Fallout of Bihar Elections

The rigmarole on the indian political scene, as expected, continues unabated. Our regular contributor, Nitin G. Raut puts in perspective the aftermath of last month’s elections in Bihar.   


The dust over the Assembly elections in Bihar has settled. The results were seen by some as a re-affirmation of secularism and, by others, as a revival of casteist forces.   Continue reading

Mr. Sharad Joshi (1935-2015) passes away

Sharad Joshi

Yet one more liberal, friend of Freedom First – Mr. Sharad Joshi – passed away on December 12.  Having met him just about six times – three visits to his Ambethan home with Mr. S. V. Raju and the rest at various seminars – I personally do not know much about Mr. Joshi.  All I can remember is the smiling demeanour (as one can see in the photograph above) and his “make-you-feel-at-home” manner when he insisted that we lunch with him and which we did on two of our three visits.  It was the most delicious, freshly cooked vegetarian lunch that I have ever had.

Mr. Sharad Joshi was known as a farmers’ leader.  He founded Shetkari Sanghatana, the organized farmers’ movement in Maharashtra.  This was in 1979.  Such was his rapport with the farmers that one call from him and they would gather in scores from various parts of the state to listen to what he had to say for their benefit.  He was a born leader and a great orator.  He was not afraid, like most liberals I have come across, to be in a minority, if his views were for the betterment of the individual and the society.  As Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, he was the only MP who voted against the women’s reservation bill and had also proposed an amendment to the Constitution that the word ‘socialism’ be removed from the Preamble to the Constitution.

In his tribute to Mr. S. V. Raju, he wrote “….. Raju always had a deep sense of affection for me …..”.  In turn, Mr. Raju had great regard and respect for him and would endearingly call him Sharadji, even though he was younger to Mr. Raju.

Freedom First offers its most sincere condolences to his two daughters and to his long-time close associate, Sureshchandra Mhatre.  May his soul rest in peace!





Contribution of Parsis in Building India’s Infrastructure

FF Digital received two separate write-ups from two contributors on a similar subject.  The first one from Dr. B. N. Mehrish on the role of the Parsi community in nation-building and the other on Jamsetji Tata from Dr. Ali Khwaja.  The story-line of the two topics being the same, we bring them to you as one post.  – FF Digital Group


Role of Parsis in Nation-Building

Dr. B. N. Mehrish

“Parsis in India are fighting a battle with dwindling numbers and orthodox, insular mindsets as reported from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana” states Brunch Hindustan Times of June 28, 2015.  At the same time, Dr. Shernaz Cama of Parzor Foundation, New Delhi writes “….. in 2013, there were just 195 births and 950 deaths in India”.

The Early Days

Parsis came from Iran and landed on the shores of Gujarat around the seventh century.  They came to Bombay to work as ship builders in 1640.

Parsis pioneered chikoo farming in Dahanu, Maharashtra in the later part of the 19th century.

At Delhi, the Parsis worked in the Mughal courts as clock-keepers in the 16th century.  In Calcutta (now Kolkata), the Parsis came to trade in opium and cotton in 1839.  In Hyderabad, Parsis worked in the courts of Nizams in the 19th century.  In Ooty and Coonoor, Parsis went as tea planters in the  early 19th century.

At present, in Telangana, the Parsi community is small but enterprising. In the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, Parsis are “an invisible minority” and today they are lawyers, doctors, academicians and business people.

Parsi Stalwarts in Indian Politics, Industry and Sports

The educated elite among the Parsis have been a significant part of the indian political scene.  They have been instrumental in establishing political associations and paving the way for India’s independence.  Dadabhai Naoroji is regarded as the grand old man of Indian politics.  He was India’s voice in the House of Commons in England.  Others who took active part in politics and in shaping India’s future are Pherozeshah Mehta, Dinshaw Wacha, Khurshed (Veer) Nariman, Homi Mody and Minoo Masani.

Several Parsis made path-breaking achievements in the field of commerce and trade.  These include renowned industrialists like Jamsetji Tata and J.R.D. Tata, members of the Godrej family, entrepreneurs  like Shapoorji Pallonji and notable institution builders like Ardeshir Dalal who was associated with the Tatas, Shapurji Billimoria who promoted integrated education, Cooverji Bhabha, businessman and A. D. Shroff, staunch advocate of free enterprise and who was responsible for evolving a code of conduct for businessmen.  There are many other visionaries who have laid the foundation of institutionalized philanthropy.

There has also been the pioneering contribution of Parsis in the field of sports.  The well-known Parsis who played cricket for India are Nari Contractor, Polly Umrigar and Farokh Engineer, and among the ladies, Diana Eduljee.  Sensei Pervez Mistry has made a mark in karate.

These are just a few names and still fewer fields where Parsis have made their mark.  There are many more.  Their contribution in nation building may inspire future generations.

Reference: “Enduring Legacy – Parsis of the 20th Century” (four volumes), 2005, edited by Dr. Nawaz B. Mody.


Jamsetji Tata : Creating Wealth through Ideas and Action

Dr. Ali Khwaja

The Times of India of 13th April 1912 wrote, “He was above all a patriot, who made no public speeches.  To his mind wealth, and the industry which led to wealth, were not ends in themselves, but means to an end, the stimulation of the latent resources of the country and its elevation in the scale of nations.” The newspaper was recognizing the services of Jamsetji Tata.  Born in 1839 in the small town of Navsari in Gujarat, Jamsetji started off as a trading entrepreneur and went on to become a visionary nation builder.

The Tata Legacy

Jamsetji and his successors believed that there is a difference between making money for oneself and creating wealth for others. He decided to set up a steel plant when he could have made much more money trading in British steel. He politely declined when England offered to make him a Baron.  Five years before his steel plant in Jamshedpur was to go into operation, he told his son Dorab to “….. lay wide streets planted with shady trees, with plenty of space for lawns and gardens.  Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks.  Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques, and Christian churches.”  And this was from the son of a Parsi priest! (Jamsetji himself was ordained a priest, though he never practised priesthood – FF Digital group.)

It is interesting to note that Sir Frederick Upcott, Chief Commissioner for the Indian Railways went on record to say, “Do you mean to say that Tatas propose to make steel rails to British specifications? Why, I will undertake to eat every pound of steel rail they succeed in making.” In 1912 when the Tatas exported 1500 miles of steel rails, Dorab Tata dryly commented that if Sir Frederick had carried out his ‘undertaking’, he would have had ‘some slight indigestion’.

Entrepreneur with a clear foresight

In today’s age when there is so much  hypocritical talk about uplifting the downtrodden, Jamsetji had a different vision altogether: “What advances a nation or community is not so much to prop up its weakest and most helpless members, as to lift up the best and the most gifted so as to make them of the greatest service to the country.”  The Tatas nurtured top scientists through the Indian Institute of Science (in Bangalore), and every fifth Indian ICS officer, at one time, was from the Tata scholarships. Jamsetji sold fourteen of his buildings and four of his personal landed properties, more than half his entire wealth, to establish the Indian Institute of Science.  The Tatas always recognized talent and put the most deserving managers at the helm, with no desire to create their own heredity. Today there is not a single Tata in the entire conglomerate, but the Tata empire continues to be a shining example of entrepreneurship, values, justice and vision.

The Tatas’ commitment to progress was so high that when they harnessed hydro-electric power for Bombay (now Mumbai) they bought off the old steam engines from the textile mills, their largest customers, to encourage them to switch over to electricity.  The steam engines were sold as scrap.  All this was possible because Jamsetji had set clear guidelines on putting progress and evolution above profit or short-term gains.

Even an avowed socialist like Jawaharlal Nehru admitted publicly, “When you have to give the lead – in action, in ideas – a lead which does not fit in with the very climate of opinion, that is true courage, physical or mental or spiritual, call it what you like, and it is this type of courage and vision that Jamsetji Tata showed.”

A True Visionary

Amazingly, a committed and busy industrialist like Jamsetji was also a naturalist and an agriculturist.  Tata Silk Farm was set up by him in Bangalore in 1893.  He invited Japanese experts and the entire region became prosperous with sericulture.  Foreign trees and plants were brought by him and planted at various locations.  He would ensure the safety of his workers by setting up humidifiers, fire-sprinklers, provide pension fund and accident compensation.  His concern for the workers went far beyond the stipulated regulations, and that is the reason why third and fourth generation workers of Tata Steel are proud to remain part of the group even now.

Today the Tatas are India’s largest integrated steel company, largest commercial vehicle manufacturers, largest integrated tea and coffee companies, largest IT consulting services of Asia, largest hotel chain, one of the world’s largest producers of synthetic soda ash. They are India’s second largest software developers for the domestic market, leading international telecom service providers, and the world’s sixth largest manufacturers of branded watches, just to name a few. This does not include the innumerable philanthropic institutions like Tata Memorial Hospital, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, National Centre for Performing Arts, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Institute of Advanced Studies, and many more.  Since the charitable Tata Trusts own more than 65% of the Tata companies, the profits will continue to reach society at large.  It is up to the nation and its citizens to give due recognition to the great patriot who laid such strong foundations and to ensure that the legend lives on.


Dr. B.N. Mehrish, retired Professor of Politics, University of Mumbai; now a Gurgaon resident.  E-mail: brijesh.mehrish@gmail.com

Dr. Ali Khwaja, counsellor, columnist, life skills coach; Chairman, Banjara Academy, Bangalore.  E-mail: alikhwaja50@gmail.com

Reminiscences of K. Natwar Singh – Diplomat and Politician

Brig. (retd.) Suresh C. Sharma, a familiar name to our readers, gives an overview of K. Natwar Singh’s “One Life Is Not Enough – An Autobiography” published in 2014.  This write-up is a brief summary of the book (though we have categorized it under “Book Reviews” section).  A review (by Prof. P. M. Kamath) of the book was published in Freedom First of April 2015. 

Natwar Singh narrates his experiences as a diplomat and politician in his autobiography One Life Is Not Enough.

Congress Party Stint

He came under the spell of Nehru when he met him as an IFS probationer. He served as a diplomat under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and resigned in 1984 to join politics. He became Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs [MEA] under Rajiv Gandhi and continued to help Sonia Gandhi after Rajiv’s assassination. He accompanied her at various visits to foreign countries and was a favourite of the ‘dynasty’ till his name figured in the Volcker Report as beneficiary in the “Oil for Food” programme in Iraq. The Volcker Report mentioned the Congress Party as a beneficiary.  Justice Pathak Commission exonerated the Congress and commented that there was no evidence of material gains by Natwar Singh. The Congress Party spokesperson and Dr. Manmohan Singh put the entire blame on Natwar Singh who resigned from the Party and the Cabinet.  Natwar Singh believes that Sonia Gandhi did so in order to save the Congress. It is possible that she may have done this in order to save the real culprits.

The loyalist, having been let down, became a strong critic of the Congress, Dr. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. Natwar Singh comments that Dr. Manmohan Singh never forgets a slight, but his expression does not show it. The latter had no foreign policy. Whenever he planned a visit to Pakistan, some anti-India incident took place leading to its cancellation. After one of the meetings with him, Nawaz Sharif remarked that it is useless talking to him and that he rather wait and speak to the next Prime Minister.

On learning about Natwar Singh writing a book, Sonia Gandhi called on him and her gushing greeting bewildered him. It was so out of her character to do so after eighteen and a half years. Swallowing her pride she had come to her closest friend.

On Pakistan

While working in the PMO’s office, Natwar Singh recommended benign neglect of Pakistan, for nothing bothered Pakistan more than indifference. However, his advice was ignored.  As Ambassador in Pakistan, he resolutely stood his ground. The late Zia-ul-Haq told him “Kunwar Saheb, Kashmir is in our blood.” Natwar Singh responded “It is in our bone marrow.” During his tenure in Pakistan, he realized the futility of trying to address the Pakistani people. The people always supported their country’s foreign policy. He took active part in the negotiations for the Indo-US nuclear deal.

On Sri Lanka

Natwar Singh narrates the events that lead to the tragedy in Sri Lanka. In the SAARC summit held in Bangalore in November 1986, the then President of Sri Lanka, J. R. Jayewardene broke the unwritten rule of not raising any bilateral issues and criticized India’s support to the Tamil militants. Rajiv Gandhi instructed Natwar Singh and P. Chidambaram to meet M. G. Ramachandran, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who considered Jaffna an extension of his state and provided financial and military aid to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was staying with him. President Jayewardene learnt about this and demanded that Prabhakaran be handed over to them. Having achieved success in negotiating accords in Assam and Punjab, Rajiv Gandhi felt confident of Accord with Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka also blamed RAW for hijacking their aircraft in which sixteen persons died and some forty injured.

Sri Lankan forces cordoned off Jaffna in May 1987 and stopped supplies of essential commodities. Food sent by India in ships was interrupted by Sri Lanka navy. India air-dropped supplies on 22 July 1987 which enraged the Sri Lanka Government.  They intensified their campaign and Prabhakaran sought peace through N. Ram, editor, The Hindu. Prabhakaran demanded devolution, merger of Eastern and Northern areas and recognition of Tamil language at par with Sinhalese. A draft agreement was prepared by a team led by Natwar Singh. No military officer was included in the team. Prabhakaran was put up at Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi and pressurized by M. G. Ramachandran to agree after a promise of monetary compensation. Only one instalment had been paid. No further payments were made as, within three months, LTTE was at war with the Indian Army.  Rajiv got irritated when Natwar Singh suggested to take Prabhakaran’s agreement in writing.  The only person who had reservations about the agreement was P. V. Narasimha Rao.

Rajiv Gandhi, accompanied by Narasimha Rao, Natwar Singh and a large number of MPs from Tamil Nadu went to Colombo on 29 July 1987 and signed the India-Sri Lanka Accord at 3.00 p.m.  They had to fly by helicopter from the airport as the road had been blocked by Sri Lankans protesting against the Accord. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister and Defence Minister did not attend the signing ceremony and the reception that followed. Jayewardene and Rajiv were engaged in a serious discussion during the reception after which Rajiv told Natwar Singh that Jayewardene had requested for immediate support of the Indian Army to ensure peace and added that he had already ordered the Army. Rajiv had taken this important decision without consulting his Cabinet Ministers or the military commanders. The next day (30 July 1987) Rajiv was attacked by a Lankan guard during the naval Guard of Honour.  It was an expression of simmering discontent by Sri Lankans.

The Indian Peace Keeping Force [IPKF] arrived in Sri Lanka in August 1987 without a clear brief of their mission, intelligence and information of terrain in Jaffna. Everyone was trying to control the IPKF operations. Soon the Indian Army was at war with the LTTE. The COAS (Chief of Army Staff) General K. Sunderji had hoped to take care of the LTTE in two weeks. J. N. Dixit, who was the main adviser to Rajiv blamed others for having been misguided about the political, military and intelligence factors. K. C. Verma, Director, RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) was conducting talks with Jayewardene without the knowledge of the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs. Jayewardene remarked sarcastically to Dixit “How many policies does the Government of India have regarding the Sri Lanka situation?” When Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh, the Army Commander suggested to the COAS to seek clarification from the government on some issue, he commented “Woh sunta nahin hai.” [They do not listen.]

The story of payment to LTTE by the Government of India was leaked by an Indian journalist. It was timed to block a new peace initiative by RAW. The leak was traced to Dixit.  Monetary payment to the LTTE was to help the LTTE to change over from violence to a peaceful life. In 1988, Jayewardene stepped down and Ranasinghe Premdasa took over as President of Sri Lanka. He dismantled the policy of Accord. In India, Rajiv lost the elections in 1989 and V. P. Singh recalled the IPKF who were received with black flags at Chennai.

Sri Lanka erected a monument in 2008 to honour the 1155 Indian soldiers who made their supreme sacrifice. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh did not visit the inauguration of the monument. The IPKF martyrs had laid down their lives, not in the defence of their motherland, but due to misguided policies of the Congress Government which chose to ignore the IPKF.

E-mail: sureshsharma236@yahoo.com


Bihar Elections – An inexpert analysis : Firoze Hirjikaka

The most significant deduction drawn from the recently concluded Bihar election is that it is not won by the JDU-RJD-Congress combine (Grand Alliance or GA), but it is lost by an overconfident and arrogant BJP.

The Bihar elections turned out to be – to selectively quote Shakespeare – “a tale full of sound and fury”, although the result signified a great deal. The election was touted in the media as a Battle of the Giants; media headlines screamed “photo finish” and “down to the wire”; news anchors almost wet themselves in their excitement; exit polls variously predicted a victory of Modi’s gang (NDA) or of Nitish Kumar’s coalition (GA). One thing they all agreed on was that it would be a close contest. They all wound up with egg on their collective faces.

In the end, it turned out to be a David versus Goliath tussle. Mighty Modi was laid low by a Kumar (of questionable DNA). He left the field licking his wounds and, no doubt, pondering on where to lay the blame – anywhere, but on himself, to be sure. For the first time in recent memory, Amit Shah looked less smug; although he managed to drum up a smile as he presented a bouquet to the Big Boss. In fact, bouquets were the order of the day as Modi arrived for the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting the day after the results. One would have got the impression that the Ministers were felicitating a conquering hero instead of…well, you know. But of course, in the BJP parivar, only victories are credited to the Great Leader. Defeats occur because his lieutenants let him down. In any case, any despondency Modi might have felt will soon be obliterated in a few days, when 60,000 adoring Non-Resident Indians welcome him with shouts of “Modi! Modi!” at Wembley Stadium in London. Adulation is the stuff of life to him.  (The article was written before Modi’s London visit.)

What went wrong for the BJP?

Primarily the immutable conviction among the Modi bhakts that as long as big man was around to address mass rallies and work the Modi magic, the party could not lose. (Delhi was an aberration, for after all, you could not expect those Capital snobs to empathize with a “humble chaiwallah”). What they and the Big Chief perhaps did not appreciate is that even the most impressive magic trick loses its charm if it is repeated ad nauseam. The rabble rousing oratory, elaborate hand gestures and sarcastic jabs at political opponents, that Modi had perfected into an art form became predictable and sad with repeated overuse. Moreover, after 18 months of grand promises, reality had begun to sink into the minds of the great unwashed Indian public. The “sabka saath, sabka vikas” mantra begins to sound a bit hollow when tur dal costs Rs.200 a kilo.

The Caste Card – Boon or Bane

Intentionally or by a fortuitous coincidence, the Nitish-Laloo duo hit Modi in his most vulnerable  spot – his ego. Modi’s early rallies were on the right track. He talked about development and jobs and imminent prosperity – and the crowds responded enthusiastically. But then Laloo took personal digs at him and he could not stomach that. He shed his statesman-like Prime Minister avatar and reverted to the street fighter he started out as. During the latter half of the election cycle, Modi was sounding more and more like a grassroots politician – complete with name calling and thinly disguised innuendos. He wore his membership of the Extremely Backward Class (EBC) as a badge of honour and attempted to cash in on it at every opportunity. In my opinion, the Prime Minister of an important country – particularly one who is trying to project himself as an international statesman to the world community – should not be lowering the dignity of his high office by exploiting his caste for perceived electoral gains. Even Amit Shah stated at an election rally that “BJP will pick up OBC, EBC issues better because PM is from that class.” Amitbhai, in fact, went one step further, by invoking dire consequences of a BJP defeat that, according to him, would cause celebratory fireworks to be burst in Pakistan. Significantly, “sabka saath, sabka vikas” mantra seemed to have been put into cold storage. On the one hand, PM Modi is attempting to portray India as a modern, progressive nation and inviting the international community to invest in the country. And then, he and his top deputy are shamelessly playing the caste card for the sake of votes. If Modi wants to project himself as a development oriented leader, he needs to discard the “humble chai-wallah” tag that helped to get him elected, but is no longer relevant. He is no longer a party leader, but the Prime Minister of the country and accordingly, he should hold himself above petty politics.

So there you have it. A Prime Minister who came to power on a platform of development and a promise – to paraphrase Donald Trump – “to make India great again”, squandered his political capital on an ill-conceived political strategy. He descended to the old school style of politics where the purpose is to defame and ridicule your opponents. Thus he called Laloo Prasad a shaitan  presiding over a jungle raj, took exception to Nitish Kumar’s DNA, brandished pieces of paper during his rallies to sneer at how venal and untrustworthy the leaders of the GA were; and, in the process, he lost the plot. He virtually handed over the election to Nitish and Laloo on a platter. To be fair, Modi should not take the entire blame for the poll debacle. His moronic ministers and inflammatory henchmen played their part by harping on beef bans and playing the Hindutva card to the hilt – thereby strengthening the perception that the BJP was heavily influenced by the extreme right wing Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS). To their credit, the Bihar electorate refused to be “cowed” down by the venomous rhetoric. It would be premature to state that the master strategist has lost his chutzpah, but it would serve him well to do some serious introspection.

What’s next for the BJP and its guiding light?

The near total rout of the BJP in the Bihar election has serious implications for PM Modi personally. For the past two years, Modi has been able to exert absolute control over his ministers and BJP leaders because he impressed upon them that whatever they may think about him and his policies, they absolutely need him to win elections. Now that the people of Bihar have busted that myth, Modi may face uncomfortable questions from his own party members. Some may even become emboldened to criticise him openly. In fact, BJP icons like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have publicly voiced their displeasure. Amit Shah, in particular, is likely to come under heavy fire. Many senior BJP leaders consider him to be an upstart who was made party president, mainly because of his close association with Modi during his years as the Gujarat CM. Now that his much vaunted organizational skills have yielded negative results, the knives will be out for him.

Incidentally, Modi is the most powerful PM India has had since Indira Gandhi. If he wanted to, he could have shut up his loud mouthed Ministers and Hindutva hotheads in no time. Hitherto, he chose not to do so, perhaps for perceived electoral gains in Bihar. That gambit has failed miserably. Perhaps Modi will now put those fanatics in their place after realising that they are dragging him and the BJP down.

The Future

In news just in, it seems Modi has got the message loud and clear. The PM has announced an increase in Foreign Direct Investment across several sectors. He has acceded to multi-national companies’ long standing wishes, such as FDI in single brand retail. Hopefully, Modi has finally realised that Hindutva politics does not have much resonance among a majority of the population. Much as Modi’s natural inclination may be to oblige his mentor, the RSS, he may realise that the government must distance itself from any talk about a Hindu Rashtra. If this is indeed the case, we may still see the India Modi promised during the Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Firoze Hirjikaka is a retired civil engineer and a freelance writer.  E-mail: leonardo8_99@yahoo.com

AIRLOOMS – Random Recollections of an Ancient Aviator : By Cecil Parker

Airlooms Cover Cropped ReducedBOOK - Airlooms Back Cover

Sanbun Publishers, New Delhi; Year of publication:2014; Pages:192; Price:Rs.225

Reviewed by K. S. Nair, son and son-in-law of IAF officers; life-long student of the IAF’s history and author of several articles on the IAF.  His book “Ganesha’s Flyboys” tells the story of the IAF in the Congo in the 1960s.  E-mail: ksk_history@yahoo.in

The name Cecil V. Parker should immediately be recognizable to those who remember the 1971 war.  Air Vice-Marshal Cecil Vivian Parker, MVC, VM, is one of less than twenty Indian Air Force personnel since Independence who have received the Maha Vir Chakra, India’s second-highest gallantry decoration.  For 28 years, he was the only MVC recipient from his home state, until Major Padmapani Acharya (the role played by actor Nagarjuna Akkineni, in the film LOC Kargil) posthumously received the same decoration in 1999.

AVM Parker’s MVC was the mid-point of an IAF career with many distinctions.  He remained active after leaving the IAF, in the private sector and in teaching.   Gifted with an engaging writing style, he has written frequently, during and after his period of service.  His articles have appeared in services and aviation journals, general interest magazines, and in newspapers.  Airlooms, the whimsically-titled book under review is a collection of some sixty-odd of these pieces.

Airlooms is certainly not AVM Parker’s “memoirs” – though Indian aviation aficionados would have appreciated that.  The pieces making up this collection are mostly light recollections of escapades and situations from his life, sometimes harum-scarum, sometimes dramatic, but not necessarily of special historic or military significance.  Many are tributes to colleagues; most have a services flavour, but some are simple family stories, and a few are reflections on management or leadership challenges.  They are cheerful in tone, always enjoyable and, at times, thought-provoking.

The tone is sunny and self-deprecating; the humour is nothing so much as – this may be an odd word to use about a highly-decorated warrior, but it is appropriate – gentle.  The tenor throughout is fatherly, and understanding of human foible.  The armed forces career offers opportunities, indeed demands, to exercise courage, certainly.  But often it simply pitchforks a young officer into situations where he has to take some personal chastisement and, if he grows appropriately later, into situations where he has to dish some out.  AVM Parker’s stories demonstrate numerous lessons learnt; and when his turn came, passed on.

There is, characteristically, nothing in this collection on the exploits of derring-do that earned AVM Parker his decorations. There is, and I think this is significant, just one short wartime piece.  It recounts an unplanned attack on a train encountered in the wrong place.  Then-Wing Commander Parker realized, literally just as he rolled his formation into the attack, that the train was carrying civilian passengers.  As that realization struck, this gunnery trophy winner – closely followed in this, as in much else, by his well-trained formation – without any fuss, altered his aiming point just a little, expending his ammunition harmlessly over the target and into empty desert beyond.  I would like to think this little story says something important, about the ethos of the Indian armed forces.

At a time when much is made of how the 1990s and 2000s have greatly improved life in India, AVM Parker’s stories are sometimes salutary corrective.  They convey a sense of an altogether more innocent period, a period when mid-seniority Indian armed forces officers, like most of the middle class in those days, had very little in cash and consumer goods.  Yet, they experienced a certain richness of life, in ways that seem to have been lost today.  Squadron Leaders and Wing Commanders, in the India of that time, could and did encounter Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Governors, and interact with them meaningfully.  They could invite such august personages to their messes, on the basis of a services connection and mutual respect, and see the invitation graciously accepted.  There seems to have been much less of the determined intermediation that would probably be interposed today, by a clucking bureaucracy.

The stories also convey the wonderful diversity of the armed forces, and indeed of India of the time.  This was a period before Bollywood and cable television imposed their current superficial uniformity on the middle class, and some of the rich social variety of that period is nicely captured.

The reminiscences covered in Airlooms span a few decades, during which the author went through a number of interesting roles in the IAF – some of which are only hazily visible as background in these stories.  The stories can all stand on their own, each by itself; but there does seem to have been some editing, to establish connections and cross-references between some of them.

This prompts one of my few criticisms of the book : I might have asked for a few lines of connecting narrative, between pieces, conveying a little more of the background and stage of the author’s progress in service – I believe this would only improve the book, for a wider audience.  I might also have asked for a different cover picture.  The current cover shows a stock image of the IAF’s Suryakirans aerobatic team.  An image of their immediate predecessors, the Thunderbolts, would have had a more direct connection to the author.  The Thunderbolts were formed out of a squadron that the author commanded, and flew the Hawker Hunter, the aircraft type with which he is most identified.

Photo Courtesy : IAF. Thunderbolts Aerobatic Team
Photo Courtesy : IAF. Thunderbolts Aerobatic Team

… But even as I write these thoughts, they seem churlish, among so much else there is to enjoy in this most agreeable book.  Definitely recommended, especially to those who remember the times!

The author is personally known to this reviewer.


NEXT POST : Bihar Elections – An inexpert analysis

Global Jihad and America – The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan : Taj Hashmi

BOOK - Global Jihad

Sage Publications (I) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Year:2014; Pages:324; Price:Rs.995

Reviewed by Humera Ahmed, freelance writer and author of short stories. Currently, Managing Editor of an e-journal “ehsasforwomen.com”.  E-mail: hunaa5@yahoo.co.in

Taj Hashmi, the Assam born  Professor of Security Studies at the Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee, is the author of the book.  Hashmi’s credentials in attempting the study are impressive.  He has vast experience in teaching  Islamic and Modern South Asian History and Cultural Anthropology in various universities – Bangladesh, Australia, Singapore, Canada and authoring several papers, essays and books on these subjects.  His book Women and Islam in Bangladesh is a best seller in Asian Studies.

So how does Mr. Hashmi explain this phenomenon of “Jihad” which seems to be spreading so menacingly and distressingly beyond Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, and God only knows, which other country will be in line next.  And what about the rise of Islamists in Egypt after the euphoric Arab Spring? And what does he consider the solution to this phenomenal clash between the Islamists and the West?  What does the book offer on the loaded concept of Global Jihad?  Is it another addition to the growing corpus of the ever-increasing literature on Global Jihad versus War on Terror or does it throw new light on this burning issue?

According to Hashmi, the book is an attempt to examine and understand the clash between the West and the Islamists in its proper perspective since literature churned out after 9/11 gives the impression that “Islamist terrorism is the biggest threat to Western civilizations”.  The Western policy-makers, influenced by the advice of such Islamophobes, take counter-terrorism measures such as preemptive strikes and unauthorized invasion of countries, exacerbating the problem. Unfortunately, the Muslim World, under the fanatical influence of anti-west clerics and Islamists, portrays the West as evil, programmed to destroy Islam and regain the lost colonies, and therefore, promotes the concept of global jihad against all perceived to be anti-Islam including the deviant Muslims.

While examining the clash between the Islamists and the Islamophobists, Hashmi has critiqued the following issues : whether post-colonial terror and anarchy are legacies of European Colonial rule; whether terrorism is/was an existential threat to America or any Western Nation; is Islam a religion of peace, and therefore, not responsible for the terror outfits spawning in many Muslim countries; has globalization created an uneven playing field between the western and the Muslim nations and, consequently, resulted in a surge of Islamic militancy; whether the West–Islamist clash is due to the Military–Industrial Complex and the Israel lobby in America; is America an empire and is its imperialistic behaviour the biggest threat to world peace; and, whether the Islamists are playing second fiddle to Russia, China and other old contenders in the conflict of hegemony between America and others .

Each of these issues takes the shape of a chapter followed by pages of Notes and References.  In the introductory chapter itself the author cum scholar cum professor summarizes each chapter and explains each issue, thus providing a glimpse of the discussions emerging in each chapter.

The first chapter explains the difference between Islam – the religion, as emanating from the Quran and Islamism, which is a political ideology emanating from the various interpreters such as the Salafis and Wahabis.  The author explains how a religion, which inspired and sustained a unique civilization and dominated many parts of the world for over a millennium, declined like many others due to complacency, neglect of science and technology, internal feuds – sectarian, tribal or racial, and through foreign invasions.  Today, most of the Muslim nations created by arbitrarily drawing lines by the colonists, ignoring traditional, ethnic, tribal and cultural affinities, positioning a Zionist, aggressive Israel in a Palestinian dominated territory, have made them acutely aware of their backwardness and subjugation by an advanced, techno-savvy west and the community feels threatened and humiliated.  To emphasize this, Hashmi quotes Lindner : “Humiliation is the strongest force that creates rift and breaks down relationships among people ….. Men such as Osama bin Laden would never have followers if there were no victims of humiliation in many parts of the world….”

And therefore, terrorism is a weapon “of the weak”, the disempowered and exploited people who cannot otherwise  overpower strong and powerful states.  In the case of the Muslims, they tend to take recourse through Islamists, invoking a “Utopian” past, as the present secular leadership which is perceived as corrupt, autocratic and pro-west has failed them.

Ironically, Islamism, as manifested through the Taliban, was welcomed by the West against Russia.  It is only in the post Cold War period, and the aftermath of 9/11 that the Islamist have been identified with terror.  But not all Islamist, only those who are not conducive or favourable to the West.  Thus Iran – anti-West and anti-Israel – poses the greatest threat, while Saudi Arabia, whose antipathy towards Iran, a Shia nation – ideologically against the Salafi and Wahabi Sunnis dominant in  Saudi Arabia and Egypt – is a staunch ally.  Global Jihadism, therefore, has acquired a different context – it is no longer  just anti-West and anti-Israel, it has become a sectarian and ideological strife between the different sects and interpreters of Islam.  More Muslims, than non-Muslims, are killing Muslims whom they term as deviant.  The proxy war between the Wahabi/Salafis and the Shias and other sects of Islam has spilled over into Pakistan, Iraq and Syria in gigantic proportions. The Palestinian problem, which commenced in 1948 and is the primeval cause of the conflict between the Muslims and the West, continues to fester while the Palestinians are bombed and terrorized by Israel; and America continues to destabilize and remove governments hostile to it, or allows its allies to fund Terror and then declare a War on Terror especially in resource rich or strategically located countries.

By the time we reach the concluding chapter, the reader is aware of the causes of Global Jihad and the summarization that it has no existential ramification for America or the West.  For them, the threat is a myth, but for different sects of the Muslims, it is very much a reality and will continue as long as America continues to be dominated by the Israel lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex which needs war and sale of weapons, and till the Palestinian problem is resolved.

Taj Hashmi’s book offers no solution to the 100-year strife, but it is an erudite study and a positive addition to the body of literature which counters the Islamophobia propaganda and makes an attempt to create a better understanding between the West and the Muslims.


From FF Digital Team:  The reader has had a good dose on the subject of “Terrorism” with the above book review and prior to that, the article by Dr. B. Ramesh Babu on “Failure of Terror Talks” between India and Pakistan – sort of a never-ending matter between the two warring neighbours.  To lighten up a bit, our next post will also be the review of a book, a random recollections of an ancient aviator, entitled “Airlooms” by Air Vice Marshall Cecil Parker.

Do keep the conversation going by commenting on the posts.  HAPPY DIWALI CELEBRATIONS!

Terror Talks, 2015 Called Off : Enduring Challenge of Dialogue with Pakistan – By Dr. B. Ramesh Babu

One can choose one’s friends and how friendly one wants to be with them. As regards relatives, the choice is restricted by links of blood and lineage; but when it comes to neighbours, there is no choice.

Eternal Neighbours

India and Pakistan are next door neighbours and they have to learn to live with each other. How peacefully or how acrimoniously, or a varying mix of the two, depends upon a multiplicity of factors, causes and consequences.  The equation between the two countries is complicated by a shared past and the Partition; wars and cease fires; memories; competition and cooperation. Passage of time has naturally toned down the strong emotional overtones of the elders. The rise of new generations of leaders to power in the two countries has transformed the bilateral equation in many ways, whose contours are yet to be understood fully. The old hangs on and the new is yet to be in full command. Normally, a passage of 70 years is a long time. Yet, it is rather short in the long history of ancient civilizations.

As far as India and Pakistan are concerned talking, calling off the talks; and resuming talks again, and yet again are the eternal and recurring realities in the bilateral equation. The two countries are inextricably engaged with one another for ever. They neither can escape nor opt out. Exchange of bullets and mortars across the LOC and the international borders can be seen as not so silent form of a dialogue!  They also convey the language of hate and revenge. One side shoots, the other side gives a fitting reply, is the deafening refrain!  In the bargain, soldiers of the two sides and innocent Kashmiris on both sides of the border become the unfortunate victims.  I often wonder how such mayhem is supposed to win the sympathy and loyalty of Kashmiris for Pakistan.

NSA Talks

Cutting short the long and familiar story of the flip flops on talks between India and Pakistan, let’s take a close, critical look at the 2015 National Security Advisor-level (NSA) talks that were not held. The latest round of India-Pakistan engagement began well enough, like the many other beginnings and endings in the past. India and Pakistan are once again under international pressure to resume talks after the Foreign Secretary level talks of 2014 were cancelled by India as Pakistan persisted in meeting the Hurriyat leaders despite India’s clear and categorical advance warning.

Among the discussions at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit Meeting in Ufa, Russia in July 2015 – attended by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif – Russia, China and the US urged the two PMs to do something positive before the Summit ends. This resulted in a joint statement – hurried and spontaneous – which also means, not well prepared!  One of the key outcomes was the scheduling of a meeting between the NSAs of the two countries in New Delhi in the near future to discuss “all issues related to terrorism”.  For the first time, a joint statement issued by India and Pakistan did not mention the Kashmir issue. This was seen as a crucial break-through by the Indian side.  Instead of maintaining a discreet silence, the Indian side, especially the electronic media went to town celebrating India’s unprecedented “victory”.  The damage was done. A few days after returning home, Nawaz Sharif met his Army Chief and ISI, along with his NSA. We can safely infer that the stormy meeting was a prelude to the undoing of the terror talks to be held in New Delhi shortly.

The Kashmir Issue

In his press conference of 13 July 2015, the seasoned diplomat, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s NSA initiated the diplomatic and publicized process of undoing the slip-up in the joint statement.  He insisted that the Kashmir issue was very much subsumed in the formulation of “all issues related to terrorism”.  He asserted that there was no dilution of the Kashmir issue, which is central to the relations between the two countries. The unfortunate process of unhinging the forward movement achieved at the meeting of the two PMs began in earnest. Rhetorical excesses and scoring debating points over each other took over the driver’s seat. Habits die hard indeed! The inevitable happened and the NSA-level talks scheduled for 23-24 August 2015 were called off by Pakistan. In the eminently avoidable “blame game” of who ran away from talks first, India succeeded in pushing Pakistan over the brink.

However, in retrospect the success did not amount to much of a victory for India. Many delicate questions of diplomacy and policy being undone by badly managed process came to the fore. If Kashmir issue is so vital for Pakistan, why wasn’t the word given some space in the joint statement?  If “all issues related to terrorism” is understood to have included Kashmir, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aziz Choudhary should have prevailed upon India’s Foreign Secretary S.  Jaishankar to include Kashmir in the joint statement. After all, the two worked hard for hours on drafting it. If no dialogue with India was possible without including Kashmir, why did Aziz feel compelled to repeat it in every press conference, statement and interview he gave subsequently? Obviously, the only terrorism that Ajit Doval, India’s NSA would have discussed with Sartaj Aziz at their meeting was terrorism in Kashmir and the ceasefire violations along the LOC and Aziz could have seized the opportunity to bring in the issue. He would then have had the chance of raising the issues of the alleged involvement of India in Baluchistan and Sindh. Pakistan goofed up by calling off the talks, I must add.

On the Indian side, there was a critical slip-up in the midst of the shrill and hectic race for one upmanship that preceded the D-day. Pakistan’s insistence on meeting the Hurriyat leaders “before” and “after” the meeting of the two NSAs was a red herring. They knew very well that India will not allow the Hurriyat leaders to meet Sartaj Aziz or the High Commissioner of Pakistan. That they have been meeting the Hurriyat leaders in the past was a lame ruse. However, Aziz left the door ajar for the talks when he said that “We are disturbed about the arrest of the Hurriyat leaders, but if India doesn’t call off the talks we will go ahead with them.”

India should have taken advantage of the opening; let Aziz come for the talks and then confronted him with all the evidence at its disposal on Pakistan’s collusion on terrorism in J&K and the plethora of ceasefire violations since July 2, 2015. The opportunity, to produce the terrorist (Naved of Faislabad) captured alive before Aziz and the world, was also lost.  Now we have a second Pakistani terrorist in our custody. Our case could have been strengthened by the precedent.

A word of caution is in order at this stage. Even if the talks were held and India succeeded in “exposing” Pakistani perfidy on terrorism yet another time, there would have been no real change in the hostile neighbour’s policy of “bleeding India by thousand cuts.” On the eve of cancelling the talks Sartaj Aziz brazenly accused India of “concocting stories” of Pakistani involvement in terrorism in J&K and ceasefire violations across LOC. If anything the country’s “denial mode” would have become more brazen and entrenched.

Hope Against Hope

It is good to note that Mahmud Durrani, former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, stated that he would blame Nawaz Sharif’s team for failing to recognize India’s smart manoeuvre at Ufa.  He said that Pakistan should recognize India as the Big Brother and India should respect Pakistan and added that Modi is more aggressive in dealing with Pakistan and his country should readjust its policies and postures accordingly. May be such sane voices will grow and gather strength in Pakistan over time. But, hope is neither a strategy nor a policy. In any case there will be yet another opportunity to “expose” Pakistan because sooner or later the bilateral dialogue at the political level would be resumed. There is no alternative.

The meeting of the DGMOs (Directors General of Military Operations) of the two sides was held in New Delhi in September, and in a surprisingly friendly atmosphere. The two sides decided to ensure the well-being of the people living in the border areas, jointly resolve ceasefire violations and cross-border infiltration through timely exchange of information and send back people crossing the border inadvertently.  But, will the bonhomie hold good, since while the discussions were on, there were two ceasefire violations by the Pakistani forces.  So life goes on as ever before; India should not expect any material change in the situation of cross-border violence and intrusions.

In this hullabaloo, the larger and the enduring issues remain as elusive as ever. Everyone, on all sides, including the big powers and the UN, urge India to resume dialogue with Pakistan. But, it is not clear as to what India is going to say when the two sides meet. Should India ask them when they would end aggression in J&K and go home peacefully, when would they stop exporting terrorism into J&K and other parts of India?  Can India believe that there will ever be any material change in Pakistani policies?

Political Moves

In all the Modi bashing indulged in by some sections in India, his “muscular” shift in dealing with Pakistan is missed. The “red line” on the Hurriyat leaders is aimed at eroding their legitimacy and relevance in our equation with Pakistan. It is a logical step forward in India’s established policy of no “third party” involvement in the Kashmir dispute. Whether the departure from the past will work or not, only the future can tell.  Personally, I am in favour of the shift because the earlier posture and policies did not work. The deliberate effort to marginalize Hurriyat is to India’s advantage. Giving precedence to Hurriyat over the elected governments of the state is illogical and ill-conceived. The Government of India (GOI) should stick to the goal of ignoring and isolating the Hurriyat, at home and abroad. It is unfortunate that Rahul Gandhi visited the Hurriyat stronghold in the Valley expressing happiness over interacting with people. Narrow partisan politics have taken precedence over larger interests of the country. This is one of the recurring tragedies of our national politics.

According to some security experts on the Indian side, Hafiz Saeed and Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq conspired to force Pakistan to call off the Terror Talks. Mirwaiz blamed India for “new hurdles” against the talks, found fault with Modi, but not even a hint of criticism against Pakistan for exporting terrorism and for the plethora of ceasefire violations since July 2, 2015. It is important to state here that no country in the world allows separatists to meet and interact with visiting foreign dignitaries or their embassy officials. This should be stopped for ever.  Modi and the GOI should not yield on this “red line.”

Aggressor or Victim

Some Pakistani spokesmen discovered a new arrow defending their country on terrorism pointing out that Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism and it would be foolish for them to indulge in exporting terrorism. This is a spurious argument and does not answer the question of terrorism emanating from the Pakistani soil across the LOC. Internal terrorism in the country, the killing of their own soldiers’ children in the Military Academy and the dastardly attacks of the Taliban and other fundamentalist outfits are the outcomes of their own policies of promoting Islamic fundamentalism over decades. These elements are no longer in the control of the Army and the ISI.  Hafeez Saeed and others blackmail the Pakistani Government on its India policy, as proved by the cancellation of the latest NSA-level Terror Talks. The other detriment is the rhetoric on television panel discussions by leaders of both sides.

India has to contend with the determined hostility of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishments with which the civilian leadership is compelled to go along. In international relations, like life in general, it is unrealistic to assume that all problems have solutions. Coping with them and learning to live with them is the enduring challenge India faces in dealing with Pakistan. Engagement yes, but no resolution of problems, are the facts of life, at least in the foreseeable future.

Dr. B. Ramesh Babu is a specialist in International Relations and American Politics. He is the Scholar in Residence, Foundation for Democratic Reforms, Hyderabad. Formerly he was the Sir Pherozeshah Mehta Professor and Head of the Department of Civics and Politics, University of Bombay. He is also associated with Hyderabad based institutions of higher learning like the ICFAI, OUCIP, IPE and the Central University.  E-mail: brameshbabu08@gmail.com


From FF Digital Team : Next post – Review of Taj Hashmi’s “Global Jihad and America”

Trust Deficit Between the Government and the People – A Potential Danger to the Nation – By H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana


A survey of what is happening on the national scene gives a very alarming foreboding for the future of India.  It appears the country is hurtling headlong into a situation that holds a potential for imploding with catastrophic consequences to its stability and integrity.  The television or print media, internet or cinema are full of negative happenings in the society – unchecked corruption, murders, rape in all its depravity, divorce, honour killings, religious polarization, etc. which send disturbing signals as to where our society is heading.  We pride ourselves as the world’s largest parliamentary democracy with a written constitution that enshrines the best features taken from other countries. As the country progressed, we have incorporated more than 100 amendments to our constitution to adapt to the changing situation in the larger interest of governance and to build an equitable and inclusive society.

For a country which is now  in its 69th year of independence, comparatively young, the progress achievement whether in food production, education, science and technology, space exploration, nuclear technology, communication, etc. is enviable.  We are presently poised to join the ranks of developed countries of the world.  There is another face of India that is singularly striking.  We have the unique record of not invading any country; on the contrary, we have been ravished by hordes of invaders for centuries and yet the strength of our 5000 years of cultural heritage and values was such that those who came as invaders got assimilated into the mainstream of life. Though comparison may be odious, it is disquieting to see how smaller countries like Singapore or Japan have made long strides in a short period, while with lot of potential, India with all progress made appears to be a failed state. Here lies the paradox as though India is living at two levels divorced from reality for what is generally construed as achievement of progress is only a surface phenomenon and misleading.

For example, our diaspora spread across the world has an envious record. To cite the statistics: 38% of doctors in US are Indians, 34% of NASA scientists are Indians, 34% of Microsoft employees are Indians, 28% of IBM employees are Indians,17% of Intel employees are Indians and 12% of total scientists in US are Indians.  Therefore, it strikes me odd that it is the same educated Indians blessed with the same brain power are, in larger numbers, in India and yet the country has failed to marshal their potential.  When analysed, our democracy has become fragile and is in danger of crumbling into anarchy with unpredictable consequences. There are many issues seemingly intractable that confront India and each one of them, when not handled wisely and firmly by the political establishments, has a potential to spiral out of control to engulf the nation in political and economic chaos.  Currently, India faces its toughest test of existential reality of its democratic credentials .Unless the political rulers and the opposition rise above petty politics for personal gain, demonstrate their statesmanship to confront the economic and social challenges the country faces and work in the larger interest of the country, all  the gains made till now may be seriously compromised, besides exposing the country as an easy target  for inimical forces to strike.

Here are some instances of problems that India faces.

Wash out of the Monsoon Session

Perhaps in the history of parliamentary democracy, the recently concluded monsoon session ended without any major bill passed.  It was apparent from day one the main opposition party Congress appeared determined not to let the parliament function. It was marked by frequent disruption of the session – both houses of the parliament rushing into the well of the House shouting away and tearing papers.  The speaker known for her exemplary patience was forced to dismiss 25 MPs  from attending the House for five days.  It is a matter of shame for the country that MPs misbehaved in front of a gallery of important visitors from other countries.

Some important and urgent bills like the reformation bill on Goods and Services and the contentious bill on Land Acquisition had to be shelved.

Protest by military veterans on OROP issue

Our Indian Army is known world over for their bravery, discipline and fighting qualities. They have demonstrated their military prowess in three wars fought against Pakistan where our brave jawans sacrificed their lives.  The jawans are subjected daily to cross-border firing in J&K besides fighting the terrorists infiltrating the border. This has resulted in both civilian and military casualties.  Our military veterans who, during their active service fought for the security of the country, and the widows of those who laid down their lives for the country, are unable to lead a dignified life owing to poor pension benefits.  It is in this context our veterans are asking the government to implement One Rank One Pension (OROP) which will give pension regardless of when they retired so that they can get adequate pension to lead a comfortable life.

Protest for reservation for Patels in Gujarat

The reservation has a chequered history. The definitive beginning was when the Mandal Commission was established in 1979 during the Janata Party rule under Morarji Desai. Its recommendation was all but forgotten and was revived when V. P. Singh became prime minister and his position was threatened. It took a dramatic turn when a student, Rajiv Goswami immolated himself in October 1990.  Presently, it stands with the Supreme Court limiting the reservation to 50%. This has thrown up a different dimension with each and every caste protesting, from time to time, in a competitive bid to gain the ‘backward community’ tag trying to claim a share in the pie.  Reservation has become a contentious issue with political parties reducing it to vote bank politics.

The latest incarnation is the emergence of a middle class, well-employed  22 year old Hardik Patel agitating for reservation status for his community. His agitation claimed nine lives after his arrest and seems to throw a new dimension to the reservation policy. In his interview to The Hindu on August 27, 2015 he says: ‘Our people don’t get jobs despite scoring 80-90 percent marks, so they are forced to do their own business, because of reservation system’.

Meanwhile, M. G. Vaidya, RSS ideologue says that caste based quota should be abolished.  This development may trigger an anti-reservation policy.  This is going to result in political turbulence for the implied message in Hardik’s agitation is also abolition of caste-based reservation since merit is ignored.  Meritorious people, particularly in forward-looking communities will welcome this agitation as this skewed reservation policy has acted against merit.  Hopefully, the reservation policy will get a new look so that economic backwardness would be the criteria, and not caste.

Litterateur M. M. Kalburgi shot dead in Karnataka

In a heinous crime, a scholar and a star in the literary field, M. M. Kalburgi was shot dead by unidentified persons posing as his students in his home in Dharwad on August 30, 2015.  His killing has been widely condemned.  He was known for his outspoken attitude which landed him in controversy several times. It is possible he may have made enemies as evidenced by some rabid persons who gloated over his killing and warned others of his own ilk.  The government has tightened security for such persons.

This raises a pertinent question – to what extent freedom of speech prevails.  Our Constitution gives us the right to freedom of speech and it is equally important to exercise that right wisely.  We seem to be not living in normal times; tolerance and patience appear to be in short supply.  It reminds me of Mr. Nani Palkhivala’s comment “I think we Indians have too much of independence” when asked for his thought on India’s 50th year of independence.  There are other two statements worth quoting – the French writer and philosopher, Voltaire who says “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend  to the death your right to say it.”  And, a Sanskrit saying which goes like this – Priyam bhruyat, satyam bhruyat, na bhruyat satyam appriyam which roughly means – always tell what is pleasant, what is true, but do not utter truth that is not palatable.  I hope the killers of Kalburgi are caught and punished.

Tribal protest in Manipur                

Lack of clarity in explaining the objective of passing the Manipur Peoples Bill, 2015 and the two amendments by the Manipur Government which were interpreted as ‘anti-tribal’ led to protests by students which, unfortunately, took the life of five persons and injured many.  The fact that the Chief Minister’s house was targeted and houses of four MLAs were set on fire shows a deeper malaise that has gripped not only Manipur, but indicates a general feeling of rebellion against the government.  This feeling seems to be spreading across the country where a small incident acts as a trigger and explodes into a rage with unpredictable aftermath.  It shows the governments are not only unresponsive to the aspirations of the people but also exhibits an arrogance of power.


The above issues point out to an atmosphere of rebellion building up for years against the authorities everywhere. The reason is that the general public remains a silent witness to the inequity in the system where corruption and money power have a stranglehold, subverting all institutions, to serve their selfish aims.  Government policies are designed to create caste and religious differences and help retain power with vote bank politics.  Once elected, the majority of MPs and MLAs forget that they are peoples’ representatives and behave like potentates enjoying all kinds of privileges, while the aam admi suffers untold miseries.  Successive elections, a symbol of democracy, have failed to deliver justice as only the corrupt get elected in election after election.  The rash of protests erupting all over shows the people’s disenchantment witnessing the arrogance of power.  The present situation is a warning to the governments to reform themselves, or else the silent rage building up may burst enveloping the nation with disastrous consequences.

Mr. H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana is a freelance writer based at Mysore.  E-mail: what_option@yahoo.co.in

Rein in your Tiger – An open call to Sena leader

Freedom First denounces the rowdy act of smearing black paint on the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni by some members of Shiv Sena in protest of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) hosting the book launch of Pakistan’s former foreign minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s “Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove”.

Sena leader, Sanjay Raut describes the incident – a mild form of democratic protest (sic).  Your protest is neither ‘mild’, nor ‘democratic’.

A democratic protest is a peaceful protest where no harm is done to any person or property.  Your protest is no better than the recent incidents of acid throwing!  The act could have endangered the person’s life or left a permanent scar.

Since you show concern about the blood-shed of our brave soldiers on the border, we suggest you put your ‘cubs’ along with the soldiers and the moment our jawan falls to the bullet of the enemy, smear black paint on that enemy soldier.  Udhavji can then pronounce it “brave act”!

Freedom First salutes Sudheendra Kulkarni and Nehru Centre for not cowing down under pressure.