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Objection overruled

I have done my very best to understand the Left's objections to government’s proposed nuclear deal with the United States. I have failed to do so, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2008 12:03 IST

I have done my very best to understand the Communists’ objections to government’s proposed nuclear deal with the United States. I have failed to do so. They say it will compromise our sovereignty and will make us subservient to America in our foreign policy. That makes even less sense to me. America has never tried to dictate our relations with other nations and has often regretted our growing friendship with countries hostile to it.

We have ignored those protests and made our own decisions. If any country has questioned our sovereignty over our territories, it is Communist China. It never accepted the sanctity of our northern borders with it: it waged a war against us, inflicted a humiliation on us, and to this day lays claims to territories that are ours. Our Communist comrades had never a word to say against the Chinese. Ask them why.

Do we need nuclear power? The answer is yes, we do desperately, and the sooner the better. We cannot afford to pay the exorbitant prices of oil, petrol or gas which we have to import to run our cars, buses, trains and aircraft. We cannot produce enough hydel or fossil-produced energy to cope with our ever-increasing demand for more power to run our factories and keep up the pace of development.

Comrade Prakash Karat is of the opinion that the government must first go to the people before signing the nuclear deal. I am not sure what he means by people: does he mean people who know what nuclear energy is and why it is needed, or just everybody who has a vote? If it is the former, then those who know about it have already spoken in its favour. They include the scientist — ex-President Abdul Kalam (Bharat Ratna), most nuclear scientists, many leading industrialists and Brajesh Misra, the most trusted political adviser of ex-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP.

However, if he means the common man who understands nothing about it, he clearly means an earlier election, which he says he does not want. Whatever it be, he is in for a nasty surprise. Whenever the next general elections take place, it will be a significant diminution of votes for the Communists and gains for his sworn enemy, the Hindu-Sikh communal parties. And hopefully comrade Prakash Karat will fade into the background of the Indian political scene.

The Khuranas

In our family we do not add our caste identity as a suffix to our names as most people do. My father was of the view that it was against the spirit of casteless society that our Gurus preached. Hence, adding caste names like Bedi, Sodhi, Gill, Randhawa, Dhillon etc. was reprehensible. However, after Hargobind Lal Khurana won the Nobel Prize and Madan Lal Khurana became Chief Minister of Delhi, I often heard my father say: “Aseen Vee Khuraney hondey haan — we too happen to be Khuranas.”

Not so Colonel Jasbir Singh Khurana. Soon after retiring from the Army, he published a booklet Khuranas of the Salt Range. The range he referred to is the rock salt mines of Khewra in Shahpur-Sargodha district, now in Pakistan. There was a thriving community of Khuranas, probably as many Sikhs as Hindus. I belong to this tribe of Khurana Salt Rangers.

After retirement, Colonel Sahib spent a few years in his well-furnished three-floored apartment in Defence Colony where his doctor wife ran a very lucrative medical laboratory. The Colonel and I played tennis every morning. Then the couple decided to call it quits and enjoy the years remaining to them. They sold their apartment, bought a smaller one in Gurgaon and migrated to the US to be near their sons settled there. He spends his time fishing, hunting, sight-seeing and writing. He spends most of the year in Narthberg Philadelphia and the winter in Gurgaon. He has recently published the first of a trilogy The Sikhs, their Religion, Social Customs and Way of Life (Angus & Grapher).

It is a beautifully produced coffee tabler, illustrated with old and new paintings and photographs. It explains the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and why they set up a community apart from Hindus and Muslims, borrowing positive aspects of Hinduism and Islam. It also tells you of customs, rituals and festivals of their own that evolved in the course of time. It makes informative and easy reading.

In the two books to come, he proposes to deal with their history and achievements. I hope very much he will touch upon the most serious problem facing the Sikhs viz. the increasing pace at which the younger generation of Sikh is giving up the Khalsa form of Sikhism and becoming Hindus who believe in Sikhism.

Old-age romances

The more he says ‘no’ the more it is ‘yes’
And you are quite right in your guess
It is President Putin that I have in mind
For, if the French does it, can Russians be far behind?
And with Vidya Naipaul and Salman Rushdie
Going about with second, third and fourth beauties
And Chancellor Kohl remarrying after eighty,
Among the celebrities of every kind and country
It is now almost becoming a rage
To have an armcandy in old age –
And because the trend is set by what the celebs do, I see some hope for myself too.
(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

What else needs to be added to the saying: “Everything is fair in love and war”? Ans: Elections!
(Contributed by KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)