Protesting Too Much


By B.G. Verghese
The more indefensible the action, the louder the protests. This appearsto be the flavour of the season. The Government properly stood its ground against the Dravida parties’ brazen attempt to take over the conduct of India’s foreign policy with regard to Sri Lanka, just as West Bengal, Punjab and J&K have sought to do so earlier.The DMK effort to blackmail the Congress by withdrawing its ministers from the Centre was staged amidst a fatuous media drama of counting numbers and the usual game of envisaging combinations that might yield the minority UPA a “majority” in the LokSabha. The bluff was called, as expected, in a few days.

As for the DMK’s withdrawal of its ministers from the cabinet, for which Alagizhi reportedly apologised, there is no such thing as a “majority” in the parliamentary process, The relevant phrase is “a majority of those present and voting”, a very different concept. Yet this elementary confusion is the cause of much absurd breaking news and feverish efforts to conjure up new winning political formations.

However, there was a strange side-show with the CBI raiding Stalin, Karunanidhi’s heir, who masterminded the DMK withdrawal from the governmenton an import duty-evasion charge, only to be chastised by the PM and Chidambaram for the timing. Why?  Either the CBI was being loyally vindictive in anticipation of official approval or was being thwarted from doing its duty, though the raid could have been conducted weeks earlier. Either way, the episode showed up the Government in a poor light and reflects on the CBI’s credibility.

Let it be restated that the LTTE was not a body of angels but a rank terrorist outfit. It eliminated all Tamil rivals and grossly used and abused India, which recklessly handed it the freedom of Tamil Nadu to run wild and defy its writ as the Tigers prepared to assault Sri Lanka. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Dravida chauvinists were partners in the making of the crisis and stoking a catastrophe for local political gain – an inglorious chapter in Indian diplomacy.

The Sri Lanka government was neither magnanimous nor adroit in turn and must share responsibility for the outcome. But insistence on a “war crimes commission” on grounds of “genocide”, driven by western powers that have so much human right wrongs to hide, was not in India’s interest which rightly seeks justice, reconciliation and a fair federal settlement as promised by Colombo itself. In the event, India helped water down the US-sponsored UNHCR resolution and voted in favour with caveats.

No party is ready for early polls – not the DMK, nor the BJP. They all stand divided. The forthcoming Karnataka polls in May will be the next test. That could indicate what might be in store. Before that, however, the Centre must reverse its disgraceful decision that candidates must submit electoral expense returns to the Election Commission but the latter has no right to challenge and reject gross inaccuracies and subterfuge in their compilation – like Maharashtra’s Ashok Chavan’s shockingly manipulated “paid news” fudged electoral accounts.

The BSP and Trinamool may be cosying up to the UPA even as wild card Mulayam Singh of the SP goes on an anti-congress rampage even as he criticises his son’s stewardship of the State over the past year. Meanwhile, Nitish Kumar attempted a show of strength in Delhi to push the “Bihar development model” and threatened to join hands with other backward, “discriminated” States if not given the special category status he has been demanding.  Bihar’s real problem is not resources but caste and feudal land laws, something that remains to be tackled head on.

The BJP and certain others are also playing with fire in seeking to oppose the long-pending land boundary settlement patiently worked out with Bangladesh, coupled with an exchange of enclaves. This is not a case of cession of territory, disallowed by the Constitution. It is a step towards final demarcation of the contested border that Radcliffe had drawn at Partition on a small map with a thick nib. Any other interpretation would render any boundary settlement impossible. The areas and populations to be exchanged are small and should cause little problem, given due rehabilitation and compensation for displacement and resettlement.

All this politics of negativism is deplorable

Then comesArudhati Roy’s revised and updatedbook of edited essays and commentaries on“The Hanging of Afzal Guru and the Strange Case of the Attackon the Indian Parliament”. It picks plenty of holes in the official version,rubbishes Afzal Guru’s confession that he subsequently retracted regarding his limited role in the 2001 attack on Parliament,alleges lack of proper legal defence at the trial, questions the Pakistan connection and almost hints that India was looking for an excuse to attack Pakistan through Operation Parakaram that followed.

It is an apologia for Guru and does not even weigh the enormity of an attack intended not merely to attack the Parliament building per se but to kill the MPs and others inside with a powerful charge of RDX. Ingress into the building was fortunately frustrated. The attack left five militantsand nine defenders, including a gardener, dead. A terrible disaster was averted though what happened was diabolical enough. The defence offered is that Afzal Guru was at best a conspirator, a lapsed militant trained in Pakistan, but not among those who carried out the dastardly attack.

What all these latter-day critics ignore is that Pakistan’s former Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lieutenant-General Javed Ashraf Qazi, on joining Musharraf’s cabinet candidly told Pakistan’s Senate that it “must not be afraid of admitting that the Jaish-e-Mohammad was involved in the deaths of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, bombing the Indian Parliament,


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