Let us join in the march for a better India

Youth for Equality (YFE) is a group of alert aware citizens who share the youthfulness to believe in ourselves to “Get the system right and keep the system right”. YFE is an all India organization encompassing men and women of all walks of life irrespective of caste, creed, class, religion and region. It draws its strength from its large support base mainly from the youth and students of India along with all the responsible citizen of the country. YFE along with the Art of Living has come together to start a campaign called ATAC (Against Terrorism Against Corruption).
The March

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder, Art of Living, has conceptualized this march to awaken and empower citizens in order to create an on-ground structure that will actually effect a change in societal circumstances and situations, in keeping with His vision and mission of a stress-free, violence-free planet where individuals contribute towards the goal of a One-World Family. The objective of the march is to awaken and empower the people of India, especially the youth, to participate in the democratic process. This march is the first step of a nationwide campaign aimed at amplifying the collective voice of the citizens and propelling the youth of India against Corruption and Terrorism. We Endeavour to catalyze this movement, across the nation, with a 3 fold solution: AWARENESS, ACCOUNTABILITY & ACTION.

With this motive Youth for Equality along with WAYE and AOL has planned a march on March 1st, 2009. India has been badly hit by terrorism in last decade or so and yet our government hasn’t done any concrete step to enhance the security and intelligence of the country. Corruption, another evil in our system is eating up all the progress which we are making towards becoming a developed nation. If we want to prosper it is very essential to uproot terrorism and corruption. As a country, we need to actively start moving in a concerted way against these twin evils that are now threatening our very existence. So let us send out a call to our country to create a safe society. A society where there is no fear in walking into an airplane, a train or a bus. Or when we enter a mall, a cinema or a hotel, with our children. Or even our very own homes.

Let us take responsibility and bring the change – for our future and our future generations. Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what can you do For your country.
We need to take future in our hands; see it resting on our palms and take nation ahead.

Change is inevitable and it is important that Indian Youth takes the responsibility to bring the change. So, here is the call for all the citizens whose conscience is yet awake and they want to make the system effective. Be the Change.

Join the march

The March

Website: http://www.themarch.in

SMS MARCH <Your Name> to 56767 to get the latest details about march.

You can also register with YFE by sending ON YOUTH4EQUALITY to 09870807070

Remember, It’s no good when citizens of nation only complain and expect someone else to fix their problems.

Muslims in India after the 26/11 attacks

Muslims across the country are a worried lot post 26/11. Whenever there has been a terror strike in the country, Muslims are subject to suspicion and discrimination from the other communities and investigating agencies. Their loyalty to India is doubted. Unfortunately, some elements from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims), along with the dubious political class always ensures that there is continuous rift between the two communities so that may take advantage of it.

The common man is full of anger post-Mumbai attacks and Muslims too are not leaving any stone unturned to condemn the terror attacks. Even the celebration of E’id was scaled down. They want to present their viewpoint that terrorists are enemies not only of humanity, but also of the country, Indian Muslims and Islam. The clerics of the community have also refused to allow the burial of terrorists in any of their graveyard. “The bodies of these inhuman plotters against our motherland must not be buried anywhere on the Indian soil,” they said.

Terrorism in India has affected the Muslims of this country badly. It has provided a more conducive atmosphere for the political parties who survive on divisive ideology and destructive politics. There was a story in ‘Hindustan Times’ where the teacher who was upset with a Muslim girl in a Delhi convent school, called her ‘Pakistani’ in front of the entire class. There was an incident in Jet Airways flight where a passenger heckled a Muslim flight attendant citing her religion. There are various other instances as well. What is coming out of this is that across urban India there is anger and open prejudice against the Muslims.

I have no doubt that majority of Muslims in the country believe in the concept of one nation and are as patriotic as you and I are. I would like to question all those hypocrites who would look upon Muslims with an eye of suspicion but will watch SRK’s latest film or will cheer when Zaheer topples the batting order of opposing teams or will admire APJ Abdul Kalam as an icon or recite the poetry of Javed Akhtar. But this same group will not think twice before raising doubts over fellow countrymen.

Simi Grewal does not know the difference between the Islamic and Pakistani flag and makes absurd comments only to apologise later. But dear Simi, you have already done enough damage. The same is true for the majority population, which is proud of India’s secular fabric but will not think twice before raising suspicion about Muslims.

The problem within our country is that we have never developed a thinking of our own and have always played into the hands of selfish, power-hungry politicians. They have ensured that there is always an atmosphere of animosity between the two communities. BJP and Shiv Sena protest over the use of the word ‘Hindu Terrorism’ but have no qualms in accusing Muslims after every terror activity. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav project themselves as messiahs of Muslims and will see every action in the interest of national unity as a bid to suppress the minority community.

Let’s face the real scenario. We as a citizen of this country are slowly and slowly shedding the concept of national integration. Muslims are made to believe by their top religious and political “messiahs” that they are being targeted in this country while Hindus leaders will attribute each and every problem related to internal security in the country to the Muslims. As a citizen, I want that there should be trust among all communities and we should be internally strong. The investigating agencies should carry the probe without any bias and influence from political authorities. If there is an anti-social element in any community we need to ensure that he is dealt with seriousness and is punished for his crime.

Greater political will is required to strengthen internal security. The issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants must be dealt with seriously. There should be no blame game in an hour of crisis until concrete evidence is available. Muslim clerics should also take the responsibility to protect their community members from any prejudice. Instead of issuing stupid ‘fatwa’ against Sania Mirza or Imrana, they should push for greater reforms within their community. They have the power to convince millions and they should use their reach for the betterment of the community.

On other hand, we should take a lesson from Pakistan that a nation formed on the basis of religion would end as a failed state and even an “international migraine”. The concept of India is based on its diversity and this makes our country special. We must not lose the beauty of our nation to such prejudice and bias. We need to work collectively to make our nation even stronger and that will be the fitting reply to all the anti-India forces.

We have forgotten them and we will forget them again

India has been shaken by the recent terror strike in Mumbai. There are lot of demonstrations and processions going on across the city of Mumbai against the ineptitude of our political leaders. The government of India is also trying its best to dilute the anger of citizens by taking some actions. The citizens of this nation are showering praises on the martyrs. This is not a new thing considering that Indian people have always showed unity in times of crisis, though they have very short memories and forget the sacrifices soon.

The 13th of December was the anniversary of the Parliament attack. How many of us remembered those brave soldiers who ensured that terrorists are stopped at the gate itself and laid down their lives in the process? To show their respect “our responsible MPs” turned to pay tributes and recalled the supreme sacrifice by the security personnel in foiling the attempt of the terrorists. The very next day, there were reports that the family of the martyrs are still struggling to get what was promised to them by our government. The kin of the victims accused the government of not fulfilling the promise of giving them compensation.

Vimla Devi, wife of ASI Nanak Chand, who was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack has said, “We don’t want all these tributes to be paid. I don’t have anything. Nobody listens to us.”

Sardar Singh (62), whose son Om Prakash, a Head Constable died in the attack, said, “We have been pleading with the government officials for so many years. At functions the ministers make tall promises but they forget after that.”

Jaiwati Singh, who lost her husband, Constable Vijendra Singh, is still fighting for her rights. “These days my sister is running from pillar to post to get the promised petrol pump but the officials say they have always had martyrs in the country and they can’t go about giving each one a petrol pump,” her brother Bhram Prakash said. (These are excerpts from a leading daily)

On December 16, we will celebrate Victory Day to commemorate the victory of the 1971 war. But did you know that there are still 54 Indian soldiers incarcerated in Pakistani prisons post the Indo-Pak war of 1971? It is an irony that even after the comprehensive victory, India could not negotiate freedom for her soldiers who were trapped by the enemy in the heat of war. Till this day there families are fighting against all odds but all their requests and pleas have fallen on dear ears. They are even more helpless considering this is an external matter. Today they remain forgotten, mere names in the files lost in the labyrinth of the South Block. It is a collective failure of the entire nation. Forget these incidents, a few days there was a television news where it was shown how one of the parents of the Akshardham temple attack martyrs from the NSG were denied the promise of a petrol pump allocation.

There is no denying the fact that martyrs of wars and those who sacrificed their lives in proxy wars are not being given their due respect. The government over the years has just paid tributes and then isolated the kin of martyrs. As a citizen, we bid goodbye to martyrs saying that we will always remember them but within six weeks everything is forgotten. Families of those brave souls feel alienated after some time. Is this the way our society functions?

The story will be repeated even after this terror strike. Our history is testimony of this. The valour of our martyrs soak in the wetness of our euphoric patriotism and dies soon as everything turns normal.

I bet that hardly anyone of us will remember Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar, Ashok Kamte, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Havildar Gajendra Singh and dozen of other martyrs “who failed to hit the headlines” for some unknown reasons. These names will also be lost in the pages of history.

As a nation, we have always displayed only callous indifference towards these soldiers who have fought to preserve the country’s freedom and integrity. Remember, History shows that only those nations survive who honour their soldiers. And this honour should be part of the mind set. If we forget our soldiers in times of peace then it is a betrayal. There are lurking dangers but we sleep peacefully, because we know that the brave soldier is awake. Do we really understand the value of our independence or are we taking it for granted? Are we as a society doing anything to give back something to the families of those brave soldiers who have died for our future apart from raising a memorial and showing anger towards the politicians?

HT Correspondent visits supposed LeT Headquarters

A correspondent from Hindustan Times was allowed to visit a Lashkar-e-Tayyeba outlet very close to the border, and believed to be their headquarters. The below is a report published today as HT’s main headline citing Harinder Baweja’s experience during the visit.

Map showing location of Muridke (via HT)
Map showing location of Muridke (via HT)

“You are in an educational complex, but you are from India and you work for Tehelka, so it will take you time to change your mind.”

That’s what Abdullah Muntazir, (my guide and the spokesperson for the foreign media), told me within minutes of reaching Muridke, commonly believed to be the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba (LeT).

It was for the first time that due permission had been granted to any Indian journalist to visit the sprawling campus that lies forty km out of Lahore. The barricade that leads to the complex is heavily guarded and no one can enter without prior consent.

The guided tour took me through a neatly laid out 60-bed hospital, schools for boys and girls, a madarsa, a mosque, an exorbitantly large swimming pool and a guest house.

Nestled between tall trees and a meshed wire boundary, the 75-acre complex has manicured lawns, turnip farms and a fish-breeding centre. The students who enroll in the school pay a fee while those who study in the madarsa and pass out as masters in Islamic studies can come for free. Learning English and Arabic from class one on is elementary and so is a course in computers.

Trimmed lawns and microscopes

The administrators of the complex, drawn from the LeT’s political wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, are clearly at pains to disassociate themselves from the group widely believed to be behind the terror attack in Mumbai on 27/11. Other foreign journalists were guided through the complex a few days before my visit and during their orchestrated tour, saw students working in chemistry and physics laboratories, peering into microscopes and connecting electric circuits.

None of us went there thinking we would see firing ranges or target shooting in progress, but the tour itself is surreal. As you walk through the neatly trimmed lawns and veer left or right to see the hostel or the mosque or the hospital, the conversation itself is dotted entirely with words like terrorism, Lashkar and in my case, Kashmir.

Even though the gates have been opened – after clearance from Pakistan’s security agencies (read ISI) – to dispel the impression of Muridke being the training camp that “India has made it out to be,” the conversation is not about the school syllabus but wholly about how India is an enemy.

A day after I visited Muridke, I met a family whose sister-in-law lives right next to the complex. “But of course it’s a training ground. You can hear slogans for jehad blaring out of loud speakers in full volume and you can also sometimes hear the sound of gunfire,” members of this family confided. But during the two hours that I spent within the complex, there was enough conversation about jehad even if there were no signs of it being a sanctuary not just for the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba but also believed to have been used as a hideout by al-Qaeda operatives, including Ramzi Yousef, one of the conspirators of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

‘Without doubt, you are the enemy’

Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist who was captured alive in Mumbai, is supposed to have studied here, according to his interrogators, and it’s time to ask some straight questions.

So did Kasab study here, in Muridke?
“Even if he did, we are not responsible for what any one of our students do after passing out.”

Do you support the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba?
“We used to.”

You used to?
“Yes, we were like-minded but the group was banned after Indian propaganda following the attack on its Parliament which was done by the Jaish-e-Mohammad and not the LeT. We use to provide logistical help to the Lashkar, collect funds for them and look after their publicity.”

Did you also provide them with arms?
“They must have bought weapons with the money we gave them. They were obviously not using the money to buy flowers for the Indian army.”

The Lashkar has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Red Fort in Delhi and the airport in Srinagar.

“We do not consider Kashmir to be a part of India. It is a part of Pakistan. Those who attack the security forces are not terrorists, they are freedom fighters.”

President Musharraf moved away from the position that Kashmir either secede or be given independence. He proposed joint control.

“Musharraf did not have any legitimacy. He had no business making such proposals.”
Do you consider India an enemy?
“Without doubt. India is responsible for the attack on Islamabad’s Marriot hotel, for the bomb blasts in Peshawar. Sarabjit Singh has been convicted for being a RAW agent.”
Your Amir, Hafiz Sayeed has given calls for jehad.

“He supports the freedom movement in Kashmir. We think it is right. It is ridiculous to call him a terrorist. Even when a thorn pricks India, the whole world stands up. Why did Condoleeza Rice not put pressure on India for handing over Narendra Modi after the Gujarat carnage?”

Kashmir is no longer entirely indigenous. Foreign fighters like Maulana Masood Azhar were arrested in Anantnag.

“He was a journalist and still is an inspirational writer. Anyone from here can go to Kashmir. We don’t see it as part of India.”

Did you sanitise this place before bringing me in?
“This is an educational complex and the Jamaat ud Dawah is a charitable organisation. There are very few people here because of the Eid break.”

Does the ISI support you?
He just laughs.

A Pakistani Hamas

Jamaat ud Dawah, banned by the US in 2005 for being a Lashkar alias, draws patronage from the ISI and though proscribed abroad, has a free run in Pakistan. It has branches all across the country and is as famous for its social work as for its terror activities. It sees itself as a movement and not an organisation and has appeal to many in rural and urban areas.

When a correspondent from London’s The Observer newspaper went to Kasab’s village in Faridkot, close to the border with India, to establish if he indeed was a Pakistani, he was told that “religious clerics were brainwashing youth in the area and that LeT’s founder Hafiz Sayeed had visited nearby Depalpur. There was a LeT office in Depalpur but that had hurriedly been closed down in the past few days. The LeT paper is distributed in Depalpur and Faridkot.”

The Jamaat ud Dawah has a wide base and operates 140 schools and 29 seminaries in different towns and cities of Pakistan. According to the Jamaat’s website: “Islam does not mean following a few rituals like performing prayers, keeping fasts, performing the pilgrimage to the Ka’ba (Hajj), giving alms (Zakat), or donating to charitable works, but in fact, it is a complete “Code of Life”.

That is why Jamaat-ud-Dawah’s struggle is not limited to any particular aspect of life only; rather, Jamaat-ud-Da’wah addresses each and every field of life according to the teachings of Islam. Jamaat-ud-Dawah is a movement that aims to spread the true teachings of Islam, and to establish a pure and peaceful society by building the character of individuals according to those teachings.”

Its appeal extends to urban professionals like doctors who were out in large numbers in Muzaffarabad (the capital of Azad Kashmir or POK, depending on which side of the line of control you are on) in 2005, after a devastating earthquake. Unlike the Taliban, the Jamaat is modelled after Hamas and is not merely an army with gun-toting members but a complex and intricate organization with a social and political agenda. It has a huge following and reports have often indicated that in its annual congregations, where Hafiz Sayeed gives a call for jehad, , as many as 100,000 people are present in the sprawling Muridke compound.

It is groups like the Jamaat and the Jaish-e-Mohammad — started by Maulana Masood Azhar soon after he was set free in Kandahar – which both India and Pakistan are up against.

Not the time to pick a fight

The complete U-turn, post 9/11 when General Musharraf lent complete support to George Bush, saw Pakistan take a slow but sure journey that has today placed it in a dangerous crosshairs.

While Musharraf joined the war against terror – forced to by Bush who had infamously said you are either with us or against us – he also got isolated from the his own people. They took to the streets, openly protesting his support of America that was bombing and strafing civilians, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.

The last straw came when his own Army stormed the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in mid-2007. Reports of machine guns being used against innocents who got trapped in the Masjid, converted many within the Army and the ISI and those who had retired from these outfits.

It was the tipping point, said former ISI chief, Lt Gen Assad Durrani: “It was the most blatant homage paid to the Americans. The mosque is located under the nose of the ISI headquarters, and you can’t first allow it to become a fortress and then fire on people who were willing to surrender. ”

The storming of the Lal Masjid was a tipping point in more ways than one. If the release of Masood Azhar and the subsequent formation of the Jaish saw the advent of fidayeen attacks in Kashmir, the Lal Masjid operation led equally to the birth of intense attacks by suicide bombers.

The suicide attacks were not just targeting civilians, they were seeking men in uniform and the figures, in fact, tell the story. The first half of 2007 saw 12 such attacks all over Pakistan between January and July 3, and an estimated 75 people were killed. But after the Lal Masjid operation which reduced large parts of it to rubble, 44 suicide attacks took place between July and December, killing 567 people, mostly the members of the military and para-military forces, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the police. December also saw the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a grim reminder of the fact that the militants had declared a war against their ex-masters. The attack on Islamabad’s Marriot Hotel, the city’s most high-profile landmark, only confirmed the fact that terror can strike at will, any time and anywhere. It confirmed also that terror was not restricted to Pakistan’s tribal belt alone. President Musharraf himself had in fact also survived three assassination attempts and now lives under extremely tight security. The terror threat in Pakistan, can in fact, be gauged from the fact that both President Asif Zardari and the Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in a complete first, offered Eid prayers at their respective residences on December 9.

The wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan does not just testify to the revival of al Qaeda and the Taliban networks but as Ahmed Rashid, strategic writer and author of several books on the jehadi networks, said: “The army is embroiled in fighting these forces in the Frontier and one third of the country is not even in the state’s control. This is hardly the time to pick a fight with India.”

More Lashkar than Lashkar: Retired soldiers

The ratcheting up of tension and animosity between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attack on 27/11, points to another dangerous faultline – while the Pakistani Army joined the global war against terror, it never completely gave up its support to the jehadi network that is active on its border with India.

Even after the Lashkar and Jaish were banned, neither was their back accounts frozen, nor was they’re any attempt at forcing them to shut shop. The Army and the ISI continued to support fronts like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, which does more than just equip men with arms.

It motivates and indoctrinates minds and as Rashid pointed out, “Musharraf used to place Hafiz Sayed and Masood Azhar under house arrest for Western consumption. He may have stopped infiltrating them into Kashmir too under international pressure but there was no attempt to stop their activities in Pakistan after they were banned. They were just allowed to hang loose.” Former interior secretary, Tasneem Noorani, said: “There was no effort to mainstream the radicals.”

Kasab’s journey from a remote village in Faridkot to Mumbai is a testimony to this. So is his revelation to his interrogators that a ‘Major’ trained him.

Zardari may have been right when he attributed the Mumbai attack to ‘non-state actors’ because the Major does not necessarily have to be a serving officer employed with the ISI.

“Retired ISI officers are helping the Pakistani Taliban and they have become more Lashkar than the Lashkar,” said Rashid. Any number of strategic and security analysts will testify to this dangerous trend – to how ex-ISI officers are still in business because they have now attached themselves as advisors to militant organizations like the Lashkar and the Jaish.

“You don’t need large training camps,” admitted one such analyst who prefers not to be named. “Ex servicemen are imparting arms training within the compounds of their homes. Different officials are attached with different groups.”

The switch from one alias to another – Lashkar-e-Toiba, Markaz-e-Toiba, Markaz-e-Dawah-Irshad, Jamaat ud Dawah – speaks of the Establishment’s (the Army and ISI combine are referred to as the Establishment in Pakistan) more than subtle support of groups that are used against India. The long-standing relationship between the Establishment and the India-bound militants is now under pressure. The overriding message from America after the Mumbai attack is for these groups to be reigned in and this is testing not just the Army’s carefully crafted support for the militants but has also focused attention on yet another faultline – the equation between the Establishment and the civilian government.

The effect of Indian television

Committed to better relations with India, Pakistan’s top-most civilian representatives responded instinctively to the horror in Mumbai, in keeping with what Zardari had told the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, held a few days before the gun and grenade battle at Nariman House and the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

In what took the Indian government by surprise, Zardari committed Pakistan to a no-first-use of nuclear weapons. It was the first major security-related statement to come from Pakistan’s government after the February 18 election and more than just surprise the Indian government; it caused unrest amongst its own Establishment.

The next statement, made by Prime Minister Gilani – and confirmed through a press release issued by his office – pertained to the civilian government agreeing to sending its top most ISI officer, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha to India on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s request.

The sequence of events following Gilani’s offer and Zardari’s quick retraction, saying they had agreed to send a director and not director general Pasha, in fact speaks of the internal battle of supremacy between the Establishment and the civilian authorities, especially on the crucial issue of national security which the Army believes to be its exclusive domain. As Imtiaz Alam, a peacenick and head of the South Asian Free Media Association, who had dinner with Zardari a day after the Mumbai attack explained: “Zardari is very firm on terrorism. He thinks democracy is a better weapon but the terrorists have succeeded in creating a psychological gulf between India and Pakistan. Instead of Pakistan fighting the jehadis, it has become a fight between India and Pakistan.”

Senior journalists in Pakistan admitted that briefings from the ISI changed the post-Mumbai discourse. Reacting perhaps to the loud, jingoistic demands on Indian television channels, for action against Pakistan, the ISI told a select group of journalists that India had in fact ‘summoned’ their Chief. Jamaat ud Dawah Amir, Hafiz Sayeed – with a clear nod from his handlers – appeared on one news channel after another, making the same points: that the list of 20 most wanted which also includes him, was old hat, that India was playing the blame game without evidence, that India had its own band of ‘Hindu terrorists’ and India should give freedom to Kashmir and end the matter once in for all.

The leak soon after, of the hoax call, purportedly made by Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherji to President Zardari, sealed the debate – India bashing was back in business. The jingoism overtook the more important debate of the threat Pakistan itself faced from terror networks flourishing on its soil.

Who’s in Charge? Not Zardari

Pakistan’s news channels went on overdrive and as some even blared war songs, the question that gained importance through the entire din, was – who really runs Pakistan? Who is in control?

The answers to the questions are both easy and complex. Mushahid Hussain, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee in the Senate was clear about the answer: “War on terror, national security and relations with India, Afghanistan and China are the domain of the army. Thanks to India, the army has been rehabilitated and the war bugles are all over. No one person, no one institution is running Pakistan. Musharraf ran a one-window operation and the Army and the ISI used to report to him but now decision-making is murky and that is causing confusion. The hoax call and the DG ISI controversy are symptomatic of that.”

There are other examples. Only a few months ago, Zardari quickly retracted his effort to bring the ISI under the control of the Interior Ministry. And even as the Pakistan government’s response to Indian pressure to rein in the terror networks, plays itself out on a day to day basis, it is evident that the civilian authorities have had to embrace the Establishment’s point of view vis a vis India. Therefore, the talk that India should provide concrete evidence. Therefore, Zardari’s statement that the guilty – if found guilty – will be tried on Pakistani soil. That the 20 most wanted will not be handed over. Even on sourced reports, put out in the local media, that Masood Azhar had been put under house arrest, Prime Minister Gilani went on record to say that no such report had come to him yet.

If India believes that Pakistan’s response has been poor – two Lashkar men, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah have been arrested in Muzaffarbad – it is because the Establishment and pressure from its own people tie down the government here. It cannot be seen to be buckling under pressure either from India or America.

Some moves seem to be on the cards, including the banning of the Jamaat ud Dawah. But Lashkar was banned in the past as was the Jaish. Prime Minister Gilani has committed to not allowing Pakistani soil to be used for terror attacks, but then Musharraf had made the same exact promise on January 12, 2002 soon after the Parliament was attacked in Delhi.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has gone as far as to say that “Pakistan needs to set its own house in order” (see interview) but he is in the Opposition and he can afford to make such statements. If Pakistan has begun to resemble a house of terror, it is because the Army and the ISI are yet to change their stance, not just vis a vis India but vis a vis the terrorists it creates and supports. Until then, the sprawling compound in Muridke will continue to remain in business. If the Jamaat ud Dawah does get banned, all it will need is another alias.

via Hindustan Times

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?

The Pakistani media is distorting Mumbai attack facts

Two weeks have passed since terror struck Mumbai. The investigations are going on at full swing and till date, according to Indian agencies, all indications are that Pakistan’s land has been used in this dastardly attack. Indian media has also tried to highlight the involvement of Pakistan which has created pressure on the neighbours as they are now bound to act. USA and other countries have openly supported India and want Pakistan to act fast and with sincerity.

As Indian media reports the facts and other information related to terror attacks, a total opposite image of India and her investigation agencies has been built by the Pakistani media. I have read few articles and videos of Pakistan media and was surprised and outraged by what they were showing?

A report said that Mumbai terror attacks could be the handiwork of “radical elements within the Hindu community” who are “unhappy with domestic and foreign policies of the Congress-led government” and speculates that these attacks could have been engineered to influence the outcome of the general elections. Another news channel claimed that the Mumbai attack was masterminded by the RAW itself to defame Pakistan. A video claims that Kasab is not a Pakistani and a Muslim, but a Sikh boy, and his real name is Amar Singh. Because of the band he was wearing. (Mumbai Police has now revealed that terrorists wore the band for deception).

A sizeable number of Pakistanis feels that September 11 attacks were the product of a Zionist-cum-CIA conspiracy to malign the Muslims and topple the Taliban and Iraqi regimes. And in this case also they feel that this attack is a handiwork of the RSS, VHP and BJP combine. This was to stop the probe in Malegaon case in which many Hindu extremists are involved. Geo News covered the attacks round-the-clock and blamed the Indian government for failing to anticipate the attack and mishandling the rescue operation. They interviewed people like Hameed Gul, former director general of the ISI, and Shirin Mazari, former director general of Institute of Strategic Studies and they repeatedly classified the Mumbai attackers as either Hindu militants or Indian Muslims, but definitely not Pakistanis.

If such news is reported in Pakistan media 24/7, it is bound to have its impact on the people of Pakistan. I have always been told that people on both sides want peace but if such unregulated and false reports are circulated in one country, it is just impossible to accept that mental state of people will change. This will lead to mistrust among the people. I don’t know what will happen next but I want a few things from my government.

Pakistan has openly claimed that India has no evidence of the involvement of Pakistanis in the attack and it will not charge any of its citizens unless given concrete evidence. If the claims made by Indian investigation agencies are true then they should be made public and the proof of the same should be submitted to Pakistan government as well as United Nations. Pakistan should be made to take action against those involved in the act of terror.

We should publicly disclose the details of the investigations so that Pakistan media can also be taught a lesson. Moreover, these reports should be made public by Indian authorities only and not US or UK. The truth must be told. At the same time, I would like the Indian authorities to do some introspection and tell the people where it failed and what steps it will take to overcome fallacies and weakness.

The citizens of the country have suffered the most and they have a right to know the truth.

A political awakening

We ask for a tough state, when we ourselves are a soft people. Most of us are selfish, inward-looking cowards.
(originally published in livemint & via @pjain)

For years, India’s upper classes have been waltzing through life making minimal contact with the government. We have been going above the government, below the government or around the government, but we never really engaged with the government. Possibly because we didn’t ever need the government. A telling sign of upward mobility in India is a reducing dependence on the state—the sump/overhead tank to smooth out the erratic water supply; the UPS system to protect against power cuts; the chauffeur-driven car to offset the inconvenience of an indifferent public transport service; the security guard at the gate to make up for the ragged police system.

Last week in Mumbai, all that changed for India’s aspirational class.

We’ve come up against the one issue where we can’t dodge the dependence on the state: terrorism. Suddenly, we are waking up to discover that the same state that we have ignored for the past 60 years is necessary for us to make sense of our lives (a visceral glimpse into the life of the poor). And with it comes a whole new definition of the citizen-state relationship. This is existential exfoliation.

Talk of unintended consequences. The war on Mumbai was meant to undermine the country, but could become a dramatic inflection point in India’s political trajectory where a weak democracy suddenly finds its elixir vitae—the coming of age of a new Indian voter, one whose livelihood is not dependent on the state, but quality of life is. The political system has never felt the heat of an irate middle-class such as it has in the Mumbai aftermath. Already, the term “political leader” is getting replaced by “public servant” with greater frequency. If sustained and channelized correctly—a big if—this anger has the potential to fundamentally change the behaviour of the political class. Because, unlike the poor, who can often only act once in five years by booting the incumbents out of office, this breed of voters can make life hell on a daily basis—demanding more accountability, transparency and responsiveness from their political and administrative representatives.

Our past attitude of benign disregard is being replaced with ferocious annoyance. Witness the public declamation of R.R. Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Narendra Modi, V.S. Achuthanandan—the barrage of criticism has been swift, handed out to all parties and has had serious political consequences (salaam to the media). These developments are good for the country, irrespective of whether one is poor or rich (this isn’t the time to sermonize to the upper classes about where they were when the state was failing the poor; ultimately, political engagement will open the third eye to the larger reality of India). Political awakening is a good thing.

But there is another dimension, a troubling one, to the fallout from the Mumbai attack. Our agitation in demanding more from our politicians is going so far overboard that we are overlooking our own flaws. After all, we are the ones who provide the breeding ground for the disease of identity politics—of caste and communalism. We don’t evaluate our candidates for their development vision or administrative competence, only whether they fit into some quota of some subcaste that has little consequence in our lives. And then, we are shocked when these same representatives prove to be utterly incompetent in discharging the complex responsibilities of running a modern state.

We ask for a tough state, when we ourselves are a soft people. I mean it in the harshest sense: Most of us are selfish, inward-looking cowards who quaver at the slightest hint of risk to ourselves or our family. Witness what happened in Kandahar—most of those who had family members as hostages were pleading with the Indian government to release the terrorists. We salute those who defend us, or light candles, but don’t do much more.

Another example: Mandatory military service of all 17-year high school graduates, an idea that is being floated now in India. Singapore has a law that demands this of its citizens. Thousands of Indians have lived in Singapore for years, if not decades. But most retain their Indian passports—or at least those of their children—not so much out of a sense of patriotism, but so that they can avoid this year of service. The new home minister should include this as part of his solutions, and then see the public palpitations.

The truth is that we haven’t fully accepted our own obligations as citizens. But crises such as these are also crucibles to reinvent ourselves, to think beyond the boundaries of our own limiting lives.
The Mumbai attack could be a significant moment in our country’s history in an unexpectedly affirmative way. As we demand more of our politicians—and we must—it’s time to also demand more of ourselves. Maybe the latter needs to come first.

Are we ready to stay united for a longer battle?

It has been over a week since terror struck the financial capital of India. Their is indeed much anger in the people of the city who gathered in large numbers on December 3, at Gateway of India to raise their voices against the ineptitude of the government, both at the Centre and state level.The only good thing about the rally was that people from all sections of the society attended the rally, though many of the banners forgot to mention the attack at CST. The people gathered in the rally were shouting slogans against politicians and hailing the security forces. At the same time there were anti-Pakistan sentiments as well.

But it would be remarkable to see if this anger can be converted into some action. I have been involved in few of the movements before, where the start is just too good to believe but then it becomes more than difficult to sustain the movement. If this is only a knee jerk reaction or mere emotional outburst, then I doubt anything will change. The problem with our people is that they give reactions but very few come forward to initiate and support it with actions.

Even if 0.001 per cent of the people gathered in the rally come forward to convert words into action, we can expect some change. We need to realise that it is futile to form so many groups or forums. I observed that there were more that 10 groups in the rally. The divided numeral groups will not serve the purpose.. Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. It is thus important that all the citizens come under ’one banner only’ with the same goal. It is this disunity, which makes our politicians not take our stance seriously.

Politicians know that the resentment in people will die in next few months. And they have reason to believe so, every time people come together in the time of crisis and then get busy with their own personal lives. As a society, we are selfish, lack concern for fellow human beings and have no sense of true patriotism.

If we want to bring some changes in the system through a movement then it is extremely essential to stay united, prepare for longer battle, focus on long term goals and be ready to demand our rights each time those are denied to us. We all belong to same human race.

We must feel the pain of others and that should motivate us to continue this battle unless things really get sorted out.

At the same time it is extremely important that the youngster who has been in slumber for long time should wake and take responsibility in building the nation. We need to demand and stand for our rights. We need to be an active participant in the revolution that will witness the emergence of India as a better nation in every aspect and then will we be able to call ourselves a super power. It is time for common man to be a rebel, at times peace does need some fight (non-violent one, of course).

There is a quote, which reads “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” It is very important that we all use the light coming from fire within and remember that revolution is not a dinner party. For the time being I am keeping my fingers crossed, hoping we will not let this pass just pass away.

Was this what the Government was waiting for?

The worst terror strike has hit Mumbai where official figures say that the casualty is up to 200 while actual figures could be much higher. On Sunday, I went to Nariman Point where a candle light vigil was being organized to offer condolences to the dead and show an obvious anger against the government. As the procession started, the people that had gathered there said that they will be moving to Taj. I was surprised when I came to know that they didn’t have any plans to go to CST. Then I realized that it was because the firing at CST left over 50 “common people” dead. (Official figures)

There was difference in the treatment meted to the people rescued from Trident and other places. While people rescued from Trident were taken to Breach Candy Hospital, common people were taken to Government Hospitals. I don’t have any problem with that because had the elite been shifted to government hospitals, that would have created more pressure on the doctors. But the contrast in “services” to the relatives of deceased was something very sad. A friend of mine who was at a hospital where a post mortem was being conducted said that,

“Humko pata hai saab humne achche kapde nahi pehne hain, angrezi nahi bol rahe hain isiliye hamare ko body nahi de rahe hain.”

The one thing that this terror strike has done is that it has shaken the elite class of the city and country to believe that even they are not safe anymore. Elite India has for the first time been shaken out of its slumber as terror has attacked what were so far its impenetrable citadels. For the first time, the talk of terror has come out of the dinner tables for the elite. A man who was in Oberoi that fateful night was in middle of a conversation with his colleague when all of sudden sound of bullets were heard. His colleague said that it might be a terrorist strike but that man could not believe and said “These things do not happen here”; unfortunately, that night it did happened. And all of sudden, they are feeling vulnerable. So no wonder the elite are enraged.

Shobha De in a TV show screamed on top of her voice that enough is enough. But I feel enough was long before this attack in Mumbai. The enough was when series of bombs exploded in Ahmedabad, enough was when busy markets in Delhi were blown a day before Diwali, enough was when Jaipur was attacked, enough was when series of blasts left hundreds dead in local trains in 2006. Did any one remember that a series of explosions rocked Assam barely a couple of months back. The news of those blasts found little mention in our newspapers. The “enough” my dear friends, was already “much more than enough” long long back.

So what is the difference this time?

The difference this time is the target. The target has moved from the rickshaw pullers, the daily wage earners, the commuter on a local train; even the middle class executives to the elitest in the city. Those deaths didn’t matter to most of the politicians, didn’t force the Home Minister to resign or the need to step up the security, reforms in police, special forces, etc, never grabbed so much attention. Not even ONE of the rigorous actions or similar ones that have now been taken now were taken post any of these past attacks. The voices of the common man were repeatedly ignored and even the people discussing the terror matter on the dinner table and then leaving for dance party didn’t support those voices whole heartedly. But now they are direct targets and this has forced the government to prove at least, that it is acting this time around.

But you still observe the difference, we are having candle light processions at Taj and Trident but no one has bothered to go to CST and pay homage to the victims of the same terror attack that has changed the face of Mumbai. It is a bit ironic but I feel much safe now because I am virtually irrelevant in this war. The blood and death of the common man is just a “common phenomenon” which takes place every other day in some part of the country. The new targets are the hypocrites who have felt the pain of the common man for the first time and that has made them throw their toys out of the cot because now their own cot is rattling.

Whatever be the case, the good news is that for the first time we have felt that we need to do something to ensure safety and protect the “common citizen”. Probably, we were waiting for something like this to happen before we could show a will to combat the bloody terrorism. I don’t have any problem even if the government is acting under the pressure of the elite, because for me, my country comes first. Nation is above everything and I am there to support everyone who wants to fight this terror menace but yes my heart does weep for all the victims, be it at CST and Wadi Bunder or at Taj and Trident.

In all of this, let’s not forget our security forces and those brave unsung heroes who risked their lives to save others.

Prasoon Joshi: Is Baar Nahi

This is a poem sent by Prasoon Joshi to Rediff in wake of the Mumbai Terror Attacks

Is baar nahin
Is baar jab woh choti si bachchi mere paas apni kharonch le kar aayegi
Main usey phoo phoo kar nahin behlaoonga
Panapney doonga uski tees ko
Is baar nahin

(This time when that little girl comes to me with her bruises, I will not blow gently at her wound, nor distract her, I will let her pain grow.
Not this time.)

Is baar jab main chehron par dard likha dekhoonga
Nahin gaoonga geet peeda bhula dene wale
Dard ko risney doonga,utarney doonga andar gehrey
Is baar nahin

(This time when I see pain on faces
I will not sing the song that eases pain
I will let the pain seep in, deep�.
Not this time.)

Is baar main na marham lagaoonga
Na hi uthaoonga rui ke phahey
Aur na hi kahoonga ki tum aankein band karlo,gardan udhar kar lo main dawa lagata hoon
Dekhney doonga sabko hum sabko khuley nangey ghaav
Is baar nahin

(This time I won’t apply any balm
Nor will I ask you to shut your eyes
and turn your head
While I gingerly apply medicine
I will let everyone see the open, naked wounds�
Not this time.)

Is baar jab uljhaney dekhoonga,chatpatahat dekhoonga
Nahin daudoonga uljhee door lapetney
Uljhaney doonga jab tak ulajh sake
Is baar nahin

(This time when I see difficulty, uneasiness
I will not run to solve the problems
I will let them become complicated�
Not this time.)

Is baar karm ka hawala de kar nahin uthaoonga auzaar
Nahin karoonga phir se ek nayee shuruaat
Nahin banoonga misaal ek karmyogi ki
Nahin aaney doonga zindagi ko aasani se patri par
Utarney doonga usey keechad main,tedhey medhey raston pe
Nahin sookhney doonga deewaron par laga khoon
Halka nahin padney doonga uska rang
Is baar nahin banney doonga usey itna laachaar
Ki paan ki peek aur khoon ka fark hi khatm ho jaye
Is baar nahin

(This time I won’t pick up my tools as a matter of duty
I will not make a new beginning
Nor will I stand as an example of one dedicated to my job
I will not let life easily return to normalcy
I will let it descend into muck, on the twisting paths
I will not let the blood on the walls dry out
Nor will I let its colour fade away
This time I won’t let it become so helpless
That you can’t tell blood from paan-spit
Not this time.)

Is baar ghawon ko dekhna hai
Gaur se
Thoda  lambe  wakt  tak
Kuch  faisley
Aur uskey baad hausley
Kahin toh shuruat karni hi hogi
Is baar yahi tay kiya hai

(This time the wounds need to be watched
Carefully
For a long time
Some decisions are needed
And then some brave moves to be made
We have to begin somewhere�
This time this is what I have resolved)

… Prasoon Joshi

(via Rediff)