Saturday, July 22, 2006

Indian response to Mumbai terror attacks

I really did not want to write what might be just another post on how India should respond to the Mumbai blasts, but I get the feeling the incident is slipping out of public memory. We need to remember the incident as if it happened yesterday so that we can force through the required changes that are needed in our security and such.

Much has been made about how India should respond to the terror attacks. A few people have called for us to attack Pakistan to show we mean business. Others, including me, have criticized the pseudo-resilience of the Mumbaikars, which is more akin to helplessness rather a show of strength.

As for our response itself, the Prime Minister delivered an insipid speech that would have done wonders to the confidence of the terrorists! There seems to be no move to improve our preparedness either. So much for a kick up our backsides! BongoP'o'ndit has a summary of the Indian response so far.

Our long term response to the terror attacks is not as simple as it sounds. It is not simply about improving our preparedness in case of future attacks, or simply about boosting our intelligence network, or about holding Pakistan accountable for the attacks. It is, of course, all of these, but also more.

While Pakistan does deserve a response, that is not the end of it all. India must stop playing the blame game. It merely shifts the focus to Pakistan, while ensuring that India does nothing about its own position as far as the attacks are concerned. The evidence is mounting that the actual attacks were carried out by Indian muslims, and this is cause for real concern. This means there is something fundamentally wrong in the state of the country. A highly cathartic self-introspection is needed as to why things are going wrong. This is a time when the country must stay united and not split into several distinct communities each pointing the finger at each other.

First and foremost, we have to accept the bombings as a jihadi attack ([1], [2], [3]). In fact, Maloy Krishna Dhar, has likened the terror attacks to an all out invasion of India. This is a very serious statement, and it deserves our full attention. The notion of misguided youths does not hold water any longer. Misguided or not, they are causing serious damage to the nation and we must spare no efforts in stopping it. For this, our intelligence network needs a massive and urgent upgrade. Our response system needs to be revamped to standards that the western nations follow. And importantly, the government needs to stop playing its minority politics, which while alienating the minorities from the mainstreem, also drives through the right-wing ideology that creates anti-minority policies. Again, the country desperately needs to stay united.

Secondly, India has to stop expecting the western powers to do something about this. This is our own problem, no matter how intricately it is tied in with the global jihad, and we must learn to solve our own problems. If for no other reason except that the US cannot be trusted to do anything (and by extension, the western world). The ToI claims that India does have proof that Pakistan was behind the terror attacks. India must now show some spine in its diplomacy with Pakistan. Peace process be damned; when Pakistan is not at all serious about the peace process, India is living in an illusion if it expects anything positive out of it.

India must take up a strict stance wrt to the terror camps operating in Pakistan. It does, after all, have every right to expect Pakistan to do something about them, failing which, to take matters into its own hands. While operations mounted at the terror camps would be welcome, attacking Pakistan itself is not a good idea. The moment India attacks Pakistan, the entire middle-east will be against us. Expect bombings all over the country on a daily basis. Coupled with the war itself, India's already thin emergency resources will be highly stretched. Even if the military manages to gobble up Pakistan, it will not be the end of it all. Expect the war to escalate to global proportions. Not a situation anyone except the arms companies will be pleased with.

Finally, India must ensure that through all this, the civil rights of its citizens are not violated. While this seems like a trivial point, any small attempt at restricting the liberties of the citizens does nothing except divert the focus away towards less important events. Which is in fact what is happening right now! Amidst all the hullabaloo about the banning of blogs, let us not forget that eight bombs exploded in Mumbai on the 11th of July, 2006. Let us not allow the government to snooze back on its job.

(Cross-posted on

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mumbai is so resilient

Yesterday, 7 bomb blasts brought the city to a crunching halt. Four hours later, trains on the western railway line were operational. Today, everyone went back to their offices and schools and life continued as normal. Mumbai bounces back in a single day. Great, admirable, commendable, that the city can recover so soon. But I cannot help feel that this same resilience allows the government and concerned officials to relax, to not even put a token effort in trying to come up with measures that will help the city in case of a repeat occurance.

Granted that it is not at all an easy task trying to prevent terrorism of this sort. It might even be impossible to eliminate it in its present form. But that doesnt let the state and national machinery off the hook. The fact is that even the simple, day to day, routine measures that are being adopted at other cities such as NYC or London to try and prevent future attempts are simply not present in Mumbai. That the government will not do anything on its own is a given. But part of the problem is the city itself.

Now do not take me wrong, for the resilience of the city is a very good thing. It allows us to show the proverbial finger to the terrorists; they cannot disrupt our life for long. But on the other hand, if the aftermath had lingered on for a while, public resentment does not die a natural death. It builds up with every passing day where the routine is not followed. And this resentment can prove to be a very powerful thing.

If riots can get the officials to really take notice, so can open and prolonged resentment against the state machinery for not doing its job. The longer it lasts, the more likely it is to spread to other cities; after all they may be next on the terrorists hit-list. A mass movement like this cannot simply be ignored by the government. The fall-out of such a movement would have its own benefits, with increased security measures.

Call me an idealist if you must. But when people continue on with their lives as if the blasts were nothing but a small blip, the motivation to force the authorities to do something dies down soon enough for the officials to go back to sleep. People must stop behaving as if nothing has happened. They must raise a huge hue and cry about this issue, throw a tantrum, whatever. It is for their own good.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Penalty Shoot-outs

I had been planning to write this for some time now, but with the world cup final ending in a penalty shoot-out, now is a good time as any for this post.

My contention is that penalty shoot-outs are not a fair way to decide a football contest. It favours the team that is generally good at taking penalties, while ignoring everything that has gone on for the past 120 or so minutes. The game really must be decided based on general play, rather than a lottery of penalties.

The unfairness of penalties is best exemplified by the FA Cup final between Manchester United and Arsenal in 2005, a game which Manchester United dominated (Arsenal did not have a single shot on goal till the penalties!), but lost on penalties. Some people argue that Manchester United did not deserve to win because they could not score in 90 minutes, but the same people have no explanation for why Arsenal deserved to win the game when they couldnt muster a single shot on goal!

So, here are a couple of suggestions for doing away with penalties.

1) Continue playing extra time (with a break every 15 minutes) till you get a result.
Generally teams tend to play defensive in extra time. Which means that more often than not, they are looking to hold on till the penalties. But now since there are no penalties, someone must score. To score, you have to play attacking football. Teams also know that they cannot afford to keep playing indefinitely. The fatigue factor will come in sooner or later, and as the game keeps getting prolonged, both teams will be pretty desperate to score. And score they will. And you will very rarely see games being played beyond the 3rd or (at the very most) 4th over time. An extra 15 or 30 minutes in favour of penalties seems worth it.

2) Modify the penalty system to make it fairer.
Basically, this means setting up an attack against defense kind of play, with 4 attackers, 3 defenders and a goalkeeper (the numbers can be different). The play continues till the ball goes out of play. The half-way line is also considered to be a boundary. At 5 plays per team, the team that scores more goals wins.

So there it is, my bit towards making knock-out games in football fairer to the teams that play well and deserve victory.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Orkut Irony

I got this message from someone on Orkut. Seems likely that I was not the only one to receive this message.

I got a personal email today from Mr. Orkut today and he has mentioned that all the people who have been sending hoax (and irritating) emails about Orkut profile closures are about to have their profiles cancelled.

It has come to their notice that sending some crappy "do this ya Gabbar aa jayega" emails have been spiking up email traffic and hence the threat.

The wise can take a hint.


The irony of the message was apparently lost on him!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Meera Jasmine

Another day, another controversy! Sometimes I wonder if India is the land of controversies, we always seem to have an awful lot of them. This time, its Meera Jasmine, an actress from Kerala, in the midst of it all. She, born of Christian faith, tried to enter a temple in Kerala to pay her respects. Nothing strange in that, because she has always been reverential towards the Hindu form of worship. Except that in Kerala, non-Hindus are banned from entering temples!

Which I find highly ironic! On one hand, Sanatana Dharma means eternal righteousness (a crude translation), which is irrespective of time, place and person, and on the other hand, we have a term called "non-Hindu"! In fact, the true notion of Christianity preaches unqualified love for others and for God, and to devote one's life in service to God. (The naive notion of exclusivity was a later addition, meant for political purposes and has nothing to do with spirituality!) Leaving out the differences in the philosophy of existence (which does not really affect the common man in any case), I see Christianity as no different from the Bhakti tradition within Hinduism.

So how does someone justify this principle of exclusivity? The justification for this that I know of is that at a time when there was no such restriction, christian missionaries used to conduct their proselytizing activities within the temple premises! Yes, this is a valid concern, and such activities must simply not be encouraged. But then, the temple authorities could easily have someone on the vigil, looking out for such unscupulous activities. Atleast, no genuine worshipper will be denied admission because of his/her faith.

Drisyadrisya and Rambler have come up with a petition protesting against this unfair treatment. I strongly encourage you to sign the petition.

On a final note, while I do agree with the need for universal entry, it would be counter-productive if one were to be too critical of the temple authorities. After all, there is a very thin line between breaking tradition just for the sake of it, and calling for genuine reform.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Football and the American

So now we have people being paid for being really stupid. Well, yes, Bush was elected POTUS six years ago, but this interview by Marc Fisher on why America hates soccer (erm, he means football, poor sod) really does reach unprecedented heights of stupidity! Absolute ROFL stuff, this interview of his. It reinforces all the American stereotypes, and then some.

Confused and Patrix come up with a comprehensive response (two responses, really), blowing to bits almost every statement of the clueless moron. There is nothing left for me to say.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sabarimalai Controversy

Recently, Kannada actress Jayamala admitted to entering the sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimalai Temple. Since Lord Ayyappa is considered to have taken a vow of celibacy, menstruating women (women between the age of 10 and 50) are not allowed inside the temple. The revelation of Jayamala has sparked off a huge debate, with the temple officials asking for a probe into the matter. Equally, it has given way to indignation among people, especially those concerned over women's rights over this discrimination against women.

The main question to ponder here, is whether this practice needs reform, whether entry into the temple should be thrown open to all. The main point is that of impurity. Mentruating women are considered impure. If this is indeed the case, then there is a very strong argument for maintaining the status quo. Even apart from menstruating women, not everyone is allowed into the temple. Before a person can enter into the temple, he or she must follow a vrath (or vow) for a period of 40 days. Following this vow strictly is no easy task, and the one who maintains this vow for 40 days is considered to have purified himself sufficiently to seek the grace of God. This is, of course, no idle set of regulations, but has sufficient philosophical validity without ascribing to dogma. The topic of impurity itself can be the basis for a series of articles, so for the purpose of this discussion, I will just accept the need for self-purification as prescribed.

The main point of contention here is whether or not menstruating women are impure. Since neither am I a religious scholar, nor am I a seer, I do not know what the answer is. But if I were to hazard an answer, I would say that menstruating women are not impure. Philosophically, Shiva and Shakti (male and female) are always potrayed together, one does not exist without the other. The female aspect of divinity is considered just as important as the male aspect. In ancient times, India had many women seers, some of whom have even composed a part of the Vedas! In recent times, we have Mata Amritanandamayi, who is considered to be a saint. Would such enlightened beings, who have already seen God, be denied admission to a temple? Even if they are menstruating? I think not! Ergo, why should an ordinary women be denied admission? After all divinity is supposed to permeate all of the material universe, including menstruating women.

Just my 2 cents on this issue, but whether or not any reform will happen is anybody's guess.