Unfurling a Controversy

Above: The national flag has been a rallying point for patriots and activists as seen in the India Against Corruption protests at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. Photo: Anil Shakya The national flag reigns supreme and no state government should question that. The Karnataka government’s recent move to even consider an alternative to the Tricolour was most unfortunate   ~By K Sreedhar Rao The history of the freedom movement is a saga of painful sacrifice by millions of Indians. At the time of the advent of the British, India was a conglomerate of monarchical states. However, the British cunningly exploited the differences among them and established its oppressive colonial rule on what they felt was the sustainable part of Indian territory. But things changed with the birth of the Indian National Congress which heralded the beginning of the nationalist movement. The teeming millions, inspired by the clarion call given by stalwarts like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Subhash Chandra Bose joined it. Mahatma Gandhi, apart from being saintly, was also a pragmatic strategist. In order to appeal and inspire the distinct linguistic populace of India, he formed state units of the Congress party on the basis of linguistic geographical territories.…
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Not a Burning Issue

Above: The tradition of burning Ravan’s effigy has been in practice in many parts of northern India for centuries. Photo: UNI The apex court recently dismissed a PIL which wanted a ban on the burning of Ravan effigies, saying that certain traditions are protected under the constitution   ~By Justice K Sreedhar Rao  Custom is also called tradition. It is recognised as an unwritten law if it has been practised from time immemorial by any section of society. It could be a religious or a social practice, unless such a custom becomes repugnant to law. We had the abominable custom of Sati in Hindu society. Thanks to the efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, his campaign against the practice of Sati nudged the British to enact a law for abolishing it. There have been religious traditions in certain sections of society which demean a woman and children and discriminate against them in matters of succession to property, marriage, education and maintenance. The said wrinkles in the system are being slowly wiped out. Even if any objectionable practice is brought to the notice of the court, it unhesitatingly holds such customs to be bad in law. Article 25 of the constitution ensures freedom of conscience and right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to maintenance of public order, morality and health.…
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Indo-China Skirmish: Avoid Confrontation

Above: A file photo from 2013 showing Indian and Chinese soldiers meeting during a joint military exercise. Photo: UNI Seeing the military capability of our powerful neighbour, the government would do well to accept reality and avoid any military mishap as far as possible   ~By Wing Commander (Retd) Praful Bakshi   It is said that strong fences make for good neighbours, but that is also true for countries having common borders which are not clearly defined. Any cartographic errors on the maps of the border areas can easily translate into military confrontation or serious diplomatic tension as we are seeing in the case of India and China. The latest confrontation between the Chinese and Indian forces at the point called Doka La on the Indo-Tibetan-Bhutan tri-junction is being described by Indian authorities as the gravest threat in military terms in recent times. It is necessary to establish that the main border between India and China in the East runs along the established surveyed line called the McMahon Line which was drawn up in March 1914 during the Simla Conference. Over 90 percent of this runs along the watershed ridge of the Himalayas running East-West. South of the McMahon Line is considered India, while North of it is supposed to be China.…
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Is This the India of My Dreams?

Above: Junaid Khan’s mother (centre) wails the loss of her son. Photo: YouTube The killings of Muslims on one pretext or another continue with impunity because the government has not condemned it or taken action against the perpetrators. Has mobocracy taken hold of the country?   ~By Ramesh Menon Fifteen-year-old Junaid had bought new clothes and was travelling home with his two brothers Hasib, 21, and Shakir, 23, to celebrate Eid with his family. He was probably thinking of the celebrations to follow when he was brutally stabbed to death and thrown out of the Delhi-Mathura train as it stopped at a station. His brothers were brutally assaulted and had to be rushed to hospital in blood-soaked clothes. Hundreds of onlookers who saw the tragic drama play out in front of their eyes chose not to be witness to the crime. Had Junaid been from another religion, he would have lived to see another sunset. Thousands participate in the funeral procession of Zahid Rasool Bhat in Srinagar. Photo: UNI How is it humanly possible that in a crowded railway station packed with passengers, railway officials and vendors, not even one person was ready to appear as a witness for the police to file an FIR and start investigations?…
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Advertising: Brand Battles

Above: The Amul brand enjoys tremendous goodwill. It can therefore take on the competition through provocative advertising. Photo: UNI The case between Amul and Kwality Wall’s shows that winning in court is no substitute for winning hearts and Dr Verghese Kurien’s brand will win hands down   ~By Gopinath Menon   In a competitive world, it is not uncommon for players to engage in battles in a playing field, other than marketing. Nine out of ten times, it is the result of a trait called ego. The plaintiff will always be the one who has been a bad loser and will resort to innovative means to curb competing brands from growing their market share. This is not new at all. Companies have been battling competitors for ages for logical or trivial reasons. I remember in the late nineties, when I used to work on a world famous soft drink brand, how secretive the company used to be about each executive on the business and how many non-disclosure papers they had to sign before they started working. Although after working for some months when you take a deep breath and let the hysteria die down and think logically, you figure out that both brands are nothing but sugared water with different doses of fizz content.…
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Half a Defence Minister

Above:Arun Jaitley, the current finance, defence and corporate affairs minister. Photo: Rajeev Tyagi Can a politician who holds charge of this ministry and another one do justice to this crucial portfolio?   ~By Wing Commander Praful Bakshi (Retd) There have been a number of times during the last couple of decades that the portfolio of the Union defence minister has been under the prime minister himself or by someone already in charge of a major ministry. That is the present situation too with the finance minister holding additional charge of the defence ministry. This leaves the country with not just an overworked defence minister but, in literal terms, half a defence minister. The inability or reluctance to find a suitable person to hold the extremely sensitive position of defence minister is not only intriguing but also harmful for a country with both external and internal security challenges. Those challenges have become more serious in recent times with the Chinese on the northern and North-eastern front and Pakistan on the western and North-western sector getting more aggressive and raising the threat levels. Almost every day, we see heated discussions on the subject of India facing a two-front war in the electronic and print media.…
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Mandir-Masjid in Perfect Harmony

Sane voices from both communities have suggested solutions which could restore peace and harmony at the disputed site    ~By Firoz Bakht Ahmed   Even as a special CBI court on May 30 granted bail to BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition case and refused to drop charges against them and three others, there have been calls from saner voices to settle this dispute. The Supreme Court had earlier this year said that the Ayodhya dispute must be settled amicably through “a cordial meeting” of all parties, with Chief Justice JS Khehar even offering his personal mediation. This was the right move to turn the mandir-masjid deadlock into a dialogue. For once, there is hope among both communities that a solution is within sight in the centuries-old impasse. There is no denying that Lord Ram and the Ramayan are central to India’s social history and civilisation. Notice that Ram comes in the word Ramzan and Ali in the word Diwali. A common meeting ground between both religious communities is the only way forward now. According to Dr Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmad, chairman, Inter Faith Harmony Foundation of India, Ayodhya is a holy city.…
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The Rapid Descent

With the fortunes of this once-glorious airline plunging rapidly and the centre in no mood to aid it further, the blame has to be shared by politicians, bureaucrats and the staff    ~By Jitender Bhargava Air India has, for a change, been in the news for the right reasons for two unrelated developments. One is the CBI filing three FIRs for instituting probes into decisions that financially incapacitated Air India and the other is the government finally waking up to address the question of its future through strategic disinvestment. Both issues have raised questions along expected lines because of the abysmal track record of government inaction. Will these issues be pursued to the logical end with the government exhibiting adequate determination and not sacrificing it at the altar of political expediency? And why have the CBI and government suddenly woken up from slumber to take up these issues which had been crying for attention for years now? These cynical reactions have emanated because of Air India’s plunge from the heights it once commanded to its current pitiable state, which has been the consequence of gross inaction on the part of the government. OUT OF CONTROL The diminution of a national carrier that was once a globally recognised brand can be akin to an airline descending from a safe altitude of 30,000 feet with the chairman and board members seated in the cockpit and the rest of the staff distributed in First, Business and Economy Class.…
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In holding an ‘EVM Challenge’ EC may be overstepping its constitutional authority

  ~By Devadatt Kamat   While there is a raging debate in political circles on the parameters being set by the Election Commission for its forthcoming ‘EVM Challenge’ on June 3, there has been hardly any debate on the legality of the entire exercise. Whether the Election Commission (EC) is empowered under the Constitution to hold such an event to dispel ‘doubts’ regarding possible  tampering of EVMs in the recently held Assembly elections is a question which raises a interesting legal conundrum. The EC is constituted under Article 324 of the Constitution. Article 324 vests the Commission with the powers of “superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral roll for, and the conduct of all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every state and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President…” Prior to its amendment in 1966, Article 324 also enabled the Commission to appoint election tribunals for the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with elections to Parliament and to Legislatures of States. In the Report of the Law Commission,1966 on the Third General Elections, it was recommended that the power of the Election Commission to decide on  doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with the elections be divested from it and be entrusted to a High Court.…
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Human or Inhuman Shield

Military history is replete with examples of the use of human shields but Major Gogoi’s actions do not violate international law   ~By Wing Commander Praful Bakshi (Retd) The term human shield is not only an expression in military parlance during modern-day conflict, but is a well-used expression during mythological times. During the epic Mahabharata conflict there was the incident of Shikhandi when a protected person, a eunuch, off-limits to both sides, was used as a shield by the Pandavas to carry out an attack on Bhishm Pitamah. Bhishm Pitamah refused to retaliate as he would have hit Shikhandi, and was thus killed by Arjun. This act by the Pandavas was considered a war crime. Human shield is a military and political term where human beings are placed in front or around a military target so that the opposing force is deterred from carrying out an attack on the target in question. Modern history is replete with incidents of the use of human shields for military gain. In the World War II, the German Army, specially the SS, used Prisoners of War (POWs) to protect the military locations from attack or civilians as shields while launching an attack during their Polish campaign.…
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Caste, an Unsavoury Reality

This is an issue which often hits the headlines in India as seen in the Justice Karnan episode. Is there a better way to handle sensitive caste matters other than aggravating them? ~By Col R Hariharan The unsavoury episode of Justice CS Karnan has left many red faces, not only in the Supreme Court, but among all of us, including “enlightened” citizens. From the popular perspective, repeatedly reinforced by the media, there is no justification for his unconscionable behaviour. Of course, it was an aberration waiting to happen because of the systemic flaws in the Collegium system to the higher judiciary. It has been done without applying the limited systemic checks before his appointment. Thanks to Justice Karnan, the selection system’s soft underbelly has been exposed. But as a nation that loves to endlessly debate every issue without quickly acting, we can expect no radical change in the system. As the Supreme Court is inclined to defend its turf, probably some cosmetic changes would be made in the system. It may sound cynical, but that is the way we handle problems, following the Middle Path (with no offense to Gautama Buddha), rather than bite the bullet to take hard decisions. But, this article is not a legal critique of Justice Karnan’s judicial misconduct.…
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The Ultimate Test for Being Just

Can India and Pakistan be fair to suspects of espionage and terrorism from the other country?   ~By Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr The basis of India’s argument in the case of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, an Indian national sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court, at the International Court of Justice at The Hague is the denial of consular access to him, and only secondarily, his human rights. This highlights the basic fact that in international law, it is the states that are the main protagonists and the individual is not yet recognised as a legitimate subject. Scholars in international law are arguing that it is time to recognise the individual as the key actor in such cases. Before we look at some of the arguments that place the individual at the centre of international law, it would be helpful to look at the Indian argument in the Jadhav case. India has invoked Article 36, paragraph 1 (b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, (acceded to by India on November 28, 1977, and by Pakistan on April 14, 1969) called “Communication and contact with individuals of the sending State”. It says: With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State: ….(b) if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State, within its consular district, a national of that state is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner.…
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