Volume 16 - Issue 21, Oct. 09 - 22, 1999
India's National Magazine on indiaserver.com
from the publishers of THE HINDU
Table of Contents
I would like to bring to the attention of readers the story of the martyrdom of Major Sameer Katwal.
Katwal was killed on the morning of August 28 while attacking a camp of the newly formed Dima Halong Dowga (DHD) militant group in the North Kachar Hills district of Assam. He was not waylaid and killed while travelling in a vehicle, as reported by newsp apers.
Sameer, born on July 25, 1974, was the son of K.P.S. Katwal, an officer of the Indian Forest Service posted in Tamil Nadu. He had his school education in Tiruchi and Chennai, got trained at the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy, an d was commissioned into the 21st Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment on June 10, 1995. In the words of his Commanding Officer, Colonel J.J. Bajwa, Sameer was a very competent soldier with enthusiastic devotion to duty.
The night before he died, Sameer had led a group of 40 soldiers on foot for about 20 km across difficult terrain, to a DHD hideout. All the soldiers, including Sameer, had the protection of bullet-proof vests and steel helmets. The approach was so skilfu l that the militants, numbering about 15, did not notice the soldiers even whey were within 50 metres. The colonel had given clear instructions against any adventurism. Therefore several volleys were fired upon the camp before the final charge was made. Sameer was in the forefront. A fleeing militant turned around and emptied his AK-47 rifle, and one fatal bullet found its mark: it ripped through the right collar bone and neck of Sameer.
A few weeks after the February 18 Supreme Court order permitting an increase in the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam, I observed 1,000 people of Nandurbar district meeting and asking the Collector where the land that the Maharashtra government had mentio ned in its Supreme Court affidavit as being available was. They waited for three days (they slept outside the Collector's office) only to be told that there was no such land.
I came to Dhule and saw the resettlement site - the jail. This monsoon, whenever there was submergence people were taken to jail. When the waters receded, they returned to the valley.
In the United States, they are building more and more jails. Although they have stopped building big dams, they still jail the poor, the migrant workers, the black people, and all who come in the way of their own forms of destructive development. In Amer ica jails make a profit and are getting privatised. If that is development, then we shall also have to build more jails as we build more dams.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) started with a bang, banking on the Kargil victory and the image of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. But the euphoria vanished slowly. The staggered election schedule gave the Congress(I) an opportunity and the time to launch an aggressive campaign. Moreover, the anti-incumbency factor, infighting in States such as Uttar Pradesh, misunderstandings among alliance partners in States such as Karnataka, and local issues started causing problems for the BJP. So mid-way through the election the BJP lost the decisive edge ("Growing unease", October 8).
Still the NDA has hope. After V.P. Singh, Vajpayee has emerged as a national leader who can take on the "dynasty" and who is acceptable to the different regions of the country.
A. Jacob Sahayam
This refers to "Questions about capabilities" by T. Jayaraman (September 29). It is tragic that a country like India has presented its nuclear policy in shameful haste, reducing the status of such a serious and strategically important document to that of a comedy full of ambiguities and errors. The most disheartening aspect is the way in which the vision, ideals and hopes that inspired the freedom of India are abandoned by the 'honest' and 'liberal' leaders. What they have done is against the spirit of the Constitution, which directs the state to strive for peace and security.
A country whose basic defence needs are met through imports, a country which does not possess even a modern artillery unit made by itself, a country which does not possess an indigenous fighter jet, claims to build a nuclear force based on the "triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles, and sea-based assets". Judging by the pace of the R&D efforts in the country it does not seem that India will have these assets in the near future? This very fact makes the nuclear doctrine a 'comedy of errors'.
There is a word emphasised in the doctrine - "credible". Is this so-called credibility going to be managed by sheep-grazers? The Kargil shock is too recent for us to be able to believe in such "credibility". Moreover in this country (as well as in the re st of the subcontinent), where policy is guided not by wisdom and vision but by hidden agendas and the desire for power, what is the guarantee that there will be safe and secure control of the nuclear devices? It seems that even the policy of 'no first u se' has also been abandoned: note that the deterrence capability will be such that it will inflict unacceptable damage on "any potential aggressor".
It seems that the Government prepared the doctrine without doing any homework. It is nothing more than an addendum to the NDA's election manifesto.
Attack on minorities
The brutal killing of a Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Arul Doss, by armed assailants at Jamabani village in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa and the burning of a church on September 2 have once again shocked the peace-loving people of India.
Padiabeda village in the same district witnessed the gruesome murder of Sheikh Rehman, a Muslim trader, on August 26. The killing of Muslims and Christians in Orissa on the eve of the general elections is designed deliberately to intimidate the minoritie s and create divisions in society. This is in keeping with the hateful thesis of "one nation, one culture, one people and one language" propagated by Hindu fundamentalists. They neither advance the cause of the great Hindu religion nor help advance the s ecular ideal of the nation. Their sole aim is to gain political power and patronage. This conspiracy of hate, terror and division has posed a threat to the secular and pluralistic fabric of the nation.
We wish to highlight certain facts and raise some questions.
All the three killings witnessed in Mayurbhanj district took place close to Hindu festivals. Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons were burnt alive on the night before Saraswati Puja. Sheikh Rehman was killed on Raksha Bandhan day and Fr. Arul Doss was murdered on the night before Janmashtami. Is this a coincidence or the result of deliberate planning by communal forces?
Two gruesome murders took place in the same region within the span of one week after the Wadhwa Commission report on the Graham Staines incident was made public. Is this again a coincidence or has the clean chit given by the Wadhwa report to the communal organisations that are known to be involved in the Graham Staines incident emboldened them to go on a killing spree against the minorities?
When the Government's intelligence agencies could find out where Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi was going to contest the elections, they are unable to trace Dara Singh, the main accused in these crimes, and his associates. Is this a coincidence or a case of deliberate neglect of the security concerns of the minorities in India?
Ever since the BJP-led coalition government assumed power, the minorities, particularly Christians, have been victims of communally motivated mob attacks. Is this a coincidence or a manifestation of the overt and covert support given by the government to the Hindu communal organisations?
Hatred against the minorities, secular-minded groups and the weaker sections of society in general has been spreading like cancer throughout India owing to the unchecked activities of the Sangh Parivar. The carefully nurtured secular fabric of the nation is under threat.
We appeal to all people of goodwill to join our campaign to save our country from disintegration by deciding to oppose actively the anti-secular ideology of the Sangh Parivar; dissociate from anyone who sympathises with the RSS and its sister organisatio ns; inform your neighbours about the gravity of this situation; write letters to the President, the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Governor and the Chief Minister of Orissa expressing distress and anguish over the recent incidents; organise signa ture campaigns and mobilise support for our just demands such as immediate steps to apprehend Dara Singh and his associates who were involved in the killings, restore public confidence, ensure that there is no recurrence of such violence, and ban all com munal organisations in the country.
Students of Vidyajyoti
In "An aborted deal?" (September 10), the author, while projecting the deficiencies of the decisions taken by the BJP government to deal with the Kargil crisis, should have also mentioned the achievements made. India has made a silent achievement without compromising its self-respect and honour.
It is shocking that the Wadhwa Commission gave a clean chit to organisations such as the RSS and the Bajrang Dal ("An exercise in illogic," September 10). What is most amazing is the Commission's failure to take note of the various First Information Repo rts that point to Dara Singh's association with the Bajrang Dal. It is deplorable that the Commission overlooked the reports of the Divisional Commissioner, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG, Crime) and the DIG attached to the National Human Ri ghts Commission. On May 31, counsel for the Commission submitted that there was prima facie evidence to show the link between Dara Singh and the Sangh Parivar.
The murder of Graham Staines and his two children was not the result of any personal enmity between the Australian missionary and Dara Singh. It was a planned, well-organised attack. Such a heinous crime could not have been committed without the backing of organisations that are influential in the area. It is well known that the murder was committed at a time when attacks against Christians and their institutions were on the increase in different parts of the country. The murder cannot be viewed as an i solated incident. The ideological motives behind it and the social context in which it took place have to be taken into account in any attempt to arrive at the truth.