Paush 17, 2065 Vik Samvat, Yugabda 5110, January 1, 2009

1. FESTIVALS: Bharatiya Hanukkah: Jews celebrate the eight-day Hanukkah festival to commemorate a miracle at the Temple of Jerusalem. The Temple was desecrated by the king Antiochus IV. When the Jews won it back, there was just enough oil to light the sacred lamp inside for just one day. However, the oil miraculously lasted for eight days, till more could be arranged.
Forget latkes (fried potato pancakes), sufganjyot (doughnuts) and chocolate gelt (coin shaped confectionery) the Jews in Bharat assert their native tastes.
“I make puranpoli (roti stuffed with gram and jaggery), modak laddus and sweet rice, halwa and samosas,” says Diana Malekar, a Maharashtrian Jew.
Jews abroad light menorahs, using the Shamash (middle candle), but in Bharat a separate candle is used. “Even when we perform prayers, we are different. Bharatiya classical music has influenced our chanting,” says Rabbi Malekar.
But there’s one tradition that Bharatiya Jews still follow like their brethren worldwide. On Hanukkah, they make it a point to gift toys, especially dreidels (spinning tops), to children. No Bharatiya spin there!
2. SWARAJ PAUL LORDS OVER THE LORDS: NRI industrialist Lord Swaraj Paul scripted history by becoming the first Asian to preside over proceedings in the House of Lords in UK, which co-incidentally witnessed an absorbing debate on Mumbai terror attacks and Sachin Tendulkar's match-winning century against England.
Participaing in the 150-minute long debate on December 18, Chairman of the UK-India Business Council Karan Bilimoria congratulated Paul on his appointment as the Deputy Speaker of the House and said NRIs in Britain were now reaching the top positions in every field.
Conferred the peerage in 1996 and honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1983, 77 year old Paul is one of the most famous Bharat-origin entrepreneurs based in Britain.
3. CHANGE YOURSELF FOR VILLAGE DEVELOPMENT—NANAJI DESHMUKH: "The picture of our villages has been different if we would have followed the path of Mahatma Gandhi" said Nanaji Deshmukh, 93 year old veteran Sangh pracharak and founder of Deendayal Shodh Sansthan. He was addressing a gathering of villagers during the Gram Swaraj Padyatra. The first phase of the Yatra began on November 15 and after covering 550 km distances it culminated on December 12.
It is to be noted that Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) has been conducting a swavlamban drive in 500 villages, 250 in Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh and rest in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh in order to eradicate poverty, ensure healthy life and make the village free from all kinds of disputes. The 27 days yatra covered 94 village panchayats and 296 villages.
The presence of Nanaji Deshmukh in the Yatra inspired both the workers and the villagers. During his night stay at Narayanpur village he educated the villagers how to fight for their rights. As the united Bharatiyas forced the British government to leave the country, today also we can unitedly eradicate all evils from the country,” Nanaji added.
4. A VOW TO SPREAD THE MESSAGE OF GITA ALL OVER THE WORLD BY 2011: RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri K.S. Sudarshan said the Sanatan Dharma provides a path for total development of human kind. He was inaugurating an international seminar on Universal Fraternity and Gita organised by Gyan-Vigyan Sansthan, Kurukshetra in collaboration with Panchnad Shodh Sansthan, Sanskrit Bharati, Itihas Sankalan Samiti, Sampark Vibhag, Haryana and many other social and cultural organisations. He called on the entire sajjan shakti to contribute their might for this change by following the preaching of Karma Yoga of Gita.
More than 200 Bharatiya and 22 foreign delegates represented 13 countries and almost all sects like Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, etc. There was a broad consensus that the philosophy of Gita is the fundamental dharma of humanity.
Delivering the presidential address at the inaugural ceremony Dr Durgesh Man Singh, Ambassador of Nepal in Bharat, contended that the increasing violence and terrorism could be combated only by following the concept of universal fraternity.
A scholar of international repute Dr Md. Hanif Khan from Institute of Sanskrit, New Delhi, revealed that the word Állah has its origin in Sanskrit. He narrated many verses of the Quran and also narrated the corresponding shlokas of Gita both having the same message.
5. A TIMELY HONOUR TO SANSKRIT: 79 year-old Dr Satya Vrat Shashtri is the first Sanskrit scholar to get the Jnanpith Award.
From teaching Sanskrit to Princess Maha Chakri Sirinthorn from the royal house of Thailand, to being visiting professor in six universities in four continents, the humble Lahore-born Delhi-based former professor and head of Department of Sanskrit, Delhi University, has an unenviable track record of awards and honours, the latest being the Jnanpith Award. He is the first Sanskrit scholar to receive the award.
Mahamahopadhyaya Vidyavachaspati Vidya-martanda Dr Satya Vrat Shashtri, the long name with numerous upadhis (honours) he has earned is hardly a match to the depth of his knowledge.
The entire Sanskrit fraternity in the country and abroad was in thralls when his name was announced as winner of the 42nd Jnanpith Award given for contemporary writing in Bharatiya languages.
6. MYTH TO REALITY: SARASWATI IS SET TO FLOW AGAIN: Almost 13 km from Kurukshetra lies the ancient village of Bhoresaidan - named after the Kaurava hero Bhurisrava, who was one of Duryodhana's 11
distinguished senapatis during the Mahabharata war. A dusty road adjacent to the village leads to a yawning valley, flanked by rocks and covered with a soil that is a curious mix of various sedimentary deposits. Rajesh Purohit, deputy director of the Kurukshetra-based Sri Krishna Museum, bends to scoop up some of the soil. "This soil has a lot of history," he says gravely. "After all, the river Saraswati used to once flow here."
Purohit's contention is that the 'valley' is actually the bed of the Saraswati, a fact which finds mention in numerous ancient literary texts, but whose existence has often been questioned by historians. "Discovery of the river bed," he says, "proves beyond doubt that Saraswati is not a myth."
That myth may now be laid to rest forever as plans are afoot to revive a part of the course taken by this ancient river. The Haryana government has acquired almost 20 acres of land and work is under way on a 50 km-long channel in Kurukshetra, through which the river will flow again.
"The revival of the Saraswati will benefit countless people in the region as it will augment ground water resources," says Darshan Lal Jain of the Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan, which is working with the government on this project. The plan is not to line the river's course with bricks so that water can permeate the ground. With ground water levels dipping to as low as 150 feet, the river's revival may be a boon for parched Haryana.
7. VANVASI WOMEN CONVENTION IN RANCHI: "Women are blessed with miraculous power. When this power arises they can do whatever they wish. There is a need to arise that power today,” said RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Mohan Bhagwat. He was addressing a woman convention of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram held in Ranchi from December 18 to 21. A total of 1,820 women from 32 Prants participated in the convention. The presence of Sushri Premadevi who belongs to the Greater Andaman Janjati, which has only 48 members today, encouraged the delegates.
Three big processions were taken out in Ranchi on December 20. Over 18,000 women from Jharkhand participated in the function.
A public meeting was held at Haramu Grounds. Pramukh Sanchalika of Rashtra Sevika Samiti Pramilatai Medhe was the chief guest.
Some Vanvasi activists including Shukri Bommugowda of Karnataka, Suvarna Rawal and Sindhutai Sapkal of Maharashtra, Ambika Takbipi, Bhawani Baglari and Birubala Rabha of Assam, Sumanlata Murmu of Jharkhand, Tulsi Munda of Orissa and Kipu Lepcha of Sikkim were hounoured at the convention.
8. BHARATIYA TEMPLE ATTACKED IN SOUTH AFRICA: A prominent Hindu temple in Durban has been attacked, the sixth such incident in a Bharatiya place of worship since March this year, drawing sharp reaction from the religious leaders of the Bharatiya community against the brazen strike by criminal elements.
Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious leaders strongly reacted after the Grama Devi temple was raided by criminals for the second time since September.
Devotees were robbed of jewellery, watches, cell phones, and other valuables.
9. ROW IN NEPAL OVER SACKING OF BHARATIYA PRIESTS AT PASHUPATINATH: The Government’s decision to sack South Bharatiya priests from the Pashupatinath Temple in the capital has sparked a row in Nepal, with the main opposition party accusing the Maoists of hurting “the religious sentiments” of Hindus in the country.
The Nepali Congress, the second largest party in the country, has raised serious objections on the Maoist-led Government’s move to remove South Bharatiya Brahmins from capital’s famous Pashupatinath Temple, one of the eight holiest Hindu shrines, and appointing local priests in their place.
Nepali Congress (NC) alleged that it was done in a hurry without going through proper process and formalities.
“The way Maoist Government replaced the priests serving at the Pashupatinath Temple without fulfilling any formality has hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindu people of Nepal,” said NC chief Laxman Ghimire in the Parliament.
He said the removal of the priests on the basis of a personal decision of the member secretary of the Pashupati Area Development Trust is violation of rules and a blow to the Hindu sentiments in the country.
10. 62% TURNOUT IN J & K ELECTIONS – HIGHEST SINCE 1987: The seven-phased assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir ended with an aggregate voter turnout of 62 per cent. This is a huge improvement over the 43 per cent registered in the last elections in 2002, and the highest since the beginning of armed insurgency in the state in 1989. This is historic because there were apprehensions of violence and thin popular participation due to the boycott call by separatists. The atmosphere in the state was also charged after the Amarnath land controversy, which saw violent protests over the transfer of 100 acres of forest land near Srinagar to the Shri Amarnath Yatra Shrine Board. Governor N.N. Vohra described the polls as a "people's victory".
11. ANTI-TERROR STATEMENT AT MIDNIGHT MASS: In uncertain times, faith stands strong. That seemed to be the message that thousands of people conveyed at the Sacred Heart Cathedral New Delhi on Christmas Eve. Almost 12,000 people gathered at the church to offer prayers and attend midnight mass.
"This is a much higher number than last year and we are happy that so many people have come without fear. This sends a strong message to the harbingers of terror in the country that we may be down, but we are definitely not out," said one of the organisers.
Vendors selling Santa caps outside the gates did brisk business as almost every second person could be seen wearing one. Strains of Christmas carols and food stalls made for a perfect festive atmosphere.
While the general atmosphere was that of cheer, the Mumbai terror attacks seemed to be on the minds of many. "It is an emotional time for all Christians across the globe. We all are not just celebrating the birth of Christ, our Lord, we are also celebrating the victory of good over evil. We are praying for peace and happiness for everyone," said Vivienne Vaz, one of the visitors.
12. MUSLIM COUPLES TIE KNOT IN HINDU TEMPLE: In perhaps the first-of-its-kind nikah solemnised before Lord Ram in the communally sensitive Gujarat, two Muslim couples tied the knot in a Junagadh temple with a maulvi reciting Koranic verses in the backdrop of Ram dhun. Members of both communities joined the ceremony and dined together.
Abdul Sheikh (48), who works at Junagadh Civil Hospital approached Satyam Seva Mandal, a local NGO, seeking financial help for the weddings of his son Asif and daughter, Najma. "We were ready to help. But we told the family that the wedding ceremony has to take place in our building which houses a Ram mandir. They happily agreed," said Mansukh Vaja, a local activist.
"We saw this as an opportunity to set an example. I discussed the issue with my relatives and our maulavi saheb readily approved the idea," said Sheikh.
13. ISRO PUTS 'HEAVY-DUTY' SATELLITE INTO ORBIT: Two months after the successful launch of Bharat’s maiden Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, ISRO added another feather to its cap on when it blasted the first Bharat-made satellite for a foreign customer. The 3,463-kg satellite, called W2M, for European Satellite Telecommunication Organisation (Eutelsat) is the heaviest made by ISRO so far.
The rocket which carried W2M along with another satellite, Hot Bird, was an advanced version of hi-tech Ariane 5 ECA. The lift-off at 4.05 am on Dec 21 was from the European spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana. The flight marked Ariane 5’s 28th successful mission.
14. BRAHMOS VERTICAL LAUNCH SUCCESSFUL: The indigenously designed and developed BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was launched in a vertical position for the first time from a naval warship in the Bay of Bengal on December 17.
This was the first time the missile was launched from a universal vertical launcher fitted in a new ship. All earlier launches of BrahMos missile were carried out from inclined launchers.
With this, the BrahMos missile development programme achieved a milestone as most present day warships are fitted with vertical launchers, a Defence Ministry spokesman said.
Incidentally, the BrahMos was already inducted into the Army and the Navy and plans were afoot to induct it into the frontline SU-30 fighter jets of the IAF. Scientists were also planning to fit this missile on the submarines, sources said.
15. 8-YEAR-OLD GIRL CLEARS MICROSOFT EXAM, BREAKS RECORD: Software major Microsoft has recently discovered the youngest soul so far to crack its broad certification programme, the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam, with an eight-year-old girl successfully clearing it with flying colours.
Lavinyashree of the Dolphin School in Madurai, about 450 km south of Chennai, notwithstanding the initial entry barriers due to her age, cleared the examination with an amazing score of 842 out of 1,000, official sources said.
This is usually an examination taken by students passing out of engineering and computer science courses in the age group of 25-30 conducted by Microsoft every year. But Lavinyashree, a fourth standard girl, has broken the record held by a 10 -year old Pakistani girl, Hurbakareem Randha, who had successfully cleared the MCP examination in 2005. Lavinyashree has been quoted in the local press as saying that she has set her ambitions high and would like to become a "big scientist" like former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
16. ABVP ASKS CENTRE TO STOP ILLEGAL INFILTRATION: Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on Dec 16 organised a massive anti-infiltration rally in Kishanganj, Bihar. According to its leaders, the rally was organised to highlight the issue of illegal infiltration of Bangladeshis into the country, especially Bihar.
Over 50,000 ABVP cadre and sympathisers drawn from all-over the country had assembled in Kishanganj, where illegal infiltration has been taking place on an alarming scale.
17. NSG HUBS AT MUMBAI, CHENNAI, KOLKATA & HYDERABAD: Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai will soon have full-fledged units of the National Security Guard (NSG) which will help the NSG in cutting its response time substantially in future.
Though names of other cities -- Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Guwahati and Bangalore -- were also considered, the home ministry decided that Mumbai will cover the western zone while Kolkata will take care of the eastern zone. Hyderabad will be responsible for the central zone and Chennai for the south.
18. DAY CAMP OUTING 25TH DEC, 2008 HSS, HONG KONG: The Hindu Swayamevak Sangh (HSS) organised a day camp on 25th December at the Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp in Sai Kung, Hong Kong. A total of 67 participants from 27 families participated on that day in what was officially termed as Hindu Unity Day with local residents who were born and raised in all over Bharat before settling in Hong Kong.
The activities ranged from Bharatiya Games such as Standing Kho, Ring Catch, etc. with young children actively taking part. The food theme was that everybody had to share their Vegetarian food with each other thus everyone got a taste of the delicacies which originated from the full length and breadth of Bharat. There were 2 sets of Quiz with one for younger age swayamevaks on Ramayan and Mahabharat while the elder parents were asked more difficult questions on Bharat's Geography and Holy Places.
19. WIPRO BUYS CITI TECH FOR $127M: Wipro, the country's third largest IT Company, on Dec 23 announced that it is acquiring Citi Technology Services (CTS) for $127 million (about Rs 600 crore) in an all cash deal. This is Wipro's 16th acquisition since 2002. All of these have been in the IT space, except one Unza in the consumer goods business.
CTS, started in 2005, is Citi's Bharat-based captive provider of IT services and solutions to the bank's entities in 32 countries. It has facilities in Mumbai and Chennai, with employee strength of about 1,650. The company is expected to end this calendar year with revenue of $80 mn, up from $53 mn in 2007.
20. PIRAMAL TO BUY US FIRM FOR RS 200 CR: Piramal Healthcare announced on Tuesday that it has signed an agreement to acquire US-based anaesthetics manufacturer Minrad International for $40 million (around Rs 200 crore).
"The transaction will be operative from next fiscal, and we expect it will bring in $65 million or Rs 300-crore plus earnings in that year," Chairman Piramal group Ajay Piramal told.
The acquisition will provide Piramal an immediate entry into the US market for sevoflurane, the largest selling inhalation anaesthetic in the US.
The company will get access to latest generation anaesthetics used in surgery. The strategic combination will give Piramal access to key intellectual property for the manufacture of inhalation anesthetics, including process-based intellectual property for both sevoflurane and desflurane.
Piramal is a leading producer of halothane and isoflurane, while Minrads product portfolio of inhalation anaesthetics consists of isoflurane, enflurane and sevoflurane. This year Piramal has also acquired Germany's PlasmaSelect blood expansion products and two brands from Khandelwal Labs, with acquisitions totaling Rs 400 crore including Minrad.
21. LESSONS IN MANAGEMENT FROM CHANDRAYAAN: Bharat’s first lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-I’s successful formula in management of diverse manpower — groups of scientists and engineers from across the world working in unison — has proved such an awe-inspiring model that multinational corporations (MNCs) and management forums across the globe are keen to emulate it.
Mylswamy Annadurai, project director of Chandrayaan-I, has been swamped by invites from MNCs and forums for lectures on management of human resources in a multi-partner collaboration.
“I never thought I would be a good manager, but only an engineer. The MNCs want to hear how we managed a project involving so many partners and whether they could replicate it along with collaborators. We were like a family with a lot of give and take, and that enabled us to pull it off successfully,” he said.
On board Chandrayaan-I, six of the 11 instruments are from international space agencies — the US’s National Aeronautics and Space Agency, European Space Agency (a consortium of 17 European nations) and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Soon after the launch on October 22, the team won recognition in the form of an award for global cooperation from the International Lunar Exploration Working Group.
All the roads of world terrorism lead to Pakistan that has got velvet glove treatment with zero results, says Bharat born British novelist Salman Rushdie.
"The headquarters of the Al Qaeda, the headquarters of the Taliban, the headquarters of
Lashkar-e-Taiba, the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad is in the world centre of terrorism - Pakistan,"
Rushdie told a packed auditorium of the Asia Society while participating in a discussion, 'Understanding the Mumbai Attacks', in mid-town Manhattan.
Noted authors Mira Kamdar and Suketu Mehta were other two panelists at the discussion organised jointly by the Asia Society, the South Asian Journalist Association and the Indo-American Arts Council.
23. NET CLOSES IN ON CONGRESS MP FOR ORISSA SWAMI'S MURDER: The BJD-BJP Government in Orissa is closing in on Congress Rajya Sabha member and former civil servant Radhakanta Nayak for his "alleged role in the conspiracy to kill Lakshmanananda Saraswati."
Sources say that Nayak, the most high-profile Christian political leader in the State, may be arrested shortly. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has alleged that the plot to kill Lakshamanananda Saraswati was "hatched in the presence of Nayak."
24. C.P. BHISHIKAR PASSES AWAY: Veteran Sangh Pracharak who worked with the Sangh founder Dr Hedgewar and second Sarsanghachalak Shri Guruji and a leading writer, Chandrasekhar Parmanand Bhishikar, popularly known as Bapusaheb Bhishikar, passed away on December 8. He was 93. After completing MA he was Pracharak in Karachi till 1943. He was Chief Editor of Tarun Bharat daily in Pune for many years. Bhishikarji wrote biographies of Dr.Hegewar and Golwalkar Guruji besides several other books.
25. SENIOR BJP LEADER VP GOYAL PASSES AWAY: Veteran BJP leader and former Union Minister Ved Prakash Goyal passed away at the Hinduja Hospital-Mumbai on Dec 17 night, following protracted illness.
He was 82 and is survived by wife Chandrakanta, a former three-time MLA, two sons Pradeep, Piyush, two daughters Pramila and Pratibha. Goyal had been ailing since May this year. A former All Bharat treasurer of the BJP, Goyal was the party's Mumbai unit president. He had been a full-time RSS worker after completing his B.Sc in 1949. Subsequently, he was closely associated with Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Janata Party and the BJP.
26. RSS DISTRICT PRACHARAK ATTACKED IN TAMIL NADU: Dindhugal Zilla Pracharak of RSS Shri Bhaskar was attacked in Dindhugal on December 21. When he was returning from the Sangh Karyalaya, four persons attacked him with arms. The attack is widely suspected to be perpetrated by extremist Islamic elements. He was admitted to a hospital and due to a serious injury on one of his legs; his one leg had to be amputated.
27. ANTULAY HAS SHAMED INDIA'S MUSLIMS -- COMMUNAL ATTACK: Abdul Rehman Antulay has shamed the majority of India's Muslims who believe in the voice of reason and sanity. The Muslim community has condemned his reckless remarks, except for those who have vested interests in destabilizing India.
Antualay has no right to speak on behalf of the entire Muslim community. His utterings stem from the fact that he was frustrated at being sidelined both by his own party and the Muslim community and he wanted to do something to gain political mileage with in the orthodox sections of the Muslim community. His ploy may have worked but, in the long run, he will be exposed.
The self-appointed messiah of the Muslims has shown to what levels he can stoop. An overwhelming majority of Muslims find his utterances, suggesting that the terrorists who attacked India on November 26 may not have killed Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, ludicrous. To suggest that Karkare was killed by those under the scanner for the Malegoan blasts is finding a motive, not evidence. -- (Excerpts from article by Firoz Bakht Ahemd, Delhi based commentator on social issue, Hindustan Times, 23 Dec 2008)
28. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Dr.Shankar Tatwawadi, Samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will be in Bharat till mid Feb, Sh.Ravikumar, Sah Samyojak will be in Singapore from Jan 1-4. Visitors: Sh.Mangatram Sharma - Denmark
29. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: It is a barren philosophy which applies a mechanical rule to all actions, or takes a word and tries to fit all human life into it. The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfilment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint. Ramdas is not complete without Shivaji. To maintain justice and prevent the strong from despoiling and the weak from being oppressed is the fuction for which the Kshatriya was created. Therefore, says Sri Krishna in Mahabharat, God created battle and armour, the sword, the bow and the dagger. -- Sri Aurobindo in India's Rebirth, pg 46.

Just before he died of an ailment in January 2007, Umesh Kadia, a construction labourer in Ahmedabad, told his wife that his dream was to make their daughter Khushi, 7, an engineer. Studying in Class II of a local school, Khushi had showed signs of brilliance.
His dream seems to be coming true, thanks to an exceptional school opened by a corporate house. The English-medium Adani Vidyalaya in Ahmedabad, established by the Adani Foundation of the Gujarat-based Rs 25,000-crore Adani Group matches the high standards of any other good school except that it grants admission to children whose parents earn less than Rs 1 lakh annually. It provides free education and aims to make engineers, doctors and professionals out of the children of drivers, peons and labourers.
Khushi’s mother heard about an advertisement issued by the school, inviting poor children for a written test for admission to Class III of the school. Khushi appeared for the test and cleared it. Today Khushi goes to school at 7 a.m. in a school bus and returns home only in the evening, after completing her homework at school.
The school provides her with breakfast, lunch and even evening refreshments. A group of committed teachers work overtime to ensure that the children switch over from Gujarati to English medium. Even though from poor backgrounds, students here have high ambitions. Says Trushabh Solanki, son of a bank peon who is from a Scheduled Caste: “I will become Mahendra Singh Dhoni in cricket.” Similarly, Mayursinh Vaghela, the son of a factory worker, wants to become a soldier so that he can fight terrorists.
There are about 150 students in the school spread over 25,000 sq yards. Right now it has only two classes—III and IV. In three years, it will have classes up to XII and hopes to attract about 1,000 students.
The school is run by noted academician N.V. Vasani and supervised by Priti Adani, wife of Adani Group chairman, Gautam Adani, along with sister-in-law Shilin. Adani says: “These kids will be able to compete with the best when they complete their studies.” Quite possible for a school that has already spent Rs 40 crore besides reserving another Rs 30 crore for managing it. -- December 29, 2008 India Today

People want change. There have been two dozen major terrorist incidents in the last four years that have left over 900 dead. Against this backdrop, the audacity of the Mumbai carnage has generated unprecedented national fury. Anger was compounded by the US’s ABC News quoting intelligence sources that warnings shared with Indian agencies were specific:
“...from the sea against the hotels and business centres in Mumbai”. From street corners to drawing rooms, there are angry outbursts against the polity, systems, laws, State apparatuses and intentions and capabilities of those entrusted with the task of national security. Change we must. But anger is probably the worst stimulant for the change required.
There is another tragic side to the story. In India, governments agree to ‘change’ only when bled or pressurised beyond their political endurance. The government making laws to fight terrorism, which are a near repeat of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) that it repealed on coming to power four years ago, is illustrative. Do we always need ‘Mumbais’ to trigger the change?
There is an outcry to keep politicians out. In a democracy, if they have to be excluded from countering a threat that challenges our civil society, we first have to abandon democracy. Tackling Pakistan, enacting the right laws, running the government and insulating the populace from jihadi influence are all part of a political process. In a democracy, elected representatives have to do all this.
It is the politician’s indifference and low prioritisation of terrorism that is the problem — not his over-indulgence.
While terrorism should figure high on India’s political agenda, it is the execution of counter-terrorism policies and apparatuses that should be depoliticised. Today, it is the other way round. The Supreme Court’s judgements on depoliticising the police and its repeated demands for compliance have been ignored by politicians both at the Centre and in the states. This is illustrative of where the problem lies. Terrorism cannot be fought unless the police are reformed. This can’t take place unless the police force is depoliticised.
Terrorists have to be fought both in the defensive and offensive modes. While in the defensive mode, we have to protect our people and interests; in the offensive mode, we have to neutralise and deter our enemies. Operating exclusively in the defensive mode is like playing football with one goal post where you only take the hits. This way, the defending team can never win. Fourth generation warfare against an invisible enemy can’t be won unless the costs are made unbearably high for the perpetrators and supporters of terror. A credible covert capacity, the use of which can be controlled and calibrated, will be an effective deterrent.
Unilaterally lowering the deterrence threshold — like the declaration in Havana on September 15, 2006, that Pakistan was a ‘terrorist victim State’ and not a ‘terrorist-sponsoring State’ — only reduces the pressure on the enemy and emboldens it.
Whatever the government’s considered policy might be, it is bad counter-terrorist strategy to give them assurance of impunity. The nation needs to build deterrent covert capabilities against terrorism.
In the defensive mode, strong anti-terror laws — substantive and procedural — are necessary. It is gratifying that the government has almost re-enacted Pota. However, in the proposed new law, inadmissibility of disclosures made before the police remains a lacuna. How can the police get evidence of the planning, preparation and logistics that lie beyond their reach and jurisdiction? Making admissions even before senior police officers inadmissible will only help the terrorists.
How can a society unwilling to trust its police against a foreign terrorist expect a policeman to lay down his life to protect it?
A seamless integration of the three functions that go in fighting terrorists — developing operation-grade intelligence, coercive action to pre-empt or prevent terrorist actions and investigation — is required. One of the reasons why terrorists are able to display greater surprise, speed and success in their operations, despite low human and material resources, is that each terrorist group synergises all the functions that go into perpetrating a terrorist act. A unified national response will check the menace of passing the buck that has cost the nation for so long.
The creation of a National Investigating Agency, though a move forward, will prove to be inadequate unless all counter-terrorist intelligence tasks are placed under a unified command-and-control system. An investigating agency, at best, may get a few more convictions in the courts. But a ‘war against terrorism’ cannot be won in the courts. What we need is a National Counter-Terrorist Agency with stand-alone capacities to fight terrorism.
For empowerment of the state police, states should be encouraged to enact laws to control activities of organised criminals, counterfeiters, gun-runners, drug syndicates etc. who have collaborative linkages with terrorists. It is regrettable that the Centre has not accorded its concurrence to many anti-terror state legislations like those in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh for years, even as such a law exists in Maharashtra.
It matters to a nation what happens to it. But what is more important is how it responds to it. Today a national consensus can be the driving force for bringing about many changes that are long overdue. Let us turn a calamity into an opportunity and force a change in our antiquated security set-up and make it a state-of-the art instrument that serves the nation.
(Ajit Doval is a former Director, Intelligence Bureau) -- Hindustan Times 23 Dec 2008