Friday, August 28, 2015

Time flies --- When I interviewed Mrs Jwane Phizo on Aug 29, 1990

25 years !!

Interview with Mrs (Late) Jwane Phizo, wife of legendary Naga rebel leader A Zapu Phizo
(This interview was done on August 29, 1990 at her residence in Kohima and was published in Kohima-based ‘Nagaland NewsReview’, then a weekly tabloid)
Jwane Phizo was 76 and during the interview she was interpreted and helped by her son Kevitsielezo, whose only condition, I still remember, was : “please do not distort the truth of what has been really said”. Both he and his mother told me that she had stopped giving interviews especially to non-Nagas as many a times her version has been twisted. 
Incidentally the interview happened about four months after Phizo, founder of rebellious outfit Naga National Council (NNC), had died in London.

Me, 20 something then, was thrilled from the very beginning as it was supposed to be my first major ‘exclusive interview’. The interactions started informally and that gave me confidence. She asked for ‘phika cha (Naga black tea)’ and in typical Naga hospitality said, “bhaat khabo (will you have rice)”. At around 8 am in the morning, I obviously said, ‘no thanks’.
Excerpts of the interview (as published in Nagaland NewsReview, September 10, 2014)

Ques: Madam, it’s now about four months since A Zapu Phizo is dead. Would you share your grief of leading a widow’s life?
Jwane: Look, death is predestined. And though we feel sad, man being mortal we cannot stop it. (Even otherwise she had not met Phizo for years as the former rebel leader was in exile in London)

Ques:  How do you feel about the election of your daughter Miss Adino Phizo as NNC president following Phizo’s death?
Jwane: From our family side we thought of taking rest from all these. But it is the people who have given her a mandate. So Adino is doing her best to live up to the expectation of the people.

Ques: Whether she wrote to you after her election as NNC chief, particularly on the Naga issue?
Jwane: Very much, now and then she has been writing. But all on domestic matters. She has been with her father and she knows the issue (Naga movement). Perhaps she discusses politics with her leaders. But between us, we avoid politics. We hardly discuss politics within the family.

Priceless possession: Jwane Phizo's autograph
Ques: Are you aware that a parallel NNC has come into existence with Mr Khodao Yanthan as the president?
Jwane: Yes.
Ques: Did Khodao meet you during his recent visit to Nagaland?
Jwane: Khodao did meet me about one and half months after his coming to Nagaland.
Ques: Do you mind sharing with us what he said?
Jwane: He was only referring to the past days and his meeting with the Naga delegation which went to London to bring home Phizo’s body. But no talk on politics. (She smiled)

Ques: Now we find so many factions among the Nagas. Is there any chance of reunion? What’s your opinion on the future of Naga issue?
(My question was in reference to the split in Naga movement as NNC has already split and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed in 1970s and by 1989-90 even NSCN had split between Muivah-Isak Chishi Swu and Khaplang factions while after Phizo’s death the remaining NNC had split once again with Khodao heading one faction and Adino Phizo heading the other)
Jwane: Yes, cropping up of this factionalism is very unfortunate. And with division among the people, striving for the goal is difficult.

Ques: Do you foresee the end of the issue or solution to the Naga problem?
Jwane: No; one cannot predict the end.
(Certainly she looked pensive for a while and spoke at length on her thoughts about the Naga movement getting derailed and politicians both in Nagaland and in New Delhi being not sincere to resolve it. She had even named a few individual leaders. However, she extracted a promise from me with moist eyes that I should not write all that)
Ques:  Madam, what is your opinion about the prevailing social evils such as corruption, drug menace and alcoholism?
Jwane: All the evil practices and anti social activities should be weeded out from the social life of the Nagas.

Ques: What according to you has been the Government of India’s attitude towards Nagaland? Do you find any change in people’s life since statehood?
Blogger in North East
Jwane: Although the relation with the government of India is still not normal, I can say that the intensity of conflict has minimized. As for the living standard of the people, economically, the people are still living in poverty, especially in rural areas. It is very sad that only a handful of people have grown rich.

Ques: Zapu Phizo’s foreign stay was claimed as a necessity to give the Naga issue a global publicity. How far do you think this has been achieved?
Jwane: It’s because of Phizo’s stay in London that the Government of India minimized its aggressive nature.
Ques: To tell the truth, though Phizo enjoyed people’s respect and love, he was not above criticism. There has been severe criticism on Phizo’s going to London. Allegation also cropped up that he fled from hardship and turmoil?
Jwane: Going to London was not his choice or decision. In 1956 when the hardship in Nagaland reached its peak, NNC and the Federal Government (self-styled Naga rebel-run dispensation in exile) sent him abroad to tell the world about the rights of the Nagas and also the hardship the Nagas were facing. And Phizo’s achievements abroad will be soon made public.

Ques: The Nagaland Chief Minister Vamuzo has recently reiterated that Nagaland is an ‘integral part’ of India and that all Nagas and non-Nagas living in Nagaland are Indians. Would you venture into a comment on this?
Jwane: His statement is best known to him. No comment from my side.
(Chief Minister Vamuzo had made the remark in a radio message and cautioned extortionists and some groups like then floated Naga Youth Liberation Front (NYLF) who were threatening non-Nagas)

(more on the interview excerpts will be added in subsequent blogs of course depending on the feedback) 
Pfutsero town

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Naga Rebels tired of wars!

Age is catching up the old-war horse Thuingaleng Muivah. His compatriot of many years standing, Isak Chishi Swu is hospitalized. This might have expedited the Naga peace process, and there's nothing wrong in it. 
Celebrated revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, now the national poet of Bangladesh, had coined a very powerful phrase: “Vidrohi rono klanto (rebels tired of wars)”. The phenomenon of war-fatigue has perhaps  caught up with everyone as the Naga peace negotiations starting from 1997 has traversed a long time span of 18 years. 
Modi providing the support to aging 'rebel' Muivah
Between the two, the love for Nagalim and commitment to the Naga movement might have been something in common that made Isak Swu and Muivah stick to each other. But that is where perhaps the similarities would end. While Swu, the chairman of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM faction), essentially has been a man believing in the power of God and the magical strength of ‘Nagaland For Christ’ slogan, his general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah has been more of a practical man. Someone who enlisted military and strategic aid from communists-ruled China, Muivah was thus – a Naga ‘rebel leader’ in that sense.
Swu would say, It is by the “guidance of Holy Spirit” that have seen me through this far”, courtesy his Facebook posting. Muivah though would believe in the power of Lord Almighty, he would sound more natural when the refrain is “If anybody forces me, I can still go further because I don’t come here to surrender my rights”. 

Muivah had in fact made these remarks in a media interview few years back . As the nation debates the pros and cons of all possibilities being worked out between the Government and the NSCN(IM) for a final peace pact, it would be prudent to look back at the road traversed by both in guiding the Naga movement. 

Deadly duo: Neo-peace makers
Born on March 3, 1934, Muivah has age difference of 5 years with Swu, who is at present unwell and undergoing treatment at Delhi’s famous Fortis Hospital.
While Swu was always been an elderly guide and a mighty source of inspiration to hundreds of cadres drawn from his Sema tribe and other Naga tribesmen drawn from present day Nagaland; Muivah has been the real strategist and at times a Machiavelli for the militant organization. 
Over the years it also had emerged as ‘the most potent insurgent group’ in the northeast.

At one point of time Muivah’s writ ran along Naga hills, parts of Manipur and other Naga inhabited places. The NSCN (IM) had established “operational links” with groups including that of Bodos and ULFA in Assam. Muivah’s cadres had trained insurgents in practically all other states in the region and also took ‘insurgency’ seeds to critical hubs Tirap and Changlang districts of once the ‘peaceful state’ Arunachal Pradesh.
By mid-nineties, both Swu and Muivah also had in common a willingness to negotiate with adversaries — the Government of India. 
Thus a long but arduous across the table parleys started. While the ice was broken by the then Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, in 1997 the ‘rebel leaders’ first met H D Deve Gowda in Zurich. 

A ceasefire was signed in August 1997 and since then 80 rounds of talks had taken place between Government and NSCN (IM).
But the August 3, 2015 signing of first ‘broad framework’ peace pact in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was almost a surprise. In Parliament, a section of Modi’s detractors were overheard calling it a ‘soft coup’ as PM Modi’s government was finding it extremely difficult to deal with opposition parties. 

Hours before the breakthrough was announced, the Lok Sabha Speaker had suspended 25 opposition lawmakers. The much repeated questions in everyone’s lips thus was: “why it came with so much of secrecy”. Did the signing ceremony came in hurry only to help Modi make a fiery speech from the ramparts of Red Fort on the Independence Day.
There’s another version on why the signing process was actually expedited. The illness of aging Swu was seen as a catalyst to sign the preliminary accord at the earliest. This was confirmed by interlocutor R N Ravi, who said, NSCN (I-M) chairman Swu wanted an agreement signed between the two entities in his lifetime as both sides have already agreed upon “major issues”.
It is ironical but true that Modi has got this destiny-sent opportunity to lap up.
While the pressure on him as his ‘personal ambition’ has been always to “deliver”, the real compulsion to see a peace accord fructify was on the collective leadership of NSCN(IM).   

In case the worst news had come from Fortis Hospital where Swu is undergoing treatment at a ripe age, things could have been difficult for Muivah to carry along the entire ‘collective leadership’ of NSCN (IM). “Any agreement without endorsement of Isak Chishi Swu would be simply unacceptable to a large section of Swu followers also among the Naga civil society,” an intelligence official right summed it up. 
Thus, the August 3 ‘framework peace pact’ was very timely. How far it will go to achieve lasting peace for Nagas as well as for the rest of the states in the northeast, now remains to be seen.
(The edited version appeared in The Statesman and few other websites including

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Patel Movement - Linked to growing anti-Quota sentiment across India

“A Patel student who secures 90 percent, fails to get admission in medical or engineering courses... But a reserved category student with just 45 percent marks walks in” – Hardik Patel.
22-year-old Hardik: Igniting a Mutiny
Sharad Yadav is one politician who needs to be listened to carefully. From Saharsa, interiors of Bihar, Sharad Yadav chose to disapprove of the agitation by the Patels and Patidar community in Gujarat for reservation. "The agitation by the Patel and Patidar caste men is unjustified and wrong as this community has been quite well off," he said striking a significant break from the line of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had supported the movement in Gujarat, the backyards of PM Narendra Modi.

There’s a sense of crisis haunting Narendra Modi for the first time since he has successfully negotiated the hurdles of ‘pseudo-secularism’ (or my favourite terminology SICKULAIRSM) vis-à-vis the story of 2002. A mere 22-year-old Hardik Patel has taken away his sleep – even those miniscule 2-3 hours as he had shared with friend “Barack” (President Obama) last January.  
Did Modi not anticipate such a crisis clouding over in his own home state – when the Prime Minister was going global and trying to redraw the road map of international polity? If the massive crowd that gathered in Ahmedabad without his intelligence agencies giving him the leads, he needs to pull up sleeves and get some heads roll.

If its Modi-Sarkar: He should have few answers
What was the super-cop, super-intelligent man – getting daily feedbacks – Ajit Doval doing all these weeks? ‘Hardik Patel’ as a phenomenon is just two-three-months creation!
Prior to 2014 general elections – it was also given to understand that Narendra Modi has a network of his all ‘survey men’ and ‘intelligence network’. So what’s this Patels – or Patidar stir all about? The massive crowd turnout has raised doubts about the force behind the entire exercise. 

Is it the handiwork of RSS and VHP, once a very powerful organisation in Gujarat, who are just not happy about Modi's style of functioning? Or is it just a master strategy to end reservation once and for all and as a RSS man Modi clandestinely approves this?

There's a tiger in the room!!
None other than Modi himself is aware of the peculiar strength of socio-political game ball in his own state. He has been always “sensitive” to this peculiarity and as Chief Minister has always addressed the issues of regional sentiments of Gujaratis along with their religious bigotry. This was my on-ground experience during 2002 and aftermath. Therefore, in my first book, ‘Godhra – A Journey to Mayhem’ I could conclude rather convincingly: “he (Modi) has reasons that every time he opens (now read opened) his mouth in public – he does not forget to mention about the “pride” of the five crore Gujaratis”. This jumped to six crore Gujaratis and by circa 2015, Modi has estimated the numbers – 125 crore Indians.
Before we take a closer view on what are the factors those led to Patels’ stir and what could be the possible implications, it would be prudent to examine the socio-economic and historical background of the community.
Though, I am ardent follower of Gujarat polity since 2002, my knowledge about the people and especially their complex behavior and understanding is very limited. One version says, Patidar means "owner of land". ‘PATI’ means land and ‘DAR’ means the person who owns it. 
In Mehamdavad, Kheda district, around 1700.A.D., the ruler of Gujarat, Mohammed Begdo, selected the best farmer from each village and gave them land for cultivation. In return, the Patidar would pay the ruler a fixed income for a certain period of time, after which, the Patidar would acquire the ownership of the land. The Patidars would hire a hard working and knowledgeable work force to cultivate the land and in due course of time, they would become the owners of the land. These Patidars were from then onwards identified as Patel Patidars.

Here’s one minor example of complexity, in December 2002 polls, in Saurashtra region, where Hindu polarization was said to be minimal and Patels were said to be annoyed with the saffron party for dumping Keshubhai Patel, the BJP maintained its dominance bagging 37 of 52 seats. In 2012, Keshubhai Patel floated his party to uphold the prestige of his community, yet people overwhelmingly voted for Modi.
Thus, we know religion (or pro-Hindutva line) or even pro-Namo line formed important facets in their psyche  -- something that would be difficult to comprehend in other parts of India.
So, a question comes why Hardik Patel says, “if no quota is given to us, Lotus won’t bloom in 2017”. This threat is serious as aftermath desertion by Patels in Gujarat, Madhavsinh Solanki never struck back and never had Congress any good show either.

Prime Minister has thus rightly appeared on national television appealing for peace and dialogue. A picture of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel placed on a shelf behind him was deliberate and only showed the ‘hurry’ to restore peace.
“It is my appeal to my brothers and sisters that the occasion calls for a single mantra – “peace”. Each and every issue can be resolved through talks.  We all should follow the spirit of democracy. We must work together to solve problems through talks and to contribute in efforts to take Gujarat to new heights,” the ‘Gujarat-ka-sher’ told his home crowd.
Even as his trusted aide NSA Ajit Doval was closeted with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the latter spoke to the Chief Minister Anandiben Patel trying to explore ways to bring things under control, questions are being raised everywhere who all are behind this successful orchestration of Patel power.
“I would not take this movement lightly at all. It appears to have a deep rooted purpose to reach a particular goal not necessarily reservation alone,” says Dinesh Trivedi, a Gujarati himself, but a Trinamool Congress MP from Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal.
Like, Trivedi, many are asking almost similar questions, “is the movement against or in support of BJP”.
Is the agitation anti-Mandal (reservation) cult of politics – where even Muslims can walk away with cash stipends?
Is it just a tip of ice berg of ‘well to do’ Hindu upper caste community’s latent anguish against the Quota raj system pursued rather unreasonably at many quarters by the ‘safe’ player of politics?
Wake up call: Pied Piper
"A Patel student who secures 90 percent, fails to get admission in medical or engineering courses... But a reserved category student with just 45 percent marks walks in... If we are not given our dues, then we shall snatch it,” Hardik Patel has threatened.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Will Modi play Muslim card in Bihar?

Will PM Narendra Modi gift Muslims a deputy Chief Minister if not a Chief Minister?
(This blog is a joint venture between me -your's truly Nirendra Dev- and a prominent Muslim journalist - Andalib Akhter of Indian Awaz)
The biggest asset in politics is the surprise element and who knows that best other than the master of symbolism – Narendra Modi himself. Even his worst critics would admire Modi’s way of doing things, his ability to fascinate people through his oratory skills and effectively using the media.
Recall: Modi’s infamous :“Hamare pannch, hamare pachis” or ‘Mia Musharraf’ barbs — all that linked to his anti-Muslim “vote bank in Gujarat”. Way back in 2002, Modi was asked why he raked up Muslim family life, his reply was curt: “I know people’s pulse”.
Well, Modi is not alone in this club. The likes of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi also used to make optimum use of the symbolism and play ‘surprise element’ to its hilt to play game-changer. Remember Indira Gandhi’s ‘ghunghat attired’ election rallies and how penetrating that simple gesture used to be to make a mark across the nation at a time when Indians thought the ‘urbane and indiscipline’ women folks were trying to ‘break’ the sacred cultural boundaries.

Vajpayee has been another master of symbolism. His speech in Pakistan, “aap ki chini khai meethi thi (we had sugar from Pakistan imported in India and it was all sweet)” and Hum Padosi nahi badal Sakte – had left people in a supposed ‘enemy country’ touched!
Cut to Bihar polls, circa 2015. None other than Modi himself knows the importance of elections in state which he terms a ‘BIMARU state’. The declaration of perfect secular alliance in advance has already left BJP strategists sleepless…
If media is concerned about the outcome, who will win or whether can Nitish -Lalu put a halt to Moditva’s rise in the cow-belt, for his part Modi understands the importance of victory too. But he would like to win the coming Bihar polls in style.
The timing of his UAE visit suited Prime Minister’s Bihar agenda. Therefore, unhesitatingly he agreed for a visit to the historic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. 
`Wazir-e-azam Modi pahli bar Masjid me dakhil’ (PM Modi in a masjid for the first time) — was the top story in almost all Urdu dailies. Indians and non-Indians – mostly Muslims chatted over it in the social networking for hours.
A devoted Hindu: Can he reach out to Muslims?
Prior to his UAE visit in the Independence Day speech of August 15, 2015, Modi made repeated mention of his new Team India – 125 crore Indians. Prime Minister also thundered “The poison of communalism has no place in India and we have to defeat these through development”. He warned that the communalism would not be tolerated in the country.
The timing of his UAE visit suited Prime Minister’s Bihar agenda. Therefore, unhesitatingly he agreed for a visit to the historic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
`Wazir-e-azam Modi pahli bar Masjid me dakhil’ (PM Modi in a masjid for the first time) — was the top story in almost all Urdu dailies. Indians and non-Indians – mostly Muslims chatted over it in the social networking for hours.
Prior to his UAE visit in the Independence Day speech of August 15, 2015, Modi made repeated mention of his new Team India – 125 crore Indians. Prime Minister also thundered “The poison of communalism has no place in India and we have to defeat these through development”. 

“If unity of India is destroyed, then the dreams of the people will also be destroyed” PM's message was very clear. He want to win a state where BJP never had a chief minister.
Certainly, he knows these 125 crore Indians – his new Team India – cannot be complete without Muslims. Bihar elections perhaps provide him a great opportunity to reach out to Muslims and not playing the traditional Congress and the secular brigade’s style of playing politics with them.
Prime Minister Modi knows he has moved over from his 6 crore Gujarati voters and the votaries of Hindutva politics. True, no Indian Prime Minister can afford to ignore Muslims and many believe, he has given an indication that he is now willing to reach out to the community. Look at the timing yet again, Modi’s Masjid visit came just about 48 hours after his I-Day speech when he pledged to uproot the “poison of casteism and religious fanaticism”. In the meantime as Muslims keep an eye on Modi, the Prime Minister knows if he has to make a mark he cannot be any longer perceived as an anti-Muslim leader – notwithstanding whatever the Hindutva school of zealots and RSS feel. Left to Modi, he would not mind visiting Pakistan before Bihar elections as Nitish Kumar once did ahead of Assembly polls in state.
Till now except Muslims, every section of society in Bihar is in dilemma as what to do in the forthcoming elections. Even Lalu and Nitish are not sure of the minds of people of their castes. They fully bank on Muslims’ support, even as they are fully maginalising Muslim leadership in the state and in their parties.
So what options does Modi have?
There’s a message going down the line that the BJP could surprise this time by fielding many Muslim candidates in Bihar polls. Which will send a tough message to the secular parties. That the saffron party has decided to play safe about Muslim sensitivity can be understood that the likes of Giriraj Singh, who in 2014 asked anti-Modi voters to look for a place in Pakistan, is now silenced. None among the BJP leaders are talking about hardline Hindutva or anti-Muslim issues.
There are already media reports where Muslim leaders locally in Bihar are talking how JD(U) and RJD have disallowed progress of any Muslim leader in their respective parties. So can Modi play surprise game of all and make a Muslim – the Bihar Chief Minister?
His task on this would be tough as BJP does not have any towering Muslim personality. Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and a new entrant Sabir Ali are not simply Chief Ministerial material. But in neighbouring Jharkhand, none thought a non-tribal can become the Chief Minister. Modi-Amit Shah opted for little known Raghubir Das.
Among the Bihari Muslims, BJP incidentally has an educated M J Akbar, known for sophistication and who does not shy to mention his Hindu antecedent. Another senior Muslim bureaucrat from state working in Delhi has also reportedly suggested BJP leadership to project him as CM. After all politics is game of eventualities. Nothing can be said perfectly or nothing could be rejected outright. The guessing game has just begun!
Akbar: An Editor par excellence!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

NSA TALKS failure – between Namo-Nawaz - who loses, who gains?

The big news is not the cancellation of Sartaz Aziz-Ajit Doval – National Security Advisors level talks between Pakistan and India – it is perhaps a little understood fact that for the first time ever, Islamabad has canceled Talks with New Delhi. The so called ‘talks’ always suited Pakistan obviously and whenever talks used to be cancelled, it used to be always India. 
No sooner the Pakistan announcement was made that Sartaz Aziz would not accept the hospitality of his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, who had a few "surprises" for the guest; BJP reacted with sharp tongues saying it confirmed Pakistan is not serious on issue of terrorism. For its part, Pakistan said they "have come to the conclusion that the NSA talks would not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down by the minister". They were responding to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s categorical assertion, no third party (that is the Hurriyat) should be involved in the talks and only terror and no Kashmir will be on the agenda.
Photo: Amaarjeet Kumar Singh
Pakistan’s national security adviser, Sartaj Aziz, had also rejected India’s demands, saying it could not control the guest list for the Sunday evening reception that he said would “enable me to meet a cross section of Indian political and business leaders”. The reference was Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir.
So where do land from these: PM Narendra Modi's government appears to have recognised that a quest for durable peace with Pakistan is a “non-starter”, reported BBC. It is for the second time in a year Pakistan’s ‘obnoxious nexus’ with separatist Kashmiri leaders – from Indian perspective – has derailed the talks. 

An ambitious man keen to deliver, Modi is also known as a pragmatist who, according to BBC again, knows his agenda of enhancing regional co-operation in South Asia will remain unfulfilled “without a thaw in India-Pakistan tensions”.

Kashmir: Also a battlefield for two Sharifs? 

So the hint was he was keen for the talks and would go extra-mile and therefore amid bitter criticism by opposition Congress and others, he held his breadth till last moment since Gurdaspur attack and did not cancel the talks. That way, he scores a minor victory that it is Islamabad which has cancelled the talks for the firm stand he took that Kashmiri separatists could not meet Pakistan’s NSA. 

“Hurriyat are important for Pakistan only as a proxy. New Delhi objected to the Pakistani move to have meetings with Hurriyat leaders only to block the way for Pakistan to hanker after Kashmir even at the drop of a hat,” says a longtime Pakistan watcher and incidentally he is neither a product of hawkish Hindutva nor a Indian military strategist. “Hurriyat is the inducement – the bait – which Modi refused to eat,” says another expert endorsing the view that though a momentary set back, Prime Minister Modi’s hawkish stance on separatists would at least stump his detractors.
Even in Pakistan, intellectuals feel the Hurriyat issue was dragged little too far.

“The Indian reaction is predictably knee-jerk,” said an editorial in Pakistani newspaper, ‘The Express Tribune’. But it advocated the need to keep the heads ‘cool’ and said, “….given the importance and sensitivity of these talks, it may be wise on this occasion to revisit our (Pakistani) stance on the matter (read Kashmir issue)”.
columnist Irfan Hussain

“The reality is that nobody supports our claims over Kashmir, and even Kashmiris do not want to join Pakistan. Indeed, those fighting there are doing so for independence. And yet our diplomats continue banging the drum for archaic UN resolutions calling for a referendum that limits the choices for Kashmiris to merge with either India or Pakistan,” wrote popular Pakistani columnist Irfan Hussain rather acidly in ‘Dawn’ newspaper.

Many in Pakistan, fortunately, are speaking out these days. “It’s time to emerge from the old world,” ran a newspaper commentary with the regret the thinking of Pakistani leadership- both military and civilians – that has been shaped by the Kashmir conflict seen through the old “narrow prism”.

So, does it suggest Nawaz Sharif has lost a major initiative? Probably yes as he has for the time being decided to go by the wise sentiments of his military generals and the ISI.
How would Modi pursue his game henceforth? In the previous blog – amid all hints that NSA talks would not happen – this blogger mooted that PM Modi should spell out his Pakistan policy. But insiders suggest, he already has one.

Now that Islamabad has refused to join the combat against terror, Modi regime would push the ‘isolate Pakistan’ more vigorously. It’s a tough assignment Modi has given to himself despite the bravado he made at Dubai speech.
But some of the timings suit this ‘man of destiny- called Narendra Modi’. Pakistan has given him an opening when it refused to enter the Yemen conflict on the side of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. India also got an opportunity in pursuing an ‘alternate path’ by talking to Iran about expanding and modernising its Persian Gulf port of Chabahar, close to the Pakistani border. Tehran believes Pakistan’s Shias are being persecuted, and Islamabad is in the Saudi camp in the rivalry between the kingdom and Iran. “This increases the chances of closer ties between Delhi and Tehran,” right sums up Irfan Hussain.

‘Hanging fire’ issue now is = how would Modi checkmate China’s interest in Pakistan?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Time for Namo to spell out his Pakistan policy

“We come home very hungry …..then the children were put to bed and the adults reverted to their grown-up pursuits,” --- wrote Bertrand Russell many decades back. Russell, the famous philosopher and author of master pieces like ‘Why I am not Christian’, is certainly out of fashion these days. But his quote seemed to have some relevance for the modern Pakistani diplomacy – that remains under the grip of military men wherein a Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a mere pawn. 

Photo credit: Amerjeet Kumar Singh

In this blog pages last month, I did raise the issue on how Nawaz Sharif can really deliver on his Ufa talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There was no discovery of rocket science in saying so. But it was also underlined:
“It's a pipe dream to presume that Sharif can dismantle the power structures in his country vis-a-vis army even as in 1997-98, Sharif acted quickly with firm hands and had cut the Presidency and the 'interfering' Supreme Court. He had also sacked Gen Jehangir Karamat as army chief in 1998 and was reportedly had similar plans for Musharaf too.”

Perhaps, his counterpart Modi also rested a lot on Nawaz’s political acumen, the ability to take risks and probably like Modi, Nawaz Sharif also has a will to deliver and keep the name for history to recall fondly. All these definitely are tall order.
Thus as soon as Nawaz landed back in Pakistan from Russia sojourn where he promised to pursue talks with India during Ufa summit meeting with Modi, the traditional ‘elders’ in Pakistan power structure were back with their ‘grown up pursuits’. Gurdaspur was one of them.

Namo with his NSA Doval
“In the last one month alone, more than 12 terrorist attacks have taken place in J&K apart from one in Gurdaspur. The Udhampur attack proved to be fatal for two of our BSF jawans who lost their lives but more fatal for Pakistan because one of the fidayeen (a Pakistani national named Naved) was caught alive. While he was being interrogated, Pakistan was erasing all proof his existence,” wrote Rashneek Kher for DailyO website.

In the meanwhile, New Delhi remained unprovoked as it wanted the talks to happen. India made it clear it will not call off NSA-level talks with Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz despite the invitation to separatists from Pakistan. Importantly, diplomatic channels said, India "has a surprise for Pakistan in the talks."

While Pakistan started developing cold feed as the arrested fidayeen Naved was spilling the beans before his Indian hosts. Opposition parties in India predictably mocked at Prime Minister Modi’s 56-inch chest barbs in 2014 election campaign. India also had called off peace talks with Pakistan last year after its neighbor consulted the separatists Huriyat before a meeting between their foreign secretaries. At the time, Modi regime accused Pakistan of interfering in its domestic affairs. 
Modi himself had indicated that his government while favoured talks he would not tolerate meetings between Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists. As a major hint, Huriyat leaders were kept on two-hour house arrest in Kashmir on August 20. Yet, New Delhi was all for Ajit Doval-Sartaz Aziz talks.

But now the talks have hit the deadlock and only a miracle and firmness by Pakistan Prime Minister can revive it. Ufa talks and a joint statement which did not have K-word is almost history.
The global body UN is equally concerned. As the proposed talks between the National Security Advisers appeared deadlocked, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on the two sides "to return to dialogue" in the interest of their people and exercise maximum restraint.
But the damage would be unparallel. Whether it will make a dent in PM Modi’s aggressive diplomatic gameball remains to be seen even as his political detractors have got a good handle to mock at him.
“Foreign policy was initially Modi  Govt's USP, but now with Pakistan NSA talks it looks like teenage tantrums,” tweeted Gaurav Gogoi, Congress MP from Assam.

So will these lead Modi to come out with a more concrete Pakistan policy? 


For decades now, Pakistan seems to understand it pretty well that to knock its doors for talks is India’s diplomatic and even political compulsions. They expect New Delhi to always walk the extra mile. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee traveled to Lahore and had invited Gen Pervez Musharraf for a summit meet at Agra. Even as Agra failed after L K Advani-Sushma Swaraj duo played up hardliners and Musharraf staged a media-coup, in 2003 just before Vajpayee walked out of office, India-Pakistan talks resulted in reducing military tensions along the LoC. 

The worst fear now among security apparatus is by failing to talk to Pakistan yet again – second time in two years – perhaps New Delhi would be driving Pakistanis more towards its good old chessboard of ‘proxy-war’ and terror strike in Kashmir and other parts of India. Gurdaspur was perhaps only an indicator of the fragile security system India has.
“The insistence on meeting Hurriyat as a precondition is also a complete departure from the Ufa understanding. India has always held the position that there are only two stake holders in our relationship, not three. The people of both countries can legitimately ask today what is the force that compels Pakistan to disregard the agreements reached by two elected leaders and sabotage their implementation,” a strong statement from MEA, Govt of India, only has one part of the story. It pins down on Pakistani army’s role. What’s next? 
Pakistani newspaper Dawn seems to have read Modi’s mind:
“INDIAN Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UAE, and the joint communiqué issued afterwards, should be nothing less than a wake-up call for Pakistan,” it said in its powerful editorial.
The UAE-India joint communiqué also goes to some lengths to “condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries” “The language is being widely interpreted to be pointed towards Pakistan,” it said. Modi in his Dubai speech also asserted, whether you join the fight against terrorism or be where you are. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sanjiv Bhatt -- sacked ! A sharp cop who made news for reasons right or wrong !!

Not quite surprising though, the news of Gujarat cop Sanjiv Bhatt 'sacked' is 'sad news' for some of us -- who knew him and who enlisted his 'help' in journalistic venture of 2002 Gujarat -- when the state belonged to Narendra Modi and his "chhey crore (6 crore) Gujaratis". 
On October 17, 2011 after days of fierce legal battle for a case, Bhatt walked out of the Sabarmati central jail to an enthusiastic welcome after he was granted bail by judge VK Vyas. Walking out of the jail, Bhatt told waiting journalists that this was just the beginning of his battle – “the cause I am fighting is bigger than me”. Perhaps here lies the true spirit of a soldier who wanted to take on 'Gujarat-ka-sher'. 

In my book 'Modi to Moditva - An Uncensored Truth' published in 2012...I had called 'Sanjiv sahab'// he hated being called 'Bhatt sahab' ----- "The man against Modi". All said, in short, he was one of my “favourites” among the sources I had in Ahmedabad in 2002. 
The 1988 batch IPS offer, Bhatt, is a quintessential fighter as well as one of most media-friendly cops in Gujarat. Probably, no journalist who has worked in Ahmedabad for a brief period would not know him or has not taken the benefit of his ‘help’ in terms of getting the ‘right and police’ version (information) about things happening in the state. I am one person, who ought to have the necessary gratitude for all his help from the day I happened to know him. My first interaction with Bhatt was over phone after I managed to get in touch with his office at Gandhinagar, courtesy my fellow journalist friends Thomas Kutty Abraham and Anosh Malekar. 

“Let’s meet up sometime,” was his open invitation and I, like scores of other journalists deputed to cover country’s toughest assignment of circa 2002, started counting Bhatt as a ‘friend’ and a ‘reliable source’, to use the journalistic cliché. ‘Sanjiv Sahab’, he disapproved being called ‘Bhatt sahab’, would often go out of the way to help provide us the information we were looking for. 

During 2002, one of the stories I broke was about a large number of Muslim youths getting their act together to float ‘Lashkar-e-Khaladeen’. Bhatt was one of the men who put me on the track to get hold of the story. As we started knowing him gradually, various facets of his qualities and perhaps also a certain weaknesses started coming to light. But all said, in short, he was one of my “favourites” among the sources I had in Ahmedabad especially during the tough assignment of covering Gujarat in 2002 that too for a highly demanding news organization, the Press Trust of India.
He was again a true friend who come to my aid when I landed in Ahmedabad on September 23, 2002, the day Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar was attacked by two terrorists. 

By then Bhatt, alleged to have ruffled Modi regime, was already transferred out of the crime branch. But the moment I called him seeking information on the terror attack and other details, his response was typical of Sanjiv Bhatt characteristic: “I am nobody now; but you are my friend from Mumbai and I promise I will help you”.
Needless to add, the information flew in. Later his wife Shwetta once told me, “Sanjiv sat near the phone and kept on collecting information for you from junior guys. He said he could not say no to his babu moshai” (The last phrase is reference to my being a Bengali).

Even otherwise, I found a typical ‘Mumabikar-like’ helpful approach in him. And why not? He was born in Mumbai and had his education from IIT, Bombay. “As a Mumbai man, I would always cherish your association. That city knows how to stay together, the pluralism and so on ….. and look what has happened to Ahmedabad,” he had told me in April 2002. A bright student, Bhatt should have been otherwise making news as the one of the first IPS officers among Gujaratis. Bhatt has made news for reasons best known to him – right or wrong. 
Namo's Half glass full-Half Glass empty applied to Sanjiv
On April 22, 2011, Bhatt, then principal of the State Reserve Police Training College, Junagadh, had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that Chief Minister Narendra Modi had directed top police officers on the eve of the 2002 pogrom to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger” and “teach a lesson” to Muslims. He also had accused the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team of trying to “cover up the larger conspiracy and official orchestration” behind the carnage.  
Perhaps he was right; perhaps he fell into some anti-Modi camp and was misled into the entire controversy ! I know, he won't like my saying so.

Monday, August 17, 2015

SICKULARISM, slogan shouting won't help Sonia and her son

Narendra Modi’s conquest of Dubai audience is linked to 'isolation' of Pakistan. There was a terse message on the eve of NSA-level talks...."either join us in fight against terror...or be where you are".
If Namo stayed awayfrom referring to foreign policy matters in Independence-Day speech, we might have thought he missed it as he was only making an extempore speech. Modi had a plan...he always works with plans.
Now take the clock backwards and assess what we come across in media, online journalism and social networking sites vis-à-vis this man --- hating whom is a fashion statement. And to find faultline with Narendra Modi is certainly “intellectualism”!!

Now refer this exemplary study and perhaps a more exemplary observation. There came a brilliant finding. According to the revised budgetary estimates, Modi government in its first year incurred a travel bill of Rs 317 crore – about Rs 59 crore more than the Rs 258 crore the UPA-II cabinet had spent in its last year in office (2013-14). More so, the writer seemed to ask, why so much expenditures – when “one thing which is always common in Modi’s foreign tours is that he never misses to visit a temple or Hindu heritage site in that country” (the article in
So, visiting Nepal as Indian Prime Minister after 17 long years – 10 years in that consumed by Saint Sonia’s MMS regime – is no milestone. Going to Dubai for first time as Indian PM after 34 years is worse – because he managed so land for Hindu temples. How could Indian sickularism entertain such a scenario?
The faultline is elsewhere. The ‘chamcha-force’ of Madam Sonia is getting desperate by the day. There are reasons because Modi regime has hit a section of middlemen in the corridors of power. Therefore when a breakthrough is made in Naga peace talks, immediate conclusion of a section of intellectuals is – won’t it fail like Shillong Accord of 1975.
A date with a Mosque
The real test of Modi-Muivah pact will be assessed on August 14 when Nagas ‘celebrate’ their own Independence Day. Little did this chattering class with full-time ‘press club’ inspired negativity realized that Modi will refer to the Naga peace initiatives in the context of fight against global terrorism in Dubai. Nothing can be more salutary to the Naga peace parleys.
Then again, as soon as Modi announced that the Ministry of Agriculture will be renamed as Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, net savvy Indians plunged into hairsplitting exercise lampooning at PM's "nothing to say" syndrome. Again little did they realise the original prescription to rename the Agriculture Ministry ha come from M S Swaminathan-led National Commission for Farmers, which had made the recommendation in December 2006 during the tenure of "underestimated politician and overestimated economist" Dr Manmohan Singh's tenure. Of course, two other sacrificing Indians - Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were also around.
So what has happened in the process? In the meantime, Congress was humbled in the Madhya Pradesh civic polls giving a fresh lease of life to Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The shouting brigade and black-badges of Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi, who admittedly is also emulating Mamata Banerjee, was in the ultimate left with the conventional egg on the face.
The problems for Congress and its permanent loyalists SICKULAR BRIGADE is the utter refusal to see that road to comeback trail for the pappu-party is hard work in reviving the organization. 

Mamata did not oust the Left merely by raising slogans. The press conferences and protest in Parliament could suit the likes of Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh because they are good at that; but it cannot bring Congress to the corridors of power. The glib-talkers in Congress would do well to realize that it’s high time, the party leadership take all kinds of polls seriously and move out of TV studios in Delhi.
Search of a Road!!