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Mainstream, VOL L, No 21, May 12, 2012

CBI on Advani, Hollande’s Win, Hillary Visit

Editorial

Friday 18 May 2012, by SC

One of the noteworthy national events of the last few days has been the latest 30-page affidavit submitted by the CBI to the Supreme Court contending that not only should conspiracy charges against BJP leader L.K. Adavani not be dropped in the Babri Masjid demolition case, but he and other BJP as well as Hindu extremist leaders (like Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Rithambara) must face trial alongwith the accused kar sevaks charged with pulling down the structure of that Masjid at Ayodhya in December 1992, that is, almost twenty years ago.

By this affidavit the CBI has challenged the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 judgment putting its stamp of approval on dropping the conspiracy charges against Advani, separating the trial of two FIRs against kar sevaks and the BJP-Hindutva leaders, and withdrawing the charges against Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and 12 others on the ground that they were not physically present at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 when the mosque was razed to the ground.

The most serious allegation highlighted by the CBI is that the aforementioned leaders celebrated the demolition by “clapping, hugging each other” and “distributed sweets on the manch which was at a visible distance of 175 metres from the disputed structure”. With regard to Advani’s role, the CBI has further pointed out that

Before the demolition started and during the course of demolition, various accused including the eight named in the FIR of crime no. 198/92, made provocative slogans from the manch causing the assembly to turn unlawful resulting in rioting and storming of the structure by the kar sevaks.

These charges canot possibly be brushed aside. And thus the BJP’s woes continue to mount what with the severe infighting in its Rajasthan unit and the sharp conflict within the JMM-BJP ruling coalition in Jharkhand blunting the edge of its attack on the Congress-led UPA Government which has lately become ineffective due to its internal problems and bickerings.

The other important recent happenings on the national plane were: (a) the State CM’s renewed opposition, at the May 5 CMs’ meet in the Capital, to the Centre’s plan to set up the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) arguing that the proposal violated the federal structure and demanding drastic changes in it (even as the PM insisted that the NCTC would “supplement” and “not supplant” in the States’ counter-terrorism capabilities); (b) the Centre’s decision on May 7 to defer implementation of the General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) to check tax evasion by one year and including in it some safeguards to pacify angry investors and revive the investment climate (even while Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee firmly quelled the multinationals’ campaign against taxing, Vodafone by asserting that India could not be a “tax haven simply to attract foreign investment”); (c) rejecting the Special Investigating Team’s conclusion that there was no prosecutable evidence to proceed against State CM Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gujarat carnage, the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran stated in his final report on May 7 thsat there was prima facie a case against Modi since the latter was responsible for promoting enmity between communities by justifying violence, something not only prejudicial to maintain harmony but also a threat to national integration under Sections 153 and 505 of the IPC (attracting a punishment of three years in jail); and (d) the Union Government’s withdrawal on May 8 of the petition seeking review of the Apex Court order cancelling 122 licences issued on the ‘first come, first served’ (FCFS) basis in 2008 as the SC’s considered view was that scarce national resources should be allotted to private companies only through the route of public auction and not on the FCFS basis.

Meanwhile the international developments have been capped by the distinct Left turn in France with the victory of Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the second and final round of the presidential poll on May 6 dislodging the flamboyant incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, the result being warmly greeted by progressive forces the world over even as the corporate-driven media has chosen to voice doubts and apprehensions with one close observer of the French scene maintaining that the new President’s policies were fraught with debilitating risks instead of redeeming opportunities. Of course there are problems confronting the new President and the smooth Germany-France collaboration under Angela Merkel and Sarkozy—popularly known as ‘Merkozy’ —to tackle the European financial crisis is bound to face bumps leading to uncertainties. But then unlike Sarkozy, whose lifestyle amidst record joblessness, low growth and increasing competitiveness cost him his seat of power, the quiet Socialist leader has struck the right chord by focussing on the farmers, small entrepreneurs and youth and, more significantly, assured that ‘no child of the republic’ would encounter discrimination (a huge reassurance indeed). He has also asserted during his campaign that his “real adversary... is the world of finance”. He enjoys the backing of Left-wing parties as well (even if the growing Right-wing chauvinists hate him) and the French people want a change for the better under him. No doubt Hollande as the head of state would be beset with manifold challenges and it is to be seen how he meets those. But it would be a cardinal mistake to pass any judgment on his performance even before his formal entry into the Elysees Palace—the first Socialist President after 22 years.

In the midst of all such developments at home and abroad US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to India (Kolkata and New Delhi) on May 7 received wide attention in the country and beyonbd. Her trip to Kolkata after visiting China and Bangladesh was a clear sign of recognition by the US Administration of the rising importance of regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee in the national scenario. On her part Mamata Banerjee and the government she heads went out of their way to seize the opportunity to showcase the State as an attractive destination for US investments. But she did not discuss the vital issues of FDI in retail and sharing of Teesta waters with Bangladesh that Hillary had said she would raise with her. Of course, these subjects were touched upon by the Secretary of State but the CM is understood to have politely sidestepped them as on both issues she holds views different from those of Hillary. Nevertheless, the meeting was productive and constructive inasmuch as it enabled each to size up the other.

On her public utterances in the city Hillary reiterated the US position that Pakistan had yet to take concrete steps against the Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed that both India and the US have repeatedly urged it to take, but this was something that Washington had said earlier as well. The new point was her disclosure that Osama bin Laden’s successor Ayman al-Zawahiri was in Pakistan; she further added: “So we are intent of going after those who are keen on keeping the Al-Qaeda operational and inspirational.” The value of those words were not lost on the audience. However, she also urged India to lower its oil imports from Tehran “to keep the pressure on Iran”. This was doubtless pressure tactics transgressing on the sovereign right of a country to act on its own without any outside diktat.

In New Delhi Hillary again took up the issue of Iranian oil imports though here she was more diplomatic and mostly dwelt on the “broader regional and global implications” if the US pressure through sanctions on Iran failed to completely open up the latter’s nuclear programme from inspection. For once the PM is learnt to have conveyed, during his 80-minute meeting with Hillary, this country’s independent stand on the issue: while reaffirming the Indian commitment to stand with the inter-national community on checking the proliferation of nuclear weapions, he made it clear that New Delhi would be guided solely by its national interests on securing its energy supplies. (It was also of no mean significance that the day Hillary arrived in the Capital for talks with the Indian leaders, business-persons from India and Iran held discussions in New Delhi to boost trade between the two countries in non-oil products.)

What the PM told the US Secretary of State is indeed welcome. But there is also the fact that India’s oil imports from Iran have reduced of late, a point which Hillary did not fail to bring into focus in Kolkata while calling for further reduction on the lines of Japan, a country she singled out for commendation in this regard. In this context The Hindu has editorially exposed the ulterior motive behind the US pressure:

Put simply, New Delhi is being asked to undermine its own economic and strategic interests by cutting back on oil imports and other commercial transactions with Tehran in order to comply with extra-territorial sanctions that have no basis in international law...

Obviously such pressure tactics is not unexpected from any US Administration including the one headed by Barack Obama. For essentially there has been no fundamental change in such matters from the Bush Presidency in Washington and Hillary is the symbol of continuity of this score. Therefore it may become imperative for India to become more forthright and outspoken in the coming days because, as the same daily has aptly pointed out, “the path they (the Americans) are going down now can only produce greater instability and insecurity” that Washington cannot visualise on account of its prevailing hegemonic vision conditioned by the collapse of the USSR. (Needless to underscore, that vision is alien in today’s world which is observing on this very day the sixtyseventh anniversary of the Victory over Fascism in the Second World War.)

May 9 S.C.

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