FARCICAL ‘FRONTS’
Desi coalitions of convenience
UNDOUBTEDLY they have more than four letters but in the Indian political lexicon terms like “fronts, alliances, coalitions etc” have come to be deemed near-invective. Mamata Banerjee is fully entitled to her edition of a political pipedream, maybe with a bit more luck than she had during the Presidential poll she might cobble up a “federal front”, but few would give it more chances of remaining intact longer than the National Front and United Front. Before them the Janata Party had unravelled and thereafter neither the National Democratic Alliance nor the present United Progressive Alliance have held the flock together. The root of the parting of ways is that it takes more than the theory that “your enemy&’s enemy is your friend” to provide political cement ~ cynics would point to the CBI presently doing that job pretty well for the Sonia-Manmohan entity. Negative sentiments have been at the core of all coalitions at the Centre and states, but keeping somebody “out” does not guarantee remaining “in”. Mamata herself broke ties with the UPA and NDA too, Nitish Kumar is on the verge of ending his pact with the BJP, as Naveen Patnaik did earlier. Sure their governments could squeeze more out of New Delhi when bargaining collectively: yet is difficult to perceive any ideological underpinning that would project them in light positive enough to attract other regional parties to secure a working majority in the Lok Sabha ~ provided, of course, they get together in the first place. It must be remembered that the seeds of a federal front had been sown when stiff resistance was mounted to the National Counter Terrorism Centre that was perceived as the Centre encroaching on the rights of the states ~ the BJP was in the forefront of that resistance so no platform for a “third front” was erected.
History will confirm that coalitions have come unstuck for a variety of reasons: Charan Singh raised “dual membership”, for the BJP it was “Mandal versus Mandir”, two Haryana constables near 10 Janpath sent Chandra Sekhar rushing to Rashtrapati Bhawan with his resignation, Sita Ram Kesri suddenly decided he did not like the look on HD Deve Gowda&’s face and followed that up by singing IK Gujral&’s beard ~ hardly a record of principled parting of ways. Actually there was no principled coming together to start with. Mamata will have to reach out to both the north and the south to get her show on the road. Most regional parties are personality-propelled, and without even raising gender issues a “cast” of Mamata, Jayalalitha and Mayawati would seem mind-boggling.

GANGRAPE AND MURDER
The pattern from Delhi to Barasat
TWO months prior to the 2011 Assembly elections, a young man was done to death in Barasat, headquarters of West Bengal&’s North 24-Parganas district, for trying to save his sister from the clutches of eve-teasers. A month before the farcical first round of the panchayat elections, a college student has been gangraped and murdered. And yet what occasions astonishment is that beyond the district and Kolkata, the crime has caused no ripples, not to mention a public outcry as did the incident in Delhi on 16 December last year. Yet the nature of the crime, the number of suspects and the eventual tragedy are not dissimilar. Between Barasat, Burnpur and Barrackpore, any explanatory note that must substantiate the latest crime-graph will point to a degree of lawlessness that verges on anarchy. In February 2011, the police were almost calculatedly inactive; the guards at the DM&’s bungalow ~ in the vicinity of the crime ~ cited the  issue  of jurisdiction for their masterly inactivity. In June 2013, the arrests were admittedly prompt and swift, but the response doesn’t quite justify the words of praise from a very senior officer ~ “This time the police have acted quite fast, and nobody can complain of inaction.” This isn’t the moment for a convoluted exercise in self-deception. The almost spontaneous protest demonstrations by the women of Barasat makes it more than obvious that this is one of the worst administered district headquarters  in terms of law and order.
From one political dispensation to another, the surge in crimes against women ~ even in the vicinity of the railway station and the kutchery ~ has assumed almost chilling proportions. And this may just be a manifestation of the overall malaise. The police may only have done its duty by making the arrests with urgent despatch and for once, at the prodding of the Chief Minister. But the force has been pretty much helpless in confronting the crime den that is Barasat today ~ in a little over two years, no fewer than 14 cases of eve-teasing and molestation have reportedly been registered in the town&’s police stations. This is more than double that of the other semi-urban areas of the district, incidentally bordering Bangladesh.  Not wholly unrelated to the increase in crime are the hooch dens that have mushroomed across the town. Basic policing appears to have collapsed; there is little or no patrolling in the vulnerable parts of the district headquarters. The commissionerate system has come a cropper.

UNENDING DISPUTES
Must inter-state borders remain tense
SOMETHING needs to be done, and fast, to ease Assam-Nagaland border tensions, the result of the 23 May incident in which two Adivasi youth were abducted by Naga miscreants for allegedly intruding into their territory and the killing on 3 June of an Assamese villager in an exchange of firing. Even as the blockade of the main highway to Mokokchung by the Naga apex body, Ao Senden ~ in protest against ill-treatment of Nagas in the plains ~ is on since 28 May, Kohima is reportedly trying to set up armed police posts for security of its people, asserting that not a single inch of its land will go unprotected. Adamant postures by both sides have so far precluded any immediate solution. Nagaland alleges that Assam has violated the 1972 interim border agreement by setting up as many as 44 police posts. As per this accord the disputed areas were to be put under a neutral force. But if it is being observed more in breach, then it is better to do away with it and come out with a workable solution.
Since occasional border skirmishes, however minor, along Assam&’s borders with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya, hold grave warning of serious conflicts, the disputant states must be ready to display a sense of realism by way of give and take, considering that all of them were once part of undivided Assam. One expects the Supreme Court-appointed inter-state boundary commission to speed up its report. It is to be hoped that false prestige of disputant states will not stand in the way of accepting it.