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EDITORIAL

Can' we undo it?

There are good reasons for Dr Farooq Abdullah to have shed tears about the exodus of the members of the small Kashmiri Pandit community from the Valley. Actually all of us in this State would share his sentiments. At a public function in the national capital he has made relevant utterances which are laced with high emotions without being divorced of realities. He has, for instance, stated: "One of the major tragedies that we had to go through was the ethnic cleansing that took place in the State of Jammu and Kashmir…I think it was one of the darkest chapters in the history of the State that will always remain and for which even for years if we ask God for forgiveness I wonder if it will ever come." In fact, almost all of his reported observations are worth mentioning: (a) "People in Kashmir don't know what Pandits look like, what the now empty temples meant for them, they have become aliens, I wonder if I'll be able to see it (the repatriation) in this birth. .....more

Traffic snarls

Traffic jams caused in this city during the highly revered Gurpurab procession last week-end have been amazing. There were long queues of vehicles on all roads. The people had to wait for hours to get the passage and reach their destinations. It is a miracle that no tragedy because of the delay in getting timely medical attention has been reported so far. Nevertheless there has been a tremendous loss of man-hours. Clearly, the traffic police must take the entire blame. It is its prime responsibility to regulate the vehicular traffic in a manner that no inconvenience is caused to commuters. In this instance, it did not think it ....more

The Saint soldier

By Inder Jeet S ‘Prince’

Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, was born on 7th day of the month of Poh, Samvat 1723, (1666 AD) at Patna Sahib in Bihar. Guru Ji came to reside at Anandpur Sahib when he was a child of only 7 years old. After some years, a deputation of Kashmiri Pandits came to Anandpur Sahib and met the 9th Guru Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, (father of Guru Gobind Singh Ji) and told them the cruel acts of injustice of the Mughal rulers towards the Hindus.....more

On the crossroad of disaster

By K.N. Pandita

Assassination of Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer by the trusted guard reminds one of the assassinations of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard gunman. Political figures of eminence have always lived a life of constant threat from their adversaries and assailants. , ....more

Funds stashed abroad

By Ramesh Kanitkar

The Global Financial Integrity - a non-profit research organisation working in the area of tax havens - has estimated that the present value of illegal financial flows of India held abroad is at least US$462 billion.
This means that the money stashed abroad is nearly 40 per cent of our GDP of $1.2 trillion. When this became an issue before the last Parliamentary elections, some leaders in the ruling party denied the issue outright. But the current prime minister was gracious enough to acknowledge the gravity of the issue and promised action on coming to power. .
.more

EDITORIAL

Can' we undo it?

There are good reasons for Dr Farooq Abdullah to have shed tears about the exodus of the members of the small Kashmiri Pandit community from the Valley. Actually all of us in this State would share his sentiments. At a public function in the national capital he has made relevant utterances which are laced with high emotions without being divorced of realities. He has, for instance, stated: "One of the major tragedies that we had to go through was the ethnic cleansing that took place in the State of Jammu and Kashmir…I think it was one of the darkest chapters in the history of the State that will always remain and for which even for years if we ask God for forgiveness I wonder if it will ever come." In fact, almost all of his reported observations are worth mentioning: (a) "People in Kashmir don't know what Pandits look like, what the now empty temples meant for them, they have become aliens, I wonder if I'll be able to see it (the repatriation) in this birth; (b) "Everyone wants to die, be buried and cremated in his own land. I lived in England for 12 years but I never became English though I married an English woman. For me those narrow lanes in Kashmir meant far more than the beautiful roads in England," (c) "With the rate of extremism I see today I wonder whether secularism will survive. My fear is of the younger generation who know that they belong to Kashmir but haven't seen the place but then there is a yearning to get back to their land and at the same time the fear in them if it's safe enough to live in peace stops them from doing so. It is these younger people we need to look and cater to" and (d) "Muslims are also suffering. We believe in the Sufi culture. There are forces in the State trying to push out that too."

Dr Abdullah is concerned about the young people living in cramped quarters of refugee camps. Such environment, according to him, is detrimental to youngsters as it breeds "hatred" and "extremism" which will be "the biggest danger in future." He has pointed out that the level of religious tolerance has dropped over the years. The National Conference (NC) patriarch, who is also a Union minister, has brought into sharp focus our collective sense of loss. Of all the tragedies of separation that have struck the State and the sub-continent as a whole it is possibly the exit of the miniscule Kashmir Pandit community from its centuries' old abode that was easily avoidable. There was communal inferno in 1947: it led to the division of the State in the midst of murder and mayhem, the migration of Hindus and Sikhs from Mirpur and Muzaffarabad and that of Muslims from Jammu. Only the Valley had at that time stood as what Mahatma Gandhi described as a ray of hope in the midst of chaos. For decades after that the Mahatma's assertion was inscribed in black and white at a big signboard outside the Summer Capital's leading women's college on the Maulana Azad road. This hoarding was among the first casualties of radical violence that struck the Valley from 1988 onwards. What followed was almost a natural corollary. Liberal Muslim scholars and leaders were killed, a NC worker in the downtown Srinagar being the first in the list of those unforgettable martyrs. Then, the Kashmiri Pandits were selectively targeted and hounded out. There was no consideration for the fact that some of their leaders had in 1947 supported the accession to Pakistan or pleaded for independence; in fact, one of them in front of the vociferous anti-India demonstrations even in the 1990s was also gunned down. The intention of the killers was to engineer, as Dr Abdullah, has recalled now, "ethnic cleansing."

The leaders like Dr Abdullah had to withdraw behind unprecedented security cover. Their names did not find any mention in the militancy-dictated media for quite some time. It was a hopeless situation worsened by a misplaced discourse by the NC and its leaders, Dr Abdullah not excluded. It is a part of history that the NC leaders had then blamed Mr Jagmohan, Governor at that time, for having caused the migration of Kashmiri Pandits. They had gone on to label him as "Changez Khan" and "Halaku." At this point too, Dr Kamal Mustafa, brother of Dr Abdullah and a NC legislator, has refused to acknowledge that there was ethnic cleansing of the Pandit community attributing its exit instead to "Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (the then Union Home Minister), Mr Jagmohan, Army and other Central agencies." Dr Abdullah has already publicly made it known what he thinks of Dr Mustafa. No well-wisher of the State or a serious student of politics will be interested in difference of views between the two brothers. Suffice it to say for the moment that Dr Abdullah has shown signs of repentance which, although belated, can considerably alter the existing scenario if there is proper follow-up. Let the mistakes that we have made in the past not continue to haunt us for centuries. Let the NC and other like-minded parties lead the Kashmiri Pandits back to their homes from the front. The extremism thrives if one acquiesces in it because of fear or any other reason. To crush it we have to strengthen the forces and symbol of secularism with double the vigour. The biggest setback to radical elements will be undoing the mischief done by them. It should not be difficult to do so in a land in which the seeds of love, affection and tolerance have been planted and nurtured by Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani, Habba Khatun and Lal Ded, among a host of others.

Traffic snarls

Traffic jams caused in this city during the highly revered Gurpurab procession last week-end have been amazing. There were long queues of vehicles on all roads. The people had to wait for hours to get the passage and reach their destinations. It is a miracle that no tragedy because of the delay in getting timely medical attention has been reported so far. Nevertheless there has been a tremendous loss of man-hours. Clearly, the traffic police must take the entire blame. It is its prime responsibility to regulate the vehicular traffic in a manner that no inconvenience is caused to commuters. In this instance, it did not think it necessary to strike a note of caution by giving prior publicity to the route of procession. Such negligence should not happen again.

The Saint soldier

By Inder Jeet S ‘Prince’

Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, was born on 7th day of the month of Poh, Samvat 1723, (1666 AD) at Patna Sahib in Bihar. Guru Ji came to reside at Anandpur Sahib when he was a child of only 7 years old. After some years, a deputation of Kashmiri Pandits came to Anandpur Sahib and met the 9th Guru Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, (father of Guru Gobind Singh Ji) and told them the cruel acts of injustice of the Mughal rulers towards the Hindus. They sought his help Guru Tegh Bahadur became silent and was absorbed in deep thought. At that time Guru Gobind Singh Ji, then only a child of about 9, asked his father reason for his silence. Guru Tegh Bahadur ji explained that these helpless people from Kashmir had no one to protect their religion. The sacrifice of a great & brave soul was needed. The child (Guru Gobind Singh Ji) immediately said, ‘‘Who can be more brave and greater than you? Please have mercy on them and do whatever is necessary to protect ‘Hindu Dharma’ .
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was pleased to hear this and went to Delhi to sacrifice his life to save the Hindu religion. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb asked him to either embrace Islam or face death. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji said, ‘‘my religion is the most dear to me. I am not afraid of death.'' At the Chandni Chowk in Delhi where the great Gurudawara Sri Sisganj Sahib stands was the site chosen for Guru Ji's execution. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji died a hero's death. His execution strengthened the resistance against Aurangzeb's religious fanaticism.
When Guru Gobind Singh Ji was told that no one came forward to protest because of the fear of death, he declared that he would lay the foundation of the ‘‘Khalsa Panth’’ and would train it in such a way that its members would be ready to sacrifice everything for the right cause.
According to Dr Gopal Singh, ‘‘Guru Ji had to fight both Hindus (Rajput princes of hilly states) and Muslims (Mughal Kings) and yet both Muslims and Hindus also fought alongside of him against his enemies. The Hindu Temple and the Muslim Mosque cry out to the same one God. Men are some all over, though in appearance they seem so different. One of his devoit disciple, Bhai Kanaihya ji, when asked why he was distributing water to the wounded on the battle field without the distinction of friend and foe, replied ‘‘My Guru Ji has instructed me to do this, to see only the face of the beloved in all’’. And it is a fact of history that although emperor Aurangzeb had given the Guru Ji, every conceivable cause for grievance against his house, the Guru Ji had helped his eldest son, Bahadur Shah Zafar, in the battle of succession.’’
Though a matchless warrior, Guru Gobind Singh Ji always remained a saint at heart. Guru Ji was a saint who had dedicated himself to God, a God-intoxicated philosopher. He was a sincere lover of man who wanted to see all man made differences created by barriers of formal religion and social distinctions brought in by caste, to be obliterated from society.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji's creation of ‘‘KHALSA PANTH’’ in 1699 AD was an event of world significance. Noted historian Annold Tonybee has called it the precursor and fore runner of Lenin's communist party two centuries later in history : an idealistic minority fighting, with the weapons of the adversary, in the name and for the sake of majority.’’
Guru Gobind Singh Ji convinced his devotees that no God or Goddess would be sent from heaven to give protection to the downtrodden masses. He told them to assemble at Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of Baisakhi of 1699. At Guru Ji's call, when 5 Sikhs offered their heads in surrender, Guru Ji baptised them by administring ‘AMRIT’ prepared with double-edged sword. They were known as the ‘Chosen Five’ (‘‘PANJ-PIAYARE’’) and Satguru addressed them thus: ‘‘There is no difference between you and me’’. They were given a common surname ‘Singh’ and were called ‘Khalsa’. They were Khalsa of the lord-God.
‘‘Khalsa Akal Purakh Ki Fauj,
Pargatiyo Khalsa
Parmatam Ki Mauz’’
(‘Khalsa' is the army of the Eternal God raised by him out of his pleasure. Their distinguishing features were their uncut beard, unshorn hair with a turban, an iron bangle (‘Kada’), a sword dangling on the left, an underwear (‘Kachhara’) and a comb (‘Kanga’) in the hair. They were given the surname Singh. They were meant to be legions of the timeless God, commissioned to establish the rule of ‘Dharma’ on land and uproot all evil.
Guru Ji held his ‘Chosen Five’- the Khalsa of the lord in so high esteem that he knelt before them and asked them to initiate him in to ‘Khalsa’ Panth in the same manner as he had done them. Guru Ji was thus administered ‘Amrit’ in the same way and was given surname ‘Singh’ (Previously Guru Ji's name was Gobind Rai.)
The ‘Khalsa’ with God's light shining within was meant to be a global society. They were not to form a separate denomination as that was totally against the Guru's concept of universal brotherhood. The creation of the Khalsa was the crowning event of Guru Gobind Singh Ji's life. Ideologically the creation of the Khalsa aimed at a well balanced combination of the ideals of ‘Bhakti’ and ‘Shakti’, of moral and spiritual excellance and millitant valour and heroism of the highest order. They were expected to salute one another with, ‘‘Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa - Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!’’
This was meant to remind them that they were knighted as God's soldiers to carry out his mission and that victory was theirs.
But the ‘Singhs’ were not to be merely soldiers. It was imperative that they must at the same time be saints deeply devoted to God, singing his hymns as composed by the Gurus, observing the daily religious discipline prescribed in the ‘Rahit’ of the Khalsa panth and bearing a high moral character.
Guru Ji breathed his last on Oct 7, 1708 at Naded in Maharashtra due to a conspiracy hatched against him by Governor of Punjab, Wazir Khan, Guru Ji, before leaving for his heavenly abode declared that the Sikh community had to be guided by the decisions of the ‘Panj-Piare’ (the chosen- Five) chosen from among the devotees. Guru Ji handed over the stewardship of the Sikh Panths- the Sikh way of life- to the holy Granth.
Those who wish to seek God, can find him in the ‘Holy Granth Sahib’.
In the end , it can be said that Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the son of martyr Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the great grandson of Guru Arjun Dev Ji, laid at the alter of the Almighty all that he could call his own-his father, mother, all his 4 sons and even his own life for the freedom of all, including those who considered themselves his enemies.

On the crossroad of disaster

By K.N. Pandita

Assassination of Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer by the trusted guard reminds one of the assassinations of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard gunman. Political figures of eminence have always lived a life of constant threat from their adversaries and assailants.
But there is a marked difference between the two cases of assassination cited above. Indira Gandhi was assassinated because she ordered military action in the holy shrine at Amritsar against armed insurgents holed up in the shrine and armed to the hilt as if in war preparedness. As head of the government, Indira Gandhi had to ensure and enforce national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country as these were threatened by a anti-national elements supported and abetted by an inimical county in the neighbourhood.
On the other hand, late Salman Taseer was not called upon to defend the integrity and sovereignty of the state nor had he ordered any military or police action against any person or organization. He had gone to the market on a non-official vsit when he was gunned down by his guardsman.
The assailant Malik Qadri threw down his gun and pronounced the reason why he had taken the life of one he was supposed to protect.
Taseer was gunned down for his ideology of rationalism and humanism. The group of TTP who claimed responsibility for this heinous crime asserted that Taseer was eliminated because he was against the blasphemy law and supported its withdrawal. The group to which the assailant belonged celebrated the act of murder and issued warning that others holding ideas of tolerance and coexistence would meet with the same fate. This blanket warning, obviously, was directed more towards the dispensers of justice in Pakistan than ordinary civilians.
Rabid fundamentalists lionized the act or murder as the victory of the faith they adhered to so much so that they would not allow the burial of the assassinated Governor with due rites, leave aside giving him a befitting state funeral.
The killing and related developments speak of the level of brain washing of jihadis in Pakistan and the level of hatred spread against other religions. Were Governor Taseer's rationalism and humanism as dangerous to the Islam of these radicals as necessitated his elimination? Was his humanism of showing sympathy to an oppressed Christian woman such an un-Islamic act that he had to pay for it with his life? Is there no precedence of humanistic treatment to an oppressed person in the history of Islam? Isn't Islam called the religion of peace and compassion? Is only the Allah of the Muslims rahaman and rahim (compassionate and forgiving) and not the Muslim ummmah? Are there no examples in the biography of the holy prophet of him forgiving his adversaries? Don't the pious Muslims believe in the words of the holy prophet that killing of an innocent man is tantamount to the killing of humanism?
It appears that now in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan radicals are a law unto themselves and the state is a silent and helpless spectator of mayhem let lose by them. It has failed to contain extremism, which is emboldened to challenge the authority of the state.
Broad-day assassination of the Governor of Punjab for his sympathy towards an oppressed person and his views that the blasphemy law was not compatible with modern views of justice are pointers to a critical situation steering into Pakistan's eye. What will be the fate of a state in modern world where tolerance of other religions and religious factions is practically and not virtually refused, attacked and decimated? The source of religious interference in Pakistan lies in the anti-Hindu philosophy of the founding fathers of the concept of an Islamic state for the Muslims of undivided India. Having extirpated its Hindu population soon after the new theocratic state came into existence, Pakistan must now find the religious other to revitalize its zeal for religious hatred.
Indoctrination into Islamic fundamentalism and fanaticism has gone deep and wide into Pakistani civil society. It has one very serious dimension. Surprisingly, the armed forces, too, are now brought within the ambit of rabid indoctrination and these have also towing the line of the rabid extremists.
Pak watchers in the western world are looking at this serious development in terms of security threat to the region and the world at large. If the fundamentalists could make a dent into the bodyguard columns of a governor, what guarantee is there that they have not penetrated the nearly 2000 persons who are equipped with considerable nuclear know-how from among 70000 persons working in Pakistan's nuclear industry.
American and European stakeholders are now wondering if Pakistan government's claims that her nuclear arsenal is well protected against infiltration and subversion can stand the test of time after the assassination of the Governor. There seem to be a fair chance that religious extremists, behaving with impunity as they are, may find access to Pakistan's nuclear devices something not really forbidding. Pakistani Army's claim that the jihadis form the second or maybe the first line of defence has to be taken seriously. The quality of weapons confiscated from the killed or surrendered militants in Kashmir clearly show that this line of defence is provided with most sophisticated weaponry and latest communication gadgets by their sponsors from across the border. Pakistani army, from top to bottom, remains sensitized to India as a potent enemy. It would want an excuse to let the dirty weapon finished the "unfinished job of partition".
That Pakistan's civil administration has been fully penetrated by the TTP, which the Army considers a decisive thrust delivering force, there remains little doubt that in case the dirty weapon falls in their hands, they will use it to maximum effect.
The US and the European Union both frugal in providing Pakistan with financial, military and other assistance over the years, will have to reconsider whether democracy has any chance in Pakistan. The level of military action against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the rugged terrains of Waziristans may not really break the backbone of the warring tribesmen because they are receiving perennial reinforcement in manpower from the vast numbers of indoctrinated youth in the Islamic seminaries in Pakistan. There might be the need for a drastic change in the regional strategies if not in the war tactics now underway. New alignments might be forged with wider space for action and maneuvering depending on the building of consensus among the stakeholders. Washington needs regular re-appraisal of its strength and strategy in a region in which state interests of China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are fast deepening. At least one thing is clear. Pakistan is split vertically between supporters or sympathizers of militant religious extremism on the one hand and paralyzed and dysfunctional rational segment of her civil society on the other. It is a revival of the long-drawn battle between the orthodoxy and liberalism in Islam. In this scenario of crumbling structure of civil society, Pakistan Army is enjoying the sadistic pleasure of increasing its power and role at great speed. Where will it lead the country to is anybody's guess?

Funds stashed abroad

By Ramesh Kanitkar

The Global Financial Integrity - a non-profit research organisation working in the area of tax havens - has estimated that the present value of illegal financial flows of India held abroad is at least US$462 billion.
This means that the money stashed abroad is nearly 40 per cent of our GDP of $1.2 trillion. When this became an issue before the last Parliamentary elections, some leaders in the ruling party denied the issue outright. But the current prime minister was gracious enough to acknowledge the gravity of the issue and promised action on coming to power.
Since then the whole world has moved against the menace of untaxed money. But the Indian response has been just symbolic, like signing tax treaties, with no decisive attempt to get at the root of the problem.
As early as February 2008 German authorities had collected information about illegal money kept by citizens of various countries in the Lichtenstein bank and the German finance minister offered to provide the names to any government interested in the list. Our government did not take any action for many months and, only after much prodding by the opposition, asked for the list in late 2008.
Recently it agreed, in the Supreme Court, in response to a petition moved by Ram Jethmalani and others that "18 Indians have put Rs.43.83 crore in Liechtenstein bank". The list is said to contain names of more than 100 Indians. Interestingly, in the case of Hasan Ali of Pune, who was found to have been operating massive Swiss accounts, the Union government indicated that tax demands of Rs.71, 848 crore have been raised on the said person, his wife and other associates. If this were the tax demand, then the income on which this would have been raised would be more than Rs.1.5 lakh crore. Likewise, the IPL, 2-G spectrum, Madhu Koda and CWG scam issues, all point to linkages to tax havens.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is not inclined to reveal even the "total volume of such money" to an applicant using RTI. During the hearing, ED stated that they cannot either confirm or deny media reports about the likely volume of black money stashed away in foreign banks illegally by Indian nationals.
It is suggested that India is updating its double taxation treaty with many countries, including Switzerland. Actually the double taxation treaty is only a part of the solution. Many of these tax havens do not consider tax evasion by depositors in host countries as a crime. Also they have stringent laws to punish bankers providing any information regarding the depositors. Nearly 1 trillion out of 2.8 trillion of Swiss money is black money says Konrad Hummler, the Chairman of the Swiss Private Bankers Association.
The steps needed to monitor and control funds which are diverted and used for terror financing from these tax havens also need to be looked at. As early as 2007 the concern was expressed by the then national security advisor, MK Narayanan, about possibility of terror funds coming in through financial markets. A recent report suggests that "on instructions from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Intelligence Bureau has taken up the task of identifying the sudden quantum jump in the foreign money flowing in the country through withdrawals by foreigners on credit and debit cards issued by the foreign banks.
In the last few years many countries in Europe as well as the US have taken several steps to get back their illegal funds from abroad. For instance, the US got names of more than 4000 clients of UBS bank from Switzerland after persuasion, threats and related legal actions. It has been successfully demonstrated by countries which attempted to recover the assets stashed abroad by their corrupt leaders and businessmen that this can be accomplished.
There was a report in India Today (February 18, 2008) regarding foreign travels of Central ministers. It stated that a large number had visited Switzerland, including on personal trips and certainly not for skiing in the Alps. Given all these aspects why is the government not initiating any action?
One possible reason could be the culpability of our leaders. There was a report in the Swiss journal Schweitzer Illustrierte, which did an expose on politicians of the third world and developing nations who had stashed their wealth in Swiss banks.
The prime minister has announced to "redouble efforts" to "cleanse the system" in 2011. For a start, can he inform the nation about the total number of foreign trips - including personal trips - undertaken by his cabinet colleagues to various tax havens after UPA-2 came to power? INAV



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