Tag Archives: Jugal R Purohit

BOOK REVIEW: On tackling Maoist question, an effort to provide answers

How should India grow? Does ‘growth’ have the same meaning for everyone whether in the cities or resource-rich hinterland? Do growth and displacement of natives compulsorily go hand in hand? For India to grow what is needed more – preserving tribal way of life of its natives or exploiting the resource-rich lands they inhabit? What if their grievances create hurdles in the path of growth? 

Author Rohit Prasad in ‘Blood Red River’ has chosen the troubled landscape of Bastar in southern Chhattisgarh to understand how the Indian state is answering these questions.

Located in the heart of the country, the state of Chhattisgarh means many things depending on which side one is looking at. A politically and financially stable state, a state with perhaps the richest resources both in terms of mineral and bio-diversity in the country, a state with nearly 44 per cent of its territory covered by forests, a state which has over 30 per cent of its population coming from a vibrant variety of tribes or a state locked in a brutal embrace with a rebellion which refuses to ebb even after fifty years of its emergence.

The rebels, members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), seek to violently overthrow parliamentary democracy which they believe is a sham. The response of the government hinges on quelling the rebellion with its armed might and addressing the needs of the masses by the means of development.

The armed struggle is visible and chronicled. In comparison, the politics of development, supposed to exemplify in myriad ways the healing touch of an absent state, remains hard to track, harder to grasp. Touted as ‘a journey into the heart of India’s development conflict’, the book stands out for its focus.

Divided into sections segregated by short chapters within, the book is a sincere attempt at providing the reader with the understanding of a topic which can hardly be termed easy. A largely smooth and uninterrupted flow does emerge as the author switches between anecdotes, damning data dug from a multitude of reports, the annals of history, regulations governing the relationship between tribes and their home, the forest, the vibrant hope of a promising economy, the industrial lure of exploiting a resource-rich territory, instances of flawed ‘development’ and a society eclipsed by the shadow of the conflict which has consumed over 12000 lives. On offer are solid glimpses into the unholy nexus that exists on the ground between the government, the insurgents and the private sector which works to perpetuate the conflict at the expense of the locals.   

Interestingly, as the author, a business school professor based out of Gurugram, admits, he’d initially set out to analyse a different subject before stumbling upon something ‘far more complex’ and ‘fundamental’ which led him to write this book.

Rohit Prasad’s ground reporting from the affected region ensures the reader is exposed to the colour, the festivals, the customs as also the difficult path tribes find themselves treading and how there is corrosion of that timeless society underway as a result. Aptly captured case studies make the reader aware of the lost lives of faultless, promising youngsters in the region.   

On the flip side, there are times when the narrative shifts from story-telling to either philosophy or sweeping generalisations. Then there are outlandish claims like where the author says the US Army special forces supported Indian armed police in 2009 offensive against the Maoists! There are also times when objective analysis turns subjective. However, the biggest drawback that book suffers from is the lack of a direct Maoist voice. Scrutinising their ‘developmental works’ in their ‘janatana sarkar’ (local government in areas they term liberated) and their model would have added to the book’s effort by making two sides of the divide clear and visible to the reader.

To conclude, ‘Blood Red River’ is an introduction into a less dimension in the debate over development. Few understand that it is also essential.

Sukma, CG: Cops won’t occupy fortified stations till furniture & colouring is done

Assuring the assembly of chief ministers of ten Maoist-hit states about the centre’s support in terms of training, resources and intelligence, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh added a condition nevertheless. “But states must take initiative to conduct operations and use resources optimally”, he said before inaugurating the key meeting on May 8. While the national meet was called in the wake of repeated reverses suffered in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, Singh’s words have failed in making any impact in that very place. Exemplifying that irony are two ready yet unused ‘heavily-fortified police stations which can serve as an impregnable base for nearly 200 troops’ at any given point in time.

Ready for months now and located in the heart of the troubled Sukma district, the local police has failed to move in to either of them. Inexplicably it has ensured that policemen and counterparts from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) continue to operate in lesser strength from older barracks in the vicinity.

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Report appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on May 18, 2017

Running south from the town of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region is the National Highway (NH) 221, re-named as NH30. It has had a particularly bloodied past. Among the instances of bloodlust the road has witnessed, the brutal massacre of the Congress party’s state leadership in the Jheeram Ghati in May 2013 reverberates in the national consciousness to this date. Located along that highway are the towns of Kukanar and Chhindgarh, separated by 15km. It is in these towns that the two fortified police stations have been constructed under central assistance where funds up to Rs 624 crore have been made available to ten states for a total of 400 such police stations. There are in all 75 such police stations earmarked for Chhattisgarh alone.

According to a local resident in Kukanar, “The building has been ready since the end of 2016 but no one has occupied it yet. Earlier this year, villagers were asked to attend its inauguration but we are still waiting for an invite.” Similarly in Chhindgarh, locals said the building was awaiting occupancy since nearly a year. “May be it is about not getting VIPs to inaugurate it or something else, we don’t know. There are other smaller police stations in other parts of Sukma also lying empty we have heard,” said another local resident.

When asked for its response and stand on the issue, the Home Ministry kept mum. In Chhattisgarh, DM Awasthi, Special Director General, Anti Naxal Operations (ANO) said, “The one at Kukanar has been handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately. In Chhindgarh, there are minor repairs pending.” Sukma’s Superintendent of Police, Abhishek Meena when asked said, “Chhindgarh building is ready but colouring and repair work is left. In Kukanar, we have ordered furniture and awaiting its set up”.

Kukanar building
The brand new compound in Kukanar lying unused. ‘Handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately’, says senior police officer DM Awasthi. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

This delay has not gone down well with members of the security set up.

“Where is the will to take on Maoists? In Delhi, they talk about doing things on war-footing, senior officials fly in and out conducting meetings and on the ground, the police is unwilling to move, wasting precious infrastructure,” said a source on the condition of anonymity. Another source observed, “Across the country, there is outrage over how Maoists are killing security forces and here the policemen are waiting for well-designed, coloured and comfortable police stations”.

Chhindgarh building
Chhindgarh’s fortified police station lying unused. The area SP told me his force had sought colouring and repair jobs before they could move it. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

Interestingly, in the aftermath of the Burkapal ambush in Sukma last month where 25 CRPF personnel were killed by the Maoists, the centre had defended the state police’s role. In a statement released on April 26th, the union home ministry had stated, “It is incorrect to say that Chhattisgarh Police is in shambles. In addition to 45,000 Central Forces, over 20,000 State Police personnel are posted in Bastar region. The Chhattisgarh police forces are well equipped and a Bastar package for police was introduced in end 2015. There is complete coordination between Centre and State forces”.

STORY FIRST APPEARED ON INDIA TODAY PORTAL: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rajnath-singh-maoists-chhattisgarh-police-stations/1/955854.html

GROUND SENTIMENTS: The Bihar that I saw

DATED NOV 2

Let me make an honest disclosure first.

When it comes to what you will read in the following paragraphs, assuming you will, be warned that I am not your know-it-all journalist. This piece is not meant to tell you who the winner will be. Also, Bihar is neither in my blood nor was it in my mind till I got my “marching orders” last week.

Once in Bihar, of course, I’ve been trying to cover as much ground and reading as many minds as possible. What I can tell you, still, by the virtue of “being here” and soaking in the climate is that the mood is what you will read.

GROUND REPORT ON THE UPCOMING, FOREVER-CONTROVERSIAL NALANDA UNIVERSITY

By now, it is well-known that this isn’t an easy election to read, irrespective of whether you are a psephologist, journalist or even one of those in the fray, the candidate. An eight-time legislator (which translates into over four decades of life as a politician) recently walked up to me, after casting his ballot, seeking my opinion on his chances. “Aap log toh kaafi ghoomte hai na,” he said.

However, if there is someone for whom this election is the most difficult then it is the average Bihari.

The infamous “jungle raj” in Bihar’s history is said to have commenced and coincided with the 15-year-long rule (1990-2005) of the Lalu-Rabri combine. However, those better aware will tell you the drift preceded descent, almost a decade before, in fact. The Congress administration in Patna, before it was wiped out by the Vishwanath Pratap Singh-led storm at the national level in the wake of the Mandal movement, was synonymous with lack of governance, criminalisation of politics or politicisation of crime, rampant corruption and a general decline in societal standards. That Lalu squandered the opportunity hardly requires a reiteration.

Bhaiya, yeh joh sab modern gaadiya aap road pe dekh rahe hai na, yeh Laluji ke time mein sambhav nahee tha. Hum sab log jitna ho sakta utna gareeb bankar rehte the. Sab yeh jaante the ki jis din aap ameer nazar aa gaye, aapko kidnap kar lenge (All these modern cars that you see on the roads wouldn’t have been possible during Laluji’s time. Under his rule, people would deliberately appear poor and conceal wealth as anyone found to be even remotely wealthy would be kidnapped almost immediately),” said my driver, as we crossed the 5.5km-long Gandhi Setu into Patna.

GROUND REPORT: HOW THE MADHESI AGITATION IS IMPACTING POLLS ALONG INDO NEPAL BORDER

Noted journalist Sankarshan Thakur in his book, The Brothers Bihari has stated, “He (Lalu) inherited a mess and contributed chaos to it, like a typhoon visiting the ravages of a quake and mangling the remains.” By the time the dawn of 2005 appeared, Bihar had become a stinking pool.

There are countless such tales I picked up about how different Bihar was and is. As a first-timer, it made me immensely excited to hear it all.

No matter where we went, there was near-unanimity that Nitish Kumar as the chief minister was the best thing to have happened to Bihar in the last decade. His was the healing touch a sore and battered Bihar needed. The promises of better roads, electricity, water supply, jobs, restoration of law and public order have been met in a significant way. In a region replete with caste arithmetic, Nitish emerged as someone who had no caste and didn’t need one in particular. His appeal went beyond such narrow considerations.

It tells you a lot not only about Nitish but also about the distance Bihar has travelled when Nitish, who began as a student leader and was eventually a product of Jayaprakash Narayan’s “Sampoorna Kranti” agitation of the 1970s, felt it important to hold Twitter chats in a bid to reach out to his voters.

Pata nahee kyun Laluji ka saath unhone haath milaya. Agar akele hote toh koi sawaal nahee tha wohee jeette. Ab samajh nahee aa raha(I don’t know why Nitish joined hands with Laluji. Had he contested alone, there is no doubt that he would’ve won)”, said my driver. It is a disdain no one rejects. Many Biharis outside the state suggested that Nitish should have picked a leaf out of his friend and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal’s book and gone solo. With Lalu by his side, his halo has dimmed. In a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) stronghold in Madhubani district, we came across a group of men sitting at a tea stall. “Hum toh Laluji ko Nitishji ke naam pe vote denge (We will vote for Lalu on Nitish’s name),” said one of them.

The Grand Alliance is a knife, clearly, sharp enough to cut both ways.

What do you do when your healer teams up with your tormentor? Trust against trust and hope against hope that good will overcome the bad? Or simply walk away in disgust? This is the crossroad over 57 million eligible voters of Bihar find themselves at.

To my mind, this election was Nitish’s to win. Now, a doubt has crept in.

Is that the window the master orator and merchant of dreams, Narendra Modi, has gained an entry from?

#SLINEX15: Three Indian warships enter Trincomalee to ‘work out’ with Sri Lanka

Offshore Patrol Vessel INS Savitri
Offshore Patrol Vessel INS Savitri

Reinforcing the strong neighbourly ties underscored by extensive maritime interaction, the Indian and Sri Lankan Navies would undertake the 4th edition of Sri Lanka-India Exercise (SLINEX) off Trincomalee, Sri Lanka from 27 Oct to 01 Nov 15. SLINEX series of bilateral maritime exercises were initiated in 2005 and since then three successful engagements have been conducted.

Corvette INS Kirpan
Corvette INS Kirpan

Indian Naval ships Kora, Kirpan and Savitri along with ship-borne integral helicopters entered Trincomalee today to participate in the exercise. Kora and Kirpan, the missile corvettes, are commanded by Commander Ashok Rao and Commander Abraham Samuel, respectively, and the Offshore Patrol Vessel Savitri is commanded by Commander Prashant Negi. In addition, an Indian Naval maritime reconnaissance aircraft will also participate in the exercise. The Sri Lankan Navy will be represented by Sayura, Samudra,Sagara, six Fast Attack Crafts, two Fast Gun Boats and one Fast Missile Vessel.

The exercise will commence with a Harbour Phase, during which, the participants will engage in professional, cultural and social interactions. The Harbour Phase will be followed by the Sea Phase, which will commence on 30 Oct. The Sea Phase will include complex operations including anti-piracy exercises, gun firings, cross-deck helicopter operations and anti-surface exercises.

The benefits of operational interactions under the aegis of SLINEX are clearly visible as both the Navies today have an improved and steadfast understanding. SLINEX 15 will further enhance the capability of the two navies to work together at sea and contribute towards maritime security in the region.

SLINEX aims to promote mutual understanding and provide exposure to both the Navies to each others’ operating procedures, communication procedures and best practices. This allows the two navies to develop greater confidence to operate together, if required, during complex maritime missions. Periodic conduct of this exercise has helped to build on past experiences and further advance professional as well as operational engagements between the two navies.

(Text and photos courtesy Ministry of Defence, New Delhi)

MUMBAI: Early warning siren for tsunami threat in Indian ocean installed and tested successfully

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The newly installed Tsunami Early Warning System Siren was successfully tested today between 12:00 – 12:10 PM near INS Angre, Fort area, SBS Marg, Mumbai. The Siren and a Digital Electronic Board is part of a system for issuing early warning in case of a Tsunami threat in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).   The siren has been connected to the electronic Display board and will now be remotely controlled by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad. The siren will operate for a continuously for one min in case of a possible Tsunami threat in the coastal region.

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Based on a request by the Indian Navy, The system is installed at the Meteorology Office of Western Naval Command by INCOIS, an autonomous organisation under Ministry of Earth & Sciences (MoES), Government of India.  The system has far reaching impact on the reaction time available to the Indian Navy in responding to the natural calamity and saving lives.

Post successful completion of drill, it is intended to carry out testing of the Tsunami Warning Siren on regular basis between 12:00 – 12:10 PM on 2nd and 4th  Saturday of every month commencing 01 November 2015.

(Text and photos by Ministry of Defence, New Delhi)

DATELINE PUNJAB: My notes from a state on a warpath

We were warned by the police. However, it was close to 11pm and we had to reach Amritsar at the earliest. There was just one route. So we did what we had to – got our hands dirty in lifting the giant logs with which the protesters had blocked the road. Merely a minute and we heard an invisible group of men shout. This would have hardly alarmed us. Dealing with people, after all, is what a journalist is supposed to do and we had crossed many such barriers by coaxing, cajoling such protesters to reach Faridkot to which the current agitation in Punjab owes its roots.

But nightfall in an isolated patch in the wild is a different ball game. We froze. In the next fifteen minutes, we tried hard and won over a group of sword-brandishing Sikh youth who welcomed our presence there but refused to help us go ahead. We pulled back. Our desire to reach Amritsar in time lay in shreds.

VIDEO: AGITATION IN PUNJAB & ITS IMPACT

To be sure, Punjab has been on the boil since a few months now.

On June 1 this year, there was tension over the theft of the holy book, Granth Sahib, from a gurudwara in Faridkot. When that subsided, though the book and culprit were never located, terrorists carried out a cross-border strike in Gurdaspur reviving memories of an era thankfully gone by. Emerging from that, farmers agitated crippling the movement of trains across north India. Finally, there occurred multiple instances of sacrilege leading to the current impasse where major highways remain blocked by protesting locals.

The blockades come at a price – police firing, lathi charge, burning of vehicles and an environment which drives away any meaningful activity be it business, tourism or the everyday routine.

No matter which direction we took while in Punjab, fingers were being pointed only in one – towards the Badal government. What differed was the accusation. Sadhu Singh, who lost his 26-year-old son Gurjeet in police firing on October 14 told us he was to marry his son soon but instead had to cremate him.

“Gurjeet was shot in the head. Is this a way to control crowd assuming my son was at fault?”

His father believes the government used excessive force and has forgotten to apply the healing touch. Some distance away, Gora Singh, the priest of the gurudwara where the holy book was stolen from in June says earlier the government didn’t do enough to trace the culprits and is now conjuring up a case and implicating youngsters who he personally knew as devout Sikhs. On the outrskirts of Amritsar, medical student Gursandeep stood with his friends blocking the bypass road. He doesn’t know either Gurjeet or those arrested.

“I am hurt at the government’s inaction when my religion was violated. And I also know that they are arresting the wrong people to quickly settle the case,” he said.

VIDEO: REPORT FROM FARIDKOT, PUNJAB’S REAL GROUND ZERO

Other protesters blocking the National Highway-1 near Jalandhar felt that Akali Dal-BJP government was the one that had orchestrated these events to consolidate religious votes by stoking communal tension. In believing this, they aren’t alone.

The administration has to also take the blame for its repeated failure. Top sources confirmed that earlier this month, much before instances of sacrilege began, there were posters put up actually warning everyone about the soon-to-be-committed sacrilege. This was allowed to pass. In fact, many within the administration believe that the protests were “genuine and peaceful and the police should have known better”. That a police force which covered itself in glory in refusing army’s assistance and taking on terrorists directly in Gurdaspur this July appears so poorly led here is astounding.

While there are inquiries in place and they may result in some action, the police or the administration doesn’t have to contest elections, which, anyway, aren’t too far off. People are looking at the political cost and there is no action taken yet, which can shield the government.

To its credit, the Badal administration has succeeded in putting an end to the state’s power supply woes. It has vastly improved the ease of doing business and road networks in most places. Those from the business community say the government is also aggressively pushing Punjab as a commercial hub based on the above-mentioned strengths.

An irked businessman even questioned, “What more can they do?”

More than ten days into it, the protests are now thinning. Fatigue has set in. Everyone wants normalcy no matter how hurt. The roads are slowly opening up again. Do we assume the sentiment has waned? That would be a mistake.

No government has been re-elected based merely on development-related statistics. Sentiments, emotions, leadership, aspirations have an equally strong, if not stronger, place.

And it’s here that the unfolding tragedy has well and truly eclipsed the Badal government.

(http://www.dailyo.in/politics/punjab-crisis-sad-guru-granth-sahib-desecration-khalistan-sikhs/story/1/6956.html)

PHOTOS & VIDEO: Tracing the just-revived, magnificent Suryakiran of IAF – From Hunters to Kirans and now, the Hawk

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Asian Aerospace 2004 A selection of Images from the Olympus Photo Team at Asian Aerospace 2004  being held at Changi Expo center, Singapore. Scenes from the , air display and aircraft. Mandatory Credit  Olympus Singapore 2004 No reslaes, No Archives No Syndication
Asian Aerospace 2004
A selection of Images from the Olympus Photo Team at Asian Aerospace 2004 being held at Changi Expo center, Singapore.
Scenes from the , air display and aircraft.
Mandatory Credit
Olympus Singapore 2004
No reslaes, No Archives No Syndication

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(Image courtesy INDIAN AIR FORCE, NEW DELHI)