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WORLD AFFAIRS IRAQ

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CLIMATE CHANGE DURBAN

Exit America 49

What people say 96

Uncertain stand 114

Remembering TAGORE
On his 150th birth anniversary

VOLUME 28

NUMBER 27

TH E STAT E S
Fiery trap in Kolkata

41

SC IE NCE
Higgs signal?

44

WOR L D A F F A I R S
Iraq: Exit America
War crimes in the trash
Russia:
December Revolution
Pakistan:
Volatile state
India & China:
Troubled equations

C O V ER S T O RY

49
52

85

H ISTOR Y
Of Quit India, Nehru
& Communist split

89

CONTR OV E R S Y
Mullaperiyar dispute:
Deep distrust
Fallout of fear
OBITU A R Y
Humble genius:
Mario Miranda
Korea’s Kim Jong-il
COL U M N
Bhaskar Ghose:
Looking back
Praful Bidwai:
Durban greenwash

As an activist, thinker, poet and rural reconstructionist, Rabindranath Tagore continues to be relevant. A tribute on the 150th
anniversary of his birth. 4

Jayati Ghosh:
Mess in eurozone
R.K. Raghavan:
A lost battle?

108
118

BOOKS
LE TTE R S

73
127

61

AR T
Achuthan Kudallur’s
journey

CL IM A TE C H A N G E
Uncertain stand
in Durban

Timeless Tagore

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64

E CONOM Y
Losing momentum
Interview: C. Rangarajan,
Chairman, PMEAC

ISSN 0970-1710

54

TR AVE L
Jungles of Borneo

FOOD SEC UR I T Y
Understanding the PDS
Kerala:
Power of literacy
Bihar:
Coupon fiasco
Jharkhand:
Strong revival
Chhattisgarh:
Loud no to cash

DECEMBER 31, 2011 - JANUARY 13, 2012

96
98
101
104
106

RELA T ED S TOR I E S

Language
barrier 14
Poet of the Padma17

The other Tagore 22
Unique landlord 29
Man of science 37

110
112

114

120
124

129
132

83
94

W O RLD A F F A I RS
The American occupation
troops withdraw from Iraq
after waging a ‘dumb war’
which claimed the lives of a
million Iraqis. 49

On the Cover
Rabindranath Tagore.
PHOTOGRAPH: THE HINDU ARCHIVES
COVER DESIGN: U. UDAYA SHANKAR
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F O O D S EC U RI T Y
A survey in nine States
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quietly revived and
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C LI M A T E C H A N GE
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cut commitments from Annex I
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he left pieces of his legacy wherever he went. Quoted to me many years ago by an uncle who had been in the Indian Civil Service. Dartington. Tagore has attracted a good number of quips and sneers over the years. A tribute on the 150th anniversary of his birth. and what trends relating to it can be expected in the future. Delhi and Ahmedabad. B Y W I L L I A M R A D I C E . and the celebrations seem likely to continue. Stockholm. I myself enjoy these quips when I am in the mood. Marbach. Through his English translations and their secondary translations. It is unsurprising. given that after winning the Nobel Prize Tagore became. Mumbai. if you prefer. But the enthusiasm and commitment of the organisers of these events is quite surprising. One such quip is Jorge Luis Borges’ comment – referring to the Nobel Prize – that Tagore was a “hoaxer of good faith. Tagore alone is not now a crowdpuller. This interest worldwide is both unsurprising and surprising. and it is not surprising that many of the events I have attended have been linked to his own visits and travels. the most famous poet in the world. a Swedish invention”. and I suspect that Tagore would himself have F R O N T L I N E ( FACI N G P A G E ) R A BI N D R A N ATH February 1931. Lund. Washington and Chicago. and some of the events have had tiny audiences. Cambridge. through his lectures and his extraordinary dress and charisma. What has been gained? Perhaps it is too early to say. these lines will be useful to those who wish to pour scorn on the roving exhibition of Tagore’s paintings (December 12 to March 4) in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. poet and rural reconstructionist. Many people have never K 4 heard of him. in the 1920s and 30s. Rabindranath Tagore continues to be relevant. But I think it is possible to draw some initial conclusions about Tagore’s standing compared to what it was 40 years ago. Kuala Lumpur and Singapore…. given that Tagore – except in Bengal – is hardly a household name. and organisers have had to be ingenious in finding ways of filling halls or seminar-rooms. Another is less well known: If only Tagore Wouldn’t draw! His literary stuff Is tedious enough. or. Hyderabad. Copenhagen. thinker. Fame brought him many opportunities to travel. Santiniketan. 2012 As an activist. Salamanca. which are routinely trotted out by those who wish to make fun of him. Leiden. Tagore in PICTURES: THE HINDU ARCHIVES enhance the understanding of his creative achievements. London. culminating with the centenary in 2013 of his Nobel Prize.Who would have thought when I started learning Bengali in 1972 that Bengali and Rabindranath Tagore would take me all over the world? The 150th anniversary of his birth has kept me and other Tagore specialists exceptionally busy in 2011. Barcelona and Valladolid.Cover Story JANUARY 13. Zagreb and Rijeka. TIMELESS TAGORE There is hope that the new appreciation of Tagore as a thinker will in the long run OLKATA. and he seized them eagerly. globetrotting in a way that was unprecedented before the age of air travel. Birmingham and Hull.

JANUARY 13. 2012 F R O N T L I N E 5 .

but which failed in the end to convince most mainstream writers and critics that he was a great and significant poet. Mainstream figures such as W. INTERNATIONALISM AND FREEDOM Amartya Sen’s authority as a Nobel laureate himself may have pushed Tagore’s reputation as a thinker up a few notches. No translation is up to the job.B. his songs. and you will find that they cannot be F R O N T L I N E . The resilience of this attitude was demonstrated by an article in The Guardian on May 7 by the veteran journalist Ian Jack (who has a longstanding interest in India). his circle of friends and admirers in Britain was small and eccentric. there are in Britain entrenched views that have proved extremely hard to shift. This will not. his fiction. and the flurry of comment and protest that his article provoked was not a bad thing: it did at least get Tagore into the pages of one of our major newspapers.JANUARY 13. but there is a cold. Tagore is vaguely remembered for Gitanjali and other English translations that enjoyed an initial vogue. a credibility gap. I myself have argued in lectures and articles that to focus on Tagore’s ideas and ideals can not only be a distraction from his profound achievements as a creative artist but can also be misleading. Maybe as an Englishman I have been more acutely aware of this gap than admirers of Tagore from other cultures and countries. which essentially argued the same: that Tagore the poet was inaccessible to non-Bengalis and the best thing to do was to learn from his valuable ideas about nationalism. The British literary establishment has always been resistant to Tagore. universalism and history. of course. or a full-scale novel like Gora. 1912-1940). harsh world outside full of people who are not so convinced. It appeared the day after Jack had chaired a lecture by Amartya Sen at the British Museum. Contributors to commemorative events or volumes are convinced of his greatness. his plays. Despite all the work done since the 1980s to put Tagore’s reputation on a new footing. No doubt Jack was being deliberately provocative. or his paintings. It asked: “Is his poetry any good? The answer for anyone who 6 can’t read Bengali must be: don’t know. Read Bikash Chakravarty’s introduction to his collection of letters to Tagore from literary figures (Poets to a Poet. They also carry the bleak truth that for many non-Bengalis there is. and think of his more intelligible achievements”. with Tagore. UNITY. Yeats and Ezra Pound who were enthusiastic to begin with quite rapidly lost interest. from a single song to a magnificent poem such as Tapobhanga (‘The Wakening of Siva’). satisfy those who care passionately about his poetry. Take any of his creative works. 2012 found them amusing.” The article concluded that “perhaps the time has come for us to forget Tagore was ever a poet. and you will learn that even at the height of his success with Gitanjali.

wholeness or completeness. Was Tagore pro. Indira. on the politics of non-violent non-cooperation. That was also the year when Nehru lost his wife. ate khichri with them in the students’ canteen. Politics and Society. reduced to a ‘philosophy’: they have the complexity. Nationalism and the Postcolonial World: Rabindranath Tagore’s Writings on History. setting the poet’s mind at rest. that in everything he did he strove for purnata. to study at Visva-Bharati. Particularly significant is Michael Collins’ new book for Routledge: Empire. ran around and played with children. No record of the conversation exists. manysidedness. He took rides on the ferris wheel with the students at Poush Mela. paradox and ambiguity that we expect to find in any great work of art.JANUARY 13. (Facing page) Tagore felicitating Gandhi and Kasturba at the mango grove in Santiniketan. Nehru shared a special relationship with Tagore and sent his daughter. Dr Collins has arrived at a conception similar to my own. There is a moving story of how Tagore slipped a note in Gandhi’s hands at the end of the 1940 visit. But his belief in histo- F R O N T L I N E 7 . Nehru’s government made good that promise in 1951 when Visva-Bharati was made a Central university through an Act of Parliament. who took time off from a Calcutta trip in 1936 to visit Santiniketan for a day. a number of publications and conference papers in 2011 have given me hope that this new-found appreciation of Tagore as a thinker will in the long run enhance the understanding of his creative achievements. on modern science and birth control and celibacy. He could be deeply critical of imperialism or the nation-state or the dehumanising effects of capitalism and industrial production. As its Chancellor from 1951 to 1964. Nevertheless.or anti-West? Was he pro. It is a highly academic work and will not be read much outside academic circles. asking him to “accept this institution [Visva-Bharati] under your protection”. he visited Santiniketan regularly for its convocation ceremony. Through carefully reading Tagore’s English lectures and essays. Yet they shared a deep personal friendship and mutual respect. 2012 TA G O R E W I T H J A W AH A RLA L Nehru.Phil thesis. for whom Tagore had held a condolence meeting at his ashram. Tagore and Gandhi held different views on the charkha. But works of scholarship can spread ripples.or anti-modern? Scholars at Tagore conferences argue endlessly about such issues. Gandhi immediately responded. Dr Collins is a historian teaching at University College London and his book derives from his Oxford D. and I foresee a considerable ripple effect from Dr Collins’ painstaking pursuit of unity amidst the often baffling contradictions of Tagore’s discursive writings.

whether in education. Tagore spoke to packed halls during his first visit to war-ravaged Germany in 1921. Elmhurst with money from his American wife Dorothy. the German reaction to him was mixed and sometimes hostile. Through his wide network of international contacts. economic development. He is also the guiding light behind Schumacher College at Dartington and the Small School at Hartland. SHIFTS IN PERCEPTION Let me now consider some other shifts that have started to occur during this anniversary year. The marginalisation of Tagore is the fragmentation of Tagore. The first is an the awareness of the “activist” Tagore. This will not in any way diminish their radicalism. 2012 ry as an unfolding revelation – and in his own creative work as an expression of a unifying jivan-devata – made him also see the “spirit of the age” that spawned imperialist expansion or scientific advance as tending towards unity. He believed this because. They are shifts to a position that is both more central. he was able to attract as speakers big names such as the conservationist Jane Goodall. after he had worked with Tagore at Sriniketan) were filled from morning to night with very well attended events: lectures. the new F R O N T L I N E . his “monistic spiritual perspective – derived largely from the Upanishadic insistence on the essential oneness of the universe – provided the basis for his philosophy of history”. not tame or respectable. their subversive challenge to orthodoxy. inspired and masterminded by Satish Kumar. composer. and have real potential for the future. He revisited Germany in 1926 and 1930. Despite the adulation he received. May 1-7. novelist. as Dr Collins has successfully done with Tagore’s discursive writings in English. but also more radical.JANUARY 13. make sense. they have a tendency to seem more and more radical. join forces at the centre of the stage. dance performances and poetry readings. as Shakespeare has done for so long. If we can move even one aspect of him to the centre. in the perception and 8 S P E AKI N G AT B E R LI N University. then his diverse achievements as a poet. or man-woman relations. Three different venues at Dartington Hall (founded by Leonard K. recitals. internationalism and freedom. When really great writers or thinkers become central. use of several aspects of Tagore’s creativity. One of the biggest triumphs of the anniversary year was the Tagore festival held in Dartington in Devon. Satish Kumar commands a considerable following in Britain through his editorship of the ecological magazine Resurgence. playwright and painter will cohere. and he acknowledges Tagore as a major influence on his life and work. in Dr Collins’ words.

.

1 0 F R O N T L I N E . when he visited New York in 1930. 2012 WI T H H E L E N K E L LER.JANUARY 13.

I believe that this new way of performing Rabindrasangeet. Once it is understood what Tagore’s songs actually are. even in India outside Bengal. Sung khali golay (‘with naked voice’). F R O N T L I N E 1 1 . published by LIT Verlag. October 27-28. the experience was revelatory. especially when I heard Ananda Lal saying dryly about the exploitative dam in Muktadhara or the digging for gold in Raktakarabi. the environmentalist Jonathan Porrit. the educationist Anthony Seldon. QUALITY. an international conference at the University of Chicago. then the door is wide open for all sorts of imaginative fusion experiments. have made them as alien to non-Bengalis as British Christmas pantomime is to non-Britons. Hearing Rabindrasangeet sung in this way is like seeing an old master painting after layers of grime and varnish have been removed. It is a major reason for remembering him. With our world now facing unprecedented challenges from overpopulation. they were immediately made as moving to a foreign audience as the songs of Schubert are to audiences who may not know a word of German. I thought of Dartington at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations’ (ICCR) conference on “Tagore’s vision of the contemporary world” at Azad Bhavan. Many who attended or spoke at the festival did not know much about Tagore. why Tagore” in Ahmedabad on October 15. and his presentation implied that in this book he argues that corruption in the performance of Rabindrasangeet set in very early on – because the writing down of the songs in akarmatrik notation. led to a rhythmic rigidity that was absent in recordings of the songs by Tagore himself. The conventional way of performing them. In Ahmedabad. then the door is wide open for all sorts of imaginative fusion experiments. Alongside this revolution in performance comes scholarly work by musicologists. metronomic tabla-rhythm. not bringing him closer to them. but all were committed to his values. The main obstacle has been in their domestication. too. are normally quite happy to listen to Rabindrasangeet sung in the conventional way. October 10-12. my friend Debashish Raychaudhuri and his daughter Rohini gave a wonderful performance of Rabindrasangeet. Dr Koch has completed a major study in German of the songs of Tagore. especially Dr Lars Koch in Berlin. and excessive amplification. when they heard the songs sung with this new directness and simplicity. The reasons for this have nothing to do with the songs themselves or the fact that they are composed in a language that very few non-Bengalis know. RABINDRASANGEET A second major area where there has been a shift – one that is particularly close to my heart – is in Rabindrasangeet. global warming and environmental degradation. Another manifestation of this sea change is the recent recording by Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta of the complete Gitabitan (collected songs of Tagore) with only tanpura as accompaniment. dancers and musicians. or Spanish bullfights are to non-Spaniards (or were before the recent Catalan bullfighting ban). and combined with an explana- tory conversation. and the control of their performance by the Visva-Bharati Music Board. “If that is not topical. Eiko Ohira speaking so movingly about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on April 21 – telling us how cherry blossoms continued to bloom amidst the rubble. their – dare I say it – ‘ghettoisation’. For Bengalis. the songs are absolutely central. at the same conference. his songs have remained the least known. Tagore is likely to seem an increasingly compelling voice. or by disciples such as Sahana Devi. When I hear the best of these experiments. but for non-Bengalis worldwide. what is?” I also thought of Dartington when I heard. Professor Partha Ghose. 2012 age guru Deepak Chopra. in New Delhi. I again reflected on how vital it is always to keep this aspect of Tagore’s vision in mind. from performance conventions. She quoted Eliot – “April is the cruellest month” – but took strength and comfort from Tagore. But for them. with harmonium and other instruments. the unique and marvellous songs of Tagore. because of a well-established interest in Gujarat in Tagore and his songs. the ubiquity of Rabindrasangeet at every kind of Bengali celebration or social occasion. I feel that they take us closer to the spirit of the songs than the conventional way of performing them. will have an increasingly powerful effect. speaking both in Delhi and at the seminar “My Tagore. Listening to my friend Dr Martin Kämpchen. least understood aspect of his creative genius. whose knowledge of Tagore’s songs is as deep as his appreciation of Tagore’s scientific interests. In Ahmedabad. who gave a fascinating presentation at the ‘The Many Worlds of Rabindranath Tagore’. It has long been a dream of mine to persuade singers of Rabindrasangeet to perform without the clutter of harmonium. Rabindrasangeet has had the effect of separating Tagore from others. and it attracts many people worldwide. so to speak. and many prominent poets. INSIGHT AND FEELING Once it is understood what Tagore’s songs actually are. set free. which is largely a matter of bringing it up to global standards of performance. we repeated the experiment. The ovations that Debashish and Rohini received in both Dartington and Ahmedabad will remain with me as high spots of the anniversary year. tabla and other instruments. In my experience. and hearing about his Tagore-inspired work as a community activist in Santali villages close to Santiniketan. At Dartington.JANUARY 13. to a Gujarati audience who. and for Tagore himself.

Recently. who translated the words into French and English so that they fitted the melody. 2012 Maurice Gwyer (right) and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan after a special convocation held by Oxford University at Santiniketan on August 7. in the town in Hexham near where I live in Northumberland. Rabindrasangeet brings me to the third area where I feel exciting changes are afoot and where there is real potential for the future.Litt. 1940. Many of the best events in 2011 have been performances involving actors.JANUARY 13. dancers and musicians. is quality. as in any great music. two fine local musicians performed arrangements of Tagore songs by the French musicologist Alain Daniélou (1907-1994). FL AN K E D B Y S I R played us beautiful arrangements of Rabindrasangeet that he has recorded in Kolkata with a string quartet. This can be achieved in any number of ways so long as one’s starting point is the song as conceived and imagined by Tagore himself. and added subtle 1 2 piano accompaniments that bring out the “latent harmonies” as perceptively as Partha Ghose’s string quartet versions. insight and feeling. What matters above all in Rabindrasangeet. “Flying Man (pakshi-manab): Poems for the 21st century F R O N T L I N E . to confer on Tagore the degree of D.

writer. For as long as we walk this planet. I cannot do that physically in a magazine article. can take pride in what we have done to ensure that he will be remembered. two of Britain’s finest young jazz musicians. Remember me. But it is impossible to hear it now without thinking of the song as prophetic. with a special relevance to the anxieties and concerns of the 21st century. with the rhythmic flexibility that is such a feature of his poetry. Akademi. if I go far away. and improvisations by another outstanding British jazz clarinettist. The dank and mysterious Southwark Playhouse Vaults in London were the venue. he retired from SOAS. In Spain. F R O N T L I N E 1 3 . Tagore wrote the song in 1887. Northumberland. creativity and international cooperation that went right to the heart of what Rabindranath Tagore was all about. a radically innovative dance production based on Tagore. The recording was played at a number of the events this year: in Rijeka in Croatia on May 21. Chicago on October 28. part-recorded soundtrack combined Rabindrasangeet. remember me still remember me If tears come to your eyelids If tears come to your eyelids If play ceases one day. Arun Ghosh. I know in the core of my being that Tagore was one of those creative geniuses who make one feel privileged to be human. and may not have been thinking of himself or his future legacy at all. in William Radice is a British poet. on November 27. In August 2011. I am present or not. where he used to teach Bengali language and literature. and in Hexham. Everyone – absolutely everyone – is moved by this recording as soon as they understand the words. one autumn dawn. can give amazing new life and meaning to Tagore’s poetry. and those who have participated in the commemorations in 2011. who is trained in both Bharatanatyam and Western ballet. They showed that deeply felt jazz improvisations. Music was provided by Zoe Rahman (piano) and her brother Idris Rahman (clarinet).JANUARY 13. Some of the greatest poems of Tagore. and translator. His translations of Tagore’s poems and stories are widely acclaimed. recitation. insight and feeling. and with a heartrending catch in his voice in the last line. still remember me. were read by me and two Bengali readers. one spring night. and the part-live. like a shadow. prose and paintings. especially in my translation of Gitanjali for Penguin India. and I think it will not be long before Spanish musicians turn this into a song of their own. in a spirit of freedom. 2012 by Rabindranath Tagore” at the British Library on May 17 was one of them. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life: to stand and compère a complex programme in Spanish. which suggests that he had a lump in his throat and was scarcely able to get through it. in translation and in the original Bengali. and maybe one day other planets too. still remember me If old love gets covered by the mesh of new love. has been a new and transferable way of translating Tagore’s songs. to a large and rapturous audience. the choreographer was Ash Mukherjee. and flamenco from José Salinas and Raúl Olivar. His latest book is a new English translation of Gitanjali for Penguin India. my translation of Tobu mone rekho was readily translated into Spanish. but it is not difficult now to find on the Internet Tagore’s own rendering of his song Tobu mone rekho. he will be remembered. What matters in Rabindrasangeet is quality. produced “Song of the City”. combined with recitation. ‘REMEMBER ME’ Let me end with Tagore’s own voice. the three city “Tagore en España” festival coordinated by Indranil Chakravarty reached a stunning climax with a performance that combined Rabindrasangeet from Paramita Biswas. and when I hear Tagore sing it himself. still remember me If work is stopped one day. remember me If I come to your mind. still remember me 첸 In Valladolid in Spain on October 4. London University. yet heavy tears no longer brim in the corners of your eyes still remember me Remember me. yet you cannot see whether. the Centre for South Asian Dance. This can be achieved in a number of ways as long as the starting point is the song as conceived by Tagore himself. On August 5-6. remember me still remember me If I stay close by. dance from Ananya Chatterjea. Among the things that I hope my own work in this anniversary year has given. and have travelled so far in his globetrotting footsteps.

Any scope for hope for Tagore and his songs to be more than a totem rests with the Bangladeshis. the colonial hangover is uber alles. but also continue to be faithful to it. and is at most a regional icon. After all. his plays and did so quite late into his life. and acting in. its priorities and concerns have turned topsy-turvy. B Y A S H O K M I T R A IS songs will endure. which is not an easy language to enter into. Globalisation has imparted the lesson that the cardinal objective in life is to make money whatever the means. He. the ethereal beauty and intense spiritualism embedded in Tagore’s poetry came to be recognised in the country only after the nod arrived from the West. in any case. have a magnetic attraction for racketeers. dance dramas. is taking place. He H 1 4 was immediately rendered into a deity. much of all this is pure ritual. seminars. During the struggle to put Visva-Bharati on its feet. love to convert every ritual into a carnival. exhibitions of his paintings and manuscripts. Here lies the tragedy. This nation is currently in an obsessively globalised mood. Why not be candid. Some courteous gestures are forthcoming from foreign embassies and consulates too. and whatever else can be thought of. Indians. . he went on tours staging performances to raise funds for it. plays. The Tagore anniversary has been reduced to a potpourri of songs. The language has a F R O N T L I N E TA G OR E A S BA LM I KI (facing page) in his dance drama "Balmiki Pratibha". In quite a few countries. however. He enjoyed directing. He wrote almost exclusively in Bengali. but the ambience of the original fails to come through in translation. That status continues. When the man once hailed as the Father of the Nation is now little more than a half-forgotten totem. besides. so what is the harm if a few fast bucks are made by way of pretending to pay homage to Tagore too? Such frivolities apart. Tagore could hardly expect a better treatment. Tagore is being duly feted this year: obeisance to a ritual. Still he was the first Indian to be awarded the Nobel Prize. At the end of the year. 2012 Language barrier The bulk of Tagore’s poetry is available in translation in different languages. learned-sounding discourses. And it is particularly so in our own neighbourhood. for they will endure only for those who are not only born in the language. workshops. either the Indian diaspora or this or that international body is organising events to offer homage to Tagore’s memory. under both official and other auspices.Cover Story JANUARY 13. A spate of commemoratory celebrations. A quantum of cynicism is in order. never had the same emotive appeal across the entire nation as Gandhi had. The year 2011 happens to be 150 years since Rabindranath Tagore’s birth. Deities have dates when they are to be dusted and feted. films on him or based on his themes. there is one big difficulty for the world at large to appreciate Tagore’s creativity or his message that enriched humanity. Carnivals. who have clung to Tagore’s language. That fact cannot be passed over. dances. the sum total of all these events could well be a grand confusion. The Tagore season is proving to be no exception.

VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES .

The passage of time has bared another harsh truth: most of Tagore’s poems appear to be overwritten. prayed with. The language of words and the architectural arrangements enchant. Not that the blight of globalisation is not affecting them either. Perhaps. Tagore plays the great innovator. even pickings from haughty military bands. for this money-fixated species. Learning the script. The story is different in Bangladesh. played with. As of this moment. but we are stuck at a still point of cognosis. made poetry vulnerable to the moodiness of seasonality. but sorry. mystic thoughts do not grip the West any more. Tagore is an integral part of their ethos. Pali. Tagore was acute enough to realise. The greater challenge. once. he will remain hugely irrelevant. collect one’s ideas within a limited ambit of words. he was sanguine. They have shed blood to win their war of liberation. love of nature to love of women. they will be polite towards Tagore. There is no question that his songs have a magnificence that reduces the worth of all his other works. Scottish ballads. the depths of passion or devotion and the cadence in the crafted texture refuse to get transplanted in other languages. they are often guiding stars to negotiate the tortuous course of existence. He had beauty to convey and ideas to unload. but most of the time one remains the frustrated outsider. But the ambience of the original poetry fails to come through in translation. to state it more plainly. why waste time on it. and. The 2. he turns odds into evens. His songs will endure. the assorted refrains are frequently made to coalesce and merge into one another and something devastatingly original. savoured. derived from classical Indian ragas. Nothing doing. it is important to surrender to the sovereignty of discipline. Whether it was 1 6 spirituality or passion or any other instinct that nudges the poet. from which the authorities wanted to detach them by firman. on occasion. and he had total command of the language which was his medium. He took to composing songs. prayed with. The music embellishing them is wondrously freewheeling. Most of that is now passé. who really matter in the polity and the economy. the sonorous expression of thoughts and ideas flows on and on. they are in a scampering hurry to swim in worldly prosperity. Bengalis in India are in general keen to walk away from their native tongue. but if there is any hope for Tagore and his songs to be more than a totem. The reference here is to the Bengali middle class. its expression has to be within the bounds of restraint. 2012 mixed-up heredity with derivatives from Sanskrit. His novels mostly deal with contemporary problems and are generally reckoned to be no longer of any relevance. they clung to Tagore’s language and wrested their freedom. Tagore. Maybe some of Tagore’s short stories. though. the bhajans chanted by Rajasthani damsels while fetching water from distant villages. was of compression of what he desired to convey. In this genre. and simultaneously marry the poetry with the appropriate music. For those aspiring to familiarise themselves with Bengali. it is therefore a case of hit or miss: should one be lucky. they talk too much. The delicate whisper of thought. He himself was confident that this was indeed so. They take one along the meandering trajectory of feelings and emotions. have a certain ubiquitous appeal. reveals itself. that hope rests with the Bangladeshis. later. or otherwise solace at the moment of crisis and sufferings. Portuguese and English. soul searching to revelry. that is all. The 2. Irish lullabies. they are often guiding stars to negotiate the tortuous course of daily existence. They are sure of what they want. The Bengali language offers no help towards attaining that goal. the language of information technology. of course. The great bulk of his poetry is. quintessentially Tagore. the problem is an organic one that even a linguist can only mull over but cannot resolve. via a fusion of language. Arabic and. Persian. the vocabulary and the syntactical idiosyncrasies may not be enough. the totality of the sectarian mystique could still be beyond grasp. They do not mind participating in carnivals organised on the pretext of Tagore as long as such involvement has commercial possibilities. better shift to foreign languages valued in global transactions and.JANUARY 13. it has acquired a structural maturity and a specific identity and has built a climate for itself which is doggedly insular with its subjective symbols and codes. played with. despite their roots in the Bengal milieu of the times. savoured.000-odd songs he composed are to be enjoyed. It was a dilemma. the grammar. Here lies the tragedy. above all. One of the passions at the root of their revolt against Pakistan was their fierce love for their mother tongue. the deep resonance of Carnatic music. The philosophy of eternal quest buried in his works also had. is a dispensable embarrassment. The themes range from passion to counter-passion. No matter. Tagore discovered his salvation. He could. for they will endure only for those who are not only born in the language but also continue to be faithful to it. Tagore’s humanistic passages get faithfully transmitted through renderings in other languages. the otherworldly chant of Bengali bauls. 첸 As told to Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay F R O N T L I N E . blind faith to threadbare reasoning. available in translation in different languages. one might succeed in breaking the barrier and going inside the language. a clientele in the West.000-odd songs he composed are to be enjoyed. reach out to the unarticulated yearnings of the human soul. No fault lies with those who do the translations. For the rest of the human race. The absence of rigour.

Hindus and Muslims. Instead. politics took a sharp turn and saw the growth of a movement for an independent Muslim land in the early 1940s. about 10 per cent of the entire Hindu population. Muslims chose to form a separate country of their own. After the creation of Pakistan. As a result. became part of Bangladesh’s freedom movement is fascinating history. upper caste Hindus eagerly accepted English education and engaged in commercial activities with the English. On F R O N T L I N E the contrary. more than 97 per cent of Bengali Muslims. were resentful of Hindu dominance and exploitation by zamindars. Therefore. These caste Hindus. Although the debate died down by the early 1930s. or landlords. Inspired by the rising tide of religious nationalism in the 1940s. in 1971. he was hardly identified by the Bengali Muslim community to be one of their own. as a growing number of Muslims gradually came to have some education in the beginning of the 20th century and became more aware of their inferior status in society. mostly poor farmers. and the only Asian until then to have received the Nobel Prize. underwent an identity crisis and even raised the question whether their mother tongue was Bengali. Apart from this. How the once disowned and neglected Tagore became part of the freedom movement of Bangladesh is. formed the upper and middle classes in Bengali society and contributed to as well as benefited from the so-called Bengali Renaissance. For generations. like the low caste Hindus. 2012 Poet of the Padma How Tagore. B MUSLIM DISSATISFACTION Traditionally. sharply divided into two religious communities of nearly equal sizes. particularly between the dominant upper class Hindus and Muslims in general. However. Muslims. the English rulers used this Muslim dissatisfaction to divide the two communities and pursue the advantageous policy of “Divide and Rule”. the alienation between Hindus and Muslims increased. a fascinating history. indeed. it seemed almost unbelievable when. Despite the fact that Rabindranath Tagore was one of the greatest geniuses ever born.Cover Story JANUARY 13. which came to be known as East Pakistan. who were very much sons of the soil and spoke Bengali for centuries. lived in villages and were mainly farmers and artisans. Thousands of them also bought landed properties and became zamindars. he was branded by them as a Hindu poet. once disowned as a Hindu poet by Bengali Muslims. This alienation was so strong that in the early 20th century. Muslims lagged miles and decades behind them socially. a unique state 1 7 . still are. the predominantly Muslim Bangladesh chose one of the songs written and set to music by Tagore as its national anthem. culturally and economically. Coupled with economic inequality as well as social hierarchy and a rigorous caste system. and identified themselves as not belonging to Bengal. they adhered to their caste occupations and hardly had any interest in having any formal education. there was little communal harmony between them. the Bengali Muslims. a quarter of a century later. B Y G H U L A M M U R S H I D ENGALI-SPEAKING people were and.

Thus the language movement was the beginning of the end of Pakistan. namely. and by making Urdu the only official language for both wings. particularly in the field of economy and participation in governance gave birth to a movement for democratic rights. 1952. they wanted the Bengalispeaking people in East Bengal to lose sense of their linguistic identity and cultural heritage. Out of a total of 119 stories. He has himself narrated how East Bengal broadened his vision and made him aware of what Bengali society was really like. started a political agitation demanding that Bengali be recognised as one of the official languages of Pakistan. It was during this time that they came to love Tagore. the Chief Minister of East Pakistan. Even though he was soon silenced. This brutal police repression. Police repression in March 1948 turned it into an emotional issue and as time passed the movement gathered momentum and gradually spread throughout the province. had a tremendous effect on the politics of East Pakistan and resulted in all but depleting the Muslim League as a political party in the 1954 elections. when the police opened fire on protesters. The following day. particularly of the University of Dhaka. the language movement heralded the rise of a strong secular 1 8 and regional movement for more autonomy. pronounced by Fazlul Huq. except the unity of religion. more people were killed. It culminated in a bloody political movement on February 21. this movement remained confined among the teachers and students of Dhaka. he wrote 59 while he lived in East Bengal between 1890 and 1901. In 1947-48. the mother tongue of the majority of the population of Pakistan. mainly students. monsoon and autumn. In order to manage his father’s large zamindaris in East Bengal. and then with Nazrul Islam. Despite their indifference until then towards the Bengali language. In fact. its leaders realised that there was little in common between the people of West Pakistan and those of the East. Apart from this. Badruddin Umar calls it the return of the Bengali Muslims to their own land. East Pakistan simmered in disgruntlement and looked for friends elsewhere. In short.JANUARY 13. he also wrote many poems and songs while there. Part of this plan was to replace Tagore. he describes passionately how he was stimulated vigorously both by the beauty of the landscape and the simplicity of the people he saw around him. they lived in the Middle East (West Asia). Muslim nationalism. Bengali Muslims resented this concerted assault by Pakistani leaders on Bengali and. however. 2012 with its two wings separated by more than a thousand miles. we find references to the exquisite beauty of F R O N T L I N E . he wrote his first short story almost immediately after he settled in Shilaidaha and went on writing many more. was reflected through small but important symbolic developments. Inspired by the scenic beauty of rural Bengal and the simple lifestyle of the people. mentally and sentimentally. Until then. To them. It was a very significant development because the Muslim League had created Pakistan. It was soon after the elections of 1954 that the demand for a country called “Bangladesh” was. Therefore. In many of these poems. Indira Devi. importing as much of Arabic and Persian elements into Bengali as possible. that is. It had an even more profound influence on their linguistic identity. TAGORE’S EAST BENGAL YEARS Tagore had strong ties with East Bengal. celebrating the birth anniversaries of Tagore. putting one’s signature in Bengali. Utterly frustrated by the unequal treatment by West Pakistan in governance and economy. first with Allama Iqbal. soon after Partition. the dream survived in the minds of young leaders such as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. they increasingly started to identify themselves with Bengal along with its language. along with enormous disparity. emotional as it was. but soon after the language movement in the 1950s. he became the symbol of secular Bengali nationalism and someone who they could be immensely proud of. having a single official language. writing number plates of motor vehicles and names of houses in Bengali. such as giving children Bengali names. for the first time. he lived in Shilaidaha in the district of Kustia from 1890 to 1901. he lived temporarily in East Bengal on many an occasion. In short. Tagore was. In more than 200 letters he wrote to his niece. SECULAR BENGALI NATIONALISM The language movement. replacing the very foundation of Pakistan. It was a well-calculated plan to destroy the Bengali identity of the people of East Pakistan and draw a dividing line between Hindu West Bengal and Muslim East Pakistan. More significantly. Nazrul Islam and Sukanta Bhattacharji (a promising poet who died very young) as well as celebrating seasonal festivals such as spring. they planned to develop another element which they hoped would bond the two parts. He was born and brought up in the seclusion of the aristocratic Tagore family in the city of Calcutta and had never been exposed to either rural Bengal or the inhabitants thereof. The rise of this secular Bengali nationalism. loved by Bengali Muslims as their own. he encountered an explosion of creativity in different branches of literature and music. included mainly in Sonar Tari. They could no longer ignore Tagore as a Hindu poet. Chitra and Chaitali. they wanted to discard Bengali. This tide of secular Bengali nationalism developed fast in the midst of a favourable atmosphere of the politics of discontent in East Pakistan. which eventually led to the independence of Bangladesh. This they wanted to achieve by reducing the use of Bengali. As a result. music and culture. there is evidence that the latter went secretly to the neighbouring Indian State of Tripura in 1962 to explore the possibility of getting help for freeing East Pakistan from the bondage of West Pakistan. for the first time. which were later collected into a volume called Glimpses of Bengal. literature. by projecting them as alternatives to Tagore. In fact. during this time. and killed more than 10 people.

joined hands with the government and started a propaganda war. He called her Bijaya. However. This was a clear shift on the part of Bengali Muslims from their earlier stance of creating a Muslim Bengal and crafting a Bengali language “purified” with Muslim elements. They also made good use of patriotic songs and poetry by Hindu poets such as Atulprasad Sen and Dwijendralal Ray. golden Bengal. as the Tagore centenary in 1961 approached. Much of "Purabi". East Bengal played a significant role in shaping his mind. Indeed. the book of poems named after an evening raga. in 1924 for a couple of months. Azad. Bengali for Victoria. Argentina. whose guest he was in Buenos Aires. Even though he moved away from East Bengal to Santiniketan. was written here. DEFYING GOVERNMENT & CELEBRATING TAGORE Tagore continued to reinforce his position among Bengalis in East Pakistan in this environment. The largest circulated daily. particularly government officials. It was during the period of the post-language movement that the people of East Pakistan started to sing his patriotic songs and use his poems. claiming that Tagore was a sectarian poet. The government could do little to stop this process. 2012 WITH V I C T O R I A O C A M P O .PICTURES COURTESY: VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. during the anniversary of the language movement and on other occasions. She encouraged him to draw after she chanced upon a manuscript that had drawings in it. East Bengal left a permanent impression on him and occupied a very important place in his world. it took definite steps to undermine the occasion by discouraging everyone. from celebrating the occasion. Rathindranath says in his memoirs that she also organised and funded the first exhibition of his paintings in Paris in 1930. There was not a single day before and during the celebrations when articles vilifying F R O N T L I N E 1 9 .

particularly teachers and students. Several educational and cultural organisations took Chhayanot’s lead to celebrate Rabindra Jayanti defying the government’s attempts to discourage them. in 1965. It also enhanced interest in the Bengali language and literature. Its influence was unprecedented. it has developed into a cultural movement rather than just being a cultural event. there was a revival of interest in Tagore among the people of East Pakistan.JANUARY 13. One of the steps it took was to ban Tagore songs on government-controlled TV and radio during the war between India and Pakistan in early September 1965. Whatever the quality of the celebrations. where the object of love is ultimately unknowable. The intelligentsia in Dhaka. However. quoting what he had written about and in support of Muslims. came F R O N T L I N E . The ban continued until the anniversary of Tagore’s birth in May 1966. in the post-independence period. The earlier ban on Tagore songs. This was not surprising in view of the fact that Azad was a staunch nationalist newspaper. This was important because it showed a definite shift in the tide towards and development of a secular linguistic nationalism. The government initially ignored the agitation but when people from all over the country joined in a chorus of protests it withdrew the embargo. The decision was announced in Parliament by the Information Minister. with the poems "Bipasha" (left) and "Baitarini". The poems of "Purabi" are poems of love. what was more significant was that the dailies Ittefak and Sambad defended Tagore equally vocally. the spread of his songs and a keen interest in films based on his stories and novels received an enormous boost from that time on. and soon took the form of a protest movement. however. They perceived it as a protest against the government’s “ban” on Tagore and the suppression of Bengali culture. not from the cage of my heart. Hence. become the second largest celebration – after the Language Movement Day. It goes without saying that all these people were not connoisseurs of Tagore songs and dances." asked the government to withdraw the decision immediately. that is. Indeed. who had so long been limited mainly to textbooks. Tagore was remembered not just by these dailies or the people in Dhaka. they attended the open-air festivals and assemblies to protest against the government’s repression of their culture. which celebrated the occasion with as much enthusiasm as they could. The study of Tagore. 2012 Tagore did not appear on its editorial page. including those in villages. which has now. It is said that the celebration of Rabindra Jayanti. the anniversary of the birth of Tagore. in 1966. which Chhayanot had organised. protested angrily against this announcement and 2 0 P AG E S FR OM THE manuscript of "Purabi". saw the establishment of a cultural organisation called Chhayanot. It did not confine itself to just cultural activities. Harsher was the decision by the government in 1967 to stop Tagore songs from being broadcast on radio and television. A rough translation of the last two lines of "Bipasha": "Let me not grasp for you in my yearning/Let your song come to me from the open skies. Thus Tagore. continued unabated. was attended by tens of thousands of people. Chhayanot also began celebrating Bengali New Year’s Day. they observed it with grandeur. but also by hundreds of educational institutions and cultural organisations all over the province. The government’s efforts to discourage Tagore.

back to life in East Pakistan. in particular. The celebration of hardly any cultural event was regarded as complete without the rendering of Tagore songs. he still symbolises the spirit of a secular Bengali culture and Tagore songs are increasingly becoming popular and fashionable. who were once unmoved by Tagore. there has been a revival of Islam in Bangladesh. rice and flowers. It was fashionable to be identified as Tagoreans. These songs became so integral to their lives that people started to use them to boost their political and cultural movements. won the hearts of the people. published by Macmillan in New York in 1928. F R O N T L I N E 2 1 . collected as "Fireflies". Tagore is now no longer as inspiring and ‘alive’ as he was 40 years ago. This attitude has also been enhanced by popular anti-Indian fear. He came out of textbooks and was transformed into a living entity. The song ‘Dhana-dhanya-pushpa-bhara’ (Full of wealth. London University. Articles and books on Tagore started to come out and performances of his plays and dance dramas became popular. has changed to a large extent. This growing popularity of Tagore’s songs encouraged Chhayanot to release a set of discs in 1969. Translations of nearly all these brief poems can be found in William Radice’s book "The Jewel That Is Best" (Penguin India). whether they really appreciated the songs or not. the perception of the people towards him has changed. The people who did not show any interest in Tagore were considered by others to be less than cultured. 2012 M A NU SC R I PT O F H I S English aphorisms. However. I love you) and ‘Sarthak janam amar janmechhi ei deshe’ (My life has been fulfilled as I was born in this country) and dozens of others. especially of Saudi Arabia. our hope/Oh. Tagore’s patriotic songs. Although the government gave him due recognition. However. East Pakistanis earned him through a political and cultural movement.JANUARY 13. He is now no longer seen as their companion in their struggle for an independent Bangladesh. ‘Amar sonar Bangla’ was seen to be the national anthem of the future Bangladesh even before Bangladesh was created. He is a Senior Research fellow at SOAS. The study of Tagore continues unabated as well. such as ‘Amar sonar Bangla ami tomay bhalobasi’ (My golden Bengal. came to love him as their own and thus “earned” him through a struggle in the face of strong opposition. Educated middle-class Bengali Muslims began to buy discs of Tagore songs. moder asha/A mori Bangla bhasha’ (Our pride. despite the fact that he has lost some of the ground he gained during the 1960s and the early 1970s. this country of ours) by Dwijendralal Ray also became extremely popular (now it is Bangladesh’s official patriotic song). NATIONAL ANTHEM It was during this process that his songs. The study of Tagore certainly received a lift in Bangladesh. as the struggle itself has become redundant with no one to repress it. the people of East Bengal. at the instance of the rise of a global Islamic nationalism and with the monetary help of the Middle Eastern countries. the attitude towards Tagore in Bangladesh. India’s big brotherly attitude towards Bangladesh has also contributed to it. A song by Atulprasad Sen – ‘Moder garob. During the late 1950s and the entire 1960s. best known in India for his biography of the poet Michael Madhusudan Datta (Ashar Chhalane Bhuli or Lured By Hope) and his writings on Bengali literature and culture. 첸 Ghulam Murshid is a British writer of Bangladeshi origin. this Bangla language of ours) became a widely used slogan for banners. after its independence. Gradually even East Pakistani films started to use them. Moreover. were considered to be both inspiring and appealing.

However. Tagore felt that as he persisted in producing one book of poems after another through his youth. As a child he rebelled against the system of schooling his generation suffered. nor that of a respectable English education.Cover Story JANUARY 13. However. 2 2 I felt the torture of going to school insupportable. “My ignorance combined with my heresy turned me into a literary outlaw…. “I rebelled. B Y S A B Y A S A C H I B H A T T A C H A R Y A HE Tagore we usually get to know is the icon of the “sage of Santiniketan”. So long as I was forced to do so.When I was thirteen I finished going to school. and in the events of his quotidian life in the years before he attained fame. and acutely conscious of his conspicuous isolation due to his frequent failure to connect with prevailing public opinion. Of course. courting unpopularity at some turning points of his life. He became a public intellectual in the Swadeshi movement against the partition of Bengal from 1905.2 Tagore’s perception that he was isolated was enhanced when he emerged from his shelter of the enchanted solitude of a poet into the public sphere. but in his “seclusion of contempt” he had a kind of freedom.I had neither the protective armour of mature age. for the first time he made a conscious effort to connect with public sentiment against the vivisection of the Bengali people. In this phase. He felt that “I have never had complete acceptance from my own people”. That other Rabindranath Tagore is hidden in his letters. and eventually he “gained a reputation in my country. 2012 The Other Tagore The “sage of Santiniketan” was rebellious and courted controversy sometimes to espouse a cause that mattered to him. very soon Tagore’s mind rebelled against the turn towards individual violence in the form of militant F R O N T L I N E . but a strong current of antagonism in a large section of my countrymen” persisted. young though I was. in his quiet self-reflections in some isolated and infrequently noticed writings. reviled by his countrymen as an apostate and a traitor. there was another Tagore who was rebellious. He was successively transferred to four different schools by the elders of his family. He refused to go to school.” Thus he suffered “castigation upon me from critics who were learned”. the widely respected author resting on his laurels from 1913 up to his death in 1941 as the first non-European to get the Nobel Prize. he soon found himself to be a literary outlaw because he was without the kind of education that gentlefolk in British India underwent. most of which still remain unpublished. T THE SCHOOL DROPOUT The first rebellion in Tagore’s life occurred before he reached his teens. this was an awful thing for a child to do – the child of a respectable family! …. Arguably. and yet each time his non-cooperation defeated the elders. It was his “good fortune to escape” the prevalent colonial education system but he had to pay a price for it.”1 Tagore said he had used the freedom thus gained to educate himself. an ideologue of the freedom struggle admired by leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose – a image of a pillar of the establishment. he obtained blame and praise “in the proportion of land and water on our earth”.

once again Tagore found himself in the lonely path of a pursuit of an ideal that he perceived as unattainable in terms of the strategy of the Indian National Congress. but F R O N T L I N E 2 3 . was the reaction in a leading Bengali newspaper to Tagore’s scepticism about the efficacy of the charkha as a means of political and economic struggle. Even in Bengal. Tagore found himself at odds with the line of action chosen by the Indian National Congress.5 However. the same cannot be said of many in the ranks of the Gandhians. the Gandhians were not prepared to tolerate any criticism of the Mahatma. debated many issues they remained constant in their friendship. where Tagore was on the way to attaining the status of an icon. “The charkha movement has been revealed to the poet’s intelligence as a hoax…. Another thing that worried him was a feature of the anti-partition movement in Bengal: the enforcement of diktats of the caste-Hindu upper-class leaders on Bengali’s peasantry. From the beginning of the 1920s. especially a long tract entitled Ends and Means3. 2012 nationalist action through political assassinations. When Mahatma Gandhi appeared on the national scene with the mantra of non-cooperation. He hailed Bose as "deshnayak" or leader of the nation in the speech he gave on the occasion. among whom Muslims formed the majority.THE HINDU ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. his writings. abundantly signified a break with his compatriots who supported militant activism. one can get a glimpse of Tagore’s tendency to rebel against the predominant cast of mind of the elite in Bengal in the days of the anti-partition agitation. In 1908. Only an extraordinary genius can say such an extraordinary thing. This. for example. In the stance of the main protagonist Nikhilesh. in the novel The Home and the World4. Tagore’s critique of the Gandhian approach in the 1920s was deeply resented by the followers of Gandhi. Tagore’s relationship with Mahatma Gandhi was cordial and although they TA G OR E P R E S I D I N G OVE R the foundation-stonelaying ceremony of Mahajati Sadan in Calcutta in 1939 at the invitation of Subhas Chandra Bose. The ludicrous opinions of the poet may appeal to those who live in a dream world.

Tagore’s break with the section of nationalists who were called biplabi. “I find myself obliged to separate myself from my own people with whom I have been working. in Bengal was even sharper. and my soul cries out: The 2 4 complete man must not be sacrificed to the patriotic man. The revolutionary na- F R O N T L I N E . questioning the strategy of the biplabi leadership.THE HINDU ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. or his warning against the boycott of educational institutions without creating a nationalist alternative to the colonial education system. From his political essays in 1908. Tagore consistently expressed on the one hand his deep admiration for the militant nationalists’ courage of conviction and. WI T H R A D H A B A I S U B B A RA Y A N those who are grounded in the soil of this country will feel that the poet’s useless labours are sad and pitiful.” As Tagore developed his own philosophy of humanist universalism. This arose in the context of Tagore’s intellectual evolution from his position as a leader of the anti-partition Swadeshi agitation in Bengal from 1905 to 1908. Four Chapters (Char Adhayay). Royapettah. towards a world outlook that can be best described as a kind of humanist universalism. Tagore’s differences with the nationalist enthusiasts in the Congress became obvious. At extreme right is freedom fighter and Congress leader S. The novel is remarkable for its ruthlessness in thinking through judgments about the ethics and strategic possibilities of political violence – and the novel is. To me humanity is rich and large and many-sided. to the large majority of people in the nationalist ranks Tagore’s stance was no more than a pose and a cover for an unpatriotic ambiguity. at the same time.8 Although Mahatma Gandhi shared that philosophy of universalism. even though his reputation as a litterateur kept growing. or revolutionary. 2012 at the opening of the Santiniketan Arts and Crafts Exhibition at Congress House. Madras. Tagore’s opponents were of the view that the poet’s “emotionalism” was too much in evidence and that his criticism of Gandhi was devoid of reasoning. or even to the merely moral man. tenderly sensitive to human values. he felt compelled to condemn “the curtailment of humanity…often advocated in our country under the name of patriotism”.7 Apart from specific issues such as Tagore’s doubts about the charkha as the panacea. to the novel published in 1934. there was a deeper-seated cause of potential conflict.”6 Scurrilous canards and spoofs lampooning the poet were published in Bengali newspapers. Satyamurthi. on the other. his criticism of the path of individual violence chosen by them.

mostly biplabis. Many of the militant activists were his admirers. Tagore was a landlord in relation to the peasantry he was acquainted with in the family’s estates. Tagore’s alienation from such people can be contrasted with his perception that among the rural peasantry there was a “touch of humanity”. who were imprisoned without trial. beyond the bounds of the landlord-tenant relationship there were many other spheres of Tagore’s activities that created a THE HINDU ARCHIVES JANUARY 13.11 Undeniably.9 Seven years later. he spoke again in the same vein: “I remember the long and arduous path that led to this ashram. although they constituted the head and front of his audience as an author. for instance.I feel sad to think that from childhood we have been raised as parasites. 2012 at Villeneuve.Guru at his ashram in Sivagiri near Thiruvananthapuram. When they flocked to felicitate Tagore soon after the award of the Nobel Prize was announced. or the need for cooperative credit system for farmers (a major part of the Nobel Prize money was put by Tagore in a cooperative bank for this purpose. he said. prevention of malaria which was rampant in his villages which are in present-day Bangladesh. a sentiment that amounted to unthinking enthusiasm for militant action by secret societies without preparation for a wider popular base. It seems unlikely that Tagore was merely attitudinising when F R O N T L I N E 2 5 . Reflecting on his experience.”10 Unlike in other contexts there is bitterness in these and many similar statements he made about absence of support from his “own people”. Thus Tagore. The reaction was so adverse that Tagore felt compelled to offer an ‘explanation’ of his position in the editions after 1934. the absence of schools for children in rural areas. Apropos of that one also recalls his rudely frank response to representatives of this class on a wellknown occasion. he wrote in 1933: “I received no help from my own people. Another schism Tagore recurrently refers to in his writings in the late 1920s and the 1930s is connected with his role as an institution builder from 1901 when he founded his school in Santiniketan until his death. This novel of 1934 was in a sense Tagore’s last major engagement with the issues posed by militant nationalism. shortly before his death. W I TH R OM A I N R OLLA N D sympathetic bond. in November 1922. Nevertheless Tagore did not allow his judgment to be clouded by the sentiment that prevailed in Bengal. Tagore cut short a trip to Italy in 1926 because he felt suffocated in the political atmosphere there and spent some time with Rolland. He writes to his son in 1930: “The whole business of zamindari makes me ashamed…. but I ignored that and carried on my effort regardless”. Switzerland. He was acutely aware of that. The felicitations which came after recognition from abroad. or the bhadralok. conspicuously distanced himself from the middle class. There is plenty of evidence that he invested a good part of his inexhaustible energy and meagre financial resources to address issues of importance to the rural poor. were no more than a part of a “momentary excitement” which might soon disappear because only a few in the celebratory gathering truly appreciated Tagore’s writings. the supply of potable water to the village people. on this and some other occasions." Tagore said after the meeting. No one will ever know the intolerably woeful history of that struggle against unrelenting adversity. their opposition and animosity without reason impeded this school. He found the response from Bengal particularly disappointing in the crucially important early phase of his school at Santiniketan. He perceived an unsympathetic attitude in Bengal towards his effort to innovate a new pattern of education. it was from the worldly point of view a bad decision. "I have never come across one who is spiritually greater than Swami Narayana Guru or a person who is at par with him in spiritual attainment. near the Geneva Lake. for the capital melted way without a trace). These bitter remarks are directed mainly against the Bengali middle classes. W I TH S R E E N AR A YA N A VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES tionalists were deeply shocked because Tagore had been and remained in the forefront of the movement for the release of political prisoners. he chose that moment to recall “the insult and discouragement it has been my fate to receive from my countrymen”.”12 However.

THE HINDU ARCHIVES

JANUARY 13, 2012

with his wife, Mrinalini. She was
barely 11 when they were married, and he around 22.
It was with her support that he founded his school in
1901, and she handed over all her jewellery to raise
funds for it. She died in 1902 when she was just
under 30, from a mysterious illness that her elder
son, Rathindranath, later speculated might have been
appendicitis. Tagore nursed her himself, refusing to
hire help, and was at her bedside day and night. She
left behind five young children, three of whom were
to predecease Tagore.

A YO UN G T A G O R E

2 6

he asserted that he felt in his bones a bond with the peasantry. Moreover, that style of attitudinising was not yet
fashionable in those times.
In the 1930s, the last decade of Tagore’s life, once again
he felt besieged by apprehensions of being isolated and
attacked because he had launched his debut as a painter
towards the end of his life. Tagore was particularly despondent about the reception of his paintings among his
own people. “I have no wish to acquaint the people of my
province with my work as an artist….Alive or dead, I have no
desire to make this creation of mine public here. My pictures will not be allowed to commit the same offence as my
other creations.”13 Thus Tagore confided to a correspondent
in Bengal his apprehensions that his artistic work would be
rejected by his people. Indeed, he first exhibited his paintings in Calcutta towards the end of his life, long after
numerous exhibitions in Europe and North America. In
part this was due to his general conviction that India was
not ready for styles of painting other than what was popular
and usually known as “Oriental art”. He surmised that
artists were browbeaten to toe the line laid down by persons
who were not creative and he urged artists to vehemently
“deny their obligation carefully to produce something that
can be labelled as Indian art”.14 His was a strident call for
rebellion against stereotyped art labelled as Oriental art,
and many years later Mulk Raj Anand used this essay by
Tagore as an agenda statement of modern art in India.
Perhaps Tagore’s last act of rebellion was against the
tradition of the European Enlightenment, which he looked
up to for inspiration throughout his life. This was when he
famously uttered, a few weeks before his death, his judgment on the crisis of civilisation as he perceived it in 1941. In
the beginning of his intellectual life he had looked upon
European civilisation as the pace-setter in bringing about a
change in the mindset of the world with its message of
rationality and science, democratic institutions, an agenda
of abolishing slavery, and other analogous progressive values. Looking at the world in the throes of the Second World
War as a result of the imperialist aggrandisement of the
European powers, Tagore forcefully expressed his disillusionment. “As I look around I see the crumbling ruins of a
vast civilisation strewn like a vast heap of futility. And yet I
shall not commit the grievous sin of losing faith in Man.”15
Needless to say, in the heat and stress of the World War,
Tagore’s last judgment did not please the West.
It is interesting to reflect upon these and many other
instances of Tagore’s tendency of mind to court unpopularity to espouse a cause that mattered to him. History
knows of many other great minds, in advance of their times,
striving against the prevailing current. The unusual poignancy in Tagore’s life was his loneliness. He often stood
alone in the face of adversity. Since he rarely spoke of it
except in private letters to a few confidants, this aspect of his
life has received little attention in numerous biographies
focussing on his external life. In his inner life the poet sang
to himself ekla chalo re, “walk alone, walk alone”.16

F R O N T L I N E

PAINTINGS: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

JANUARY 13, 2012

Tagore was well into his sixties when he took up painting and drawing
as a serious pursuit. Below, at left, is a self-portrait and, at right, the artist at work.

THE HINDU ARCHIVES

PA I N T I N G S B Y T A GO RE.

F R O N T L I N E

2 7

THE HINDU ARCHIVES

JANUARY 13, 2012

Pratima Devi, and
C.F. Andrews (right) at Travancore in 1922. Andrews gave up his teaching job
at St. Stephens College, Delhi, in 1914 and remained a dedicated partner in all
Tagore’s projects until his death in 1940.

W I T H RA T H I N D RA N A T H , D A U G HTE R - I N - LAW

END NOTES

13. Tagore, letter to Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, December 20, 1929.

1. ‘Autobiographical’, in Talks in China, 1925. In writing this essay I have
drawn upon citations in the following forthcoming book: Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Rabindranath Tagore: An Interpretation (Viking/Penguin, 2011).
2. Talks in China, 1925.
3. Path O Patheya (Ends and Means), 1908.
4. Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) 1916.
5. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, ed., The Mahatma and the Poet: Letters and
Debates between Gandhi and Tagore (New Delhi, 2009).
6. Ananda Bazar Patrika, August 19, 1929.
7. e.g. Editorial in Bombay Chronicle, September 9, 1925.
8. Tagore, letter to C.F. Andrews, January 14, 1921.
9. Tagore, Visva-Bharati, in Rabindra Rachanavali, Vol. IV, page 280.
10. Tagore, Visva-Bharati, in Rabindra Rachanavali, Vol. IV, page 290.
11. Tagore, letter to C.F. Andrews, July 23, 1915.
12. Tagore, letter to Rathindranath Tagore, October 31, 1930.

14. “Meaning of Art”, Lecture at Dhaka University, February 1926, in S.K.
Das, ed., English Works of Rabindranath Tagore (Sahitya Akademi), Vol. III,
page 586.

2 8

15. Crisis in Civilization, 1941, page 21.
16. ‘Jodi tor dak sune keu na ashe tabe ekla chalo re’, translation by Tagore,
unpublished until his death, “If they answer not thy call, walk alone”, in
Krishna Kripalani ed., Tagore’s Poems, 1942.

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, formerly Vice-Chancellor,
Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, and
Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
is the author of Talking Back: The Idea of Civilization
in the Indian Nationalist Discourse (Oxford
University Press); Vande-Mataram: The Biography
of a Song (Penguin).

F R O N T L I N E

He declares that the Punyah cannot start unless the seating arrangement is changed. a favourite of all biographers of the poet – the day in 1891 when the newly anointed “zamindar” attended his first “Punyah”. Most descriptions are cinematic: the tall. it is hard to resist the temptation to start with that often-told story. 2012 Unique landlord The heart of the country. Kaligram Pargana in Rajshahi district. fish and money. “Babumashai”. he persuaded them not to resign and to join the function. ceremonial gunshots. and in Cuttack district in Orissa. the ryots. The seating arrangement for rent collection was not the only thing that Tagore changed about the “zamindari” he inherited. now a part of Kustia district in Bangladesh. the property in Orissa went to his son Hemendranath. enthusiastically removed all the chairs and the white sheets. in place since the days of the poet’s grandfather Prince Dwarkanath Tagore. It is important to remember this story because it is symbolic of much of the work that he did during the long years he spent supervising the family estate. dressed in dhoti. Dwarkanath and his father had invested heavily in land in eastern Bengal (now in Bangladesh) and Orissa. Satyendranath and Rabindranath. arriving for the function amid ululation. The estate manager and other senior employees. But first. and everyone in the room sat on the floor. and music. That is the script. B Y S A R B A R I S I N H A N attempting to write on Rabindranath Tagore as a landlord. except that Rabindranath throws it out of the window. young man. sat on a richly upholstered throne-like chair. In the end. a word about where this “zamindari” was located. 2 9 . Jessore (now in Bangladesh) and Rangpur (also in Bangladesh) districts. lay in its villages and no real progress could be achieved without alleviating rural poverty. with the rent office in Shilaidaha. Hindus on a part of the mat covered with a white sheet. The programme includes a Brahmo prayer service and a Hindu worship. all demarcated according to rank. with a separate space for Brahmins. while three other brothers. The traditional arrangement. with the rent office at Patisar. curd. both Hindus and Muslims. the landlord. the Tagores were the rentcollecting landlords under the Permanent Settlement in large chunks of land in Birahimpur Pargana of Kustia. the rent collection ceremony. The ryots sat on the floor. but Tagore was unmoved. clustered around the young landlord. There were seats for the estate managers and other employees. Tagore repeatedly said. while Muslims sat on the bare mat. I F R O N T L I N E At Tagore’s behest. Sajadpur Pargana in Pabna district. kurta and shawl. walked out and threatened to resign unless the old arrangement was restored. Dwijendranath. Under Debendranath Tagore’s last will made in 1899. with the rent office at Sajadpur. marked out seating areas on the basis of caste and religion. They also owned land in Hooghly. the blowing of conch shells. And then begins the rent collection.Cover Story JANUARY 13. handsome. In eastern Bengal. mostly Hindus. at the end of which the priest smears sandalwood paste on the landlord’s forehead and receives his priestly dues of new clothes. at Shilaidaha in undivided Nadia district.

this statement confronts us with a reality that culminated in the 1947 partition of Bengal. the supervision of which was eventually taken over entirely by Rathindranath. 3 0 nath did not refer to a particular caste or racial group as “Sahas” or “Sheikhs”. this was the period when he came into his own as a poet and story-teller. This was where Tagore took direct charge of his children’s education. He declared. indeed. An indication of what he intended to do came on that very first day. In the end. with its joys and sorrows and its own inimitable conversations and songs. built in 1892. Surendranath. 2012 together got the property in Birahimpur and Kaligram. has also written that one of the major duties for those entrusted with the running of the property was to “save the Sheikhs from the Sahas” (Ryoter Katha. after Satyendranath’s son. Most of the wealthy and powerful moneylenders in his zamindari were Sahas. though his son Rathindranath shouldered much of the responsibility from 1910 onwards. a Hindu caste of the lower middle order. was that his priority as landlord was to save the poorest peasants from sinking into an endless cycle of debt that made a certain section rich. THE T A G O R E R E S I D EN C E. the land relations of this province were such that what was in essence a conflict of classes and economic F R O N T L I N E . but these two estates subsequently went out of his supervision. The ground floor was used as the revenue office. Rabindranath was under 30 and already an established poet when he first found himself in charge of this jointly held family estate. inspired poems and lyrics and many of his unforgettable short stories. but most of the poorest peasants were Muslims. chose Birahimpur. The countryside. says Choudhury. The poet was initially also responsible for the property in Sajadpur and Cuttack. at Shilaidaha. Rabindranath was responsible only for Patisar. He was directly engaged in managing it from 1890 to 1922. As historians have pointed out. The Sajadpur property in Pabna had gone to the descendants of Debendranath’s brother Girindranath. Tagore’s creative flow was uninterrupted through this phase of his life. or “Story of the Ryots”). The house is a protected building now in Bangladesh. it is no less important to remember what he did as a landlord. who was married to Rabindranath’s niece Indira and worked on the Tagore estate for many years. that it was his mission as a landlord to “save the Sheikhs from the Sahas”. trying out ideas that he would later put to use at his school. Pramatha Choudhury. The world now remembers him for the way he changed Bengali literature forever. What Rabindranath meant. But in this age of strife and ever-conflicting interests. Amitava Choudhury has explained that Rabindra- or Kuthibari.JANUARY 13. when he radicalised the seating for the rent collection. his biographers (see Jamidar Rabindranath by Amitava Choudhury) record. Yet.

Tagore’s thoughts on this separation of interests began to crystallise even during the heady days of 1905 when he briefly plunged into the movement against the first partition of Bengal and wrote for it some of his most memorable songs. The songs survive in popular memory. peasants in eastern Bengal overwhelmingly supported the Muslim League (only to be horribly betrayed. interests became a conflict between cultures and communities. Tagore’s own financial interests lay with the landowning class. when S.VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. and the family lived there until Tagore moved to Santiniketan to found his school in 1901. by the new regime in East Pakistan). Tagore’s wife and children moved to Shilaidaha in 1899. but the poet’s F R O N T L I N E 3 1 . yet he was one of the first to unflinchingly point to this truth and sound a warning that history has justified. 2012 L U NC H A T T H E ’Kuthibari’ at Shilaidaha with family members. between Muslim peasants and Hindu landlords/moneylenders. This was another prediction that came all too true in the years immediately preceding Partition. Tagore was also one of the first to point to the coinciding of interests of Muslims and the Scheduled Castes in rural Bengal. of course.C.

few Bengali bhadralok intellectuals in the first decade of the 20th century were more aware than Tagore of the way mutual interests did not. The most important thing is that we share the same land.” Indeed. improved roads and connectivity. Roughly translated. need to be rescued from the cloistered world of scholarship.VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. where the nationalist leader Bipinchandra Pal was among the speakers. in fact. A large section of Bengali Muslims welcomed the partition of the province and were persuaded by the colonial administration’s promise of more efficient administration. It is not our mutual interests that should bind us. written in 1916). a swadeshi activist whom Tagore drafted into his rural reconstruction mission in 1908. more schools and better health care and greater opportunities that would follow. Yet these prescient doubts. doubts and anxieties lie buried in his largely ignored essays. Some historians in recent years have shown how the partition did indeed result in improved literacy rates and other indices of progress among Bengali Muslims in eastern Bengal (Jahirul Hassan. Ghosh also taught at Santiniketan and from 1922 was intimately involved with the building up of Sriniketan. this is what he wrote: “The benefits of the Hindu and Muslim communities coming together were being explained to the Muslim audience. Tagore wrote about a meeting organised in Calcutta in October 1905. which explain his eventual withdrawal from that movement and what he himself described as his “flight” to Santiniketan. then shame on our humanity. and if that divinely ordained tie does not impel us to not only pursue our mutual interests jointly but also be prepared to face all adversities together. 2012 WI T H K A L I M O H A N GH O S H . or “Muslims in Bengal Over Eight Hundred Years”). then that is shameful and immoral. Only if we can do this will we be able to use all opportunities for progress and face all adversities successfully. Ghare Baire (Home and Beyond. but love and the ideal of selfless service. Banglai Mussalmaner Aatsho Bachhar. The audience comprised mostly Muslims. In a 1907 article titled “Byadhi O Pratikar” (The disease and its remedy). letters and that wonderful and now almost forgotten novel.… I could not at that time resist saying that this was not the occasion to talk about benefits and interests. It might make good financial sense for two brothers to live under the same roof. Tagore’s project for imparting vocational training in various crafts to help rural reconstruction. and we are human beings. We are both children of the same land. but that should not be the chief reason 3 2 for their staying together. Ghosh died in 1940. If we cannot live with each other. As a landlord deeply involved in the welfare of the F R O N T L I N E . bind the two communities.

ran a rural bank for 20 years that made available loans to peasant entrepreneurs at reasonable rates. In “Byadhi O Pratikar” he had written: “That Muslims can be used against Hindus is worth a thought. who was entrusted with the task of engaging the people of the mandal to repair roads. establish schools. while the Kaligram Pargana was divided into three. and this network had a stake in the perpetuation of rural poverty. apart from the manager. including a book of memories by his son Rathindranath (Pitrismriti or Memories of My Father). 2012 poor in rural Bengal. for people who believe themselves to be damned if they so much as drink water offered by a neighbour. Nikhilesh cannot bring himself to support the swadeshi movement against the partition of the province because he knows that his Muslim ryots do not stand to gain anything from that movement led by the Hindu landed gentry and intellectuals. clear out jungles. moneylenders and managers and accountants working for the landlords. essays and reminiscences by people associated with his work. F R O N T L I N E 3 3 . Records of the Tagore estate did not survive the 1947 Partition. written some 10 years after the partition of Bengal. Taunts about the “bourgeois” poet notwithstanding. Indeed. Each mandal made its own budget and kept track of how much money was being spent. The Birahimpur Pargana was divided into five mandals. especially in relation to education and universities. two Hindus and two Muslims. Tagore was clearly able to see the movement as one motivated by the financial interests of the Hindu landowning class and was justifiably alarmed by the prospect of the communal animosities it could inspire. says Amitava Choudhury in his book. we must resolve to save ourselves and our country. Who might use them is not so important. introduced tractors in a land tilled only by ploughshare until then. wealthy farmers. spent long hours with farmers discussing seeds. corn and silkworms. tomatoes. Tagore repeatedly made known his objection to the politics of boycott. Ghare Baire. experimented with the cultivation of potatoes.” or manager. Half of the funds for these works were raised from the people. Is it only by the strength of their own might that the British dominate the country so completely today? It is our own weaknesses that provide them their strength” (a rough translation). Each mandal had an “adhyaksh. rent-paying peasants that would allow them. and this familiarity came from his years as a “landlord”. reflects this conflict of interest. few of the intellectuals of Tagore’s time were as familiar with the heart of the country as he was. an essay he wrote in 1908). We [Hindus] have prepared the way for our own damnation. and there is very little original material available. the other half was provided by the estate. years during which he came in intimate contact with the countryside. fought civil suits to protect the boundaries of the property. installed a sugarcane-processing mill. Ghare Baire touches upon the problem of Hindu communalism provoking a Muslim response. before and after 1905. Taunts about the “bourgeois” poet notwithstanding. to take charge of their lives in a meaningful way. comprising landlords. Amid the heady days of the movement. Tagore did not also approve of the way swadeshi gangs led by zealous Hindu youth looted shops and terrorised the countryside to enforce their political agenda of boycotting British-made goods (see “Desh-heet”. The novel also fleetingly touches upon the greater acceptance that puritan Muslim maulvis were beginning to enjoy in the villages of eastern Bengal by this time. Each mandal had a committee of four members. The Permanent Settlement had over the years built up a network of exploitation in rural Bengal. His observations did not cut much ice in a political environment dominated by Surendranath Banerjea. with constructive help from the landlord. few of the intellectuals of Tagore’s time were as familiar with the heart of the country as he was. fertilizers and insecticides. and so it did in the long run. ensure continuous supply of potable water. Yet. resolve disputes without resorting to litigation. THE “MANDAL” SYSTEM The most revolutionary of all Tagore’s initiatives.JANUARY 13. The devil cannot gain an entry unless the door is kept open for it. Researchers find it hard to reconstruct those years in detail because there are so few records. The “mandal system” sought to carve out an independent economic and social space for poor. and did his best to encourage cottage industries to alleviate poverty in the countryside. created hurdles that prevent progress. tried out the latest findings of agricultural science. and once we have fathomed this truth beyond a shadow of doubt. Save from whom? From the consequences of our own sins. was the “mandal system” he introduced in 1908. … For a community that builds its religious practices on a culture of hate. the fate of being humbled in turn is inescapable. It was bound to fail. Tagore’s biographers have a fair idea of those years from Tagore’s own letters. because it sought to undermine too many vested interests. and set up a granary as a buffer for famines. It is better to be concerned more about the open door than about the devil. It is now an accepted generalisation that Nikhilesh is the kind of landlord that Tagore himself was. who preserve their caste purity by humiliating others. or “For the good of the country”. says Amitava Choudhury. Tagore could not help being aware of this.

and eldest son. He went on to teach genetics at Visva-Bharati and was its first Vice-Chancellor when it became a Central university in 1951.VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. born in 1886. born in 1888. Rathindranath. WI T H E L D E S T D A U GH T ER. 3 4 F R O N T L I N E . Rathindranath was among the first five boys at Tagore’s school. Madhurilata died of tuberculosis when only 31. 2012 Madhurilata.

2012 It was the cooperative principle that led him to found a rural bank in Patisar in 1905 with money borrowed from friends. Over the years. which meant that Tagore had to fight a battle for hearts before he could achieve anything. or pancha pradhan. however. In 1901. All disputes were referred to the pancha pradhan. but the initiative did not make much headway. was the place where the poet set up home in 1899 with his wife and young children.” Tagore had a keen interest in cooperative farming. In a letter to Atul Sen. If you can achieve this. the section that thrived on the endless cycle of poverty and debt. His poetry of this period. He tried to talk his peasants into setting up a cooperative model of farming. then all obstacles are bound to recede. …It is not of course possible to have everyone on your side when you are trying to do your duty. did have a few dedicated workers who tried to give concrete shape to his vision of a prosperous countryside. were unhappy with the system. He realised that the hopelessly fragmented landholdings did not provide the best conditions for modern methods of farming and the creation of wealth. when he founded VisvaBharati and travelled widely with the message of global cooperation in the realm of thought. Amitava Choudhury says the system continued in Kaligram even after Tagore’s death and ended only with Partition. Secondly. but the people should be made to understand that you completely deserve their respect. The peasants who stood to gain from his initiatives were also sometimes distrustful and wary. you will see all hurdles will disappear. it is the peasant’s. however. especially in Patisar. notably ’Naibedya’ (1901). his mind was immersed in the so-called glory of ancient India. when Tagore founded the school. were cooperative because they stood to gain the most. as Tagore increasingly embraced internationalism and a humanist universalism. immortalised in Tagore’s work. but they received constant encouragement from Tagore.JANUARY 13. The bank failed in 1925. image of the rich poet writing his poems and stories in infinite leisure while sailing on the river. The obstacles and hostilities they encountered were formidable. Two things keep playing on my mind all the time – the land does not rightfully belong to the landlord. Tagore realised. Tagore also tried to protect the poor from the cost of litigation. did not take it too well. giving rise to the lasting. which largely welcomed the initiative. sometimes on his boat on the Padma. with its varnashram and its Upanishadic monotheism. now a protected building in Bangladesh. In the 1920s. Tagore. who kept himself abreast of all developments in his estate and went through the books and accounts regularly. Trying to farm fragmented holdings with the ancient ploughshare is like pouring water into a leaky pot. the system soon resulted in new roads. Suspicions about such a model were too strong. that all your efforts are dedicated to their service. there can be no progress in agriculture. The residents of every village chose a “gram pradhan”. A large section of the Muslim peasants in the Tagore estate. schools and madrasas. while final appeals were made to the poet himself. he wrote to Rathindranath from Chicago that Santiniketan must become India’s link with the world. So were large landholders and moneylenders. Shilaidaha.) But in Patisar. (Shilaidaha. The Nobel Prize money was sunk in this bank. The objective was to free peasants from the clutches of moneylenders. The two men most often mentioned by his biographers were Kalimohan Ghosh in Shilaidaha and Atul Sen in Kaligram. he said: “Put all your heart and mind into the effort to win over people’s hearts. living sometimes at the famous “kuthibari”. the vision of the school also changed. a free dispensary.” (Letters from Russia) F R O N T L I N E TE ACHI N G AT S AN TI N I KE TA N . In 1916. estate managers and other senior employees. reflects this. without which. incidentally. In both Shilaidaha and Patisar. VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES The effect was spectacular in Patisar. if landholdings cannot be brought together under cooperative farming. Peasants in the Tagore estate did not take their disputes to courts of law. and the flourishing of cottage industry initiatives. they would never have the means to invest in cottage industries or in better seeds and fertilizers. quoted by Amitava Choudhury. Rathindranath has said in his memoirs that the bank was so successful in its initial years that moneylenders in Patisar wound up their business and left in search of greener pastures. What he saw in Soviet Russia in 1930 revived his old regrets about the situation: “It had been my objective to make the peasant strong through his own initiative. he stressed that schools in India should be the meeting ground of the East and the West. who formed a committee of five men. sinking the ageing poet in debt. mostly Hindus. and misleading. The school was started on the ideal of the ancient Indian "tapovan" and was known as "Brahmacharyashram". 3 5 . His letters to them give an idea of what he expected of them.

in 1938. Time and again. will be able to save them. Schools. Unlike the absentee landlord described by Amitav Ghosh in Sea of Poppies. In a speech towards the end of his life. how do you expect them to take charge of their own destinies?” A hundred years later. telling her that he had used one of her potted plants for the ceremony.THE HINDU ARCHIVES JANUARY 13.P LA N T I N G ceremony. The tongues of the greedy start watering the moment they see these people. policemen and court officials. however good. drinking water. the zamindari was not for him an avenue to create wealth to be spent on luxuries in the city. He scrutinised the books of accounts with infinite care and personally supervised all the civil suits that his estate had to fight. In his letters and essays. Rabindranath turned the tree-planting ceremony into a festival to be observed every year. And to the “landlords” he said at the Pabna Provincial Conference in 1907: “This is what I am saying to the landlords: if you do not empower the unfortunate ryots and allow them to be independent and able to save themselves from your own clutches and those of others. moneylenders. Three generations of the Tagores had turned green the arid landscape around Santiniketan through a project of afforestation. a rural bank for loans at reasonable rates – no aspect of rural development was absent in the vision of this unique “zamindar”. those words remain relevant. he said: “My duties once drew me into close intimacy with rural Bengal. The city-bred. resulting in the famous mango grove and the sal wood. hospitals. 첸 F R O N T L I N E . No work was too mundane for him. English-educated sections who were trying to steer the ship of national progress did not spare a thought on the way the cumulative helplessness of the people in villages was one day bound to drown that ship” (rough translation). and no government. I came across proof of the way the lack of education and mental stagnation led to endless exploitation and oppression. there was nothing that he could not set his mind to. roads. O R T REE. but an opportunity for service. scientific methods of farming. 2012 B R I K S H A R O PA N . cottage industries. In 1928. I witnessed the lack of drinking water in villages. He described the event in a letter to his daughter-in-law. Tagore repeatedly said that the heart of the country lay in its villages and that no real progress could 3 6 be possible without the development of agriculture and alleviation of poverty in the countryside. at a village near Santiniketan in 1928. I observed the havoc that disease and hunger played on human bodies. becoming in the process an expert in the finer points of law. however friendly. no laws. If the majority of the people are forever exposed to the machinations of landlords.

which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitutes true religiosity. not so.” Rabindranath’s song akash bhara soorjo tara expresses a sense of deep “wonder” in the universe. into the enchanting real world “of forms. in fact. He declared in Gitanjali (73): “Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. As the sky became dark in the evenings and the stars came out in their splendour and appeared to hang low. this was the first time he realised that things that we thoughtlessly take for granted as natural and simple are. He broke away from a life of contemplation of the other-worldly philosophy of the Upanishads to which he was initiated in childhood by his father. dedicated to the scientist Satyendranath Bose. All creative geniuses have this sense of insatiable wonder at the mysteries of the universe. with its several powers. Rabindranath found this so fascinating that he began to write down what he heard from his father. I am a deeply religious man. Maharshi Debendranath. 2012 Man of science Tagore: “I am not a scientist.” B Y P A R T H A G H O S E ABINDRANATH TAGORE was a quintessential poet-philosopher with a deeply rational and enquiring mind who strove for freedom (mukti) from every possible limitation of the human mind. his first long essay in serial form was on sci3 7 . I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight. The differences between layers of a continuous mass of water made obvious by the movements of the sawdust filled him with a sense of wonder that never left him. and this alone. The next wonder came when he went with his father to the hills of Dalhousie in the Himalayas. that what I have seen is unsurpassable. sounds and movements” revealed by his senses. whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity. colours. According to him.” In the preface to his only book on science.” Einstein admitted (in Ideas and Opinions): “A knowledge of the existence of something we R F R O N T L I N E cannot penetrate. in this sense.Cover Story JANUARY 13. Rabindranath wrote about his fascination for science from his childhood – how his teacher Sitanath Datta used to thrill him with simple demonstrations like making the convection currents in a glass of water visible with the help of sawdust. and that. having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one. but from childhood my strong desire to enjoy the rasa of science knew no bounds….” And again (96): “When I go from hence let this be my parting word. evolved. from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been. Maharshi Debendranath would point out to him the constellations and the planets and tell him about their distances from the sun. Visva Parichay. and are being. and this set him wondering. their periods of revolution round the sun and many other properties. Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species: “There is grandeur in this view of life. Thus. our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty.

my mind is overwhelmed with the new theory of nature – scientific mayavada. reduced its macro-self or shelved it out of sight behind the curtain. but he laboured through them and tried to absorb their gist. “Today. it does not have the sound foundation of scholarship. at the end of my life.. 2012 in Berlin in 1930." WI T H A L B E R T E I N S T EI N ence. What I F R O N T L I N E . saved me from the extravagance of cleverness to a large measure. My mind was exercised only with astronomy and life science. But man is anything but simple. I hope. opposed it and has been delighted to defeat it. When he grew older and could read English. he started reading every book on astronomy that he could lay his hands on. It has dressed itself up and revealed itself to us in a form that man can perceive within the structure of his simple power. But constant reading created a natural scientific temper in my mind. That cannot be called proper knowledge.THE HINDU ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. and has given expression to what is hard to understand. I have never felt that it hurt my poetry or imagination in any way. in other words. The scientist asked: "Do you believe in the Divine as isolated from the world?" Poet: "Not isolated. To transcend the limits of simple perception man has brought near what was distant.. but from childhood my strong desire to enjoy the rasa of science knew no bounds…. Nevertheless. Then he started reading Aldous Huxley’s essays on biology.. He is ever trying to probe into the unmanifest world that lies behind the manifest world in order to unravel the fundamental mysteries of the universe…. made the invisible visible. Sometimes the mathematics made it difficult for him to understand what he was reading. The infinite personality of Man comprehends the Universe. Sir Robert Boyle’s book he liked the most." The scientist said: "Then I am more religious than you are. [T]he truth of the Universe is human truth. Man is the only creature 3 8 that has suspected its own simple perception. My lack of respect for the stupidity of blind faith has. “It is needless to say that I am not a scientist. He writes in the preface to Visva Parichay (1937): “The universe has hidden its micro-self.

such as Albert Einstein. with whom he had long conversations about science and Indian philosophy. and with Werner Heisenberg. he introduced many technologies like weaving. on the nature of reality and causality in Germany in 1930. That was a great help for me. for a unity in the diversity of nature. During Tagore’s years as a landlord at Shilaidaha.JANUARY 13. In Sriniketan. ‘some of the ideas that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense. as it is for many specialist pundits too” (translation by author. the year quoted by D. This must have greatly influenced Rabindranath who also searched for a synergism between spiritualism and reason in the Indian tradition. 2012 read earlier I did not understand fully.’ he said. “The idea of the humanity of our God. a synergism between spiritualism and reason. Bose was 1928.) This understanding of science and empathy with science helped him develop his own interpretation of the Upanishadic philosophy of Nature. ‘After these conversations with Tagore. interconnectedness and impermanence as fundamental aspects of physical reality. His lifelong and intimate friendship with Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose must have also helped him no end to develop a reverence for science. his son Rathindranath has written in his memoirs. was the very basis of Indian spiritual traditions. 3 9 .M.” Although he was critical of technology dominating over man in some of his plays (Muktadhara. emphasis added). where the emphasis was on rural reconstruction. he also wrote extensively about them and made them known to the public at large in Bengal. He began to see that the recognition of relativity. The Acharya’s life was devoted to the search for reason in the workings of nature. who came to Calcutta in 1928 to meet him. This search did not remain confined to philosophical speculation alone but led him to invent instruments of unprecedented precision and sensitivity for collecting direct evidence from nature. Fritjof Capra has this to say about what transpired between Heisenberg and Rabindranath (Uncommon Wisdom. This introduction to Indian thought brought Heisenberg great comfort. he told me. These lectures were later published as the Religion of Man (1931) in which he writes. is the main subject of this book.’” (parenthesis added. which had been so difficult for himself and his fellow physicists. Today also it is impossible for me to understand everything of what I read. but I kept on reading. incommensurability. Bose visited him at his residence every weekend and demanded a new story. It engrossed his mind when he delivered the Hibbert lectures in Oxford in 1930. Tagore wrote feverishly during the week to get a story ready for his weekend friend. carpentry. or the divinity of Man the Eternal. Raktakarabi). leather work VISVA-BHARATI ARCHIVES REVERENCE FOR SCIENCE F R O N T L I N E TA G OR E A N D THE scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose were close friends. he readily embraced its beneficial effects. 1989): “In 1929 [1928] Heisenberg spent some time in India as the guest of the celebrated Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. He also had extensive conversations with other leading scientists of his time. the discoverer of the famous Uncertainty Principle of quantum physics. Not only did Rabindranath help his friend with money to carry on his pathbreaking experiments in England.

But the day will come when some of the great powers of nature will be at the beck and call of every individual. To live will be as easy to man as to breathe. just a few months before his death. I look up only to find Beyond the backdrop of hundreds of extinguished stars Nataraj. the essay he wrote a few weeks before his death in August 1941. India. Today as I enter the final Act of departure. Often things look hideously materialistic.” To Rabindranath scientific truths were not mere abstractions and formulas but concrete living truths that inspired him to write great poems and compose wonderful songs. and so on. (The author’s translation of Birat srishtir kshetre atash bajir khela akashe akashe. and at least the prime necessaries of life will be supplied to all with very little care and cost.) 첸 Professor Partha Ghose is Senior Scientist Platinum Jubilee Fellow. 4 0 This gigantic creation Is a fireworks display of Suns and stars across the skies On a cosmic time scale. he did not lose faith in humanity and declared that it would be a sin to do so. His faith in the European Enlightenment seemed shaken in "Crisis of Civilisation". and his spirit will be free to create his own world. I see the colourful costumes Left over by hundreds of actors and actresses across the ages Outside the arena of the theatre. And the costumes of grief and hap piness begin to slacken. Here.Cover Story THE HINDU ARCHIVES JANUARY 13. ‘Arogya’. and shamelessly belie man’s own nature. The shadows reveal the illusory character of the play. The flame weakens. In Personality (1917) he wrote: “Science is at the beginning of the invasion of the material world and there goes on a furious scramble for plunder. silent and lonely. Yet. 1941. Let me end with a poem that he wrote on creation on February 3. F R O N T L I N E . I too have come from the eternal and the imperceptible Like a spark in a tiny remote corner of space and time. National Academy of Sciences. on a train in 1940. 2012 TAG O R E ’ S L A S T D A Y S were darkened by the shadow of the Second World War. So complete was the fusion that the songs and poems appear to stand by themselves as great artistic creations far removed from the world of science. He assimilated and internalised the scientific spirit and weaved it into the very fabric of his philosophy and his artistic creations.

There were 164 patients in the annexe building of the hospital when a fire broke out in its upper basement. and claimed more than 90 lives in a major fire disaster. there was no exit for the smoke to escape. The toxic smoke rose rapidly up the six-storeyed building. combustible materials kept in the basement. which was used to house a pharmacy and a storeroom. As the windows of the centrally air-conditioned building were sealed. F R O N T L I N E DEATH came stealing in the wee hours of December 9 to AMRI Hospitals. B Y S U H R I D S A N K A R C H A T T O P A D H Y A Y According to the Fire Department. Dhakuria. PTI Fiery trap Criminal negligence and flagrant violation of fire safety norms cause more than 90 deaths in a private hospital in West Bengal. 4 1 . 2012 The States/West Bengal A P A TI E N T B E I N G rescued from the AMRI Hospitals in Kolkata when a fire broke out there. a prestigious private hospital in south Kolkata.JANUARY 13. added to the toxicity of the smoke. This left the inmates completely helpless.

combustible materials kept in the basement prolonged the fire and added to the toxicity of the smoke. a biomedical department and a storeroom. were reluctant to call the fire brigade immediately because in an earlier instance an employee of the hospital had been suspended for calling the fire brigade without authorisation from the higher authorities when a minor fire broke out in the hospital precincts. According to police sources. “Meanwhile the screams from inside were getting louder and it was impossible for us to remain mute spectators. a patient on the third floor of the hospital and one of the survivors. was used for various purposes. senior vice-president and the hospital’s safety committee chairperson. including housing a pharmacy.m. killing trapped invalids and convalescents. Goenka and Emami directors Prashant Goenka and Manish Goenka. said. Fire Services. Todi. Biswajit. only to be turned away. In centrally air-conditioned buildings. She said that when the local people told the . having inhaled the deadly fumes. On September 5. The patients in the other buildings were shifted to various other hospitals. it appears. UNNAMED HEROES The death toll would have been lower had the authorities and the hospital security staff not refused the aid volunteered by the youth of the nearby slum who came rushing to the hospital the moment they heard of the fire. The fire apparently broke out a little before 3-00 a. smoke and fumes went up the shaft to the upper floors as these vertical stops were not in place.” said Biswajit.m. a local resident. According to the preliminary report prepared by the Fire Department. and we could see people lying around and heard others gasping from unseen corners. the hospital had given an undertaking to the Fire Department that hazardous materials would be removed from the basement. “There was complete violation of all fire safety norms in the building. The basement. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.. So we climbed up the building from the back side with bamboo ladders. We received no help from the hospital staff. Upad4 2 F R O N T L I N E hyay. the issue of safety continued to remain ignored. Shrachi director Ravi Todi. Additional Director General. One of those who came forward to help. hospital staff wasted more than 90 precious minutes by trying to douse the fire on their own.m. According to Damyanti Sen. Risking their own lives. who holds the Health portfolio.. it is not known why. a resolution was taken to look into the issue of safety measures. which was meant for car parking. However. have also been arrested. Police sources also suspect that the smoke alarms in the hospital had been switched off. Shankar Maity. signalling for help.” she told Frontline. Agarwal and its executive director Dayanand Agarwal. The staff.” said Damyanti Sen. It was a disaster that was precipitated by the negligence and callousness of the hospital authorities. 2012 Local youth. A SURVIVOR’S TALE Biswajit’s words are borne out by 77year-old Anjali Mitra.” Biswajit Chakraborty. “It was terrifying inside. “It was the people from the slums who saved me and many others. administrative officer. He and four other youth then approached the security guards. had to be hospitalised soon after. Joint Commissioner (Crime) of the Kolkata Police.S. and that. is at present unemployed. told Frontline. by a relative of one of those trapped in the building.P. a construction worker. after the hospital had given an undertaking to the Fire Department. they saved five people.S. By then thick smoke had spread.” said D. which stopped the air-conditioning. Biswas. It is a crime.K.JANUARY 13. Mamata Banerjee cancelled the hospital’s trade licence. too. “It is a criminal offence. Moreover. S. AMRI director R. “We have found that in a board meeting held sometime in November. Lack of air circulation in the sealed building hastened the death of those inside. There were people screaming inside and flashing the light on their mobile phones and banging desperately on the windows. Subsequent investigations showed that a disaster of this scale could have been averted had a mandatory precaution been followed and a vertical fire stop installed in the building. but they were turned away by hospital staff who claimed that the situation was under control. alerted by the cries and desperate signals from patients. tried to help.” said Biswajit. It was pitch dark with suffocating smoke everywhere. ACTIVE OMISSION Investigations have revealed what the police called “active omission” on the part of the hospital authorities. but the Fire Department was alerted only at 4-10 a. He said many more lives could have been saved had more youth from the neighbourhood been allowed to enter the building. and Sanjib Pal. the vertical fire stop seals off the maintenance shaft at every other floor to prevent air from passing through and spreading to the other floors. “My friends and I rushed to the hospital around 3-00 a. Police sources said that the higher authorities of the hospital had been alerted by the staff long before the fire services were called. Investigations have revealed “active omission” on the part of the hospital authorities. Emami vice-chairman R.” The police arrested seven directors who were allegedly involved in the day-to-day functioning of the hospital: Shrachi Group chairman S. the fire also prompted the authorities to switch off the mains.

” said her son Bhaskar Chakraborty. She and the other patients on her floor managed to break one of the thick glass windows.” she said. 62. trapped victims that they were not being allowed to come in. The scene outside the hospital was also traumatic. the hospital staff kept telling us not to worry and that everything was under control. and it was perhaps that little opening which kept them alive. the situation turned more and more chaotic until the Chief Minister herself arrived on the scene and took charge of crowd control. had undergone a successful brain operation and had practically recovered when the accident claimed her life. People scrambled among the corpses to look for their loved ones. 첸 . Most of them.JANUARY 13. 2012 ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY L OCA L Y O UT H S UC H as the one in the picture came rushing to the hospital when they heard of the fire and began rescue operations. “As we were choking.K. who hailed from Kerala. when the local rescuers carried her down to safety. The trapped patients had called their near and dear ones on their mobile phones and hundreds of them had gathered in the narrow lane leading to the hospital.m. The toll would have been lower had the hospital authorities and security staff let them in earlier. The police estimated that more than 3. Among those frantically searching was Paritosh Sen from Tripura. Their apprehension turned to grief and anger as the bodies began to be brought out. according to reports. As the morning progressed. were unscathed in the tragedy. Nine days after the incident. They lost their lives while saving eight patients in the women’s ward. The tragic irony is that many of the victims had fought off serious aliments and were on their way to recovery. whose brother Santosh had been admitted in the hosF R O N T L I N E 4 3 pital. Among those who died that day were two nurses. Krishna Chakraborty. “I had spoken to my mother just the day before and she was fine. Remya Rajappan and P. All other staff members. Vinita. Then there were those who had come with very minor problems. One by one. on December 18. “Criminal negligence” turned an institution designed to save lives into one that destroyed lives instead. and then this happened.000 people had gathered outside AMRI that morning. It was past 4 a. They were helpless as they could not get in or get any information on those inside. fled the scene as soon as they sensed danger. and their plea to evacuate the patients fell on deaf ears. their phone calls to those inside went unanswered. Sen had still not traced his brother. some of the patients pleaded with them to “enter forcibly”. at the same time we could hear screams of the people from the floors below. curiously.

at a news conference at CERN at Meyrin. B Y R . The aim director-general. as particles in the theory can acquire mass (as they should to describe correctly the real world) only through their interaction with the Higgs field. ATLAS experiment spokesperson. at the International Lepton Photon Symposium in Mumbai (LP2011). and Guido Tonelli. is postulated to exist by this theory. CMS experiment spokesperson. R A M A C H A N D R A N In early December.Science JANUARY 13. rumours abounded in physics blogs that a Higgs signal at a mass-energy of 125 GeV had been seen in the CERN experiment. C E R N 4 4 F R O N T L I N E . The Higgs boson is the particle associated with such an all-pervading force-field. Higgs. the crucial missing link in the subatomic world of elementary particles. which can be likened to an ether-like all-pervading force-field in the universe. had been belied. a particle that has been sought after by physicists for over three decades. September 23). the general feeling that prevailed at the end of the conference was that the particle perhaps did not exist (Frontline. flanked by Fabiola Gianotti (left). JUST four months ago. the widely held expectation that new data from the highenergy proton-proton collision experiments with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. the Europe- an Organisation for Nuclear Research in Geneva. CMS WEBSITE R OLF HE UE R . which is known as the Standard Model (SM). near Geneva. would reveal the existence of Higgs boson. But CERN said much more work had to be done to know whether it was the same as Higgs. Although the data did not rule out its existence. 2012 Higgs signal? Physicists hope that they are closing in on Higgs boson. Higgs is the crucial missing piece in the otherwise highly successful theoretical framework that describes the subatomic world of elementary particles. on December 13.

much higher than the target that had been set for 2011 during the early months of the LHC’s operation. And if you combine channels. Earlier. We will allows Higgs to decay into. But the SM Higgs has eluded searches in experiments at various accelerators so far. ATLAS and CMS. had said at the time of lionth of a second. would soon be found arose with the high rate of data gathering. periments at Fermilab. The yellow lines are the measure tracks of other particles produced in the collision. gy equivalent. A proton has a mass-energy of about 1 GeV. is a to shut down the machine for ever Vivek Sharma. if it exists.is 125 times heavier than a proton.JANUARY 13. the D E CA YI N G in physics blogs that these CMS experiment will detect experiments had found evi. was based on a slight they had a chance of seeing Higgs by excess of events (over a zero signal) doing an intense data analysis in the seen in the search for Higgs by both the region 115-155 GeV. They claimed photons. in fact. United States. The high expectations in summer 2011 that evidence for Higgs. The model itself does not predict a value for the mass of Higgs. of course. which has a mass of about 1 GeV enerhad ruled out the region 156-177 GeV. the U. tions. the ruThough Tevatron scientists felt that mours said. in this decay mode. The evidence.” In principle. These constrain its mass to be less than 161 gigaelectronvolt (GeV) of energy (in accordance with Einstein’s E=mc2 relation).ten-thousandth of a billionth of a bilment CMS. By excluding its existence in vast regions of energy. called the Electromagnetic FIGURE 1b CMS WEBSITE of particle physicists in the last nearly four decades has been to find evidence for its existence even as experiments have verified all predictions to great precision made with the SM with the assumption of the existence of Higgs. The LHC is designed to explore the new energy domain in the teraelectronvolt (TeV) scale and is expected to show up such a low-mass Higgs. at the European High Energy Conference at Grenoble.experiments in the channel in which ment of Energy decided in September Higgs decayed into two photons. it LP2011: “We will triple the data set by would immediately decay into several end of October. one way or the other.I N TO two these photons by its detector dence for Higgs. which means a total of 7 TeV is available in every collision event for particle production. That is. there are indirect constraints on the Higgs mass from phenomenological considerations based on other processes governed by the SM. rumours abounded ple. (UCSD) associated with the experi. Such a Higgs is termed as ‘low mass Higgs’ because there are other theoretical models which allow Higgs to be much heavier. The LHC is currently operating at a peak energy of 3. the two experiments had already excluded Higgs from existing in the range 150-450 GeV.S. more 125 GeV had been seen. 2012 with the Large Electron-Positron Col. according to the SM. For examHI G G S cember. In this parknow if [Higgs] was indeed science ticular channel. a physicist from the very short-lived particle with a fleeting University of California at San Diego lifetime of about 10-22 second. the Tevatron accelerator ex. Higgs.that a Higgs signal at a mass-energy of lider (LEP) at CERN itself and. referred to as the ‘Standard Model Higgs Boson’. Higgs with mass below 115 GeV had already been ruled out by the earlier experiments A T Y P I C A L C A N DI D A TE event including two high-energy photons whose energy (depicted by red towers) is measured in the CMS electromagnetic calorimetre (ECAL). Higgs recently. in which two photons fiction by the end of the fly apart in opposite direcyear.5 TeV per beam. ATLAS and CMS are nearly identical multipurpose experiments with the search for Higgs as one of their primary objectives. Once created. Depart. had narrowed the limits for the Higgs mass to a small window of 115 GeV-140 GeV. This ‘low mass Higgs’ is. particle colliders produce In the first week of De(Figure 1a & 1b). up to 600 GeV. that is. F R O N T L I N E 4 5 . The experiments analyse both CMS and ATLAS data…we will these different channels that the SM know if Higgs doesn’t exist. the data presented at the Mumbai conference by the two CERN experiments. the experiment debris of a multitude of parshould also search in the ticles that high-energy prorange beyond 450 GeV for a ton-proton collisions in non-SM Higgs. there is a clean signal from an experimentalist’s for clear identification in the perspective.

at the Mumbai conference the analyses were based on a technical parameter of ‘one inverse-femtobarn (fb-1)’ required for being able to see statistically significant physics results at 7 TeV. with physicists around the . 2012 Calorimeter (ECAL). In fact. Indeed. A TL A S E V E N T C O N T A I N I N G 4 6 F R O N T L I N E mal course of operation. on Decemcordance with the SM preber 6. But because of extremely good performance of the machine. (carriers of weak searches for the SM Higgs. This event is consistent with coming from two Z particles decaying. as we shall see. between 150 mimic the decay of Higgs into two and 180 GeV. Other tracks and deposits of energy in the calorimetres are shown in yellow. there was considerable excitement all around and the seminar naturally got all the media hype. the LHC was scheduled for a maintenance shutdown for a few months after Christmas.7 fb-1. CERN announced a dictions and such decays public seminar to be held are in sufficient numbers to on December 13 in which be statistically significant H I GGS D EC A Y I N G ATLAS and CMS would for it to be reckoned as a I N T O two Z bosons present the status of their discovery. below about 140 GeV. this was the target that had been set for the end of 2011. the CMS has set limits on the non-existence of Higgs in that high-mass region. ac. That is indeed fantastic performance.muons. which then de. To put the increased data in perspective. the carriers of should be statistically significant to be the weak nuclear force. a peak clearly sticks out over light. But given the claims made in the rumours. the total data amount to 4. The four muons are shown as red tracks. This means that the LHC recorded this much of data since it began operations in March 2010. This is equivalent to data of 70 trillion proton-proton collisions events. would have been its de.ascribed to a new entity such as Higgs.photons. it was a big draw even within the physics community as well. The ECAL.JANUARY 13. This means nearly five times the data gathered until summer. is able to particle) among such data means that tell the mass of the particle to better in a plot of events observed in the exthan 1 per cent if the Higgs is relatively periment. but not enough to make any conclusive statement on the existence or non-existence of the Higgs” (emphasis added). A signal for Higgs (or any new cording to the CMS website. The task is to sift data force) which in turn In any case such a seminar from trillions of collisions decay into four was due as. But such excess of events cay into two W bosons. it has to be ensured cay into two leptons (partithat the excess seen is not cles like the electron that due to statistical fluctuinclude the muon and the ation in the background tau) and two neutrinos. Both Zs decay into two muons each. increase in the intensity of the beams attained by the machine has been much faster and hence a higher event rate. even in its norand look for the Higgs sig. According to the CMS group. So and are indeed events asyou do not see Higgs itself cribable to processes inbut detect the particles it volving Higgs. This view is a zoom into the central part of the detector. decays into and see if the Perhaps prompted by decay parameters are in acthese rumours. That is. The data analysed included the entire data sample of proton-proton collisions collected up to the end of 2011 run.nal. As of end-2011. A CERN press release of December 6 said: “These results will be based on the analyses of considerably more data than presented at the summer conferences [at Grenoble and Mumbai] sufficient to make significant progress in the search for the Higgs boson. with this amount of data the experiment can study Higgs production in almost the entire mass range above the LEP limit of 114 GeV and up to 600 GeV and. The most the background from other particle distinctive signature for Higgs in a processes governed by the SM that lightly higher mass range. The italicised part in the CERN release was clearly to scotch the rumours that were flying all around of Higgs having been discovered. ATLAS WEBSITE FIGURE 2b four muons.

We cannot conclude anything at this stage. but these are yet not strong enough to claim a discovery. we will not need to wait long for enough data and can look forward to resolving this puzzle in 2012. “Taken individually.” the CERN release said. if it exists. “none of these excesses is any more statistically significant than rolling a die and coming up with two sixes in a row. What is interesting is that there are multiple independent measurements pointing to the region of 124 to 126 GeV.” It also quoted the ATLAS spokesperson Fabioal Gianotti as saying. But. but it could also be something more interesting. “The excess. We need more study and more data.JANUARY 13. the main conclusion was that the SM Higgs bo- CMS WEBSITE CMS WEBSITE ATLAS WEBSITE AT CERN world catching the presentation live on the video streaming from the overflowing large auditorium at CERN. more significantly.” The slightly more detailed press release from the CMS group said: “Our results were achieved by combining results in a number of predicted Higgs .” This marked a clear change in tone from the Mumbai conference. It also added a more specific statement. It was a positive statement. is most likely to have a mass in the range 115-130 GeV. it added the following: “Tantalising hints have been seen by both experiments in the same mass region. “We cannot exclude the presence of the SM of the SM Higgs boson between 115 and 127 GeV because of a modest excess of events in this mass region that appears quite consistently in five independent channels. “This excess may be due to a statistical fluctuation.” he added. “is most compatible with a SM Higgs in the vicinity of 124 GeV and below but the statistical significance is not large enough to say anything conclusive. 2012 front. As against the window of 115-140 GeV set at Mumbai. A release from CERN after the seminar stated the main finding up F R O N T L I N E 4 7 son. what we see is consistent either with a background fluctuation or with the presence of a boson.” said Guido Tonelli. Given the outstanding performance of LHC this year.” The CMS spokesman echoed similar views. As of today. Both ATLAS and CMS had analysed several decay channels – not just the two photon channel as the rumours had said – and the experiments see small excesses in the low mass region in the past few weeks that has not yet been excluded. which was a tighter limit on the real estate now available for Higgs to be present.

Current levels of excesses in both the experiments are still in the region of 2.Science BLOG. to be collected in 2012. albeit with large uncertainties. That will take many more years of data from the LHC. until the end of 2012. The CMS experiment excludes the existence of Higgs in the mass range 128-525 GeV at 99 per cent ‘confidence level’ (CL). which means five times more collisions. has to continue. 첸 . the signal should be at least at ‘5 sigma (σ) level’ over the background. ‘yes. So the wait for its clear evidence. which is equivalent to a CL of being wrong only one part in about 30 million. The higher the number of sigma. Gibbs has combined the results of LEP. In his blog. Tommaso Dorigo of the CMS group has even ventured to term it as firm evidence for Higgs. we find the production rate (‘cross section’ in high-energy physics terminology relative to the SM prediction) for each decay channel is consistent with expectations. It could also happen that it does not turn out to be an SM Higgs. However. particularly in this tantalising region of around 125 GeV where both experiments seem to see an excess of events. Philip Gibbs. 3b and 3c).6 σ. That means their exclusion of Higgs beyond 128 GeV is now far more stringent than it was in Mumbai. A mass is said to be excluded at ‘95 per cent CL’ if the chance of SM Higgs boson showing up in the excluded mass range is 5 per cent of the time in a set of repeated experiments. The statistical significance. The general physics community will. For any discovery in particle physics. which decay into four leptons. of course. the physics community outside the experimental groups is not waiting. Either way there is exciting particle physics in store in the years to come. CMS and ATLAS where the signal strength fits neatly on 125 GeV (Figure 4). This was the target that the LHC had set in 2010 for the entire 2011 runs but this was achieved within a record time of just three-four months. Indeed. and that is precisely why the statements have been cautious in making claims and have said that a conclusive picture should emerge by 2012. ‘decay channels’ including pairs of W or Z [another carrier of the weak force besides the W]. which is equal to 70 trillion proton-proton collisions events. More data. “If we explore the hypothesis that our observed excesses could be the first hint of the presence of SM Higgs. the more incompatible the data are with having only background and no Higgs. the LHC attained the key data milestone ‘one inverse-femtobarn (fb-1)’ required for being able to see statistically significant physics results at 7 TeV. According to Gibbs.VIXRA. what we can say is. which is still far from the ‘Golden Rule’ for a discovery in particle physics (Figures 3a. This should be achievable by the LHC in 2012.4-3. One theoretical physicist. Tevatron. 2012 C OMB I N A T I O N O F L EP (phase II) + Tevatron + CMS + ATLAS data. the low statistical significances mean that these excesses can reasonably be interpreted as fluctuations in the background. However. despite the fact that its discovery appears now more imminent than ever before. Peak sits at a Higgs mass of about 125 GeV. pairs of tau leptons and pairs of photons (Figures 2a & 2b) In June 2011. But there are non-SM Higgs models which would open doors to new physics beyond the SM. would be greatly improved if a completely statistical analysis is done using the data sets of both the experiments together for each individual channel. the experiments would need to achieve data mark of 25 fb-1.” Statistical significance is measured in terms of what is called standard deviation (called sigma). But is it the SM Higgs? Much more work will have to be done to check if that particle has exactly the same characteristics of the SM Higgs. some would like to believe that Higgs has already been seen with this new data. which looks like the SM Higgs’. In case a signal does show up with sufficient statistical significance. has already carried out an approximate analysis of this kind in his blog and he sees a clear signal for a Higgs with mass at around 125 GeV with sufficiently improved statistical significance (3σ). pairs of heavy quarks. there is a new particle. However.ORG/2011/12/13/AUTHRO:PHILIP GIBBS JANUARY 13. and probably one can expect such an analysis carried out during the period of LHC shutdown for a couple of months from now. will help ascertain the origin of this excess. What CMS does not exclude now is the region 115-127 GeV as Tonelli had said. wait until it hits the bar of 5σ to say that Higgs has been found. such a detailed exercise would take considerable amount of 4 8 F R O N T L I N E time.

Sections of the country that saw the greatest Letter from America VIJAY PRASHAD 4 9 . and the U. near Nasiriyah on December 17. The bases in general have come to resemble ghost towns. now known as Imam Ali Base. ON December 16. “We have turned the last page of the occupaF R O N T L I N E tion. 1st Cavalry Division.” Hussein al-Asadi told the assembled crowd at the base. 2012 world affairs Exit America The American occupation troops withdraw from Iraq after waging a dumb war REUTERS which claimed the lives of a million Iraqis. of the 3rd Brigade. the United States armed forces handed over Camp Adder to the Iraqi government. DE P A R TI N G U. Al-Asadi represented Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. S . would remain engaged with Iraq. Several thousand U.S. forces are garrisoned in Iraq even after the withdrawal.S. board a C-17 transport plane at Camp Adder.JANUARY 13. who had spent some time with President Barack Obama earlier in the week and received assurances that the U. S O L D I E RS Once the invasion phase morphed into the occupation of Iraq.S.S. with plans for the construction of a luxury hotel being executed inside the former Green Zone. it became clear that the reasons given for the war were false: no WMDs were found and there was no proof of Saddam Hussein’s link with Al Qaeda or his plan to attack the U. will continue to maintain its sprawling embassy compound in Baghdad. It was the last base to be officially handed over. as the troops boarded their trucks for the convoy ride to Kuwait.

who was quite outspoken about Iraq’s obduracy in the 1990s. Three million people took to the streets of Rome. stable and self-reliant Iraq”. protests welcomed the withdrawal of the U. the use of force exacerbates the problem rather than solves it”. What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured. claims (the IAEA and ElBaradei won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2005).” A few weeks later.S. 2012 DRUMS OF WAR By late 2001. “They left thousands of widows and orphans. ElBaradei told Le Monde that the run-up to the invasion of Iraq was “a glaring example of how. weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats. (At Davos in 2007. “I have detractors in Washington. By the summer of 2002. does not act in some way (preferably militarily) then Saddam Hussein would use those weapons in a replay of 9/11. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 5 0 F R O N T L I N E trated by the White House and conducted enthusiastically by the Murdoch machine. It would come to a head when 10 million people marched against the impending war on Iraq in February 2003.” Blix told The Guardian. @ same time – not only UBL. A rash war. not that I cared very much. and in Sadr City. and elsewhere. Washington’s narrative was thin.) to go to war. He had..N. “The Americans are leaving behind them a destroyed country. President George W. while about a million staggered through the very cold avenues of New York City. on the authenticity of the U. he accepted. not on principle but on politics. Nothing seemed to add up. Among the latter was a State Senator from Illinois. had shaped the agenda for the Iraq War. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair. and less that it had the capability or investment in a strike on the U. a thousand protesters burned American flags. study team of Iraq’s weapons programme. with the White House eager for Security Council sanction for its new war. The Americans did not leave modern schools or big factories behind them. was nonetheless cautious in 2002. There was no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11.S. to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.N. “I don’t oppose all wars. perhaps the largest coordinated protests of all time (some estimate that the number is closer to 30 million). Saddam Hussein’s . “Hit S. Blix.” Obama told the crowd. and if the U. What I am opposed to is a rash war.N.S. of course. the anti-war movement germinated in the U.S.S. run up against a massive media blitz orches- YURI GRIPAS /AFP resistance to the U. There was simply no evidence that required the international community (namely the U. but its outcome was good. it was clear that the Bush administration wished to extend the battlefield in its Global War on Terror from Afghanistan to Iraq. The war was not perfect. “There are bastards who spread things around. who gave a well-regarded anti-war speech in Chicago in October 2002. in many cases.” P RES I D EN T BAR A C K OB AM A . In 2007. otherwise quite amenable to Washington. troops. The alliance against the war was vast: it included those who were generally anti-war to those who were against what they saw as an unnecessary war.H. warning: “Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons. Barack Obama.” The war nonetheless began on March 19.) As debates continued in the U. a drop in the median income. Bush said: “Saddam Hussein recently authorised Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons – the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have. The drums of war beat louder and louder into 2002. not only Osama bin Laden (Afghanistan).S.” replied Murdoch.” Blix is not known for such colourful language. We basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East [West Asia]”. Hours after 9/11 itself.S. Charlie Rose asked Murdoch if News Corp. The IAEA’s then Director-General Mohamed ElBara- dei cautioned the U. Bush had been making noises about the need to strike Iraq before it completed production of an array of biochemical weapons. “No I don’t think so. U. a rise in the poverty rate. in his weekly radio address. with the troops leaving behind “a sovereign. A war based not on reason but on passion. occupation remained unbending. however. it appeared as if war would be inevitable with pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and on the European partners moving in one direction alone.N.” The narrative from the White House was simple: Iraq had chemical weapons. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. In Fallujah. with a campaign known as “Shock and Awe”. A dumb war.” said Mariam Khazim. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld scrawled.” which is to say hit Saddam Hussein (Iraq) at the same time. That’s what I’m opposed to. “We tried.JANUARY 13. brought back the Swedish politician Hans Blix to run a U. who planted nasty things in the media. Bush went to the United Nations in September. By the end of the summer.

At most Obama could acknowledge the debate before the war. personnel killed in Iraq (over 4. ejected the U. but mostly Iraqi nationalists of various stripes.” It was the aftermath of Haditha that forced the Iraqi government to no longer give a carte blanche to the U.S. when the war was being planned they were all in agreement. stable and self-reliant Iraq. forces came not from the organised units of the Iraqi military but from new guerilla fighters.000) than Americans in the attacks on 9/11. “On one major issue. with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld defending their roles and State Department head Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice putting the onus on Cheney and Rumsfeld. putting pressure on the Prime Minister not to allow U. could not reviF R O N T L I N E 5 1 sit them in 2011: he is now the Commander in Chief and would find it awkward to belittle the sacrifices of troops who were sent to fight a false war. The death toll of Iraqis is too horrendous to comprehend (some count a million dead. marines killed 24 Iraqis (including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair. military collapsed.S. she said yes.” writes Elisabeth Bumiller in her biography of Rice. occupation of Iraq.AFP JANUARY 13. Part of the problem for the Bush team is that despite the outcome. who had made his own position clear in 2002. and that Saddam Hussein had no plans to attack the U. Few recall the lies that led to war. As U. a condition the White House could not accept. where U. or weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Even as Bush declared that combat operations ended in May. some Baathists. S. Soon after the invasion phase morphed into a U. now renamed the Baghdad Central Prison. say others). because Washington would not allow its troops to come under Iraqi jurisdiction. “That sense of American impunity ultimately poisoned any chance for American forces to remain in Iraq. 2012 FAL L U JA H R E S I D E N T S A T a rally to celebrate the departure of U. At most the former managers of the country simply blame each other for poor execution of the war (too little planning.S. with The Lancet offering a slightly smaller number – near 700.000). with more U. Cheney and Rumsfeld were in total agreement – the war in Iraq. with the troops leaving behind “a sovereign. troops had been acquitted by their justice system.S. this was far from the case.S. too few troops. troops. Resistance to the U. troops to continue on such terms that allow Iraqis to be humiliated). in a sense. that no link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda could be established. and when the President finally asked her if he should take the country to war. As Michael Schmidt put it in The Times.S. it became clear that all the reasons for the war had been false. with the lead-up “a source of great controversy here at home. will finally bring Private First . The Iraq war was not perfect.” No one has taken responsibility for the Iraqi fiasco. military investigations on the 2005 massacres at Haditha. To go beyond this is to accept that Iraq was not a “dumb war” but the outcome of a system premised on militarism and one that is capable of the harshest violence against its enemies. he accepted. During the week of the pull-out. memoirs by the main players in the Bush administration have appeared. children and toddlers). In the past few years. on December 14.S. the U.S.S. The same week as the withdrawal. The Iraqi Parliament.S. with a representative government that was elected by its people”. a reporter for The New York Times found 400 pages of U. a parliamentary partner of Maliki’s government. Rice. Most of the U. troops withdraw from Iraq.S. Obama. Combat operations would continue into 2010. because the Iraqis would not let them stay without being subject to Iraqi laws and courts. were found. leaving a bad taste in the Iraqi body politic. American liberalism is not capable of any more than that. say some.S. troops (with the Sadrites. No one mentioned Haditha. nor did they remember Abu Ghraib. with patriots on both sides of the debate”. “Rice helped conceive it and was one of its chief advocates. there is little discussion about this particular problem: that no chemical or biological weapons. but its outcome was good.

the U. which was built by British contractors in the 1960s. The U.S.S. Obama marked the end of the occupation by calling on others not to meddle in Iraq’s internal affairs. forces would be able to create a satellite in the area that could checkmate Iran’s ambitions in the region and provide some relief to Israel. The combined effect of all of this is like breaking someone’s jaw with your fist only to bemoan the excruciating pain that has been visited on your hand. The prison.” And few Americans seem to care.” wrote Emad Risn. Amnesia and indifference are the privileges of the powerful. Either way. and it remains so. but it would open up sectarian fissures and create far more human suffering than imagined. “and must have forgotten many things as well. The cost of doing business always seems more reasonable when someone else is paying the price. Eight years after the war. The U. Among those files lay a secret video that documented the 2007 killing in cold blood of Reuters’ photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver Saeed Chmagh.S. among the discarded testimony was an interview with Sergeant Major Edward Sax. Americans fret about the fate of veterans returning to a depressed economy with a range of both physical and mental disabilities. miscalculated the neighbourhood. and was eventually transfered to Iraqi control in September 2006. A U .” No wonder then that a recent Pew poll found that despite all the evidence to the contrary. 2012 stands guard at the Abu Ghraib prison as prisoners are released. It was a dumb war. in a government-funded newspaper. The anti-war movement suggested that the bloodshed would not welcome U. an Iraqi columnist. Manning is accused of handing over secret files to WikiLeaks. claiming killing would impose a life-long burden on them. High Commissioner for Refugees counts about two million Iraqis as displaced.S. not in Iraq. It was renamed the "Baghdad Correctional Facility" by the U. The assumption was that the U. It is for the Kenyans and Algerians to recall the atrocities committed by the British and the French under colonialism while the colonisers remain in flight from their history.N. power but was against it. It was to make Iraq a model private-sector country. “It is the end for the Americans only. Instead. let alone high. seeking to link the economic collapse to military misadventure.S. It has been some time since Iraq featured at all on the nation’s priorities. Having Iraq exercise its sovereignty is not sufficient to justify the war in the first place. Iraq has been resilient enough to demand more than a public relations withdrawal. SO L D I E R result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq. According to The New York Times report. this is the largest displacement in West Asia. if not more. no justifications remain. The cost to Iraqis simply does not feature. The U. – not such an open policy for its Iraqi allies). 24 per cent yes). tightened its own policy towards allowing in asylum seekers (when the Vietnam War went badly. Without any apparent irony. is not alone in this. allowed its allies in Vietnam to seek entry into the U.S. and it is entirely a product of the war. Rightly.AFP JANUARY 13. about it because they have a hard time dealing with that. one on one. “I had marines shoot children in cars. Instead of a discussion on how the war created this massive and ongoing refugee crisis.S. 첸 . the impunity towards the Apache helicopter pilots rankled the Iraqis. Even Iraq’s government was not as docile as hoped. Progressives. The costs of war suggest the law of intended consequences. All this failed as the Iraqis refused to be utterly pliant.” wrote the 19th-century French philosopher Ernest Renan. was a centre of torture for the occupation forces. often argue that nation building should begin at home. The Bush war cost at least $1 trillion. But Iraqi civilians barely get a look-in. thereby – wittingly or not – transforming Iraqis in the public imagination from victims of illegal warfare to recipients of illicit welfare.S.S. “The essential characteristic of a nation is that all its individuals must have many things in common. and deal with the marines individually. Gary Younge © Guardian News & Media 2011 F R O N T L I N E 5 3 Class Bradley Manning to court. or not?” (67 per cent no. the U. 56 per cent of Americans said they thought the invasion had succeeded in its goals while the number of those who think the invasion was the right decision stands at its highest in five years. “Nobody knows if the war will end for Iraqis too. the wave of democracy that swept the region was not inclined to U. Others would like to see the figure doubled.S.” When they told him they didn’t know there were children on board he told them they were not to blame. troops into Iraq “with sweets and flowers”. Like Haditha.. That is a conservative estimate.

tens of thousands of Russians again took to the streets in Moscow and other Russian cities to demand political change.000 people turned up on Bolotnaya Square in central Moscow on December 10. Independent monitors said the party’s real support hovered around 30 per cent. the organisers raised the estimate to 30.” In 1993. Demonstrators in Bolotnaya Square gave flowers to the police in a gesture of peace and solidarity as F R O N T L I N E . State-controlled television totally ignored the election controversy and initial protests. to close opposition groups on the site. The most resonating plea on Facebook and Twitter was for the protests to be peaceful. the Internet served as a crucial medium in mobilising Russian protesters. On the same day. more than anywhere else in Europe. a loss of 15 per cent compared with the last election four years ago but enough to guarantee it an absolute majority in the State Duma. The authorities pressured Russia’s largest social network provider. As one blogger wrote. including its organisers. As in the Arab Spring revolutions. Russian Internet overflowed with amateur videos of ballot-box stuffing. The protests were triggered by the alleged mass rigging of the December 4 parliamentary election. the Internet played the role of what Lenin called “collective organiser and collective propagandist”. B Y V L A D I M I R R A D Y U H I N IN MOSCOW The protesters demand cancellation of the tainted election and the overhaul of the election legislation. Two weeks before the election. The protests were by no means violent. writers and musicians joined the protests for the first time since the early 1990s.3 per cent of the votes.World Affairs/Russia JANUARY 13. As in Tunisia and Egypt. and rewriting of final protocols. hundreds died when President Boris Yeltsin sent tanks to suppress an armed revolt led by the pro-Communist legislature. but in Russia they were not the disgruntled unemployed youth but reasonably well-off educated professionals and office workers. vKontakte. It was a striking display of civic activism unheard of in Russia for almost 20 years. In the end. With more than 50 million Russians having access to the Web. which was won by the ruling party. when an opposition group applied for permission to hold a post-election rally. Almost a century later. 2012 December Revolution Protests triggered by the alleged mass rigging of the parliamentary election result in a groundswell of opinion against the ruling party. Three days before 5 4 the event. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has supported the calls for annulling the “rigged” vote. The official tally gave United Russia 49. but people used social networking sites and Twitter to inform each other of planned rallies. an allusion to the Great October Revolution that changed the political system in Russia and brought to power the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin. The protests immediately became enmeshed in symbols and parallels that were not necessarily accurate. IT has already been called the Great December Revolution. “We had our Tahrir 20 years ago. the lower house of the Russian Parliament. it cited the likely attendance of up to 300 people. Artists. rallies rolled across dozens of cities from Vladivostok in the far east to Kaliningrad in the west.000 and the authorities had to change the venue as it was thought too small for such a crowd. up to 100. but it refused. The scale of protests took everyone by surprise. United Russia. “carousel” multiple voting. protests in Russia were driven by the middle classes.

courts served the rich and the powerful. The authorities have firmly put down attempts to set up new parties. Medvedev. not forward. SURGE IN ACTIVISM YURI KOCHETKOV/REUTERS MIKHAIL METZEL/AP JANUARY 13. “Colour revolutions are special schemes to destabilise society.” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said during a traditional televised callin show after the first wave of protest rallies. Their overwhelming vote against the ruling party headed by Putin forced the Kremlin to resort to glaring falsifications in order to avoid a humiliating defeat. The Russian protests have entirely domestic roots. The Russian authorities saw haunting similarities with the “colour revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine several years ago. The opposition parties sitting in Parliament – Communists. After the chaotic 1990s. however. Putin was genuinely popular. Russians played by the Kremlin rules and won.S. According to media reports. Putin’s decision to reclaim presidency was seen as a step backward. The government. but were booed with cries “give up your Duma mandate”. A few party members took part in protest rallies. “Vote for any party but United Russia” was the most compelling campaign slogan. ironically called “Twitter President” for his childish fascination with electronic gadgets. in Moscow on December 4. However. Earlier he accused the U. people could not change the system through elections. the authorities backed away from the rough handling and detention of protesters during the first post-election rallies. and anti-corruption drive.R U SSIAN C O M MUN I S T P A RT Y supporters protesting against the official results of the parliamentary elections. in Manezh Square in Moscow on December 18. So when he suddenly abdicated power even before his reforms gained traction. may have been pathetically weak as Putin’s successor. which played a key role in exposing the election fraud. Many in Russia were shocked by what one commentator called “a cynical private deal that traded the institution of the presidency like a piece of furniture”. pride in the resurgence of Russia and its global clout and were prepared to put up with the authoritarian political system dominated by one man. none of the “official” opposition parties played any role in the protests even though they all complained of election fraud. people felt robbed of their hopes. This sparked mass protests. left-leaning Just Russia and the Liberal Democrats of the clownish Vladimir Zhirinovsky – are fully integrated into the establishment and manipulated by the Kremlin. People took denying them registration under various pretexts and harassing businessmen who dared support them. 2012 P RI M E M I N I S T ER VLAD I M I R Putin (foreground) and President Dmitry Medvedev at the United Russia party headquarters after voting closed in the parliamentary elections. an independent judiciary.S. just as they were two months earlier when Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev announced their decision to swap roles in the presidential election in March 2012. did not produce any proof of a foreign hand apart from pointing the finger at GOLOS. and the economy remained critically dependent on the export of hydrocarbons and metals. political apathy gave way to a sudden surge in activism. “national leader” Putin. resentment built up gradually as corruption grew to staggering proportions. Characteristically. a Russian vote monitoring organisation partially funded from the U. In this year’s election. Those who thronged the streets of Moscow and other cities revolted against the Russian system of “managed democracy” based on the socalled “Putin contract”. People felt cheated. a vibrant multiparty system. of inciting the protests and financing the opposition. Russians treasured the stability and increased living standards during Putin’s presidency. Meanwhile. F R O N T L I N E 5 5 Many of those who took to the streets in December had not bothered to vote earlier because they saw little election choice. but he generated hopes of change with the promise of political and economic modernisation. bureaucratic hurdles strangled small businesses. the Kremlin asked the opposition parties to stay away. especially since he downplayed economic modernisation and political liberalisation and emphasised .

best known for a notorious remark attributed to him that the “Duma is no place for discussions” and let the opposition parties control more parliamentary committees. and federal). But it has so far refused to meet the protesters’ main demands – a revote and reform of the electoral system to allow real political pluralism and to remove government control over the election process. It has sought to discredit the protest movement while at the same time promise political concessions to show that the protesters’ voice has been heard. Putin promised that “betterment of the political system” would be one of the priorities of his third presidential agenda.” said Tatyana Stanovaya of the Political Technologies Centre. has supported the calls for annulling the “rigged” vote. “The authorities must begin building institutions for rejuvenation of the polity while they still have some reserves of strength left. but if he hoped to dampen protests. including low-earning industrial labourers and old-age pensioners. a 34-year-old mother of two. for foreign money. who had pioneered democratic reforms in Russia. which many read as stagnation. On another track. It will restore trust in the powers that be. Putin claimed people were paid money to attend the rallies.” he said. more and more Russians refuse to believe that the election was honest. The Kremlin has replaced State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov. But the Putin magic is gone and he may need a second round run-off to win. The prospect of 12 more years of Putin. TWO-PRONGED STRATEGY The Kremlin appears to have settled for a two-pronged strategy. the tactics backfired. condoms. but in the new year they may be joined by wider working class masses who will be hurt by the post-election budget hangover. that these were.” However. experts warned.” said Gorbachev. “With each passing day. They include 35-year-old lawyer and blogger Alexei Navalny. Putin ordered that web cameras linked to Internet be installed in all ballot stations. who shot to prominence by exposing corruption in leading state companies and who coined the now famous nickname for United Russia – “the party of thieves and crooks” – and social activist Yevgeniya Chirikova. who has stood up in fearless defence of an age-old Moscow forest condemned to cutting down under a Kremlin-backed multi-billion project to build a new highway. “There are people who have Russian passports but work for the interests of a foreign state. Within hours of his remarks thousands signed up in social networks for new protest rallies and the Internet exploded with photoshopped pictures of Putin wearing an unravelled contraceptive pinned to his coat. To ensure transparency. Russia may need an average oil price of $126 a barrel to balance its budget next year. and easing the registration procedure for new parties. at the helm (the presidential term was extended from four to six years two years ago) has put off many. “To be perfectly honest. “We need to expand the basis of democracy in Russia. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. “The country’s leaders must admit there were numerous falsifications and rigging and the results do not reflect the people’s will. pardon me. A post-election poll by the Public Opinion Foundation showed that only 44 per cent of Russians had complete trust in Putin. raised pensions and steeply hiked national security spending in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections. who could probably like this rude joke. As of now the Russian protests are 5 6 F R O N T L I N E unlikely to derail Putin’s re-election as President next March as none of the opposition leaders who have registered to run can put up a challenge.” Putin was clearly addressing his more conservative constituencies. While it was the complaints against election fraud that brought people out to the streets. We ought to re-establish the link between the people and the powers that be at all levels (local. these demands are unacceptable for the Kremlin. The Russian leaders should stop clinging to power and embark on democratic reforms to open the system to grass-roots political forces. as well as United Russia. In a calculated slight. the process will start revolutionary from the bottom.World Affairs/Russia stability. “when I saw something on some people’s chests… I thought that this was part of an anti-AIDS campaign. his lowest support level in a decade. regional.” 첸 . Popularity ratings of Putin and Medvedev. Putin said he was ready to consider the possibility of restoring direct elections for regional governors and the upper house of Parliament. who is 59. what happens next? The protesters have demanded the cancellation of the tainted election and the overhaul of the election legislation. New opposition leaders thrown up by the burgeoning protest movement need time to set up a political base and gain nationwide popularity. The big question now is.” he said. he went as JANUARY 13. The government will have to adopt very painful cost-cutting measures after it tripled military salaries. “If they do not do it in an evolutionary way from the top. They would amount to the dismantling of the system of “managed democracy” and undermine Putin’s grip on power.” he said during the call-in session on December 15. The December protests were largely confined to the urban middle class. went down after the job-swap announcement. compared with an earlier forecast for $118. which he cancelled seven years ago. the real target of their anger was Putin: some of the most popular slogans were “Putin the Thief” and “Russia without Putin”. One thing is clear: tectonic shifts are under way in Russian society as it has woken up from slumber. but experts dismissed the move as a publicity stunt. 2012 far as to compare the white ribbons demonstrators wore as a symbol of peaceful protests to unwrapped condoms.

“Well”. In a recent interview. we will be landing shortly. Surely it would be unwise to destabilise a nuclear-armed country of 170 million people. Pakistanis are welcoming. EVEN before you reach Pakistan there is reason to fret. treacherous place filled with frothing Islamists and double-dealing generals. Much of it is rooted in Afghanistan. But pull off the road and everything changes. by now old hat. Pakistan looms as the Fukushima of fundamentalism: a volatile. inshallah. “The Ally from Hell” proclaims The Atlantic. I said. the tinge of wounded betrayal. “Ladies and gentlemen. we are left with a murky stew of allegations. the BBC’s Stephen Sackur harangued him about Pakistani perfidy. This is fun. This is what you think. Forget the “world’s most dangerous country” moniker. Social graces are rare – horns honk. the Pakistanis are remarkably good at wiping their fingerprints from the trigger. seems to have surrendered to its fate. visibly bristling. seems to ATHAR HUSSAIN/REUTERS have surrendered to its fate. then shot back: “You say it is true. the former military ruler once beloved of the West. Mullah Omar. I discovered. headlights are impatiently flashed – but social hierarchy is observed: hulking four-wheel drives (increasingly armour-plated) barge through the swarms of matchbox cars. But these days it is about right – Pakistan. often with glorious indiscretion – national politics and local tattle. do not stick to their lane or indicate. “This is a mirage. Look to recent coverage: “Hornet’s Nest” declares this week’s Economist. B Y D E C L A N W A L S H Viewed from the outside. Some years ago a senior United Nations official in Kabul warned me the United States could launch unilateral air strikes if Pakistan did not get into line.” says the Pakistan International Airlines pilot.” But what should we think – conspiracy. What of the Taliban safe havens? Sackur demanded. resides happily in Pakistani suburbia? Musharraf sat through the mauling. cricket scandals. They love to gab. wearing his trademark wounded-puppy face. the police are taking bribes. Instead.” he said. leaking plutonium-grade terrorist trouble. Pakistan looms as the Fukushima of fundamentalism: a volatile. “Maybe they deserve it. he shot back grimly. Western condemnation has a moral quality. Or the Quetta Shura? Or reports that the monocular Taliban leader. spy scandals and shootings. truths to be gleaned from the smaller things – such as the way people drive. To the Western ear this ancient invocation – literally “God willing” – can be disconcerting: you pray the crew are relying on more than divine providence to set down safely. and good for the business of journalism. generous and voluble. 2012 World Affairs/Pakistan Volatile state Pakistan.JANUARY 13. Much of it was dominated by the banner dramas: bombs and political heaves. or the night. where many blame Pakistan for the Taliban resurgence. treacherous place filled with frothing Islamists and doubledealing generals. a country buffeted by mysterious if not entirely holy forces. Did the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency really shelter Osama bin Laden? Does it control the notorious Haqqani network? Did it play a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks? If smoking guns abound. I say it is all nonsense. This is what people say. cock-up or thinly veiled chaos? Puzzling out the answers to that question has been central to my seven years reporting from Pakistan for The Guardian. 5 7 . They insist you stay for tea. But there were also. 10 minutes outside Islamabad. movie stars and conspiracy theories. Viewed from the outside. Pakistanis swerve into heavy traffic without looking. coincidences and the steamy whispers of Western spies.” Yet for all the stone-throwing. hard facts are elusive. F R O N T L I N E Perhaps the embodiment of this conundrum is Pervez Musharraf. Off to the side. a country buffeted by mysterious if not entirely holy forces. which makes it hard to predict where they are coming from or going to.

Fortified walls rise over the streets. Since 2001. tribes. after a phone call from a “higher-up” in government. I remembered no such thing. Today the blasts have stopped. the real bonds are forged around clans. the reports noted.N. “Do you remember that place you mentioned last night – the ‘Cat House’?” he said. Islamabad was a somnolent. Then came the bombs: at markets. but the net effect is that Pakistanis are more profoundly isolated from the . The relationship is beset by frustrations and misunderstandings on both sides. including my friend. the sons of the rich dragraced their daddys’ cars along deserted streets. Up the street from my house. the police have turned up.000 Pakistanis have died in more that 300 suicide attacks. he spoke in a loud and oddly deliberate voice.” he continued. 2012 gloved waiters served gin and tonic on manicured lawns. Things have never been worse: outrage at the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a murky border incident triggered a blockade on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) supplies. Benazir Bhutto gave speeches from behind barbed wire. Embassies are retreating into a sandbagged. just before Pakistan’s 60th birthday. I thought that was the end of the matter until a police video of the raid surfaced on the Internet some months later. Pakistan has paid a high 5 8 F R O N T L I N E blood price for what my colleague Jason Burke calls the “9/11 wars”. and a number of punters – including a newly elected ruling party Member of Parliament and his entourage. but for most Pakistanis the culprit is America. Foreigners mocked the capital for its provincial feel. It started with the bloody siege of the Red Mosque complex in July 2007. called the Cathouse. U. the naval headquarters. where she was assassinated. a middleaged man in a crowded corridor.000 have been wounded. That. you learn. Television shows fizz with antiAmerican anger. Previously chatty and relaxed. during a brief-lived house arrest. It showed officers storming into the Cathouse. not them. mostly. hotel entrances resemble prisons with gold-buttoned guards. reliably dull city. Journalists use sifarish a lot. occasionally they are called on to dispense it too. I didn’t call back. arguing with Russian women and. many say the “Ally from Hell” epithet applies to the U. shortly after the last election. “Well. Green Zone-style enclave. the five-star Marriott Hotel. Two days later the papers carried reports of a police raid on a speakeasycum-brothel in a smart part of Islamabad. Another 13. I got a surprise phone call from a ruling party official. They seized dozens of bottles of liquor and arrested Russian and Chinese women. meanwhile. personal contacts. Washington. the reference of an influential friend. however. but the city is cloistered in concrete. This is partly the legacy from the military’s decades-old dabbling in Islamist extremism.. vehicles slalom through elaborate check posts. By night. swerving to avoid wild boars ambling from the bushes. the presidency and even the ISI headquarters are similarly isolated. “Islamabad – half the size of a New York graveyard but twice as dead” went the diplomats’ tired gag as white- FAROOQ NAEEM /AFP JANUARY 13. “The Cathouse?” Such laughs have been regrettably rare. at one point. “Do you remember that place you mentioned last night?” says my friend. Then the Taliban came to town. the official route is often pointless – the key is sifarish. is just the cosseted capital – the real pain has been felt elsewhere. “And I was hoping you might have a word with them. check posts. Late one night. When I arrived in 2004. To get anything done. the victims range from toddlers to threestar generals.” Seconds later the line dropped. up to 5. is moving to restrict $700 million in aid. Weeks later she drove out to Rawalpindi. the closure of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone base and the boycott of a conference on the future of Afghanistan – and that is just in the last fortnight.S.While Islam is technically the glue of society. offices. But they were released without charge. shouting into his phone. Bullets zipped through the leafy streets. I dusted off my flak jacket.

2008. a glorious Sufi festival on the banks of the Indus with a mesmeric mix of party and prayer – a spectacle to make the head spin and the heart sing. are being exacerbated by galloping population growth and deepening poverty. as a psychologist might say. the transvestite civil rights movement. In October. racked with pain. suffers a crippling legitimacy deficit driven by perceptions of corruption and a more fundamental struggle for supremacy. Turmoil in a country with at least 120 nuclear warheads and a projected population of 300 million people by 2030 could make Afghanistan look like a walk in the park. the covert support for jehad. In early December. an unemployed man from Sindh province. there is no getting around it: Pakistan is beset with problems that no amount of jolly beer stories or whir- ling dervishes can remedy. Zardari suddenly flew to Dubai. Raja Khan. Talk of a “nuclear Somalia” is overstated. General Ashfaq Kayani. deep-rooted corruption. As the Arab spring swept the Arab nations. outside world than they have been in decades. it is the internal stability of Pakistan that is more worrying. As Western troops draw down by 2014. pizza dinners. in a F R O N T L I N E 5 9 sense. Pakistan can help construct a stable future for the war-ravaged country – or spoil a deal it dislikes. Still.S. But perhaps the most memorable experiences were rooted in the rich cultural and religious heritage. “Why don’t you write about the other Pakistan?” is a frequent refrain – “other” being the country of software companies. ambitious. The problem is that few like the results. 2012 WH E N A PO W E R F UL bomb blast devastated the five-star Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on September 20. mused to the U. One reason is Afghanistan. Pakistan was quiet because. One of my best trips was in Sehwan Sharif in Sindh. the 23year-old died. Many Pakistanis – educated. Just a few years ago the Army chief. travelled hundreds of miles to Islamabad. This cannot be good. It is riven by ethnic. the poisoned bond with America. The hype seems unfounded. a country with serious issues. the punk rock bands and oxygen bars and rambunctious polo tournaments in the heights of the Hindu Kush. Will ordinary Pakistanis tire of this power game? While there is no sign of a spring tide. I did. modern – resent being lumped in with the terrorists. which. It is. Most are decades old – the overweening army. Resolving them has never been so urgent. triggering fresh speculation that such an upset was about to happen. the confused place of Islam. with a tendency towards the counterintuitive: the booming brewery across the street from military headquarters. Poverty had ground him . Hours later. When I could. it already has what others are demanding: elections. then struck a match. effervescent art shows and quality literature. millions of tiny waves are lapping the shores of despair. tribal and political fault lines. Standing outside Parliament he doused himself in kerosene. in turn. But few doubt Kayani is the real power. the accidental President. But beyond that. Yet there is little sign of revolution. Ambassador about the possibility of a coup. and Zardari says he will soon return. but you get the point.JANUARY 13. Asif Ali Zardari.

Now he railed in a stream of invective against everyone – Islamist extremists. Charles Burman was 92 years old. the cricket-star-turned political sensation. it betrays questions about something deeply unhealthy at the core of Pakistani society. Retreating outside I found a preppy looking young man sitting on the verge. staring numbly into the inferno. traversed jaw-dropping landscapes and attended some wild parties. for a few nail-biting hours. such as a feature on the appalling wave of alleged state-sponsored killings in Balochistan earlier in 2011. a curly bearded extremist who killed Taseer because he championed the case of a poor Christian woman who had been prosecuted under the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. today. the judge who sentenced Qadri has fled Pakistan. He exudes the confidence of a man who believes his time has come. Shoaib Akhtar. RICH COMPLEXITY I hoped that my reporting portrayed the rich complexity of a society that. So was the fact that nobody dared raise their voice against his supporters. away from the bang-bang. The warrior was Mumtaz 6 0 F R O N T L I N E JANUARY 13. But the intriguing feedback I received came in the form of an old-fashioned letter. a daring actress who appeared topless wearing nothing but a tattoo that read “ISI”. Americans. Pervez Musharraf threatened to sue. our audience is at once global and intensely local. Some years ago the cricket board issued a press release detailing “genital warts” of its errant star. a close friend’s father was caught up in a brutal gun attack on a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadi community in Lahore. military in Afghanistan blacklisted me briefly. below the surface. once suggested I was “on the PPP payroll”. A giant crater occupied the park. But which way out of the quagmire? Imran Khan. depicting a heroic warrior on a gallant white steed. he sent a fascinating account of his experiences. on one occasion with a roomful of transvestites. In 2010.” Then the crowd poured through the streets and on to the highway leading to Islamabad. naive. was deeply depressing. In 2004. the ISI-monitored my phone calls and occasionally rang to voice its own displeasure. “Qadri is a great martyr. as I once did in Peshawar. a deluded fanatic. however. A few months ago I visited a house in Rawalpindi with a giant poster over the windows. These days. 첸 Note: Declan Walsh’s book Inshallah Nation is out next year. A few minutes after the 2008 suicide bombing of the Marriott. critics say.” said one man. Khan said in a farewell note. He survived but more than 100 others died. but is more vulnerable to external shocks than ever before. Veena Malik has denounced the pictures. There is a striking amount of national introspection in a hearteningly vibrant press. through the Internet. In 2008 a Guardian fixer was abducted and tortured while investigating a story on intelligence agency abduction and torture. joint-rolling character. Outside. One thing.World Affairs/Pakistan down. That was all fine – multi-directional criticism is a compliment – but sometimes the story came a little too close. claiming – but of course – that they are the product of conspiracy. The celebration of Qadri. It helps to project less obvious stories. has been kidnapped – probably by Qadri sympathisers. Pakistanis leap on every story. referring to the government party. and this was his house. a former British Army signals sergeant who had fought a long-forgotten colonial campaign in the tribal belt in the 1930s and 1940s. hunting for survivors. His elderly father cried out: “Oh. the Christian at the heart of the furore. Still. articulate and educated. drone strikes – struggling to make sense of it all. His name was Ehsan Peerzada and he was 19 years old.S. I’ve been humbled by inspiring figures. Not everyone liked the coverage. defies its stereotypes. Where else can you find yourself with a bearded. 2012 Qadri. Waziristan was pretty dangerous back then. In wobbly handwriting.” It is not all darkness. But on some occasions there was just nothing to be said. An ugly spectacle. niece of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto. protesting against Qadri’s prosecution for murder. “It’s not fair. Blood squelched underfoot. Is the current situation any more precarious? The country has deep stores of resilience. I found myself standing in the rubble. Aasia Bibi. where are you?” It is not just Pakistan – over the seven years foreign correspondence changed drastically.K. As his coffin was nailed shut. The Guardian focussed on U. a hotel where I got my hair cut and had coffee with contacts. pro-government blogs suggested I was peddling the ISI line. In other circumstances. orange flames licked the ash-laden sky. young children shouted slogans for Qadri. his wife gave birth to their third son. People often ask the most basic question about Pakistan: will it survive? The question has been going round for decades. is clear: inshallah may have worked until now. the police bodyguard who gunned down the Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in January 2011. the naysayers inevitably silenced. life in Pakistan can be richly rewarding. readers. the son of a senior civil servant. Instead. bomb stories vie for space with Veena Malik. The police closed the road and watched. dazed by the enormity of the atrocity. the Taliban called with a ransom demand for a kidnapped hostage. I might have interviewed him for a story on savvy. “It’s not fair. a medium many have embraced with gusto. The air was thick with talk of persecution. particularly on Twitter. © Guardian News & Media 2011 . scrutinising and commenting. it turns out. And Taseer’s son. The U. too. but it is no longer enough. says he has the answers. But his ideas are controversial and. staff in bloodstained uniforms stumbled through the lobby. Others joined them. too. many Pakistanis have similar doubts. The bombings took a toll. Zardari. nicknamed “Mullah Omar”? Even the news can be fun. remains in jail. “What he did is permitted by Islam. Shahbaz. not even the government. westernised Pakistanis. Fatima Bhutto.” he mumbled.

erated that Beijing considered the Dalai Lama “as one who has been engaged in separatist activities for a long time under the pretext of religion”. reitF R O N T L I N E V. The indefinite postponement of the border talks has indicated that the Chinese side is toughening its diplomatic posture towards New Delhi. The Dalai Lama’s statement last year that Arunachal Pradesh and the town of Tawang there are integral parts of India had also angered Beijing. the senior-most official of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. The Tawang monastery is among the most sacred places of worship for Tibetan Buddhists.India & China JANUARY 13.K. was to give the concluding speech. Beijing’s decision came only a week after Prime Minister Man6 1 . which were scheduled for November 28. was to head the Chinese delegation to New Delhi that was to hold talks with India’s National Security Adviser. the Chinese side views him purely as the leader of the Tibetan exile movement out to divide the country. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. Both of them are the designated Special Representatives of their respective governments tasked with finding a solution to the long-running border row. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that China had objected to the holding of the Global Buddhist Congregation 2011 in which the Dalai Lama. SINGH /AFP China’s unhappiness over Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s speech at a Buddhist meet in India was behind the decision. in separate incidents. ADMIRAL NIRMAL VERMA. New Delhi has so far been careful not to allow the Tibetan leader to question directly Chinese sovereignty over the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Beijing has objected to the meeting of the Tibetan spiritual leader with the Indian Prime Minister and other senior officials. Shiv Shankar Menon. during the fourth India-China Annual Defence Dialogue in New Delhi on December 9. But India’s External Affairs Ministry officials insist that bilateral relations were on a good footing until recently. Although the Indian government formally continues to treat the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader. India’s Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of Naval Staff. B Y J O H N C H E R I A N THE eleventh-hour decision by Beijing to postpone the India-China border talks. New Delhi had insisted that the Buddhist meet was a purely spiritual event and had no political connotations. seems to have caught New Delhi off guard. It was the first time that leaders representing the three main branches of Buddhism came together for such a high-profile international event. 2012 Troubled equations The postponement of the latest round of India-China border talks does not mean that all is not well with the bilateral relations. Deputy Chief of General Staff of China’s PLA. An article put out by the Chinese news agency Xinhua blamed the Dalai Lama for inciting the suicides by 11 Tibetan monks in the past few weeks. The MEA’s Public Diplomacy Division was the co-sponsor of the conference. The Chinese government has also been signalling its unhappiness to the Indian government at the deferential treatment being accorded to the Dalai Lama. The star of the show was the Dalai Lama. carried out self-immolation protests in the western Chinese province of Sichuan. speaking after the postponement of the border talks. the Tibetan spiritual leader. with General Ma Xiaotian. The monks had. Dai Bingguo. Scholars and religious leaders from 31 countries attended the conference held from November 27 to 30.

According to offi. led the Chinese military del. the Western media reUntil recently.India and China have been cooperatASEAN summit in Hanoi.perception will persist on large areas of keep their economies running. For some sides inadvertently crossIndian officials.tries – especially regarding Pakistan – a year ago on the sidelines of the last el defence and security dialogue be.Congregation 2011. MEA the two countries. As an illustration. 14 meetings have taken place main undelineated. There was also a conpled visas to citizens hailing from Jam. the high-lev.officials blame the West for hyping up Jiali. companies are very competitive and The two governments were busy are deservedly active in many key secmohan Singh met with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao at the Associ. volving an Indian naval In March this year. 35 km from Tawang. differences in tries depend on oil from the region to of the two countries on the border is.JANUARY 13. said highly placed Indian officials. They added that “effective mechanisms are in place” to prevent untoward incidents happening on the LAC.preparing a “Working Mechanism for tors of the Indian economy.ing the West Asian region.the Line of Actual Control (LAC) re. The two countries are part of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South gotiations”.ties. Arunachal Pradesh. Officials admit that Chinese of 4. Reports appearing in the Indian media about regular border incursions were not based on facts on the ground. in by the Indian oil compather side.overblown reportage in U.Xiaotian.long-drawn-out affair.Nations. Ma Organisation (WTO) and the United press ahead with “the framework ne. There are mier Wen’s visit to India in 2005. China views both the Indian years along the LAC by ei. A leading dent Hu Jintao announced the re. which is on the political parameters and guiding principles that would provide the ing the border issue is going to be a emerging as a counterweight to the framework for the talks during Pre. Vietnam. The officials also denied that the two countries were competing for influence in the region and insisted that India was not interested in raising tensions at the behest of outside powers.media about worsening “confrontation” after the level economic dialogue. newspaper had resumption of high-level defence sections of the Indian ported that there was a interaction and the starting of a high. Indonesia.ed the unmarked borders. No such “confrontastapled visa to a senior Indian Army military patrols from both tion” took place. Large sectors of West in international affairs. The two sides had agreed egation for talks on December 9.S. surpassing issues portage on an incident in such as maritime and economic officials were insisting the South China Sea inthat bilateral relations competition. 2012 ADNAN ABIDI /REUTERS RITU RAJ KONWAR an official.“Not a single bullet has THE D ALA I LAM A at troversy of sorts regardmu and Kashmir and Arunachal been fired in the past 30 the Global Buddhist ing the contract signed Pradesh. Indian troops at a location situated at a height partner.C H I N A border. The Deputy Chief of the tional forums such as the World Trade asked their Special Representatives to Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA). Al.800 metres. they cite was the most important issue between breakthrough at this juncture. Indian sue. China has been issuing sta. China is already India’s biggest trading ON THE I N D I A . 6 2 F R O N T L I N E . Border Affairs”. However.down stories of border inleave the “disputed” water the Chinese government issued a cursions and noted that ters. has said that the border dispute lineated and it is unrealistic to expect a the so-called rivalry between the two countries. China’s top expert on India. The officials played Indian ship was told to pended defence exchanges in 2010 af.New Delhi. years now.” noted an Indi. Both counbetween the Special Representatives cials in New Delhi. ship and the Chinese naManmohan Singh and Chinese Presi. the two Prime Ministers had be on track. They pointed out that bilateral trade had grown significantly this year. Prime Minister were on a good footing. Indian officials admit that resolv. States as “disputed territories”. A file picture. Ma disputed territory until the LAC is de. aver officer serving in Kashmir. Though there are differing strateation of Southeast Asian Nations Consultation and Coordination on (ASEAN) summit in Bali. India sus.Africa (BRICS) grouping.ongoing consultations on issues affectready. At tween the two countries continues to ing on key issues in various internathat time. when the border talks gic perceptions on neighbouring counThe last round of border talks was held got postponed.This was contrary to the val authorities.

China. allies and their interests in the region. Manmohan Singh had said that it was India’s “commercial right” to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea. China is warily watching the recent Indian and American moves along its borders. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had stressed on the “indisputable sovereignty” of his country over the South China Sea and expressed the hope that foreign countries would not get involved in the dispute.S.S. the Myanmar government suspended the $3. Beijing feels that there is some amount of coordination between Washington and New Delhi on East Asia. At the 2011 ASEAN summit. Recently. in an editorial. China is helping Pakistan build new nuclear reactors.S. China is Myanmar’s biggest trading partner. The recent statement of Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd backing a trilateral military pact between his country.HWEE YOUNG HOW/POOL /VIA BLOOMBERG JANUARY 13. His administration also announced plans to station 2. 첸 . marines in Australia to assist U. we hope they will respect and support countries in the region to solve this dispute through bilateral channels.. At the Bali ASEAN summit. has huge military bases in Japan and Korea. on a visit to the region. China does not want another unfriendly country along its long borders. the U. The U. and South African President Jacob Zuma during the BRICS summit in Sanya.” the spokesman had said.’ shipping through the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca. is encouraging India to follow a more aggressive “Look East” policy. The Western media are talking about a “new great game” unfold- ing in the region. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had earlier described both India and China as potential rivals who challenged American interests in the region. The message sent by Malabar 2007.S. Around the same time. India and Japan are to hold a trilateral summit in Washington soon. Australia. The People’s Daily recently warned India about “the price to be paid for taking what America offers”.6-billion China-funded Myitsone dam project. The sudden thaw in the relations between the military-dominated government and Washington has made Beijing’s antennae go up.S. “For countries outside the region. and India is indicative of the new contours of alliances that are emerging in the region.S. 2012 (FR OM L E F T ) PR I ME Minister Manmohan Singh. the joint military exercise involving the navies of the U. The area is claimed by both Vietnam and China. was “a Pacific power and was here to stay”.S. Australia also announced that it had removed the ban on exporting uranium to India. accused India and Vietnam “of reckless attempts in confronting China”. Before he reached Bali for the summit. the U. has not been lost on China. China feels threatened by the heightened level of activity in the South China Sea and around its borders. was busy assuring allies such as the Philippines that her country supported their territorial claims in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Chinese President Hu Jintao. Interestingly. should not treat the South China Sea as “an American lake”. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The Barack Obama administration in the U. China feels further threatened by the fast pace of the events unfolding in Myanmar.S. on April 14.S. led the chorus against the emerging China threat. The U. China had objected to the deal. The U. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Australia until now had insisted on India signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) before it could sell uranium for the latter’s nuclear reactors. The Chinese Communist Party newspaper. nuclear deal. Defence Department’s report to the Congress in August notes that China “would face great difficulty” if threats arose to the U.. Indian officials deny that China had presented a diplomatic “demarche” that oil exploration in the South China Sea be stopped. India. China may be viewing India’s foray into the South China Sea as part of the Western stratagem to needle it. President Obama had loudly declared in Canberra (Australia) that F R O N T L I N E 6 3 the U. The group is emerging as a counterweight to the West in international affairs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.S. U. U. Its fears have a basis.S.S.S.S. but there are signs that the relationship is fraying a bit. Chinese commentators have been saying that the U.500 U. India is being increasingly viewed as a de facto ally of the West after the signing of the India-U. Singapore and Japan in the Bay of Bengal.S. ny ONGC-Videsh and Vietnam to explore jointly two blocks off the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

originating in the highlands of central Kalimantan and flowing west into the South China Sea. but not brackish.Travel JANUARY 13. The entire Indonesian portion of the Borneo island is referred to as Kalimantan in Indonesia). Could it be that the Kapuas holds brackish water. Its delta is a tangle of tributaries. the Kapuas seems to support few human settlements. 2012 Gloriously wild Canoeing down the Kapuas river in the deep jungles of Indonesian Borneo. TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY SUDHA MAHALINGAM Even as your eyes take in chlorophyll that comes in a range of shades and shapes.143 km. 6 4 F R O N T L I N E . It tastes different. no ancient ruins. THE Kapuas may not be as well known as the Cauvery river. At 1. and spreads over several kilometres. your ears are tuned to the irresistible cacophony that rules the rainforest. the Kapuas. This is the first part of a two-part article. Series I N TE LUK M E LAN O village. No flourishing civilisations have ever been found on its banks. It either pours or drips and you are perpetually drenched to the bone. and not even such modern townships that one finds in almost every corner of the earth. Indonesia. is the longest and biggest river on the island of Borneo. which can support little more than mangroves? I bend over the side of my tiny boat and scoop up a handful of water to taste it. where the speedboat ride to the Kubang hill begins. at least in this part of Indonesian Borneo called Kalimantan Barat (or West Kalimantan. no archaeological finds to challenge historians. Unlike the Cauvery or the myriad other great rivers that flow through our planet. but is as wide and impressive. each as wide as the parent river itself.

JANUARY 13. 2012 F R O N T L I N E 6 5 .

We have to be hauled over a floating log and virtually pick our way through floating platforms. There is hardly any land here on the banks of the river. We stop over in one such village.JANUARY 13. You know there is a village only by a rudimentary jetty with logs bobbing up and down next to a floating platform made of bamboo and thatch. They do not even have regular transport to go to towns down the riv6 6 F R O N T L I N E . Every 10 miles or so. And. Even these villages are recessed and away from the river and have no more than a dozen houses. Fishing is the sole sustenance of these villages. an occasional village perched on stilts fleets past. 2012 Our motorised canoe splices the tranquil water like an arrow and speeds merrily. Now I know why there are not many settlements in this part of Kalimantan. riding the crest like a graceful swan. creating nary a ripple. there is absolutely no traffic on this river. all thatched and floating on water. Huts are perched on floating and shifting land. of course.

JANUARY 13, 2012

A K A LI M A N T A N VI LLA G E

by the Kapuas.

Huts stand on stilts.

There
is hardly any land on the banks
of the river.

A FLOA TI N G VI LLAG E .

F R O N T L I N E

6 7

the Borneo rainforest
from the top of the Kubang hill.

A VIEW OF

The vegetation overhead is so low that in many places you have to crouch on the floor of the canoe to avoid getting tangled in the creepers and branches. That means they are self-sustaining enough to remain isolated. Lush mangroves of a unique variety. a West Kalimantan town perched right on the Equator. wave a cheery welcome. If ever there is something called bliss. Canoeing in the creeks of the Bornean jungles is an experience of a lifetime. We are on our way back from the Kubang hill. We realise we are in the true wilderness. only an occasional one like ours which would give them a ride. To get to the Kubang hill. taken a seven-hour ferry to Ketapong along the shores of the South China Sea. occasionally rent by the helicopter-like sound of a hovering hornbill in search of its dinner or the strident calls of gibbons feuding over territory. The creek is narrow – not more than eight feet wide in most places with sticky red residue floating along the edges. They form a continuous canopy overhead all along the way. the only sound being that of your outboard motor. you need to first drive to a village called Teluk Melano and from there hire two speedboats – each can take no more than three. The setting is tranquil to the point of being surreal. splattered by a setting sun carelessly dripping resplendent ochre across the firmament. and we are five. persistent and hardy traveller. .JANUARY 13. two seniors and a middleaged woman. where we had been. Cool winds caress your face and transport you into another world – sublime and primordial. this must be it. dense with primordial jungles. The two young boys who paddle our canoe avoid making any sound so that we do not scare away game. The Kubang hill is somewhere in the deep jungles of Indonesian Borneo. Ours is a motley group of two teenagers. The reflections offer a kaleidoscope of unique designs that no graphic designer can hope to reproduce. er. (Below) The nest of the orang-utan. The horizon is a perfect arc. the only hill for miles around in this flat plateau. with the fronds waving a ceremonial welcome and the expansive horizon receding further as you move towards it. The first couple of hours are a peaceful sail 7 0 F R O N T L I N E through the Kapuas. and made it our pit stop to explore the wilderness around the region. reached only by the determined. There is deafening silence all around. all from India. 2012 A COLONY OF proboscis monkeys frolicking on the Kubang hill. That skies like this still exist gives you an exhilarating sensation. primarily to spot wild orang-utans and proboscis monkeys. At some point you take a right turn into a mangrove creek where you transfer to two paddle canoes. We had flown from Jakarta to Pontianak. suggesting the presence of oil. some with fronds like tropical palms and others laden with fruits that look like mangoes but are inedible. driven a couple of hours in a sports utility vehicle to Sukhadana at the mouth of the Kapuas.

as they say. There is kneedeep water throughout. not even water. Occasionally a branch swings violently. Just follow your nose. Ali. We perch on fallen logs sprouting iridescent woodchips to savour our lunch. And then begins our ordeal. Easier said than done though. After about two hours of paddling. Each of us has two sticks to help us navigate this treacherous stretch through pristine jungle.JANUARY 13. Butterflies in psychedelic colF R O N T L I N E 7 1 ours provide a fetching distraction. The bank is all clay. tells us how the previous year a crocodile had swallowed a local villager. one of the paddlers. We deftly avoid the snake-laden branch to paddle deeper and deeper into the jungle. Even the tree trunks seem to take on a fierce demeanour like the forest in Noddy books. we reach the Kubang hill camp. We paddle gently and very slowly looking for movement on the banks. A rotting log felled by a tropical storm blocks our passage. left behind by the rains of the supposedly dry season. It still lacks a roof. especially if you choose to come to Kalimantan. Monster roots of mangroves jut out of the water in scary shapes. That is when we realise how courageous the two village lads have been. We have to reach the top of the hill where there are massive durian trees bursting with fruit. 2012 P A DDL IN G T H R O UG H A mangrove-canopied creek off Teluk Melano. The Kalimantan forest department has put up this shelter but has not completed it yet. points to snakes dangling from the branches overhead. at Kubang hill. It is most basic with absolutely no amenities. they appear double since the placid waters reflect them faithfully. testifying to the presence of a primate perhaps. The overhanging branches have all but blocked out any sunlight. rolling up their trousers and plunging into the waters. But more often than not. We have to heave ourselves up the slope to reach this partial shelter. Dar had been resourceful enough to pick up rice and vegetable stew wrapped in the local Bahasa newspapers. We had to take off our shoes and wade barefoot and almost at . it is slippery and there are no steps or even a ladder. a halfbuilt shelter on one bank of the creek. We can see only their pinkish underbelly. The setting is straight out of a ghost movie. you do not know what you are stepping on. The two boys climb down into the knee-deep water and heave it away from our path. Dar. but we can hardly see anything through the dense foliage. at Sukhadana. our guide. Not that spotting durian takes any effort. your olfactory nerves sense their presence long before you spot them. Often it could be a tree-stump that cuts your toes or tries to throw you off balance. but here. Earlier in the day. No one minds getting wet. you are the target of scores of leeches that latch themselves on to every part of your anatomy.

is a violently shaking branch and a few durian peels. You pluck all those you notice. There is nary a dry spot throughout this trek. a true feast for the senses. the latter entertain us with their mesmerising courtship dance. Mudskippers are amphibians that use their pectoral fin on land and are quite at ease swimming in and out of slush. Our hotel in Sukhadana is a traditional Kalimantan structure perched on stilts and jutting out into the sea. every three metres or so. Even as your eyes take in chlorophyll that comes in a range of shades and shapes. your ears are tuned to the irresistible cacophony that rules the rainforest. we have a riot of proboscis monkeys darting from branch to branch. Almost every other tree seems to sport an orangutan nest – a leafy pile that the primates make every night to lie on. gibbons and macaques. We dine by moonlight on a wooden deck that overlooks the sea. venomous insects or plain thorny shrubs that could lacerate your feet. Finally.첸 . Strange bird calls resound at sunset while insects set up their own orchestra. But leeches were the lesser of our problems on the Kubang hill. Dar stops and points to a fruiting durian tree. 2012 fronds like tropical palms. Once we reach the Kapuas river. vanishes. but we cannot sight the beast. after all this effort. we would stop to pick out leeches from between our toes or from various parts of our feet and legs. the low tide leaves behind sea snakes and scores of mud skippers. Sometimes they manage to leap and settle on the neck or hand. We spot quite a few gibbons. The trees in the jungle are so tall that you can hardly see the canopy unless you crane your neck. The hotel is surrounded by green expanse on three sides and an inscrutable grey sea on the fourth. spiky and mushy. Despite tiptoeing to the spot.Travel L U SH M A N G R O V E S W I T H JANUARY 13. It either pours or drips. the big ape seems to have sensed our presence and with one swing of the branch. So we reluctantly hop on to our canoes and paddle our way back through the same vine-festooned creek with its weird and varied flora and fauna. especially because their bites are quite painless? Only the bloody clothes reveal how you have been outwitted by a mere leech that has had its fill and left its mark. on the ground. this forest is gloriously wild. in an effort to catch the last of their supper before nightfall. But orang-utan or no orang-utan. All we are left with. The tree in the wild grows to a height of over 30 metres and its fruit is the favourite of orang-utans. Its walls are decorated with colourful and intricate rush mats woven by villagers in isolated hamlets. Soon it is time for us to turn back since the forest shelter 7 2 F R O N T L I N E is not yet ready and there is no way of camping in this waterlogged jungle. and you are perpetually drenched to the bone. We could be stepping on snakes. Many a time you step on a pile of metre-deep sodden leaves with insects lurking underneath. but what about all those you did not. In the morning. But all you can see on top is a hairy blur and a fleeting flash of fur which Dar says is an orang-utan.

have. economic development cannot be merely technological progress or the increase in things though both these may be necessary. the two becoming two sides of the same coin. Nadkarni. 2012 Morals and progress The author applies Gandhian principles in his collection of essays to show why ethics should become the basis for economic development. which means ‘to exist’. To be meaningful and lasting. From this perspective. pages 262. as Nadkarni points out. much more than increases in income or even provision for individual advancement is required. to achieve the fullness of their capabilities. Oxford University Press. Nadkarni applies these Gandhian principles to indicate why ethics should become the basis for economic development. But Nadkarni goes a step further. but is very much an ordered line of reasoning and inquiry leading to propositions that can be generalised. he will act in accordance with truth. It is in this sense that truth is F R O N T L I N E 7 3 the essence of being and of ethics. But since life consists of relationships. his treatment of Gandhi’s position deserves special attention. Truth is also the basis of knowledge. Even those who are not familiar with ethics as a field of inquiry will know that it is related to how one orders one’s life. Ethics as a field of inquiry. had pointed out that for Socrates and Aristotle as well as for Kautilya the basic ethical question was. B Y C . will deal not only with specific issues such as economic development and environment.V. equity and justice”. well acquainted with both Western and Indian philosophy. T .” It is this commitment to truth that made every aspect of Gandhi’s life “an experiment with truth”. This is not the only reason for the significance of M. Apart from Amartya Sen’s On Ethics and Economics (1987) there is not any that comes to mind immediately. There has to . For this to become a reality. The connection between truth as the principle for living and as the foundation for ethics can be seen from its Sanskrit equivalent satya. Gandhi would have endorsed Amartya Sen’s view that development must aim at enabling all people. Satya led Gandhi to ahimsa as its practical or applied principle. writing on ethics and economics. but also with broader ones such as humanism and religion. or human development in the broadest sense. In this sense ahimsa was complementary to truth. it will have to be the development of people. but represented the positive virtues of kindness. Because of this intimate link between truth and ahimsa. He takes the position that both in the Indian concept of dharma and in the Western approach to ethics as moral philosophy. Nadkarni’s book. Truth and non-violence were the guiding principles of Gandhi’s life and hence the essential principles of his ethics. Nadkarni prefers to call ethics a social science which may not have the kind of precision that physical sciences claim to B IN REVIEW Ethics for Our Times: Essays in Gandhian Perspective by M. Nadkarni the economist is a philosopher too. “How should one live?” That is a broad enough question indeed and hence. Books on ethics by economists are still rarer. Says the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse: “If a man has learned to see and know what really is. honesty. It is in this sense that Bertrand Russell considered it a science.books JANUARY 13. ethics is much more than a guide to good conduct.V. self-control. Nadkarni is more rooted in Indian philosophy. for Gandhi there was also an organic unity between ends and means. simplicity. He practised these twin principles in his personal life and put them forward as the basis for social life. K U R I E N OOKS on ethics are rare to come by. compassion and care. Rs. is the quest for determining what is virtuous. 2011.650. which is derived from the verb sat. As the Gandhian perspective informs Nadkarni’s essays. including (and especially) the weak and the differently abled. Ahimsa for him was not merely abjuring violence. he points out. Ethics as moral truth is inclusive of “nonviolence. Writing from a Gandhian perspective. Sen.

common or universal from the diversity of particulars. courtesy. forgiveness and equanimity. Understandably research in general. this emphasis on wholeness can be traced back to the Gita. or the humans upstream whose dwellings will have to be uprooted? Another dilemma that Nadkarni poses is that we who claim to have a rich cultural heritage which is ecofriendly do not seem to have any hesitation in polluting our rivers. That is Nadkarni’s position and he finds support both from Gandhi and the Bhagwad Gita. If the basic aspect of ethical concerns is the transcendence of narrow self-interest and taking the interest of others also into account. or do they have rights of their own just as humans have their rights? To Nadkarni. Sen’s emphasis is on nyaya. it is chiefly justice because justice is the basis of collective life. The reach of one’s caring for others in thought and Commitment to truth made every aspect of Gandhi’s life “an experiment with truth”. but there is hardly any historical evidence to prove that this would become effective either through individual decisions (though there are some noble exceptions) or on the basis of public appeals alone. And even though there are no clear specific measures to avoid future catastrophes. Nadkarni pays special 7 4 F R O N T L I N E attention to the philosophers Immanuel Kant and John Rawls. knowledge that synthesises. Nadkarni moves to its application in social science research. says Nadkarni. While Nadkarni emphasises this. One of the essays in the collection is a discourse on justice. Sen admittedly builds on Rawls’ emphasis on rights. and in callously piling up garbage in public places in urban areas. of course. for in its absence the very process of development would become distorted with the few becoming acquisitive and the many being left untouched or even being pushed into adverse conditions. ‘Narrowing down’ the scope of inquiry is a standard procedure in research. or realisable justice. Therein lies the value of this collection of essays. 2012 be a collective effort. but is that the only reason to respect nature and animals.” In fact. Indicating that while ethics includes compassion. Gandhi on moral grounds urged those with excess resources to treat these as trust being held for the common good. that is the ethical question and his answer is clearly in the affirmative. and social science research in particular. That is why justice has received the attention of philosophers of the East as well as the West. He emphasises the need for a ‘holistic approach’ in social science research.JANUARY 13. for instance? Should it favour nature as was shown in the decision regarding the Silent Valley. There are bound to be situations where decision-making will become difficult if this approach is taken seriously. Meaningful research is totalising in essence. conceptual as well as practical. What must be one’s approach to forests. are dependent on nature and animals for their survival and well-being. and sees how different parts relate to each other is the highest form of knowledge. But there is a more basic question: is the only or even the most important reason to take nature seriously the fact that it is becoming limitational? We have the cultural tradition of referring to the earth as “Mother Earth”. including the ones considered to be sacred. Nadkarni deals with other issues also. tolerance. admits Nadkarni. which views the object of knowledge holistically. 첸 . It is being recognised that in the process of economic development special consideration will have to be given to the environment. there have been several rounds of discussions and negotiations to move forward with caution. To show that the concern for ethics is not confined to some higher realm removed from the ordinary pursuits of life. but as a guide to thought and action for all who take life seriously. again to benefit human beings? In such instances. A moral order or dharma is necessary to sustain society. generosity. or absolute standard of justice. Is this just a matter of reverence or is there a robust ethical basis for the respectful treatment of nature? To pose the question more sharply: human beings. thus demonstrating that ethics must be considered not as the exclusive domain of philosophers and savants. taking off from Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice. the ethical question is not merely nature versus humans but who among the humans must have priority: the urban dwellers who will have assured water supply. or is it acceptable to divert their course. As a background to a critical appraisal of Sen’s position. Nadkarni finds the sense of duty a more reliable guide for action as duties are more directly enforceable than rights. But Nadkarni points out that unless one keeps the larger domain in mind. or is it legitimate to destroy a part of nature for the sake of human welfare? Should rivers be let to take their course. inquiry into restricted aspects will tend to get distorted. he does not go into the necessary collective conditions. Nadkarni quotes Tagore: “When we see the wholeness of a thing from afar that is true seeing: in the near view trivial details engage the mind and prevent us from seeing the whole. is on specific topics. but Nadkarni brings into the discourse the traditional Indian concern for duty. for our powers are limited. action becomes the measuring rod of one’s moral standing. and finds what is unifying. Sen would not accept this position especially if it is raised to the status of niti. According to the Gita. That indiscriminate use of natural resources can lead to depletion and damage is now widely accepted as a matter of global concern. these ‘others’ must include the animal kingdom and nature as well. especially Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the Bhagwad Gita about the importance of doing one’s duty irrespective of the consequences.

serious scholars. enthusiastic Orientalists. written in 10 days while on a ship on his return from England to South Africa. Lecky. Wilson and their ilk. If they did not quite trigger a dialogue. He was also happy that some competent Europeans. pages 182. S U R E N D R A R A O HE colonial experience of India has been. and did so censoriously. or of European scholarship on it. was missing in Indian civilisation. They formed the basis of the imperial theme of the white man’s burden of civilising Indians. Since his History received official recognition at the Haileybury College and he himself got an influential position in the East India Company. There were curious explorers. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya. The British conquered India as much and as often with words as with swords. Comte. It was in the fitness of things that F R O N T L I N E 7 5 the earliest graduates from Indian universities should respond to the British reproaches against Indian civilisation. Charles Wilkins. Rs. Mill’s History of British India (1817) had imperiously evaluated the Indian T IN REVIEW Talking Back: The Idea of Civilization in the Indian Nationalist Discourse by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya. He was no blind admirer of ancient Indian civilisation. Bankim’s early writings tended to excoriate Brahminism for this backwardness. They had much to say about the land and the people that came under their rule. both Hindu and Muslim. Bankim found that a drive for material betterment. Bhandarkar indeed did so. his judgments seemed to out-shout the findings and views of romantic Orientalists or even the occasionally sympathetic administrator-historians such as Mounstuart Elphinstone and Sir Alfred Lyall. traces the patterns and rhythms of the Indian response. particularly lessons in modern science and nationalism. excitingly or sometimes sickeningly wordy. Though history had but a feeble presence among the welter of interests of Mahatma Gandhi. his iconic little book Hind Swaraj (1909). Oxford University Press. he believed that “without a reform of our social institution real political advance is impossible”. critical missionaries.books/review JANUARY 13. but as part of it. While he was intensely patriotic. however. among other things. he did not find ancient Indian civilisation an ideal inspiration. but thereafter. both sentimental and intellectual.495.G. swaggering dilettantes and a whole lot of people who wanted to make sense of India. Bhandarkar was an assiduous Indologist who admired the Rankean ideal of critical scholarship. India. For the best part of the 19th century they had the rostrum all for themselves and had their monologue going. although his later writings contained several tomes on religion and philosophy. has much to say on the theme of civilisa- . Reflecting the reformist mood of 19th century India. to tell them what they had been before and what they would be under their rule. declaring that Indians were merely crawling pathetically at the lowest rung. to the accompaniment of stirring nationalism. 2011. which propelled Europe to the pursuit of rationalism and the cultivation of the natural sciences. There was both Indomania and Indophobia. who hoped to order the British administration differently. But the initial British evaluation of Indian civilisation was polyphonic.H. Indians began to “talk back”. and the latter by missionaries who hoped their gospel would exorcise the primitive cults and religions of India. civilisation. “the apostles of a higher and progressive civilisation… had come out to rouse the mind and conscience of India…” The mood. 2012 Response & riposte The Indian discourse on civilisation was not produced as a parallel to the discourse of nationhood. the former represented by Orientalists such as Sir William Jones. did not last long. in this brilliant exploratory book. B Y B . which produced a good harvest. as also the ‘philosophical historian’ James Mill. or familiarity with. he was sure India had many things to borrow from the West. Herbert Spencer and others. H. Bankimchandra Chatterjee and R. Mill’s inferences were impudent and he did not seem to have any serious knowledge of. they could at least produce an alternative discourse that increasingly grew more assured as Indian nationalism gathered strength. Influenced by the writings of Buckle.

Ranade and V. it had also produced stasis and degeneration. It had accommodated many facts and hopes. which have sought to see nations as civilisations. Indian civilisation was often shown to possess a strong adhesive in Hindu culture. India is now shown as possessing her own historical sense and literature by Romila Thapar. communalism and purblind traditionalism that stalked the country were too great for him to retain faith in the syncretism to which he was so fondly attached earlier. Yet 7 6 F R O N T L I N E syncretism remained a refrain in many of the reflective histories written on India after Independence. as D. which sociologists like G. History for him was not a mirror of Narcissus but a school of learning.D. much more tortuous. as if to mask the harsher realities outside the Ahmedabad Fort Jail in which he wrote the book. The Indian discourse on civilisation was not produced as a parallel to the discourse of nationhood. In the nationalist perspective. Mujeeb. on the other hand. For. A. for “mutability is the law of life”.S. but as part of it. Sardar K. The Mahatma owes his debt to Western thinkers like Ruskin. carrying the debt of Nehru’s Discovery. reaching its reduction absurdum in Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations. India’s nationhood was also similarly argued out as a response to its denials. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya also looks at the critical evaluation of European master narratives by Dipesh Chakrabarty and the India-centred thinking that has gone into it in the writings of Ashish Nandy and Amartya Sen. Sanjay Subrahmanyam and others. Rabindranath Tagore’s engagement with the theme was. Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) highlighted the hegemonic Euro-centrism stalking the world of knowledge and it has triggered a whole lot of debate in the post-colonial contexts and thinking. whose immutability had become an anachronism.JANUARY 13.G. figuring such scholars as Ernest Gellner. and if Indians needed to learn from the West. mere reflective spirituality could be a recipe for retreat. It was a striking riposte to the familiar colonial prose. what Indians needed was “nerves of steel”. nuanced and tension-ridden. He takes notice of the burgeoning literature on nationalism. acquisitive Western civilisation for trampling the rest of the world under its heels. I believe I have outgrown that teaching”. SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL But mostly the association of Indian civilisation with spirituality seemed mulishly insistent. though at a more abstract level. who interpreted India to the West in nationalist idioms. by Abul Kalam Azad. which could be slippery in the context of nationalist activism. Once dismissed as a history-less culture. the West too had much to learn from the East. 2012 tion. and Sabyasachi Bhattacharya reminds us of the “archival movement” in Maharashtra with which the names of M. as may be seen in Radha Kumud Mookerji’s The Fundamental Unity of India (1914) or even Vincent Smith’s Oxford History of India (1919). however. 첸 . but after 1902 increasingly came to contrast the aggrandising propensity of the state-centred civilisation of Europe with the assimilative genius of India.D. and he became increasingly sceptical of the role of religion. Talking Back brilliantly brings out the complex terrain in which history speaks while making it. though neither was impressed with the idea of the assimilative chemistry of its civilisation. which seemed to orchestrate the familiar idea of unity in diversity with occasional poetic exuberance.K. Abid Hussain and others. M. S. Ghurye and Nirmal Kumar Bose preferred. There were also scholarly responses to the phenomenon of diversity in the nationalist context. Their real test lies not in their ‘truth value’ but in the dynamic forces they released. sought to strike a balance between the spiritual and the material. He was critical of the nationalist adulation of India’s past. David Schulman.M. His famous critique of nationalism (1917) that it reeked of power and conquest was made against the backdrop of the First World War. The forces of casteism. sought to set apart the timeless glory of Hinduism from the intrusive diversities that beset the country. particularly of the caste system. They all go into the making of the nation. V. Civilisation does not suo moto describe itself. in terms of its material basis. The most well-known nationalist portrait of Indian civilisation appeared in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India (1946). He was aware that if the caste system had given the civilisation its continuity. as it were. Rajwade are associated. Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm. or on synchronic lines. Thoreau. and highlighted the difference between the East and the West without conceding the inferiority of the former. depriving the civilisation of its precious exclusivity – a wrong screaming out for redress. developed the same idea. But he was aware of its setbacks. naïveté and wish-fulfilments. His ideas of India’s syncretism underwent changes in the last phase of his life. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya also follows the trails of evaluation of civilisation in India after Independence. The nationalist discourse of Indian civilisation was thus a response-discourse. Aurobindo. Tolstoy. He declared that “India has never had a real sense of nationalism” and though brought up on the teaching that “idolatry of Nation is almost better than reverence for God and humanity. it does so only when it is inspired or provoked by an evaluation from outside. Warder. Swami Vivekananda. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya rightly thinks that here the Mahatma was using the West as a metaphor for the culture of materialism. of the conquerors. Schlegel and others and yet indulges in “gross simplification of a complex European culture”. a revolutionary who turned a philosopher-sage. He would much rather define civilisation in moral terms. Indian civilisation is projected as its antonym. Savarkar’s notion of Hindutva. Written in the form of a dialogue.K. Panikkar. it berates the materialistic. as also of the work of Akshay Kumar Maitreya in Bengal. he began with history as hero worship. Kosambi had done. Melding history with patriotism.

insofar as we are able to approach universality and systems. no. Atlanta. public speaker. has challenged racial inequities as a community organiser. Georgia. Zinn writes: “I did not see how I could teach about liberty and democracy in the classroom and remain silent about their absence outside the classroom. in which he gives his readers the experience of the key moments in his- . the writer and activist Alice Walker was his student here and spoke highly of Zinn’s classroom lectures. women. a compilation of his shorter writings and lectures. and speak to powers so as to make a difference.” His passionate stand against racial discrimination brought him close to Martin Luther King and spurred him to initiate the Student H IN REVIEW Howard Zinn on Race. an important dissident voice in America for half a century and one of the most prominent anti-racist essayists. Standing up against the institutional and structural racism that pervades American society.95. insofar as this universality does violence to the life of individuals whose singularity always remains invincible. $14. to the question “Does history have meaning?”. had drawn attention to history from below. a dismissal that became the impelling force behind his unshakable pursuit of fundamental humanitarian principles and firm commitment to equality. the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur’s ambiguous answer would be quite valid: “Yes. B Y S H E L L E Y W A L I A OWARD ZINN. from the lecture room to the political rally”. protested and brought democracy alive. from the office to the jail. Incidentally. which always remained relevant to the outside world and the demands of freedom and equality by Southern blacks soaked in a bloody history. and writer. expressed her admiration for Zinn: “What can I say that will in any way convey the love. 2012 Black and white A posthumous compilation of Howard Zinn’s writings that challenge the ingrained opinions on racial matters. in GI barracks and trailer camps. New York. Asians. in the streets and on the farms. thus. Alice Walker. Having begun his career as the Chairperson of the History Department in Spelman College. and especially black people. Seven Stories Press. It being the oldest college for black girls. Harking back to the Russian civil war. he came to an early understanding of upheavals in history seen in revolutionary movements which had behind them as impetus not leaders but people who forced upon the state the imperative of justice and responsibility. women and blacks and native Americans given their due. respect. it has been because ‘unimportant’ people spoke up. in his famous book A People’s History of the United States.” He was pained to see around him no justice and no reason except the air filled with “blood and bullets exploding around the heads of sleeping children”. and admiration I feel for this unassuming hero who was my teacher and mentor. tells a different story.” An activist throughout. pages 239. Arabs. Whenever injustices have been remedied.” The subaltern. educators and activists. in factories and offices. can speak. Therefore. gays. Zinn’s early views of the problem are framed within a location deeply volatile in its racial discriminatory culture.books/review JANUARY 13. he “moved smoothly from the library to the street. indigenous people. who also left the college later. wars halted. He was dismissed from the college after seven years for ‘insubordination’. Jews. Latinos.” In this singularity lie the voices of struggle of the marginalised in America which is mostly absent from history books. Zinn. Zinn remembers Tolstoy’s words: “To make the individual sacred we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. a history where no one is a bystander but a participant: “History looked at under the surface. It is this absence that is given place in Zinn’s recent book. lesbians. Movement Coordinating Committee (SMCC).” Professor Cornel West writes in the introduction to the book under review thus: “Zinn looked at history and soF R O N T L I N E 7 7 ciety through the lens of those Frantz Fanon called the wretched of the earth – poor and working people.

I saw in newspapers and magazines the photos of the rich. Once you begin to look. To my question whether he could elaborate on his becoming class-conscious at an early stage in life. draconian practices. and to achieve this. saw how hard my father 7 8 F R O N T L I N E worked. self-centred individualism of the West with a disproportionate focus on individual autonomy. for explanation other than race. at little pay I realised that most of the people on the planet work hard. Zinn had replied. though posthumous.JANUARY 13. Zinn emphasises that white Americans themselves must be at the vanguard of the policy shifts essential to remedy the nation’s racial discrimination in crime. they suddenly become visible. In a post-racial society. without becoming prosperous. has been more or less a rhetoric that obliterates the right of the people to alter or abolish anti-racist. how hard my mother worked. you offend your heavenly Master. “I grew up in a working class family. in many ways. UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS The concept of universal human rights has been criticised by some who argue that these rights reflect the anti-communitarian. unsettling as they challenge the ingrained opinions on race matters. On the other hand. and I could not tell whether they did any work or not. Zinn uses an advertisement which appeared in a ‘Runaway Slave Newspaper’ in 1835 to show how a reward of $100 for Harriet Jacobs’ apprehension was one of the many such announcements intended for the perpetuation of slavery and blatantly opposed to the idea of freedom that the American leadership was so proud of. there should be no person without adequate health care. driving out the myth of racial transcendence in post-Obama America. race-bound problems require race-conscious remedies. slaves could not be prevented from composing their own religious songs of resistance implying their disagreement with the sermon: “If you disobey your earthly master. as disease began to lose its eeriness with the discovery of bacteria. Provocatively and engagingly put. The collection draws our attention to the major movements from the periphery that are not just imbued with words but raise vital issues concerning racism and class conflict. The pervasiveness of racism even when a black occupies the White House has a subconscious effect on Americans that can only be altered by forcing the issue into the open. Zinn would like individuals to be treated fairly. indeed makes a heartfelt plea for true equality. It can instead be posited that communities can exist in modern Western societies which protect not only the civil and political rights but the whole spectrum of individual human rights. the puzzle of race loses itself in whatever puzzle there is to human behaviour in general. with very little compensation. One way out of this impasse can nudge us towards a more accommodating liberalism which cuts down a little on the universalism aspect and gives concessions for the recognition of cultural groups. long hours. It cannot be denied that people and institutions mete out treatment to individuals according to their colour though he realises that “once the superficiality of the physical is penetrated and seen for what it is. and when I found out what kind of work some of them did it seemed to me dangerous for society.” The essays in this collection are interesting although. Zinn sends out a clear admonishment of his country’s rulers: “Men who have no respect for human life or for freedom or justice have taken over this beautiful country of ours. He maintains that social justice can be achieved only through fairness and not through the principle of colour blindness. wealth. which he describes as “socialism that uses resources for human needs of production based on need rather than on profit. in human clash. At the heart of his writings is his ideology of “democratic socialism”. education and more. life. In spite of the constant dread of the lash. although the specific problem of identifying each bacterial group remained.” HISTORY OF SLAVERY Examining the history of slavery. it becomes clear that the Declaration of Independence made on July 4. a roughly equal distribution of the country’s wealth. Zinn takes up in this hard-hitting work the bitterness of the contemporary debate over racially charged issues and racial justice and the general nature and implications of liberalism in a nation which faces the worrying prob- lem of intolerance. liberty and happiness. 2012 tory when “some of the bravest and most effective political acts were the sounds of the human voice itself”. 1776. The compilation of his writings. It will be up to the American people to take it back. and even where they remain out of sight. housing. Zinn’s arguments and first-hand experience compel Americans to take serious cognisance of the Declaration of Independence as well as the long tragic history of “blood and bullets” inflicted on their fellow citizens without any provocation. employment.” 첸 .” Fugitive slave author Harriet Jacobs has written on the relationship between the church and slavery and how religion was used as a tool to prevent slave rebellion. it is comforting to know that these non-racial explanations exist. And there should be no control of thought or speech. it would be important to enact colourconscious policies. with emphasis on the ongoing need for civil rights action in this century. hard work. health. upholding the notions of equality. The influence of race on life in America cannot be denied. When I went to work in the shipyard. including economic rights.” To evolve an unbiased action plan for the rights of the minorities. this paradox of universalism and cultural autonomy must be taken into account so that the politics of recognition and difference forms the basis of a critical frame that can counter any kind of cultural imperialism that fails to recognise both marginalised groups and particular identities.

Srinagar is unlike any other city. along with pictures. This is a historically and culturally rich city. The work covers the geographic and sociocultural history of Kashmir. They document and list the built and natural heritage of the historic city of Srinagar.500 years ago. There is a brief survey of history by Prof. the Director General of Tourism. man-made and natural disasters. Four zones were identified. Frederick Drew and others. The two volumes are more than a feast for the eyes. settlement pattern and city life. It is Ince’s Kashmir Handbook: A Guide for Visitors by Joshua Duke. 1808. A former civil servant. 첸 . colonial and vernacular architectural traditions of the region along with various building typologies. The project began with Romi Khosla’s report: Identification of Architectural Heritage Zone in Srinagar City in 1989.C. The properties listed in the book have been mapped on a heritage map for 130 sq km of the historic city of Srinagar and its colonial extensions.D. It presents in rich authentic detail the mapping of the architectural and cultural assets of the city of Srinagar.500 years ago. an essay by Hakeem Sameer Hamdani on Srinagar. They promote thought.books/in brief JANUARY 13. Rs. A small work published in 1888 ranks as a collector’s prize. a description of the rich and varied architectural styles. Its history dates back at least to the 3rd century B. public. Hangloo.3. G . The book also includes tables on major socio-cultural events of the city. Volumes 1 and 2. NISSAR AHMAD INFORMATIVE INTRODUCTION Srinagar city from the Hari Parbat Fort built in A. N O O R A N I N a sense India has been more alienated from Kashmir than Kashmir has been from India. J&K Chapter. It was a rewrite of Dr Ince’s book and deserves to be reprinted. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. A VIE W O F Volume I has an informative introduction by M. the evolution of Srinagar city. R. These two excellently produced I BOOK FACTS Shehar-i-Kashmir: Cultural Resource Mapping of Srinagar City (2004-05). The methodology is described clearly. Saleem Beg. residential. and the architectural and historical description. Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in the work. who had served as Civil Surgeon in Gilgit and Srinagar. The results of this prodigious labour F R O N T L I N E 7 9 are these most informative and excellently illustrated volumes. civic. No such work exists on any other city of the entire subcontinent. Convener. and residential neighbourhoods associated with different arts and crafts of Kashmir. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).500 for the set. followed by the meticulous cultural resource mapping spread over both volumes. Saleem Beg and his colleagues wisely associated the United Nations Educational. Time has not served it well. the moving spirit behind this project. 2012 Srinagar’s grandeur The two volumes document the built and natural heritage of the historic city of Srinagar. During the Raj there were some superb books on Kashmir’s beauty by men like Cecil Earl Tyndale-Biscoe. natural and manmade sites. volumes are to be welcomed warmly. B Y A . capturing its medieval-world charm. condition assessment and grading of more than 800 listed properties and precincts with photographs of religious. it is the repository of varied influences. It is a treat visiting historic sites in his company listening to his comments on their significance. Arthur Neve. the decorative and architectural elements that define Kashmiri architecture. which was founded over 1. the monumental. But then. including the historic Mughal gardens. pages 888. The process was started in 2004. which was founded by King Pravarasena II over 1.L. he is steeped in the State’s cultural history. J & K Chapter.

“I thought: you know what. only an hour ago. “because it was impossible to explain. and so cancer’s historian became its biographer. though. Mukherjee’s impression of reluctant ownership of his own success is. little old me? Wow!” so much as “So what time is it here anyway?” In fact. he conveys that precise blend of exhaustion. and staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Centre. physicians. until we met it had seemed scarcely possible that the author of The Emperor of All Maladies (Scribner. of course. distraction and authority instantly recognisable from any hospital ward in the world. pages 592) could really be an actual doctor and not a writer. you’re in a very narrow pinhole” – an individual’s story – “and then in something much larger.books/interview JANUARY 13. At first I put it down to jet lag. How do you fit all these moving parts together? You can’t explain that in a book proposal. Yet when Siddhartha Mukherjee talks about his book. euphoria and despair.” Mukherjee explains. thus presenting the publishing world with quite a category challenge. which is small. and you go back and forth. it lives in the connections in the shifts between scale. why hasn’t this book been written before?’” Some were worried cancer would scare readers off. each wild lurch owing more to socio-economic fashion than to anything resembling solid science. on to the surgical butchery of 19th-century mastectomies. The Emperor of All Maladies has won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. no. so exquisitely is his book crafted and paced. the sort of success that soars beyond the wildest heights of literary ambition into the stratosphere of fantasy. Either publishers said: ‘’No one’s going to read about cancer’ – or they said: ‘My God. because if . the disease quickly began to assume the characteristics of a personality. I suspect. Then I think. which swung between indifference. performed with no anaesthetic or penicillin but reckless confidence. “Their response was very bipolar. The man I met just hours before he was awarded the Guardian First Book award on December 1 has just stepped off a flight from New York. and named one of the Top 10 Books of the Year by The New York Times. and his bearing does not say “What. it is with a striking air of uninterested detachment. Mukherjee decided to write a history of cancer when a terminally ill patient asked him a simple question: could he explain exactly “what it is I’m battling?” But as Mukherjee immersed himself in research. himself – whose humanity and fallibility elevate what might have been a dry medical textbook into a thriller. I’m just going to write the book. This should come as no surprise.” After 250 pages. Published a year ago. very two-sided. he has re- I ached the glaze of autopilot. through medieval theories of black bile and bloodletting. I realise that is not it either. Soon. the poor man must just be so accustomed by now to the carousel of plaudits and prizes and media demands. he showed it to publishers. And yet. be8 0 F R O N T L I N E fore reaching the rollercoaster of 20thcentury medical politics. so it was really like writing a jigsaw puzzle. been shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle award. who won the Guardian First Book award for “The Emperor of All Maladies”. B Y D E C C A A I T K E N H E A D T is the convention of awardsceremony etiquette for the winner to perform a convincing impression of bashful disbelief. and then the backdrop.” So the doctor had another idea. Time magazine and Oprah Winfrey.500 BC. politicians and. How do you explain that there’ll be a thread of memoir in it. Mukherjee brings every new medical plot twist alive by populating the pages with a vivid cast – patients. which is much. 2012 Biographer of cancer In conversation with Siddhartha Mukherjee. down to a profound sense of personal insignificance in the face of his subject’s enormity. for he is a senior oncologist – assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University. “I couldn’t write a book proposal. at times. however. “To me that was the wrong response. New York. much larger? One of the things about the book is that the scale shifts very dramatically. The book lives in its seams. He takes us from the earliest records of cancer in 2.

he wanted to write an intelligent examination of a complex and highly technical subject.” he writes. What a great gift that would be” – draws a wry smile from Mukherjee. because they did all these things that would have been impermissible today. “So I invented rules. “it is often because it impinges on an anxiety latent within that imagination. This kind of rhetoric also swept away the cobweb of nihilism that had so deeply surrounded cancer. the focus of research has moved on to hereditary causes. he suspects. Until then.” He is similarly ambivalent about the impact of Nixon’s war on cancer on research methods and funding. “casts cancer in its own image. so that you feel it’s a discovery? It was very important to me to write this book not as an expert. and yet accessible enough for a total novice to find it readable.” He read everyone from Susan Sontag to Primo Levi and Mary Shelley. Because writing anything as an expert is really poisonous to the writing process. But Mukherjee knew next to nothing about the discipline of writing. The “war on cancer” declared by U. “so I’d write after thinking for five hours. because you lose the quality of discovery.” One of its most arresting observations was inspired by a conversation between Mukherjee and a friend many years earlier “about the nature of interior and exterior”. In fact.” Mukherjee himself belongs to an altogether different era – less flamboyantly anarchic. was supposed to represent a victory. scientists had been largely free to pursue their own theories. more cautiously measured. absolutely. “When a disease insinuates itself so potently into the imagination of an era. teach himself to write so beautifully? “I think the cardinal rule of learning to write is learning to read first. and Mukherjee’s respect for those earlier pioneers is palpable throughout his book. a convert to the populist campaign of pressure conducted by a socialite lobbyist called Mary Lasker.” The professionalisation and specialisation of medical training today has come at the cost of inspired idiosyncrasy.” I confess that when I first heard about the book. it struck me as a marketing stroke of commercial genius – for what reader exists in the world who is unaffected by cancer? “Yes. “But it’s not a feelgood memoir. “Absolutely not.” If the book has one pre-eminent message. which returned to him as he was working on the book. Nixon’s war had no place for the colourful.” The United States in the 1970s was haunted by Cold War fears of the enemy within – and so the “big bomb” was replaced by “the big C”. snatched from scrag ends of his working day.” it suddenly struck him. constitutionally ungovernF R O N T L I N E 8 1 DEBORAH FEINGOLD/AP JANUARY 13. I learned to write by learning to read. then that’s all the more reason to talk about it. demanding different treatment. It’s not your plucky. feelgood cancer memoir.” A silver bullet that could cure all forms is a fallacy. So every time I felt I knew something particularly well I tried to unlearn it. Does a part of him wish he had been born earlier. We have to stop talking about cancer.” But how did a literary novice. it became responsible for propagating the scientifically baseless delusion that government money could cure cancer as easily as it had landed men on the moon. “But the book was also a conversation going on in my head. into the early 20thcentury generation working in the wild west of research? “Yes. The National Cancer Institute was literally called the wild west of cancer. Other central themes are more nuanced. Born to middle-class Indi- . but wrote the book in 15-minute bursts. and a story we all know superficially – how can one write that as if it’s a discovery. Mukherjee argues. and then the search for cancer-causing viruses became oncology’s new obsession.” able and haphazardly qualified experimentalists who had dominated the field of cancer research until then. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) overshadowed the following decade.” he quickly adds.” Mukherjee concedes. “Every era. such as you won’t go through two chapters without meeting a real human character.” Instead. “We have lost something. but many diseases. he argues. The simplistic hubris of Lasker’s slogan – “Let’s find a cure for America for its 200th birthday. Now that we are obsessed with genetics. and learn new things. “But was it all useless hubris?” he reflects. “ I T was very important to me to write this book not as an expert. however outlandish – but the war on cancer would now be won by bureaucrats demanding goal-orientated research defined by strict parameters. for example – which is so abstract. with a full-time job and a young family. Because writing anything as an expert is really poisonous to the writing process. because every cancer is a different disease. How does one write the history of the epidemiology of cigarette smoking. 2012 S I D D HA R THA M UKHE R J E E .S. President Richard Nixon in 1971. it is simple: “Cancer is not one disease. and think about cancers.people are scared.

I must have done something to myself. it’s riveting and smart. “But history suggests to us that we have to be sceptics here. and I’d have given the prize to Amy – it’s an amazing book. such as lymphomas.” Mukherjee could scarcely be less like the medical zealots he writes about in the early years of cancer research. In a spiritual sense. really cure cancer? “I think it does a nasty disservice to patients. “my wife [the artist Sarah Sze] and I are both in the credits. because women think I must be to blame for something. give up smoking. your immune system gets depressed. I think Amy’s in my credits too. whereas women without cancer did not. It’s very successful. It tells you how biased recollection is – but also how stigmatised the idea is. I think it’s nasty.” And yet we – particularly women – have been encouraged to blame ourselves for cancer. who come across as frankly raving egomaniacs. give up smoking. a positive attitude may help you get through chemotherapy and surgery and radiation and what have you. he mentions. he looks surprised.” he shrugs. But others – for example breast cancer – have very little to do with the immune system. and it’s contemporary without being like a schtick. So we 8 2 F R O N T L I N E typically indulge in inductive rather than deductive reasoning. the Thanksgiving weekend – and that grounds you. give up smoking. “Maybe there are miracle substances out there that change the behaviour of particular cancers. Mukherjee cites a study which found that women with breast cancer recalled eating a high-fat diet. “Now? None. I’ve often been told that oncologists smoke more than anyone else – but when I ask how many of his colleagues smoke. There’s a role of the immune system in cancer. “I’ve tried to take it in my stride.” What does he make of that other popular claim – that people have cured themselves of cancer with a diet of fruit juice and wheatgrass? “More power to them. There’s no evidence that stress gives you breast cancer. Many cancers are chronic remitting relapsing diseases – that’s their very nature.” When people ask Mukherjee to name the five things they should do to prevent cancer.” But is it true? “No. a transformative book. for example. he tells them: “Give up smoking. The question that elicits by far his most unqualified response concerns the other books on the Guardian prize shortlist. and you want to go and tell her that the reason you’re not getting better is because you’re not thinking positively? Put yourself in that woman’s position and think what it feels like to be told your attitude is to blame for why you’re not getting better. But not now. and we say to ourselves. I loved it. But I don’t think it’s true. But the problem with pattern recognition in this context is that it can become flawed. but it’s not as simple as people make out. It’s the secret of our success. even today. I cannot help asking for a ruling on some of the questions most of us wonder about today. It used to be true. Some cancers are more affected by it.books/interview an parents in New Delhi in 1970. But a positive mental attitude does not cure cancer – any more than a negative mental attitude causes cancer. “In other words. Can a positive mental attitude. and all of a sudden you get cancer. I think it’s not true. chuckling. “I read many of them. If it was so simple then it would have been solved a long time ago. “I don’t think so. and the diet of those who JANUARY 13. How many times has there been a book prize in which two shortlisted books have actually been critiqued and edited by other shortlisted authors?” The self-effacement makes me wonder how he has coped with his transformation from a jobbing oncologist to an international literary star. Still. and it grounds you in a way that’s essential.” Like most of us.” “A positive mental attitude does not cure cancer – any more than a negative attitude causes cancer. it’s very well documented. But the very same study had asked both sets of women about their diets long before any of them developed cancer. “And the research grounds you because of the uncertainty – 99 per cent of what we do in the laboratory is going to fail. but ultimately rather unknowable – but his aversion to medical dogma is clear.” A lot of my friends worry that stress is going to give them cancer.” 첸 © Guardian News & Media 2011 . Zero. we recognise patterns. 2012 now had breast cancer had been no more fatty than the rest. You might have a chronic remitting relapsing cancer and imagine it’s remitting because you’re drinking apple juice. He has that impenetrable sheen of the Ivy League star – effortlessly sophisticated and erudite.” he adds diplomatically. if the sun rose in the east for the last 365 days it must rise in the east tomorrow. So you deal with failure in a very fundamental way. And I was on call last weekend. A woman with breast cancer already has her plate full. give up smoking.” In fact. and fell almost by accident into oncology while at Harvard. reaching for his coffee. How does he explain their claims? “We know there are spontaneous remissions in cancer. All of a sudden you come into hospital. I don’t think it’s true. And human beings are pattern-recognising apes. I think you’re having a chronic remitting relapsing cancer – and that’s the nature of your cancer. It’s not true. he studied at Stanford before winning a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford. So we induce patterns. Amy Waldman is a very good friend. It’s not as if you get stressed. women with breast cancer recalled – I suspect in an attempt to essentially blame themselves – having diets high in fat.” he says. we have an unbelievably inductive imagination.

K. Neither of the two happened. Sir. associations and. as the opposition may also do. obviously under the harebrained belief that it would either be barely noticed because of Parliament’s preoccupation with the 2G spectrum scam and the Lokpal Bill. unlike 2011. If one takes the old man to be the . Parliament was stalled for days on end. a time of expectation and anticipation about the new year and what it may bring. I am a gentleman in a dustcoat trying. Either result. to back-track and agree to defer the decision on FDI in retail. and is being read in the early days of 2012. 2012 Looking back In the new year let there be more transparency in decision-making and discussions. It conforms uncannily with a fine poem written by the American poet John Crowe Ransom. Your ears are soft and small And listen to an old man not at all. They may be events that begin in the new year or the planning for events that may begin in the years to come. They want the young men’s whispering and sighing. one is not really talking about those but about the host of other decisions taken by individuals. and then we kiss. so the clever cuts thought. for example. could have been taken at another time that would have allowed for some consequent action. these are just instances of public decisions that have proved to be hopelessly ill-timed. and only rarely look back at past decisions to identify mistakes or successes and use them to make present decisions more practical and valuable. in the end. L. the 2G spectrum scam’s ambit spread to the Union Home Minister. I am a lady young in beauty waiting Until my truelove comes. which had more than its fair share of crises. Such a decision. if anything. possibly. But what grey man among the vines is this Whose words are dry and faint as in a dream? Back from my trellis. One should not. It would have also gone down – these decisions are known far more quickly now than they were a generation ago – to the level of the farmers and one would have been able to gauge their reaction to it. Too often we go ahead with the here and now. groups. would give the government some breathing time. governments. The trouble with the BJP is that it seems to think elections are imminent and has already started jockeying for positions in a government it fancies it will form. Nor did the hammering the government received on the Lokpal Bill or the 2G spectrum scam ease. which I must reproduce to make the point: I am a gentleman in a dustcoat trying To make you hear. or that it would divert attention from T Point of View BHASKAR GHOSE these issues. pleasant or unpleasant. the most pleasant part of the year. of course. someone was being too clever by half when he/she counselled that the decision be taken when Parliament was in session.Column JANUARY 13. HIS essay is being written in the last days of 2011. the experiences of previous years have a bearing on events in a new year. For I must have my lovely lady soon. of any year. even if it was only in the stock market. entirely within the remit of the government. That makes it. Perhaps in the new year the government will learn to be wiser in timing its decisions. But the sense of anticipation should not make us forget what happened in the past year or in the years before that. and the government had. F R O N T L I N E 8 3 However. forget the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s mindlessness in taking a decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail when Parliament was in session. Advani’s yatra achieved nothing except the fanning of speculation on who the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was going to be. Instead. before I scream! I am a lady young in beauty waiting. corporates. a year that had more than its fair share of crises and traumas. But see the roses on your trellis dying And hear the spectral singing of the moon.

to decide that others. needs to be a major factor. And thus what the past is trying to tell the present is not really heard – that the present too will wither like the “roses on the trellis dying” and become what he. can have grave consequences. is too often forgotten in the magic of the present. and so on. we will make the new year a more open. at the level of the state and individually in one’s personal life. And quite often this indifference to what has gone before. particularly the immediate past. and says with truth. free and less oppressive one than it might otherwise be. The UPA government decided to allow FDI in multi-brand retail when Parliament was in session. the experiences of the last year. It is. If nothing else. any demand to know the facts. 8 4 F R O N T L I N E leads to a general conviction that secrecy is a cloak for thievery. TR A D E R S PR O T E S T IN G A GA I N S T past year. equally it is not in some. But what is security? What is it that makes it possible for some people. We tend. in many cases. What one is trying to underscore is that in major policy decisions. are not supposed to know? It The CWG and 2G spectrum scams revealed how imperative transparency is in all public decisions. particularly in administrative matters. and the young woman to be the new one. If we can do that in all walks of life. The words of the old man are “dry and faint” as indeed are. Let us not make the mistakes we made in the past and then have the media burrow into files and records and drag out the real state of affairs. the relevance is apt. and it is left with such comic excuses as “drafting errors” and someone “forgetting” something. then let people know that without the ludicrous excuse of security. technology and plain bribery are effective enough. Which is why one makes this plea: for goodness’ sake. who may be academically third class or mediocre second class at best. who are far more intelligent than them. to many in high places. the Commonwealth Games and 2G spectrum scams revealed how imperative transparency is in all public decisions. as is loudly claimed. to use the bogey of security to quell any questioning. is. 2012 FDI in Lucknow on December 1. the poet says. for making money. Everyone except a complete fool knows that those we consider as having interests inimical to ours know all there is to know about us. the consciousness of the past. The arch of time. 첸 . That only makes the state look silly. just before. The only ones who are kept in the dark are the people. and yet many decisions will be taken under a shroud of secrecy in the new year. If it is not.Column SUBIR ROY JANUARY 13. the old man. let there be more transparency in our decision-making and discussions.

a watercolour and a drawing in crayon. the scene in which Zorba is holding on to a window. The luminous power of his absolute colours gives an almost mythical power to his pictures. Koelnsperger of Munich records: “You have the impression that his pictures are breathing. he has had no formal education in art. he established that sensitive artists. In 1972. LI KE most painters. conducted evening classes for aspiring artists and also prepared those who wanted to join the institute for regular courses. In fact.) Clearly. Like most painters Achuthan began his artistic journey with figurative works. one of his favourite authors.Art JANUARY 13. The Chennai-based Achuthan has been active on the national art scene for the past 30 years and has emerged as an internationally reputed abstractionist. Panikkar and Sultan Ali were selecting paintings of members of the Madras Arts Club to be exhibited in the annual show conducted by the British Council. When he read Zorba the Greek. He would often think of the pictorial possibilities of what he read. That was his first show. Achuthan is one of those artists who get their teeth into the idiom they handle through sheer intuition. appeared on a Tamil television show and talked on the Mullaperiyar dam issue a few weeks ago. which incidentally brought modern art closer to readers unfamiliar with the idiom. with their concern for the external world and people. is one of those artists who get their teeth into their idiom through sheer intuition. He did many illustrations for magazines and book covers. F R O N T L I N E PHOTOGRAPHS: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT He has an important place in the development of an abstract idiom in India though he had no formal education in art except for the evening classes he attended at the Government College of Fine Arts in Chennai. Anveshanam and Sameeksha. B Y T H E O D O R E B A S K A R A N WHEN the artist Achuthan Kudallur. Two works of Achuthan were chosen.C. which seem to come from inside. including line drawings. that they can be recognised like pulsars from a faraway colourful yet always systematic world nearby. and we here very clearly see the relationship with the term ‘cosmos’ as medieval philosophers used it. including line drawings. he began his artistic journey with figurative works. K. which functioned until 1980. his short stories appeared in Malayalam magazines such as Kalakaumudi.S. can play a critical role in society. digging his nails into the sill and looking at the hills beyond and then just dropping dead made a big impact on Achuthan. He won8 5 . 2012 Achuthan’s journey Achuthan Kudallur. The art historian Ernst W. It was a time when he was nursing a desire to be a writer in Malayalam. the reputed abstractionist. along with the poet Manushyaputhiran. ACHUTHA N KUD ALLUR . Kudallur definitely is one of the few international artists who have retained in their pictures the colourful vivacity of the ‘cosmos’ – and ‘cosmos’ being the Greek word for ‘gem’ in the sense of diversity. by Nikos Kazantzakis.” Except for the evening classes Achuthan attended at the Government College of Fine Arts in Madras (now Chennai). (The Madras Art Club.

he got bored with figurative work. some of his paintings were reminiscent of certain aspects of nature. Vasudevan Nair’s anthology of short stories titled The Demon Seed and Other Writings. such as the bark of a tree or a rocky surface. For him. However. The English version of Asokamithran’s famed novel The Eighteenth Parallel had Achuthan’s drawing on the cover. Gaitonde and S. It has been used on the cover of the English translation of M. he exhibited a few figurative paintings but the others were abstract works through which his mature art began appearing. he points out that abstraction is a natural extension of figurative work. Now he confidently states that his kind of abstraction does not try to report nature and that it has an autonomous existence of its own. In the collection of the Airports Authority of India. He found it difficult to get rid of this likeness at first. He found painting a figure or two and then balancing the background as the space demanded monotonous. to show the rest of the world. Achuthan’s drawings illustrated stories by Paul Zachariah and Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. but was able to achieve that in time. Gita Hudson. . But Achuthan did produce many works that captured the spirit of the subject. 2012 6 0 ” X 120” acrylic on canvas.JANUARY 13. but he could not think of ways to bring out visually the emotional dimensions of the scene. When he moved to abstraction from figurative paintings. Even his figurative works are not from nature. now in the collection of Neville Tully. it is not a mutilated version of nature but something that comes from within. Many modern artists have experienced this sense of slippage between word and feeling. During this figurative phase. I recall the cover drawing titled “Dark Interiors” he did for a government report on job opportunities for visually handicapped people. Raza. Achuthan has an important place in the development of an abstract idiom in India. a Chennai-based artist and film-maker. Viswanathan. particularly red. The general sense of ferment that prevailed in the south in those years in art and literature facilitated this transition on the part of Achuthan. Adimoolam and V.S. India Today (Malayalam) carried drawings of well-known artists to illustrate short stories. one colour dominates. For him it was uncharted territory. Mumbai International Airport. One such memorable work is an oil painting titled “The Song for the Dead”. through the works of Achuthan.M. This realisation pushed him away from the world of figures and towards abstraction. COLOUR DOMINATES In the first one-man show he held. dered whether he could capture that moment on canvas. In each of his paintings. K. When abstractionism blossomed in the Madras Art Movement in the 1970s. in colour. where more challenges awaited him in terms of colour and space. During this early phase. critics did not notice it much as the vocabulary to deal with abstract art did not exist in Madras at that time. made a 35-minute documentary on Achuthan titled Red Symphony. He would describe them as expressionistic. he produced some disturbing images of alienation and fear. he was not clear about the possibilities. He termed it objectspace paradigm and found that it was becoming formulaic. along with V. This was a turning point in his artistic career. colour was his primary concern. in 1977 at the Max Mueller Bhavan in Chennai. Achuthan was one of the early painters.H. But in a few years. particularly in the 1970s. When he moved from figurative to 8 6 F R O N T L I N E abstract work.T.

"Y ELLO W 2". 8 7 . watch films and go to concerts – made him give up promotions and stay on in the city. There has always been a streak of abstraction in Indian painting. Electricity came to the village only in 1960. Then a regular job in the Public Works Department of the Tamil Nadu government came his way. he has "H O M A G E TO HUS A I N " . He got a diploma in civil engineering and moved to Chennai in 1964. and he cites examples from Ajanta and the Sittannavasal frescos. the family could not afford to send him to college. 24” F R O N T L I N E x 24” oil on canvas. Achuthan continued his inner search. not far from the seafront. Although rather taciturn. and some of his pictures were exhibited on school day. Assured of a regular income. The opportunities Chennai offered – to be in touch with artists. Achuthan points out that it is not correct to say that abstraction was brought in from the West. Achuthan grew up in a village where the rivers Bharathapuzha and Kunthipuzha meet. not in thematic content but in the placing of shapes and in breaking the picture plane. Achuthan started drawing. I have had many interesting conversations with Achuthan. He has remained single not by default. While in school. Critics outside India were surprised by these paintings and the modernism and contemporariness that they represented. Born in 1945 in Kudallur in Palakkad district in Kerala where his father was a schoolteacher. He could not finish that course and joined the Railways where he worked for nine months. 48” x 48” acrylic on canvas. he is fascinating when he gets talking. 2012 that there was indeed a vibrant abstract school in India.JANUARY 13. He says he sees an element of abstraction controlling these murals. The erosion created by the river had caused losses to the family property. Sitting on the terrace of his Neelankarai house. Achuthan realised that it would be a dead-end career and so joined evening classes to get an AMIE (Associate Member of the Institution of Engineers) certificate. But there was a lot of light owing to the vast expanse of sky over the river. Although he secured the first rank in the school.

He says: “Most of them [marriages] exist on the anxiety of tomorrow. 2012 "BLUE AB S TR ACT". untitled. We have two musical traditions – Hindustani and Carnatic – that are very abstract.” Achuthan responds intensely to literature. 2012. 48” x 48” acrylic on canvas. in India and other countries.” He often discusses music in the context of abstract painting. 4 6 ” X 33” acrylic on canvas. the last being in Kochi in 2010.Art JANUARY 13. After nearly 10 years. you are not the same person. Awards have come his way: the Tamil Nadu Lalit Kala Akademi award in 1982. He can talk comfortably about contemporary Tamil and Malayalam writers in addition to his English favourites. It is not literature. He is familiar with the works of masters. Achuthan 8 8 F R O N T L I N E 24” oil on canvas. and he maintains his stature as an internationally respected abstract artist. Artists handle colour in an abstract work the same way musicians handle sound. he was deeply engaged with the subject of suicide. But one reading of Albert Camus’ Rebel changed his life. “Such a film creates a new awareness in you of life and the world. he points out. 24” X course at the Pune Film Institute has honed his perception of cinema. It is a great experience to watch films with him and discuss them later. prolific and fecund. His works are sold at Sotheby’s and Christie’s (both in London). His participation in the Film Appreciation "G R E E N ". We enjoy this music not so much for the lyrics as for the patterns of the sound created. in India and abroad. 첸 .” he says. Since his first show in Chennai in 1977. well-thought-out reasons for the life he has chosen. music and films. I am not against that kind of life but I could not fit into that routine. Chennai. Now he believes that what is important is the intensity of life. from January 5 to 15. he has held 23 one-man exhibitions all over the country. At one stage in his life. This is in addition to the several group exhibitions he has participated in. “After seeing a great film. will hold a one-man show at the Vinnyasa Premier Art Gallery. but music that he would compare with abstract art. the National Academy Award in 1988 and nomination as a commissioner for the 10th Indian International Triennial in 2001.

G . Then to spare as nearly 40. which began in 1946. like that so many. He asked the leaders to. Malabar Police. was directed against the Nizam’s government. A good part of it was locked up in Kashmir. Here. Basavapunniah and C. nearly 50. work together.. F R O N T L I N E THE HINDU ARCHIVES “Stalin also cautioned the CPI leaders that the Nehru government was not a puppet government. he is giving a talk on "My visit to Russia" in the weekly BBC Marathi magazine programme "Radio Jhankar". So they concentrated their best and did their worst. Ten thousand people were put as detenus for three-four years.N. Rajeswara Rao. like Central Reserve Police. General J. Series This is the last part of a three-part article. Indian Army was not more than one and a half lakh or two lakhs in those days. as I said earlier. it intervened with very big armed forces. military and the other armed forces.000 were employed for three full years to suppress the movement. N O O R A N I OF all the Communist leaders interviewed in the Oral History Programme of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library in New Delhi. who intervened there on 8 9 . S . Chaudhuri. Special Police. nearly a lakh of people were put in concentration camps for months on end. save the party and take it forward. HE thousands of women were raped. A.History JANUARY 13. D AN G E . B Y A . The armed struggle in Telangana. Nehru & CPI split Stalin upbraided CPI leaders for not supporting the Congress on the Quit India Movement.” Dr Hari Dev Sharma asked: “By the military?” Basavapunniah replied: “Of course. M.” was a member of the Communist delegation that met Stalin in Moscow.” He added: “Particularly after September 1948 when the Government of India intervened. 2012 Of Quit India. Other part had to remain somewhere stationary. But “from September 1948 onwards it was regular armed invasion.000 armed forces at one spot was not a small thing. Makineni Basavapunniah was the most outspoken. Either the special armed police or the Malabar Police or the army.. The others in the delegation were Ajoy Ghosh. It was not a police action.000-50. The entire modern military technique was used against us. It had a social base and mass support and could not be overthrown easily.

” The Communist Party of India unit in Andhra disagreed with the leadership. Director of the Intelligence Bureau. this struggle went on till they found that they could not function in a united way. Dange’s recorded Interview ends abruptly before the crises of the 1940s. the full import of which I failed to catch at that moment. They also used to say all these things…. pamphleteer and a supple tactician. “The Andhra document was submitted in the month of May 1948. 1048. It was entitled Dange Unmasked (for a detailed analysis of the texts of the documents. By March 1950 the whole cycle was complete and the line that was adopted at Calcutta was proved wrong and we were asked to take the responsibility of the Central Committee leadership.” On March 16. Shripat Amrit Dange.… So.P. Cook Col. a brilliant pamphleteer. we have Basavapunniah’s account of the Moscow meeting. some of them were party members also. 1924 Endorsement No. a brilliant orator. Prisons 13070 Dated 1-8-1924. What they found was set out in a pamphlet published by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) after the split later in the year. took hardly half a dozen days to manage the army of the Nizam and the Razakars. a Bombay [now Mumbai] tabloid. They had their own ideology. Superintendent of Jail. “Right from the beginning. which was arranged to avert a split. Sajjad Zaheer. Then came the question of going and meeting Stalin. Forwarded in original to I. During the course of the conversation the Honourable officer let drop a hint in the following words. I beg to inform Your Excellency that those years are unnecessary. was having a conversation with me. On March 7. It said: “Exactly one year back. Sd/. there was an inner party discussion going on. perhaps its most able – “he is personally. a mere . Dr Z. ‘You hold an exceptionally influential position in certain circles here and abroad. I should be glad to do so.P. edited by D. The whole of the year 1949. Dange was a fascinating character. published a letter from Dange to the Governor-General of India dated July 28. if I am given the opportunity by Your Excellency granting my prayer for release. Ahmed. dated 31-7-1924. Ashraf.P. He was a fascinating character. Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant.F. Such kind of articles were written.’ I think I still hold that position. I.M. After that the main direction was against the Communist Party which was leading the struggle. Government would be glad if this position would be of some use to them. If Your Excellency is pleased to think that I should use that position for the good of Your Excellency’s government and the country. Roy and an anticipated visit to me of certain persons from abroad.N. That phase came towards the end of 1938. P.M. Then they decided to remove us and we also found that it was difficult to convince a good chunk of them. 9 0 F R O N T L I N E Mr Stewart said. Like his colleagues. etc. from Sitapur jail in the United Provinces (U. some of our writings [aid] that Congress Socialism was contradictory in words and would pave way to fascism. Current. S. Because in the earlier period. Rather it has been enhanced by the prosecution. The Politburo was keeping its discussions confined to it till the month of November 1948. “I am given the punishment of four years’ rigorous imprisonment in order that those years may bring a salutary change in my attitude towards the King Emperor’s sovereignty in India. for disposal. [Soli] Batliwala were all big Congress leaders.) where he was serving a four-year sentence in the Kanpur Conspiracy Case.A. from 1934 itself. Ramamurthi went to the National Archives in New Delhi and again on March 17 and 19. Seal of I. Mr Stewart.” DANGE’S ROLE Sadly. I beg to remain. We had to function more and more independently than through the Congress Socialist party. 1924. this conflict had been there. Basavapunniah and P. In the earlier articles. The [Congress] Socialist Party leadership also attacked [saying] that the communists were responsible for fascism coming in Germany by not having a united front. orator and a supple tactician. So it was only in the month of November and December 1948 that this reached all the State units. as I have never been positively disloyal towards His Majesty in my writings or speeches nor do I intend to be so in future. 2012 behalf of the Government of India.” He explained why he developed reservations over the Ranadive thesis adopted by the Second Party Congress at Calcutta in February 1948. Similarly. He was known to be close to the mill owner Sir David Sassoon.G.S. Sundarayya also dilated on the alliance with the Congress Socialist Party in the 1930s and how the Kerala. Written this day 28th July. “Hoping this respectful undertaking will satisfy and move Your Excellency to grant my prayer and awaiting anxiously a reply. Gandhian ideology also influenced [sic] that the communists were anti-national. and then working out all the lines. in his office regarding my relations with M. Andhra and Madras units of the CSP went over to the CPI. [Inspector General] of prisons U. Karaka. Dr K. including comments by the formidable Lt Col Cecil Kaye. They were all pro [communists]. Experience in Telangana flew against the thesis. 1964.G. Conflict was inherent in the alliance.W. the Deputy Commissioner of Police of Bombay.A. they were all leftists and were in the Congress Socialist Party.JANUARY 13.

then. But he intervened subtly to turn the discussion beyond dogmatic disputes to assessments of the existing situation and immediate tactical tasks. “Four leaders.A. What he said of the fa. One of the in. pages 160-174). only with the armed revolution in our country would Communist Party of Great Britain.The strategy of the CPI should. It was on the third day that it was announced that Comrade Stalin would attend. gone down in the history of the party as Dr Alexander I. The two remained close. Head of the the ‘Three Ps’ document…. The contact with Moscow.A. Basavapunniah. Rajeswara Rao and M.” Express that the CPI’s deand the China path line cision to keep out of the Quit India [the Andhra thesis] on its insistence Movement was “tragic” (October 15. that Indian conditions differed in the 1982). Traveller and the Road: The Journey of Stalin upbraided the CPI leaders for an Indian Communist. held the interests of BritHe found in the archives ish imperialism.. has also not said anything. S. The first meeting was attended from the Soviet side by Comrades [Mikhail Andreyevich] Suslov. with Rajani Palme Dutt and actions in the countryside with workHarry Pollit. One question arises. taking into account the existing civil liberties. which had caught the Central leadership. 2012 RAJEEV BHATT worm” – vide the writer’s article Stalin. S. It lay at the this line had been challenged by an very heart of India. Survey (London) ported the Emergency. Rajeswara Rao and those of the ‘Indian path’ led by Comrade Ajoy Ghosh had set up their own centres and the CPI was on the verge of a split.JANUARY 13. They had proSignificantly. later Soviet writers duced a joint document which had also criticised the CPI’s 1942 decision. who attended to all the technical details of planning the journey. Both left the CPI. thereterviewers said that they had no direct fore. Sadly. ing class insurrections in the urban who instructed the switch in 1942? areas. Quit India Movement when they mentioned that their stand had cost them M O H I T S E N ’ S A C C O U N T dear. 1950s from both Russia and China. the verge of a split. The CPI leaderinformality itself. But it would not be . “Is this your Yenan?” he asked with “At that time. Mohit Sen sup“Dange Letters”. be that of the Indian path. Rupa & Co. He adthat armed revolution “I was to have the mired Tilak. This was an updated version of Basavapunniah’s interview men. understanding and back it. STALIN’S VIEW ON NEHRU GOVERNMENT “Stalin’s view also was that India was not an independent country but ruled indirectly by British colonialists. Dange. International Relations “This document Research Department shared the viewpoint that and Institute of Oriental India had not won indeStudies. two from each centre. Nikhil Chakravartty. “Why didn’t you support it? Do Mohit Sen wrote: “I was to have the you think we won the war because of privilege of carrying the ‘China path’ the 100 rifles you sent us?” Stalin was document to China. Dange sat on the ship hoped and expected that the leadarmrest of his chair when Stalin pored ership of the CPC would endorse this over the map of India he had sent for. But Mohit Sen’s memoir is of abSpring 1979. Was it Palme Dutt. Years later I sought an interview sorbing interest. It was on the verge of annihilation.ceive the review it deserved (A mous meeting with Stalin rang true. Its mass organisations were shattered and the party itself almost totally disintegrated. ‘China path’ document vance.V. I did not know that unconcealed contempt. not supporting the Congress on the 2003). H E wrote: dom struggle. C. be a combination of peasant guerrilla that is. Nehru government upwas an erudite scholar.ship headed by Ajoy Ghosh. Like Dange..what S. Ghate. a letter from Bal Gangadlandlords and those sechar Tilak to the Russian tions of the bourgeoisie Consulate in Bombay in that collaborated with 1905 outlining his plans imperialism. privilege of carrying the was the only path of adOn a visit to Bombay. Lenin publishAndhra thesis and the thesis of the ed in 1920. Academy of Scipendence and that the ences USSR in Moscow. What followed the important section of the CPI leadermeetings is well recorded but not com. He also agreed that the Communists could eventually advance only by heading an armed revolution. So he did for the subsequent days. The first task was to save the party itself and to reforge its ties with the masses. were brought to Moscow. They travelled. None of them divulged any details of how they were contacted and what their exact itinerary was. It was averted by “The other point of difference of F R O N T L I N E 9 1 ‘the three Ps’ document was its realistic appraisal of the actual situation of the CPI. [Georgy] Malenkov and [Vyacheslav Mikhailovich] Molotov. “The proponents of the ‘Chinese path’ led by Comrade C. Chicherov. pletely in a single volume. incognito as manual workers on a Soviet ship from Calcutta. Dange and Rajeswara Rao said that he was an attentive listener though he rarely sat at the table but kept pacing up and down smoking a pipe.. Dange had advocated dections the disagreement between the ades ago in Gandhi vs. it did not rewith Dange. The docufor intensifying the freement also held the view M O H I T S EN . Rajeswara Rao have both told me about the meeting with the leaders of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union]. It was then that the Soviet Communists intervened. “S. Dange and S. It differed from Chicherov told Indian both the Ranadive line to China. They were Comrades Ajoy Ghosh.A. The party was on attention of Lenin himself.. Dange and C.A.

Maharashtra.A. in fact. to Home Minister recently giving the names and addresses of CPI persons in Bombay and other individuals who in the opinion of Shri S. It read : “I am enclosing herewith in original a list handed over personally by Shri S. Minister of State for Home. released on Stalin’s 118th birth anniversary (December 21. work together. All his roots are in the people. Revolutionary Democracy. "[Stalin] strongly advised that the armed struggle being conducted in various areas. It had a 9 2 F R O N T L I N E social base and mass support and could not be overthrown easily. He also agreed with their appraisal of the concrete situation in which the party was placed. of the Chinese type. to P. “Stalin also cautioned the CPI leaders that the Nehru government was not a puppet government. The record has him say: “I cannot consider the government of Nehru as a puppet. 1879). SU N D A R A YYA A N D BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT A G R O UP O F Basavapunniah in the 1950s. 2012 Telangana fighters. The issue of April 2011 published documents from the papers of Rajani Palme Dutt in the archives of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Dange.” The other letter contains charges too scandalous to be reproduced." P . Datar. He strongly advised that the armed struggle being conducted in various areas. One was a letter dated November 1.K. but they did not win his respect. I would request your immediate comments and action in the matter under advice to me. 1962.BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT JANUARY 13.” He was polite to the visitors. He said that it was Comrade Rajeswara Rao who should travel to the different camps and see that the arms were surrendered. was done and Rajeswara Rao later told me that this was the most difficult task he had ever performed for the party. This would be difficult but it was he alone who could do it. His view on this point coincided with that of ‘the three Ps’. especially the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.” As it happens some interesting documents have surfaced in the pages of a journal. should be ended. He strongly advised them to make the CPI participate in the general elections” (pages 80-81). There is a stenographic record of the discussions between the two delegations on February . Home Minister. He asked the leaders to unite. from B. save the party and take it forward. Sawant. should be ended. published by Vijay Singh.A. His interpreter and the diplomat Nikolai Adyrkhayev’s memoirs. That. Manchester. especially the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.N. still less vouched for. AUTHENTIC MATERIAL ON MOSCOW TALKS Three other issues contain authentic material on the Moscow talks from the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History translated from the Russian by Vijay Singh. reveal that later in the year Stalin scolded a delegation of the Japanese Communist Party: “In India they have wrecked the party and there is something similar with you. which are deposited in the Labour Archive and Library. Dange are pro-Chinese.

Ramamurthi.’ “Four decades on.K. Basu told HT on Friday. the Indians did most of the talking on the first two days. ‘Yet. An English translation is overdue. B. This was in 1963.M. The issue of April 2010 has three letters by the CPI leaders. Gopalan. But it’s true that I had tried till the last moments to stop the imminent split. 2012 of the first Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) after the 1964 split in the Communist movement: (standing. 2005: “Marxist Patriarch Jyoti Basu had been against a split in the CPI and had urged all his comrades to keep the party united. a year before some CPI leaders left the party and formed the CPI(M). the reckless dogmatists seem to be determined to break up the party. E. Postscript: Aloke Banerjee of Hindustan Times reported from Kolkata on November 26.S. All these documents merit detailed analysis in the light of the CPI’s internal debates in 1948-51. from left) P. ‘I don’t remember having written such a letter. TH E NINE M E M B E R S 4. 1951 (September 2006. Stalin spoke at great length on February 9 (pages 186-200).’ The CPI(M)’s book also contains the minutes of a crucial meeting of the party’s working committee.T. 첸 . Sundarayya. from left) Promode Dasgupta. “Documents portraying the final days before the CPI split have been made public with the CPI(M) publishing the fourth volume of Communist Movement in Bengal: Documents and Related Facts. The issue of April 2007 published a record of the discussions with Malenkov and Suslov on February 21 (pages 126-130). ‘We must stay within the party and continue our ideological struggle against Dange’s revisionism. I was of the opinion that it would be incorrect to break the CPI and form a new party. Basu cannot remember having written such a letter. As one might expect. pages 162-200). It will not be right to split the party. Namboodiripad and Harkishan Singh Surjeet. explaining internal differences and replying to pointed questions by the hosts. The book contains a letter Basu wrote from the Dum Dum Jail on October 9. Jyoti Basu.’ F R O N T L I N E 9 3 Basu had said in the letter. Stalin underlined parts of the letters and gave his comments in the margin.” Unfortunately.BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT JANUARY 13. the book is in Bengali. titled ‘Save the party from revisionists and dogmatic extremists’. Informed that his party had published his letter. There were many differences. (sitting. Basavapunniah. But I failed. We could not stay together any longer. Ranadive and A. 6 and 9. 1963.

forcing the European Union and the United States “to address its demands”. we got the extension of Kyoto Protocol. 2012 Durban greenwash The Durban Platform postpones climate actions to 2020. unlike in the past when these were limited to the industrialised northern countries. This would have opened a Pandora’s box.. According to the spin doctors. “The decision came after the E. Solon was proved dead right at both Copenhagen (2009) and Cancun (2010). beyond which global emissions must not rise if the world is to avert irreversible climate change.. the developing countries did not forge new bonds of unity or solidarity. Pablo Solon.. The key resolution to launch “the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” to develop a new climate agreement by 2015 with legal commitments for all states. with a majority. or BAP (2007).” The spin doctors approvingly quoted Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan: “After intense negotiations.” Grenada’s ambassador said.” S Beyond the Obvious PRAFUL BIDWAI Now consider the facts. “a firm India” forced a “climate breakthrough” and “took centre stage as a force to reckon with and regained its position as the leader and moral voice of the developing world”. was forced to go into a huddle with India… and address its concerns even as the developing world. The principle of equity “found its place back on the table and life was infused into the Kyoto Protocol” beyond 2012. we die. Going by media reports. The “reiteration” finds no reflection in the conference outcome. does not even mention equity or CBDR. which the North must support. to be implemented from 2020 onwards. Whether such resentment is justi- . Such commitments seem highly unlikely given the past record and the “Great Recession”.U. Any mention of CBDR would be qualified by a statement mandating its interpretation 9 4 F R O N T L I N E based on “contemporary economic realities”. and restored equity as a central dimension of the debate. the Kyoto Protocol (effective 2005) and the Bali Action Plan. when its first phase ends. which further explicated CBDR by erecting a firewall between the North’s climate obligations and the South’s voluntary actions. South Africa. backed India on its demand for an equitable future deal. including China. China) grouping on hiding behind the rest of the (“non-emerging”) South and harping on “the right to develop”. the Kyoto Protocol did not get its second “commitment period” (CP2). We firmly reiterated the right of India and other developing countries to their growth under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities [CBDR]. They got demoralised. allying with the E. At Durban.U. UCH is the disconnect between Durban climate conference realities and the “greenwash”-style spin put on them by the Indian government and its uncritical supporters in the bubble-world of non-governmental organisations and the media that one is left speechless. At Durban. without clarity on the North’s commitments to higher ambition or equity. parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to negotiate a new global regime with binding commitments on all. The decision was postponed to the next climate conference. At Durban. especially the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the least developed countries (LDCs). This elision was no aberration.. The northern countries were emphatic that they wanted to move to an altogether different regime from the past order defined by the original 1992 climate convention. said the arrangement would turn the Kyoto Protocol into a soulless “zombie” until it is “replaced by a new agreement that will be even weaker”. including recent North-toSouth power shifts and the emergence of China and India as major drivers of global growth and among the world’s current top five greenhouse gas emitters. Bolivia’s former lead negotiator and a formidable critic of the North’s manipulative tactics. or legally effective phase beyond 2012. “While they develop. Some of them expressed their resentment at the insistence of the two-year-old BASIC (Brazil. divided and further split..Column JANUARY 13. with “emerging” India becoming their “moral voice”. India.

where India too acted deplorably. The U.S. ambitious and binding climate deal through a Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action. African climate activists have called it “a death sentence for Africa”.U. and also by strengthening G-77. The Bali process and the Working Group will be “terminated” in 2012. and the U. Since then. Second. the “might is right” norm will prevail in the UNFCCC process. We need to situate this in the history of what an extremely perceptive observer (Susan George) has called “the most important negotiations ever undertaken in the history of humankind”.. in which India’s insertion of the awkward phrase “agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention” suited the latter. The E. These produced some significant gains and many hopes until 2007. outcome possible? At the risk of being branded unrealistic. The context was duplicitously set by the E. preoccupied with evading a “legally binding” commitment in keeping with their mandate. especially in climate change adaptation. with unspeakable consequences for humankind. long splintered into subgroups. if not de facto abandonment. The U. This could have isolated northern recalcitrants and become a game-changer. above all. the text’s references to “levels of ambition” and closure of “the ambition gap”. probably overcame its long-known distaste for binding obligations for itself only because it saw the final stages of the Durban talks as the last chance to draw China into the binding obligations net.U. But that would have needed both policy independence and imaginative strategising. 2012 fied or not is beside the point. which has always been hostile to the idea of topdown obligations on the North based on science and equity and in favour of an arbitrary “pledge and review” approach in which nations make emissions-reduction promises unrelated to their contribution to climate change. So much for equity! NOT A GOOD BEGINNING Was the Durban outcome at least a good beginning. Was another.S. with setback after setback since Copenhagen and further weakening of the will of the North’s leadership. will continue. Durban’s political context belie this fanciful Panglossian interpretation. But global emissions must peak by 2020 if the world is to avert irreversible and catastrophic climate change. cynically exploited the circumstance that the South had made a second commitment period the touchstone of success at Durban and began systematically to erode the principles of equity and CBDR. and a new process will begin. I believe India could have better prepared for Durban with coalition-building focussed on the AOSIS and the LDCs. another legal instrument. painted themselves into a corner and failed to address the concerns of small. things have gone downhill. with a considerable dilution. of North-South differentiation. This only highlights the inseparable links between climate change and neoliberal economic policies and the global developmental crisis that these aggravate. way beyond the 1. including much higher emissions-reduction pledges by the South than the North. for at least three powerful reasons. now scarce here. G-77+China. Third. if not the best possible result. In this. they accepted a text which is silent on equity and the polluter pays principle. The Durban arrangements will probably raise global warming to 4° C. in particular drastic emissions reductions by the North. It will now descend to even more abysmal levels. This inverts the F R O N T L I N E 9 5 elementary ethical principle that those most responsible for climate change should take the lead and accept higher obligations than those with a marginal contribution to it. the interpretation put on it by India’s own partners in BASIC and. India failed to anticipate or quell it. pusillanimous as it is in the face of corporate power. with global warming way. the outcome prolongs at least until 2020 many grossly unjust anomalies in the post-Copenhagen climate order.U. to 2020 and beyond. hard for supporting a Kyoto CP2.S. by offering them generous need-based financial and technological assistance. which provides a road map for a fair. First. which began at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. and hence India’s voluntary offer to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 20-25 per cent by 2020 is adequately compatible with it. besides their paltriness.. The developing country bloc. However. further vitiating the negotiations and wiping out past gains for the sake of expediency and the narrow short-term self-interests of a few powerful states. So a de facto alliance emerged between the E. it was joined by the U. The loopholes in the North’s pledges. only the “highest possible mitigation efforts by all parties”. including Indians who comprise a vulnerable one-sixth of it. 첸 . as some apologists of the Indian government plead? Certainly not.5°-2° C that the earth can tolerate. or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all” does not “imply that India has to take binding commitments to reduce its emissions in absolute terms in 2020”. not just developed northern countries. The process began some time ago. better. vulnerable southern countries or to maintain BASIC’s coherence. it postpones all significant climate action. More crucially. She may read the convention’s principles into the text and pretend that it does not explicitly mention emissions cuts. Durban effectively killed BAP. also led the North’s successful attack on the BAP.S. Jayanthi Natarajan may go on claiming that the Durban Platform’s decision to negotiate “a protocol. to fight climate change sincerely by giving up its fossil-fuel addiction. with Copenhagen as its low point. when it shifted from unconditional support for a Kyoto CP2 some weeks ago to making support contingent upon an agreement at Durban to negotiate by 2015 an altogether new climate deal with binding commitments for all major economies. found itself in utter disarray. with terrible implications for the South’s poor and the North’s vulnerable people. Indian negotiators.U.JANUARY 13. It could then have pressed the E.

A large number of the poor are excluded from the public distribution system. 2012 Understanding A survey in nine States shows that they have quietly revived and expanded their NAGARA GOPAL public distribution system.Food Security JANUARY 13. The PDS tends to work better where it is more inclusive – targeting is divisive and undermines public pressure for a functional PDS. AT A SLUM 9 6 F R O N T L I N E . B Y J E A N D R È Z E A N D R E E T I K A K H E R A in Patel Nagar in Hyderabad.

the PDS now means a lot for poor people. computerisation of records. Orissa. Some. Aside from expanding coverage and lowering issue prices. not only because of the continued obsession of the Central government with “targeting” but also because of the illusion that cash transfers are an easy alternative. of course. and the reasons they gave for this were enlightening. with market prices shooting up and PDS issue prices coming down. is one of the main findings of a recent survey of the PDS in nine States: Andhra Pradesh. That. initiated by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. A sample of the survey findings is presented in this issue of Frontline. That is perhaps the biggest recent change: with market prices shooting up. the implicit value of PDS transfers is now quite substantial. like Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Jharkhand. Much depends on the political value of the PDS.JANUARY 13. It would be a tragedy if the NationF R O N T L I N E 9 7 al Food Security Act ended up undermining instead of consolidating this revival of the PDS. Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. BPL households get as much from the PDS every month as they would after a whole week of employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) – without having to work. which provides not only foodgrains but also other essential commodities such as pulses and oil. Further. Rajasthan. The health of the PDS. and State governments had to respond to the clamour for a functional PDS. many State governments have launched other PDS reforms such as de-privatisation of fair price shops. have a well-functioning universal PDS. covered about 1. At the other extreme are States like Bihar and Jharkhand where PDS reforms have barely begun. “doorstep delivery” of grain to fair price shops. 2012 the PDS AT a time when the Union Cabinet cleared the draft of the national food security Bill after dilly-dallying over it comes a compelling piece of information: many State governments have quietly revived and expanded the public distribution system in their States. We hope this material contributes to a better understanding of the PDS. In many States. An important lesson of recent experience is not only that the PDS can be improved. This contrasts with the common perception that most of the grain meant for poor households ends up in the open market.200 randomly selected below-poverty-line (and Antyodaya) households in 110 villages. but also that we have a reasonably good idea of how to do it. Bihar. at any rate. The PDS tends to work better where it is more inclusive – targeting is divisive and undermines public pressure for a functional PDS. and to a more enlightened debate on these vital issues. Himachal Pradesh. A more detailed report was published in a recent issue of Economic and Political Weekly. There is a real danger of this happening. One sign of revival is that the sample households had received 85 per cent of their official “quota” of PDS grain during the preceding three months. and a range of transparency measures. The survey. A large majority of the sample households were opposed to the PDS being replaced with cash transfers. varies widely among States. 첸 . including four articles written by some of the student volunteers who conducted this investigation. Chhattisgarh.

If Himachal Pradesh stood out for the innocence of its people. Economic theory might tell us that cash transfers put the consumer on a higher indifference curve than subsidising the prices. of which I was a part in Himachal Pradesh (Sirmaur district). the ANUROOP SUNNY The major problem is the lack of awareness among people about their rights. 9 8 F R O N T L I N E .Food Security JANUARY 13. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala prefer an effective PDS to cash transfer. B Y A L E E S H A M A R Y J O S E P H THE survey of the public distribution system (PDS) in nine States. Uttar Pradesh (Jaunpur district) and Kerala (Wayanad district). Uttar Pradesh was full of scary realities. came as an eye-opener to me on many counts. 2012 Power of literacy Most of the respondents in Uttar Pradesh. Our main goal was to find out how the PDS functioned in rural areas and what the people thought about the idea of replacing it with a cashtransfer system. However. A foundation of literacy has to be laid for the effective culmination of all welfareoriented policies and programmes in rural India.

F R O N T L I N E 9 9 not indexed to transportation cost and that often they had to pay it out of their pockets. You people are edu- cated. Kerala. Most of the respondents in Himachal Pradesh had studied at least up to Class 5. Illiteracy was widespread. This ensured that even the poorest of the poor got foodgrains even in the worst of financial conditions. and on being asked their age. 2012 survey found that the reality is quite different from the theory. The PDS in Himachal Pradesh. We just want our ration and nothing else.2 a kg to all BPL and Antyodaya cardholders. UTTAR PRADESH’S POOR Kerala. Though an illiterate. Wayanad district. The stark contrast in the condition of Antyodaya families in Kerala vis-à-vis other States illustrates this. which meant a comparatively less corrupt PDS. almost all the residents had deposited their ration cards with the dealer believing that it was mandatory to do so in order to get their rations. taaki koi to hamare madad ke liye aa jaaye. When they had a ration shop in their own village. kerosene and edible oil). the proportion of literates was high and the education level of the respondents was rarely below Class 8. taaki duniya dekh sake.) The illiteracy of the people was often exploited by the pradhan (headman) and the dealer. They rarely bought foodgrain from the market. Open-field toilets added to the unhygienic nature of the villages. an alternative arrangement was unthinkable. which gave them just enough for their sustenance. a recent article stated. But one optimistic woman told us. wheat. while in Uttar Pradesh. worked quite smoothly except for the fact that the ration shops opened only for a certain number of days. The power of education was demonstrated again in another instance. Frittering away of money on alcohol was a common objection that respondents (especially tribal women in Wayanad) raised against the cashtransfer system. raised . which gave them much of what they needed (rice. The majority of the respondents – all below-poverty-line (BPL) or Antyodaya cardholders – said they got their full quota of rice and wheat regularly.) I was too dumbstruck to reply. rations are distributed on a weekly basis and ration shops remain open on all weekdays for nearly eight hours. she believed in the power of the written word. pulses. It was disappointing to tell them that we were just students and that we could only write about them. Please do not put us into trouble. thanks to food security ensured through ration shops. In Kerala. The people were ever watchful and voiced their opinions freely. was 25 years ahead of many other States in India.” It was hard to convince her that we were just students and not government officials. so that the world knows and someone comes to our help. where a man who had studied up to Class 8 (which was rare in our Uttar Pradesh sample). A majority of the Antyodaya families surveyed in Kerala had pucca houses with two or three rooms. akin to Kerala but in sharp contrast to Uttar Pradesh. One woman narrated how the pradhan used to bribe the officers who were deputed for inspection and how the injustice done to them remained unknown to the world outside. for instance. as expected. The majority of those surveyed in Kerala preferred rations over cash transfers. No wonder people here were averse to the idea of cash transfers as banks and markets were quite far from the villages. Regular inspections and alert villagers left no opportunity for corrupt practices. In one village. Rice is given at the rate of Rs.” (Write. One of the respondents was so scared about the idea that she pleaded with us with folded hands: “We are poor and illiterate. THE KERALA EXPERIENCE High literacy is an important feature of Himachal Pradesh. “Ham kya jaane hamara umer! Aap hi andaze se bataaiye!” (What would we know about our age? You make a guess and tell us. the reasons cited were the harsh hilly terrain and inadequate transport services. The main complaint that most of them voiced was that the commission was I N T ERA C T I O N WI TH KUN J I at a Paniya colony in Ponkuzhi. Most of them owned a piece of farmland. The small. dingy huts were inhabited by eight to ten people. The shops are well maintained and have adequate storage facilities. women would cover their blushing faces with their pallus and say.JANUARY 13. In Kerala. Some of the residents even mistook us for government officers who had come to solve their problems. electronic weighing machines and ‘complete’ information boards displaying the entitlements to different cardholders (above poverty line or APL. unlike in other States. BPL and Antyodaya) and the respective price lists. “Aap likh do. PDS dealers have a strong association but make only meagre profits. people and cattle sometimes shared living spaces.

Mandi district. the pradhan. there was a stark contrast in the way villagers in Uttar Pradesh and Kerala responded to their needs. rarely did the people miss a chance to procure their foodgrain quotas. 2012 A R AT I O N S H O P in Chail Chowk gram panchayat. In one case. the foundation of literacy has to be laid for the effective culmination of all welfare-oriented policies and programmes in rural India. Illiteracy was one of the main reasons why people in Uttar Pradesh did not prefer any dealings with banks. Bad as the condition of villages in Uttar Pradesh was. In Uttar Pradesh. but they do not get any written acknowledgement and hence the promise of work remains just verbal. the PDS would at least ensure food security and prevent them from slipping into destitution. they will not be able to raise their voice against the injustices done to them. The poor in Kerala were not scared of raising their voices before anyone and knew how to secure their rights. Though all the respondents in all the States were categorised as ‘BPL’ or ‘Antyodaya’. Himachal Pradesh. like cash transfer. He motivated his fellow residents who were subjected to the same injustice to approach the Subdivisional Magistrate (SDM) for redress. was just a puppet in her husband’s hands. In another village. the pradhan himself did not know how to go about imple- An alternative arrangement to PDS.REETIKA KHERA JANUARY 13. grain leakages from the PDS were relatively low. an illiterate a woman. Hence. They do go to the pradhan and ask for work. 1 0 0 F R O N T L I N E menting the NREGA scheme. Though the ration shop opens only for two or three days in the State. is unthinkable to most people. They knew they could easily be cheated by anyone. His efforts resulted in the dismissal of the corrupt dealer. his voice against a corrupt dealer for cancelling his ration card. the poor were scared and meek. Corruption mainly affected the distribution of commodities such as sugar and kerosene. They did not know that they were entitled to an unemployment allowance if they did not get work within 15 days of applying for work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Moreover. Unless people are able to read and write and are made aware of their rights. one can conclude that the root cause of many of our policies failing in rural areas in States like Uttar Pradesh is the widespread illiteracy. From all this. The major problem was the peo- ple’s lack of awareness about their rights. 첸 .

The dealer deposits the coupons with the administration and gets back the quantity of grain distributed by him. In other words. They are distributed to cardholders in May and June in public by panchayati raj and government functionaries. no grain for the next month. in possession of 180 coupons for the months of April and May. coupons would help “track” the flow of grain and create competition among dealers. Under the coupon system. and therefore.Food Security JANUARY 13. Dealers also overcharged them for the grain even though the coupons MANISH KUMAR Government officials can still divert grain from godowns instead of delivering it to dealers. PDS dealer for Singhaul village. He claimed that it would “empower the poor and stop black-marketeering” and that it was “not a simple coupon but a powerful weapon in the hands of the poor”. 1 0 1 . Antyodaya households got only 31 kg out of their entitled 35 kg. Sometimes government officers were responsible for this. giving less. 2007. BY SAKINA DHORAJIWALA AND AASHISH GUPTA AT the Jamaluddin gram panchayat in Patna district on January 26. Every month. which he managed to collect from BPL households in February 2011. by charging more. dealers delivered between 21 and 23 kg of grain against coupons that entitled BPL households to 25 kg of grain. the household exchanges one coupon for foodgrain (wheat and rice) with any licensed PDS dealer in their district. In Mansahi block of Katihar district. the coupon system to distribute PDS grain fails to prevent corruption. respondents hurled abuses at the dealers and complained that the PDS was not working. if BPL households found that a dealer was not supplying grain or cheating them (say. 2012 Coupon fiasco In Bihar. S UR E N D R A KUM A R P A S W A N . the survey showed. at other times the dealers were. one for each month. and quite often. families below poverty line (BPL) receive 12 food coupons every year. or mixing stones with the grain). In village after village. Further. a survey of the PDS conducted in 12 villages of Katihar and Nalanda districts in MayJune 2011 found that the perceived power of couF R O N T L I N E pons to combat corruption had been undermined severely. they could go to another dealer. Dealers can also sell grain in the open market after forcibly collecting the coupons or giving cardholders a part of their entitlements and charging more. they were hand in glove with each other. and the cycle continues. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar launched an ambitious reform of the public distribution system (PDS) in Bihar: a coupon system. However. Nitish Kumar claimed that the coupon system would stop black-marketeering because a dealer who sold grain in the open market would not get any coupons.

In short. The monthly PDS purchase of BPL households in Bihar was on average just 11. the BPL list has large exclusion errors. did not deliver grain. dealers would take coupons for two months and give grain for one. but in small size). Consequently. so they need kerosene desperately. though. often with anger and disgust. One dealer had taken coupons for four months (February to May) in February itself. the overall survey findings from Bihar are depressing (especially when contrasted with other survey States). They were sure that grain had been siphoned off by marketing officers and district managers who controlled the godowns. Nor could they get the dealers’ licences revoked easily. The competition process obviously had its limits. Being illiterate and powerless. they could not use their coupons to demand their full entitlements from the dealers. Some people had received their PDS rations only twice in the preceding year. making it scarce in ration shops: “A nuclear plant has been destroyed there. In Nalanda district. 90 per cent of the PDS grain was “di- . the survey team found. The option of going to a dealer other than the designated one was not available in Nalanda: dealers refused grain if someone who was not “allotted” to them turned up. coupons had failed to create competition.” said a respondent. there was a rumour that Bihar was sending kerosene to Japan for earthquake relief. In another case. In Barsoi block. paisa jyada lete hain aur anaaj kam dete hain (They are all thieves. Residents still had coupons for the months gone by.2 kg compared with the entitlement of 25 kg. Others showed us. grain was distributed for just a few months in a year. Even this appears to be an improvement: according to Reetika Khera’s analysis of the National Sample Survey data. In one village. all of them overcharge and give less grain). This does not appear to be the dealers’ fault. Many of the respondents said they were helpless and had to pay what the dealers demanded and take whatever they gave. they were not clear about the prices they were supposed to pay (also printed on the coupon. also in Katihar. he said he had done this under pressure from the Block Marketing Officer. The survey found that dealers were involved actively in spreading misinformation. Here again. While people were often aware of the quantity they were entitled to (perhaps because they were printed on the coupons in big size). dealers had found a simple way of undermining the coupon system: they collected the coupons but Despite considerable efforts by the State.” These tricks work partly because of Bihar’s failure in other critical domains. with the number ranging from a low of four to a high of 10. such as basic education: 84 per cent of the respondents were illiterate. 2012 mentioned the price and quantity clearly. the dealer 1 0 2 F R O N T L I N E had told BPL cardholders that they were no longer entitled to grain and that it was for Antyodaya households only. When confronted with proof of this. the “powerful weapon in the hands of the poor” had failed to “empower” them. “Sab chor hain. It turned out that they had sold in the open market the grain meant for March. coupons dating back to 2007. Dealers in Barsoi complained that they had not been given grain in exchange for the coupons they had submitted.JANUARY 13. In several villages.

However. the BPL list is unreliable. but it does not obviate the need to do the homework that many States have done to streamline their PDS. Bihar currently focusses on “targeting effectively”. Katihar. Thus. it is a safeguard. However. with most BPL households getting their full entitlements regularly. Bihar’s coupon system fails to prevent corruption for at least three reasons. perhaps hoping that they will be able to get grain against them or perhaps hoping that this will serve as evidence of a nonfunctioning system. food stamps. but despite considerable efforts by the State. As mentioned earlier. Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh where the PDS has been in good shape for a long time. shows the coupons for the months for which grain was not delivered in the village. the general situation in Bihar is still abysmal. Indeed. verted” in Bihar in 2004-05. There are also important lessons for policymakers and politicians gungho about the ability of coupons. First. or for that matter to get a thumb impression on a biometric device without delivering any grain. The survey. which was carried out in these States as well. showed a well-functioning PDS there. it is easy to find respondents who have preserved coupons from 2007. These can be avoided only with a much expanded BPL list. computerisation of records and regular monitoring. 첸 . Secondly. Each coupon corresponds to one month of undelivered grain. though not irredeemably so. the coupon system is not the “solution” it was envisaged to be – at best. with large exclusion errors. Bihar’s current PDS based on coupons seems to show signs of life for a few months in a year and in a few places – for the rest. In a context like Bihar’s. After all. where the PDS has achieved a remarkable turnaround in recent years. Now they get at least something every month. which are similar to those he made about coupons four years ago. as well as from Tamil Nadu. it was down to 75 per cent in 2009-10. and reducing the prices of commodities provided through the PDS. going by the claims he is making about cash transfers. establishing effective grievance redress mechanisms. In at least one of the five blocks we visited (Mansahi in Katihar). it is easy for dealers to give cardholders only a part of their entitlements while charging more. it is easy for a PDS dealer to take coupons while delivering partial entitlements. the Chief Minister seems to have given up on the PDS. even if it is not the full entitlement. 2012 AB DU L K UD D US O F Barsoi. Finally.JITEN PASWAN JANUARY 13. dealers can sell grain in the open market after forcibly collecting the coupons. Nalanda is the electoral constituency of Nitish Kumar. government officials can still divert grain from godowns instead F R O N T L I N E 1 0 3 of delivering it to dealers. who brought “good governance” to Bihar. respondents felt that the system had improved. The lessons for a State like Bihar from other performing States include initiating de-privatisation of PDS shops. Their testimonies suggest that Mansahi used to be much like the other sample blocks where nothing got delivered for months. it is as good as dead. smart cards or the unique identification number (UID) to root out corruption. Bihar would do well to learn from the experiences of Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

the shortfall that most of them reported was only two or three kilos. B Y A N I N D I T A A D H I K A R I Dealers followed a “chain system” whereby each month’s rice quota was lifted later from the Food Corporation of India godown. The extent of shortfall too had reduced considerably in the past two years.Food Security JANUARY 13. the public distribution system (PDS) in Jharkhand appeared broken and beyond repair. both BPL and Antyodaya families are entitled to 35 kg of rice a month at Re. This account is based on the first phase of the survey among BPL and Antyodaya households in Angara and Khunti blocks of (undivided) Ranchi district. Though only about one-fourth of the sample households got their full entitlements regularly. In Jharkhand. 2012 Strong revival In Jharkhand. has found signs of a significant revival of the PDS in the State. the people’s stake in getting their full entitlements increased dramatically. After the issue price was reduced to Re. PDS dealers themselves said the “ration card dhaariyo mein jagrukta” (new awareness of cardholders) and “system mein sudhar” (improvement of the PDS) had made the distribution of free or nearly free grain effective. This is better than in any other State except Tamil Nadu. part of a larger study of the PDS in nine States conducted by student volunteers.1 a kg. A field survey in Ranchi and Dumka districts from June 4 to 18. MANOB CHOWDHURY UNTIL a few years ago. There were interesting examples of this in- I N A N G A RA B LO C K in Ranchi on June 20. The National Sample Survey data for 2004-05 suggest that more than 80 per cent of the PDS grain was sold in the open market at that time. villagers complaining to the district authorities at a meeting about their quota of PDS grain not being distributed for the past two months. Ending this ensured the timely distribution of grain each month.1 a kg (rice was even distributed free of cost for some time after drought was declared in August 2009). an assertive populace is making sure that the dealers do not hijack the PDS. 1 0 4 F R O N T L I N E .

placing ration shops in the hands of community institutions (such as gram panchayats and self-help groups). the PDS was a critical source of food security. and with no blank pages left the records were kept in makeshift notebooks. household after household responded in the negative. Most of the ration shops are still run by private dealers. had already ensured that 75 per cent of the quota for June had been lifted by the 9th of the month. 2012 creased assertiveness of people in demanding their due from the PDS dealer. However. the system of paying commissions to the dealer for transporting grain from the godown to the ration shop has been replaced with ‘doorstep delivery’ to the ration shop. households were asked to recall the quantity of grain pur- chased over the past three months and whether their quota for any of these months was still pending. Sometimes the chain stretched to two months instead of one. money gets spent in a day or two” was a common refrain. This acts as a safeguard against the diversion of grain by dealers when they lift their quota from the godown. Contrary to expectations. In trying to determine the regularity of supply. In Angara. Later the bulk of grain distribution for July and August in Angara block was also completed within F R O N T L I N E 1 0 5 the first week of the month. fear of money being frittered away.JANUARY 13. there were no fixed dates for distribution. The reasons cited for their preference were food security. redesigning ration cards. the families we spoke to consumed about 70 kg of rice a month. for instance. What dealers followed was an ad hoc system of lifting and distribution of grain (described locally as the ‘chain system’) whereby each month’s rice quota was lifted from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) the following month. They explained that from June onwards there would be increased vigilance and timely lifting of grain from the FCI. they raised the issue in the gram sabha and the dealer was taken to task. transaction costs. when residents found out that their quota of grain for November had been sold in the open market. most people preferred food over cash. and the disheartening experience (including long delays) of bank payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). In many cases. However. A complaint was sent to the Deputy Commissioner of Ranchi. “Food lasts. The irregularities in foodgrain supply in Angara are not difficult to fix if there is political will. The same day. give answers). successfully accomplished in neighbouring Chhattisgarh. Most villages in Angara lost their quotas for April and May because the administration insisted on distributing the June quota in June itself and starting afresh. Only then will it make sense to discuss whether cash transfers can do even better. Many households felt that. Streamlining the ‘doorstep delivery system’. the records of PDS dealers had a different story to tell. by covering about half of their grain requirements. they came up with more than 350 families to be added to the list. NO TO CASH TRANSFERS The survey also included detailed discussions with sample households about cash transfers as a possible alternative to the PDS. A few families we interviewed had in fact received 40 kg of rice in the previous month. district officials promised to distribute grain for April and May. which dates back to 1997. However. When these facts were highlighted in public meetings held in various villages across Angara. Those who had applied for new ration cards over a year ago had still not received them. Apparently. as had happened in Angara just before the survey. agitated residents began to mobilise themselves to demand the quota that the district administration claimed had “lapsed”. In Sursu village (Singari gram panchayat). the dealer agreed to compensate all the families the lost amount of rice over the next three months. the ration cards had practically disintegrated. A harder task is to improve the selection of BPL households and expand the coverage of the PDS to avoid exclusion errors. However. As for cash transfers. They compensate for this by ‘under-weighing’ grain at the time of distribution. they said. 첸 . the distribution of ration cards in the village is still based on the old list. the missing quotas were yet to be distributed. because of low rates that transport contractors are paid and non-reimbursement of unloading costs. However. The lapse in supply went undetected. This shows that public pressure alone cannot ensure the success of the PDS unless the system responds and delivers on its promises. The administration finally decided to put an end to this ‘chain system’ from June 2011 and insisted on timely distribution of grain each month. The de-privatisation of ration shops. is yet to happen in Jharkhand. the BPL list had only 82 families from one of the nine tolas (hamlets). The PDS is the lifeline for families living on the edge of subsistence. Finally. the “cash vs food” debate seems premature as far as Jharkhand is concerned. well before the deadline of the 20th. dealers are still charged some delivery costs. three months after the dharna. the convenience of the local ration shop. Tightening the process and terminating the chain system. just eating noon-bhaat (rice and salt) once or twice a day. households were unable to keep track of which month’s ration they had purchased. every month. The need of the hour is to make the PDS work. The dharna’s main slogan was “Anaaj do. As a result. and introducing other transparency and accountability measures such as social audits and computerisation of records are some of the obvious steps waiting to be taken. jawaab do” (Give grain. When residents of the villages themselves conducted a survey last year. On an average. EXCLUSION ERRORS The survey found major exclusion errors in the BPL list. In one village in Angara. followed by a one-day dharna at the Angara block office.

Food Security JANUARY 13. cash transfer was not a viable alternative. A widow from Binkara panchayat in Sarguja. 93 per cent of the respondents preferred food rations from the local PDS shop to cash transfers to their bank or post-office accounts. as much as 80 per cent of the population now have ration cards. This has helped attain a near-universal PDS. Chhattisgarh also has a functioning PDS helpline number where complaints can be lodged. the Chief Minister’s Food Assistance Scheme) provided ration cards to poor households that were excluded from the PDS because they were not on the BPL list. The State may have been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent times. Finally. This was understandable. but the way its PDS worked came as a big surprise. B Y R A G H A V P U R I RAGHAV PURI The Mukhyamantri Khadya Sahayata Yojna has added two million households to the existing 1.2 a kg every month from the ration shop. 2012 Loud no to cash In Chhattisgarh. More than half of the households that were interviewed were getting rations under the MKSY. There were many reasons for this: remote- F R O N T L I N E . considering that 96 per cent of the 144 households that were interviewed got their full entitlement of 35 kg of foodgrain at Rs. A large number of the respondents strongly opposed any move to introduce cash transfers. as part of the survey on public distribution system (PDS) versus cash transfers. 1 0 6 IN Chhattisgarh. 6 4 . This has ensured near-universal PDS coverage. in rural areas. N A N K I B EN . The PDS in the State has witnessed a revival since 2004 when the government took radical steps to revamp it. First among these was the shifting of the management of ration shops from private dealers to cooperative societies.3 million households were already getting subsidised rations from the PDS. All households that were surveyed had ration cards with an imprint of the most recent verification conducted last year. followed the surveyors up to the end of the village asking them to promise that they would not replace the PDS with cash. a team of student volunteers visited 12 villages spread across Mahasamund and Sarguja districts. the Mukhyamantri Khadya Sahayata Yojna (MKSY. For the majority of PDS users. people swear by the PDS.3 million getting subsidised rations. to address the problem of ‘fake ration cards’ the government computerised all ration card records and followed this up with verification drives at the gram panchayat level. This not only helped plug leakages but also led to greater accountability and transparency. which has witnessed a revival since 2004 when the government revamped it. Second. gram panchayats and women’s self-help groups (SHGs). While 1. the MKSY added another two million households at the State’s expense.

70 for the monthly rice quota of 35 kg. According to them. In the remote panchayats of Chipparkaya and Teerang in Sarguja district. in the plains. particularly women. as often they had to sell the wheat to buy the staple cereal. Many respondents. 첸 . many women were afraid of losing control over the household budget. which often takes up an entire day. She followed us up to the end of the village asking us to promise that we would not replace the PDS with cash transfers. what will we do?” Interestingly. food security itself was the prime concern of most households. Large households complained that entitlements should be adjusted to the household size as 35 kg of foodgrains a month was just not enough for them. When are we going to work?” said Chatru of Damodara panchayat in Mahasamund district. This leads to times when rice is not available and prices shoot up. His concerns are valid considering that the bank and the closest market selling rice throughout the year are both located at the block headquarters 18 km from his village. to be tabled soon in Parliament. I remember studying the success stories of cash transfers in South America – a favourite among proponents of cash transfers in India – and wondering why India was not promoting this model. most importantly. particularly in the dry season.” As paddy cultivation is seasonal. As a student of public policy. Other than making the ration shops more accessible by opening extension counters in remote villages. this visit to Chhattisgarh was a much-needed reminder that “context matters”. Others wanted the wheat component of the PDS quota to be replaced with rice. make a monthly trek to their ration shop located nearly 6 km away. The sarpanch of Chipparkaya told us that soon an extension counter of the ration shop would be constructed in the Pahari Korba settlement. however. risk of misuse of money. “If we get cash we will spend one day at the bank and one day at the market. However. food security. “If we get cash then all decisions will be made by the men and we cannot keep an eye on them the entire day. people returning home with their rations. the large majority of India’s poor live in villages like those in Chhattisgarh. expressed their concern over the possible misuse of money. While cash transfers may be a possible alternative to the PDS in areas where markets and banking services are functional and easily accessible.JANUARY 13. the uphill trek with 35 kg of foodgrains on their F R O N T L I N E 1 0 7 Many of the respondents would rather see the government further improve the PDS than give them cash. For us. Finally. With cash transfers. this would change as their spending on food (at much higher prices) would be decided on a day-to-day basis after taking other expenses into account. making it easier for them to purchase foodgrains. they feared. even men were worried that cash would be spent on nonfood items. Cash transfers in these areas will not only make it more difficult for the rural poor to get foodgrains but also threaten food security. a hill tribe. and. If our men withdraw the cash and spend it. a 64-year-old widow from Binkara panchayat in Sarguja. The PDS. ensures a regular supply of rice at subsidised rates to these families and also saves them a trip to the market. the Pahari Korba. According to Nyali Koshy from Badetemri panchayat in Mahasamund. rice. the supply of rice in the local markets is erratic. ness of markets. With alcoholism being a major problem in these areas. Many of them said they did NREGA work for a day or borrowed from neighbours to make Rs. It is hoped that these issues will be addressed in future discussions of the National Food Security Bill. the provision of subsidised dal (lentil) and cooking oil was high on their wish list. An image that will remain with us is that of Nankiben. the ration shop is better. RAGHAV PURI FOR AN IMPROVED PDS AT TH E LK O D D A D A R G R A M panchayat in Mahasamund district. Mirabai of Aarangi panchayat in Pithora block aptly summed it up: “Will I eat the money? Who will ensure that I can find rice in the market?” Nidra from Damodara panchayat said: “Currently the government takes the trouble of ensuring that rice is available in the village but if we get cash then we will have to go looking around for rice. 2012 backs is better than making a trip to the bank and then a longer trek from the market to their village.

In most of the eurozone. The crisis meant that automatic stabilisers (which are more advanced in rich countries) and fiscal stimulus packages came into play. The question is what allowed such imbalances in real exchange rates (which is the same as saying. . 2012 Mess in eurozone The European lemmings are now leading the pack of the rest of us into the sea of the next big global economic crisis. it was the financial crisis of 2008 that led to the emergence of very large government deficits. This failure of the Single Market to deliver is at least one of the deeper roots of the current crisis. For example. which was almost entirely a reflection of private sector imbalances. Why and how has it reached this point so quickly? This reflects two major failings: first in the general understanding of the underpinnings of the economic problems in the eurozone. Yet Germany is seen as a safe bet. This happens to be expressed in the form of low prices and high yields on sovereign bonds. S it finally the endgame for the euro? Certainly the crisis has unfolded more rapidly in that economic union than most observers anticipated. they are countries with significant current account deficits. with German bonds trading at very low yields. It is true that in the case of Greece. and even ran government surpluses. This process was particularly evident in Spain and Ireland. This provides a clue as to the basic source of the crisis: the current account imbalances between eurozone countries. which was supposed to equalise goods and factor prices across the region. as a percentage of GDP Spain’s government debt is smaller than that of Germany. the behaviour of bond markets appears to be inexplicable in relation to the so-called “fundamentals” of public debts and deficits. different price levels in different eurozone countries) to persist despite the claims of the European Single Market. So. but the truth is that these “peripheral” countries are not in trouble because of fiscal imbalances but because capital inflows in the previous decade were associated with a rapid build-up of current account imbalances generated by the private sector. Developing countries (or emerging markets as they are now called) are familiar with this kind of crisis – we have been there. Many people in positions of responsibility are already voicing what would have been thought unthinkable even a few months ago. public deficits turned out to be much larger than they were declared to be in the previous decade (as the then government was assisted by the financier Goldman Sachs in concealing the true extent of the gap). in the insufficient and often misplaced attempts to deal with it by eurozone policymakers and indeed also by the International Monetary Fund. this is essentially a banking crisis brought about by private capital inflows that then led to divergences in real exchange rates and trade balances. But nothing could be further from the truth. it follows that the deficits and surpluses within the region are broadly equal. consider the nature of the problem.Column JANUARY 13. Rather. The subsequent shift to large deficits was because the governments took up the burden of dealing with the crisis. Public bailouts accounted for a large part of the deficit. Italy. and second. This is often presented as a problem of excessive public debt and government profligacy. while Spain has a very high risk premium on its public debt. as private finance reacts by withholding capital flows. done that and lost our T shirts many times over. First. Since the European Union as a whole has a current account that is broadly in balance. as in the developed world generally. Even now. talking about the real possibility of a break-up of the eurozone or at the very least the exit of one or more members. which have now become unsustainable. both of which had followed extremely “prudent” fiscal policies in the run-up to the crisis. the eurozone countries that are being punished by the bond markets – and whose sovereign debts currently have very high in1 0 8 F R O N T L I N E terest rate spreads over Germany’s – are not really characterised by high fiscal deficit to GDP ratios or high public debt. So the deficits of countries such as Greece. as private bad debts were taken into public hands. The median public debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio in developed countries almost I Preoccupations JAYATI GHOSH doubled (to more than 60 per cent of GDP) between 2007 and 2010. In general.

This is a recipe for Europe-wide recession if not depression. and credit crunch. The stated goals of fiscal union will take time. but everything is rendered more urgent by the behaviour of financial markets. these countries are being asked to undergo major “internal devaluations” in the form of falling wages and conF R O N T L I N E 1 0 9 sumption. No doubt about it. especially Germany. WRONG MEDICINE A very major reason for this is the assumption that government austerity measures in the deficit countries can correct the situation.LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP JANUARY 13. especially Germany. Germany and other capital exporting countries have been doing what China has been doing vis-a-vis the United States: providing capital flows that enable continued expansion of its own exports. Meanwhile. necessary though they are. and since the bulk of them are self-employed or work in very small enterprises. The consequences. The flow correction – of addressing the external imbalances within the eurozone – is still unlikely to evolve within this framework. In the absence of any possibility of exchange rate devaluation for countries in the eurozone. Greeks on average have longer working hours and lower pay than Germans. The deficit countries are being asked to generate export surpluses through wage compression and suppression of consumption. The problem is compounded by the uncertain growth in the U. Much is made of the fact that European leaders keep meeting (with lesser or greater degrees of acrimony) and promising speedy resolution. precipitate a liquidity crisis so severe that some default will be inevitable. The higher productivity levels in Germany are a reflection of the continued monopoly of intellectual property rights that prevent productivity-enhancing technologies from being spread to other countries. the European lemmings are now leading the pack of the rest of us into the sea of the next big global economic crisis. FACT AND FICTION This reality is very far from the way matters are generally presented in the European press. a major “drop in confidence” and movement of capital out of any one country can. Everywhere the emphasis is on reduced spending rather than economic growth as the means out of the crisis. 2012 A P R OTE S T A G A I N S T pension cuts and new taxes in Athens. The surplus countries. which have accelerated the processes of decline and added to the confusion. thus further reducing growth prospects. bank failures. Even the proposed moves towards fiscal union. will at best correct the “stock” aspect of the problem. of dealing with what are now unsustainable debt situations. but they will cause credit flows to small businesses to dry up even more. are contagion to other markets. The misreading of the nature of the crisis is then naturally reflected in the misguided and therefore continuously ineffectual attempts at solution. many never really retire at all. In fact. And the greater competitiveness of Germany results from the fact that the benefits of this productivity growth have not been passed on to workers.S. Even the much-vaunted new prudential regulations on finance – the Basel III norms – will do precious little to reduce the irresponsibility and moral hazards of big banks. But where are they to export to? The surplus countries in the eurozone. Other growing economies such as China. yet things keep getting worse. Spain and so on are counterbalanced by the surpluses of countries such as Germany. a complicated political procedure that cannot be simply pushed through despite the best will of individual leaders. Brazil and India are simply not large enough in the aggregate to take up the slack and in any case are also adversely affected by the European slowdown. are equally intent on preserving their own model of generating export surpluses by suppressing domestic consumption. Within Europe. with austere Germans supposedly having to work hard to pay for the lazy Greeks lying in the sun drinking ouzo after retiring at 45 years. which has clearly been among the most significant beneficiaries of the process of economic integration by being able to run export surpluses that are often supported by capital flows to finance importing countries. 첸 . Wrong diagnosis means that the wrong medicine is being prescribed. All this would be bad news in itself. indeed will. as developing countries know so well. are equally intent on preserving their own model of generating export surpluses by suppressing domestic consumption. The countries in deficit are being asked to generate export surpluses through internal wage compression and suppression of domestic consumption. thereby severely contracting their economies.

after the global financial meltdown in 2008. bears out the worst performance since March 2009. IN the trajectory from the euphoric statement in the pre-Budget Economic Survey in early 2011 that the economy would continue its dream run of 9 per cent growth in the final year of the Eleventh FiveYear Plan (2007-12) to the recent reality check that it would only be in the 7 to 7. and no major relief from high inflation. In the current fiscal.8 per cent in the corresponding quarter a year ago. halting pace of recovery in advanced economies. INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT It may be noted that the country’s industrial output steadily increased during the last three years.7 per 1 1 0 cent in the first quarter and 8. the latest figure. As a consequence.5 per cent growth com- F R O N T L I N E . Official figures show that the GDP growth dipped below 7 per cent in the second quarter (JulySeptember) of the current fiscal.6 per cent last year.Economy JANUARY 13.5 per cent in 2008-09 to 5.3 per cent in 2009-10 and to a relatively robust 8.3 per cent range lies a twist in the Indian growth story. from 2.3 per cent from 8.9 per cent in the second quarter of 2011-12 from 7. strained government finances partly because of a slowing economy that finds no meaningful alternatives to huge consumption expenditure. during the first half (April-September) of 2011-12. S R I N I V A S A N IN NEW DELHI The government’s silence on policy reforms like putting in place a GST and pruning subsidies has unnerved investors. The contraction was particularly pronounced in capital goods with a year on year (y-o-y) decline of 25. 2012 Losing momentum Economists caution that unless the authorities come up with an agenda of action. The RBI also saw a significant slowdown in investment. reinforcing the investment decline story. it became tepid during April to October by logging a measly 3. The economy today is in the grip of a host of difficulties: high energy prices. the incipient slowdown can get entrenched.5 per cent. The monetary policy review of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced on December 16 attributed the deceleration in economic activity mainly to a sharp moderation in industrial growth. The muddle over the move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail without ensuring stakeholders’ consent has added to their jitters. B Y G . The reasons for the changing fortunes of the domestic economy are not far to seek. It moderated to 6.2 per cent in the last fiscal. The RBI said the dip in industrial output was mainly because of contraction in manufacturing and mining activities. The contraction in the index of industrial production (IIP) during October 2011. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee himself said at the Delhi Economics Conclave in mid-December that “the struggle against inflation and tightening interest rate regime has contributed to lowering of growth in demand and investment”. GDP growth slowed down to 7.

the badly needed reduction in interest rates could not come about even as the RBI did not tinker with policy rates in its incessant fight against inflation. Economists are also worried over the marked decline of the capital goods sector within the IIP. like putting in place a goods and services tax (GST) and pruning the bloating subsidies. The escalating trade deficit in the face of dwindling capital flows from abroad meant putting pressure on the current account. both domestic and overseas. But critics of any interventionist approach by the central bank cautioned the authorities not to fall into such a trap as this would run down forex reserves even when such reserves at $308 billion would warrant no worry. the day on which the U. rued that despite the negative numbers in industrial output and deceleration in export growth.7 per cent in the corresponding months of the previous year. In a labour-surplus country with an army of employable people who are either under-employed or unemployed. To this must be added the woes of domestic companies of working under the unconscionable burden of a highcost economy which drain them of any energy to focus their attention on the core issue of managing their affairs in a hassle-free fashion.7 per cent in the corresponding months of the previous year. As of mid-December 2011. the F R O N T L I N E 1 1 1 RBI cryptically put it. as a logical corollary. partly due to policy inertia to resolve The slowdown has spread. from the industrial segment to the export sector. which threatens to go up. In the current fiscal. the trade deficit threatened to go beyond $150 billion for the whole fiscal. 2011. Economists caution that unless the authorities bestir themselves with purposeful programme and an agenda of action to complement their best intentions.JANUARY 13. which points to the insipid investment scenario that is in the first instance ascribable to the continuation of astronomical interest rates and elevated levels of inflation in the domestic economy.6 per cent y-o-y in October-November 2011 from an average of 40. No wonder.80 on December 16. 2012 fuel issues such as ensuring due availability of coal to thermal power stations and natural gas to user-industries such as fertilizer and power. the incipient slowdown of the economy can get entrenched before long. SILENCE ON POLICY REFORMS In the eventual analysis. giving wrong signals to investors. evoking considerable clamour from the corporates and the political dispensation for the RBI to intervene in the currency market to arrest the fast depreciating value of the rupee. Even as imports moderated less than exports. semiskilled and unskilled people alike. Fortunately. is another factor contributing to the low industrial output. 첸 . particularly overseas ones. Ramu S. pared with 8. debt downgrade happened. This confirms the worst fear expressed even in official circles that the splendid show on the export front during the first half would be daunting to repeat in the second half. But this move too was construed as the tendency of the central bank to micromanage the market. Deora. The rupee plummeted in value from Rs. the rupee had depreciated by about 17 per cent against the dollar over its level on August 5. Merchandise exports growth fell sharply to an average of 13. have unnerved the sentiments of investors. for skilled. the government’s profound silence on moving ahead with policy reforms in crucial areas. the RBI did not underpin intervention as it made its stance clear on December 15 by issuing new rules circumscribing the net open positions of banks in foreign exchange.6 per cent in the first half of 2011-12. The persistent deceleration in the mining output.S.5 per cent growth compared with 8. He requested the authorities to ensure export finance at a concessional rate not more than 7 per cent for medium. the RBI rightly put that “this combined with rebalancing of global portfolios by foreign institutional investors and the tendency of exporters to defer repatriating their export earnings has led to significant pressure on the rupee”. RAFIQ MAQBOOL/AP EXPORT SECTOR AT A SMA L L production unit in Mumbai. India’s industrial output became tepid during April to October by logging a measly 3.54 to the dollar before recovering slightly to Rs. In this context. limiting some forms of currency speculations and reducing the ability of importers and exporters to bet on the future of the rupee.45 to Rs. small and micro enterprises and 9 per cent for large businesses to boost exports and stem the whopping trade deficit. The recent muddle over opening up foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail without ensuring stakeholders’ due consent has only added to the jitters of investors. a slowdown in industrial growth provokes particular concern as it impacts employment. president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).52.

Some of the areas in which decline in production has been noted include coal and electricity. (GDP) growth for the current fiscal. It might have led to and Chairman of the Prime Minister’s the postponement of investment in the Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC). given the There has been a shortfall in meeting coal output. R AN G A R AJ A N : variety of factors that happened in the guine about the prospects of the econo. omy and their fallout in terms of the To some extent the rise in interest prevalent pessimism. SUBHASH expected to take advantage of it. The services sector is also growing at a reasonably high level. agriculture will do well as the monsoon has been good.2 per and for pushing the economy forward. S R I N I V A S A N “If the subsidy to support food security goes up. both in the short term and over the where the growth rate Now. and farmers are lus has narrowed since 2008. rise in inflation and weak sentiments in the markets. but there was some putting on a brave face on what in their improvement in November. we must be willing to make necessary downward adjustment in petroleum and fertilizer subsidies. my. investment-output targets set What is your forecast on the gross domestic product for the various public enterprises must be fulfilled. Excerpts from an interview is still high.25 per cent. the external factors have Are you suggesting another bout of fiscal stimulus not been very hospitable for a faster growth of the after the ones we have had since 2008? No. It is only with respect to industrial production one notes a slackening in growth. Rangarajan. the ace economist centive to reinvest. We have lowered can be the driving force for the revival of sentiment the growth estimate from the earlier level of 8.” M.” reverse the trend that has been seen? with him: First. distinct slowdown of the economy? Capacity creation in electricity has fallen short of the It is my estimate that the Indian economy will target. Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.C. a strong growth in public investment grow between 7 and 7. the authorities are months in a row. cent. Rangarajan. The factors responsible for the decline in growth rate are many. what can be done in order to long haul. B Y G .“I N D I A is one country last one or two years in the polity. Coal AS India’s economic growth is in production has declined for three slowdown mode. 2012 ‘Primary concern is to control inflation’ Interview with C. The fixed capital investment has come down from the pre-crisis levels of 33 per cent of GDP. One. In the current fiscal. the fiscal space available now for any stimueconomy. A fiscal stimulus is not 1 1 2 F R O N T L I N E . But the view is a transitory phenomenon. hope that the interest rates will come at his Vigyan Bhawan Annex office in down later. Hence.Economy JANUARY 13. Known for demystifying sentiments within the corporate sector jargons to make even complex issues which might have been affected by a easy to understand. above 7 per cent. To this must be added the New Delhi. Rangarajan is san. The reasons for the decline in the industrial growth rate can be traced to tighter monetary policy. In decline in the output of some of the order to get a proper understanding of infrastructure areas has affected overthe underlying weaknesses in the econall growth. Frontline spoke rates may also have affected the into Dr C.

Perhaps we are now providing large subsidies for petroleum products and fertilizers. Once growth picks up. No doubt. including vegetable prices.6 per cent of GDP. which we had indicated in our last report. To the extent to which growth has been below expectations. Are the rights-based approaches to development by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and mounting subsidies out of sync with fiscal health? I think it has to be managed. But the problem on the rupee has developed because of a mismatch between the current account deficit and capital flows which are required to finance the deficit. when the economy is not growing fast. But there are signs of inflation coming down.5 per cent of GDP. India may still rank high when foreign investors are allocating funds among different countries. the demands on the banking system by the government will not be much higher than what was originally envisaged. I expect that by March 2012 the inflation rate will go down to 7 per cent or even below that. the economy will grow closer to 8 per cent. As India still maintains a high growth of over 7 per cent. The high level of inflation and decline in industrial output might have had some effect upon the investors’ attitude. What is your view on the rapid depreciation in the exchange value of the rupee and the sustainability of the current account deficit? The current account deficit in the current year may be higher than 2. there is always a tendency for the NPAs to rise because the investments had been made on certain expectations of growth and if growth comes down below the expected level. Nevertheless it remains at a low level. December is not a month when one finds large capital flows. the allocations to India will pick up in the first quarter of calendar year 2012 and that is the reason why I expect the capital flows to improve after the onset of 2012. Therefore it is really a compensatory effort. when food prices. but the fulfilment of the targets set for the various entities in the public sector in the areas of road. it will affect the sentiments of foreign investors. this may not happen in the current year. we must be willing to make necessary downward adjustment in petroleum and fertilizer subsidies. investors are influenced both by external and domestic factors. this problem should go. ports and electricity can act as a big force for reviving the economy. railways. In the current fiscal. A low level of inflation is most conducive to economic growth in the medium-term. the pressure on the rupee will ease. Therefore I think the problem being faced by the banking industry may be temporary in nature. But if growth picks up. there can be a reversal in the stance of monetary policy as well. when rating agencies talk about asset quality.JANUARY 13. we will see a very sharp decline in food prices. Investors might postpone taking on new projects in the hope that the interest rate will come down later. Since January of this year until November the inflation rate has remained above 9 per cent. Unlike last year. The banking industry needs to watch its lending programmes so that the NPA as a proportion of total advances is kept at the current level. If the subsidy to support food security goes up. but this is partly because the collections from small savings have come down. On the whole. Therefore. What is therefore really required is prioritising the subsidies – one might give more subsidies under food security but some other subsidies have to be adjusted downwards in order to accommodate that. Capital flows diminish towards the end of the year. Is there any worry over the soundness of the country’s banking industry as the overseas rating agencies had questioned their asset quality in recent times? The non-performing assets (NPAs) as a proportion of total advances have shown some increases in the recent period. Last year our current account deficit was 2. The borrowing programmes of the government have been enhanced slightly. Food inflation showed a sharp decline in the first week of December. rose sharply during winter. Since most of the companies work on the basis of the calendar year. If capital flows revive in the course of the first three months of F R O N T L I N E 1 1 3 2012. In one sense. Obviously. this problem will be resolved. I do expect that in the next fiscal 2012-13. Therefore in the first quarter of the calendar year 2012. to some extent. Second. there is always some problem. Well. the tightening of monetary policy may have had some effect on the growth of the economy in the shortterm. Is the trade-off between fighting inflation and promoting growth telling upon itself in the slowdown? People talk of trade-off between inflation and growth but this is not a genuine trade-off. Therefore what is really relevant is the total amount of subsidy provided in the Budget. if the food security Bill covers a much larger segment of the population. but the capital flows were adequate to cover the current account deficit and to add $15 billion to the reserves. the subsidy will go up. they talk in terms of lending by the commercial banks to priority sectors. as inflation is coming down. Are policy inertia and reversal of reform such as opening up multibrand retail to FDI responsible for investors’ reluctance to bet on India with their money? Capital flows are dependent factors that operate in the rest of the world. The primary concern of the monetary authority is to control inflation. One should therefore look at the efforts to tame inflation as a move to maintain the appropriate environment for medium-term growth. taking action to control inflation has become increasingly important because inflation rates had touched very high levels. the capital flows have not been adequate and consequently the pressure on the rupee has developed. 첸 . Nevertheless. 2012 possible.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. 1 1 4 AGNIESZKA FLAK/REUTERS INDIAN negotiators perhaps lost the wood for the trees at the two-week-long 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban. MI N I S T E RS H U D D LED D U RI N G a plenary session at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban December 11. R A M A C H A N D R A N and Cooperation. when they reached an agreement to extend the Kyoto Protocol. The key component of this decision – call it the Durban Mandate – is the launching of a new round of negotiations known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (DPEA) aimed at a new climate control agreement under the UNFCCC involving “all” countries. was incorporated after prolonged wrangling as a compromise to India’s insistence on including “legal outcome” as the third option. The exact form of this new agreement is to be developed by an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.Climate Change JANUARY 13. The elements of the Durban Package are : (i) the Second Commitment Period (SCP) for emissions reduction by Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol (as negotiated under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under KP (AWG-KP)). The legal nature of this new agreement has been left undefined – it could be a protocol. 2012 Uncertain stand India fails to extract emission cut commitments from Annex I countries in return for agreeing to the Durban Mandate at the climate talks. another legal instrument. at an informal late-night plenary on December 10. by agreeing to the text of the final decision. The final draft document containing this decision was proposed by the COP17 President. South Africa. the South African Minister for International Relations F R O N T L I N E . which will begin work in the first half of 2012 itself. (ii) a decision on the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooper- Having introduced “equity with sustainable development” as part of the three new items that it wanted included in the provisional agenda of COP discussions. whose meaning is not quite clear. The body has been mandated by the decision to formalise the regime not later than 2015 so that it can be adopted at COP21 that year and brought into effect in 2020. India failed to force it when it actually mattered. The last phrase in quotes. It has been delivered as part of a package – the Durban Package – of four decisions on a take-it-or-leave-it basis with no time for the negotiating teams to study and discuss it before endorsing it. B Y R . long after the scheduled closure of the summit on the evening of December 9. or “an agreed outcome with legal force”.

U. negotiations have followed this twin-tracks approach although since COP15. on board to take actions comparable to other Annex I countries under the KP). with the Copenhagen Accord. a KP non-signatory.. The developed countries’ argument has been that developing countries now contributed to over 60 per cent of current emissions. The BAP was premised on four key elements – national and international action on mitigation (which brought the United States. (iii) a decision on the Green Climate Fund (GCF). and (iv) an agreement on the Durban Platform. including global goal for emission reductions. with its already legF R O N T L I N E 1 1 5 . technology development and transfer to support mitigation and adaptation by developing countries. 2012 S OUTH AFR I C AN FOR E I G N Affairs Minister and President of COP17 Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and COP17 Executive Director Christiana Figueres on the final day of negotiations.) presented the new legal regime as a quid pro quo for the KP’s SCP. Most developed countries were not interested in having this KP-mandated top-down approach extended. Only the E. the AWG-KP was established in 2005 and mandated to arrive at commitments for Annex I countries beyond 2012 in aggregate and individually. The AWG-LCA was instituted in 2007 as part of the Bali Action Plan (BAP) for a shared vision for long-term cooperative action.ative Action (AWG-LCA). adaptation. there has been a consistent attempt by developed coun- RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP JANUARY 13. This has been in evidence since COP15 and the attempts since then have been to replace it with a far weaker bottom-up “pledge and review” mechanism based on a laissez-faire approach of voluntary emission cuts by each country that will include non-Annex I countries as well – a mechanism that would remove the distinction between developing and developed countries and merge the twin-tracks approach. To recall. with China and India being among the major carbon emitters in the world. and that any international treaty to restrict emissions made sense only if it included the major non-Annex I emitters as well.U. Developing (or non-Annex I) countries initially resisted this vigorous and concerted move by developed (Annex I) countries to put in place a new legally binding climate agreement involving all countries right from the start of the talks. financing to support mitigation and adaptation and technology cooperation. with more ambitious targets so as to prevent global warming beyond the ‘guardrail’ of 20Celsius that can otherwise lead to catastrophic climatic consequences for the world. That resistance could not be sustained as in the end the European Union (E. tries to dismantle it and impose obligations for mitigation on developing countries under some mechanism that involves all countries. Since then. The developing countries instead wanted a definitive decision to have the KP – under which only Annex I countries had to meet emission reduction targets – extended for the SCP beginning 2013.

. who apparently put pressure on the President to remove this from the draft document in the first place. the E. as there had not been until then any sustained campaign by India to present equity as the core demand of developing countries to be met by the negotiation process under the COP. India offered to withdraw the words “legal outcome” if the principles of equity and the CBDR were incorporated in the document. or common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). of course. asked for reopening the Durban Mandate and demanded deletion of the third option.U. in a statement released on November 24 from Brussels. However. backed by well-researched numbers and arguments. in particular the U. The KP has survived through the adoption of the outcome report of the AWG-KP by the President on the morning of December 11 though at this stage this would seem only notional because the AWG-KP has not yet arrived at any emission reduction targets (through amendment to Annex B of the Protocol) that the science of climate change calls for and the SCP has not been spelt out.S. especially when what form this new agreement is likely to take remains unknown.. Although NkoanaMashabane appealed to the texts of the four decisions as a whole. climate change conference…must agree on a road map and deadline for finalising an ambitious. 2010). July 16. “legal outcome”. these pleas did not pass muster with the developed countries. The E. what could have serious consequences in future negotiations is that the Durban Mandate makes no mention at all of “equity”. Jayanthi Natarajan. Eventually.” With developing countries not wanting Durban to be the ‘burial ground’ for the KP. comprehensive and legally binding global framework for climate action by all major economies. a compromise was struck with the words “legal outcome” being replaced by “agreed outcome with legal force” as apparently suggested by Brazil’s chief negotiator. The draft decision that the President proposed was apparently the result of a series of closed-door talks over a few days among 20-30 countries. Having introduced “equity with .U. was willing to accept an SCP – but only if a new legally binding agreement aimed at mitigation targets for all countries was put in place by 2020 that would bring all – Annex I and non-Annex I – countries under it. Indeed.U. When the E. This set in motion prolonged discussion on the issue.U. which was a red line for India and China. Connie Hedegaard. chief negotiator. The issue of equity. she said. India and China. the U.U. the E. Indeed. the Indian Minister. AOSIS) insisted on a legally binding regime. developed countries. was willing to accept this. 2012 islated commitment to reduce emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and its offer of 30 per cent reduction conditioned upon other developed countries committing themselves to comparable emission reductions and developing countries contributing “adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities”. saying that his country would not accept it. the chief climate negotiator of E. and other European countries and several developing countries (including the Alliance of Small Island States. had perceived legal outcome as weaker than a treaty or a legally enforceable instrument for emission cuts.U. was able to carry many developing countries with it and. had always wanted a treaty that maintained a “symmetry” between developed countries and other major emitters. Ambassador Luis Figueiredo Machado. could not be held hostage and it could not be pushed aside by the Durban process. This was included in the President’s final draft that was circulated at the late night plenary. She said the Durban Platform was the product of six days of talking and all ideas had been put forth but the final document was only the 1 1 6 F R O N T L I N E sense of the chair. had stated: “The U.S. While the E. She asked how she could sign away the livelihoods of the poor when she did not know what the agreement would contain. argued that equity and the CBDR were central to the debate on climate change and asked the parties not to push aside these issues. requires for entering into a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. According to reports. the ambition gap – and whether these are translated into actual legally binding commitments under the Protocol. rejected it. both the countries baulked and wanted to add the third option. In response.U. and notably the AOSIS group. Todd Stern.N. Agreement on this road map is of the reassurances the E. Para 7 of the Durban Mandate states this explicitly by requiring the launching of “a work plan on enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and to explore options for a range of actions that can close the ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all parties”. India should have extracted emission cut commitments of the Annex 1 countries in return for agreeing to the Durban Mandate. More significantly. But it still remains to be seen what these numbers will be – given that the pledged targets following the Copenhagen Accord fall well short of what climate change demands as pointed out by the 2010 UNEP report (Frontline.JANUARY 13.

S.S. 2012. even as developing countries raised concerns over many specific issues contained therein. would in the final decision try to interpret strictly by the text. It had also rejected the idea of a common accounting framework or rules or compliance regime. the U. by playing a central role in the negotiations. but the U. when she raised the equity issue. Indeed. called for. having rejected its inclusion. In fact. the draft decision states that it will be a “protocol. Whether the AWGKP succeeds with an effective SCP and more ambitious targets for Annex 1 countries remains to be seen.. in particular its lack of balance in relation to mitigatory actions by developed and developing countries. if India had agreed to the other two options in return for a document inclusive of equity and the CBDR. this has reference to the U. was fundamentally opposed to any attempt at Durban to review its pledge or on how to raise the ambition of GHG emission reductions. India could have assumed a leadership role among the developing countries in the ensuing negotiations on Durban Platform. 첸 . would have been isolated. What these proposals are is unclear..S. But that requires hard-nosed negotiations backed by solid homework on how equity can be built in and operationalised through such a treaty. Instead.S. However. which many developing countries and the E. with the E. Many countries expressed unhappiness over the fact that the document did not talk about the level of mitigation ambition needed by developed countries and that there was no provision for the comparability of mitigation efforts between KP parties and non-KP parties. Ground was yielded too easily by India perhaps out of fear of being called a ‘deal breaker’. But the chair. it said that it had given no mandate for such a review or establishing common rules. which could have a serious impact on developing countries’ efforts at mitigation and adaptation. sustainable development” as part of the three new items that India wanted included in the provisional agenda of COP discussions (items 11. Preparing a wellthought-out strategy along with China for future negotiations and proactively taking into confidence other developing countries who can rally behind India’s stand when the crunch comes need to be high on India’s agenda. And this has to be done quickly because the mandate requires parties to submit their views by February 28. They were not in favour of adoption of the outcome document at Durban and proposed that this be done next year. China and many other developing countries supported her and. which makes no reference to equity or the CBDR. Since equity and the CBDR are intrinsic to the convention. It is unlikely that the third option is likely to fly in the negotiations to follow. But the AWG-LCA will just end as mandated at Durban without any substantive movement forward on any of the four key elements of the BAP. The Durban Mandate thus also includes the decision to “extend AWGLCA under the convention for one year and reach the agreed outcome pursuant to… [Bali Action Plan] through decisions adopted by the 16th. the italicised phrase can be appropriately exploited to bring back that paradigm into the negotiations. 17th and 18th sessions of the COP. Daniel Reifsnyder of the U. In fact.U. India failed to force it when it actually mattered.MIKE HUTCHINGS/REUTERS JANUARY 13. But this lost ground can be regained because even though the phrases of concern have not been stated explicitly.U. By being too concerned about giving in to a legally binding treaty. 12 and 13).S. he also submitted a note (Conference Room Paper 39). Several developing countries pointed out the absence of any reference to historical responsibility and the prinF R O N T L I N E 1 1 7 ciple of the CBDR. in which he stated that ideas and proposals made in informal groups would be carried forward in discussions next year. in an unprecedented move. another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties…” (emphasis added). India did not see the broader issue of equity to be important enough to take a tough negotiating stand on it.. willing to go along. the report of the AWF-LCA was pushed through by the Chair. transmitted the report to the COP under his own authority. Referring to the Cancun Agreements. The two tracks have got a life of one more year but they will end with COP18 at Doha. Clearly. at which time AWG-LCA… will be terminated”. But this is not going to be easy as the U. Considering that a legally binding commitment would have come into force in 2020 only by when India will necessarily have to take serious mitigatory measures any way. Jayanthi Natarajan commented at the plenary that the issue had been pushed somewhere else and did not form part of the main AWG-LCA document. if India had stuck to the demand for its inclusion in the draft. There was also a demand from developing countries for working on the report to restore the balance. 2012 E NVIR ON M E N T A L A C T I V I S T S DE M ONS T R A T E outside the conference venue on December 2. India could have ensured that its architecture did not seriously constrain development and harm the interests of developing countries.

and the legal requirement of a mandatory government sanction of prosecution to proceed against a corrupt public servant will be done away . This is the test one faces almost ceaselessly in public life. This is not only because of the wrong tactics of Team Anna. Incidentally. especially when even a contentious issue regarding the Prime Minister has reportedly been sorted out. For. critical times for those who want to see a transformation of India into a low-corruption country. If you succeed in facing up to the mud thrown at you. however. therefore. If a strong and autonomous Lokpal (read the CBI) is not created now. It actually scares a few of our legislators. T Law and Order R. Or else you will come to grief or just vanish. In my view the debate over the Prime Minister is frivolous and inane. wittingly or unwittingly. they could at best accept the Lokpal as a necessary evil. it actually earns Team Anna more enemies. These are. it works to the unintended advantage of those venal elements who somehow want to scuttle the movement against the current shockingly low standards in public life. will just vanish very soon. because the odds are weighted heavily against Anna succeeding. Indifference suits the majority in the polity. This is real tragedy. In fact. There is nothing in the law that at present prevents the CBI (under a maverick Director) or a private individual from taking the Prime Minister to the court of law on a charge of misconduct.K. I am amused by the amount of misinformation that envelops the matter. unable to sustain itself for too long. It confirmed the widely held view that political parties across the spectrum were not exactly interested in entrusting the fight against graft to more convincing and autonomous centres of authority. The Lokpal Bill is said to be categorical that the CBI will be out of the purview of the Lokpal. What we are now witness to is simply a case of many politicians wanting to let sleeping dogs lie. RAGHAVAN that he is acting at the behest of those who are opposed to the current establishment. 2012 A lost battle? Any conclusion of the current exercise in favour of probity in public life without the CBI being taken out of the purview of the government will be unfortunate. unfortunate that the momentum built against corruption by Anna is being frittered away. Nothing more. The draft legislation approved by the Union Cabinet will be taken up by Parliament on December 27. who want to just drift in the hope that Team Anna. HE impasse over the Lokpal Bill continues. I am not for a moment suggesting that all law-makers in our country are dishonest. The inability to arrive at a consensus on the subject even after a longdrawn-out all-party meeting convened by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on December 14 came as no surprise. in power or out of it. there is an even chance of your succeeding. Two major concessions the Bill is believed to make are: the Prime Minister will be within the ambit of the Lokpal. They are possibly right. The concept of a new and powerful ombudsman or an autonomous Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) does not excite them. And such forces dominate every government. Driven to a corner by strident public opinion. Also. This is the mistake I believe Team Anna has made. it would take decades for another phenomenon like Team Anna to arrive on the scene. It is. some of the language employed by a few in his camp has been excessively vitriolic. After 40 years in government I have realised that a sense of balance and the ability to restrain oneself – even when one is outraged and provoked by calumny poured by vested interests – and to doggedly focus on one’s objective earns one rich dividends. Anna and his admirers should remember this. Whoever said that the Prime Minister was now above the law? He enjoys no immunity. it is also the result of the ganging up of a wide range of forces for whom venality is part of their lives and 1 1 8 F R O N T L I N E the expression “anti-corruption” is anathema.Column JANUARY 13. with the government agreeing to bow down to the popular sentiment that no one should be above the law. it will never be. Branding all politicians corrupt and lacking in integrity is not only erroneous and unfair. This is especially because Anna has somehow given the feeling. This is one example of how ignorance of law or pretence of it distorts the exercise seeking to bring about greater accountability of a public servant.

This is why it is not all that easy for the CBI to protect any wrongdoer. either to protect one who is part of the establishment. Pitched battles in many centres are a distinct possibility. In my view the CBI. the Lokpal should have no say on how the CBI will conduct its inquiries/investigation. of course. with. and the Lokpal’s control over it. The Lokpal can. There is overwhelming public opinion that the CBI. poor infrastructure. A charge sheet against an accused is scrutinised by a magistrate and then the trial court before the latter frames charges. The government seems to be clear that the Lokpal will have little to do with the CBI. Posterity will not forgive them if they do not reach a consensus quickly in favour of honesty in public life.M. Let us hope some good sense prevails among both members of Parliament and Team Anna. This is why F R O N T L I N E 1 1 9 I have always held the view that the public prosecutor has no authority to prevent an investigator from placing all his facts in a court. such an unseemly situation is usually avoided by a judicious investigator. 첸 . Beyond this. to say the least. But the Lokpal cannot dictate how the CBI should dispose of such complaints. 2012 ANNA H A Z A R E A T a recent public rally against corruption in Chennai. and then pass on the findings to the CBI for appropriate action. send complaints received by it directly from the public to the CBI for further action. will remain a tool in the government’s hands. The latter tribe is burgeoning at an alarming pace. So. “Act as per law” is the dictum that they usually commend to an investigating agency. Please recall the Supreme Court refusing to vet the charge sheet in the 2G spectrum case. if he does not agree with the investigator. however highly placed he or she may be. Remember. is the best bet to bring about greater fear of the law among those who enjoy enormous money power. despite all its faults (slow pace of investigation. This popular perception may be a slightly exaggerated assessment of the readiness of the CBI to bend to its political masters. If this is going to be the ultimate outcome of the exercise forced on the government by Team Anna. Courts in India have recognised this. The major bone of contention remains the status of the CBI. Any conclusion of the current exercise in favour of probity in public life without the CBI being taken out of the purview of the government will be unfortunate. Fundamental to the demand for total autonomy of the CBI is the fact that our jurisprudence does not permit any executive interference in the process of setting the criminal law in motion. It is real. This is what the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) does under the present dispensation. Courts generally refrain from ordering who should be arrested and when a first information report (FIR) should be registered. we have definitely lost the battle. can at best convey his views in as many words to the judge concerned. The Lokpal will perhaps have its own small investigative wing that could at best launch a preliminary enquiry. It is a victory for dishonest elements in the polity. The PP. their numbers are not insignificant. There is also the additional safeguard that anyone who has been wrongly excluded from a charge sheet can still be made to face trial at the initiative of a private individual or the court acting suo motu. But this will be only to give the kind of administrative support that is now lent to the CBI by the Department of Personnel of the Government of India and the CVC. This is analogous to the role of “superintendence” of the CVC over the CBI that the CVC Act permits now. inadequate legal support and lack of incentives to its personnel). The 2G spectrum case is an instant example. A Superintendent of Police or Director of the CBI can overrule his legal adviser or PP and act on lines he considers most appropriate. who does not want to weaken a case so assiduously probed by him through engaging in a fight with the PP. People who assail the CBI on this count tend to forget that the organisation is accountable to the judiciary in every sense of the term. VEDHAN JANUARY 13. The CBI’s accountability to the law and the judiciary is not a myth. as presently placed in the government hierarchy. This has incensed Team Anna who is determined to take this issue to the streets. or to frame someone who is against the government of the day. There should be no objection to the CBI being taken out of the CVC’s ambit and transferred to be part of the Lokpal establishment. will the Lokpal be duplicating the CVC’s role? This is a ludicrous situation. Fortunately. There is no way any authority can tinker with the right of an investigating officer to file his own conclusions before a competent court. Any irregularity or dishonesty is easily detected at this stage by these two levels of judicial authority.

Chinnamanur. JAMES Be it farmers’ association leaders. “All of us belong to the Kamakshi Vilasam estate. grapes. Upparpatti.” said Mayakka. to negotiate the downhill slope. T A MI L S W O RK I N G I N KUDIRAI PANCHA PARAI is a craggy hill on the Tamil Nadu side of the border with Kerala. vegetables. banana. 6 km away. Kasammal and family were among the group of 23 Tamils. and they had to trek 16 km to reach Tamil Nadu. fed by the Periyar river. a variety of pulses and cotton. and its waters irrigate the five districts of Theni. Lower Camp. coconut. “We left Udumbancholai in Kerala around 11 a.Controversy JANUARY 13.m. Sounderarajan and his men from Thevaram police station waited to receive them and drive them to the village. Gudalur. one could see a group of people carefully climbing down the hill ranges of the Western Ghats on December 15. Kombai. Buses are not plying between the two States. The dam also supplies drinking water to people in these districts. She used a stick to support her weight and was helped by her mother. Using the dam’s waters that flow through a main canal and 18 subcanals into Tamil Nadu. an elderly woman. Tamils were being attacked in the neighbouring area. 1 2 0 IN THENI & MADURAI a physically challenged woman in her thirties. farmers in the five districts cultivate paddy. S . At Kudirai Pancha Parai. Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. including 11 women. nobody believes that Kerala will provide water to Tamil Nadu from the new dam it proposes. lined with scrub jungles on both sides. Vehicular movement across the border on either side through Kumily had been blocked for more than 10 days. The Mullaperiyar dam. S U B R A M A N I A N S. which is 2 km from Udumbancholai town. At a distance is the narrow bed of a dry stream. Sub-Inspector P. B Y T . We crossed two hills and thick jungles and walked for more than four hours to reach this place. So we walked for four hours to reach this place. cardamom estates in Udumbancholai in Idukki district of Kerala who trekked the hilly slopes of the Western Ghats to reach Thevaram in Theni on December 15. protests and rallies mark people’s opposition to the Kerala government’s stand on the Mullaperiyar dam. were attended by F R O N T L I N E . Thevaram. sugarcane. Rallies held every day in Theni.” said Kasammal. Driving along it from Thevaram village in Theni district. There have been spontaneous rallies in several towns in Theni district to protest against the Kerala government’s stand on the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam ever since the stand-off between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the dam erupted again this November. Madurai. all situated in Theni district. retired PWD chief engineers. Uthamapalayam. and barren landscape thereafter. Bodinaickanur. is situated in Kerala. “Although we were safe within the estate. working in a cardamom estate in Udumbancholai in Idukki district of Kerala and fleeing their homes there after violence broke out over the Mullaperiyar dam dispute between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Cumbum. One of them was Kasammal. small peasants or businessmen. 2012 Deep distrust In Tamil Nadu. Dindigul.” she said. Chinnathai.

Pandian. Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As the crowd tried to march towards Kumily and violence erupted. On December 22. 2012 20. after considering the reports of various experts. On December 15. Madurai. “It is a question of existence for us.” N. D. president of the Upparpatti village panchayat. Their demands were that the Kerala government should give up its proposal to build a new dam downstream and demolish the Mullaperiyar dam. “This is Christmas season and business has been affected.JANUARY 13. and that the State government should impose an economic embargo on Kerala. all business and trade establishments in the five districts remained closed. S. an elderly landowner.000 to 80.000 people took out a three-kilometre rally. Murugan. Kerala should allow the Tamil Nadu government to raise the water level in the dam from the current 136 feet (41. Lorries. the Supreme Court. said all the shops in the town were closed from December 2 to December 16. Vaiko said the Kerala government should realise that the agitation had transformed into a people’s movement. An estimated 50. the Centre should attach the Peerumedu taluk in Kerala. Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts. Political parties in Tamil Nadu organised protests against the Kerala government’s stand. in Cumbum town. asserted. Dindi. State secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the party’s cadre went on a day-long fast in Theni. a landowner from Upparpatti Vilakku village. she said. women farm workers and schoolchildren attended the fast. who was taking part in a daylong fast organised by its residents on December 15 on the Theni-Uthamapalayam highway. asking him to withdraw an office memorandum of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) led by him. We cannot exist without water. Its leader and former Deputy Chief Minister M. defying prohibitory orders. Stalin wanted the Centre to intervene in the Mullaperiyar issue without being lethargic as it was. In February 2006. setting up a team of experts to prepare a contingency response F R O N T L I N E 1 2 1 plan for the Mullaperiyar dam in case of earthquakes and floods.K. This amounted to “succumbing to the subterfuge” of the Kerala government and presenting a fait accompli to the Supreme Court and the Empowered Committee set up by it to go into the dam’s safety. on December 20. Haroon. The Tamil Nadu police lathicharged the rallyists on December 12 and 13 near the Lower Camp area to prevent them from storming Kerala territory as prohibitory orders were in force on the Kerala side. the police fired tear-gas canisters and used “lathis” to disperse them. 2006. and lawyers struck work in many towns. The Kerala government is playing with the livelihood of the people of these districts. on other issues. Bojarajan added: “The Periyar river is jeevaadharam [what sustains life] of the people of Theni. Mariappan. where the dam is situated. Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam founder Vijayakant demanded that the Centre take control of the dam and hand it over to the Army for protection. the Centre should deploy the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel to provide security to the dam. had said that the dam was safe and permitted the Tamil Nadu government to initially raise the dam’s water level to 142 feet. Lok Sabha member representing the Theni constituency. thousands of people gathered in Cumbum and Gudalur. according to him. dated December 12. “We will not give up our fight till we get a favourable ruling in the Mullaperiyar issue. P.M. superviser of Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) at Cumbum. volunteers of the Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi (Dalit Panthers) led by Thol.000 people organised another rally from Kombai to Lower Camp. There are 50 units in the Cumbum . said they would fight till the last for justice. People including wealthy landlords. Thirumavalavan took out a rally in Theni town. On December 16. for an economic blockade of Kerala by sealing 13 roads that led to Kerala from Tamil Nadu in Theni. general secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) organised a human chain on December 14 at Theni. and the nearby Devikulam taluk to Tamil Nadu. He warned that “the Centre’s silence will ultimately ruin the country’s integrity”. Thilagar.45 metres) to 142 feet (43 m) according to the Supreme Court’s ruling on February 27. wanted the Kerala government to implement the Supreme Court’s order to raise the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam. Meanwhile. The same day. from Nandagopala Swamy temple to the General Hospital. Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts. On December 21. responding to a call given by Vaiko. mill workers. took out a rally in Theni town. who owns a tailoring shop in Cumbum. About 20. At a demonstration in the town the same day. Bojarajan. LIVELIHOOD CONCERNS “Mullaperiyar dam is our lifeline and we will not allow Kerala to demolish it” has become the refrain of the people in the five districts.000 people. “It is a do-or-die battle for us.” said M. trucks and autorickshaws kept off the roads.” B. Rajathi. Jayalalithaa has dismissed Kerala’s offer of water from the new dam as “an act of deception”. Congress workers led by J.” he said. MDMK cadre blocked traffic in Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts at the entry points to Kerala.

So the new dam’s dead storage will be around 120 to 126 feet and “there will be no room for a drop of water to flow from there to Tamil Nadu. which says. There are several Pennycuick Nagars and Pennycuick Colonies in the district. 2012 du. which are sold in Kottayam and Ernakulam [where a lot of Christians live]. JAMES JANUARY 13. S.” he said.” So the water from the new dam will flow only to the Idukki reservoir for electricity generation and not to Tamil Nadu. The Kerala government says that the Mullaperiyar dam is weak and will collapse if a powerful temblor rocks Idukki district. which changed their lives for the better. former president of the Periyar-Vaigai Farmers’ Association. had said that its full reservoir level (FRL) was 136 feet and that 1. who sold his property in England to build the Mullaperiyar dam in 1895. Paddy alone was raised on 2. nobody believes that Kerala will provide water to Tamil Nadu from the new dam. In the main street of the Cumbum town is Velavan Iddli Shop. About 780 MWe was to be generated from the Idukki hydel reservoir. in its detailed project report (DPR) on the new dam. Its dead storage is 104 feet (31.” she said. “It is the case of State of Kerala that despite the ‘copious rain’. Be it farmers’ association leaders. small peasants or businessmen. “So the claim that the Mullaperiyar dam has become weak is only a step aimed at not providing water to Tamil Nadu. “If there is no Mullaperiyar dam.M. She told the State Assembly on December 15 that the Kerala government. The Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on December 15 asking the Kerala government to amend the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act. Abbas. The new dam will be built 336 metres below the centre of the existing dam. Infants are named Pennycuick in the region.889 feet (880. The report is to the contrary. “Without the Mullaperiyar dam.” Kerala says it will provide the same quantity of water to Tamil Nadu as now from the new dam it proposes to build downstream of the existing one. Abbas asserted. COUNTER-ARGUMENTS At the heart of the current conflict between Tamil Nadu and Kerala is the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam. water from the Mullaperiyar dam catered for the cultivation of a variety of crops on more than 13 lakh acres and not an ayacut of 2.region making readymade clothes. People here virtually worship Major John Pennycuick of the Madras Regiment. Tamil Nadu cites the Supreme Court ruling of February 2006 that “there is no report to suggest that the safety of the dam would be jeopardised if the water level is raised for the present to 142 feet. but the Tamil Nadu government argues that the dam is strong. wanted the Kerala government not to create hurdles for Tamil Nadu for doing the remaining strengthening measures of the dam to eventually raise its water level to 152 feet (FRL). he said. K. to enable the water level in the dam to be raised to 142 feet.229 feet (679. ARGUMENTS. If Theni presents a picture of lush green fields.365 tmc. Jayalalithaa has dismissed Kerala’s offer of water from the new dam as “an act of deception”. They are closed. situated 50 km downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam.20 lakh acres as claimed by the Tamil Nadu government.” he said.) The resolution. it is in full measure due to the water from the dam and the incessant hard work of the people of the district.20 lakh acres twice a year. If the water level goes below that. Jayalalithaa said there was a suspicion that the Kerala government was doing a “mischievous propaganda” about the dam’s safety for generating electricity from the Idukki dam. Ramamurthy is a farmer who owns coconut and banana groves at Kottur between Veeravandi and Theni. He pointed to the Supreme Court’s observation in its ruling on February 27.7 m). (The Act prohibited raising the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam beyond 136 feet by placing it in the Schedule of Endangered Dams. banana. the entire water will reach Idukki. nobody can subsist here. water will not flow to Tamil Na1 2 2 F R O N T L I N E S. is situated at a height of 104 feet. Paramasivam has got a portrait of Pennycuick painted on the name board. In support of its contention. which brings water to Tamil Nadu. 2006. But Chief Minister J.4 m) above MSL. . the Idukki reservoir is not filled to its capacity [and] while the capacity of the reservoir is 70.24m) and it is situated 2. who has been fighting Tamil Nadu’s cause for the past 30 years in the Mullaperiyar issue. 2006.57 m) above mean sea level. sugarcane. The total height of the Mullaperiyar dam is 155 feet (47.” she said.1 tmc ft of water would be used as ecological flows. According to him. he said. Inside.” argued 77-year-old Abbas. The tunnel. there is a hoarding with the picture of the Mullaperiyar dam and a portrait of Pennycuick. whose proprietor K. said that “not a drop of water will flow to Tamil Nadu from the new dam that Kerala proposes to build”.500 tmc. It could not be done because the reservoir did not get enough water. it was filled only to the extent of 57. moved by the Chief Minister. Besides. retired Tamil Nadu PWD chief engineers. But the proposed dam’s FRL is 136 feet and it will come up at 2.

S. Puthisigamani. Abbas refuted the Kerala government’s claim that 35 lakh people in the five districts of Idukki. using modern technology. Anand. All the strengthening measures were done from 1980 to 1994. Upputhurai. Lodha.” he said. Jain. president of the Periyar-Vaigai Water Users’ Associ- ation. R. grave or emergent about the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam. Marykulam and Idukki. warranting our interference at this stage”. headed by former Chief Justice of India A. Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta would be affected if the dam were to burst. C. a neutral party. The Bench. A five-member Constitution Bench dismissed as not pressed Kerala’s application for reducing the water level in the dam from the current 136 feet to 120 feet. however. Vandiperiyar. Sengarai. Of these. Tamil Nadu “will not definitely receive any water”. would be affected if the dam were to burst. comprising Justices D. he said. 첸 . Madurai. P A DDY F I E L D S A T coconut. also argued that since the new dam’s FRL would be only 136 feet.26 crore. It is not a 116-year-old dam. was looking into various aspects of the dam’s safety and no order was necessary at this stage. Tamil Nadu had strengthened the dam. had testified to the dam’s safety and the Supreme Court had given a ruling that it was safe. Kerala’s Advocate-General had gone on record before the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court that in case of any eventuality. “Other than Idukki. The Empowered Committee. This is politics. 2012 Veerapandi village in Theni district. Prasad. The dam’s waters that flow through a main canal and 18 sub-canals irrigate five districts in Tamil Nadu. Thengaikal. More violence erupted in Kerala against Tamils there after the Supreme Court ruled on December 13 that “there is nothing serious. “Why does the Kerala government not understand all this?” he asked. The villages or towns that lay between the Mullaperiyar dam and the Idukki reservoir are Pulmedu. Kottayam.” said Puthisigamani.JANUARY 13. Dave. the other four districts have nothing to do with the Mullaperiyar dam. They are playing with the livelihood of the people of five districts. On the suggestions of the Central Water Commission (CWC) in 1979. Vallakadavu. vegetables and pulses were grown in several lakhs of acres.” What infuriated people in Theni district was also reports of humiliation F R O N T L I N E 1 2 3 of Ayyappa devotees from Tamil Nadu and women workers from the State in cardamom estates in Kerala.K. Deepak Varma and Anil R. Besides. Bojarajan said there was no need to build a new dam when the Mullaperiyar dam had been strengthened already and the CWC. Ernakulam. observed the Bench. Chappathu. “So it is a young dam of 17 years. only Upputhurai and Chappathu settlements. “The Centre is keeping quiet on the issue.M. who is also the joint secretary of the Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations. M. The dam also supplies drinking water to these districts. at a cost of more than Rs. Abbas pointed out. with about 450 dwellings. the Idukki reservoir and the Kulamavu and Cheruthoni dams would receive the waters from the Mullaperiyar dam.K. said Kerala’s apprehensions over the dam’s safety could not be brushed aside since the water level in the dam had gone up beyond 136 feet on four days from November 26 to December 2 and there were earthquakes. Tamil Nadu.

were treated with incredulity. hunger strikes. also adding to the tension. (“Heightened tensions” and related stories. were being targeted in Kerala and that Tamil labourers were being forced to flee plantations in Idukki district and women among them were ill-treated. to stir up passions over the issue. Frontline. including hundreds of Sabarimala pilgrims. K R I S H N A K U M A R IN THIRUVANANTHAPURAM But for isolated incidents near the border areas. such as stone-throwing and attempts to march into structures regulating water flow from the reservoir to Tamil Nadu. Such 1 2 4 reports – though immediately denied by the Kerala government – along with unprecedented demonstrations in Kerala. hartals and ‘human walls’ expressing alarm at the state of the dam and demanding that the storage level be reduced to 120 ft. All it took for wild rumours to spread were an initial attempt by a regional party. as some parties of the ruling coalition in Kerala demonstrated in early December. which then shifts the focus from core issues of public concern. where rumours had spread that Kerala’s proposal for a new dam was but part of a strategy to deny water to Tamil Nadu. Hartals. by other mainstream parties in Kerala. to consolidate public opinion around it. scotching provocative rumours. B Y R . following stone-throwing and provocative posturing by groups of people on the two sides of the inter-State check post and nearby areas. including the Congress. There were reports that people from Tamil Nadu. the concerns regarding the dam. Normal life was disrupted for days in the border areas in Idukki. For several days from December 6. were brushed aside as mere propaganda. as leaders in Kerala sought to explain them. A grave situation ensued. A series of mild tremors and heavy rain in Idukki district from mid-November had given rise to widespread fears in the State about a possible failure of the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam.45 metres) to 142 ft (43 m) so that more water would be available for irrigation (and power generation) in five of its southern districts. Several groups of people under the banner of various Tamil organisations were prevented from marching up to the Kerala border by the Tamil Nadu Police. and a few stray instances of provocation by their regional cadre. and statements made by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. 2012 Fallout of fear Fringe elements get a free rein in the border areas near the Mullaperiyar dam. and. hotels and other business establishments and vehicles owned by people from Kerala and blocking the movement of goods and vegetables into Kerala. invariably proved to be a potent mix for rousing passions in Tamil Nadu too. in turn. especially after unidentified groups of people initially sought to cross over to Kerala through forest routes. BELLIGERENCE and one-upmanship over a sensitive problem affecting millions of people is an assured way to invite trouble. other parts of Kerala remained peaceful. The result: across the border. human walls and other demonstrations demanding that the water level at Mullaperiyar dam should in fact be raised to 142 ft as per an earlier F R O N T L I N E . in which Tamil Nadu had been maintaining that the “reinforced dam” was “fully safe” and that the reservoir storage level should in fact be raised from 136 feet (41. prohibitory orders were imposed at the border towns of Kumily and Kambamettu. It also generated much anxiety in Kerala about the forthcoming case in the Supreme Court. with fringe elements getting a free rein in the border areas near the dam.Controversy JANUARY 13. shops. the Kerala Congress (M).) With mainstream parties in Tamil Nadu also unable to keep away from such a sensitive and passionate regional issue with livelihood implications for farmers. including silent marches. it was easy for fringe groups to create trouble by indulging in “retaliatory attacks” against farms. and isolated attacks against residents and subsequent combined action by police forces of the two States were reported. December 30. Newspaper campaigns were a novel facet of the water dispute between the two States which the media promptly termed an “ad war”.

In Kerala we have taken every possible step to ensure that no person from Tamil Nadu is attacked. blockade of goods and vegetables moving into Kerala. However. a large number of such plantations in Idukki are owned by natives of Tamil Nadu. better sense F R O N T L I N E 1 2 5 prevailed and before rumour mongering and retaliation based on perceived threats could lead to counter attacks in Kerala. took out a march at Munnar town in the district. other parts of Kerala remained peaceful throughout. Fortunately. A report about Tamil labourers fleeing Kerala and a camp being opened for them in Theni is one such case of misinformation. and no incident of attack or intimidation being reported from anywhere else. The event served to rekindle interest in repeated police and intelligence reports about the activities of cadre of terrorist/extremist groups among the Tamil population in Idukki district and their potential for stoking chauvinistic fervour using such controversies as a pretext. ordinary people of the two States who had been living in symbiotic harmony suffered. Instances of vandalism and attacks have also been reported. And. State transport buses plied only up to certain points near the border from where passengers (including students from Kerala studying in a string of self-financing institutions in Tamil Nadu) had to walk across to the other side to continue their journey. loss of revenue of several crores of rupees from tea and cardamom estates in Idukki that experienced a severe shortage of daily labourers from Tamil Nadu. loss of wages because of lack of work. was disrupted on several occasions after incidents of stone-throwing.. too. in the wake of some MPs from Tamil Nadu meeting the Prime Minister with a demand for merging Kerala’s Idukki district with Tamil Nadu. PEOPLE’S PLIGHT Ultimately. there had been reports of extensive damage to vehicles and property in Tamil Nadu. and consequent losses to farmers and traders in Tamil Nadu. there is a widespread misinformation campaign which needs to be addressed immediately. P IL G R IM S F R O M T A MI L Supreme Court order were organised in Tamil Nadu. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. An appeal made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to an all-party delegation from the State that met him in New Delhi also helped. Tamil labourers work in . raising slogans supporting the claim. political parties decided to tone down or suspend their agitations. whose restrained statements proved to be a big help in defusing the initial tense atmosphere in Kerala. In a letter written to his counterpart in Tamil Nadu J. reportedly of Tamil origin. In the first fortnight since the troubles began. Police presence at Kumily and other sensitive areas have been strengthened. vehicles and goods from Tamil Nadu. a drastic fall in tourist arrivals in both the States. VIBHU JANUARY 13. However.. tourists. with free movement of pilgrims. Interestingly. but for isolated incidents near the border areas. Jayalalithaa on December 18. said: “There are highly disturbing news about several instances of attacks on Keralites in Tamil Nadu. Coimbatore and Erode and beyond in Tamil Nadu. damage to transport buses and road blockades. There are reports that many such owners have abstained from coming across to Kerala. Movement of vehicles across the check post at Walayar in Palakkad district to Tirupur. a group of nearly 150 people.. 2012 Nadu walking past the Kerala-Kumily check post on December 9 as vehicular movement across the border came to a standstill.H.

no doubt. A. The sense of insecurity that false information could spread needs to be curbed urgently. he said in the appeal: “Mullaperiyar Dam and its safety is a cause of concern for Kerala. Even though Kerala was pressing for a meeting of the two States to be convened by the Centre to explore the possibility of a negotiated settlement in the context of “earthquakes posing an immediate threat to the dam”. Jayalalithaa said: “There is no valid reason to believe that the Mullai Periyar Dam is unsafe. The committee headed by the former Chief Justice of 1 2 6 F R O N T L I N E India. which. but in the Supreme Court. 2012 Kerala in large numbers. Thatte. In her appeal. (Tamil Nadu had been insisting that there were only four tremors in the region this year. Labourers and women from Tamil Nadu are safe in Kerala and we shall ensure their protection. with the five-member Empowered Committee appointed by the court expected to submit its report only by February 2012. 첸 . a retired Chief Engineer of the Central Water Commission. including technical details and claims raised by the two States about its safety and safe storage level. the people of Kerala should see through the machinations of vested interests and should feel secure that the retrofitted Mullai Periyar Dam is as good as new and therefore not a threat to the lives and properties of the people of the region. Anand. told Frontline that all the 26 low-intensity tremors recorded in and around Idukki would not have been recorded by instruments located elsewhere. The Kerala Legislative Assembly in its Resolution on 9th December. A new Dam is the only solution by which continued supply of water to Tamil Nadu can be ensured and the safety concerns of Kerala could be addressed. I appeal to the People of Kerala not to succumb to any divisive forces in the interest of both the States as we are both committed to maintaining and cherishing cordial relations. Among other things. Government of Tamil Nadu and Government of India. even though Kerala had requested that all the five members of the committee be involved in the inspection process. It is a solution where both sides win. which the media promptly termed as an “ad war”. explaining Tamil Nadu’s arguments. Other stories like women labourers being molested are also being falsely circulated to inflame passion among the people of Tamil Nadu.” Nearly a week earlier. Kerala has always reiterated the stand that we are committed to provide water from Mullaperiyar to Tamil Nadu.S. published in several newspapers in Tamil Nadu on the same day. 2011. I request you to kindly intervene and take possible corrective action to prevent the propagation of such calculated misinformation.” In an appeal titled “Water for Tamil Nadu and Safety for Kerala”. attacking vehicles going from Tamil Nadu”. Mehta. was “provoked by the unjustifiable efforts of Kerala government to reduce water level and construct a new dam” and actions of “workers of political parties and certain anti-social elements of Kerala who have been indulging in violence for the last few days. challenged by Tamil Nadu. especially on the concerns about the dam’s safety. Chandy further said: “You will share with me the concern and consequences of such misleading campaigns. There need not be any apprehension about our intention. This stand has been unambiguously conveyed to the Honob’le Supreme Court. The technical members of the committee. Kerala had also filed an application before the Empowered Committee seeking a direction to the Tamil Nadu government to lower the storage level from 136 ft to 120 ft as it had become absolutely necessary in the wake of over 26 tremors in the vicinity of the dam and heavy rains in the catchment areas that saw the water level rising beyond 136 ft – a demand which was. particularly in the plantation sector. and D. Certain sections of the media in Tamil Nadu are whipping up passions by repeatedly projecting totally irrelevant and misleading images.” Seeking Jayalalithaa’s intervention in providing a sense of protection and confidence to the people of both the States. were scheduled to start their inspection of the Mullaperiyar and Idukki dams on December 22. It is unfortunate that a fear psychosis among the people of Kerala is being built up. It is also the source of water to five districts of Tamil Nadu. former Secretary to the Ministry of Water Sources. by the AIADMK government as an appeal to the people of Kerala by Jayalalithaa. Scientists at the Centre for Earth Science Studies in Thiruvananthapuram. it said. C. and their contribution to Kerala’s economy is valuable. it was clear that the real war was being fought not in the streets or the newspapers. full-page advertisements were published in major newspapers in Kerala. During a series of hearings before the Supreme Court it stuck to its stand that a discussion was possible only after the Empowered Committee submitted its report. has unanimously resolved that Tamil Nadu will continue to receive the same quantity of water from the new Dam as it receives today. The Honb’le Empowered Committee (of the Supreme Court).) The technical members are expected to submit their report to the Empowered Committee chairman on December 26 and the five-member committee is to start hearing arguments of the two States in January. It ensures water for Tamil Nadu and safety for Kerala. As the Mullai Periyar Dam is fully safe and as good as new. But. all through. and expressing his willingness to issue a joint statement with her in this regard. Chandy also sought to dispel the allegation that his State was trying to deny water to Tamil Nadu. and by the opposition DMK as a resolution.D. however. Tamil Nadu refused to agree to a discussion on the issue with Kerala.K. was appointed by the court in February 2010 to study all issues relating to the Mullaperiyar dam.” NEWSPAPER CAMPAIGNS Such newspaper campaigns too were a novel facet of the water dispute between the two States.JANUARY 13.

ANUPLAL BANGALORE THERE were times when the capitalist countries had to invent sea routes. colonise nations and set up armies to protect their trade interests. In the 1760s and 1770s. Now these have sunk into oblivion. It appointed its own middlemen. ETTIRANKANDATH KRISHNADAS PALAKKAD. Obviously. who harassed the poor weavers. December 30). which they could afford as they procure materials on a large scale and at cheaper rates. So. There are some who argue that a rollback of the retail policy will only expose the utter weakness of the government in pushing through economic reforms. Unfortunately. This will eventually hit small-scale retailers and reduce customers’ range of choices. SYED SULTAN MOHIDDIN KADAPA. Instead of eliminating hawkers and middlemen. corporate giants were able to wipe out small businesses by offering huge discounts to customers. It is time we recalled how agriculture was paralysed after quantitative restrictions were removed in the sector. and forced them to sell their cloth only to the English and that too at a very low price. The lone postage stamp released on December 19.P. MNCs will establish a monopoly in this area in the course of time (Cover Story. V. soon after another Portuguese colony. December 30). KERALA THE good news is that India has become the number . MNCs such as Walmart and Carrefour will do precisely what the East India Company did – appoint their own middlemen. Hardly any freedom fighter from these places has been honoured with a postage stamp. was unimpressive. RITVIK CHATURVEDI NEW DELHI THE government has only suspended. His stand only confirms again how far the present leadership of the Congress has strayed from the Gandhian path and the principles of Swadeshi. Those who do not want to learn from history are doomed to relive it. Dadra and Nagar Haveli. the nationalist movements in Pondicherry against French colonialism and in Goa against oppressive Portuguese colonialism have not found pride of place in the pages of the Indian freedom struggle. Before Pepsi. If not for Nehru’s go-slow attitude. proactive support and other facilities such as cold storage and a good support price from the government. SANTHOSH MATHEW VERANANI PUDUCHERRY THE ignominious retreat of the government on the FDI issue in retail could have been averted if the Congress had consulted its allies before it brought the issue to Parliament. The efforts and moral support rendered by Pakistani Goans is also forgotten. its decision to roll out FDI in the retail sector. sometimes financially. and not withdrawn. 2011. Since the new F R O N T L I N E 1 2 7 middlemen were outsiders with little insight into the weavers’ lives. 50 years after its liberation (“Looking back”. it eliminated the existing traders and brokers connected with the cloth trade and established direct control over the weavers. Frontline is the only national magazine to have commemorated this historic occasion with a special article. What is required for the Indian farming community is not FDI in the retail sector but good patronage. “markets” in gullible countries are being captured in the name of “free trade”. was liberated by the civilian population. KRISHNAMOORTHY MADURAI Goa SPECIAL thanks for the article on Goa. 2012 FDI in retail ALTHOUGH allowing foreign multinational corporations to invest in multi-brand and singlebrand retail may be good for customers in the beginning. they acted arrogantly. IT seems the government has forgotten its duty tobridge the gap between the have-nots and the have-lots. well-known local soft-drink brands such as Vincent and Kali Mark were doing good business. and the aam admi should take note of this. the East India Company found it tough to ensure a regular supply of textiles for export. Rahul Gandhi unequivocally declaring his commitment to bring FDI in retail sector implies that the retreat on retail is only temporary. It is the government’s responsibility to protect them. India has a large population of small-scale retailers. Coca-Cola and others began their operations in India. Thanks to neoliberalism. in three-piece suits and ties. India could very easily have liberated Goa as early as in the 1950s. they will just replace them with their own network.letters JANUARY 13. sometimes marching with sepoys into the houses and workshops of the weavers and often punishing them for delays or shortfalls in supply. A. G.

What would happen if there was an earthquake near the dam in the mean time? The only immediate solution is to decrease the water level in the reservoir to not just 120 feet but to as low a level as possible so that any possible damage can be kept to a minimum. RAGHUNATHA PRABHU ALAPPUZHA. the entry of such MNCs should be welcomed. Traders protesting against FDI should focus on improving their services. JAYANT MUKKHERJEE A. The move towards a fiscal union will only institutionalise this tendency. Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies. T. one will have to maintain its cultural and ethnic diversity. The proposal of the Mayawatiled Bahujan Samaj Party to divide the State has won accolades from a section of the political and social spectrum and met with sheer indifference from other groups and complete rejection by the opposition Samajwadi Party and some sections of the people in the State. We are being told that such a move will help usher in an era of fiscal discipline for the zone and prevent the common currency from losing favour with investors. JACOB SAHAYAM THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Dev Anand NO words are sufficient to mourn the death of Dev Anand. In this era of globalisation.S. Ease of governance following the division is a plus point but the altruistic nature of the proposition is questionable. 2012 er. The people and politicians of Kerala and Tamil Nadu act as if they belong to two enemy countries. which appeared on the web-based “The Middle-East Magazine” in the first week of December.S. his secret spiritual side came out in the climax scene of the film Guide. Strategies to win votes may be the only thing that matters now for the State’s political parties. It is in this context that the recent announcement by France and Germany to move towards a fiscal union for the entire eurozone has to be seen. BIHAR Yesudas THE write-up on Yesudas could not have been better crafted (“Celestial singer”. While his passionate side came to the fore in all his films. Furthermore. December 30).D. Policymakers always appease the financial markets by adopting conservative fiscal policies. a new dam can be constructed in record time. India clinched the first slot as the best retail destination.. Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar. The quote was taken from an article by Tony Cartalucci. Mullaperiyar THE fear psychosis created by politicians and the innumerable rallies held by various organisations will not solve the real problems that will arise if the Mullaperiyar dam is destroyed by an earthquake (“Heightened tensions”. SENTHIL SARAVANA DURAI VAZHAVALLAN. His spiritual discourse brought out the essence of the Gita in an excellent way. The error is regretted. Israel and Turkey.letters one hotspot for global retailers for the fourth time in the past five years. must carry the full postal address and the full name. In the article. Uttar Pradesh is culturally diverse and has places of historical value. While dividing this one big State. December 16). However. Let there be a healthy competition. followed by Russia and China. Kearney’s eighth annual Global Retail Development Index. December 16). some errors were made while referring to his famous Hindi songs. London. He shaped the careers of many stars of yesteryear and raised the fortunes of veteran musicians such as S. “zid (not sid ) na karo”. Mohammed Rafi. There are grass-roots level problems such as sharing of land and water resources that must not be overlooked. ANNOUNCEMENT Letters. . There have been protests against the entry into India of the private retail giant Walmart. We are dependent on each oth- JANUARY 13. whether by surface mail or e-mail. Why has no one ever talked about it with the intensity it deserves? TISH MALHOTRA DELHI Uttar Pradesh POLITICAL parties in Uttar Pradesh are gearing up 1 2 8 Eurozone THE article “Tyranny of finance” (December 16) brought to the surface the clout that financial capitalism has come to acquire. thereby making it clear that the state has always been an agent of the finance capital. December 30). This comes at a time when the welfare state as it existed in Europe is practically dead. N. S. T.P. Israel and Turkey” was inadvertently attributed to Emille Hokayem. ANKUR ANKESH DARBHANGA. Hokayem in his report does not talk about the Free Syrian Army being dominated by the Muslim Brothers or being financed by the U. or the name with initials. According to global consulting firm A. and “Ka karoon (not karo) sajni”. a star who charmed innumerable Indians through his acting (“Eternal romantic”. But what is clear is F R O N T L I N E that such a move will also rule out the possibility of an economy undertaking fiscal stimulus in times of a slowdown. If the States cooperate. It is “Gori tera gaanv (not gav)”. the song “Hai apna dil to awara” from the film Solva Sal was wrongly written as “Hai ana dil to awara”. it will take at least three years for it to be completed. Even if Kerala constructs a new dam on a war footing. a quote about “the Free Syrian Army” being “dominated by fighters owing allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood” and “armed by the U. KERALA THE controversy over the Mullaperiyar dam issue is unfortunate.. ANIL JOSHI NAINITAL Syria CORRECTION: In the article “Looming civil war” (December 30). Burman. People need to be educated on the realities. P. to face the coming elections (“Dividing game”. Experts should play a more proactive role without further delay. NIRMAL KOLKATA CHENNAI DEV ANAND was an extraordinary artist who enriched Indian films.

Obituary

JANUARY 13, 2012

Humble genius
Sharp wit and the ability to sketch fellow humans with humour, compassion and
verve made Mario Miranda (1926-2011) exceptional. B Y P A M E L A D ’ M E L L O

His cartoons in “The Illustrated
Weekly” and his trademark
characters such as the politician
Bundaldass and his sidekick
Moonswamy, Ms Rajni Nimbupani
and her actor partner Balraj Balram
all became popular in their own way.
ANYONE who lived in 1970s India and had access to English magazines would have found it hard
to miss the work of Mario Miranda. As illustrator for
the iconic The Illustrated Weekly of India, his work
occupied quite a few of its pages, signed simply
Mario. And that became the name by which much of
India knew him though he was born Mario Joao
Carlos do Rosario de Britto a Miranda.
R.K. Laxman was the political cartoonist for The
Times of India and occupied its front pages, but it
was Mario’s signature illustrations and his many
“social” cartoons in Times Group publications that
became incredibly popular and amazingly pervasive.
His cartoons and sketches in The Weekly; the pompous politician Bundaldass and his sidekick Moonswamy; the lissom Ms Rajni Nimbupani and her
actor partner Balraj Balram that he created for Filmfare; and the embarrassingly buxom secretary Miss
Fonseca that he created for The Economic Times – all
publications in The Times stable – became popular
in their own way. And who can ever forget the Sardarji in a light bulb that Mario created for Khushwant Singh in The Illustrated Weekly? As children,
we would gaze at it in fascination, the concept of a
man sitting and writing inside a bulb utterly magical.
In truth, Mario’s work touched a whole generation of
us, 1970s children, as no other artist did.
It was not until I visited an incredible Panjim
exhibition, which previewed the 8,000 cartoons and
illustrations his publisher had painstakingly collected, that I realised that Mario had illustrated the
F R O N T L I N E

M AR I O M I R A N D A . I T has been said that Goa gave
Mario to the world, and Mario gave Goa to the
world.

Balbharati books of the Pune Board, with their memorable Tim and Mini characters. That meant that
children from the Bombay (now Mumbai) and Goa
areas got to know his work from the early age of five.
Gerard da Cunha, the architect and publisher
who also became Mario’s chronicler by putting all his
work together, says Mario’s best period as an artist
were the years of his second stint at The Weekly. A
three-year sabbatical in Lisbon and London had
exposed Mario to the world’s best illustrators and
cartoonists, and he had returned with his art, and
1 2 9

JANUARY 13, 2012

wit, considerably sharpened. He
joined The Times Group in 1953, and
sketches from that period show the
evolution of his style, the early simple
straight lines taking on a new complexity and vitality, a new curvaceousness, fullness and exuberance post his
return from London. He had found his
signature style, something that had
been eluding him, like it does all artists
who begin by imitating those they admire.
Manohar Malgonkar’s biography
of Mario tells us that in Mario’s case it
was the cartoonist Ronald Searle he
admired the most, and it was on Searle’s advice that Mario began to search
for his own style, something he slowly
came upon in his years living and
working in the arty environs of Hampstead, sharing time and space with fellow Goan artist Francis Newton Souza.
Mario’s new style was in full flow
by the time he came out with one of his
important books in 1964, Goa with
Love, shortly after the liberation of the
State. In it, Mario lovingly and humorously sketched all the wonderful old
customs and practices that had endured over centuries: the village
church feast procession, with its lumbering double lines of altar boys and
candlestick bearers, overdressed women, and suited men, wilting in the sweltering Goa heat, led by a frumpy old
priest; and an elaborate Goa funeral
and the church choirmaster trying to
coax music from his bunch of young
Sunday school pupils.
Writers were to later say that Goa
gave Mario to the world, and Mario
gave Goa to the world. And it was true
because each trip he made back to his
native land and his 300-year-old ancestral mansion in Loutolim, he
chronicled and captured wonderful
sketches that transported his viewers
to a land of swaying palms, majestic
churches and mystical temples, steamer journeys and hippies on the beach.
By 1974, Mario was at his peak. His
Sketchbook on Bombay is a masterpiece that captures all of the city’s travails, its myriad people, the crowded
marketplaces, the BEST buses, its
monsoon floods and leaking old

houses. His humorous takes on the
politics of that time – the garibi hatao
campaign, the union strikes, the potbellied politician in his Ambassador
car – were brilliant social comments,
delivered with style and class. A man of
few words, Mario, his contemporaries
say, liked to stand back and observe,
and like the wise owl, the more he saw,
the less he spoke. What he saw was
obviously fodder for his work, but the
interesting thing is that Mario’s seeing
was a gentle act, a non-malicious and
empathetic seeing that took nothing
away from his sharp wit.
FEEL FOR ARCHITECTURE

But while his cartoons are captivating,
Mario’s illustrations reveal the true
artist he was. The illustrations he did
for The Weekly were indication
enough as were some of the line portraits he did of people. But it was not
until he was sent by the United States
Information Service (USIS) to the U.S.
in 1973 and came back with a sketchbook of incredible artwork, enough to
hold an exhibition, that Mario’s fame
as an artist shot up tremendously. It
was not entirely unknown though. In
the diaries and sketchbooks Mario had
kept as a teenager and young man are
some incredibly good ink portraits of
Jesus Christ and others. It is actually
regrettable though understandable
that while the popularity of his cartoons made him known as a cartoonist,
his gift as an illustrator remained confined to the art gallery circuit.
Consulates were soon inviting him
to visit their countries to sketch; he
was able to produce a body of work
that revealed his great feel for architecture and atmosphere. Fortunately, copies of all of the works are on
permanent exhibition at the Mario
Gallery in Goa.
In 1977, Mario left The Times
Group, to join his friend Behram Contractor in Mid Day and later proceeded to Afternoon Despatch & Courier,
retaining his freedom to continue his
travels and take on independent commissions, which came flooding in. He
always, however, remained grateful
and never failed to mention his early
1 3 0

F R O N T L I N E

debt to D.F. Karakka, who gave him
his first break in his newspaper The
Current, where Mario worked as staff
cartoonist in 1952, and C.R. Mandy,
who gave him his break in The Illustrated Weekly of India.
As a freelancer years later, Mario
was never short of work and did book
covers, restaurant panels and calendars, working continuously until his
ailments prevented him from doing so.
Five years ago, at 81, Mario went to
Spain and returned with works that
are amazingly good though they may
not be his best. His best, he had said,
was the book he did on his German
trip, Germany in Wintertime, a book
he dearly wanted to see republished.
From 2008, several of his books have
come into the market. Each of them
gave him a new high, and da Cunha
says Mario was particularly looking
forward to an exhibition that was to
open in the Reis Magos Fort in north
Goa that he helped restore.
Returning to live in Goa in 1996,
Mario kept busy with his commissions
but also began a new phase of engagement with Goa’s heritage monuments
as part of the conservation body the
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). “If it wasn’t
for Mario’s determination, the Museum of Christian Art would never
have come into existence,” says Victor
Gomes, the museum’s former curator.
Mario would have liked to have taken
up several other projects but inevitably
ran into bureaucratic hassles, something he took with grace. In 2003, Mario was awarded the Padma Bhushan;
just a few years earlier, he had been
conferred the Padma Shri.
If imitation is the best form of flattery, then one doubts there is a cartoonist more copied in India than Mario.
There are dozens of artists churning
out characters that look similar to
those sketched by Mario. Did he mind
this, I had asked him earlier this year
in an interview – only to get an answer
that was quintessentially Mario. Not at
all, he had informed me, though it annoyed him a bit if the humour was
poor. “Some of them even improve on
my drawing. These young people now-

M.A. SRIRAM

JANUARY 13, 2012

ONE OF T H E exhibits at the “Impressions of Paris”, an exhibition of cartoons by Mario which was organised by the
Mysore chapter of the Alliance de Francaise de Bangalore in 2010.

adays are very good,” he had added. A
razor-sharp wit and an ability to sketch
his fellow humans with a combination
of humour, compassion and verve
made Mario stand out among his
peers. On the cover of a book published
in his honour in 2008 is a cartoon that
captures Mario’s genius in the cartoon
genre. Even in the crowded ballroom
scene he had sketched, heaving with
dozens of couples, each man and woman is imbued with individual personality quirks that make every character
in the crowded scene stand out and
become noteworthy.
The point is that Mario seems to
have truly believed that everybody was
noteworthy. He loved people and liked
being among people, he had said, ex-

plaining why he and his wife, Habiba,
made incredibly long journeys from
their colonial-era mansion to any
event or gathering despite their failing
health in recent years. The musician
Remo Fernandes said he last met the
Mirandas dining at a speciality Goan
restaurant just a couple of days before
Mario passed away on December 11.
To his friends, Mario was loyal and
very good company. Goans like to stick
together in a strange place, and in
Mumbai, Mario was always willing to
help Goan newcomers to the city. The
musician Emiliano da Cruz remembers the many evenings he spent at
Mario’s apartment in south Mumbai.
“Mario was constantly trying to help
me with contacts he knew since he and
F R O N T L I N E

1 3 1

Habiba were quite in with the embassy
and party crowd in Bombay.”
Gerard da Cunha, who worked
with him for the past 10 years, described Mario as a humble genius, the
kind who was equally kind to the peon
and the driver. “He would tip people
generously and would generally agree
to what people said, with the result
that people would walk into his house
and orally seek permissions to reproduce this and that drawing, and he
would willingly agree with no consideration whatsoever. His family learnt
to be a little more protective after that.”
It was this same openness that caused
the loss of much of his original works
but for a few treasured by those who
managed to get hold of them.

North Korea is a highly militarised society because of its history and the unremitting hostility from the West. B Y J O H N C H E R I A N Kim never took the title of President. until the mid-1990s was a highly authoritarian society.S.S. North Korea’s main trading partner at the time. Former U. took the international community by surprise. There were reports that the U. he was succeeded by his only son. After President Kim Il-sung died in 1994. THE sudden demise of Kim Jong-il. Kim Il-sung.S. The U. The Korean Workers Party. North Korea’s economy was doing quite well. also saw the Chinese army intervening on behalf of the north. the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK. the first by an American leader after military tensions had risen alarmingly in the Korean peninsula. The Korean penin- A N UN D A T ED P H O T O GRA P H showing Kim Jongil (left) and his father. Pyongyang.S. was readying cruise missiles to attack nuclear reactors and missile bases in North Korea. who died on December17. The country’s “juche” (self-reliance) policy had helped it make big strides in many fields. has been in power since then. The son dutifully implemented his father’s “military first” policy. was an astute statesman well aware of global developments. Kim Jong-il. or North Korea). Technically. The scars from that war are yet to heal. 2012 Korea’s loss Although caricatured in the West. had intervened militarily in the Korean peninsula to stop Korean reunification under the leadership of Kim Il-sung. For that matter. South Ko- rea. including agriculture and science. Scenes of mass grieving were witnessed in North Korea. Despite widespread scepticism about his political longevity. which lasted from 1950-53.-backed military dictators ruling the roost. North Korea and the United States are still at war. which was led by the resistance hero Kim Il-sung. The Bill Clinton administration alleged at the time that North Korea was using its experimental reactor in Yongbyon to produce plutonium for a nuclear bomb. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union.Obituary JANUARY 13. The U. The Korean War. 1 3 2 F R O N T L I N E . His father had been designated the “Eternal President” of North Korea. Kim Jong-il. with U. too. has its biggest military bases in South Korea and holds massive annual war games on North Korea’s borders along with the now muscular South Korean army. Three million Koreans died in the war. while on a visit to the site of the Nampho dam in North Korea.S. things were looking slightly better for the beleaguered communist country. Kim Jong-il remained the unquestioned leader of the country. President Jimmy Carter had made a visit to the capital. The country known as the “hermit kingdom” became independent in 1948. piloting it through tense times. When Kim Jong-il took over from his father.

and for the bombing of a South Korean passenger plane in 1987. Many analysts and observers of the Korean scene were sceptical about Kim’s ability to survive long at the helm. was when President George W. Kim Jong-il would have liked the thaw with the West to have continued. Soon after the Carter visit.JANUARY 13. His elevation to the leadership of the Workers Party was the first and so far the only case of a communist party embracing dynastic succession. wanted to open independent lines of communications with the West but was contin- sula seemed to be on the verge of a nuclear holocaust. aided by the top military leadership his father had handpicked. The North Korean media unfailingly reports that his birth was accompanied by the sighting of a bright star in the bright sky and the appearance of a double rainbow.-supplied nuclear reactors that would provide energy for the power-deficient country. He graduated from the Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang in 1964 where he had specialised on the works of communist thinkers and military affairs. was desperately in need of a helping hand.S. and South Korea had also pledged to supply fuel oil and end the diplomatic and trade embargo imposed on the country. Both the U. Madeleine Albright. an agreement was signed whereby North Korea pledged to give up its quest for a nuclear deterrent in exchange for two U. He was elected to the politburo of the Workers Party in 1974 when he was 32. In 1992. But the reclusive Kim quickly consolidated his grip on power. including floods and drought. uously rebuffed by Washington. Kim focussed on cultural issues. Pyongyang. The last straw. At the same time the work on the reactors was proceeding at a snail’s pace. in view of the new realities. John Cherian . which claimed 117 lives. Kim Ilsung passed away. He believed that good cinema had the potential to influence more people than the written word. Bush clubbed North Korea along with Iraq and Iran in the so-called “axis of evil”. His father. from Pyongyang’s point of view. In 1956. During the Carter visit. 2012 North Korea has historically followed an independent foreign policy. The North Korean leadership has made no secret of its desire to engage in direct negotia- AP//KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY VIA KOREA NEWS SERVICE The Kim Jong-il saga KIM JONG-IL was born on February 16. North Korea never joined the Comecon (the common market of the East Bloc). This was a key position as it is the North Ko- F R O N T L I N E 1 3 3 rean army that calls the shots in the politics of the country. three years after his father’s death. At the fag end of the Clinton term. The South Korean government has charged Kim Jongil for being responsible for the attack in Rangoon (Yangon) in 1983. In his early political life. Kim Jong-il first came into the public gaze in the 1970s. keeping a distance from both the Soviet Union and China when the socialist bloc was a powerful force.S. After the Cold War ended. his Secretary of State. The North Korean media said in 2010 that his style had set a worldwide trend. obese and prematurely balding. The son lacked the father’s charisma.S. Kim Il-sung publicly stated that his son was in charge of the internal affairs of the country. Very little is known about Kim Jongil’s early life. made an official visit to Pyongyang. He was short. He authored a book on world cinema in the 1980s. and South Korea started demanding more concessions. a place revered by all Koreans. where she was given a high-profile welcome. the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and China jointly tried to replace Kim Il-sung with a more accommodating collective leadership. Kim Il-sung. he was named the supreme commander of the North Korean Army. He had a special fondness for cinema and wanted to make the North Korean film industry a world-class one. was at the time leading a guerilla struggle against the Japanese occupation forces. which killed 17 of its officials.S. position came immediately after Bush assumed office in 2001. North Korea. But the U. 1942. in Mount Paektu. No substantial economic aid from Washington and Seoul materialised. Kim Jong-il also had a distinctive dress style. suffering from a series of natural disasters. Kim was officially designated the successor in 1980 but formally took power only in 1997. On December 1991. The hardening of the U.

today provides invaluable help to shore up the North Korean economy. Pres1 3 4 F R O N T L I N E ident Lee Myung-bak of South Korea ended the Sunshine Policy and has cut off most diplomatic and trade contacts with the north. Reports emanating from Pyongyang hint at a collective leadership emerging to guide the young Kim Jong-un. are trying to form an anti-China alliance under the tutelage of Washington. The young Kim was promoted recently to the rank of a four-star general. U. Kim made four trips to China. Kim Jong-il was. troops could be soon stationed along the Chinese border. like his father. had made a state visit to Pyongyang. This led to tough U. too. Kim never took the title of President.S. It also promptly restarted work on building a nuclear deterrent. into the political limelight. Pyongyang seems to be making the first moves to replicate the Chinese model of development. had intimations of his mortality. His father had been designated the “Eternal President” of North Korea. Under President Barack Obama. especially after bracketing North Korea in the “axis of evil”. The ultimate goal of the sixparty talks is to achieve denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. North Korea also appreciates China’s policy of not interfering in its internal affairs. If North Korea implodes. He was evidently following a busy work schedule. which ended its “one Korea” policy in 1994 by recognising the south. and South Korean armies held large-scale military exercises adjacent to the North Korean border in 2011. The first North Korean nuclear test took place in 2006. Beijing wants stability on its border. The North Korean government responded by walking out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in January 2003 and then expelling United Nations nuclear inspectors. But with the U. It is the biggest aid giver and food provider. Together they withstood the military might of the U. bypassing Beijing and Seoul. The North and South Korean leaderships swear by reunification. Food aid has been curtailed drastically. sanctions being imposed on the country. The high cost of German reunification is not lost on the South Korean ruling elite. preferred trains to planes. who continued with the Sunshine Policy despite hostility from Washington. Kim. The last nuclear test was in 2009.N.S. It feels that the high levels of prosperity the country has achieved will be impacted adversely if there is a sudden influx of people from the north. had described Kim Jong-il as “very outspoken” and the “most flexible man in North Korea”.and short-range missiles. The “Dear Leader”. The Bush administration had clearly marked out North Korea for regime change along with Iraq and Iran. an astute statesman. The strong relations between the two countries were forged during the Korean war.S. The North Korean leader never visited the south. North Korea successfully testfired accurate long. Many of China’s neighbours.S. Kim Jong-il’s efforts were aimed at establishing diplomatic relations with Washington and normalising relations with the West. 첸 . Starting from 2010. led by Japan. the Bush administration agreed to participate in “six-party” talks initiated under the leadership of China to defuse the military tensions in the Korean peninsula. The 69-year-old Kim seemed to have made a recovery of sorts after reportedly suffering a stroke more than three years ago. Roh. well aware of what was happening in the rest of the world. however. To prove that it could deliver nuclear warheads. China. Although caricatured in the West. Washington raised the stakes in 2002 by accusing Pyongyang of secretly enriching uranium. Kim Jong-un. tions with Washington. The son dutifully implemented his father’s “military first” policy. the southern leadership is alarmed by the prospect. The only countries he visited were China and Russia and that too in his customised train. caught in the Iraqi quagmire and Pyongyang increasing its nuclear and missile capabilities. In the past 18 months. he was photographed with soldiers at a military base. The Bush administration was not enamoured with the Sunshine Policy of the South Korean government. The South Korean President made a path-breaking visit to the North Korean capital in 2000. from available evidence.AFP/KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY VIA KOREA NEWS SERVICE JANUARY 13. he brought his youngest son. Kim Dae-jung. North Korea has a disciplined and well-armed millionstrong army. A few days before he died of a heart attack while travelling on his train. who was elected President of South Korea in 1998 on a platform which included establishing normal relations with North Korea. Washington has tried to further ratchet up the pressure on Pyongyang. In reality. ushering in the “Sunshine Policy” of rapprochement between the two Koreas. 2012 A H AN D O UT PI C T UR E from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency showing members of the Korean People’s Army crying for their late leader. The U. the term used for Kim in the North Korean media. His successor Roh Moo-hyun. had taken the first step to normalise relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

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RNI No.42591/84 .Published on alternate Saturdays.WPP No.TN/ARD/22/09-11. No.CPMG/AP/SD-15/WPP/11-13 & MH/MR/South-180/2009-11.Postal Regn.