Protest in Punjab; Congress Fights Hard for UP; Chidambaram’s schedule; Why Only Narsimha Rao; Telangana: Losing Control?
Where Violence Begets Violence
How do top-notch politicians in Punjab tackle the issue of repeated violence between different groups in the state? By resorting to violence themselves, and converting the Punjab Assembly into a boxing ring, it would seem, if we go by what happened on 8 December.
Witnesses say that for over 15 minutes, MLAs and ministers from the opposition and the treasury benches tugged and pulled at each other while Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal made a statement on some incidents of violence in Ludhiana last week. The violence, spread over two days, was of such intensity that a curfew had to be declared.
On 8 December, the first day of business in the House, Congress MLAs were miffed at their adjournment motion on the issue being rejected. The Speaker, instead, allowed the Deputy CM to make a statement in the House. So, as soon as the junior Badal began speaking, some Congress MLAs rushed into the well of the House, shouting slogans. They also tried to reach the Speaker’s podium, which fortunately had already been cordoned off by a security ring.
The MLAs then turned towards the treasury benches and a scuffle ensued between the two sides, even as Badal completed his statement. While a few turbans were tossed about, a Shiromani Akali Dal MLA ended up with a bleeding nose. Of course, both Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal later condemned the incident.
In the meantime, the original issue of violence in Ludhiana has been sidelined. On 3 December, protests by migrants over police inaction on a criminal complaint had turned violent. This spread to the national highway and the protestors damaged private property and clashed with the police the next day, leading to the curfew. At the same time, a few hardline Sikh organisations camping in the area to protest against a sect holding its congregation also clashed with the police, and firing ensued. The curfew thus continued for several days.
The Congress and the ruling SAD are currently busy blaming each other for both the violence inside and outside the House. Meanwhile, the matter concerning the Ludhiana violence and similar incidents awaits attention. In May this year, large-scale violence had taken place in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Phagwara and Hoshiarpur after the murder of a sect leader abroad.
Cong Fights Hard for UP
Final preparations are being made to invoke Mahatma Gandhi and the freedom struggle to help Congress leader Rahul Gandhi revive the party in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Insiders say that the year-long celebration, beginning 28 December, to mark the Congress’ 125th anniversary, is being planned in such a way that the party may extract maximum political dividends in UP, where Assembly polls are scheduled to be held in early 2012.
The celebrations will be symbolically kicked off by Congress President Sonia Gandhi laying the foundation for the party’s new headquarters at Rouse Avenue in Delhi. The other state being given a fair amount of attention during the celebrations is Gujarat. Here, too, elections are due in 2012. Invoking MahatmaGandhi, a party leader says, is the best way to break the saffron grip over Gujarat.
DHIRENDRA K JHA
When the Forces are not with Him
Tradition among security forces is always held above everything else. But this year, thanks to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, the raising day ceremonies of two paramilitary organisations had to be rescheduled owing to the minister’s own schedule.
The raising day of the Border Security Force (BSF) is celebrated every year on 1 December. But since Chidambaram was not available on that day to preside over the ceremony, it was preponed to 29 November.
Similarly, the raising day ceremony of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), usually held on 23 October, had to be celebrated a day earlier.
A few serving officers and some former officers have been expressing displeasure over the rescheduling of such ceremonies. If such ceremonies keep getting rescheduled, they say, one day politicians might even tamper with the date on which Republic Day or Independence Day is celebrated.
Why Only Narasimha Rao
The Congress is acting in admirable fashion. Who would have expected that a party renowned for sycophancy would accept accountability for the mistakes of a former party president who was once Prime Minister of the country? Illustrious Congressmen such as spokesperson Manish Tewari have boldly said that PV Narasimha Rao was made “to atone for the constitutional paralysis that afflicted him…”. Could it be that winds of reform are sweeping through the party and we are about to see an era of accountability for past failures by other leaders? Certainly, it would be worth asking Manish Tewari what he thinks of Indira Gandhi’s role in declaring the Emergency. After all, she was also but a Prime Minister and a party chief. Or, for that matter, what he thinks of Rajiv Gandhi’s blindness when Sikhs were being massacred not in distant Ayodhya but in the very Capital where he was Prime Minister? Of course we know the answer, Mr Tewari will have very little to say about either of them or for that matter any Nehru-Gandhi. Why then this eagerness to subject Narasimha Rao to such scrutiny? Blame it on political expediency in the face of an embarrassing public debate in Parliament, but it says a lot about a party that it is willing to decry a man who was arguably the best Prime Minister the country has had since Jawaharlal Nehru. This is not to say Narasimha Rao’s role in the Babri demolition is not at fault, but whatever his failure in the chain of events leading to the demolition, his culpability is certainly no more than of Indira Gandhi for the Emergency or Rajiv Gandhi for the massacre of Sikhs. It does not behove the Congress to be so quick to judge one man when they are in no position to judge people who are no more than his equals. They should leave it to the rest of the country, which already has made an assessment of all three events, and has made the Congress pay for each one of them. And, in fact, if the party is willing to assess the failure of its own leaders in the events that led to the demolition, then why not begin with what transpired a few years earlier in 1985 with the opening of the locks to the site or the shilanayas in 1989?
HARTOSH SINGH BAL
Losing Control of the Telangana Movement?
Continuing with its tradition of politics-related suicides, the number of people who have ended their lives in the ongoing agitation for a separate Telangana state has gone up to 22. On the other hand, the chief of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) K Chandrasekhara Rao’s health (he is on a fast to press for separate statehood) has deteriorated. Time is running out fast and the Congress Government in New Delhi needs to act fast in order to avert a major crisis. With a noisy students’ agitation taking its own course, even Rao is not sure whether they will listen to him any longer. That is why he is keen that talks begin with the Centre over the issue. There is no U-turn for him now as he had once done after allying with the Congress in 2004. At this juncture when emotions are running so high, the students won’t forgive him if he calls off his fast without any assurance from the Congress High Command.
Since the Telangana separatist movement of 1960s, never have students been galvanised as much as they are now. As this is being written, the state government has sought Army deployment for controlling the situation on 10 December, when the students and TRS activists plan to storm the state Assembly. Earlier, the students had reacted angrily to Rao’s sudden decision of ending his fast after which he had to resume it once again. He then went on to blame the police for forcing him to break his fast. Now, his only hope is that the Congress invites him to Delhi to discuss the statehood issue. While this looks like it is sure to happen, it is not clear whether Rao will be offered anything concrete to take back. It seems that Rao has started something which he is no longer in control of.