Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A System of Crooked Intelligence from Purulia to Mumbai:Lessons still not learnt

On this day, thirteen years back, a village in Bansghar in Purulia district of West Bengal was air-dropped with 300 assault rifles and million rounds of ammunition, in what is now known as Purulia Arms Drop Case(PADC). The delivery to intended recipients was bungled as the consignment landed miles off the target & the villagers notified the local police station at Jhalda . The plane that (mis)delivered the cargo was a Russian made Antonov aircraft purchased from the Latvian Airlines. It flew onward to Phuket & on its return flight to Karachi via Chennai , three days later, was asked to land in Mumbai airport by the Airport Traffic Controller for deviating from the scheduled route. 6 people were arrested. They included 5 Latvian crew members & 1 British arms dealer , Peter Bleach. Another person a Danish national named Niels Nielson alias Kim Davey managed to escape. Subsequent trials led to conviction of all the six including Peter Bleach by the City Sessions court, Kolkata . However, international diplomacy in later period by Russia & Britain led to ultimate remission of the sentences and freedom from Indian jails for all the six.
During the trial of the case, it was revealed that Peter Bleach had kept the Ministry of Defence in Britain informed about the illicit nature of the deal when Bleach learned that the intended recipient was not the Indian Government but 'Ananda Margis', a violent Hindu religious sect that propagates the Progressive Utilisation Theory (PROUT) of its founder Late P.R.Sarkar & whose headquarters are based in Banshgarh. The secret services of Britain had passed on the intelligence to the Indian government almost a fortnight before the drop. But none seemed to have acted .

The recent mayhem in Mumbai on 26/11 also hints of a warning, tip-off, interception given to the Intelligence officials & Coast Guard but unfortunately they were of no avail as 10 gunmen with assault rifles put a permanent scar on the psyche of Mumbai & India as they mowed down 175 people.

Thirteen years have elapsed since PADC and there are still unanswered questions .

1. Where is Nielson alias Kim Davey? How did he escape from the aircraft? Nielson was alleged to be a monk of the Ananda Margis and was personally supervising the operation from financing to delivery. What is the Indian Government doing to get him back?

2. Why did the Indian Government decide not to act on the intelligence provided by Britain?

3. The contract , according to Bleach, was for delivery of 2500 assault rifles. Only 300 were recovered. Where are the balance 2200 rifles? If 10 assault rifles on 26/11 can create unimaginable havoc, just imagine what would 2000 rifles manage to do ?

As new & tough laws get enacted by the government, one wonders the efficacy of such laws when there is often a deliberate neglect of crucial intelligence of such crimes.Both in Purulia & Mumbai.

The tragic events of 26/11 in Mumbai should at least push the lawmakers to make intelligence officials and/or their relevant political master(s) accountable for such serious lapses. Only the highest sentence under the Indian Penal Code should be enacted towards these people otherwise the situation will remain the same , tough laws notwithstanding.

Photo Source : Gianluca Giardina on Flickr

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A crow does not eat another crow's meat

A lot of hue and cry is being made of the fact that Asmal Kasav, the captured gunman of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai is a Pakistani national and that is enough reason for India to go to war with Pakistan. Arguments are being cited that the state must take responsibility of the belligerent actions of its citizens. The 9/11 attacks , seven years back, were executed by a team. a few of whom were residents of West Germany while a few had taken active residency in USA itself undergoing commercial training in flying aircraft. It didn't prompt America to go into a war with a similar developed economy as Germany. But, instead, it took it upon itself to invade & "liberate" Afghanistan and an old enemy, Iraq of their terror networks & supporting regimes. The situation in both the countries,unfortunately, is still fragile with the acrid smell of gun powder and burnt flesh in the streets , all over. The funding of this illogical war inside nation states and against a motivated but embedded enemy of "jihadi terrorists" probably came from the money borrowed from the rest of the world who had mistakenly hitched a ride on the booming real-estate market in USA. And now that the American economy approaches bankruptcy, the rock-bottom prices of oil do not even justify the surrogate control over oil reserves of the middle east. It will not be long before rest of the world will gear up again to bail-out America. Companies in export-intensive countries like Singapore, Japan, South Korea will wipe out American companies on price innovation in the American market thus affecting employment and/or salaries of their own workforce while the governments of emerging markets like India & China will use bloated fiscal-stimulus measures to sustain large western corporations of the capital goods & infrastructure sectors like GE, Caterpillar etc. For the governments in South Asia this is the ideal time to stop, collect together & ponder before blindly signing the checks for future American profligacy.

The sequential cycle of inequality, unbridled aggression in foreign policies, spread of blind-faith over scientific education, terrorism & economic ruin have happened for too long a time to ignore anymore. Over the last century , the cycle time of such sequence of events have reduced from 2-4 decades in the early part to 7-8 years in the latter; helped largely by a boom in defence-arsenal sectors and invention of the microchip , Internet & wireless handheld devices. It will not be foolhardy to expect that the cycle time will reduce further in the coming years. This will put enormous pressure on two of the most dear virtues of a statesman or a leader namely restraint in aggression and tolerance for other faiths including the blind ones.

One sincerely hopes that the political establishments in South Asia do not fall prey to the same virus of war of arsenals & violence among themselves. The bigger war, if it has to be played , is the economic one which a tiny nation like Japan had toiled hard to win during the post world war era. The leaders of South Asian bloc should seize the opportunity to initiate peace and build foundations for long-term dominance of the western market instead of squandering away the economic gains , that they have made in the last decade, after defence arsenals & nuclear warheads.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Himalayas from close

This is my first travel post although this is not one about my travel, which has hit its logical end since the days I have been hibernating in Kolkata. This is a post on Venkatesh's (or "Venky" as we knew him in college) trek to the Everest base camp & is dedicated to you who love(s) mountains & travelogues.

Besides the fact that Venky's trek of 71 miles ascending from Lukla to Kalapatthar (5649 m.) was to see Everest & its Himalayan brethren (Nuptse, Pumori etc.) from as humanly close as possible; what I liked most about his travelogue was the way he prepared for the journey studying the route, planning the logistics, physically getting in shape & finally his ability to superbly document the account with the help of numerous elevation profiles, high resolution snaps , videos & commentary. One feels as if one was trekking with him throughout the journey, sharing his joy at spotting the peaks studied beforehand. Venky was not alone in the trek. He had Malini, his wife, for company as an equally enthusiastic trekker & travelogue writer.

Venky now lives in America with Malini & takes his travel cum treks seriously. In his own words , ".... for the past few years, I've been doing this sort of trek on an annual basis and so I try and clock 500 miles of running every year. That keeps me fit enough. In fact, I almost hurt my chances by over-running in the weeks before. Sprained my foot and was limping till the day we boarded our flight to Nepal. Thankfully, I recovered in time to complete the trek without any discomfort"

Thanx ,Venky , for sharing your "trekking world" .

p.s: Click on the link in the first paragraph & select Everest Base Camp from menu & enjoy thereafter. This snap of Everest is from his site.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dhimsa- Songs from the woods of Araku

Below is a small video clip of the tribal dance form called Dhimsa. I took the clip while on work with a NGO in a small hamlet near Araku, Andhra Pradesh. The locals there were part of a community farming project of organic coffee. The NGO was facilitating building up a cooperative of small & marginal farmers, training them on organic farming & finally helping them to find buyers. A central minister with his family had accompanied us to this place because his wife wanted to take a look at the farm to source the produce for her new organic coffee boutique in Hyderabad. Araku lies on the Eastern Ghats with a moderate elevation where coffee is farmed on the slopes under the shade of Silver oak trees. So after a small climb to the plantations amidst the woods, the entourage was sufficiently tired & needed some entertainment. A colleague of mine had thoughtfully arranged for a durbar of the tribals with the minister followed by a dance performance. Dhimsa is normally performed on full moon nights by the women folk supported by a local band with their drums & flute. But this performance was sometimes in the afternoon. Nevertheless, it is a centuries old dance form, which I was lucky enough to witness.