Tag Archives: manmohan singh

REMEMBERING THE KASHMIRI PANDITS: THE ROLE OF BENAZIR BHUTTO

When Benazir Bhutto died  in December 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described her as “one of the outstanding leaders of our sub-continent, who always looked for reconciliation between India and Pakistan.” Most magazines did cover stories on her and Benazir Bhutto became a “martyr of democracy”.

It is a sad that a mother of three children was so brutally killed and we all mouredn her terrible death. Nevertheless, truth must be told. For, as usual, what the press says is not exactly what happened. Firstly, under Bhutto, anti-Indian terrorism in the Kashmir region was fostered and increased. Benazir was also directly responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir. “She was instrumental in sponsoring jihad, openly inciting militants to intensify terrorism in India,” says Ajai Sahni, the executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management. “I find it very difficult to discover a single element with her relationship to India that is positive and for the betterment of her country or the region”, he adds. Remember how she was shouting her slogans of azaadi, and exhorting the people of Kashmir to cut Jagmohan, then governor of the state, into pieces, as in “jag-jag, mo-mo, han-han”. She would say this while making chopping motions with her right hand as it moved from her left wrist to the elbow, leaving nobody in any doubt as to what she meant.
Secondly, under Benazir Bhutto, the Taliban formed and, helped by Pakistan’s intelligence service, swept across Afghanistan and later hosted Osama bin Laden. It is a bit of an irony that she may have been killed by the very people she helped foster if at all she was murdered.
Thirdly, she deliberately increased tension levels and then threatened India with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. The tension peaked when Benazir repeated her late father’s immortal boast of waging a thousand-year war against India and even Rajiv Gandhi was forced to mock her in Parliament, asking if those who talked of a thousand-year war could last even a thousand hours.

And fourthly, in her last speech before she died, she alluded to India as one of the threats Pakistan had to face, implying that if she was elected she would deal firmly with it. Then why is it that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called her a friend of India and that Indians still remember
affectionately ?

I interviewed Benazir Bhutto twice, the last one as she was campaigning to be re-elected for a second term.
The first question I asked, was about Kashmir, as she was the one who had called for ‘Azad Kashmir’, a Kashmir free from India, which had triggered the ethnic cleansing of most Hindus of the Valley of Kashmir, 400.000 of them having to flee their ancestral land.
–    – You know, she answered, you have to understand the Pakistani point of view on Kashmir. If one goes by the logic of Partition, then at least the Kashmir valley, which is in great majority Muslim – and it should be emphasised that for long the Hindus Pandits in Kashmir exploited and dominated the Muslims, who are getting back at them today – should have reverted to Pakistan. But let us say that officially we want to help grant Kashmiris their right to self-determination
–    – That’s the only reason, I continued ?
–    – No, answered Benazir, it should be clear also that Pakistan never forgot the humiliating loss of Bangladesh at the hands of India, although India claims it only helped Bangladesh to gain its freedom in the face of what the Bangladeshis say was Pakistani genocide. Zia’s emergence was a result of that humiliation.
–    – But Zia hanged your father, I interrupted…
–    – Yes and I hate him, and God the Almighty already punished him for that, said Benazir (alluding to Zia’s death in a plane crash). But Zia did one thing right, he started the whole policy of proxy war by supporting the separatist movements in Punjab and Kashmir, as a way of getting back at India.
–    – What about Pakistan’ nuclear bomb, I asked?
–    -That’s my father’s work she said proudly. He realized, after having lost the 1965 and 1971wars with India, that both numerically and strategically, we can never beat India in a conventional conflict. Thus he initiated the programme by saying that “we will get the nuclear bomb, even if we have to eat grass”.
–    – But is it not a dangerous weapon if it falls in the hands of the fundamentalists of your country, I asked?
–    No such danger, Benazir answered. Anyway, it is not only a deterrent against India’s military conventional superiority and an answer to India’s own nuclear capability, but also the ultimate weapon to reassert Islam’s moral superiority.
–    – We in Europe have united in a Common Market, why don’t Pakistan and India forget their differences and form some kind of confederation with other South Asia countries, instead of killing each other?
–    – Pakistan and India were never one country, answered the imperious lady. They were only kept together by force, whether by Mauryan, Moghul or British rule. Hindus have recognised the reality of Islam, and we needed our own country to feel free.

I was flabbergasted: here was a lady educated in Oxford and Harvard, who mouthed such irrational statements. She spoke good English, was pretty, articulate and appealed to the Press. But when in power, she had to resort to anti -Indianism to please her voters, her husband, now President of Pakistan, was known as Mr 10%, and she was hounded out of power twice for incompetence and corruption. Is she then a martyr of democracy ? History will tell. But today we see that her niece, Fatima Bhutto, as pretty as Benazir was, is the toast of the Indian Media, every time she comes to the Literary Festival of Jaipur, to sell her books! If one day Fatima becomes PM,as Pakistan have also their favorite dynasty, for sure, she will tread in her aunt’s footprints, for the only way to please the Pakistani voters, is to called for Azad Kashmir…

François Gautier

THE Hindutva, Sex and Adventures (continuing) CONTROVERSY

The controversy over who wrote Hindutva, Sex and Adventures(Roly Books, New Delhi): Mark Tully, or myself, continues unabated. Critics keep on implying I wrote the book – and Mark Tully did not. Yet, as I have already said, I am a much more ardent – and militant – defender of Hindus than Mark Tully ever was and will ever be. The brand of Hindutva proposed in Hindutva, Sex and Adventures reads rather mild to me. In reality, I think that not only Dharma, the Truth that is behind Hinduism, is the very foundation of Indian civilization, but that if it dies, as it is attacked today from all sides: by Christian conversions, islamization, marxism, westernization & minorytism, it would be a catastrophe for the whole world.

If you read between the lines of most of Mark Tully’s books, you will see that he says – albeit in a diluted manner – that: a) secularism is a colonial left over; b) Hinduism constitutes the genius and the base of Indian civilisation. There is no doubt that Sir Tully is a well liked personality. But Mark was never too bold in his moral stands: see how he is now saying that Hindutva, Sex and Adventures is affecting his reputation. Why should he be ashamed of being a defender of the Hindus? I am not. In fact, I find his establishing a dialogue in the book between Imla, the Indian journalist, who is a diehard secularist (as most Indian journalists are) and Andrew, who gradually realizes that Hindus are a very wonderful – but persecuted people, is a brilliant ploy. It is a pity that every single critic has demolished the Hindutva part of the book, without even bothering to analyse the very important points Tully raises on Kashmir, Ayodhya, Sonia Gandhi, or Islamic terrorism.

Mark Tully may also have wanted to atone for his coverage of South Asia. I remember when we were both reporting on the Valley of Kashmir in the early nineties, that he would always highlight human right abuses on Muslims by the army, but hardly ever spoke about the 400.000 Kashmiri Hindus who were chased out of their ancestral homeland by threats, violence, rapes, torture and murder – and today have become refugees in their own countries. Mark Tully is known for his ‘fair’ reporting, but actually, he and the BBC coined phrases and set standards in reporting on South Asia, which still stand today and harm India’s image. Many of us know that since the mid-eighties Pakistan encouraged, financed, trained and armed Kashmiri separatism. But Mark always made it a point to say: “India accuses Pakistan to foster separatism in Kashmir”; or :”elections are being held in Indian- held Kashmir”; or “Kashmir militants ” have attacked an army post, instead of “terrorists”. All the other foreign journalists, yesterday and today, (except myself and maybe Tiziano Terzani) have followed the BBC’s benchmarks.

 This near colonial attitude towards India has even influenced today’s politicians in the West. For instance, Obama’s present foreign policy of thinking he can fight terror by making a frontline state of the very country which fosters 3/4th of the terror attacks in the world, and of putting the screws on India so that it negotiates with Pakistan, even at the cost of compromising on its sovereignty in Kashmir, is a direct offshoot of the BBC’s reporting in South Asia for 25 years. We also can read between the lines and know that Mr Obama is pressuring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give-up India’s military nuclear programme, leaving her at the mercy of not only Pakistan’s , but also China’s formidable nuclear arsenal.

The irony is that the Indian Government seems to be enamoured of Mark Tully. But if you observe carefully, he was a strong detractor of Indira Gandhi, particularly on Blue Star and during the anti-Sikh riots. Though he praised Rajiv Gandhi in his beginnings, he became a critic of his style of functioning in the later years, specially after the IPKF fiasco. And he has been saying “that the moribund and leaderless Congress party has lashed onto Sonia Gandhi, who is Italian by birth and Roman Catholic by baptism”. (‘Nehru Dynasty’ for the BBC).

The below extract of Hindutva, Sex and Adventures seems to reinforce that statement.

EXTRACT “HINDUTVA SEX AND ADVENTURES”: SONIA GANDHI

 – I am coming to Delhi to cover Sonia Gandhi’s election as President of the Congress party, Imla said. They met at the Taj Mansingh for a cup of tea before walking to 1 Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters. Andrew could see that she was getting more and more snappy and she was actually looking for subjects about which she could disagree with him, sometimes violently, for she definitely possessed a very bad temper.

 They had such a fight about Sonia Gandhi. Andrew had found Sonia Gandhi quite likable when she was just Rajiv Gandhi’s (the pilot) spouse, a loving wife, who had adopted the Indian way of life; a good daughter in law: Indira Gandhi died on her lap on the way to the hospital, after being shot by her Sikh bodyguards; and more than everything, a good mother, who doted on her children and tried all her life to protect them. Andrew suspected she had kept her Italian passport, even after taking the Indian nationality (India does not allow you to hold two passports), but he had met quite a few foreigners in Delhi who also retained their origin passports after having obtained the Indian one. He had toyed himself for some time with the idea of taking the Indian nationality, now that he spoke Hindi quite fluently, but it was too difficult to travel with an Indian passport. He did not mind also her remaining a Christian: after all, he was still one himself. Indeed, one of his Italian journalists friends had prayed with her, along with Rajiv Gandhi, at a mass in Calicut with the bishop officiating – that was her private business. But after her husband was blown to pieces by the LTTE, he observed a drastic change in her: she did not seem to trust anybody anymore, became aloof and suspicious. He watched with dismay how the Congress leaders, some of them men and women of substance, whom he knew personally, applied pressure on her to enter politics for years. He had learnt also, through some well placed friends, that gradually, via the Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi foundations, she started controlling huge amounts of money. He knew also that in India money means political power, as a party needs hundreds of crores of rupees to win a general election. Thus, he thought that in her fortress of Janpath, surrounded twenty-four hours by security, she gradually lost touch with the reality of India.

Andrew, who had met her a few times after Rajiv’s death, thus took discreetly his distances with her, though in typical British fair play, he never made any comments publicly.

 When they reached the Congress headquarters amidst unprecedented security, which Andrew thought was unwarranted, considering there had never been any threats on Sonia Gandhi’s life, there must have been at least a hundred other foreign correspondents awaiting the crowning of Mrs Gandhi. As usual, Sonia made them wait (once when Andrew was covering Sonia’s campaigning in Hospet, Karnataka, she was late by eight hours). She lived literally next door in Janpath, but she finally arrived in a caravan of vehicles, with dozens of security guards running around her car, as if she was the American president. When she got out, most Congressmen bowed down in front of her, while some even touched her feet. Andrew was shocked: he felt that it was debasing for Indians, people of talent and culture to scrape down in front of someone who in the West would be an average person. But most of his colleagues did not seem to find anything wrong in it. As for Imla, she was smiling. Sonia’s election as Congress President was a foregone conclusion, nobody really opposing her. It’s like the crowning of an empress, thought Andrew.

When they were walking back, he had an argument with Imla:

– It would be impossible for a non-Christian, non-English, non-White Hindu woman, to become the supreme ruler behind the scenes in England, he said. Don’t you find this a little humiliating?

– Not at all. It’s because you don’t understand us, she retorted, we accept the others, not like you Britishers.

He tried to remain cool:

 – But this goes to extremes, Imla: there are a billion Indians, many talented; can’t you find one of your own to lead this country ?

 This time she was getting angry:

 – She is one of our own, ok? She has an Indian passport, she wears a sari, she speaks Hindi and she has India at heart. Not like some of your Hindutva fanatics, she threw at him.

 – You know I am not Hindutva, he replied, hurt

 – Oh yes, you are… Your sympathy goes to them now. That’s why you hate Sonia Gandhi.

– But I don’t hate her my dear, I just think that she wields too much power, being just an elected MP like hundreds of others…

But Imla had already stormed away and hailed a rickshaw to go back to her aunt….