Tag Archives: Gandhi

Modi orders bureaucrats to clean toilets on national holiday

By AFP

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered his bureaucrats to come in to work to clean up their offices — including toilets — on this week’s national holiday to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.

The move is part of a nationwide cleanliness drive to be launched by Modi on the holiday Thursday, with the premier himself expected to take a broom to the capital’s notoriously dirty streets.

The initiative has sparked grumblings by officials from India’s infamously slow and vast bureaucracy who say the request to work, although theoretically voluntary, cannot be ignored.

Modi has cracked down on officials since storming to power in May elections, demanding they turn up to work at 9 am and paying unannounced visits to government offices.

“We have already been turning up on time and working till late (since Modi took office). Now we have been asked to wield the broom and we might as well do so,” one reluctant official told AFP in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“My children are upset that I will have to go to the office even on a national holiday,” he said, requesting anonymity.

But another official was decidedly upbeat, saying it was an important step in ridding India of its entrenched class system in which only those from low castes cleaned up waste.

“It is an unprecedented sanitation movement,” the officer in the power ministry told AFP.

“Wielding the broom is a powerful symbol. It shows that no work is mean and that each one of us should be responsible for cleaning up our waste.”

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1135294

Serbia 1914 and Pakistan 2014

By  Mani Shankar Aiyar

On the eve of the centenary of the first World War, Mani Shankar Aiyar draws an elaborate analogy between the events that triggered off the world’s bloodiest war and modern-day South Asia

Today, 28 June, exactly one hundred years ago, the Serbian terrorist, Gavrilo Princip, unwittingly started the First and Second World Wars that left more than a hundred million people dead before the madness gave over three terrible decades later. Along with five other young men, all about the same age as Ajmal Kasab and his companions, Princip and his companions lined up under successive lamp-posts along the quay that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was to drive down along with his wife, Countess Sophia Chotek, to the Sarajevo Town Hall for a formal welcome reception.

The five terrorists were infuriated because the Archduke and his consort had chosen the precise anniversary of the worst day in Serbia’s collective memory, the defeat of the Serbian Tsar, Dusan, by the Turks at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, more than five centuries earlier, but which rankled as the day when the dream of Greater Serbia was ended for half a millennium. In the eyes of all Serbian nationalists and terrorists, with the Ottoman hold on the Balkans collapsing, the time had now come to avenge that defeat. Just as six centuries of Muslim rule in Delhi, from 1192 AD when Mohammad Ghori established the Sultanate to 1858 when the Last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed had reverberated in the minds of the Kasab gang of terrorists as the order to be re-established, so did the Serbian terrorists propose to reverse the 1878 occupation of Bosnia by Austria and its annexation to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908 to pave the way to the re-establishment of Tsar Dusan’s Greater Serbian Empire that had perished on the Fields of Kosovo on 28 June 1389.

Continue reading Serbia 1914 and Pakistan 2014

Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson joins AAP

by Press Trust of India

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got a shot in the arm when Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, joined the party today.

“The party is vehemently opposed to corruption and this is what I liked in it. There is a disparity between the rich and poor, and this also reflects in poor.

“If a common man joins and also becomes a part of politics then this is a welcoming step,” Gandhi, son of Devidas Gandhi and maternal grandson of C Rajagopalchari said.

The 78-year-old Gandhi, who had contested against former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi from Amethi, has expressed his willingness to contest on a party ticket. The party, too has remained mum over the issue.

“I would like to contest elections, but it is upon the party to decide on this,” Gandhi said, but refused to comment on his preferred constituency.

He added that he was approached by the party, but declined to reveal who he was in touch with from AAP and when was he contacted to join the party.

Courtesy: Indian Express
http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/mahatma-gandhis-grandson-joins-aap/#.Uwf4WLbg_sM.facebook

What’s wrong with Pakistan?

By Peerzada Salman

KARACHI, Aug 16: A book titled ‘What’s wrong with Pakistan?’ written by eminent journalist Babar Ayaz was launched at a hotel on Friday.

The main feature of the event was an interesting discussion on the contents and genesis of the book with the writer anchored by journalists Asif Noorani and Amir Zia. Mr Ayaz was first requested to read out a couple of passages from What’s wrong with Pakistan?

The author obliged and mentioned that at the beginning of every journalist’s career he’s asked to learn about the five Ws (what, where, when, who and why). Citing examples of the likes of political economist Adam Smith and economist and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx, he pointed out they studied why society behaved in a particular way.

He said he had read many books on the topic he chose to write on but had found out that those books shied away from calling a spade a spade. His was an attempt to call a spade a spade. He then read out passages from the preface to the book in which he touched upon issues such as distrust between institutions and provinces, military operations, war on terror and the notion of a failing state espoused by certain writers. He said there was a need to have an unbiased and dispassionate diagnosis. He argued Pakistan was born with a genetic defect.

After the reading was over, Mr Noorani asked the writer about why he penned a book at such a later stage in his life. The author replied that when he was a young student in Sukkur, he was required to read Shakespeare. It made him think to himself that Shakespeare would not have even imagined that one day his work would be read in a place called Sukkur. This meant writing helped you live on. Mr Ayaz said he was not in favour of compiling his newspaper columns into a book. The fact that Syed Sibte Hasan began writing after he turned 60 proved an encouraging factor as well.

Continue reading What’s wrong with Pakistan?

Indians, Pakistanis spread ‘peace-mongering’ at global vigil

New York: Amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, people from both nations settled in the US came together here to spread the message of “peace-mongering” at a ‘global peace vigil’ where they appealed to governments to engage in dialogue to resolve disputes.

The ‘India-Pakistan Peace Now Global Vigil’ was held yesterday across cities including Boston, Karachi, Lahore, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Toronto and Washington.

In New York, the vigil was held at Union Square near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and was attended by people of Indian and Pakistani origin, who stressed on the message of “peace-mongering instead of war-mongering.”

People participating in the vigil called for the need to ratchet down tension between India and Pakistan and “toning down the war hype” in the aftermath of the killing of soldiers along the Line of Control earlier this month.

People held banners that read, ‘Hope for peace’, ‘Down with war-hype’, ‘India-Pakistan friends across LoC’ and ‘Stay the peace course.’

“It makes no sense for India and Pakistan to have the level of tension we have now. A friendlier neighbourhood would be good for both countries. It does no good for Pakistan to have tension with a neighbour like India and for India to have an unstable neighbour in Pakistan,” organiser of the vigil here Ibrahim Sajid Malick said.

Beena Sarwar, a journalist from Pakistan based in Cambridge and one of the organisers of the vigil in Boston, said people from both nations have felt a “disconnect” between the “media hype” and at the people to people level over the tension between India and Pakistan.

Nearly 50 people participated in the event organised near Harvard University by the South Asia Centre, Alliance for Secular and Democratic South Asia, Harvard South Asian Association and Harvard Kennedy School South Asia Caucus.

A moment of silence was held for soldiers killed on both sides of the LoC as people called for an “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” dialogue process between the two nations.

Sarwar said among messages that people sought to spread through the vigil was that it is time that the governments and armies of both nations listened to the voice of the people rather than trying to lead the people into war mongering.

People do not want war,” she said.

Continue reading Indians, Pakistanis spread ‘peace-mongering’ at global vigil

IndoPakPeaceNOW Global Vigil Jan 27, 2013

Initiated by an Aman ki Asha supporter in New Delhi, this global event on Sunday, Jan. 27 is taking place in different cities at different times around the world. It invites Indians and Pakistanis and those who want peace between the two countries, to come together in their respective cities. The purpose of the vigils is to urge the governments to continue the dialogue, and not give in to the war hype being created by some sections of sections of society. The vigil statement is online at this link (text below)

Confirmed venues and times so far:

Bradford: 2-3 pm, Student Central, J.B. Priestly Library, University of Bradford, U.K.

Cambridge, MA: 4.30-5.30 pm, Harvard Square Pit (fb event link)

Islamabad: 6 pm, Press Club, F-6/4. Contact 0344-5469738 and 0300-9880397

Karachi: 5.30 pm, Karachi Press Club

Lahore: 6 pm, Lahore Press Club, Shimla Pihari (fb event link)

Los Angeles – 5 pm, in front of UCLA

Mumbai: 7 pm, Gateway of India

New Delhi: 5.30 pm, Gandhi Peace Foundation, email aaghazedosti@gmail.com

New York: 5 PM at Union Square near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue

Shahdadkot- 5 pm, Press Club

Toronto: 5 pm, 365 Bloor St. East, Toronto (outside Indian Consulate) (fb event link)

Washington DC: 6 pm, Chutney Restaurant, Springfield, VA

Kansas City: 5:30-7:30 at Kababesh Grill, Overland Park

Courtesy:  via Facebook

The Quaid and the Quetta massacre

By Haider Nizamani

If Muhammad Ali Jinnah happened to be on the Quetta-bound bus of Shia pilgrims on June 28, the self-proclaimed custodians of Islam would have killed him, along with 13 others. They would do so because Jinnah was a Shia and that would have been reason enough.

Jinnah, for most Pakistanis today, is the Quaid-e-Azam — the man above any sect in the Islamic Republic. As the Republic he founded increasingly becomes a place where minorities feel vulnerable, it would be remiss to forget that the founder of the country was a Shia. Born into an Ismaili family, he later converted to the Twelver (isna ashri) branch of Shia Islam. He died in 1948 and his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah, filed an affidavit in the Sindh High Court stating that her brother was a “Shia Khoja Mohamedan”. Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, jointly signed the affidavit. Khaled Ahmed, in his book Sectarian War, documents in detail how the last rites of the Quaid were performed according to Shia stipulations. Jinnah’s Shia colleagues such as Yusuf Haroon and Hashim Raza attended the namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) at the Governor General’s House, while prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan waited outside in the adjacent room. After the Shia funeral prayer, the nascent state took the body for Sunni last rites at the grounds where now stands the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi. Miss Fatima Jinnah passed away in 1967 and in her case, too, private last rites were performed according to Shia guidelines and the state-sponsored namaz-e-janaza followed it.

Sunni militant outfits portray Shias as lesser Muslims and thus, lesser Pakistanis. This commandeering of state discourse on Islam from the 1980s onward has emboldened the militants to take up arms against their coreligionists in select parts of Pakistan.

Continue reading The Quaid and the Quetta massacre

Interview with Pratap Mehta on Pakistan

Pratap Mehta: Pakistan’s Perpetual Identity Crisis

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a political theorist and intellectual historian based in New Delhi, is leading us through another reflection on the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.

The reconsideration of partition is a critical, current existential question not only for South Asians, but also for Americans who watch the continuous outrages from Taliban and CIA sanctuaries inside Pakistan. It’s a question on many levels — terrorism, geopolitics, ethnicity and religion — but, Pratap Mehta says, “it’s fundamentally the question of the identity of a country.”

In his telling of the partition story, the contemporary reality of Pakistan grew out of a failure to answer a core challenge of creating a nation-state: how do you protect a minority? It’s Mehta’s view that the framers of the modern subcontinent — notably Gandhi, Jinnah & Nehru — never imagined a stable solution to this question. He blames two shortcomings of the political discourse at the time of India’s independence:

The first is that it was always assumed that the pull of religious identities in India is so deep that any conception of citizenship that fully detaches the idea of citizenship from religious identity is not going to be a tenable one.

The second is that Gandhi in particular, and the Congress Party in general, had a conception of India which was really a kind of federation of communities. So the Congress Party saw [the creation of India] as about friendship among a federation of communities, not as a project of liberating individuals from the burden of community identity to be whatever it is that they wished to be.

The other way of thinking about this, which is to think about a conception of citizenship where identities matter less to what political rights you have, that was never considered seriously as a political project. Perhaps that would have provided a much more ideologically coherent way of dealing with the challenges of creating a modern nation-state. – – Pratap Bhanu Mehta with Chris Lydon at the Watson Institute, April 12, 2011.

Unlike many other Open Source talkers on Pakistan, Pratap Mehta does not immediately link its Islamization to the United States and its1980s jihad against the Soviets. Reagan and his CIA-Mujahideen military complex were indeed powerful players in the rise of Islamic extremism in Pakistan, he agrees, but the turn began first during a national identity crisis precipitated by another partition, the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Suddenly, Mehta is telling us, Pakistan could no longer define itself as the unique homeland for Muslims in the subcontinent. In search of identity, and distinction from its new neighbor to the east, Pakistan turned towards a West Asian brand of Islam, the hardline Saudi Wahhabism that has become a definitive ideology in today’s Islamic extremism.

Mehta is hopeful, though, that in open democratic elections Islamic parties would remain relatively marginalized, that despite the push to convert Pakistan into a West Asian style Islamic state since 1971, “the cultural weight of it being a South Asian country” with a tradition of secular Islam “remains strong enough to be an antidote.”

Click here to listen Radio Open Source interview with Pratap Mehta, it is much more in depth than the text summary

Courtesy: http://www.radioopensource.org/pratap-mehta-pakistans-perpetual-identity-crisis/

Whither Pakistan

by Syed Ehtisham

Excerpt:

The leadership of the Muslim League came mostly from provinces which were not parts of Pakistan. Jinnah, like all autocrats did not tolerate difference of opinion and had excluded the bright and the intelligent like Suharwardy and Fazal Haque while promoting Liaquat and Nazimuddin …

…. Jinnah, in a singularly misconceived move towards national integration, declared that Urdu and only Urdu will be the official language of Pakistan. That, I believe, was the first nail.

Jinnah, while he lived, kept all the levers of power in his hands. Liaquat, PM in name, did not even enjoy the powers White House chief of the staff does.

Jinnah died. Liaquat did not have the authority to embrace his legacy. The power brokers in West Pakistan would not allow the drafting of a constitution which would give representation proportional to the population of East Pakistan. I recall mullahs gave the argument that if you took out 20% of the population of the East who were Hindus, the numbers between the two wings would be equal. Some even suggested that Hindus be made to pay Jazya. Finance minister Ghulam Muhammad pointed out that they would in that case be exempt from taxes. That shut the mouth of the religious lobby.

Liaquat was reduced to offering a basic principles resolution (Qarardad e Maqasid), which declared Pakistan to be an Islamic State. That put paid to Jinnah’s legacy of separation of faith and state. ….

…. Yahya arranged an election on the basis of adult franchise. Mujib got overall majority and could garner two third majority with the help of smaller provinces. There was no problem with making Mujib the PM, except personally to Bhutto, but he wanted autonomy of the kind Jinnah had insisted on in pre-independence India. ….

….. Pakistan was further burdened by immense military expenditure, which necessitated an unholy mass of debt. All nation building measures remained in the limbo. Infra-structure, education, health, research and industry remained stunted. ….

To read complete article : ViewPoint

A controversial biography of Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi ‘racist and bisexual’ claims new book

A controversial biography of Mahatma Gandhi has claimed that the revered political leader was racist and bisexual.

Great Soul, written by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld, makes several new claims about the man who led India to independence.

The book alleges that as an older man he held “nightly cuddles” – without clothes – with seventeen year-old girls in his entourage, including his own niece.

It also suggests that he was in love with German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom he left his wife in 1908.

“Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach about ‘how completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance’,” the book said, going on to claim that Gandhi nicknamed himself “Upper House” and Kallenbach “Lower House.”

It goes on: “He made Lower House promise not to ‘look lustfully upon any woman.’ The two then pledged ‘more love, and yet more love . . . such love as they hope the world has not yet seen.'” …

Read more : The Telegraph.co.uk

Egyptian uprising. Democracy & Freedom for All!

We are with our brothers and sisters in Egypt. We Salute you and want you to know that we are by your side in this struggle against Tyranny. Be strong, we are with you. The whole world is watching you and it is by your side. Dictators of the Arab world listen the voice of the people. People will Prevail, and Tyrants in the Arab world will Fall. We are with you People of Egypt.

You Tube Link

Egypt is bruised, but not broken

By SALIM MANSUR, QMI Agency

History lessons are useful, and when events are in flux it is the past that can shed light on what the future might hold.

Autocracies, as I have indicated in recent columns, have shelf life. But there are caveats in any generalization, and the shelf life of any particular autocracy could get extended beyond its expiry date.

The current crisis in Egypt erupted with surprising speed for President Hosni Mubarak. The public demonstrations demanding an end to his 30-year rule has undermined him and very likely, as he has himself indicated, will end his presidency. …

Read more : TORONTO SUN

G. M. Syed

G. M. Syed (January 17, 1904 — April 25, 1995) was a Sindhi nationalist, leftist, revolutionary, writer and a Sufi. G M Syed was the first leader who proposed the bill for Pakistan in Sindh Assembly. Before, it Muslim league had presented resolution in Lahore  and the full council of Muslim League in the leadership of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had unanimously passed 1940 Lahore Resolution, later known as Pakistan Resolution. The full council of Muslim league granted only three aspects of governance–currency, foreign affairs, and defense related communication–to a future federation and Sindh had joined Pakistan on the condition that the states (provinces) will be ‘independent states’.

Unfortunately, the 1940 resolution was not implemented in letter and in spirit — Sindh, Bengal,  Balochistan and NWFP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) — were deprived of all their rights and its people treated as slaves. Due to it, one province of the federation named east Pakistan or Bangladesh has already seceded from Pakistan. However, G. M. Syed became the first political prisoner of Pakistan because of his differences with the leadership of the country.

Continue reading G. M. Syed

The Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity – BJP’s Jaswant revises Jinnah

 

VIEW: BJP’s Jaswant revises Jinnah —Karan Thapar

Jaswant Singh’s view of Jinnah is markedly different to the accepted Indian image. He sees him as a nationalist. In fact, the author accepts that Jinnah was a great Indian. I’ll even add he admires Jinnah and I’m confident he won’t disagree

There’s a book published tomorrow that deserves to be widely read and I want to be the first to draw your attention to it. It’s Jaswant Singh’s biography of Jinnah. Read on and you’ll discover why.

Continue reading The Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity – BJP’s Jaswant revises Jinnah

States formed on the basis of religion can never survive a peaceful future (Bertrand Russell) e.g Pakistan and Israel!

Gandhi’s Advice for Israelis and Palestinians

By ROBERT MACKEY

Writing from the West Bank town of Bilin, where there are weekly protests against the path of Israel’s separation barrier, my colleague Nicholas Kristof has sparked a discussion of “the possibility of Palestinians using nonviolent resistance on a massive scale to help change the political dynamic in the Middle East and achieve a two-state solution,” in a column and a blog post.

As my colleague Ethan Bronner reported in April, some Palestinians have explicitly endorsed just that approach and Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, visited Bilin three months ago. Mr. Gandhi toured the West Bank with Mustafa Barghouti, a leader of the Palestinian nonviolent movement who explained the approach in an interview on The Daily Show last year.

Although Mahatma Gandhi died in 1948, Pankaj Mishra pointed out in an essay last year on “the eerie echoes between the formative and postcolonial experiences of India and Israel” that the Indian leader did speak out against the resort to violence by both Jews and Arabs in mandatory Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s.

Gandhi told London’s Jewish Chronicle in an interview in 1931: “I can understand the longing of a Jew to return to Palestine, and he can do so if he can without the help of bayonets, whether his own or those of Britain… in perfect friendliness with the Arabs.”

In 1937, after Arabs tried to stop Jewish immigration to British-administered Palestine by force, Gandhi repeated his view that a homeland for Jews in the Middle East would only be possible “when Arab opinion is ripe for it.”

In his most extended treatment of the problem, an essay called “The Jews,” published in his newspaper Harijan in 1938, Gandhi began:

Several letters have been received by me, asking me to declare my views about the Arab-Jew question in Palestine and the persecution of the Jews in Germany. It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my views on this very difficult question. My sympathies are all with the Jews.

That said, he counseled Jews in both Germany and Palestine to avoid violence, writing:

If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. […]

And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it in the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. The same God rules the Arab heart who rules the Jewish heart.

Read more >> The New York Times

Gandhi in Karachi, Sindh

By: Amar Guriro

The next time you are near Urdu Bazaar, look up at a building opposite it to see one of the Subcontinent’s most famous faces looking down at you

Gandhi makes the shopkeepers of Bahadur Shah Market in Karachi smile even today. It’s their private little joke that unbeknownst to thousands of people who pass by each day, have the Indian icon smiling down at them.

Continue reading Gandhi in Karachi, Sindh

I AM A SINDHI — wrote Gandhiji way back in 1929

…when I first visited Sindh in 1916, it attracted me in a special way and a bond was established between the Sindhis and me that has proved capable of bearing severe strains. “I have been able to deliver to the Sindhis bitter truths without being misunderstood” — wrote Gandhiji way back in 1929.

Actually Gandhiji delivered to Sindh more sweet truths than bitter truths. And, in any case, all these truths indeed established a very warm relationship between Gandhiji and the Sindhis. He visited Sindh seven times — in 1916, 1917, 1920, 1921, 1929, 1931, and 1934. It was “a Sindhi friend” who had helped Gandhi shift from an expensive hotel to economical lodgings when he arrived in London for his law studies. In 1893, C.L. Lachiram, a Sindhi merchant, helped him organize the Natal Indian Congress. In 1899, Barrister Gandhi successfully fought for seven Sindhi traders who were being denied entry into South Africa. He supported the case of K. Hundamal, a silk merchant of Durban, in his articles in the Indian Opinion.

Continue reading I AM A SINDHI — wrote Gandhiji way back in 1929

Abdul Ghaffar Khan is ‘The Frontier Gandhi’

NONFICTION FILM
Abdul Ghaffar Khan is ‘The Frontier Gandhi’
The devout Muslim leader preached passive resistance and opposed violence.
By Allan M. Jalon, Special to The Times
October 19, 2008
Courtesy and Thanks: Los Angeles Times
NEW YORK — BLOOD-DRENCHED stories about suicide bombings, armed clashes and assassinations that pour from Pakistan’s tribal belt these days, while stressing the eruption of Taliban-Al Qaeda-related conflict, often also define the regional culture as one steeped in violence for centuries. But what rarely gets told is how the people of the wild west of Pakistan also share the modern history of radical nonviolence.

Continue reading Abdul Ghaffar Khan is ‘The Frontier Gandhi’

Pakistan: Tales from the thinktank

Tales from the thinktank
A brilliant analysis of Pakistan incorporates past and present politics, says Mohammed Hanif
• Mohammed Hanif
• The Guardian,
• Saturday October 11 2008
In the introduction to his third book on Pakistan, Tariq Ali quotes a friend who asked if it wasn’t reckless to start a book about the country when the dice were still in the air. Ali’s reply: he would never have been able to write anything about Pakistan if he had waited for the dice to fall. Ali has had an uncanny record of foreseeing the way things are going. In his 1969 book Pakistan: Military Rule or People’s Power he foretold the imminent break-up of Pakistan, a shocking prediction at the time which came true within two years. In the 80s, Can Pakistan Survive? caused outrage within the Pakistani establishment, but two decades later, on the cover of every current affairs magazine and in every TV talk show, not only is Pakistan being branded the most dangerous place on earth but it has even been suggested that the world’s end is being planned there.

Continue reading Pakistan: Tales from the thinktank

Amarjit Chandan: A tribute to Harkishan Singh Surjit

For the last two decades, in an era when coalitions have been the norm in Indian national politics, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, who has died aged 92, the general secretary of the Communist party of India (Marxist) for 13 years till 2005, was a major power-broker. It was a role he described as one of the most trying of his life. In 1989 an anti-Congress party coalition came to power, backed by Surjeet’s CPI (M) – but after Congress’s Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991, a Congress-led coalition took over until 1996. Surjeet’s CPI (M) then backed two fragile Janata Dal-dominated coalitions (1996-97).

CPI (M) leader was a Sikh, and combating communalism – whether by religion, language, caste or region – was central to his beliefs. The BJP led governing coalitions between 1998 and 1999, and from 1999 to 2004.

Surjeet backed the current Congress coalition which came to power in 2004. Indeed, in the vote of confidence debate in the Indian parliament last month on the US-India nuclear deal, Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, thanked him for his support in defeating the BJP.

While Surjeet enjoyed significant influence during his years as party leader, unsurprisingly he described the period as “one of the most trying” of his life. In 1996, there was indeed a moment when the CPI(M) might have supplied the prime minister at the head of the United Front coalition: Basu – at the time chief minister of West Bengal – was the consensus candidate, but the party’s politburo decided not to participate in the government. Basu later described it as a “historic blunder”. Surjeet had voted in favour of Basu.

Born in a small peasant family in Rupowal, a village in eastern Punjab, Harkishan Singh cut his political teeth in a charged atmosphere, when the region was the epicentre of anti-colonial national struggle. Inspired by the revolutionary independence fighter Bhagat Singh, hanged in 1931, Surjeet was imprisoned the following for hoisting the Indian tricolour at the district courts in Hoshiarpur on the anniversary of the execution. He soon came into contact with senior political prisoners and two years after his release, in 1936, joined the CPI.

Surjeet started actively organising small landholders around economic issues like debt and digging irrigation canals. Writing patriotic poetry and working for Punjabi political papers, he acquired the nom de plume Surjeet – conqueror of the gods.

With the outbreak of the second world war, the CPI, following the Moscow line (Stalin had recently concluded his pact with Hitler) denounced the war as imperialist. Leading CPI members were rounded up by the British, including Surjeet, who had gone underground, and detained in Deoli detention camp, Rajasthan. For Surjeet it proved to be an opportunity to study Marxism further.

All were released in 1942, and gave their unqualified support to the British as a way of waging the people’s war. The Ghadr-Kirti party, the rural populist organisation led the firebrand Teja Singh Swatantar, Surjeet’s main rival, merged with the CPI.

Following the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the CPI’s line changed into support for what had now become the “people’s war” and CPI leaders, including Surjeet, were released in 1942. By 1944 Surjeet was propounding his own thesis for a Sikh homeland on the model of the Pakistan being proposed by the Muslim League. But Surjeet’s idea was firmly quashed by Rajani Palme Dutt, the Communist party of Great Britain’s chief ideologue, who for many years supervised the CPI on behalf of Stalin’s Comintern.

In 1952, at the age of 36, Surjeet was elected general secretary of the Punjab section of the CPI, and two years later was elected to the Punjab legislative assembly and again in 1967. He was a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, from 1978 to 1982.

But in the early 1960s the Sino-Soviet split in global communism triggered a crisis in the CPI. This was exacerbated in 1962 by the six-week Sino-Indian war. Many CPI leaders, including Surjeet, backed China and were imprisoned. In 1964, along with eight other communist stalwarts, he walked out of the CPI and formed the CPI (Marxist) causing a vertical division across the country in the trade unions and other mass organisations. The CPI(M) kept the Stalinist rhetoric, but in practice has been pragmatic. Since 1977 is has led the Left Front in West Bengal, making it the world’s longest-running democratically elected communist government, and has invited multinationals to invest in the other two states where it leads the governments, Tripura and Kerala.

There was further division in the late 1960s, when Maoist fundamentalists

formed the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) after a tribal peasants’ agitation in Naxalbari in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal was ruthlessly crushed by the CPI(M)-led government in the state capital of Kolkata. Nevertheless, in terms of electability, Indo-communism, in whose development Surjeet has had a significant hand, has achieved what Euro-communism could not.

A key issue for Surjeet was keeping the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) out of office. The

After the split in the party, when the main funding from both the Soviet

and Chinese communist parties had dried up due to the CPI(M)’s independent

ideological stance, Surjeet could rely on support from emigrant British and North America Sikh communities.

From the mid-1960s Surjeet visited Britain at least twice a year. In 1966 the CPI(M)-backed Association of Indian Communists was set up in London. He personally supervised its annual elections and those of the Indian Workers Association (Great Britain).

It was as a boy in the early 1960s that I first met Surjeet. As a friend of my father he was a regular visitor to our house in Nakodar in the Punjab. Affable and caring, he never lost his composure even in heated debate: he was a splendid orator in both Punjabi and English.

Three years ago he visited Lahore for the first time after Partition and met with his old Muslim comrades including CR Aslam and Tahira Mazhar Ali. He told Aslam that he had left the keys to the Party headquarters in Fazal Husain building McLeod Road with him in 1947 and now came to Lahore to take them back!

He leaves a party with a national membership of about half a million and 43

seats in a 545-strong parliament; it is the next largest after Congress (145 seats) and the BJP (138), while the Communist Party of India (CPI) has 10. Even after the total reversal in the CPI(M)’s policy towards the Soviet-supporting Congress party, which was one of the causes of the split with the CPI back in 1964, Surjeet was considered the main obstacle to the CPI(M) reuniting with the CPI and his passing may hasten reunification.

He is survived by his wife and two sons and a daughter.

Courtesy and Thanks: Wichaar.com & Guardian

http://www.wichaar.com/news/152/ARTICLE/7977/2008-08-07.html

[An edited version of this obituary was published in The Guardian 6 August 2008.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/06/india]