The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
ROBERT MacNEIL: Good evening. After a few days of quiet, the Persian Gulf crisis flared up again today. Iraq claimed it attacked another ship near Iran's oil port. Israel's defense minister criticized U.S. missile sales to Saudi Arabia. The last big solar eclipse of the century darkened skies across much of the U.S. President Reagan predicted dazzling benefits from the space program. Jim?
JIM LEHRER: Our major segments on the Hour tonight include a report on why there is still no new immigration law and debate over whether that's a good or a bad thing. An expert on India will explain why India is exploding with religious unrest and violence. A. C. Greene of Texas reviews Stephen Harrigan's new novel of Texas, Jacob's Well. And Kwame Holman reports from Kansas on a special effort to build a special Vietnam War memorial.
MacNEIL: The sun went out for a time today as Americans experienced the last big solar eclipse of the 20th century. Residents of all mainland states except Alaska could see at least a partial eclipse as the moon passed between the sun and the earth. But the effect was almost total in a strip of the southeastern United States. There skies darkened, temperatures fell as much as 14 degrees in 90 minutes, cows in pastures prepared to go to sleep, and street lights came on. Scientists from many parts of the world gathered at observatories and vantage points to use the rare opportunity to maximum advantage. In Atlanta the lights began going on in the office buildings at noon time. As pedestrians gazed up at the sky the street lights were turned on by automatic controls reacting to the twilight. And the passing motorists switched on their headlights. The eclipse reached its fullest at 12:23 p.m., and this is how it looked. Because of their positions in the sky, the moon appeared to be a tiny bit smaller than the sun behind it, and because of the mountains and valleys on the surface of the moon, the light did not form a true ring, but shown between the peaks, giving the appearance of bright beads. On the Georgia Tech campus a group of students placed six chickens outdoors to see how they'd react, and as darkness fell, the chickens fell asleep for a short midday nap. Like the eclipse, it lasted less than a minute.
For millions of Americans the view of the eclipse was ruined by bad weather and the storms that have caused flooding and death this week from Oklahoma to Massachusetts. A total of 17 people have died, including the 13 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Sunday. The storm system dropped record amounts of rain and was followed by record cold temperatures in many areas of the East. By contrast, temperatures heading back into the 90s speeded up the melting of the snowpack in the Rockies, bringing a renewed threat of flooding and mudslides.
LEHRER: Iraq attacked another ship in the Persian Gulf today. The Iraqis said the attack was successful, but a spokesman in Baghdad identified the ship only as a big naval target located south of Kharg Island, Iran's major oil terminal in the Gulf. There was no immediate response from Iran militarily or otherwise. At the United Nations Security Council the United States pleaded for an easing of tension in the Gulf.
And the Gulf conflict was also on the minds of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens and U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger today. The two met for 30 minutes at the Pentagon and, by all reports, agreed to disagree over the U.S. decision to send Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Saudi Arabia. Weinberger and President Reagan say the weapons are needed to help the Saudis defend ships and facilities from possible Iranian air attacks. Arens expressed the fear they might fall into the hands of terrorists, and at a Washington news conference later Arens said the Stingers would do nothing to improve the situation in the Persian Gulf.
MOSHE ARENS, Israeli Defense Minister: It is difficult to understand how the very short-range, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles like the Stingers could have any impact of significance for the problems as they exist in the area. Our concern is that these missiles could fall into the hands of terrorist groups and might be used against civilian aircraft, which would be something that would be dangerous to us, but not only to us in Israel. The Iraq-Iranian war has been going on now for close to four years, and it doesn't look like the Saudis have been in any way effective in dampening that conflict, even though they have absorbed a very significant quantity of very advanced equipment. And that seems to be an indication that they don't have the capability or the desire, or maybe the motivation to use that equipment in order to put an end to that war.
LEHRER: In Israel there's more news about the investigation into the deaths of two Arabs who hijacked a bus. The Arabs were reportedly beaten to death by Israeli soldiers after they were captured. Israeli political sources say a senior military officer is involved in the deaths. Opposition politicians are demanding a full investigation.
MacNEIL: The United States racked up another record trade deficit in April as the value of imports exceeded exports by $12.2 billion. The Commerce Department increased its projections for the total 1984 deficit to $130 billion, nearly twice last year's $69.4 billion. Analysts said the high value of the U.S. dollar limited the sales of U.S. goods abroad, but that American businesses were taking advantage of the strong dollar to restock their warehouses with imports.
In other economic news, Bolivia, citing its own trade deficit, said it would stop payments on its $3.9-billion foreign debt for four years. The creditors who will not be paid include the Bank of America. Bank analysts in this country said they didn't believe Bolivia's action would cause other debtor nations to follow suit.
Wall Street saw another day of sinking share values today, but a sudden rally turned things around at the end. It was due to a report that Iran is discounting the price of crude oil. The Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks closed up 1.35 points, at 1102.59.
LEHRER: The U.S. Supreme Court today provided an update to a major story we did two months ago. It involves Hawaii and a 1967 state reform plan which allowed the state to force large landowners to sell their property to alleviate the state's land and housing shortage. Challenged for years in the courts, an appeals court had finally overturned the plan, so the state of Hawaii took it to the Supreme Court. And today the Court ruled in the state's favor in an eight-to-zero unanimous decision. It means the state can force the sale of the land under a plan Justice Sandra O'Connor, writing for the Court, said attacked the perceived evils of concentrated property ownership.
MacNEIL: While the solar eclipse was underway, President Reagan was delivering the commencement address at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and talking about the space program. He claimed great benefits would result from decisions made by his administration.
Pres. RONALD REAGAN: Your generation stands on the verge of greater advances than humankind has ever known. America's future will be determined by your dreams and your visions. And nowhere is this more true than America's next frontier -- the vast frontier of space. Our goals are ambitious and yet achievable. They include a permanently manned presence in space for scientific, commercial and industrial purposes. Increased international cooperation in civil space activities, expanded private investment and involvement, cost-effective access to space with the shuttle and strengthened security and capability to maintain the peace. The benefits to be reaped from our work in space literally dazzle the imagination, and our freedom and well-being will be tied to new achievements and pushing back new frontiers. That's the challenge to the class of '84.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, you are dismissed.
MacNEIL: After the speech the President went back to Washington. His two-day trip to Colorado was paid for by hisre-election campaign committee, meaning the White House considered it political. Jim? Immigration: Political Hot Potato
LEHRER: For two years now the Congress has been fighting and fidgeting about Simpson-Mazzoli. Simpson is Alan Simpson, a Republican senator from Wyoming. Mazzoli is Romano Mazzoli, a Democratic congressman from Kentucky. Together they wrote a law they said would finally move towards solving this country's gigantic immigration problem, a problem that centers on the untold millions of people who come here illegally each year to join the untold millions already here illegally. But Simpson-Mazzoli is not the law of the land. Correspondent June Massell on special assignment for us has this report on why.
RICHARD FAJARDO, attorney: It's obviously an important issue for the hispanic community, and it's obviously something that we are looking to as kind of the test of who is with us and who is not, you know, for the hispanic community. How people deal with immigration will also be viewed by many hispanics as how they're going to deal with the hispanic community.
JUNE MASSELL [voice-over]: What makes Simpson-Mazzoli so controversial is a provision calling for employer sanctions, a provision that would make it illegal for any employer to hire an illegal immigrant. But critics of the bill feel that will encourage discrimination by making ethnic-looking people a suspect class. While the bill doesn't target hispanics, many Hispanic-Americans argue they will be discriminated against the most because the perception is that most illegal immigrants are hispanic. Congressman Ed Roybal is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
EDWARD ROYBAL, (D) California: The employer who does not want to get involved will just say to himself, "I will not inteview anyone who may look hispanic or who may have a foreign accent, or who may not be blond and blue-eyed."
MASSELL [voice-over]: Organized labor argues the reverse -- that without sanctions it is the American worker who is hurt.
JACK OTERO, AFL-CIO: We have more than 12 to 15 million people in the United States today who are illegal, who are taking jobs away from American citizens and from legal residence in the United States. And the problem is going to get worse, not better, unless we act and we act now.
MASSELL [voice-over]: But acting on Simpson-Mazzoli becomes further complicated when you talk about enforcing employer sanctions. The bill proposes an identification system that would enable employers to verify that someone is eligible for work. Opponents fear that eventually that could lead to a national I.D. card that people would have to carry around with them at all times.
Rep. ROYBAL: A national identification system is against the best interests of this country. We are a free nation, and we should not be subjected to the indignity of having to carry with us a dog tag using that dog tag throughout the 24 hours of the day.
Mr. OTERO: All we are saying is that if you want a job you should have a card that says to the employer, "I am eligible for that job, because I am a resident of the United States legally residing here, or I am a United States citizen." I think that the claims that have been made about this card becoming something sinister or something unwanted are really exaggerated and far-fetched.
MASSELL [voice-over]: Because employer sanctions are so controversial and because so many hispanic leaders so vehemently oppose them, the sponsors of the bill put in an amnesty clause to sweeten the deal. It would legalize all illegals who were in the country as of 1980 or 1982, depending which date Congress ultimately chooses.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, political scientist: So what we have here is a bill that involves a sweetener for the hispanic community with the amnesty provision, and a sweetener for the labor community with the tough employer sanction provision; also sweeteners that please liberals more one side and please conservatives more on the other. So you'd think it would be a very good bill. The only problem is that the sweetener for the hispanics in their view was simply not enough.
MASSELL [voice-over]: A few years ago that might not have mattered. The hispanic lobby would have been no match for organized labor. But today hispanics are the second largest minority in the country. What's more, they're organizing and registering to vote. And that all adds up to a major political force that has to be reckoned with, and in states with large concentrations of Hispanic-Americans such as Texas and California, congressmen who side with labor on the Simpson-Mazzoli run the risk of loosing elections. In an effort to keep the pressure on Congress, hispanic interest groups repeatedly make their case before congressional subcommittees.
Mr. FAJARDO: We are emphatically opposed and always have been opposed to the Simpson-Mazzoli bill as a whole. There are a lot of problems inherent in that program, including the discriminatory impact of employer sanctions.
MASSELL [voice-over]: So far hispanics have been very successful in blocking the legislation. In 1982 the Congressional Hispanic Caucus killed the bill by offering hundreds of amendments and another alternative altogether. In 1983 they convinced the Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, to pull the bill from consideration, causing a big brouhaha on the floor.
Rep. DAN LUNGREN, (R) California [October 5, 1983]: Mr. Speaker, your announced refusal to allow consideration of the immigration bill does a disservice to my constituents, to my part of the country and to the entire nation.
MASSELL [voice-over]: The Speaker took a lot of flak for pulling the bill, so he later reversed himself, promising to bring it to a vote in 1984. But once again the hispanics flexed their muscle, this time in another arena -- presidential politics. They turned Simpson-Mazzoli into a major campaign theme during the Texas and California primaries. Not wanting to alienate hispanic voters, all three Democratic candidates took a firm stand against employer sanctions and against Simpson-Mazzoli.
WALTER MONDALE, Democratic presidential candidate [May 3, 1983]: This'll be a horror for the hispanics who live in this country, and they deserve better from us. And if I'm president they're going to get it.
Rev. JESSE JACKSON, Democratic presidential candidate [May 3, 1984]: The idea of Americans walking around with their passbooks in their pockets as if this were South Africa is abhorrent and distasteful.
Sen. GARY HART, Democratic presidential candidate [May 3, 1984]: Certainly an employer sanction provision which invites discrimination at the outset is totally unacceptable. As president of the United States it'll be my commitment not to allow that legislation to pass in its present form.
MASSELL [voice-over]: Having support from the presidential candidates gave the hispanic leadership even more clout on Capitol Hill. The bill was expected to reach the House floor in early May, but Mondale prevailed upon Speaker O'Neill to delay yet again, until June, after the California primary.
Rep. ROYBAL: Those who are running in California would not like to be on record as having voted for or against the bill before the primaries.
MASSELL [voice-over]: But the Democratic House can only delay for so long without appearing irresponsible. What was politically expedient during the primary season may become a liability once the primaries are over, especially since President Reagan has generally favored Simpson-Mazzoli.
Pres. REAGAN [October 19, 1983]: I am going to try and get, and have been supportive of, an immigration -- some immigration legislation for a long time.
MASSELL [voice-over]: Some observers feel if the Democrats don't act before November the President will use the immigration issue as campaign ammunition.
Mr. ORNSTEIN: At this point, however, the worst thing they can do, I think, is not to bring a bill up.If they don't bring a bill up, then President Reagan's going to get out there saying, "This is one of the hot issues of the 1980s and beyond, and they don't even want to face it.What kind of a Congress is this?" That's the worst of all possible worlds.
LEHRER: That report was by June Massell. Now to the question of what now, is it going to pass now, and does it really matter one way or another other than politics, Congressman Edward Roybal, Democrat of California is with us. He was founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and, as we saw in the tape, is an opponent of Simpson-Mazzoli. On the other side, Congressman Dan Lungren, Republican of California, ranking minority member of the House Immigration Subcommittee and, as we also saw on the tape, he's a major supporter of the bill.
Congressman Lungren, from your point of view, from a political standpoint, is Norman Ornstein right when he says, "Well, if the Democrats don't do anything before November, you and the other Republicans, President Reagan included, are going to beat the Democrats on it -- beat up on the Democrats on it?"
Rep. DAN LUNGREN: Well, I think it's the only way it can be a political issue. My fear all along in dealing with this bill -- last Congress and this Congress -- was that if you get it close to the presidential election time it then becomes partisan. And I had hoped we were going to avoid that. But now if Tip O'Neill and Mr. Roybal and some others want to make sure that we don't get any legislation and we maintain the status quo, I think Republicans would be wrong not to bring it up as an indication that the House of Representatives will not act on a tough, tough question. It's not an easy question. Never said it was.No one contends it is. But if the House of Representatives, the people's house, doesn't have the guts to deal with this issue, then something is seriously wrong with that as an institution.
LEHRER: Is the House going to deal with it before November?
Rep. ROYBAL: Well, it all depends. What we're trying to do at the moment is to get, first of all, the Democratic caucus so that we can tell the members of the House just what is in that bill. Most of the members of the House of Representatives do not really know what's in that legislation.
LEHRER: How can that be after two years, Congressman?
Rep. ROYBAL: Well, there are a lot of pieces of legislation that we don't know all of the dots and the commas and so forth. In this particular instance it is assumed by most that the only two things in the legislation is sanctions and amnesty. The truth of the matter is that this is a bill that is not immigration reform. It is a bill that has in it various othermatters that do not deal directly with immigration.
LEHRER: Well, is it going to continue to be your strategy and the strategy of others who are opposed to it to do the same thing you've done in the past, which is to try to amend it, put in alternatives and to kill this thing?
Rep. ROYBAL: Our objective, first of all, is to try to get that bill back to the committee of origin to see to it that a new piece of immigration reform is drafted.
LEHRER: Congressman Lungren, does that mean death to the bill?
Rep. LUNGREN: Oh, that's going to kill it. The interesting thing is Ed introduced his alternative, but he didn't introduce his alternative until almost 12 months after we'd passed ours out of the full committee. This has not just been two years. This is the fourth year of serious hard work, activity by both committees of the House and the Senate. It was preceded by a select commission set up by Jimmy Carter that had bipartisan participation. It was preceded by the Ford administration and, before that, the Nixon administration looking at it. So at some point in time you gotta fish or cut bait. It just doesn't make sense to do that.
LEHRER: Congressman Roybal says that time's not here yet because most members of Congress don't even understand what's in this thing.
Rep. LUNGREN: Well, that's a terrible indictment over most members of Congress. I would suggest that most members of Congress know more about this bill than perhaps they would want to in comparison to other bills.
Rep. ROYBAL: Well, if you compare it with other bills, of course, they may know just a little bit more, but the truth of the matter is that while this has been discussed over, let's say, a period of three years, it is the same old objectionable bill that has been discussed, a bill that has been drafted for the sole purpose of benefiting the agriculture interests of this nation. You have a guest program in that bill; you have an H-2 program in that bill --
Rep. ROYBAL: H-2 is a program that makes it possible to bring as many as you possibly can to the United States to cultivate perishable products. Now, the problem with that is that in one instance Simpson-Mazzoli says, "We want to control illegal aliens from coming in," and in the other instance you also bring in people to the United States without any controls whatsoever.
LEHRER: Is that a legitimate complaint, Congressman?
Rep. LUNGREN: No, not at all because, if you'll look at the history of the United States and Mexico, you can see from at least 1880 we have had transient labor, labor coming across from Mexico to the United States. The question is, are we going to control it or is it going to be uncontrolled? We have no control over it at the present time. We had over a million apprehensions on the southern border last year. Between two and four million successful illegal entires. Now, that's a crisis.
LEHRER: There is no debate about that, is there, Congressman Roybal?
Rep. ROYBAL: Oh, there's no doubt there's a crisis, no doubt that we need immigration reform. The only thing we're saying is that Simpson-Mazzoli is not immigration reform. You have a national identification system, you have a provision where the Department of Immigration can deputize local police to help them in the round-ups and do their job. That is a police state. We are objecting to these things because they are not immigration reform. We would like to see immigration reform, and drafted properly. If they want the bracero program, let them do the same thing that they did during the war -- deal with Mexico on that subject matter.
LEHRER: You've been shaking your head throughout Congressman Roybal's remarks. Why?
Rep. LUNGREN: We don't open up the borders to have some -- to allow as many people to come in as want to. It would be under the control of the federal government. That's number one. And number two, it's not just to take care of agriculture's problems. If you talk to agriculture, they're not satisfied completely with this bill. Number three, if you really lool at it, what we're doing now by saying let's go back to committee is killing effective legislation. This is not the same tired old bill. This is the product of bipartisan effort with a previous administration, Democrat, and a present administration, Republican, people on both sides. Father Ted Hesburgh, chairman of the commission, who is known as a great civil libertarian, who supports this bill strongly and was the major impetus in getting it to the floor, to the Congress.
LEHRER: Is it your position or your feeling, based on anything, Congressman Lungren, that if there was a vote on it between now and November it would pass the House of Representatives?
Rep. LUNGREN: I think it's a very close vote right now. I would tell you this. If we had voted on it 2 1/2 months ago or two months ago, I think it would have passed. We are now in the dangerous funny season of presidential primaries. We've had all three Democratic presidential candidates, those who want to sit across from the table of Mr. Chernenko and save the Western world, afraid of upsetting Ed Roybal, so they've taken positions against it.
LEHRER: That's all right with you, right?
Rep. ROYBAL: Yeah, it's all right with me. But the truth of the matter is that the vote was not taken two months or 2 1/2 months ago. It's going to be taken perhaps in the next few weeks. And at that time we have to look at the bill for what it really is. It is not immigration reform. We want immigration reform, and we want it done the proper way.
LEHRER: You must be pretty pleased just politically at your clout, this new clout of the hispanic vote, are you not?
Rep. ROYBAL: No, it isn't my clout. It isn't my clout at all. It is the ineffectiveness, the inefficiency, what you find in the bill that is clout. People don't want national identification systems. They don't want police states. They don't want, for example, to do away with the two preferences, the second preference and the fifth preference. That is done away with --
LEHRER: I don't understand what that means.
Rep. ROYBAL: Well, the second preference, for an example, anyone who is here legally can bring in, under the second preference, bring in their parents.
LEHRER: Parents, that's right.
Rep. ROYBAL: Under the fifth preference they can bring in their adult children. Well, that is out of the bill. Now, in fairness to the Mazzoli side, I'm talking about Simpson-Mazzoli. The Mazzoli bill is better than the Simpson bill, but the Mazzoli bill is not good enough.
Rep. LUNGREN: Could I just comment on that?
Rep. LUNGREN: There is no national I.D. card in there. We specifically say any means of identification cannot be used for anything other than at the time that you seek employment. There is no specific I.D. card. The police state --
Rep. LUNGREN: But there is.
Rep. LUNGREN: No, there's --
Rep. ROYBAL: There is in the Senate version.
Rep. LUNGREN: The police state -- there is no grant of authority to local and state governments. Thirdly, as Ed just kind of slipped in there at the end, the bill in the House does nothing with respect to preferences whatsoever. It does zero, nothing. It doesn't touch it. We don't even affect that area. So we have to respond to criticisms on a bill that is not the bill that Ed is talking about.
Rep. ROYBAL: A bill that has already passed. You see, the Simpson version has already passed the Senate. Only 17 senators voted against it. It seems to me --
Rep. LUNGREN: Passed twice, in fact. Passed the Senate by overwhelming numbers.
Rep. ROYBAL: When they go to conference the Senate's not going to back away from that. They're going to insist on the things that they passed, and they have these objectionable things in their bill. The registration matter, the national registration matter is in the Simpson bill.
LEHRER: Well, so that's the reason you all seem to be talking about two different bills.
Rep. ROYBAL: No, we're talking about the same bill. It's still Simpson-Mazzoli.
Rep. LUNGREN: There's two forms, that's right.There are two forms, but both the Senate and the House version I would argue very strenuously, do not have national I.D. cards, and when we talk here about hispanics --
LEHRER: But there is -- excuse me, Congressman, there is going to be a card that a worker would have to have in order to work, right?
Rep. LUNGREN: No. I'll tell you. What the bill -- what the bill says right now is you have to show at least two pieces of identification. We say that they can be taken from about five different ones -- your birth certificate, your Social Security card, your driver's license, your green card, your passport, etc. You have to show two of them. When you show up to work you show those two documents. The employer looks at them. If on their face they look valid he then signs a sheet of paper saying that, "I viewed them and on their face they appear valid." He puts that into your personnel file. You then sign a piece of paper saying, under penalty of perjury, "I have a legal right to be in the United States." Those two documents form an affirmative defense if there's any prosecution brought.
LEHRER: Clearly we're not going to resolve this, but in one word, do you expect a vote between now and November, Congressman Roybal, in the House?
Rep. ROYBAL: Well, may I say that I hope there'll not be a vote between now and November. However, if we do come back in a lame duck session, the possibilities of a vote are very good.
LEHRER: Congressman, what's your prediction?
Rep. LUNGREN: It depends on how successful Mr. Roybal is in getting the Democratic caucus to throw this back to committee and kill it. I hope we'll do something on it.
LEHRER: If you don't, you predict it will be a big political issue in November?
Rep. LUNGREN: It ought to be.
LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you both. Robin?
MacNEIL: A team of scientists announced today that chicken pox, the last of the major childhood diseases, may soon go the way of measles, mumps, smallpox and polio, thanks to a new vaccine. At a press conference in New York researchers from Merke Laboratories and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reported that the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing chicken pox in a test on 500 children. While chicken pox is a relatively mild infection in most people, it still causes 60 to 100 deaths a year, and it's highly contagious. Over 90% of the adult population has suffered from the rashes and fever associated with the disease, and about 10% of people who've had chicken pox later in life develop shingles, a painful skin condition caused by the same virus.The researchers said more tests are needed before the vaccine, developed in Japan, is approved for widespread use here. They say the vaccine could be generally available within two years.
In another medical story doctors warn that young blacks should have regular screening for the eye disease glaucoma because they ran a far higher risk of getting it than whites. The American Academy of Ophthamology issued a health alert saying that glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve, had become the leading cause of blindness in blacks.
LEHRER: And, still ahead of us on the Hour tonight, a sifting through the religious violence that is tearing through India, a review of Stephen Harrigan's new novel Jacob's Well, and a report from Lawrence, Kansas on a drive to build a Vietnam War memorial.
[Video postcard -- Baton Rouge, Louisiana]
MacNEIL: For the first time in 27 years, rioting has broken out in Haiti, touched off by drought, food shortages and high prices. Today troops were patrolling the streets of CapHaitien and Gonaives, and two people were reported to have been killed when troops fired at the crowd. Civil disturbances have been rare in Haiti since Francois Duvalier became president in 1957, and have been almost unknown under the presidency of his son, JeanClaude. The rioting was said to have started in Gonaives when police clubbed civilians and at Cap-Haitien when people heard emergency supplies of food were being sold instead of distributed free.
In Panama, brawling broke out at the inauguration of the new president, Nicolo Sardito Barleta. Stones were thrown and there was some shooting. At least 50 people were injured, but none of them seriously hurt.
Jim? India: Religious Unrest
LEHRER: And there were more deaths reported in religious violence in India today. A local Hindu politician and two security policemen were among eight people who died in the northern state of Punjab. All were killed by gun or grenade fire, and brought the overall death total of 250 since the Sikhs began their struggle for political concessions from the government. This is in addition to the Hindu-Moslem violence in the southwestern state of Maharashtra, which has left another 230 dead. Charlayne Hunter-Gault takes the story from there. Charlayne?
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Indian government security officials are bracing for even more violence between Hindus and Moslems when the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins early in June. It's a bitter rivalry that runs deep in Indian history. In 1947 it forced the partition of the Indian subcontinent into predominantly Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan when the British granted independence. The trouble in India's north is different. There are Sikhs, a Hindu offshoot, and they are seeking political autonomy. Last fall Gavin Hewett of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filed a report on the Sikh protest, much of which remains relevant today.
GAVIN HEWITT, CBC [voice-over]: This is the Sikhs' Vatican, the golden temple of Amritsar -- a mansion of God covered with 220 pounds of gold. Inside, the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, are read continuously. They contain the writings of the gurus, and through them Sikhs believe the oneness of God is revealed. Beside the scriptures, the gurus' swords. Even the saints were soldiers; death was to be preferable to dishonorable living. Sikh history is bloody -- slaughter at the hands of the Persians, the Afghans and the Mogul invaders. That sense of betrayal, of persecution, of being a faith under threat continues.
Sant Jarnail Singh of Bhindranwale, a Sikh holy man, but also the recognized leader of the extremists.His trademark is violence. "I do not care about the police," he says, "we're prepared to fight them. We are all prepared to fight and die as martyrs." Sant Bhindranwale is a fundamentalist from the villages. What his supporters talk of is an independent Sikh state to be called Kalistan. Bhindranwale is more circumspect, but has said that if offered Kalistan he'll accept it. As the crisis with the government has deepened, it is this man whose support has grown. Surrounded by his heavily-armed retinue, he lives in a building adjacent to the Golden Temple, daring the authorities to enter a holy place to get him.
KHUSHWANT SINGH, Sikh historian: He's a curious phenomenon. He is really like a Khomeini of the Sikhs. It's a new thing. He was practically unknown about five years ago. There has been a kind of rise of fundamentalism amongst the Sikhs as it has been amongst other communities like the Moslems and the Hindus. He's both serious and dangerous. He is serious because he has now a large following amongst the younger generation of Sikhs and he's dangerous because what he's preaching is violence.
HEWITT [voice-over]: Each day Sant Bhindranwale holds court. Sometimes he expounds the scriptures. Sometimes he names the enemies of the faith. His critics say it's a hit list which is readily available on cassette.
SANT BHINDRANWALE, Sikh holy man [voice-over]: There are 16 or 17 men who are drinking the blood of Sikhs. Surjeet Singh Bains . . . Insp. Harjeet Singh . . . - Kair Singh . . . brother of Narak Dharia. They are killing the Sikhs.
HEWITT: To the Sikhs who come to the Golden Temple for food, Sant Bhindranwale is a holy man asserting the truths of the faith. Most Sikhs would say Sant Bhindranwale has made them more conscious of their identity. If he is an extremist, he is seen as being extreme in the face of injustice. The Sikhs depart for the daily ritual of courting arrest. Already over 120,000 Sikhs have spent time in prison.
[on camera] The Sikh protesters do have specific demands, like wanting the city of Chandigarh declared the exclusive state capital of the Punjab, a redrawing of boundaries that would give the Punjab a greater Sikh population. What these demands amount to is Sikhs trying to reassert their separate identity out of a fear of being absorbed by the Hindu majority. And these demands underline what is the central political issue in India today, namely, what is to be the balance of power between the states and central government?
[voice-over] The Sikh demands are dismissed as political sour grapes.
INDIRA GANDHI, Prime Minister of India: Basically they're unhappy that they lost the elections. January '77 to January '80, three full years, the Akali Dal was the government in Punjab. They had two ministers in the central government, they had their allies as the government in the three states which border Punjab. Why didn't they solve the problem then if it was so urgent for them?
HEWITT [voice-over]: Indira Gandhi towers over Indian politics. She represents continuity. If she is seen as autocratic, she is recognized as strong. But her handling of the Punjab crisis has baffled observers. Has she simply dithered? Has she lost that fierce political will that once aroused such strong passions? Or has she, as her critics allege, been playing politics with the Sikhs by tempting them to extremes so that their political organization would be discredited?
HUNTER-GAULT: For a view now of what's going on in India, we turn to James Traub, a freelance journalist who closely follows Indian affairs. Mr. Traub was the author of the book, India: The Challenge of Change. He recently spent four months traveling in India. Mr. Traub, what's your view of what's behind this violence now between the Sikhs and the Hindus? Is it political or is it religious or what?
JAMES TRAUB: Well, the terrifying thing to me is that here was a situation which could be described in political terms as of a year or two ago. Here was a group, a political body, this Akali Dal, a political party representing the Sikhs, which had presented a series of demands such as the ones that were just mentioned -- that Chandigarh be returned and so forth. And the entire process was worked out more or less through the political parties. Now, in the last several months there have been a series of attempts to negotiate these things. For example, the central government, Mrs. Gandhi, has conceded on some of these political demands, hoping that then the whole situation will quiet down. It's now gone far beyond that. It's now gotten to the point where the political aspect of it, which is carried out through the partisan process or the political process is vanished. So that when these demands are finally met the violence continues. It's now essentially a terrorist situation, which began with a series of political and religious and economic demands, all of these things mixed together, but has now gone completely out of control so that even some of the more radical people, such as the ones who were mentioned in this report, can no longer, I think, control their own followers who are now acting as absolutely independent agents, slaughtering people in a way which India has not seen in the 35 years of its independence.
HUNTER-GAULT: What accounts for the violence, the intensity of the violence, do you think?
Mr. TRAUB: Well, people like to adopt certain theories about India, and maybe they're true -- that Hinduism and possibly also all the religions of India breed a certain kind of passivity which suddenly erupts in terrible violence, and that may very well be true. I think an important thing in talking about the Sikhs, though, is this sense that for the last 300, 350 years the Sikhs have seen themselves all the time as a persecuted minority, and this is true throughout India. You have whole groups of people, tribal groups, religious groups, language groups, who see themselves as being profoundly persecuted either by the central government or by some other dominant group there, and who organize in, alas, increasingly violent ways. I think you can begin to chart this over the last several years the violence has increased, who organize to promote their demands and whose profound ideological passion makes them seek violence as a resort.
HUNTER-GAULT: But you think the reason the violence is so widespread now is it's just out of anybody's control?
Mr. TRAUB: Yes, I think at this point the terrifying thing to me is that India is a place which has potentially enormous, frightening, powerful energies, a country where people have been so poor for so long and suddenly is being modernized in some really fundamental ways, and people who once thought they had to be poor and accepted this idea that, "Oh, I and my son and grandson and so forth will be poor and will remain a fisherman," and so forth.These people suddenly have an idea that they don't have to be poor or they don't have to stay in the same place or they don'thave to have the same job. So all of this enormous social energy is welling up, not only in the Punjab but elsewhere. Certainly this is connected to what we see happening now in Bombay.
HUNTER-GAULT: I'll get to that in just a minute, but let me just ask you about Mrs. Gandhi's charge in the tape piece that we just saw that the Sikhs were frustrated because they had lost the election, that they were now trying to, in effect, trying to achieve through violence what they lost at the ballot box. Is there much --
Mr. TRAUB: It's not totally invalid. It's certainly true that they were in power for those three years. But the sort of useless thing about that is that maybe she's right. Maybe the Sikh demands are largely illegitimate. Maybe they should just say, "Sorry, we had our chance. We blew it. We give up." But the fact is that doesn't do any good anymore. You can no longer speak in that language because the Sikhs are so aroused, and as the reporter I think quite correctly pointed out, the average person, the average Sikh in Punjab deeply believes that their identity is being threatened, that the things that Bhindranwale are saying, these things are partially correct, and that's the reality that has to be dealt with, not whether or not they're justified in making the demands in the first place.
HUNTER-GAULT: Now, you were about to talk about what was going on in the south with the Hindu-Moslem clashes that they were different in some respects?
Mr. TRAUB: Well, they're different in a number of fundamental ways. One is that they're a little bit more like a natural disaster. It's almost like an earthquake when you talk about Hindu-Moslem violence in India because it's been going on for so many centuries now, and sometimes there's more of it and sometimes there's less. The situation in Punjab grew up slowly over a period of three or four years and had even a longer history than that. This specific incident in Bombay was one of these terrifying incidents that India sees with increasing frequency, where out of nothing, out of an incident of no consequence at all, terrifying violence starts. Everybody grabs the nearest weapon and begins killing each other. And what you can see in that is an enormous amount of very poorly suppressed anger and a whole series, I think, of unsolved social problems which issue into this violence against people who are nearest at hand and against whom there have been these historical hatreds.
HUNTER-GAULT: Who is doing the initiating?
Mr. TRAUB: That is always a complicated question, especially in Hindu-Moslem violence. In this particular case, what actually happened was it was felt that the leader of a certain Hindu chauvinist group made a comment which was insulting, I believe, to Mohammed. Moslems then raised the green flag of Islam, which was considered insulting to this Hindu group. The Hindus then, I think, mounted some kind of minor attack --
HUNTER-GAULT: I think that's going to be impossible to follow. Let me just ask you this. How much worse do you expect this all to get?
Mr. TRAUB: Oh, I think worse. I mean, I think there's no reason at all to think it's going to get better right now. Punjab was an extremely stable state. Punjab was India's wealthiest state, and one of the reasons why the situation in Punjab is so frightening is that if this kind of thing can happen in a state where people are basically prosperous, then the idea that as long as people improve economically they'll stop engaging in this kind of violence, clearly this is wrong. India has situations throughout the country where you have religious groups or groups that speak different languages or different caste groups facing each other in the same proximity you have in Bombay and Punjab. And I think if the Punjab situation is not resolved satisfactorily, you'll see other people resorting to similar violent means.
HUNTER-GAULT: So you're saying, just in a word, that the violence you expect will spread if this situation isn't resolved quickly?
Mr. TRAUB: Not tomorrow, but I think eventually it will spread, yes.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right, well, thank you for being with us. Jim?
LEHRER: There were two new news developments on the Andrei Sakharov case today, but neither very definitive. The Soviet news agency Tass said the dissident physicist is healthy and active, and said reports of his being ill and on a hunger strike are Western propaganda. Also, a dissident source in Moscow told Western reporters there is evidence Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner, are no longer at their house in the closed city of Gorky. The source said two Soviet citizens went by their house and concluded the Sakharovs were gone.The Tass report said nothing about Gorky or the couple's whereabouts.
[Video postcard -- Hart County, Georgia] Book Review: Jacob's Well
MacNEIL: Finally tonight we have a book review. It is the novel Jacob's Well by Stephen Harrigan. It's reviewed by A.C. Greene, whose own latest book is called Dallas, USA. A.C., the setting of this novel, first of all, Jacob's Well is a real place in Texas, isn't it?
A.C. GREENE: Yes, it is. It's a phenomenon. It is sort of an artesian well. It's within a river, and it has cost the life of a number of people who have tried to dive to the end of it. It's one of those subterranean cavernous phenomenon. I'm not a scuba diver, but it seems to be the ultimate challenge in Texas. In fact, they've sealed off part of it, it's so dangerous.
MacNEIL: And that's what this novel is about, the challenge of Jacob's Well. Describe the characters and the situation.
Mr. GREENE: Well, there are three basic characters. Sam Marsh, who is a geologist, and the book opens with him out in a far western part of Texas, where I think a very beautiful chapter on the geology of that section. There's also a girl out there. She's a naturalist named Janet, and she's -- there's a rather ruthless little vignette about her stripping a bat of its hide. Then the Libby, who is the wife, but about to be the ex-wife of Sam, is a girl who still hasn't been able to quite locate herself. She's a kind of a left-over hippie. And then Rick is a scuba diver who gives lessons. He's a real professional.And he and Libby get together, not behind Sam's back because Libby and Sam have split up, but the story, even though it's full of expertise about geology and diving -- as a matter of fact, you get a little tired of every time you pass a pebble in the road the author has to stop and tell you what tertiary or whatever period it's from. But basically the story is about a very modern situation, and that is a marriage which you have two very decent, very intelligent humans who can't seem to make it work. And here comes another very decent, very intelligent human who doesn't want to intrude, but who becomes an intrusion, and it becomes an antagonism between the two men, and yet they're not really fighting over Libby. They're fighting over the idea of where do you take your science, your high-tech, if you will, how far do you take this, and can it ruin life for you? And those answers are supplied very well.
MacNEIL: And what actually happens regarding the well?
Mr. GREENE: Well, Jacob's Well, as I've said, is the ultimate challenge to scuba diving in Texas and in a great part of the Southwest, so naturally it ends up -- you have to have the geologist, who is the expert on geology and the expert on scuba diving, who knows a little geology himself -- they have to meet the challenge of the well.I call it the farther room. There's always got to be another tunnel. There's another cavern, there's another passage. And so Libby goes down with them. She becomes a scuba diver, too, an excellent scuba diver. And they go down and, as one might suspect, they push too far, and there's a double disaster. There's a disaster, of course, among the three divers, and then there's a disaster among the solutions that come from this.
MacNEIL: What are the strengths of the book, in your view?
Mr. GREENE: Well, the strengths of the book are -- the situation is very well delineated. There's a lot of action. It's sort of scholarly action, I guess you'd call it. It's almost -- well, I call it a high-tech novel.
MacNEIL: Is it suspenseful?
Mr. GREENE: Very suspenseful. Very suspenseful, except that you know the minute they go into Jacob's Well something bad is going to happen. Jacob's Well is a metaphor for those traps in our life that are brought about because we're good rather than because we're bad.
MacNEIL: Tell us about Harrigan as a writer.
Mr. GREENE: Stephen Harrigan is a young writer. He lives in Austin, Texas, and a lot of the book is set in Austin. It's contemporary urban, you might say.
MacNEIL: Is this his first novel?
Mr. GREENE: No, this isn't his first novel. He wrote a book about two years ago, a novel about two years ago called Aransas, which also has a Texas setting. But neither of these books is what I would call in any way traditionally Texan. The characters are not necessarily Texan and even though the settings are in Texas, the situations and the stresses are very common to any part of the United States. I don't like to compare books and say this is better -- A is better than B, but Jacob's Well delivers Stephen Harrigan a little farther along the road to being what I think is a very important writer. I don't think the impact of it is quite as high in a narrative sense as Aransas was, but I do think that Jacob's Well is a very well-written book, and if Stephen Harrigan has any weaknesses, it's that he doesn't want to make judgments. There are no judgments expressed by the writer. There are no villains. The reader is forced to make his own choices, and that may be the weakness of the book in that we don't want to have to make those choices, and we're not given enough basis for saying, "I like this, I don't like this."
MacNEIL: Of course that's also very true of modern life.
Mr. GREENE: That's very true of modern life, and I think the very -- I think the ending of this book, while it sort of upset me, I think it also is very true of modern life.
MacNEIL: A.C., thank you.
Once again, the book we've been reviewing is Stephen Harrigan's novel, Jacob's Well, published by Simon & Schuster.
LEHRER: Again, today's top stories. Iraq claims it hit another ship in the Persian Gulf. Those attacks on shipping were the topic of a U.N. Security Council debate where the U.S. defended the rights of ships to freely use the Gulf. President Reagan joined the list of this year's list of graduation speakers.He told Air Force Academy cadets about new opportunities in space. Meanwhile, down on earth, U.S. balance of trade set another record -- a record $12.2-billion deficit in April.And then 99.7% of the sun was momentarily blocked out by the moon as the southeastern part of the United States was treated to a solar eclipse.
And a Memorial Day story, and it's not really two days late. May 30th is the real Memorial Day. It was celebrated Monday for long weekend purposes only. Our story is from Kansas, a university town in Kansas, where the Vietnam War, once a divider of people, is now a unifier. Kwame Holman reports.
KWAME HOLMAN [voice-over]: This is the hilltop campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Up here bicycles and frisbees are as much a part of the lifestyle as final exams and the flowers that bloom on the redbud trees. But the KU campus wasn't always like this. In the spring of 1970 things were very different.America was fighting a war in Vietnam, and this campus, like so many others, exploded because of it. The student union building burned. Student strikes shut down classes, exams were canceled, and students left school early to organize against the war.
[on camera] But today, 14 years after this campus exploded in violence, students here have a completely different attitude about the Vietnam experience. That new way of thinking honors human sacrifice and ignores the political perceptions of the war.
[voice-over] Attitudes have changed so much that today students here are preparing to build what they say is the first Vietnam memorial on a major college campus. The memorial will be abstract, made of Kansas limestone, a stark procession of posts and slabs with a fountain in the middle. It was designed by a sophomore in a campus-wide student design competition. Former student body president Lisa Ashner had the idea for the memorial.
LISA ASHNER, student leader: The war itself, obviously for this country, isn't something worthy of honoring. We haven't found it to be so. But that it's the individual who sacrificed, the individual effort which we're trying to remember.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: The memorial idea was supported by student newspaper columnist Michael Robinson.
MICHAEL ROBINSON, student columnist: The veterans should be remembered. I mean, the veterans who served and who, you know, for good or ill, were serving their country or were trying to serve their country.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: One of those vets is John Musgrave, wounded three times in Vietnam. Today he counsels other veterans for the state employment service in Lawrence. He's helping students raise the $30,000 for the memorial by going outside the college community.
JOHN MUSGRAVE, Vietnam veteran: This country has overlooked the sacrifice of those brave young Americans for far too long. It's 1984 and a memorial is just now being built in this community to honor the sacrifices of those young Americans who gave everything when they answered the call of their country.
Now you have people on both sides of the war working together to build a memorial to honor those who died, acknowledging that the sacrifice is beyond politics.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: The Lawrence city council has expressed support for the memorial. The VFW and American Legion chapters are helping raise money. Pharmacist Dick Raney was a city official back in the Vietnam protest days. He thinks this support means the town, like the campus, is ready to see Vietnam in a new light.
DICK RANEY, former mayor: Perhaps time has been our great solvent in this case and we have softened, that we've lost those angry expressions regarding the war itself and now we're thinking about parents who have lost sons.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: But for these students the wounds caused by Vietnam never existed. Francis Heller was university provost in 1970.
FRANCIS HELLER, law professor: You're dealing now with people who were really too young to have perceived this themselves, even vicariously. And that one can now build memorials because it's a chapter in history.
Mr. MUSGRAVE: Vietnam damaged this country. We suffered a grievous self-inflicted wound from that war that this memorial, I think, is a very important step towards healing.
LEHRER: About $17,000 of the $30,000 needed has been raised. The names of former University of Kansas students killed in the war will go on a plaque alongside the memorial. Good night, Robin.
MacNEIL: Good night, Jim. That's our NewsHour tonight. We will be back tomorrow night. I'm Robert MacNeil. Good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
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- Episode Description
- This episode's headline: Immigration: Political Hot Potato; India: Religious Unrest; Healing an Old Wound; Book Review: Jacob's Well. The guests include In Washington: Rep. DAN LUNGREN, Republican, California; Rep. EDWARD ROYBAL, Democrat, California; In New York: JAMES TRAUB, Expert on India; A.C. GREENE, Book Reviewer. Byline: In New York: ROBERT MacNEIL, Executive Editor; CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, Correspondent; In Washington: JIM LEHRER, Associate Editor; Reports from NewsHour Correspondents: JUNE MASSELL, in Washington; GAVIN HEWITT (CBC), in Punjab, India; KWAME HOLMAN, in Lawrence, Kansas
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- Social Issues
- War and Conflict
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- Politics and Government
- Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode)
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Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
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Identifier: NH-0193 (NH Show Code)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Identifier: NH-19840530 (NH Air Date)
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- MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1984-05-30. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 18, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-0r9m32nr3f>.
- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-0r9m32nr3f