Friday, November 28, 2008

A Call for Rationalism amidst Rashness: Mumbai Terror Attacks

Most reactions to the Mumbai attacks that were seen on the Television had two sets of people to blame: 1. Politicians; 2. Pakistanis.
Mumbaikars were angry, felt let down and were frustrated to the core. A Mumbai politician announced that the captured militant was a "Pakistani", his voice simmering with anger. Famous personalities said they were tired at the relentless expectation of "Resilience" on the part of Mumbaikars. Reporters were visibly emotional and shaken, having covered the episode from close range all through. Some feared a "Rash" reaction within India, with one set of people pitted against the other.
Understandably, it was "Emotions" everywhere. To attack the heart of a country in broad daylight, to spray bullets on by-standers using a police patrol vehicle, to slay unrelated travellers in a busy Railway station, to hold foreign guests to ransom and slaughter, to cut loose and run amock with loads of ammunitions in a Heritage Hotel that many fondly associate their growing up and their pasts with - one would need to be a saint not to be "Emotional".
The NSG operation has been steady, measured and systematic. But would it undo the losses of lives? Would it restore the tarnished image of the Nation? Would it wipe those tears and bring smiles? Could it bring back the same parents to the child that was rendered an orphan with a single finger on the trigger? Would the ATS have the same Chief again? To be "sane" and not to get "emotional" with these nagging questions may just be too much to ask for. With every cry, with every sigh, with every drop of blood on the floor, with every slain corpse that is carried out of the hotels, with every anxious moment of wait by the hapless relatives and friends, there is this "WHY???", soaked in "Emotions".
However, extra-ordinary situations demand "Rationale" to take the upper hand over "emotions".
If "Thinkers" like Shobha De lose it and challenge the politicians on TV in an emotional outburst, it is not just herself, but a lot of others that she is going to influence with emotions. To reinforce general opinion and shape popular feelings in an emotional mould is not the best of acts in an emergency as this. If everyone is to get bogged down by the scale of the horror and get overpowered by their own emotions, who would get to the "Root" of the larger issue?
The need of the hour is, more than reactions, more than "Responses", the willingness to face reality, the resolve to change and the ability to preempt and take steps towards the "Solution"!
Any form of "Reaction" or "Hatred" will only complicate the already complex puzzle of senseless acts of terrorism. Hatred will only fuel the fire - and fire does not care which side of it you are in. It burns the perpetrator, the affected and the one who inflicts, all the same. Blame, hatred, taking sides, vowing revenge, any extreme "Emotion" is bound to be counter-productive, no matter what your stance is. What is required is restraint, responsible response and a sense of collective responsibility towards one cause: Peace!
Pakistan: It has to take a real hard look at its side of the fence. It will take time. But it needs to have the resolve to see its face as it is, in the mirror. Pakistan has not been flourishing by any stretch of imagination. Dictatorial rules have been ruining its economy. It's high time it reorganised its priorities.
How long could "Kashmir" be its single-point agenda? How long would it let itself be taken for a ride by its own factions? How long would it want to hold its own progress?
Every nation has the right to thrive; and terrorism is that fire that knows no difference between its target and its starter. The nation that actually takes the toll of its own terrorism is Pakistan.
Not that the Government sponsors terrorists; but it definitely needs to take a very very tough stance against any form of militancy within its borders.
Indian Politics: It needs to behave as one Nation, not an accumulation of states or a congregation of parties. It needs to rise above petty politics. And it needs to reassure every citizen, including the Minorities, that India stands for the very essence of Secularism and that every loyal citizen has the right for safety and feeling of security.
Indian politicians must realise that they are not in power to play games. Political parties must win on policies, deliverables and real productive action; they must play an active part in educating the public of what's going on and must be willing to relinquish power if their low levels of performance and the people who elected them, demand so. They must know that politics is not a business venture without any ethical strings attached but is a noble service that demands dedication.
Indian Systems: There is no such thing as an "Indian System" till date. In the Mumbai episode, a simple first step of cardoning off the disturbed area, securing it and preventing people from getting on to the scene of action was not practised, before the prestigious Commandoes planned their moves. To have herds of people all over as if they are watching a Tamasha is ample demonstration of a society that is devoid of any semblance of a "System".
The system has to encompass every aspect of governance. Intelligence, for one, has been non-existant in this case. Post-mortems would anyway reveal how and from where the terrorists checked in at the Hotels with guns, bombs and ammunition for their baggage. But to let this planned and co-ordinated crime happen in the Heart of Mumbai is display of abysmally low levels if Intelligence. How could such a system be endowed with the responsibility of running the governance of a Nation with a billion souls? Why were not the coast lines secured? We were talking of preparedness for the next Tsunami a few years back. How prepared are we to monitor the seemingly innocuous boats that sail into our shores?
Systems! India lacks dangerously on them. If the Government does not realise how dangerously it has been living, the next attack could destabilise the economy and even the military.
The Indian Judiciary: Let's not discuss the obvious Anti-Terrorism Laws. What about the right to Equality and Justice? How tough are the laws against any form of Inflammatory remarks or ideologies? Of what levels of significance are the laws that prevent attrocities on minorities by the armed forces and other forces in power? How balanced is the Judiciary in dealing with Justice to everyone, irrespective of one's religion?
The Judiciary needs to make a strong statement of sorts that Justice, indeed, has its eyes blind-folded when weighing the scales. Justice should not only be given, but also seem to be given.
The Hindutva Forces: They have no necessity to feel insecure in the first place; nor do they have to feel their homelands being taken away or their religious sentiments eroded by other religions. They are the majority in this vast nation; they ought to take responsibility towards the minorities.
How good it would be if Nation stood ahead of sentiments? To protect one's ground does not mean attacking the other. To make people believe in a religion is not accomplished by force. And the Hindu Religion needs no testimony to its variety and strength of resources that has taken it forward over the centuries. The Hindutva forces have every reason to act in a mature manner in guiding the Nation forwad.
The Muslim Intelligentia: They have their responsibilities spelt out more clearly and louder than ever before. Religions are no ordinary statements; they are full of wisdom. The only difference among religions is the way this age-old treasure of wisdom is personified. The paths towards spirituality are many; but the destination is one.
The Muslim Intelligentia and religious Heads need to walk that extra mile in propogating their own religion to the new generation in a way that is appealing to them in all its essence. And what better place and time to start such a Movement of Educating the children and youth about the real values of the Religion, than here and now?
It would be extremely unfortunate if precious life is wasted away in strife towards false ideologies. It is criminal to allow vested interests man-handle the Holy Scriptures for their own personal gains. It would be weakness to allow the well meaning books of religion to be misinterpreted towards vengeance and retaliation. No one can ever Kill in the name of God!
The religious heads can easily mould public and young opinions in the right way. It is their responsibility.
The Government and the Society: It is tragic to allow Terrorism to hijack the daily lives of a Nation. Years of efforts, miles of progress, life-times of growth and dreams would be shattered in a moment of rashness.
The focus is on weeding out Terrorism. But to weed out is not to storm; it more than definitely, requires calm. Yes, let the commandoes root out the terrorists and restore peace. But restoring can never be as good as Cultivating! The emphasis has to be on Cultivating Peace. That requires a healthy soil, the best of seeds, fine nurturing, right irrigation, proper fencing, consistent care and attention, and the highest levels of dedication towards the long term objectives.
If Terror strikes humanity at a drop of a hat, let's set ourselves a step or two back to see WHY it strikes so frequently, so regularly. More than a sect, more than a state, more than a religion, more than a Nation, Humanity matters. After years of progress, why would we want to be canon fodder? After centuries of evolution, why return to the stone ages?
It would not be too high an asking to have "Peace" as the Theme for the next one year, the world over. All it requires is resolve and a moment of reflection as to where we have progressed with regard to human beings treating fellow human beings. What does a Terrorist feel? Why does he find himself forced into Terrorism or induced and propelled into flames of hatred? What makes his view of the world so negative? Why is he convinced every other citizen or nation or religion targets him and his society?
All of these take one step: Come out of your "Emotions"! With every screen of emotion, the picture seems flawed and distorted. And the first step forward is the responsibility of people who can Influence others' thought processes. It requires voluntary initiative with involvement and a sense of purpose. It's all about injecting positivism into evolving minds!
If this can be done with focus, we can start thinking of stability.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Clearway World Watch: Indian Evolution, World Economy and Darwinism

India has won in style. And to lose a series this way is not something that the Aussies are much used to. So much so, they were forced to make some face saving comments by diverting the issue and venting out their frustrations. One wonders why such comments are taken nicely by the ICC. Perhaps, because, it is not about cricket and ICC knows nothing but cricket!

But it was not one Hayden who sought to relieve his frustrations. The Aussie captain, gentleman Ponting, decided to have a go at Sunny Gavaskar, rather unnecessarily. Well, as Gavaskar said, the Aussies seem to be rattled, indeed.

The rise of India in world news was evident not just on land but in the waters as well. It would have been fun for our navy bro's chasing the pirates out of their ship and sinking it. The UN has recognised the Indian Navy's brave effort and even seems to have granted it the "License to Kill" on the pirate homelands.

This winning streak on land and on water actually, started from Space! The perfect launch and the touch down on moon by our Chandrayaan showcases India's capabilities - and the efforts of all those dedicated souls at ISRO. Forget the debate that sprouts up as always when anything significant happens - there seems to be no second opinion, now that ISRO has taken a page out of Abhinav Bindra's books on how to aim for and hit the target!

This clearly is Indian Evolution, if not a Revolution. As if land, water and space were not fuel enough, the American Intelligence has started taking serious note of India, among the other rising powers, as having a distinct possibility of capturing the lion's share of global dominance from the defending champions, the United States. Perhaps, the recession that started off with the Housing sector and the Financial sector debacle in the US underlines the vulnerability of the United States. Afterall, not many would have imagined that the stalwarts of manufacturing, the Big 3 Automobiles from Detroit would eventually have to chalk up a Business Plan and submit it to the Congress, to have a lease of life! That's not much of a pretty scene for a global giant. But then, reality is harsh - and the economy is even harsher!

The economy was, in fact, so harsh that it demanded a congregation of the Group of 20 Heads of Nations to assemble at Washington D C and chart the future path out. It was a quick reaction by the global leaders who promptly made it a point to do their bit about managing the intricately inter-connected world trade. Media reports have not talked lightly of the time and effort that the heavy weights have invested. There was this distinct sense of urgency in the high profile summit that is set to go on in a phased out manner. And not many such conferences would have yielded such a consensus so soon and so smoothly as this on has. Luckily for the world, this one wouldn't drag on for months and years like other political summits would.

Talking of urgency and consensus, the dark brown dust couldn't be all that transparent not to be seen at all! The layers of dust that could filter out the intensity of the sun as it reaches the earth should be quite a phenomenon. And a survey says how Governments around the world have been lethargic in protecting the oceans, falling far short of their own projections and promises. News items such as these warning of catastrophic rise in sea levels have appealed more to Film Makers in the Hollywoods than Governments.

One question strikes the casual eye: Why have these issues not been classified as being "Urgent"? If the dark clouds are such a serious threat that would affect rainfalls, visibility and health, if oceans are so precious to protect as would some endangered species be and if sea levels are rising alarmingly indeed, why doesn't the G20 or the G80 meet up in some serene place to read and understand the issues at least, even for discussion at a later date? If we are eventually to adapt ourselves to a waterworld, where would we play cricket and win matches against Ponting's men, where would we launch our rockets from and where would Wall Street be then?

Not to worry about the Indian Navy though. They could very well be close to home, chasing pirates away from the ocean above Madhya Pradesh and driving them onto the limited stretches of lands on the Himalayan Plains. We could have a G 20 summit with leaders fashioning Swim Suits. Or perhaps, by then, man would have evolved further with fins and gills. What's Darwin's take on this?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack "Historical" Obama

It was not yet another sensationalist hyperbole when the media described the United States Elections as "History in the Making". For once, should I say, in living memory, the media was spot on. Barack H Obama did make History. In fact, he has done more than just that - he has, perceptibly, changed the course History was taking. This was a moment that the Americans could rightly be proud of.

Forget his biography for a moment; the guy seems good by his very looks; by his measured speech and choice of words; by his conscious humility; by the depth of his eyes - and what goes beneath those eyes; by the determination in his voice; even his lanky structure and the way he held himself as he walked down the stage, his poise . . . they all speak something of his character. It says, "Hey Americans, this is the best that you could have got!"

His mixed race parentage is, obviously, what would make the world sit up and watch - and listen. But more than that, the United States has, over the past eight long years, dug itself in a pit in its Foreign Affairs Department. Arrogance is not the best way forward in a growingly seamless world. And ignorance is even worse. To think that there was only one Nation in the Universe would'nt make much political or economic or whatever sense. Obama offered a hope from a deteriorating and an even increasingly humiliating situation.

This development, if handled carefully, diligently, with sense and serenity, is capable of changing the perception of a whole lot of nations about the "Super Power". Israel has already started worrying about the strategies of its patron. Obama would, hopefully, know better than that.

The President-Elect has had many a thing going for him. President Bush himself has done him a lot of favour by forcing the president's approval ratings to a Historical Low. He was high-handed in dealing with a fragile planet. He was quick to formulate the "Axis of Evil" theory. He invented tall claims about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and the inevitable link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. He couldnt manage to plant those WMD's in Iraq in time, before the IAEA Inspection panel's aircraft touched base at Baghdad. He fulfilled his dad's dream of a world without Saddam Hussein. He showered weapons of "mass destruction" over civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. He threatened North Korea; he accoasted Iran. And in all the drama, he forgot his own home and his economy!

Put these all in perspective, Obama would have anyway been a silver streak if he had just said he was "not George W Bush"!

He would have definitely rejoiced to have his Grand mother by his side when he created History. But then, politics is all about points scored. And as commentators famously say, "Runs are runs, no matter how they come".

"For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," Barack Obama said in his Acceptance Speech.

If he is really what he has projected of himself all the way, if he is really strong enough to dare to walk the rope, he has to double up even before the word "Go". He has no choice but to hit the ground running. And if he does that and if he walks the distance, the world would certainly be a better place.