Shravana 17, 2065 Vik Samvat, Yugabada 5110, August 1, 2008

1. FESTIVALS: Raksha Bandhan: Shravani (Yagopavita Poojan) or Raksha Bandhan the full moon day of Sharvan, the Shravan Poornima falls on 16th August this year. Rakhi or Raksha is a sacred thread embellished with sister's love and affection for her brother. On the day of Raksha Bandhan sisters tie Rakhi on their brother's wrist and express their love for him, in return brother takes on the responsibility of protecting the sister.
Raksha Bandhan assumes all forms of Raksha or protection, of righteousness and destroyer of all sin. The sages tied rakhi (Raksha Bandhan i.e. scared thread) to the people who came seeking their blessings and also tied to themselves to safe guard them from the evil. The values and the sentiments attached to the rituals of this festival are worth inculcating by the whole human race, the sentiments of harmony and peaceful coexistence. On this auspicious day Brahmins replace their old ‘janeyu’ or ‘Yajnopavit’, the holy thread worn across the body, with new one after performing ritulas. The ceremony is popularly known as Shravani or Rishi Tarpan.
Rashtirya Swyamsevak Sangh shakhas celebrate Raksha Bandhan. All Swayamsevaks tie Raksha-bandhan to each other and to their Guru Param Pavitra Bhagwa Dwaj and also outreach to the community.
Shri Krishnajanmashtami: Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Bhagwan Shri Krishna, on the eighth day (Ashtami) in the month of Sravana. Lord Sri Krishna was born on the 'Rohini' nakshatram (star). It is generally celebrated in the month of August-September according to the Roman Calendar. Legend has it that Sri Krishna was born on a dark, stormy and windy night to end the rule and atrocities of his maternal uncle Kansa. The celebration in Vrindavan and surrounding areas is worth participation for experiencing the climax of ‘Bhakti’. Janmashtami is celebrated for over two days as “Rohini” nakshatra and Ashtami may not fall on the same day. The first day known as Krishnashtami, as the birth of Bhagwan Krishna falls on the eighth day after Raksha Bandhan, which generally falls in the month of August. The second day is known as Kalashtami. It is only at midnight between the first and the second day that birth of Sri Krishna took place. The actual festivities begin during midnight in this 48 hour period. The celebration reaches its peak at midnight, with the birth of Lord Krishna, with lot of hymns, arti taking place and blowing of the Conch (shankh), rocking the cradle of Lord. The idol of lord is bathed with Panchamrit (A mixture of milk, ghee, oil, honey and Gangajal). The Panchamrit is later distributed as Prasad to the devotees along with other sweets. While some Fast on the first day and break it at midnight for others the fasting continues for both days. The period is part of the Varsha ritu – the rainy season- in Bharat.
2. DR. SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY & DR. KALYANARAMAN HONOURED: Sanatana Dharma Foundation, ( a Dallas based Non-Profit organization inspired by the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, ( the apex body of Hindus in India, presented the "Hindu Dharma Rakshaka Kshatriya Award" to Dr Subramanian Swamy & Dr S. Kalyanaraman on the occassion of the Hindu Unity Day organized at the DFW Hindu Temple in Dallas, Texas on July 19, 2008. Speaking on the occasion, the President of Sanatana Dharma Foundation, Kalyan Viswanathan, said that "This award, a first of its kind, has been instituted to honor and celebrate the 'Kshatriya Spirit', specifically the courage shown by Hindus in taking risks and standing up to fight for the protection and preservation of Dharma." The Highlight of the Hindu Unity Day Event was the speech by Dr Subramanian Swamy on his personal experiences during his defense of Rama Sethu in the Supreme Court of Bharat, which was greeted by a spontaneous standing ovation. In presenting the "Hindu Dharma Rakshaka Kshatriya" Award, his fearless defense in the Supreme Court of Bharat, getting a critical and timely stay order, the subsequent withdrawal of the Government of Bharat's petition, and the later Verdict of the Supreme Court were all highlighted.
Dr S. Kalyanaraman made a scholarly presentation on the River Saraswati, highlighting the recent research findings, the origins of the Vedic Civilization on the banks of River Saraswati and the fact that it holds the central "Key" to the re-writing of the history of Bharat and re-establishing the real historicity of the Vedas. While presenting the Award, his dedicated research in supporting the struggle of the Rama Sethu, and his pioneering contributions in researching and resurfacing the River Saraswati were lauded. Symbolizing Hindu Unity, Representatives of Dallas Chapters of several organizations like the Art of living Foundation, Ammachi Satsang, Hare Krishna ISCKON group, Gayatri Parivar, Brahmakumaris, Carribbean Mandir, Chinmaya Mission, Hanuman Temple, Sathya Sai groups and other prominent Hindu personalities from the local Dallas-Fort Worth community in Texas, were present at this unique event. Dr Subramanian Swamy's latest book "Rama Sethu Symbol of National Unity" was released on this occasion.
Smt. Ranna Jani, President, DFW Hindu Temple in Texas speaking on the occassion on behalf of the Temple, thanked both Dr Subramaniam Swamy & Dr S. Kalyanaraman for coming to Dallas and sharing their experiences with the participants. On the second day, a workshop was organized, where challenges facing Hinduism today, were discussed. Presentations on the state of Hindu Temples in Bharat, challenges posed by Christianity and Islam were also discussed.
3. BHARATIYA-ORIGIN JUDGE IS NEW UN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF: Bharatiya-origin ICC judge Navanethem Pillay has been named the United Nations' new human rights chief, despite some initial opposition from the US.
Pillay, 67, who is from South Africa, will succeed Louise Arbour of Canada who completed her term on June 30.
The 192-member General Assembly is expected to confirm Pillay's appointment for a four-year term on 21st July. Born into an ethnic Tamil family during apartheid days she was brought up in a poor neighbourhood. Her father was a bus driver.
Despite odds, she became the first woman to start law practice in South Africa's Natal Province in 1968 and defended several anti-apartheid activists and successfully fought for the right of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, to have access to lawyers.
A Harvard alumnai, Pillai is serving as a judge on the International Criminal Court in The Hague since 2003. She had earlier served both as judge and president on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which she had joined in 1995.
4. BHARATIYA-ORIGIN MADHESHI LEADER ELECTED NEPAL'S FIRST PRESIDENT: Nepal elected it first President Ram Baran Yadav, a doctor-turned-politician, who had most of his education in Bharat. Yadav, a relatively unknown figure outside Nepal, was a last-minute choice of the major parties to oppose the Maoist candidate and Madhesi leader Ramraja Prasad Singh.
In the run-off polls, the veteran leader trounced Singh by 26 votes, securing the support of 308 lawmakers compared to 282 for the Maoist nominee. The 60-year-old has learnt the fine art of politics from Nepali Congress patriarch B P Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh as also Madhesi leader Ramnarayan Mishra.
Also hailing from the Bharatiya-origin Madhesi community, Yadav received his MBBS degree from Kolkata and MD from PGIMER, Chandigarh, spending about 11 years studying in Bharat. After practising medicine for eight years, Yadav joined Nepali Congress after the 1980 referendum held to choose between party-less Panchayat system and multiparty system.
Yadav, a three-time MP from Dhanusha, entered Parliament as an NC candidate for the first time in 1991. He was re-elected in 1999 and elected to the Constituent Assembly in the landmark polls on April 10 this year that saw the Maoists emerging as the single largest party.
A farmer's son, who made a remarkable journey to occupy the highest post in the new-born republic that abolished the 240-year-old monarchy, Yadav said he wants to take the peace process to its logical end and maintain friendly ties with both Bharat and China.
5. MUSLIM BOY CHOOSES TO STAY WITH ADOPTIVE HINDU FAMILY: Vivek lost from Gulbarg society after post-Godhra massacre on February 28, 2002, and he was raised by Hindu parents.
Almost over six years after post-Godhra riots, the Muslim couple found their missing son not only alive, but raised by a Hindu family. However, the case now looks like a legal battle over custody between the two sets of parents. It has also rekindled hopes of many other parents who lost their children in the riots.
A Metropolitan court on July 23 dismissed the Muslim couple's plea for custody of their son, after the boy himself refused to go with his real parents. Mohammed Salim Shaikh and his wife Jaibunnisa along with their two sons had sought refuge in Gulbarg society on the fateful day. During the mob attack, 38 people were killed and 31 went missing. Among them were Shaikh's sister and his two-and-a-half-year-old son, Muzaffar, now Vivek Vikram Patni. The couple lost track of the kid after they gathered for shelter in late MP Ahsan Jafri's house.
On July 14, the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) told the Shaikhs that their son was alive. According to SIT, Muzaffar went missing during the attack, and was found by a constable of the crime branch, who took the boy to his cousin - Vikram and Meena Patni in Saraspur. They raised him as their son. Since then, Muzaffar, now nine, is living with the Patni family, who is in the business of selling fish. The DNA sample matched with Shaikh and his wife's. After this the couple filed for custody in the metropolitan court. However, when Meena refused custody, the court asked the boy who also refused to go and preferred to stay with Meena.
Meena describes how in the beginning she spent nearly Rs 30,000 to nurse him back to health. "I buy him only Amul gold milk and the best of biscuit brands thus spending around Rs 30 daily on his food. He is dearer to me than my other kids," said the mother of three girls and a boy.
Meena's older son, Nayan, says Vivek is also his grandfather's pet child. The family lives in a chawl in Saraspur and Meena sells fish and vegetables for a living. Her husband Vikram, who was a Congress worker, died of diabetes five years ago.
6. US AID TO PAK CONCERNS BHARAT: The Bharatiya defence establishment is "concerned" but "not rattled" by the US decision to divert $230 million in aid to Pakistan from counter-terrorism programmes to upgrade its F-16 fighter jets. "Acquisition of new airborne capabilities by Pakistan is definitely a matter of concern for us since it’s always primarily directed at us. If US thinks Pakistan will only use its upgraded F-16s for counter-terrorism, it’s sadly mistaken," said a top defence officer, who refused to be named. Western Air Command (WAC) chief, Air Marshal P K Barbora, in turn, said, "Every country does what it thinks is needed for its defence requirements. The question is what is going to be given to Pakistan with the F-16 upgrade programme."
"Moreover, Pakistan will begin inducting the first lot of the planned 250 JF-17 ‘Thunder’ fighters from China by end-2008. We obviously have to keep a close watch on this. Fighters are weapons of war, not of counter-terrorism," said another officer. Interestingly, IAF has drawn up plans to progressively base its new Sukhois on the western front after the eastern front. The Halwara airbase in WAC, which houses the almost moth-balled MiG-23s, will be among the first bases to get the new Sukhois. Then, of course, after "upgrades" of 125 MiG-21 ‘Bisons’ and around 100 MiG-27s and Jaguars with new weapon and avionics packages, Bharat has signed a $964 million deal with Russia to refit its 63 MiG-29s. A similar deal is in the pipeline with France for IAF’s 51 Mirage-2000s.
7. VHP PRESS RELEASE: In a press release on July 27, 2008 furious over 2 consecutive days of Jehadi attacks, Dr Pravin Togadiya, International General Secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said, "It is a matter of grave concern of all Hindus in Bharat & the world that Jehadi Terrorism & government appeasement of those involved in Jehadi terrorism may destroy Bharat very soon. In 24 hours there were 25 blasts in Bharat - 8 in the IT city Bangalore & 17 in a growing commercial hub Ahmedabad. Instead of fighting jedad, governments are giving quotas to those involved in jehad in govt jobs, police & army! It is ridiculous & dangerous to Bharat's safety. If govts do not have political will & capacity to finish Jehad & provide security to Bharat, then all of them must resign immediately & give the nation in the hands of army that knows how to protect the nation & fight the real enemy."
Dr Togadia further added, "If governments do not do as above immediately & keep on wasting time & national resources in breaking Rameshwaram Ramsethu & snatching Amarnath land or relocating all India Muslims in Kerala displacing local Hindus for vote banks, then ultimately Hindus have to act themselves democratically to protect themselves & their country. Jehadi terrorists are all out to destroy Bharat's economy, infrastructure system & the majority Hindus. Governments must act now before it is too late to save the nation.
8. MEDITATION SLOWS AIDS PROGRESSION- STUDY: Meditation may slow the worsening of AIDS in just a few weeks, perhaps by affecting the immune system, U.S. researchers reported on July 24.
If the findings are borne out in larger studies, it could offer a cheap and pleasant way to help people battle the incurable and often fatal condition, the team at the University of California Los Angeles said.
They tested a stress-lowering program called mindfulness meditation, defined as practicing an open and receptive awareness of the present moment, avoiding thinking of the past or worrying about the future.
The more often the volunteers meditated, the higher their CD4 T-cell counts -- a standard measure of how well the immune system is fighting the AIDS virus. The CD4 counts were measured before and after the two-month program.
The meditation classes included eight weekly two-hour sessions, a daylong retreat and daily home practice.
9. 'BHARATIYA IT SECTOR SET TO BE 2ND LARGEST': "Bharatiya IT industry may be passing through a rough patch because of a slowdown in the US economy and high inflation rates, but this stage will pass. Bharat will continue to drive the global IT market for the next few years. In fact, it will emerge as the second most important IT industry in the world after the US in terms of revenue and employment," says a study. "Bharat will create the second largest IT services labour pool after the US within the next seven to eight years. That's not all, domestic IT industry's contribution to our GDP is likely to rise from 0.8% in 2006-07 to 2.65% by 2015-16."
This has been forecasted by a yet to be released white paper 'Bharat's Role in the Globalization of the IT Industry' by Evalueserve, a KPO. It says, "by 2015-2016, the number of professionals working in the IT industry will grow ten-fold (from 2001-2002) and the total revenue will grow 22 times." This means, the IT industry is likely to employ 3,750,000 professionals and record $193.1 billion in revenue by 2015-16.
The paper concludes with: First, by 2016 Bharat will have the second highest number of IT professionals in the world after the US. In fact, US will employ between 1.25 to 1.33 times more professionals than Bharat. Second, even in 2016, the US IT industry will generate approximately $810 billion in annual revenue, which would be almost five times the revenue of the Bharatiya IT industry. And third, since the IT industries in both the US and Bharat have become inextricably linked with one another, both countries will import and export more IT services and products for the next seven to eight years.
10. BHARAT TO TEST 'INTERCEPTOR' MISSILE AGAIN: Bharat will take another step towards developing a ballistic missile defence (BMD) system in the next few days when it tests an "interceptor" missile against an "incoming enemy" missile over the Bay of Bengal.
The fledgling two-tier BMD system being developed by DRDO, capable of tracking and destroying hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere, has already been tested two times.
The impending third test from the Wheeler Island off Orissa's coast will be that of an "exo-atmospheric" hypersonic interceptor missile, which will take on "a longer range enemy" missile, in the 2,000-km class, at an altitude of around 80-km this time.
The first test of the BMD system was in November 2006 when an "exo-atmospheric" hypersonic interceptor missile successfully destroyed an incoming Prithvi missile at an altitude of around 40-50 km, demonstrating a capability akin to the Israeli Arrow-2 BMD system. The second time, in December 2007, an 'endo-atmospheric' interceptor successfully took on the 'enemy' missile at a 15-km altitude, on the lines of the American Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system.
After the third test, DRDO plans to test both the "exo" and "endo" interceptor missiles together in an integrated mode by September-October. In Phase-I, a BMD system capable of taking on "2,000-km class targets" is being developed. Phase-II, in turn, will be geared towards tackling threats from missiles up to 5,000-km, said sources.
DRDO chief controller for missiles, V K Saraswat, had earlier told TOI that the BMD system of Phase-I should be ready for deployment by 2011 or so, after several tests against a variety of missiles to ensure "a kill probability of 99.8%".
When and if, this happens Bharat will gate-crash into a very exclusive club of only countries like US, Russia and Israel. BMD capabilities, however, are incredibly complex and expensive, with an incoming missile's high trajectory, speed and range leaving little room for error.
With both China and Pakistan fielding a wide variety of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, BMD capabilities for Bharat are a crucial necessity. At the same time, it must be remembered that a BMD system can be overwhelmed by a flurry of ballistic missiles. Moreover, it's quite vulnerable to cruise missiles since they evade enemy radars by flying at low altitudes, virtually hugging the terrain.
11. HINDU SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH ORGANISED 2-DAY VARG IN CANADA: HIndu Swayamsevak Sangh Canada organised a two-day varg successfully on 18- 20 July2008.
Varg was attneded by 40 swaymasevaks, with 30 sikhsharthis and 10 karyakartas. One shikshak, Shri Rudra Upadhyay was form USA for the varg.
On the 18th even all reached to the venue and after introduction and registration, there was shakha at 5pm till 7pm followed by evening session of baudhik and quiz, Next-two day were full of karyakrams with morning and evening shakha including activities like games, surynamskar, yogachap, niyudh group activies, baudhik, and hiking in nearby trail. Shri Naresh Arora came from UK for the samarop function. Many senior karyakartas present at the samarop were Shri Jagdish Shastri; Shri L M Sabrawal, and others.
12. DOCS WITH FOREIGN PG SET TO GET GOVT'S NOD: In a bid to allow Bharatiya doctors practising abroad to return and plug the acute shortage in healthcare back home, the government may soon recognize postgraduate medical degrees of 10 foreign countries.
Degrees from France, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Singapore, South Africa and Spain are under consideration, which will allow Bharatiya doctors settled in these countries to return home and practise without even a physical verification, health ministry officials said. The move was aimed at reducing the country's shortage of trained doctors, especially in super speciality disciplines, they said.
So far, doctors who had completed MBBS from a recognized university in Bharat and completed the PG degree from any of these countries were unable to return and practise in Bharat as their PG degrees were not recognized.
The intention also comes four months after the ministry allowed Bharatiya doctors with PG degrees from UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to return and practise in Bharat in any public or private hospital.
The ministry is also working on amending the Bharatiya Medical Council Act, 1956, to allow Bharatiya doctors returning home from these 15 countries to automatically become a faculty member of a medical college, if they want to teach under-graduate students.
So far, Bharat recognized the PG degree of a foreign country only as a reciprocal gesture, limiting the bracket to Ireland, Bangladesh and Nepal, which recognized Bharatiya degrees. However, the shortage of both doctors and faculty has made the health ministry reconsider the rule.
13. MEDIA BLACKOUT IN JAMMU: Hindus in Jammu continued their agitation over Shri Amaranath land allotment despite presence of strong Army contingent and a brutal police force.
As the violence over the Amarnath land controversy rages, Jammu administration on Sunday blacked out two local TV news channels and sealed offices of two Hindi dailies.
The move sparked instantaneous protest as a large number of people defied the curfew and staged a demonstration here prompting police to resort to cane-charge and fire teargas shells to scatter them.
A senior Aaj Tak correspondent and an NDTV cameraman were injured in the police action which took place outside the offices of the two channels -- Takel and JK , journalists said.
Both were hospitalised, they added. Army was called out in Gandhi Nagar area, where a protest rally was also held, to restore calm.
"The two local news channels were forcibly closed down by the authorities," Manu Shrivatas, president of the Press Club of Jammu, told reporters here.
"Siege was also laid at offices of Amar Ujala and Daink Jagran , the two Hindi dailies," he said.
No government official could be reached for comments on the blackout of the TV channels and sealing of offices of the dailies where a heavy posse of policemen was stationed.
14. MODI ADVOCATES NATIONAL CONSENSUS ON ZERO-TOLERANCE TO TERRORISM: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi requested the Prime Minister for strengthening the Security and Intelligence Network across the country. He gave a representation to the Prime Minister while meeting him during his visit to Ahmedabad and reminded him about his earlier communications suggesting strengthening of the security environment in the country. Shri Modi also said that the country couldn’t be a mute spectator to irresponsible and inhuman acts of the terrorists and their organizational and logistical capacities to execute such acts.
While referring to the recent incident of serial bomb blasts at Ahmedabad he said that this is not a terrorist act in isolation. The terrorist activities have been increasing and spreading across the country. Ahmedabad's incident is just an extension, just another target and a part of the larger design of the terrorists to infiltrate the country, to destabilize it and to demoralize the people. Modi further said that it should not be difficult to recollect similar recent incidents at Bangalore and Jaipur. He also added that the mastermind of the terrorist activities is not within the boundaries of a particular state, nor within our country. Therefore, it is for the Government of Bharat to take up the responsibility to unearth it and to combat. Otherwise, such incidents will keep happening in some or other part of the country.
Shri Modi further emphasized to the Prime Minister that the recent bomb blasts at Ahmedabad and simultaneous detection of live bombs and explosive materials at Surat show that the challenge is big and it is more real and critical than Government of Bharat thinks. He expressed that the Government and the people of Gujarat are firm and committed to handle this challenge with a strong hand. We believe in "Zero Tolerance" towards terrorism, he said. He, however, requested the Prime Minister that Government of Bharat should provide leadership in this fight. He further said that if the Union Government still fails to comprehend the seriousness of the challenge of terrorism, the nation would have to pay a very heavy price.
Gujarat had legislated the Gujarat Control of Organized Crime (GUJCOC) bill and had submitted to Government of Bharat for Presidential assent which is pending since June, 2004. In absence of a central Act, Gujarat is left with no option but to implement the GUJCOC. The State of Rajasthan has also made similar provisions but the same is also pending for Presidential assent. Shri Modi strongly said "Let not another city be added in the list of terrorist attacks. Let not more people lose their lives and limbs." He further said that we have to act and the Union Government must be seen to be leading. He also offered his services on personal level as well as a Chief Minister in conceiving and formulating any strategies to fight terrorism.
15. BABA RAMDEV'S 20MN YOGA CENTRE IN US: A $20 million yoga and Ayurveda research centre, the first outside Bharat -- modeled after Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Yog Peeth in Haridwar -- was consecrated in Rosenberg, Texas, USA, this month with the yoga Guru presiding over the consecration ceremony.
At a cotton field in Rosenberg, about 25 miles from Houston, Baba Ramdev and his associates chanted ancient Vedic hymns as he blessed the 94-acre ground for the proposed centre.
Baba Ramdev said he visualises a 'yoga revolution' in the Western world with the establishment of the centre.
"As many as 30 per cent people in the US cannot afford medical treatment because of the cost. Our aim at this centre would be to treat and cure such people through yoga and traditional Bharatiya medical systems," Baba Ramdev told a day after the ceremony.
While the centre will have trained yoga teachers, he will visit Texas at least twice a year. "Besides clinical trials, scientific study and genetic research, we will promote evidence-based research of traditional medicine here," he said.
The centre is expected to be functional within two years. Before visiting Houston, Baba Ramdev conducted his first-ever five-day yoga workshop in Los Angeles. More than 2,000 people attended the camp on the last day.
16. GAYATRI MANTRA BEFORE EACH STUNT: We all know that Hindi film actor Akshay Kumar loves doing his own stunts, even the dangerous ones. But what’s the secret behind his success in each and every one stunt?
Well, the religious actor chants the Gayatri Mantra before doing any dangerous stunt and that’s what he taught the 13 girls who gave him company in Fear Factor — Khatron Ke Khiladi on COLORS.
The actor recited the prayer to encourage the participants, increase their inner self-belief and make them fearless while performing death-defying stunts in South Africa. Confirming this, Akshay Kumar said “Whenever I do my stunts I say the Gayatri Mantra in my mind. I strongly believe that our body is animated by life energy and according to Bharat’s science of sound healing; you can gather and direct that healing life force through the power of sacred sound.
17. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri S K Chibbar from UK; Shri Mangat Ram Sharma from Denmark.
18. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Speaking at a Guru Puja function organised in South Chennai, RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Mohan Bhagwat narrated an incident how RSS founder Dr Hedgewar once performed Gurudakshina. He said Dr Hedgewar was economically poor but he never sought any full-time job. However, he functioned as an LIC doctor, issuing certificates to policy-holders for a monthly salary of Rs. 30 for 4 months. Unable to decline the request of Swayamsevaks, he offered all his earnings of Rs 120 before the sacred Bhagwat Dhwaj on the Guru Pooja day. -- Organiser, 3 August 2008.


The use-by date on the Kandahar excuse is over. It won't work when UPA faces the voters.
For nearly five years now the world media had been celebrating India's rise. From the state of its stock market to its demographic advantage, from the strength and depth of its democracy to the vast reservoir of talent that flourished in its diversity, it was as if the world could see nothing wrong with India. There are now signs that some of that ischanging.And no, it is not just because of those thousand-rupee bundles displayed in the Lok Sabha. It is because of something much more serious, in facta failure so serious it could, by itself, lose the UPA the next election. These four and half years are the worst in India's history offighting terrorism. Surely somebody in the UPA will bring out statistics to show that overall deaths were more in some other regime's five years. But this is not just about numbers. It is a spectacular four and a half years of mayhem when not one terrorist has been caught, not one major case solved. Even by the modest standards that Shivraj Patil's home ministry may have set for itself, this is a spectacularly disastrous record.
The world press, if anything, has been late in catching this. Last week, Somini Sengupta of The New York Times quoted a stunning fact from a report of the Washington-based National Counter-Terrorism Centre. It said, between January 2004 and March 2007, India had lost 3,674 lives to terrorism, second only to Iraq. And we can't even claim that this is happening because some imperialist occupation army is running amok here. In fact that number, by now, must have crossed 5,000. If this notion spreads globally, it would do more to damage India's image as an oasis of democratic stability, pacifism and economic growth than any twists in its politics, or even a half-decade reform holiday.
So far the UPA government has had one standard response: compare this with the record under the NDA: Kandahar hijack, Parliament attack, Akshardham. But there is a short use-by date on these arguments. You cannot take them into your next election campaign. Soon enough, the memory of those incidents would have faded, been replaced by new ones: Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kabul, Mumbai trains, SamjhautaExpress and so on. And then the unchecked Naxalite attacks.
Most amazing is the sense of cool with which this government, particularly its home ministry, has responded to these losses. While they can pretend that Naxalite strikes are some sinister happenings in places that are out of sight, out of mind, somebody - most likely the voter - will soon remind them that, while those managing internal security may not care for the lives of policemen in faraway states, never in the history of insurgencies have we suffered casualties like these. In fact, if you go over our five-decade history of insurgencies, the 38 lives lost in the Naxalite attack on the police boat were perhaps the second-largest loss of life by security forces in a day in internal security operations after only the army's casualties on the night of Operation Bluestar. It is rare for security forces to suffer double-digit casualties in insurgencies. Even during the Kargil conflict it was a rare day's fighting on which the army lost so many lives, against an entrenched foreign army. The two most striking things here have been the equanimity - frankly, cynical and sometimes sanctimonious indifference - with which this security establishment has treated it.
The talk of Naxalism in a week when two of our most important cities saw serial-bombings and a third had 23 unexploded bombs recovered is not a digression. It underlines the unmoving, thick-skinned, incompetent and pusillanimous response to terror from this government. What is worse, it is even politically loaded. And while, ultimately, the UPA may be made to pay for it electorally, too many lives are being lost meanwhile, and too much damage is being done to India's image.
The government cannot ride out an entire five years claiming that their predecessors' record was worse.Soon enough people will also start reminding them that the NDA's six years coincided with a state of near-war with Pakistan, when ISI support to terror in India was unabashed and comprehensive and when an active proxy war was on in Kashmir. It is the four years of relative peace with Pakistan that make the UPA's failure even more striking. Over the past year or so we have all got focussed on what we saw as the communalisation of our foreign policy: don't vote against Iran at the IAEA because our own Shias would get upset, don't sign the nuclear deal with Bush as that will irritate all our own Muslims, conduct your relations with Israel by stealth for the same reason, even stop the two missile development projects with them, no matter how badly your armies may need them. Last week we saw the prime minister fight back on this, and successfully too. But can he do the same with internal security?
The odds are steeper because that issue was communalised first. It began with the last election campaign and the composition of this alliance. There may have been a sound case against POTA because it was misused, but both in public discourse and political action its repeal was made to look like a favour to the Muslims. Then, the same "communalised" politics interfered in police investigations following the serial blasts in Mumbai trains and Hyderabad. Ask senior police officers there – even Congress chief ministers if they'd dare to speak the truth - and they will tell you how they pulled away in fright, under pressure from the Centre for targeting and upsetting Muslims (voters) in their investigations. This proceeded neatly alongside the utterly communalized discourse on the Afzal Guru hanging issue. Each time this government and its intellectual storm-troopers proffered the minority argument in support of this soft policy, it emboldened the terrorists. They figured they were dealing with a political leadership which had already committed a self-goal by equating counter-terror with Muslim alienation and which had, in the process, totally demoralised its intelligence agencies and police forces. And if it is not guilty of communalising our internal security policy, how does it explain sitting on special anti-terror laws in all BJP-run states when exactly similar ones have been passed for the Congress states? Now you can say special laws are good or bad, but they must be equally so for all citizens in all states. If these laws are good, or necessary, then citizens in BJP-run states have as much need - and right - to get their protection as those in the Congress states. Unless the message is: you want protection, you better vote for us. You vote for others, you are on your own.
It is not going to work. It is morally wrong and politically suicidal. Protecting the citizens' life is the first responsibility of any government. Surely no government can ensure no terror attack would ever happen. But it has to be seen to be trying, fighting, and being even-handed. This government fails on all three counts so far, no matter how nicely ironed its chief-spokesman's bandh-galas, how neatly combed his hair. If the prime minister does not fix this in time, his party will be asked really tough questions in the next election. -- The Indian Express, August 2, 2008.