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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Back to infancy -- they n
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
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Toppling game in Kashmir
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  NOT a day passes without the killing of one or two youths in the Kashmir Valley. Some of them are angry demonstrators, others members of militant outfits or security forces.

These boys dare the paramilitary with violent protest and, in retaliation, the forces open fire and the boys get killed.

This has perturbed Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. He has blamed the Opposition parties for engineering 'troublE' to topple his government. Engineering demonstrations for destabilizing the government of the day with the help of the separatists is not new to the Valley.

PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the first to start the demonstrations for the resolution of the Kashmir question around the time initiatives were taken to restart the stalled talks.

The PDP says the Chief Minister has lost the moral right to rule the state. The Mirwaiz has asked Mr Abdullah to 'admit your failure and step down'.

The former Union Home Minister knows it well that when the para-military opens fire at an over-confident mob, it shoots to kill. The death of a demonstrator triggers off another demonstration and the cycle continues.

Sensing this destabilisation game Governor N.N. Vohra has called senior CRPF officers to the Raj Bhavan. He is reported to have advised them to exercise restraint while dealing with stone-throwing crowds.

The pursuits of power made the Mufti quit the Congress and float the People's Democratic Party. He allied with the Congress and became the Chief Minister. The tenuous relationship broke midway and the Amarnath land transfer row broke out. The elections that followed brought Omar Abdullaha to power. Now the Mufti is at the toppling game.

The Chief Minister has been lobbying hard to replace the Armed Forces Special Powers Act with a humane law. Union Home Minister has also given an assurance in this regard. If this happens the secessionist will gloat over it. The sea of demonstrators will get a free run .The lawlessness will make it a fit case for President's rule, an atmosphere conducive for the Mufti to bid for power.

The culture of quotas, concessions and permits has worked against inclusive growth. This approach has ensured easy access to subsistence and created space for the appeased majority to keep the bogey of secessionism alive. Insecurity caused by the Indo-Pak wars has fomented communal, regional and secessionists aspirations.

The successive chief ministers made use of the secessionist-created unrest to either get more funds from the Centre alibi for development (read, to line their pockets). And the out-of- power politicians use the real or perceived discrimination against the communities to topple the governments. The Hindu communalists' agitation of 1967 was used by out-of- power Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad to topple the GM Sadiq government.

It were Plebiscite Front leaders (The Sheikh was in detention outside the state) who restrained the enraged population from turning violent following the communal speeches of the Hindu Maha Sabha and JanSangh leaders during the agitation.

According to MJ Akbar, the politics of mix and match was started by Farooq Abdulla. He later became a victim of the ambition of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the then Pradesh Congress chief. He sabotaged the alliance to realise his ambition of becoming the chief minister. Late GM Shah defected from the National Conference for the same reason.

The most adventurous alliance was the double Farooq phenomenon. Dr Farooq Abdullah formed an alliance with the then Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq. It was literally and metaphorically the coming together of the lion and the goat. Dr Farooq's National Conference being lion and the Mirwaiz’s Awami Action Committee the goat.

The alliance brought the National Conference to power and gave a free run to the secessionist fringe. It was during this period that the clergy from Ashareas School replaced the syncretism of Kashmir. It was a major shift from Islam tempered by the teachings of Shiekh-ul-Alam Shiekh Nurudeenwali and Lalded to dogmatists and fatalists.

The ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan, courtesy the USA, spilled over to Kashmir. Besides terrorizing the cowered Pandits, the Wahabi Taliban reduced the shrine of Sheikh-ul-Alam to ashes. It goes to the credit of the vast majority of Muslims that they helped the Pandits to make good their escape.

The two decades of death and destruction has achieved the purge of Pandits and turned Kashmir into another communal question.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Noida
No honour in this
  By Balvinder Singh  
  BOTH the words "honour" and "killing" do not complement each other. Still, they are currently and concurrently being used in popular media.

It is quite unfortunate that the news of killing of young couples, who dare to defy the social backward moorings, by their own kith and kin, keep pouring in rather unabatedly.

This certainly shows the haplessness, not the total failure as is being projected more often than not, of our governmental machinery that includes the judiciary and the police.

One has to realise that more than a law and order problem, this so-called "honour-killing" is a deep-rooted social malice that has been allowed to grow during all these years.

In fact, most of our social problems always have been rooted in an imaginary fear of others; what would other people say? It is another matter that people ordinarily would not stop saying negative things about others in any case.

The elementary study of jurisprudence tells us that most of the established laws of the day have their roots in old but accepted social practices and customs.

Thus it would be ridiculous to believe that a heavier than the existing dose of policing and a stricter law than the prevalent regulations can be of much use in this regard.

In fact, what has been allowed to grow now for years cannot be checked in a jiffy.

Sadly enough, during all these years since Independence little effort has been made to turn our country a real "Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic". On the contrary, today one sees India as a divided, in the name of religion, caste and creed nation.

Without a uniform civil code of conduct, which wretchedly does not suit our political masters of the day, one perhaps cannot imagine any perceptible change in the unfortunate killings in the name of restoring one's honour.

One wonders why cannot there be a uniform Indian Marriage Act? The presence of Marriage Acts with Hindu/Muslim labels has given rise to discordant voices in favour of creating similar Acts for other religions too; one such demand for a separate Sikh Marriage Act has already reached a crescendo that some Sikh organizations, having strong political backing, have been making.

A lot of 'khap' (noise) is being raised against the 'Khap Panchayats' of Haryana by every Tom Dick and Harry.
But none seems serious as the subject has been focused only on them. Why no one looks at the subject from a wider social perspective? For, the issue of unlawful dictates by Khap Panchayats is not isolated one.

In our vast country, there are so many other active socio-religious organizations in existence also that freely exercise their unlawful dictates. Disallowing certain classes from entering religious temples or excommunicating ('Hukka Panni Bund', as is the Khap practice) people at the drop of a hat are sufficient examples to bring home my thesis.

In case we would continue dividing people on the basis of religion, caste, colour and creed these nefarious happenings would also continue occurring.
The writer is a Chandigarh-based artist and politial and social commentator
A student's suicide
  By Papri Sri Raman  
  ROUVANJIT RAWLA'S suicide has suddenly brought corporal punishment to India's dinner tables. He was just a boisterous teenager. A thinking child who could smile, think up pranks, feel humiliation. He was sensitive, he understood, enjoyed, felt depressed.

I feel angry that today we have discussions on television channels on the right and wrong of corporal punishment. This is not about corporal punishment at all. I heard one voice on some channel say, 'You know boys, at that age, need disciplining.'

I heard an anchor ask if India's society accepted corporal punishment readily. Even Amitabh Bachchan, in his blog or tweet, I don't know where, says that caning was the thing in his school. And he, mind you, did not go to any kind of school.

This is not about being boys or girls or being caned. It is about the school system that India has nurtured on Victorian lines, straight out of Charles Dickens.

A school, in India, no matter how exclusive and elitist, how impoverished and common, is like the inside of an oven today.

The moment a child enters a school, the institution starts operating like a cabal. Any "institution" by nature is a cabal, a group of people with a closed design gathered to promote their group ideas.

Every kind of school, primarily, is a space from which parents are excluded. Notwithstanding the parent-teacher meetings and weekend interactions. The first attitude is: it is your privilege that your child is allowed to join this space/this school. Feel grateful we are letting you pay with money to accept your child, let him or her into this space called school.

This attitude exists in the best private school, in the worst government school, in every school. Which takes us to the next attitude: we are taking the child off the parents' hands, out of their hair, for fixed hours. So, do not bother yourself too much as to what the child goes through in those few hours. You have voluntarily placed your child in our school, in our care. So do not make a fuss about his ear being pulled, or if he/she is stood in the corner of the class, or called a donkey, or made to write 'I will not speak in class' 500 times or whatever.

For those precious hours, the parents, the poorest parents and the richest parents, are usually and equally clueless as to what goes on in the child's mind.

The school correctly points out, it has to work within a set framework. From kindergarten, a child has to go to primary, from primary to middle school, middle school to high school. The school has to ensure that the child is pushed ahead and out into the wide world. That is the system in India and that is what every school has to do. So for the parent: if you want your child to go through this system, you cooperate with the school. You close your eyes and ears until it is too late in some cases, like in Rouvanjit's case.

Now I come to the millions of people who pass for teachers. Who are these people? If we take that there are 641,695 junior schools, 198,094 middle schools and 116,820 high schools in the country (a 10-year-old assessment), even then, who are these people filling the schools? How many of them know remotely anything about child psychology, bringing up children, how to teach? Not even one third are trained teachers. Anyone and everyone is a teacher, can be a teacher.

School teachers are among the most thoughtless and cruellest people on earth. Even in schools which pride themselves as "different", which say they don't cane students, even there -- it is the easiest thing for the teacher to demonstrate his/her power by being sarcastic, abusive, humiliating a child. And that is what they do. Does one have to abuse a child to 'teach' him/her good behaviour? Or ensure attention in class?

A teacher often becomes less than a human being in class. Last night the wife denied him sex, the teacher comes to class and beats up a teenage boy or the husband refused to spend on a new sari or the sister-in-law was catty, so the teacher comes to class and humiliates a student with some verbal abuse. Most teachers bring their personal chip-on-the-shoulder to class.

We have an added burden. In India "teaching" is too often associated with, seen as, meant as the right to discipline, the right to lord it over, the right to abuse, scold, the right to humiliate. Even when there is a national guideline on the dos and don'ts, nobody would dream of ensuring it is implemented. When the teacher tells a 13-year-old in a rural school, "Ah, so you are wearing a new dress today, is your father getting married again?", no one measures the humiliation for the teenage girl who might feel like going home and hanging herself in shame.

Schools are humiliating experiences. A whack on your bottom, a ruler on your palm is better borne. The verbal abuse and humiliation is the worst to bear. And parents in India have no clue, though many have themselves gone through the system, suffered in a similar manner.

It is worse for India's first-generation students, because their parents are afraid of this place called "school", they desperately want their children to be educated, whatever the school says and does is "godly" and right. They are afraid to question the right and wrong of it, they do not question, they are grateful that this hallowed precinct called "school" has accepted the child.

It's the mindset of a nation, cutting across class and caste, religion and community: the system cannot be questioned if you want your child going anywhere. Unless adults, teachers and parents, start thinking differently, nothing will ever change, there will be no innovation, no understanding.

The belief is, the best part of one's life is school, the best friendships, the best memories, most joyful times. But school is also the place that haunts, the worst memory, the greatest humiliation, the saddest separation.
Bhopal: Protection for the rich
  By Ganga Vishnu Gupta  
  APROPOS A.J. Philip's article headlined "Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Facts and Fiction" published alongside. Union Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson was charged originally under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code which is non-bailable. Bail could be granted only by a judicial magistrate.

It was an utter violation of jurisdiction and the bail granted was no bail in law. It is a different matter whether booking him under Section 304 was right or not. But Anderson was allowed to escape from custody illegally.

In the case of a rail accident, it is understood by the passenger that an accident can take place and liability is clearly and legally defined. In the case of Bhopal, was it in the knowledge of workers and those living near-about that lethal accident could take place? Were they not under the impression that no accident would happen?

Further, in the case of train, the victims are passengers who boarded the train. In the case of Bhopal, the victims were those who had no contract with the plant. Therefore, the example does not seem to be appropriate.

Yes, the law of torts, as defined in India is highly tilted in favour of the rich in that it compensates only for the economic loss suffered. Naturally, it is a very small amount for the poor since their earning capacity is very low and sufferance is also treated low.

In America it is the quantum of guilt and the need to hit hard the culprit. In the case of Bhopal, the Supreme Court took it upon itself to fix the quantum of compensation and the way it should be distributed without following any principle, purportedly to decide the case quickly.

It was utterly an extraordinary move. The court could have easily accepted the principle of quantum of guilt and capacity of the guilty to pay. The complicity of then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh and then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is very clear.

It was plainly a settlement among the rich and powerful to minimise the burden of the guilty party. Even now the burden for Dow is being shifted on the specious ground of need to have external investment as if India with its huge market and cheap labour is any less of an attraction.

External investment is merely a euphemism to conceal Indians' own investment hidden abroad in numberless accounts with or without the partnership of imperial capital?

Philip can be sure that the Indian concept of tort or criminal liability will not be changed. Even if it is an accident by negligence, why cannot the quantum of loss caused be not taken into account? He can be sure it will not be.
The writer is a former Chief Secretary to the Government of Haryana. He lives in Chandigarh
O Lord, you are the last hope!
  By Balvinder Singh  
  A BIRD in hand is always better than two in the bush, goes the old saying very rightly.

That is why I am perplexed at the idea of putting all our focus, in the media, on Warren Anderson, of Bhopal catastrophe fame.

It is worth pondering that if our lame legal system, which is seemingly there to protect the rich and mighty alone, could not put the seven in-hand proven-guilty convicts in the case behind the bars even for a single a day, what would it do with Anderson even 'IF' extradited from the thick and thus not easily approachable US 'bush'?

Maybe, I fear, the media, which is rather over busy in fishing in the troubled waters, has been hired, as a damage-control effort, to shift the attention of the gullible 'aam-aadmi' from the criminally callous misdeeds of our own people in dealing with the tragedy.

The Finance Minister's fresh statement, as reported in the media, assuring an effort to seek Anderson's extradition from the US, gives sufficient credence to my apprehension.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the unfortunate Bhopal Gas tragedy was the rarest of the rare kind. Still, leave aside the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, who allegedly diluted the case by dropping serious charges from it, a seething Sessions Court Judge who convicted seven well-connected locals in the case reportedly goes by the book to defend himself.

Though he is very right in saying that it was not within his legal rights either to hang them or to jail them for 6,000 years as some unreasonable activists want.

However, he forgets that even while going by the book it was within his legal purview to disallow the bail applications of the convicts. But unlike a Chandigarh Session Court judge who sent Rathore, of Ruchika molestation case, to jail by disallowing his bail plea, he granted bail to all the convicts in a jiffy.

What hurts one the most in this regard is a dirty-dealing that reportedly is going on between the present government and a once Congress-loyalist but now retired-hurt Arjun Singh, the then CM of MP when the Bhopal Gas tragedy occurred.

He reportedly is being pursued to take the onus of releasing Anderson on his own self, to save many big past and present political guns from obvious embarrassment.

Is there anybody actually looking into the pangs and pains of the Gas victims whose tears remain un-wiped now for more than a quarter of a century?

O lord, you are the last hope of us all in this regard, and we are waiting, rather eagerly and anxiously, for your resurrection once again!


The writer is Chandigarh-based artist and writer
Bhopaloshima: US duplicity
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  THE US administration has different scales to measure justice at home and abroad. It goes after British Petroleum for blowing up an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and damaged the environment.

It tries to raise the liability cap to $1.5 billion so that BP bears costs not directly connected to cleaning up the spill, such as lost wages and tourism. The Republican roadblock in the Senate has hit a bill mooted in this regard.

But when it comes to the "genocide" by the US major Union Carbide in Bhopal, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake says, "I hope this verdict (seven Indian Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) were convicted for causing death of thousands by negligence with a two-year prison term and fine) helps bring some closure to the victims". The UCIL officials have been bailed and released on submission of a surety of Rs 25,000 each.

On the extradition of Warren Anderson, the then Union Carbide chairman, Blake refused to comment. Anderson has jumped bail and been declared a proclaimed offender after he failed to respond to the Bhopal trial court warrants.

Law minister M Veerappa Moily says: "Legally and technically, we can't say it (the case against Anderson) is over. The case against him is still on... suppose he can be obtained, he can still be tried".

What can we expect from the US administration when our government colludes in the MNC "war" on our people? The following couplet describes our condition:

We travelers are never out of woods,
We have highway robbers as guides.

The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act was passed during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure. The Act gave the government right to represent all victims in or outside India. To keep the US investment flowing in, the compensation for thousands of lives and their challenged progeny was pegged at $470 million. The Supreme Court accepted this full and final settlement of its civil and criminal liability.

In Blood is but blood Sahir says:

The blood you sought to suppress in abattoir
Today that blood moves out into street
Here an ember, there a slogan, there a stone
Once blood comes to flows
Bayonets are no avail
Head, once it is raised
Is not downed by law's hail.

Our governments and courts have suppressed the raised heads of the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors. Like the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act, the Nuclear Liability Bill underscore the fact that the Indian Government doesn't mind the corporate violence against its own people.

The Congress-led UPA government is again trying to push through the controversial nuclear liability bill. The Bill seeks to limit all liability arising out of a nuclear accident to about $450 million and the liability of the operator only to Rs 300 crore.

The difference between $450 million and Rs 300 crore (about $67 million) is the government's liability. Considering our population density and lax industrial safety record a nuclear accident can cause a hundredfold Chernobyl in minutes. The corporation concerned would pay a token amount and the Indian taxpayers would end up paying billions for the clean up and compensation to the victims.
The writer is a Noida-based senior journalist
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  ACTIVISTS and gas victims swarmed a Bhopal courtroom on Monday to hear the judgment in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Tired of the 25-year-long wait for this day, they came out murmuring protest against the lighter sentence for eight convicts.

The eight senior officials of Union Carbide at the time of the leak have been convicted of "causing death by negligence," a crime that carries a maximum sentence of two years.

Nobody has tried to find out why and how the culpable homicide, which carries a longer sentence, was watered down.

Nobody knows of the deals cut to keep this information in wraps.

Warren M. Anderson, the then chairman of Union Carbide, and seven other Carbide officials, had compromised on safety standards of the pesticide plant with the blessings of our ruling elite.

Anderson came to India after the disaster. He was arrested and released on bail. The authorities failed to get him extradited to India for the trial.

Keshub Mahindra, an Indian industrialist, who was then chairman of Union Carbide India, was also convicted, along with other Indian officials at the plant.

The verdict is yet another disturbing reminder that the poor don't matter in India.

The babu's quirk of hand has brought down the figure of 'million deaths" to a couple of thousands. The CBI botched up the case to the disadvantage of the victims. Union Carbide has paid $470 million to settle the victims' claims. This money has created new disparities and an illusion of economic growth in the once laid back city.

Like the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Bhopal victims cough. The children born after the tragedy have deformed limbs and stunted growth. They are being treated in the hospital that has come up after the tragedy.

Hameeda Bi and many other survivors expected an exemplary punishment. Instead, the court made the world's worst industrial disaster look like a traffic accident. "We don't count. The convicts should have been given death", she lamented.

Raj Kumar Keswani, a Bhopal-based journalist, cried hoarse for two years before the tragedy, saying the Union Carbide plant had lax safety procedures and that the city was "sitting on a volcano". Instead of acting on his report, the authorities chose to ignore the series of articles on the Carbide plant. He moved court and contacted the politicians who all chose to shoo him away.

After the tragedy, he challenged the government, accusing it of a sell-out to Union Carbide. The Indian government had sued the company for $3bn but settled for 15 per cent of the amount.

The accident site in the middle of Bhopal was given back to the state government. Dow absorbed Union Carbide in 2001 and the victims' groups are trying to get Dow to clean up the site.
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