WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2023–50

Kumar Govindan
10 min readDec 16, 2023

About: the world this week, 10 December to 16 December 2023; the United Nations tries for a cease-fire; India’s new State Chief Ministers; Jammu & Kashmir; and smoke in India’s Parliament.

Everywhere

The United Nations, Israel, and America

Late last week, the United Nations (UN) Security Council met to discuss and pass an immediate, cease-fire Resolution in the ongoing Israel-Hamas War. The Security Council consists of 5 permanent members, and 10 non-permanent (elected for a two-year term by the UN’s General Assembly) members. Only the permanent members have a veto, and for a resolution to be adopted all permanent members must vote in agreement. And a Resolution passed by the Security Council is binding.

The meeting was convened after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter which says, he may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.

The Security Council failed to adopt the cease-fire Resolution, put forward by the United Arab Emirates, due to a veto by the United States, following a debate earlier in the day. Thirteen Security Council members voted in favour while the United Kingdom abstained.

The US told the UN Security Council: “We do not support this resolution’s call for an unsustainable ceasefire that will only plant the seeds for the next war.”

The US and Israel opposed the ceasefire, saying it would only benefit Hamas, which Israel has vowed to annihilate in response to the deadly 7th October cross-border massacre of Israeli civilians.

Later, the United Nations, while still trying to build a consensus, adopted a non-binding resolution in the General Assembly: 153 votes for to 10 against, with 23 abstentions, to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. The same vote in October had got 120 for, 12 against, and 45 abstentions.

More than 17,700 Palestinians have been killed during the latest Israel-Hamas war. And as humanitarian concerns continue to rise, Israel and Hamas do not appear any closer to resolving the conflict than they were at the start.

Meanwhile, in America, over last weekend, University of Pennsylvania (Upenn) President, Liz Magill resigned. It comes almost a week after she, along with the Presidents of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), participated in a congressional hearing on antisemitism on college campuses. And was unable to confirm that, ‘calling for the genocide of Jews’ would violate University policies on bullying or harassment. Harvard has said its President will not step-down, on account of this testimony. MIT is still thinking.

India’s New State Chief Ministers

This week, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rolled-out its choice of Chief Ministers (CM) for the three States it overwhelmingly won when votes were counted and results declared last week.

In the State of Chhattisgarh, the BJP picked Vishnu Deo Sai, 59, a prominent tribal leader, as the next CM: he was elected as leader of the BJP’s legislative party. Sai comes from a family of former Jan Sangh -a precursor to the BJP- leaders, where two elder brothers of his father were MLAs (Member of Legislative Assembly). He started his political career as a village Sarpanch and rose to become Union Minister — Minister of State Steel & Mines — in an earlier BJP Government. He is a four-time Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) and also the Chhattisgarh BJP President for about 4 years.

In the State of Madhya Pradesh, the BJP chose Mohan Yadav, 48, the Ujjain South MLA, as Chief Minister. The BJP legislature party elected him to replace Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the four-time outgoing CM. Mohan is a three-time MLA and worked as the Higher Education Minister in the outgoing Government. The party also named two Deputy Chief Ministers, Jagdish Devda, and Rajendra Shukla — the first time the State has such a combination.

Then, as if two surprises weren’t enough, the BJP came-up with a third: choosing first-time MLA, Bhajan Lal Sharma, 55, as Rajasthan’s next Chief Minister, ending days of speculation.

Bhajan Lal worked as the General Secretary of the BJP Rajasthan Unit, for four consecutive terms. In the year 2003, he contested the Assembly Elections for the first time from Nadbhai, Rajasthan. However, he finished fifth and lost his deposit with a vote share of 6.28%. This time, he won from the Sanganer Constituency. Diya Kumari, a member of the Jaipur royal family, and Prem Chand Bairwa were added as Deputy Chief Ministers in Rajasthan — in this surprising new CM + 2 Deputies ‘combo-offer’ of the BJP.

Jammu & Kashmir

The State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has a deep troubled history going back to the time of India’s independence. In August 1947, the British partitioned India into the present-day India, and Pakistan, on religious lines — Hindu and Muslim respectively — before handing over governance and leaving. Freedom, it was, from colonial rule of 89 years, which began in the year 1858.

India, at that time, consisted of 562 Princely States, which had to be brought under the Indian Union by signing an Instrument of Accession-voluntarily, by a polite nudge, tough coercion, or even brute force. It was a Himalayan task successfully and deftly accomplished by the unforgettable ‘Iron Man of India’, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and his Home Ministry team.

The State of Jammu & Kashmir had a majority Muslim population and was ruled by a Hindu King, Maharaja Hari Singh. There was a tussle between India and Pakistan for possession of this State, and finally, after initial dithering, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to India on 26 October 1947-making it a part of India. The Maharaja was hesitant to join any side, had ‘independent’ ideas, and signed only after Pashtun tribals, aided by Pakistan, invaded J&K and India agreed to help on the condition of accession. The Schedule appended to the Instrument of Accession clearly gave the Indian Parliament power to legislate for J&K on only three subjects — defence, external affairs, and communications.

Later, when the Constitution of India was written and came into force on 26 January 1950, Jammu & Kashmir was mostly exempted from the Indian Constitution — by Article 370, which was a ‘temporary provision’ that provided special status to the State.

J&K was allowed a Constituent Assembly for framing its constitution and restricting the legislative authority of the Indian Parliament. And the future of the State was to be determined by a ‘reference to the people’. Temporary also meant that except Article 1, which declared India as a ‘Union of States’, and Article 370 itself, no part of the Indian Constitution would apply to J&K. Article 370 itself could not be amended or repealed — unless the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir consented.

After a five-year process, on 17th November 1956, the Constitution of J&K was made and adopted with a declaration: ‘The State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India’. On the same day, having completed its task, the Constituent Assembly of J&K dissolved itself.

Over the years there was unusual, persisting violence in J&K, mostly ‘angry’ Pakistan sponsored terrorism from across the border and supported by parties inside J&K, enjoying the special status. And a portion of J&K was occupied by Pakistan-Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK)-which India could not get back despite a War. India had to settle with a ‘temporary’, Line Of Control (LOC) drawn by the United Nations, which was called to resolve. The UN also passed a Resolution that Pakistan must vacate POK, which was never implemented. The Indian Army had a permanent presence in the State due to the volatile situation.

The present Indian Government embarked on a mission to get the bits and pieces of J&K’s history together. It had to navigate a minefield of officialese in documentation and interpretation, to fully integrate it with India, and pushed hard for a solution, culminating in Jammu & Kashmir’s complete integration with India in 2019. And its actions were legally approved by the highest court of India, this week, this year.

On 5 August 2019, the Government revoked the 70-year-old special status, or autonomy, granted to J&K under Article 370, bringing it into the fold of mainstream India, just like any other State. Jammu & Kashmir no longer has its own Constitution, flag, or anthem, or its people provided dual citizenship, as a result of the repeal of Article 370. J&K now abides by all legislation made by India’s Parliament. This was a decisive action by the Government, which no other Government attempted, or could not do, since India’s Independence.

On 6 August 2019, The President of India formally issued an order under the power of Article 370, overriding prevailing Orders and nullifying all the provisions of autonomy granted to J&K. The Home Minister introduced a Reorganisation Bill in Parliament, to divide J&K into two union territories to be governed by a Lieutenant Governor and a unicameral legislature. The resolution seeking the abrogation of Article 370 and the bill for the state’s reorganisation was debated and passed by both Houses of Parliament -Rajya Sabha, the upper house, and the Lok Sabha, the lower house — in August 2019. The original State of Jammu & Kashmir was divided into two Union Territories: Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh. That is how it stays today.

The Government’s decision was challenged by Parties opposed to the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of J&K, in the Supreme Court (SC) of India. This week, the SC, after hearing arguments, pronounced its verdict — a historic one — to complete the last remaining unfinished business of partition and legalise the Government’s actions. There is no going back.

The SC unanimously upheld the Government’s 2019 decisions to scrap the special status for Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370, and also approved bi-furcation of J&K. The question of relegating J&K to the status of a Union Territory was left for another discussion, as the Centre has promised to restore its statehood as soon as possible.

The five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud held that the President’s exercise of power under Article 370(3) to abrogate this Article was not mala-fide; that Article 370 was meant for constitutional integration and not for the disintegration of J&K with the Union of India; that the Article was temporary in nature, and that there was no need to hold consultations or collaborate with the elected Government of J&K before ceasing its operation; and that J&K didn’t retain any element of sovereignty when it joined the Union of India.

I’m glad the Supreme Court approached the complex issue in a clear Top-Down manner: Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India — last words by its now dead Constituent Assembly. All other word-play, Articles, procedural aspects, and other angles, in which this could have been done, does not matter, and at best is a subject of academic discussion.

Smoke in the Eyes

It was on 13 December 2001, when India’s Parliament came under a sudden and unexpected terrorist attack. Five armed terrorists drove their vehicle into the Parliament premises and began shooting, resulting in the deaths of six Delhi Police personnel, two Parliament Security Service personnel, and a gardener. All the five terrorists were killed by security forces. No lawmakers were hurt.

This year, on 13th December, on the 22nd anniversary of the 2001 Parliament Attack, the New Delhi weather was getting awfully cold with the onset of winter. And Parliament was in session in a spanking new Parliament building, with state-of-the-art infrastructure and security. It was a business as usual day. All was quiet on the Parliament front.

Then suddenly inside Parliament two people jumped into the well of the Lok Sabha from the Visitors Gallery, armed with yellow coloured smoke canisters, which they set-off. Meanwhile, outside Parliament two others began chanting slogans after releasing red coloured smoke from similar canisters. The canisters used were over-the-counter colour smoke release canisters, often used in Indian festivals.

The two — one could be seen monkey jumping over the desks — inside were quickly subdued, bashed-up, and manhandled by muscular Members of Parliament and handed over to the Security staff. The two outside were promptly arrested and led away by Police.

The stunning breach of an iron-clad Parliament security system took some time to sink-in, even while the yellow smoke, inside, and the red smoke, outside, settled down and dissolved in the much polluted New Delhi air.

The investigations began at a fantastic speed and the Police began knocking doors across the country. It came to light that an almost pan-India Facebook Group called the ‘Bhagat Singh Fan Club’ had been working on the plan for about a year, timed with the anniversary of Parliament Attack. And the plan to breach parliament security began with obtaining Parliament Visitors Passes — in this instance issued by the ruling BJP’s Member of Parliament from Mysuru, Karnataka. Looks like the motive of the Group was to highlight the unemployment problem in the country, inspired by Bhagat Singh and Che Guevara. At lease one of the Group had done a recce during the Budget Session of Parliament, when they learnt that security personnel did not not ask visitors to take off their shoes or check them. The smoke canisters were cleverly hidden in specially-made thick-soled shoes.

The members of the Group: Manoranjan from Mysuru, Sagar Sharma from Lucknow, Neelam Azad from Haryana, Amol Shinde from Maharashtra, and the believed-to-be kingpin Lalit Jha, a Teacher from Bihar, arrived in Delhi by separate means, and were hosted by one of their associates, Vikram and his wife, in Gurugram, early in the week. On the day of the episode, Sagar collected the passes from the MP’s Office and the Group — except Vikram — met at India Gate. Amol handed over one canister to each member. All of them then deposited their mobiles with Lalit Jha, before the intrusion. He fled the Parliament area soon after, when a man-hunt was launched to nab him.

In the middle of the week, Lalit Jha was arrested after he turned himself in at Kartavya Path, New Delhi, accompanied by another key suspect, Mahesh Kumawat.

The array of slogans bellowed by the Group, Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Long live mother India), Jai Bheem (Victory to Ambedkar), Tanashahi Nahin Chalegi (Dictatorship does not work), have been battle cries of diverse groups who have been often at odds with each other. And the slogans do not follow any particular pattern. Details are awaited on the actual motive and the real persons behind the Group.

The sensational episode has exposed loop-holes in what is claimed to be one of the strongest security arrangements in the country. Whatever, this should serve as yet another wake-up call for security agencies.

More sensational stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Keep the smoke out of your eyes and stay with World Inthavaaram.

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Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!