“You’re either with us or against us” : A police officer’s plea

This article http://www.indianexpress.com/news/You-re-either-with-us-or-against-us/368483 – an article by an IPS officer defining how the police has a “thankless job” and has to work with either conspiracy theories or flak.

The title of the article – “You’re either with us or against us” – rather sadly, defines the more highlighted muslim mindset, which is mostly a result of third-grade leadership by people like the Imam Bukhari who end up lowering the debate on such national issues, as well as, the intellect of a large sections of the muslim community.

Through our earlier post by Arif Mohammed Khan, we’re hoping to raise the level of this debate, and invite the moderate and sane muslim voice, which is not coming up, or not allowed to come up. A simple reference to the comments posted by muslims on this article at Indian Express’s site, is proof that the moderate and majority of educated muslim voice differs with what the media is highlighting, and what is heard and believed in most of India by Hindus.

We believe there is hope, and all of us, need to work hard in making this sane voice of the general educated muslim heard – a lot more, and a lot louder.

——— The article as appear in Indian Express ————–

Inspector M.C. Sharma of the Delhi Police succumbed to injuries on September 19, after an encounter that also resulted in the deaths of two terrorist suspects.An officer with multiple awards for gallantry, Inspector Sharma died a martyr for the nation.

As a police officer, what is especially distressing to see were media reports about locals protesting the episode as another fake encounter. They were joined by social organisations and NGOs, then vice-chancellors and Union ministers, and now the mainstream media is carrying stories of how it doesn’t all add up. This episode covers all the professional dilemmas that face our police forces as we attempt to take on one of the most significant and well-organised threats to internal security. There is no denying that the modern Indian state faces a very peculiar problem with militant Islamism, especially the home-grown variety. The strategy conventionally used to fight terrorism have to deftly negotiate the minefield that is the politics of religious identity in India. When every act of commission and omission by the police is analysed through the lens of communal politics then the already difficult task of fighting terrorism becomes well nigh impossible.

Listen to the questions being raised one despairs for the fate of a civil society that is unable to distinguish between its violators and defenders. Why were two terrorists killed? Why was one arrested? Why and how did two of them escape? Why did Inspector Sharma die? Why wasn’t he wearing a bulletproof jacket? Let us add up the worst of the conspiracy theories and we get the following scenario. Delhi Police was under pressure from the media and the Government to do something. So they made elaborate plans. A house was rented in a Muslim locality close to a mosque. Three innocent youths were picked up from different places and brought there at some unspecified time which would be corroborated by a ‘local eye witness’. Then two of them were shot dead and the third was arrested so he could testify as an eyewitness against the cops in the murder case that ought to be registered against Sharma and his team. To make the story more believable Sharma was shot dead by his own colleagues. How paranoid does one have to be to believe this theory?We will believe the worst about our men in khaki based on conjecture and propaganda because it is our democratic right and duty not to trust them. And the terrorists whose murderous deeds have been splattered across our TV screens deserve all the benefit of the doubt.It seems to me that the life or death of a policeman is the cheapest commodity in our public life. Unfortunately due to a shameful post-Independence history where the police were not firm with dealing with communal violence and often became a direct party to them, and because of endemic corruption and incompetence and resource constraints, our credibility as upholder of the law stands badly dented. There can be no denying that the real and perceived bias of the police apparatus in India has directly contributed to creating a generation of radicalised Muslim youth. But what is equally obvious is that they are now linked to a transnational militant ideology that aims to weave together the narrative of global revenge for local injustices. Getting rid of this institutional bias is important to win the trust of all minorities though it will not wean back those already radicalised.

There is no denying that the national response to jihadist Terror would entail making difficult and decisive choices, not least between the need for public safety and civil liberties. But one hopes that before it is too late, our civil society can find it within itself to trust the professional police leadership with a key role. Police forces all over the country would need to be backed by a cross party political consensus and a nationwide mandate for action. Perhaps even the constitutional contours of our federal structure would also need to change. Can a national threat be met by a piecemeal response? Our capabilities for targeted surveillance and general monitoring will need to improve, minorities need to be recruited, language skills improved, hitherto absent analytical and profiling capabilities developed and inter agency co-operation regardless of the political differences, would have to become second nature.

Like any other proud police officer I salute the sacrifice of Inspector Sharma. I am sure that he knew, like all of us do, that his khaki uniform may one day ask him to lay down his life in the line of duty. But I am equally, and sadly, sure that the significance of his sacrifice lies immersed with his ashes.

“Who Hijacked Jamia” : A different muslim perspective on the issue

This is a wonderful article by Arif Mohammed Khan, citing the poor leadership offered to the Muslim community from self-proclaimed muslim bodies such as the Personal Law Board, Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat and Jamaat-e-Islami. These organisations he says hijack the core muslim agenda, often backed by shameless political patronage, just as had happened in the Shah Bano case.

Khan talks about the boycott of sane voices in the muslim community such as Mushirul Hasan, who was boycotted for expressing his opinion that banning Satanic Verses would only increase its sales. Ofcourse this same fundamentalism has entered the hindu mindset as well now.

Khan goes on to seal the case with:

The most important Muslim organisation operating from the Jamia neighborhood is the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and its affiliates. During their agitation against the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case, the members of AIMPLB made public exhortations to break the legs of Muslims who differed with their stand. Their supporters went to the extent of suggesting that Supreme Court judges are not competent to interpret Muslim personal law….
Such activities of these Muslim outfits are as much a source of consternation to common Muslims as they are to other Indians. Occasionally some Muslims raise their voice but they lose nerve when they see the political promiscuity and influence enjoyed by these extremist elements.

We would invite the muslim readers of this article (or the artile at Indian Express http://www.indianexpress.com/news/look-who-hijacked-jamia/367985/), who agree broadly with the case Mr. Khan presents , to comment and have your opinion heard. This would help raise the level of discourse on what the muslim community feels about the current Jamia Nagar case, and in general on the agenda of the conspiracy theorists who are abound, and mostly whose voices are heard.

——— The article as appear in Indian Express ————–

“And fear tumult or oppression, which affects not in particular only those of you who do wrong. And know that God is strict in punishment.” (Quran, 8.25)Ibn Katheer commenting on this verse has quoted a Prophetic tradition saying that “if a people, despite being strong and numerous, do nothing to stop those men among them who do wrong, then they will be surrounded with punishment”.

History is full of instances showing how a small group of people or individuals by their odious acts have inconvenienced the communities they belong to.

Today the Muslims as a community are passing through a difficult period on account of the activities of terrorists who shamelessly use religion to justify their crimes.

A common Muslim, like his compatriots, is busy earning his daily bread and raising the family. With increased awakening about modern education, good numbers of Muslim families from rural areas have moved to urban centres to ensure education for their wards. A casual survey of the families living in Jamia Nagar will show that the majority of them hail from villages and depend for their income on rural sources. In many cases it is only the mothers and children who are living here, while the men spend most of their time in native places to arrange the necessary means for the family to carry on in Delhi. Their only concern is a safe and peaceful environment congenial for academic pursuit.On the other hand, attracted by this large population, more than two dozen Muslim outfits have established themselves in this neighbourhood taking upon them the responsibility to lead and organise the religious and social life of the community. They include organisations like the Personal Law Board, Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat and Jamaat-e-Islami. None of these organisations is known for promoting social reform or education. Most of the time they are competing with each other in crying wolf and pressing the need to fight against imagined threats to the Muslim religion and identity. Occasionally they also succeed in securing positions of power for their nominees and this political patronage helps them to widen their network in the community.

If we look at some important events of the past then an idea can be formed about the activities and mindset that is promoted by these organisations.

After the official ban on The Satanic Verses, Mushirul Hasan, the present vice chancellor and then teacher in the history department of Jamia, said in an interview to a weekly that a ban on the book would only boost its sales and increase the circulation of the objectionable writing. His remarks were not in support of the book, its contents or the writer, yet they provoked an angry and violent protest inside the campus. The Muslim outfits worked overtime to instigate and excite the feelings resulting in a situation where despite continuing on the rolls of the university Mushirul Hasan could not enter the campus for more than three long years.During the war in Afghanistan, public expressions of solidarity with Osama bin Laden were made and posters in his support were pasted in the area by some self-appointed champions of Muslim interests. This was done despite the knowledge that Osama and Al-Qaeda were directly involved in Terror activities in Kashmir. I remember having met many Muslims from Jamia Nagar who expressed their utter indignation over the episode and felt sorry for not being able to oppose these undesirable activities.

In 1990, Prof Mushirul Haq, the vice chancellor of Kashmir University, was killed by terrorists in Srinagar. Since he was an old teacher of Jamia, his burial took place inside the campus. As an academician I had held him in great esteem and during the Shah Bano controversy had sought his opinion on several occasions. I went to attend his last rites and walked almost a kilometre with the funeral procession. After reaching the burial ground suddenly the lights went out and in that darkness I was attacked with an iron rod, causing head injury. Later, inquiries revealed that the students who had organised the blackout and attack belonged to the Jamaat-e-Islami. It is important to recall that the banned organisation, SIMI, was mostly manned by young activists inspired by philosophies like that of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The other organisation with headquarters in this area is Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat. On the slightest provocation they would call for a boycott of celebrations of Independence Day or Republic Day giving rise to communal tension. It is true that on every occasion they had withdrawn the calls, but that did not help in lessening the tension.

The most important Muslim organisation operating from the Jamia neighborhood is the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and its affiliates. During their agitation against the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case, the members of AIMPLB made public exhortations to break the legs of Muslims who differed with their stand. Their supporters went to the extent of suggesting that Supreme Court judges are not competent to interpret Muslim personal law.It is important to recall that during parliamentary discussion of the bill that was brought in to negate the impact of the Supreme Court judgment, almost every minister who rose to defend the measure referred to the apprehensions of threats to law and order arising on account of an aggressive and violent agitation.

Such activities of these Muslim outfits are as much a source of consternation to common Muslims as they are to other Indians. Occasionally some Muslims raise their voice but they lose nerve when they see the political promiscuity and influence enjoyed by these extremist elements.

The establishment must realise that the police can fight terrorists, not terrorism. Terrorism can be contained only by a strong political will that identifies and isolates individuals and organisations promoting a violent mindset and does not favour them with political patronage.

Extending Article 370 beyond Kashmir; Could this be a solution?

n 2004 my friend and mentor, Prasanna Lal Das, wrote an article called “Article 370 – a case to extend it beyond Kashmir“, and ofcourse as most Indians do, I was out of my wits on reading the title. To me Article 370 was clearly another case of appeasement of “kashmiri muslims”. I never read the article.

An article on Kashmir stating the problem

Today, I caught up on an article in the Indian Express titled “Beyond highway of peace” (http://www.indianexpress.com/story/349899.html; 18 August, 2008 ) which highlights a few points.

Separatist Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, however, said the mass protests have not surprised him. “We always saw it coming,” he said. “Amarnath land row might be the immediate cause, but the level of anger is the result of the long pent up disillusionment with New Delhi’s status quo policies,” he said.

…“New Delhi talks to us when the situation is really bad here. And when there is apparent peace, they ignore us,” he said.

It is a fact that the Centre and its various agencies on ground in Kashmir had been extremely complacent after the recent drop in militant violence and a surge in mainstream political activity.

My observations on the article

The article ofcourse like most of those appearing in media, states the problem superficially, and for that reason cannot, and does not, offer any solution.

The following few points, however, occur to me on reading this article:

  • The centre becomes complacent when things are going well, instead of constantly keeping on its toes, and regularly engaging people (or their representatives and leaders; elected or even self-appointed) in discussions and creating mini agreements
  • They are happy in finding simple answers to problems which are often coloured with their worldview (which can be rather outdated in the evolving human race) of how things *should be* instead of *how it is in reality*
  • These views are often “taught” to the politicians rather then based on *critical thinking*, *dialogue*, and *understanding people’s anxieties*

Liberating people; self-organising groups; moving beyond conventional and easy categories of success

As I have matured and grown in my spiritual pursuits, I have developed a somewhat different outlook to the reason for conflicts and in general ways of management. I have increasingly become a die-hard fan of democracy at workplace, which traditionally has been very centrally controlled and managed. Ideas of small self-organising groups of people working towards common “agreed” goals, have inspired me over the last few years. I have observed people, driven from their own collective self-interest, acting extremely responsibly and much beyond their normal abilities. I have noticed this at my workplace.

Yet, it is true that some people often are not mature enough to see the larger picture, and may not appreciate the values propagated in democratic and self-organising setups; or those who are unable to raise their mental make-up, and can remain stuck in shallow self-centered, and *taught* behaviour. These people are often not ones who can engage in *radical thinking*. Yet, these people are fewer in numbers, in my experience. Most people are not trained to think and question, in our society; however, most of these people can be inspired by greater causes of common collective long-term good.

This is the opportunity that the politicians have. They need to constantly work in liberating people, engaging them in inspired action, and training them radical thinking and questioning – doing all these things themselves. And this is where the problem lies – most of our politicians are not trained in experimenting, and in moving beyond their conventional ‘easy’ categories of answers.

Coming back to Prasanna’s article

On reading his article which presents a case to extend Article 370 beyond Kashmir to all of India’s states, is completely based on values of federalism, and liberating people, allowing them to self-determine their own rules, and how they would like to live their lives.

Gandhi ofcourse, was a big propagator of local self-determination, down to the village level, with complete ownership of local resources with the people of the region.

I feel, this is the answer to Kashmir’s, and in general, all of India’s problems; and the world’s as well.

Once again, the framework of this federalism must propagate some central core modern spiritual, humanist and civic values such as *liberty*, *equal opportunity*, *secularism* and *non-violence*. These values must be accessible and applicable to all citizens irrespective of race, religion or gender. The state must constantly train and engage leaders in dialogue and training, in action based on inspiration, and, in questioning and radical thinking. With these, the collective consciousness of people could be raised, and with it the risk of degeneration of federal values, and other motivated self-interests of local leaders taking over, is minimised.

Some quotes from Prasanna’s extremely inspiring article:

Article 370, unwittingly perhaps considering its historical circumstances, may be the brightest glint of federal expression in the Indian constitution, which otherwise remains largely unitary in character. Large sections of the Indian population (and regions that contain them) thus feel increasingly marginalized from the ‘mainstream’, and seemingly disparate phenomenon like recent disturbances in the northeast, the girding of heartland India by naxalites, the trivialization of the parliamentary process, and paradoxically enough, the continuing impasse in Jammu & Kashmir, may well be said to spring from the centralized nature of governance in India which concentrates power in the hands of a few organized interest groups and leaves the average citizen with only symbols of democratic participation like ritualized elections and awe-inspiring, monumental edifices where elected representatives apparently serve the people. Article 370, minus its current imperfections, may well be the harbinger of a ‘new India.’

it may be time to view the article in a larger national context. Does the article offer any guidelines to the governing system in the rest of India? Is there greater merit in the rest of India adopting some of the salient features of the article than in denouncing it largely on the grounds of ‘we don’t have it, so shouldn’t she’? Should we choose to be frogs in a well pulling each other down, or is it time to climb out of the holes we have dug for ourselves, and take a look at the larger world around?

The article recognizes that India is a diverse country and that a region may have special needs which may or may not be in consonance with the needs of the rest of the country. It thus leaves discretionary powers with the state and subjects all central laws/amendments to state approval before they can be implemented in a state. It transfers accountability and power to the state government in virtually all matters except those that deal with the integrity of the Indian union, and its international relationships.

Make no mistake; Article 370 was not formed to lay down the principles of center-state relationships or to directly solve the problem described above. It isn’t thus either exhaustive enough or extensive enough to cover the gamut of issues that go into center-state relations. It however does provide the springboard necessary to begin questioning the unitary model we have chosen to adopt in the whole country, bar Kashmir. And if it can work in Kashmir, why can it not work in the rest of the country too?

The other more fundamental problem with Article 370 is its state-centric, monolithic view of autonomy and local governance. In keeping with the overall unitary spirit of the constitution, the article does little to promote grassroots governance and concentrates all significant powers in the hands of the state government. The version of autonomy it thus creates is in essence a majoritarian one – it cloaks a centralized mode of governance under the garb of an autonomous one. Kashmir can thus never be truly autonomous unless it itself allows power to percolate downwards to the people. In its current avatar, Article 370 is largely a sham, and its fundamental centralizing proclivities must be given a thorough makeover before the article can truly become a template for other states.

He also puts in a word of caution, which I believe vindicates my stand of a framework which allows for common accepted civic, humanist and spiritual values of *liberty*, *equal opportunity*, *secularism* and *non-violence*, and also the need for constant training, dialogue and engagement in radical and critical thinking.

A more pertinent concern is perhaps the ability of the states to do justice to increased power, and handle it responsibly. Unfortunately, recent Indian constitutional history isn’t exactly littered with examples of farsightedness shown by states – their record is patchy at best, and downright shoddy in reality. In fact, a case may be made that but for central intervention and guidance, most Indian states, driven by narrow, parochial concerns, would have descended into anarchy a long time ago. Possibly the worst record in this regard is that of the Jammu & Kashmir legislature itself, which has shown a remarkable ability to shoot itself in the foot consistently. The recently proposed bill debarring Kashmiri women from property rights on marriage to ‘outsiders’, the legislature’s refusal to accept the amendment limiting the size of state ministries to 15% of the total elected strength, and its long standing refusal to recognize Anglo-Indians and other minorities in the state are just three examples of legislation which persistently refuses to look beyond the state. What guarantees are there that other states shan’t do the same, and perhaps worse?

The answer to both questions lies in the inchoate nature of Article 370, and in its flawed, single-state focused implementation. As stated earlier, the article is not designed to guide center-state relations, but in the case of Jammu & Kashmir, it does just that. Limiting the article to one state however produces one very significant consequence – it allows Jammu & Kashmir to create discriminatory legislation without fear of consequence (as no other state is in a position to answer it in the same coin).

And the recommendation to not seek easy answers, but to continually challenge our thinking:

At the end however, the question about India’s secular fabric will remain – will expanding the article to the entire country send wrong signals to minority communities in India? This is the most morally challenging part of the debate because like it or not, religion and religious emotions are inextricably tied to the history of the question. Needless to say, the government must be steadfastly secular in its implementation of federalism in India, and religious leaders must indubitably play an important part in the process, but there are no easy answers to the question. *The time may however have come to move away from the politics of easy answers.*

Free Muslims Coalition :: a new way forward for muslims

I came across this very good website about Free and moderate Muslims working globally towards creation of a secular and democratic middle east, including Saudi Arabia.

Their website is: http://www.freemuslims.org/.

I quote several positions from their website which are very inspiring, healing and I believe progressive, thus leading to steps to create a better a world:

  • The Free Muslims Coalition believes that the Koran only provides general principles of governance which leaves the faithful with substantial flexibility to modernize popular Muslim practices and beliefs.
  • The Free Muslims cautions that imposing democracy on the Middle East without first promoting secularism and destroying terrorism may lead to the creation of Islamic extremist states that will ultimately reject the democracy that brings them to power.
  • The Free Muslims believes that fundamentalist Islamic terror represents one of the most lethal threats to the stability of the civilized world. There is no room for terrorism in the modern world…

We would be happy to help create its first chapter in India.

Between a rock and a hard place

An enlightening (and frustrating) article by P. Sainath. He is an authority on state of Indian agriculture, and has travelled extensively throughout the country, documenting the disgraceful mess created by this entity called “the Indian government”. One of the most popular books he has written, which will send shivers up your spine is, “Everyone loves a good drought“.

http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/apr/psa-foodprice.htm

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19 April 2008 – The bailout of Bear Stearns by the U S Federal Reserve was worth $30 billion. That is roughly twice the ‘loan waiver’ given to millions of Indian farmers. The latter move has been scorched by the ideologues of the free market and neo-liberalism as ‘fiscal insanity’ or ‘irreversible damage.’ The media – even those mildly critical – have been far more muted in their criticism of the ‘rescue’ of Bear Stearns. That is, one of the biggest global investment banks and securities trading and brokerage firms anywhere on the planet.

Think of it: a tiny Wall Street cabal which gave itself bonuses worth billions of dollars just weeks before the crash gets a bailout of Rs.1,19,520 crores. That’s almost double the Rs.60,000 crores given to tens of millions of farmers in dire straits in this country. A country where one farmer kills himself every 30 minutes in despair. The problems of farmers do not even begin to end with that waiver.

On the other hand, a bunch of thugs in tuxedos who did pretty much whatever they wanted, laying a minefield across the world, have got the waiver of a lifetime (or many lifetimes). The lifejacket for the bank does not require the return of their bonuses. So much so that Jim Rogers, CEO of Rogers Holdings and a staunch free marketer, calls it “Socialism for the rich.” In his words “the Federal Reserve is using taxpayer money to buy a bunch of Bear Stearns traders’ Maseratis.” He points out that hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to bail out Wall Street as a whole. The theologians of the global market are between a rock and a hard place. Hypocrisy has rammed into reality.

Three of the basic principles the believers of corporate-led globalisation swear by have been so eloquently summed by Professor James Galbraith Jr. of the University of Texas at Austin. One: all successes are global. Two: all failures are national. Three: the market is beyond reproach.

This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the result of global factors.
What a lovely waiver!
Protect at home, preach abroad

For over a decade, we were assured that everything good that ever happened was because we had embraced corporate-led globalisation. All the negative effects visible were the result of our own national inertia and corruption. And of course, the market would heal all wounds. The notion of state meddling in economic matters was blasphemy. Now the nations feeding us this rot – which we recite by rote – are nationalising banks, bailing out brigands and pouring in funds to stop factories from closing down.

Now having to blame ‘global factors’ for the price rise at home must seem a bit galling. Failures at home? Er, well, you see, let’s not go there now. This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the “result of global factors.” Nothing to do with us. No less amusing to see the World Bank and the IMF warn of starvation and riots. It’s hard to think of anyone who has contributed more to those phenomena than they have. And now Finance Minister P. Chidambaram calls for an urgent “global consensus on the price spiral.” Without this, social unrest would conflagrate into a “global contagion.”

To be fair to the Union Agriculture Minister, he alone has not laid the blame at the door of faceless global forces. Sharad Pawar locates the problem closer home. In his view, south Indians are eating too many chapathis, leading to shortages of wheat. (DNA page 1, April 2, 2008). An entertaining view but there’s a problem with it. Even while dietary changes do affect consumption patterns, these occur over decades. There is little evidence of an outburst of wheat-centric gluttony in the southern states these past six months. (Unless, of course, with great cunning, the southies are hoarding it up for future chapathi orgies.)

Someone is hoarding it up, though, and it is not the general public, south or north. The presence of very large traders including MNCs buying directly from farmers has been on awhile. A process aided by our strangling of the old Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees’ Act. We’ve set the soil for contract farming and corporate agriculture. Meanwhile, the lip service paid to higher Minimum Support Prices (MSP) has proved worse than a sham. In practice, producers are being pushed towards private trade. Fewer procurement centres, delays in purchasing and, still worse, delays in payments are the norm. Then, when procurement is poor, we announce that the farmers are doing so well in the market, they don’t want to sell to the state.

The present mess was arrived at with much celebration of the farmer’s right to sell as and when he liked, to whom he wished. In effect, millions of farmers, deep in trouble, have been selling their produce at distress rates for several seasons now. The bargaining power of individual farmers on their own is zilch.

Total procurement has been down. When market prices for the farmers’ produce have been higher than the MSP, this might be expected. But it has happened even when the MSP has been raised. There have also been cases of traders picking up produce from indebted farmers and then claiming the higher MSP on it themselves. On the whole, though, smaller traders are in trouble. The big boys are here. And so even with enough grain within the country just now, the less well-off cannot access it at affordable rates.

The Centre’s pressing the States to act against hoarding is itself an admission of the problem. But there is yet to be a single instance of action against really big hoarders and speculators. These include giant companies operating through a variety of pointmen. The raids now focussed on small traders will yield little.

Meanwhile, the entry and growing entrenchment of giants in retail ensures things will get worse. (Remember this was supposed to provide us with cheap prices? Then look at the gap between wholesale and retail prices.) We have also nurtured the commodities futures market despite its clear links to speculation and price rise. It’s odd how every other small trader will brief you at length on this – but you won’t see much of that story in the media. In fact, with markets tanking around the world, more speculators have seized on foodgrain as a good bet. Which it is.

Through the reforms period, we have pushed millions of small farmers to shift from foodcrop to cash crops. The acreage under foodcrop has reduced across these years. And we also exported millions of tonnes of grain – as in 2002 and 2003. What’s more, we exported at prices cheaper than those we charged poor people in this country for the same grain. The idea was that we had a “huge surplus” of grain and could well afford to export. The truth was that the massive pileup of unsold stock arose from a surplus of hunger rather than of grain. The purchasing power of the poor had collapsed. But the fake “surplus” story came in handy. It allowed the export of grain – heavily subsidised by us – to be consumed by European cattle.

The present mess is no surprise. For years, economists such as Utsa Patnaik have warned strongly that we would arrive at where we are now. As she repeatedly pointed out, the effects of all our actions could be seen in the plummeting net per capita availability of foodgrain. From 510 grams per Indian in 1991 to 422 grams by 2005. With the top fifth of Indians doing better than ever before, this meant that those below were eating far less than they did just a few years ago.

The plunging food intake of the poorer sections has come along with the steady scrapping of the public distribution system. On the one hand, the PDS has been sharply whittled down. On the other, millions who need BPL cards are denied them. In Mumbai, just 0.28 per cent of ration cardholders have BPL cards. Now, even those who do have cards find no supplies to buy. And of course, we’ve spared no efforts to link our agriculture to the volatility of global prices in a world where a handful of corporations control those prices. Their clout within India has grown rapidly. Their control extends further each day from the field and farm gate to the price and sale of the final product.

Meanwhile, each budget takes further the process of “growth” driven by the consumption of the rich. Tax breaks at the top, cuts in state spending, all these too have a major role in making life unbearable below. Yet, even as the edifice crumbles, a few true believers hold out for the Second Coming. “Price rise reflects scarcity,” says one editorial, “and at no time is free trade more effective as a welfare enhancer than when it combats scarcity by quickly getting supplies where the demand is.” But governments are “denying free trade this role.” Well, get set for the global contagion.

P Sainath
19 Apr 2008

P. Sainath is the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media.

A faraway place called home

Another article which establishes our stand on Tibet and our outright rejection of the convoluted Tibet-policy of this current Indian government.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/297727.html

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Can exile ever be an apolitical condition, asks Tridip Suhrud

Edward Said begins his reflections on exile by stating, “Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.” Being in exile is not a romantic notion, its purpose is not to humanise the world, despite the most evocative literature that exiles from the times of Ovid have created.

Exile is not a condition of one’s choosing. Either one is forced into exile or one is born in exile. Exile in its classical sense of banishment has come to be replaced by modern political categories — the refugee, the displaced, the immigrant. The sheer scale of anonymous refugees and displaced persons that the 20th century created through its wars, its totalitarian states and developmental projects somehow does not allow us to reflect on the irreparable and interminable loss of exile.

It is a condition that is marked by deep longing, and a sense of estrangement. Longing for the home that is no longer available and being estranged from the place that gives one refuge. Without this longing, without the need to return, without the promise that one would eventually return, the exiled would become an émigré, not that the immigrant does not long for home or does not feel strange in the adopted land. As Dante said, only the one in exile knows “how salty another’s bread tastes and how hard it is to ascend and descend another’s stairs.”

The Dalai Lama speaks of himself and his people as a people in exile. He also says that Tibet today is a community built on suffering and exile. As the Dalai Lama, he has twin responsibilities. He is to his people a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. So long as the people of Tibet have faith in the institution of the Dalai Lama, he is duty bound to lead them spiritually and as a spokesperson of their struggle for justice. His being in exile places on him the second responsibility. He must keep the possibility of eventual return alive. Not as longing but as promise.

When Pranab Mukherjee, as external affairs minister, characterises the Dalai Lama as a ‘respected guest’ and then advises him to refrain from political involvement, he displays astonishing ignorance about both the institution of the Dalai Lama and responsibilities of one who is in exile. A person in exile cannot but be political. It is politics itself that has created the condition of exile.

The people of Tibet have a right to their politics, however uncomfortable that might be to the Indian state. And as India finally affirmed, political protest is a way of life in a democratic society, and this right is available in equal measure even to those in exile. It is available to the people of Tibetan origin against the apathy of the Indian state as much as against Chinese repression.

Let us remind ourselves of another of our famous émigrés who more than a hundred years ago, in distant Johannesburg, took a pledge in the name of god to fight injustice unto death. That act, which we celebrate officially, was also an affirmation of the right of the émigré and of the exiled to assert political and cultural rights. It is natural that such great acts make, to borrow from Salman Rushdie, ‘a great noise in the mind, the heart.’

A people in exile will try and recreate home in a new land as a people in search of their roots, past, land and heritage often do. A certain kind of inwardness is written in this process. This inwardness is the only source, however feeble, to contain estrangement. Simon Weil spoke of the need for rootedness as one of the least recognised of human needs. The little Tibet of Dharamshala is one such attempt, without which the promised return would become even fainter.

That the Dalai Lama sought refuge in India, and continues to remain in exile in India and that India promised him refuge is not only an accident of geography. Spiritually, the Dalai Lama cannot be in exile anyplace else but India. For him, India is the land of two masters, one Gautam and the other Gandhi. He has often spoken evocatively of his debts to the two. He is in this sense exiled at a place that could have been his only home outside of Tibet. He is exiled at home.

The writer is a social scientist based in Ahmedabad

Why Tibet Matters

This is a wonderful eye opening article, very well reasoned out for creating a much more radical Tibet policy by the Indian government – for reasons much beyond politics alone – and covering matters of India’s integrity and Spirituality.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/296828.html : by Sonia Jabbar for the Indian Express.

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To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would be to sacrifice our own.

Sonia Jabbar

Is Tibet a nuisance for India, and when it negotiates with China on the border issue, should India unhesitatingly sacrifice Tibetan interests to secure our own? While there has been much talk about the burden of hosting the Dalai Lama and 1,85,000 Tibetan refugees for 50 years, few have acknowledged India’s debt to them and why repaying that debt is not only a moral imperative but a strategically self-interested one.

The first is a civilisational debt. When the Dalai Lama teaches from the works of the Vikramshila or Nalanda masters, he always prefaces his teachings with, “these are Indian treasures. We have only been its guardians in Tibet for a thousand years, and now that the teachings have faded in India we have brought them back intact. This is the gift we return to India.” It is no small gift.

Few will recall the sacking of Nalanda, the destruction of thousands of birch-bark books or the fact that Buddhism itself disappeared from Indian soil after the 13th century. Ask an educated Indian whether Shantideva, Atisha, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, or Vasubandhu mean anything to them and chances are you’ll draw a blank. Ask a Tibetan teenager and you’re likely to hear the history of the Indian Buddhist masters and the journey of their teachings to Tibet from 7th-11th century AD.

Nalanda, once the greatest centre of Buddhist learning from the 5th to 12th centuries, today lives in spirit not amongst its archaeological remains in Bihar, but in the vibrant Tibetan colleges of Sera, Drepung and Ganden, relocated in Karnataka after the Tibetan exodus of 1959. These are modeled on the Nalanda tradition, transmitting India’s ancient treasures to meritorious students, many of whom are poor Indian Buddhists from the Himalayan belt.

The second debt is strategic and vital to India’s future. The Government of India has been at pains to ‘reiterate’ that they have ‘always’ considered Tibet an integral part of China; our Communists have insisted that the ‘disturbances’ are China’s ‘internal matter.’ The fact is that the ‘always’ is only five years old, and the ‘internal matter’ a crumbling fantasy.

In November 1950, Nehru informed the chief ministers, ‘When news came to us that the Chinese Government had formally announced military operations against Tibet, we were surprised and distressed. Immediately we sent a note of protest [to Chou En Lai on 26/10/50] and requested the Chinese Government not to proceed… To use coercion and armed force, when a way to peaceful settlement is open, is always wrong. To do so against a country like Tibet, which is obviously not in a position to offer much resistance and which could not injure China, seemed to us to add to the wrongness of this behaviour.’

India unilaterally ‘recognised’ the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region,’ as ‘a territory of China,’ for the first time during Vajpayee’s China visit in 2003. Before this, India’s terminology in official documents was deliberately left ambiguous. In 1954 India described Tibet as a geographic location: ‘the Tibet region of China.’ In 1988, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought it closer to China’s position, but still kept it vague enough with, ‘Tibet is an autonomous region of China.’ The 2003 declaration toes the Chinese line word-for-word.

What are the implications of accepting Tibet as an ‘integral part of China’? First, leaving aside the distortion of Tibet’s long history of independence, the declaration contravenes the treaty obligations between British India and Tibet, which we have inherited under the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Two treaties directly affect our territorial integrity: the 1904 Convention Between Great Britain and Tibet, which recognises the boundary between Tibet and Sikkim, and the Anglo-Tibet Treaty of 1914, in which India recognised Tibet as an independent nation under the suzerainty (as opposed to sovereignty) of China. In return, Tibet was to respect the Mc Mahon Line, the eastern boundary between Tibet and Arunachal. Until the Chinese invasion of Tibet, both agreements held and the border was peaceful.

China has never accepted Sikkim and Arunachal as parts of India, even today claiming the latter as its own. But when two countries have concluded an agreement between them, China has no locus standi as a third country. A sovereign state is one that negotiates and sign treaties with other states. Once a state exists it cannot simply be wished away simply because another nation has invaded it.

That the world does not wish to challenge China’s illegal occupation of Tibet thus rendering it a de facto (not de jure) part of China is another matter. However, it is pertinent to ask why the Government of India is so solicitous of China’s national interests at the expense of our own. If China refuses to recognise the treaties signed by India and Tibet, there is no reason for India to recognise the 17-point 1951 agreement, thrust upon Tibet under Chinese gunpoint. China possesses no other legal documents to prove its claims over Tibet.

We have learned few lessons in foreign policy. India unilaterally surrendered its influence in Tibet in the 1954 trade agreement with China by removing its military personnel from the Tibetan trading towns of Yatung and Gyantse, giving up Indian rest houses, land, and Tibet’s communications including the postal, telegraph and public telephone services operated by the Government of India. The agreement had a validity of eight years, and it is no coincidence that its expiry coincided with the 1962 war. If those who parrot the ‘Tibet is an integral part of China’ line paused to think, they would realise that they are unwittingly conceding China’s claim over 83,743 sq km of Arunachal territory.

The Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ position has been clear since the mid-’80s: autonomy and not independence. It begs the question why, if China is willing to pursue a ‘one country, two systems’ policy in the Han-majority areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, is it so hysterically opposed to the Tibetan proposals. In 1999 Wang Lixion, a prominent Chinese intellectual, pointed out that an independent or autonomous Tibet under the influence of the Dalai Lama, ‘would naturally orient it towards India,’ taking 2.5 million sq km or 26 per cent of China’s land mass away from China’s sphere of influence into India’s. To lose this vast swathe of land would be to ‘expose [China’s] fatal underbelly.’ It should be understood that it is not on its demerits that the Dalai Lama’s proposals are being rejected, but because of India’s potential influence.

While one is not advocating India’s lebensraum or hostilities with China, one should be aware that China controls the headwaters of many Indian rivers that originate in the Tibetan plateau. India is already facing acute water shortages. China has already anticipated its future water problems by damming the headwaters of the Sutlej and Brahmaputra. While the ‘thirsty’ provinces of Xingjian and Gansu will undoubtedly benefit by China’s plans to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra, India needs to wake up well before our rivers begin drying up.

It is time we recognised that Tibet and India’s destinies are entwined. To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would mean to sacrifice our own. There is no need to go down that road again.

The writer is a journalist who has studied Buddhism for the last 20 years

The sacrfice of Tibet: Extraordinary delusions and temporary insanity

The sacrifice of Tibet: Extraordinary delusions and temporary insanity
Rajeev Srinivasan :: http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/mar/25rajeev.htm
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March 25, 2008

On November 18 every year, I silently salute the brave souls of C Company, 13th Kumaon Regiment, who in 1962 died practically to the last man and the last bullet defending Ladakh against the invading Chinese Army. These brave 114 inflicted heavy casualties and prevented the Chinese from overrunning Leh, much like Spartans at Thermopylae held the line against the invading Persians many moons ago.

But have you ever wondered why these brave men had to sacrifice themselves? One answer seems to be that is because of the extraordinary delusions that affected a number of the dramatis personae on the Indian side: notably Jawaharlal Nehru, KM Panikkar and VK Krishna Menon.

A deadly combination of blind faith, gross megalomania, and groupthink led to the debacle in the war in1962; but its genesis lay in the unbelievable naivete that led these worthies to simply sacrifice a defenseless sister civilisation to brutal barbarians.

Furthermore, they were far more concerned about China’s interests than about India’s! Generations to come will scarcely believe that such criminal negligence was tolerated in the foreign policy of a major nation.

In a well-researched book, timed for the one hundredth anniversary of the opening of Tibet [Images] by the British, Claude Arpi, born in France [Images] but a long-term resident of India, and one of India’s leading Tibet and China experts, argues that India’s acquiescence to the enslavement of Tibet has had disastrous consequences. The book is Born in Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement subtitled The Sacrifice of Tibet, published by Mittal Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 241, Rs. 495, ISBN 81-7099-974-X. Unless otherwise noted, all of the quotations here are from this book.

Arpi also touches upon the difficulty scholars face with piecing together what actually happened in those momentous years leading to the extinction of Tibet and the India-China war of 1962, because the majority of the source materials are held as classified documents in the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund or the Ministry of External Affairs.

The historian is forced to depend on the sanitised Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru and the restricted Official Report of the 1962 War. If the relevant documents were made public at the very least we might learn something from them. Where is Aruna Roy, crusading champion of the people’s right to know who has now accepted a sinecure under the UPA? Why are the Nehru Papers controlled by Sonia Gandhi [Images]?

The story really begins exactly one hundred years ago, in September 1904, when the British Colonel Francis Younghusband entered Tibet and forced the hitherto insular kingdom open at the point of a gun. The Lhasa Convention of 1904, signed by the British and the Tibetans, put the seal of British overlordship over Tibet. The parallels with Commodore Perry of the US and his black ships opening up Japan [Images] are obvious. However, unlike Japan, which under the Meiji Restoration took vigorously to westernisation, Tibet continued to distance itself from the outside world, much to its later disadvantage.

Perhaps we need to look further in history, as Arpi did in his earlier book, The Fate of Tibet: When Big Insects Eat Small Insects. The Tibetans were a feared, martial and warlike race that had always, in its impregnable mountain fastnesses, held the expansionist Han Chinese at bay. However, in the 7th century CE, Buddhism came to Tibet, and they became a pacifist nation. Says Arpi: ‘Tibet’s conversion had another consequence on its political history: a nonviolent Tibet could no longer defend itself. It had to look outside for military support to safeguard its frontiers and for the protection of its Dharma. This help came first from the Mongol Khans and later the Manchu Emperors when they became themselves followers of the Buddha’s doctrine.’

The sum and substance of China’s alleged historical claim to Tibet is this: that the Mongol Khans had conquered both China and Tibet at the same time. This is patently absurd, because by the same token India should claim Australia, New Zealand [Images] and Hong Kong as its own, because India and these territories were under British rule at the same time.

In fact, since the Mongol Khans and the Manchu Emperors accepted the Dalai Lama [Images] as their spiritual preceptor, it is clear that it was China that was giving tribute to Tibet, not vice versa: so Tibet could claim Han China as its vassal.

The Lhasa Convention was followed by the Simla Convention in 1914 that laid out the McMahon Line defining both the Indo-Tibetan border, and the division of Tibet into ‘Outer Tibet’ (which lies along the border with India) and ‘Inner Tibet’ which includes Amdo Province and part of Kham Province. It is worthwhile to note that the Chinese were not invited to discuss the McMahon line, nor was their acceptance of this line sought. Tibetans signed this treaty as an independent nation. The British government emphasised this in a note to the Chinese as late as 1943: ‘Since the Chinese Revolution of 1911,… Tibet has enjoyed de facto independence.’

When India became independent, K M Panikkar wrote: ‘A China [organised as a Communist regime annexing Mongol, Muslim and Tibetan areas] will be in an extremely powerful position to claim its historic role of authority over Tibet, Burma, Indo-China and Siam. The historic claims in regard to these are vague and hazy?’ Yet soon thereafter Panikkar became the principal spokesperson for China’s interests, even though his job was Indian Ambassador to China!

As soon as the Communists came to power, in 1950, they started asserting their claims: ‘The tasks for the People’s Liberation Army for 1950 are to liberate [sic] Taiwan, Hainan and Tibet.’ A Scottish missionary in Tibet said the PLA officers told him that once Tibet was in their hands, they would go to India.

On October 7, 1950, Mao Tse-Tung’s storm troopers invaded Tibet. But under Panikkar’s influence, Nehru felt that the loss of Tibet was worth the price of liberating Asia from ‘western dominance’. Panikkar said: ‘I do not think there is anything wrong in the troops of Red China moving about in their own country.’

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the few in the Indian government who recognised the menace from China. He wrote:
‘We also have to take note of a thoroughly unscrupulous, unreliable and determined power practically at our doors? [It is clear that] we cannot be friendly with China and must think in terms of defense against a determined, calculating, unscrupulous, ruthless, unprincipled and prejudiced combination of powers, of which the Chinese will be the spearhead? [It is obvious to me that] any friendly or appeasing approaches from us would either be mistaken for weakness or would be exploited in furtherance of their ultimate aim.’

How prophetic Patel was! Unfortunately, he died soon after he wrote this. Interestingly, the very same words apply in their entirety to India’s dithering over Pakistan today, 54 years later. The Pakistanis are also exploiting India’s appeasement and friendliness.

But Nehru, it appears, had decided to sacrifice Tibet, partly in order to appease China, partly because of his distaste for what he considered ‘imperialist treaties’ (in this case the Lhasa Convention that gave enormous rights in Tibet to the British, and, as their successor, to the Indian government) and partly in order to act as mediator between China and the West over the Korean War.

Observers could see what was going to happen. The American ambassador Henderson noted: ‘The UK High Commission would like to be able to argue with Indian officials that if GoI bows to Communist China’s blackmail re Tibet, India will eventually be confronted with similar blackmail not only re Burma but re such areas as Assam, Bhutan, Sikkim, Kashmir, Nepal.’ Absolutely correct, for this is exactly what is happening today.

Nehru and Panikkar simply did not see the threat from China, so enamoured were they of the great Communist Revolution there. Nehru said: ‘The biggest event since the last War is the rise of Communist China’. Part of his admiration arose from his distaste for the Buddhist culture of Tibet: ‘We cannot support feudal elements in Tibet, indeed we cannot interfere in Tibet’. Now doesn’t that sound exactly like Xinhua propaganda, which Nehru seems to have internalised?

A Canadian high commissioner had a different theory: ‘[Panikkar] had no illusions about the policies of the Chinese government and he had not been misled by it. He considered, however, that the future, at least in his lifetime, lay with the communists, and he therefore did his best to get on well with them by misleading Nehru’. That might be considered treason in certain circles.

Whatever the reason, we can see why Zhou-en Lai is rumored to have referred to the Indians in general and Nehru in particular as ‘useful idiots’. (There is no reference to this in the Arpi book). In every discussion with Panikkar, the Chinese hosts smilingly avoided the question of settling the border, but they made sure that India acknowledged Chinese hegemony over Tibet. The Indians were thoroughly outsmarted, partly because they were willing victims dazzled by the idea of Communism.

When confronted with the question of the undefined border, Nehru said, “All these are high mountains. Nobody lives there. It is not very necessary to define these things.” And in the context of whether the Chinese might invade India, here’s Nehru again: “What might happen is some petty trouble in the borders and unarmed infiltration. To some extent this can be stopped by checkposts? Ultimately, however, armies do not stop communist infiltration or communist ideas? Any large expenditure on the army will starve the development of the country and social progress.”

The naivete leaves the neutral observer speechless. What might be even more alarming is that there are supposedly serious Old Left analysts today, in 2004, who mouth these same inanities about not spending money on the Indian Army. Why they do not take their cue from China, with its enormous Army, is mysterious, because in all other respects they expect India to emulate China. Except that is, no nukes, no military might for India.

By not asserting India’s treaty rights in Tibet, which would have helped Tibet remain as a neutral buffer zone, Nehru has hurt India very badly. For, look at what is happening today. Nepal is under relentless attack by Maoists, almost certainly supported by Chinese money. Large parts of India are infested with violent Maoists. Much of West Bengal is under the iron grip of Marxists, who clearly take orders from Beijing [Images].

It is in this context that the so-called Panchsheel Agreement was written. Given that the Indian side had a priori decided to surrender all its rights to the Chinese, in return for vague promises of brotherhood, it is perhaps the most vacuous treaty ever signed. However, Nehru opined: “in my opinion, we have done no better thing than this since we became independent. I have no doubt about this?I think it is right for our country, for Asia and for the world.”

Famous last words.

Nehru believed that the five principles which are referred to as Panchsheel were his personal, and major, contribution to world peace. Based on his impression of his stature in the world, he thought that the Panchsheel model could be used for treaties all over the world, and that it would lead to a tremendous breaking out of peace everywhere.

Nehru was sadly mistaken. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the principles themselves: they were not his invention, but were merely common-sense provisions used widely. And he had a megalomaniac idea of his own influence around the world: he did not realise that he cut a slightly comical figure. In his own mind, and in the minds of his toadies, he was the Emperor Ashoka returned, to bring about World Peace.

Here are the Five Principles:
1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
2. Mutual non-aggression
3. Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs
4. Equality and mutual benefit
5. Peaceful co-existence

The Chinese immediately violated every one of these principles, and have continued to do so happily. For instance, even while the treaty was being negotiated, the Chinese were building a road through Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir [Images], and in perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of this whole sorry mess, India was actually supplying rice to the Chinese troops building the road through Indian territory! This is distinctly surreal!

The problem was that Nehru had no sense of history. He should have read RC Majumdar: “There is, however, one aspect of Chinese culture that is little known outside the circle of professional historians? It is characteristic of China that if a region once acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a short period, she would regard it as a part of her empire for ever and would automatically revive her claim over it even after a thousand years whenever there was a chance of enforcing it.”

And this was the ‘ally’ Nehru found against the ‘imperialists’ of the West! He went so far as to decline a seat at the UN Security Council because the China seat was held by Taiwan. He did not want India to be in the Security Council until China was there too!

Since many people are curious about this, here is chapter and verse: it is in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Series II, Vol. 29, Minutes of meeting with Soviet Leaders, Moscow [Images], 22 June 1955, pp. 231. Here is the conversation between Nehru and Soviet Premier Marshal Bulganin:

“Bulganin: While we are discussing the general international situation and reducing tension, we propose suggesting at a later stage India’s inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council.

Nehru: Perhaps Bulganin knows that some people in USA have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject of controversy. If India is to be admitted to the Security Council it raises the question of the revision of the Charter of the UN. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China’s admission and possibly of others is first solved. I feel that we should first concentrate on getting China admitted.”

The casual observer might wonder whether Nehru was India’s prime minister, or China’s. Besides, the Chinese have now repaid all this support. India insisted that India should not be in the Security Council until China was in it, too. Now China insists that India should not be in the Security Council until Pakistan is in it, too. Seems fair, doesn’t it?

What is the net result of all this for India? It is a strategic disaster. Forget the fact that the Tibetan civilisation has been decimated, and it is an Indic civilisation with practically no relationship to Han Chinese civilisation. Strictly from India’s security perspective, it is an unmitigated catastrophe.

Analyst Ginsburg wrote in the fifties: ‘He who holds Tibet dominates the Himalayan piedmont; he who dominates the Himalayan piedmont, threatens the Indian subcontinent; and he who threatens the Indian subcontinent may well have all of Southeast Asia within his reach, and all of Asia.’

Look at the situation in Tibet today.

a.. The Chinese are planning the northward diversion of the Brahmaputra, also known as the Tsangpo. This would make North India a desert
b.. The Chinese have on several occasions used ‘lake bombs’ to flood Indian territory: as the upper riparian state based on their occupation of Tibet, they are able to do this, for example on the Sutlej
c.. Hu Jintao, who was the Butcher of Tibet, is now a top strongman in Beijing. Under his sponsorship, a railway line will be finished in 2007 linking Lhasa to eastern China. This would be an excellent mechanism for bringing in both large
numbers of Han immigrants to swamp the remaining Tibetan people, and also to deploy mobile nuclear missiles
d.. The Chinese are deploying advanced nuclear missiles in Tibet, aimed at India, Russia [Images] and the US. With the railway line, they will be able to move these around and even conceal them quickly in tunnels and other locations
e.. The Chinese dump large amounts of nuclear waste in Tibet, which will eventually make its way down to India via the rivers
f.. The India-Tibet border is still not demarcated.
It is difficult to imagine a more disastrous foreign policy outcome than what happened between India and China. Claude Arpi is owed a debt of gratitude by all of us in India who care about the nation’s progress and even its survival.

If the rather well-thought-of founding prime minister of the country was so uncaring about India’s interests, one shudders to think what might be going on today with some of the ministers who are accused in criminal cases.

But even more than that, Arpi’s detailed analysis and painstaking research on the process through which Tibet was enslaved is an instructive case study in how barbarians are always at the gates, and how, as Will Durant said, ‘Civilisation is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within’.

One of the profound lessons to be taken away is that it is the lack of respect for the spiritual that has led to this cataclysm. As Ministry of External Affairs observer, Apa Pant, pointed out about Tibet and the Han Chinese colonisation: ‘With all its shortcomings and discomforts, its inefficiencies and unconquered physical dangers, here was a civilisation with at least the intention of maintaining a pattern of life in which the individual could achieve liberation? The one so apparently inefficient, so human and even timid, yet kind and compassionate and aspiring to something more gloriously satisfying in human life; the other determined and effective, ruthless, power-hungry and finally intolerant… In the corridors of power [in official India], Tibet, Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, were all regarded as ridiculous, too funny for words; useless illusions that would logically cease to exist soon, thanks to the Chinese, and good riddance.’

In the final analysis, Tibet was lost because those in power in India were dismissive of matters spiritual. It is the Empire of the Spirit that has made India what she has been all these millennia, and once the rulers start dismissing that, it is clear that we are in the Kali Yuga, the Dark Ages. It is the end of living, and the beginning of survival.