Sunday, November 30, 2008

Media Coverage of Mumbai Siege

Continuous television media coverage of Mumbai siege spread over 60 hours has come in for both praise and criticism from many quarters. I, like most of us, was riveted to the screen and kept channel hopping from NDTV to CNN-IBN to Times Now. Yes it helped us Indians know what is happening and made us all feel collectively outraged by the terrorists' cruelty. But there was an other side too. Some people felt that blow-by-blow account of commandos' and other security force's activities will be monitored by terrorist's friends elsewhere, who in turn would have relayed it to them and give them advance information of when and where they will be fired upon. Media need to draw a line and yes, most channels started to self-censor their broadcast on the last day of coverage of Taj and Nariman House siege.

Mumbai Terror - Will We Ever Learn the Lessons ?

Mumbai Terror - Will We Ever Learn the Lessons ?

Why is that we are often victims of terrorism that any other nation in the world, except perhaps Iraq ? Are we ultra-soft state that terrorists take us for granted and attack us with impunity ? Is our moral fiber so weak that anyone and everyone can be bribed or suborned ? M J Akbar writes in Times of India "We should have been world leaders in the war again terror, for no nation has more experience. Instead, we are wallowing in the complacent despair of a continual victim." Unless punitive action is taken against the emirs who fund rolled and equipped the desperadoes who unleashed this mayhem, terrorists are going to attack us again and again. We need to hit them again and again where it hurts. It is high time we begin to emulate Israel. We need to go in for a severe image makeover and project ourselves as a nation which would not hesitate to stand up to the terror warlords come what may.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

India's Blunders

I reproduce below Sadanand Dhume's oped piece in Wall Street Journal. I have bolded some portions.

As the story of the carnage in Mumbai unfolds, it is tempting to dismiss it as merely another sorry episode in India's flailing effort to combat terrorism. Over the past four years, Islamist groups have struck in New Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, among other places. The death toll from terrorism -- not counting at least 119 killed in Mumbai on Wednesday and Thursday -- stands at over 4,000, which gives India the dubious distinction of suffering more casualties since 2004 than any country except Iraq.

The attacks highlight India's particular vulnerability to terrorist violence. But they are also a warning to any country that values what Mumbai symbolizes for Indians: pluralism, enterprise and an open society. Put simply, India's failure to protect its premier city offers a textbook example for fellow democracies on how not to deal with militant Islam.

The litany of errors is long. Unlike their counterparts in the West, or in East Asia, India's perpetually squabbling leaders have failed to put national security above partisan politics. The country's antiterrorism effort is reactive and episodic rather than proactive and sustained. Its public discourse on Islam oscillates between crude, anti-Muslim bigotry and mindless sympathy for largely unjustified Muslim grievance-mongering. Its failure to either charm or cow its Islamist-friendly neighbors -- Pakistan and Bangladesh -- reveals a limited grasp of statecraft.

Finally, India's inability to modernize its 150-million strong Muslim population, the second largest after Indonesia's, has spawned a community that is ill-equipped to seize new economic opportunities and susceptible to militant Islam's faith-based appeal.

To be sure, not all of India's problems are of its own making. In Pakistan, it has a neighbor founded on the basis of religion, whose government -- along with those of Iran and Saudi Arabia -- has long been one of the world's principal exporters of militant Islamic fervor.

Bangladesh also hosts a panoply of jihadist groups. As in Pakistan, public sympathy with the militant Islamic worldview forestalls any meaningful effort against those who regularly use the country as a sanctuary to plan mayhem in India. America's unsuccessful Pakistan policy -- too many carrots and too few sticks -- has also contributed to a fundamentally unstable neighborhood.

Nonetheless, the reflexive Indian response to most every act of terrorism is to apportion blame rather than to seek a solution that will prevent, or at least minimize, its recurrence. Even Indonesia -- a still-poor Muslim-majority nation where sympathy for militants runs deeper than it does in India -- has done an infinitely better job of recognizing that the protection of citizens' lives is any government's first responsibility. A superbly trained, federal antiterrorism force called Detachment 88 has ensured that country has not suffered a terrorist attack in more than three years.

By contrast, India's leaders -- who invariably swan around with armed guards paid for by the taxpayer -- can't even agree on a legal framework to keep the country safe. On taking office in 2004, one of the first acts of the ruling Congress Party was to scrap a federal antiterrorism law that strengthened witness protection and enhanced police powers.

The Congress Party has stalled similar state-level legislation in Gujarat, which is ruled by the opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. And it was a Congress government that kowtowed to fundamentalist pressure and made India the first country to ban Mumbai-born Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" in 1988.

The BJP hasn't exactly distinguished itself either. In 1999, the hijacking of an Indian aircraft to then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan led a BJP government to release three hardened militants, including Omar Sheikh Saeed, the former London School of Economics student who would go on to murder Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

More recently, the BJP, driven by tribal religious solidarity and a penchant for conspiracy theories, has failed to demand the same tough treatment for alleged Hindu terrorists as it does for Muslims. Minor parties, especially those dependent on the Muslim vote, compete to earn fundamentalists' favor.

In sum, the Indian approach to terrorism has been consistently haphazard and weak-kneed. When faced with fundamentalist demands, India's democratically elected leaders have regularly preferred caving to confrontation on a point of principle. The country's institutions and culture have abetted a widespread sense of Muslim separateness from the national mainstream. The country's diplomats and soldiers have failed to stabilize the neighborhood. The ongoing drama in Mumbai underscores the price both Indians and non-Indians caught unawares must now pay

Thursday, November 27, 2008

O Mumbai !

As Mumbai bears the brunt of yet another terrorist attack, my prayers go out to people who got killed or injured in these senseless attacks. I express my solidarity with all right thinking Mumbaikars and others. Outraged is a milder word to describe my wounded feelings. Let me quote this poem by Keith Barton who wrote this during 9/11 attack I presume.

Terrorist threats predicated by ideology
Of a sick mind who worships idolatry
Cowards disguised as martyrs
Who destroy and slaughter
Innocent people
Who worship under steeples

Terrorism is not a war
It’s fear from those we abhor
Religious epithets and ethnic slurs
Produce a monster like swine before pearls
Innocent children
Hearts not yet hardened

Terrorism will not be defeated
Until nations unite against those conceited
Misguided souls propelled by delusion
That life is but an illusion
Governments cannot win this war
But each person must face this chore

Terrorism is part of our history
Since Abraham, it’s not a mystery
Inhumanity and humanity co-exist
Between the precipice and the abyss
For we reside between heaven and hell
Where will you be when He rings the bell?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bitten By the Book Bug

I cannot remember exactly when I started reading. In fact, I was a late starter. I, like every boy of my time, used to pore over my favorite newspaper The Hindu's sports pages, relishing the purple prose Rajan Bala and later Nirmal Shekhar. As I entered college, I discovered James Hadley Chase. I read him feverishly, finishing more than 50 novels of his in the process. Slowly, I got introduced to Harold Robbins, Irving Wallace, Nick Carter and bit later Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer. Frederick Forsyth fascinated me with his well-researched thrillers. I became a member of British Council library in the early 1990s. It was like entering Aladdin's cave. Rows and rows of book shelves invited me to devour them. I fell in love with science fiction genre during this time and read lots of Arthur Clarke, Brian Aldiss, J G Ballard. Later I joined USIS library and got an opportunity to read Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and other science fiction greats. Hand in hand, I read popular science books too - Carl Sagan, Heinz Pagels, Richard Dawkins, etc. I read spy thrillers a lot too - Len Deighton, Ted Allbeury, John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum, Ton Clancy. Yes, it took me some time to move from light reading to more serious stuff. I read some great American novels like Uncle Tom's Cabin, Catch-22, The Catcher in the Rye during this period. As a member for Connemara Public Library, I got great opportunity to read Indian writers in English. I read English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee, Amitav Ghosh's books, Vikram Seth, Shashi Tharoor, Nayantara Sehgal, Anita Desai. I continue to read lot of books and it is proving to be a fascinating journey. Let me finish this rambling account with a great quote by Emily Dickinson:

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

The World This Week

Yesterday I happened to watch NDTV in the evening and happened to come to know that they are celebrating their 20th anniversary yesterday. Their show The World This Week was first broadcast on Doordarshan on November 25, 1988. The show ran for eight long years. This info opened an avalanche of memories in me. I remember the Fridays when I used to stay up awake to catch the show with Prannoy Roy at the helm. The show had no-nonsense correspondents and I still remember bearded Appan Menon traveling to hot spots of the world and bringing us the headline events of those days. In fact during those times (late 1980s - early 1990s), The World This Week was the only window to the world. By mid 1990s, satellite television came of age and started beaming straight into our drawing rooms and The World This Week faded away into oblivion. But for me, the show always triggers those good old days....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blogger's Block

Quite often, I'm afflicted with blogger's block. I cannot think of any new ideas or inspirations for a new post. Days drag on without me having a new post. Today while idly googling the term blogger's block, I came across this interesting site: wherein the author has suggested quite a lot of ideas to combat the block. I hope to benefit from it and come back with fresh posts soon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Top 10 Most Irritating Phrases

The following according to Oxford University researchers are the top 10 most irritating phrases:

1 - At the end of the day

2 - Fairly unique

3 - I personally

4 - At this moment in time

5 - With all due respect

6 - Absolutely

7 - It's a nightmare

8 - Shouldn't of

9 - 24/7

10 - It's not rocket science.

What is yours ?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

I just watched President elect Obama's victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago live on TV. His speech was quite moving and promised better days to come for USA and the world. I earnestly hope he makes good his promise and prove to be a great leader for United States and the rest of the world.