Have Taliban promised US that women will be treated kindly

BY SAEED NAQVI

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to the US Congress begins with America’s recent military engagement in self congratulatory terms. Among the more modest claims is: “For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country”.

The speech ends with a graphic account of the SEAL Team’s mission “to get bin Laden”. He says “one of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission”.

Between these extended bits of military triumphalism, are other substantive themes that will play themselves out in great detail upto the Presidential election in November 2012.

Part of the choreography being structured for the campaign is the conference on Afghanistan due in May in Chicago, with NATO seated on the front benches along with others including all those present at the first Bonn conference. In his speech Obama talked of the 10,000 troops who have already returned. He then said that “23,000 more will leave by the end of summer”.

The Chicago conference will be in the Spring. The 23,000 US troops will not have left Afghanistan by then. That will happen only by the “end of summer”, say August or September, weeks short of polling day. If troops can really be brought back by then, the resultant photo ops can be given a favourable spin. Some sort of success can be projected.

Between the announcement of the exact date of the next phase of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the actual departure of troops, there can always be a hitch which will enable departure to be delayed beyond November 5, leaving the next administration to devise a more plausible policy for Afghanistan or for that hyphenated Af-Pak region. That expression has been gradually shed as Richard Holbrooke recedes from memory.

I suppose it is the prerogative of the powerful to blandish daily improvisations as carefully crafted, deeply thought out foreign policy. Put it down to my inadequate grasp of events, but in recent years I have not been able to spot anything resembling policy towards Af-Pak.

Remember when Peter Galbraith was posted to Kabul as Holbrooke’s sidekick? Soon after Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s re-election in August 2009 he packed up and left because the elections had been “rigged”.

Those were the days when every visiting American journalist, briefed either at Bagram or the US’s Kabul embassy, described Karzai as something less than the Mayor of Kabul, one who could not even step out of the Palace.

Then came General Stanley McChrystal who was disarmingly blunt: India’s socio-economic development work in Afghanistan “creates complications and distracts Pakistan from its war on terror”. This is what I was told in Kabul.

Was this derived from some policy? If so, how do I square it with well placed Americans in Islamabad, during that period, fairly vocal about the Pak army playing “both sides of the street” in their war on terror?

One has lived so long with the absence of a coherent US policy in the region, that the frenetic activity between Washington, Kabul, Islamabad and now Qatar cannot by any stretch of imagination be seen as part of a deep design. It smacks of yet another improvisation.

The limited short term objective is to prepare a script for Chicago where “success” in Afghanistan can be credibly “promised”. Success cannot be “announced” because “success” cannot happen in a short time frame.

What is the implication of this Qatar digression?

Have the Taliban, a “nightmare” of the 1990s, been transformed into harbingers of a sparkling new dawn for Afghanistan, by the sheer passage of time?

In the 90s, Holbrooke and friends were passing through New Delhi. US ambassador Frank Wisner held a dinner for the group before escorting them to Bhutan for a holiday. By a coincidence, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour happened to be in Kabul. Her powerful reportage of the Taliban’s harsh treatment of women changed Washington’s policy so abruptly that, just then, Holbrooke received a call from the White House on this subject. He returned to the group shaking his head. “Washington is unhappy with the way Afghan women are being treated.” Someone in the group succinctly observed: “Afghan policy has now got embroiled in US gender politics.” Another improvisation was affected. The policy was changed. Facilitators of an American hydrocarbon pipeline through Afghanistan became pariahs overnight.

Will the Taliban this time sign statements on oath that they will be kind to their women?

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Why Gen VK Singh’s D.O.B is not just a ‘personal’ matter

BY RSN SINGH

The controversy over the army chief’s date of birth (d.o.b.) is bizarre and probably symptomatic of the degradation of value systems at the higher echelons of the army. It is definitely not a sudden development.

Officers of the rank of lieutenant general have gone to the civil courts on matters relating to promotions in the past. The only institution which had no need to do so was that of the army chief, because that was the end of the hierarchy and the ladder. But then there was the allure of post-retirement sinecure and many army chiefs were perceived to be bending backwards for it.

Eventually, by a seemingly capillary action, the malaise crept right to the top. The system had acquired such a culture of sleaze and conspiracy over the years that there was an attempt to even manipulate the duration and succession chain of the institution.

Gen VK Singh’s decision to go to the Supreme Court is a manifestation of this. The case otherwise was so simple – or such a non-issue- that its resolution was more a matter of common sense than judicial intervention.

The case arose from a difference in the records of the Military Secretary’s Branch and the Adjutant General’s (AG’s) Branch of the army. The latter is the usual record-keeper.

In Gen Singh’s case, the ministry of defence decided that it will go by the Military Secretary’s records – when common sense should have told it to do otherwise. In fact, the MoD has done so in at least one earlier case.

In a strikingly similar case, one Col Ramesh Chander Joshi (IC-16142) received his orders for retirement from the MS Branch (vide Letter No. 30004/Sep 96/Tech/MS Retirement w.e.f. 30 September 1996) based on the fact that his date of birth was listed as 22 September 1944.

However, the records with the Adjutant General’s branch clearly indicated his date of birth as 25 November 1945. The officer communicated this anomaly to the MS Branch. In the absence of reply, on the last day of his retirement, i.e. 30 September 1996, the officer had no option but to send a signal directly to the army chief.

Promptly, on the same day, the officer received a message “This HQ letter No 30004/Sep/96/Tech/MS Retirement of 13 Sep 1996 regarding retirement of IC 16142 Col Ramesh Chander Joshi Engrs of E-in-c’s Branch Army Hq w.e.f. from 30 Sep 96 is hereby cancelled. The claimed date of birth as 25 Nov 45 has been accepted by ministry of defence (MoD). Officer will continue in service till further orders.”

As in the case of Gen Singh, the date of birth column in the UPSC form in respect of Col Joshi had been incorrectly filled and was corrected by the UPSC first and subsequently by the National Defence Academy (NDA) once his Senior Cambridge certificate arrived.

Col Joshi wonders: “If it has happened in my case why not in the case of Gen VK Singh?”

Most army officers are bewildered and question: where is the scope for controversy?

Various military secretaries who had dealt with the case, in keeping with their moral imperative, could have ‘corrected’ their records within a matter of hours.

A simple acknowledgement of the mistake could have done much to establish fairplay, judgment and credibility on the part of the Military Secretary Branch. This acknowledgement would otherwise have made no difference to the date of birth of Gen Singh, as the Army List has no legal sanctity. An acknowledgement or acceptance of mistake was desired because it was repeated over more than 36 years. Every year, at the time of the general’s Annual Confidential Records, his date of birth was mentioned as 10 May 1951.

There are scores of such cases in the Army List, wherein the date of birth, or IC number or name is wrongly entered. People have retired as lieutenant generals with wrong IC numbers in the Army List. If these military secretaries were ‘men of honour’ they should have accepted their ‘omissions’ and tried to clean up the functioning of the MS Branch.

The buzz among army insiders is that these gentlemen entered into a conspiracy with at least two army chiefs and subsequent powers that be in inflicting their mistake or omission (of not correcting the army chief’s d.o.b.) and blackmailing Gen Singh by using the inaccurate and inconsequential document called the ‘Army List’ as tool.

Some 90 percent officers in the army retire without seeing the Army List. There is a popular saying in the army that only crooks and careerists see the Army List.

But what does one make of Gen Singh’s alleged acceptance of his date of birth – an acceptance demanded by the MS Branch before he was made a corps commander?

Gen Singh’s detractors are clutching the straw of ‘acceptance’ in their defence. An ‘acceptance’ of a date of birth cannot get one a driving licence or passport, let alone make an ‘army chief’. An ‘acceptance’ cannot be construed as ‘self-declaration’. Any ‘acceptance’ cannot be in the absence of a ‘demand’ and, in Gen Singh’s case, it was looked like intimidation or blackmail, which clearly indicates that the higher echelons are bereft of common decencies.

No civilised officer will use the kind of language that the concerned military secretaries used with an officer who was to be appointed the next army chief. Imagine the agony of the lower rung! Sample the non-civilised import of language used by the MS in respect of Gen Singh.

In a letter dated 21 June 2008, the military secretary wrote to Gen Singh, “we are constrained to maintain your official date of birth as 10 May 1950, and same may kindly be reflected in all your records and documents. The AG’s branch is accordingly intimated to amend the records being maintained by them.” (Note: this is nothing but megalomania, as the MS Branch has no authority over the AG’s Branch in matters of personal particulars of an officer; in fact it is otherwise).

In another letter dated 21 January 2008, the MS said: “… we are constrained to maintain your official date of birth as 10 May 1950, and the same may kindly be reflected in all your records… Please acknowledge and confirm acceptance.”

Then comes the threat. “Request fwd (forward) ack (acknowledgement) and confirm acceptance of date of birth as given in para 5 (five) of letter dated 21 January 2008… (.) If reply not received by 1000 hrs on 25 Jan 08 action deemed appropriate will be taken (.) (from MS to Gen Singh  dated 24 Jan 2008).

No man of honour will digest such intimidation and blackmail. It is very much honourable to deal with dishonourable men and their vicious agendas from a position of relative advantage. This is exactly what the general has done. He has moved incrementally by first appealing to the good and moral sense of the powers that be. It is in this spirit that the legal opinion of four former and honourable Chief Justices of India was solicited.

A guilty man will not do that. A man with a chink in his armour will not go to the Supreme Court of India. Only an honourable man at the end of his career will put everything on the line. Those who, therefore, are insinuating that the general has taken this drastic step for an additional 10 months in office have simply lost their moral bearings. It took almost four months (more than the mandatory period) for the defence minister to give his verdict on the statutory complaint filed by his army chief.

And within these days, there were statements from the MoD that the defence minister was not bound by any time stipulation. From the manner of treatment of the statutory complaint, it is evident that the whole idea was to buy a few months so that the announcement of the new chief could be made as per a designed ‘succession plan’.

If the defence minister takes four months to adjudicate on a statutory complaint of his army chief, one can imagine the plight of a jawan of the Indian army. Then there was planted propaganda that the general may tender his resignation, thus upsetting the ‘succession plan’. Some bureaucrats this author interacted with pompously boasted that the general would not even be allowed to resign, as he serves at the pleasure of the President.

Meanwhile, owing to the role played by certain responsible and patriotic segments of the media, the truth gained currency and the government realised that it was morally and legally very vulnerable. One of the senior ministers admitted in private that the issue was botched up and could have serious political repercussions.

Some ministers expressed their helplessness in deference to the fiat of a caucus of extra-constitutional authorities. It is the same story: all conspiracies and scams in recent times smack of a major influence of this extra-constitutional caucus.

The government initially resorted to threats. When that did not work, it sent various emissaries with allurements of post-retirement sinecures. When that was not bought, it sent mediators for a compromise. The moot question is compromise on what?

Concomitantly, there was an orchestrated media campaign to dissuade Gen Singh from going to court and make him resign. Now, a scare is being raised that the honourable Supreme Court will question the maintainability of his petition and ask Gen Singh to go to the Armed Forces Tribunal. In fact, for some reason, there is a feverish attempt to create an atmosphere in favour of the Armed Forces Tribunal route.

It is obvious that the issue about the date of birth of Gen Singh is not personal, but has reached this point by systemic influences. These internal and external influences need to be investigated. A conspiracy that seems designed to subvert the Indian army needs to be unravelled.

There are insinuations that politics, political funding, the arms lobby, business mafia and international players are impinging on the course of the crisis. It is quite evident from the bizarre, unprecedented term called ‘succession plan’ that has been given currency by the current dispensation. Will someone please stand up to sort out this mess so that our army can serve our polity better?

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a guest blogger for Canary Trap. This post was first published on Firstpost on January 27, 2012)

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Rushdie not a problem for Muslims but for politicians

BY SAEED NAQVI

The Maulana from the Darul Uloom seminary at Deoband who threatened the Jaipur Literary Festival with disruption, in case Salman Rushdie participated, is only the latest in a long list of spoilsports appointed by God.

When Pakistan was beginning to take shape and had not yet acquired the Islamic passion it is currently famous for, the country’s second Prime Minister, Haji Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin, organized a cultural evening where the great Sarangi player, Ustad Bundu Khan, was the star attraction. Among the invitees was a Maulana.

When it was time for the guests to depart, master of ceremonies “Patras” Bukhari, himself a great wit and man of letters, escorted the Maulana to a limousine. Since Ustad Bundu Khan lived in the same direction, Patras requested the Sarangi maestro to accompany the Maulana.

Next morning the Prime Minister found himself facing a Maulana shaking with rage. “How dare Patras expect me to accompany a Sarangi player!”

The PM promptly called Patras and acquainted him with the delicacy of the matter. “You must do what is proper and report to me.”

Patras informed the PM the following day that he had taken suitable action. “I have apologized to Ustad Bundu Khan!” The Maulana on one side Patras and Bundu Khan on the other have rolled along parallel tracks from medieval times.

In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi, in political difficulties, needed the Muslim vote. This was the reason he succumbed to pressure from the so called Muslim leaders and banned Satanic Verses.

Even in those days opinion among Muslims was divided. Clearly Rushdie had, while talking about the Prophet’s wives, transgressed from the sort of irreverence which is part of literary license to hurtful rudeness.

There were those who thought the book should be banned but there were many more who argued that banning of books was immoral and counter productive.

Supposing Satanic Verses had not been banned in India. Well, there would have been no global hullabaloo about the book and no Iranian Fatwa, all of which cumulatively helped boost sales.

And now the Jaipur festival is taking place in the middle of the UP election campaign in which the Muslim vote is again on a premium. Coincidentally, an internal power struggle is on in Deoband itself in which the nephew is challenging the uncle. In this situation either can raise the stakes to embarrass the other by raking up the Rushdie issue.

Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot is, meanwhile, smarting under Congress High command displeasure for tardy action in Gopalgarh where the police shot Muslims in a mosque. Since Rahul Gandhi is busting his guts campaigning for the party in neighbouring UP, one false note on the Rushdie issue can cause the Muslim vote to bolt and for Gehlot to be shown the door. Or, so the partymen, in a state of funk, seem to believe.

Supposing the organizers ignored Deoband and went ahead with Rushdie’s well advertised programme. Would the country’s Muslims take over the nation’s roads in fiery agitating? Of course not.

Rajiv Gandhi’s decision to upgrade relations with Israel (ultimately Narasimha Rao implemented it) has a lesson for the Congress. Muslim leaders, the usual suspects, advised him against upgrading relations. Muslims would be annoyed, they said.

Others argued that there are other negatives in upgrading relations with Israel, but one thing is clear: Israel is not a priority issue for Indian Muslims. Continuous projection of Rushdie like issues, as vital to Muslims, comes in the way of development as their priority requirement. They become a mindless religious herd in popular perception.

The wide acceptance of this perception is partly related to the decline of Urdu and the composite culture on which their identity is built. This cultural identity has in the season of vote banks been replaced by a bland religious identity.  Religious identity is easier to stoke for minority mobilization. Cultural identity derives from Sufi traditions, music, architecture and, above all, poetry which has challenged religious dogma frontally.

Sab tere siwa kafir
Aakhir iska matlab kya?
Sar phira de Insaan ka
Aisa khabt e mazhab kya?
(Every one other than you is an impious kafir? what kind of non-sense is this? Shun religion which is illogical)

There is not a passage in Urdu poetry which gives any quarter to orthodoxy or the clergy but poets make a clear distinction between irreverence and disrespect.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

In UP, keep your eyes on the Peace Party

BY SAEED NAQVI

Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh have consistently taken divergent stands on the Batla House police encounter. Chidambaram says the issue cannot be re opened because it was a proper encounter in which lives were lost including that of a policeman. The Prime Minister supports the Home Minister’s stand in the name of national security.

Digvijay Singh maintains it was a “fake” encounter. In other words, it was a deliberate attack on Muslim youth who had come from Azamgarh and were registered at the Jamia Millia University. Is this why Digvijay Singh raised the Batla House issue in Azamgarh where Rahul Gandhi was campaigning?

The Muslim has always been in focus in North India either as a potential voter or a foil against which Hindu consolidation can be attempted.

Hindu consolidation was a ploy (as during Mandir-Masjid) when BJP was a rising power. In days when Hindutva wore the “Shakti” mantle, Muslims, in search of security sought shelter in the Congress verandah. But after Babari Masjid the verandah came crumbling down and Muslim ran helter skelter even supporting caste formations.

Currently, disgusted with caste formations too, the Muslim is re-evaluating his strategy. “Muslims will vote tactically” goes the refrain among tired Lucknow analysts. This means they will vote for anyone who can defeat the BJP candidate. This line of thinking pre supposes there is something like a muscular BJP around to scare the minority. Such a BJP does not exist any longer.

The absence of BJP as ogre is a new electoral problem for the Congress grown accustomed to the minorities quaking with fright come election time.

A possible way out of the jam is to create conditions of tension by constantly harping on issues which would soften the Muslim vote. Batla House is one such.

But all this sophistry is obsolete because what has emerged through six decades of trial and error is a Muslim vote in UP extremely suspicious.

That is why the Digvijay Singh – P. Chidambaram point-counterpoint is having a resonance among a large number of Muslim voters which is totally at variance from my earlier analysis. I thought Digvijay Singh would be quite the darling of the minority voters. That is not the case, among Muslims who are abandoning the Congress for a rapidly growing outfit called the Peace Party. The party has positioned itself not as a Muslim party but with Muslims, among others, in leadership positions.

The formula resembles the BSP’s approach tailored by Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. The BSP structure is built on Dalit as the base vote. Give seats to all the communities and on polling day transfer Dalit votes to augment the BSP candidate’s vote share.

The leader of the Peace Party is a bright medical doctor Mohammad Ayub. He has latched onto the theory of the Muslim “base” vote which, according to official estimates is 18.5 per cent. Dr. Ayub believes the percentage is higher – say, 22 percent.

Dr. Ayub has deftly steered clear of the easy temptation to create a Muslim party. His Peace Party has Brahmins, Thakurs, the most backward groups like Khatiks, Valmiki, Dasi and so on. There are six Peace Party members in the present UP assembly of whom three are thakurs and three most backwards.

In its step by step approach, the Peace Party has adopted the politics of horizontal growth, a gradual enlargement of the vote share. In this fashion, rival parties are denied space and the Peace Party then make slow vertical growth, a sort of “appam” effect.

It is not possessed by unrealistic ambition. “We will certainly get 25 to 35 seats”, says Dr. Ayub. There is likely to be such a multiplicity of parties in the fray that “no government can be formed without our support”. The searing ambition is to be in the government – “any government with any combination even the BJP”. Power is what the Peace Party is aiming at! Since the Peace Party seeks to balance various Hindu interests with Muslims in the lead, communal harmony is high priority.

This, precisely is the reason that in the PC – Digvijay Singh stand-off, Muslims in the Peace Party find Chidambaram’s approach more helpful. “In Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and all such incidents” Chidambaram is quietly proceeding against the Hindutva forces.

Digvijay Singh’s heart is in the right place, but by raising the decibel level on these issues he ends up “provoking the forces” the Peace Party would rather have in deep slumber.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

The ‘white elephant’ of UP

BY MANOJ KEWALRAMANI

Elections are serious business. If democracy is a constant dance, as most headlines remind us, then elections are the signature step of that performance. They are as critical to the health of a democracy, as Salman Khan adjusting his trousers was to the success of Dabangg. And just like when the superstar begins to do that we lose all sense of everything, so is the case with elections.

The gloves are off, and nothing is kosher. Alliances begin to twist and turn within the blink of an eye. Parties defend the indefensible. Yesterday’s untouchables become today’s kingmakers. And promises are made and promises are broken. Meanwhile, journalists and analysts moonlight as soothsayers. On behalf of the electorate, they moan and then they groan. On the days that we are lucky, they shall even bemoan. I know these three words sound the same, but so do those guys on the tube – right up to the end when the hail the wisdom of the electorate.

However, keeping their sense in all this stands one body: the Election Commission of India. It is a hallowed committee of elders that guides us through this awe-inspiring production, with a single-minded purpose of ensuring a free and fair field for all stakeholders. Freedom and fairness, however, are two of the most complex and subjective concepts that ever existed, and their pursuit can lead us from the sublime to the absurd.

And one such decision is of the commission to instruct the UP government to cover all the statues of chief minister Mayawati and her party’s symbol, the elephant, till the state elections are done with. The rationale for this was that these statues would offer an unfair advantage to the BSP during the polls.

In the interest of fairness, the EC, citing the Model Code of Conduct, which comes into play as soon as election dates are announced, decided to hand a deadline for these structures to be covered. The chief election commissioner went on the explain that this was rather standard practice, and that except for Mahatma Gandhi, pictures of all political leaders had to be removed or covered in this case.

Pictures in offices are one thing, but statues that tower over towns and cities are another altogether. I wonder what impact placing a sheet over a structure would have in neutralizing the field. It’s not as though people don’t really know what lies beneath. In fact, I’d argue that having veiled structures across the city would arouse far more attention and curiosity among people. So if the argument was to make them irrelevant to the electoral process, then this move appears to be completely counterproductive.

Moreover, covering up statues of Mayawati are one thing, but the elephant? Is the EC really being serious? Would they even consider blocking elephants all together, i.e., until the elections are done with no elephants can be seen on the streets of UP or they would be viewed as a campaign activity? In similar vein, should we ensure that cycles, images of cycles, lotuses and their images at flower shops also be banned until the polls are done with? And taking it further, should we consider wearing gloves and/or abandoning the wave as a gesture to greet someone till polls are done with, lest it benefit the Congress Party?

All this raises a far more poignant question. Should we now seriously discuss a blanket ban on statues and structures of political leaders who are alive and kicking? Obviously, this ban would only apply to structures in public places. Likewise, should we also consider that no government schemes or infrastructure projects be named after living politicians? All of them, by the logic afforded by the Election Commission would offer unfair gains during elections.

On the flip side, the political response to this decision of the commission has been fairly diverse. At one end, parties such as the CPI and even the JD(U) have hit out at the order’s impracticality. Meanwhile, the BSP has seen it as a blessing in disguise – pun intended – and begun flogging the Dalit pride rhetoric.

However, what’s astounding is that there are parties, such as the SP, RLD and the Congress, which have welcomed it. It depends on what they do with it from here on, but I’d argue lauding such a decision lays bare the ineptness and lack of creativity in their campaigns. The fact that they viewed these structures and instantly saw them as an electoral advantage to Mayawati perhaps offers us a glimpse into their perception of the electorate and what actions they consider as politically beneficial. It’s a thin and rather hypocritical ground to stand on when you criticize someone for wasting public funds for self-glorification and then actually consider it to actually be politically gainful. Once again, it perhaps just shows what their understanding is of the voter and what influences him/her.

On the contrary, it would be far better to use these exact structures as a tool to attack the state government and the BSP leader for her failures. The argument is simple and straightforward. It has been made before, and should be made continually. Corruption, megalomania, misplaced priorities of the BSP and the impact that those are having on the well being of the people of the state.

It would be the perfect setting to stand within the Noida park or at any other location littered with these structures and make an impassioned plea to the voters. What would you rather choose as your future, a government that responds to you or one that is run by a modern-day Ozymandias?

(Manoj Kewalramani is a guest writer with The Power Post. He has worked with top media houses like NDTV before becoming an Independent Blogger and Writer.)

Is Digvijay only one tasked to fight communalism?

BY SAEED NAQVI

Why is it a constant battle between Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh and the Sangh Parivar? Where is the mounting support for Digvijay Singh within the Congress so that political war can be waged with the Parivar?

But why would Tweedledum wage war against Tweedledee? Sometimes they are on the same side. Take the demolition of the Babari Masjid on 6 December, 1992. Was PV Narasimha Rao less guilty than Kalyan Singh?

Ahmad Patel is a Congress leader from Gujarat closest to Sonia Gandhi. Why did he not escort the Congress President to Ahmadabad after the February 27, 2002 Gujarat pogrom to see the pathetic condition of Muslims in camps?

Batla House, Azamgarh, Malegaon, Mecca Masjid are all Hindutva plots exposed by Digvijay Singh. Each one is a valid issue, but where is the Congress to take up the chorus? All the sparrow heads can cook up are 4.5 percent of 27 percent and so on. The stupidity of it is astounding. They really imagine they have fooled the community.

Never in history has the police shot and killed members of a congregation in a mosque. This happened two hours drive from New Delhi in Gopalgarh, in Rajasthan a Congress ruled state adjacent to yet another Congress ruled state, Haryana.

Not only did senior Congress leaders not make an early appearance, even the great independent media (except Indian Express) did not cover the tragedy.

The election season is in full swing. On my table is a newspaper open on a page showing six young men wearing black hoods. The story in Mail Today reads: “Six activists of the right wing Sri Ram Sena, who had planned to spark communal violence in the North Karnataka town of Sindhagi by hoisting the Pakistani flag on the mini Vidhan Sabha premises are now lodged behind bars.”

Apparently, some very obvious clues led to the arrest of the six. But why were the alleged culprits being handled with such caution: why have their heads been covered with hoods? We have grown so accustomed to photographs of youngsters with beards and skull caps a day after their arrest that hoods look like an aberration.

When the Sachar Committee was formed in 2005, Muslims thought justice was at hand. A delegation from Gadchiroli, a remote town near Nagpur, submitted to the committee photographs of a house where alleged Hindu extremists fabricated beards, clothes and varieties of Muslim disguises. The Sachar Committee also sent the photographs to Sonia Gandhi.

Leaders other than Digvijay Singh have chosen to sit on the fence on all such incidents. The result of this fence sitting is that the Muslim, once a congress vote bank, are today in quest of all manner of alternatives. In UP, the Peace Party, is not a negligible phenomena. Just as Mayawati can weave coalitions while she has the support of chamars, so is the Peace Party banking on the community of Muslim weavers as its base vote. Other backward caste Muslims may drift towards the Samajwadi Party leaving a handful of Aashraf (upper caste Muslims) wondering what to do.

It is in such circumstances that Digvijay Singh with his consistent anti-communalism should be profitably supported by the Congress. Mani Shankar Aiyar is another Congressman who would have credit among Muslims provided, of course, that he has respite from TV chat shows. Do you know who is the most popular public figure among newspaper reading Muslims? Justice Markandey Katju! Remember, the undisputed leader of Indian Muslims until his death in 1964 was Jawaharlal Nehru.

The other day, President Pratibha Patil gave her ascent to the gau-vansh vadh Pratshedh (sansodhan) authored by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The anti cow slaughter Bill gives inclusive powers to investigating agencies and provides for seven years jail sentences as compared with six month in Maharashtra. There is no restriction on cow slaughter in Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar and all the North Eastern states.

In 2002, the Gandhian scholar Dharampal (at the instance of the NDA) researched the issue and traced the incremental increase in cow slaughter to the British requirement of beef for their troops.

Digvijay Singh may like to obtain a copy of Dharampal’s book which has on its cover the note in Queen Victoria’s hand written to Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne in 1893.

“Though the Mohammadans cow-killing is made the pretext of agitation, it is in fact directed against us, who kill far more cows for our army…..”

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)