Monday, October 13, 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
While I write this piece, it’s 1:17 am in war-torn Iraq’s capital Baghdad. The leader of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has merely few hours ago released a video of a sermon in Mosul asking muslims to obey their khalifa. Social media is abuzz with the Islamic state spreading its wings soon towards Baghdad. Several Shia places of worship are being desecrated across the country. While the elected parliamentarians struggle to choose a Prime minister, the ugly side of the Shia-Sunni conflict is on display in the northern as well as western Iraq.
Although 46 Indian nurses who were stranded for over a month have safely reached home, 39 Indian construction workers still remain stranded and in abduction in ISIS stronghold of Mosul. The great miraculous escape of the nurses is being seen as a diplomatic coup by the Narendra Modi government back in India. Many are asking if there was a deal with the ISIS and ransom paid for such an outcome. The key negotiators Ambassador Suresh K. Reddy and Ambassador Ajay Kumar in their old mansion like Indian Embassy in Baghdad’s Red Zone along with the First Secretary remain tight lipped.
It’s my 12th day out of India, tracking the Iraq crisis in the Middle-East. My entire equipment has been confiscated by the Iraqi customs department while I entered the airport over five days ago. Only condition to get it is to have a permission from the Prime Minister’s office. The Prime minister Al-Maliki is busy making arrangements to run for the third term. Even as there is deep resentment against Al-Maliki on the streets of Iraq, the addiction of power it seems has taken over credible governance or democracy. Luckily, I had an iPad and a small camera in hand luggage which have now become my primary tools for work.
Outside my hotel a SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) vehicle of the Iraqi forces keeps vigil round the clock with a sniper sitting on top of it. It’s a common sight across Baghdad. Check-posts, Iraqi hummers, emergency sirens. And the fear of unknown…
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
Aditya Raj Kaul, In Darbha Village, Bastar (Chattisgarh)
Rattled by the incident in poll-bound Chhattisgarh, top leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi visited the state. Banned outfit CPI (Maoist) claimed responsibility for the massacre of Congress leaders in Bastar region and demanded immediate suspension of all operations against it across the country. CPI (Maoist) in a statement accused slained leaders Karma, architect of Salwa Judum (people's movement against naxalism) and Nand Kumar Patel, Pradesh Congress Chief of corruption and implementing anti-people policies in Chhattisgarh. The outfit accused senior Congress leader V C Shukla, who sustained serious injuries in the attack and at present undergoing treatment in a hospital in Gurgaon, of playing an "active role" in framing pro-industrialist measures in the state. While condemning the attack by Naxals on a convoy of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh, the People's Union for Civil Liberties has said the government must understand the grim human rights situation prevailing in the area before launching a counter-offensive. Left parties condemned the brutal Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh saying they disapproved violent retribution against political opponents, but opposed the killings of and atrocities against innocent tribals there.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh died of cardiac arrest in a Lahore hospital in the wee hours today after being comatose for nearly a week following a brutal assault by other inmates of a high-security jail, officials said.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Aditya Raj Kaul, Times Now
Watch it here - http://www.timesnow.tv/videoshow/4425125.cms (Click link, wait for advt. to play)
What comes as some relief to the Pakistani Hindus staying in India, the Ministry of external Affairs has granted a one-month visa extension to all those who failed to return after expiry of their visas on April 8. But, the rufugees do not want to go back to Pakistan, say they would rather die in India than go back.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Life has become nocturnal. It seemingly has condensed for now. As days and nights pass by, the dawn has escaped into a permanent dusk. It isn’t darkness forever, even though bringing in gasps of hopelessness from the eerie cigarette puffs. It’s a state of conscious slumber perhaps. Yes, it is. This time, it is. For time cannot stand in stillness. And the heart cannot just remain floating forever on a coffee mug.
But, today, there is stillness in the heart and everywhere else. The sinking hasn’t ended for days. It might not very soon. In a solitary sea like a lost island, sorrow has girdled the heart.
As Orhan Pamuk writes in The Museum of Innocence, “In poetically well-built museums, formed from the heart's compulsions, we are consoled not by finding in them old objects that we love, but by losing all sense of Time.”
The sense of time has been lost in these empty, uncounted days, in anticipation of spring. The spring that once was. And that will be.
As a friend scribbled recently, “So that we’re never alone after sunset” on a book, it set a sense of euphoria within. There was hope beyond the heart’s aching corridors. Today, the heart may be a halfway house amidst hollow forts of hope. Tomorrow, the lost will be back.
The shadow of hope quivers in these days and nights. In this city, abuzz with celebration every day, the moon glances through the window each night as if sparkling with innocence.
And then, came the commercially celebrated, day of love. Roses swung at each other. Hearts crossed with an arrow. As I stood amidst the chants of promises and lively discourses on relationships, there was everything, even happiness but love visible to the naked eye. Love had become a ‘hookah bar’ today.
It’s been pouring heavy all through the weekend. The sound of raindrops brings peace. It mustn’t stop. There is calmness in the air, as these raindrops fall on the trees across the window in the darkness of the night. Even the leaves, creating a sound of chuckle, are forlorn. ‘I want to live in this melody forever’, the mind wonders. It’s however, a time when loneliness torments you much more than ever. And you pass out, dreading the silence.
As Pablo Neruda writes in his poem ‘White Bee’
“Ah you who are silent!
Here is the solitude from which you are absent.
It is raining. The sea wind is hunting stray gulls.
The water walks barefoot in the wet streets.
From that tree the leaves complain as though they were sick.
White bee, even when you are gone you buzz in my soul.
You live again in time, slender and silent.
Ah you who are silent!”
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The air was full of anger, betrayal and fury. ``We won’t forget our martyr”, proclaimed a poster held high by a Kashmiri girl in a veil. By the time the protest was dispersed by the Delhi Police personnel, Guru’s last rites had been carried out inside Delhi's high-security Tihar central prison and the Kashmir valley was clamped down under a curfew not seen since the tense summer months of 2010.
Naturally, it was a busy day for all who have a stake in the omnipresent Kashmir story, especially in the Indian republic's capital – and there are many. While TV anchors tried to grab brownie points by determining the timing of when Guru had been informed about the hanging, a speed post was silently booked by the government at the New Delhi GPO in the name of Tabassum, wife of Afzal Guru, telling her what the world already knew. Shockingly but not surprisingly, in this age of online mobility, the speed post reached Baramulla in Kashmir precisely three days after Guru’s death.
JKLF chief Yasin Malik, a self-confessed terrorist claiming Gandhian lineage, was allowed to visit Pakistan to pay his in-laws a courtesy visit; eventually he sat on a hunger strike at the Islamabad Press Club against the hanging, in tandem with who else, but India's most-wanted terrorist Hafiz Sayeed, himself on a courtesy call to Malik.
Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, never happy with Kashmir's harsh winters, decided to stay put at his daughter’s Malviya Nagar home in New Delhi, as did chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, at his apartment in south Delhi's Kalkaji area. Both of them were under house arrest by the Delhi Police and all efforts to reach them by TSI have so far remained fruitless.
While India’s liberal elite mourned the death of a man who they called victim of a “flawed judicial process”, the right-wing swung into action as only they can - by a liberal distribution of sweets and an even more liberal thumping of chests. The BJP, woken up from its slumber and rounds of internecine warfare, stood with the government, but added a caveat saying the hanging was `12 years too late'.
The National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – both in direct line of fire - decided to act outraged, accusing New Delhi of acting in haste without realising the negativity it would generate amongst the Kashmiris. The PDP national spokesperson was seen empathising with the family of Afzal Guru and warning New Delhi of further `alienation' of Kashmiris from the Indian mainstream.
As for the oratory skills of Kashmiri analysts and politicians of all shades, their opinions were most difficult to comprehend. Any TV debate, ended inevitably in a fish-market brawl, lacking logic and facts, high on decibel quotient and wholly suited to the demands of light and sound entertainment.
Exactly 29 years after Maqbool Bhat was hanged at the same place and about the same time of the year, it seems the central government has learnt no lessons. Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seem to have simply copy-pasted the Maqbool Bhat hanging formula, denying the basic right for the family to even meet Afzal Guru.
While there may be wide-ranging similarities between Bhat and Guru, who amongst other commonalities, were recruits of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and were trained in arms across the border in Pakistan, the UPA government has left no stone unturned to make Guru a martyr for the separatist plank of azadi. The babus of MHA, generally known to engage separatists cleverly, have provided fodder to the virtually dead spectacle of the separatists. Separatists cheerleaders are now crying hoarse from their comfortable bungalows in New Delhi. Afzal Guru, they believe, will be the new Che Guevara - if not in spirit then on on t-shirts.
Among other things in question is the legal representation given to Afzal Guru by the state, even though the two-man Supreme Court bench of P. Venkatarama Reddi and P.P. Naolekar found “no substance in this contention”. The same apex court had earlier acquitted Delhi University professor S.A.R. Gilani of all charges in the same case citing technical grounds.
“Those who are intervening in the campaign to save Afzal but have no commitment to Indian nationalism are not doing any service to his cause”, wrote Supreme Court advocate and human rights activist Nandita Haksar in her book ‘Framing Geelani, Hanging Afzal’. Her conclusions: “We must never underestimate the appeal of nationalism”. Even though she poignantly remembered and wrote about the sufferings of a prisoner accused of ‘waging war against the state’, the reflections were convoluted with anger, raw emotions and a discourse which few could identify with.
A pusillanimous campaign now underway, instead of demanding reform in criminal laws, continues to question the Indian state’s position on Kashmir. Those postulating over the Kashmir issue may do some good by asking local Muslims to internalise on who they strive to be with – a crumbling nation crippled by internal strife or a country which stands for secularism and diversity.
A debate within the stakeholders on Kashmir is need of the hour. Not necessarily the Aman Ki Asha model, neither the misnomer of Kashmiriyat, nor even meetings like those organised annually by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai in the Capitol Hill, United States, where he invented reasons to abuse India till he was arrested by FBI on charges of being a Pakistani spy. Interestingly, his list of invitees included reputed names from the Indian media, think-tanks, analysts and of course the separatists.
In the wake of a threatening attack on the first-ever girls rock-band from Kashmir, Pragaash, and an acid attack on a Kashmiri girl which went almost unnoticed and unreported, the debate becomes vital. “I do realize and regret that due to us (Kashmiri Muslim terrorists), Muslims in the rest of India get a bad name”, said Afzal Guru in a confession aired on TV channels soon after he was apprehended in 2001.
The tragedy of intolerance developing in the Kashmiri society, fashioned no doubt by some excesses of the Indian state, is best understood by a Kashmiri axiom ‘anyem soi, wavem soi, lagem soi panesei’, or ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’.
Thanks to the government's mishandling of Guru's hanging, it may become an issue of debate and in his death, he may well emerge as the new poster boy of jehad. As Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah put it, the new generation of Kashmiris "who may not have identified with Maqbool Bhat will identify with Afzal Guru”.
The Indian government may now not just have to open its arms but ears as well by listening to the genuine voices of estrangement coming from various sections of Jammu and Kashmir. The farce of a round-table dialogue which will decide the date of next meeting, does not demonstrate serious engagement.
In the days ahead it would be a challenge for the Indian government to contain terror groups from expanding and operating through sleeper cells, as happened months and years after the hanging of Maqbool Bhat in 1984. The judge who delivered the verdict, Justice Neelkanth Ganjoo, was mercilessly killed by suspected JKLF terrorists soon after.
Bhat, who was one of the first from the JKLF to cross the Radcliffe Line for training, could well inspire others to do the same; attempt a violent uprising in the name of religion and ensure a recipe for disaster. After all, terrorism, which spread like gangrene, did not mrerely dent Kashmir, it expanded its base to all corners of India, most notably the attack on Parliament in 2001.
Afzal Guru, a bright, educated and fresh-faced Kashmiri, with a family to look after, was emboldened to carry out an attack in which the chances of success were indeed very little. As one observer put it, ``the hanging has, perhaps, put a question mark over the failure and unwillingness of the political system to bring long-lasting peace in Kashmir.''
The apex court in its decision on Afzal Guru was very clear. ``The present case, which has no parallel in the history of Indian Republic, presents us in crystal clear terms, a spectacle of rarest of rare cases”, it said, adding, ``the very idea of attacking and overpowering a sovereign democratic institution by using powerful arms and explosives and imperiling the safety of a multitude of peoples' representatives, constitutional functionaries and officials of Government of India and engaging into a combat with security forces is a terrorist act of gravest severity.'' Point is how do you explain it to the bleeding hearts industry?