Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Goodbye Papaji

It was beyond dusk that I got the call.
It was just last week that you were on my mind.
90 and you had to go of something.
To leave a grieving clan behind.

Generations of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
A good man who came with nothing, yet gave so much, and to so many.
A beautiful man, who did it the right way.
Not a blemish to his name.

A Kashmiri Pandit, cultured, quiet and educated.
Gentle but firm.
Our entire horizon as children.
Our hero and our patriarch.

They will give you to the flames today, Vidhi Ka Vidhan.
But in our memories you will stay.
As the man who gave everyone hope, order and taught us civility.
The conscience of a generation.
The immigrant who rebuild a world from scratch.
In the twilight your memory will remain a blessing!

As you become legend.
A tale for the future.
Essential lore for those to come.
My hands stay together and head bowed in silent gratitude.
Goodbye Papaji, we will miss you!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Living Talent Presents Masterpiece 2017 - The World's First Multi-genre Intercontinental Talent Hunt

Living Talent Presents Masterpiece 2017 - The World's First Multi-genre Intercontinental Talent Hunt

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DUBAI, UAE and MUMBAINovember 28, 2017/PRNewswire/ --
Irrfan Khan, noted Indian actor of international acclaim,makes his debut as a jury member on the show  
Living Talent, an intercontinental Talent Hunt company, announced the launch of Masterpiece 2017 - a global show to be hosted in Dubai Festival City on 15-16 December, 2017. The first-of-its-kind talent show will have deserving contenders from across the world compete across genres such as arts and craft, performance and innovation. Contestants will showcase their unique talents before the esteemed jury; one from each category will be bestowed the title - 'The Living Masterpiece'.
The intercontinental jury is an enviable mix of celebrities from across 5 continents:
  • Natalia Oreiro, Argentinian Singer and Actress
  • Conor Walton, Artist, United Kingdom
  • Marina Debris, Artist and Designer, Australia
  • Adam Miller, Artist, United States
  • Roopam Sharma, MIT Award recipient, Social Innovator
  • Mayur Ramgir, Renowned Intercontinental Innovator and Author
  • Irrfan Khan, Indian Actor with presence in Hollywood
  • Lauren Gottlieb, Star of Hindi film 'ABCD'
*Backed by self-made stars like RJ Naved, Rannvijay SinghRicha Chaddaand Karan Wahi
225 deserving participants, selected from online video submissions, will fly to Dubai (with a companion) where they will compete with contestants globally. Moreover, organisers will waive off the fee in case of especially dazzling artists from a deserving background. Judges and viewers will decide jointly which contestant advances to the finals to win the grand prize of US$10,000, and a chance to feature in an upcoming Intercontinental Web series by Living Talent Media Group.
Masterpiece 2017 will invite venture capitalists and angel investors who bring seed capital, valuable mentorship and office space for the winners. Winners also stand a chance to be funded by ZLab - endorsed by Shark Tank Celebrity and Inventor of 'As seen on TV' Kevin Harington.
Process of application 
- Eligible candidates (18-26 years of age) to upload proof of their talent through videos in any of the three categories of Arts & Craft, Performance, Innovation on
- Fee of Rs 1,600 (in case the participant is travelling alone, they get 40% discount on fee with code: GOaloneDXB). This includes airfare, stay, food, transfers, and coupons for US$30
- 225 shortlisted participants will be invited along with one companion to an all-expense paid trip to Dubai
For media queries:
Meera Warrier
SOURCE Living Talent

Friday, 3 November 2017

Saviors, Killers and Gentlemen

No kinks, straight backs, something about these boys.
Clean shaven, manicured ears and necks.
Something was different!

As the drinks went down.
And the night started to work up a sweat
I couldn't stop staring.
Lithe bodies, practiced gaits, and quiet eyes.

These were boys forced into an early manhood.
Saviors, Killers and Gentlemen.
Quiet confidence that needed no boast.
Eyes that looked distantly confident.

And then it came to me from a lifetime of Army mess nights
These were young officers
Bankers and yuppies at the next table looked like unkempt disheveled clerks.
Quietly hidden knowledge smiled into my drink.

A lanky Captain Sahib caught my smile.
Eyes met in some quiet recognition and then looked away.
These were our best. Guardians of the faith.
Keen, earnest faces of men who would give you their lives or take them for you.

The edge of India's sword
Swaying to a primal rhythm.
Had to send drinks for my pride.
Sweaty hugs from brothers.
Officers and human beings Supreme.

Thursday, 24 August 2017



By Jay Bhattacharjee
On  Monday, the 21st August, the Supreme Court effectively ended one of the most painful and tragic episodes in independent India’s history, when it granted bail to the Military Intelligence officer, Lt. Colonel P.S. Purohit (PSP) who had been in prison, awaiting trial, for nearly nine years. By effectively drawing down the curtain on a heartrendingly sad chapter, the apex court redeemed (at least partially) its honour and esteem in our nation’s collective psyche.
This writer has been following the entire saga after it unfolded nine years ago in September 2008, when a series of deadly bomb explosions killed a number of people in Malegaon, Maharashtra. UPA-1 had already been in power in Raisina Hill for more than four years and the stench of corruption and woeful mismanagement was widespread. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabal, under the control of the Congress Party’s power centre in 10 Janpath, had already come under the scanner for a series of appalling economic / financial scandals.
Moreover, India had been repeatedly attacked by Islamic terror groups, either home-grown or controlled by Pakistan’s official agencies. The time was ripe for diversionary moves that would take the spotlight away from 10 Janpath and the Party headquarters in 24 Akbar Road. This was the ambience under which the bizarre, treacherous and perverse notion of “saffron terror” was spawned. What followed for nine years was an abysmal chapter in post-independent India’s history that has few parallels.
This essay will attempt to unravel the basic facts of this horrendous conspiracy that not only ruined the lives of many innocent victims, including a professional Army officer who was only carrying out the duties he was tasked with, but also compromised national security gravely and almost destroyed the nation’s sword-arm. It also gave Pakistan and the forces of international Islamic terror enormous leverage and ammunition to attack India relentlessly in every conceivable world forum. I will also draw the historic parallels between the Purohit tragedy and another conspiracy that nearly destroyed a great European nation in the early 20th century.  
First, let us look at the basic facts and time-line of the Purohit case. The Malegaon bomb blasts took place on the 29th September 2008, resulting in 6 deaths and a number of casualties. The Mumbai Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) took over the case on the 20th October 2008. This was when the seeds of the conspiracy were sown. Under a high-profile officer, Hemant Karkare, the ATS initially investigated Islamist terrorists who were proliferating in various parts of the country under a benevolent UPA-Congress regime. Soon, the ATS veered on to another track altogether and the sordid treachery started.
There are now credible reports that a former chief of SIMI and a known terrorist Safdar Nagori had been admitted in a taped confession that the Samjhauta Express blasts of February 18, 2007 were carried out by operatives trained in Pakistan. The tape had apparently been deliberately kept under wraps for nine years because the erstwhile UPA government did not want it to come out. To make matters worse, a recent sting investigation by a leading TV channel in June 2017 shows how some Pakistanis arrested by Indian agencies were discharged within 14 days, even though they were key suspects in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on India till that time.
One must remember that the chief power brokers operating in Mumbai and Delhi during this period were people like Sushil Kumar Shinde, Digvijay Singh, P. Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar et al, who were  paragons of virtue under the convoluted ethical norms of the Sonia Gandhi – Manmohan Singh raj. For Karkare to change tack was understandable. He started on the “Hindu-saffron” terror trail and soon Sadhvi Pragya and Col. Purohit were arrested in November 2008.
This is where the top echelons of the Indian Army disgraced themselves. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at that time was Deepak Kapoor, a member and beneficiary of the infamous “Line of Succession” doctrine concocted by the UPA-Congress cabal a few years earlier. Therefore, some of the men in olive-green were more than ready to carry out the diktats of the khadi lot, throwing rules, regulations and laws to the wind.
Initially, the good Colonel only faced a Court of Inquiry as prescribed under the Army Act 1950 (as amended from time to time) that governs all disciplinary action against Indian Army personnel. Even when the proceedings against PSP were far from reaching the next two stages, namely the summary of evidence and the actual GCM (General Court Martial), he was handed over by the Army to the tender mercies of the ATS gang in Mumbai under Karkare.
In this writer’s considered opinion, this was a gross violation of law and procedure that saw this warrior incarcerated for so many years in civilian jails and subjected to a legal process notorious for slow delivery of justice. Soon, the ATS slapped the stringent provisions of MCOCA against PSP, fellow accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and others. The gory circus of the Congress-UPA government’s delirious and treacherous “saffron terror” conspiracy had started.
Soon after the lamentable decision to hand over PSP to civilian custody, I had buttonholed a senior Lt. General at a public meeting and conveyed my opinion to him most forcefully. This person had just hung up his boots and was waiting for a post-retirement appointment in one of the statutory agencies located in Lutyens Delhi that serves as a sinecure for pliant soldiers. I knew that the fellow was mouthing platitudes. The same was true of a number of my other acquaintances in the Armed Forces. I am afraid this was not among the finest moments for many of the Indian Republic’s senior warriors. And sadly, the omerta continues till today.
The Purohit-Sadhvi tragedy preceded the Mumbai attacks by a month. There was an outrageous coincidence here too. The MCOCA charges were levied against PSP and others on the 29th November 2008, when the city was still reeling from the after-effects of the Pakistani terror attack that had started three days earlier on the 26th. There was another irony that played out; Karkare, the man responsible for following the agenda laid down by his political masters, was laid low by adherents of the same Islamic terror from Pakistan that he had sought to whitewash.
Even after Kasab had been caught and put up for trial, Digvijay Singh and company still had the gumption to propagate a “saffron angle” to the 26-11 outrage. This was the mother of all conspiracy theories but the Congress-UPA high command still did not summon up the requisite decency and courage to counter the obscenity peddled by the “secularist” gang of Digvijay and his cohorts. The heavens could have wept. The following report is one of many that peddled the “saffron terror” fable in the international media:
This is the appropriate stage to spell out the parallels between Indian developments and those that took place in France a hundred and twenty years earlier. I refer to the Dreyfus affair, since the two scenarios are eerily similar. In both cases, determined opponents in foreign countries wanted to destabilise the armed forces and to create deep divisions in the social fabrics of the two countries involved – the Indian Republic and the French Republic. Colonel Purohit may not have suffered the same degree of injustice, torture, humiliation and deprivation that Captain Dreyfus did, but this is a bagatelle. A comparison of wrongdoings is a meaningless and futile exercise.
As far as the Indian scenario and the game-plan of Pakistan’s proxies are concerned, it may be useful to look at an analysis that I wrote a few months earlier. This essay also refers to one of my articles published on this portal a few years ago:
The Dreyfus case is summarised briefly here. On the 15th October 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus was summoned to the French War Ministry. He was asked to write in his own hand a letter dictated by another officer. Unknown to Dreyfus, this was a letter written by a French spy, found in the dustbin of the German military attaché in Paris and the French were looking for the spy. Dreyfus, while writing, shivered involuntarily and this was interpreted as a sign of guilt. The unfortunate man was immediately arrested on charges of high treason. Two months later, he was court-martialled and sentenced to life imprisonment in French Guiana in Devil’s Island, their version of our Cellular Jail in the Andamans. The jail where PSP was incarcerated would hardly be better than the one where Dreyfus spent so many years.
The primary reason for hounding Dreyfus was that he was a Jew from Alsace, although he had loyally chosen to serve France even after the Germans annexed Alsace-Lorraine in 1871. The French upper classes still retained traces of virulent anti-Semitism that often led them to override their hostility to Germany. The senior officers in the armed forces were especially prone to this disease.
The twists and turns in the Dreyfus case were so complicated that it would be difficult to recount them fully in this essay.  In summary, new evidence surfaced in 1896, strongly suggesting that the actual culprit and traitor was another French military officer, Esterhazy. In 1898, he was court-martialled but quickly found not guilty, another travesty of justice. He quickly fled from France.  
In response, the legendary French novelist Émile Zola published an open letter titled “J’accuse” (“I accuse”) on the front page of the popular newspaper L’Aurore, which accused the judges of being under the thumb of the military. By the evening, 200,000 copies had been sold. One month later, Zola was sentenced to jail for libel but managed to escape to England.

In 1899, five years after Dreyfus was first imprisoned, his trial was re-opened thanks to the efforts of numerous politicians, military figures and intellectuals who had accumulated evidence to refute the false case against Dreyfus. But to everyone’s surprise, instead of releasing Dreyfus, the court found him guilty once more and sentenced him to ten years of prison, though it had the decency to withdraw his life sentence.
It was not until the French President granted amnesty to Dreyfus that the tables turned. In 1903 after his rehabilitation, Dreyfus sent a letter to the “Garde des Sceaux” (Lord Chancellor) demanding a revision of his trial. Finally in 1906, the court recognized Dreyfus’s innocence and annulled the false verdict rendered against him earlier.
As readers will see, the unfortunate experiences of Colonel Purohit and Captain Dreyfus clearly run in parallel, even though they are separated by so many decades. Both were victims of social forces that affected their military services and governed their socio-political milieu. In France, it was the Church and residual anti-Semitism that even condoned anti-national activity. In India, it is the perverse “secularism” and visceral anti-Indic sentiments of the ruling Congress oligarchs.
Dreyfus was fully rehabilitated in his beloved French Army. Colonel Purohit, one fervently hopes, is on his way to getting back his life and career in the Indian Army, an institution that he devoted his life to.
In the incident more than 110 years earlier that I have recounted above, the guilty were never punished. One fervently hopes this will not be the case in Colonel Purohit’s saga. There are a lot of reprobates and vermin out there who have to be punished for their crimes. Somehow our national and societal track-record on this score does not inspire much confidence and optimism in me, though I would love to be proved wrong.
Finally, will we witness an Indian version of Emile Zola who will use his / her pen to correct a grievous wrong and to render full justice to an indomitable warrior?
(The writer, based in Delhi, is an analyst in corporate laws and business policies. His additional areas of interest are history and military affairs)
First published in IndiaFacts.

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Don't let the shadows take over the night. Don't let the black overpower what's bright.

In a moment of contemplation, and pensive reflection. Don't let the weak destroy your night.

There comes a time of doubt to every man and woman . Don't let it turn to fright.

Betrayal real or apparent, mindless strife of nonchalance. Don't wipe off a long story off your slate, for a blitz of angry spite.

Celebrate the victory, mourn the loss but keep moving on.

When life goes against your grain, and adversity is a relentless rain.

There you stay in patient dexterity. There you make your stand.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Driver in the Mumbai Rain.

First gear in serpent queues.
Love songs in the rain
Commuters can feel longing
Commuters can feel pain

Untouched by the angry slush
In an air-conditioned cocoon
Disconnected from humanity
Shitty advertising curdling your brain

Driving in the marauding traffic
Skirmishing at each signal
Some trying to edge you out of lane
Some slow car making you insane

There are good days
Days when nothing can dent your smile
Days when you reach before time
And the sun doesn't sear your flesh

Civilizations show character in how they drive
Courtesy for the young, old and animals
Patience and quiet to stop road rage and tunnel vision
And the skill and strength to dominate; even punish sociopaths.

India Must End Gandhi's Near-Divine Status



One feels sorry for Amit Shah. Three years after the regime-change in the country, he thought it safe to take up one major (although possibly unstated) agenda of the new government. This was the de-sanctification of the founding father of the Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi (GNG) dynasty.
Amit bhai, therefore, took on the sanctum sanctorum of the earlier rulers of this ancient civilisation of ours. The target, as the nation knows, was the icon and high-priest, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (MKG), who had been placed on an unreachably high pedestal for the last seven decades and more. From this elevated perch, the old man had ruled over our minds and spirits as ruthlessly and as completely as Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti and the North Korean supremo Kim IL Sung. Compared to MKG’s reign, old Adolf lasted for a mere 12 years, while Idi Amin Dada, Gaddafi and Saddam Hussain had longer stints. One is constrained to point out here that three out of these four self-anointed icons of their respective countries met gory deaths.

MKG’s divinity was unquestioned and unquestionable for any desi citizen. Even the comrades had somehow bought into his fable, in the 1970s and 1980s, although their motives were far from pristine, as is invariably the case for this lot. Never you mind that the whole spectacle had been slightly dented in the twilight years of the Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi vaudeville show, when the babus in the Union Government, 2011, were forced to admit in their reply to an RTI application from a ten-year-old girl, that there was no official sanction for the appellation “Father of the Nation” that was being used so grandiloquently and unquestioningly for MKG during the last seven decades.

Amit Shah, being a street fighter, should have known that MKG has an enormous cottage industry that follows him - and does very well out of it, thank you. Their daily genuflection before the great man’s memory is their path to salvation, not to mention various earthly goodies. There are innumerable “sansthas” or organisations that cater only to the MKG fairy tale and live off the fat of the land from government grants and aid.

However, now is as good a time as any to pose some basic and fundamental questions about MKG’s role in history and his status as the “Father of the Nation”. Any self-respecting nation must assess its icons periodically, though, for all these decades, MKG got away with unquestioned loyalty and obeisance from his camp followers, led from the front by the Republic of India’s Central government. The interesting fact is that some of these governments had different political hues apart from MKG’s own Indian National Congress. All this contributed to a halo around MKG that made him untouchable (pardon the pun) for all practical purposes.

If the comrades could have their de-Stalinisation exercise under their own party leadership so many years ago, I see no reason why India should not attempt a similar move under the NaMo regime now. In all fairness, this writer has been pleading for this self-cleansing for many years. Initially, I was ploughing a lonely furrow, at least in the English media, but it is very reassuring to have many others in the same group as mine in the last few years. With Amit Shah letting loose a deadly salvo, it would be most unwise not to follow it up, especially since the poor man is getting deadly flak from the khadi forces everywhere in the country.

There are four attributes or parameters on which I will assess MKG, not necessarily in any order of priority. The first is his highly questionable ethical and normative mind-set in politics and social life, despite the public posturing he resorted to. Just two examples should suffice. MKG’s entire interface with Subhas Bose was a copy-book sample of Tammany Hall politics that would have done Lalu and the Mulayam Singh lot proud any time. MKG launched the non-cooperation movement in 1920, promising his followers freedom in just one year, when the British Raj, he believed, would come to a grinding halt. After more than a year, and even with 60,000 satyagrahis in prison cells across the country, the Raj remained firm.

Soon, after the Chauri Chaura incident, MKG did one of his theatrical acts and proclaimed he had committed a “Himalayan blunder” in launching Satyagraha without sufficient “soul-cleansing”. He called off the non-cooperation movement in a bizarre Kejriwal-type gesture that flummoxed ordinary Indians who had plunged into the freedom struggle. Step in Jawahar Lal Nehru (JLN). He decided to put in his lot with MKG, although they were poles apart culturally and socially.

Subhas Bose was proving to be immensely popular with the Congress rank and file and among the general public. After he became Congress President twice in 1938 and 1939, the duo of MKG and JLN went into overdrive to protect their turf. Subhas was in favour of Purna Swaraj and advocated the use of force against the British, if necessary. MKG and JLN, as was their wont, waffled. Bose tried to maintain the party’s unity, but MKG played his underhand games. For the 1939 Tripuri session of the Congress, he put up his straw candidate, a lightweight called Pattabhi Sitaramayya.

Bose, though very unwell, arrived at the session on a stretcher, and went on to win the Presidential election. MKG’s notorious statement that “Pattabhi’s defeat is my defeat” is a blatant blot on his halo. It revives memories of all the devious manipulations of his clique that compelled Bose to resign from his position as Congress President and start his own party, the Forward Block, in due course. As a footnote, we should remember that it was Netaji who addressed MKG in his broadcast from Rangoon in 1944 as “the father of the nation”.

Fast forward to 1947 when MKG, once again, stooped to devious lows to ensure that Sardar Patel would not become PM and the mantle would fall on Nehru, MKG’s trusted confidante. The wily MKG waged his campaign to deny the Sardar the position of Congress President, which was the logical stepping stone to being independent India’s first Prime Minister. The story takes a number of complicated twists and turns but the bottom line is that MKG asked Sardar Patel to withdraw his nomination for the Congress President’s post after it became evident that JLN had little support. The true patriot that he was, the Sardar went along with MKG’s diktat, since he considered national service to be more important than a political post. The chameleon-like Azad also wanted the PM’s gaddi but fell in line and supported JLN.

It would be appropriate to end this segment of the essay with Rajaji’s assessment of this sad episode in our history. This is what CR wrote in his journal “SWARAJYA” many years after the incident when his conscience stirred at long last:
“When the independence of India was coming close upon us and Gandhiji was the silent master of our affairs, he had come to the decision that Jawaharlal, who among the Congress leaders was the most familiar with foreign affairs, should be the Prime Minister of India, although he knew Vallabhbhai would be the best administrator among them all…
Undoubtedly it would have been better if Nehru had been asked to be the Foreign Minister and Patel made the Prime Minister. I too fell into the error of believing that Jawaharlal was the more enlightened person of the two… A myth had grown about Patel that he would be harsh towards Muslims. This was a wrong notion but it was the prevailing prejudice.”  (SWARAJYA, 27.11.1971).

The second attribute of MKG that debars him from the pedestal of “Father of the Nation” or any pedestal for that matter is his appalling and reprehensible track-record during his brief stint in South Africa, before venturing back to our shores. It is a matter of record that MKG was sickeningly racist in his views about black Africans. His opposition to racial discrimination was limited to Indians. It is well documented that the fellow offered to organize a brigade of Indians to help the English colonial rulers crush an African rebellion.

He was even appointed Sergeant-Major and earned a War Medal from the British Empire for “valour under fire”, while assisting the violent suppression of South African Blacks. The fact is that Gandhians have cleverly masked this chapter under the cover of MKG rendering medical service during the British genocide of Africans. India will forever be handicapped in its dealings with Africa if we persist with our folly about MKG.

The third issue deals with MKG’s pusillanimous stance on Muslim communalism and violence, specifically during the Noakhali genocide of 1946. Although J.B. Kripalani, then the President-elect of the Congress, had already observed that “the attack on the Hindu population in the districts of Noakhali and Tripura was previously arranged and prepared for and was the result of League propaganda”, MKG undertook his visit to the affected area and played to the gallery.

He realised that his PR was not going to produce any results and he came out with this bizarre pronouncement : “My heart bleeds, my brain is strained to think that the East Bengal Hindus who were in the vanguard in the struggle for freedom, will be deprived of their ancestral home and hearth.” In other words, he was advising the East Bengal Hindus to quit their homes and not put up any resistance to the savage massacres perpetrated by the Muslims.

The Bengal Governor, Frederick Burrows, a no-nonsense former railway trade unionist, pithily summarised MKG’s theatricals : “It will take a dozen Gandhis to make the Muslim leopard and the Hindu kid to lie down together again in that part of the world”. History confirms that the massacres of Hindus in East Bengal abated only when retaliatory riots broke out in Bihar and some districts in U.P.

MKG’s theatricals continued a few months later after Partition had torn apart the country. In January 1948, he went on a fast to compel the Government of India to pay Pakistan Rs.55 crores, which was the residual amount of dues payable to that country by India. MKG started his fast even after Pakistan had unleashed its aggression in J&K, and he was aided and abetted in this blackmail by Mountbatten, JLN’s bosom friend. Under international law, India was perfectly entitled to withhold payments to a state engaged in hostilities and armed conflict against it.

The last factor that goes against MKG is his appalling personal conduct with his wife and his children. In this essay, I will not even venture into other areas of MKG’s psyche that have been severely critiqued by numerous observers and analysts. However, it is an undisputed fact that MKG refused to allow penicillin to be given to Kasturba when she went down with pneumonia in 1944. The ostensible reason he proffered was that it was an alien substance. However, later on, when the great man himself, got infected with malaria, he voluntarily took quinine to treat his malady. He also allowed British doctors to perform an appendectomy on him without batting an eyelid that it was an alien operation, if ever there was one.

His hypocrisy extended to many other aspects of life. From serving out some of his prison sentences in the Aga Khan’s palace to turning a blind eye to the specially equipped 3rd Class Railways carriages the Raj placed at his disposal, the old man never worried about minor matters. 

Sarojini Naidu’s epic quip about the country spending a fortune “to keep the Bapu poor” did not ruffle his feathers.
No, MKG, you have had a great innings but this cannot go on. Someone or other will have to bring you down to terra firma. A moral and honest civilisation that has lasted for 5000 years or so, cannot live forever with doctored and embellished history.

(The author is a socio-economic and financial analyst, based in Delhi)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Party in the Mumbai Night!

Crowded dark sky over Mumbai.
Scotch burning bones.
Air conditioning cranks double time.
You are out there, pretty and demure.

Out there in the Bombay Night everything looks possible
Wisps of premonsoon white impotence float in the cobalt night.

You see social climbers bone up on fuzzy nothings
And you see glances of the watchers
Tonight as the beat settled, why were you unsure
You are or you aren't, why fiddle with your brain.

As the buzz settles, the aunties separate from the uncles
And the singles weigh their chances.
The missing aren't missed
Reality meets Twilight.

Mobile phones replace conversation
Frolic replaces gossip
There's no panacea for partying
It's what people do.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Bringing Hidden Military History Back to School and University

In a move that could have far reaching consequences, the Welham Boys' School in Dehradun has taken the initiative to introduce regular classes on India's military history. The school, which is working with filmmaker/author Shiv Kunal Verma, held the first three sessions between 20 and 22 April. 'We have to expand the horizons of our students... we cannot just be limited by what is there or not there in the curriculum. Unfortunately, our military history has been a subject that just hasn't been given its due,' says Gunmeet Bindra, the principal of Welham Boys'.

"History taught in schools completely bypasses crucial events that have shaped India," says Darshan Singh, the Chairman of the Welham Boys' School Board of Governors, "we just feel it's vital to expand the canvas. As educationists, it is our job to place the entire Canvas before our children even if it means stretching ourselves to find the extra time to create the slots."

Air Marshal JS Kler, PVSM, VM, the commandant of the National Defence Academy in Pune, commended the move: 'Excellent, this is yeomen service which is extremely important for our young generation to appreciate the courage and committment of our men in uniform. This will enable them to particapate instead of being bystanders... eventually the young generation, the students are the change...bash on!"

Shiv Kunal Verma, who has authored the pathbreaking book on the Indo-China conflict - 1962: The War That Wasn't (Aleph) and the Long Road to Siachen - The Question Why (Rupa & co.) and also made some of the most outstanding films on the Armed Forces, was delighted with the response of the students: "I had earlier spoken to the Welham Boys' and the Doon School and quite a few others after my 1962 book was released... the response was always terrific. The questions they asked were extremely perceptive and it's a privilege to work with young minds."

In the inaugural session, while addressing the Welham Boys', Verma spoke about the raison de etre behind the initiative: "As you grow older, go to college, you will develop your own ideas... some of you will be leftists... some rightists... some liberals... some perhaps will be indifferent... some will join the Army and the Police... only time will tell what path you choose... but it is our endeavour to open this equally important window for you as well. Be it 1947-48, 1962, 1965 or 71... Siachen, Sri Lanka or Kargil... the situation in Kashmir or Manipur... our objective is for you to be informed individuals with opinions."

Adds Lieutenant General Atta Hassnain: "The military history paper of an important promotion examination was temporarily suspended in the Army two decades ago on grounds that its study was no longer relevant. The Army hurriedly restored it after the realization that military intellectual faculties without knowledge of military history  remain unfulfilled. Shiv Kunal Verma's pioneering effort to bring military history to public schools is a most exciting development for those of us who know how much intellect goes into soldiering."

Srikanth Rajagopalan who teaches mathematics and is incharge of Student Development in the School, and Deepali Singh who teaches English and is the Middle School Coordinator, were tasked by Darshan Singh and Gunmeet Bindra to create the slots every month. In the packed curriculum of a public School, this is often easier said than done. "The Focus this time was on the J&K Operations of 1947-48", says Verma, "the challenge is to now follow up in a systematic manner to further fuel the interest levels. The Srinagar Airlift... 1 Sikh pushing towards Baramula, even losing their CO, Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai... the Battle of Bagdam where Major Som Nath Sharma was killed... Shallateng... Poonch.... Mirpur.... Jhankar.... Skardu.... the Battle of Zojila... these are just names I've put before them... we now need to give the boys reading material, source films, point them towards existing literature... that's part of the challenge. Both Srikanth, Deepali and other staff members will have to play a role here."

"The canvas expands automatically", adds Srikanth Rajagopalan. "Already by introducing the boys to the J&K Ops, they are asking some fundamental questions pertaining to Independence and Partition. Interestingly, some amazing nuggets of information also emerges from them... one of the boys, Yugav Bhatia from CLass VII the next day told me how Kalaamb - which is on the Dehradun-Ambala highway - got its name... there was apparently so much blood shed during the third Battle of Panipat, all the mangoes growing on the trees turned black." 

"Not just contemporary military history," says Gunmeet Bindra, "after listening to the introductory session, I realised there were basic things about Babur's first Battle of Panipat that I didn't know... however, military history is such a vast subject, the challenge for Kunal will be to fire the interest levels. Towards that end, we have decided to start with the post Independence Wars first... then we will work them backwards... the World Wars... the British Raj and the First War of Independence... Medieval and then finally Ancient history. It's all very exciting, but at the same time it cannot become an information overload."

Shernaz Cama from the English Department at Lady Shri Ram who also heads the Parzor Foundation that made the film on Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's life, says she is thrilled with the step taken by Welham Boys. The daughter of Lieutenant General Adi Sethna, she had a ringside view for two decades as Kunal and his wife Dipti Bhalla worked with her father and produced some of the bench mark films on the Indian Air Force, the Navy and the Army. Salt of the Earth, commissioned by Air Chief Marshal NC Suri in 1992, had set the bar and this was followed by various films, each one being critically acclaimed. The Standard Bearers on the National Defence Academy and the Making of a Warrior on the Indian Military Academy are both considered classics. "The fact that Kunal shot the Kargil War and has flown and sailed with the Air Force and Navy extensively in addition to operating in virtually all parts of the country place him in a unique position," says Cama, adding: "I would be delighted to share the Manekshaw film produced under the Parzor banner with any School or educational institution."

Agreeing with Cama, Lieutenant General Ajai Singh, the former Governor of Assam, who is also a product of Mayo College adds: "Any one who has read Kunal's 1962 book will endorse the fact that his depth of knowledge and understanding of military matters is at a completely different level altogether. Unlike a lot of retired officers who are asked to speak about the Armed Forces and tend to be a bit bombastic, Kunal has the ability to hold a mirror to our faces. Military history is not just about victories and shooting down of enemy planes, or reproducing citations that extol the fighting virtues of gallantry award winners... it's the ability to also put before us the whole picture. I am simply thrilled to hear that Welham Boys' School has taken this vital step."

"It's early days yet," says Kunal Verma, "we've only just begun. It also works both ways, for its as much a learning curve for me as it is for the students. The Q&A session and the intensity of the questions do give you a vital feedback. In Welham Boys', every time I've interacted with the boys, it's been Top Draw." 

"We are also aware of the fact that just one or two schools are not enough... the resource material one is putting together, especially the power point presentations that support each talk, I'd be delighted to share with retired officers and others who have grown up in the Armed Forces so that they can reach out to schools and educational institutions in their areas... similarly, stories they'd like to share of their comrades in arms, if they are sent to us we can pass them on to the students."

In a country where history has been coloured and even suppressed to suit political and other agendas, the Welham Boys' initiative could well be a major watershed. What could be a greater tribute to the fallen who have died defending the country over not just the last seven decades, but also over the centuries, to be remembered by the very generation's who carry their imprint in their DNA. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Enemy Within Wants The Sword-Arm Of The Indian Republic Mothballed

For a number of years, this writer has studied the intricate issue of why certain countries, civilisations and regimes implode and / or self-destruct over a period of time.  After many analyses and assessments, carried out over hundreds of years, all these civilisations were diagnosed as having suffered from severe and debilitating weaknesses in their basic structure.

This was the essay I wrote in 2014, a few months before the tsunami that swept away the Congress juggernaut:

Basically, I studied the parallels between pre-revolutionary France in the 18th century, Tsarist Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, and the creaking structure on Raisina Hill that reeked of decay and disease. Even when the rotten and well past its sell-date Congress-UPA regime was practically obliterated by the Indian electorate, the oligarchy of the Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi cabal made sure that the new government would have its work cut out.

The new kids on the block were absolute bacchas when compared to the old bandicoots. The outgoing lot did not carry out a scorched –earth policy but something that was much more sinister, diabolical and effective. The Congresswallahs left behind carefully planted land mines, 5th columnists (in the true sense of the term) and moles in every branch of the national administration. The financial resources at the command of the embedded agent provocateurs are humongous – the bhakts and the saffronwallahs (as the nationalist forces have been contemptuously labelled by storm-troopers of the earlier junta) had absolutely no idea about what they would have to contend with, after May 2014. 

The basic problem that our ancient Indic civilisation grapples with is a societal fault-line that is appallingly dangerous – one that many Indians (of great sagacity and insight) do not want to face or acknowledge. This is the wedge of Islamic terror that history has bequeathed to us after Pax Britannica left our shores unceremoniously and in ignominy. ln fact, it was worse – it was a devil’s pact between the Congress and the British Government which ensures that independent India (despite its enormous progress in many fields) is viciously handicapped by a demographic time-bomb.

Bhadralok Indians find it beneath their dignity to look at what is ticking below their bed. A century of Gandhian brainwashing and indoctrination has left our elite trying to whitewash the stains and to put up curtains behind which murder, mayhem, treachery and sell-outs are being planned. The entire Indian body-politic is a rotting carcass with the maggots crawling everywhere.

The only institution that prevents this ancient civilisation from complete collapse is something that very few social scientists would or could have predicted – the country’s armed forces. This is a phenomenon that defies logic. How does an institution staffed by people with the same DNA and socio-cultural roots as the rest of the population resolutely manage to stay clear of the deadly (and spreading) virus that afflicts the vast majority of the other citizens? Can 5-7 years of rigid and dedicated training and indoctrination in isolated environments produce a Homo Indicus so markedly different from, and superior to, the rest of the population?

The mystery is compounded by the fact that the Services are basically a colonial residue that the Anglo-Saxon rulers of Hind bequeathed to us. Somewhere down the line, they mutated into a different species. Yes, the surface symbols of the old Raj continue but there is a marked change. The professionalism and élan survive, although the overwhelming ethos, now, is a mixture of service to the nation and a lasting commitment to protect it against all dangers.    

In theory, the dangers that the armed forces are trained to combat and neutralise are external threats from India’s enemies. In practice, what our sword-arm is confronting is the enemy within – a scenario that is the soldier’s worst nightmare. It does not require rocket science to identify the main elements that comprise the domestic enemy. 

They are the bureaucracy, the 4th Estate (primarily the English MSM), the country’s Anglophone intelligentsia, the political elements allied to the old Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi gang and others venomously opposed to the entire Indic civilisational ethos. To this explosive cocktail, we must add the commercial and economic actors who are always looking at additional profit opportunities they can extract from the unstable national scenario. Per se, this listing does not have any ranking, based on threat capabilities or risk. Let me put it in another way – all these termites are working in tandem or in a spirit of understanding.

I must add a caveat at this stage or I will be accused of unprofessional exuberance about our men and women in olive green, blue and white. There are those in our armed forces who have succumbed to the lure of money, rank, privileges and position. However, this is still a minuscule and microscopic percentage compared to those on civvy street.

And now, it is high time to discuss the ground realities. The key elements in the current canvas that we need to focus on are Kashmir, the North East, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Islamic terror from across the border and within, and the rules of engagement that the anti-terrorist operations must adopt.

Let me spell out once again what is the actual situation: India, today, is facing an existential threat. If you don’t realise this, you are living in cloud-cuckoo land and you don’t need to read this essay further. 

Pakistan and its 5th columnists in India are using every trick in the trade to ensure continuous ferment and terror in the Kashmir valley and also in the rest of the country. There are districts and regions in the Indian Republic that have become virtual no-go areas for the agents of the Indian state. Without going into details that are available readily in the public domain, we have 5 districts in West Bengal, a number of regions in Kerala (with Mallapuram in the lead), a huge swathe in western UP, three districts in Assam, and some parts of Tamil Nadu and Bihar, where the mosque, the minaret and the mullahs rule the roost. Similarly, in large parts of the North-East, it is the gospel and the church pulpits that are more important than the Constitution and the laws of India. In the Kashmir Valley and in some areas of the North-East, the guns and the bombs are the ones doing the speaking.

And what are the desi politicos, the scribes and the jholawallahs (in JNU etc) doing while this savage attack on our nation-state is being perpetrated? The Congresswallahs in 24 Akbar Road and 10 Janpath have been in a frenzy ever since General Rawat, the Army Chief, announced a few days ago that civilians who pelt stones and throw petrol bombs on Army units will be treated as terrorists. The junior partners in crime of the Congress, assorted little political groups, have also joined the chorus. In no other modern democracy do we see such obscene posturing when it comes to national security
Never mind that this policy enunciated by Gen. Rawat should have been implemented two decades ago and without the Army Chief announcing it in public. A little later on, I will briefly refer to the way that other countries in recent times have dealt with fundamental threats to their nation’s social and political fabric.

The 4th Estate had to weigh in, sooner or later. There is this female pen-pusher who came out with an obscene rant about the Army targeting “its own citizens” or some such drivel. Not to be outdone, a disgraceful weasel (most regrettably a retired Army officer) also joined the fray. This fellow has spent his last few years cavorting with a Pakistani front organisation in the U.S. and Canada to campaign for India to withdraw from Siachen. Earlier, he was pushing for the IAF to buy an American aircraft in the MMRCA deal, though it was not at all clear how he was qualified in any way to talk about fighter aircraft, since he was a glorified tank driver at best.  

And now a little trip back in history to find out how countries defend their basic interests when their existence is threatened. The great Emperor, Napoleon, is one of my idols. He introduced modern law and jurisprudence in Europe through the Code Napoleon, that still continues in some form or other. In March 1804, the Duke of Enghien, who was plotting with the assistance of the English to overturn the French revolutionary regime, was staying in Germany in a castle near the French border. Napoleon and his colleagues assessed the threat posed by the Duke and his English allies, and decided that Enghien had to be neutralised. A platoon of French soldiers crossed the Rhine into Germany and captured the Duke on the night of the 14/15 March. The traitor was brought back to France, tried and executed. Napoleon always maintained that the French Republic’s safety and security were paramount and had to be protected. Do we spot any resemblances with the current Indian scenario?

In 1942, shortly after the German invasion, the Volga Germans in USSR were expelled from the border region where they had stayed for hundreds of years and re-located to interior areas of the country, far from the war zone. The Soviets justified it on the ground that they did not want the risk of the Volga Germans collaborating or fraternising with the invading German army. This had recently happened in many countries of Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia, where the sizable German population in the border region of Sudetenland actively worked with Germany to destabilise the Czechoslovak Republic. The parallels between Kashmir and the events from the past are eerily similar.

It is time now to get back to the present scenario. All of us, who are couch-potatoes or cannot see beyond our noses, should be clear on some basics. Ours is a culture and civilisation that has contributed immensely to human existence. If you don’t know this or even want to know it, you are bananas. Not worthy of being part of a recorded history of around 5000 years. Bollywood and biryani, Billy Bunter and Enid Blyton (like those disgraceful fellows and women in the newspaper that started from Bori Bunder) are the outer limits for your mind and intellect, or what passes for them.

The only institution that stands between our survival and extinction is the Indian military. There are a number of our fellow citizens, very voluble, loud-mouthed, powerful and well-connected, who would like to mothball our armed forces. And billions who don’t know much about what they owe our soldiers, but who go to sleep every night as free Indians, whether on the pavements, jhuggis or their homes. I know which category I am proud to belong to.

The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem! 

About the Author:

Jay Bhattacharjee comes from a family of both Freedom-Fighters and members of the Armed Forces. He is a Delhiite and runs his own Advisory Practice in Finance and Corporate Law.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Grudges From The Siachen Sellout


Day before an article by Shiv Kunal Verma on the situation in Kashmir went viral on social media. Writing in the context of the latest incident in the Valley in which Major Dahiya and 5 soldiers lost their lives, the author has done some plain speaking. By holding up a mirror which has no partisan political leanings, Kunal has stated in no uncertain terms what today is the general feeling among the young officers and men. Frankly, sometimes it takes a lot of courage to stand up and tell the truth. And if you are willing to stick your neck out, you will get trolled which is fair enough, and most readers are astute enough to know which comments are motivated and which are genuine.

But when the writer gets abused by a former Colonel in the Army for purely personal reasons, then that's crossing the Rubicorn. Ajai Shukla on twitter promptly went on line and referred to Kunal as 'VK Singh's barking dog'! Even some of those who follow Shukla's writings commented on the ridiculous nature of the remark. However, since the good Colonel has once again exposed his maniacal bias towards both Gen VK Singh and Kunal, I think it is time to retell a story wherein lies the genesis of this grudge.

Gentlemen, cast your minds back to October 2012, the sixth round of Trac II deliberations between two teams of officers had got over. The Indian side was represented by twelve former Service officers under the able leadership of Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) SP Tyagi, almost all the others in the team were retired senior officers (mostly Lt Generals and secretaries) who had never served in Siachen. Tagged at the bottom of the list was Shuklaji (presumably because he too had a Service background and was then a regular on NDTV). The Pakistani side was similarly headed by a former Army Chief, General Beg.

It is now no secret that in 2005, Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh had been asked by the US (desperate then to give sops to Pakistani generals so as to have their support in Afghanistan) to vacate Siachen as the Pakistani Army was deeply disturbed by loss of men to frequent avalanches in the region. Working on the assumption that the gates to India have always been opened from within, the yanks, according to MD Nalapat, also threw in the offer of a Nobel Peace Prize to MMS. The good Prime Minister in turn asked the good JJ Singh if it was 'do able' and that worthy said he would ensure the Army did not object, though publically he would have to keep a different posture (refer Sanjay Baru's book... The Accidental Prime Minister).

With JJ in the bag, MMS now asked Brig Gunmeet Kanwal to prepare a paper justifying the troop withdrawl from Siachen. A Canadian-based think tank, Atlantic Council (a well known CIA/CFR front) was selected, and along with a Pakistani brigadier, a joint paper was prepared. However, with JJ Singh having by then retired, the PMO ran into Deepak Kapoor and then Gen VK, who unlike JJ were not likely to turn turtle and sell out the Army and the Country.

Shortly after Bikram Singh took over the reins of the Army, the PMO made its pitch. The committee under Bundles Tyagi had little or no idea whatsoever about Siachen, and it was left to Shuklaji to deliver the goods. Brought into the group by MMS's press advisor, Pachauri, Shuklaji was promised chairmanship of Prasar Bharti apart from all the other goodies he would get for pulling off this feat. During the course of these predetermined deliberations, the Trac II teams went globe trotting to hold these so called deliberations at various locations each time, and received expensive gifts amounting crores, all paid up by Atlantic Council. Its anybody's guess as to who funds such overtures of the Council, its one and the same be it CIA, CFR or ISI for that matter.

In October 2012, Trac II was to become Trac I and the place where 'not even a blade of grass grows' was to see an Indian pull out. 

At this stage, certain members of the Trac II team themselves alerted Lt General Prakash Katoch, who himself had commanded the Siachen Brigade, as to what was happening. However, the mandarins in the PMO who were monitoring the situation, also got to know that Katoch and a few others over whom they had 'no control' were now aware of the Siachen sell out. A virtual media black out on the subject was put into place, as a result of which not one media house would agree to look at the story. 

A group of ex Service officers and other concerned officers were by now desperately trying to highlight the issue, but no one was listening. Finally, it was Anil Tyagi, the gutsy editor of G-Files, who carried a report written by Kunal Verma and MG Devasahayam on the subject in his November 2012 issue. The story, which was accompanied by a map, apart from highlighting the behind the scenes machinations, simply asked the all important question- if India was to withdraw from its positions on the Saltoro, what would the next line of defence be?

The G-Files article set the cat amidst the pigeons as the ex-Servicemen community pointed out on social media just how detrimental to India's interests the move would be. They pointed out that a) Pakistan was not on Siachen but was to the west of the Saltoro ridge which was now the defacto line of control; b) It was not so much Pakistan but China who could occupy the glacier since the Shaksgam Valley was under their control and c) the new line of defence would then have to run along the Ladakh range on the southern side of the Shyok River, a situation that would require a massive deployment of additional troops.

The Outlook magazine's Hindi edition then quickly published a translated version of the G-Files article. The English edition was to follow up with a cover story that was being worked on by their own correspondents, but on the eve of going to press, a few calls from the PMO saw it being put on hold. However, by then, the cat was out of the bag and all talk of a withdrawal was now under the scanner. Then Chief Minister Modi made a statement saying there was no question of a compromise on either Sir Creek or Siachen, the Army Chief also said it was not advisable and per force, the now hot potato, was dropped by MMS. 

This is when things got interesting, no one was looking at Shuklaji, the focus being on Air Chief Marshal Tyagi and some other big names in the Trac II team. His own carefully laid plans evaporating under his nose, he fired off three abusive e-mails as he grew unsettled. The first went to Katoch, wherein in a tacit admission, Shuklaji accused the Special Forces general of being upset only because 'he hadn't received the goodies' which the members of the Trac II team got, a short while later a second e-mail to Devasahayam and a third to Verma followed, in which he ranted and raved and made all sorts of wild accusations and made himself a laughing stock. 

This is the man, Gentlemen, who since then has time and again launched abusive attacks on not just these three people, but also General VK Singh who also came out very strongly against the Siachen withdrawal plan of the UPA government. Shuklaji has shamelessly used the Business Standard platform to hurl abuse, be it on policy issues or even the book review of VK's book which was co-authored by Verma. He has now done it again, and here is the reason why. 

In a country where our laws are so lax that a Jai Chand like Shuklaji can get away with treason should hardly come as a surprise. This man, who unfortunately has a rank attached to his name, and has propelled homself socially owing to his political connections (mainly through strategic marriages) needs to be exposed. If anyone has any doubts, just search on google and you'll have the entire timeline of the Siachen drama at your fingertips.

Then you be the judge.

Vishwajeet Singh

Vishwajeet Singh is a practicing lawyer in the Apex Court and other forums with expertise in International Law, Public Interest, Military Affairs, Environment, Maritime Law and is a commentator on Defence matters and acquisitions.

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