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November 24, 1998


E-Mail this column to a friend Arvind Lavakare

If the Left-Congress conspiracy against the BJP is successful, India could head for a new high in the secularist-iconoclasm

Is Shiela Dikshit poised to be Delhi's new chief minister? Well, Arun Nehru, of the famous dynasty, did emphatically predict that in his column for a Sunday newspaper dated November 15. Now, just days before the votes are counted for Delhi and three state Assemblies, two pre-poll surveys in Delhi have confirmed Nehru's crystal-gazing skill.

According to the CMS poll findings, the Congress will win 38 to 40 seats of the 70-member Delhi assembly while the BJP will win 24 to 26 seats. What will tilt the result in favour of the Congress is that over 16 per cent of those who earlier voted for the BJP are shifting their preference to the Congress this time around.

The Congress is expected to end up with 42 per cent of the total votes, what with two-thirds of the Schedule Castes, Muslims and Christians deciding to stamp the Congress hand on the ballot paper along with 47 per cent of Jats. The BJP is estimated to garner 38 per cent of the total votes.

The ruling BJP fares even poorer under the DRS survey commissioned by The Times of India. That pre-poll shows the Congress cantering away with 50 seats from a 52 per cent share of total votes, leaving the BJP with just 16 seats from 36 per cent of votes.

Despite these two polls reiterating the general disenchantment of Delhites projected in the media for some time now, the BJP would seem to have committed hara-kiri by letting its state government in Uttar Pradesh issue an order the other day making it compulsory for students of government schools to sing Vande Mataram and Saraswati Vandana, thus further alienating the minorities.

While it is almost impossible to accept that the BJP can be so "fundamentally" foolish as to have taken this controversial step towards disaster with state elections just round the corner, it is theoretically possible to deem the step, not so much as thoughtless self-immolation, but as a calculated and daring image-builder among the large number of Hindu sympathisers who, taken in by pseudo secularism, had been keeping almost equidistant from the BJP and the Congress and therefore undecided about their vote on Wednesday.

For all you know, the minds of these vacillating Vishnus and Vikrams may have distinctly turned the "lotus" way after the frenzied fatwa issued by the Muslim Personal Law Board against the UP government's order and asking their community to withdraw their children/wards from government schools. The Board's argument that singing Vande Mataram is against Islam's tenets is bound to shock not only all Hindus of all hues but also all patriotic Indians, Muslims and Christians included, who stand up with reverence every time that Bankimchandra's lyrics are sung. Remember, the immortal, evocative song is recited before every session of our state assemblies and Parliament as part of convention over the last few years.

To those few who do not know -- for one reason or another -- Bankimchandra Chatterji's song was first recited on a political platform at the session of the Indian National Congress inů 1896! It later became a source of inspiration to our forefathers, including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, in their struggle for freedom. Though strongly favoured to become free India's national anthem, the definitive view on musicology of Jawaharlal Nehru (who else?) led to the choice of Tagore's Jana Gana Mana. However, Vande Mataram is recognised as India's national song, carrying just about the same status as the national anthem.

Whether the Bengali poet who penned Vande Mataram was being anti-Muslim or anti-Christian or anti-anything should be clear from the following translation by Sri Aurobindo of its first stanza:

I bow to thee, Mother,

richly-watered, richly-fruited,

cool with the winds of the south,

dark with the crops of the harvests.

The Mother!

Her nights rejoicing in the

Glory of the moonlight,

Her lands clothed beautifully

With her trees in

Flowering bloom,

Sweet of laughter, sweet of speech,

The Mother, giver of boons,

Giver of bliss.

While it is true that a 'forced prayer' is bad, a letter writer in The Indian Express yesterday asked what seems a relevant question: why can't the Christians be told to stop it first?

The fracas at the recent state education ministers conference over the recitation of Saraswati Vandana has been another sore point with the Hindus. Indeed, there is fear in some hearts, that if the Left-Congress conspiracy against the BJP-led coalition becomes successful, the country could head for a new high in the secularist-iconoclasm that has already afflicted a fair number of the "modern" and "liberalised" gentry of metropolitan cities. The devout Ram worshippers may well be the worst affected in this new scenario.

The irony of it all is that in this land, seeped in religion, no government in power anywhere will have the "secular" guts to stop declaring a major religious day as a bank holiday; the further irony is that even under the 20-year Communist regime in West Bengal lakhs and lakhs of people have not given up celebrating Durga Puja with fervour unbelievable; the biggest reality of all is that several private sector establishments in Mumbai at least substitute the bank holidays for Ramzan Id, Bakri Id and Moharram with a consensual one for Anant Chaturdashi, Coconut Day and Bhau Beej.

The fact is that the disdain of Hindu sentiments by the pseudo-secularists has miraculously brought the BJP to power. If artfully used by the BJP in the next couple of days of electioneering, Vande Mataram may, just may, do the trick for it again.

Meanwhile, one is aghast at the suggestion by C Subramaniam -- a respected former politician who is now in his eighties -- to resolve our 50-year-old Kashmir conundrum through international intervention, either of individuals like Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter, or of institutions like the United Nations and an independent Boundary Commission.

Using the occasion of the birthday observance of Jawaharlal Nehru -- November 14 which, tellingly enough, did not for once make front page news this year -- Subramaniam raked up the letter which he had written to Prime Minister I K Gujral 13 months ago (sic) on the Kashmir issue and which, incidentally, made no news at that time.

Dubbing our repeated position on Kashmir as "the same old wearisome arguments", he wanted the government to attune public opinion to a brand new approach in the direction of peace in the sub-continent, reduction of defence expenditure, saving of lives and accelerated development.

Towards this end, Subramaniam has suggested four options:

a. recognition of the existing Line of Control as the international border subject to any adjustments proposed by an independent Boundary Commission;

b. a referendum under the UN auspices keeping the Hindu-dominated Jammu and Ladakh areas outside its purview;

c. international arbitration by an acceptable body;

and d. use of neutral and uninterested nations to come up with a modus operandi in regard to any of the three preceding options.

It is clear that the Gandhian statesman of yore is prepared to let the nation concede a part of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan in the so-called interest of peace. It is clear too that Subramaniam is one of the millions -- ministers included -- who have not heard of or read the seminal book on Jammu and Kashmir's Constitution by A S Anand, who is presently the Chief Justice of India.

Like these millions upon millions, Subramaniam does not seem to be aware of Article 253 of the Constitution of India, Section 3 and 147 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, and of the unchallengeable legality as well as constitutional validity of the Instrument of Accession by which the Maharaja of Kashmir signed away the whole territory of Jammu and Kashmir in India's favour on October 26, 1947.

Let it be made loud and clear that since a Supreme Court judgment of 1954 (Virendra vs State of UP) prohibited any court from entering the competence of the execution of the Instrument of Accession, any public interest litigation praying for the stay on any division of Jammu and Kashmir will be upheld by the Supreme Court.

Secondly, Article 253 of the Constitution lays down that "no decision affecting the disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be made by the Government of India without the consent of the Government of the State." Would even the most unfriendly government in Srinagar give such consent? Why, such consent would itself be violative of Section 3 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution; this section says "The State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India." What is more, Section 147 of that constitutional document prohibits any amendment whatsoever of that some Section 3!

That is why Justice Anand has held, in black and white, that any proposal for a plebiscite in Kashmir would be repugnant to the Constitution of India and Kashmir.

When, oh when, will we Indians learn to talk in public only after doing the necessary homework? And when will wisdom dawn on us that Gandhian give-aways have never worked out in the nation's interest? Not in the days of the Old Man, nor ever since those of this anointed heir.

Arvind Lavakare

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