Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel’s New Year Gift

Children of Heaven: How precise is Israel's "precision" bombing? (Photo Courtesy: Khalil Hamra / Associated Press)

Israel, the world’s only country with no internationally-declared borders, has begun the deadly dance of death and destruction in Gaza city which is located in 1.5 million strong Gaza strip, the world’s most densely populated area. As Israel prepares for a long haul with tanks massed along the Gaza after the aerial strikes, the official silence of Egypt and Jordan has resulted in mental agony for the hapless Palestinians. Palestinians have been betrayed not only by Israel alone but by their “own” people. This fact can be gauged from Egyptian government’s decision to seal its border along the Gaza strip at Rafah Crossing thus aggravating the humanitarian crisis fuelled by a country whose does not believe in human rights. Israel is the only country in the world which has violated the maximum number of United Nations’ resolutions since it came into existence in November 1948 with the help of a United Nation’s resolution! Israel’s history of complete disregard to human rights and international law will put any human being to shame. Five years ago, Rachel Corrie, an American human rights activist with International Solidarity Movement was crushed to death by an armoured Israeli bulldozer as she was protesting against the destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza strip. The current situation was propelled by an economic blockade by Israel two months ago as a response to what it says “rocket and mortar fire” by Hamas, the ruling militant organization in Gaza strip. An Egyptian-brokered peace truce between Israel and Hamas was broken ten days ago. This situation was exploited by Israel to intensify an already existent economic blockade thus making ordinary life miserable. Just a day before the Israeli offensive, Rami Almeghari, a lecturer of Islamic University of Gaza could not find bread in Gaza! An empty stomach has a right not only to hunger but anger as well. It is in this context that Hamas rocket attack into Southern Israel must be interpreted. BBC reported on November 13 that “Gaza may be without United Nations food aid from November 15 after Israel has refused to allow in emergency supplies.” The Israeli blockade was not merely economic but academic as well. 27-year old Belal Bedwan, a resident of Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Central Gaza told BBC that he had twice missed the chance to study abroad since he was not allowed to move out of Gaza although he had got admission in Malaysian University as late as July 2008! “The Israelis stopped me leaving Erez in the north and the Egyptians stopped me at Rafah in the south,” he had told BBC. A Palestinian noise is never heard through voice. Al-Qassam rockets are the only means to draw the world’s attention. Shifa hospital, where most of the injured are being treated does not have adequate medical wares. Laila El-Haddad, a Gaza-based journalist wrote that medical supplies like face masks, surgical gloves, gowns etc. are in short supply. She wrote that the heading in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz ‘Over 50 targets by 60 warplanes’ sounds like a “movie tagline or a game.” She sarcastically termed the Israeli offensive as “Neatly packaged war in a gift-box.” Among 300 dead bodies, there are at least 20 children. Perhaps this war is the Jewish states’ New Year gift to a Palestinian mother. Israeli has lost one war against Lebanon’s Hezbullah in 2006. Israel will lose this war against democratically-elected Hamas again because the days of age-old saying ‘Might is right’ are dead. Israel may win this battle but it will lose the war. An increasing number of non-Muslims are raising their voice against the Israeli barbarism. An American Christian had this to say in a letter to a Palestinian:
I apologize for what is happening to your people and your family. I wish the U.S. were coming out more strongly in condemnation of the Israeli violent actions. I have called the U.S. Secretary of State office and expressed my concern and my desire that the U.S. more strongly condemn today’s Israeli actions. I sent an email of condemnation to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. I also sent an email to the American Jewish Committee, and expressed very strongly my disapproval of that organization's statement today in support of the Israeli action.
With the ongoing global recession the downfall of Israel’s biggest ally has already begun. Empires don’t fall overnight; first comes the decline and then fall. The Mughal Empire’s decline began after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. But the fall came 150 years later in 1857. At present America is sinking in a sea of debt. Afghanistan and Iraq wars have severely wounded the backbone of America’s economy.
Israel is heading the same path of destruction. It is digging its own grave.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

26/11 and Urdu press

Muslims kids participate in an anti-terror rally
Contrary to the popular myth that the Urdu press is a monolithic entity, it represents a diverse range of issues, opinions, points and counter-points. The tragedy of 26/11 proved to be a litmus test. On a careful analysis, it becomes abundantly clear that Urdu press accommodated views that could not find space even in the mainstream media. It is altogether a different debate whether the issues raised were right or wrong. It is in the intrinsic nature of good journalism to accommodate all kinds of views.

Urdu newspapers were the first to denounce the terrorists that struck Mumbai on the fateful night of November 26. The very next day, most Urdu newspapers carried front-page editorials. Leading Mumbai daily Inquilab carried a small piece titled, 'Who are these beasts? Let's defeat them together'. And, 'Who are these smiling faces that have deserted Mumbai' was the title of a front-page piece in Urdu Times. Delhi-based weekly Jadeed Markaz had a simple and self-evident headline: 'Pakistani terrorists attack India'.

Some newspapers demanded accountability from the government and politicians while others were against the political bashing. Inquilab came down heavily on politicians especially over "the politics of dead bodies". "It is time," it said, "that people question the establishment as to why our security is so weak. Why are we so helpless against terrorists? What is our policy against terrorists?" It blasted politicians for wagging their tongues. "For God's sake, hold your tongue," it warned, "We are not desperate to hear your statements but rather we want some concrete action." Rashtriya Sahara too criticised politicians. "In this tough battle our brave soldiers sacrificed their lives but yet the behaviour of political class has shamed us that even in worst times, politicians can't unite."

Jadeed Markaz said that the trend to abuse the present system is very dangerous. "It is not a good omen for the country's democratic system," it cautioned. "This environment against the politicians," it said, "has been created by people belonging to big corporate houses, those who frequent night clubs and expensive hotels, those who call themselves as 'elite'… There was no Preity Zinta to light candles at Cama hospital and CST because those died there obviously did not belong to the elite club."

The peace march at the Gateway of India and later at CST was given prominent coverage and like its English counterpart the Urdu press was overtly nationalist. Inquilab ran a front-page headline, 'Announcement of war against politicians and establishment'.

It beautifully captured the mood of the people by reproducing the slogans of the day.

Urdu Times had a similar headline. The peace march by Muslims was also highlighted particularly the placards which read, 'Pakistan be declared a terrorist state'.

Hemant Karkare was not only given a hero's farewell but his death has been widely speculated. A section of the Urdu press has advocated the theory floating on the net that he was killed by Sangh Parivar and Mossad for his exposé of the Malegaon bomb blast!

Rashtriya Sahara carried a series of pieces on the conspiracy theory. One read, "If the questions being raised, circumstances and incidents indicate that this is a cooked up story then the reader's decision will prevail." Jadeed Markaz is also sceptical. "It can't be said that attackers of Hemant Karkare belong to Sangh Parivar but it is quite possible that any mad man could have attacked him as a result of the recent provocations by Sangh leaders." Urdu Times ran articles by Amaresh Mishra, a known Sangh Parivar critic, who believes in RSS-Mossad conspiracy theory! "The alliance has gone out of control," he wrote.

Inquilab stayed away from these conspiracy theories but pointed out some loopholes in the official version. It carried a reference report which says the terrorists who killed Karkare were speaking Marathi. "These terrible events leave innumerable questions; out of which many questions will never be answered. The same thing happened with 9/11." The paper urges Muslims to act rather than be a "mute spectator". "It's time for action and to become part of the system. For how long we will stick to our glorious past? Saazish kay muqabley mein kavish hi kaam aa sakti hai. (Hard work and striving can be more fruitful than a conspiracy)." It severely criticised AR Antulay's observation that Karkare was not killed by the terrorists.

26/11 has evolved Urdu journalism: this was the first time that leading newspapers devoted many special pages to a tragedy. News was not just covered from the 'Muslim point of view' as is widely believed, but from the human angle as well. This can be gauged from the fact that none of them highlighted or sensationalised the fact that almost 40 per cent of the terror victims were Muslims.
Sunday DNA, December 21, 2008

Malegaon blast probe is still the issue

Malegaon blast victim still await justice. Will Mr. Raghuvanshi oblige?

The world's largest democracy is going through one of the most critical phases of its 61-year old life. We should call it India's mid-life crisis; a period of dramatic self-doubt where one tragedy is being matched or answered by a greater tragedy. It seems that competition – one of the main features of marketing – has begun to apply even in the gory field of terrorism. We are being pushed into the dirty pit of terrorism in a cyclical motion. Terrorism has begun to apply the rules of communication. Communication is a two-way process. Terrorism is increasingly following in the footsteps of communication; where 'our terror' is being answered by 'their terror' or vice versa. This phenomenon is alternatively known as 'tit-for-tat terrorism.' It is in this framework that Malegaon September 2008 blast must be looked into.

The Malegaon blast probe which made headlines all across the world was earth-shattering. Before the probe could completely unearth all the faces involved in the blast; another terror storm rocked the nation's psyche and Malegaon probe was suddenly put on hold. The worst aspect of 26/11 may be that it consumed the faces involved in Malegaon blast probe but Malegaon can not be put on the back burner. The shocking revelations of Malegaon blast can not be easily erased from peoples' memories; be it Hindu or Muslim. 26/11 may have overshadowed Malegaon, but it can never be forgotten because it has now been associated with the Mumbai carnage.

Does that sound strange that Malegaon probe has been associated with 26/11?

No. The two fateful events had one similar character: ATS chief Hemant Karkare. And whenever, people would recall 26/11, they will surely remember Hemant Karkare. And the name Hemant Karkare has become synonymous with Malegaon blast probe. There emerges a triangle whose dots will always be connected to each other.

Hemant Karkare's loss has proved to be a severe blow to the Malegaon investigation. The main character of the script is no more. Can a script be completed without the main character? It might be possible that a film can never be sustained with the death of its protagonist but in real life things are different. Karkare has left behind footprints on the sand. Now it is the job of the directors (read politicians) to guide the new actor (read K.P. Raghuvanshi); to make sure that he follows the footprints left by his predecessor.

The new actor must remember that footprints on sand don't last long.

The director (Ashok Chavan), his assistant (Chagun Bhujbhal) and the new actor know and understand that Malegaon script has already been drafted. The new players just need to complete the script. Any change or delay in the completion of the script will be detrimental. Audiences are desperately waiting to witness the climax of the story.

The people of Malegaon are not very happy with the track record of K.P. Raghuvanshi; he was the ATS chief when September 8, 2006 blasts took place. But still, we have no grudge against him; our readers will recall that Nanded blast was being investigated by Mr. Raghuvanshi himself. The ATS investigation in Nanded blast was far better than the investigation carried by CBI later. In fact, Mr. Raghuvanshi should be given a free hand to complete the Malegaon probe as early as possible.

With Karkare's departure, the once media-savvy ATS has suddenly become media-shy. People of Malegaon want ATS chief to assert himself in order to restore the faith of the people. He has not made any remark or addressed a single press conference on the issue of Malegaon probe till now. His long silence is open to misinterpretation. He must speak up his mind in order to put rumour mills to sleep.

It's your turn to speak up, Mr. Raghuvanshi!

Will you please oblige?