Thursday, August 25, 2011

The World: India: Easy Victory, Uneasy Peace

MY dear Abdullah, I am here," read the message to the general in beleaguered Dacca. "The game is up. I suggest you give yourself up to me and I'll look after you." The author of that soothing appeal was India's Major General Gandharv Nagra. The recipient was Lieut. General A.A.K. ("Tiger") Niazi, commander of Pakistan's 60,000 troops in East Bengal and a onetime college classmate of Nagra's. Minutes before the expiration of India's cease-fire demand, Niazi last week bowed to the inevitable. By United Nations radio, he informed the Indian command that he was prepared to surrender his army unconditionally. 

Less than an hour later, Indian troops rode triumphantly into Dacca as Bengalis went delirious with joy. "It was liberation day," cabled TIME Correspondent Dan Coggin. "Dacca exploded in an ecstasy of hard-won happiness. There was wild gunfire in the air, impromptu parades, hilarity and horn honking, and processions of jammed trucks and cars, all mounted with the green, red and gold flag of Bangladesh. Bengalis hugged and kissed Indian jawans, stuck marigolds in their gun barrels and showered them with garlands of jasmine. If 'Jai Bangla!' (Victory to Bengal!) was screamed once, it was screamed a million times. Even Indian generals got involved. Nagra climbed on the hood of his Jeep and led the shouting of slogans for Bangladesh and its imprisoned leader, Sheik Mujibur Rahman. Brigadier General H.S. Kler lost his patches and almost his turban when the grateful crowd engulfed him." 

Late that afternoon as dusk was beginning to fall, General Niazi and Lieut. General Jagjit Singh Aurora, commander of India's forces in the East, signed the formal surrender of the Pakistani army on the grassy lawn of Dacca's Race Course. Niazi handed over his revolver to Aurora, and the two men shook hands. Then, as the Pakistani commander was driven away in a Jeep, Aurora was lifted onto the shoulders of the cheering crowd. 

Thus, 13 days after it began, the briefest but bitterest of the wars between India and Pakistan* came to an end. The surrender also marked the end of the nine-month-old civil war between East and West Pakistan. Next day Pakistan's President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan reluctantly accepted India's cease-fire on the western border. It was a complete and humiliating defeat. The war stripped Pakistan of more than half of its population and, with nearly one-third of its army in captivity, clearly established India's military dominance of the subcontinent.

Considering the magnitude of the victory, New Delhi was surprisingly restrained in its reaction. Mostly, Indian leaders seemed pleased by the relative ease with which they had accomplished their goals—the establishment of Bangladesh and the prospect of an early return to their homeland of the 10 million Bengali refugees who were the cause of the war. In announcing the surrender to the Indian Parliament, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared: "Dacca is now the free capital of a free country. We hail the people of Bangladesh in their hour of triumph. All nations who value the human spirit will recognize it as a significant milestone in man's quest for liberty."

Although both sides claimed at week's end that the cease-fire was being violated, serious fighting did appear to be over for the present. Initial fears that India might make a push to capture Pakistani Kashmir proved to be unfounded. India undoubtedly wanted to risk neither a hostile Moslem uprising in the region nor Chinese intervention. But several major issues between India and Pakistan remain—and it may well take months to resolve them: 1) repatriation of Pakistan's 60,000 regular troops in the East, 2) release of Sheik Mujibur Rahman, whom the Bangladesh government has proclaimed President but who is still imprisoned in West Pakistan on charges of treason, 3) disposition of various chunks of territory that the two countries have seized from each other along the western border.

Mrs. Gandhi may well try to ransom Mujib in exchange for release of the Pakistani soldiers. India is also expected to press for a redrawing of the cease-fire line that has divided the disputed region of Kashmir since 1949. The Indians have captured 50 strategic Pakistani outposts in the high Kashmiri mountains. These are the same outposts that India captured in 1965, and then gave up as part of the 1966 Tashkent Agreement; India is not likely to be as accommodating this time.

In the chill, arid air of Islamabad, West Pakistan's military regime was finding it difficult to come to grips with the extent of the country's ruin. Throughout the conflict there had been a bizarre air of unreality in the West, as Pakistani army officials consistently claimed they were winning when quite the reverse was true. Late last week the Pakistani government still seemed unable to accept its defeat; simultaneously with the announcement of the ceasefire, officials handed newsmen an outline of Yahya's plans for a new constitution. Among other things, it provides "that the republic shall have two capitals, at Islamabad and at Dacca." It adds: "The principal seat of Parliament will be located in Dacca." That will, of course, be news to Bangladesh.

President Yahya Khan had declared the conflict a jihad (holy war) and, even while surrender was being signed in the East, he was boasting that his nation would "engage the aggressor on all fronts." He became the first political victim of the conflict. At week's end, Yahya announced that he would step down in favor of Deputy Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, head of the Pakistan People's Party. A rabid anti-India, pro-China politician who served as Foreign Minister in the government of former President Ayub Khan, Bhutto was the chief architect of Pakistan's alliance with China. In the nation's first free election last December, his party ran second to Mujib's Awami League. Regarding that as a threat to his own ambitions, Bhutto was instrumental in persuading Yahya to set aside the election results.

Ali Bhutto, who had a brief interview with President Nixon last Saturday concerning "restoration of stability in South Asia," will return to Islamabad this week to head what Yahya said would be "a representative government." A dramatic, emotional orator who tearfully stalked out of the U.N. Security Council last week to protest its inaction on the war, Bhutto has recently made little secret of his displeasure with the military regime. "The people of Pakistan are angry," he fumed last week. "The generals have messed up the land."

Yahya's overconfidence had undoubtedly been fed by the outcome of the two nations' previous tangles, all of them inconclusive territorial disputes that altered little and allowed both sides to claim victory. This time, though, the Indians felt they were fighting for a moral cause. Pakistan's army in the East, moreover, was cut off by Indian air and naval superiority from the West, and had to contend with a hostile local population as well as the combined forces of the tough Mukti Bahini guerrillas and a numerically superior and better-equipped Indian army. Despite the brief duration of the war, the fighting was fierce. The Indians alone reported 10,633 casualties—2,307 killed, 6,163 wounded, 2,163 missing in action. Pakistan's casualties, not yet announced, are believed to be much higher, and there are no figures at all for guerrilla losses.

Battle of the Tanks. India also claims to have destroyed 244 Pakistani tanks, against a loss of 73 of its own. No fewer than 60 tanks—45 of Pakistan's, 15 of India's—were knocked out in the last day of the war in a fierce struggle that raged for more than 24 hours. The incident took place on the Punjabi plains, where the Indians tried to draw the Pakistanis out of the town of Shakargarh (meaning "the place of sugar"), in order to attack the important Pakistani military garrison of Sialkot.

In the East, Indian troops skirted cities and villages whenever possible in order to avoid civilian casualties, a strategy that also scattered the demoralized Pakistani forces and led to their defeat. After the signing of the surrender, a military spokesman in New Delhi announced triumphantly: "Not a single individual was killed in Dacca after the surrender." Unhappily, that turned out not to be true. One report said that Bengali guerrillas had executed more than 400 razakars, members of the West Pakistani army's much-hated local militia.

Although General Aurora was firm in his insistence that the Mukti Bahini disarm, it was unlikely that the bloodshed could be totally halted for some time. The new government of Bangladesh, if only to satisfy public opinion, will almost certainly hold a number of war-crimes trials of captured members of the former East Pakistan government. Potentially the most explosive situation is the Bengali desire for vengeance against the 1,500,000 Biharis—non-Bengali Moslems living in East Pakistan, many of whom are suspected of collaborating with the Pakistani army. In some villages, the Biharis have been locked in jails for their own protection. In an unusual conciliatory gesture, Aurora permitted Pakistani soldiers to keep their weapons until they had reached prison camps. He explained: "You have to see the bitterness in Dacca to believe it."

The Losers. Islamabad, of course, was the principal loser in the outcome of the war. But there were two others as well. One was the United Nations. The Security Council last week groped desperately toward trying to achieve an international consensus on what to do about the struggle, and ended up with seven cease-fire resolutions that were never acted upon at all. The other loser was Washington, which had tried to bring about a political settlement, but from the New Delhi viewpoint—and to other observers as well —appeared wholeheartedly committed to the support of Pakistan's military dictatorship.

Indian anger at U.S. backing of Pakistan was compounded last week when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise and a task force of destroyers and amphibious ships from the Seventh Fleet sailed into the Bay of Bengal. Although Soviet vessels were reported to be moving toward the area, word of the U.S. move touched off a storm of anti-American demonstrations. In Calcutta, angry protesters burned effigies of Richard Nixon and Yahya Khan. The Seventh Fleet action was justified by the Navy on the grounds that it might have to evacuate American civilians from Dacca. (As it turned out, most of the foreigners who wanted to leave were flown out the same day the carrier left Vietnamese waters by three British transports.) All across India, though, there were rumors that the Navy had been sent to rescue Pakistani troops and that the U.S. was about to intervene in the war.

Lip Service. Mrs. Gandhi made several gestures to try to dampen the anti-American feeling, and refused to allow debate in the Indian Parliament on the U.S. moves. But she also sent a long, accusatory and somewhat self-serving letter to President Nixon, in which she argued that the war could have been avoided "if the great leaders of the world had paid some attention to the fact of revolt, tried to see the reality of the situation and searched for a genuine basis for reconciliation." Instead, Mrs. Gandhi said, only "lip service was paid to the need for a political solution, but not a single worthwhile step was taken to bring this about."

India's triumph is in large measure a stunning personal one for Mrs. Gandhi. Throughout the crisis Indians have been united behind her as never before, and she is even being compared with the Hindu goddess Durga, who rid the world of the demon Mahasura. Quite apart from the war, India seems to be feeling a new self-assurance. The land that for centuries was synonymous with famine now enjoys a wheat surplus and will soon become self-sufficient in rice, thanks to the Green Revolution. Mrs. Gandhi, backed by an overwhelming mandate in last March's elections, has been able to bring about a large measure of political stability for the first time since Nehru's death. India is still poverty-ridden and in need of foreign aid, but its industries are developing rapidly in size and sophistication. All these factors, reinforced by military victory, may bring profound psychological change in India and a lessening of corrosive self-doubt.

For that reason, there is no feeling in New Delhi that the Soviet Union, whose aid was primarily diplomatic rather than military, in any way won this war for India—any more than China or the U.S. lost it for Pakistan. Despite the current popularity of the Soviet Union and the unpopularity of the U.S., Indians are probably as horrified by Russian totalitarianism and Chinese Maoism as by what they consider "American materialism." In the long run, India's new-found strength could conceivably lessen rather than enlarge Soviet influence.

Essential Reconstruction. Meanwhile the huge task of reconstruction in Bangladesh begins. India has already set a target date of Jan. 31 as the goal for the return of all 10 million refugees. Free bus service is being provided, and vehicles loaded down with belongings and passengers have begun rolling back across the borders to Bangladesh. The Indian Planning Commission, which charts India's overall development program, estimates that it will take nearly $900 million for essential reconstruction work in Bangladesh and for the refugees' rehabilitation. Bridges, buildings, roads and almost the entire communications network must be restored.

The State Department has made it plain that Washington stands ready to supply Bangladesh with humanitarian aid. At week's end Bangladesh's Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and his government were already settled in Dacca, and Washington was said to be considering recognition of the new nation.

* The first, from October 1947 to Jan. 1, 1949, took place in Kashmir and resulted in the almost equal division of the disputed state. The second was the Rann of Kutch affair on India's southwestern border from April to June 1965. The third, in the fall of 1965, occurred in Kashmir and lasted 22 days.

I'd Rather Not Be Anna : Arundhati Roy

While his means maybe Gandhian, his demands are certainly not.

If what we're watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you're likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind.

For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people. (In this one, the Government collaborates by doing everything it possibly can to overthrow itself.)

In April 2011, a few days into Anna Hazare's first “fast unto death,” searching for some way of distracting attention from the massive corruption scams which had battered its credibility, the Government invited Team Anna, the brand name chosen by this “civil society” group, to be part of a joint drafting committee for a new anti-corruption law. A few months down the line it abandoned that effort and tabled its own bill in Parliament, a bill so flawed that it was impossible to take seriously.

Then, on August 16th, the morning of his second “fast unto death,” before he had begun his fast or committed any legal offence, Anna Hazare was arrested and jailed. The struggle for the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill now coalesced into a struggle for the right to protest, the struggle for democracy itself. Within hours of this ‘Second Freedom Struggle,' Anna was released. Cannily, he refused to leave prison, but remained in Tihar jail as an honoured guest, where he began a fast, demanding the right to fast in a public place. For three days, while crowds and television vans gathered outside, members of Team Anna whizzed in and out of the high security prison, carrying out his video messages, to be broadcast on national TV on all channels. (Which other person would be granted this luxury?) Meanwhile 250 employees of the Municipal Commission of Delhi, 15 trucks, and six earth movers worked around the clock to ready the slushy Ramlila grounds for the grand weekend spectacle. Now, waited upon hand and foot, watched over by chanting crowds and crane-mounted cameras, attended to by India's most expensive doctors, the third phase of Anna's fast to the death has begun. “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India is One,” the TV anchors tell us.

While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare's demands are certainly not. Contrary to Gandhiji's ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister, the judiciary, members of Parliament, and all of the bureaucracy, down to the lowest government official. The Lokpal will have the powers of investigation, surveillance, and prosecution. Except for the fact that it won't have its own prisons, it will function as an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.

Whether it works or not depends on how we view corruption. Is corruption just a matter of legality, of financial irregularity and bribery, or is it the currency of a social transaction in an egregiously unequal society, in which power continues to be concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority? Imagine, for example, a city of shopping malls, on whose streets hawking has been banned. A hawker pays the local beat cop and the man from the municipality a small bribe to break the law and sell her wares to those who cannot afford the prices in the malls. Is that such a terrible thing? In future will she have to pay the Lokpal representative too? Does the solution to the problems faced by ordinary people lie in addressing the structural inequality, or in creating yet another power structure that people will have to defer to?

Meanwhile the props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna's Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the celebration of the nuclear tests. They signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not ‘true Indians.' The 24-hour channels have decided that there is no other news in the country worth reporting.

‘The Fast' of course doesn't mean Irom Sharmila's fast that has lasted for more than ten years (she's being force fed now) against the AFSPA, which allows soldiers in Manipur to kill merely on suspicion. It does not mean the relay hunger fast that is going on right now by ten thousand villagers in Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear power plant. ‘The People' does not mean the Manipuris who support Irom Sharmila's fast. Nor does it mean the thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur. Nor do we mean the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley. Nor do we mean the farmers in NOIDA, or Pune or Haryana or elsewhere in the country, resisting the takeover of the land.

‘The People' only means the audience that has gathered to watch the spectacle of a 74-year-old man threatening to starve himself to death if his Jan Lokpal Bill is not tabled and passed by Parliament. ‘The People' are the tens of thousands who have been miraculously multiplied into millions by our TV channels, like Christ multiplied the fishes and loaves to feed the hungry. “A billion voices have spoken,” we're told. “India is Anna.”

Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we've heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer's suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer's agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn't seem to have a view about the Government's plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.

He does however support Raj Thackeray's Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the ‘development model' of Gujarat's Chief Minister who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims. (Anna withdrew that statement after a public outcry, but presumably not his admiration.)

Despite the din, sober journalists have gone about doing what journalists do. We now have the back-story about Anna's old relationship with the RSS. We have heard from Mukul Sharma who has studied Anna's village community in Ralegan Siddhi, where there have been no Gram Panchayat or Co-operative society elections in the last 25 years. We know about Anna's attitude to ‘harijans': “It was Mahatma Gandhi's vision that every village should have one chamar, one sunar, one kumhar and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way, a village will be self-dependant. This is what we are practicing in Ralegan Siddhi.” Is it surprising that members of Team Anna have also been associated with Youth for Equality, the anti-reservation (pro-“merit”) movement? The campaign is being handled by people who run a clutch of generously funded NGOs whose donors include Coca-Cola and the Lehman Brothers. Kabir, run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, key figures in Team Anna, has received $400,000 from the Ford Foundation in the last three years. Among contributors to the India Against Corruption campaign there are Indian companies and foundations that own aluminum plants, build ports and SEZs, and run Real Estate businesses and are closely connected to politicians who run financial empires that run into thousands of crores of rupees. Some of them are currently being investigated for corruption and other crimes. Why are they all so enthusiastic?

Remember the campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill gathered steam around the same time as embarrassing revelations by Wikileaks and a series of scams, including the 2G spectrum scam, broke, in which major corporations, senior journalists, and government ministers and politicians from the Congress as well as the BJP seem to have colluded in various ways as hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees were being siphoned off from the public exchequer. For the first time in years, journalist-lobbyists were disgraced and it seemed as if some major Captains of Corporate India could actually end up in prison. Perfect timing for a people's anti-corruption agitation. Or was it?

At a time when the State is withdrawing from its traditional duties and Corporations and NGOs are taking over government functions (water supply, electricity, transport, telecommunication, mining, health, education); at a time when the terrifying power and reach of the corporate owned media is trying to control the public imagination, one would think that these institutions — the corporations, the media, and NGOs — would be included in the jurisdiction of a Lokpal bill. Instead, the proposed bill leaves them out completely.

Now, by shouting louder than everyone else, by pushing a campaign that is hammering away at the theme of evil politicians and government corruption, they have very cleverly let themselves off the hook. Worse, by demonising only the Government they have built themselves a pulpit from which to call for the further withdrawal of the State from the public sphere and for a second round of reforms — more privatisation, more access to public infrastructure and India's natural resources. It may not be long before Corporate Corruption is made legal and renamed a Lobbying Fee.

Will the 830 million people living on Rs.20 a day really benefit from the strengthening of a set of policies that is impoverishing them and driving this country to civil war?

This awful crisis has been forged out of the utter failure of India's representative democracy, in which the legislatures are made up of criminals and millionaire politicians who have ceased to represent its people. In which not a single democratic institution is accessible to ordinary people. Do not be fooled by the flag waving. We're watching India being carved up in war for suzerainty that is as deadly as any battle being waged by the warlords of Afghanistan, only with much, much more at stake.

Source :

Myanmar and its neighbours : The eye of the Buddha

How Myanmar is moving ever closer into China’s orbit

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT did not have much time for Burma or the Burmese. The sympathy he felt for Indian demands for independence from Britain did not extend to that other piece of the British Raj now known as Myanmar. In 1942 he wrote to Winston Churchill: “I wish you could put the whole bunch of them into a frying pan with a wall around it and let them stew in their own juice.”
In unforeseen ways, the American president largely got his wish. The military dictatorship under General Ne Win that seized power in Burma in 1962 erected a virtual wall around the country, sealing it off from almost all outside influence. The junta that succeeded him after nationwide protests in 1988 has tried to open up the country. Viewed from the West, its efforts seem vain. Despite a farcical election last year, Myanmar remains subject to Western economic sanctions and its leaders are still largely shunned by their American and European counterparts. The only Burmese politician widely known in the West is Aung San Suu Kyi, an opposition leader who has spent most of the past two decades in detention and whose party is now technically illegal.

Yet Thant Myint-U’s new book shows that it is an illusion to think of Myanmar, as many Westerners do, as small, politically isolated, and economically and geographically peripheral—or as he puts it, “a relatively minor missing link between China and India”. Myanmar is certainly not small. It has perhaps 60m people, and covers an area bigger than France. One of the many ethnic insurgencies strung along Myanmar’s borders, the United Wa State Army, has come to control a territory larger than Belgium.

Moreover, Mr Thant puts Myanmar at the centre of things—exactly midway between Delhi and Mumbai to the west and Shanghai and Hong Kong to the east. Before the generals transformed Rangoon (now Yangon) “from global entrepot to backwater village”, its airport was in British times a hub for all of Asia. Draw a circle around the central city of Mandalay with a radius of just over 700 miles (1,100km), he writes, and it stretches to the states of West Bengal and Bihar in India, to Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in China, as well as to Tibet, and south to cover most of Laos and Thailand (see map). The circle is home to some 600m people.

Mr Thant is an academic historian and the grandson of U Thant, secretary-general of the United Nations in the 1960s. He is controversial among Burmese exiles for advocating engagement with the regime. In 2007 he published the best general introduction to contemporary Myanmar, “The River of Lost Footsteps”, and his latest book adopts the same blend of personal reminiscence, history—enlivened with an eye for the telling anecdote—travelogue and polemic.

This time Mr Thant’s travels take him to Myanmar’s hill country, near the Chinese border, to the other side of the frontier, in Yunnan province, and to Assam and Manipur in north-east India, on Myanmar’s other flank. Some of the travelogue is rather dull, especially in China, where the traveller is linguistically hobbled and confined to well-trodden tourist paths. His contemporary insights add little to his accomplished retelling of history. He is a better analyst and historian than he is a travel writer.

But the book’s main analytical and polemical point is tellingly made: in the absence of a Western counterbalance, Myanmar is falling almost inexorably into the Chinese sphere of influence. There is an age-old dream of linking India and China through Burma. The Victorians even fantasised about a raised railway from Calcutta (now Kolkata), soaring above the jungle.

The dream is at last coming true, as the solution to China’s “Malacca dilemma”—its strategic worry about dependence on imported energy coming through the chokepoint of the Malacca Straits. A new port, oil and gas pipelines, and roads are already under construction, giving China for the first time direct access to the Bay of Bengal, and a new route for as much as 20% of its oil imports. Dams are springing up on Myanmar’s rivers, to generate hydropower to keep the lights burning in Yunnan.

So China’s and Myanmar’s rulers are becoming ever more dependent on each other. Efforts by India and South-East Asian countries to reduce that dependence seem forlorn, despite India’s historic, cultural and religious ties, and despite Myanmar’s membership of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

The generals in mufti now running Myanmar are fiercely independent. They do not want to be China’s puppets. Indeed, the older ones spent their formative years fighting Chinese-backed communists. Yet the West, with its fastidious refusal to have any truck with them, seems to leave them little option but to cleave to China. As in his earlier book, Mr Thant justly argues against the self-defeating futility of Western sanctions on Myanmar. But it is hard for Western governments to lift them without Ms Suu Kyi’s backing. And it is hard for her to call for their lifting when so many of her supporters are behind bars, and when her sway over international opinion is the last lever she has over a repellent regime.

BANGLADESH: The Border Of Tension

Relations between Dacca and New Delhi have been cool since the assassination last August of Bangladesh's founder-president, Sheik Mujibur Rahman, in a military coup. India had strongly backed Sheik Mujib in Bangladesh's war for independence and was distinctly unhappy about the pro-Pakistan sympathies of the so-called seven majors who overthrew him. Although the majors were ousted last month in a bewildering series of coups and countercoups (TIME, Nov. 17), Bangladesh's new military rulers, headed by Major General Zia-Ur Rahman, have apparently carried on their predecessors' policy of less dependence on India and closer ties with Pakistan and China. 

Last week India had further cause for annoyance with Bangladesh. India's High Commissioner, in effect ambassador, to Dacca, Samar Sen, was shot in the back and seriously wounded by six young men who had posed as visitors to his office. Bangladesh police returned the fire, killing four of the attackers and wounding two. 

Reacting angrily. New Delhi charged that an "insidious and mischievous anti-Indian propaganda campaign" by "reactionary groups" had recently been carried on in Bangladesh. Two weeks before the attack on Sen, a live grenade had been found on the grounds of his residence. Dacca expressed "deep regret and concern" over the attack and blamed "antistate elements" who had sought to kidnap Sen in order "to damage the existing bond of friendship and cordiality between India and Bangladesh." 

Rebellious Tribesmen. Nonetheless, the incident was bound to complicate relations between the two subcontinent neighbors, who share a porous 1,500-mile border. In recent weeks there have been rumors in Dacca — vehemently denied in New Delhi — of border incursions by Indian troops. One Dacca version is that India wants to stir up unrest among Bangladesh's 10 million Hindus, thus encouraging them to flee to India as they did in 1971. India, according to this scenario, would use the ensuing chaos as a pretext for launching a full-scale invasion. Foreign diplomats in Dacca regard the rumor as implausible.

At the same time, there are fears in India that China, which has given arms and guerrilla training to rebellious Naga and Mizo tribesmen in eastern India, may be tempted to do the same for Bengali Maoists, thus creating tension along India's long eastern border. 

Aside from the attack on Sen, reported TIME's Richard Bernstein, who visited Bangladesh last week, Dacca appeared relatively calm. "Martial law continues — and probably will for months," cabled Bernstein. "Major General Zia-Ur, who dissolved Parliament, now says elections will not be held until 1977. Strategic points like the Bangladesh radio station are sealed off with barbed-wire fences and guarded by small groups of rather bored soldiers armed with M-1s and machine guns. In the countryside, sporadic gunfire can be heard at night, and there are reports of continued fighting between pro-and anti-Mujib factions in the army. The political violence has unleashed a wave of bloodletting among rival satraps in rural areas, who see the confusion as an opportunity to settle old vendettas. For the rest of the people, there is an obvious dread of some calamity just around the corner, but nobody can say exactly what it will be."

Anna Hazare unleashing India’s Arab Spring?

He sat half reclined under a huge portrait of Mahatma Gandhi at Ramlila Park, New Delhi, with tens and thousands of supporters sitting in the Maidan cheering him as the fasting shadow of the Mahatma spoke against public corruption and his own perception of the Jan Lokpal Bill. He thought the government bill was inadequate to meet the demands of an effective law that could eradicate corruption from public offices. As Anna rose to All-India fame from a puny Ralegan Siddhi personalilty drawing support for his fight against corruption, the nation as a whole responded with a resounding voice and converged on Delhi from neighbouring states to lend their support for a ‘second independence’,  this time not from colonial domination but from a society sullied by widespread corruption. Anna’s meteoric rise has unnerved the ruling party and the Prime Minister has proposed that an effective bill could be moved with Hazare’s participation in an open-ended talk to incorporate some of his ideas into the Bill. In spite of that Hazare continues his 15-day fasting and refuses to compromise on some of his vital points that he would like to see incorporated in his Lokpal (ombudsman) proposals. Meanwhile, support for his fasting is spreading like wildfire all over India as he reminds the new generation of Indians of Bapu who dreamed of a strong and stable India on the prosperity of millions of Indian villages.

Anna is not holding out an empty dream before the Indians. Following the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Binoba Bhabe, he has experimented his reforms in his own village at Ralegan Siddhi. Anna who was an army truck driver, had thrice close encounter with death. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war all his comrades died following a Pakistan air raid. He was the only one who survived and he saw a bullet whiz past his head. He had similar experience of being in close proximity with death two more times. He was now convinced he should dedicate his life for the good of others and that there was some hidden meaning in his escape from death. He started his philanthropic work in his own village, Ralegan Siddhi. He inspired people to join him in his village reforms, built water reservoirs and canals, new crops were planted, improved varieties of cows were brought and in all these efforts he brought everyone including the Dalits or the untouchables. He banned consumption of alcohol, opened schools, supplied milk for the schoolchildren and soon the Gram Shava or the village councils were busy in evolving a new countryside. The whole social milieu changed. Anna has been awarded two prestigious civil awards, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the government of India.

Anna is not free from contradictions. He gave a speech in support of Modi, the Gujrat CM, though of course he later withdrew it. There are other lags too. As Arundhati Roy points out he speaks against public corruption alone; instead, he should also speak against the corporate and NGO corruptions.

There are two faces of Indian poverty which is one of the worst in the world. Both faces generate anger – an anger that could bring down a hail of disasters. One of the faces of this anger finds expression in bullets and bombs in the hands of the Maoists who also dream of establishing a people’s government free from hunger and deprivation. Some five states in eastern India have to cope with the Maoists and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. With the Nepalese Maoists lending them support aided by China from across the silk road, the Maoist insurrection which is one of the faces of Indian poverty may not cease sometime sooner than can be comprehended.

Anna’s protest, though non-violent, is also an expression of anger. But Anna is more dangerous than the Maoists. He has already won the hearts of the middle class Indians and a vast majority of them are behind him. It is anger that makes them rally behind Anna. The agitating mobs may ultimately force the Congress to accept Anna’s proposals. There are hardly any other alternatives before the Congress. If Anna is alive, he is going to be a political force to be reckoned with in the next elections. With all the ‘terrorist’ groups active in India, an Anna exposed in a Maidan is an easier target than Gandhi in his usual prayer meetings. A dead Anna (either owing to fasting or a terrorist bullet) could lead to disastrous political turmoil which may be difficult to cope with even with thousands of security forces.

To most Indians supporting him, Anna is a sort of reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi and India cannot afford to lose a Bapu a second time. Anna’s rise is not a surprise in India 40% of whose GDP remains in Swiss banks.

And the contrast between wealth in Bombay and the starving population in Uttar Pradesh is scandalous and not even a double digit growth is going to set it right. That is what justifies the rise of Anna and his overnight All-India popularity.

The fasting Anna has proposed that his draft of Jan Lokpal Bill be placed before the parliamentary committee.

The ruling Congress would rather have their own Bill discussed with inputs from Anna’s draft. Manmohan Singh has taken a conciliatory stance and has invited Anna for talks. Anna says he is open to talks but only on his own terms and that means his Jan Lokpal draft should be placed before the Parliament which may come up for discussion and modifications, if any, provided Anna’s basic clauses are not excluded. Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill, drafted by Justice Santosh Hedge, Prasant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal seeks to establish an independent body free from government intervention even in the case of ministers and high bureaucrats. If found guilty, they would go to jail and their ill-gotten wealth will be confiscated. Anna’s angry supporters, however, are demanding death sentence for corrupt ministers and life-term imprisonment for MPs.

If the ruling Congress fails to appease Anna Hazare, the anger he has unleashed will soon engulf the whole of India with disastrous political consequences.

Hazare's Demands Hard To Swallow

This must be the French Revolution with Indian characteristics.

The shoeless ones pouring in from the hinterland to support the fasting man onstage suggest a nation so sickened by its effete and corrupt power elite that they will clutch at anything. Hope for them is a 74-year-old man reclining on bolsters. Every time he stirs, a cry goes up: "Inquilab, zindabad! Long live the revolution."
Declining all food and accepting only water for sustenance, Mr. Anna Hazare has held the nation in thrall as he steadfastly demands that the government accept his version of an anti-corruption Bill, and his alone, and have it passed quickly in Parliament.

Once in a while, his hand extends to tap his thigh, keeping time to patriotic music being played to the crowd at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, estimated at more than 60,000 on Sunday. Across the nation, in town and countryside, thousands of similar meetings are being held.

In Protest Central that is Delhi, hundreds of cool young things scamper shiny-eyed about the muddy fairgrounds, aware of a vague sense of being part of history. Some wear cloth caps with pointy ends, "I am Anna" written in blue on the headgear. Others sport armbands with the Indian tricolour. There is much embracing. Someone takes an electric guitar on stage and another, long hair tied back in a ponytail, begins a mellifluous tune in support of The Cause.

For a time, the great caste and class divides of India melt away. In an atmosphere reminiscent of the Woodstock music festival, everyone agrees the government is rotten, and everyone wants to do something about it. And while nine out of 10 people accosted by this writer had not read the Bill for a Lokpal, or ombudsman, they all figure Mr. Hazare must be right. Why else would a skittish government jail him, only to sheepishly release him in the face of a national outcry?

This surely is the magic of India, with its established freedoms to dissent and challenge. A powerful government rattled by the will of a single man's moral force, his message carried to every corner by an unfettered media.

But walking around Ramlila Maidan on Sunday, it was difficult to avoid a sense of unease as well: Is the festival of democracy descending into farce?

At one corner of the open field sat, cross-legged, the half-naked form of an Indian sadhu, eyes closed in deep meditation. A few metres away, farmer Balram Yadav from a village in Haryana was dancing like a dervish to a transcendental tune playing in his head.

Meanwhile, camera shutters of a hundred Nikons and Nokias rattled and clicked as the smart set, some clad in Armani jeans and Cavalli eyewear, positioned themselves so as to make sure the huge stage with its picture of Gandhi is seen in the backdrop.

Mr. Hazare's team has adroitly captured for themselves the magic of the Mahatma, whose principal weapons to overthrow the British Raj were non-violence, non-cooperation, and the threat of the death fast. The day before his arrest last week and upon his release three days later, Mr. Hazare, who sometimes speaks of "shooting" the corrupt, was at Gandhi's mausoleum to pay homage. Indeed, pictures of him kneeling there upstaged visuals of the prime minister addressing the nation on Independence Day.

But while no one grudges Mr. Hazare his Gandhian moorings, some have begun to concede that the government may have a point when it complains about his "my Bill or no Bill" rigidity. Gandhi, after all, operated in an era when Indians did not have democratic freedoms. Besides, for him, a fast unto death was always a last resort. Some serious commentators in India think Mr. Hazare's tactics come close to blackmail.
"Gandhi never claimed that God and truth were exclusively and solely on his side," noted film-maker Mahesh Bhatt.

Once a jolly, rum-loving driver in the Indian Army, Mr. Hazare turned his attention to social causes after reading the works of Swami Vivekananda, a reformer from Bengal. Of his 15 fasts to date, 13 have been targeted at the Maharashtra state government. Almost always, he has succeeded in bending his intended target to his will.

Thus emboldened, he boasted in April that Premier Manmohan Singh may have been compelled to resign if he had continued fasting another couple of days. "India is Anna and Anna is India," key Hazare ally Kiran Bedi, India's most famous woman police officer, said last week.

In the incoherent narrative that sometimes emanates from his camp, Mr. Hazare and his supporters say they have faith in Parliament, but not in its MPs. To be sure, civil society activists may have a point when they say they don't trust parliamentarians. In the lower house, no fewer than 150 of the 544 MPs have faced criminal cases, according to the non-governmental organisation National Elections Watch. These came from both the opposition and ruling parties.

And action has certainly been tardy: A Lokpal Bill was first proposed 42 years ago, but has remained stuck despite the efforts of eight standing committees of Parliament.

Observers marvel at the sophistication of Mr. Hazare's campaign, India Against Corruption, with key members assigned precise responsibilities ranging from media management to crowd control. Could this all be the work of a largely unlettered man? While few agree with suggestions of a "foreign hand" at work, many believe that he may be unduly influenced by a coterie around him.

And here, much attention centres on Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, a Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning activist known for exposing corruption. An obsessive campaigner, Mr. Kejriwal insists the government Bill is a sham and it must switch the text with the one offered by his group and ram it through Parliament before the current session ends on Aug 30. Some say his advice leads to Mr. Hazare taking positions that he may well rue in the future.

Among those who have expressed misgivings is Mr. Kejriwal's former mentor, Ms. Aruna Roy, another Magsaysay laureate. She has voiced concern about the scope of the Hazare Bill, with its all-powerful ombudsman who would monitor politicians, bureaucrats and the judiciary, as well as about the truculence, "the props and the choreography" of the campaign.

"Anna Hazare," says Ms. Roy, "is wrong to undermine democratic institutions."