The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Thursday 31 August 2017


We cannot compare the benefits of travelling solo and in group, especially with friends. They have their own inclinations to get along with you, and at times, you love both. Generally, as we know, it has be interplay of both, external as well as internal factors.

But, ultimately, if we go by our inner call, then any such decision is a mix of factors acting in coordination that finally decide with which way we will go.

The first factor is the weaving of your thought process.

If you are a person who enjoys your own company, you would love to go for a solo trip where you can croon, dance, sit and talk, all coming from and going inside you.

The best thing about having such intense one-on-one with you that you easily follow your own path even if you are in a group of friends. Yes, the nature of your interaction with self changes accordingly.

Trips that are exploratory in nature have their best chances when they find someone like this on the journey. They find their ways, be among people or walking alone. They are the truth-seekers. They are the knowledge-seekers. They are the wisdom-seekers. And journeys seek them.

The second factor is your mood.

Irrespective of the proclivity of your conscious (and subconscious mind), it is your mood that first decides whether you would go a for trip at all and if it says yes, then what contours it will take - whether your mood is pushing for you to take a solitary break away from the world around you to look for some moments in your own company - or it is seeking to share what is inside you with your friends and a group trip along the highway or in the valleys or on the hills or anywhere you like is the perfect occasion for it.

The third factor is obviously the occasion.

It is again interplay of different factors. If you are a party goer, you will seek to turn every group occasion into a good party time. You, will, in fact, go to every extent possible to have those evenings or nights or days again and again.

If you are a normal guy or girl next door, you will go where the party goes. And even if you are a reluctant, self-contained soul, you will not hesitate to become part of the show because you know it is going to be just those hours.

Mind you folks, these are about normal existences. We are not taking about exceptions and exclusivities here. We are talking about life journeys here. 


Tuesday 29 August 2017



Though the Abolition Movement of the 19th Century had emancipated African Americans, lifting them from the shackles of slavery, they were still denied the basic civil rights. Discrimination based on colour and racial segregation was common in America, especially in its southern states, the traditional slave states of America before slavery was abolished by US President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

Years of struggle by African Americans to secure federal protection for their basic rights and to end the humiliating practice of segregation based on race led to the non-violent American Civil Rights Mass Movement in 1950s and 60s.

The long years of the movement saw series of non-violent protests, civil disobedience and boycotts and its culmination is seen in Martin Luther King's 'March on Washington' on August 28, 1963 when he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech demanding justice and equality for African Americans.

As a result of the American Civil Rights Movement, the US government passed a series of legislation during 1960s, i.e., Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), which effectively ended the discriminatory practises based on colour and the racial segregation of public facilities in the years ahead.




The crux of Existentialism is Human Freedom, the freedom of the living human individual. The movement that was both literary and philosophical saw an individual as the basic entity of society who was in command of the world around him and acted freely and responsibly to find his place in society.

For an existentialist, individual and not organized society or religion was the centre of the whole existence. For him, the authenticity in life meant living individually, an existence that didn't owe to society or religion.

Existentialism worked on the concept of 'me Vs them' or 'individual Vs the society' and firmly believed in an individual's supremacy rejecting the established philosophical notions as too abstract and detached and thus showed disorientation and tension an individual had with existing norms revolving around with themes like life and death, freedom, existence and bondage, anxiety and authenticity, angst and despair and so on.

Basically called a 20th Century philosophy and used by French philosopher and legend Jean-Paul Sartre to describe himself, though he once famously said “Existentialism? I don’t know what that is”, it had its roots in the works of 19th Century philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard.

Existentialism gave rise to a cultural movement in 1940s and 50s Europe in the post World War II period and Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Jean Wahl, Gabriel Marce, José Ortega y Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno, Nikolai Berdyaev and Lev Shestov were the major Existentialists the movement produced.


Monday 28 August 2017


The main reason that convinced the Supreme Court in granting bail to Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit in the 2008 Malegaon blast case was the investigation itself – material contradictions as the SC bench puts it in the two charge-sheets filed by two investigating agencies in the case, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) which investigated the case till 2011 and the National Investigating Agency (NIA) which took over the case probe in 2011.

Interestingly, the supplementary charge-sheet filed by the NIA in May 2016 literally overturned the findings of the ATS charge-sheet that were the base of building a terror case around the accused in the case. After the NIA submitted that the stringent anti-terror Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was wrongly slapped in the case and many witnesses and accused retracted their statements, Sadhvi Pragya got bail in the case in April 2017 and Lt Col Purohit was next in line to claim it.

Every subsequent round of the bail application of an accused requires fresh grounds on which the bail is being sought. In Lt Col Purohit’s case, the SC was convinced that there were fresh grounds which finally paved the way for a bail to him. The SC bench observed, “That the appellant has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.”

The 25-page long verdict of the Supreme Court delivered by Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre on August 21 granting bail to Lt Col Purohit is a comprehensive document that puts light on the anomalies in the investigation of the two agencies while making it amply clear that the judgement delivered here has nothing to do with merits of the case which will be decided by the trial court. The arguments qualified for a bail verdict only and the apex court didn’t go into larger merits and demerits of the case as happens in bail applications.


  • In order to prove the prima facie case against the appellant, the prosecution has relied upon the transcription of the conversations of the meetings obtained from the laptop of Swami Amrutanand (A-10), statement of prosecution witnesses recorded under Sections 161 and 164(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short ‘the Code’), intercepted telephonic conversations between the appellant herein and co-accused persons and lastly the finding of traces of RDX in the house of co-accused Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11).
  • With regard to the transcription of the conversations of the meetings, it was urged from the side of the appellant that there was no such conspiracy hatched between the persons present in the meeting to commit bomb blasts at Malegaon and the persons present have expressed their general opinion about the then prevailing political and social situation.
  • In this backdrop, it is relevant to note that the appellant herein was a serving Army Officer and was associated with Military Intelligence and Interior Terrorism (Insurgency Activities).
  • In the statement of PW-21, it has been revealed that immediately after the alleged conspiracy meeting, he found the appellant herein disclosing the details of the said meeting to his superior officers in Military Intelligence.

Even the appellant herein also informed that it was a ‘covert operation’ of Military Intelligence and he attended the said meetings to create the counterintelligence and no conspirator will ever divulge the details of the conspiracy to the superior officers in Military Intelligence.

  • Besides this, the documents filed by the Ministry of Defence and the papers of the Court of Inquiry also substantiate the claim of the appellant herein.
  • The NIA started the investigation on the basis of the facts stated in the FIR and the evidence collected by the ATS, Mumbai.
  • During investigation, it was found that there were contradictions with regard to the evidence led in the charge sheet by the ATS.
  • On the basis of the specific points covered during the investigation conducted by the NIA, it was concluded that no offence under the MCOC Act was attracted and the confessional statements recorded under the provisions of the said Act by ATS Mumbai were not being relied upon by the NIA in the charge sheet against the accused persons.
  • In fact, on evaluation of the evidence against Pragya Singh Thakur (A-1), the evidence on record were not found sufficient by the NIA to prosecute her as all the witnesses had retracted from their statements and thus no case was made out against her.
  • A perusal of the statements of various prosecution witness recorded under Section 164 of the Code by the NIA, it was revealed that the ATS, Mumbai forced them to make the statements under the aforesaid Section by threatening them to falsely implicate them in the case.
  • In other words, witnesses retracted from their statements recorded by the ATS, Mumbai at Mumbai.
  • Even during re-examination of PW-79 recorded under Section 164 of the Code, he deposed that he did not attend any meeting of ‘Abhinav Bharat’ held at Bhopal and he had never visited Bhopal until ATS took him to Ram Mandir, Bhopal in the month of May, 2009. The very same statement was again recorded at Delhi by learned Metropolitan Magistrate, where he confirmed the same.
  • In view of the above, it would be relevant to quote the retracted statement of PW-55, mentioned in the charge sheet filed by the NIA, wherein he stated that he did not retract in front of the Magistrate while his statement was being recorded under Section 164 of the Code due to threat and pressure of the ATS.
  • However, he sent one complaint to Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, Mumbai on 05.10.2009 stating that he was forced to give the confessional statement as dictated to him by the ATS Mumbai that too before transfer of the investigation of the case to the NIA.
  • He further alleged that the following lies were dictated to him to depose before the Magistrate by the ATS which he also incorporated in the complaint sent to State Human Rights Commission which are as under:-
(1) That Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit gave him 3 weapons and ammunition to be kept in his house for amonth sometime in 2006. The description of the weapons was also dictated to him.
(2) That he saw RDX in the house of Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit in a green sack at Devlali.
(3) That Lt. Col. Purohit confessed to him about having supplied RDX for Samjhauta Express Blast.
(4) That Lt. Col. Purohit told him in the early 2008 that something was planned to be done soon. He further told him that an action was planned in Nashik District in Oct/Nov. 2008.
(5) That he was asked to say that Lt. Col. Purohithad confessed to him about planning and executing the Malegaon blast along with his accomplices.
  • Apart from the above, during the investigation by the NIA, it was revealed that the Army authorities had conducted a Court of Inquiry (CoI) against the appellant herein.
  • During scrutiny of the proceedings of the CoI, a different story of assembling of IED in the House of Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11) came to light.
  • During re-examination of the witnesses by the NIA who deposed before the Court of Inquiry (CoI), it was revealed that they suspiciously found API Bagde of ATS in the house of A-11 when A-11 was not present in the house.
  • On considering the facts narrated by the witnesses, the question arises here as to why API Bagde visited the house of A-11 in his absence.
  • It is also pertinent to mention here that the ATS conducted the search of the house of A-11 on 25.11.2008 wherefrom they had taken the swab of RDX which creates a doubt on the recovery of RDX keeping in view the examination of the witnesses.
  • Even in the charge sheet filed by the ATS, it has been very specifically mentioned that the recovery itself becomes suspect on the ground that the ATS Mumbai may have planted the RDX traces to implicate him and the other accused persons in the case.
  • In our considered opinion, there are material contradictions in the charge sheets filed by the ATS Mumbai and the NIA which are required to be tested at the time of trial and this Court cannot pick or choose one version over the other.
  • The law in regard to grant or refusal of bail is very well settled. The court granting bail should exercise its discretion in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course.
  • Before concluding, we must note that though an accused has a right to make successive applications for grant of bail, the court entertaining such subsequent bail applications has a duty to consider the reasons and grounds on which the earlier bail applications were rejected.
  • In such cases, the court also has a duty to record the fresh grounds which persuade it to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.
  • Further, the appellant herein, who was at the relevant time was an Intelligence officer of the Indian Army has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.
  • Keeping in view the fact that NIA has submitted the supplementary charge-sheet which is at variance with the charge-sheet filed by the ATS and that the trial is likely to take a long time and the appellant has been in prison for about 8 years and 8 months, we are of the considered view that the appellant has made out a prima facie case for release on bail and we deem it appropriate to enlarge the appellant herein on bail, subject to certain conditions.

Sunday 27 August 2017


The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, banned instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat terming it unconstitutional. It's a big step given the menace the instant practice of triple talaq had become. If we see the suppoting data divorce trend in the Muslim community, we can see the overarching shadow of instant triple talaq.

Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports. And most of them were divorced orally - almost 66 per cent of them. 7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows. Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.

And 95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don't get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) reveals. Though some reports have questioned contradictions in different BMMA studies, the cause of triple talaq is genuine one and we can quote BMMA reports to support arguments here.

But even if the SC decision banning instant triple talaq is historical and precedent setting, it will not help Muslim women much till their pathetic condition in the Muslim community is addressed; till triple talaq is totally abolished and like other religious communities, the Muslim divorce is also subjected mandatorily to the laws of the land; and till polygamy in the Muslim community is banned and it is placed under the Uniform Civil Code not allowing more than one marriage.

According to the Census 2011, almost 81 per cent of Muslim women are married by 21. So most of them are devoid of higher education that can ensure independent, professional career. If we split this 81 per cent further, it reveals a scenario that is even more horrible - 62.5 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 19 - an age-group for school goers mostly.

With 13.5 per cent Muslim girls married before 15, we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent  Muslim girls are forced in under-age marriages, as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a house wife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at mere his whim. The whole Muslim community is responsible for systematically killing aspirations of Muslim women through this vicious cycle.

Something, that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.

And why it would not be so. Almost half of Muslim women are still illiterate. A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were  just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were upper primary educated (around 42 per cent). And there is not much to console even after a decade of this data.

So, they are methodically made handicapped so that they cannot make their life and career on their own and when this discrimination meets the archaic, exploitative mindset of the Patriarchal Muslim community which prides in nurturing anti women practices like triple talaq, they are finally pushed to a life of no existence.

The apex court has banned instant triple talaq but Muslim man can still say talaq, talaq, talaq spread over three months and his wife cannot go to a court against it. The prevailing Muslim law doesn't allow her. Banning instant triple talaq may help in cases of impulsive decisions but what about decisions that reek of designs in making?

Muslim men, free from the fear of legal tentacles, will still use their arbitrary might in throwing Muslim women out of their lives if they have decided. The only solution to this is the legal dissolution of Muslim marriages with court driven legal mandates, like happens in other communities.

Polygamy in the Muslim community adds another worrying dimension to it. Suppose the community, through social interventions and pressure, reforms it to the extent that Muslim men start avoiding divorcing their wives through the triple talaq route.

But what about the inherent countermove it involves. As a Muslim man is allowed to practice polygamy, i.e., having more than one wife, he will simply ignore the wife whom he wanted to divorce through triple talaq and can very well go his other wife (wives) that will make the life of the woman even more miserable.

She cannot go to social institutions. She cannot go to courts. And as she has not been divorced yet by her husband, even if her married life has already been broken, she will find it difficult to reach out even to her immediate family. 


Saturday 26 August 2017


In his latest warning to Pakistan, US President Donald Trump used the term 'safe haven for terrorists' for Pakistan again while delivering his much awaited Afghanistan policy review which sought to increase Indian role while slammed Pakistan for its double-dealings. Pakistan has been claiming and accepting US grants for its role in the US aid in war against terror while at the same time, it has been sheltering terror groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network that attack American interests in Afghanistan.

Before this, we can identify at least seven clear warning signals sent by the Trump administration to Pakistan on its duplicity on terror. These are signs of rapid deterioration of Pakistan's credibility in the Washington.  

HIZBUL MUJAHIDEEN DECLARES A FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATION: Last week, the US Department of State declared Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir based terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, that is known for fomenting terror in Jammu & Kashmir, a foreign terrorist organization aimed at scuttling its resources.

US COUNTRY REPORT ON TERRORISM TERMS PAKISTAN A SAFE HAVEN FOR TERRORISTS: Then in July, the world’s only superpower termed Pakistan a safe haven for India centric terror groups. The Country Report on Terrorism 2017 (for the year 2016) says, “The Pakistan government supported political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, but failed to take significant action to constrain the ability of the Afghan Taliban and HQN to operate from Pakistan-based safe havens and threaten U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.”

And it then goes on to do the course-correction that was long overdue by writing specifically against the major India centric terror groups like LeT and JeM and holding Pakistan accountable for not doing enough, “The government did not take any significant action against LeT or JeM, other than implementing an ongoing ban against media coverage of their activities. LeT and JeM continued to hold rallies, raise money, recruit, and train in Pakistan.”

SYED SALAHUDDIN DESIGNATED GLOBAL TERRORIST: In June, coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit and his first Summit with US President Donald Trump, the US designated Syed Salahuddin, the Hizbul chief, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).

MODI-TRUMP JOINT STATEMENT SAYS PAKISTAN A TERROR HAVEN: The Modi-Trump joint statement that followed the Summit was equally harsh on Pakistan. It directly called Pakistan a terror haven and asked it to ensure that "its territory isn’t used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries."

TAJK BANNED BY PAKISTAN: On June 8, in a move that didn't attract much attention, Pakistan was forced to ban Tehreek-e-Azadi-Jammu & Kashmir (TAJK), the new terror front of Hafiz Saeed after Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)'s Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest in January.

US PROPOSAL IN THE UN TO BAN MASOOD AZHAR: In its first clear signs of its pro-India bent, the Trump Administration tabled a proposal in the United Nations Security Council on February 8 to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. The proposal was finalized after discussion between India and the US and had support of the UK and France. This proposal, too, was blocked by China like its earlier moves to protect Masood Azhar at the UN.

HAFIZ SAEED UNDER HOUSE ARREST: Under increasing US pressure, Pakistan had to put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest on January 30 otherwise Hafiz Saeed was roaming freely in Pakistan spewing venom against India in spite of US bounty $10 Million over his head. The move came after the US warning that Pakistan could be added to the list of the banned countries on the US immigration list. Donald Trump had come up with his first travel ban list during those days which sought to ban immigrants from seven Muslim majority nations and Reince Priebus, then White House Chief of Staff, had said that countries like Pakistan that were 'having problems similar to those seven nations', could be added to the list in future. 


Friday 25 August 2017


Pakistan's National Security Committee, headed by its prime minister and its president, leader of the opposition, state chief ministers and three services chiefs as other members, has outrightly rejected US President Donald Trump's South Asia policy which criticised Pakistan heavily for not doing enough and promoting terrorism in Afghanistan in spite of taking US aid money in the name of cracking down on Afghan terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban operating from Pakistan.  

The Pak NSC meeting was held in Islamabad today to discuss Trump's revamped South Asia policy focusing on Afghanistan. After the meeting, Nafees Zakaria, spokesperson of Pakistan's foreign ministry, in a series of tweets, said that the NSC outrightly rejected allegations against Pakistan adding that making Pakistan a scapegoat would not help in stabilizing Afghanistan.


Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, Trump has announced several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation. The new US policy on Afghanistan pushes for increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan and gives the forces free hand to handle insurgents instead of micro-managing them from the Washington. Also, developing a strategic partnership with India is going to be a critical part of new US’ strategy for South Asia in future as per the revamped policy.

Trump has also slammed Pakistan and has warned that the US will no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings. He has demanded that this Pakistan attitude of doublespeak has to change immediately.

Pakistan is naturally more pained at the prospect of a larger Indian role in Afghanistan which it sees inimical to its interests and the Pak NSC observed that India cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours and is pursuing a policy of destabilizing Pakistan from the east and the west, a Radio Pakistan release on the meeting said.


Repeating the anti-India rant, the Pak committee expressed deep concern at Indian policies inimical to peace in the region including interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries and using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Pakistan, it seems, is also pained at Trump's charges of taking the US money while not being accountable for it. While unveiling his new South Asia Policy, Trump had said that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

The NSC of Pakistan rejected this terming it misleading and instead projected Pakistan as a victim, "The claims of billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan are misleading to the extent that the reimbursements to Pakistan since 2001 only account for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the United States for its operations in Afghanistan, rather than any financial aid or assistance."

Well, that is a plain lie. According to a Reuters report, since 2011, Pakistan has received over $15 Billion in US aid including over $5 Billion in economic assistance.

Then contradicting itself, it went on to say that instead of any financial or material assistance, there should be understanding and recognition of Pakistan's efforts, contributions and sacrifice of thousands of Pakistanis and claimed that Pakistan has suffered over 120 billion US dollars of economic losses due to terrorism.

Pakistan also refuted Trump's allegations of Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists and instead blamed Afghanistan for having safe terror havens and demanded effective and immediate US military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on the Afghan soil including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan.


Thursday 24 August 2017


With vacancies in senior ministries, a cabinet reshuffle by Narendra Modi was long expected. And it has been hastened by recent political developments.

The Janata Dal (United) is set to join the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar split his alliance with RJD and Congress and joined hands with the BJP in Bihar.

This coupled with Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu's offer to quit on moral ground after two massive train derailments in a week makes the case for cabinet reshuffle soon and according to sources it can happen anytime in the first week of September.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked Prabhu to wait, there are indications that his either his resignation will be accepted or his portfolio will be changed. Arun Jaitley, while reacting on Prabhu's offer to resign, said taking accountability was a good system in government. Also, Prabhu's previous party Shiv Sena has demanded that his resignation be accepted.

There is another speculation doing rounds that AIADMK may also join the NDA in the next round of cabinet reshuffle but it will be premature to say anything about it given the uncertainly hovering around the fate of E Palaniswami government.

After series of ups and downs, both factions of the AIADMK, headed by Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, finally merged on August 21 but the party has been marred by Sasikala and her brother TTV Dinakaran. 19 MLAs loyal to them have revolted and they have written to the Governor demanding a trust vote, a demand echoed by Congress and the DMK.

With the move by Sasikala camp MLAs, Palaniswami government has lost its majority in the assembly. Its effective strength has come down to 115 from 134 while the majority mark in the 233 member strong assembly is 117. One seat is lying vacant after J Jayalalithaa's death.

But whenever the cabinet reshuffle happens, all eyes will be on who all are given the responsibility to handle four vacant key ministries the additional charge of which are being held by other ministers.

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, was given the additional charge of the Ministry of Defence when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar quit in March 2017 to take oath as Goa chief minister.

MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, was given charge of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change after Anil Madhav Dave passed away in May 2017.

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & BROADCASTING: The ministry fell vacant after Venkaiah Naidu resigned post his nomination as the Vice-Presidential nominee of the NDA last month and its additional charge was given to Textile Minister Smriti Irani.

MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION: This portfolio, too, was with Venkaiah Naidu and fell vacant after his resignation. Its additional charge was given to Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. 



Taking moral responsibility after two major train accidents in five days, Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu has offered to resign. His offer to resign comes after resignation of Railway Board Chairman A K Mittal.

In first accident, 13 coaches of Haridwar bound Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express derailed in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh on August 19 killing over 20 with over 200 injured. Then this morning, in another major train derailment, 10 coaches of Delhi bound Kaifiyat Express derailed near Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh. Fortunately no one died in the accident which left over 20 injured.

Suresh Prabhu became India's 43rd Rail Minister in November 2014 and according to the government data, over 330 people have lost their lives in 206 derailments in last three years.

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepts Suresh Prabhu's resignation, it will only be the third time in the history of Indian Railways that a Rail Minister offered to resign taking moral responsibility of train accidents and his resignation was accepted.

When we chart the trajectory of Indian Railways since the first rail minister Asaf Ali, who was in-charge from September 2, 1947 to August 14, 1947, we find just two instances of rail ministers resigning on moral grounds after a major train accident.

The first one is the most quoted instance of politics of probity and integrity in public life. Then Rail Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned from his post taking moral responsibility of the Ariyalur train accident in Tamil Nadu in November 1956.  About 142 people were killed in the accident.

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had described Shastri as a man of highest integrity after his resignation. The act had seen Shastri's popularity surging who later on took charge of other ministerial portfolios before becoming India's Prime Minister.

Though train accidents didn't stop after it, it took a long gap of 43 years for a rail minister to show such a courage in the aftermath of a train disaster.

Rail Minister Nitish Kumar resigned taking moral responsibility of the Gaisal train disaster in Assam in August 1999 that had killed at least 290 people. When Nitish's offer to resign first came on August 3, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee initially rejected it but after Nitish persisted, he finally accepted it on August 5.

There are other two known instances when Rail Ministers offered to quit owning moral responsibility of train disasters but went on to stay in the office after their resignations were rejected.

A year after Nitish's resignation, then Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee had also offered to resign from her post taking moral responsibility after two train disasters in 2000 but after Prime Minister Atal Bihari had Vajpayee rejected her resignation, she decided to stay back.

Over a decade before it, Rajiv Gandhi's Rail Minister Madhavrao Scindia had offered to resign after a train disaster in Kerala in July 1988. Over 100 people lost their lives when nine coaches of Trivandrum bound Island Express fell into a river near Quilon. Scindia's resignation was rejected and he remained in the office.


Wednesday 23 August 2017


Will the US turn Afghanistan into a geopolitical bridgehead in Central Asia or work with China to build peace there?

That is a question posed by an editorial in China’s state-run publication Global Times. The editorial believes that the Afghanistan policy revamp by US President Donald Trump is a step in wrong direction.

Presenting the case for greater Chinese involvement in Afghanistan and defending Pakistan whom Trump again called a safe haven for terrorists and a duplicitous nation, the editorial says that “the US needs to enhance cooperation with China and improve ties with Pakistan to stabilize the Afghanistan situation.”

Reeking of the usual arrogance of Chinese media that threatens India with war every other day in the ongoing Doklam standoff, the editorial argues that it will be stupid on the part of the US “to abandon Pakistan and particularly short-sighted to get too close to India and drift away from Pakistan.” Pushing the Pakistani case further, it says that the US needs to respect and consider Pakistan’s interests and difficulties, and not push the latter too hard on anti-terrorism issues.

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, Trump has announced several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation. His emphasis is on increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan and giving the forces free hand to handle insurgents and not micro-managing then from the Washington. And he clearly said that developing a strategic partnership with India was a critical part of US’ strategy for South Asia.

At the same time, he came down heavily on Pakistan and warned that the US would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings and pressed that it had to change immediately. How frustrated the US is with Pakistan becomes clear with Trump’s remarks that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

Now China is batting for that Pakistan and it tells how hollow these Chinese claims are, either in this boastful editorial about Chinese importance in Afghanistan when it has almost negligible presence there or the response of the China’s Foreign Ministry earlier which defended Pakistan saying the international community should recognize Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism.

Continuing its verbal tirade against the US, which banned some Chinese companies and individuals yesterday for their North Koreans links, the editorial says that there is nothing new in Trump’s Afghanistan policy and it ignores the complicated situation in Pakistan which cannot be handled by a single power.

The editorial accepts that the US doesn’t trust China enough but goes on to say that the US and China share common interests in Afghanistan and proposes that “Afghanistan could become a bridge for the two to expand their cooperation.” While the new US policy sees a clear strategic shift towards India, Afghanistan’s trusted partner in its reconstruction, Global Times finds no initiative on international cooperation and new thinking in Trump’s vision which it believes dangles between the approaches taken by Barack Obama and George W Bush and is aimed at maintaining the status quo.

That line of argument is in stark contrast to what Trump thinks. While detailing the policy in an address to the nation, Trump said, “One way or another, these problems will be solved – I’m a problem solver – and, in the end, we will win.” According to Trump and his aides, lengthy deliberations went into formulating the strategy after which Trump reached to a conclusion that the US could not leave Afghanistan in a state that would make it a breeding ground for terror outfits quoting the example of Iraq where a US withdrawal saw emergence of the Islamic State.

Now if the editorial calls that Afghan policy of the US aimless, it is nothing but driven by its vested interests and anti-India streak. China doesn’t want a US military base in Afghanistan. And China doesn’t want an increased strategic presence of India in Afghanistan that can provide it a vital base overlooking China and deeper access to energy rich Central Asia and Iran.



The Taliban has dismissed the US policy change on Afghanistan saying it was nothing news and has dared the world’s only superpower that it will turn Afghanistan into a graveyard for the US troops.

"If America doesn´t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century”, an AFP report said quoting Zabiullah Mujahid, an Afghan Taliban spokesperson.

US President Donald Trump, in his much awaited Afghanistan policy review, made a clear departure from his earlier stand that US had to withdraw from Afghanistan. He, in fact, said that after deliberations he had reached to a conclusion that the US could not leave Afghanistan in a state that would make it a breeding ground for terror outfits quoting the Iraq example where a US withdrawal seen emergence of the Islamic State.

Showing a conviction to increase number of US troops in Afghanistan and giving them a free hand in their ground operations, Trump said, “One way or another, these problems will be solved -- I'm a problem solver -- and, in the end, we will win.”

Reacting on it, the Taliban spokesperson said there was nothing new in the speech and Trump was just wasting American soldiers. "As long as there is one US soldier in our land, and they continue to impose war on us, we, with a high morale will continue our jihad", he added.

The US launched war in Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban government there after the 9/11 attacks which was planned by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan under the Taliban protection. But what began as an operation to overthrow a government has become the longest foreign war in the US history, now in its 16th years, and has cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars with around 2400 dead US soldiers and over 20,000 injured.

Afghanistan has been witnessing terror resurgence. Last year, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John F. Campbell had described the Haqqani Network as the most capable threat to the US and coalition forces. Also, Taliban is seeing a new surge. According to different analyses, it now controls 10 per cent of the Afghan territory and 30 per cent of its people.



As expected, US President Donald Trump has called for a greater Indian role in Afghanistan. During his address to the nation on US’ Afghanistan policy review, during which Trump made several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation like increasing the number of US troops there and giving the forces free hand to handle insurgents and not micro-managing then from the Washington, he clearly said that developing a strategic partnership with India was a critical part of US’ South Asia strategy.

His policy statement that the “India, the world’s largest democracy is a key security and economic partner of the US and it appreciates India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan and wants India to help the US more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development” is an extension to a last month report by the powerful US Senate Armed Services Committee report that advocated a trilateral arrangement between India, Afghanistan and the US. “The committee believes that the US needs to recommit to the fight in Afghanistan and that India, as a major defence partner of the US and a contributor to regional security, has a critical role to play in this effort”, the report said.

In fact, a greater Indian role in Afghanistan where it is already playing a big part in its reconstruction, will not only give India strategic advantage over its traditional rivals like Pakistan and China, but would also mean greater access to the oil and mineral rich Central Asian nations and opportunity for its industry to gain a larger share in the whole Afghanistan rebuilding business.

And this is coupled with the fact that the US review on Afghanistan has been extremely harsh on Pakistan with Trump describing Pakistan again as safe haven for terror groups. He warned that the US will no longer remain silent about it and pressed that it had to change immediately. Now that has huge implications for an increased Indian role in Afghanistan as it has been primarily Pakistan’s objection, a US ally in war on terror, that sees India’s rise in Afghanistan inimical to its interests. How frustrated the US is with Pakistan’s double-dealings becomes clear once again with Trump’s remarks that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”


In July 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic visit of five Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and the main objective was ensuring India’s future energy security. For India, Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia and a stable Afghanistan with greater access will go a long way in fulfilling India’s objective.


A wider presence in Afghanistan will give India greater leverage in dealing with the terror groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State which are trying to establish their Indian footprint. There groups are currently using restive regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan as their gateway opportunity to the Indian Subcontinent. 


India has played an important role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction in post Taliban era spending around $2 Billion since 2002 on development projects including its parliament building and committed another $1 Billion last year. The Indian aid basically has been in infrastructure development, health services and military equipments like bullet proof jackets and convoy vehicles. But breaking the tradition of not giving lethal military equipments in aid, it gave Afghanistan four attack helicopters last year and is also training its soldiers.

Now with the US policy change, seeking an enhanced Indian role, coupled with the fact it seeks to limit the Pakistan’s presence there, Indian companies have an opportunity to invest more in Afghanistan, especially when the US wants to win the war on terror, its longest foreign war that is on for the past 16 years, at any cost. A drastic change in the US policy to crack down on Afghan terrorists with a free hand to security forces can effectively take care of the terror menace. How big the opportunity is can be gauged from the fact that the US has spent over $100 Billion of Afghanistan reconstruction yet it is just far from producing any tangible outcome and now that Trump has made it clear that there will be no more ‘blank check’ from the US, the door is wide open.

Also, Afghanistan in future can emerge as a big push for Make in India initiative for India’s nascent defence industry as the country would need a sustained military supply to handle not only its internal terror threats but also to secure its contentious borders with Pakistan, a terror exporter that has been destabilizing Afghanistan for the past four decades.


If Pakistan has used Afghanistan as its junkyard to push terrorists there to maintain its hegemony and export them to India at the same time, China, too, has been trying to increase its influence there owing to Afghanistan’s geographical advantage but so far has failed. A stable Afghanistan, which is fiercely against Pakistan, can in fact give India strategic advantage by providing a valuable military base in future, overlooking both Pakistan and China. It is important for India as reports indicate that China is going to establish its military base in Pakistan, most probably at the Gwadar port in India’s backyard. 


Tuesday 22 August 2017


After global outrage, the Cambridge University Press (CUP) has reversed its decision to bow to the Chinese censorship pressure. On August 18, the news came that following a Chinese diktat, the prestigious publisher had blocked 315 articles in China that the China’s ruling elite considered inimical to their interests. The articles were published over many years in its academic journal The China Quarterly and covered issues like China’s Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen protests and so on. 

According to the CUP release, the decision to block the content was a temporary one and was reluctantly taken and after the University level review, the CUP as well as the University of Cambridge decided to reinstate the blocked article with immediate effect.

“Therefore, while this temporary decision was taken in order to protect short-term access in China to the vast majority of the Press’s journal articles, the University’s academic leadership and the Press have agreed to reinstate the blocked content, with immediate effect, so as to uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the University’s work is founded”, the Washington Post wrote quoting the CUP release.

The said articles in question were on issues which the ruling Chinese Communist Party treat as taboo and does all in its capacity to obliterate them from public access – Tiananmen, Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a email from Tim Pringle, The China Quarterly’s editor read. 

The Chinese ruling elite had threatened to block CUP website in China if it didn’t comply with its demands. According to Tim Pringle, it was not the first Chinese demand. Before this, the Chinese had come with a similar diktat to block content of over a thousand e-books, a report in Quartz said.

After the news came to light, the CUP did try to clear its position by issuing a statement where it said that “it will not change the nature of its publishing to make content acceptable in China and was troubled by the recent increase in requests of this nature.”

“We complied with the initial request to remove individual articles to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market”, the statement further said in a clear indication that the CUP had started feeling heat of its decision to bowing to the Chinese pressure and was seriously considering alternatives. 

The step by the CUP to block articles on Chinese demand had drawn global condemnation and. It was derided as a shameful decision. A petition on signed by academics and intellectuals on Monday demanded a resolute stand before the Chinese pressure or else the CUP may face a global boycott of its publications by academics, The Guardian reported. Even some in the Chinese intelligentsia also criticised the decision, “I’m left with the feeling that there is absolutely no escape since every single breath on Earth belongs to the king”, The Guardian wrote quoting Chinese novelist Li Jingrui.



Some days ago, in a boastful article, China's hawkish state publication Global Times had claimed that "contrary to India’s nationalistic fomenting, Chinese public was largely calm over border tension" between India and China on Doklam Plateau.

What to say then on these vituperative remarks by Chinese people, "Anyone who offends China will be killed no matter how far the target is”, “Borderline is our baseline” and “China: Not even a bit can be left behind"?

And that too, in a faraway land, almost 9000 Kms from Beijing, in Sydney, Australia, so much so for the so-called Chinese restraint.

According to a report in The Australian, these slogans were carried by Chinese people in a rally in Sydney on August 15 to protest the Indian stand in the Doklam standoff. The Chinese used a convoy of luxury cars covered in Chinese flags and anti-India slogans.

Close on the heels of this, another controversy erupted in the University of Sydney where an Indian origin professor Khimji Vaghjiani used a map during the course of one of his lectures that showed India in control of territory on the Indo-China border, especially Aksai Chin.

The Chinese youth, whom the Chinese media portray as uber cool folks who have shown "no extreme reaction directly related to the standoff targeting India", lost their temper on such a trivial issue even if the professor clarified his situation for using the map.

"Over 18 months ago, I used an out-of-date map, downloaded from the internet, when discussing characteristics of IT entrepreneurs around the world, however I was unaware that the map was inaccurate and out-of-date. This was a genuine mistake and I regret any offence this may have caused", The Australian quoted him saying.

Now that is what we call a calm attitude and a gentleman's reaction, unlike Chinese people or Chinese state media or Chinese government, who have been threatening India of war and dire consequences every other day, ever since the Doklam standoff began in June.

The Australian example once again shows how Chinese scramble to catch up every opportunity to target India. The otherwise calm Chinese youngsters posted articles on different platforms demanding removal of an innocuous map that showed India's claims on its territory in forceful Chinese occupation, Aksai Chin and parts of Ladakh. After all, what else can be expected from them who threaten to kill anyone who offends China.


Monday 21 August 2017