Month: January 2009

The International Message of National Identity

January 24, 2009

I was elected to Parliament in 1970. My first trip abroad was as part of a parliamentary delegation to Czechoslovakia in 1972. The Lok Sabha Speaker Shri Gurdial Singh Dhillon was the leader of the delegation. Those days Czechoslovakia had been very much in the news. In 1965, following assumption of leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party by Alexander Dubcek, the Party contemplated drastic changes in domestic policy – restoration of the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and imposition of severe restrictions on the secret police. This plan of action described as the ‘Socialist Democratic Revolution’ by the Czechs deeply upset Moscow. In 1968, an angry U.S.S.R. decided to crush these ‘Democratic’ proclivities. Czechoslovakia was invaded with 600,000 troops. An armed purge of all liberals in the Communist Party was carried out, Dubcek was thrown out, and a new government installed. The country was once again … Continue reading The International Message of National Identity

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How Gujarat has become ‘Vibrant’

January 17, 2009

Makar Sankranti (January 14) goes by different names in different parts of our country. In Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Pongal. In Assam, it brings song, dance and joy in the name of Bihu. In Punjab and in several other parts of north India, it comes, a day or two in advance, as Lohri. People gather around ceremonial log-fire to warm themselves up on a cold night, singing Lohri songs and exchanging popcorn, peanuts, crystal sugar and sweets made out of til (sesame seeds). Every year my family has Lohri celebration at home, sharing our joy with friends, office colleagues and security personnel. Makar Sankranti reminds me of the kite festival in Gujarat, the state which I represent in Parliament. On this day, the deep blue sky in Ahmedabad and other cities and towns of the state becomes a canvas for a vibrant splash of colours as tens of … Continue reading How Gujarat has become ‘Vibrant’

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Understanding Genuine Secularism

January 12, 2009

A very valuable addition to my personal library this week has been a beautiful Coffee Table Book from Amit Mehra titled India : A Timeless Celebration. I congratulate the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs for publishing this important book. Amit Mehra is an outstanding photographer who has been contributing to several renowned magazines like Time, India Today, Der Speigel, Fortune, Vogue etc. Amit Dasgupta’s Introdution and Jaya Ramanathan’s textual explanation of the context of Mehra’s photographs are highly readable. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a Coffee Table Book is “a large expensive book that usually has a lot of pictures in it and is meant to be looked at rather than read”. Without doubt, the pictures with which Amit Mehra has embellished this book are a treat to scan. But to me, of even greater interest has been the Foreword written by Mark … Continue reading Understanding Genuine Secularism

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