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Mainstream, VOL L, No 15, March 31, 2012

Silver Lining


Monday 2 April 2012, by SC

Problems and crises don’t seem to leave the ruling United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre. The Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, has been regularly coming out with startling revelations and taking steps causing huge embarrassment for the government in general and Defence Minister A.K. Antony in particular. First came the alleged offer of a Rs 14-crore bribe for the purchase of trucks made a year-and-a-half ago and the Army attributed the offer to General Singh’s former colleague, retired Lt Gen Tejinder Singh (who has now filed a defamation case in the court). Then a letter from the Army Chief to the PM, written on March 12, 2012, was leaked out—it painted a grim picture of the operational capabilities of the 1.13 million-strong force under General Singh’s command (wherein he claimed the Army’s tank regiments were “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks” even as the existing air defence systems were unable to protect us against the enemy air attacks since they were “97 per cent absolete”). And the latest was his sending a letter from an MP of the Trinamul Congress, an ally of the Congress in the UPA, to the CBI for a probe—the letter, written in May 2011, had made a complaint against Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, commanding the Dimapur-based 3 Corps. All these have evoked uproar in both Houses of Parliament with the Opposition highlighting the growing trust-defect between the government and Army Chief regardless of the fact that both Antony and General Singh are spotlessly clean and men of exceptional probity.

The national political situation at the same time has turned more complex than before because of a disturbing development in Punjab with Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for the assassination of Punjab CM Beant Singh, receiving an extraordinary reprieve three days before his death sentence was to be carried out. With the Centre buckling under the ruling Akali Dal’s strong advocacy against carrying out the sentence in Punjab, President Pratibha Patil accepted a clemency petition from the Punjab CM, Prakash Singh Badal, on March 28, clearly implying the Centre’s concurrence. This has provoked the judiciary to assail the political leadership decrying the manner in which the assassin of a CM was getting protection from the powers that be. In this specific case the Akal Takht played a crucial role in directing Badal to meet the President and get Rajoana’s “unconditional release” thereby indicating without any shadow of doubt as to who are calling the shots in the State today. The grave consequences of such a development for the polity can barely be minimised.

Against this backdrop the Indian vote in favour of a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council asking the Sri Lankan Government to investigate the alleged state atrocities against the Tamil minority populace following Colombo’s success in liquidating the LTTE appears to be the only silver lining in the otherwise dismal scenario. For once New Delhi stood by its principles and voted against the racist intent and policies of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government whose hate-Tamil approach has been roudly denounced by progressive Sri Lankan intellectuals braving heavy odds and manifold adversities. Sections of the media in this country have attributed this outcome of India voting in favour of a country-specific resolution in the UNHRC, an unprecedented phenomenon, as the consequence of the DMK’s intense pressure on and threat of withdrawing support to the UPA Government and some commentators have opined that this could lead to India losing strategic space to China (which alongwith Russia, Bangladesh, Maldives and Indonesia voted against the resolution). These points are of course noteworthy but what matters most in the current situation is standing by one’s principles and upholding a just cause which New Delhi had failed to do time and again on account of its undue reliance on realpolitic and expediency.

It is also of no mean significance that New Delhi sugarcoated the adopted resolution by pushing through amendments to ensure that the US-sponsored document was less “intrusive” without altering its basic thrust. By this move India has shown to the wide world that it stands by its own comprehension of the indivisibility of democracy and human rights, something it did not or could not project in the case of Burma and thus earned the unequivocal criticism of large sections of democrats, both at home and abroad, extending unstinted support to the heroic Aung San Suu Kyi’s ongoing battle for human dignity in her homeland.

March 29 S.C.

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