Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Enigma and Beyond Golden Dusk: Mohammad Hashim Ansari – a curious remnant of the past (A tribute)

"Kaun hamari Sunega (Who will listen to me)? (Smiles). I have said this before,  Agar masjid chhor dene se aman hoti hae …. Toh chhor do, humey nahi chahihye. (If my leaving it all, we have peace. Let’s give it up). 
Born before 1947 - and surviving to live through tumultuous 16 years in the new century – Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant to Ayodhya dispute, was witness to both the glory and the decline of India’s emergence. His memoir – chit chat and anecdotes would certainly evoke nostalgia. But someone who stayed away secular brigade and even country’s polity – he remained at the margins of publicity world. But with a strong commitment to Indian nationhood and welfare of Muslims – Ansari – who died at the age of 96 now only, is rather a curious residue of the past.

(I interviewed him in October 2010 and met him several times during that year at his residence at Ayodhya)
Excerpts of the interview published in The Statesman and also used in my book “Ayodhya-Battle for Peace” published in 2010)
“Congress is responsible for Ayodhya trouble, partition…..”
-- Old warhorse Mohammad Hashim Ansari had told me in 2010 --- after the Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya dispute!
(He was simple and a nationalist to the core who cautioned Muslims not to fight Hindus...) more of it in my book "Ayodhya-Battle for Peace".
--A plaintiff on behalf of the Sunni Central Waqf Board to the title dispute, 90-year-old Ansari (in 2010) was a die-hard anti-Congressman. He died in 2016(July 20).

- Arrested under the infamous MISA during the emergency, in interview with me - he blamed Congress for precipitating the Mandir-Masjid dispute even as he slams secular brigade leaders like Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav for instigating Muslims to fight a ‘losing’ battle against the Hindus.
There was mini Diwali at Ayodhya: Sept 30, 2010
In the wake of the September 30 - 2010- verdict, he as a chief votary of negotiated settlement and met Akhara Parishad chief Mahant Gyan Das.# How do you react to the verdict? After 60 years of litigation starting from 1949 in Faizabad court, the Allahabad High Court ruling has left Muslims aggrieved?

Ansari: Throughout my life I have maintained that Muslims should not adopt confrontation approach towards Hindus. Most of the time, people did not listen to my voice. I have gone through all that. Even before partition, Muslims would say, I am coward. But look at the reality today, Muslims are no where. Any further confrontation against the High Court order legal and political will be suicidal. That’s why I am
meeting the Hindu leaders; many Hindus agree with me. We should use the opportunity.

# So are you suggesting it is erroneous to believe that Muslims are left aggrieved with the verdict?

Ansari: Even Hindus have some complaint against the verdict. But everyone is speaking about only Muslims’ anguish. You in media also take that stand. Verdict on such emotive case cannot satisfy all. But we should make use of the opportunity. Even before the verdict, I have told you people, ‘Khushi ho ya gam, Band kamre mein raho. Musalman sarko pe ani nahi chahihiye, (Whether it is victory or loss in the
case, Muslims should not take to the streets either to protest or rejoice). But many Muslims will not agree to my idea. The false champions of secularism like the Congress party or Mulayam Singh will only instigate them.

# What about the delay in the verdict? When you as a Muslim leader favoured early verdict, everyone thought you hoped the best deal but the rest is known to you also?

Ansari: On September 23, when the Supreme Court ordered postponement of the judgement, I said categorically it cannot be postponed very long. I strongly disapproved of the delay, because delaying the verdict would serve no purpose. For 60 years the dispute has been on and no side was willing to accept a reconciliatory approach. Yeh dalalo ko mauka dena hae (The delay would have only given
opportunities to middlemen to exploit the situation).

# But today you are voicing for a negotiation?

Ansari: The court verdict right or wrong gives us a basis for talks. Earlier, where was the meeting point? Both sides would have said, we are right. Look, the plea for deferring the verdict was made on the ground that the court verdict will aggravate the situation. So that means without the verdict, there was peace all along. 

Muslim teacher before a temple at Ayodhya
Why then Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992? So many thousands of Hindus and Muslims have died. What for? Why was the Shilanyas by Rajiv government? The petitioner in the Supreme Court Ramesh Chandra Tripathi was no party to the dispute. Actually, he was tutored. But all his sponsors and direct and indirect sympathizers were not concerned about the issue. Ultimately, I am happy Supreme Court rejected the plea.

# Why you are so vocal against Mulayam Singh and the Congress?

Ansari: First of all, after 1989-90, Mulayam Singh only led Muslims to fight Hindus. It was a losing battle, Muslims suffered in image and life and property. Mulayam Singh became a big leader. For Congress, it’s a party which has always failed Muslims and harmed Muslims. Congress is equally responsible for country’s partition and Muslims
have paid the biggest price. Lekin kaun sunega hamey (But who will
listen to me)? What is worse is who is rekindling the trouble from time to time?
Congress started it all. What was the need for Shilayanyas in the eighties. It all began with that. I have been telling right from the time of first UP chief minister Gobind Ballab Pant that please settle the Ayodhya problem quickly, otherwise history will not forgive you.

# What’s your views on BJP? They have exploited Hindu sentiment?

Ansari: Where’s the dispute on that? Actually, the country’s tragedy is the political 
# What’s your appeal to the Muslims at this juncture?

Ansari: Kaun hamari Sunega (Who will listen to me)? (Smiles). I have said this before,  Agar masjid chhor dene se aman hoti hae …. Toh chhor do, humey nahi chahihye. (If my leaving it all, we have peace. Let’s give it up). Whether it is victory or loss, Muslims should not take to the streets. But many Muslims will not agree to my idea.

Deserted street of Ayodhya: Sept 30, 2010
# What about Mayawati government? People in Ayodhya-Faizabad generally appreciate her handling of the situation before and after the verdict?

Ansari: I agree with you that it was difficult times. But Mayawati did well. Was she the chief minister in 1989-90 instead of Mulayam Singh things would have been different. Importantly, she sent officials in every Muslim colony. We all were apprehensive but the state government seems to have done well.

# Reportedly, there is a threat to your life after you are trying for a negotiated settlement?

Ansari: This is not the first time. Those who want confrontation would never like me. In 1992 also I got such threats. We followed Gandhiji’s principles even during partition. Today’s politicians would not like it. During partition, many said this is Ayodhya, Hindus worship Ram, you must go to Pakistan. I did not. 
I have two UP police security guards and my family around; what more I need.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Arunachal Satire: Sunday ho ya Monday – Roz feke Andey! With all apologies in Advance

Missive of an Egg!!

In film “Kisi se na Kehena”: Deven Verma explains the meaning of antique to his girlfriend : Ek Ghishi hui purani bekar si cheezen jaise tumhara pitaji (old faded, useless things like your father)
This is certainly the best definition of an would be father-in-law by any youngster.

Well, this is not a definition on me. I am not antique. But as The Egg (my desi name being Andey), I have often thought whether my life would make any admirable subject for a biography. But recent happenings have put me on a rendezvous with destiny --- my journey towards New Delhi. Onetime name of Delhi kingdom was “Hastinapur”. So I commenced the journey: “Hastinapur naresh ki jai ho”. Long live you eternal king of Hastinapur (read New Delhi).
Let me not examine now on who really is the “king” of Delhi. In today’s setting – I have few contenders in mind. Me-Namo – the World Tourist, pappu- the Rahul baba, Hon’ble Mandi House-Pragati Maidan Tower and “towering learned clowns” and not forgetting some Idiot-box “smarties” and their twitter-son Arvind bhai.
“Sahi pakde haen…..? (Have you caught the point right)?
In the meantime, Indian journalism, politics and five-learned “panchayats” have actually propelled me into this long series of adventures. From Itanagar to Delhi!
In today’s world of fanciful eating, I am often “jobless”. But nevertheless eventually I could come out of Arunachal Pradesh hills and at last seem found my way towards Hon’ble Mandi House-Pragati Maidan Tower.
Why this journey and what’s more about Arunachal Pradesh?
Firstly, over the past many years – this northeastern state bordering China has provided the most revealing story of failure in governance. 
Corruption of local neta class being one! The other of course – the indifference of Hastinapur. My people in Arunachal Pradesh have been suffering always but Towering Towers and learned panchayats had little to bother about.
As an “egg” – there came a catchy TV song: “Sunday ho ya Monday – roz khae andey” . Doosri-Bahu also called Maneka tried to change the theme once when she distorted Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s observations about alcohol and threw one-liner: “Next time you take an egg, ask yourself it is you who is eating the egg or it’s the egg which is eating you”.
Life is more than this philosophy for me! Life often seems like a seamless chameleon!
“Main Zindagi ka saath nibhata chala…..I dealt with life as it came !! Actor Devanand would have, however, put all his worries into smoke rings!

But as an "egg" I have my worries as lakhs of those mortals think I should co-exist like me! To them I do make “economic sense” to those who need nutrition but cannot afford vitamins. I make sense to those speedy youngsters who have all the time for “what’app” but hardly the patience to slog it out in the kitchen. 

One such veteran egg-eater is blogger Nirendra Dev – who finds me extremely useful when his wife is away!
Talk of the town is he has egg-omelete in break fast, egg-curry in lunch and egg-boil in dinner!!
I also make sense to those Delhiites – who want to make a right balance between “ghar me veg--- egg chalta hae” culture!
The Tower’s message for Itanagar have been made a big fuss! Arunachal Pradesh will have a new Rule Minister of hardly 36 years age! Mr  NT mandated to rule by “panchayats” have been removed by legislature party!
Is it blasphemy?
But the real story from Mandi House-Pragati Maidan is different – the fable is understood by some, cleverly avoided by a group which believes in RCR-Namo bashing --- one way or the other!

“Stalin did not care in the slightest about the national aspirations of the Azeris” – goes a line in 1946: The Making of the Modern World - by Victor Sebestyen.
Pragati Maidan building too seems to be walking on that treaded path! It loathed what came from wisemen led by Jaitly sahib as “Accountability Bill”. Into the history again - when Stalin thought any of his own subjects wanted autonomy, his first instinct was to react with brutal repression.
“Typically, his way of dealing with the ‘national question’ was to uproot entire ethnic groups and transport them thousands of miles from their homeland to  “into unfamiliar territory” and teach that “someone” a lesson about nationhood and national duty.
That duty is to ensure: there’s no word like accountability for some people in this world.
Remember Somnath chatter—box jee ! He believed in “shame shame” outbursts when it came to others; but when it came to his time to give up chair – he preferred to be expelled than compromise striking deal with MMS. Media called it “cash for vote”!
I call it “egg on the face” ! Please share some egg spots alongside Mandi House of Delhi.

In the name of “Pride and Vanity” – I am an Egg from Arunachal Pradesh!

(Blogger’s note: Religions grow old like trees unless reformed time to time – Bertrand Russel)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Fat tax" - Press Trust of India and my vote for "Mr Ruthless" Narendra Modi

Press Trust of India (PTI), the prestigious news agency which had given me passport to land in Delhi in 1998 and take me out of jungles in Nagaland, is in news recently. It's obviously internal matter of an organisation.
Referring to this fact of my life - that has sweet and sour flavour - has become relevant as I want to lay emphasis on a quote from my esteemed senior colleague Shashi Kumar Nair (SK) - mind you this is the NOT THE TV guy! Me and Shashi - we shared tea, Kerala House lunch and room for months.
He was 50 plus - ready to hit retirement bar anytime and I was around 30.

Often Shashi used to say: "ND, do not presume I belong to you or you belong to my camp. Because I am different and I tell you, I don't belong to myself".

Now referring this oneliner is vital as I reflect upon last 10 days in socio-political life of India. 


Narendra Modi has virtually turned a ruthless boss and shunted out Smriti Irani from the high-profile HRD ministry and even made Arun Jaitley shed Information and Broadcasting ministry. Focus on reviving economy and generating jobs - seemed to be the clear message to Jaitley - Modi's Man Friday and a "constant friend since 2002".
In Modi's definition of politics and the power play today, none actually is "safe" - no matter how much an "insider" you are! Jaitley is known to be third most powerful man in Team Modi.

In the meanwhile, my favourite land Kerala also made news with the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government slapping "fat-tax". Obesity is stated to be a reason for this 14.5 per cent tax. Trust you - I have mallu friends among journos, half-journos and super-journos -- of all shape, size and look. Coming to looks, when I see mallu damsels - it's the eyes that seem like pool. The magic of coconut oil - I often say to myself and at times to some friends. My wife does not endorse my prejudices.

On a very personal front again, Shashi - friend and a guru - is definitely a 100 per cent mallu --- Malayli --- with all traits and tantrums! But he hated "Marxism" those days and like many from his state did not have very high opinion about Congress either!

But "fat tax" reading made me discover Kerala is second most obese state (with children) after Punjab.  I thought only butter chicken and Chhola Bhatura or Bangla's oil-rich fish curry and Bongs by-birth quality of laziness and "bhat khabo hunger" can only spread obesity! 
1998: Souvenir: When blogger was in PTI 

But Kerala obesity seems a reality and thus the state government wants to discourage more people into eating those pizzas, burgers and etc etc. Importantly the decision came from a Marxist regime -- not known for committing anything wrong? Na?

"There is a strong case to initiate steps to tackle obesity among schoolchildren and adults in Kerala. For instance, a June 2012 study (Indian Pediatrics) of 1,634 children between 6-15 years from three urban schools in Kochi found the prevalence of obesity among boys to be 3 per cent and 5.3 per cent for girls. The prevalence of being overweight was 10.2 per cent in boys and 12.1 per cent in girls. In April 2014, a study of 1,098 schoolchildren in the rural areas of Kochi found 9 per cent of girls and nearly 6 per cent boys to be overweight and 2.8 per cent girls and 3.3 per cent boys to be obese," -- read the way The Hindu (with a history of pro-Left tilt) seeks to justify the move Kerala Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac.

But a few issue remains - either not answered or postponed for any other day.

Firstly, what was the provocation? Can higher tax really result in lower consumption of saturated items? Will it fetch some revenue to the state exchequer? Will it discourage food processing industry and perhaps more importantly - since this looks like a "populist" measure; will the pressure now mount on other states to take such actions? Will it hamper India's image abroad as a destination hub for big food processing companies and those who deal with ready-to-eat products?

Most of these questions are however related. But let us go step by step.

My humble feeling is mere tax imposition will not discourage consumption of fast food - when Burgers are not only easy to eat stuff; they are also like fashion statement. I do not know any birthday party attended by my daughter in last 3-4 years -- and these parties often come in mushrooming numbers - where she has not got the taste of best of the pizzas, burgers and finger chips. In fact, there is a growing trend when these birthday parties are hosted at burger and pizza hubs. Hosting such gala shows under branded roofs also scale up parents' status in the housing society.

So can obesity be really countered by these taxes? Pizzas and burgers have entered small tows as well and chips are evening snacks - unlike rosogolla and sandesh - in many middle class homes.

So the focus should be more about awareness campaign. In this context, I beg to advise Prime Minister Modi to carry forward his "Swach bharat" campaign a step forward and co-relate it with "Swasth Bharat". Clean India - and Healthy India.

This campaign would make sense as even else where taxation measures have not served any purpose in the long run. The experience from Denmar and Mexico have been discouraging.

In October 2011, Denmark became the first country to introduce a tax on saturated fat. However, it was repealed by the end of 2012. In Mexico,  The Hindu report says, no change in consumption patterns was seen in high socio-economic status households and a modest 10.2 per cent and 5.8 per cent reduction in the consumption levels was seen in low and medium socio-economic status households respectively.

Will the campaign for a healthy India really be carried forward irrespective of party affiliations?

But for the moment, politicians in God's own country -- and the Marxists by upbringing are falling for a double-edged sword. And consumers may still end up paying more and continue to suffer the result of "saturated fat".

Yes, I come back to the relevance of being "ruthless" --- someone who does not belong to any camp. As a male chauvinist - I also have a point to ponder about - should not tiffin box for high school and college boys and girls be revived. But the moot point remains: who will pack that tiffin box and how can you bring in changes to fit into the younger generation taste games!

My wife faces tough times on daily basis. In some kitchens - it can be the men or aging grand mas!

But please think over --- in the name of modernity and progressive walk and money-minting career-building exercise - we have moved out of "joint family malady". 

Nature has maintained its beauty always
Who will then pack the tiffin box? Stop cursing me !

I have already said: As an admirer of my esteemed colleague SK - Shashi Kumar Nair -
I do not belong to myself.

But another post script question: Will Namo in the ultimate analysis win the battle of media control with Jaitley's exit from I&B and also the visible changes in Parliament Street?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dhaka siege: Serious Implications but it's not a Lost Game yet

Things in Bangladesh are getting more complex than they appear on the face value.
The Dhaka siege of July 1-2, 2016 was one of the deadliest attacks in Bangladesh. The fighter in the video, who spoke in both Bengali and English, said Bangladesh must know that it was now part of a bigger battlefield to establish the cross-border "caliphate". 
Post Dhaka siege, terrorist group Islamic State has warned of repeated attacks in Bangladesh and beyond until rule by sharia, Islamic law, is established.
"What you witnessed in Bangladesh was a glimpse. This will repeat, repeat and repeat until you lose and we win and the sharia is established throughout the world," said a man identified as Bangladeshi fighter Abu Issa al-Bengali, in the video monitored by SITE intelligence site, reports said.
Bangladesh has rejected the Islamic State's claim of responsibility for the July 1 attack and blamed it on a domestic terrorist group.
But technically speaking all terrorism would be home grown. There is an attempt on the part of Dhaka to downplay international connection.

 It would be prudent to say that the Bangladesh government - and that certainly involves
country's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina - is trying to push the line that its all home grown - few misguided individuals. And who misguided them - Zakir Naik...with his base in India! Why?
This can be a calculated game and even supported by a section of Indian intelligentsia. In fact, a Kolkata based expert --- traditionally known for sympathising with Bangladeshi cause - for whatever reasons also plunged into the game and tried to push the Dhaka line.
On the contrary reports from Dhaka spoke about the sophistication of the attack on the Holey Artisan bakery cafe. This pointed to a heightened guidance from international militant groups. The indication is towards IS and Alqaeda-in-Indian sub-continent.
Indian agencies earlier had reported about the growing influence of radical Islam in Bangladesh wherein some known groups including Ahle Hadith Andolon and  Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh have been financing terror activities in that country. There have been also inputs about these groups tapping contacts in parts of north east India and eastern India including Assam and West Bengal. They have tried to pump in funds from across the border.   

India need not panic but it should be worried. More important agenda before Indian security agencies should be how India and other South East Asian countries can work together to stem the rot in the system. So far Pakistan and beyond - Afghanistan- was hit such Islamic agenda. But now it has come to the neighbourhood.
Once there was a film: "Hasina Maan jaegi"
Talk to military and intelligence officials in central government and also in some key northeastern states; there is a general consensus on the fact that there has to be some amount of military action on the ground. 
The problem is with the absence of political will. Sheikh Hasina too has been lacking it. She has been trying to be a genuine friend of India but her administration somehow lacked the final killer instinct.

This is precisely where the world has gone wrong in dealing with the “War” on terror. Unfortunately this concept includes northeastern states and countries like Bangladesh and even Sheikh Hasina is no exception. Therefore, talk in New Delhi's security room includes title of a onetime popular Hindi film : "Hasina Maan Jaegi". Hasina will agree to go further in fighting the terror menace.
In fact, there have been reports with Indian agencies that by mid 2015 a large number of Muslims in Bangladesh have pledged support to “the Khilāfah”.
These should not be “overlooked” keeping in mind that there had always been a section of Islamic extremists in Bangladesh. This implies there is a grave security threat at hand in India and northeastern states. Porous borders and a very  complex socio-political background Tripura, Assam and West Bengal might therefore turn out “most vulnerable hubs” for ISIS activities. 
Even in West Bengal, there are reports to suggest, that the terror elements ostensibly supported by IS or AQIS had drawn out plans to attack Indian temple priests.
There are inputs that Hindu temple priests of Birbhum and Mushidabad could have been targeted on the pattern some Buddhist monks and Hindu priests were attacked in Bangladesh not long ago.

 Bangladesh-based groups like Ahle Hadith Andolon,  Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Bangladesh have been keen to turn Bangladesh into a possible "seedbed and activity centre" for their global activities. Strategic experts in north east endorse the official agencies version. "Sheikh Hasina government despite all its good intentions and largely secular mindset, is pathetically incompetent to grasp, and certainly control the situation. Her government is also not ready to accept that ISIS has already made foray into her land," says Manas Paul, an Agartala based longtime Bangladesh watcher.

Interestingly, Paul questions Hasina's much appreciated July 2 speech where she had raised the question: "yeh kemon Musalman".  
The question that has been posed by Bangladesh PM -- "What kind of Muslims are they who killed during the holy month of Ramdan ?" - is a “misplaced question”, says Manas Paul. “It is during Ramdan fight against non believers / infidels is considered most appropriate”. Importantly, he says adding there are also “religious sanctions” for these.
“Right from the 'Battle of Badr' ( March 13, 624) history stands testimony that some very specific and very important battles and killings launched and committed by the Muslims did take place during the month of Ramadan,” he maintains. In Indian context also he puts it that: Direct Action Day - The great Calcutta Killings (August 16, 1946 ) was launched during Ramadan. The Muslim league statement was straight and clear on that: "Muslims must remember that it was in Ramzam that the Quran was revealed. It was in Ramzam that permission for Jehad was granted. It was in Ramzam that the Battle of Badr , the first open conflict between Islam and Heathenism ( i.e Idolatry which equates Hinduism)was fought and won by 313 Muslims; and again it was again in Ramzan that 10,000 under the Holy Prophet conquered Meccaand established the kingdom of Heaven and the Commonwealth of Islam was established in Arabia. Muslim League is fortunate that it is starting its action in this holy month".

So sinners of July 1-2 Dhaka siege did not commit the sin? Would Indian Muslims now endorse killings of non-believers in this season when Iftar becomes a fashion statement politically and socially and for ages common Hindus and Muslims have been celebrating the month long solemn occasion with all its gaiety?                                                         

But troubled waters in the neighbourhood vis-à-vis northeast India is a matter of concern and would put Narendra Modi government under pressure. A Pathankot type attack in eastern India would only give additional arsenals to Modi's detractors. 

However, this is nothing new in strict sense of the term. Manipur is actually in a web of insurgency over the decades. There are number of groups owing allegiance to Islamic ideologies.
In May 1993, more than 90 persons, including women and children, were killed in a series of clashes between the Meiteis and Pangals (Manipuri Muslims), in Thoubal and Imphal districts. Over the years Pangals  (Muslims) in Manipur have organised themselves with “tacit support” from various Islamic groups from Assam and also bigger sponsors like ISI of Pakistan. Importantly, there came logistic support from Bangladesh. Several Islamic fundamentalism-inspired Manipuri groups thus became reality. They include People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), Islamic Minority Army, All Manipur Minority Islamic Samaj, North Eastern Muslim Front, Muslim Liberation Army, North Eastern Minority Revolutionary Army, Islamic Revolutionary Front (IRF) and United Islamic Liberation Army (UILA).

Similarly, Assam has had its share of Islamic insurgency. The ISI and elements in Bangladeshi intelligence Directorate General of Forces Intelligence have always cooperated with ULFA and other groups and ensured protection and logistics in Bangladesh. The operational links between Jamat radicals and northeast militancy has been also economical and thus drug route did run effectively.
In my book “The Talking Guns: North East India” published in 2008, I did write how: “Bangladeshi soil has been used by most northeastern outfits to keep nexus with ISI and to use the land to set up hideouts once crackdown is launched this side.”

 Friendliness towards New Delhi from Dhaka is only a post-Sheikh Hasina phenomenon since 2008-09. In 1996, when Bangladesh celebrated 25 years of its independence, while a smiling Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma read out a goodwill message going out of the way in Bangla, there was no official ‘Thank You’ from Dhaka.

It is true groups like People’s Liberation of Army (PLA) of Manipur revived its political wing called the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) in 1989 and also set up a government-in-exile in Sylhet district. Another Meitei outfit UNLF, unlike its present status and image, basically started as a non-violent movement. But in 1968 some radical cadres led by Oinam Sudhir Kumar baptised with ‘revolutionary approach’ floated ‘Revolutionary Government of Manipur (RGM)’ with its base also at Sylhet.
For Mizo insurgents too Bangladesh has been a favourite hideout. Former militant leader Zoramthanga, who later became Mizoram Chief Minister, once described that the MNF camp in Bangaldesh was one of the “best underground camps in the northeast”.

But it's not a lost game.

The significant improvement in bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh since the last decade is matter to be emulated and carried forward. Hasina deserves all the credit and support. I have spoken on this in a previous blog too.

India can offer strategic help and also depute a team of security specialists in India --- retired cops and intelligence officials to Bangladesh government and root out the radical elements. It would require political will and zeal of a committed soldier.
India has been doing good diplomacy so far. But Dhaka siege happened and international links cannot be dismissed.
Thus India needs to be pro-active – at least this is expected from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Even Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has said that Modi is ambitious diplomatically and wants to achieve some milestones to be left as legacy. An improved relation with Bangladesh with no hard steps against terror would carry little meaning. (ends)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sheikh Hasina – Brave daughter of a Brave Father and why India needs her

The agony and irony associated with the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 in more ways than one surpassed these elements of 1947 when Indian sub-continent broke up amid bloodshed and Pakistan came into being. Who would have imagined such ruination – physical and moral – that could lead to prove once again that religion and merely taking the name of Islam and Holy Quran alone cannot keep two entities as one?
West Pakistanis were different from Bengalis and thus Pakistan splintered and Bangladesh came into being in 1971.

In this region thus 1971 and the birth of Bangladesh had a more significant impact than any other comparable historical dates and in that too the fallout was wide range. India inherited a perennial problem and the “Bangladeshi immigration” became a political ploy in northeastern state of Assam – with all elements in the saga – namely violence, insurgency and bloodshed.
Sheikh Mujib.jpg
Mujibur Rahman
But in all these there has been an important facet – actually about a man, his political vision and of course his legacy. The present Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inherits some of that legendary legacy from her father the illustrious Banga-bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This is of course not the occasion to sing laurels of the founder of Bangladesh. But it is high time we talk about Sheikh Hasina, a much deserving “daughter of democracy”, as she was descrined few years ago.

On July 2, 2016 – Hasina actually created a history shortly after Bangladeshi security personnel could take control of things in Dhaka after a group of terrorists – eschewing the spirit of radical Islam – had held foreigners including women hostage in a popular restaurant and even killed some. Like all incumbent Prime Ministers in their countries, she reiterated her resolve to eradicate terrorism from her country. But what is important is she dared to call spade a spade!

India's trusted friend Hasina

She has in effect challenged the legitimacy of Islamic radicals those who carried out the dastardly act on July 1, 2016 night and slaughtered innocent people including an Indian girl. Hasina showed the determination of her father in telling the radicals point blank that their act has actually maligned the name of Islam. 
This was no simple statement as a woman leader in a pre-dominantly Muslim country where fundamentalist Jamaat radicals often have their say and the military also stage coup. 

“Yeh kaun musalman… "What kind of Muslims are these,” she said in her first reactions to the Friday night holocaust.

Her message should actually rekindle hopes in the entire South East Asia because by July 1 night – a pall of gloom had descended in the entire region including in northeastern states of India. Because - all these places are in their own way are hubs or melting pots of myriad of socio-religious cultures and pluralism and hence cannot simply accept the idea of Wahabism and Talibanism.

Any authoritarian attempt in these cities and villages with the tool of violence can only result in more bloodshed and almost civilwar kind of situations.
One is aware of the fact that from administrative point of view however the Hasina regime in Dhaka needs to act more and rather quickly to show results against the steady rise of fundamentalism in that country especially since 2013.

But she must get the credit where she deserves them.     
Photo credit: New York Times/AP
  “Global – The International Briefing” had rightly said once that as the eldest child of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina was actually “born into politics”.

Hasina’s life has been truly - one of drama, tragedy and political endeavour.
Mujibur Rahman was assassinated together with 18 members of Sheikh Hasina’s family on 15 August 1975, when Sheikh Hasina and her sister, Sheikh Rehana, were out of the country. The military dictator Major General Ziaur Rahman had then assumed power.
His actions and teachings have played the utmost part in Sheikh Hasina’s personal and political development.  And, I feel her speech on July 2 – post Dhaka siege and military success- reflects the spirit of Banga-bandhu. 

But importantly for India, Sheikh Hasina has been a “daughter of democracy” and also a trusted friend of a democratic India. She displayed her friendship irrespective of party affliations in India and has been dealing with maturity with leaders like Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi – two men of different mattle and caliber.

In New Delhi there is much appreciation of Hasina’s friendly gestures as she helped India get hold of erstwhile fugitive ULFA leaders and also dismantled their camps. This changed the game in India’s northeast and most ultra groups – which had base in Bangladesh – are either on run or agreed to come to the negotiating table.

India must therefore help Hasina to the extent she needs to strengthen her position both in terms of dealing with her country’s economy and development and also an ensured security and importantly fight against terrorism.
She ought to be protected as she would remain a friend of India.

The following tail piece is reflective of the timing we are in and the importance of being Sheikh Hasina’s friend.
Tail Piece – With a window to Future!
“The Agartala Conspiracy case against Mujib in 1968 marked the rise, in meteoric manner, of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the spokesman of the Bengalis in the erstwhile East Pakistan. When a western journalist asked him what he expected his fate to be, Mujib replied with characteristic unconcern: "You know, they can't keep me here for more than six months." In the event, he was to be a free man in seven months' time.
On the opening day of the trial, Mujib spotted before him, a few feet away, a journalist he knew well. He called out his name, only to find the journalist not responding, obviously out of fear of all those intelligence agents present in the room. Mujib persisted. Eventually compelled to respond, the journalist whispered, "Mujib Bhai, we can't talk here . . ."
And it was at that point that the future Bangabandhu drew everyone's attention to himself. He said, loud enough for everyone to hear, "Anyone who wishes to live in Bangladesh will have to talk to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman."
--(source – Bongobandhu Info Center)