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Thus Spake (Everyone on) General Musharraf

The importance of the new directions that general Musharraf is trying to introduce in Pakistan cannot and should not be underestimated. We should wholeheartedly welcome the new mood in Pakistan.

This Business with Israel

There was no reason why Israel's foreign minister had to be in India at this time and at this conjuncture of history. No more inept step could have been taken by Indian foreign policy planners.

Everyone a Fundamentalist?

The mode of expression employed by president Bush in the past few days has been startling indeed. It has not been president George Bush but St George speaking.

One Part Wisdom, Three Parts Coward

GPD A thought which quartered hath but one part wisdom And ever three parts coward -I do not know Why yet I live to say this things to do, Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means To do it...

OF LIFE, LETTERS AND POLITICS-A Fatal Attraction

GPD WHEN we. wrote about George Fernandes and his famous statements on China ('Politics of Defence, May 16, 1998) the nuclear blasts on May 11 had not yet taken place. With those blasts the significance of what he said and why he said that qualitatively changes. It is now clear that the defence minister was clearing the pitch for the Indian bomb. These statements were not the defence minister's very 'socialist' outbursts against China. They were, it would now seem, a part of the government's understanding that 'we are outnumbered 15 to one' by hostile forces and if we did not have the means to bomb them to dust in their lairs, we would be "easy prey to any yellow dwarf with a pocket- knife". No these words do not belong cither to the defence minister or to Pramod Mahajan. They belong to president Johnson. The yellow people he was talking about were the Vietnamese. But then yellow people are yellow people. If Fernandes is lobe believed they, i e, the Chinese, are threatening us. We need a nuclear bomb. Maybe a host of Them. It we did not have the bomb even the China knife would turn us into a prey. This is the logic of the bomb Not very different from Johnson's logic.

Politics of Defence

GPD You do not have to underestimate China's military capabilities. Nobody has. But you must not underestimate the need for political handling of China and George Fernandes has unfortunately given that impression. Politics is in command in Beijing even now. If must be here in Delhi too.

OF LIFE, LETTER AND POLITICS- Steam Engines and His Highness

GPD THERE are many games which are popular in the western world. One of them is to make films on India and Pakistan. Usually favourite subjects are the city of Calcutta, the river Ganga and the Indian Railways, The films on Calcutta and Ganga usually work. Both subjects are fascinating and Non-Resident Indians usually enjoy them. One must explain the term Non- Resident. The usual meaning of the term is, of course, valid, There is also another meaning. A number of upper middle class people are non-resident Indians in the sense that a Bengali may be a resident of Delhi, a Maharashtrian may be a resident of Kanpur. Their psychology is not very different from the non-resident psychology. They feel great looking at a cellular version of Calcutta where they usually do not live. A distant city is usually a city of joy. The same is true of the ghats of Varanasi. It is nice to think of them, to look at them preferably on celluloid.

Not So Hung After All

GPD ELECTORAL games our people play: that could be a nice title of a nice quickie on Indian elections. The games are, of course, expensive. And getting more expensive, every passing day. The 'biggest democracy' title does not come free. It is also the 'biggest expensive democracy', if one calculated the per capita expense as a proportion of per capita income. The Election Commission has reduced the noise level going with the elections but hardly anything else. But then it could not have. That the Commission organises this show at all, with increasing frequency at that, is impressive indeed. With all the confirmed and unconfirmed stories of violence and rigging notwithstanding, it is a successful and fairly impartial operation. Even 'rigging' seems to give different results every 18 months. That might mean that you can'rig' only with the general mood and rarely against it. At any rate it is not easy to see how in a situation of money and muscle power ruling the roost, as it is quite often alleged, governments do change. The big fellows do lose elections. The 'yuti' (BJP-Shiv Sena combine in Maharashtra) sweeps the polls in one election and is practically wiped out in the next. Of course, there are reasons for it. But those reasons, if they are valid at all, presume relatively free and fair elections. The game is expensive but it is played according to rules.

From Hour to Hour, We Rot and Rot!

From Hour to Hour, We Rot and Rot! GPD Chandrababu Naidu has done one great service. He has brought it home to everyone that one's campaigns, one's politics and one's future cannot be separated from what one does after the elections. Political credibility is a factor even in our murky times.

Languages and Dialects

GPD INDIA is a huge country. A cliche, you would say and you would be right. But then Mrs G and Miss G are proving it so repeatedly that one was forced to repeat the cliche. The mother and daughter had to go somewhere. How does it matter where? Both of them were out to save the Congress which, many would believe, is bound to face its doom if the magical Mrs G touch is not there. The elder Mrs G did save the Congress a couple of times. The younger Mrs G might do the same. But for Sitaiam Kesri and perhaps Narasimha Rao, everybody in the Congress seems to believe that. The elder Mrs C used some political strategies and slogans. Bank nationalisation was one of them, 'Garibi hatao' was another. There have been few more imaginative slogans in Indian politics. Slogans for propaganda is an essential political weapon in any electoral battle, The more attractive it is the more useful it tends to be.

From Abad to Nagar

GPD IT should be easy to see that in comparison with their BJP allies the Shiv Sena people have (at least) a faint tendency towards humour. When they decided to change the name of Aurangabad to Sambhaji Nagar we thought that it was one of those attempts on the part of Bal Thackeray to have a good hearty laugh at the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who died in 1707. Even the attempt to laugh (towards the end of the 20th century) at a man who died at the beginning of the 18th was interesting because it gave us ideas of Reagan laughing at Hegel who, it is reasonably certain, was taken by him as an evil German spirit responsible for Marx who in turn was responsible for the evil empire in Russia. One would go on counting such delightful anachronist laughters creating historically alienating effects which even the 'Great BB' (Bertolt Brecht was referred as 'der grosse BB' The Great BB in the former GDR) could not have possibly thought of! One would have normally not expected this of the BJP That party has no sense of humour. The Sena has, albeit of the macabre variety. So we thought that the change of Aurangabad's name was a part of that! That it was not like calling Bombay Mumbai was clear from the very beginning, Insisting on Mumbai is like insisting on Guangzhon instead of Canton. Colonialism robs us not only of silver (and the like, and even that may not be true if the Cambridge Economic History of India is any guide, but let that pass) but also of languages and words. Why should the western world have changed Beijing into Peking? Or Guangzhon into Canton? Well, no particular reason except that not only the colonialists' word should prevail but also their pronunciation. So they went on re-spelling almost everything in Asia and Africa. That they are still changing words is obvious. Consider words like 'reforms' or 'radical' and their current usage and the point should be obvious. The Chinese were the first to point out that imperialist names or spellings will and have to be changed. Peking has to go and Beijing has to take its place, Thackeray may not admit any debt of gratitude to China but what he did to 'Bombay' was no different. Even token anti-imperialism seems to be the monopoly of right-wingers, whether in Maharashtra or in Iran, The 'Hinduhridaysamrat' (the emperor of the Hindu hearts), as Bal Thackeray likes to be called by his Sainlks, must have discovered before long that even token anti-imperialism is not his cup of cow's milk. He therefore decided to go one step in a backward direction. We should have said two steps. The first backward step was what he did (like everyone else in the state of Maharashtra lately) to the Marathi language. In the olden days there were several suffixes used to denote a town. To begin with there was 'abad' as in Aurangabad, There was, of course, 'nagar' as in Ahmednagar. There was 'pur' as in Nagpur. This usage of 'pur' had another speciality typical to Marathi. The 'u' in 'pur' is long. There was 'gav' as in Jalgav Puri and so on and so forth. The modern Maharashtrian seems to have forgotten all these words. Now everything is a 'nagar', Why? The reason is that those who want to rewrite history have forgotten what their history is. It is now aboring monotony. Why can't there be a Shivajipur in Maharashtra? Why does it have to be Shivajinagar instead? No answer, except perhaps the inevitable one. Those who claim to speak in the name of history do not know what it is, The variety and plurality of words also constitute history. Of course, this would be too much of intellectualism for the Sena people. As for the BJP people, as long as Kashi and Mathura and thereby Hindi are safe they could not care less about what happens to other languages. Hence the unchallenged craze for Nagar. Change everything to Nagar. The Congress people would want everything after the Nehru-Gandhi clan. The 'yuti' (the coalition) wants every city and town to be a Nagar! Pride of Marathi has resulted in ignorance of Marathi.

Politics of Avatara

GPD IN the Indian tradition one concept that has rarely been questioned if at all, has been that of the 'avatara', the godhead which descends down to the world of the mortals and saves it. The Gita has quite a theory about it. It talks about how when 'dharma' declines the Lord himself descends down to this earth to destroy the 'adharma'. Only the 'mahanubhavas', the 12th and 13th century mystics questioned that notion partially, (They paid the price for it seven centuries later when a court in Maharashtra decided to prevent the government of Manohar Joshi from publishing their major work presumably much to the delight of his MLAs. But that's another story.) Otherwise the notion of avatara has survived and dominated the Indian psyche. It has been a constant feature of Indian thinking. The evil grows and grows. It takes the Lord himself to rescue the world.

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