Swine Flu panic in India!

Last week, I returned from a week long vacation with my family to Mumbai, away from work pressure. Instead of cherishing the memories of a week long break I was quarreling within with “Emotional Flu”. Yes, I was down with fever and did have a travel history but were those symptoms enough to prove I had contacted Swine Flu. For my family they were more than enough to arrive at a conclusion that I had to visit the government hospital for screening.

My mother went a step ahead to buy the masks for family. And yes masks were distributed according to the need as enough N95 were not available for our joint family. My cousin who is four and I get N95’s, the only two masks which she managed to buy in black from the chemist. My pregnant Bhabhi and grand mom get a three layered mask which she managed to buy from other chemist and the rest of the members manage with masks bought at the traffic signal when my mom waited there for lights to turn green. But is my family to be blamed for there over precautious behavior? I believe they reacted in a very normal way considering the hype of “The Swine Flu” that was created by all forms of media. Any parent or in that matter any human would react this way if they see a new “Breaking News” every ten minutes on the news channels.

I wonder why the media doesn’t make 572 deaths a day due to normal flu, and large number of deaths due to Tuberculosis, Malaria, Dengue and other diseases an equally important “Breaking News”. Why doesn’t our Health minister call an urgent meeting to discuss diseases like malaria which takes a huge toll of human lives too? May be malaria patients can wait for some time longer as most of them are neither NRI’s nor they belong to elite group who can afford a vacation abroad. With Swine Flu thoughts occupying my house and slowly spreading to my neighborhood I called up my very good friend and a doctor by profession asking him how would I discriminate whether its “The Swine Flu” or normal flu. He explained to me that the Swine Flu symptoms could be towards pneumonia side and with just fever and normal cold like symptoms I should not conclude that I have contacted it. He told me to wait till two days and take normal medicines prescribed to treat normal flu as going to the hospital at the shot to screen myself would be more dangerous. There were chances I would catch the virus if I wouldn’t have till then. Luckily my phone was on loudspeaker then so my parents got some gyaan too. Two days from the whole panicky episode I have normal body temperature and am all energetically penning my experiences of the false panic we underwent. But this whole episode, taught us to stay composed as fright created was spreading faster than the Flu itself. We did not give in to false media panicky and heard the doctor treating Swine Flu, which I feel proved a boon to us.

I urge the media to give neutral reactions to the issue and not to blow the matter out of proportion as not everybody would be as lucky as I to get a doctor friend nor would every parent wait for two days as my parents did on the doctor’s advice. And for the rest of you Swine flu is not that a dreaded disease and has a death rate of seven in thousands much less compared to Normal flu, Malaria and Tuberculosis. Also the Swine flu deaths recorded so far have not been only because of the H1N1 virus but due to some other complications intermingling too. So just take normal precautions like washing your hands, drinking plenty of water, exercising and you should be away from the virus.

And my dear elected government, there was no point keeping the theatres, schools and colleges shut as this was more of emotional response from your side than on medical grounds. Your decision of shutting of schools did no good to millions of children as they enjoyed days off from school playing in the societies, as my cousin did and the college going crowd enjoyed shopping and hanging out as they had all the time in the world. Did it actually act as the isolation you had thought of? We just need better medical facilities to treat the pandemic and more awareness regarding it. Try spreading the correct word in your families, societies and we shall be better able to fight the H1N1 virus.
Prevention is better but panic is not!

A call to YOUTH on this Independence Day

“Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved or others yet not share it, is an attitude that only hinders the progress.”- MK Gandhi

CELEBRATING ITS 63rd Independence Day, today (August 15), India has come a long way since 1947, with a mixture of both success and failure. The next decade is going to be extremely critical for our nation. If everything falls in place then we might eradicate few really tricky problems that are gripping our country. This will bring more prosperity and peace to the country. India’s biggest assets are its people. The underlying potential of our nation’s youth, needs to be unleashed. As young citizens of India we must realise that the development of this nation is wholly dependent on us. The development of a strong nation demands youth possessing steely will power, mighty determination and tremendous grit. To date, there has been a lot of cribbing and complaint.

It is time to act and do something constructive. The best thing that we can do is to bring some changes in the life of one person in our lifetime. If all of us can do this then the entire state of the nation can be given a new life. And let me tell you that this is not a difficult or impossible task. What is required is a motivation and willingness to contribute to the nation’s progress. We must make a start at least. You will find many guides and commentators in this nation. These people always appreciate/criticise what others are doing but will always show inability to do something themselves. These set of people must also understand that lip service is good for gossip but cannot serve any purpose. We must set goals for our life. We are here to make some changes. We must decide what we want to leave for the coming generation. It is our responsibility to hand over a better nation to our children. If we fail to do so we will be labeled villains by the coming generation.

Though problems plague India, there are solutions. A steely resolve can certainly provide answers to all riddles. Instead of blaming the system, young India should come together and mould our nation for a better tomorrow. Instead of asking questions, we must give solutions to the problems of corruption with good administrators, professionals, soldiers, education, population, environment, and leaders. There was a line in the film, Rang De Basanti: “Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, use perfect banana padta hai (no country is perfect, we have to make it perfect).” In order to make our nation perfect, the youth must get involved in every sphere they belong to – be it the IAS, IPS, defense, politics, or education. Now the youth of this nation must start a freedom struggle to secure independence from poverty and corruption. We must enlighten ourselves. The feeling of patriotism clubbed with morality, ethics and social responsibility will definitely make our nation great.

Let us unite together and make this nation great.

Lets’ not Forget Them

It’s that time of the year again.
Every July since the year 2000, the Indian media and the Army in that order, celebrates the eviction of Pakistani intruders from the forbidding heights of Drass and Batalik (and not Kargil, as we all in the media keep referring to for some completely unfathomable reason).
The Army, of course, appropriately remembers its martyrs — the young and not so young officers and several hundred jawans — who sacrificed their lives in recapturing a piece of real estate that the Pakistanis had encroached upon. It was a heroic battle against heavy odds. After that conflict, Vikram Batra, Anuj Nayyar, Manjo Pandey, to cite just three martyrs, became household names.
This year, on the 10th anniversary, the Army has planned a larger celebration and rightfully so.
We in the media have also gone into an overdrive to commemorate the occasion.
After all, Kargil was this generation’s first war. It was also India’s first televised war. We made citizens feel that they were part of the war by beaming images right into their bedrooms.
In many ways, Kargil (I actually hate using the word, but Drass or Batalik do not have the same resonance in the people’s mind as Kargil has) is also a landmark in the military-media relationship in India.
Till 1999 the Army establishment generally looked upon the media as a nuisance. Post-Kargil, the armed forces have woken up to the media’s potential as, what the military fondly calls a force-multiplier. An uneasy relationship till then gave way to greater awareness about one another facilitating meaningful interaction.
This year in fact the Army has made special efforts to invite all those who had reported the conflict from the area that summer. This, the Army says, is its tribute to media’s contribution in the Kargil conflict.
I, like many others, was in the sector in 1999, reporting the events for Outlook magazine. Every year since 2000, I too have written or spoken about the experience in the Kargil-Drass-Mushkoh-Batalik sector.
I am also hoping to be at the Drass memorial on 25th and 26th July later this month to meet up with friends who made Kargil (that word again!) such a memorable experience in our life a decade ago.
And yet, ever since I went there last week to report on what has changed and what has not in the decade since the war, a sense of unease has gripped me. At first I thought it was plain tiredness. After all, one is older by a decade and the body doesn’t take the rigours of travelling in the high mountains as easily as it did 10 years ago.
But deep down, I knew there was something more to my disquiet than just creaking old bones.
Then suddenly it hit me this morning: Are we in the media guilty of over hyping Kargil and its martyrs at the cost of totally ignoring the others? To be honest, the answer is yes.
By admitting this, I am in no way taking away the sacrifice and heroism of our soldiers during the 1999 conflict. Or trying to belittle the tough conditions under which we in the media operated and reported the conflict.
But I will also be less than honest if I don’t admit that collectively we in the media are equally culpable in ignoring or downplaying the unending internal battles fought by the Army as well as other security forces across India.
How many of us for instances, know the names of Col. Vasanth or Subedar Chunni Lal? Or for that matter Constable Tukaram Ombale? How many of us remember the faces of the unnamed police and CRPF constables who die by the dozens in the battlefields of Chhattisgarh and Orissa? Or for that matter army jawans who continue to sacrifice their lives in counter-insurgency skirmishes in India’s north-east?
In Kargil, nearly 500 people lost their lives.
Every year since then at least 400 security personnel have died in action across India.
Is their martyrdom less significant? Don’t their families deserve similar adulation? They certainly do but I am afraid even we in the media tend to report on these incidents for a day or two and move on to our next story.
In the process, we have ignored the interminable internal security threats that India faces, be it in Kashmir, the north-east or in the heartland from the Maoists. And underplayed the sacrifices made by the gallant soldiers who fight them.
In less than a fortnight, when the nation pays a collective tribute to the Kargil martyrs, all of us can perhaps introspect and review our attitude towards other, lesser known but equally valiant soldiers who fight on without expecting anything in return.
As I look ahead, post the Kargil anniversary, it is perhaps time for me to do away with my Kargil obsession and refocus on the current and future battles.

Source: NDTV Written by Niting Gokhale

Sarabjeet Singh: The case of mistaken Identity, must not be hanged

PAKISTAN SUPREME COURT has rejected the mercy plea of the Indian prisoner, accused of Lahore bombing in 1990. Sarabjeet’s news is often in the news and that made me curios to know more about the case. I was doing a fair bit of reading on the same. Yesterday, a news channel has also started a campaign to save Sarabjeet. The family of Sarabjeet is toiling hard for the last 18 years.

What I have got to read from various sources creates an impression that Sarabjeet is being punished for the crime, which he never committed. Sarabjeet is accused for espionage and is labeled as the man behind the Lahaore Bomb blasts in 1990. He was awarded death sentence by a Lahore anti-terrorism court in October 1991, for allegedly carrying out serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in Pakistan. But this case is definitely of mistaken identity. Pakistani security agencies say that he is Manjit Singh who is sought for the bomb blast case. But the fact is that Sarabjeet is a resident of Bhikhiwind, a border village in India’s Amritsar district, strayed into Pakistan territory in an inebriated state. Even the officals in Paksitan also claim the same.

Writing in Pakistan’s The News in an opinion piece titled ‘Why Sarabjeet Singh must not be hanged’ (some years back), Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan People’s Party has linked Sarabjeet’s case to that of Alfred Dreyfus — a Jewish captain in the French Army who was banished in 1894, after being accused of being a spy but was allowed to return home in 1906 when the charge was found to be untrue. “We may have serious differences with the Indians but it must not persuade us to hang every Indian at the drop of a hat. Sarabjeet Singh’s trial must not be allowed to become our national embarrassment as was the Dreyfus trial in France. He must not be hanged,” Babar, a close aide of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said.

The key witness of this case, Salim Shaukat also said in an interview that he was forced to identify Sarabjeet as perpetrator. Rediff carried his interview and he said, “I was told by the (prosecution) lawyer that I should identify Sarabjeet as the main accused in the serial blasts and I did it,” said Salim Shaukat, cited as the main witness in the Lahore bombing, in which his father was killed. He admitted that he had not seen the accused as he had fainted during the blast. Acknowledging that he was forced to give such a testimony, he told Indian TV channels, Star News and Aaj Tak, from Lahore that “I am not sure if he is responsible for the blasts…. I was asked to say that I had seen him. But I had not seen him as I had fainted at the time of the incident. The moment I identified him as the accused, Sarabjeet asked me to swear by the Quran but I declined to do so. Sarabjeet kept looking at me after my statement but I was helpless as I was under the influence of law enforcement agencies,” Salim said in reply to questions.

Pakistan’s leading human rights activist Ansar Burney is also of the view that hanging Sarabjeet Singh would be tantamount to murder of humanity as the Indian national had been convicted without any substantial evidence. “I cannot allow the government to hang Sarabjeet Singh on the basis that he is a non-Muslim and non-Pakistani and because of pressure from extremist fundamentalist groups,” he said.

There is no doubt that Sarabjeet’s case had become a matter of prestige for the law-enforcement authorities in Pakistan. They have cooked up spying charges against him and produced false witness to ensure his conviction. There is also pressure from extremists also. Sometime back Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, has come out against any move to free death row prisoner and Indian national Sarabjeet Singh.

In a statement posted on the Jamaat website, Saeed said, freeing Sarabjeet would be equivalent to ‘ridiculing’ the country’s courts.

Ansar Burney is going to file the petition again for acquittal of Sarabjeet Singh. It is extremely disappointing that his petition as dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan because the counselor of Sarabjeet failed to turn up for the hearing. Rana Abdul Hamid, the lawyer who was representing Sarabjeet, had been unable to appear in court after he was appointed last year an additional advocate general by Punjab province. The family of Sarabjeet is running from pillars to post to get him freed. It is of vital importance that the government of India urges Pakistan to set free the innocent man who has already served over 18 years in Kot Lakhpat Jail of Lahore. This case of Sarabjeet is now a national case and we must urge the government to pursue for immediate release of Sarabjeet. We must also support Pakistan Human Rights Activist Ansar Burney in his battle to secure freedom for Sarabjeet.

References for this post has been taken from REDIFF

A battle is lost, but not the war

Kanchan Gupta / Analysis

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given to moments of jocular frivolity at times of great stress, for instance on the eve of election results. At the fag end of the 1999 election campaign, a senior journalist asked him what would rate as one of the most banal, if not asinine, questions: “Mr Vajpayee, who do you think will emerge winner?” Without batting his eyelids, Mr Vajpayee replied, “Of course the BJP.” That was contrary to what opinion polls, including one commissioned by his party, were saying: The Congress, according to pollsters, had an edge over the BJP. Later that evening, I made a passing reference to the ease with which he was predicting a BJP victory in the face of a concerted Congress assault. Mr Vajpayee laughed it off and then said, “Nobody can predict the outcome of an election, never mind what politicians and pollsters say.” Placing three fingers of his right hand face down on his left palm, he added, “Any election is like a game of ‘teen patti’ (three-card game). Till such time you turn the cards and see them, you can only guess what has been dealt to you. Similarly, till the votes are counted, nobody can say with any certitude what lies in store for the contestants.”

On the face of it, such wisdom may appear commonplace. After all, veterans of electoral wars would be the first to agree that no battle is won or lost till the last vote is counted. Yet, come election time and every politician and pollster tries to outguess the voter, more often than not coming to grief. The 1999 opinion polls, including the one commissioned by the BJP, turned out to be way off the mark. The BJP and its allies were returned to power with a majority of their own; the Congress had to eat humble pie. So also with the exit polls that were telecast 72 hours before the results of the 2009 general election were declared on Saturday — they didn’t quite forecast such a stunningly stupendous performance by the Congress and the BJP’s astonishing failure to meet its own expectations, fuelled by internal assessments that failed to reflect the popular mood. Whoever predicted on the basis of an ‘exit poll’, and thereby made the party look silly on Saturday, that the NDA would get 217 seats compared to the UPA’s 176 owes more than a mere explanation.

The Congress, no doubt, has won a splendid victory; not to accept this fact would be sheer cussedness. Having said that, it would be equally incorrect to subscribe to the view that at the moment the Congress is riding the crest of a tidal popularity wave which in the coming days will turn into a tsunami of support for the party. Yes, the Congress has made stupendous gains, but a close scrutiny of the results will show that they are not entirely at the expense of the BJP. Nor have the gains accrued to the Congress on account of either policy or programme. For instance, the Congress has picked up a large number of seats in Kerala and West Bengal for reasons that are entirely different. In Kerala, the Left has paid a huge price for infighting within the CPI(M) that has spilled into the streets: A divided cadre couldn’t get their act together. In West Bengal, the Left has been decimated because popular resentment with the CPI(M) for the various sins of omission and commission of the Marxists reached tipping point in this election, helped in large measure by the alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

In States where the BJP has lost seats to the Congress, the credit largely goes to saboteurs within the party. It is no secret that a section of the BJP worked against the party’s nominees in certain constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, the reasons that led to the BJP’s defeat in last year’s Assembly election remain unresolved. In Uttarakhand, infighting has led to the BJP’s rout. In Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP could have won in Udhampur and Jammu if the local party units had not abandoned the candidates whom they saw as ‘outsiders’. In Maharashtra, the BJP failed to correctly assess the strength of Mr Raj Thackeray’s MNS which has turned out to be a spoiler in Mumbai’s urban constituencies where the party stood a good chance of winning. By default, the Congress has benefited on account of the BJP’s deficiencies. Nowhere is this more evident than in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP clearly failed to sense the shift in voter preference and ended up under-estimating its ability to pick up additional seats which have now gone to the Congress, swelling its national tally.

These reasons apart, at the end of the day what emerges is that the Congress has reached where it has on account of four factors whose impact could not have been predicted at any stage during the campaign when popular mood is palpable. First, the ‘Chiru factor’ has put paid to the TDP’s hopes of staging a comeback. The Congress has gained in the process. Second, the ‘Vijaykant factor’ has spiked the AIADMK’s electoral prospects. The ‘Black MGR of Tamil Nadu politics’ has turned out to be a classic spoiler. Third, the ‘Mamata factor’ was never seriously factored in, especially by the Left, while calculating the possible outcome of this election. Ironically, the amazing collapse of the Left has worked to the detriment of the BJP. Fourth, the ‘urban factor’ continues to elude logical interpretation. If the voting trend is any indication, we must come to the conclusion, and regretfully so, that India’s middleclass is no longer guided by the moral compass. Nothing else explains why corruption should cease to be an election issue and the brazen exoneration by the Congress of those who have looted India fetch no more than a cynical, couldn’t-care-less response. It is equally surprising that the middleclass should have chosen to overlook the mishandling of the national economy by the UPA Government and the pitiable state of internal security. We would have thought that these are concerns that agitate the middleclass the most since they shout the most about corruption, price rise and terrorism.

There is, however, no percentage in looking back. The BJP remains a national alternative to the Congress, more so after this election which has pushed regional parties and their identity politics to the margins of national politics. The BJP’s tally is nothing to scoff at. There is no shame in sitting in the Opposition and preparing for the next battle. Elections come and go, but parties remain. It is for their leaders to use the interregnum to reflect on mistakes, regain organisational strength and revive hope among the faithful. There are, after all, no full stops in politics, and life does not come to an end with the declaration of results.

From: kanchangupta.blogspot.com

Have we forgotten Kargil already?

Kargil makes me sad. I served in Ladakh long before Kargil happened and know that terrain very well.
A lot has been written about the conflict which includes the lessons that the Indian Army  should learn and what we should do to avoid another Kargil. Therefore, I am not going to write about matters military, but matters that are more relevant for our countrymen, especially our leadership and people.

For any nation, the soldiers are its assets. You can replace a weapon or buy new weapon systems but it takes years to train a soldier and make him fight as part of a group that is willing to sacrifice its life for protecting the country.

It takes years to train a combat pilot or a sailor. Soldiers, sailors and airmen give ‘their today for your tomorrow,’ which I quote from the graves in Kohima, Nagaland, left behind by the British after World War II, but still taken good care of. They continue to pay their debt of gratitude to those who laid their lives in that war, fought so fiercely for a tennis court in Kohima.

The Americans too care for their armed forces personnel. Their leaders show genuine concern and match their promises with action. Their veterans are the blessed lot and, what they get for what they gave is something the veterans in India can only dream of.

America is a land of dreams but they convert their dreams into reality especially, when it comes to taking care of the men and women who fought to protect their freedom in all corners of the world. Love, affection, respect and genuine concern shown for the armed forces personnel in these countries and in many more countries in the world is what we need to study and more importantly, emulate.

In our country, soldiers are remembered only in times of need. When Kargil happened many in our country were unaware of what happened and many did not care since it did not affect their daily lives. Yes, there was some war happening in a far off land beyond Srinagar . In any case, the Valley has seen so much of action, it was assumed that it was one more of such action, may be slightly larger in scale like the Taj and Oberoi hotels in Mumbai  that were attacked by terrorists last November.

The general reaction of the public is: Some soldiers died and in any case, soldiers are meant to die for the country. So what if a body of a soldier who belonged to your city or town is brought for cremation? It is just another dead body and don’t we see so many every day in our towns and cities?

So what if a soldier’s widow and children are struggling for their livelihood after he laid down his life for the country? After all, so many widows are languishing in our country and one more does not matter. The soldier’s widow cannot get a ration card. Many others also do not get one, it hardly matters…

That is the general apathy, even to the family of the soldiers who laid down their lives. If the soldier is disabled in war, people think it is nothing that affects them.

The enormity of the situation, the lessons learnt and the corrective action that were needed after Kargil were discussed and forgotten. Kargil is a blur in our memory, an event of history to be forgotten only to be remembered when reminded that we need to celebrate Kargil Diwas! Sadly, we have even stopped doing that!

It is not selective amnesia but permanent dementia. And as for the soldiers who were disabled or who lost their lives, less said the better.

India and Indians need to change their attitude towards its soldiers, both serving and retired. Indians need to remember the families of those who made their supreme sacrifice in conflicts like Kargil or anywhere while performing their duty. We need to pamper our armed forces personnel not because they wore that uniform for 30 years, suffered deprivation, found it difficult to make both ends meet while running two establishments when separated from family because of service conditions.

We need to because a nation which forgets its soldiers and which lets its bureaucracy dictate terms to the leadership to manage the armed forces in the manner that suits them or prove their supremacy, which ignores their genuine demands, is bound to suffer when the time of need comes again. History strangely repeats itself.

That is what is happening now. Why should the ex-servicemen (ESM) ever need to demand their legitimate rights? Why is the country’s leadership not doing its duty to meet their legitimate demands without them asking for it? Do they not have any duty to perform towards the soldiers and their families as the soldiers have performed in silence, asking for nothing in return? Are the words honour, loyalty, duty applicable only to men and women in uniform?

The current ESM agitation which was characterised by many of them undergoing fasts in many places or returning their medals, including the ones awarded posthumously to the gallant officers and soldiers who died fighting in Kargil does not happen any where but in India.

The ESM have been forced to come out in large numbers onto the streets, shouting slogans to attract attention. The country as a whole has forgotten them and it is a pity that the ESM need to remind our countrymen to remember them by adopting agitation as the means to achieve their end.

Sadly, what they are asking for is One Rank and One Pension — a small price for what they have given to our country for so long.

Why is it that our nation has pushed its veterans to this state of helplessness that today this apolitical force is taking sides with political parties to make their demand met? Does our country’s leadership realise that the armed forces which had remained apolitical so far are now becoming politicised? Surely this is not a healthy trend.

The answers to all the question is known to all of us. Yet we are mute spectators because it does not affect the civil population in any manner. If war is an instrument of State policy, the armed forces are the means to achieve that policy when the time comes. Kargil is one more event in our history. The soldiers in and out of uniform are not. They are the ones who make that history happen.

Can Kargil rekindle the hearts of every Indian to make a pledge to give our soldiers the dignity and respect and give their legitimate demand without them asking for it? Surely that is not asking for much, unless we are a thankless nation.

Wriiten by: Colonel A Sridharan VSM (retd)
Source: Rediff

A Request to Sanjay Dutt

LET’S START with some background check on Sanjay Dutt. Sanjay Dutt is the son of Late Sunil Dutt and Late Nargis Dutt. His parents’ story was that of a Muslim girl marrying a Hindu boy. May be that’s what has compelled ‘junior’ Dutt to pass a statement like “Jab mai police custody me tha to police wale mujhe third degree dete the. Wo mujhe marte the aur kehte the ki tumhari maa musalman hai, (when I was in the jail, I was given third degree by the police. They used to beat me and tell that your mother is Muslim)” when campaigning for rally at Mau, where 40 per cent population is Muslim. Ideally, such type of public utterances should not have come from Dutt considering he is a public figure. Perhaps he thinks that through this he can connect with Muslim voters and play another gimmick in politics. I am peeved to see that a person who has swore by ‘being an Indian’ in his reel life is talking on religious lines. What a pity!!

Sanjay Dutt should not forget that he is convicted under illegal possession of arms and has been handed sentence for six years. It is just because of his ‘superstar’ background, money and sheer luck that he is out on bail. He has faced criticism from several quarters for his proven links with the conspirators of the Mumbai serial blasts. He possessed a mass destruction weapon, an AK-47 rifle, which ironically, he said, was for self defense. :)

By the way, can Dutt explain from where all of a sudden his love for Lucknow has aroused? The only connection I can read is that ‘the visionary’ Samajwadi Party (after reading their manifesto) tried playing one more political gimmick. We all very well know that Sanjay Dutt has no connection with Lucknow except for the fact that his father was given shelter in this city after the partition and he visited that home many times later.

I don’t think that Sanjay Dutt is naïve not to understand that SP is just utilising his celebrity status to consolidate its vote bank. The party had no connections with him before and nor they have anything to do with his sufferings, humiliations and tragic past.

It’s high time that Sanjay Dutt should realise that the moment he entered the domain of politics with a public image he would be targeted for what he has done in the past.

Just a piece of advice for Sanjay Dutt from his fan. If he really wants to serve people then there are ways other than politics too. I have strong feelings that he should quit politics. If he doesn’t then there will be questions all around from his friends/fans/foes. He is still respected from some quarters all because of the goodwill of his father and mother (not talking of professional image). As an actor also, he has a good record. He is loved for his roles and especially after his Munnabhai films, his public image has also considerably improved. But by moving into the politics his past will again come to haunt him.

I hope I have been able to convince that  Dutt is not a political material. Somewhere I can’t see an MP residing within him.

Whatever may be the scenario, I, as a citizen of India am satisfied that Supreme Court put a lid on his political ambition. I just hope that Sanjay refrains from any sort of hate speech in order to put his career in politics on track.

Communalism, Pseudo-Secularism and our Media

Varun Gandhi’s so called “hate speech” has become a prime time news for our media. Out of no where, Varun Gandhi has become a household name and has been certainly crowned as the poster boy. Since the day Varun Gandhi’s speech was telecasted in the media, this news has gained more and more weightage. The role of media has been such that they almost delivered their verdict before the EC in this case.

As I am developing some sense of Indian politics, what I have started to feel is that the term “secular” and “communal” should be debated in the perspective of Indian Politics. The “secular” political parties don’t have guts to stand for Hindus of this nation. And if anyone issues a “pro-Hindu” statement, he will be tagged communal. The precise reason what i feel is that in India, Hindus don’t vote as a “group”, their votes are divided. While Muslims have most of the time voted as groups. Thus, each and every political party tries to capture this group or as we more popularly call them, votebanks.

The paradox of the Indian political system is that it is fashionable and allowed to utter “anti-Hindu” or “pro-Muslim” remarks. Moreover, they are the only ways, one can prove his secularism. Mr Gandhi in his speech is believed to have said that,

“Agar kisi galat tatv ke aadmi ne kisi Hindu pe haath uthaaya ya Hinduon ke upar yeh samajh key ki yeh kamzor hain, unke peechey koi nahi hai… Hindu’on ke upar haath uthaaya, main Gita ki kasam khaake kehta hoon ki main us haath ko kaat daaloonga.”
(If some wrong elements lift a hand against Hindus, or think Hindus are weak and there is nobody behind them, then I swear on the Bhagavad Gita that I will cut off that hand).

He ended his speeches with “Jai Sri Ram”. He was basically referring to the few incidents of molestation and rapes of women in Pilibhit and no action having been taken by the administration against the culprits. As Kanchan Gupta of The Pioneer puts down in his column,

The ‘secular’ media hasn’t heard of Sonu Kashyap who was murdered on October 21 last year. “Five unidentified Muslims” were accused of murdering him. The administration did nothing. On October 23, anger turned into street protests, led by a former BJP legislator and Minister, Mr Ram Saran Verma. He was promptly arrested and since then has been detained under the National Security Act. Beesalpur police station in-charge Pervez Miyan brazenly defends the continued detention of Mr Verma.

Was Gandhi indeed wrong or has he just spoken the truth? He hasnt used words as harsh as minority. He has simply said “galat tatv ke aadmi”. If “secular” media and parties feel that he referred to the Bhagavad Gita and ended the speech with “Jai Sri Ram” was communal then i don’t have any arguments for that.

If BJP is blamed for igniting the fire of “communalism” in our country then the so-called “secular” parties are equally responsible for adding fuel to that fire. They have never left any opportunity to neglect the comments made against Hindus and have taken proactive steps if something was pro-Hindu. Our “secular” media also behaves like the “secular” parties.

Have you ever heard of an event organized in a bid to woo the Muslim community ahead of the Lok Sabha elections?
Congress had organised a rally in Jama Masjid Sector 20 of Chandigarh, highlighting its secular credentials. Nearly 23 Muslim organisations from the city have also extended their support to the party. Imraan Kidwai, chairman of the All India Congress Community, Minority Cell, said that if he had the power, he would issue a fatwa asking Muslims to abstain from joining the BJP. He said the Congress had never tried to change the Muslim personnel law. Is this not something against which EC should have taken action as well?

Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP has referred to Varun’s speech as provocative. But, the same party leader Mehbooba Mufti led the violent protest against temporary allotment of land for setting up shelters for Hindu pilgrims to rest for a while on their way to the Amarnath shrine. The same party has demanded the change of South Kashmir’s Islamabad district from the official name of Anantnag to the popular name of Islamabad. When BJP raised objections to it, they are being tagged as being called “communal”. Did any other party utter a single word? Why?

If a leader tries to identify with the Hindu gathering, he is considered communal but if the politicians addressing election rallies in Muslim areas wear skull caps and does everything possible to ‘identify’ themselves with the audience. That’s permissible. Why?

Dr. Manmohan Singh’s comments that “The Indian Muslim has first legitimate right on Indian resources” is not communal. Why?

No doubt that hate-speeches and derogatory remarks/speeches are a part of Indian politics, which needs to be curbed at any cost. But then, their should also be a debate on pseudo-secularism. In order to preserve their vote banks, it can be seen that our political parties can go to any extent. But is this really good for our nation? The media is solely responsible for transforming the “speech” of Varun Gandhi to a “hate-speech”. The yardstick is different for a Hindu fanatic and a Muslim fanatic; though both are an equal threat to this country. It is high time to understand that communalism and pseudo-secularism are feeding each other and our media should also be more responsible. They must ensure that they are here to give opinions and not to pass their judgments.

Let not ‘BJP ka Gandhi’ get away easily

In the backlanes of Uttar Pradesh, Varun Feroze Gandhi is referred to as the “BJP ka Gandhi”. It’s a reference indicative of what’s been perhaps the 29-year-old poet-politician’s central dilemma in life so far: the struggle to carve an independent identity for himself outside of the Nehru-Gandhi legacy.

His cousin, Rahul, has been bequeathed the keys to the family business. His aunt Sonia is the Supreme Leader of the Indian National Congress. Varun, and his mother, Maneka, have always been the ‘outsiders’, blessed with the surname of India’s most powerful political family without any of the privileges. Which is why the so-called ‘other Gandhis’ have been forced to look for career options. Maneka has found her niche in the world of animal rights activism. Varun too, judging from the content of his speeches in Pilibhit, also now appears to have found his feet as the BJP’s new Hindutva posterboy.

When Varun joined the BJP five years ago, it was an important moment for the party. For decades, the BJP has had to live in the political shadow of the Nehru-Gandhi family. While the dynasty was seen as the sophisticated Brahminical elite of Indian politics, the BJP, and its earlier avatar of the Jan Sangh, was dismissed as a ‘bania’ party of petty traders and ‘sanghis’. The entry of professionals – journalists, bureaucrats, armymen – in the 1990s went a long way in ending the isolation and enhancing the acceptability quotient of the saffron outfit.

Varun’s entry ended the ‘untouchability’ of the BJP once and for all: if an LSE educated member of the Nehru-Gandhi clan could join the BJP, then how could the party be treated as a pariah any longer? The fact that he was the son of Sanjay Gandhi, the face of the abhorrent Emergency, hardly mattered. He was, above all, the great grandson of Jawaharlal.

In fact, within weeks of Varun joining the party, there was a section of the party that was already projecting him as the generation next leader of the BJP. He was even almost pushed into contesting elections in 2004 itself, till someone in the party remembered that the young man wasn’t even 25 and therefore was ineligible to contest the elections.

The desire to have Varun as a BJP face wasn’t just about ending the monopoly of the Congress over the Gandhi-Nehru family name; it was also designed to defeat the Nehruvian political project. Central to the Nehruvian ideal has always been the belief in a secular state that would protect all religions without any distinction. For the BJP, this model of secularism was based on ‘appeasement’ of minorities and needed to be rejected.

The secular-pseudo secular debate has been at the core of the Hindutva ideology and has played a major role in the rise of the BJP in the last two decades. For the sangh parivar , Nehru was, to use the words of a sangh ideologue, “the leader of a perfidious operation that led the country to surrender to Islamic separatism.” What better way to hit back at the much-reviled Jawaharlal than to have his great grandson question the very essence of his legacy?

Which is why Varun’s rhetoric in Pilibhit – the kind which might make even a Bal Thackeray blush – should come as no surprise. Varun was not given special treatment in the BJP so that he would be just another politically ambitious young man waiting his turn. He was catapulted into the arclights to fulfill a particular role: a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family who had wholeheartedly embraced the Hindutva ideology.

That he chose his mother’s constituency of Pilibhit to make his inflammatory remarks is also not unexpected. With a substantial Muslim population, Pilibhit has a history of communal trouble. In the 1930s, resolutions moved in the central legislative assembly to ban cow slaughter had sparked off violence in the region. If today, Varun seeks to revive the cow slaughter issue it should be seen in a specific historic context: as a well-read young man Varun probably knows that this is just the kind of issue that will have an emotional appeal in the region, and could polarize the electorate in his favour.

And yet, there will still be those who will ask just why Varun chose this moment to take up a potentially divisive campaign when his party leadership itself has shown the capacity to look beyond its traditional revivalist agenda, and focus on issues of governance. The simple answer: he probably thought he could get away with it. Had it not been for an alert and enterprising media, he probably would have got away. After all, hate speeches have been made routinely in this country in recent times, yet no one has been really punished.

The only senior political figure who has been held guilty by the judiciary of hate speech has been Bal Thackeray in 1999, that too 12 years after the original offence was committed. The Shiv Sena big boss was initially deprived of his basic right to vote and contest in elections for a period of six years, but even here the punishment was later commuted to just two years. This, despite the fact that Thackeray has been unapologetic and explicit in his venomous speeches and writings against the minorities for over forty years now.

Narendra Modi’s Gujarat Gaurav yatra in 2002 was laced with invective against the minorities, the election commission issued warnings and notices, yet could do little else as Modi stormed to victory in the ensuing elections. In 1984, the Congress publicity campaign spread fear and hatred towards the Sikhs, yet it wasn’t banned. Nor did it stop Rajiv Gandhi from becoming the prime minister. Whether it be political imams who appeal for votes in the name of Islam, or Hindu leaders who target the minorities, little has been done to actively enforce existing legislation against hate speech.

Perhaps, Varun too will eventually get away, and in all probability, even win his election from Pilibhit. Once the media frenzy settles, it is even possible that Varun will be lionized as a gutsy individual by those who believe that such rhetoric is necessary to put minorities ‘in their place’. Maybe, this is the inevitable price we must pay as a nation for having allowed our politics to degenerate into a snake-pit of divide and rule.

And yet, if we have any faith in the idea of India as a multi-religious society with a republican constitution, we must not allow Varun to get away so easily. That’s the least Jawaharlal and our founding fathers would expect of us.

By Rajdeep Sardesai
Source: IBN

Unless you sacrifice, you can’t fight terror: Col. R Hariharan

via Rediff

Colonel R Hariharan is a specialist on South Asia military intelligence. He served as the head of intelligence for the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990.

He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies.

Colonel Hariharan spoke to rediff.com‘s Shobha Warrier about what needs to be done to avoid terror attacks like the one in Mumbai terror attacks.

Media reports say that the Indian intelligence agencies had prior information about the Mumbai terror attacks. After every terror attack, we hear reports that intelligence agencies had prior information about it. Where is it going wrong then? Do you call this an intelligence failure?

I have no hesitation in saying that it was intelligence failure that led to the attacks. Today’s terrorists are more tech savvy than the establishment.

Intelligence failure is not only the failure of intelligence agencies. They have to process the information and make an assessment.

There are more than 12 agencies like the Customs, the Enforcement Directorate etc which collect intelligence information, and this excludes the state police.

Firstly, the quality of intelligence collected has to be validated. No agency shares the information with everybody because they want to score brownie points.

What we need is a central control room where intelligence information is shared and immediate action is taken. We don’t have a culture of centralised control rooms. I know the Intelligence Bureau has enough intelligent officers, but they don’t process intelligence information properly because they are in a hurry to push it so that the responsibility does not fall on them.

How important is processing the information?

It is the most important part of intelligence gathering. You may say, a terror strike is coming from the coast. But from where? Which coast? From whom? When? These questions are never answered. In military intelligence, we don’t accept this kind of nonsense.

The Americans failed in processing the information before the 9/11 attacks. We told them a year earlier that Islamic militant guys are being trained in flying. We had told Australia that they are being trained in Australian flying schools. They passed it on to the Americans but nobody took action because they had too much information.

We have to have management in our information systems. Technology is rudimentary in India. We are a lazy nation as far as the governing system is concerned. So, why blame the intelligence agencies alone? You should blame the government, the various departments and ourselves.

Do you think the current attacks will ring alarm bells and something concrete will happen?

I am not an optimist. I expect some more strikes to come. Will just changing the Union home minister solve the problem?

I am not seeing any action now. There will be more strikes. Something like what is happening in Bangkok has to happen in India too. Everything has to be stopped to make the government act. People have to take to the streets. Only that works.

The ordinary people of India feel that after the 9/11 attacks, the US could stop any further attack while in India, every month, there is a terror strike…

Are we prepared to sacrifice some of our fundamental rights? That is the bottom line. The US has sacrificed part of their fundamental rights. US laws are very stringent. We didn’t want POTA which guarantees witness protection.

Where should the overhaul start?

It has to be there everywhere; from the grass-roots to the middle level to the structural level.

Three things are important. At the state level, they must read and process the information themselves. The central agencies and state agencies should share information all the time. Today, they don’t do that. The culture of sharing of information should come. In Assam, I have seen only army guys in the meetings; the state guys won’t even turn up. Some sort of commitment has to come within the states.

Two, the country must learn to sacrifice some rights to fight terror. While fighting terror, you cannot have the same freedom. Unless you sacrifice, you can’t fight terror.

Three, our laws will not hold today’s times. You catch two out of 15 terrorists, but you cannot prosecute them. Human rights fellows will make a noise; courts will give them bail even if they are murderers. That is why so many Maoists are not being prosecuted. So, you require a special law.

The coast of India is controlled by many departments, and do you feel it is high time the coast comes under one agency, say the Coast Guard?

There are 12 agencies involved in the coastal security of India. In this country, nobody will give up power. Port security is under the ministry of shipping! What does it know of security?

In the US, when a ship comes to the sea, it comes under the Coast Guard. It is responsible for the coast. Here, it is not. The land is under police, the coastal police have become a big joke. The policemen do not know how to swim. They don’t have a sea orientation. Why should you have the same policemen doing the coastal job? You require marine police who should look after coastal and port security.

The Coast Guard has got huge deficiencies like the armed forces. They must make up the deficiency right now. Marine security must come under central authority and the Coast Guard is the best arm. It comes under the navy both in the US and here.

Create internal security separately as a ministry. The time has come.

There is a kind of fear and insecurity in the mind of the people of India.

It can happen in Chennai too. Are you sure it will not happen in the other coasts? In Maharashtra, it will change now just like it changed in Gujarat. Gujarat has a dynamic chief minister and he knows his job. He wanted a law which is similar to what Mumbai is having, but he is not being allowed based on party politics. The Centre also won’t bring the law and he also won’t be allowed to have a law, and he is asked to control terrorism. What are we afraid of?

When you were gathering intelligence as a military intelligence officer, what were the difficulties you faced?

The major problem is of access to other intelligence agencies. There is no sharing of information. That is the biggest hurdle.

In Sri Lanka, that was what happened. The Research and Analysis Wing was involved in training the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) but it is so compartmentalised that when we went in, the guy from R&AW who was helping us did not have the figures because it was under some other department. So, we must take some hard decisions on sharing information.

Every month there is a terror strike. Will Indians have to learn to live with terror attacks?

Do you know such attacks are happening regularly in the north-east? This is the 8th terror attack this year. I am sure it will continue.

  • Unless we must have a transparent policy that will guide the structural framework.
  • Unless the media acts conscientiously. You give more prominence to Arundhati Roy for defending a guy who attacked our Parliament.
  • Unless the structural mechanism involves states and becomes federal in character.
  • Unless decision making is done by experts and not politicians.
  • Unless you make up the deficiencies of all the counter-terror mechanisms with modern technology.
  • Unless policy making, intelligence and execution work in tandem.

There are politicians in the US and the UK too, but they could manage to stop terror attacks.

Because they are Americans, and we are Indians, I am sorry to say. We have no commitment. Did people react the same way when the Mumbai local trains were attacked? They did not because the rich and VIPs were not involved. Because five star hotels were not involved. Only poor guys, who travelled by train suffered. Did you see the same candles then?