Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Encounter killings" in Chennai: Was Police Action Justified or was it a case of "unrestrained killing"

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, was rocked by a spate of daring daylight heists. At least 2 banks were looted in broad daylight and nearly 50 lakhs was carted away. The Chief Minister, Ms Jayalalithaa, unlike here predecessor is extremely strong on the issue of Law and Order and her regime is usually marked by strong police law enforecement. Her quich intervention is many instances of "land grabbing" by DMK political goondas has created a good impression in the minds of the ordinary people. Obviously the bank robberies had dented this carefully crafted image and Tamil Nadu was being projected as a state without security in the vernacular media. This negative perception prompted the Chief Minister to instruct the police to act swiftly and decisively. And that the Police under J K Tripathi, IPS did. Was the police action justified?

At midnight, 23rd Feb 2012, a posse of policemen surrounded a house in Velachery, a subburb of Chennai and killed 5 young men in the building. The Chennai Police claim that they acted in self defence a claim strengthened by the fact that 9 sophisticated revolvers were recovered from the site. The fact that the men were armed and hence dangerous brings up the question of "propotionate force". Even in UK and USA when the police deal with armed criminals, the use of force including "shoot to kill" is conceded. The real problem is to assess the "real and present" danger confronted by the Police in the actual situation of encounter. Post facto one can make all kinds of speculation, but the fact remains that the 5 men were armed with sophisticated weapons.

The Newspapers, The Hindu and The Deccan Chronicle, have pointed out that there were no bullet marks onthe walls of the room in which the encounter took place. The washing machine and the television were both in tact. This fact makes the human rights activists suspicious. I too wonder how many rounds were fired. I would like to know whether the firing was from inside the room to which the police party responded or whether the firing was only after the police gained entry into the room, The latter fact does not necessariy mean that the encounter was "fake" because weapon swere found on the site that clearly belonged to the criminals.

It has beome customary to raise doubts about the police version of events because the credibility of the police force is low and the courts grant the benefit of doubt even when circumstantial evidence is strong.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Rule of Law is virtually unknown in India. Every criminal with political protection can escape justice with impunity. Courts can easily be persuaded to render judements which are to say the least quite insipid and bland. Think of the S P S Rathore case or the judgements in the Jessicca Lal case or even the Nitish Kataria case. I am saying this only to remind the reader that Indian legal system is not robust as any Western country.

A few days back two Italian marines,Latore Massimilliano and Salvatore Girone shot and killed 2 fisherman from Tamil Nadu off the coast of Kochi.They were marines protecting a cargo/ container ship under the command of Enrica Lexie.The initial justification given by the Captain of the ship, who refused to surrender, was that the two fishermen were "pirates". The threat of piracy was invoked as the justification for the killing of two non-white men by two Europeans. Are we going back to the days of the Portuguese when Indians were killed on the high seas for no reason except that the ships did not carry a cartaz issued by the Goan government. No country can ignore the affront to its national dignity which is posed by trigger happy Europeans.

After much delay the ship and the two marines surrendered to the harbour police at Kochi. Initially they claimed that the ship was in international waters, an argument that he GPS data from the ship itself disprover. Then the argument was made by the consular authorities that the 2 marines would be tried in Italy. Are the Italians so naieve as to think that because India has an Italian ruler frommthe Maino family, extra territorial rights are to be enjoyed by trigger happy Italian marines. The Quatrrochi Affair afterll and the Bofors Scandal are still simmering under the surface. So India,at least for now put on a tough act. The question is will India keep up the tough stand.

I venture to suggest that once the noise dies down and the UP election is over, India will start diluting its stand and will release the 2 marines to Italian custody with the gentlemen's agreement that they spen time in Italina jail, an agreement that Italy will not openly flout but will not keep. Right now it is politicallly inexpedient for India to appear lenient toward the Italians. Sonia, the dynastic figure head, does not want another row over favors shown to the denizens from the land of Maino. That is all. The Congress Government is indulging in bravado and I think the Italians will keep their mouth shut and go along with the drma which is being played out in Kochi.

I hope I am wrong but I have always been right in all my predictions.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Israel Attacked in New Delhi" Some Questions and Pakistan

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Yesterday a bomb ripped through the car in which an Israeli embassy staffer Ms Yehoshua Koren, the wife of the defence attache, was travelling. The exposive used was similar to the one used in Georgia and the bomb was pbobably just little bigger than a human fist. Surprisingly, the attack took place less than 50 meters from the residence of the Prime Minister, Man Mohan Singh. Ms Koren suffered serious spinal injuries but the efforts of the doctors in one of New Delhi's Hospitals saved her life. Now questions are being asked about the motives for the attack and the perpetrators of this terrorist attack. One theory doing the rounds is that thiis was a revenge for the killing of 5 Iranian nuclear scientists whose cafrs were blown using a similar device. Another suspect is the Hizzbollah of Lebonon. None of these theories seem to make any sense.

Iran is facing international furoe over ts nuclear plans and will certainly not want to draw attention to itself in these circumstances. Iran generally prefers to let things quieten down rather than stir things up. Its nuclear plans are likely to come to fruition in the course of the next few months and this is hardly the time for any brazen act of bravado. Iran does not use assasination as a tool. Israel, on the other hand has had a long history of using violence against its known and imagined enemies. Further, Iran will not like to jeopardise its relationship with India by staging an attack on Israel on Indian soil. India is the only major country which is opposing sanctions and iran needs the support of India on this vital matter. Further, Iran and India have virtually clinched the pipeline deal and therefore will not risk antogonising India. Though, India is opposed ti Iran's nuclear ambitions, it is firmly opposed to any coercive measures to bring Iran to heel. With so much at stake, we cannot blame Iran for the attack in New Delhi.

As for the Lebonese Shiaa Hizzbollah, it would be a mistake to regard it as a surrogate of Iran. While Iran does have influence over the body, the Lebonese have to worry about their own problems and Iran's nuclear ambitions are certainly not one of them. Theonly country whc=ich has the means and the ability to strike in this manner is Pakistan. The ISI has been training terrorists for a long time and the uSA has been warning Pakistan over the overt and covert support it extends to terrorists all over the world. Pakistan being a predominantly Sunni country has been systematically slaughtering the Shiaas who are concentrated on the Western part of the country. The ISI will certainly like the world to believe that Iran is behind the attack and thereby motivate Israel to launch a strke against Iran.

Israel will certainly find out the truth, unlike the Indian Inlelligence which is non existent. The MOSSAD is the world's best secret service and I am sure that it will soon track down and elimeinate those responsible fr this attack

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Subramanian Swamy in Indian Politics: Why India cannot do without him

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The field of Indian politics is crowded with every kind of undesirable criminal who somehow get elected to Parliament and pose as "peoples Representatives". In most Western democracies one can expect a basic level of education and civility from the elected representatives. In India politicians tend to focus on personalities rather than the issues and hence we need to take personalities seriously. We have had number of colourful figures--Raj Narain, Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narain etc.All these personalities have contributed immensely to Indian politics, either in a negative manner like Raj Narain or positive manner like Lohia and Jayaprakash. However there is one and only Subramanian Swamy. A Tamil Iyer,and I must say that like the Jews, the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu are targeted by the Dravidian parties,by birth Subramanian Swamy has earned for himself an abiding place Indian politics by sheer strategic intelligence and perseverence. Given the overwhelming superiority in numbers commanded by the backward caste, the political scene is grim for the brahmins and dalits. In this menagerie Swamy has created a niche for himself.

Electoral democracy has given space to the criminals who masquerade as politicians and men like Swamy cannot be a match to the Mulayam Singh Yadava, Laloo Prasad Yadava, and D P Yadava. He does not have the muscle power or the money power to take on the dynastic fascism of the Congress. Therefore he has concentrated on "issue based politics". This means that ideology is not the main factor in his politics. Rather he creates a space for himself by exploiting the very weaknesses of the so called political class. Swamy is well aware that Indian dynastic fascism is both corrupt and criminal so he uses the laws of the land to corner the politicians. He is a highly educated individual and the semi-literate Indian politician is virtually defenceless in front of him.Men like A Raja, the DMK minister who is in jail, should have known long ago that the backward class dominated DMK will sacrifice him and that is exactly what happened. Kani is out and Raja is in. Men like Swamy understand the caste dynamics of Tamil politics and play the tune like an accomplished pianist.

Swamy, the Harvard Ph D, is sometimes mistaken to be a serial blackmailer, targetting cash heavy politicians in order to force them to offload some of the mullah. I too for sometime believed that this was indeed the case. I have now come to realise that while Swamy ruthlessly pursues his quarry, he does not negotiate with it and so he is not a blackmailer, as he is sometimes portrayed to be. Had this been the case the Harvard Zero, Chidambaram would have long ago purchased peace. Swamy's technique is to use the law and procedures to harass the politicians who he perceives to be anti-national. He has the ability to research the subject thoroughly and being a well known economist has an array of sources which he deploys in a deft manner. Dr Arun Shourie was one such individual, but has since become a writer close to the BJP. Swamy, however, is still independent.

In the world according to Swamy, there are no permanent friends and permanent enemies in politics and he truly lives up to the golden adage of Machiavelli: it is better to be feared than to be loved. Indian politicians from across the political spectrum loathe Swamy and this is proof that he is on the right track. Attempts to target and paint him using the Congress party's contribution to politicalexicon of India--communal-- will not wash because in his personal life, Swamy shows the he is more secular than Nehru who did not want his daughter to marry a parsi. Even India's animus against Meneka seems to have had a communal and caste tinge to it.

Swamy's list of "victims" is impressive: Jayalalithaa, Ramakrishna Hegde, A Raja and scores more. Some his his antics have been wasteful. He brought down the Vajapayee Gavernemnt in 1999 by one vote on sheer whim. He had no hesitation in teaming up with J Jayalalithaa and Sonia to bring down the NDA Government. I do not know what he achieved by doing this except the vicarious pleasure of tweaking Vjaapayee's nose. He relentlessly pursued the cases against the other major crimianl organisation in India, apart from the Congress, viz the DMK and kept the spotlight on the Jain Commission of Inquiry which indicted the leadership of the DMK for various acts in support of the LTTE. He kept the pressure on the DMK until the Congress forits own political reasons jumped into bed with the DMK. Even in the 2G Scandal nothing would have happened without the sustained intervention of Swamy.

I think India needs a ruthless hunter like Swamy and I say all power to him.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Adjectives fail when we try to describe the brutal killing of a teacher in front of her whole class by a student. In Chennai, Tamil Nadu three days back a 14 year old student called Irfan killed his Hindi teacher Ms Uma Maheswari, 39, mother of 2 young girls in front of the entire class. Unfortunately since the boy age is only 14 chances are that given the lax state of justice in India, he will escape punishment and his family is well off so perhaps, as was the case in the Jessica Lal and Priyadrashini Matoo case, justice may not prevail without strong public pressure. Already the Press is making every effort to project Irfan as a "child" whose "right" were violated by the Hindi Teacher when she pulled him up for not studying. In Deccan Chronicle there is even an article saying that his future must be protected even after the crime the he has done. Who is to speak for the 2 young daughters who have lost their mother. Sometimes I feel that criminals cannot be brought to justice, JUSTICE must be brought to them. I wrote this line in an earlier blog on S P S Rathore IPS. I hope Irfan is punished because the crime he committed in public and the pre meditated manner in which he perpetrated the crime bespeak of a "hate crime'. Given the sad state of affairs in India, I would not be surprised if the Press rants and raves and when the furoe dies down, Irfan quietly walks the street again. Tamil Nadu has a history of letting off well connected criminals. I remember that John Davis, the man who liked some Ponarrasu, came out of prison waving a Bible.

There is need to rethink the manner in which Teachers are treated in India. School/ College and University teaching require special skills and little effort is made to impart pedagogic skills. I do not mean to suggest that the run of the mill B. Ed degrees offered by B Ed institutions are the solution. Jiddu Krisnamurti is perhaps the only Philosopher in India who has spent a lifetime thinking about this very issue. Teachers need to be sensitized to the Jiddu Krinamurhy methods of teaching. Classroom teaching must be liberating not oppressive and this can be achievedvd only when the teachers are trained in teaching minus the competitive spirit. Unfortunately, in most schools the number of students in the class exceed the optimum strenght of 30 and therefore smaller classes is the need of the hour. I must say that teenagers are under formed personalities and their self worth and image is easily upset and hence they need to be handled firmly but with tact. I studied in Don Bosco, Egmore several decades back and I remember with horror a Hindi teacher who used to send notes to the parents for every little thing. Another Teacher called Subba Rao who was always dressed in white pyjama and jibba was just the opposite and I learned Hindi quite well from him. I am not blaming anyone, but just pleading for more wholesome methods of teaching.

Irfan's family seems to be one of the upwardly mobile families that has become wealth over the past few years and hence it has the "craze" for "convent" education. Families undermine traditional values by encouraging instant gratification. Instead of spending time with the boy and encouraging him in his studies, the parents have apparently spoiled him by giving him a daily pocket money of Rs 100. Parents must share the blame for this crime as they have failed in the primary responsibility of bringing up a well behaved and well mannered child. I think parents who allow their children all kinds of freedom must treat this case as a wake up call.

Language teaching is an art and we must be making effort to teach languages effectively. In USA, for instance in 2 semester a student lears to read, write and to some extent speak an Indian language. Of course, I am talking about University students but I want to say that there are mewthods availble for efficient mens of language acquisition and we need to introspect seriously over them. It would be a pity if the crime of Irfan and the death of Ms Uma Masevari is forgotten.