Friday, 28 November 2008

India - The Terror Target

March 12, 1993: A series of thirteen explosions in Mumbai, then called Bombay, resulted in 257 deaths and over 700 injuries. The blasts were orchestrated by the organized crime syndicate called the D-Company, headed by Dawood Ibrahim.

Feb. 14, 1998: Coimbatore bombings: 46 deaths, 200 wounded as a result of 13 bomb attacks in 11 places.

Oct. 1, 2001: Militants attack Jammu & Kashmir Assembly complex in Srinagar, killing about 35. The Muslim extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammed was allegedly involved.

Dec. 13, 2001: Attack on the Indian Parliament complex in New Delhi led to the killing of a dozen people and 18 injured. Pakistan-based terror groups were blamed for the attack.

Sept. 24, 2002: Akshardham temple in Gujarat: The first major hostage taking since Sept. 11 in the U.S.; 31 people were killed and another 79 wounded.

May 14, 2002: Militants attack on an Army camp near Jammu, killing more than 30 people.

March 13, 2003: A bomb attack on a commuter train in Mumbai killed 11.
Aug. 25, 2003: Twin car bombings in Mumbai killed at least 52 people and injured 150. Indian officials blamed a Pakistan-based terror outfit.

Aug. 15, 2004: An explosion in the northeastern state of Assam killed 16 people, mostly school children.

July 5, 2005: Militants attack the Ram Janmabhoomi complex, the site of the destroyed Babri Mosque at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

Oct. 29, 2005: Three powerful serial blasts rocked the busy shopping areas of south Delhi, two days before the Hindu festival of Diwali, killing 59 and injuring 200. A Pakistan-based terrorist outfit, the Islamic Inquilab Mahaz (believed to have links with Lashkar-e-Taiba) claimed responsibility.

March 7, 2006: A series of bombings in the holy city of Varanasi killed at least 28 and injured 101. Indian police put the blame on some Pakistan-based terror outfits.

July 11, 2006: Seven bomb blasts occurred at various places on the Mumbai Suburban Railway, killing 200. Investigations revealed that terror outfits with a base in Pakistan were behind the blasts.

Sept. 8, 2006: At least 37 people were killed and 125 were injured in a series of bomb blasts in the vicinity of a mosque in Malegaon, Maharashtra. The blasts were followed by an explosion and most of the people killed were Muslim pilgrims. The students Islamic Movement of India was responsible.

May 18, 2007: A bombing during Friday prayers at Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, killed 13 people. Four were killed by Indian police in the rioting that followed.

May 26, 2007: Six people killed and 30 injured in a bomb blast in India's northeastern city of Guwahati.

June 10, 2007: Gunmen killed 11 people in separate incidents of firing in Manipur's border town of Moreh.

Aug. 25, 2007: Forty-two people killed and 50 injured in twin explosions at a crowded park and a popular eatery in Hyderabad by Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami (HuJI) activist.

May 13, 2008: A series of six explosions tore through Jaipur, a popular tourist destination in the Rajasthan state in western India, killing 63 people and injuring more than 150.

July 25, 2008: Seven blasts in quick succession across the south Indian tech city of Bangalore killed one and injured more than 150 people.

July 26, 2008: Serial blasts in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad killed 45 people and injured more than 150. A group calling itself Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility.

Sept. 13, 2008: Five bomb blasts in New Delhi's popular shopping centers left 21 people dead and more than 100 injured. The Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility.

Sept. 27, 2008: A blast in a New Delhi flower market left one dead.

Oct. 30, 2008: Thirteen bomb blasts in India's northeastern state of Assam and three other towns left at least 61 people dead more than 300 injured.

Nov. 26, 2008: Terror siege rocks Mumbai; 157 killed and still counting, over 357 injured – battle still ensues

One would have thought that being the most terrorized nation in the world, India would’ve learnt to tackle the problem of terror and insurgency with an iron hand, but as the most recent terror strike on India’s financial capital has proved, our handling of terrorist situations is inadequate, inept, inefficient and leaves a lot to be desired.
It is absolutely shocking to see a city and a nation being held to ransom by a score of remorseless young men armed to the teeth with grenades, AK 47’s and other sophisticated weapons while our intelligence agencies are left clueless and our “esteemed leaders” are caught unprepared. India has failed miserably in protecting the lives of her citizens. The attacks also highlight India’s rapidly growing vulnerability to terrorist violence and points to a gaping hole in India’s anti-terror measures. We’re reactive rather than being sustained and proactive and our perpetually at loggerheads politicians have miserably failed to put national interest above their personal political agenda.

Our political class lacks spine. How else can we explain the lack of a strong will and a determined outlook to fight terror which has been plaguing our nation for over a decade and a half and has been the cause of loss of innumerable lives?
Our politicians cannot think beyond mud-slinging and one upmanship. No wonder they have no time to think about think about the development and well being of the nation, and seek to apportion blame rather than come up with defensive measures and a sustained policy to counter and minimize terror incidents. Our so called political leaders, who move around flanked by a bevy of guards, have failed to even come up with a law to keep the country safe from such outrageous attacks!

I am enraged! And so – I am sure are a million other citizens. How long? Just how long are innocent lives going to be allowed to be sacrificed at the altar of terrorism only due to the lack of a political will???!!! How long are we going to allow these shameless politicians to sabotage national well being for their personal agendas???!!!

I am absolutely livid and disgusted at the clich├ęs and speeches regularly doled out by our ministers. And what did I hear something about our “spirit” and “resilience”??? Sorry! but we are absolutely fed up! If our “indomitable spirit” and our “resilience” are an excuse for your inaction, then we no longer choose to be resilient!

It is time that our politicians understand this is war and do away with their brand of appeasement politics and stop their knee-jerk response to problems. We need more conviction and determination in our leaders – a conviction in their methods and a determination to protect the lives of it’s citizens – a conviction and determination that I see seriously lacking in today’s so called leaders who are more involved in the politics of separatism. What we need is not doling out of hollow words, but sustained action and sharp reflexes coupled with a determined leadership. A change in laws to facilitate quick actions and most importantly, upgradation of our defense forces – army, navy, air-force and the police – as well as our intelligence system in terms of skills, techniques, technologies and most importantly self esteem

As I post this, the firing at Taj continues. I hope and I pray that the casualties are less and that our commandoes come out unscathed. I salute our forces who have been fighting non-stop for the past 48 hours and still continue to do so, staking their lives for their nation and their fellow citizens. They are our real heroes, and our entire nation is grateful to them. My heart goes out tho those who lost their loved ones and there is a lingering thought that says.;"when, where and who next? How long and How many attacks more to come?"

This was a single city. What if the terrorists plan such attacks simultaneously in multiple cities??? What is our preparedness???

I can only hope that our politicians do learn something from this incident and emerge wiser for the betterment of this nation and her people. The lives lost should not be forgotten and relegated to a statistic; they should serve as a constant reminder that such an outrageous attack is intolerable and should be crushed with an iron hand. Let our elected representatives be brought to brook and be held accountable - as Shobha De aptly put it - "Enough is Enough!"

Friday, 15 August 2008

Happy Birthday India!

“At the stroke of mid-night, when the world sleeps, India will wake to life and freedom.” These historic words spoken by Pt. Nehru on the mid-night of August 14-15, 1947, are perhaps one of the most recognized ones by a multitude of Indians, here and all over the world; Fascinating, I must confess, and brimming with hope and passion as well.
They did teach us our history well – cramming up dates and quotes and events, but what they forgot was to instill the basic civic sense and sensibility. They gave us the ideals, but what they forgot was the importance of practicality and action.
Did India ever really “wake up”? Was the world really sleeping? On that historic moment the world was watching India and a multitude of Indians were awake – awake with fear of blood- thirsty mobs on a rampage, awake from the fear of uncertainty of their lives. India “awoke” witnessing its partition, riots, rape, plunder and murder on a large scale.
Even today, 61 years after our proclaimed “Independence”, we are still fettered with chronic problems and obsolete ideologies. Much is said about “India Shining” in terms of its outstanding performance on various fronts, growing foreign reserves, high rate of investments etc but the bleak truth remains that we have the largest number of poor, are still grappling with saving the girl child, illiteracy, internal riots, terrorism problems and separatist movements – to name a few.
What is most appalling is that despite being the largest democracy in the world, we seem to be the most ineffective in dealing with our problems. Our parliament maybe the political shrine of the country but the conduct of our so called “elected leaders” have continuously degenerated it to a political zoo where one can see a new “tamasha” being enacted everyday; and just when you thought that the political hullabaloo had reached it’s nadir our “representatives” come up with an even baser tamasha. Sometimes I feel, we can file for a Guinness world record in political tamasha, and I am quite confidant that our politicians will definitely keep breaking their own records; the recent “cash-for-vote” scam and the Amarnath Yatra land fiasco being a case in point.
The cash for vote auctioned of the democracy as a hapless and a helpless nation watched; each seat had a tag attached to it – corruption was elevated to the status of lifestyle. The Amarnath Yatra land transfer exposed the narrow-mindedness of our “leaders”. The issue stemmed from demands to create temporary structures for pilgrims travelling to the Amarnath Shrine. This minor issue was snowballed into a huge and bloody controversy by narrow-minded politicians of Jammu and Kashmir; While Ms. Mufti and Mr. Lone made statements that they do not mind treating the pilgrims as their “guests”, Mr. Omar Abdullah went ahead and declared “hum jaan de denge par zameen nahi denge” (we will give our lives but not our lands). Someone please tell these politicians that (a) Jammu & Kashmir is one state (b) this state is very much a part of India (c) and Indian National is not a guest in his/her own country.What really appalls me is that these politicians do not mind staking the life of thousands of people for their personal ambitions!
As citizens, it seems we have grown numb. Most of us are so engrossed in our own lives that we hardly stop to think about anyone else. The general mantra seems to be “hota hai, chalta hai”. We crib, we complain, we debate on what should be but none of us seems to be bothered. Also, we have yet to overcome our prejudices of cast, creed, colour, sex and religion. We all know our rights but we also need to be aware of our duties towards our nation as a citizen. We celebrate our success but we must not forget our problems and our goal to overcome them.
India has been let down by both her leaders and her people, and we cannot shrug of this responsibility or pass on the blame; We need to re-envision our destiny and fix a new “tryst” with it.
As India enters her 61st year, here’s wishing her a brighter future, one where inspiration is accompanied by strong and sustained action, courageous and exemplary leadership and more informed, pro-active, and sensitive people.
I do hope when my India awakes, it does so, not in the darkness but in the bright dawn, as Tagore rightly said, “where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high, where knowledge is free and the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; where words come out from the depth of truth; where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection. Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action”
And I wait patiently for my India to awake. Happy Birthday! O graceful Lady.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Flowers at the Red Light

Last night...cool and breezy... driving back from the Old Delhi railway station with the windows of my Grand old M800 rolled down, I had to stop at the ITO red light ... lost in thought and reflecting on my life, the bomb blasts et all ... life can sometimes seem so bleak! My friend sitting beside me was anxious about me having to drive all the way to Gurgaon- alone at "late" in the night and I was truthfully numb to his concerns, almost completely lost in my thoughts when I was snapped back to reality by a small voice: "Didi phool le lo na". Looking out, I saw a small girl of about 8 looking at me, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. Holding up 3 bracelet sized chains of bela or jasmine flowers ... she looked again "Didi le lo naa" - more emphasis more hope. I looked at the little face again, something had me transfixed- here was this kid doing her best to assist her family and doing it sincerely- 11:00pm and she was still at the streets selling little chains of flowers to earn money - no thought to education; no high aspirations; no real comfort; no real sense of security; faced with the harsh conditions of life and yet the innocence was not lost. I asked her how much - "Dus rupiye ke teen came the reply" ... I looked at her again and rummaged around for my wallet. The light turned green; those behind me grew restless by the second and horns started blaring ... I could see a hint of apprehension in the girls eye and could not bear the thought of disappointing her. Quickly took out a Rs 10 note from the glove compartment and took the flowers from her. A fleeting look at the little one and I could see the glow of joy on her face - and in her smile and eyes - it was as if she had just found a pot of gold!

Moving before those behind me decided to come out of their vehicles to clobber me, I drove on. Somehow my line of thought had changed - Life isn't bleak. There will be numerous reasons to loathe things around you but one genuine smile and warmth in the heart can work miracles!

And, oh yes! those flowers definitely smelt sweeter than usual.

Monday, 19 May 2008

rain rain come again!

Rain rain go away??? nah, nyet, never! ... the rains are sooo soothing ... and i have noticed that they do affect my mood ...positively!!! ... they definitely do awaken the child in me ... sitting in office i am dreaming of going out and playing in the rain and splashing in those puddles ... there is something soo refreshing about them! mmmm ... i'm lost now ... in a different world ... the office suddenly seems so dour and drab ... more like a glass chamber ... and I so want to open this darn window (it's sealed :( ) ... makes me think why is it that we can't progress with nature rather than against it ... anyways ... for now its just enjoying the just washed sparkling greens dancing in the wind and little raindrops falling on them... all other thoughts can take a backseat! :)