Terrorism Watch

The victimization of the Muslim community that the terrorists allude to is only a pretext for their own self-fulfilling logic. Even the people from the community will not accept these fanatics. Dipu Shaw analyses recent incidents…

Two reports on the day after the Delhi serial blasts in a national daily.
One had the story of Mohammad Ashraf from Kashmir who had come to the capital looking for peace three days before the blasts. Ashraf lost one uncle (Narim) in the blast at Gaffar Market, Karol Bagh. His other uncle, Farooq, was in the surgery ward of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital battling for his life.

The Rs 25,000 required for the rickshaw-puller to return to Kashmir has been put together by the Beadonpura Handloom Traders. Traders Praveen Gupta and Hemant Puyani were with Ashraf all morning at the Lady Hardinge Medical College mortuary where Narim’s body was kept. Narim was a rickshaw puller in the Gaffar Market area.
In another report on the same day, there was an article about Qutubdin Ansari – the tailor whose brimming eyes and folded hands became the defining face of the Gujarat riots.

The connection

The 2002 photograph of Ansari was one of the two that the militant group, Indian Mujahideen which owned up responsibility for the Delhi blasts, used in their terror e mail. The photograph had a caption – “Eye for an Eye.”
Ansari who now runs a tailor shop in Gujarat has forgotten about the Gujarat riots. Off course, he had no clue that his photograph was being used as a poster by the Indian Mujahideen for its terror mails.

The terrorists cannot be adherents of any religion. People like Ansari too hate being associated with any such outfits. The terrorists on the other hand are claiming to act on their behalf. If avenging the wrongs done to the genocide victims is one of their agendas, then it is unasked for even by the victims of the genocide. And how do they do it? By taking innocent lives of people, who have nothing to do with any of such incidents?

The terrorists are converting innocent citizens including their co-religionists, into fodder for their own designs. Narim who died in the Gaffar Market blast will be buried with the help of Praveen and Hemant. For these traders, the 10 year old relationship that they share is more important than their religious differences.

A cult of violence

The victimization of a community that the terrorists allude to is simply a pretext. It has its own self-fulfilling logic. If this is a battle on behalf of the Muslims, what sort of battle is this? For if nothing else, these acts make life more, not less difficult for Indian Muslims. It is as if the terrorist is besotted more with the cult of violence than genuine care for Muslims whom he uses as a pretext.

Trapped in deep waters

A member of the Megh Pyne Abhiyan explains flood situation in Bihar
Pix: Dipu Shaw

As the Government officials and agencies discuss the flood situation in Bihar, experts and organizations working in flood affected north Bihar area blame the Government’s flood control policies for the state’s nightmare. Dipu Shaw reports…

Dr. Dinesh Mishra, fellow at People’s Science Institute recently released his book on floods in Bihar titled “Trapped Between the Devil and the Deep waters”. The “devil” that Dr. Mishra refers to, are the corrupt Government officials who “gain from the almost regular Bihar floods”.

This time the Kosi River nicknamed as the “sorrow of Bihar” has devastated the state as never before. More than two million people in 14 districts of Bihar have been affected by the Kosi floods. The central government has sanctioned Rs 1000 crore for relief operations declaring it a national calamity. The National Disaster Management Authority has also been pressed into action in the state. It was reported by the Government that all the marooned persons have been rescued and shifted to safer locations. Reports from the flood ravaged area, however, point to the contrary.

Kavindra Kumar Pandey of the Megh Pyne Abhiyan, which works with the flood-affected in north Bihar, was recently in the flood ravaged area. He contends “There is rampant looting and molestation by anti social groups. The relief camps and food material is also insufficient”.

Even the flood management policy of the government has received some serious criticism.
“It is a totally man made flood”, says Himanshu Thakar, Delhi coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People. “The Kosi has breached for the eighth time, no doubt that the floods could be avoided”.

Dr N.C. Saxena, former Secretary of the Planning Commission of India is critical of the Government, both at the center as well as in the state of Bihar. He points out how there is no provision of a third party monitoring of the state expenditure. “When World Banks provide money, teams from Washington can come to monitor and survey the expenditure and its use, but for the government’s money, no one can know where it goes”, he says. “It is not the lack of funds that is affecting relief operations in Bihar. It is its improper application.”

Experts observe that it does not pay to tamper with the flow of a river that carries a heavy sediment load. And River Kosi carries a lot of silt with it. Dr. Mishra gives the example of the Hwang Ho River which has 18 embankments on it. “After breaching for the ninth time, the river did not return to its original course. Then, they built embankments on the new course”, he mentions. “When a heavily silt laden river is embanked, the sediment gets trapped within the embankments lifting the bed level and necessitating the raising of the embankments. There is a practical limit to which the embankments can be raised and maintained.”

The CSI fellow who is considered an expert on Bihar floods also suspects many deaths in the Kosi floods. “The dead bodies will be covered under the heavy silt and many would be carried away by the river. No one will come to know about them as the bodies will not be found”, he says.

Addressing the audience during the official release of his book at India International Centre he recommends a combined effort. “The layman who lives on the riverbed, the engineer who works with contours and maps in his office and the politician who takes decision need to come together to save Bihar from the devastation”, he suggests.

The Kashmir History

Recent happenings in Jammu and Kashmir have ignited a fierce debate on the plight of the Indian state. Before going into the debate of the demands of a certain section of the people in the valley, we should look into the matter a little more in detail.

It is often argued that the people of the valley are very passionate about their Kashmiri identity, perhaps even more than their national identity as an Indian. This was also one reason why the people of Kashmir never wanted to align with Pakistan during partition or even later. Islamic identity is something that they always loathed. They wanted their Kashmiri identity intact. And it could never be possible if they aligned with the neighbouring Islamic state.

When India got her independence on 15th August, 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was still an independent state ruled by the Hindu king Raja Hari Singh. On October 20 in the same year, Pakistani raiders entered Jammu and Kashmir territories. Indian troops were still not stationed in the state. The King asked the Indian Government to deploy her army and Indian troops were sent to the state. By then, Kashmir had already lost a large chunk of its territories– almost 55 percent.

The issue was taken to the United Nations. The UN called for a referendum. Kashmir had to either align with India or Pakistan. The plebiscite could never take place. The reason? Pakistani troops never withdrew. One of the conditions for referendum that the UN put was that the army should withdraw before the plebiscite takes place. Pakistani troops never withdrew and the referendum never took place.
For Kashmir, India was the only viable option which not only gave them a lot of autonomy but also protected them.

Those who are arguing for the state’s “independence” reason that the Kashmiris always felt very strong about their identity.
But, is it not true for other regions too? In fact, this is what Nehru called “Unity in Diversity”. Sub nationality is often stronger than nationality. Any community or region has several identities that they live with – religious, cultural, ethnic and so on. Look at South India. Don’t they feel very strong about their culture and identity? At times too detached from the center. Do we separate them from India’s map? The same applies to our brothers in north east India...Secession is not the appropriate answer.

Does the media care?

Speakers at the seminar on Does Media Care Pix: Gargi Nim

As questions are raised on how efficiently Indian media is covering social issues, a seminar hosted jointly by the BBC World Service and MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia organise a seminar to debate the issues of media obsession and responsibility.
Dipu Shaw reports…

“There is something deeply absurd about the state of the nation today”, began Tarun Tejpal, editor in chief and publisher of Tehelka, in his assertive tone. The occasion was a seminar organised jointly by the BBC World Service Trust and the Mass Communication Research Centre of Jamia Millia Islamia and the media baron was delivering the key note address on “The Indian Media: Is it obsessed with celebrities and crime?”

The BBC World Service has collaborated with three of India’s journalism colleges: The Asian School of Journalism, Chennai, AJKMCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi and the Amity School of Communication, Lucknow to improve the quality of training in social journalism. The project is being funded by the World Bank.
This seminar titled “Does the Media Care?” was a dialogue on the coverage of social issues in the media and was another step in the direction.

Among the other panelists were Usha Rai, the first woman journalist of Delhi and a recipient of the Chameli Devi Award, Nilanjana Bose, a Ramnath Goenka awardee and Senior Special Correspondent of CNN IBN, PN Vasanti, Director of CMS (Centre of Media Studies), Rohit Gandhi a TV journalist of the Canadian Broadcasting and Dex TV in Canada and Thomas Chandi, CEO of Save the Children in India, the World’s largest independent Child Rights organization.

The debate highlighted some serious issues plaguing the Indian media today.

Tarun Tejpal who has a 24-year experience in the profession recalled the earlier times when almost every news channel had a rural reporter. “Today, the total coverage that the 250 million Dalits and tribes in India get is less than the share given to actress Kareena Kapoor alone”, he lamented.

Rohit Gandhi described the media’s obsession as one of “celebrity gazing and crime chasing” while PN Vasanti showed some statistics of news coverage tapped by the CMS. The discussion highlighted one central point – how journalism in this country had become entirely commercial and market driven.

The second session debated why there aren’t more stories about health, science and environment in the Indian Media. The key note address was delivered by veteran journalist and author Prem Shankar Jha. He began by referring to the Bengal famine of 1942. The point that the seasoned journalist brought out was the importance of follow ups in journalism. Paranjoy Guha, a documentary film maker and editor of “Realpolitic”, moderated the debate in his usual flamboyant style that sent instant energy waves through the air.

Film critique Ziya Us Salam who is a senior Assistant Editor in The Hindu, referred to the widening gap between rural Bharat and urban India perpetuated by the media. He pointed out how the Lakhme India Fashion Week had four journalists from one news channel for the coverage of the event while it did not affect the life of any one citizen. “The same time farmers in Vidharba committed suicide due to abysmal poverty”, he poignantly recalled.

Saeed Naqvi, one of the most successful and prominent journalists of India and a columnist of The Indian Express called the entire TRP game a façade, aimed to sabotage the real big issues. His frustration with the Indian media was evident in his reference to the present generation of reporters as ‘the lost generation”.

Aspiring journalists from the university and other eminent guests interacted energetically with the panelists. The speakers concluded that a good story teller could tell the most mundane of things in an interesting way and that was the essential quality for the journalists while reporting on any social issue. The counsel was a good one to take home for the aspiring journalists.