Archive for January, 2019

Raghuram Rajan – Mukesh Ambani …

Posted on January 27, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

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A Tree …

Posted on January 25, 2019. Filed under: American Thinkers |


Thankfully, no loggers took it down, nor forest fires or earthquakes!  Just a quiet life in a California forest for all these years … 3,200! 

Not every tree has a nickname, but ‘The President’ has earned it. This giant sequoia stands at 247 feet tall & is estimated to be over 3,200 years old.  

Imagine, this tree was already 700 years old during the height of ancient Greece’s civilization and 1200 years old when Jesus lived while Rome was well into its rule of most of the western world and points beyond.  

The trunk of The President measures 27 feet across, with 2 needles from base to top. Because of its unbelievable size, this tree has never been photographed in its entirety, until now.National Geographic photographers have worked along with scientists to try and create the firstphoto that shows The President in all its glory. 

They had to climb the tree with pulleys and levers and took thousands of photos. Of those, they selected 126 and stitched them together to get this incredible portrait of The President. 

And here it is: The man standing near the trunk of the tree is a good indicator of the tree’s size. Incredible, isn’t it?

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1984 – Sikh Massacre …

Posted on January 24, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Siddharth Varadarajan in The Wire –

The only thing more shocking than Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to deny the involvement of the Congress party in the 1984 massacre of Sikhs is the cynicism with which so many of us speak of one of independent India’s most heinous crimes after being complicit in its covering up.

Consider this. Despite the truth of the involvement of Congress leaders in the mass murder of citizens, the party won the largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha elections that were held barely four weeks later.

Even if we assume “sympathy” over Indira Gandhi’s assassination trumped all basic considerations of humanity, the collective failure to recognise the need for justice has lasted much longer – and runs far deeper – than we would like to admit.

From 1985 to 1989, the media and the middle class provided uncritical adulation to Rajiv Gandhi.

Remember, this was a prime minister who made light of the massacre with his crack about the earth shaking when a big tree falls …

… and then employed every administrative and legal trick in the book to ensure there would be no effective criminal prosecution of the politicians, police officials and street thugs who had the blood of thousands on their hands.

When Rajiv Gandhi’s public stock eventually fell, it was not because of his culpability for the 1984 massacres and the denial of justice which followed but because of the Bofors corruption scandal.

His rule was followed by V.P. Singh, who had the support of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left, and then by Chandrashekhar. It is a matter of record that nothing substantial was done during these two years to punish those responsible for the massacre.

The BJP, in any case, was more interested in fighting over something Babur had done in the 16th century to bother about a crime committed in more recent times.

In 1991, P.V. Narasimha Rao – who as Union home minister had presided over the November 1984 killings and subsequent cover-up – became prime minister, to be followed by H.D. Deve Gowda, Inder Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Manmohan Singh became prime minister in 2004 and Narendra Modi has led the country since 2014.

At various points, non-Congress prime ministers, especially Vajpayee and Modi, have paid lip-service to the idea of justice for 1984, only to end up appointing toothless and ineffective commissions and committees.

Enhanced relief packages – arbitarily designed to favour the victims of certain massacres as against others – are no substitute for the criminal prosecution of those involved.

It is worth asking why non-Congress governments have consistently failed to deliver justice despite the obvious political advantage this would yield.

The answer is simple. ……………

Because it would require attacking and dismantling the impunity granted to the police – and to supporters of the ruling dispensation – to commit crimes against the people without fear of legal sanction.

What India needs is a doctrine of command responsibility – a concept well understood in international criminal law – but neither the Congress nor the BJP will ever risk such a provision on the statute books.

In the years since 1984, India has seen large-scale communal killings in Malliana and Hashimpura near Meerut (1987), Bhagalpur (1989), Bombay (1992-93), Gujarat (2002), Kokrajhar (2012) and Muzaffarnagar (2013).

In all of these instances, the state’s failure to control the violence or arrest and prosecute the perpetrators after it was over is writ large.

Among these, the one incident which bears striking similarity to Delhi is Gujarat. The administrative and political technology that the Congress used after Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984 served as a direct inspiration for what the BJP did after 58 Hindu passengers were burned alive on February 27, 2002.

The manner in which the legal cases were wilfully sabotaged by the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat was also a carbon copy of what the Delhi police did under Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao.

The only difference between the two massacres was the role played by the Supreme Court. After 1984, the highest court of the land remained a mute spectator to the denial of justice.

But thanks to the role played by National Human Rights Commission in 2002, the Supreme Court not only got involved but actually took concrete steps to ensure the delivery of basic justice in at least the most high-profile of the massacre cases.

The court, which had no faith in Modi as chief minister, did so by either transferring some cases outside the state or directly monitoring the progress of others.

The victims of November 1984, sadly, received no such help. The BJP and other parties continued to speak of the massacres, but only in order to score points over the Congress and not out of any commitment to delivering justice.

Such is the BJP’s cynicism that its top leaders were happy to unveil a plaque at the Bangla sahib gurudwara in Delhi calling the mass killing of Sikhs a “Genocide” but as a government they now insist the G word does not apply.

If Rahul Gandhi were really serious about being in politics and about making a positive difference, he should stop repeating worn-out denials to a truth the whole of India knows.

He would instead have had the courage to say something along the following lines:

“Culpability cannot  be limited to the guilt of someone being established in a court of law. When you are a leader and people are killed in large numbers on your watch, you cannot escape responsibility for failing to save lives. At the very least, you cannot escape blame for failing to deliver justice to the victims. It is because of this failure that innocent people have continued to fall victim to communal violence.

“Yes, the massacre of innocents happened when the Congress was in power. Yes, it happened while my father was prime minister, Yes, the Congress and its leaders – many of whom were involved in the violence – cannot escape the blame for this”.

Manmohan Singh apologised to the nation as prime minister but this did not satisfy the victims or the nation, nor could it. The time for an apology can only come after justice is done, after the guilty have been punished, and after we have ensured that such heinous crimes can no longer happen in our country.

“If only the media of this country had questioned my father when he was prime minister on what happened in 1984, things might have been different.

“Democracy can only survive and be strengthened if journalists have the right to ask questions to politicians and officials and fearlessly exercise that right. When the media fails to do its job, politicians will fail to do theirs.”

I doubt Rahul Gandhi will ever be able to make a speech like this, even though it would be in his political interest to do so.

The moral compass he has inherited will warn him against moving in that direction.

After all, Modi who has the same compass – and obtained it not through inheritance but by his own exertions –has done pretty well for himself.

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An Old Soldier …

Posted on January 23, 2019. Filed under: Pakistan |


Listening to the fascinating tale of the longest serving Commandant of Chitral Scouts, known for his association with the Afghan jihad, who has become a mythical figure in the area.

The Colonel left the Commandant’s House at the small town of Darosh in Chitral District in the evening, presumably for the last time. He was headed for Peshawar to attend his farewell dinner which was planned for the next evening at Bala-Hisar Fort, the headquarters of Frontier Corps.

The next day was his last in service and the dinner thus arranged was to honour him. A few eulogising speeches, a shield, handshakes and then he would pass into oblivion.

The sentry on evening duty at the Commandant’s House was astounded to see the headlights of the approaching jeep. Unexpectedly, the Colonel had returned soon after he left home. He parked the jeep and let the driver retire for the day.

The sentry wondered at the changed plan. Now the Colonel would not be able to make it to his farewell dinner in Peshawar, even if he leaves at dawn the next day. But it was not the sentry’s business to question the travel itinerary of his commander and so he kept wondering.

Close to midnight, he saw the silhouette of the Colonel strolling in the lawn with his dogs. Twice he paused, patted his dogs, looked up towards the heaven and murmured something in an inaudible tone. After a while, he walked past the sentry, asked him to tie up the dogs and went inside the house.

Soon after morning prayers, his close friend Khursheed Ali, a Darosh non-military local, rushed to the Commandant House on the urgent call from the major stationed in Darosh. The officers of FC and the police SHO were waiting for him. The eerie silence was broken by the worried major who asked the sentry to break open the Colonel’s bedroom door which was bolted from inside. There he was, lying on the bed with a pistol dangling loosely in his hand.

On the table was a small note which explained how his private possession was to be distributed among the people he cared most. Among them was Khursheed Ali who got the two dogs to look after, while all other pets (including his favourite Markhor), photographs, furniture and belongings were willed to the FC Mess. He left some money for the sentry; the rest, after expenditure on his funeral service, went to his brother.

Though the short note did indicate a few things, it could not explain ‘why’ he did what he did!

On August 3, 1989, as per his wishes, he was buried in the shade of a Chinar tree which lay across the Commandant House, in a small ground purchased by the Colonel in his lifetime. Thousands of people descended from the valleys of Chitral, including the Kafirs, to attend his funeral. A smartly turned out contingent of FC, with misty eyes, fired a volley of shots in the air.

Thus ended the story of Colonel Murad Khan, the longest serving Commandant of Chitral Scouts, who lies buried in Darosh.

I first heard about Colonel Murad in November 2013 while having tea in the office of my friend Major General (now Lt General) Ghayur Mahmood at Bala Hisar Fort. I was recently posted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as Secretary Excise and Taxation and was assigned additional responsibilities by the government to look after the Chitral district.

The same week I crossed the torturous Lowari pass and descended into Darosh, a town 40 kilometres short of Chitral. The whole bazaar seems to be buzzing with stories about the Colonel.

My friend Khalid, an excellent polo player, took me to Reshun village some 50kms beyond Chitral on the road leading to Shandur. There we met a short and muscular retired Havaldar of Chitral Scouts. Sher Ali in his heydays was also a great polo player and had represented Chitral umpteen times in the famous Shandur Mela. In 1980, Col Murad had spotted him at Shandur and offered him a job in Chitral Scouts as a sowar. The job raised the social status of the polo player and ended in a steaming affair with a girl whose rich father refused to accept him in his household.

That year, a dejected Sher Ali dropped out of the polo team, and his travails reached the Colonel’s ears. Next morning the Colonel made him ‘sit next to him’, drove the jeep at a furious pace, followed by a detachment of scouts in other vehicles and in three hours reached his village. The girl’s father fearing arrest escaped in the mountains.

The Colonel cajoled the village elders that they must prevail upon the girl’s parents to agree to this match. Overwhelmed by this unexpected response, the girl’s parents agreed. A month later, the knot was tied with much fanfare. The bridegroom and his entourage entered the village led by Chitral Scouts bagpipe band playing ‘….Jolly Good Fellow……..’

Geoffrey Moorhouse, a travel writer, historian and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Society of Literature, had also met Colonel Murad in Chitral. In his book To The Frontier (p 1984) he had described the Colonel as a shy, bald, stocky man who smiled appealingly but never laughed and offered his opinion only when asked.

Murad invited Moorhouse for lunch at the officer’s mess in Chitral which the latter compared with the club house of golf course in the home counties of England. The Colonel smilingly pointed towards an obelisk at the mess which read: ‘this stone was well and truly laid by Bonzo, Boob and Henry, July 1934’ and added “there’s supposed to be a bottle of Johnny Walker buried under there. One of our regimental heirlooms, I suppose.”

Later, on the Colonel’s invitation, Moorhouse visited Chitral Scout’s headquarters at Darosh where he showed him his pet Markhor, a ridge which marked the Durand Line, Christmas cards from old British officers of the regiment and other memorabilia. What impressed Moorhouse most was his knowledge about the Afghan jihad across the border and that he “made study of Chitral his great pastime since he was posted here”. The Colonel was very proud of his troops whom he always referred as ‘my boys’.

Moorhouse was admiringly introduced to the Colonel in 1983 by Rauf Yousefani, then SP Police in Chitral as someone who should “have been a Brigadier by now if he had played his cards properly. But he seems quite happy to finish his time here. He’ll be retiring soon.”

However, he proved the pundits wrong by becoming the longest serving commandant of Chitral scouts. His popularity among the masses and knowledge of the terrain made him almost indispensable for the modern Great Game defined as Afghan jihad. His fame grew beyond Lowari pass down to the GHQ in Rawalpindi and was given extensions in service twice by General Zia, something unheard of in Army.

I met Khursheed Ali at his residence in Darosh. In the early 1980s, Ali was an ‘angry young’ reformer who was made the member of Zia’s Majlis-e-Shoora. He was the closest friend of the old Colonel and fondly narrated anecdotes of bygone era.

Once in 1980, when the Afghan war was at its height, a Russian plane came strafing over the mess while they were sipping tea in the lawn. “All of us dived for cover, but ‘our’ Colonel kept calmly sitting on the chair smoking his cigarette.” Colonel Sahab used to resolve domestic and property disputes of the people of Chitral, helped them in getting education, organising sports tournaments and finding jobs for the deserving ones. Sher Ali was one of the many beneficiaries of his benevolence. Every family in Chitral owned him; that explained his fame and popularity in the valleys.

Both the friends were close to Zia who would give them preferential treatment whenever he visited Chitral.

The plane crash of General Zia is said to have brought down curtain on the Colonel’s career. In 1989, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visited Chiral to witness the famous Shandhur Festival where polo is fiercely contested between Chitral and Gilgit. After the match, she was ushered to the Chitral Scouts Mess for refreshments. Lo and behold, she was greeted by a large size portrait of General Zia which adorned the wall of the main hall, still smiling under his greasy moustaches.

Bhutto was known to be magnanimous in such matters and hardly took any notice of this slip. However, there were people in her entourage who were more loyal than others. As the story goes, the then interior minister took the Colonel aside and gave him some sure tips about ‘royal’ protocol.

In Chitral, I was repeatedly told this incident was the pretext used for denying Colonel Murad further extension of service which he desperately desired. Khursheed Ali, his closet friend, however opined that though Colonel Murad had shared with him his desire for another extension, he knew deep down that his wish was like the proverbial wild horse. Army discipline discourages extensions of any sort. He had already created a record of getting two against the backdrop of the neo ‘Great Game’, but with the Afghan issue almost settled, the usefulness of Colonel Murad had also dwindled to the lowest ebb. In the post-Zia era, the new army chief hardly knew about the Colonel’s exploits in Chitral. The die was cast.

Four months before his retirement, while gossiping with his close circle as to why people commit suicide, he casually inquired from the local doctor the easiest mode of committing it. Then he placed his hand above his ears and gently moved his middle finger as if he was pulling the trigger. “He winked at us and the room echoed with laughter!” Kursheed Ali realised the significance of this act a little too late.

Colonel Murad was a confirmed bachelor who had not maintained any links with his family. In his ten years at Darosh, he was twice visited by one of his brothers; he never availed leave for a single day. His trips to the FC Headquarters in Peshawar were short and he would not stay for an extra night outside Chitral. “This was his home and we were his family. So he wanted to stay here forever.”

I wanted to know more about Colonel’s family. It took me six months and more visits to Khursheed Sahab’s home in Darosh to pick up pieces of jigsaw puzzle. The Colonel, a handsome lad in his village, had fallen in love with his cousin. But before the match could be formalised, he had joined the army and the two kept exchanging letters. However, their stars were crossed. Unable to cope with the situation, he quietly left home but told his mother he would never come back home again.

A year after the Colonel died, Khursheed Ali was called by the Scout officers to meet a relative of the old Colonel. He found an old woman (the mother) bent over the Colonel’s grave, wailing and murmuring in Potohari Punjabi — “Oh Murada, tain apni zid puri ker ditti (you stuck to your words)!”

As you descend from the Lowari pass and drive past the town of Darosh towards Chitral, do stop for a while in the bazaar. At some roadside inn, while sipping the hot milky tea, somebody would turn around to narrate the story of our old Colonel.

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German Army n Police …

Posted on January 23, 2019. Filed under: The Germans |

Anthony Delgiomo on Quora

You’re walking on some touchy ground here, my friend. The Wehrmacht were very different from the Waffen SS.

The Wehrmacht were Germans. The professional soldiers that officers and enlisted men of the Allied armies fought against for years but respected. There weren’t too many hard feelings from Allies to Wehrmacht or Wehrmacht to Allies (Unless you were Russian).

When one side took soldiers on the other side prisoner, they generally treated their enemies well (Again, unless they were taken by the Russians).

In the Nuremberg Trials, the Wehrmacht were spared charges of war crimes, and were not classified as a criminal organization. Any Wehrmacht war criminals were tried on an insdividual basis and weren’t considered to represent the whole army.

The SS, on the other hand, were Nazis. They were Adolf Hitler’s right hand. The SS were the leading actors in the Holocaust.

They did not treat their enemies well, and the Allies treated them in kind. Waffen SS prisoners would be treated far worse than others and their officers would often be shot.

Many SS generals were tried for war crimes and killed after the Nuremberg Trials and the SS itself was classified as a criminal organization.

I think Wehrmacht veterans should be treated better and with a degree or sympathy. They received the brunt of the war, and often times didn’t want to fight in the first place. They hated the Nazis for what they did to Germany.

SS veterans should probably not be given too much sympathy depending on who they are. A lot of SS veterans alive today were Hitler Youth child soldiers that were forced into service.

A friend of mine from Germany said that her grandfather enlisted in the SS late in the war when he was 16 years old. He did so to look like a “good German” and to spare his family from the Nazis wrath. At the time, the Nazis were going door to door forcing young boys like him into service and threatening the parents of the boys if they tried to stop the conscription.

He enlisted before the SS got to his village to make it look like his family were “good Germans.” He was a farm boy, and the SS had him tend to the horses they used to transport supplies on the Western Front because gasoline had to be used on tanks and other combat vehicles. H

e was taken prisoner by a colored regiment of the US Army and was treated well, because of his age. One of his captors would actually bring him chocolate bars from his rations in the POW camp and would say that the chocolate was “for the horses”, and wink at him.



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Guru Nanak …

Posted on January 22, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

Tarek Fatah • November 17, 2013 • The Huffington Post

Today, millions of Sikhs and their friends around the world are celebrating Gurpurab, but few outside India know the significance of this day or its history.

It’s the 543rd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith and one of the greatest symbols of pluralism and tolerance in the world.

The 5,000-year old Indian civilization, born on the banks of the Indus and nurtured for many millennia by the Ganges, still enchants the rest of the world.

With a cacophony of cultures and a myriad of languages, India is truly incredible. A place where diversity is not just taught, but experienced as life itself.

The land of Krishna and the Vedas is the natural home to Hinduism, but under its umbrella Hinduism has nurtured the other major religions of the world and provided refuge to those fleeing persecution.

Be they Zoroastrians from Persia, Thomas the Apostle, or the descendants of Prophet Muhammad escaping the Arab Umayyad Armies,

India has accepted all without any conditions and stands a power that has never once invaded its neighbours throughout its chequered history.Mahatma Gandhi may epitomize India in the West, but he is just one of the many towering figures of history that have shaped the land, its culture and its religions.

Poets such as Tagore and Iqbal immortalized India in verse while emperors like Asoka and Akbar ruled over dazzling domains that stunned the visitor.

Among the great philosophers and thinkers that India gifted to the world are two men who tower above the rest- Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the founders of Buddhism and Sikhism.

While Buddha is well known in the West as a result of his creed and followers, Guru Nanak, whose birthday we celebrate today is yet to be discovered.

Let this Muslim introduce you to the man who founded the world’s youngest religion, Sikhism and who had a profound role in shaping my Punjabi heritage, alas, one that was torn to shreds by the bloody partition of India in August 1947.

Today, the place where Guru Nanak was born in 1469 is a city that was ethnically cleansed of its entire Sikh population during the bloodbath of 1947.

Nankana Sahib, a place where the Guru spent his childhood with Muslim and Hindu friends is a Bethlehem without Christians; a Medina without Muslims.

For a few days the town will bustle with Sikh pilgrims from all over the world, but soon they will depart and nary a turban will be seen until the Sikhs return next year.

The city of Nankana Sahib lies near Lahore, my maternal ancestral home, where my mother and father were born. My mother told me how she as a Muslim girl grew up with Sikh neighbors and how she was part of the Sikh family’s celebrations at the time of Gurpurab and how she would travel with her friend to Nankana Sahib.

Decades later she would still recall her lost friend who left Pakistan to seek refuge across the border. Today Nankana Sahib celebrates, but there are no Muslim girls accompanying their Sikh friends. None. It is sad.Sad, because Sikhism and Guru Nanak were intertwined with Islam and Muslims.

The Guru’s closest companion was a Muslim by the name of Bhai Mardana. It is said when Mardana was dying, the Guru asked him, how would you like to die? As a Muslim? To which the ailing companion replied, “As a human being.”

Five hundred years later, a border divides Muslim and Sikh Punjabis. A border where two nuclear armies and a million men face each other. As a Muslim Punjabi I feel the British in dividing Punjab separated my soul from my body and left the two to survive on their own.

Muslim Punjabis lost their neighbours and family friends of generations. Most of all they lost their language that today languishes as a second-class tongue in its own home.

We kept Nankana Sahib, but lost the Guru.However, the tragedy that befell the Sikhs was far more ominous and deserves special mention.

For Sikhs, the Punjabi cities of Lahore and Gujranwala, Nankana Sahib and Rawalpindi were their hometowns and had shared a history with their gurus. With the 1947 Partition, not only was Punjab divided, but the Sikhs were ethnically cleansed from Pakistan’s Punjab.

As a result of the creation of the Islamic State of Pakistan, the Sikhs lost absolute access to the following holy sites: Gurdwara Janam Asthan, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, in Nankana Sahib; Gurdwara Panji Sahib in Hasan Abdal; Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore, where the Fifth Guru, Arjun Dev, was killed; Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Kartarpur, where Guru Nanak died; and, of course, the Shrine of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore.

When the killings and cleansing of 1947 ended, not a single Sikh was visible in Lahore. Of course, Muslims too were chased out of the eastern parts of Punjab, but they were not losing their holy places of Mecca or Medina.

Even though we Muslims despair the occupation of Jerusalem, we still have the comfort of knowing that Muslims still live in and around the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. But what about the Sikhs?

To feel their pain, Muslims need to imagine how outraged we would feel if, God forbid, Mecca and Medina were cleansed of all Muslims and fell under the occupation of, say, Ethiopia.

How can we Muslims ask for the liberation of Muslim lands while we institutionalize the exclusion and ethnic cleansing of all Sikhs from their holy sites inside an Islamic state?

Muslims who cannot empathize with the loss of the Sikhs need to ask themselves why they don’t.

Before 1947, Punjabi Muslims did not consider Sikhism as an adversarial faith. After all, from the Muslim perspective, Sikhism was the combination of the teachings of Sufism, which was rooted in Islamic thought and the Bhakti movement, an organic link to Hindu philosophy.

It is true that Moghul emperors had been particularly vicious and cruel to the leaders of the Sikh faith, but these Moghuls were not acting as representatives of Islam. Not only that, the Moghuls inflicted even harsher punishments on their fellow Muslims.

With the creation of Pakistan, the Sikhs lost something even more precious than their holy places: diverse subcultural streams. One such stream flourishing in Thal region (Sind Sagar Doab) in what is now Pakistan, near Punjab’s border with Sind and Baluchistan, was known as the “Sewa Panthis.”

The Sewa Panthi tradition flourished in southwest Punjab for nearly 12 generations until 1947. This sect (variously known as Sewa Panthis, Sewa Dassiey, and Addan Shahis), is best symbolized by Bhai Ghaniya, who aided wounded Sikh and Muslim soldiers alike during the Tenth Sikh Guru’s wars with Moghuls.

Sewa Panthis wore distinctive white robes.They introduced a new dimension to the subcontinental religious philosophies. They believed that sewa (helping the needy) was the highest form of spiritual meditation — higher than singing hymns or reciting holy books.

The creation of Pakistan dealt a devastating blow to the Sewa Panthis and they never got truly transplanted in the new “East” Punjab.

The organic relationship between philosophies and land, indeed, requires native soil for ideas to bloom. Other such sects and deras (groups) that made up the composite Sikh faith of the 19th and early 20th centuries included Namdharis, Nirankaris, Radha Soamis, Nirmaley, and Sidhs — all were pushed to the margins, or even out of Sikhism, after the partition.

The tragedy of the division of Punjab is best captured in a moving poem by the first prominent woman Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist Amrita Pritam, “Ujj akhaan Waris Shah noo” (An Ode to Waris Shah), which she is said to have written while escaping in a train with her family from Pakistan to India.

Pritam wrote:ujj aakhaN Waris Shah nuuN,kithoN kabraaN vichchoN bol,tay ujj kitab-e ishq daa koii aglaa varkaa pholik roii sii dhii punjaab dii, tuuN likh likh maare vaen,ujj lakhaaN dhiiaaN rondiaN,tainuN Waris Shah nuN kahenuTh dardmandaaN diaa dardiaa,uth takk apnaa Punjabaaj bele lashaaN bichhiaaN te lahu dii bharii Chenab

(Today, I beckon you Waris Shah, Speak from inside your grave.And to your book of love, add the next page. Once when a single daughter of Punjab wept, you wrote a wailing saga.Today, a million daughters cry to you, Waris Shah.Rise, O friend of the grieving; rise and see your own Punjab,Today, fields lined with corpses, and the Chenab flowing with blood.)

As I celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak I read some profound words of wisdom he left for his Muslim friends. He wrote:

Make mercy your Mosque, Faith your Prayer Mat, what is just and lawful your Qu’ran, Modesty your Circumcision,and civility your Fast. So shall you be a Muslim.

Make right conduct your Ka’aba,Truth your Pir, andgood deeds your Kalma and prayers.

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1971 War – Sam in Pak …

Posted on January 22, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career |

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By Hamid Hussein –

General Sam Manekshaw speaking to two Pakistani Air Force officers in a plane bringing him to Pakistan for negotiations after 1971 Indo-Pakistan War. Photograph courtesy Brigadier Behram Panthaki.

This picture is dated 29 November 1972, when Indian Army Chief General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw flew to Pakistan for negotiations after 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.

The two Pakistani Air Force (PAF) officers were prisoners of war and brought by Sam as a good will gesture.  Both officers were shot down in western theatre of war.  The one near Sam with handle bar moustache (matching Sam’s own impressive moustache) is then Squadron Leader Amjad Ali Khan.  

His F-104 was shot down on 05 December 1971 by anti-aircraft fire while attacking Amritsar Radar.  He retired as Air Vice Marshal.  The other officer is then Flight Lieutenant Wajid Ali Khan. His F- 6 was also shot down by anti-air craft fire during a close air support mission over Marala headworks on western border.

After repatriation, he left air force and settled in Canada.  He became member of Canadian parliament serving from 2004 to 2009.  

Indian Air Force (IAF) TU-124 VIP plane brought Sam Manekshaw to Lahore.  When plane was taxing to reach the parking bay, it passed the skeleton of the burnt Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship aircraft, ‘Ganga’, that had been hijacked on January 30, 1971 on its flight from Srinagar to Jammu and brought to Lahore. 

On February 02, the hijackers had set the aircraft on fire.  Sam was received by Pakistan Army Chief, General Tikka Khan.  Tikka Is wearing his famous dark glasses. 

General Sam Manekshaw and General Tikka Khan at Lahore airport 1972.  

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General Tikka Khan receiving General Sam Manekshaw at Lahore airport.

After initial pleasantries, all got into Pakistan army chief’s seven-seater American limousine.  Tikka and Sam sat in the rear seat whereas Sam’s ADC Behram sat in front next to driver.  Tikka’s ADC was his son Captain Tariq Mahmood who drove in follow-up car.  

For first few minutes there was an eerie silence except for the whirr of the car engine.  Sam could not take this for long and he turned to Tikka and said: “Tikka, you do not drink, you do not smoke, you have no other vices, so why are you wearing dark glasses?  It is I who should be wearing them.” 

That broke the chill and the mood changed.

Punjab Governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar hosted the Pakistani brass and Indian delegation to lunch at the sprawling Governor’s Mansion. 

Before lunch delegation was entertained at an impressively laid out bar that was stocked with all types of alcohol, local and foreign, save one. 

Sam’s Military Secretary Lieutenant Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Depinder Singh requested the barman if he could have their famous locally-brewed Murree beer.  To everyone’s surprise the barman blurted out, ” Sahib, bahut tha, pur sub Dacca mein reh gaya” (Sir; there was a lot but it all got left in Dacca). 

There was no breakthrough in talks and the Indian delegation left the same night.  The Indian Government did not allow the delegation to stay overnight at Lahore.

On 07 December 1972, the Indian delegation came for yhe second round and agreement was reached about some border adjustment.  

This time lunch was arranged at Corps Artillery mess.  Sam was looking at the impressive display of trophies when he recognized a trophy of his old battalion 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment; now 6 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army. 

He inquired what this trophy was doing in artillery mess?  A Pakistani officer replied that this was borrowed from the battalion for this special occasion. 

General Sam Manekshaw (with back to the camera), sitting next to Sam is Indian DGMO Lieutenant General Inderjit Singh Gill, General Tikka Khan (facing Sam) and Lahore Corps Commander Lieutenant General Abdul Hameed Khan sitting next to Tikka. 

In addition to these two PAF pilots, two who were shot down in eastern theatre also became POWs.  In East Pakistan, on 22 November 1971, three F-86s of No 14 Squadron ‘Tail Choppers’ led by Squadron Commander Wing Commander Afzal Chaudhry embarked on a mission to check Indian incursion in Jessore sector. 

Four Indian Gnats of Dum Dum based No 22 Squadron ‘swifts’ surprised the Pakistani formation.  Flight Lieutenant Pervaiz Mehdi Qureshi (known as PQ Mehdi) and Flying Officer Khalil Ahmad were shot down.  Both ejected and were taken POWs. 

Mehdi (002)

Flight Lieutenant Pervez Mehdi Qureshi after his ejection in Indian captivity 1971. Photograph courtesy of Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail. 

Captain HS Panag (later Lieutenant General) who was adjutant of 4 Sikh Regiment in East Pakistan saw a pilot ejecting from the plane and raced his jeep to the scene. 

Mehdi had landed in area of 4 Sikh and some Sikh soldiers had been there and beat Mehdi with rifle buts.  Panag secured him and offered him a cup of tea.  Panag was very impressed that despite being just shot down from the sky and landing among Sikhs who beat him, Mehdi’s demeanor was dignified and confident.  Panag was impressed by his bravery. 

Mehdi’s seat is now a souvenir at 4 Sikh mess.  After repatriation, Mehdi steadily rose to higher ranks and ended his career as Pakistan Air Force Chief. 

When Mehdi became air chief in 1997, he received numerous congratulatory calls and letters but one from Donald Lazarus in India was unique.  Lazarus was the Indian pilot who had shot Mehdi’s plane in 1971. 

During Kargil war in 1999, PQ Mehdi was Pakistan air force chief.  Army brass kept air force in the dark and didn’t involve it in planning stage. 

Mehdi had heated arguments with then army chief General Pervez Musharraf and relations between air force and army brass were severely strained. 

After the October 1999 coup, on Mehdi’s retirement, Musharraf now in charge took his revenge and five air marshals were superseded to appoint junior most air marshal as air force chief.  PAF officers jokingly call their own brass as ‘Kargil Martyrs’. 

Khalil had passed elite Central Superior Service (CSS) examination.  After repatriation, he left PAF and joined civil services (Customs).  Later, he migrated to United States.

Ironically, commander of Indian No 22 Squadron Wing Commander Brijpal Singh Sikand was POW in Pakistan in 1965 war when his Gnat was forced landed at Pasrur by a Pakistani F-104.

He was related to Indian Foreign Minister Sardar Swaran Singh and later rose to the rank of Air Marshal. 

Sikand as a POW (002)

Squadron Leader B. S. Sikand in Pakistani captivity 1965. Photograph courtesy of Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail. 

Another Pakistani pilot Flight Lieutenant Sajjad Noor was also shot down in a dogfight in East Pakistan. However, he was picked up by a PAF helicopter after ejection.

Wing Commander SM Ahmad was also shot down near Dacca, but his body was never recovered.  It was assumed that he was killed by Mukti Bahini(Bengali freedom fighters) after his ejection.

PAF fought in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) with severe handicap.  PAF had only one No 14 Squadron in East Pakistan equipped with fifteen aging F-86s. There was only a single airfield in Dacca called Tejgaon.

Kurmitola was secondary airfield ten miles north of Tejgaon and was only for emergency use. 

Sole long- range radar at Kurmitola and single C-130 plane were withdrawn to West Pakistan before the war started.  About thirty to forty percent of PAF personnel were Bengalis and in March 1971, after many defections, they were grounded and removed from sensitive positions. 

Many Bengali personnel defected and provided to Indians all information about deployment, equipment and logistics of PAF.  Mobile Observation Units (MOUs) are a critical part of air defense.  Mukti Bahini harassed air force personnel of MOUs and killed Flight Lieutenant Shafi forcing pull back of MOUs. 

When war was declared on 03 December, 14 Squadron had now only eleven F 86s as four were lost in previous combat air support operations.  These eleven F 86s were to operate without radar coverage against eleven squadrons of Eastern Air Command (EAC) of Indian air force. 

Against heavy odds, 14 Squadron held out as long as it could.  The game was over when IAF finally made sole Tejgaon airfield non-operational on 06 December. 

Message was received to destroy all remaining F-86s.  First batch of pilots took Otter twin engine plane and escaped to Burma followed by the second batch few days later in an old Beaver used to spray crops.

Indian air force now completely controlled the air space of eastern theatre of war.  On 16 December 1971, eastern garrison surrendered with emergence of newly independent Bangladesh.

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The Science of Reading …

Posted on January 19, 2019. Filed under: Books |

Excerpted from The Wire – This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons. The Author,  Alexander Bevilacqua is an assistant professor of history at Williams College, Massachusetts. 

In her Class Day remarks at Harvard’s 2018 graduation, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addressed the problem of our rush to judgment.

In the face of what she called “a culture of ‘calling out’, a culture of outrage”, she asked students to ‘always remember context, and never disregard intent’. She could have been speaking as a historian.

History, as a discipline, turns away from two of the main ways of reading that have dominated the humanities for the past half-century. These methods have been productive, but perhaps they also bear some responsibility for today’s corrosive lack of generosity.

The two approaches have different genealogies, but share a significant feature: at heart, they are adversarial.

One mode of reading, first described in 1965 by the French philosopher Paul Ricœur and known as ‘the hermeneutics of suspicion’, aims to uncover the hidden meaning or agenda of a text.

Whether inspired by Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche or Sigmund Freud, the reader interprets what happens on the surface as a symptom of something deeper and more dubious, from economic inequality to sexual anxiety. The reader’s task is to reject the face value of a work, and to plumb for a submerged truth.

A second form of interpretation, known as ‘deconstruction’, was developed in 1967 by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. It aims to identify and reveal a text’s hidden contradictions – ambiguities and even aporias (unthinkable contradictions) that eluded the author.

For example, Derrida detected a bias that favoured speech over writing in many influential philosophical texts of the Western tradition, from Plato to Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The fact that written texts could privilege the immediacy and truth of speech was a paradox that revealed unarticulated metaphysical commitments at the heart of Western philosophy.

Both of these ways of reading pit reader against text. The reader’s goal becomes to uncover meanings or problems that the work does not explicitly express.

In both cases, intelligence and moral probity are displayed at the expense of what’s been written.

In the 20th century, these approaches empowered critics to detect and denounce the workings of power in all kinds of materials – not just the dreams that Freud interpreted, or the essays by Plato and Rousseau with which Derrida was most closely concerned.

They do, however, foster a prosecutorial attitude among academics and public intellectuals.

As a colleague once told me: “I am always looking for the Freudian slip.” He scours the writings of his peers to spot when they trip up and betray their problematic intellectual commitments.

One poorly chosen phrase can sully an entire work.

Not surprisingly, these methods have fostered a rather paranoid atmosphere in modern academia.

Mutual monitoring of lexical choices leads to anxiety, as an increasing number of words are placed on a ‘no fly’ list.

One error is taken as the symptom of problematic thinking; it can spoil not just a whole book, but perhaps even the author’s entire oeuvre. This set of attitudes is not a world apart from the pile-ons that we witness on social media.

Does the lack of charity in public discourse – the quickness to judge, the aversion to context and intent – stem in part from what we might call the ‘adversarial’ humanities?

These practices of interpretation are certainly on display in many classrooms, where students learn to exercise their moral and intellectual prowess by dismantling what they’ve read.

For teachers, showing students how to take a text apart bestows authority; for students, learning to read like this can be electrifying.

Yet the study of history is different. History deals with the past – and the past is, as the British novelist L P Hartley wrote in 1953, “a foreign country”.

By definition, historians deal with difference: with what is unlike the present, and with what rarely meets today’s moral standards.

The virtue of reading like a historian, then, is that critique or disavowal is not the primary goal. On the contrary, reading historically provides something more destabilising: it requires the historian to put her own values in parentheses.

The French medievalist Marc Bloch wrote that the task of the historian is understanding, not judging.

Bloch, who fought in the French Resistance, was caught and turned over to the Gestapo. Poignantly, the manuscript of The Historian’s Craft, where he expressed this humane statement, was left unfinished: Bloch was executed by firing squad in June 1944.

As Bloch knew well, historical empathy involves reaching out across the chasm of time to understand people whose values and motivations are often utterly unlike our own.

It means affording these people the gift of intellectual charity – that is, the best possible interpretation of what they said or believed.

For example, a belief in magic can be rational on the basis of a period’s knowledge of nature. Yet acknowledging this demands more than just contextual, linguistic or philological skill. It requires empathy.

Aren’t a lot of psychological assumptions built into this model? The call for empathy might seem theoretically naive. Yet we judge people’s intentions all the time in our daily lives; we can’t function socially without making inferences about others’ motivations.

Historians merely apply this approach to people who are dead. They invoke intentions not from a desire to attack, nor because they seek reasons to restrain a text’s range of meanings.

Their questions about intentions stem, instead, from respect for the people whose actions and thoughts they’re trying to understand.

Reading like a historian, then, involves not just a theory of interpretation, but also a moral stance. It is an attempt to treat others generously, and to extend that generosity even to those who can’t be hic et nunc – here and now.

For many historians (as well as others in what we might call the ‘empathetic’ humanities, such as art history and literary history), empathy is a life practice. Living with the people of the past changes one’s relationship to the present.

At our best, we begin to offer empathy not just to those who are distant, but to those who surround us, aiming in our daily life for ‘understanding, not judging’.

To be sure, it’s challenging to impart these lessons to students in their teens or early 20s, to whom the problems of the present seem especially urgent and compelling.

The injunction to read more generously is pretty unfashionable. It can even be perceived as conservative: isn’t the past what’s holding us back, and shouldn’t we reject it? Isn’t it more useful to learn how to deconstruct a text, and to be on the lookout for latent, pernicious meanings?

Certainly, reading isn’t a zero-sum game. One can and should cultivate multiple modes of interpretation. Yet the nostrum that the humanities teach ‘critical thinking and reading skills’ obscures the profound differences in how adversarial and empathetic disciplines engage with written works – and how they teach us to respond to other human beings.

If the empathetic humanities can make us more compassionate and more charitable – if they can encourage us to ‘always remember context, and never disregard intent’ – they afford something uniquely useful today.

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Photos of Army Life …

Posted on January 18, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career |

A Sons Salute to his Late Indian Army Dad

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Eye Contact …

Posted on January 10, 2019. Filed under: Personal Magnetism |

Dr Christian Jarrett edits the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog.

You’ve doubtless had the experience when, across a noisy, crowded room, you lock gazes with another person. It’s almost like a scene out of the movies – the rest of the world fades to grey while you and that other soul are momentarily connected in the mutual knowledge that they are looking at you and you at them.

Of course, eye contact is not always so exciting – it’s a natural part of most casual conversations, after all – but it is nearly always important. We make assumptions about people’s personalities based on how much they meet our eyes or look away when we are talking to them. And when we pass strangers in the street or some other public place, we can be left feeling rejected if they don’t make eye contact.

This much we already know from our everyday experiences. But psychologists and neuroscientists have been studying eye contact for decades and their intriguing findings reveal much more about its power, including what our eyes give away and how eye contact changes what we think about the other person looking back at us.Y

For instance, a recurring finding is that gazing eyes grab and hold our attention, making us less aware of what else is going on around us (that ‘fading to grey’ that I mentioned earlier). Also, meeting someone’s gaze almost immediately engages a raft of brain processes, as we make sense of the fact that we are dealing with the mind of another person who is currently looking at us. In consequence, we become more conscious of that other person’s agency, that they have a mind and perspective of their own – and, in turn, this makes us more self-conscious.

You may have noticed these effects particularly strongly if you’ve ever held the intense gaze of a monkey or ape at a zoo: it is almost impossible not to be overcome by the profound sensation that they are a conscious being judging and scrutinising you. In fact, even looking at a portrait paintingthat appears to be making eye contact has been shown to trigger a swathe of brain activity related to social cognition – that is, in regions involved in thinking about ourselves and others.

Not surprisingly, the drama of realising we are the object of another mind is highly distracting. Consider a recent study by Japanese researchers. Volunteers looked at a video of a face while simultaneously completing a word challenge that involved coming up with verbs to match various nouns (to take an easy example, if they heard the noun ‘milk”, a suitable response would be “drink”). Crucially, the volunteers struggled much more at the word challenge (but only for the trickier nouns) when the face in the video appeared to be making eye contact with them. The researchers think this effect occurred because eye contact – even with a stranger in a video – is so intense that it drains our cognitive reserves.

Similar research has found that meeting the direct gaze of another also interferes with our working memory (our ability to hold and use information in mind over short periods of time), our imagination, and our mental control, in the sense of our ability to suppress irrelevant information. You may have experienced these effects first hand, perhaps without realising, whenever you have broken eye contact with another person so as to better concentrate on what you are saying or thinking about. Some psychologists even recommend looking away as a strategy to help young children answer questions.

Too much eye contact can also make us uncomfortable and people who stare without letting go can come across as creepy

As well as sending our brains into social overdrive, research also shows that eye contact shapes our perception of the other person who meets our gaze. For instance, we generally perceive people who make more eye contact to be more intelligent, more conscientious and sincere (in Western cultures, at least), and we become more inclined to believe what they say.

Of course, too much eye contact can also make us uncomfortable – and people who stare without letting go can come across as creepy. In one study conducted at a science museum, psychologists recently tried to establish the preferred length of eye contact. They concluded that, on average, it is three seconds long (and no one preferred gazes that lasted longer than nine seconds).

Another documented effect of mutual gaze may help explain why that moment of eye contact across a room can sometimes feel so compelling. A recent study found that mutual gaze leads to a kind of partial melding of the self and other: we rate strangers with whom we’ve made eye contact as more similar to us, in terms of their personality and appearance. Perhaps, in the right context, when everyone else is busy talking to other people, this effect adds to the sense that you and the person looking back at you are sharing a special moment.

The chemistry of eye contact doesn’t end there. Should you choose to move closer, you and your gaze partner will find that eye contact also joins you to each other in another way, in a process known as “pupil mimicry” or “pupil contagion” – this describes how your pupils and the other person’s dilate and constrict in synchrony. This has been interpreted as a form of subconscious social mimicry, a kind of ocular dance, and that would be the more romantic take.

But recently there’s been some scepticism about this, with researchers saying the phenomenon is merely a response to variations in the brightness of the other person’s eyes (up close, when the other person’s pupils dilate, this increases the darkness of the scene, thus causing your pupils to dilate too).

When you look another person deep in the eye, do not think it is just their pupils sending you a message

That is not to say that pupil dilation has no psychological meaning. In fact, going back at least to the 1960s, psychologists have studied the way that our pupils dilate when we are more aroused or stimulated (in a physiological sense), whether by intellectual, emotional, aesthetic or sexual interest. This has led to debate about whether faces with more dilated pupils (sometimes taken as a sign of sexual interest) are perceived by onlookers to be more attractive. At least some studies, some decades old and others more recent, suggest they are, and we also know that our brains automatically process the dilation of other people’s pupils.

Either way, centuries prior to this research, folk wisdom certainly considered dilated pupils to be attractive. At various times in history women have even used a plant extract to deliberately dilate their pupils as a way to make themselves more attractive (hence the colloquial name for the plant: ‘belladonna’).

But when you look another person deep in the eye, do not think it is just their pupils sending you a message. Other recent research suggests that we can read complex emotions from the eye muscles – that is, whether a person is narrowing or opening their eyes wide. So, for instance, when an emotion such as disgust causes us to narrow our eyes, this ‘eye expression’ – like a facial expression – also signals our disgust to others.

Yet another important eye feature are limbal rings: the dark circles that surround your irises. Recent evidence suggests that these limbal rings are more often visible in younger, healthier people, and that onlookers know this on some level, such that heterosexual women looking for a short-term fling judge men with more visible limbal rings to be more healthy and desirable.

All these studies suggest there is more than a grain of truth to the old adage about the eyes being a window to the soul. In fact, there is something incredibly powerful about gazing deeply into another person’s eyes. They say that our eyes are the only part of our brain that is directly exposed to the world.

When you look another person in the eye, then, just think: it is perhaps the closest you will come to ‘touching brains’ – or touching souls if you like to be more poetic about these things. Given this intense intimacy, perhaps it is little wonder that if you dim the lights and hold the gaze of another person for 10 minutes non-stop, you will find strange things start to happen, stranger perhaps than you’ve ever experienced before

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