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Monday, December 28, 2009

A Nobel Laureate and The Indian Public

The people of this country tend to put any one, whether an Indian or a person of Indian origin, who wins recognition from a phoren (foreign) land, on a pedestal, even at the cost of his or her craft, as experienced recently by a certain Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Corruption in the Indian Private Sector - II

As I had written earlier, although government servants are the ones generally accused of bribery, there, apparently, is no dearth of scams in the private sector either.

In the Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries, among others with a high turnover rate i.e. where people change jobs quite frequently, employees are encouraged to refer suitable candidates for any vacancies that may arise in the companies that they work for and given cash incentives if any such candidates are selected.

The benefits for the employers are two-fold. Firstly, they save on recruitment expenses, since the incentive given is often far less than the fee that may have to be paid to a placement agency (or recruitment consultancy, which is the more commonly used nomenclature in India) or the cost of advertising online or through the print-media and then short-listing resumes. Secondly, since employees generally refer their friends or relatives, the scheme helps in retention of talent.

However, some unscrupulous placement agencies and employees have found a loop-hole that they can exploit to their advantage. Such agencies pay cash bribes to employees of the companies that they wish to place candidates with, in order to get them to submit resumes of their clients through the referral schemes. If any of the candidates then gets appointed, he or she pays an amount equivalent to one month's salary to the agency.

A lawyer would be more competent to comment on the laws that their actions are in contravention of, but these definitely amount to breach of the employment contracts. Companies are well within their rights to take disciplinary action against the erring employees and to black-list the placement agencies.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Televised War: A Story Within A Story

For certain unavoidable reasons, I had been unable to watch the Kargil conflict on television in 1999. So, when excerpts from the original coverage were aired recently, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the 'limited war', I did not want to miss any.

In the first clip, it was evening and the intrepid reporter (I. R.), who has become a legend in her own right since (a Hindi film has a character inspired by her), nearly jumped out of her skin upon hearing a loud noise and said, "You can see behind you a Bofors 155 millimetre howitzer being fired.". I turned around and saw a pillow and a few newspapers and magazines on my bed, beyond which was a wardrobe, but not even a hand-gun, let alone a howitzer, was in sight. Additionally, my room would have proved to be too small for the Bofors. It was then that I realised that I. R. had been so scared that she had forgotten that the gun was placed behind her and not me or any other television viewer. Interestingly enough, no offensive action by enemy forces that could have harmed I. R. or those present around her was evident at that point of time.

In the second one, night had descended upon the area and the enemy had begun shelling Indian positions and I. R. and the camera-man accompanying her were invited to the relative safety of a bunker and given helmets to wear. The soldiers present in the bunker appeared relaxed and were listening to music on a portable radio set. However, I. R. asked them about all that went through their minds when they went into battle and whether they were affected by fear. The soldiers replied that fear was natural, but they were there to answer the call of duty and, moreover, they had trained throughout their professional lives to go to war (They might also have added that unless a shell were to land right on top of the bunker, there hardly was anything to worry about.). Perhaps I. R. meant to express her own feelings through the questions, since she was the only person in the bunker who appeared to be out of sorts.

In the third, it was daylight once again and I. R. showed the viewers the Maruti Gypsy that she and the camera-man had travelled to the forward area in, which had been wrecked by the shelling. She declared that the driver had run away, only to discover later that he had, in fact, been injured by shrapnel. Apparently, being the quintessential brown memsaahib, she had never bothered to check on the driver or worried about his safety the previous evening, even as she, herself, was well-ensconced.

People often fĂȘte I. R. for endeavours like those mentioned above. Having been used to reportage by channels like BBC World News and CNN though, wherein journalists and camera-persons accompany foot-patrols in Afghanistan and Iraq and fire-fights are routinely filmed from close quarters (with soldiers shooting and being shot at by enemy combatants from only a few hundred feet away) and shown on television, accompanied by concise and accurate commentary by the correspondents (despite the obvious danger to their lives), I was left rather unimpressed.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sikhs and 1984

“The Congress wants us to forget it; view it as an aberration. When they made Manmohan Singh Prime Minister, they stepped up this rhetoric; saying, ‘forget it now at least we have apologised and now made your man the Prime Minister. Our answer has been that the apology came 21 years late and under the Indian legal system an apology is not a substitute for punishment for murder. We want justice.”

- Advocate H. S. Phoolka, as quoted in today's edition of The Hindu

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Soldier and A Horse

The tall and strapping young Sikh was posted at Aden during World War I, as a Junior Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army.

One day, he was ordered to deliver an urgent missive to a forward post. He was almost there, when the horse that he was riding suddenly stopped in its tracks, neighed and reared up. Simultaneously, a shot rang out and hit the middle of the animal's forehead. It died instantaneously and collapsed on to one of the soldier's legs, before he could get his feet out of the stirrups, thus causing a bone fracture. Despite the injury, he managed to extricate himself rather quickly and made his way to the post, while being under heavy enemy fire.

"Tum toh bach gayaa!" (You escaped!), exclaimed the British commander of the post, in broken Hindustani, when the Sikh reached there. The Englishman had been watching the action unfold, through a pair of binoculars.

Shortly thereafter, the reply was prepared and the JCO was provided with another horse, to carry it back to headquarters. Later, he received an award, which included the grant of a sizeable piece of agricultural land in the Rawalpindi district (Punjab, Pakistan), besides the decoration, for the gallantry which he displayed that day. He, along with other members of his family, cultivated the land up to 1947, when the partition of India forced him to return permanently to his native village in Ludhiana district (Punjab, India).

Until the very end of his days, however, he often recounted the story of the horse that sacrificed its own life to save that of its rider, to his children, one of whom was my maternal grandfather.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Real Elephants Lose Out To Statues

The government of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is prepared to spend crores of rupees to build several statues of elephants (at Rs. 60 lakh per piece) in a 'memorial park', but has allocated an annual budget of only Rs. 50 lakh for the creation and maintenance of a special elephant reserve, as reported by The Tribune.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Partial Acknowledgement of The Truth?

"History would never forgive police officials who were at the helm of the affairs and the government of the day for their unprecedented slothful and quiescent role."
"But for the contrived action and sluggish response of the police and the government, scores of priceless lives could have been saved."
- Additional Sessions Judge S. S. Rathi, while awarding life-imprisonment to three men who appear to have taken advantage of the police's inactivity during the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots to rob their Sikh neighbours and set the Sikhs' house on fire to make it look like another case of rioting

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Religious Profiling, Shahrukh Khan and I

I had failed to clear the Financial Management examination in the second semester (out of a total of four) of M. B. A. and was to re-appear for it along with the students of the following batch. However, their examinations were postponed by a few months, instead of being held along with those for my fourth semester. So, I had to vacate the hostel room and return home. The year was 1999.

As luck would have it, one of my batch-mates had been placed with an Internet service provider at Indore itself, after the completion of the post-graduate course in management. Since I had his address, I expected to put up with him for the day or two that I would spend in the city. When I got there, though, he had shifted residence but a neighbour was able to provide me with the new address. I did not find him at home there either and, since it was already rather late in the evening by then, decided to look for a hotel room. I found one near the hostel, which was good as I was familiar with the area, having lived there for nearly two years.

Soon after I had settled down to read a text-book, following dinner, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find that three armed policemen, a sub-inspector and two constables, had come to visit me. They wanted to know the reasons for my presence in the city and when I told them about the examination, they asked for proof. As I was to collect the hall ticket/admission card for the examination from college the next day, I was at a loss for words. Some anxious thoughts crossed my mind during those few moments of silence.

For the uninitiated, it should be prudent to mention here that police in India are known to often detain people without formally arresting them for several days or even months. They have also been reported to use torture to extract 'confessions' and to declare those killed during 'interrogation' as 'dreaded terrorists' killed in 'fierce encounters' or to simply dump the corpses in canals or rivers.

In any case, I told them that I did not have the hall ticket/admission card. They asked whether I had any other form of proof and I pointed towards the book on the bed. Fortunately, it was sufficient to convince them and I felt relieved when they left.

Enquiries from members of the staff revealed later that the keepers of the law, summoned by a telephone call, had been to the hotel only to see me. They had specific instructions to inform the police whenever a Sikh, Muslim or Tamil came to stay.

Apparently, Mr. Shahrukh Khan, who was very distressed recently on account of being detained at an airport in the United States, simply because he is a Muslim, felt that way as he, being a film star, has probably never been subjected to religious or ethnic profiling in India, unlike mere mortals like me. I had been introduced to those concepts rather early in life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When India 'Exported Terror' - II

"Till 1977,...The Balochi fighters were trained in the deserts of Rajasthan. We also provided them with financial and diplomatic assistance."
- Mohan Guruswamy, in an Op.-Ed. published in The Tribune on August 2, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Brilliant Business Idea Or An Anachronism?

This is apropos of the survey posted earlier.

Esha appears to be a non-profit venture, which seeks to assist organisations that conduct business with, educate or employ blind people. It can help to get visiting cards braille-enabled, conduct theatre workshops to sensitise people to the special needs of the visually impaired and help with the creation of environments that can be inclusive enough for them. It also has a blog focussed on related issues.

However, the idea appears to be somewhat before its time, since, as far as I know, not many businesses in India employ or even seek to employ the blind at present. I am not aware of many blind entrepreneurs who deal with large business houses either.

As far as educational institutions are concerned, I believe the blind generally have to seek admission to special schools and colleges in this country, where there hardly are any sighted pupils.

So, unless Esha can convince corporate India to invest heavily in the creation of employment opportunities for the blind or regular educational institutions to admit blind students, the only sightless beneficiaries of its efforts seem likely to be those on its own payroll, who, obviously, are not going to be more than a few.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When India 'Exported Terror'

"Indira Gandhi's government provided us with arms training in Tamil Nadu's Salem district..."
- Karuna Amman alias Col. Karuna, formerly a close associate of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and now a minister in the Government of Sri Lanka, in an interview published in The Week (issue dated July 5, 2009)

Update:
"India helped the Liberation Tigers at a particular historical time to train and arm our fighters..."
- Anton Balasingham, Chief Negotiator and idealogue of LTTE, in an exclusive interview to NDTV
"The intelligence agencies said, Don't worry about the LTTE, they are our boys, they will not fight us...They said these are boys who were trained by us from 1977..."
- J N Dixit, India's high commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1985 to 1989, in an interview published at Rediff.Com

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Survey

Ki-Jaana-Main-Kaun is carrying out a survey and has asked for assistance. Please answer the following questions:

In India, is it possible to get Braille on your visiting cards? Yes/No
Do you know of an organisation called Esha – People for the blind? Yes/No

Please post your answers in the comments section.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I agree, President Obama

Presented below are a few extracts (which I agree with completely) from the speech that President Obama of the United States recently delivered at Cairo University, followed by the manner in which each of these is relevant to the social and political realities in India:

"I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality."
Relevance to India: Women who mostly wear traditional dresses (or dress conservatively) are generally looked down upon and treated as less than equal, many a time despite being highly educated and/or having outstanding achievements to their credit in their chosen fields of work, by women who adopt a more Westernised mode of dressing (quite frequently comprised of clothes that are excessively tight and/or revealing). Derogatory terms like behenji (which, otherwise, is a form of address for an elder sister) are often used to refer to the former, by the latter.

"I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice."
Relevance to India: Women who take up traditional roles like the 'housewife' or 'home-maker', even if they do so of their own volition and are very successful at raising a family, are often thought of as having put their talents to waste and are not always considered as 'modern' or 'advanced' as those who choose to work outside of the home.

"I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations - including my own - this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities - those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures."
Relevance to India: The emphasis on censorship and bans appears to have been far greater than genuine attempts at preservation of a distinct culture. At the same time, anything that is phoren (foreign) is thought of as superior, whether it be language or food or dress or literature or, of late, even social mores, by a substantial proportion of the population.

"It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."
Relevance to India: Religious minorities are like the children of a lesser God in this country, despite the equal status envisioned for all citizens by those who drafted the Constitution of India. Mosques are razed to the ground, Gurdwaras are burnt and Churches are attacked with impunity. Thousands of innocent Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are pulled out of their own homes and hacked or bludgeoned to death or burnt alive and their houses set on fire, without the culprits having to fear any kind of punishment. In fact, many of those accused of such grave crimes against humanity not only contest, but also win elections to become members of parliament or state legislative assemblies. Some of them even go on to become ministers in the government of India or in the various state governments.

The resulting sense of persecution and lack of hope for justice can and often does help provide fresh recruits for terrorist organisations, from the minority communities. Thus, the vicious cycle of violence continues.

Incidentally, the 'masterminds' responsible for terrorist violence are almost invariably apprehended as well as prosecuted, unlike those responsible for communal violence.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Solution for Communalism

With respect to the last paragraph of the previous post, a friend, who is a school-teacher from Scotland, wrote:

"It's true...about kids gaining prejudices at a young age, without really understanding what it's all about...that's what I often say about racial issues and other prejudices being 'in-bred'...there's many, I'll bet, who are engaged in conflicts around the world due to in-bred prejudices, or pre-conceived notions about a person or persons. The only way to ever change things in this world and the only ever hope of peace is to try to promote tolerance from the start (i.e. when very young). This also involves co-operation from the parents, though, so is no easy task. However sometimes opinions can be changed...just takes a lot of work, effort and a lot of introspection (something that not all folks are comfortable with)..."

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Memories of 1984 (Part 3)

On a morning that it appeared relatively safer to venture out, my father and I set out on foot to visit the Sikh family that had been attacked in the neighbourhood. They had been friends of my parents' long before I was born. I listened intently as the events of that fateful evening were recounted for us.

Using crowbars, apparently, some of the attackers managed to break the back door open, while others worked at forcing an entry at the front. Mr. Singh stood in the doorway, to prevent the miscreants from entering. They used sticks and iron rods to hit him. Within a few minutes, his collar-bone and the bones in one of his forearms had been broken. When he fell to the floor, shortly thereafter, an adolescent daughter of his replaced him. Blows rained down upon her as well and she, too, sustained injuries.

In the meanwhile, Mr. Singh's septuagenarian father retrieved his 12-gauge shotgun (for which he had a licence issued by the Government of India) from under his bed and loaded it. Almost as soon as he opened a window at the front of the flat and prepared to fire at the mob, an alarm was raised and all of the rioters fled.

On our way back, after we had listened to the account provided above, we met another Sikh colleague of my father's. He had been to a meeting attended by some officials of the local administration and members of the Gurdwara management committee. Apparently, the officials were unwilling to guarantee security, if reconstruction of the Gurdwara were to begin immediately.

A few days later, when I returned to school after the 'communal-riot break', a non-Sikh classmate told me that the Sikhs in the local area had brought the violence upon themselves, because they had celebrated Indira Gandhi's death. My contention that I personally knew no such people appeared to cut no ice with him.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Memories of 1984 (Part 2)

The morning after Indira Gandhi's assassination, I was at home, probably because school was closed on account of the state of mourning declared by the government. As I sat near a window in the quarter (one of four dwelling units in a 'block') which had been allotted to my father by his employer, like thousands of others who worked for the public sector unit, I could hear the wives of his colleague who lived next-door and the one who occupied the flat above ours converse among themselves. I do not recall the details, but do remember that there were a lot of unkind words said about the Sikh community, in general.

That evening, I stepped out on the front porch, upon hearing my mother's loud expression of anger, to see huge flames rising into the sky from the spot where the colony's Gurdwara had been. She ordered me inside and went off to ring up the fire brigade. We did not have a telephone connection at home and my father had gone to fetch the family's daily supply of milk.

The Sikh gentleman whose place my mother had gone to for making the telephone call told her that he had already contacted the fire-fighters and that she should go home, give my brother (who was a few days short of his first birth-day at that point of time) a teaspoon of Phenergan, so that he would sleep peacefully through the night, and turn out the lights after having locked all doors and drawn the curtains. She took his advice. Later, when my father returned, he told us about all that he had seen and heard during the day, as we sat in the kitchen, which was lit dimly by a small lamp that he installed there. The rest of the night passed uneventfully.

Early the next morning, my chacha (father's younger brother), who worked in the same manufacturing plant as my father and lived a few minutes of driving distance away, came to see us. He had seen the fire that engulfed the Gurdwara, the previous evening, and had been worried about our safety. As the day wore on, news came in that the home of another Sikh family, at about 10-15 minutes of walking distance from ours, had been attacked by the mob that burnt the Gurdwara and some members injured grievously. The police had been almost completely inactive throughout, so the threat to our lives seemed very real.

The non-Sikh tenants in the quarter diagonally opposite the one we had, offered to let my mother keep her jewellery and some other valuables with them until the violence subsided, for safety, which she accepted. Another such family in the adjacent block offered to let my father park his car in their garage, which he did. The next-door neighbours stored water in drums, whether to help us in case of a calamity or to safeguard themselves, I am not sure.

Since we did not have any weapons for self-defence, except kitchen knives, my mother (since she was not as easily recognisable as a Sikh as my father and I) brought in paving stones, one by one, from a nearby road-construction site, which were then stacked on the inside of the front door. My parents instructed me to pick up my brother and slip out through the back door to hide in the thick foliage behind the residence, with one hand cupped tightly over his mouth, while they would try to stop the hoodlums for as long as they could, in case of an attack.

No such eventuality arose, however, and the army staged a flag-march in the town on the following day, after which no violent incidents were reported. Like us, my chacha and his family, comprised of his wife and young son, also survived unscathed, even as thousands of other Sikhs perished in various parts of India.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Memories of 1984 (Part 1)

My brother was less than a year old and I was eight, in June 1984.

During the summer break at school, my mother, brother and I had gone to visit my maternal grandparents at Chandigarh, while my father staid back at Hardwar in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where he worked for a public sector unit. One fine day, curfew was imposed on the city with shoot-at-sight orders, for which no one really knew the reasons. People could not even procure essential supplies, since they risked being shot at if they ventured outside their houses. Fortunately, we had a relative in the local police force, who was able to help us during the few days that there was no relaxation in curfew.

Then, we heard on All India Radio that Sri Harmandir Saahib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar had been stormed by the Indian Army. A day or two later, the curfew was lifted and life went on, though not the same as before, as I was going to find out subsequently. When my father came to fetch us home towards the end of my holidays, a neighbour of my grandfather's, whose son was an army officer, offered to have a batman sent along with us, but my father refused. On the way, ours appeared to be the only car that was stopped and searched at several army and police check-points. They not only searched our luggage, but also made my mother open her hand-bag and the bag containing my brother's diapers, even as vehicles with non-Sikh occupants sped by, unchecked. Out of the handbag's contents, one of the policemen found a pen that could also be worn as a bracelet to be highly suspicious. He made my mother use it to write on a piece of paper, while he and his colleagues at that particular check-post stood at a safe distance, just in case there was to be an explosion.

From all that happened between then and the carnage that took place in the month of November, a couple of incidents stand out in my mind. In the first instance, I was walking alone along a street near where we lived, to run an errand for my mother, the details of which I do not recall now, when a man on a bicycle rode past and then turned around to shout, "Oye aatank-waadi!" (Terrorist!). The same epithet was hurled at me in the second one as well, by a boy a little older than myself, while he and I played with toy guns in a park in the neighbourhood.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Remembering Lahore of Yore

Khaled Ahmed, a Pakistani journalist, has written recently in the Indian Express about Lahore, as it was known to previous generations and the way in which recent events indicate its transformation into a very different city.

The portions that I found particularly to be of interest include:

"Lahore was known as a tolerant city with a big heart that set cultural trends. It published all the books and magazines that mattered in India and Burma. Jats and Rajputs belonging to Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities formed cross-communal “unionist” governments that disallowed entry into the province to both Congress and the Muslim League."
and

"The 1941 census had recorded 700,000 people in the city of Lahore out of which 240,000 were Hindus and Sikhs, who owned much of the city’s wealth. There were entire areas in the city, like Chuna Mandi and Shah Alami, which were non-Muslim."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rock On, Baba Bulleh Shah!

Baba Bulleh Shah, the Sufi mystic, was always a bit of an iconoclast. That is one of the reasons because of which I enjoy reading and listening to his poetry. Unconventional as he was, I am sure he also would approve of the potent combination formed by his poetry and rock music. The following tracks range from rock to rock-fusion, I believe, in terms of genre.

Title: Aleph
Album: Parvaaz
Artiste(s): Junoon

Title: Bulleya
Album: Parvaaz
Artiste(s): Junoon

Title: Bulla Ki Jaana Maen Kaun
Album: Rabbi
Artitste(s): Rabbi Shergill

Title: Bandeya
Album: OST Khuda Ke Liye
Artiste(s): Khawar Javed

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Few Conclusions Based On The Mumbai Audio Intercepts

A few days ago, a television news-channel aired excerpts from audio intercepts of telephonic conversations amongst those who attacked Mumbai and their mentors. Based on the portions that I managed to listen to, the following appear to be quite plausible conclusions, if the recordings are presumed to be authentic, apart from the most obvious one i.e. the entire operation was micro-managed from the 'war-room':

1. The attackers were well-trained in the use of fire-arms and other hardware required to achieve their objectives, including electronic equipment, but probably had little combat experience, before they were sent into Mumbai. Also, they had not been put through much training for close-quarter combat in an urban environment, it seems.

Those who laid siege to Nariman House, for instance, expressed their inability to decide upon the appropriate defensive positions to be taken near a staircase and sought guidance from their mentors, after commandos of the National Security Guards (NSG) landed on the roof of the building and began to make their way downwards. Similarly, those who were at the Taj and the Trident required advice on how to take position in the hotels' rooms and when to hurl grenades upon security forces' personnel.

It had appeared to me earlier that the attackers must have been trained as well or perhaps even better than the Indian commandos, since such a small number of them had managed, for so long, to hold off commando forces that are supposed to be India's best. However, as is clear from the audio intercepts, it was not the case and they managed to pull off that feat, to a large extent, on account of live assistance (available round the clock through telephone) from experts.

2. In light of the above, it may be fair to conclude that had communication between the attackers and their handlers been jammed, the terrorists may have been overpowered much sooner than they actually were and, possibly, at a lower cost in terms of loss of life and property. On the other hand, it could be argued that listening in could keep the security forces apprised of the terrorists' activities as well as plans and, therefore, be the more effective approach. That the latter was adopted is now part of history. Whether it was utilised to save the lives of as many non-combatants as possible is something I am not very sure of, however.

During a conversation, after negotiations for meeting some of the terrorists' demands in return for the release of two Israeli women taken hostage in Nariman House had come to naught, a handler ordered them to shoot the women dead. The one who took the call told his superior though that his partner had gone off to sleep, since he was too tired. So, together they decided to postpone the killings for half an hour, when the mentor would call his wards again.

It is difficult to be absolutely certain about whether the women's lives could have been saved if the NSG commandos had stormed the building at that point of time, but that was the only chance they had. Nothing of the sort happened, however, and the security forces continued to listen in, as both women were done to death during the next telephone call, a good 30-40 minutes later. They stormed the building only the next morning, soon after they had heard the terrorists' advisers tell them to move out and attack the security forces in a final and, possibly, suicidal assault, if the besiegers did not enter Nariman House within a certain period of time.

From the aforementioned sequence of events, one may reasonably conclude that whoever was making decisions on behalf of the security forces that day found the hostages' lives to be far less valuable than the opportunity to capture the terrorists alive and to minimise the casualties among the commandos, on account of the terrorists becoming hungrier and thirstier as their food and water supplies ran out and, therefore, their fighting abilities being diminished.

3. If the tapes are to be believed, the television coverage of the attacks did prove to be of assistance to the terrorists, particularly in the case of those besieged at Nariman House. With the help of the visuals provided by various news-channels, those at the command centre informed the foot soldiers that the NSG's men had taken up position on some of the surrounding structures and included snipers with their rifles aimed at the windows of the building, which should be kept away from for that reason. They conveyed to the men that security force personnel were finding it difficult to find a place in the narrow lanes that could provide sufficient cover for them to take up position at and was close enough to the building, in order for the final assault to be launched. Among other vital pieces of information that were passed on was an approximation of the number of commandos dropped on to the roof of Nariman House by helicopter, at a later stage.

The continuous coverage by electronic news-media was also utilised by the controllers to boost the morale of their boys. Details of the number of policemen and soldiers killed, along with their ranks, proved useful in this respect, in addition to the expressions of fear and anxiety by prominent personalities in front of television cameras.

4. Any one who listened to the conversations recorded from Nariman House would know that these were in the Urdu language, whereas those recorded from the Trident were in Punjabi and those from the Taj were partially in Urdu and partially in Punjabi. The Urdu speakers among the mentors sounded, at least to me, like they had a distinct Punjabi accent, however.

Furthermore, it seems to me that some of the mentors had been to schools and/or colleges where the medium of instruction was English, because just like I often tend to do, whenever they were at loss for the appropriate word in Urdu/Punjabi, they made use of an English word instead. Those who have been to educational institutions where the medium of instruction is a regional language also use English words while speaking in the vernacular, but such usage generally tends to sound deliberate.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quote of the Year

"You can't make corruption an issue for deciding the political programme and understanding between political parties. (In this manner) we can't have an understanding with any political party."
- Prakash Karat, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Ashok Chakra awarded despite controversy

At least one of the winners of the Ashok Chakra, the highest peace-time gallantry award in India, this year, has been granted the honour despite controversy surrounding the supposed act of valour.

In view of the above, the hope for an impartial enquiry being conducted into the incident has receded further. There appears to be a strong possibility that those who decided upon the list of awards might also have arranged for reliable material evidence like autopsy (post mortem examination) reports, which could have proved that there hardly was any bravery involved, to vanish.

The main-stream news-media have mostly remained silent on the issue.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Thought for Republic Day

"Kya banaane aaye thhe aur kya banaa baithhe
KahiN Mandir, kahiN Masjid, kahiN Gurdwara, kahiN Girja banaa baithhe
Hum se toh achhi hai zaat parindoN ki
Kabhi Mandir, kabhi Masjid, kabhi Gurdwaare toh kabhi Girje pe ja baithhe"

(It would be difficult for me to attempt a translation, with my limited talents, without some of the impact being lost. However, it can be safely stated that the poet laments upon the rigid manner in which humanity has been divided on the basis of religion and seeks to compare humans against birds, which visit places of worship of different religious faiths without discrimination and which, therefore, may be considered to regard all religions as equal.)
 
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