Monday, December 26, 2016

Bye - Bye 2016

An Open Letter of an AAM AADMI – Bye - Bye 2016

December 26, 2016

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

This is the last letter of the series of An Open Letter of an AAM AADMI of the year 2016. Ever since I joined public life as an Aam Aadmi in February, 2016, I have been writing about my experience
and impressions in my blog. There have been mixed reactions, sometimes encouraging and sometimes little disappointing. I think that is part of life. Nevertheless, I continued not as a prolific writer but as a novice – an Aam Aadmi. From May to October, I have been submitting my weekly reports to the AAP leadership on my activities, assessments and observations with regard to my involvement with the AAP. In this period, I also held about 100 house meetings in the Jalandhar West constituency to establish public connect and spread the message of AAP besides participating in all the party activities in and around Jalandhar. With a view to contribute something concrete to the Punjab Dialogue of AAP to prepare the AAP Election Manifesto, I prepared a 10 page long Non-Paper on the issues of interest and concern to SCs of Punjab and submitted it to the leadership for the SC manifesto. I may be the only volunteer who communicated with the party bosses in writing on regular basis. But now I feel that may be this kind of activity has no place in Indian politics and again proved to be a misfit.

With all this, I was under the wrong notion that my party would consider and recognize my contribution and effort to join the political mechanism to serve the people, particularly of the weaker sections of the society. But that was not to be. I learnt a bitter lesson of politics which people told me that it was a dirty game. Nevertheless, I decided to continue as a humble volunteer of the party and do my best in at least informing the party, to my mind, what is right and what should be done not as any criticism but as a positive input to help the party. Towards the end of November, 2016, with the knowledge of the party bosses, I started a weekly formulation as – An Open Letter of an Aam Aadmi and the current one is the fifth in the series. Since my focus is on the dalits of Punjab, I will be happy if dalit brethren especially the educated lot read and respond to fine tune our responses to meet the challenges of the future. I am sorry to observe that the dalit leadership and volunteers of my own party i.e. AAP are blissfully silent and non-responsive.  What should I say of others? But I am not yet tired:

हर दर्दमंद दिल को रोना मेरा रुला दे;

बेहोश जो पड़ें हैं शायद उने जगा दे !

On my retirement in December, 2010, going against the gut feeling of my wife, Vidya, my conscious keeper, I decided to come back to my roots in Jalandhar and do something concrete to serve my community in my humble way. I invested and started an academy – Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities in April, 2012 as my second inning as a post retirement engagement. After running the academy, with somewhat not encouraging response, for about three years, I had to close it towards the end of 2015. Perhaps, I could not market the idea and the project. I continue engaging myself in educational pursuits pertaining to the community in and around Jalandhar to keep myself mobile and busy. I serve on the Board of Governors of Sant Baba Bhag Singh University near Adampur in Jalandhar.

I tend to be a keen observer and a student of contemporary history and current affairs. During the year, I was invited by various social and cultural organizations as the guest speaker in their functions. I also spoke at an international seminar on Mahatma Gandhi at DAV College at Dasuya and also gave the valedictory remarks at Prof. Manohar Lal Sondhi Memorial Lecture at DAV College Jalandhar, my Alma matter in February, 2016. My senior colleague, Ambassador Sharat Sabharwal, Central Information Commissioner, delivered the lecture on the topical subject - India-Pakistan Relations. In a small and humble manner, Pritam Sodhi Vidya Trust, a family outfit we established a couple of years before, donated a computer to a community school in Ram Nagar in Jalandhar, another computer to Budh Vihar in Sidharath Nagar in Jalandhar and  class room furniture to a government school in Wadala village in Jalandhar during the year. To keep myself engaged in the community and social milieu, I participated many a times in various programmes on Jalandhar Doordarshan (DD) which helped me to reach out to wider audiences. My hobby of blogging was slowed down on account of my increased engagement with the AAP but I have picked up the threads and have started writing again regularly. It is a matter of satisfaction for me.

I generally don’t succumb to New Year resolutions but I have a couple of things in my mind which I would like to undertake and follow in the coming year, 2017:

Ø I will continue my engagement with the AAP as an ordinary volunteer and a self appointed critic with an open mind and conduct. I know critics are not liked and welcomed even by those parties which claim to be democratic and transparent. But let it be.
Ø I will keep up my association and involvement with the education sector for the benefit of weaker sections of the society. I will try and find ways to strengthen Pritam Sodhi Vidya Trust for the purpose.
Ø I will try and do my best to gather all round support for my proposal to approach the UN to declare April 14, the birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality.

With this, I take this opportunity to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

With regards,

Yours truly,

(Ramesh Chander)


“One can only hope that the new generations of educated Dalits in Punjab are able to liberate themselves from the patronizing accommodation that is tantalizingly thrown at them by the upper-caste leadership of mainstream political parties. They must work to resolve their inner cleavages and create the foundations for a genuine egalitarian politics in Punjab. The land of the Gurus demands nothing less than this.”

Prof. Pritam Singh, Professor of Economics at Oxford University, UK in an article “Punjab’s Dalits and Politics of Patronage” appeared in the Tribune of December 16, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dalit Vote Bank of Punjab

An Open Letter of an AAM AADMI – Dalit Vote Bank of Punjab

December 19, 2016

Dear Voters of Punjab,

In the run up to the forthcoming elections in Punjab scheduled for early next year, all political parties are busy in wooing the dalit vote bank with more than 32% vote share. Some constituencies in
Doaba have a huge share of dalits ranging from 40% to 50%. Almost one third, 34 constituencies out of a total of 117, is reserved as SC constituencies. Obviously, dalits have the potential to make or mar any candidate, if they decide carefully. But, unfortunately, they don’t have the wherewithal to realize and avail of their latent power. As a result, dalits have remained on the margins of power structures in Punjab so far. The ruling parties, the Congress Party, the Akali Dal and the BJP did not care to give their share and always tended to satisfy them with a small share in the whole pie. There is no point in blaming the exploiters but dalit themselves. It is a proven fact that in politics, nobody gives anything to anybody. One has to claim and grab power in whatever way it is possible. Dalits could not do so in spite of their demographic position. After Acharya Prithvi Singh Azad and Master Gurbanta Singh in 1950-60s, no dalit leader could make honourable space in the power structures of Punjab. No party groomed any dalit to be a leader who could claim acceptability outside their limited areas of operation and constituency. After the fledgling Republican Party of Amedkarites in the 1970s, BSP under Babu Kanshi Ram showed some promise in the 1980s but soon fizzled away due to winds of divisive powers unleashed by the hitherto ruling classes on one hand and the short sighted approach and conduct of the BSP leaders on the other. Since then much water has flown in the proverbial five rivers but the fortune and fate of dalits remained almost static, limited to the constitutional arrangements of reservation only.

It is a matter of regret that in spite of the fact that Punjab has the biggest size of population of SCs as compared to the other states of India, SCs still don’t have much share, space and say in the corridors of power. Why it is so? It is the question which should engage dalit intelligentsia and the political leaders of all hues. Dalits are the spiritual followers of the great Guru, Guru Ravidass who said “प्राधीन्ता पाप है; जान लियो रे मीत, रविदास दास प्राधीन से कौन करे है प्रीत।“ Dalits are the followers of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Babu Kanshi Ram politically in the contemporary times. Both these dalit icons pleaded and demanded, for the socially and economically weaker sections of the society, a share in political and administrative power structures of the country. But dalits are still standing far away from these hollowed outfits as equal partners. The off the cuff answer to these important questions is that dalits are a divided lot in Punjab both religiously and politically. They are searching for their religious and communal identity as Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, Christians in a broader sense and as Ad-dharmis, Ravidasia Sikhs, Mazhabi Sikhs, Valmikis, and Kabirpanthis etc. in a somewhat confined sense resulting in further divide. After the relentless struggle of Dr. Ambedkar in the 1930s culminated in the shape of the Communal Award of the British Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald and Poona Pact between Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar in 1932 and finally in the constitution of India with enabling provisions for empowerment of dalits including political reservation in the parliament, the state legislatures and other structures up to the grass roots i.e. panchayats.  Dr. Ambedkar was defeated and cheated by the wily Hindu leaders headed by Mahatma Gandhi under the garb of nationalism and to save the life of the great Mahatma who undertook fast unto death against the Communal Award in 1932. Under the Poona Pact, dalits were made to lose Separate Electorate offered by the Communal Award by the British government and an alternate of political Reservation was given. Reservation has become a much maligned concept. Political reservation has not worked to the real advantage of the dalits. It has divided dalit community into various vested political agenda. It has created yes-men. Babu Kanshi Ram called them Chamchas (stooges) in his book on contemporary dalit politics “Chamcha Age”. The Congress party, the Akali Dal and also the BJP have taken advantage of the situation and have deliberately divided them under one pretext or the other. The religious or spiritual deras of dalits have succumbed to temptations of gunmen, beaconed cars, escort jeeps and other fringe benefits and knowingly or otherwise helped the political vested interests in further dividing the community. Dalits need to address the situation and find answers; if they want to have their due share in the polity and society otherwise their demographic advantage will continue to be negated by the vested interests.

It is felt, of late, the dalit intelligentsia and the educated youth have started realizing these ground realities. They are increasingly becoming aware and alive of their fate and have started asserting themselves. Obviously, it will affect the emerging political scenario. Political parties are also increasingly trying to grasp the situation to attract the dalit vote bank to their advantage.

The ruling alliance of Akali Dal and BJP are yet to come out with their election manifestos. But it is a common knowledge that these parties will try their best to woo dalits to garner their votes by hook or crook. The so called Blue Card holders are mostly dalits. The government is all set to throw away the freebies like Dal Atta schemes, free electricity, and free water, providing bicycles and cooking gas connections to the venerable sections of the society. They are not really interested in bettering the condition of dalits by empowering them by making good arrangements for their education, training and employment. The ongoing problem of post matric scholarships to dalit students cries for attention but nobody is serious. The question of surplus (nazul) land and share of dalits in its allotment is never addressed with sincerity. Both the Akalis and BJP are falling on each other to own Dr. Ambedkar to please dalit communities. Many proposals and programmes to recognize and honour the dalit icons have been undertaken with an eye on the elections and these will be forgotten, as usual, after the elections. The Khuralgarh project in Hoshiarpur to honour Guru Ravidass was inaugurated with great fanfare. But there is no time frame and no budget. It will remain on the drawing board for long. MoS Vijay Sampla of BJP announced a college to be opened at Bootan Mandi in Jalandhar to honour Dr. Ambedkar soon after he was appointed as the President of Punjab BJP. The land said to be earmarked for the project now has been auctioned to set up a vegetable market. These parties are simply befooling the gullible dalits. Punjab SC Commission, a statutory body, headed by a BJP nominee Rajesh Bagha, is toothless. Chairman Rajesh Bagha has alleged openly in the media that he and other commissioners are being treated shabbily by the government not only in the matter of payment of salaries and perks but also otherwise as compared to other such statutory authorities. The allegedly tainted SC Akali leaders namely Sarwan Singh Phillour and Avinash Chander have been denied tickets by the Akali Dal but the likes of Bikram Singh Majithia who is also involved in the same kind of allegations and investigations is calling the shots. This is the treatment SCs get at the hands of their political masters. Dalits need to see through the situation and assert themselves for their due space in the system.

The AAP has come out with a much flaunted Dalit Manifesto. I also contributed to the AAP’s Punjab Dialogue to consider some of the issues of interest and concern to dalits of Punjab. I am sorry to say that the said manifesto could not impress dalits. I wrote about this in detail in my blog and e-mailed to the AAP leadership. As I said earlier that dalit vote bank has the potential to do or undo. The Akali-BJP combine could come to power last time only because of the fact that they were able to wean away dalits from the Congress Party and win more seats in Doaba and elsewhere. I would not
refrain from stating the fact that AAP is yet to convince dalits of their sincerity and gain their acceptance. I don’t think that realization has dawned yet. Both the Congress Party and the Akali-BJP alliance seems to be much careful in selecting their candidates for reserved seats. They have given fair representation to dalit intelligentsia including highly placed senior bureaucrats and professionals. On the other side, AAP appears to be allergic to this category of aspirants of AAP tickets. AAP brags that they have given tickets to taxi drivers, sons of poor chowkidars etc. There could not be any animosity or opposition to such candidates as such but this bragging by the leadership smacks of sense of superiority and a sense of doing a favour to poor dalits. This patronage has not gone well with the dalit masses. AAP should rectify its dalit policy and agenda, the sooner the better. I am reminded of a couplet:

बड़ा शोर सुनते थे पहलू में दिल का ;
मगर जो चीरा तो इक क़तरा खून निकला !

Though most dalits are economically poor, apart from their social backwardness, yet the Left parties could not make any inroads to their constituency. It is a subject of study. My personal feeling is that the communist leaders of yore in Punjab were all well to do Jatt Sikhs or elite Hindus. They could not embrace dalits in the caste ridden society.

The so called party of dalits, the BSP has done much harm to negate the demographic advantage of dalits in Punjab. They could not mobilize dalits as they did in UP. BSP, knowing or otherwise, tended to support the traditional parties by acting as dummies or spoilers. The dalit deras have played a negative role by dividing the community into divisive streams. Most of them don’t have any political Think Tanks who could advise them to handle the political situation and safe guard the political interests of their innocent and faithful followers. With this, one can safely say that dalits have harmed themselves in this tedious process. Unfortunately, no silver lining is in sight. I am certain that nobody would do anything. Dalits will have to do it themselves. Will we wait for another Ambedkar or Kanshi Ram to appear? I conclude with this question to be addressed by the dalit intelligentsia, spiritual leaders and the educated youth. Let me quote yet another couplet to say my mind:

जिस खेत से दहिनका को मयस्सर नहीं रोज़ी;
उस खेत के गोशे गंदम को जला डालो !

With regards,

Yours truly,
(Ramesh Chander)


तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज़ पैदा कर;
फिर तुझे दुनिया में कोई नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ticket Distribution Blues

An Open Letter of an AAM AADMI – Ticket Distribution Blues

December 12, 2016

Dear Voters of Punjab,

All parties in Punjab are busy in the process of distributing and announcing their candidates for the forthcoming elections scheduled for early next year. It is a difficult exercise in an open and democratic system. It becomes all the more difficult in the absence of polarization of political forces and players on the basis of ideologies and agenda. Keeping the flock together is a real problem for the party bosses and leaderships. Dissentions and dissertations haunt the parties. But there is no way out. The leaderships take these blues in their stride as part of the game.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a self-professed party of volunteers and swaraj (self rule and grassroots governance) was the first to take up the cudgels and announced its first list as early as August, 2016 followed by more lists in subsequent months. AAP has already announced 103 out of the total of 117 candidates by now. As expected, it was not smooth. Many feathers were ruffled in the process. The bragged principle and norm of involving the workers and volunteers in the process of selection of candidates were ‘gone with the wind’ as an eye wash. The lofty ideals of ‘Three Cs’ – Corruption, Criminality and Character did not find much application in the process of picking up candidates, it seemed, by the party that claimed to be a ‘party with a difference. Some names did not even figure at the time of so called voting by the volunteers and they were given tickets. Some joined the party a day earlier and were made candidates ignoring the claims of those who were made to run and work. Some outsiders were accommodated rejecting the claims of locals. It resulted in expected opposition and revolts by the aspirants of tickets who were made to work as volunteers and provoked and advised to spend huge sums of money by the said-to-
be central observers and their teams in the run-up to the final selection and allotment of tickets. The party has, it seems, suffered loss of credibility in the face of charges of corruption, demands of huge amounts of money, sexual exploitation, arrogance and high-handedness of the party bosses. The situation is not conducive and pleasant. There is wide spread heartburn among the ranks and files of the party. AAP claims to be a secular party with a national vision. But it seems it succumbed to the momentary temptations of caste and sub-castes, like the traditional parties, while allotting tickets. The case in point is that of four reserved seats – In Jalandhar West the ticket has been given to a person belonging to Bhagat (Kabir panthy) community. An Ad-dharmi Chamar has been favoured from Adampur. Kartarpur has been allotted to a Valmiki and Phillaur to a baptized Ravidasia or Mazhabi Sikh. All the four candidates are 10+2 educationally or even less as against highly placed and qualified professionals and retired officers. The distribution of tickets has given a definite set back to the party image and standing against allegations of corruption, money, sex and blackmail etc. The party would need to pay some additional attention to these blues to remain in the reckoning. I have written this not as criticism but as a matter of self introspection.

The Akali Dal is no exception. It has also faced problems in ticket allocation. But they are not as bad off as the AAP after the release of more than 80 seats out of their quota of 94 after seat sharing with BJP. At least there are no charges of corruption and money. The allegedly tainted leaders like Avinash Chander and Sarwan Singh and some others have been denied tickets. The likes of Pargat Singh have parted ways with the Akali Dal. The new comers like Seth Satpaul Mall, a turn coat and a spent force has been embraced on wrong assumptions of his nearness to a powerful dera in Jalandhar and his status in the community, to my mind. The Akali leadership has the advantage of being in power and a cadre based and top-heavy party with fewer avenues of protest and revolt. Moreover, the party leadership headed by wily politician Parkash Singh Badal is apt at smoothing the ruffled feathers by the principles of ‘Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed’.

The Congress party is yet to announce tickets. They may do so in a day or so. Their problems are enormous. It is an old party with more leaders and claimants. The party structures have many layers of decision-making which make the job more difficult. The new entrants like Navjot Kaur Sidhu, Pargat Singh, Inderjit Bolaria have jolted the computations. There will be a lot of heartburn and protests on ticket allotments. Congress Party has to take this into their stride. Let us see how the things take shape.

The BJP with 23 seats to their share is somewhat at ease. They are yet to announce their candidates. The cadre based party with the imposed discipline of the RSS is less likely to face much problem in selecting its nominees. The latest entry of Hans Raj Hans, a turncoat of the first order, may upset the Jalandhar West aspirant Mohinder Bhagat, son of the sitting MLA and a senior Minister in the government.

The fledgling outfits like the Apna Punjab Party of Sucha Singh Chottepur, BSP, Communist Parties, among others are finding it difficult to find suitable faces to make their candidates. They don’t have much at stake but to play spoilsport to make or mar the chances of a few with their random votes.

The position will be clear in a week or so as the announcement of election schedule is made by the Election Commission.
With regards,

Yours truly,

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador – IFS (Retired)
Tele: 09988510940


“The education can hardly be the sole qualification for membership of the Parliament. If I may use the words of Buddha he said that the man requires two things. One is ‘Gyan’ and the other is ‘Sheel’. Gyan without Sheel is very dangerous. It must be accompanied by Sheel by which we mean character, moral courage, ability to be independent of any kind of temptations, truthful to ones ideals. I am very keen to that no member enters this august assembly who does not posses Sheel in adequate degree.” 

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dealing with Pakistan – Out of the Box Solution

It is obvious that India-Pakistan relations are going from bad to worse by the day. The terrorist attack of November 29 at Nagrota army camp in Jammu is the latest in the series of such attacks from Pathankot to Uri from Uri to Nagrota and one does know what is in store in the coming days. No
amount of hard talk, diplomatic maneuvers, and surgical strike across the LOC has worked to stop and deter Pakistan from its nefarious designs to bleed India. What should we do? The question is engaging the government and the opposition, the intelligentsia and the public at large and rightly so. The loss of life and property, both military and private, is resulting in undue and inflicted trauma on the families of the shaheeds and also common people. No easy and early solution is in sight. But the situation has to be tackled and met with determined and dispassionate response.

Pakistan, from day one, is hell bent to create problems for India. It is all well documented in history. There is no need to repeat it. Now the situation is such that Pakistan is virtually on an undeclared war with India by other means i.e. proxy war. Their main weapon in this war is terrorism through human exploitation i.e. Fidayeen mode. Nobody has any effective shield to counter such ways. But it is for certain that the terror outfits operating in and from Pakistan cannot survive without support and involvement of Pakistan’s armed forces, intelligence agencies and the government. We need to deal with a cunning enemy. The idea is not to provide detailed facts and figures but come straight to the question. How should we deal with Pakistan from a lay man’s – Aam Aadmi’s perspective?

There is no easy solution, given the ground realities and international situation. It is also getting increasingly clear that nobody else can help in solving the problems between the two counties. India and Pakistan themselves ought to do it, the sooner the better.  An out-right war is a dreadful option and both sides will think a hundred times to consider that to settle the matter, given the nuclear power status of both India and Pakistan. Let the war be a last resort, if we both want to finish ourselves.
There can be a two pronged approach to address the security situation and overall settlement with Pakistan:

Immediate and short term option –
·       Increase the border security and the cost to Pakistan for their mischief either by their armed forces or state sponsored terrorists.
·       Adopt “Tit for Tat” policy not in equal measure but with strong and loaded response both at the international border and the line of control (LOC) with the intention to inflict heavy and visible losses to the enemy.
·       Conduct surgical strikes on the training camps, launch pads and support mechanism within Pakistan territory to hit the terrorists and their masters. There is no point in giving any proofs, justifications to Pakistan or any other country. The only explanation is to ‘teach them a lesson’.
·       Covert and Overt operations to neutralize terrorist outfits, their assets and their leadership in Pakistan. The fear of such an action should always linger in the minds of the Aaqas of terrorists.
·       Exploit, support and encourage, without inhibition, Baloch and Sindh separatist movements in Pakistan by all means.
·       Exploit and support the up-risings in POK against the Pakistan government and people.
·       Unleash the propaganda war in the media – print and electronic and also the social media to educate and convince the people – Awaam of Pakistan of the wrong policies of Pakistan army and the terror outfits and also of the government.

Long term options –
·       Intensify diplomatic offensive against Pakistan in international and regional fora both bilaterally and multi-laterally to isolate Pakistan on the issue of cross border terrorism and nuclear blackmail and clandestine commerce.
·       Put in place ‘Track Two Diplomacy’ with Pakistan by identifying suitable and potent interlocutors within or outside Pakistan.
·       Engage diplomatically with the Pakistan government, army brass and intelligence agencies and also the intelligentsia in whatever way or means possible and feasible. Diplomacy has to remain on track as ultimately there is no option but to sit and talk. There is no other way.

The Final option “Out of the Box” settlement –
·       What is the solution? It seems both the sides are feeling fatigue. Something drastic has to be done with a dispassionate approach as an “Out of the Box” solution on the principles of give and take. It would amount to put in considerable efforts to create conducive atmosphere and public opinion on both the sides in favour of status quo. It is a huge task but there is no other option. I wrote about this about a year ago on December 31, 2015 in this blog of mine under the caption “Out of the Box Diplomacy” – India-Pakistan relations. It is a difficult decision and many people may not like to voice it. But somebody has to do it. As I said in the preceding paras, this write up is in no way a detailed analysis of the issue but a humble and feeble attempt to generate a debate in approaching the solution through ‘Out of the Box Diplomacy’.

·       The Give and Take approach was suggested by a visionary leader, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in 1949 itself. He said and I quote from an article written by Dr. K. Jamnadas ‘Kashmir Problem from Ambedkarite Perspective’, Even about Kashmir, the issue on which we are fighting, who is in the right and who is in the wrong. The real issue to my mind, he said, is not who is in the right but what is right and he observed: "... my view has always been that the right solution is to partition Kashmir. Give the Hindu and Buddhist part to India and the Muslim part to Pakistan as we did in the case of India. We are really not concerned with the Muslim part of Kashmir. It is a matter between the Muslims of Kashmir and Pakistan. They may decide the issue, as they like or if you like, divide it into three parts; the Cease-fire zone, the Valley and the Jammu-Ladakh Region and have a plebiscite only in the Valley. What I am afraid of is that in the proposed plebiscite, which is to be an overall plebiscite, the Hindus and Buddhists of Kashmir are likely to be dragged into Pakistan against their wishes and we may have to face the same problems as we are facing today in East Bengal."

·       Dr. Ambedkar was a genius. The solution given by him was pragmatic and was not based on misplaced emotions. Had PM Jawaharlal Nehru listened to him, both the newly independent countries would not have suffered the economic burden of defense of the long border and also the subsequent full blown wars and often repeated border skirmishes resulting in constant hostility between the two neighbors. Even after 68 long years, the solution still lies somewhere close to Dr. Ambedkar’s thinking. PM Indira Gandhi and PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it is said, agreed in 1972 at the time of Simla Agreement to convert the Line of Control (LOC) into international border and settle the core issue of Kashmir. It could not happen. The Nobel Peace Prize eluded them. PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was interested in making history and he tried with PM Nawaz Sharif and President Pervez Musharraf but failed. PM Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf picked up the threads and thought of making the LOC and International border between India and Pakistan “irrelevant” and become the contenders for the coveted peace prize. But again it was not to be. Somebody else is destined to make history. Will they be PM Narendra Modi and PM Nawaz Sharif? Only time will tell.

·       We all know that the Kashmir issue cannot be solved by either side by force. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. The stakes are too high. Nobody will be interested in making it a flash point for the unimaginable holocaust. The leaderships of both India and Pakistan and the people on both the sides and also the international community are not oblivious of these ground realities. The international scenario is changing fast in view of cross border terrorism and regional conflicts. The challenges of development and environment are needed to be addressed to save humanity. The “Out of the Box” solutions and approaches are needed. The festering problem of Kashmir and the emerging situation in Afghanistan needs immediate attention. Both India and Pakistan are required to rise to the occasion to ward of the imminent dangers of allowing the situation to worsen. Given the background of PM Narendra Modi, he has an image of a hawk in Pakistan. It becomes all the more difficult for him to do business with Pakistani leadership particularly that of the Pak army and Islamic fundamentalists. On the other hand, it appears that PM Narendra Modi intends to steal the show and make history by adopting an “Out of the Box” approach. He invited PM Nawaz Sharif to his swearing in ceremony in May, 2014 along with his other SAARC counterparts, registering diplomatic deftness on his part. In spite of usual ups and downs in relations with Pakistan, PM Narendra Modi kept the diplomatic routes open. From Ufa to Paris, he did not leave any opportunity to engage Pakistan in constructive dialogue. Addressing the army commanders recently, PM Modi said, setting the agenda, “We are engaging Pakistan to try and turn the corners of history, bringing an end to terrorism, build peaceful relations, advance cooperation and promote stability and prosperity in the region.”  The NSAs of India and Pakistan, Ajit Doval and Nasser Janjua respectively met in Bangkok followed by the visit of EAM Sushma Swaraj to Islamabad in December itself to pave the way for “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue” which was stalled due to the vicious bitterness and mistrust existing in the relationship with Pakistan. PM Narendra Modi’s unscheduled visit to Lahore on December 25 on the birthday of PM Nawaz Sharif, PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a diplomatic masterstroke to engage Pakistan in the process of creating history. Let us hope, the process continues and the desired results obtained.

·       It is not an easy task. Pakistan has to tone-down the rhetoric of “Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan” and shed and shun the policy of exporting terrorism. India being a big country in the region should be more accommodative and magnanimous in dealing with its estranged brother. The government of PM Narendra Modi, with a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, should create political and diplomatic consensus on the issues of conflict and contention within the country. The civil society should be prepared to engage with Pakistan by encouraging people to people contacts. Cultural bonds should be nurtured. The opportunities for the two way trade between the two countries should be explored, identified and exploited. The likes of Ram Madhav, the votary of ‘Akhand Bharat’, should be asked to shut up. The forces of understanding and friendship should be unleashed to create a conducive atmosphere for meaningful dialogue to solve the vexed problems to mutual benefit and advantage.

·       It is easier said than done. But there is, it seems, a growing feeling of tiredness on both sides. There is a growing realization that force and
undiplomatic methods cannot solve the problems and challenges generated by history. Let us consider and opt for the policy of ‘give and take’ as advised by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, of course, with necessary adjustments which may be required to address the current situation. Let us wish the leaderships
of both India and Pakistan under the stewardship of PM Narendra Modi and PM Nawaz Sharif all the very best in the New Year and help them in making history for the people of India and Pakistan and the world at large.

The Final Solution –“Out of the Box” Settlement as stated above is a repeat of what I said a year before in December, 2015. I may be excused, if there are some repetitions. Subsequent to that Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Uri and now Nagrota attacks and loss of unprecedented life and property have provoked me to write this again. Kashmiri leader Farooq Abdullah has also expressed his opinion recently when he said that in 70 years Pakistan could not get Kashmir from us and similarly we could not take back POK from Pakistan and it will be difficult to do that by either side. Let us understand this and engage ourselves to settle all outstanding issues peacefully.  

शक्ति भी शांति भी भक्तों के गीत में है;
दुनिया के बासियों की मुक्ति प्रीत में है !

Monday, December 5, 2016

Changing Political Fortunes in Punjab

An Open Letter of an AAM AADMI – Changing Political Fortunes in Punjab

December 5, 2016

Dear Voters of Punjab,

Political temperature is rising in Punjab. All parties are busy in finalizing their candidates. Most of the 117 constituencies are likely to witness three cornered contests among the Congress, Akali Dal, BJP and AAP. The Akali Dal and BJP appear to be on the receiving end with its incumbency baggage. AAP was on the move upward a
couple months before. But in between due to infighting on account of Chhotepur’s departure and dissatisfaction of ticket aspirants, the party image suffered a jolt. The Congress graph appeared to be on the rise. But the Congress is yet to face the ticket distribution blues. It will not be easy to keep the flock together, particularly on tickets to the new entrants like Navjot Kaur Sidhu and Paragt Singh and a couple of others. AAP declared its candidates early and they would benefit from it in terms of intensive contact exercise. But in between, the party has changed some candidates due to various reasons. It has not sent a good message to the supporters of AAP. Arvind Kejriwal’s intensive tour and well organized public rallies in the second half of November throughout Punjab have certainly helped in putting the party back on track, in spite of the fact that the party was seen on the back foot with its alliance with the maverick group of Bains brothers and their part Lok Insaf Dal. I only hope, being a humble member of the AAP, it recovers from this sense of lack of confidence.

I think, if AAP could take care of the following three factors in the coming two months, it would be able to make it in the final run:

·       The repeated allegations of corruption and demand of huge sums of money by the bosses of the party from the candidates and aspirants need to be addressed with all sincerity and seriousness. People tend to believe these things as it is commonly said that there could be no smoke without fire. AAP came up as a party against corruption. Caesar’s wife should not only be clean but also appear to be clean.

·       AAP leadership should not stand on ceremonies and false ego. They should reach out to disgruntled and estranged workers and volunteers including those who have been denied tickets.  It may not be out of place to mention that volunteers who have been denied tickets are sore with the leadership not because they could not get the tickets but because of the fact that the party managers made them run and spent money in the run up to tickets and finally the tickets were given to new comers and outsiders. The party bosses also did not think it fit to take them into confidence and explain to them the rationale behind the allotment of tickets.

·       Some four or five candidates have been changed due to one reason or the other. It has not sent a good message. The workers whose candidatures have been withdrawn have levied allegations of corruption and demand of huge sums of money by the leadership. They are likely to join the disgruntled group which met at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall at Jalandar on November 3 and the show was not exactly without reason. Some urgent damage control by the AAP is called for before goes out of hand. The party should desist from changing candidates.

·       The Central Observers and their teams have done good work to establish the party at the grassroots. But the allegations that the local leaders are totally side lined is gaining acceptance. A fine balance needs to be created. The volunteers like Sukhpal Kaira, C.D. Kamboj, Sat Paul, and others, I understand, are feeling suffocated. Jagtar Sanghera whose candidature from Nakodar seat may also join the bandwagon. Gurpreet Ghuggi, to my mind, is not taken seriously by the workers and volunteers as it is felt that he does not have any clout in the decision making process of the party. AAP should empower its local leaders. People are fast getting disenchanted with the Central Observers and it is not good for the party.

All said and done, it is high time that AAP gets serious and set its house in order. People wanted change and they saw a good alternative in the AAP. But with the fast changing scenario, the ground situation is changing. An urgent introspection by the party bosses is called for before it gets too late.

With regards,

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador – IFS (Retired)

जो पहुँच गए हैं मंज़िल पे; उनको तो नहीं है नाज़े सफ़र,

जो दो कदम अभी चले नहीं; रफ्तार की बातें करते हैं !