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!

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

Bihar Transformed

On the morning of counting day, driving through rain and the blossoms of Laburnum and Gulmohar in Patna, I was surprised to find that the road outside Nitish’s residence deserted. For a moment I assumed the other news channels had decided to skip the early morning slightly pointless pre results dispatches, till I walked a few steps away to the next lane. Sure enough, the entire media cavalcade of cameras and broadcast vans was parked right there – outside the home of Rabri devi, Lalu’s wife and the proxy Leader of Opposition.
 
Why would the media ignore the bigger story – Nitish Kumar, the man being wooed by all political formations, praised by Rahul Gandhi, hand-grabbed by Narendra Modi, and generally seen as Bihar’s great hope – to chase the by now predictable story –  the decline of Lalu Prasad, the Railway minister who looked all set to go off track this election?
 
This could a matter of habit – after all, Lalu has been the centre of gravity in Bihar for two decades. Or it could a more calculated journalistic gambit, linked to the well known contrast between the two men – Impetuous Lalu might supply some drama even as a loser, while Punctilious Nitish would not allow the media in except at the
designated hour dutifully phoned and faxed to media offices. Nitish, as the consensus goes, does not believe in springing surprises.
 
And the initial leads came as no surprise. Both reporters and exit polls had picked up the astonishingly high level of Nitish’s personal popularity on which the NDA hoped to sweep Bihar. The only subject of speculation then – what would be the final tally?
 
Lalu’s elder son, a Krishna Bhakt and mildly notorious in Patna, drove in from a morning visit to the temple, flashing the victory sign, holding up both his hands. He is giving four seats to his party – quipped one journalist. Uncannily, that’s what the RJD ended the day with.
 
Ram Vilas Paswan, the LJP leader who completes the Bihar triumvirate, had all morning been enconsced in a five star hotel suite – the one that he occupies when he is in Patna, which is not too often, usually around election time. He has a reason, or excuse, to stay away – as part of every single government since 1996, his duties as Union Minister have kept him busy in Delhi. Except this election took that excuse away. Paswan lost from Hajipur – a seat he won seven times since 1977, losing just once in the Congress wave of 1984. This time, an 88 year old man, Ram Sunder Das defeated him. Das could be this Lok Sabha’s oldest candidate.
 
As far as age goes, many have claimed this election has upturned an old truth about the way Bihar polls. That it is no longer about Jaat or caste, the vote is for Vikaas or development. Hardly one to dispute the remarkable transformation underway in Bihar, led by Nitish, I would slightly modify that claim. The reality is more nuanced.
 
Nitish has revived Bihar’s comatose administration, kickstarted schools and hospitals, used the centre’s money well to build roads and infrastructure – public goods meant for all, they have indeed created a groundswell of support for him across the state and across communities. But what Nitish has also done is target benefits to specific communities, based on caste: the EBC’s or extremely backward castes, numerically larger among the backward castes but edged out by the more powerful Yadavs and Kurmis, have finally been given political space through reservations in panchayats; Mahadalits, dalits minus chamars and Paswans, for whom state largesse now ranges from subsidised homes to monthly supply of bathing soap; even among Muslims, Nitish has singled out the Pasmanda or backward and dalit muslims for special schemes like Talimi Markaj, a scheme aimed to bring Muslim children to school.
 
This is social engineering, Nitish style. And it pays. It has created new votebanks. Numerically, the most significant is the EBC bloc, 100 odd castes that add up to around 30 % of Bihar’s vote. In 2004, not a single EBC candidate was voted to Parliament. In 2009, three will be sworn in as MPs, all three are from Nitish’s party.
 
Further proof of how caste realigned this election – Lalu’s outburst post defeat. Two months ago, on poll eve, he dismissed my questions on the impact of the potential consolidation of the EBC and Mahadalit vote. But as his own electoral defeat from Pataliputra flashed on TV screens, he turned to the group of journalists and ranted : ‘Everyone has united against Yadavs, there is hatred against Yadavs’. His other villains: the administration for rigging the polls, an upper caste media for biased reporting. Familiar targets from the nineties. Not suprising. But what was mildly stunning was Lalu’s dismissal of development as a factor. He said if Vikaas could win votes, he would have won hands down for the turnaround of the Railways. He was emphatic : development does not win votes. It was scary to see a man stuck in the nineties.
 
Nitish, as expected, called for a press conference and walking into 1, Anne Marg had a surprise in store : a mandatory security check, at sharp contrast from the mad chaotic unchecked stampede into Lalu’s home. The security guards, including women constables, were trained to frisk, but did not have the detectors. Another insight into how Bihar is changing – step by step.
 
The press conference took place under the mango tree, the sole unchanging landmark in a vastly different Chief Ministerial Residence. The briefing lasted twenty minutes and a beaming Nitish Kumar repeated several times, the word ‘Nakaraatmak’, translated best as ‘Negative’, but far more potent in its original meaning. Nitish said voters had rejected the ‘Nakaraatmak’ approach of his opponents. Nitish reiterated that this was a vote against ‘Nakaraatmak’ politics. At final count, Nitish had used the word 10 times.
 
Nitish may have choosen the negative adjective, but his work has been an affirmative one, both as the chief minister trying to bring governance back to Bihar, and as a politician schooled in the politics of social justice. The stream combines the socialist ideals of Jayaprakash Narayan, and the modified socialism of Karpoori Thakur – Bihar’s second backward caste chief minister and the first to introduce reservations for OBCs in North India, way back in 1978. Both Lalu and Nitish were claimants to this legacy. But while Lalu squandered it, Nitish is building on it – by deepening the reach of reservations and social targeting. It is Mandal Part Two. And like Mandal Part One, you could have a problem with it, if you oppose affirmative action based on caste. Except, by further refining reservations, Nitish has actually taken on what has been one of the prinicipal criticisms of Mandal – that it helped dominant caste groups like Yadavs and Kurmis become even more powerful, at the cost of the more backward and less powerful groups.
 
Lalu may have privately wished that Nitish’s agenda would lead to a backlash from the upper castes, Yadavs and Kurmis – but it didn’t. Possibly one explanation : even if the others are slightly resentful of reservations, the resentment is offset by the larger benefits of a functioning state that has finally begun to deliver.
 
No wonder, at his press conference, Nitish didnt look particularly crushed at the national picture of a UPA win, and an NDA defeat. Instead, he asked the new government at the centre to live up to the promise of special status for Bihar – just a day ago, every political party had shown a willingness to consider the demand when a hung verdict seemed likely and the support of Nitish seemed crucial.
 
Still beaming, Nitish wrapped up : Good that the elections are over, now lets all get back to work.
 
Post Script: Observations overheard that day: RJD has become Rajput Janta Dal. Apart from Laloo, the other three RJD candidates who won are Rajputs.
 
The election has ended the Raj of Gundas – Gundis. Gundas are dons turned politicians. Gundis are their wives, propped up as proxy candidates. All 10 of them lost. Including Munna Shukla on a JD U ticket.
 
A jubiliant Nitish had one reason to be upset. Digvijay Singh, his former party colleague turned rebel, won from Banka defeating Nitish’s candidate. This setback could be crucial – in keeping Nitish grounded. Bihar cannot afford another arrogant leader.

Source: NDTV Written by Supriya Sharma

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.

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.

The Second Murder

Sometimes, a single event can tell us more about the times we live in than an entire library full of sociological treatises. The Aarushi murder case is one such event. The responses to the case reveal the flaws in the institutions that we depend on: the police, the government, the media and the great Indian middle class itself.

But, first, let’s clear up one thing: I’m not a detective and neither are you. One of the problems with the way in which we have approached this case is that we’ve all spent too long trying to solve the mystery of who the killer was. That’s a legitimate goal, but not one that we, in our living rooms or our OB vans, are qualified to pursue. Perhaps her father killed her; perhaps he didn’t. I don’t know. And nor do you.

Many of us forget that there are two separate issues at stake here. The murder mystery is only the first. The more important one is our response to the murder. How have we treated the reputation of a slain 14-year-old girl? What does the manner in which the police have behaved tell us about law and order in India? Should we have any faith in our political system? And is it time to regulate the media?

The Police: The Noida police appear to have the investigative abilities of the Keystone Cops and the sensitivity of the Gestapo. At almost every stage, the case has been bungled. There’s been the failure to properly search the house and, therefore, the inability to discover the corpse of their chief suspect. There’s the fiasco of the remand of the father with no evidence, no confession, no motive and no murder weapon.

More worrying is the way in which the police have deliberately set out to destroy the reputation of a murdered teenager. The IGP in charge of the case has called Aarushi “characterless”. Her emails have been leaked to the media. So have her texts to her friends, violating not just her privacy but that of her schoolmates.

Most worrying of all is the IGP’s obsession with sex. Every possible motive leads back to sex. First, there was the extraordinary statement that Rajesh Talwar found his daughter in an ‘objectionable’ position with Hemraj, the servant. As Aarushi and Hemraj are dead, and Rajesh Talwar denies the story, how could the IGP possibly have known about the incident? Then, there’s the suggestion that Rajesh Talwar was having an affair with a colleague and that his daughter objected; off the record, the police have painted the parents as orgy-goers and wife swappers. And now, the cops are claiming that the father was motivated by anger at Aarushi’s relations with various boyfriends.

This is not a sex crime. So why are the Noida police going on and on about sex, ruining the reputations of the dead and the living without a shred of evidence?

My guess is that they are not just incompetent, they are also sex-starved. Perhaps the IGP needs professional help.

The Government: The media act as though the Noida police report to nobody. Some channels have even confused the IGP with his boss, the DGP of Uttar Pradesh. In fact, there is a chain of command. The DGP reports to a home secretary who reports to both a chief secretary and the home minister.

What is bizarre is that nobody in this chain of command has reprimanded the IGP or taken the investigation away from him. Instead, chief minister Mayawati has turned it into a political issue.

Imagine now that a joint commissioner of the Delhi or Bombay police had referred to a murdered child as “characterless”. The media uproar would have been enough to seal his fate. Why doesn’t the same happen in UP? In fact, why does this never happen in UP? Even during the Nithari killings, the Noida police got off scot-free, and Mulayam Singh’s brother dismissed the serial murders as being of little consequence.

I would argue that it’s the difference between national parties and regional parties. A BJP, CPM or Congress chief minister would have felt obliged to act, both because of an innate sense of right and wrong, and because of public pressure. But neither Mayawati nor Mulayam have any sense of right and wrong. As for the media uproar, they don’t give a damn: it doesn’t touch their vote-banks.

Now that regional parties threaten to take power at the Centre as part of a Third Front, it’s worth pondering the difference.

The Middle Class: As an educated Indian, I share the general outrage at the shredding of reputations, the sloppy investigation, the manhandling of a suspect against whom there is no solid evidence, and the denial of the presumption of innocence.But let’s consider another scenario. Suppose Hemraj had lived. The police were certain to have arrested him. Would anybody in the middle class have given a damn about how he was treated in custody? We, who are so angered by the manhandling of Rajesh Talwar, would have been unaffected by the third-degree methods that would almost certainly have been used on Hemraj. He would have been beaten up and tortured into signing a confession. He would have no right to privacy, no presumption of innocence and none of us would even have noticed.

I have always been suspicious of the manner in which every crime committed in a middle class home is blamed on the servant. Whether it’s a robbery or a murder, the cops never bother to draw up a list of suspects. They always arrest the servant and declare, a few days later, that he has confessed.

This has less to do with detective work and more with callous laziness. The motto of all Indian police forces is: we will hang the suspect and then find the evidence. It’s far easier to blame the servant than to launch an investigation. Rarely is any genuine evidence ever found. Instead the case rests on confessions and bogus ‘recoveries of stolen objects’.

Do we in the middle class mind? No, not at all. None of the outrage that has been expressed in this case ever extends to servants, to the poor and to anyone who is non-middle class.

The Media: Has there been any case where the media have behaved so badly? TV channels have carried MMSes purporting to show Aarushi’s loose ways. Even if these were genuine, there were privacy issues involved. But they were fakes. The channels carried them without verification. And now, they don’t even bother to apologise.The coverage of the Aarushi murder has been marked by lurid sensationalism. Anchors have appeared on the screen with their hands dipped in red paint. Fraudulent ‘re-enactments’, based on a dubious sense of what really happened, have been telecast. Even the English channels, which pride themselves on being more sensitive than their Hindi counterparts, have telecast the contents of private SMSes, sometimes, having them read out in theatrical re-enactments.

In their pursuit of ratings, television channels have acted as though no liberal value (presumption of innocence, privacy etc) matters and no journalistic rule (verification, attribution etc) is valid.

In their own way, the media have been as bad as — if not worse than — the Noida police. Journalists are too self-obsessed to sense the revulsion with which educated Indians have responded to media coverage of this case. Broadcasters sometimes believe that they can do anything they like as long as they get ratings, because there’s nobody to stop them.

But I think somebody will stop them. For the last five years, the government has been trying to regulate the media. All of us have fought this effort, arguing that self-regulation is the answer.

After all, we have asked our readers and viewers: who would you trust more — a civil servant or a journalist?

Ask that question today, and I suspect that we, in the media, would not like the answer. If the civil servant is an educated person, determined to impose liberal values and standards of accuracy, and the journalist is some sensation-hungry moron, metaphorically dancing on the grave of a murdered child, speculating breathlessly about her love life, and vulgarly suggesting that her parents were sex maniacs — well, then, my guess is that most educated Indians would pick the civil servant over the journalist.

The vagaries of Indian politics will ensure that the Noida police get away with murdering Aarushi all over again. But the media may not be so lucky. Any demand for regulation will now have widespread public support.

And can you really blame the public for feeling this way?

Vir Sanghvi in HT dated 01.0608

Remembering Dada Moni on his 6th Death Anniversary

Ashok Kumar,the star that refuses to fade away. The legendary actor hummed and hammed his way into the hearts of millions of fans. This small man with a frail physique, winning smile and personality which breathed love and affection is a true legend. Continue reading Remembering Dada Moni on his 6th Death Anniversary

Statistics is all Crap

I was in for an interview, waiting for my turn at the reception. Nervous, shaking, stomach-churning and not to mention those goose bumps. With trembling hands I picked up “Business world” – had to look like a pseudo-intellectual, you see.

Anyways the cover issue declared Infosys as the most respected company in India followed by Bharti Airtel and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance. Cool stuff, ain’t it?

But hey, wait a minute! What about Tata?

Well, it managed to finish in the top 10, that’s all they had to say about it. Come on now. Just look at Tata’s business, it has lived by the rules, has put the country before itself, has been a household name in India, a driver of technologies in India, always ahead in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), has kept only a minuscule amount of its profit for itself and still behind Reliance. Awkward, isn’t it?

Now here comes the funny part. The survey was done by some British Company/ Association BW (if I remember correctly). Absolutely fantastic!!! Aren’t we satisfied with the ridiculous and derogatory statements the British media makes about India that we need to turn to them to rate us? Their sample size was just 499. And they confidently claim to know us, a population of 1 billion+ !!!

Ridiculous, I say. All is fine, but rating Reliance in the Top 3 is got to be a scandal. Ask Anyone and anyone I mean and he’ll tell you about Reliance : “Big Company, Great Company! But respect equally big: Zero, Zero and Zero”

So what am I so pissed off on? The Survey? No, certainly not. The statistics like these ones leave me completely frustrated and especially when they are published in a respected and credible magazine like “Business World”. A sample size of just 499 was taken for India and no quantification of the data was mentioned, and you expect me to rely on this data?

Most of us , don’t have the time to go through the entire article. I did because I had little else to do. And I noticed what I wouldn’t have, had it been a quick read through. The sample size for it was lost in some corner of the article, not to be discovered by many.

Statistics may speak crap. Yes, it’s true but when a “business magazine” serves us the same crap, and that too on a platter, all because it comes from some gutter of London. It is unacceptable and unbearable.

Surveys like these divert our minds and heavily mislead us. And all because of what? Cheap publicity or funding from big MNCs!!!

I do not hold any grudge whatsoever against Reliance.. it is just a reflection of the general sentiment about the company in my environment. The opinion may or may not reflect the opinion of the general public.