Tag Archives | Assembly

A democratic middle finger

Remember that the Maoists present a grave challenge.

From the house of the abominable aka the Communist Party of India (Maoist):

Describing the coming State Assembly elections as a “farce conducted to strengthen the rule of the exploiting classes,” the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) has called on voters to boycott the polls.

In a press release signed by central committee spokesperson Abhay, the Maoists said there was little difference between the incumbent and opposition parties and claimed that the ‘real alternative is [for the Maoists] to expand militarily and in a more organised manner.’[Hindu]

The best answer to this vicious, virulent and venomous group of ruthless killers, fronted by an equally despicable group of ideologues, has come from Assam. In Assam, 78.6% of voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of assembly polls, after 73.04% voter turnout was recorded in the first phase. More than three-fourth of electorate coming out to vote in a state gripped by insurgency till recently is not a “farce”, but a ‘democratic middle finger’ shown to the Maoists and their closet supporters.

While it may be fashionable in certain circles to describe the Maoists as misguided youth and long-suffering tribals, the Maoists’ statement about their intent — to expand militarily and in a more organised manner — is a challenge that the Indian state needs to counter with all its might. In a noisy democracy with a shrill media like ours, it is far easier for the government to politically sell a development scheme for Maoist-affected areas than to talk about a concerted security operation against the Maoists. It is indeed unfortunate that no political leader has stepped up to explain to the masses that when it comes to the Maoist-affected areas, “while development is a must, there has to be security first.”

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Don’t blame the Constitution

Look at the part the people and the parties play

An extract from the speech by Dr BR Ambedkar detailing the accomplishments of the Constituent Assembly of India, also popularly known as the Grammar of Anarchy speech (Constituent Assembly Debates Volume 11):

As much defence as could be offered to the constitution has been offered by my friends Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Mr. T.T. Krishnamachari. I shall not therefore enter into the merits of the Constitution. Because I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However had a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the state depends are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their parties will behave or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them? If they adopt the revolutionary methods, however good the Constitution may be, it requires no prophet to say that it will fail. It is, therefore, futile to pass any judgement upon the Constitution without reference to the part which the people and their parties are likely to play.[Link]

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I want my constitution

Why isn’t a replica of the original Indian Constitution freely available

This blogger had tweeted about the whereabouts of original copies of the Indian Constitution a couple of weeks back (thoughts triggered by this piece in The New Yorker). Wikipedia tells us that:

After many deliberations and some modifications, the 308 members of the Assembly signed two hand-written copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) on 24 January 1950. Two days later, the Constitution of India became the law of all the Indian lands.[Wikipedia]

An ANI news-report on Republic Day last year informed us that the “the original bound copy of the Constitution of India” is kept with the Central Library in Gwalior. However the World Digital Library (courtesy @thecomicproject) was able to throw more light on the subject of the original copies of the Indian Constitution.

This book is one of 1,000 photolithographic reproductions of the Constitution of the Republic of India, which came into effect on January 26, 1950, after being approved by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. The original of this elaborate edition took nearly five years to produce. It is signed by the framers of the constitution, most of whom are regarded as the founders of the Republic of India. The original of the book is kept in a special helium-filled case in the Library of the Parliament of India. The illustrations represent styles from the different civilizations of the subcontinent, ranging from the prehistoric Mohenjodaro, in the Indus Valley, to the present. The calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizda. It was illuminated by Nandalal Bose and other artists, published by Dehra Dun, and photolithographed at the Survey of India Offices.[WDL]

Incidentally, you can download a pdf copy of the photolithographic reproduction from the WDL website.

So we know that the “original of the book is kept in a special helium-filled case in the Library of the Parliament of India.” One can safely presume that the “original” book referred here are the two hand-written copies of the Constitution mentioned in the Wikipedia.

Another person who is in possession of the photolithographic version is Parimal Shroff, who sourced it from a rare book dealer in Ahmedabad.

…at the end of the constitution, where the 8th Schedule gets over, in this calligraphed version, the first signature is by Dr. Rajendra Prasad and the last by Feroze Gandhi,” remarks Shroff. Though most of them have signed in English, a few leaders including the President of the Constituent Assembly Rajendra Prasad and Purushottam Das Tandon signed in Devanagari script.

To Shroff, the Constitution of India is a classic piece of artwork that finds place of pride in his legal library, “One can find wonderful artwork right from the Preamble to the last page where this historical document is strewn with mythological characters, motifs from Buddha’s life, scriptures, all embroidered in Indian classical style.” This 16 by 12 inches hardbound book that weighs around 3.75 kgs is Nandlal Bose’s outstanding piece of art, who has luminously depicted some of India’s historic scenes all along the pages in the form of headers, illustrations, backdrops and borders.

The eminent artist left no stone unturned in illustrating our culture and heritage. Through miniature artworks, he has covered various periods and national heroes of the Indian history like the Vedic period, Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilisation, Ramayana and Mahabharata, Ashoka, Akbar, Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh and Tipu Sultan. Gandhi’s Dandi march and tour to Naokhali have also been beautifully worked around the laws of our constitution. There are scenes depicting other historical episodes as well as scenes from the Himalayas, to the deserts and the Indian Ocean. The Part on Fundamental Rights is adorned by Shri Rama and the Part on Directive Principles of State Policy is adorned by Shri Krishna. Together they create a confluence of a rich history and beautify each section of the Constitution.[Link]

It might be news to many that the original copy of the Indian constitution is handwritten and calligraphed, and not typeset or printed. And there was a limited edition published by the government of India in the 1950s, copies of which have become rare and less available with every passing year.

This leads us to the real question about the subject. Why were only limited copies of the replica produced by the government and stopped thereafter? Why are these replica copies of the original not produced now, which should be freely available for anyone to buy as a souvenir?

The Indian Republic is governed by the rule of law, and the constitution is the basic document from which all the laws flow. In a manner of speaking, it is a pious document of the Indian Republic. It is high time the government started making available copies of the replica of the original Indian constitution freely available for sale.

It is well known that the Constitution of India is the longest hand-written constitution of any independent nation of the world, containing 395 articles and 12 schedules. But the essence of the constitution is captured, almost lyrically, in the Preamble to the Constitution. Here is a look on the original preamble, sourced from the WDL:

Click on the picture above for a larger image

Take a moment to ponder over the words written there, and the meaning behind them. Happy Republic Day!

Related posts:

Differentiating between the Independence Day and the Republic Day

Let us stop this jamboree of a Republic Day Parade

Republic Day parade in the 1950s

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March under the civil flag

A question about army’s refusal to J&K government’s request for a flag march in Sopore.

Kashmir is again in the news now, and for all the wrong reasons. But amidst all this, one story about the perilous state of civil-military relations in India will pass unnoticed. Indian Express reports:

The Army turned down a J&K government request for a flag march through Sopore town after a 20-year-old was killed in firing by CRPF on June 28.

The Omar Abdullah government, through the Deputy Commissioner, put in the request for the flag march with General Officer Commanding, Kilo Force, Major General N George.

…The Army Headquarters debated on the request and decided to reply in the negative — the brass made it clear that the Army was not a riot-control force and the primary duty of the Kilo Force was to neutralise militants, not fire against its own people.[Indian Express]

Was it constitutionally legal for the army to turn down such a request? Here is Section 132 of the Code of Criminal Procedure:

130. Use of armed forces to disperse assembly

(1) If any such assembly cannot be otherwise dispersed, and if it is necessary for the public security that it should be dispersed, the Executive Magistrate of the highest rank who is present may cause it to be dispersed by the armed forces

(2) Such Magistrate may require any officer in command of any group of persons belonging to the armed forces to disperse the assembly with the help of the armed forces under his command, and to arrest and confine such persons forming part of it as the Magistrate may direct, or as it may be necessary to arrest and confine in order to disperse the assembly or to have them punished according to law

(3) Every such officer of the armed forces shall obey such requisition in such manner as he thinks fit, but in so doing he shall use as little force, and do as little injury to person and property, as may be consistent with dispersing the assembly and arresting and detaining such persons (emphasis added)

The answer is rather obvious. And it doesn’t bode well for the state of civil-military relations in this country, where certain lines have never been crossed. While a public hue and cry or shaming of the concerned generals may not be warranted, a quiet reading of the riot act to the top army brass by the political executive of this country would well be in order.

And for those who would like to know about the ideal state of civil-military relations, here is an old blogpost on the subject.

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An odd message from Jharkhand

High voting percentages in Jharkhand assembly polls, despite the state being a Maoist stronghold, raises uncomfortable questions.

The relatively high voter turnout figures in the ongoing Jharkhand assembly elections should have attracted far more attention that they have done so far. With nearly 80 percent of assembly constituencies declared as Maoist-affected by the Centre, the first four phases of the five-phased elections have been peaceful with few sporadic incidents of violence reported from the state.

Most observers will consider this to be a vindication of the strategy of the central government, where it has been able to successfully deploy its security forces — 40,000 central forces, state armed police, six helicopters and aerial security surveys — to blunt the Maoists. Some others will credit the media advertisements by M. S. Dhoni exhorting voters to come out in large numbers and the innovative voting timings — from 7 A.M. to 3 P.M. — for the resounding success story of assembly elections in Jharkhand. However, a closer scrutiny is liable to bring out the facts in a different light altogether.

The voting percentages have been far higher in rural areas [55 to 60 percent] than in the urban constituencies [45 to 50 percent] of the state.  Ranchi, with a 32.4 percent voter turnout, makes even the much-decried South Bombay constituency look socially and politically responsible in comparison. Although this is in keeping with the trends of urban apathy to electoral politics witnessed in other parts of the country, common sense dictates that Maoist dominated rural areas ought to have far lower voting percentages than in the urban areas in Jharkhand. That is how constituencies in urban Srinagar, dominated by the separatists, register markedly lower voting percentages than the non-urban areas of Kashmir.

This points to a simple construct: a connivance between political parties and Maoists in Jharkhand. While overtly opposing the democratic electoral process — as in ensuring Zero turnout in 21 polling booths during second round of polls — the Maoists have actually become an important stakeholder in the electoral process. Although it is difficult to prove conclusively, political parties and political leaders in Jharkhand seem to have arrived at a tacit agreement with the Maoists during election time. Accordingly, a large number of newly elected MLAs in the Jharkhand assembly later this month would certainly be sympathetic towards the Maoists. Some, if not all of these elected representatives of the people, will surely act as the proxy of the Maoists and arrive at political and administrative decisions contrived to benefit the Maoists.

This brings us to two larger lessons to be drawn from these assembly elections in Jharkhand. Law and order, or internal security, continues to be a state subject under the Union of India and the Union Home Minister has invoked this constitutional dictum to explain various security operations against the Maoists. With the composition of Jharkhand assembly having been heavily influenced by the Maoists, it is rather naive to expect the new state government to undertake concerted security operations against the Maoists. Operation GreenHunt or no Operation GreenHunt, the Maoist menace in Jharkhand is likely to continue unabated for some more time to come.

Finally, a new Telangana state — promised by UPA 2.0 for politically expedient reasons — will have a similar Maoist profile as the state of Jharkhand. Even in an undivided Andhra Pradesh, the political parties have colluded with the Maoists to win various elections and this is liable to be further amplified in the new state of Telangana. Rather than act as a spur for economic growth and development, Telangana will thus end up as another stronghold of the Maoists from which they can easily spread their influence on to other states in the country.

Unfortunately, these significant messages from the ongoing assembly elections in Jharkhand are passing under the radar unnoticed. Does anyone really care?

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How times change…

Hurriyat might be panicking but India needs to be on guard.

How much of a difference can a few months make? From the high of Azaadi demonstrations during the Amarnath yatra controversy in July to the ignominy of a failed boycott call during the assembly polls in December, the Hurriyat now seems to be in panic mode. Add to this the diplomatic pressure on Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attacks, the stand taken by Obama administration and the lowest ever level of violence in the state since 1990, and the separatists have been pushed into a corner.

The clearest indicator of their plight comes from the recent decisions taken by the Hurriyat Conference.

The assembly elections came as a rude shock to the pro-freedom leaders, but there is a silver lining. The Hurriyat (M) has started reforms, saying these reforms were inevitable. To begin with the leaders have been asked to work at the grassroots level, and rather than staying in the city, move to villages and make the conglomerate strong.

Besides, the Hurriyat has closed down its district offices, laid off 16 officials, and slashed fifty percent funds to the general council constituents, even closed the kitchen at the central office sources said. Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told that after the recent polls there was a need for introspection and restructuring of Hurriyat had become inevitable.[GK]

Mirwaiz may like to blame Hurriyat’s financial crunch on the worldwide economic recession but that excuse is unlikely to find any takers. Their donors were primarily their friends in Pakistan and religious benefactors in Saudi Arabia while other money flowed from Hawala transactions in Dubai. It seems that some purse strings have been tightened and the demonstrated impotence of the separatists during the last polls may lead to further cuts in largesse. It is the beginning of the end of the self-appropriated role for Hurriyat and their separatist brethren in Srinagar. The Kashmiri separatists should now prepare themselves for a life of relative obscurity out of the media spotlight.

Perhaps they are already bracing themselves for that situation. Yasin Malik, who had, in the 1980s, vowed celibacy till Kashmir got independence is in Pakistan to get married to a UK based painter, Mushaal Mullick. How times change?

However, India can not rest contented with the happenings and lower its guard now. Praveen Swami reminds us that the Islamist-separatists are looking for every single opportunity to further their agenda.

Faith and hatred were the pillars on which Islamists’ communal campaign this summer were built. Both pillars were erected on foundations built years earlier — a process of construction which, like the ongoing campaign in J&K, was little noticed at the time.[Hindu]

Following in the footsteps of the previous PDP-Congress government, the current NC-Congress government is pandering to these communal tendencies and appeasing the chauvinists. This, along with the changing strategy from Pakistan towards militants and separatists, portends dangerous signs for the Indian state. Rather than the terrorists and the separatists, Pakistan could start patronising and promoting mainstream political parties in the Kashmir valley to further the Pakistani agenda, under the guise of forwarding the Kashmiri viewpoint. Parties like the PDP and NC could fall prey to the Pakistani gameplan by soliciting the communal-separatist forces for electoral gains. Like the communal campaign of 2008 was built on foundations laid much earlier, the base for a separatist agenda of the future, led by mainstream Kashmiri political parties, could be under preparation here.

It is imperative for the Indian government and national political parties like the Congress and the BJP to force the issue with the regional parties now. They should use all the means at their disposal to force the state government and  mainstream Kashmiri political parties to confront the communal-separatist elements in the Valley. This should be the least these parties can do, if they wish to avoid a repetition of the heavy costs of insurgency that this nation has borne over the last two decades.

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More considered, decisive and significant action against Pakistan

These results of assembly elections bring us to a fork in the road. Either the UPA government can go back to its old policy of pontification and inaction against terrorism. Or free of the fears of an electoral backlash, it can undertake more considered, concerted and decisive action against Pakistan.

So the results to the assembly elections in five states are nearly there. Amidst large-scale expectations of a Congress rout after the terror attacks in Mumbai, Congress manages to retain Delhi, wrests Rajasthan from BJP and wins in Mizoram. The BJP retains MP and Chattisgarh. Political pundits will dissect and analyse these results while apologists masquerading as journalists will justify the results to suit each of these political formations.

The significance of these results lies not only in the internal politics of the nation but also in determining the external response to the terror attacks. The hyperventilating electronic media, the Page Three crowd and the chattering classes had created a public perception that after the terror attacks, it was all over for the Congress and its Prime Minister. The Congress seemed to be in a defeatist mode and its leadership was meeting to face these results with a lot of trepidation. The fear of getting wiped out in the assembly polls and the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls and desperate hopes of some damage control dictated its approach towards Pakistan after the terror attacks.

Political expediency dictates that undue emphasis is placed on immediate targets and short-term goals in a democracy. The immediate aim of the government was to show some visible action to quell public anger; the ultimatum to Pakistan to handover Indian fugitives and the strident tone by many government functionaries was a step in that direction. Most perspicacious observers agreed that an Indian military action against Pakistan was an imprudent option, that would play straight into the hands of the planners of this attacks. While diplomatic tools — pressure by the US — have led to some action by the Pakistani authorities, there have been calls for exploring other options available on the strategic landscape. These suggestions include surgical air aids and covert action against the perpetrators of these attacks. These are devised to signal strong action, intended with half an eye on influencing the electorate.

These assembly results, however, are likely to release the pressure on the government to be seen to act quickly and decisively against the backers, planners and executors of Mumbai terror attacks. There is a genuine fear that emboldened by these assembly results, which were errouneously portrayed to be heavily influenced by the public response to terror attacks, Congress party is likely to fall back to its usual approach — too much pontification and too little action.

It is too much to hope for but eternal optimists like this blogger can still hope for something better to emerge out of this. Relieved of the electoral pressure to deliver immediately, the Indian strategic and diplomatic establishment could calibrate its response to achieve maximum results from Pakistan. This would include going beyond these immediate goals of getting the Indian fugitives back or bringing the masterminds of these terror attacks to justice. The short-term goal of preventing another terrorist attack on India emanating from Pakistani soil should be met by actions of the Indian state.

Most importantly, this would give the Indian government the leverage to act in a manner that discredits the Pakistani army and ISI in the eyes of the common Pakistani. Recent pronouncements by the Indian media have tended to further strengthen the hands of these two institutions and reinforced their image as the custodians of Pakistani nationhhod. The media diatribe is likely to temper down now, disabusing the notion held in many government quarters that an agressive and emotional media is unduly influencing state policy.

This is not a call for inaction or maintaining the status quo. It is, instead, a call for more considered, decisive and significant actions by the Indian state — free of the pressure to show immediate results — that will enhance the security of the common man and defeat the designs of the terrorists and their backers. It would be a travesty if India misses this opportunity to unravel the truth about the elements inimical to India inside Pakistan to the international community. With huge pressure coming on to Pakistan from various quarters, this is an opportune moment for India to exterminate the non-state actors like the Taliban, LeT or JeM and simultnaeoulsy undermine the credibility and legitimacy of rogue institutions like the Pakistan army and the ISI.

The government can start by doing the groundwork on two options endorsed by the bloggers at the INI: getting a significant number of Indian troops inside Afghanistan and putting swathes of ungoverned Pakistani territory under international custodianship.

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