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EDITORIAL

Lights and camera

Almost everyone would share the hope expressed by a learned writer in a Sunday magazine of this newspaper recently that we should have a powerful regional cinema. Why can't we succeed much like the others have done in their distinctive social and cultural milieu? After all, there are many sons and daughters of this region who brush shoulders with the best in the country in its film capital Mumbai. They have displayed their talent on both small and big screens. Surely, there are many waiting in the wings to emulate them. We have plenty of talent around which is equipped in more than just the fundamental knowledge about lights, action and camera. The boom of television networks has contributed a lot in this regard. Of course, a great influence is the success of regional film industries in other parts of the country. Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Maithili and nearer home Punjabi cinema almost matches Bollywood in their technical skills. Their appeal is no less given that almost all of them also have international ..........more

A necessary evil?

We are once again face to face with a major but avoidable problem in our vicinity. There has been a deafening explosion involving about 13 anti-personnel mines in Poonch district early this week. It triggered a major fire along the Line of Control (LoC). According to reports, there was fire first in the Pakistan-occupied territory across the LoC. It then spread to our side. What caused the inferno is not known. Till the reason is diagnosed nothing can be ruled out. It can be foul play to generate confusion in our camp. It can simply be an accident. For, the reality is that the area is infested .........more

ISI- An instrument of terrorism

By Major General Keshav Padha (AVSM, VSM)

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was founded in 1948 by a British Army Officer, Major General Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the army. In 1950s, when Pakistan joined anti- communist alliances, its defense services and the ISI received considerable Western support in training and equipment. However, the ISI's main attention has always been focused towards India, perceived as its arch-enemy. When General Ayub Khan carried out the first successful coup in 1958, the ISI's domestic activities expanded. It carried out surveillance on political parties, politicians and often co-opted or coerced them into supporting the army's centralizing agenda. The ISI has been deeply involved in domestic politics and has always kept track of the incumbent regime's opponents. It has earned the reputation of being highly dreaded organization since most of the terrorist attacks in USA, Europe, India and many other countries during the recent past had links with the ISI.. . ...more

A date with a guru

On The spot
By Tavleen Singh

As someone who is not of spiritual bent I am inclined to avoid Godmen and ashrams. When I am in the mood for something uplifting I read poetry or seek wisdom in the books of philosophers. So when some years ago I met Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev in Davos I saw him more as a man than a Guru. We chatted about the social work he was doing around his ashram near Coimbatore and he invited me to come and visit it if I was ever wandering by. ... ...more

EDITORIAL

Lights and camera

Almost everyone would share the hope expressed by a learned writer in a Sunday magazine of this newspaper recently that we should have a powerful regional cinema. Why can't we succeed much like the others have done in their distinctive social and cultural milieu? After all, there are many sons and daughters of this region who brush shoulders with the best in the country in its film capital Mumbai. They have displayed their talent on both small and big screens. Surely, there are many waiting in the wings to emulate them. We have plenty of talent around which is equipped in more than just the fundamental knowledge about lights, action and camera. The boom of television networks has contributed a lot in this regard. Of course, a great influence is the success of regional film industries in other parts of the country. Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Maithili and nearer home Punjabi cinema almost matches Bollywood in their technical skills. Their appeal is no less given that almost all of them also have international audience. This does not in any way affect the status of the western port city which actually retains its enviable reach; it is the ultimate destination of those wanting to translate their dreams on the celluloid. Why can't we follow in their footsteps? The writer, mentioned above, is enthused by the success of "Lakeer", the locally produced first ever film in the Pahari language. It is turning out to be a big draw. This is quite understandable. Who does not want to enjoy the glory of his or her language? Who does not want to celebrate the larger-than-life screen images of friends and relatives? If the story is powerful and reflects their own life and aspirations it is icing on the cake.

The runaway success of "Gallan Hoiaan Bitiyaan," the first ever feature film in Dogri in 1966, is a case in point. It was a telling commentary on the "Dohri" (marriage by barter) system and water scarcity in the Kandi area. One can still recall the crowds running over each other outside ticket booths of a cinema hall in this city. Almost overnight Ram Kumar Abrol and Jitender Sharma, the two leading actors of the movie, had become instant heroes of their habitat of which though they were even otherwise known figures. In retrospect, however, it has turned out that it was not an experience from which we had learnt enough to strengthen our cinema. It took another 44 years to make the second Dogri film titled "Maa na mildi" in 2010. It was in colour unlike "Gallan Hoiaan Bitiyaan" which was in black and white.

Thus it marked a technological evolution. In the end, however, it appeared to suffer from the same handicaps of financial constraints and non-availability of a big market. "Lakeer" now is being mentioned as a commercially viable venture but one will have to wait for some more time to pass the final judgment. There is merit in the argument that we should have a full-fledged film studio. This can follow provided we display the requisite flair to ensure that our movies are not merely a flash in the pan but have come to stay. Till that happens we ought to exploit our extremely rare, varied and idyllic natural locations to the hilt.

A necessary evil?

We are once again face to face with a major but avoidable problem in our vicinity. There has been a deafening explosion involving about 13 anti-personnel mines in Poonch district early this week. It triggered a major fire along the Line of Control (LoC). According to reports, there was fire first in the Pakistan-occupied territory across the LoC. It then spread to our side. What caused the inferno is not known. Till the reason is diagnosed nothing can be ruled out. It can be foul play to generate confusion in our camp. It can simply be an accident. For, the reality is that the area is infested with landmines, an outcome of the continuing hostility between two neighbouring countries. Before we proceed further it needs to be noted that this is not the first incident of its kind. Fires have ignited the hidden mines on several occasions earlier too. Off and on we also get reports of unsuspecting people and jawans inadvertently stepping on them to lose either their lives or limbs. Mercifully there has been no casualty or injury this time. There is no exact figure about the number of mines planted. It is a safe guess that our Army has used them as a safety measure against the evil designs of the forces on the other side of the LoC. Likewise the Pakistan army also has planted them in good measure including in the part of the State under its unlawful control. Our Army has taken care to demine a portion; it is a gradual exercise. It is not an easy task. The locations of the mines set up in haste are not easily identifiable. Moreover, buried under the earth these shift from one place to the other under the impact of rain and snow. Some time back a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report had called these moving mines "snow bombs." It had quoted a local Urdu poet as reciting a couplet: "Fewer legs you have more compensation you get. That gives you a much younger bride." It reflects the desire to live on in the wake of a grim tragedy. Some sense of humour!

On the present reckoning it is doubtful whether we can have a mine-free zone shortly. As long as India and Pakistan are at loggerheads the mines can't be altogether abandoned. In our case it is reasonable to presume that the need is greater. Mines act as defensive tactical barriers not only against the rival armies. These also deter infiltrating terrorists as passive anti-denial weapons. It hardly bears any elaboration that brought up and trained in Pakistan they are a permanent menace to us. This should explain why India can't sign the Ottawa Treaty --- the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Pakistan is also in the same company. Among the nations believed to be more powerful China, Russia and the United States too have kept out of the Treaty mainly because they have large stockpiles. Looked through the eyes of innocent victims the hidden mines are nothing but an evil. From a country's perspective, however, these are absolutely necessary for defending its unity and integrity. Do we have a second choice?

ISI- An instrument of terrorism

By Major General Keshav Padha (AVSM, VSM)

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was founded in 1948 by a British Army Officer, Major General Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the army. In 1950s, when Pakistan joined anti- communist alliances, its defense services and the ISI received considerable Western support in training and equipment. However, the ISI's main attention has always been focused towards India, perceived as its arch-enemy. When General Ayub Khan carried out the first successful coup in 1958, the ISI's domestic activities expanded. It carried out surveillance on political parties, politicians and often co-opted or coerced them into supporting the army's centralizing agenda. The ISI has been deeply involved in domestic politics and has always kept track of the incumbent regime's opponents. It has earned the reputation of being highly dreaded organization since most of the terrorist attacks in USA, Europe, India and many other countries during the recent past had links with the ISI.
The ISI has become a state within a state, answerable neither to the President (Commander - in - Chief) or the Prime Minister of the country. The result is there has been no genuine supervision of the ISI. Drug money, counterfeit currency, donations from the Middle East and many charity organizations are being used to finance proxy wars in Kashmir, Afghanistan and other parts of our country. Like many other intelligence organizations, ISI zealously guards its secrets and any evidence against it is very sketchy. This agency is the central organization of Pakistan's military machine which has always played dominant role in the country's often turbulent politics. It is major beneficiary of Pakistan's national budget, with a large unaccountable chunk coming from the defense outlay. No one knows, not even the Prime Minister, as to how much ISI costs to run or precisely how many people it employs.
The ISI has a total strength of approximately 10,000 officers and staff members, a number which does not include informers and agents. It is organized in well defined eight divisions :
a) Joint Intelligence X (JIX) serves as the secretariat which co-ordinates and provides administrative support to the other ISI wings and field organizations. It also prepares intelligence estimates and threat assessments.
b) Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) is responsible for political intelligence. Was the most powerful component of the organization during the 1980s. The JIB consists of three sub-sections devoted to operations against India.
c) Joint Counter Intelligence Bureau (JCIB) is responsible for field surveillance of Pakistani diplomats stationed abroad, as well as for conducting intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia, China, Afghanistan and the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.
d) Joint Intelligence North (JIN) is responsible for Jammu & Kashmir operations, including infiltration, exfiltration, propaganda and other covert operations.
e) Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous (JIM) conducts espionage in foreign countries including offensive intelligence operations.
f) Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau (JSIB) includes Deputy Directors for Wireless, Monitoring & Photos. Operates a chain of signals intelligence collection stations along border with India and provides communication support to militants operating in Kashmir.
g) Joint Intelligence Technical (JIT). Collect intelligence regarding strategic targets.
h) Explosive and Chemical Warfare Section. This section is employed for specialized missions on as required basis.
Pakistan army ran country from 1958 to 1971, when East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh. The ISI and the military were thoroughly discredited and marginalized after the 1971 Indo-Pak war. However, they gained fresh lease of life when Prime Minister Bhutto launched a clandestine operation in 1972 to build nuclear weapons. Furthermore, The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made Pakistan a country of paramount importance. The United State declared Pakistan a "frontline state" against Soviet aggression, offered to reopen aid and military assistance deliveries and generally ignored Pakistan's nuclear program. The ISI monitored activities and provided advice and support to mujahedeen. Special Services Group commandos helped guide the operations inside Afghanistan. The ISI trained over 85,000 Taliban and infiltrated them into Afghanistan. The CIA provided enough arms to equip 250,000 Mujahedeen, and the Saudis matched US funding dollar for dollar.
Foreign money, mostly from the Middle East, helped to establish hundreds of madarsas in cities and frontier areas. Thousands of Taliban were trained here who fought against the Russians. The ISI executed these operations including handling of large quantities of weapons and equipment with utmost secrecy. Eventually, Soviets were forced to withdraw by 1989. This was seen as a great victory for the Taliban and their patrons, the ISI.
At this stage, Pakistani dictators wanted to replicate Afghan model in Kashmir through ISI. It provided weapons, training, advice and planning assistance to terrorists in Kashmir, Punjab as well as to the separatist movements in the North East and other parts of the country .The extent of Pakistani influence on transformation of the Kashmir insurgency is quiet evident. The ISI utilized Mujahedeen infrastructure to indoctrinate and train Kashmiri separatists. Initially, attacks were launched on soft targets. The insurgents adopted hit and run tactics avoiding direct confrontation with security forces. Had the Indian authorities dealt with the insurgents firmly and nipped the secessionist movement in the bud, the ISI would have suffered a dismal defeat. During this period, the ISI had also set up numerous broadcasting stations in POK for carrying out psychological warfare. They spewed venom and created a spiral of hatred and violence between the security forces and the local masses. Hindu population was threatened and forced to flee thus ensuring complete ethnic cleansing of the valley.
Islamabad was determined to exploit growing tension in Kashmir to destabilize India and therefore embarked on an ambitious plan of promoting terrorism in Punjab, North East and other parts of the country. Mumbai terrorist attack in Nov 2008 was a part of this plan. Involvement of ISI Director General, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, Colonel Kamran, Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali, all active members of the ISI, has been established beyond doubt in this well planned and ruthlessly executed terrorist attack.
Whatever happened in Afghanistan is being repeated in Kashmir. God forbid if the ISI could achieve its objective, the fate of Kashmir will be no different from that of Afghanistan and North West Frontier of Pakistan. The Frankenstein's monster created by the ISI has already turned its guns on the creator as is evident from the brutal attacks on army installations and even mosques. This must be made absolutely clear to the public who have been misguided through false propaganda. Pakistan will exploit every opportunity to destroy the secular and multi ethnic fabric of our country. Their capacity to fish in troubled waters of the North East, Punjab and other parts of our country, as they have done in Kashmir, is an ominous warning. We must realize that seeds of discord can only spout where there is social inequality, corruption and political indifference. The government cannot depend merely on the letters of protest to Pakistan, United Nations and other world powers. We must upgrade our outdated and meagerly funded counter- intelligence set up to meet serious challenges posed by the ISI. It is highly desirable to improve governance, eradicate corruption which has seeped into our blood stream, educate masses and build their resistance to exploitation. Lastly, it is absolutely essential that in addition to appropriate military response to terrorism genuine grievances of the society are removed and the elements that have been alienated, brought back to the fold.
(The writer is former Commander Special Forces, Indian Army.)

A date with a guru

On The spot
By Tavleen Singh

As someone who is not of spiritual bent I am inclined to avoid Godmen and ashrams. When I am in the mood for something uplifting I read poetry or seek wisdom in the books of philosophers. So when some years ago I met Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev in Davos I saw him more as a man than a Guru. We chatted about the social work he was doing around his ashram near Coimbatore and he invited me to come and visit it if I was ever wandering by. After this first meeting I met him a few more times in Mumbai and Delhi and liked his modern and practical approach to the preservation of India’s ancient heritage. As someone who is passionate about the importance of keeping this magnificent legacy alive by teaching our children about it and making ordinary Indians understand what could be lost if we fail to preserve what remains I saw a kindred spirit in Sadguru but never went to his ashram till two weeks ago.
A friend was going – more for reasons of weight loss than spirituality – and I decided to go along. So at an ungodly hour on a cold winter morning we boarded an Indian Airlines flight from Delhi that took more than three hours to get us to Coimbatore after stopping in Mumbai for what seemed like a needless amount of time. All thoughts of spirituality were dissipated by the cleaning crews that swept through the cabin with noisy vacuum cleaners during our halt in Mumbai. Nobody could understand why we were being subjected to this needless exercise so it was in irritable rather than spiritual frame that we arrived in Coimbatore.
Sadguru’s ashram is more than thirty kilometres from Coimbatore airport and on the way there I chatted with the Tamil businessman in whose car we traveled about the likely results of the elections to the Tamil Nadu assembly due in the next couple of months. He told me that he thought the 2G Spectrum scandal and sibling rivalries in the Karunananidhi clan had damaged DMK chances so in his view it was Jayalalitha who was likely to be the next Chief Minister of our southernmost state. He sounded cheerful about this and in the week I spent in Tamil Nadu I met others who sounded as cheered up by the prospect of Karunanidhi & Family losing the next election.
The first thing I noticed about Sadguru’s ashram was its beautiful backdrop. It nestles in a reserved forest in the shadow of the Velangiri hills where, I soon found out, Sadguru’s own Guru had ‘left his body’ along with other wise and spiritual beings. The second thing I noticed about the ashram was that although our accommodation was as basic as possible it was spotlessly clean. Earlier experiences with India’s spiritual haunts have left me permanently terrified of the squalor that usually characterizes them.
After we unpacked we were led to a verandah in a garden filled with exotic tropical plants where lunch was being served. We ate the most delicious ‘saatvic’ meal I have ever eaten and not one of us carnivores noticed for a moment the absence of animal flesh, garlic or onions. After lunch we started exploring the spiritual aspects of the Isha Ashram. I went on a guided tour of the premises, along with other newcomers, and found myself bedazzled by the spectacular temples that Sadguru has built. One called the Dhyanalingam which looks like a Shiva temple but is in fact a place of meditation to whichever god you wish to worship. The Linga Bhairavi temple is more specific to a particular goddess but follows the same very modern architecture that involves a sense of open space rather than the usual clutter associated with older Indian temples. The most spectacular space in the temple complex was a sacred pond called the Tirath Kund in which Sadguru has built a mercury lingam that gives the water special properties.
Our spiritual instruction began the next day as we prepared to be initiated into the Shaambhavi Mahamundra. It was a spiritual boot camp. We woke at 5 a.m. to practice an hour of yoga followed by a short break for delicious ‘saativ’ breakfast after which we listened to Sadguru’s dissertations on spirituality till lunch time and then there was more yoga in the afternoon and breathing exercises that prepared us for the initiation that took place on the evening of the third day. It was all very dramatic and awe inspiring and Sadguru sang beautiful mantras as we meditated but I confess to not yet having found myself firmly on the spiritual path. The fault is most probably mine because there were others there who wept with joy and gratitude after the initiation making me feel that I had missed something very important.
It is possible that I am too much involved in life’s more materialistic aspects to appreciate the joys of spirituality but what I was deeply impressed by were the two schools that Sadguru has created in his ashram. One is for fee-paying students who get an education similar to what they would have had they gone to the Doon School or Mayo College. But, there are definite Indian elements involved like an emphasis on Sanskrit and Indian traditions. What I found more impressive was the Isha Sanskriti school which offers a totally Indian education to children who come from less privileged backgrounds.
It is a modern gurukul that teaches Sanskrit, English, Yoga, Kalairipittu and Bharat Natyam with the idea that children will specialize in whichever of these subjects they find most conducive to their natural talents. We need thousands of schools like this if we are to preserve what is left of our heritage. In the interests of ‘secularism’ most Indian schools exhibit a contempt for India’s ancient heritage that is truly shameful. So if Sadguru’s Isha Ashram had done nothing else than create the Isha Sanskriti school it would already have been enough.
But, he has done much more. He has built an institution that is run almost entirely by volunteers who are drawn to the Isha Ashram because they believe that they can contribute their voluntary services to building something unique. Even to someone as spiritually challenged as me it was hard to come away from Sadguru’s ashram without being very impressed with what I saw. And, for the record, I continue to practice the Shambhavi Mahamudra in the hope that it will open spiritual doors for me somewhere along the way.



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