WHOSE INTEREST IS NATIONAL?
Date: 24 Aug 2007
Whose interest is national anyway?
22 Aug 2007, 1417 hrs IST
For the last three days the only news that seemed important next to the Left-UPA spat over the nuke deal was Sanjay Dutt's bail application, its hearing in the Supreme Court and finally the grant of bail. I am sure for the next seven days, his homecoming, sweet messages from everyone in filmdom, his clothes, and his cane-making experiences would hog the front pages as if the billion-strong, fast-moving, agro-based, IT-savvy, space-age nation has nothing else to read about. Meanwhile, I happened to notice a few marginalised or contemptuously ignored news items. For your benefit a few lines from a few news items are given below:
SRINAGAR: Ten people, including a Colonel were killed in a clash between troops and Muslim militants trying to sneak into Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side, the Army said on Wednesday. (AFP). 'In an act of bravery Col Vasanth and Lance Naik Ganpat achieved martyrdom while fighting hardcore Afghan terrorists. Col. Vasanth earlier intercepted (the terrorist communication) and fired upon them.' Leading from the front, he organised his troops to surround the terrorists. (IANS )
GUWAHATI: Hundreds of people bid a tearful farewell on Tuesday to an Indian Army soldier whose snow-preserved body was found nearly 40 years after he was killed in a plane crash in the northern Himalayas. Nearly 400 people attended Mahendra Nath Phukon's cremation near his family home in Deodhai, a village 340 km (215 miles) east of Guwahati, the capital of northeastern Assam state. (International Herald Tribune)
JAMMU: On the occasion of 60th Independence Day several West Pakistan refugees of 1947 including young and old, men and women staged a protest demonstration in Jammu. A woman said, "We were forced to flee our homes and hearths in 1947 and since then we have been languishing here in the state. We are at the fag end of our lives but what would happen to our children. We are fighting for justice and equality in a democratic country but no one is bothered about us." (Kashmir Times)
NEW DELHI: Two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots created a new world record on Sunday by successfully flying a microlite aircraft around the world in 79 days. The pilots, Wing Cdr Rahul Monga and Wing Cdr Anil Kumar, had taken off from Hindan on June 1. The duo has created a new world record in circumnavigating the world in a single engine microlite aircraft in 79 days. The current world record is 99 days. The pilots covered a total of 40,497 kms flying over 19 countries. (TOI)
IMPHAL: Newspapers in Manipur published blank editorials to protest the government's attempt to curb the publication of statements issued by militant groups. ( sinlung.com)
As you might have seen over the past few days the news of Sanjay Dutt's bail has got precedence to the martyrdom of brave soldiers, Col. Vasanth and Lance Naik Ganpat, with no publication even carrying their photographs. Somehow, to give your life for the country seems to have counted less than to have been a film actor who kept Dawood's guns and had the right contacts.
Whether it's the plight of Hindus demanding citizenship in their own country or issues of national pride, it's the charm of glamour that takes importance over serious issues of the commoner.
But, one can argue, the nuke deal was rightly on the front page. True, but did the debate over the nuke deal educate people in an unprejudiced manner? The level of the debate has come down to "headless chickens" and the "vegetable brains".
In the end it's the nation that loses and not the politicos who go home heaving a sigh of relief over their dramatic performances. Everyone is fighting in the name of national interest. A deal affecting the future of our security is signed and opposed, both for national interest. A foreigner accused of pocketing Rs 64 crores as bribe is let off in Argentina with the connivance of the Indian government, but the same state apparatus witch-hunts a Shankaracharya and continues with cases against political foes back home again in the name of national interest. It's difficult to find amongst the leaders and the media where exactly national interest ends and prejudiced petty political agenda begins.
This national interest seems to be most invisible in Delhi's power corridors and the paparazzi when the shouts of help that come from the corners of the country are not echoed in the Capital. The largest student body of Assam, already traumatized by severe infiltration says "In about ten years Assam is going to have a Bangladeshi chief minister. We have been shouting for the last 22 years that illegal migrants are killing Assam today but they will kill India tomorrow". But these voices are not being heard and the murder of the Hindi-speaking people (mostly Hindus) goes on unabated and continues to be ignored by the media.
We have become so enamoured with the tinsel world and the lives of the rich and famous (and infamous alike) that one of my editor friends from Guwahati wrote in utter despair, "Delhi doesn't need Northeast to remain a part of the nation which for a common Hindustani, doesn't exist beyond Kolkata".
A couple of days before 12 insurgents were arrested from the official residence of three Congress MLAs in Imphal, arms and ammunition in large quantity were also recovered from their houses. Manipur's newspapers did not carry editorials against the insurgency in the state, but in fact carried blank editorials against the government's instruction to observe restraint in publishing statements of the terrorist outfits demanding separation from India, as they "use" print media to spread rumours and psychological terror. Manipur is observing a ban on Hindi movies and instead Korean movies are being freely shown. The national anthem is not allowed in schools and any chord that binds the famous region of Radha Krishna's cultural heritage with the rest of India is being weakened and torn. The state's 150-year-old library, with rare Bengali manuscripts and books was burnt as the terrorists didn't want "a library having books in a colonial language". Those in the state who stand up for national integration are not supported by either the media or the power centre in Delhi.
Manipuris also feel threatened by the growing clout of the separatist Naga organizations like National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isaac-Muivah group (NSCN-IM) which demands a chunk from Manipur to create a "Greater Nagalim for Christ". In fact, Nagaland was created on December 1, 1963 slicing off parts of Assam, namely Naga Hills, Tuensang district and Dimapur after a fierce insurgency launched by A Z Phizo, who took refuge in London under British patronage and the Church's support. They still nourish a dream to create a Christian-dominated colony serving British and US interests in the region and their "war cry" is "Republic of Nagalim for Christ."
Even in Manipuri text books national subjects are omitted. In the text book screening committees, set up by the government, representatives of separatist organizations like the All Manipur Students Union, the Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur, the Manipur Students Federation (a Maoist outfit) take all the major decisions. The committee decided to teach only Manipur issues, leaving out of its curriculum, Gandhi, Nehru and other national heroes. In a Robin Hood role, student organizations check teachers' conduct and cut their salary if they are found to be absent from classes. The money collected is deposited in their association's account.
In the government sector, the Kanglipak Communist Party, the United National Liberation Front and the Kanglei Yayol Kannan Lup are most active and impose a "tax", which no one can dare to refuse. Government employees are forced to give one to two per cent of their salary and each central project contractor or the officer-in-charge has to cough up 10 to 20 per cent of the project cost in most of the north-eastern states.
But Delhi remains busy in its own petty squabbles, either unaware or uncaring of the problems being faced by the Northeast.
Until a couple of years back, Arunachal Pradesh was known as the only peaceful state in the troubled Northeast. But gradually the forced religious conversions and accompanied insurgency by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah) in Changlang and Tirap districts and the lethargic attitude of the central government has already brought this beautiful state on the brink of unrest.
Arunachal's border with China is a long one, which stretches all the way from the east, over to its northern boundaries and down to its north-western edge where it merges with Tibet. To its west is Bhutan and on its southern end touches Assam, Nagaland and Burma before sweeping up to China. Let us not forget that China claims around 36,000 square miles of Indian Territory in Arunachal Pradesh, while it has occupied some 15,200 square miles in Kashmir.
Though the state leadership had raised issues of security from time to time, the Delhi government has chosen to ignore their calls for help. In 2003, the then Chief Minister Mukut Mithi warned the central government about Chinese troops making forays across the border and demanded constructing vital roads along our borders with China to meet any security threats. Recently there was a furor in Parliament when an MP from Arunachal Kiran Rijiju sought to disclose Chinese intrusion in Indian territory. Though it was refuted by South Block, none from Delhi's media went to the border areas to cross check the facts and present the views of the Indians living there.
The UPA-Left spat will come to an end soon and so will Sanjay's bail and jail issues. Even if there is a mid-term election, does it bring any hope for a change or simply another burden of thousands of crores on the people of India? After all, the same faces will reappear in a different set-up. National interests remain prisoner to political and vested interests.
The author is the editor of Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly brought out by the RSS. The views expressed are his personal.