TWENTY-FIRST MAY 1991 – A TRIP DOWN THE MEMORY LANE


Twenty-first May 1991 will remain etched in my memory for ever. Yes, on this day the most monstrous murder of Ravjiv Gandhi and several others by a suicide bomber took place in a Chennai suburb, Sriperumbudur. Such political murders have taken place in our country much too often. Rajiv’s mother Indira Ghandhi was assassinated by her own security guards. A year after he got us the independence, the Father of the Nation Mahathma Gandhi too was brutally murdered. That way Rajiv’s murder is one among the long list of gruesome murders and it shouldn’t stir up my mind every year. But there is a reason why this murder kindles my thoughts every year. Between 1988 and 1991, I was working at the National Clearing Cell (NCC) and was part of a team that worked between 10 PM and 6 AM on night shifts to manually sort the cheques in the clearing house. I hope you know how the clearing of cheques was done at the NCC, a highly automated and computerized entity. The hullabaloo and the commotion that was part of the Clearing House at the Annexe Building was history by then. The high speed sorters and the high speed printers had replaced the dust and din of the traditional clearing functions. Excepting on days when we confronted glitches in the automated system, the shift would be over by midnight or the early hours of the next day and we would be dropped home by the Bank’s van. We followed the procedure of dropping our sister-colleagues first and follow a route that encompassed the Bank’s residential colonies – PH ROAD, KK NAGAR and BESANT NAGAR. As we get dropped daily we had the chance to glance through the night life of Chennai. Since it was a team work and a team work aimed at closing early, there was absolute camaraderie amongst us irrespective of the cadre. There was seriousness and there was fun. There was humor and there was hilarity and there was harmony and there was dissonance. Those were my most joyous days and to me it was memorable mix work and pleasure. While I am unable to recall all the names of people with whom I worked and shared a healthy relationship, I remember few of them by name. M.Hariharan, R.Bhakthvatchalu, Wajihuddin, Rajavelu Mudaliar, Mani. Mahendran are the workmen staff and Kaza Sudakar, Ganesh, R.Gandhi are the officer staff whom I am able to recall as of now. Hope others will pardon me. I think I am digressing. I must come to the point why Twenty-first May 1991 will remain etched in my memory for ever. Yes on that day we were saved from the rioting mob by the brave, thoughtful and skillful driving of the Driver of the Vanl, Mr. Balasubramanian, an ex-serviceman. But for his skillful drive we would have been attacked and harmed by the mob which was protesting the murder of Rajiv Gandhi that took place few hours ago. As we left NCC around midnight we were aware of the sad news. Yet we ventured to get dropped without knowing the gravity of the situation outside. The first dropping point was KK Nagar quarters and as we passed through the Kodambakkam Over Bridge, we could see cars and four wheelers burning on either side of Arcot Road. This was a warning for us for not to proceed further. Yet, we drove down further for fear that our van would be mobbed and burnt if we choose to stop or reverse. There was the stone- throwing and torch wielding-mob right in front of our van threatening to burn down our van. But our driver Balu called upon us to duck for cover from the stones and missiles thrown at us and drove fast on the road taking a zigzag path to escape from the mob. By driving fast, he was able to scare the mob and move ahead of the chasing crowd. At the ‘power house’ bus stop a large boulder hit the wind screen and was smashed. A large casurina pole was also thrown into the van. Braving all these attacks, Balu drove fast and reached the Ashok Nagar Police station. At the Police Station there was none to take our complaint and the few cops who were guarding the station told us to drive away to a safer place. Perhaps Police Station was not a safe place then. Continuing our perilous journey we reached the KK Nagar staff quarters and took refuge in the premises of our Quarters. Thank God, all of us escaped unscathed. I remember the Gentleman who gave us the refuge. It was P.R.Srinivasan, the Khadi-clad Gandhian popularly known by his initials, PRS. At the dead of the night he entertained us with tea and snacks and we shared with him our escapade from the marauding mobs that went about destroying public and private properties that night. By all accounts it was a harrowing experience for us and I can say that we did escape from the jaws of horror on that night thanks to Balu, who drove the van skillfully and with presence of mind and saved our lives. I will be happy if someone who shared that chilling experience could throw more light.

– Mushtaq Ahamed

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Beggers can’t ride horses…


            The USA and its lackeys  are highly excited over the killing of Osama Bin Laden, who was declared as the enemy of USA in the aftermath of 9/11. The circumstances leading to his killing and the subsequent disposal of his body in the sea has left everyone guessing on the authenticity of the story.
            The news report says that the operation to eliminate Osama took place at Abbotabad, a garrison- town very close to Islamabad. The report adds that the hide out , a three – storeyed  mansion , is only a stone’s throw from a Leading Military Academy.
            None in the Government of Pakistan , none in the Military , none in the civil administration or police were aware of the operation and yet , we, the so called intelligentsia , have to believe it.
            Okey, we concede the story. But let us look back into the history of this most dreaded personality, Osama.
Who is Osama bin Laden?
According to Ronald Reagan, Osama was a FREEDOM FIGHTER .
            This is what the  Wikipedia says on Osama.
            “After leaving college in 1979 bin Laden joined Abdullah Azzam to fight the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and lived for a time in Peshawar.From 1979 through 1989 under U.S. Presidents Carter and Reagan, the United States Central Intelligence Agency provided overt and covert financial aid, arms and training to Osama’s Islamic Jihad Mujahideen through Operation Cyclone,and the Reagan Doctrine. President Reagan often praised the Mujahideen as Afghanistan’s “Freedom Fighters.”
            “Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm, train, and finance the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, 1979 to 1989. The program leaned heavily towards supporting militant Islamic groups that were favored by neighboring Pakistan, rather than other, less ideological Afghan resistance groups that had also been fighting the Marxist-oriented Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regime since before the Soviet intervention. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations.”
            Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa in his post Who is Osama bin Laden? dated 12 September, 2001, had this to say.
            “A few hours after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the Bush administration concluded without supporting evidence, that “Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation were prime suspects”.
            “CIA Director George Tenet stated that bin Laden has the capacity to plan “multiple attacks with little or no warning.”
            “Prime suspect in the New York and Washington terrorists attacks, branded by the FBI as an “international terrorist” for his role in the African US embassy bombings, Saudi born Osama bin Laden was recruited during the Soviet-Afghan war “ironically under the auspices of the CIA, to fight Soviet invaders”.
            “In 1979 “the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA” was launched in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in support of the pro-Communist government of Babrak Kamal.
            “With the active encouragement of the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI (Inter- Services Intelligence), who wanted to turn the Afghan jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim states against the Soviet Union, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan’s fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more came to study in Pakistani madrasahs. Eventually more than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the Afghan jihad.”
            “ The Islamic “jihad” was supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia with a significant part of the funding generated from the Golden Crescent drug trade.”
            If according to USA , Osama is a Freedom Fighter, the world has to believe it. If according to USA , Osama is a Terrorist , the world has no option but to believe it, again.
            Beggers can’t ride horses.

10th OF MAY, A SIGNIFICANT DAY IN HISTORY


The rare moral leader since Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. 
       One of the most significant things to have happened on the 10th of May in African history was the inauguration in 1994 of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, following the first-ever democratic elections. Till then, South Africa was ruled by a system called Apartheid (an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’), which was based on the segregation of races. On that day Apartheid, in South Africa, was eclipsed into oblivion. Coincidentally an annular solar eclipse occurred on May 10, 1994
       Addressing the crowds at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Mandela said, “We saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict … The time for healing of wounds has come … Never, never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another.”
      Nelson Mandela stands as an icon of courage, justice, and perseverance to people in South Africa and throughout the world. Imprisoned in 1964 for treason, stemming from his activities with the banned African National Congress (ANC), Mandela maintained his dignity behind bars and became an international symbol of human rights. Throughout the 1980s the rallying cry “Free Mandela” resounded on city streets and college campuses everywhere.
                Mandela was freed in 1990, as a result of the tremendous economic and political pressure placed on the South African government by the international community. He resumed leadership of the ANC and, after a triumphant speaking and fund-raising tour across three continents, entered into talks with President F. W. De Klerk regarding the future of South Africa. The result was the dismantling of apartheid and the establishment of South Africa’s first multiracial elections. In 1994 Mandela became the first president of a free South Africa. He retired from that position in 1999.
                Nelson Mandela and F. W. De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating South Africa’s peaceful transition to multiracial democracy. After the ANC victory in the April 1994 elections, Mandela worked to ease racial tensions, court foreign investment, and provide services to the victims of apartheid.
       Being unjustly deprived of his freedom for 27 years could not prevent Mandela from forgiving those who jailed him as well as those who kept him there. Through the strength of character involved, Mandela led all of South Africa to a new peace, and a new forgiveness
       Mandela announced that he will not run for reelection in 1999, and in December 1997 Thabo Mbeki succeeded him as ANC party leader.
       Mandela retired from public life in 1999. He currently resides in his birth place – Qunu, Transkei. After retirement, Mandela is active as an advocate in numerous social and human rights organizations.
       What’s remarkable about Mandela is that he  successfully maintained his integrity and stature even after taking office when so many freedom fighters become dictators, intoxicated with power. Thus, he is hailed as one the great moral leader of our time.

We have two common religions – cricket and cinema. Why then fight?


Friends, “We have two common religions – cricket and cinema. Why then fight?”
Life for more than a billion people across India and Pakistan came to a standstill during the 2011 world cup semi-final match. India beat Pakistan by 29 runs, 260 to 231.Well done India ! But that’s only half work done. You have another formidable neighbor to face in the final- the Sri Lankans. The Srilankans, who were once underdogs, are now a formidable team. Let us hope and pray that India continues to be lucky to enjoy the winning spree in the final too.
Though it was only a semi- final , the fact that it was a match against Pakistan and the hullabaloo that surrounded it , had made it appear to be the final itself. It happens every time when India takes on its traditional rival, be it cricket or hockey. Of course , the hype surrounding the game of hockey has faded into insignificance over the years , thanks to western countries who, due to their mastery, have taken over the center stage of the game.
After a long interval , I sat down to watch the entire game. Though the match extended well beyond midnight here , I chose to watch it as the entire family was glued to the TV and I too joined the bandwagon. India won the match. But there were some tense moments too. However India won the match, ultimately. Nothing succeeds like success. M.S.Dhoni, the captain, later steered the team India to victory in the finals too.  Dhoni was candid when he said he misread the pitch and had favoured Nehra and dropped Ashwin from the team. I think such honest persons are needed not only for the Indian Sport but to the Indian Polity as well.
Thank God , the Punjab Government ensured the peaceful conduct of the Match without any hitch or disturbance. Indian army helicopters and anti-aircraft guns imposed a no-fly zone over the ground. Kudos to them. I wish to recall the malicious violence let loose by the communal elements some years ago at Mumbai who also vandalized the pitch on the eve of a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
It was an unusual innings from Sachin Tendulkar. Those greatest fans of Sachin who prayed for his 100th century, were completely disappointed. He couldn’t make it even after the DRS rescued him twice and four different fielders dropped catches he offered.
More than the cricket diplomacy that manifested in connection with the match ,what appealed to me was the ‘people to people’ contact that was enabled and taken forward on this occasion. Hundreds of Pakistanis crossed the border – helped by the relaxation of visa rules – crowded into the Mohali stadium. We have come across stories of relatives and couples meeting each other from across the border. Both the countries declaring holidays to their citizens to watch the friendly fare.People rushing to the venue by whatever means.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani watched most of the match together from a private box at the stadium. The two Prime ministers sat side by side in a symbolic gesture which may restart the process of ‘confidence building’.
The cricket match ,which could be termed a friendly competition ,follows two days of peace talks between the two countries. Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman met in New Delhi this week. It was the first formal dialogue since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, during which Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, Pakistan agreed “in principle” to allow a team from India to investigate the attacks, while New Delhi said a Pakistani delegation would travel to India to probe the attacks. The two sides also agreed to establish a hotline to share real-time information on terrorist threats.
The so-called “cricket diplomacy” has been used as a platform to ease India-Pakistan tension even in the past. In 1987 and 2005, Pakistani leaders travelled to India to watch cricket matches.
“We have two common religions – cricket and cinema. Why then fight?” were the words printed in a bill-board near the stadium. Worthy words indeed!

A RETIRED BABU’S DAY OUT – “My Dad on his day out for a course on Citizen Journalism”


I am a migrant to Bangalore. I had to follow my son who secured his employment in the Bangalore’s IT industry. Though my home- town is Chennai and my roots in that city are half a century old, domestic compulsions made me migrate to the city of Gardens and my home, in this city, is very close to the largest of the gardens, the Lalbagh. Thus Bangalore has become my second home and Bangalore is no different from other metros – bumpy roads, impatient driving, traffic jams, indifferent public, greedy auto drivers, corrupt politicians etc. etc.

After my retirement from the central bank of India –RBI, I spend most of my time in reading, mostly the newspapers and of course watching the News channels and the talk shows. The news item on JM programme on Citizen Journalism which appeared in Bangalore Mirror, somehow, escaped my attention. It is my caring wife who pointed out the news and encouraged me to attend the event and today I am here participating in the event. I am very happy that I am back in the class room atmosphere sitting with the young and the old – a unique experience indeed.

I am a post graduate in Journalism and mass communication and hence familiar with the concepts of Media and communication. But these concepts, when explained by working journalists with live examples and livelier experiences, one is able to comprehend them unambiguously .When Aloke Thakore , while teaching the craft of writing a story, explained the five ‘W’s and one ‘H’ with the Hindi song “Ye Kya Hua, Kab Hua , Kaise Hua………..” it was pedagogy of altogether different kind. The same can be said of the story told by Shishir Joshi of a citizen journalist in Mumbai who traced the idendity of North European who died in accident and who could not be identified by the concerned agencies of the Government.

Turning to guest lectures and the guests, I can tell that the RTI Activists, Vikram and Viresh, did their job precisely, concisely and comprehensively within the limited time. The activists-duo, supplementing and complementing each other,shared their experiences which was like hearing straight from the horse’s mouth. Though frail in their physique they have taken on the bulls by their horn, have exposed the corrupt and ensured that the funds of the government are not swallowed by the babudom. This is what inspires those budding journalists to do their job fearlessly and farely.

The top cop who lectured on the “police system,rights ,duties and conflicts”, shared information on some positive developments in the police force, their interaction with public and their sensitivity and on the working of his department. One could also see that he was blowing his own trumpet –his impeccable record and his forays into the Facebook. All said and done, the police still appears to the public as an unfriendly and suspicious and corrupt outfit, of course with some exceptions here and there.

The President of the Press Club, Mr.Ponnappa who inaugurated the programme, could have been more magnanimous and addressed us in English. All of us would have understood him and his speech instantly. Anyway his lieutenant Mr.Shenoy, the Press club Secretary, was at his bilingual best and made good the shortcoming.
Summing up, I would say that it was an interesting day out for me.