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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sweet Dreams?

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