Madhavrao Scindia symbolised unity, progress and probity in public life

Lalit Shastri

Photo: Illustrating an article by Lalit Shastri, published in The Hindu on Sunday, 30 May 1993

The Dabra spirit built by Madhavrao Scindia had gone a long way in building a cohesive and united campaign for the 1993 Assembly election resulting in Congress party’s victory against the BJP and its return to power in Madhya Pradesh after a gap of three-and-half years

In a rare bid to display solidarity, prominent Congress leaders, including the Union Ministers from Madhya Pradesh, had shared a common platform and jointly addressed a large public meeting at Dabra in the Gwalior region on May 19, 1993. This exercise was held at the initiative of senior Congress leader late Madhavrao Scindia. It was a significant step towards building unity in the faction-ridden Madhya Pradesh unit of Congress party ahead of the crucial general election to the State Assembly later that year.

The 1993 State Assembly election was significant as it was being held a year after the imposition of President’s rule with the dismissal of the Sunderlal Patwa led State BJP government in the wake of the post-Ayodhya riots in December 1992.

The Dabra spirit built by Scindia had gone a long way in building a cohesive and united campaign for the 1993 Assembly election resulting in Congress party’s victory against the BJP and its return to power in Madhya Pradesh after a gap of three-and-half years (BJP rule from 5 March 1990 to 15 December 1992 and one year of President’s Rule thereafter).

Scindia, will always be remembered for his inherent devotion to the national cause and common good. His tenure as Union Minister for Railways (1986-89), Civil Aviation and Tourism (1991-93) and Minister for Human Resource Development (1995-96) will always be remembered for a new work culture that was not only forward looking and development oriented keeping pace with the global scenario but also for respect of merit in administration and ensured transprancy and accountability. His untimely demise in a plane crash on the outskirts of Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh on 30 September 2001, has been a great loss to the nation and also to his party, which is now the ruling party in Madhya Pradesh and the main Opposition at the Centre.

The author with Madhavrao Scindia

I had a special bond with Scindia. It transcended barriers and emanated from mutual respect and commitment for common good, which he wanted to ensure through clean politics and I through the highest tradition of journalism.

On one occasion, while covering the elections, I was to be on Scindia’s campaign trail for a day. I had talked to him before my departure from Bhopal and had conveyed him my plan that I would be meeting him on arrival at Gwalior and after covering his election meeting at Laxmiganj, we were to take off together in his helicopter from Jai Vilas Palace for his campaign in neghbouring districts.

My train had reached Gwalior a bit late and one had to rush straight to Laxmiganj in the heart of the city, where I found that Scindia was about to conclude his speech. One was at the opposite end of the stage. There was heavy deployment of police and the venue was packed with people. I was naturally tense and wondering how to convey the message that I was there. Before I could even think of a solution, Scindia announced before leaving the podium: “If Mr. Lalit Shastri of the Hindu is there, the Police should help and escort him to his car.” At once, there was a flurry of action, the way was cleared, and soon I was with him exchanging notes as we drove to Jai Vilas Palace.

Scindia’s respect for journalists gets amply reflected by this one anecdote. Just prior to his demise – during his last visit to Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, he had held a press conference at Noor-us-Sabah Palace Hotel at short notice. I came to know of it rather too late but still, I drove to the hotel hoping to catch some action but on arrival found that the media-persons were already leaving the venue. On the stairs at the entrance, I met the then State Minister late Mahendra Singh Kalukheda and explored the possibility of meeting Scindia but he dismissed the idea saying that “Maharaj” was in his room with clear instructions to him that he should not be disturbed for the next one hour. When one persisted and told him to convey the message to Mr. Scindia that it was I who wanted to meet him, Kalukheda reluctantly took the flight of stairs and asking me to wait outside, knocked and entered his suite. Within no time, Scindia had come out, we exchanged greetings and the next one hour sat discussing politics and what not. I remember telling him that day that he should be in Bhopal more often. He had responded by telling me that he shall follow my advice…..But the harsh reality – who knew, we were meeting for the last time that afternoon.

Postscript: October 4, 2001: Country’s top political leadership, friends, relatives, industrialists, heads of former princely states and thousands of admirers were there. The porch of the Scindia’s Palace was crowded and people in thousands were inching forward to pay their last respect to late Madhavrao Scindia. Rajdeep Sardesai, who was representing NDTV, wanted to squeeze out a political story even at that moment. He stole the opportunity to ask Jyotiraditya Scindia whether or not he will fill the Guna Lok sabha seat that had fallen vacant. Immediately the then chief minister Digvijay Singh had to intervene. He told Rajdeep “this is no time or place to ask such a question.”

The author, Lalit Shastri, is Editor-in-Chief

Imran Khan’s threat of unleashing nuclear devastation qualified for brinkmanship and not statesmanship: India tells UNGA

Newsroom24x7 Network

New York City: India has blasted Imran Khan exercising the right of reply to the Pakistani Prime Minister’s statement in the general debate during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly on Friday, 27 September 2019.

India has described every word spoken by Imran Khan in the august Assembly as “callous portrayal of the world in binary terms” and dubbed what he spoke as “hate speech”.

First right of reply by India to the “hate speech” by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during the general debate in the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly.

Click here for India’s Reply to Imran’s Statement in UNG

A fragmented world is in the interests of no one: Prime Minister Modi

Newsroom24x7 Network

New York City: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modia ddressing the UN general Assembly here on Friday, 27 September 2019, on behalf of 1.3 billion Indians, said that in the world’s largest democracy, the highest ever number of votes brought the Government into power for a second term in 2019 with an even stronger mandate.

The message that this mandate conveys has a wide and inspiring significance. When a developing country successfully implements the world’s biggest sanitation campaign with the Clean India Mission — building more than 110 million toilets in just five years — all its achievements are an inspiration to the world. When a developing country successfully runs the world’s biggest health assurance scheme, giving 500 million people 500,000 rupees annually for free treatment, the gains from that scheme show the world a new path.

And when a developing country launches for its citizens the world’s largest digital identification program — giving them a biometric identity and saving more than $20 billion by checking corruption — the modern systems that result from this project give the world new hope. By 2022, when India celebrates its seventy‑fifth Independence Day, it plans to build 20 million houses for the poor, he said. It will also work to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Such rapid changes are taking place in India because India is a great culture that is thousands of years old, one with its own vibrant traditions and which encompasses universal dreams. The core of India’s approach is public welfare through public participation.

Viewed from a historic and per capita emission perspective, India’s contribution to global warming is very low, he said. Yet, the country is a leader in addressing this issue. Among the effects of global warming is the increasing number and severity of natural disasters. As such, India has initiated a “Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure” to build infrastructure that withstands natural disasters. India has given the world Buddha’s message of peace, not war. Its voice against terrorism rings with seriousness and outrage, alerting the world about this evil. Terrorism is one of the biggest threats to the world and all humanity. “It is absolutely imperative that the world unites against terrorism,” he said. With technology bringing about sweeping change to social, personal and economic life, as well as to security and international relations, “a fragmented world is in the interests of no one. We do not have the option to confine ourselves within our boundaries,” he said. “We must give new direction to multilateralism and the United Nations.”

Kashmir issue: Imran Khan tries to fan Islamic jingoism and radicalism; threatens Nuclear war

Lalit Shastri

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday, 27 September 2019, opened his cards completely and came out as an extremely radicalised leader when he used rhetoric to the hilt while addressing the UN General Assembly on Kashmir and went to the extent of warning that there will be “consequences far beyond the borders” when (Pakistan) a nuclear armed country would fight to the end”.

As if blindfolded, Khan refused to acknowledge the low intensity war waged by Pakistan in Kashmir with the help of terrorists trained in Pakistan and how the ISI handlers had been funding and patronising the secessionist elements and radicalising the Kashmiri youth for last several decades in cahoot with the so-called Kashmiri leadership. The Pakistani Prime Minister was never moved by the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus through babrbaric means. He also chose to wrongly interpret the UN resolutions on Kashmir. As Prime Minister of Pakistan, he was expected to know that under the UN resolution Pakistan has to vacate the area under its illegal possession, which is referred to as “Pak Occupied Kashmir”. It also has to pull back its Army from that territory. India, on the other hand, had the mandate under the UN resolution to maintain troops in Kashmir till normalcy gets restored in that area. Till such time, there was no question of self-determination.

Kashmir is an integral part of India.

India is a Sovereign Secular Republic. Article 370, that gave special status to Kashmir but denied fundamental rights to a vast section of population residing in Jammu and Kashmir, has been revoked with more than two-third consent of both Houses of the Indian Parliament. There are a few districts in the Kashmir valley where the majority Muslim population has been systematically radicalised by the secessionist forces and their Pakistani handlers and it was necessary to impose special restrictions in this area to ensure normalcy returns after revocation of provisions under Article 370. In this backdrop, when Pakistan stands thoroughly exposed, Imran Khan is trying to not just communalise Kashmir but turn it into an issue between 1.3 billion Muslims across the world and the non-Muslims. He has also tried to rope in the Indian Muslims en bloc by saying they are watching how the “Kashmiri Muslims” have been boxed for 55 days and and what not.

As if this was not enough, Imran has threatened a nuclear war and even another World War by drawing the analogy with the cession to Germany of the territory of Czechoslovakia and the World war II that followed.

It appeared he was addressing a crowd of radicalised Muslims and not the UN general Assembly, when the Pakistani Prime Minister said 100, 000 Kashmiris have died in the past 30 years because they were denied the rights given by the United Nations. The right for self-determination. And 11,000 women have been raped, he said adding there are United Nations Human Rights reports on this. The world hasn’t done anything because India is a huge market – 1.2 billion people. Sadly the material prevails over the humans. But this has serious consequences, he stated.

In his address to the UNGA, as he switched from global warming to Kashmir, Imran reminded me of the fictional character of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his alternative personality, Mr. Edward Hyde

Imran talks of blood bath

Newsroom24x7 Network reports from New York City

As if into the crystal ball gazing act, Khan said in his address at UNGA:

“Look what is going to happen when the curfew is lifted there will be a blood bath. The people will come out. There are 900,000 troops there. They are not there as Narendra Modi says he has done that for the prosperity of Kashmir. These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do. When they come out, there will be a blood bath. Has he thought it through, what happens then. Has anyone thought that what happens when there is a blood bath. What do you think will be its impact on the people of Kashmir. What do you think, they will think. The way they have been boxed in their houses. Treated like worse then animals. No rights. All their political leadership has been arrested. Taken out of Kashmir. Even those Kashmiri leaders who were pro-India have been taken out. Thirteen thousand boys have been picked up and taken to God knows which destinations.

So what do they think. What will the people of Kashmir do when they lift the curfew. They will be out in the streets. And what will the soldiers do. They will shoot them. They have already used pellets guns. Blinded young boys in the last six years. The oppression that has gone on in Kashmir. And so Kashmiris will be further radicalised.

There will be another Pulwama and guess what, India will blame us. They already blaming us. They saying all this is happening because of Pakistan. One of their Defence Minister said there are 500 terrorists lined up on the border to go ahead. Why would Pakistan send 500 terrorists when there are 900,000 troops. What impact they are going to make.What will they do. Don’t we know that the moment there is some terrorist attack, all that will happen is there will be further cruelty and oppression of the people of Kashmir. We will just give the (opportunity) to the 900,000 troops to further crush the people of Kashmir. And then we will give the Indian Government an excuse that look Pakistan is a terror state – this mantra that has gone on that is “Islamic terrorism”. The moment you use this catch word Islamic terrorism, the whole world turns away. No one talks about human rights. You can do whatever you want, which is what has happened in Kashmir because they keep using this word Islamic terrorism and this is what they are doing right now. What do we benefit from further increasing the cruelty on the people of Kashmir. And why would we want this.

But, there is no other narratve left for India. As when they lift the curfew whatever happens, Pakistan will be blamed and there is always the danger of another Pulwama. They might come and bomb us again and then another cycle might start. And what does Narendra Modi think that 180 million Muslims of India are thinking right now. Aren’t they watching these Kashmiris stuck inside for 55 days. Aren’t they watching. Don’t you think the Muslims will be radicalised in India and I am talking of 180 million people. And when they get radicalised. There will be some incident in India somewhere down the line. Again we will be blamed.

And what about 1.3 billion Muslims, who are watching this and they know it is only happening in Kashmir because they are Kashmiri Muslims. This is not happening to Kashmiri Hindus. They know that this is happening because of their religion. What do you think they will be thinking. What do you think the Jewish community would think if 8000 jews were stuck like this. What do you think Europeans would think. Are we a children of a lesser God. Is this not going to cause us pain.

And then I will tell you what will happen. In the 1.3 billion Muslims, someone will pick up arms. We have been brought up with films, western films. This good decent guy doesn’t get justice, he decides to pick up a gun and starts seeking justice. There was a film made in New York – famous film called Deathwish – this guy gets mugged and his wife gets killed and he can’t get justice and he picks up a gun and goes about shooting muggers and the whole cinema cheers him on. So what do you think the Muslims are thinking right now. If there is a blood bath, there would be Muslims becoming radicals not because of Islam but because of what they will see that there is no justice when it comes to Muslims. There were Rohingya Mulims – Myanmar, almost a million people out – ethnic cleansing. What was the response of the world community. So what do you think will be the response of 1.3 billion Muslims.

I picture myself, I’m in Kashmir. I’ve been locked up for 55 days. I’ve heard about rapes. Indian Army going into homes. would I want to live this humiliation. I would pick up the gun. You are forcing people into radicalisation. When people lose the will to live. What is there to live for.

If you can do this to human beings, you are actually radicalising people.

I want to repeat here, this is one of the most critical times. There will be a reaction to this. Pakistan will be blamed. Two nuclear armed countries will come face to face. Like we came in February and before we head in that direction, the United Nations has a responsibility. This is why the United Nations came into being in 1945. You were supposed to stop this happening. I think we are back to 1939 – Munich, and how Czechoslovakia had been taken, annexed – what is the world community going to do. Is it going to appease a market of 1.3 billion or is it going to stand up for justice and humanity.

If this goes wrong, you hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. If a conventional war starts between the two countries, anything could happen but supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbour is faced with the choice either you surrender or you fight for your freedom till death, what will we do. I ask myself this question and my belief is, there is no God but one and we will fight and when a nuclear armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders. It will have consequences for the world. Which is why I am here. I am warning you. It’s not a threat. Its a fair worry that where are we headed. I have come here to tell the UN. This is a test for the United Nations. You are the one who guaranteed the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination. They are suffering because of that. And this is the time not to appease like in 1939 appeasement took place. This is the time to take action.

Number one action must be that India must lift this inhuman curfew, which has lasted for 55 days. It must free all political prisoners and especially those 13,000 boys that have been picked up and their parents don’t know where they have disappeared. And then the world community must give the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination.

Click here for Imran Khan’s full speech at UNGA