Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terror Not Again!

The Mumbai attacks are a grim reminder for taking the dignity of an Indian citizen's life more seriously. Of course a systemic lapse and failure on all parts of the administration prior to the meticulously planned attack goes on to show how there are large chinks in our security armour. The Intelligence gathering framework, the coast guard, the state police apparatus (cant blame their bravado and valour given the fact that they have to make do with WW II era carbines and Lee Enfield rifles) and every other bandobast seemed to have been brought to naught by the terrrorists as has been happening time and again. 

Firstly how did so much ammunition not get detected, then the terrrorists themselves playing, fiddling and moving around with impunity from one spot to another, and not even getting detected at the very entry point and then the complete failure of the state police in averting the violent carnage given the fact that IB had provided prior intelligence - all are evidenty most shocking. Seems the terrroists were from the LeT and the ammunition used had been provided by Dawood Ibrahim's men from within Mumbai and suburbs - a clear Pakistani ISI handy work, otherwise these kind of operatives cannot be produced. Unless trained rigourously, given endurance training - as some reports claim the Pak Navy trained them. Check out the kind of sophisticated handhelp GPS navigation equipment they had from Garmin etc. There are several questions unanswered (the biggest joke was the resignation of Shivaraj Patil; dont forget who put him there firstly need to be held responsible) and the immense anger and sorrow after close to 200 people were killed and more than 300 injured in the brutal attacks. 

Citizens will have to become more alert and certainly less indifferent, as this scourge of terrorism spreads like never before and is no longer restricted to a Kashmir or a Punjab. A mandatory military training for all citizens as Israel does may be a feasible option if introduced at the college levels and implemented as a de facto measure.  Extraordinary times call for extraordinary action.

We cannot sit mum and take things as they strike us - the US has not had a single event of terror strike post 9/11 - surely an indication of how tight their security has got. A federal security body independent of the meddling of the political pack, in command of someone like KPS Gill will need to be created and bestowed with adequate authority to fight these and tighter laws as is also being articulated.

Also most importantly we - the intelligensia cannot turn their face away and claim as if nothing has gone wrong - we as members of the corporate, the so called elite, the educated and empowered will need to do our bit - 'what can we do?' is to be thought out and not used as a escape device - creative ways and mechanisms will have to be generated. Getting on with life as if nothing happened, mindless and irresponsible 'mall culture' and 'pub culture' and other frivolous pursuits which we all often indulge in, will have to end - the youth will need to come together (this is the right time to galvanize as a nation together) and do something, anything feasible be it in the social, technology or media space or even through using programs and reality shows like 'MTV Roadies' to actually impart training than to restrict them to mere entertainment and bitching and mindless nonsense talk shows. 

We will have to start today! The 'who-cares-a-damn'  attitude could cost us our lives or those of a near and dear one - no this is absolutely not a joke it is in the very realm of the possible - clear and present everywhere, capable of engulfing anyone at anytime.

We will have to make the change happen - as the saying goes - if not we, who? If not now, when?

NOTE: My point was essentially to get more alert and ready for averting the next event of this magnitude. As citizens we often feel helpless and thus are triggered into thinking what we can do/contribute in times of crisis such as this. We got to see both sides of the picture, but despondency does set in with the ineptitude the govt displays time and again in the prevention angle - no one is blaming the NSG for the cure - it's the occurrence of such large scale violence/attacks that causes a groundswell of anger and doubt among the public. The NSG, MARCOS, RAF commandos, and the policemen require a tribute from our end but we cannot always depend on them for everything.
Also the following is a riposte from a friend of mine - a Squadron Leader (IAF) - whom I shall not name here (I respect his views against a knee-jerk reaction):

Should we, as the public, play into their hands by training all our guns on the instruments of the state? The post-mortems and the blame-games have already started. Indian politicians are venal and nincompoop. India doesn’t have an internal security policy. The police is worthless. It is an intelligence failure. We are doomed as a nation.Are these really true...?

Politicians are the easiest targets, the softest ones and they rightfully deserve a major share of the blame for the mess we find this nation in. But can we wait a wee bit longer before going all out against them?

Can these TV anchors turned arm-chair experts suggest the way ahead rather than merely decrying the system and the nation? Media acts as a force multiplier for the terrorist. A similar incident in the heartlands of Bastar would have achieved little except a byline in the inside pages of a national newspaper after two days. If this kind of media coverage provides oxygen to terrorism, then the electronic media and the society needs to introspect about the role of media in the Indian society today. It is about TRPs and revenue figures for the media while it is about pandering to voyeuristic tendencies in each one of us.

Comparisons to the US during 9/11, although not very exact, will continue to be made. Let us look back at another famous siege in India that happened nearly a quarter of a century back. Was Operation Blue Star less gruesome or worse than these Mumbai attacks? The terrorists inside the Golden Temple had even laid mines and shot down army tanks with anti-tank weapons. But it wasn’t a media spectacle and the mood in the nation was not of despondency and vexation. The nation then said — let’s fight and eradicate terrorism. What is the feeling in the nation now — let’s berate the government and eradicate this system of governance.

If that be true, then the terrorists and their ideology have already won. Let us be cautious and careful in venting our emotions. Each one of us has a right to be angry, but at the right target — the terrorists and our countrymen who, wittingly or unwittingly, further the terrorists’ agenda for their petty, selfish gains.

The immediate goal of neutralising terrorists inside Mumbai has been met. There is an urgent need to identify and lay out a short-term plan for ensuring internal security, along with a long-term vision for restructuring the internal security system in this country and a medium-term strategy that bridges the short-term plans and the long-term vision.

Until then let the common man enjoy his mall and pub, its required for the nation to stay cool, thats the strategy "the opponent gets his share of joy in a fight only if you show him that you are hurt; any indifference to this would take him off the driver's seat in the fight". So much so for 300 wounded and 200 dead....

Some more links:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

White Water Rafting at Galibore.

[Click on image above to view the album]

What started with a minor mishap on Sunday 9th Nov, 2008, ended up as quite an enjoyable trip with the seven of us, including TausifK, RamD, ShantanuG, VinayB, ShomaB and SmitaN. Leaving Bangalore at around 8:00 AM we reached the Cauvery Nature and Fishing camp at Bheemeshwari (about 100 KM from Bangalore via Kanakapura, Sathnur and Muthathi) around 11:00 AM to find that white water rafting had been stopped there from Nov 02, as the fishing season had started. 

We immediately headed to Galibore, about 60km from Bheemeshwari in our cars – a Hyundai Accent and a Maruti 800. We came back to Sathnur (23 KM from Bheemeshwari) and then headed towards the Galibore Fishing Camp (36 KM from Sathnur). Galibore itself is about 95 KM from Bangalore, if directly reached. Mekedatu and Chunchi falls are all reachable in the nearby vicinity.

The last 10 KM stretch of reaching Galibore was a pain as the jungle road is absolutely un-tarred. Once we reached there we had lunch at around 2 PM and then started the rafting expedition where a jeep took us and the raft to a spot 5 KM upstream and then we rafted for about 20 minutes in the river Cauvery at the end of which we were left to play in the waters for about 30 mins. 

There were 2 guides and one additional guide in a kayak all by his own, all for safety purposes. We had to sign an agreement and were all provided with the life jackets, paddles  and helmets. Later a joke by me proved to be costly and the guide got me to show them a demo by pushing me off the raft ;) As I held on to the lifeline - a thick rope tied around the raft (capacity of 9); the others were asked to get off the raft one by one and then were lifted by the guide just using the life-jackets, a demo of sorts for rescue. 

Later we were taken to a slightly more active and swirling waters of the river rapid and were back to the base camp after another 15 mins of rafting through, a total of about 1.5 hours of fun (charged at Rs 600) came to an end with the sun on the horizon, we all changed and had warm cups of coffee as the sun set and then headed back home. 

A great new experience for first time rafters!