Tuesday, December 29, 2009

RUCHIKA CASE: BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS

Working on the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case leaves you with a feeling of utter helplessness and sheer frustration. Unrepentant policemen, bureaucrats and politicians even today – 19 years after they let down Ruchika and her family.

They literally forced her to commit suicide. They are perhaps as guilty as Rathore. It is because of people like them, Rathore came out of the court room smirking at the system. Six months for a life!

THE UNHOLY NEXUS

Hukum Singh, former chief minister of Haryana, Sampat Singh former home minister of Haryana are perhaps as guilty as Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore, the evil child molester. On Centre Stage was R.R. Singh, former Director General of Police Haryana and J.K. Duggal, former home secretary Haryana.

R.R. Singh, then the senior most serving police officer – DGP of the state – carried out an inquiry and recommended that a case of molestation be filed against Rathore. This is what the CBI said in its charge sheet.

``After conducting the enquiry into the incident, Sh RR Singh concluded that whatever Ms Ruchika had stated about her molestation by Sh SPS Rathore was based on true facts and that he was of the considered opinion that a cognizable offence was made out. Sh RR Singh, therefore, had recommended registration of a case under appropriate sections of the Indian Penal Code and had forwarded his enquiry report 3.9.90 to the Home Secretary Govt of Haryana.

Despite this no action was taken against Rathore. Why?

RR Singh told me he had forwarded his report to JK Duggal, then Home Secretary. Duggal told me he had forwarded the report to Sampat Singh, then home minister Haryana in September 1990 itself, less than a month after the molestation. And yet nothing was done against SPS Rathore. Why?

According to both RR Singh and JK Duggal, then home minister Sampat Singh was to blame. He sat on the report. Sampat Singh was also on Centre Stage. He blamed then chief minister Hukum Singh for sitting on the file.

My only point to Sampat Singh was had he taken action against Rathore in September 1990 itself or even in October, Ruchika might still have been alive. God forbid had their own daughters been at the receiving end of this evil man’s designs would they have been satisfied with just pushing files from one table to the other.

Evil needs to be nipped in the bud. These men by their sheer inaction – had encouraged Rathore. Duggal and RR Singh insisted politicians did not permit them to take action against Rathore.

While the two officers did the right thing on file, I still cannot comprehend how they could be content by just recommending action on file and forgetting about it completely. After all it was the life of a 14 year old girl. Both RR Singh and Duggal continued to live in Haryana. They were reading newspapers and knew about the torture Ruchika and her family underwent. And yet!

This is worse than the court of later Mughals where the order of the Mughal court was not even implemented from Delhi to Palam.

RATHORE’S `TERROR TACTICS’

I sat shocked as Ruchika’s father Subhash Chandra Girhotra wept and narrated how Rathore unleashed the worst form of harassment and torture over the next three years forcing Ruchika to end her life.

What was Rathore – a Mafiosi in uniform? Nobody had the power to touch him as he unleashed the worst form of terror on a regular middle class family. Rathore allegedly put pressure on Sacred Heart School (where incidentally his own daughter Priyanjali also studied and was Ruchika’s classmate) to expel Ruchika on grounds of indiscipline and non payment of fees.

A case should be registered against the school principal and management for buckling under this evil man’s pressure. They too have Ruchika’s blood on their hands. There is nothing sacred about the Sacred Heart School of Chandigarh’s sector-26.

When Ruchika’s father still did not take back the complaint against Rathore, Ashu, Ruchika’s brother was picked up by the police. He was booked under several false cases of car theft. Beaten up, paraded handcuffed and tortured in custody.

Ruchika’s father was crying when he said on our show that Rathore forced him to sell off his house in Panchkula and flee the city.

But the horror had still not ended. Ruchika consumed pesticide. Rathore is accused of tampering with the post mortem report and getting the doctors to say she died of an overdose of anti-obesity pills.

That is not all. According to SC Girhotra, he ensured Ruchika’s body was released only after Ruchika’s father signed on some blank papers. Ashu was released from police custody only after Ruchika’s funeral. Not just that Girhotra told us that Rathore did not release Ruchika’s body till the time the family signed some blank papers.

CBI’S WEAK CASE

The CBI knew all of this. All of it. The people of Chandigarh and Panchkula knew it. The judges knew it. And yet it took 9 years for an FIR – first information report to be registered against Rathore. Worse – the CBI did not mention any of this in its chargesheet.

Look at the limp CBI chargesheet when it talks of Ruchika’s suicide. On page 10, the CBI says ``The investigation has also disclosed that after the incident of molestation Ms Ruchika remained confined to her house and remained depressed. Later Ms Ruchika committed suicide by consuming poison on 28.12.93 and died on 29.12.93.’’

Rajesh Ranjan, then CBI Deputy Inspector General of Police owes not just Ruchika’s family but the nation an explanation. Why such a limp charge sheet? Is loyalty to lanyard more important than the fight for justice.

Why did the CBI not make Ashu a prosecution witness?
Why was a case of filing false cases and fabrication of evidence not registered against Rathore?
Why was he not booked for intimidation of witnesses?
Why was Ruchika’s school not booked for abetment to suicide?
Why were Haryana politicians, bureaucrats and cops not questioned and booked for ``sitting on the file.’’

RATHORE ABOVE THE LAW

Clearly Rathore knew he was above the law. Politicians – from Hukum Singh, Bhajan Lal, Bansi Lal to Om Prakash Chautala – nobody did anything to stop him. They all knew what he was up to. Today these politicians are crawling out of the wood work trying to say they are not guilty. But they are. They promoted him, gave him police medals for meritorious service, made him director general of police of Haryana and above all failed to uphold the dignity of the law.

And that is why even after 19 years Rathore walked out of the courtroom with a smirk on his face. He had beaten the system. For 19 years of pain and trauma he caused – all he got was 6 months of jail (bail within an hour) and Rs 1,000 rupee fine.

The punishment for molesting a minor girl in this country if you are SPS Rathore is only 6 months imprisonment and a fine that is perhaps equal to being challaned while driving and talking on your cell phone.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE NOW?


Reopen the abetment to suicide case. Hear it in a time bound manner.
Take away his pension and police medal forthwith.
Identify the policemen, bureaucrats and politicians who sat on the files.
Proceed against them for their acts of omission and commission.
Take stern action against the Sacred Heart School authorities for letting down Ruchika.

Award compensation to Ruchika’s brother and father. But not from the state exchequer. Take that money from the salaries and pensions of guilty officials and politicians.

Restore our faith in the system! Enough is enough!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

DO NOT LET THE `BASTION OF ISLAM ' REMAIN `BASTION OF TERROR'

1. After a series of attacks in crowded market places, hospitals, mosques and offices in Multan, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar - targetting innocent people and security forces including the all powerful army - will Pakistan even begin to understand the pain and agony of India bleeding for over two decades ?

2. After the attack on the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the attempted attack on the naval headquarters, will Pakistan understand the pain and agony of the attack on the Kaluchak military station ?

3. Will Pakistan now understand the pain and agony of the attacks on Raghunath temple, Sankatmochan temple, Akshardham temple and the Amarnath Yatris. `Not even safe in God's home,' wept a headline in a Pakistani newspaper - the day after the Parade Ground mosque attack.

Trained by elements in the ISI and the Pakistan army to attack markets, hospitals, temples and the army in India, the terrorists having mastered the `art of mayhem' are now unleashing terror inside Pakistan. The Pakistan army and ISI trained them to kill innocent civilians - unsuspecting shoppers and worshippers - the terrorists are doing just that. Except now instead of India they are doing it inside Pakistan.

India - I speak for a large cross section of people I have been interacting with - feels the pain of the people of Pakistan. I have also been speaking to friends on the other side of the border - they realise how Indians suffered for over two decades - and continue to do so - live with fear - of a sudden blast - a terror attack. Who is responsible for this - perhaps General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's chief of the army staff and his trusted director general of inter services intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Shuja Pasha need to actually do some soul searching.

On Friday, December 4, armed terrorists opened fire and hurled grenades inside the Parade Ground Mosque, next to the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

One Major General (Umar Bilal), director general of Pakistan's mechanised forces, one brigadier general, two lieutenant colonels and two majors were among 40 killed. Lieutenant General Masood Aslam, a top commander overlooking Waziristan operations lost his son. In all 17 children were killed in the terrorist attack.

And this is what General Kayani said: ``The nation, including the army, stands united in sharing their grief. Pakistan is our motherland. It is the bastion of Islam and we live for the glory of Islam and Pakistan. Our faith, resolve and pride in our religion and in our country is an asset, which is further reinforced after each terrorist incident.''

Terror attacks, anywhere in the world are painful. The pictures of wailing families, tears, pain and coffins are all too familiar. India has been hurt so often and by the same set of people who are now attacking Pakistan; and more importantly their military establishment.

But the 1.5 billion dollar a year question is will it jolt Pakistan finally to cut that umblical cord which funds, feeds, trains and arms the terrorist organisations. It is not without reason that Pakistan is called the terror epicentre of the world and former US secretary of state madeline albright felt Pakistan has all the ingredients to give the world an international migrane.

Now that migrane is cancerous. That cancer is eating Pakistan from within. Even as I write there are reports of another terrorist attack inside Pakistan. The ISI office in Multan was targetted killing 10 people including the two bombers. On November 13 too the ISI office in Peshawar was attacked. Clearly, the Frankenstien's monster is striking with alarming frequency.

MOSQUES UNDER ATTACK

Mosques are increasingly coming under attack in Pakistan. Terrorists slamming explosive laden vehicles and suicide bombers have killed more than 350 Pakistanis in 2009. More than 900 have been injured, according to figures released by Pakistan's ministry of interior. This is the favourite style of attack used by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

The December 4, 2009 armed attack targeting the parade ground mosque in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, which killed 44 people including 17 children, was the latest in the series. In one of the worst incidents of terrorism in recent years, a group of six fidayeen attackers belonging to the Tehrik-e-Taliban stormed the crowded Parade Land Askari Mosque close to the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army during Friday prayers and sprayed gunfire at worshippers besides throwing hand grenades. A serving major general of the Pakistan Army, a brigadier, two lieutenant colonels, a major and a number of soldiers were among those killed in a multi-pronged attack which was carried out in cold blood while violating the sanctity of a mosque by those who claim to be fighting for the glory of Islam. The blood-spattered episode eventually came to an end after two suicide bombers blew themselves up.

For the terrorists - claiming to fight a jihad for Islam, nothing is sacred, not even the home of God! Even the people of Pakistan, I am sure realise, this so called jihad is just a sham - for the terrorists and their handlers it is an industry, a business, an occupation.

ISI ADDICTED TO TERROR

Despite repeated attacks on the Pakistan army and the ISI, powerful elements within the Pakistan security establishment continue to support the terrorists. Why would they continue to sleep with the enemy ? Two reasons - the strategic depth in Afghanistan and to bleed India.

Al Qaeda, Taliban and Pakistan realise they only have to lie low for the next 18 months. As soon as US president Barack Obama begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the battle will be won. For 9 long years, Pakistan and Al Qaeda took on the US and allied forces in the firm belief that US and Europe do not have a strong belly to take body bags and sooner than later they will run. Barack Obama while announcing the surge, also gave a date for Al Qaeda to slowly start re-asserting itself. 18 months from January 2010.

Pakistan will once again prop a dummy Taliban like government in Afghanistan and win back its strategic depth.

Under pressure from the US Pakistan is fighting terror, though half-heartedly. It wants to shift focus once again on the Indian border; the perceived enemy.

PAK CIVIL SOCIETY SHOULD RISE

The civil society of Pakistan we are told appreciates terror is the enemy and not India. Lawyers, students and journalists - the real people's strength of Pakistan should start a movement. A people's movement so that the message to the army is loud and clear - Fight terror the real enemy and not India an imagined enemy.

The first step can easily be to dismantle the terror infrastructure aimed at India, arrest and prosecute terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammad's Masood Azhar. Take action against the likes of terrorist commander Ilyas Kashmiri.

Pakistan may be a bastion of Islam, as their chief of army staff claims, but it is for the people of Pakistan and the army to ensure it does not remain a bastion of terror.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

INDIA'S SECURITY: CHINKS IN THE ARMOUR

1. Who gave Pakistan born US national Daood Gilani or David Coleman Headley multiple entry visa to India and exempt him from reporting to the police in India.

2. Why was Pakistan born Canadian national Tahawwur Hussein Rana too exempt from reporting to the police every week while in India ?

3. How could Rana and Headley set up an Immigration Service in India ? Who did a background check and give them clearance to do business in India ?

4. How could they place advertisements in newspapers to send Indian abroad. Did they seek and get clearance from Ministries of Labour and external affairs ?

5. How could Syed Amir Ali (allegedly a Pak national) get an Indian passport ?

6. How could Ali get a PAN Card and file returns for 4 years.

Shocked!

Security in India appears worse than even a banana republic. Anti-India elements in Pakistan's ISI and the army establishment must be laughing themselves silly over the ease with which they succeeded in penetrating India's so called strong defences even post 26/11.

India needs to expose the weak link. - the chinks in our armour. One weak link and the strongest fortress collapses like a pack of cards. The first weak link - India's consulate in Chicago. What is really shocking is the fact that this particular post belongs to the people who are tasked to protect the nation from external threat by gathering information and intelligence. How could they not see through Tahawuur Rana and Daood Gilani (David Coleman Headley).

How could the Indian authorities exempt people like Rana and Headley from reporting to the nearest police station every week.

Did the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) not know that they are both originally Pakistanis. Both studied at the Hasan Abdal Military College - had links with the ISI. they may be US and Canadian passport holders but were men with a past. Changing the colour of the passport does not change the mindset.

Was there no background check done - about the so called immigration company that the two claimed to run. What was its antecedents...its turnover..funding...clearances from other governments. Clearly someone was not doing his homework and risking the lives of hundreds and thousands of innocent Indians.

When Headley and Rana came to India - instead of welcoming them to Atulya Bharat - the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and the immigration authorities should have gone through the contents of the luggage. That is how alert immigration authorities in the US red flagged Headley. Denmark too was on Headley's terror radar. He visited Denmark regularly apparently on immigration business but immigration authorities in the US found he carried no paperwork.

Why were our immigration authorities not alert. The second weak link - FRRO and Immigration authorities.

Once in India Headley and Rana criss-crossed across the country - Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Munnar...more skeletons will tumble out of the closet in the days to come. But the million dollar question - Local Intelligence Units of the state police. LIU. what were they doing ? they are paid to keep an eye on suspicious activities. If suspected Indian Mujahideen activists, their overground supporters and sympathisers were coming and meeting Headley and Rana...in a post 26/11 scenario why were the police unaware of it.

Why would a particular foreigner (of Pakistani origin) keep returning to Mumbai, Pune, Kochi, Delhi, Agra....This means that the effort to strengthen the beat policing system and the local intelligence unit has not succeeded even one year after 26/11. The third weak link - local police intelligence units.

Let's shift focus now to Syed Amir Ali - an alleged Pakistani national - living in Delhi and Lucknow for more than four years. He allegedly spied on military cantonments - at Delhi, Meerut and the Hindon air base. How could Syed Amir Ali get an Indian driving licence, an Indian passport, an Indian PAN card and file returns for four years.

The Uttar Pradesh police and the regional passport officer need to explain this. The fourth and fifth weak link - UP police and RPO Lucknow. The passport is the most authentic document in the country. It is the last word in proving an individual's nationality. It is a sad state of affairs that we have come to accept that a driving licence can be faked, pan cards can be faked but a PASSPORT!

There are multiple checks - local police, administration, verifying agencies, witnesses, references.....The police need to now investigate this in the right earnest. The country has a history of losing battles because of the Jaichands and Ambhis....We as a nation cannot afford to lose this war.

We are at war - with terror. This is not corruption - this is treason!

The punishment is not suspending some police constable or lower division clerk. Strict action needs to be taken against the top brass. Let this mistake never be repeated....we are still not out of the woods. Headley and Rana may have been arrested by the FBI but the Indian police have failed to nab a single person they were in touch with during their stay in India.

There is clear and present danger!


Friday, October 16, 2009

KHUDA KE LIYE - WAKE UP PAKISTAN







* 11 killed in suicide attack near a mosque in the cantonment area in Peshawar on Friday.

* 41 killed in simultaneous attacks on Police training academy Manavan, elite commando training centre and the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA) headquarters in Pakistan. The attacks were carried out by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

* Over 100 killed last week in attacks on the Pakistan army headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi, United Nations Food Programme Office in Islamabad and in the Peshawar market.

ADDICTED TO TERROR

And yet Pakistan considers India its biggest enemy. Pakistan is like a drug addict. It knows terror is bad for its existence but is unable to kick the addiction. The military establishment and the ISI are addicted to terror. Terror gave Pakistan a high initially. Pakistani army generals felt on top of the world - literally invincible. That's exactly how drug users feel initially. On a high. And before you know it you are sucked in the trap. You keep thinking you are not a slave of the drug - the day you want you can kick off the habit. But suddenly it is too late.

For the Pakistani military establishment it is too late. That's why even after the attack on the General Headquarters in Pakistan - the biggest slap in the face of the Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani - the country is dithering on cracking down on terror. For a country that takes immense pride in its army - a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel were killed by terrorists - the enemy is still not terror but India.

Only a drug addict does not know what is good for it and what is not. Not only does General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani consider Taliban a strategic ally, the army refuses to permit the government to even consider taking action against the professor of terror Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. In fact he is still invited to the Rawalpindi Corps Iftaar party. Saeed continues to be a General of the Pakistan army - minus uniform. The Pakistani security establishment is addicted to the Lashkar e Taiba. The terror outfit continues to be an arm of the Pakistan army.

Who is paying the price for this fatal addiction? the common man on the street in Pakistan and in India. The hundreds of people who are being killed on the streets of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Kohat, Swat and in Waziristan are all Pakistani citizens paying the price of their army's teror addiction. But what is disturbing is the fact that the political leadership of Pakistan continues to be timid, weak and in effective. They appear to be mere pawns in the hands of the powerful military commanders. the judiciary and the civil society that rose in a remarkable protest against General Pervez Musharraf seem to be running out of steam or scared to take on the lethal combination of military commanders and taliban militia.

PARTIAL CRACKDOWN ON TALIBAN

Why do security analysts feel Pakistan is not sincere about cracking down on teror ? Because even after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack, the Pakistani army well positioned to move in for the mopping up operations refused to do so. Instead it let the situation deteriorate. When Taliban commanders were fighting a bitter succession war, the army remained a mute spectator and sources say elements within the ISI actually tried to find a suitable boy to take over Mehsud's mantle.

Pakistan army generals still nurture the dream of re-gaining the strategic depth in Afghanistan when the US forces withdraw ``like in Vietnam''. Therefore, they do not want to eliminate the entire Taliban leadership. Pakistan is only cracking down on the Taliban elements who no longer believe in taking instructions from the ISI. So the moment Baitullah Mehsud started thinking and operating independently of the ISI, he became the bad Taliban. Remember even Benazir Bhutto had accused elements within the ISI and Pakistan army of colluding with Mehsud to kill her.

TALIBAN STILL A STRATEGIC ALLY

Strategic depth in Afghanistan is the reason that despite repeated attacks within Pakistan, its all powerful army is not willing to order a total crack down in the Af-Pak region. How can the Pakistan army order a crack down on the Taliban when they are seeking Taliban assistence in attacking Indian and Afghan interests in Afghanistan. US convoys and interests are repeatedly under attack by the Taliban. Is that possible if the Pakistan army seriously proceeds against them.

To justify getting the US aid, Pakistan army does go after the pawns and the foot soldiers in the Taliban but never the top commanders. On 8th October 2009, ISI used the Taliban once again to attack the Indian embassy in Kabul. Afghan Ambassador to the US Said T. Jawad went on record to blame the ISI for the latest attack on the Indian embassy.

This was the second attack on the Indian embassy in 15 months. both India and the US claim they have evidence of ISI involvement in the earlier attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. In fact the US claimed the ISI masterminded the July 7, 2008 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. India's defence attache, a senior diplomat and ITBP personnel guarding the embassy were among 58 killed in the attack.

India has pledged $1.2 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, making it the sixth largest bilateral donor and this is bad news for those Pakistani generals who are seeking that strategic depth. For the sake of ensuring the US war on terror fails they are still willing to bleed their own people.

PAK ANTI-TERROR OPERATIONS

Al Qaeda and Taliban are growing in strength in Pakistan. Repeated attacks in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar are indications that the terrorists are not limited to Af-Pak border. They can strike at will deep inside the most secure locations inside the heart of Pakistan. After all what can be more secure than the office of the chief of the Pakistan Army - the General Headquarters. This is not the first attack on the GHQ - but the most audacious one beyond doubt.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has sent a clear signal in attacking the FIA office, the elite commando training centre and the police training academy Manawan. They have attacked the very fortress of anti-terror operations.

Pakistan is now gearing up to attack the Taliban in South Waziristan. Air operations will be easy. Pakistan Air Force will pound terror camps from the skies. But the real war will begin when the Pakistan army puts more boots on ground.

But for victory in those operation - the Pakistan army commanders will need to decide who their real enemy is - terrorists or India. And if India is still their answer - then the addiction is complete. Then the cancer of terror affecting the Pakistan army is in terminal stage.

Most security analysts feel the cancer is in its terminal stage... but that are still those who feel the civil society can once again rise to the occasion and force Pakistan's all powerful army to stop playing the double game - realise the true enemy is not India but terror. It is for their own good.If not for themselves then KHUDA KE LIYE...WAKE UP!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

NOT REVOLUTIONARIES NAXALS ARE COLD BLOODED MURDERERS

Oct 8, 2009 : Seventeen policemen killed in an ambush by Maoists at Laheri police station in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

Very important lessons here for the police officers. They need to learn to train with their constables and fight shoulder to shoulder.

Indian Police Service (IPS) and state police service officers will have to undergo vigorous training with the jawans - live with them - treat them as family and then - fight shoulder to shoulder. Then the police constables will know they can beat back an ambush and inflict higher costs on the Maoists.

On the day that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) deliberated upon the use of air power (strictly in self defence), the Naxalites embarked on a bloody mission in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

They had prior information about a 40 member police patrol operating in the area. More than 200 Maoists laid an ambush and butchered the police.
The Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik earlier in the day spelt out the rules of engagement in case of use of air power.

1. The IAF would only fire in retalliation.
2. The firing would have to be authorised by the captain of the helicopter.
3. The Garud Commandoes of the IAF will protect helicopters.
4. Only small arms would be used - no area domination weapons.
5. Due care would be taken to avoid collateral damage.

There have been instances of Maoists opening unprovoked fire on the IAF during a casualty evacuation (in which the IAF lost an engineer) and on election duty. Maoists have also fired at IAF helicopters from the ground trying to bring them down. The IAF sought permission to fire back.

Rights activists are bending over backwards to oppose this. But I wonder why these activists lose their voice when Maoists kill innocent people and security personnel. The Maoists are no revolutionaries. They are cold blooded murderers.
Consider this:
Oct 05: Maoists beheaded Inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand after failing to secure the release of three top ideologues - Kobad Gandhy, Chandra Bhushan Yadav and Chatradhar Mahato.
Sep 30: Naxalites set ablaze Gram Panchayat offices at Korchi and Belgaon in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.
Sep 26: Naxals kill BJP MP from Balaghat Baliram Kashyap's sons at Pairaguda village in Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh).
Sep 4: Naxals kill four villagers in a forest in Aaded village in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district.
Jul 31: Two persons, including a special police officer (SPO), killed by Naxals in Bijapur district.
July 27: Six people killed when Naxals trigger a landmine blast at Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.
July 23: A 40-year-old tribal killed by Naxalites at Ettapalli taluka in Gadchiroli district.
July 18: Naxalites kill a villager in Bastar and in a separate incident torch a vehicle engaged in road construction work in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.
June 23, 2009: A group of motorcycle-borne armed Naxal rebels open fire on Lakhisarai district court premises in Bihar and free four of their comrades including the self-style Zonal Commander of Ranchi.
June 16, 2009: Maoists kill 11 police officers in a landmine attack followed by armed assault. In a separate attack, four policemen killed and two others seriously injured when Maoists ambush them at Beherakhand in Palamau district.
June 13: Naxals launch two landmine and bomb attacks in a small town close to Bokaro, killing 10 policemen and injuring several others.
June 10: Nine policemen including CRPF troops and officers ambushed by Maoists during a routine patrol in Saranda jungles in Jharkhand.
May 22: Maoists kill 16 policemen in the jungles of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra.
April 22: Maoists hijack a train with at least 300 people on board in Jharkhand and force it to Latehar district before fleeing.
April 13: 10 paramilitary troops killed in eastern Orissa when Maoists attack a bauxite mine in Koraput district.
July 16, 2008: 21 policemen killed when a landmine blast hits a police van in Malkangiri district of Orissa.
June 29: Maoists attack a boat on the Balimela reservoir in Orissa carrying four anti-Naxalite police officials and 60 Greyhound commandos, killing 38 troops.
Feb 16, 2008: A group of 50 rebels including women cadre raid a police training school, a police station and an armoury in Orissa killing 12 policemen and leaving four wounded.
Sept 7, 2007: Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Janardhan Reddy and his wife N Rajyalakshmi, escape unhurt while three Congress workers killed in a Maoist attack in Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh.
July 10: Naxalites attack a police team with light machine guns and mortar bombs in a dense forest area of Chhattisgarh, killing at least 24 security personnel.
July 1: Nine persons, including five policemen, killed and as many wounded as CPI-Maoist rebels carry out simultaneous attacks on a police station and an outpost in Sasaram in Bihar's Rohtas district and flee with arms and ammunition.
Apr 28: Five security personnel killed in a landmine blast triggered by Maoist rebels in Michgaon village of Kanker district, about 175 km south of Raipur in Chhattisgarh.
Mar 16: Maoists attack a police post in remote jungles of Rani Bodli in Chattisgarh with guns, hand grenades and gasoline bombs, killing at least 49 people.
March 5: Naxalites shot dead Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Lok Sabha MP Sunil Kumar Mahato. Two of his bodyguards and a party colleague also killed in the attack when they were witnessing a football match at a village in Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.

Three quick points

1. Police training and tactics is very poor. Time and again the Maoists ambush them - kill them - and disappear with their weapons. Not just patrols but even attacking the police in their barracks, police stations and guarded compounds.

2. Naxals have a better intelligence network. The fact that they know the timing of police patrols, area of operation and then lay an ambush - means they know not only police standard operating procedures but also timings and tactics.

3. Police officers should lead from the front: Both police and army jawans come from the same stock - same villages and towns. In the army soldiers do better because of better training, a strong sense of pride in the honour of the paltan (battalion) and because army officers lead from the front - not JCOs alone.

Claiming 15 Maoists were killed and losing 17 men is not victory in operations. it is defeat. Once again India has been defeated by the Maoists. HOW MUCH LONGER ? The police top brass need to answer this.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

RED TALIBAN: LITMUS TEST FOR HOME MINISTER

The eight year old old boy could barely speak. Sobbing he told his school principal that his father inspector Francis Induwar had been killed. ``Please send my elder brother Aniket home,'' Animesh wept. Inspector Induwar's family had been maintaining a brave face since the day of his abduction.

The day newspapers in Ranchi carried a report saying the Maoists want to swap Induwar with the three arrested top brass - Kobad Gandhy, Chandra Bhushan Yadav and Chatradhar Mahato, Induwar's wife bravely came on television and said she was opposed to the swap. ``It is with great difficulty that the police have arrested the top Maoist leaders. My husband is a police officer. He must not be exchanged for them,'' she said bravely.

But the million dollar question here - why must the common man be brave all the time. It is now time for the government to deal with the menace with an iron hand. No excuses. No soft peddling and no vote bank politics. The prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh has said, for five years now, that the Maoists are the biggest threat India faces. Then it is now time to eliminate that threat.

The brutal beheading of Inspector Induwar has shown that the Naxals are no different from the Taliban. It is now time to declare war on India's Red Taliban. And the war not remain confined to government files alone. Give the security forces an aim; give them a time frame, lay down the ground rules for the security forces and then let them achieve that aim - without fear or favour.
Because if not now then when!




WHY ARE RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SILENT

The security forces are shocked and appalled the human rights activists and the `jhola wallahs' who scream murder from roof tops when dreaded terrorists are eliminated are silent when the Red Taliban has murdered a police officer so brutally. The pictures are shocking to say the least. Induwar's body was left on the roadside between the Ranchi-Jamshedpur highway. His severd head lay a few feet away. There were hand painted posters which said that death penalty had been given to Induwar. Was he not a human being? Did he not have rights? Why are the rights activists silent tonight.

``Do rights activists only have an agenda? Are they paid by Pakistan or China or other hostile elements so that they come out on the streets and protest when the security forces carry out their operations. Does that mean their breast beating is a sham...A tamassha, Are they paid actors,'' a top ranking police officer asks ?

SECURITY OR DEVELOPMENT FIRST ?

One cannot happen without the other. But what should India focus on first? Some say it depends on what side of the fence you are on. There is no doubt successive governments failed the people in the affected areas. There is also no doubt that the fruits of development have not percolated down to all. There are lakhs and lakhs who barely get two square meals a day.

But will picking up the gun and killing innocent Indians fill their stomach? The Maoists, according to the government, are destroying infrastructure - railway lines, schools, medical care centres and roads. So do they want development or are they trying to ensure that development does not come their way so that they can continue with their state within a state.

My understanding is development and security go hand in hand. One cannot survive without the other. But first an environment has to be created which is condusive to development. and that will not happen if 20,000 people pick up the gun and call for a revolution.

DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE A STRATEGY

One of the key result areas for India's new Iron man P. Chidambaram (not a single major terror strike post 26/11) is to neutralise the Red Taliban. Using the army is not the solution. The army is neither trained nor geared to fight ``own people.'' This will have to be entirely a police and at a best para military operation. of course the help of Indian Air Force would be needed not only to scan the area from the skies - using unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters - but also to transport men and material for surgical strikes.

The militant military wing of the Red Taliban need to be neutralised. The poitical wing can be engaged if they give up violence. ``Once the Maharashtra elections are over, work will begin in the right earnest. We are putting men and material in place. This will have to be a concerted inter-state effort. We have to ensure that Maoists do not escape from one state to another when the operations begin,'' sources say.

IRON HAND IN A VELVET GLOVE

This is the strategy that the government hopes to adopt. But the success will depend on the cooperation of the states and the training of the police forces. This is the strategy that the army follows in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north east. It is trying to reach out to the people in the right earnest - help them rebuild their lives. But terrorists are killed - those supporting terrorists are sent to jail.

The army has carried out some very transparent operations in counter insurgency situations. Mistakes have been made but those found guilty - punished. The police will have to ensure that. There needs to be a zero tolerance policy on rape, molestation and murder. Rules have to be put in place and strictly complied with.

MAINTENANCE OF AIM

One of the principles of war is setting an aim and then maintenance of aim. You cannot keep shifting the goal post. Mid course correction is fine but once the aim has been set - maintenance of aim is very important. Only then can the security forces be expected to achieve the target.

This has to be a national effort. Kobad Gandhy, Chantradhar Mahato and Chandra Bhushan Yadav - if guilty of waging war against the country deserve the harshest possible sentence under the Indian Penal system. If there are other elements who are waging war against India - eliminate them - neutralise them.

Because if not now then when.....

Friday, October 2, 2009

PAK ARMY TORTURE EXPOSED

The Pakistan army behaving like an occupation army in their own country....Shocking the way Pakistan army personnel are treating their own people.
video

``Spare me in the name of Allah!'' an old man's pleas falling on deaf ears. The all powerful Pakistan army - dominated by Punjabis - treats people from the north west frontier province, Balochistan and Sindh as second rate citizens. Amply proven by this video.

What is shocking is the fact that Pakistan's judiciary and civil society are not up in arms against this behaviour of the army. Why are they not protesting and loud enough for the Pakistan army to clean up its act.

Had the Pakistan army been accountable to its government and people, they would dare not do something like this. In this video - an officer actually supervises the brutal assault and torture of the civilians - some very old and rather frail.

The Pakistan army has a history of being brutal and believing its officers and men are above the law of the land. Rather feudal in their attitude. Remember the genocide in the then east Pakistan by General Tikka Khan. The Bengalis were always treated as second rate citizens. The same is happening in Balochistan, Sind and the NWFP. The Pakistan army resorts to extra judicial killings, rape and torture again as part of state policy.

My colleagues and I searched for other instances of Pakistan army's brutality on their own people. The results - were shocking to say the least. Scalding hot coal tar being thrown at people by the army, innocents shot dead, stabbed and tortured.

Consider this:

On August 21, 2009, A high-ranking police official in Balochistan issued an open threat - saying the police will begin killing people indiscriminately in Balochistan. Ghulam Shabbir Shiekh, the deputy inspector of police, Nasserabad range, announced in September that the police will kill 40 local persons in revenge for the militants’ alleged abduction and murder of 20 policemen in July and August.

DIG Shiekh also threatened that if any bullet was fired at the police, the police would fire 100 bullets indiscriminately back at the locality from where the bullet was fired.

If any rocket was fired at police stations, the police would fire 10 rockets back. The announcement by Shiekh was the most recent attempt by Pakistani state agencies to instil fear among Baloch nationalists.

On May 31, 2009, police officers from the Panjgore district chased a car of armed men into the village of Mohalla Gharibabad, UC Chitkan, Panjgore, and a shoot-out ensued. A wedding was taking place nearby, and at the first sign of shooting, the wedding guests took shelter in neighbouring houses. Eyewitnesses reported that the police continued to shoot even after the group of armed men had fled.

Noor Ahmad Baloch, 32, a cousin of the groom, urged the leading officer, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Mohammad Ismail, to stop firing noting that there were children around. ASI Ismail responded by shooting him in the head from 25 meters away. Mr. Baloch was then taken to hospital in Panjgore city where he was pronounced dead.

ASI Ismail has since defended himself by claiming it is his prerogative to decide who he does and does not choose to shoot. Despite protests, no case against him has yet been lodged by the police.

On February 3, 2009, soldiers attached to the Pakistan Army Frontier Constabulary attacked a wedding party, killing 13 people including the bride and the groom, six members of their families and the wedding officiator (nikah khawn). 21 people were injured, the majority of them women. The attack was allegedly carried out in retaliation for an incident that took place on the previous day, in which unknown assailants killed three FC (Frontier Constabulary) soldiers.

In January, 2009, journalists received threats from the Director of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) for writing editorials demanding investigations into allegations that the Pakistan army was running torture cells and detaining female prisoners. The Pakistan army threatened to withhold official advertisements and payments from the newspapers if they continued their “malicious” campaign against the army. Some television channels in Pakistan disclosed the threats publicly.

on April 5, 2008, AHRC (Asian Human Rights Commission) received confirmation that Pakistani soldiers arrested four people in the Dera Bugti district of Balochistan, and subjected them to torture.

They were asked to identify local supporters of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). After failing to get any names from them, the victims were immersed in scalding hot coal tar. Three of the men were literally boiled and burned to death. A fourth died later from his injuries.

Pakistan army and intelligence officials arrive in unmarked jeeps, pick up suspected Baloch nationalists and take them to ``Abu Ghareb style'' prisons. Here the Baloch people are tortured till they ``confess'' they are ``Indian agents.''

The world may be shocked by this video of torture of Pakistani civilians in `Abu Ghareb style prison,'' but India knows Pakistan army's brutal and inhuman style of operations. Remember Lieutenant Saurav Kalia, a young officer of the 4th Battalion of the Jat Regiment. His patrol was ambushed in Kaksar. He was brutally tortured and killed by the Pakistan army.



Is there a solution ? Yes! Pakistan's civil society. They need to rise against the feudal-lawless elements in their own army. The Pakistani judiciary needs to rise to the occasion. The Pakistani media deserves credit for speaking out fearlessly. They need to be strengthened. Only when the people of Pakistan speak in one voice - as one country - will the message be loud and clear to their all powerful army. Only then will the Pakistan army top brass know

HOW SO EVER HIGH ONE MAY EVER BE

THE LAW IS ALWAYS ABOVE YOU

Friday, September 25, 2009

CRISIS IN COMMAND? TROUBLE IN NORTH KASHMIR


If the Chief of the Army Staff, the Army Commander Northern Command, the Srinagar Corps Commander and the General Officer Commanding Kilo Force can sleep comfortably after the Baniyari encounter in north Kashmir – the nation has reason to be worried.

The encounter is a perfect example of how not to conduct an operation. And if this is the standard operating procedure now, the army needs to re-look its training and tactics. A refresher course is essential if we want our young officers and jawans safe and the morale of the army high. There needs to be accountability in the army – at all levels.

Who is responsible for the deaths of Major Suresh Suri and Naik Khushal Singh? The two terrorists holed up in the house in Baniyari village or poor planning and higher management of operations. The army owes Major Suri’s young widow and Singh’s family an explanation.

Let’s take a look at the facts of the case. The army had ``hard intelligence’’ about two hardcore terrorists hiding in a house in the Baniyari village. An operation was mounted. The 13th Battalion of Rashtriya Rifles sent out a team. Major Suresh Suri of 6 Kumaon, a veteran of Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, Vairangte, his buddy Naik Khushal Singh and the team surrounded the house.

There is a track leading to the house in the village near the picturesque Wular lake. Another team of soldiers went by boat. The house was surrounded. To the best of their ability the army tried to ensure the terrorists do not escape. It was established there were no ``innocent civilians’’ in the house. This is one of the toughest areas in North Kashmir.

The standard operating procedure, according to veteran soldiers is, once the house is surrounded – the army draws fire to know a) the number of terrorists and b) the general area where the fire is coming from. An assessment is made about the next move. To avoid loss of trained manpower (crores are spent training officers and soldiers) – the army ``brings down’’ the house. Sources say – the officer sought permission to do the same. It was denied.

He was ordered to enter the house and eliminate the terrorists. The army needs to find out (and in the right earnest) who insisted that the major and his team enter the house. Major Suri and his buddy Naik Singh cleared the ground floor and climbed to the first floor of the house. They saw a depression on the wooden floor. As soon as Major Suri lobbed a grenade inside, the two terrorists opened fire. Both Major Suri and buddy were grievously injured.

Major Suri and his buddy, no doubt, were brave soldiers. They walked into the house – not knowing its topography. They cleared the entire ground floor. And then they moved up to the first floor. The terrorists were trapped and suddenly opened fire from their hide out inside the house. According to sources, the terrorists then came out of their hideout and opened fire at the army party waiting downstairs – two majors and four more jawans were injured. The injured soldiers made a tactical retreat.

The terrorists clearly had the edge. They not only had pushed the army out but also gained access to extra weapons and held on to the bodies of the martyred soldiers. They managed to hold on for 25 hours.

The army had to call in the special forces. Sources say, the para commandoes once again requested permission to ``bring down the house.’’ Again the army needs to inquire who turned down that request and why. The Para Commandoes went in and drew in heavy fire. Ultimately the two terrorists were killed. But at what cost.

Two good for nothing pieces of scum – Moosa and Pasha of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar e Taiba – were eliminated. They were dreaded terrorists – operating in the area for eight years. But the world’s fourth largest army – best trained in counter insurgency operations paid an extremely heavy price in neutralizing the threat. It took them 25 hours to do so. Could this have been done in two hours and with `no own casualty’?

There is no doubt there are good days and bad days in counter-terrorist operations. But risking lives of soldiers is an unacceptably high price to pay. The commanders must never forget that. Soldiers are a national asset. The army must learn to respect them – before expecting the country to do the same.

Infantry soldiers and officers are not specialists in clearing houses. National Security Guard (NSG) commandoes receive specialized training for it. Lobbing stun grenades, using tear gas shells, mirrors to look and using specialized moves to enter as a team. This is a task best left to them – or raise special units to do it in J&K. Statistics show house, hut and dhok (kachcha structures in mountains) clearance is one of the biggest reasons of casualty of troops in J&K.

The Infantry jawan can surround the house, draw fire and use that opportunity to isolate the terrorist, prevent him from escaping and bringing down the house. The army and the state have enough funds to rebuild the house and better ones at that. Anyways rebuilding a house is much cheaper than losing a trained resource – a soldier.

So can Major Suri’s Commanding Officer and the Sector Commander look at his young widow in the eye and explain there was no way out of that situation. That there was no alternative to Major Suri and Naik Singh laying down their lives and 2 more officers and 4 more jawans getting injured (one in the lower back) to kill only two terrorists.

Where was the Commanding Officer? Where was the sector commander? Were they there to guide the youngsters? Or were the commanders safe in the sector headquarters protected by more than a company of soldiers – only willing to venture out when the General Officer Commanding of the Kilo Force and the media reached in large numbers?

I have spoken to several serving and retired officers who have been in the thick of things – they are equally shocked by the manner in which this operation was conducted. Nobody is saying that Major Suri was not brave. He was a daredevil! He is a hero to be cherished – his bravery is immense.

But he did not have to die to prove he was brave. He was a veteran of the CIJW, Vairangte. He was an instructor. He should have lived to guide future generations of soldiers. He perhaps should have been brave enough to stick to his guns and ensure he was not forced to enter the house.

His superior officers should have realized the terrorists could have been eliminated by other means. Bravery is not laying down your life for the nation. Bravery is making the enemy lay down his life for his nation. NEVER FORGET THAT!

Let every commanding officer, brigade commander, division commander and Corps commander take a pledge he will not let a soldier die for personal glory and promotion. It is not worth it. Never ever forget the oath taken at the `antim pag’ at Chetwode building.







The safety honour and welfare of your country




come first always and every time.




The honour welfare and comfort




of the men you command come next.




Your own ease comfort and safety




come last always and every time

Thursday, September 10, 2009

ARCTIC SUNRISE: HEADLINES TODAY SPECIAL - PROMO




Saturday (12. Sept.09) at 9.30 pm (IST)

Sunday (13. Sept. 09) at 10.30 pm (IST)

A half an hour special on cutting edge scientific experiments in the Arctic to study the impact of climate change. I was on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. Do find time to watch the special and share your views.

cheers!

Gaurav C. Sawant


video




Saturday, September 5, 2009

EVIDENCE AGAINST HAFIZ SAEED SPELT OUT. ACT NOW PAK

Union home minister P. Chidambaram has spelt out the evidence against Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind. The evidence is now in public domain. Based on Ajmal Amir Kasab's confession (made to a judicial magistrate - admissible as evidence in any court of law), Chidambaram gave details of the time Saeed spent with the Mumbai attackers, motivating them, brainwashing them. Chidambaram also spoke of how it was Saeed who gave the terrorists their new name (Abu Mujahid for Kasab) before the attack and the fact that he visited the terrorist training camp on more than one occassion.

Is it not a fact that Saeed was the founder head of the Lashkar e Taiba ? Is it not a fact that LeT has owned up responsibility for several terror attacks not just in Jammu and Kashmir but across the country ? Is it not a fact that LeT became Jamat ut Dawa but Saeed continued to head it ? Join the dots and you get the picture of a terrorist.

Chidambaram says this evidence is sufficient for Pakistan to begin the probe against Saeed. And Chidambaram should know. He is a lawyer himself. So what should the legal course of action be... Step 1: arrest him.
Step 2:Get the Federal Investigative Agency to probe his role.
Step 3: File a chargesheet based on Indian evidence and FIA's own probe
Step 4: Start the trial in an independent court of law.
(PROFESSOR OF TERROR HAFIZ SAEED)
Legal experts say Saeed is a mastermind and will never be caught with a smoking gun. Arresting a terrorist with a gun and his confession is evidence enough in any civilized country. If even after this Pakistan refuses to act against Saeed, there is no point talking to Pakistan. Several Pakistani politicians have gone on record to say Hafiz Saeed is a respectable man. It is only in Pakistan that a terrorist can be called a respectable man. Then why do Pakistanis see red when they are called the terror epicentre of the world?

Pakistan's former natonal security advisor Mehmud Ali Durrani speaking to reporters after delivering the the first R.K. Mishra lecture on “India and Pakistan - Bridging the Gap”, organised by the Observer Research Foundation said there was zero evidence linking Saeed to the terror attacks.

This coming from a man who lost his job for speaking the truth in Pakistan and admitting Kasab was a Pakistani. It seems he has learnt his lesson and has given up speaking the truth.
Almost 10 months after the 26/11 terror attacks at least one thing is clear - Pakistan is unwilling to act against the terror masterminds.

SAY NO TO PAK ON KASHMIR

Let's for once call a spade a spade. Why should we talk to Pakistan on Kashmir. Who is Pakistan and what is Pakistan's locus standi ? It behaves like a rogue state. It is a bully. It is on the verge of being a failed state. It can't handle its own affairs whether it is in the north west frontier province, Balochistan, Sindh or even Punjab. It cannot set its own house in order and it wants to meddle in our affairs. On more than one occassion the Indian Parliament has made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. And then it tells lies. White lies.

Why should India be afraid if Pakistan raises Kashmir in the international fora. Let it. Let us raise Balochistan, Sindh and NWFP and atrocities by the Pakistan army and their Taliban battalions in these regions. The world now anyway knows the inside story of a collapsing state called Pakistan.

PAK LEADERSHIP'S FORKED TONGUE

Pakistan's prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani says Pakistan will continue to give moral and diplomatic support to Kashmir. But according to the Indian chief of army staff General Deepak Kapoor Pakistan is giving military support to terrorists - helping them cross into Indian territory and violating the Ceasefire of November 2003. Once again Pakistan appears to be speaking with a forked tongue. Its foreign minister Shah Mehmood Quereshi says Pakistan will take up the Kashmir cause more vigorously. Perhaps what he means is terrorists will be pushed in more vigorously before the passes on the higher reaches of Pir Panjal get snowed in coming winters.

Because one thing is clear Pakistan doesn't care a tuppence for the people of J&K. If it did, tourists would not be attacked and terrorist strikes would not take place in the heart of Srinagar scaring away the handful of tourists brave enough to venture north of Pir Panjal. Kashmir's economy is being sustained by the counter terror apparatus. But for the billions being pumped in by the centre, Kashmir perhaps would be worse than Bihar or Jharkhand.
Every time I go to Kashmir, I see bigger and better built homes, even in the back of beyond areas. Recently a senior army officer told me his division was spending more than two crore rupees a month just on porter and ponies. Taxi business is booming even across Zojila, in Drass and Kargil. Even the people of J&K know there future is far more secure in a stable India than a terror hub Pakistan. Perhaps this is one reason why the army seems to be getting slightly better inputs on terrorist movement than ever before. All this certainly is not music to Pakistan's ears.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says we need to think out of the box. Let's act for once in a decisive manner. Pakistan's namby pamby leadership (to rise in the eyes of its military leadership) try and raise the Kashmir bogey. Let's call their bluff one time. Tell Pakistan we will not talk to them about Kashmir at all. We will only talk about terror or not at all.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

What will happen if we refuse to talk to Pakistan ? Tell me the worst case scenario. Let me argue it in another way. What good came of it when we were talking to Pakistan - actually witnessing Pakistan going through the motions of talking to us.Terror attacks continued unabated. So whether we talk or not, Pakistan will continue to export terror to India. It is a part of its state policy. What is the worst that has happened so far ? 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. What can be worse ? Another terror strike ? Multiple terror strikes across multiple cities ? Let us pepare for it. Let us for once not be bulled into talking to Pakistan - come Hillary come Obama. Let us explain to the world with evidence, It is not in our national interest to go through the motions of talking to Pakistan. what do we lose if we do not talk to Pakistan. Nothing! In fact we gain in terms of our mental preparedness. We know there is a hostile neighbour out to mess up our happiness - we are prepared to deal with it. We begin talking to Pakistan and automatically our security forces let down their guard. This time at least they know what a slimy neighbour they are up against.

LEARN FROM WORLD POWERS

What have the US and UK done that there have been no terror attacks in their countries post 9/11 (US) 7/7 and 21/7 (UK) attacks. Let us study it very minutely and emulate it. They must have done something right that there has not been another terror attack in their countries for so many years. Of course it is easier for them since they are far-far away from Pakistan and we unfortunately share a border with the terror epicentre of the world. but look at the flip side - they are bearding the Lion in its own den. US forces are attacking Al Qaeda and Taliban inside Afghanistan and on the Pak Afghan border and the British forces are supporting them in combat.

We have rightly refused to be drawn into that conflict but the lesson is you have to kill the enemy in his house and not wait for him to attack you in your backyard. Gather intelligence and pass it on to people who are out there to eliminate the terrorists. India needs to build a cast iron case against the terrorists operating out of Pakistan and then put it in the public domain.

FAKE INDIAN CURRENCY NOTES

Pakistan's war on India by another means. Security press in Pakistan are printing high denomination Indian currency. Both Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, including most security features. It seems Pakistan buys the security paper and ink from the same source as India. Adolf Hitler did this to Britain in the second world war. Printed millions of pounds and air dropped them over London and other cities during the war in an effort to destabilize England's economy further during war. Pakistan is doing just the same. Trying to destabilize India's economy. Security paper and ink are never sold to non state actors.

Pakistan is buying far more than its own currency requirements. India should be firm here too. Either change the source of procurement of its currency paper and ink or insist if they do business with India they cannot do business with Pakistan. India has enough clout in the world to ensure we have it our way.

FIRE ON ALL FRONTS

Finally our foreign policy experts need to get off their high horses and start engaging all our other ``non hostile'' neighbours in the right earnest. Pakistan and China we need to beware of but Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka should be spoken to not as `subordinate states' but engaged as `equals' to help us solve our problems. there is no reason why every neighbour of ours should be hostile to us. Our foreign office mandarins need to do some soul searching Why are Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hostile to us. We have close historic, cultural and social ties with them. what went wrong ? Let us start making ammends. It is never too late. They need us but at this point we need them more. We cannot afford to fight fire on all fronts. We need Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to crack down on anti-India elements on their soil. We benefited so much from Bhutan's initiative against the ULFA.

Imagine if the same happened in Bangladesh. I know it is easier said than done but not impossible. Let us try. We must in the right earnest start to counter Pakistan and China's growing influence in our strategic backyard. That is in our interest.

CONCLUSION

War on terror cannot be won by empty threats and words alone. India will have to take some hard decisions and follow up tough words with tough actions. But the first step is taking a firm position and then not budging from it - come rain, come shine. Let our leaders do it for once. For us...for India.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ARCTIC SUNRISE: THE INDIAN CONNECTION IN ARCTIC

I am hungry. The pitch and the roll of the ship on the high seas take a toll on your energy. I climb down the narrow staircase towards the galley (kitchen). I smell spices in the air. Tandoori chicken, rajma, rice and daal. 9,000 kilometres from home. Indian food in the Arctic. Yes!
That's Babu Pillai from Kerala. He is, as most sailors say, the second most important man on board after the captain. Nobody messes with the chef, is the motto in the Galley. The lunch looks divine and diverse. Garlic bread, roasted chicken, fish, rajma, spinach and fruits in the end.
There are people from almost 15 countries on board - German, American, Italian, Russian, Irish, English, Swedish, Dutch, Australian, Mexican, Indian... cooking to everyone's taste is not easy. But our man from Kerala has been performing this remarkable feat even at 79 degrees North near the Petermann Glacier. He has to choose carefully - what to cook and when. Eyes eat first - so not only should the food be tasty, it also needs to look good.
''Food goes a long way in lifting spirits when people are down. At times when the ship pitches and rolls a lot and people feel sea sick, they do not feel like eating. But if the aroma is good and the food is tasty, they are drawn towards the food. And it lifts their spirits'', says the 51-year-old, father of two. The kitchen is nice and warm. No open flame on board. A number of hot plates to cook on. There is also another corner where you can deep fry food, a large oven. I have tasted the lovely cake Babu bakes.
But Babu is not the only Indian connection. There is also Faye Lewis. The 29-year-old Bandra girl working as a deckhand. Unique! I have never seen women sailors on board ships but there are three here. Sarah Watson is the Bosun (team leader of deck hands) from England, Faye Lewis from India and Yohena from Mexico. Penny, an engineer is from Canada.
Faye drove an inflatable boat to Tasiilaq village on the east coast of Greenland to pick us up. She handles the boat efficiently guiding her through icy waters. Her tasks on board the Arctic Sunrise include maintenance work on board — paint what ever is static, grease what moves — first rule of sailing. That is to prevent sea water from corroding metal. Lifting anchor, wear the fireman's outfit and be ready every time the helicopter comes in to land. And that's a lot of work.
Faye Lewis has a Bachelor's Degree in History and Sociology from the prestigious St. Xavier's College and has been working as a deckhand on board Greenpeace ships since 2003. "My work on board is to maintain record of the ship's hull, decks and superstructure. Plus mooring, cargo handling and driving the inflatable. I also have watched duties on the Bridge,'' she told me. Is she uncomfortable - working as a deckhand? ''Not at all. Not on board Greenpeace ships. They respect women and we know our work,'' says the 'hardy sailor'. She has moonlighted as a DJ in Mumbai and often has the sailors rocking to her beat.
Work for Faye begins early. Lifting anchor at the crack of dawn. Then it is her task to keep every thing ship shape and also assist in scientific work. Along with Sarah and Yohena, Faye lowers the inflatable boat in the icy waters and then drives the scientists negotiating menacing icebergs. The two Indians are a part of the core team of 28 on board and are fascinated by their Arctic journey. The two go out of their way to make my stay on board the Arctic Sunrise comfortable. Masaala Dosa and Tandoori Chicken are the two new national dishes on board the Sunrise. Bon Appetit.

SUB ZERO ARCTIC TEMPERATURES AND SCIENCE






ON BOARD THE ARCTIC SUNRISE

I have never seen so many ice bergs in my life. Hundreds and thousands of them of all shapes and sizes. We are sailing through an iceberg field - as deadly if not more than a mine field. One wrong turn and the ship could be history. Remember Titanic! That is why perhaps there is pin drop silence as the Captain of Arctic Sunrise Pete Willcox and the Ice Pilot Arna Swerensen concentrate on negotiate the menacing icebergs. One eighth of the iceberg is outside water, looking serene and lovely. But it is the other seven parts under water that worries sailors and captains alike. Ice harder than iron can rip through the ship's underbelly. Even though the Arctic Sunrise is an ice breaker, the captain takes her forward gently.

The ship tears through a thin sheet of ice moving forward. There are no waves in the fjord and a thin layer of ice has formed overnight. It is transparent and deep blue. The actic wind is icy and dry. I am on the bow of the ship admiring different ice bergs. But this beauty is lost on scientists. Dr Ruth Curry, Senior research specialist and Dr Fiamma Straneo, associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanography Institute, Massachusetts are busy trying to find out if warmer waters from sub tropical seas is creeping up the fjords and reaching the Arctic Greenlandic glaciers. Their team had left some instruments in these waters last year. The instruments measure conductivity and temperature at different depths. At the crack of dawn the ship comes to a halt. A boat is lowered. Along with the scientists I too am on the boat.

But before we disembark we change into bright orange skin hugging rubber dry suits. God forbid if the boat capsizes the icy arctic waters will kill us within seconds. The rubber dry suits will help us live Godwilling till help arrives. You slip into the orange suits, zip up till the neck. no water no ice can seep in. This is mandatory as per shipping rules. Same applies to you when you fly in a helicopter over water.

The scientists use a GPS device to look for the place where they had dropped the instruments. We spend an hour in those icy waters. In the little motor boat, the water is close enough to touch. But I prefer not to take off my gloves. Despite wearing two pairs of woolen socks, thermal inner wear and arctic jacket I am cold. The ice bergs turn different hues of blue with the changing sun light. The acoustic signal from the under water device is not heard on the receiver in the boat. The area where the GPS device indicates the instruments should be is wrong. The device could have moved some distance due to the waves or ice bergs. The instruments could be buried under ice. With each passing minute the disappointment increases and suddenly behind one ice berg three large orange colored plastic balls are sighted. There is a wave of euphoria. We clap and speed up towards the under water instruments.

For the scientists it is a very happy moment. Something like child birth. New data that will help them understand climate change patterns better. Perhaps. It is too early to say. One year under water the instrument is caked in ice. It has been recording salinity and temperature at 50 metres under water every half hour for the past one year. The other device is not found despite another one hour spent in the icy waters. That was 200 metres under water.

We return to the Arctic Sunrise. There is a lot of clapping and back slapping. The scientists are excited. They will spend the next couple of weeks studying and analyzing the data. But their initial findings indicate below the surface there is warm water. Up to 6 degrees Celsius and it appears to have reached the Arctic glaciers..

I return to the deck. The ship has just scraped past an ice berg. Chunks of ice are on the deck. They are rock solid. We wash the snow. It glints in the sunlight. We leave it on the deck and several hours later, it is just the same. It has not melted a bit. The sun is shining far...far away. It is still early day. The scientists now get back to the second part of their task. Using a special winch they drop more instruments under water. They also collect samples of water at different depths.

Moments later I break off and head to the galley (kitchen). There is an Indian connection here. More on that another day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SOS - THE MAJESTIC ARCTIC GLACIERS ARE CALVING

ON BOARD THE ARCTIC SUNRISE

''Lucky bird to Arctic Sunrise...Permission to lift off.'' The Greenpeace helicopter lucky bird lifted off effortless and so did my spirits. For the first time I was to have a bird's eye view of Greenland's famous Hellheim glacier, one of the largest and also dangerous. The five seater Eurocopter 120 B flew low over the hundreds and thousands of ice bergs breaking off from the glacier and literally choking the mouth of Sermilik Fjord in the area.

I was flying but will we be lucky enough to land on the glacier that was the million dollar question. While the glacier a part of the Arctic Greenland ice sheet is supposed to be rock solid, glaciologists and scientists over the past couple of years have found to their dismay it isn't. This year the news is far more depressing. the Glacier is not only melting faster it is breaking into millions of pieces and ice bergs are increasing the volume of the sea. the impact ... from New York to Sydney and from Mumbai to the Sundarbans, scientists fear the sea will continue to eat up more land.

With me is Professor Gordon Hamilton, a glaciologist from the University of Maine, USA. He and his team have planted several global positioning systems and cameras along the glacier and on the glacier. The GPS devices are moving with the glacier. The speed is alarming...25 metres a day. Why are the glaciers that that too in the Arctic moving so fast and breaking up? There is cutting edge scientific activity underway off the Arctic coast of Greenland.

The helicopter door is open. My camera colleague Jari Stalh, a veteran of several polar missions is leaning out in sub zero temperatures and filming. The pilot Martin Duggam swoops low to enable Jari to get better pictures. I miss a heartbeat. It is almost as if we can lean out and touch the collapsing ice wall. Visually it is a treat. We are flying over the artic ice sheet. It should be one solid mass of ice. But it isn't. Knife edged jagged ice peaks jut out into the sky. All crumbling or ready to crumble. Hellheim is one of the biggest glaciers. Though there is no scientific evidence but the folklore is that the mighty Titanic sank due to one of the ice bergs that came off either Hellheim or the other Greenlandic glaciers.

The pilot takes us to the scary part of the glacier. it is not only very crevassed but there are rivers that are flowing along. The helicopter lands on a thick ice sheet. The pilot first gently lowers the bird, tests the strength of the ice, adds a little pressure but the rotors are still whirring ready to take off if the ice gives way and then lands. We wait for a few seconds wondering if the ice will give way. But Prof Hamilton and Martin are confident. I jump out along with the professor. We walk some distance and stop. There is a river flowing down the glacier. Fast and furious. It forms a whirlpool some distance away and water gushes down. God forbid if someone falls, he will just go straight down hundreds of metres in freezing waters. I step back.

It is waters like these that are a cause of concern for the glaciologists. This water acts like a lubricant under the glacier forcing it to tilt forward and ultimately fall in the icy waters of the arctic. ``It is like few cubes of ice added to your drink. The volume increases. Where does that sea water go when huge chunks of ice fall in it? well it moves into land,'' explains the professor.

For him rising sea level is not a climate issue. For him this is now a national security issue. And he gives me the example of India. Land in the Sundarban area is being eaten up by sea. What do farmers do...look for new land. It will lead to violence. But imagine when countries start losing land. what will populations do. For example in the years to come when Bangladesh loses land to the sea, the population will look to India. There will be large scale population movements in less than a decade, he predicts.

Several small island and some island countries in the south Pacific will be wiped off the globe, he warns. The melting Greenland ice sheet will be the catalyst but the reason is climate change. Our helicopter takes off again and we land on one side of the glacier. Prof Hamilton's team has been studying the Greenlandic glaciers for several years and each year the picture is more alarming than the previous years. This year he says it is most depressing. Several time lapse cameras along the glacier have captured the collapse - the calving of the glacier. The Greenpeace team is hopeful the new scientific data will influence global leaders when they meet in Copenhagen in December to sit back and realise the enormity of the situation.

On Board the Arctic Sunrise Melanie Duchin, the Greenpeace campaigner from USA says the new scientific data points to a far more alarming picture than earlier anticipated. The political leaders world over need to appreciate there is no half way house when it comes to arresting the damage. 40 per cent green house gasses cut by the developed world and at least 15 per cent by developing world is what the environment lobby is hoping for.

After all we want our children and their children to live in a clean world. We must clean up our act...At least for their sake.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On Board the Arctic Sunrise off the coast of Greenland


The Arctic Sunrise! From the six seater Air Greenland helicopter I saw the ship at the Tasiilaq harbour on the east coast of Greenland. I had flown from New Delhi to Helsinki (Finland) then to Reyjkavik (Iceland) and then another two hours across the Atlantic Ocean to Greenland's Kulusuk airport.
From Kulusuk I took the Air Greenland helicopter to Tasiilaq....flew almost 9,000 kilometres for one and a half days across multiple time zones. Finally I saw the Greenpeace ship. I was tired and sleepy so far but not any more. The ship is to be my home for the next one week as we move along Greenland's east coast...with several scientists on board trying to gauge the extent of damage to the arctic ice sheet, to try and find out why the glaciers are melting so fast and to calculate the extent of rise in sea level.
There is hectic activity on board the ship. Marine biologists, oceanologists, glaciologist are all on board checking and re checking their instruments and equipment. The five seater Greenpeace helicopter stands majestically on the deck - the pilot going through the drill with the ship's crew. I find my bunk not far from the mess (dining hall) and rush back to the deck.
Tasillaq on Greenland's east coast is a sleepy little village. 1,800 residents, colourful houses and a small pizzaria. They flock to see the Greenpeace ship and the sudden flurry of activity. Some reports describe Tasillaq as the last village before North pole. Residents say there are a couple of other villagers up north but this is the last big one with a school, church and a sizable habitation.
The water is icy. There are many ice bergs in the ocean - some small and some very big. they are pretty but very scary. Scientists are alarmed by the sheer number and size of ice bergs floating in these waters. This is a sign that the glacier is not only melting and fast but also that it is calving - chunks of ice falling into the ocean. Why is it so alarming ? Well imagine Gin and tonic in a glass. Add a couple of ice cubes. What happens ? The volume increases. And that is exactly what is happening. Large chunks of ice are falling into the water....the water level in the oceans and seas is rising and eating into the land from New York to Sydney and from Mumbai to the Sundarbans on India's east coast.
So what is happening and will happen in the years to come is that the sea will eat more and more into the land. And scientists say land under cultivation and land we live on will be devoured by the sea resulting in large scale migration of people from these areas to safer areas - from Bangladesh to India - and this will led to violence and tension. Greenpeace warns climate change will become an international security issue from an environment issue if we do not wake up and now.
At the crack of dawn we set sail from the Tasiilaq harbour to the Sermalik Fjord. It is a five hour long journey across difficult waters. The captain and the crew navigate through hundreds - literally hundreds of ice bergs of all shapes and sizes. The Arctic Sunrise has no keel - so that it can navigate through ice better and faster. But this also mans that the ship pitches and rolls much more than other ships. Early in the morning I am a little sea sick but a little fresh air and a sea sick pill later I feel much better. thankfully I have not thrown up...at least not yet.
The clothes I brought from India with me are woefully inadequate for the Arctic weather conditions and despite of multi layered thermal clothing, sweaters, jackets and headgear I am cold. The crew immediately take care of that . Moments later I am 'kitted up' in Arctic clothing and work begins. ... (more to follow in the next blog)