the BSF, has fought insurgencies in Kashmir and the Northeast. Recently, Home Minister P Chidambaram picked him to probe the Dantewada massacre of CRPF jawans by Naxals. Yet, crucially, in a forthright interview with SHOMA CHAUDHURY, he says the Centre’s strategy for fighting Naxals is a recipe for civil war

After the train tragedy in Bengal, there is renewed talk of bringing on the army and air force in the fight against the Maoists. What is your view on this?
I think it would be a terrible mistake. The more you try to deal with this issue through military options, the more it will spread and grow in strength.

You were asked by the Home Ministry to investigate the recent Maoist ambush of CRPF jawans in Dantewada. The government obviously thinks well of your judgement, track record and integrity. So how do you read the Maoist crisis facing the country today?

I think it is first and foremost an issue of social justice. I first came across the problem when I was posted in Hyderabad in the 1980s as DIG, CBI. My batchmate Ajay Deora was DG, Intelligence and he was struggling to control things. I am from the Assam cadre and have handled insurgencies before. I was in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which was set up with the objective of fighting behind enemy lines, so we have all been trained in guerrilla warfare. Insurgencies are my abiding interest.

Most of the Maoist leadership comes from Andhra. Why do you think this is the case?

From what I saw in Andhra the primary problem is land. The upper castes have been exploiting tribals and Scheduled Castes (SCs) for generations. Before Independence there was no land ceiling, so the upper castes had huge land holdings that often ran into over a 1,000 acres, while the SCs and tribals had no land, or very small holdings. Yet even these small holdings were taken over forcibly by the upper castes who would buy their produce then fudge the accounts, to keep them indebted. The tribals were turned into tenant farmers who had to till the land but give 2/3rd of the produce to the upper castes. It is against this backdrop in 1946 that the CPI first started working in the Telangana areas. They would collect a group of tribals with bows and arrows, surround an upper caste granary and distribute the grain. Then they would tell the landowner that from now on 2/3rds would go to the tillers, 1/3rd to the landowner. Of course the landowners would complain to the police who would round up the locals and arrest and beat them.

After Independence, land ceiling laws were legislated but they were never implemented in Andhra. In 1989, when the government changed, I told my friend Deora, let’s go meet the Revenue Minister. I told the minister, you’ll never be able to solve this problem. He was very unhappy with the way I spoke and said, why not? I told him if you want to stub out this movement, impose land ceiling. He said, that’s impossible, we can never do that. He gave the example of Sudhakar Rao, one of his colleagues from Adilabad. That fellow has got 1,100 acres, he said, and he won’t be willing to part with even one.

The risk of a counter-action now is that our forces can go mad. They’ll seek
revenge for their 76 mates killed

So the caste structure in Andhra Pradesh is such. There are many police stations even today where a Scheduled Caste will not dare to file an FIR – it just won’t be registered or investigated. Then of course, the women were being misused. Labourers on a farm had to offer their bride on the first night to the landlord. This is reflected even in the folk songs of the Adivasis. There is no hope for women in this country, they sing. So unless these wrongs are righted, how are you expecting a solution to this problem? There can be no military solution to this problem.

The media has gone hoarse speaking of them as terrorists. Are you comfortable with this description?

You see everyone talks about the Naxalites but very few people understand there are two parts to this. There are the Adivasis and Scheduled Castes at the lowest strata. Then there are the leaders from the CPI, CPI Marxist-Leninist and now CPI-Maoist. These are all communists and 99 percent of them are upper caste. But because of their political philosophy they have no caste and are lending a hand to the poor. Now they have a political agenda and their objective is to come to power in this country. I don’t want to live in a Maoist State but if we continue with our current arrogance, that’s exactly what will happen. There will be great upheaval in society. Go to communist countries like Russia or China. If you look at all the top class people there now – men like Kruschev – you’ll see everyone in power today were all peasants once, and the upper class people have all disappeared somewhere. In India also, there will be a complete upheaval in society. So I don’t see why we are so hesitant to rectify our course and address issues of social justice.

You have spoken of Andhra. How do you read Chhattisgarh?

In Chhattisgarh, it’s mostly to do with rights over forests. The Adivasis have been pushed into the forests over thousands of years by caste domination, and are now almost entirely confined to it. They have no land and can only collect forest produce. But they still have to sell it and when they come out of the forest to the market place, they have to find a buyer. And who’s the buyer? The Vaishya trader. At the root of this trouble, I say, is this trio – the wily Brahmin, the arrogant Kshatriya, the avaricious Vaishya. Chidambaram, incidentally, is a Vaishya. These three social groups have been trampling on these people for centuries, so why blame them if the CPI has lent a hand? They help the poor by inspecting the Vaishya’s books and ensuring tribals get a correct price. You should investigate the tendu leaf trade – I am told the money from that reaches politicians in Delhi, while the poor man who picks the leaf gets nothing.

DEADLY CONFRONTATION A CRPF jawan keeps watch near the remains of the bus blown up by Naxals.

The point is, in any insurgency, people take to guns because they feel they have no choice. In this case, the tribals are being taught by the Maoists to fight for their rights. And in Marxist teaching, guerrilla warfare is one of the subjects. All these escalating incidents, the ambushes etc, is designed to get hold of weapons. But the risk of a counter-action now is that our forces can go beserk. They will say we’ve lost 76 people and they will just shoot anyone, they’ll kill everybody, even innocent people, unless there is a very strong leadership to keep them in control. And I am afraid that leadership does not exist. This is something the government must understand.

So what do you see as solutions? And what do you think is holding up those solutions?

There are two acts pending in Parliament – one is to do with land acquisition, the other is to do with forest rights. But the interesting thing is, minerals have been found in these forests and for the party in power, this is a big bonanza. If you sign a MOU worth millions of dollars for excavating minerals, a percentage of it will go to your Swiss Bank account. The poor man in the forest is conveniently forgotten. In Bihar, the Bhumihars openly say, “Hamare patte hum billi aur kutte ke naam pe lagate hain (We list our land titles in the names of our cats and dogs)”. How long can such a situation continue without protest? And you say you want to bring in the army? Why don’t you look inwards and rectify this? If the government has any sense in its head, it will, otherwise it will be a terrible situation. It will be a disaster.

TEHELKA has doggedly tracked stories of atrocities by the police and paramilitary. Rapes, killings, beatings, stealing of hens and goats. If one raises these issues with the government, they see it as a betrayal, as “intellectual support” for the Maoists. What is your view of the conduct of the SPOs, police and paramilitary?

The Salwa Judum was the government’s creation and it has compounded the situation badly. What the landlords were doing earlier, the police and SPOs are doing now. So is the CRPF. I believe counter-insurgencies must be fought legally. This is something most people don’t talk of. But the bible on fighting counter-insurgencies, Robert Thompson’s Defeating Communist Insurgencies starts with one line: A counter insurgency must be scrupulously legal. I was lucky because I was trained in guerrilla warfare by instructors who were trained by people like Robert Thompson. I’ve quoted this in many places and letters to the government. The quality of leadership is the most crucial thing in such conflicts. Set aside the bigger accusations of rape and killings, the Adivasis often even complain about the forces stealing their chickens and goats. This is terrible. If the company commander is good, they would not dare to do it. If ever any boys in uniform are caught doing anything wrong, they should be punished and word should go out to the villagers that such behaviour will not be tolerated. That is the only way you can get the upper hand.

Is Delhi ready to give ownership of minerals to tribals, when each MoU is attached to a Swiss Bank account?

I have worked in all these forces – the CRPF, ITBP, BSF. The CRPF used to be a law-and-order force, good at lathi charge. Now they are not even that. You must have seen what’s happening in Kashmir – they are throwing stones back at the crowd. That should never happen. Otherwise you just have two mobs on either side – one mob is in uniform, the other is not.The main problem with the CRPF is that they are handed over to the state police when they arrive anywhere, and the SHO uses them for clearing a crowd or for controlling a communal situation. This business of handling them to police has bereft them of leadership. They have functioned better in places like Mizoram and Nagaland because there they have been under army leadership which is more disciplined. But I am impressed with the training Brigadier Powar is giving in the jungle warfare school that’s been set up in Kanker.You have said bringing the army in against the Naxals will be a disaster. Can you spell out the reasons why.
The first problem the army will face is that the Bihar regiment has a very strong component of Adivasis. What do you think will happen when such a battalion is facing Adivasis on the other side? His home may be there, he may have relatives on the other side, his tribe could be involved. It’s a recipe for disaster. The army should never ever come in to this conflict. The point is very clear, there are root causes. The government has to address them.In any case, who are you going to attack? Who are you going to catch? You will not find anyone there. The moment they know such an operation is going on, they will vanish in a 100 different directions. Their weapons will disappear. You’ll find innocent people living there and our forces will go and shoot 30 of them and say we have shot so many Naxalites. Every child born in the area then will become an insurgent after that. Do you believe there can be a lasting ceasefire?

I can guarantee there will not be any ceasefire – because the Maoists organising or leading this are on the run. If they stop, it will be very difficult to start again. I don’t think they are going to give up their guns. We have to convince the cadres that the government has changed its policy on land and forest rights and mining.Wean away the support base. Make Indian democracy more attractive than Maoist revolution.

Dula Bhima of Mukram village in Dantewada shows the I-card of his son Nuppa who was picked up by the CRPF.

Absolutely right. I think the only thing to do now is raise these issues in every forum and force the government’s hand. If you don’t rectify the ground realities, you can’t turn this around. The more military force you put, the bigger the crisis will become.Have you told the government this?

I speak openly about it at every forum I can.The government says it wants to bring development to these regions.

It is not about development. It is about rights. This government has to understand – how is it that land ceiling was implemented in Kerala? Why is there no Maoist movement there? You know what happened there? Under EMS Namboodiripad, the law was so strong that anyone who was a tenant farmer for 12 years, the ownership of the land passed to him without compensation to the owner. We are now in 2010, but in most parts of the country, we are behaving as though we are in 1610 or something. Do you know in Australia and the US now, they say that if any minerals or oil is found in the Reservation areas, that resource belongs to the Aborigines and Native Americans. In India also, the first thing that should be declared is that if minerals are found in the forest, it belongs to the people of that forest. The MOUs should be signed by all the people of that village with that company. After that, give them legal guidance and see that the profit comes to their accounts. Is the government in Delhi prepared to do that? Why should they? Every MOU has a Swiss Bank account attached.You say you don’t want to live in a Maoist State. One cannot evade the fact that they have a highly efficient and armed wing, or that 200-odd districts are in their control. So to ask a question many people might have in their heads – do you think the use paramilitary or other forces has any role at all to play in containing the Maoists, even as one incorporates the issues of justice they have raised?

Let’s take a model area. I would say put about 10 battalions in that area. Have good leaders so that the jawans don’t go and steal chickens and rape women and burn houses. When I was IG, BSF in Kashmir, I had 50 BSF battalions under me. I used to go around the city everyday, visiting one or two of the battalions by turn. Then I would talk to the local people and get feedback, especially if any of my battalions had done an operation. If the public there would tell me, “Sahib sab theek gaya, aapke ladke koi galti nahi kiya”, I’d feel things were under control. That is leadership. My commanders knew that if they did anything wrong, they were going to get punished and punished hard. So they behaved. This is what you need – a strong IG or DG. And men highly trained in field craft. One mistake this government has been making is that it wants yes-men.You said army leadership is better than the paramilitary, but the army’s record in handling internal insurgencies in the Northeast or Kashmir hasn’t exactly been sterling.

Yes, the army has done wrong things in the Northeast, very wrong things. I’ve worked in Nagaland, I’ve worked in Manipur. Because it is in a remote corner, people here don’t know what’s happening there. No wonder they don’t like to be with us. But still, generally speaking, the army leadership is better because their general is not appointed by a politician. He comes on merit, on courage, on fitness, and how much he looks after his men. In the paramilitary, you get to the top by the amount of bootlicking you do. The system is different.

UN rights council condemns Israeli assault, orders probe

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* Approves resolution moved by Pakistan, Sudan
* US, the Netherlands oppose resolution
* Israel alleges activists attacked IDF soldiers

GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday launched a probe into Israeli attack on ships carrying aid for the Gaza Strip, as international outcry over the incident continues.

The UN body adopted a resolution, moved by Pakistan, Sudan and the Palestinian delegation, which condemned Israel’s “outrageous attack”.

Thirty-two countries voted in favour of the resolution after an urgent session of the council during which countries ranging from Laos to Iceland all spoke out against Israel’s move.

The United States said it was “deeply disturbed” by the violence, but opposed the resolution. The text rushes to judgement on a set of facts that are only starting to emerge, said US ambassador Eileen Donahoe.

The Netherlands also voted against the resolution, with its envoy saying that the “parallel investigation” into the raid “would not be conducive to re-launching the Middle East peace process.” Britain and France abstained, saying they regretted that the resolution failed to reflect the language used by the Security Council which called “for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”

Speaking ahead of the vote, the Israeli ambassador reiterated that the activists onboard the ship did not have peaceful motives, and had used Molotov cocktails, clubs and iron bars against Israeli soldiers. He also claimed that large quantities of cash were also found on board that was meant for Hamas.

However, a Palestinian representative termed the attack a characteristic tool used by Israel to derail peaceful efforts and “silence every voice of moderation and reason”.

Israeli commandos had boarded one of the aid ships in the pre-dawn raid on Monday that left at least nine passengers dead, while hundreds of activists were also arrested.

The raid sparked global outrage and prompted states from the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to ask for the special session of the 47 member states in the UN rights council.

Israel asks South Asian Muslims to help bridge gap with Palestine

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: Facing international backlash over its raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla, Israel on Wednesday sought help from South Asian Muslims to build bridges between Israel and the moderate Palestinian leadership. At a specially convened press interaction for selected Delhi-based Muslim journalists, Israeli Ambassador to India Mark Sofer said top Pakistani journalist and TV anchor Talat Hussain was safe and would return to Pakistan soon. He asked Muslims to look at the wider picture in Middle East, denying it was a battle between Jews and Muslims.

“We respect Islam and the conflict in West Asia is not a religious one. Islam is a religion of peace and beauty. Whoever indulges in violence in the name of Islam, abuses and misuses the religion,” Sofer said. Rejecting reports of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza on account of the Israeli blockade, the Israeli envoy offered an olive branch to Hamas, offering the lifting of the blockade if the Hamas leadership abandoned targeting Israeli citizens and called off the war against Tel Aviv. “The minute the Hamas ends hostilities, the blockade will be lifted immediately,” he said. Sofer also assured that every single aid box aboard the Flotilla would be transported to Gaza. “We were never against sending aid to Gaza. We wanted organisers to send aid through either Red Cross or the United Nations, as we doubted the credentials of the IHH, the Turkish grouping, which is attributed to be close to al Qaeda,” he said. He claimed that even Turkey itself had once banned the group for its alleged links with terrorists. Sofer said some groups have been using the aid route in the past to transfer arms to Gaza.

To a question, the Israeli ambassador said there was no dearth of food and other essential items in the Hamas-ruled Palestine territory except arms. Justifying the attack on the ship, the envoy said it was necessary to look for any weapons on board. “Ever since Hamas took over, they have declared a war against us. It is in their manifesto to annihilate the Jewish state. They have fired 10,000 rockets over the past three to four years. We have no quarrel with the people of Gaza. Our difficulties is with their leadership,” Sofer said. Asked, if Israeli soldiers found weapons on board, the ambassador showed a video clip showing knives and blades, normally used in ship kitchens. The footage, however, showed activists pouncing on Israeli soldiers descending from helicopters. Asked about the idea of peace in Israeli context, the envoy emphasised on a political solution with a sovereign Israel and Palestine co-existing side by side, ruling out any military solution to the Palestine problem. He said the flotilla could be an attempt to damage the peace process.

“We are engaged in indirect talks with the Palestinian leadership and we want the peace process to resume fully,” he added. To a question on demands of a Greater Israel by some, the envoy said they were not representatives of the Tel Aviv government. “Is Hindutva a position of Indian government? There is major difference between the position of governments and some fringe groups. In Palestine, such a fringe group is in power, it is the government,” Sofer said. He admitted that Israel had made mistakes, but criticised the international community for shutting eyes to mistakes made by the Palestinians and other Israeli adversaries in the region.

Zardari telephones Turkish counterpart

ISLAMABAD,President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday had a telephonic conversation with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.The President expressed deep condolences over the tragic incident and the loss of precious lives on board a Turkish flagged ship that was assaulted by Israeli commandos.He said Pakistan strongly condemns the use of brazen force by Israel against a humanitarian mission and the killing of members of the humanitarian mission was a brutal and inhuman act which constituted flagrant violation of international law and norms.

The President said “Pakistan stands by Turkey in its courageous and principled stance on this tragic incident and sheer aggression”.

He said Pakistan is deeply concerned at the Israeli blockade of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law and “we will continue extending unequivocal support to the legitimate cause of Palestinians”.

The President said that Pakistan appreciates the efforts undertaken by Turkey, including the meeting of the United Nations Security Council and the adoption of a statement by the Council.
The President said that Pakistan has proposed to the Organization of Islamic Countries to hold an urgent meeting in order to discuss and agree upon a unified OIC response to the attack.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul thanked President Zardari for Pakistan’s unequivocal support to Turkey and the humanitarian missions for the Palestinians and said ,”the Turkish Government expects the international community to take practical steps to restrain Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinians and the humanitarian missions”.

The Israeli aggression has been condemned by the international community-majority depicting the act as non-justifiable, hostile, gross violation of the norms of international law with grave consequences for peace in the Middle East.

The UN Secretary General in his statement condemned the violence, called for full investigation to determine exactly how the bloodshed took place and said that Israel must provide a full explanation.

The Security Council also held a 12-hour emergency session and the statement issued by the President of the Council regretted the loss of life and injuries from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters.

The Council condemned those acts that resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded. The Council also took note of the UN Secretary General’s statement calling for prompt impartial investigation conforming the international standards.

The Flotilla which was made up of people from 40 nationalities also included three Pakistanis on board which were taken hostage by the Israeli commandoes and are expected to reach Pakistan anytime from Jordan.