Saturday, May 31, 2014

July 1987: Reports from a different India

Posted: July 08, 1987

FATEHABAD, India -Terrorists thought to be Sikh separatists attacked two more buses yesterday, killing a total of 34 people, mostly Hindus, and bringing to 74 the number of people shot to death in two days of highway ambushes.
On Monday, gunmen killed 40 bus passengers, nearly all of them Hindus, in Punjab state.
Police said five extremists struck about 8:30 p.m. yesterday on National Highway No. 10 in Haryana state, which borders Punjab. The attack occurred about six miles from Fatehabad, a small market town in India's wheat belt, and about 150 miles southwest of Chandigarh.
The attackers used a car and a jeep to block a bridge to stop one bus, police said. They boarded the vehicle, began dragging out passengers, and had killed four when a second bus came by from the opposite direction, headed for New Delhi.
The terrorists then rushed across to the second bus and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing 30, police said.
When the gunmen turned their attention to the second bus, survivors on the first fled across nearby fields. Most of the dead were Hindus, and 15 people were wounded, authorities said.
Police said they believed that yesterday's attacks were carried out by the same group that staged Monday's ambush, in which several gunmen forced a bus driven by a Sikh to stop on the main highway from Chandigarh to Delhi. They then drove to a secluded spot before opening up on the passengers.
In that attack, one gunman apparently was shot accidentally by his comrades. His body was found later in an abandoned getaway car.
Punjab Police Chief Julio F. Ribeiro told reporters that the bus driver in Monday's attack was detained for questioning. Ribeiro said that ammunition recovered at the massacre site showed that the militants used Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles.
Yesterday was the fourth time in a year that Sikh gunmen had targeted bus passengers. In attacks in July 1986 and in November, a total of 38 people, mostly Hindus, were killed. No arrests have been made in those attacks.
The massacre Monday was the worst since extremists began a campaign five years ago to establish an independent Sikh nation in Punjab.
Sikhs slightly outnumber Hindus in Punjab. Officials say the random killings of Punjabi Hindus are intended to drive them out of the state and in turn prompt retaliatory Hindu killings of Sikhs elsewhere in India that would force Sikhs to flee to Punjab.
In June 1984, the army attacked Sikh militants holed up in the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple at Amritsar, killing hundreds. Four months later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by Sikh assassins, and her son, Rajiv, took over.
In a statement after Monday's slaughter, Gandhi said, "This atrocity should redouble our resolve to fight against the extremists."
He took direct control of Punjab on May 11 when he fired the state's moderate Sikh government for failing to stem terrorist violence.
But his seeming inability to manage the deteriorating situation in Punjab was a key factor in the rout that his Congress-I Party suffered last month in Haryana state elections. A peasant-dominated party swept to power in Haryana in an anti-Gandhi backlash.
More than 500 people have died in separatist violence so far this year. About 640 were killed last year.
All three buses ambushed in the last two days were operated by Haryana
Roadways, the state transportation company. Yesterday, Haryana followed Punjab in suspending nighttime bus services.
Frustrated officials in New Delhi said it was virtually impossible to prevent attacks on buses, thousands of which are on the roads every day.
"You just can't really be watching all the roads and all the buses," one said.
Home Minister Buta Singh, a Sikh and India's top internal security official, went to Chandigarh to visit wounded survivors of Monday's attack and called it "a brutal murder of human values."
Political leaders in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir called for general strikes to protest the bus killings. Schools were ordered closed in Haryana and shops in Chandigarh closed after the first attack.
The right-wing and predominantly Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, defying a police ban on public assembly in New Delhi, said it would organize a march on Gandhi's heavily guarded residential compound in the south of the capital city today.
After last night's attacks, security forces across northern India were put on maximum alert and the army was placed on standby to assist police in preserving calm in New Delhi, the scene of previous backlash attacks by Hindus on Sikhs.


Posted: July 09, 1987

FATEHABAD, India — They lay on slabs of ice in the front corridor of the general hospital, lifeless men and boys who only hours before had been on the wrong bus at the wrong time.
At first there were 32 of them, so many that the floor was covered with fresh blood. By yesterday afternoon more than half were gone, claimed by relatives for cremation.
The wiry corpses were the latest victims of the war raging between militant Sikhs and India's Hindu-dominated central government.
They were gunned down Tuesday night - apparently by Sikh terrorists - on two buses just outside this parched market town 150 miles northwest of New Delhi. Were it not for a similar bus slaughter Monday, in which 40 passengers died, the killing would have been the bloodiest civilian massacre since the beginning of the Sikh terror campaign.
The two incidents touched off a round of revenge violence in several Indian cities yesterday. Six Sikhs were reported killed, including one Fatehabad merchant who was burned to death.
In addition to the sheer numbers of dead, the Hindus were outraged because the Tuesday massacres were the first outside the Sikh-dominated state of Punjab, where militants have been fighting for five years to establish an independent Sikh nation. That massacre was in neighboring Haryana state, which is predominantly Hindu and increasingly anti-Sikh.
Fatehabad is in Haryana, and 90 percent of its residents are Hindu. Although they and their Sikh neighbors have lived amicably for years, the peace was shattered yesterday morning.
Hindu rioters stormed Sikh-owned shops and businesses, gutting about 15 of them, police said. A mob chased a Sikh merchant and burned him to death, said Munish Chandra Gupta, Haryana's home minister. News photographers saw Hindus dispassionately watching the victim's death throes.
Seven Hindus in the town were injured when a Sikh storeowner opened fire on a mob coming to torch his business.
The violence ended with the arrival of government soldiers, who imposed an immediate curfew, emptying the streets and filling the town with an eerie, frightened silence.
By mid-afternoon, shops were shuttered, and soldiers patrolled the streets in convoys with their Sten guns pointed outward. Occasionally a civilian could be seen scurrying across a road on some errand before he was ordered back indoors.
Fires continued to smolder at a gas station and a general store, adding to the brutal heat and dust of India's dry season.
Parked in front of the hospital were the two buses attacked in Tuesday's massacre, one driven there by its uninjured driver and the other by a 16-year- old boy who survived the massacre by hiding under a seat.
Through a translator at a hospital, the terrified youth, Zile Singh, gave this account:
It had just become dark as the bus traversed a plain - fertile when wet, but now parched by the blazing, pre-monsoon sun - when it had to stop at a small irrigation bridge, several miles outside Fatehabad, because a car or jeep was in the way.
Four men stormed the bus, brandishing weapons. They did not wear the turbans or long beards that usually characterize Sikhs, but no one in Fatehabad appeared to doubt that they were Sikhs.
The four then told two Sikh passengers to collect the passenger's valuables. Then, three women at the back of the bus were ordered to come forward and take off their clothes.
After they had done so, the boy said, the terrorists opened fire, ultimately killing 27 people on the bus and injuring two dozen, as well as killing a taxi driver who stopped at the bridge. The women were abused, but no women or children were among those killed.
Singh crouched under the seat for about 10 minutes, then peered cautiously out. When he saw one of the wounded people moving, he climbed into the driver's seat and drove the bus to the Fatehabad hospital.
He was not aware that a few minutes later the terrorists attacked another bus at the same place, spraying it with machine-gun fire and killing four people. The driver of the second bus also brought his passengers to the hospital.
As news of the latest killings spread, anti-Sikh violence exploded across Haryana and another Hindu-dominated state in northern India, Uttar Pradesh.
Three Sikhs died in Haryana, police said. Two more were slain in Rishiskesh, the Himalayan Hindu city on the banks of the revered Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh, the United News of India reported.
At least 25 Sikhs were injured in mob violence in Rishikesh, and at least 62 were injured in Haryana and elsewhere in north India.
Along Highway 10 in Haryana, roving mobs of Hindus could be seen as shimmering objects in the distance through the heat waves coming off the blacktop road. They stopped and surrounded cars, peering in, wild-eyed and shouting, at their occupants, hoping to find Sikhs they could kill with the bricks and thick wooden clubs they carried.
Convoys of soldiers patrolled the road, the major one in the state, trying to halt the cycle of killing. Along the road the burning skeletons of trucks waylaid by the mobs attested to their ferocity.
Back in the hospital, about a dozen men injured in Tuesday's attack lay on hastily assembled cots in a hot, dusty side room.
Government officials and dignitaries arrived at regular intervals to witness the carnage. They were escorted over the corpses in the center hall and past the mounds of bloody clothing left in the corridors.
Because the ice under the bodies was melting, they also had to endure a terrible stench.
"We must do something with the bodies quickly," said Kuldeep Kumer, chief medical officer of the hospital. "It is a terrible thing, but if they are not picked up by tomorrow morning, we will have to take them out ourselves to have them cremated."


PS: I was raised in the same town (Fatehabad). But by the time, I could follow the happenings, Punjab's insurgency had ended. But my Mother recalls armed Khalistan militants visiting her village (in Rajasthan) every evening for area domination, while my father  barely escaped a militant attack in Abohar (Ferozepur District of Punjab).  Apart from State and political actors inside Punjab, ordinary Sikh community outside Punjab and ordinary Hindu community inside Punjab feared for their lives all through 1980s & early 1990s- thousands of families had to leave their ancestral places  (Hindus out of Punjab, Sikhs out of India or into Punjab). At the height of militancy, our family too bought some land deeper inside Rajasthan, just in case the shit hit the fan-which thankfully didn't happen. Nevertheless, The brutal insurgency and counter-insurgecy dragged on for years, ending only by Mid 1990s.

May-day(s) were quite the Pay-day(s)

A message from the desk-clerk's desk.

May was supposedly a  decent month for BP, no doubt driven by some election news somewhere in far-off Brown land. This was the third month in a row that we have crossed the 200 postings mark.

The Bosses have made it known that they are not displeased with the page-view counts or whatever other indices that are used to benchmark our performance. Normally this would lead to some idle chatter about bonus and what not amongst the working classes...but what with zero hour contracts and all that, the revolutionary spirit is sadly lacking.

However we comrades are always ready to march out the door if an inspirational leader comes by. Just thought we would let you know.

On the human resources front we have been blessed with a bright, young chap who is an elite (comes from an exclusive educational background) yet rooted in the soil that we all love. We have great expectations....yet it must be said...yeh dil mange more. You lazy bums (sorry most honored readers) why dont you step up and contribute a bit as well?

BTW if there are any suggestions for improvement please pass them on and we will try our best to get the curry condiments and floral arrangements just right. 

To end this message, we must give our usual, awe-struck salaams and kurnish-es to the one and only Doctor Sahib. A single post of the Great Man is approaching has touched 7000 page-views (with no slowing down in sight). It is always a pleasure  to watch (and learn from) the master at work. Thanks to all others who have contributed as well.

Finally, we did make an appeal on the spam that has infected the comments. For such a smart, happening site this is the only fly in the ointment. Hopefully the management will get the heavy artillery out and do the needful.

warm regards

The Master Spy comes in from the cold

When we read about Indian officialdom (as well as in team sports) the focus is almost always on the people who are bumbling and stumbling. This is unlike Pakistan, where the officials (mostly from military background) as well as sports-persons are considered to be highly focused and motivated in their jobs.

Doval, spent six years in Pakistan in the Indian High Commission.... he once disguised himself as a Muslim and went to a dargah in Lahore for an evening of qawwali. Pakistani intelligence officers were tailing him and, after some time, one of them crawled next to Doval to whisper that his fake beard was dangling loose, forcing him to beat a hasty retreat.

To name just one organization, ISI is considered to be miles ahead of RAW. Yes, there is lot of envy on the Indian side and the common explanation is that it is ideology which drives Pakistanis (as opposed to greed and egoism slowing down Indians).

The only times when India has come through convincingly is the 1971 Bangla war under the command of JS Aurora, S Maneckshaw, R Jacob, and S Singh and the 2011 ICC World Cup under the command of MS Dhoni. There have been some remarkable civilian officers: Damayanti Sen and Durga Nagpal, Ashok Khemka and Amit Khare, but they are considered to be exceptions which prove the rule.

It is thus a pleasant surprise to know of a successful spy, the best of  the lot. Meet Ajit Kumar Doval who will be the National Security Advisor for this administration. Even in the short bio that follows, one notices plenty of the same bumbling/stumbling noted above, but also some remarkable successes taken at considerable personal risk.
Four or five men huddled together in a Delhi hotel room. They were going through travel arrangements. Three of them were to leave for Dubai a little later to execute one of the most audacious operations by Indian intelligence agencies. 

How India voted: National Election Study 2014

 Some conclusions culled from the survey:
  1. Modi's candidature helped NDA: 1 in every 4 respondents who voted for NDA said they would not have voted for the coalition had Modi not been the prime ministerial candidate
  2. It was the upper castes, OBCs, and the tribals-who together won the day for BJP
  3. Upper Caste consolidation in favor of BJP reached 1998 level, while Muslim vote share for Congress remained steady
  4. BJP recorded her largest ever Muslim voteshare but by and large, Congress and the rest retained their Muslim Voters

  5. Highest ever Young Voter Turnout: Compared to the national average of 66.6%, turnout among first-time voters (18-22 years) and ‘other young voters’ was 68 %. In past, the turnout among young voters has always been lower compared to the average national turnout. So this is a big deal. The increase in turnout among first-time voters was visible in both rural and urban constituencies and cut across gender. 
  6. In the BJP win states, Support for the party cuts across young and old: The biggest shift among first-time voters in favour of the BJP could be seen in Madhya Pradesh followed by Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. But, in other States where the party registered an impressive victory — Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — it received more support among voters of the age group 23-25 and among other middle-aged voters compared to first-time voters 
  7. A thin 'majority' mandate: Before 2014 elections, the lowest vote share of a “majority” party was 41 % . Compared to that, BJP’s share of 31 per cent is pretty low.

Operation Bluestar

Written by Hamid Hussain on this 30th anniversary of the operation:

Operation Blue Star
Hamid Hussain

June 05 is the thirty year anniversary of the Indian army operation to clear militants from the Sikh religion’s holiest temple in Amritsar.  This was the culmination of chain of events simmering for several years.  In late 1970s, conflict between center and Punjab, internal power struggle among Sikh political elite, poor economic conditions of rural Punjab and assertion of Nirankaris (a sect of Sikhism considered heretic by orthodox Sikhs) resulted in rapid escalation of violence in Punjab.  In early 1980s, Sikh agitation took an ugly turn and a group of militant Sikhs under the leadership of a charismatic leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale upped the ante.  In December 1983, fearing arrest, Bhindranwala with few hundred armed supporters moved into the Golden Temple complex.  Armed militants occupied many buildings of the Golden temple complex.   Many wanted militants found refuge in the temple and in April 1983, in an audacious move militant shot dead Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police Jullundhar range Avtar Singh Atwal inside the temple.  Several police officers including Inspector Bicchu Ram and Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP) Gurbachan Singh were also assassinated by militants.  In June 1984, Indian government decided to send troops to the Golden Temple complex to clear it out of militants.  After a bloody fight, temple was cleared resulting in heavy casualties. 

Sanity strikes in Sudan!!!!

Very good news in a world where a trickle of good news is mostly drowned out by the torrents of bad news.

Hope (in our common humanity) springs eternal as Merriam is saved from certain death. We are sure her family will be immensely relieved. Congratulations to all those who protested and who believed that the protests would work (unfortunately we of little faith did not).

Merriam just had a baby girl as well. Best wishes from the bottom of our heart.
A woman sentenced to death in Sudan after marrying a Christian could be released within days, according to reports. A senior Khartoum official has told the BBC that Meriam Ibrahim will be freed following worldwide protests about her treatment.
David Cameron has joined Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Tony Blair in condemning the "barbaric" punishment of the 27-year-old, who gave birth to a daughter this week while shackled in her cell.

Ms Ibrahim was raised a Christian by her mother and has refused to renounce the faith.
However, a court ruled earlier this month that she is Muslim because that was her father's faith.

Her Christian marriage was annulled and she was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for renouncing Islam.

Sex outside a "lawful relationship" is regarded as adultery under Sudanese law.


The Golden Temple

As we peruse this report on Operation Bluestar by Hartosh Singh Bal we find even more reasons why religion should stay out of South Asian politics (but then as a liberal atheist we are expected to believe that). At the minimum what is required right now are decent politicians who will not exploit heavenly matters for earthly gain.

The dismal story of Bluestar had been set on its tracks by Sanjay Gandhi, but it now appears that its disastrous conclusion was the work of his brother Rajiv, who swept to power with the biggest mandate in Indian history following his mother’s assassination. 

Operation Bluestar was not just Indira Gandhi’s last battle; it was the first, and perhaps the most disastrous, of Rajiv’s blunders.
By the time the smoke cleared over the Darbar Sahib, hundreds of innocent bystanders had died. 

Bhindranwale lay murdered, and the Akal Takht, where he had set up his final defiance of Delhi, stood shattered. The operation was followed by the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, and the organised massacre of thousands of Sikhs by Hindu mobs, led mainly by Congress politicians.
........ ....

Our opinion (as  informed by our relatives who survived in the war zone) is that 1984 was a great crime and happened as part of an action-reaction story (Hartosh does not account for the Hindus who were forced out of buses and summarily shot to death). But as he makes it clear like never before, the desperation of the Royal Family to get back into power in Punjab and how Rajiv Gandhi and his cronies played with fire (which later consumed the family as well). It is clear also that ordinary people matter very little in the scheme of things, with dynasties looking to survive (through a policy of divide and rule) or outstanding egos looking to be fed (by human blood). Justice in its own fashion has been handed out after more than 30 years have gone by. It is too little, too late.

Friday, May 30, 2014

So now they understand (350 years too late)

Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

Not to worry little Englanders, the sole purpose of EUSSR is to force the Human Rights Act down your uncivilized throats. There will be no stopping of immigration from brown/black lands - your jails are far better than their burnt-out huts. As far as overseas aid is concerned, it is a bribe to sell first-world weapons to third-world despots. Be happy now and suck it up (freedom will be a long time coming).

We are firm believers in maximum devolution of power and hence are sympathetic to claims of UK being crushed by the dictates of imperials from Brussels and Strasbourg. How about considering an apology for UK having colonized India, causing numerous Holocausts through man-made famines, collecting trillions in illegal taxes and confiscated treasures, destroying local industries and enslaving tens of thousands of soldiers to fight Indians at home and other Europeans abroad? 


We all saw it coming...

...we just did not realize how bad things were. The most damning observation by Anand Soondas is the currency of "Hindu truth" vs. "Muslim truth" that has been gaining ground for quite some time. Hindus are now united (mostly) in terms of how fed up they are about muslims.

Finally, though, the marauding Muslims had been dealt a blow for all of history’s crimes. From Chengiz to Babur and Jinnah to Dawood, everything had been avenged in one fell swoop. And for this they gave credit to one man. Narendra Modi. For once a Hindu had stood up, and how.
We can add the Bangladesh genocide and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Pak/Bangla and many others to that long bloody list (see also Tipu Sultan). Never forget, their heroes are our villains.

The Muslims do not really have much with which to retaliate with against this tidal wave of hate: respond with bombs or threats of partition, and the backlash is (will be) overwhelming. The only option is to sue for peace and to live in ghettos (the Sri Lankan model). 

Sad to say, this is how things will be, from now on to infinity. Hindus will (have already) disappear from a large part of the South Asian land-mass. The muslims will face the sword of injustice everywhere, in India for just being a muslim, in Pakistan (and Bangladesh) for being the wrong type of muslim. 

"Aapko toh khatra nahin hua?"

Anand Soondas comments on what stories become important for the media and what is left out (especially the rape stories).

We have something to add to the points that Anand makes so well. There is now a perception (amongst politicians and much of the elite class) that India is being unfairly targeted by the media. 

Rapes happen everywhere (it may even happen at a higher frequency someplace else), so why the spotlight on India? 

And why are journalists (part of the elite class themselves, many of them foreigners) being so insensitive: "Aapko toh khatra nahin hua?"
The competition was tough from the word go — Smriti Irani’s discrepancies in her affidavits, Modi’s man Nripendra Misra getting the top job with the help of a hurriedly drafted ordinance, DDA lining up 27,000 flats, the row over Article 370, IPL 7 entering the final lap. 

The two little girls, sisters as it turned out, in faraway Badaun in Uttar Pradesh who were raped, beaten and hung from a tree didn’t stand a chance even in such medievally administered death to make it to the front pages of Delhi’s big newspapers.

Searching for Parity (through Partitions)

Here is the million dollar question. If Modi can develop a first-rate economic relationship with China, will he be able to pressurize Pakistan (via China) to sue for peace? The future picture will be more clear, if we make a careful evaluation of the past, why and how we have arrived at this bend of history.

To expect India to make ‘concessions’ to Pakistan when this country is caught in such dire straits is to be naïve. India would rather add to our miseries than bend. Let’s get it straight: whatever the government in power in New Delhi, India has no intention of resuming meaningful talks with Pakistan — Mumbai and terrorism being useful, ever-green pretexts. 

Looking back, what was the primary cause behind the South Asian partitions? It was primarily because opposing elites were seeking parity with respect to each other (not just independence from each other).

net benefits of British rule?

On the other hand, for the conquered peoples, British rule was an unparalleled blessing. For the first and only time in their histories, they had a government that tried – and generally tried with success – to be just and moderate. India in particular gained from British rule. It got a reasonably honest administration, and the benefits of English law and of western science and education. No one who looks at India under Aurangzebe and under Queen Victoria can regard the change as other than for the best for the great majority of the Indian people. Seen purely from the right of the conquered peoples to life, liberty and property, the only disadvantage of British rule was that it finally came to an end. And this is the truth even taking into account the bloodshed of the initial conquests and of the maintenance of British rule. Every imperial power that ever existed has governed by the sword. No other has ever unsheathed the sword so reluctantly and with so many compensating benefits.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Congratulations (Sriram, Ansun, Gokul, Ashwin)

In general it is quite true that Indians suffer from deep inferiority complex (unless you are talking to mad folks who claim that the Vedic civilization was in possession of atom bombs). 
However the spelling bee is one area where they may claim to have the upper hand, with the top four places secured this year and a proud tradition in the making. Great job, folks.
For the first time in 52 years, two spellers were declared co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday.

The Hin-Jew conspiracy begins to take shape

Narendra Modi is supposedly very much Israeli like in character- this is vouched for by the Israelis themselves. Also it is inevitable that the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

To update the Two Nation Theory: their maximum villain-enemies are our maximum hero-friends and vice versa.

To his Israeli partners, Modi’s profile as an opponent of Muslim extremism—a perceived common enemy, particularly in the wake of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai—only made him more appealing.

Surveys by the Israeli Foreign Ministry have found that Indian support for Israel is higher than in any other country polled, beating out even the United States. “Rural Indians see Israel as an agricultural superpower,” said Shimon Mercer-Wood, Southeast Asia desk officer at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “Urban India sees Israel as a leader of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

29 May 1953 (on top of the world)

Many people have successfully climbed Mt Everest (OK, following S Anand- Cho-mo-lung-ma as it is called in Tibetan, and Sagar-Matha in Nepali) following in the footsteps of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hilary. It is a huge money earner for Nepal as well as an environmental disaster ready to strike any time. Indeed this year all climbing is sopped because of the death of 13 Sherpas.

I banged out a brief message on my typewriter for a Sherpa to take down to the Indian radio station first thing next morning.  SNOWCON DITION BAD . . . ABANDONED ADVANCE BASE . . . AWAITING IMPROVEMENT. It meant, as the Indian radiomen would not know, ...that Everest had been climbed on May 29 by Hillary and Ten-zing. 

There is one parochial grievance (a familiar one). The Western (UK) Press really needs to make more of a decent effort to give credit to the ""natives" and not grasp it all for Queen and Country. How many people know that it was Rakhaldas  Bandopadhyay who discovered Mohen-jo-Daro and also Jagadish Chandra Bose who invented the radio (not Marconi- it took IEEE- Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - about 100 years to correct the record)? Similarly it was Radhanath Sikdar, (described in Wiki as an Indian mathematician and surveyor from Bengal), was the first to identify Everest as the world's highest peak in 1852 (Sir George Everest was the Surveyor General of India, who preceded Andrew Waugh- the man who officially made the announcement). 

Finally, in March 1856 he announced his findings in a letter to his deputy in Calcutta. Kangchenjunga was declared to be 28,156 ft (8,582 m), while Peak XV was given the height of 29,002 ft (8,840 m). Waugh concluded that Peak XV was "most probably the highest in the world". Peak XV (measured in feet) was calculated to be exactly 29,000 ft (8,839.2 m) high, but was publicly declared to be 29,002 ft (8,839.8 m) in order to avoid the impression that an exact height of 29,000 feet (8,839.2 m) was nothing more than a rounded estimate. Waugh is therefore wittily credited with being "the first person to put two feet on top of Mount Everest".

A few more micro-details. Sir Edmund Hilary (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008) is obviously the inspiration for Captain Keith Mallory, the hero of the Guns of Navarone authored by Alistair MacLean. His mate Tenzing Norgay (late May 1914 – 9 May 1986), was born Namgyal Wangdi, in Tengboche, Khumbu in the foot-hills of Everest. He was a Nepalese Buddhist [ref. Wiki]

The banana republic strikes back

Robert Vadra, the ex- first son-in-law will now have to stand in queue at the airport, just like the rest of us. The first step towards a moral order has been restored.

RV is famous for having said that he was a mango man in a banana republic. Now that he is truly an Aam Admi, he should be also thoroughly investigated for his sources of wealth. Let the witch hunt begin (we use the word advisedly). (For those who are not familiar with Hindi, we observe an teacher who is fed up with a troublesome student. Asked about his ambition in life, the student replies: I want to be a son-in-law)

Also there is a lot of push-back from Congress and elsewhere about the (educational) qualifications of the cabinet ministers. Here is one comparison the sycophant army may want to think about (Ashok Khemka has been the main man behind the effort to unearth corruption linked to Robert Vadra and his associates, he has been harshly treated just for doing his job):


Left must exit, stage left (says "real India")

The Left in India has played many parts in the (political) play, sometimes a lion, never a lamb. It essentially slowed down the march of the Right. Even today the Right is missing in Kerala and Bengal, two states which have proud Hindu/Hindutva traditions. Shankar Acharya, the super-man who restored Hinduism to its original glory through the length and breadth of India was from Kerala. Vivekananda was from Bengal. The founder of Jana Sangh was Shyama Prasad Mukherjee of Bengal. But it will be a long, long time before the right is ascendant here (if ever).`And the Left gets credit for this extended vaccination program.

One may say that this is the key difference between India and Pakistan, where the Leftists could not get a strong enough foot-hold (there was a stronger faction in the East - Bangladesh - which faced the fury of the Army in 1971).

Strangely enough the Left also stopped the Far Left in its tracks. In the 1960-1970s when Bengal was being torn apart by violence, the Left fought off the Naxalites in collaboration with the infamous Siddhartha Shankar Ray of the Congress. (Ray would be later deputed to troubled Punjab and he teamed up with KPS Singh Gill to stop the Khalistani movement in its tracks). 

Even more strange was the action of the CPI (Communist Party of India, not to be confused with its evil twin, the CPIM) during the dark days of the Emergency. The Communists aligned with Mrs Gandhi, supposedly with the backing of Moscow.

Hartosh Singh Bal (in a write-up before the election results was announced) looks at the reason(s) why the Left has essentially faded from the Indian scene, when it was dominant even a decade ago (and occupied the principal king-maker role in the area of coalitions, even to the extent of co-supporting govts with the aid of the BJP).

‘Aaj jaane ki zid na karo’

Farida Khanum is one of the last of the Ghazal greats. She grew up in Kolkata and has great fondness for the city. The denizens of this city are known for their musical taste, and they have (naturally) great love for Farida. A beautiful love story that is reaching its end as the giants exit the stage one by one.

THE CONCERT WAS THE BRAINCHILD of Malavika Banerjee, who organises the annual Kolkata Literary Meet. I met Banerjee—“Mala”—at last year’s KaLaM, and told her I was making a documentary film about Farida Khanum. 

Our conversation took place one night in a car; we were weaving past rotten old buildings somewhere near the Victoria Memorial and I was telling Mala about Khanum’s Calcutta connection. Her older sister, Mukhtar Begum, was a Punjabi gaanewali who had come to the city in the 1920s to work for a Parsi-owned theatrical company. Within a few years she had become a star of the Calcutta stage—she was advertised on flyers as the “Bulbul-e-Punjab” (the Punjabi bulbul)-—and had moved into a house on Rippon Street. 

Khanum herself was born, sometime in the 1930s, somewhere in these now-decrepit parts.
Mala was held: she asked if I could bring Khanum to next year’s festival. She also asked, in a sort of polite murmur, “She’s still singing and all?”

“Of course!” I said, mainly to serve my own interests: I had been looking for a reason—a ruse, really—to bring Khanum to Calcutta and film her in the locations where she had passed her childhood.

“Theek hai,” Mala said. “Let me work on this.”

Najma Heptullah- Parsis need help (not Muslims)

Muslims just need a level playing field (how will that come about?).

Najma Heptullah is no Uncle Tom. However we get the feeling that her priorities (as stated) are quite misplaced. The only way to help Parsis (while respecting the stricter than Brahmin blood-line rules) is to clone more Parsis. Then again, with her medical/biology background she may be able to achieve just that. Bravo!!!

If you have six children it is always important to see what you can do for the weakest of them. So far as my ministry is concerned, of the six minority communities the weakest is clearly the Parsis.  

Dr Heptullah hails from a distinguished family (grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, cousin of Amir Khan). Heptullah has a Master's degree in Zoology and a doctoral degree in cardiac anatomy from the University of Colorado at Denver, in the USA. She has also been the Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha (upper house, Indian Parliament) for 16 years and she is now the Minister of Minority Affairs and the sole muslim member in the Modi cabinet.

What is clear from her comments is that while muslims may not be unfairly targeted by this govt, they will remain invisible, as far as handouts are concerned.  
The top demands from the community have been reservations in education and in jobs. These will not be implemented. To be fair, Congress has highlighted these demands many times (during elections), but has never made good on the promises. Also, efforts to introduce reservations for muslims at the state level (except in Tamil Nadu) have been stymied by the Courts.

Irom Chanu Sharmila- (Hindu) Terrorist?

She is Gandhian no. 1 of the nation, the captain of a single-woman non-cooperation movement, without any support from any big name or big money.

I never voted as I had lost faith in democracy, but the rise of the new anti-corruption party, Aam Aadmi Party, changed my thinking.
She has now expressed interest in meeting with PM Modi. She is very hopeful that her single point request: repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act will be granted (we are not hopeful at all, in simple terms the Army has a veto and will exercise it).

Najma Heptullah, the minorities minister and grand niece of freedom fighter Abdul Kalam Azad, has created a firestorm by saying that muslims in India are too large a population to be considered a minority (unlike Parsis). As long as we are in blunt talking mode, we should also acknowledge that Hindus are not one unified block either (unlike what the Hindutva movement would have us believe). 

Not only do we have Hindu minorities who face discrimination from the Hindu majority (Bihari migrants in Maharashtra, for example) but some Hindu groups are actually in a state of opposition to actions of the Indian state. Most of these groups are in the North-East and the most prominent amongst them is the United Liberation Front of Axom (ULFA).
An Indian activist who has been on hunger strike for over 13 years said on Wednesday she was pinning her hopes of finally leading a normal life on new Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Apprehensively Optimistic

As Narendra Modi begins his tenure as Prime Minister of India, I find myself in the unaccustomed position of wishing a right-wing leader well. The stakes in South Asia are simply too high for partisanship, and there are certain things that only someone like Narendra Modi can do on the Indian side – just as only Nixon could go to China and only Begin make peace with Egypt. I hope Mr. Modi has the wisdom to see this and the courage to act. On the Pakistani side, Nawaz Sharif is probably better placed to act towards rapprochement than the previous government of the Pakistan Peoples' Party, but I'm not sure he has enough freedom to act. Recent weeks have demonstrated that the strings of power in Pakistan are still pulled by invisible actors who are ruthless, rigid and unburdened by conscience. However, there is a little room for hope. Though the Nawaz government was not able to stand up fully to the assault from the Deep State in the matter of Geo TV, it did not completely buckle under either. Its surrogates pushed back forcefully – if only verbally – and a degree of moral support for Geo was orchestrated from the chattering classes. The clash is far from settled, but if the Nihari Caucus emerges from this with some sort of settlement (the technical term in Pakistan is “muk-muka”), they may find the guts to move on the infinitely more important issue of rationalizing relations with India.

A lot will also depend on whether the Modi government will have the fortitude to remain rational in the face of provocations that will surely come their way from both the Pakistani Deep State and their own right-wing. Only a strong government can resist the temptation to lash out, but this is the strongest government India has had in decades. I, for one, actually hope that, during their meeting, the two prime ministers hatched some secret plots and set some hidden agendas, for in this age of screaming TV pundits, the surest indication of serious ideas is that they cannot be revealed in public.

A friend asked me how I felt about the outcome of the Indian elections. My answer was "apprehensively optimistic". That's where we are today. May the apprehensions diminish and the optimism grow!

“This is the heartland of Boko Haram”

Wise men tell us that we have to understand the enemy in order to defeat him. The only question is, do we have the fortitude to do what it takes, to take the fight to the bitter end?  So that schools are not bombed and ruined? So that girls can go to school in Chibok and elsewhere without fearing that they may be kidnapped and sold off as slaves?

We are fighting against a deadly ideology, but do we have any ideology to counter it (and vaccinate against it), or are we only offering shallow multi-culturalism to people not attuned to western sensibilities and encouraging third-world ghettos in the first-world?

“He told us we should never drive close to the cows,” Wadai explained. “He said that the spirit of Boko Haram can enter the cows. So we should always wait for the cow to cross the road.” He laughed. I was puzzled. Wadai continued. “It’s a common belief here. They believe that Boko Haram sends its spirit inside the cows.”

Europe faces a political crisis

Why are the "citizens" of Europe so unhappy and what can be done about that? It turns out that the problem is that the politicians do not trust the voters to vote for right-minded people (those same self-serving pols). Now the voters are in turn sick of unrepresentative politics.  

In other words this is a crisis of democracy whereby all political institutions will slowly (but surely) lose their legitimacy. If democracy is no longer seen to be working in prosperous Europe then the only system that will thrive globally is the authoritarian-capitalist one propounded by the Chicoms (and in certain places populated by devout people, the Islamist-Sharia model). That is a truly scary scenario.

We are not sure that the economic crisis has been avoided as is generally the claim, what did happen was  that the Central Bank said that it would go to any length to preserve the Euro (which stopped the speculators from..speculating about the currency), and oh yes, Greece and some other countries must have a perpetual austerity program in place (whereby jobs for young people have essentially vanished).

The political crisis simply is that the elections are attracting voters (and electing parliamentarians) who despise the EUSSR and have the deepest disdain possible for  the denizens of Brussels. Further, as the author (Peter Mair: Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy) argues, Western European politicians are ruling by proxy, and hiding behind the bureaucrats of Brussels

The above system thus represents another version of the Sonia Gandhi - Manmohan Singh combo model that was so revolting to Indian voters - we need to know who makes  the rules and the rulers should be fully accountable to the ruled. This is how democracy must work.

Mair’s conclusion is that the EU is a house that party politicians built which has no room for politics, while national governments are ever more likely to pretend they are merely the branch office of Brussels. (After all, if Brussels has already decided, you don’t take the blame; never mind that you were there at the negotiating table.) In this situation, what Mair calls the Tocqueville syndrome becomes acute: if political elites are either inaccessible or impotent, why put up with them? Tocqueville was writing about the fall of the aristocrats in the Ancien Régime, who could no longer justify their privileges once they had lost power to a centralised monarchy. The worst of the economic crisis might be over, but the political crisis in Europe is only just beginning.

The truth will always out

...and even the worm will finally turn (no, we are not fond of  the emperor/clothes stuff).

TH Mustafa, a veteran Congressman from Kerala, is like a refreshing breath of air. There is definitely a tinge of sadness (for Congress supporters) about what could have been if only Mr Joker had the humility to remove himself as not fit for purpose.

This much is true. Priyanka can still save Congress by invoking her grand-mother's spirit, but then she has to get her first love out of the way..the corrupt and arrogant first damad. She should talk to another princess on her way up- Maryam Nawaz Sharif. When dear Dad (PM Sharif) punished dear Hubby with an iron rod, MNS acknowledged that people must act in the best interests of the party and the nation or pay a heavy price.
Blaming Rahul Gandhi for the party's electoral reverses in the Lok Sabha election, a senior leader in Kerala on Wednesday termed the Congress vice-president a "joker" and demanded he be removed from his posts if he does not step down voluntarily. 


T H Mustafa, a former minister, also demanded Gandhi's sister Priyanka Gandhi be made the new party chief.

The Christian Brotherhood

While the spotlight is more intense on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood (Middle East and North and Central Africa) and to a slight less intense level on the activities of the Hindu Brotherhood (India) and the Buddhist Brotherhood (Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand), the rise of the Christian Brotherhood is not much commented upon.

"Do you want more or less Moroccans in this city and this country?" [chants of "Less! Less!"] "We'll arrange for that."--Geert Wilders
Why is that? Christianity has an image of being de-fanged, but in reality it causes lot of harm such as the fight against the right for a woman to choose (especially in South and Central America). Savita Halappanavar had to die a needless death in first-world Ireland because the Church forbids granting any mercy to the mother of the child. In Uganda and many other places, the right to lead a gay life may now invite a death sentence.

I am Jamal Osman (and I am not a terrorist)

If that mad genius Osama had only one objective in mind - how to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of the world - he has been successful way beyond his imaginations. As we have noted before: ideology has a bigger impact than events. There are a lot of damaged (poor) people in the world today  and they need to vent out their frustrations in the least harmful manner (this includes self-harm). It is beyond sad that the petro-dollars of the rich are used to rope these folks in as canon fodder in the service of ideology. The victims are (as always) the innocents who are caught in the cross-fire.

With the canons firing across so many (imaginary) Lines of Control around the globe, the angry, needy, young men (majority) are viewed as a product of their genes and/or defective culture, who should be wished away or excused (liberal bigotry), or crushed and destroyed by any means fair or foul (conservative bigotry).
If there is one thing I've learned from such encounters, it is that carrying a British passport doesn't necessarily make you feel British. I came to this country to seek sanctuary. I am a multi-award winning journalist. I am an immigrant and a refugee – but I am still made to feel like an asylum seeker. I am a Muslim, an African and a Somali. And should the security services be reading this: I am a British citizen. Please treat me like one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"A historic opportunity"

While this is an excellent first move from both sides (PM Sharif also visited with the President and ex-PM Vajpayee), we have to be wary of the troublemakers and their power to do immense harm.  

Yesterday (Afghan President) Karzai made the claim that the Taliban who attacked the Indian embassy at Herat (near Iran border) had planned for an extended hostage scenario in order to disrupt the inauguration ceremony ongoing in Delhi. We must remain vigilant for the cause of peace, there are too many people (on both sides) who are interested in making sure that the poison keeps flowing.
I am pleased to be in New Delhi at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi. Yesterday, I attended his oath-taking ceremony.

Next Noble for the noblest Gujarati

Right now there is a bit of tension between Gujjus and non-Gujjus. Gujjus have expressed (justified) pride in the fact that the "chai-boy" from Vadnagar, Mehsana will be the master of the castle (Red Fort, built by certain foreign invaders), while non-Gujjus are (justifiably) apprehensive that the "chote Sardar" (imagine Sardar Patel minus the counter-weight of Nehru) will harm the cause of secularism-liberalism and disrupt community relations.

Amongst all this pulling and pushing are there any golden-hearted Gujaratis who can be promoted to lead the cause of vishwa-vyapi sad-bhavana (global friendship)? Azim Premji comes to mind. Then there is the "living saint" that we can all be proud of !!!

"In this statistical sense, races are real"

Lots of interesting stuff re-told in "A Troublesome Inheritance" by Nicholas Wade and reviewed by H Allen Orr in the NY Review of Books. 

Response to Malik: Thanks for the comments. We are not experts but there are many big-shots around who do have lot to say on this matter. Again it is a pity that the old BP box is lying at the bottom of the sea where no one can find it.

The important question (for us)- is there any new knowledge? A large part of the "analysis" seems to us to be self-serving back-calculation, look at why Middle East or South Asia is struggling and put up a theory to fit the evidence. And often the evidence cited is not that clear-cut at all.

The other side (the establishment) is also of not much help, the only message we hear is that race related issues must be handled with care. We agree, but this will not stop people from speculating about the it is perhaps better that we thrash out the ideas in the open market-place (any firm judgement is unlikely to come though).
Why did these genomic differences among peoples appear? There are two main possibilities. The first is that the differences are meaningless. The frequencies of genetic variants can start out the same across several populations and then slowly diverge from one another even when the variants have no effect on Darwinian fitness—defined, roughly, by how many surviving offspring individuals produce. Geneticists call this “neutral evolution.”

The second possibility is that the changes in our genomes were driven by natural selection. According to this hypothesis, the frequencies of genetic variants can diverge among populations because some variants increased the fitness of their carriers, perhaps by increasing their chances of survival in a harsh environment encountered on the particular continent on which they lived. 

The study of genomes provides new ways to find evidence of natural selection.

Wade also thinks that “evolutionary differences between societies on the various continents may underlie major and otherwise imperfectly explained turning points in history such as the rise of the West and the decline of the Islamic world and China.” 

Here, and especially in his treatment of why the industrial revolution flourished in England, his book leans heavily on Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms (2007). Across these historical turning points, the details differ but the story remains the same: certain peoples were predisposed genetically to behaviors and thus institutions that paved the way for their success, whether, say, economic (the West) or intellectual (the Jews). Other peoples, alas, had other genes.

CAPA pays tribute to Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar

From the comments section in the Dawn, Mian Waheed, President, Community Association of Pakistani Americans (CAPA), pays a moving tribute to the memory of Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar.

Incidentally, we visited the CAPA (Central Ohio) web-page and there seems to be a very healthy Pak-Am community (with nice pictures celebrating the 66th birthday of Pakistan).

A community which will be forever scarred by the memories of a good life which came to an end too quickly and brutally (we did not know that he died in front of his family...truly shocking, the killers should have just had mercy and killed all of them).

I am making this announcement with a very heavy and grieving heart that one of our Pakistani community member, a friend of mine, an intelligent person, a friendly guy and a poet with a very soft and romantic heart, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar has been assassinated in Pakistan a couple of days ago. 

Dr. Mehdi was on a visit to Pakistan with his wife and kids and had gone to graveyard of his ancestors to say prayers for them when two persons on a motorcycle opened fire on him. Dr. Mehdi died in front of his family.

This will be a very shocking news to the Pakistani community of Ohio, he was well known to a lot of us. Our prayers are with the family and hope the assassins of Dr. Mehdi will be captured and brought to justice swiftly.

President CAPA
Link (1):



Khaap inside Indian Constituent Assembly

Few excerpts via @genderlogindia