My Country, My Life

My Country, My Life

"My Country, My Life" is an autobiographical book by L. K. Advani, an Indian politician who served as the Deputy Prime Minister of India from 2002 to 2004, and is currently the Leader of the Opposition in the 14th Lok Sabha.The book was released on 19th March, 2008 by Abdul Kalam, the eleventh President of India. The book has 1,040 pages and narrates autobiographical accounts and events of Advani including his joining the RSS, time during the partition of India, his meeting and growing relationship with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and many other events in his life.


India celebrated the sixtieth year of its independence on 15 August 2007. Independence Day is, indeed, a special day for each one of us. Every year, I have two fixed morning engagements on that day. The fi rst is to attend the official function at Red Fort, the majestic sandstone structure of the Mughal era where the Prime Minister unfurls the national flag and addresses the nation. It is in this fort, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in AD 1638, and in its historic environs that one can still see the footprints of many crucial developments in our Motherland’s journey from the ancient era to the modern, including those of India’s First War of Independence in 1857. It is a significant coincidence that the 60th anniversary of India’s Independence also marked the 150th anniversary of that glorious uprising in which India united—Hindus and Muslims, as well as kings, queens and commoners—and fought as one against foreign rule.

My second engagement of the day, upon arriving home, is to join my family, colleagues, friends and offi ce staff, in hoisting the tricolour and singing the national anthem, on the lawns of my residence. Although the programme is simple and away from the public glare, it gives me immense personal satisfaction, because it is my own special way of paying tribute to our Motherland. If Mother India is divine, as I indeed believe she is, then my faith teaches me that both individual and collective veneration of the divinity has its own signifi cance.

In 2007, after concluding the two engagements, I spent most of the latter half of the day watching various television channels and reading newspapers, all of which had special stories on the sixtieth anniversary. One TV channel carried a feature called the ‘Ten Defining Moments in Independent India’. It presented my views, taken in an interview conducted earlier, on a couple of them—namely, the Emergency Rule in 1975-77; and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Similar programmes were featured by other TV channels and newspapers. Some of the other ‘defining’ political developments that the media talked about included the Partition of India in 1947; Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948; integration of 562 princely states by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s fi rst Home Minister; fi rst general elections in 1952, pursuant to the declaration of India as a Republic; the Chinese aggression in 1962; split in the Congress party in 1969; the India-Pakistan war in 1971 leading to the liberation of Bangladesh; the fi rst ever defeat of the Congress party in parliamentary elections, followed by the formation of the Janata Party government in 1977; Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, followed by the gruesome anti-Sikh riots in the national capital; the Bofors scandal and Rajiv Gandhi’s defeat in the 1989 elections; India becoming a nuclear weapons state with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government conducting nuclear tests at Pokharan in May 1998; and the fi rst non-Congress government, that of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), to rule India for six years (1998-2004).

What struck me, as I watched this 15 August special feature, was that I had either been a participant in, or a ringside viewer of, almost all the above-mentioned seminal developments in independent India. Along with my senior colleagues Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, I feel fortunate to be one of the few persons in Indian politics to have participated in every single general election since 1952—either as a campaigner or as a candidate. Even today, in 2008, I am an active participant in the debate, both within and outside Parliament, on the major issues facing the nation, including the Indo-US nuclear deal and its negative implications for our strategic defence and foreign policy.

My life, in a nutshell, has been an active one. The journey from 1947 to 2007 is a very short one in a nation’s history, especially a nation as ancient as ours. But it is quite considerable in an individual’s life. In my case, independent India’s political voyage has subsumed my own, giving me an opportunity to both observe, and in my own humble way contribute to the many momentous developments along the way. It has also been a fairly eventful life—brimming with activity, and full of vicissitudes—however, in totality, highly satisfying. Indeed, it is fi lled with more satisfaction than I had ever anticipated. It has taught me innumerable lessons, helping me evolve into the person I am today.

I believe I have something to communicate to my fellow citizens and hence the thought of writing my memoirs began crystallising in my mind some time back. I admit that I am neither a historian nor a scholar of political science. However, as someone who has devoted all of his adult life in the service of the nation and amassed a wealth of experience, I can claim to have the practical and contemplative understanding that comes to a dedicated, longstanding and goal-oriented practitioner of politics. I felt it was time for me to share my experiences and understanding with my fellow Indians; and also to share, especially with the youth, my dreams and concerns, my aspirations and apprehensions, about tomorrow’s India.

As a political activist, I have used the art of communication to propagate ideas, promote ideals, support or criticise policies, and to highlight my party’s programmes. But I have seldom spoken or written about my own life. I might have done so, occasionally, in a fragmented way during an interview or in an article, but never in a comprehensive and organised manner. I was not alone in my thinking. The thought was echoed, with a mounting degree of insistence, by my wife Kamla and daughter Pratibha. Quite often, it was as if they were keener than I that I should write my memoirs. ‘You have experienced so much in life. People should know about it,’ Kamla had said to me on several occasions. I knew that she was only articulating a thought that had been taking shape in my own mind.

Every significant event has its own predestined time of occurrence. The arrival of 2007 provided a compelling context for many reasons. Firstly, the sixtieth anniversary of India’s Independence also marks six decades of my life after I migrated from Sindh. Secondly, I turned eighty in November 2007. God has been kind in blessing me with a long and healthy life. Besides marking my fifty-five years in political life, the year 2007 also marked sixty-five years of my active and continuous association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a swayamsevak, an association I am immensely proud of. Kamla turned seventy-fi ve in 2007 and Pratibha celebrated her fortieth birthday. They, along with my son Jayant and daughter-in-law Geetika, are very dear to me. Whatever I have been able to do for my country is primarily because of the limitless and unconditional love, affection, support and care I have received from my family. Soon the idea of the book began taking concrete shape. Now it is in your hands, esteemed readers.

A brief introduction to the contents of this work would be in order. In Chinese script, I am told, the word ‘crisis’ is written as a compound of two characters, one denoting ‘danger’ and the other ‘opportunity’. My own life has recurrently brought home to me the fact that there is an immense truth in the interrelationship of these two concepts. Both for an individual and a community, conditions of adversity pose a challenge. And a challenge brings out the best in each one of us.

My first experience of the validity of opportunity being the flipside of crisis came in 1947, a life-transforming year both for my country and for me. It appeared as a dividing line in India’s history, as well as in my own life. I spent one-fourth of my life, the fi rst twenty years, in Sindh, which is now a part of Pakistan. I was born in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, in 1927. In 1942, when I had just turned fourteen, I joined the RSS, a nationalist organisation dedicated to uniting Hindu society across the dividing lines of caste, language and region, and bringing about India’s national renaissance on the basis of her cultural and civilisational heritage.

Motherland. Freedom. A bright new future for India. These concepts had taken hold of my youthful imagination with the power of idealism, which is a wonderful boon of that age. Patriotism was palpable in the air. However, as the years passed, there was another reality, an alarming reality, which gripped the minds of my fellow swayamsevaks and me—indeed, the minds of all Hindus in Karachi. Clouds of partition had begun to hover over the sky in Sindh. Even though I knew very little about the politics of the day, whatever I knew was suffi cient enough to cause concern. Fear and uncertainty had gradually begun to spread amongst the Hindus, who were a minority in Sindh. A strange phrase ‘Two Nation Theory’, and an unfamiliar name ‘Pakistan’, were being talked about in hushed and anxious tones. Rumours were rife that a new Muslim nation was being created. Would Karachi and Sindh cease to be in India? Would we have to leave our city, our beloved Sindh? Even the thought of it was menacing. The thought turned into a violent reality on 15 August 1947.

Our Motherland was partitioned. India’s freedom and Pakistan’s creation were heralded by unprecedented mass killings and the largest ever crossborder human migration in history. Nearly a million people died in the inferno of communal riots, and approximately fi fteen million people became refugees. I was one of them. I left Karachi for good on 12 September 1947. Uprooted from our home, and escaping the fl ames of Partition, my family and I found protection and solace in the bosom of Mother India. Though herself mutilated and truncated, she made us feel at home.

For Hindus living in those parts of undivided India, which later became Pakistan, Partition was a terrible calamity. Apart from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan, the other main provinces affected were Punjab, Bengal and Sindh. But while Bengal and Punjab were divided and so provided a natural home to the uprooted Hindus from these two provinces, Sindh became a part of Pakistan in its entirety. There were districts in Sindh contiguous to Rajasthan, like Tharparkar, which had a Hindu majority. A more assertive leadership could perhaps have succeeded in bringing these districts to India, in which case India’s western boundary could have stretched right upto the sacred Sindhu river. Sadly, that did not happen.

For the Hindus in Sindh, Partition has meant not only being uprooted from their hearths and homes, but also a tragic distancing from their culture and language. It may surprise many to know that at the time of Partition, Hindus constituted more than half of Karachi’s population of four lakhs. Out of Sindh’s population of about forty lakhs, Hindus numbered thirteen lakhs. Of these, approximately eleven lakhs migrated to the Indian side. The migration from Karachi was almost total. Although a majority of the Sindhi refugees, constituting mainly the trading community, went to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, they settled down in almost all parts of the country.

For most migrant families, Partition was both a psychological and economic catastrophe. It was a common sight those days for children from erstwhile affl uent families of Sindh to be forced to sell sweets, combs, key chains, etc., in trains and at bus stations. In spite of these privations, Sindhis not only survived, but also thrived. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the community has risen from being down and out, to people who took the lead in commerce, arts, medicine, engineering and a variety of fi elds. Even among the NRIs, Sindhis have carved out a very distinctive place for themselves. The community has also made major contributions to philanthropic activities aimed at the promotion of education, healthcare, and care of destitute children and senior citizens. Above all, it has supported various religious projects, especially at pilgrimage centres. Thus, in a very short span, Sindhis who came here as sharanarthis (refugees) earned acclaim for being both purusharthis (achievers owing to their own hard work) and paramarthis (generous patrons of spiritual activities).

Political analysts have often wondered why the Hindus and Sikhs who came from Sindh and Punjab so were quickly and easily integrated into free India and why, on the other hand, the Muslims who went from this part of India to West and East Pakistan were treated as unwelcome muhajirs for many decades. The only answer that comes to my mind is the age-old sense of cultural unity that binds Indians of diverse castes, communities and regions into a natural national entity. In the decade of the 1980s and ’90s, I developed this theme as ‘cultural nationalism’ and made it the subject of a countrywide debate on what defines Indian nationhood. Explication of this theme is an important aspect of the raison d’etre of this book.

My first experience of ‘cultural nationalism’ occurred when my family was about to leave Sindh, and was deliberating on which part of India to go to. I remember my eighty-year-old grandmother telling my father, ‘Take me to Kashi. I want to live my remaining years, and breathe my last, on the banks of the Holy Ganga’. My father fulfi lled her wish. Thus, when we were forced to leave our home near the Sindhu, it was Mother Ganga, who quintessentially symbolises Mother India, wholeheartedly accepted us.

The second major challenge I would like to recall in this context is the one that came in 1975, that is, almost midway between the advent of Independence, and today. Once again, an adversity turned into an opportunity. On, 11 June, the Congress party’s supposedly invincible citadel of Gujarat crumbled when the Opposition alliance under the banner ‘Janata Morcha’, led by Morarji Desai, trounced the Congress (I) in the state assembly elections. On the same day, the Allahabad High Court pronounced its verdict on the election petition fi led by Raj Narain, an important Opposition leader, against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The court accepted the election petition alleging corrupt electoral practices, annulled Indira Gandhi’s election and disqualified her from Parliament for six years.

These two events together caused the equivalent of a political earthquake in the government and the Congress party. Its tremors set off a sequence of events, the climax of which was the promulgation of an Emergency under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution. While this Article had been invoked earlier during the wars with China (1962) and Pakistan (1965 and 1971), this was the fi rst time it was being used to deal with ‘internal disturbance’. Tens of thousands of leaders and activists belonging to Opposition parties, including a large number of Members of Parliament (MPs) and state legislators were put into prison. These included the venerable Lokanayak Jayaprakash Narayan. Along with my senior colleague Atalji, I was imprisoned in Bangalore Central Jail, where I spent nineteen months. Stringent press censorship was imposed and even the coverage of parliamentary proceedings became subject to censorship. For over nineteen months democracy was eclipsed.

At one point of time, during this period, it seemed as if multi-party democracy would never again return to our country. The Congress party’s National Herald wrote gushing editorials on the virtues of a one-party system like that of Tanzania. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared that ‘the nation was more important than democracy’. The entire network of mass media, including the all-pervasive All India Radio (AIR), was harnessed with the primary objective of brainwashing people into believing that liberty, civil rights, press freedom and judicial independence were all elitist concepts which had nothing to do with the common man’s welfare, and that the nation should show gratitude to the Congress government for the transformation wrought by Emergency.

When the opportunity eventually came in March 1977 for testing how effective the mendacious campaign had been, political pundits were astounded. Even the unlettered elector was not taken in by the propaganda. Indira Gandhi and her Emergency was rejected. A neat ballot-box coup was effected, an electoral massacre of her men took place, and the Janata Party was installed in New Delhi. The danger to democracy had been averted, and the crisis got converted or rather, transformed itself into an opportunity. I am proud that I could play a role in this transformation. As Minister of Information & Broadcasting in Morarji Desai’s government, it was principally my task to dismantle the elaborate and legally sanctified edifice of a shackled press, which was one of the most hated aspects of the Emergency. This book describes, at considerable length, the sad saga of the Emergency and the thrilling tale of the triumph of democracy. It also demonstrates how the Congress leadership tried to destroy the basic structure of the Constitution, a wrongdoing which the party has never honestly debated or apologised for. This is not surprising since the culture of dynastic rule in the Congress leaves no scope for introspection and self-correction on the many blunders committed by the Nehru-Gandhi family, for which India continues to pay a heavy price. Indeed, dynasticism is now part of the ‘basic structure’ of the Congress.

In the post-Emergency era, I was called upon to lead my party at a time when Indian politics witnessed three other important developments. Firstly, in spite of the menacingly huge majority that the Congress government enjoyed in Parliament, it meekly surrendered, in 1986, to the politics of minority appeasement in the Shah Bano controversy. The case, in which Rajiv Gandhi’s government legislatively annulled the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of a sixty-two-year-old widow’s right to alimony from her former husband, became a milestone in the Muslim women’s search for gender justice. Secondly, the leadership of the government disgraced itself, and was defeated in the 1989 parliamentary elections, due to its involvement in the Bofors deal, India’s biggest defence corruption scandal. Lastly, a legitimate demand from the Hindus for the construction of a befitting temple for Lord Ram at his birthplace in Ayodhya was opposed by a set of pseudo-secular political parties, many of whose leaders privately saw merit in the demand but were afraid of saying so publicly for vote-bank considerations.

My party’s active participation in the movement for the reconstruction of the Ram temple soon snowballed into the largest mass movement in the history of independent India. The spectacular public response to my Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in September-October 1990 far exceeded my own expectations. Just as the struggle against the Emergency opened my eyes to the Indian people’s unfl inching faith in democracy, the Ayodhya movement opened my eyes to the deep-rooted infl uence of religion in the lives of Hindus of all castes and sects across the country. Recalling what Swami Vivekananda had said about the place of religion in India’s national life, I realised that if this religiosity were to be channelled in a positive direction, it could unleash tremendous energy for national reconstruction. The Ayodhya movement also brought to the fore people’s revulsion for pseudo-secularism, as practised by the Congress party, communists and some other parties, and projected my party, the BJP, as a spirited champion of genuine secularism.

This clash between pseudo-secularism and genuine secularism manifests in different ways even today, and forms one of the main themes of this book. I dare say that the future of India depends much on the outcome of this struggle.

Having said this, I also realise, with much pain in my heart, that the Ayodhya movement followed a course that I had not envisaged. In particular, the demolition of the Babri structure on 6 December 1992 was most regrettable. As I said on that very day, it was the saddest day of my life. Had the demolition not taken place, the Ayodhya movement, I am confident, would have progressed on healthier lines and reached a positive denouement, both fulfilling the Hindu demand and promoting communal harmony.

The Ayodhya movement catalysed a process of nationwide ideological churning that witnessed my party’s spectacular rise in India’s political history—and possibly in the history of any democratic country in the world. The BJP’s rise culminated in the formation, in March 1998, of the first truly non-Congress coalition government at the Centre—that of the NDA—under Atalji’s leadership. With a renewed mandate in 1999, that government served the nation with great dedication and distinction for six years. My own role as Atalji’s deputy in this government, with the specifi c charge of the Home Ministry, was highly gratifying to me. I feel proud of the NDA government’s various achievements especially in the fields of national security and national development. Some of them, such as the bold decision to make India a nuclear power and our sincere efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan in spite of the latter’s betrayal, will have a permanent place in our country’s history. History will record that India became a stronger, and a more self-confi dent nation, under Atalji’s visionary leadership. Understandably, a good part of this book is devoted to the triumphs and tribulations of our party’s six years in governance.

The unexpected defeat of the BJP-led NDA in the May 2004 parliamentary elections has brought a new challenge before my party. I have acknowledged in this book, my own share of responsibility for the setback. In retrospect, I feel that many things could have been done differently. These lapses made the vital difference between victory for the Congress and defeat for the BJP. And, numerically, what a narrow difference it really was!

Nevertheless, the BJP’s defeat cannot mask the truth about one of its most enduring achievements—namely, my party’s success in transforming India’s polity from being dominated by a single party to one that is now essentially bipolar. We do not claim that we have made it into a two-party system, but none can deny that it is now bipolar, with the BJP and the Congress as two principal poles around which India’s political constellations will confi gure and re-confi gure themselves. This book attempts to recount the story of how this was achieved and what its implications are for India’s democracy and development.

As I write this, my party has gone through a prolonged exercise of introspection since May 2004. Many lessons need to be learnt, and they are still being learnt. Many correctives need to be applied, and they are indeed being applied. Hopefully, readers will appreciate that I am not lacking in candour in refl ecting on this crucial development in my party’s, and my own political life. With honest introspection also comes self-confi dence. For, I have not the slightest doubt that, as it has done in the past, the BJP will bounce back again.

This optimism is based on several factors. Firstly, notwithstanding the current fragmentation of the polity in India, our democracy will always need two stable national parties to act as two distinct poles around which, other, smaller parties can coalesce. The BJP fulfi ls this need—as a national and nationalist party, as the torchbearer of India’s integral development and as a champion of good governance.

But there is another reason for my hope. Since 1951, when the Jana Sangh was born, our party has consciously evolved a culture of working together and towards a common goal. I am reminded here of a deeply gratifying incident that took place in 2003. Both Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Vice President of India at the time, and I, who was the Deputy Prime Minister, had gone to Prime Minister Vajpayee’s residence to greet him on his birthday on 25 December. We were photographed, with me standing behind the two of them seated. The following day, Dainik Jagaran, a widely circulated Hindi daily, carried not only that photograph, in colour, but, adjacent to it, another almost identical-looking photograph, in black-andwhite, showing the three of us in our youth. The latter photograph was, in fact, taken in Kota in Rajasthan in 1952, where those associated with the fledgling Jana Sangh had congregated for a meeting. The common caption for the two photographs in Dainik Jagaran was: ‘Working Together, For Over A Half-Century’. This long comradeship with Atalji and other colleagues in the party, as this book will describe, is a source of great pride and an invaluable treasure of my political life.

I fervently hope that leaders of my party at various levels—leaders of today as well as those of the future—will internalise this culture of camaraderie and safeguard the spirit of unity.

When I look back at India’s political journey over the past six decades, I feel deeply saddened by the heap of unrealised aspirations and unfulfi lled dreams of 1947. My moment of greatest agony, each year, is when I see two reports: Transparency International’s annual report which ranks countries on the basis of corruption index, in which India is always ranked high; and the United Nations’ annual report on the Human Development Index (HDI), which ranks India low amongst the most unsatisfactory performers. In spite of all the visible successes of our economy, our HDI position remains below that of over a hundred countries in the world, placing us, in respect of some developmental parameters, in the category of sub-Saharan countries in Africa. We have been unable to provide clean drinking water to hundreds of millions of our citizens; more than half of our population, both in urban as well as rural areas, is deprived of something as basic as a clean toilet; hunger still stalks the bodies of many of our brethren in rural and remote areas; and, as a consequence of all these deprivations, we have condemned our poor, most of whom also do not have good housing, to become vulnerable to eminently avoidable but often fatal diseases. What can be more shaming than to read that many infants in our tribal areas die of malnutrition? And what can be more shocking than the fact that several thousand of our distressed farmers have committed suicide in recent years? Social injustice and atrocities committed on women agitate my mind. The lost childhood of millions of our children, who are forced to toil when they ought to be playing and studying, saddens my heart. The squalor of our urban slums and the desolate look of many of our villages convince me, as they are sure to convince any thinking person, that something has gone seriously wrong with our development process.

True, our economy, in respect of some macro parameters, is booming like never before. Today’s high GDP growth rates are a far cry from the tardy economic progress in the era of the licence-permit-quota raj, which had stifl ed the entrepreneurial spirit of our people. But growth has to be much more than statistics that conceal more than they reveal. While it is technically true that the growth rate is nine per cent, this growth is far from being evenly distributed across geographical and demographic segments. The entire country is not growing at nine per cent. While a small section of urban India might be growing at twenty per cent or even more; the majority of India is still stuck at low digits, if it is even growing at all. The ‘trickle down’ theory is an iniquitous response to this dilemma, and unsustainable in a democracy, since the ‘have-nots’ who are waiting for the ‘trickle’ are seeing, plainly, that there is a waterfall among the ‘haves’. This is generating serious levels of confl ict across the country. Clearly, the time has come to take a hard relook at our economic policy. We must, in all honesty, ask ourselves: Why has it not delivered to India’s poor what it has delivered to India’s rich?

We are failing on other fronts as well. The Indian State still remains soft on the menace that terrorism, sponsored by anti-India forces abroad, poses to social peace and internal security. Many of our democratic institutions, including Parliament and the judiciary, are not living up to the expectations of our people. True, we have always had smooth and peaceful transfer of power after periodic elections. However, the electoral system itself has been debilitated by growing money and muscle power. Diversity is indeed our strength, but sometimes it is emphasised so onesidedly that it harms national unity and social harmony.

I have mentioned these contradictions and concerns because our desire to build a better India can only be fulfi lled if we develop the ability to address them. In this book, I have tried to present my thoughts on the formidable tasks ahead.

It will perhaps be obvious to the readers that my memoirs are not only about India’s past, but also about India’s future. While writing this book, I have often felt the compelling need to communicate to India’s youth—the young of the present and future generations. As I look ahead in the sixtieth year of our independence, the greatest reason to be optimistic about India’s future is our young population. Over sixty per cent of Indians—now 1.03 billion—are in the age group of below twenty-fi ve years. It is not just their numerical strength, but the power of their rising ambitions and enhanced abilities that make me feel confi dent that India will shine brighter in the coming decades of the twenty-first century. For, it is they who will build what we failed to build, it is they who will complete many of the tasks that we were unable to complete, and it is they who will add new chapters of accomplishment to the saga of India’s evolving history.

tructure of the book

Advani has categorised his life so far into five broad phases. The first phase of two decades spans the period from 1927 to 1947, which I spent in Sindh, mainly in Karachi. The second phase lasted one decade, from 1947 to 1957, when I worked in Rajasthan as a RSS pracharak and as an activist of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. This phase grounded me in public life and politics. It also steeled my resolve to live a spartan and disciplined life that is dedicated to the ideology and idealism of my organisation. The third phase lasted two decades, from 1957 to 1977. It began with my being asked, by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, the main ideologue, guide and organiser of the Jana Sangh, to shift my base to Delhi and work as a political aide to Atalji, who had just been elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. It is during these two decades that I gained advanced experience in political organisation, political strategy and leadership.

I see the fourth phase, from 1977 to 1997, as a continuation of the previous one, in so far as these two decades placed greater political and organisational responsibilities on me in the national capital. It was also the phase that saw many dramatic developments in Indian politics. The fi fth phase traces the decade from 1997 to 2007. This was the time when I had to shoulder a major responsibility in governance. This experience helped me gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities before an India in rapid transition. I also narrate here my memorable visit to Pakistan in 2005 and refl ect upon its unexpected political fallout. The fifth phase brings this book to a close, but my active involvement in India’s political journey will continue. As a disciplined soldier of my party, I shall dutifully carry out whatever responsibilities are entrusted to me. Duty, Dedication and Discipline—these are the three principles that I learnt before I started my life as a political activist, and I shall continue to be guided by them.

An autobiography is as much a communication with oneself as it is with the reader. I am, therefore, all too aware of my limitations and weaknesses. I am aware also of the mistakes I have committed in life. This book will make no attempt to gloss over them. Readers may agree or disagree with my perception and analyses of events and issues. It is their inalienable right. However, they will find a writer who is honest with them and with himself.

I have known from my own long association with books that, once written and published, a book belongs as much to the reader as to its author. Hence, if this work succeeds in communicating something meaningful to the reader, I will have the satisfaction that publishing it was indeed a worthwhile exercise.

Islamic Extremism And Its Ideological Support To Terror

Why was India targeted—and is still being targeted—by this vicious and religiously inspired campaign of terrorism? What are the ideological roots of terrorism in India? Unless these questions are squarely put and honestly answered, we can neither understand the phenomenon of terrorism nor succeed in combating it. I agree with all right-minded people that no religion should be denigrated, and no religious community should be typecast, by pasting the label of terrorism on them. All religions at their core, preach peace and brotherhood, and urge its adherents to follow the path of righteousness. No faith condones the killing of innocent persons and, therefore, terrorists have no religion. Nevertheless, it is also an irrefutable fact that one of the most virulent forms of terrorism in our times seeks the cover of Islam. It calls its murderous campaign ‘jihad’, thereby trying to justify itself in the eyes of pious God-fearing Muslims. Terrorists, inspired by the distorted and self-serving interpretation of jihad, actually pursue a defi nite objective: to establish worldwide domination of political Islam, which is also called ‘Islamism’. Naturally, India’s multi-faith society, the constitutional principle of secularism that has anchored the Indian state, and the cultural-spiritual ethos of Hinduism that have defi ned the character of both the Indian society and state, are anathema to Islamism.

Hence, the ideological basis of terrorism in India has been unmistakably anti-national in its intent and pan-Islamic in its appeal. It is the manifestation of a deeper malaise of the spread of extremism in most parts of the Muslim world, funded as it is by fundamentalist groups based mainly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. As in Pakistan and other Islamic countries, these groups are targeting madarasas for indoctrination of young impressionable minds. There has been large-scale mushrooming of madarasas, particularly, but not exclusively, in India’s border areas in the past two decades. Quite a few of them have been extensively misused for subversive and terrorist activities. They preach intolerance and bigotry. Saudi-funded organisations owing allegiance to ideologies like that of Ahle Hadis are known to propagate Wahabism (see footnote on page 22), an extreme form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, which does not even tolerate the Sufi and native infl uences on Islam in India. For example, the kind of syncretic Islam that I have seen in my childhood in Sindh, would be maligned as anti-Islamic by the Wahabis and sought to be violently weeded out.

Before 1998, I had a general idea about the activities of various radical Muslim organisations in India that were guided by an extremist agenda. But even I was shocked by what I learnt about them, and their links with extremist groups internationally, during my six years in the Home Ministry. For example, the footprints of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) could be seen in the terrorist activities and communal riots in many parts of India. Intelligence agencies brought to me, year after year, incontrovertible information about SIMI’s links with pan- Islamic extremist groups abroad. Safdar Nagouri, its General Secretary asserted that ‘Osama bin Laden is not a terrorist and neither is Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India.’ Its official publication Islamic Movement in July 2001 insisted: ‘The ideologies of democracy, secularism and nationalism have replaced the objects of worship of the past. It is our duty to demolish these ideologies and establish the Caliphate as enjoined upon us by Allah.’

Fazlur Rehman Khalil, General Secretary of HuM, exhorted his cadres in September 2000: ‘We are fi ghting not only for Kashmir but to hoist our fl ag in New Delhi. Our war will continue till restoration of the Muslim rule in India.’ Organisations like LeT have never hidden their conviction that the ‘jihad’ in Jammu & Kashmir is ‘not a battle over territory, but a part of an irreducible conflict between Islam and kafirs’. Supported by Pakistan’s ISI and inspired by Osama bin Laden, it proclaims its ultimate aim to be ‘creation of a Caliphate to rule over all the world’s Muslims’, and asserts that a ‘jihad-without-end must continue until Islam, as a way of life, dominates the whole world and until Allah’s law is enforced everywhere in the world’. It views Indian rule in Jammu & Kashmir as necessarily evil and oppressive. According to LeT’s founder Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, ‘The Hindu is a mean enemy and the proper way to deal with him is the one adopted by our forefathers, who crushed them by force.’

Pakistan’s support to these organisations was central to the growth, sustenance and survival of terrorist outfi ts operating in India... Simply put, the challenge that was hurled at the Indian Republic was dire. Mass-killing of innocent citizens and security personnel, infi ltration across the borders, driving away Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir and parts of Jammu as an integral element in the secessionist movement, systematic propagation of anti-India sentiments in the garb of foreignfunded religious preaching, fomenting communal tension and violence, hijacking, arms smuggling, infusion of counterfeit currency…and the attack on Parliament. Which self-respecting nation would tolerate all this meekly? Which democratic government, worth its salt, could keep quiet?

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