Posts Tagged ‘The Oberoi’

Ranji Trophy & the David Coleman Headley chase

27 December 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I saw the the Ace Political Expert (ACE) near Nalpak Restaurant in Vontikoppal.

It was a long time since I had had the benefit of his political insight. I jumped at the opportunity and we sat down at Nalpak’s new open-air lounge where you can eat while looking at the traffic passing by.

“What do you make of the David Coleman Headley issue?” I asked as we started attacking the bisi bisi ragi roti with two different types of chutney.

“Headley traveled all over the country planning terror attacks left, right and centre. He freely met film and filmy people in Bollywood who gave him a red-carpet welcome. He even spent a night with his wife at the Taj Mahal Hotel, ate at the Oberois. Yet our intelligence knew nothing about his visit.”

“Don’t we have intelligence bureaus precisely for such things?” I asked.

“And we will not give visa to known Pakistan cricketers. What’s more, our Karnataka Police arrested a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Ranji Trophy cricket team member under the impression he was a terrorist! KSCA and police thought he might terrorise our players and win the Ranji tie!”

“How come our intelligence totally missed any information on him and our external affairs ministry cleared his visa?”

“It can happen only in a  Mahesh Bhatt film! We had no inkling until US authorities caught him and all the information is coming during his interrogation in Chicago. There’s one more thing…,” continued APE.

“Yes?”

“It appears their FBI had clear information about the impending attack on Bombay, but our supposedly closest friends kept quiet about the whole thing! Now we know how close our friendship with the world’s strongest democratic power is!”

“This is a crying shame! Our Prime Minister swears friendship with all US Presidents after the nuclear treaty.”

“And we signed a nuclear treaty with Russia without breaking in to a song and dance! We have to get this straight. To the US, we come after their security which means keeping Pakistan in good humour with billions of dollars as a toffee so that they don’t hand over the bombs to the Taliban and others to the target US. We come after China because of their huge economic interest; forget human rights, Tibet etc.”

“That’s true.”

“India isn’t even protesting why the US didn’t share the information on Headley. They will say he was a triple or quadruple agent and they will use him to their advantage. Thanks to our bureaucratic bungling we are not sure if we have his visa papers.  S.M. Krishna, Shashi Tharoor and MEA spokesman say different things on different days on the same subject!”

“It’s pathetic. Maharashtra Government did the same thing with protective tunic of Hemant Karkare feeding contradicting bits of information to the media.”

“This is an expertise that is developed over the years. Reject the charge outright and gradually admit it step by step.”

After we had coffee, I asked him who will become the next CM as one hears the BJP government might fall any minute.

The APE said, “That’s a long story. We will keep it for the next time as so many are aiming for the position. We have to find a process of elimination before we zero in on one,” as we walked out.

Does a tree make a noise when no one’s around?

17 December 2008

The sociologist, Dipankar Gupta, in Mail Today:

“Though there are many who would find fault with the way the electronic media covered the bloodshed in Bombay, it is also a fact that they heightened citizen anger against politicians of all hues. When the ordinary viewer saw the vulnerability of the unprotected citizen against the Z-level security of politicians, there was good reason for boiling anger.

“None of this could have been captured but for the TV cameras.

“There were many false steps and much hyperventilation. But notwithstanding some crass showmanship, the unintended consequence of the bumbling, over-eager camera crew and their anchors generated a strong sense of citizenship outside religion and rank. This, indeed, is commendable.

“TV channels may not have had this laudable end as their overt intention. They may have been solely driven by rating considerations. But the unintended consequence of camera, uncertain lights and grim action turned out to be good for democracy and for secularism. If only bureaucrats and the security top brass got as much flak as the politicians did, then the job of the media would have been complete.”

Should we really ‘learn’ from the United States?

11 December 2008

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The terror attack on The Taj Mahal Hotel and The Oberoi-Trident in Bombay—not so much the attack on the Victoria Terminus, though—has seen an explosion of middle-class machismo.

At one level, there is a verbal outrage against the political class as evidenced from TV studio discussions, candle light rallies, and posters and placards. At another level is the slight suggestion of the frustration brimming over.

“Enough is enough,” has been the battle cry on several lips, demanding “action” (short hand for a military strike short of war).

But a dominant strand of discussion has been the United States’ response to the attack on the World Trade Centre towers.  “See how well they have guarded themselves. There has not been an attack on their soil for seven years,” is a line that trips off tongues with effortless ease.

“Look at tiny Israel. See how they protect themselves.”

Really?

***

P. Sainath, in today’s Hindu, attacks the notion that India should “learn” from the United States about how to respond to the appalling slaughter in Bombay:

“Look at the USA,” goes the refrain, “after 9/11 has there been another attack on the US?”

“This knocks at the doors of insanity. The US “response” does stand out as worth learning from. There is very little it did not get wrong.

“It launched two wars, one against a country that had not a single link to the events of 9/11. Close to a million human beings have lost their lives in that response. That includes 4,000 US troops in Iraq and nearly 1,000 in Afghanistan. That is apart from several hundred thousand Iraqis losing their lives. Countless Afghans die each month, as one of the world’s poorest States sinks deeper into devastation. Millions have suffered dislocation and deprivation….

“There are other lessons. Almost every week now, the US bombs some part of Pakistan—its firm ally of decades. Civilians are routinely killed by this…. The media too have much to learn. The “embedded journalism” that disgraced some of America’s leading media institutions…. The damage of whipped up hysteria with the United States…. The barbaric prison camp at Guantanamo from where several prisoners have been released as innocent after years of brutal torture.

“Inside the United States, the curbing of civil liberties—a vital 9/11 response—was at its worst since the McCarthy period. The Patriot Act was just one symbol of these. And Geroge W. Bush now ranks among the most despised US Presidents of all time. “

Read the full article: Why the United States got it wrong

‘Do terrorists sit around watching television?’

10 December 2008

Like night follows day, the media coverage of the terror attack on Bombay has resulted in the 21st century ritual of biting the hand that feeds the news. After lapping up the non-stop TV coverage for 72 hours, the tiresome game of shooting-the-messenger is being played with great glee by news consumers.

Weighty questions are now being asked about the media compromising the safety of commandos by getting too close to the action; giving out too many operations details; intruding into the grief of victims and relatives by heartlessly thrusting cameras into their faces; anchors hogging the limelight; etc.

The chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, facing flak for not reacting to intelligence warnings that warned of a “sea-borne” Bombay attack, has gone for the jugular. At a media conference, he threatened to “chop the heads off” two TV reporters who aired an embargoed Navy Day interview ahead of schedule.

The Indian media was not an “enabling instrument in the interests of the State”, the Navy chief said, and apropos of nothing, dredged up an old allegation of three people perishing in the high hills of Kargil because “a smart reporter” (of NDTV) got a “smart colonel” to fire the Bofors gun to show its fire power. (NDTV has termed the charge defamatory, and sought an apology.)

The Hindi channel, India TV, owned by Atal Behari Vajpayee‘s erstwhile media advisor Rajat Sharma, has come in for sharp criticism for airing an alleged interview with one of the Bombay bombers. And there are renewed calls for a code of conduct, etc, as there was after the Aarushi murder coverage.

***

Sharma claims tried an interesting experiment last Saturday. He invited a former army chief to address the staff of India  TV “to understand, from a decorated war hero, whether news channels went overboard in their coverage”, if lives had been endangered, and what precautions, if any, producers, reporters and camerapersons should have taken while showing “live” action.

Writes Sharma in today’s Indian Express:

“To my surprise, the former army chief was emphatic: “News channels did nothing wrong. Your coverage didn’t do any harm whatsoever to the commandos! I’ve handled action as a major, then as a full colonel, and finally as an army commander in anti-terrorist operations, and there’s nothing I could make out from the news channel about the strategy of our commandos.

“Frankly, I expected him to echo what some have been saying—how terrorists got valuable clues on the commando plan by watching our channels. But sample what he said: “Do you think that terrorists holed up in a hotel facing commando fire had time to watch TV?”

“A young reporter persisted. He reminded the general of the “widespread belief” that the terrorists were being briefed on their Blackberrys by their bosses, watching our news channels. Promptly came the angry reply. “Anyone suggesting this must be mad. (Even) I could not get an idea about the action plan. Who has the time to look at TV and Blackberrys when you are in the midst of gunfire?”

Read the full article here: Reality, not television

Read Barkha Dutt’s defence here: ‘The media is not the message. The viewer is king’

Also read: ‘NDTV: Navy chief’s comment is defamatory’

NHRC decries Centre’s advisory to media

Let it not be said the Islamic world was silent

29 November 2008

VINUTHA MALLYA writes from Ahmedabad: We have seen the unrelenting horror unfold before us minute-by-minute. We have we heard and read the shock and solidarity expressed by the world’s high and mighty.

US President George Bush, President-elect Barack Obama, Prime Minister of UK Gordon Brown, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon have all condemned the attacks.

Indian and international media have also reported the reactions from governments of Japan, China, Singapore, Canada, South Africa, Norway, European Union and NATO. Similarly, we heard from government leaders of neighbouring nations: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and China.

Even the Pope expressed his sentiments in a letter to the Cardinal.

However, there were other voices, which weren’t played up prominently, some of which were picked up by news agencies like PTI, Agence France Presse, Deutsche Press-Agentur and Xinhua.

These were the voices of leaders and governments from the Islamic countries, who too shared their shock and pledged support to India and to the fight against terrorism, just like the hallowed group above. Many of them emphasised that no religion sanctioned such acts of violence and terror.

***

ASIA

Malaysia: Malaysia’s foreign minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said Malaysia was deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless act of violence “deliberately directed at civilian targets designed to inflict maximum human casualties.”

“Malaysia remains firmly committed to the fight against terrorism and in engaging in a constructive manner, all regional and international efforts in combating terrorism,” he said in a statement. He added that the horrendous attacks underscored the fundamental need for the international community to continue vigorously forging a comprehensive and effective front in combating all forms of terrorism and extremism.

Indonesia: Indonesia condemned the terrorism attacks in Bombay as despicable and inhumane. The government expressed condolences to the government of India and to the victims and their families, saying it hoped those responsible would be swiftly captured and brought to justice.

“The attacks are evidence that the threat of terrorism remains real and that it requires constant vigilance and multilateral cooperation in dealing with it,” the statement said. It added that Indonesia was a staunch supporter of all cooperation in combating terrorism.

THE GULF

Iran: In a statement, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi expressed the sympathy of the Iranian people and government toward the Indian nation and the families of the victims.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia denounced the terrorist attacks and expressed its condolences to the Indian government and people. “The Kingdom has been following up the terrorist explosions in Mumbai with indignation and expresses its strong condemnation of this criminal act,” an official source said. (Twelve Saudi nationals were among the hostages.)

Adnan Khalil Basha, secretary-general of the International Islamic Relief Organization in Saudi Arabia, condemned the terrorist attacks and expressed his sympathy to the people and government of India and families of victims. “Lives of human beings are so valuable that this barbaric act should not have occurred. Nobody and no religion will endorse this act of terrorism,” Basha told Arab News. He stressed the need to stop such terrorist acts to protect humanity from going back to the age of forest law. (Source: Deutsche Press-Agentur)

Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC): The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned the attacks, saying violence had no justification. “These acts of violence contradict all human values and can be justified by nothing,” an OIC spokesman said at the group’s headquarters here. (Source: Deutsche Press Agentur)

Kuwait: CNN quoted a statement made by the Kuwaiti government, which “strongly condemned” the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. (Eight Kuwaitis were trapped in one of the hotels with other hostages.)

UAE: “The UAE condemns this horrible crime and affirms its full solidarity with the Indian government,” said United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

Qatar: A spokesman for the Qatari foreign ministry condemned “these terrorist acts that go against ethics and humanity,” in a statement carried by the official news agency QNA.

Arab League: Amr Mussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League said: “[These] criminal and terrorist acts aggravate the vicious circle of violence and counter-violence,” Egypt’s state news agency MENA quoted him as saying.

WEST ASIA

Jordan: Jordan’s Prime Minister Nadir Dahabi expressing his “sincere condolences and deep sorrow” stressed his “strong condemnation of this heinous act of terrorism”. He also affirmed stand by the side of India in the face of such acts and solidarity with the Indian people to surmount this ordeal.

Turkey: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s letter said:  “Terrorism is a crime against humanity. An effective fight against terrorism is possible only by the help of international cooperation and solidarity.”  He added that Turkey is committed to enhancing cooperation with India in the fight against terror.

AFRICA

Egypt: Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak’s statement to the Indian president and prime minister slammed the attacks and expressed condolences to the families of the victims, adding that Cairo stands by the side of New Delhi in countering terrorism and extremism.

Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood condemned the attacks in a statement and hoped that the “perpetrators of these heinous crime would be brought to justice to receive the ultimate punishment.”

Algeria: Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika offered the Indian people “our absolute solidarity.”

Morocco: Morocco’s King Mohammed VI said: “The Moroccan kingdom strongly condemns these abominable crimes and all appalling terrorist acts which violate the security and lives of innocent citizens.”  He said the attacks “are totally against all religious teachings, the universal principles and the democratic ideals shared by our two friendly peoples”.

Nigeria: Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua expressed shock and sadness at the attacks on several locations in the city and condoled the government and people of India.

Kenya: Kenyan President Kibaki said: “My Government and the people of Kenya strongly condemn all forms of attacks against innocent people and hope that those involved in this criminal and heinous act will be brought to justice.”

The well-meaning diplomatic displays of support do not take away the attention from the question: When will we hear the voices from the inside?

Where is the Darul Uloom’s statement now that they have a fatwa?

This is the time when India needs to hear it the most, because another grave act of violence is being attributed to their religion.

Where do we hear the groups which otherwise protest the vilification of a religion for the violent acts of a few people? Where are those well-placed Muslims who have the platform to voice their opinions but will not do so at the time that it is needed most? Not because they need to defend their faith, but because they should stand together with the rest.

At times like these, the dangers are shared by people of all religions. The vociferous expressions of condemnation need to be too. The volume has to be stepped up.

Terror, attack, bloodbath, war, hell, bloody hell

27 November 2008

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BELLUR RAMAKRISHNA‘s collage of front pages of Indian newspapers on the Bombay terror attacks.


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