Friday, June 23, 2017

Tripura NewsLetter: Challenging the Marxist power base

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is clearly pursuing an ambitious and aggressive quest for power in the hilly, northeastern Indian state of Tripura that is bordered on three sides by Bangladesh.
Despite growing acceptability for the pro-Hindu outfit in the state, which is home to substantial Christian and tribal populations, the party's expansion plans face multiple challenges ahead of the legislative assembly elections in 2018. Nearly 80 percent of the state's 3.7 million people are Bengali-speaking Hindus, mostly migrated from Bangladesh

Tribals, once a majority in what is Tripura, now comprise less than a third of the state's population. Most Christians are tribals.
The BJP, with its hardcore pro-Hindu philosophy, is in a perpetual state of conflict with the Communist Party of India (Marxists) and Christian groups in Tripura. How the BJP performs in Tripura is a litmus test of how it can perform in other Indian states where it is not in power. Tripura has been ruled by a communist government since 1998. The BJP party strategists know this well. Tripura is not like the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where pro-Hindu issues such as the banning of beef, cow vigilantism, were under the political spotlight. In Tripura, they need to tackle more pressing issues like unemployment, women empowerment, and industrialization.

Voters in Tripura are essentially pro-left. Many possess an intellectual affinity to Marxism and the communists have wielded power long and often in the state.
"The BJP leaders need to break the umbilical cord between the voters and pro-Marxist intellectualism," a BJP official said.

In Tripura, where Marxist leader Manik Sarkar has held onto power for the last two decades, the BJP strategists understand that even upper-caste Hindus do not necessarily relate to the "Brahminical appeal" put forward by their party.

More than 60 percent of the country's population now lives in states either ruled directly by the BJP or in an alliance with regional parties.

Hence there has to be a change of strategy. Bengali voters in Tripura will never entirely reject the "power of Marxism" as intellectual food for thought or as the foundations of their political reasoning. In the past, it would have been unthinkable for an opposition challenger to the incumbent Marxists or leftists to gain sufficient support in the region.

However, rural workers, such as Sapna Das, the BJP women leader in Tripura, said: "There is a gradual change and many young voters are readily rejecting the left's ideology." Drawing confidence from this, BJP leaders have designed a few electoral strategies that aim to capture the minds of voters in areas heavily populated with Bengalis, particularly in areas where the pro-Hindu slant would find easier acceptance.

Ashirwad Dey, an educationist in Tripura said: "The idea is to capture the Bengali mindset, especially among those whose forefathers had to leave Bangladesh during partition in 1947 and later in 1971 [during the Bangladesh war of liberation]."
Due to the extensive numbers that fled Bangladesh (formerly Eastern Pakistan), today's population of the Bengali Hindu community in Tripura is significant.
The BJP is aware of its challenges and inherent weaknesses. BJP leaders claim the party is trying to sell Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "developmental card", even among tribal and Christian sections. 

"The overdose of the Marxist regime in Tripura has weakened religious affinities. This applies to both Hindus and Christians. Today, this is, ironically, helping the BJP's cause," one BJP leader said. 
"Due to many factors, including the overwhelming leftist influence, the institution of the church has always been weak in Tripura," Pastor P. Konyak, a Christian leaders in the region, said.

"Today, BJP is trying to make inroads in these areas largely riding the perceived popularity of Modi and the influence of power at the center."

On the other hand, many voters think that for the first time in two decades, the Communist Party will face a real electoral contest. But that remains to be seen.


Monday, June 19, 2017

My short story: AGONY OF A FATHER ....appear in ebook and print edition of HEART ALONE - A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES

He wiped his nose as his tears subsided. The pain was still in his heart. John Samuel’s feet burned from the unaccustomed walking in the sun. Perhaps he was trying to run away.. run away from his house, his family and perhaps the large mirror in his room. It was framed well in Italian marble or so as his son Vijay had told him.

Samuel’s face was stern as he walked into the house, now almost looked like a bungalow in the well to do urban-village. He should have been a happy person, nothing seemed to have changed in last 12 hours or so. But much has changed. The news of his cricketer son Vijay’s arrest was flashed on television. It was a bolt from the blue. The thought of it almost chilled him. 

Story teller Dev

Vijay has been arrested on the charge of match-fixing. It was just matter of hours that life of a celebrity cricketer has been doomed. There was some chirping of the birds around. To Samuel, as if the voices of unfamiliar birds began to rise from the trees. He walked inside and sat underneath the shower and unknowingly wept for a while. Perhaps he won’t be able to recognize himself again. Father of a ‘match fixer’, a greedy cricketer’s parents – the thought appeared dreadful.

Why Vijay had to do all these? Why? The details of the gory episode were still not clear. Is that girl, Vijay’s fiancĂ©e to be blamed? That girl’s family did not have good reputation. Her father was a middle level politician – better known as ‘middleman’ or go between among netas!At last, he thought his son has fallen victim to this greed. 

A scheming father’s daughter, who wanted to make big as a politician, was in hurry also. Perhaps Vijay has been forced by that girl. Vijay perhaps saw money not as a goal in itself, but definitely as a by-product of his cricket; and hence the tragedy.

Cricket was known as a gentleman’s game. Samuels too are gentlemen. But alas!
Coming out of the bathroom as he toweled himself dry, all of a sudden Samuel thought of pulling the old family album. He saw his wife blinking at him in moist eyes. He told her to bring the old wooden box. She looked puzzled but walked away and returned in no time. She made an attempt to dust the box. Seeing their son’s name and photograph on television screen in action and in newspapers gave them immense pleasure once ….. a sense of proud; but today everything has been washed away.
The sun had completed its day’s journey. Samuel’s wife switched on the light. Samuel dressed himself in traditional Malayali attire, walked towards the study table and picked up his glasses. The wooden box lay on his bed.

He saw his wife going away slowly. Life has almost come to a standstill. By now, his usual coffee would have come, but probably not today. His wife must have forgotten about it wondering what her son was doing inside the jail. Samuel too did not have the appetite.
In the neighbourhood, one young boy played music loud:
Life is old there Older than the trees Younger than the mountains …… Samuel pulled the box and sat on his cot, opened it and pulled out the album. The brown album has all photographs of Vijay since childhood.

True to that song coming from the neighbour’s house: ’All my memories gathered 'round … Samuel thought the same about his son. Tears welled up momentarily yet again after long time. Suddenly his attention focused on a snap of high school going Vijay. They were in far off northeastern state of Mizoram then. Samuel was a civil servant and was posted for a while in Mizoram. Vijay had one day come to his office to find out what his papa was doing- a normal curiosity of any young boy or girl of his age. Samuel was lost in his ‘office work’. 

He was pleasantly surprised to see his son but had a tight schedule. He promptly telephoned Vijay’s mother and told her about Vijay’s visit so that she did not worry. Mizoram was still reeling under insurgency and on odd occasions children were being kidnapped by groups to demand either release of their fellow militant-cadres or ransom. Samuel was in a ‘good government department’ and thus that chance was not altogether ruled out. Having assured his wife, Samuel ordered for some ‘jalebis’ for his son from the office canteen and got engrossed into his work. He started clearing files.

And as jalebis came in, Vijay had dished out a genial smile…almost sage like – who knew what’s stored in for him.
The state of Kerala hardly knows the winter chill. So Samuel room’s window too was not shut. The soft moonlight seeped through widow and fell on the floor and bed. His attention from Mizoram days was distracted. He found the moonlight outside lovely though the pangs of pain in him did the usual churning. A few night birds were crowing. He stared outside and wondered what his son could be doing now.
His wife came in asking when will he have dinner. The coffee has been given a slip. During the day both Samuel and his wife could not relish lunch too. He simply blinked towards his wife rather helplessly. “This is all my fate,” said Samuel’s wife cursing herself for the folly and the punishment meted to her son. Samuel sat calm and after a pause simply remarked, “call me when its ready; I won’t have much”. There was a long pause in the room. His wife did not ask him even what he was doing with the old album. Of course, she knew the obvious.
Suddenly she was walking out of the room briskly, stopped for a while and then told him rather in terse manner, “you remember the story from Mahabharata .. the poetic journey of the Pandava brothers towards heaven and a dog accompanying them. Everything is in this life” – and she walked away faster. Samuel stood in silence for a while and again sank himself onto the bed staring helplessly towards the wooden box and the old album. A sense of guilt was lurking in his mind. He remembered that on that fateful day when his son Vijay had come into his office room in Mizoram, something had happened. It was not unusual either in the life of a civil servant or in a government office. Files are cleared in probably all offices with some grease of bribe.
Similarly that day, a contractor had walked in and handed over Samuel a bulk size of currency notes. Samuel recalled Vijay had stared in utter astonishment towards his father and the contractor uncle as the businessman spoke crudely, “so Mr Samuel sir, here is what I promised… my files should not be delayed any longer”.

Vijay was not young enough not to know that it was a bribe and at the same time he was not grown up enough to tell his father, “papa please return the money”. Samuel recalled seeing a lot that day in the young eyes of Vijay. Truth is truly like a flowing stream. Samuel had thought about this incident time and again. He had even told his wife about it. But none had any clue how to resolve this puzzle or whether there was any puzzle in the entire episode or drama that unfolded in the office chamber that day, years back.

Samuel perhaps knew now, what he should have done years back. And as tears rolled by his aging cheeks, he lost the count of time as the unseen Time and the wall clock moved on.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Disputes persist as India, Pak enter SCO: PM Modi builds 'terrorism' pressure on Islamabad,

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Astana, the differences between India and Pakistan came to light when contrary to Narendra Modi's assertiveness on terrorism, his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif rather gave a push to the economic benefits and said, the global leaders, should not leave a legacy of "toxic harvest of conflict and animosity".
Mr Sharif went onto say that Pakistan is "diligently implementing" the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is already a bone of contention with India.

India made entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on June 9, 2017 with the Prime Minister Modi taking a dig at Pakistan on terror front and said the rejuvenated Eurasian forum should make coordinated efforts to fight terrorism including radicalisation, recruitment and financing of terrorists.
"Mujhe pura viswas hae ki Bharat-SCO sahyog, atankvad ke khilaf ladai ki ek nayi disha tatha shakti pradan karega (I have full confidence that India-SCO cooperation will give the fight against terrorism a new direction and new prowess)," Mr Modi said in presence of heads of nation of SCO including Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

PM Modi also sought to build up pressure on Pakistan vis-a-vis terror front and said
the fight against terrorism cannot achieve success unless there are concerted efforts on the issue of radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists.

"The fight against terrorism is an important part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Whether it is the issue of radicalisation, recruitment of terrorists, their training and financing, unless we take coordinated and strong efforts, it is not possible to find a solution," Mr Modi said.

"Terrorism is violation of human rights and basic human values," he further said.

On the sidelines of Summit of Shangahi Cooperation Organisation, where India and Pakistan got berth as members, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pursued his diplomatic skills in establishing dialogue at the highest level with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and both sides agreed that they have "great interest" in working together. Modi was quite emphatic in telling the Chinese leader that even as India too favoured push to the connectivity projects vis-a-vis Eurasian region, the Chinese initiatives like OBOR and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
had certain issues to be addressed.
"For connectivity initiatives and for success and approval of the projects, sovereignty and regional integrity must be respected while inclusivity and sustainability are essential," Prime Minister said.
Modi with Chinese Prez

India had abstained from the conference on the One Belt and One Road, a Chinese initiative as the proposed CPEC link would pass through Gilgit and Baltistan, both falling in Jammu and Kashmir and is forcefully occupied by Pakistan.

The crucial engagement between two Asian players also came on the backdrop of Beijing stalling India's admission into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group and also eloquently expressing its reservation on designating Pakistan-based and Jaish-e-Mohammad leader as a global terrorist by the United Nations. In his brief speech at the SCO Summit, Prime Minister Modi without making any specific reference said, "Fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalization was one of the main tasks before the organization".  Both India and Pakistan - which were enjoying 'observer' status to the SCO since 2005 - were today granted admission into the body that was founded largely at the initiative of China in 2001.
The founding members of the SCO are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
On Modi's bilateral engagement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar said, "It's also understood that where India-China have differences they shouldn't become disputes and if handled well these can become opportunities".
During the meet, Prime Minister told the Chinese President that India is grateful for China's support to ensure India's admission into the SCO.

"In the time of global uncertainty, India and China are the factors of stability. As the world becomes more multi-polar, India and China should work together," Dr Jaisankar said. India has maintained that in the SCO there are several member nations who are in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan and the SCO berth would help India establish important dialogues with such nations and establish peace in Afghanistan and in the rest of the region.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My short story 'Chaitali's Father' appear in book HEART ALONE ,,,,, (print edition)

(the print edition of Heart Alone can be ordered online

At the end of five years and more they were married; my mother was surprised into it. Not the one to believe in feminism of the kind that had come to stay, she always thought a woman is a puppet whose strings are held in one man’s hands or the other. For the present and probably her future she was blaming my father. She blamed her fate, but if she had the little courage to protest; well her life as well as mine would have been different. For my father on the other hand, Contempt for women was a symbol of true manhood – Purushwata. It had come to stay as a minimum virtue in my father’s family to underestimate woman or to find fault with them. Well, feminine traits were like a disease they would be more careful than any other malady in the society. 

Actually, my father had inherited that. 

Four of them, my father, my grand father and two of my uncles were more than convinced that only in ‘vinash kaley’--- when your end is imminent- men would listen to women, especially the wives. The better half was a misnomer; as a consolation they could call it – bitter half.

On this backdrop came in my life – first the birth and then my upbringing.
I was born in Chait month and thus named Chaitali.
Right from childhood, I could understand that my father had acquired the reputation of being a difficult man to stay with. My mom would consider him an ambitious intriguer, who never gave my mother his confidence.
Sitting in my 2-tier Rajdhani Mail berth on way to New Delhi, I was thinking about all these. My life of 25 years and my parents.
Just then the engine hooted as if to signal that it is catching up the speed and so should I; may be.
Story teller

The train was fast in motion and as I craned my neck trying to peep through unclean glasses of the compartment, I saw we were passing across the platform of a tiny railway station in onetime governance-starved Bihar.

But the platform was crowded. The people pouring into these stations to move on to concrete jungles of Mumbai or Delhi always intrigued me. So many of them. Every time where do they go in these cities to get lost in the sea of humanity, where elementary humanly values hardly existed.

Lost in myself and as the train moved on; memories of early childhood spun before my eyes. My father changing my clothes, giving me bath once in a while during weekend. Sometime patting my head and calling me his ‘special daughter’. As I grew up, my mother would recall some of these tales even angrily often screaming, “it is your father who spoiled you”.

Then, how my father rejoiced my piggy bag collection of coins. How I used to count 50 paisa and one rupee coins -- after the other – one- one – one and one. Time had flown by. But slowly those days of family laughter – small family of me, my mother and my father also had passed by.

Neither my childhood remained nor those innocuous days.
The train hooted once again. I was wondering how the relation between my father and my mother was getting complicated because it was becoming more and more difficult to keep secret.

They probably started quarreling over everything. My mom refused to get snapped with my dad. My father discussed literature and good old values – often impractical and backdated ones – something probably only to tease my mother. My mom – pretending to be a worldly-wise lady egged by her sister – once questioned my father about the very wisdom and utility in writing short stories. “What do you get out of these sheets of paper and what’s our gain?”
My father perhaps guessed that my mom would not have dared to ask such a ‘pragmatic’ question unless egged by her sister, otherwise a too clever worldly-wise person at least I knew.
“For me living and breathing and eating is to write. Once a collection of short stories is out, I know the dream is a reality. What next came became a subsequent point of focus. Whether or not my work will move the readers or fetch me few thousands rupees did not really matter much,” my father replied.
As expected, my mom was angry at such reply. She also thought – my father had tried to insult her sister and her parents.
She gave an angry look – her face turning angrier at the sight of graying hairs along my father’s temples.
My mom always thought her marriage was a true case of miscarried justice. She deserved a much better paying husband and also someone with more sober outlook as her sister’s husband. More dutiful towards his in-laws. Someone devoid of that 3-letter tag: MCP (male chauvinist….
But in the midst of getting angry and disturbed, she also hoped one day she can rearrange my father’s outlook on life, and probably also change him as an individual. But that was not used to be. Far from getting himself as a good son-in-law; my father would scream at the peak of his voice: “For me father-in-law is not father, he can’t be……a man has only one father in this life”.
What more prescription one required to push the marriage to a brink?
Resting my head on a thin pillow as provided by Indian Railways in Rajdhani Mail, I was trying to sleep.
The engine of the locomotive was too often breaking the sweet monotony of silence. As the train halted outside a platform waiting for the green signal: I could hear a few night birds chirping. Staring outside the glass, I could feel the movement of a calm moon moving silently up in the sky – oblivion of my pains and the story of my parents.
The silent nights know a lot, I had read somewhere in a folktale of tribesmen from the northeast; yet the nights are always silent, they say.
I then opened my Facebook account on the laptop.

Dried and fallen leaves --- can be little autobiographical, one of the postings read. It also reproduced a few touching Hindi lines: 

- Woh haas kar pucchthi he humse, Tum kucch badal badal se gaye ho…aur Hum muskara key jawab deten haen ..tutey hue patte ka aksar rang badal jata hae
(She/He asks me whether I have changed a bit: but I reply with a smile on my face, a fallen leaf always loses its original colour)

I felt disturbed further. Out of anguish I tried to take a glance at my mother’s berth and found her virtually snoring. I was happy, at least she was sleeping. Any sleeping disorder could harm her health.
But I knew, my mother also had her role in ensuring her long separation from my father.
Tears welled up in my eyes threatening to spill, but to my utter astonishment, I could keep my head cool and ultimately withdraw my anger against mother. I felt sorry for her too. She too had her share of the tragedy, may be.
My mother’s married life was not on sound footing.
My father’s flirting with writing stories was unable to make impact both commercially and for namesake. Critics dismissed his writings rather easily and regularly. He was unable to sustain the interest of readers beyond few pages, they said. One publisher in fact also wrote a brief letter that landed on my mother’s hands. It was too simplistic and ruthless. The publisher said my father was unable to sustain the interest of the readers especially in the second half of the novels.Thus in the meantime, in the midst of his soul searching my father’s life made leapfrog from light comedy to sentimental melodrama to grim tragedy. And in no case he had any strength nor my mother could get any satisfaction of a married life. The drift between them was telling. Even my presence could not sustain them as one unit.
The term ‘we’ had vanished long back and both of them started living with ‘I’ and ‘you’. Sadly, I, their only offspring did not figure much. Thus when the time came the separation was easy.
The train halted again adjoining a paddy field. I could see a cut down tree under the focus of full moon night. How did it matter to me whether the tree used to have delicious fruits or it was a towering large banyan tree hanging from the branches? In the ultimate it was a cut down tree in an abandoned corner.

By now my mom too was awoke. She was sitting leaning on her left arm. Disturbed sleep was not good for her. Moreover, for last one week my father had begun to come to her in dream. Actually we were rushing to Delhi to meet my ailing father. This was my first trip to Delhi in last 15 years. During this period I have traveled from Bangkok to Mumbai; but my mother ensured that ‘unsafe’ Delhi was not in itinerary.

The dream would burn my mother’s heart. She would complain too. But the disobedient husband in my father often came – rather frequently these days.
I knew this was one such occasion. The bad dreams had again disturbed her. I could make out from her face in the dim light in the compartment my mother felt a kind of inflamed passion – something that had always been there. The passion and pains were as if coved by a huge pile of blankets. “Will you need the tablet?,” I asked mom. She nodded – that only meant the trouble was serious. She was thinking hard about the ‘man’ in her life and how both of them had handled things. The youth hood in life and initial years in marriage do not last long. My mother had lived the past – mishandled it as well. But now she thought about the future with trepidation.
The locomotive had started moving again. Gradually, both of us slept.

Next day, we reached Delhi on time. The East Delhi locality where in my father stayed was not very far off. We were still late.

As we entered the flat and my mom saw the photograph hanging, I saw her moving around with a vacant look in her eyes. She almost looked lost and forlorn. She recalled that about 15 years back, my father had once asked her over phone whether she felt ‘lonely’. 

Not surprisingly I was with my mother, so she had shot back, “I am not alone”.

But I knew today was different. The loneliness had enveloped my mother. Suddenly I also could realize her pain. I also realized that no one was now left who would address me ‘special daughter’ or provoke my mother into a quarrel. No one will cheer me over phone and email in particular – to scale higher peaks.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Uzma calls Pak "Maut ka Kua"; Sushma thanks Islamabad to help her return

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” says Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a troubled dropout struggling with questions of responsibility. 

That's life, that's politics and that's diplomacy.

Indian woman Uzma, who was forced by a Pakistani man to marry him and was granted immigration right by Pakistani court, on her return to India today said she is keen to meet"Mr Narendra Modi". Talking to reporters in New Delhi at an event organsied by the Ministry of External Affairs, she repeatedly thanked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Deputy High Commissioner in Indian High Commission J P Singh for their help and support, she said, "I will request Sushma madam that I am also interested to meet Mr Narendra Modi". 
Uzma's three-year old daughter, her brother and other relatives also posed for snaps before the media.

Ms Uzma described Pakistan as a "Maut ka Kua (well of death)" even as External Affairs Minister Swaraj lauded the role of the Pakistan foreign and home ministries for their "cooperation" in helping her return home.
"It is definitely much easier traveling to Pakistan, but much difficult to come back. Pakistan is like a well of death," Uzma told reporters.

Indo-Pak relations are passing through a tense phase and Uzma's "return home" is seen in many quarters as a significant development especially in the context of firing along the borders and also over former naval official Kulbushan Jadhav episode.  

Ms Uzma said, Ms Swaraj almost kept a daily if not hourly tap on her conditions after she was allowed entry into the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. "Even five minutes prior to my hearing, Sushma madam called me and said entire country is with me...This gave a confidence....I grew up as an orphan and never thought my life was so important," she said.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Swaraj extended thanks to the ministries of foreign affairs and home in Pakistan and said, "Whatever be the relations between two countries as of now, but there cannot be denying the fact that both these ministries cooperated in ensuring Uzma's return to India." She also thanked advocate Shahnawaz Memon, who represented Uzma's case, and Justice M A Kayani for his order allowing Uzma's return. Ms Swaraj said the advocate Mr Shahnawaz took up Uzma's case and was affectionate "like a father".

She also made special mention of Justice Kayani, who had turned down Uzma's husband Tahir's plea that the case would be a 'prestige issue' for Pakistan. "Justice Kayani said where does Pakistan-India relation come into it....And he presided over the case on humanitarian grounds," External Affairs Minister said.

Earlier in the day, Sushma Swaraj in a tweet welcomed Uzma saying, "Welcome home India's daughter. I am sorry for all that you have gone through". Ms Uzma, who earlier this month had sought refuge at the Indian High Commission in Pakistan capital, had moved high court for her immigration rights, was granted the permission by the court. She came back via Wagah border, escorted by the officials of the Indian High Commission including Deputy High Commissioner in India -- J P Singh.

External Affairs Minister also complimented Singh, who was present on the occasion, for his timely decision in allowing entry to Indian High Commission in Islamabad to Uzma.
"It is officer like J P Singh who has actually implemented our campaign that when in foreign countries to every Indian, the foremost dependable friend is the Indian High Commission the world over," Ms Swaraj said.
Making a brief speech at the press conference, where no questions were entertained, Ms Uzma thanked Indian officials in Pakistan including Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh and Sushma Swaraj for all their support during her days of agony.
She also said while even "men were not safe in Pakistan....not to talk about women", India remains a much safer and nice place.
"Jaisa bhi hae, jo bhi hae....hamara Hindustan bahut achha hae (Whatever it is, our India is a much better to place in)", she said adding this was all the more imperative for women who enjoy much freedom.
"I feel proud of the fact that I am an Indian," she said trying to conceal her tears at times.

Uzma, who is in her early 20s, had travelled to Pakistan. Tahir Ali, a man whom she reportedly met in Malaysia and fell in love had forced her to marry him on May 3.

On May 12, she had appealed to a court in Pakistan, alleging that Tahir Ali had forcibly married her at gunpoint. She also told the court that Tahir Ali had harassed and intimidated her and taken away her travel documents to force her to stay.
Uzma told the court that she was physically and mentally tortured and Tahir Ali forced her to sign the Nikahnama. The Islamabad High Court gave its ruling in Uzma's favour and allowed her to return to India.
The court also returned her the immigration papers which she had said was taken away by Ali, who had submitted the documents after being told by the court to do so.

In his remarks, Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh said the Uzma episode would provide an ideal
"case study" and the same was also like a learning experience for officials in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
"When she came at the High Commission window looking fearful, either to allow Uzma entry into the High Commission premises was most difficult decision to make," he said, however adding, "It was also one of the easy decisions as she said I am an Indian".
At the later stage, he said the assuring words from the External Affairs Ms Swaraj said that, "whatever necessary should be done...if necessary Uzma should be kept in the High Commission even for two years and that she should not be handed over to Tahir (Uzma's Pakistani husband) yet again".
Ms Uzma said she was probably given a "sleeping pill" by Tahir and then taken to Buner region in Pakistan, which was once Taliban dominated.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Nepal is "power-cut free" after decades, says senior diplomat

Smart management of power distribution and the "generosity" of India in providing additional supply contributed in ensuring "power cut free Nepal" in the year 2017 after about two decades, a senior Nepal diplomat has said here.
"Last two decades we suffered enough due to prolonged power crisis and load shedding. Hardship is a great educator but superb management of power distribution and use by the new team at the Nepal Electricity Authority, additional power generation and generosity by India in terms of supply of additional 120 Mega Watt of electricity helped see no power cut this year. It is a miracle and a great achievement," Hari Prasad Odari, Political Counsellor in Nepal Embassy here, told UNI here.

He said during last 10-15 years, Nepal experienced huge power shortage and prolonged load shedding both in rural and urban pockets.
"The power cut used to be for about 12-14 hours and at times even more. But in the year 2017, there was a miracle with no power cut," he said, adding this has been possible due to three major factors -- one of them being efficacy of the new management of the Nepal Electricity Authority and of course this was well supported by enhanced indigenous production and additional power supply from India.

The role of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is unique in this endeavour, he said adding, "the new management at the NEA carried out effective power distribution and also did a successful campaign urging consumers to desist from misuse of power and avoiding running of high-power consuming units like washing machines and ACs during peak hours".
In this context, Mr Odari said the people of Nepal also responded positively and "hence there was a miracle" and officially there is no power cut this year.
However, he went on to add, "some power disturbances were there for short duration generally due to technical snag".Nepal's total requirement of power is about 1200 Mega Watt and there is domestic production of about 700 Mega Watt.
During the year, he said, the NEA also ensured enhanced power production of micro-hydel power projects.
To a question on Indian help to help the Himalayan country to come out of power crisis, Mr Odari said, "It was a generosity of a good friend - India; of course we purchased power and there was enhanced supply of about 120 Mega Watt ".
Things improved in last year and New Delhi's support came in more ways than one, he said, adding things have also changed towards a positive and more constructive phase after Prime Ministers of India and Nepal (in February 2016) inaugurated the first high capacity 400kV cross-border from Muzaffarpur project to Dhalkebar. 
This has generated additional flow of 80 Mega Watt of power - enhancing the total power supply from India to Nepal to about 320 Mega Watt.

The Political Counsellor further said Nepal is working tirelessly to enhance power production and by next two years, it can achieve the target of a "power-surplus country".
Moreover, he said commissioning of 400 KV substation at Dhalkebar would enable operation of Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar line at its rated voltage, leading to increase in power transfer to Nepal by 300-400 MW.
According to reports, the Government of India is also working with Nepal to supply power through two more radial 132 KV lines — Raxaul-Parwanipur and Kataiya-Kushaha.
Among future projects, Mr Odari said two private sector constructed power projects with each 900 Mega Watt power generation would be coming up soon.
For one to be constructed and developed by government-run mini-Ratna SJVN Limited, he said the government of India has already sanctioned Rs 5,723.72 crore for the project at Sankhuwasabha district of Nepal.Similarly, the GMR Group is pleased to announce the finalization and execution of the Project Development Agreement for the 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydro Power.
Such power projects would reinforce the strong ties between India and Nepal as development of these will be a beneficial for both countries leveraging on each other’s strengths and resources.
Meanwhile, another ambitious Indo-Nepal power project at Pancheshwar in Champawat district, initially proposed in 198Os is also gaining pace.
This project is expected to generate about 6000 Mega Watt of electricity, Mr Odari said.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Islamic State is a tough challenge for India: Terror group has huge links in India

Despite the politics of secularism being cherished and practiced in India, often superficially, various factors block authorities from checking the spread of Islamic radicalism.
Two such roadblocks stand out. First, the absence of political will among most provincial governments. Secondly, a mood of denial prevails among political parties and even among security agencies, helping the so-called Islamic State (IS) extended its influence in India.

So far, IS has not claimed responsibility for any violent incident in India. However, its activities took a different path in the country, leaving the state government and even security agencies to take the wrong path in dealing with the terror threat.
In 2016, media began to report "suspected IS activities" in Kerala, in southern India. The other base for its activities were parts of Uttar Pradesh, not very far from the national capital New Delhi. Notably, IS activities were reported not from the insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir state. The reports did not surprise top echelons in the country's security agencies but some analysts were stunned that IS chose Kerala, "the most diverse, cultured and best-educated state."

Unlike other hardcore militant organizations engaged in outright terror activities, IS attracts followers by offering them an ideology to change an unjust world. Special literature and brain-washing instills in them the need to avenge injustice done to the poor by establishing just Islamic rule. Their first goal in India was to attract workers, not engineer violence. According to security experts, the only way to keep a check on IS activities in India is to have enhanced and round-the-clock surveillance of suspects. It should be physical, technical and online.

In 2016, media reports said scores of young people were missing in Kerala. Some 20, all of them Muslims or converted to Islam, were recruited by IS and at least 11 of them arrived in IS camps in Syria, media said quoting intelligence reports.
However, by the end of 2016, India, with the third largest Muslim population in the world, had contributed a paltry 90-100 members to IS, officials said.
Although small, the recruitment increased the concern that IS has spread beyond the Arabic region. India is worried that the terror group is trying to expand bases in South Asia and that includes hubs in Bangladesh, some northeastern Indian states and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.

IS work on various levels. Many young people leave India on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia only to be caught in the net of IS. They also target Indian Muslims who work in the Persian Gulf. India cannot prevent young people being lured or misguided by the radical elements.
The threat is real considering that "there has always been a section of Islamic extremists in Bangladesh. They have also tried to cultivate pockets in states like Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and northeastern states with porous borders," says a former Mumbai police commissioner. States like Assam and West Bengal, where sizable numbers of Muslims live, might turn out to be "vulnerable hubs." In fact, prior to the Dhaka siege on June 1, 2016, India had cautioned Bangladesh of the reprehensible designs of IS. 

Sakshi Maharaj, a parliamentarian from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu-nationalist party, says "the elements" that plague Bangladeshi society as manifested in attacks on secular writers, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians "are in action in some parts of India too."Security experts tend to agree and say the "influx of Saudi money" is responsible for IS influence in Kerala or in vulnerable pockets in Uttar Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal.

With men and money available, IS has been planning action in India. A major terror act was averted when 10 suspected IS operatives were arrested on April 20 in different cities in a multi-state police operation, media reports said. In February, Gujarat anti-terror officials reportedly arrested two suspected IS terrorists who were targeting Hindu religious places in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  So far India has arrested 75 people suspected of having links with IS, India Junior Home Minster Hansraj Ahir told the Indian parliament last month. The arrests, in 11 states, shows that IS has a presence all over India.
The government is now convinced of the problem. "From time to time, the government is closely monitoring cyberspace which is often used to radicalize and recruit individuals," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told me recently.
The terror operations are a pan-Asian operation and cover other nations in the sub-continent. There are people in India who believe the inspiration for the Dhaka attack came from elements in IS or even Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) which is reportedly focused on India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal.Security forces say Mohammad Asif, arrested by Delhi police in April 2016, is the suspected "Indian in-charge" of AQIS. A resident of Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh, Asif had links in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Right wing politics and cow vigilantism impact India's image overseas

The right wing politics is here to stay worldwide as it is a new global phenomenon and India is no exception to it, say serving diplomats while also pointing out that the episodes like cow vigilante have certainly affected India's image.

At the four-day conference of heads of Indian Missions in foreign countries, issues such as this figured prominently and it has been underlined that the diplomats and Indian Missions have a role to play in highlighting abroad India's image as a pluralistic society and also one which has all virtues to garner foreign direct investment.
"These things figure at the deliberations from time to time. Nobody is saying that the Government of the day is supporting right wing activism but such rows like cow-vigilantism certainly affect India's image," a well informed source said.

Sources further told UNI that in the dynamics of the new world order as India's position goes up globally, there are instances when some countries "tell us on our face -- what is this happening in India?" In fact, some African countries especially hold Indian experience of pluralism in high esteem. We are a model. But when they see such a thing (cow vigilante) happening in India, they do often ask, what's this happening in India?," said one of the bureaucrats in the know of things.
At the four-day meet that concluded on May 7, 2017, the foreign mission heads and players of foreign policy engine room in India spoke at length about steps being taken to make Indian economy "attractive" for investors and for prospective partners. There were also special sessions during the deliberations on giving push to various flagship developmental schemes of the Government and on measures to augment them with collaboration of various stakeholders -- both private and governmental. A few diplomats also spoke about the supposed 'Modi doctrine' in foreign policy and essentially it was stressed that pragmatism and continuity should sustain.

"Some measures in foreign policy have to come by the factor of time and forces of circumstances," said one diplomat later and pointed out that the economic liberalisation of 1991 had to come under an underestimated Prime Minister like PV Narasimha Rao.
"It had to come either way.

The foreign exchange crisis was serious and the Rao Government had to act," the source said, adding that similarly a number of measures and neo-assertiveness displayed now under Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also linked to the changing dynamics of the new world order.
"India is today not only a developing country but also among the fastest growing emerging economies. Hence the world is taking India more seriously now, I should say," another official said.
It is in this context, he said the 'neo-assertiveness' by New Delhi is not only making sense, it is also refreshing.

Issues like firmness shown by India on the face of stiff opposition from China during the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh too figured. There were also special sessions on various theme including “Smarter Diplomacy, Swifter Delivery”, themes based on India's neighbourhood, trans-national issues like maritime security and cyber security and terrorism.

It was underlined that addressing global and trans-national issues like maritime security, proliferation risks surrounding weapons of mass destruction, cyber security and terrorism and drug trafficking should get priority.
Both Mr Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee also underlined that efforts should be to work with "like-minded nations" and global institutions to swiftly generate effective solutions and implement them efficiently.
At the deliberations, the issue of migration came up with several speakers mentioning that the populations across the continents are fast becoming "inward looking and apprehensive".
Economic migration from the African continent, mass influx from war-torn countries have already brought a once-flourishing European continent to the brink, it was pointed out. About the big picture concerning Asia, a senior diplomat said, by far the largest continent has many things new and unique.
"The vastness is an issue by itself, so are socio-political, cultural and anthropological differences. You just cannot compare China with Nepal," the official remarked.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

India, China relations like US-North Korea ties, none can dare to fight each other: Dalai Lama

In what is seen as an endorsement of tough and assertive stance taken by the Narendra Modi government during Dalai Lama's recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the 82-Tibetan spiritual leader today compared India-China relations with that between the United States and North Korea and said notwithstanding gestures, either side cannot afford to "fight" each other. 

Delivering a talk after receiving the M L Sondhi International Prize for International Politics for 2016, the Dalai Lama said the Sino-Indian relation is now similar to the one between the United States and North Korea. "One day, either side will be very serious (against each other).....but in reality no body dare to fight," he said. The Chinese side also realises, he said, "India is not a small country" and "it has military power now". 
Therefore, the Tibetan leader said both sides should be ready to make "compromises"  -- an obvious reference to dialogue to end the long pending vexed relations between two Asian giants.
Moreover, the Dalai Lama said, China also realises that if they have conflict with India, "they also have to think about situation inside China".On his recent visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh amidst strong reservation from China, the Dalai Lama said while his visit had clearance from the Indian authorities, "fortunately when I was in Tawang, there was no intrusion...if some Chinese soldiers might have come, then I would have to rush back, but fortunately that has not happened".
During interaction at the session, attended among others by former Union Minister Arun Shourie and former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh; the Dalai Lama said "more and more Chinese people are appreciative of Tibetan issue" than they were in the past.

"The Chinese have to think about the situation inside Tibet when it comes to conflict with India,” he said, responding to a question. He, however, sidestepped a direct response to a query on China renaming six places of Arunachal, saying places in Tibet have also been renamed, mostly because “they (the Chinese) could not pronounce them properly.”
To a question, he said there is a perceptible "change" and "difference" in the approach of Chinese people towards him (Dalai Lama) and Tibetan issue than the Chinese government. He said there was totalitarian regime in Beijing and the censorship they do with the news and information about the truth of Tibetan movement towards their own people is "morally wrong". But he said it is high time both the Chinese establishment and others realise that "things will change". In this context, he cited the illustration of the Soviet Union and pointed out that totalitarian regime had to collapse there.
Blogger and Lalit Mansingh
"When I meet many retired Chinese officials and other citizens, they show genuine concern....In fact every week I meet some Chinese from mainland China," he said adding, however, the governmental system there is "totalitarian". "I tell Chinese people; 1.4 billion Chinese people have every right to know the reality (of Tibetan history and movement)," he said. "The censorship is morally wrong," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, former diplomat Lalit Mansingh also lauded Central government's stance vis-a-vis the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh and said the "stout defence" of the stand is highly appreciable.
Such gestures, he said, were "rare" display of assertiveness by Indian government with regards to China. 
The 82-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader had visited Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month when Beijing registered its protest saying, "It (Dalai Lama's visit) goes against the momentum of the sound growth of bilateral relations and will not benefit India in anyway."  Braving strong reservation from China, the Indian government stood by its ground with the government making it clear that as a secular country India could not stop a spiritual leader's visit to any part including Arunachal Pradesh.
Among others, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said when India has never interfered in Beijing’s affairs and has respected the “One China” policy, China should not interfere in India’s internal affairs or object to the Dalai Lama’s visit. 
“There is no political angle behind his holiness’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. It is completely religious,” he said. Separately, the External Affairs Ministry said no “artificial controversy” should be created about the visit.
The Dalai Lama recalled "immense help" from Indian government during the time of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and said after decades now the "small refugee community" of Tibetans have able to come forward and is able to make "some contributions".
"Now the situation is such, we can make some significant contributions not only in India but also eventually in China," he said.
He termed India-Tibetan relationship has 'Guru-Chela (teacher-disciple) bond' and said "so, logically when chela faces some problems, Guru has some more responsibility and you have done that...thank you".
Speaking on the occasion, former Union Minister and noted writer Arun Shourie said the Tibetan spiritual leader deserved a special award for his ability to make his audience laugh at such demanding situations. 

Mr Shourie further said the Dalai Lama's stance that "blind faith is no right thing" and said not many religion and religious leaders have said this. 
Professor M L Sondhi International Prize is conferred by a trust set up in the memory of Sondhi, who was an eminent diplomat to have served also in the United Nations. He was also a member of the 4th Lok Sabha.

To continue with Institution of Dalai Lama is not important, says Dalai Lama

New Delhi, Apr 27 (UNI) The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama today said the issue of legacy is not important as far as the movement for the Tibetan political autonomy is concerned and it is not important whether the institution of Dalai Lama should continue or not.
"Right from 1969 one of my official statements has been that it is not important whether the institute of Dalai Lama should continue...I sincerely believe Buddha's teaching is more important than the Buddha," the Dalai Lama said after receiving the M L Sondhi International Prize for International Politics for 2016.
He also said that "the world is changing fast" and a large number of Chinese citizens are now appreciative of the Tibetan issue.

However, in an interesting remarks, as some one who has fought communism over the years, the 82-year-spiritual leader was appreciative of Marxism as an economic theory.
"Karl Marx theory was wonderful but Lenin spoiled it," he said throwing the entire audience into peels of laughter.
The Dalai Lama said he had once even confronted Michael Gorbachev on this and the erstwhile leader of the Soviet Union had no answer.

The Dalai Lama recalled "immense help" from Indian government during the time of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and said after decades now the "small refugee community" of Tibetans have able to come forward and is able to make "some contributions".

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Globalisation, Diversity has eroded mutual faith leading to 'hate crimes': American scholar

Laws are obviously not the only answer to hate crimes and even as some quarters push about stricter laws to deal with it, it is a "hard proposition" to believe that awarding higher penalties can really help, an American expert and a noted writer on right-wing populism has said here.
Mark Potok, also associated with US-based civil rights organisation Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), said that "the real answer has to come from building inter-communal relationship".

"There is a sociologist study which has found that with increasing diversity, communities have become less trust worthy," Mr Potok told a select group of Indian journalists through a video conferencing interaction here last evening.
This is not to suggest that the sociologists' study opposes multi-cultural identity and the spirit of diversity, but he said, "while society becoming more diverse, it is good for the society in certain ways; in certain ways it creates loss of trust".

Giving at length various facets of historical perspective of racial crimes and both old and new legislation in at least 45 provinces in the United States besides federal law on hate crimes, he said, "One aspect is that the hate crimes typically have more target than the individual who is attacked".
He further said another issue of worry is that the hate crimes "tend to split" the communities into various categories. In other words, the hate crime gives an impression that here is a country that struggles to get different kinds of communities together.

He said at present 45 out of 50 provincial states besides the federal government have the anti hate crime laws in the United States. To a question, he sought to counter the perception that "snobbish" attitudes of Americans have also led to increase in number of hate crimes in that country and rather said "there is lot of anger" among the native people as they feel their rights and privileges are being taken over by migrants and foreigners.

The Asian share of legal immigrants into America has increased from nearly 7 percent in the 1950s to 35 percent by the 1980s and about 40 percent in 2013-14. "There is a major demographic change and therefore the role of globalisation is also crucial with regard the emergence of right wing," he said.It is in this context, Mr Potok, Editor of 'Hate Watch', said, there is much about politics of 2016 in the United States that triggered hate crimes. "There is no doubt that they were related to the elections. One, largest number of hate crimes occurred a day immediately after the elections and the numbers west down virtually every day for about a month," Mr Potok said.

“Besides, in 37 per cent of the cases the perpetrators, in one way or the other reference Donald Trump while attacking or abusing the victim, like ‘Get Out of here, Trump is our President now’ or his ‘Making America Great Again’,” he said. On this backdrop -- triggering the hate campaigns and hate crimes, he said, "a very, very similar thing happened in the United Kingdom immediately after the Brexit and Britons voted out of the European Union". 

Such crimes are directed against all kinds of people - including the immigrants.