Sunday, August 30, 2009

Afghan (The Opium Republic!) Elections: Stolen

Sifting the hype from the truth... Millions voted says the Press, but some Afghans say not even 20% did!
These two pictures - taken at a Border Post on the Iranian border, a little south of Zaranj in Nimroz Province 3 years ago- show soldiers being paid their salaries. This was for the benefit of a visiting team, of which I was a part. Notice the soldier leaning rakishly against that van in the background and sneering at the drama? This was just a sham to show how honestly the soldiers were paid their salaries.
This corrupt farce is repeated in every aspect of the poor Afghan peoples' lives.
Especially and most noticeably in the General Elections that were held on the 20th of August, 2009.
The world press has praised the exercise. The Voice of America somehow managed to see this: "Afghans Brave Violence to Vote for President
By Steve Herman Kabul20 August 2009
A smiling voter holds his election ID card as he waits to vote in Kabul, 20 Aug 2009Millions of Afghans braved threats of Taliban attacks on polling stations and retaliation against voters to go to the polls Thursday. The legitimacy of the election is beholden to an acceptable turnout and the reported level of wholesale vote-buying, phantom voters and other acts of electoral corruption. Voting is taking place amid scattered explosions in the capital and other parts of the country.
From my few friends in Afghanistan I have managed to piece together a different story. A story of deceit, propaganda, lies and more lies. A falsehood that has been white washed into a justification of the US policy in Afghanistan. It has not fooled the Afghans certainly.
In south Afghanistan, especially Kandahar, Helmand and Nimroz less than 20% people actually voted. The Taliban had thundered vengeance if any one did. Yet ballot boxes are filled with votes to show that more than 50% did. Very few women turned up (the Taleban had pointedly threatened women) and yet many women seemed to have voted. Can any one, but the interested parties, believe this exercise?
In North Afghanistan the elections did approach some sort of fairness.
In Kabul the European Union election observers were not visible till 16.00 hrs. How could they then approve this election? In Spin Boldak, the Afghan town on the Kandahar-Quetta (Pakistan) Border 115% have apparently voted. Some election agent apparently got carried away! Yesterday, the 30th of August, came the news that there were fake votes stuffed in more than 550 polling booths.
Where is the International Press that was so vigilant and righteously indignant about the fraud in the Iran elections. This fraud is apparently going to be 100 times worse and yet there is not a questioning squeak from the many journalists covering the Afghan Elections.
Karzai is going to win the elections. Evey body can be rest assured, but by fixing it there is going to be no peace in Afghanistan at all. Abdullah Abdullah will be unacceptable to the Americans as he leans towards the Iranians, and thus is persona non grata. Just for show there may be an another round which will be won by Karzai. A known and corrupt evil is better than an unknown angel.
The Hazara Ramza Bashardost, who is conducting his Honesty and Anti-Corruption campaign from a tent has managed to get about 10% of the votes. He is a popular figure for his brave stand for principles, and especially after he refused to see Holbrooke, the US Negotiator, inside the US Embassy as latter cheekily expected him to do. Bashardost aksed Holbrooke to meet him in his tent. People like him provide only a comic interlude to the dreadful prospect of continuance of evil that is the fate of the Afghan peoples.
(3rd September, 2009) : Today's Indian Express reports another not surprising incident of fake voting. In Shorabak a district in Kandahar no one was allowed to vote as they were supporting Abdullah Abdullah. Yet, 23,900 ballots were sent to Kabul for counting. From all over Afghanistan reports like this are coming. Read more about it here:
This is gangsterism plain and simple. And it will lead to violence cruel and horrible.
More reports about brazen fraud, cheating and deception are pouring in. Even the usually craven BBC has been forced to report like this .
But, whoever made these election rules (under the supervision of the US & NATO) made them very sly and unjust. They fixed a short time limit to file complaints. In India there is no time limit. Once that clever date is past no one can question the result. How very convenient to perpetuate a lie, a hoax. That is why Karzai's men kept stuffing the ballot boxes. This would not have happened without the benign nod of the US & NATO troops gallant-only-to-Karzai Government! This is not democracy. It is a cynical, dishonest dictatorship that is arrogant because of the support it gets from its puppeteers.
Poor Afghanistan. Its destined to suffer. A corrupt Government can not fight the wicked Taliban.
Opium Wars I & II were fought because the British wanted to forcibly smuggle opium into China. Opium War III is pay back time. The first two wars lasted from 1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860. III has already outlasted both of them put together. If elections continue to be rigged it will last decades, and Afghanistan will be known as The Opium Republic.
Romesh Bhattacharji


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chongkham Sanjit's murder in Imphal,Manipur: Uniformed Atrocities

On the 23rd of July, 2009 an ex-PLA youth, who had been living a normal life for some time was brutally murdered in broad daylight, in cold blood, in Khwairamband bazar in Imphal by Manipur policemen. Another in th elong line of murders committed by uniformed personnel.

This was not the first such incident and surely it will not be the last. The para military and the army have to fill their quota of insurgents eliminated and they will continue to do so in similar cowardly manner. But next time they will ensure that there are no cameras present. They will revert to killing insurgents, ex-insurgents, and innocents stealthily. The New Delhi magazine Tehelka had published pictures of the murder in its 1st August issue. Only then there was large scale revulsion, which included even our Prime Minister.

However, after the dust and the din is settled it will be the uniform that will continue to have free use of bullets. No one in the Government would like to disturb the status quo where the forces can do what ever they want under the AFSPA. There is nothing to separate them in actions from the insurgents, who are just as blood thirsty. However, it is not expected for a disciplined force to behave in brutal and callous disregard of laws and human rights.

Ever since 1956 at least such brutalities perpetrated by the armed forces have been common. In 1956 Dr. Haralu, an 82 year old popular Naga doctor, was walking near the Kohima Cemetery, Nagaland with his 5 year old grand daughter when he was needlessly shot and killed by an Army patrol. No suitable action was taken as it was felt that it would demoralise the forces. No such thought was given to the people who were nauseated by this brainless and wicked performance. Since then there have been innumerable such incidents of rape and carnage and no salutary action has been taken against any armed forces offender.

Nandita Haksar, the fearless human rights lawyer, has detailed many such atrocities in her excellent book "Naga File".
Illusion of perfect peace:
Picture of fields taken from Maibamlokpaching>>In Novmber 1987 while destroying cannabis fields in Ukhrul district of Manipur I met a lady constable from Manipur Armed Police, who were helping us in these operations. She had a closely cropped hair style, wore sun glasses and always appeared very upset. With great difficulty a heart rending story was blurted out. She was from a village near Kamjong, which is to the east of Ukhrul and not the Khamjong on way to Pallel, and was a close relative of a prominent insurgent. Her village used to be raided frequently by the Army and Assam Rifles. One night when she was just sixteen years old the soldiers raped her, killed her fatehr and permanently maimed one of her brothers. For a while she had thoughts of revenge, but her family compelled her to escape to Imphal and persuaded her to hide as a police woman.
I have written about this episode in my book on the North East called "Lands of Early Dawn."
There are innumerable other such incidents. Will the Prime Minsiter open up all of them? Can he guarrantee that these shocking brutalities will not be repeated? Is he at all interested in making more than a few sympathetic noises? Or is he hoping that public memory is short and they will forget such incidents? I can assure him that no one has forgotten any such incident. And there are many.

Five or six years or so ago there was that shooting incident in and outside the Medical College at Imphal. On a January morning an impatient CRPF soldier wanted to relieve himself but all the toilets were full. In impatient, indisciplined and typical anger of a uniformed man he kicked open a door. The youth inside retaliated by beating him up. The result: there was indiscriminate firing that killed several including an Arunachali student from the medical college, who had just come back from home leave, and was ringing up his parents to inform them that he had arrived safely. He was shot in the PCO!

In 2000, a little beyond Imphal Airport, 10 people standing at a bus stop were killed in an unprovoked brutal firing by Assam Rifles. One of those killed was an 18-year-old National Child Bravery Award winner. This is the notorious incident that led the brave lady Irom Sharmila to undertake a fast that still continues today.
Many people think that it is in the self propagating interest of the armed forces to have such incidents. For, there will be protests and some mayhem which will require to be repressed severely. Thus these goons in uniforms will not allow peace to prevail for more than a few weeks, before another human rights violation leads to a cycle of protests and suppression and demands for more funds for the forces! Just as it is happening in Kashmir, where the atrocities are even worse and don't get noticed as much. No soldier or bureaucrat or politician has the courage to stop these brutalities, which are one of the reasons that fuel insurgency.

These are only a few of the incidents. There are many more in other parts of the North East. Each has left an indelible blot on people's minds. Each such incident only feeds the insurgency, even though people of the Norht East are disgusted with the insurgents as well. Remember that heart rending sight of Metei ladies protesting naked outside the Kangla fort in the autumn of 2004? It revolted every one- except soldiers, bureaucrats and politicians. They just devised new comfort arguments to justify whatever they had been doing and will perpetrate in the future. That is why that why the Manipur Police had 74 gallantry awards out of the 212 that were distributed all over India on Independence Day this year. (Indian Express, 24th of August, 2009)

For the past few years the people of Manipur, by and large, were turning against the insurgents. Their fight would have been easier had there been no atrocities by the forces. As long as there are atrocities, it will be difficult to stop insurgency. Will there be no end? Is there no leader principled enough to put a stop to this? Till then this beautiful land will continue to hear agonising screams. Chongkham will not be the last.

The same nightmarish experiences are being heaped often in Kashmir too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Motorcylcing across the Himalaya- its been done for more than three decades

Every year countless gangs on mobikes go tearing through the Himalaya, the Zanskar and sometimes touching the Trans Himalaya, without being any wiser about the giant mountain systems they pierce through on roads that have been built with so much sacrifice and labour.

They create records like Delhi to Khardung La and back in 82 hours! With digital cameras having made photography easy for morons even, beautiful photographs are immediately put on countless web sites.

Continuing the fetish for publicity larger and larger groups go ‘raiding’(an obnoxious disrespectful term) the Himalaya. Every year a TV documentary or two also crops up. All have this in common- many interviews exaggerating the difficulties met and very little of the magnificent views of the mountains, lakes and passes.

On the 1st of August (?) I saw a TV programme on News X of some motoryclists talking of the “incredible” feats that they had done. One of them speaking to the camera from Kunzum la was saying that the roads were rough and sometimes there were no roads!! This statement was simply wrong. This is a 34 years old road where there is a daily bus service for more than two decades. There is no need to pad stories with such exaggerations. This happens only when little knowledge of the mountains is inversely proportionate to one’s ego. With these rushing in and out they miss out on many stunning topographical features.

I list a few only so that they can be noticed by some interested ‘marauders’ later on.

At Rhotang Pass the Pir Panjal range, that rises from Domel near Muzaffrabad in Pakistan Kashmir, is crossed. As soon as that is done one sees the spectacular collection of a myriad Himalayan peaks known collectively as the Chandra Bhagas and Mulkilas and a few more like the Gepang Goh. The mostly tarred road goes around them from –using an aviator’s lingo- from 6 O’Clock till 1 O’Clock.

Around Kalpa, Phuti Runi (it is a centuries old word meaning Split in the Great Rock, which is precisely the point where the Himalaya are pierced!) - which is by the Chandra River near Baltal below Kunzum La and much before Gramphoo, Baralacha la, and Zoji la is the Great Himlayan Crest crossed.

The Srinagar – Leh road has a few diversions to the north that lead to magnificence that wrench one’s heart.
Near Minimarg comes in a beautiful road from Kishenganga valley.
From Kargil a road goes to the troublesome border village of Batalik, on the India-Pakistan Line of Control (LOC) and then turns east along the Indus to Khaltse.

After the striking gompa of Mulbek and before Bod Kharbu a good road branches off to Achinathang, with a dramatically placed gompa, on the Indus.

On the breath taking Kargil – Padam route the good road after Parkachik goes round the Nun Kun massif from 6 O’Clock to 2 O’Clock till Pense La, after which it follows the long Durung Drung glacier for about 3 kms.

The Ladakh Range or Kailash Range, which starts at Kiris village in Pakistan where the Shyok meets the Indus and ends 15 kms after Mt. Kailash in Tibet, crosses the Indus in Ladakh at what is now known as Loma Bend. The bridge here is at the confluence of the Hanle with the Indus, which becomes an important river from this point.

If one follows the right bank road of the Indus to Tsaka village, past the Yak farm, and then to Tchaga La and Chushul one is technically in the Trans Himalaya.

At Miarsmik La (beyond Phobrang in the north of Pangong Tso)to Pamzal on the Changchenmo river is the Trans Himalaya crossed.

Across the Khardung La in Ladakh Range is Panamik on the Nubra river.
Just before this village is a soda ash plain called Pulthang.
From it juts out a grey black jumble of rocks about a km long and half as wide. Climb to the top and there is a volcanic crater with a small lake in it. The lake is called Lobame tso. Below and beyond can be seen the Nubra in its wide bed.

The second range of mountains above the eastern shores of the Pangong Tso are now, since 1962, unfortunately with China. Ani la, which is where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is now, can be seen from all along the western shore of the beautiful lake.

After crossing Chang la towards Tankse, and before Durbug, can be seen the modest beginning of the awesome Karakoram Range. For a closer look branch off from Durbug to Shyok village above the BIG V turn of the Shyok river. From within this V starts the famous Karakoram Range which has 6 of the fourteen 8 thousand metres high peaks in the world.

At Tankse, near the Government Primary School, are two huge laminatdd boulders with Petroglyphs or rock engravings from BC and the 9th and 10th centuries. They are in hieroglyphics, Persian and Cyriac.

From Man, Merak and Kakstet villages can be seen the strange helmet shaped island of Tabo Topo on the eastern shore. The 150 kms long Pangong Range, which starts at Agham on the Shyok before Khalsar in Nubra Valley, ends about 30 kms after the Pangong Tso turns east towards Khurnak Fort soon after Kakstet village. The International Boundary between India and China once was at Khurnak Fort.

The LAC is east of and very close to the Chushul road. After Kakstet as the road turns towards Chushul, not only is the Pangong Range crossed, but Srijap on the East bank of P Tso and Yula directly south but on the west bank, are close by. They are now with China, but in October 1962, when they were snatched from India, were witness to scenes of heroic unequal battles fought between ill clad and inadequately armed Indian soldiers with the vastly superior equipped Chinese hordes.

This kind of knowledge can be gleaned only if one tarries to talk to people along the way, and not rush about with chests puffed and mouths stuffed. Take weeks off instead of days and revel in the beauty that you have had the good fortune to see.

Over the years I have talked to many such hurrying motorcyclists and was shocked to find how uniformly ignorant they were about the mountains and valleys they rush through. Infact, they were not even conscious of their ignorance.

And, if they think that these routes are difficult now, consider what they were in the 1970s when my friend Adil Tyabji and I traversed them by motorcycles many times, and in the 80s when my friend Bill Aitken did it all alone repeatedly. I have added photographs {} from that age. In Ocotber 1977 when we crossed Kunzum La, which only had a mile stone, the road after Kaza to Lossar was still being filled in and Khardung La is unrecognisable. In those days after we left Srinagar or Manali or Shimla we could not even get a clutch wire!

So don’t brag many have walked where you have had the good fortune to drive these days. And even that is being done from 35 years ago. I have done both ages ago. Walked, climbed and motorcycled.
I hope I don't sound pompous?

The pictures at the end are of the Khardung La (18,380'). The first two were taken 34 years and 35 years ago.

  No thrills or fears there now.
As these ladies sunning themselves after an over crowded bus stops atop the Khardung la show!

Shah Rukh Khan, ex President Abdul Kalam & ex President Bil Clinton and biased US security checks

News: Last week India's most famous current actor was detained for two hours at US's NEWARK airport and grilled by ignorant US Security.

Back to the past: Three years ago or so US ex-President Bill Clinton had come to Delhi. He did not depalne from his aircraft as he did not want to go through the usual line meant for others. HE had to have special treatment. So, four limos from the US Embassy in Delhi were sent to pick him up from the airport. Now, when the Indian Security chaps wanted to frisk these US gentlemen and check their cars, they did not allow it. For 45 minutes or so this staolemate continued till the Indian Foreign Ministry oficials decided to be good hosts and allowed the cars to pick up that ex-President.
Cut to the present: Since April there have been two reported incidents of India's best being harrassed by thoughtless US Security. First it was our ex-President Abdul Kalam and now it is Shah Rukh Khan, a face recognised all over the world, who were pointlessly checked by US security. The excuse being trotted out by helpful channels in India is that this is routine security. Routine Security ? Bah. Tell that to the Marines. Its routine inefficiency and racial bias. Only they are credulous enough to believe it. What happened to their much vaunted PROFILING SYSTEM? By this so called scientific electonic system they are supposed to eliminate multiple harrassment, select targets, save time and give quick clearances.
What happened in these two case? Either their profiling sytem did not or does not work? Or, they make it a point to target well known Asians just to show how thorough and unbiased they are in their security checks. They do not subject every passenger to such checks. Why does it happen to the more important ones routinely and especially? Apart from having an inefficient system , just like their so called Smart Bombs that routinely kill civilians, the US Security picks on Asian VIPs as scapegoats to create an impression of rigid and inflexible security. TV Channels like CNN-IBN, which though Indian are puppets for the American CNN, wasted hours on this topic being more emotional and loud than sensible. Not one of them, not even the usually sensible NDTV, tried to understand what this profiling system is nor did they mention that incident of one of their ex-Presidents at Delhi Airport.

Afterword: Profiling System collects data about millions of risky individuals all over the world and stores their bio datas into a multi accessible electronic data system. It has usual information like home address, date of birth, occupation, past and history of crimes and odd behavious + photographs, wherever possible. The Americans consider their system to be so perfect that they have the cheek to run courses all over the world on profiling! And yet when it comes to our VIPs it suddenly collapses and reducing the US officials to making third rate excuses like miss handled baggage was the reason for detaining Shah Rukh Khan. In addition, an efficient profiling system helps to separate the good from the bad and the suspicious. What lind of a security system is this that regularly gets the wrong ones?

Another Afterword: Only when American nobs are searched at Asian Airports as our Cabinet Minister Ambika Soni threatened will these pompous and arrogant searches stop.

Romesh Bhattacharji