Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Old Man from Mcleodganj

Alone, gazing at the endless street, he stood at the fork besides a pole. With a light-grey English cap over his head, he slanted his face at a peculiar angle. The market cries or the tourist rush didn’t bother this old man. His aged body bowed to the gravity but the walking stick kept it firm. Perhaps it wasn’t the wooden stick, but the resolve to keep going on.

The shining thick white beard attracted the passer by. I was at the Village Café on the roof top when I noticed his presence far down the street at the intersection. As I ran closer to the verandah of the cafe to frame a picture on my lens, he raced on the street towards the Nowrojee General Merchants shop. The fraction of a second was enough for him to get going towards his destination.

He gave me a glance, perhaps for the frame which i managed to fix, and as I clicked... he walked away.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Commonwealth Games to be a grand spectacle – Dr. M.S. Gill

Over fifteen thousand people from around the globe will participate in the 19th Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in New Delhi from 3 – 14 October 2010. Estimated as the most expensive and lavish, the organizing team has been under tremendous pressure since the last few months to meet the deadline. 

Aditya Raj Kaul interacted with the man who is going to shape this into reality – Dr. M.S. Gill, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister of India at the Inauguration of the largest Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium at New Delhi. 


1) The Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010 in New Delhi is merely five months away from now. How prepared is the country to face this mega event after decades?

Few days back we were at the Thyagraaj Stadium and that was remarkable. We have the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium being opened as we talk. Apart from being an air-conditioned Indoor stadium, it also has a remarkably done up roof. The seating capacity is of about fifteen to twenty thousand. The colours are vibrant. We can include all sorts of games here, like gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, wrestling and Judo. You name it and we are capable of it. People of our country will remember the infrastructure well after the Commonwealth Games are over.

2) The media and even Commonwealth Games International Committee, which came to monitor the progress, said that the authorities are running slow on constructions. Is there a challenge to meet the deadline?

I hope the press has little more faith and confidence in the possibility that Indians can do it. Every other week we are inaugurating and bring forth a new stadium. And I am certain we’ll be ready in good time.

I agree if things would have been different we could have achieved this much before. We should have been prepared well in advance, a year and half back perhaps. But we’ll be ready now.

I am satisfied that the work is going smoothly, and there are no technical difficulties being faced. Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium which will host both the opening and closing ceremonies of Commonwealth Games will be ready by June.

Of course, there are challenges. We have a great facility, but important is to look after it, to make sure it looks same as it does today, not just for 15 days of the Commonwealth Games but forever. These are things we have to think about. But if India can build this, they can also think and work out.

3) It is estimated that the upcoming CWG is the most expensive ever after the last CWG at Melbourne in 2006. What is the total budget and are we going to see world class facilities which are going to permanently shape up the city for good? What kind of facilities would these be?

US$ 1.6 billion is  to be the total budget estimated for hosting the 19th Commonwealth.

Security is a big concern for us. We have spent Rs.350 crores on CCTV Cameras that will be installed all across the city. We do not want to leave any stone unturned as far as security is concerned. The recent Hockey World cup and the Commonwealth shooting, archery and boxing championships have provided opportunities to have a test run of security.

I have been personally visiting every now and then stadiums and other construction sites all over the city. I have also traveled worldwide in my lifetime. Frankly, there is nothing like this in London, Melbourne or going to be in Glasgow. I am not exaggerating. The Commonwealth Games truly have been far more modest than what Delhi is going to show. This will be proven to the world. The CWG President himself has said this more than once in the past. The Dhyaanchand hockey stadium is the world best and the shooting range has lavish facility and a background of a prominent city fort Tuglaquabad. I have even been to Beijing and went to Mexico long ago when they had the Olympics, nothing like this was there. Each of this is going to surprise the world. These are being built with much larger standard than the Commonwealth games.

4) How important are these games for India as the emphasis is most often given to Cricket?

India is very confident. India is young India. Everybody knows who reads economic writings in the press that we have the largest percentage of young people in the world, barring none. Even China has less, Japan is totally aged. Europe, America and the white world is aged. This is all for the young population of India. I think young India has to come forward and look after it.

5) Everyone is expecting a grand function to celebrate the arrival of CWG in India as the Queen’s baton reaches Sydney on 19th April by the local Indian community. Any message for the Indian Community in Australia?

I wholeheartedly wish them luck for the event. At the same time I ask them to be the ambassadors of our country and invite people for the opening ceremony on the 3rd of October where we’ll have an extravaganza which will be remembered for times to come.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Jihadi behind the Innocence - Free Press Journal (Weekend Edition)

Aditya Raj Kaul wonders how long would it take the Taliban to conquer Kashmir if Indian troops were withdrawn?

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the oth erwise innocent looking face in the midst of travellers thronging Mumbai, turned out to be the unforgettable symbol of 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Sentenced to death, the verdict is being termed as a conclusion to one of the fastest trials' in a terror case in India; but the evil root of 'Jihadi terrorism' continues to flourish not so far from the country.

Pakistan's history of using Kalashnikovs and attacks such as these to terrorise and enforce its right on Jammu and Kashmir has taken a toll now on the entire country.

Almost two decades ago, Pakistan gave arms training to Kashmiri Muslim youth who crossed over to POK. Today not just J&K, but all major cities in India are under terror radar of sleeper cells killing people out of 'lust for blood'.

Unfortunately, over the years the communal turned pseudo-secular Kashmiri separatists grab the headlines while the plight of the innocent terror victims remains a non-issue. It isn't the so-called Azadi that the people of Kashmir desire. They long for an immediate crackdown on terrorists, an end to the separatist elements and those unbearable puppets in the Valley all for normalcy to return and development of the state.

Though sidelined for now, the political patronage they enjoy could soon take the voices from the Hurriyat and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) spreading propaganda of terror and hatred to the frontlines of politics.

Ambassador Harriet Winsar Isom former United States Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan quoted recently through a study by an NGO that 3/4th of people in Pakistan of all shades and grades believe that they first are Muslims and only second feel as Pakistanis. She further observed that this makes it easy for the Islamic organisa tions involved in hard-line terrorist and Jihadi activities in Pakistan to attract the support on all levels. We all know how Muslims have been recruited from various parts of Islamic World to be trained and transported to Afghanistan and Kashmir as non-state actors but with a covert support of established Pakistani Institutions like ISI and Military.

Now that it has started biting Pakistan, they are now crying foul against these players in a new brand name of nonstate actors (a crude lie) and Pakistan is attempting to wash their hands off this murky trade. Pakistan brands them as foreign terrorists beyond their control. Can a civilised society and world accept such lame excuses? Ambassador Isom's words find echo in the recent arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a 30year-old naturalised citizen of Pakistani descent and his reported confession that he planned the failed bombing at Times Square, New York. The world should take note, and hard look at the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is emerging as the new and sinister face of global Islamist jihad and its links with Jamaat-udDawa.

Bomb blasts on the streets of Pakistan are as common as encounters in the Kashmir valley today. Ambassador G. Parthasarthy, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan believes it isn't hidden anymore that the democratically elected government of Pakistan has much lesser role in decision making on India as compared to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Rawalpindi.

General Kayani's long-standing links with terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba from his days, as the Commander of the 12th Infantry Division in Murree over a decade ago cannot be easily ignored. Moreover, he has recorded to have described Afghan Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who masterminded two terrorist attacks on our Embassy in Kabul, as a "strategic asset".

It is understandable that India is under pressure from United States for talks with Pakistan and as well troop reduction from terrorism infected Kashmir. The pertinent question is How long would it take the Taliban to conquer Kashmir if Indian troops were withdrawn?

At the same time it is opening the channels of communication to demonstrate to the world its openness to peace while the constant rigidity from the other side; even though India has miserably failed to capitalise on this opportunity. Little purpose is served while talking to civilian leadership of Pakistan when in reality it has no control over the 'cross-border terrorism'.

The need of the hour is for Pakistan to establish its sincerity. It has to stop living in this denial mode for things to move further in a positive direction. Peace cannot be achieved merely by civil society debates, media campaigns and ignorance towards the 'root cause'. The need of the hour is a world-wide diplomatic offensive by India to expose the direct involvement of Pakistan in terror operations and its abatement to violence. India has to demand vocally for Pakistan to dismantle its infrastructure of terrorism before the dialogue process can be taken ahead, if at all.

While India celebrates the conviction, matters haven't been resolved as Kasab's masters across the border ponder over recreating more such merciless massacres. In February 1984, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) terrorist Maqbool Bhat was hanged after his clemency petition was quickly forwarded through the Indira Gandhi Government and rejected by the President of India. The state back then showed its tough stance against the terror machinery. The unanswered question today after the death penalty pronounced on Kasab is that when actually will we see justice delivered on ground. Will Kasab meet his fate soon or will he survive on Indian Governments mercy, just as the way Afzal Guru, the architect of the Indian Parliament attack continues to stay all these years?

The Government of India perhaps needs to dwell into the statecraft of the great philosopher Chanakya in this 21st century and be motivated to act as was Chandragupta Maurya by Arthashastra.

Kashmir born Aditya Raj Kaul, is the India Editor of 'The Indian' newspaper pub lished from Sydney, Australia